Seeds for NaNoWriMo

An author preparing for NaNoWriMo and a few of her exercises! Super!

Keeping Procrastination at Bay

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Writing a novel is a daunting task, even when one is not trying to write it in a month. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to sit down and immediately start writing it. Planning out a story beforehand, in broad measures or tiny details, can make all the difference to how well NaNoWriMo will go.

With just over six weeks until November, this is the perfect time to start generating ideas. That gives us plenty of time to come up with a lot of seeds from which to pick. Over the next several days, I’m going to post a series of images, prompts, word lists, and other such things that are meant to inspire ideas. I’m going to try to include a variety of stimuli, because everyone’s brain works differently. Some may be more visual, while others work well with words.

Below are today’s ideas to…

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NaNo What?

NANO What?

It is said that everyone has at least one book in them and it seems now with the heightened awareness and climbing popularity of self-publishing, most would-be writers are trying their hand at it.

Indeed, November was designated, “National Novel Writing Month” to take advantage of dreary winter days with forced indoor occupation and came to be known as “NaNoWriMo“. Nano Crest

The project was originated by freelance writer Chris Baty of the San Francisco bay area  in 1999 with the help of a friend who developed a website to accommodate 140 participants including several internationally. The idea is to push 50,000 words in 30 days, which would average 1,667 words per day. The website’s motto is “No Plot? No Problem!” Quality is not the issue, plot is not the issue, characterization is not the issue. The issue is the uninhibited flurry of getting words on the (figuratively speaking) paper. There is always time after November during the succeeding winter months to develop the characters and plot more fully and/or expand the manuscript to 70k+ words. While there is no fee involved, registration is required in order to verify word count, award winners, and they do solicit and happily receive donations.

While Baty hoped his idea would grow, he was not prepared for the onslaught of eager writers who registered in subsequent years, which he credited to word-of-mouth bloggers and, of course, the event being picked up and reported by news agencies including the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

Given the wild growth of the event, Baty found himself launching an organized panel setting out rules and by 2003 a NaNoWriMo team began sending out pep talk emails, writing hints, and opened socialization between NaNo Participantparticipants. By 2011 the website had undergone some major improvements in handling registrations, word count updates, and winner verifications. The following January found Baty stepping down to pursue a full time writing career with the installation of a new Executive Director, Grant Faulkner, and by 2013 claimed over 400,000 participants.

It was in 2011 that one of my motobuddies casually noted she’d be registering NaNo Winnerfor NaNoWriMo and that she hoped to finally complete her first novel. That got my attention and researching the website quickly signed up myself! Finally, a way to begin! AND to boot, if the 50,000 words were completed and declared a winner, the participant would be eligible to receive five (yay!! Perfect! One for my daughter, son, cousin, sister, and myself) free (YEAH–free!) printed paperback copies of their books through CreateSpace, providing a natural feed into Amazon.com. CreateSpace 

Whoa! Was I really ready for Amazon?

 No! But the happy answer was that they were ready for me–from format templates to free cover (template) ideas. The rest is–as they say–history. In this case, historical fiction actually. There’s a learning curve here, no question, but one that leads to success and it began for me with one simple facebook post: “I’m going to register for NaNoWriMo”. If you’re new to the game, check it out. It works.

Virginia Williams

Book Trailers Are Way Too Much Fun!

Book Trailers Are Way Too Much Fun!

            Book Trailers–I love them! Like Movie Trailers, they can take myriad forms and while many are professionally created by artisans who know their craft, many others are created by you and me on a PC with little more than Power Point,  Movie Maker, or other program such as Animoto (the latter of which is limited to 30 seconds. Consensus steers towards the shorter trailers, usually 1-2 minutes.

When I began researching book trailers, most have the caveat that they are best left to the professional as a poorly produced trailer can illicit the opposite effect desired. I’ve seen many a really remarkable book trailer that catches the attention, fires the imagination, and stirs the desire to see, read, and know more! WOW is that hard to achieve! But beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. Most artists love their work and it’s extremely difficult to step back and view your baby with an objective eye, or for that matter, even know how the current public taste runs. Award winning book trailers have been produced by middle schoolers–and that’s some pretty stiff competition! Book Trailers 101

Since we’re talking about a simple D-I-Y project, this article will focus on Power Point Presentations. Your subject matter will no doubt dictate your target audience and that narrows somewhat the target age. There are simple book trailers that merely include text along with a slide presentation. Other movie trailers include video, fireworks, and fast action. You may include your own narration with or without a sound track behind it that you’ll verify is free through public domain (cannot use copyrighted material) or that you’ve properly licensed.

You create a storyboard by using your own photos or video clips or those free (or licensed) you’ve gleaned from appropriate public domain. Edit each slide individually adding text and timing (approximately 4 seconds per slide–keeping your text to the minimum). You may include transitions between slides, artful effects, or graphics. View lots of book trailers–tons of them on YouTube–get some ideas, decide what will appeal for your book, style, and timing.

Convert the presentation to video format and upload to your host, either your website or YouTube. YouTube is arguably among the top ranked social media sites (depending which ranking list you prefer). As with the description of your books, you’ll need a brief but powerful book trailer description as well as appropriate keywords.

Virginia Williams

Coastal Book Tour

Coastal Book Tour

If your book is about sailing or the ocean, doing a coastal tour might be a good idea. Long before you start logging miles, however, you’ll want to pave the road with book store destinations. Hopefully, you’ll find a number of agreeable mom and pop operations along your route where you can stop and actually do a guest book signing. If not, I discovered it can be quite rewarding to cold call appropriate locations and simply ask for the manager. As difficult as cold-calling may be for you (and was for me!), it actually proved quite successful.

In Washington state, Hastings Book Stores support their authors and are always willing to host, though these do require some time to set up preparation. After securing a date with a particular location, you’ll need to forward press releases to local newspapers, as well as flyers and posters to the store.

Besides your generous book inventory, you’ll need to offer peripheral hand-outs, whichever your preference, from book marks to postcards or author/book flyers.

Owner Mark Wilson of the Puyallup Book Mark was very accommodating, and it was obvious his delightful store and assistant had a strong client base.

From Puyallup, south to Long Beach and Ilwaco; a delightful port city where Carla of Time Enough Books had told me, “stop by!” Carla has a beautiful spot right on the bay with picturesque fishing boats moored just outside her front window.

You can get a real taste of the coastal book market for historical sea adventures in Cannon Beach where we were referred to the Cannon Beach Treasure Company. Owner Robert Knecht has a gorgeous, upscale shop! Check out his website, browse his treasures, and watch his videos on YouTube–a real treasure trove! Country Roads RV Park, Yuma AZ

The lesson learned here is to find your target audience! Go where your book has interest. Find the area, the people, the subject–you won’t have to “sell” it. The venue may even be as simple as a Gun and Doll Show or perhaps a boat show. Winter doesn’t have to be a down time–seek out winter havens such as Yuma, Arizona, and you’ll find lots of locations for craft fair shows. The cost is very nominal and can be quite successful.

Consider the location or subject of your book and you’ll find the interest!

Virginia Williams

Writing-The Short Of It

Writing-The Short of It

Every occupation has it’s own buzz words, general or common to the specific endeavor and writing is no different. Whether writing for fun or profit, fiction or non, there are terms–probably too many to try and cover here–that pertain to the profession.

The subject of this particular article is the word length given to those published documents that denote the specific type of creation. It used to be anything that was not a book or full-blown novel was a short story. Not any more!Keyboard

Now we have:

  1. Flash Fiction
  2. Short Story
  3. Novelette
  4. Digital Novel
  5. Novella
  6. Book

They break down roughly as follows:

Word Count

The format that holds the fascination for me is “flash fiction.” Just the word “flash” immediately conjures the imagination. The internet is so full of flash these days, why not coin a new term to apply to that little story which is generally thought to be a minimum of 100 words but no longer than 1,000.

Flash FictionGee, seems deceptively simply, huh? But you know in your heart nothing is simple. This must be as a novel with plot, characters, dialogue, and climax. It has to contain a complete story: a beginning, a middle, and the end.

It is said that the story should be contained within the time it takes to smoke a cigarette. WOW! The possibilities! Read a flash fiction story on the elevator, before your next stop off the subway or bus, or in a bank line; not while waiting for the doctor.

There are contests now for flash fiction such as WOW! Women on Writing. The entry fee is only $10 and you could win as much as $350.00. Also, they offer the option of a critique. There are whole books containing flash fiction or very short-short stories on Amazon.com–what they are, how to write them, or anthologies of the best.

We’re in an age of instant. It has to be fast to hold our attention, keep us in a movie, riveted to a book. Does it get any faster than FLASH? Virginia Williams

Ever Interview a Ghost?

Describe the research process for your book. Did you interview people? Travel? How prominent a role did the Internet play? If you didn’t do new research, how did you learn what you needed to know to write your book?

Disclosed yesterday was the massive amount of time involved in searching the internet for names, places, and details noted in my grandfather’s manuscripts. So obviously, the internet played a major role as it confirmed that of which he wrote, but beyond that pointed in directions that would include interesting contacts–or locations worthy of physical inspection.

Yesterday I mentioned travel for scouting locations that would have interest in these particular historical narratives or mining exploits and locations–some still functioning towns–some merely ghost towns. Goldfield Hotel

One of the interviews that stands out in my mind was the accidental interview we did with the owner of a vintage shop directly across from the Goldfield Hotel and next door to the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company. She was retelling the story of Elizabeth, the favorite prostitute of George Wingfield and the modern day encounter of an accountant’s unfortunate meeting with her ghost who warned that she “was in danger and to leave immediately.”

Elizabeth was said to become pregnant by Wingfield who for a time paid her to stay away. He later lured her into room 109 where he chained her to a radiator, kept her in food and water, until she (according to one account) died in childbirth. The baby was then thrown into an old mining shaft. Rumors abound that Elizabeth can still be heard in the halls crying for her baby and that the sounds of a crying child can sometimes be heard from the “depths” of the hotel.

There have been so many sightings and other unexplained phenomena at the hotel that it has gained wide media attention and has been featured on Fox Family TV’s World’s Scariest Places. In addition, it has also been the subject of a couple of paranormal investigation television series, including Ghost Adventures in 2004, 2011 and 2013, and Ghost Hunters in 2008.

Interviews with people associated with venues cited in his manuscripts have both been rewarding and eye-opening and certainly the greatest impetus in the development of the manuscripts.

Virginia Williams

What Was The Research Process?

Day 10 of the Author Blog Challenge: What was your research process?

More than likely, even the most prosaic of fiction books will require at least a modicum of research. Historical fiction probably requires scads of investigation.

Sailing into “Cocos Island Treasure,” the first manuscript chosen for publication, I spent a LOT of time researching the internet, first discovering there really was such a place!

The journey has been fascinating because unfortunately he passed away before I could ever pick his brain about his youth; his sailing adventures, his mining or exploration adventures, or his actual birth location for that matter.

I would have benefited hearing about all these exciting tropical locales wherein he apparently enjoyed some pearl diving as well as hunting for pirate treasures. As I recently posted regarding pirate treasures on Cocos Island, William Thompson purportedly loaded one of the largest pirate treasure troves aboard the Mary Dear in Peru in 1820. He and his crew killed the Spanish guards and buried the treasure said to be worth well over $160,000,000 (now known as “The Loot of Lima”).Goldfield Consolidated

Each book after that, because they are classified as historical fiction, mandated many, many hours of research, either because of the location of adventures, the names contained in the plots, or the procedures or practices of his day–especially with his narration of the capture and rendering of whales.

Probably the most time spent researching was the fourth book, “Hot Air Promotions,” which involved the penny mining stocks of the twenties and thirties. It was HUGE! The language of the stock market, the mines, the business practices and papers, and the people–how could you ever win? And I quote, “When you win, you lose.”

The most fun, however, in the examination of the chronicles of the mines was chasing down the locations–many now ghost towns–some still thriving with history reading stranger than fiction. You can’t make this stuff up! I discovered that the University of Nevada, Reno, maintains a massive library containing the history of gold, silver, and mineral mines of the west–where they gladly accepted a copy of the book. Goldfield, (NV) a former mining town, enjoys many a chilling ghost story that contains notorious names included in the book as well. Belmont Metals

The odyssey has been a lesson in history: Of places, people, and practices. As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Virginia Williams

Silly Grammar Debates

Great point, well taken, and my feelings exactly! Thank you!

Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion

Silly Grammar Debates

by Jake Poinier

I’m a member of a group of editors on Facebook, and it never fails to surprise me how heated and opinionated people can become about the smallest points of grammar. (As I wrote earlier this year, I’m pretty agnostic when it comes to style manuals.)

The latest brawl was over email salutations and punctuation, and whether the correct way to address someone was:

email sillinessThe string exploded to several dozen comments, with everyone putting in their explanation of why their way was grammatically correct, or why others’ were incorrect or too formal or too casual. In a way, it was fascinating to see how much passion and thought people put into a discussion that boiled down to the arrangement of one or two words and a few punctuation marks.

My Take? Nobody Cares

Other than someone who has a ridiculously strong opinion about grammar…

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Popular Pirate Lore

Popular Pirate Lore   

The subject of many a tall tale, pirates, privateers, or buccaneers, gained in folklore with their expertise in capturing vessels off the main shipping lanes as well as the Caribbean as early as the sixteenth century.  Whether they plundered, stole, killed, or executed missions on orders, most came to an ignominious end.

     Sir Francis Drake (English, 1540). One of the earliest and most celebrated privateer of his time, Captain Drake sacked the Spanish army many times with the blessing of Queen Elizabeth I. Spain was repeatedly sacked and plundered at Spanish cities off the coast of Florida. Before his death of dysentery, he become the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and he rescued the unsuccessful English colonists of Roanoke Island off the coast of the Carolinas.Edward Teach

     Captain William Kidd, a Scotsman (1645), began his career some said as a privateer originally commissioned to rid the seas of pirates. He was reluctantly elected captain by his crew. After learning that he was being hunted, he buried some of his treasure on Gardiners Island, but he was eventually captured, sent to England for trial and sentenced to death.

 Edward Teach “Blackbeard” (English, 1680). Blackbeard is one of the best-known and probably most widely-feared of his time. At the height of his career he commanded four ships and had a pirate army of 300. He captured over forty merchant ships in the Caribbean and killed many a prisoner. He was eventually overtaken by the Royal Navy and beheaded. Continue reading “Popular Pirate Lore”

The Giants of the Bering Sea

The Giants of the Bering Sea

The Bering Sea tops the Pacific Ocean and is framed by Russia on the west and Alaska on the east. There is a point at which the two land masses almost meet, and, indeed, is widely thought at one point that sea level was so low as to allow the first of the human migration on what is now called the “Bering Land Bridge”. Bering Sea

The population of whales in the Bering Sea during the turn of the 20th Century is unknown, but probably the most common among them included right whales and bowhead whales. My grandfather recounted his being shanghaied on the barque the “Northern Light” and whale hunting experience in his book, “Lucky Joe”. Shanghai was a common practice as it was extremely difficult to recruit seamen willing to board a whaler for upwards of a year. The work was nasty, extremely dangerous, and often resulted in the lack of any pay as the sailor often owed the ship’s “slop chest” for materials (such as boots and coats) necessary to survive the frigid Alaskan waters.

Taking the Whale     The three-block area of San Francisco known as the Barbary Coast, so named after the Barbary Coast of North Africa, mirrored all that was evil. Well known for gambling halls, prostitution, and saloons, the population swelled with ex-convicts, thugs, and despots following the discovery of gold. Miners and sailors looking for female companionship and entertainment became the primary clientele during its heyday in the 1850’s and 1860’s and hit its peak in alcoholic consumption by the 1890’s. Sailors were an obvious and easy target and quite lucrative for the crimps. (Shanghaiing or crimping refers to the practice of kidnapping men for labor aboard ships  and those persons were known as crimps. This often violent practice was heavily performed in San Francisco, Portland (OR), and Seattle (WA). The Seaman’s Act of 1915 finally made crimping a federal crime.)

“A whaler’s life is hell, me lads,

Blow boys, bully boys, blow!

We caught a rotten whale, me lads,

Blow boys, bully boys, blow!

The captain’s drunk and so am I,

All hands are sick and ‘bout to die,

But we don’t care a hang, but cry,

Blow boys, bully boys, blow!”

Virginia Williams

Writer’s Block? Not Again?!

DAY 7 PROMPT: Do you ever experience writer’s block? What do you recommend to help overcome writer’s block? Any foolproof tricks that always work for you?

     Oh man, nothing like a prompt that totally smacks you up side the head! Writer’s block? Who doesn’t get writer’s block? Just this prompt gave me a serious pause–or maybe writer’s block. Ah, so the definition of writer’s block then would be the lack of ideas, put to paper, for one hour? One day? A week? Serious writer’s block set in with the anthology–it was eventually solved in two ways: Writer's Block

  • I took a page from NaNoWriMo which holds to an interesting concept–50,000 words in 30 days. That translates roughly into 1,667 words per day. NaNo doesn’t read, doesn’t edit, doesn’t critique. It’s a count of words. The whole idea is to GET THE WORDS ON THE PAPER. Doesn’t really matter how many typos or whether it good prose. But getting it down, even bad sketches, can sometimes, later, be the forerunner of a brainstorm. THEN you can refine, edit, critique.
  • AND, you can take another credit from NaNo, in that a specific deadline (in their case 30 days) usually works wonders for me. If you’ve set yourself a deadline for the debut great–but even self-imposed you have to use that aforementioned discipline. It’s a deadline–it has to be finished; ready to submit. Or perhaps the deadline is for a chapter–doesn’t matter. A time line can work.

     Sometimes something as simple as getting away from it for a period of time will help–and don’t think of it! When I still had my motorcycle, a good ride always cleared the air. There is something about riding that pastes a grin on the face, lowers the blood pressure, and goes about gently resetting the attitude. The wind in the face (or in the hair for states that allow choice), the feel of the power of the bike, the smells (you can’t get those in a cage); guaranteed you won’t be thinking of the novel. If you don’t ride, see the two suggestions posted above. Sorry.

Virginia Williams

The Writing Process Begins With Discipline

Take us through your writing process. Do you keep a regular writing schedule? Do you write on your laptop or longhand? Are you most inspired in the morning, afternoon, evening, or middle of the night?

     Yes, there really is a writing process, although it took me some time to figure out that there really was a process. But I’m still working that out, tweaking as I go along. I’ve always loved games where you can change the rules on any given day to suit you–fortunately in my family I was the oldest and it was just too easy!

So the process isn’t just one of writing. Discipline actually has to be employed; not my favorite thing, but if there is going to be progress, discipline is necessary:Morning Me

  1. Writing means education never ends. It’s a review here, an article there, a story or observation. So much to read, information to glean, rules to learn.
  2. Book matter requires research: location, people, events.
  3. The marketing and promotion process likewise never ends. If you have a book out there, you have to be engaged in promotion. More reading.
  4. Allotment of time for social media, making the contacts, keeping a presence.
  5. Working on a new book? Allotment of time to devote just to writing.
  6. Working on editing? Allotment of time to proof, edit, ……..
  7. Working on graphics, pictures for the novel? Allotment of time for more research.
  8. Working on promotion materials? Bookmarks, postcards, flyers.
  9. Have the book(s) on several venues? Research new avenues–(i.e.) is Smashwords a good fit?
  10. Groomed or in the process of attaining beta readers?

Yes, there is a definite writing schedule though mine is not assigned to a specific hour. For me, writing is more of a general time allotment assigned in the above process, all done on a computer. Not a morning person, my day begins slow and easy so that’s when the reading is done, followed by the research. Diffused into the schedule, household duties. And always with a eye to a goal of the day.

Today’s goal–(1) prepare for a visit with our son–(2) prepare this blog post. Well, one off the list is a start!

Virginia Williams