NaNoWriMo 2018: And so it begins…

Somehow, today starts my fifteenth year of participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Somehow, I’ve completed the previous fourteen and won. Somehow, two of those books have become available to the public (here and here).

Will this fifteenth attempt turn into something Amazon-worthy? Only time will tell. But if Day One is any indication, I’m excited to see what happens this month. Wherever this new story takes me, I’ll be traveling there with my IBM Selectric II typewriter for the first draft, with my trusty NaNo Rhino cheering me on as a mascot. (I’d call him a muse, but he’s a bit of a jerk and doesn’t always like to help me solve plot dilemmas. He’s too busy eating leftover Halloween candy. Jerk.)

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Why a typewriter, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked. (Actually, no, I’m not. I get tired of this question after the 237th time.) I use a typewriter because sometimes—just sometimes—you need to see the paper move. Physically move. And you need a device that makes it impossible to self-edit along the way. During NaNoWriMo—during any first-draft stage—you need to move forward, always forward.

Don’t look back! That’s what I hear when I listen to the hummmmmming of my Selectrics. They’re marvelous beasts for typing for long periods of time. I often have to tear myself away from the keyboard because it’s such a delight to use. Give me a Selectric keyboard over any computer keyboard any day.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, leave a comment and tell me what your process looks like. Mine involves not only the Selectrics and the rhino mascot, but also copious amounts of caffeine, a lot of ’90s alternative music in the background, and a heavy reliance on voicemail.

 

Can You Keep a Secret?

5-SecretAgentManny_PrintProof2-FRONT (LindaHPLaptop's conflicted copy 2017-01-11)

Today I’m ordering a proof copy of this book—Secret Agent Manny—so I can make sure it looks pretty and beautiful and marginally correct. Wait, I mean, to make sure the margins are correct. We typesetters care about these things.

This book started as a dare (as most great books do) … by two writer friends of mine, Fara Linn Howell and Jim Watkins. The first line of the book (“There’s been an incident at the house”) was spoken to me over the phone by my electrical engineer husband while I was at a writing conference … and Jim and Fara thought it was a perfect jumping-off point for a story. Then again, bungee jumpers think high bridges are perfect jumping-off points, and I think they’re all insane.

That year, their idea turned into my NaNoWriMo novel, written on my IBM Selectric. And I’ve been tinkering with the story ever since. This past autumn I spent five wonderful days at Forest Edge Cottage in Kane, Pa. (in the Allegheny Forest), where I wrapped up the story on my Smith Corona Coronamatic.

Yes, I use typewriters to write fiction. Don’t get all up in my face about it. If these particular typewriters were good enough for Hunter S. Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury and Charles Bukowski and John Irving and James Baldwin, they’re good enough for me.

Plus, I have no real hobbies to speak of.

Anyway, now Secret Agent Manny is edited, typeset, and proofread. And it’ll soon be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website. (Don’t panic. I’ll post direct links once the book’s available. Take some deep breaths into a paper bag or something before you faint. I said, don’t panic!)

If you’re going to see me at a conference or festival this year (like this one, or this one), I won’t mind if you wait till then to get a copy (so I can sign it for you and make it worth ten or fifteen cents more than you paid for it).

Otherwise, watch out, world! Secret Agent Manny is coming your way—sometime in May!

And the Beat Goes On . . .

This past week I released both the print and Kindle editions of my cozy mystery, The Scarlet Letter Opener. Not the first novel I’ve written, but the first novel I’ve put out there in the big, wide world.
And it feels a lot like watching your firstborn grow up, move out, get married … all those overused empty-nest clichés. It feels like all of them, but a lot more personal because, if your novel flops, you can’t blame it on anyone else but yourself. Nature, nurture, whatever. It’s all crap when you release a novel. Well, you can try to blame it on the cover designer or your beta readers, but that’s just a passive-aggressive device to avoid blame, and it’s not fooling anybody.
Anyway, a few of my trusted friends  [read: I’m pretty sure they’re not going to kill me in my sleep] finally convinced me that it was time to step up to the plate and shoulder the blame.
Wait… this isn’t coming out the way I had expected. Not really enticing anyone to read the book, am I?
Let me skip all the boring crap about how a writer’s creative yet blocked mind works and get right to the important stuff. The pertinent facts and rules:
1. The Scarlet Letter Opener, a cozy mystery, is now available on Amazon.com.
2. Please buy it and/or borrow it from Amazon.com.
3. If you buy and/or borrow it and enjoy it, please leave a favorable review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Authors rely heavily on those reader reviews (especially the good ones).
4. If you buy and/or borrow it and don’t enjoy it, keep it to yourself, all right? Nobody wants to hear your negativity.
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In other, semi-related news, another novel should be showing up within the next few weeks. This one’s a lot more serious. The cover reveal should happen later this week. Rules 2–4 above will still apply. You’re officially on notice.

The Next Big Thing: A Blog Hop

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Ah, a blog hop! I still haven’t quite figured out what it is, but I’m participating anyway. Read here, then hop away!

Below are my thought-provoking and informative answers to some questions a bunch of authors are asking and answering right now. And, I really do hope to have Secret Agent Manny out by late spring. Yes, of THIS year. Why do you ask?

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What is the working title of your next book?

I’m most excited about Secret Agent Manny, a comic pseudo-spy novel (more comic than spy, although the pseudo part would probably be the best adjective of the three if I’m being perfectly honest).

I have a hard time getting into a project (especially a large project) until I have a good title, and although I’m usually open to suggestions for titles, I also know it when I hear it. And, at the end of the day, I’ve usually come up with it myself. And then I can move forward.

I’ve been told I’ve got a knack for coming up with great titles. When a previous project, Do-It-Yourself Widow, placed as a runner-up in a national novel contest a few years ago, I was told that my title was the best of them all.

Now, if only I could get similar praise for the other 75,000 words in that project.

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Where did the idea come from for the book?

Secret Agent Manny is my 2012 National Novel Writing Month project. The idea has to be credited to two writer pals of mine, James Watkins and Fara Howell Pienkosky. While at a writing conference last June, I got a disturbing phone call from my husband still at home, about a burglary there. As the writing conference progressed, Jim and Fara poked and prodded me into believing that my husband was actually living a double life as a spy.

Since Jim and I are both humor writers, and since Fara, though much more spiritual than I, has one of the best senses of humor in these parts, we escalated my poor husband’s imagined double-life to outrageous proportions the rest of the week.

By week’s end I knew I had to adapt their crazy (or not-so-crazy) ideas into a novel—a novel that starts out with a phone call strangely similar to the one I had with my husband that day: “There’s been an incident at the house…”

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What genre does your book fall under?

I’d be more worried if you asked me what table my book fell under. But, to answer your actual question: It’s a comic pseudo-spy novel. Weren’t you paying attention earlier?
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Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

See, I don’t think there’s enough real spy action for this to be a James Bond movie, and I’m not sure the comedy translates all that well outside of book form … but since you ask, I’ll have to go with Oliver Platt for Manny and Mary Louise Parker for Amanda—but only if she’ll eat a sandwich or something first. That woman is too thin.

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What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A bored wife with too much time on her hands begins to suspect that her quiet, mild-mannered husband is really a spy … and she inadvertently turns their lives upside down in her quest to discover the truth.

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Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

After years of telling myself that it was all right to self-publish the humor-essay books but not the novels, I’ve decided that God gave me a direct path to self-publishing even the novels: I’ve worked in the prepress publishing world for decades, and I have professional skills as a typesetter and proofreader. Why would I wait to see my book in print for years while going the traditional publishing route when I can wear all the prepress hats myself?

Life is too short to be traditional about this. Besides, within the next few nanoseconds, the term “traditional publishing” won’t mean anything anymore.

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How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still working on Secret Agent Manny, but the first 50,000 words are done—and now edited—and were originally written in November 2012, as part of NaNoWriMo. But, once I’m on fire about a project, I can churn it out quickly. I hope to have this ready by late spring 2013. Just don’t quote me on that.

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What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Ha ha ha. Genre. Compare. You’re so funny.

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Who or what inspired you to write this book?

More kudos to those pesky friends of mine, Jim and Fara, for the inspiration. And once I went from just having fun coming up with reasons my husband is a spy during a writing conference to actively taking notes for a novel, the ideas just wouldn’t stop coming.

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What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

You’d be amazed at how differently you’ll look at your own spouse when you see just how many common household items and common daily routines you can call into question. All you need is a paranoid, suspicious nature and a little creativity, and all hell breaks loose.

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NaNoWriMo is calling my name … again

In about thirteen hours, I’ll be officially going insane. Again.

I know, I know. If you already know me, you’re thinking, “Wait, didn’t that happen sometime around 1981?”

Sure, the first time. But I’m talking about that temporary insanity, that yearly foray into crazyhood known as National Novel Writing Month (known to the rest of the normal world as “November”).  (See nanowrimo.org for more information or to join in the insanity.) November starts in thirteen hours, and although other folks are trick-or-treating and dressing up as clowns or princesses or Barack Obama or other equally frightening things, I’ll spend part of the day polishing my minimal planning for this year’s novel, waiting for the imaginary starting gun at the stroke of midnight. It’ll mean typing 50,000 words on a new fiction project sometime between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. That’s about 1,667 words per day, every day, if you write the same amount every day. Which I don’t. I tend to skip a few days out of distraction and then scurry to catch up by hooking up an I.V. of essential fluids and a catheter to release those fluids and writing for hours on end while family members whisper behind my back and plot to have me committed.

I’ve participated in this yearly ritual every November since 2004 … and I’ve “won” every year too. If you think that makes me over-confident, though, you’re wrong. If anything, it feels like a whole lotta pressure. Will this be the year that beats me to a pulp? Will this be the one time I can’t keep up? Will I sprain a pinky folding laundry on Day Two and not be able to type properly for three weeks? You know: the obvious questions at a time like this.

Does it help that I have a ton of freelance projects staring me in the face right now (and I usually don’t)? No.

Does it help that I have a bunch of engagements outside the house this first two weeks that will interrupt my alone-time? No.

Does it help that hubby has a routine screening procedure tomorrow morning (known to me as Day One, the Day of Momentum) that will mean both of us being out of the house for hours? No.

Does it help that we are in the throes of perhaps the biggest house move either of us has ever made, with paperwork and phone calls and inspections coming out our ears this month? No.

Does any of this deter me from attempting the impossible for an eighth year in a row?

NO.

The word processor is ready. The AlphaSmart Neo is ready. The Acer netbook is ready. The two desktop computers are ready. Even the IBM Selectric typewriter is ready. Year Eight will not beat me.

BRING.  IT.  ON.

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