NaNoWriMo Musings

NaNo-2017-Winner-Twitter-Header

November has gone and another NaNoWriMo is over. Time to think about what I discovered.

First some basic stats. This was my sixth year of NaNo and my fourth win, writing at least 50,000 words. Other wins were: 2012 – Wyrm Blood; 2015 – Fates Maelstrom; 2016 – Eagle Passage. I did write over 50k in 2011 but failed to validate that total in time. Although I fell short some years and didn’t start in 2014, I have completed the first draft of every ‘novel’ by the end of the year. My ‘lifetime achievement’ – NaNo writing – is 354,334 words.

My daily average for this November was 2,008 words and as a result, I reached the 50k target on November 22nd, in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with my US family – without feeling that I ought to be writing. By the end of November, I had written 60,264 words of Ruined Retreat.

On reflection, I realise that with perseverance I can write 2,000 words per day – if I know roughly where I am going. I did have to minimise the time working on emails, checking Facebook, getting distracted but I wasn’t a total bore, I hope.

Back to that outline: a rough one, sketchier than with previous ‘novels’ but with the advantage of being Book 3 in the Snowdon Shadows series, so I knew some of the characters. Now, as I return to the fifth draft of Fates Maelstrom, Book 1 of the series, I know even more about the characters and where they are going.

Previously, I had plotted my novels with intricate detail, almost scene by scene. The problem was that diversions were difficult even if the characters demanded them. The danger of a too-rough outline is having too many wild plot horses to tame – as with Spiral of Hooves which took thirteen years to complete.

 

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on Flickr

 

This time, I used a mystery plot template from The Novel Factory at https://www.novel-software.com/ and the three-act structure proved ideal, especially when I discovered that Scrivener had a similar three-act fiction template when I created the Ruined Retreat file. Having merged the two ‘guides’ to create, my novel flowed out more easily and logically. On November 26th, I completed the first draft and spent the next four days reading through what I had written, changing the glaring errors and marking the phrases that needed to be worked on and developed.

An interesting side-note is the research for this novel. Some research was done while I roughed out the plot, although that was more like compiling links for later use. I also marked up keywords in the text with Scrivener – yellow highlights and red text – to remind me where research was still needed. However, I must confess that my research brain doesn’t always switch off and niggles me until I check a fact. But I do ‘favourite’ the site if there’s too much to check, then knuckle down to writing more words.

Okay, 60,264 words are not going to be the final total for Ruined Retreat, but it’s the first draft so something to build on. I have finished a first draft during NaNo before but in most cases that was the furthest stage reached, even if they can be developed. This time, I won’t get to draft two for a while, but writing Ruined Retreat makes the earlier books in the series more achievable in 2018.

So, once I’ve cleared some non-writing priorities – like getting a good US health insurance policy and my UK tax return –  will make finishing Fates Maelstrom top of my agenda. But I suspect I’m facing a tough task deciphering the copious notes that were meant to bring order to a writhing plot some months ago.

Or do I just ignore the stray sheep and write knowing where I’m heading – towards a ruined retreat in Snowdonia?

NaNo-2017-Winner-Badge

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#IWSG – Backtrack 2017

Today, I’m answering the December 6th IWSG question – As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeMy first thought for this monthly post for the Insecure Writer’s Group is to say – or sing:

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do, I saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

I’m not sure if the ‘charted course’ was always planned and that might have been for lack of a GPS signal or the right map. I tried working with a few outlines as I am a plotter, but life is never as simple as planned. The answer for me is five-fold and some were successes, some failures, and most were near misses:

  1. When I started 2017, I thought Gossamer Flames, my post-apocalyptic saga, was my next target book for release. But for various reasons, that intention ended and the ‘novel’ was shelved. Looking back, I might have invested less effort into that – but at least, I have a draft v4 to work with when I return.
  1. However, the first major derailment of my writing has been my health issues – from being rushed to hospital with Aspiration pneumonia to being diagnosed with blood cancer on top of having multiple sclerosis. While my health has stalled the writing at moments, I can look back and think positive: the pneumonia was treated, my cancer is at stage zero, and the MS is not getting worse. Should I have changed my diet earlier?
  1. I had planned to re-release Spiral of Hooves for some time, so the re-release in a newly revised edition on August 7th, was timely and on many levels, I have no regrets. People that never read Kindle books got to hold paperback copies. However, looking back I might have spent less on the re-launch – yet, I now have a back-catalogue that only I can make unavailable.
  1. After the 2017 A to Z Challenge and my re-launch, I ran an interesting poll, asking friends on Facebook what I should be focusing on – including Eagle Crossing, the novel linked to my A to Z theme. As a result – and with overwhelming support – I turned my attention onto Fates Maelstrom, Book 1 of my Snowdon Shadows However, looking back, I fear that too many restarts might have added too many side-plots. Whether the current draft becomes an unwieldy beast continues to haunt me.
  1. Finally, there was NaNoWriMo. I achieved the ‘Winner’ certificate and I even finished draft 1 of yet another novel. That will be next post – my thoughts on my NaNoWriMo win. But looking back, I worry that I chose the wrong novel to write – Ruined Retreat, Book 3 of the Snowdon Shadows Book 3? What about Book 2? Well, Seeking a Knife was written – or rather started in 2015. The main plotline was my first encounter with Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl, around whom I created the series. Yes, I should have used NaNoWriMo 2017 to finish Book 2. But…I have Book 3 finished and I know a lot more, so ‘regrets…too few to mention’.

But that’s another post.

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Have you got any backtrack thoughts looking back through 2017?

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The awesome co-hosts for the December 6 posting of the IWSG are Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting:  The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

 

#IWSG – My NaNoWriMo Confession

 

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for another chance to confess – well, to tell the truth in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group post. Time to answer the optional question for this month:

November 1 question – Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I’ve done NaNo five times – the first time in 2011 = lots of first drafts. I’ve managed 50k three times and one of those ‘wins’ is my current rewrite – draft 4 of Fates Maelstrom. I am taking part again to draft the third book in the same series; same detective and setting so this new story adds to my initial character. Not quite background, but knowing where she is going helps establish a few more aspects about detective Sparkle Anwyl.

 

She is a Detective Constable in Book 1 – Fates Maelstrom – but promoted to Detective Sergeant by Books 2 and 3. There may be a twist in that at the end of Book 3 due to her girlfriend – yes, she discovers that she is bi-sexual in Book 1.

Does a non-sexual relationship with a boyfriend prior to Book 1 make her bi? Book 2 was drafted, in part, in 2015 but will need some work, especially as the questions about her sexuality and identity hadn’t emerged yet.

Anyway, publication. As yet, none of my ‘wins’ has reached even the editor stage, although Fates Maelstrom is heading that way. By next year, the answer might be yes.

What about you? Do you do NaNoWriMo and get published? Are you taking part this year?

 

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on flickr

 

 

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The awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting:  The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Donna Galanti and The Spooky Element Trilogy Blog Tour


I first encountered Donna Galanti when I read the first two books of her Element Trilogy and, after reviewing them here, I gave them five stars on Goodreads. Since then we have become online friends – and I’ve been awaiting Book 3 with anticipation. Now, here is your chance to learn more about Donna in her interview, and thanks to her publisher, Imajin Books, A Human Element is on sale on Kindle for $0.99 AND book 2, A Hidden Element, is FREE! 

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Interview with Author Donna Galanti

Q: What’s inside the mind of a suspense author?

A: Never ending dialogue. Scenes of evil doers and people in peril. Tormented villains getting revenge, and then their comeuppance. Steamy lovers in a survival showdown. Yep, it’s generally dark in there full of murder, mystery, and mayhem! Then add a dash of hope and humanity alongside a love for creating psychopathic melee and you’ve got a brew for one wild ride.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I look at each chapter as a short story in itself. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end – and I love ending my chapters on cliffhangers that raise a question and (hopefully) beg the reader to keep turning the pages. I also try to set the mood and provide a suspense setting that creates feelings of heightened anxiety and give the reader the portent of doom. The setting of a scene can make a large impact on its mood using sensory details to build on those feelings–a sudden wind, a stormy sky, a rising stench, a jarring noise.

Here’s an example of how I aimed for this in A Hidden Element:

She drew on her robe and looked out the tiny window. A fierce wind whipped the trees. Gray sky hung heavy like a blanket waiting to smother her. The promise of Indian summer had been snatched fast by winter calling. The weather was tormented here as well, conflicted over who it obeyed—and unable to escape its master’s bonds.

How does this scene make you feel? Tense, scared, or anxious that something bad is coming?

Q: A Hidden Element has paranormal elements to it involving mind control, mind reading, and telekinesis. Tell us what inspired you to write a novel about this.

A: I am fascinated by the power of the brain and how little we use. We are not even close to tapping our potential of brainpower. Writing in the paranormal allows me to tap into the “what if”. What if we possessed the power to do the unbelievable? Like telepathy, telekinesis. And what if we could use those powers to heal – or to kill? Some people like to imagine that aliens would have such power, as eluded to in A Hidden Element, but what if it was inside us all along and we just had to tap into it?

Q: What makes a good paranormal suspense novel?

A: As a subgenre of suspense, a well-crafted paranormal novel (for me) can include elements that range beyond scientific explanation and blend other genres together such as fantasy, horror, and science fiction. The fantastic thing about writing paranormal is that there are so many avenues of paranormal to write about including psychic powers (my favorite!) or ghosts, time travel, or vampires.

Q: How do you know when you’ve “made it” as an author?

A: My first made-it-moment is a private one. The death of my mother propelled me to finally write the novel I always wanted to write. I did it through grief without looking back. Writing The End was a private made-it-moment for me. Connected to this was the defining public made-it-moment when praising reviews started rolling in for my debut novel, A Human Element – and they were by unbiased strangers!

I continue to be amazed that people I don’t know like my book and have been as touched by my characters as I am. My mom drove my made-it-moment of writing the novel I always knew I had inside me to the made-it-moment of knowing I had written something that touched others. I hope I can do it again.

P.S. I’m also giving away a $25 Amazon gift card below!

 

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About A Human Element:
One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a madman, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Praise for A Human Element:
“A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.  Highly recommended.” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author

Praise for A Hidden Element:
“Fascinating…a haunting story about just how far parents will go to protect, or destroy, their children in the name of love.”—Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times best-selling author

Purchase A Human Element here: On sale for just $0.99 10/27 – 11/2! http://mybook.to/AHumanElement

Purchase A Hidden Element here: On sale for FREE 10/27 – 10/31!
http://myBook.to/AHiddenElement

Donna Galanti Bio:
Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com. She also loves building writer community. See how at www.yourawesomeauthorlife.com

Connect with Donna:
Twitter  https://twitter.com/DonnaGalanti
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGalantiAuthor/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5767306.Donna_Galanti

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ddcc91cd22/?

 

Counting the Cost

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I’ve been encouraged to keep going with my writing, but I have some questions. Unless I can answer those churning thoughts, the future looks vague.

What is the true cost of writing?

Does writing have a price, a value?

What is a true measure of a book’s worth?

I’ve been writing some book reviews so perhaps that is where the worth is measured – in writing a book that garners five-star reviews. I have finally got my first review for the second edition of Spiral of Hooves and it was a five. Hopefully, there will be more as don’t reviews drive sales.

However, I know as a writer that writing a review is not easy. So, I’m grateful to those that bother. It’s only been two months since the new edition of Spiral of Hooves was released – plenty of time. And there are thirteen reviews from the first edition across Amazon US and UK.

The real question is: Will the sales cover the financial costs of releasing that second edition. At present, probably not, as I estimate that I need one thousand sales to cover the costs so far. What were those costs?

Formatting      $50

Cover               $160

Publishing       $17.19 [proof copy]

Promotion       $226.59

Giveaways      $488.05

TOTAL           $941.83

Can I afford to publish another book? How much of my costs will even a small press cover? Can I justify the cost that is not included above thanks to some very generous editors?

Even if I find a small press – or an agent – I still need to be prepared to find an editor. I can go cheap, but that is foolish. The cost of a professional editor can be a $1,0000 or more. My current WIP, Fates Maelstrom, will require at least one if not three ‘sensitivity readers’ at $250 each. There is good editing software – like Fictionary – to reduce the number of paid edits, but that costs as well. $1,500 and rising.

Bottom line is that I’m retired and bills like medical, insurance, and HOA, as well as household expenses, are the priorities – followed by helping the family.

So – what should I do?

Give up writing?

Find a benefactor?

Write another 50k first draft for NaNoWriMo next month to postpone the decision?

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Love Story, with Murders – a review

Having discovered the quirky and dark Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths in Talking to the Dead, I had to read Book 2 in this unique series. I didn’t regret it and Book 3 beckons. [For my review of Book 1 see: https://rolandclarke.com/2016/04/11/talking-to-the-dead-a-review/ ]

Love Story

Love Story, With Murders (Fiona Griffiths #2)

by Harry Bingham (Goodreads Author)

The second novel featuring recovering psychotic DC Fiona Griffiths opens with as intriguing a pair of murders as you could imagine. Firstly, part of a human leg is discovered in a woman’s freezer, bagged up like a joint of pork. Other similarly gruesome discoveries follow throughout a cosy Cardiff suburb, with body parts turning up in kitchens, garages and potting sheds. And while the police are still literally putting the pieces together, concluding that they all belong to a teenage girl killed some ten years earlier, parts of another body suddenly start appearing, but this time discarded carelessly around the countryside clearly very shortly after the victim – a man – was killed.

Mysteries don’t come much more macabre or puzzling than this. Who were the two victims, and what connection could they have shared that would result in this bizarre double-discovery?

But that’s only half the story. The most gruesome moments are much more about Fiona and her curious mental state. There is a complex and very clever double mystery here, and what makes the story unique is the parallel unraveling of Fiona’s own mystery, and it’s her voice, established precisely in the first book but given even freer rein here, that makes it so compelling.

Review 5 stars

In this second novel in an engrossing series, DC Fiona Griffiths is once again challenged to apply her strange talents to solving a case or maybe it’s two cases. This DC is not like others and this is one of the winning formulas that Harry Bingham gives to the character.

With her personality traits being at times psychotic, the first person POV works as we discover more and more about Fiona’s past and about the cases. She has more than murder to handle and she needs to act off-piste to get things done and progress the cases. The violence, in the victim’s remains or the action, is not excessive or overtly gruesome, but some fans of the cosy approach might baulk at it. Fiona doesn’t, of course.

At this stage in her policing career, Fiona still has things to learn, often things she recognises and ignores at her cost – but what better way to keep the plot moving and the reader guessing. Her relationship with her fierce boss, DI Watkins, is unexpected and interesting – the secondary characters are all well portrayed, especially the DI. There are sub-plots surrounding some of them and these all add to the story.

Fiona’s attitudes are unusual but her flippancy and willingness to think her mind are what makes her unique – and believable. I wouldn’t want her to be ‘normal’ and boring – in fact, people aren’t when we get to know them properly as some of the characters prove over time.

The settings from Cardiff to the rural areas of South Wales are all vividly evoked, and through Fiona’s senses, so, we also discover more about her in the words she uses. Having lived in Wales – North Wales – there were descriptions that stirred memories – for instance:

“The valley narrows as it climbs. Pasture and snippets of woodland on the valley floor. Green fields pasted as high up the mountainsides as technology and climate can take them. The flanks of the hillside are grizzled with the rust-brown of bracken, humped with gorse and hawthorn, slashed with the rocky-white of mountain streams.”

Anybody that has negotiated Welsh roads will recognise the ones that Fiona needs to take on her rural investigation. Throughout, the settings felt realistic as did the way that the plot unfolded. Nothing is ever neat in a Fiona Griffiths case – nor in reality.

You never know what Fiona is going to do next, so the reader needs to keep going – and believing in her and the author. Fiona keeps the tension going with her decisions and actions. I was on the edge of my seat as I read, hoping that Fiona would survive – even if I knew there were sequels. That takes good writing to bring about.

I loved the Welsh attitude, even if not all Welsh people are as forthright as Fiona in saying, “Twll dîn pob Sais.” Later in the novel, she repeats this as a thought and translates -” Every Englishman an arsehole”.

After a stimulating ride for my head, I am ready for the next book, having recommended the first two without reservation – well, if you want a cosy mystery series look elsewhere. I want more of Fiona and her different approach to policing, to life – and I want to know what is at the heart of her behaviour, to discover more about her past.

Note that this was released in 2014, so, this comment from Fiona had me wondering if Harry Bingham was going to get tweeted by the US President;

“My newfound clarity allows me to look at the pole-dancing platform too. It’s got all the class of a Las Vegas casino personally styled by Donald Trump”

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

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UPDATE: This review had to be edited for Amazon, as it was rejected in this version. I wonder why. Where did I stray from their guidelines? I removed three paragraphs in the hope that might evade the censors – 1. the comment about Englishmen; 2 &3. The paragraphs about Trump. Was it the profanity or the reference to the Twitter Man?