I don’t like NaNoWriMo much. I go through this same cycle every year! I promise myself every year I’m going to write a novel in a month. Maybe not 50,000 words, but a novel!
After the success of my debut novel, War and Chess, and quitting my job to become a full time author the pressure was on! This November 1st, once again, I fired up my NaNoWriMo account. (I’ve been playing this game since 2013)
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I was working on two projects. One, I am writing the first draft. If I weren’t a NaNoWriMo rebel that would have been the novel I worked on. But I like writing first drafts with pen and paper. Drafts that you can take to the mountains without worrying about it dying, as electronics are bound to do.
My second project was typing up some old stories I think might be promising as a new publication. That second project is what I chose to report to NaNoWriMo’s website. It was a lot easier than counting the words I write on paper by hand. Really, I just needed some accountability. Someone to email me when I’m making whimpy excuses about how long hours typing makes my back SCREAM. But yet, somehow, I was just fine spending most of the morning on Facebook drinking coffee…
So I was already being a rebel by not creating something new. Just making sure something great was backed up, which is my least favorite job. I wound up getting 2/3rds of the way finished with this project! I was at an awe inspiring 10,000 words by December 1st. Yeah, I didn’t join my brethren in sleep deprivation, stress, or trying to remember that when great Aunt Bessy asks you, “Have you found a man yet?” you keep your decorum and smile.
I stayed true to my nature and stayed a rebel for yet another NaNo year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be prancing around downtown in my leather jacket Christmas shopping.
Helen comes from a small town of twenty in eastern Wyoming. She has been passionate about writing since she was small. Helen enjoys traveling and is always thrilled to excite friends with tales of playing music on the streets for money, conversing with the drunks who frequent gutters, and the epic struggle of finding a decent bath when living in a car. Visit her on Facebook‘s War and Chess page!
Dawn Napier is Ink Smith’s newest author. Her novel, Star Pack just launched this week!
Have you met her yet?
Dawn Napier grew up in Waukegan IL, and upstate New York. She has a husband, three children, and a ridiculous number of pets. She grew up reading Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Mercedes Lackey, and Piers Anthony. When she’s not reading and writing, she is hiking with her dogs, napping with her cat, or cleaning up after her herd of adopted guinea pigs.
It has finally arrived! Star Pack by Dawn Napier is available for purchase in paperback!
This sci-fi werewolf fantasy novel is here in time for Christmas. The New Adult novel features strong female characters, space exploration, and mystery.
Make sure to tune in to the Ink Smith Blog all week long for author, Dawn Napier’s takeover during Star Pack‘s paperback release week. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy!
About the Book The hunters have reached the stars, with the help of a remarkable mineral called the leap gem. Across the galaxy they travel, collecting scientific wisdom and harnessing the natural resources of the worlds they discover. When they discover a distant planet with gravity and oxygen similar to their own, it looks like a world ready-made for conquest. Mirra, the youngest star captain in history and possibly the most ambitious, leads her pack to the surface with the expectation of mastering and owning this new world.
She names it Otsanda, the She-Wolf.
But there are a few surprises waiting for her and her crew. The first is that the world is already inhabited by intelligent creatures, making it unfit for colonization, to Mirra’s bitter disappointment.
The second is that the two-legged inhabitants bear a striking resemblance to the Garou hunters themselves. The resemblance is so close, in fact, that the science officers wonder if the two species could be related. But that’s impossible.
The third surprise is that the natives seem to know all about the hunters. They scare each other with stories about them, about their moonlit curse and their bloodthirsty past.
Writers have a way of turning the nuts and bolts of creation into a heated political debate. I don’t know if this is the result of increased exposure in the form of social media or if we’ve always been this way, but it’s interesting to watch. One of my favorite hot-button debates is the issue of plotting vs pantsing.
Plotting is exactly what it sounds like. You map out the course of the story and figure out how it’s going to end before you start writing. Some plotters map out every twist and turn, while others create a rough outline that they know their characters will escape by the end of the book. Plotting is like architecture; the writer designs and measures and sketches before he begins to build.
Author Jan Ropers puts it thusly: “For me the fun moved from figuring out how it would end to how they were going to get there.” Rather than plan out every step, Ms. Ropers figures out how it’s going to end and then “pantses” her way to that ending. Different authors have different methods for plotting, depending on their literary needs.
Pantsing is more like planting a seed and watching to see what comes up. The pantser sits down with only the vaguest idea of what she’s doing and makes everything up as she goes. Sometimes the pantser starts with an image, or a character type, or an odd combination of thoughts that come together and make the writer say, “Hey I wonder what would happen if…”
The plotter writes to tell what happens; the pantser writes to see what happens.
In my earliest attempts to write a novel, I tried to plot. But I realized that if I planned the story out in advance, I got bored and lost interest in the story. Planning made me not care about writing the ending, because I already knew what would happen. This discouraged me, because at the time I thought I had to know how the story would end in order to write it.
As he often did in the course of my angst-riddled adolescence, Stephen King came to my rescue. In his brilliant memoir On Writing, he says, “Why be a stickler about the ending? Every story comes out somewhere.” So I said what the hell and gave it a shot. I sat down and started writing about a dragon kidnapping a unicorn. That was all I had—just that one image—but it was enough to get me started. I forced myself to write at least a few words every day, and six months later I had completed my first novel. It was absolutely terrible, one of the worst books I’d ever read in my life. But by golly I had finally finished something. I was on my way.
Every book I wrote for the next ten years was a complete ad-lib. Sometimes the starting point was a young woman avenging her mother’s death. Sometimes it was a party my husband had formed in his favorite role-playing game. But each time I went in with no idea where I was going. Sometimes I didn’t even know if the story would be a short story or a novel until I’d written ten thousand words and the characters were still doing things. I did what I did and loved every minute of it. I decided that plotting was an acceptable method for control freaks, but not for the free-and-easy creative likes of me.
Until the fateful day a serendipitous conversation on Twitter changed my whole outlook on the writing process. Never let it be said that the Internet is anti-creative; I’ve gotten some of my best ideas from random conversations with strangers on the other side of the globe.
I don’t remember the exact course of the discussion, but it included this question: “Why are werewolves never depicted with weapons? They never have knives or guns, even when they’re wearing clothes.”
My companion responded, “Because they don’t need weapons. They’re super strong and have razor teeth. A weapon would be pointless.”
That was a good point, but I said that nevertheless I would read the hell out of a story about werewolves with ray guns. Then I flashed on the image of a wolf-headed man in a 50’s style space suit, complete with fish bowl helmet, holding a bright silver ray gun. Werewolves in space. Why the hell not?
It seemed like a simple enough idea, so I took of writing the way I always do: I picked a scene, picked up a pen, and went to town. I finished two or three chapters in high spirits. And then the Doubts started creeping in. And then I sputtered and stalled.
Part of my trouble was my overwhelming awe of science fiction as a whole. I grew up watching Star Trek and Doctor Who; I cut my literary teeth on Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. I felt instinctively that sci-fi was this vast empire of wisdom that I, a simple horror writer, could never hope to enter.
This feeling was exacerbated by the realization that writing this book was actually hard. It genuinely felt like work. My werewolves were from another planet, with alien technology and alien ecosystems, and I had to create and maintain this vast structure all by myself. My daily word count went from a thousand words to five hundred, then to zero. It was just too much.
My husband, bless his heart, wouldn’t let me give up. He insisted that Star Pack was one of my best stories yet, and if I gave up I’d never get to the next level as an artist. So I dragged my butt through it, and three years later I finally had a finished manuscript. (As a point of reference, my usual timeline is between six and nine months.) I’ll always be grateful to him and my writer friends who insisted that my story was good and that alien invasion was going to be the Next Big Thing in publishing. I have no idea if that’s actually true or they were just blowing smoke to get me to stop talking and start writing, but it worked either way.
I learned a lot from this experience, more than I’ve ever learned from my “easier” books. The first and most important is try never to give up on a work in progress. Sometimes it can feel like you’re handcuffed to a corpse, but you have to drag that sucker across the finish line. Secondly, don’t underestimate the power of people telling you what you want to hear. Sometimes a little candy-coated baloney is just what the doctor ordered.
Finally, when you try out a new genre, be prepared to find out a new way of writing it. Pantsing is fine for genres like horror and fantasy, where if you get stuck you can just change the rules to make it work. But it turns out you can’t create an entire planet, culture, and ecosystem by the seat of your pants. Not without a lot of cursing, despair, and moaning, “This isn’t going to WORK!” to your significant other. Geography, even on an alien planet, needs to make sense. If you have predators living on your alien planet, they need prey to feed on. And the prey needs to eat, too. Worldbuilding as you go along is like building a flight of stairs in the dark with a flashlight.
When I realized that I had it in me to write a sequel, I took a deep breath, broke out my trusty notebook, and set to work on an outline. I spent about a week describing the land my new characters would hail from, then another week on the planet my explorers would discover. Finally I composed a rough outline of the events of the book. I still don’t know how it’s going to end, but I know where the people are going and how they’re going to get there.
And I still haven’t lost interest in the story. Even though I have a good idea of what’s going to happen, I still want to write it out. So plotting did not, as I have long feared, ruin my enthusiasm for writing the book.
I’m still a pantser at heart and probably always will be. But I feel great knowing that I’ve found a new way to do what I love. It’s like a new restaurant with an old love. You’ll always have your traditional date spot, but making new discoveries can bring a fresh outlook to a long-term relationship.
If you haven’t heard yet, The Funeral Portrait by Vincent Viñas has received a facelift!
The Funeral Portrait is a fictional, literary satire packed full of humor!
Guy doesn’t smile easily. He could be described as fundamentally glum. Tallulah doesn’t die easily. She could be described as annoyingly immortal. What if you wanted to die but were unable to? Such is the case with Guy Edwards and Tallulah Leigh, who want to end their miserable lives for different reasons. The only problem is, she’s been stricken with an unexplained (and unwelcome) case of immortality while he lacks that final, sorrowful piece of inspiration he needs to effectively do himself in. What better way to solve this dilemma than to help kill each other. However, a bigger problem has emerged–one of them is falling in love with the other. They’ll now have to decide what is a more frightening option–dying or taking one last shot at happiness? The Funeral Portrait is a very dark and comedic (but often horrific) tale about two lost souls who find each other and soon realize the only thing that may be worse than death is commitment.
Ready to read the book yet? If so, click here and get your copy today! And don’t forget, the best gift you can give a talented author is a review, so if you read Vincent’s amazing novel make sure to stop by Goodreads and Amazon and leave a review!
This is my version of fan art. These are Zinnegael’s Cinnamon Oatmeal Crispies. Besides being a “favorite, even among the cats,” it’s the perfect Christmas cookie. It’s delicious, easy to make, inexpensive, gorgeous, and adaptable. You’re welcome.
And while you’re making cookies for those favorite people on your list, don’t forget to get them a copy of Grey Stone. The hardbacks ship for free from Amazon, so they’re easy to send to that fantasy loving tween or teen on your list. And there’s a less expensive Kindle version if your loved ones prefer reading on a device.
But if you just want to make (or eat) cookies, I totally get it. Here’s the recipe, my dears. Merry Christmas!
Zinnegael’s Cinnamon Oatmeal Crispies
For gluten-free adaptation, use a gluten-free flour or skip it altogether. You may also need to use oats that haven’t been grown or harvested with wheat or gluten-y foods.
1 C (2 sticks) butter
2 1/4 C brown sugar
2 1/4 C rolled oats
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats. You must do this. Don’t skip it or these will not come off.
Heat butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in oats, flour salt, cinnamon, egg, and vanilla.
Drop the batter by the teaspoon or half tablespoon onto the baking sheets (did you notice how little those scoops are. They must be little; they are going to SPREAD and if you use too much you will have one huge pan-sized rectangle of cookie at the end).
Bake to 5-8 minutes until the edges have browned (you can make these blonder, but they crumble more easily).
Allow to cool. Then remove from parchment paper.
Store in airtight container. These will last well for several days and freeze wonderfully.
Jean Knight Pace
I’m a writer, wife, and mom. I love food, music, the outdoors, cats, ducks, books, family, and being cheap–not necessarily in that order.
Help Ink Smith Publishing and our sister company Native Ink Press #CelebrateEBooks this week with Open Road Integrated Media and Early Bird Books!! Join the conversation 12/5 – 12/9 using the hashtag #celebrateebooks across social media platforms!
The campaign aims to celebrate the ways ebooks make our lives better. Who doesn’t love taking tons of books with them on a vacation? Ebooks definitely make it easier to travel with multiple books – and they’re available at the touch of a button. So charge up and get ready to read!
Open Road, Early Bird and Ink Smith, along with many others will be using the hashtag #CelebrateEbooks across all social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.