Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween Everybody!

If your household is anything
like mine, Halloween is an eagerly anticipated event. Or, as my daughter likes to say, one of the best days of the year!

This might have something to do with the free candy.

In honor of that lovely little concept called treats, my publisher Grand Central - Forever is holding a Halloween twitter party today. Prizes include books by my esteemed colleagues and me. Yes, they will be giving away a copy of FIRELIGHT at around 1:00 -1:30 pm EST. So visit @ForeverRomance on twitter, hash mark #4evrHalloween, for chances to win some great stuff.

Also, I still have plenty of bookmarks and trading cards to giveaway (sorry, my ARC is gone, but one lucky person will find it in their mailbox soon!) Simply send me an email @ if you're interested.

In other news (yes, this is all very important news!) our lovely fellow forumite, Jo Bourne has a new book out tomorrow.

The Black Hawk is Jo's fourth book in her spymasters series, featuring the much beloved hero Adrian Hawker. I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been dying to read this story. If the Publisher's Weekly review below is anything to go by, we won't be disappointed.

The Black Hawk is a starred review at Publishers Weekly:

Bourne mixes heart-pounding mystery and romance in her spellbinding fourth Spymaster historical romantic thriller (after 2010’s The Forbidden Rose). From childhood, Adrian Hawker spied on France for England while Justine DeCabrillac gathered intelligence for the Police Sècrete. They were teens when they met in Paris in 1794, and as they grew up, their paths crossed often in a changing world. Sometimes they were on the same side, and sometimes they were opposed, but it was inevitable that they fall bittersweetly in love, knowing that any minute duty could take precedence over passion. Their tempestuous love affair unfolds in flashbacks, alternating with scenes from 1818 London, where somebody tries to kill Justine and frame Hawker, now head of the British Intelligence Service with as many enemies in England as in France. Just the right amount of intrigue makes this vivid romance a gripping page-turner.

Yum! I'm off to order now. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's A Job

According to Dictionary. com, a job is defined as such:


1 noun, verb, jobbed, job·bing, adjective
a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price: She gave him the job of mowing the lawn.
a post of employment; full-time or part-time position: She was seeking a job as an editor.
anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility: It is your job to be on time.
an affair, matter, occurrence, or state of affairs: to make the best of a bad job.
the material, project, assignment, etc., being worked upon: The housing project was a long and costly job.

Why, do you ask, am I putting up the definition of the word job? Well, because, as I see it, writing is first and foremost a job.

I know some will argue that writing shouldn't be seen in that way, that we should view it as a passion, or a craft, or perhaps a hobby. That is fine. But I'm not going to do that.

I once thought of writing as a passion, something that I did for fun. And I ended up nothing truly productive with my work. Sure I wrote every day, or very near to it, but I diddled, dawdled, and all around procrastinated with my writing. Nothing every got done. It just got rewritten. Over. And. Over. Again.

But once I saw it as a job? Well, I have responsibilities now, don't I? I'm obliged to finish. Expected to. It is my duty to write a book, not just play about with endless storylines.

It's easier now, because someone actually does pay me to write. I have deadlines, checks and balances that keep me from running amok in the monkey house. But even before I was published, even before I had an agent, I shifted my way of thinking. I became both employer and employee. Because I needed to know within myself that this thing called writing wasn't just a whim. It wasn't just something I tinkered about with. It was serious. It was real.

It was a job.

In the very best sense of the word! :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Voice Or Plot ... Which One Does It For You?

 Confession time: I love my Twitter feed. I really do. It throws so many great, thought-provoking links my way, every day, which sit there in a nice, chronological order, ready for me to devour. The only trouble is that I just don’t have time enough to get to them all    but one link I’m glad I took the time to follow came to me this week via @Text Publishing: an article by Gaby Wood on her experience of being one of this year’s Man Booker Prize judges.

(For those not in the know, the 2011 prize winner was announced last week as The Sense Of An Ending, by Julian Barnes.)

It’s a very interesting article (who knew so much work went into the judging? One hundred and thirty-eight novels, read in seven months! The mind boggles … and then melts) but I was particularly intrigued by this discovery Wood made during her reading journey:-

What struck me most, though, was how much I learnt about my own taste. I was swayed by voice over plot and by sentence over structure. (Of course, in the best cases one didn’t have to choose.)

(We all know what she means by voice - an author’s own style, that particular way of constructing sentences and arranging paragraphs and choice of words that uniquely conveys an author’s personality, or that of their characters, and makes their work instantly recognisable and one of a kind.)

Her comment made me think how highly individual and subjective this choice is, this preference for voice over plot – and vice versa. Many people can happily devour a book that lacks a great voice for the sake of its plot (flogging a dead horse here, but Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code springs to mind) whilst others will only put up with a so-so plot if it’s coupled with a dazzling voice.

I’m not sure where I sit. At the moment, I’m reading Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 for my book club, and at eight chapters in I’d have to say that the plot is nebulous, at best … but the voice! It’s fresh, crazy, totally unique and draws me right in so that I just have to keep reading.  But then again … I’ve adored the voice in many other books, yet have nevertheless set them aside, unfinished, when the plots have become a little boggy.  Carol Carr’s India Black is an example. I’ll give you a little taste of her voice … this is from the preface :-

My name is India Black. I am a whore.

If these words made you blush, if your hand fluttered to your cheek or you harrumphed disapprovingly into your beard, then you should return this volume to the shelf, cast a cold glance at the proprietor as you leave, and hasten home feeling proper and virtuous. You can go to Evensong tonight with a clear conscience. 

However, if my admission caused a frisson of excitement in your drab world, if you felt a stirring in your trousers or beneath your skirts, then I must caution you that you will be disappointed in the story contained in this volume. No doubt you’re hoping to read in these pages the narrative of a young woman’s schooling in the arts of love or perhaps a detailed description of some of my more memorable artistic performances. As for the former, there’s enough of that kind of shoddy chronicle available, most of it written by men masquerading as “Maggie” or “Eunice,” and therefore not only fictitious but asinine to boot. As for the latter, I’d be the first to admit that I was a tireless entertainer in the boudoir, but that’s another story for another time and will cost you more money than this volume when I get around to writing it down.

How’s that for a strong, individual and intriguing voice, right out the gates? It continues like this throughout the book … so why couldn't I finish? Well, I think the answer lies in where I set this book down - and I’m talking physically. See, it’s still on my bedside table, beneath four or five other novels, which means that subconsciously, I've decided I won't abandon it. It’s not been consigned to the “not to be finished/life is too short for this rubbish,” pile in the corner of my study. So yes, while a bit of sagging in the plot has caused me to turn aside for now, it’s not a permanent state of affairs. This is a book I will pick up again, and finish. And that’s all down to the lure of the voice.

So in the end, for me, I guess voice does win over plot. But as Gaby Wood points out, the very best books do both plot and voice brilliantly ... and that's something for us all to shoot for, isn't it?

Which wins out for you  - plot or voice? And if you were ever tapped on the shoulder to be a Man Booker judge, would you accept? I think I would have to say yes … then make sure I booked me a nice padded cell in which to recover after the event – no books allowed!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let it Begin!

Just one quick bit of business before I get to my post. You still have time to enter the contest to win 1 of 2 paperback editions of BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT. For contest details, please click on the handy dandy cover in the sidebar.. You have until October 31st at 6PM CST to enter! Enter as many times as you like. :)

This past week has been a whirlwind. Literally. Last weekend I was frantically trying to get my book formatted to make it's way through the Meatgrinder over at Smashwords (it converts your book into all of the various formats for the different distributors)... Once that was completed, I began work on the print copy... All the while, I was desperately trying to cope with the nerves of knowing my book was Out There. Within the grasp of so many readers... Holy heck. I've been a wreck.

It's been a mix of emotions. Overwhelming anxiety over whether or not people will enjoy it. The extreme highs of hearing that a particular reader did... Hearing that they're eagerly anticipating book 2. EEEEE. Boy is that exciting to hear! A girl could get used to hearing that kind of stuff, I tell ya.


There's also been a sense of restlessness underlying it all. And I think I've finally managed to pinpoint what that is. You see, for the first time--ever--I'm going to be able to close a chapter on one of my books. There's no more questioning whether or not I should change this or more second guessing whether I've got it just right. It is. It simply IS, now. Once I give the final approval for the paperback, I'm going to be able to move on to another project.

Good gawd, y'all. This is an exciting moment for me!

On deck? WALKING IN SHADOW (Book Two of the Moonlight series)

I'm signing up for NaNoWriMo and plan on knocking out as much of this book as I possibly can. I've got a good chunk written, but much of the book is still knocking around inside my head. I don't know _exactly_ what's going to happen (pantster, here), but I have a general idea of where I want it to go. I.E. Where I want it to end, because YES...there will be a third book. Maybe more. You just never know. This WAS supposed to be one book in the beginning. (ha)

Anyway, I am so geared up to begin. To stretch my writing muscles with something new. It's scary and exciting, all wrapped up in one. But finishing BTPM--finally finishing, makes me believe I can do it again. YAY.

Next Tuesday, hurry up! :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sisters and brothers

Sibling relationships- for those of us who have them, they can be one of the earliest learning grounds in our lives for conflict, natural justice, and emotions, both positive and negative.
I just finished reading 2011 Booker Prize short-listed novel The Sisters Brothers, and while there were many things I didn't enjoy about the novel, I think the thing that kept me hooked and reading was the relationship between the two brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters. I have a brother of my own, no sisters, and ours has not been what you could call a harmonious relationship. And yet there are times where we've each needed an ally, and we've always known we could turn to each other.

Because of that, I could really identify with some aspects of the relationship between the Sisters brothers, two hired gun assassins in the old West who have a marked disregard for human life in general, but would do just about anything for each other, thanks to love, obligation, and all those other things that make up sibling relationships.

My own novel is driven by the core relationship between brothers Bill and Len, looking at the other side of the coin- a situation where the one person Bill should be able to trust screws him over and wrecks his life. How do you come back from a trust that broken? How do you even get to that place in the first instance? Exploring those dynamics never gets old for me. When I put those characters together, all kinds of things evolve. Like a fingerprint, no sibling relationship is just like any other, which I think is why they make for such fertile fictional fodder.

Not having had any sisters of my own, that dynamic is a little more foreign to me, though of course I know what it's like to *be* a sister myself, at least to a brother. Several authors I know write brilliant sisterly relationships- when Kristen's Firelight is released in February next year, you'll get to meet a trio of feisty ladies who make me wish I had my own girl gang (as opposed to wishing I was an only child, something my brother prompted me to do many times over the years).

And next year, I get to observe what happens when my own daughter becomes a sister, to a little brother, no less, and I'm sure that dynamic will be absolutely fascinating as well.

Siblings. Do you have them, or are you an only child? Do the good and bad parts of being a brother or a sister worm their way into your fiction, directly or indirectly? And who are your favourite fictional siblings?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear

Recently I was challenged to imagine that my hero is dying and to think what I might say to him. It was part of a series of thought-provoking exercises over at the Books & Writers Forum. The exercises were designed to get writers thinking about their characters in new ways. Kill my hero? Imagine him gone?

I couldn’t do it. As my mind roamed the possible ways Nathan Rivers might die and what I, his creator, might say to him before I committed him to eternal darkness, I was seized with grief.

This reaction came as a shock to me and I’m still thinking about it. Namely, I’m concerned that I’m too close to my character. Like the warning stenciled into every car mirror: objects are closer than they appear -- my own little rear-view mirror is mocking me: characters are closer than they appear. They’ve snuck into the very fabric of my being. They dodge my footsteps and shadow me during the day. Is that healthy or somewhat mental? (Okay, we all know writers are a little… crazy.)

The reality of a writer’s life is that we devote hours to shaping our characters. We spend intense stretches of time in which we feel what they feel. We struggle with them, cry with them, rejoice with them. We live with our characters - some of us longer than others. (In my case the bones of my story are 30-odd years old.) Is it any wonder that we become attached to our characters? That we identify with them so easily?

I know I’m not alone with this and I searched the internet to see what others have written about author attachment to characters. (Just to confirm that no, I’m not as nutty as I suspected. And happily, I’m not! Either that, or I’m just in good company.)

Jeff Bennington, a writer of thrillers, has noticed the phenomenon in his own writer's life. He calls it the Law of Attachment. (My disorder has a name even!) The Law of Attachment is this: a reader will relate to the people in a story to the degree that the author has grown attached to those people.

Brilliantly simple. If I don’t feel anything for the people I create, how will the reader ever care?

I’m no longer worried that I can’t kill my hero. My challenge now is to translate my deep feelings for him to the page so that others might feel the same way. And that, my readers, is another blog topic.

How do you feel about your characters? Are they flesh and blood and bone to you? Do you think it's necessary to have the Law of Attachment in effect to have a great story and to reach readers?

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I was going to write a post about writer responsibility -namely, owning what you say in a public forum, and creating the best damn product you can for your readers.


It's my birthday, and not only am I goofing off all day, I'm feeling quite happy. So instead, I'm going to talk swag. Mainly, my swag. *gg* As in, I haz it, if you want it. :D

So if you'd like any trading cards or bookmarks (such as these) contact me at

This is not a contest. However, I do have some other goodies...cough...Firelight ARCs...cough...sample books, so the first twelve or so requests will find their mail padded with something extra.

Next week, I'll fall back to writing about serious stuff. Well, mostly serious stuff, anyway!

ETA: don't forget to add your address along with your request! :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Are You Suffering From A Dose Of The "If Onlies"?

Well I’m back after my brief blogging hiatus, which some of you might recall was caused by the fact I was racing to get the revisions/rewrites of my WIP done before my kids started school holidays. 

Sadly, I have to report a fail on that front. :-(  Kids were sick, kids had a bazillion school plays and exhibitions and parades and so forth, family located overseas came home for a visit ... you know the drill. And although I've had a very enjoyable few weeks, my keyboard time got zapped and I didn’t make my deadline.

This has resulted in a certain amount of frustration on my part, and very nearly sent me into a downward spiral of the “if onlies” … you know, those times when you sit and moan into your glass of shiraz about how you would certainly, definitely, get your novel written  - “if only.” 

If only I had a better computer. If only I had a little cottage by a lake in which to write. If only I could quit my day job.

My personal “if onlies” range from “if only I had a clone,” to “if only people would quit interrupting me!” and “if only I could writer faster”…. and sometimes, on those dark days, “if only I had a damn clue about writing.”

But the “if only” I seem to repeat the most is, “if only I had more time.”

Now, perhaps there is a grain of truth in that one. Maybe I would get more done with more time. But after recently watching a repeat episode of one of my favourite TV shows, Grand Designs, I think that leaning on the “if onlies” as an excuse for not achieving what we want is a dicey matter.

For those of you not in the know, Grand Designs is a British production in which the host, Kevin McCloud, follows families and couples as they try to renovate or build the homes of their dreams. I ADORE this show – I think I was an architect or interior designer in a past life – and love the high drama involved in each episode: will they/won’t they come in on budget? Will the house constructed of used tyres in the French countryside end up looking rubbish? Will the husband and wife who can't agree on a single thing be divorced by the end of it all?

Anyway … the episode in question revisited an English couple who, in an earlier episode, had built their dream home for themselves and their daughter in Creuse, France. The wife was an aromatherapist, and the husband was a writer who made a crust writing technical manuals. He was convinced – absolutely convinced – that “if only” he had the perfect creative environment in this new house, he’d be able to churn out the novel he’d always wanted to write.

His writing zone turned out beautifully, a quite study set on a mezzanine level with gorgeous, uninterrupted views of the French countryside. To die for, really.

Well, seven years later, the Grand Designs team returned to see how the house, and life in it, had turned out for the family. They were still there; the wife’s aromatherapy business was thriving; but the husband? Well, yes, he’d written a book in that time, and it had been published. But it was a non-fiction book … on how to build a house in rural France.

The novel? Not a whiff of it.

Now, kudos to him for writing and publishing any book at all. But it seems to me that having his “if only” wish granted hadn’t turned out to be the magic fix he thought it would be.  That perhaps there were other reasons why he just couldn’t get that novel written.

Hence, my wariness of attributing my failure to get my draft revised – in fact, to get my novel written, period - to my “if onlies”. And I think it would behoove me to think long and hard about it all …

So, for those of you struggling to complete your book, or to find an agent, or to sell your work, what are your “if onlies”? And if your “if only” wish was granted, do you think it would make a difference?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And The Winners Are...



Coleen Patrick!!!

YAY, congrats, Ladies!

Please email me at jnhendren at yahoo dot com, letting me know which digital format you would like. Nook, Kindle, or any of those listed on Smashwords.

Didn't win? That's okay. All entries roll over to the paperback editions I'll give away on Halloween night! Just as a reminder, here are the contest rules:

There are many, many ways you can enter:

1. Blog/Facebook/Tweet, etc. about the contest, providing a link to this post (or the twin post over at Random Thoughts). You can earn yourself one entry for every time you do this. Go wild. :)

2. Embed my book trailer, found HERE, in on your blog/Facebook/Twitter.

3. Post a comment here, telling me what YOU love about young adult books. If you've never read one, that's okay--it's never too late to start. :)

4. This pertains more to the second leg of the contest, but if you post a book review of By the Pale Moonlight before Halloween, you will be entered into the drawing for a paperback.

5. And this one is just for fun. The full moon is this Wednesday, the 12th. If you snap a photo of it from wherever in the world you are and send me the link, you can be entered yet again. (The full moon has passed, but feel free to snap a picture of the moon any night from now until all counts.)

Last step is posting here or at RT, telling me what you've done to enter. Please post links--I promise to check out each and every one. :)

Again, congrats Gretchen and Coleen! :)

By the Pale Moonlight Now Available!!

It's here! It's here! :)

Barnes and Noble

If you don't have an eReader and would like to purchase a copy, never fear. All of these sites have free eReaders that you can download to your PC or smart phone. If you have any trouble, just let me know. Thanks!

I'll be announcing other distributors as they come available. And soon, very soon..the paperback editions will be available!

Go forth and spread the word. :)

And it's not too late to enter into the CONTEST to win one of two free digital copies. You have until 6PM TONIGHT. At that time, I'll announce the winners... Never fear, though. All entries roll over into the next leg--winners to be announced on Halloween night. At that time, I'll be giving away two copies of the paperback edition. So JOIN NOW. Enter as many times as you can. :)

WHOOT!!! :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's a small world after all

I've been involved in online communities of various kinds for the better part of two decades now, and the one thing that always strikes me is what a small world we really live in. Not so much the coincidences of who knows who and who lives where, but just the camaraderie possible between people from all walks of life, from all over the globe, when united by a common interest or goal.

Last November was my first NaNoWriMo experience, and although I was already well aware of the joys of networking online with other writers, discovering the forums there was one of my favourite bits of the whole month.

Being part of my local region's group is an unusual experience for me- it carries all the benefits of the CompuServe forum (and other group hangouts); a sense of community, a sense of shared enthusiasm and drive, a supportive environment. But it's also very unique in that (almost) everyone in the group actually *is* geographically local to me. For someone who's only attended a couple of local writing courses and hasn't quite managed the step of connecting with other local writers in person, it's a bit of a revelation to discover so many others so nearby who are all working on the same kind of goal at the same kind time, with the differences in things like backgrounds, experiences and genres of choice contributing great variety.

I'm a very socially confident person, but going along to the pre-NaNo meet up last year was a bit nerve-wracking even for me. Knowing that you're going to meet a big group of people who *are* in theory just like you is actually weirdly intimidating. What if it's not all you hope for? What if you're the only one who doesn't quite fit in?

I'll just say for anyone who isn't sure whether they should go along to their local meet-ups or write-ins during NaNo- it's worth it. You discover that it's *not* quite what you expected, and that you *don't* quite fit in- but nobody does. Everyone is working toward such individual goals, and the thing that brings you together and helps you get along is the shared enthusiasm for this experience.

That enthusiasm can roll on for months after NaNo, as can the friendships you develop. You can get most of the same perks from joining up to a local writers group at any other time of the year, but there's something very different about November and the time limit (and word count) we're all set.

Anyway! My point being, there's no such thing as too young or too old, too inexperienced or too jaded, right genre or wrong genre, whether you're online or in person. As humans, we just know our own kind when we meet them- and if you're a writer, don't worry. You belong.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

By the Pale Moonlight Giveaway!!

It's here. IT'S REALLY HERE!!

By The Pale Moonlight has finally arrived!

The official release date: October 18th, 2011!

Digital downloads will be available from Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Amazon, with print copies to follow soon after. (I will post all necessary links once things go live.)

I can't tell you how excited I am for this moment. To give you a little history, I wrote this book back in my law school days. In fact, I believe I started it when I should have been studying for mid-terms... OOPS. (Don't tell my old profs.)

At the time, I had my first novel, FAKING IT, out on submission with agents, and BTPM was a way of taking my mind off the process. As they say, when you're worried about one project, throw yourself into another. And that's exactly what I did. I pounded out a major chunk of the book in November and completed it that spring. All in all, I finished the first draft of the book in about three weeks (total). What can I say? It came to me fast and furious when I actually had time to work on it. :)

To put it simply: Writing Young Adult had me at hello.

There's something so compelling and immediate about the world of teenagers. While I love writing for adults, there will always be a special place in my heart for YA. It's my first love.

So, there I was with a finished book...that was what...four years ago? Longer? (Where does the time go?) Yes, it's been a long time between the finished first draft and today. What can I say? Real life has a way of throwing a lot of obstacles in the road, and for one reason or another, BTPM kept being put on the back burner.

It was always there, though...and I knew without a doubt that it should be shared with the world. And earlier this year, I decided to do exactly that. So, to help celebrate this moment, I've decided to do a GIVEAWAY!!

*You get a book, you get a book, and YOU get a book!!*

Here's how it works:

There are two legs to this contest:

On the official release date, October 18th, I will giveaway TWO digital copies of By the Pale Moonlight--your choice of format. If you don't win, NEVER fear.. all entries will roll over to the next drawing, which will take place on:

Halloween, when I will giveaway TWO paperback editions.

There are many, many ways you can enter:

1. Blog/Facebook/Tweet, etc. about the contest, providing a link to this post (or the twin post over at Random Thoughts). You can earn yourself one entry for every time you do this. Go wild. :)

2. Embed my book trailer, found HERE, in on your blog/Facebook/Twitter.

3. Post a comment here, telling me what YOU love about young adult books. If you've never read one, that's okay--it's never too late to start. :)

4. This pertains more to the second leg of the contest, but if you post a book review of By the Pale Moonlight before Halloween, you will be entered into the drawing for a paperback.

5. And this one is just for fun. The full moon is this Wednesday, the 12th. If you snap a photo of it from wherever in the world you are and send me the link, you can be entered yet again.

Last step is posting here or at RT, telling me what you've done to enter. Please post links--I promise to check out each and every one. :)

I can't tell you how excited I am for Tuesday to get here. And nervous. I really hope you love my characters and story as much I do. :)

Thank you all, and good luck!!

And if you have no clue what book I've been going on about, check out the trailer...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

(This year's badge not available yet!)

It's almost that time of year again- NaNoWriMo! For the 30 days of November, hundreds of thousands of busy little scribblers around the world will sit down at their computers (and some at their notepads) and attempt to complete 50,000 words of novel.

Last year was the first NaNo for most of the ATWOP girls, but we all jumped in and had a blast. Check out our many November blog posts to see how we went about our writing tasks, and you may come away with some useful insights.

One year after NaNo, I have a pretty clear view on what went well, and what didn't go so well for me, and I'm planning on learning from that before I so much as touch my keyboard in 2011.

The good

From the first day of November, I magically developed something I'd been lacking for a while- focus! I signed up for NaNo, I had a little publically visible word counter on the right there, and more than thirty of my writing buddies were in the chase with me- this time, it wasn't just myself I might be letting down if I didn't get those words on the page, and the strength of that accountability gave me the kick in the rear I'd been needing.

This year, I'm very much hoping the same will be true.

My writing speed has never been a problem when my focus is engaged, but actually finding the time to get those words down has been a challenge for me since my daughter arrived three years ago. It's no doubt going to be an even bigger challenge when her new baby brother rocks along early next year, so I see this as a chance to remind myself- no matter how busy you *think* you are, you can *always* find some time to write. It just comes back to focus.

Focus, and joy. NaNo brought me back a little bit of joy that had leached out of my writing. It came back because I was writing without worrying, and I was writing good stuff without letting my inner critic get in the way, and it was great to see what I was capable of when I let go of all the stress and just did it. I smiled for the whole month of November, or at least right up to the day where my child vomited on my laptop. I didn't smile much then. No repeats of that planned this year!

I went along to the pre-NaNo meetup and one of the write-ins for my local group last year, and I had a blast getting to know other writers from my area. I've never joined a local writing group, and all my writing buddies have been found in international writers' communities online, but there was something really special about connecting with others in my area at a time like that- we all had the same goals, and we all had the same excitement and love for our stories. It was infectious, crazy and fun. I can't wait to catch up with them all again this year- so from experience, I highly recommend you check out your local NaNo group on the NaNo forums (due to be relaunched on Monday).

The bad- a cautionary tale...

The speed of NaNo was great for so many reasons- the enthusiasm, the drive, the proof that fast words can be good words- but it was terrible for one very big thing, and that was perspective.

I decided to go into NaNo last year with my existing novel, Between the Lines, and I started with a new plot twist I'd been wanting to try out. I figured hey, what was the harm? I could always erase my 50,000 words at the end of NaNo if they didn't work, and it was a no-loss proposition- only a month of work, and I'd have learned something important by seeing what *didn't* fit the story.

But it didn't work like that. I wrote furiously from my new plot twist, and the story unfolded in amazing ways. Some of the writing was absolutely stunning; some of the scenes had me (and others) bawling. There was genuinely awesome stuff in there.

Ultimately, though, none of it was right. The original plot twist was the problem, and everything from that point onward took me down a rabbit hole with a dead end.

And pressing delete, unfortunately, turned out not to be that easy. I got myself well and truly lost down the rabbit warren, with no way out. Because tangled in with the not-right stuff was some very interesting character stuff that couldn't be ignored. It changed my perspective on the original story too much for me to go back to what it had been.

One year later, I've finally got a solid idea of how to pull it back, and all I need now is the motivation, focus and time to get it rewritten. But am I going to get that from NaNo?

Oh, hell no.

No way am I taking an existing story in this year. I concede, after all my protests last year that It Could Be Done, that it's not very easy to do at all. I'm not saying it's impossible; I'm pretty sure there must be a lot of writers out there who do manage to use November to do great things in existing works.

But for me, what I lacked was the ability to slow down, stop, and think about where I was going, and what it all meant. I need that when I'm into my third/ fourth draft. My first? Not so much- I'm free to write whatever I like, and that unfettered creativity is a great thing. I'm looking forward to it this year, especially because I feel like it's going to heal some gaping confidence wounds that came up after last year's unrecoverable mistakes. But never again will I use an existing work in NaNo, because one month of furious effort bought me one year of total stall, and it's not worth it.

Are you doing NaNo this year? Have you done it before? And if you have, what have you learned from your past experiences?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Reading Glom - Author Patterns

Wash, rinse, repeat...

Have you ever found a new author and suddenly you are in love? Suddenly, you want to read everything they've put out. So you go on a glom. You inhale every book -or near to it. Or perhaps this is a debut author, so you grab each new book as soon as it hits the shelves. And then you realize something.

The author is telling the same story. Over. And over. Again.


The author has fallen into a plot holding pattern. Everything is basically the same. Same plot structure, same heroes and heroines hiding beneath different clothes. The strange thing is that if you read one book on it's own, it would be awesomesauce on a spoon. It's only when you read them in a glom that you notice this.

It's a strange predicament for me as a reader, because I still find myself loving the individual books, and the writer's style, and yet I'm left feeling somewhat dubious about this author. Will she do this all the time? Will the next book be that same? Likely.

As a writer, it gives me a bit of the willies. Will I do the same? Are my books going to be carbon copies of the older ones?

Similarities and themes can be expected. Writers tend to have certain themes and issues that call to them. And when one writes genre fiction, one definitely follows preconceived plot structures -to an extent. Murders will be solved in mysteries, bad guys will be confronted in thrillers, and the girl will get the guy in romances. Even so, how do we avoid falling into a plot holding pattern?

Because I have to believe that this is mainly a subconscious action on the writer's part.

I don't really have the answers. I suspect awareness is the first step. Vigilance is key. But there is also something else to consider. When an author gets to the point of publication, she learns that she is not just a writer, but a brand.

Selling books is a business. The author is the brand. She has to be to develop a fan base. Readers must recognize her, and know what to expect. This creates brand loyalty. So there is somewhat of a double-edged sword going on here. Veer too far off your path and readers feel betrayed; where is the story style they've come to respect? Stay too close in your plot comfort zone and you've got an endless repeat.

No doubt about it, we authors walk along a rocky road. One that can easily make us fall.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I'm running a little late today--sorry about that. I'm super busy trying to get BTPM to go live in (eeeee) two weeks. It's exciting but oh so scary to think about my book being in the hands of readers in such a short time. Yeeeikes. Amazon reviewers..please be kind. ;)

Anyway -- I've been busily blogging over at Random Thoughts.

I've discussed the stigma of self-publishing, here: I'm Legits, Yo!

And the making of my book cover, here: Cover Talk!

If you haven't seen it 'tis. :)

Yay. I really need the next two weeks to speed by quickly. :)

Anyway--in the course of preparing for publication, I set out to do some cross-promotion with other YA authors. I've been reading a lot of YA. A lot a lot a lot. (g) Of course, time is running low and I'm having to start cutting myself off with the sample chapters that Amazon will let you download for free. It gives me a chance to get a little taste of what the writing is like, etc..whether or not it can snare me in the few pages I'm able to read. I told myself: if they can get me with the sample, I'll buy the book and read the whole she-bang.

Unfortunately, that hasn't really happened yet. Sigh.

I'll admit, I'm a cover to cover kind of girl--no matter how bad a book may be. I think I have this all encompassing hope that SOMETHING redeeming will spring forth from the page to save my reading experience. Needless to say, that usually isn't the case and I often times find myself disgusted with the number of hours I wasted on a book I didn't like.

So...I'm finding myself wanting to buy these books despite the fact that the sample pages aren't grabbing me. EEE. LOL. How weird is that? But I keep thinking, maybe it gets REALLY good during the next chapter. Maybe the writing will smooth out, I mean, openings are difficult... we all know that, right? So maybe it's unfair of me to make such a snap judgment based on so little.

Head. Desk.

Is anyone else like this? Is there a name for this ailment? I-must-finish-what-I-start-itis perhaps? And how long do you give a book before calling it a day?

Just wondering.

At any rate, my search for promotion partners in crime continues. I'm keeping the faith! LOL. Until next week!