Happy Book Day!

Archagels_Legion_fcovA great big congratulations to Nalini Singh, whose latest installment in her Guild Hunter series, ARCHANGEL’S LEGION, is available today. This is a sexy, tense, exciting read that finds Guild hunter Elena Deveraux and Archangel Raphael pitted against an unknown enemy that has seemingly struck the city like a plague.

Angels are falling from the sky in New York, struck down by a vicious, unknown force.

Vampires are dying impossibly of disease.

Elena and Raphael must discover the source of the wave of death before it engulfs their city and their people, leaving New York a ruin and Raphael’s Tower under siege by enemy archangels.

Yet even as they fight desperately to save the city, an even darker force is stirring, its chill eyes trained on New York… and on Raphael. Rivers of crimson and nightmares given flesh, the world will never be the same…

Check out this edge-of-the-seat novel today!


NaNo Prep: The Last Gasp

We’ve been preparing for NaNoWriMo all month, and now the event itself is in sight: Friday you start working on your NaNo novel. If you’ve been following along, you have a protagonist, some goals and obstacles, a list of potential scenes to write, and you’ve done research on a few of the details you’d like to include in your story. So what next?

The truth is you now have more than many authors do when they begin a book, and that’s because your goal is to write fast. 50,000 words in 30 days is an achievable goal, but having a bit of a road map will certainly make it easier for you to just plow ahead and write every day. So now I’m going to offer up a few ideas for how to get ready for NaNoWriMo that have nothing to do with your actual book.

Eliminate unnecessary distractions

Are you the type to waste time on the internet when you should be writing? Check out software such as Freedom that will allow you to block your internet access for a set period of time while you get your words down. Daydream too much because your desk faces the window? Turn it around for the month of November so you’re staring at a wall.

Reschedule unnecessary appointments

Do you have a visit to the dentist or your annual physical on the calendar for November? Move it to December and free up a couple of hours for writing. Let your hair grow a little long and skip the trim, if you’re due to visit the hair dresser or barber. And if you absolutely need to keep an appointment where it is, make sure to bring a small notebook so you can scribble in the waiting room while you’re there.

Stock up on supplies

Prep your kitchen with plenty of fixings for quick meals so you don’t forget to eat when you’re deep into your writing. A pantry stocked with dried pasta and canned tomatoes, jars of peanut butter, dried or canned beans, tuna, plus a freezer full of frozen veggies, chicken or veggie stock pre-made and frozen in ice cube form, and a couple of frozen casseroles, will keep you going on days when you’d rather not take time out to shop. Also, lay in a supply of snacks, both healthy and treats. Think granola bars, trail mix, licorice, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate covered espresso beans… whatever makes you happy. And finally, your favorite caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc.

In the non-edible category, you want whatever writing supplies you prefer. Even if you compose on your computer, it can be handy to switch off to a notebook sometimes, especially if you’re on the go, so pick up some notebooks and a supply of pens. If you like printing pages to reread what you’ve written, make sure you’ve got a ream of paper and ink/toner for your printer.

Plus don’t forget basic household items like tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, shampoo, dish soap, etc. Keep shopping trips to a minimum this way.

Writing friends

Cheerleaders can be helpful when you’re scratching your head, wondering why you ever took on such a huge challenge. If you haven’t already done so, check out the NaNoWriMo site for information about how to locate fellow participants in your area. There will be periodic meet ups on the local level, where writers get together in coffee shops to churn out words and talk about their progress.

There are just a few days remaining before the big event begins, so take this time to prepare mentally and physically. Good luck, and happy writing!

Friday Links

Happy Friday! I’m currently in the midst of the Surrey International Writers Conference in B.C., Canada, but through the miracles of modern technology, I still have a lovely assortment of links to help you kick off the weekend. Wishing you lots of excellent writing time, with time off to read for good behavior. Enjoy!

Alice Munro, First Nobel Laureate of the MFA Program – An interesting look at how the author’s work has become the go-to example for teaching how to write.

Opportunities for Writers: November and December 2013 – Upcoming contests, awards, etc.

New Trends in YA: The Agents’ Perspective – A look at what’s trending these days.

10 Paranormal Romance Novels You Should Read (An Opinionated Opinion) – Some great suggestions, including a few Knight Agency authors.

15th Century Dutch Church Converted into 21st Century Bookstore – Field trip, anyone? With thanks to Kathy Chung for the link.

Who Are Your Characters?

There’s been much discussion on how writers delve into characters whose experiences are different from their own. By this I mean less creating new races for your science fiction novel, and more exploring other cultures that exist in the real world. Unless your story has a small, isolated cast, it will require some diversity, and it’s important to think about how you represent those other people. You want to be authentic, to avoid cliche. 

Which begs the question, who are people, really? What makes your characters feel true to life, regardless of race, sex, religion, etc? And how can you be true to them as people while still making them fresh and surprising?

The following TED Talk takes a wonderful look at identity, and being true to yourself and your desires, even when those might go against cultural assumptions. I hope it provides some inspiration on the creative front as well. 

Further NaNo Prep: Setting Up Markers

If you’ve been following along this month with the weekly prep posts for NaNoWriMo, chances are you’ve got at least a few good pages of notes and plans for your upcoming novel. By now you should have a protagonist, an idea of what they want to achieve, something pretty major getting in their way, and some research under your belt for settings and other important aspects of your story, such as your protagonist’s career, useful tools of their trade, etc.

Today we’re going to look at the shape of your novel. You know any good novel has a steadily building action that leads to the climax and the resolution. You’ve probably seen the little graph that goes with that idea, the ever-growing mountain peaks followed, finally, but the sharp fall off at the end. Characters are meant to make progress, with some back sliding along the way to keep things exciting, until ultimately they reach the end of the book and their happy ending — or everyone dies. You know, whatever floats your boat.

Chances are you’ve already got some scene ideas kicking around in your head, the things that are going to happen to your character on their road to resolution. This week I want you to jot down just a sentence or two for each scene you’ve already thought of, and then dream up a few more. These don’t need to be anything fancy, and you certainly aren’t going to start any actual writing — that has to wait for November 1st. You just want something to help jog your memory when it’s time to write the scene in question. It can be as simple as “George argues with Mary about where to go on vacation,” or “Paul thinks about calling to ask Sue out.” Just try not to be too cryptic; you want to remember what you planned to write when you look at your notes in a couple of weeks.

There’s no set number of scenes you need to come up with before you start to write, but you should try to come up with at least a couple of dozen. That way, when you sit down to bang out your daily words, you will have at least some idea of where to go. You might not know how to write the scene, but you will at least have a scene that needs writing.

Nor is there any set way to keep track of your scenes. If you use Scrivener, you can use the notecard function. If not, you can put each scene onto a physical 3 x 5 notecard, list them in a notebook, or just keep track of them in a separate file on your computer. Depending on the subject matter, you might end up rearranging your scene order while you’re writing, so any means of shuffling your ideas or renumbering them can come in handy.

These scenes don’t need to be comprehensive. In other words, once you start writing, you will no doubt write many scenes that you haven’t jotted down in addition to those you have. The idea here isn’t to come up with a complete outline of your novel, though you certainly can do so if you wish. The idea is more to set up markers along the way, so you have places to aim for in your story once you start to write. Like running a long race and looking for the next mile marker, you want to have something to shoot for as you type along. Focusing too much on how many words you need each day can start to make you a little punchy, so it’s helpful to have places in your storyline that you can see coming up next on the horizon. It feels more specific and more helpful than telling yourself you need to hit 10,000 words by the end of the day. Ultimately, if you want a workable first draft of your novel, you need to focus on the words themselves and what you have to say.

Friday Links

Another very speedy week, at least for me. So much going on right now that I feel like the days just aren’t long enough. But that’s vastly preferable to the alternative; I hate when things are slow.

So this is more of a fly-by post than anything. I bring you lots of fun, interesting links to entertain you into the weekend. I hope you have a lovely one, filled with books and writing and whatever else makes you smile. Enjoy!

Season of the Dead – Colleen Mondor’s October column for Bookslut features some wonderfully spooky looking fiction for anyone looking for a Halloween read.

Neil Gaiman: Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading, and Daydreaming – This has been making the rounds, but if you haven’t checked it out, it’s definitely worth a read.

The Jealous Curator – An interesting interview with artist and graphic designer Danielle Krysa, talking about creativity.

Rise and Shine: The Daily Routines of History’s Most Creative Minds – Further proof that there is  no one right way to approach your art.

13 of the Year’s Creepiest Books – Some more suggestions for seasonal reading.

More NaNoWriMo Prep: When and Where

Welcome to the next stage of preparation for NaNoWriMo participation. If you’ve been following along, you’ve got a protagonist with some sort of goal, and something major standing in their way. Where do you go next?

The key to NaNoWriMo is that you need to prepare yourself on two fronts, at least if you’re seriously looking to bang out part or all of a workable first draft of a novel. You want to produce something that serves as a stepping stone, not something that discourages you or makes you want to throw out your idea altogether. But you also want to hit that word count: 50,000 words by the end of November. Even if that doesn’t constitute a completed first draft — published novels for adults weigh in at 80,000 words and up, with few exceptions — it will be considered sufficient for the purposes of NaNo scoring. Your finished product on November 30 might actually need another few chapters before you reach your story’s end, or alternatively you might have a very loose draft that resolves your plot points but needs plenty of filler to flesh out the manuscript.

Preparing ahead of time means that, while the words you type in November might not be golden perfection streaming effortlessly from your fingers, they will at least be working in the right direction. You want to come up with 50,000 words that help your story start to take shape. So the next thing you want to prepare is a setting to go around your protagonist.

Chances are you’ve already thought about this at least a little bit. Who your character is and what they want — and often the obstacle making their wishes a challenge — affect setting greatly, so you likely considered things like genre, place, and time period over the past few weeks while you were coming up with your protagonist and his road block. But now is the time to really flesh out those concepts, and determine what might require a little research.

Many writers do some preliminary research before they begin writing a book, especially where information might be necessary for plot development. If you only know a little about criminal law, but you’re writing a thriller that involves a murder, chances are you’ll have to do some leg work in order to make sure your twists and turns are viable. Likewise, if your character works on a boat and you’ve only gone sailing once, you probably have to read up in order to make his or her actions and activities feel realistic and plausible. Writing about war? What weapons come into play? Is this modern warfare  with men in tanks or foot soldiers wielding rifles with bayonets?

It is, of course, possible to get mired down in research, and so often writers set themselves a specific research goal and then fill in smaller details once the writing gets underway. However, with NaNoWriMo, you’re writing against the clock for an entire month, and the last thing you want to do is pause mid-stream to look something up. For NaNoWriMo, you’re better off doing more research up front so you don’t need to take away from writing time once the starting gun goes off. This has the added benefit of providing you with lots of information to write about, helping to up your word count. It can get pared down during the editing process later, if necessary.

Will you still come across details that need to be filled in while you’re writing? Of course. But once November starts, try to avoid research unless you really cannot move forward without the information. Instead, insert some filler enclosed in brackets so you can easily find your place once December rolls around, make a note so you remember to go back and tackle it, and keep on writing.

So this week, start making lists of details for your story. Where does it take place? Real world? Imaginary? Combination? How much of that place will you use in your story? A planet? Country? Town? Estate? What is the time period, and how does that affect your story? Daily life? Transportation? The work people do? How your protagonist can go about the business of achieving their goal? Consider careers, clothing, food, education, technology, forms of entertainment. Remember that in past centuries — even past decades — many activities took far more time than they do now, which can heavily influence the timeline of your story. Likewise, in the future, we can assume certain aspects of life will have continued to speed up, such as air travel and forms of communication.

Whether you’re writing an epic fantasy, a WWII-era mystery, or a contemporary love story, the world of that novel needs to be described for the reader and brought to life, and your characters must inhabit it in a realistic fashion. Use this week to dream up your own vision of the world you plan to share in your NaNo novel. Happy writing!

Friday Links

October is well underway and, in my neck of the woods, we’ve even been experiencing weather that suggests the kiss of autumn: a slight chill in the air, that nice crispness in the morning that tells you summer has flown. Mind you, it’ll probably get up around 90 degrees again at least once before the holidays hit, but that’s Southern California for you.

Still, October means Halloween, so I’ve a few links to help you with your scary seasonal reading. Nothing like a few haunted houses or ghosties to put you in the mood. Whatever your plans this weekend, I hope you set aside time to do a bit of writing, and indulge yourself in a good book. Enjoy!

The 50 Scariest Books of All Time – Not all strictly horror, so there’s something for everyone.

The October Science Fiction and Fantasy Books You Can’t Afford to Miss! – A good roundup of new releases.

10 Awesome Secret Passage Bookshelves – Because secret passages seem even more appropriate this time of year.

Canadian Author Alice Munro Wins 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature – A career from short stories, first book published at age 37; proof positive that talent and hard work can win out if you persevere.

James Patterson’s Bookseller Pledge – The best-selling author has pledged $1 million to help independent bookstores. More information available at his website.