After a long dry spell, I’m dusting off the blog and have moved over to https://blog.kim-english.com. Check it out. I’ll keep this one open a bit longer and I hope to catch up with everyone on my new site.
Not much to say but I hope everyone has a great weekend full of fun and family. For me, I am on week two of a fabulous thriller writing course through Writer’s Digest and just uploaded part one of a short story I’ve been working on over at Wattpad. Thanks to Wattpad’s @hopelessmuse (Mon) for the fantastic cover!
Under my Kim English moniker, I write family friendly, totally PG books for kids and teens. In real life, I am a devotee of all books spooky and creepy and will never turn down an opportunity for a dark thriller. While my offbeat thriller for adults (under a different pen name TBA) continues its slog through the submission process (shout out to my fabulous agent Gina Panettieri) I’ve also started dabbling in short stories, and in particular, horror/noir.
It’s s strange sensation to leave your writing comfort zone and hone a whole different skill set. Maybe it’s a mistake to try different genres, and I’ve read many people, much more experienced and qualified than me, who caution against cross-genre writing, especially as an unestablished author. I understand the notion that it’s a good idea to master one genre before tackling seven different ones, and I accept that a certain amount of branding goes into marketing your name with your genre. But unless I’m setting the publishing world on fire in kid lit (spoiler alert: I’m not), then who is going to gripe if I write a few short stories that are meant to keep you up at night, double checking the locks?
To that end, I posted my first horror short story on Wattpad (my user name is KimQuill). “The Dread” made a few long lists and a couple of short lists, but ultimately didn’t find a home, so I gave it one. I found that writing short stories (in any genre) has helped me improve my overall writing tremendously. I’m also outlining the third and last book in the Coriander Jones series, will be putting out another picture book in a couple of months, and, depending on how submission goes, I see some thrillers in the future, maybe even a cozy. Oh, did I mention that steampunk novel that I am dying to start?
Maybe it’s just a bit of attention deficit (SQUIRREL!) but for me, life is too short to forgo the enjoyment of learning something new. Unless I become the next big thing in a genre, I’m not going to sweat dabbling a bit and dreaming a lot about what I might try next. The best thing about writing is that you can sit down and make up whatever you want. If people like it, great. If you get paid for it, even better.
The cover for “The Dread” is below. Pop over to Wattpad if you have an account (and you should- there is some great stuff) and let me know what you think. Have a great weekend, everyone!
2016 has been an eventful year thus far. I was so honored that A Home for Kayla won best picture book at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Hurray for mutts! This little labor of love has yet to reap great financial success, but what it does earn is going straight to one of my local animal shelters. The illustrator, Yis Vang, and I are also collaborating on a new animal-themed picture called Rolly and Mac, which we will be releasing later this year. As with Kayla, Rolly and Mac focuses on friendship. In it, a puppy and a kitten deal with the disapproval of the other farm animals, who think that a dog and a cat are too different to be friends. Fortunately, owl is the wisest animal on the farm and comes to the rescue.
Speaking of Kayla, the real Kayla is doing remarkably well despite her age and health issues and is longing to chase the new goats around. These newest fur buddies, Wyatt and Virgil, are simply too cute for words. I never thought it was possible to have a lap goat, but I’m here to tell you, it is. These little guys snuggle like a cat and play like a dog. I see a goat-themed picture book on the horizon.
In other news, my adult thriller is on submission with my fabulous agent, Gina Panettieri, who is also looking for a new home for the Coriander Jones series. The second installment of CJ is polished and ready to go and I can’t wait to have it out in the world. I learned so much since writing the first book in 2012 and I hope it shows. Whoever coined the term “submission hell” hit the nail on the head. Querying is nothing next to waiting for submission news. Next on the writing agenda is either another Florida-based thriller, my long-neglected steampunk manuscript, or finally finishing my offbeat YA zombie novel. Decisions, decisions…
On my entertainment agenda, Finding Dory is a must-see and the last installment in Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes series is a must-read. If anyone has suggestions for a good, long-plane-ride type book, let me know.
To start off your week on a happy note, I’ve included a picture of Kayla with her #indiebookawards medal.
If you take even a cursory glance at my blog, web site or social media, you’ll see I am an animal lover, and in particular, a lover of rescue pets. I recently completed the journey of publishing my first picture book with illustrator Yis Vang, who did the cover for Coriander Jones. This book is my love letter to our very special rescue, Kayla.
My husband and daughter brought her home from the pound one Saturday, unannounced, likely because they knew I’d start chanting “NO MORE PETS!” But my heart broke for the little stray. She’d been found wandering a busy street, perhaps a casualty of the recession when people starting abandoning their pets with alarming frequency. She was emaciated, fear aggressive with other dogs, and painfully shy with people.
Fast forward a few years later and our girl was happy, healthy, and even a teeny bit overweight due to our compulsion to give her treats whenever she gave us that doleful look. My daughter started taking her to 4-H. Kayla learned that other dogs were friends. She even won blue ribbons and high points trophies against pure bred dogs.
We estimate that our grand old lady is about ten years old now. She started slowing down a bit and a little grey has creeped into her face. When she started limping late last fall, we took her in for a checkup. The vet diagnosed her with bone cancer, not the kind one can treat surgically or otherwise. We were, of course, devastated. Her diagnosis hasn’t stopped her from chasing the yard cats and begging for treats, and we are grateful for the medication that is giving us some extra time with her. Of the many animals I have had over the last fifty years, Kayla, I think, has the sweetest soul of them all. I started working on this picture book with Yis last year as a purely personal endeavor and so it’s bittersweet that it is coming out just as Kayla is in her twilight.
If you feel like checking out Kayla’s journey from sidewalk stray to beloved family member, the book is available online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I will probably be doing a Goodreads giveaway soon. And, as I always like to get a plug in for our angels in fur coats, please visit a shelter next time you are looking for a pet.
In the summer of 2012, I packed off my daughter for her first summer camp- an entire month away from home at a traditional summer camp where the kids went on canoe trips, swam in the lake every day and participated in the annual “color war.” During the time she was away, I resolved to finally write that book I’d been talking about for years. Over the course of my life, I’d resolved at different times to write a book. Sometimes I aimed for a straight up thriller, or sometimes a horror tale, but that particular summer, I resolved to write a book for kids. Specifically, I wanted to write a book about kids away at summer camp who have to save the world. And not cotillion kids, or kids at boarding school, or chosen ones- I wanted to write about kids who lived in a trailer park, who didn’t have iPhones and who used the public library for internet. My goal was to write a book my daughter would enjoy, and heck, maybe I could even get it published.
Three months later I had Coriander Jones Saves the World. Actually, I had a first draft of CJ but little did I realize the importance of putting the book away and then coming back for multiple rounds of edits. By then, my compulsive nature had lead me to many hours of researching publishing, agents, and how to query. Even with all that information, I still managed to make every rookie mistake the good folks at QueryTracker warn us about. If only I had discovered the forum sooner!
Genre? Who really cares if it’s MG or YA? Um, everyone. Fantasy? Adventure? Magical realism? What’s the difference? Lots, as it turns out. Even with all my mistakes, I still had a few nibbles, and even a few offers from small presses. Their contract terms were so one sided I didn’t bother to negotiate. A mistake? Maybe. Should I have followed up on the R&R from an agent? Maybe. But long about then I had decided that my personal goal of writing a book was enough and I could publish it myself. And then I decided to close out a partial request from a small press with a nudge so I could cross it off my list, and the editor immediately responded that yes, she had received the partial and could I send the rest. And then she asked what part of Florida I was from, and noticing my maiden name, asked if I knew an old high school friend of hers, who, as it turns out, is my cousin. Best of all, she love Coriander and her friends. She got what i was going for with the characters and the story. And I knew that going this route was not significantly different than self publishing as far as distribution. But the book was published. It even received some very flattering reviews and a few small awards, but as expected, sales were in the basement.
By then, I had kept writing, hopefully improving my craft, had made friends on Querytracker and Twitter and felt like I was ready to not only write CJ II but also that quirky thriller I’d been thinking about for, literally, decades. So armed with Gator Bait, I dipped my toes in the query trenches again. This time, I struck gold when Gina Panettieri saw past the flaws and gave me a chance to make revisions. With those, she took me on as a client and GB is currently on submission. Along with, I might add, CJ, which I had mentioned to Gina, she asked to see, and decided it might have a second chance. So it’s on submission as well, with the second book done, edited, and ready to get in the queue. My small press is going in a different direction with their projects and they wished me well and gladly negotiated with me to return my rights early.
The odds are definitely against a previously published book like Coriander Jones, especially in a tight market like YA. But everything from here is gravy. I like my trailer park girl. Of everything I’ve written so far, her voice spills out the easiest. I may end up toting the series around to indie bookstores and craft fairs, but honestly, I wrote a book I liked, and my kid liked it too. Recently, a little girl that had been given a copy of the book very shyly asked me if I could please hurry up and finish the second one. It’s not a starred review in Booklist, but it’ll do.
On a side note, my own daughter hated summer camp and came home early. Go figure.
Check out the “Which Character Are You” quiz on http://corianderjones.com
This year I decided to give the November novel writing challenge known as NanoWriMo a shot. I had created an account last year but never went further and so I geared up for a productive month. I was armed with a pseudo outline, synopsis and the first 2000 words under my belt.
And then life got in the way. This month has been a perfect storm of teenager-related activities (driving lessons, anyone?) a job re location (complete with packing and cleaning and finishing up projects) and the usual nagging necessities such as sleep and meals. At the almost halfway point, I have not added a single word to the initial count.
“Sigh.” I keep thinking, “There is next weekend!” But then I remember I need this weekend to do work projects. I’m not giving up yet, but realistically, I’ll be lucky to log in 20,000 by the end of the month.
In happier news, a short story I submitted to Pulp Literature’s Raven short story contest made the long list, but alas, not the short list. But hey, it’s s a start. It’s a creepy little horror story that I hope will find a publication home somewhere. I’ve always loved reading horror, so I took a stab at writing it, and if I ever finish two other WIPs, I’ve sketched out an outline for a second short story.
Oh, and there’s also that pesky academic paper I need to finish in 2016 to stay on track for completing a degree I’ve been plugging away for several years.
So whatcha doing this November? if you’re on Nano, look me up (I Am Groot is my handle) or drop me a line. Anyone else taking a stab at short stories? If so, where are you submitting? What books are on your holiday wish list? Oh jeez, that reminds me, I’m way behind on my Goodreads reading challenge…