Mark Noce’s Publishing Journey

Hi everyone! Welcome to my regular guest feature! Today, Mark Noce is here to share his publishing journey with us. 

Take it away, Mark!
Thanks, Misha for having me here! I’m pumped to have my debut novel, Between Two Fires, coming out with St. Martin’s Press this August, and I’m here today to share a little bit of what my “journey” to this point so far has been like.
I love reading and writing historical fiction, double-majoring in both History and English in undergrad before getting my Master’s in English. To improve my craft further, I started attending the San Francisco Writer’s Conference about five years ago. I learned a lot, became a better writer and eventually got my super fantastic agent, Rena Rossner of the Deborah Harris Agency. This February I’ll be a guest speaker for the second year in a row at the very same San Francisco Writer’s Conference I used to attend as a budding writer. Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked.
But of course, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. I wrote plenty of other manuscripts before Between Two Fires and got plenty of rejections along the way before I found my niche. Now I’ve got a two book deal with Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan) and my editor is the head of the imprint himself. But guess what? Rejection is still part of the game. I still run through lots of drafts that my publisher either likes or does not like, spending a good deal of time making each chapter shine until we can’t possibly do another thing to improve it. I’d liken it to pulling rabbits out of hats, except it isn’t magic. It’s a lot of darn hard work. But it has a happy rainbow at the end of the tunnel when I’m left with a great story of which I couldn’t possibly be more proud.
So what’s this Welsh epic of mine all about? Below is a blurb about Between Two Fires, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have. You can pre-order Between Two Fires on Amazon or add it to Goodreads! You can also connect with me via, my blog, Twitter or Facebook.
Thanks again Misha for having me!

Between Two Fires
Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales’ last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King.
But this fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen herself becomes the target of assassinations and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan her world threatens to tear itself apart. Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.

Thanks for stopping by, Mark! Anyone else interested in being featured on my blog? If you are, please mail me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com with “Thursday Feature” in the subject line. 

Have a lovely day! Don’t you just love this book’s cover?

How to Get Back Into the Writing Groove

Lately, my advice posts have fell a bit to the way-side. Mainly, I blame a bit of a writer’s burn-out that I suffered from since mid-November.

It’s hard enough to write a thoughtful, useful post without feeling like I’m sipping yogurt through a thin straw. (Don’t know what I mean? Try it sometime. The feeling compares remarkably well to writing while burned out.)
The only thing I advise people to do when burned out is to rest. But what to do when the burn-out is gone and you just can’t get into the writing groove again? 
Oh, I’m glad you asked. 
I know that everyone is different, but I’ve found that the following steps work for me: 
Step 1: Find a big enough stick. 

I’m serious. Resting during a burn-out is all about spoiling ourselves rotten and doing all those things we usually do to procrastinate without feeling guilty about it. This is a good thing in its time, but now that time is over. But why promise yourself a reward when you’re already in the zone of instant gratification? 
It just won’t work. So find what will really make yourself feel crap if you don’t do it within a certain time, and commit to it now. I picked saying yes to two anthologies and setting up a book for pre-order. 
Of the two, the pre-order thing is worse. I like having the pre-order option. And Amazon will take that option away for a year if I don’t submit the finished work in time. See? Pretty big stick. 
And already, I’ve started making sure that I’ll have everything done. Just make sure that the big stick won’t be falling too soon. You’ve got to be reasonable. Setting something up for pre-orders a week from now isn’t reasonable unless you were close to done to begin with. 
Step 2: Get into the habit of delayed gratification.

You used to do this before. It’s not so hard. Say: “Yes, I want to watch TV, but first I need to finish this chapter.”
This is a tricky thing to do, because the excuses are a dime a dozen. But if you want to get that book done, you need to say: “Later.” to everything that isn’t finishing your book. 
Except, you know, your family needing your attention or something like that. Family is important. Writing is important. Sometimes, friends are important. TV…. not so much. 
And be careful of the social networking you “need” to do. Not that important either. 
Step 3: Find a nice, juicy carrot. 

That’s the nice thing about delayed gratification. Telling yourself you’ll do something after finishing a chapter means that you’ll want to finish that chapter even if it’s only to get to a guilt-free session of that other thing. 
I go a bit bigger, though. I’ve promised myself something really nice and expensive if I publish my book on time. Actually, that was a new laptop, but the old one broke. So I’m going to have to think of something else. 
I’ll probably feed my addiction to pretty notebooks. (NOTE: if you’re ever a die-hard fan that wants to send me stuff for Christmas or my birthday… NOTEBOOKS. The beautiful hard-cover kinds with the high quality paper.) 
In the short term, I promised myself a decadent chocolate and banana smoothie once I’ve finished this post. 
Step 4: Actually write, nitwit. 

You know? It’s kind of important. 
And that’s pretty much it. Simple, right? 
How do you get back into the writing groove after a long break? 

Back to the subject of putting books on pre-order. I’ll be putting Endless up on Amazon this weekend. It’s already up on B&N, Kobo and Apple. In the meantime, though, I’m looking for people who’d like to help me spread the word in May after the launch. If you’re interested, please click here. Thanks! You’re awesome.

The Point to Being a Writer

It’s been a while since I did one of these sorts of posts, but I think this is a good time to bring it up. Again. See, I do mention this every now and then.

But then, writers need reminding of this every so often. I’m especially looking at you guys who (like me) have big goals and things to achieve.

See, goals are a good thing. I truly believe they are. They give us something to work towards, which gives us purpose. This purpose gives us determination and determination (and quite a bit of dumb luck) is what sees us through.

All very good things.

However goals can become millstones around our necks. They weigh us down with the sheer amount of measurable things we did not achieve. Or make us highly aware of how far we are from where we’ve seen ourselves at the end of some arbitrarily chosen moment. (End of the year, at the end of five years, etc.)

This millstone effect affects most people, but for writers and other artists, there’s an extra danger: It can and does kill our creativity.

Everyone’s motivation for writing differs a little bit. Often, we write for a variety of reasons. Maybe just because you like reading and thought it would be fun to write and it was. Maybe you have this huge drive to produce something, anything or your life just doesn’t feel complete. Or you need to write to process your emotions. And so on.

A lot of us find that, even if there are all these wonderful reasons to write, we just never seem to spend enough time on actually doing it. TV creeps in. Facebook sucks up time. All those million little distractions gang up on us and if we’re not careful, whole days go by without us writing. Which isn’t good.

Goal setting with accountability makes us careful with out time. We want to have something to show those we are accountable to, so we start building habits of carving out writing time for ourselves. See? It is a good thing.

But the flip side is that sometimes, through no fault of our own, we just can’t make those goals. Usually, it takes only a short moment of introspection to recognize when that’s happened. You don’t say “I wanted to write, but those crazy cat pictures took over my life and I just couldn’t.” But when things higher up on your priority list comes up (e.g. in matters of survival, or family issues, health issues etc.), there will be times when you. just. can’t.

This is perfectly fine, but those goals still loom and suddenly, people are asking: “Oh, what’s the point?”

And then they’re miserable. Because suddenly, nothing they’ve done is good enough. Now nothing they’ve written gets them anywhere and writing becomes this pointless cause of self flagellation until we’re not even sure we like being writers anymore.

So. Because I’ve been seeing a lot of you guys talking about this lately, I decided to be awesome and answer your question…

Whats the point? 


Not earning a living from our writing. (That’s the point of publishing, but that’s not the matter at hand.) Not becoming a bestselling writer. (Nice, but not the point.) Not publishing to schedule because some other blogger said you need a certain rate of output to succeed. 
I repeat. 

Your love of writing should be the be all and end all of all points when you’re a writer, or you’re toast. See here’s the thing. It’s okay to want to make a living at what you love (which is what seems to be the root of all these issues we’re having), but when the expectations you set of yourself to make it happen makes you unhappy, you can’t blame that thing you love for your unhappiness. 
Your expectations are the problem. 
What to do to straighten out your concerns about writing and find some semblance of serenity? 
I propose a one-round game of Would You Rather. 

If publishing was never an option to you, ever,
Would you rather…

Continue writing anyway
Stop writing and do something else? 

Now adjust your life and/or thinking accordingly.
You’re welcome. 

How I set huge goals without getting crushed by them.

Friday’s post got two comments by J.H. Moncrieff and Kelly Hashway (both ladies have awesome blogs, by the way), which basically came down to “How do you keep getting so much done?” and “How do you handle your discouragement if you achieve your goals?” 

Since it isn’t the first time people asked me, I thought I’d go into my madness/method once more. Actually, I’m going to share my big secret: 
I set huge goals and then make a game of chasing them. 
If I think about it in an attempt to explain myself, it’s a lot like a perpetual game of soccer/football/rugby/whatever else you can think of involving points. Or maybe I’m playing a game of Quidditch, because I remember that some of those go on for a while. The only thing here is that I’m both sides. Misha the writer/doer-of-things vs Misha the procrastinator. 
The more things in a day, the more times I score. And yes. I keep track. 
If you look closely, you’ll see I have two Excel spreadsheets open. I open them up the first thing every morning. 
The first is this one: 
This is where I keep track of my writing/editing goals by month. This was September, but at the end of each year, I create a spreadsheet for the next year. (2016’s is done too. I did it this month to take a writing break.) Basically, it started as a way for me to keep track of my rough draft’s word counts and daily progress during NaNo, since counting by hand is a bit of a pain in the butt, so it’s easier to only count toward the total and then subtract to find what I’ve written in a day. 
The big block on the left is for rough drafts and rewrites and the block on the right is for my edits. (I count edits by hour instead of words.) 
I have another block each month for critiques, but including it just makes the whole thing too small to see. Anyway, on all of the blocks, I color-code my progress so that I can see at a glance what I’ve been doing. I can also input monthly writing and editing goals (say 10k words and 15 hours respectively), and the spreadsheet calculates my totals, cumulative totals as well as daily goals and cumulative totals. In other words, this thing helps me keep track exactly the same way as NaNoWriMo’s stats do. 
The other spreadsheet I have open looks like this: 
The words are pretty squidgy so it might be hard to tell, but you’re looking at the month of September. Each color-line in the calendar other than turquoise represent particular monthly goals I’ve set. You know the ones. I set them on this blog on the last Friday of every month. The key to those goals are in the multi-colored blocks at the bottom. I try to keep themes. (Such as the Purple involves stuff I still have to do for The Vanished Knight. The dark green was for all my writing this month. Yellow was for my reading (and to count the average hours spent reading) and orange are my life goals.) Every theme/color has a primary, secondary and tertiary goal, as well as a space for me to mark them as in progress or complete. 
In other words, this little bad-boy is my score card. The things written in on the calendar aren’t a to-do list. They’re everything I’ve done. Every day. Saturdays and Sundays tend to be emptier because I let myself rest, and also because they’re spent on less quantifiable things like spending time with my family or binge-watching series to recover from my hard work. 
This month, everything except for eight tasks (out of 24) had me making at least some progress (two of which were postponed due to circumstances beyond my control.) Of the remaining 16 tasks I set myself this month, I completed 4 plus a bonus task for that rough draft I hadn’t set a goal for, so 5. Of the 12 remaining, I made significant progress on one. So all in all, I might not have finished the majority of my goals, but so what? Everything I did only sets me up to finish them next month or the next or whatever. But in the meantime, I know that very few of my weekdays (six) went without me furthering my writing goals in some way, and I compensated for those by working in on Saturdays. 
Also, to help keep things balanced, a quick glance at my word-count reveals that though I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do, I still finished a whole round of edits, a full rough draft and about a third of my planned rewrite in one month.
In short, I won this round by a wide margin. Starting tomorrow, I get to see if (and how far) I can win again. 
And yes, this came is huge fun. There’s nothing as awesome as marking things as complete when you have things to do and goals to achieve. 

What about the bad months? Oh I have those too. Usually, what I do is I focus on what I have achieved. (I almost always get something done.) Also, it helps me to keep a long term view in mind. 
How long-term? Well. The Five Year Project runs from 2014 to 2018, but the timeline I have (the one I always post on my update days) have projects pipelined. And to give you an idea, this is what the Project looks like visually at this moment. (Each row is a project, each column is a month and each block is a year.) 
Each orange block means something’s been (or will hopefully be) published. If I can just get half of next year done, I’ll be a happy camper, and currently, I’m pretty much set to get there. All those tasks that didn’t quite get done in any single month still add up to me finishing things, so there’s no reason to worry about any supposed failure. There are no failures here. Only failure to do things, and I know I will get to them at some point.

What about you? Do you set goals? How do you keep track of them? 

Ian S. Bott on Researching the Unknown

Hi all! Today I have the pleasure of hosting one of my very talented Crit Partners, Ian S. Bott, as part of his blog tour.

Having read Tiamat’s Nest as a critique partner, I can tell you now that those who buy the book are in for a wild ride. One of the best things about the story is the feeling that, although we’re dealing with events and technology that is still beyond our reality, they were written in a what that makes them feel real.

And today, Ian’s going to tell us about researching for Speculative Fiction.

Before we start, though, I just want to mention that Shell Flower interviewed me on her blog today.

Okay, Ian, take it from here.

Researching the Unknown
When you write fiction set in the real world, the need for research is obvious. You’re writing about places and things that a lot of your readers already know about, and you need to be credible enough to keep those readers along for the ride.
One of the great joys of speculative fiction is that you get to make things up. Nobody can argue that you can’t possibly see the mountains of Mordor from Minas Tirith, because nobody’s been there!
So, when your whole world is invented, where is the need for research?
Well, no matter how far out your speculative ideas, readers need your world to have some foundations they can relate to. Even the most fantastical of worlds inevitably has considerable overlap with our familiar world.
If you’re writing medieval fantasy, for example, you can bet many of your readers will know their pikes from their halberds, so you’d better know too! That means research.
OK, maybe you’re into far-future sci-fi instead, with biology and technology that has no earthly counterparts. Surely that’s safe? Well, what about the (eminently fashionable indicators of a non-Earth setting) twin moons you’ve placed in the sky which always seem to rise and set together in defiance of orbital periods? You may not be aware of the gaffe, but your target audience may not be forgiving.
One of the challenges of speculative fiction is knowing what you don’t know. When you write a real-world setting you are usually aware of your boundaries. Never been to New York, or worked in a hospital, or erected a circus big top? Well, you know what you have to read up about. But assembling a world from scratch with credible seasons and ecology? Most likely you’re going to write what you’ve decided you need for the story without much thought to what laws of nature you’ve trampled along the way.
The strangest thing about sci-fi is that people happily accept blatant present-day impossibilities, like FTL travel or artificial gravity fields, without so much as a blink of an eye, but they get picky about smaller things. It’s relatively easy to get away with big bold lies, but the closer you get to some version of recognizable reality the more demanding people get.
Like trying to plan the perfect murder, it’s the little details that’ll trip you up.

For my latest novel, Tiamat’s Nest, I’ve researched things like the topography of Greenland under all that ice, the temperature of magma and melting point of aluminum, driving snowmobiles across open water, and how far you have to run to survive a small nuclear explosion.

What cool things have you researched for your work?

Tiamat’s Nest

The virtual world comes alive and reaches out into the real world with deadly results. University professor and devout technophobe, Charles Hawthorne, confronts technology full on to end the hidden threat to humanity.

Available on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.

Find out more about the author on his website:

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Underwhelmed

I’m still on my mission to complete my A to Z Challenge theme, and I’m actually feeling like I’m finally in my home stretch.

And today, I’m writing about a biggie.

Writers all have to come to terms with this simple fact or we simply couldn’t function as writers.

First drafts almost never live up to the pictures we have in our minds.
(Unless we’re temporarily delusional.)

I wish I can say that it becomes better, but really, all that happens is we learn to expect that compared to our idea, the draft will suck. So we’re not as crushed when we find this when we re-read what we’ve written. 
Why is this, though? Why don’t we just write the idea the way we have in our mind? 
Well… For one thing, writing is hard. Don’t ever let someone tell you it isn’t. Furthermore, our minds have a way of making ideas look incredibly shiny, because along with just the basic idea, we also see how we expect it to look and feel in the end. But the truth is that this sense of perfection is an illusion. 
It’s a nice illusion. It helps us be excited enough about our ideas to commit to the writing. 

But as soon as words start appearing on paper, you’ll find you don’t have exactly the right words to get the feels across that you have. You’ll discover plot-holes you never considered (even if you did plot). You’ll discover that the characters simply refuse to act in the way that you need them to in order to bring your vision about. 
Or you’ll get to the end and reread the whole thing, find that you got almost everything that you envisaged down and… it… just… sucks. 
There’s not really all that much that you can do about it. The translation from idea to draft is never perfect, and there’s not much you can do to change this. 
You can, however, change the way you see and react to the imperfection. 
I think all writers come to terms with imperfection in various ways, but this is what I do: 
1) When reading what I’ve written, I make note of flaws and weaknesses, but focus on the positives. No, no one’s rough draft sucks in its entirety. There’s always something worth keeping. Your job is to find that thing. And make note of all the things you need to change in order to improve your story. 
2) Remember that it’s always better to have one sucky draft than a million good ideas. This might seem counter-intuitive, but an idea is worth very little until you have it written on paper. Especially because of our mind’s way of making things look shinier in our thoughts than in reality. Once the story is written, we can fix it no matter how bad it looks. (Even if it takes a rewrite.) But if you don’t ever write it, there’s nothing you can do to it.
So yes, be underwhelmed, but remember that a sucky first draft is just part of the process. And be glad that you’re underwhelmed, because it will help you in edits later.
How do you deal with first draft suckage? Are you struggling with first draft suckage at the moment?

Interview with Taryn Tyler

Hi all! Today, I have Taryn Tyler over for an interview. (Questions are in Bold.)

Welcome to The Five Year Project! First thing first, please do tell us a bit more about yourself. 

I daydream a lot, drink too much tea, and usually wear a hat. 

I’m also a lover of tea, although that said, it’s actually rooibos tea and therefore not tea at all… What got you to start writing?

When I was thirteen my friends and I started a monthly newsletter called “The Friendship Times”. At first it had mostly ‘articles’ about our Jr. High lives and maybe part of one or two stories but by the time we reached High School it was a weekly publication of six or seven novels being written in serial format. We changed the name to “Knights of the Page” and invited more people to submit. We even made the font smaller so we could fit more in each edition. It was crazy fun and I haven’t stopped writing since. 

That sounds like a lot of fun. What’s your favorite part to writing and why?

The things that I discover about myself and the world that I never knew I knew until I’m reading what I wrote.

I love that about writing too. Tell us a bit more about your newest story. What’s it about?

WHITE HART is about Sir Gawain’s first (well technically second) journey to Camelot and how he becomes a knight. He is pretty uncertain about he is going to be accepted at Camelot because his family just lost a war with King Arthur. Not really the best way to start off your career! 

No indeed not. What inspired you to write White Hart?

Gawain has always been my favorite knight, I like him because even though he’s not pure of heart like Galahad or super suave like Lancelot he’s not afraid to jump in and make a mistake. And boy does he make a lot of them! It’s also always resonated with me that he comes from a big family that he cares about a lot even when they make really bad choices about who to side with. It makes for a lot of interesting gray area and I wanted to make sure his story was told from the beginning. 

He’s my favorite too! It’s always sad to me that almost no one knows who he is. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from writing White Hart?

That nobody is perfect and sometimes when you spend too much time chasing an ideal you miss the point. 

That’s such a beautiful lesson to learn. What’s your best advice for new writers?

Read. Write. Don’t give up.

Very true. Not giving up is the essence of success. Where can people find you online?

My blog
My Facebook Author Page
And Goodreads

Awesome. Thanks for visiting and all the best with your new book! 

Gawain of Orkney has not been to Camelot since before his father led a rebellion against King Arthur. Now that the war is over Gawain is sent to attend Arthur’s wedding as a token of peace. 

The night of the wedding Arthur bids Gawain to hunt a white hart — a beautiful deer of unearthly purity. Gawain accepts the quest but the dangers of the wilderness become hard to battle when he is bound by Arthur’s new ideals of peace and trust. Gawain realizes he may not be so different from the knights of the old, violent ways of as he had imagined. 

Gawain does not have long to decide which life he wants to chase. Not all of the rebels put down their swords when his father did. The knights of the old ways are planning an assassination and even King Arthur may not survive this new idealistic trust.

Available Now on Amazon

Did you know who Sir Gawain is? Have you visited Taryn’s blog before? What do you think of the cover?