Archive for January, 2013

January 30, 2013

Dear Lucky Agent contest

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Just in case anyone is interested, the Dear Lucky Agent  contest is open through tomorrow.

This time around, it focuses on young adult and science fiction.

Read more about it here.

And here is a quick idea of what the rules are, taken from the web site, in case you’re not able to make it over to the Writer’s Digest site:

HOW TO SUBMIT

E-mail entries to dearluckyagent13@gmail.com. Please paste everything. No attachments.

WHAT TO SUBMIT

The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of your sci-fi novel or young adult novel. You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with each entry.

Please note: To be eligible to submit, you must mention this contest twice through any social media. Please provide a social media link or Twitter handle or screenshot or blog post URL, etc., with your offical e-mailed entry so the judge and I can verify eligibility. Some previous entrants could not be considered because they skipped this step! Simply spread the word twice through any means and give us a way to verify you did; a tinyURL for this link/contest for you to easily use is http://tinyurl.com/a8msdw2. An easy way to notify me of your sharing is to include my Twitter handle @chucksambuchino somewhere in your mention(s) if using Twitter. And if you are going to solely use Twitter as your 2 times, please wait 1 day between mentions to spread out the notices, rather than simply tweeting twice back to back. Thanks.

Happy Contesting!

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January 30, 2013

Gateways: a fun escape

I won a copy of Jessica Schaub's Gateways!

I finally had a few moments to finish reading Gateways, by Jessica Schaub.

One of the things I liked best about Gateways was the detailed description. It was easy to get a feel for the varied surroundings because they were so well laid out, and there were many different settings to explore this way.

Beyond that, I was pleasantly surprised by sentences that made me curious and then rewarded me with more information further in the book. I felt like I was continually learning something about this world. Completely enjoyable.

While I hope the following doesn’t give away too much, here are some of my favorite ideas from the book:

  • From page 52:

“No,” Worthmere said. “I have never understood the idea of magic. No one can make something happen without a divine force already present. Mages are able to communicate on a higher level with natural elements around them.”

  • Page 55: the idea of terraces is explained–they are other levels of the original world. I was struck with this idea earlier in the book and was curious about it. Reading about it here felt like finding a gem hidden in the back of a closet. It was rewarding–and I felt rewarded again on page 77, when I learned even more about terraces.
  • The entire dream scene, around page 99, intrigued me–especially when the main character received the locket. Again, all of this was a complete surprise to me, which made it fun to read.
  • Page 134-ish: the Dream Walker.
  • From page 144:

Anna stopped walking and turned to face Victoria. Her face was shadowed with…fear? Doubt? Whatever was troubling Anna, Victoria felt it too. “I don’t know. But whatever we are dealing with, Victoria, you need to keep the Creator first and foremost in your mind. In your heart. Protect your soul from the influences of those who would use evil.”

  • The battle scenes around page 197
  • From page 216:

Victoria grabbed Bobby’s arms, understanding the depth of the situation. “They destroyed the painting.”

Bobby nodded.

“How do we get back home?” Tucker asked.

“I don’t know,” Bobby said. “But I want to know who wants to keep us here.”

  • Page 247-ish: more dream walking
  • Page 298–when Victoria breaks down the wall that keeps her from her soul garden
  • From page 315:

“To believe in the Grandfather’s Weapon is like believing everything you read: King Arthur, The Odeyssey. They are stories with thin lines of truth, we just don’t know which lines to believe.”

I like the different characters and how they interact with each other. I love the way the tension builds-just when you think there might be a break, something else bad happens, all the way through to the end.

Very well done.

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January 30, 2013

Turning your book into an ideavirus: eight elements to consider

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The cover of Seth Godin’s Unleashing the Ideavirus features these two sentences:

Stop marketing AT people! Turn your ideas into epidemics by helping your customers do the marketing for you.

I was immediately hooked. Instead of going to bed like I intended to, I sat at my desk and read. And took notes. And read some more.

The book itself was an entertaining read, not too technical but packed full of good marketing information.

By the time I put the book down, I had these thoughts on the matter:

  • Most writers want their books to sell, sell, sell, but understanding how to make that happen is a real challenge
  • This is especially true when most of us would rather spend our time writing instead of marketing our writing.
  • Our books contain our ideas, though, and so perhaps they’re eligible to become part of the sales epidemic those two sentences allude to.

I immediately began thinking about the value of the ideas contained in my writing. Certainly some of those ideas must be compelling, or I wouldn’t have any kind of clientele. Fiction is different than the nonfiction articles I write, though, and I honestly don’t know how good my make-believe ideas are.

Even more intriguing, if I found out through a myriad of comments and feedback that my fiction ideas were stupendously wonderful, I still wouldn’t really know what to do with them.

Godin wrote this:

Why should we care? Why does it matter that ideas can instantly cross international boundaries, change discussions about politics, crime and justice or even get us to buy something? Because the currency of our future is ideas, and the ideavirus mechanism is the way those ideas propagate. And the science and art of creating ideaviruses and using them for profit is new and powerful. You don’t have to wait for an ideavirus to happen organically or accidentally. you can plan for it and optimize for it and make it happen.

Kind of brings a spark of hope to the darkness of self doubt, doesn’t it?

Another of my favorite quotes from this book:

Just because ideaviruses have usually spread through unknown means or accidental events doesn’t mean that there isn’t a science to building and managing them.

Godin describes eight elements of the ideavirus formula. I’ve read through all these and think I understand them, but I’ll be studying them more in depth later on. Here is what I gathered about the eight ideavirus elements as I read the book tonight:

  • Choose your sneezers–Basically, these are the people who spread the word about your idea
  • Choose your hive–a target market
  • Velocity–this is how fast your idea spreads
  • Vector–ideas usually go in one direction, not all over the place. Godin suggests studying which direction you’d like your idea to flow.
  • Medium–this is the means by which your idea spreads, or the way your idea is spread from one customer to another
  • Smoothness–This is what hooks you on a new idea. For writers, I think it means analyzing what it is about your idea (your book) that grabs other people and makes them feel like they need to have it.
  • Persistence–this is how long your idea keeps circulating. The longer it circulates, the more units of your idea you can sell.
  • Amplifier–This is how you amplify the positive things about your idea while dampening the negative ones

I’m thinking here about how very uncoordinated my marketing attempts have been so far. I’ve been learning principles, but this book pulls everything together. It’s sparking strategies for different campaigns in my mind. When my contest is over, I’ll be practicing in other ways. I suppose a proper understanding and utilization of all of those elements could lead to an effective writer’s platform.

Of all the elements of the ideavirus formula, I think I was most taken with the idea of smoothness. This is particularly because, in a previous post, I discussed David Farland’s idea that books will only sell if they’re similar enough to other books to resonate with potential readers.

Sooo…If we want our writings to sell, they need to be similar to other writings, in unique ways. Do I understand that correctly?

Let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend Seth Godin’s Unleashing the Ideavirus This is another marketing book that I couldn’t put down and will probably return to again and again.

January 30, 2013

Re-announcing the $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

 

The Night Ones Legacy book cover--Ruby Rift is the most most recent draft of a possible sequel.

The Night Ones Legacy book cover–Ruby Rift is the most most recent draft of a possible sequel.

 

I’m re-announcing the $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway that opened on January 15.

To be eligible for this contest, send me an e-mail at gwenbristol@gmail.com answering these three questions:

  1. What you liked best about The Night Ones Legacy
  2. What would make it better
  3. Who you would recommend this book to (and why)

This feedback will help me tailor the sequel. I plan to have a rough draft of that ready for beta reading by the end of February.

It will also help me decide what I should do with this particular book. Since everything about it happened on almost immediate instinct, I’m not sure the editing and re-writing process got the attention it deserved. It’s certainly been a learning experience, and that makes it valuable to  me.

For the full contest rules, please see the first contest announcement.

The first 100 e-mails I receive will be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card. If there are more than a hundred entries, I’ll hold more drawings.

So far, I’ve had quite a bit of interest in the contest itself but only two complete entries. I’m looking forward to receiving more! The contest will run until the end of February.

If you want to enter this give-away but don’t have a book and can’t get one, please e-mail me at gwenbristol@gmail.com. I now have a limited number of Kindle versions to share for free.

January 30, 2013

My Irish Writing Retreat

My Irish Writing Retreat

My Irish Writing Retreat

If you’re a writer, you probably have an imagination.

At least, that’s what I told one of my nieces, years ago, when she was coming up on her teenage adventures. She was concerned about what her peers thought about her. Long after they had moved on to shopping and movies and sports events, her main source of entertainment was pretend play. She spent hours in her room, making up stories, acting them out and then writing them down in a notebook.

I didn’t see anything wrong with using her imagination like that. Truth be told, I still pretend, too.

  • When the dishes get out of hand, I sometimes pretend everything is in order so that I can stay focused on my work.
  • When I have a looming deadline and several other obligations piling up on me, I pretend that time stretches out to accommodate me. Somehow, everything works out.
  • When life gets monotonous–and sometimes it does–I turn to fiction writing, make a new scene, and become a new person for at least a few minutes.

Isn’t that what writers do?

Melissa Donovan from Writing Forward had this to say:

Breakthrough Writing Ideas

I recently got stuck in a story that I was working on. The characters were in the middle of a conflict and I had to find a way for them to get out of it. There were plenty of options, but I wasn’t sure which one they would choose. I tried to think through it, but I just thought myself in circles. I tried writing a list of possibilities, but that didn’t help me make a choice.

Then I decided to do a little pretending. It wouldn’t be interesting to show the characters working out a plan for overcoming their conflict in the narrative, but I could certainly write a dialogue scene between them, then file it away and write the action scene. I sat there and played out a conversation between two characters. It was almost as if I was performing an impromptu scene. It was a little awkward at first, but the conversation moved along. The characters worked out a plan and I saw the path they would take.

I was basically playing and pretending. Play-acting in a little one-person scene and pretending that I was my characters. And after struggling for several days to work out a problem, I got to a solution in just a few minutes.

I think that’s pretty amazing.

For me, almost all my fiction writing is a form of pretend. It’s how I escape, how I experience new worlds, how I learn about new roles and other civilizations. It’s the kind of fun that wraps around my mind. It allows me to find solutions to my problems and, I think, it makes my writing more vivid.

This week, I’ll be using my imagination to take a trip to Ireland, where I’ll participate in a writing retreat. My goal: to finish at least a rough draft of one of the non-fiction projects I’ve been working on.

In reality, I’ll be popping a travel video of Ireland into my television whenever I’m in the main area of the house, and I’ll be playing Celtic music on my computer while I write. Most likely we’ll have something like Irish stew for dinner one night.

One of the great things about this kind of traveling-writing retreats is the lack of expense. My children can come to Ireland with me, all in the comfort of our home. No airline fees, no need to eat out, no trying to find my way around a continent I don’t know. Without those distractions, I have great hopes for a productive week.

I’ll be in Ireland tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, and, if the going is slow, I’ll be there Saturday, too.

And what will I pretend next week?

I’m thinking Japan.

January 29, 2013

Level Up: my personal long-term time management strategy for writing and everything else I want to learn about

My well-loved 'Level Up' binder

My well-loved ‘Level Up’ binder

A few years ago my little brother talked me into playing Morrowind, an Elder Scrolls roll-playing video game that I came to love much more than was good for me. After playing it straight through about four times in a year and a half, I was finally able to set it aside–mostly.

It’s only ‘mostly’ because, although I don’t have any games on my computer at all, I learned some valuable lessons by playing that game.

  1. You’re generally happier and more successful in your personal quests, both in real life and in games, if you ‘Level Up.’ This means practicing your skills, increasing your expertise and generally taking all your talents to the next level.
  2. If you want to truly succeed at something, you should ‘Level Up’ in several skill areas–not just one or two.
  3. Reading, practicing, talking about skills and generally seeking all kinds of knowledge key components of the ‘Level Up’ philosophy.

It was after I realized these things that I set the game aside, found an empty three-ring binder and listed the skill areas I want to personally ‘Level Up’ in, in real life. For me, these include:

  • Spiritual conversion
  • Service
  • Wellness
  • Fitness
  • Scholarship
  • Progression
  • Providence
  • Orderliness
  • Marketability
  • Willpower
  • Industry
  • Leadership

Each of these topics has a specific definition for me, something I came up with that was meaningful enough to encompass all my major life goals and still leave room to add more.

For example, my ‘Providence’ area allows me the goal of learning to make soap, and also a goal concerning humanitarian giving, and one for recycling and green living…and the list goes on. I keep adding to my goal lists, although I understand I can’t do everything at once.

The ‘Level Up’ idea actually brought balance to my desire for education. My binder allows me to see all my focus areas at one time, as well as chart the hours I have in one certain area or in certain goals within each area.

Most of my goals within each area are 100-hour projects. I have to gain 1000 hours of experience in one area, and advance at at total of 10,000 hours, before I consider it a ‘level up’ occasion-which, although I’m working at it, hasn’t happened in the past year or so. I’m looking forward to throwing a ‘Level Up’ party when it does.

Why am I bringing this up now?

It’s been in the back of my mind for a month or two, but it really surfaced this past week. Sifting through my grandparent’s belongings was like sifting through bits and pieces of all that they accomplished, and I realized that their achievements helped make me who I am. What better legacy to leave for my children? I want to achieve like they did.

That thought was compounded when I began reading about comedy writing and realized it’s another area of writing I’d really like to learn about. My education won’t be complete if I can’t seek learning here, too. Most likely, that will become a new 100-hour project goal under my ‘writing’ area in the ‘Marketability’ section.

It’s sort of my long-term time management strategy that allows me to continue working on skills in all areas of life. While it may sound like a complicated system, it’s actually working very well for me. This blog is how I’m tracking a few different aspects of writing and marketing, both under my ‘Marketability’ section, and while progress is slow, I’m moving in the right direction.

Why is 1000 hours important to me, and why do I need an entire 10,000 hours to ‘Level Up?’ My answers are wound up in the following web posts:

Apparently, I’m not the only one that this idea has struck a chord with–see 1000Hours for another interesting case study.

I sometimes think my efforts feel scattered, and maybe I’d be better off spending 10,000 hours on just one subject.

However, the reason I developed my ‘Level Up’ program was to make sure I was pacing myself and advancing in every important area of my life–not just one or two. Most likely a separate area of expertise will simply be added to my ‘Level Up’ sections–and yes, I think I’ll try to find a focus area now.

Based on my past experiences, that area could well have something to do with writing. I’ll post about it as soon as I figure out what it is.

January 29, 2013

Writing at my new (old) desk

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My sweetheart and I spent most of the weekend helping clear my grandfather’s house of furniture, books, dishes–all the things that living people seem to collect and love. In some ways, it was completely freeing to be able to throw away forgotten trinkets that no one wanted. In other ways, it was hard to see so many memory-laden pieces go.

We came home with a truckload of treasures that no one else wanted. Among them was an old wooden desk, rickety by any standard but still completely lovable.

This desk was old long before my elementary school years. In those days, it sat in the corner of my grandparent’s family room, supervised by a single lamp that illuminated my colored-pencil sketches.

It was there that I designed new wardrobes-generally in purple and green-for the Scooby Doo gang. (Did it ever bother anyone else that they never changed clothes?)

It was there that I first designed a logo, meant to represent my future fame and fortune, although I don’t remember what kind of business I planned to own.

I wrote there, too, on long summer days when I was tired of watching cartoons or playing out in the garden.

I write here now.

We moved the desk into my office oh-so-carefully Saturday night. Today, after a jumble of non-writing activity and a Flylady reboot, I’m back to work at my new (old) desk.

It feels good.

January 25, 2013

Morning introspection

heron silouette 2

 

Mornings like these are for Introspection.

I balance myself between Water and Sky,

reflecting on Blessings and my life’s Direction,

the things that I learn and the options I try.

 

I hide in plain sight, and my Solitude,

unbroken as a perfect mirror,

surrounds me and grounds me with Gratitude,

deepens my joy, makes my reasoning clearer.

 

And with the paling blue edge of Last Night,

I release Pain and Sorrows from yesterday.

When Morning approaches, I’ll smile and take flight

into the light and the brightness of Day.

 

Have a great day, everyone!

 

January 25, 2013

Humor attempt number one

My humor guru, C.J., says this should be my first humor-effort post. This actually was on my site a long, long time ago and somehow isn’t there anymore. I must have removed it when I revamped the site a few months back. Anyway–the first five efforts will be centered around this story. Feedback is always appreciated!

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The last day of sixth grade wasn’t my most brilliant.

For starters, all the sixth graders at Mandan Middle School were involved in a humongous softball tournament.  I was on the same team as TayLynn and TeLora Birdbeard, which meant I had to put up with their almost-constant remarks about my lack of softball abilities and their twittering whenever Ashton Newberry was up to bat.

Silly twins.  You’d think after six grades of crushing on the same guy, they’d give up and move on to someone else.

Not that I could blame them.  Ashton had these huge blue eyes, hair that reminded me of melted chocolate chips and a smile so bright that his shiny trumpet seemed wooden in comparison.

Sigh.  I’d been crushing on him, too.  We shared the same music stand in band class.  Surely that was the perfect beginning for the perfect relationship, right?

But no.  I never knew what to say to him beyond asking him to change the music or turn the stand so I could see it better.  The longest conversation we had all year was the day that I accidentally spilled a package of Skittles into my trumpet case.  He tried to help me get them cleaned up before Mr. Barton saw.

Unfortunately, a strawberry-flavored Skittle got caught far enough down my trumpet that it blocked off the horn.  I didn’t know it until I tried to play Aura Lee with the rest of the trumpet section.  All that came out was a long, squeaky wheeze.  I blew harder, trying to get any kind of a decent sound to come out, and the Skittle suddenly dislodged.  It launched out of my trumpet and hit Mr. Barton in the forehead just as my trumpet blared like a dying elephant.  The class burst into a torrent of laughter that lasted nearly half an hour—at least until Mr. Barton got himself under control enough to double our required home practice time.

Oh, and I got detention.

What a way to make a good impression!  I must have been more embarrassed by it than I realized, because I was hot and sweaty when the bell finally rang.  I slammed my trumpet into its case and lunged out of my chair.

“Hey, Lacey, wait up,” Ashton said.  He closed the music folder carefully, picked up his trumpet and followed me to door.  “That was the best laugh I’ve had all year.”

“Yeah, well, I’m glad you enjoyed it.” I was sure I was as red as the Skittle had been.  “It wasn’t as much fun for me as it was for everyone else.”

Ashton grinned. “I don’t think anyone knew Mr. Barton could scream like that.  He sounded like a little girl.”

“He sounded like a like a hot dog getting cooked too long in the microwave.”  I started to smile.  “Do you think it’s worth detention, though?”

“Most definitely.  You should lighten up.”  We reached the lockers, and Ashton saluted me as he walked backward toward his locker.  “See you tomorrow, Skittles.”

Skittles.  He called me Skittles!  I would never eat another type of candy ever again.

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January 24, 2013

Gateways arrived, and a contest update

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The book I won in author Jessica Schaub’s contest came today!

I’ve been checking the mailbox all week long, and finally my copy of Gateways arrived. I will be reading it all through next week, although I may have to steal it back from my daughters. They’ve already been reading the back cover, and both of them have mentioned how they’re looking for something good to read that they haven’t read before. My mom is already reading it on her Kindle.

It really does sound intriguing. From the back of the book:

Victoria suffers the normal troubles of every teenager: homework deadlines, a protective mother who keeps knives under her pillow, a missing father, and if she’s not careful, Victoria falls into her paintings.

Who hasn’t wanted to fall into a painting before? I always have, long before I read about Mary Poppins jumping into a painting. I’m looking forward to this adventure.

In other news,

CONTEST UPDATE:

As promised, I’m writing a quick contest update here.

At a week and a half into this contest, I have had quite a bit of interest in the idea but only one real entry. I’m still hoping to giving away all five gift cards. We’ll see if the entries pick up in the next week or two.

For those who are wondering, the prize is a $25 gift card for a drawing out of 100 e-mail responses to three questions about The Night Ones Legacy. The full rules can be found here.

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