Tag: rewards

The Last Road Home, by Danny Johnson

I do not own this image. Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Danny Johnson is a Vietnam veteran, and a writer of Southern fiction. His first published novel is The Last Road Home.

Raeford “Junebug” Hurley has had a hard life. At the age of eight, his parents die, and he goes to live with his grandparents on their tiny farm. There he meets Fancy Stroud and her brother Lightning, children of black sharecroppers, and they become fast friends, almost unheard of in 1950’s North Carolina. Tobacco farming is hard, desperate work, and Junebug is grateful for Fancy’s support when things grow even harder, and soon they are more than friends.

A moneymaking scheme gone bad and a visit from the KKK have Junebug and Fancy setting out in search of different dreams. She, a place free from the casual bigotry and hatred that infuse every day in the rural South. He, looking for a place he feels at home, a place where his darkest secrets will be safe. The connection between Junebug and Fancy is strong, but will it be strong enough to withstand war and thousands of miles of distance?

The Last Road Home is a deep, emotional book about friendship and love in the midst of hardship and hatred. This is not an uplifting, breezy novel, but one with unexpected depths that delves into the darkness inside us all. The ending was not what I had hoped for, but it was true to the story. This is well-worth reading.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books via NetGalley.)

Things I Learned from NaNo (just not this year)

I may not be participating in NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty of some of the things I learned over the years I did participate (I feel pretty ancient after that statement).  Sure, it’s a crazy frenzy of pouring thousands of words straight from your heart to the page (or the screen), but that doesn’t mean it’s all impulse.  Here are a few of the things I learned from NaNo.

1)  Have a plan.  This doesn’t mean you have to have a detailed line-per-scene outline complete with character names, descriptions, and complete family history going back ten generations, but it should probably be more than “Write about apples.”  (Why apples?  I don’t know.  That’s what popped into my head.  Thanks, Muse.  Such a smart-Alec.)  My personal favorite is a brief 2-3 sentence synopsis of the major scenes, plus a mention of anything that pertains to that scene that the Muse might give me (Like, “It would be really funny if the story opened with her tripping and almost falling into the casket in the middle of the funeral.  Flashing the audience would be great, too.”  Again, thanks, Muse.  True story.).

2)  Have goals.  Goals are pretty important in writing, I’ve found.  How else are you going to write 50,000 in 30 days if you don’t know that you need to hit 1,667 words per day?  Word count goals no longer work for me (at least not currently).  Now I go with pages.  My goal may be a paltry 2 pages per week right now, but it’s a goal.  (Don’t judge me.  I have a lot going on, and my days only have 24 hours in them.).

3)  Have friends.  By “friends” I mean “fellow writers you can talk to.”  Trust me, non-writers do not get it.  Just because I’m a writer does not make me a poet.  Or a biographer.  (The two most common “You should write–” suggestions I get.  Why would I want to write about your life?  Yes, you’ve done some stupid things, but it’s really better if we don’t publicize them…).  If you hit the wall while writing, writing friends are a helpful support group, always available for hand-holding, pep talks, and/or moving the bottle out of your reach.

So, there you go.  A few helpful tips   Now, back to your keyboards!  Those 1,667 words aren’t going to write themselves (probably).  I’m off to work on my plan (since the Muse hasn’t seen fit to grace me with one for The Fall yet…).

Writing Inspiration: Bits and Pieces

Sometimes, inspiration is easy to find.  It falls out of the sky like a bolt of lightning.

(I do not own this picture.  Image by Bo Insogna.)
(I do not own this picture. Image by Bo Insogna.)

Other times, it is much more elusive, like chasing a will-o-‘the-wisp

(I do not own this picture.  Photo by Buie.)
(I do not own this picture. Photo by Buie.)

I’ve found inspiration both ways.  (Or, really, it has found me.)  Usually, though, it’s a bit more…mundane.  A random thought, picture, name, or word will settle in my brain and I’ll hear an almost-audible click, and I know the Muse has snatched up whatever tiny piece just arrived and ran off into the darkness with it, giggling.  (My Muse is a bit terrifying at times.)  That little bit will be fitted together with other random bits to form a somewhat-complete idea.  When the Muse is finished with an idea, she’ll give it to me.  Or I’ll have to pry it from her greedy little fingers.  One of the two.

But reading inspires me.  Fiction.  Creative non-fiction.  Classics.  Blog posts.

That being said, here are a few interesting, inspiring links I’ve come across lately:

Letting go vs holding on, by Cristian Mihai.

A year-old post on Writing Inspiration, by Rucy Ban.

Another post on Writing Inspiration, on H. Squires Novels.

Writing Inspiration, on the ramblings of a literature nerd  (Isn’t that the greatest name?  Fellow literature nerds unite!)

On Writing, on Hello Alle.

Go.  Be inspired.  Write.

What’s On My Mind Today

Well, to be frank, money. It’s not an easy subject to talk about, but people have to pay their bills and buy food in order to survive, so it’s something we all have to have (since we don’t live in a trade/barter society). And as much as I’d like to say, about writing, “I just do it for the art,” that doesn’t pay the bills.

Don’t get me wrong, I do write for the art. Because I love to make up worlds and people, and see what happens to them. But that in and of itself doesn’t pay the bills (or at least, it doesn’t pay mine), so I need to get compensated for what I do. I’m not talking about now. Right now, I’m not actively pursuing publication or trying to make money off my writing. But in the future, I intend to.

With that end in mind, I’m trying to get together a coherent…”business plan,” we’ll call it. I have school left to finish, and a day job that pays my bills (sort of) right now, so it’s a long-term plan, not an I-won-the-lottery-so-I’m-quitting-my-job immediate plan.

But I’m having a little bit of trouble getting ideas into a coherent, plan-like form. The basic formula is the same for a non-writing job ( 1)Do the job. 2) Get paid.), but coming up with a concrete plan is messing with my mind a little bit.

So I’m looking for suggestions. People who have/are writing professionally, people who have thought about it or come up with a plan themselves, people who just have suggestions…I’d appreciate any of your thoughts. Please understand, it doesn’t have to include strictly fiction writing. I’m getting an English degree with a focus on professional writing, so suggestions for how to utilize that (columnist, feature writing, whatever) are very useful, too. I need help, and I’m not afraid to ask for it.

Is This “Working”?

So, I may not have instant Internet access (and probably won’t for several more months—UGH), but I do occasionally get the chance for perusal of blogs and writers’ sites. I’ve noticed something a few times lately, and it’s made me wonder: a Donation Button (i.e. a “please give me money” link).

I don’t recall having seen these before the past couple of months. It caught my eye, along with the number of people who seem to be making a living from blogging, which is intriguing to me. I’m not sure how I feel about asking for monetary support, even though saying “buy my book” is more or less the same thing, albeit you get something in return with that transaction.

I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s not easy to make a living as a writer (or to make any kind of money at all). Writing is hard, and in the era of self-publishing, the market is crowded with everything from utter rubbish to absolute gems, with no way to sort through the dross. E-books are generally cheaper than “real” books, so a high price means just that many more cheaper books to take away the earning potential of your book. The phrase “starving writer” is probably just as true now—if not more so—than it ever has been. And writers need to eat. Just because we’re artists doesn’t mean we get to ignore the mundane in favor of the magic.

On the other hand, well…seriously? Asking people to give you money and get nothing in return? It seems like asking for a handout, and with the number of people undeservedly on government support (the ones who are totally capable of working but who are LAZY!), do we really need to encourage people to ask for handouts? We’re already fostering an attitude of entitlement. If people need help, we should give it to them. But if they’re merely asking for help in the interest of not working…I’m not a supporter of that. (and I’m not saying writing isn’t working, because it definitely is.)

What are your thoughts on this? Give, don’t give, do away with the “donate” button entirely?



The (Changing) Habits of Readers

Okay, I admit it.  I love to read fiction.  Especially fantasy.  Bonus enjoyability points if it’s YA fantasy.  I’ve read predominantly fantasy for years now, with a few forays out into mysteries, forensic thrillers, and humor (Stephanie Plum, anyone?).  I normally read several books at a time, with one “main” book that I pick up whenever I have a spare moment.  Normally, these are all fiction.

But lately, my TBR pile has moved into uncharted territory for me:  non-fiction.  Exclusively non-fiction.  What?  That’s what I thought, too.  Now, instead of the latest fantasy gem to catch my eye, I’m reading–and eagerly awaiting reading–books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Pandora’s Seed, and The First Human.  Granted, The First Human is reading for my anthropology class, but I’m really enjoying it and am finding it quite interesting.  Pandora’s Seed also started off as reading for my evolution and ecology class–last semester–but it’s pretty interesting as well, and ties into my latest personal research into environmental issues.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food are both about topics that I find very relevant of late, as I focus more on my health and eating healthier in general.  Both gave me a lot of–excuse the pun–food for thought, and gave me more focus on how I spend my food dollars, and the statement I want to make with them.

I’ve also been doing more spirit-based reading, including The Blessed Life, by Pastor Robert Morris (pastor at my church, Gateway Church, and a phenomenally gifted speaker).  Up next are the Divine Revelation books, and some more spirit-based reading.

Basically, I’ve found that my reading habits have changed lately, more closely tying in to the personal growth areas I’m working on.  Instead of reading for sheer entertainment, now I seem to be drawn to books that will help me grow.

Does anyone else find that their reading habits change over time, or in certain situations?

Re-thinking this whole writing thing

…okay, not really re-thinking. Let’s just say I’m going to try something new (or, actually, old). Confused yet? Let me explain. Have you heard of Holly Lisle? If you haven’t, well, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Holly is a rarity: a mid-list author who actually makes a living with her writing. She’s smart, she’s a great writer, she knows what she’s doing, and, more importantly, she’s really big on paying it forward (she did start Forward Motion, after all). She spends a lot of her time helping her fellow writers out. To that end, she has created lots of helpful things, from the smaller workshops like How to Create a Language, How to Create a Character, How to Write Page-Turning Scenes…and she has also created huge, incredibly detailed classes Like How To Revise Your Novel and How To Think Sideways.

I was in the original HTTS class, as well as the original HTRYN class, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much difference these two classes made in my writing. The way Holly thinks, the way she breaks things down using plain language, worksheets, examples…well, it got me thinking in ways I’d never thought before (which was the point, right?). Since I don’t have much done on The Fall–in reality, I have only a handful of pages written, basically no pre-work, and haven’t touched it in weeks–I’ve decided that I’m going to take it through HTTS. I know the end result will be much closer to the story I have in my head, much more true to the vision I can see for the story. It will just be better. Yeah, it’ll be a lot of work and it will take me a while, but in the end, it’ll be worth it.

I’m a huge fan of Holly’s writing in general, and I know her courses can really get results–if you’re willing to do the work. I am. I haven’t been published, but I’ve gotten some partial manuscript requests because of her courses, and I want to give everything I can to The Fall. I’ve also decided to become one of Holly’s affiliates. I do believe whole-heartedly in her methods, her teaching, and her results, and if you have any interest in checking it out for yourself, go here. If you aren’t a writer, but you’d like to read a great book, you can check those out as well.

Playing with the Muse

Despite the stresses of this week–my aunt was just diagnosed with breast cancer, one of my best friends had brain surgery today–I managed to finish the revision outline for the werewolf story.  It’s not very in-depth, only six pages long, but I think it will help me get organized to actually finish the revision (FINALLY).  I’m hoping so, anyway.

I wrote for 20 minutes or so yesterday on The Fall.  Only got a few hundred words or so, but that’s better than nothing.  Even better, I have an idea for part of the plot.  Well.  Kind of.  I think maybe it’s going to be super-important to the plot…but I could be wrong.  It has to do with an up-’til-now-unseen character that disappeared six months before.  I think I know WHY he disappeared…where he went…and even more importantly, how it ties into the larger story arc.  And here I thought he was just the used-to-be best friend.  Who knew?  My Muse, apparently….

I love the mystery and the surprises in writing.  It’s what makes the whole thing truly worthwhile and beautiful.  I love when the little things all come together and something clicks inside my head and it all makes sense.  (I just wish real life could make sense like that.)  I love when a tiny detail you thought wasn’t important turns out to be the key to everything.  I love writing.  I love creating.

Bribing Myself

So, despite loads of homework and reading for school, I managed to do mini-outlines for two more chapters in the werewolf story. Progress, although of the infinitesimal, snail-like variety. Three chapters down, 29 to go…but it will get done. And I promised my best friend/co-writer that I would convert ONE chapter of our zombie story to first-person this weekend. I’m also thinking about trying out Scrivener. Anybody out there used it or have any opinions or comments about it?

I also have this sitting on my desk, waiting to be read:

Personal bribery at its best...
Personal bribery at its best…

I know, I know. The Wheel of Time series has dragged on forever. I’ve heard all the complaints. Seen all the bad reviews for the series in general. I know. Also, I don’t care. I haven’t opened it yet. IF I get all the stuff done that I need to this weekend–homework, writing, revision, blogging, cleaning, re-decorating, planting–THEN I will start reading it. If not, well, it’ll have to wait. It’s been years since I started reading the series, I don’t think a few more days will hurt me.