Letting it Flow (NaBloPoMo day 28)

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s blog count: 29

Total blog posts: 29


Today was a no-writing day. I slept, ate Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, watched basketball, read, and thought about writing.

So much for rest. 🙂

Seriously: I had two story ideas and had to stop myself from reaching for my laptop and writing down the first few sentences/paragraphs/pages. That’s what happens when the writing mind is free of constraints (e.g., workshop/contest deadlines) and allowed to flow…stuff just comes to you. I also played with some various scenario twists for this year’s NaNo novel draft, but again; I’ll just jot them down and revisit them seriously next year sometime.

I will get back on my writing job on Monday, when I start revising the draft of the next Bastille novel that will be released in January. Until then, I will enjoy the weekend and catch up on reading and binge-watching my shows and movies.

But I’ll probably sneak some quick writing in. ‘Cause that’s what we writers do. Writing: it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! (Shoutout to anyone who remembers that reference, which means you’re an American at least over 35 years of age LOL).

Thanks for stopping by.


Relaxing Rampage: NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 23

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 3,763

Today’s blog count: 24

Total words written: 42,065

Total blog posts: 24

Today, I had a nice, relaxing Sunday. It was cool outside and pouring down rain, so I was snuggled on the couch under a blanket. I also fell into a nice, two-hour nap.

Perhaps today’s writing rampage came as a result of the heavy-duty maxing and relaxing. Maybe it came because I knew that my time would shortly be focused on the Thanksgiving Day dinner (which I will start making at least a day in advance, so as to preserve my sanity). Maybe it was because I saw the finish line looming (I am less than 8,000 words away from NaNoWriMo victory!).

Regardless of the reason, I am proud of writing so much today. The book is taking an interesting spin, one that I certainly didn’t see coming, and I probably won’t be finished with the book, plot-wise, by the end of this year’s NaNo. Also, as writing is wont to do, I got an idea for yet another book that i may try my hand at, and hopefully have ready in January.

The rain has stopped for now, but the relaxing hasn’t. This is a good night for a mug of cocoa before I go to bed. You should try it!

My fellow writers in the NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo struggles: EIGHT MORE DAYS! Let’s make them count, and please take into account the tryptophan coma many of us will fall into on Thursday (here in the United States).

Thanks for stopping by.



10K, BABY! NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo day 5

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 1,818

Today’s blog count: 5

Total words written: 10,281

Total blog posts: 5


I’m keeping today’s post short and sweet because…*drum roll* I hit the 10,000-word mark today! WOOT!

This is a pretty good way to wind down my day. Last year, I don’t think I reached the 10K mark so soon. I didn’t realize that the novel was cruising along so well. When I hit the wall (and I will–there are still 25 days left), I will remember this moment.

Today’s writing included the part where the crap hit the fan for one of my characters. Since he’s the antagonist/anti-hero, this has a ripple effect on the rest of the characters, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they respond. This gives me a bit more to work with, which is good. The more stuff I have to work on, the less painful hitting the wall will be.

The next badge on my NaNoWriMo page is at the 25,000-word mark. Pray for a sister.

Thanks for stopping by.


Dialogue It (NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo: Day 2)

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30 

Today’s word count: 3,210

Today’s blog count: 2

Total words written: 4,944

Total blog posts: 2

Today was a pretty good day for writing! I wrote 3,210 words for my NaNoWriMo novel, which is a medical thriller. I got a lot farther than I thought I would, and I attribute that to dialogue. I am pretty good at writing dialogue, if I do say so myself, so it comes easily to me.

Dialogue is tricky; you really have to pay attention to how people really speak, versus how they should speak based on grammatical rules. It gets trickier hen dialogue is written for people who have known each other for a long time and/or are very comfortable with each other: there is a penchant for verbal shorthand that is sometimes augmented by nonverbal expression, and grammar tends to go out of the window (double negatives, anyone?). The key is keeping the dialogue true while making it accessible/understandable to readers.

I set up two key conversations that give hints to the plot. One was simply two friends running into each other in a store. The other was more complex and took more time: a layered conversation between a married couple. Setting those layers took more out of me, because no relationship exists in one dimension. In this case, a lot of things were triggered by what seems to be a simple decision on the surface; trying to convey those various emotions was an exercise, especially when buried emotions come to fore.

All that being said, I accomplished a lot today. I’m going to relax my mind with some NBA games, and a few rounds of Bejeweled Blitz, and perhaps a movie later. Meanwhile, I will work out tomorrow’s plot advances in my head.

Thanks for stopping by.



From the back to the middle & around again (NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo: Day 3)

Total word count goal: 50,000

Total blog post goal: 30

Today’s word count: 1,828

Today’s blog count: 3

Total words written: 6,772

Total blog posts: 3

Today, I barely got in my designated word count: after walking almost seven miles (I’d been slacking on my exercise lately) and a glass of wine with dinner after a long, hot, shower, I had to really push myself to get my writing in today. Or rather, to get it down on paper/screen/keyboard.

[sidebar: when I do these videos, they are no filter: this is how I look when I am writing at home, and more appropriate for the nature of NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo. I am not glamorous during the writing process. Thanks in advance for your cooperation. :D]

Today was a patchwork kind of writing day: I was all over the plot. I wrote some of the end, some of the middle, some of the beginning–a new beginning, since my old beginning was the prologue, and is now chapter one. It was a bit disconcerting, jumping around like that, because I’m a pretty linear person: from point A to point B to point C. But if there is one thing that I’ve learned in the years of doing NaNoWriMo and also writing in general, is that you don’t have to write the book in a linear fashion from start to finish. It’s okay to write the beginning, or start in the middle, write some of the end, jump back to the end of the beginning or the beginning of the middle (or the beginning of the end). You will have a chance to knit all of the edges together into a cohesive novel when you do your rewrites. And you will rewrite it, more than once (I usually do 2-3, and sometimes four, drafts per book), if you are serious about your writing.

Still, I made pretty good progress; as always, there is the caveat of seeing how the rest of the month will progress as well. I made notes on where I want the plot to go next, which will be interesting.

I’m tired from my long exercise excursion today, and the wine didn’t help; I may nod off during tonight’s basketball game like I did last night (shoutout to the NBA League Pass archives!). I hope you all are making progress on your books, or blogs, or both.

Thanks for stopping by.

November Twofer

November is upon us…which means National Novel Writing Month! Woooooooo!

To recap: every November, from the 1st to the 30th, people from around the world attempt to write a 50,000-word book (approximately 250 pages) within that month. There is no fee and no prize, other than the satisfaction of saying, “Hey, I wrote a book…and in a month!”

I’ve been participating every year, since 2006 (or ’07). Last year, as I’ve mentioned before, I finally “won”: that book was published in August of this year (2014). Maybe you’ve heard of it: The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille. 😀

Camille ebook cover

I became aware of a sister contest: National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), which is a similar concept for bloggers. For the entire month, you post one entry on your blog per day, every day, from November 1-30? The prize? Getting into the habit of blogging ,and maybe even some more followers. Or, you can have the satisfaction of finally starting a blog.

I talk about it here:

Join in the fun on November 1, and strap in for a month of writing adventure! I’ll be blogging about my participation in NaNoWriMo, and I’ve already registered this blog, so I’m doing a twofer for November. You’re welcome. LOL

BTW: if you do NaNoWriMo, feel free to add me as a buddy (I’m afrosaxon).

I hope to see you on the interwebs! Thanks for stopping by.


The Value of NaNoWriMo

Next week (wow, time evaporates!), on November 1, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts again. For the uninitiated, this is an annual event where writers of all levels, from across the globe, hunker down and try to write a complete novel of 50,000 words (approximately 250 pages, double-spaced, 12-pt font, 1-inch margins) in one month (NaNoWriMo ends on November 30). The “winners” — those who reach or surpass the 50K goal — get bragging rights and discounts on various book-related goods and services (ebooks, self-publishing platforms, etc).

NaNoWriMo is more about the journey than the destination. Its primary goal is to encourage writing, and to connect writers to a community of support that will help facilitate writing. There is a large and vibrant virtual community, which primarily consists of message boards where one can find like-minded individuals by age, preferred writing genres, hobbies, location, etc.; as well as emailed “pep talks” by published authors such as Veronica Roth [the Divergent series]), self-published authors, and past NaNoWriMo winners). You can also connect with writing buddies from anywhere in the world. There are also real-life events hosted by region (kickoff parties, “write-ins”–where fellow NaNoWriMos gather to just sit and write for strerches of time, and to support each other on this writing journey.

NaNoWriMo is free to join and participate, although donations are encouraged to help keep things going, and also to fund programs like the NaNoWriMo Young Writers. The main benefit of NaNoWriMo is just to get people over the inertia of writing–which could be due to fear (“I’ve never written a book”; “I don’t know what to write about”; “OMG, I have to write 50,000 words?!”), or time constraints (“I have a job/family/school; how can I finish 50K words in a month?”; or something else.

It has helped me, even in the many years prior in which I didn’t finish/”win”. I was able to play around with some ideas and see if they were viable from a writing standpoint. I was able to get into a writing groove (it didn’t always stick, but at least I knew where the groove was should I choose to revisit it). I found other interesting writers, both online and in real life. I felt more like a writer.

One of the things I like about NaNoWriMo is that it meets you where you are. You don’t have to be a published author, or a journalist, or work in publishing. You may have a blog, or your writing may be limited to  grocery or to-do lists. You may love to read and have secretly harbored a desire to write a book. You can be a citizen of your country, undocumented, on a visa, or just passing through. You can be any race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political stance. You can write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. You can write romance, horror, science fiction, suspense, “chick lit”, serious fiction, scientific manuals, religious commentary, self-help books–whatever you like or whoever you are, there is a place for you.

I finally “won” NaNoWriMo in 2013, and the result was my first solo published novel, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille. Just completing this goal after six years of not finishing NaNoWriMo made me proud of myself. I’m looking forward to this year, as I have a story that is itching to come out (whee!).

So if you are so inclined, join me from Nov. 1-30 and let’s work on our novels. Feel free to add me as a buddy (my user name is afrosaxon). You have a story inside; it’s time to let it out.

Thanks for stopping by.

Where I’ve Been…

I have been MIA for a few days. Part of it is re-starting a fitness regiment (I’ve been walking 5.5 miles every other day…and at the age of 41, it takes me longer to recover. :D). Part of it is taking my grandmother to her doctor’s appointments (when you’re of a certain age, medical appointments can take up a significant part of your day). Most of it, though, is finishing the draft of a book that I decided to publish in November.

This was an impromptu decision, borne of the opinion of an old writing partner. He was giving me his critique of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles), which is on a very different level when coming from another writer. I addressed one of his critiques and suggested he would like one of the books I wrote years ago, which was a thriller/suspense novel and was edgier (he likes edge LOL).  I sent him the file, he read it in a few days and provided commentary, and ended with the suggestion that I should publish this.

It surprised me; this was one of the books that had made the rounds of the major publishing houses almost ten years ago, and which was subsequently rejected. I’dd gone over it since then, making some tweaks here and there, but the main character, Sebastian (formally introduced in The Camille Chronicles), wasn’t resonating on a level that let me know I was on the right track. So I saved it along with other finished and half-finished works, and kept it moving. Validation from a writing cohort, however (and all creatives crave validation :D), is different–especially one with whom I’ve recently reconnected after fifteen years or so, and whose opinion I trust.

So I  got to work on the rewrite (which I talked about in a previous post), made some major changes (sidebar: I can see why it was rejected back then), and finished the draft. It is now in front of the Eyeballs, those trusted few who read the drafts of my manuscripts and give honest critiques. And, I can rest my mind for a few days before I get back to writing–although I have been writing part of an upcoming Bastille book in my head, so so much for resting my mind. 😀

I have to get ready for the Second Book Curse (more on that in a future post) in November, so I need to get cracking. Thanks for stopping by.

Keep On Keeping On: On Pushing Through

(there are a lot of “on”s in that title, aren’t there? lol)

I write this as I begin Camp NaNoWriMo, which starts today, July 1. For the next 30 days, I will be working on a new book (contemporary fiction). This is in addition to working on a sci-fi/speculative fiction novel for the Clarion Write-A-Thon, which started June 22 and runs until August 2. I am also putting the final final edits on my upcoming book, The Camille Chronicles, which debuts next month.

I have no idea what I was thinking when I took on all these projects.

Still, doing all this writing is just further throwing my lot into a career as a writer. All too often in the past, I have treated my craft as a hobby or afterthought: I was a ______ who wrote on the side and will publish a book ______ (insert increasingly far date into the future). Now, I’m going all in: I am a writer. Period. And my first solo book comes out in August 2014.

With all this writing, I prioritize. The Camille Chronicles is coming out soon, so that is priority so that I can get the word out there. The Clarion book is second on that list, because I am being held accountable by virtue of entering the online workshop. Same goes for Camp NaNoWriMo. In the middle of all that is everyday life, which must be lived. That means that there are days when I a choice between a nap and writing, and that nap is like that ex-flame that comes back into your life: attractive, but not necessarily in your best interests.

(I’m talking about naps for the heck of them, not naps as an attempt to correct a sleep deficit or a health issue)

Last night was one of those nights. I was working on The Camille Chronicles when I realized that I hadn’t done any writing on the Clarion story (this was around 10:30 pm). I worked on it a bit and, according to my word counter, did 681 words. That’s great, but my target daily goal is 775 words, and I didn’t write at all on Friday (Day 6 of the Write-A-Thon). I was very tempted to just roll with those 681 words and call it a night, but I told myself that I only had to do another 100 words (yes, I rounded up) to meet and exceed my goal.

One hundred words. A few sentences, especially when you’re as wordy as I can be. 😀 A paragraph, at most.

Such a small thing but when you’re tired, and you have other stuff to do (stuff that may be more important in the short-term), it’s easy to take the path of least resistance.

Well, I pushed through. And ended up writing 991 words.

I was very proud of myself because I REALLY wanted a nap (that glass of wine with dinner didn’t help matters). And I REALLY wanted to get back to The Camille Chronicles, especially since I’d figured out a breakthrough in a plot problem I’ve been toying with. And I thought of people who may be monitoring my progress, unbeknownst to me, who may be getting a bit of encouragement from my brain droppings and progress. It would have been easy to say, “Hey, it’s late at night and I’ll just write more tomorrow. I actually did say that to myself. But tomorrow comes and something else happens, and I’m even further behind, and then I’d get discouraged and eventually quit. I don’t want that to happen.

For the first time, I finished National Novel Writing Month  in November 2013. I’d participated (more or less) for six years prior to then, and for each of those six years I failed to reach the 50,000 word goal (approximately 250 pages). I didn’t even get to 25,000 words. Why? Because I didn’t push through. I used excuses. I let other stuff get in the way. I copped out. I’d done this for the past fourteen years, so it was as comfortable as my favorite pair of jeans.

This past year, I made an effort to do what I should have been doing all along:  I wrote every day. I wrote more than my daily target goal. I made it a priority. I made time for it. To finally reach that winner’s circle was an awesome feeling. I felt like I’d not only accomplished a key goal, but that there may be hope for me with this writing thing after all.

NaNoWriMo 2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

And that book that I finally finished for National Novel Writing Month? It comes out in  August, and it’s called The Camille Chronicles.

See what happens when you push through?

Thanks for stopping by.



The Creative Flow: Creating characters

You can’t have a fiction book without characters. Once you figure out what you’re going to write about, you then have to figure out who is going to be in your book. Not literal people, although like most authors, our characters are an amalgamation of people we know or have known, or have at least encountered (if anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying ). In order for a book to be successful (which means to catch a reader’s attention enough to encourage them to buy it, like it, and tell his or her friends about it), you need compelling characters along with a compelling storyline.

To really do justice to a character, you need to get inside that character’s head. I mean, BE that character. This is easier for me because I was in the Drama Club for two years in high school, and Black Theatre Ensemble for three years in college; being in plays requires you to get into character. I also built sets for Mask and Bauble, another theater group (in case you didn’t check my bio, I graduated from Georgetown), so I was exposed to even more people in character–which was interesting when we saw each other as our normal selves during class.

When I create a character, I usually start with speech patterns. For some reason, the way the character speaks tells me a lot about his or her personality. Again, I think of people I know, have known, or have encountered. Sometimes, a character is borne of a simple phrase uttered by another. Case in point: in my upcoming novel (which will be released in October–yay!), my main character, Camille, is originally born and bred in New Orleans, but was educated in the northern part of the United States. I confer with my friends from New Orleans to get speech patterns, phrases, etc. down pat.  Because she is a Southerner who has lived most of her adult like in the North and is educated (as I was), that adds another layer to her speech patterns. Yet another layer involves her being a Southern female, as females in the South have a different way of communicating than males do; yet she is in a male-dominated field, so that alters her speech patterns as well.

My main character is also a physician, so I ask my physician friends about little things like schedules, educational paths, current medical technology, procedures for her specific field, etc. She is in her forties (as I am), so I also address issues specifically relating to a forty-something female who has a successful career, yet is still single. This includes sex; as the sex scenes in the book will show, a forty-something female is usually more confident in her sexuality (it’s not Fifty Shades of Gray, y’all), while tending to refrain from positions that she could once get into to when she was  in her twenties. Aging is real, y’all. 🙂 Most of my friends and associates are in our forties, and we have come a long way to where we are able to talk about sex and pleasure in a frank (but not vulgar) manner; this includes to our mates or potential mates. There is a freedom to do this that doesn’t really exist in one’s twenties, and only starts to come to fruition once you enter your thirties.

How a character looks in your head has a bearing on how the character comes across on the page. My main character happens to be extremely beautiful, which is at odds (in the minds of a lot of her colleagues, male and female) with her career success. The Pretty Girl Pass is real in our society, and there is still an inverse correlation between beauty and intelligence; I play up that aspect in the book. She is also a girly girl, so the fact that she lives most of her days in surgical scrubs does not negate her love of dressing up in more feminine wear in her spare time.

Character quirks are also important. They add dimension to the character, so that he or she lives off the page and in the reader’s mind. Camille has a habit of keeping things in her pockets: pens, snacks, phone. This has a bearing on the plot of the story. Again, I draw from my own experiences as I have a tendency to put  a lot of things in my pockets; I force myself to carry a purse so as not to overload my jeans, and I have a personal fondness for cargo pants, with their multiple, large pockets.

If you do it right, your characters will seem like real people to you; so real that it may unnerve some people. This will translate to a richer reading experience for your audiences, which will lead to more book sales (yay!). If a character isn’t real to you, then it won’t  be real to your readers, either. In future posts, I will talk more about character development, and also about creating the world in which the characters live.

Thanks for stopping by.

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