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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

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.

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!

 

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.

Head in Hands

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.