Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month
Today, my Facebook feed began with a status update memory from this day last year: "NaNoWriMo starts today so if anything big happens (terrorist attack, celebrity death, congress passes a bill), someone better email me."

Oh, yeah. I should be writing.

Writers know November is the month we hunker down and try to crank out 50,000 words. We commiserate online with other writers at the NaNoWriMo site or on other social media. We update our wordcounts daily. Last year, I topped off at 30,000 words. I consider that a win, even if it is shy of the stated goal. In the year since, I've added another 15,000. My personal goal this year is to finish it.

November is always a tricky month because of Thanksgiving. This year, I have family coming in from out of state so I know those days will be lost. But this year will be especially hard for those of us following the presidential election. I don't really feel like I can cut myself off from news the way I did last year. In many ways, NaNoWriMo won't totally start for me until the ninth.

If you're a NaNo writer, connect with me on the site. I'm katie78.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

KindleScout Update

Since my novel, Finding Charlie, won the crowd-sourcing competition back in December, I've written a lot about the publishing process. What I just realized, though, is that I've done most of that writing as a guest for other blogs.

For instance, if you're a writer thinking about entering KindleScout, read this piece that I wrote for Rowena Wise.

My publishing journey started years ago with the success of my first novel, Monsoon Season. If you're interested in the story of that somewhat unconventional path and what it means to be a hybrid author, you can read more here, on BooksbyWomen.

I'm about nine months into the process with KindleScout and I've been really happy. When I signed the contract, I didn't know what to expect in terms of their support - and because of previous experiences with other publishers - I kept those expectations low. But I've been pleasantly surprised.

I was assigned an editor who worked with me to get the book professionally polished. The KindleScout team has always been quick to respond to my emails. In terms of sales, I earned back my advance within the first month and get monthly sales reports so I feel very involved in the process. Last month's promotion had Finding Charlie on the first page of Amazon's best-selling women's fiction, at #19:
Exciting stuff!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Book Review: Connected Underneath

Amazon Summary: Madena, upstate New York. Like any other small town, everybody keeps an eye on everybody else's business without recognizing the secrets that connect them. The wheelchair-bound Celeste conjures up lives from what she sees and thinks she sees while peering through binoculars from her kitchen fan vent. Fifteen-year old Persephone trades sex for tattoo sessions that get her high and help her forget her girlfriend doesn't love her. Theo was the high-school bad boy who couldn't have the respectable girl he adored from afar, but now, sitting behind the counter of the last video store in town, worries wretchedly about the restless daughter he never understood. Natalie, trying to grasp the last shreds of respectability, would do anything to forget the baby she gave up long ago, including betray her husband and son. Celeste, longing to connect, combines truth with fantasy, intervenes and interferes, finally understanding that things have gone terribly wrong and that she stands at the heart of disaster.
Connected Underneath is a lyrical, scalpel-keen dissection of the ties that bind and of those that dissolve.

I don't envy the author/editor who had to come up with that summary. It's a good one, and better than anything I could do. The story itself is difficult to describe plot-wise, made up of an eclectic group of characters and their complex histories. Linda Letgers' writing is beautiful, smart and compelling. It's heavier on narration than dialogue, and I worried that might slow things down, but it didn't. I zoomed through this.

There are so many amazing descriptions. Here's one of a punch to the gut: "Billie needed to fold in two, but Theo held him upright long enough for the pain to point back into Billie's brain and out through his toes and to become shooting sparks from his pupils, syllables in his mouth.".

This may be the first book I've ever read with an unreliable, omniscient narrator. The concept was unusual and well done. Mixed with first-person narration, the omniscient narrator turns out to be a character in the story who thinks she has everyone else figured out and also admits to being a liar. It's up to the reader to decide if she can be trusted.

I offered to read and review this honestly in exchange for a copy of the ebook, and I'm glad I did.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review: Things We Set on Fire

In the opening scene of Deborah Reed's novel Things We Set on Fire, the reader begins on the edge of their seat. The scene is immediately emotional and confusing. You suspect that you can't believe what you're being told; there must be more to the story than what's visible on the surface.

In the story that unfolds, Vivvie and her estranged daughters share their perspectives on the last thirty years. The differing versions are sometimes illuminating and sometimes heartbreaking. Misunderstandings create permanent rifts. This book is a how-to on the best way of including backstory. Reed drips the details in ever so slowly, forcing the reader to become an active participant, putting it together.

I raced through the first half of the book, but found the second half slower and some of the wrapping up over-explained. The writing is beautiful throughout and I loved when a scene was retold through a different character's eyes. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Book Review: The Children's Crusade

After reading Ann Packer's third novel, I admitted to my boyfriend that I definitely have a type . . . when it comes to books. The major drama in The Children's Crusade revolves around four adult children deciding whether it's time to sell their childhood home. Each sibling tells their own story in first-person narratives and these chapters are interwoven with omniscient narratives that describe their earrlier lives.

I love books like this - explorations if dysfunctional families - and this is one of the best ones I've read in awhile. Each character is such a fascinating individual and while their adult voices are distinct from each other, they're also completely recognizable in their portrayal as children.

As a writer, this is the kind of book that inspires me. I have read Packer's other novels and this is my favorite.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Tucson Festival of Books

One of my favorite public events in Tucson is the Festival of Books, which is held annually in March. I go every year. For a writer, it's a free resource full of lectures on writing technique and opportunities to connect with agents or listen to successful authors speak about their process. For readers, there are booths where small presses promote their books and you can meet authors and have them sign your purchases. For the entire community, there are political lectures, cooking demonstrations, and - my favorite - the animal show put on by the Desert Museum. This year, they brought Rue, the porcupine.

The event is huge - great for people-watching and the weather is usually fantastic. Popcorn and Thai food and pulled pork sandwiches are available at the food vendors. This year, I attended the "Agent Idol" session where writers submitted their query letters to be judged and voted on by three literary agents and the audience.

Later, I met Stacey Cochran - a fellow KindleScout author and picked up a copy of Eddie & Sunny, his latest novel. I'm excited to start reading!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Book Review: We Are Water

I've read all of Wally Lamb's novels. The blurb for We Are Water says  it's about "human resilience in the face of tragedy" and I'd say that's an apt description of his writing in general.

We Are Water is grand in scope. Lamb tells the story of the Oh family the only way you can: through history. The story alternates narrators, giving the reader a broader perspective. The characters tell us about their childhoods -- the Japanese immigrant grandfather, the mother who died in a flood in 1963, the unknown man whose art inspires in the present -- all of this gives context. The stories intertwine in surprising ways.

There are some things to criticize here. Sometimes Lamb gets overly detailed and repetitive; this novel was over six hundred pages and could have withstood a few killed darlings. Also, I would have preferred fewer graphic descriptions from the pedophile and a less over-the-top dramatic climax.

For me, the joy of fiction is always the characters and Lamb is an expert at creating full and complicated characters you fall in love with. I recommend this book.