Wednesday, November 30, 2011

COVER ART. COOKING BLOG. ANIMAL POO?

After much breathless anticipation, I received the cover for Don't Bite the Messenger from Carina Press (via CrocoDesigns).


And, with that stunning image, wheels are suddenly in motion. The book is available for pre-order at Amazon and B&N. My website is under quick development, and I'm learning and setting up social media as quick as I can. 



Carina Press will feature Don't Bite the Messenger on Net Galley starting, I believe, in the middle of December. If you'd like a copy to review, please keep it in mind or let me know and I'll see if I can get it to you earlier.

I'll be setting up interviews and a trans-galactic blog tour shortly, so if you'd be interesting in hosting little old me, please email me: writerjakes at gmail dot com. I can talk about the story, the Alaskan setting, getting an agent, the road to publication, or how every time I go to a beautiful slash regal historical site in France, something poops on me. You alone know which of these your audience will like best.

Also, separately, I became a contributor at the awesome Pots n Pens blog, along with some other fantastic writers. Cooking, reading and writing: what's not to like? My first post there will go live on December 5th, I believe, so please pop on by and say hi.

That's it for now. Is a lot, yes?

Cover Art: Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CARROT OR STICK?

There are so many high profile debates waging right now in the world of writers. Panster or plotter? Harry or Bella or Katniss? Self-pub or traditional? Amazon as evil or Amazon as savior?

But lately I've noticed another trend, mostly on twitter. Maybe it's due to the number of people actively writing during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), or maybe it's because in the dark and cold days of winter we're all looking for that a little help with our motivation. I'm talking about the Carrot or Stick debate.

Can you be encouraged by the promise of a reward, or do you have to be threatened with punishment in order to act? For example:

Carrots - Rewards

  • A cookie for a hundred words
  • Fifteen minutes on twitter for a thousand
  • A look at Allison Pang's Midnight Man Candy for a chapter. 

And no, that's not why all my chapters are now forty-two words long. Sheesh, what do you take me for?

Sticks - Punishments

  • No lunch until you finish the chapter
  • No tumblr until you revise ten pages
  • No showering until you finish this draft (this is really punishment for the people around you, so I suggest you avoid it unless you 1. hate the people around you or 2. need to convince them unequivocally to stop distracting you)

I tend toward a hybrid system like I do with my plotting (I'm a culottser - it's like pants but smaller), mostly because I have impulse control issues. I'll decide on my reward (say, a cookie), then sit and stare at the screen, maybe run a spell check and spin in my chair. I'll eat the cookie. Then I'll have guilt, and complete whatever task I had originally set for myself, except the reward is already long gone. It's like crossing a finish line to find the crowd's packed up and gone home.

My punishment system doesn't work very well either. I'll tell myself that, if I don't finish a specific scene, I'll have to get on the treadmill. Please understand, I hate to exercise. But, I won't finish the scene. So I'll drag myself to the treadmill, intending to work through the scene in my head so that I'll be able to fly directly from the torture device to the computer and rattle it off.

Of course, in order to stay on the treadmill, I have to lose myself in daydreams so elaborate that I forget what I'm doing. Mostly they consist of the same material as my dreams: corporate espionage, cracking animal fighting rings in the mid-west, being really good at karaoke, being a nanny for Jackie Chan's kids in a world where every day is like a Jackie Chain movie (lot of axe gangs in my dreamworld).


And then, when I finish, I'll be no closer to the solution for me scene.

What works for you? How do you motivate yourself? What's the biggest carrot you've ever promised yourself?

Monday, November 21, 2011

BACK IN BLACK

I'm not shopping on Black Friday. It's not because it will likely be below zero when the crowds start lining up outside for the best deals. It's not because I don't want to pay less for decent electronics and better jewelry. It's not because I'm anti-commerce or don't have the cash this year or am occupying anything.

It's because I've worked in retail.

Sales start earlier and last longer now than when I last sold shoes and shotguns to suburbanites. I hated working those days, people tearing through racks, leaving trails of carnage in their wake. People scooping from the shelves everything they could hold even though they didn't need it. Fun fact about that kind of shopping? About half the stuff gets returned over the course of the next few weeks, and is restocked and then resold at non-sale prices. I hated it, and I would never do that to anyone.

On a positive note, I don't feel like I'm missing out. I'm not into disposable electronics or giving people presents that were half off but that they don't really like. And I don't have to.

I'll be shopping locally, at places like AK Starfish Co. and 2 Friends gallery.

I'll be shopping online at some of the most addictive sites ever to grace the face of the earth at sites like Cemetery Cat Designs (love Psynde's Raven necklace - Poe goes with everything) and Strangeling.

For everybody that I can't take care of at places like that, it'll be books and cupcake-of-the-month clubs.

This Friday I hope to wake late, drink coffee and eat leftover Raspberry Trifle (recipe compliments of the wonderful @caitpeterson), read, play with my son, eat, and probably nap.

What are your favorite places to shop where you don't actually have to worry about being trampled?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

THE QUICK DESCENT OF A SEASON

A month ago, the weather was unseasonably warm - 40s Fahrenheit - and we still had green grass. We wondered if we would have snow on the ground for Halloween, as we usually do. It didn't look likely.

Tonight I went out to watch the phenomenally multi-talented Andrew Bird (the recordings do not do him or his abilities justice - I suggest you seek him out live). It was zero degrees, but the wind chill dragged the "feel" of the air down to -22. An angry -22 at that, with claws and teeth and possibly rabies. The roads are paved in ice and the snow is several feet deep along the roads and over the lawn. The grass may still be green underneath, stunned but not yet killed by the quick descent of winter.

We had snow on Halloween, by the way.

The sun rises just after nine, but doesn't break clear of the mountains until about nine-thirty. It sets before four-thirty in the afternoon. When the clouds allow it at all. I go to work in the dark. I come home in the dark.

These conditions are perfect for mental hibernation.

Instead I find myself strangely energetic. I laid down ten thousand words on a new story last week, and am on pace for roughly the same this week. It will be slightly slower going as I have to wreck a car today or tomorrow, and I tend to write high-velocity scenes quite slowly. I think what I'm experiencing is  an absolute need to protect myself from these harsh conditions by escaping somewhere warmer, brighter, faster and more explosive. I used to achieve this by reading, curling up for hours or days with book after book. Now, while my to-be-read pile slash list is large and attractive, I can find the same refuge in my own work. And I have the added advantage of getting to exercise my brain.

This is not to say that I'm not dreaming of beaches and staring longingly at the grayscape world, pining for spring.

What is your winter like? Is it a season or a feeling? How do you escape?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT

Hello. My name is Hillary, and I'm a social media addict.

*crowd murmurs without looking up from iPhones*

This blog, my twitter accounts (yes, two of them), my facebook (dusty, neglected thing that it is), my lists, forum memberships, subscriptions and emails...all of these were supposed to help me become a smarter and better writer.

Instead, like brightly-lit vampires, they have sucked my time away. As well as disrupting my-SQUIRREL!

Where was I? As well as reducing my attention span.

I'm working on a sequel to Don't Bite the Messenger (coming 1.16.12 - yay), and have four outlines that I'm actively fleshing out - may the best one win. And I found that I couldn't write for more than five lines or minutes at a time without needing to check on this thread or jump into that conversation. And when I say "need", I'm talking about a very serious, nearly physical craving. There are just so many interesting people, so much news, and so many good stories out there.

Too much, it turns out. I'm not doing NaNoWriMo because I don't have time. At least, that's the excuse I made. However, I don't have time because I'm unfocused and unproductive. So when the NaNoWriMo words counts started popping up, and I realized that people were writing in a day what I was struggling to produce in a week, I stepped back. I examined my situation, the habits I'd formed, the excuses I was making. I looked at what I was able to write daily a year ago, two years ago. Granted, I write better when I write more slowly, but that wasn't my problem.

I was wasting time.

Luckily, there's an app for that. I downloaded a free trial of Freedom and took it for a test drive. And my word count climbed. And my draft was cleaner than the one before. And I can concentrate for longer periods of time.

So. I hope to see you all out there, though slightly less. And I'll actually probably be blogging more as I swing back toward productivity. So feel free to drop by. When I haven't isolated myself in a dark room with no access to them thar interwebs, I'll be happy to see you.