Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Entries for the Design a Book Cover Contest

Today is the day to post your book covers! Click on the blogs in the list to see the entries, then click "like" on your three favorites. On September 7, I will announce the winner.

The voting starts now, but you can enter the contest up until the winner is announced. All you have to do is put your blog address in the linky list below and post your cover on your blog. Just keep in mind that the longer you wait, the less votes you'll get.

Remember the rules: vote three times, don't vote for people just because you like them (this isn't a popularity contest), and don't vote for yourself.

Here's my entry. It's the cover for the book I'm going to write for Nano this year:

I think the Oprah sticker makes it. 

Happy voting!

Ready, set, vote!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to Use Goodreads

This is my favorite website ever! All writers and readers and literate people should have accounts on this site. I’m not exaggerating, people.

It’s like Facebook for reading. Here’s a brief description of everything you can do there:

List and rate your books: This is amazingly easy. When you browse the books and see one you read, click on the stars to say how much you like it and the book instantly goes to your “Read” list. If you open “Edit my review,” you can add details.

To-Read Lists: You can keep track of what books you want to read by clicking on Add to My Books > To Read.

Find the best deals: When you open a book, click on “Get a Copy” and you can see a list of the best prices on the internet.

Lists: If you want to find a good book, you can click on Explore > Listopia and find lists like “Best Science Fiction” or “Books on Ancient Egypt,” or any kind of list you can think of.

Discuss: On your home page, click “Discussions” and you can see what people are saying about the books you read.

Add friends and see what they do on your news feed.

Join a Group: There are forums for every kind of topic you can think of. I’m a member of a NaNo group and Historical Fictionistas.

Author Profiles: Much like a Facebook account, authors have pages where you can see what they’re up to.

Giveaways: You can enter to win hundreds of free books; all you have to do is write a review once you’ve read it. I haven’t won anything yet, though.

Book Swap: When I have a real job I’ll buy books at full price, but right now I get all my books for free on Goodreads. Go to Bookswap to see which books are available, request one, and pay for the shipping cost (around $3). You can also create a wish list and scroll through “My Wishlist” to see which of your books are available. You’re expected to give away some of your books in return.

There’s more, but that’s all the big stuff. I hope you have fun exploring the site. Feel free to friend me!

The voting for the Design Your Cover Contest starts tomorrow! I hope you all decide to join. If you're nervous about making a cover, I can show you my original entry that everyone said looked like an erotica novel. That should make you feel better.

By the way, who voted for someone when the contest hasn't even started yet? Not cool, people.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting Humbled About Writing

Don't forget about the Design Your Book Cover Contest. It starts August 31st. Ten people have signed up, which is good, but we could use more! I'm terrible at this kind of stuff, but I made a cover that I'm pretty proud of. If I can do it, you can too.

Now for today's post:

My New Year’s Resolution was to read 44 books. That’s about a book a week. Just the other day, I was scrolling through my Goodreads account and realized something that changed the way I look at being a novelist.

Most of us view being a novelist as one of the greatest things we can do with our lives… at least, I did. It’s below being a surgeon or the president, but we fantasize about the day we can tell people we wrote a bestseller and they will be speechless with awe.

We define ourselves by our writing, we labor for years for our books, and we think life will be meaningless if we do not achieve our goal to shine before the world in literary magnificence.

I realized while looking at my Goodreads account that we might live for our books, but readers don’t. A novel only takes a week to read. After a few days, readers put the book down, pick up someone else’s book, and move on with their lives.

Being a novelist will always be my greatest aspiration. I still have my high dreams; I hope my book will be memorable. I hope everyone will enjoy it and that many people will be touched by it, and maybe it will stick with a few readers forever. But knowing that a book only takes a few days to read…

…it’s humbling.

Once when I was a kid, my dad thought I was taking my writing way too seriously (which was true). He asked me, “How many books have you read that changed your life?” Not many. Then he asked about my friends and family. “How many of them have changed your life?”

I was about to write that life is what happens when you’re away from the computer, but that’s not true. Life is in all the things you do. 

By the way, I said never to make promises on your blog because you can never predict the future, and then I broke my rule and said I would only post a couple times a week. Here I am weeks later posting everyday. So, let me reiterate what I said before:

No promises, no excuses, no apologies, no regrets.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Woman Living Without Mirrors

This story inspired me and I hope it inspires you too:

Kjerstin Gruys was engaged to be married when she realized her appearance was becoming an obsession. She had bought a beautiful wedding dress, then stared at herself wearing it for so long that she ended up hating it. She had to buy a new one.

Pretty much every woman knows what this is like. Most of us spend excessive amounts of time staring, scrutinizing, and inwardly criticizing our appearance.

Kjerstin decided to say NO!

For the next year, she refuses to look in a mirror. That includes her wedding day.

I love this because she's actively thinking about our culture and trying to improve it by being creative... and adventurous! No one's done this before.

As writers -- no, as human beings, but especially as writers -- we should constantly keep our eyes open for opportunities to experiment. I want to do something crazy like this. I admire what she's trying to do and I know it'll make a difference. Isn't that what life is all about?

She's logging her experience in her blog, and I can't wait to read it from beginning to end.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why I Don't Rate Novels

I used to have so much fun giving books stars on Goodreads but recently, I’ve erased all of them. On my blog, instead of giving reviews, I give descriptions. This is why:

1. Negative reviews keep people from reading books. No matter the book, a writer’s goal should be to get books in people’s hands, not take them away.

“What about positive reviews?” you ask. They’re definitely a good thing, but at some point, you’ll probably have to lie. I’m tempted to give five stars to all my friends, for example. Besides, if you give rate all the books you like, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that you didn’t like the other books you read.

2. Taste is so subjective that reviews are pointless. There’s a particular number one bestseller that I despise. It made me want to blow up humanity to save us from the plague of evil and suffering.

I met someone who loved it and asked what on earth she saw in such a disturbing book. She made some good points and I can see now how it can be valuable. If I went on a public rant about the horrors of this novel, people could have missed out on a book they might have loved.

3. I often feel a certain way about a book one day and feel completely differently the next. Some books I loved in childhood, I think are stupid now. I still don’t know how I feel about As I Lay Dying. I’ll probably scratch my head over that one for the rest of my life.

4. What are we rating, anyway? Lonesome Dove was a Pulitzer-winning masterpiece and I greatly enjoyed it, but I didn’t adore it, so I gave it four stars. Garden Spells is a simple but fabulous romance that swept me away, so I gave it five stars. In what universe should a romance get a higher rating than a Pulitzer-winner? I also gave four stars to one of my favorite books of all time because it had some structural issues.

It just doesn’t make sense. Novels – and readers – are too complicated to summarize in a number.

5. Lastly, let’s not forget the Golden Rule. Someday you’re going to need support from other authors, and you should build up good karma now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Awkward Doctor's Appointment

I'll never forget a certain appointment I had with a... how do I put this delicately... lady doctor.
Most of the appointment was uneventful. I spent it clutching the sides of the table while trying not to make eye contact with the doctor or the nurse. Every question I answered in one-word sentences.

The appointment was almost over when the doctor explained that he needed to feel my ovaries.

I thought, You can feel the ovaries just by touching my stomach? That is so cool.

I tried not to yelp when I discovered that is not, in fact, how you go about feeling for ovaries. Thanks for not explaining that, doctor. I screwed my eyes shut and tried to go to my happy place while he rooted around like he lost his ring down a drain.

After a while I realized I had been in my happy place for an excessively long time. I didn't want to question him on it, but eventually, it got too weird. I craned my head up and said, “Um… doctor?”

His face was bright red and he couldn't even look at me. “I am so sorry,” he said. “I just, um, I can’t seem to find them.”

“You can’t find them?!” Do I not have ovaries? I need those!

He must have seen my shocked face because he quickly added, “It’s not a problem. It just means that your uterus is crooked.”

So I have a crooked uterus. I’m learning all kinds of things today.

When I got home, my roommates were having a competition to see who had the worst day. I dropped my backpack and said, “Guys, I win this game. Hands down.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to be Friends with a Writer

A while back, I guest-posted Why I Don’t Tell People I Write on Nathan Bransford's blog. I wrote about the odd things people say when they discover you want to be a writer.

I realize now that the article was somewhat unfair. Being the friend of a novelist isn’t easy, and most people aren’t used to it. For those of you who need help interacting with a writer friend, I present to you the Idiot’s Guide to Being Friends with a Writer.

Be Aware of Disappointments

Even phenomenal writers face disappointments. I’m not talking about “I’m sad this isn’t working out the way I planned” disappointment; I’m talking about “I will never achieve my purpose in life” disappointment.

Writers can question their worth as human beings during the first draft, revisions, querying, being on submission to editors, even while marketing the book and hoping it sells. Your friend might feel like no one understands. Be sensitive.

Get Ready to Listen

Have you ever had friends get in a romantic relationship and that’s all they can think or talk about? That’s what writing a book is like. Being a newlywed with the excitements and frustrations is like revision. Finding an agent is like trying not to get divorced.

In other words, your friend is thinking about her book constantly. You’re going to hear about it a lot.

I don’t mind it when people say (kindly) that they’d like to talk about something else once in a while. But I still need a listening ear from time to time.

Don’t Ask “Are You Published Yet?”

This one gets to me the most. Most people don’t understand how long it takes for a novel to get from start to finish. The professionals often write a book a year, but that’s their job.

Unpublished novelists have to make time between work and family, and they do it without pay. The first novel is the hardest and takes the longest.

Finding an agent can take months if you’re lucky, longer if you’re not. After you find your agent you have to find an editor, which can take anywhere from weeks to a year. Once a book hits the publisher’s desk, it takes at least a year to get to book stores. So even after a book is finished, it could take as long as three years for an unlucky person to get published.

I’ve spent the last five years explaining to my friends why my book isn’t finished, and it’s embarrassing.

Don’t Judge

Even if you’ve read a person’s work, you cannot know a writer’s full talent or potential. I’ve hated stories that everyone else loved. I’ve read chapters that were terrible, but then the second draft was magnificent. Just because you think your friend is a bad writer doesn’t mean she won’t make it.

In the same vein, be aware that just because you think your friend is an amazing writer doesn’t mean agents will feel the same way. Disappointments will still come.

At Least Pretend to Take Them Seriously

It’s easy to tell when someone doesn’t think I’ll get published. If you visibly treat writing as a hobby when it’s the most important thing in your friend’s life, I hope she becomes famous and in the acknowledgments lists everyone she knows except you. No joke.

There are writers I don’t take seriously, but I would never let them know. When people shrug us off, you can’t understand how much it hurts.

If you writers have something you want every friend to know, please add it to the comments!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Sacrifice of a Cancer Survivor

Yesterday, I spoke to someone whose mother died of breast cancer. Her story was heart-breaking. She said because of the recent research and awareness, if her mother had gotten sick only a few years later, she probably would have survived.
She told me the story of a woman she knew who survived breast cancer. The woman had to get her breasts removed. She could have had reconstructive surgery, but to help spread awareness, she refused.
Instead, she got a tattoo of a pink sash draped from one shoulder to her hip.
That really inspired me. Now for the rest of her life, everyone who sees her will know what she went through. They’ll ask questions, they’ll learn, and breast cancer will become very real to them.
I’ve decided that if I ever lose my hair to cancer, I won’t wear a wig. I’d want to take a stand against making people with cancer feel embarrassed. Our culture is so obsessed with hair that it’s a source of shame when people don’t have any.
I’m not pointing a finger at cancer patients for wearing wigs by any means. They have enough to worry about without challenging social norms and getting stares and sympathy and questions. I just think of the sacrifices people make to give them hair, and it makes me sad.
Maybe I should shave my head even though I don’t have cancer. I knew a writer who wore a Muslim head wrap for a month to see if people would treat her differently, and she wrote a news article about it. Going bald would be an incredible experience.
Back to the breast cancer survivor: I truly admire the woman’s bravery for refusing to “fix” herself. Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to battle cancer and how sometimes, it’s so much easier to just give up, so I also admire her for surviving.
Here’s to finding a cure!

Don't forget to sign up for the Design Your Book Cover contest! And don't forget I'm looking for beta readers, so if you're interested, send me an email at teralynpilgrim at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Need One Last Beta Reader

... or maybe two or three.

It won't be a time-consuming edit. I feel pretty good about my book about the Vestal Virgins, but I felt good about every draft, so what do I know? I only want a few people to read it over and give it a stamp of approval, or to tell me it's still not ready.

I more or less want a book review. Someone to say, "The pacing was perfect but the characters were confusing and the structure was..." etc.

Since beta reading is a partnership, I'll be more than happy to help you with any project you're working on.

Here are the details:
  • You can read my query here, my first chapter here, and more about the Vestal Virgins here.
  • I want someone who reads (and preferably writes) historical fiction.
  • I would like this to be done ASAP, since I still hope to submit to agents October 31. It'll be ready for betas August 25, and it would be fabulous if I could get it back within the same week. I'll be flexible, though.
  • If you're interested, don't post a comment: send me an email at teralynpilgrim @ yahoo dot com.
Any volunteers?

Don't forget, I'm hosting a Design a Book Cover Contest. I designed my own book cover and was quite proud of it, until someone told me it looked like erotica. Oops. I guess with a title like "Hunger," that's an easy mistake to make. I never liked that title.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

CONTEST: Design Your Book Cover

When I did NaNoWriMo, everyone had banners under their signatures that represented their books. They were so beautiful! I thought I'd never be able to make one for my novel Hunger, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it:

1. Add your site to the linky thing.
2. Design a cover for your book or a friends' and post it on your site August 31.
3. Click "like" on only three of your favorites.
4. On September 7, I will announce the winner.

If you're artistically challenged like me, don't feel overwhelmed! Click here and here for some design advice. You can also scroll down below the linky thing to see examples of banners by other writers.

  1. People with the most followers on their blog always win these contests. It takes all the fun out of it. Please be fair and vote for ones that deserve it.
  2. Don't open an entry or vote on one just because it has a lot of likes; that's not fair either.
  3. Don't vote for yourself three times. That's just sad.
Spread the word to spread the fun!

Here are a few examples from other NaNoers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How Long it Takes to Write a Book

I’ve kept a work diary for about three months, and I’m starting to realize just how long it takes to write a book. It ‘s a lot more time than I thought.
In November, I’m going to start a new book for Nano, and I plan on continuing the work diary. That means I could find out how long it takes me to write a novel from beginning to end.
That’s kind of an exciting idea, but also scary. Maybe knowing will take a lot of the fun out of it.
If you could see how long it took to write your book, would you want to know? Or would you be afraid of comparing how much you put into it to how much you’re getting out of it and deciding it’s not worth it?
I want to do a fun but almost pointless math exercise:
I read in Writer’s Market that the average novelist makes $45,000 per book. This is probably the most subjective number imaginable – what does “average novelist” even mean? But that’s the only number I have, so let’s go with it.
This means you’d have to write a book a year, or at the very least a book every two years, to make a decent salary. From what I hear, publishers expect a book a year anyway.
I asked a smart person how many hours the average 8-5 person works (including vacation and sick days), and he said around 2,000. No author actually writes for 8 hours a day, though. I’ll bet when you actually get published and start marketing and whatnot, it becomes a full-time job, but I’m talking about the writing itself.
I personally try to write 2 hours a day (this includes editing and research), and the goal is to write a book a year. 2,000 hours for a full-time job divided by four… If I want to keep my current habits and goals, writing a novel needs to take me 500 hours a year.
Since Sacred Fire is my first novel, it took much longer to write than my future books will. I hope my next one won’t even take a third of the time. I wonder how many hours I’ve put into my book? A thousand? More?
This math activity was pretty silly, but it somewhat puts things in perspective.
Any thoughts?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Crashing a Fairy Tea Party

In Utah, they had this beautiful Lavender Festival on a farm that grew acres and acres of lavender. I bought a bunch I cut myself, my husband and I ate lavender ice cream, we listened to cowboy poetry, and we watched a jostling tournament with real horses and armor, among many other fun things. It was the best festival I’ve ever been to.

One thing I was particularly excited about was the Fairy Tea Party. My mom used to tell me stories about fairies. We had fairy tea parties all the time and we left tiny treats outside for them in my toy tea set. Having a fairy tea party at a festival sounded like the coolest thing ever.

There was limited seating and we had to buy tickets in advance. I stood in an enormous line for a good twenty minutes – that’s how badly I wanted to go – while my husband watched kids jumping on an inflatable jungle gym.

(The stakes came loose from the gym in a strong wind and the whole thing went flying. The kids dangled from it as they clung for dear life and parents chased after it screaming. Since no one got hurt, it was really funny.)

When I finally got to the ticket booth, the lady told me I bought the very last ticket. There were maybe fifteen people behind me. Suckers, I thought. I tried not to grin at them as I handed her the money.

The lady bent over a binder with a pen and said, “What’s your little one’s name?”

I didn’t answer at first. “Um… what?” I stammered.

“Your child. The one that’s going to the tea party.”

Ah, I thought. That makes sense.

“Well, I… I thought…” I wasn’t sure how to back out of this one, so I told the truth. “I was planning on going."

She looked up from her book and we stared at each other for a long moment.

“This is for kids,” she said.

“Right," I nodded. "Gotcha.”

She tapped her pen on the table and said, “I guess you can stop by, but just the kids are getting cookies and drinks. There won’t be any seats for you.”

“Oh. Thanks.” I walked away with my face burning.

I went to the party anyway. It was fun even though I didn’t get a cookie. And I got a picture with the fairies.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Careful What You Say Online

We’ve all heard we should watch what we say online, but let’s be honest; the internet is a big place. I think most of us believe we are hidden in a forest of sites where no one can find us.
I’ve learned that’s not true.
I figured only writers and close friends would be interested in my blog, but I get comments from people I’ve only met once and don’t care about writing at all. It’s flattering!
Once I posted a video with music, and an hour later, I heard someone at work humming the song.
Since so many people can and do see what I say, I try to keep it classy, but the one time I mentioned someone in a way that might not be appreciated, I got busted.
It was on my Marquee Names article. I figured I kept the reference vague enough for no one to make the connection. She had no interest in writing, and even if she did, she wouldn’t have enough interest in me to read my blog. And what were the odds this one person would read the one post where I mentioned her?
Come to find out, she loves writing, she does read my blog, she saw that post, she recognized I was talking about her, and she approached me about it.
She’s probably reading this now. (Hello, how’s work going?)
Luckily, she didn’t mind. She just said, “I saw you mentioned me on your blog today.” Whew! So now I’ll be more careful

Here’s another piece of blogging advice. I’ve read countless articles where people promise to do something, don't do it, and apologize. I’ve also read countless apologies from bloggers who didn't post as often as they thought they should.
This is both boring and disappointing. My motto is this: no promises, no excuses, no apologies, no regrets. Just do what you can.

Speaking of being careful, this is hilarious:
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