My Penguicon Schedule

Penguicon is coming! The one time of the year I get to head back to my home state of Michigan. It’s a great con filled with TONS of awesome programming (okay, and room parties – my personal fave being the karaoke party). This year, I’ll be a panelist on a mere four panels (my personal best is seven – I like to be busy!) in both the Literature and Media tracks.

Penguicon takes place at the Westin Southfield the weekend of April 29th – May 1st.

Panels, Dates, and Times

April 29: Social Media (for writers), 6pm
April  30: Screenwriting, 11am
Character Problems, 3pm
Finding an Agent, 4pm

 

Upcoming Information

This year at Penguicon, there will be a place called the “Writer’s Block.” Books by attending authors will be available for purchase, and there will also be signings throughout the weekend. I don’t have my schedule for that, yet. When I do, I’ll share that, too.

 

Twitter for Writers

It amazes me how many writers aren’t on Twitter. Whether they think it’s “noise” or “just a platform for self promotion” (is that really a bad thing?), there are so many misconceptions. Twitter can be an amazing tool – if you know how to use it.

Turning off the noise
The best way to turn off the noise is to decide from the start who you want to see on your Twitter feed. Here are some hints to keep the noise to a minimum, and get the best out of your experience:
1. Check the accounts of the people you want to follow. How often do they post? What do they post? Is it something you want to see?
2. Don’t auto-follow. Someone follows you! Great! Now go check them out. Do you like what they  have to say? If there isn’t much on their feed, go to their website. See if they’re someone you really WANT to follow.

Seriously. That’s all it takes. Follow the people you really want to follow, and don’t feel guilty if you don’t follow back. You can also make lists to keep different account types separate if you want to further reduce the noise.

Promotions
Congratulations! You’ve published your first book/article/blog! You’re excited, and ready to share it with the world. First, you need to know how and why. If you over-promote, people won’t read what you’re saying. No one wants to see constant promotion. You certainly don’t, right? (see above – re: who to follow) Pace yourself. There are different schools of thought on how often to post your promotions compared to how often you tweet about life, etc. Basically, what they all say is the same: Balance. You need it.

Networking
Ah…the lifeblood of the biz! A great way to find writers is to go where the writers go, and there are a lot of us on Twitter. Try the hashtag #amwriting. Simply type that into the search box, and marvel at the world that just opened. You can also find networking opportunities by participating in “pitch parties.” I’ll get to that in the next section. When you participate in pitch parties, you network with people in the business – and that’s a valuable tool for a writer. Comment on their tweets. Just don’t over-comment, or you might come off as a pest.

(Pitch) Party, Party!
So, you have a shiny, new (completely edited and ready-to-query) novel. Now, you need someplace to send it. But where? Have no fear…pitch parties are here! I can’t say enough about these things. They’re absolutely one of my favorite things about Twitter for writers. It’s amazing to see the talent out there. I’ve learned so much, and made such great connections. Even found critique partners to keep me on my toes!

HOW DOES IT WORK?
The different contests have different rules, but most are very similar. Once an hour, you post a pitch (a sentence to interest the reader), starting at the appointed start time, with the appropriate hashtags. Fellow authors will retweet your pitch, and you can retweet the pitches you really like. ONLY retweet. Save the stars or “favorites” for the agents or editors. Yes, agents and editors keep up with the pitch parties in order to find people to request queries from. If they like your pitch, they’ll star it. Follow their guidelines for submission, and make sure you put your Twitter handle/pitch they liked in the query. No guarantee you’ll get a book deal here. What you will get is experience in distilling your book into the shortest explanation possible, new writing friends, and…yes…attention. “They” will know you exist. That’s a good thing. A very good thing.

Some of my favorite pitch parties are: #PitMad, #AdPit (for adults), #SFFpit (scifi/fantasy)…just to name a few. There are so many more.

Other Important Stuff
My biggest advice is: Have fun. Know what you want to get out of it. Followers? Information? You decide.

A few cool accounts to follow: @LiteraryRejections (agent information, positive thoughts), @BrendaDrake (the host of #PitchWars and #PitMad), @WritersDigest (obviously), @Michelle4Laughs (another pitch party host).

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to add them in the comments! Any information shared is good information.

Exercising the Muse

It’s March 1st. Many New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned by now. Exercise equipment, clothing racks. Gym memberships, forgotten. Fitness goals left by the wayside.

Hopefully, the writers out there have been good to keep up their word goals. So far, I have…but it hasn’t been easy. My minimum word goal per day is 500. That’s not a lot, but that’s the minimum. Thankfully, I’ve passed it at every turn. How? By exercising my muse.

I imagine my personal muse as a handsome man who looks quite a bit like a certain character (hint: Moose!) on a popular television show. The link came about a while back, after I’d had a couple of dreams with him in them. I wrote better on those days. Hence, my muse.  —insert cough here— Of course, a muse doesn’t get buff overnight. Gotta exercise him/her in a creative way. It sets up your word goal success.

One of the biggest things I do, is stop my writing day at a place where I know what I want to happen next. If I don’t know, I can use the time between writing to figure it out. Problems and blocks usually work themselves out when I do it this way, and I can go in fresh. For example, I want my character to go into a mausoleum for “x” reason. I write up until she goes in. Then what? I wait until the next writing day to figure that out. She has to find “x” and get out. That’s fodder for story continuation…and the words can flow. It’s kind of like a hybrid of pantsing and plotting. At the beginning, I may have a general idea of where to go, but no real plan to get there. Day by day, scene by scene, I make my plan.

Does this make any sense? I hope so!

Another thing I do when I get stuck, is work on the story “bible.” Each of my stories has a definitive book that contains character information (biographies, fears, likes, motives, what they look like, etc.), settings,notes, quotes from the characters…you name it. Even the most random observations. For “Cake or Death,” I  noticed that Home Depot sells yard stakes and commented to my husband, “Wouldn’t that be a good idea for a busy, vampire slaying single mom?” Into the Cake or Death bible that went. By getting to know your characters and their world in a deeper way, you can come up with new and better ways to move the story along.

There are a ton of different writing exercises you can do, and it’s pretty easy to find them on the internet. If you have suggestions of your own, put them in the comments! You never know who you might help in the process. Keep exercising those muses!

SNOW DAY! No…wait…SNOW WEEK!

Yeah…I’m not that excited about it, but the kids have this week off. The Snowpocalypse hit our little part of the world, and everything’s at a standstill. No school, closed businesses…not even Starbucks! My chickens (I have six ladies) refuse to come out of their coop. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to walk on that evil, white crap, either. Yesterday, I had to let them out and feed them, and ended up falling on the garage floor. I have a lovely bruise on my wrist now.

It could be worse. I don’t have anywhere to go, and the house is warm. Plus, we thought far enough ahead to get groceries. We had to go anyway, so we didn’t need to hoard milk or bread. The best part is that I can snuggle up on the couch, under the covers, with my pups…and write.

It’s an awesome job to have.

Speaking of writing, I’ve broken the 30,000 word mark on my work-in-progress! It’ll be harder to get good numbers this week with the kids home and providing distractions, but it’ll be a good test of the “Don’t Bother Mom When She’s Writing” rule. I’ll have to report back next week with the new total.

Anyone else dealing with snow days? What do you do to keep your kids busy while you’re working at home? Older kids, younger kids…even furkids!

Snow
The neighbor’s house from my bedroom window

Sun VS Snow Recap

This one’s primarily for the writers out there, but others can learn from it, too.

On Twitter, I’ve recently discovered the joy of something called “pitch parties.” Follow a hashtag, post your (completed) novel’s “pitch.” It’s a way to increase readership, make friends, and possibly catch the attention of an agent or editor. There are also contests that are similar. Winners can receive query critiques (among other things). There are several out there: #PitchMad, #AdPitch, #PitchMas, just to name a few. The most recent one I had the pleasure of participating in was #snowvssun.

In #snowvssun, you email your query, first twenty-five of your manuscript, and what your main character would prefer: sun…or snow. For my personal choice, my main character (Lex Jensen of “Cake or Death” – still trying to find a home!) chose “sun.” Hunting vampires in the snow isn’t fun. I made it into the contest, but no further. I’m good with it, though. I got to meet some great people. They’ve been incredibly  helpful, offering great ideas and valuable advice. It’s my understanding that the next step is the mentor round. Then, the coveted agent round. This isn’t the only way to get an agent or publisher to look at your work. This is, though, awesome for improvement and connections. That’s where the real prize is.

I’ve since updated my query, based on ideas I’ve seen from successful queries. I’ve got new people to use as a sounding board. I’ve got more followers on Twitter. I think I’ve won.