NaNoWriMo 2015

We’re five days into National Novel Writing Month and I’ve got a confession to make:  I haven’t been keeping up with it very well.  I’ve written a little bit and brainstormed a lot, but I’m nowhere near where I should be in the grand scheme of NaNoWriMo.  There are a few reasons (or excuses) for that.

First of all, I spent a long weekend in Houston and didn’t return until Monday afternoon.  At that point, I was exhausted and had a lot of unpacking and pictures to go through.

Second, with only a little more than a month before Backstage is released, I’m devoting most of my time and energy into making sure it’s ready to go by December 8.  Those of you who’ve published your own books know that that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for much else.

Finally, I’ve been having a difficult time figuring out how I wanted to begin my NaNo book.  I think I may have figured it out last night, but I’m still not 100% sure.  Sometimes, you can’t force it.  You just have to let the words come naturally.

I am, however, SO excited to see so many of my friends and colleagues and total strangers participating in NaNoWriMo this year!  It’s a fantastic way to get people writing and to get some fantastic new books out there.  It’s also proof to me that the written word is thriving.  There are so many rumors and reports and literacy and society’s love of reading being on the decline, but even if they’re true, there is so much love for NaNoWriMo and so much enthusiasm and excitement for reading and writing new books that I can’t help but feel optimistic about my trade and profession.  I love books so much.  I always have.  And it’s so encouraging to see so many others sharing that love.

NaNoWriMo will always hold a special place in my heart, particularly because it gave me the opportunity to write something new, something that I guarantee I would not have written otherwise.  Boy Band is the book that was not supposed to exist.  And now, here it is, a year later and I’m getting ready to release its sequel.  How cool is that?

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For those wondering, that little guy in the picture is Simon the NaNo Dragon.  He’s my November writing buddy.

Fellow writers and aspiring authors, enjoy your NaNoWriMo experience.  Write well.  Write what you love.  You never know what may come of it.  And if you get behind (or if you haven’t started on time – oops!), don’t get discouraged.  After all, it took me TWO months to finish Boy Band.  All you need to know is that you can do anything.  And you will.  Just keep writing.

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Why I Write

Most days, I have no idea what I’m going to blog about until I sit down at my computer.  Even then, sometimes it takes me a while to come up with something.  And if I can’t, chances are I’ll just skip blogging for the day.  After all, I usually don’t post every day.

Today, however, was one of those blessed days where I signed onto Twitter and noticed the number one trending topic in the nation: #WhyIWrite.  It was like a gift from the blogging gods.  Why do I write?

My immediate answer was Because I can’t not write.  Eloquent, I know.  But it’s true!  To not write would be almost physically impossible for me.  It’s a part of who I am, perhaps more so than just about any other quality that I possess.  When I’m writing, everything makes sense.  It’s one of the few things that has always come naturally to me.

My parents read to me every night, from the day I was born up until I learned to read myself.  Both profess that they don’t remember teaching me or my sister to read.  We just seemed to pick it up after having been read to our entire lives.  Writing followed shortly thereafter.

For years, writing was something I just did for fun.  In fact, I didn’t even realize I was doing it, if that makes any sense at all.  It was just something I did because I wanted to, like playing jump rope or riding my bike.  I even wrote stories about my future.  That should have been a clue right there that all my other interests would eventually take a backseat to writing.  Actually, looking back, I think they already had.

I write for myself, but I also write because I truly believe that it’s my way of interacting with the world, and maybe even doing some good.  I don’t write personal narratives very often, but I’m a huge believer in mental health awareness.  I’m also a big tree-hugger and animal and nature-lover.  Writing it what I have to give.  And I hope, one day, I’ll be able to make a difference.

I also write because I love characters and I love stories and I love adventures.  There will never be enough books in the world, nor intriguing characters to get to know.  I have dozens of plot lines and characters and places all swimming around in my head.  I have to let them out.  They’d drive me absolutely crazy if I didn’t.  And I want to give them their own stories.  I think they deserve that.  I hope I live long enough to see that happen for them.  I’m hoping I’ve got at least another fifty-sixty years, so I should be good.  Still, that doesn’t really seem like a very long time, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not.  I better get a move on!

Most importantly, I write because it’s what I love.  It makes me happy.  It gives me a thrill.  I hope to keep writing for the rest of my life, regardless of whether my books go on to become bestsellers or not.  Everything about writing is magic to me, and I’m thankful every day for books and for words and for stories.  May they never fade from our human experience.

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Octobering

The past few days have been filled with a lot of joy and a lot of preparation for one of my very favorite days of the year, Halloween!  The days to come will hold just as much if not more of the same.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The fun began Friday with another outdoor excursion into the woods.  The weather was so lovely, it almost felt like a real autumn as opposed to a Texas autumn.

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The next day, I joined my friend and fellow author Paula for Royse City’s annual Fun Fest, where we sold books and ate corn dogs and just had an old fashioned good time.  I even ended up running into some old friends!

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I also got to explore the city a bit.

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Yesterday was more low-key.  I lit a fall candle, curled up with a blanket, and read my very first RL Stine book.  I know, I know.  I’m a disgrace to my childhood and to my genre.  I love spooky things.  I don’t know how I went my entire kid life without reading one of his books.  But better late than never.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Books like his remind me of why I began writing in the first place.  Books are just pure exhilaration.  They’re limitless.  And I love them.

Speaking of which, if you’re a book blogger/reviewer and interested in receiving Review Copies of any of my books, please check out my new Review Copy Requests and Policies.

Later, Gators.

Learning to Write

Tonight, I’ll be attending a NaNoWriMo kick starter event at a local library.  A friend of mine is presenting and the event is open to anyone who is thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo, as well as those who have participated in the past.  As y’all know, Boy Band started out as a NaNoWriMo project and has received such positive feedback that I’m planning on releasing the sequel in just a few short months.  It goes without saying that I am a big supporter of NaNoWriMo.

But you know, all this talk about writing seminars reminds has started taking me back to my own days in college, when I was just figuring out that I wanted to write.  Really write.  I remember Meg Cabot (one of my writing idols) advising young aspiring authors NOT to take any writing classes.  She claimed that studying something would instantly kill any and all love you once held for it.  To an extent, I found this to be true.

I took a few writing classes throughout my six years of higher education.  Some of which I enjoyed.  Some of which I hated so much I had to block them out.

I won’t waste too much time talking about the classes I didn’t enjoy.  One of them was screenplay writing. I think I would have really enjoyed it had it not been for my instructor.  He was a bitter, failed novelist and he made it no secret that he did not give two flying flips what we learned in that class, if anything.  The other was a short story class.  My final story was nothing exceptional, although I can’t help but remember it was about ghosts and demons and things that went bump in the night.  It seems I’ve always harbored that dark fascination.

The writing class that I really, truly enjoyed was a poetry class, which is funny, because I am a truly terrible poet.  That’s probably why I enjoyed the class, though.  Because I was learning something new.  I’ve written a grand total of three poems that I’m actually proud of.  Two of which are here.  The third is about killing a cockroach in New Braunfels.

Perhaps my favorite class of all, however, was children’s literature.  Even though it technically wasn’t a writing class, we all had to come up with our own final project to present at the end of the semester.  I decided to write and illustrate my own children’s book.  I’m actually quite tempted to upload it and share it with you here.  I’m pretty proud of it, even though the illustrations and the book itself leave much to be desired.  Still, I’ll never forget standing up in front of the class to show off the book.  My classmates were bewildered that I’d gone with writing a children’s book over writing a paper. One girl actually asked me, “Why would you do that?!” I guess to them, writing a paper was a lot less work, and it probably was.  But to me, writing a book was a lot more fun.  And it still is.

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Of Pumpkins and Formatting

Today is officially the first day of autumn!  I plan on celebrating with pumpkin spice candles and catching up on some long overdue reading.  Pumpkin bread and some good Halloween movies might also be on the horizon.  For now, however, I wanted to share some excited news!  Two things, actually!

  1. After Death is all pretty and formatted and review/proof copies are on the way.  I can’t wait to see it!  Especially with the other two books!  It’s going to look so pretty. 11855709_284882665020055_753171641304509198_n
  2. I’ve been asked to participate in a series of NaNoWriMo meet-ups for one of the local libraries!  I’ll be talking about my experience participating in NaNoWriMo and encouraging other writers on their journey.  I am so excited!  I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo.  I used to have this really rotten attitude about it.  I though, “Psh… I don’t need a bunch of people telling me to write a novel in a month.  I’ll write a novel whenever I damn well please!”  But the thing about NaNoWriMo is that it challenges you to try something new, to maybe write a book you hadn’t planned on writing.  And it’s SO much fun.  It’s such a great way to open up your mind and take a chance on something that you previously hadn’t given much thought.  If I hadn’t participated in NaNoWriMo, Boy Band wouldn’t exist.  And guess what?  It’s only been out a few months and it’s done better than my other two books put together. So yeah.  I love NaNoWriMo and I’m really looking forward to meeting with other writers, sharing my experience, and encouraging them to keep writing!

As for my personal work, like I said, I finished formatting After Death yesterday and the proof copy is on its way.  It still needs a final read-through and last minute edits, but for the most part, I’m feeling really good about this book.  I’ve also found that the more I write, the easier the editing and formatting process gets.  At first, it was so daunting and intimidating and to be honest, I was kind of terrified of the idea.  But now, I actually look forward to it.  It’s so much fun to see your manuscript become a real book.  It’s also such a left-brained project.  Sometimes it’s really nice to turn off the emotional, creative, la-de-da side of your brain and just rely on the driven, logic-based, task-oriented side.  It’s not a side I consult very often, so whenever I do, it’s very efficient and eager to prove itself.  And it rarely lets me down.  My right brain is very talented, but it’s so easily distracted and it has to have like ten things to focus on at once or it gets bored and it’s very emotional and sometimes hard to work with.  My right brain is basically Dory from Finding Nemo.

That being said, I think I’m going to head out.  My dad is at the eye doctor again, this time for a consultation for cataract surgery.  Good times.  After that, however, I really want to try and make pumpkin spice muffins.  I also need to get started on a new short story for the next Lurking anthology.  Then I might just learn to crochet.  See?  That right brain is never fully satisfied.

Style

When I was in college, I met this guy at a party.  We talked for maybe two minutes because everything he said translated in my mind to, “Hi, I’m a jerk. You don’t want to know me. I am physically repelling you with my voice right now.”

It happens.

Anyway, in those two minutes, we ended up talking about writing styles.  Specifically, we talked about JK Rowling’s writing style.

I don’t remember how Harry Potter came up, but considering it’s me, it’s not very surprising.  I’ve mentioned how the Harry Potter books got me through some of the hardest parts of my life. https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/i-believe-in-dragons/

It was JK Rowling and her style that inspired me to begin writing my own stories.  Granted, back then it was just for fun.  I had absolutely no intention or inclination to consider becoming a writer full time, or even part time.  It was just something I did for me.  The guy that I met that night at the party, however, apparently had had it in his head for a while that he was destined to become the next Tolstoy or something.  Let me tell you, he had an ego on him the size of… well… Texas.  I was going to say Hogwarts, but Texas is way bigger than Hogwarts.

Anyway, the moment I mentioned Harry Potter, this guy goes all out, trashing JK Rowling and her horrible, juvenile, dialogue-based writing.  I was appalled.  For one thing, it was the first time I’d ever heard someone say anything even remotely negative about Queen Rowling.  For another, I love the way that JK Rowling writes!  It was so personable to me, so easy and fun to read, so truly and uniquely in her own voice.  I much prefer reading books with narrators who speak to their readers like old friends rather than narrators who are aloof and above it all, which that guy at the party definitely was.

It’s weird to think that a two-minute conversation I had with some jerk at a party would stay with me for eight years, but that conversation is wildly relevant to my life as a writer now, mostly because I want to be everything that he trashed that night.  I want to write like I’m friends with my readers.  I want them to read my stories and feel like it’s a real person telling them.  I want my characters to have lives personalities of their own and I want their dialogue to reflect it.

I love writing dialogue.  It’s my favorite thing to write.  I’m very mediocre when it comes to action and descriptions, but dialogue is my thing.  And you know, when it comes to writing, there is no right or wrong.  There is no such thing as too much dialogue or not enough dialogue.  It fully depends on the author’s intention for the story.  I’ve read and enjoyed books that are almost all dialogue and I’ve read and enjoyed books that have very little.  Not every book is meant to be written a certain way.  In fact, if they were, reading would be terribly, terribly boring.  I love that every author of every book I’ve ever read has their own style that makes them 100% unique.

As for me?  I know I tend to hover around the more dialogue-based narrative.  I love characters.  Even when I was little, I had four or five imaginary friends running around inside my head at once.  It’s really no wonder I became a writer.

That all being said, I hope you all have a fantastic Wednesday!  This week is going so slowly for me.  Is it for anyone else?  It’s probably because my sister is coming home this weekend and we’re going to see Ed Sheeran and I’m dying to see her.  I also have a very good friend taking some pretty intimidating exams at the end of the week and I keep wanting them to be over for him.  Hurry up, weekend!  We’re all ready for you!

Off Schedule

Those of you who keep up with my blog know that I usually post a few times a week, and I usually publish those posts early afternoon.  My schedule has been a little off this week because I’ve been waking up early to go take care of my god-pup.  Okay, technically, my friend hasn’t actually asked me to be his godmother, but I’ve decided that I am.  As you may or may not know, however, I am a night owl.  My natural bedtime is 3-4 AM.  That doesn’t change when I have to wake up four or five hours later.  This new routine has resulted in midday nap time for me, around the same time I’m usually writing my blog post.  So yeah.  Just thought I’d let y’all know that I am still a live and functional.  I’m just sleeping a lot in the middle of the day to make up for my lack of sleep at night.  I love taking care of Dorian, though.  I haven’t had a puppy since I was 2, so it’s a lot of fun taking him on walks and playing fetch with him.

In book related news, yesterday was the two-year anniversary of the first time I held the first copy of my first book in my hand.

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It’s kind of surreal to think that it’s already been two years since Cemetery Tours became a reality.  In other ways, it feels like it was just yesterday.  Writing books, holding those books in my hand for the first time, or even the second, third, or thousandth, is still such a thrill.  I can’t wait to share the new Cemetery Tours book with you.  I’ll admit, I’m really pushing my time as far as revisions go, but I know it will be beautiful and professional and ready to go on October 6.  I have way too much pride to not let that happen.

All that being said, it’s time to go check on Dorian!  I’ll talk to y’all soon!  Happy Thursday!

Happy Thoughts

Okay, so as y’all may or may not know, I have really weird, really detailed dreams.  Most of my dreams have plots, antagonists, and at times, they cant be stressful, dark, disturbing, or all of the above.  Case in point: https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/in-dreams/

And: https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/haunted-dreams/

Last night’s dream was probably one of the most disturbing I’ve ever had, and I realized as soon as I woke up that it wasn’t the first time I’d had it.  Or I guess I should say it wasn’t the first time I’d visited that place in my dream.  It’s so strange.  There have been times when my conscious mind can’t remember a dream, but my subconscious dream mind will.  In fact, in my dream last night, the person guiding me through reminded me, “You came here last year, remember?” And I did.

The people in my dream thought I would be interested in visiting this particular building because it was said to be one of the most haunted in the nation.  And it was.  I’m not going to tell you why though.  I could barely get the word out this morning when I called my mom to tell her about it.  I could tell early on that she was horrified that I’d dreamt something so dark, so gruesome, so I didn’t go into detail.  I gave her a one-sentence summary.  But the images and ideas have stayed with me all day.

That being said, I am doing my best today to think happy thoughts.  Like fall!  Pumpkins!  Music!  Parakeets!  Two of my best friends and I are going to be spending Halloween in Houston at the Texas Renaissance Festival, so that’s something fun to look forward to!  We’re going to go shopping for costumes next week.  I’m also puppy sitting for those same two friends this week, so that’s fun.  I haven’t had a puppy since I was two so I’m having a lot of fun with Glorious Dorian as we call him.

There’s not a whole lot new on the book front, except for some awesome new reviews for all three books and lots of new Instagram friends who have been so sweet and supportive in their reviews and pictures!

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Fiesta

After a rather busy weekend, it’s time to get back in the swing of things.  Okay, that’s kind of a lie.  Yesterday, I did nothing.  But the day before actually was busy.  Went to support a few friends at a book signing, then a girls’ night complete with wine and Mario Kart.  See, I actually do have a life!

One of the friends I went out to support, Paula Walker Baker, has a new book coming out at the end of the month!  I’m delighted to announce that I will be interviewing her here on my blog within the next week or so, so stay tuned!  In the mean time, stop by and check out her blog: https://paulawalkerbaker.wordpress.com

It’s funny.  I met Paula at my camp, the same place I met three of the most important people in my life.  I know I mention my camp a lot, but honestly, that place and those people changed my life.  And it was all because of one postcard in the mail.  One that my friend Terri, one of those people, sent!  Life is amazing.  It’s so weird to think how different my life would be without them.

Anyway, before I dissolve into a sentimental spiral of destiny and fate, let’s try to steer this blog post back to books.  Books!  Yes!  My favorite things!  Books are awesome!  That’s why I’m writing two at the same time!  That, or I’m just crazy!  It’s probably that second one.

In all seriousness though, if Sam Morneau accidentally turns up in the next Cemetery Tours book, I apologize.

Speaking of Sam and The Kind of September, please remember that my Become a Character Raffle and Giveaway is going on until the end of the month!  https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/becomeacharacter/

Finally, I’ve been promising and promising, well now I’m finally delivering!  Here’s the second Boy Band short story!  Again, it hasn’t been professionally edited because my editors are too busy with the next Cemetery Tours book.  Nevertheless, enjoy!

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Inside Out

Last week, my sister and I went to see the latest Disney/Pixar production, Inside Out.  If, by some chance, you haven’t heard of it, it’s a delightful and colorful animated feature about five of our basic emotions: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear.  At first, I wasn’t sure what I would think of it, but as I heard more and more people talk about the great discussions and lines of communication, particularly about mental illness, that it opened up, I found myself eager to see it.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Inside Out teaches the valuable lesson that while you always want your loved ones, and yourself, to be happy, it’s okay, and even healthy, to feel sadness.  You should never keep your emotions pent up inside you.  You need all of them.

My favorite element of Inside Out, however, were the Islands of Personality.  For example, Riley, the girl in whose head the whole movie is centered, has a Hockey Island, a Friendship Island, a Family Island, etc…  As my sister and I drove home from the theater that night, we got to thinking about what our own Islands of Personality might be.

Of course, there are the obvious ones like Family and Friends.  And Pets!  I know I have a Pet Island in there somewhere.  My life revolves far too much around loving my cat and hoping for parakeets not to have a Pet Island.  Family is obviously the most important of the Islands.  I’d do anything for my parents and my sister and I know they’d do anything for me.  That goes for my friends as well.

I definitely have a Book Island.  This Island includes books that I’ve read, books that I’ve written, and books that I have yet to write.  Let’s face it, a good deal of my life is dedicated to reading and writing books.  And I love it.  I love it so, so, so much.

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There’s also most certainly a Photography Island.  Besides writing, photography is my other great love.  As any of my friends will tell you, I am addicted to all forms of photography, from professional to Instagram.  I love capturing moments and I love sharing the world as seen through the lens.

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Right next door to Photography Island is Exploration, Nature, and Adventure Island.  These Islands, like the others, are fairly self-explanatory.  I love being outside and exploring and traveling and experiencing new things and seeing new places.  I live for moments spent hiking beneath the trees, stargazing, and swimming in the ocean.  I would love to be known as a NYT Bestselling Author, but I would also love to be known as an explorer and adventurer.

Finally, there’s Fantasy Island.  I’m a daydreamer.  I think about the future far more than I dwell on the past (which is saying something, because I have been known to be a dweller).  Fantasy Island is also home to Mystery City, which includes a fascination with things that can’t be explained.  I love the idea that we don’t have everything figured out yet.  I love that we, as a human race, still have things that we have yet to learn and discover.  I love the idea of being curious and being thrilled and being absolutely blown away by things that we can’t even begin to fathom.

I’m sure there are others too, but I think those are my most dominant personality Islands.  What are yours?