Friday, October 20, 2017

Preparing for NaNoWriMo, or How to Write Stupid Fast

According to the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) web site, I've participated every year since 1999. I have yet to "win" -- defined as completing a 50,000-word story within the confines of a single November. So, disclaimer up front here: I may not be the best person to give advice for writing fast.

I did, however, write two books in 8 months last year. So even though only 38,781 of the words (of the second of those books) happened in November, I did learn a few things that might be helpful for folks looking to challenge themselves with a NaNo attempt this year.


1,667 (words a day) is an evil number


The NaNo site advises participants to write 1,667, rounded up, words a day. Doing so slides you into home base with 50k on November 30th. And of course you hear all the time about how writing some-arbitrary-number-of-words every day will somehow magically create a book. I do believe that process works for some folks. I believe that it anti-works for others.

I'm an anti.

I've tried to complete daily word count targets and then put the writing aside and go do, like, laundry or something, flush with the feeling that I've completed my allotted work for the day. Only, that has never worked for me. Not even once.

See, I bake stories. In my brain. So, technically, I can be laundering and writing at the same time. I know: bendy! But really it works like this: I'm deep-diving into story world whilst folding dryer-warm knickers, blanking everything real-world out and allowing the repetitive task of my hands to keep my blood flowing into the story-baking brain. So, I go about two days with zero words, then one with 5,000 words. Average it out, and you still get the story. It sounds mystical, but it totally works.

So even if you have a zero-word day, don't beat yourself up. Just bake your brain.

Social media, even the awesome NaNo support network: also evil


One of the things I love about NaNo is the support mechanism. I mean, dozens of friends targeting the same goal! Together! What could be awesomer! Except, um, no. While I'm happy to cheer folks on once a day during November, I personally need to unplug the rest of the time.

Yes, even Twitter. Even Facebook. Having a really vintage laptop that won't run a browser window and a Word window at the same time with anything like speed has kept me disciplined in the past, but I wouldn't recommend that strategy for, really, anyone. I hear good things about this app called Freedom,which can help minimize distractions. I might need to try it out, as my amazing partner got me a newer, faster, shinier computer as a present and it is the best pressie ever, way better than diamonds.

Focusing mechanisms that actually do help


For those seeking atonement for the social media evils, I offer my personal phone-app hole trinity of wordmaking: Brain Wave, Pomodoro, and Habitica.


  1. Be Focused Pro is a phone app that uses the Pomodoro technique of brain-training sprints. Basically, it's a timer. You write for, say, 25 minutes without stopping. You don't scroll up to edit or do anything remotely un-writey. When the timer goes off, then you can breathe. Some of these pomodoro-method timers even let you collect cute little tomatoes as rewards for finishing your sprints. I've used this app/method to get into a groove, but frankly, once I get grooving, I don't need the timer anymore.
  2. What I do need is Brain Wave. Once upon a time, I made up music playlists for each story and looped those to build the mood while I was writing. That still works, but what works better and faster is Brain Wave, another phone app. This one lays relaxing nature sounds like rain storms or tropical jungle birdsong over a low pulse intended to affect brain theta waves. I use the Medium Rain and Euphoria settings for writing and the Positive Mood Boost for editing. If I were stranded on a deserted island with a broken phone that would run only one app, this would be the one.
  3. I just started using Habitica, a list-making app, but what I really like is the gentle reinforcement for doing self-care things that, when I'm power-writing, I do sort of need reminders for. Like, um, eating. Flossing. Drinking water. Standing up. I know these all seem like automatic tasks, but when I'm really in a must-make-all-the-words-RIGHT-NOW fugue, they aren't a given. Habitica lets you customize an avatar and gives you points for checking off to-do items (er, the eating and such), and you can use those points to "purchase" backgrounds and fun hair colors and weapons and all sorts of cute things for your avatar.


But the one main thing to do...


...is kindness. To yourself. Writing stories is grand, but we're talking November here. In the U.S., that means football and family and thankfulness and PIE. So, indulge where you need to in order to feel human, okay? The story is going to happen--or not--no matter what the calendar says.

Take time to take care of you. And to eat the pie.

Oh! And if you want to buddy up with me on NaNo, this is me. I'll buddy you back.

Also, the first of those two books I wrote last year comes out November 7th. It's called Perfect Gravity, and writing it was one of the great sleep-deprived thrills of my life.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hooray! Horror Movies by Abbie Roads



When I was little, I had horrible nightmares. I would wake up in my bed so petrified I couldn't move and worse of all I couldn't even scream.

The diagnosis: Night terrors.
The recommendation: Nothing scary. No scary movies. No scary TV shows. My parents took this to heart and I didn't watch anything scary until my teen years.

Which means...
I missed out on all the really good horror movies of the times!
I saw none of them.
No Jason.
No Freddy.
No Micheal Myers.

Until last year, when I decided that each Halloween I would pick a classic horror movie series and watch it.

2016 was the Halloween Movies.

Maybe it's their age--or my age--but they didn't frighten me. And I finally got to see what all the fuss was about!


This year my plan is to watch the Friday the 13th movies.

I watched the first one on Sunday. Kevin Bacon was in it. Who knew?

For Halloween 2018 I'm going to watch the Nightmare on Elm Street movies!

What's your favorite scary movie?



*Be sure to grab these books before the sale ends*



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Top Five Ways I Drive My Editor to Drink

Top Five Ways I Drive My Editor to Drink:

5. Describe the crime-scene stuff in my books with waaay too much detail, because I am a huge forensics nerd. What I find “fascinating,” normal people find “really gross.”

4. Write an entire chapter merely to set up a joke (it was a funny joke, though. Maybe “forward momentum” and “plot” should to take a back seat and let humor drive for a while).

3. Completely and utterly fail in my attempt to write short(er). Even after cutting two complete chapters from In Safe Hands (Book 4 of my Search and Rescue series), I added so much elsewhere that the manuscript was even longer than it’d been before edits. I just can’t stop adding words. It’s a sickness.

2. Lament my inability to correctly use the subjunctive mood for an entire (long) email, because, in addition to being a huge forensics nerd, I am also a huge grammar nerd.

1. Dump my insecurities on her head. “Do you like my book? Did the copyeditor like my book? Did your mom like my book? Will readers like my book? Do you think it’s good? Really? Honestly? Tell me again what you like about it.” Normally, I’m a pretty relaxed, easygoing person, but putting my books out into the world seems to push my “needy and insecure” button. Being published has been an amazing experience—and a very, very scary one. My editor has been forced to fill the role of hand-holder and therapist along with her many other duties. I’m sure I’ll calm down eventually. Maybe.


Until then, all I can do is keep my wonderful, long-suffering editor supplied with liquor.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kim Redford’s New Release: A VERY COWBOY CHRISTMAS


I couldn’t resist sharing this photo of my new Christmas romance that says a lot about what’s between the delectable covers. Read on for an excerpt from A Very Cowboy Christmas.

Sydney Steele needs to wrangle cowboy firefighters to model for her charity Christmas calendar, and Dune Barrett—who she has in mind for Mr. December—is just the man for the job.

When Sydney drove past the turnoff for Cougar Ranch, she thought about Dune living there in his cowboy cabin. Suddenly she wanted to see his place, be there with him, try out his bed. Struck by those thoughts, she realized that all her determination to keep him in the back of her mind had just gone out the window. And she didn’t even care. She just needed to figure out a way to finagle an invitation to his home.

She turned off Wildcat Road and drove under the Steele Trap Ranch sign, feeling a little burst of happi­ness. Nothing was quite as enjoyable as being on acre­age that had been in her family for generations, where there was a sense of love and continuity and heritage.

She stopped next to the farm­house. She cut Celeste’s engine and patted the leather seat next to her. She took a deep breath of the cool air scented with dry prairie grass and evergreen trees. Everything appeared to be just the same as when she’d left it early that morning. A lot had happened since that time—not the least of which was a cowboy named Dune.

She retrieved Kent’s camera and put it in her hand­bag. She quickly got out of Celeste and walked up to the house. She stepped onto the porch and was surprised to see a white poinsettia in a red ceramic pot with a large green bow sitting beside the front door. It definitely hadn’t been there when she’d left home that morning.

She opened the front door, set her purse on the entry table, and went back outside. She checked the beauti­ful plant for a note. She couldn’t imagine who’d sent it to her. She found a small gift card, slipped it out of its envelope, and caught her breath in surprise as she read aloud the message.

“Merry Christmas to the cowgirl of my dreams. xoxo, Dune.”

She clasped the card to her chest with both hands as tears filled her eyes at his touching gesture. He hadn’t forgotten her that morning as she’d worried at the photo shoot. He’d thought of her first thing, or he couldn’t have gotten the plant delivered that day. And not only had he thought of her, but he’d wanted her to know it.

She picked up the poinsettia and walked into her home. She carried the plant to her office and set it on her desk. As she ran fingertips across the delicate leaves, she realized that this plant alone could help get her through the daunting tasks ahead, and yet the biggest help of all would be Dune himself—the cowboy of her dreams.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month!

There's nothing like a firefighting cowboy to keep you toasty warm this Christmas...
Christmas is coming up, and single mom Sydney Steele is determined to make this a holiday to remember for Wildcat Bluff County. She still has to get those pesky, reluctant—and deliciously attractive—firefighting cowboys to pose for her charity calendar. They claim they're too busy pursuing an unknown arsonist to take a break.

Dune Barrett has been flirting with Sydney for months, so he jumps at the chance to give her a hand. And when he agrees to pose as Mr. December, she couldn't be happier. But to really win her over, Dune will have to convince eleven other guys from his crew to exploit their good looks for charity...a task much easier said than done.

Smokin' Hot Cowboys:
A Cowboy Firefighter for Christmas (Book 1)
Blazing Hot Cowboy (Book 2)
A Very Cowboy Christmas (Book 3)

What People Are Saying About A Very Cowboy Christmas:

“Delivers fiery passion with a country-western kick…this heartwarming tale perfectly balances sweet and sensual with just a hint of retro chic.”—Publishers Weekly

“Yee-haw! Redford is back with another smokin’-hot tale . . . It is funny, flirtatious and cute . . . a true standout!”— RT Book Reviews

“Who could resist this sweet-as-honey cowboy firefighter? Ms. Redford's descriptions of the Texas town are so vibrant, and the characters so genuinely endearing, that I embraced it all in a heartbeat.”—Fresh Fiction



Kim Redford is an acclaimed, bestselling author of Western romance novels. She grew up in Texas with cowboys, cowgirls, horses, cattle, and rodeos for inspiration. She divides her time between homes in Texas and Oklahoma, where she’s a rescue cat wrangler and horseback rider—when she takes a break from her keyboard. Visit her at Kim Redford.

Monday, October 16, 2017

10 Great Horror Movies You Can't Miss for Halloween










Every Halloween, people debate the important issues. Candy corn vs. no candy corn? Almond Joy or Mounds? Scary or sweet? And perhaps the most important question: What is the scariest Halloween movie you'd recommend? THIS is the question I'd like to answer, and it's a tricky one to figure, because everyone is afraid of something different.

However, I think many of us can agree that the films on my list are all a good fit for the holiday. So make sure to take note of these and add them to your fright-fest as Samhain grows closer...

In no particular order, I'd recommend the following for your Halloween viewing:

  1. The Exorcist.  Yes, a tried and true favorite. But come on. It's scary, the possessed child pukes all over the priest, and you will never hear noise from your attic and think it's rats ever again. 
  2. Friday the 13th--the original. Yes, this film may look cheesy to a newer generation, but the concept of a child who drowned coming back to take vengeance on the sexualized camp counselors who let him die? A golden trope of the genre. And we say hello to Jason and a spawn of B-movie sequels. (Also, for you Supernatural fans, Jared Padalecki stars in the remake which came out in 2009.)
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street--the original. This Wes Craven classic put Robert Englund on the map and gave me nightmares for a long time to come. Freddy Krueger is a wonderful, terrible monster. Imagine no escape from an undead creature who haunts your dreams. And the movie had a young Johnny Depp too! I can still remember the spooky song those little girls were singing as they swung their jump rope. "One, two, Freddy's coming for you. Three, four better lock your door..." Gah. 
  4. Halloween--the original. Yes, yes, I know, I'm old school. But this John Carpenter flick enabled us to identify with the villain from the get-go, as we looked through his eyes and watched the horror unfold. Ahead of its time, really. We were introduced to the immortal (does this guy never die? Really?) Michael Myers as he chased scream queen Jamie Curtis (love her!) all over the place. I will go one further to say I truly enjoyed the remake Rob Zombie did in 2007.
  5. Trick 'r Treat--I don't know if many of you will recognize this one, but I absolutely love it. There are four intertwined stories in this collection that work really well together. Anna Paquin makes an appearance in one story, and the final tale is more than creepy. Very well done. This one came out in 2007. I own the DVD and watch it every year.

  6. Creature from the Black Lagoon--Okay, this one isn't that scary by today's standards. It's in black and white, and it came out in 1954. But I LOVE it. A gilled man-like creature in the Amazon is attacked by humans so he kills them. So of course more humans come to investigate and want to study this thing. The creature falls for the token lovely lady on board and is eventually done in. This movie is so classic, though I do hate that the monster does not meet a better end. (Hope I didn't spoil it for anyone.)
  7. In the Mouth of Madness--A wonderful nod to HP Lovecraft. This film is just weird. Creatures from another dimension, a weird writer who is writing the present as it happens. Or is he causing the present to happen? Madness ensues. I wanted to yell to everyone, "Don't read the book!" Sam Neill stars in this one, and it's chilling.  
  8. The Thing--I had to include this one, though it's less Halloweeny. It is a horror movie, and it came out in 1982. (Note, this isn't the original, but a remake and the best one, in my opinion--thanks for the correction, Virginia!) Imagine being stranded in Antarctica and there's an alien assimilating people, only they don't know it! You're already isolated, no one's close to help, and it's eating everyone... Starring Kurt Russell, this one is a definite thriller.
  9. Alien--You can't have The Thing and not have Alien. Space monsters that have acid for blood and incubate in human hosts--unbeknownst to the humans! Sigourney Weaver kicked major butt in this film, which was awesome. Hello female empowerment. She's the voice of reason throughout the film. And of course, the legendary cute baby alien bursting through John Hurt's chest never quite leaves you. Chills and thrills and scares in space. Oh yeah. A must-see.
  10. Saw--Now don't hate me for this, but if you watch the first one, there's so much more to the story than people getting gutted every five seconds. Saw brought back the term "torture porn." The story is basically two strangers trapped together in an unfamiliar place that's booby-trapped. To survive, they must figure out clues and sacrifice bits of themselves, either physically or emotionally. This led to a sequel, which explained so much more about the background of Jigsaw, the villain who puts people through such torment. It's so much more than a blood and guts movie. I just remember being so pleasantly surprised at the story behind the bad guy, though you might need to watch both Saw and Saw 2 to get that. Still, there's a twist behind every action in these movies.
I could go on and on, and as I sit here typing, I'm thinking of a ton of other movies I haven't yet listed. But these 10 will more than get you started. Enjoy the spooky season!  And if you want a little romance mixed with your Halloween masks, read ALL I WANT FOR HALLOWEEN, which isn't scary in the slightest. But the heat between Gear and Sadie might just melt all your Halloween chocolates.

Happy Halloween!

Marie
marieharte.com














Friday, October 13, 2017

Are you Superstitious?


It’s Friday the 13th. Do you pay any attention to that? I don’t so much. I’m not very superstitious. No wariness of ladders, cracked mirrors, and certainly not black cats. I had a lovely black cat for many years, and he was definitely not bad luck. A “good buddy” kind of pet, he liked to lie on his back and sprawl.
His favorite winter perch was a folded towel on top of the radiator. That’s how I think of him now he’s gone, curled up on that warm spot, observing life.
I did knock over and break a full-length mirror once, but the only bad luck I noticed was the need to hunt down all the shards of glass. Have you ever thought that the Lady of Shalott was kind of wimpy? “My doom has come upon me” etc. One Pre-Raphaelite painting seems to show her all tangled up in her weaving.
I don’t worry about spilling salt, crossed fingers, and so on. I will admit that I try to blow out all the candles on the birthday cake. How else am I going to get my wish? : )

Do you have any persistent superstitions?