Archive for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo: What Do You Get Out Of Writing?

Posted in blogging, horror, indie, indie authors, mythology, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , on November 20, 2014 by rachelcoles

Hi Fellow Indies,

A little more than halfway through NaNoWriMo, only a week and a half to go! I’m participating informally in NaNoWriMo, which means I don’t really follow the website, but I’m using this month to buckle down and make sure I write at least a little every day. For National Novel Writing Month, Webucator has asked authors to talk about their writing journey, and what tidbits of knowledge they have gotten from it. So they had a few questions:


What were your goals when you started writing?


I’m not sure I really had a goal when I started because I wasn’t that organized. I guess I would say that if wishes were ponies, I’d write a bunch of novels that went best-seller and had movies made from them. But having statistics as part of my day job and knowing the odds, it wasn’t really an expectation. I just aimed for getting published, and having as many people as possible enjoy the book. So I’ve written the one novel so far, and have gotten a few short stories published. I’ve written on and off for the past few years. I wrote a fan fiction novel when I was in my twenties. And then when I got married and had a child, I didn’t really write much. Then one day, my daughter, who loved scary stories, exclaimed that she was bored with the library selection of scary stories for kids. She wanted us to make up our own. So the first story we came up with together was about shadows that moved. Well, I took that idea and fleshed it out, and wrote it down. When it was done, however, it really wasn’t a children’s story. It was called Orphans of Lethe. I submitted it to a few horror magazines to see what would happen, and The Horror Zine wanted it. That was the beginning of my adult writing career, kicked off by my awesomely cool little girl.


I started writing more horror stories. And then I couldn’t stop. After about six months, I joined a critique group because I realized that I needed other eyes to look over my work besides my busy husband. The first time that NaNoWriMo rolled around, which I had never heard of before, they encouraged me to participate. Aside from the Babylon 5 fan story which turned into a novel-length book, I’d never even tried to write a novel before. I remembered a short story written by Clive Barker, one of my favorite authors, about a demon who is trapped in a house with a man he is supposed to corrupt, but instead the man winds up driving the demon crazy. I started imagining demons having to deal with everyday exasperations, and somehow, out of that came a story about a well-known demon, Pazuzu, trying to raise a teenage daughter in Denver. I might have been envisioning my own future a little. I remember what I was like as a teenager. So I finished the novel a couple months after NaNoWriMo, and decided to try to get it published. I edited and edited. And got rejected and rejected. And then my husband tipped me off to a friend of his who had said that Journalstone is interested in the kind of stories I liked to write. I sent it off to them, and a month or so later, it was accepted and published as Pazuzu’s Girl.


What are your goals now?


My goal now is to keep writing, get another novel written, maybe a sequel, and get another novel published, and more short stories as well. I would like to win a few short story contests, which I’ve never done before, aside from once when I was in high school. I think part of the key is to make little short-term goals. If I think too much about long term goals, I might get intimidated, and then writing wouldn’t be fun.


What pays the bills now?


I am a medical anthropologist. I work in public health, specifically in emergency preparedness and response. So I help prepare for and respond to incidents and disasters. Most of what I do is program evaluation, trying to establish that positive outcomes are occurring from preparedness and response. But I also serve as a duty officer to coordinate response for spills and other public health-related incidents in Colorado if something occurs after business hours. In the event of a disaster, we also rotate shifts being liaisons for the state emergency operations center.


Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?


Writing doesn’t pay the bills. That would be lovely. Though even if my novel and future novels became best-sellers and could support my family, I think I would keep my day job at least part time, because I do feel good about what I do in responding to emergencies. I used to want to serve in the military. But people who have to take medication for asthma are excluded from serving. So when something bad happens, I feel like my job gives me a way to help. But I don’t ever want to stop writing again as I did after graduate school. It really opened up my life a lot. After I started writing short stories and sharing them with my husband, he told me that he felt like he was seeing a whole new side of me that he hadn’t seen before, and really felt closer to me because of it. I’m a bit of an introvert, which is not uncommon among writer-types, I imagine. I spend a lot of time in my own head, and I’m not always good at verbal communication about what’s in there. I feel like writing is a way to let the world get closer. On top of that, I am a bit of a stress-monkey, and I am really bad at meditating. So, I feel like writing helps to relieve at least some stress. It is often very cathartic. When I am sad, my characters can be sad, or I can write a funny scene to cheer myself up. When I am aggravated, or downright pissed off, lots of aggravating people can die horribly in my story, and I can shut my computer feeling like a boxer feels after punching the stuffing out of a bag. And when I’m happy, I can share that too, I can spread joy and warm fuzzies. Despite being a horror fan, I do have a few warm fuzzy stories. And I do have to say, when something gets accepted for publication, it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s like crack. It makes me feel like the story really reached people and was worth writing, even if I don’t get paid. Somewhere, the story made an impression on someone and made them think. The sharing of ideas and emotion is really what writing is about, communication.


And optionally, what advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?


I would say that the best thing they can do is not get discouraged by rejection. In some ways, it is a statistics game. If you are a decent writer, someone somewhere will like your stuff. You just have to play the statistics game and keep submitting. Just like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. When we sold our house, we were told by the real estate agent that since it was a decent house in a not-terrible neighborhood, it was just a question of getting enough people to see the house that eventually, someone would walk through the door and find that the house was the right one for them. I think that in this day and age with such a huge market, the same process applies. You just have to be patient, and persistent. Also, I have found it helpful to make sure writing stays fun. After I got my novel published, I got into a bit of a writing funk because I was suddenly worried about what other people would want to read instead of what I wanted to write. I became too self-conscious as a writer and I started second-guessing everything I wrote because suddenly, it was serious. That’s not a good approach. I had to stop obsessing about the novel and what to do next, and start writing just for the fun and not think about whether or not it was publishable.


Good luck to all my fellow writers out there, and hope you have a fun and productive NaNoWriMo!


Life After National Novel Writing Month—Not Losing Your Go

Posted in book reviews, indie, mythology, publishing, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , , on December 3, 2012 by rachelcoles

So, time for the final nag: Well, NaNoWriMo is finally over, did you get your 50,000 words, didja, didja, didja?

My answer: Not even close.

And while some people understandably feel like they want to throw their pens in the air in despair, (or much more expensively, their computers), I’m not feeling bad at all. No, I didn’t win a t-shirt, or a bag of candy. But my daughter’s still sharing her Halloween candy with me, and since Thanksgiving is over and I’m staring down the barrel at the holidays, the last thing I need is candy. And is going to suck all of my drawer space for t-shirts anyway.

So what now? What does the universe look like after NaNoWriMo, after the latest greatest writing revolution. For some people, there are a bunch of new exciting novels to work on editing. For other slow-pokes like me, what was the value of NaNoWriMo?

Well, I’m 20,000 words ahead of where I would have been otherwise. For a full-time public health professional, mom, and daydreaming sci-fi watching goof-off, that’s a lot. Like most people who try to cram way too much into their day without the benefit of Hermione Granger’s Time Turner or Doctor Who’s Tardis, my typical day is that when I finally get time to pull out my story and write, instead I find myself staring into space drooling, or watching TV, or discovering twenty other things I need to do. And so for me, showing up at a restaurant with a bunch of other people who are studiously ticking away at their keyboards and urging me to join their writing sprint, is really inspiring. It gets me to focus by giving me sanctioned time to write, and taking away most of my excuses for goofing around instead. There’s only so many times I can go to get brownies at the counter, or refill my soda, or run to the bathroom. Sooner or later, I sit and I write. I start to relax and words start pouring out, and at the end of the night, I’m happy.

The other great thing about NaNoWriMo is that I have ‘permission to suck’. So I don’t need to obsess over whether or not what I wrote was ‘good’. Who cares, for now? That’s what copy and paste are for, that’s what editing is for. I was thrilled to get a book published, but one thing that I didn’t count on was the paralysis afterwards of ‘what do I do now, what if the second one’s no good?’ So while I love writing and telling stories, it started to become more about whether someone else would like it than whether or not I would. In short, I started worrying too much, the way I worry about everything else. I didn’t even realize the transition until I realized that I was getting nervous about writing. The last time I got nervous about writing was when I was preparing to defend my master’s thesis in front of a committee. While that was buckets of fun, I’m not interested in doing that again.

So the benefits of NaNoWriMo were for me:

  1. I wrote more than I would have.
  2. I really enjoyed writing again.

Where do we go from here? Well, the great thing about writing is that sometimes it’s kind of like trying on the jeans you kept from high school, when you’re trying to lose weight and seeing that your hard work paid off and you went down two sizes. If you were having trouble starting a novel idea, and you see that you suddenly wrote seven chapters in four weeks, you want to finish it. Good stuff picks up momentum, and so NaNoWriMo is a great creative feeding frenzy that can suck you in if you let it, and propel you through the rest of the novel you want to write. At least, that’s what I hope it will do for me. I am now in the middle of Chapter 12 of the sequel to Pazuzu’s Girl. Wish me luck, and good luck finishing up your own NaNo novels!

YA Indie Carnival: Giving Thanks: 2012 Accomplishments

Posted in book reviews, indie, romance fantasy, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , on November 26, 2012 by rachelcoles

As I sit at a restaurant with a bunch of other writers doing everything but writing for NaNoWriMo, my biggest accomplishment is realizing that I’m happy, about a whole lot of things. I have enough money that I can get something to eat and sit and enjoy a tasty sandwich, soup and brownie, with other people like me who like to do the same things I like to do, like write crazy things while sucking down coffee in Panera. I have enough leisure time to be able to do it. I have a smart, funny, nerdy and sexy husband who loves that I do it, and shares with me the enthusiasm for telling stories. I have an awesome precocious and hilarious daughter who loves drawing pictures to illustrate stories I’m reading her. I was published last year, and so have fulfilled one of my goals in life. And I am happy with the story I told. I have a nice house in a mega-cool town with lots to do. I have a lot. And those are all things I am thankful for. Noticing that and remembering to appreciate it is the best thing that I could accomplish and need to keep accomplishing. It’s easy to get lost in America, the land of ‘bigger, better, more’.

In addition, I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie Pay It Forward lately. And I realized how little I look up and notice opportunities to pass it on. I get caught up in my own thoughts and moments go by, and I realize after I’ve walked out of the grocery line, ‘hey was there someone who could have used a hand or a few bucks’? What about those folks in the store who worked on Thanksgiving so that disorganized morons like me could run out at the last minute for a bag of sugar?

So this year, one accomplishment I’m going for will be to try to think more about taking all the times someone’s done something for me when I was having a bad day, or even just because, and notice more chances to pay it forward. I’m super grateful for all those moments from complete strangers who did something nice that made me stop in my tracks and think ‘Wow, people don’t suck’. And I’m grateful for all the little things people do who I see everyday that I don’t notice until later, the little courtesies that I take for granted.

See what Thanksgiving brought for all our other YA Indie Carnies! Have a great (late) Thanksgiving, and Merry ChristmaHanuKwanzikah!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy

And here’s what new!

YA Indie Carnival: Creating a Love Triangle

Posted in book reviews, indie, mythology, publishing, romance fantasy, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , , on November 16, 2012 by rachelcoles

With NaNoWriMo upon us, we could all use some ideas and tips. This week’s post from the YA Indie Carnival folks is ‘Creating a Love Triangle’. I have to admit that this is a challenging topic for me. I don’t write romance really, and when I do it’s wonky and off the rails. Here are some of my experiences writing romance:

I wrote a Babylon 5 fan fiction novel called The Long Trial on like 10 years ago. The only romance in that was at the end, by a Minbari and half-Minbari (aliens with bones crests on their heads), after a long build up of bitching at each other and beating each other up (they were warrior caste).

The sex scenes in my novel Pazuzu’s Girl were between demons, or demons and fairies. So…demon sex.

The one romance scene I tried to write on purpose for a writing prompt at a get-together of my writing group became this goofy anti-vegetarian meat orgy love story (no offense to my vegetarian friends). It was as much a response to a couple of very outspoken vegans I encountered who tried relentlessly to convert me.

So I actually have zero experience writing about love triangles, since my experience writing even couples who are normal (within certain definitions of normal) is limited. But it may be fun to try and see what happens.

If I refer back to and critique the love triangles I have seen in literature, that I can think of, I enjoyed the tension between Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase, and Rachel Dare, in the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. It is a young adult series, for the younger end, so there’s no sex in it, but the build up to the kiss is very satisfying and very realistic for teenagers. Though it was what most adults wish their teenage experience had been. If you haven’t read the series, I won’t give any more away. What was good about it was that it wasn’t goopy (the scenes, not the kiss), or overly dramatic.

The biggest reason I don’t read or write much romance is that there is a tendency toward certain kinds of dramatic description in much romance, that I am just not a fan of. If it’s too purple, it kicks me out of the story. I can’t read the words or phrases ‘supple thighs’ or read about someone’s ‘porcelain skin’, or ‘hair like a raven’s wing’ very many times before I want to stick a fork in my eye and add my own super violent scene in which everyone dies in a very Army of Darkness kind of way. Though this is just a preference thing from a former angry death-metalhead.

There’s nothing actually wrong with purpley kind of romance. I do enjoy it upon occasion. I admit to the guilty pleasure of savoring Anne Rice’s very S&M-ey Beauty series, where she wrote under Anne Roquelaure. The only way to describe it is upscale nicely-packaged fairy-tale porn. I’m not ashamed to say that when it made the rounds in my campus at college, it…lingered for a few weeks in my dorm room. And you would have to do a lot of complicated mathematical geometric juggling to call the relationships in that trilogy love ‘triangles’. They were more like multidimensional tesseracts.

In fact, that genre of fiction sells billions of dollars every year because it takes lots of people out of our boring lives for a while. Unless I suddenly become a martial arts master with super-X-Men Earthbending powers, suddenly discover that my real father is God of the Greek or Sumerian or Egyptian Underworld, and get hired as an astronaut in the next 20 years, I’m not one to scorn wish-fulfillment. But usually, I most appreciate romance scenes that are frank and basic, since I’m a frank and basic kind of person. But to each, his or her own. See what other experienced writers in the YA Indie Carnival have for tips on writing love triangles, or tetrahedrons…below:

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. translation agency

And see what’s new this week here! Happy NaNoWrimo, and good luck in your writing for the second half of the month!

YA Indie Carnival: Synopsis, Cover, and Paragraph

Posted in book reviews, publishing, romance fantasy, urban fantasy, writing, young adult fiction with tags , , , , on November 2, 2012 by rachelcoles

As National Novel Writing Month begins, and people struggle to get a ridiculous number of words written a day, you might assume that writing a book is supposed to be the hardest part, right? Not for me. That was hard for sure. But the hardest part was boiling down everything I just poured out, about a hundred-thousand words into a few paragraphs. Uh…what? Why didn’t I just write a paragraph to start with and have that be the novel? Why do we need a synopsis, cover blurb, or pitchline?

Because people, especially people who you want to read the book need the Cliff’s Notes first. In this busy age full of information everywhere, they need something to tell them what the story is about before they decide to spend time reading it. This is your opportunity to make your book shine and get people hooked before the first chapter. When browsing in bookstores, I have bought books I wouldn’t have thought about, based on what I read on the back cover.

So how do you boil down your life’s work into a few paragraphs? This took me hours of wiffling and waffling and writing and re-writing. I’m not sure there really is a shortcut or an easy way. At least there wasn’t for me. I put down the major plot points that would have wound up in an outline if I had had one. They were the messages in the book that I most wanted the reader to get out of it, without giving away the ending. And then I consulted with friends, who could look at it objectively and tell me what parts hooked them the most. Finally, the bottom line after that was paring and paring and paring down to the bones, narrowing down what was really the central storyline so I didn’t confuse readers. And there’s no shame in learning by imitation. I looked at my favorite books and read the covers again to see how things were worded to pitch the book, and tried to adopt that kind of language.

Synopsis and Cover are partly where you pitch your book, which is particularly difficult for those of us that compulsively hit ‘forward’ over and over on Hulu, trying to fast-forward through commercials in which if I were smart, I could be taking tips. I’m not a natural salesperson. But it is a critical part of the novel process. And it’s worth it when you get that email saying, ‘I’d like to read the book, send me the manuscript!’

Check out the other carnies tips and tricks in writing their synopses!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy

And guess what? We have a new Carnie, Terah Edun. Here is all about Terah:

Terah Edun is a young adult fantasy writer born and raised in the Atlanta metropolitan area, who transplanted to the Northeast region for college, and now lives in South Sudan. She writes the stories that she always loved to read as a young girl. She prefers tales of adventure, magic, fellowship and courtship – in other words high fantasy. No planes, trains, or demons dressed in Dolce & Gabanna will cross her pages. Sometimes you’ll see cloaks, daggers, independent and strong girls, independent and strong guys, sweet and soft spoken girls, sweet and soft spoken guys, markets, cute guys, sparkly magic and irritatingly know-it-all boys.

She is inspired by authors like Tamora Pierce, Cinda Williams Chima, Naomi Lane, and Mercedes Lackey. Her work is appropriate for young adults and adult readers. The book she’s currently working on is CASBAH GUARDIAN, the second in her young adult high fantasy series.



Terah Edun’s Books:
Red Madrassa
An Amlah’s Diary

So be sure to check out her blog this week and welcome her!

And here’s What’s New with books and cover reveals and other goodies.

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