community, writing

How to Survive NaNoWriMo

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Hello! Yes, I am alive! Since NaNoWriMo started 5 days ago, I have been utterly immersed in getting my word count up — while throwing in some edits for Volume 2, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about that — and therefore I am flailing (in a bad way) over here.

Well, not all bad. I’ve made it to 8,000 words so far, which is pretty good for this early in the month. My goal is to finish NaNo early, so that I can then attend more than wholeheartedly to the release of Volume 2. (Title and cover reveal coming soon!)

In the meantime, I thought I’d swing by here and give you a few more recent pictures by White Fang, and the following Guide to Surviving NaNoWriMo.

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1. Eat. Sleep. Don’t over-coffee yourself. Remember that veggies are still important this month. And protein. And water. And don’t knock 2 hours off your sleep schedule on a work/school night simply in the interest of another 500 words. You can make it up another time. Trust me.

2. If you aren’t happy with the way your current project is going, change the rules. There are lots of suggestions for how to win NaNo in less than 2 weeks and be the next rock star of the writing world. GET OVER IT. If you do manage to do this, you ARE awesome and we will recognize your achievement. If you don’t, you are STILL awesome and will be appreciated for what you did complete.

If you’re “behind” on your word count goal, don’t sweat it. Seriously. Just do what you can, when you can.

If you’re really not feeling excited about the idea you originally chose, opt out. Either start a new novel/project as soon as you can (for example, within the first few days), or alter your outline. Maybe breaking your would-be novel up into a series of short stories works better to obtain 50,000 words by the end of November?

Don’t be afraid to get creative, think outside the box, push the limits.

3. The rest of the world still exists. Remember to cut your family a little slack. Yes, make it clear to them this is a very important thing for you to do, and they need to give you time and space to at least tackle the anticipated word count for the day. But don’t totally lock yourself away from now until Thanksgiving and never engage in human contact in between.

4. Don’t stay off social media. Some NaNo participants swear by refusing to log on to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. so that they don’t get distracted from their ultimate goal. Well, I’m not one of them. While I certainly won’t spend a random 3 hours scrolling aimlessly through my feeds at the moment, I will be touching base with my community. They’re my biggest supporters! We can cheer each other on, or commiserate, share advice, let out the vague whimpers or intense screams that each day of NaNo-ing produces. We are one another’s lifeline!

5. Love yourself as a writer, no matter the outcome. If you win NaNo, you rock. If November 30th comes and you’re at 16,000 words, you rock. If your finished draft is a hot mess of epic proportions, no problem. You still have what it takes to become a polished writer who creates stories and worlds that thrill readers and make them laugh and cry and think.

When December 1st arrives, write on.

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blogging, community

Okay, There Is No Way It’s The End Of September…

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First, the requisite part of the monthly recap where I scream into the void for approximately 5.6 minutes about how it is possible that time moves so bloody fast.

All right. Now, onto actual things.

So, not a heck of a lot went on here or on social media during the month of September, due to the fact my whole family came down with some horrific cold/virus that did not want to go away. The boys each missed a week of school (luckily not exactly all the same days), and between taking care of my smol ones and being sick myself, I did hardly any editing on Volume 2, housework, or really anything else. I was extremely not pleased with this situation. Yes, I got some reading done, but mostly because that was all I had the energy for. These circumstances are not recommended.

Anyway, other than that, I did manage to get a few posts out there, and provide you all with at least a bit of information on how the revisions were going once I was finally able to tackle them. So, here is the news on Volume 2…

It’s a very slowgoing process, but I have gone over all of the beta-read feedback, and am revising/editing (meaning, delete a lot of words, enter a bunch more, repeat), chapter by chapter. My plan is still to have the final manuscript ready to go to printing before November 1st. There are a couple of reasons for that. Keep reading after the cat to find out specifically what they are.

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One is that I may participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who are staring at your screen blankly), which takes place the whole month of November. I won it last year, by the skin of my teeth, but it was worth it, as that document turned into the final draft of Masters and Beginners. And realistically, this year I’ll have more time each day to put into NaNo, meaning I could possibly finish earlier. And I certainly have writing projects I could enter. BUT, in the interest of my head not exploding (it already has about 4 times this calendar year), I may bow out gracefully and happily. We’ll see.

The other major reason I want to have Volume 2 ready to bring joy to readers’ lives no later than the commencement of November is that I am itching to move on to other work. For example, finishing the canon series of The Order of the Twelve Tribes. And there will be a prequel! And a field guide! Anticipate both sometime in 2018!

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to release my short story collection for purchase! Some of you may remember that ages ago (like, last spring, I think?) I posted a few short stories I’d written at random points over the last couple years. It was always my intention to put them all together and compile author’s notes on the influences that shaped them, and now I am so doing! Expect a formal announcement about this new project in the very near future!

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So, as I was whinging earlier, not a lot of other stuff got accomplished in September. Including, actually, reading. That’s because, while I was lying around trying to get better, I only finished a few books — and they weren’t even on my TBR. That’s right, my brain was so foggy I didn’t even remember to check my TBR before I went to the library.  It’s why it took me a while to get started on A Clash of Kings, and to recall that Maggie Stiefvater’s new novel is out soon, and new Warriors publications are forthcoming. I am a bit of a mess. Hopefully I’ll be all caught up by the holidays.

I’ve also made some decisions regarding further marketing, based on time and what it will not do for me. I shall not attempt a Wattpad account at the moment. Nor a newsletter (maybe next year?). Nor shall I even select a subscription box (that could be my Christmas present to myself?).

Okay, and in the interest of progressing forward, I am going to focus much more now on promoting Volume 2, and the rest of the series. To all of you who have so far read Volume 1 and loved it and helped me promote, THANK YOU. This literally cannot be said loud enough to show how much I appreciate all your support and help in getting this little passion of mine off the ground.

To celebrate, I am hosting a book club on the blog! We’ll go through each of my publications, starting with Masters and Beginners, and on October 30th all you have to do to join in is read the discussion post I’ll put up that day, and comment your thoughts! Obviously you’ll have to have read the book, but that’s the only requirement.

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In other, non-writing-non-reading-related news, both my boys are officially in school. White Fang is in 9th grade — that means high school — and apart from the sickness, doing pretty well so far. Muffin is attending a special needs preschool, where he receives all his physical/speech/occupational therapy, as well as the basics of numbers/shapes/colors/letters and working with others. Yesterday his class went to the swimming pool at one of the local colleges, where the kids were paired up with students in Special Education. Muffin is loving every minute of it, including riding the bus and trying new foods at lunch.

I have survived reconciling the fact that I now have a high-schooler and a pre-schooler, and that I’m not as young as I used to be. Trust me, that was the hardest part.

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Otherwise, things are finally reaching something resembling normal after the great illness. So I wouldn’t call it exciting, but also feel we’ve had enough excitement lately.

You’ll all be relieved to hear that Toby made it through this trying time completely unscathed.

Here’s to a healthy and productive fall!

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community, writing

Indie Authors Do’s and Don’t’s

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Is there any one surefire way to get people to read your self-published work? Nope, sorry. Are there certain things that do seem to work better than other approaches, though? That’d be a yup.

Not that I’m a huge expert (only 5 months after printing my debut novel), but I’ve found that are particular methods to writing and marketing that will help set your publication apart from the masses, and encourage readers to spend their hard-earned money on it.

DO network and interact with other indie authors. Finding connections on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress or Blogspot, and all the online communities is very important. Word of mouth does sell books for us independents. A handful of detailed reviews on Goodreads or Amazon can really push people towards choosing our title over a bunch of other available options.

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DON’T spam people to read your book. Only Tweeting about your latest release, only subscribing to others whose messages include the “am writing” hashtag, so you can DM them with a very brash, “Hey, you exist, so buy my books!”, will tick people off. Building personal associations with potential readers first, then politely asking if they’re interested in reviewing your work, generally goes down very well.

DO write your story in a unique, unfamiliar way. Many readers are honestly tired of the usual tropes of genre fiction, and hungry for something different. They are more likely to try an unknown author advertising a tale or style that doesn’t sound like all the new novels released last year, than another same-old-same-old by a traditional publishing company playing to a worn-out formula.

DON’T worry about being the next JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, or Maggie Stiefvater. Number one — none of these authors got to be who they are now overnight. Number two — their writing styles and stories are unique to who they are as authors and as people. So there’s no pressure to become an amazing literary master — or someone you simply aren’t. Your readers will appreciate your style and story if it’s coming from a real place.

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DO take the time to edit your manuscripts thoroughly. Are we all human, and going to make mistakes now and then? Of course. But when it comes to first impressions, let’s be realistic and understand that most people aren’t going to say, “Oh, well, they’re only human,” after they hit the 125th typo in your published book. A few (literally, under 10) scattered throughout a self-edited work (by someone who most likely is not a professional proofreader) won’t really irk most readers. But much more than that, and it can make following your story more (unnecessarily) difficult, and may cause people to wonder how important their satisfaction was to you — translating into lower sales (when it could be avoided).

DON’T ignore others’ feedback. No one wants to be told that somebody thought their work was about as interesting as watching paint dry. But when you’re going through the beta-reading process or ARC reviews, if several people regularly note the same thing as giving them trouble, you might want to pay attention. Not that you absolutely have to do what others suggest for your work. It can definitely help your sales, though, if you make some tweaks that reflect common critiques. (This is also why you ask for beta-readers prior to printing. It can be a massive help!)

DO have fun with the whole self-publishing thing. Since you’re not traditionally published, that means you’re not fulfilling a contract or getting paid a large sum of money to write, so that usually indicates you are undertaking this endeavor purely for the joy of completing your work and sharing it with others. And if it’s not fun, then, in this instance, what’s the point?

Yes, becoming a published author (even doing it by yourself) is a big deal, and a real rush (I won’t lie). But although we are after fame and fortune (at least a little!), we also are trying to tell a story, and if other people think it’s awesome sauce, that’s even better.

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blogging, community

Masters and Beginners Updates and Announcements (Read My Book or I’ll Take Away Your Coffee)

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No, I won’t actually take away your coffee (or will I???), but people on Twitter seemed to find this a very sufficient threat. (Since I can’t drink coffee anymore myself, the severity of this hypothetical situation will remain a mystery to me.)

Anyway, recently I a) ran a giveaway for a copy of the re-release, b) suggested starting a book club for my own work (which I swear is not an act of extreme hubris), and c) tried to made serious headway on the revisions for Volume 2.

The results of all this is a) the winner has been selected and notified, and if that happens not to be you, please feel free to acquire your copy through Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press website (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/masters-and-beginners-daley-downing/1126998956?ean=9781538033111), or I still have copies of the first edition, featuring Toby.

b) I am starting a book club for my own books.

c) My goal is to have Volume 2 ready for publication before November 1st.

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In the meantime, let’s start a book club all about The Order of the Twelve Tribes!

I’m thinking that the discussion date for Volume 1 will be around October 30th. It’s short, easy to get through (I’m not a fan of 17-letter words), and that date also nicely coincides with an important date in the story (no spoilers, moths in the know!).

If you’d like to participate, just obtain or re-read your copy of Volume 1: Masters and Beginners (by the way, either cover, it’s the exact same story), and watch this space for a discussion post that you can all jump in on!

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blogging, community, writing

Two Tags in One (Be Impressed…)

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…because these will be the only tags I do this year. Remember, the thing about time not growing on trees.

But it has been suggested that my readers would be interested in my answers to the Strangest Browser Searches and Writing Rituals tags.

(And I could use an easy post. There are other things going on behind the scenes that are making my life a bit challenging.)

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Honestly, I don’t consider most of my browser searches (for writing) to be that strange. Usually it consists of topics like, “what do you call the daughter of a Countess?” and “depiction of faeries in art”. Once I looked up “which colors to wear if you’re blonde/brunette/redheaded” for a scene where Sophie and Gwen were getting ready for a party, and I was drawing a complete blank on how they would have been dressed.

Most of my searches include things like the correct spelling of Gallifrey (the Doctor’s home planet) and Minecraft stuff (to make sure I get those references right — and even then, I have to double check it with White Fang).

Once I did have to look up Coeur D’Alene, Idaho (because that’s Amelia’s last name, and while I had a general knowledge of the city’s history, I wanted to make sure of the facts.)

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Now the questions for the Writing Rituals tag:

When do you write? (time of day, day of week)

Whenever I can. Though I’ve found better ideas tend to happen earlier in the day.

How do you seclude yourself from the outside world?

Give me a moment to look at this question with the most sarcasm that can be put into an expression. There is no such thing.


How do you review what you wrote the previous day?

With extreme caution. No, it’s usually not that bad. Generally I read the last page or so of what I wrote last the day before, to remind myself where I was and what the plan is.


What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired?

Lately “Meet Me in the Woods” by Lord Huron and my guilty-pleasure-80s-classics (like Def Leppard and The Cure).

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What do you always do (i.e. listen to music, read, watch youtube, etc.) when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block?

Avoid writing, generally (ha, ha). Sometimes I’ll focus on reading or blogging more. Every once in a while, bingeing on a favorite movie or TV show gives me that spark of inspiration.


What tools do you use when you’re writing?

Only the software or the pen and paper, sometimes music, sometimes a movie. (Yes, those count, in big ways, trust me.)


What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session?

TEA.


How do you fuel yourself during your writing session?

See above. Also, the creative input part of music, etc. And taking breaks during the process is very important. Trying to force yourself to sit still and pour forth words when you’re just not feeling it won’t do any good. Taking 10 minutes to throw that laundry in the dryer and empty the dishwasher can make the difference between breaking writer’s block and staying stuck in it.


How do you know when you’re done writing?

I am never done writing, never, mwhahaha… Usually, it’s when the story seems to have reached a natural conclusion. At least for that installment (since I am apparently incapable of writing a stand-alone novel; maybe one day I’ll try).

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blogging, community

The Liebster Award

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Good morning! How are we all? I’m not sure I even remember what day it is! But I do have this post for you! The lovely Susannah Metzler over at A Tea with Tumnus has nominated me for the Liebster Award; I just don’t do the awards/tags circuit usually these days, mostly as a result of time not growing on trees. But I am quite aware that the appreciation for my blog is genuine, and I am very grateful for that.

So I won’t be tagging/nominating anyone else, but I will be answering the questions.

What is your favorite film score/movie soundtrack?

Hmmm. Generally I don’t listen to film scores — well, obviously I’m aware of them when I watch a movie. But otherwise, I don’t really look up the CD or anything. Though I do like the Lord of the Rings score (except I can’t make it through 2 lines of the Annie Lennox song at the end of Return of the King without completely losing it).

What is your favorite band?

Pink Floyd, Adele, Coldplay, and I am utter trash for Taylor Swift’s “1989” album.

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If you could play any fictional character in a movie adaptation of your favorite book, whom would you be?

Do I get to say Avery McKinnon in my own work? Otherwise, probably Sandstorm from Warriors (yes, I am aware she’s a cat), or Susan Sto Helit in Discworld.

Explain what your WIP is about in at least three sentences.

More faeries, talking cats, and geek references. Uncovering a deeper plot (not nefarious, though). Long-lost relatives coming home. More on autism, angels, and background of the Order.

What are your three favorite superheros?

I have to come up with 3? Sorry, folks, I’m just not huge on the superheroes thing. Thor. Doctor Strange. Maybe Logan (circa 2000-2010 in the movie franchise).

What would you name a boat if you had one?

Okay, this will be a lame answer, as I would not have a boat — I’m afraid of deep water. Can I get a toy sailboat for Muffin to use in a kiddie pool? Then I could call it The S.S. Munchkin or something.

Which fictional character would you think would be the most boring to meet in real life?

Wow, I need to beg people not to throw things at me right now! Probably Prof. Trelawney from Harry Potter (although I honestly appreciate that she had a real gift she had to hide). Or the talking tree dude from Guardians of the Galaxy (nobody hit me! — just, how many times can you hear him say the one word over and over?!).

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If you decided to change your name, what would that name be, and why?

Ahh, this is a trick question for me, as Daley Downing is a pen name (but I guard my reasons for assuming this nom de plume with my life — sorry, guys).

What is your favorite genre to write?

Definitely fantasy. Though I’ve tried my hand at contemporary and historical fiction, too.

What are three things you share in common with your main character?

Which one? Since I have several. Also, I don’t tend to have a lot in common with any of them. Well, for Emma or Madison, I am an only child. I definitely agree with Flynn’s love of Pink Floyd and Doctor Who. And like Sophie and Cal, I have read most of the Warriors books.

What is your favorite movie/book quote right now?

“This must be Thursday, I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

And in one episode of Supernatural, Crowley said something fantastic to his minions — “Under pain of infinite pain!” (I finish my instructions to White Fang a lot with that one.)

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community, reading

One Reader’s Confessions

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(These are being divulged in the secret hope that others will agree with me.)

I judge books by their covers. This is totally unfair, because a less-than-visually-stunning cover does not, for an instant, mean the story inside is underwhelming. Yet I don’t hesitate to put right back on the shelf a novel whose cover doesn’t make me want to run off to the Scottish Highlands with it.

There is no guilt about not finishing books. Even if it’s a selection that no less than 56 bloggers I know and 43 Goodreads acquaintances have recommended. If it’s simply not for me, I’ll let it go with a wave of good wishes and not a moment of regret.

If I really didn’t enjoy a book all my friends love, I won’t post a negative review of it. I don’t want people I care about to be aware of my disappointment and in turn be disappointed themselves. That would make my insides wibble-wobble.

Rarely, if ever, do I give authors a second chance. There are exceptions to this. But generally, if reading so-and-so’s work transformed me into a koala of temporary sadness/frustration, then I won’t attempt another title by them.

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Diversity fiction is not necessarily my thing. Do I appreciate movements like “own voices” and encourage diversity in writing? Completely. But depending on the specific novel, I’m pretty likely to give it a pass. Maybe it’s because I don’t have much tolerance for things like sexism/disability prejudice/religious elitism in certain cultures (and honestly, very little interest in developing this). And, quite frankly, I don’t like characters who are fixated on forcing their race/ethnicity down the readers’ throats.

Have I read diverse fiction? Of course. Have I found some great examples of it? Yes, indeed.

Do I get tired of trying to avoid the soapboxes? Yeah…

I won’t read negative reviews of books I love. Actually, probably a lot of you do this? Why spoil it for yourself, right?

I hold to a Judeo-Christian belief system, but don’t recommend Christian literature. Not entirely; I’ve gotten a lot out of non-fiction by Max Lucado and Joyce Meyer, and honestly enjoyed some Ted Dekker. But I find too much of the “Christian” market to be problematic in many ways.

Impulse library requesting is totally a thing. And this occasionally gets me into trouble. Like when several holds come in at once (you try lugging 8 or more hardbacks three-quarters of a mile, including up a hill, on foot, in the rain, without getting a little grumpy). And then I only have a maximum of 6 weeks (with renewals) to read them all.

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In order to finish a long book faster, I’ll skip some parts. For example, about 75 pages from the end of The Raven King, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and cut to the last chapter to find out if Gansey survived. (In my defense, after I learned the answer, I did go back and catch up on what I missed.)

Page count totals more than 400 pages? It and I shall never meet. Again, yes, there are exceptions, though they’re few and far between. Does this mean I may be missing out on some really great stories? Yupper. Do I mind that much? Not at all. Bring on the movie version. Sorry, folks, but I simply don’t have the time to sit down and slog through 650 pages of any (even an amazing) novel.

I’ve given up on classics. Not because all the classics are terrible. A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel have a permanent spot on my list of recommendations. It’s mostly the time issue; also, it’s a matter of personal taste. Too many classics either frustrate or bore the living daylights out of me.

Please, please, please don’t make me read anything that isn’t speculative fiction. This covers fantasy, sci-fi, sometimes dystopia, and even steampunk. See, that’s plenty of options! So I’m abandoning romance, mysteries, thrillers, most historical fiction, and even biographies — trust me, that still leaves me more than enough choices. And these are the genres I love — what’s the point in depriving me of that?

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