Monday, October 31, 2011

Live blogging the NaNoWriMo kickoff!

Internet connection is spotty, but I wanted to pop in from the NaNoWriMo kickoff.  There are tons of us here — not sure if we're going to surpass last year's count (which was 76 or 77), but if we don't I'll be surprised.  I think there are at least 50 of us on the side of the store where I'm sitting, and that's not counting the seating area right in front of the cafe counter and the "quiet reading" area on the opposite side of the store.

We're having the kickoff party at Fireside, a 24-hour used bookstore and coffee shop in South Denver, actually in the small city of Englewood in the south Denver Metro area.  This place is AWESOME and besides last year's kickoff party, I did numerous write-ins here last year, not to mention the occasional late-night writing session when I've had a deadline and needed some caffeine and a different environment in order to stay awake to finish.

Last year I came an hour early (at 9pm) to make sure I got a table for me and my friends, since I already knew the place and knew it was small.  I was glad I did, because a lot of people ended up sitting on the floor.  This year, I tried the same thing, but the place was already packed when I arrived — others had the same idea, after last year's craziness.

This quick iPhone picture doesn't show much of the store, but the entire place is equally as packed as in this picture, so it will give you an idea of how many people are here.



The MLs brought goody bags for everyone with NaNo stickers and a couple of little fun things in them.  This is my itty bitty frog buddy.  I've decided he is my word count frog.


Hello word count frog.  Please bring me lots of luck in NaNo this year!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

1920s images for character portraits and book covers

One of the things I'm most excited about regarding my novel — well, besides the novel itself — is the images.

A few weeks ago, I had the idea to look for authentic 1920s photographs as representations of my characters.  Originally my idea was to use them solely for my own inspiration, so that I'd have a visual of my characters to help me in creating them and their world.

But when I actually started looking, I was having a hard time finding real photographs that I liked.  Then I ran across a few old French postcards, showing couples together in romantic poses.  Some of the poses were very risque, and I started thinking about what great book covers they would make, if I just Photoshopped in some teeth and blood.

On Etsy I found sellers who sold scans of postcards, instead of the postcards themselves, and I became intrigued with the idea.  I contact one seller, FrenchKissed, and told her what I was looking for.  Next thing I knew, she was sending me proof sheet after proof sheet of 1920s postcards!  I found the perfect images for my characters, as well as several for book covers — such as the one that is the header on this blog (and the cover for the first book, which you can see on my books page).

Finding a "sheik" for my star vampire, on the other hand, proved to be a bit of a challenge.  A lot of the men pictured alone on these cards are awfully girly — why I don't know — and that just was not the look I wanted for Victor.  Trishia (FrenchKissed) finally found him for me in an old photograph.  I'll unveil him soon — he's somewhat of an exception, since the photograph is coming to me and then I'll have to scan him — but I have to tell you, I'm already half in love with him myself!  Ruby ought to appreciate everything I do for her!

Like I said, I'm really excited about these images.  They've given me to-die-for (literally) covers, not to mention a way for my readers to see the characters for themselves.  Plus, I think the great 1920s images lend the entire story a feeling of authenticity.  I can really feel the aura of seduction and danger surrounding my characters, even more so than I could before I found these images.

What do you think?  Are you in love with all of these images as much as I am?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Noveling playlist: 1920s music

I find that when I'm working on fiction — or just writing in general — music can be either a help or a hindrance.  The right music will help to create the mood I want to evoke in my novel's tone, while the wrong music will distract me from my writing.  I find that lyrics can be especially distracting, especially if it's the wrong kind of music or I have the volume up too loud.

Writing nonfiction and marketing copy, I tend to write without music.  It's been a long time since I've written fiction regularly, but long before there were iPods and playlists, I was choosing specific music as "writing music."  For instance, for one of the novels I started in high school (never finished — still intend to someday, as it was a fantastic idea) I listened to a lot of Enigma to achieve that dark, otherworldly mood.

For Ruby's story, I'm listening to 1920s music.

I could easily get by with stuff like Enigma, and as Ruby gets more heavily involved in the vampire world, perhaps I will.  But I find that 1920s music keeps me pretty well grounded in flapper and speakeasy culture while I write.

When hubby and I got married in 2007, our wedding was 1920s-themed, so we'd bought a bunch of 20s music from iTunes.  When I started working on Ruby Ransome I pulled out those old CDs and created a new playlist.  The jazz of the 1920s is fun and full of energy, but it also does well turned way down, as background music while I write.  If you are interested in 1920s music, here are a few of my favorites from my playlist:

  • Crazy Rhythm
  • Five Feet Two, Eyes of Blue
  • Ain't She Sweet
  • Sweet Georgia Brown
  • Ain't Misbehavin'
  • Coquette
  • Dinah
  • If You Knew Susie
  • My Honey's Lovin' Arms
  • Second Hand Rose
  • The Black Bottom
  • The Sheik of Araby
  • Who
  • The Charleston
  • Honey
  • Shiny Stockings
  • Down Hearted Blues
  • Makin' Whoopee
  • My Blue Heaven
You might notice that a lot of these come from a 3-CD set called Rhythm Crazy, but you can also find a lot of them on YouTube, if you're just interested in hearing some 1920s music!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My vampires don't sparkle

Today Anne Rice shared this amusing article on Facebook:

Should vampires sparkle?

The article gives a brief, but interesting, history of vampire fiction.  The genre has been around longer than you might think — a lot of people think Bram Stoker's Dracula was the first, but that's actually not true.

Much of the vampire lit of the 17th century was poetry, often about the dead returning from the grave to kill a former beloved. The poetry often featured a religious theme as well.

Vampires remained present in literature throughout much of the 1800s. Varney the Vampire, a penny dreadful published in 1847, was the first vampire novel to explore the concept of a vampire entering a window at night to attack a sleeping maiden.

The article goes on to say that Dracula was inspired by the 1872 novella CarmillaDracula was not the first novel to present vampires as sexual creatures, just the most famous one.

The article also talks about how authors of vampire fiction in recent years all want to do things differently.  The ultimate example of an author changing the rules is, of course, Stephanie Meyer's sparkly vamps.

I have to admit, I'm changing up the rules a little myself.  What fun would it be if I didn't?  Then I'd just be writing about somebody else's vampires, instead of creatures entirely of my own making.  My vampires aren't undead Halloween monsters, but they aren't sparkly, either.  They are super-predators, and hell yes, they are sexy, too.  I think my ideas work quite well, but then again I may be biased.

I am curious...  Whose vampire "rules" are your favorites?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Word count woes

I did a little bit of searching yesterday for information on typical word counts for a novel.  I know I once saw a chart that showed the expected word count according to genre, but I don't recall where that was.  I think it was an edition of the Writers Market, back before I realized that the Internet pretty much eliminates the need for that book, but it's not the last edition I bought (and the only one still on my shelf), 2007.

Anyway, I found this most helpful post in determining the appropriate word count for juvenile and YA books, but since I decided some time ago that Ruby Ransome wasn't YA after all, that's not very helpful.  I did some other searching, and finally Googled the titles of a few books I think are most like mine in subject matter and audience.

Dead Until Dark, the first of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, is at right about 90,000 words.  I found another site that stated adult fiction should be above 80,000.  I also found some information about word count per published page (250-300) and according to that, if I want my book to be 300 pages or so (which I do, at least that), what all of this means is that I really do need to make 80k.

So, after a short period of doubting, I'm back to my original goal for total word count.  Hopefully, once I fill in the gaps in my outline, this won't seem quite so impossible!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo countdown!

FIVE DAYS TO NANOWRIMO!

The kickoff party will be Halloween night, and I will be there, ready to start writing on the stroke of midnight!  Well, not start start, since I've already started work on this novel, but start my NaNoWriMo word count, specifically.

I've currently got a little over 19,000 words on my novel.  I was originally hoping to get to something like 30k before NaNo started, so that I could add 50k and finish my novel out around 80k.  Now I'm aiming lower.  I'm undecided on how long my novel should be, but I don't think I'll get to 80k, so if I start NaNo with 21 or 22k that will enable me to get 50k for the month before I run out of steam.

What else am I planning on doing before NaNo starts?  Obviously adding a couple thousand words before then won't be difficult, providing my life behaves, of course.  (No more days like yesterday, please, with lots of various forces conspiring to keep me busy running errands and such all day long!)

I also plan to work a bit more on my outline.  I know what I want to happen in the middle, and I have a vague idea of the end, but not much of the in-betweens.  I've been kind of winging it, so there are times when I get to the end of what I had planned, and think, Hmmm, what should happen next?  That's not conducive to writing quickly, so I need to make plans for how I'm going to fill in some of the holes in my plot!

Monday, October 24, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Finding time for 1,667 words a day

Since I'm doing NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, in November, I'll be trying to write at least 1,667 words every day (what it takes to get to 50,000 in a month).  This will be especially challenging because it sounds like I'll be starting an after-school nanny position on top of my regular freelancing.  My client work has slowed down a lot over the last year, especially this summer when I decided to work on my novel part-time and back off on client work.  Theoretically I should have enough time to do it all, but I'll have to get a little better about managing my time — I've gotten a little more susceptible to distractions in the past few years.

Yes, I'm looking at you, Facebook.

On average, I write about 1,000 words in an hour when I'm writing fiction, more if I'm really on a roll (and less if I'm stuck.  I probably need to set aside 2 hours a day for noveling during November if I want to meet my goal.  Add an hour or two for blogging and admin, an hour or two for client work (on average — the actual workload varies from week to week), and 4 hours or so for nannying (included commute time).  That adds up to at least 8 hours, which is fine, until you add horseback riding and sleeping in (I am so NOT a morning person) and various time-devouring monsters.

My conclusion: I will have to slay the monsters.  Or hide.  I wonder how hard it is to type when you are laying on your stomach under the bed?

I'm thinking I'll have to work out a schedule in order to keep myself focused and get all of this done.  Most of all I don't want Ruby to suffer!  I'd love to finish the novel by November 30th so that I can set it aside for a month or so before working on the first set of revisions.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this November?  How do you make time for writing?

Friday, October 21, 2011

The NaNo noveler's dream tool

I follow Barnes & Noble's PubIt page, partly because they occasionally have some interesting author promotions, and partly because I'm planning on self-publishing my Ruby Ransome books eventually via PubIt and/or Smashwords.  Last week or the week before, they posted a link to a blog post on cheap technology for writers.

Most of the technology listed is software, and nothing I feel the need to spend money on.  I was, however, intrigued by the description of the AlphaSmart NEO, a word processing keyboard that allows you to do nothing but write — no Internet, no games, no distractions.  A very neat piece of equipment, and the battery life (it takes three AA batteries) is super long.

I think it would have some shortcomings — the screen would make it hard to scroll through text, either to check up on something or to revise, and I'd be worried about losing what I'd written before I had a chance to upload to my computer.  Fixing all the formatting when you upload into Word would also be rather annoying, and how would I participate in word wars at NaNoWriMo write-ins without Word's word count feature?

But I can also see where it would be very useful, especially for NaNoWriMo-style writing: write as much as you can, as fast as you can, and worry about details such as research and revising later on.  The lack of Internet access would be especially helpful for me — I seem to be frequently distracted by Facebook, for instance.  In fact, I checked it twice just in the few minutes it's taken to write this post.

What about you?  What do you find helps to minimize distractions so you can get your novel writing done?

Bringing the 1920s to life

As I was getting ready to start writing in earnest, I started doing some research on the 1920s.  I had a feel for how I wanted to weave the danger and seduction of vampires into the glitz and glamor of the 1920s, but I wanted to make sure I was getting the details right, too.

To that end, I read — a lot.  Stephen King has said that to be a writer, you must be a reader, and I am a voracious one.  I read novels about the 1920s, and I read nonfiction books.  I read online, and I read offline.

Here are a few of the sources I found to be the most helpful.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald

According to the nonfiction books I read, the Fitzgeralds had as much a hand in creating the 1920s and the flapper image as these things had in creating them.  The Great Gatsby is his best known work, but he has several other novels and many short stories about the 1920s.  Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Fitzgerald's other heroes and heroines perfectly capture the careless opulence that we think of when we envision the era.

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Anything Goes by Lucy Moore

This is an excellent, well-researched nonfiction book that will give you an overview of what the 1920s were like.  Moore talks about everything from the Fitzgeralds to the music of the era.  She also discusses the economy and the rise of organized crime.  A great book if you genuinely want to know more about this era!

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Flapper by Joshua Zeitz

Whereas Anything Goes gives you a picture of the 1920s as a whole, Flapper focuses on the rise and fall of the flapper icon during the 1920s.  In addition to discussing the impact that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald had, the book talks about the popular actresses of the era — Connie Moore, Clara Bow, and Louise Brooks — and the impact each one had on the ideal of the flapper.  A fantastic book for anyone who wants to know more about this carefree icon of early 20th century womanhood!

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Vixen and Ingenue by Jillian Larkin

These aren't nonfiction books, but novels about the 1920s.  I've read both, and I think they are fantastic representations of life for young women in Chicago and New York during the 1920s.  Although my vampire world is quite different than Larkin's authentic 1920s world, these books provided a lot of inspiration when I was trying to get into the Roaring Twenties mood!

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Bright Young Things and Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen

You might recognize Anna Godbersen's name from her Luxe Series, YA novels about the high class world of turn of the century New York.  Although I haven't yet read her newest book, Beautiful Days, I loved Bright Young Things when I read it after it first came out.  Godbersen also has done a fabulous job of recreating the Roaring Twenties in her novels.


The Internet Guide to Jazz Age Slang

This is a fantastic website I found with an alphabetical list of 1920s slang.  I am using some period slang in my novels, so I've found this guide absolutely invaluable!

I'm sure I'll have more to add eventually, as I'm still constantly researching the 1920s, even though I've already started planning and writing my novel.  But so far, these are some of my favorite sources of information and inspiration!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ruby Ransome on NaNoWriMo

Although I've been working on Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box off and on for a few months (and conceived of the idea last November), I decided to work on it during NaNoWriMo this year.  Although it's not really true to the rules, I've worked on novels-in-progress during NaNoWriMo before.  For NaNoWriMo's purposes, I'll only count word count added during November — there will just be a second number, overall word count, that I'll keep tabs on as well.

For those of you who don't already know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is to write a novel (or at least the first 50,000 words of one) all in the month of November.  That works out to 1,667 words per day — a challenging pace to keep up when faced with weekends, holidays, work, and family obligations.  You're allowed to outline, research, write character sketches, etc. before NaNo starts, but you're not supposed to start writing until the stroke of midnight on Halloween.

While it might not seem sporting to work on a novel I've already started, I view NaNoWriMo as a tool to help me stay focused. I figure 50,000 words in November is 50,000 words in November, regardless of whether additional, non-NaNo words exist.  I do it because (even though I haven't achieved that elusive number for the past few years) I find that working on a novel with a bunch of other NaNo participants — doing meet-ups, write-ins, and meeting new writing buddies — helps motivate me to keep going.

I've set up my author and novel profiles on NaNoWriMo.org — click here to see my NaNoWriMo profile, or just click on the NaNoWriMo badge in the sidebar.  I haven't decided yet whether I'll include an excerpt from the novel in my profile, but if I do, it'll probably be the prologue.

I'm planning on attending the kickoff party this year, especially since it sounds like it will be held very near me, at my favorite 24-hour coffee shop and used bookstore.  Last year's kickoff party was great fun — I got to see some old friends (people I only ever see in November), and it's fun to stay up writing until the wee hours of the morning.  I can't wait!