Monday, October 27, 2014

NaNoWriMo Countdown

Okay kids... are you READY!?

I finished my hard copy edits on What Ales Me last night. A few small things to address per the DIVINE Elizabeth Spann Craig, plus a read to make sure my chapters all end on a BOOM pageturner... but I should be able to send it to Ellen tonight.

That leaves me the PERFECT amount of time to prep for NaNoWriMo, eh?

This is NOT my backstory
I already HAVE:

character sketches


some backstory


Chart my suspects with their motives and the clues my sleuth will uncover

Make my 'goal spreadsheet'

Clean off my desk

Erm... and I might be having trouble committing solidly to one story, as part of me wants to write the second in the series for the one I just finished... I've been immersed in this world, the characters are solid, and if it SELLS I will need more of them...

Always something exciting around here, eh?

Unfortunately, that's all I have time for right now, as this other project is BIG, but once it is done, I hope to have more to say...

Anybody else WriMoing? What do YOU do to prepare?

Buddy me if you want: hartjohnson

Monday, October 20, 2014

Survive For the Bucket List (Two Blogfests)

Halo, fine friends! Today I am participating in TWO blogfests, but they go together well, so I figure its all good. First is the Survive and Thrive Blogfest about taking care of ourselves—disease awareness, prevention, annallat.

It's hosted by
Stephen Tremp
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Michael Di Gesu
L. Diane Wolfe

And then, since we are all surviving so much longer... there is the BUCKET LIST... stuff we want to be sure to do before we die...

Survive and Thrive: Stubbornness Doesn't Pay

Know how some people 'refuse to be sick'? I am one of these—I don't give into small bugs, I don't take sick days, and I refuse to let stuff get me down.

Two years ago I had a hard lesson about why this isn't always smart.

Those of you who have been around a while may remember my aunt passing away in 2012. She was only 60 and had cancer of both colon and uterus, but based on family history, I suspect she had colon cancer first—a cancer that can be cured if caught early. There was some investigation into a syndrome, which she was negative for (thankfully), but (also thankfully) sent me to a genetics counselor for advice on how to look into my own risk.

It has set me on a course of earlier and more frequent screenings for colon cancer—something that short of the information about my family I might have resisted. And already those screenings have found and allowed for removal of 'something suspicious'.

So what I'm saying is LOOK AT YOUR HISTORY. If you know what runs in your family then you can identify if you are a case where “run of the mill” is too little.

And with All this Extra TIME.... Let's figure out what we want to DO!!!

Bucket List

I've done most of the physical stuff, so most of what is on my list is stuff I want to SEE, which means I am going to SHOW you... Here are the highlights of my Bucket List.

A slow tour all the way around the Meditterenean

Angel Falls Venezueala

An Ancestral trip (including Norway and Sweden)
A UK trip of all my favorite stuff... (Monty Python, Harry Potter, etc.)

Private Writing Retreat with a couple of my buds

And then there are a couple things way out of my control that I REALLY REALLY want to experience:

Having a runaway best seller and having a book made into a movie.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In Which I Try to Face My Failure to Organize

Know how I hate pants? Makes it hard to apply a “Fly by the seat of the pants” methodology to keeping track of stuff and scrambling to meet the next deadline. I do alright (one word—west coast girls are language rebels and alright means just okay, where all right means ALL RIGHT which is perfect, not alright, but I digress) *cough* Anyway... Fine for the writing, but I have been BAD about all the little stuff, and some of that LITTLE stuff for ME can be BIG stuff for YOU... like announcing book releases, covers... doing that promoting of my friends so when it's my turn, I don't feel like a heel for asking.

I've been wondering if maybe a community calendar might serve us all well. ONE place where we all put our own important dates (maybe limit how many each of us gets so nobody goes nuts) but that A BUNCH of us could use to track book releases in particular, but maybe also a couple huge promotional things.

Does something like this already exist and as usual, I am the last to know?

If not...

I'm not sure the best location for this... is it a blog we are all allowed to edit? (that seems messy). A shared Google doc we can all check regularly? I'm willing to take advice here. I think it could help a BUNCH of us. And if it is EASY I could set it up, but it is highly probable it is above my tech-savviness. (taking volunteers...)

I could just keep a calendar, but I already know I find out SO MUCH last minute or late that it doesn't give me a chance to help much, and I really DO want to help.

Anybody else have an interest in this? Suggestions for how to go about it? Tricks you already do?

Maybe it is even we keep our own calendars but put together an email list for people who agree?

A Blog maybe isn't the most ideal place for a conversation, but that is sort of what I'd like to start if people have ideas... maybe we can problem solve.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Definition: When you have a handful of wishful blog topics, but every time you start, you feel like you have to force it out and the only thing that is really happening sort of stinks...

So instead of blogging about these topics, I'm going to blog about blogging about these topics. Howzat?

INTP What?

Ever hear of the Myers-Briggs? It is a personality test of sorts about PREFERENCES. And I really thought about sharing my SHOCK that my TYPE had changed. In 1992 I was an INTJ. Briefly when my kids were little I was an INFJ (thinker becomes a feeler in presence of small people). But Now I am an INTP... And you care WHY? Exactly.

The Tyranny of Shoes.

Seriously. This is on my list. I listen to women and these shoe fetishes and frankly find them INSANE. Know how they used to bind feet in China? Shoes are just a lesser form of this torture. There. I said it. But for the life of me I can't think of anything more to say on the matter.

Ugly to Cool Scale.

You want to know about this, but I'm not ready to write about it yet. Things that are so ugly they come all the way back around to being cool again... And that's all I have to say about that.

NaNoWriMo is in 19 Days!!!

I'm sure this will come up again.

But there IS a Brief NEWS Piece!!!

Elizabeth Spann Craig ROCKS!

I'm sure you knew that, but she is helping me out huge... What Ales Me FINALLY had its big edit completed, but I have worked myself to major insecurity over it and really wanted a PRO to give it a read before I send it back to Ellen. I think it's because I believe this COULD be a great series, but I fear I am only a decent writer, not a great one. I have really good ideas, but somehow my ability to execute them falls short every time.

So advice on where I am falling short, or reassurance I'm not the dunderhead I feel like I am is SO appreciated...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Where Magic Happens: Busy Body, Blank Mind

I forget this a lot, so I thought I'd bring it up. I type away at my computer or write in my bathtub, but there are certain problems that are difficult to solve just sitting there. And the solution can be SO EASY and yet I forget it all the time...

Now SOMETIMES I can hit it in those wee hours as I wake up... I love that—a near dream that is a perfect book solution. But I can't force that—it is a wonderful gift when it happens, but it is unpredictable and worse, unreliable.

But there IS something I CAN do.

Go For a WALK!!!!

Now there are some rules.

No music. (I know, sorry. But it will block all that free floating gray matter)

Best to do it somewhere without a lot of external stimuli... I mean sure, pretty flowers or leaves, cool houses... SOME is good, but not maybe, an active running trail. You want your brain to be able to ZONE. I think as we form new and unexpected paths with our feets, our brains form new and unexpected paths and connections that SOLVE all those plot problems.

Oh. And take a notebook. (otherwise you are limited to ONE moment of brilliance and repeating that same thought until you finally can get somewhere to write it—WITH a notebook, you are only limited by the time you are out (and your capacity to write while walking, but you COULD stop to write, if you aren't stubborn enough to just do both at once).

I'm totally this glamorous
I usually read when I walk to work. Or edit. And when I exercise, I often walk with a friend. So I am having a conversation. Whatever the case, I can go long enough between these quiet walks that I FORGET how BRILLIANT I am when I get out of my own darn way. Erm.

Seriously, I DO forget how my brain can do that. I crave the reading or the conversation, or even the music to make the exercise go faster. But yesterday morning I knew I had some thinking to do and I REMEMBERED!!! And I got to work with 5 pages of notes for this final revision and they are BRILLIANT. Well okay, maybe they are only good. But they ARE good. I finally have my satisfactory ending. It had eluded me in this book.

So there you go. Next time you feel muddled, go for a walk. You're welcome.

(Anybody else have tricks they use when the answers just aren't falling into place?)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Watcha Watchin? And OOOPA!

For a person who sees herself as not really a television watcher, I seem to get awfully excited this time of year when shows start to come back around. Some shows are pure escapism and others feed minor plot devices into the system. Since I spent a bit of last week catching up on a few shows I didn't manage to finish last season, television is what is on my mind, so I thought I'd talk about what has me all hot and bothered...

The Early Entries...

These two started in August and one is already GONE for several months, but they take top marks for getting me in the mood for new TV:

Outlander: I'd had this series recommended in book form, so while I hadn't gotten to it, I was excited to see the show. And... KILTS. The show is excellent and I do plan to request the books for Christmas. I am just frustrated that all we got was 8 episodes before a LONG break...

Doctor Who: I am IN LOVE with Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. He's been divine and the change in him has really improved Clara by leaps and bounds, too.

Just Started...

Castle: I have probably admitted this, but I could watch Nathan Fillion fold socks and be happy, but I also love the rest of this cast, and mysteries have always been one of my favorite genres of television. So far I have loved the first two—very nice start.

Revenge: This one struggled for a bit, but I think maybe it's found its legs again

Once Upon a Time: There is a fresh premise this season that I am pretty excited about... something about villains getting a happy ending—I love a good twist.

Coming Soon...

Arrow. I cannot WAIT for Arrow.

I am still really missing Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, and Orphan Black, but I suppose we all need something to yearn for.

Greek Festival in Portland

I got a text yesterday—my best friend had just left the Greek Festival in Portland and was thinking about me... you see, Greek Festival 26 years ago is where I met my husband. That is why, as American mutts, we have adopted Greek Culture as ours, so go break a plate and yell OOOPA, will ya?

Writing Progress

And the edit on What Ales Me is going pretty well. I think I'm on pace to finish by mid month. I have 100 pages left for careful edit, a new ending to write, and then the final check for pacing and overused words.

Things I am less thrilled about...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beat Sheets to the Big Edit

An Entry for the Insecure Writer Support Group Book in the Writing Category. IWSG has my permission to use it for the IWSG self help book...

(you can include the next two paragraphs context or not, the main blog starts at the title)

Rewriting is HARDER than writing, eh? I feel a sort of euphoria pouring out my tale the first time, but then you have to hammer that puppy (which does not involve harming any ACTUAL puppies) into shape. A few years back a trick shared by a friend of mine spurred me into developing something that I've found extremely helpful.

Jan Morrison mentioned using beat sheets. Now I remember reading a bit on what a beat sheet was to her, and I'm not sure my method is quite as sophisticated, but it IS extremely helpful with that first round of editing—the one whereby we are trying to get the STORY right. (no point editing the language of stuff that will be coming out anyway, right? So always start with the story.) I DID double check with Jan that it was okay for me to share the method. She said SHE got the idea from Roz Morris, but that it was a movie script trick in origin... Being me... I've taken the main idea and sort of made up the specifics, but those are the areas you can check if you want to learn the more official version.

Beat Sheets a la Tart

Main Action Each Scene: I do this in an excel spread sheet, as I also record the page the scene starts on, the characters introduced, and when I write a mystery, the clues revealed, but the BIG part is the main action or actions (usually for me this is one to four phrases).

Holistic Revision Notes: On a separate page, as I read through the story, I take notes on big stuff that needs to change. Does somebody need a motivation enhanced? Is there a subplot that would really enrich the story? Does your brilliant ending that you just thought of in the last fifty pages need to be woven forward so it doesn't come out of nowhere? Are there unfinished story strands that either should just go away or need to be developed?

MATCH THEM. Take those big changes, and note WHERE in your beat sheet those changes should go, then use this as your revision guide.

Yes, this will mean you need to read through again and make sure you haven't messed up your timeline or made something inconsistent, but your story will be better for it.

The Beat Sheet in the Aftermath

Once revisions are in, I THEN use the beat sheet for an analysis of things like 'do all scenes move the plot forward?' and 'is the number of pages devoted to a given scene a good match for the pace I want?' We all want our stories to MOVE, but a cycle of mostly moving with occasional quiet can be nice—you just want to make sure the quiet scenes aren't so long that the reader loses momentum.

I also analyze chapter length here because short chapters pick up the pace and long chapters slow it down.

Hart Johnson writes books from her bathtub, plotting murder and mayhem for your enjoyment. She publishes both under the names Hart Johnson and Alyse Carlson.