NaNoWriMo – Inspiring Others To Give!

Posted in Event, Giveaway, Writing at 12:13 am by Amber

One of the good things to come out of NaNoWriMo is the donation program and how it inspires others to give. 

Donations can be made directly to The Office of Letters and Light or through the purchase of NaNoWriMo related items in their shop.  The first year I participated in NaNoWriMo the donations (after operating expenses were paid for) went towards Room to Read and libraries were built.  Now the money (after operating expenses) goes towards NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program

Jamie Grove of “How Not To Write” is giving away 30 halos to NaNoWriMo particpants who would like to donate but find themselves unable to do so.  If you feel you qualify, you have until noon EST on Friday, October 31st, to fill out the form on his site.  (You have less than 12 hours.)  Jamie has some great posts on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo.  November 1st is almost here!

Author Lisa Logan is sponsoring a Best NaNoWriMo Line Contest.  You may post your favorite line from your NaNoWriMo novel daily and each week she’ll pick her favorite one to feature.  At the end of NaNoWriMo she’ll pick the best from the weekly favorites for a Starbucks gift certificate.

The Urban Fantasy Fans community at LiveJournal is giving away prizes to its first (and possibly up to three) member(s) who finish NaNoWriMo.

Red Room is offering their own contest for registered users with complete profiles who write a blog entry about NaNoWriMo, tag it with NaNoWriMo 2008 and obtain winner status on the NaNoWriMo web site.  The winner will receive a personal coaching session with Ivory Madison.  The session will consist of a three-hour manuscript review and a one-hour book coaching call.

I’m sure NaNoWriMo has inspired others to do giveaways but these were the only ones I could find.  The satisfaction of writing words (whether or not you reach 50,000) that wouldn’t have been written otherwise is reward enough but these links may give you some extra incentive to finish.


NaNoWriMo – Thoughts from Published Novelists & 2008 Pep Talks

Posted in Event, Writing at 11:23 pm by Amber

One of the things that makes NaNoWriMo fun is taking the pressure off writing.  Yes, there is pressure to write 50,000 words but some of the pressure is alleviated by focusing on quantity instead of quality.  It’s difficult to tie up one’s inner editor who wants to correct all spelling and grammar mistakes immediately.  Lots of writers never reach the end of their stories or novels because they won’t allow themselves.  They allow the inner editor to take control of the work too soon or they let the characters do their own thing allowing the characters to avoid reaching their journey’s end. 

Some professional writers scoff at the thought of NaNoWriMo.  “How dare someone call themselves a novelist when they only put in one month’s effort?”  That thought is a little misguided.  Yes, the person is a novelist but only in first draft form.  Due to my college art class which required assignments be completed with charcoal or latex paint, I appreciate the effort it takes to create drawings and paintings.  Wouldn’t it make sense for a reader who has been through the first draft writing process to appreciate the final product even more than before?  Very few writers get a nearly finished manuscript when writing a first draft.  Not all of the NaNoWriMo participants will be able to cross the finish line.  Life gets in the way, it’s easier to procrastinate, or the desire to take on such a crazy task leaves the person.  To carve out that much time takes planning and dedication.

The other thought is “Why waste time writing 50,000 words of crap?”  Not all of it is crap.  But remember when you first began making up stories about your stuffed animals or people you know?  Nothing was “right” or “wrong”; everything just happened.  For people who haven’t written in a long time this is a way to reignite the wonder of telling a story.  Everyone has a story inside that’s waiting to be told.

Other published novelists are on board with NaNoWriMo.  Sara Gruen has used it to complete the first draft of three of her novels – and at least one of them made it to the top of The New York Times Best Seller List.  Last year NaNoWriMo organizers were able to line up pep talks from published authors.  The pep talks came from Julianna Baggott, Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, Sara Gruen, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Deanna Raybourn and Tom Robbins.  They are archived on the NaNoWriMo site if you wish to read them. 

This year NaNoWriMo participants offered their suggestions on who to receive pep talks from.  The list of pep talk authors for 2008 was published today!  Piers Anthony, Kelley Armstrong, Gayle Brandeis, Meg Cabot, Janet Fitch, Brian Jacques, Katherine Paterson, Philip Pullman, and Jonathon Stroud will have emails winging their way to our email inboxes.

Good luck to all the participants.  Remember… your first words don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be the beginning of the novel; they just have to be written.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Posted in Review at 11:26 am by Amber

St. Martin’s Press sent me a copy of this book as part of their Reading Group Gold program.  I first heard about it a month or so ago and wondered how I could not have heard of it before now.  Movie rights have been sold and it’s been translated into other languages.  Apparently I’ve been writing or watching movies instead of checking on newly released books.  It is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I’m going to be buying copies for my reading friends.  

From the back cover:

PARIS, JULY 1942: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night.  Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard – their secret hiding place – and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

SIXTY YEARS LATER: Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup.  In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future. 

The round-up occurred on July 16th by the French police under Gestapo orders.  Because the orders were carried out by their countrymen instead of German soldiers it was easy from some to believe they were being arrested for a short time.  The police had a list of thousands to be arrested.  Upon finding the people on the list the police put them on public transportation buses which took the passengers to the Vélodrome d’Hiver, an arena that was used for bike races and other events.  The Vel’ d’Hiv’ (the common name for the stadium) was a holding place until the orders came to transport the Jews to Auschwitz.  The French used several camps to hold everyone before their final train ride.  One camp was for the adults without children and another camp in the countryside is where the families were sent.  Once there, the children were torn from their families and kept in an area by themselves.  Adults were to be sent first.  This round-up is a little known piece of French history.  When the 60th anniversary arrived in 2002 the French government held a ceremony to commemorate their role in the round-up and apologize to the survivors.

De Rosnay weaves this information into the storyline of the present day.  She alternates the tales of Sarah and Julia in the chapters.  The reader learns more about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ event as Julia learns it.  As her investigation continues, Julia’s relationship with her French husband becomes more strained.  De Rosnay sets obstacles in Julia’s path but the story of Sarah inspires Julia to persevere.  One of the tasks of a historical fiction author is to place the reader in the middle of the action while caring about the characters.  It is too easy to let the historical setting overshadow the characters and de Rosnay does a wonderful job at her task in balancing the two.

De Rosnay has written several books but this is the first one written in English.  She lives in France and will be doing a book tour in the United States with the Jewish Book Council this November.  To see if she’ll be in your town, click here.


More on The Muse Online Writers Conference

Posted in Event, Writing at 6:23 am by Amber

I’m at Topsail Beach this week in North Carolina on vacation.  I may be taking a break from my day to day responsibilities but I’ve not been taking a break from my writing. 

One of the workshops I attended at The Muse Online Writers Conference was “Write that Bio With Sheri Gormley”.  Sheri is the Director of Marketing and Promotions for Virtual Tales.  Authors are told repeatedly to have a web presence before their first work sells but few know what to include on a web site.  One thing all author sites should all have in common is the biography.  It’s difficult for some writers to talk/write about themselves.  What information will the reader find interesting?  With the tips I learned at the workshop I updated my bio page. 

Another workshop I attended was “Organizing Your Writing Life with Cheryl Malandrinos”.  Cheryl is a freelancer, copywriter and aspiring author who understands how the writer’s mind works since she’s one herself.  One of her tips was to take a SMART goal and break it down into smaller tasks.  It sounds so simple but a lot of people get hung up on the volume of tasks and never get started.  One of my SMART goals was to hit my daily word count in November.  In order to accomplish this, I’ve brought my character pyramid sheets with me and I’ll have my characters interviewed before the week is done.  I’ve already begun the interview process and been surprised by some of the answers.


Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

Posted in Giveaway, Review at 2:56 pm by Amber

In September I received a copy of Any Given Doomsday as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.  Its release date is set for November 4th, 2008. In Any Given Doomsday, the reader meets Elizabeth Phoenix, a former cop with psychometric powers.  Ruthie, her foster mother and the only person who ever truly loved her, is attacked.  Liz finds Ruthie and receives a gift from her before Ruthie passes away.  One of Ruthie’s other foster children, Jimmy Sanducci, is implicated in the attack.  Liz hasn’t seen Jimmy, her first love, since she found out he cheated on her.  She must find out why Ruthie was attacked and if Jimmy was involved.  Doomsday Can Wait, the next book in the Phoenix Chronicles, will be released in May 2009.

This is one of those books I’d define as a guilty pleasure.  I read it in one weekend because it was difficult to put down.  The pacing is well done as is the supernatural creature mythology.  I thought this was an interesting take on the battle between good and evil presented in most apocalyptic scenarios.  Some of the sex moved the plot along but little of it revealed anything of the characters.  The three main characters are cliches but I’m willing to forgive this; the book is obviously setting up the series.  Sawyer, the Native American skinwalker that provided psychic guidance to Liz when she was fifteen and features strongly in Any Given Doomsday is sure to make an appearance in the next book.  While he is part of the Federation fighting against evil his motives are not always for the good of the team or the world. 

You can win your own autographed copy of Any Given Doomsday by answering a question on Handeland’s web site prior to Noon EST on Halloween.    The answer can be found in my review.  Here is Handeland’s contest page.  (It appears she regularly runs contests for her readers.)  Handeland wrote a short story prequel to Any Given Doomsday that can be downloaded here.


NaNoWriMo – What is it? And How is it Pronounced?

Posted in Event, Writing at 9:56 am by Amber

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this November.  The brainchild of Chris Baty, it began in July 1999 with twenty-one participants.  The writing event was moved to November and the number of participants grew each year.  I think once word spread and internet technology was used for registration it became more international than national. 

The premise of the exercise is to write a 50,000 word novel (these days most publishers consider this word count a novella) in one month.  To be an official participant, you register on the site at http://nanowrimo.org and begin writing November 1st.  Update your word count electronically as often as you choose, but you will only receive your badge and .pdf winner certificate once your word count is validated at 50,000 or above near the end of the month.  The deadline is 11:59pm local time on November 30th to have all your words written and validated.  You can outline and plot (or not) to your heart’s content prior to November 1st but you can’t include anything in your novel that was written outside of the month.  Writing can continue beyond November 30th but it won’t count towards the winner’s certificate.

You can choose to do this on your own with Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem! as your guide.  However, the synergy and ideas that come from thousands of others writing at the same time is invaluable.  Many people put “writing a novel” on their life lists.  This is one way to push towards the goal.  What better time to accomplish it than now?  For writers, this can be an awakening for them.  Writing is hard work.  Writing does require sacrifice (which often results in dirty dwellings or a month long diet of ramen noodles for the family) but if you’re serious about writing, this is a great exercise.  I’ve participated since 2006.  I may not have “won” every year but I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer. 

How is NaNoWriMo Pronounced?

One topic of debate is how is NaNoWriMo pronouned?  Is it na-nä-rī-mō or na-nä-re-mō?  At kick-off parties and writer groups this has been discussed.  WriMoRadio answers the question.  It’s rī as in writing, not re as in reading.  Every month should be a national reading month.  🙂

I hope you enjoyed my first post on NaNoWriMo.  More posts about NaNoWriMo will be here in the upcoming weeks.


Some Nifty Reminder Tools

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing at 12:33 am by Amber

Writers and readers alike are always looking for tools that will help them stay organized.  The variety available is endless.  Some are for specific things like shared calendars or birthday/anniversary reminders.  I found out about three recently but haven’t put any of them in action.  Here they are in alphabetical order:

IWantSandy.com – You can email your reminders or send them through Twitter to the site.  It works with Google calendars, Outlook, and other programs to send reminders via to your PDA or cell phone. 

LibraryElf – Can’t remember when your library books are due?  Do you check out items for more than one person on your card?  Or want to keep track of all the items due for your kids too?  Do you belong to more than one library system?  You can keep track of what’s due, what’s ready for pickup and what’s overdue.  Seems very convenient and there are a lot of library systems available.  The Cleveland Public Library even has a link to it on their web site.

Remember the Milk – They recently celebrated their third anniversary so they have a little bit of longevity behind them.  The site allows you to make lists and get reminders via email or instant messenger.  You can share and send your tasks to other people.  Reminders or tasks can be added through phone or email.

Do you have any favorite tools to help you stay organized?


The Muse Online Writers Conference is Educational!

Posted in Event, Writing at 7:53 am by Amber

My eyes hurt, I’m tired and a callous is forming on my mouse wheel finger.  This is the current cost of The Muse Online Writers Conference this year.  Great, isn’t it?

When I first heard of the conference I thought to myself, “It’s online and it’s free.  It’s probably not going to be very good.”  I signed up last year with no idea of what to expect.  I was armed only with the knowledge that I’d be out of the town for the end of the conference and miss out on the last few days.  Let me describe for you what the conference last year was like.  Overwhelming.  Educational.  Fantastic!

Last year I learned about how to world build, where to find grants, why vampires are so loved and so on.

The workshops the last two years were held in week-long forums hosted on Website Toolbox and were easy to use.  This is the software being used this year too.  If you’ve ever used forums before these are basic and pretty easy to use.  The “smart quotes” from Word don’t translate well so be prepared – turn off that feature in Word if you’re going to copy and paste your work into the forums.  There is so much information, critiquing and networking being done.  The organizers pay to keep the forums open a few weeks longer than the actual conference so participants can review missed discussions.

The chats have been held through Parachat and have a maximum capacity of 100 logins before it starts bumping people out.  I signed up for a lot of chats last year.  The organizer hopes to have enough donations from this year to upgrade the software or switch to something else for chats. 

Each year the conference gets better based on constructive feedback.  I wasn’t there for the first  year, but the workshops were held in Yahoo!Groups.  Yahoo!Groups is a great tool but it can be difficult to follow multiple discussions at times.  Last year a request was made for transcripts of the chats.  And this year most of the chat sessions have transcripts available afterwards.  I wonder what will be in store for 2009?

After experiencing the conference last year I cut back on the chats and only signed up for the workshops I thought I would participate in.  During this year’s conference:

  1. I’ve reworked a short story that’s been through several drafts already.
  2. I’ve received good/helpful criticism on a short story that’s been rejected several times but is dear to me so I don’t want to trunk it.
  3. I’ve begun a new short story with elements of suspense.
  4. I’m exploring some of the scenes that will take place in my next novel.

It’s only Friday morning.  There are so many more exercises to do and things to learn before the week is over.  It may be a free conference but the time and effort that went into the week really shows in the quality of the presenters and the participants.


Upcoming Reviews!

Posted in Event, Writing at 10:47 pm by Amber

I’ve taken a breakfrom reading the last few days so I can finish my reviews on Dirt: An American Campaign, Any Given Doomsday, and the Twilight Series for the blog.  It feels weird not to be carrying a book around with me.

I’m also participating in the Muse 2008 Writers Online Conference.  There’s homework and writing exercises to do for the workshops which has kept me busy this evening!  🙂


Kelly Link – Magic for Beginners Free Download

Posted in Giveaway at 8:23 pm by Amber

I heard about the free download of Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners yesterday and thought I’d share it.  If you’re a fan of short stories in the magical realism vein then this should be a book for you!  My favorites are “The Hortlak”, “Catskin” and “Stone Animals”. 

I read this in January 2007 while on a vacation with my in-laws in Amish country.  This is one of those books that takes the reader to different places.

Download page is here!

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »