Summer Reading 2016

I have to admit—I’ve been doing a LOT more reading than writing this summer. What is it about the warm weather? I’d love to see a statistic showing how many of humankind’s great books were written by authors tucked away in a cozy cabin in the cold winter snow vs. those who were trying to write with summer outside beckoning with all her charms. I’d put big money on the first group being a whole lot bigger than the second.

I’ve been reading the advice of a lot of my favorite writers, and they all say to read within your genre … and read outside of your genre. So basically, just READ.

It’s only June 30 … and here’s what I’ve read so far (in the order I read them, as far as I can remember), followed by a list of books I’m planning to read. (Disclaimer: It’s summer, people. I am a fan of easy, enjoyable reading in the summer, so don’t get all serious on me wondering why I’m not reading more weighty tomes. Blame the heat.)

Stephen King, On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft
This title had shown up on several “must read” lists for authors, so I opened it as our plane took off from Oakland, CA, heading to Maui. I’ll admit, I’d tried to read this book before. The first few chapters were fairly biographical—not what I expected. But with a five-hour flight in front of me, I gave it another whirl, and this time it totally sucked me in. Once the great Stephen King starts talking about his writing process, it’s fascinating. He is a terrific writer—there’s not an unnecessary word on the page (something I am working on!).

Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County
I downloaded this book to re-read the moment I finished King’s book. He had spent a fairly long page bashing “Bridges” and I was taken aback. I had loved this book when it was released back in 1992 (I was 21). With Stephen’s harsh comments echoing in my mind, I was convinced I would read the book and love it again. Unfortunately, not so much. I have to admit Stephen was correct in his criticism of stilted storytelling. Though it’s still a lovely story (and any story in which I can envision Meryl Streep is a WIN in my book), I did not enjoy the writing style this time around.

Cecelia Ahern, Flawed
I’m not sure where I saw Flawed listed, but I am glad I stumbled upon it. I hadn’t read Cecelia Ahern before, and further research shows she’s not really considered a YA author. But this dystopian novel about a society that “brands” its flawed people (literally) was quite gripping. It’s only flaw (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) is that it ended with a lot of the story left, and I hate waiting for the next book.

Cecelia Ahern, The Time of My Life
Since Ahern left me hanging with Flawed, I downloaded another of her titles. This was an odd read, about a young woman who had let herself go, and her family calls in “her life” to meet with her. I stumbled a bit when reading the premise. It was presented very matter of fact-ly. Almost too matter-of-fact. I didn’t have time to adjust to the magic/fantasy element being thrust into a thoroughly non-magic story. But once I adjusted and adequately suspended my disbelief, it was a pretty interesting read.

Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
Maybe the only book on my list that came off the bestseller list, I found The Girl on the Train to be completely absorbing, and equally confusing. The back and forth chronology and constantly shifting POV was incredibly interesting, but I had to scan back to see what time period I was in more than once. It did not detract from my enjoyment, and I gobbled the book up (and am looking forward to seeing the movie.)

John Grisham, The Testament
I hadn’t read John Grisham in awhile. And this was a paperback. So although I like to convince myself that my 40+ year old eyes work just as well as they used to … this paperback proved me wrong and I had to squint at it with my cheaters. But it was worth it. I don’t know if this was one of Grisham’s highest rated novels, but he never fails to grip you at the beginning, and keep you hooked until the end. The master of legal drama. Very enjoyable.

Pintip Dunn, Forget Tomorrow
I can’t remember how I stumbled upon Forget Tomorrow, but I’m so glad I did! Pintip Dunn is a skilled YA writer. Her pacing is perfect and the characters draw you in immediately.  If you’re writing YA (or just like reading YA), pick up a Pintip Dunn title. My only regret is this is a book in a series, and I HATE waiting for the rest of the story.

Judith McNaught, Whitney My Love
Similar to my experiment with “Bridges,” this was a re-read of a book, and an author, that I had loved in my early 20s. And it was a bestseller. Read by millions. But I have to say, I’ve outgrown it. By a long shot. I love a good well-written, sexy romance (Outlander, comes to mind), but these descriptions were so overblown, and the characters so perfect (or way too imperfect). And let’s face it —the main male character basically rapes the lead female character. Maybe I’m not as romantic as I used to be, but this book—alas—is no longer for me.

Blake Snyder, Save the Cat
I took a screenwriting class a few months ago taught by Anne Jordan, a local screenwriter. The class was fantastic, and I’d remembered her mentioning this book. I dream of breaking into screenwriting, so figured I’d pick it up. (The funniest thing is I kept telling my husband I’d just downloaded this book called “Kill the Cat,” so now I laugh every time I see the title.) This book is a great resource for screenwriters, but also surprisingly useful for novelists as well. It’s all about the elements of a well-constructed story, and a very entertaining read.

John Grisham, The Confession
Without giving the story away, I loved this book but hated what happened to some of the characters. Centering on the death penalty, I have to say it might have changed my opinion somewhat on the issue. A very interesting read.

Pintip Dunn, The Darkest Lie
I started following Pintip Dunn on Twitter after I read Forget Tomorrow, so I actually got a tweet the moment her latest book was released. I’m about 3/4 of the way through, and this is a good read. Not my favorite of hers, but still keeping me turning the pages. The premise of the main character’s mother killing herself after being exposed for having an affair with a student seems a little harsh to me (maybe as the mother of teenagers … I’d prefer the mother character not be killed off?). Good writing, good pacing. I enjoy Dunn’s work immensely.

These are my “books on deck”.

  • Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall
  • Rainbow Rowen, Eleanor & Park
  • Andy Weir, The Martian
  • Stephen King, 11.22.63
  • Kiera Cass, The Selection
  • George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones
  • Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel
  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

Happy Summer Reading! Send me your suggestions. I’d love to add to my list!

I Hate Social Media

There. I said it. The fact that I am not a huge fan (personally) of social media is really quite a bummer–since I happen to run a digital marketing business (www.vicecommunications.com) AND I have aspirations of creating a strong author platform using … social media. So shhhh! 

But just because I don’t personally LIKE it (pun intended) doesn’t mean I don’t understand it, and it certainly doesn’t mean I can’t use it as a method to establish and market myself as a writer.

Since SHIFT has not yet been published, I have decided to focus on four platforms now — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram–and save some for the future: Goodreads, Google+ and SnapChat.

facebook-96 FACEBOOK (or, as my daughters call it, social media for old people)
As I started to establish my new social media channels as an “Author,” I realized immediately that I needed to make some decisions about my personal presence on various channels. On Facebook, for example, I have had an active personal page for several years. But I’ve been choosy about who I’ve accepted friend requests from–I tend to take the term “friend” literally. If we weren’t friends in High School, or you are “friending” me because you are one of the zillion people who was friends with my husband (who maintains a staunch anti-social-media position) … well, then, why would I want to show you photos of my kids now?

To help separate my personal Facebook presence from my professional goals, I have established several “Pages” specific to my writing projects. You can find me as an author here, and I have unpublished pages established specifically for SHIFT as a standalone title, and THE SHIFT TRILOGY if all the stars align.

If SHIFT is taken on by an agent & publishing team, I will utilize my personal contacts to promote my Author Page. In the meantime, I simply “soft launched” the page and asked my core crew of supporters to LIKE it. This gives me somewhere to flow new blog posts, etc. so I have something underway if and when SHIFT is taken on.

I also have to make the decision about opening up my personal Facebook page a little more so I have more people to “market to” if and when SHIFT is published. This feels VERY strange to me, but makes sense. For now, I am not doing this by actively friending more people myself,  but I am trying to have a more open mind in accepting FRIENDS requests. Use your connections, use your connections, use your connections. (NOTE: Opening this up has already changed the tone of my personal Facebook page, and I have to think carefully about what I post–especially in this debacle of an election year).

twitter-96 TWITTER (or the bane of my existence)
Twitter was a bit of a different animal. I was never a fan of Twitter, so I decided to dedicate my existing account @kelivice to my author platform. (Man–I need a better picture!! One step at a time.) For now, I am following as many writing-related people as I can find, and participating in Twitter pitches just to get the feel of the platform. Though I find the snarkiness of Twitter to be of epic proportions, I believe the platform is a necessary evil, so I will continue to quietly grow my presence and learn from other successful authors who use the platform.

instagram-96 INSTAGRAM (or where the teenagers hang out)
I’m still figuring out Instagram on a professional level. For now, I have an account. I have linked it to my website, and I’m watching and learning from other authors and brands. Honestly, the only reason I’m paying attention to it is I have seen my 14- and 17-year-old daughters devote INSANE amounts of time to scrolling through Instagram. I don’t get it yet–but I will, because I’m writing YA and this is my target audience!

pinterest-96 PINTEREST (easy to participate in)
Pinterest is just one huge world of repinning, so it doesn’t take a huge amount of time to keep things populated here. The jury is still out as to what it will eventually bring to an author platform, but I’m willing to give it a go. For now I have just linked my personal Pinterest presence to my website, but I plan to establish and author presence specifically around writing and creativity. Hopefully I can keep my personal presence a little separate, but only time will tell.

A WORD ON SNAPCHAT (per Gary Vaynerchuck)
https://finance.yahoo.com/video/grave-mistake-neglect-snapchat-gary-212933693.html?format=embed

For YA authors, Snapchat cannot be ignored. I have an account–guess I will be figuring out how to use it to my advantage.

RESOURCES (learn, learn and learn some more)
Even though I run a digital marketing company, social media has not been my primary focus, so I am constantly reading and listening to make sure I keep up. Most recently, I read CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM by Chuck Sambuchino–a good read no matter what your current social media knowledge is. You can find the book HERE.

I’m also following the fabulous Gary Vaynerchuck on every social media channel I can find, and just signed up for his “building a personal brand” webinar series on Udemy. (Gary also has TONS of video material available on YouTube and on his Facebook page. ) His Facebook URL is https://www.facebook.com/gary – which means the dude got in ON THE GROUND FLOOR.

Any recommendations out there? I’m in learning mode so your experience is welcome!

2016-17 West Coast Writing Workshops

So it’s halfway through the year … but now that I’m learning to walk the walk, I’ve started paying attention to upcoming writing conferences and workshops. There are tons. Being a Cali girl, though, some of the East Coast conferences – although they look fantastic – are just too pricey to get to. I want to spend my money … and my time … wisely.

(Disclaimer: please note lack of possessive apostrophe in the titles of these conferences is not my choice.)

Here are some upcoming West Coast events that I’m considering:

The Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference
June 17-19, 2016
Los Angeles, CA

2008-era website but looks like a legit conference. The schedule looks pretty interesting – check it out here. Good chance to visit my UCLA roomies?

Napa Valley Writers’ Conference
July 24-29, 2016
Napa, CA

This conference had me at “Writers'” including an apostrophe … but looks like this conference has an application process rather than straight first-come-first-served registration, which might tony up the party a bit. Check it out here. If they let you in – it’s $975 to participate. Plus you have to give them a $25 reading fee to read through your submitted writing sample. Hmmm.

Pacific Northwest Writers Conference
July 28-31
Seattle, WA

A bit of a confusing website, but managed to find the conference schedule here. Pet peeve no-no: their “about” is a video without backup text on the page. No, no, no. Never do this. BUT – looks like it could be a good conference, website aside. Conference registration $475. At the DoubleTree in Seattle (airport).

Mendocino Coast Writers Conference
August 4-7, 2016
Ft. Bragg, CA

Hmmm – Ft. Bragg in August sounds nice. This one is two days of workshops, followed by an optional “Publishing Boot Camp” on Aug. 7. Surprisingly pricey: $575 early bird registration.

The 2016 Writing Workshop of San Francisco
September 10, 2016 
San Francisco, CA

Looks like this one is a focused 1-day workshop limited to 140 people. PitchFest for an extra fee + the presenter is Chuck Sambuchino. I am reading his book Create Your Writer Platform right now (thus all the blogging).

Southwest Washington Writers Conference
September 17, 2016
Centralia, WA

A one-day conference at Centralia College. Check out the schedule here. I think I’ll pass on this one (although I DO have that book idea for the environmental lawyer in Seattle …).

Southern California Writers’ Conference
September 23-25, 2016

Irvine, CA

Yea! Another apostrophe in the title! The schedule for this one has yet to be announced (as of 5/27/16). Will be posted here when available.

San Francisco Writers Conference
February 16-19, 2017
San Francisco, CA

I missed this conference in 2016 but am considering attending in 2017. Early bird registration (until June 1) is $575 – doesn’t say what it goes up to after that. Optional speed dating add’l fee.

Anybody know anything happening in Oregon? Lemmeno if you’re going to a different conference that you recommend – I’ll add it to this list!

Thanks –
Keli

 

So are You a Plotter or a Panster?

Plotter
[plot-er]
noun : one that plots: as
a : a person who schemes or conspires
b : a contriver of a literary plot

Panster
[pans-ter]
noun: one who flies by the seat of their pants: as
a: a person who doesn’t plan anything out
b: a person who plans very little

I was sitting at lunch with author Sandy Baker, a friend of my mom’s who happens to also be the president of our local Redwood chapter of the California Writers Club (arrgh – no apostrophe in the title of this group, which JUST KILLS me. I mean … we’re writers, right? Shouldn’t it be “California WRITERS’ Club”??). But I digress …

So, anyhow, I’m sitting there at lunch in Santa Rosa and she’s giving me all sorts of great advice about what to do now that I have a completed manuscript. And she asks me: “Are you a plotter or a panster?”

Clearly I’m supposed to know what this means, so I kinda fudge my answer. “I guess I’m a little of both,” I lie, hoping this is an adequate response.

Thank God her next lines explain what the hell we are talking about. Evidently “plotters” plan everything out in advance of writing, while “pansters” fly by the seat of their pants.

So later, I’m thinking about this. Which am I?

With many half-finished story ideas … but only one completed manuscript to my name … I’m not sure I’ve fully decided what I am quite yet. Completing my first manuscript was kind of like birthing my first child – I had no freakin’ idea what to expect. Was I going to need an epidural, the doctor asks me weeks in advance? HELL YES, it turns out.

So finishing that first manuscript was such an unknown. I wrote a few key scenes. Then I rewrote everything. Then I stopped for a few months. Then I freaked out after reading the first chapter of all my favorite YA novels and rewrote everything in first person. Then I signed up for NaNoWriMo and wrote a shit-pot every single day for the month of November, despite the fact that it’s my busiest time of year for Vice Communications (the holiday season is kind of my own personal tax-season).

As Shift was starting to feel like a finished story, I happened to take this amazing screenwriting class at the Santa Rosa Junior College, taught by a fabulous, energetic screenwriter named Anne Jordan – who, incidentally, has the longest, most fabulous legs, ever. Though the class was focused on scripts, she introduced an outlining process that might just change my writing life forever. Here’s the gist.

  • Scripts are about 100 pages long – period. This is what is expected whether you are turning in Ghandi or The Hangover.
  • The script is divided into four equal sections (let’s just say 25 pages, each).
    • ACT I – Setting the Scene > Turning Point
    • ACT IIa – Fun & Games > Turning Point
    • ACT IIb – Bad Guys Set In > All is Lost
    • ACT III – Call to Action  > Resolution

(There’s a lot more detail here, obviously, but I don’t want to give away Anne’s material. If you want to know more, order her book The Big Secret: What Hollywood Won’t Tell You. )

The_Big_Secret_-_cover.242203147_std

So I go home and immediately apply this theory to my 250-page manuscript and it was amazing. My manuscript reached these points in the story almost to the page. A validating moment.

So now I’m working on Shift II: The Call (working title), and I have become much more of a plotter. I’ve outlined most of the story into Anne’s outline format, so I know where I’m headed. And it’s kind of awesome – I mean, in my professional life in marketing, would I ever embark on a big project without having a project outline to follow? Nope. Never.

The outline also allows me to jump around, the way I did when writing Shift. As of now, I have written the opening scene, the final scene, one pivotal scene in the middle and one “fun” scene blocked out. The outline allows me to be a “planster,” if you will. I can write a scene here and there as it comes to me, but I always know where I’m going.

So how do you approach your writing? I know there are a lot of us out there. Let us know what works for you!

-Keli