Posted in authors, books, characters, writing

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

Posted in agents, authors, contract, publication, query, synopsis

Mysterious World of Publication Post #5 No More Excuses

I made it through the funeral of a beloved soldier. RIP SSG. Danny Wenger. I tried to stay up to to date on the Query/Synopsis class from WFWA during that ordeal. Laura Drake (bless her heart) helped me tighten my query. Then I made it through a move away from my beloved island. (even if it is only five miles down the road) Everything is put away, pictures are hung, everything is in the exact right place. So…. no more excuses. Time to get back to sending out queries for my manuscript.

So far, I have sent out sixteen queries, eight have responded with form letter “no thank-you’s” and eight have been silent, which is most likely eight more rejections. But stubborn as I am, I’m not going to close those out in Query Tracker until sixty days. How many of you use Query Tracker? It is super to keep things organized and at a quick glance.

Armed with a fresh new query and a synopsis I am still not totally sure of (is anybody?), I am jumping back into the arena. I have had friends tell me that “nobody has a chance at the Big Five unless you are already James Patterson or the like.” I don’t believe it. Within the last couple of weeks, several of my WFWA friends have signed contracts with publishers. If they can do it, so can I.

#Dorothy Van Soest is excited to announce the release of her new novel, #At The Center by Amazon.

#Barbara Claypole White‘s next novel, #Missing in Madness was sold to Lake Union Publishing in a two book deal by Nalini Akolekar at Spencerhill Associates!

Congratulations to both of you!!

My goal, send seven queries in the next seven days, and seven more the next week, etc. Hold me to my task.

Are you out there querying? Getting discouraged? Let’s band together and support each other. Smack me upside my virtual head  when I whine, when I want to quit. And I’ll do the same from you. I would love to hear from other struggling authors, waiting to be discovered. Perhaps we can share queries and synopsis to help tweak us into fame and fortune – or at least publication.    #nomoreexcuses   #strugglingauthors  #roadtopublication.

Posted in authors, books, coming of age, novels, teenager, writer's block, writing

The Writer’s Block Tip#7 by Jason Rekulak

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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.

Posted in books, characters, fiction, novels, writing

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.

Posted in authors, authos, books, consumers, Indie, poetry, publishing, short stories, writers

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.

Posted in authors, editing, fiction, readers, writer's block, writers

The Writer’s Block Tip #4 by Jason Rekulak

writerw block

Tell the story of a job interview that goes badly.

The more your character wants the job, the better the story will be. ……….       Jason Rekulak

job interview Tip #

 

Oh boy.  I can tell of an interview gone bad.

I had worked in a different state selling real estate for over ten years, but after a move to a new state, and knowing that it takes years to build a client base in real estate in a new town, it was time for a change. I didn’t have two years to build my client base. So I decided I needed a salaried job that would offer me some stability. The only thing I could find related  to real estate – sort of – it was renting commercial space in the buildings this company owned. I figured “sales is sales,” so how hard would selling rental space be? But when the interview turned to experience and the talk turned to net leases and triple net, I was lost. But desperate as I was, I plundered ahead, nodding my head and digging myself deeper by the minute. I am not a liar, but I found myself twisting the truth to get the job. It was obvious that I was not being believed. I am the worst liar, and even more so when I am nervous or desperate.  I left that interview defeated and lost. What was I to do?  But miracles of miracles, I got a call back. He was going to hire me. He implied he knew how inexperienced I was in commercial leasing (that was an understatement) but he admired my tenacity and determination and thought I could use that same aggressiveness to find tenants throughout the city for his spaces. I got the job. (Note: I did very well at it but hated commercial leasing – I went back to residential sales.)

Now it’s your turn. What interview did you botch? Did you still get the job?

 

Posted in authors, books, editing

Using Extended Metaphors in Your Writing — Part Two

Using Extended Metaphors in Your Writing — Part Two.

I would love comments from readers on this. As much as I love the metaphor and the example of the “recurring music” problem in the car, as I read this, all I could think of was,

“It doesn’t move the story along. An editor would cut it if I tried to do that.”

Your thoughts?

Posted in authors, books, characters, editing, novels, outline, pantser, planner, readers, short stories, technology, writer's block, writers, writing

The Writer’s Block Tip#3 by Jason Rekulak

writerw block

To outline  or not to outline  by Jason Rekulak

Outliners are most common among thriller and mystery writers, for obvious reasons. Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector) claims that the surprising plot twists of his suspense novels wouldn’t be possible unless he plotted out all of the details in advance; he usually spends eight months researching and writing the outline, and four months writing the manuscript itself.

But non-genre writers use outlines too. John Barth wrote: “I don’t see how anybody starts a novel without knowing how its going to end. I usually make detailed outlines; how many chapters it will be and so forth.”

On the other side of the fence are writers who prefer a more organic approach to their craft; Aldous Huxley wrote, “I know very dimply when I start what’s going to happen. I just have a very general idea, and then the thing develops as I write.”

If you are suffering from writer’s block, try changing your approach. Make a detailed outline of the story – or plunge headfirst into the opening paragraph without any idea where you are going. Either way, the change in routine may be surprisingly effective.

 

Readers, are you a planner (outliner) or a pantser (fly by the seat)?  Personally, I am a basic outliner, but I allow my characters to lead the story, which sometimes takes it into unplanned territory. One funny experience I had while deep in the writing of my 2nd novel, Town Without Mercy, the dialogue between the two protagonists seem to write itself. When I was done, I laughed out loud, saying “That is not what I had in my outline at all.” But the story was better for it.

What have your experiences been in stepping out of your routine? Surprising outcomes?

Posted in cowboys, family, fiction, love, novels, readers, romance, small towns, the west, westerns, WFWA, womens fiction, writers, writing

High Cotton Country by Leta McCurry

Leta McCurry           High Cotton Country

It is a pleasure to have Leta McCurry with us today for an Author Interview.  Leta and I have become friends through WFWA, Women’s Fiction Writers Association.  I am still amazed at how technology can bring people together from opposites sides of the country, or even the world.

Leta,  when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I think I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer but I actually started writing at about twelve – from a twelve year old’s perspective obviously. The adventure, companionship, comfort and inspiration I received from being an avid reader is what first inspired me to put on paper the stories that were bouncing around in my head.

Do you have a background in writing or have you taken  any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

No. The biggest help to me has been honest and forthright critique readers. Feedback from readers always gives me clarity about y writing and is a big help in my on-going endeavor to become a better writer.

What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?

Sales. I think sales taught me to take risks and put myself out there. And not to take rejection personally. And, while not work in the strictest sense, I think raising five children.

How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?

About a year and a half from writing the first chapter through to publication. 

Do you always write in the same genre?

My interest is in general/women’s fiction. I never intended to write non-fiction but at one point Prentice-Hall, New York offered me a contract to write a college textbook which I did and they published. That was just an unexpected side trip. I refer to my genre as women’s fiction but I have been told it is more general fiction. High Cotton Country has actually been read by several men and I’ve had really good geed back from them so I guess it is a cross-over between general and women’s fiction.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

Women’s fiction.

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

I have a little cubby hole office hardly big enough to “cuss a cat” as my grandpa would say, but it works for me.  Nice big windows with a view out at the green Oregon trees and foliage and blue sky (when it isn’t raining).

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

Yes. Non Fiction. College Text Book. Publisher Prentice Hall sought me out based on a recommendation from a college professor.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication on this project? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indi publisher to a colleague?

I went the self-publishing route almost entirely because of the time factor involved in getting a book on the market via traditional sources. It just seemed that two years was a long time.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

I like to switch it up because everybody has their own perspective on events and situations. The same incident can and does have a different impact on different people. I have read books written from a one person perspective and they worked for me as a reader. I don’t know that I could make it work that successfully.  To me, the difference is one perspective is like mashed potatoes and multiple perspective is like a baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives and chopped bacon.  Having said that, I’ll probably end up writing a one point of view narrative someday.

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

I think an author’s voice is that life and world point of view that is particular to each of us. That voice is the culmination of our circumstances of birth, the “imprinting” we received as we grew to adulthood, and the experiences that are unique to each one. And, the voice is always changing, growing, expanding, because as long as we are alive we are continually influenced by the world and people around us and our responses to those circumstances.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s

I don’t follow an exact chronological order but I do follow a loose time framework. I do write in order though, each chapter in sequence. I have writer friends who may write chapter 20 then come back to 5 then write chapter 18 then 35 and come back to 6.  That would drive me crazy.

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Query and synopsis. Lot harder that writing a novel. Now that I am in the midst of the process, writing is the easy part.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

Right now, personal networking. Exploring possibilities. Marketing has turned out to be a sharp learning curve for me and I’m still finding my way through the jungle. As I said, writing Cazzie’s story was the easy part.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

About 50/50 I think.

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Sit down and write. Edit later.

Who are some of the authors whose work you admire the most, and why?

Elin Hildebrand – she entertains me.  Susan Crandall and Robert Morgan because I love their “voice”. They are from my neighborhood. And Ayn Rand – she makes me think. James Clavell and Lincoln and Childs– they transport me to other worlds.

Complete this sentence….. My first ever published piece of writing was….. “A poem.”

Please share a brief synopsis of High Cotton Country.

Secrets. Hidden they can destroy her from within. Revealed they can explode her world.

 Come hell or high water, Cazzie Randle is determined to leave the past behind along with the hardscrabble life of a small hill country town but finds she can’t elude the secret trauma that haunts her – an act of unspeakable horror by her mother and abandonment by her father.

A message that her father is dying sends a reluctant Cazzie to his bedside but not to reconcile a lifelong estrangement. She must make him finally reveal the secrets of the memories that haunt her. He must answer questions of “Why?”

An explosion of truth in a dusty Texas hill country town reveals old secrets and demands choices. But will she be able to choose or will she be paralyzed by all the old hurts, cruelty and betrayals that have driven her all her life? To find the answer, Cazzie must confront the very essence of who she has become and question whether the price was too high.

 

  High Cotton Country is the story of one woman’s journey to self-discovery. It is about the inherent dignity of the human being, of the burning desire to be in command of one’s own destiny, of the will, not only to survive, but to achieve, and to face adversity with courage and honor. This is not only the story of one woman’s fighting spirit, but also of the people who influence her self-esteem, shape her self-image and participate in her destiny.

Where can readers buy High Cotton Country?

Readers can read the first chapter of High Cotton Country at http://www.letamccurry.com/free-read/ and check out my blog at http://www.letamccurry.com/blog

Copies are available https://www.createspace.com/5060373 or

Thanks for having me, Joanne. It’s been fun. Leta