Otherwhere: November 21

PiepieIt is a sunny but very cold Saturday here, and I’m holed up inside trying to finish up my NaNoWriMo word count for the day before I start in on yet more cleaning in anticipation of hosting Thanksgiving.

But, as always, or at least for the last two weeks, I have saved up a lot of cool links as I travel the internet and I share them with you today.  Most of them have to do with writing, as befits a writing blog (duh) but I threw in a couple bonus links on other topics, too.  Here goes:


I didn’t find as many useful past as usual this week, but I do offer you a collection of posts on writing scenes.  I went in search of these for a student.  Collectively, I think they are helpful:

10 Ways to Launch Strong Scenes

Excellent advice here.

The actual advice in this post is a bit too anal for the way I write, but there are some interesting examples of scene lists from famous writers here.

This post is titled How to Write a Scene, and it may just help you do that. Let’s hope.

And, how about some writing prompts specifically oriented to getting you deeper into your scene?  Here you go.

Social Media

I adore Instagram.  I used to spend spare moments scrolling through my Facebook feed, but now I look at Instagram instead.  However, I’ve been a bit stumped as to how to use it effectively as a writer.  After all, there’s nothing particularly fascinating about photo after photo of a computer.

This post from Jane Friedman offers ideas.


Of course you need posts on pie.  Because, it is almost Thanksgiving.  And who isn’t baking pies this week?

Quiet Reflection–Making Pies From Scratch

Thanksgiving Pie Ideas

“Be Happy, Make Pie”

How to Make Pie Dough

Okay, enough with the pies. A couple other items of interest:

Here’s a brief, interesting history of Black Friday.

And, for the knitters, this post on knitting Icelandic sweaters makes me drool.  Its all I can do to stop myself from ordering pattern and yarn.  Except I have declared a moratorium on all yarn purchases until 2050, which is about when I will have finished all my current projects.

And now I am off to organize the hall closet so we can actually fit coats in it.  And dream of pie.  And cozy Lopi sweaters.


Otherwhere: Sadness and Distraction

PeaceforParisI do have some good links that I’ve been collecting for you all week. But my heart is so, so heavy today and I am distracted as I read the news about my beloved city, Paris.  It is so hard to know how to react or what to say in the face of such a horrible monstrosity.  About the best I can do is mimic what a woman from my church said: we must acknowledge what happened, and pray for the victims, their families, and to bring light to the minds that breed such hatred.  Arrggh.  Everything sounds so lame in reaction.

Okay.  Deep breath.  First, here are a couple of Paris-related posts:

Paris, My Darling from Janice Macleod.

A lovely post from some of my favorite knitters.

Paris Breakfasts. (That’s the name of her blog–but it covers way more than breakfasts.)

Shine On, Beautiful Paris.

And now, back to our usual topic, writing.

If you only read one link this week, read this one, about romanticizing rejection.

Can you promote your book without making yourself crazy? Hope so.  Here’s some tips to help.

Another post on writing fast, a current fav topic of mine.

I’ve got two great links from Austin Kleon this week.  This one, on what the real problem is with writer’s block.  And this one, an interview I enjoyed.

How about a nifty infographic on arranging your home office?  Here you go.

And why not try breaking in at the top with your magazine articles?

Finally, here’s advice for fitting in backstory without using flashbacks.

Okay, that’s it.  That’s all I’ve got today.  Carry on, and love one another, okay?.


Five on Friday: This Day is Unfortunately Living Up To Its Name

fingerscrossedTook awhile for it to register that it is actually Friday the 13th.  I always choose to think of it as lucky day, but today has been anything but.  The attacks in Paris destroy me and now there’s been an earthquake off the coast of Japan. But I guess the rest of us have to carry on.  And send prayers to those who are suffering.  So, here goes with our usual Friday fare:

Who I’m crushing on: Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.  I heard her speak on Wednesday night here in town and she was awesome.  I’m now reading her book and loving it.  Plus, she wrote my name in Arabic in my book and drew doodles in it, too.

What I’m plugging away on: My next novel.  I was on a pace of 2,000 words a day, but then my 2.5 year-old granddaughter came to stay and I lost my momentum.  Its damn hard to get up in the morning and write when you also have to get a child organized for school.  I now understand my clients who complain about this a lot better.  But I have managed to get 1K a day done.

What I’m loving: The autumn storms and leaves everywhere on the sidewalks and streets.  This has been one of the most beautiful falls I can remember.  And what is better than sitting by a fire, as I am right now, on a rainy day?

What I’m Stressing About: Thanksgiving.  Love the holiday, but I cook for 14 people every year and it never gets easier.  Though I do love making pies.

What I’m Looking Forward To: Christmas.  I love it.  Love, love it.  We’ll go to a tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving to cut down a tree.  And hopefully it will not take me two weeks to get all the decorations in, as it did last year.

And yeah, there is and will be writing throughout all of this.  Because that’s what we writers do, carry on and keep writing.  What’s up with you?



Writers: Step Away From Your Computer*

Yeah, I know.  It’s November and you’re holed up in your writing cave.  Because, NaNoWriMo.  You’ve got words to write! 50,000 of them, to be exact! And even if you’re not participating in that NaNo thing, you’re doing your best to get tons of words on the page every day because that’s what we writers do.Typewriter_Writing_Writer_238822_l

And so, I hear you saying that you cannot step away from your computer.

But I’m telling you that you must.  That it is healthier for you and your writing to get out and about once in awhile.  And in case you’ve forgotten what that looks like (I had a writing friend who invented excuses to go to the grocery store so she could talk to the clerks) here are some suggestions:

Go to a writing event.  Okay, so these don’t exactly fall out of trees.  But even when they are available, we sometimes don’t take advantage of them.  I’ve been to two recently: Poets & Writers Live, and Wordstock, our version of the Southern Festival of Books, albeit in a pasty Northwest its-pouring-down-rain-out-there-not-sunny-like-in-Nashville kind of way.  Each was very different, but each had something that inspired me, educated me, or reminded me why I write.

Join a critique group.  This will get you away from you computer on a regular basis–weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.  And it will have the added benefit of gaining you readers for your work.  We all need readers for our work, precisely because we sit in our little caves and write and get way too close to our work.  You can find one by contacting your local writing group (most every city and region has one) and/or looking at the Meet Up site.

librarybooksGo to the bookstore.  If you’re anything like me, you spend more time on the internet looking at books than in actual brick-and-mortar stores.  But remember the pleasure of whiling away an afternoon in a book store, looking at books?  Its one of the best ways to spend the day ever.  And if the sight of all those author names on books doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.

Have a writing retreat.  Why, I just happen to know about one happening in Nashville in January.  It’s called Room to Write, and I’ll be there to guide and encourage you and talk about how to keep a writing practice going over the long haul.  Terry Price and Janet Wallace will also be on hand, but mostly you’ll have lots of time to write.  Even if you can’t come to Nashville, you can create your own writing retreat.  Find a cheap motel or an Air BnB nearby and hole up.  Band together with some writing friends and rent a vacation cottage (inexpensive in the off season).  Banish your family and hole up at home for the weekend.

Take a writing workshop.  There are plenty of them around. Try your local community college.  They usually offer a plethora of continuing education classes.  Check with your local writing group.  Ask the Google to find you some local private instructors.  Or, I don’t know, you could come to France with me next September.  (You can read about this year’s adventure here.  I’m in the process of posting info for 2016, and it will be up shortly.  But email me if you’re interested and I’l send you the brochure.)writersworkshop

Take an online class.  Okay, so you’ll likely have to sit at your computer for this.  And its not quite as good as getting out and about in the world.  But it might be a good chance to meet some other writers and learn stuff, too.  There’s a ton of them out there, and I predict there will be a rash of new ones starting in January.  Again, consult the Google.

Do something fun and forget about it.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is take the day off.  Yeah, it is best to have a regular writing practice, but taking time off can clear your mind and allow room for new ideas to emerge.  Julia Cameron recommends people take Artist’s Dates, wherein you go off on your own and do something that you enjoy, whether that’s swinging in the park or visiting an art gallery.  One’s writing brain does need replenishment once in awhile.

So, how about it?  What do you do when you have been sitting at your computer way too long?

*Remember, way back in the day when some car alarms didn’t shriek a loud, horrible noise, or honk their horn, but instead intone in a very deep voice, “Step away from the car” over and over again? I do.  And that phrase is forever embedded in my memory.

Photo credits (all are from everystockphoto):


Library shelves–click

Writer’s workshop–marshalltownpubliclibrary


Otherwhere: S*&^ Happens Edition

objects-stationery-draw-10141-lI started this new blog series a little over a week ago, on Halloween, with the intention to publish a new post every Saturday. And, well, as the title says, s%# happened over the weekend.  Like Wordstock, for instance, our local book and author fair (more on that in a post later this week).  And the fact that Saturday was a major backyard clean-up day, even though it was pouring down rain.  (Let me be clear that I did not have to get my delicate hands dirty. I left the work to my hub and son-in-law, God love them.)  But anyway, better late than never, right? And I’ve been diligently gathering links for you all week so here you go:

  • For those of you doing Nanowrimo (and those who just want to write a lot) here’s a list of helpful titles (my own included) that you can download for free.
  • And if you are doing Nanowrimo, why not get a whole chunk of your 50K words done in one day? My friend Milli runs 10K for Writer days every month. Join in the fun here.
  • Here’s a nice post about one writer’s journey to publication.  Nicole and are are Twitter friends and she’s a fellow Oregonian.
  • A bit of fun from Stephen Pressfield.
  • And some insight into nurturing yourself as you write from Janice Hardy.
  • Should you write for online markets? Answers here.
  • From Kristen Lamb, advice about how fast drafting is actually good for your writing.
  • And finally, did you know there’s going to be an American Writer’s Museum?

And, please note, I have learned how to insert photos into posts!  Woot woot! This one happens to be by danzo08, from everystockphoto.

ALSO I think we’ve gotten the comments sorted out.  So please leave one.  And remember, the giveaway for the J.D. Frost novel runs through next week–so you still have time to leave a comment there for a chance to win!

Okay one more thing, I’m still not certain that old blog subscribers got transferred over to the new site–so you might want to check the little subscribe box when you’re leaving a comment.

Thank you!


Five on Friday: Everything New

Hola! Its a beautiful Friday afternoon in Portland, Oregon, and I am posting the very first post on my new blog. Well, its not exactly new–just the design and the host (WordPress instead of Typepad).  So, there’s a bit of a learning curve here and I’ll be playing around the next few weeks.  But seeing as how it is Friday, its time for another edition of five things are going on in my life.

What I’m Working On: NaNoWriMo, in a cheating sort of way.  Cheating because I already had around 17,000 words written when I started last Sunday and the rules say you can’t start until November 1.  What I’m doing is using the collective energy to help me writing every day.  And its working–I’ve got 10,000 more words racked up then I did this time last week.

What I’m Reading: After You, by Jojo Moyes and a book on meditation.  Speaking of which:

What I’m Crazy About: Meditation.  I know.  But I’ve managed to put together a daily meditation practice for three weeks in a row now and I’m pretty happy about it.  Researchers say the brain changes after just six weeks of meditation and I believe it, because I feel different.  More in a blog post about this next week.

What I’m Doing This Weekend:  Attending Wordstock, our local literary festival, reconstituted after a year’s hiatus.

What I Need You To Be Aware Of: The fact that if you followed me on Typepad and arranged to get notification when a new post published, that might not have transferred over.  Then again, we’re not sure.  So if anybody got here via email, please let me know!  Meanwhile, I’ll try to figure out how to let you subscribe in the comments box.

And, um, yeah, there’s no photo–because I haven’t figured out how to add one yet.  All in good time, people, all in good time.


Guest Post (and Giveaway): How I Marketed My Novels


J.D. Frost is a familiar name to anyone whose read this blog for awhile. He’s done a few guest posts here, and he’s a regular commenter. I had the privilege of meeting him, and his wife Donna and step-granddaughter Lizzie, when they came to our France retreat this year! When I heard that his latest mystery novel had just been released, I jumped at the chance to offer him a guest post. In celebration of the launch of his second novel, I’m offering one copy of his new book to a lucky reader. Scroll down for more info. And in the meantime, please enjoy J.D.’s article on marketing his novels.

How I Marketed My Novel 

by J.D. Frost

jd frostIn August, 2014, Ardent Writer Press published my first novel, Dollface. In October, 2015, the same company picked up Face2Face, the second book of the Moses Palmer trilogy. At some point the muse in your ear will give way to a negative, nagging marketing gnat, constantly in your ear, capable of annoying you for days and quieted only by elbow grease. I’ll share with you some of the work I did, what I learned my first time around, and my plans for this second at bat.

My first success began with an effort to obtain a review. Many newspapers, the Atlanta Constitution, the Birmingham Post Herald and a host of others no longer do reviews. My book is set in Chattanooga. I read the Chattanooga Times Free Press and found a wonderful lady, Susan Pierce, writing often in the Life section. She is a Jill of all writing that sometimes includes artistic events. She had occasionally reviewed a book, even some self-published works. I emailed her using the same pitch I used with agents, asking if she would read the book. She agreed. I autographed a paper copy and mailed it to her. Two weeks of silence followed. With nothing to lose, I emailed her again. She told me she loved the book. A 3/4 page review, including a picture of me and my dog appeared in the Sunday edition. I was very lucky. I haven’t seen another book with such a complimentary introduction. Get a review in a local publication if you can! One television station, WDEF, called my publisher after seeing the paper and at 5:30 a.m. I was interviewed on the local morning show of Channel 12. I emailed Mike Miller, who hosts Round About Chattanooga on WUTC, the public radio station. I cited my newspaper and TV appearance. He insisted, rightfully so, on reading the book. I sent an autographed copy and he then agreed to an 8 minute interview on his program. Your paper may no longer review. Try to get something in a local publication and use that as a publicity springboard! I am back in touch with Ms. Pierce about my second book.

Book signings can be so disappointing. I did three: at the Hamilton Place Mall Barnes Noble, at McKay Used Books in Chattanooga and McKay in Nashville. You scoff at the “used book” monicker. The store was incredibly busy―on a football Saturday no less―and McKay’s staff was wonderful to me. They placed me between the door and the book stacks, square in the path every customer walked. My wife helped me with a wonderful display that we used at all my signings. We ordered a 30×48 inch banner we mounted to the front of the table. We stuck an 18×24 poster of the cover on foam core board and placed it on an easel by the table. On the foam core, the “frame” of the poster, we printed “Set in Chattanooga.” We put two small posters on the table along with twenty books. I tried to make eye contact and speak to every person. If you use a plain table and you SIT, don’t expect much. I had bookmarks printed. To everyone, especially those who showed no interest, I offered a free bookmark. Use Bitly or some similar service to obtain a short link to your book like this one: http://amzn.to/XVKhpp or this one, http://amzn.to/1GnmdjX. Print those on your bookmarks. I didn’t sell a ton of books. At my worst event, I sold three and at my best, 19. But I announced those book signings in every media, publication, blog, etc. I could. Any event gives you a platform for publicity!

My friend Michael Gillibeau, author of A Study in Detail, invited me to a fun event, Noir at the Bar. It is similar in some ways to a poetry slam. You’ll find announcements of similar events across the country. We gave a free beer for every book sold. I hope to stage such an event in Chattanooga. We will use actors to perform scenes from our writing―you need more than one author. Mike used the event to raise money for a library. He obtained a lot of great publicity like this. No surprise there is a dog in my book, since dogs appear in mysteries as often as elves in Christmas parades. I hope to raise money for a shelter.

In another fund raiser, I plan to donate a dollar to the animal shelter for every copy I sell, Kindle, Nook, or paper on a particular day. If I gain the support of the animal shelter, I think I can convince the WDEF TV and some other outlets to make some announcements for us. The five Petsmart stores in the area support the animal center. If the shelter buys in, I will ask the stores to allow me to put up a poster, announcing that donation for copies bought on a particular day or two-day period.

Those are my strategies. You may notice that I have ignored the oil tanker floating in the middle of the wading pool―social media. I classify the things I discussed above as “local strategies.” To get really big results, to get a lot of sales, you need a much broader reach. My abilities in that arena are so limited. Like anyone, I can dabble but with my first book I didn’t have a lot of success. I may seek the help of a consultant.

My thanks to Charlotte for inviting me. She did a wonderful job with content editing on Face2Face. You’ll find my first book, Dollface, here and the second leg of the trilogy, the book Charlotte helped me with, is here.(Editor’s note: he didn’t need much help.) Do yourself a favor and read Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. It is here.(Editor’s note: thank you!!!!) Mike Gillibeau’s book is here. I hope some of this helps. I don’t mind sharing because we writers are not competitors but brothers and sisters.


And now, the details of the giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment. Tell us what book you most recently read and something you liked about it. That’s it! I’ll draw a winner on November 17 (that’s two whole weeks away–tell your friends, you do not want to miss this book) and post the name here.


Otherwhere: Thus Beginneth

Goofy Halloween GuyHappy Halloween!

And so we come to the beginning of a new blog feature called Otherwhere.  (It's a word, for real, I found it on Thesaurus.com.) In my travels around the internet, I find lots of interesting things that I post on Twitter, or once in a blue moon, on Facebook.  But I've realized that you and I might not connect on those sites.  (Though we should.)  So I decided to save up the links during the week and share them here.  Sound good?  Okay, let's get started:

Puzzled as to how to write a compelling beginning? Janice Hardy of Fiction University has you covered.

And here's another Janice Hardy post.  Do you have a book of your heart?  I do.  It's my MFA book, the novel I wrote while studying fiction  for two years, Language of Trees and I still love it so much.  But nobody else did.  Well, that's not true.  Readers did, but the publishing world gave it a collective, "meh."  Anyway, this blog post discusses why you should love the book of your heart–and move on. 

I'm a Barbara O'Neal groupie. I love her writing and I read her monthly blog posts on Writer Unboxed avidly. Since I'm always trying to find time to get creating art of some kind into my life, the title of this post about Barbara's art days caught my eye.

I just moved my office, so I read Anne Wayman's article on Decluttering for Writers with interest.

Jane Friedman always has reliably good posts and I particularly enjoyed this one, on what it takes to be a career novelist.

Hankering for a writing retreat?  Author Joyce Maynard is now taking applications for the tiny house on her property.

And finally, here's a link to a post about Paris from one of my favorite Paris bloggers.  Because, Paris.  'Nuff said. 

What interesting things have you found on your travels this week?

The photo is one I took of my favorite goofy Halloween decoration.  It's about the only thing I've managed to get up this year. 




Five on Friday: Happy Halloween

IMG_20151025_174656It is a wonderful rainy, blustery day here in Portland as I write this–my favorite, at least for once in awhile.  And here’s what’s going on:

What I’m Reading: Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie and The Untethered Soul, both of which I’m pretty sure I was reading last week.  Things have been busy around here!  Next up is After You, which I can’t wait to dive into, and Rise of the Machines, a book on marketing.

What I’m Working On: Settling into my downstairs office (see photo) after a marathon work session on Sunday in which I unpacked a ton of boxes.  Alas, its been pointed out to me that there are still some unpacked boxes upstairs that never got moved.  But, honestly, I haven’t missed any of that stuff for a few months now, so I’m thinking most of it is going out the door.  I’m also writing my next novel, working with several clients and I have a new sort-of ghostwriting project.

What I’m Struggling With: Sugar.  There were sugar cookies in Halloween shapes for the adorable granddaughter to frost last week and that meant I had to eat a couple also.  And I’m baking pie tomorrow.  My chiropractor just reminded me that sugar aggravates inflammation and that it and this weather system that came in overnight were probably why my hips hurt so bad when I walked yesterday.  I’m going to be good starting Monday, I swear it!

What I’m Excited About: My blog redesign, a new feature here starting tomorrow and best of all A GIVEAWAY OF J.D. FROST’S NEW BOOK on Tuesday.  So come on back here to join in.

What I Want to Remind You About: If you live anywhere near Nashville, I’ll be there in January for the Room to Write retreat. Its a chance to have lots of time to write, meet other writers, plus get some good writerly info from moi and two others.  Read all about it here.

And of course, Happy Halloween to all!  What are you doing to celebrate?


Why Every Writer Should Do Nanowrimo

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this Sunday November 1st?   Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes

Why yes, yes it is, Charlotte.

Thank you.  So you know what that means:

Drumroll, please….

It's time for Nanowrimo!

What's that you say? You just crawled out from your writing cave and you haven't heard of Nanowrimo?  Well, let me clue you in. Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, wherein participants write a novel during the month of November.  Yeah, the month with Thanksgiving and Black Friday in it.  Uh-huh.

For the purposes of Nanowrimo, a novel is considered to be 50,000 word,s which usually isn't a full-length novel, but its darn close. And to get 50K words done in a month is incredible.  You can finish the rest of it later.

I know.  Sounds like madness.  But its really pretty fun, in a masochistic kind of way.  And even if you only make it part way through, I believe it will benefit your writing.  Here's why:

1.  It will kick start you into a regular writing habit.  In order to complete Nanowrimo, you've got to write every day.  It's just too easy to get behind otherwise.  Yeah, some people may do it all in a few crazy-ass huge word count sessions, but for most people, the challenge will get accomplished a day at a time.  This is how all writing gets done over the long haul, and so even if you don't get to 50K words, you'll have gone a long way to cement a good habit.

2.  It will get you in the mindset of attaining daily writing goals.  When I've done the challenge (I actually completed it one year, have gone about half way in other years) I set myself a daily page count goal of 2,000 words to allow for days off and emergencies.  At other times of the year, I go for less than that, say in the 1K to 1,500 K range.  If I start to complain that such word counts are just too much, I remind myself of Nanowrimo and the 2,000 words a day.  And I keep writing.   Nanowrimo is the ultimate marathon.  Once you've completed it, you know you can do it again and you can't be a slacker!

3.  You can take advantage of the collection energy.  I'm not sure how many people do Nanowrimo each year, but it's in the millions, world-wide.  (It started out in 2000 with 21 people.)  Just think of the energy of all those people holed up in their writing caves, working away! It is astounding.  Plus, there are local meet-ups all over the world, which you can find out about on the site.

4.  You can get encouragement and advice from other writers.  There's tons of it on their website, and they generally send out helpful and motivating emails throughout the month as well.  But you do have to sign up for all this.

5.  It's the best training to write fast.  More and more in my old age, I'm convinced that just throwing words on the page is the way to go.  We too often let the inner critic or the inner roommate take over and rule us while we are writing, and that just slows us down.  Am I always able to write fast? No.  But its my goal. And writing 2K words a day helps.

6.  It gives you bragging rights.  Let's face it, we writers don't get a lot to crow about.  We pretty much do the same thing day after day, and then when we are finished we send our work out into the world and endure rejections.  So why not take advantage of something that actually let's you win–and give you something to brag about?

7.  It gives you an ironclad excuse to write.  When I was an MFA student, my favorite thing was to say, "Sorry, I can't, I'm a student and I've got an assignment due." For some reason people took this much more seriously than when I said, "Sorry I can't, I need to work on my novel."  Nanowrimo gives you an excuse!  You can now say, with grave authority "Sorry, I can't, I'm on deadline." Booyah!

Bonus reason:  It's fun!!!!!  Yeah, a non-writer hearing about writing 2K words a day and calling it fun would think we're nuts.  But you write because you love it.  You write because its fun.  So let yourself in on the party.

So, do tell: are you up for Nanowrimo? Have you done it before? Do you plan to do it again? 

(For other posts related to Nanowrimo, go here.)

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.