Friday, July 6, 2012

Guest Blogger Mark Covington

The Novel as a Project
A novel is a project. Like developing software or building a house it is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. Of course sometimes it doesn’t seem temporary (it took Christopher Nolan ten years to write Inception and Ayn Rand 10 years to write Atlas Shrugged) but a novel has a beginning, a middle and an end- that day you kiss it goodbye and send it off into the world. Before I began writing novels I was an IT Project Manager so when I started writing novels it was only logical to apply some of the techniques I had used in project management to assure I was using my writing time most effectively. This may sound like I’m making novel writing a ‘science’ instead of an ‘art” but the novel is a mix of art and science. The creative left brain and the structured left brain working together to build the novel. There are tasks, during all three stage of the novel development process; planning, writing and promotion, that lend themselves to structured, organized processes. The following is a breakdown of some of the tools to use during the planning process.

Planning the Novel

It all starts with a plan. The more time you spend getting organized to write and planning what to do along the way, the less time you are going to waste when you are in the throws of writing and your mind is focused on your characters and your story. Characters can be greedy with you time when you are in the ‘zone” and the last thing you want to distract you is to spend time wondering, “what do I do next”.

1. Time Management Plan
I’m the kind of person that schedules everything. I make dinner menus weeks in advance and am usually packed for a trip three days before the flight takes off. Somewhere scribbled on my Day-planner is; “November 18- 4:00- 4:15- ‘be spontaneous’. But not everyone plans instinctively (or obsessively) so here some time management tricks.
· Block out a time to write - Tom Robbins says that every day at 9:00 he enters his home office and sits and waits for his muse. If she comes, great he is off and writing, if not he sits and waits, fingers hovering over the keyboard until noon. If she doesn’t show by noon he goes out to play. Sit at your computer and wait for the muse at the same time every day if you can for a set amount of time. Granted, not everybody can block out a specific time every day, but sometime every day, tune everything else out and open yourself to your muse.. If in that allotted time if she doesn’t show, take a break and try again later or another day, but be there and ready for her visit.
· During your writing time, eliminate distractions. Turn off your television and avoid checking e-mails or facebook. No excuses when waiting for your muse.
· Set goals, tasks and milestones - Remember the analogy of eating an elephant, how trying to conceptualize eating the whole thing is daunting, but if you break it down into bites it seems more palatable. Break your novel project down into bites.
· Start with a story concept, have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. Once you have a clear vision for your novel from beginning to end it is easier to break your vision down into plot points.
· Break your plot into scenes or chapters. I create a new page for each chapter (hard page break) then I label each chapter (such as Harry Meets Sally) and then write a one or two sentence scene description. I can come back and fill these in with actual narrative, dialogue, scene detail, etc later.
· Create a character profile for each character. Identify the character’s background, likes, dislikes, what they value most in life, what they fear, and desire. Also identify conflicts they will have with other characters.
· Create a time-line for your story. I use a flowchart to map out what happens over time. Each little box in the flowchart represents a scene and the following box the next scene, and on and on. You can also create a second flowchart for a subplot and draw lines connecting where the plot and the subplot connect. If you are like me you may need a third or forth parallel flow chart for sub-sub-sub-plots. Mines usually ends up looking like a Rube Goldberg creation.
· Now you are ready to fill in those chapters you mapped out with you character action following your plot and time-line. One bite at a time and that elephant is a lot easier to eat.
2. Resource Plan
Writing is a lonely job but you can’t do it alone. Sounds like a dichotomy right? The point is that it helps to have a network of people that you can reach out to when needed. When you are stuck on a scene, that word is on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t come up with it, or maybe you want to get some ideas for character names, it is good to have another writer to contact. Hunter Thompson is famous for calling up fellow writers in the middle of the night and asking “what’s another word for mendacity?” The key is to identify a ‘go to’ list of resources so that help is at your fingertips. Just remember, if someone is your resource you need to be there when they need help.

Make a list of research you are going to need for your book. What books, videos, music do you need to purchase? What trips do you need to take? Who do you need to talk to? Build these into your time and financial plans.
· Reviewers – A good reviewer is worth his or her weight in gold. Identify your potential reviewers early. Joining a review group will give you some reviewer resources, but be careful try to choose a group with folks in your genre a science fiction reader may not give you effective insight into how to make your romance novel better.
· Editor/proofreader – Don’t rely on your publisher provided editor or proofreader to catch everything, the more ‘nits’ you can catch up front the more time you editor can focus on more substantive work on your novel.

3. Communication Plan

You can have the most wonderful novel ever written but if nobody knows about it they won’t be exactly jumping off the shelves of your local bookstore or clogging the internet with e-book orders. The best way to promote your book is to get people involved in your project early and often.
· Know your market whether it’s Romance, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Speculative Fiction or Steampunk, you have a certain group of potential readers. Your job is to figure out where these folks are, how to reach them and go after them.
· Know you medium check out local and national print and electronic newsletters, newspapers, local entertainment weeklys, etc.,
4. Quality Plan
(Edit, Edit, Edit) - For every vision, there is an equal but opposite revision. Quality control in writing is all about editing. I generally go through about five edits.
· Story Edit – Does the plot work? Is it too complex that readers get distracted? Is it so simple that readers lose interest? Does your theme convey clearly to the reader? Is the voice effective to tell the story and interesting? Is there enough conflict to keep the reader’s interest?
· Time Edit – Impose a timeline on your flowchart, does the time flow day to day, week to week, are the time gaps realistic?
· Character Edit – Are the characters consistent with their profiles in every situation or scene? Physical characteristics are consistent - does John have green eyes in one scene and blue later? Are emotional characteristics the same- same sense of humor, consistent fears and dreams in every scene?
· Wordsmith Edit – Here is where you go word by word and ask yourself “is this the perfect word for this sentence, the perfect sentence for this paragraph and the perfect paragraph for this chapter. Like Mark Twain said, “the difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
· Pre-Editor’s Edit – There is passion in the world like the passion to alter someone else's work. This is sometimes one of the most challenging aspects of writing, trying to look at your manuscript through an editor’s eyes and anticipate changes. Ask yourself “is this clear, could anyone understand it?” I remember a writer who had written “He entered the double-wide and tossed his keys on the counter.” Her editor had scribbled “double wide what?” on the page. I am convinced that above Dickens’s draft where it said “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” his editor scribbled “make up your mind!”

5. Financial Plan

First and foremost get a professional accountant, set up a LLC and begin keeping track of your expenses, all of them, purchases of everything from research books, music, printer paper and internet fees, to gas in your car to go to that writers conference to that research trip to the south of France. It’s all deductible.

Now with your plans in place, you should be able to begin eating that elephant one bite at a time.


Montezuma returns just in time to prevent the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar… As he said, “Bean there, done that…”

Yes, the world as we know it will end on December 21st, 2012, just like the Mayan calendar predicted.

No, it won’t be a result of nuclear war or a pandemic of some strange avian flu. The end of the planet won’t be caused by
SUVs pouring exhaust into the air, aerosol cans or non-recyclable grocery bags. No space aliens are coming to eat us and the planet isn’t going to reverse its magnetic fields and flip over in space like a big, blue flapjack.

We all laughed at the cow flatulence folks, at the very idea of cow farts destroying the world, but we completely underestimated the goats…

Nobody’s laughing anymore.

Part satire, part farce, quite rude in parts, hilarious in others, this is an unusual take on the upcoming disaster scenario of 2012. And there won’t be any happy holidays at the end. Bah, humbug!
- Robert Morton, author of Death is Another Life

Monday, July 2, 2012

More Summer Time Drink ideas from our authors

Hi Everyone,

Enjoy these drink recipes from our authors.

#Jessica Tornese

Sneaky Petes.
They are called that specifically for that reason- they sneak up on you! They are a hit at every party-

Bring to boil and simmer 15 minutes: 3 cups water, 1.5 cups sugar- remove from stove
Add- 6 cups cold water, 12 ounce can frozen lemonade, 12 ounce can frozen orange juice, and one pint vodka (2-2.5 cups)

Mix all together and put in freezer. Leave til slushy- Fill glass three-fourths full with slush and top with 7-up or Sprite. SOOO Good!

Fifteen-year-old Kate Christenson is pretty sure she’s about to experience the worst possible summer at her grandparents’ rural farm in Baudette, Minnesota. Without cable, cell phones, or computers, she is headed for total isolation and six tedious weeks of boredom.

Until the storm.

A freak lightning accident has Kate waking up in 1960.
But she is not herself. She’s the aunt she never met but has eerily resembled her entire life.
Thrust into living a dirt-poor, rural farm existence, Kate struggles to make sense of her situation - a boyfriend with a dark side, a “townie” who steals her heart, and the knowledge that 1960 is the very summer her aunt drowns in the local river.

But was the drowning an accident or a suicide… or something much worse?

#2 K.C. Sprayberry

Coming Soon: Softly Say Goodbye

A handful of tea bags, Tetley works best.
Place in a saucepan three-quarters full of water.
Add enough sugar to rot your teeth.
Bring to boil, and then simmer until you have a thick syrup.
Pour over ice in a pitcher. Add water to fill.
Serve over more ice in a cup guaranteed to sweat.
No other embellishments needed. This sweet summertime treat of the South is guaranteed to cool you off on the hottest day.

#3  Suzette Stone

Great Barrier Reef:

2 measures gin
1 measure cointreau
Dash bitters
Dash of blue curacao
2 scoops vanilla ice-cream

Combine ice, gin, cointreau, bitters, blue curacao and ice-cream in a blender. Blend well and pour into a highball glass.

Stunning Jenna Penworthy’s looks are drawing admiration from most men she encounters, not least the ruthless and lascivious Lord Edwin Penrose, whose lust for his wife’s favorite maid is becoming more and more ardent. With Jenna and her mining fiancĂ© Trystan’s livelihood dependant on the Penrose Tin Mines, Lord Edwin knows it is only a matter of time before the voluptuous virgin will be his. That is until his cousin returns to Cornwall from America. The irresistible and carefree adventurer, Sir Jack Bartholomew, finds himself caught up in protecting the alluring servant who has so captured his heart. But with Jenna, a mere servant girl, betrothed to another man, Jack realizes he is certain to be denied his overwhelming desires. Then destiny takes a turn and a stormy encounter with Lord Edwin seems to seal Jenna’s fate. Set amidst the harsh and windswept moorland of 1840’s Cornwall, A Fateful Wind tells of hidden secrets, familial destinies and a love that can never be denied.