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To Infinity, and Beyond!

I have wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember. For so long, the thought of getting a publishing contract remained a far off dream, an asymptote that I could approach but not quite touch. But after so many years of striving to improve my storytelling craft, I almost can’t believe that I’ve finally hit such a major milestone in my career as an author. 

I am proud to announce that I have gotten a publishing contract with SF/For the Culture, the newly founded genre branch of Wahida Clark Presents Publishing!

In October of 2020, Wahida Clark (known as the Queen of Street Lit) reached out via a personal connection because she was interested in republishing my series under a new imprint that she was forming for genre fiction: SF/For the Culture. I was soon put in touch with other members of her team to talk more about the possibility of coming onboard. 

The series of events came as a surprise as I hadn’t actively been searching for anything, nor had I been writing on a regular basis for quite some time. The past few years have been extremely challenging in my personal life, and I struggled to put my pen to paper. For a while I lost my confidence in my own creativity and I started to fear that one of the most important aspects of my life, my writing, might be a lost cause. So in some ways, I didn’t quite feel ready for this opportunity. 

But when Wahida’s team expressed so much excitement about sharing my stories and building out this imprint, my feelings about my writing began to shift. My head and heart were fluttering with excitement as I signed the contract to re-release my dark fantasy series “Kindred” under a new banner. This was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. Even if I didn’t feel ready, I would have to make myself ready to take advantage of this chance to be a part of something bigger.

Sometimes, I still can’t believe that it happened, even months later. In the midst of the excitement and preparing for the re-release of my Kindred Series, I can’t help but to think to myself:

…Well, how did I get here?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Some of my earliest stories were shorts in my Pokemon notebook, and occasionally using my mom’s typewriter at work when she was a reporter. This turned into writing stories for an afterschool program I was in during elementary school and winning a couple of prizes (consisting of candy) for my work.

The writing bug really hit me in middle school. Looking back on it, I’m glad that I kept at it for so many years, but it’s funny to go back and read what I thought was my best writing at the time only to find so many flaws in it now. I was a perfectionist at the time, rewriting stories over and over until it “felt” right. During this time, I wrote a story called “Rain and Flame,” which was a story about a set of twins with magic powers (can you guess their powers?). I loved seeing the reaction on my friend’s face as she read my story. This along with my mom’s encouragement kept me writing.

The summer before high school, I read a book called “If You Can Talk, You Can Write” which to this day has been one of the most influential writing books I have read. Although simple in hindsight, this book was the impetus behind setting daily writing goals instead of just writing whenever I felt like it.

My junior year of high school, I entered the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Though I submitted three stories, only one placed: “The Halo Effect,” which was a story about a guy named Micah who sacrificed people to feed the demon that had possessed him. The story earned me a national award in the Science Fiction and Fantasy category, and attending the awards ceremony in New York at Carnegie Hall (which I got to attend with a good friend of mine, who had won an award in a different category) while proudly displaying my silver award was one of the highlights of my nascent writing career.

I used to write a variety of things: poetry (which I’m horrible at), science fiction, fantasy and literary fiction. Winning the Scholastic award is what I think opened my eyes to what my strengths were, and I have focused on fantasy and horror ever since (though I still enjoy reading the genres in which I used to write). Growing up, I had always had an interest in the paranormal and supernatural (despite being agnostic about it) and during my teenage years, I developed a love for the horror genre. This provided the basis of what I would focus on moving forward.

In college, I continued to write, though I did not have the self-confidence to submit my work or put it out there for others to see. And then came the summer of 2013.

I came back home for the summer after an extremely stressful semester that had burned me out. I had been struggling to pull a story together for the past year or so, though it seemed to have lost its “inertia.” Trying to work on it only made me more frustrated, so I put that story away and began working on a story idea that had been lingering in the back of my head since high school: a tale of an all girls band who relied on dark magic to achieve their fame.

Out of this story emerged the character of Dina, who became the protagonist for the first book in “Kindred” (which I later titled Resurrection). By the time that I had penned the last word in that story, something in my creativity was sparked and the story grew and grew, encompassing the stories of many characters that stretched across time. I worked on the story just about everyday for about a year and a half, using the “one page a day” rule that I had learned from that influential book that I had read so many years ago.

In the summer of 2014, I received my first Kindle, which introduced me to self-publishing. Matt Shaw, an author who has successfully published dozens of short horror stories on Kindle that I enjoyed, inspired me to start looking deeper into this possible path. I had originally envisioned Kindred as one giant book of interconnected stories, but as I observed what was selling, I realized that I could sell each one as its own novella. Though I had not yet finished writing “Kindred” at the time, I kept the potential opportunity of self-publishing open as I devoured many indie books published on the Kindle Unlimited platform.

The spark that really set off my desire to move forward with self-publishing was when my boyfriend read Resurrection and gave me great feedback on a story in a genre that he was not particularly a fan of. With at least one person behind my work, I plowed ahead into researching the self-publishing process, spending most of my free time either reading about the process, blogging about books or writing or growing my network on social media.

It all felt so exciting, searching for book cover designers and preparing my book for the grand launch. Years of work finally coming to fruition. So in May of 2015, the same month I graduated from college, the first book in the “Kindred” series went live on Amazon. I continued to blog and build my platform, reaching out to readers and bloggers in the hopes that they would review my book. I also experienced for the first time getting feedback in the most public of ways: Amazon book reviews, which was a necessary part of building a tougher skin if I wanted to pursue my dreams of being a writer. The feedback I received was mostly great and encouraging – though I still had some developing to do in my craft, people really seemed to enjoy the heart of the story. So I published the sequel, Reunion, later that year. The next year, I decided to dip my toe in fantastical romance (which was a hot-selling genre) so I began to write that under a different pen name. I think I gained a lot of discipline from this point in my life in terms of setting writing goals and hitting my self-made deadlines. I was pretty proud of what I wrote, and I think this was crucial in building my craft.

Sometime in 2017, I hit a brick wall in terms of my writing and creativity. I can’t say for sure what it was, but I imagine that the newfound stressors of adulthood might have had something to do with it. Developing depression for the first time in my life probably didn’t help. I really did try to pull stories together, but it too often felt like pulling teeth each time I tried. So I regretfully put the pen away for awhile and shifted my focus on other things

Nothing gets fixed instantly. But as I’ve been working on my rewrite of Resurrection, I feel the creative gears turning again. I’m finding inspiration in things that I’m reading or listening to, experiencing random eureka moments that I had to jot down before the idea escaped my mind. Day by day, I’m returning to the creative self that I’ve always wanted to be and regaining confidence in my storytelling abilities. It is still so surreal to have so many people excited about my work. I’m excited to not only get back to writing, but to resurrect (haha) my blog Spectacular Fiction by reviewing other works that I love and bringing back regular updates to The Trove, a directory of writing resources I put together specifically for genre writers. And I’m so excited to release my revamped book and roll out the rest of the series.  

Life isn’t a movie (or a book). This isn’t the end chapter where I sign the contract and everyone lives happily ever after. I still have lots of work ahead, and plenty of room to grow. But now I have a team behind me who believes in my stories.

I am so grateful to my friends and loved ones who have always believed in my writing, even when I didn’t believe in myself, and encouraged me to keep on going even when the going got rough. You are my rock. Imposter syndrome still rears its ugly head from time to time. But I am proud of myself for reaching this step in my journey, and I know that this is just the beginning.

I wish you all the best in your creative endeavors.

(PS: now I’ve gotta get used to people IRL calling me Zed 😀 )

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