#amwriting

Apple falls up

A talented writer in his own right, my oldest son AJ has been named Student of the Quarter twice in a row for WRITING. Last year in fifth grade, he wrote a short fantasy story for school that blew me away. The title is “Eugallado” and, after begging him to allow me to share it, I’m thrilled to post a sneak peek at the opening:

Eugallado. Chapter 1. The Cave.

It was a day like any other when the secret world was discovered by two ordinary boys.
The trees and the ground were covered in prestigious, sparkling white snow, and the sun made everything shine so bright it was almost hard to look at it. We gazed at the beautiful trees, sprinkled with glistening sugar-white powder, longing to explore the woods. My mom said we could never go in, but she wouldn’t tell us why. Of course we wanted to find out.
“Let’s go,” my best friend Ryan said excitedly . . .

People like to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and all that jazz, but I think it’s the opposite. In our case, the apple falls up! And writing is just one of his many talents. I’m so proud of this kid. He inspires me. He’s an inspiration to our whole family.

QMS Student of the Quarter

Excellence Award in Writing

On my school visits, I always tell students that the best way to improve your writing is to READ. Read everything. Always be reading. AJ is proof of that. He’s participated in the Battle of the Books program at school since third grade. He’s usually got at least 2 or 3 books going at one time. He reads books he likes, and books he dislikes. And maybe it’s his youth, but he seems to remember EVERYTHING!

I’m honored AJ is such a fan of my books! He read Forte twice — and after reading the first draft of its sequel, he gave me feedback that will be cherished forever: “I loved your book so much! I loved the description, and I felt like I could really feel the characters. I loved the combonation of music, magic, and mythology. Definetly one of the best books I’ve ever read! – AJ <3”

YA magical realism Concerto

AJ almost done with Concerto

When Concerto was published several months after he read the first draft, he was eager to read it again (gotta love this kid). Now 12 and dealing with middle school antics and LOTS of sixth grade homework, he found the time to read my book. It was my gift to see him peek out with a smile from behind my book as I tucked him into bed. As soon as he finished, he wrote a review on Google docs and shared it with me.

*Warning: contains spoilers!* (But too precious not to share!)

Concerto Review By AJ Spero

Mom, I thought your book Concerto was absolutely amazing! And I’m not saying that just because you’re my mom. If I went to Barnes & Noble and bought your book and read it, I’d say, “WOW! This book is so cool!!” First thing: I thought the characters were awesome! They were so real, I felt like I could really feel and connect with the characters. I also really liked how there was some suspense that made you ask questions that really kept you turning the pages! I always wanted to see what happened next. And the drama between the characters was really good! I felt like it was emotional but not over-the-top, you know? For instance, When Sami started to date Miles, I was like, “No! What about Jason?” Then when she went to visit Jason, I could really feel the awkwardness. I was cringing myself! Then when Jason gave Sami a pat on the back, oh man. Total cringe fest. Then at the end, I loved how they finally started to get back together again. I didn’t really like how they broke up in the first draft, though, it was even painful for me! I know I have a big, long, rambling list of all the things I loved about your book, so I’ll wrap it up with one more thing. I loved the sneak peak chapter of “Cadence”! I want to read it so bad now! I love how you see the other side of that conversation Lauren and Sami had. Sami seemed so oblivious! I also like Lauren’s fun personality, and I can’t wait to find out more about Lauren. I felt like, in “Forte,” I couldn’t really connect with Lauren as a person, but I like how I’ll find out her side of things. Overall, I thought your book was SO GOOD and I can’t wait ‘till “Cadence” comes out! 

 

Hello February.

December 2017 was a climactic, exciting month. My third book was published early in the month — Concerto — which prompted glitz and fireworks to an already happy, busy, holiday season in our new home. The book itself is a thrill. I may like the story even more than the first in its series, Forte. Not soon after its release, I was already started on book #3. Actually, I started before the release. At the end of Concerto, readers will find a teaser chapter for the next — currently titled Cadence. This was my #JaNoWriMo project this year.

For those unfamiliar, JaNoWriMo is a version of NaNoWriMo — where writers give themselves a daily writing quota in a month-long writing challenge. I choose January instead of November for reasons I’ve outlined in a previous blog post.

So how’d it go? 

I’m happy to report, Cadence is well under way! I only had a teeny head start — just that 1200-word teaser chapter. January 31 snuck up on me, but my total word count as of today (Feb 2) is 22,390 – ! The story is cranking and the ideas are flowing. Structure is kind of falling to the wayside as I’ve tried to keep pushing the story forward rather than overthink what should happen and when. This is something I’ll have to fix. But, for me, to keep my enthusiasm up for a project, I need to keep writing. Even if it means more work in the long run. Plotting scenes on note cards just doesn’t excite me. The project would fizzle. And what a shame that would be. This story may be my best yet!

So, yay! I’m a happy writer.

What was different this year? 

I didn’t write every day. I skipped weekends. I accepted those lunch dates with friends that were a no-go last year. I kept up on bills and other domestic responsibilities, which kind of suffered last year (sorry, honey). So, this year was about balance. Besides, I may have needed a sort of break after working so hard to get Concerto out into the world. And I look forward to continuing to work on it. Can you say #FebNoWriMo? Ha!

What’s Cadence about, you ask? Ahhh… 

Not to keep you in suspense, but that’s a subject for another day, another post. Stay tuned!

#Janowrimo Report

It’s time to officially report on my first ever JaNoWriMo challenge! My goal was to write 1000 words (approx 2-3 pgs in Word) every day for month of January. So, how’d I do?

Break it down: On December 31, I had 19k words for my WIP (Forte‘s sequel). It was good to have this head start. The story was already progressing and it didn’t feel like I had to create something from nothing. My average daily log turned out to be 1200 words — a good length for a solid scene or even a chapter. Lowest day = 600s. Highest was over 1800. I wrote *every day* except one toward the end, and even on that day I was plotting out my next scene in my mind. I logged my progress on Twitter, which helped me stay honest and focused. And being able to post my daily success felt like a small reward.

Although I’d recruited some writer friends to join me in JaNoWriMo, I didn’t hear from many throughout the month. With one exception: fellow Xchyler Publishing author R.A. Smith of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles. Russell and I connected via Twitter almost daily, and I believe we inspired each other to keep writing every January day. Thank you, Russell!

So, now it’s February. And my WIP is at . . . drum roll please . . . 53922! Already a legit length for a YA novel, I have at least two or three more chapters to pen before it’s done. It’s so close, I’ve been trying to keep up my daily writing routine until the draft is complete.

There’s one problem with that routine: I’m kind of boring when I’m writing.

Seriously. The days are cold and I’m hibernating with my computer. Even if the writing part only takes an hour or two, the rest of my day is consumed by thinking about it. Momentum is so important, which requires consistency and focus. It’s like an obsession. On a rare lunch out with my bestie, when she wanted to catch up, I had little to offer.

“I’m, like, hyper-focused on my writing. That’s all. I’m doing the mom thing and I’m writing.”

“So, tell me about your writing!”

“No! I’m too superstitious. I have to get the draft done first.”

You can imagine how riveting the rest of our lunch conversation was. My poor husband. I’m sure he’s eager to have me back.

But here’s the thing — the story I’m working on? It’s exciting! But I’m the only one who’s experiencing it. I can’t wait to get the draft out to my beta readers so I can finally talk about it!

Want to know what it’s about? Here’s a draft blurb of Forte’s sequel:

It’s been two years since Sami neutralized toxic Aquamarine on Skene Mountain, the scar on the hill now a stark reminder of what she’d destroyed. Hoping to make amends, she vows to use her magic to rebuild earthly devastation — to heal the world with her music. Problem is, her magic is lost. Her boyfriend Jason is lost too, as he’s left for college. When Sami attends a summer music program in hopes of finding her magic, she finds her childhood crush Miles is also in the program. Caught in a love triangle, Sami begins to have visions of tragic natural disasters close to home. When these visions turn into reality, it seems the superstorms are not random but caused by someone with specific powers — and an evil agenda. It’s up to Sami to figure out how to use her new magic to halt the next superstorm before everyone she loves is destroyed.

writing journal

My brainstorming journal. (Gift from Mom) My loyal writing companion. Its pages would make no sense to anyone but me.

Reclaiming Twitter

Twitter is getting a bad rap. Every news station is splashing Donald Trump’s latest tweets and using it as fodder for news. No one would be surprised to hear that Trump’s tweeting is not exemplary in any way shape or form. He’s not doing himself any favors by creating all this social media noise. Even his wife has said she’s tried to talk him out of tweeting late at night but . . . (fill in the blank on that.)

Twitter does not have to be a channel for wannabe politicians to bully others or spew their offensive propaganda. It can be useful. I’d like to help rebrand it a little. Here are the ways I’ve been able to make it work for me:

1.Find your lane.
For me, it’s writing and publishing. I joined Twitter in March 2013 in preparation for launching my debut novel. It was part of my book launch plan, along with establishing platforms on all social media. I’m sure to some extent I hoped joining Twitter would ultimately result in book sales, but what’s it done for my writing career has brought unexpected benefits.

I don’t follow celebrities. I follow authors, publishers, agents — big and small. It’s provided a community of support and encouragement, but also it’s offered valuable information. I find more articles on writing, the writing process, writing tips than I do through Facebook. I’ve also found really cool contests that exist only on Twitter, like #PitMad or #Pitmas and I really can’t say enough about the awesome and revolutionary #MSWL (Manuscript Wishlist) Their Twitter feed and also their website has redefined the query process.

Other fave writer’s hashtags: #amwriting #writerslife #writingtips

And my most recent faves: #WIPjoy (celebrating our works in progress throughout the month of January) and of course #janowrimo (January Novel Writing Month)

2.Craigslist on crack.
Through Twitter, I’ve found more than one editor to help bring my book(s) to the next level. Recently, Twitter helped me find a great query reviewer — Christy Morgan — who has opened my eyes to what my query was missing. (Guys! find her @xtymorganbooks or her go to her website)

Another awesome content editor I’ve hired TWICE for two different books is the very talented @cassdunn Cassandra Dunn. 

3.Accountability.
Writing a novel is a huge task. It can feel overwhelming. For most of the process, you’re completely alone — living with the story in your head and on your computer. It may be *years* before it gets to beta readers and you can finally talk about it with someone. That’s why we need to set ourselves up with small rewards along the way.

I’ve heard author Jonathan Mayberry‘s keynote speech at more than one writing conference, and one takeaway for me was how he held himself accountable. He would reward himself after reaching his daily word-count goal. Early on, he’d put some money in a jar and when his first draft was done, he’d take his wife out to a nice dinner. Now that he’s a huge success, he moves money into a special account and when the draft is done, his wife gets a nice vacation. (Something to aspire to, gang!)

I’m not putting money in a jar or moving money, but I am using Twitter to keep myself honest. It doesn’t really matter that not many people will see my tweet. The fact that I put it out there to the world, makes it matter somehow. I’ve recorded it, documented it. It makes it official. I’m happy to report that my tweets do seem to be gaining some traction. Other writers are liking. It doesn’t hurt that my publisher is my most avid retweeter. Shout out to Xchyler Publishing.

Which reminds me . . . sometimes the best connections you find on Twitter are those you already have. Just another way to keep in touch, perhaps.

Let’s reclaim Twitter and make it work for us in a positive way.

 

Week one – done!

With one week of #JaNoWriMo under my belt, I’m happy with my progress thus far. I started at around 19k words on my WIP and I now check in at 26,430. Hooray! My story is getting so exciting, I’m having a hard time thinking about anything else.

So, here’s where I’m supposed to tell you how hard it’s been to fit in my writing. As we all can relate, our lives are busy here in the Spero household. I’m a mom of three boys who each have different after school activities. While they’re at school, I do all the shopping, cooking, cleaning . . . and teach yoga three times a week. You may wonder how I could fit in all this writing. (It takes about two good hours to crank out 1000 quality words — and “quality” is all relative).

Aside from having the most supportive husband in the world, it’s almost like I have to do it. It’s not a chore and it’s not a luxury. It just is. And what a gift January has been! Every morning, I feel a jolt of adrenaline knowing I will write 1000 words that day. If I don’t get to it until the afternoon, fine. But knowing that I will give myself that pocket of time dedicated to something that feeds my soul — fuels me through whatever else is going on. And after the writing is done, after the scene is down on paper, it’s like my endorphins are on high. I can breathe more deeply. I smile more easily. I’m more patient with my family. Dare I say, it’s  better than yoga.

So, yeah. I think JaNoWriMo has been a success so far.

BTW: After tweeting my first successful day of JaNoWriMo, I clicked on the hashtag to find . . . #janowrimo is a thing!

Apparently, I did not invent the January replacement of November’s NaNoWriMo. Apparently, lots of other writers think January works better for writing productivity, too. There’s already a community out there! So, yay! Also #WIPjoy celebrates our works in progress all through January. Double yay! Here’s a nice breakdown.

Yes! #WIPjoy #janowrimo #writerslife #amwriting

Oh, and I also broke the 1000-follower benchmark on Twitter this week, so I’m on my way to rule all of social media. Ha!

Here’s to January, folks! It may just be my favorite month of the year.