It’s NANO time

NANO logo

It’s November 1st – that means another year of NANOWRIMO. No idea what that means? NAtional  NOvel WRIting MOnth.

Join hundreds of thousands of other authors in the writing challenge to write a complete novel in thirty days. That’s right. Thirty days. Criteria must be a minimum of 50,000 words. That’s it. Any genre, any style of writing.

For those of you already familiar with NANOWRIMO, you have probably been planning and outlining like crazy getting ready for this event. But even if you haven’t, you can still jump into the fun. Can you write 1667 words per day? You’ll never know unless you try.

My first novel, Accident, was a NANO book, squeaking through at 50,000 and a few words. By the time, it was ready to roll off the presses (two and half years later), it had grown into a grown-up novel of 80K.

A few things to keep in mind when you write your NANO book.

  1. You don’t have time to edit. (that comes later)
  2. Write with fearless abandon, whatever crazy thing comes into your head. (you can always cut the crap, and most definitely will)
  3.  Put your characters in perilous predicaments. Up the stakes but putting them through things you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
  4. Although you will stay up all night thinking of stuff to write, and rush to the PC (or Mac) or reach for a quick pen and paper, pace yourself. You still have a life, and a family that wonders what the heck you are doing. Want time to gobble down that turkey with family? Write double your word count the days before. Need three days? Then crunch the time in ahead of time.
  5. There is no one to judge what you wrote, so just have fun with it.
  6. What will you win? The satisfaction of knowing you have just WRITTEN A NOVEL. How many people can say that?
  7. Log on to the NANO website and get all the scoop. And don’t forget to log your progress. There are others out there helping to cheer you on. nanowrimo.org/

Good Luck and Happy Writing

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#Mysterious World of Publication post 2

As this search for and an agent continues, one phrase keeps popping into my head that my Grandmother used to say, “Who ever said life was fair.”

The reason I think of this so often is because we, as authors, must adhere to strict guidelines for our query, synopsis or manuscript. For example, always address the agent by his/her name, put Query in the subject line, no attachments, etc. for the query. Not that I mind these, but they are “industry standards.” Another standard; synopsis must be in present tense, even if your story is in past tense. And of course, don’t forget your manuscript – double spaced, one inch margins, Times anew Roman 12 pt.

That’s all fine and good, but there is NO industry standard for agents. They can ask for a million different combinations. (maybe not a million – but you get the picture). One agent wants a query and first five pages. The next wants a query, a 3-5 page synopsis and the first chapter. Agent number three wants a query, a “short” synopsis (Does that mean a one page or a 3-5 page?) and the first 25 pages. Most now want email with no attachments, but a few still want queries snail-mailed or they Havre an online form. There is absolutely no consistency. And if you get it wrong, it is an automatic into the circular file. book stacks

Thank God for #Query Tracker. Wouldn’t it be nice if they had to adhere to “industry standards” like we, as writers do?  I know. Quit whining. Buck up. #Who ever said like was fair?

As for an update, I am plugging along, adding more agents. Not up to 14 yet, but the week is not over. Still optimistic. Non word from any of the submissions yet.  I’ll keep you posted.

#The Mysterious World of Publication

This week I entered a new phase in my writing career. I would like to take you along on this journey with me. Are you  already one of my fans? Thank You. Your belief in me spurs me on. A fellow writer? Come along on this ride with me. Perhaps we can learn together. Maybe . . . you ran across my blog site by accident or from a previous post. I hope you’ll stick around and follow my progress.

Up until this week, I have been a self-published author. I’ve experienced modest success. I know my writing improves with each book, and finally, I feel like stepping into the mysterious  world of traditional publication.

If your are a reader outside of the industry you may not know the process, but I assure you, this is going to be a fun ride.

First things first. What are my goals?  To find an agent that will sell my book to a reputable publisher. So . . . do I have a marketable book? I believe I do. My target audience is clear and defined – #women book-club readers that like stories that provoke debate, with current issues that they, as a reader could put themselves into and ask, “What would I do in that situation?”

My new book is about international adoption and the process called re-homing. Never heard of it? Well, as much as it is not illegal (except to advertise children for money), unbelievable to me, it is rather covert. Want an eye opener? Google re-homing children.  Enough said.

So what’s my next step? Is it edited (and edited and edited) until it’s the best that it can be.  Check and double check.

Now we are moving into the starting gate.

So with a helpful list from WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) and the online database, “Query Tracker” I started my search for an agent. Using the parameters of: a)agents accepting Women’s Fiction, b)were currently open to new submissions and c)were in the United States (not that I have anything against agents from other countries, but I thought I’d start local) I narrowed it down to only 122 agents. That’s all, you ask? That’s plenty, trust me.

My#goal is this – research agents every week and choose one a day to submit my query letter to. Seven queries a week until I get representation.  Are you  with me?  This week I met my goal of seven queries. I should make it through the list by Christmas (If I haven’t received representation) I also know it takes 6-8 weeks before I should expect a response. So bear with me.

As my fans, my friends or even my stranger, I will share my struggles and my joys as I go down this new path. You will get an inside seat into the life of a struggling writer. And in the end, I know you will celebrate my victory with me.  So grab your hat and hang on. It’s going to be a fun ride.

I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?

I don’t usually re=post things of this nature. I prefer to talk about what I love, writing, But this is worth sharing with anyone who will listen, Who knows, maybe it will save a life.

via I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?.

The Writer’s Block Tip#7 by Jason Rekulak

writerw block

Tip# 7  Most Likely to Succeed

Many writers seem to have a rough time in high school – how else can you explain the frustrated teenager protagonists of novels like A Separate Peace or The Catcher in the Rye? The good news is, the most exhilarating – and embarrassing – moments of adolescence can be channeled into great fiction, and you can summon the memories just by opening your Senior Class yearbook.

Imagine what happened to “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Most Popular.” Write about the class clown who defied everyone’s expectations and became a celebrity. Tell us which of your former teachers initiated an affair with one of his or her students. Show us the secret life of the Cafeteria Lunch Lady. Relive the glacial passage of time in a high school detention session, or the petty jealousies involved I the planning of the school musical.

Use as many of your high school memories as you wish, but feel free to embellish or alter “the truth” as you go along. Personal revenge fantasies that involve “Most Popular” are permitted.

By Jason Rekulak

Can you recall a high school incident that you can twist into a storyline in your current WIP? Tell us about it – fully embellished – and please no real names of characters.

The Writer’s Block Tip #6 by Jason Rekulak

writerw block

Real People   by Jason Rekulak

Pat Conroy hit bestseller lists with his novel The Prince of Tides – but Conroy’s sister recognized so much of herself in the story that she never spoke to her brother again. This kind of family reaction is a serious concern for many of us, and often the fear will develop into full blown writers block. After all, how can you write honestly about the failings of your father if you’re certain he’ll recognize himself in your manuscript? Thankfully, there are simple techniques for disguising any real-life individuals who inspire your fiction. You can modify or exaggerate a person’s physical appearance –  give Dad an extra thirty pounds. perhaps, or change the color of Mom’s hair. Changing their occupations is another good idea – many people define themselves almost exclusively by their careers. Also, feel free to blur or change the relationships among your characters. If you’re writing very auto-biographical fiction, the character of your sister could easily be a roommate, cousin, best friend or co-worker. Your father could appear in the guise of a boss, neighbor, teacher of shopkeeper. By consciously altering the truth, you’ll actually develop your characters into more “real” fictional creations.

Thank you Jason.  Now readers – it’s your turn. Have you used a family member as a profile for a character in your book? Did you alter as Jason suggests, or is your character a mirror image of…. the sister that could do no wrong?… the father that never stood up to your domineering mother?…. the grandmother that kept it all together?…

I’ll go first. In my first novel, Accident, the grandmother, Esther is a blended version of my own mother and my grandmother, who, incidentally, really was named Esther and did speak broken Swedish.

Professor and Indie Author, Gary McLouth talks about becoming a writer

Author Pics Gary Mc Louth

Welcome Gary.  When did you know you were a writer, and how did you develop your writing?

Tricky question, Joanne. From early childhood, I was drawn to stories told by my grandmother. She told stories about her youth, her music, her jobs, her family, her travels and her travails. She had a way of making drama out of the mundane. Her voice lilted in tones of suspension.  As I got older, my interest is listening grew into an interest in telling. Since the heavy-duty emphasis from my parents leaned on truth and honesty at all costs, I was forced to learn the ways of performance, projection, nuance.

I love to talk, and to entertain. Writing, however, is something else, and I’ve been challenged by it most of my life. How to tell a story on a page, when you, imagine the audience, hear the voice(s) fighting for a say, sit alone in a room and drum your fingers on the keyboard. It helps to take classes, attend workshops and conferences, read aloud to peers and read everything: newspapers, magazines, short story collections, novels, how-to manuals, bumper stickers and warning labels on prescription drug bottles. I appreciate the courses and workshops I’ve participated in, because they’ve provided what I need most. Focus and Deadlines.

Do you always write in the same genre?

I consider writing to be writing, so I write, and have written, in many genres. I guess poetry is my basic connection between my experience and imagination, and my writing. I don’t tend to think in sentences. Images, phrases, voices. I write a lot without the self-proclamation of “I’m writing.” Notes on student papers, poems, short stories, agendas for meetings, speeches for others as well as myself, and so on. But, yes, I have aspirations to write good literary fiction, and I do work that on paper and in my head. It’s ongoing.

Do you have a special time or place you like to write?

Now, that could lead to some pretty good story-telling! My favorite place to write: Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. My special time to write: Night Time.

Okay, the trouble with those conditions is time and place, and reality. I love being in the mountains, and I love staying up late. I have written a lot in those venues. The only problem is that the Adirondacks are a long way from wherever I might be, and late nights may stoke my memories but not much else. The solution, if that’s what takes, is adaptability and versatility. I practice writing any place, any time. I’ve trained myself to write scripts in my head as I walk. I remind myself that all time is usable, if I think it is.

I try to carry a few tools for writing at all times. You’d be surprised how many pieces of this and that swirl around us. Recycle litter into copy.

Why did you decide to become an Indie publisher, and would you recommend going the Indie route to other writers?

Hmm. Why, indeed. The traditional submission route worked for me when I had a full-time job that allowed me to hire a submission agency. The agency performed the market research and details of the copying, letter writing, mailing and archiving. All I had to do was supply the poems and stories. I started years ago, sending out poems and stories to magazines and journals that I wanted to appear in, and without any additional criteria, that made each submission a long shot. Now, I have no submission agent. I still have lots of manuscript copy lying around, and I feel even less desire to query editors and lick stamps than ever before. Get the drift here?

I studied/researched the self-publishing business for a long time before deciding to get involved. Founding West Main Productions, LLC, made me an official publisher, and I produced two collections of stories: Natural Causes (2008), and Do No Harm (2011). Working with The Troy Bookmakers of Troy, NY, I was able to make all production and marketing decisions for each book. The stories for the first book have been previously published in juried publications, as has one story in the second book. That assuages the “is this really acceptable work in the eyes of the gate keepers” worry.

Did I see that life was getting shorter, my publication time longer, and my dreams of literary stardom dimmer? Technology and confidence will lead you to Indie publishing.  Traditional publishing isn’t going away, but the Indie option is respected, and it’s really about the same thing as the traditional route: finding an audience for your work. Both avenues lead to the same place, and only a few of us pull up in front of the Pulitzer Prize stage, regardless of the route.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

A favorite author turns out to be one I trust to take me in and teach me, entertain me, show me light, swat me upside the head, nauseate me, love and respect me. A few favorites: William Kennedy, John Gardner, Denis Johnson, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Ford, Ray Carver, Sue Miller, Philip Roth. Many poets—James Wright, Tony Hoagland, Anne Sexton, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, June Jordan, Jim Gustafson, et al.

Why do you write?

A much tougher question than it first appears to be. It’s like ‘fooling around and falling in love’. The more I do, the more I do. As I’ve grown older, I’ve lost people, places, jobs, sports and things, but reading and writing, not. Instead of limiting my idea of myself as a writer by genre, I’ve continued an early tendency to try new writing challenges while maintaining solid connections with my secret sharer, my conscience. Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes help me stay the course. I need the help. Thank you, Joanne, for this opportunity to think about these things.

Thanks so much Gary.  Here is a little about his life as an author.

Gary McLouth has published short stories in The Red Rock Review, The Cimarron Review, ELM, Studio One, Limestone, Minnetonka Review, The Baltimore Review and others. Poetry has appeared in Adirondack Life, Blueline, Emerson of Harvard, The International Poetry Review, Buckle &, and others.

http://www.amazon.com/Gary-McLouth/e/B00JGC7AII/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1427644836&sr=1-3

Do No Harm book cover  Natural Causes

Natural Causes and other stories published by West Main Productions, and Gary’s second collection of short fiction, Do No Harm are available on Amazon.com in standard print or eBook format. Gary has co-authored Men and Abortion with Arthur B. Shostak, edited A Man Named Nebraska, Guilty Without Trial, and a number of other book-length manuscripts. TV scripts supporting shows on Culture TV, “Media Matters” on the Ion TV network. Gary co-founded Todays Authors, a studio talk show recorded for broadcast on its own You Tube channel as well as TV aired as a public affairs offering in Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo, NY.

Gary is the President of the Gulf Coast Writers Association, a member of the Sanibel Writers Group #3, a participant in the Poetry Alliance, a featured poet in the Art Poems Project and a reader in programs sponsored by Big Arts on Sanibel Island. Other associations have included: The New York State Writers Institute; The Foundation for Mental Health; Poets & Writers; the Association of (college) Writing Programs.

Gary earned a Doctor of Arts in English at SUNY Albany where he won the President’s Distinguished Dissertation Award for Death and Other Frustrations. A Professor Emeritus at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. He has been an adjunct English professor at Florida Southwestern State College (formerly Edison State College) in Fort Myers since January, 2011.

Professional experience as an arts administrator, college administrator, speech writer, MC for non-profits, writing consultant and independent video producer contribute to Gary’s ability to serve the various needs of potential clients.

Writing Mystery novels, with a twist

Patty Brant

Patty Brant

Hmm . . . It’s a little difficult for me to categorize my genre – maybe I’m too close to it. I have now published two books – Bitter Secrets and its sequel Full Circle – which I feel are mainly mysteries, incorporating a smidgeon of romance and the paranormal.

Not sure if I have a real “method” for writing, but this is how I’ve worked it out so far.

The concept of Bitter Secrets began with three words that just popped into my head – “I see faces.” That triggered weeks of mental development – who were these people . . . where were they . . . what was their story?

I settled on the most basic characters and a rudimentary story line when the first couple paragraphs formed in my mind. I liked what I had and decided it was time to start writing it down.

For years the thought of writing a book would sort of drift through my head, followed immediately by “Shoot! You need to know something to write a book!” And that was the end of that.

So, this time, I called a friend – an excellent author I knew who has since passed away. I knew she would help keep me on task and that was exactly what she did. Bless her heart, she never let me down. She’d read my latest effort, make suggestions and generally be my cheerleader.

I’m a natural born foot dragger, so I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her.

Anyway, I know you’re always told to make an outline first, and I’ve tried that. Trouble is, I change my mind too much. I rearrange. I think of something I like better than what I have and there goes my outline!

So, I’ve pretty much decided that my “process” is no process. (Not very helpful, is it?) I think lot about the story I’m working on. Do a little research when I need to so I can develop authentic background, then start to write. Mostly by that time it just begins to flow.

My biggest stumbling blocks to this point  – besides my propensity to drag my feet and let other things get in the way – have been writing about traumatic incidents that I have not experienced personally. I know you’re always told to write about what you know and that’s good advice, I’m sure. But you can’t possibly experience everything personally.

For instance, in Bitter Secrets I came to a place in my story where a young girl was about to be raped. It was 1927, the girl was 15 and alone with her favorite uncle in an isolated farmhouse. He was drunk and there was no one there to help her. The story was flowing, my fingers were racing across the keyboard almost ahead of my mind. The scene was unfolding pretty much by itself. I kept thinking as I typed, “This can’t happen. I can’t write this.”

Bitter Secrets Patty Brant     Full Circle Patty Brant

So I forced myself to stop writing and just think. I was very reluctant to write about this very sensitive subject. After all, I have never been in that position and I was very concerned that, if I didn’t get it right, it would be like a slap in the face to the thousands and thousands of young girls and women who have.

Who was I to write about this kind of horror? How could I write a realistic scene and do it with objectivity yet sensitivity?

I had to reaffirm that I truly wanted to be an author, that I wanted to write stories that are realistic, with emotional depth but not “soap opera drama.” I was not at all sure I could do that without somehow disabusing real victims.

I did some soul searching and finally decided that an author can’t possibly know everything.

As a reporter for many years, I have done many interviews with experts and various victims. I decided I have to rely on what is MY personal experience and on my understanding of human nature. If I was going to be a serious author, I’d have to step off the cliff and just do it.

So I started typing again and let it flow – all the while checking myself to be as sensitive as I could. I think the “process” has worked pretty well for me.

I came across the same problem when writing about one of my characters who is a Viet Nam veteran in a wheelchair and one who is an old black man. – two characters I truly admire. (Is that even possible? Can you admire “people” who aren’t real!?

Well, I guess it is for me. I’ve actually come to tears thinking about another one of my characters whose life had been a living hell for 40 years. I like characters who meet immense challenges with human strength and frailty.

For me that’s a tall order. I guess doing justice to their stories – even if they aren’t “real” – is my challenge.

Thanks Patty, for the great post. Readers, click below to order your own copies of Bitter Secreats and Full Circle.

Bitter Secrets 

Full Circle

FACT BASED FICTION “FACTION”

Per Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia:

Faction is a literary genre, which utilizes fictional characters, and plot lines that must remain within the constraints of current reality. The authors tend to take current and recent-past events, and postulate what is likely or very possible to happen due to these events, utilizing current technology.

In this way faction differs from fiction, which does not have constraints to stay within reality, non-fiction novels, which take actual past persons and events and fictionalize their story….

                              *                        *                        *       

 By Vince D’Angelo

My time with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific provided many interesting experiences.  Since none involved combat or other heroics, I found little reason to share them. A houseguest’s curiosity about my military service compelled me to discuss those experiences. My guest found my anecdotes intriguing and suggested I write about them. After a few hastily constructed chapters, my guest commented, while still engaging, it read too much like a documentary. To me, the events were the facts and I couldn’t change them. Or, could I?

I recalled a book discussion on television where an author said his novel was based on actual events but fictionalized.  Asked if the novel was considered fiction or non-fiction, the author answered, “Faction”.  I heard the term used again in other literary discussions.

Thus, I embarked on writing a novel based on my experiences in the navy. I completed the manuscript; the process was easy since all I needed to do was to recall events. It met with praise…from family and friends and the former houseguest.  I titled it, Tales from the Pacific.

I was inspired to continue writing. So I cannibalized one of the chapters and expanded it into a novella titled, No-Name Island.

I decided to write another novel, this one based on my shore leave in Hong Kong, China; a British Crown Colony at the time. I was very much taken with the exotic Far East city.  It was the most memorable experience of my naval career and the inspiration for the new novel, Out of Hong Kong.

*                          *                          *      

BOOK COVER Vince De'Angleo

No-Name Island: Post World War II, a six-man navy detachment is sent on a highly classified mission to map a remote, uninhabited tropical island. Instead, they find a leper colony manned by a mysterious medical staff. Also, a hidden encampment of men and women survivors of an accidentally sunk Japanese hospital ship, who are not aware the war is over. Unlikely scenarios for romance? Not quite.

Out of Hong Kong Vince D'Angelo

Out of Hong Kong: A young navy officer on shore leave in Hong Kong unintentionally finds himself in a brothel. The girl assigned to him is a ‘first time’ teenaged virgin desperately attempting to earn quick money to free her parents enslaved by mainland communists. His attempt to save her from becoming a prostitute puts both their lives in danger. They fall in love but are forcibly separated. He goes back to his ship not knowing what has happened to her. He returns to Hong Kong numerous times over the years, attempting to find her.

Thanks to Vince D’Angleo for his input on writing “Faction.”

Authors: Do you write faction? How do you market it?  What have been your experiences.

Readers: Do you like reading faction – fact based novels? Why or why not?

We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

The Writer’s Block Tip #5 by Jason Rekulak

writerw block

Create a new character from scratch by beginning with the name first. Write as much as you know about him or her, and let the character carry you into a story.

Barbara Kingsolver achieved international success with novels like The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, and The Poisonwood Bible.  At readings and lectures, she is frequently asked where she finds the names for her characters (who often have distinctive monikers like Turtle, Lloyd, Oreanna, Rose-Johnny, Newt Hardbine and Annawake Fourkiller.)  Kingsolver explains, “I give almost as much thought to the naming of my principal characters as I did with my children.”

In fact, the names of Halimeda and Cosima Noline (the two sisters in Animal Dreams) came straight out of “Name That Baby” book that Kingsolver references while developing her characters. These books are inexpensive and invaluable references for the fiction writer, because they’re loaded with useful information about the origins and derivations of common names. More importantly, they also contain hundreds of uncommon names – great names like Tamonoa and Cormac and Octovia – that will help lend your character a sense of individuality.   ………… by Jason Rekulak

baby name book

I my last novel, the name of my character actually helped create the title of my book, “Town Without Mercy.” My main character’s name was Mercedes, but called Mercy for short.  If you haven’t read it yet, I am not giving any spoilers.

Tell me about YOUR new character or one you recently named. How did you decide on that name?