Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Letter of Encouragement for #NaNoWriMo2017


Last year, 2016, I completed my second NaNoWriMo. But I almost didn’t. I almost couldn’t.

November is usually a magical month, fall is in full swing, with the colors in Michigan spectacular. We’re getting ready for a day of thanks, shared with friends and family. And Nano. What’s not to love about November?

Well, election day, as it turns out.



November 2016 ranks as one of the worst months of my life. My entire world view was threatened, as it was for millions of Americans. After the election, my desire for writing was gone. I balanced on the edge of depression. I didn’t want to leave the house. Tears would fill my eyes at random moments. I tried to understand what had gone so terribly wrong, how our country could be so hateful and misguided.

I still don’t understand it.

The days following the election were horrible and I did no writing. It was the last thing on my mind. I’d been going at a decent pace the first week of the month to finish Nano. Now, two weeks in, I felt hopelessly behind. I would never catch up. Best to call a time of death.

Then I got a message from my friend, my writing buddy, Nikki. We’d discussed being accountability buddies for Nano in October, but she was on the fence. Now, she was doing it. It breathed some life into my Nano and I decided to fully reanimate that corpse, Walking Dead-style and dammit, I was going to finish. And I did. November 28th, a few days to spare, despite having not written for 10 days in November, I pushed past the 50k line.

Today, a few days into Nano 2017 and a bit behind where I wanted to be, I know a couple things for sure.

One, without my friend Nikki I wouldn’t have finished Nano 2016, and this is how I feel about that:



Cherish those writing buddies.

Two, the finish line was all the sweeter for the adversity.

#Resist


Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Lovely C.C. Dowling, Everyone

A few years ago, I signed up for a Writer's Digest on line workshop. Part of that workshop was mingling and meeting other participants. Fatefully, I met one of my very best critique buddies, C.C. Dowling. She and I have shared highs and lows of this publication journey, and for her, this is a loooong time coming. I'm so excited for her, I can't even--

C.C.'s debut came out a few days ago, and I think everyone should know and buy it, of course.

Conduit
When college senior Jane Lamb dies suddenly, she discovers that the afterlife is less pearly gates and fluffy clouds and more standing in line at the DMV. But before she can spend eternity lamenting over her short, unremarkable life, she’s offered a do-over—as a Conduit, a reincarnated messenger contracted to reap souls.

Determined to do things right the second time, Jane takes the job and reincarnates as eighteen-year-old college freshman Liv Hartley. Only, the excitement for her new life doesn’t last. There are consequences to bearing the coveted infinity symbol tattoo marking her as a Conduit, and Liv quickly finds that getting a second chance doesn’t mean getting a better one. Possessive demons, stolen assignments, and a love life that’s decidedly complicated are all a far cry from the mundane existence Jane led. But with more questions piling up than bodies, there’s only one thing Liv knows for sure: life doesn’t get any easier after death.

Filled with sparkling wit, conflicted romance, and more spirit than a haunted mansion, Conduit is a fun-filled paranormal that explores the idea of regret, love, and what we would give to live twice.

Author Bio:
C.C. Dowling is an author who writes everything from gritty urban fantasy, to paranormal sci-fi, to steamy contemporary erotic romance (under a pen name of course!).

C.C. shares her love of writing with her love of singing, music, and science. She spent the first half of her college life performing, and the second half in a lab.

C.C. currently lives in America's finest city, with her husband (the financial shaman), her two children (who love to play in the yard with the faeries), and her very real pet dragon (who guards the perimeter of her house at night).

When she’s not working or writing (which is still technically working), C.C. can be found playing a round of disc golf, or desperately trying to figure out which pair of sandals are the most appropriate for the harsh Southern California winters.

You can find C.C. on Twitter @CCDowling, at her website [www.ccdowingauthor.com], and on her official author Facebook group, Misfits & Mayhem [www.facebook.com/groups/DowlingMisfits/]. She'd love for all the misfits to join the mayhem. Also, get the latest release news by signing up for her newsletter [http://www.subscribepage.com/CCDowlingNewsletter].








Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Expectation Violation: Just Don’t Do It (Pelee Island Book House #2)


So last time, I talked about this grandiose idea of the SO MANY WORDS I was going to write on my writer’s retreat. I mean, what else are you going to do on a writer’s retreat but write, right? My hyper Type A-ness was definitely at work in the weeks leading up to the retreat. I was going to finish revisions on a novel, write a good part of another. Totally!


via GIPHY

Um, yeah. No.

A writing retreat is many things. Equal parts awesome and frustrating for me, for many. Why frustration? Simply… frustration comes from unmet expectations. About midway through the retreat I came to a realization like a car speeding off a cliff. There was no possible freaking way I could do all that writing. Even in a week where, presumably, I had nothing else to do.

So, if I can give aspiring authors a piece of advice for attending writing retreats that probably seems at first blush counter-intuitive, it would be this: have no expectations.

Actually, that’s not entirely correct.

Here’s the type of expectations I’ve learned to avoid:
  •          I’ll finish ___ ,000 words while I’m there
  •          I’ll finally get that revision completely done
  •          I’ll bang out a whole short story (or three!)
  •          I’ll spend all my free time typing
Instead, consider these types of expectations:
  •         I’m going to meet some interesting people
  •         I’m going to learn something new about craft
  •         I’m going to try something different
  •         I’m going to go with an open mind
  •         I’m going to give myself the freedom to think about my story in a way that’s different in a new environment.
See, when you set expectations like the second set, there’s progress being made that isn’t set by a stringent set of “I will do exactly X.” Most times, when goal setting, specifics are important. I believe writer retreats are an exception. They’re nebulous and, ultimately, you’re not really sure what you’re going to get. I’ve been to a few retreats and even those which were held at the same place with a similar structure had a vastly different feel from year to year. So trying to plan out specifics before you get there is kind of like drawing a map in the sand on a windy day.

Self-doubt among writers is a real struggle. Something that spans the gap of age bracket, genre, career, and status. If you’ve gifted yourself with a retreat, don’t ruin it by violating your own expectations, and spending your time mentally whipping yourself for ‘wasting’ your time. Ultimately all that does is fuel the self-doubt fire.

Instead, try this. Enjoy it. Write when the moment strikes you. Give yourself the freedom to let your ideas percolate, take a walk, enjoy the scenery. When you figure that out, the retreat doesn’t have to be any parts frustration. It can be entirely awesome.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What exactly do you do on a writer’s retreat, anyway? (Pelee Island Book House #1)


I had the incredible opportunity to go to a writer’s retreat at the Pelee Island book house. It’s a beach house on a pretty remote island in Lake Erie in Canada-land. I learned a ton, wrote a bunch, and have some writerly wisdom to pass on. Or basically, you can learn from the things I did…while not precisely wrong, certainly things I could’ve done better.

A writer’s retreat is an awesome step away from the day to day grind. The Pelee Island one was my third retreat over the last few years. A week spent talking with a small group of other writers, in various places with their career and their craft. This particular retreat was uber special because of the included workshop. 

The time was awesome, but probably the best was getting an opportunity to spend nearly two whole days listening, learning and asking questions of Chuck Wendig. If you don’t know Chuck, just stop right here and go to his blog. Read a post about writing advice and come back so you can have a full appreciation about the incredible opportunity this retreat represented, on all levels.

I went with vaguely large aspirations about what it was that I was going to accomplish on this retreat. I mean, it was a whole week. And if I had nothing ostensibly to do other than write? I mean, that’s got to be, what, at least 20k words, right?

Nope. In fact, as I write this, it’s Thursday. The retreat goes from Monday to Sunday. It’s Thursday and writing this blog post is the most typing I’ve done so far.

Don’t get me wrong, I did spend a good amount of time rereading the first book of my series, which honestly wasn’t even on the radar for the week at all. Nope, it was supposed to be the second book getting revised and maybe the third book getting written. 20k words is so…many…words. It’s nearly a novella. And I have written nothing so far, except this blog post. More about that in a later post.

What, you may be asking, am I doing, if I’m not writing? Well. Talking, eating, sleeping, learning, reading, pondering, watching birds, looking for snakes (strictly to avoid snakes). It’s a pretty primitive island, so driving around in a purple Challenger is pretty, um, ostentatious? I’m pretty sure they thought I was someone famous. Anyway. These are the things I’ve been doing. In fairness, when Chuck was here, it was a no contest kind of thing. And he got here Monday late afternoon and left Wednesday afternoon. So there were a couple days that were spent in a lets-learn-craft-and-become-better-writers mode! Important things, that may make the writing time at home all that much more fruitful.

I learned so much. So much that a single blog post would feel reductive. So, let it suffice to say, there will be more words coming out of the Pelee Island book retreat, if only in blog post format.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Asleep from Day ~ Cover Reveal!

One of the best parts of being part of the #Pitchwars community has been, by far, watching a group of newbie writers morph themselves into experienced authors. 

We're in this journey together and today, for one of us, a huge step has been taken. I give you the cover reveal for Asleep from Day, by Pitchwars class of 2014 alum, Margarita Montimore. This one is on pre-order, for sure.




A Note from the Author

Hi there! I’m super-excited to share the cover reveal of my debut novel, Asleep from Day. Before we get to the main event, I wanted to share a little about what inspired this book:

Back in the ‘90s, I came across this human interest news story that stuck with me ever since. A guy met a woman on a bus in Boston, they chatted for a few minutes, and the woman left before he could get her number. The guy was so taken with her and eager to find her, he plastered fliers all over the city with details of their brief chat (which, at one point, mentioned Kevin Bacon—insert Six Degrees joke here). Remember, this was in the 1990’s, back before Missed Connections and social media. He didn’t have online tools to help him find the woman. The fliers got so much attention, news outlets picked up the story and the guy ended up on TV talking about his search for this woman. I don’t remember if he ever tracked her down, but I was fascinated by the lengths this man went to for a woman he met for only a few minutes. It was romantic, sure, but also a little crazy and strange.  

Many years later, the seeds of that story took root and grew into something different as I found my premise: What if a girl met a guy and spent a seemingly perfect day with him, then got hit by a car the next day and completely forgot him? What if, as she started to remember, she wondered if those memories were real? What if she had strange dreams and surreal experiences that made her worry she might be making him up and question her sense of reality? Add a 1990’s Boston setting and Asleep from Day was born.

It had to be the ‘90s, because technology makes it easier to find people and back then, it was easier to lose track of someone. It had to be Boston because I lived there during my college years and wanted this book to be my love poem to that city.

In terms of genre, here’s the thing: I like stories that aren’t one thing. I get more excited when a book or movie or show has layers of different genres. And I got more excited about this story when adding layers to it; I wanted it to be realistic yet surreal, romantic but twisted, with darkness and uncertainty to balance out the sweetness. It’s not psychological suspense or romance or mystery, but it has elements of all of those.

For the cover of Asleep from Day, I was hoping for something dreamy and a little strange, but still beautiful. I love the final design Terry Montimore came up with.



About the Author

Margarita Montimore received a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She has blogged for Marvel, Google, Quirk Books, and XOJane.com. When not writing, she freelances as a book coach and editor. She grew up in Brooklyn but currently lives in a different part of the Northeast with her husband and dog.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Writer, interrupted

It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least at any large gathering of writers) that no one respects our writing time. A call from the spouse. “Hey, while you’re at home ‘writing’, [can’t you just feel the air quotes in that statement] could you maybe start the laundry? I would but I’m at work [you know, a real job?]

A call from your mother. “Hey, honey, how are you?”

You: “Is your house burning down, ‘cause you know I’m writing now, right?”

“The house is fine, but [I’ll just cut to the chase and not write what she says, but the subtext] I’m getting old, and someday you’ll be wracked with guilt over not spending enough time with me instead of this pretend thing you do called writing. I mean really, is it as important as spending time with your mother?

I heard all these types of things at the writers retreat on Pelee Island I just attended. I joined in with my own tales of interruption, if I’m to be honest. There are all types of things competing for a writer’s time, not just people. In fact, as I write this, this stupid notification keeps popping up in the corner of my desktop and it’s making me crazy. [hold the phone while I figure out how to turn the damn thing off] Ok. Done. I'm back. Where was I---Shit, the cat just jumped in my lap. Aw, how sweet—wait, no I can’t see the computer screen, we’ve had this conversation you can’t. Be. On the. DESK.

Sigh.

Everyone who’s given writing a solid go knows it’s so, so hard. I just had my brain mashed by Chuck Wendig last week at the writers [cat, get the hell off the desk] retreat. We talked the wispy weirdness of theme and did log lines for our characters, and everyone knows log lines are hella hard and themes are elusive. It’s like trying to herd the cat that’s on my desk again, but so, so much harder.

Getting the words down on paper is the first step of a toddling baby who has those metaphorical miles to go before they write a novel. There is a long, sometimes seemingly infinite, series of steps to make your writing good. It takes concentration. It takes dedication. We all know this. But I think we need to add another ingredient. It takes a writer to value their own work.

If you value your work, guess what? You have the conviction in what you’re doing to not pick up the phone when something benign happens. A notification, the tenth call today from grandma. The cat. Whatever. You place your writing high up on the scale of priorities because of the value it provides to you. Sometimes we downplay that value, but if you love to write, you know what I mean. We live in a crazy, fucked up world right now. If writing is a thing of joy for you, something that helps you deal with a headspace unmanageable, a family crisis, a health issue, and it’s a source of energy that fuels the rest of your existence in this place… isn’t that something to not just value but cherish and protect?

Afterword:

This is the cat who really didn’t want this post written, but wanted to swish her tail at the screen about every other sentence. I just want it noted I have photographic evidence that while yes, technically, she’s still on my desk, she’s been relegated to the edge of the desk and is expressing her cat-like dissatisfaction by crunching up important papers and will no longer make eye contact. The post is written and I won.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

No Rest for the Wicked... or the Weary

You know how sometimes themes start to recur in your everyday life, like happenstance? I think Oprah said something like (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘the universe will send you a tap on the shoulder, then a punch in the face, then a brick wall’. Something like that. Well, I’ve been getting a message, and it’s almost at brick-wall levels. I finally decided to listen.

The message: you’re being inefficient with your energy.

Sounds pretty benign, right? You may be raising an eyebrow wondering why this is a revelation of any kind. Read on. Trust me, this is big.

For a while now,  I’ve been working on the assumption I really need to manage my time better. I’m not getting as much done as I want. Granted, I’ve got pretty high expectations of myself. I’ve read a bunch of stuff over the years about it. Managing your priorities, quadrants, to do lists, etc. This is becoming increasingly important as I attempt to not only keep my business running stronger than ever as I work less so that I can focus on writing a book, building an audience for that book, and polish the first two books in the series prior to publication. Oh, and pull together a nonfiction book proposal.

I have the to do lists. I have the drive. I book time into my day to write at the end of the day. But yet… It just wasn’t happening. Instead, I’d watch an hour too much TV, unable to drag my ass upstairs and do it. I had no umph left after the demands of the day had been met. All I had was enough time to decompress and read some before drifting into a fitful sleep, disappointed in myself.

So when I picked up semi-randomly the Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, it was an ah-ha of the variety Oprah would be proud of.

You know what happens when I write? I get charged up. Stupid happy. Every other piece of my life lights up. So… if the activity of writing energizes me, why, in God’s name, would I wait until I was energy depleted to do it? Because it felt like an indulgence. Writing does not put food on my table, not yet. But if writing is an act of renewal for me, doesn't it mean the possibility of giving energy to other areas of my life? So, screw the guilt, I decided to give myself permission to test a theory.

For the past week I’ve reversed the formula. I’ve been writing first thing in the morning. I’m eager (or as eager as I am to do anything at 7:00 am) to get the day rolling. And when my writing time is done? I feel ready to take on the world. More, I’m eager to get back to writing. So at the end of the day? I’m doing more writing at that time, too. My work has been more focused, and I’m bringing that creative energy to my business. It’s a win/win/win.

Humans need recuperation. Heck, we’re supposed to devote a full third of our time here on earth to sleeping, the definition of rest. I’m learning to build small recuperations into my day, allowing my energy to naturally recharge.

[spoiler alert] The authors of Power do advise against drowning yourself in sugary donuts and caffeine, too. Managing energy affects all facets of our lives, and it’s literally the difference between happiness and despair sometimes. But reframing my thinking about how I will manage my energy has had dramatic effects on multiple areas of my life.

What habits should you build into your day to help manage your energy? A ten minute walk? Hanging out with your dog for a few minutes? Half hour of pleasure reading? Ten deep breaths? Meditation? Yoga? Doodling? The options are as endless as they are important. And giving yourself an energy recharge doesn’t have to take all the time in the world. You’d be amazed what five minutes can do, given what you decide to do inside those five minutes, like say, breathe deeply with your eyes closed.

Think how much we could do as a country if everyone wasn't walking around stressed out all the time, thinking 'I have so much to do and not enough time...'The ultimate irony here in this country is while we’re so programmed to work harder, faster, smarter… the most productive thing we can do sometimes is take a break, or at least do those things which give us energy.