Looking toward the Future

Once again, it’s that time of year to reflect on the past and look toward the future. For me, I still feel like I’m in a state of limbo. I’ve talked about moving on to the next step, and posted about resolutions and updates, but I’m still not at the regular writing output that I want. I didn’t have the creative output that some other writers I know had had when everything was shut down. True, as I’ve said before, I spent more time online, and that didn’t do me good. Ever since Mystical Greenwood came out, everyone’s been asking when the sequel is coming out. Believe me when I say I don’t like having to keep telling them I don’t know.

So, I do have some goals/dreams for where to go next in my writing. The main objective, of course, is to be more consistent when it comes to writing. I’ve heard many writers talk about how they have a daily writing routine. Well, a few months after I first sought to balance the scales, I set about reducing the number of daily logins per social site, especially with the Big Five, from three to two, of which I’ve been successful and happy to do. So far, I haven’t been able to set about a daily routine as I’d like (aiming for the morning), but I know I must persevere. I’m going to try and see if I can do writing first thing when I turn on the computer in the morning.

Another thing I’m going to have to remind myself again is that first drafts/early words don’t have to be perfect. They just need to be done. After all, Mystical Greenwood wasn’t as it was when its first draft was completed. It’ll take time to get into the habit of working on writing every day, but I need to remember to believe in myself and my writing.

I also need to be more mindful of when on my sites of what I’m doing. As a result of the situation that had occurred with last month’s post, I duplicated it and deleted the original, so now in my stats I’ve got an “(unknown or deleted)”. A little annoying in its way, but still, I guess it’ll be a reminder that I need to be careful.

Another thing I would like to do in future is go on a writer’s retreat, once the COVID threat diminishes. It’d be nice to go somewhere unfamiliar and spend time on writing. I’ll need to save money and eventually set aside time for that. Like so many things when it comes to the world of writers, sometimes opportunities present themselves they’re not expected or being searched for.

And it would be nice to come up with a new writing presentation. I’ve done my importance of names one 3–4 times now, and I even expanded it to include pen names—for writers and for real people in memoir. It is time for something different.

Further Discussion

  1. Zikra, Nour. How To Find Time For Your Writing.

Readers’ Wants

Back when I did my first blog post, I talked about what I called the “Misery Complex” (in reference to Stephen King’s famous novel), and how writers’ and readers’ wants can clash. Granted, not all fans are crazy and obsessive about authors and fictional characters, like Annie Wilkes, but there is no denying that once a story is out there, it can touch so many people in individual ways in that they feel a special connection. And as they become attached to fictional characters, it’s still important to consider their feelings. Or isn’t it?

I’ve noticed this especially in drama and TV shows, like Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones, with fans theorizing and predicting where the story and subplots will go or could’ve gone, along with characters, and expressing their upset when things don’t happen in a certain way. The latter is especially true when characters die, don’t end up together, or character growth just vanishes. To be fair, with killing characters, writers cannot always be hated and blamed the way they have been, especially in drama, when actors decide they want to leave and pursue other projects. It’s not always easy to explain a character’s absence once the actor leaves. There may not be actors in books, but still, it’s easier to put unwarranted blame on writers.

It’s true not everyone has a happy ending, and sometimes one bad turn can in the end lead to a good one, but is there a line that ought not to be crossed? I certainly cannot argue how upsetting it is when a story seems to building something or someone up only to not lead there at the end. When there’s an anticlimax to anything from a story line to a character arc to a romance, it is usually disappointing. I sometimes find myself imagining (not always in great detail) where things could’ve gone in a story where I felt writing was lazy. That’s what’s lead to a number of fans writing fanfiction.

But at least there’s one point on which writers and readers can agree: stories and characters matter, as does what happens to them. Nevertheless, they originate with the writers. I said in my importance of names presentation characters are the children of an author’s imagination. Well, the same can be said of stories as a whole: an author sires them, and then they venture out into the world. That’s why I firmly feel the author should have the final say in what happens in his or her work, and I’d hope readers would respect that.

But I’m not unfeeling towards readers. After all, writers seek out the opinions of others in beta readers and critique groups while they are developing the story. So yes, readers can have input, and sometimes fans’ suggestions can ignite a spark in the writer’s imagination when they can’t figure out where to take the story next (even if it isn’t what readers specifically want), especially within a series. So, in conclusion, they both matter. Readers’ opinions should be considered, but the final decision belongs to the writer alone.

P.S. I want to apologize for the inconvenience for those who saw this post in advance a few days ago. I meant to schedule it at a different time and clicked the wrong button. This was not intentional, but given the post’s subject matter, I can’t help but feel the irony. Happy Holidays!

Dusting Off Stories From History

Many thanks to historical novelist Anne Clare for this opportunity to discuss my feelings on using historical fiction to shed light on lesser known events in history!

Guest Post By Andrew McDowell: Dusting Off Stories From History

These are feelings I hope to follow when I venture into historical fiction someday!

Brain to Bookshelf Conference 2021

The Maryland Writers’ Association hosts a writers’ conference every year, except, of course, last year’s conference was cancelled due to the COVID shutdown. Normally held in March, they were able to host this one this past weekend. The main takeaway for me was being able to see a number of friends I hadn’t seen in so long, including authors A. L. Kaplan, Meg Eden, and Michele Chynoweth, and be in a familiar setting in person again, not unlike how it was when my critique group started to meet in person again a few months ago in our familiar haunt (no pun intended).

There were a number of interesting presentations from authors, including Jane Friedman, Mary Tilghman, Andrea Johnson, Edward McSweegan, Susan Moger, and Harrison Demchick, and I learned more about Balticon. I met a number of new people, and I was able to sell a few books! But there were some hard lessons I had to re-learn. When it comes to attending events such as this, pre-planning is vital. This was something I didn’t fully take into account that morning. I didn’t manage my time and drive well, and I made it there just in time to hear the first talk. What’s more, even though I signed up for both days, I didn’t realize until too late (shortly before the conference) that I had doubled-booked Sunday and couldn’t attend the second day. Still, I had a good time for the day I was there.

We’ll see what happens next year. I know now to remember to plan better in a number of ways. I guess I just had to get back into the rhythm of things. Maybe next time, if I can think of a new writing-related presentation, I can give it then. It is time to think up some new topics for presentation.

Speaking of presentations, I’ll discussing the importance of names for the third time next month on the 13th at 2pm Eastern Time. I hope to see you there! See my events page for the registration link.

Writing vs. Marketing—Balancing the Scales

It seems that there are two sides to the coin of being a writer. The first side is writing process and everything related to the it, such as conducting research, sharing drafts with beta readers and critique groups, and editing. The second side is marketing. Writers need to build a network and an online presence so that potential readers will know of the writer and their creative output.

When I started writing as a kid, I didn’t give much thought to marketing. Perhaps I thought the publishers would do all of that, or it would magically take off. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had to learn that without marketing, people outside of my family and friends would never hear of my work. If the general public isn’t aware of a book’s existence and if they don’t leave reviews, there will be no sales. Fortunately, I was able to get started on building a network once I joined the Maryland Writers’ Association and attended their conferences. I also began to build my digital platform.

I started to do a lot more online marketing as a result of the pandemic, especially by following certain hashtags on Twitter, eager to create as much exposure for my blog and books as possible. I’ve referred to WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter as the Big Three, with LinkedIn and Tumblr coming in next. Now, I am glad for the learning experience as well as for the genuine connections that I have made within my network, with people who’ve been kind and supportive. But at the same time, I feel as if I hit a roadblock—I’m not writing as much as I used to. Some writers I know had a massive creative output during the shutdown. I didn’t. Lately I’ve come to realize a simple truth: I’ve been spending too much time online, and not necessarily in a good way.

It’s easy to be tempted to check various social media accounts to the point where it becomes a habit, just like how I was creating exposure on Twitter but often scarcely interacting with other people. There’s that famous quote of how being a good writer is 3% talent and 97% not being distracted by the internet. That has never been clearer to me than now. In the past, long before I’d had all these social media accounts, I got distracted from writing by a number of things. I had schoolwork that took precedence, and once I entered the workforce, that too has taken up a lot of my time. Free time, it seems, has been taken up by the Internet and social media. In other words, the balance scales were tipped too far in one direction.

So how to find a balance? Well, I’ve started off by limiting how many times I login to each social media account to three or fewer a day, with each at different intervals (morning, afternoon, evening). It’s a start, to keep me from desiring to checking all the time but not checking enough. But I know I need to do more. I need to mind the time and online activity, and make it more meaningful. And I need to train my mind more to focus on writing when I do have time that isn’t devoted to work, social media, etc.

Now, I need to work on trying to have some output each day, whether in my journal (which I haven’t been diligent with) or editing or story work. I cannot just write when I’m in the mood, but at the same time I feel if I’m not enthusiastic, it won’t be good. Many successful writers became so from diligent, constant effort. I’m on a quest, you could say, to find that balance again and beat this writer’s block. Hopefully soon, the words will start flowing again.

Release Date for Into the Glen

In 10 days, the two-volume anthology Into the Glen premieres from Fae Corps Inc! The volumes are respectively named Into the Light and Under the Shade. The former will feature my short story The Harbor Master, inspired by real-life stories about monster-sized hammerhead sharks. Many thanks to Fae Corps for this opportunity! They did a great job with the cover and promotional photo:

Some pre-order links are already available on my short stories page, and more will come! Additionally, the 2021 July edition of Pen in Hand featuring my fencing essay is now available on Amazon and Goodreads! Links are on my creative nonfiction page.

One other thing I forgot to mention last time: my novel Mystical Greenwood won in the Science Fiction / Fantasy / Speculative category of the 2021 MWA Novel contest. That’s the first time I’ve won 1st in anything writing!

Some New Publications!

A couple minor publications are in the works! First, the July edition of the MWA‘s literary journal Pen in Hand features my essay about my experiences in the fencing club at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, which also began there as an assignment in a creative nonfiction class I took during my final semester there. The PDF is available! More links will follow when they arrive!

Here’s a picture of me from my college days in full fencing gear:

En Garde

I also have a short story that will be appearing in an upcoming two-part anthology from Fae Corps Inc titled Into the Glen. The story is titled “The Harbor Master,” and it was inspired by real urban legends about monster-sized hammerhead sharks in Florida and Bimini.

Be sure to check both my creative nonfiction and short stories pages for links when they come!

And don’t forget to check out the other anthologies from Fae Corps that I’ve been in as well. Here’s some promotional material from last year’s marketing campaign for two of them, Fae Dreams and Nightmare Whispers, Volume II: Madness Echoes:

With the latter, it can be purchased as part of the whole Nightmare Whispers collection too, if you would prefer to get all three volumes at once rather than individually!

Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million!

Reviews and ratings are always appreciated!

More Praise for Mystical Greenwood

“The story is cleverly told with a balance of intrigue, challenge and family ties. I loved the links to the natural world and environmental understanding. The world was fascinating and filled with interesting characters, wonderful settings and heart-stopping dilemmas.”

Jamie Adams, Author of Short Dates and The Fathers, the Sons, and the Anxious Ghost (he also had some kind words to say in this video)

“The tale, packed with mythical creatures, sorcerers of light and dark, and more down to earth villagers scratching a living from the land, was well conceived with rich depth and multiple narrative strands and points of view, all of which are drawn beautifully together at the end of the novel.”

Lynne Fisher, Author of After Black and On Turtle Beach

“[Mystical Greenwood] is a coming of age story where Dermot negotiates familial tensions and conflicts with society at large. There’s also tons of adventure. I recommend this book for fantasy and YA fans.”

Anya Pavelle, Author of The Moon Hunters

“With all the adventure and magical creatures you could every want this epic will carry you away.”

Judy Ferrell, Author of Beginnings: From Country Girl to Poet, Home at Last: Poetry of Home and Family, and Peace Ever Changing

“Andrew McDowell whisks the reader on a fantastical journey filled with legends, magic, and mythical creatures. […] If you’re looking for a high-stakes fantasy plot filled with classic fantasy elements, then this could be just the read you’re looking for.”

K. J. Simmill, Author of The Forgotten Legacies series and Herbal Lore (read her full review on her blog)

“I am not a fan of young adult fantasy, but Andrew McDowell has crafted not only a superb book of that genre, but also a smashing tale of an all-out battle of good and evil, with well-crafted heroes, heroines and villains. […] A most enjoyable read!”

Lewis F. McIntyre, Author of The Eagle and the Dragon

“Andrew McDowell does a masterful job of taking the reader along on the adventure of two teenage brothers through a magical land full of extraordinary characters, animals and scenery, weaving together a suspenseful yet heartwarming journey that makes one ponder good versus evil, the sanctity of life and all living creatures, and how the powerful bonds we forge…of family, friendship, love, kindness and courage…are what matter in the end.”

Michele Chynoweth, Best-selling author of The Faithful One and The Jealous Son

“Such an amazing story. The descriptions the author uses to describe the scenery and the characters is believable and helps the reader visualize the story better.”

C. Soto, author of Dare to Dream: Tampa FBI One (read her full review on her blog)

“Excellent story all around. Very well written.”

K. G. Bethlehem, author of She is to be remembered and Shadow Within A City
Previous Praises

P.S. Mystical Greenwood is part of the Support Indie Summer Reading Challenge, along with books by other authors in the Maryland Writers’ Association, as well as the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. If you have kids in Grades K-12 and want to get them involved in summer reading, check it out!

P.P.S. Also check out this poem of mine featured by published poet Gabriela Marie Milton on MasticadoresUSA, and my appearance on the podcast of reporter and anchor Larry Matthews:

May Your Wings Soar

“Matthews and Friends” (6-14-21)

The Underground Library Society

Many thanks to author and blogger Charles F. French for this opportunity, inspired by the Book People in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, where I discuss one of my favorite classic stories—why it’s so special to me, and why I believe it’s worth preserving.

Let me say it was a tough decision, for there are many good books out there worth preserving. But when it came down to it—thinking of a classic story I’ve always come back to (in this case every December) and which is special to me—in the end I knew what my choice would be.

A New Addition to the U.L.S., The Underground Library Society: Andrew McDowell and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

If anyone else might be interested in joining and posting about a book that you would choose to become in a world like the one Bradbury envisaged, please consider it!