Writing Lessons – 2016

With my NaNoWriMo project completed it’s time to start wrapping up the year, and what better way than by reviewing all the things I did right and wrong in regards to writing this year?

While writing is by its very nature a solitary craft, I’ve discovered that the lessons learned by other, more prominent writers, can sometimes help me improve. So with that in mind I’ll go ahead and share with you, dear reader, the lessens that 2016 has taught me.

#1) Novelettes are fun. 

In fact, I’d never even heard of a novelette until I started writing Torven. The little story was too big to be considered a short story but too small to be a novella. While it might look a little silly in paperback form because … I mean … it’s barely a pamphlet … There is the potential of combining many of these little stories into one volume. Which I might do in the years to come, I just have to write more.

#2) Thorough Outlines Work

… Sometimes.

OK, it depends on the story. And it might not work for some authors but it certainly seems to work for me. All the agonizing that I tend to do during the second and third drafts gets dumped into the month-long construction of the Outline, which allows me to tackle the plot from many different vantages until I come up with some really good twists and such.

#3) Collaborations Work

For my NaNoWriMo project I had help making the outline. And in fact I intend to keep using that help when it comes to the male POV because … I’m a girl and while I do tend to stick close to my characters to help me flesh them out on the page, I’m still … you know … a girl.

#4) I enjoy writing Fantasy

Given that my career started with a fantasy novel (Sedition) this shouldn’t come as much of a shocker, but still … I’ve been writing other genres for so long now that when I sat down to write Torven it was a real joy to write. That’s not to say I will stop writing in the other genres, just that I know I delight in these sorts of books so I will be making an effort to focus on them a bit more.

#5) I really can write a first draft in 2 months

It’s hard, but I can do it. So I’ll be fixing my writing schedule to push myself that direction. Editing will take longer, of course, but I can get the skeleton of a story down in 2-3 months and that’s not bad. So long as I have the skeleton to work with, I’m good.

And that’s it. That’s what I learned in 2016.

Apart from … you know … the stuff my 8-year-old taught me such as Pokemon (Holy Hannah, why is that so popular?) and Minecraft (again, I do not understand the appeal) and how to dodge a kitten who seems intent on ambushing us around any given corner.

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2016 Round-Up

I am pleased to say that this year I actually won National Novel Writing Month! I completed the extremely rough draft of Ashwood at 50477 words. I know that there are a lot of things I’ll be changing when I start editing it next year, but … Hey. I won!

Ashwood was a lot of fun to write and this outlining process I’ve been doing seems to be working fairly well.

At least to get the skeleton of the book written, anyway.

About a year ago I took James Patterson’s Master Class on writing and one of the big takeaways I had was his outlining process, which I’ve been trying to implement. There are some things I like about it … and there are some things that I don’t like about it.

I’ve used this for three stories now; Torven, Dead Weight, and Ashwood.

Torven, my little novelette, it worked beautifully for. I was able to cut eleven chapters down to eight and had a lot of fun writing the story.

Ashwood, my romantic horror story thing, it also worked great for. I had an outline that had been brainstormed with another over the course of several weeks and, while I did change some things last minute, this outlining process worked wonders to see me to the finish line.

Dead Weight …

Hmmm.

I don’t know what it is that went wrong with Dead Weight, but something was off. My knee-jerk reaction is to say that I had a lot of great ideas but when I went to actually write them they fell flat.

Or it could have been the fact that I was typing the first draft instead of hand writing it. That’s the only difference I had between Dead Weight and the others.

Why yes, that means I hand wrote all of Ashwood in 30 days AND typed it up in time to win.

Because I’m awesome.

And I love hand cramps.

In any case, the outlining seems to be working. There are a few things I’ve tweaked here and there to make it my own process, but overall it works.

For those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo this year, whether you won or not, you’re awesome! Well done! I hope you got words on the page and that you love your story.

To close out this year’s NaNoWriMo season I think I’ll leave you with a snippet from Ashwood … In all its unedited glory.

~*~*~

“Oooo,” Marisol crooned, sliding out of bed and to her feet. She was built like a pixie, just a little over five feet tall with a spiral perm that made her chocolate brown hair bounce whenever she moved. “A social rescue. He just might be the one.”

One can only hope, Tessa thought, reaching into the hutch for her boots. But she said; “Based on six weeks of drowning in coffee and the worst possible introduction in the history of dating?” She shook her head. “We need more Intel.”

“And dimples,” Marisol said with a cheeky grin. She stretched her arms over her head, her every move fluid and graceful and for half a second Tessa was glad Brendon would be meeting her out front. The last thing she needed was to be standing side by side with Little Miss Size Two when he picked her up.

“And dimples,” Tessa said, agreeing with her friend. “But we still need more Intel.”

“That’s what a first date is for,” Marisol said, dropping her hands to her sides and sashaying her way to the opposite hutch.

Tessa had never moved like that in her life, which was a shame because she had a feeling her love life would have seen more action if she could. She felt another spurt of jealousy well up inside her, but it was short lived. Mary had the big amber eyes and porcelain skin every woman would die for, but she was also the sweetest damn woman ever.

Definitely a good thing Mary was staying up here.

“So how’s Psychology Guy?” Tessa asked, desperate for a change of subject.

Marisol’s rosebud mouth quirked up into a shy smile. “Good,” she said. “He’s really into this paranormal investigating stuff. He wants to prove it’s all a trick in our heads or something so …”

Tessa finished lacing her boots, realizing as she did so that they looked quite a bit like combat boots and frowned. Not exactly sexy, but her only other alternative was her sneakers and those were getting a hole in the toe.

Unsexy or poor and unsexy; the decisions she had to make.

But then she realized Marisol was watching her, neatly arched eyebrows raised in expectation like she’d asked a question.

“Soooo?” Tessa asked, already not liking where this was going.

“So we’re planning a paranormal investigation party out at the old Ashwood place and I really, really, really need you to come,” Marisol said quickly, clasping her hands in front of herself and giving Tessa a wide-eyed, entreating look. “Please.”

“A … what?” Tessa blinked, wondering what alternate universe she’d stepped into where she was being begged to attend a party. That hadn’t even happened in the Army and there’d been plenty of opportunity there.

“A paranormal investigation party,” Marisol said, abandoning whatever she’d been doing with her hutch to bounce over to Tessa, all animation and excitement. “It’s a party where we go through the Institute after dark and try to find some kind of proof that it’s haunted, or that it’s just playing tricks with our minds. We’ll record everything so Lundy and I can go over it all the next day.”

Tessa stared at her, speechless.

“You know, like Ghost Hunters,” Marisol said, beaming.

“And … uh … why do you need me?”

“Have you seen the Ashwood Institute? It’s huge! We need all the help we can get.”

Tessa’s phone blared, buzzing in her coat pocket, which was hanging by the door. She got up to retrieve it thinking; Yes, I’ve seen the Ashwood. It’s big and it’s falling apart and no one should go in there, especially after dark. It probably had football sized rats and bird-eating spiders lurking around. Hell no, she wasn’t going in there.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and, as per usual, I will be busy with family through the weekend. SO! I need to do my Thankful Post now. Normally I narrow things down to my top five, but this year I’ve decided to do things a little differently.

In light of the recent election and the vitriol that continues to be plaguing every social media outlet I can find, it seems more important than ever to highlight the positive instead of spewing out negative.

So I’m aiming for ten this year. I’m sure I could do more, but who honestly wants to read about all the things one other person is grateful for in their life? I’d rather just inspire you, dear reader, to start listing off your “Thankfuls” instead.

  1. Always and forever … My son. For eight years now he has taught me what it really means to be human. Fallible and fragile. Ambitious and triumphant. Adventurous and perhaps a little reckless at times.
  2. A new development this year … Brendon. Which I’m sure he will grin at when he reads this post, since he reads everything I write. For the last five months he has proven to be amazing and I have no doubts that he will continue in that vein.
  3. My family … Be they ever crazy and consistently voting opposite of me every election year, I know they have my back if life ever gets a little too crazy.
  4. My cats … Plural this year. Pest – aka the Old Grumpy kitty is still not thrilled about the new addition. Nuisance – aka the New Addition still thinks that the toilet paper roll is Cthulhu and his sworn enemy. I’ve taken to hiding the roll in the cupboard above the toilet now. It’s just the only way.
  5. My writing … Because I still find this writing thing to be satisfying and fulfilling. It forces me to learn about things that I otherwise would never have looked at before, and it takes me on adventures every single day.
  6. My car … Because it’s new and shiny and pretty. Seriously, it’s so pretty. I’ve never owned a car this nice before.
  7. My day job … Because it’s paying for the shiny and pretty car. And because it’s been a steady source of income for over ten years now.
  8. My city … It is beautiful. I enjoy the mountains close by and the parks that are within walking distance of my house. Some of the nearby college students can get a little crazy during game days, but I’ve come to view them as material for future writing endeavors.
  9. My state … It gets terribly cold in the winter and searingly hot in the summer, but for the most part people seem to treat each other decently here. There are some exceptions, of course, but on a whole we seem to lean toward the good.
  10. My country … For better or worse, I live in a country that still protects the freedoms I enjoy. Freedom of speech is one of them, which I am seeing a lot of people exercising of late. Though … I would like to remind everyone that this freedom blankets even the opinions you disagree with. And with that in mind … please be kind to one another.

Word Choices – Round Robin Dicussion

This month’s Round Robin topic poses the question about word choice and how the words we choose manage to develop characters within our stories.

Or, as I like to call it, taking ownership of your craft.

Writers are in the word business. This is how we convey our art to the world, so our word choices are supremely important. Granted, most of the time the real art shows up during the editing process.

At least it does for me.

The first draft I just sort of keep going but the second draft is when I hone in on what words create the affect I want. I’m not sure how other authors do it, but for me it works best when I take a chapter or a scene a day during the editing process and I sort of … edit just that chapter/scene that whole day.

Which means I end up editing the same chapter/scene at least 3 times and each time I’m looking at something different.

First Pass – Graphic Detail … meaning the setting my characters are standing in. I do this first because it gives me something more to work with when I go through and focus just on the characters. If I’m grounded in the setting, then my characters can interact with that setting, which, in turn, helps convey who that character is to the readers.

Second Pass – POV character … meaning I dig in deep with my point of view character for that scene. I ask how they’re feeling that day, how they’re being affected by what’s happening in the story, and what about the setting really annoys them. Or, conversely, what they love about the setting.

No, seriously, just stopping to ask; “Hey, what does so-and-so hate about this room?” reveals sooooo much about who they are as a character. I promise. Give it a try.

Third Pass – Major/Minor characters … meaning I concentrate on the other characters on the page in that scene. And I ask the same exact questions for them that I ask about the POV character in the scene.

This is from Persona … my WWII novel that was going to be published this year but someone convinced me not to give up on the traditional market just yet, so it’s currently being considered by … ahem, places.

She turned and headed for the bathroom across the hall. Maybe she’d left the bathroom cupboard open again and Grendel was perched on the towels. She sighed in annoyance, pushing her way through the half closed door. She’d have to wash those towels again before she could use them. Grendel shed like the beast he was and she had no desire to be covered in orange cat fur.

She flicked on the light.

“Grendel, you little vagrant. You know you’re not …”

A blur of blue and white rushed at her from behind the door. Megan tried to scream but something fleshy and firm clamped over her mouth, smothering the sound. A heartbeat later she felt the hard edges of the counter press into her backside and she was forced to lean awkwardly until her head touched the mirror above the sink. She squirmed and tried to break free, too terrified to think. One word screamed through her mind; intruder.

“Sh! Please!” A man’s voice hissed near her ear. “Please! I don’t want to hurt you!”

It took several seconds before she realized he had spoken English.

English with an American accent, she thought.

Megan forced herself to relax but the grip he had on her was hard and uncomfortable. She felt a tremble pass through him, smelled blood and fear in the room, and prayed they could get through this without anyone getting hurt. He pulled back and his face came into view. His nose looked like it might have been broken once and he had strong, masculine features lined with a reddish beard and the dirt of many days in hiding. Olive green eyes stared at her, hiding none of his panic or pain, and she began to realize he was injured.

His body started to shake more forcefully.

“Do you … do you understand?” He asked.

She nodded her head as best she could, rattling the mirror a little. He exhaled unsteadily and began to let go. His hand slipped away from her mouth.

“Thank God,” he said. “Thank God.”

His eyelids drooped suddenly and he collapsed on top of her. Megan yelped, scrambling to grab hold of him before he slid to the floor. He was heavy, so much heavier than she’d been expecting, and she struggled not to fall herself. It took several minutes but she managed to get his limp body squashed into the corner between wall and tub.

She stood up and stared down at him, panting. A smear of blood ran down the right side of her dress jacket and Megan felt her mouth go dry. He really was injured.

For a dumbfounded moment she stared down at him, her mind catching up to the events.

There was a bleeding American man in her bathroom.

Bleeding, she thought again and forced herself to move.

She knelt, peeling back the man’s navy blue coat to reveal a heavily leaking bandage underneath. It was lashed across his torso, the deep red seeping through enough that she couldn’t rightly anticipate where the wound was.

Her stomach turned and she covered her mouth with a trembling hand.

She looked at his ashen face; saw gaunt illness overlapping what she imagined to be a normally handsome, strong man.

How far had he come with such an injury?

To be this deep inside Germany he had to have come from a war camp somewhere. Megan had no idea where such a camp would be located, but she could see by the mud caked to his boots and trousers that he’d travelled quite a distance. By the reek of him he hadn’t had a shower in some time, too.

She turned and opened the cupboard beneath the sink, fumbling with the first aid kit stored there. He must not have been in the house long if he hadn’t found it. She opened the gray, steel container and spilled bandages, tape and scissors on the floor. Megan hissed in irritation, snatching all the contents and tossing them haphazardly into the case again. She kept the scissors out, prepared to cut through his dirty shirt to get to the injury.

A loud banging resounded from downstairs and Megan froze. Her heart seized and then sped as she glanced between the bleeding man and her half open bathroom door.

Someone was knocking on her front door.

 

OK!

So this scene reveals a lot about Megan. Firstly, she’s a neat and tidy person because she can’t handle the idea of drying herself off on towels that the cat has used as a bed. Secondly … she talks to the cat.

Which in my book makes her totally likable.

I talk to my cats. I can relate.

Notice there’s a shift in her perception in the scene. I’ve put some words in bold and italics to highlight them for you.

When she first goes into the bathroom the door was ‘half closed’ but then … after she’s encountered her intruder … that perception changes to a ‘half open’ doorway. And yes, this was done on purpose. Because Megan’s mindset has changed due to her fear.

Take a look at how some of my fellow authors address the issue of word choice in their works …

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-OB
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

NaNoWriMo 2016 Week #2

Before I get into my post about this awesome week of November where I got lots of writing done …

Politically and nationally it has been a not-so-awesome week.

Those who have followed me from the beginning know that I rarely, if ever, discuss political issues on this blog. However, I do discuss humanitarian issues. And, sadly, this year’s election has worked itself into riots and demonizing the other party (whichever side of the fence you happen to hitch your tent on) and it has become a humanitarian issue.

And so, very briefly, let me say this …

Stop it.

Please.

Things are a mess right now. If you’re not willing to start cleaning it up, at least stop adding to it.

If being in the Army taught me anything, it’s that you don’t have to believe the same thing to get work done. And you don’t have to agree with everything being said around you to deserve and receive respect and dignity.

So please … Stop. If you voice your opinion, do it as respectfully as you want to be treated by the counter point. Lay out your concerns – if you have them – without assuming you know the response to it. Or be sensitive to the concerns of your fellow Americans – if you’re in that camp.

Treat each other with dignity and America really will be great.

Now … National Novel Writing Month 2016!

I ended last night at 19047 words! I am right on track to win this thing and I’m hoping to boost those numbers up this weekend. The story itself is a lot of fun. I’m just now getting into the spooky parts – remember, it’s a ghost story sort of thing – and I’ve discovered some really awesome stuff in there that I’m going to be exploring more deeply.

Which … I should get back to now. So here’s the snippet for this week. To those of you participating in NaNoWriMo … Good luck! Keep going! You’re awesome.

They stepped out of the classroom and Brendon waited while Phil locked the door, intending to walk with him to the parking lot. But she was there, her bag packed away, clasping her hands in front of herself with almost as much nervous energy as his uncle.

If someone didn’t lighten up soon they were all going to suffocate, he thought as she walked toward him.

She had that look on her face again, the same one she’d had last night, like she was on a mission and determined to see it through. It made her look a little severe, all things considered, but at least this time she had her hair down. She had long, brownish-blonde hair that hung just passed her shoulders, with enough of a wave to it that it had some body. He had a feeling she didn’t spend much time on it.

Not that it looked bad, of course, just that it wasn’t the focal point of her day. Which could actually be said about her attire too – blue jeans and a beige shirt and a pair of worn out Nikes. His sister would have a field day with this woman, he thought. Sara Morant would take one look at those shoes and whisk the girl off for a shopping spree.

Of course, Sara would love the girl based solely on the fact that she read, a lot, and then ruin the poor thing by trying to make her into some Cinderella heroine by playing fairy godmother. And then, of course, Brendon would become the very poor, very dysfunctional prince in this fairy tale. Which wouldn’t be so bad, especially if the girl continued to smile at him like that – she had a really great mouth – but at some point everything would go wrong.

And it would somehow be his fault. Again.

Best to just tell her to move along, he thought.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Week #1

I haven’t typed up what I’ve written so far today but I wanted to get this post up before I forgot. Yesterday put my word count total up to 7464, which is right on track. I was hoping to be at 8,000 by end of day yesterday but my brain finally decided it was time to take a break.

I should reach 10k today and, with a little luck, 13k tomorrow.

For those of you who are on this crazy NaNoWriMo journey with me, furiously typing out as many words as possible this month … What the heck are you doing reading this blog? Get back to work!

Or maybe you just need a break like I did yesterday, in which case … here’s a snippet of my NaNoWriMo project. If you have a snippet you’ve written, give me a link in the comments and I’ll jot over there the next time I take a break.

I’m always happy to see what other writers are doing.

**Mild language warning.**


Tessa Pines snuggled into the old comfortable arm chair in her favorite corner of her favorite bookstore and settled down to read. An Introduction to Poetry lay open in her lap and she tried desperately to pay attention to it, but her eyes kept wandering to the storefront, to the door of Book Land. Her heart did a little hiccup every time she heard the ding of the doorbell, but every time she checked she slumped a little more.

It wasn’t him, not yet, and she began to wonder if fate was conspiring against her. Only three hours earlier she’d decided to make her move, to just talk to her little bookstore romance and see where it went. For the last several weeks they’d been smiling at each other from across the room, not speaking but definitely noticing one another. Tessa wasn’t great in the romance department but even she had managed to pick up on those signals. But as of yet he hadn’t come in to work the front counter and she had the horrible thought it was his night off.

Of course, the poor many needed a night off every now and then, she just wished it wasn’t on the night where she’d worked up the courage to speak to him.

And I would that my tongue could utter the thoughts that arise in me, she thought, gazing down at her poetry book; thank you, Lord Tennyson. My tongue would love to utter, I just need the man here to utter them to.

Groaning a little in exasperation, she closed the poetry book and tossed it onto the side table. Marisol was going to reproach her again, probably spend two hours pushing and prodding to know how this went and Tessa would have to confess that it didn’t happen because for some reason she couldn’t just tell her sweet, open-hearted, eighteen-year-old roommate to mind her own business.

Maybe she could deflect all night, keep Marisol at bay by asking about her own love life. Mary had her sights set on some kid from her afternoon Psychology class but for the life of her Tessa couldn’t remember his name.

Bundy?

No. No woman in their right mind dated a “Bundy”, the name was synonymous with murder and date rape.

Chastising herself for being so elitist – there had to be some decent men named Bundy after all – Tessa reached for her book again, resigned. She would try again tomorrow. For now, she needed to find the D-Fac – cafeteria, her mind corrected, we are not in the Army anymore – and get back to the dorm.

Proud of herself for referring to it as the dorms instead of the barracks, she stuffed the book in her bag and stood, reaching for her beat-up coffee mug just as the door chimed again.

Glancing up in habit she froze. This time it really was him and she felt that low kick in her blood again, felt her mouth go dry, and opened her mouth in surprise.

Several hours late and looking delectably tousled, his six-foot frame filled the entryway, blocking the doorway for a moment as his gaze settled on her.  He had sandy brown hair tied back into a loose knot at his nape, and a full beard that hid some of his mouth but she could see the faint traces of a smile there. Even from this distance she could see the clear blue of his eyes, could read the humor and intelligence there, and it was only when his friend called him over that she was able to look away.

Oh, God, she’d been staring.

Blushing furiously, she slung her bag over one shoulder and tried to gather her courage again. He probably thought she was a stalker, coming here every day, hiding in the chair, casting him flirty glances every so often. What had she been thinking? Talking to him was the worst possible idea.

Snatching up her mug, she headed for the door, determined to escape.

In her peripheral view she saw her bookstore romance move to the counter and shrug off his own bag. He greeted his friend, who reported that the day sales had been decent, which was true. She’d seen over two dozen people come through in the three hours she’d been sitting there, ostensibly doing her homework.

With her hand on the door she paused, kicking herself as a coward.

She’d been in the Army for four years, dammit. She’d had bullets fly over her head, dodged IED’s in Afghanistan, and argued with her Captain once; she could talk to a boy in a goddamn bookstore for pities sake.

Releasing the door she turned, striding purposefully for the front counter. Halfway across the room she realized it looked like she was advancing on a target and tried to slow down, annoyed at how socially awkward she was. But then, she’d always been awkward with people and had, until this moment, accepted that as part of her personality. Most writers were unsettled in social settings, she reminded herself. It didn’t matter that she had yet to complete a full-length novel, she was still an aspiring writer and her mind was constantly in overdrive, absorbing people and places and experiences for later use.

Under any other circumstance she would have embraced her unique awkwardness, but as the distance closed between herself and her would-be bookstore romance, anxiety clutched tight in her belly. He was smiling at her, dimples forming on either side of his face just visible with his beard and she thought; Oh, god, dimples too?

If he hadn’t already piqued her interest with the worn-out copy of Iliad she’d spotted him with earlier, he certainly would have caught her with that smile.

“Hi,” she said as casually as she could. Her heart was hammering in her chest and she suspected he could hear it as she groped for her next line.

“Hey,” he said back, equally casual but with undeniable curiosity. “Can I help you?”

“Help me?” She asked, thrown off her stride, and then she kicked herself; his job, dummy. He thinks you need something. “Oh, right.”

He looked more amused than anything else as she scrambled to regroup. She really sucked at picking up men, she thought as an uncomfortable silence stretched. There had to be a guide book for the socially awkward somewhere. Maybe she should ask him for that.

She laughed, a little nervously, and his broad forehead creased in what looked like concern and she panicked, blurting; “I need a copy of the Iliad.”

God, she was so lame.

And she couldn’t afford another book, not if she wanted to eat.

“The Iliad, huh?” He said, his eyebrows lifting.

And your name, she thought, wishing again that this store required nametags. But instead she said; “For school. My English professor has it on our list of suggested texts.”

Which was true, she just wouldn’t need that until the middle of November and it was only October third.

“Which professor?” He asked as he came around the counter, leading the way deeper into the store.

Shit, she thought. Of course they would have a copy.

Well, Marisol had a meal plan. Maybe she could talk the girl into snagging a little extra.

“Michaels,” she said, turning down a familiar aisle and trying hard not to admire the man’s profile.

She really was turning into a stalker.

He had that comfortable stance of a man who knew exactly who he was and wasn’t afraid to embrace it. Broad shouldered and burly, the antithesis of the stereotypical lean-formed hero one found in the movies, or in nearly every romance novel she’d encountered for that matter. He had good, strong hands too, she noticed them as he reached to pull a slender volume from the shelf. Long fingers and blunted knuckles and she imagined he might have been a boxer at one point; those knuckles had seen some sort of action.

“Michaels is pretty tough,” he said, turning the book over to her. “Should have requested Iverson. She’s a little more liberal, easier to deal with.”

“Easy is never as rewarding as the things you have to work for,” she said without thinking.

“You say that now,” he said with a grin that set her heart to skipping. It took her a long moment to concentrate on his voice again. “Just wait until you dare to disagree with Michaels. You don’t strike me as the sort who’s going to back down, not even for a better grade.”

Tessa took the book, a little stunned at his observation. “I don’t?” She asked and he flinched a little, looking suddenly as awkward as she felt.

“Yeah,” he said, regrouping quickly. “You have that no-nonsense bearing to you. And with how often you’re here doing homework I’d have to say you’re too self-disciplined not to take your work seriously.”

She almost asked him how he knew it was homework but stopped herself just in time. They were discussing professors, after all, and it wasn’t hard to connect the dots. She felt her cheeks warm and bit her lip, smiling down at the little paperback in her hands.

So he had noticed her after all.

Ready, Set … NaNoWriMo!

Coffee … Check.

Paper … Check.

Pens (assortment) … Check.

Outline … CHECK.

General food plan for 30 days of craziness … Check.

I’m pretty sure I’ve missed something in there, but for the most part I think I’m ready!

For those who do not know what NaNoWriMo is, I would encourage you to check out their page. I’ve inserted the link for you but the gist of the game is that you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

It’s as easy (and as hard) as that.

I’ve been participating in one fashion or another for several years now and I really think I’m going to win this year.

Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped, is being set aside until March. It isn’t quite finished but it’s close enough that I can take the next few months and let it simmer in the back of my mind. I’ve found that going through and doing an edit of what I have helps me in the long run.

It allows me to really see where the characters have been so that I can tie everything up in the last few chapters.

Which brings me to Ashwood, also known as “That Ghost Story I Want To Tell” or “The NaNo Project” or … any number of names I’ve given it over the last several weeks.

I have the outline already up and on my corkboard AND in detailed form on paper that I carry around with me every day and make notes on. (No, this isn’t cheating. I haven’t written a word of the manuscript yet, just the outline.)

And I am SUPREMELY excited to start it. I had help making the outline of this novel – Thank you, Brendon! – and while it is loosely a romance novel, it is heavily a supernatural/ghost story dealing with an Institute …

Because all the really scary stuff comes from Institutes.

Seriously. Have you looked into what was done to some of these poor people? Just knowing what happened there is creepy.

In any case, to help me remain on task and to give myself something to look forward to every week, I will be posting snippets of the work in progress here with updated word counts and whatnot.

Because … why not?

This is supposed to be fun, after all.