Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Blast From the Past #3

It's November. It's NaNoWriMo. I'm an ML this year. I got revision notes back from my agent last month that I'm still working on. My husband is completely renovating our living room, right before we have a bunch of family in town for Thanksgiving. Something's gotta give, and this month it's new content for Operation Awesome. So I've picked through some of my old posts and picked out a few to feature this month.

Today I'm revisiting one of my favorite topics: Query letters! This post isn't about how to write query letters, but when to write query letters.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Lockwood & Co. TV Series!



I am so excited to find out that my favorite series, Lockwood & Co., is hopefully going to be turned into a TV series!!! Which always brings about all the questions of how well it will be done. Will they stay true to character descriptions?

Take Lucy, our main character. She's described as a bit thick about the hips, and not exactly pretty. So will a blond, skinny starlet then be cast? I hope not! Lockwood is tall and slim. George is chubby, and really likes cake (me too).

Then there's the world-building, which is fabulous. Will we see that woven into the series? Will there be references to how the Problem (ghosts after dark) has affected the entire country, and to the earliest agents (ghost hunters) that fought them? And the profitable industries that have bloomed because of the Problem (iron & lavender- ghosts can't stand either of them)?

Will we see the different agencies that employ children to fight what adults can't see? Will they be in their snazzy uniforms (I need those snazzy uniforms, I really do).

And how will the ghosts be portrayed? Truly creepy, or cheesy?

So lots of questions!! If you haven't heard of Lockwood & Co., I encourage you to check them out! Right away! Go do it!

(You know how we bookish people are about pushing their favorite books on people...) ;)


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Notes from NaNo: Week 3

Since I post here on Thursdays, I decided to use my November (aka NaNovember) posts to give all you NaNo writers some fun plot points, characters, and other to incorporate into your works-in-progress if you get stuck or fall into a writing slump. For Week Three, find the cliche associated with your horoscope sign*, flip it or subvert it or do something entirely unexpected with it, and go to town!


Aries: A prince saves a princess from a dragon.

Taurus: Your main character is 'the chosen one.'

Gemini: Your antagonist is a mustache-twirling, cardboard villain.

Cancer: Your main character is lamenting 'the one who got away.'

Leo: One of your female characters is different from 'all the other girls.'

Virgo: Your book starts with your main character waking up.

Libra: Your main character described themselves while looking in a mirror.

Scorpio: Your main character succeeds at everything they try.

Sagittarius: Every person your main character encounters falls in love with them.

Capricorn: Your main characters has at least one absent or neglectful parent.

Aquarius: Your main character has a dream with clear symbols that guide them through the rest of the plot.

Pisces: Your main character has no flaws and makes no mistakes.


*Note: I have no training or expertise with astrology. This is purely for fun!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Blast From the Past #2

It's November. It's NaNoWriMo. I'm an ML this year. I got revision notes back from my agent last month that I'm still working on. My husband is completely renovating our living room, right before we have a bunch of family in town for Thanksgiving. Something's gotta give, and this month it's new content for Operation Awesome. So I've picked through some of my old posts and picked out a few to feature this month.

If you are stuck while doing NaNo (or just stuck at all, whatever), get the brain juices flowing by doing personality tests for your characters.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #37



Today is National Vanilla Cupcake Day! Are you planning on indulging in a vanilla cupcake? ;) (I actually had donuts for breakfast, so I think I've had my quota of sweets today...)

Submit your flash fiction piece about a vanilla cupcake in 150 words or less for a chance to win! Rules found here.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Notes from NaNo: Week Two

Since I post here on Thursdays, I decided to use my November (aka NaNovember) posts to give all you NaNo writers some fun plot points, characters, and other to incorporate into your works-in-progress if you get stuck or fall into a writing slump. For Week Two, find the new character associated with your horoscope sign* and go to town!


Aries: A young child with a too-large backpack.

Taurus: An elderly couple who finish each others' sentences.

Gemini: A woman who's the president of her company.

Cancer: A middle-aged man with an unusual hobby.

Leo: A teenage boy with a talent he's often mocked for.

Virgo: A dog who has a favorite person.

Libra: A cat who's traveled the world.

Scorpio: A teenage girl who's planning to run away from home.

Sagittarius: A baby who learns to talk way too early.

Capricorn: A hamster that gets lost in the house.

Aquarius: A cranky old man with a secret.

Pisces: A four-year-old girl who changes the world.


*Note: I have no training or expertise with astrology. This is purely for fun!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Meet Karen Osman in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Good Mother


1- Have you ever had a penpal?

I had so many pen pals growing up - it was an amazing way to experience the world before social media. I had penfriends in Canada, Germany, Ghana, France, and loved receiving their letters every month.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Hard-working, focused, determined, empathetic, and slightly obsessive!

3- Living in Dubai, have you been at the top (level 148) of the Burj Khalifa?

I have! My husband took me there and it was an incredible sight from the top.

4- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

It doesn’t explain why I’m a writer but feedback is so important to me. I had one reader message me to say that she hadn't read for so long as she was so busy working and looking after her children. She told me that she enjoyed The Good Mother so much that she's now determined to get back into reading again and making a little time for herself again. It’s stories like this, that make all the hard work worthwhile.

5- What ignited your passion for writing?

I'd love to be able to tell you the answer to that - there's never been one moment or incident. Since I was a child, I have always written; diaries, stories, letters....it's more of a need. It doesn't quite make sense to me either!

6- Do you ever get recognized/identified in public as being on the "Ahlan’s Hot 100 People" 2017 edition?

No, however, that was a great moment and the photo shoot was a lot of fun. To be recognised as contributing to the UAE's cultural landscape was a great honour.

7- Would you share a picture with us of your book surrounded by luxury?
Meet Karen Osman in this Debut Author Spotlight

8- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

I currently have a three-book deal with Head of Zeus and currently working on my second book. I have a goal to have a first rough draft written before Christmas and ready to send to my editor early 2018.

9- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

That person is my husband. When I asked him this question, he replied: "Knowing the circumstances in which you wrote it." He is referring to the fact that I was pregnant with my second son and very tired looking after my toddler!

10- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

The theme of motherhood is present throughout the book and I'm sure some of the scenes will resonate with mothers everywhere. But for me, books have always provided an escape - a chance to relax from work or obligations and I hope The Good Mother does this as well.

11- In your opinion, is it better for the average person with a small budget to engage in experiential travel or transformational travel, and why?

Any type of travel in my opinion is worth doing – you can always discover something new about yourself.

12- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

My editor, Sarah Ritherdon – she’s fantastic and I really admire how she can take a manuscript and improve it.

13- Did you have other titles in mind for the book before it went to publication?

Yes, the original submission for The Good Mother was called Dear Michael.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

The colour red is mentioned a few times in The Good Mother for different characters and is a symbol of danger.

15- #DiversityBingo2017 What's your favorite book that covers a square on the card?

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts


16- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

All three characters – Catherine, Alison, and Kate have personality contradictions and it’s difficult to choose one. Probably Kate though – she loves her children and wants to be a good mother but feels frustrated at the same time.

17- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

It’s not a small change but using libraries regularly and supporting book shops is my way.

18- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

It depends on the situation but usually the description on the back of the book is the deciding factor for me.

19- How will you measure your publishing performance?

As a debut novelist, I have had tremendous support from my agent and publishing house, not just writing the book but also promoting it. I will measure commercial success mainly by book sales and feedback in the market.

20- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

This was mainly taken out of my hands as I won the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Montegrappa Writing Award. As part of that prize, I had the support of an agent who helped me go down the traditional route of publishing as opposed to self-publishing.

21- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

22- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

http://www.karenosman.com
https://www.karenosman.com/bio
Buy The Book

Meet Karen Osman in this Debut Author Spotlight
Hello@karenosman.com
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The Good Mother

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blast From the Past #1

It's November. It's NaNoWriMo. I'm an ML this year. I got revision notes back from my agent last month that I'm still working on. My husband is completely renovating our living room, right before we have a bunch of family in town for Thanksgiving. Something's gotta give, and this month it's new content for Operation Awesome. So I've picked through some of my old posts and picked out a few to feature this month.

Today, I invite you to read one of my first posts for OA, which was on beta readers.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Notes from NaNo: Week One

Since I post here on Thursdays, I decided to use my November (aka NaNovember) posts to give all you NaNo writers some fun plot points, characters, and other to incorporate into your works-in-progress if you get stuck or fall into a writing slump. For Week One, find the plot idea associated with your horoscope sign* and go to town!


Aries: A tall, dark, and handsome stranger arrives in town. When he removes his hat and coat, your main character realizes he's a [fill in the blank].

Taurus: Your main character cannot live without [fill in the blank]... until they have to.

Gemini: Your main character gets into a friendly, yet competitive, game of [fill in the blank] with your antagonist.

Cancer: No one understands your main character better than [fill in the blank], so when that person goes missing, your main character has to take action.

Leo: A fair/carnival/circus comes to town. Your main character goes, accompanied by [fill in the blank].

Virgo: Your antagonist always wanted to [fill in the blank], but couldn't make it happen. This explains a lot about their motivations.

Libra: Your main character looks up [fill in the blank] in the dictionary, and it guides their actions through the next several scenes.

Scorpio: Your main character finds an abandoned animal at the side of the road. So your main character [fill in the blank].

Sagittarius: One of your characters slips and falls. Your main character reacts by [fill in the blank].

Capricorn: Your antagonist has a soft spot. It's [fill in the blank].

Aquarius: Someone deeply insults your main character, saying [fill in the blank].

Pisces: Your main character falls ill. Their symptoms include [fill in the blank].

*Note: I have no training or expertise with astrology. This is purely for fun!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

One Last Word of NaNo Encouragement

Today is Halloween, or as I like to call it, NaNoWriMo Eve. I hope you've read Jaime's NaNo Prep posts this month; they are full of great tips for getting ready for a month of writing until your brain oozes out your ears. Kidding! (The ooze comes out your nose.)

A question I've posed to the WriMos in my home region is, "What's going to stop you?" In other words, what do you think your biggest roadblock to finishing NaNoWriMo with 50K words will be? Name it, face it, and if you can, make a plan to overcome it.

I know you can do it. Write on, WriMos!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Writing Slump Woes

I've been in such a writing slump lately. And it's not that I didn't want to write, it's just I'd been so busy with another creative endeavor, that when I did get two seconds to myself, I was too drained to find even one more drop of creative juice within me.

I decorated a wedding reception last weekend, so the month before that involved endless trips to various stores, buying supplies--and returning supplies, when the first idea I had for a theme just didn't pan out.

And before I was asked to decorate the reception, I had just started to pull apart my living room, so that I could paint it. Now that I'm done with the reception, I'm hoping that I can knock out the painting this weekend, and get everything back to normal, so that I can sit down and refocus on my story. Last night, I did manage to take one word--ONE WORD!--and move it to a different place in the same sentence. Now that's some forward momentum, lol!

Here's a pic from the photo booth that I did for the wedding, with my little guy posing. He kept telling me he was going to "kiss me and marry me". Sorry, kid, your dad got there first! ;)


Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: One Final Trick

November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. It's an entire month dedicated to writing, or, more specifically, to amassing fifty thousand words on an original novel. Last year, over 400,000 writers from around the world participated. The NaNo website helps you track your word count, provides regional support and chat boards, and allows you to "win" when you hit your 50,000-word goal. Every November, bookstores, coffee shops, and 24-hour diners fill up with writers - you can practically feel the creativity in the air! NaNo provides a great community, and it's a great motivation for starting or continuing a novel project. 2017 will be my seventh year tackling NaNo, and I can't wait to get started!



That said, there are a few ways to set yourself up in advance for NaNo success. We'll explore these each Thursday in October, so you'll be ready to hit the ground running on November 1st!

Writing every day for a month (or for long stretches of time over several days during the month) can be really tough. A lot of writers drop out of NaNo part-way through - the time commitment is nothing to sneeze at. And it can also feel disheartening when a project you started on November 1st begins getting bogged down around the middle. You might encounter writer's block, or just feel like your time could be better spent doing something else. You might open that Word doc, or your notebook, and get queasy at the idea of spending an hour or more working on your book.

But before you close that document or notebook, I want to give you one tip to help you keep writing when you really, really don't want to. It's a very simple tip, but it nearly always works.

End your day's writing in the middle of a sentence.

That's it. It doesn't even have to be an exciting, eventful sentence, though that never hurts. But it's so much easier to start writing each day when you know all you *have* to do is finish that darn sentence from the day before. Chances are, you'll do that, and then you'll keep going. Let's try it:

1) Katya couldn't believe her ears: had Emilio really professed his love for her? That's a complete thought. Where do you go from there? When you pick up the book the next day, you have to stay within the confines of Emilio's confession, whether you want to or not.

2) Katya couldn't believe That's an incomplete sentence and it can go a lot of different places. Maybe she couldn't believe her luck, or what had just happened, or in some aspect of her religion, or a million other things. The point is, when you're greeted with this sentence fragment on a new writing day, you have to get your creativity flowing right away to figure out what Katya couldn't believe. It's not hard to finish a sentence. And once you do, then you're already writing! You might as well keep going, right?

What do you do on days when you really just don't feel like writing?


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Meet Jason Disley in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Jason Disley is the author of Seven Day Fool

Amazon UK ~ Seven Day Fool
Jason Disley


1- Is http://suavecollective.co.uk/ the only place to get your book, and are there plans to put it on Amazon or other such retailers in the future?

Seven Day Fool is available from the publisher Suave Collective Publishing and Amazon.co.uk it went on the Amazon site a few days ago. I think that as the publisher is only a small independent - it is been sold via Amazon with the stock being sent out by the publisher direct.

2- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I self publish poetry through Lulu.com - but have always wanted someone to appreciate my writing and to want to publish it on its own merit. Jason Brummell the head honcho at Suave Collective saw that merit in my writing when after having a series of conversations he read an early draft of Seven Day Fool.

3- What makes "Seven Day Fool" a debut novel?

It is the first official story I have had published via a publisher. All of my other books are collections of poetry which have nods to the original Beats in the 50s and the Liverpool poets of the 60s. Apart from my first two collections published via AH Stockwell - all of my poetry is self published. There are also a lot of music references throughout my work. My next project to be released is actually a Spoken Word album titled "Speakeasy"

4- Please share a picture with us of your book.

5- How do you define a Mod club and the mod subculture?

Mod or Modernist subculture is an ever evolving movement of likeminded souls who take what they like from all sorts of sources and take them into new directions. So although to those not "Sussed" it looks all very Retro it actually isn't. Modern day Mods take what they like and assimilate it into their own individual life. For each individual Mod is going to be different. Aesthetically it's about detail and being sharp. Style is paramount. Yes the initial Mod movement is associated with the 1960s but the original Mods were the postwar teenagers who were initially into Modern Jazz in the 1950s - there has been many incarnations of Mod and the multicultural element has always been there. As they have taken on fashion styles from various sources such as Italian and French style next to Hollywood styles and of course music from other countries such as Jazz, Blues, Soul and Ska. I could go on forever and a day to try and explain Mod. A Mod Club is generally a place where these likeminded people would go to listen to great music, some of which is from the past but rare (so therefore new to the listener) or brand new music that may wear it's influences on their well tailored sleeves. It's the place where the "in crowd" feels it should be. But like anything as it becomes mainstream and invaded by the masses - so those that are at the forefront are faced with a decision- either stay still - or keep on moving. Naturally they look to move forward. It's what we would see as quite a "Punkish" thing to do. But it is all about doing it for yourself and your friends. It about making things happen. That is why the scene has endured and evolved - adapting throughout each decade. Sometimes it's more obvious - at other times it's more underground - but it is always there.

6- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Socialist
Cheeky
Romantic
Thoughtful
Stylish


7- Favorite jazz band?

Too many to choose
British - Tubby Hayes
US - anything Miles Davis was involved in


8- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

When I was about Six my Nana (Grandmother) gave me a ladybird book about Charles Dickens. It had a brief bio about him and pictures from his various tales. At the start of the book there was a picture of Charles Dickens on a stage on his own reading to a packed theatre. From that moment seeing the power of writing I wanted to write. So even at a tender age it has always been an ambition. One that have always had and have never shaken.

9- What ignited your passion for writing?

See above - but also reading a lot.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

I am not sure - I have however had a surprise gift of a ceramic statue of a smart detective style character in a Trench Coat arrive with a card saying "and the award for his writing goes too Jason Disley" from a fan.

11- Do you prefer coffee or tea to drink?

Typically like most Mods it's Coffee. I spend a lot of time going for coffees.

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

There is no specific emotion - I want readers to feel all of them at whatever given moments. Different situations give rise to different emotions. There is one scene where my protagonist is caught in the pouring rain wearing the wrong type of shoes - he is naturally a bit angry with himself and has taught himself a lesson.

13- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Both reading and writing. Being into the Mod scene you have a thirst for knowledge so you are always wanting to know more about something. It's all in the detail. Listening helps also of course.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

I think my character Jake Brody resembling a young Michael Caine. As the book evolves so he resembles Caine a bit more. Adopting the style of hair, clothing and wearing glasses.

15- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

Immigrant or Refugees
The story is based around a pair of illegal immigrants escaping there Gangster Father.

16- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Jake Brody is a Private Eye - he is clever and thoughtful but also takes some risk which can backfire. So he definitely falls under the Smart but Naive camp.

17- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to potentially benefit hundreds of other authors or readers?

Make distribution easier. Large chain bookstores can be incredibly hard to agreeing to stock your books on their shelves so therefore you are often limited to online sales. Which is fine - but still doesn't beat picking up a copy from a bookshelf and holding it in your hands before you buy.

18- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

Either the subject/genre or recommendation from people you know and respect. Eye catching bookcover.

19- How will you measure your publishing performance?

If the first print run sells out - I will be happy and of course actual feedback that it has actually been enjoyed.

20- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

My goals both long and short are to keep on writing. My dream is to succeed well enough to give up my day job in retail and to be able to write full time. As at the moment it's a juggling act. I have a new poetry collection due to be released early next year and I am also planning a sequel to Seven Day Fool which will see Jake Brody getting involved in a tale set in 1966 in London just prior to the World Cup tournament.

21- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Do they want a sequel?

22- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Here is an excerpt:




A little taster of SEVEN DAY FOOL by Mordernist Beat Poet Jason Disley whose first novel is available for pre-order via www.suavecollective.co.uk for just £6.99 plus P&P

It is a noir thriller paying homage to the pulp novels of the '40's and '50's but set in and among the Mod clubs of 1965 Manchester.

Strictly limited in number so order now to avoid missing out.
--
The Twisted Wheel club could be considered as seedy, but there is something about such places; knowing it’s a seedy den of iniquity just makes a place more exciting, more enticing and seductive. It was dark and very atmospheric and from 11.30 pm until 7.30 am it was the place to go on a Saturday night. All-nighters were simply the coolest things of all to a generation of music loving thrill chasers.
Meet Jason Disley in this Debut Author Spotlight

Situated on Whitworth Street, the club was entered via the cafe at Street level, on the left-hand side there was a soft drinks bar, nearby were various tables that record collectors and dealers swamped with their precious stacks of 45's. Nearby were the Gents toilets, where those that dealt in other things, peddled their illicit wares. Beneath them was the warren of rooms not unlike its previous dwelling on Brazenose Street. Tonight's headline act was Junior Walker and the Allstars, an act that would undoubtedly be popular. Billed to play for an hour at 2am when the place would be jumping and in full swing. I could already imagine that the crowd would be an all sweating, hot, giant, moving and undulating single organism, gyrating to the sweet music, as their pills of choice kicked in. Drugs weren't known by their medical and chemical names but instead by their colours. These little tablets of speed, that were: blue, purple, yellow and even red and green, coursing through their bodies, making them chomp on Wrigley's gum and talk about how great everything was. The atmosphere in here is palpable, electric even. The music is inviting promises of love, freedom, loss and desperation and the feelings of new found love again. It is cool to be there - to be part of what is going on.
Meet Jason Disley in this Debut Author Spotlight

The disc jockey at this time of night before the live act is called Bongo von Dort. He wasn't one of Roger Eagle's disciples, but he too was enthralled by Roger's immense knowledge of black American music, and in conversations with him, he too would wax lyrical about tunes on the Chess record label or the music coming from Stax. He was as passionate about the music as those out there on the dance floor. He would drop the needle on the record, chomping on his gum, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat as another great tune would take the crowd down another rabbit hole to Wonderland.


Jason Disley is the author of Seven Day Fool

Amazon UK ~ Seven Day Fool
Jason Disley

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Reading Roundup!




Another reading roundup! Need a good book to read as winter settles in? I've got a list for you:


 I read this last year, and already raved about it on our favorite books of 2016 post. I reread it because I loved it so much, and I still love it.
 A retelling of The Great Gatsby, but the characters are on a debate team at a fancy prep school. Super fun.
 I've never read John Grisham before, and I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. While I didn't love his writing style, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I read. The man know how to write suspense.
I read this on a whim because it was available through my library's ebook app. I was so glad I did! It's a retelling of Labyrinth (which may also be a retelling, but I don't care!), and it's beautiful. Can't wait for the sequel.
 Another reread. This is You've Got Mail, but with a restaurant owner and a newspaper food critic. Wow, three retellings/reimaginings in one reading roundup? That's a new record for me. This one makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and hungry. And DEFINITELY try the coconut cake recipe at the end. It's amazing.
 I gave Brigid Kemmerer another try after feeling sideswiped by the paranormal elements coming out of nowhere in her last book. This book was much more to my taste. Would definitely recommend, especially to teen readers.





This is the second book in the Reality Star series. It's so fun, and Laura does a great job of building off the first book and deepening the relationship between Jen and Justin without feeling like we're just retreading the same ground. Can't wait for Reality Wedding to come out next year!









I have been reading this book all year, taking it slowly, trying to internalize its concepts. It's very empowering. I'm sure it will be a book I read over and over again. I even bought the workbook!











I wanted to read the third book in this series, so I had to start over with the first one. This is excellent epic fantasy.










Book 2 feels like a lot of set up for book 3, but is still a good read.











Whew. This book was huge. I felt like the ending was satisfying, but it took a lot of twists and turns to get there. Overall, I would definitely recommend the series to anyone interested in fantasy.













Friday, October 20, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #36



It's fall, which means you've probably seen a pumpkin or two sitting about. Write a piece of 350 words with a pumpkin(s) in it, and enter it by noon on Sunday 10.15, EST, in order to win! Rules found here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Minimizing Distractions

November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. It's an entire month dedicated to writing, or, more specifically, to amassing fifty thousand words on an original novel. Last year, over 400,000 writers from around the world participated. The NaNo website helps you track your word count, provides regional support and chat boards, and allows you to "win" when you hit your 50,000-word goal. Every November, bookstores, coffee shops, and 24-hour diners fill up with writers - you can practically feel the creativity in the air! NaNo provides a great community, and it's a great motivation for starting or continuing a novel project. 2017 will be my seventh year tackling NaNo, and I can't wait to get started!

That said, there are a few ways to set yourself up in advance for NaNo success. We'll explore these each Thursday in October, so you'll be ready to hit the ground running on November 1st!

This week, let's discuss minimizing distractions. Life is full of distractions, and many of them (like urgent work projects, family emergencies, and natural disasters) are unavoidable. If these types of events happen in November, there's not much you can do about it. But how can you prioritize NaNo writing in light of more typical, everyday distractions? Here are a few ideas:

1) After you've set your NaNo schedule, make sure your family/roommates know about it. If you're planning butt-in-chair, uninterrupted writing from 6:00 a.m. through 7:30 a.m. every weekday in your bedroom, plan to have your door closed during that time, and any obligations (feeding kids, pets, etc.) already covered. You can put a note on the door, or some other reminder that you are not to be disturbed during that time.

2) Use an internet blocker on your laptop during your writing time. I've used Freedom in the past, with good results. If you only have an hour a day to devote to NaNo writing, you don't want to get to the end of that hour and realize you spent most of it on Twitter. If you need to do research for your book, put a placeholder in the manuscript so you can go back and do the research after November's over. You don't want the Wikipedia rabbit hole to disrupt your writing day!

3) If you're planning a long writing stretch, consider setting alarms. I like to do an hour for writing, then a fifteen minute break, then another hour, etc. The alarms make the whole thing seems more official, and I'm less likely to take breaks during the writing time when I know I've got an official break coming up.

Distractions happen. Don't beat yourself up if you can't make your days words because something out of your control happened. But working to minimize distractions ahead of time can help you meet your word goals, and eventually, win NaNo!

How do you minimize distractions during writing times?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Meet Catherine Schaff-Stump in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Vessel of Ra (The Klaereon Scroll Book 1)
by Catherine Schaff-Stump


1- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Plan ahead, yet think laterally.

2- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

I was a lonely child who grew up in an abusive family. Reading was important for me to learn how to behave, because my family didn't teach me. I spent a lot of time in the pages of novels learning about people who lived bravely and honorably in spite of hardship. In a way, my two dads were Alexander Dumas and Charles Dickens. Many authors gave me a skewed code about how to behave, but they also taught me how to overcome odds and adversity with strength. Since authors taught me how to live, I wanted to be one of them, and write about the same kinds of characters that inspired me. I gotta tell you though, I was a pretty weird kid.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

My mother's praise. I wrote a poem for her one mother's day, and she thought I was Shakespeare or something like at eight years old. It was probably a very bad poem, but due to my mother's encouragement, I thought, "Hey. This is something I can do. It's mine." I never stopped writing.

4- What inspired you to write a story featuring Ra?

Ra is an interesting god from the Egyptian pantheon. His story has the potential to become one of great redemption. Check out the whole story of Hathor/Sekhmet, and see how Ra gives up his eye and changes his behavior. The Ra we see in The Vessel of Ra is who is left after giving up his eye, a god who believes that humanity are not equal to the Egyptians. The Klaereon Scroll series is largely about redemption at many levels, and Ra is one of those levels.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book at an interesting location?

Meet Catherine Schaff-Stump in this Debut Author Spotlight


6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Short term I'm working on two manuscripts for two different series. The one you might expect for me to be writing is the sequel to The Vessel of Ra which is called The Pawn of Isis. The other book is about a junior high monster hunter and is called Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science. Long term, I'd like to finish both of these series and see what other trouble I can get into as a writer. My heart's wish for my writing is for none of you to remember me, but to have all of you remember one of my characters.

7- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My husband Bryon is my longest term, most loyal fan. For him, he's happy to see this novel in print because we've talked a lot about the world and characters over the years, even in books you haven't seen yet. I have a great group of beta readers, and there is a healthy debate among them as to whether Octavia belongs with Drusus or Khun. I'm more Team Drusus, but I can see why many of them are Team Khun.

8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I want my readers to find The Vessel of Ra creepy and spooky. Yet, at the same time, I want them to see the heroic in the books, and I want them to see that people can change their destiny.

9- What's the most unusual book swag you've come across?

Jim C. Hines gave out tattoos for his Jig the Goblin series. These still remain the coolest items I've seen an author give out. Ann Leckie gave out lanyards with the names of her spaceships from Ancillary Justice. That was cool. Finally, Mary Robinette Kowal gave out fans for her initial novel in the Glamourists Histories series. I used that fan for a year!

10- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

In 2009 I went to the Viable Paradise workshop. In 2012, I journeyed to the Taos Toolbox workshop. Both of the teachers at these workshops helped me stretch my craft in incredible ways. I will recommend writer education as a way to get the technique you need to improve. Talent gets us all so far, but we need to be pushed and stretched, and made to practice.

11- Why do you consider "The Vessel of Ra (The Klaereon Scroll #1)" as your debut book rather than "Hulk Hercules Professional Wrestler"?

I wrote Hulk Hercules Professional Wrestler in 2010. It was a collaboration between myself and Cats Curious Press, and it was a retelling of the 12 Labors of Hercules in today's world, with some characters of my own, but mostly a replay of Greek mythology. There are mythological elements in The Vessel of Ra, but the majority of that novel's world building and characterization are of my own making, and the mythology in the novel is a blending. I think for me it comes down to a matter of how much material I created versus how much I found in already established sources.

12- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

When a Klaereon is bound to a demon, their skin is albino. Their blood is blue, their eyes are blue, and they have black hair. I always think of them as characters from black and white Hollywood in the technicolor world, or live Edward Gorey drawings.

13- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

I cover a few squares. Carlo Borgia is a displaced person as the novel progresses, and will remain so for a great chunk of the series. Lucy Klaereon, a little person, is a main character with an underrepresented body. Octavia Klaereon has the invisible disability of a curse that makes her function as a schizophrenic. Sofia Borgia is not a main character, but is in a wheelchair. Octavia and Drusus are in an arranged marriage.

14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Lucy is my classic smart but naive character in this book.

15- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to potentially benefit hundreds of other authors or readers?

You know, if we gave everyone social security and health care, I think that more people would write awesome books for all of us to read. One of the many reasons I didn't start writing seriously until after I started another career was because I wanted retirement and health care. If I'd had a chance to start working on books, even in 2001 after I'd just finished my PhD, I might be through the Klaereon series now. Just saying.

16- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

When the book is set is a big one. I like histories. I also like humor, and I tend more toward fantasy. Covers will sometimes do it. Word of mouth recommendations will sometimes do it. One of the biggest things is if I meet the author in real life or online, and the author is a nice person. That makes me more curious to check out their work.

17- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I want to immerse my readers in the experiences of my characters to the extent that they care when the next book comes out. AND I really want them to remember my characters, even when I'm gone.

18- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

Curiosity Quills offered, and I liked that they'd been around in the small press business for a long time. They had beautiful covers and great author support. Their authors had great things to say about working with them, so I went with them. From there, I signed with my agent, who has been professional and thoughtful about my work. I know I would not have learned as much about publishing without her.

19- What is one discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to remark on in the comments?

I'd be happy to talk about the book or writer education.

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

My short bio:


Meet Catherine Schaff-Stump in this Debut Author Spotlight
Cath Schaff-Stump writes speculative fiction for children and adults, everything from humor to horror. Her young adult Gothic historical fantasy The Vessel of Ra is available from Curiosity Quills in September, 2017. Catherine lives and works in Iowa with her husband. During the day, she teaches English to non-native speakers at a local community college. Her most recent fiction has been published by Paper Golem Press, Daydreams Dandelion Press, and in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. Catherine is a co-host on the writing and geek-life fan podcast Unreliable Narrators. You can find her online at:
Facebook
Goodreads
Amazon
@cathschaffstump
http://cathschaffstump.com
http://unreliablenarrators.net

Meet Catherine Schaff-Stump in this Debut Author Spotlight

A short blurb about the book:


Octavia Klaereon knows her sister Lucy is the weakest demon Binder in the Klaereon family. To save Lucy's soul, she must kill her sister after Lucy is possessed by the god Ra. Lucy tries to cut the tie between herself and Ra, but Ra possesses Octavia, with his eye on recreating the world in his image. Lucy Klaereon will save Octavia and stop Ra, even if she has to come back from the dead to do it.


The Vessel of Ra (The Klaereon Scroll Book 1)
by Catherine Schaff-Stump

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood

Time to explore another habit of highly effective writers!


Habit #5 is Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood. Honestly, there are so many ways I could take this habit and apply it to writers. But because I wrote about communication with other humans last time, I thought I'd write about our characters this time.

For me, and I think for many of us reader/writers, what really makes a book dear to my heart is the characters. Usually, though, when we're pitching a book (querying, or even just describing a book to a friend), we tend to focus on plot. So sometimes, when starting a new project, we think more about the plot than about making the characters memorable. And that's okay for planning and drafting. But there comes a point where we really need to focus on our characters.

Seek First to Understand means really getting to know your characters; why they are the way they are, why they choose certain things, why they like some people but not others. It requires a lot of thinking time, and maybe some writing time, too, if you want to keep track of all your thoughts.

My current book features three girls investigating a haunting in their town. I started writing this book fully intending for the girls to be a tightly-knit team that got along really well. But the main character kept being rude and thinking mean things about one of the others, which was not according to plan! I had to sit back and think about this. I realized that the main character was jealous of a lot of things about the other character, including how easily she navigated social situations. And that jealousy was causing her to be petty.

I thought that was great! Jealousy is a fascinating character nuance that can provide all kinds of insights and interpersonal conflicts. But how would I get that on the page? How could I make my character be understood?

This is where "show, don't tell" (everyone's favorite writing advice!) comes into play. If I have my character say upfront, "I was jealous, and that's why I was being so mean," it doesn't pack the same emotional punch as it would if the reader and the character discover it together over the course of the book. So we help the character be understood by showing her feelings. Being mean out of jealousy is different than being mean out of spite or disgust. You can show those differences through the character's gestures and internal sensations described on the page.

My favorite resource for showing emotions is The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

Understand your characters--make them rich, nuanced people, not just props for your plot. Then help them to be understood by your readers by showing their emotions on the page.

What are your tips and tricks for showing emotion?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Choosing Your Project

November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. It's an entire month dedicated to writing, or, more specifically, to amassing fifty thousand words on an original novel. Last year, over 400,000 writers from around the world participated. The NaNo website helps you track your word count, provides regional support and chat boards, and allows you to "win" when you hit your 50,000-word goal. Every November, bookstores, coffee shops, and 24-hour diners fill up with writers - you can practically feel the creativity in the air! NaNo provides a great community, and it's a great motivation for starting or continuing a novel project. 2017 will be my seventh year tackling NaNo, and I can't wait to get started!

That said, there are a few ways to set yourself up in advance for NaNo success. We'll explore these each Thursday in October, so you'll be ready to hit the ground running on November 1st!

Today, let's talk about how to choose the novel project you'll be working on for NaNo. The NaNo rules specify that, to win, the 50,000 words must be on a brand-new novel. However, many people, self-described 'NaNo Rebels,' will do something different. They may write on a work-in-progress, or a non-fiction project, or revise 50,000 words on an existing draft. Assuming you choose the traditional route, and you don't have a story idea already in place, how do you decide on a concept that's going to hold your interest for an entire month and allow you to get 50,000 words written? Here's one idea:

1) Open a newspaper or click on an internet news site. Scroll past all the big news items, and look for the features, or local news, or interesting smaller stories. Let's say you find an article with a headline reading, "Local Woman Finds Alligator in Her Swimming Pool," and lets say you live in Wyoming. That raises a whole lot of interesting questions: How did the alligator get to Wyoming? What did the woman do when she discovered it? How did she remove it (or did she)? What did her neighbors do? What happened to the alligator afterwards? Write down as many questions you can think of that are raised by the article.

2) Next, ask yourself 'what if?' What if the woman just started living alone? What if her town's animal control didn't have a clue how to help her? What if the woman discovers she's one of five families who have discovered alligators in their swimming pools over the past year? What if the alligator starts talking to her? What if the alligator is pink? What if the town decides the alligator's arrival is a harbinger of the apocalypse? Ask yourself all the 'what if' questions you can think of - let your imagination go wild!

3) Write down the 'what if' questions that intrigue you the most. Maybe you decide on 'what if the alligator started talking?' Then, decide what kind of book this will be. A humorous, tongue-in-cheek sci-fi? A mystery? Fantasy? A children's book? A romance between the homeowner and the animal control officer?

4) Start brainstorming your protagonist, using a character questionnaire. Think about what other characters might fit into your story world. Flesh out your setting. Create an outline, or a list of ten scenes you know you want to see in your book.

5) Start writing on November 1st!

What techniques do you use for brainstorming story ideas?


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Meet Janelle Milanes in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Victoria in My Head


1- Which library is your favorite and why?

The New York Public Library! It makes me feel like I'm in a church that worships reading. I'm particularly into the Rose Main Reading Room. My husband likes it because of the iconic Ghostbusters scene filmed there. I like it because it's pretty...

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Loyalty, kindness, humor, creativity, family.

3- Would you elaborate on rolled ice-cream? Does it taste different or just photograph well?

The sad thing is, it looks more interesting than it tastes! I was slightly disappointed when I tried it after taking the picture, because the ice cream tasted like...well, ice cream. But it is pretty absorbing to watch it being made in front of you!



4- What ignited your passion for writing?

Reading. I have been an obsessive reader for most of my life. It made me want to create content to put out into the world. Even now, if I'm lacking inspiration, I'll read a book and I get a burst of energy to write. The first book that inspired my reading obsession was the Baby-Sitters Club in fourth grade. I always wish I could point to a more literary classic, but I have to be honest. I desperately wanted to be Stacey, but I was completely Mary Anne.

That's funny, because I had a crush on Mary Anne. I'm loving the new graphix version of the books.

Meet Janelle Milanes in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with your cats?
Meet Janelle Milanes in this Debut Author Spotlight
I will always share pictures of my cats. The fat, grouchy one is Murphy, and the one with the white paws is Ripley.

6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

My short term goal is to finish my revisions for my second book, which comes out next year. I'm due to give birth in a month, so I'll need to shift my focus from book baby to human baby for a little while. My long term goals are, honestly, to keep writing. Writing is really, really hard and time-consuming and it's easy to toss it aside when life gets busy.

7- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My family, including my husband, will kill me if I single any one of them out. I can't choose so I'll just say that together, they make an enthusiastic fan club. They really loved the humor in the book and the family dynamic.

8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope my book will make readers feel hopeful and inspired. The book ends on an uncertain note, but it's about seeing the beauty in the unknown and embracing the present.

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

The actual act of writing! The more you do it, the better you'll become. I always like each subsequent book I write more than the previous one. My first book was this terrible sci-fi novel riddled with plot holes. It taught me that a) sci-fi isn't really my thing at this point in life and b) I should probably write scenes in the order they occur. I was skipping around so much in that book that it became a headache to finish. I learned a lot from Victoria through the revision process as well. I liked to ramble quite a bit in the beginning, which slowed down the pacing of the novel's plot. I grew attached to that rambling, but it had to get chopped for the good of the story.

10- Could you share a Cuban-American recipe, bit of culture, or little-known fact with us?

Ropa vieja is my favorite Cuban dish. It literally translates to "old clothes," which sounds incredibly unappealing, but the food is delicious. Shredded beef with onions, peppers, and tomato sauce. I recommend eating it with maduros (sweet plantains), beans, and rice!

Another bit of culture I have to mention is not specific to Cubans--it's a quinceanera, which is similar to an extravagant Sweet 16 party. Picture poofy dresses, salsa dancing, and dramatic video montages. I didn't have a quinceanera for myself, but like Victoria in the book, I participated in one. This is a throwback pic of me, on the right, with my sister and my parents. Unfortunately, the poofy bottom part of the dress is not shown! But I vividly remember having to dance a salsa routine in a hoop skirt.

11- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Okay. So. In my book, I had jokingly written about the love interest, Strand, and his "midwinter sky" eyes. Victoria hates herself for thinking of this metaphor, comparing it to a cheesy saying in a harlequin romance novel. Well, almost every outlet that's reviewed the book has quoted this characteristic with complete sincerity. I'm not sure that's a good look for my writing skills.

12- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

Own Voices Latinx MC, Own Voices. Some of the other squares do relate to the supporting characters, but not the MC!

13- What's one way you've contributed to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement?

The only way I know to contribute is to keep writing diverse characters and buying the work of marginalized authors! I've also tried reaching out to diverse schools and getting the books into the hands of their students. I would love for more Latinx kids to see themselves represented through Victoria.

14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Oh, they're all loaded with contradictions, but I would have to go with the obvious choice of Victoria. The entire book consists of her grappling with these contradictions--she's shy but outspoken, terrified but brave, insecure but confident. It goes on and on.

15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

The MC's voice. I'm always attracted to stories written in first-person, especially if the character is honest, funny, and has a unique point of view.

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I'm actively trying NOT to measure my publishing performance (which is nearly impossible.) What's most important to me is that someone connects to my story. That said, it's difficult not to get caught up in things like sales and reviews. I have a history of anxiety, so I try my best to focus on improving as a writer and staying unaffected by the things that are out of my control.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I considered each form of publication, but I ultimately decided to at least try the traditional route. I was excited to work with a team that could help make my book the best it could be and to have the book distributed more widely.

18- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I would love to know their favorite and least favorite tropes in YA. I'm personally a huge sucker for the hate-to-love relationships, which is why I write them all the time. My least favorite trope is parents who just don't understand. Can you talk to your kids, please?

That reminds me of:




19- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Meet Janelle Milanes in this Debut Author Spotlight

Janelle Milanes is originally from Miami, FL and received her BA in English Literature from Davidson College. A lifelong YA addict, she moved to New York for her first job as a children’s literature associate at Simon & Schuster.

For the past five years, Janelle has worked as a teacher and librarian throughout the New York City area. Her first novel reflects many of her own experiences growing up as a second-generation Latina in America. Janelle currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two cats. Her favorite Disney princess is Belle, since she was also a big book nerd.

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The Victoria in My Head

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Lessons Learned from Pass Or Pages


I say it over and over again on this blog, and I'll keep saying it: You can always learn something from Pass Or Pages, even if the category/genre you write in isn't the same as the one featured that month. I have learned a lot from putting on Pass Or Pages this year, so I decided to sum it up here for you:

Agents are nice people who genuinely want to help writers. We don't offer our agent panel members anything but the opportunity to provide feedback to our entrants. They put a fair amount of time and effort into it, as evidenced by the emails we send back and forth. They truly care about helping writers improve.

Queries need to feature characters, not just plot. Readers need to feel a connection to a character to feel compelled by the conflict and stakes. But exceptions can be made for killer voice!

Typos are not a good first impression. Some agents are more forgiving of them than others, but why risk it?

If you are going for a shocking opening, then you better do an amazing job. I can't tell you how to be amazing at it, though. Shocking openings are not my thing.

POWER. WORDS. I already wrote about this concept and how much I love it, but I thought you all might need a reminder.

Taste is subjective. You can have a fantastic concept, a strong query letter, and beautiful writing, and your story still won't appeal to everyone. That is a fact of publishing that we all need to reconcile ourselves to.

Did you learn anything from Pass Or Pages, whether specific or general writing advice? Share in the comments!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Setting a Realistic Schedule

November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. It's an entire month dedicated to writing, or, more specifically, to amassing fifty thousand words on an original novel. Last year, over 400,000 writers from around the world participated. The NaNo website helps you track your word count, provides regional support and chat boards, and allows you to "win" when you hit your 50,000-word goal. Every November, bookstores, coffee shops, and 24-hour diners fill up with writers - you can practically feel the creativity in the air! NaNo provides a great community, and it's a great motivation for starting or continuing a novel project. 2017 will be my seventh year tackling NaNo, and I can't wait to get started!

That said, there are a few ways to set yourself up in advance for NaNo success. We'll explore these each Thursday in October, so you'll be ready to hit the ground running on November 1st!

Today, let's talk about setting a realistic NaNo writing schedule. 50,000 words over a 30-day month breaks down to roughly 1667 words per day. Very few of us will be able to devote all of November to writing, without the obligations of work, school, family, friends, etc. interfering. So take a good look at your schedule, whether you have unusual obligations coming up (travel, presentations, exams, etc.), and plan accordingly.

Many people stick to the strict 1667 words/day method. That's what I usually do. In November, I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. on weekdays so I can write for a few hours each day before work. If I write more than 1667 words one day, that means I can stress a little less as the end of November approaches. But, as often happens, if I write less than 1667 words, I know I'll need to make it up over the weekend. Knowing the intense schedule is only for 30 days helps me stay committed to waking up early and writing until my fingers ache.

Others will devote their weekends to writing, and not stress too much about it during the week. Write-ins, or in-person or online meet-ups dedicated to NaNo writing, can be very effective for this. Setting aside three or four-hour blocks for writing on weekends will get you to the 50,000-word count just as effectively as writing every day.

Many regional chapters will also set up all-night writing parties during the month. If you find yourself very behind on your word count by mid-month, this can really help.

Keep in mind that November also means Thanksgiving, so for many of us, we won't be able to write over the holiday, what with cooking, cleaning, eating, family/friend time, more eating, Black Friday shopping, more eating, etc. It can help to plan to take a day or two off over Thanksgiving weekend, because then you'll know in advance that you won't make your word count on those days, and you can make up for it on other days.

What's your scheduling plan for tackling NaNo this year?