Seasonal Fare–Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

skippingchristmas

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded shops, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on the street without a rooftop Frosty the snowman; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences – and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that has become part of our holiday tradition.

Seasonal Fare–The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

gift

This month’s theme is “seasonal fare.” Fun, sweet fiction that centers around the holidays. My first pick is The Gift by Cecelia Ahern. In this modern-day fable, workaholic executive Lou Steffen shows an uncharacteristic burst of generosity towards Gabe, a homeless man who always seems to be in two places at once. With Lou’s personal and professional fates at important crossroads and Christmas looming, Gabe resorts to some unorthodox methods to show his stubborn patron what truly matters and how precious the gift of time is. But can Gabe help Lou fix what’s broken before it’s too late?

National Novel Writing Month–Marissa Meyer

To end this month’s series of blog posts about published novels that grew out of NaNoWriMo projects, let me introduce Marissa Meyer. Her series of bestselling novels reimaging the Cinderella story in a futuristic world, beginning with Cinder, were all started during National Novel Writing Month. Here’s Marissa:

Pep Talk from Marissa Meyer

Ahoy there, Fellow Novelists,

I hope this pep talk finds you happy, healthy, and in the full swings of writing euphoria.

I suspect that by now many of you have stumbled into pockets of magic during this month-long writing fling. Your characters have said ridiculously unexpected things, your settings have blossomed into life on the page, and you’ve had plot twists come screaming out of the ozone and smack you concussion-style on the forehead. These things tend to happen when you’re putting as much work into a novel as you are. After all, even if you’re not hitting your 1,667 words per day, I’m sure you’re at least thinking a great deal about hitting them, and it’s only fair that the muse rewards that.

But let’s be pessimistic for a moment and consider that maybe you haven’t had a magic-moment for, oh, a few hours, or a few days, or—heaven forbid!—this whole blasted month.

Never fear. Anyone who has ever written “The End” on a manuscript knows that, sometimes, inspiration eludes us. No one looks forward to those lulls in the writing process, but they are natural, and they can be overcome. These are the times when we must proceed on willpower and caffeine and the unflappable confidence that each word we write is one word closer to a finished novel. I can promise that, tough as those times may be, they often lead to some of our most proud and beautiful writing moments.

And lucky for us, there are non-magical tricks to get us past the slumps and back to that happy writing place. Before you, I lay out three common noveling dilemmas and some tips for conquering such foes.

Dilemma #1: If you find yourself realizing that, 35,000 words in, you’ve just about hit the end of this story and are convinced you’ll never make it to 50K…

It sounds like your book needs a hearty injection of The Unexpected. So unexpected that not even you could have seen it coming. The trick to landing an excellently unexpected insertion is to not go with the first idea that pops into your head—too often, that is the domain of clichés and the all-too-expected. Rather, try making a list of at least twenty things you would enjoy writing about right now. It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with what you’ve written so far (you can always drop in some nice foreshadowing during revisions), and the whole point is that you’re about to insert something fun, unique, and exciting into this draft.

Maybe you’re being called toward eye patch-sporting pirates and buried treasure. Maybe you’re dying to write about a hitchhiker with aspirations of being the world’s greatest baseball player. Maybe your dystopic, plague-ridden society is bringing you down and you’d love to send your characters on a romp through a whimsical wonderland.

Make your list, choose what’s calling to you most, and drop it into the next chapter just as if you’d been planning it all along. Watch as your plot and characters scramble to make it work, and the words once more begin to pile up.

Dilemma #2: If you’re coming in on that beaming 50,000-word mark and you haven’t even introduced all the main characters yet…

Congratulations, it sounds like you might have a series in the works, or at least one crazy-epic novel. I can guarantee, however, that no matter the scope of your book, you will be more motivated to finish, revise, and edit after this month-long writing extravaganza if you’ve reached some kind of closure by midnight on November 30.

There is no rule against skipping some scenes and launching your way right into that massive good-against-evil climax you’ve been anticipating. Secure a few romantic confessions and a happily ever after and you’ve just wrapped up one monster of a storyline.

Then you can breathe deeply and look forward to filling in those plot holes come December.

Dilemma #3: If you’ve been a noveling mad-machine for days on end and are now struggling to keep your eyes open long enough to write “Once upon a time”…

Seriously? Go to bed. Even the most dedicated of us need a power nap now and then.

Awake refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to show that novel who’s boss.

For all other dilemmas, I advise you to keep your head in the clouds and your hands on the keyboard, and to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. But if NaNoWriMo had been around back then, it very well might have been built in thirty.

Best of luck to you all, and I’ll see you at 50K.

Yours,

Marissa Meyer

*Taken from nanowrimo.org

National Novel Writing Month–Fangirl

One of my favorite young adult novels, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, began as a NaNoWriMo project. Keep reading to find out a little about the book and for some encouragement from Rainbow Rowell about your own writing.

fangirl

In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Here’s a pep talk from the brilliant and lovely Rainbow Rowell:

https://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/rainbow-rowell

 

National Novel Writing Month–The Night Circus

This week’s NaNoWriMo success story is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern:

nightcircus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Here is a pep talk from Erin Morgenstern for all of you participating in NaNoWriMo:

https://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/erin-morgenstern

 

 

National Novel Writing Month–Water for Elephants

As a fun nod to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the OWL’s role as a Come Write In space, I thought it would be fun to share a different bestseller each week in November that began as a NaNoWriMo novel. First up, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

waterforelephants

Ninety-something-year-old Jacob Jankowski remembers his time in the circus as a young man during the Great Depression, and his friendship with Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, and Rosie, the elephant, who gave them hope.

Here’s a pep talk from author Sara Gruen, for those of you participating in NaNoWriMo:

https://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/sara-gruen

See you next week!

Witches and Vampires and Zombies, Oh My!

Zombies! I don’t want to be that annoying person, but I have loved zombies for years, long before the mass proliferation of TV series, films, and books depicting them. So, I’m cooler than you think. 😉 Now that we’ve cleared that up here are my Top 3 zombie novels:

Cell by Stephen King Civilization doesn’t end with a bang or a whimper. It ends with a call on your cell phone. What happens on the afternoon of October 1 came to be known as the Pulse, a signal sent though every operating cell phone that turns its user into something…well, something less than human. Savage, murderous, unthinking-and on a wanton rampage. Terrorist act? Cyber prank gone haywire? It really doesn’t matter, not to the people who avoided the technological attack. What matters to them is surviving the aftermath.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks An account of the decade-long conflict between humankind and hordes of the predatory undead is told from the perspective of dozens of survivors who describe in their own words the epic human battle for survival.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (I know, I know, they’re cannibals not zombies but they are terrifying and they eat human flesh so I’m including it. It’s too good a book not to.) In a novel set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity.

 

Haunted Houses

It’s week 4 in our themed month of spooky book recommendations–Vampires and Witches and Zombies, Oh My!–this week we’ll explore some haunted houses.

Top 3 Haunted House Novels:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson The story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting;’ Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers–and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero With raucous humor and brilliantly orchestrated mayhem, Meddling Kids subverts teen detective archetypes like the Hardy Boys, the Famous Five, and Scooby-Doo, and delivers an exuberant and wickedly entertaining celebration of horror, love, friendship, and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn. (A haunted house is just one facet of this nostalgic wonder.)

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix After strange things start happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, three employees volunteer to work an overnight shift to investigate, but what they discover is more horrifying than they could have imagined. (Not quite a haunted house but a haunted Ikea-type furniture store.)

We’ll finish up next week with zombies!

Vampire Novels

I’m back with some more spooky October reads. This week’s focus is the vampire novel. Here are my Top 3:

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King ‘Salem’s Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in ‘Salem’s Lot was a summer of homecoming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned hoping to cast out his own devils and found instead a new, unspeakable horror. 

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer Isabella Swan’s move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. 

The Passage by Justin Cronin A security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment that only six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte can stop.

Up next: haunted houses!

Ghost Stories & Possession Novels

Over the course of October, and our 5 weeks of themed reader’s advisory–Witches and Vampires and Zombies, Oh My!–I have lots of “spooky” reads to recommend, however this week’s novels are just plain scary. Beware gentle reader!

Top 3 Ghost Stories & Possession Novels:

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill Middle-aged rock star Judas Coyne collects morbid curios for fun, so doesn’t think twice about buying a suit advertised at an online auction site as haunted by its dead owner’s ghost. Only after it arrives does Judas discover that the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of one of Coyne’s discarded groupies, and that the old man’s ghost is a malignant spirit determined to kill Judas in revenge for his stepdaughter’s suicide. 

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix 1988. Charleston, South Carolina. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act–different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries–and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty A young girl becomes possessed by the devil and causes several violent deaths before she can be cured.

Next week we’ll showcase some titles you can really sink your teeth into. *hint, hint*