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Love Bites

Book One in the Hilarious YA Contemporary Short by Rachel X. Clarke

Shelby hates Valentine’s Day. The manufactured holiday only brings back bad memories like the time when Bradley Garrett declared he’d rather lick Connor Mitchell’s puke off the bathroom floor than spend seven minutes in heaven with her.

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It’s Been Awhile… and Covers Revealed

It’s Been Awhile… and Covers Revealed

My plan was to blog my way through NaNoWriMo this November, but instead of spending time blogging about writing, I actually did some of that. Writing, that is. While I didn’t “win” NaNo, it was never my intent to do so. Especially after I discovered that my former WIP required a LOT more words, approximately 24,000 of them.

I did end up finishing that novel, a.k.a. the beast, and sent it off to be critiqued in December. I’ve been holding my breath ever since – just kidding… kind of. I don’t expect it to be good. I just want to learn where I made my mistakes. Hopefully I’ll get that feedback in the next couple of weeks.

I didn’t get much time to dive into the short stories I wanted in order to finish up the Cop and the… series. Life got in the way and my writing life was put on pause for a month. But I did start writing and am almost finished with the sequel to “Love Bites.”

And as I am so close to completion I thought it was time to get those covers made.


“Love Bites” was originally published in the anthology, LOVE STINKS!. But I was given the rights back so that I could self-publish it should I choose. And I wouldn’t have if the question about a sequel hadn’t been asked. And even then…

It is a very short story. The guidelines for writing it specified a length which I almost adhered to. Even with this very lovely and amazing cover I just couldn’t see publishing it as is. And so I wrote – or rather, am writing – a sequel. One that also has a cover.


As there are no limits to its length or to its topic, “Love Bites Harder” will be a bit longer. Okay… a lot longer. But it’s still a short.

I haven’t decided whether to self-publish or just offer them for free. Or offer “Love Bites” for free and publish the sequel. I think I’m going to leave that decision up in the air until I’ve asked a few people to read it and give me their thoughts.


If you couldn’t tell, the covers – which I approved without change on first pass – were the inspiration for this site’s redesign. They are also the design for my new business cards. (So excited!)

They’re also making me want all sorts of other designs… so very dangerous.

If I were a little more comfortable with self-promotion I might have tried to do an actual reveal instead of a blog post here on my writing blog. But a) I am not comfortable reaching out to people – at all; and b) I have the patience of a two-year-old.

So there you have it.

If you happen to stumble onto this site and catch this post – as I haven’t decided whether or not to tweet it – I’d love to know what you think about these covers.

Site and cover design credit goes to…

Parajunkee Design

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo?

I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to start writing my next NaNoWriMo novel tomorrow… or tonight after midnight. For the past week I’ve been working on the NaNoWriMo project I’ve been working on for the past two years. There are currently just over 95,000 words and I’m still writing scenes to get it completed.

I thought I just had an ending to write, but I was mistaken. So now I’m trying to create those scenes while re-reading what I have written so that I’m not totally off the mark. It’s not easy.

And for the very first time ever I’m starting to understand how I can edit something. Perhaps by writing this over a span of two years, letting it sit virtually untouched for eleven months at a time, it’s allowed me to gain some perspective. So now I’m eager to edit, to rework those scenes that felt too rushed, too choppy. Add in a few transitions that will make for better flow.

And… make this bloody thing a bit more consistent.

By not having any direction or goal when I first started out, by having just a short prologue and a few opening sentences, it was hard to try and come up with a timeline. During last year’s writing challenge month I managed to get that a bit more together, but I really think I need to be more granular.

For this particular story, this is a good thing. But what it means for NaNoWriMo I’m not sure. It will likely take me the entire month to finish writing those scenes and starting on those edits. And as I will be cutting words, in addition to adding some, I don’t know how I can calculate my word count.

And as I have this new-found dedication to this older project, even if I don’t ever decide to publish it, I’m not sure the time is right to be starting a new project. As much as I think I’ll have a lot of fun writing about this new character I “met” when I started writing earlier this month, I think I need to say goodbye to the characters in this long-suffering project of mine first.

I’ve also committed to writing at least four short stories during this month and in my more active real life I’m taking a month worth of classes (with homework) on coastal navigation. And with the rest of my weekends booked with sailing charters – practice makes perfect, right? – I’m not sure if I’m a bit too ambitious with regard to NaNo.

Oh and there’s a full-time job to factor in, as well as a full-time book blog.

So I’m starting to think that this third NaNoWriMo of mine will be a bust. Unless of course you count possibly completing a WIP. That’s something, right?

But I think the new novel will have to wait until January and the short stories until December.

And I think in the new year, if I decide that I want writing to be more a part of my life, I’ll have to take a bigger step back from the book blog. But that, as ever, is to be determined. As much as I enjoy writing – and I do when I actually get the chance to do it – it’s very possible that I’m not very good at it.

In writing, positivity doesn’t count for everything.

Anyway… as I just realized (as I sit here staring longingly at a bowl of mini Twix) that it’s Halloween, I’ll end by saying Happy Halloween! And for those who are about to embark upon their writing month – whether it’s their first, third, or fifth – Happy Writing!

Testing out Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing

I decided to do a little experiment by choosing to publish a few of my short stories at Amazon in a sort of eVolume. I’d had a cover designed so I figured why not. But quickly learned that maybe, just maybe, I should have thought things through a bit more.

I tend to be one of those spur-of-the-moment people and also a bit of a perfectionist, which often don’t go hand-in-hand. So this first stab at publishing was more error than trial.

As I was trying to publish a group of stories I hadn’t really thought through just how complicated naming the “book” would be. It’s not the most searchable name – “The Cop and the…” so it won’t be easily found unless someone adds my name.

My suggestion: Choose an easily discoverable name for your title. Nothing too common or it might get lost amidst hundreds of already published titles.

I then realized I needed to put it into a category (or categories). Well, “stories” wasn’t an option and neither was “short stories.” I had to enlist the help of a blogger/writer friend who had read one of them to settle upon “contemporary romance.”

My suggestion: Find a genre before starting the publishing process.

I then had to write a description. I suppose most seasoned authors know that they need to put a description beneath their book. As a book blogger I should have figured this out beforehand, too. But no, not a chance. And so, while I had the online form open I had to scramble to describe my short book of three short stories. All my normal rules and pieces of advice flew out the window. I love writing synopses for books I read. What I realized is doing it for your own work is an entirely different matter.

My suggestion: Come up with a description long beforehand and/or ask a friend to write it for you.

I wanted to offer the book for free, since I had previously published the stories on my website, but that wasn’t an option. I might have thought twice before getting the ball rolling if I had known that in advance. But I figured I’d offer it at the least expensive price and if someone wanted to pay for it, they’d be getting a nicely formatted book on their Kindle with a pretty cover that I had designed for me.

My suggestion: If you ever plan on publishing your stories don’t offer them for free first. Or if you do, have a little extra content to include to make it worth someone’s while to pay for them.

Hire an editor. Or sit on the preview draft BEFORE clicking “publish.” As many times as I’d read the stories I still found a few mistakes – a word that I’d have preferred to be plural, a missing word and an extra word. And while there were a couple of changes I’d have liked to make to the story – small changes – it was really those three proofreading edits that made me decide to go back in and fix them and republish.

My suggestion: Print your book/story, sit on it for a few days, if not longer. Then do a clean read-through when the nerves of hitting “publish” aren’t attacking you.

I thought the preview option was super cool. Amazon let’s you preview your content on all its devices so you can get an idea of how it looks.

My suggestion: Look at ALL the devices. Carefully. What looks great on one device might not look the same on another.  Example: Apparently when formatting your document in Word there are codes that convert to html that aren’t always the same. Make sure your paragraphs are spaced consistently. Even though they look that way visually in Word, they might be coded very differently when you see it in html format.


The process is really simple. It’s amazing how quickly a Word document can become a published book. If you’re not looking to make money or make a big splash you can sneak your book into the marketplace and be published within a couple of hours. The details build after publication, like the ability to “look inside” or the page length (approximate if only published in electronic format). All of it is rather cool and utterly fascinating.

Of course if your goal is to make a name for yourself, make money and build an audience… well… you should probably build buzz beforehand, reach out to reviewers and be prepared to tweet links to your story online.

And the biggest thing… be prepared to realize that once you hit “publish” you will officially be a self-published author. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way. Which caused a little bit of a freak-out. Oh, and before it actually becomes too public, make sure you clue your friends and family in on what you’ve been up to. They’d probably be a little disappointed to find out they were the last to know.

Which reminds me… I have some phone calls to make.

So now, I can officially add “Self-published Author” to my bio. Previously I’d only had “Indie Author” as a title. I suppose that only leaves one avenue left. Piece of cake, right?


A Pre-NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge

This weekend I had writing on the brain. I really should have spent the weekend reading and blogging and saved the writing for next month. But you can’t always get what you want.

It all started with a new design for the blog where I’ve been posting some of my short stories. Other than the fact that I think it’s gorgeous and incredibly inspirational, the header image/design sort of fits my WIP perfectly. And it makes me really want to write that ending I’ve been sitting on for almost a year. I hope it will keep me motivated to work on edits and proofreading. We’ll see.

But at some point on Saturday I got into a conversation with another writer and was challenged to write something out of my typical genre. As someone who loves writing prompts and who does not like to walk away from a challenge, I found myself agreeing.

And while I’m not quite ready to spill the beans about what the story is about, just in case I really can’t handle stepping this far outside my comfort zone, I managed to get around 2,000 words written in just a few hours late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

Had the writing bug bit me just thirty days later I think this would have been a great story to work on for NaNoWriMo, but now that it has bitten I can’t table this story for an entire month. I want to keep writing it, I want to see where it goes. I want to find out if I am capable of tackling a subject/genre I’ve never attempted before.

I’m not even entirely certain I’ll be able to keep this story going for the agreed-upon length. As a short, maybe. But somehow the challenge turned into something of a long novella, short novel challenge.

But until the day comes where I’m staring at a blank page in frustration knowing I’ve written myself into a corner or the ideas stop coming for where my story should be headed – I’m a total pantster – I’m going to keep at it. And hopefully I’ll have met the writing goal for the challenge before NaNoWriMo begins. Unless, that is, I decide to double the story’s length, in which case I’ll be using NaNoWriMo to finish it.

Now I just need to find one of those word count countdown widgets so that I can track my progress. And I also really need to figure out a name for this current project other than “Untitled.”

I’m just really glad that I’m not alone in this mini challenge and that I have someone to pester mercilessly. This month should be fun. My only hope is that I don’t totally wear myself out before the big “race” in November.

NaNoWriMo rapidly approaches

… and I’m excited, nervous, hopeful, fearful.

It seems the only time I actually spend working on my WIP is during the month of November during NaNoWriMo. Last year I managed to keep plugging away at it into the month of December. But I haven’t done much more than glance at it, make a few small tweaks to some obvious grammatical errors, send it to someone to read/edit and then promptly ignore it for the past six months.

And now NaNoWriMo is rolling around again and I find myself anxious to get back to it but also feeling guilty for ignoring it for so long.

Every time I pick up the story I’m in a different place in life and the story changes because of it. In November 2011 I was clearly feeling a bit more optimistic and while it was never meant to be a light read, the story was a bit lighter, there was more humor, more sarcasm, more flirtatiousness. Last year I was clearly in a dark mood and so my story took a turn for the dark side. I put my MC in situations that weren’t easy for her and were definitely not easy for me to write.

I’d almost completed it last year, but for an ending. I couldn’t decide on whether to opt for tragic or to shoot for something somewhere between tragic and bittersweet. So I’m very curious as to what this NaNoWriMo will mean for the story’s end.

Instead of trying to make word count like I did last year, I’ve decided to try and finish the story, clean it up a bit, fix the continuity issues that I know abound and then decide whether to place it firmly at the bottom of the trunk or see if there’s actually someone interested in reading it.

I also have a few short stories I’d like to complete, so if by some stroke of good fortune I am able to finish my WIP before the month is over, I’d like to use NaNoWriMo to make that happen.

I think this is going to be the deciding year for whether I choose to pursue writing as more than just something I do in my spare time, when I’m not working or blogging about books.

At this point I’m still on the fence, as pursuing a writing career means I will have to cut down on blogging significantly. Blogging and all that it entails takes a good six to eight hours of my time each day. It is my second job. An unpaid one. But it’s become an important part of my life that I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to say goodbye to.

But it’s been a long time since I completed a novel. And while I may get a little crazy not writing to meet those daily sprints, I think completing my characters’ story is important, even if no one ever gets to meet Shay and Finn.

I will likely be journaling about my NaNoWriMo experiences here. There may be tears of frustration and anguish that I’ll need to voice. I apologize in advance.

Edit is a Four Letter Word

I have been sitting with my nearly finished full-length WIP for eight months. While I’m still struggling with the ending I think the real reason I haven’t been able to complete it is because the next step in the process is editing.

Not only do I not like to edit, I don’t have the first clue how to go about such a task.

And I’m not talking about copy edits. Those I can do. Or continuity edits. I can also catch most of those on a second or third pass. It’s the substantive edits that I have a problem with. Reworking a scene. Rewriting a character. And the dreaded *gasp* deleting of a scene or scenes.

While I am not a plotter – how can I plot something when the story hasn’t revealed itself to me yet? – I tend to edit as I go along. I’m not one of those writers that can lay the foundation, add in the “meat” and come back later to fine tune. If I can’t formulate a sentence in the exact way I want to that sentence won’t get written. I’ll rework it in my head until it sounds right – not that it is – before I put it down on electronic paper.

So this idea that I have to go back to a 250+ page story and whip it into shape is more than daunting. I don’t have the first clue how to go about setting things to rights.

And so it sits. Unfinished. With that ending just out of reach even though I know exactly (well, almost) how I want it to wrap up.

I do know my story needs work. I’m also not one of those writers who thinks that every word I write is golden. It needs a lot of help, actually. I have to decide if the tone got too dark as the story progressed or if it feels natural. I have to decide whether I went too OTT with certain misfortunes. I have to decide whether the romance that seems to have forced its way into the story is as developed as I need it to be.

And, frankly, I need to have someone – other than my family – read it to tell me if it’s a piece of crap and I should go back to the drawing board. Maybe take a writing course and learn how to outline. Or if I should keep at it.

I met these characters the day before NaNoWriMo 2011. I’m not entirely certain I’m the best person to edit their lives. We’re way too close. We’ve had too much history. And I think if I take the “red pen” to theirs, they might rebel.

The thought crossed my mind about hiring someone to do this task I equate with cleaning windows, dusting or getting chased by evil clowns, but I’m not certain how to go about that either. There’s a trust level that’s needed. There’s also an experience level that I’m not certain I could afford.

So I sit with this unfinished project of mine debating on whether or not to just toss it in the trunk and start on something new just so I don’t have to E.D.I.T.

On being prompted

I often find it easier to write a short story when given a prompt. Whether it’s simply a character’s name, a physical characteristic, or even just a nudge to continue a previous character’s story.

When given this tiny push, all of a sudden my brain unlocks itself and the lines just come tumbling out. Almost as if they were there all along.

But when staring at a blank page, I find that more often than not I’m blocked. Every so often an idea tackles me. Usually at the most inconvenient times when I can’t possibly do anything about it. But they’re few and far between.

Perhaps it’s because I have so many things to focus on in life that drain my mental energy – work, family, book blogging – or maybe it’s ennui. But when someone says, “Hey, you should write a story about a guy with green eyes!” all of a sudden that story starts to unfold.

It was much the same for the story I had published in the anthology. I was given a set of parameters – word count, YA, an anti-love story and Valentine’s Day – and within three hours the story was written.

The same cannot be said for my last installment in the “Cop and the…” series. Without a nudge, while I had the title in place, it took me nearly eight months to write it. My brain was on total lockdown and I had to fight against everything in me to turn that idea into a short story.

This morning someone asked me whether I planned on continuing Shelby’s story. (Shelby was my character in “Love Bites.”) I hadn’t. It was just a one-off. But as soon as I finished reading the question, the very next lines in the story hit me. And the story’s direction just started to fall into place.

Almost all the stories I posted on The WastelandZ are ones that derived from a prompt. I was given parameters (most of them quite silly) but it made writing the stories that much more fun.

I’m starting to wonder if it’s because of the fact that I can say, “Hey, it wasn’t my idea!”

Being prompted takes the pressure off. It takes the responsibility off in some ways, too. If the story is a total failure, well, it wasn’t really my idea to begin with. Of course that’s b.s. because it was my combination of words that caused it to fail. But I think it’s enough to trick my brain into feeling less self-conscious. It takes away the question of whether the idea is stupid. It takes away some of the self-doubt.

It’s very possible that I see a prompt as a challenge, a way to prove to myself that I can do something. While I’m not competitive with others, I am insanely competitive with myself.

So when someone says, “I wish you’d write a story about X!” my brain goes immediately into challenge mode and gears itself up to tackle it.

I just wish writing without a prompt, a nudge, a suggestion was easier. If the ideas came as quickly for those stories as they do when prompted to write, maybe I’d actually finish to satisfaction one of the full-length stories I’ve been writing fighting or maybe I’d try to write a few short stories that I could submit somewhere for publication – something I haven’t yet attempted.

Today I am an author

Today I am an author

Love-Stinks-CoverI’ve been writing since I was a small child. I still own some of my earliest short stories, so I’ve considered myself a writer since my age was in the single digits. But today I can officially call myself an AUTHOR.

Which is probably the most surreal experience thus far in my life.

While some may say, “Yeah, but….” – because what I authored isn’t a novel but a short story, or because it was published by a small press publisher and not one of the majors – I say it doesn’t matter.

I was asked to write a story. I wrote it. And it was published. If people want to read that short story they have to purchase it.

To me, that is what being an author is all about. It’s not the size of the story or publisher that distributed it.

And the wonderful thing about having this label is that even were I never to write another story again, I would still be considered an author.

So if I let my fears take hold and never submit a story for publication, or query an agent, I will still have authored this one story.

And even if people despise my writing, rate my story below zero, it still doesn’t take that title away from me. Of course there will likely be a few adjectives added to the front of that title, such as “bad” or “horrific.”

But at least I made that move from writer to author. Something I used to always imagine would happen but never really thought it would.

As the anthology’s release is technically tomorrow, I am probably jumping the gun just a little bit. But since it’s officially now for sale at Amazon, I am taking that label, slapping it to me, and calling it mine, mine all mine.

I hope that this is the start of something new as opposed to the end. But that remains to be determined. And certainly not today.

Today I am going to revel in the fact that a story I wrote is contained in an anthology with some pretty amazing writers and that maybe, just maybe someone will actually read it.