After the publication of my third novel in the Psyne Series entitled, Radiant, in 2015 I needed a long sabbatical. I’d published 3 novels in 3 years and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment but I also felt that I had pushed myself to the limit. Juggling the creative life of an author, as well as family and friends, was difficult at times even with how wonderfully supportive everyone in my life was. I needed some time away from the series to recharge and set some new goals that would fuel my writing. What I didn’t know is that I’d embark on an unexpected journey that would lead me to a very surprising destination.
In July 2015 I attended the Salt City Steamfest, our local Steampunk convention, at the Sheraton Hotel and went to a seminar given by Xchyler Publishing. I listened to three fabulous women share their experiences about the world of writing and the advice they would give would truly change my life. They are (in no particular order): Terra Luft, author and soon to be President of the Speculative Fiction Chapter of the League of Utah Writers (aka. The Infinite Monkeys); C.R. Asay, author and former member of the Special Forces Unit; and Callie Stoker, editor extraordinaire. They were all members of the Utah Horror Writers Association and spoke about the benefits of becoming active within local writing communities, how novelists can learn to be short story writers and how submitting your work to anthologies is essential to building your author resume. I was more than a little intrigued and spoke to them afterwards to get more information. They urged me to attend the next meeting of the Utah Horror Writers.
My first thought was, “But I’m not a horror writer. I write fantasy. I write about mermaids!” I was surprised to learn that Terra Luft didn’t start out as a horror writer and that C.R. Asay was a sci-fi author. The discussion I had with them was thought provoking to say the least. They reasoned that in any genre if a character possesses a fear of something, an element of horror was being used by the writer. If a character’s life was in jeopardy, an element of horror was there. Any genre can employ elements of horror to make it more thrilling, more suspenseful and more entertaining. I took the Utah Horror Writers Association business card and went out to the pool of the Sheraton to check in with my mermaid friend, Zmeya. I had a lot to think about.
I balked at the idea of writing horror. Blood and guts and lots of screaming was not my thing. I preferred adventure, magic, and unusual worlds full of myth and wonder. But I couldn’t get the things they’d said out of my head.
I knew I really needed to get involved in a writers community. For the last few years while I wrote and published my Psyne novels, I’d become a part of an incredible artist community. All my friends were visual artists and I enjoyed our collaborations for the cover art on my novels immensely. But it was time for growth and growth isn’t always easy. I’ve read plenty of author blogs who’ve written about how they’ve very social and need to be around people. That they’re extroverts who love their writers groups and aren’t the stereotypical introverts that writers can be known for. But that’s not me! I’m very introverted, I love my quiet time to write and while I come up for air to get my friend fix, I need the solitude that a writer’s life demands.
In the end, I forced myself to go to the meeting. It was hard but sometimes you just have to eat the vegetable you really wish wasn’t on your plate. Lucky for me, that vegetable turned out to be the beginning of a beautiful learning experience! The Utah Horror Writers meeting was a group of interesting and talented writers of all genres, some published, some not published, as well as a few professors. This dynamic group possessed fantastic energy. I just wanted to sit there and soak it all in. For the next year I attended monthly meetings, learned all I could about writing short stories and attended writers conferences I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I manned the UHWA booth at Salt Lake Comic Con and the LTUE Conference (Life, the Universe, and Everything) at Utah Valley University.
Meanwhile, many of the loyal fans of my sci-fi/fantasy novel series were thrown by my affiliation with a horror writers group. “But you don’t write horror,” they’d say. “Why be in a horror writers group?” The answer to that will be in my next blog post which will be coming up next. Stay tuned!