Tag Archives | authors

Five on Friday: Happy New Year!

Star_Wars_The_Force_AwakensAfter an absence of, oh a couple weeks, here I am, back with another Five on Friday.  That is if I can find the notes I wrote once I got inspired about this post.  Ah, here we are.  I’ve got piles of papers all over my office because I’m organizing things for the new year.  And then my cat comes and sits on things and that doesn’t help much either.  But anyway.  Here goes:

What we did for New Year’s Eve: Went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which I loved), ate take-out Italian and drank red wine, and fell asleep on the couch after having a New York New Year’s (i.e., watching the live version of the ball dropping, which occurs at 9 PM on the west coast).  It was a perfect evening.

What I wanted to finish last year and didn’t: The first draft of my current WIP, a novel.  But seeing as how I started it when we were in France in September and have only about 20K words to go, I’m not too upset.  I may be when I look back over it, though.  It is one helluva messy draft and by messy I mean plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, boring characters, loose ends that don’t tie together.  This, my writing friends, is why God invited rewriting.  Or so I tell myself.  Oh, and I also have a couple knitting projects I dearly wanted to complete but didn’t.  Maybe because I keep falling asleep on the couch at night, my knitting time.

Where I’m headed next week: To Nashville, for Room to Write.  We’ve got a couple spaces left if you live in the area (or even if you don’t) and would like to devote some time solely to your writing.  Great way to start the year!  There’s more information here.  And please join me in beseeching the universe to cure my sinus infection before then otherwise I’m not quite sure how I’ll cope on the plane. laskey_w

What I’m reading: I just finished Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes, which I highly recommend.  (In case you don’t know who she is, she is responsible for the TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, among others, and, as she says in the book, is dedicated to normalizing the characters we see on TV–i.e. including women, minorities, LGBT, etc.)  The book is worth reading to study her style alone.  She is funny and engaging and she uses a lot of repetition for effect.  But it is also very inspiring–after dedicating herself to saying yes to everything, even things that scare her, she loses 100 pounds, gives the commencement speech at Dartmouth, and many more.

I’m also reading The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler, which is cool. There are mermaids who die mysteriously, weird old books, tarot cards, and an ancient house about to fall into the Long Island Sound.  I’m not 100% engaged with it quite yet, but I think I will be.

And finally, I’m reading Home Baked by Yvette Van Boven.  Yes, I’m reading a cookbook.  At least parts of it.  She’s got bits and pieces about flour and other ingredients and I’ve already learned so much.  (Like, the fact that baking powder is basically just baking soda and cream of tartar and you can make your own.)  It is a beautifully designed cookbook (including photos of Ireland and the author’s illustrations) with tons of great recipes in it.

What I wish for you: A very happy and productive 2016, with tons of writing in it, naturally!

What’s going on for you this first day of the new year?

10

Books I Read In May

Nightingale_hc_lgI can't figure out what's going on.  I know I read a ton last month, but I can't seem to bring any of the titles into my mind.  (As soon as I press publish on this post they will flood into my brain.)  So here's a quick list of the books I remember:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  This is on the best-seller lists and is getting a lot of buzz, and deservedly so.  It's quite good.  I learned history from it, too, such as the fact that gazillions of people evacuated Paris when the Nazis first occupied it.  And I was reminded of the hardships that Europeans faced during World War II.

That's the only novel I can think of that I read recently, and I usually inhale novels like crazy.  But, I have been dipping in and out of a lot of writing books.  I don't so much read them cover to cover, because they have inspiration and exercises in them that lead me to the page.

Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves.  I wrote a whole review of this book here.  I'm still working with it for journaling ideas and I like it a lot.  Its not so much a book that's going to help you with plotting or characterization, but more the basic writing stuff, like expressing yourself on the page.

The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.  This is a book that will help you with your plotting (and there's some info on characterization as well).  I bought it on a trip to Seattle and wrote more about it here.

Naming the World, edited by Bret Anthony Johnston.  This is most definitely not a book you sit down and read cover to cover, because it is a book of writing exercises.  (Although each exercise is preceded by an essay from the author who submitted it.)  Good stuff in here.

Into the Woods by John Yorke.  This is a book on structure and I am loving it.  I ordered it from a bookseller in England (through Amazon) and it took forever to get here and then my husband set the envelope aside under a pile of mail so it took even longer for me to actually find it, but it was worth the wait.  An amazing, excellent book on structure, and its readable, too.  I embedded a video below of him relating "how all storytelling has worked since the beginning of time" at Google UK.

All this reading on story structure has led me to another activity: going to movies.  More on that in my next post.  In the meantime, what have you been reading?

Previous months posts are (which I offer in case you need recommendations):

Books I Read in April (and Part of May)

Books I've Been Reading

Books I Read in January

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Books I Read in April (And Part of May)

WhatremainsHerewith, my semi-regular list of books I've been reading.  Why? Because I love and adore reading posts what others have been reading (so write more of them, y'all).  And I figure you might get a few ideas from my list.  

Here goes:

Fiction

Crossing on the Paris by Dana Gynther. (See bonus author video at the end of this post.) I enjoyed this novel about three women of different classes crossing from Europe to New York on an ocean liner.  Parts of it were a bit contrived, but it kept me turning pages.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson.  This is the story of a single woman who owns a bookstore in Denver.  Nothing so rare about that, right?  Well, this was set in the sixties, so it was unusual.  But every night she goes to bed and dreams that she has a whole other life, complete with adorable husband and children.  I thought this one was really well done.

The Shortest Way Home by Juliette Fay.  She's a wonderful women's fiction writer, and I think I've now read all her books.  This one is about Sean, a male nurse who comes home after spending much of the last 20 years working in war-torn countries.   Right in my wheelhouse. Loved it.

Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore.  Whoops.  Didn't finish this one.  Slow in starting and I lost interest.

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante.  I started this one in April, and finished it in May.  Ha.  I actually read it on the plane to and fro Nashville.  As I've been telling people this one is brilliant.  It is dense and gritty and claustrophobic and sometimes difficult to keep track of all the characters (buy a hardcopy because you'll continually flip back to the cast of characters in the front), but brilliant.  It is the first of four in the series called the Neapolitan Novels.  They are set in the city of Naples and follow the intense friendship of Elena and Lila from childhood on.  Oh, and I love this–the author's name is a pseudonym and nobody knows who she really is.  I've got the second one in the series and have to sit on my hands not to rip through it.

Besides the novels, I read (more like perused) a couple of beautiful books on embroidery. (But have I yet picked up needle and thread? Um, no.) I also leafed through a title on homesteading, hoping to glean inspiration for you own little back forty and read part of a book on how to plot your novel. (I'm still working on that one so don't feel I can list it yet).

I've already finished a couple of really great titles in May, but they will have to wait until next month's post.  And, up next….ta dum….

My friend Helene Dunbar's book, What Remains.  When I was in Nashville last week, I was so honored to receive one of her first two copies of the book.  Years ago, at a now-defunct writing retreat called Room to Write, Helene and I brainstormed ways to end her novel.  Mostly what I did was sit and listen to her talk, but she credits that conversation with saving the book.  I am SO excited to read it!

 Here's that video I promised:

What, pray tell, have you been reading?

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Books I’ve Been Reading

Books_Olympus_ompc_79830_hI started this series of posts at the end of January with a blog post titled, Books I Read in January. And I fully intended to do one post a month.

But then my life blew up, I got an agent, and I needed to turn my attention to rewriting my book.  So my blog posts suffered.  So did my reading–at least a little bit.  I haven't been reading quite as much as usual, but I've still been reading a lot.  And, let me tell you, reading novels helped me with the rewrite.

I'll explain in a minute, but first, let's discuss: do you read similar books to yours while you are in the process of writing or rewriting?  I do.  Let me explain.  I likely would not read another novel set in a macaron bakery (and I'm hoping to God there isn't another one) but I do read women's fiction, and lots of it.  I know some writers fear that if they read novels that are too similar to their's, they will be unduly influenced.  But I'm the opposite.  I often feel like I need to inhale words in order to spit them back out on the page.  And while I'm inhaling those words, I'm continuing the lifelong process of learning how to put a decent novel together.

While I was rewriting, for instance, I read How to Knit a Heart Back Home.  (See below.)  Rachael Herron, the author, did some things with description that were active and engaging, not just dead on the page.  And since my agent and her reader both felt I needed to work on my descriptions of characters (and ironically, macarons), I studied what Rachael did and copied her a little.  Of course, it came out completely different because I'm writing a completely different book with different characters.  What I copied was her approach to craft. 

And that, my friends, is why we writers read.  Because it teaches us about writing.  So here's what I've been reading since January.

Fiction.

How to Knit a Heart Back Home, by Rachael Herron.  I love this series of books set in Cypress Hollow, a fictional small town in California.  All the characters are knitters in one way or another, and she has a knack for creating characters you love.  She's recently branched out into stand-alone books, and her latest book, just released, is Splinters of Light.  I also recommend Pack Up the Moon.

At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon.  I read the most recent book in the series after I got it for Christmas, and have now gone back and started at the beginning of the series.  The books are gentle, sweet, and yet have a depth to them based on the protagonist, Father Tim, who is and Episcopal priest.  Plus, my Mom loved them.  She'd be thrilled I'm finally reading them.

The Lanvin Murders, by Angela Sanders.  Angie is a local author, and a friend.  She is doing very well with this series set in a vintage clothing shop.  (This novel is the first in the series; there are two more already.) Subscribe to her monthly newsletter for all kinds of cool info!

The Financial Lives of the Poets, by Jess Walter.  A fun book, but I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with his novel, Beautiful Ruins (which we used as our teaching book the first year in France).  Not sure why this one didn't hit with me.

Non-Fiction

Gotta Read It, by Libbie Hawker.  A quick read (and inexpensive–its a $.99 ebook) on how to write a synopsis.  It's really about how to write a pitch for a completed book, but I found it helpful in thinking through my next novel as well.  (And I just bought her book on how to outline a story, called Take Off Your Pants).

The Bible.  I took a class in February and March called Jesus as a Wisdom Teacher, in which we examined the actual words of the man, as opposed to the religions which grew up around him. Woo-ee, I learned some interesting things.  And a whole new respect for the guy.  There were a couple other books I was supposed to read for this class, but, um, I really didn't, fascinated as I was. I needed to focus on my rewrite, and there was limited bandwidth in the old brain.

In Process

How the Brain Heals Itself, by Norman Doidge.  This is a wonderful book, full of amazing research about what the brain can do.   There's a lot of medical and technical stuff in it, but the author is adept at using stories to carry the serious stuff.  Even so, I'm a bit stalled on it.  Will continue to beat away at the pages.

Start with Why, by Simon Sinek.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was reading this last time around.  It is a great book, I just got stuck in the middle when I suddenly had to put everything aside and focus on the novel rewrite.  I'm determined to finish it.

The Bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson.  By day, Kitty, our heroine runs a book store in Denver in the 60s. But at night, her dreams lead her to a different life–one with a handsome husband and two adorable kids.  Slowly, the nighttime dreams become more and more real…I'm enjoying this debut novel a lot.

Books on Embroidery and Knitting.  For research.  Really.  I swear I don't just look at them for the pretty pictures.

Up Next

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.  I think I have the time to start this one now.  (I've been told not to open it until I have time to sink into it.)

Younger, by Suzanne Munshower, which was free as an Amazon preview for Prime subscribers.  I know her from Twitter and this book was published by and Amazon imprint which shot to the number one spot of all Kindle ebooks.  So, why not?  Plus, it looks entertaining.

So that's it for now.  Do tell: what are you reading?

Photo by Brian B.

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Why Give a Book Away?

Blue Sky WEBSITE USEI sent out a notice to my mailing list that my short story, Blue Sky, is available free on Amazon this weekend.  (And now I'm telling you.  You can download it here.   For free.  And please tell your family and friends.  And enemies. Or the mailman and all your coworkers, and everyone else you know.)

But a client/friend emailed and asked me, essentially, why I was doing this.  And that made me realize that not everyone has studied the theory of indie publishing with Amazon as I have.  (Why would you? I never thought twice about it until I started hearing other author's success stories.)

So, why would you give away a book for free?

Let me be the first to say that I'm not an expert on this whole thing, so all I can offer is why I decided to do it.  Here's the deal.  When you publish a book exclusively with Amazon in their program called KDP Select, they offer you several sales tools.  One of the most-used is the freebie.  For every 90-day period you are exclusive with them, you get up to 5 days where you can offer your book for free.  

And–this is its own little mini-industry.   There are numerous sites that will list your freebie for free, or a small fee.  Some of them list it for free but then say they can't guarantee your book will show up unless you pay them that small fee (anywhere from $5-$50, at least on the sites I saw).   If you're interested, I found a page on Author Marketing Club that listed a bunch of such sites.

All this being said, why do it?

For me, its a matter of exposure.  I hope that people will read my short story, like it, and decide to buy my novel.  I also hope they will come visit this site (hello to you if this is your first time here) and keep an eye out for future releases.  And maybe keep coming back for more scintillating posts on writing and the writing life.  One of the great things about formatting a book for Amazon is that you can put anything you want to at the end of the book.  So, of course, I put a link to this page.  

I'm not sure how effective a free promotion would be if you had only one book or story up.  There's a whole school of thought that indie publishing is a numbers game and that the more books you have up, the better you'll do.  Hugh Howey, the poster child for indie publishing, said at a panel at AWP that he didn't do any promotion until he had five or six titles published.

So, I'll keep you posted on all this.  I'm approaching my foray into indie publishing as a grand experiment.  Why not try offering a book for free?  Of course, it helps that what I have to give is a short story, not a novel I slaved over for years.  (Though I did write the first draft of this story when I was doing my MFA back in 2002.)

Here are a couple of posts about publishing with Amazon:

So You Want to be a Kindle Author

Amazon for Authors, Part One

Amazon for Authors, Part Two 

Would you consider giving a book away for free?

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Working With a Writing Group, Writing Coach, or Beta Readers

Everystockphoto_152132_mSo, the time has come to get some feedback on your writing.

You've worked hard on this novel, committing to a regular writing schedule to get it done, and you've rewritten and revised until it is shiny like a precious jewel.

Or, so you think.  But who can be sure until your cherished gem has seen the light of day?  What you need are other readers to weigh in on your work.  Every writer can benefit from letting trusted readers look at their work before starting the submitting process.

Your Options

There are several ways you can approach finding readers for your writing:

1.  Take a class.  Many community colleges offer extension classes in writing, and lots of writers also teach privately.  Refer to the Google to locate classes that suit you. Classes can be a great way to learn, but the format may not allow a lot of personal attention for your writing.

2.  Join a writing group.  Critique groups abound!  Many of them are quite good and can be very helpful to your career–my novel would not have been published without the input of my group!  These groups will meet on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis, and read short excerpts each session. It may take you a few tries to find the right one for you, but keep at it.

3.  Send it out to beta readers.  Many writers prefer to get an idea of how the whole book reads–and thus will select trusted beta readers to send their novel to.  You can find beta readers through friends, family members, and other writers. 

4.  Hire a coach.  Working one-on-one with a mentor or a coach can be a fabulous way to get feedback on your work and light a fire to write in your belly.  Each coach will work in a slightly different manner, and most will happily schedule a time to discuss their practices with you.

Okay, so you've decided on one of these options.  What should you expect? How can you best get ready for this new stage of your writing?

How to Prepare

1.  Investigate your commitment.  You've successfully written, so obviously you're committed to the craft.  But are you truly committed to learning the most that you possibly can about your work?  Are you ready to take the time that any of these options will require? 

2.  Be ready to listen.  In many MFA workshops, the format requires the person whose work is being discussed to sit quietly without making any comments herself.  No defending, not rationalizing, no ifs and buts.  Even if your group or coach or class does not require this, its a good rule of thumb–you might miss some good points if you're busy talking about your work.

3.  Maintain an open mind.  Your initial reaction to the feedback might be negative, but it can be difficult to listen to criticism, however well-intentioned of your work. Try to stay open to the suggestions others give you.  In the moment, you may not like them, but back at your desk you might just see some value there.

4.  Don't let emotions cloud your vision. Emotions easily get in the way.  No matter what anybody says, our writing is personal–very personal.  And when someone is picking it apart, it can feel like your baby is being destroyed.  Remember, if you've found the right group, class or coach, they have your writing's best interests at heart.

5.  Be ready to step it up.  Any one of these options will result in an increased clarity on the page.  Be prepared to improve your writing.  Be prepared to learn all kinds of things about yourself, too!

Which way do you choose to share your work?  What do you like or not like about it?  Please comment!

Photo by clarita.

 

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A Couple of Quick Reminders

Just popping in to remind you of a couple of things:

This is the day that the Next Big Thing taggers post! As a reminder, I answered 10 questions about my WIP last Wednesday and tagged four other writers to answer the questions today.  Go visit them!  Here they are:

Candace White

Leisa Hammett

Sharon Henry-Jones

Mandy Webster

Beverly Army Williams

NOTE: Some of these authors may choose to post their answers a different day, but this is the day I'm choosing to introduce them to you.  So it's a win-win.

And, the author who started it all by tagging me:

Reavis Wortham

There's still time to sign up for my Virtual Book Release Party.  I really want to give you prizes, like signed copies of my novel and one free admission to my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  But you gotta sign up so I can send you the information.  Click here to do so.

And now, we can return to regular programming.

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Friday Review: Female Nomad and Friends

Female Nomad and Friends:
Cover

Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World

by Rita Golden Gelman

I leaped at the chance to review this book because I was familiar with Gelman's first book, Tales of a Female Nomad and was happy to hear she'd written another one.  To understand the premise of the second book, you need to know a little about the first book (though you certainly don't have to read the first to appreciate the second).

At the age of 48, on the verge of a divorce, Gelman, who at the time led quite the privileged Hollywood-style life, decided to chuck it all and begin traveling.  Now, she lives all over the world, carrying what she needs with her, living serendipitously.  As she puts it, "In 1987 I opened my life to otherness; it became addictive.  I still have no fixed address and hardly any possessions."

And how does she manage to finance this lifestyle?  Through writing children's books.  Her first adult book, which detailed her adventures, also did well.  Well enough that readers clamored for more.  But Gelman didn't really want to write another book, she was too busy having fun.  Part of that fun included trying new and different things and she wanted no part of writing a sequel.  Still, readers clamored.

And thus Female Nomad and Friends was born.  Gelman hit on the idea of using the many stories that readers, inspired by her adventures, had emailed her.  Plus she decided to add recipes. So the resulting anthology has 41 stories and 32 recipes, all of an international bent.  Perhaps the best part of it all is that evey single penny of the proceeds from this book goes to Gelman's current pet project, which is funding vocational educations for high school graduates from the slums of New Delhi. 

For that reason alone you should buy this book.  But you'll also want to buy it for the stories and the recipes.  Its the kind of book that you can have on your bedside table and read one a night, in order if you are that type of person.  Or you can do what I did, which is to pick it up, close my eyes, and choose a story at random until I had read them all.  It is much more fun that way.

Here's a sampler of the stories you'll find in the book:

Breakfast in Malaca, by Wendy Lewis, about a delicious–and surprising–meal in Malaysia.

Chapati Love Remembered, by Jean Allen, probably my favorite story in the whole book, about making chaptis–and love.

Thanksgiving: A Different Perspective, by Ana Maria Bradley, in which a foreign exchange student comes to appreciate an American holiday.

And here's a taste of some of the recipes:

Latvian Piragi

Ginger-Cumin Roasted Chicken (I'm trying this one for sure)

Charred Sugar-Crusted Salmon

Vietnamese Soft Spring Rolls

Mousse au Chocolat Truffee

And many more…

Reading Gelman's story, and the many stories in the anthology, has made me ponder if I could do the same as her–live without a home base anywhere.  Now, I love to travel and actually wish I could do more of it.  But somehow I don't think I could live without a permanent address.  I love Gelman's lifestyle and appreciate that for her, it is all about being open to the other and making connections throughout the world.  But I want my own little house to come home to after I've been away–my pets, my art, my funny little things.

What about everyone else?  Could you travel the world without a permanent home?

While you ponder the answer to that question, here's a bit more information about Gelman and the book:

Rita Golden Gelman is the author of Tales of a Female Nomad and more than seventy children’s books, including More Spaghetti, I Say!, a staple in every first grade classroom. As a nomad, Rita has no permanent address.  She is currently involved in an initiative called Let’s Get Global, a project of US Servas, Inc, a national movement deigned to bring the gap year to the United States. Learn more at: www.letsgetglobal.org

We invite you to join us on the Female Nomad and Friends virtual tour. The full schedule can be seen at http://bookpromotionservices.com/2010/05/17/female-nomad-tour. You can learn much more about Rita Golden Gelman and her work on her website – www.ritagoldengelman.com

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Why Did You Decide to Become a Writer?

I'm playing around with a new character, whose life is defined by the books she reads.  And this has made
Everystockphoto_205924_m me ponder how intertwined my life is with the books I read.

I refer to characters from books I've read in my brain all the time, sometimes learning from their actions, or using what they do as a cautionary tale.  I remember incidents from memoirs and learn helpful nuggets for daily life from spiritual books. 

What makes books so amazing for me is the power they have to transport me to another world, to plop me down in a completely different setting and make me feel like I'm walking around in a new location.  Even good cookbooks can do this for me, like the latest one I'm using, which has me inhabiting a cattle ranch in Oklahoma.

What I've also been thinking about is how being an avid reader has made me who I am today, ie, a writer.  Because from the earliest time I can remember, I thought this ability of the written word to transport me to a new world was magical.  And I wanted me some of that magic for my own.  Since I was a teeny, tiny girl, I wanted to be a writer.  And that all stemmed from my love of reading.

Sometimes in my travels I run into people who want to be writers but never read.  Um, really?  C'mon.  You have to read in order to learn to write, to see how other people put words together on the page so they make sense.  To see how they compose a scene, to learn how to write dialogue.

But beyond all that, I can't even imagine a world in which reading and writing are not linked.  In which the desire to be a writer doesn't stem from an avid reading habit.  Can you? 

If you can, please tell me about it, I'm all ears.

No matter where your desire to write comes from, I'd love to hear about it.  What's your earliest memory of wanting to be a writer?  Of the magic of reading?

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Why You Need A Book

In the most recent edition of my newsletter, The Abundant Writer, I wrote a feature article called 7 Books_library_resources_267560_l Simple Steps to Write Your Book.  (For those of you who don't subscribe to the newsletter, there's a spiffy little box on the upper right-hand corner of this page.)  I based it on the new free report I'm working on.

But the thought occurred to me this morning that perhaps I should remind you why you need a book.  Because, in this day and age, everyone needs a book, whether it is an Ebook or good old-fashioned hard-cover book.  Why?  Let me tell you:

1. Instant credibility

2. Your book is your business card

3. Source of authority

4. Personal satisfaction

5. Share an important story with the world

6. Accomplish a lifetime goal

7.  Communicate with clients

8.  Boost income

If I had more time, I would go into each point in detail.  However, I am at the moment in Nashville, and constantly and happily getting distracted by friends and clients.  It's a tough life…However if there is enough interest, let me know and I'll expound on each of these points in future posts.  Y'all know how much I like to expound.

So what do you think?  Do you long to write a book?  Yearn to hear more about the benefits of writing a book?  Want to know how in the hell you write a book in the first place?  Do tell. Comments are open.

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