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  1. Your stomach is filled with butterflies for eight continuous months between registration and the event because this is your first event as a legit, actually published author, and that's just crazy.
  2. You debate for weeks over what constitutes appropriate types and quantities of swag for your author table, and then just slap your name on a bag and order a ridiculous number of them.
  3. Your husband discovers he has a ton of traveler reward points, and he can totally come along and help you at the signing events if you want. (You want!)
  4. Then, because "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" laws apply to everything, your husband invites a couple of your friends along too, books you for some Vegas shows and extravagant dinners, because its Vegas and neither of you has been before and IT'S VEGAS, and you get super excited for every second of this trip but secretly know that it is going to totally destroy your little introverted soul.
  5. You spend a full week trying to come up with the best solution to get those damn swag bags into a larger bag so you can get them to RT Con, because you can totally do this and you are NOT paying for shipping, damnit, just to have an extra item on your to-do list when you get there of figuring out where they are being stored.
  6. You also needlessly pack your new Rayban sunglasses and perfectly-bright-blue Kate Spade purse, because Vegas seems like the type of place you can shamelessly rock them, and when you work from home and live at the beach there are not many opportunities for this type of thing. It's worth it.
  7. After you register you take a picture of your badge like the geek you are, because it has your name and also the title "Published Author" on it, which is a BFD.
  8. You attend sessions run by badass bestselling authors who know their shit and tell you their secrets, and your brain explodes from all the awesome.
  9. You meet all the peeps from your publisher in person for the first time and they are just as wonderful and awesome as you imagined.
  10. You try snow beef, just because Vegas is one of only four places in the country where you can. It lives up to the hype.
  11. You have random talks with a slew of authors at every point in their career, including a few you know from Facebook, writing for blogs, and more. They are all full of passion for the craft, and it's wildly invigorating.
  12. You do your first book signing. Although you feel like a total fraud setting up your booth, people seem to (amazingly) be really into the concept behind your story, you get to talk to tons of readers who love the same stuff as you, and you sell more books than expected. You leave exhausted, but glowing.
  13. You never actually adjust to the time change, wake up way too early every morning, and thoroughly confuse your body about when to eat. (Answer: Every time. Now.)
  14. You make the poor choice to take the last direct flight out from Vegas the last day of the event, which means packing up from the last day book signing as fast as humanly possible and booking it straight to the airport, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
  15. As a result you end up throwing $75 at Southwest needlessly because your bag is 10 pounds over the packing limit, and your brain can't cope with this extremely complicated life puzzle at this particular moment.
  16. You get home at 1 a.m. and most as little as humanly possible for the next two days in an effort to recover. which somehow still falls short.
  17. As you start to recover and feel like a person again, you flip back through your notes, remember all the people you met, and think hey, I should totally do this to myself again next year.

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Next week, I'm hitting Vegas. But instead of hitting the casinos, I'll be partying at the biggest book-lover event of the year: the RT Readers Convention.

Will you be there? Hit me up! I'll spend most of the week geeking it up in sessions about the craft and business of writing, but I'll also be taking some time to enjoy the con as a reader myself.

I'll also be making my first author appearances. On Saturday, you can catch me signing and selling books at the Giant Book Fair, and on Sunday, I'll be doing it all over again at the RT Roundup. Come say hello and grab yourself some E. J. Wenstrom swag 🙂

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And hey, if you've been to the RT Booklovers Convention before, either as a reader or an author, help a newbie out and leave me your tips in the comments!

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Golems are not particularly well known fantasy creatures.

When people ask what my novel is about, I say "It's about a golem," and then I pause. When someone nods and says "Oh cool, go on," I know I've got a real die-hard fantasy fan on my hands. More often, people don't know what they are.

I didn't either, before I started writing Mud. I only found out about golems because I was actively looking for lesser-known creatures--something to get me away from the vampires and zombies and werewolves that have dominated the pop culture monster market for the last several years (not that there's anything wrong with those, I love that stuff and consume it constantly).

But the golem captured my imagination as soon as I found it. My take on golems in Mud is about as closely related to the classic golem folklore as Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series is to classic vampire lore, but it's some seriously cool, sometimes dark stuff that is worth knowing all the same.

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Here's 14 things to know about golems:

  1. Golems originate from Jewish folklore.
    Traditionally, they're creatures made of inanimate materials like clay, made animate with magic.
  2. Golems are made to serve their creators.
    Most accounts indicate that animated golems follow the commands of their creators.
  3. Well that's handy.
    Yup. Especially since golems are extremely strong. Maybe I should make one to carry my groceries from the car to my apartment.
  4. The term "golem" is only used once in the Bible.
    In Psalms 139: 16. "Thine eyes did see my golem, yet being unformed; and in Thy Sefer (Book) all the yamim (days) ordained for me were written down, when as yet there were none of them." FYI, it's being used here to mean "unformed," so in this case, a fetus. Most modern interpretations don't use this word anymore (see several different interpretation here).
  5. But the Talmud's a whole different story.
    This is a book of Jewish laws and legends. It refers to Adam as "golem" for his first 12 hours of existence, meaning "unformed/imperfect" or in this case, a body without a soul.
  6. That's only the beginning.
    Another legend implies that the prophet Jeremiah made a golem.
  7. You, too, can make your very own golem!
    Just follow the steps laid out in the Sefer Yezirah, the Book of Creation. Unfortunately, some of the details on these steps are a little murky--different rabbis have interpreted the instructions differently.
  8. Give us the SparkNotes version.
    First, create the shape of a person out of clay or mud. Then, you either dance around it chanting specified letters of the Hebrew alphabet, or write "emet" (meaning "truth") on the golem's forehead, or write God's name on parchment and stick it in the golem's mouth. Invoke God's secret name, and voila, you got yourself a mud-slave. Pro tip: When using the parchment-feeding method, don't give your golem teeth.
  9. Mud slave? Sounds messy.
    Right? Still waiting on the followup magic to keep dirt from trailing through the house.
  10. What's God's secret name?
    Sorry, can't tell, it's a secret.
  11. As a note, golems have a tendency to run amok after a while.
    The one Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel made in Prague around 1580, for example, was supposed to protect against a Blood Libel, guard the Jewish town from a group of bad-egg, Jew-hating Christians, and/or  help with physical labor (conflicting sources on this). But after a while it started threatening innocent lives.
  12. Why didn't you tell me that before I made this thing?
    More practical, less fun. But I can tell you how to get rid of it, at least.
  13. Please do.
    The way to "kill" your golem depends on how you made it. If you opted for the dance, now dance around it in the opposite direction, while saying the letters in the opposite order. If you opted to write "emet' on it, erase the "e" to change the command to "met," or "death." If you went for the parchment, just stick your hand in that golem's mouth and remove the parchment. I told you, you didn't want teeth on that thing.
  14. Modern stories have taken more techie takes on the golem.
    As in robots. Another creature made of inanimate pieces and brought to life by men to do their bidding. No serious running amok so far, but we've all gotten in a fight with a copy machine before, so you tell me. See also: Frankenstein.

P.S., Mud is still only $.99, but only for a few more days! Grab your copy now before the price goes up.

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Kobo   |   iBooks

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I am double-geeked to be featured on my writing hero Chuck Wendig's blog this week to share "5 Things I Learned While Writing MUD."

Hop over to the Terrible Minds blog and check it out!

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In case you missed it, last week I was featured on Janice Hardy's Fiction University blog. Pop on over and learn "How to Tap into Writing Mode Anywhere."

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Around this time of year, as I become surrounded by green for a day, I can't help but reflect on luck.

It's a funny thing, the way random things seem to just line up as if by magic. Sometimes you look back at something that happened to you and realize just how perfectly everything had to align for a particular something to roll your way with just the right timing.

This is how I feel about my writing career.

I feel it's important to talk about things like luck in relation to writing. There are so many incredibly talented writers out there, and with so much competition, it can be easy for a writer to slip through the cracks and get discouraged.

But not finding your opportunity to get published does NOT mean you are less talented than any other writer. It just means that you haven't snagged your moment of luck yet.

To show you what I mean (and in belated celebration of St. Patrick's Day), here are my luckiest moments I've had in my writing career (so far):

1. My college writing internship

When I look back at my college internship, it blows my mind to think about how unlikely this was to happen, and how drastically it changed the course for my life.

I did not want to do an internship. And I especially did not want one that would force me to write. No lie. I actively fought against this at every turn.

Alas, the senior honors course I took my final semester of college required an internship. But even once I resigned myself to applying for internships, I was focused on finding editorial internships at book publishers. I only applied to be a writing intern at a local magazine as a very last resort, because I had not been accepted for anything else, and my time was running out.

Turns out that luck can often look like failure. I am so, so lucky I didn't manage to get what I wanted for this internship.

Because before this internship, I did not believe I could write. It's only because this internship forced me to that I even tried. And it's only because I had an incredible mentor in the magazine's managing editor that I learned that I could have fun and be creative with my writing. And I absolutely fell in love with it.

This writing thing opened doors that changed my entire adult life trajectory. My entire career has been built on the writing skills I discovered and the clips that I got from that internship. And then, later on, it led to an interest in fiction that's become my hobby, my passion, and when I get frustrated with the world, my saving grace.

This thing that I dreaded and fought tooth and nail against was easily in the top five things that have ever happened to me.

2. Proximity to The Writer's Center

About two years into my progress of writing Mud, I moved to Washington, D. C. I moved there not becuase my family is there (though they are) and not because I love the city (though I do), but because my husband got a pretty random but great work opportunity. As it happens, this put me within spitting distance of The Writer's Center.

The Writer's Center is among the country's top resources for fiction writers, and offers a plethora of high-quality courses, workshops and networking opportunities for authors at all stages of their career. Naturally I quickly found a course intended for writers at my level and signed up.

In that class and others after, I met other writers in the area, was challenged creatively, and learned a ton about how the industry works and how to get published. I met successful authors who have since offered me critical advice regarding key decisions. And I've made wonderful friends.

In short, I could not have sought out a more perfect growth opportunity if I'd been specifically looking for it.

3. Landing the Best Critique Group

After the end of my first writing course at The Writer's Center, I emailed the entire class asking if anyone would like to continue meeting as a critique group.

Luckily (see what I did there), there was a lot of interest. Over a few monthly meetings, the group pared down to just four of us--a great size for us to get to know each other, offer each other frequent constructive feedback, and support each other as we navigate our way through the publishing process.

I guess it makes sense to some degree, but this group offered a wonderful balance of likeminded writers who cared about investing in their writing, wanted to improve, and had publishing ambitions, while also offering a lot of diversity in genres, styles, and approaches to building a fiction-writing career.

Lucky me to land myself in this incredible group of writers.

4. Finding an Amazing Publisher

When I queried agents last summer, I was getting just enough promising responses from agents to not give up. But while I was getting interest, no one was biting. Then I stumbled onto a little Twitter event for writers called #adpit, which connected authors, agents and publishers on a website and backed it up with 140-character mini-pitches on Twitter. I thought, what the heck, it's a few hours of my time, and who knows.

That's where City Owl Press found me.

I'll be honest, I was dubious at first--there are a lot of groups out there preying on aspiring authors under the guise of "small press," and my first response to the editor's outreach was Groucho Marx' famous quote, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” In other words, if this press is so exciting about my little book, it's probably not very good.

But I researched them anyway, and even reached out to some pros I know who could lend some perspective. They were young and somewhat untested, but the team not only had a strong track record, but also were incredibly open and patient with me as I asked a number of intrusive questions, weighed options, and got a lawyer to review the contract. All good signs.

So I went for it. After all, I figured, even if it turned out to be a disaster, it would be a huge learning experience, and hey, who knows.

The people at City Owl have been nothing but wonderful since day one, always willing to offer sound advice, to hop on the phone and time I have questions, and give me their quick attention any time I ask for it. On top of that, they've gone above and beyond what I've heard to be "standard" at major publishers when it comes to investing me as an author--they actively sought out my input on my book cover, and showed me a strong marketing plan for my book without even being asked. These guys are just champs.

I knew this step was a gamble going in, but it was one I was willing to take. So far it's met all of my highest hopes. You just can't get luckier than that.

5. Financial Stability

About a year ago I read an article from an author about how socioeconomic status played a huge role in one's ability to have a career as an artist, and why it was so important to bring this hush-hush topic to light. I wish I could link to it, but I can't find it anymore. But that author was right, so I'm going to do my part and talk about it now.

I've been financially comfortable my entire life. This is incredibly lucky just in general, but it's played a huge role in my ability to write. In college, I didn't have to rack up debt or work a job, which is how I was able to take a low-paying internship in the first place. In D.C., I had the free spending money necessary to take part in The Writer's Center opportunities. And the free time and energy necessary to write every day, and contribute to a writing group. And the freedom to be able to take a risk with a small press I didn't know.

In a way, being lucky enough to be financially well-off my entire life has been the essential foundation to all my writing success. We need to have our eyes wide open when it comes to the utter disadvantage this gives to less fortunate artists, and societally, support changes that afford opportunities for artists of all kinds.

Luck Doesn't Knock Twice--Be Ready for It

There's no denying the large amounts of luck that have played into my writing success so far, and I'm sure that will continue to be the case. Don't think I ever forget it for a second.

But if you're out there feeling like you're helpless until your dose of luck drops into your lap, here's a bit of good news. There's a lot you can do to be ready for luck when it comes your way. All the advantages in the world can't help you if you're not willing to put butt in chair and do the writing, or listen to feedback, or take the risks. But if you put in the work in good faith, contribute to the writing community near you, and keep your eyes open, it's eventually going to come your way.

Go out and actively look for those lucky moments, and I'm confident you'll find yours, too.

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Today is Launch Day! Mud is now available in hard cover, paperback, and ebook!

And to celebrate the launch, the ebook price is reduced to just $.99 for a limited time, so snag your copy now!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

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What Others are Saying About Mud:

"I loved this book!! So unique so engaging, a Keeper and must read!!"
--Heather B., NetGalley

"The clever use of weathered fantasy tropes and occasionally lovely turns of phrase will propel readers into book two."
--Publishers Weekly

"Recommended For: Anyone who likes books about character journey and growth and anyone looking for a book about an uncommon, yet very human, paranormal creature."
--Kristen Burns, Metaphors and Moonlight

'There's something primal about Mud. It's a reverent, mythical story of supernatural beings who justify desperate measures in their quest to feel complete."
--Robert Wiesehan, author of "Genki: A Story About Living"

Get your copy now!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

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Today I'm over at the wonderful Elizabeth Spann Craig's Mystery Writing is Murder blog talking about how I tap into a new character's voice for first-person narration.

Check it out here.

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Just a quick announcement that my dystopian fantasy novel Mud is now available in paperback! WOO!

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You can purchase it for $14.99 on Amazon--more vendors to come by March 15.

You can also pre-order the ebook for $3.99 for Nook or Kobo if that's more your style, and those will be available on March 15. There is also a hard cover version that will be available soon. So pick your poison, my friends. No judgment here, something for everybody.

Regardless of which format you buy, please do leave a review when you've read it! Reviews on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads are a major driver for helping Mud stay visible to readers who are searching for new reads. Thank you in advance!

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As I prepare for Mud’s launch, I’ve been thinking a lot about the story’s protagonist, Adem, the golem.

He tries awfully hard, the poor guy. His little mud-made heart is in the right place, but he just keeps mucking things up every chance he’s got. He’s just totally hopeless.

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But Adem’s not alone in the Hopeless Heroes Club. In fact, the most hopeless heroes can be some of the most interesting, and the most prone to muster up real strong emotions (whether that be hate, rage, or loving sympathy really just depends on the character).

So let’s dig them up. Presenting some of the most facepalm-worthy heroes of fiction, list from from most beloved to most despised (SPOILERS AHEAD):

Annie, The Family Fang
The Fangs are, indisputeably, the most dysfunctional non-abusive family ever. And they have my undying love for that. But to say Annie and her brother Buster made it to adulthood without a few scars wouldn’t just be an understatement, it would be a blatant lie.

But for all her aimlessness and bad choices, Annie sees her parents for what they are. In the end, this incredible feat is what sets her free. I love this character as much for her terrible, quirky life decisions as I do her strength.

Meg, A Wrinkle In Time
The very nerdiest brand of teen, Meg is a victim of her own highstrung emotions and insecurities. But then, haven’t we all at some point? As a character, these faults, plus her brilliance and loyalty, make her a huge win for readers.

And sure, the Mrs. W’s, Charles Wallace, and Calvin get their crew of misfits through the most of the story, but Meg’s tidal wave emotions are what pulls them through in that true clench moment.

Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
This guy. Good heart, no motivation. The only things Scott Pilgrim is good at are guitar and video games. Jobs? Nah. Adulting? Nah. Girls? Definitely not. The kid sleeps on a mattress right on the floor of his friend’s apartment.

So Scott Pilgrim would not be #1 on anyone’s list to defeat a slew of Evil Exes and win a girl’s heart. Which makes watching him beat the odds so much more fun.

Mr. Bingley, Pride & Prejudice
Mr. Bingley's a good guy. He's sweet, unassuming, and rich. Which matters, for a romantic hero in in the early 1800s. And he's a hopeless blob of putty in his sisters' manipulative hands.

For all his kindness and generosity, Mr. Bingley is undeniably hopeless. He can't even stand up to his best friend.

Nick Dunne, Gone Girl
There are reasons it was so easy to believe Nick killed his wife, and it wasn’t just Amy’s brilliant setup. It was because 1) Nick is a true sleaze, and 2) Nick keeps making one terrible choice after another. You know, like breaking into crime scenes. Having an affair with a college student. Stuff like that.

Despite his sleaze factor, you do end up feeling for Nick, though. It does seem that Amy may be overreacting to the situation. And once Nick pieces together what’s going on, he’s got no way to prove it to anyone or take any actually helpful action. It basically just keeps unfolding around him, and he sinks deeper and deeper into Amy’s plot, until Amy changes her mind. Womp.

This guy deserves to be lower on this list but, ugh, he actually is kind of charming.

Jonathan Harker, Dracula
This guy you actually do feel bad for. He’s trapped in a haunted house with some kind of monster that climbs walls, indulges in debauchery, and sucks blood … also, turns your true love into a vampire.

In the end, though, the guy gets it together, hunting down an obscure expert and taking down vampires. Attaboy.

Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby
Does this guy do anything besides mooch, and silently judge those he mooches from? Oh right, he also goes along with dating a girl who just sorta-kinda tolerates him, because, whatever, they’re both there.

Bill, True Blood
Filed under “Terrible Good Vampires.” Theoretically an enlightened vampire who is ready to embrace a peaceful coexistence with humans. Bill Compton always seems to be at least one shade of sketchy, and at some point throws aside his “romantic hero” cap altogether and goes villainous instead.

Also, what kind of boyfriend asks you to use the VERY LAST beam of your fairy powers to put him out of his misery? Come on, Bill.

Who would you add?

Is it a coincidence that the only two hopeless heroines are at the top of this list? I mean. Who’s to say*. I don’t write them, I just call them like I see them.

Now obviously, these are not the only hopeless heroes in literature. Worthlessness runs deep in world of fiction. These are just the ones I love most, and love to hate.

What are your favorite and most hated worthless heroes? Share then in the comments!

 

*It’s very likely that women are not given the same leeway to be both a protagonist and unlikeable with the same freedom that male characters are allowed. But that’s a rabbit hole to jump in another day.

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