Saturday, November 5, 2016

My NaNoWriMo 2016 Cover and Excerpt

Ok this is far from perfect. I whipped it up in a few seconds and I have to get back to my words so I don't have time to worry about all the elements. Also the image is totally unlicensed, but google image search did not reveal any copyrights or show it in any photostock collections, and this is just for fun. So unless I get a cease and desist letter, here you go.

Ok so, in case it isn't obvious this is a near future cyber sci-fi detective novel, with a a little bit of tongue in cheek humor. Book one of The Adventures of Nick Flick, Geek Detective.

First Page Excerpt:

At the worst possible moment Nick Flick’s iLazer v4.6.1 jammed.

Nick cursed the small handheld device jabbing his thumb at it repeatedly as an ape of a man, Nick’s target, trudged toward him from the other side of the abandoned airplane hangar.

HitDawg, a level 2 griefer, was just as nasty in person as his VR attacks. Pounding fist to palm the bald, six-foot-tall brute with multiple piercings demonstrated all the signs of a man resolved to unleash destruction.

The iLazer bleeped and the holo hourglass turned over and over, like Fate was having a moment of indecision. Finally the hourglass blinked off and he felt the cube hum in his hand.

As the man rumbled toward him, Nick aimed his iLazer and fired.

However, no defensive beam came to his rescue. The rollicking theme music of the Farmer Joe app played instead.

He shook the device but the only thing that accomplished was the ka-chugg sound of crops being planted—albeit a satisfying sound, it was not the result he was hoping for.

“Cutting edge my ass!” he said and slammed the device into the rusted support beam beside him. The folly of this particular “repair” attempt didn’t occur to him until after he heard the distinct ping of the optic lens firing. 

©2016 Amanda June Hagarty

Friday, November 4, 2016

5 Recipes for a Perfect NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo isn't easy. To get your words done, you get up early, or go to bed late--or both. On top of that you ingest vastly inappropriate amounts of caffeine. And in the midst of all that there isn't a lot of time for good home cooking.

The key to putting 30 days of meals on your table as you type 50,000 words is making fast, easy meals--hopefully make enough for leftovers--without resorting to fast food and frozen dinners.

Spaghetti, stew, and Chile are perfect, but you can only have so much of them. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to help fill in the gaps:

Fast Steamed Fish...all wrapped up and ready to go

Fish fillets, any white fish (mahi mahi is a fav)
Sliced lemons
salt and pepper
carrots, washed and sliced (peeling takes way too much time and unpeeled carrots are more tasty)
sprigs of green onion (and/or other fresh herbs)

Preheat oven to 400 degree. Place each fillet in a square of aluminum foil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, top with lemon slices, surround with carrot and top with sprigs of onion/herbs. Wrap up the foil to create a packet. and seal it tightly. Place on a baking sheet in the over for 25 minutes. Which is just enough time to cook up some rice for the side. Serve the fish in packets, the steam smells great when the packet opens.

Chicken & Dumpling Soup...flour, baking powder, and a magical transformation

4 cups Chicken Broth (just boil chicken bones in water with salt, pepper, herbs, onion, celery, carrots for a few hours--or use the instant stuff if you must)
Carrots, washed and sliced
Chicken breast, cubed
Dumplings: 1-1/2 cup flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt, 3 tbsp oil, 3/4 cup milk

Bring chicken broth to a boil, add chicken and boil until cooked. Mix the dumpling ingredients into a paste. Add carrots to the boiling broth, then drop the dumpling paste in a spoonful at a time. Turn down heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes. (The bigger the pot the better because this will tend to foam up and spill over as it cooks.)

Tuna A La King....the roux is king!

1/2 cup of margarine
1 green pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/4 cup chicken broth
1 can tuna, drained
1-2 oz jar pimentos, drained (optional)

Melt margarine in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Cook the green peppers and mushrooms in the margarine until pepper is crisp-tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Stir constantly over medium heat until bubbly and pasty. Remove from heat and add milk and broth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly until it thickens. (Congratulations you just made a roux, one of the most essential cooking skills you will ever learn--this is basically like adding a can of cream soup to a recipe--and you can change the veggies to almost anything as long as you take into account the different cooking times). Stir in the can of tuna and pimentos, cook until heated through. Serve over noodles, rice, or toast. Yumm!

By the way you can make this with chicken or turkey too. Also if you skip the pimentos, swap out the mushrooms and peppers for onions and frozen peas (add the peas near the end), then pour it in a double pie crust, and throw it in the oven at 425F for 35 minutes you have a pot pie.

Pasta, Eggs, and Cheese....the three ingredient miracle

3 eggs
1/2 cup of grated parmesan, or Romano cheese
1 lb spaghetti (thin works really well)
salt and pepper

Put a pot of salted water on to boil. Heat oven to 200F and put a large oven proof bowl in for 5 minutes. Take the bowl out of the oven, crack the eggs into it and whisk until they are well blended. Stir in cheese. When the water has a good boil going, stir in the pasta and cook (here is a secret tip: if you stir in the pasta, put a lid on the pot and turn it all the way off or down to the lowest temperature for 10 minutes, the pasta will cook just the same as it would if you boiled it the whole time, but won't stick together as much.) When the pasta is cooked set aside 1 cup of the cooking liquid and drain the rest. Then toss the hot pasta into the egg and cheese mixture, stirring it around really well (this cooks the eggs so you don't want them to be a lump on the bottom of the bowl). Add salt and pepper to taste, more cheese if desired, and if it seems a little dry you can add some of the reserved cooking liquid.

Shrimp Scampi...those little scamps!

1/3 cup olive oil
1tbsp minced garlic
1-1/2 lbs. raw peeled shrimp
salt and pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice (or white wine if you are fancy)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Add olive oil to large skillet over low heat. Add garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes until golden. Turn heat to medium and carefully lay out shrimp in an even layer. After about 2-3 minutes when the shrimp is pink on one side turn each of them over and cook another 2-3 minutes. When cooked they will be pink all over but still barely translucent inside. And they will taste like heavenly sea butter. So do yourself a favor and be super careful not to overcook them. Stir in lemon juice. Turn off the heat stir for 30 seconds more, and add parsley. You should have a nice little sauce. I like to stir this into a batch of thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta.

I have so many more recipes I could share, but it's NaNoWriMo and I can only spare so many words for blog posts. I hope these recipes help you get those awesome meals on the table and get back to writing as quickly as possible--and maybe convince a few people you are super human at the same time.

Wishing you luck and many words!

©2016 Amanda June Hagarty

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rhianna and the Magic Horse

My current work on Wattpad is going well now that I have committed to publishing a chapter every Sunday. I am up to 22 chapters and maybe not quite half done. Or maybe a third of the way done. We'll see how much I come up with.

I have a skeleton of a plot now. At first it was all pantsing, but I feel better when I have something to write toward. Of course things come out of the blue all the time. For example, in chapter 22 the whole mask thing came out of nowhere. And it's not like I can just let that lie now. I am going to have to weave it into the story going forward as something really significant. Anyone who says plotting takes all the fun and surprise out of writing is dead wrong.

Also, you may find a lot of cliff hangers...barn door hangers...mid-sentence hangers. But the more you complain about them the more I will write them, as my current number one fan Asha is discovering. She loves it but oh how she hates it!

But I don't just write cliffhangers to mess with Asha. I write them as a kind of anti-writer's block ointment. When I write a cliffhanger, I know exactly how the next scene is going to start (well, usually--sometimes I think of something totally spontaneous...take that pantsers!) And that makes it really easy to writer the next chapter. Because once I start typing my fingers take care of the rest.

So, if you want to check it out, read Rhianna and the Magic Horse on Wattpad. It's fantasy, fairy type stuff and has a magic horse. How can you resist?

PS - The jury is still out on what the horse is...just magic...maybe a unicorn...maybe something else. I take all input from readers and then I probably turn around and do the opposite.

PPS - Don't forget to follow me on Wattpad and vote and comment on all my chapters. I will love and adore you for it.

©2016 Amanda June Hagarty

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Master the creation of universes? No problem. Put them into a book...ummm...

The first challenge of being a writer is writing.

Writing is hard.

Technically, it is easy. By the time we are five we are happily scrawling our own name with any writing implement we are allowed to get our hands on, on whatever big white space we decide needs to be filled--like walls. I never could figure out why my mother didn't believe me when I tried to blame that on my infant sister.

If any 5 year old with access to crayons and wall space can write, why is it so hard?

It begins with honing basic skills. We have to learn the difference between a 5 and an S and then we have to build our vocabulary, and then we have to learn how to use all the squiggles that punctuate our sentences. Damn those squiggles!

"This is your brain on writing."
(credit: Illustris)
Then we start to dream, start to imagine. What would a story be like if we were in control? Imaginary friends, fantasy worlds, and an ability to concoct different scenarios in our minds eye. We don't have brains, we have receptacles for an endless sea of parallel universes. This starts out as such innocent fun, but it is the essence of what makes writers anxious creatures. (How many times have you stumbled on the stairs, but regained your footing, only to have an entire scenario play out in your mind's eye where you actually fell and broke your neck and then laid there for days because nobody would miss you right away?)

Then we have to learn the art of storytelling. Some of this comes instinctually after years of reading and reading and reading. We suck up the raw materials by osmosis. And then we forge them into a mighty skill with workshops, lessons, books on craft, and endless critique sessions.

And while all that is going on we are also absorbing all the lessons of our life experiences that will take each universe in our head from a swirling mass of nebulae and temper them into organized solar systems.

Basically, the road to being a writer is the road to being able to spawn fully functioning universes independant from the limits of our imaginations on command. Sounds vaguely divine, eh? Like writers might be the gods of multiple universes? Hey, you said it not me.

So now here we are. We have travelled the long road of deification. And for all our supreme powers we face a final and sometimes impossible challenge of writing it all down, editing it and turning it into a book.

Discipline over procrastination.

It's frickin' hard!

©2016 Amanda June Hagarty

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Norwescon: A Mosaic of Everyone

Norwescon is one of my favorite events.

I love the diversity. At Norwescon every flavor of people shows up and talks about every topic that has ever been talked about. It is a mosaic of people, all sharing the same experience.

You know it's Norwescon
when even the Daleks
are getting into cosplay
The experience is a mash up of panels, gaming, parties, costumes, more parties, meeting people, seeing old friends, and full blown geek-out moments. And of course the elevators who are out to get us. (I used who on purpose because these suckers are straight out of a Douglas Adams novel).

But what ties it all together is the community--this group of people getting together for a weekend to let it all hang loose.

Norwescon 39 was my third time attending for a full weekend. Does it count as 3.25 if I attended 36 on Sunday only? Or maybe since Sunday is just a part day we could be fun and estimate it at 3.14?

This year I decided to focus less on the panels. After a few years they lose their shine anyway. Even if the titles are different, the people are often the same, and you can suddenly find yourself experiencing a glitch in the Matrix as the deja vu sets in. Which is just a flaw of the panel format. And so I decided to make this year more about meeting and hanging out with people.

Being newish at the con I can't help but get the feeling that nobody is interested in being friends with me sometimes. I am insecure that way. My second year I recognized people from the first year, said hello, and then proceeded to haunt/stalk them. I am awkward that way. But this is my third year so this magical thing started happening where people would wave and say "Hey, Amanda!" And then I did the social equivalent of snorting milk out my nose in my excitement. I am such a geek that way.

I went to parties, I hung around Hospitality like it was my personal Cheers (did I just age myself?), I found this little group of people interested in something I am keen on, and they totally let me hang out with them!

I bumped into people I had no idea would even be at Norwescon, I hung out with one, shared an awkward hug with someone I think maybe wasn't a hug person (my bad sorry). I saw Deadpool--a lot. It may have been the same Deadpool...or not. Hard to be sure because he never took off his mask.

The other thing I decided was that I was going to try not to only go to panels on subjects I considered myself somewhat knowledgeable on. Sure there is a small possibility I will hear a new perspective on something, but let's face it, a con panel is not going to give much beyond the 101 experience. So I challenged myself to go to a few panels that I had no idea what the heck it was about. I went to one, spontaneously and randomly, about Asymmetrical Warfare. I had no idea what that was before I sat in on it. Now I do. I am not sure how I will be able to use that knowledge yet, but I am a geek and a writer, knowledge is like diamond encrusted platinum to me.

Next year I think I will try harder to go to totally random and unexpected panels. And hopefully my level of human interactions and bonding will be kicked up another notch. Maybe I will even play some games with some people. That would be cool.

Here is to many more years of Norwescon and its community! Hopefully, I don't get stuck in an elevator or lose a leg to those temperamental doors. But if I do, I am sure there will be a bunch of awesome people around to share the moment with.

Don't trust the hand salts!

©2016 Amanda June Hagarty

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Plots and Cold Calling - Lessons from NaNoWriMo

A phone call from a sales person and a plot seem worlds apart, but I had a revelation this month as I wrote 3000 words on #DoubleUpDay during #NaNoWriMo2015, and they actually are not as far apart as you might think.

My husband and I were talking about whether to use a script or not when cold calling. He is a realtor and calling people is sometimes part of the job. Even though some of his best calls happen when he goes off script, he told me that a script is a necessary tool for any sales person, whether they are new or experienced, because "it frees up your mental space, so you can think more clearly about your responses."

I thought this was exceptionally wise, just from a sales perspective. But then I had one of those "aha" moments today as I was writing my words for NaNoWriMo. Having a script while writing does exactly the same thing!

I had a complete 11 page plot outline ready to go one week prior to November 1st. And I know some die-hard pantsers out there think that this means I would be immediately bored with my story, but this is not at all true, and especially not so when you are writing the entire thing in 30 days. You just don't have the time to get bored.

Having a plot to follow is just like having a script to follow in a sales situation. You might think you would get bored saying the same thing to everyone time and time again, not only does it never get boring, but it also frees up your mental space. Today, I had a plot point in mind that I was heading toward, but between where I started and that plot point, things happened that I did not expect. And by not having to spend all my mental energy trying to think of what was coming next in the plot, I had this massive amount of brain space freed up to think about all the finer points and details along the way.

This is my most year is my most productive yet for a NaNoWriMo. I am at the end of week one and already over 15,000 words. The plot has had a lot to do with that.

©2015 Amanda June Hagarty

Monday, October 26, 2015

nAmping up for November - No such thing as Writers Block!

This is my fourth NaNoWriMo. I started with a win in 2012. I bombed in 2013, but I was back on my game in 2014. Now I am ready for 2015. I put the finishing touches on an 11 page plot outline this morning. I have a good story planned out and I know I can pump out 50K words in November or even more. I am pumped, I am ready to go. Are you?

Don't let all my plotting and planning scare you off. In 2012 I joined at the last minute and had nothing but a fading dream as inspiration. That turned into my almost 60K story Little Lacey which is enjoying a modest success on Wattpad and soon to be published for reals. To hit 50K words you don't need to plot at all. Just write the words--there are always at least 50K available in my brain any given month. I am only plotting this time around to avoid 3 years of editing to get a finished product.

For those who who doubt that 50K words will be available in your brain in the month of November, I say pish posh! Of course there are. There will always be words.

Some of you may be worried about writers block. Never fear, I have some words of wisdom about that (see more words!).

The first rule about how to deal with writers block is to not believe in writers block.

Seriously. Don't even lend it a shred of credibility. It does not exist. Procrastination exists. Writers block does not.

Yes, sometimes we get stuck on "what next" as writers. But that is usually just a very specific point in a story. You are totally allowed to jump forward to after that part where you got stuck and write about the parts that you have some fresh ideas about. Chances are you will get unstuck somewhere in the middle of writing the new part and go back. Remember, you don't have to write in a linear way from A to Z.

Sometimes you are just stuck on a whole story. That's ok. I bet if you listen to your brain a little it will whisper other story ideas to you. You can go work on those while you try to get unstuck on your other project too. You only get stuck if you don't allow yourself that flexibility to hop around.

Here are some other things you can do to jump start your creativity.

First, step away fro the keyboard. You can't always think about what is going to happen in a story if you are also typing it at the same time. Typing and creative thinking are 2 different brain processes and they don't always play nice together.

So what do you do?

Here is a list of the activities which have led to massive brainstorms for me:

Folding laundry
Gardening/Pulling weeds
Walking around the block
Lounging in bed
Watching a TV show (not often, but a very few times)
Reading a book
Reading a book about writing (especially)
(If you have any suggestions please add to the list in the comments!)

These all involve taking a mental break and free your brain to wander a bit. A wandering brain is the best state to get the creative juices flowing.

So just start writing. And if you get stuck, DON'T WORRY. There is no such thing as writers block. The boogey man....maybe....but not writers block.

50k is a snap. Let's do this!

©2015 Amanda June Hagarty

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