Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#9 NaNoWriMo for You in the Past has Meant…

“Wha?”

Yup. That was my reaction last year when I heard that people try to write their book within a month. I was putting the finishing touches on Harp Lessons and settling into a new house last November, so that kind of intense writing, wasn’t in my scope. Besides, I was in the middle of The Stone of Kings. My characters took a vote and it was unanimous:

I wasn’t allowed to abandon them to start something new. Even if it was only for a month.

It took the better part of three years to write the first draft of Harp Lessons (and to my credit, I had my first son somewhere in there), and about another year to decide to submit it anywhere. Not to mention the fact that I write long-hand. I figured I might try NaNoWriMo in a few years or so.

But the next year…

I’ve moved up in color rank in the karate of writing and am ready for the intimidating breaking-boards-with-my-head NaNoWriMo contest. I’m out of excuses. My skills are better, my rambunctious one is in school most of the day, and the little one still naps (more or less). I finished my last manuscript and haven’t yet started the next. And I always have the Y if I need it.

Oh, the wonderful YMCA. If you’re a writer with kids and your Y has child care, I highly recommend it. Two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon to do nothing but write. Hmm, well, I would feel weird using it that much, but I may just do that in November. But I’ll have to make it very clear to the Silver Sneakers crowd, that I’ll be WORKING for the month. (I have a weakness for chatting with senior citizens. 🙂 )

I love the idea that what once seemed a bit of a pipe dream is something I’m ready to tackle!

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 8,031. Still tackling though! 😉

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Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo

#7 Self Publishing Or Publishing Contract?

Image attributed to InfoGibraltar via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the things that I love about Kristen Lamb, is that for as much as she supports a self published writer, she doesn’t knock those who prefer to go the more traditional route.

I think I’ve used up my trust-me tokens on financial investments. “Trust me, spending my last semester at Cambridge, England will make me a better teacher.” Well, that part was actually true until my (then unknown) gluten allergy caused my anxiety and depression to “flare” so badly that I had to resign. But England was a big investment.

And so would it be to self publish.

I hate red tape and “dry thinking.” I’d rather just be creative and write the book. But for the purposes of this post I decided to look into it. It’s probably good for me anyway.

I found this article on Bloomberg about the real cost of self-publishing. And already I’m not liking this. So, let’s pretend that I’ve decided to self publish The Stone of Kings (instead of what I really did, and send it to my publisher.) The first thing the Bloomberg article says that I need is an editor and I’ll go with the $3.50 charge per page. I’m assuming that the pages must be double spaced, since that what I had to do when I submitted it to Astraea Press. Okay, 296 pages at $3.50 per page comes to $1,036.

Can you see that conversation with your hardworking spouse on a single family income? Yeah, I can’t either.

Well, that just made this post easier to write. After editing, I still need cover art, printing, software purchase, and ISBN number. I’m not sure I would do the rest of what is suggested. I’ve got the WANA Way for that 😀

I’m happy with Astraea Press. So long as they like what I’ve got, I don’t have to pay anything. I get full say in the cover art and editing process. I’d rather give them part of the sales later than do all the dry stuff myself first.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 6620

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#5 How Did You Get Started Writing

Image via Wikimedia Commons
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Hee hee. I remember being six years old and sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table when I composed the following:

Oh, Miss Dog, please marry me,

For I have not seen a flea.

I beg you on one knee,

Please will you marry me?

Soon after I started a short story called The Blabbacca about an animal made of all sorts of other animal parts. And no, I hadn’t even heard of Frankenstein at that time.

Guess I had a thing for animals.

I later went on to write more short stories and poetry through high school. I was part of a creative writing pilot program at Pinellas County Center for the Arts. But a book? Pfff! How could I ever draw my ideas out for that long?

Then, I started working for Verizon. While it was a great job, it was so dismally dry for me creatively, that my brain finally started screaming, “Write something! Please!”

“Okay! Okay!” So pulled out my trusty journal before my brain got out the big wooden spoon. I was mostly through writing Harp Lessons, when I came up with the idea for The Stone of Kings.

The book ideas multiplied like rabbits after that.

But seriously, that first draft of Harp Lessons (though I was super proud of myself for having written something that long) was so rough, you could have sliced an artery on it. The only writing craft book that I’d read at that point was Steven King’s On Writing. While a great book, my skills needed (and still need) a lot more polishing.

But I got lucky.

Astraea Press took pity a chance with me and helped me tighten my story a little more and in the meantime, they introduced me to wonderful bloggers like Kristen Lamb and voice-of-reason editors like Kay Springsteen. I’ve been reading craft books with as much relish as if they were episodes of Law & Order: SVU.

So yeah, I’m still “getting started.” 😉

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 3,806 Gah!

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#4 Tickety-Type, Scratch, or Erase?

Next time, I'll pick a book with a more inspiring cover on it.
Next time, I’ll pick a book with a more inspiring cover on it.

I’m a nostalgic girl. My parents always teased me that I was born 100 years too late. Before I got married, my grandmother used to complain that I dressed like an old school marm. I made my own wedding dress because I wanted a renaissance style wedding and didn’t have $1000+ to blow.

So um, yeah, I’m a scratcher.

If I could have found the supplies when I had more time on my hands, I might have tried writing with a quill and inkwell. Picture me, scribbling away like Louisa May Alcott…

Well, my two busy little boys popped that bubble. 😉

This issue is why NaNoWriMo terrifies me. I can’t seem to do my initial creation without a pen and paper. Therefore, I’m a significantly slower writer. I’ve participated in writing sprints with fellow authors. At the end, everyone posts their word count; 1432, 1625, 2164, 871 (but that person was interrupted because they had to referee their kids). I have one full hour of uninterrupted quiet time and I usually average (drumroll please) a whopping 600 words.

So yeah, November’s going to be a busy month for me.

To be honest, I get really itchy for pen and paper if I’ve gone too long without writing. When I worked for Verizon, I actually used to yearn to do research papers again like I had in college. I think the atmosphere of creative void is what finally pulled Harp Lessons out of me. But since I obviously couldn’t use my work computer to compose it, I ended up writing most of it by hand during my breaks.

I seem to recall trying to type some of the first draft, but I don’t really remember if I was successful.

There’s something about the fluid movement of the pen on the paper lulling me into the story the way the waves of the ocean lulls a seaman to sea. I become connected to the plot in a way that makes it seem more real than if I stared at a glowing screen.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 3,806

Books I Love · Writing

Still Not Quite Getting It

My eyes have become magnifying glasses! Image via KovacsUr via Wikimedia Commons.

Would you think there is much of a learning curve to edit a book for someone who has a degree in English Literature and teaching experience? I even took special creative writing classes for two years at a magnet high school. But not once was it explained to me to make sure to maintain a character’s point of view, be careful of using “purple prose,” and avoid writing in a passive voice.

I learned a ton when I began working with the editors on Harp Lessons. The knowledge I’ve gained makes me think I might try my hand at working as an editor. When I think about the way my first draft of Harp Lessons read when I first submitted it, I cringe and think how lucky I was that the readers at Astraea Press even saw potential in my story.

So I’ve almost finished the self edits for The Stone of Kings, and it’s easy to think, “This is so much better than the first one. I’ve got this writing thing down. I should start looking into how to handle movie deals.”

Hmm, I think I should start looking for the cold splash of water to shock me into reality.

All this editing has turned me into a different kind of reader and I hope that’s a good thing. But it’s also confusing. I read Michael Scott’s The Alchemyst before I first submitted Harp Lessons. Loved. It. It’s a wonderful modern adventure story with a blending of history and mythology. But I’m currently reading it through a second time and I’m editing as I go along.

Why is that?!

I never noticed the head hopping with point of view, or all the passive voice in that book before. And yet, The Achemyst is currently in a movie deal. Why is it that Mr. Scott could get away with it? Is it because it’s just that great a story (and it really is in my opinion) that it’s easy for a reader to overlook those faults? Is it because he’s got so much writing under his belt (since the ’80s), he’s figured out the secret to getting away with it? The trouble is, that it sets a bad example for us “newbie” authors who are trying to avoid those pitfalls in mechanics of the craft.

Do you have the secret of why a more experienced author can break the “writing rules?” What writing mechanics bother you when you read?

Writing

Why “Talent” Doesn’t Equal “Ticket”

“Do” is the operative word.

When I started teaching, I had one of my 10th graders drop out of school within the first 2 weeks. His classmates told me that he had planned to drop out anyway. The day he left, he happened to leave halfway through my class because that was when his ride showed up. I’ll never forget the glory of ‘freedom’ in his eyes as he walked backward out of the door. He waved to the class with an expression that said, “Look at me! I’m onto bigger and better things!”

Right.

If he had any kind of talent for anything, except interrupting my class, I never got to see it. I hope he had some talent. But I fear that kid simply became a statistic that day. The thing is, talent isn’t always the ticket to success.

One of the comments that Kristen Lamb, author of Rise of the Machines-Human Authors in a Digital World, frequently makes on her blog is when she started writing, she “mistakenly believed that making As in English naturally qualified [her] to be a best-selling author.” I learned my lesson earlier than that.

I’ve always been a ‘book girl.’ I already knew how to read before I was in preschool, and created my own stories in the first grade. When I got to high school, my freshman English teacher was worthless. The saddest part about that was she taught the honors classes. You could write a paper for her, give it a good opening and closing, but fill the middle with gibberish and still get an A. Seriously. Someone did that. As a result, I became a lazy English student that year.

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. My sophomore English teacher was very militant. At first I wasn’t worried because English was my talent. It was my ticket to an easy A. I wasn’t supposed to work so hard at it. Ha. It took me earning a D to finally get my butt in gear.

Even if something comes naturally doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. I very much hope my drop out student managed to get his butt in gear. But I fear that too many young people see the flawless performances of singers like Kelly Clarkson or actors like Will Smith and think that they don’t have to work at what they do. Even superstar talent needs to put in a lot of effort. An NFL quarterback doesn’t just play one game a week and spend the rest of his time on the couch. If that’s all it took, anyone with talent to throw a football would play.

I’m still working on honing my skills as an author. Just because I have a published book doesn’t mean I’m above reading a craft book (or two, or three, or more) to get better. I’m working hard to make The Stone of Kings better than Harp Lessons. I’ll continue working to make my next book better than The Stone of Kings. If I don’t grow, I won’t succeed.

How do you work your talent? Are you growing? Did you start failing at one point and realize that you had to put in more effort?

Books I Love · Writing

How To Get Inspired – Part 2

Last week I talked about asking “what if.” This week, I’ll go more into what works for me as a writer.

So you’ve asked your “what if” question. Now what? How do you turn that into a book? What seems to work for me is to create some characters and let them tell the story.

Seriously. Let ’em have at it.

Harp Lessons was based on family stories. At first, I thought that Sarah was going to be a sort of modern mixture of Anne Shirley and Don Quixote. But I think my subconcious realized that I’m not talented enough of a writer (yet) to pull off a plot with such a minimal antagonist, and so Cal showed up and turned my story into a coming of age romance.

If you had asked me, when I started writing Harp Lessons, what Cal’s story was, I’d have said, “Cal? Cal who?” But this is what I find to be the greatest joy of writing. Surprise characters and unforeseen plot twists add to the charm of the craft and the best part is, you are the first to see it. As the author, you are the special guest of a super special previewing.

With The Stone of Kings, it took a lot more effort because of the historic and mythic nature of the plot. Research drove the plot. Literally. But with every new twist that showed itself, I was again mimicking an excited ape, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Image attributed to Mark Dumont via Wikimedia Commons.

But I must admit, it was a little frustrating not knowing how it would end until it was more than halfway finished. Even more so that I didn’t have a title until it was almost finished. But you know that old saying:

Good things come to those who wait.

I’m happy with the way the ending has turned out and I know I’ll be even happier with it after the polishing of edits is over. But I think I’m mostly happy that I don’t have to call it “Ardan Novel” anymore.

What about you? Are you a pantser like me? Or do you have to have everything plotted out first? If you do, does your story usually follow your plan?

Books I Love · Writing

First Draft – Check

Yeah, probably won't be in the book, but it feels nostalgic to write it anyway.
Yeah, probably won’t be in the book, but it feels nostalgic to write it anyway.

Last Tuesday, I wrote two bitter-sweet words. The End. I’ve finished the first draft of The Stone of Kings.

On one hand, I’m super excited to be on track to get all the edits done and having people read it. The audience for Harp Lessons was my family. But the audience for The Stone of Kings are the people who enjoy series like Harry Potter or The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. I can’t wait to share it when all the polishing is finished. 😀 Here is the blurb that I have for it so far:

Twelve year old Ardan is hopelessly distracted because he wants to meet a real faerie. But when he gets his hands on a mysterious red book loaded with faerie spells and accidentally sends himself three hundred years into Ireland’s future, he soon learns that there are more important things on which to focus his attention. Throw in some immortal druids, fun storytelling, a touch of forbidden romance, along with the music and antics of the legendary Irish harper, Turlough O’Carolan, and you’ll become swept up in a very real Irish mythological adventure.

So now for the bitter part. The excitement of writing an adventure story is over. Yeah I’ve got other ideas for more books. But this one is finished. It’s strange how as a writer you come to care about your characters as if they were real people. When I wrote ‘the end,’ it was as if I was writing ‘goodbye’ to them. Now I’ll be sending them off into the world to be edited, critiqued, and eventually appreciated post-publication. I hope my audience enjoys reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing about them.

If you are a writer, do you feel the same way getting to the end of a book?

Books I Love · Guest Posts

Wednesday Welcomes – The Astraea Press Fan Fest!

Not just romance books - romance WITH books! :D (Seriously, there are other fantastic genres and all clean!)
Not just romance books – romance WITH books! 😀 (Seriously, there are other fantastic genres and all clean!)

I’ve been wanting to do regular guest spots for some of my favorite authors, and figured Wednesday Welcomes would be a fun way to do it.  Then I thought what better way to kick it off than by promoting the first ever Astraea Press Fan Fest! This will be a meet and greet via Facebook with over 50 of AP’s wonderful authors. (They also invited me, but I think they were feeling sorry for me being nice. 😉 )

The event will last all day on Tuesday, July 16th, and there will be tons of free prizes to win including a Kindle Fire! To register to win the Kindle, have a look at Kelly Martin’s blog. While you’re there, check out her books including her Grace Award winning, Crossing The Deep. It’s in my Kindle, I’m looking forward to reading it. Just scanning through the Amazon reviews puts it at the top of my TBR list. Not to mention the fact that I’ve spent a lot of time in the Smokey Mountains.

I really hope to “see” you guys there! 😀

Harp · Writing

For the Love of Ireland

May I just stop in for a cup o’ tea and a chat? Image attributed to Joseph Mischyshyn via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m about 2 chapters and an epilogue away from finishing my WIP (which I’m pretty sure will be titled The Stone of Kings). I gotta tell you, I’m excited and nervous about finishing it up and sending it out. It’s completely set in Ireland, a country I’ve only spent one week touring.

I’m not Irish by blood (that I know of). My dad remarried when I was nine and it was my new mother’s family who are Irish. I still love to chat with Grandma Caroline about what it was like for her to grow up there.

I fell in love with the magic of the country and by the time I learned to play harp I felt that the Irish tunes were written for me. I relished the romance of a country that created music which could move me so much.

Most of this is what inspired me to write Harp Lessons. But I’ve still had an outsider’s view of Ireland. I didn’t even “get it” when I spent a week there. Granted, a mere week in any country is not near enough time to truly understand anything.

I think I’m “getting it” now.

Parts of my current work take place in the spring of 1715. Obviously, I’ve had to do a lot of research, because I really want to get this right. I only hope I’ve done enough.

Now, I’ve always known about the famines and the English oppression. But still, it’s always been easier and prettier to view Ireland through the lens of movies like The Quiet Man or The Secret of Roan Inish. But I’m writing about 1715 Ireland. One of my principle characters is Turlough O’Carolan, who really lived. And lived he did.

I don’t know why I thought the British control of Ireland would have been any better for them than it was for us. (Though I’m glad we’re friends with the Brits now; they have just as rich and fascinating a history.) But I’ve been studying about a man who still managed to rise above it.

Making Turlough O’Carolan an actual character was tough. I’ve been afraid of putting words into his mouth that shouldn’t be there. But I hope I’ve captured his character into which I believe to be at the heart of Ireland and why I love it so much.

Carolan didn’t care if you were wealthy or poor, Catholic or Protestant. He was all about making friends and unifying Ireland against oppression. He loved a ‘ludicrous tale’ and had a temper. He didn’t use his fame wholly for personal gain (if that’s what he was after, he would have converted from Catholicism), though he did have a bit of an ego and craved the attention. He did, however, use his fame to help neutralize as much as possible the oppression that the Irish Catholics were subject to at the time.

I’m no historian, but these are the facts that I got from studying Carolan’s biography. I find him to have been a fascinating man and a wonderful example of the spirit of Ireland. I do hope that I’ve translated this accurately in my new book.

What are your feelings about the spirit of Ireland? Is there a country, whether or not your own, that you have similar feelings for? Is there a perfect representative of it?