Posts Tagged With: Novels

A Nano Wrap Up


Well, tomorrow is the end of Camp Nanowrimo, and I did VERY good this year.  In fact, shock of shocks, I won. I have an excellent track record at the regular Nanowrimo in November (I’ve won every year but last on account of, you know, going into labor and stuff), but I’m typically pretty terrible at Camp.  It lacks the urgency of November, and the cabins don’t really do anything for me.  Pep talks are also typically not as inspiring.  Still, it’s a good opportunity to have a little accountability.  I don’t usually win, but I usually get more done than I would have without participating.

I’ve been holding off on my writing this year (and honestly most of my hobbies, too).  The Small Boy takes precedence over everything right now.  But he’s becoming more self-sufficient with his entertainment and sleeping pretty consistently most nights.  Which means I found it pretty easy to scare up a bit of time for the writing this month.

I didn’t write things every night, though I did do things that furthered my writing career.  But I did write most nights, am about 1/3 of the way through the “final” draft of my next novel (before Autocrit, maybe Critique Circle, then 2nd/3rd party edits).  And I think, going forward, that I’m going to instate my old goal for the year.

  • I will write 20 days of the month for all the months left of 2018.

I think it’s totally doable, and I’m posting it here so that you can all keep me accountable to it.  I’ll include it when I do my rundown in December on whether I reached my goals for the year or not.  It may be a pipe dream, since the Alpha and Beta read process can take a long time, but I’m kinda hoping to get book #2 out to the world by this time next year.

Also, I GOTTA find a way to speed up that process…

That’s it for now.  T-minus 1 day until Blue Gentian releases!

Categories: Life, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m probably crazy…

Thank you to everyone who participated in the cover poll. The results are in!

Forest: 20

Caped Heroine: 9

Sparkly Face: 4

So, it looks like I’m going with the forest one. I’ll play around with the fonts a little more and see if I can’t get something better, though, since there were a lot of comments on that.

I’m a little nervous about it. Everyone I know who does design liked the Caped Heroine best, and honestly that sort of thing is what I’m seeing from most self-employed published authors. Still, Forest has my heart, and evidently the heart of everyone who has read the book (thanks to everyone who beta’d, too!).

That’s the great thing about self-publishing, though. If Forest isn’t selling the way I’d like, we can replace with Caped Heroine and see if it does any better. Yay for total control!

Aside from a few minutes faffing around with stuff that’s already mostly done, I haven’t done any real writing in a VERY long time. In a bid of desperation, I’ve decided to sign up for Camp Nanowrimo this month. Yes, I’m crazy.

I’m trying to take it easy on myself, though. I’m calling this project “be a writer” and I’m giving myself 1000 words for every day I do something writerly. Updating the blog, editing, creating Blue Gentian’s cover, formatting, outlining, actually writing fiction, plotting, random notes and penguins and iguanas lists; anything counts.

It will be hard, especially since I’m so out of the habit and in summer school. But I have faith in me.

I want to get ready to put my next book out, now that Blue Gentian is all but finished. It’s about 1/2 way through draft 2 right now, and I have at least two more drafts before I can put it though Auto Crit and then show it to Brian. Major rewrites usually follow any Brian input, and then there’s beta reading… Basically I’m saying it’s a WHILE off, even if I do manage to get my act together. It’s called Easterbay, it’s set in Maine during the 1940s, and it features creepy fairies.

I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going. Stay tuned for more. Also, I’m Caseykins over at the Nanowrimo site if anyone wants a writing buddy.

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Nanowrimo Advice


This is just a quickie blog post.  Since Nanowrimo is just a little more than a week away (yikes!) I thought I would post some links to some advice/writing I had crafted from earlier years.  I have six wins under my belt at this point, so I feel like my street cred is valid.

Also, all of this advice still applies.

Why Nano is worth it:

General Nano Tips:

A breakdown of my planning process, in detail:

That’s it for today.  I’m writing short stories this time, which are both easier and harder.  And, of course, I’ll be interrupted by the end of the month by a small, hungry, and active boy.  The madness just got madder.

If you’re joining the party, good luck!



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A Reading Challenge


Things have been a bit crazy here, so I’m sorry for the late post.  I’m leaving my job for a new one, and I have been insane wrapping things up, getting thank you letters written, and finishing the baby blanket for my now former boss (who is due in April).  I am excited for the new chapter of my life, though.  I’m sure I’ll write about that soon.

But in the mean time, I have some bookish goodness below.

I’ve decided to do a reading challenge this year in addition to reading 100 books.  There were a ton floating around on Tumblr, and I felt the longing to be participatory.  Besides, I read SO MUCH romance last year that it was really a travesty.  I usually branch out more than I did in 2015, and I think this challenge will get me reading in genres that I don’t automatically turn to.

After perusing all the ones available, I finally decided on this one from Stxry Books  It comes with a fancy printout version and everything, and also includes Poetry, Short Stories, and Graphic Novels – all of which I tend to avoid.

I’m also gonna do the thing where books don’t count for more than one category.  Like, I could put “The Diviners” in Book by a Female, Filled to the Rim with Magic, Scared to Read in the Dark, Involves a lot of Mystery, and Dark and Mysterious cover.  But I will only choose one for purposes of counting it under the challenge.

So here’s what I’ll be reading in 2016. There are only 31 of them, so I’ll still be able to read silly books to my heart’s content.  I’ll let you know how I do:

  • A book you bought long ago, but still haven’t read
  • A book with a character who is similar to you
  • A non-fiction book on something you’ve always wanted to know more about
  • A book by a female author (Lizzy and Jane, by Katherine Reay)
  • A book you never got to read in 2015
  • A book that will be a complete mindfuck
  • A book filled to the rim with magic (Daughter of Witches, Patricia C. Wrede)
  • A book you’re scared to read when it’s dark out
  • A book of which you liked the movie, but haven’t read the novel
  • A book that makes you want to visit the place it’s set
  • A book that’s on fire
  • A book that makes you want to be a villain
  • A classic you never made time for
  • A book that shows a different point of view
  • A book with short stories
  • A book that involves a lot of mystery
  • A book about a person who inspires you
  • A book that makes you want to be a hero
  • A graphic novel
  • A book of poetry
  • A book by an unfamiliar author (Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowel)
  • A book published in 2016
  • A book with a dark and mysterious cover
  • A book from a random recommendationalist
  • A book with a surprising love element
  • A book with lots of mystical creatures
  • A book that reminds you of another season
  • A book no one wants you to read
  • A book you own that is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen
  • A book that makes you a complete mess
  • A book you started but never finished
Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

NaNoWriMo Advice:


I wrote last week about my own journey to Nanowrimo.  I wanted to do a second post, though, about some recommendations that I have for sticking it through.  I’m feeling like a veteran at this since it’s my 5th year and all (and I’ve done Camp a couple of times too).  This is my guide to thirty days of writing insanity, specially geared towards first-timers.

  1. Let your family and friends know, and recruit a cheering section. You’re going to be spending a LOT of time alone with your computer.  Make sure everyone knows it’s because you’re an intrepid novelist and not because you hate them or are suddenly feeling anti-social.  Other bonuses include motivating guilt when people ask you how it’s going and you’re inevitably behind, possible dinners and/or candy brought to you by sympathetic pals, and encouragement when you’re feeling deep in the dumps because it’s not working out.  If you don’t have that kind of support system at home, the message boards can be a great stand-in.  So can writer meet-ups.
  2. DO NOT GO IN WITHOUT A PLAN. No, really.  I know there’s this awesome debate about planners vs pantsers and that it’s equally legitimate to be either.  If this is your first rodeo, DO NOT go in without a plan of some kind.  You don’t have to have a detailed outline like a “planner” would, but you should at least know in your head the beginning, some of the middle, and where it will end.  If it’s your first novel-writing experience, I recommend that you steal a plot.  I know that sounds bad at first glance, but it’s totally legit. All you have to do is pick your favorite tale, set it in a different time period, and write away.  A Macbeth/Mean Girls mashup where they murder the alpha-girl, A steampunk Odyssey in a dirigible balloon (one-eyed aliens, anyone?), a Sleeping Beauty on a far-away planet, where she’s incased not in briars but in ice… the options are endless.  Pick a story you know well, and mess with the wheres and whens.  You will thank me in week 2 when the Hatred hits.
  3. Be prepared for the week 2 Hatred. I always think I’m prepared for week 2.  And then I’m always surprised by how authentically and genuinely I loathe the story I’m writing.  You don’t have to like it, you just have to write it.  I recommend the pep talks on the Nanowrimo website at this point, especially Neil Gaiman’s.  Bribery and punishment also work for some.  Although I’ve never used them, I have heard great things about Write Or Die and Written Kitten.  Keep going.  Do not ditch this in favor of another idea.  You will hate it less in a few days, and if you have stolen a plot you probably know how to get to the next thing that happens.  If you have not stolen a plot, you may be feeling at this point like you’ve exhausted all your creativity and/or like your story has gone off the rails.  For this problem, try adding something completely unexpected, something from the prompt message boards on the Nano site, OR just skip to that part that happens super far in the future but that you’re looking forward to writing.  No one said you had to write the book in the right order.
  4. For the love of God, do not re-read your work! It will only end in tears. And in less writing.  There’s plenty of time after Nano to fix whatever isn’t working.  Whatever you do, just keep going and ignore the rest.  Also, this makes draft 2 really fun when you find the horrible things you’ve written and you laugh at yourself.
  5. Make the most of your weekends. Work will get crazy.  Relatives will fly in for Thanksgiving.  You will have that thing that night that you can’t get out of.  It will happen, and the word count mounts up so fast that it will seem impossible for you to ever catch up.  Use your weekends to pad your word count.  Even if you can’t get those extra words in on both days, you will usually have one day to really crank it out.  Make the most of these times and you will keep yourself sane (okay, sane-ish).
  6. It’s possible to write more than you think it is. I did 9,000 words one day.  My shoulders ached and my brain felt pretty fried at the end, but I caught myself up with some word count to spare.  If you had asked me before I did it, I would have said that 3,000 a day was my absolute upward limit.  You are capable of more than you think if you push yourself hard.  Who ever said that winning was easy?
  7. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Give it your all, certainly, but it’s useful to remember a few things along the way.  #1 is that no one will ever see this draft.  It will be bad.  It will be the worst thing you have ever written sometimes.  You are still lapping the people on the couch who have never written a novel, and anyway, all you want is something you can edit.  It’s SUPPOSED to be bad.  If it isn’t bad, you aren’t doing it right.  #2 is that Nano isn’t for everyone.  Not everyone is capable of working like that, and that’s okay.  You are a winner if you wrote more words than you would have otherwise this month, and that’s all that matters.  This is also the reason you should keep going once you start, even if you definitely aren’t going to make it to 50,000.  More words are better words.  Quantity over quality forever! (or at least until draft 2).  #3 is to ignore everyone else’s word count on the message boards.  I’ll tell you right now that those people who have 20,000 words  of a novel on day 2 are either professionals with dozens of books in print, super humans, or lying.  Run your own race against yourself, and just know that the rest of us are mad at those overachievers for blowing the bell-curve too.

So that’s all I’ll say today.  Any other advice I have is probably specific for my writing style anyway.  I leave you to enjoy the Viking hats, the traveling shovel of death, to get acquainted with Mr. Ian Woon, and otherwise revel in the explosion of words that happens every November.  Best of luck!

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

On My Love for NaNoWriMo


This is my annual “I’m doing Nanowrimo” post.  I am, like hundreds of thousands of other people on the internet, going to write a novel in a month.  It’s a giant writing party on the internet and we’re all invited.  You too!  It’s both easier and harder than you think it will be…

I’ll be honest in saying that this might not be the best choice for me.  I currently have 3 Nano drafts that I consider good enough to edit, and so far I’ve only managed to touch one and a half of them.  I’ve been participating since 2011.  I’m about to have a 4th draft of something I probably won’t edit for ages and ages.  It seems a little silly to drop everything else and Nano for a month.  But I’m compelled, you know.  There can’t be a huge writing party on the internet without me.  I get angsty if I don’t join in.

I don’t talk about imposter syndrome much, but there’s a reason that I’m 33 years old and I haven’t pursued writing seriously until about 4 years ago.  I don’t remember where I read it, and I’m sure the thing would strike me differently if I were to read it today, but in a forward in one of my favorite books was an essay.  It mentioned people who grew up in a literary environment, and how they are different from actual writers.  People who grew up in a literary environment, the essay said, probably read a lot as children.  Maybe there were writers in their family (there are several in mine – my grandfather’s bread and butter was covering the Celtics for the Christian Science Monitor), maybe there were lots of books around everywhere.  But in any case, these people dabbled in writing, were bad at it, and didn’t have the stamina to have a writing career.  These were people who liked books, sometimes scribbled things down, and left it at that.  I compiled this essay in my mind together with all the writing advice that basically says “if you can help it at all, do something REAL with your life,” and I left those half-formed scribblings in my notebooks.

4 years ago, I participated in my first Nanowrimo.  A bunch of my friends were doing it, and there’s nothing I like more than a silly challenge that lets me brag about things – especially things like having written a novel.

I signed up, and a flood unleashed.

By the end I knew things.  I had no skills, I had nothing but a small way with words, and yet I had the HABITS of a writer.  By the end of the month, that 1600 words a day was easy to crank out.  I kept going after November.  I signed up to minor in English so that I could get a bit more of a handle on the skill part of things.  I can help it.  I don’t have to write.  I am a product of a literary environment.  All of those things are true.  But it’s also true that Nanowrimo made a writer of me.  I am certain that this novel would never have been written, that the other two novels I’m dying to get my fingers into would never have been conceived, let alone exist as first drafts, had I not joined that crazy no-stakes contest in November 2011.  I am now pursuing a writing career with determination.

The best part?  I get to relive the magic again once a year.  And that’s why, despite the fact that I’m in a terrible place to drop everything for a month, I’m going to Nano my heart out.

Consider joining us?  It’s not for everyone, I admit.  Brian, for instance, is driven insane by the timeline.  He would rather take a week to have a perfect chapter than take a month to have the worst draft ever written.  But if you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, sometimes the kamikaze way is excellent.  It was excellent for me.

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Ruby of Ra


As usual, I’m doing Nanowrimo again this year.  When am I not doing Nanowrimo is the real question.  I also try and participate in Camp every year, and I think my family is starting to think that Nano never ends.  November is the best one, though.  It’s the one where thousands of people are all online.  It’s the one where you can feel like you are struggling to craft a terrible 50,000 words beside hundreds of thousands of people who are also crafting terrible 50,000 word drafts.  There are thrilling pep talks just when you’re feeling down.  There are message boards full of people who are willing to commiserate both with victory and with failure.  There are stickers.

I’ve put my current novel on hold to write something new.  I’m probably insane, but I was at a good stopping point.  Putting that novel aside for a month will give me excellent perspective on it, right?  No?  Well, I’m telling myself that it will anyway.  I’ll go back to it in December and give this one a break, and then I can take turns editing.

I read more than one book at once, I can edit two at once, right?  Still no?

Anyway, I’m doing very well so far.  I’m a whole day ahead, have had a couple of 3000 word days during the week (!!!  <-this is a miracle), and am ready to blow the bell curve this weekend.  I’m also realizing that the more you write, the easier it becomes to write.  You know, if you can make yourself sit down at the computer in the first place and resist the siren’s call of the internet.

This novel is set in 1952, so I’ve downloaded a playlist on Spotify that features all the top 40 hits from 1950-1952.  Some days I’m not sure how anyone back then could listen to the radio for long, the songs are so saccharine.  Other days, I find myself wanting to jitterbug to “Rag Mop.” Today I got fed up with the fifties and decided to revert to the 1920s.  I discovered Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks on NPR last night. I’ve been swinging in a clarinet-trill world all afternoon.  Yes, I know they aren’t technically from the 1920s, but they play music from that era and that is enough for me.

Okay, enough stalling.  If you’ll excuse me, I have to get Ruby to the Grand Canyon so she can find out shocking secrets about her mother…

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Summer Reading List:


I usually try to keep a summer reading list.  I work year-round these days, so I’m not sure why a summer reading list is different than any other season.  For some reason it seems appropriate, though.  It’s fun to look back and see what you thought, what you liked and didn’t.  I was a little bit of a slacker this summer.  I didn’t read nearly as much as I usually do, due to afghans, no lunch breaks, summer school, and Hulu, among other things.  Still, I think it’s a pretty respectable list.  I started keeping track the week I graduated.  Chapman starts school next week (in which I’ll finish Archer’s Goon), so summer is officially over. 

  1. Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery (Read a thousand times before, and love)
  2. Anne of Avonlea – L. M. Montgomery (Ditto for all Anne novels…)
  3. Anne of the Island – L. M. Montgomery
  4. Anne’s House of Dreams – L. M. Montgomery
  5. The Blue Castle – L. M. Montgomery (Okay, maybe ditto for all LM Montgomery novels)
  6. Beauty Queens – Libba Bray (Hilarious mash up of the Miss America pageant and Lord of the Flies)
  7. Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes (Not at all like I thought it would be.  Much funnier, in a winky ‘you get the joke’ sort of way)
  8. The Thirteenth Child – Patricia C. Wrede (Alternative history, magic, and the frontier? Yes!!)
  9. Beyond the Great Barrier – Patricia C. Wrede (Continuation of the above.  Not as good, really, and ends on a cliffhanger.  Boo.  Still debating on whether I’ll read 3)
  10. The Enchanted Chocolate Pot – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (I’m now convinced I need to find someone to do this with me.  The letter game becomes a magical novel set in Regency England)
  11. The Grand Tour – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (And now they’re both married!!!  I admit this is smut, but I like it anyway)
  12. Spindle’s End – Robin McKinley (Sleeping Beauty kicks ass in typical fairy tale setting)
  13. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (Another re-read.  Eleanor’s silent heartbreak is why I keep returning, I think)
  14. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman (Neil Gaiman!!! Need I say more?  It was better than any of his other things, and this is saying a LOT)
  15. Make Good Art – Neil Gaiman (Art book that oddly reads like he spoke it.  Brilliant.)
  16. A Matter of Magic (really two novels put into one) – Patricia C. Wrede (Oh, why do I love these things so much?  It’s smut, but it’s such FUN smut… This one has a coming out party!)
  17. On Being Ill – Virginia Woolf (Wow.  Short read, and highly recommended)
  18. A Safeway in Arizona – Tom Zoellner (Also another wow.  It’s so much less political and much more human than I thought it would be, and I loved every bit of it.  Heartbreaking in spots, and a lot to think about)
  19. Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories – Flannery O’Connor (I realized that I just don’t like her.  A lot of it is about southern racism in the 1950s and I just don’t understand and can’t empathize.)
  20. The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years Later – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (The letters continue.  They all have children now!!!)
  21. Arthur – by some lady from Scripps College (I can’t decide if I find her argument that Arthur was real compelling because it is, or because I so want Arthur to be real)
  22. Four Queens – Nancy Goldstone  (Makes me very glad I wasn’t a woman in the middle ages, and yet I can’t put it down.  It’s gripping)
  23. Archer’s Goon – Diana Wynne Jones (Reminds me much of The Game, but more satisfying.  Not as well-written a book as Dogsbody or Fire and Hemlock, but infinitely fun and funny like most of her work.) 

I had hoped to get to these, but didn’t.  On the to-read list (and checked out of the library, so it will be soon):

  1. The Hero and the Crown – Robin McKinley
  2. Kung Fu High School – Ryan Gattis (a former teacher of mine with such an amazing command of craft)
  3. The Big Drop: Homecoming – Ryan Gattis
  4. Chalice – Robin McKinley
  5. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss (because it was recommended as a must read)
Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

This should be easier


Me: Why is writing a novel so hard?  It should be easier.  It should be possible for me to finish this.  I mean, people do it all the time, right?

Brian: Umm… actually no.

Me: Well some people do it all the time, right?

Brian: All the time? Maybe some people, but mostly – no.

Me: *sigh*

Shannon Hale, whose work I love, talks about Forrest Born as being the hardest book she ever had to write.  As difficult as it was, she felt like someone out there needed this book and she had to write it.  That conviction kept her struggling toward completion.

I realized today that, even if the world does not need my book, I need my book.  I’ll keep going, if only to make myself happy.  And that’s the only real reason to do anything to begin with.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts About Craft: Keeping Attention

cropped-img_0501.jpgAs a writer, your competition is not with Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowling, or whomever is at the top of the NY Times best seller list.  It is with them too, but your most difficult competition is much closer to home.  Every time there is a new post on Facebook or an extra episode on Hulu, that is a second your reader is potentially putting the book down and not returning.  If they do not return, that is the moment you have lost the war for attention.  It’s easy to lose attention to football, Walking Dead II, Angry Birds, Transformers, The Black Keys, Pinterest, the Game Show Network, or any other myriad of things that people like to do in their spare time.  Competition is steep, so play dirty.  Here are some tips for how to engage your reader’s attention and keep it:

Use hooks.  A hook gives a tantalizing glimpse of information that makes the reader want to know more.  For instance: “Johnny didn’t suspect, as he sat in the forest, that his life was about to change for the worse.” How does it change for the worse?  I have to find out! A hook is also a promise to reveal this information eventually, so be sure you pay up.  The amount of hooks in a book is often directly proportional to the age of the audience.  Adult books have some hooks, Young Adult books have many more, and Children’s books have the most.  At the very least, placing hooks at the end of the first few chapters can really help the reader propel themselves into the next chapter.  Hooks also keep your reader thinking about the unanswered questions after they have put the book down to check Facebook really quick. 

Think about chapter length.  The shorter the chapter, the faster the reader feels like they are moving through time and space.  It is easy to manipulate this perceived flow of time to serve the narrative.  Exciting action scene?  Very short chapters.  Homey scene in picturesque setting? Make the chapters longer.  Manipulate time to keep readers interested and engaged in what is happening.  If your readers feel like the story is moving forward, they will be less likely to want to check Facebook in the first place.   

Try threading.  Threading is similar to foreshadowing, but something less tangible and therefore harder.  It is the use of items to link images and themes in the reader’s mind.  Each threaded item has a meaning, such as the milk in John Fante’s Ask The Dust.  Every time the reader sees milk, they think of all the other times milk has appeared in the story and that image takes on a meaning.  In this case, milk is the connection between life and death.  Threading can give your novel the air that you are purposefully weaving a story toward something worthwhile.  Readers will want to find out what that is, and marvel at your craft while they get there.

Remember, it is your Novel vs. Facebook and a million other things, and we all know how much time we spend on Facebook. Use anything you can to keep a reader’s attention.  Fight dirty.

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