Friday, November 17, 2017

Caught My Fancy Friday: NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month! I'd drafted a couple of novels before I heard of this. I love the energy and enthusiasm of writers buckling down at home, in coffee shops, and in libraries across the country, so I wanted to join in.

I decided to draft every November. I've never registered on the NaNo site, and I usually begin with a meaty outline or some chunk of the novel already written, but I've enjoyed buckling down and drafting while my other writer friends are doing it, too. I aim for 2,000 words/day, except for Sundays, but it's not daily for me. Some days I write 10,000 words, if my other responsibilities are quiet, and other days it's 200. The variance doesn't bother me.

These are the projects I've wrapped up during the last few Novembers:

2014: MURDER AT THE PRINCE OF WALES
2015: THE TSAR'S POISONER
2016: IN BLOOD
2017: STARLET

I only had about 30,000 words to go on STARLET, so I'm also beginning . . . a Regency romance. I know, it's not really me! I'm part of a Regency critique group because I'm friends with the women in it, and I had an idea that I thought I'd explore during NaNo this year.  I'm only a few thousand words in, and I still haven't decided if it's going to be a straight Regency or a historical fantasy.

Let's be honest. It's probably gonna end up with some funky magic, steampunk, or crazy science. Because I like having fun when I write.

I enjoy NaNo because I try new genres--a murder mystery in 2014, and the most fantasyish fantasy I've ever tried last year, and now a Regency. Writing for adults! I never thought I'd see the day!

My local critique group meets one morning a week during November to companionably clippity-clap on our laptops. No critiquing--just writing. I find it peaceful and invigorating to draft alongside other writers.

November is a happy time!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mondays Need a Good Book: THE SENSATIONAL PAST





THE BLURB:

Blindfolding children from birth? Playing a piano made of live cats? Using tobacco to cure drowning? Wearing “flea”-colored clothes? These actions may seem odd to us, but in the eighteenth century, they made perfect sense.

Journeying through the past three hundred years, Purnell explores how people used their senses in ways that might shock us now. And perhaps more surprisingly, she shows how many of our own ways of life are a legacy of this earlier time.

The Sensational Past focuses on the ways in which small, peculiar, and seemingly unimportant facts open up new ways of thinking about the past. You will explore the sensory worlds of the Enlightenment, learning how people in the past used their senses, understood their bodies, and experienced the rapidly shifting world around them.

THE SCOOP: Wowzers! I picked this book up from a library display--unusual for me since I am usually blinded to all but my objectives there--brought it home, and stuck so many post-it notes in it that I had to purchase my own copy.





Her historical anecdotes are engaging, charming, and new to me (and my emphasis in graduate school was the eighteenth century!). Her argument is fascinating--that the Enlightenment prioritized seeing over the other senses and that we do, too.

THE VERDICT: Writer friends. If you're even THINKING about a book set in the 1700s or 1800s, you need this book! I love how she explores the differences in the way people in the past experienced and processed the world. Real differences, beyond no indoor plumbing and fancy manners, but differences in how they viewed museum exhibits (you need to see, touch, and probably taste them) and rotten meat (mask it with spices).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Caught My Fancy Friday: Midwest Storymakers Conference, Part IV

Elena Johnson gave the keynote address at this conference. She taught the very first class I ever attended at the Storymakers conference. She taught Blake Snyder's Save the Cat method for novels, and I was spell-bound. It's awful to admit, but I had signed with an agent already and had never heard of any outlining methods other than what I learned in ninth grade!

So. It was fun to hear her speak. And it was the most inspiring keynote address I've heard in a long time. I was teary several times, as she talked about times she felt like a failure and like both the engines in her plane had given out. And then she talked about how to deal with it, how to live as a writer, and how to move forward and save that plane that's crashing to the earth.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Mondays Need a Good Book: TOPAZ REIGNS

Topaz Reign (Altered Stones, #2) 


THE BLURB: It has been four months since Maggie learned the dark truth behind the tale of the Princess and the Pea and freed Princess Lindy from the cursed Emerald. Lindy is now back in the past where she belongs, queen of her tiny Scandinavian country, and Maggie is a fully reformed ex-stalker.

Except … she can’t stop doing internet searches on Lindy and her country.

One morning, Maggie wakes to find history turned on its head. Apparently, you can’t destroy a centuries-old curse without consequence. In order to prevent the changes in history from wiping out the present, Maggie resurrects her stalking gene and learns that fairy tales don’t stay dead for long.

Or at all.

THE SCOOP: I loved meeting these wonderful characters from EMERALD BOUND again! Second books in a series sometimes don't satisfy me, but this one was great--you could read it without having read the first one, because the author does an amazing job of reminding us what happened in the first book without dumping it all out on the first page. (but you'll enjoy this one more if you have read the first one, because the characters are so likeable).

I especially loved seeing Lindy go back to the seventeenth century with her modern experiences. Her growth was fun, and the gentle development of her romance was perfect.
THE VERDICT: The story is FUN. It's clever, the plot twists unexpectedly, the characters are endearing, and it's a really fresh approach to time travel and the question of whether you can change history. I love watching characters explore the implications of time travel, and this story had such a charming and intriguing answer to those questions.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Caught My Fancy Friday: Midwest Storymakers Conference, Part III



I first attended this conference in 2015. Jen Geigle Johnson and I were both in Sarah Eden's boot camp. Jen brought the first chapter of a Regency manuscript, and at this storymakers, she sold copies of it in the bookstore!
Image result for nobleman's daughter

Feast your eyes. Isn't it gorgeous?

And crazy. Jen's book went from an unfinished draft to a published book in two years! It's more than I can say for my progress, sadly, but I'm thrilled for her. It was so fun. Pick up a copy!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mondays Need a Good Book: THE PEARL THIEF

 The Pearl Thief (Code Name Verity #0.5)



THE BLURB: When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scottish Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister, Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

 
THE SCOOP: Prequels hardly ever work for me, but I loved this one SO. MUCH. It's a mystery set in 1938 Scotland oozing with historical and antiquarian significance. The tone is much lighter than Code Name Verity, but, honestly, it was so refreshing to see Julie's life and character before the tragedy of the next book. The research was impeccable, the world brimming with life, the characters endearing. The mystery played on some fun mystery tropes, including amnesia.

THE VERDICT: I loved everything about this. And now I want a necklace of Scottish river pearls.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Caught My Fancy Friday: Midwest Storymakers Conference, Part II

I take pages and pages of notes at every writing conference I attend. Mostly, I don't look at them again. But it helps me learn.

I've had a few weeks to digest what I learned at the conference--in classes and out--and here's the short version:
  • Indie publishing just might be the wave of the future.
    • Writing to market can be lucrative.
    • It's so FAST. Write, revise, publish, make some moolah. Wow! 
    • I still don't think it's for me, but it was fascinating to learn about it from successful indie authors.
  • Tropes are okay. Readers of certain genres like and expect tropes. Good writers use tropes to their advantage instead of dismissing them.
  • I love critiquing Regency manuscripts, even though I've never written one and don't enjoy many of them besides Georgette Heyer. 
  • I really wish I had had the change to take Gregg Luke's class on poisons BEFORE I researched, wrote, and revised my novel about a poisoner at Peter the Great's court. It would have saved me a lot of time!
  • Now I kind of want to write murder mysteries, now that I have the low-down on all the best poisons.
  • There are patterns to writing successful romance. Don't laugh! I don't read or write strictly romance, but I love romance side plots, and I've never thought much about them. Victorine Leiske's class opened my eyes. 
  • She talked about avoiding insta-love, which is a problem in YA. She says it happens when characters build physical intimacy without matching emotional intimacy. She suggests making a list of their secrets and revelations from smallest (I hate onions) to largest (I can't get over my last lover) and let the characters leak them to each other in ascending order. Genius, right?
  • Writers are really, really, really nice; anxious to share what they've learned; and pretty much always riddled by self-doubt.