awesome writing life

Annual Review 2016

Every year the journey begins anew. Although you may not know your destination, looking back allows you to see where you’ve been.

A couple years ago I started doing an annual review according to the Chris Guillebeau method. For people who are so anxious to get on to the next exciting new thing, this is an excellent way to slow down, celebrate the wins*, learn from the losses, and focus.

I invite you to adapt this model to your own situation. Chris changes his up every year (and he changed it this year completely) so it’s just a starting point.

Here we go!

What Worked

So many things worked this year. I reviewed my list of New Years 2016 goals and discovered I had accomplished 80% of them, including all of the really important ones. This is unprecedented. I think it illustrates the power of setting goals — if you are the kind of person who can then put your shoulder in the yoke and push, like me.

For example, I:

  • ran my first half-marathon since giving birth and received my best time (Cinco de Mayo half)
  • visited the dentist for the first time in 4 years
  • took 3 fun trips this year with friends and family, including the lifelong goal of traveling in Mexico
  • saved beyond my goal of $15k and actually hit $20k in liquid savings (highest savings of my life)

In publishing, I achieved my goal of treating my writing hobby more like a business by taking marketing and production classes, publishing 4 new books in 6 months, putting 4 more into the final stages to be published in 2017, and experimenting with a variety of sales strategies. One of these strategies launched Liberation’s Kiss into the top 10 of the Amazon free store (top 1 in Australia and Canada) and Resurrection Heart into the top 100 paid store. Hitting these best-selling lists with my first and fourth novels blew my mind and set a new bar for what seems possible.

In writing, I had 11 totally new ideas this year, bringing the Excel spreadsheet up to a total of 207 completely unique story ideas. People ask where I get my ideas and if I’ll ever run out. Ha! Now that I’ve actually started publishing , the total is starting to go down, which is exciting in its own way. I still have a long way to go before I run out of ideas. Some of this year’s 11 ideas are for series, meaning that it’s not just a single book, but a 5-book or 7-book series in “one” idea with potentials for spinoffs and more.

What Didn’t Work

Despite my incredible wins, I feel like I didn’t accomplish the spirit of the resolutions. Some unexpected health and occupation setbacks allowed me to check the box and accomplish the letter of the resolution, while missing the point of why I had resolved it.

The point of finishing another half marathon was to recapture my pre-pregnancy fitness levels. That included regular jogging, hiking, half-marathoning, and devotion to a healthy, calorie-controlled diet that slimmed me down to 137lb and let me buy super cute new clothes. While I definitely closed in on the cardio goal this May, my calorie app stopped working with my phone (Windows!!!!) and I let my weight slide. Those cute, almost new clothes are still gathering dust in the back of my closet! Then, an unexpected dental surgery the week after the half marathon laid me low for a month, and inertia killed my progress. Now at the close of the year, I’m going to have to start over for all of my health goals. And I’m in worse shape than last January. Argh.

The point of treating my writing hobby as a business was to successfully change over my income from a full time day job to a full time writing career. Unfortunately, the work to do this was largely composed of unsuccessful and costly learning experiences! On top of the $4k dental surgery, the Mexico trip, and nearly $10k of editing + cover costs alone (for 10+ stories) I will be closing 2016 with the lowest savings ever. It’s crazy that I hit both my highest savings point AND my lowest since graduating college in a single year. Sure, I have ideas of where I went wrong now, and I have a bunch of strategies for reversing it in 2017, but until the plan meets the enemy and triumphs, writing will remain my 30 hour side job (on top of my 40 hour paid one).

Plan for 2017

My main goal is to change over my income entirely to the writing business so I can stop working 70-hour weeks and spend that extra time relaxing with my family.

I will take a pen name. I will experiment with genres to find the best fit for my storytelling. I will take more classes to increase my skills. I will double down on the things I can do for myself and reduce my expenses so that profit is more easily attainable.

I will stop scattering my focus on contests, accolades, reviews, bestseller lists, and books that don’t sell. I will honestly and decisively focus only on the story ideas that others are excited to read. I will abandon any series, no matter how many ideas I have or how much I love it, if it drains my income rather than increasing my ability to change jobs.

This is a huge shift. We’ll see if I’ve guessed correctly on the genres, stories, and sales activities by this time next year.

My secondary goal is to focus on calories ONLY this year, because often the exercise springs naturally from a desire to eat.

Want to eat Snickers-Mudslide Cheesecake? Shrimp Pad Thai? An entire loaf of garlic bread with rich, meaty spaghetti? Time to go for a jog! Go twice as far and have a second serving!

Honestly, I think food tastes better when I eat less of it. But eating whatever my mouth wants is so easy and lazy. It takes a hell of an effort to purchase, weigh, calculate calories, and prepackage healthy foods, then stick to eating only them. Of course it does. Because if it were easy to just eat healthy, then I’d do that all the time instead.

Related, I do have a minor tertiary goal to get more sleep. It improves performance overall, but that’s difficult to remember when it’s a choice between accomplishing a specific goal now and going to bed before 3 AM during the week.

Other goals are to continue the progress from 2016 in terms of taking fun trips, visiting regularly with family and friends, keeping up with the dentist (first visit is already scheduled!) and building up my savings again.

That’s my 2017!

How about you?

* I’m the kind of person who celebrates the day BEFORE a project finishes, because the instant I type “the end,” I will close that document with a satisfied sigh, open up a new document, and FINALLY allow myself to start frolicking in the next project that I’ve just been dying to crack open. Starting the exciting new project is my reward for finishing up the old (formerly exciting) project, and it’s the way I get anything done. If I had to stop right when I finished a project and go celebrate it, I’d pout and be miserable and itch to get working on the new thing instead. Since celebration IS important, I compromise by celebrating early, when I really need that last push. And since I published 4 all new stories last year, I think it’s working!




happy-making how-I-write seasons writing life

Super Awesome Gift Guide for Readers and Writers

Xmas tree fire sceneHappy Holidays! ‘Tis the season gift giving. I’ve gotten 90% of my holiday shopping done … except for my husband’s birthday present, due this week. (Urk.)

Are you struggling for gift inspiration? Here are some quick ideas for the readers and writers in your life!

Super Awesome Gifts for Readers

There’s nothing better than relaxing on a comfy couch, pulling up a blanket, sipping that delicious cup of tea, and digging into the newest highly readable book. With that in mind, here are some wonderful gifts to make a reader’s fantasies come true.

Kindle Unlimited subscription

For the voracious reader, there is nothing better than having access to the Amazon catalog. Yes, you can also download books (free!) from your local library, but Amazon has newer, hotter books by the authors you crave to read. I resisted until August and now I’m so very glad I’m in. [Gift Kindle Unlimited]

eReader device

You don’t know how many books you aren’t reading until you get an ereader and fit a thousand into the palm of your hand. It will change your life. The Kindle is slightly lighter and easier to use than most multi-purpose tablets, and the pages load faster.

Delicious tea. Or coffee. Or chai.

I am a tea and hot cocoa drinker myself. The best tea (Tetley’s British Blend? Downton Abbey’s pink raspberry-rose tea? Japanese sencha or matcha?) and cocoa are up for grabs, but the best chai is absolutely Tipu’s Tiger. Originally an Indian restaurant run by Buddhists in Missoula, MT, they now sell only the most delicious product: their spicy chai.

Fuzzy blanket

It gets cold in the Pacific Northwest! Any comforter is good, but what’s on my Christmas list is an adorable mermaid tail knit blanket. In the southern hemisphere, you might prefer less fuzz and more beach blanket. These are beautiful and affordable!

A cat. Or dog. Or hedgehog.

Nothing says “reading on the couch” like a pet shoving your book out of the way so they can take over your lap. But those warm purrs and happy, contented huffs fill the hours with a little extra goodness. If you’re not a pet person, consider these amazing Japanese moss balls, the marimo. It can sit on a shelf and look pretty.

There are tons more — tasty chocolates, oversized mugs, anything with a book quote — but hopefully this list will spark your imagination.

Now for the writers in your life.

Super Awesome Gifts for Writers

Most writers are also readers, so you can’t go wrong with the previous list. Here are a few extras that writers especially will love.

Pens. Notepads. Office supplies.

Seriously, even if a writer has a hundred pens, a thousand notepads, and only writes on the computer, we all have a secret addiction to these things. I’m starting to draft everything onto computer, but I still like the Lamy Safari pen (I’ve got two!) and a variety of notebooks. No spirals for me! Writers are particular, and have our “must have” preferences, but we’re usually also open to experimenting.

Art glove

Also good for students who must write essays by hand and digital artists. I used to wrap my pinkie and ring finger in Band-Aids and then wear through the Band-Aids when I was on a writing kick. Although now I mostly write on computers, I’ve still worn holes in three art gloves.

Mac Mini

If your writer is a techie, Mac is the way to go. The writing software Scrivener is optimized for Mac (the PC version is lacking multiple key features). Elegant book formatting software Vellum is only available for Mac. And if your writer is self-publishing, the Apple iBooks retailer will only accept files uploaded from a Mac. There are ways around this limitation, but it’s something to consider.

Celebratory chocolate. Or wine.

When your writer hits their goals – page count, word count, finish the book, hit the bestseller list – they need to celebrate. And nothing is more motivating than salivating over that special treat and dreaming about how it will taste after the goal is accomplished. I am a big fan of chocolate turtles, but a planned handful of M&Ms or a glass of blackberry wine can be just as motivating.

Treadmill desk

For when a writer has celebrated a bit too much, consider helping them accomplish their New Year’s resolutions to take the extra pounds off. It doesn’t have to be a bajillion dollars, especially if you are crafty. I constructed an elliptical desk using two thick, work-out grade rubber bands + my 2009 sized netbook.


I hope that gives you some great ideas! There’s nothing better than watching the joy of a recipient opening their gift and lighting up with happiness. Well, maybe what’s better is simply being together with your loved ones, no matter the season. I wish you many sweet cookies and sparkling lights this wonderful holiday season!

P.S. These use my affiliate links.

Xmas image:(c) Can Stock Photo / 2mmedia

how-I-write writing life


I’ve been asked recently about what types of books I write, whether they have cliff-hangers or happy endings, and if there are any subjects I especially love or think are taboo. This led me to think deeply about my writing, and especially how my pen name(s) differ. (My legal name is no longer Wendy Lynn Clark, it turns out! It was when I started publishing, and now it is a pen name.)

I publish all of my hot science fiction romance under Wendy Lynn Clark, and I have an old sexy-hot contemporary series that I am going to revamp and publish next year under the same name. All will be sexy, fun fantasies that should leave a smile on your face.

Also in 2017, I am going to publish an epic fantasy under the W. L. Clark pen name. I intend to use it for a science fiction series someday too, so you can expect that pen name to contain darker adventures without the sex.

Here is what you can expect from me when you pick up a book from one of my names.

Wendy Lynn Clark

Summary: A story by Wendy Lynn Clark is always a fast-paced, sexy escape into dazzling new worlds with heroic characters on passionate adventures. Whether science fiction, fantasy, or contemporary, you can count on a light read with low angst, a heroine who’s not afraid to take charge, and a hero who’s man enough to love her for it. Only complete stories with happily ever afters means you can close every book with a sigh of satisfaction and a smile on your face.

Here are the critical elements:

  • Escape from real life
  • Love conquers all
  • Standalone romance with happily ever afters
  • Romance = feminism
  • Positive world view
  • Exotic settings
  • Hot sex
  • No abuse triggers
  • Second chances for all

Escape From Real Life

If you believe in numerology, my life path is a “3,” which one numerology book translated as “Joy of Living.” I feel like real life can be a serious downer as people deal with all sorts of problems and tragedies every single day. When you pick up one of my books, I want it to be an escape from real life in every possible way. I want you to go deep into the story world, see life through my characters’ eyes, and experience a wonderful adventure with a fantastic happy ending.

Love Conquers All

Wendy Lynn Clark writes awesome stories where the good guys always win and love overcomes all!

Standalone Romance with Happily Ever After

Every book or story is a standalone romance with a happily ever after. No cliff-hangers! I hate cliff-hangers and want you to close every book feeling awesome!

Romance = Feminism

Romance is the ultimate feminist fantasy. Heroines will always follow their dreams and be rewarded for doing so, whether their dreams are to be a SAHM or a CEO – or both at the same time!

Heroes will always be the most supportive cheerleaders of these dreams. They will see strengths in the heroine that others ignore or which even she misses, and be unendingly confident in their own masculinity. I believe real men should be as comfortable carrying a woman’s purse as they are carrying a gun, as fearless watching a chick flick as they are watching the stock market, and as deft at herding children as they are at herding cattle. My heroes may start out stunted by society’s crushingly narrow views on what is acceptable male behavior, but they should be able to experience the full breadth of emotions by the end of the story thanks to the heroine’s acceptance and love.

And they will never get into a pissing contest over who is the most capable on the battlefield or the boardroom. They believe, like me, that a strong woman full of confidence is most sexy.

Positive World View

Virtue is rewarded, kindness is everywhere, and good karma rewards everyone who tries hard with happiness and success. When you finish a book, there will be a smile on your face and you can sigh with happiness that it all worked out and there are many more wonderful adventures in the future. The world is an open, golden place full of opportunities and everyone who goes for the adventure will be rewarded!

Exotic Settings

I want to show you exotic settings, whether out of this world or just around the corner, for the price of my books rather than the price of a plane/shuttle ticket. Experience excitement and adventure and passion from the comfort of your couch, while wrapped in a toasty soft blanket!

Hot Sex

Sex is another form of communication between people, and it is important. In my books, there will be kisses and touching and nakedness in all forms, and the bedroom door is wide open – if the characters are even in a bedroom at all! Every book has an automatic language warning. You will see some fucking hot cocks.

No Abuse Triggers

My books will have no sexual violence, no matter what. It doesn’t exist in my worlds. The bad guys will never think of it, it never happened to any character in their past, and it will never happen regardless of circumstances, ever. Child abuse also never happens, ever.

These are important and serious topics, and I get PTSD flashbacks from reading about it in real life or in fiction, so it will never happen in the Wendy Lynn Clark universe.

All other violence will be in the form of 80s violence like Commando, where tons of people get shot and fall down.

Second Chances for All

There is nothing I like better than redeeming an irredeemable villain! I also hate it when the best friend dies, so that will never happen, except in worlds where you can bring the best friend back to life (ex. Robotics Faction). Characters may one day die, but rest assured that I have plans for their heroic adventures even after death. (I have a future series planned for crusaders to save the universe from the spiritual plane.)


W. L. Clark

Summary: A story by W. L. Clark is a sweeping epic, in a dark world on the edge of science fiction and fantasy, burning with a solid core of hope. Adventurous and definitely not gritty, the heroes and heroines of these tales face difficult decisions while trying to remain true to their senses of what is right. These complex tales feature nuanced protagonists, the promise that good can win in the end, and the belief we are strongest when we do not stand alone.

Here are the critical elements:


  • Lose yourself in an epic adventure
  • Good will win in the end
  • May contain cliff-hangers
  • Positive world view despite a darker world
  • Exotic settings
  • Little or no sex
  • Abuse triggers will not be graphic


Lose yourself in an epic adventure

Expect fantastic settings, reality-shaking action scenes, and epic storylines across multiple books. Not every moment of it will be pleasant, but the story will draw you in and make you turn the pages to reach the end.

Good will win in the end

Good will win, darkness will be overcome, and the ring of Sauron will be destroyed, no matter how many good people are hurt or killed along the way. Expect satisfying endings for those who make it to the final page.

May contain cliff-hangers

Empire-destroying story lines will take more than a single book to play out, and kingmakers require more than a few pages to act. If a story doesn’t end in one book, it will be worth waiting for.

Positive world view despite a darker world

W. L. Clark ventures into darker territories with more realistic violence and pain. However, there is still a brilliant burning core of hope. When loved ones die, we grieve and move on. When heroes are damaged, they may be battered and broken, but they will carry on. Even villains can be honorable, and mercy is found in the most unlikely places.

Exotic settings

I love learning about ancient cultures, isolated tribes, and unusual anthropology. Humans are so adaptable and diverse! A sweeping epic tale gives me time to play with details and paint a fantastic portrait of how people live in an impossible society as if it were as ordinary as our modern grind. I read travelogues, anthropology texts, archaeological surveys, history of climatology, and a variety of nonfiction for the sole purpose of reimagining it in my books.

Little or no sex

Sex takes a distant back seat in the books by W.L. Clark. There is only a small amount, or it is revealed slowly over multiple books. The key is the relationship of two or more people learning to trust each other and become stronger from that trust.

Futuristic settings may include modern swearwords, and fantasy novels will probably use made-up words.

Abuse triggers will not be graphic

Terrible things happen. You may be disturbed. I am disturbed when I imagine these scenes, and sometimes they make me cry as much as my characters – even when all I do is mention them in passing or describe the aftermath.

I have tried removing them entirely, but that was like denying to the characters that the incidents had happened, when we both knew they had. Kameron Hurley forced me to look deeply at why I include disturbing or violent scenes. I never put my characters through something unless it is absolutely necessary, and I know that my characters will have to grow stronger to overcome their scars.



writing life

How I Write #3 – Characters and Archetypes

You’re such a character! ~ Words every goofy seven-year-old has heard

I tend to experience my book ideas in cinematic snippets, which I later try to stitch into a plot with compelling characters. This is a bit like seeing a movie on your neighbor’s screen on an airplane. Whenever he moves his elbow, you manage to catch a glimpse of…a woman flying through the air shooting dual machine guns…a little girl squeezing a tongue-lolling puppy…a gritty guy with a scar over one eye sneering at his hostages…and then a train blows up.

Without sound or context, trying to figure out who the protagonists are and what they want – or even what the book idea is actually about – occupies about 90% of my brainstorming time.

A tool that has really helped me shortcut this process is The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Carolyn LaFever, and Sue Viders. Based on what I know so far, which archetype most fits my characters? Reading about some of their potential character traits gives me new ideas for what my characters want and which shortcomings might create interesting complications.

My favorite hero archetype is the “lost soul” who wants to be redeemed, such as Gabriel Byrne’s character in Stigmata or Smilla’s Sense of Snow, and most recently Channing Tatum in Jupiter Ascending. My favorite heroine archetype is almost anything, from “crusader”/”librarian” Trinity in The Matrix to “nurturer” Danielle in Ever After. And how to categorize my three favorite action heroines, Leeloo (Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element), Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider), and Violet (Milla Jovovich again in Ultraviolet)?

This book doesn’t pretend to be a definitive guide to constructing three-dimensional characters. It gives great examples of archetypes as portrayed in cinema, ideas of how to combine or evolve archetypes, and the most useful section for a romance writer, how archetypes might interact. In Liberation’s Desire, for example, I pit an ultra-logical professor against a super emotional nurturer. It helped to imagine that he might find her irrational, illogical, and irresistible, while she finds him cold, calculating, and incredibly cute.

Who are your favorite characters? Does any one archetype stand out?

how-I-write writing life

How I Write #2 – Plotting a Book

Liberation’s Vow is going to be my NaNoWriMo book this year (look me up, I’m wendylynnclark) and now that I’ve added a little munchkin to my lovely menagerie, time-management will be more crucial than ever to win the month-long novel-writing challenge. I will need to hit the keyboard every day with fingers flying to stomp out the 50,000 word count, which means knowing each scene’s purpose before I start.I’m plotting with all my tools – Save The Cat plot cards, Heroine/Hero Archetypes, free-writing, asking my husband if I can get away with calling insect-sized robots “nanobots” (answer: “No, those are insect-sized robots. Nanobots are the size of nanos”), and lots of running (see previous post).

There are many methods to plotting a book. If you write stories, you may have come across the 3-act plot (classic), the snowflake method, the W plot, the upside-down W plot (why isn’t it called the “M” plot?), storyboarding, romance arc, or one of these other 25 methods of structuring your novel. Currently I’m a huge fan of the 3-act method espoused by late screenwriter Blake Snyder in his book, Save the Cat.

Movies have to be compressed into bite-sized scenes or risk blowing up like Waterworld or Titanic. (Ocean scenes are expensive I guess.) What I like about Blake Snyder is he breaks a movie down into beats. You have your catalyst, your theme stated, your B-story, your grand finale, and your opening and closing images. He reminds you to have big set-piece moments and also to have a fun-and-games section. In novel writing, I find it helpful to think about what these big set pieces should be – it helps me to see if I’ve got a boring section because I’m missing an explosion. (Always add an explosion!)

The fun and games is critical. It’s the reason someone picks up a book – it’s what they’re hoping to read to. In Taming of the Shrew, it’s the part where Richard Burton is chasing Elizabeth Taylor around a barn loft complimenting her “dulcet tones” while she’s screaming at him. (Fun!) In Murder, She Wrote it’s when Jessica Fletcher starts investigating and uncovering all sorts of hidden secrets while the murderer keeps her on her toes. In Jupiter Ascending, it’s when the bad guys attack and our heroine clings to the back of hot Channing Tatum while they fly around the city trying not to die. In Jurassic World, it’s when the dinosaurs get out and start eating people.

(Come on. You know that’s why you went to go see the movie! If the dinos don’t get out, and it’s a philosophical movie about extinct animal rights while people stare at the glass…and while fine, well, that’s a different kind of movie, and you’re not fulfilling the premise of Jurassic World.)

How about you? What are some fun-and-games moments in your favorite movies?

how-I-write writing life

How I Write #1 – Running Inspiration

Now that I’ve sent Liberation’s Desire off to my copy editor, I’m all excited to get started on book 3, Liberation’s Vow. I’m at the idea stage, where I’ve got all these snippets of characters and plot, motivations and desires, that now all need to be molded into a complete story.

So I’m doing a lot of running.

Running (also known as “jogging” for anyone who runs faster than a 12-minute mile) clears my mind and lets me play with the characters, testing out different scenarios in my head and giving me the freedom to daydream without “committing” to any one idea, which often happens when I free-write. Once something is written down, it takes on cement. Maybe later I’ll blow it up during an editing phase, but I don’t often turn it on its head, switch characters, or introduce something crazy. Once its written, even just in pen in a notebook, I tend to stop playing with it.

I fell into running when I set a goal for myself to walk to and from work in order to lose the extra thirty pounds (!) I’d somehow put on since college. Some of those thirty pounds were collected when I had an hour plus commute each way to my workplace during the 2008 economic downturn. Listening to loud music and fantasizing about plot points saved me from traffic-induced road rage. When I got a job less than a mile from my apartment, that hour of driving turned into walking. Then we moved almost five miles from work. Once I got into the habit of walking home the longer distance, it occurred to me that I could get home faster if I moved faster. Duh, right? The first day, I jogged for less than a minute. The second day, less than five. By the end of the first week, I had gotten up to ten minutes, and by the end of the month, I could jog most of the way home.

Once you can jog for five miles, you feel awesome. I mean, you usually feel terrible (snotty and sore and like, “Why am I doing this again?”) but you can also casually tell people, “Oh yeah, I run. Last week I did a five-mile jog. No big deal or anything.” And you start to hate running less, the same way that you start hating traffic less, because the landmarks are familiar enough to let you zone and still get you where you need to be.

I started entering races to keep up my motivation when the weather turned. Having a goal to work towards (like, “Don’t embarrass myself by walking through the 15k *run* next month”) pushed me out of the warm, dry, comfy house on a wet, miserable, frigid January. It also usually loosed whatever stuck plot point was rattling around in my head. Now, when I can’t figure my way out of a writing problem, I try to exercise. The solution’s either going to come to me while I’m running or while I’m turning in for a well-earned sleep.