NaNoWriMo Preptober 2018

Do you NaNo? If you’ve ever had even a hankering to try your hand at contributing something to the worldwide body of fiction, National Novel Writing Month is a good place to start. For one thing, you’ll get lots of support and encouragement, and afterward the whole idea of “writing a book” will seem far less daunting. It’s amazing, it’s true: you actually can do this. I am not kidding.

In addition, you’ll discover a community of writers you never knew existed all around you, and you’ll find out another thing I was amazed to discover: Writers, as a body, are really amazingly nice people! Most nerds are. (Oh, yah, if you’re a nerd, you’ll also find, among writers, a much higher percentage of nerds than you’ll find anywhere else. What’s your nerddom? Doctor Who? Night Vale? Local indy bands nobody else has heard of? Chances are, everyone in your local NaNo group will also have at least one of these interests – and some of them might share all of them with you. It’s mind-boggling!)

I started Moonlight and Moss as my 2017 NaNo project, though I knew it was going to run well over the requisite 50,000 words required to “Win” NaNoWriMo. This year, I am going to work on a short (well, short for me!) novella revolving around what it must be like to experience the Christmas season in Woodley, USA. I can well imagine that, at Vale House, Santa Claus really does slide down the chimney on Christmas Eve. He probably hangs around eating hors d’oeuvres (I wonder if Katarina will finally make tacos?) and drinking the special Christmas brandy.

This won’t really be part of the current “trilogy” featuring Cally, Ben, and Emerald, though they will be present for Christmas this year. Maybe someday I’ll include a bound copy of the story as bonus content with the boxed set.

Best of all, NaNoWriMo is for a good cause, whether your participate as a writer or by supporting an aspiring writer you know. Proceeds from donations to National Novel Writing Month provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page. Their Young Writers Program promotes writing fluency, creative education, and the sheer joy of writing in K-12 classrooms by providing free classroom kits, writing workbooks, Common Core-aligned curricula, and virtual class management tools to more than 2,000 educators from Dubai to Boston. For more information please visit their web site: NaNoWriMo.org

 

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Writing is a Collaboration

Yesterday a lady said to me: “I think writing must be the hardest form of art. With painting or sculpture, at least you can see what you’re making but with writing you have to imagine it all in addition to writing it.”

My first thought was that writing is certainly easier for me than, say, basic arithmetic. Seriously, I get anxiety symptoms just thinking about adding two two-digit numbers! But I also found myself thinking that readers, also, have to imagine everything they’re reading.  Reading is not just a passive form of entertainment that is merely presented to you wholly formed: you are required, also, to imagine everything the written words are telling you.

I wonder why we do this? It sounds like work! Yet we eagerly take it on. It really doesn’t feel like work at all, to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t to you, either. We may be nuts, but we are happy nuts!

Storytelling, whether written or oral, is a collaboration between a storyteller and a listener. I don’t know about other forms of art, but this one, at least, requires input and the capacity to imagine from both ends, in order to happen at all. I find that very humbling. I recognize my responsibility to my readers – and I have complete faith they will not let me down on their end, either.

So I want to tell you flat out: Readers, I appreciate you! Without you, the art of writing would be incomplete. Your imagination, in addition to mine, is not just appreciated but necessary in order to make the story happen. Without you, your mind and your imagination, everything I write would be nothing more than a bunch of letters on a page.

 

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Hurricane Drinking Game

In honor of The Captain, who (with no prompting by the author) made up a drinking game for whenever your house is being crawled over by Paranormal Investigators, I hereby present this drinking game for when Hurricane Florence is bearing down on your haunted or non-haunted house,:

(PS: To everyone in the path of Hurricane Florence, please be safe!)

Hurricane Drinking Game

Take a sip of whatever you’re drinking every time:

  •  you hear the word “flood”
  • the newscaster says “feeder bands” or “hunker down”
  • they change the storm’s trajectory
  •  you see a satellite image wherein the storm system is larger than the state
  • a news reporter interviews someone on the beach
  • the TV shows images of storm surge; drink twice if the surge splashes onto a roof.

Every time a Northern relative calls and asks if you’re okay, finish your drink and get a new one.

One sip for every inch of rain that’s recorded each hour.

Salute and drink whenever there’s an announcement for a shelter that takes pets

Drink if there’s an announcement for a shelter that’s full. Put your drink down if it’s the one that took pets.

Chug a beer every time the lights flicker.

Every time you see a TV correspondent trying to talk into their microphone while nearly being blown over by hurricane-force winds, drink. Drink twice if they actually fall over. Drink three times if you can hear them swear.

Whenever the TV shows a traffic jam with thousands of cars heading in the same direction, drink. Drink twice if you see one car heading in the opposite direction.

Drink if they show images of traffic signals swinging from a wire in the middle of an intersection. Drink twice if you recognize the intersection.

If you hear a tree fall, put your hand over your heart and drink to it.

If you can see rain moving sideways, drink – and stop looking out the window.

If you can see rain moving sideways and you’re looking out a hole in your roof, grab all the booze and move to a safe place in your home.

Drink one shot every time a car alarm goes off

If it’s your car alarm, drink the rest of the bottle and go outside.

When the power goes out – finish all the beer before it gets warm.

Helpful hint: Make sure you save some of that emergency water for the next day’s hangover.

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Cats Never Cooperate

I have reached the Beta Reader stage with Moonlight and Moss! This means the story is complete and I have combed through it dozens of times, ironing out plot conundrums and making sure what I’m trying to say is clear to the reader. Probably. The only way to know for sure is to ask some actual readers.

Fortunately I have a wonderful group of highly literate friends who don’t mind being brutal if they have to, and who will absolutely tell me exactly what they experience as they read my, what, I guess it’s twentieth draft, now.

I’ve only sent them the first half of the manuscript so far, though. You see there’s this cat. I know this cat needs to be in the story, I just can’t figure out where it belongs. Should it come sooner in the story? But then if it does, what shall I do with it when the Really Bad Guy is on the loose? I don’t want it to get hurt! (No. I will never, ever, ever write a story where an animal or a child suffers. Nope. Ain’t gonna do it.)

It would also work just fine if it jumps in at the end of the story, but it’s just so darn adorable, I really want to see more of it. So, I keep moving it around. And, of course, every time I move it I have to change the scenery around where it was, and also the ones where it went later. It is this one, final detail that is driving me bonkers and keeping me from being able to say my manuscript is complete!

So, well, if you are one of my Beta Readers and you finish the first half and want to know where the second half is, all I can say is: It’s the cat’s fault!

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Luke’s Tale

When I first created Luke, near the beginning of Seven Turns, I really didn’t mean for him to be anything more than a one-time walk-on character who would say a few lines, serve his purpose and exit stage left. Apparently he wasn’t satisfied with a bit part, though. By Chapter 24 he had decided to stick around, and had developed a personality of his own. I discovered he was into computer repair, gourmet pizza toppings, bad jokes and winding up the town elders. Who knew? Certainly not I.

As I began work on Moonlight and Moss I learned that he also plays keyboards and that he, well, he understands a lot of things about Woodley that most of its denizens just turn their heads and avoid talking about. When I ran into a few plot conundrums, I decided to interview him to get his perspective on the story. (I had done this with Seven Turns, at this point in crafting that story, as well. That time, I had asked Foster to tell the story from his point of view and, let me tell you, I was constantly worried I would end up in jail if I ever got pulled over and the cops found that notebook on me!)

Turns out, young Luke had quite a lot to say. He’s really a remarkable young man, and Woodley is more fortunate than it realizes to have him around. He took the ball and ran with it, and he not only helped me find the answers to the plot holes that had been plaguing me, he gave me a lot of other insights, as well, into what makes Woodley tick.

The fact is, all characters will do this sort of thing if you let them.

I found Luke’s voice so delightful, though, that I decided to write it up as a short story to give as a gift to my beta readers and my initial fans. This was my first foray into Self Publishing and, I have to say, it was kind of a rush! I can totally see why everyone is so enthusiastic about it. I don’t have any intention of making a profit from it at all, of course, so I have priced it at the absolute minimum Amazon allows. Of course, if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free with your monthly subscription anyway. Oh, and if you were one of my beta readers, I’ve already ordered you a copy – look for it soon in a mailbox near you!

I also put a map of Woodley and a floor plan of Vale House inside the front and back covers, because I thought fans of the series would appreciate being able to see those. I hope you enjoy it as much as Luke enjoys wild mushroom and artichoke heart pizza with cave-aged gorgonzola!

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It’s what they call timing…

On Wednesday I penned the last lines of the sequel to “Seven Turns” (working title: “Moonlight and Moss“.) Looking at my Twitter feed in retrospect, I found it a bit remarkable that this happened at about the same time as the Launch Party for Seven Turns, and I wonder, now: is it just me, or if there really is some kind of synergistic synchronicity that happens when we write, whether or not we are aware of it?

Probably it’s just me noticing things that happen to be coincidental if you look at them in a specific light. (You may recall my blue funk, about this time last year, over the passing of the mighty Gregg Allman at about the same time I was penning the dénouement to Seven Turns.)

The fact is, I am making a deliberate effort to have this arc of stories about Woodley, USA come out approximately one year apart. I still lave loads of editing and adjusting to do, and then the beta reader phase to go through, and then the very special hell of appealing to agents and publishers to please, please, please take on Moonlight and Moss as a project but, considering how crazy my life has become since the publication of Seven Turns, I’m really only a couple of months behind the curve here. As any writer will tell you: a novel takes exactly as long as it needs to take to be completed: no more, no less. I think this little coincidence is a definite sign that I am at least almost sort of meeting that goal!

And, after all, this is part of why I started keeping a blog and a Twitter feed and a Facebook in the first place: to document the history of this contribution of mine to the world of literature, so that I and perhaps others might look back someday and say, “Oh, hey, did you realize…?”

As the equally (perhaps, someday) mighty Johnny Sinatra has lyricized: “I’ve seen it a thousand times before – it’s what they call timing.”

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Launch Party

Kay Watley (editor of the Gray Area News and author of Making Corrections) and I at the Literacy Day event at the Zebulon Farm Fresh Market

Kay Watley (editor of the Gray Area News and author of Making Corrections) and I at the Literacy Day event at the Zebulon Farm Fresh Market

I thought I didn’t like “Marketing,” and maybe I don’t, but seriously, the marketing and networking stuff I’ve been doing lately doesn’t feel like work at all. I’ve been meeting so many wonderful people, and through them, other people. I’ll tell you what: Writers are Nice! I never really knew any, before, and I had no idea they were such great people. Maybe I have finally found my Tribe?

First off, on Saturday, I went to the Zebulon NC Farm Fresh Market, where a lady from my local writers’ coffee-clatch (via the Franklin County Arts Council) was hosting a booth for Literacy Day. I got to meet more fellow authors, some newspaper folks, and librarians … AND! I got a free cantaloupe! How can a day get any better?

Well, there was still more in store. Saturday evening, the long-anticipated Launch Party for Seven Turns went off at the Wake Forest Coffee Company, where most of Seven Turns was written (and where the first draft of Moonlight and Moss is about to be completed. I’ll blog separately about that later!) I had been sweating this for so long: I was so sure I’d forget something, or that nobody would show up, or that I would drop the cake…

Oh, yes, the cake! That came out great! I showed the fine folks at Sweet Traditions the cover of my book and asked: “Can you make a cake to look like this?” and they said “Challenge accepted!” I think it came out fabulous! (It tasted pretty good, too!)

I really could not have pulled it off without all the help I got, though. I am so grateful for the support I have received all along from the Wake Forest Coffee Company, where most of my writing gets done due to both the peaceful atmosphere there and (or, perhaps, especially due to) the great coffee. My wonderful husband, who speaks for a living, emceed the event so I could concentrate on signing books and sucking up to potential fans. My wonderful daughter operated the camera for the Facebook Livestream of the entire event. An amazing local band, Clairvoyance, provided background ambiance (to tell you the truth, they have provided much calm and inspiration all along for my writing at the coffee shop, where they play almost every Sunday morning.) Even my grandson took care of making sure everyone had a program and a door-prize ticket.

I was so nervous before this event, but now that I have safely got over this hump, I am hoping upcoming book signings (next up: Book Signing at Page 158 Books) will start to feel more like just going to work every day. Or, wait… maybe I actually hope I never start to feel like any of this is “just going to work!”

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Jumping the Shark

Lately it appears to me that I am always going to have a point, in any book I write, wherein I feel I am totally jumping the shark. I find myself arguing with my muse. “What, are you crazy? People are going to just throw the book across the room when they get to this part. I can’t write this!”

My muse won, last time. When the story took a sharp left turn I had totally not seen coming, I tried to fight it. I did eventually end up writing it, though, and it took the story just where it needed to go. I had grave doubts at the time, but when I gave the third draft to my beloved Beta Readers, I asked them to please tell me at what point they rolled their eyes and/or wanted to just put the book down. They came back to me saying there really had not been a point where they’d rolled their eyes, and they really couldn’t put the book down at all and had lost a lot of sleep because of this. I said “Are you sure? Are you just being nice to me? What about that part where That Thing Happened? Don’t you think that was kind of hard to swallow? I think I’m going to need to at least tone that down a bit.”

And they said, “No! No, no, leave it as it is! That was perfect; please don’t change it!”

I seriously wonder if they’re going to be able to feel the same way with what’s going on in Moonlight and Moss right now. This scene is already jumping the shark, and the scene that comes after it is going to be the shark jumping the shark jumper while being jumped over, possibly by a grizzly bear, itself. Or so it seems to me. I am shaking my head the entire time I’m writing it, and my muse (I shall have to give him a name. How about Gus?) just keeps saying, “No, no, don’t worry, just go with it. You can change it later if you want to, right?”

Gus has been right before, so… Well, we’ll see.

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The Seven Bridges Road

Gary and I visited Mongtomery, Alabama last week, to follow the Seven Bridges Road made famous by the song written by Steve Young and recorded by the Eagles (it’s actual name isWoodley Road) and which inspired many of the moods and settings in the novel “Seven Turns.” My intention was to obtain a new, clearer Official Author Photo of yours truly in that setting.

I don’t think any of the photos came out much clearer than the one I’m already using – I will probably have to break down and go to a professional photographer – but I like the video we got of us counting the bridges, anyway!

I understand the road was much more atmospheric back in the days when the bridges were all covered bridges, but it’s still a very pretty road through a very pretty stretch of America. And there really is moonlight and moss in the trees!

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Press!

I guess I expected to get some press eventually. I thought it would take a long time, months, maybe, of networking and hammering out press releases. Didn’t take that long at all, it turns out, and I don’t know whether to feel excited or overwhelmed. For one thing, the photos I’m using as “official author photos” are really kind of low-resolution and don’t have clear backgrounds and I’m finding I need a new one. I’ll post later about my Photo Shoot!

Meanwhile, my first interview ever as an author was by fellow Solstice Publishing author Nancy Wood.
Ms. Wood writes some pretty amazing mysteries, with a very unique twist – you can find her titles listed on her blog along with this article:  nancywoodbooks.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/meet-kim-beall/

Just a few days later I was interviewed by a really cool newspaper I didn’t even know existed. I’m glad I know about it now – this paper is right up my alley! It’s a local paper called the Gray Area News and it really does cover those gray areas that intrigue me so much. They didn’t ask me (as everyone asks Callaghan McCarthy) whether or not I believe in ghosts, but they did ask if I believe in UFOs! Gotta love it. Of course I subscribed as soon as I found out about them! Anyway here’s the article: greyareanews.com/news/local-nc/nc-author-kim-beall/

Really, I promise I won’t go on and on like this every time I get some press. I just had to blog about my first ones, because I was [am!] so excited about them!

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