Monday, October 24, 2016

In Eight Days

National Novel Writing Month begins in eight days, at which time hundreds of thousands of writers all over the planet will start their race toward the 50K finish line. In order to win NaNoWriMo, a writer has to produce at least 1667 words per day, or 12,500 words per week. It's madness, and crazy fun, and the best free writing competition out there.

Why should anyone try to write 50,000 words in thirty days? In the two years since I went freelance as a ghost writer I've averaged writing about 75,000 words per month (and that's not counting free stories or what I wrote here at PBW.) As a pro novelist before that I averaged about 50-60K per month -- and I did that for sixteen years. I am very fast, so I do write more per day than the average writer. That said, if you want either job, you probably should give full-time writing a test-drive first. NaNoWriMo is an excellent way to find out if you can handle writing a great many words under the pressure of a deadline.

For experienced writers, writing a novel in November is a chance to play with new ideas, take a break from your ongoing projects, and/or just write something you've always wanted to. Does it pay off? Depends on what you write and what you decide to do with it after November. I eventually sold the rights to Harry's Charm, the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2009, which was later published as the first book in my AH steampunk Disenchanted & Co. series. I just sold the French rights for those books and two other stories to an overseas publisher this past summer, too. Bottom line: if not for NaNo I probably would never have written any of them.

Work prevents me from joining in this year, but I've got my pom poms ready for all of you who decide to dive in on November 1st. In all the years I've participated what's always delighted me most is how beautifully our community of writers comes together to support each other. The NaNoWriMo forums are wonderful places to chat with other participants, ask questions and find some valuable resources. You can also find local groups in your region that meet up in real life to have write-ins and encourage each other. As promised I'll be posting lots of things here at PBW that I hope will be helpful during November, too.

If you're not thrilled by the ninja can opener official participant badges they have this year, here's one I designed:

The tiger photo is one I took this year, and everyone has my permission to use and distribute it for nonprofit purposes. For supporters like me, here's another:

Also a photo I took, and the same permission as the tiger badge applies.

Finally, to kick off the helpful stuff, here are some NaNo treasures from my archives:

Writer's Knowledge Base -- Elizabeth S. Craig's search engine for writers can find the writing-related online help you need very fast.

OneLook Reverse Dictionary -- for when you have a definition or concept for which you need a word. Describe it in the search box, click and get a related words list.

For links to my Outlining 101 post and thirteen other links to outlining resources and tools, click here.

All ten of these word count meters I listed last year for NaNo are still available online.

So who will be writing a novel in November? Let us know in comments.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Second Time Around

This is my Gypsy quilt that I made during Hurricane Matthew, constructed entirely of cutter quilt pieces, an old quilted pillow sham, the sham's backing fabric and some vintage soft white muslin. Even the binding is a leftover from another project. I tried this as an experiment to see if I could make a new quilt out of some old quilted pieces, and it turned out even better than I expected (the Roman numeral II in the center was just a happy accident, btw.)

Here you see what I started with as raw materials. My pillow sham had different fabrics from the pink quilted pieces, but the colors went well together. For more contrast or a crazier look, you can use pieces that are all wildly different. You'll want to trim and lay out everything as you want it to fit together to assure you don't have any spaces between your quilted pieces. Also, keep your main pieces fat-quarter size or bigger to cut down on the number of joining strips you'll have to use to put them together.

I cut the pillow sham backing fabric into 2" strips, which I ironed into 1-1/2" strips with 1/4" folds on either side. These strips are what you use to join the pieces of your quilt together. You can also use wide single-fold bias binding if you don't want to iron strips.

It's important to have very straight edges on your quilted pieces, because you're going to join them together with your folded/bias strips. Pin them together so the quilted piece edges are flush, not overlapping, under your folded/bias strips, and then sew down (by hand or by sewing machine) each side of the strips. Two notes on this step: If your quilted pieces are very thick you'll probably need to use a walking foot on your sewing machine. Also, if you don't want to do any hand-sewing, start joining the back of the quilt first, and make your strips for the back 1/4" to 1/2" narrower than your strips for the front of the quilt, so the front strips hide the machine stitching.

This is what it looks like when you join two quilted pieces together. From there you just have to pin and sew your strips all over.

The back of my quilt, with Skye hiding her head behind it. I hand-sewed the white strips to cover the joined seams on the back because we didn't have any power.

Because the pieces I recycled for this were already quilted, once I finished sewing my joining strips all I had to do was bind the quilt, and it was done -- and it took only four days from start to finish. If you have some old damaged quilts or quilted pieces you want to recycle, this is a fun way to make them into a practical, pretty project. This also works if you want to quilt smaller pieces and then join them together (versus piecing and basting your layers and then quilting the whole quilt.)

My idea was inspired by Bill Peschel's wife, Teresa, and her series of very cool NotQuilt posts on his blog.

Monday, October 17, 2016

After Matthew Part II

Things are finally getting back to normal here after Hurricane Matthew. The power is back on (hopefully for good this week), our cable is working again, the roads have been cleared and we've finished cleaning up our yard mess. All my guy has left to do is chop up the one tree we lost:

My guy and I decided to take a drive down to Daytona to get away for a day and find out how they fared, and as you can see from the pictures I snapped the beach took a hard hit:

The Hilton's first floor was completely flooded, and they've had to gut every room on that level as they dry out. Everywhere we saw things that were sand-blasted, warped or buried by the storm surge. Even the boardwalk stairs down to the sand were smashed to smithereens. It looked to me like half the beach itself was gone. Part of A1A was still closed as they worked on repairing the road. But their cleanup efforts were stupendous, and the local businesses and hotels were open, so recovery is well underway.

Monday, October 10, 2016

After Matthew

Thanks to everyone who prayed and e-mailed and left messages for us during Hurricane Matthew. We made it through the storm in better shape than we expected; some of the siding on our house peeled off, and we had some roof and tree damage, but we lost only one old oak at the back of our property.

The wind was definitely the biggest issue for us; it took my guy a day to clean up all the debris that blew into our yard from other places. We have lovely neighbors who helped out without us even asking. Other than some big rain puddles we had no flooding to speak of here. The power failures, phone and cable disruptions during and after the storm could have been a lot worse, too. No one in our extended family suffered any unfixable damages, either.

Bottom line: we were very, very fortunate. Much of our part of the country was not as lucky, and we are keeping everyone in the southeast in our prayers.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Storm Hiatus

Paperback Writer will be on hiatus for the duration of Hurricane Matthew and the aftermath. I'm hoping that won't be too long, and I'll check in with you all whenever I can. In the meantime, please send good thoughts our way.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Storm Prep

The National Hurricane Center has posted an advisory here on Hurricane Matthew, which is currently a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 140 mph. The Caribbean is likely to take a hard hit, but beyond that they're not sure where Matthew will go. North is pretty much a given. You can take a look at the latest projection cone here, and I strongly recommend everyone in the southeast keep an eye on this one.

If you're ever in or around the path of a hurricane, you should know your route out if you will be facing an evacuation. Florida residents, you can find yours here by county. If you're going to stay home and hunker down during the storm, it's absolutely vital to have a disaster kit ready, including enough drinking water and non-perishable foods in the event you're cut off in the aftermath. I can speak from personal experience on this; after four hurricanes in a row hit us back in 2004, we felt very lucky that we had prepared so well in advance. We lived without power and running water for 21 days until they finally cleared the roads enough for us to drive out and restock.

I live in a rural area, so if we take a hit here from Hurricane Matthew it will probably be a while before our power and cable service are restored. I'll report in when I can. In the meantime, everyone in the danger zone please prepare for this, and be safe.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Book(s) of the Month

This week I have lots of book news, beginning with a heads-up from Library Thing that I've won a copy of 50 Ways to Wear Denim by Lauren Friedman from the September batch of Early Reviewer Program books. It might seem like an odd choice, but I've been trying to put my name in for a wider assortment of available titles. This increases my chances of being selected, and I can also test-drive some new-to-me genres and authors. While I don't own a lot of denim clothes, I thought I might learn something that would tempt me to wear what I have more often. I'm also going to have my very fashionable daughter take a look at it and share her thoughts.

I usually start talking about National Novel Writing Month in August, but being off on hiatus has me a bit behind. They've already posted the official participant badges and banners here, and, well, let's be honest: the little space guy looks like an elaborate ninja can opener. I'll see if I can put together something slightly more attractive to offer as an alternative. As I mentioned earlier this year I won't be joining in the fun, but as always I will write up some pep talks, hunt down some helpful links and otherwise shake my pom poms from the sidelines for all of you who decide to write a book in thirty days this November.

My book of the month for September was actually a short story: Second Son by Lee Child, which can be found in the back pages of his novel The Affair. It can also be purchased as a standalone e-book.

This was not a new read for me; it happens to be one of my favorite short stories of all time, so there wasn't much the other books I read could do to compete. As a very early prequel to the Jack Reacher series Second Son meshes quite well with the novels, and explains a bit of the mysterious family dynamic that resulted in Reacher becoming the somewhat psycho savior he was fated to be. It's intensely satisfying to see how Reacher deals with a bully and manages to solve two other mysteries in the process. I will caution you all that there is a particularly vicious fight scene between minors, and if bullying and violence between kids are triggers for you, you should give it a pass.

Expect some clean, spare, precise (almost surgical) depictions of Reacher and some other very interesting people. There are fascinating glimpses into the lives of children who travel with an active duty military parent. Each time I read it I fall a little in love with Reacher's father, too; his POV is presented just briefly but it makes the whole story. I think it works well as a standalone, and as an introduction to this universe (if you are one of the two or three people left on Earth who haven't read this author, start here.) It's not so long that you get mired down in a lot of stuff you won't need to know if you want to move on to the series, either. On top of that it's superbly written. I highly recommend it.

What was your book of the month for September? Let us know in comments.