Monday, November 30, 2009

Guest Post: Glenda Larke and NaNoWriMo

Hey all, when I found out that Voyager author Glenda Larke was tackling NaNoWriMo this year, I asked her on to the ROR blog to discuss her experiences. One of the most common myths about NaNoWriMo is that it's not possibly to produce publishable books at that kind of writing rate (50,000 words in a month).

Thanks for joining us, Glenda! We'd love to hear about other NaNo experiences in the comments.


from Glenda Larke

To tell the truth, before this year the whole idea of writing a novel in a month seemed rather ridiculous. I never needed an incentive to write, completing 50,000 words in a month was easy and for me, that number or words was nowhere near a complete novel anyway. My shortest published book is 120,000 and the longest 183,000 words.

Why I decided to do NaNoWriMo

I am getting older and things change. You know those stories about folk over 60 who start looking for their car keys, only to realise they haven’t watered the indoor plants so they go into the kitchen to get the water, where the cat is asking to be fed…and so on until at the end of the day, they still haven’t looked for the car keys? Well, I found that was happening with my writing. I was getting too easily distracted. I’d start writing, then remember an email I had to answer, a blog I wanted to read, a phone call I had to make, a bill that had to be paid…and somehow another day passed and the book was not getting written, or at least not getting written fast enough.

So I decided to try NaNoWriMo to keep me focused. I set a personal goal of 2,000 words a day in the hope that I would get 60,000 words done. Every time I have paced myself with another writer in the past, it seems to have worked, so I had high hopes.

Why would it work for me?

I can’t imagine why it should work, as I am not a particularly competitive person. I suppose it’s the idea that someone else out there is actively interested in seeing me succeed. With NaNoWriMo there are a whole stack of folk out there watching – all those writing buddies for a start, plus the readers watching my word count on my personal blog. What a blast of an incentive. I think it must be a matter of personal pride. You know, “Waaah! If I fail, everyone will know!”

Definitely every time I started to drop below 2,000 words a day, I felt guilty and resolved to do better. When I didn’t write for three days in a row, I received messages of encouragement. I’d look at my online writing buddies – many of them with young families and/or fulltime jobs and I’d wonder how they could achieve more words a day than me. Yep, shame worked too…

Does it make things easy?

Nope. Easier, yes. Things still happened to distract me: visitors at weekends, some questions from the proofreader about the book coming out in March, a request from my agent that involved two days work on an earlier trilogy about to be published in German. Painters came to paint the outside of the house. The kitchen sink started leaking. The thunderstorms this monsoon season are daily occurrences, and necessitated unplugging the computer. I had a dental emergency. There was a long meeting I had to attend about some work I am doing in the non-fantasy world that ended up taking one whole day.

But I wasted less time on other things because of NaNoWriMo.

What didn’t work for me about NaNoWriMo?

The philosophy behind NaNoWriMo is that you just write and forget about revising. The aim is to get those words down on paper. That doesn’t work well for me. I can’t start cold each morning. I have to get back into the atmosphere of the story, to pick up the flow, which means reading what I wrote the day before. Alas, there is no way I can do that unless I correct the most egregious mistakes too. And so an hour or two of the writing day is used up, sometimes longer. If I didn’t do this, I’d spend that hour trying to get myself back into the mood of the story anyway. So I ignored the NaNoWriMo advice.

I am also a person who has to go back and insert stuff when I realise that something is missing in the plot a few chapters back. I disobeyed the advice not to do this too. If it works for me, why not? Probably not advisable for non-writers trying something new, though. The biggest “rule” I disobeyed, I guess, was the fact that I wasn’t beginning a novel at all. I already had 62,000 words written and now have another 55,000 to do. NaNoWriMo covered the middle.

So, was it a success for me?

Absolutely. Maybe not as big a success as I'd hoped – my final total was 53,220 words – but it kept my fingers pretty much glued to the keyboard for one whole month. And Stormlord’s Exile, Book 3 of the Watergivers, now stands at over 115,000 words.

One of the best things, I haven’t even mentioned – that was turning up to two of the NaNoWriMo writer get-togethers at a local Kuala Lumpur coffee shop. I met new people, including two school-age teenagers (who both succeeded in reaching 50,000!), made new friends and was inspired by their enthusiasm. Malaysians wrote over 2.5 million words, for an average success of 28,966 thousand words, the latter figure pretty much average for most groups around the world.

Will I do it again?

Sure – if I am at the first-draft stage of a novel when November rolls around. See you there? Oh, and right now, if you want to race me over the next 55,000 words, come over to my blog Tropic Temper and let me know.


Glenda Larke
Coming September 2009 (Australia) March 2010 (UK/US): THE LAST STORMLORD
March 2010 (Australia) STORMLORD RISING

Glenda Larke is the author of:
The Isles of Glory trilogy:
Book 1: The Aware
Book 2: Gilfeather
Book 3: The Tainted
The Mirage Makers trilogy:
Book 1: Heart of the Mirage
Book 2: The Shadow of Tyr
Book 3: Song of the Shiver Barrens
and writing as Glenda Noramly: Havenstar

Friday, November 27, 2009

Years of Wine and Roses

Things are going well for the RORees. Why, you ask? Well, it is a combination of things.

For me, it has been hard work and persistence.

My fantasy trilogy King Rolen's Kin (Book one The Bastard Son was critiqued at a ROR back in 2003), will be released in July, August, September. The month apart release plan is a good idea for readers. They get to read the books a month apart, no waiting. Not so good from a writer's point of view. It takes me about a year to write a 100K book. To see them all launched off in three months, leaves me wondering how I will get another three books ready in time when the next contract comes up.

But I have been writing solidly since the Last T'En series came out. I have the first book of three other series with my agent and am 120 pages into the first book of a fourth series. That's five series I have been writing concurrently, while waiting to see what gets picked up. So, yes, selling is nice, but the work has to be there, ready to go. I just wish I knew what series SOLARIS is going to buy next!

Marianne has a new YA Dark Urban Fantasy, Burn Bright, coming out. This is one the ultra cool kids will love, all about partying and saving the world Then there's the second book of her Tara Sharp series. More fun and frolics with the girl who can read body language. And, for the more cerebral readers, there's another Sentients of Orion book coming out. So Marianne has been writing consistently and trying out different genres.

Richard is sweeping all before him with Worldshaker, a YA steampunk book. Rollicking good fun on a quasi Victorian world where monstrous ... no I mustn't, read it and see. Worldshaker cover froms out from Simon and Schuster, (with this front cover for the hardback), in the US in May, 2010, then in the UK in June, France and Germany.

Tansy has her Chicklit mystery coming out with Pulp Fiction Press. Cafe La Femme is set in Hobart and promises to be a delightful read. Her Dark Urban Fantasy, Siren Beat, has just been released. Again set in Hobart, but a very different Hobart from the one we know, where the preternatural is kept at bay only by daring and dedication. And, drum roll, Please .... books one and two of her exciting Creature Court trilogy will be coming out in 2010. Pardon my gushing fan girl moment. This is w whole new take on Dark Urban Fantasy and I really enjoyed it.

Margo is taking a rest from trotting around the world after the success of Tender Morsels.

Dirk is masterfully minding three children while working on a top secret project which has an expression of interest from a publisher.

Maxine is deep in a new project, an historical time slip novel that is in the exciting halfway-through-first-draft stage, being written (kind of) concurrently with another space opera. "Concurrently" is hard when you're working full time as well as writing--it tends to turn into three months on one project, then a couple of months on the other, as each gets bogged/comes off the boil a bit. Her YA fantasy set in medieval Japan is under consideration by a publisher, and there's a children's fantasy out there as well.

And Trent has the first book of his Death Works series, Death Most Definite, a quirky Dark Urban Fantasy due out in 2010. This is one the fans of Jim Butcher and Simon R Green will like. And this is another refreshingly different take on the Dark Urban Fantasy genre.

All of us have families, work and commitments. But writing is what spins our wheels so, somehow, we fit it in. We're always working on new books, spreading our selves across genres. If one thing doesn't get picked up, something else will. The publishing industry is in a state of flux, more so than ever before. All we writers can do is grab the tiger by the tale and hang on. (Deliberate pun there!).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Trailers continued

Joffre Street Productions made this trailer for me in 2007 for the launch of Dark Space.

I personally love the idea of them - in the end it all comes down to the quality of the product. As I mentioned in the comments section, Random House have done a beautiful trailer for the release of one of their new books, Fallen. The Fallen book trailer will be shown in cinemas preceding Twilight screenings. Not sure if this is the exact video for the cinemas - I saw a different version, but you get the idea:

Book Trailers, do we need them?

Who looks at book trailers? Who even knew they existed? Here's an article about book trailers. If you scroll down you'll see the trailer for 'Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters'. Honestly, I'd go see this if it were a movie!

Here's a site where they have book trailer awards, The New CoveyTrailer Awards. There's more trailers here than you ever knew existed.

I have a confession to make. I'm a book trailer addict. It all started when my husband and I made a book trailer for the last book of my T'En trilogy, back in 2002. At the time there weren't any around (that we knew about) and the publishers couldn't see a use for it.

Currently, my partner and I are planning a book trailer for my new series, King Rolen's Kin. Apart from it being heaps of fun, we hope to capture the flavour of the book and intrigue the reader.

Do you watch book trailers? Have you ever bought a book on the strength of the book trailer?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Big Boys Play Bad

Harlequin, the major romance publisher has announced a new imprint,a vanity press line, writers they reject will be referred to approach them. If you want to know more take a look here.

Romance Writers of America have removed Harlequin from their recognised publisher's list. Mystery Writers of America are up in arms. and this is the response from Science Fiction Writers of America. Here's the link.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) statement:

In November, 2009, Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. announced the launch of a new imprint, Harlequin Horizons, for aspiring romance authors. Under normal circumstances, the addition of a new imprint by a major house would be cause for celebration in the professional writing community. Unfortunately, these are not normal circumstances. Harlequin Horizons is a joint venture with Author Solutions, and it is a vanity/subsidy press that relies upon payments and income from aspiring writers to earn profit, rather than sales of books to actual readers.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) finds it extremely disappointing that Harlequin has chosen to launch an imprint whose sole purpose appears to be the enrichment of the corporate coffers at the expense of aspiring writers. According to their website, “Now with Harlequin Horizons, more writers have the opportunity to enter the market, hone their skills and achieve the goals that burn in their hearts.”

SFWA calls on Harlequin to openly acknowledge that Harlequin Horizon titles will not be distributed to brick-and-mortar bookstores, thus ensuring that the titles will not be breaking into the real fiction market. SFWA also asks that Harlequin acknowledge that the imprint does not represent a genuine opportunity for aspiring authors to hone their skills, as no editor will be vetting or working on the manuscripts. Further, SFWA believes that work published with Harlequin Horizons may injure writing careers by associating authors’ names with small sales levels reflected by the imprint’s lack of distribution, as well as its emphasis upon income received from writers and not readers. SFWA supports the fundamental principle that writers should be paid for their work, and even those who aspire to professional status and payment ought not to be charged for the privilege of having those aspirations.

Until such time as Harlequin changes course, and returns to a model of legitimately working with authors instead of charging authors for publishing services, SFWA has no choice but to be absolutely clear that NO titles from ANY Harlequin imprint will be counted as qualifying for membership in SFWA. Further, Harlequin should be on notice that while the rules of our annual Nebula Award do not expressly prohibit self-published titles from winning, it is highly unlikely that our membership would ever nominate or vote for a work that was published in this manner.

Already the world’s largest romance publisher, Harlequin should know better than anyone else in the industry the importance of treating authors professionally and with the respect due the craft; Harlequin should have the internal fortitude to resist the lure of easy money taken from aspiring authors who want only to see their work professionally published and may be tempted to believe that this is a legitimate avenue towards those goals.

SFWA does not believe that changing the name of the imprint, or in some other way attempting to disguise the relationship to Harlequin, changes the intention, and calls on Harlequin to do the right thing by immediately discontinuing this imprint and returning to doing business as an advance and royalty paying publisher.

For the Board of Directors,
Russell Davis
SFWA, Inc.

It is worrying when mainstream publishers link with self-publishing services. See a post on it here.

There is an old saying, money should flow from the publisher to the author, not the other way around. Writers beware.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kylie Chan talks about Cultural Differences

Kylie Chan writes contemporary fantasy books, based on Chinese mythology. Here she talks about how cultural differences can get in the way of relationships. Go here to find out about her books.

I have to admit I was surprised when the subcontractor recommended to install our air conditioning system at the house turned out to be Chinese. Most Chinese, when they come to Australia, will grab citizenship as quickly as they can and then rush out and do something so difficult it is almost unattainable in China and Hong Kong – they’ll gain a University education in the subject of their choice.

A couple of close friends of mine, who I helped through the whole process of emigrating from Hong Kong to Australia, did this. When they arrived here, they were psychiatric nurses, both of them. ‘You have to be crazy to be a psych nurse,’ they often joked. The minute they could get citizenship, they took it, and went to University. He’s now a lawyer and she’s a dentist, careers completely unavailable to them in Hong Kong’s elitist higher education system.

So when the middle-aged Chinese air conditioning guy turned up with his team of burly young white Australian fitters, I enjoyed some conversations with him about my experiences being married to a Chinese for so many years and living in Hong Kong. We talked about places in Hong Kong, about the restaurants, and it turned out we’d lived not far from each other when we were both there.

It took a couple of days for him to finish the job, he fitted the whole house. On the afternoon of the second day, when he was nearly done, he came to me, slightly embarrassed and unsure. It was obvious he was going to ask me something and wasn’t sure of the reaction.

‘It’s my son’s girlfriend,’ he said. ‘Could you talk to her please? She calls me and my wife by our…’ He took a deep breath to share this awful news. ‘She calls us by our first names!

‘This is Australia,’ I said. ‘You have to get used to the more casual way we do things here.’

‘But he’s talking about marrying her! How can we possibly have a daughter in law that calls us by our first names? She doesn’t show the right respect!’

… And I understood exactly what his problem was. Children in Chinese society are taught from a very early age to give all their elders a family title to indicate their respect. When they meet their relative, they “call” them, they’ll loudly say ‘Ah Poh’ (paternal grandmother) or ‘Ah Goong’ (paternal grandfather) or even ‘Lau Jeck’ (Maternal aunt who is older than my mother – yes the titles do go down to that sort of detail.) [1] The relative will then say ‘good boy/girl’ – maybe hand the child a sweet - and the conversation will continue as normal. All junior family members will “call” senior family members like this.

When I arrived in China with my husband, I was expected to do this and it was extremely difficult for me. Back home, if I waltzed into my parents’ house, and loudly said, ‘Mother!’ my mother would say, ‘What?’ I expected to call these people and have them grimace at me and say, ‘What do you want?’ After a while I became accustomed to it and it was something of a circus when the whole clan was in the house – my husband would stand next to me and prompt me with the family titles, and I would parrot them, one after the other. Everybody thought this was delightful.

So when the air conditioning guy asked me if I would talk to his daughter, I reluctantly accepted. I honestly thought that he and his wife should accept that things are done differently here. I was amused that he complained about her being too ‘liberated’ because she was a professional woman, when it’s quite normal for women in Hong Kong to own their own companies without being considered ‘liberated’. Maybe ‘liberation’ is more to do with a strong attitude.

He asked her to call me, and she did. I explained the whole ‘family title’ thing to her and she tried to understand.

‘So I just need to give them these family titles, and they won’t hate me any more?’ she said.

‘If you fold your hands in front of your lap, bow slightly, and call each of them by their family titles when you greet them, they will absolutely love you forever,’ I said.

‘It’s just so strange,’ she said. ‘My boyfriend never mentioned any of this, he doesn’t even seem to realize that they have a problem with it.’

‘If you ask him about it, he probably doesn’t.’

Two days later, the air conditioning guy called me. ‘Thank you!’ he said, full of delight. ‘She is so wonderful! My wife thinks she is marvellous, she wants to give her some gold!’ (This is symbolic of being accepted into the family as the daughter-in-law – the bride’s family, and the bride, are given solid 24K gold jewellery as payment for buying her. Really.) ‘You have changed her from being a rude problem to being a good daughter-in-law. We cannot thank you enough!’

Sometimes, I guess it’s the small things that make all the difference.

[1] All care but no responsibility. I think these are close to correct but they may be wildly inaccurate, it’s been more than 20 years since I did this myself.

Do you have favourite books which explore cultural differences? I've just been reading the Liaden books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Last post I said I was trying to do a Mini Nano -- write 25K in a month. I'll probably get it done, but ...

But I feel like I'm juggling a hundred balls in the air and only just managing to catch them. Woops, there goes one.

There's the writing -- a new book, completely new, lots of research. It's an alternative history set in Australia. Don't want to say anything more about it but it excites me and that makes me glad to wake up in the morning.

But there are so many other things in my life ...

There's my family. I love them madly. Want to do the best by them. I just wish I had all the answers. Sometimes you have to let people go and do things, for them to find out if it works.

There's work -- a new job. I'm getting the hang of it now, enjoying the challenge, enjoying the other lecturers, enjoying the students. (and enjoying the regular money!).

There's volunteer work -- I'm setting up a national workshop for developing writers, for Romance Writers of Australia. I love the challenge and the people I'm working with are great.

Then there's the unexpected. A drunk ran into the back of my daughter's car. She wasn't hurt, but it meant sorting out insurance. The car got written off. Now we have to help her get a new car.

All of these things get in the way of the pure joy of writing. The photo I chose for this post reminds me of being a child and having the time to simply look at things and see how remarkable they are. There was an empty block of long grass on the way home from school. I was always looking for magic in the real world. I used to think the way that grass looked in the sun was magical. Now, I have to stop and make myself notice things.

I tell myself, this is just a high traffic time of life. In the next couple of years half of my six children will move out. One day it will just be my husband and I, pottering around.

Until that day, keep juggling ...

Is anyone else feeling as if they'd like the world to slow down?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo Week One

12173 / 50000

So I've been Nanoing for a week now. I've managed to "rock the minimum" every day, which is quite a feat though mostly accomplished by fear (if I get behind I'm so never catching up). Towards the end of the week I've managed to eke out a 300-500 word lead, only just.

Word count posts are fascinating, aren't they?

Our local gang of reprobates/writers have put together a mighty schedule of near-daily meet ups, the idea being that we can all make one or two a week. So far I've managed to make one public session at the fish & chippery at the docks (at which the baby mostly behaved, hanging sleepily in her little pouch), one domestic session which is a minute's drive from my place, and another domestic session in my own house. I may not do nearly as well next week - am even considering blowing off my own hosting duties in order to shout 'hooray' at my daughter's athletic's carnival.

I was going to head out for writing purposes today but decided against it because the day was so hot, and some **** broke the left-hand mirror off my car last night when it was parked out the front. I'm still a new driver and couldn't quite get up the nerve to tackle the Derwent Bridge without being able to see out that particular mirror.

So I stayed home and did word wars with Kaia (in Sweden) and Hannah (in US) instead. For those unfamiliar with the technique, word wars can be done in person or online, and consists of shouting GO! at each other and writing like a maniac for 15 minutes then comparing wordcounts. The downside of doing this with Hannah is that she actually is a maniac and is perfectly capable of getting 800-1000 words in a war every single time. It's both demoralising and inspiring - you can't help trying to keep up, however impossible.

But hey. I've managed to write 12,000 words of a new novel in a week. I don't kid myself this would be possible at any other time of year. NANOWRIMO ROCKS.

If wordcounts really do fascinate you, you can keep track of my daily progress over at - otherwise I'll see you back here next week, hopefully in one piece and with at least 24,000 words under my belt!

How is everyone else's Nano going? Post your wordcount below!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mini Nano

Where would writers be without chocolate and coffee?

This month is Nano November -- write 50,000 words in a month. Tansy has taken up the challenge with a new born and a preschooler. She's inspired me.

But I'm not so brave. I've decided to to a mini-nano. I'm aiming for 25,000 words in a month. My excuses?

All 6 children (plus an extra) still at home. (Will they never leave? Perhaps my husband and I should run away from home?).

Started new job, teaching at Qantm College. (Have discovered the joys of marking assignments. And you thought it was hard to write them!).

Volunteered to be on the Romance Writers of Australia Management Committee, then suggested I organise an EnVision type workshop for them. Am currently collected quotes for accommodation and finalising figures. (Why do I do this to myself? My problem is that I like a challenge).

Can't think of any other excuses.

I'm actually looking forward to immersing myself in my latest book project.