Monday, December 24, 2012

Highlights of 2012

Merry Christmas, everyone! With just one week left 'til New Year's Eve ... can you believe it? 

So what did 2012 bring for you? For me it was a mixture of creativity, big changes, and a whole lot of fun, starting with:
  1. Publishing my Gothic romance novel, Overtaken in both paperback and Kindle editions.
  2. Creating the book trailer for Overtaken.
  3. I sold my house (a miracle in this current market).
  4. Moved into a rental condo--and I love it. No maintenance. No gardening. No "what if I want to sell it?"
  5. My day job moved into spacious new premises.
  6. Although I had a great little studio at my old house, I now have a new space three times bigger.
  7. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, and reached my 50K goal!
  8. Took a fantastic 3-day screenwriting seminar aka "screenwriting boot camp" and learned that writing a screenplay is just as difficult as I thought it was, LOL.
  9. I also took a 6-week oil pastel class and found my true north. I absolutely adore oil pastels now--especially Sennelier brand.
  10. Went camping in an RV for the very first time--and found out I love RVs. Will have to do this one again very soon.
  11. Prepared two manuscripts for 2013 submission: my nonfiction book, A Pet Owner's Book of Days, and a new novel, The Abyssal Plain.
  12. Kept up with this blog and had two fantastic giveaways. Big congratulations to my winners!
That's a lot--more than enough, I think--for one year's worth of memories. 2012 has been a fantastic year for me, and I hope the same is true for you. Drop me a line and let me know some of your favorite moments!

Tip of the Day: As a journaling exercise for next year, make a practice every evening of writing down 12 things that made the day special for you in some way: for instance, accomplishments both large and small; important insights that arrived unexpectedly; a line from a book that caught your imagination. Remember to not judge, just write.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Top 7 Reads of 2012

Here we are nearly at the end of the year and my TBR pile is growing at an alarming rate--not that I mind in the least. There's nothing more satisfying to me than a delicious pile of good books to read, especially in the winter when I go to bed early, snuggle under the duvet, and disappear between the pages.

It's also the time of year when I reflect on the books that have really mattered to me over the past twelve months; the ones I couldn't put down and that I wanted to journal about after I was finished reading. For 2012 this came down to a list of seven:

Best Historical Romance: Dagon's Blood, by Virginia Lee. This is one big, riveting swashbuckler--and thoroughly researched--five-hankie read. If you enjoy eighteenth-century Scottish romance along the lines of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, you will love Dagon's Blood. Rich with detail, emotion, and a complex plot, Dagon's Blood goes beyond "just romance." Lady Leigha's life journey and the eventual choices she makes are perfect material for book club discussions. Unforgettable.

Best Contemporary Romance: The Secrets Between Us, by Louise Douglas. Talk about tension. I wanted to read this book in one sitting, but like Dagon's Blood, it's a big book that kept me happy (and scared to death) for days--weeks, actually. As soon as I thought I had the main secret figured out, the next few pages would convince me I was wrong; and then back and forth right up until the end. Whew.

Best Mystery: Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James. As a life-long P.D. James fan, it's always been my opinion that her writing voice is remarkably close to that of Jane Austen. So who else could do a better job writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, and one with murder thrown into the mix? This is a fine and elegant book, and as engrossing as the mystery is, my favorite part was James's take on the continued and maturing relationship between Elizabeth and the esteemed Mr. D'Arcy. A must-read.

Best Mainstream: Returning to Earth, by Jim Harrison. Because this is a book about death, it's really a book about life, or I should say, the acceptance of life and all it has to offer. Much of the plot delves into Native American beliefs and interpretations of what it means to be a family walking upon this earth, at this time--and in the future.

Best Literary: Small as a Mustard Seed, by Shelli Johnson. This award-winning book is so strong, so sad, and so important. The plot revolves around post-traumatic stress disorder and how it affects the lives of two young sisters and their war-ravaged parents. Growing up in an unpredictable household of terror and denial, the girls find two very different and heartbreaking ways to cope with problems no one, especially children, should ever have to deal with.

Best Short Story Collection: Beneath the Liquid Skin, by Berit Ellingsen. I debated whether the contents of this small but evocative book were actually stories, or poetry, prose poetry, or something entirely new. I think they are something entirely new. I love experimental, edgy, unexpected books that take me to places I've never been before. And I love it when the writer uses language in a way that I know will stay with me for the rest of my life. I can't explain this book, and quite frankly I think explanations would destroy it--like when a well-meaning friend tries to analyze a dream for you. I'll be re-reading, and re-analyzing, this dream of a book for a long time to come.

Best Nonfiction: The Principles of Uncertainty, by Maira Kalman. This book is like reading someone else's art journal without getting into trouble for snooping! A grown-up's picture book, the text is full of pithy non sequiturs, memoir, literary factoids, and is exactly where I'm trying to go with my own attempts at creating an altered book. Definitely a keeper.

Tip of the Day: Recording your thoughts in a dedicated book journal is a good way to explore what you'd like to include, or discard, in your own writing. Daily entries can be used as starting points for freewriting, which can then be used as handy references for book reviews. And everyone needs a good review!

In the meantime, Happy Holidays, book fans!
Keep reading; keep writing!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Season's Greetings From Dava Books, and a Special Giveaway!

Happy Holidays, Everyone! Deck the halls, spread good cheer, dress up, eat cake, and . . . get ready to write in 2013!

From now until the end of the year, I'm having a special book giveaway on my website, With any book order placed from my site, I'll include a FREE copy of The Essential Guide for New Writers, From Idea to Finished Manuscript. All book orders from my site always include free domestic shipping, too. Offer will end at the stroke of midnight, January 1, 2013.

Tip of the Day: Books make the best holiday gifts. Ever. (And they're so easy to wrap.) Share your favorites with friends and family, and don't miss out on my FREE offer. Enjoy the season!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

12 Ways to Break Through Writer's Block

Yay! Our first question from the first winner of my blog birthday giveaway:
Diana asks: "How do you deal with writer's block?" A great question, especially now that Nanowrimo has finished and some of us may be feeling completely burnt-out.

To answer Diana, I think it's important to define "writer's block." For me, it's whatever makes me want to run away from my writing:
  • Perfectionism.
  • Fear that my words won't match my vision.
  • Fear of not making the right choices.
  • Fear that I'm going too slow.
  • Fear of submission.
  • Fear of my own voice.
  • The WIP is just too big and ambitious.
Grrr! So how to burst through those blocks? How about:

 1. Collage. A stack of old magazines, a glue stick, a damp clean-up cloth, and some kind of paper or journal can keep me happy and "writing" for hours. There's something so dreamy and magical about the process, I could almost say it's the answer for every life problem in existence! Whether it's a scene, a character's wardrobe, or the solution to a plot-hole, collage can save the day.

2. Change genres. It's good advice to "write what you love to read," but sometimes you can too easily compare yourself to your favorite writers, and bingo--you're blocked. Try reading and/or writing in a genre you've never met before.

3. Make an appointment to meet yourself somewhere outside the house or usual work place. I particularly like bookstore cafes, but laundromats, hotel lobbies, and waiting rooms make great places to sit down and "just write" without the need to explain myself.

4. Take an old manuscript and tackle it from a different approach . An old,  unsold manuscript can feel like a millstone, one that's sapping your energy for fresh work. So start over: maybe the wrong character is telling the story. Or maybe you need several points of view. Perhaps present tense will add a new tension. Experiment.

5. Write with a friend. Writing with a buddy or a writer's group is a great way to stay productive. Go for at least an hour (no talking!); read your work to each other, then write for another hour.

6. Use a book of prompts such as A Writer's Book of Days by Judith Reeves for a month. Decide how many pages to write per day (5 is a good number), but don't re-read any of your writing until the end of the month.

7. At the end of the month, find the connections between your entries. The mind loves to create order out of chaos. Reading through a month's worth of freewriting is an excellent way to find a theme, a character, or a setting you want to explore more deeply.

8. What's on your mind? Try some letters to the editor, or concentrate on writing blog comments as a daily writing exercise.

9. Start a new blog on a topic you love, but don't usually write about. Save and print out your entries--submit them as articles, or turn them into a complete book!

10. Forget about publication. Get a special journal, pens, whatever makes you happy, and just write--anything. It's your writing, written for yourself and nobody else.

11. Write about your resistance to writing. What's stopping you from writing? Let it all out. Interview your writing and your characters. Ask them what the problem is. The answers may surprise you--and get you writing again.

12. Keep a "still-life" journal or notebook. Instead of worrying about transitions, plots, and character arcs, spend some time just writing descriptions. Take a cue from still-life paintings: what objects are included? What's the setting? Mood? Why? What is the artist trying to say? Keep adding entries even on the days you're writing full steam ahead.

Tip of the Day: As lofty as "write every day" may sound, the truth is you don't always HAVE to write to be a writer. Enjoying and participating in the world around you can be just as important, and necessary, as a daily word count. Read, draw, travel, visit antique or thrift stores, go for a walk, observe and play. Taking regular time-outs goes a long way to preventing creative block. And be sure to pay a visit to LadyDBooks--rest and renewal guaranteed!