Friday, October 30, 2015

How I Got Ready For My First NaNoWriMo (Hobbit-Style)

Two more days until NaNo starts. One and a half, actually. But for those of us who aren't starting on Sunday, kick-off is bright and early Monday morning. It feels surreal. This is my first year ever getting to do it, and I'm so excited.

There are tons of articles about getting ready for NaNo, so I'm not going to share anything really new here. But I thought it would be fun to share what I've done to get ready, especially for interested friends watching the process.

For all you non-writers, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, in which novelists around the world accept the challenge to write 50,000 words in one month. That averages out to 1,666 words a day.

So here are some things I thought would be handy to have around:

1. Plot Notes
For all of August and September, and maybe even part of July, I wrote out plot notes using K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel workbook and Structuring Your Novel workbook. It's too close to NaNo to go through those workbooks extensively, but they'll give you some great questions for your story, and you could go through a few of those. Or for a shorter list, you can go to this article here. I made a detailed outline, and then I also made a condensed outline for a quick way to see my story at a glance. All those outlines have been placed in my Scrivener research folder.

Just be sure not to tell your characters what's happening, or they might not come along.

2. Music

Tuesday evening, I quickly divided up my favorite albums and songs into category lists for NaNoWriMo. (Well, it was kind of quick in between watching Studio C on YouTube.) When I'm discouraged, I shall play the Courage list. When I'm happy, I shall play the Fun list. When I need an extra layer of pathos and angst in my writing, I shall play the Feels list, and so on. Categories are Fun, Feels, Courage, Celtic, Worship, and Instrumental.

That way I won't be able to procrastinate by digging through all my music lists for just the right song.

3. Story Inspiration

I collected a poem and a song that mean a lot to me, and a novel scrapbook from friends that is a very precious thing. I also have a bunch of pins, quotes, photos, and articles on a secret Pinterest board to remind me of the gut-wrenching love I have for this story, as well as the fact that bad first drafts are OK.

I will be collecting some sermon notes and verses that particularly apply to my writing, as soon as I get a chance.

I'm hoping when I'm in the deep forest of Plot Woes and Writer's Block,
 I can climb up to my inspiration board and see the butterflies. ^_^

4. Treats
I love treats. They're my new happy things. So I made myself an editing box, and here are the treats I chose to put in:

I asked my sister to buy him for me if I gave her the money. She told me I must be brave and buy him myself. I love him the more for it. 
A writing buddy. He shall be my mascot. 

The yellow sticky notes are smaller rewards for daily goals. The pink sticky notes are bigger rewards for chapter or week goals. The notebook represents procrastination writing in different short stories that are not NaNo related. If I have time, I'll reward myself with a bit of non-NaNo writing along the way. 

I also keep these in my editing treat box, because they're my favorite music CDs ever. 

Character faces blurred on purpose, folkies. Sorry! 
These are my edible treats. Adagio tea, with flavors blended specifically for three of my novel characters: The Doctor, The Rogue, and Power King (thanks to Emily and her sisters). A mug with a beautiful purple cozy, and a Ghirardelli candy bar. 

It is the first candy bar I've ever bought for myself. This is a milestone event. 

5. Prayer
I really felt passionate about starting NaNoWriMo with some dedicated time to pray beforehand. Prayer is the cornerstone of the work, and taking time before the craziness of the month starts to lay it squarely in the hands of God, from whom all strength and inspiration come, is even more vital than all the plot notes and treats in the world. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. (Psalm 127:1)

I wanted to do half an hour, but I knew it would be hard to grab time just to sit down uninterrupted to do it. Yesterday morning I had some cleaning to do for Bright Lights in the evening, so I decided to do it while I cleaned. I broke it up into five minute segments, and prayed for a different thing each of the five minutes:

1. All the contestants.
2. Characters
3. Being a good witness/encouragement in the NaNo community.
4. Plot
5. Perseverance and discipline
6. That God would use the work of the writers beyond NaNo.

It goes pretty fast that way! But guess what: I don't want to stop there. I want to keep praying all month. With that in mind, I'll be tweeting a prayer prompt five days a week in November with #prayforNaNoWriMo. It's open to anyone who'd like to join, whether you're in NaNoWriMo or not, or even if you want to pray for a family member or friend who's doing it. Add your own prayer requests and praises with #prayforNaNoWriMo and let us pray for you! I'd love it if you'd join me!

6. Daily word goal
The last thing I did was figure out a couple of daily word goal scenarios in case I'd need some time off. I know for sure I'm not writing Sundays, so that takes four days out. I also considered either taking Saturdays off, or taking a week off in the middle for a trip. How that's all going to pan out I don't know, but I do have a basic idea what to get done if I want to be in good shape by the end.

If you're considering prep work for NaNo, you have a good chunk of today and all day tomorrow to do some prep work! Playlists take maybe 1/2 hour or less. Treats might take a quick run to the store, and prayer time can be your own personal choice. Plot notes and story inspiration might take a few hours, depending on how much you want to jot down--but even just collecting a few pictures and quotes and writing down a plot twist or two will get you far.

And hey, while you're at it, I'd love it if you wanted to buddy me on the website for some word wars and fellow support! I'm Irish Maiden. I can't wait to see you there!

Here we goooooooooo!

(P.S. Come back Sunday for the second round of the 2015 Blogger Awards! Also, a surprise is coming to the blog very soon, and you won't want to miss it. Stay tuned!)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Fears Writers Have (For Non-Writing Friends)

Do you ever feel like author friends run away from your good advice? Sometimes conversations are hard between writers and non-writers because you're touching on a deep-rooted fear that they have a hard time controlling. Most writers carry around a heavy sense of inadequacy, uncertainty for the future, and wondering if their dream is even possible.

This series is about bridging the gaps. Authors need challenge and accountability. They shouldn't be little artistic gods and goddesses that require constant cuddling and praise. But conversations can be more positive and healthy when both sides understand each other. So today, I want to share with you some fears that we writers grapple with on a daily basis, and how you can be such a blessing in helping us overcome them.

"It will never be good enough." 
Most first drafts of a book are pretty appalling. Even Tolkien wrote some off lines, though he has the luck of having each successive draft of his stories published and praised. To some extent a book never will be good enough to an author, just like your kids will never be quite everything you could choose or hope for. But just like parenting, you have to encourage the author to work hard, be faithful to do everything they can, and then turn it over to God's hands and allow Him to use it.

"People will never love this." 
Writers rely on the support of interested people. The biggest fear after each new story is wondering if other people will love it like  you do. Someone else to love the characters, plot twists, little details, and storyline seems so impossible. Every time it happens it's really shocking, and so wonderful that the level of their excitement when you talk to them about it may surprise you.

"I'll never get published."
We've touched on this before. Publishing is a long journey with many weeks of waiting, and many emails. Until they are published, and even afterwards, it's a perennial issue on every author's mind.

"Maybe God doesn't want me to do this. Maybe I'm wasting my time."
Some people go happily along, content to write because they like it, God has gifted them in it, and there we go. But many writers struggle with the questions "Does God want me to work at writing really hard?" "Is this taking too much time?" "Am I working as hard as another adult my age?" "Is this the right story to be working on?" The feeling of limited time and for the Christian, doing a work that matters can be a heavy weight.

"Please don't make me read my writing out loud." (With thanks to H.M. Wilson.)
Reading writing out loud feels like you're being skinned alive, or you're sitting in front of a panel of judges having them evaluate your merits of beauty. Sometimes you get feedback so crippling you never really forget it. Even worse is the polite silence following the end, in which you can sense that no one connects with it at all. Reading aloud equals the exposure of our soul, personality, fears, hopes, and work to others. And you thought it was just a story. ;)

How You Can Help 

Authors have pressures, just like any other job or lifestyle. They have pressure to write based on what will sell quickly rather than what they really believe in. They have pressure to give up writing. And they have pressure to make money. Sometimes the fear that stems from these things can be so crippling, that the creative process starts losing its spark. That in turn leads to more fear. But the community of people around them, (that means you!) both writers who understand and non-writers, can give them that live-saving soothing support or kick-in-the-pants input.

If you'd like to encourage a writer friend who's facing some fear, here are some ideas:

1. Ask them to share snippets and bits about their story with you. 
Give them the option of  'if they want to'. But seriously, your constant, multiple affirmations of interest would probably be an encouragement when they need a reminder that someone besides them loves this story. Even the faintest spark of interest can be a life-line. And you will get all kinds of posters, pictures, interviews, and snippets. Sneak-peek exclusives. ;)

2. Ask them to tell you about the times God has answered prayer in their writing process. 
Sometimes when a writer questions if God wants them doing this, it helps to go back and remember all the things God has done to get them to this point. You would be surprised about how many miracles go into the making of a book. Finding an old specialized research book at the library. Meeting the right person at the right time. Getting off work early on a day you need to concentrate. Writers forget these things when the going is hard. Help them remember by asking them to tell you.

3. Ask them how you can be in prayer for the publication process. 
Whatever the next step is: meeting an agent, being accepted by an agent, being accepted by a publisher, just finishing a manuscript, or for indies, finding a cover designer, building a good number of interested followers--these are all steps to the end goal. Wherever they're at, I'm sure your writer friend would love prayer for it.

4. Ask them to read their writing out loud. 
You'll probably get some resistance. But helping a writer overcome fear and distance themselves from their writing is good practice. Keep asking several times until they're willing to read it. Eventually your interest will wear down their reluctance.

5. Remind them that they have lots of time and several drafts to make their story beautiful. 
What comes out on paper is rarely as good as what's in their mind. In case you don't know, here's what writing each draft feels like for writers: the first draft feels like throwing up on paper (because everything is so awful). The second draft feels like sweating it out in a really hard exercise routine. The third draft feels like writing with blood to add an extra layer of pathos and beauty, because the sweat wasn't good enough. Remind them that it can be as good, and it will be as good. It just needs some time to grow.

In Conclusion 
Ultimately, the problem with any writer's fear starts with "I". The solution to any writer's fear is "But God". Writers are sometimes so "I" focused on our inadequacies that we forget it's not about what we can do, but what God chooses to do through us.

God is able. We need friends, both writers and non-writers, to remind us of that. Thank-you to all our non-writing friends for being there to encourage and critique us. Our books stand on your shoulders, and you are a precious, indispensable part of our journey.

Want more? Check out other articles in this series:
How to Talk to a Writer
6 Ways to Pray for Writers
The Book Writing Process

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Butterfly and the Violin, by Kristy Cambron

A story of an old, lost painting, with an Auschwitz prisoner who played the violin. Her beautiful eyes and tattooed wrist only make the picture more startling and vivid.

That's the premise of The Butterfly and the Violin, by Kristy Cambron.

I heard many good things about Kristy Cambron over the last couple of years. I always intended to look up her book, but never got around to it.

Then I met Kristy herself.

She dropped by first-timer's orientation at the ACFW conference in September, taking time to meet and greet a roomful of scared, excited newbies with a love for writing. We stopped and talked, and she signed a poster for me. Then we talked a bit more as we walked down the halls to the main session. I loved her bright spirit and the way she paid attention to the needs of people around her. I knew I wanted to buy her book as soon as I could.

The next night, I walked down to the conference area for a worship and writing session, only to bump into another conference attendee. "Kristy's doing a talk on Bible verse mapping downstairs," she said. "It's an impromptu thing; a bunch of people were interested."

I originally came down to work like crazy on my newest novel outline. Instead, I went straight to the room where Kristy was speaking and heard an inspiring way of studying Scripture, with careful attention to the correct meaning in its pages. Through that talk, I knew that hers was a heart for Jesus that I really, really wanted to put some support towards.

As soon as I came home, I picked up The Butterfly and the Violin at our local Christian bookstore. It was just as beautiful as I hoped and thought it would be.

The Story [From Amazon]

A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz--and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.
Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl--a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.
In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover--the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul--who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire. As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

My Thoughts
This story is so subtle and beautiful. That's what I look for in Christian fiction--subtlety and beauty woven together into a masterpiece of grace and growth. Even the cover has a beauty that a lot of classic readers are starved for--the painting, distressed look that doesn't need a lot of bright colors and sharp photography to grab the attention.

Adele's deep despair playing music in the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz as prisoners marched to work and execution gripped my heart. The romance between her and Vladimir was sweet and welcome. The plotting was excellent, with the way her modern counterparts, Sera and James worked through the mystery piece by piece, as their story flipped back and forth with Adele's.

I love the way Kristy uses objects. A violin. A photograph. A butterfly clip. Poppy lipstick. Each object held deep significance, and appeared again and again throughout the story in a way that added skilled imagery and word play. I love the way she used art--I don't recall ever reading a fiction story that made the celebration of art so special. The use of painting and music to connect soul to God using the abilities He gives us. She doesn't shy away from it, or downplay it as less important than other aspects of faith. Christian art was one of the central themes of the story. One of my favorite sentences is when she says,
She told herself that to have something of worth in a world full of chaos was the very definition of beauty. It felt like a spiritual liberation that couldn't be silenced. These prisoners, the ones who painted or wrote poetry or played in the orchestra--they refused to let that spirit die. And this, she decided, is why the heart creates.
In Sera and William's story, mentions of "Mr. California Cool" and men's cologne weren't up my alley. There are moments throughout the story where the subtlety and uniqueness shifts into familiar phraseology of Christian romance. A couple of modern words in the historical story jerked me out of the moment. But those were small things, and I wasn't opposed to the modern storyline being included. I really appreciated that William wasn't a grouch throwing obstacles in Kristy's way, but a surprisingly warm-hearted and friendly young man. The outdoor rehearsal dinner was an especially vivid scene, and many of the elements had an air of things the author herself knew and enjoyed. I don't know. That's strictly a guess. But I loved it for that.

The heart of the story--love, beauty, art, suffering--beat strong and clear at every turn, making this a soul-enriching experience. I look forward to more of Kristy's work in future. The Butterfly and the Violin was a beautiful introduction into her writing world.

Monday, October 19, 2015

2015 Blogger Book Awards Opening Round

Friends and fellow bibliophiles, I'm writing a post on Monday this week instead of Tuesday because I have an exciting announcement for you all!

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Blogger Awards!!

This competition, hosted by the lovely Allison, relies on reader nominations in six categories to award six outstanding authors from 2015. We have several hosts participating, and they'll be announcing the finals on the following dates:

Saturday, December 19- Best Cover, by Schuyler (me!)
Sunday, December 20- Best Title, by Hannah
Monday, December 21- Best Short Fiction, Ghosty
Tuesday, December 22- Best Character, Annie
Wednesday, December 23- Best Book, Sarah
Thursday, December 24- Best Author, Allison
We have hosts and categories, but we don't have nominations, and that's where you come in! I need you to comment below with your favorite book covers and then go to the other blogs and nominate books in each of their categories as well. Only two conditions: the books must be published in 2015, (no republications) and your nomination must be in by November 1st!
 *bribes you with chocolate and lattes*
Make haste! Make haste! And don't forget to share this with friends on Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, so we can make this the best and most unforgettable Blogger Awards year yet. :)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Why Book Lovers Need to be Book Buyers

Most authors, sometime after they get published, will write a post explaining how readers can support authors. Invariably the point comes up "to show the most love, you can buy our books." In my first years of blogging, being a broke 18-year-old, I never paid much attention. That may have been more of a detriment than I thought.

Part of it is the homeschool culture I'm in. If we can borrow or buy used, we aren't likely to buy new. Money saving is important, and to some extent, always has been for us. My brother and I like to joke that having Dutch and Scottish heritage, there's no hope for us. Where some people pinch a penny to make a deal, we'll pinch them twice. New in my mind, especially a new book, was simply not a viable or necessary option for a long time.

A Goodreads group hosted a survey a while back, asking what was the highest amount consumers would pay for an ebook they were interested in. Most wouldn't go higher than $3.99. That's certainly true for me. In the fluctuations of work, books are mainly luxuries, and I picked them up used or for $1-2 on Amazon. Just this month I bought a brand new print copy at full bookstore price for maybe the first or second time in my life.

For many years, it was because I honestly didn't have the money. After starting a house help job last winter, I started to pay a little more for random books and treats. But I still kept it on the low side; $5 or $10 was about my limit. $15--the price of many new paperbacks--was out of the question.

Then, gradually, a new, more dominion-minded reason for being a book buyer gradually took form in my mind.

Last month I attended the ACFW conference in Dallas, Texas, where fiction writers get together to pitch their books to agents, learn about the craft of writing, and talk about their beloved and crazy characters in the hallways. But this time, one of the key things I took away from the conference wasn't the teaching, or any light bulb moments in my book. It was about the publishing industry.

In some instances, I've always struggled with finding things to read in the modern market. I take responsibility for that, but sometimes it's simply a personality difference with what's being published. There are guidelines and certain types of stories that are preferred by publishers--you have a female lead, a dash of romance, a tight action sequence, a conversion or spiritual awakening (in Christian fiction) all in about 90,000 words. The publishers have this formula because the majority of book purchases are 20-60 year old Christian women, and those readers prefer that writing style. They're going to market to their biggest audience. Because each run of books is a significant risk of $25,000 give or take to print, publishers want a guaranteed sell.  That means originality within certain limits. Original details or personalities within a tried-and-true plot line.

So the question I and many friends have asked is, if we don't like that type of story, where does that leave us? Most of us fix it by retreating to the classics and burying ourselves in Buchan and Tolstoy, with a dash of Tolkien on the side. But I think there's a better way, if we're willing to loosen up just a touch.

Here's the crux of the matter. If we as readers want a certain type of literature to be published, we have to put our money where our mouth is. Many of you who read this blog are homeschoolers; lots of you are classic lovers. A lot of you have expressed your concerns with the quality of modern literature, in Christian and secular fields alike.

But talking about it doesn't change anything. We can lament until the day we die, but ultimately, the publishers will keep publishing and the readers will keep reading. The buying power has the voice.

If you want to open up spots for diverse literature, you have to be a buying power.

If we really want to change things, we have to become a force to be reckoned with. A buying force that can be marketed to and pleased. That means getting out of the mindset of buying something the cheapest we can find it. It means paying the extra on Amazon, other websites, and especially in physical bookstores. It means buying more than just at Christmas and our birthday. It means enrolling in programs like Kindle Unlimited, and putting our pages read toward the authors we most like, respect, and want to see more of. It means spreading the news on blogs and social media, and getting friends to buy books we like. The more people, the more effective your preferences and requests are.

And to be honest, it means buying modern published books. You don't have to just buy anything. You don't have to lower your personal preferences and standards. But publishers aren't going to be convinced by you reading lots of Dickens books on Kindle Unlimited. Dickens is here to stay. If you want to see new books published in the same vein as classics you enjoy, you simply have to buy new books. There are lots of them out there. I'm finding more and more authors I enjoy in the modern world. There's plenty of quality stuff being published in every genre for readers to enjoy, and publishers will be more willing to listen to you if you partner with them with your time, money, and reviews.

Why do book lovers need to be book buyers? Because book buying gives you a voice in the selections being offered to you, your children, and your friends. Buying new books. The cheapest option always has a hidden cost--losing the ability to influence. It's a cost I never considered and one I'm not willing to pay. Frugality is not the only virtue. Paying full price always has more benefits than you can see up front.

The influencers are those that are not only willing to talk the talk, but also buy the book. I want to be an influencer. That means I'm going to have to start paying for the privilege.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Behind the Scenes Writing Tag

Annie Hawthorne, over at Curious Wren, tagged me for a Behind the Scenes Writing tag! The questions look like fun, so I'm going to join in--but I warn you, my process is more like an office than a fun hobby, and I could stand to work on the self-encouragement side of things.
the questionlings
– Is there a certain snack you like to eat while writing?
I don't eat while I write, but sometimes when my brain is grinding away and begins to boycott me for lack of food, I'll get up and 'scrounge' (my own description). Mostly anything we have in the house, from pretzels to peanuts. If there happen to be Cheeze-Its about, I'm one happy camper. Or apple slices.

I always feel guilty eating chocolate before lunch, so that almost never happens.

*hides from all the raised eyebrows*

– When do you normally write? Night, afternoon, or morning?
I could write all three when I have a deadline going. Nothing much productive happens writing-wise before 10, but I try to get going early, before 9:30, and do the odds and ends responsibilities. I am trying to be better about keeping office hours and ending by 8 or 9 at night, so I can have time for family and recharging. Late morning and late afternoon are my best writing times.

– Where do you write?
Either in a comfy blue recliner in our living room, or on my bed. You know, beds are one thing I get feels over. I never had an office, so for me a bed isn't just a bed. It's a haven of refuge, a productivity tank, and a place of great discovery all at once. A lot of memories are wrapped up in that spot.

– How often do you write a new novel?
HA. Not often. I've been working on my big historical fiction for a long time. Last year I got mostly through the first draft of Homeschool Diaries. Every year I do about 1 novel or novel edit (talking 150,000 word novel here) and about 1 novella and 2 short stories. I love having these massive focus-on-one-story journeys, with brief side jaunts into little characters I want to make an acquaintance with.

– Do you listen to music while you write?
I listen to vocals. Seriously. Vocals make me happy, and it's like the singers and I are all this big happy group working together. They sing, I write, and we all have a grand time. Andrew Peterson, Celtic Thunder (selected songs), and various CCM artists and random songs are all my novelling companions.

– What do you write on? Laptop or paper?
Very simply, I write on what I need to write on. When I didn't have a laptop, I wrote an entire novel by hand. As soon as I got a laptop, I switched to that for editing and efficiency. This summer, when my poor ASUS went to the repair shop and entered its last days, I wrote mostly by hand because I didn't have Scrivener. It turned out well, because I had a novella (Caribbean Dance) I wanted to get a certain ambiance that only writing by hand could bring.

– Is there a special ritual you have before or after you write?
Before I write, I put on my headphones and cue up whatever song is running in my head that moment. I may read notes to remind me what needs to happen, or a specially good scene I just finished. Afterwards, I check social media and read over bits of scenes I just wrote that I especially enjoyed. I may send a quote to a writing friend or my sister.

– What do you do to get into the mood to write?
Do you really want to know?

*battle scene ahead*

Inner muse: Schuyler, you need to get writing. There are half a million other things on your to-do list today and this 2,000 words isn't going to happen with you sitting around. You should have gotten ready faster. Hurry up and get moving. Why are you checking email? I suppose you can't help it, but you should be able to. Holy smoke, it's almost 9:30. Get started immediately.

Me: Excuse me, I really have been busy. If you want a list I can give you one.

Inner muse: Stern glare.

Me *abashed* *meekly goes to write*

I know it sounds terrible, but that's pretty much how I get in the mood. :P

– What is always near the place you write?
My purple water bottle and my mom and sister doing Bible Bee study together. We live in a tiny hobbit hole, so I write in the living room recliner while other life is happening around me.

– Do you have a reward system for your word count?
Believe it or not, I am working on one, and I'm as excited as a little girl with a new doll. I've never rewarded myself before, but thanks to the prompting and example of the wonderful Emily, I'm putting together a treat box for myself. So far I have tea, a new mug, a special notebook, a chocolate mouse, new music CDs, and best of all, coupons for little treats of things I like to do, but never make time for. I intend to add a chocolate bar as soon as I have the opportunity.

I also intended to have a picture for you all, but I shall have to post one later.

Now for not talking myself out of rewards. Any tips on that problem??

– Is there anything about your writing process that others might not know about?
I write sequentially, one scene at a time. Making character/quote posters is very important to my writing process, because it keeps me focused on the beautiful parts and encourages me to keep going. My characters are real to me. We are best buddies, and do everything together, even beyond the story: trips, meals, real life. (Like not obsessively, but quite often).

All right! Now for people I tag:

Katie Nichols @ Spiral-Bound
Wendy Greene @ We Learn As We Write
Suzannah Rowntree @ In Which I Read Vintage Novels
Emily Hayse @ The Herosinger

The questions:
– Is there a certain snack you like to eat while writing?
– When do you normally write? Night, afternoon, or morning?
– Where do you write?
– How often do you write a new novel?
– Do you listen to music while you write?
– What do you write on? Laptop or paper?
– Is there a special ritual you have before or after you write?
– What do you do to get into the mood to write?
– What is always near the place you write?
– Do you have a reward system for your word count?
– Is there anything about your writing process that others might not know about?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Leave of Absence

Hey bibliophiles!
Unfortunately, while I have lots of inspiration for a post today, I'm out of time to put it together and mental energy to address it properly. It happens rarely, but even the most cast-iron blogger turns out to be human on occasion. :)

I have, however, written  a good 8,000 words in my current novel this week, and hope to log in a few more after I get back from work today. Such fun!

Here's a snippet. Because snippets are fun too.
“I’d rather have you than his enemies set after him.”

“Are you threatening him?”

"You have a friend at stake. I have an empire to protect. I’m giving you a choice because I want to control damages if he’s making his own plans. But if you refuse, I won’t hesitate to call in other reinforcements.” 

There is was, the knife edge to his throat. Held by a friend with the very best of intentions. If he didn’t take it, the knife would be turned on another friend. It was a strange kind of protection.

Tell me what you're reading and how you like it! Are you getting ready for NaNoWriMo in November? I am, and I can't wait to participate in my first year ever. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you back here on Tuesday!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Leave it to Psmith, by P.G. Wodehouse

Psmith. The P is silent, as in shrimp.

I don't know when I ever would have looked up Wodehouse, had it not been for the enthusiastic praises of friends. (Looking at you, Annie.)

And oh my, am I glad I did. I enjoyed myself so much.

The Book
[From the back cover of the Arrow Books edition:] Lady Constance Keeble, sister of Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle, has both an imperious manner and a valuable diamond necklace. The precarious peace of Blandings is shattered when her necklace becomes the object of dark plottings, for within the castle lurk some well-connected jewel thieves--among them the Honourable Freddie Threepwood, Lord Emsworth's younger son, who wants the reward money to set up a bookmaking business. Psmith, the elegant socialist, is also after it for his newly married chum Mike. And on patrol with the impossible task of bringing management to Blandings is the Efficient Baxter, whose strivings for order lead to a memorable encounter with the castle flowerpots.

Will peace ever return to Blandings Castle...?

My Thoughts
P.G. Wodehouse is a delightful mix of consumable fiction and quality writing. Anyone who pumps out that many books is probably writing them to be quickly enjoyed and more wanted immediately. But British consumables from the 1920s have a certain class to them that modern equivalents don't achieve. His witty narrative and varied characters put it on the level of Cadfael--those consumables that I have no guilt consuming lots of.

The characters are wonderful. Freddie Threepwood, with his love for really cheesy movies. The suspicious Baxter (We hates him, precious. And we feel sorry for him, too.) Lovable Lord Emsworth with his opinions on hollyhocks. Vulgar Cootes; imperious Lady Constance; immature Mr. McTodd (that poet needs a good spanking) and the beautiful Eve Halliday. I loved them all. With as many characters as Wodehouse introduced in his first chapters, he would be told to cut the number at least in half in the modern publishing world. But you know? It doesn't hurt any reader to have to exercise their brain. Sometimes a lot of characters just gives you an opportunity to work a little harder to remember and sort them out.

The star of the show--by far, the star of the show--was beloved Psmith. I have an affection for Comrade Psmith. A warm sort of fangirlish affection. Psmith is classy. Psmith has a monocle. Psmith, with his cultured speech and ever-courteous jibes, is just the sort of fellow I approve of. I understand his reluctance to continue in the fish trade completely. His calm, thoughtful solutions whenever he got in a scrape--his gentle whiling of Eve Haliday away from stuffy libraries to enjoy his company--oh, yes. Comrade Psmith is just the sort of character I am rather jealous for not inventing myself. He would fit well in the varied collection of characters I like to call friends.

The plot was tight. Every disaster I could foresee happened, and then some. Wodehouse put in all the twists and turns you could hope for. And each disaster was accompanied with a huge dose of humor that had me laughing like I've rarely laughed over a book before.

Consider the following gem:
"I asked you to wear a pink chrysanthemum. So I could recognize you, you know."
"I am wearing a pink chrysanthemum. I should have imagined that that was a fact that the most casual could hardly have overlooked."
"That thing?" the other gazed disparagingly at the floral decoration. "I thought it was some kind of cabbage. I meant one of those what-d'you-may-call-its that people do wear in their button-holes."
"Carnation, possibly?"
"Carnation! That's right."
Psmith removed the chrysanthemum and dropped it behind his chair. He looked at his companion reproachfully.
"If you had studied botany at school, comrade," he said, "much misery might have been averted. I cannot begin to tell you the spiritual agony I suffered, trailing through the metropolis behind that shrub."
I've never met a writer as delightfully funny as Wodehouse. You'll find some language, mostly on Freddie Threepwood's account, but nothing too bad. I enjoyed the whole journey. I really didn't know which suspect was going to end up taking the necklace--there were a lot of people with a good alibi to choose from. It was delightfully suspenseful.

And at the end, did my Melancholic Phlegmatic mind start dissecting the moral ethics of taking stealing in such a light-hearted fashion?

Yes. Yes, it did. (Thank-you for pegging me, Annie.)

But I promptly gave it a stern talking to and sent it back to its room. P.G. Wodehouse is meant strictly for entertainment, and should be taken as such. There are some books where over-analyzing would be a crime, and this is one of them. It is not meant to build your moral foundation on. It's simply meant to be a rollicking, hilarious joy-ride of mishaps and unexpected love.

Check out Leave it to Psmith for a light-hearted, funny, must-read. My first Wodehouse--and I hope there will be many more to come!

Friday, October 2, 2015

October Interview: Gina Winfield

Meet Gina--my spunky, precious new character I'm developing another WW1 novel I'm working on. :) I hope you enjoy her as much as I did!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
How do you do, darlings? My name is Gina Winfield, and my mama said I was born to boss the fates. I’m two parts skilled mechanic, two parts good cook, and a dab of red lipstick on sassy days.

How old are you?
I was born December 7th, 1892, to two of the best parents I know. That makes me 28. Yes, you have no business knowing.

Tell us about your family. :)
My dad runs an export business and my mom’s a pillar of the community, helping out with every church potluck, distressed family, and church committee you could think of. Her garden supplied all the flowers for the church decorations. Our house hosted most of the elder sessions because my dad was on the council. I always hid in the cellar and listened, eating apples out of the fruit barrel. Mama said every girl ought to know housekeeping from top to bottom, so I helped get ready for all the dinners and our old servant taught me how to cook. Daddy taught me to fix the family car. He loved cars, and they never had a boy, so I tried to stand in now and then. They said I was to live decent, work hard, and love Jesus. That’s always been my mantra. When I have the time, I like to knock the sass out of stuck up individuals.

What was life like growing up?
We had enough to be comfortable growing up. We were so comfortable I went to a nice college and had to force my parents to stop sending me an allowance afterwards so I could stand on my own two feet. I did let them buy my house for me. I didn’t have enough to be that independent. But now I have enough to keep myself comfortably and help out a couple of families who need the extra money. I’m just mongrel British since the time of the crusades. I don’t have any kind of fancy foreign blood in me. And I lived in Oxford growing up, so we never saw the sea. 
How educated are you?
I’m college educated. I did well in every subject, but my favorite subject was getting outdoors with a tennis racquet. It’s a clean, honest sport--though college girls can make it petty enough for anything. After college I travelled to see places in Scotland, Leeds, and Bristol before settling down to earn a living.

Religious preferences?

I’ve been a Presbyterian all my life. Being an elder’s daughter you can’t help it. I know more church politics than anyone else. I believe in all the verses about helping orphans and widows. And getting women the vote so someone sensible can run this country. Oh, wait, there isn’t a verse about that. But I’m a confident lass. I pray confidently, I sing confidently, and when I get to heaven I’m going to tell God how much I like him.

Tell us some words that describe you.
Words that describe me: Confidence. Sass. Workaholic. Passionate. Skilled.

And what do you look like?
You want to know what I look like? You objectifying toad. I’m pretty. Just look at my collar bones. I have better muscles than most women, and I like to keep slim. I don’t eat half the things I cook. I stand up straight with my shoulders back and my chin up. That shows the world who’s boss. I have a nice, oval face with a healthy glow and pixie-slanted eyes. I can’t remember what color they are. My nose is straight. Like a file. Nothing soft about it. And my lips are honest-cut and generous, not rosebud like, but I don’t want a sissy look. I love putting red lipstick on them. Even for everyday work at the garage. (Daddy's friend got me a job at a garage as a mechanic. I fixed his car when he visited our house and Daddy was gone, which completely enchanted him.) I have pale skin. Firm, soft, white. Except for my hands. Those are mostly stained from oil and grease, and I can never get it out from under my fingernails. I have piercings for earrings and I have no scars. My voice is slightly loud, common sense, and straightforward. Alto voice. Guttural when I’m purring sarcasm. People notice the lipstick first and the jumpsuit with pant legs next whenever they see me. I like khaki jumpsuits. I’m not going to pump gas and fix cars in dresses. But when I’m not working, I wear nice, colorful dresses with floral prints or solids, and soft cardigans that I’ve knitted myself. I keep my hair short around my shoulders, and it curls on its own, but I enhance it sometimes.

What is your love language?
My love language is gifts. I’m always giving things to people.

Tell us your strongest and weakest points.
My strong points are dignity, firm sense of character, and kindness to children. My weak points are sass, annoyance, and not thinking much of men. I have a lot of self-discipline. Never skip work, even for headaches.

What are you good at? What do people like about you?
I’m good at cooking, amusing children, dancing, makeup, and fixing cars. I’m also good at tennis. I can’t carry a tune to save my life. People like my chocolate cake best. Women like the fact that I don’t mind saying what everyone’s thinking. Churches like my willingness to volunteer for community events.

What are your preferences in politics? Music? Arts?
I’m a suffragette. I believe women have the right to vote. I don’t attend rallies. They’re loud and defiant and counter-productive. Jazz music is my favorite. I don’t read books. I love going to movies. Anything about history or action.

Do you play sports?
I love tennis on a good day, brisk walks by the shore, or bike rides. I did play tennis in school, and I played it well. I still have awards in my bedroom closet.

Favorite color?
My favorite color is red.

How do you like to spend the weekend?
Best way to spend the weekend? In bed. Sleeping in. Don’t even move. Just look at magazines and drink tea. Maybe get up in the afternoon for a nice Saturday night date.

What do you like for gifts?
I love fruit, chocolate, and jazz records as gifts. Socks and books are insulting. (Gina has shocking taste in that.)

Any pets?
One pet. A black cat named Jarlath. My landlords won’t care as long as he stays in the barn. He’ll get hay bits stuck in his nice, sleek fur. Beasts.

What are you like when you're happy? Sad? Angry?
When I’m happy, I smile and give hugs. I dance in the kitchen. And hum, even though it doesn’t sound good. When I’m angry, I’ll tell you so. I’ll bang pots and pans and clatter the oven racks and split wood and change a tire. When I’m frustrated, I always work it out by myself, preferably by working on a car while I think. When I’m sad, I throw myself on the bed and cry in sad abandon. I don’t mind crying in front of people. I’ll cry in front of anyone. When I’m afraid, I’ll tuck it all inside and put on the fiercest front I can muster.

What cheers you up? What annoys you?
Chocolate and jazz cheer me up. You can annoy me by being infuriatingly polite and agreeable, or questioning my strength.

Have you ever done anything you're ashamed of?
Well, I actually did sling a wrench at a man’s head when he told me I was pretty. He deserved it. I also give a lot of people a good dressing-down. Sometimes I regret it. I regret doing it to my dad a few times, especially on my twentieth birthday. That wasn’t very grateful.

Do you have any secrets? 
My weight. I don’t want to tell people that. Also the splotch on my right leg just below my knee. It’s a birth mark, and so inconvenient when short skirts come into fashion. Also my morning breath. No one deserves to have that inflicted upon them.

You are the kind of person who... (finish this sentence)
I am the kind of person who will hug you, scold you, feed you, love you all in the course of one day. I am the kind of person who complains about hard work, but I’ll be the first to volunteer.
And there you have it! What cheers you up? And how do you like to spend the weekend? :)
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