Books, Family

20 Ways to Celebrate Before Christmas

 

Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com
Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com

We haven’t put up one Christmas bulb or decoration yet, but I am thinking of how to make Christmas more special this year.

When I say special, I mean remembering that “Christ,” is in the word “Christmas.”

The wheels began turning last night when I wandered through department stores looking for Christmas cards that ‘spoke’ to me. And I found them too, at Hallmark.

There are 20 days to Christmas and they’ll blur by if we forget to take the time to slow down and enjoy the hours and days of the holiday season.

This list is just a beginning. Perhaps you can share your ideas in the comments.

How to spend the remaining 20 days to Christmas:

 

1-Carry on a tradition and share. Mine is to make tamales and champurrado.

2-Hug more and not just your spouse or significant other. Smile too.

3-Spend time with your parents or anyone over 70 that has a story to tell you about a Christmas memory.

4-Scent your home with the inviting fragrance of cinnamon, pine, or sugar cookies. I like to stick cloves in oranges.

6-Decorate your home or someone else’s with a living plant. I found this colorful gem at Lowe’s.

 Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

7-Send out Christmas cards with a handwritten inspirational quote.

8-Forgive. Apologize. Try to understand.  

9-Read a Christmas book to your own or someone else’s children. No kids? Read to yourself, aloud. One of my favorites is Olive the Other Reindeer.

10-Wear something ‘Christmasy,’ even if it’s that not so pretty holiday sweater someone gave you. 

11-Buy or make a new holiday ornament for someone else.

12-Share a holiday drink with someone: Peppermint Mocha, mulled wine, champurrado.

13-Sing along to holiday songs, wherever you may be.

14-Try a new holiday food from a different culture: France, Spain, Germany, Italy…

15-Get out in nature. Taste falling snow. If you’re in Southern California, like me, find yourself some shaved ice or a raspada as we call them in Spanish. This year I’ll be in Denver for Christmas where I’m sure I’ll find snow.

16-Bake a holiday sweet that you’ve never baked before and share.

17-Visit a church or place of worship for their holiday message, choir, or play.

18-Say “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” twice as often.

19-Donate coats, sweaters, gloves to those in need. Drop your coins into the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute to Toys for Tots or similar program.

20-Pray and work for peace.

Enjoy your weekend!

#WeNeedDIverseBooks, Writing

NaNoWriMo Madness or The Only Way to Write A First Draft

Yes, I’m slogging through the madness of NaNoWriMo.

The video above is a good indication of how we NaNo-ites or NaNo-etta’s feel about now.

I could only take three minutes of the video. She’s a good singer–sorta.

I’ve been typing words upon words,

compiling hundreds, then thousands.

Fifty thousand words is the goal; 1,667 words per day.

And I have a head cold. Been in my house for the past three days.

My oldest son feeds me cough drops, meds, and ginger ale.

I’m forcing myself to write. It allows me to not think about the 21 people I’ll have to prepare Thanksgiving for in a couple of weeks.

I’m writing a novel with multi-cultural characters, three generations of women and men, the Mexican culture of curanderismo (that means healers), and a love potion that goes awry.

By this time, I should be at the second plot twist, according to Storyfix. (give or take five pages).

I double checked my pages and yes, I’m close to that point.

Here’s a screen shot of my NaNo page—I don’t know about that novel cover increasing my odds, but could be, it is part of visualization— And, lest I forget, I do have some empty badge area sections:

Writing partner and halo. If anyone wants to be a writing partner, hit me up. I really don’t know how to do this step but I’ll figure it out.

Mona AlvaradoFrazier-New Adult Novel NaNoWriMo 2014
Mona AlvaradoFrazier-New Adult Novel NaNoWriMo 2014

Participating in NaNoWriMo is a great way to a first draft. Far from perfect yes, but useful.

And don’t refer to it as a “shitty first draft,” because it’s not. It’s raw, you put in some effort, yeah, it’s imperfect, just like your first time at bat, or your golf swing, or the first time you made a casserole.

Remind yourself that you started with a goal. You accomplished it. You now have something to build on.

You have words, lots of them, to play with after the first draft is completed.

Well, you probably won’t play with them, you’ll do the edit, delete dance. Then you’ll pull your hair out a few times, and laugh your head off while doing said hair pulling, because you’ll remember—‘member this now—it’s your first draft.

It’s okay.

It will take time and hard work to shape it up, revise, plug plot holes, revise, and love it into being better.

Remember, first drafts can be powerful. Remind yourself that you carved out time for your writing, you set your creativity loose and you were courageous until the finish line (whatever that is to you: 50K or 25K words).

Only 24,610 more words to go.

Write On!

(Please excuses any left out comma’s or other grammatical errors. I’m partially delirious now). Thank you.

Encouragement, NaNoWriMo, Nathan Bransford, Writing

How About that NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month 2014
National Novel Writing Month 2014

So, who’s taking up the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November?

Me, me, me—I have my hand up—I’m working on a novel about three generations of women, three broken hearts and one love potion that goes awry.

Yes, I know, it’s going to be a busy month, with Thanksgiving coming up and Black Friday shopping, but what about having some fun before all that starts?

Are you in?

Yes! Keep reading.

Here’s a few “How’s” and a “Why” to challenge yourself during National Novel Writing Month.

How about putting those novel ideas, the ones you’ve had for months or years, down on the computer screen?

How about resuscitating that shelved 5,000 word piece you started?

How about building a daily habit of writing—at least for 30 days?

How about going crazy and letting your fingers fly over the keyboard without self-editing judgement?

Why write alone? Follow other Nano’s, write in community, and find some writing buddies.

Here’s what you get:

  1. Pep talks from Veronica Roth, Chuck Wendig, Kami Garcia and others.
  2. Five tips from Nathan Bransford on How To Get Started and other advice.
  3. Self satisfaction that you completed a challenge and a badge graphic to prove it.
  4. Sponsor discounts on some great deals from Createspace, Scrivener (word processing/project management), and other stuff.
  5. Cool web graphics for your social media.
  6. A first draft—sh*tty or otherwise— of a novel (at least 50k of a novel, just 10K more to go).
  7. Something to show for November other than a turkey.
  8. The ire of Nano haters. Ignore them and just write. Don’t look back.
  9. Proof that you can commit to writing for 30 days.
  10. The incentive to make new goals for your first draft: rewrite, revise, rinse, repeat.

Here’s what you don’t get:

  1. You do not get to send your first draft to an agent, publisher, or make it into an E-book.

Go through the process, see numero #10, to make your novel viable for beta readers, editors, agents, or submit for an E-book.

Good luck to those of you who take up the challenge.

See you at #NaNoWriMo2014.

Write On!

Encouragement, Strong Women, Writing

Agent: What I Wish Writer’s Knew

"Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com."
“Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com.”

After a short birthday break in beautiful San Diego, California, I’m back to my writer’s world, feeling a little down.

Like many writers one gets discouraged after a couple of years or five. I’m most happy when I’m writing stories, following the character on a journey, ending up in places I hadn’t intended. I have to confess that I like revision too. At least I’m still with my characters, in the story.

Right now I’m in the close to blah place: sending out queries, reading rejection letters and submitting poetry and short pieces to small journals.

What perks me up is blogging. I can write, post, maybe a few readers or fellow writers like the subject, and I feel a connection to the comments. Someone hears me, someone is talking with me. It feels like community. This helps motivate me to keep on keeping on.

Today, I want to continue with what I learned at the A Room of Her Own (AROHO) writer’s retreat last month.

Agents. Ack! FInding one is like searching for the Holy Grail. They don’t drop out of the sky or come knocking at your door. A writer hopes their query letter grabs and holds them until they finish reading the darn letter, jot down your name, and call you. It could happen. Or not.

Truth is Literary Agents are working people. They have to make a living. If they take a gamble on a writer, the odds better be in their favor.

I’ve noticed that in the last three years, conferences invite Agents and writers to participate in an Agent/Writer speed dating event. The writer has 90 seconds to 3 minutes to make their pitch before the bell rings and the writer moves on. Nerve-wracking, mind boggling, exhausting (but that’s just my opinion).

Speed dating. Gettyimages.com

Here’s what this agent participant had to say about Speed-dating for Agents.

For those of you who don’t chose to pay and involve yourself with the speed dating scene (at least for now), here’s some advice and wisdom from an agent I had the pleasure to hear speak at AROHO 2013.

Joy Harris established the  Harris Literary Agency. She is most interested in literary fiction and narrative non-fiction. Her interest is in working directly with writers to help guide their careers, negotiate on their behalf, and protect their work. At the AROHO retreat she presented a short workshop on

“What I Wish Writer’s Knew.”

  1. “Who is going to read my book.” Writers should have a good idea of their audience. Tip: “Everyone,” is not the answer. Think age range, educational level, personal or professional,  and interests. Communicate this to an agent.
  2.  Your MS has to excite the agent, right away from that first sentence of the first paragraph. Editors and Agents have less time and the pile of manuscripts (MS) is higher.
  3. Find avenues to get your shorter works published. Research journals and small presses. Get your work out there. (I subscribe to Poets and Writers magazine and they have an online search for writing contests and journals).
  4. Approach an Agent Appropriately. Find out which agents represent books in your genre. Read the submission rules and follow them. Keep your query letter short-one page. Be prepared to make your pitch short and sweet. (Rachelle Gardner has a fill in the blank pitch).
  5. Short stories and memoirs are not selling as well as before, but are much easier to publish if the short stories/memoir is your second or third book.
  6. Self-publishing and E-Book publishing are difficult. Be prepared to be the agent, writer, publisher and marketer.
  7. Publishers want writers with a platform whether it is celebrity, social media, or professional connections.
  8. Publishers want writers to have publishing credits: work in journals, magazines, awards, contest winners or honorable mentions.
  9. Contracts: Don’t sign a contract that ties you to an agent for “…all future works.” It should have a 30 day notice of termination.

Bottom line is there is no easy road to publishing, but we can prepare ourselves with up-to-date maps, rest stops, and visits along the way to make the cross country journey a little easier.

Inner strength, patience, humor, and community helps. So does coffee, dark chocolate and good wine.