Friday, November 27, 2009

From the Trenches: When Every NaNo Second Counts

For the scoop on my NaNoWriMo experience and the lessons learned, scuttle on over to the Stiletto Gang today. If you participated in NaNo, let me hear how it went for you.

Now I'll return to Book 2 and incorporate suggestions from critique partners before turning it over to my editor in late December. Once she gets it, you guys can look forward to a few months' worth of posts from Revision Hell. Stick around. We'll have great fun. :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's Write for Me

Wednesday, November 25th, at 12:00 Central / 1:00 Eastern, I'm participating in this Blog Talk Radio show with other writers who gave NaNoWriMo a try. If you'll be online and would like to listen in, you can do so through this link. It's free, my favorite price. :-) After the fact, the recorded podcast will be available at the same link.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Crime Bake 2009 and NaNoWriMo Update

With authors Vincent H. O'Neil and Maggie Barbieri at Crime Bake's costume banquet.

My blogging has slowed in November thanks to NaNoWriMo, and more on that experience shortly. But I'm emerging here mid-month to report on the New England Crime Bake conference, from which I've just returned, because I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves as new writers is get to as many writing conferences as our schedules and budgets allow.

Is it because conferences improve our writing? For me, no. My guess is that workshops or classes would do a better job there. The two reasons I go are networking and inspiration.

The first time you go, you won't know anybody. No big deal, though, because all you have to do is ask any random stranger with a conference badge a) what they're reading or, b) if they're having fun, and Bam! You're in a conversation and now you know someone. Repeat all weekend long, exchange lots of cards, send follow-up e-mails, and then--my promise to you--at every conference you ever attend again, you'll know people. Your new friends will introduce you to their friends, and so on and so on, and the circle grows fast. The same mystery writers go to these things, so over time the relationships grow from acquaintances to friendships. Friends promote and encourage each other. I met Vinny and Maggie (above) at Malice Domestic last April and we've stayed in touch via Facebook and e-mail. Seeing them again at Crime Bake was great fun.

Enter Inspiration:
When I'm not masquerading as an author, I'm mothering three young kids, and when I'm not doing that I'm crunching data at NASA. Neither engineers nor kids, it turns out, care much about plotting, character arc, setting development, word count, revisions, deadlines, or the various and innumerable approaches to the creative process.

And that's okay. My point is that the people I physically see every day don't satisfy the needs of the writer in me. Only other writers do that. So when I see them at conferences, I feel charged, like my pen is on fire and my keyboard wants to type by itself. I can't wait to write. My word for a totally consuming need to write is Inspiration, and for a distracted working mom who often can't fit it all in, the inspiration to MAKE TIME is invaluable. So when I can swing it, I fork over the cash for conference registration and travel. It's worth it because it keeps me excited about putting words down.

Crime Bake, specifically, was a new conference for me. I've never been to a conference I didn't enjoy, and this was no exception. This was on the smaller side, so I met fewer new folks, but I was able to make personal connections with multiple folks I knew from Facebook and Twitter. Somebody please remind me to post about the importance of online social networking after NaNo is over.

Panels at these conferences sometimes offer tips about the writing process or marketing techniques (all useful info) but I find myself more interested in the panelists as people. Observing them in discussion, gauging their responses, I get a sense of them that transforms them from names on a cover to real people with engaging commentary and unique perspectives. This fascinates me to no end and makes me curious about their books. In summary, if you want to write, and especially if you're trying to learn more about publishing, please go to conferences.

As for NaNo.

Crime Bake put a cramp in my progress because I didn't write on either Friday or Saturday while I was busy schmoozing. But, on the whole, NaNo is working for me and I wasn't sure it would. There are two camps of thought about the value of NaNoWriMo and based on my experience these two weeks, I'm inclined to say that the usefulness of this exercise depends on what kind of writer you are. I'll elaborate on that in my end-of-month Stiletto Gang post on Friday, Novemeber 27th.

Until then, I'm going dark again so I can work toward my 50,000 word goal. See you out here in a couple of weeks and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Library Love

This library study room is where I write most efficiently. No kids, no refrigerator, no chores, and--most importantly--no WiFi. The Internet is available here, but the staff knows that under no circumstances are they to give me the network password. It would be like giving crack to a junkie.

I already love my library, but tonight I love it extra because two nice things happened there. I wrote 4,000 words for Day 2 of NaNoWriMo and my librarian recognized me as an author of a book in the stacks. That last bit was special to me because I've never mentioned my book to the folks at my library. (I know what you're thinking, but it's hard to explain.)

First, NaNo. I'll try not to be too excited about this word count coup because soon I expect to crash and burn when the story totally stalls. But just for tonight, I'm privately celebrating those 4,000 words. Like a marathon, it's good to know I can do it, even if it's not something I expect to do routinely.

Now, the rest.

At nine o'clock the librarian knocked on the study room door to tell me they were about to close. We've talked about books before, and kids and grandchildren, and even the weather and local happenings in town, but I've never said I'm a writer. They see me go in and out of there with my laptop all the time but no one has ever asked what I'm working on and I've never volunteered.

But tonight when she opened the door and saw me on the other side, she said, "Hey! Your book is here! I just pulled it for someone who requested it!" After the appropriate amount of joyous shock, I thanked her for letting me know. She said, "I saw 'Rachel Brady' on the book and wondered if it was our Rachel Brady. We opened the back cover and saw your picture. Why didn't you tell us?"

Well, this is why. But the main thing tonight was the warm feeling I got both because my book made it into my local stacks and because somebody requested it. I told her about NaNoWriMo, and about what I'm working on now. She was tickled to hear that the next book is being generated right there in Study Room 4.

What's fun about all this is that when I started leisure reading for the first time in my life nine years ago, she's the one who got me started with the library card. From reading came the desire to write, and now my book is there. Library love.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Arizona Recap

It's November 1st, the first day of National Novel Writing Month. As a NaNoWriMo participant, I really should be charging into my next novel today, but as a procrastinator I'm blogging about my trip first. Any other NaNo folks, by the way, can buddy me if you'd like to. I'd buddy you, but I haven't figured out how. Still, consider yourselves loved.

Moving on.

This trip was planned to kill two birds with one stone. I was invited to sign at the Poisoned Pen and thought a good time to do that would be when a nearby drop zone, Skydive Arizona, had their Halloween Carnivale, because lots of skydivers would be there and maybe I could interest them in Final Approach. The downer of this plan meant missing Halloween with my kids.

Mid-afternoon Friday I landed in Phoenix and, through the magic that is GPS, managed to find my hotel with only minor detours. The weather was incredible, so I went for a run. I actually ran from my hotel to the bookstore and back, mainly for fun but also so I'd know where I was going later. Saw a few bikes, but no other runners. I guess folks don't normally run through the cute little shopping districts. Not much of a shopper, so what do I know.

Not long afterward I met my publisher, Rob Rosenwald, and editor, Barbara Peters, for the first time, which was fantastic. Rob took me for a ride in his cute yellow Smart Car. I think those are the coolest little cars so getting to ride in one was a treat. Rob stayed and had a glass of wine with Barbara and I and then left us alone to enjoy dinner and talk about publishing and book projects. I liked hearing her thoughts about book selling, editing, and planning out a series. We spoke about future plans for my main character, Emily Locke, and talked about a timeline for the next book and long-term plans for how and when to finish the series.

From there we went to the Poisoned Pen, where Rob and Barbara had warned me we may not have a crowd. It was the Friday night before Halloween after all, and local bars were likely to pull in any foot traffic off the streets. Being a long-time soccer mom, who looks forward to quiet Friday evenings now, it hadn't occurred to me that planning a signing for the Friday before Halloween might not have been the wisest choice. So the rest of the world is still partying? Really?

Anyway, we had a few. Jessica Tribble, my associate publisher, joined us and that excited me to no end because I just adore her. Plus, I think she might be my long lost twin, only younger and much better read. Barbara treated the group to drinks and snacks at a restaurant next door. We sat outside, under the most entrancing heat lamps I have ever seen, and talked about Final Approach in the fresh night air. Since the group was small, we were able to talk in depth about many things. A few folks were also new writers, and it was nice to be able to talk with them about writing and publishing, in addition to talking to them about this particular book and series. The Internet came through once again as I was finally able to meet my friend Sian in person after months of Twittering and Facebooking. Very fun.

Saturday morning I drove down to Eloy and enjoyed the novel desert landscape and some loud country music. I found the drop zone, this time thanks to their good website directions because they're so far off the beaten path (as most drop zones are) that GPS couldn't save me. The friendly staff helped me set up a little table and I settled in to watch the skydivers and maybe sell a few books. Winds were high, over twenty knots, so for a while nobody could jump. The optimistic part of me thought that maybe the grounded skydivers would wander past my table and take an interest in the book.

Not so much.

Skydivers were there to skydive, not to buy books. Lots of people came by to ask about the book, some expressed interest, most ate the candy I had there, but only one bought the book. One showed more interest in the book I was reading than he did in mine. I've given a lot of thought to this since yesterday and have decided that, rather than view this as an ego crusher or big disappointment, I will consider it an exercise in humility enhancement.

So I missed Halloween with my kids to sell a single book. Maybe the biggest dose of Mom Guilt yet. I'm still so glad I made the trip, because it was completely worth it to finally meet Rob, Barbara, Jessica, and Sian in person. But if I could turn back time with the benefit of hindsight, I'd have flown back to Houston on Saturday morning and been home in time for trick-or-treating. Then I'd have had both the highlight of my trip as well as the time with my kiddos.

The experience also reinforced what I already knew. My main concern in the whole writing endeavor is coming through for my publisher and the indie stores. When the book launched in Houston, I didn't want to disappoint the store by not turning out a crowd. Same feeling in Scottsdale. A small crowd is always fine, but no crowd would have been hard--not so much for me--but because I'd have felt badly about the staff's efforts. Eloy was a mixed animal. The worst part of that experience was driving back to Scottsdale wondering how to break it to the book store staff that I sold one book. Patrick was a sport. Smiled and laughed with me and wished me a good weekend.

Humility enhancement.