Camp NanoWriMo 2017!

Camp-2017-Winner-Profile-Photo

For anybody who doesn’t know, I’ve spent the last month doing Camp NanoWriMo. Now, most people know about NaNoWriMo. It takes place in the month of November and writers, or people who want to try something new sign, up to write 50,000 words of one novel in a month.

Camp Nano is a bit different. The writers who join up can set their own word count, hours worked, or even pages edited. It doesn’t have to be spent working on one thing either. And it takes place in April and July.

17022332_1292283810851578_4389535327556153673_n

I decided to work on my new YA Fantasy novel, Never Say Never. For a look at what the project is about, you can check out its project page on the Camp NaNo site.  Things came up, and I ended up devoting about 35,000 words of my word count to the new novel, about 10,000 to a new first chapter for The Order of the Key, and about 5,000 to a new project called Not Just A Headache–a letter to my teenage self about how to cope with migraines that I wrote for an anthology I’m hoping to be accepted into.

I’m gonna go ahead and toot my own horn here. This month of writing came with a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away for two weeks, a surprise trip to the emergency room (I’m okay, I promise), and both medical and emotional ups and downs for other people I hold dear. To say I’m tired would be putting it lightly.

But I’m not going to stop working, because I’m crazy. And also, a life without writing for me, is no life, so I’ll persist. 😉 For the next couple of months, I will continue working on this book, continue querying the one before, and clean up my outline for the new book, which my writing this month made irrelevant in some places. In the meantime, I’ll find space for some blog posts and social media, because I always do.

Then…I’ll be back to Camp Nano in July.

Thanks, as always, for sticking with me on this incredible journey.

~Justine

 

 

 

Bibliobattling

According to Bibliobattle’s official website, “Bibliobattle is a social book review game which was developed in the Graduate School of Informatics at Kyoto University in Japan.” The first and second American Bibliobattles took place at Kinokuniya NYC and I happened to be part of both of them. Because I would like for you to someday be a part of them as well, I’d like to describe my experience to you and see if I can maybe get you to sign up for a future Bibliobattle.

Me and Megan, putting up our dukes
No, it’s not engaging in fisticuffs, but little sis (Megan Manzano) and I thought it would be a great pic.

How it Works:

The organizer assigns a topic in advance to determine what kind of books will be used to battle. This can take place up to a month before the actual battle. When a date is assigned, the organizer asks what book each battler will use. Those books will actually be available on the table for reference or purchase during the battle.

On the day of the battle, the contestants pick a number and that selects the order. Then each battler goes up one by one. They get five minutes to discuss why they love their chosen book, and three more minutes of Q&A time with the audience. Once all battlers go up, a vote is taken in the audience. Which book do you want to read the most?

The winner gets a prize, but everyone gets a little something for participating. I usually walk out with a handful of books that I’ve now grown interested in after watching the other battlers at work.

Technique:

How you Bibliobattle is up to you, but this is what I’ve learned after two Bibliobattles (admittedly, not that many, but everything is a learning experience). The first time I participated, the theme was YA novels, and I chose a whopper. If anyone has ever read the Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, they can tell you the sheer breadth of material it covers: war/peace, misogyny, racism, fear of “the other”, the power of being unique, religion and how it can be corrupted, what makes a man a man. It’s an amazing novel, but it is a very deep read.

So, when I sat down to prepare my Bibliobattle speech, I wrote a book report. I loved my chosen book because of all of the deep topics it delved into, and the way it presented them. I wrote a five page paper on these things, how the voice, the structure, and the formatting of the book informed the way these issues were brought across and why they hit so hard.

I had a lot of good points, but when I sat down to actually battle, I ended up jumping through my original pitch and being cut off in the final lines of my report by the ringing bell. Oops. (If you check out the link to the first battle at the bottom of the page, you can watch me run out of steam. It’s a tad embarrassing. Luckily, I like to make fun of myself).

13726845_10210148786336566_7480801523164755056_n
Me during my first Bibliobattle

When I was asked to do a second Bibliobattle, this time for the Supernatural genre, I signed up without having a clue about which book I would choose. I loved Supernatural books, and I could probably talk about them for DAYS, no problem. So I agreed to tackle it again, this time from a different angle.

Using Kelley Armstrong’s Omens, the first book of my absolute favorite book series, made my new approach easier. I love Ness’ series for many cerebral reasons, and they are just as worthwhile as the reasons I love Armstrong’s series. But while there is middle ground regarding both books, the main reasons I love Armstrong’s is all heart.

I fell in love with the characters. I loved the mythology. The mystery of it all intrigued me. Yes, the story covers interesting history and contains important character studies that subvert the tropes of strong female characters and leading men. Yes, the mystery was twisty and surprising. There were intellectual reasons to love it, but there was also plenty of heart reasons to love it.

fullsizerender
Me at Bibliobattle 2 with moderator CJ Malarsky

So, I sat down and wrote out all of the reasons I enjoyed the book. I read it a few times so it stuck in my head. And when the day of the battle came, I spoke from memory and from heart. Though I didn’t win that time either, I did finish it without running out of steam, and I felt better about the way I’d spoken, because I’d been able to speak to the people reading, rather than read to them. I think I found my technique!

Videos/Images:

Want to see the Bibliobattles I discussed? Well, here’s the first: 

And here’s the second one, in which YA writer Zoraida Cordova participated:

To stay in the know regarding upcoming Bibliobattles in the US, follow Kinokuniya on Twitter and Facebook. See you at the next battle!

“The Peace of Completion and Release” is now available! 

Hi all!

My flash fiction story, “The Peace of Completion and Release” is available at Twisted Sister Literary here. This one is very creepy and potentially triggery, so please read at your own risk.

Thanks again for all of your love and support on this incredibly packed and amazing week!

-Justine

One Headlight Has Been Published…and more!

Cover of Best New Writing 2017It has been a strangely wonderful week, and we’re only on Tuesday. 

Today, Hopewell Publications released Best New Writing 2017 for purchase on Amazon. A collection of short fiction, Best New Writing features finalists for the Gover Prize for Short Fiction. Though I didn’t  win that award, my short story, “One Headlight”, was awarded The Editor’s Choice award. 

“One Headlight” is the story of a group of high school friends coping with the loss of one of their own. You can read it and many other wonderful short stories, here.  The collection is on sale for a limited time at 99 cents. I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Thanks again for your support! 

Justine

10 Things To Know About Me…Er…If You Want To…

Hi all!

waving hello
Mini-fact: There is always a hair-tie around my wrist. It rarely matches my clothing.

When I started this blog, it was titled Pieces of the Puzzle, and the first thing I did was give you a breakdown of my life and where it was at the time. It’s been years since then. In some ways, my life is completely different. In other ways, it has come full circle. So when I saw a prompt on Pinterest requesting 10 things to know about you, I decided to run with it. Some of these things, you may not know. Others, you’ve read enough blogs to guess at. Either way, I hope you get something out of reading this and getting to know me a little better.

  1. My first dream job was to be a performer. All my life, I have enjoyed singing and acting, and in high school, performing was my entire life. I very nearly launched a career in it. I still harbor a weird little hope that I will be discovered, but I could never pursue it full time. It’s such a drain on your well-being. So much is based on how you look physically, and I’m really not the glamour type. For more on my love of performing, you can check out these other posts:
    Performing on Demand
    Alma Mater Hail to Thee
  2. I got my writing start working on fanfiction. When I first started writing, I didn’t create my own characters. I started as a writer working with fanfiction, because I was always intrigued by the places a story didn’t choose to go. I got my experience working with other people’s characters in other people’s worlds, for fun. I wrote Stargate stories that shocked me by winning awards, and that’s when I started to feel like maybe I could do this. I also wrote fanfiction for several Kelley Armstrong stories. Then, once I felt like I’d learned all I could learn, I decided to start playing with building my own worlds and my own characters. While I love working on my own stuff, I still get an itch to play in other worlds sometimes. I won’t say if I do. 😉 For more on my fanfic work, you can check out these other posts.
    Write Like a Fangirl
    4 Misconceptions About Fanfiction
    You can find all my fanfiction here.
  3. While my main series is a YA Fantasy, I also have adult fantasy novels, romantic comedies, and a literary novel in the works. A story really needs to have a strong hook, something that makes it different from anything else I’ve ever read, for me to latch onto it and chase it, but other than that, I’m comfortable writing anything. As long as it’s not inherently normal. Too much normal, and I get bored.
    I Write Weird Stuff.

  4. I love working with other authors, and would pretty much do that as a full-time job if I could. I absolutely love brainstorming ideas, talking through problem areas, and just generally helping people on their road to becoming a published author. I’m one of those people who doesn’t want to go anywhere unless I’m helping pull others up along with me.
  5. I do have a different, paying job as a legal assistant, and I love it. I work with some of the best and, simultaneously, most laid back people in the field, and while it doesn’t have the excitement of dagger fights and magic spells, it’s still a cool place to be. Plus, it actually pays me money and that’s a very hard thing to get as a writer. So….
  6. My husband, Ismael Manzano, is a writer, and I have worked with him through every step of all of his projects (and vice versa). We consider ourselves a team. You know that thing I said above about loving to help authors? I learned that from working with him. We read each other’s work, debate aspects of our work, and pretty much live in each other’s work worlds so we can help out whenever the other is stuck. It is a genuinely rewarding partnership on all of the many levels we work together on and I’m very grateful to have it. To learn a little about our work relationship, check out these posts.
    On Common Ground: My Marriage to a Fellow Writer
    You, Me, Doug and Leah

  7. I have a son named Logan, and together with my husband, we have plans to start a geek-related YouTube channel, because we are all very geeky. It’s only a matter of time before it is released. Right now, I’m just discovering that every time I think I’ve figured out something and it’s ready to go, I hit another roadblock. But it is coming soon, and it will be called Geektastic! And we are excited to share a glimpse into our geeky world. To read more about Logan and me as a Mommy check out these posts. Keep it Simple, Stupid: What My Son and Twitter Taught Me About Writing
    Mommy Guilt

  8. My body is kind of a mess. I had spinal surgery when I was fifteen years old to correct scoliosis. I suffer from migraines, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and I’ve recently been told I might suffer from a mild form of Dyscalculia. This results in two things: 1) Writing is a great way to get out your frustrations about a few things and having all of these experiences gives me a lot of writing material; and 2) some days, I can pin the chores on the boys. 😉 To read a little about how my health has affected my writing, read these posts.
    Too Close for Comfort
    Organized Chaos: Writing with Mild ADHD
    To read the blog post that made me realize I had Dyscalculia, read this.
  9. I am not a domestic goddess. I can’t cook. It’s bad. My house is not sparkling. I am not a perfect housekeeper, or wife, or mother. Most days I just feel like I’m scraping by. People tell me that makes me human, but I beat myself up for it all the time. Aren’t we supposed to have it all? Why can’t I balance that? These are questions that I constantly mull over.
  10. I’m a huge NY Mets fan. Since I was a child, rooting for the Mets was in my blood. It still is. I go to a few games a year, root them on from afar otherwise, and just generally love them even when they are awful. What does that mean? I always root for the underdog. I identify with the underdog because I often am one, trying to make my way through a writing world with my strange little stories. And also…my dad was a Mets fan and so was my sister and brother. So, without all the sentiment, there was probably no escaping it anyway.

_
Okay, that’s all for this week. Join me next time, when we have some fun with iTunes shuffle.

Author Spotlight: Andrea L. Staum

Today, I would like to introduce you to fellow Fantasy author, Andrea L. Staum. Andrea is here to tell us about the “Dragonchild Lore” series, and about herself. Enjoy!


Blood of the Sire, Book 1 of the “Dragonchild Lore” series: bots.jpg

Amazon
Goodreads

When Zabond’s raiders come to the shores of Kalahtaya, Kitra, the village outcast, is sent to find allies by the village’s Elemental Guardians. Forced to travel with the man she accuses of stealing her daughter and a granddaughter she has never known, Kitra soon uncovers the villages long forgotten past, as well as, learns how misguided her own memories have become.

The first book of lore reveals the birth of the Dragonchild and her tie to the Guardians of Kalahtaya.

Daughters of Kalahtaya, Book 2 of the “Dragonchild Lore” series:

51Ce6Mb+2+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAmazon
Goodreads

Zabond’s raiders continue to move inland away from Kalahtaya. As the Dragonchild stands in defiance against him, her sisters find their own roles aren’t as simple as they had once been.

Follow as the second book of lore follows Kitra’s granddaughters as they realize their potential in war torn Nivena.

 


author pic.jpeg
Author Bio:
Andrea L. Staum is author of the Dragonchild Lore series and The Attic’s Secret Novella. She is also a contributor to a wide variety of anthologies in numerous genres. She is a trained motorcycle mechanic, an amateur house renovator, and a record keeper for the characters in her mind. She resides in South Central Wisconsin with her husband and two ‘unique’ cats.

 

Twitter     Facebook     Website


Mini-Interview with Andrea L. Staum

Q. What drew you to writing?

A. I’ve always been writing. My first big venture in writing a book was in middle school. I was a huge reader and loved my English and Literature classes, so it seemed natural.

Q. Tell us one thing you learned, during research or about craft, while writing your latest book.

A. The project that I’m currently working on I’m trying something new with. I’m usually a pantser when I write. I go for it and don’t worry about what is actually being written until the editing stage. This time I’m working on a more structured method. I have a full cast character biography document, a key scenes list that I’m expanding into a detailed outline, and I went through my stock photos to see if I could find images that I identify as the characters. It is a much longer writing process, but it is giving me a new appreciation to those who use this method regularly. It shows me where the glaring plot holes might pop up LONG before the chapter is on the page and gives me time to work them out. Part of the reason for doing this is I’m working on a thriller/mystery and a different type of structure needs to be in place for it to play out than my fantasy stories. I can’t say I’ll use this detailed of a method in the future, but I may hybrid it to suit my pantser nature.

Q. How do you de-stress?

A. There’s such a thing? Aside from writing and reading, I’ve taken to sewing. My grandma taught me how to embroider so I recently made her a peacock lap blanket. I also used a sewing machine for the first time and made a TARDIS cosplay dress that actually turned out. I think the problem is my de-stressors give me more stress. I don’t do easy things. The costume was a six piece one that included a corset, darts, pleats, linings….things a rookie probably shouldn’t go headfirst into, but I can’t go halfway. To relax though, a nice warm bath can definitely help or hot chocolate. Hot chocolate can solve most everything.

Q. What inspires you?

A. I don’t have a specific inspiration. The characters and plots come from what or who’s around me. Random things can make clever stories. Learning about different things can lead to stories. I never expected to write a fairy tale about brownies putting together a motorcycle, but there was an anthology call for fairy stories and I used my knowledge as a mechanic to pull something together. A phrase can spin into something later down the road and I may not realize it when I hear it.

Q. What kind of books to you enjoy reading?

A. I’ve just been introduced to Squirrel Girl comic books and they are fantastic! I don’t really have a genre that I stick to when it comes to reading. I grew up on fantasy and sci-fi. Anne McCaffrey was my ultimate author hero and I think that’s where a lot of my love for fantasy and sci-fi came from. She also had strong female characters and I never realized how important that was while I was reading. I think a big part of what I look for in stories is flawed characters. It makes things so much more believable. I like clever writing.


I hope you had fun meeting Andrea L. Staum! Stay tuned for more posts from me and Author Spotlights in the weeks to come!