Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Future That Is Not Dystopian

Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel by K. A. Holt is a nominee this year for Connecticut's Nutmeg Award, which is how I found out about it. It was on the Nutmeg Shelf at my local library.

Nerves of Steel is a mystery in a science fiction setting that is more Jetsons than Hunger Games. Mike Stellar is suddenly hauled off on a space mission by his parents who were accused of being responsible for the failure of an earlier trip into the great unknown. Right away Mike thinks there's something odd going on. In traditional kid story fashion, he is all over it.

I found Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel slow getting going. And slow in other places. I hate to admit it, but I found the plot confusing in places, too. But there came a point when I did think that child Gail would have bought into a kid being able to save the day, no matter how improbable.

As Charlotte of Charlotte's Library said of this book when it was published, "This probably isn't a book that will appeal to grown-up fans of science-fiction, for whom the plot and its concomitant technology might seem simplistic. But, since they aren't the target audience, so what." Well, maybe I shouldn't say "As Charlotte...said" because I didn't find the plot simplistic. But you get what I'm going for here. This book isn't for people like me.

A big plus: Civilization hasn't fallen in this book. Oh, my gosh, I am so tired of post-apocalyptic misery.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Doing More With The Time You Have

My May Days Facebook group is getting ready for what I call another month-long set-aside project. The idea behind the May Days group, itself, is to encourage one another to complete two pages of writing a day. That may sound like a modest goal, but it gives you some idea of how much writers do that's not writing. Some of us need support to help us find the time to get two pages written. I use the month as a unit of time to which I've assigned a particular task. Maybe I'll wring two pages a day out of it, maybe I'll do something else. This year I really am hoping for some new material and try out a new time management process.

I've been spending a lot of time working these last couple of years on projects that didn't involve generating a lot of writing. Instead I was revising completed projects to resubmit, dealing with the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook publication, planning a workshop for a conference, and other such things that take up time. They may even require some new writing, but not a lot of it. For this May Days I'm going to do two things:
My theory is that there are two ways to manage time.
  1. Find more time
  2. Work more efficiently with the time you have
I've been writing about finding more time for a year and a half or so. Increasing word count could be a way to work more efficiently.

Aaron's fiction is traditionally published with Orbit. However, her topics with Writing Faster, speed and high word counts, are often associated these days with self-publishing authors who support themselves with sales spread over a number of titles available rather than massive sales of just a few. Thus, they need to keep cranking out books. Does that mean that writing faster and producing more won't be of benefit to other types of writers. I'm thinking, no. Writing faster and producing more simply means doing more with the time I have available to me. That's a lot like managing time.

Some points I need to make about my May Days project for this year:

  • I did start the planning last May, and I started writing (and rewriting the first few chapters over and over again) later in the year. So I'm not starting from scratch.
  • Aaron describes herself as a hardcore plotter. I'm an obsessive organic writer. But I'm already getting ideas for ways I can modify some of the suggestions in Writing Faster to fit my writing style. Otherwise, I will be heading for some kind of breakdown next month, which I would, of course, document here. You don't want any part of that.
Next week I'll bring you up on what I'm doing to prepare for working more efficiently with the month of May.
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This is your last day to comment so you'll be in the running to win a copy of the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. The drawing will be tomorrow. Happy Earth Day.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update: World Book Night Event Tomorrow

I've received a World Book Night announcement stating that Stephen Chbosky, author of Perks of Being a Wallflower, will be at the North Haven Barnes and Noble tomorrow night at 7:00 PM to meet local givers.This is a launch event. World Book Night is Wednesday.

A Sale For Earth Day Week

Another special event for Earth Day: The Kindle and Nook eBook editions of Saving the Planet & Stuff are on sale this week for $.99. Kobo's not on sale simply because I couldn't work out how to change the price on the website. If that's a problem for anyone, let me know, and we'll try again.

On sale, all week.

And, remember, you can sign up for a chance to win a free copy of the eBook for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo through tomorrow, which is Earth Day.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Weekend Writer: Writers' Journals

Maintaining a journal is a big cliche in writer world, but it is also helpful. If you're a write-every-day person, it can provide you with opportunities to do that during those times when you're overwhelmed or traveling. Some of my most serious journal work has been done on vacation.

Lisa Catherine Harper has an excellent piece on writers' journals, Using The Writer's Notebook: A Practical Guide at Ploughshares' website. What's particularly good about her article is the variety of suggestions she has for notebooks/journals. You really can do anything with them.

While I do understand her point about handwriting with a journal, a journal computer program has the benefit of being searchable. Writers can go either way.

Here's some particularly good advice from Harper: "Be recursive. Don't write in your notebook and forget about it. Go back to read, underline, annotate, or dog-ear. Use Post-it notes to indicate important passages." I say this is particularly good advice because working on my journals is something I've failed to do. I've definitely been a dump-and-run writer. Paying more attention to my journal could oen a whole new world.
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Remember to comment in order to have a chance at winning an eBook edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Promo Friday: Working On Twitter

Okay, I've done a little more snooping about Twitter.

Basics


I'm not going to do any "First, choose a name" things because you can find that all over the place. Agent Molly Jaffa does that in The Writer's Guide to Rocking It on Twitter, reprinted at Backspace. She does a little something extra by suggesting appropriate tweet material for writers--your writing and, additionally, your reading.

Then What About Followers?


Pragmaticmom (who I sort of know through Google+, not Twitter) has an interesting post, Twitter Tips and How I Got 55,000 Followers. Mia has a great deal of information here, but the point that really popped for me was the one about following and unfollowing people to increase your followers. Scroll down to the comments, and at the end you'll see I asked why to unfollow. Well, Twitter only allows you to follow so many people at a time. So you unfollow those who don't follow you back so you can follow others.

I think you have to consider what your goal is for Twitter. I originally joined for content, so whether or not people were following me back wasn't that great an issue. I was more concerned with cluttering my stream with content I wasn't interested in, keeping me from getting to the stuff I was. But rereading Mia's information about finding an audience niche and following hashtags has made me reconsider what I'm doing there.

Speaking of Hashtags


My understanding of hashtags is that they can increase your reach beyond your followers because anyone who is interested in the topic/hashtag you've added could end up finding your tweet in their stream. Feel free to correct me on that, readers.

You can find lists of hashtags related to various fields. Twitter Hashtags for Authors and Book Marketing Pros is one of them.

How Much Am I Liking Tweeting?

 

Ehh. I don't dislike it. I can even get into quickly sharing an article I've enjoyed reading. But I'm finding learning how to best use Twitter a little time consuming.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Environmental Book Club

Check out Literacy, Families and Learning's Literature and Environmental Issues: 18 Challenging Picture Books. The blog breaks the eighteen titles into four groups:
  • The relationship of people to the environment
  • The negative impact of humanity on the environment
  • A celebration of the environment, its beauty and wonder
  • Environment as creation and the metaphysical experience of our world
Graeme Base makes the list twice. There's also one by Lynne Cherry who I think used to live in my town, though I wouldn't want to swear to it.
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Make your comment in order to be considered for the Saving the Planet & Stuff giveaway.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Earth Day Gift--"Saving the Planet & Stuff"

As I announced earlier this month, I'll be offering a free copy of the eBook edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff for Earth Day, which is next Tuesday, April 22. How do you get a chance to win? Leave a comment on any of my blog posts today through next Tuesday. We'll compile all the names and Computer Guy will use a program he created to randomly select a winner. You're welcome to comment as many days as you like, but we're only going to be counting you once.

The winner will be announced and notified next Wednesday, April 23. That just happens to be World Book Night, so we'll be celebrating two events at once.

Saving the Planet is available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

"Sixteen-year-old ­Michael agrees to intern for an environmental magazine, The Earth’s Wife, and finds himself in over his head in politics—of both the environmental and the office kind. This eco-comedy contrasts the radical idealism of the 1960s with twenty-first-century “me-ism.”" That's how Saving the Planet is described on a list of science-themed books at the ALA website.

Wondering why I'm asking for comments instead of including one of those Rafflecopter things? Well, I rarely do giveaways here, so I decided that making the effort to learn how to use Rafflecopter wasn't a good use of my time. Besides, am I the only person who finds them less than attractive?

Let the comments begin.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Using Units To Get Through Panic

Work is piling up, as it often does.
  • It will be time soon to pull May's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar together.
  • I have some more Saving the Planet/Earth Day promotion to do this month, and it's coming up soon. Tomorrow for some of it, in fact.
  • I've been working on an essay I'd like to finish, and then I should be looking for markets to submit it to. (I have a couple in mind, so I'm not writing this thing blind.)
  • Speaking of submitting, I've been working on submissions for weeks. What about that?
  • Last weekend I realized that another May Days opportunity is coming up and that I have a two-fer project I'd like to work on then, one that involves producing new work and time management. I need to do some prep for that, if I want to make any real progress. 
  • World Book Night is next week, and I have to pick up the books I'm giving out. I think there may have been a glitch in the order, and I've been hunting for e-mails related to it today.
  • In June, I'll be speaking on Ethan Allen at the Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington, Vermont, and I want to start bringing myself up to speed on that starting in May. We're taking a long weekend up north for that, so I'll have to find us a place to stay soon.
  • I have Computer Guy working on some logos for Original Content, and I need to do something about starting to use them.

Then a few days ago I remembered that Easter is next Sunday, a holiday I try to observe with a family event. In addition to all the work that entails, I've been having trouble getting a count on the number of people who will be here. Oh, I'm also supposed to be planning a multi-week trip for September.

That's when I started to panic about time. It was the pile on of personal work onto work work that did it. During this mini-crisis I started thinking about Charles Finch's point about amateur writers spreading themselves too thin. Pick some things to work on, Gail, and stick with them.

And, better yet, give them some units of time when they have you all to themselves.
  • I'll start using evening units for the CCLC next week. There's a whole week and a half after Easter. Huzzah!
  • Tomorrow a unit will be devoted to getting the Saving the Planet & Stuff giveaway started for Earth Day. Before the weekend, another unit will be used to go over again what I have to do to lower the  STP&S price for next week and deciding when this weekend I should do it.
  • The essay I've been working on for over a month I've been writing in sprints. It's quite far along, and by giving it some forty-five minute units over the next week, I should be able to finish it by the end of the month easily. And maybe spend some time determining the best submission plan. 
  • That submission project is pretty much done, too. I just have to wait, which I can easily do while working on something else.
  • I used a couple of units of time yesterday prepping for May Days. I just have to do something on it as many days as I can. Some reading is involved, and I might be able to work on that on weekends.
  • I'm stopping at the bookstore to try to pick up my World Book Night books on my way home from tai chi tonight. (No special trip out.) I may find that there are no books, in which case, this is done!!!
  • The Ethan Allen talk can wait until into next month. Once I have some of these other things done, assigning it units will be easier. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
  • Logos--That's not critical. Yeah. Let's save that for next week at the earliest.
  • And Easter, well, you don't want to hear about that. But that's started.
The old unit system helps with panic because it at least makes you feel that you've broken an overwhelming job into doing bits. In addition, planning units is a lot like creating objectives to meet a goal.

In this case, the goal is getting through the next week.

And now, if you will excuse me, I just took a break and am about to start another work unit. This one will involve that May Days project I want to get ready for.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Adult/Children's Book Mash-up

I have been a fan of Flavia de Luce, the eleven-year-old protagonist of a series of adult mysteries set in England in the 1950s, for a long time. I've also wondered why she hasn't received more attention from the YA world. Her most recent adventure, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, isn't my favorite, but it is a great example of why Flavia, created by Alan Bradley, is such an incredible combination of adult and even children's fiction elements.

Flavia has an incredibly unique, sharp voice, and she's extremely knowledgeable about a sophisticated subject, chemistry. While she jumps on her bike and has the kinds of adventures that are the stuff of children's books, that voice that adult readers love so much might not be acceptable to child readers. Adults like her because a child shouldn't sound like she does or do the things she does. Child readers might just find her unbelievable. Adults don't care about believing her. Adults like that this brilliant child knows nothing about sex. In this most recent book, she thought she could use her massive knowledge of science to bring someone back from the dead. It was a childish belief that adult readers would find touching. Child readers, on the other hand, might not get that this attempt on Flavia's part was more about character than plot.

I also suspect that Flavia isn't an entirely reliable narrator when it comes to her family. She perceives her sisters as hating her, but they have routinely come through for her over the course of the series. And in this volume it's clear that she hasn't understood her father's behavior toward her. I'm not aware of a lot of unreliable narrators in children's books or even YA.

In all these books a mom has been missing--a classic children's book situation. In The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, we get an actual dead parent. Children's literature is littered with those. What is really fascinating about Vaulted Arches, though, is that here we get a child suddenly learning that her family has a special function and that she is chosen--not those others--to be part of it. This is a cliche of children's fantasy, and there is almost a whiff of fantasy about Flavia at that point.

So what have we got here? While these definitely aren't children's books, do they have enough children's elements to bring young readers into the world of adult reading? 

Alex Waugh of The Children's War has also been writing about Flavia.