Yesterday Girls – My NaNoWriMo Book Cover

No, you can’t run out to the bookstore and buy it…yet. According to the inspiration gurus over at NaNoWriMo, authors who create a book cover to inspire them are 60% more likely to finish the 50,000 word challenge by the end of November. So… Yesterday Girls eBook Cover


Note: This image is strictly for inspiration purposes. One thing I discovered while putting this together is that I am definitely NOT a professional book cover designer. When this novel appears on Amazon, it will have a much, MUCH better cover. Still, this is a fun inspirational exercise that I highly recommend for anyone in need to a little positive writerly mojo.

During one of his PBS specials, Wayne Dyer said that he geared up to write a new book by calling his publisher’s design department and having them mock up the cover design before he started writing. Now, if you have Wayne Dyer’s mega sales figures, you probably have publishing design professionals willing to do this for you too. The rest of us have free resources like Canva and PhotoPin.

What do you think? Does this cover make you want to pick up/click on the book to read more? Or does it miss the mark entirely? Have you ever used an image to inspire your creativity?

photo credit: Drift Bottle via photopin (license)

NaNoWriMo Write In Events – 5 FAQs

Hands to keyboardWhat is a Write In?

Believe it or not, a Write In is exactly what it sounds like. A group of writers show up at a designated place and time with their laptop (or tablet or pencil & paper) to write. It’s not meant to be a discussion about the craft of writing. It’s not a workshop on how to get published. It’s not a critique group or a marketing session.

A NoNoWriMo Write In is all about massive word count production.

Are you serious? You just sit there and write?

Yes and no. Some writers might show up, plug in earphones and say nothing to anyone for the full 2 hours. And that is OK. Some writers might want to interact more by calling out questions to the group such as “I need plot help, how can I get an elephant into a bathtub?” or “Do ninjas wear shoes?” or “Does anyone know how to turn off the auto-correct on my Word file?” And that is also OK.

The key most important thing is to write, write, write! And then write some more.

That’s all there is to it?

Well, there will be a very brief round of introductions at the start. If enough folks are interested, we may have word sprints where we set a timer for 5-10 minutes and write as fast as possible to see who has the most words when the timer goes off. I may throw out kooky challenges like adding an item/key word to the scene your working on. Examples include “Add a Ninja to your scene” or “Something explodes.” Participation in word sprints and writing challenges is strictly voluntary. If someone is cruising along on their heartwarming knitting romance, they may not care to add a ninja or an explosion. On the other hand, their characters could start discussing how to knit a ninja costume for a beloved grandchild and open a whole new subplot based on Ida Mae’s grandson who is in the hospital suffering from burns. It’s all just silly writing fun, but it could open new plot possibilities.

Why would someone participate in that nonsense?

Some people hate Write In events but I love them. During my first four years of participation in NaNoWriMo, I found the Write In events to be highly motivating. Writing is such a solitary pursuit. It feels good to spend time with others doing the same thing. There is just something so magical about sitting in a room surrounded by the sounds of fingers tip, tap, click, clacking away as fast as possible.

When you listen to music with a fast tempo, you walk faster. When you listen to the cacophony of other productive writers typing fast, you type faster. At least I do.

I want to join a Write In. Is it open to any writer currently working on a manuscript?

Yes! My events will be at two public libraries so they are open to all authors (and aspiring authors) who want to participate. I’m not going to audit the group and/or exclude anyone who has not registered on the NaNoWriMo website (or the Young Writers Program website). That said, I HIGHLY recommend joining the challenge, creating an author profile and a novel. It’s all FREE…and there is something so powerful and motivating about posting word counts online.

Sounds great! When and where can I participate in a Write In?

I’m hosting two write in events in the North Georgia region:

  1. Tuesdays 7:30 – 9:30 PM at the Dawson County Library
  2. Fridays 7:30 – 9:30 PM at the Lumpkin County Library

There are lots of other NaNoWriMo events in North Georgia and all over the world. You can click here to find an event near you.

photo credit: Annette + Powerbook + Teh Interwebz via photopin (license)

November is National Novel Writing Month – Join the Madness!

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareWhat do my first published novel and Sara Gruen’s spectacular novel Water For Elephants have in common?

If you guessed anything to do with sales figures, you would be wrong. However, they both started as NaNoWriMo winners.

Unfortunately, 2006 (the year I wrote the first 50,000 words of NSLA, NSFA) was the last time I won the month-long writing challenge. But that is about to change!

I’ve decided to dive head-first into NaNoWriMo this year. Here’s what that means:

  • I’ve signed up (it’s FREE)
  • Updated my author profile (I’m Slayzak)
  • Designed a novel cover on Canva (Also FREE if you use free elements)
  • Started planning a whole new novel (it’s going to be SPOOK-tacular)
  • And volunteered to host 2 weekly Come Write In events in Dahlonega and Dawsonville (GULP!)

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year and are in the North Georgia region, please, please, PLEASE come join one or both of my write in events:

  1. Tuesdays 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM at the Dawson County Library
  2. Fridays 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM at the Lumpkin County Library

Yes, the times are outside of both libraries’ posted hours, but don’t let that scare you away. We’ll be meeting in the Community Rooms at both locations and I’ll have the key to get in.

Participating in NaNoWriMo in another region/state? Or just not interested in working on your novel with a group? Tap me as a writing buddy! I make a great writing buddy. Really, I do. Tap me.

2014 Dahlonega Literary Festival – March 8-9

According to 11Alive news, this weekend is going to be absolutely gorgeous – sunny with highs in the upper 60’s – a glorious Spring day. In fact, Saturday is predicted to be a perfect 10 on the WIZometer.

Woo hoo!!! This will be a FABULOUS weekend for the Dahlonega Literary Festival.


Even though I’m recovering from knee surgery – still unable to drive or walk without crutches or navigate stairs – words cannot fully express how much I’m looking forward to actually getting outside of this house and being around people who love books.

The lineup of authors is absolutely stellar this year! Here’s my own personal highlights:

  • Joshilyn Jackson – Anyone who reads my blog knows that I shamelessly hero-worship Joshilyn, but did you know her most recent novel (Someone Else’s Love Story) and the prequel short story (My Own Miraculous) are set in Dahlonega?? Both works are wonderful and amazing. Read them up!
  • Mark Braught – One of my favorite SCBWI illustrators. This guy is an incredible inspiration….and I should mention his illustrations were used on merchandising for the first Harry Potter movie.
  • George Weinstein – When I bought/read George’s first novel, Hardscrabble Road I was a little nervous to read it; afraid the subject matter might be depressing. The MC’s life seemed so desperate and dreary! Guess what? I fell in love! Completely, hopelessly in love. I can barely wait to dive into his second novel, The Five Destinies of Carlos Moreno.
  • Cassandra King – After listening to an NPR interview with her, I purchased Moonrise and thoroughly enjoyed the story. It’s a modern Southern Gothic with a heavy dose of inspiration from du Maurier’s Rebecca.
  • Deanna Raybourn – She writes a-MAZE-ing novels about romantic, mystical creatures, but I loved her most recent historical novel – A Spear of Summer Grass.

NOTE: The first person who walks up to me during this festival and says, “May the literary Force be with you” will win a FREE copy of my novel (NSLA, NSFA).

Here’s the full DLF Schedule (taken from their website):

Saturday, March 8th 
*All Programming at St. Luke’s unless otherwise noted


  1. Creating Characters That Readers Care About (Rm. 103/105) – Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Michael Bishop, Kim Boykin, Terry Kay, Cassandra King, Erika Marks, George Weinstein
  2. Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books, a mini-workshop with Mark Braught (Rm. 106) (also featuring Patsy Henry and Ed T. Payne)


  1. Dahlonega in the Spotlight: Someone Else’s Love Story, A Book Talk with Joshilyn Jackson (Rm. 103/105)
  2. Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, a mini-workshop with Alex Hughes and James R. Tuck (Rm. 106)


  1. Glimpse of the Past: Incorporating History Into Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Delilah S. Dawson, Cassandra King, Charles McNair, Erika Marks, Deanna Raybourn, Denise Weimar
  2. Writing Fiction: Regional Authors Share Their Experiences (Rm. 101) Panelists: Jim Booth, Sue Cass, Alison Reeger Cook, Mitch Doxsee, Mike Herron, C.D. Mitchell, Madelyn Shepard, Bill Stuart
  3. Character Drawing with Mark Braught (Rm. 106)

12:30–1:30 – Lunch with the Author (at area restaurants–attendees responsible for their meals)


  1. Fantasy for Everyone: The Many Realms of Speculative Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Michael Bishop, Delilah S. Dawson, Ann Hite, Alex Hughes, James R. Tuck, Jadie Jones
  2. Truth Be Told: Writing Non-Fiction (Rm. 101) Panelists: Susan Lindsley, William Rawlings, Kent Kammermeyer, Dennis McKenna, Carroll McMahan, Fiona Page, Carlotta Russell
  3. Writing Poetry, a mini-workshop with Kathryn Hinds, also featuring Jeff Newberry (Rm. 106)


  1. From Chuckles to Belly Laughs: Hitting the Right Note with Humor (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Kim Boykin, Jackie Cooper, Joshilyn Jackson, Terry Kay, Charles McNair, James R. Tuck
  2. Stonepile Writers Reading (Rm. 101)
  3. Writing Mysteries, a mini-workshop with Deborah Malone (Rm. 106)


  1. On the Edge of Our Seats: The Element of Suspense in Fiction (Rm. 103/105) Panelists: Alex Hughes, Susan Lindsley, William Rawlings, Deanna Raybourn, George Weinstein, Saundra Kelley. Julia McDermott
  2. Southern Poetry Anthology Presentation and Reading (Rm. 101)
  3. Preparing Your Manuscript, a mini-workshop with April Loebick, Managing Editor, University of North Georgia Press (Rm. 106)

5:15–6:30Author Meet-and-Greet, Open to the Public, Community House

7:00 Saturday Night Live: Dinner at Don Pollo’s
Buffet dinner for $17.99 plus tax, or order from the menu. Six of our featured authors will read short selections.

Sunday, March 9th 
*Programming held at Community House

12:30–1:15 – What is Southern Fiction, Anyway? Panelists: Raymond Atkins, Kim Boykin, Jackie Cooper, Terry Kay, Cassandra King, Charles McNair, George Weinstein

1:30–2:15 – The Role of Setting in Fiction – Panelists: Michael Bishop, Mark Braught, Alex Hughes, Susan Lindsley, Erika Marks, William Rawlings, James R. Tuck

After the Festival Fun for Writers:

3:00–6:00 p.m – Write-In (Starbuck’s next to UNG campus) How would you like to meet with other aspiring writers to discuss issues, offer support, share ideas, and even play a game or two? Word Wars and Word Challenges will be part of the fun.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Top 10 Witches I Have Loved

I still remember the year my grandmother carefully crafted a hand-stitched, hand-painted witch’s costume for my Halloween trick-or-treating. I think I was 9 or 10 years old. Oh, how we fought over that costume! I wanted to be a pretty witch, like Samantha or Glenda. As far as my Grandmother was concerned, every witch had crow’s feet, green skin and a huge wart on her nose. Otherwise, who would know I was supposed to be a witch?!?

In that same vein, I do not like the way witches are depicted by Hollywood. As a general rule, films about witches are NOT my favorites. But there are a few exceptions…

Here’s the Top 10 List of My Favoritest Film Witches of All Time:

10  –  Samantha Stephens (Bewitched TV Series 1964 – 72) While I hated Darwood…er, Darren (in all of his incarnations) and also hated the fact that Samantha was willing to subjugate herself to her husband’s inexplicable shame over of her witchcraft, I still love Samantha. Who does not love a woman who can wiggle her nose to produce Ben Franklin?

9  –  The 3 Witches (Macbeth)In case yesterday’s post didn’t warn you, I think these three hags are the best part of the Shakespeare drama.

–  Morgaine (Mists of Avalon)Julianna Margulies as Morgaine? Yeah…nuf said.

–  Esmeralda (Bewitched TV Series 1964 – 72)With her mod hairdo, thick blue eyeshadow and flowing psychedelic wardrobe…who would not want to be Esmeralda?

6  – The Sanderson Sisters (Hocus Pocus)OK – yes they are evil and out to suck the living essence out of innocent children. But it’s Bette, Kathy Najimy & SJP!

–  Gillian Holroyd (Bell, Book and Candle) Come on! Kim Novak as a witch with a fatal attraction for Jimmy Stewart? (SIGH) And Pyewacket! Oh, Pyewacket!!! I have spent my life looking for my very own Pyewacket.

4  –  Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series)Do I really need to explain this one? Hermione is the best witch of our age!

3  –  Alexandra, Jane & Sukie (The Witches of Eastwick)Heh, heh, heh…one of my favorite mistakes! I highly recommended this movie to my dear, sweet, VERY Christian cousin..without telling him any of the details (Hey, I was in high school! And had no idea he would take a girl to see this movie on a FIRST DATE. Doh!) Still, I love this movie. Why? (Hint: It’s not really a movie about witches and the devil. It’s an allegory.)

2  –  Mary Poppins (do I really need to tell you the movie?)What is that you say? Mary Poppins is not a witch? I beg your pardon! She communicates with animals, jumps into cartoons, teaches lessons with a crystal ball, totes a carpet bag full of impossible wonders and flies through the air with an umbrella. Yeah, kids, last time I checked that’s a witch. And she might just be the most wonderful witch in the history of literature or movies!

1  –  Aunt Frances & Aunt Jet (Practical Magic)I love this movie. Love, love, LOVE it!! And while I cheer for Sally and her impossible true love, it is the allure of the outrageous Aunts and their magical house by the sea that draws me back to this story over and over.

This list is personal, highly subjective and entirely open to debate. Did you notice I have a bias for the Good Witches? What about you? Who are your favorite witches (good or bad) that I missed and why do you love them?

15 Minutes of Reclaim

Hello Everybody. Welcome to my 15 minutes of writing allotment for today. Let me explain…

I’m still recovering from Dragon*Con (more about that experience coming soon) and struggling to recuperate from a brief vacation on Edisto Island, SC…which shall heretofore be known as the Vacation From Hell (or VFH).

Beach Freak OutWhy was it the vacation from hell? you may ask. Well, honestly, it wasn’t that bad. It was my mood and my attitude that magnified every minor issue into a calamity of unbearable proportions. Have you ever noticed how the worse it gets, the worse it gets? Yes, well, I have some strong beliefs about that. Beliefs that most people would consider weird, kooky woo woo stuff. But seriously, this vacation was like a case study on the power of negative thinking. A few highlights:

  • A television that turned itself on and off randomly
  • Lights that flickered on and off every 3-5 minutes
  • Eternally running toilets
  • “Clean” utensils/dishes in the drawers/cabinets crusted with old cheese
  • Swarms of insects
  • Suspected food poisoning (for Mike)
  • Sore throat/cold (for me)
  • My first jellyfish sting (down the back of my right calf)

So…at a relatively calm, peaceful, pleasant break in the bad stuff, Mike and I sat together on the beach taking deep breaths and trying to dissect my current plethora of mental health issues. I tried to explain to him…well, everything. My escalating job pressures. My crazy, marathon schedule. My berserk stress levels. My writing goals. My marketing goals. My disappointments. My failures. My grief.

Mike listened thoughtfully, as he always listens, then confessed that he has been observing me over the past few months (Shall we say since May?) and he is worried. Either I’m going to explode into a thousand million pieces that no one will ever be able to put together again OR I am going to collapse into myself until I am the human equivalent of a sucking black hole.

As cautious as Pi approaching that man-eating tiger, Mike asked me to seriously consider a suggestion.

Stop. Just stop.

Stop doing everything extra outside my core job responsibilities and focus on my health – both mental & physical – for the next two months. Exclusively.

Wait! Stop everything?

Yes, everything. No writing. No blogging. No marketing. Just stop. Not forever. Just for two months. Channel all creativity and focus into health and well-being.

Whoa! This was a horrifying request/suggestion. Especially that part about not writing at all. What the WHAT?!?! That will make me even crazier. Unused creativity is NOT benign. It will eat me up inside! (Note: My sweetheart is not a fiction writer with that incurable need to create stories.) Still, I did promise to take a day or two to consider what he was suggesting.

The next morning, while catching up on my favorite author blogs, I saw this post from one of my favorite authors – Laurie Halse Anderson. It’s time for her 6th annual Write Fifteen Minutes A Day (WFMAD) Challenge.

My first reaction: Heh…how sad that some aspiring writers find it challenging to write for ONLY 15 minutes every day. I am so beyond that.

Second reaction: Wait! this could be the perfect compromise/test for Mike’s proposal. I will allow myself 15 minutes and ONLY 15 minutes to write each day. Blog posts, journal entries, new fiction. I can use my 15 minutes however I want, but I can only spend 15 minutes each day. For one month. Then I will re-evaluate.

I submitted my counter idea to Mike and he seemed quite pleased and proud of me. And now, we have an agreement.

So…you have just read my 15 minutes for today (Oops! 17 minutes. Don’t tell my honey.) Tomorrow will be my first day working on a first draft for only 15 minutes (gulp).

photo credit: Amy McTigue via photopin cc

After Writer Dreams – Dreaming Big

This is a two part post.

Part One…I want to tell you about After Writer Dreams, an utterly fantastic motivational blog for writers.

I met Margaret Nystrom online while participating in writing challenges hosted by Ezra & Beth Barany. Toward the end of the session, Margaret posted an open offer to feature books by any published authors in the group on her website. The first thing I did was click over to her website. Wow! I was immediately impressed by the wealth of information and inspiration I found there, but then I clicked on her post for Day 1 of July Camp NaNoWriMo and just about fell in love with her (in a non-creepy way, I swear).

So, of course, I sent her my book information. And, yes, Margaret was kind enough to feature the NSLA cover with a link to my website. But that’s not why I’m posting her links here. Seriously, After Writer Dreams is a wonderful resource for writers. Check it out!

Part Two…Dreaming BigRainbow DreamsI have this fantasy version of my writerly life that is very near and dear to my heart. The fantasy has grown and evolved over time, but certain elements remain constant:

  • Mega-bestselling novels that entertain readers and leave them panting for the next one. (This one, obviously, is a given.)
  • A picturesque home, usually a brightly painted Victorian “Gingerbread House” like these on Martha’s Vineyard…or this house from Practical Magic.
  • A bright, airy, colorful, uncluttered writing space
  • A library filled with fabulous books and a cozy reading nook
  • A loving husband/partner who supports my writing
  • At least 2 adorable fuzzy pets…possibly more.
  • A closet full of custom designed dresses…preferably chosen/approved by Tim Gunn.
  • A friendly neighborhood cafe where I meet up with other writerly types to write, write, write on a regular basis

Heretofore, the above elements shall be known as THE DREAM.

Now, I’ve told you this because I want to ask you this…Did you see the CBS Sunday Morning article on Cassandra Clare that aired last Sunday (8/18/13)? If not, you can click here to watch it online.

When I first saw that article, my reaction was electric. I could not sit still. I was jumping up and down squealing like a total nutcase. That woman is living my dream! (Actually, she is living her dream, which bears a striking resemblance to my dream, but let’s not split hairs. It’s THE DREAM!)

This makes Cassandra Clare my latest personal inspiration. (Disclaimer: I am aware that there’s some controversy out there on the Internets regarding the…um, originality or lack thereof, in Ms. Clare’s writing. I have no opinion nor interest in that controversy. The point is that she is a real, living, breathing author who is living THE DREAM and, therefore, proof that it is possible.)

You know what? There is a big difference between motivation and inspiration.

Motivation is taking action to avoid or stop something bad. When I’m hungry, I’m motivated to eat. When my pants are tight, I’m motivated to exercise more. When I hear the talking heads on TV blathering on about some financial crisis, I’m motivated to turn off the TV (or at least change the channel). When Zoey yowls and jumps on me, I’m motivated to get up and feed her.

Inspiration is THE DREAM. It is the dazzling, magical realm of possibilities. Inspiration makes it possible to push forward against the odds and do something that makes your heart sing…even when you can’t remember the last time your heart sang.

What is your dream? Do you ever let yourself write it or say it out loud? Does thinking about your dream inspire you to take action? Or does it leave you feeling empty, sad and lost for the lack of it?