Sunday Salon: October Wrap Up

Doorway to the stars by Josephine Wall
October has been an interesting reading month.   I discovered Nalini Singh Guild Hunter series and explored 17th century England in Iain Pears An Instance of the Fingerpost.  Dipped my toes into Christine Feehan's Dark Series and the world of the Carpathians and thought the characters were way over the top emotional until I read Bram Stoker's Dracula and saw the connection between the two.   I hung out with Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters in the town of Barnwell and visited again with Eve Dallas in J.D. Robb's 33rd book in the In Death Series New York to Dallas.   And I chewed my fingernails to the quick as angel Jim in J.R. Ward's Fallen Angel series 3rd book Envy battled evil Devina for yet another soul.    I seem to be on an angel versus demons kick lately.

Plus I finally learned how to properly outline with K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success.Wonderful, wonderful, book with great advice that really hit home and made so much sense and really gave me a kick in the right direction.  Has been really helpful in preparing the story will be writing for Nanowrimo.  It was released at just the perfect time.

As I been working on my characters back stories, I'm getting to know them better and coming up with more ideas for the story.  Still need to get a handle on my Villain and will be working on he and his henchmen for the next couple days. I revised my synopsis and it seems to make more sense now and be a bit intriguing at the same time. 

"Three German shop owners who specialize in repairing antique grandfather clocks have died within 3 months of each other. Homicide Detective Quinton Donovan is positive their deaths are connected. Then he receives reports some of their customer's homes being broken into and clocks stolen or damaged. His investigation leads him to Elizabeth 'Jersey' Lee, an assistant district attorney who is investigating Brian Finnegan, owner of a large microchip design firm and son of one of Boston's prominent rich families for fraud. Jersey and Brian once had a tumultuous relationship which ended badly and now they hate each other. So why were both their  fingerprints found in the clock maker's shop?"
So while I'm partaking in NaNoWriMo, decided that when it comes to reading, I need to find some books that are not unputdownable. I read during breakfast and if the book is too good, then want to continue reading instead of writing. Books are so distracting. *grin*  My Row80 goals will be quite simple for the next month:  1667 words a day.  Anything else will be icing on the cake. 

I have a few scheduled posts (thinking ahead for once) that will be coming up so you won't be bored while I'm writing my little fingers to the bone. (key violin music) Hee Hee! 

Off to carve pumpkins. 

The Sunday

Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle Giveaway Winner

Have you been waiting with bated breath for the winner of Michelle Davidson Argyle's book Monarch.  Sorry it took me so long.  Distractions don't you know.   Without further ado - Drumroll please! 

The winner is: 

Melanie Leeson of Beauty and the Armegeddon


Row80 Mid Week Check in - A bouquet of sharpened pencils!

Courtesy of Melissa Doroquez

Shiny Pencils: In the midst of prepping for Nanowrimo 2011 and getting all my duck in a row which includes a nice new shiny notebook and sharpened pencils. I discovered my creativity flows best writing it all out rather than staring at a computer screen. Just have to make sure not to write too fast and my writing's legible so when I go back can actually read what I wrote. Have had a few head scratching moments in the past trying to decipher cryptic sentences. *grin*

30 days - 30 scenes
: Have a simple outline of 30 scenes and then got to a point where wasn't sure which direction I was going to go in, so stopped and turned to researching characters. It'll either become clear as I think about it or will come to me by the time I get there.

Nesting:  Between researching and planning, have been cleaning and decluttering. Feel like I'm nesting.   Blogging will probably sporadic during November so may be doing quickie row80 check-in's on group facebook page.

Check in with other ROWers and see what they are doing.

My gift to everyone participating in Nanowrimo - A bouquet of shiny, sharpened pencils. Have fun!

Sunday Salon: Reading and Planning

"I'm thinking of" courtesy of Davide Restivo
I finished reading Dracula by Bram Stoker today. I think I know why it took me so long to get around to reading the story.  Age.  As I get older and learn more about writing, the more I appreciate the classics.  It was interesting finally getting to know Jonathan Harker, Van Helsing, Lucy, Mina, and Dr. Seward. It was written back in 1887 and in a unique format - in a series of letters, diary entries and telegrams. Makes for an interesting read. Since it is the Victorian age, the dialogue is long, flowing, pretty at times just to say the simplest thing. I enjoyed it.

I'm still working my way through K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel.  I now have pages and pages of notes and now need to organize a bit.  I came up with my premise sentence or in other words - elevator pitch.  I read it to Father and he started talking about run on sentences and grammar, etc.   Not the point, dear.  He's a stickler for that stuff.  After he got past it, he said he liked it.  He's been enjoying helping me brainstorm. Every time I come up with an idea, he has much to contribute.  He's great for the technical and spy stuff.

I'm working on scenes, setting, and character background and backstory.  I always considered myself sort of a pantster with a little bit of plotting thrown in.  This time I'm plotting with a bit of pantster thrown in. We'll see how it goes.    A lot to do with only 8 days left to November, however....   My timing is perfect.  We just completed 7 weeks of lessons and are taking a week off.  We usually home school year round with 3 to 4 weeks on and one week off so we all are quite ready for a break.  Will have plenty of time amidst making James Sonic the hedgehog costume for Halloween.   I also printed off Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method which I finally get it and will be incorporating it because he has some really great suggestions. 

Speaking of suggestions, be sure to check out Em and Lena's weekly mashup of writing links on the Fun Not Fear! Nano support group blog.  

Plus I've been checking out Literature and Latte's Scrivener and after having completed the tutorial, am in love.  Going to give the window's beta version a try for Nano.  I'll be spending the week typing in my notes and exploring it a bit more. Should know by the end of the week if it's doable for me. 

You know how I asked this question in last sunday's post:   "At what point does your mind blow up from too many characters and different story lines?   Is it possible to channel them all and keep the stories straight?"   The earth is in alignment and there once again is synchronicity.   I received Holly Lisle's weekly tip email and the question was exactly that.  Her answer: 

I strongly recommend working on one project at a time.

If you work on multiples, then I recommend having one in planning,
one in first draft, and one in revision AT MOST.

I do not EVER recommend working on two first drafts, two revisions,
or two planning stages simultaneously.

The reason is:

1) With one project at a time, you stay focused and get it done.

2) With three projects, but each in a different stage of production, you can still maintain your focus because each sort of work is different enough to require different parts of your brain, different actions, different ways of thinking.  You can maintain a clear separation between each project and what you're doing on it (though it's hard).

3) With two or more projects at the same stage of development, you   end up wasting time going between notes on your different characters and worlds, trying to keep your stories straight.

Thank you Universe!  Check out how how ROWers are  doing and be sure to leave them a note of encouragement.

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

An Instance of the Fingerpost


Iain Pears

Back Cover: "It is 1663 and England is wracked with intrigue and civil strife.  When an Oxford don is murdered, it seems at first that the incident can have nothing to do with great matters of church and state.  Who poured the arsenic into the victim's brandy?  The evidence points to Sarah Blundy, a servant girl...She confesses to the crime and is sentenced to be hanged."

An Instance of the Fingerpost is a standalone novel by Iain Pears, author of the Flavia di Stefano Mystery Series.  I was introduced to Pears books a couple years back when was asked to review Stone's Fall.  I enjoyed it and have since acquired several of his Stefano mysteries, plus this book.  I finally decided to dive in and read it for Fall Reading Challenge.

It is an intriguing historical fiction novel,  a bit long winded at 752 pages, but it's that long for a reason. The story takes place in 1663 in Oxford, England and is told in 4 different stages, each stage narrated by a different man in first person point of view.  Each man different as well as arrogant and attempting to tell the story their way.  You are never quite sure whose telling the truth. First there is Marco da Cola, a young Italian doctor, then Jack Prestcott, who doesn't believe his father is a traitor and is trying to clear his name, mathematician Dr. John Wallis. Lastly Anthony Wood, an antiquarian - student of history. The story is full of history, archaic medical theories, religious persecution, political intrigue and deceit.  It's quite convoluted and complex and not an easy read, but it will capture your interest detailing 1600's science and medical practices and the politics of the age.  

Pages:  752
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Released:  March 1, 1999
Source: Personal Copy

"When in a search of any nature the understand stands suspended, then instances of the fingerpost shew the true and inviolable way in which the question is to be decided.  These instances afford great light, so that the course of the investigation will sometimes be terminated by them.  Sometimes, indeed, these instances are found amongst that evidence already set down."

--- Francis Bacon, Novum Organum Scientarum

ROW80 Mid Week Check in

Thanks to K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel, I've spent the past few days 'what iffing' ideas about my upcoming Nano story, Blue Steel. I'm currently on Chapter 5 and taking scads of notes.  Much seems like common sense, but I'd never thought about doing the 'what if's' before.  It has lead to some interesting scenarios and a plausible sub plot.  Last night I sprang it on Father and he liked my ideas which made me feel good.  He also came up with some interesting input which may make it into the story.  We'll see - sometimes he goes over my head with electronic jargon and leaves me with my brain about to explode from trying to absorb it all.

I know there are only a couple weeks left before Nano but I'm going to try and plot as much as I can this time.  Something I've discovered about myself is I can't read craft books while in the midst of writing a first draft.  I start thinking more about the mechanics then the story and there goes all my creativity.   I'm getting in the Nano mode so modifying my goals to concentrate totally on story planning.  Less is more at this point, so everything else is sort of going out the window.

Wonderful Michelle set up a Row80 group over on the Nanowrimo forums in the writing groups:  link

and I just discovered you can subscribe to threads now through rss.  *grin*  So cool!  

Check in and see how everybody else is doing.

ROW80 check in: Brainstorming

Happy Sunday my darlings! It's an absolutely gorgeous day and listening to the birds singing outside my patio window is always delightful.  ROW80 wise, I've done pretty well this week.

1)  complete character study on Layla - incomplete. The character clinic is giving me insight into her so hopefully will get there soon.

2)  Start Section one of Character Clinic - worked through 1/2 of the section completing writes up on character need, idea of work and play, wants from past, present and future.  Had an epiphany about Layla which will help with plot of story.

3)  Read Chapter one of Outlining Your Novel - Actually read three chapters so far and  completely sold on the aspects of outlining. I love the idea of brainstorming.  Something my father taught me long ago.  K.M. suggests brainstorming what if's, don't censor, focus on the senses and listen to your gut instinct and write it all out in longhand so you aren't tempted to edit.  I love this quote from K.M. 

"The two sides of our creativity - the conscious and the unconscious - working in harmony, the one pulsing and pounding ahead, the other slowing and refining, are capable of fantastic things."  pg 55

4)  Organize Novel Bible - I got as far as buying the notebook. :)

5)  DYI MFA - Work on reading list.
Discovered Gotham Writer's workshop site has some great lists.  Leaning toward mysteries or suspense with romance and these two lists here and here  provides great starting point and suggestions for books to read.

6)  Treadmill workout - one hour a day 4 times a week - Check

7)  Visit and comment on at least 5 rowers every day.  I managed to drop by the majority of rowers and leave a comment or note of encouragement.  Discovered a system that works quite well.  Visit all who end with 1's, then 2's, then 3's and so on.  Elana Johnson taught me the secret of give yourself an hour, opening up tabs at the same time on all the folks you want to visit, and leave comments. It's actually quite effective. 

I also decided to do Nanowrimo so will be adding nano prep to my list of goals for each week.  The brainstorming technique K.M. talks about in her book will help here. All I have is an inkling of an idea and a direction and perhaps a way to tie it into Layla's story.  Then I'd be killing two birds with one stone with world building.

To be honest, I'm missing Sabrina and Richard from Red Thief and started reading some of the story yesterday.  Makes me want to finish typing up the story and.....   At what point does your mind blow up from too many characters and different story lines?   Is it possible to channel them all and keep the stories straight.

Check in on the other rowers and see how they are doing. Don't forget to leave a note of encouragement or just say hi.

The Botticelli Affair by Traci L. Slatton

The Botticelli Affair


Traci L. Slatton

Back Cover:  "She's a high-spirited woman with a sordid past, trying to go straight. Enter gorgeous John Bolingbroke, a half-vampire with special powers and news of her beloved missing father. From New York through Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome, while fleeing ruthless vampires, Laila searches desperately for her father and a lost Botticelli painting that holds a coveted secret."

When I was asked if I wanted to read The Botticelli Affair by Traci Slatton, I jumped at the chance because it had all the things I enjoy in a story - vampires, art history and romance.  The story was interesting and highly entertaining -  all the makings of a B movie with the cheesy dialogue and non stop acting.  Laila is definitely a high spirited young woman and shouted, cried, chirped, panted, whispered and raced across the pages. I've never seen so many exclamation marks in one story before.  It was a good cozy paranormal mystery with all the elements for a great one. I just couldn't take it seriously.  If you are looking for a good beach read, check it out. 

Thank you to Leyane of FSB Associates for providing me with a courtesy copy of the book and Traci Slatton for writing such an entertaining story.

Row80 Mid Week Check in -- Eating my words

I lied.  

I swore up, down, right, left and till almost blue in the face I wasn't going to do it again.

But then....I saw her

Yes, it's just a wig mannequin, but that hair, that face, those cheek bones just yelled at me to tell a story.    Tough, leather jacket, smart spoken. Then a name came to me - Jersey Lee. So I gave in and spent yesterday looking at pictures, coming up with names, finding the guy, thinking of a story.  Couldn't stand the thought of not doing it.   I'm free this classes to distract.     I just love the idea of locking up my pesky internal editor and just letting it flow.  So......  Yes!  I'm doing NaNoWriMo again. I'm not going to kill myself to win by stressing about the numbers and adding filler.  Just going to go with it and see what happens.  If I win, great. If I don't.  At least I'll have the beginnings of another interesting story.  My handle is mytwoblessings if you want to add me as a writing buddy on the site.

Need help prepping for NaNoWriMO:

Check out mystery author Alexandra Sokoloff's series of Nano prep posts

 Larry Brooks of Story Fix and his 31 Empowering Posts in 31 days

In the meantime I'm going to continue on editing Eyes in the Ashes and all the stuff I mentioned earlier.  Which is going well by the way. I'll recap on Sunday. 

See how everybody else is doing here.

A to Z title Challenge: L is for Lawless through Out of time

Mini reviews of the books I've read for the A to Z Title Challenge

In L is for Lawless Sue Grafton put her favorite PI Kinsey Milhone through the ringer.  Her landlord asks her for a simple favor - to help his neighbor find the evidence proving his grandfather served in the military so he can be buried with honors.  Sounds easy except Kinsey finds herself flying cross country following a young pregnant woman who took something from the neighbors home.  A fun adventure considering takes place during the 1980's before the advent of internet and cell phones.

Murder in the Marais is Cara Black's debut novel  and the first in a series of now 11 books following the exploits of Private investigator Aimee Leduc in Paris, France.   I discovered Aimee is a feisty chick who jumps into situations fearlessly, throws herself body (literally) and soul into her investigations. Sound like another private eye we know (hint - see above book) *grin*   She isn't afraid of a few bruises and once she's on somebody's trail, doesn't let go.   I was amazed at this character's tenacity. I was exhausted just reading the story.  Paris is more than just the setting, it is also a living breathing character that helps bring the story to life.  

 First time author read for me of Kristin Hannah's Night Road and it was an emotional read.  When young Lexi Baill moves to Port George, Washington, she soon becomes fast friends with Mia and her twin brother and is absorbed into the family.  One night they go to a party and get very drunk.  Unfortunately they decide to not call their mom and drive home thinking it's only a mile or so - what could happen?  Beautifully written and gut wrenching at times, but well worth the read. 

Alton Gansky's Out of Time is one of his J.D. Stanton mysteries.  J.D. takes 5 troubled teenagers of military families out on a week long cruise in hopes of turning their lives around.  They get a lot more than they bargained for when a mysterious storm takes out all the electronics on board.  Then a pre wwII battleship appears out of the fog - with no one on board.  A ghost ship.  Then more weird things start happening.

Sunday Salon: What a character!

Captain Jack Sparrow
My mind has been on characters lately especially since my son is on a Pirates of the Caribbean kick and we've been watching the first three movies over and over again.   Thankfully the movies are interesting so the repetition lends itself to studying the characters, noticing different things each time.  Makes me wish I could draw faces better because I get a picture in my mind's eye of what my characters should look like and makes me want to see them since I'm a very visual person.  Their looks gives me insight into their character.  KWIM.  Which is why love the internet and all the wonderful professional model and talent agency sites out there.  Have always been able to find a picture to match the idea I have in my mind's eye of the character.  I found my Layla and Paul.

Aren't they cute.  Now I can start working on their profiles.  Plus, a couple years back I downloaded Holly Lisle's Create a Character Clinic but never did anything with it. Guess I needed a couple more writing years under my belt to make use of it.  I printed it all off yesterday, put it in a binder and will be working on the course for this round.   One of my goals at the start of the year was to take a writing course of some sort.   Now I'm ready for it.   I also excited because K.M. Weiland's just launched her latest book Outlining your Novel and it arrived UPS on Friday.  I love her blog - she always has something wise to share.

As far as my goals last week I failed. I was overly ambitious in thinking I could complete character sheets for 4 characters.  Lots of distractions.  I started the Novel Bible but need to get a bit more organized.  My brain had been totally wrapped up in my last WIP and finishing the first draft.  Guess I needed a break to refocus my brain on Eyes in the Ashes.  So my goals this week are 

1)  complete character study on Layla
2)  Start Section one of Character Clinic 
3)  Read Chapter one of Outlining Your Novel
4)  Organize Novel Bible
5)  DYI MFA - Work on reading list 
6)  Treadmill workout - one hour a day 4 times a week
7)  Visit and comment on at least 5 rowers every day  - We have lots of newbies this round so lets give them alot of encouragement. 

Speaking of which, ROW80 has a group on Facebook and the twitter hashtag is #row80.  Check out how everyone else is doing and what their goals are for this week.

If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.  ~Toni Morrison

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman


Kim Newman

Back cover: "It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula.  His polluted bloodline spreads through London as its citizens increasingly choose to become vampires.  In the grim backstreets of Whitechapel, a killer known as 'Silver Knife' is cutting down vampire girls.  The eternally young vampire Genevieve Diedudonne and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club are drawn together as they both hunt the sadistic killer, bringing them ever closer to England's most bloodthirsty ruler yet."
My father in law called the other day and has recently gotten a kindle.  He is enjoying reading the classics and loves to discuss what he is reading with me.  The last time he called he asked what I was reading.  I explained I was reading a vampire novel in which Count Dracula has married Queen Victoria and taken over England.  It has made being a vampire fashionable and there are many characters who have turned or been brought back as vampires such as  Jack the ripper, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Professor Moriarty, Henry Jekyll, and Dr. Moreau to name a few.  Complete silence on the other end of the phone.  Certainly wasn't what he expected to hear.   *grin*

If you like vampire stories you'll like this one.There are many characters both fictional and historical who have been brought to life in the story as noted above.  It is quite fashionable to host a salon and have a vampire as the guest of honor.  Young female vampire prostitutes are being murdered by someone emulating Jack the Ripper.  Has someone unearthed the ripper and brought him back as a vampire....   Anno Dracula is a suspense story full of horror, politics, romance, deception and intrigue.  Kim Newman has quite an vivid imagination and put it to good use in this story.  There is a 2nd story called The Bloody Red Baron in which Newman imagines if Dracula had fought for the Kaiser during WW2.  Will be adding it to my wishlist.

Pages:  560
Publisher:  Titan Books
Reprint Edition May 2011 
Source: Personal copy 

Row80 Round 4 Check in #1 - contemplating

I haven't accomplished much in the past two days.  I got a bit distracted online while checking out the goals for the other participants. I didn't get very far because you never quite know when you check out someone's blog where it is going to take you.  As I came to the end of my studies for my Bachelor degree earlier in the year, thoughts of going on for my Master's degree rolled through my brain.  Did I want to go on to get a Master's in Liberal Arts, Literature or perhaps creative writing. Which lead to researching MFA's and discovering there are a lot of folks who have strong feelings about them - pro and con.  Just today I came across an excellent post by Eric Wyatt - To MFA or not and  asks the question:  “What do you want to do with the degree?".  Contemplating the answer.

Which lead to thinking about perhaps just dipping my toes in the water and taking some online creative writing courses before committing to a Master's program. Plus why couldn't I just come up with my own private creative writing program like an MFA without the major expense.  But where would I begin?  So, a couple days back with the start of Round 4 of Row80, I dropped in on Gabi who has decided to join in the fun.  Synchronicity.  She just started DYI MFA - Do it yourself Degree in Creative Writing.   *sigh*   The first two steps take stock of where you are starting from and put together your reading list.That I can do. I love the blogosphere!

Round 4 is off to a rockin start - check out the party here.

Round 4 of A Round of Words in 80 Days

It's October already and only 15 more weeks left to the year and the last round of A Round of Words in 80 Days is beginning.  I finished the first draft of Red Thief during the last round which I'm quite happy about.   I'm going to let it rest while I get back into another story I started last year.  A bit too long to let it sit and fester on the shelf, leaving my poor characters in a state of limbo.  This round is going to be all about world building, getting to know my characters better, outlining the story and as Lazette Gifford suggests in  rewriting the beast look at the big problems first before getting into the minutia of the story.  I've decided not to do NaNoWriMo this year, even though I have a Detective by the name of Donovan knocking about in my head asking me to tell his story.  Don't know where he came from - he just sort of popped into my head, wandering down a dark, dank, hallway looking for a murderer.  Hmm!

My goal for this week will be to set up and start a Novel Bible for Eyes in the Ashes.  I want to complete characters sheets for Layla and Paul who turned out to play bigger parts in the story than expected.  I'll be working on their back story as well as getting into more detail with my main characters Isabella and Gregory.   After reading Natalie Whipple's Pros and Cons of Character sheets, I decided not to be overly ambitious and will stick with the 4 characters this week, hoping to complete one per day.

Check out how all the new and returning rowers and give them some encouragement.

Plus we going to have a party, virtually that is on twitter on October 5th.  There's going to be all kinds of things going on:

On October 5th, the #ROW80 hashtag is going to light up like the stage at a teen rock concert. There’s going to a be a 24-hour celebration for:
Party Details:
  • Theme: “Rock the Row”
    However you want to work that in is great. I leave it to your outrageously creative imagination!
  • Date: October 5th, 12:01 AM to 11:59 PM ET in the U.S.
    This also happens to be the first day of check-in so there should be a ton of ROW80 fun happening around the blogosphere.
  • Party will be held at the #ROW80 hashtag.
    Fire up your Tweet Deck or HootSuite and let’s get jiggy with it.
  • Photo Competition:
    You can start now…we won’t tell. Start digging for or taking photos that reflect the theme. We’ll do our best to gather them and decide on the best to spotlight in a post at the ROW80 blog. Once the readers vote, the 1st place winner gets a copy of Kait Nolan’s latest book, Red, in e-book format!! (And maybe some others–updates coming)
  • Friendly Blog Competition
    We will also post a mash-up of favorite ROCK THE ROW posts at the Row80 blog.