Author: skaeth

Writer In Motion Season 3 Wrap-up

I adore Writer In Motion and that’s really no secret by now. Every time I participate, even when I’m all over the place like this time, I learn something new.

This time, I tried something a little different, with a new protagonist and a sassy voice and really enjoyed the result.

The best part for me was being more involved behind the scenes with all the goings on that make Writer In Motion run smoothly. I really enjoyed working with the team, even though it hardly felt like I did anything some daysI It’s hard to find better people to work with!

I also very much enjoyed working with my CPs this round, as usual. I like to mix it up to work with different people, and this time I had the chance to work with Melissa (who I’ve beta read for before, and is an amazing writer) and Erin Fulmer. It was great to give them thoughts on their fantastic stories too. I also ran that round past the wonderful Lauren, and my critique group!

Then for round two, I had the chance to read for Kim B and Dan Koboldt, who were each incredible, along with SM Roffey. It’s so fun to get to work with people in the writing community who I haven’t had the chance to work with before.

Next time I plan on participating (of course!) and would love to help out behind the scenes again too!

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Space Cows 3: Final Draft

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I had some great help on this round too! My CPs gave me wonderful things to think about. Dan Koboldt had a great point about strengthening the overall arc, but I ran out of words. While technically I can go over 1000 words now that this is the final draft, I try to stick to it anyway in the spirit of the challenge. I could have altered some of the thoughts of Goat in the beginning, but I felt like that would give a different tone and character to Goat than what I was going for.

SM Roffey gave me some of those words though, pointing out a sentence I could cut, and Kim B wanted more detail of the inside of the building, so I used my 9 extra words there instead with some worldbuilding.

Beyond those changes though, it was mostly necessary nitpicks. People still suggested changes to “Not following orders” so I finally fixed that, but I kept my “full with leaves” because “full of leaves” doesn’t work for me and I couldn’t come up with something better. The hazards of editing power-sessions: now my worder needs a break.

But I really enjoy my little Space Goats, and I am pleased to present my final draft, complete at 996 words:

You sproing through the scraggly bushes that cling to the hill, muzzle raised to the cool breeze. Alien scents wash over you, so different from the ship’s sterile, recycled air. The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue above the darker bruising of the distant mountains.

It’s rather disappointing. Shouldn’t alien planets be more, well, alien?  

And there’s a blocky, artificial structure right at the top of the hill, not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they? Otherwise what’s the point? It’s all dreadfully boring, so you stretch your neck out, rising on the tips of your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s gonna tell on you? Cow? Cow’s not here. She’ll be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing. 

But you’re on an alien planet! Simmering underneath the disappointment, excited energy thrums through your bones. The grass isn’t made of crystal, and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space, and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away from you. 

All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better. 

Oh, and to finish your mission, you suppose. 

You can hear the Whale as distinctly as you did when he stood in front of you, a scowl on his long face. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet. First, use your head to find your assigned mentor, who will have the Matter Transportation Device. They’ll brief you on a short excursion, and upon your return, you’ll both Matt back up to the ship.”

Look for clues, for anything out of place, of course. Like the glaringly obvious building

Your hooves squish in the springy turf, and the mountains rise and fall behind the apex of the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible. 

A breeze whips past and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a whiff, so it’s probably pretty far aw—

Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side. Dust in your eyes makes them water. Your heart hammers faster than it did during your first spacewalk, and you scramble to your hooves. 

Cougar stands a meter away, his fangs a flash of white as he smiles. “Disregarding orders again, Goat?”

What’s he doing out here? You glance at the building, where Cow would be waiting. It’s too far. Cougar will outrun you. 

He prowls a step closer. “This is a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you had followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.

“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises.” He sits, inspecting his claws. 

You flick your tail. You won’t bow to the threats he’s tossing about. You’re the first Goat to make it onto the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it’s your very first alien planet! You’re not about to let the chance to explore end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully. 

You dig your small hooves into the ground and lower your head, dropping to all fours. A flicker of surprise lights Cougar’s eyes as you spring forward. You crash horns-first into his side, the same way he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. Spinning around, you charge for the top of the hill, for safety. Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does. 

The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy hoof-holds as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks urges you to move faster, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for air. 

Where’s the door? Where’s the door? Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the entrance to this dirty, unassuming building, and on your very first mission. That’d be mortifying. 

The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was obviously not made for hoofed-species. He’s coming and you don’t have time to wrestle with a space-junked door! You kick it, then lower your head and head-butt it. 

It lurches open and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord. You stare around, gaping. The interior is an enormous cavern. A cool grey banister stands two meters in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space, while ramps of bustling Geckos, Mice, and Tamarins spiral deeper into the mountain beneath you. A Bat whisks past you toward the ceiling, carrying a basket. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors amidst the shadowy grays accent the interior. This is more like it.

One floor below you, Cow waits, tapping her hoof. “How’d the Goat do?”

Your mouth works, but nothing comes out. Who was she talking to?

Behind you, a velvet voice has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for ‘using your head.’”

 Your eyes flick from Cougar to Cow and back again. This was all a setup?

Cougar grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”

“What?” you squeak.  Normally you’re much wittier, you swear.

Cow shakes her head. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” Her bovine face turns serious. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.” 

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Space Cows 3: First CP Round

Wow, this week has been full! I got some great feedback from my CPs though, and am working on my edits on Space Goats!

Both my CPs had great suggestions, and it was a matter of selecting which I could pull off in 1,000 words while keeping the voice I had going!

As usual, I read through the feedback right away and let it sit, though this time life conspired to pull me away for most of the week, so hopefully my subconscious got in some good mulling over!

After compiling the comments I wanted to act on (none of the compliments, though they are so kind and good to know!) into Scrivener, I had a clear plan.

Most of the comments were smaller things, though I also received some great notes about characterization and continuity. I threw out comments that would alter the voice too much or turn things that were reflexive into active things (and vice versa), even though they were great comments as general advice. Melissa had great thoughts on changing line breaks for emphasis, which was cool, and it’s always fun to see where people agree on comments (no one disagreed this time, though that’s also fun!).

I decided to stubbornly keep some things, like my “full with leaves” even though it’s a bit archaic. I like my archaic phrasings, lol. If my next round of CPs also marks it though, I might cave.

I did get caught with muddiness regarding four legs or two, and when the Goat switches and why, so I tried to clear that up. Was the Goat normally on four legs and rose up to nibble the branch, or normally on two legs? Was it the rising up on two legs that was against the Code, or nibbling an alien plant?

The other thing I had to think hard about was the line “Are all planets going to be like this one?”. It is a bit clunky, and it’s not strictly necessary. I didn’t like the ideas I had for smoothing it though, so I considered just cutting it. In the end, that’s exactly what I did.

Figuring out the legs issue was a little more involved, but I found I had some extra room so I was able to give more description of the space and Goat’s reactions to the back and forth.

So with no further ado, here is Space Goats, this time with a word count of 985.

You sproing through the scraggly bushes that cling to the hill, muzzle raised to the cool breeze. Alien scents wash over you, so different from the ship’s sterile, recycled air. The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue above the darker bruising of the distant mountains.

It’s rather disappointing. Shouldn’t alien planets be more, well, alien?  

And there’s a blocky, artificial structure right at the top of the hill, not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they? Otherwise what’s the point? It’s all so dreadfully boring, that you stretch your neck out, rising on the tips of your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s gonna tell on you? Cow? Cow’s not here. She’ll be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing. 

But you’re on an alien planet! Simmering underneath the disappointment, thrums of energy race through your bones. The grass isn’t made of crystal, and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space, and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away from you. 

All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better. 

Oh, and to finish your mission, you suppose. 

You can hear the Whale as distinctly as you did when he was standing in front of you, a scowl on his long face. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet. First, use your wits to find your assigned mentor, who will have the Matt. They’ll brief you on a short excursion, and upon your return, you’ll both Matt back up to the ship.”

Look for clues, for anything out of place, of course. Like the glaringly obvious building

Your hooves squish in the springy turf, and the mountains rise and fall behind the apex of the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible. 

A breeze whips past and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a whiff, so it’s probably pretty far aw—

Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side. Dust makes your eyes tear up. Your heart hammers faster than it did during your first spacewalk, and you scramble to your hooves. 

Cougar stands a meter away, his fangs a flash of white as he smiles. “Not following orders again, Goat?”

What’s he doing out here? You glance at the building, where Cow would be waiting. It’s too far. Cougar will outrun you. 

He prowls a step closer. “This is a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you had followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.

“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises.” He sits, inspecting his claws. 

You flick your tail. You won’t cave to the threats he’s tossing about. You’re the first Goat to make it on the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it’s your very first alien planet! You’re not about to let the chance to explore end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully. 

You dig your small hooves into the ground and lower your head, dropping to all fours. A flicker of surprise lights Cougar’s eyes as you spring forward. Your horns crash into his side, just as he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. Spinning around, you charge for the top of the hill, for safety. Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does. 

The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy hoof-holds as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks urges you to move faster, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for air. 

Where’s the door? Where’s the door? Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the door to this dirty, unassuming building, and on your very first mission. That’d be mortifying. 

The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was obviously not made for hoofed-species. Cougar would likely have an easier time with it. He’s coming and you don’t have time to wrestle with a space-junked door! You kick it, then lower your head and head-butt it. 

It lurches open and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord. You stare around, gaping. The interior is an enormous cavern. A cool grey banister stands two meters in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space, while ramps of bustling workers spiral deeper into the mountain beneath you. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors amidst the shadowy grays accent the interior. This is more like it.

One floor below you, Cow waits idly. “How’d the Goat do?”

Your mouth works, but nothing comes out. 

Behind you, a velvet voice has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for ‘using your head.’”

 Your eye flick from Cougar to Cow and back again. This was all a setup?

Cougar grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”

“What?” you squeak.  Normally you’re much more witty, you swear.

Cow shakes her head. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” Her bovine face turns serious. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.”

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Space Cows 3: Self-edit

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The first thing I did was let it sit. I always let stuff sit before editing. My subconscious is able to work on it that way. For this, obviously, there’s not as much marinating time available. Then I did a read through and made note of what I wanted to change:

  • Really get into and sophisticate Goat’s voice. I don’t want Goat to sound like a kid, while preserving Goat’s excitement, spunk, and sass.
  • I want to make sure there are no pronouns associated with Goat. I want Goat to be able to be anyone who feels like Goat. 
  • I also want to smooth out the whole reason to be here on this planet, as it got a bit muddy while I was discovering it. 
  • See if I can strengthen the arc I have in here. 
  • Then line edits, to make sure everything’s as polished as I can make it. Obviously typos, cutting word count, and tightening sentences. Oh, and read aloud!

Once I had everything as good as I could make it, I ran it through AutoCrit. As usual for me, it found some repetitions and I got to think about alternate ways to say things. I love how this word map summarizes my story so well!

I’m pretty happy with Space Goats right now! It clocks in at 991 according to Scrivener, so I came in comfortably under the word count limit. Have a look:

You sproing through the short bushes that cling to the hill, muzzle raised to the cool breeze. Alien scents wash over you, so much different from the ship’s sterile, recycled air. The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue above the darker bruising of the distant mountains. Are all planets going to be like this one? 

Frankly, part of you is disappointed. Shouldn’t alien planets be more, well, alien? For another thing, there’s an odd artificial structure right at the top of the hill, not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they, or what’s the point? It’s all so dreadfully boring, you rise up on your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s gonna tell on you? Cow? Cow’s not here. She’ll be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing. 

But you’re on an alien planet! Simmering underneath the disappointment, thrums of energy race through your bones. The grass isn’t made of crystal, and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away from you. 

All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better. 

Oh, also and to finish your mission, you suppose. 

You can hear the Whale as distinctly as you did when he was standing in front of you, his long face scowling in your memory. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet. First, use your wits to find your assigned mentor, who will have the Matt. They’ll brief you on a short excursion, and upon your return, you’ll both Matt back up to the ship.”

Look for clues, for anything out of place, of course. Like the glaringly obvious building

Your hooves squish in the springy turf, and the mountains rise and fall behind the apex of the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible. 

A breeze whips past and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a whiff, so it’s probably pretty far aw—

Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side. Dust makes your eyes tear up. Your heart hammers faster than it did during your first space walk, and you scramble to your hooves. 

A Cougar stands a meter away, his fangs a flash of white as he smiles. “Not following orders, again, Goat?”

What’s a Cougar doing out here? You glance at the building, where Cow would be waiting. It’s too far. The Cougar will outrun you. 

The Cougar prowls a step closer. “This is a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you had followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.

“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises.” He sits, inspecting his claws. 

You flick your tail. You won’t cave to the threats he’s tossing about. You’re the first Goat to make it on the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it’s your very first alien planet! You’re not about to let the chance to explore end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully. 

You dig your small hooves into the ground and lower your head. A flicker of surprise lights the Cougar’s eyes as you spring forward. Your horns crash into his side, just as he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. Spinning around, you charge for the top of the hill, for safety. The Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does. 

The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy hoof-holds as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks urges you to move faster, so you abandon decorum and go to all fours. Twice as many hooves to propel you to the hilltop does wonders, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for air. 

Where’s the door? Where’s the door? The Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the door to this dirty, unassuming building, and on your very first mission. That’d be mortifying. 

The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was obviously not made for hoofed-species. Ironically, Cougar would likely have an easier time with it. He’s coming and you don’t have time to wrestle with a space-junked door! You kick it, then lower your head and head-butt it. 

It springs open and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord. You stare around yourself, gaping. A cool grey banister stands two meters in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space. An enormous cavern of bustling workers spirals deeper into the mountain beneath you. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors accent the interior. This is more like it.

One floor below you, Cow waits idly. “How’d the Goat do?”

Your mouth works, but nothing comes out. 

Behind you, a velvet voice has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for ‘using your head.’” 

Cougar grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”

“What?” you squeak. 

Cow shakes her head. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” Her bovine face turns serious. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.”

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Writer In Motion: Space Cows 3: The First Draft

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You sproing through the short bushes that cling to the grassy hill, muzzle raised to the cool air. Odd scents wash over you—this planet sure is stinky! The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue, lighter than the grey-blue of the distant mountains. Are all planets going to be like this one? 

Frankly, part of you is disappointed. Aren’t alien plantes supposed to be more, well, alien? For another thing, there’s a odd artificial structure right at the top of the hill, clearly not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they, or what’s the point? It’s all so dreadfully boring, you rise up on your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s donna tell on you? Cow? It’s not like Cow’s every here. They’d be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing. 

But you’re on an alien planet! It should be even more exciting, but still thrums of energy race through your bones, simmering beneath the vague disappointment. The grass isn’t made of crystal and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away form you. 

All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better. 

Oh, also and to complete your mission, you suppose. 

You can hear the Whale as clearly as you did when he was standing in front of you, his long face scowling in your memory. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet and will have to find your assigned rendezvous partner, who will have the Matt. Once you find your partner, you’ll be briefed on a short mission, and upon your return, Matt back up to the ship.”

Look for clues, for anything out of place, obviously. Like the glaringly obvious building

You sproing along, your hooves squishing in springy turf. The mountains rise and fall behind the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible. 

The wind brings you further brand new scents, and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells out and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a little bit, so it’s probably pretty far aw—

Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side, dust making your eyes tear up. Your heart beats faster than it did during your first space walk, and you scramble to your hooves. Before you stands a Cougar, fangs a flash of white as he smiles at you. 

“Not following orders, again, Goat?” he asks. 

What was a Cougar doing out here? You glance at the building, so obviously where Cow would be waiting. It was too far. The Cougar would outrun you. 

Another flash of white as the Cougar smiles again. “It’s supposed to be a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you’d followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.

“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises,” he responds, inspecting his claws. 

You’re not about to cave to the threats he’s tossing about like the trees shedding pollen in the air. You’re the first Goat to make it on the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it was the very first alien planet you’ve been on and you’re not about to lt the chance to explore more end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully. 

You dig your small hooves into the arid ground and lower your head. A flicker of surprise lights the Cougar’s eyes, but then you spring forward. Your horns crash into his side just as he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. And then, you spin and charge for the building, for safety. The Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does. 

The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy platform as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks motivates you to move faster, so you abandon decorum and go to all fours. Twice as many hooves to propel you to the top of the hill does wonders, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for breath. Where’s the door? Where’s the door? The Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the door to this dirty, unassuming, tiny building, and on your very first mission. That’d be embarrassing. 

The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was clearly not made for hooved-species. Ironically, Cougar would likely have an easier time with it, but you don’t have time to wrestle with a space junked door! You kick it, and then lower your head and head-butt it. 

It springs open, and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord, leaving you gaping. A cool grey banister stands one meter in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space. An enormous cavern of bustling workers spirals below you, along with Cow, waiting just one floor down. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors accent the space. 

“How’d the Goat do?” the Cow asks. 

Your mouth works, but nothing comes out. 

Behind you, someone else has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for “using your head”.” 

He grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”

“What?” you squeak. 

Cow smiles. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” The bovine face turns serious, brown eyes boring into you. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.”


Coming in at 1031 words, it’s rough, but I love it. I’m really excited to dig deeper into Goat and let their snark and attitude out further, even though I need to trim some words!

I definitely wanted to do something fresh, to turn it on its head a bit, so using a new point of view and vaguely recognizable situations, then flipping it on its head felt like the right move to me. Plus, Goat’s voice was just so spunky and kept me laughing internally. 

I forgot my terminology so had to look it up. And that delete button kept calling for little typos, but I tried to avoid it, as I do normally fast draft. This draft was a lot slower than many of my drafts have been, but I have slowed down a little this year (last year my fingers were on fire I was drafting so fast!). Autocorrect still caught some of my typos while others I’m hoping I can figure out later!

The last words just popped into my head, and I rushed to write them down right away, because I felt they were a perfect end to my story, giving me the anchor to tie together the vague shape of the story that had come to mind. Don’t judge a planet by its drop site. 

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Writer In Motion, round 3

You guys know by now I’m a huge fan of Writer In Motion. Of course, it doesn’t work for everyone, but I adore the community and the solidarity that writers can find themselves immersed in.

This round, I was iffy on whether or not I would participate. I have such a blast with writing these shorts and I’m trying to get into a groove of practicing my short stories more. And my friends from WIM Round 1 were clamoring for more Space Cows! On the other hand, I also have edits to do, after all, and a couple of beta reads. But I definitely wanted to get more involved, so I volunteered to serve as a forum mod.

Then the prompt dropped. I love it.

Photo by Rahul Pandit on Unsplash

Look at this! The dark hillside, the lighted building. The openness of nature, the tiny man-made thing. The rounded shapes all around, and then the straight-sided boxiness of this building.

I immediately had questions. Who would live way out here? Why (beyond the obvious–hello mountainside!)? What else is there that we can’t see? What about that homey, chilling in the evening with nature mood–can I do something with that? What’s behind the house? What’s under the house? Does this fit with Space Cows, or something new?

But I knew I wanted to write something with it.

Spaceships under the mountain entered my head. Also a goat and wineglass picture I’d seen in Slack. And I mean, can I really pass up the chance to poke some fun at Jeni?

I had a hilarious time brainstorming in my writer’s group. So the questions continued. Is there a mountain sized spaceship under the house, and the little tiny house is actually the cupola?

Are the goat and wineglass on this mountain? Yeah, a mashup was inevitable.

And that’s when I knew what I was writing. Did I have a whole plot? No, but I knew the Goat would be the star, and it would be set in the Space Cows universe. I knew the Cow would be part of the story, in some way, but what exactly that way was still was yet to be decided.

Come play along with us! It’s not too late- just write your short story and post it by Friday! It’s only about 1,000 words in your genre of choice! Check out Writer In Motion for more details!

Categories: Uncategorized

On Inspiration and support

Writing can be a lonely endeavor when we let it become one. It’s easy to feel isolated, to feel like your words don’t matter and no one’s reading them. And when that happens, all too often the inspiration to write dries up. That’s a terrible thing. I believe there are amazing stories inside of each of us waiting to be told–stories that speak truths of who we are and how we see the world. Stories that matter. 

It’s a shame to silence them.

I’ve been serious about my writing for nearly a decade now. I enjoyed writing and telling stories all through growing up but I let my practicing of my craft go by the wayside. And then, once I decided to really apply myself to growing as a writer, I shunned writing groups by and large, too scared to share my work. I got by with a few beta readers, one of whom became one of my story-shining CPs.

And I did get by. I learned a lot, and I worked hard, but not nearly to the point I have lately.

In the last year and a half or so, I’ve become incredibly productive in part because I’ve been phenomenally inspired by the amazing writers who make up my support system

For me, inspiration is tied to the books I’ve been reading and to my emotional state. When I’m stressed, inspiration often dries up, while if I’m comfortable and confident, I can sling ideas around free for the taking. That means self-care is really important for me. Yes, I still have to do the work, but part of that work is giving myself the best chance to be inspired. 

And that’s where my community comes in. My cheerleaders, my pillow-fort, my squad. They pick me up when I’m down and lost, and they cheer with me when I win or when I’m confident. 

So how do you get one of these amazing circles of friends yourself? 

That’s the meat of what I want to talk about today, because there’s absolutely no need to be jealous, and too many times I hear people bad mouth these teams, or feel jealous or sad. But here’s the thing: my bunch may not fit your needs, and your bunch may not fit another person’s needs. That doesn’t mean there’s anything cliquey going on (although that can happen, of course). It just means you have time to find your writing home. 

I have a few circles. Some are for me to encourage others and receive encouragement by seeing others getting words down. Some I use to motivate me by expecting me to have something to submit for critique, and I grow as I give critique, too. (When in critique groups, always plan to give more to the group than you get.) Some are where I shout out about awesome opportunities in the writing world, or brainstorm or world build or character build. And then a very select few I go to when I’m vulnerable. When I need a lift, when I need a hug. These are the groups I know will never stab me in the back.

How many do you need? It’s totally dependent on you! But at least you need the last kind- that circle of people who will support you and never turn on you. And that’s hard to find. And it’s scary. But it’s gold once you have your writing family.

To form your own writing fam, it’s terrifyingly simple, but difficult. You have to put yourself out there. You have to try groups out and see where you fit. And sadly, that means you’ll find groups that don’t fit you. They aren’t active enough, or they’re too positive, or not positive enough, or not experienced enough yet, or too advanced and you feel left out, or maybe your personalities just don’t mesh. All of these situations can happen absolutely benignly, and I’ve seen them happen several times. Feeling bitter about it won’t help–chalk it up to a simple “not quite right” and move on. (Or, stay for other reasons, but keep looking for that close inner heart-circle.) Your people are out there!

I love events and competitions like Nanowrimo, RevPit, and Writer In Motion. They are amazing opportunities to find community. You get out what you put in, though, too. So if you come in ready to fight, or pick nits, or only want adoration, they won’t do a ton for you. (Side note: Good critiques can be tough, but a tough critique does not equal a good critique). If you come in looking to give more than you get, lift others up too, and learn all that you can soak up, you have a much better chance of finding your troupe. You’re also far more likely to get a ton out of it, even if you don’t win the competition, and for far longer than the event goes for. 

I have four CPs right now (I know, right? I’m so lucky! They’re each amazing wonderful people and phenomenal writers). One I found through Nanowrimo, one though RevPit, one through Twitter in general but I interacted with her mainly from RevPit and Writer In Motion, and another through my writing groups on Discord.

My CPs and I poke at each other to do writing competitions, to stretch our skills with writing exercises, and trade insights and reading lists. This is in addition to the brilliant stories and synopses I get to read from them and the amazing insight they give me on my work, and in addition to the brainstorming and plot-hole-filling and character-motivation-shining sessions we have. It’s amazing to have people to bounce ideas off of and to encourage each other on. Again, you have to come with the mindset of learning and giving though.

Not all of my heart-circle is CPs though, either. Some people I know will never love my work because it’s just not right for them but they still are always there for support and encouragement when I need them, as I try to be for them. They’re still part of my heart-circle. You can find CPs and your writing team in general anywhere. And they’re an amazing resource to be able to lean on.

These days, I’m part of several writing groups that I’m active on nearly every day, including one that I run critique groups on nearly weekly (which is amazing), and nearly daily I hang out with my Writer In Motion friends, even though our Writer In Motion was a year ago. I also have gotten involved with Write Hive in my quest to give back to other writers, just like older more experienced writers helped me when I was beginning my journey. 

So in short, to inspire you, of course, reading is amazing, but I’m sure you’ve already seen that advice. Don’t forget to build your community, whether you’re a writer or a reader, to inspire you to keep reaching greater heights!

Looking for opportunities to build your own writing community? Remember to go into these with the intent to give, not just get.

Writer In Motion — starting back up in a week (August 2020)

WriteHive

Quillhaven Discord Writing Group

Beta-reading Matchmaker

Categories: Uncategorized

Between Starfalls Blog Tour Wrap Up

4 Comments

I’m so humbled and glad that so many bloggers took a chance on Between Starfalls, which I submitted for WriteHive’s first blog tour!

With every single reviewer, I waited for their thoughts with nervous anticipation. It’s never an easy thing to offer up something you’ve poured so much time, heart, and soul into for judgement. I’m adamant that reviews should be honest, whether they’re good or bad, which meant Kriti and my expectations for this blog tour lined up really well.

The questions the bloggers came up with for interviews were interesting and sometimes had me digging deep for how much I wanted to reveal! In appreciation of these amazing people, I really want to highlight the bloggers who gave my book a chance, along with a little of what you might find from them.

Annemieke from A Dance with Books – loved the family, religious, and cultural aspects, with hints of wider worldbuilding.

Olliespot Book Reviews – really enjoyed the epigraphs that led each chapter in Between Starfalls, and the distinctively non-western setting, getting to know the Rinaryn and Kamalti cultures through the course of the plot. He also had me on for an interview on conlang as well! Talking about how I constructed my fantasy language was really fun to talk about with him.

Krista from The Bookish HedgeMom – enjoyed the original setting as well, and chose to post an excerpt from Chapter 4, featuring the Angels.

El from inkandplasma – also posted the same excerpt (my Angels are popular!) and said “Between Starfalls is a beautiful book, with incredible world-building and fascinating fantasy elements.”

Alex from Spells and Spaceships – has mentioned me on his blog before, and still gave Between Starfalls an in-depth, thorough review, as well as had me over for an interview, which was really enjoyable.

Kriti from Armed with A Book – not only gave an incredibly thoughtful review, she also enjoyed the setting and cultures and characters immensely, and had me over for an interview! I adore talking to Kriti, and I’ll be honest, her review was probably the one I sweated over most simply because I know her well enough to value her opinion so highly.

Arina from The Paperback Voyager – loved the intricate worldbuilding and unusual setting, as well as the intimacy with which I addressed difficult, harsh topics. Fortunately for me, she didn’t hold my tugging at her emotions against me! She also gave me some amazing, interesting questions that really made me think about how best to answer them for our interview!

Fariha from Fariha’s Studio – didn’t quite have time to finish the book by the time her blog was scheduled, but she posted an amazing mood board and her initial thoughts. She loved the immersion into the culture and traditions. A full review will be coming, and she had me over for a guest blog on worldbuilding!

Beth from Beforewegoblog – wasn’t able to finish the book either, but loved the descriptions in the first few pages and described the storytelling as “lush and verdant”. She also had me over for a guest blog post, asking me to write a little about the balance between writing and personal life.


How it all started:

Kriti and I got to know each other through WriteHive and honestly, I’m super grateful. She’s one of those people who are constantly learning, and we’re always having interesting conversations. As she broadens her horizons and learns a little about everything, I get to come along for the ride!

She and I have had several conversations about authors and book bloggers, coming at the writing world from our various perspectives. At one point, we were talking about reviews, and I mentioned that I personally am against the idea of paying for reviews. I know other authors who do pay for reviews and this isn’t against them in any way, because I think it’s a personal decision, but for me, it’s something I’ve decided against.

I just feel really weird about the honesty of my reviews if I pay for them, even if they’re told to be honest (or tell me they’ll be honest). I worry about the potential for bias, and I feel personally that reviews from regular people who pick up the book are even more valuable to me, since they are free of outside pressure. Regular readers are who I want to reach anyway. Yes, I understand the mechanics of book reviewers having only so much time on their hands and paid reviews can help with prioritizing reading, but I just prefer the random chaotic naturalness, I suppose. It’s a complex topic, and so my opinions remain focused only on me- other authors should make this determination for themselves. But I don’t use any of those types of services. Could this be shooting myself in the foot marketing wise? Absolutely. But I’m ok with that, too.

Kriti asked me how I felt about blog tours, and because they’re generally paid, that means blog tours are a no-go for me too. (Though I have since also learned that the money does not go to the bloggers and stays with the organizer of the book tour instead).

Again, this is a personal thing. I don’t pass any judgement on blog tour organizers or people who buy their services, or pay for reviews, or any of that. I applaud their success! It’s just not for me.

Why in the world are you writing a blog tour wrap up post if you’re so against them, SK?

Keep your pants on, I’m coming to that!

So anyway, Kriti had been talking with WriteHive about doing blog tours for the authors there as a potential additional source of income for the nonprofit. She wanted to learn more, and she wanted to try it out and see if this was a thing WriteHive really wanted to offer. So she asked me a while later if my thoughts would be different if the blog tour was free. I said they would, because it’s really the money thing that I find (personally) troubling.

So it was that Between Starfalls became the trial run for WriteHive blog tours. Kriti knew how hard I’d been working on it, and she knew it’d been released at the end of March. I’d sent her a review copy already, but she hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. “I trust you, SK,” she said.

No pressure, lol!

Working with Kriti was amazing. I’d been on her Creator’s Roulette and done some interviews and guests posts with her, which have consistently been a ton of fun and super informative, so I was really looking forward to working with her again, especially in regards to the experimental aspect. Let’s work out all the trouble spots and issues on my book before asking anyone to pay for a tour.

Kriti is far more organized than I am, and from my perspective, the tour went extremely smoothly. She came to me with a list of expectations that she had for me as an author. These were things like retweeting the bloggers, commenting on their blogs, and thanking them, which I whole-heartedly agreed to. I have always been somewhat uneasy with the spotlight, and it’s far easier for me to highlight someone else, so lifting up the bloggers themselves was something I looked forward to! I also hoped to get across to them my gratitude for taking part in this very first WriteHive blog tour, especially with an unknown author like myself.

We decided this would be an honest blog tour, with bloggers having the option to post an excerpt in the event they didn’t like or finish the book, although they could also leave a negative review. Obviously, this was the bulk of my fears- that people wouldn’t like it. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way but honest. While I was taking a risk giving my book to the bloggers for review, they were taking a risk reading it, too, even more so for a tour!

Expectations: My expectations going into this were very low. I hoped one or two bloggers might like my book and feared being inundated with 1 or 2 star reviews, considering I only had a couple reviews at the time! However, I thought this learning experience was valuable, and people who aren’t going to like my book aren’t going to like it, regardless. I had also decided that I was going to enter SPFBO (The Self-published Fantasy Blog Off) this year too, so it was going to get reviews anyway. (SPFBO is a free contest for self-published authors, and their books are judged by teams of book bloggers.) Once the book is published, it’s out of your hands. People will read it and either like it or not. 

I did not expect all the amazing, thoughtful, in-depth positive reviews! My words struck people deeply, sometimes making them uncomfortable, but overall the response was positive. This is despite the fact that my book isn’t a traditional fantasy story with a traditional fantasy hero and touches on hard topics. This was amazing. 

So has my perspective changed, and what have I learned?

As of the writing of this post, I am sitting at a 4.17 rating on Goodreads, with 10 reviews and 12 ratings. On Amazon, I have 4 reviews, sitting at a 4.5 rating. The number of reviews obviously helps to legitimize a book for potential readers, and I did have a small but significant uptick in sales and pages read during the blog tour. Being on this tour meant that each blogger’s audience both on their blog and on Twitter was possibly introduced to my book, maybe for the very first time, along with the thoughts of a blogger they presumably trust. This reach was compounded with WriteHive’s reach and my own little circle.

Kriti, as blog tour organizer, put so much work into this project, and I got a chance to also chat briefly with Justine and Timy from Storytellers on Tour about blog tours, as well, on the WriteHive Discord server. From all the learning I’ve done in the past weeks, in a world of paid reviews especially, I can absolutely understand why blog tours are paid and how valuable a resource they are. Not just the increase in reviews for my book and the exposure to a wider range of people than my own reach, but also the sustained chatter about it over the course of the 10 days. Working closely with Kriti, watching for the upcoming posts and sharing widely, I got to see behind the scenes, which was very interesting. With all the running around Kriti did to make sure things were prepared well in advance, making graphics, and ensuring things were going smoothly, compensation makes sense. Some authors, too, don’t do well with poor reviews. My heart hurts for the organizers just thinking about an author ranting about not getting good reviews. But honesty in reviewing is essential for readers, for reviewers, and for the author. 

I also understand concerns of tying such a labor of love to any sort of money (even though the book bloggers themselves do not see any money from a book tour). Once you introduce money, though, things can get complicated. Even though the money isn’t going to the reviewers in the case of a blog tour, the fact that money is involved does give me pause for some reason.

Would I pay for another blog tour? I don’t know. I’m on the fence. This experience was extremely valuable, and I really can’t understate that. And yet, I still feel weird about paying money and getting reviews, even though the reviewers don’t get the money. I’m not sure what it is about it, precisely. I do think I’d feel better about it if it was donated to someone in the writing world who needs a boost, though, like WriteHive does. This includes book bloggers–and seriously, they did a ton of work during this tour, as did Kriti as blog tour organizer!

I would definitely encourage authors who are thinking about using any paid reviewing service to consider a blog tour or two (or three!) as an additional or alternate marketing strategy. Especially if they’re run by Kriti!

As I interact more with book bloggers, I make it a point to show my gratitude for their generosity. It might be a good time to go into etiquette now. Book bloggers do not work for authors. They take time out of their day to immerse themselves in the work of art authors have created and donated to them to hear their thoughts. I’m a firm believer that every author should approach a relationship with book bloggers professionally. Read their guidelines and follow them. Show them the respect they’re due- don’t drop into their DMs randomly or demand things from them or yell at them if you don’t get the response you like. We authors are not entitled to everyone loving our works. While we spend a ton of time and effort crafting amazing stories, and while yes, this is a business/career pursuit for many of us, there’s still an aspect of art here, and even the bestselling books in the world aren’t universally loved. If someone lets me know they’ve read and reviewed my book – regardless of how much or how little they enjoyed it – I make sure to thank them for their time and review. Why they liked it or didn’t like it is important to future readers trying to decide whether or not to read.

So in short, regardless of in what capacity you work with book bloggers, authors should always give them respect (and vice versa!).

I just want to end this wrap up by once more thanking the book bloggers who took part. Please check out their blogs, and follow them for further reviews! And thanks to WriteHive for organizing. If you haven’t gotten involved with this amazing writing organization, you should really check them out, on their website and on Discord!

And a huge thank you to Kriti for all her organizational prowess and her thoughtful design of this tour. If you don’t know her, get to know her! She’s a fantastic book blogger who designed the revolutionary visual review system that IndieStoryGeek uses, and she hosts various writers and thinkers and creators on her blog with her Creator’s Roulette! Don’t miss out!

Also! Don’t forget to check out Kriti’s wrap up thoughts!

Categories: Uncategorized

Beta Reader Matchmaker!

Through this process of taking my writing seriously, I’ve learned a thing or two about beta readers. I wanted to make it easy for people to find each other, to find beta readers who might fit for their story, so I made the Beta Reader Matchmaker–but I’ve learned it requires some explanation.

The Matchmaker spreadsheet has two sheets–one for readers and one for writers.

Your best bet is to look through both sheets. On the “Willing to read” sheet, you’ll find people who are… yeah, willing to read other people’s work. It’s a good idea to check with them and see if they have work to potentially swap with, too. On the “Looking for readers” sheet, you’ll find writers, as well as the information about their story. Again, swapping stories is a great idea. To add your name, simply fill out the form(s) and your information will be added automagically!

Please, please, be safe. Vet your readers first–don’t just dump your story on them and run! Talk to them, discuss your work, provide them with a blurb, and then–And this is IMPORTANT–send them just the first page, OR first five pages OR first chapter before sending them your entire manuscript!

Readers, please remember that the books you read are the product of a lot of work from the author. Respect their copyright and be prepared for them to ask you questions before sending you a snippet. Remember that personal preference does not make a book bad and always refrain from personal attacks. However, DO tell them what you thought and how the book made you feel.

Readers and Authors can end the relationship at any point. Treat each other with respect.


Are you an author looking for a beta reader? Fill out this form with your manuscript’s details! It’s also a good idea to fill out the reader form too, for extra visibility.

Are you just looking to beta read? This form is for you. Thank you for volunteering your time to a writer- this is absolutely invaluable.


I’ve heard from some writers “Well, I don’t have time to read anyone else’s work.” In that case, this form is not for you. Your best bet is to find a paid beta reader, because if you’re not going to give your time in return, you’ll have to part with money. Be careful though, because paid betas can be shady. Also, it’s important to note, beta reading other writer’s works helps to improve your own writing. It’s a huge learning experience. Don’t miss out!

“But SK, I need a CP, not a beta reader.” Great point! Still, your best bet is to look at this sheet, and as your conversation moves along, ask if that person might be interested in a CP relationship down the road. Skipping beta reading and going straight to a CP relationship can work out for you, but it’s super risky skipping that step! It’s like going into business with someone without ever seeing how they work or what their strengths and weaknesses are. Like getting married without dating first.

My advice is to 1) talk to the person, see what their goals are. 2) Swap a page or first five pages. See if the writing style is compatible with what you like. You don’t want to CP (or beta read) with someone if you hate their writing style- that’s just simply not a good match. Then 3) Give them their feedback, and read through the feedback they gave you. Does it make sense? Do your critique styles mesh? Sometimes you’ll love a person’s writing but hate their critiquing style. That’s fine, it just isn’t a good match. Nothing wrong with either of you, but not a great relationship. Finally, 4) see if you’re about the same skill level. CP’s tend to be about the same skill level writing-wise, as well as being compatible with critique style and writing style. They get what each other are trying to say, and see the heart of the story, and they help each other bring that out. That’s the magic of critique partners.

Beta readers, while invaluable, may not hit all those marks, and there is nothing wrong with that. A person may be a cherished beta reader but just not be a great CP match for whatever reason. But you’ll know if your beta reader is CP material, and that relationship can grow and it can also change, just like any other relationship.

Beta readers, CPs, and critique groups are all important resources to use, and none are inherently better or worse than any others. They each serve a different function, and that’s the beauty of it!

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s Release Day!

Today, Between Starfalls is born, and I’m just so excited and nervous. This has been the work of many years, and the first installment in a story I love.

Kaemada, Takiyah, Ra’ael, and Taunos have lived in my head for over 15 years, and now their story can really be told. This is everything I love: epic scope, powerful heroes, deep worldbuilding with rich cultures, complete with my organic magic system.

The ebook is out today, though the paperback will be a couple weeks before it’s released. And Between Starfalls is on KU, as well, so subscribers can read it for free!

Categories: Uncategorized