Friday, October 28, 2011

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

This will be my third year to participate in NaNoWriMo, and I can hardly wait for November 1st to get here. Sure, it's a little bit crazy to commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. But I was a winner in 2009 and 2010, and I am going to try my best to do it again in 2011.

I was a "NaNo Rebel" last year; I did my first revision of The Wishing Box instead of starting a project from scratch. And I really need to revisit my previous project, which I haven't looked at since November 30, 2009. I actually pitched it to an agent at a conference last spring; she loved the plot and asked me to send her a partial. Unfortunately, the book wasn't ready to submit, so I dropped that ball, but I intend to pick it up again after the holidays.

The truth is I am much better equipped to do this than ever before. I have two years of solid writing experience under my belt, I have attended some great conferences and workshops, and I have read some wonderful books on craft. Finally, I am beginning to understand what it takes to build a story that will grab my reader's attention in the very first sentence and keep her turning the pages all the way until the end - and that I am going to need to start with an outline if I am going to pull that off. I am working on it, and plan to have the details in place by midnight, October 31st.

This morning, I finished reading two more books on the craft of writing, and I think it is going to be helpful to have them fresh in my mind as I begin Novel #3. These were the reviews I posted on Goodreads. I gave both books five stars. Highly recommended!

The first was Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. 

One of my writer buddies recommended this book to me after reviewing the first three chapters of my work-in-progress and I am so grateful she did. This is the best explanation I have ever seen of these three elements of fiction writing, how to incorporate them into one's work, and how to use them to simplify the process of writing the synopsis and querying agents and editors. My friend says she reads this book every time she gets ready to start a new project; I think I will, too.

The other was Writing For All You're Worth by James Scott Bell. 

James Scott Bell has done it again. A must-read for anyone who aspires to write quality fiction, this book contains information on the craft of writing, a glimpse into Bell's creative process and interviews with other successful authors. It is chock full of inspiring quotes, and even contains a section on National Novel Writing Month. 

Some of my online pals have posted some great info on preparing for NaNoWriMo, too. Larry Brooks of Storyfix has been blogging about it all month. And Debbie Maxwell Allen of Writing While the Rice Boils posted reviews and links to a couple of free resources to help get organized.

If you're one of those people who has dreamed of writing a book, there's no better time than National Novel Writing Month to take the plunge. Check out the website, create a profile, and go for it! And look for me there; my username is pamasberry. See you at the finish line!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Midweek Check-In

It may be unusually quiet here on my blog, but life has been anything but boring for me recently.
  • My dog developed a urinary tract infection, necessitating a trip to the vet and a twice-daily shoving of a pill down his throat. (Good Karma.)
  • My car needed service (and two front tires and a new battery, apparently).
  • I judged a piano festival last Saturday and will be judging another one this week-end.
  • I had a performance at my local piano teacher's association this morning, requiring extra practice and rehearsal time (click HERE to listen to a professional recording of one of our selections).
  • I am putting the finishing touches on my presentation for the state music teacher's conference next weekend.
  • I am gathering my thoughts for NaNoWriMo, reading books and blogs to get a better handle on what I need to do in terms of plotting my project before November 1st gets here, looking forward to the big kick-off in Atlanta on Sunday night.
All this in addition to my regularly scheduled life of piano teaching, child rearing, and cooking and cleaning.

Okay, not so much cleaning.

Please come back on Friday for a couple of book reviews and more about my plans for NaNoWriMo. In the meantime, please visit Writers Li.P.P. (click HERE) where I am sharing some of my favorite Halloween memories AND your opportunity to win our first-ever costume contest. Check it out! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meet me at Writers Li.P.P.

I'm blogging over at Writers Li.P.P. today (click HERE) with Things I Heard and Swore I Would Never Repeat. I would love to hear your insights on this one!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My new part-time job

I love the internet.

I have multiple pages on Facebook and multiple accounts on Twitter. I sell jewelry on Etsy, teach piano lessons on Skype, and have a profile on LinkedIn. I post pictures on Flickr and videos of my students on YouTube. I listen to music on Spotify; I create boards on Pinterest; I write book reviews at Goodreads. I have a MySpace page although I haven't logged in for months. I even have a Google Plus page although I can't imagine it replacing Facebook in my affections.

And I blog. Do I ever. I write two personal blogs - several times a week right here and daily at Between Birthdays. I blog twice weekly at Writers Li.P.P. with Lindy Chaffin Start. I blog once a month for the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. And I guest blog here, there, and everywhere.

Social networking is so much fun. I love making friends online almost as much as in person. Blogging is great, too. Writing nonfiction comes easily to me. If it didn't, I would be able to blog as prolifically as I do.

But you know what I want to accomplish more than anything else right now? I want to write an amazing work of fiction and see it published. The old-fashioned way. I want to go on a book tour and do book signings and talk to readers about my work and to writers about craft. But at the rate I'm going, that's not going to happen until I'm about 75. And I don't want to wait that long.

So you know what I'm going to do about it? I'm going to treat my writing like a real job, albeit a part-time job; I'm looking at 20 hours a week. My schedule will vary from day to day, depending on my piano teaching schedule, but I'm planning on working six days a week: 2 hours on Monday, 2 hours on Tuesday, 4 hours each Wednesday through Saturday. And when I am at work, I will be fully dressed and sitting at my desk, saying no to the web candy, doing whatever needs to be done: research, sending query letters, meeting a specific weekly word count goal.

I'm still hashing out the details. But intend to have this routine in place in time for NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I have a life. And NaNoWriMo is a part of it. More about that later this week.

Now, if you enjoy writing propped up on a pillow in bed with TweetDeck open, I'm not judging you. I'm just saying that isn't working so well for me these days.

I read a great blog post by Carol Kilgore from Under the Tiki Hut earlier this evening (click HERE). This was her advice:

(1) Write first. Blog, Facebook, Twitter second.
(2) Be yourself.

Simple. Straightforward. I like it.

This means, of course, that I won't be here every day. I probably should set up a blog calendar; if I weren't already overcommitted and over-scheduled, I would do just that. But I think I need a little more flexibility than that right now.

So this is what I promise.

I will post at Between Birthdays every day. If I am blogging on Writers Li.P.P., Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, or elsewhere in cyberspace, I will post a link. And when I have something more to say, I will show up and say it.

I have a lot to talk about. So check in often, okay?

And wish me luck at my new job.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Tour with Annie Rayburn!

My pal Annie Rayburn will be on a blog tour all week, talking about her latest release, Phantoms & Fantasies, on the first Georgia Romance Indie's Book Blog Tour.

Here is the schedule:

Monday, October 17th: WriterMason
Tuesday, October 18th: Live, Love, Write!
Wednesday, October 19th: Life, Love and a Good Book
Thursday, October 20th: Pink Fuzzy Slippers
Friday, October 21st: Linsey Lanier

Simply visit each blog on the appropriate day and comment for a chance to win a download of her book AND a chance to win her grand prize on Saturday.

A beautiful collection of semi-precious heart pendants and necklaces encased in a wooden jewelry box.
Because Annie's books revolve around matters of the heart.
That's right: comment EVERY DAY (including Saturday) and you will have SIX CHANCES to win Annie's grand prize on Saturday, October 22nd, when she wraps up the blog tour on her own blog and  chooses one name from among the qualified entrants. It's going to be a great week! So mark your calendar and don't miss a single day of this exciting event. Good luck to all! And congratulations and continued success, Annie!

Friday, October 14, 2011

I feel like a writer again.

Just prior to the M&M Conference, I learned that I won a three-page critique for leaving a comment on a blog post. This morning I submitted my pages to the published author who sponsored the contest; she got them back to me within hours.

It was the most detailed, thoughtful critique I have ever received. The good news is she "really likes my heroine."  Hearing that was especially welcome because a few months ago an agent told me she couldn't relate to my heroine at all. I made some changes to my manuscript as a result of her feedback, so maybe I am headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately, most of the rest was bad news. I mean, this author had other positive things to say about my writing. But when I look at all the critiques collectively, I see a lot that needs to be revised, some on a very basic level. In a way, this makes me sad. I identify strongly with my heroine; this is the story of my heart. On the other hand, this manuscript was my very first attempt at fiction writing; I used it to practice the most basic of fiction writing skills: setting, character, plot, point of view, scene, dialogue. 

Show, don't tell. Sigh. Will I ever learn?

I am convinced at this point that the only way to get this story right is to start again from scratch. Does that mean that all these hours I have spent working on this manuscript have been wasted? Of course not. But, for now at least, I think it is time to put The Wishing Box under my bed and get busy on my next project.

Over the next three weeks, I have three books queued up to read:

Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham

I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to accomplish that on top of practicing piano duet music for performance at the October 26th Gwinnett County Music Teachers Association meeting, preparing a presentation for the Georgia Music Teachers Association State Conference on November 2nd, and living my regular, scheduled life. But I am hoping that everything I learn will make this year's NaNoWriMo project my best effort to date.  

In the meantime, I am going to go ahead and submit The Wishing Box to the agent and editor I pitched to at M&M, as requested. And steel myself for rejection.

Believing that my best work is ahead of me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Try Something New For 30 Days

You've visited my blog Between Birthdays, right? I started it on my 52nd birthday, committing to try something new every day for an entire year, and I am 58 days strong so far.

It has been fun to experiment with new recipes, new restaurants, new venues, new books and television shows. But several of the new things I have tried have turned into longer term commitments.

Like practicing French. And playing the mandolin. These activities have become part of my daily routine.

Which is why I find this TED talk so intriguing.

What have you always wanted to try that you might be willing to commit to for 30 days? How can I help you meet your goal?

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Amazing Life List Revisited

What are you waiting for?
A couple of weeks ago, I revisited the Amazing Life List I posted on March 15, 2010. I have crossed off eleven items - numbers 16, 27, 37, 38, 40, 45, 50, 51, 56, 61, and 83, in case you are interested; eliminated a handful of tasks that are no longer important to me; and added a few more. That leaves me with 88 items to complete, as follows.

1. Spend a summer in France.
2. Spend a week in New York City; see the sights; attend a Broadway play.
3. Cruise to Alaska.
4. Vacation in Hawaii.
5. Go on a walking tour of Ireland.
6. Vacation in England/Scotland/Wales.
7. Spend a summer in the Mediterranean: Greece, Spain, Italy.
8. See Australia and New Zealand.
9. Go to Africa.
10. See the Grand Canyon.
11. Set foot in all 50 states.
12. See the Great Wall of China.
13. Visit Egypt.
14. Spend a summer driving across the United States, coast to coast, with no itinerary.
15. Return to Nantucket.
16. Visit Los Angeles.
17. Cruise through the Panama Canal.
18. Go on a cruise with my parents, children, and brother and sister-in-law.
19. Go on a cruise with Pat.
20. Do the Southern Caribbean cruise itinerary on Carnival Cruise Line.

21. See the Rockettes Christmas Show in New York City.
22. Attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
23. Be in the audience of the David Letterman show.
24. Drink a beer at Oktoberfest in Munich.
25. Attend a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.
26. Walk with the Sweet Potato Queens in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Jackson, Mississippi.
27. Attend my 40th high school reunion.

28. Read all of Jane Austen's novels.
29. Read War and Peace.

30. Finish, revise and polish my first novel.
31. Find a publisher for my novel.
32. Become a New York Times bestselling author.
33. Sign my book at an autograph session.
34. Have an article published in a national magazine.
35. Speak at a writing conference.
36. Attend a national writing conference.

37. Get a tattoo.
38. Review my French and speak it fluently.
39. Learn Spanish conversationally.
40. Learn shag dancing.

41. Bowl a 200+ game.
42. Speak in front of 1000 people.
43. Fly first class.
44. Serve on a jury.
45. Be an extra in a film.

46. Stop biting my fingernails.
47. Weigh 110 pounds.
48. Overcome water phobia and become a strong swimmer.
49. Start a running program.

50. Go parasailing.
51. Go sky diving.
52. Go up in a hot air balloon.
53. Walk/run a half-marathon.
54. Go snow skiing.
55. Swim with dolphins.

56. Get rid of everything I don't absolutely need or love.
57. Own a house at the beach (might be on a lake, might be on the ocean - doesn't matter as long as it's someplace warm).
58. Make it my dream home.
59. Establish an herb garden.
60. Plant an Eastern red cedar tree.
61. Keep chickens.
62. Get a kitten and name it Panzer.

63. Master Chopin's Scherzo in B-Flat Minor.
64. Master Mozart's Piano Concerto, K. 466, and perform it with an orchestra.
65. Learn how to play the hammered dulcimer.
66. Learn how to play the mandolin.
67. Write a song (piano and lyrics).
68. Sing karaoke in public.
69. Play in a music ensemble.

70. Own a grand piano.
71. Own a sexy car.
72. Own an iPad.

73. Crochet a granny square afghan.
74. Knit a pair of socks.
75. Knit a sweater.
76. Make a scrapbook photo album for each of my children.
77. Make a scrapbook album Book Of Me.
78. Organize my loose recipes/compile a family cookbook.
79. Make lye soap.
80. Make divinity.
81. Take a cake decorating class.
82. Go to pastry school.
83. Make memory quilts for my family.

84. Write a will.
85. Pay off my credit cards.
86. Achieve financial peace.

87. Fall madly in love with Mr. Right.
88. Have the wedding of my dreams.

Have you written your bucket list?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Jane Austen Book Club: Persuasion

Me wearing the cool t-shirt Denise designed just for our group.
My Jane Austen Book Club pals and I met yesterday to discuss our sixth and final book, Persuasion. As usual, we began at Denise's house for lunch and book study, and then reconvened at Jennifer's house for dinner and the corresponding movie.

Jennifer's house is always decked for the holidays.
Our main course was spinach rolls.
 For dessert, there was German Chocolate Pie. I wish I had taken a picture of that, too.
Aren't my friends beautiful? And let me assure you they are amazing inside and out. Despite the fact that everyone else had actually finished reading the book, since I had only made it halfway through they refused to discuss the story past the point at which I had stopped reading; we will plan encore meeting after I reach the end.

So now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with my Kindle.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You could be the lucky winner!

Romily Bernard, Pam Asberry, Emery Lee
I am blogging over at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales with 12 Things I Learned at M&M. Click HERE to read my post; leave a comment at the end for a chance to win a pair of sterling silver birthstone earrings handcrafted by yours truly. And if you haven't visited my blog Between Birthdays yet, please stop by today to find out about my struggles with the "A" chord (click HERE). As always, thank you for your support!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011 Moonlight and Magnolias, Part 2

Saturday was even more jam-packed than Friday. I worked the early shift at the raffle table again, then attended workshops every hour. First, there was Death and Taxes: Essentials of Federal Tax Reporting and Audit Survival with Diane Kelly and Becke Turner. Diane's book Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure comes out in November; I am really looking forward to that one! Next, I heard Megan Kelly's workshop Contest Slut to Published Author. My first contest experience didn't go so well, but if I heed Megan's advice, I can use contests to improve my writing and eventually sell my book - and develop thicker skin. After all, even J.K. Rowling gets negative reviews from time to time!

Pam Asberry and Megan Kelly
Then Wendy Wax gave a great workshop entitled Whose Story Is It Anyway? Writing Multiple Characters and Multiple POV's. Wendy is another of my favorite authors, and does a great job of weaving multiple points of view into her stories. As she explained, not only does this make it easier to expand subplots, it also creates more opportunities for the reader to identify with a character. I never thought about it that way before. She shared numerous examples from her own writing; as a result, I have a better understanding about how to do this in my own work.

Pam Asberry and Wendy Wax 
Finally, it was time for lunch! Keynote speaker Eloisa James gave a moving address, sharing anecdotes from her own life and letters from readers. Some were scathing; others were humorous; a few were very touching. Her point was that, regardless of how we might feel about a particular author or a particular genre, reading books provides us with an outlet to experience strong emotions that might be too painful to experience directly, and writing books offers us with a unique opportunity to offer such an outlet to others. I am so grateful to Eloisa for sharing this insight. After this weekend, she is at the top of my list of favorite authors and favorite people.

Eloisa James
Eyes brimming and head swimming, I headed to Tanya Michaels' workshop on Worldbuilding. I had never considered worldbuilding to be a part of writing women's fiction, but Tanya explained that whether we write urban fantasy, parnanormal, historical, or contemporary, we must create three-dimensional settings to make our books believable and unforgettable and shared numerous examples of how to go about that. I have no doubt that her practical advice will help to add a new depth to my novel writing.

Tanya Michaels
Then it was time for the book signing! I bought books by all the published authors whose workshops I attended and collected autographs them as well as from Annie Rayburn, Emery Lee, and Haywood Smith, AND I got an advanced reader copy of The Doctor's Mission signed by Debbie Kaufman. Lucky me!

Debbie Kaufman and Pam Asberry
After a short nap, a quick shower, and a change of clothes, it was time for the Maggie Banquet and Awards Ceremony. My pal Bryonna Nobles-Stern posted a list of winners HERE. I was proud to see many of my fellow Georgia Romance Writers walk up on stage to collect their well-deserved prizes. 

Bryonna Nobles-Stern, Pam Asberry, Lindy Chaffin Start
At the conclusion of the ceremony, DJ Silver Knight took center stage and we danced the night away.

I wanted to take the DJ home with me but my friends said no.
I was one of the last women standing - romance writers are a fun bunch, indeed - but I was up and at 'em for one final workshop on Sunday morning, Leigh Michaels intensive craft workshop Writing Between the Sexes. She listed the most common differences between men and women and discussed how we can use that knowledge to help make our characters more believable. Good stuff!

Weekends don't get much better than this. But now it's back to reality, and beginning the hard work of assimilating all this information and using it on a daily basis. After a several-week break from fiction writing, I am ready. Thanks to everyone who helped make the 2011 Moonlight and Magnolias Conference an overwhelmingly positive experience. I'm already counting the days until next year!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011 Moonlight and Magnolias, Part 1

Georgia Romance Writers 2011 Moonlight and Magnolias Conference has come and gone, but the friendships made and knowledge gained will live forever.

First, meet our conference co-chairs, whose dedication and hard work made the event such a huge success.
Anna Steffl and Sally Kilpatrick, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I was up and at 'em bright and early Saturday as I was in charge of basket raffle sales from 8-9. Lots of generous folks donated beautiful baskets filled with autographed books, wine, candy and assorted other goodies - even a Kindle! Then I made my way to the pitch workshop with published author Maria Geraci. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture with her so I lifted this one from her website.

Maria Geraci
I pitched my manuscript to her and she suggested ways to improve it, including ditching the note card I was reading from. Obviously, her advice was sound because both the agent and the editor I pitched to later in the conference requested a synopsis and a partial. Thanks, Maria!

Next, I went to GRW chapter president Nicki Salcedo's workshop, Turning the Other Cheek. Nicki shared her thoughts on how to use the toughest of criticism to our advantage, and explained why we should never, ever stop writing. I had an opportunity to talk more with Nicki about this later, asking specific questions related to my recent contest experience, and her insights were very helpful. You are the best, Nicki!

Nicki Salcedo
After lunch with my fellow committee members, I attended a workshop with Gabi Stevens about theme in our novels. I didn't really understand what theme was before I took this workshop. It turns out that theme is determined AFTER plot and characterizations are in place, then can be used to strengthen one's work during the revision process as well as to help when writing the synopsis. Useful, practical information! Thanks for turning on this light bulb in my head, Gabi!

Gabi Stevens & Pam Asberry

After the workshops ended, it was time for the meet and greet cocktail hour with one of my favorite authors, GRW's own Karen White. She delivered a great address in which she shared five (actually, six) things she has learned since becoming a published author. My favorite was, "Voodoo dolls are great and can be surprisingly effective but nothing beats surrounding yourself with good people, friends and fellow writers." Amen, Karen!
Karen White
Next on the agenda was Dining in Decatur. Small groups gathered in the lobby and chose various restaurants to try. My group went to Siam Thai; you can read more about my experience HERE. Great food, great friends, great fun! 

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a three-hour PRO workshop with Pam Vernado, Mary Barfield, Tamara DeStefano, and Connie Gillam on how to analyze a story, whether written or on film, for goal/motivation/conflict, symbolism, tension, pacing, and dramatic turning points. Interesting and informative; well done, ladies!

What a great day it was. But wait; there's more! Come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday, Monday

Showgirls Pam Asberry & Lindy Chaffin Start.
Available to provide entertainment at your next event.  NOT!
The Moonlight & Magnolias Conference was everything I hoped it would be and more. I intended to blog every day from the hotel, but my internet connection was slow and unreliable and after getting kicked off mid-post several times I ditched that plan. However, I took lots of pictures and made pages and pages of notes, so I have much to share over the course of the week ahead.

First, though, I need to finish unpacking and sorting through the piles of books and promotional materials I brought home from the conference and get Thursday's Petit Fours and Hot Tamales post in the queue (click HERE to see Tami Brothers' thoughtful post on women's friendship today). In the meantime, I hope you will pop over to Writers Li.P.P. (click HERE) and check out my latest insights on time management. It's quite a departure from what you have read here before. Let me know what you think.