All posts by Wendy Van Camp

Author * Poet * Illustrator

How a Writing Planner Saved Me Last Year by Loren Rhoads

Image by Semisvetik04 from Pixabay

I am a planner junkie. For years I kept searching for a system that would help me organize all the information I need, track all my submissions, make space for my to-do lists, and keep my calendar. I would hear one of my writer friends rave about a system they were excited to try or see an ad that promised to get me organized and snatch it up. I ended up with a cupboard full of half-used planners.

I am also an inveterate list-maker. Often, when I sit down with my notebook for a day’s writing, I begin with a to-do list to clear my head. I had to-dos in my in-box, my notebook, my diary, on scraps of paper on my desk, in my unanswered emails. I had folders full of notes from conferences, tear sheets from writer’s magazines, articles I’d printed out from the internet. The weight of everything I thought I should do made me freeze.

Last year, when all my anchors were suddenly gone — no more writing in the cafe after dropping my kid off at school, no more writing in the car before I picked her up in the afternoon — I really struggled to focus and get anything done. What saved me was my planner stash. I took the planners apart and pulled out all my favorite charts: what were my goals for the year? What writing projects had I started and drifted away from? What markets did I want to pitch articles to? When were my favorite magazines open for story submissions?

Armed with that information, I made a master to-do list. Everything went on it, no matter how big or small. Which social media did I enjoy using and what was my theory behind my presence there? What were my goals for my newsletter and how could I better connect with my readers there? Since I couldn’t attend the conventions I’d looked forward to, how else could I get my books into the hands of readers?

Once I finally had EVERYTHING noted down, I could see that it was clearly too much for one person to accomplish RIGHT NOW. I used my planner sheets to pull out the little things that I could finish easily. Once I crossed those off my list, I got a jolt of pride that carried me forward to tackle bigger projects.

I made writing dates with friends over Zoom. A writer I knew set up a Tuesday morning chat for her writer friends. I joined Shut Up & Write sessions. I organized Happy Hours and went to writer’s group meetings online. Slowly, my weeks took on some structure. I needed a calendar to keep track of when everything was happening.

I’d published a novel in February (then saw all the conventions I’d planned to attend get postponed or canceled), so with my planner’s help, I managed to put together a blog tour and list of reviewers. After I attended the Bram Stoker Awards online, I was inspired to assemble a collection of my short stories, using what I’d learned from the first blog tour to promote it. Cross that goal off my list!

Inspired by my planner, I also did some major reorganization projects in my office, emptying all my file drawers and consolidating my research. I (finally!) assembled a binder of all the contracts I’d signed over my writing career. I made another binder of unfinished stories, so I could see the work ahead of me.

Having projects waiting for my attention made it much easier to deal with the discovery that the nonfiction book I’d been researching didn’t match the book the publisher wanted, one I was unable to write because of a previous contractual obligation. In another time, I would have been spun by the rejection. I would have been lost for months. Instead, because I’d been doing all this work on goals, I quickly shifted gears and began work on what became the third book I published last year. It’s no exaggeration to say that my cobbled-together planner was a lifesaver.

The upshot of this is: there are many planners for writers out there. Some focus on logging your daily word count. Others track the business aspects of being a writer: your income and expenses. Still others concentrate on calculating your available writing time and how to make best use of it. Some combine inspiration with goal-setting. Finding the right planner for yourself may take a couple of tries, but if you find a planner that supports the kind of writer you are and the work you want to do, it can change your life. It is definitely worth the effort.

Author Loren RhoadsLoren Rhoads is the author of a space opera trilogy, a succubus/angel duet, and a collection of stories called Unsafe Words. She’s the co-author of the brand-new Spooky Writer’s Planner, an undated 13-month planner designed to inspire and support writers of dark fantasy, paranormal romance, horror, and morbid nonfiction with weekly calendars, goal tracking, submission logs, and more. It’s available as a digital download on ETSY and as a paperback on AMAZON.  The book trailer is available on YOUTUBE.

Author Interview: Stacy Cox

Stacy Cox – StaceMeister0 is an Independent Author and Poet.  She publishes frequently.  Ms. Cox  is a big advocate for Adventure, Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi, Suspense, Mystery, Crime, and Thriller, and all things extreme, strange and bizarre.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Stacy CoxMy name is Stacy Cox. I live in Cleveland, OH. I have two daughters. I work part-time as a home health aide. My other job is writing. I love watching movies. Horror is my main go-to genre, but I also enjoy psychological, mysteries, comedies, fantasy, science-fiction, and action.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing in my freshman year of high school. At that time, it was a way to channel an awkward anger phase that I was experiencing. The principal of the school suggested I write whenever I was feeling angry and needed to vent out my frustrations. As time progressed, I realized I enjoyed writing, and it turned into a passion.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first considered myself a writer when I wrote my very first novel in high school (in my senior year, I believe). It was a romance, drama, suspense novel, and more of an experimental novel to see if I had it in me to write full length novels.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The Monster Pack: The Wasteland is the first in a Horror, Fantasy, Adventure series that follows a group of young misfits, who band together and battle criminals and monsters.

What inspired you to write this book?

The Monster Pack was inspired by two different things. First, the concept of it was inspired by my own personal struggles in love, romance and relationships. Battling different obstacles while constantly dreaming of utopia. Second, the story of it was inspired by the movie Hobo With A Shotgun, directed by Jason Eisener. The whole concept of a law-abiding citizen who’s tired of all the crime and nonsense that goes on in his community, and he decides to make a stand.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I have not adapted any specific writing style that I commit to. I tend to freestyle my books, especially my standalone books. If they are part of a series, such as The Monster Pack, I brainstorm and map out the series. But it depends on the concept of the story at hand, as it changes with me. My two main writing styles interchange between Descriptive and Narrative.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The title for The Monster Pack as the title for the overall series just rolled off my tongue, really, and came instantly as I thought about the concept and story. I knew the story was going to be about a group of young kids, who were going to become little vigilantes, and they were going to fight criminals in the real world, and escape to a dream world and fight monsters there. The sub-title of The Wasteland for the first installment came about as I started writing the story and drafted up ‘Grotesque’ as my first monster in the fictional town, where he reigns in an abandoned, toxic domain called ‘The Wasteland’.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

This message is no secret or surprise, really, but The Monster Pack revolves around the crime and bad things that go on in the world and in society. A lot of people are aware of crimes, such as bullying, abuse, prostitution and human trafficking, and towards minors. The underlying message is that “one doesn’t have to be a victim of their circumstances forever, and there is hope”. Hence, the group of kids that are targeted and victimized by their loved ones, their peers, and by society, and they become fed up and decide ‘enough is enough’, and they take a stand and fight back.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The experiences in this book are not based on anyone or anything I know personally. Rather, it is a voice and a cry out for anyone that is battling these nightmares. We hear about these events every day, whether it be on the News or in social media. There are always news or blog articles posted and conversations about these things.

What authors have most influenced your life?  What about them do you find inspiring?

In my early years, I enjoyed reading a lot of Disney books, and Disney is a huge inspiration to me as far as imagination and creativity. I think Disney is a big motivator for me and makes me reach deep into my imagination. I am still a child at heart when it comes to Disney. I love my horror and mysteries, but I still like to watch Disney cartoons, especially the old classics that I grew up watching.

In my early teen years, I enjoyed reading a lot of love and romance books and found them inspiring when dealing with my own personal struggles in romantic relationships. They provided hope that, one day, that dream would come true for myself. The authors that have influenced me then are Omar Tyree (author of Flyy Girl, which still remains my favorite book), Sharon M. Draper (author of Romiette and Julio), and Sister Souljah (author of The Coldest Winter Ever).

Around mid-to-late teens is when I shifted over to reading horror and mystery books. Stephen King is a huge inspiration to me. He has outstanding penmanship and storytelling skills that I aspire to reach, myself.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

It goes without saying that Stephen King is definitely high on that list. As I’ve mentioned, his penmanship and storytelling skills are amazing. His ability to reach deep into his imagination and create otherworldly stories, creatures, and characters. Reading his work, and even watching cinematic adaptations of his works, makes me want to dig deeper and go above and beyond to create. It makes me want to think outside the box and take down the borders of any restriction or taboo.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The cover of The Wasteland was designed by Onur Burc. I found him on Fiverr. I selected him because he was very responsive and nice. He was also good at working with you as a client and working harder than the average person to give you what you were looking for and meet your expectations. I liked that he generated several options to choose from based on your thought process, and he generated professional quality covers. I had decided to give someone else a try with one of my books, and his service was not as good. The cover was a mess and not professional-looking or of decent quality.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice for other writers would be to “Just do it”. That’s first and foremost. There are some writers out there that imprison themselves with their own personal restrictions and repressions, thinking that they can’t get their work out there because they have this preconceived notion that they’re not any good, or that they’re afraid of releasing their work because they’re afraid of people reading it and judging it and failing. One, there is no such thing as perfection. There will always be improvements to be made. Two, you will never reach everyone, and everyone will not like your work. That’s why you need to figure out the demographics of your audience, and you focus on that audience alone. Three, just write. Don’t beat yourself down with dreams of perfection that you struggle to write and get your work out there. “Perfection” comes with practice and consistency. You get better as you progress. You don’t progress by sitting in a corner or by staring at a blank screen and not writing anything. You don’t progress with procrastination. You don’t get noticed by hiding behind a computer screen and not putting yourself out there.

Another trend I see a lot of, is aspiring writers constantly comparing themselves to other writers, or giving in to negative advice. They ask experienced writers for advice, and the experienced writers, instead of providing inspiring advice that would motivate inexperienced writers, they’d be “negative Nancies”. Do not give in to any negative “advice” that doesn’t motivate or inspire you to reach your goals and dreams and make them a reality. Do not give in to anything that can hold you back instead of motivating you to get out there. Take any positive constructive criticism that’s going to aid in you honing your craft and becoming better at it.

When it comes to your work and you want to reap success, you have to engage and promote almost 24/7. It is a full-time job, regardless of how you get published, whether it be traditionally with a publishing agent, or self-publishing. Just because you publish with an agent does not mean your work is done. I’ve learned this through research from someone who published with an agent first and decided to do self-publishing with a new book for this very reason. He still had to do all of the engagement and promotion, otherwise he wasn’t getting an audience, and he wasn’t getting any sales. Meanwhile, any sale his book made; his agent still collected his percentage. Not to mention, he sold some of the rights to his book when signing with the agent.

I personally choose the self-publishing route, and I always will because, for one, the cost of traditional publishing. Even if I did have hundreds to thousands of dollars to invest in an agent, I wouldn’t because, for one, I want all of my time and hard work and efforts I invested into creating my book to be 100% my own. I want to keep 100% rights to my own work all the time. I want to have independence and be able to do what I want when I want with my work, and not be bound by contract to an agent, restricting me on what I can or can’t do. Two, I want any money I make for my work to be 100% mine, aside from global distribution fees. I don’t want my hard-earned money to be basically taken from me after service charges and agent fees, leaving me with pocket change.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Some of my books have been revised and redesigned (The Monster Pack: The Wasteland included), and some are still going through the global distribution check and have not yet been made available on some platforms. To ensure you get the most up-to-date version right now, please check out my Author’s Spotlight at Lulu.

The Monster Pack Book CoverStacy Cox
Cleveland, OH


The Monster Pack: The Wasteland

Cover artist: Onur Burc
Publisher: Lulu

*Author’s Spotlight at Lulu 
Barnes & Noble




No Wasted Ink Writers Links

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Part of being an active writer is learning your craft. Every month, I surf the web to find new and interesting articles to read to help me be a better science fiction and fantasy author. These are the top ten picks of the week. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Fantasy-Themed Cookbooks

Reasons to Publicize Your Award-Eligible Works

Five SF Empires That Seemed Too Big to Fail

The Best Free and Low-Cost Ways To Sell Books

How To Animate Book Covers

Five Useless Powers in Popular Stories

History for Fantasy Writers: Medieval Mining

How to Evoke Emotions with Book Cover Design

How to Sneak Flashbacks into Your Novel

Writing Through the Pain

Author Interview: S. Faxon

Author S. Faxon is a fantasy author who writes stories full of political intrigue.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author S. FaxonI’ve been writing since I was eight years old. My first story came out of my third-grade writing assignment and it was called, “Three Cool Cats.” It was about three cats who poisoned their oppressive dog dictator to secure their freedom. I’ve been writing ever since.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

As long as I can remember. I finished writing my first novel when I was eleven and I think I was calling myself a writer well before that. Writing is a part of my soul. It’s a compulsion that I almost can’t control. I never stop thinking about my stories and I feel like I have to get them out and onto the page.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My current books, The Animal Court, and her sequel, Foreign & Domestic Affairs, are fantasy novels full of political intrigue. The Animal Court is about a country on the verge of collapse and one woman’s fight to save the kingdom she loves. The sequel takes place twenty years later and demonstrates what happens when having ultimate power begins to consume everything you do.

What inspired you to write this book?

I initially started writing the first draft of The Animal Court when I was a senior in high school. I had been addicted to reading the classics, but one story that really influenced The Animal Court was Hamlet. I started writing The Animal Court when I was sitting on the bleachers of my high school not engaging in my P.E. class. I came up with the sequel, Foreign & Domestic while bored out of my mind on a car ride driving down the 5 from northern California to San Diego. Plotted the entire story in my mind on that trip, but it evolved dramatically as I actually wrote it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’ve been told that I have a “classic” writing style. The biggest influencers on my writing are Mary Shelly, Kate Chopin, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, so I tend to emulate their descriptive styles, much to the chagrin of my editors.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Many characters within The Animal Court are likened to members within the animal kingdom, in terms of their mannerisms and they’re all in this political game, a court, so it just made sense. The original title was, Feasts and Follies of the Animal Court, which I realized was way too long and sounded like a children’s book. For Foreign & Domestic Affairs, I was in the middle of attaining my Masters in Government and Politics, with a certificate in International Law, so the phrase “foreign and domestic affairs” was used almost daily in my world. The issues that are facing the king and queen in the sequel, are coming from both the foreign and domestic angles and indeed, with temptations abounding affairs is the name of the game.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

In The Animal Court, the message would be if you see something that’s bothering you, to take a stand for what you believe in no matter the odds that are stacked against you. For Foreign & Domestic Affairs, it’s to never lose sight of what’s truly important in your life. Though in a fantasy setting, Foreign & Domestic Affairs features a couple who are so consumed with their work that they lose sight of their family and their relationship, which leads to all sorts of issues.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Not these pieces. I do have other novels that are based on real-life occurrences, but this one was primarily out of the whims of my imagination. There are matters that happened in global history that inspired this book, but not in my personal life.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

J.K. Rowling and Barbara Kingsolver are some of the most influential writers in my life. J.K. Rowling gave us a story that many people didn’t believe in when she was initially querying, but she didn’t give up and now her books gave us characters that we remember when we are confronted with darkness. If she’d given up, where would we be without Harry Potter? I love Barbara Kingsolver’s books because they confront social justice issues and that’s something I hope to convey in my books, though many of them are in a fantasy setting.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Tamara Merrill has become a major mentor in my writing career. She’s helped to open my eyes to many avenues of marketing, which is an enormous component of a writing career that many of us authors struggle with. She’s inspired me in so many ways, including my decision to make book trailers for other authors and to become a social media strategist, so I’m eternally grateful to call her my mentor and friend.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I actually designed the covers of my books. I have several years of experience in graphic design and I studied hundreds of covers in my genre, as well as other genres, before designing the covers for The Animal Court and Foreign & Domestic Affairs. With all of the research that I did, designing covers is a service that I am now providing to other authors.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never give up, never stop writing. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re not a writer or that you’re not an author. If you have a story in your heart that you want to share, you’re an author. If you don’t think your writing is strong enough, find a writing group that’ll help you to develop your craft. Being a writer is a gift, do whatever it takes to nourish it and to help it grow. Don’t wait until you’re retired to write your book. Make the time and do it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope that my stories provide you with similar escapes that they provided me.

Animal CourtS. Faxon




No Wasted Ink Writers Links

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome to another top ten writing articles from No Wasted Ink. During the month, I love to surf the web for interesting pieces on writing craft that appeal to writers of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. And yes, I toss in the occasional stationary and fountain pen subject too. I hope you enjoy this week’s offering.

These Are The Stamps You’re Looking For

“Cities That Think Like Planets”: On Writing Sustainable Cities in Science Fiction

My Ride or Die: Fantasy Heroines That Fight Systems of Oppression

Give Every Character an Adjective

Jane Austen and Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary

Pottery and Ceramics for SFF Writers

Writers on Reading

Story Theory and the Quest for Meaning

Writing Reaction Beats

Smart Edit – An Overview