Monday, October 28, 2013

Nanowrimo prepping

It's that season again! Time to prep for one of my favorite months of the year...November and Nanowrimo. This will be my fourth year participating. Part of the annual ritual is the preparation time. Here's what I'm doing to gear up...

1. Setting up my desk area
As you can see, my new desk is right next to my bed, which should make it easier to roll out and write at 5:30 a.m. every day. I will need to get my electric blanket handy because it's freezing that early in the morning here right now.
Desk

2. Creating a playlist
Music is essential for motivation throughout the process. I like to set up a list of new songs to help me get a fresh start. Here's what I've got on tap so far:

2013 Nanowrimo Playlist >>

3. Scammed my husband into cleaning my laptop screen
It was gross...and now it's not! Yay for husband. He hates Nanowrimo and November, but he did his part by cleaning the screen. That will be the end of his contribution. Oh well.

4. Purchased tea!
Caffeine is essential. I stocked up on English Breakfast from Taylors of Harrogate.

I'm doing a complete rewrite of my Nanowrimo from 2011 so the plot is pretty much there. Otherwise, I would be doing a lot of plotting right now too.

Here's my profile if you want to be my buddy: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/jbeemills

So...what am I forgetting? What are you doing to prepare for November 1?


Thursday, August 15, 2013

WriteOnCon at your own pace

If you were working full time/on vacation/forgot and didn't attend WriteOnCon this week and now you're feeling like you missed out, DON'T. The beautiful thing about WriteOnCon is not all the benefits require real-time attendance.

If you missed it, why not experience the content at your own pace? (Don't know what I'm talking about? Click here.)

Google+ Hangouts
This year, WriteOnCon had several Google Hangout sessions with agents and editors critiquing queries, pitches and first pages. While you can no longer submit your content for possible critique, as soon as the Google Hangout is over, it becomes a full YouTube video. You can watch the entire presentation from the beginning, pause it--and even fast forward if need be. Check them out:

Twitter Pitches with Literary Agents Danielle Smith and Tamar Rydzinski 
This video is split into two halves:
  • Danielle Smith is looking for picture books, chapter books & middle grade
  • Tamar Rydzinski is looking for almost anything except paranormal and holocaust
Twitter Pitches with Literary Agents Mackenzie Brady and Duvall Osteen
Both agents are looking for YA, specifically: realistic (contemporary), mystery/thriller, issue-driven and non-fiction

Twitter Pitches with Literary Agents Suzie Townsend and Kathleen Ortiz
They are looking for anything from middle grade to new adult.

Twitter Pitches with Spencer Hill Press editors Danielle Ellison and Patricia Riley
These editors want YA, anything realistic (contemporary) and/or speculative fiction.

First Page Feedback with Literary Agent Marietta Zacker
This agent is all things kids lit!

The best thing about these sessions is that you can get a an idea of individual agent tastes. If you have one of these agents on your query list, you'll want to listen in, real time or not!

Live chats
There were also some live chats with agents and editors that you can replay and read at your own pace. Just click on the links and scroll.

Live Chat with Editors Andrew Harwell, Sarah Dotts Barley and Agent Lindsay Ribar

Live Chat with Agents Sarah la Polla, Katie Grimm, Brooks Sherman and Victoria Marini

This is just the beginning of the content available. View all content here for the 2013 WriteOnCon. You can also dip into the archives for previous years: 2012, 2011, 2010. Just keep in mind that information about trends may be dated.

Tip! If you missed out on your chance to ask an agent a question, keep an eye out for agents using the #askagent hashtag on Twitter. This goes on all year round!

The forums
The forums are definitely the most important part of the real-time WriteOnCon experience. You can post your query, first 250 words and first five pages and gain peer critiques. If you missed it, browse through the forums and read the comments left by ninja agents (literary agents who went under cover and made comments/made MS requests). And be sure to participate next year, since you can post whenever you have time and don't necessarily have to be active during the day if you have other obligations.

Tip! If you need help with your query, you may also try submitting to Query Shark

So that's it! Don't miss out on this great content. Take it in at your own pace. All the Google Hangout videos above can also be found on my YouTube playlist, YouTube Writing Resources.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sunshine Awards!

Sunshine Award
I was so honored to be nominated for a Sunshine Award by the one and only Tina Moss. I met Tina at #writersroad chat and she is awesome, awesome, awesome! She's a very talented writer, gives great advice and...well...just look at her ninja pic on her recent post...epic!

Check out Tina's blog here, and follow her on Twitter: @Tina_Moss


THE RULES

When you receive an award, you are asked to do a few things...

  1. Post the Sunshine Award logo you see at the top.
  2. Accept the nomination and link back to the nominator.
  3. Answer the questions below.
  4. Nominate 10 other blogs and inform them of the nomination.

FUN FACTS
  1. My favorite color: Orange
  2. My favorite animal: Hands down, no question, baby elephants.
  3. My favorite number: 5. It's simple, vital, yet odd. 
  4. My favorite non-alcoholic beverage: Green tea
  5. My favorite alcoholic beverage: I've never had one! I know, I'm a weirdo.
  6. Facebook or Twitter: I've heard it said that Facebook is for interacting with your friends and Twitter is for interacting with the people who should be your friends. So true. Twitter!
  7. My passions: Reading, writing, and clearly, teetotaling.
  8. Giving or receiving: Giving! I don't like being the center of attention. 
  9. My favorite city: Savannah, Georgia. The most aesthetically pleasing city I've ever visited! Check out those live oak trees in the picture below of Forsyth Park. They look like they are reaching out to grab my son.
Forsyth Park

10. My favorite TV shows: At the moment? Heart of Dixie! I've also been known to obsess over Vampire Diaries, Dexter, any singing competition show and HGTV.

Now it's my turn to nominate some writing buddies for the Sunshine Award! I'm proud to nominate the following peeps. I encourage all y'all to follow the following:

MY TEN NOMINEES
  1. Renee DeAngelo (@reneedeangelo4)
  2. Lorna Suzuki (@LornaSuzuki)
  3. Beth Hull (@tbethhull)
  4. Poppy Williams (@mspoppy)
  5. Jaime Morrow (@MorrowJaime)
  6. LK Gardner-Griffie (@lkgg)
  7. Elodie (@commutinggirl)
  8. Ami Hendrickson (@MuseInks)
  9. Alex Brown (@gravity_fail09)
  10. Jamie Grey (@Jamie_Grey)
Want to participate in the Sunshine Awards? Feel free to grab the pic and start your own round.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Geek Girl's Guide to Jane Austen


A Geek Girl's Guide to Jane Austen









In 2009, I spent the year listening to classical music and reading nothing but Jane Austen. I was obsessed! And I didn't just read Austen novels; I geeked out on everything Austen or Austen related. Since that time, Jane Austen's stories have gotten more and more popular. The fact that we can relate to her work even today speaks to the timeless nature of her storytelling. So without further ado, the geek girl's guide to everything Jane Austen!

PERSUASION

Read the novel
I've read Persuasion nine times. It's my favorite Jane Austen's novel, and I feel the most overlooked. It's all about second chances, following your heart and forgiveness.
Read Persuasion free on Project Gutenberg >

Geek out
  • Retelling: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
    This is a young adult sci-fi retelling of Persuasion. Does it get better than that? I haven't read it yet, but I've heard great things.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE

Read the novel
Perhaps the most popular and iconic of Jane Austen's novels, this novel was once titled First Impressions. The main characters, Darcy and Elizabeth both must overcome their pride and rethink their prejudice in order to find love. Read Pride and Prejudice free on Project Gutenberg >

Geek out
There are countless ways to geek out on P&P, so I'm only going to list my faves. 
  • Comic book: What? I just found this. What? Awesome.
My eat-sleep-austen mug!
NORTHANGER ABBEY

Read the novel
This is one of Austen's earlier novels and I think it kind of shows. It's not my favorite, but the villains carry this book. They are so manipulative! Read Northanger Abbey free on Project Gutenberg >

Geek out

Gothic novels: Ok, this is when my true geek nature really comes out. To get a full understanding of Northanger Abbey, it helps to read gothic novels from the times (the characters in the book are engrossed with them). I really like the idea of reading the book the characters are reading. If you want to read along with the characters in this Austen classic, check out The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe.

EMMA

Read the novel
I found Emma to be the most fun and lighthearted of all Austen's novels. Matchmaking goes wrong and I found myself laughing out loud several times.
Read Emma for free on Project Gutenberg >

Geek out
  • Gothic novel: One of the characters in this book, Harriet Smith, recommends a book to her suitor. But it's a real book so you can read it too. If you want to try, check out The Romance of the Forest, by Ann Radcliffe.
MANSFIELD PARK

Read the novel
This is my least favorite Austen novel. It's dark and the main character's situation is so dire and depressing. Even when it ended, I wasn't happy. BUT...plenty of people feel differently so don't take my word for it. Read Mansfield Park on Project Gutenberg >

Geek out
I personally didn't geek out that much on this book since I didn't love it. But, here's some options.
  • Film adaptations: I watched two film versions, from 2007 & 1999. Both were ok.
  • The play: Some of the characters in the book perform the play Lovers' Vows. I might be worth tracking down. It was a controversial play in the book and it would be interesting to see why.
SANDITION

Read the novel
Jane Austen died before completing this novel, but that doesn't mean it didn't leave its mark. Hypochondriacs in a small beach town are hard to forget!

Geek out
  • Completion stories: An unfinished novel is like a choose your own adventure novel. I love reading these completion stories just to see how different they are:

    Sanditon: Jane Austen's Last Novel Completed
    This is my favorite completion. I've actually read it several times and highly recommend it!

    Jane Austen's Charlotte
    This is terrible! But I still enjoyed reading another version.

    That's all I've read so far, but there are several others detailed here.
  • Welcome to Sanditon: The next YouTube series by the makers of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries will be based on Sanditon and some of the storyline to be crowd sourced! (May 2013)
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

Read the novel

I can't believe I almost forgot tel. I even named my husband's car Willoughby! Read Sense and Sensibility on Project Gutenberg >

Geek out

The musical: The 1995 film is great, of course, but did you know there's now a musical? Yes, that's right and it's playing in my city! I'm sure if it's good, it will start making the rounds.

EVERYTHING ELSE

This is definitely not the extend of my geekery, but this post can only be so long. Here's the best of the rest...

The Jane Austen Fight Club
This does not get old. May be the best video ever!

Lady Susan
This is my favorite of Austen's lesser works. It's a story told in the form of letters. Lady Susan is a recent widow scheming for husbands for herself and her daughter.

The Letters
I'm not huge on biographies, so I haven't read one, but I did get into Austen's letters briefly. If you watch the film, Becoming Jane (I have mixed feelings about it), there are some allusions to the fact that there may be some semi-autobiographical aspects to her stories. Also, they're free for perusal on Project Gutenberg!

And that's it! Intense, right? Do you have anything to add to my geek list?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

5 Free Writing Resources on YouTube

I used to have this thing against YouTube. I pretty much saw it like the slushpile for the late and not so great America's Funniest Home Videos. Silly cats. Giggling babies. Viral dance videos. Rinse. Repeat. Blah.

Then I magically saw the light! YouTube is awesome for countless reasons. And if you're a writer, there are many videos you might find helpful. Here are some of my favorites:

1. FREE WEBINAR: Revising a Novel They Can't Put Down
The Writers Digest channel posts many helpful snippets on different topics and most of the videos are under ten minutes long. This one, however, is a full webinar from James Scott Bell, author of Plot & Structure. The video is over an hour in length so make sure you have time to watch. I'm sure a group of students paid good money for this webinar, but now it's free!

2. MARTHA ALDERSON'S CHANNEL
Martha Alderson, author of The Plot Whisperer, has many videos covering the topics discussed in her books. Sometimes she's in a garden, on a mountain or by the beach. Frankly, her choice of settings can be a little distracting, but she has some great content that's worth wading through.


3. HOW A BOOK IS MADE with Lauren Oliver
This series of videos was posted to the HarperKids channel. It's somewhat of a promotional series for Lauren Oliver's book, The Spindlers, but it does give an interesting look into the making of a book and the publishing process.
4.

4. JACKSON PEARCE'S WRITING VIDEOS
Jackson Pearce is the author of Sisters Red, Purity and many other titles. Her videos discuss everything from outlining to critique partners to naming characters (as seen below).


5. NEIL GAIMAN'S COMMENCEMENT SPEECH 
This video is inspirational, not instructional, but I love love love it!

So...that's it! Those are my 5 faves. Do you have more to add to the list? Do you turn to YouTube for this type of content?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The quest for awesome book trailers

I really love the idea of a book trailers, but I find myself disappointed with the majority of them. Cheesy stock photos, cardboard acting, bad graphics and vague concepts abound. But in my quest for awesome book trailers, I didn't come up empty handed! Here are some trailers that had me wanting to read, read, read!

1. WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang
I like how this one has actors, but leaves out the dialogue, which has the tendency to come off stiff and forced. It has an artful way about it that makes it work.




2. PRESS HERE by Herve Tullet 
I really think picture books and trailers are made for each other in ways that novels are not. I love that this trailer not only sells the story, but how much fun the little folk might have interacting with it.




3. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
This is so ridiculous. And yet it manages not to be embarrassing to watch. Kind of a remarkable feat.



4. SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY by Gary Shteyngart
Um, I have no idea what this book is about. But I was thoroughly entertained so I'm calling it a success. Of course, we can't all afford random James Franco appearances, but hey.


So what do you think? Do you have a favorite book trailer? Has watching a book trailer ever led you to buy/read the book?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Peek at My Secret Pinterest Board

We were discussing writing prompts during the #writersroad chat Monday on Twitter and some people mentioned that they sometimes get inspiration from Pinterest.

Love Pinterest! If you haven't delved into the relatively new secret boards, I encourage you to give them a try. I create one for my manuscript and collect little clippings of inspiration as I come across them. Below is a quick glimpse at my secret board for my current work in progress:


So above we have clothing that my main character wears, an actress that would be a good fit to play her in a film adaptation, food one character prepares (sweet potato burgers with roasted garlic cream and avocado -- um, yum!) and music one character recommends to another in chapter 15. Then we have this:


As you can see, this board includes a variety of donuts. There is a scene in my novel where one of my characters springs for donuts for the whole gang. And when I say donuts, I actually mean fonuts from this joint in LA. Doesn't that maple bacon one look delish?

I digress... Anyway, have you ever used Pinterest for writing inspiration? Do you have a super secret board? Since I showed you mine, will you show me yours? Gross! Pretend I didn't ask.

If you want to follow me on Pinterest, you can do so here.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Peepsqueak II is available!

I meant to post this earlier, but my mom's second book, Peepsqueak Wants a Friend!, is in stores! It makes a great children's gift (hint, hint).


If you're interested in the original Peepsqueak!, here's the trailer:


Best of all, they're making these!!!
 
If you can't resist this face, you can follow him on Facebook.
 
Want a copy of the book? Buy one at Barnes & Noble, Amazon—or better yet—support your local bookstore and have them order it if it's not in stock!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Battling overused words

We all have our pet words. Words we either can't help using, or words we don't even notice we're using over...and over...and over again. My worst offenders are usually "just" and "somehow," to name a couple. To find my overused words, I pasted the first chapter of my MS into Wordle:

Wordle word map

And voilĂ ! This is a great visual way to find overused words in your writing. From this exercise, I figured out that I was using the word "like" way too often. Also, "just" (which I should have known!) I made some changes. After making some wording adjustments, my new word map looked like this:



I might make a couple more adjustments. Apparently, Mr. Shepherd is an important character in this scene, but I might be overusing his name a tad...

Want to try it? Visit Wordle!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Revision trick experiment

Revisions on paper

I do all of my editing online, but it seems like everyone I know was telling me to go old school. The collective advice seemed to be "print out your MS in a different font and size and suddenly you'll see everything in a whole new light."

I was skeptical (plus, going paperless is cool), but I decided to give it a try. And the results were...


Drum roll please...



Suspense!



Keep scrolling...



Almost there!



MAGIC. Wow, it actually worked. Suddenly everything sounded wrong. The parts that seemed fine before were gushing blood. I'm calling this experiment a success.

Have you ever tried this method? What did you think?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Getting your bookshelf porn fix

my bookshelf

Do images of row upon row of books get you hot and bothered? Ok, so a blurry picture of my personal bookshelf might not do it for you...BUT you may want to checkout:

BOOKSHELF PORN, THE BLOG
(addicting, no?)

Also,

MY BOOKSHELF PORN PINTEREST BOARD (because I'm obsessed with scouting out these images)

And if you're ready to trick-out your own bookshelf, I encourage you to read over:

CENTSATIONAL GIRL'S TIPS ON BOOKSHELF STYLING

Yes, I have an e-reader, but that doesn't mean I don't like to buy books too. "Real" books will never go out of style; they're too pretty.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thoughts on San Fran

San Francisco Bridge
Image from my last visit to the city in 2005.
So I'm heading on a jet plane to San Francisco tomorrow. The last time I was there was in 2005.

Since then, I've written three novels, given birth to the best person on earth, celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary, bought a house and turned 30. The first time I went there in 2002, I was a newlywed.

I wish I was heading there under different circumstances, but I can't help thinking about what I might accomplish before I go back again. It's starting to be my marker city, meaning I can mark the milestones of my life around my visits there.

P.S. I'm secretly hoping I run into Lizzie Bennet! Ha!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New revision toolkit

Revision sucks. Yes, I know some of you like it. You think that's where the magic happens. Ya da ya da ya da. But some people like being pregnant. Some people like egg nog. And running laps.

Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people. I really really wish I was. I have three novels completed that need revisions. So anyway, in an effort to make this as painless as possible, I made a revision toolkit! It's my go-to box of things for when revisions get...uncomfortable and I need to comfort myself.


So far, I've included:

1) Chocolate (obvious choice, but a staple nonetheless). I chose this Oaxaca bar by Vosges with guajillo & pasilla chilles, courtesy of Santa.

2) An orange Sicilian candle (because I'm Italian and I might need some aromatherapy)

3) Ultra soft socks

4) Music! I chose Ingrid Michaelson's Human Again CD. Plus, I created a revision playlist on Spotify.

5) The Elements of Style Illustrated (because grammar is more fun with pretty pictures)


And finally...

6) A knitted gnome for good luck!


Now I'm prepared so I have no more excuses. I better just suck it up now.

Ok, here I go...

Yup. I'm going to start revising now.

La la la la.

This blog post is really over, isn't it?

What would you put in your revision toolkit? Or are you one of those lucky ones who loves revisions?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My New Ruby Slippers!

My ruby red slippers

When I wear my new ruby slippers to work, I'm secretly saying "I want to go home!"

Patent leather red slippers = $20 on sale

Subtle literary reference = priceless

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The 2013 Book List

2013 To-Read Pile
My actual bedroom bookshelf featuring mainly books
I haven't read, most of which didn't make this list.
But I plan to read some of these too!
So many great books are coming out in 2013! I can't wait to get started, so much so that I had to take a book off this list because I jumped the gun and read it in 2012. After making many ho hum selections over the past few months, I'm determined to make this year an awesome reading year. My goal is only 40 books since I plan to write a lot too. I've listed the first 17 here. Why 17? Even numbers are overrated.

So without further ado, my first pass at the 2013 book list...

1. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
I've endured acute torture ever since I finished the last page of Clockwork Prince, so this selection tops the list. I will be devouring this book, starting midnight March 19, the second it's available.

2. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Girl watches loud messy boys next door and wants to be a part of their lives. I need to read more contemporary YA because I write it and this one is quietly calling me. The gorgeous cover doesn't hurt.

3. Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting
I love this series and I can't wait to read this latest installment when it comes out in April. She senses dead people, people!

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Two cancer patients fall in love. I must be the only person on the planet who hasn't read this, so I'm giving it a shot. Apparently, I better get my tissues.

5. Linked by Imogen Howson
The twin she never knew existed! This book looks incredible. I'm reading it when it comes out in June.

5. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This must be the most talked about book on Twitter. It doesn't seem like something I'd normally pick, but I haven't read one bad review so it makes the list.

6. Crewel by Gennifer Albin
I wanted to read this before it came out because I heard it was dystopian with a vintage feel. But I was BURNED OUT ON DYSTOPIA in 2012. Here's hoping I'll be in the mood soon.

7. Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger
Is there a nicer author on Twitter? No. Shannon is totally down to earth and awesome and I can't wait to read this book in March.

8. And, Also, My Palms are Sweaty: A memoir in sixty-four men by Gigi Griffis
I'm going to make a point to start reading more self-published works. This one about a woman's adventures in dating looks hilarious. Plus, I know the author!

9. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
A girl named Ruby survives a mysterious disease and ends up with crazy powers. I've been following this author on Twitter forever and this book looks fabulous.

10. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
I love Stephanie's books and I can't wait to read the finale in this companion series. The only question is, will this book ever get a cover? Come on already!

11. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
So many reasons to read this book. There's a movie coming out. It takes place in the south (love). And it's written jointly by two authors. How awesome is that?

12. It Takes a Village to Kill Your Husband by Jethro Collins
Another self-published book by an author I know and I can't wait to read it! "A moving story about long-lost love, finding yourself, onions rings and the importance of pink." Does it get better than that? Plus, there's a trailer.

13. Finale (Hush, Hush #4) by Becca Fitzpatrick
I read the first three, so I feel sort of invested. But I have to be in the mood to read something fluffy.

14. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
I'm OBSESSED with Jennifer Echols as of last week, during which I read two of her books. I haven't even read the synopsis of this one. Just reading it because it's her.

15. The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols
I don't take my obsessions lightly. I may read everything she wrote before the end of 2013, who knows.

16. Harken by Kaleb Nation
I'm swooning over this cover. Conspiracy theories! Supernatural organizations! Yes, please!

17. Unusual Uses for Olive Oil by Alexander McCall Smith (Portuguese Irregular Verbs #4)
Ok, this series isn't for everyone. But it's definitely for me! The first in the series was probably the funniest book I've ever read.

That's all I've got so far. Do you plan to read any of these? Have you already? Feel free to warn me against any of these selections...or suggest what else I should add to this list since I'm always looking for suggestions! See also the links to my to-read lists on Pinterest and Goodreads.