To NaNo, or Not To NaNo?

Sharpen those pencils, it's nearly November!

Sharpen those pencils, it’s nearly November!

Every November, something wild and wonderful happens: hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world commit to writing at least 50,000 words on a draft of a novel. Any novel, any genre–anything you want! This phenomenon is called National Novel Writing Month, shortened rather snappily to NaNoWriMo. The idea of NaNo is this: many people talk or fantasize about writing a novel, but never actually get the ball rolling because they’re afraid their writing will be crap. The goal of NaNo, therefore, is to push people past that initial phase of fear and paralysis and challenge writers of all walks of life to just write–quality is largely immaterial. The goal is simply to spend one month cranking out a large quantity of words, through the end of a first draft.

I really love the spirit of NaNoWriMo. I think it’s a great motivational kick in the pants for anyone who has always thought about writing a novel but never gotten around to it. Or anyone who started a novel (“It was a dark and stormy night….”) and never gotten around to finishing it. More than just being an amorphous challenge, NaNoWriMo offers a whole slew of tools and support for WriMos–a website where you can post synopses, log word-counts, and chat with other participants. There are organized NaNoWriMo mixer events and write-ins, where you can discuss your progress with other participants or sit in the corner with your laptop and a gallon of coffee and type furiously until your fingernails come off. There are nearly as many ways to meaningfully participate in NaNo as there are days in November.

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The Query Conundrum

All done! What's next?

All done! What’s next?

For those of you who aren’t super familiar with the publishing industry, here’s the way one goes about getting a novel traditionally published: One, write a book. Two, find yourself a talented literary agent with connections to plenty of editors and publishers. Three, cry yourself to sleep every night until your agent lands you a book deal. Voila! New York Times bestseller list, here we come!

Now, if you aren’t particularly good at picking up on internet sarcasm, I’ll let you in on a little secret: that process isn’t as easy as it sounds. And even if you’ve written a book (or two…or three) and polished it until it prances and tosses its clever little head like a well-groomed show pony, you still have to find yourself a literary agent. That’s where the dreaded query letter comes in.

A query letter is basically a single page letter from a completely unknown author to a very busy literary agent who receives approximately one bajillion query letters every day. The letter must hook the agent’s attention, then quickly sum up the main characters in the novel, what they want, how they intend to get it, who or what is standing in their way, and what will happen if they don’t succeed. The query must deftly encapsulate not only the central conflict of the novel, but also display world-building, character development, and reflect the tone and voice of the book. Finally, it must be personable, professional, and interesting. All in just about 250 words. Sound like fun?

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Ode to Bonsai

Fall foliage at the arboretum

Fall foliage at the arboretum

Yesterday we were blessed with an absolutely splendid autumn day. Wanting to get out of the city and enjoy nature, the husband and I ventured to a nearby arboretum to enjoy the wonderful afternoon. The temperature was pleasantly cool, but a bright sun warmed the red-gold leaves of trees just beginning to turn. The spicy, earthy scent of pine needles was thick on the air, a promise of cooler nights to come.

As we walked, we stumbled across a collection of bonsai that were donated to the arboretum nearly a hundred years ago by a former ambassador to Japan. I don’t know much about bonsai, but I’ve always harbored a curiosity about the tiny twisting trees. Although these bonsai varied in size and type–cypress, cherry, and even a Japanese maple with tiny spiked leaves as red as blood–they all seemed to possess a gravity and elegance belied by their small size. And that’s when I realized how ancient the bonsai were.

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Cover Reveal: World of Ash, by Shauna Granger

Hey readers! I’m so stoked to introduce the gorgeous, scary, stylish cover for Shauna Granger’s upcoming release World of Ash. Make sure you check out this crazy-talented lady’s book when it comes out in December!
World of Ash
by Shauna Granger
Release Date: 12/2013
Book Summary:
There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real.
The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative and find shelter from the pox that continues to devastate the world. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive.
That is, until she meets Dylan. Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair, has nowhere to go and no one to live for. He convinces Kat there can be safety in numbers, that they can watch out for each other. So the unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – if they can survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies.


About the Author
Like so many other writers, Shauna grew up as an avid reader, but it was in high school that she realized she wanted to be a writer. Five years ago, Shauna started work on her Elemental Series. She released the first installment, Earth, on May 1, 2011 and has since released four sequels, with the series coming to an end with Spirit. She is currently hard at work on a new Urban Fantasy series, starring a spunky witch with a smush-faced cat named Artemis.
Author Links:

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Cover Reveal
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Freedom in Routine

Sometimes life gets a little crazy. Metaphors abound: roller coaster, whirlwind, upheaval. But all these words pretty much mean the same thing; sometimes the way things happen isn’t the way you expected them to happen. And more often than not, those things happening can get in the way of other things happening, namely important things like work.

Whee! Now let me off.

Whee! Now let me off.

The past four months or so have been a little bit like that for me. We moved halfway around the world, back to the good ol’ US of A after spending 2+ years abroad. Reverse culture shock, anyone? Then there was traveling to visit family and friends. And when we finally got “home” we had to set up our new apartment from scratch. And I mean that literally. No furniture, no pots or pans, not even salt and pepper to season our sad frozen pizzas. Husband started his new job and promptly left town for three weeks, and he had hardly returned when I left town for another three weeks to help with some family stuff in Florida.

You get the picture.

Unfortunately, this kind of whirlwind lifestyle doesn’t suit me. Or rather, it doesn’t suit my work schedule. I used to abhor the very idea of routine, but the past few years have taught me that routine is not only my friend, but my primary ally in the fight against all things anti-work: procrastination, distraction, and more procrastination, to name a few. In fact, the only way I ever get anything done is through following a fairly strenuous routine. And when that routine is taken out back and shot? Well, let’s just say I don’t get much work done.

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Monthly Post at Spellbound Scribes

Hello, readers! Sorry for the hiatus, life sometimes rudely inserts itself into your carefully planned blog schedule. Check back Wednesday for a return to a regular posting schedule.

In the meantime, make sure to check out my monthly post over at Spellbound Scribes! In honor of Hallowe’en, I’m discussing why the horror genre is so titillating for so many. Make sure to check out all the other awesome posts while you’re there!

Sum of All Parts

Boy, you're gonna carry that weight.

Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight.

A few days ago my mom sent me a link to a version of The Beatles’ Abbey Road with the vocal tracks completely isolated. Being a lifelong Beatles enthusiast, I was excited and curious to hear what the band’s final album sounded like sans musical instruments. I put it on this morning as I was making my coffee, and allowed the three part harmonies to wash over me. It’s definitely an interesting experience to hear very familiar songs sung without the usual accompaniment of guitar and bass and keyboard. I found myself focusing on the way the harmonies built on each other, and how the different tenors of the singers’ voices blended and complemented each other. But as the final song ended, I couldn’t help thinking to myself how much better I liked the original version, instruments included.

There’s a very, very famous quote that, although commonly attributed to Aristotle, actually originated with Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” This is an integral concept to Gestalt psychology, in that our perception of any whole exists as an independent entity from all of its parts perceived individually. The sum is not necessarily greater, or better, but it does exist as other than the sum of its parts. A house is more than the bricks, mortar, timber and metal that went into its construction. A year is more than all of its days added together.

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Me with a new project. Image belongs to icanhazcheezburger

Me with a new project. Image belongs to icanhazcheezburger

Here’s the thing about me: a new project is always–always, always–more exciting than a project I’ve been working on for a while, or worse yet, a project that I’m revising. If you read my blog regularly you’ll know that I’m currently completing revisions for my novel after putting it through beta, and hoping to have it ready for querying in the next few weeks. But revisions suck. They’re boring and tedious and frustrating. A new project, on the other hand, is shiny and new and fun!

I’ve been trying to be good, to put this new project on the back burner until I’m finished with revisions, but I can’t stop thinking about it, and it’s been giving me insomnia. I’ll turn off the light, and ideas immediately flood into my brain, settings and characters and names and plot points crowding together and shouting to be heard. And because it’s so new and exciting, it’s hard not to humor my uncooperative writer’s mind, and before I know it it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I haven’t slept a wink, nor am I any closer to sleep than when I got under the covers.

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Music to Live To

“If music be the food of love, play on!”  –Duke Orsino, from Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare

Soundtrack of my childhood.

Soundtrack of my childhood.

I grew up with music. My mom and my dad are both musical people; my mom is a singer and both a pianist and a piano teacher, and my dad also sings as well as plays the guitar and the Irish bodhrán. Music was a constant in my house: classical music on NPR with breakfast, The Who on the way to school, piano lessons in the afternoon, lullabies before bed. I think I knew all the words to every Beatles song in existence before I even knew how to read. My mom teaches the Suzuki method, so the Suzuki tapes were on constant repeat at home and in the car (to this day, I hear can hear certain classical music pieces and know what song comes next in the Suzuki method). Music was like air, all around and impossible to not consume.

I’m grown up now, and although music may not be as integral to my life as it was when I was younger, I still enjoy music on so many levels. A gorgeous song or a certain vocalist or an impressive guitar riff can take my breath away. When I find an album that I adore I will literally listen to it on repeat because I can feel the songs in my bones and in my blood. Music still inspires and uplifts me.

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