September 29, 2012

I hope J.K. has some $ in the bank

Or some British pounds. :-)

I'm going on a little trip and wanted a new Kindle book to read on the plane. So hey, why not J.K. Rowling's new non-Harry Potter book, "The Casual Vacancy"?

Holy cow! Have you seen the user reviews for this book?

Maybe she doesn't care.

Maybe she doesn't read them.

And then there are the pro reviews, like the one in the NY Times: "Unfortunately, the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clich├ęd that “The Casual Vacancy” is not only disappointing — it’s dull."

Ouch.

Easy for me to say, right? I haven't written a bajillion best-seller. But if I had, those reviews would still hurt.

September 27, 2012

Nobel flu shot, subway silliness

Today was a funny day:

1) I got my flu shot at the same time a Nobel Prize winner did -- he was sitting next to me because we both happen to work at the same place. (I'll leave him anonymous, but he's a very nice man. I've had the privilege of interviewing him before, and he was gracious and generous with his time.)

2) On my subway ride home, someone recognized me from my one TV appearance. She said, "I just want you to know, your episode of 'House Hunters' was the best one ever."



Sharing is fun (& tasty, too)

I am a total -- and I do mean total -- newbie when it comes to book promotion.

Basically, I'm relying on two things right now:

1) You, my readers, to share my stories with your friends and family :-)
2) Me, myself and I, to keep writing fun, high-quality stories for you to enjoy.

We're a team, you and me.

So if you've read my stories and have enjoyed them, please tell your friends. You can take advantage of Amazon's lending program, too. It's just like the old days, when you'd lend a friend an "actual" book (after writing your name in it, of course!).

There's nothing better than sharing something we find with another person and turning them on to it -- and then having those awesome conversations about it ("What did you think it meant when he said that?" "What do you think will happen next?").

I'll share my book "finds" with you, too, OK? My latest is "Half-Broke Horses," by Jeannette Walls. LOVED IT. Great family story about an adventurous woman who didn't settle for anything, ever.

I am so very appreciative when a reader tweets about my stories or posts something on FB about them. It makes my heart sing.


Here's a giant
THANK YOU!



September 26, 2012

How to work 9-to-5 & publish 10,000 words every 2 weeks

This is how my brain feels all the time.
Basically, I make myself crazy.

OK, not totally crazy. Just partly crazy.

I work a 9-to-5 job. So here's my typical weekly schedule of writing and publishing a 10,000-word story every two weeks.

Week 1

Monday/Wednesday/Friday: 

  • Leave apt. at 8:30 am. 
  • Ride subway for 20 minutes and read something (on Kindle, of course) or write notes for next story. 
  • Work 9 am to 11 am. 
  • Take 10-minute break and jot more notes for story. 
  • Lunch hour: read on Kindle or write a few more plot notes. Buy food to eat dinner at 4 pm at desk. 
  • After work: Ride subway to gym and -- guess what? -- read Kindle or write notes. If it's fall or winter, I might take a break and knit while on the subway, instead. 
  • After gym: Ride subway home (about 40 minutes) and do more reading, writing and/or knitting. 
  • Get home around 7:45-8 pm: Spend time with husband and cats. 
  • Write until 11 or 11:30 pm.


Tuesday/Thursday:
Same schedule as M/W/F except I don't go to the gym and I come straight home, instead. On those days, I'll either use the extra time to write even more, or I'll cut my writing short to watch something on Netflix with hubby.

By this point, I will usually have about 3,000 words written and the story completely plotted.

Saturday: 

  • Get up by 8 am and write for 8 hours, total.
  • Take a break for an hour to go for a walk.
  • Take another break for an hour or two to clean the apt. and go grocery shopping.
  • May go out in the evening, but only if I've hit my word count for the day, which is 3,500 or so.

Sunday: 

  • Get up by 8 am and finish drafting story, as long as it takes. 
  • I'm usually done drafting by mid-afternoon Sunday -- another 3,500 words or thereabouts.
  • If I'm really lucky, I'll have finished drafting almost the entire story by the morning, and my husband and I will go to a matinee. Then when I get home, I'll finish writing.


Week 2

See schedule above for working, going to gym, riding subway and so forth (M/W/F gym, T/Th come straight home).

Monday: I don't work on story at all, unless I just can't make myself leave it alone.

Tuesday: Re-read story and begin editing it myself.

Wednesday: Finish editing it myself and give to my editor/reader (my husband, who is also a writer).

Thursday: Proofread.

Friday: Proofread and make cover myself. I use Fotolia and Photoshop. I wish I had more fonts, sigh.

Saturday: Proofread and publish.

Sunday: Day off.

And then we come to Monday, and I start again.

October isn't quite going to work out this way because I'm on vacation the first two weeks. However, I do plan to plot the 4th story of The Pandora Chronicles, so I can write it quickly when we get back.

In case you're wondering, I write everything in a Google doc, so it's always accessible.

In an upcoming post: How I work book promotion into the mix, like writing this blog, tweeting & finding the best places for my upcoming free ebook weekend.

September 24, 2012

Obnoxious email marketing -- yuck

I recently unsubscribed from a bunch of email lists.

And I need to do it again.

I signed up for an email newsletter that sounded pretty cool. This person has spent years interviewing and talking with well-known marketers and has asked them to share what they know. If you sign up, you can listen to the interviews for free and also read transcripts.

Sounds good, right?

This guy needs to pay closer attention to their professional advice, because I'm sure his tactics aren't part of it.

In the past couple of days, I received not one, but TWO emails from him asking me to call a number and wish his son a Happy Birthday.

Um, what?

So his son is going to get a gazillion voicemails wishing him a happy birthday? Gee, thanks, Dad.

If you've signed up for my mailing list, you'll notice I haven't sent you anything yet. And that's because when you signed up, you expected to hear from me when a) I release a new book, and b) if I'm offering a free book.

That's it.

I should probably give this guy a break, but my email box gets so crowded -- doesn't yours? -- that I have to slash and burn anything that doesn't truly support what I'm trying to do, professionally and personally.

Time to purge my email subscriptions again.

After that, it's on to the junk mail I get in my actual mailbox. How DO I get on all these catalog mailing lists, anyway? Sheesh.

September 23, 2012

How I made my Sunday great

"Freefall" is just about ready for my readers. I made some final adjustments after getting it back from my editor this morning, and I'm going to "let it sit" overnight. When I read it in the morning, I'm sure I'll find a typo that we both missed.

Now that's what I call a great Sunday. Completing a story and being super excited to share it.

"Freefall" pushes The Pandora Chronicles forward yet again.

It's frigid winter day as "Freefall" opens, and Hope and Jake must confront the cold, hard truth of just how serious their quest is.

As Hope and Jake spiral deeper into the mystery, the horror spreads even wider than the plagues. And the answers Hope and Jake uncover may, in fact, make them question everything.

Want to know the moment "Freefall" is released? Sign up in the box on the right. And thanks!

September 22, 2012

Stormy nights make for good writing

Outside, I hear a storm coming upon us here in NYC. The rain pings the air conditioners up and down the outside of the building, and I can hear the wind blowing the water in waves on the street below. 

Thunder and lightning punctuate my thoughts as I complete "Freefall," the third story of The Pandora Chronicles.

The mood is perfect, as this story is where things get serious.

Deathly serious.

September 21, 2012

Autumn starts tomorrow. You know what that means?

Plague season begins.


Coming soon: "Freefall"

Freefall, by Maggie Waters
Short story no. 3 of The Pandora Chronicles is almost ready for prime time.

I'm putting the finishing touches on "Freefall" and will let my subscribers know the day it's published on Kindle.

So what are you waiting for? Subscribe! The form is over there. :-) --------------->


September 20, 2012

Love lists? I do


movie theater
What action-adventure-fantasy-thriller
movies do you watch a zillion times?
I discovered a cool website yesterday called List.ly.

It lets you set up lists and add them to your website. What's really great is that your website visitors (in this case, that would be you) can add to the lists right then and there. Visitors don't have to leave your site and go to List.ly to add to your lists. Love that.

So check this out: I added a page devoted to lists.

I started one list of action-adventure-thriller-fantasy movies I absolutely must watch over and over again. No, I am not ashamed. I can't even count the number of times I've watched the Matt Damon "Bourne" movies. Oh, I just remembered another movie I need to add: "Enemy of the State." I love page-turning action, in books and in movies.

Come on over and add your ideas.

What does any of this have to do with my short stories? 

Not a whole lot.

In the words of Cyndi Lauper, I just wanna have fun.

September 19, 2012

Close encounter on the NYC subway

Polaroid photo by my husband
This morning on the subway, I had an encounter with a woman who was ... well, I think she has some mental problems that are not being fully addressed, let's just put it that way.

She was one of a pair who were either members of a religious group or just very strange panhandlers.

And that's saying something, considering this is NYC.

The guy -- about 25, basically clean except for a couple of holes in his pants, nice new shoes -- walked up and down the subway car muttering incantations and waving his right hand over everyone's heads. Since we were all sitting down -- I start my ride at the end of the line, so seats are easy to grab -- there was no one for him to shove aside in order to do this hand waving and chanting ritual.

He had a book in his left hand that resembled the Bible, but he wasn't chanting anything Biblical. Honestly, I couldn't understand anything he was saying. It sounded like English, but gibberish.

As he did that, the woman -- maybe 30, wearing what looked like a possibly fake cast on her arm, but also clean clothes, dreadlocks and hole-free shoes -- walked up to me. At that moment, I was actually making notes by hand, in a red notebook that I keep for times when Pandora Chronicles ideas strike me. The subway is like my shower -- it's true. I get great ideas there.

I had just written a gem to use in short story no. 3, when this woman says to me, "I know what you're doing."

Oh really?

I didn't want to encourage Ms. Dreadlocks, so I kept my head down and kept writing. Her partner kept walking up and down the car, chanting. Then she said again to me, "I know what you're doing. You're working. With your fancy phones and bags and everything. And now you're going to work, too. You think you're so smart because you're going to work at some office someplace. Well, you know what? Your soul isn't saved, so how smart are you, really? I can tell my looking at you that you're going to hell."

I say again to myself: Oh really?

We pulled into a station, and I got off the train. Was it my stop? No. But I didn't feel like dealing with this first thing in the morning, so I waited for the next train.

The next train came, I got on, and a few minutes later I got off at my usual stop.

Guess who's there, in my station, sitting on a bench?

Ms. Dreadlocks. Thankfully, she didn't notice me as I dove into the middle of the crowd going up the stairs. Her partner in crime was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he's still walking up and down the subway cars, chanting.

Will this encounter appear in short story no. 3 of The Pandora Chronicles? You can bet on it.

September 18, 2012

Mini Movies for the Mind

I coined the phrase "mini movies for the mind" not long ago because I realized that that is exactly what my mind does when I read a book. I get comfortable in my chair, the darkness envelopes me, the screen lights up with images, the soundtrack booms -- it's all there, just like in a movie theater.

After I finish reading, the images and sounds stay with me as if I had actually watched the characters and heard them speaking.

Wow, is all I can say when I think about the power of the human mind.

My newest mini-movie creation is the third short story of The Pandora Chronicles. Get ready for an action-packed drama that you'll see, hear and experience in your own personal mind theater.

Maybe I should start eating popcorn while I read and write, just to get the full effect. I have some microwave popcorn in the cupboard somewhere ... but I don't have the butter flavoring. Love that stuff.

September 17, 2012

Medical sci fi is real

I'm fascinated by the state of science today related to DNA, genetics and so forth. It holds out so much hope for better treatments for disease, contagious and otherwise.

Take a look at this article, and you'll see what I mean: "Real-life 'Contagion' uses DNA to halt outbreak."

September 16, 2012

What happens next? You tell me.

I'm nearly finished writing story no. 3 in The Pandora Chronicles. In this story, Hope and Jake find themselves confronted with the seriousness of what they're trying to do.

This isn't child's play, as Hope discovers in story no. 2 -- a point that is brought home even more strongly in story no. 3.

As I've been writing this particular story, I've realized that I truly enjoy answering the question, "What happens next?" Because the truth is, I can make anything happen next.

If you've read stories 1 and 2, you may have your own ideas of what might happen next. Submit a comment, and I'll tell you if you're on the right track. :-)

September 14, 2012

Am I a Friday night loser?

I live in NYC, so I have a huge choice of options for how I spend my Friday nights. But generally, you know what I do?

I plot.

Not to kill someone. Well, maybe I do, and maybe I don't. It depends what kind of mood I'm in.

I sit with my laptop on my lap, literally, with my cat Sophia next to me, and I plot my upcoming stories. And not just for The Pandora Chronicles, oh no.

I'm also plotting a series of stories based on traveling the NYC subway system. Now if that isn't an apocalyptic horror story sometimes, I'm not sure what is.

Like the story a friend of mine told me about fainting on the subway train one time. A guy carried her out of the train, set her down on the platform, and them promptly got back on the train. She woke up to a woman standing over her saying, "It's OK, honey, he didn't take your purse. I have it right here." The woman rode with her to the hospital.

So I guess chivalry is only partly dead?

Some of my characters will end up more than partly dead, I guarantee that. ;-)

Does this make me a loser, that I spend my Friday nights plotting? You tell me.

September 13, 2012

Why Hope lives


My daughter was a little upset when I told her the character of Hope in The Pandora Chronicles is not based on her. (I'm using her as inspiration for another short-story series I'm working on, though.)

Photo of Mia Wasikowska
from the Orlando Sentinel
I've found it helpful to picture an actual person when writing this character. In my mind, she resembles the actresses Mia Wasikowska or Saoirse Ronan. Her emotional state is, I try to convey, precarious. In the second story, called "The Breaking," we see how the plagues have affected Hope and, by extension, everyone else: Jake, Flex, Michael, Hope's mother and other characters to come. While the plagues are almost considered normal occurrences by now, they continue take a toll on those who remain alive, creating a mass emotional state that also is considered normal -- one of perpetual grief, trauma, PTSD and fear.

Hope fights against all of that, even as she recognizes, slowly but surely, that something inside her is broken. Still, she continues to move forward to find answers, no matter what the cost. She doesn't always understand why she's doing it, either -- just that she must.

The question now is, who doesn't want her to know those answers? And why?

September 12, 2012

How Jane Austen affects your brain

books
Have you ever wondered how your brain reacts as you read literature? Some Stanford researchers did. So they had people read Jane Austen while they were inside an MRI machine, asking them to read it for pleasure and also as if they were reading it for an exam. The participants -- all PhD candidates in literature -- also had to write essays afterward.

I'm not sure I'd be able to read anything inside an MRI machine. Those bangs, bings and bongos would distract me no end. But anyway, the researchers were able to learn some pretty amazing things about how our brains work as we read.

Here's my favorite quote: "After reviewing early scans, neuroscientist Bob Dougherty, research director of CNI, said he was impressed by 'how the right patterns of ink on a page can create vivid mental imagery and instill powerful emotions.' "

I'm not sure research was required to come to that conclusion, do you?


September 11, 2012

How I nudge people

I received a lovely email today from someone looking for a nudge with his own writing.

Here's one resource I return to over and over again when I need help getting started with a writing project.

I really appreciate Natalie Goldberg's take on writing in her book "Writing Down the Bones." She discusses how we must approach writing with "beginner's mind," basically leaving ourselves open to whatever happens on the blank page. She also has several wonderful exercises you can use for freewriting, which is simply a set time when you write without stopping to cross out (or backspace, if you're on the computer). The goal is to write freely without censoring yourself or your ideas.

In working with people who want to write, I often use one simple technique Goldberg teaches. If you feel stuck, simply write or type the words, "What I really want to say is ..." and then complete the sentence. This technique works especially well if you've set a timer for, say,10 minutes and are freewriting as fast as you can physically write or type -- and then you hit the proverbial wall. Type or write, "What I really want to say is ..." and you'll be amazed at the truth that appears before you.

What I really want to say is ... that writing can be painful, joyful, scary, exhausting and rewarding and is the most fun when it's shared with others.

September 10, 2012

What kind of reader ARE you?

The Atlanic and I want to know. Check out the article here and the super-fun addendum here, then post your answer below.

Me? I'm definitely The Muli-Tasker. I'm always reading more than one book at a time. Usually it's a non-fiction book plus a fiction book, but sometimes I double up with non-fiction/non-fiction and fiction/fiction. Right now, it's "A Moveable Feast" and "Romeo and Juliet" -- time for the classics.

(I'm not ashamed to admit that I've read "R&J" probably a dozen times, and I simply never get tired of the language. While I haven't read all of Shakespeare's plays, I can say that as corny as it is, "R&J" is right up near the top of my list. I mean, come on, people ..."But soft. What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun. / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, / Who is already sick and pale with grief / That thou her maid are far more fair than she.")

I often read one book on my commute into work, and a different one on my way home from the gym at night. The only problem with reading on the subway is that -- it's true -- I've been known to cry and not realize I'm doing it. Like when I was reading "Persepolis" and got to that part ... well, if you've read it, you know which part.

So ... What kind of reader are you?

September 9, 2012

Anyone know what this thing is called?


 I dug it out of the closet today, and I can't quite remember what to do with it. ;-)

September 8, 2012

How my Saturday got wrecked

I know, it's usually the Sunday blues you get before you have to go back to work the next day.

Well, the blues hit me today. I think I know why. And it's not just because of the rain we had, either.

When you're finally doing something you really enjoy -- for me, it's writing these short stories for Kindle -- it's really tough to think about what you HAVE to do (like, oh, make a living doing something else entirely).

Can you relate?

Maybe you have a hobby you wish you could turn into a business, so you could do it all the time instead of just on the weekends.

Maybe you're like me and have finally found something truly fun and satisfying that uses your best skills, and you're trying to devote all your "off" time to it -- so it can bring you income as well as a happier daily life. At least, that's my goal.

The thing about writing -- and maybe this is true for whatever you're interested in -- is that it doesn't understand the 9-to-5 clock. I'll be sitting at work in my office, which is literally smaller than a cubicle with no windows and a beige wall as my view, and I'll get struck by a new twist for The Pandora Chronicles and need to write it down. I sneakily pull up Google Drive on my computer and type it into a document I have saved for such moments. I've also become quite adept at concealing my Pandora notes while paying attention in business meetings.

So anyway, why did the blues hit me today? Because I felt such joy in working on the third Pandora Chronicles story for awhile, and I realized that I felt such ... "non-joy" yesterday at my job.

I don't want to feel such "non-joy" anymore. (I'm hesitating to call this feeling what it really is, because the word is just too awful to say out loud, even on a blog.)

And unfortunately, that realization today sent me into a funk. I did work on story no. 3, but then I cleaned the apartment, picked up the dry cleaning, and finally holed up in the bedroom knitting and watching "Disappeared" via Netflix streaming on my iPhone.

Oh, and then I wrote this blog post.

That's how my Saturday got wrecked: realizing how much of my Monday-through-Friday life is spent on non-joyful activities.

I gotta change that. Like, fast. Can you relate?

September 7, 2012

What I eat on Fridays

And Saturdays, and Sundays, and Mondays, and Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and Thursdays ...

Today's choice: Lindt Classic Recipe.

Lately, my favorites have been Trader Joe's dark chocolate caramel with sea salt and Ghirardelli caramel squares.

If I don't eat chocolate every afternoon, I get crabby. I also generally have hot chocolate at night.

I figure, I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't overeat, I exercise. So I need to have one vice, right? And besides, chocolate is a health food. Or is it a super food? Maybe it's a super health food. I'll go with that, thanks.



Kindle Fires are smokin' hot

They don't ship until around Thanksgiving, but the new Kindle Fire models look pretty dang hot. Especially at these price points:

original Kindle Fire with longer battery life, more RAM, faster processor: $159
7-inch Kindle Fire HD with 16GB of storage: $199
8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD, ditto the storage: $299
8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD with 32GB of storage plus a bunch of other add-ons (major storage space in the Cloud): $499

Think they wanna compete with the iPad, folks? I'm going to save my pennies or, better yet, ask Santa for one for Christmas. (I may be on his "bad girls" list, though. I'd better straighten up, and fast.)

Photos, videos and more on engadget.com.


September 6, 2012

"Write one true sentence"

I'm reading Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" right now and am enjoying it thoroughly. I've always been a huge fan of his writing -- "Shooting An Elephant" is one of the best short stories ever, in my opinion. It's also good to know that he, like so many other writers, would sometimes get stuck. I don't like to use the term "writer's block" because I don't believe it really exists. To me, it's more a matter of starting something, anything, and not worrying where it's going to lead. As Hemingway says in "A Moveable Feast," just "write one true sentence." Everything else will flow from that.

September 5, 2012

Found my fortitude

Yesterday was a difficult day, because I had to confront something within myself and then believe in a decision I'd made. I also had to share this decision with someone who I knew would be disappointed.

What I need to realize is that while some decisions are permanent -- like a tattoo -- others are not. This one is ... well, it doesn't have to be permanent. I can change my mind. I can admit to a mistake, if it turns out to be a mistake. Or I can celebrate my decision if it turns out, in fact, to have been the right one.

September 4, 2012

Tough day ahead

Today's word: FORTITUDE. I need to find the intestinal fortitude to do what has to be done today, based on a decision I've made. It's not going to be easy, because it's an emotional as well as a professional situation. I really hate doing tough stuff like this, especially when I have some lingering doubt about my decision. But it's really the best choice I can make, so let's just plow ahead. I'll let you know how things went today when I post here tomorrow.

September 3, 2012

Get "Amazon Mom"

... and you can borrow books for free. That is, if you have time to read. And by the way, is that service only for very tall moms? I'm guessing not.

Typo corrected! I am human, after all

Thanks to a couple of alert readers, I fixed a typo -- on the very first page of the Pandora manuscript! Wow, that's embarrassing. I guess it proves I am a real human being and not some sort of bot, right? I have heard of several writers who outsource some of (or maybe all, who knows) the fiction they sell on Kindle. What I can't figure out is, why? Surely if a person's writing were good enough for Kindle publication, they'd be doing it themselves. And if a person's writing isn't good enough, wouldn't the editing process be maddening? Well, this writer is the real thing, typos and all.

September 1, 2012

Inspired by Harry Potter

My stories in The Pandora Chronicles aren't based on magic. But they are based on heroism. I've read all the Harry Potter books, and I've seen the movies more than once (a lot more than once!). I love the idea that a handful of people, led by someone courageous, have the power to overturn -- or at least disrupt the course of -- evil. That's how I envision The Pandora Chronicles. Not as the next HP (although following in J.K.'s footsteps would be wonderful, of course). But I see them as an example I'd like to emulate, myself, which is having the courage to ask questions when something serious is at stake, and being willing to put yourself and your own physical/emotional safety on the line, if necessary. Hope is that character for me. She's the one who takes the biggest risks, and although she may be afraid sometimes, she doesn't let fear stop her. Her quest also leads her to self discovery, which can also be frightening sometimes. I'm eager to keep going on this journey with Hope.