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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ready for #NaNoWriMo ?

I should probably be thinking about getting my son's Snake Eye's costume ready for Halloween. But no. My mind is on NaNo. I plan to spend the day reading through my outline, crossing my fingers I'll actually like it (I haven't looked back at it in several weeks). At this point, I don't remember the names of most of my characters.

I'll have my handy word count widget in the sidebar, if you want to keep track of how I'm doing. My goal is 60,000 words. Last year I blew on by my goal and ended somewhere around 93,000 words. I don't expect anything like that this year, as I'm going to be vacationing in the midst of NaNo.

How about you? Are you ready? If not, what are you doing to get ready?

If you're signed up on the NaNoWriMo site, my username is denisej over there. Happy writing, friends! And for those who are not doing NaNo, well, happy living, I guess.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Four

1. If you missed my highlights from the Surrey International Writers' Conference, you can find it here.

2. Our bathroom now looks like this:

Toilet training a cat is a bigger and messier job than I anticipated. Plus, as my good friend Angelina mentioned, Indy seems to like to do her number 1's in the toilet, but number 2's in another place entirely (thankfully she has discovered that I stashed her litter pan in the basement!) She's a really great kitty, and we definitely don't want to do anything that will change that. So I may be giving up on this venture. Unless anyone out there has some great advice on how to make this work?

3. We're in the midst of planning a family vacation to Orlando. But I just heard that there's supposed to be some big east coast storm that we should be concerned about. Regardless, we're still excited. My son is spending all his time on YouTube these days, looking up rides and deciding which ones he might be daring enough to try.

4. I'm trying not to think about NaNoWriMo, because as it happens every year, I'm so close to starting and I'm suddenly terrified that I won't remember how to write. Or won't be dedicated enough. Or the story idea I had will clearly suck by chapter two. Am I alone here?

Today I'm having a Nano prep class with my 8 year old and a  group of his friends that are participating this year. So I guess I better pull myself up by my bootstraps and start pretending that I have complete control of things like motivation and inspiration.

Happy weekend, everyone! Anyone dressing up for parties? I still need costume ideas...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Highlights From #SIWC2012

I had a FABULOUS time at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference last weekend. I always do, and yet every year I seem to debate whether or not I’ll be able to go again. I get so much out of this event, I NEED to go, even if it means sacrifices. Somebody please remind me of this next July.

So much inspiration. So many new tools for my writerly toolkit. I wanted to share a smattering of my favorite bits from workshops and keynotes over the weekend, but this is by no means comprehensive. Many of the workshop notes will be available through the SIWC blog or website, or through the individual authors’ websites, in case you were unable to make it.
Here are a few of my favorite snippets…

The Room Party
We started meeting with our made-of-awesome Calgary friends a few years ago in one of our rooms with several bottles of wine. It has become an event, and it seems to grow each year. Here’s a little snapshot (thanks Trish Loye Elliot) from this year’s get together:

Yep, we can pack a lot of people into a hotel room!

Pitches and Cardiac Arrest
During my early years at the Surrey conference, I spent at least half my time in the “pitch room” giving pitches of my projects to agents and editors in 10 minute spurts (this is how I actually met my editor, the fantastic Anica Rissi, for Losing Faith) or sitting in terrified silence as published authors read and dissected my work during Blue Pencil appointments.

I arrived at this year’s conference knowing I didn’t need to pitch anything, but thinking maybe I should make a Blue Pencil appointment for one of the many works in progress I have on the go. I arrived at the table outside the pitch room where you make appointments, and my heart started to beat faster. It wasn’t really fear, but the memory of fear. And it also had this addictive quality. I felt like once I booked my first appointment, I’d probably end up standing in lineups and booking ten more. This year I chose to walk away and try to get the most out of the workshops instead.
It was a good choice, because there were some AMAZING workshops. But...I have to admit, my pitch addiction didn't go completely unused over the weekend. I ended up sitting with an agent during one of the lunches, and though I have an agent I'm thrilled with, I couldn't seem to help from pitching my friend's book (and getting a request from him to see her manuscript (!!!)

The Workshops

Here are a few of my favorite snippets…
On Writing Dialogue, with brilliant Eileen Cook:
“You can’t un-know what you already know. The author knows it all, but to a reader, it may just seem like random clapping.”
“In fiction, dialogue needs a purpose, or even better, multiple purposes. It should advance the plot, reveal characters. What people say or don’t say gives us a lot.”
“Avoid adverb overload. “You bitch,” he said angrily. – How else would he say it?”
“Think about how upbringing and social status affect your character’s word choice. How does a low income person express anger? How about a British high roller?”
“Is this dialogue happening at the worst possible place or time?”

On Inspiration in Writing with the Ultra-Inspirational Tanya Lloyd Kyi:
One of my favorite things from this workshop was a writing-prompt type exercise. Tanya handed us each an envelope and three slips of paper. We wrote a character name and description on the first slip, then put it in the envelope and passed it to someone else. Then we wrote out a setting, placed that in the new envelope and passed it to someone new. On the third slip, we wrote a problem, then passed the envelope along.
Then we wrote a scene based on the envelope we were each now holding. Some of the scenes were hilarious, and really wonderful! I hope to use this interactive exercise when I’m giving workshops in the future!
She also had some wonderful bits of advice. Here are a couple:
“To nurture creativity, we have to maintain a sense of childishness and play.”
“Start your day with writing prompts instead of Twitter.” (easier said than done, Tanya!)
“Our eureka moments usually come when we’re generating or combining other ideas.”

On Standout Characters with deep-thinker Donald Maass:
One thing I always love about Don Maass’s workshops is that he always asks lots of great questions that really help me get to the depth of my characters and their situations. What’s their best quality? What’s the opposite of that quality, and how can you show it? What’s an injustice in their world? What would make them react strongly to that injustice?
Plus, here are a few great quotes:
“How characters are when they are at their best is what we care about – brave, funny, good, principled.”
“We back away from suffering. We don’t back away from hope. Readers are drawn to hope.”
“Find a way to make your character strong, real, and filled with hope. This is how to make our readers care about our characters right away.”

On Advanced Social Media with tech-savvy Sean Cranbury:
“The main things you need are Twitter, Facebook, a blog, and Google Analytics connected to your blog.”
“Iterate, Share, Measure, Learn, Connect, Repeat.”
“It’s not either/or anymore. It’s either/and.”

On Writing Teen/Tween Mysteries with sleuth-smart Linda Gerber:
“In a mystery, what will happen if they don’t find out the answer? It has to be a personal thing and it has to matter.”
“The hero is only as exciting as your villain. (An exciting villain will push your hero farther.)”
“In teen novels, you can plant unreliable witnesses all over the place. Teens will often say things that aren’t true for their own benefit.”
“Things to avoid: The clue that changes everything, deus ex machina, schizophrenia, stupid characters, adult intervention, clichés.”

On Pacing with the quick-thinking Boyd Morrison:
“Leave out the boring details. Describe a character with one very distinct characteristic – a scar above his lip tells a lot with so little. You can imagine the whole character.”
“A thriller should be like a roller coaster. Build suspense to the first hill. Release and exhilaration on the fall. The biggest hill should be the last one. Without the quiet in-between scenes, you can’t build up the energy and adrenaline.”
“Dialogue speeds up the pace – especially short and snappy dialogue. Your eye moves quickly down the page.”
“Enter late, leave early, or the Law & Order technique. Leave out the transitions, travel, and boring details.”
“Leave the reader wanting more.”

The Keynotes
ALL of the keynotes were awesome, but I didn’t pull my laptop out and make notes for most of them. So here are just a few short snippets…

From the fabulous and funny Jane Espenson:
“When characters are filled with emotion they get very, very simple. So much more is said by what they’re not saying than by what they’re saying.”
“You don’t have to look good or smell good to be a writer.”

From the forward-thinking Donald Maass:
"New York is like a fortress and your catapult might seem small" but "these are exciting times in publishing."
“Dig deeper. Go further. Change the world.”
“I think the destination ahead is a place we are going to like.”

As I said, this is only a very SMALL amount of what I took in this weekend. This conference is so worth the money, and I think all writers need to find some yearly thing to rejuvenate them. I’m so glad I found the Surrey conference. I hope to see YOU there next year (and make sure to find me and ask about the room party!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

GCC Presents Kelly Parra and SOMETHING WICKED!

SOMETHING WICKED: Young Adult Short Stories
Published by Buzz Books USA | October 2012

"Mesmerizing and eerie. Tales to keep you reading late into the dark night."
- Tara Hudson, author of HEREAFTER and ARISE

Sometimes, they aren't costumes.

They’re baaaack.

More nightmares brought to you by the authors of the young adult anthology Prom Dates to Die For...
Beware the Midnight Troll on your late-night stroll by Mari Hestekin. Swim at your own risk Under Loch and Cay by Jenny Peterson. A curse of spiders on campus means Arach War by Lena Brown. Through a Glass Darkly one could lose a soul by Heather Dearly. Supernatural Hunters turn to the sea in Mermania by Kelly Parra. Social media goes to the ghouls in Spectral Media by Aaron Smith.

Don’t miss this paranormal fun for tween, teens and adults!

Kelly Parra’s short story “Mermania” continues Teen Supernatural Hunters Jaz and Blake’s paranormal adventures. The duo debuted in “Darkness Becomes Him” in the young adult anthology PROM DATES TO DIE FOR as they battled a soul hungry dark angel. In SOMETHING WICKED a merman entrances Jaz and it’s up to her and Blake to rush against time before Jaz grows her own tail by the full moon!

Interview With Kelly:

1. Thanks so much for visiting today, Kelly! Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less?
 Kelly: Hi Denise, thanks for having me on your blog! Okay, here I go:
Teen supernatural hunters battle the mythical mermaid.

2. Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your story and why?
 Kelly: His name is Oz. He’s a warlock who took in orphans Jaz and Blake to train them. He’s rather old and unorganized yet cares deeply for his kids. I can't help but like him!

3. What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
 Kelly: Don’t take the publishing business personally. I learned that the hard way. Editors and agents have to think business first over personal relationships with the author. Even if you are great person what they really want is a great book with great sales. Your great personality will just be a plus!

4. What did you write when you were a teen? Did you journal? Write poetry? Write overly literary or emotional stories? Or avoid writing altogether?
 Kelly: I wrote very bad short stories in grade school and angst-filled poetry in high school, and tried journalism, which was tough!

5. What's the last book you read that you really loved?
 Kelly: Hmm, last book that I finished and loved was part of Rachel Caine’s Morganville series, LAST BREATH. Plenty of suspense!=

 Thanks for visiting, Kelly, and congratulations on your new release!

Author Bio:
 Kelly Parra’s earliest stories were told with paintbrushes, but upon discovering the drama and forbidden love of romance and suspense novels, those paintbrushes were replaced with a keyboard. Now a multi-published author in young adult and romance fiction, she has created memorable characters such as a graffiti artist in Graffiti Girl, a psychic teen in Invisible Touch, and a tough undercover narc in her novel for adults, Criminal Instinct. A two-time RITA finalist, she divides her time between her novels, short fiction, and the adventures of motherhood, where she juggles her home life with two children, a tattooed husband, a sweet poodle, and a rowdy pit bull. Visit her website

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Friday Four. Kind of.

Real quick, and I'm posting a little early, because I'm running around crazily trying to get ready to go away for the weekend.

Anyone else going to the Surrey International Writers Conference? I'll be there with bells on, and I'd love to meet you if you're there too. Please say hi and introduce yourself by your blogger name or twitter handle or however I might know you. If you read my blog, we must have a drink or a coffee or a lunch together!

This last few weeks has been a whirlwind of activity. With a last bout of sunshine, I ended up quickly painting my garage doors (which needed it in the worst way) and breaking them in the process. Oops.

I've also been busy homeschooling, getting ready for NaNo, and also getting my son ready to do NaNo. Any other NaNo-ers out there?

I should hopefully be back with notes from the conference, but you can always watch me on Twitter, as I'll be sure to tweet using the tag #SIWC2012.

And finally, while I'm away this weekend, this is what will be happening at my house:

Yes, we're attempting to toilet train our little kitty, Indy. This is the state our toilet is in today, the first day, so I admit, I'm kinda glad to be gone for the next few messy days. To my husband, I say, "LOLOLOLOL!" (Thankfully he does not read my blog.)

It's rainy here, so I'll be glad to be inside a conference room this weekend. How about you? Any big plans getting crazy Halloween costumes ready or anything? (I'm still deciding on mine).

Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, October 15, 2012

November Event!

I'm so excited about this upcoming November 3rd event with some of my favorite authors!

If you're from the Vancouver / North Vancouver area, I hope to see you there! It promises to be a great time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

GCC Presents @Mindi_Scott and LIVE THROUGH THIS!

I'm thrilled to welcome another Girlfriend from the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. It's no secret that I think Mindi Scott is an amazing writer, and I highly recommend her latest book, LIVE THROUGH THIS. But let me tell you a little more about it...

About the book:
From the outside, Coley Sterling’s life seems pretty normal . . . whatever that means. It’s not perfect—her best friend is seriously mad at her and her dance team captains keep giving her a hard time—but Coley’s adorable, sweet crush Reece helps distract her. Plus, she has a great family to fall back on—with a mom and stepdad who would stop at nothing to keep her siblings and her happy.

But Coley has a lot of secrets. She won’t admit—not even to herself—that her almost-perfect life is her own carefully-crafted façade. That for years she’s been burying the shame and guilt over a relationship that crossed the line. Now that Coley has the chance at her first real boyfriend, a decade’s worth of lies are on the verge of unraveling.

In this unforgettable powerhouse of a novel, Mindi Scott offers an absorbing, layered glimpse into the life of an everygirl living a nightmare that no one would suspect.

And I'm not the only one who loves this novel. Here's what others have to say...


 “What makes this more than another ‘problem’ novel is the author’s steadfast refusal to deal in stereotypes and easy answers. Kirkus Reviews, Starred Reviewd

“Harrowing, sad, funny, and romantic. I couldn’t put it down.” –Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss

 “Intensely emotional and beautifully crafted, I savored every word.” –Amanda Grace, author of In Too Deep

“An honest and realistic portrayal of what it is to live with secrets and shame.” –Jo Knowles, author of Lessons From a Dead Girl

Mindi also stopped by for a short interview...

Welcome, Mindi! Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less?
The story of a girl who can’t tell the truth. (I tried hard to do it in seven or less, but it didn’t work out!)

Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your novel and why?
I really love the love interest, Reece. He’s kind of insecure and dorky, but he’s such a good person with the best of intentions. He’s a combination of the boyfriend I had when I was fifteen, my husband, an acquaintance, and fiction. Mostly fiction, of course.

What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
Read! Especially book in the genre you’re writing! When I used to take writing classes, it was always so easy to spot the non-readers in the group.

What did you write when you were a teen? Did you journal? Write poetry? Write overly literary or emotional stories? Or avoid writing altogether?
I wrote stories for writing classes, but the writing I enjoyed most was my journals. I now have lots of entries that I’ve typed up from those journals on my website:

What's the last book you read that you really loved?
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

About the author:
Mindi Scott is the author of Live Through This and Freefall. She lives near Seattle, Washington, with her drummer husband. Please visit her online at

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this great book! Here's where you can find it: Barnes & NobleBooks-A-Million, IndieBound, iTunes, The Book Depository, or Amazon

Congratulations, Mindi! 


I'll leave you with the wonderful trailer Mindi has put together for LIVE THROUGH THIS...