Friday Links: Tricks and Treats Edition

Happy Halloween Eve! The week got away from me, as I’ve been catching up after last week’s virtual Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I started out Monday with a pile of backlog and a brain buzzing about writing structure, saggy middles, handling timelines, and more. Even agents pick up great tips at writing conferences.

Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

So here we are, on the cusp of Halloween, plus a new month and the start of NaNoWriMo. I thought I’d offer a mix of writerly and seasonal links to kick things off. Whether you plan to watch horror movies, dress up, or just settle down with a good book and bowl of candy, I wish you a fun, safe Halloween, and a stellar start to NaNo. Don’t forget to set your clocks back Saturday night. You get an extra hour of writing time on Sunday. Sounds like a treat to me!

This week’s links:

‘I spooked myself right before bedtime:’ Authors on Their Scariest Creations. – A little Halloween inspiration to put you in the mood.

The Ghost Stories of Muriel Spark. – A peek at some lesser known works of the author that fit right into the season.

Tana French: Hope in Hard Times. – The thriller writer discusses her latest manuscript, which she has the great fortune to hand in shortly before COVID-19 shut downs ramped up, as well as other aspects of her writing on the latest episode of The Secret Library Podcast.

Where to Start with Shirley Jackson. – The author’s work seems to be undergoing a resurgence on screen, but what about actually reading her stories? Here’s a guide to how  you might approach them.

When Is It Okay to Write About Someone Else’s Culture or Experience? – Part of Charlie Jane Anders’ ongoing project to write a book about story craft, which Tor.com has been publishing in installments. Great information here about what we mean when we refer to #OwnVoices writing.

How Not to Be All About What It’s Not All About: Further Thoughts on Writing About Someone Else’s Culture and Experience. – A terrific follow up to the above from Nisi Shawl.

Dissecting Suspense in Rebecca. – In light of the new adapation on Netflix (which I advise you to skip; stick to the Hitchcock version), I urge you to read or reread Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel and see for yourself all the ways suspense can build. Terrific lesson, no matter what sort of fiction you write.

Friday Links: A NaNoWriMo Inspiration Edition

Happy Friday, and welcome to the middle of October. For the many writers, October serves as the countdown to NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. In today’s selection of links, I offer up a bit of inspiration to help you get into the writing groove. Check out how other writers tackle their projects, or learn about new twists on older ideas. Be sure to visit the official NaNo site for additional tips on getting ready.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Before I delve into this week’s links, I want to remind you that I reopen to queries on Monday the 19th. I updated my wishlist here on the blog, but for anyone looking for a quick genre overview:

At this time, I’ll be looking to take on women’s contemporary or historical fiction; contemporary or historical single-title romance; magical realism; young adult contemporary, mystery, or historical fiction.

I will continue to adjust what genres I’m accepting every few months, based on current market needs, my reading interests, and what I’ve recently signed on. Please do not attempt to query outside of the requested genres, as I will auto-reject without reading.

Without further ado, I give you a mishmash of links to explore this weekend. I hope they inspire you to try new things in your own writing, or push yourself in whatever ways you need. Happy writing!

This week’s links:

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: Stories & Ideas. – Initially, The LA Times postponed this year’s festival due to COVID-19. Eventually, they decided to go virtual. Register now for free panels starting this weekend and running into mid-November.

15 of the best first lines in fiction. – Having trouble kicking off your book? Check out these stand-out first lines for some creative sparks.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia on Writing a More Authentic Mexico. – The author chats with Maris Kreizman on her podcast on how she approached depicting a more realistic version of Mexico for readers more familiar with clichés.

On Learning of My Autism While Trying to Finish a Novel. – Madeleine Ryan discusses neurodiversity and how she now thinks of her own characters.

A New Edition of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Crosses Its T’s and Dots Its I’s. – Ever wonder about those partial letters between characters? This edition includes physical copies, fleshed out based on clues from the text.

NaNoWriMo Prep: The Ultimate Plot Development Guide. – This blog post provides a great breakdown of tips for getting reading for NaNo.

Give Yourself Permission to Be Creative: Ethan Hawke via Ted Talks

Ethan Hawke puts himself out there. Whether he is acting, playing music, or putting pen to paper, he throws his full effort behind the task. In his recent Ted Talk from quarantine, he shares some sound advice and demonstrates the honesty behind his craft. Even if you’re not a fan, you should give it a watch. I particularly recommend it for anyone suffering from imposter syndrome, or struggling due to the pandemic.

Friday Links: Falling into Autumn Edition

Somehow, despite the global pandemic and the west coast burning and what has often felt like the slowest year on record, we’ve reached October. Autumn in SoCal is nebulous at the best of times. Predictably, I’m writing this in the midst of a heatwave. No hot tea or cozy sweaters for me. More like ice cream and air conditioning. But fall still brings to mind school supplies and productivity, and I am way past due for an update.

Things on the horizon:

Utmost in most of your minds, no doubt, is when I plan to open again to submissions. The answer is, in a couple of weeks. I haven’t set a firm date yet as I’m tinkering with a few things. I’m also making decisions on some lingering projects in my inbox. Right now I plan to make a more formal announcement late next week.

That said, there will be some changes in what I’m looking for in terms of new material. I’m not making any huge shifts in what I represent, but I will no longer be accepting queries for all of those genres at the same time. I can’t keep up with the influx. I will update my wish list both here and on the agency site, and my QueryManager page will offer a much more limited list of genres I am accepting.

Please note that I will be changing which genres I’m accepting queries for from time to time, based on the balance of my client list, the market, and what I am most interested in reading. So if I’m not accepting projects in the genre you write, that does not mean I won’t be taking them again in a few months. But please, do not try to sneak your query to me by labeling it under some inappropriate genre or emailing it directly. It will be rejected unread in the first instance, and deleted in the second.

I realize some of you will be frustrated by this, and I am sorry. All I can say is, like many people, I have found my state of mind profoundly affected by world events, particularly the pandemic, and the result is my reading interests and ability to focus have shifted. I bounce off books I should adore. I sink into things that previously would not have interested me. Fighting it doesn’t do anyone any good.

So that’s where things stand on the business front. Now on to the fun stuff. I’ve a mishmash of links for you this week, and I hope you find them interesting and inspiring. Wishing you all a lovely weekend and happy writing!

This week’s links:

So What’s the Difference Between a Myth, a Fairytale, and a Legend? – An interesting look at three similar types of story and their definitions.

Word Matters. – The new-ish podcast brought to you by Merriam-Webster focusing on grammar, word origins, and other word-related things.

With His New Mystery Novel, John Banville Kills Off a Pen Name. – An entertaining history of the Irish writer’s relationship to his alter ego, and why he needs to live on in Spain.

Why Goodreads Is Bad for Books. – A review of the site’s history and stagnant existence, plus an intriguing peek at a new potential alternative.

Susanna Clarke’s Fantasy World of Interiors. – A lovely interview with the author, discussing the long break between her books and the mysterious ailment affecting her ability to work.

Are We Running Out of Monster Metaphors for the Disasters of the Real World? – Looking at the ways in which we cope with our real-world fears through fictional threats.

Up Close: A 1574 Map of London. – Take a look at the city’s layout during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

Friday Links: A Celebration of Books and Booksellers

Today I wish to celebrate both books and the people who sell them. Independent Bookstore Day is tomorrow, and fall titles start hitting shelves in a few days. Reading good books takes some sting out of this ongoing pandemic, so what better time to praise all things bookish?

Independent Bookstore Day logo of a hand holding an open book.

 

What have you all been reading during this period of safer-at-home? I know not everyone can focus on books right now, but sometimes that means returning to old favorites or finding joy in poems or shorter books. I’m doing some rereading, myself. Old romantic mysteries by Mary Stewart. Humorous poetry I discovered as a child. But also new romances and women’s fiction. Fantasy as long as it stays well away from dystopian situtations. All mixed in with “homework” reading: how to be a better, more active ally to BIPOC people, and political titles about the state of our democracy. If that sounds like a lot, it hasn’t been. It’s been slow going, spread over months, with more books piling up on my TBR behind them at a rapid rate.

Fall always brings a wealth of new titles. I’m trying to keep my pre-orders at a minimum, simply because there are soooo many new books I want to read. But pre-orders are the way to go in this new pandemic economy. Let publishers know they should print copies of the books you’re looking forward to reading. Supply chains are still moving slowly, so reader interest helps publishers know where to make their best efforts.

Meanwhile, here are a bunch of links to give you ideas of what to read, and where to get your copies. Plus the usual writing/industry chatter. I hope you find something interesting and inspiring. Have a great weekend, filled with wonderful books and maybe a little quality writing time!

This Week’s Links:

Independent Bookstore Day. – A resource of online and in-store events taking place to celebrate independent bookstores across the country.

117 Black-Owned Bookstores. – A great resource if you’re looking to support Black-owned businesses. You can even check for stores in your own state.

The Importance of Bookstores During the Pandemic. – A lovely homage to bookstores and all they do for us, especially in difficult times.

Eight Trends in Book Cover Art, From Busy Botanicals to Women Walking Away. – As it says. Some beautiful examples, attached to some great reads. (I’m personally partial to the botanicals.)

Paris Stories: The Writing of Mavis Gallant. – A short film about the Canadian author and her approach to writing, with interview footage as well as the author reading samples of her work. Inspiring, plus a lovely bit of armchair travel.

Why It’s Not Empowering to Abandon the Male Pseudonyms Used by Female Authors. – A thoughtful look at the recent decision to release a number of books written by women including their birthnames over the pseudonyms they chose, and why this is not a simple situation.

9 Books about Disreputable Women by Women Writers. – Great books featuring the inside stories of women society labels disreputable.

The New California Curriculum. – An interesting look at what it means to be a California writer, and where these writers fit into the literary landscape as we reconsider what types of books should be considered “canon.”

Plotting Your Fantasy with a Bullet Journal. – One writer’s system for organizing their writing, plot, and world building.

We Need People Within Our Publishing Houses Who Reflect What Our Country Looks Like. – A great interview with Lisa Lucas, who will be leaving her post as head of the National Book Foundation at the end of the year to take on the role of publisher at PRH’s Pantheon and Schocken Books.

Virtual Writing Cruise Setting Sail, March 28th!

None of us are heading to a writer’s conference any time soon. Spring vacations are canceled. Writers everywhere find it difficult to focus. But your muse is not lost, just in need of a creative boost! Join me, and a faculty of terrific publishing professionals, for a week of virtual cruising and writing inspiration.

The Creative Academy Virtual Writing Cruise presents a full lineup of online workshops and Q&A sessions, plus daily writing sprints to get you back in the groove. All workshop sessions will be recorded and available later as part of the community’s resources, so sign up even if you can’t attend live. Both Academy membership and the cruise itself are free.

We kick off Saturday, March 28th, with a virtual happy hour! Courses over the week range from craft to research to the business side of publishing. I hope to see you in my query workshop, Friday, April 3rd, at 11 am PDT.

Why are you still here? Go sign up!

Friday Links: New Year Booklists

New year booklists are one of my favorite things about January. If December brings lists of the best books of the previous year, the new year’s lists focus entirely on anticipation. These lists give me something to look forward to, rather than reminding me of what I wish I had a chance to read already. So this week’s Friday Links offer up lists of a ton of great books coming out in the months ahead. Be warned: your to-be-read lists might explode as a result. Mine certainly looks unreasonably long, as there are some fabulous sounding titles on the horizon. I’ve tried to include a good mix of genres and so on, and of course not every link leads to book recommendations. But there are a lot of new year booklists out there. I hope these will be sufficient to inspire you.

New Year Booklists: Piles of books to read in 2019

No Time to Read

I also want to point out that, for those of you hoping to read more books this year, the upcoming 24 in 48 Readathon provides a great chance to get a jump start on that TBR. It takes place the weekend of January 26th and 27th, and the idea is to read for 24 hours out of a 48-hour period. It’s the sort of readathon that encourages you to get some sleep, go for a walk, and live your life, even as you put in some serious reading hours. You’re also free to join in for fewer hours if you’d rather, or if you have a busy weekend. Sign ups are open over at the readathon website, and you can find more complete details there regarding how the event works. It makes for a fun, weirdly social weekend considering that it revolves around reading a lot.

With that, I’ll head right to this week’s Friday Links. Wishing you a fabulous weekend, filled with lots of reading and writing time. Enjoy!

New Year Booklists and More:

Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview. – This bi-annual list features a huge collection of books releasing in the coming months. Always an excellent roundup, filled with titles that might otherwise not be on your radar.

105 Books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2019. – Pretty much what it sounds like. Tons of great-sounding titles.

The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2019, Pt. 1. – Enormous list of mysteries, thrillers, etc.

2019 Preview: Most Anticipated Romance. – A terrific list of upcoming romance novels, including titles by TKA clients Nalini Singh, Alyssa Cole, Melonie Johnson, and Cat Sebastian.

28 Young Adult Books Coming Out in 2019 that Will Seriously Get You Pumped for the New Year. – Like the title says…

How to Make Your Imagination Work Harder. – Great advice from Danny Gregory for anyone feeling a little overwhelmed, burned out, or possibly even blocked.

What We Gain from Keeping Books–and Why It Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Joy’. – In the midst of the backlash from booklovers against Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning out bookcases, a lovely look at what books do for us.

Yay, Yea, Yeah, or Yes? – A quick look at these often-used, but only sometimes interchangeable, words.

December Writing Challenge: Maintaining Momentum

Maintaining momentum with your writing can be difficult at any time, but December offers some unique obstacles. Whether you’ve just finished NaNoWriMo and hope to keep writing so you can finish your novel, or you despair of getting any work done in the coming weeks, this challenge is for you. The December Writing Challenge seeks to help writers generate words during what is probably the busiest time of the year. December comes with a collection of holidays, all requiring cooking and shopping and socializing. Plenty of distractions from your work in progress. Plus it’s not just the fun distractions. Year end means finalizing work projects, reconciling finances, and other less pleasant but unavoidable tasks. What’s a writer to do?

Every year I challenge writers to keep their writing going. Don’t let the busy season keep you from maintaining momentum. If writing is important to you, you’ll commit to working on that latest project, whatever it might be, all month long.

So what’s the challenge? I challenge you to write, every day in December, for at least a little while. That’s it. There are no manditory word counts or goals for the month, just a commitment to putting your rear in the chair. I hope you’ll manage at least 30 minutes per day, but 15 will do if you can’t swing more.

Why every day? I know there are plenty of successful writers who do not write every day. But I’m a fan of building a habit, and the idea here is to keep your brain primed for the new year. Most writers charge into January with all sorts of writing goals, so this keeps your imagination churning in the meantime. Train your brain to come to the table–or desk–expecting that it needs to produce. You’ll be much happier come January 1st.

I do, however, acknowledge that life happens, especially in December. You’re traveling. You have guests staying with you. Holiday traffic leaves you trapped on a freeway for hours. I get it. So you are allowed two free days, to use at will, when you can take the day off from writing. Use them for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Use them for the day the in-laws hit town. Whatever. Your choice. Choose wisely.

Of course, there’s no grand prize if you complete this challenge, beyond the satisfaction of knowing you did. Oh, and that lack of dread when you head to your desk in the new year. It’s all up to you. But I believe you can do it, and maintaining momentum with your writing will give you a great head start on those 2019 goals.

I’ll be putting up some cheerleading posts here and also on Twitter as the month progresses. I hope you’ll have fun with this challenge. Work on a couple of projects. Start a new story. Experiment in a different genre. Hit that upcoming deadline. You decide what to write; the sky’s the limit.

Enjoy, and happy writing!

Tackling NaNoWriMo: Tips for Writing a Novel in a Month

Tackling NaNoWriMo–or National Novel Writing Month–challenges any writer, whether they have participated for years or are new to the event. Each year, I offer advice on how to get the most out of the month, whatever your personal goal. The key to NaNo is to remember to have fun. This challenge aims to help you get words on paper, to push through a long project without overthinking. It’s great for anyone who tends to stop and rewrite repeatedly before moving on. Because that strategy? Doesn’t work for NaNo. If you want to write 50,000 words in November, you need to ignore your mistakes and just go.

Tackling NaNoWriMo header with writing supplies for November

So where do you start? These few days before the November kickoff allow you a chance to prepare. Below, I have some ideas for what you might want to do, both in terms of writing your NaNo project and for maintaining your sanity during the challenge.

Know Your Goal:

The rules state that NaNoWriMo consists of writing a new 50,000-word project between November 1st and November 30th. Reality allows you to adapt this to whatever works for you. If you’re starting a new project, great. (And most of my tips below assume such.) But you can easily finish a novel already in progress, too. Just start a new file for the remainder of the book, to keep track, and write another 50,000 words.

Regardless of your goal, NaNo offers plenty of support for anyone writing in November. Take advantage of it.

Plan What to Write:

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser–someone who prefers to outline ahead or just let the spirit take you–it’s helpful to start NaNoWriMo with at least some idea of what you want to write. That doesn’t mean you need a detailed outline, but a few basics will go a long way to get your creativity flowing.

Think ahead about your characters. Who is your protagonist? What do they want? What sort of obstacles might they face? Do they have a love interest? Arch enemy? Cohorts? Friends and family? Adding these characters and describing them over the course of the story will add to your word count.

Next think about your genre. If you’re writing romance, you know you’re aiming for a happily ever after. For fantasy or science fiction, your characters might not all be human. Do you have special technology in your story? For a historical, you will need background research. And many types of stories rely heavily on setting and/or world building. Don’t hesitate to hit the library or do some online searches regardling locations, tech, history, etc. Take notes, so you’ll have lots of great detail on hand to weave into your writing.

Finally, consider scenes you’ve already envisioned. How do your characters reach those points? What happens after the scenes? Think about repercussions. It’s good to have some key scenes you’re excited to write, especially on days words don’t flow easily.

Organize Your Life:

Let friends and family know you’ll be tackling NaNoWriMo, so they understand your time might be tight for a few weeks.

Stock the fridge with healthy snacks in addition to the fun ones. Fruit, nuts, yogurt, etc. make great brain food when you’re on a writing tear. Also, cook some easy meals ahead and freeze them for quick dinner prep.

Check supplies of important staples: coffee, tea, tissues, toilet paper–anything you’d hate to run out of in November.

Prepare to take care of yourself. Put reminders in your phone so you go for walks or hit the gym during NaNo. The exercise will help keep your mind fresh.

Tackling NaNoWriMo:

Schedule a few smaller writing sessions per day rather than trying to hit your daily goal in one goal.

Do write ahead on days you’re feeling strong. If you have the time, keep going. You’ll stockpile words for days you’re busy or less inspired.

Don’t feel you need to write linearly. Skip around if it helps you keep writing. Just make notes of places where you need to fill in later.

Don’t stop to edit. Don’t fret over sloppy writing or repetition. Just keep getting your ideas down. You’ll have plenty of time to rewrite later.

If a scene isn’t coming, jot it down in note form as a place holder. The words will count and you’ll replace them with even more when you finally tackle that section. Again, flag where you’ve done this so you remember to go back.

Do take advantage of group write-ins or other NaNo community events. It helps to have some cheerleaders who know what you’re up against.

Don’t ignore those reminders you set to get some exercise. And remember to get a good night’s sleep, too.

These are just a few ideas for ways to make tackling NaNoWriMo fun and relatively painless. Be sure to check out the main site, where there are additional tips and forums filled with encouragement. Whatever your goal for November, I wish you good luck and happy writing.

Friday Links: Online Listening Edition for Podcast Fans

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to the online listening edition of Friday Links. This week I’ve been obsessing a bit about podcasts. I’m not a regular podcast listener. I don’t subscribe to any, and normally I end up streaming them from their websites rather than through iTunes or the like. My listening depends on my running across something interesting more than any adherence to a specific thing. Not to say I don’t enjoy them, because I do. But podcasts fall into the same category as audio books for me. If I am listening while doing something more complicated than driving or walking, I tune out. It’s just how my brain works. I’m more of a visual person. I like to read print. My mind wanders if I’m listening to something recorded without a corresponding image. But this week was a bit different.

microphone for online listening

It actually started with Audible, not with podcasts. I do have an Audible account and will listen to books while walking or driving more than 20 minutes or so. But Audible really got my attention by adding two additional freebies to membership. They now offer two downloads of Audible Originals per month, from a list of six titles they choose. No extra fee, no credits required. So suddenly I had more listening material at my fingertips. Mind you, I’m already working my way through The Three Musketeers (unabridged and over 20 hours), but I like having a variety. But then came the email from Danny Gregory about his latest podcast episode of Art for All–featuring an interview with Austin Kleon.

I believe firmly in branching out when it comes to seeking advice on a creative life. I like to dabble in arts and crafts and photography when I’m not nose-deep in a book. And I check out books or websites by various types of artists, as well. So I’m a fan of Danny Gregory, and Sketchbook Skool, the online art class platform he co-runs. I gave his newish podcast a try when it first started, but it didn’t really capture my attention. This week’s episode, however, was a different story. Gregory’s interview with Kleon covers so many aspects of the creative life. They discuss Kleon’s system of journaling, working on paper versus digitally, and his thoughts on why so many people are trying to turn their art into a career. So interesting, and relatable to many artistic endeavors.

Unlike many podcasts, this one wasn’t streaming from the landing page, so I ended up listening on iTunes. When I finished, I went scouting for more things to listen to and came up with a handful of other recommendations. They’re all related to books and/or writing and creativity, and I’m bookmarking for future listening binges. I’m also adding them here to the rest of this week’s links. I hope you find something fun to check out over the weekend for a bit of reading and writing inspiration. Enjoy!

Online Listening Links:

Art for All. – The main page for Danny Gregory’s art-related podcast focusing on the creative life.

The Librarian Is In. – A fabulous podcast run by the New York Public Library, featuring two very entertaining hosts, frequent guests, and diverse book recommendations.

Overdue. – A podcast where the hosts finally get around to reading (and discussing) those books that have been lingering on their TBR lists way too long.

Other PPL with Brad Listi. – An old favorite of mine; one-on-one interviews with authors.

First Draft. – Another favorite. Interviews with young adult and middle grade authors.

Lit Up. – More great author interviews.

What Should I Read Next? – A book rec podcast run by Anne Bogel, of the popular blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy.

A Few Other Links:

Romance Bookstore The Ripped Bodice Poised to Bring the Genre to Television. – Announcing the store owners’ deal with Sony TV.

Bloomsbury Group’s Countryside Hub Opens to Visitors Year-Round. – In case you’re making literary travel plans…

23 Book Cover Designers to Follow on Instagram. – Pretty much what it says.

Regency Rendezvous: Inside the World of Jane Austen Fandom. – For diehard fans, a chance to step into the period.