The Nerd Queen Journal: Another Balticon, another summer

Nerd Queen sunConfession: I have always detested the summer.

The summer heat in Maryland breaks records, especially with the humidity making late May’s 90 degree weather feel like 120. It gets hot, sticky, and sweaty every time I go out my front door, even while I’m only going up to the store to get something. It becomes bloody murder when I walk for 45 minutes to the library. It’s hell, if I walk to Shockwave.

This is one of the reasons why I stayed inside all week, taking long siestas during the day.

To add insult to the injury of summer, all of my friends have somewhere to be, especially since they now have marriages and babies to maintain. Plus, my birthday is in the middle of summer and I’m officially turning 25 this year- a quarter of a century.

That begs the question: what have I done with the last 25 years? Where did it all go? I’m still unemployed, unmarried and unsuccessful. I’m also slowly becoming a financial burden to my parents. (Sometimes I wonder if they would get the urge to kick me out of the house because they can’t afford to take care of me anymore.)

Not only that, my youth is fading by this age. I’ll be into my mid 20s, which triggers that thought about that awesome Bonnie and Clyde meets Logan’s Run flick In Time. The movie where time is literally the currency, aging stops at 25, and you die when you run out of time on your bio clock. Yes, Justin Timberlake is in it, but he is one hell of an action star in this.

Even though it’s only a movie, the point is I’m aging way too fast. There’s only five more years before I hit 30 and one more year before my health insurance expires, regardless of my anxiety disorder.

On the bright side, I did go to Balticon 47 (pictures to be posted soon!) and had the best year at a convention.


My Prisoner of Austen costume, nearly completed. I finished it right before the masquerade… and I will show pictures of the completed production!

I dressed in my finest costume that I assembled, most of it crocheted, and proceeded to the masquerade to promote my book. You know the one I’m talking about- Northanger Raspberry Royale from the Prisoner of Austen series. I didn’t win any awards, but a lot of people came to me to ask me about my book.

I even talked to some professionals, one of them representing an independent publisher, telling me to submit my things directly. Don’t go for agents because they’re not used anymore. Still, I intend to dive right in. I guess if Baen Books doesn’t work out or with any other publisher, I’ll go right to agents.

I’m still new at the whole publishing business, so bear with me.

Additionally, my first installment of Northanger is almost complete! I just touched up on some of my chapters and I’m going to be adding a few more before I can start sending it out. Like Writer’s Digest suggested, don’t send query letters until your novel is absolutely finished. You never know; someone may want to read the whole book as soon as they read the query.

I hope to be finished with the first installment by the end of the first week of June. I’m also taking some very good advice I received from a fellow successful author I met at a literary tea on the third day of Balticon: never fire your editor. Listen to your editor’s comments and take them with constructive thoughts because there will be errors in your writing. Case in point- Stephanie Meyer and E.L. James, both (in my opinion) the worst writers the world has ever known.

They are known as the Twilight dork (Meyer) and the Fifty Shades witch (James). Sure they sold a lot of books, but I think they cheated a lot of people because their language uses are horrible. I read the first sentences of Twilight and put the book down, wondering, what happened to my brain cells? Did they die of boredom?

I prefer gripping stories that hold me to the end. Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t make my list because it’s poorly written. I took a glance at one page, and I doubt James has ever been to the states upon writing this novel. The American main character’s narration sounded too British.

You need to know your characters and know the gab before you write about it. That’s what people watching and character development is for.

The best stories with well developed characters and plots are as follows:

Watership Down by Richard Adams, my favorite book from my formative years

Anything by Jane Austen or British author pre-World War

The Enchanted, Inc. series by Shanna Swendson… Once Upon Stilettos is my favorite.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (duh)

The first five Harry Potter novels… the last two kind of fell flat with the writing and made me feel a little more depressed… oh hell, they’re all good! –I highly recommend number five, Order of the Phoenix, because that one made my heart sing.

Falling is Like This by Kate Rockland, for a rocker chick in the mood for a tiny hint of erotica. This is as close to a romance book as I got to, only with a female character falling for a famous rock star.

Fahrenheit 451 by the late great Ray Bradbury

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (there are now two movies about this!)

And last but not least, the Dream Park books by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes, plus any science fiction novel that got rave reviews and any famous sci fi authors. Robert Aspirin, Arthur C. Clarke (I recommend Childhood’s End), Isaac Asimov, Catherine Fisher for Incarceron, you get the idea.

The point is… it is possible to write terribly when you don’t read many exceptional authors. If you don’t study the language, forget the craft. Remember what happened in Northanger Abbey; Catherine Morland falsely accuses General Tilney of murder after reading too many poorly written gothic novels. Reading books that are written poorly and obsessing over how they’re written will rot your brain; you need something to look back on as your ideal model.

Still, I don’t want to be the next J.K. Rowling or the next Hemingway. I want to be the first Rachel Beth Ahrens. Like Katy Perry said herself to her former Columbia publicist in her movie Part of Me: “I want to be the first Katy Perry.” And she is!

Ok, I’m getting a headache from all this writing. I’m taking a long nap that I hope won’t be disturbed by waking up in a puddle of sweat under the covers. And when I wake up, I am posting as many of these posts as I can when I get to the library despite the heat and humidity.

Until next time, with a real, live video uploaded to this blog,

The Nerd Queen


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