What Kind Of Pencils do You Use? #WriterWednesday #amwriting #inspiration

In my never-ending quest for blog post topics, I asked my husband what I should write about today… and I got the title you see above you. And while I initially dismissed his idea, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Artist need tools to create, right?

But I don’t want to talk about traditional writing tools, like pencils and notebooks and word processing programs. I want to talk about the tools that make writing possible, tools that you can use to smash through writers block or jump start your inspiration. one of the tools I use for this–and I have many–are newsletters.

Newsletters?

I subscribe to a wide variety of newsletter, some because they’re writing related, some for inspiration, and some just for fun. Below are a few of my favorites.

Travel + Leisure: This is a list based newsletter, which features things like “25 Waterfalls To See Before You Die” and “Top Ten Towns For Foodies”. It’s a great way to get inspiration for a scene, or research a location without leaving home.

Tasting Table: Features a wide variety of world cuisine, and has restaurant and chef profiles. It’s fun learning what’s eaten for breakfast in Sweden, and how chefs create those amazing meals.

Atlas Obscura: As the name implies, this newsletter features some of the strangest and most out of the way stuff on earth. I’ve read articles on Spring Heeled Jack , a church decorated with dragon bones, and a unicorn skeleton. Now that’s some inspiration.

What tools do you use for inspiration? Tell us in the comments!

 

htts-1Heir to the Sun is available here: http://amzn.to/2cSkNSx

My next appearance will be at Bing Comic Con in Springfield, MA on October 22: http://www.bingcomiccon.org/

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#NaNoWriMo : You Never Know What Can Happen

As NaNoWriMo 2015 gears up for its final push, I remember last year’s project and all the things that have happened since. To say that NaNo 2014 was unprecedented is a definite understatement.

Like many writers around the world, I look forward to participating in NaNo every November. (Don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? Learn more here.) In the past I’ve banged out full-length epic fantasies and short stories featuring everything from zombies to homicidal horses in the 30 day time frame. I didn’t do anything like that for NaNo 2014.

I wrote a series.

Okay, so I didn’t finish the entire series by November 30. But I did finish book one, Changing Teams, in 19 days. In the remaining eleven I outlined the next three books and wrote a tie-in short story. Yeah, this series was happening in a big way.

I plunged ahead into book two, but when I was halfway in I decided it should be book three. Then I switched the protagonists for books two and four and added some backstory to book three, which meant that I needed to make some changes to book one. In essence, I was writing the entire series at once.

This was uncharted territory for me. I’ve written three series in the past—one epic fantasy, two urban fantasies—and I’ve always followed the same formula:

  1. Write book one (meaning the whole process including beta reading, editing, etc.)
  2. Check out the market, determine which agents and publishers are buying works similar to mine
  3. Write query letters, synopses, and submit away
  4. Commence nail biting
  5. If book one is picked up, consider series potential

This time around, instead of waiting for an agent or publisher to express interest in book one, I had the entire series in my back pocket. When I queried Limitless Publishing–who ultimately signed the series–they asked if there were sequels to Changing Teams. My response? “Yes, and they’re all ready to go.”

Is writing an entire series simultaneously hard? You bet it is. But it’s also a relatively simple trick from which I’m already reaping awards. And none of this would have come about without my participation in NaNoWriMo. My take-aways from this are as follows:

  1. NaNoWriMo forces you to think–and write–outside the box
  2. If an idea grabs you, go with it, at least for a little while
  3. Don’t be afraid to do things differently.

As for this year’s NaNo, i’m on track to finish the sequel to a previously unpublished urban fantasy. does this mean I’ll finish another series before I query it? Maybe.

What are your NaNoWriMo success stories? Share in the comments!

Now available

Changing Teams – available now http://amzn.to/1MAlCuE

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Care And Feeding Of A Writer: Writer Wellness

(Author’s note: this is an ongoing series on how to combat everyday obstacles and other setbacks to the creative process. If there’s a specific topic you’d like me to discuss, let me know in the comments.)

We’re all guilty of taking less that ideal care of ourselves from time to time, or even falling into bad habits that last for weeks or months; we stay up too late, eat too much junk, and engage in a host of other bad behaviors. Yes, we’re only human, and yes, bad habits can be overcome, but us creative types need to be especially cognizant of our well-being. It’s hard to be creative when you’re feeling “off”, and that can lead to substandard work, missed deadlines, and all sorts of complications.

I was going to post my writing schedule for the rest of 2015, but I didn’t want to scare anyone. Basically, I have four ongoing series and a crap ton of short stories in the pipeline, and that’s enough to drive anyone to drink. In addition to my crazy schedule, I’m also taking care of my family, managing my home, working a day job, and I’ll be starting grad school next month. Basically, I can’t afford to bring anything less than my A game, or the domino effect from missed deadlines could be catastrophic.

A few months ago my day job transitioned to a virtual office, which means that I now work from home. I saw this as not only a great way to save on gas, but also the ideal time to make changes to my routine.

I started small, and upgraded what I eat. At the office cafeteria I would typically get a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast; now, I have oatmeal and a glass of vegetable juice (yes, I like vegetable juice). Since I now have time to go to the farmer’s market, I always have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand for snacks and salads. Over the past few months my junk food habit has become almost nonexistent.

Once my eating habits improved, I took stock of how much time I spend sitting. Pretty much everything I do, from my day job to writing to school, is accomplished by me sitting in front of a computer. This is unhealthy for a number of reasons, but the fix is pretty easy: step away from the computer. I make a habit of getting up once an hour and moving around; sometimes I go outside with the kids, or I might do something as mundane as put in a load of laundry. Those short bursts of activity really do add up, and keep the blood–and creativity–pumping.

The third change I made involves sleep. Some of my friends joke that I don’t sleep, which is close to the truth. My natural rhythm is to sleep from midnight to around six am, and I feel fully rested after six hours–usually. There are times I need more, such as after a multi-day event or if I’m coming down with something, but the problem was that I wasn’t letting myself get the extra rest when I needed it. That, coupled with the fact that I love getting up early and writing while the house is quiet meant that I was driving myself to near-exhaustion, and ending up losing days while I recovered.

So how did i conquer that obstacle? No, I didn’t start going to bed earlier. What I did do was schedule breaks in my day, two half hour chunks where I give myself permission to do nothing. No computer or phone is allowed during this time, but other than that I do whatever I want. I might nap, or read, or make Play-Doh. These short breaks recharge me almost as much as a full night’s sleep, which is a pretty good return on investment 🙂

Based on my rigorous unscientific research, here are my three rules for writer wellness:

1. Eat some vegetables every day.

2. Move around often.

3. Rest when you need it.

What are your wellness habits? Let us know in the comments!

A mad king. An escaped slave. One warrior to save the realm…

Heir to the Sun – available everywhere June 1, 2015. Add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

Like it on Facebook here.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Facts About Me

  1. One of the first stories I ever wrote was called The Coming of Ragnarok. It was about—you guessed it—Ragnarok! In my version Baldr made a timely appearance and defeated Surtr.
  1. I wrote my first novel in the eighth grade. 20 years later, I published it.
  1. I’ll eat pretty much anything, as long as it doesn’t involve goat cheese, coconut, or beets.
  1. I secretly want to be a linguist. Well, I guess it’s not a secret now. I’ve taken formal classes in French, Italian, and Russian. I’ve also taught myself some Latin, Gaelic, Irish, and Occitan.
  1. I love research! When I’m working on a new project I jump in feet first, and research things down to minute details. For instance, for a project that took place in Scotland I spent about a year learning Scottish history, folklore, and customs.  Oh, and that’s why I learned Gaelic.
  1. I have a rather interesting employment history. I’ve mapped wetlands, worked as a barista, been a publicist for a small press, and handled insurance claims. Writing is definitely my favorite occupation.
  1. My first pet’s name was Felicia, and I grew up on Beaufort Circle. That means my porn name is Felicia Beaufort.
  1. My urban fantasy, Copper Girl, was indirectly inspired by one of my insurance jobs. Building maintenance kept the air conditioning around fifty degrees during the summer (true fact – I checked it with an ambient thermometer) so I got in the habit of going outside at lunch to warm up. One day I was looking at this weird tree at the edge of the parking lot, and I started wondering if it was a portal to the Otherworld; maybe my brain had frostbite. Anyway, that idle wondering became the opening scene in Copper Girl.
  1. I’ve done a fair bit of traveling. I’ve been to Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia (back when it was Czechoslovakia ), and Lichtenstein.
  1. I’ve tried, and failed, to master many instruments over the years.

What are some fun facts about you? Leave them in the comments below, and we’ll see who has the wackiest response.

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Heir to the Sun – available everywhere June 1, 2015. Add it to your GoodReads shelf here.

Like it on Facebook here.