Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading Recap for 2013!

I said I wasn't going to do it, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I set a stupidly lofty goal of reading 100 books this year. Yes, I completed it, (I actually read 103) but only because I rarely leave goals uncompleted. It's in my blood. Also, I should not that about a third of the books were on audio, but they were still full versions.

Last year I said I was going to set a better, more-realistic goal for myself for the year: To find 12 books I really love. Well, I completed that goal too! If you're looking for some fantastic books to read, check my sidebar (13 books actually made it to my 12 awesome books list - I couldn't decide.)

So I won't go over those, but I wanted to add a specialized list here, to give you a few more thoughts into the books I enjoyed and why I enjoyed them this year. Not all of these books were published in 2013, but they are all books I read during the year.

Don't Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I'd Say to My KidsThe book that made me LOL the most: Don't Lick the Minivan by Leanne Shirtliffe
- If you have kids or have ever considered having kids, this is a great book for you. My husband was constantly asking me, "What? What are you laughing at?" followed by, "Oh, you're reading that book again."

The book that inspired me the most: It's Not Just Gymnastics; It's Life by Lance Ringnald
- I started this book feeling old and like I was generally losing interest in uncovering the strong and flexible person I used to be, but since March, since reading this book, I've been excited about working out again, trying new things physically, and even writing my own book concerning some of this stuff (more to come on that!) I love reading biographies of interesting people, and this book was definitely that.

The Book that I was the most conflicted about: Just One Year by Gayle Forman
- It's a little hard to go into why I was so conflicted about this book without giving spoilers. Let me just say that I LOVED the setting (Holland! India! Paris!) of this book, I LOVED the self-discovery, I LOVED the writing... but partway through, I started getting frustrated with the plot. I did something I NEVER do: I skipped ahead to the ending. It helped rid me of my frustration, and I was able to go back and enjoy the rest of the book, but I didn't love the ending, and had I not skipped ahead (which I still feel oddly guilty about) I think I would have found it a very frustrating read.

The most romantic book I read this year: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
- I'm not sure what else to say about this, except I just wanted to hug this book over and over and over again.

The Lucy VariationsThe most artsy book I read this year: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
- (Followed closely by This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales). I love books where the main character is very skilled at an art of some kind, and this was such a book. It reminded me a little of Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez. Both books really inspire me to work harder at being me in my art.

If I had to pick a favorite book this year? I'd have to go with the Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han
The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)- Sorry, there's no way I could pick just one of these books. I loved them all, and I especially loved how they fit together. I listened to this series on audio, and actually listened to the whole series twice in a row, because I just didn't want these characters to stop being in my life.

So those are some of my favorites and whys...Now I'd love to hear yours!

If you want to see the full list of books I read this year, check out my GoodReads page.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy Holidays!



I didn't make it by here to do a Writing Prompt Wednesday or a Fast Fiction Friday this week, but I did want to stop by to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and many warm wishes to all of you!

I've been enjoying time with family and friends, as well as using my spare moments to work hard on finishing up some writing work that I can't tell you about quite yet. But soon!

I hope to be back next week with a recap of what I've read this year, favorite books, most-impacting books, that sort of thing. In the meantime, I'd love to hear some of your favorite books of the year.

I have a lot of hope that 2014 will be an exceptional year. I'll be spending some time thinking of what I want in life and what direction I see myself moving forward, as well as writing some goals for the year.

Wishing you and your families many, many blessings for next week, next year, and for the years to come!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday: The Smells of the Holidays!

Everywhere I go these days I either smell gingerbread or eggnog. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE these smells, and in fact, these smells are probably part of what makes me love this time of year so much.

With that in mind, think of your characters' favorite smells. What are they? How often do they get a chance to smell these favorite smells? Do these smells stir up any special memories for your characters?

How can you introduce one of these favorite smells for one of your characters today? What is his or her reaction? Can you pull up a memory of either the last time he or she smelled this smell or the first time?


Friday, December 13, 2013

Fast Fiction Friday: Respect Your Beta Readers

Good critique partners and beta readers are worth their weight in gold.

My readers are an integral part of my revision process, and when we're talking about getting a book into a polished state in as quick of time as possible, one of the first things to look at is finding the right readers for your books. And then KEEPING those right readers, once you've found them.

Finding appropriate, helpful readers, quite honestly, is a matter of trial and error. Your readers, hopefully, should enjoy the majority of what you write, even if they do see flaws in it. You don't want the process to be like pulling teeth for them, or it will take them six months or more to provide you with feedback.

Part of finding good readers is BEING a good reader. When someone asks you for help with their manuscript, make an effort to clear your schedule and read it in a timely manner. Then, hopefully, they will do the same for you when it comes time for them to read one of your books. Try to provide the most helpful and fully-explained feedback you can. Think of how clearly you would want it worded if you were hearing it about your work.

Then, when it comes time to sending your work out to these helpful, timely readers, don't send them unpolished garbage writing. Make it as good as you can on your own before sending it out. Get yourself a text-to-speech program (I use the one on my Kindle) to play back your story with an ear for typos and clunky sentences. You can hear the difference between "She went to her house" and "She went to her hose" even on the most computerized voice. Honestly, I think it comes across as disrespectful to a reader's time if you haven't taken the time to make your writing as easy as possible for them to read.

When it's as good as you can make it, then send your writing out to one or two people (save some readers for the next revision round - always assume there will be a next round).

 There are some parts of the process that are going to take time, they just are. But the idea here is to make them take the least amount of time possible.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

GCC Presents KICKING IT, Including a Story by Lucienne Diver!

 Another member of our Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit is celebrating the release of an anthology. I'm excited to share with you: KICKING IT...




Featuring stories by SHANNON K. BUTCHER * RACHEL CAINE * LUCIENNE DIVER * CHRIS MARIE GREEN * CHRISTINA HENRY * FAITH HUNTER * CHLOE NEILL * KALAYNA PRICE * ROB THURMAN

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine has modern-day potions witches Holly and Andrew facing off against a firebrand politician who wears literally killer boots in a Texas-sized rodeo of trouble.

Boot-loving Cadogan vampire Lindsey must team up with off-again, on-again vampire partner Luc when a woman from her past is targeted by supernaturals in New York Times bestselling author Chloe Neill’s all-new adventure.

And New York Times bestselling author Rob Thurman features Trixa Iktomi from her Trickster series dealing with magical vengeance and magical footwear.

Taking kick-ass urban fantasy literally, USA Today bestselling authors Kalayna Price and Faith Hunter bring together the best of the genre to once again prove when you’re fighting supernatural forces, it helps to keep your feet on the ground.

Lucienne Diver's story – “The Parlor” (set in the world of the Latter-Day Olympians series)
Tori Karacis, P.I. and part gorgon, goes undercover in a gambling den to get the lowdown on a client’s delinquent husband.  What she finds are disappearances tracing back to The Parlor going back years and a sinister proprietess who makes sure that even when you win, you lose.



Excerpt:
Boss lady.  It was what my assistant Jesus (pronounced Hey-Zeus) called me.  Times like these I missed the hell out of him.  I could only imagine his scathing commentary on the place.  "Tinfoil bikinis, really?  It's like The Wizard of Oz meets the deli counter. If I only had a style..." 

Quotes:
Taking kick-ass urban fantasy literally, USA Today bestselling authors Kalayna Price and Faith Hunter bring together the best of the genre to once again prove when you’re fighting supernatural forces, it helps to keep your feet on the ground.” — All Things Urban Fantasy
“The writing in this anthology is excellent and the stories are a mix of fun, edge of your seat kick ass action, and great characters… Kalayna and Faith did a great job of bringing together some of the best writers of urban fantasy!” —Kings River Life
“If you need a break and want to read some short and sweet, yet plenty kick-ass, urban fantasy gems featuring plenty of girl power, you’re in for a treat! There’s something here for just about every UF fan, and I only covered the tip of the spiked heel!” —My Bookish Ways

Author Bio:
Lucienne Diver writes the Latter-Day Olympians urban fantasy series for Samhain, featuring a heroine who can, quite literally, stop men in their tracks.  Long and Short Reviews gave the first in the series her favorite pull-quote of all times, "Bad Blood is a delightful urban fantasy, a clever mix of Janet Evanovich and Rick Riordan.”  Sequels: Crazy in the Blood and Rise of the Blood.  She also writes the popular Vamped young adult series (think Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Her short stories have been featured in the Strip-Mauled and Fangs for the Mammaries anthologies edited by Esther Friesner and, of course, the Kicking It anthology new from Roc Books.  Her essay on abuse is included in the Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories anthology from HarperTeen. 

Links:
Author’s website: http://www.luciennediver.com/

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday: Make Them Wait!

I'm a little late getting this up today. Life has been busy. I started the day hanging out with a fun and lively group of teens at nearby high school, teaching on writing with emotion. Then I had to wait in line to cross the border, only to wait in more lines in the U.S., and then wait in line to get back to Canada.

So, with this in mind, my writing prompt for this week is to make your character wait. What does your character really want that he or she suddenly has to wait for? What is his/her reaction to the waiting? Do they take it in stride, or start throwing objects at the wall?


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Full Book Jacket For FAST FICTION!

I am thrilled to finally be able to show the full book jacket for FAST FICTION. It has snippets of blurbs from endorsers on the back (the full endorsements will be on a teaser page in the front of the book).

I couldn't be prouder of how this looks and all the wonderfully kind words included here!

(click to see larger)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Blurbs for FAST FICTION!

I'll have the full book jacket to show you tomorrow, but I have the full list of blurbs. I'm absolutely thrilled (and humbled) by this wonderful list of endorsements!

Praise for Fast Fiction

Fast Fiction is filled with stellar advice, solid-gold tips, and doable, practical exercises for all writers who want to draft a complete novel.”
— Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway

“Being a ‘pantser’ I have always resisted outlining, but I have to say that Fast Fiction changed my mind! Denise Jaden takes what I find to be a scary process (outlining) and makes it into an easy and, dare I say, enjoyable one. Fast Fiction is a hands-on book that asks the right questions to get your mind and your story flowing. I know I’ll be using Fast Fiction over and over again. Highly recommended for fiction writers!
— Janet Gurtler, author of RITA Award finalist I’m Not Her

Fast Fiction is full of strategies and insights that will inspire and motivate writers of every experience level — and best of all, it provides them with a solid plan to quickly complete the first draft of their next novel.”
— Mindi Scott, author of Freefall

Fast Fiction provides writers with the perfect mix of practical guidance and the kick in the pants they need to finish that draft. This book is a must-have for writers of all levels.”
— Eileen Cook, author of The Almost Truth

“Practical and down-to-earth, Denise Jaden’s Fast Fiction makes a one-month draft seem doable, even for beginners, any month of the year.”
— Jennifer Echols, author of Endless Summer and Playing Dirty

“One of the greatest challenges any writer faces is getting a great idea out of one’s brain and onto the page. Fast Fiction breaks that process down into concrete, manageable steps, each accompanied by Denise Jaden’s sage advice and enthusiastic encouragement. And anything that helps streamline the drafting process is a-okay by me! Fast Fiction is a great addition to any writer’s toolbox — I’ve got it in mine!”
— Catherine Knutsson, author of Shadows Cast by Stars

“Forget the fact that this resource is directed at those wanting to complete a fast draft — if you’re out to get your novel done, period, Jaden’s Fast Fiction will be the kick in the butt that gets you there, from story plan to ‘The End’. . . and beyond.”

— Judith Graves, author of the Skinned series for young adults

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fast Fiction Friday: A Time For Fast and A Time For Slow

Even though I'm a big advocate of fast-drafting a first draft, I don't believe in rushing the entire process of writing a novel. Brainstorming my plot and character ideas, for example, will often take months or even years.

Once I finish a fast draft, I'm also not in any hurry to send it off to publishing professionals. Sending out messy, incongruent, unpolished writing will only give you a bad name in the business of publishing, because people in this business are very, very busy.

After a fast draft, I recommend taking some time to clear your head from the project. Generally, my books take over a year from conception to a point where I feel they are ready to sell. Much of that time is due to the process of either head-clearing or waiting for beta readers to get back to me. The best thing you can do for yourself is try to align those two chunks of time.

When you send your book to a beta reader, don't look or even think about it while you're waiting for feedback. And when you receive feedback, unless you're decisively clear about how to take that person's criticism and implement it to make an infinitely-better book, then sit on the suggestions for two weeks and then read them again before making changes. Sometimes our brains need time to rest, and sometimes they need time to digest new directions.

So, yes, there is a time to go fast (I even complete revisions quickly when I'm very clear about what I want to do) but there's also a time to go slow and let your mind have lots of resting space.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday: Make a List

Are you a list maker? I am. Sometimes I make lists of things I've done or am about to do, just for the pure joy of crossing them off my list. If you're not a list maker, is one of your characters? And if not, could they be, just for today?

Wherever you're at in today's writing and/or revising stop and make a list for your main character. There are lots of things your character could list (in his or her own voice), but here are a few ideas to start you off:

1. List everything that is wrong in his or her life right now.
2. List everything that is GOOD in his or her life right now - a thankful list.
3. List five things that no one else knows about your main character.
4. List five things your main character is proud of.
5. List ten people your main character values most and why he or she values them.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Musings on Writerly Insecurity

Well, it's that time in the publishing process again. Advance copies of my next book, FAST FICTION, have gone out, and I'm panicking because what if it's not actually well-written or insightful or even readable? Despite the fact that I've already received several endorsements from authors I respect, honestly, the thoughts that go through my head daily range from "YAY, a good blurb! Maybe the book is actually good!" to..."This person is probably just being nice." to... "What on earth makes you think you're some kind of writing expert, Denise?"

Nothing. That's the answer. I never said I was a writing expert. The voices in my head just come in and try to trick me into thinking I did! I know I'm not alone. Stephanie Perkins's recent honest post about the voices in her head is great evidence of that. Plus, almost every day I talk to writers who are facing insecurity about their writing for one reason or another.

So what to do about it? That is the question.

In the past, I've done a few things: I've regularly talked to other writers about my insecurity. This is a HUGE help, because right away I'm reminded that I'm really far from alone in this horrible emotional state. Besides that, writers KNOW what to say to other writers.

Another thing I've done in the past is spent some time on GoodReads. I know what you're thinking...isn't that COUNTERPRODUCTIVE to finding any kind of security? But, no, I don't go on there to look up my own books. Instead, I head on over there and look up some of my favorite books. Then I scroll down to find the one-star reviews. Of course I completely disagree with these people who obviously don't know what they're talking about. But seriously, the whole process is a great reminder for me of how subjective the reading process really is. No book pleases everybody.

One other thing I've done for many years now is keep a "Happy Emails" file in my email program. Anything good and positive that makes me smile gets filed away in there. When I need a reminder that my writing has been enjoyed by some people out there, I head over there and re-read a few emails (these are from readers, yes, but also from friends and critique partners, and many of these date back to before any of my books were published).

Besides the above things, here is what else I've been doing lately: I've been reminding myself why I wrote FAST FICTION. With my other non-fiction writing book, WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART, the book grew out of a workshop presentation I had put together, and then got expanded on exponentially when I experienced a great deal of grief in my life. It was a very personal book, and I remember saying after I published it, "No, I'm not really a non-fiction writer. I doubt I'll ever write another non-fiction book. This one just came from a special place in my life and my heart."

But, of course, that wasn't the case. With FAST FICTION, as the title suggests, the idea and structure of the whole book hit me very suddenly. I based the whole thing off of my own experience in fast drafting and what has worked for me, as well as fast-drafting successes and failures that I've discussed with writer friends. From the very beginning, I knew there are many methods to drafting a book, and what I was writing would only be one of them. I hope it will be helpful to a lot of people, but I knew from the onset that it probably won't be for everyone. However, I used the actual laid-out plan of FAST FICTION for my own #NaNoWriMo project this year, and I had hit 50-thousand words by November 16 - my fastest year yet! And I'm happy with the story I just wrote.

So, yes, there are ups and downs. If we are going to put our writing out there for others to read, there will always be ups and downs. There will always be subjectivity. There will always be outside forces that threaten to come in and shake up our view of ourselves, our giftings, and our purposes in the writing world. This is just how I'm dealing with mine...so far.

I'd love to hear thoughts from other writers on this, because I know from experience that this is just the beginning of the insecurity I will face with each book..

So how do you deal with writerly insecurity? Please, please, please share all of your tips and tricks!