Rowing Thru the NaNo Swamp


If you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, then as of yesterday you should have broken the 20K mark. That is, provided you’ve met or exceeded your word goals ever day. I had to skip Veterans’ Day on Saturday but by last night I stopped with 25,838 words. I’m ahead of the program thanks to working hard early on to be sure I had a buffer. And I learned there is a very good reason for doing so and it has nothing to do with being able to skip a day (because I don’t usually skip). The reason is because by mid month you have entered into what author Jim Butcher calls. . . . 


You can read Jim Butcher’s take on the Swampy Middle but let me paraphrase. It is the moment in the book when you’ve charged along and suddenly you’ve met your goals and you are in the middle, rambling along, maybe worry-free and suddenly it dawns on you that you really are working in circles, that you lost the goal somewhere and now, You. Are. Lost. The page is blank. The ideas are floating away and you are afraid to admit to anyone that YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT TO DO.

It’s okay. I’ve been there. I took a big swim in the Swamp once and I lost my entire month because I couldn’t save myself. Since that time I’ve given myself an outline with several out clauses. That’s right, I built in escape holes so I could go play (if I got lost or bored) and still be able to get back to the main story. Clever, right?

Jim Butcher says you get yourself out of being lost by planning for a HUGE event in the middle of the book! That’s right, do something big and give yourself time to plan for it and then when the swampy middle arrives you have a way to get through it by blowing it up with something wild or wowie or amazing. And then you get back on track and you’ve never really left the main story.

He’s so clever. I bow to the master.

I do something like that but not as great or dramatic. I get my characters to stop and tell a story. I get them to recount something that happened before or after the book, as if to explain something to one of the other characters. It works well because it allows me to explore a new idea, keep working with the characters I already have in play and I challenge my muse to find the way back with the same characters.

Works every time. I also plan for this by leaving myself a side outline of possible tales to recount. These are the fun or funny things that I may not use in the book but will keep my heart delighted (and you never know, you might use these stories for freebies later – I intend to do just that!).


So now it’s time to push forward with that oar in your boat of uncertainty and guide yourself through that swampy bog middle of your story. It may take you another 15K or so (which is about right) and you’ll be sitting around Nov 20, but that gives you plenty of time to finish the last 15K with the best climax and ending you’ve ever done. 

Meanwhile, get some snacks, your music, your candle or your favorite blanket. Reconnect with your inner self and then wade confidently into the darkness. You are about to enter the dank, the most terrifyingly best, creepiest, coolest, part of your NaNo. And the next week will be very challenging.

From here on out, never fear the Great Swampy Middle, the Foggy Bog. Look forward to it. It will always come and you can prepare and even be excited at the challenge. After that, NaNo is always a breeze. People will wonder how you managed. Just tell them, you have a secret path through the bayou.

You can do it. I can’t wait to hear your stories. Just don’t look back. You don’t want to know what’s chasing you.

I’ll be back before Thanksgiving and we’ll talk about gratitude. Until then, keep writing. Stay focused and get some sleep.

OH! And remember, DURING NaNo – THERE IS NO DELETE BUTTON! (we need words!)

I remain, Yours Between the Lines,

How do you measure success?

This last week has been extremely stressful and busy. With the launch of my new book, Time and Blood, I’ve been caught up in marketing, promotions and sales. Over the last month, I participated in three Facebook events, spent Halloween doing a series of Facebook live events, worked ad designs for four books into a Holiday sales catalog, appeared on Yvonne Mason’s blogtalk radio show Off The Chain and topped everything off with beginning National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). WHEW. To say I was tired over the weekend would be an understatement. 

I had good news. Saturday I discovered that my new book Time and Blood hit the Amazon Hot New Release list. Yes, the list is updated hourly and I didn’t stay there, but I did show at #3. 

Every author I know dreams of hitting the bestseller list. I didn’t hit #1 but just knowing you’ve breached the top 10 is incredible. Here’s how I found out that I managed to crack into the Bestseller lists in my categories:

The actual statistics are located on the book details about your categories:

I admit that I am humble bragging. I’ve never had any success like this and so it is both humbling and amazing enough that if I don’t tell someone, it might seem as though it didn’t happen. The ranking success is so fluid and changes so often (so much), that when a moment like this happens, you capture it and move on — but you have to say, “Look, for just a moment, I shone.”

Anyone who wants to be published needs to realize how much time and money goes into marketing and promoting your work. You cannot sit on your hands and expect the world to discover you, not if you are an Indie author. Unless you have a PR firm to do the work for you, you – the author – must seek out promoters and venues where you get maximum visibility. And in a world where self-publishing is beginning to proliferate the market, rising to the top is unbelieveably challenging. If you have a large following of friends and family who can help, that is a boon. I don’t have a large cadre of either so that hurts me. 


And unfortunately there are many authors who won’t buy your work and support you unless you are in their inner circle. I’ve noticed that once you achieve a Bestseller ranking (Amazon, NYT or USA Today), that you move into “inner circles” where those authors and their readers continue to promote and purchase you. You stay hot as long as you keep publishing. Until then it’s promote, sell, promote, push, advertise, promote. Endlessly.

But for the rest of us who are lucky to sell maybe 50-100 books, we’re doomed to sit on the outside and wonder how we get noticed. That’s where the marketing and publicity comes back — as you work to find reviewers and venues to be seen and heard.  You might say authors are a bunch of ouroboros. What I mean is that we must live, eat our own tails to be reborn and live again. We eat our sales in marketing and publicity, in order to make more sales and eat our tales again. It is the endless circle of renewal, the infinity sign. Unfortunately most Indie authors find publicity and marketing costs more than the resulting profits. So how do you measure success?


It’s a tough road and why anyone who thinks they will start off making a living as an author is crazy. But if you work hard, then you may have a moment like me, and know someone has noticed you. It is humbling and exciting.

I measure success not just in these statistics. My successes come in much smaller doses: the sale of a book to a new friend, an old friend anxiously waiting to purchase your new book, a dividend payment that is only $3 which means, “hey, you sold a print book!” Success is not in large dollars but in the moments that validate what you do. Oh yes, statistics and “bestseller” titles are coveted and precious, but the real success comes when you know realize that you have stories to tell and someone, somewhere, is reading them.

Then you begin again, because writing is like breathing, you simply must. And hope lives.


Which brings me to my next subject, NaNoWriMo. Five days in and I’m on track, even a little ahead of schedule. If you’re like me, you are discovering that you must schedule work time and balance your seclusions with the requirements of life. If you live alone, bless you. You have the right-of-way of the rest of us who are juggling children, spouses, boy/girl friends, laundry, furry families, jobs, meals, shopping, bills, and sleep. 

I am happily married to a newly retired husband. The silent time I used to enjoy is now filled with another body. Fortunately he understands my need for quiet space to write. And I take that space. Not all are as fortunate, especially with demanding jobs or young children. Family cooperation can be a premium achievement. I get it.

What do you do? You have to stand up and demand the time for your. Your writing is important. Whether you take 30 minutes or three hours, what you need should be recognized even compromised for your health and happiness. Perhaps you can take the time at lunch, before bed, after supper. (I do some best work in the shower or in the tub. haha)

Whatever you do, do it because you want it and help your significant others (family and bosses) to  understand your needs. Then discard the guilt and work your muse. Let the words flow. It may take some extra effort but isn’t the joy worth it?

My NaNo count for the last five days is: 12,173. When the minimum is 1667 a day, that puts me 3,838 words ahead, and that’s more than a two day cushion. Cushions are good, like emergency funds in the bank. In the event of unforeseen circumstances (family emergency, sickness- me or others) I have some extra to help tide me over. And if nothing extraordinary happens, then I will finish early.

Confession. I’ve veered off outline. Yes, I’m a plotter. This is meant to be the bones of my sequel to Time and Blood, so I’m trying to get all my ideas down on paper. It will be an editing monster later but the important ideas will be on paper. Still, twice I’ve drifted away from my outline and had fun doing it. I’m just letting myself go where the characters want to go. Swallow your editor and give yourself permission to have fun. Word count is the goal. Content will be massaged later.

How do you measure success during NaNo? For me, success is butt-in-chair everyday with writing. Success is meeting your word goal but success is also not measured by numbers but in personal growth. Are you doing more than you used to do? Did you do more than yesterday? Are you more focused? Success may be in the self-discovery. Allow yourself to realize personal success not just a happy word goal.

Tell me how you are doing and how you are managing your time. I’d love to hear from you. I’d like to know, How Do YOU Measure Success (and when)?

Next week, let’s talk about getting tired and frustrated and how you can push through it.


What’s next? I’m appearing at Authors Invade Columbia this Saturday Nov 11, in Columbia, SC, 10 am – 3pm. Come out to see us if you are close. It would be delightful to meet you.

Until we meet again,
I remain, Yours Between the Lines,

Halloween With Treats

Happy Halloween Eve! Are you ready for the boo-tiful ghosts and goblins to visit? Have you prepared so not to anger the spirits? Ha! I’m stocked with chocolate and ready to watch scary movies, eat pumpkin pie and gorge on Hershey bars. My inner kid is looking forward to The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and then some delicious version of Dracula.

My childhood memories are so tender and precious about Halloween. I looked forward to the changing leaves (in Illinois) and the cooler nights. We dressed warmly under our costumes and dashed out in the twilight to threaten our neighbors into surrendering their candy. “Trick or Treat, smell my feet, gimme something good to eat!”  (The implied threat was if you don’t, we’ll be mean to you.) Then the neighbors would either recoil in mock fear and pass out candy OR first insist that we perform a trick, which meant do a dance, sing a song, tell a joke or some such thing, and then handed over the candy. How we lived for this one night of uninhibited wild joy. We could be anyone and anything we wished.

And when the night was over and we’d robbed  visited every house, we gathered at my house (or someone’s) where parents watched us dump our haul and trade as parental watchful eyes looked out for anything strange in our goodies. 

I miss those days when we could play in masks without drug dealers, pedophiles, drive by shootings or kidnappings, gang’s on corners or any fear whatsoever other than would we miss out on the best candy at Mrs-so and so’s house. 

But I still enjoy the holiday and I decorate and remember, share little goodies with friends and act just as crazy this time of year as convention will allow. I am, after all, a Halloween lover and I think it influenced my stories and books. And speaking of books…..

So now to your treats! On my monthly live Facebook chat Oct 28, I reminded watchers of some upcoming events. First, my vampire poetry, By Light Betrayed, is on the last days of its sale. You can get this in ebook for 99 CENTS! And the book has color photography. On Nov 1, the ebook returns to $3.99 and will NEVER EVER go on sale again. So now is the time. My treat to you.

Next, my new book, Time and Blood is available to pre-order. This is the first book in my new paranormal romance series, Evening Bower.  The prequel was The Gypsy Thorn and sets up the events in the new book. You can pre-order TIME AND BLOOD and be sure of the sale price of 99 cents.

And here’s my treat — the first five people who comment (with more than just a hi) can receive A FREE Time and Blood ebook!!!!!  But you have to comment today, Oct 30!

I also promised some drink recipes. So let the spirits soar!  Here you go:

**Vampire’s Kiss (a personal favorite)**

3 oz Cranberry juice (unsweetened)
2 oz. Chambord
2 oz Raspberry Vodka (Cherry works too)

Shake gently, add a couple ice cubes and pour into a martini glass.

 **Dracula’s Brew (men like this one especially)**

 2 oz Applejack
1 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz red grenadine syrup

Combine in a shaker, add ice, shake, pour!



Books! During my chat I mentioned some good Halloween reference books for authors looking for references of extra, unique info. Here are four links.

The Deluxe Transitive VampireGypsy MagicWicked PlantsTarot for Writers.


There you have it. FREE ebooks! Great drinks. Cool books to add to your library.  And More ——

AUTHOR SIGNING:  I will be in Columbia, SC for Authors Invade Columbia book event/signing on Nov 11. COME OUT/COME DOWN. I’m looking forward to seeing you. Tickets are $12 but I may be able to get a free couple tickets if you comment and tell me you’re coming and you need one. Do it FAST.

AUTHOR RADIO Appearance! I’ll be on Yvonne Mason’s OFF THE CHAIN blogtalk radio on Nov 2 at 8pm. Tune in for the hour as I talk with Yvonne about the new book, the prequel, and anything else that makes us laugh or strikes our fancy. She is the best and you’ll love listening to her. Call in to ask questions too!


Don’t forget, November is National Novel Writing Month – if you want to follow along with me, I will be reporting my DAILY progress on my Facebook Author page. And I will give you my weekly progress here on the blog, every Monday. Or buddy up with me on the website and I’m poetphoenix. I hope you’ll join me on this adventure in writing.


Now, go out and enjoy the Halloween season. Listen to the leaves as they whisper the secrets of Autumn. Listen as the wind whispers to the trees. Let your inner child laugh and play. 

Happy Halloween, readers. I’m blowing candy kisses!
I remain, Yours Between the Lines,