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November 2012

‘My Bookstore’ and Signing with Carrie Ryan

On the 19th (it was a Monday night, a dark and chilly Monday night) I ventured into another part of Charlotte to visit Park Road Books, a gem of an indie bookstore in the QC. They’d chosen local author Carrie Ryan to represent them in My Bookstore, a collection of thoughts by authors on independent shops and their local haunts.

“My Bookstore “collects the essays, stories, odes and words of gratitude and praise for stores across the country in 81 pieces written by our most beloved authors. It’s a joyful, industry-wide celebration of our bricks-and-mortar stores and a clarion call to readers everywhere at a time when the value and importance of these stores should be shouted from the rooftops…” Source.

I was glad I made it to the signing. Not only did I get to ask the adorable Carrie Ryan a few questions and hear her success story on making homemade fake zombie flesh, but I got to see fellow CRW-er Ann B. Stewart and, well, there was wine. I can’t say no to wine. If there’s wine, it becomes a book signing partay~!

If you’re not familiar with Carrie Ryan’s work… well, first you should be ashamed of yourself. Are you ashamed yet? I want to be sure you truly ruminate on the travesty you’ve committed.

Alrighty, I believe you understand your crime and will strive to atone in the future.

Carrie Ryan is the fantabalous author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves, The Dark and Hollow Places, many juicy contributions to anthologies, and much more. She’s also the editor of Foretold, a new anthology with an ‘end of days’ theme.

I’m NOT saying I have a giant fangirl crush on this woman, but dot dot dot. You shouldn’t judge me! If you’d met her (ermagerd her awesome boots) and read her work, then you’d want to plop down on a yoga mat, burn some incense, and learn the ways of the writer from her too.

But since Park Road Books had no spare mats and discouraged burning things around their inventory, I asked Miss Ryan a few questions. They must’ve been coherent even with the wine because I got back answers! Ha. Score.

D: What was it like editing an anthology? Was balancing writing and editing a challenge?

C: It was actually a lot of fun because you get to read all of these stories before anyone else does. I had no idea what people were going to write. I made the topic really broad. I wanted them to be able to come at it with anything… from any angle at all. Every time a new story came in it was a treasure. [Excited explanation of Meg Cabot’s story about interviews done after an alien invasion.] I remember when I got the email from Meg Cabot accepting the invitation.

D: Oh yeah, I’d drop everything to read an email from MEG CABOT.

C: I was at a rest stop when I got it and ran in screaming, ‘I GOT AN EMAIL FROM MEG CABOT.’

D: Oh the fangirl moments we’re glad no one has seen… [Insert me thinking of my many, many, many public fangirling episodes.]

C: A lot of the stories didn’t need editing. Maybe one where I questioned one word choice, but that was about it. They came in strong.

 

D: What inspired you to put the project together?

C: Actually my editor suggested doing an anthology and I really liked the idea, of working with other authors. I love the community and working with other authors in the community. It was fun making the list and when I sat down with my editor and agent, I had this big list of all of these possible authors. We didn’t just want one note. We were trying to bring in diversity and find a balance.

 

D: Do you prefer the in-person networking with authors or social media like Facebook and Twitter?

C: I think it’s different. When you sit down and talk to authors face-to-face or anybody face-to-face, it’s a little bit easier to get a better connection. You’re able to ask questions you may not feel comfortable putting into writing or answering in writing. I feel like that’s where you really establish connections whereas social media allows you to maintain them. There are people I only see two or three times a year… Twitter is a great way of keeping tabs. ‘What’s going on in your life?’ …They both serve a different purpose.

 

D: Last question. [I’d been dying to ask this one all night.] What brand of makeup do you use? You’re makeup is gorgeous!

C: Are you kidding me? Thank you! It’s a Chanel powder. Funny story actually. I saw a picture of myself six years ago and I was wearing the same powder. Told my husband I needed to start using it again because my skin looked really good. ‘That,’ he said, ‘and you were six years younger.’

I’m pretty sure we only have husbands, boyfriends, and significant others around to keep us humble. For some reason that seems to be a vital contribution or our writer egos would swell up. Mhm. Sure.

So, readers, do you have a favorite local bookstore or even a coffeeshop or favorite place to write? 

You can visit Carrie Ryan on her website and get updates on new projects by following her @carrieryan. If you want more information on My Bookstore, Bookselling This Week did a nice little blog post and has the full list of contributors.

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Unplugging

“For tomorrow I know all those Who girls and boys will wake bright and early.
They’ll rush for their toys and then, oh the noise! Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!
There’s one thing I hate: all the noise, noise, noise, noise!”
–The Grinch from the movie adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

I love social media, but occasionally I admit I agree with the Grinch. The endless stream of chatter is a lot to take in when combined with the constant rumble of the fictional voices in all of our heads.

I spent Thanksgiving with my family in the mountains. Arriving well prepared, I unloaded my laptop, phone and wifi hotspot from the car. I was ready for the holiday! My plan was to write a little every day, tweet my hopefully amusing turkey cooking updates and post to Facebook heart-felt holiday wishes to all of my friends. However, every morning I got up and looked at my laptop, propped against the wall in the corner of the bedroom still zipped inside the case, and walked past it on the way to get a cup of coffee. I glanced at my phone once as I grabbed my sunglasses from my purse to go for an afternoon walk; and I moved the hotspot to make room for pies on the kitchen counter.

I hadn’t intended on taking a break, unplugging from everything and sitting my phone down, but I think sometimes your mind knows when it needs quiet time.

Normally, I would have been frustrated with my lack of efficiency with social media and with no forward progress on writing, but this holiday weekend I needed a break. No guilt allowed. Writing requires focus and I could feel mine slipping from being spread too thin across social media as well as in real life. Today, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle words and a few tweets. Even as I write this, my fingers feel re-energized, ready to pound out the end of my wip. My mind is buzzing with ideas, wanting to make it onto paper. I miss my Twitter friends and I want to know what’s going on in the world again. Unplugging successful! And in the process I managed to pull off Thanksgiving dinner and catch up with family. I hope all of you bad girl writers of the world had a fabulous holiday!

Do you ever feel the need to unplug to escape the noise, noise, noise, noise?

xx – E. Michels

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Dar’s News From The Front Lines: It’s… #PitchWars!

*stands to attention* Sgt. Dar reporting for debriefing, SIR!

(…Or would I be a Private First Class? Maybe a Specialist? …I’m not sure if Sergeant is the appropriate ranking for me on this blog. I don’t do nearly enough work and- blog post? What blog post? Oh. Blog post. Right.)

“We’re extremely excited to announce an upcoming event where agented authors, industry interns, and editors team up with aspiring writers to shine up their manuscripts and pitches to present to some awesome agents.

Here’s the deets…
·        The teams will consist of 1 agented author or industry intern or editor (coaches) and 1 aspiring author.
·        November 26: The coaches (listed on the linky below) will post on their blogs what genre/category they want to coach. They’ll be very specific genres. Aspiring writers will hop around and decide which coaches best fit their manuscripts.
·        December 5: Aspiring writers will submit 3 “applications” to their top choices for coaches to the contest email (brendadrakecontests@gmail.com) during the allotted times (8AM to 8PM EST). That means, participants will send three separate emails to the contest email addressing each with one of their three top choices for coach…”

There’s more! Read full details on Brenda Drake’s blog post.

With the popularity of second-gen talent shows like The Voice and X Factor (feel like I must mention more than one, even though Xtina tops crazy-phace Brit Brit, sorry) it’s easy to see where the inspiration for this awesome event came from and the wild success in its future. Or the wild success I’m hoping it has and helping it out by spreading the word. I know so many talented, hard-working writers (cough cough great minds cough cough) who are still unagented.

While there are many great YA authors involved, the event is open to all ages and all genres. The announcement for what mentors are looking for is happening on November 26th, but they’ve been giving hints on the #pitchwars hashtag. Stalking the hashtag is the best way to get up to date information and meet all the cool peeps involved.

[Warning: Dar’s Soapbox Alert] For those reluctant to get involved with the writer community on Twitter… Need any more convincing than this event? Twitter is an amazing tool for writers, breaking down barriers and new ground in strides. Everyone needs to find what works for them, but I’m a fan of Twitter and its versatility.

Entering also gives you a chance to interact with new writers outside of your usual circle. Writers who know people who know more people who know even more people. In this industry (and this applies outside of publishing as well) networking is crucial to a successful, healthy career.

By saying that, I do not mean using people for all you can get. When I meet someone and develop a relationship with them, when we are like-minded and get along really well, I want to help them and put resources in their hands to help them succeed. This attitude, hopefully, doesn’t end with personal success.

“My idea of good company…is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.’
‘You are mistaken,’ said he gently, ‘that is not good company, that is the best.” – Jane Austen, Persuasion

Quoting Jane Austen was totally necessary. Totes. [/end Dar’s Soapbox]

For easy stalking, I mean, following on the #PitchWars updates, check out the hashtag or subscribe to my handy Twitter list of all the #PitchWars mentors.

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Turkey, Writing, and Santa Claus

I’m sure you’ve heard this old cliché, “It seems the older I get, the faster time flies.” I’m finding the old aphorism to be very true. It seems like yesterday it was the end of August and my son was starting his first day of his last year of middle school.  Then Halloween flew in and out of here like a witch on a 427 turbo broom.

In a few days it will be Thanksgiving — The official beginning of the Holiday Season. I’m not sure about you, but for me that magical time flashes by in the blink of an eye.  The next six weeks will be one big blur like it has been every year before it.

First there’s Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving for me means, packing, loading the car, traveling, unloading the car, visiting, cooking, baking, eating, visiting some more, packing up, loading the car and traveling home.

Then Christmas: First you pull boxes and boxes from the attic, clean, decorate, shop, wrap, shop, wrap some more, load up on groceries, hit the liquor store, cook, bake, go to holiday parties, have a holiday party, give presents, receive presents, clean up assorted wrapping paper from presents, and so on and so on. Excuse me for a second while I swipe an exhausted hand over my forehead.

Did you notice on my busy-busy list of things I’ll be doing in the next six weeks, writing wasn’t on it? I find during the holiday season, my writing takes a back seat. Actually it doesn’t even make the ride at all. On the third week of November my laptop gets tossed aside and left to collect dust until the first week of January.

Every year I swear it will be different. I say to myself, “If you want this writing career as much as you say you do, you won’t let it happen again.” I have edits to work on and submissions to get out. I have a new story that is banging around inside of my head begging to be plotted. As I sit here writing about all the things I still need to do I feel panic settling into my chest. I wanted to have all this done by now.

Where did the time go?

I’ve decided to hold myself accountable during the hustle and bustle this year. There will be no tossing of the laptop. I’ll need to work from now until New Years to get the things done I need to get done. Instead of working writing into the Holiday Season, I will need to work the Holiday Season into my writing schedule. This isn’t going to be easy, so wish me luck!

How about you?  Do you find yourself in the same Holiday quandary? Have any tips for me? I would love to hear them.

Remember to dream big!

Lori

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I’m Back!

“I’m back!” It’s a phrase I hear and say a lot as a writer. Do we mean we’ve returned from the grocery store? No, not for the purpose of this blog post—even though I did just return from the grocery store. *grins* What I’m referring to is: back to writing and back to putting a dent in the word count.

It seems like every few weeks real life rears its head and I’m forced to sit the writing down for a few days to be a wife, mother, daughter or friend. Every time this happens I become more and more anxious to get back to my writing the longer the time draws out. And every time, by the last day of my hiatus I’ve convinced myself not only that I can’t finish my work in progress, but I also can’t even string a sentence together. This is a ridiculous thought, but one that floats through my mind with equally ridiculous frequency. The thing is…I don’t think I’m the only one guilty of this writing break induced self-doubt.

Writers write. It’s more than what we do, it’s who we are.

This past week I sat my writing down to spend time with family visiting from Canada. By this weekend I was certain I would never write another word, which is unfortunate since I’m on a deadline. LOL. I was grumpy and blue for two days over the loss of my writing abilities. Then, just as it always does, something crazy and beyond belief happened: I had a few minutes to sit down in front of my computer and I wrote. Guess what? I’m back! While this surprises no one, it always manages to surprise me.

Why do we put ourselves through this, bad girl writers of the world?

I heard someone say once that Stephen King writes 2,000 words everyday even on Christmas and his birthday. To be honest, I wonder how he does that. Does he not have family? As the mom of a 4 year old, I don’t see how every day without exception is possible. And even if you don’t have a 4 year old like I do, there’s work and the holidays right around the corner. So, if we can’t realistically pull a Stephen King 365 days a year, how do we survive the writer self-doubt backlash? I’m going to vow here in this blog post to remember I can write even when I’m not writing. I don’t want to be “back” anymore when I was here the whole time.

How do you juggle writer life? I’d love to chat with you about it.

xx – E. Michels

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That Which Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen, Or Why Becoming a Better Editor Sometimes Stinks

Like a lot of writers, I was a reader first. I love getting lost in books, love discovering new characters and escaping into different worlds. The problem is, the better I get at writing, the worse I get at reading.

Why?

Because I can’t stop seeing sloppy editing.

Unnecessary ‘that’s! Distancing words! Shallow POV! Head-hopping! Random tense changes! Wandering body parts! Inappropriate epithets! All of them make my skin crawl. Worst of all, they keep me from getting immersed in a poorly edited book.

These days, I spend so much time looking for these nitpicky little problems in my own writing and trying to ferret them out in my critique partners’ manuscripts that I can’t stop seeing them in everything else I read. Amateur writing on the internet? Riddled with errors. Self-published (and not professionally edited) books? Crawling with unnecessary words. Random blog posts? Don’t get me started. Even in beautifully edited books, all I have to see is one questionable bit of wording, and I’m pulled out of the story.

Heck, I cringe watching TV these days. If I had my characters address each other by name in my manuscripts even half as often as TV characters do in a single episode, I’d be red-penned to death. And I actually had to make my husband turn off the last audio book we tried listening to together because the repetitive dialog tags were making me more car-sick than the car was.

No matter what I do, no matter how desperately I need to unwind… When it’s time to relax at the end of my writing day, I try my best to turn my editor brain off, but I just can’t seem to manage it. It’s enough to drive a writer insane!

It’s time to sound off, fellow writers. What are your worst pet peeves when reading others’ writing? How do you make the little editor in the back of your head shut up? Can you even make it be quiet anymore? And if you can’t, how do you cope?

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Tighten it Up Volume II: Stick to your Story

Say it with me, folks:  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  I mean, what would be the point of writing a story you don’t intend on sticking to?  But believe it or not, it’s easy to get sidetracked.  It’s happened to us all, and making this mistake will slow down the pace of your novel, waste precious words, and bore a reader or potential agent/editor.

So for this second volume in my blog series, I wanted to mention a few ways that sticking to your story can help tighten up your writing.  And by story, I don’t mean your plot.  I mean the basic pieces that give your plot its structure.  Keeping these things in mind while you’re writing will help you focus on what’s important, and disregard the rest.

1.  Remember the core fundamentals: GMC

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict – they are the most basic elements of every story.  Without one of them, your characters don’t have a plot.  The easiest way to test whether or not a scene needs to be there is to ask yourself if it has one of these elements.  Does the scene help to establish what your character wants?  Does it show why he/she wants it?  Does it show what’s standing in the way of him/her getting it, either externally or internally?  If the answer is yes to one of these questions, then there’s a good chance it needs to stay.

Keep in mind that your character’s goals will most likely change throughout the book, usually at your turning points.  In my stories, what my character’s think they want on page 50 is almost never what they end up wanting or needing on page 300.  I use my turning points to reestablish these.  Which brings me to my next point…

2.  Begin with the end in mind, and all the turning points in between.

As an engineer, I’m used to breaking things down into pieces and seeing how they all contribute to an end product.  I use this same sort of logic when I begin to plot a manuscript.  I know where my characters and story are starting from, where they’ll be at the end, and all of their turning points in between.  Every scene I write connecting these key places in my story is somehow working to advance me to those turning points, thus building my end product – a manuscript.

Knowing where you want those turning points is also important.  Don’t wait until page 200 for your first turn; set benchmarks along the way.  Try to think about where you want to leave the reader at the end of page 50, page 100, etc…, then construct the scenes that need to happen in order to move between them.

3.  Don’t forget the Character Arc

Much like our own children, we need to encourage our characters to grow.  If they’re not tested, they have no reason to rise to the occasion.  If they don’t fail, they have no impetus to try again.  Make sure your scenes create an environment in which your characters can do so.

And finally…

4.  Every scene in your manuscript should somehow further your plot.

Whether it be through action sequence or character development, every scene you write should be another link in the chain of your story.  If you want to write a coffee shop scene, make sure your characters are doing more than just shooting the shit about the weather and shoes.  I like coffee and shoes as much as the next girl, but unless the stiletto is your murder weapon or the coffee is poisoned, there’s gotta be more to that scene to warrant keeping it.  Bottom line?  You should be able to defend every scene you have.  If you can’t – it doesn’t need to be there.

It’s a lot to think about, I know.  And if you’re a pantser you’re probably rolling your eyes right about now.  But I look at it this way:  if I can ensure my manuscript has all the things it needs, that doesn’t leave much room for all the filler crap it doesn’t need, right?  So, stick to your story and you’re already well on your way to writing a tighter novel.

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NaNoWriMo Update: Or, Why Losing Has its Place

Less than a week in, and I’m already behind on NaNo… My word count is abysmal, and I knew going in there was pretty much no freaking way I’d make it to 50K. I know what you’re thinking: “Syd, how could you be so defeatist?” “Chin up, you never know!” “Believe in yourself!” So, all right. Maybe I can do it–but it’s not bloody likely.

But here’s the thing: I’m happy, nonetheless (and not just because I’m happy whenever I can use the word “nonetheless”). It’s working for me. I may not make the official winners roster on November 30th, but NaNoWriMo was the exact push I needed to face that blinking cursor. It’s nowhere near the 1700 daily goal, but I’m moving forward, surely–if a bit slowly. I’m getting that old excitement back at seeing a world and characters take shape in my mind and then on the page. I’ve done it every day so far, and for once, I’m looking forward to what I’ll accomplish the next day and the one after that. So for a dazed mother of a five month old who’s just two weeks back at the full time day job, I’m proud. They may be baby steps, but baby steps are still steps–especially when you’re also dealing with an actual baby! 🙂

So, tell me, how is it going for you?

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Writing a Series Part 2: …Recalculating…

Today I’ll continue my series on writing a series.  Getting straight to the point…

 

#2 Key Thing You Do Before Writing a Series:

 

Plot out (to whatever degree you’re comfortable) the trilogy/series.

This might be obvious for a lot of writers. Not so for the true pantser society.

A couple of fellow Badgirlz plot out their novels to the highest degree. I’m talking spreadsheets, white boards, plot cards, a story board that fills a wall – you get the picture.  A couple of others don’t plot much at all. A few post-it notes, scribbled passages on napkins, pictures torn from magazines, and that’s about it. The rest fall somewhere in between.  There are no rules when it comes to plotting your novel or series. Everyone uses a different method and you have to go with what works for you.

However, when it comes to writing a series, you better have some idea of where you’re going and how you plan to get there.  This doesn’t mean you need all the plot details right now. You only need a basic idea.

For example, if you have one main villain for your trilogy, have some idea of his/her plot and how he or she will interact in each book and ultimately face defeat.  Reason? You don’t want to break out the big, bad guns in book one and be left with no clue how to create more eeeeeeeevil and triumph over evil in books 2 and 3.  Get a basic grasp of the villain’s “growth” along with the hero(es) and heroine(s) over the course of your series.  This keeps you from *ahem* prematurely climaxing in book one with nowhere to go or grow in later books.

Another reason? Let’s say an ongoing thread in your series is the interpersonal relationships between your heroines. For example, all the heroines are sisters and that’s what ties your trilogy together. If the sisters have a bad relationship and you know it will be resolved by book 3, then make sure you have an idea of how it will be resolved so that you can ensure the arc of that resolution is shown throughout all of your books.

Having a basic notion of the series plot and arcs also keeps you from making the mistake I made early on.  If you don’t know how the story ends (in general) you’ll reach the midpoint of the book and come to a complete stop. Not a stall. I’m talking wheels off wreckage.  You won’t know which way to turn because you don’t even have a destination.  How can you recalculate directions when your “To:” field is empty?

Just know where you’re headed.  The route can be mapped in full, you can stop and ask for directions, or you can wander around until you find your way. The path is your choice if you know your destination.

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