The NaNoWriMo of Paul Revere

Ex Marks the Spot CoverNovember has arrived, and along with it my favorite Festival for the Mad, National Novel Writing Month. Yes, thirty days of coffee-quaffing and work-shirking and burying wacky background characters in gaping plot holes in the name of cranking out a 50,000-word novel started on Saturday. It’s my favorite month of creating dangerously, and this year, all bets are off. I’m breaking copyright laws faster than they can write ’em (not really, as the story is private) by writing a spin-off of Romancing the Stone, having fallen in love with the idea of Joan Wilder and Jack T. Colton’s gay son (“Jem,” who else?) getting in trouble trying to follow in his folks’ famous footsteps. The story is set in Cuba, a country I’ve never seen, and the plot twists are so unexpected I have no idea what they’re going to be yet: I still have to cook up a treasure, a gang of thugs to go looking for it, and a reason for it to have anything to do with Jem, but the game is afoot. At all events we’ve got a love interest and high hopes for a Joan Wilder cameo; you kinda gotta figure the rest of the words will write themselves. 42,600 of them, if I’m lucky — that’s what I’ve got left to go.

If you’ve read any of my novels, you know I love a good prologue. Like Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile, Jem’s story starts off with an unrelated scene from Joan Wilder’s latest crowd-pleasing historical romance novel. Stone starts in the Old West, Jewel starts on a pirate ship, and I was stumped trying to think up more cliché romance time periods. So I thought covers: long dresses, puffy shirts, big pecs and ponytails on him and her… Eureka! The American Revolution.

Here, then, in the spirit of kicking off a whole month of Write Whatever Works by rewriting American History, is an excerpt from my fictional version of (already-fictional) Joan Wilder’s Love’s Revolution:

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Do Write On

Write OnIn case the turkey- and pilgrim-themed decorations at Walgreens  haven’t tipped you off, I will tell you: it’s November.  In fact, November is clipping along, and along with it, National Novel Writing Month, which is already a third of the way through.  Which means I have no business working on a blog post, which the other eleven months of the year is something I find excuses pressing reasons to put off, but tonight am using as an inspired tool of procrastination.  (My Official NaNo Word Count Goal of the Day has also already been met, thanks in no small part to the gift my NaNo-ing cousin made me of some Trader Joe’s French Roast coffee, yum yum.)

Week Two of NaNoWriMo is notoriously among the more challenging.  As faith (or, worse, interest) in your story begins to wane, your characters refuse to get off the couch and go do anything, and you begin to realize that “fifty thousand” is a dastardly synonym for “one million trillion.”  Clearly nobody but Superman and maybe Anne Lamott could produce such an absurd ton of words in thirty days, which is suddenly revealed to be the most microscopic measure of time ever.  And since there is no visible means by which to achieve this once-friendly goal that now taunts you from afar, there is little point in typing more than, say, fifteen words a year.

Or so it seemed the other day, as I crept along towards my goal of 5,000 words with honest-to-goodness snails in our fish tank looking out and laughing.   Continue reading

The Month Formerly Known as “November”

NaNo 2013 FB CoverNational Novel Writing Month is again upon us!  My most favoritest month of the year is only a week away.  Where once boring old November heralded little more than grocery store pyramids of canned pumpkin and the beginning of Holiday travel mayhem, since my introduction to NaNoWriMo it has been reborn as thirty coffee-soaked days of work shirking, writing like mad, and Art for Art’s Sake.  This year will see the production of my eighth NaNo masterpiece, so I sort of have my pacing down, and I take a lot of vacation from my airplane gig, so I have more time in my month than most people, but 50,000 words in 30 days is still a challenge.  An ambitious yet achievable goal which every November 3rd I know for a fact I will trounce, and every November 17th seems impossibly, sadistically unreachable.  The hilarious highs, the finger-paralyzing lows, the character whose name you keep changing — it’s all part of the process, and the need to push, pull, or drag a story across the 50K finish line before midnight on the 30th smashes the limits of my creativity like nothing I’ve tried before or since.  Because they’re 50,000 words of Awesome?  No.  In many cases, quite the contrary.  But they’re 50,000 words I didn’t have on October 31st.  They’re words I can render into beauty or comedy or bird cage liner, and they breathe life into characters whose stories no one else was going to tell — whether anyone else reads them or not.

I’m already in love with this year’s characters, who I hope will love each other; if nothing else, we’ll have a Vespa-riding grandma to fall back on.  My blurb on the NaNo website reads thusly:

Santa Fe attorney Danny Hanrahan is the King of the Easy and Obvious Choice, and falling for sexy Ashok Rai is a no-brainer. Embracing Ashok’s alter ego, drag diva Raima Reason, is more challenging; Danny divorced his wife for a reason, and it wasn’t so he could go out and find someone who takes even longer than she did to put on make-up. When Raima’s career looks set to take off, Danny has to decide if he’s along for the ride, or if a boyfriend who’s sometimes a girl is more than he can handle.

"Love has reasons which Reason cannot understand." - Blaise Pascal

“Love has reasons which Reason cannot understand.” – Blaise Pascal

 

This year I revisited a Year One trick of inspiration and designed a cover for my book.  I’ve put pictures of guys that look like my characters around my desk, and I’ve been watching drag shows with a more critical eye of late, figuring if I can’t get a book out of what my husband’s intro to the drag scene has brought into our lives in the last year, then I might as well skip it.  And in case I’m not geeked up enough the night before National Novel Writing Month starts, this year my latest novel, Crazy Like Fox, which itself began life in November, is celebrating its print release.  Watching a NaNo novel make good (such as I did last year when Kiss Me, Straight was released in November, too) is sure-fire inspiration to write to the finish, whatever the cost to logic and grammar, and it is my hope that this year’s novel will one day have a crack at the world, too.  But first I have to stay home from work, slip into my jammies, put Sheena Easton on Pandora, and write like no one is watching, because the one book you can be sure no one will ever read is the one you don’t get around to writing.

Want to write a novel of your very own?  You’ve even got a week to plan!  Sign up at nanowrimo.org 

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Crazy_Like_Fox_400x600Want a print copy of Crazy Like Fox?  Get it at JMS Books for the introductory price of $12.00 starting October 31st!

Best. November. Ever.

tumbler2Last weekend, we cashed in the Groupon that I gave my boyfriend for his birthday (in April) and spent the morning in a surprisingly awesome glass blowing workshop at a local studio.  While the only actual “blowing” I did was in the form of Breathing Through My Fear that what I hoped would become my New Favorite Glass (seen here) would break before it ever had a chance to decant so much as a drop of wine, we did get to pick out our own colors, and “help” as a small cadre of experienced glass artists coaxed vessels and vases from glowing blobs of molten orange nothing with pointy tools, spinning poles, and ever-helpful gravity, a great friend to the glass blower.

Except for when he is her enemy.  Before we got to jump in and play with solid fire on a stick, the artist who opens her studio to us neighborhood rubes gave a brief and flashy demo to help establish expectations and give us an idea of what we were in for.  While she blew and spun and swirled and fancily attached and detached various appendages to the Demo Goblet, she talked about Glass.  About the science that makes it predictable enough to work with, and about the petulant personality of the medium and the thousand and one variables in the process that make the outcome of every piece unique and surprising.  Tapping the finished project off of the pipe on the end of which she’d been spinning and shaping it, she broke it, then tossed it I-don’t-remember-where with a casual Oh, well.  You win some, you lose some, she had illustrated, possibly on purpose, and she explained that part of the appeal of working with glass was that even if she sets out with a very specific plan, she never knows exactly where it will take her. Continue reading

What Happened When The Kaspersen Brothers Met Myrna McGee

My approach to National Novel Writing Month consists of five main components: 1. A catchy title (see above).  2. An enticing synopsis (see below) which gives me a plot arc to follow but plenty of leeway to veer (way) off track as necessary.  3. My NaNo coffee mug.  4. My Safeway-brand NaNo peppermint white chocolate coffee creamer.  And 5. My “Write On” t-shirt, which was gifted to me by my very best friend, himself a writer, on the eve of my first NaNo and which, when all else fails to inspire, can crank up my word count like nobody’s business.

This year’s story, as you will see, is about Hawaii.  More specifically, about a tourist’s-eye-view of Waikiki from the cheesy (and ever-so-awesome) Food Court Oasis that is the International Marketplace, where my cousin and I once decided would be a perfect place to open a wedding planning business.  Everything you’d ever need for a wedding — leis, muumuus, gift items, cheap local food, heck, even Live Entertainment — is available on-site, all under one banyan tree.  I don’t plan to examine authentic Hawaiian culture, naturally, but rather to use Hawaii, the Tourist’s Paradise, as a setting for a story about family, friendship, and getting a hold of yourself.

In years past, I have blogged my novel as I’ve written it, allowing a rollicking, day-by-day glimpse into my Creative Process and spamming Facebook with almost daily updates, no matter how horrifying.  Last year, though, I had to quit publicizing my output about halfway through, the better to allow myself to smear the page with the disaster that became necessary to drag my story across quite a few rough plot holes to stick a satisfying ending.  I started with a strong idea and some delightful characters, and who knows?  Properly edited, something could yet come of it.  But mostly it served as a reminder to me that the whole point of the exercise is to take loads of time off work, sit down, and make it happen, for better or for worse.  I might post excerpts this year; I might tweet funny quotes or particularly embarrassing dialogue; I might write the entire Masterpiece in secret.  But write it, I shall, and if you want to be super proud of yourself in thirty days, and maybe get out of doing the dishes in the interim, I’d encourage you to join me.  It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and it’s more fun than I know how to have with a cup of coffee in one hand without spilling it.  I’m born again as an artist every November; can your favorite Safeway-brand product promise that?

About this year’s novel:

When a long-forgotten uncle of her long-dead first husband shuffles off this mortal coil, Myrna McGee inherits a Waikiki condo and a stall at Honolulu’s International Marketplace, and along with them a ticket out of Saskatoon and a crack at a fresh start. With help from capricious local cutie Lio, she runs the Wiki Wiki Wedding Chapel and Hawaiian Honeymoon Clearing House, which quickly becomes a favorite fixture of the giant tourist trap. When the three Kaspersen brothers and their B-Movie Mom find themselves with a gay wedding to plan, Myrna and Lio sign on to deliver the perfect party on the cheap. But when opposition arises from an unexpected corner, the wedding is the least of the things they’re called on to try and save.

We start tomorrow!  Sign up at nanowrimo.org