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This past weekend, I had the fortune of attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs. It was my first writers conference, and it was also amazing! I came home with so many new tools that I want to implement into my work.

I thought I'd share ten things that allowed me to really immerse myself in the writing world.

  1. Team Up then Split Up - I was fortunate enough to attend with two other people from our Wednesday Write-in (aka: #datenight on Twitter). We were able to cover 2 times (and on occasion 3 times) as many sessions than if I had gone alone. I’ve gone to work-related conferences, and I know how hard it is to pick between a number of sessions and feeling like I’m missing out by picking one over the other. This way, I got the best of all worlds.

  2. Don't Be Shy - You’re either an extrovert or an introvert. Our little threesome was varying degrees of introvert. Many writers are the latter. A con story: at all our meals we sat with a table of 10 people. It was a little hard to hear people across the table, but we all tried to say hello and what we wrote. (The answer was everything from PBs to Romance. Every skill level was represented.) One meal, we sat down and there was a girl who didn’t say more than three words. I feel like she didn’t get everything out of that conference because she didn’t wear a mask of confidence.

  3. Network - I finally found myself surrounded by like-minded people. For the first time, it wasn’t embarrassing to talk about the people in my head to other people. I met people I’d only seen online, I met people to sit next to during sessions and get valuable information and advice from, and I met people that I now follow on Twitter. Writing can be a very solitary endeavor. It doesn’t have to be. Find people you can talk shop with and exchange information. If you do this in the first session, you can then agree to split-up and share the information at the next meal. :)

  4. Bring Business Cards - These are an inexpensive way to give the people you meet your information. If you’re published, you probably already have these with your book cover. If you’re not published, you can still add contact information, as well as what you write. On my business cards, I have my name, mailing address, Twitter, email, and Live Journal address. They’re small enough to slip into a pocket, and you can find places online that will let you make them for free and charge only shipping.

  5. Have a Plan of Attack - Every conference (all work-related) I’ve ever attended has had the program available before the actual event. Some send these to you in the mail, some have them available online to print, and some will even send this to your phone. Our group had a pre-con dinner where we picked out the sessions we wanted to attend. Once we knew everyone was picking the same session, we could then pick something else and cover more ground.

    Five More Under the CutCollapse )

    Overall, PPWC was both worth the money and the time spent away from my current project. I will be back next year, which happens to be the 20th anniversary! I hope some of you can join me.
What's funny to me is the amount of posts kicking 2010 out the door because it was so terrible for them. The way I see it, every year is filled with ups and downs. That's the way of things. Even broken down to a monthly or weekly level, we have moments of warmth and cold. Why, as humans, do we find it so easy to recall the bad memories over the good ones? Or is it that it takes 5 times as many good things to make up for one bad? 2008 was probably my best / greatest year in the past five years. I met up with fantastic people in Spain, then we went to France, then to the UK. I began running and lost 50 lbs. Confidence and a little crazy soon followed. I dated and broke hearts. But I'll never forget that that year my paternal grandmother died. The grief of that lingers. Not every day, sure. But I think about how much I miss her more than I think about the times I had overseas, etc.

Still, I think at this time of year it's important for me to set goals and make a grand-scale "To Do List" for 2011. In years past I've written down 12 goals for the following year; one for every month (although some were things that would be started and continued throughout the following 12). Here's my list of 12 resolutions for 2011:

  1. Continue playing guitar and learning songs and chords.
  2. Write a song. Play it. Sing it. Record it. Post it. Regret sharing.
  3. Run!
    • 10k in April
    • Half-marathon in August
    • Full marathon before the end of 2011 (it's the 2500th anniversary of the first Marathon!)
    • Get more comfortable on the Vibram's

  4. Write!
    • Finish total rewrite of HyVee
    • Finish draft of Underneath. Rinse. Repeat.
    • Continue Saturday Shorts
    • Find a home for one (or two or all) of my shorts

  5. Take SCUBA lessons and get certified
  6. Cage-dive with Great White Sharks! (Location TBD)
  7. Grow out hair
  8. Become an All-Time Vegan instead of a Part-Time Vegan (look, cookies and pastries are so damn good -- even when they make me break out in hives)
  9. Travel somewhere new (in-state, in-country, out-of-country, wherever)
  10. Mail books, presents, other items ASAP
  11. Re-vamp blog. Big things are planned for this space >:D
  12. Learn how to make Thai Curry and have people over to eat it


2011: I'm prepared to work for what I want. Be prepared to REWARD ME WITH IT!

Lists of 2010

With the introduction of Netflix to my life, my book to movie ratio is almost one to one (it used to be two to one). As a quick aside: I don't care for Netflix streaming movies because you can't turn on the subtitles (sometimes I like to watch movies in English and see how they translate in French or Spanish. Sometimes I can't hear what they're saying and need the subs). Can you get them? I can't figure it out if you can. Some of the books on my list I've read in years past. Some of the movies on my list are the same.

This happens to be the most books I've read in one year! Since I've been keeping track, anyway. ;) I'm terribly excited for at least 3 books next year and a handful of movies. Oh, entertainment, you are grand!

Movies 2010Collapse )

Books 2010Collapse )

Here's hoping everyone had a wonderful holiday season! Hope your future is bright and prosperous. See you in 2011!

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CYD 2010: Prizes!

Yes, the moment you've all been waiting so patiently for is here! Before I list all the winners/prize combinations, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of our donating authors and also those authors that wrote such great posts for September! THANK YOU SO VERY VERY MUCH!! We couldn't have done this without you. Participants, if you get a chance, please go and visit these authors' blogs and tell them thanks. Or, even better, go out and buy their books. :D

Prizes Under the CutCollapse )

I'll be posting some stats, links, and other related info later in the week. Mostly it's geekery, but you're welcome to come and take a look. :D

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"The Near Witch" Cover Reveal

I <3 being able to share new authors' happy news. Today I'm helping reveal the cover of Victoria Schwab's (aka: veschwab) book: The Near Witch. It comes out in August 2011. YOU CAN PRE-ORDER IT RIGHT NOW!



The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget."

CYD 2010: Fourth Week Check-In Post



WELCOME TO THE FOURTH CHECK-IN POST FOR CYD2010

Please let us know how you did in your third week. What's your word count? How are you feeling? Have you made your goal, or are you in need of some more focus? Leave a comment below and be entered to win a SURPRISE gift. >:D


Last week's winner is captainsencried!! Please message me or send an e-mail to LTGcontests [at] gmail.com with your address.
WELCOME TO DAY TWENTY-SEVEN OF THE COMPLETE YOUR DRAFT CHALLENGE!

Twitter is a really amazing place. I've met way more awesome people than I have any right to meet. Our next guest poster is no exception. She runs a group blog with several other YA writers and has some great YouTube videos. In one of them she recommended one of the best books I've read this year: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. (YAY!)

Please visit lesleysays tomorrow for another guest post. We're getting down to the last of our surprise guests.

Thanks, Victoria Schwab, for the following blog post and all the helpful/fun/informative vlogs. Cannot wait for your debut novel!



Writing in the Fire Swamp


Buttercup: We'll never survive.
Westley: Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has.
~The Princess Bride


Writing a first draft is like being in the fire swamp.

You've got the flame spurts, the lightning sand, and those blasted R.O.U.S.s (rodents of unusual size).

You're traveling along through your manuscript and the terrain begins to get a bit more ominous. A few questions surface, snagging your sleeves like the gnarled trees of the swamp, but you press on! Then, all of a sudden, a fire spurt! A tempting new direction, bright and hot, and you dodge, because you are going to stay on course.



You carry on, eyes peeled for any more spurts, when the ground gives way beneath you, plunging you into the lightning sand! Plot hole!!! Progress is entirely halted as you try to extricate yourself from the pit formed by your story collapsing in on you! But you manage to drag yourself out, and on to sturdier ground. You take a few deep breaths and move forward, feeling ever more determined from your narrow escapes.

You feel pretty good! A little singed by the avoided temptations of new directions and ideas, perhaps. A little weary from that plot hole that threatened to put an end to you and your story, understandably. But onward!

And then, the R.O.U.S.s.—also known as Self-doubt, Self-loathing, and Oh-dear-I'm-100-pages-in-and-I'm-stuck monsters.

Will you escape the psychological rodents of unusual size? Will you make it out of the fire swamp with something resembling a story?

You will. Because you are not a coward like the six-fingered man. You are Westley. You will press on through that swamp, through that draft (only to be captured and tortured for a good part of the movie) and in the end, you will get the girl…or, um, book.


Victoria's bio:
Victoria Schwab is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a Southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say “like”, “as” and “y’all.” She also writes books.

Victoria’s first book, THE NEAR WITCH, comes out next August with Disney*Hyperion. She is pretty excited.

You can find Victoria on her website, visit her on her blog, or follow her on twitter.
WELCOME TO DAY TWENTY-FOUR OF THE COMPLETE YOUR DRAFT CHALLENGE!

Today's author is someone I've been following on her website for about a year. The premise of her first novel fascinated me (it's out now, which means you can read it too!). She lives in Paris, which is basically my Valhalla, and is a lover of languages and cultures. Also, she writes amazing short stories too! It was love at first read, so I want all of you to go out and read her free fiction. Once you're hooked, get her novel too.

Thanks, Aliette de Bodard, for helping a complete stalker stranger with her mad, mad plan. Can't wait to read 'Harbinger' (out in January in the USA)!



First drafts, molasses and momentum


When it comes to novel first drafts, my number #1 rule is "write regularly, and don't stop".

It's always tempting to stop: novels are long endeavours, and adding a few paragraphs or even one scene--insignificant in the scheme of things--can make you feel as though you've barely made any progress. Sometimes, especially during the Terrible Middles (25% to 75% of the book, in my experience), it can seem as though you're writing through molasses, and you've lost sight of where this was going--if it was going anywhere at all.



I made the mistake once, when working on a multi-POV alt-history book: I listened to the voices and stopped. In fact, I didn't write anything on the book for almost a whole month.

When it was time to come back to it--ouch.

See, the first thing is that there's such a thing as a writing groove for me. I might be typing for only a quarter hour or so every day; producing only half a scene or even less; but the cumulated effect of writing a little, and writing a little regularly (perhaps not every day, but every two days), is definitely measurable. It's partly in terms of writing quality (like anything, if you don't practise, you get worse), but most importantly it's in terms of mindset. When I write a little regularly, writing becomes a natural thing, and--best of all--the voices fall silent. Chances are, you know which voices I'm talking about: they're the incessant chatter in your mind delighting in pointing out you're no good at writing, that the draft is a
failure, and so on and so forth. Those voices are always there; but when writing is a matter of habit, it becomes easier to just plod on, regardless of the chatter inside my brain.



And you want to plod on: one rule of writing that took me a heck of a long time to learn is that there is absolutely NO correlation between the quality of what you're writing and how you feel about it. There'll be time enough later to sort out the dross from the diamonds. That's
what revisions are for. When I'm writing a novel, the important thing is to put the words on the paper, and to wrap up the plot. Finetuning is an editing process, and it requires a wholly different subset of my brain--that's why I don't worry about that when writing a first draft.

The other effect of stopping? It's a memory problem. Especially with complex novels, it's easy to forget who is doing what, and why they're doing it. If you stop, it's going to be even worse. When I came back to my draft, I had no idea why my characters were trying to infiltrate
a heavily-defended complex, or how they'd started bickering (let alone what time of the day it was, or when was the last meal they'd consumed). I ended up rereading the entire book up to then (and taking copious notes). It took me a lot of time--and that was time I could have spent writing.



So--momentum. Gather it, keep it, and whatever you do, don't let it dissipate. Happy writing!



There's a slight caveat to this, which I'm putting in an afternote. If I feel really, really uncomfortable writing the novel, and it doesn't seem to get any better, it might be because my subconscious is trying to tell me I screwed up (typical causes for me are: plot that makes no sense, or cardboard character). It's up to you, first, to distinguish this from the vague nameless dread of screwing up everything (which is pretty standard for novelists, as far as I'm aware of); and, second, to decide what you want to do about it. I like clean first drafts, so I prefer to stop and sort a character out rather than count on rewrites. You might be the kind of person who prefers to keep the momentum, and spend more time on revisions.

Aliette's bio:
Aliette de Bodard is a writer of fantasy and science fiction (and the very occasional horror piece), Campbell Award Finalist, and Writers of the Future Winner.

Her debut novel, Servant of the Underworld, an Aztec mystery-fantasy, is out now from Angry Robot (UK/Australia) and forthcoming September 2010 (US/Rest of the World).

Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of venues, such as Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction.

She lives in Paris, France, in a flat with more computers than she really needs, and uses her spare time to indulge in her love of mythology and history.

As a half-French, half-Vietnamese, Aliette has a strong interest in non-Western cultures, particularly the Aztecs and Ancient China, and will gladly use any excuse to shoehorn those into her short or long fiction.

A more extensive biography is available here, and a list of her fiction can be found here.

CYD 2010: Third Week Check-In Post



WELCOME TO THE THIRD CHECK-IN POST FOR CYD2010

Please let us know how you did in your third week. What's your word count? How are you feeling? Have you made your goal, or are you in need of some more focus? Leave a comment below and be entered to win a SURPRISE gift. >:D


Last week's winner is KIPEROOOOOO!! Please message me or send an e-mail to LTGcontests [at] gmail.com with your address.

Keep writing, everyone. We're almost there and that's an exciting thing. :D

CYD 2010: Author Advice with Martha Flynn

WELCOME TO DAY TWENTY OF THE COMPLETE YOUR DRAFT CHALLENGE!

Everyone should follow today's guest on Twitter. She's one of the most fun people to watch The Vampire Diaries "with". Well, her and Heidi Kling. They are a duo of hilarity. Which is one of the reasons I asked her to guest blog for the CYD. So enjoy a few words from a past participant and future rock star!

Check out lesleysays's blog tomorrow for more advice from authors you know, or authors you NEED to know.

Thanks, Martha Flynn (@marthaflynn), for the words of wisdom, but mostly for making me laugh. :D



When I was first asked to submit an encouraging blog for the Complete Your Draft Challenge, I gleefully said yes! Or to quote myself, “Totally!”

After all, I’d participated in completing my draft last year. In fact, I have written not one but several drafts of questionable quality.

September dawned and encouraging blogs were posted. Blogs from Ingrid Law. Cindy Pon. Even Carrie Jones threw in a vlog starring furry adorables.

I thought to myself – are you kidding me? What kind of encouragement could I possibly offer compared to these indomitable women? What do I have that these ladies don’t have? And okay, here it is – this is what I have: the absence of publication.

I am not published. I do not have a contract. I don’t even have the faint glimmerings of a contract on the horizon. I am knee-deep smack in the middle of a wordy hot mess that may never see the inside of a printing press.

My guess is – ditto for some of you.

So why complete the draft?

Here’s why – I was watching a locally filmed documentary about a dominatrix sex worker (stay with me, people; it’s a short ride) during which she revealed the dreaded coming-out conversation with her parents who nervously opined: “We’re just worried you’re doing it for the money.”

She laughed at this, since that’s why they did their humdrum jobs. For the money. That’s why I have my job. Even though I found a rewarding position in nonprofits, the truth of it is – I’m there for the money.

So, again, why the complete the draft?

Because if you’re like me – right now – this draft, these words, the time spent, is one hundred percent all about you.

Whatever cliche words and thrown-together themes and metaphors and tomes of angst are pouring through your fingertips – that’s you. Make no mistake. There is never going to be anything else you can do that is more about you than finishing this draft.

Waking up in the morning – that’s for your job. Getting breakfast on the table –that’s for your kids. Cleaning the house –that’s for the guests that might drop by. Even exercising – isn’t that mostly for the guy you’re having drinks with later?

Call me selfish, egocentric or guilty of one too many Oprah episodes, but there is something wonderful and motivating about finishing something just for me.

So finish your draft. Not for a contract. Not for publication. For you. Last time I checked, you’re pretty fabulous.

Martha's bio:

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