Reading on a Budget: Book Swaps!

Hey Y’all,

If your wallet is still recovering from the holidays, or, like me, you’re a savvy shopper, have I got some great ideas for you! Reading can become an expensive habit, but what would we do without this joy?! Enter book swaps. If you’ve never participated in one, a book swap is pretty much just what it sounds like:

n: “…Practiced among book groups, friends and colleagues at work, it provides an inexpensive way for people to exchange books, find out about new books and obtain a new book to read without having to pay. Swaps occur between individuals, without central distribution or warehousing…”

Book Swaps Across the World!

It’s just like trading clothes with your sister or b.f.f.! True, swapping books has been happening for a while, but now there are more and more organized book swappers with an online presence. E-book lovers, don’t fret, whether you prefer print or digital, there’s a book swap for all readers! I’ve compiled a few swapsites for all you avid, budget-conscious readers.

Meetup: If you prefer to see the books, meet swappers, and chit chat a bit, then Meetup might be the search engine for you. Meetup is “the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.” All you have to do is type in “book swap” and your zipcode, and Meetup spits out the website for your local book swap.

BookMooch: If you’ve completed a book and want to use it as currency, BookMooch is the place to go! You earn a point every time you mail a book to a “Moocher,” and in turn, you can get any book you want from other “Moochers”. Once you’ve read a book, you can keep it forever or put it back into BookMooch for someone else, as you wish. You only have to pay for shipping books to “Moochers;” that’s it, no joining fee or anything! The only costs you incur are the mailing costs. They even include an option to give your earned points to different charities. Check out their website for more details!

eBookfling: If y’all have an e-reader, don’t worry, you can still swap, borrow and lend. eBookfling lets you swap, borrow, or lend ebooks using your e-reader device. Like other swapsites, it’s free to join. All you have to do is sign up, list the books you’d like to swap, earn credits, and start reading!

The whole swap mentality is pretty cool, and I feel like I’ve been living under a rock to have missed this trend! Also, if you prefer, many major e-retailers also have swapping programs. I’m sure I’ve missed some other creative swap ideas. What do y’all think—what are the other thrifty ways to get your read on?

Let’s Make a Book: The Production Process

Happy New Year Y’all!

I hope 2012 has been good to you so far, and you’re keeping up those resolutions. With a new year comes new titles and authors. In case you didn’t know, January is National Book Month. What better way to continue our kickoff of 2012, than an insider’s look into the publishing world! I’m taking you on a behind-the-scenes journey into the Production Department at Dorchester, and specifically, into my job as Production Assistant!

The role of the Production Department varies in each publishing house; however, one thing remains constant: we make the books! Each department will claim they are the most important, but we all know it is the Production Department who is the MVP :). For a more detailed overview of the traditional publishing process, I turn again to my man, author and former agent, Nathan Bransford.

As Production Assistant at Dorchester, I help with the managing editorial duties for each title. Basically, once our Editorial staff acquires a title, and the Editorial Director and author collaborate on changes, they submit the corrected and finalized manuscript to us! Keep in mind, however, that the editors and authors can take months perfecting the product, so the schedule operates much like a revolving door idea—as soon as one title moves to the next step, another title fills its spot.

Once our department receives the manuscript, more tweaking occurs—copyediting, proofreading, and 1P & 2P (1st & 2nd pass galleys). Here you carefully examine the details (both grammar and aesthetics) with a fine-tooth comb. You are the last set of eyes on this book before it’s sent to the printer or converter…no pressure! The cover art is completed and finalized concurrently.

So, from concept to product, it will take close to a calendar year for an acquired manuscript to reach your bookshelves or e-reader. I hope y’all enjoy the new year while the busy folks here at Dorchester look ahead to spring, summer, and even fall 2012. Keep a lookout for more of our terrifying horrors, heart-racing thrillers, and captivating romances.

NaNoWriMo: Oh, What Fun!

Hey Y’all,

It’s official! NaNoWriMo is over! It has been a crazy journey, but a fantastic adventure through and through. I’m still  happy with my progress, even though I didn’t meet the 50,000 word count goal to achieve an official NaNoWriMo badge.

I made it through many of my speedbumps, aka Modern Family, and made some new friends along the way, through the NaNoWriMo forums. Many people thought I was crazy for taking on this challenge—a 50,000 word novel in thirty days—but everyone still encouraged me to push forward. In the end, I was my own worst enemy. Old, bad habits sprouted up again, and it seemed like I always found something better to do. Believe it or not, I actually hunkered down over the Thanksgiving holiday. I completed a bulk of my novel with the football games as background noise. I didn’t do much Black Friday shopping, so that freed up some time to write as well. I met some personal goals through this process. I organized the plot, developed the main and supporting characters, and (pretty much) adhered to my schedule. I feel great! I’ve never participated in a challenge like this before, and I have to admit, it’s a nice feeling.

If I could do it all over again, I would…on one condition: I participate with a friend. I’m a social butterfly, and truly enjoy people’s company. In college, I was like a fly to the yellow light with study groups. I tend to perform better on team sports than individual. Basically, I like being around people. If I had a friend participating in NaNoWriMo as well, I’d have someone to commiserate and laugh with…sometimes at the same time. The NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program has a fun widget to challenge your friends; perhaps I’ll use this next year.

One final link for all you aspiring authors—Writer’s Relief is an author submission service that debates the good, bad, and ugly of all that is NaNoWriMo. As a former teacher and a Pisces, I want to encourage and nurture the free-spirited nature associated with writing. While NaNoWriMo presents a difficult challenge, it also presents a bigger purpose: promote creativity. Even if, like me, you didn’t reach 50,000 words, you’ve got a jumping off point. You’ve got a start, and that’s the toughest part. I will come back to my story about Teagan. I don’t know when I’ll return to writing it, but I have a clearer idea of what will develop, and now all I need is some more downtime.

Until next year! It’s been real y’all!

Word Count: 39,008!

NaNoWriMo: Tips to Cross the Finish Line!

Happy belated Thanksgiving, y’all!

The infamous Turducken!

Perhaps you’re reading this while waiting on line at your favorite retailer for their Black Friday deals. Maybe, like me, you’re reading this while lying on the couch, half asleep in a turkey coma—still trying to recuperate from indulging in too much fried turkey or Turducken, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie—or for all you vegetarians out there, too much Tofurky®. Well, fellow NaNos, you and I have got to snap out of it! We’ve got writing to do! There are only five days left until our deadline! Let’s do it to it!

I’ve cracked the whip and buckled down. My last update expressed my concerns with finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge. With the help and support of my friends, family, colleagues, and NaNoWriMo community, I’ve gone into a writing frenzy. I’ve put off some of my favorite shows…only the ones that show reruns online :). But, I’m happy to report that I’m getting closer to beating the clock! Plus, I’m not just tossing words on the page (well, computer screen). I’m actually developing the characters and plot. Now, my only problem is…how do I end this? I want the ending to be memorable and unique. Maybe my problem is that I don’t know what is going to happen yet. Wasn’t it J.K. Rowling who said she knew exactly how the Harry Potter series was going to end? Apparently, I’ve made a rookie NaNoWriMo mistake. I’m toying with the idea of stretching my novel into a series; but, it took me nearly 25 days to simply get going on this novel. I can only imagine if I attempted a series! It would then be called NaNoWriYr! Any and all suggestions from the NaNo community are greatly appreciated!

How cute are these Bugle® cornucopias!

During this entire process, I’ve been wishing there was more time. “There aren’t enough hours in the day,” I’d complain. So, for my final piece of motivation I turn back the clock. As Winston Churchill said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” In the Churchill spirit, I’ve found thirty NaNoWriMo tips from last year. I wish I knew about #14 and #20 before I started all these shenanigans! Maybe I’ll have to start catching up on #25, ha! Anywho, I thought these thirty tips were helpful, encouraging, and funny. What do y’all think? Do you have any other pieces of advice for our last stint in NaNoWriMo?

This is our last leg, our final hurrah! So, let’s put on our thinking caps and bust out the quill pens! Homestretch, here we come!

Word Count: 31,717 and counting!

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 18

Hey All,

We’re halfway to the NaNoWriMo deadline! I can’t believe it! While excitement is still in the air during this marathon writing session, I’m gathering that other NaNos are running into similar obstacles as I am. The task of writing a 50,000 word novel is a daunting one. At the beginning of this process, I thought I could manage work, life, and writing. I scheduled when I was going to write, where, and which part of my plot outline I would tackle each day. Apparently, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, or, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew…and all other applicable clichés. Or, there’s my grandmother’s theory: I don’t have any willpower other than when it comes to football. So, I confess—I’m not meeting my word count goal, and it’s all cable TV’s fault!

No, I can’t blame my TV. I can only blame myself. Well, I can blame the Giants for playing some really close and exciting games these past couple of weeks. It doesn’t help that the G-Men play the Eagles this weekend to continue their domination of the NFC East!

During this writing process, I’ve had flashbacks to my time in graduate school. You really have to be disciplined in order to succeed in NaNoWriMo. I procrastinated on some projects while I was in school, and that trait is rearing its ugly head during my writing now. So, to get myself out of a funk, I scour the Internet for fellow NaNos’ encouragement. My go-to-guy, Nathan Bransford, had a guest writer on his blog, author Shawn Thomas Odyssey. The post’s title, Success and Motivation, really struck a chord with me, as Shawn asks fellow writers to “take a moment every so often to remind ourselves what we are doing all of this for.” My goal for NaNoWriMo was to finally get a chance to write something fun. I want to enjoy the process and feel joy after accomplishing this goal. This has reminded me why I started all this madness. I feel rejuvenated, and ready to continue.

The Dorchester team has also been über supportive. Hannah even loaned me her writer’s block! There are even more people out there taking on the challenge with encouraging stories. Check out some of the inspiring stories of these Northwestern University students taking the NaNoWriMo challenge! I’m excited to keep on keepin’ on! Wish me luck NaNos!

Word Count: 13,488 and counting!

My NaNoWriMo Adventure Continues!

Hey All,

We’re officially eleven days into NaNoWriMo! Wow, I can’t believe we’re almost to the halfway point! At first, I didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to write about. I polled friends and family, and received some crazy, and some legitimate ideas. Apparently, procrastination is my middle name, because I finally settled on a protagonist and genre the night before NaNoWriMo began. I’d call that cutting it close! But, I still made it. Now, let’s see how Teagan, a high school freshman caught up in her bestie’s lies, deceit, and eventually murder, will fare in my novel.

While I love writing my novel, it’s been difficult to balance work and writing. It doesn’t help that I have to write during the best month of football (Go Giants!), and when all of my favorite sitcoms are on (Glee and Modern Family). I’ve really had to hunker down, but I’m proud to report that I have 9,028 words written! Luckily, I have a long commute to and from work, so I jot down ideas, important plot points, and sometimes paragraphs in my notebook. Yes, I’ve gotten quite a few glances and stares as I scribble furiously on the subway. Something tells me these NYC commuters have seen weirder, though.

I haven’t averaged the 1,670 words a day, like I wanted. Luckily the NaNoWriMo community offers many different ways to motivate its participants. Check out NaNoWriMo’s Pep Talks for encouragement from authors. These talks really helped push me. Also, there are events all over the country for participants to attend. There’s nothing like a face-to-face writing session to keep the creativity flowing. For those of you who can’t get to a NaNoWriMo session, check out some of Nathan Branford’s motivational tips—he’s an agent and author based out of San Francisco.

I’m determined to meet the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days. I’ve got a game plan set. I foresee some issues arising once it gets closer to Thanksgiving. Between fried turkey and Turkey Bowl football, I probably won’t be doing too much writing. So, I’m hoping for a couple of rainy weekends because it gives me an excuse to stay inside and write! I’ve stumbled across a few roadblocks, but luckily the NaNoWriMo community is tight-knit and rallies behind one another. How do y’all remain motivated during NaNoWriMo? Leave some comments here to share with the Dorchester Community. Until next time, NaNos…keep writing!

Thriller Thursdays: From the Set of House of the Rising Sun

The gritty, action-packed House of the Rising Sun continues to blow readers, and now audiences, away! The critically-acclaimed debut thriller from former special agent Chuck Hustmyre is now a major motion picture starring Hollywood heavyweights Danny Trejo (Sons of Anarchy), Dominic Purcell (Prison Break), and Amy Smart (Crank). Check out these pics from the set, read an excerpt from the book, watch the trailer, and share our enthusiasm for this thriller success! And if you’re looking for the perfect stocking-stuffer for that thriller lover in your family, House of the Rising Sun is available in trade paperback, e-book, and Blu-ray/DVD!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

John Everson: NaNoWriMo winner and inner-critic squelcher!

Packed with drama, suspense, and even a prize t-shirt, the NaNoWriMo challenge entices the best of us. John Everson tells all in this full spread companion post to his snippet of writer’s block advice on last week’s NaNoWriMo series. Did you know that most of his second novel, Sacrifice, was written during the NaNoWriMo of 2002? John is living proof that all aspiring writers should try tackling so worthwhile a challenge.

Now sit back with that double espresso, clear off the empty energy drinks from your desk, and settle in for a true success story.

Throughout the ’90s, I was mainly a horror short story writer.  I published dozens of short pieces in scores of tiny magazines and anthologies, and they were fun and easy to knock out— a couple hours on the weekend and they were done. But over the course of five years, I had also slowly developed (over many stops and restarts) my first novel, Covenant. I finished the first draft in 2000, and spent the next couple of years trying to sell it, being rejected, going back and trying to polish it some more, then sending it out yet again.

By the end of 2002, I still had not sold that first novel, and hadn’t started a new novel in the 2+ years that Covenant had been languishing on many slush piles. All writers know that the worst thing you can do is finish a project and then wait for it to sell before starting the next one. You need to get back on the horse. And it had really been seven years since I had started a novel project, since Covenant was begun in 1995. I knew I needed to either decide that I was just going to stick with short fiction, or I had to begin a new novel, whether the first one ever sold or not.

I needed a kickstart.

Someone steered me to NaNoWriMo that fall. The group wasn’t quite as ubiquitous in 2002 as it is today—it was just three years old—but it was growing in leaps and bounds each year. I liked the fact that, unlike many writers critique groups, it was strictly a solo challenge. You either made your 50,000 word deadline or you didn’t. People could join together at coffeehouses and commiserate or cajole each other, and there were message boards to help connect, but you didn’t need to. I’m a pretty independent creature in that sense and wasn’t interested in the community aspect of the challenge. I just needed the writing challenge. And the hard deadline.

Just one problem. My day job pretty much owned me the first week of November 2002, because I had to work a convention (anyone who’s staffed a national convention knows that after those 14-16 hour days, there is nothing left of you but a husk that needs sleep).  So I began my NaNoWriMo challenge already exhausted and a week late… leaving me just three weeks to write 50,000 words.

And in October 2002 I didn’t even really know what I wanted to write about. But while I was out of town during that start of November, I figured it out.

I wanted to do a really stupid thing—I wanted to write a sequel to my first novel, the book I couldn’t sell!  I had a whole different kind of story I wanted to explore within the world of the first book, so I knew the second novel, while a sequel, had to be self-contained, in case the first book never sold.

Somewhere on or around November 8, 2002, I wrote the first chapter of Sacrifice. I realized quickly that in order to meet the November 30th 11:59 p.m. deadline, I had to average more than 2,200 words per day for the next three weeks. The admonitions on the NaNoWriMo website were key to achieving that—edit later, write now.  I still find myself whispering that advice to myself today when I start slowing down on a project.

Squelching your inner critic is probably the hardest thing a writer can do. The inner critic is the voice in the back of your head that says everything you’ve just written… or wrote yesterday…or are about to write is utter tripe. Your inner critic can make you stare at a blank screen for those few precious hours you have allocated for writing, or it can make you waste 45 minutes wrestling with a single sentence or paragraph that just doesn’t feel right.

Your inner critic is your biggest enemy to rampant productivity. And rampant productivity is what NaNoWriMo is all about.

So I dug in. I wrote before work. I wrote after work. I probably wrote at lunch sometimes. And during every session, I had to keep saying, “don’t worry if it’s crap— just get your 2,200  words down today.” It’s the same sentiment as the movie adage, “just get the shot, we’ll fix it all in post.”

I didn’t have an outline when I started the book— this was a seat of the pants endeavor. I really only had a vague idea of where it all was going. But every couple days I took a few minutes to “backwards outline” what I’d done before, so I remembered the crazy things I was coming up with so I could tie it all together later. Because when you’re forcing that word count, you come up with all sorts of weird ideas and plot departures at 11:45 p.m. that you don’t even remember writing  the next morning.

In the end, I got 50,000 words of Sacrifice written (about 2/3 of what the final novel would become) in three weeks, working right up to the last minute. I uploaded my file, and it was validated. I have the t-shirt to prove it!  I also was sick with a horrible cold for the next two weeks because I had burned the candle at both ends for so long.

But it was something I wanted to prove to myself I could do. I proved that I didn’t need to take five years to write a novel. I worried that I’d written 50,000 words of crap, and honestly, it was months before I re-visited the project to find out. When I did, I  spent 2-3 months writing the other 40,000 words, and found to my surprise that I actually didn’t need to change much in that first half. By gagging my inner critic and just forcing myself to write and not critique, I’d set loose creativity that might never have surfaced if I’d tortuously over-thought the book. I honestly think that Sacrifice is the better novel of the Covenant-Sacrifice duo, though it was written the fastest of any of my books.

I’m now finishing up my 6th novel, and I have to say, I still think Sacrifice may be my quickest moving book. And that’s got to relate in part to the environment it was written in.

So what happened to the books? Covenant won a Bram Stoker Award for a first novel thanks to a small press release in 2004, and both Covenant and Sacrifice were sold in a two-book deal to Dorchester’s Leisure Books imprint in 2007 and released in mass market paperback in 2008 and 2009 respectively. It was a happy ending!

I’ve never taken the NaNoWriMo challenge again. I don’t need to—I know I can do it. And I still use the lessons I learned that month to this day.  I don’t write books in a month, but I’ve never taken over a year to produce a novel again.

NaNoWriMo taught me how to silence—or at least stifle—my inner critic. If you just start running, you don’t have time to study and get lost in the cracks in the sidewalk!

Now if that story doesn’t inspire you to tackle NaNoWriMo with four weeks to spare, I don’t know what will!

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

When writers hit a wall (and no, I don’t mean the fourth-wall)

Four days into NaNoWriMo and everything is moving swiftly. Your characters are championing outrageous obstacles, your setting is a dizzying hybrid of dystopian delight, and you know this is the month everything falls into place.

And then, inexplicably, it happens.

Your inspiration loses steam and you’re left wondering if that pesky, sprite of a muse will ever return in time to fill the 1,670 word deadline for the day. Worry not, travel-worn bloggers! Four of Dorchester’s authors detail how they address these concerns, and thus, offer writers a bit of advice. We thank Rose Lerner, Graham Masterton, Caitin Rother, and John Everson for their time!

Rose shares her own experiences with traversing alternate writing channels as a way to alleviate the block itself.

I had [writer's block] for a long long time after my mother died.  But the thing is, it wasn’t really writer’s block.  It was historical romance block, because that was always something I shared with my mother.  I wrote A LOT during that time, but I wrote romantic fanfiction for TV shows.  I was able to get excited about that because there was a built-in community and audience to share it with.  And when I was finally ready to dive back into historical romance (or rather, fall flailing back in: it didn’t happen naturally, it took a giant shove), my writing muscles weren’t rusty and I’d learned a lot in the meantime.  So I think if you’ve had writer’s block for a while, you need to sit down and figure out why.  What’s missing now that used to get you so excited?  Is there something else you still feel that way about?  Give yourself permission to write whatever the heck you want.  Keep writing and practicing your craft.  Give yourself time—but do force yourself to come back to your original idea every so often and see where you’re at.

Good luck, everyone!

Graham takes the straightforward approach when it comes to his craft!

I was trained from the age of 17 as a newspaper reporter and then spent the next 10 years being a magazine editor, and in those jobs you simply don’t get the time or the opportunity for writer’s block because you are always working against a deadline.

Nowadays I have more ideas for books and short stories than I will ever be able to complete in my lifetime.  I know some writers like music in the background, but I prefer silence.  All the sound comes from inside my head.  My advice to anybody who wants to write is just to write, whether you feel in the mood or not.  I currently have two protégé writers, and I am very hard on both of them.  Get on with it.  Stop being pretentious and get something down on the screen, even if you delete it all later.

After detailing her busy writing schedule earlier this week on the blog, Caitlin elaborates on how to combat the nasty writer’s block bug.

[...] I honestly don’t have time to have writer’s block, but if I do run into a wall, I simply switch gears and either mull the problem or let my subconscious work on it until I’m ready to give it another shot.

Last but by no means least, the following is an excerpt from John’s successful foray into the NaNoWriMo challenge, which kick-started his second novel back in 2002. Tune in Monday for details!

Squelching your inner critic is probably the hardest thing a writer can do. The inner critic is the voice in the back of your head that says everything you’ve just written… or wrote yesterday…or are about to write is utter tripe. Your inner critic can make you stare at a blank screen for those few precious hours you have allocated for writing, or  it can make you waste 45 minutes wrestling with a single sentence or paragraph that just doesn’t feel right.

Your inner critic is your biggest enemy to rampant productivity. And rampant productivity is what NaNoWriMo is all about.

How do you weather the tides of inspiration? Reply for your chance to win a nifty tool every writer needs to succeed! Or rather, throw at their monitor when the going gets tough. I know I certainly need one of those.

Signing off (believe in me who believes in you!)—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

Insurrectionizing the insuperable writer in you + prize package!

(Rest assured, I’m only using a title of that caliber to celebrate NaNoWriMo.)

Let’s write! Crack those knuckles and consider the following, oh lascivious lovers of the written word. As I know I’m among good company here on the Dorchester Community Blog, I can readily confess that my research into the world of providing prompts has thoroughly inspired me to share in this treasure trove. There were two Web-sites in particular that yielded exceedingly helpful results! One-word prompts are a fun and easy way to generate tantalizing possibilities quickly and, perhaps most importantly, efficiently.

Word Dynamo is a program that challenges the breadth of your vocabulary and, in the process of taking the test, broadens your knowledge! Take, for instance, the word typy. I merely concluded the impossible definitions, thus narrowing the field to two possibilities. Really, it was a lucky guess! Did you know it means “(of a domestic animal) embodying the ideal characteristics of its variety or breed?” I certainly didn’t.

For more specific prompts, try the Random Word Generator! I can’t tell you how fast my commute went simply by browsing endless combinations of obscure transitive verbs (my personal favorite). As the title of this post may suggest, my foray into the English language yielded insurrectionizing, which means “to rouse (a person, group, or people) to insurgent action.” Who knew? Perhaps you did—thus, I bow to your far superior level of expertise.

How did you measure up against the forces of the dictionary dynamo? Do word prompts help or hinder your writing? Reply in the comments for your chance to win a prize package worth over $30!
Signing off (to generate more random word combinations, most likely)—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers