One of my short stories was published today!
Read it HERE.
Talk at you all soon, Bloggarts.
One of my short stories was published today!
Read it HERE.
Talk at you all soon, Bloggarts.
I’m not really sure how to feel about it. At first, euphoria. Holy shit, I did it! I told any and everyone about my accomplishment. I glowed with the joy of having finished a major project. But now it’s been a couple weeks and the novelty of the finished thing has worn off. It still feels awesome when I stop and think about it, but I’m not thinking about it as often.
Which is a good thing, actually. I need to give the book some space to breathe and let my mind get some distance from the characters and places that lived inside my head for over six months.
Let’s talk stats:
Total Word Count: 87,903
Total Time: 27 weeks (just over 6 months)
Average Weekly Word Count: 3,255
# of False Starts: NONE! This book knew where it was going even when I didn’t. It wrote straight through, with only a couple of awkward scenes. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing.
Those numbers look and feel good, but they don’t capture how it felt. Keep in mind that, until April, I was working two jobs, averaging anywhere from 45-52 hours each week. I was tired. Like, mind-numbingly tired. I wrote in the evenings, after my shifts, usually before and after dinner. There wasn’t time for much else, though I didn’t notice it at the time.
Only once I finished the book did I realize just how much it absorbed me. These last few weeks without it have been very… free. There’s time to do just about anything. Clean the entire house? Sure! I’ve got time. The house is much tidier now that there’s time to tend to it. Read all the things? Absolutely! What else would I do with my evening? Play video games? Oh, man! I missed those! (Don’t worry, I’ve made up for lost time with Assassin’s Creed.)
It also made me realize how wonderful my spouse is, because once I stopped working on the book, I understood how little he actually saw me. It was so nice to spend evenings with him again, not just inhaling dinner and vanishing to my office. We can watch movies and television together, or play games together. Or, and this is wild and crazy, maybe even go out for dinner.
What I’m getting at here is that writing this book was a huge time-suck and sacrifice for my marriage and household. There are costs to writing a book, and I didn’t even realize I was paying them until it was done.
That being said, I wouldn’t change any of it. This went by relatively quickly, the book wrote itself and I mean that. When I started I only had a character and a vague concept of the premise of this book. Everything else appeared as needed. Side characters, villains, subplots, all of them born out of necessity, not planning.
The book provided, so long as I was willing and able to write it all down.
So, what now?
Honestly, I don’t really know. I don’t feel very concrete about much of anything at the moment. I think I’m still recuperating from the marathon of writing the novel, because nothing feels particularly exciting or compelling. Nothing is calling to me, begging me to spend time on it. I know I need to take a break from Tavi, ideally the whole summer. I was only going to revise it sooner than that if I received a scholarship for a workshop in July. Since I didn’t, I’ve got time to let the manuscript dribble out of my brain. I’m tentatively planning to begin revisions in September. In a perfect world I’d have the manuscript ready to query by the New Year.
I don’t know about you, but my world is far from perfect. So, I’ll be happy if the book is “finished” by May 2020.
That means I have three months to work on other stuff. The question is, what other stuff?
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got on my radar right now. And for now, it feels like enough. I’ll have more to say about upcoming projects and goals this weekend when I share my Monthly Recap post for May.
Until then, Bloggarts.
I said I wouldn’t be back. However, I have an announcement to make:
Here are a series of gifs that capture how today’s writing session (5,419 words) felt:
So yeah. The rough draft is done. I’m excited and so so tired. There’s still a mountain of work to do, but that’s for a future Brittany. Right Now Brittany is going to root herself in front of the PS4 and play Overcooked until she passes out.
See you on Monday.
I’ve seen some discussion on Twitter about pseudonyms lately, largely wondering why authors choose to use a pen name or not. Now, maybe you guessed, but (technically) I use a pen name. B. Zelkovich is not my legal name. I know, shocking, right? So, what made me decide to use a pseudonym and how did I choose it?
I didn’t start out writing under a pseudonym. Way back in my college days I wrote under my, then, legal name, Brittany Zelkovich, and had some small successes. My first four General Fiction stories were published under that name, as well as my Caladria stories.
But then I went and did a silly thing. I got married! My whole life I counted down the days until I could jump up the alphabet by taking someone else’s last name, but once the time finally came, I hesitated. It took me six months and quite a bit of inner-turmoil to finally go to the Social Security office and change my name. And only then because I’d decided to continue writing and publishing under Zelkovich.
But I didn’t decide to drop to my first initial until last year. I don’t distinctly remember what inspired me to do it, other than a vague sense of dissatisfaction with how my name sounded when read aloud. “Brittany Zelkovich” just sounded… juvenile? The first name really dates me as someone born between 1985-1993, which is true, but that doesn’t mean I want the whole world to know that before they’ve even read my work.
Plus, I’ll do just about anything to avoid the Britney Spears jokes. Trust me, I’ve heard them all. At least three times.
So then I started experimenting. Britt Zelkovich? No… Still doesn’t sound right. Plus, that’s a nickname I reserve for family and close friends. What about my middle name? Sarchet Zelkovich? That’s unique, at least. But could you imagine having to tell everyone how to pronounce it for the rest of my life? No thanks. What about my initials? B.S. Zelk — oh, that’s hilarious. B.S. Zelkovich? Bullshit Zelkovich? PASS.
Which left me with B. Zelkovich. Androgynous, professional sounding, with the last name as the focus which is important since that’s the bit all my books will be filed under. Plus, plenty of people in my life call me B., but it isn’t something exclusive to close friends and family. Just about anybody can get away with calling me that.
So, that’s how I got here. I wanted to avoid sounding young and possibly foolish. I wanted to avoid the inevitable mental image of shaved heads and that awful school girl outfit. And I wanted to keep my super unique last name. Because, and I mean this with 100% honesty, if you ever meet a Zelkovich in the United States, they are related to me by blood or marriage. I may not know them, but somewhere up the family tree we have relatives in common.
But what are some reasons already published authors decide to take up a pseudonym? The most common one is that an author is trying to sell a book that is outside of their already established genre. J.K. Rowling escaped YA Fiction by writing her Mystery Fiction as Robert Galbraith. Delilah S. Dawson writes YA and Science Fiction under her legal name, but writes Fantasy as Lila Bowen and Erotica as Ava Lovelace.
Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman for awhile because he wrote novels faster than his publisher would release them. Joe Hill is the pen name for King’s son, Joseph Hillstrom King, who wanted to try his hand at Horror Fiction without competing (or probably being burdened) with his father’s legacy.
Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Joyce Carol Oats, and on and on and on, all used pseudonyms at some point in their careers. Whether to write freely in a new genre, to test that their writing still held up and they weren’t just selling novels because of their name, or for any number of other reasons, many authors decide to use a pen name.
What are your thoughts on the matter? As a reader, does the author’s name really factor into your decision to try a book? If you find out it’s not their real name, does that matter to you? As a writer, would you ever use a pen name? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I should be back soon with the review for City in the Middle of the Night, so be on the lookout for that.
Until then, Bloggos.
This is a post I’ve been planning and stewing on for the better part of six months. It came about as most things do for me, I experienced something that made me ask a question. I was at the West Salem Branch Library, my usual workplace, and I was in the stacks shelving fiction. As I went down the aisle, placing books in their respective places, I noticed that I shelved multiple Science Fiction classics in the general fiction section. Greats like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Huxley’s Brave New World, Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, and Orwell’s 1984 were all cataloged G-FIC. And not just in my library, but in almost every other library in our consortium of 19 public libraries!
Initially, I was a bit miffed. Why were some of the most celebrated books in Science Fiction history having their genre erased? Both Fahrenheit 451 and Flowers for Algernon have won Hugo awards (the oldest Science Fiction and Fantasy award in the country), and Keyes’ novel also won a Nebula (the most prestigious of SFF awards, depending on who you ask), but if you visits the Salem Public Library, you won’t find them with their Speculative peers.
I had to know why, so I emailed the Collection Development Librarian at Salem Public Library to learn more. Now, I work with Emily Byers on a number of projects at the library and knew she would answer my question with the care and thoroughness she exhibited in her daily work. I didn’t expect a two page email that detailed all the possible factors that Selectors and Catalogers must consider before deciding where to place a book in the library.
And while she admits that cataloging is both an art and science that is “ultimately subjective”, she outlined some of the criteria she used to decide on genre placement versus general fiction.
Factors range from the librarian specific, Bib Records and BISAC subjects from the vendor, to the discretionary, such as Reader’s Advisory considerations (who would want the book, and how can we make it easier for them to find it?) and how closely a text adheres to genre specific tropes. “In more ambiguous cases I would consider the work as a whole — for example, it may have a science fiction element (i.e. technology that’s not currently available), but without separate world building or other SF elements beyond a future setting, I might put that book in general fiction where it might be found by more readers.”
Hard to be riled up about books being more generally accessible. I mean, that’s the whole point of libraries; to provide services and access to materials. Emily even offered up some reference titles for further research on the topic if I was interested, which I totally am, so she even offered ease of access to me! She really opened my eyes to the work and consideration that goes into selecting and cataloging materials, especially in a library as big as ours, with over 500,000 circulating materials!
But what really stuck with me from this conversation was an even larger question: what purpose does genre really serve?
In the sense of the library, having collections divided into genres helps facilitate patron searches. For instance, I know that I like to read Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I also know that I’m not as well-versed in the genre as I’d like to be. I can go to the library, find the section I want, and then browse with relative confidence that I will find something that will pique my interest. And I have, on multiple occasions.
But as a writer, why do we write in genres? And how do the two functions of genre, from a writing and reading perspective, gel together?
These are, of course, completely subjective questions. My answer will be wildly different from yours. I read SFF because I love the awe and sense of wonder I get from reading something born from someone else’s imagination. Something I could have never come up with myself. Like pretty much every aspect of N.K. Jemisin’s novels, the setting of Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City, and pretty much all of Sanderson’s magic systems. I read SFF because it helps me expand my own creativity and strive to write beyond my own perceived limitations.
But, I write SFF for different reasons. I don’t think there’s just one, and I think the reasons will grow and change as I do over the years. Right now, I’m experimenting with analyzing emotions and human motivations, and seem to be most comfortable doing so through a more removed lens, like that of an AI or non-human being. I think I write SFF because I tend to feel a bit separate from my peers, and have found an angle into expressing that isolation within the tropes of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
And thanks to all my reading, I’m learning to build imaginative worlds, invent complex magic systems, and tell stories from perspectives I may not have personally experienced along the way.
I also think that, by writing genre fiction, my stories and their themes are more likely to find readers with similar interests and concerns as myself. By writing genre fiction I may very well limit my audience, but I think I also increase my chances of proving successful with my readership, because we all know, at least a tiny bit, what the heck we’re getting into when we crack open those pages.
Does genre fiction have an advantage over general or literary fiction when it comes to discussing and exploring themes of humanity? I don’t necessarily think so. I think genre fiction has an advantage to me, because it’s the content I’m drawn to, and only the content we ingest actually has the opportunity work its magic on us.
So yes, I was initially peeved to see so many of Science Fiction’s giants shelved in General Fiction, as if the genre had been shorn from their spines because they had ascended from the hive of scum and villainy that so many people think is genre fiction. But, ultimately, placing them in with general fiction makes those titles easier to find for people who might not otherwise think to read them. And that’s a really good thing. Any time a book finds itself in a patron’s hands, that’s a good thing.
A great thing is when the patron comes back, excited and enthralled, asking, “Do you have anything else like this?”
Nothing feels better than knowing a book suggestion was a hit with the patron and then launching into a discussion of what they liked about it and what they’d like to get out of their next read. That’s what I really love about my job; I get to talk about books with members of my community and help them find their new favorite authors.
And the day I get to show someone that there’s an entire section of the library they might like, the day I can introduce them to Genre Fiction, and they’re world broadens just that little bit more? That’s the best day.
I’m so excited to share this new layout with all of you! I really like this one. It’s crisp, super easy to navigate, and very professional looking. It also feels a bit more dynamic than last year’s. I’m not sure if that’s because of the contrasting aqua and purple (my favorite colors), or the widgets, or the site logo, but I do know I like it a lot.
Now, let’s get down to business and talk about what the heck happened in 2018!
In 2018 I said I wanted to:
How’d it go?
2018 Total Word Count: 149,331
2018 was an eventful year, both personally and in my working life. I received a scholarship to attend the Oregon Writer’s Colony Annual Conference in April, which really affirmed that I’m on the right track and making strides in this whole writing life thing. Right about that time I started submitting my short stories for the first time in over four years. That was a roller coaster all its own, and has been a great learning experience and growth opportunity for me.
June saw my traditional wave of summer depression. I coped by binge-playing Horizon Zero Dawn and eating way too many Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
But, July and August were some of my most productive months of the year, with the completion of Exodus and the rough draft of my newest short story, That Which Illuminates Heaven.
September was the least productive month of the year, and reasonably so because we spent 12 days in Germany! It was an amazing trip, the exact vacation we so desperately needed, and our first journey abroad together. We hope to spend more time in Munich someday, especially for Christmas. And of course, we have other travel dreams! Ireland, New Zealand, Italy, the UK! The world is a big place, and I want to see as much of it as we can.
October was spent readjusting to working two jobs and outlining and researching for my new novel. Writing was limited and that sucked, but it was all part of the plan. It worked out, because I met my word count goal for November, with a startling 25k words! That’s about a third of the planned manuscript, which is kind of crazy if I think about it too much.
December is a busy month in our house, what with my birthday and the holiday. Add in the mental recuperation from Nanowrimo and it meant I just didn’t expect much from myself that month. But I did finish my reading goal while I let my writing muscle relax!
I read 16,300 pages across 67 titles in 2018!
I also flexed my editing muscle this year with The Audient Void. We released two issues this year, and are on the cusp of releasing a new chapbook of some of David Barker’s previously unpublished short stories, Half in Light, Half in Shadow.
2018’s word was FOCUS. It was my mantra, the thing I came back to when I felt out of control or like I was drowning in my workload. Based on how well my year went, I think it worked. So, I want to pick a new word for 2019:
I want to be purposeful in my writing, I want to take the time to better learn my craft and write with more intention. I don’t really know what that will mean for my writing just yet, but I bet I will by January 1, 2020.
What am I doing in 2019?
If time allows, I’d like to…
There’s a lot to do in 2019. I probably bit off more than I can chew, especially since I’m working two jobs right now. There’s also always the reading and editing for Madhu and The Audient Void to consider.
So, in short, I’m a busy busy lady and nothing about that will change in 2019. I look forward to sharing that journey with all of you in the coming months.
I’ll be back later this week with the Monthly Recap!
Until then, Blogland.
I wanted to take this chance to talk a bit about how my NaNo season went this year. Now, a lot of this will probably end up in my monthly recap for November, but I’ll try to go into a bit more depth here than I do there.
I was really straightforward with my goal for Nano this year: 800 words each day, or 24k words for the month. Now, if I’m being honest, 800 words isn’t all that much to me. When I do sit down to write I almost always pump out at least 1000 words, and usually closer to 2k before calling it quits for the session. In a free day, with proper motivation and focus, I can write 5k before my brain liquifies and dribbles out my ears.
So, 800 felt really doable. Which was the point. I work over 40 hours a week most weeks, and this is the first major writing project I’ve undertaken since working both jobs again. I went from 25 hours or less at work, to 40+. That’s a big change in routine, and I needed to be realistic with myself when setting the goals for Nano if I wanted to do well.
Still, 800/day nagged at me. Was it too easy? Too doable? Should I have stretched for 1000 words a day? Would that have been the better challenge? Truthfully, I don’t know. I think I could have done it, but I would be even more exhausted than I am now, and my recoup time would leak even further into December. I don’t want that. I want to keep working on this novel into the new year, and hopefully finish it by March.
And, well, I’m off to a great start because I made my goal for the month. I wrote 25,069 words in the month of November! It was a struggle and there were a lot of days where I didn’t write at all. Sundays were my most productive days, and that’s directly thanks to the local Write-Ins my Nano Chapter hosted each weekend. I also need to give a shout out to my writer’s discord community, for all the impromptu sprint sessions and encouragement they provided this month. They were a huge help and motivator.
Average words a day: 835
Total Manuscript word count: 25,488
Here’s the thing about NaNo that so many people seem to miss: it isn’t really about the word count. Yeah, crossing the 50k threshold is one hell of an adrenaline rush, and it’s feels beyond amazing to know you could write so much in so little time. But, it doesn’t matter how many words you vow to write. It only matters that you write them.
National Novel Writing Month is about making time for your writing. It’s about establishing a writing habit and working out that writing muscle. Because it is a muscle. The more often you write, the easier it is to continue to be consistent and productive. If you write in spurts and starts it’s harder to get back into the swing of things and feel like the work you’re producing is actually worth a damn.
I think that’s my one complaint about NaNo. A lot of writers are willing to sacrifice the quality of their writing in order to log the sheer quantity that the terms of the traditional challenge demand. One Wrimo (Nanowrimo participant) confessed that when she’s sprinting, she doesn’t use punctuation. I was floored. How could that even be possible? How could you go back and read it, how could you edit it into what you’d originally intended?
And then she admitted, “I always mean to edit, but I usually never make it back to the novel. I move on to the next one.”
During National Novel Writing Month, the words are king. You are advised never to edit, not even if you decide to change your word choice. Just strikethrough the one you don’t want to use and write in the new one. Every word counts, don’t cut ANYTHING!
But I can’t do that. It’s why my sprints are so comparatively slow. 300-500 words in 15 minutes, maybe just over 600 if it’s a 20 minute sprint. And I think that’s good. But others pound out over 1000 words! It’s mind boggling.
I’d rather write to my usual quality than hoard words on the page like a dragon hoards gold. Nano for me is as much a celebration as it is a challenge. It’s a time for writers to come together and cheer on one another as we all work toward whatever goals we’ve set for ourselves.
And that’s exactly how my month went. Celebrating the love of storytelling that brings us all together and encouraging each other through the struggles of writerdom. And despite the stress of the challenge and the looming holidays, I freaking love it.
If you participated in Nano this year, I hope you enjoyed yourself, and are proud of all the hard work you did to reach your writing goals.
I’ll be back soon with the monthly recap, so keep an eye out for that!
Maybe it’s premature. Maybe I’m counting chickens before they’re hatched, or whatever other idiom you’d like to apply to this situation. But today I took professional Author Headshots.
My thinking was this: I am a writer seeking professional publication. I’ve worked on my craft for almost ten years, and I’ve grown in leaps and bounds over the last five years in particular. I ought to have photographs on my site and my social media that reflect who I am now, not who I was almost a decade ago. Plus, let’s be real. Writing isn’t just the art side of sitting down and birthing words into stories. It’s also a business, and this is one aspect of it that I was hesitant to do.
I’m not a fan of having my picture taken. I don’t photograph particularly well, and I’m really good at nitpicking my appearance in pictures. But, this was something I felt needed to be done. I wanted to have professional photographs on hand for when I might need them.
So, I contacted a friend who had recently launched her own photography business. I’ve followed her progress online, had seen her work and been wildly impressed by the skill she’d shown so early in her career.
And today we spent about an hour traipsing around downtown Salem, visiting my favorite businesses and drinking inordinate amounts of coffee. We caught up on life, talked about tattoos, my writing, her photography, and our mutual experiences working for Starbucks.
It was fun, casual, and totally worth it. But I’ll let you decide that for yourselves.
Photo credit to M.L. Photography
There are more photos, but these three are my favorite. They make me feel very pretty, and incredibly author-like. So, I’m gonna bask in this self-love for the rest of the day, and let it help me get past the fact that I’ve barely written this week.
I’ll see you all tomorrow to talk about this week, as usual.
Until then Blogland,
I “won” National Novel Writing Month for the very first time last year thanks to The Charlatan and the Coinshot, my forthcoming fanart collaboration project. I went in with no plan, no outlines or ambitions other than to write as much as I could.
But this year, I’m taking steps to prepare myself for a hectic month of working full time (sometimes more) and writing a whole new, original novel. What does that preparation look like?
Typically, the goal for Nanowrimo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Last year I wrote just over 52k, which was no easy feat and I was working part time! Now I’m working full time, and sometimes more. I need to be realistic about my goals and my time this year. Otherwise I’ll only set myself up for failure.
NaNo 2018 Goal:
I actually think I’ll be able to hit 25,000 words, maybe even more, but thought 800 words a day sounded doable. 1,000 seemed a little daunting, but 500 is basically nothing, so 800 it is. I also intend to go to a majority of my Nano Chapter’s events and write-ins, and I’m always game for a good Facebook sprint. With all the activity, 24k shouldn’t be a problem.
But, I really don’t believe I have the time to write 50,000 words this year. With two jobs, the Thanksgiving holiday and the various social obligations it comes with it, I just don’t see 50k happening. And I don’t want to set an unrealistic goal only to guilt trip myself into freezing up.
So that’s it. I still have a bit of research to do, and my outlines can always be more detailed, so I’ll be prepping right through to the start of National Novel Writing Month. If you want to be my Buddy on the Nanowrimo site, my username is HIMluv and I’ll be happy to add you!
I’ll talk to you all soon when I come back to talk about the month of October in the Monthly Recap.
Until then, Blogland!
The Audient Void is now open for submissions!
Now that the sixth issue of The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy is out, we are opening submissions for issue #7. We are looking for quality works of poetry and short fiction.
Poetry should be Weird or darkly fantastical with strong imagery. We pay $.35 a line with a $5 minimum, payable upon publication.
For short fiction our tastes are broad and we will consider anything with Weird, horrific or fantastical elements. We will consider any length work but will be much less likely to publish stories over 5,000 words. Our rate is $5 per thousand words, payable upon publication. First time publication only, no reprints please.
To submit please send your work as a .doc, .docx or .rtf file to:
Be sure to include a header with your name and email address. We do not accept simultaneous submissions and ask that you wait for our response before submitting elsewhere. The submission deadline is Nov. 15th, please do not inquire about your submission before that deadline and understand that it may take some time to follow up on all submissions after the deadline has passed. We very much look forward to reading everyone’s work!
Please keep in mind that Weird Fiction is a genre of its own. Do not send us simply strange stories, but your dark, fantastical tales.
I can’t wait to read your stories! Best of luck to you all!