Score One for the Plotters!

First of all, I finished the full draft of Crow's Rest yesterday! Cullooh! Callay!

Of course, that doesn't mean it's finished. But it's worth taking a moment to celebrate before diving into revisions. I also wanted to take a sec to talk about the process for this book.

Before even starting on Crow's Rest, I did things a little different from the mostly-pantsing method used to plot my first book: I took the time to do a very detailed outline.

And let me tell you, it paid off big time. Whenever I had writer's block, or had spent some time away from the manuscript, the outline got me back on track. And whenever I had a shiny new plot idea flirt my way, I could look at my original framework and see if it enhanced the story or just cluttered it up. (For the record, most of them would have just cluttered it up. I would have enjoyed writing them immensely, but self-indulgence doesn't always improve the book).

The only drawback was that it was harder for me to get the ending out. When I was pantsing, I was just as eager to find out how the book ended as the reader would be (hopefully!). But since I'd done such a detailed outline, I felt like there weren't any surprises and I was just filling in some blanks.

My bad guy had different ideas on that subject and threw me a few curveballs. So that was fun. I feel like the Big Confrontation is not quite Big enough, but at least now I have something down on the page to play with.

The other place the outline will help me is with charting the story arc (I like Vogler's Hero's Journey and Alderson's Plot Whisperer methods). I certainly kept the arc in mind while preparing the outline, and charting it is a great way to check that I hit all the correct notes in the drafting process.

And interestingly, I had worked on a practice query early on (and it got a request in WriteOnCon, btw) and put the estimated finished length at around 70,000. That estimate was based on the somewhat-spare first draft coming in at 65,000, plus another 5,000 in revisions to flesh out characters, motivations, etc. Well, the first draft clocked in at 64,967 words! Not bad.

If you have a finished draft to play with too, you might be interested in checking out Operation Awesome's NewYear's Revision Conference. It starts with a critique partner matchup on Jan. 3, and then the conference on the 4, 5, and 6. Authors, agents, and bloggers, oh my!

I have a lot of trouble finding gluten-free breads that are vegan (I'm also allergic to dairy and eggs) and which taste good and offer some nutritional value. For example, Mariposa Bakery and Schar offer breads that fit the GF/vegan bill, and taste good, but are mostly refined flours. Okay for an occasional treat (for an even more decadent treat, try Mariposa's Penguinos cupcakes) but not what I want to eat more frequently.

So I developed the following recipe; this bread freezes well and toasts up nicely. Once it's a few days old, it doesn't travel well though so make those sandwiches-to-go on the first day!

Multigrain Bread
(Gluten Free, Dairy Free, with Egg-free Option)

Moist and flavorful, like the honey wheat bread you remember, this take on Bette Hagman's New Formula Yeast bread makes excellent baguettes.  You'll get the best crust by using a perforated French bread pan, but it also makes a great sandwich bread in 7 ½ x 3 ¾ x 2 ¼  loaf pans.  Since the egg-free version doesn't rise quite as high, a good trick for sandwich bread is to slice the loaf horizontally into thirds or fourths, and then cut crosswise to the desired width.

Makes 2 loaves
1 2/3 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast granules (double if using an egg substitute)
1 teaspoon sugar

Dry ingredients:
2 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
3/4 cup sorghum flour
7 tablespoons almond meal
2 ½ teaspoons Xanthan gum
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Ener-G Foods  Egg Replacer
1/4 cup amaranth or teff grains, or mixture of the two
Optional: add up to 2 teaspoons inulin powder for added fiber

Wet ingredients:
1 egg + 2 egg whites or 6 tablespoons applesauce (see note on doubling yeast above if using applesauce or other egg substitute)
3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine or olive oil
1 ½  tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon  molasses
2 tablespoons honey

1. In a glass measuring cup, add yeast to the warm water along with the 1 teaspoon sugar.  Let stand until yeast forms a foam on the surface.  Meanwhile, spray your French bread pan with non-stick cooking spray if necessary, or grease and flour your loaf pans.

2. Blend all dry ingredients in a medium bowl or 4-cup measure and set aside.

3.  Mix wet ingredients in bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer (use the flat beater), just until blended.  Pour in yeast mixture.

4.  On low, add flour mixture a little at a time (a pouring shield is helpful) until all has been incorporated.  Consistency should be like cake batter.  Switch mixer to high for 3 ½ minutes.

5.  Spoon batter into prepared pans and even out with a rubber spatula.  Be sure to leave room in French bread pans for the dough to expand.  Let rise about 45 minutes.

7.  Preheat oven 375°.  Bake 35 minutes for French bread pans, and about 40 minutes for loaf pans.  Bread should give a slightly hollow sound when tapped.

Note: Leftover bread makes wonderful French toast, and fantastic stuffing or dressing when dried into cubes.

Note: I have also shared more of my GF recipes here on this blog

Unusual Author Photos

I ranted on Twitter and Facebook a while ago about "the worst agent photo I've ever seen." Now, granted, being a photographer makes me a little pickier, but you should also know that I rarely shoot portraits of people. Lots of pets, but people not so much.

But I do know that using a picture that makes you look uninviting, or dare I say freakish in a not-on-purpose way (I've seen author pics where they've zombified themselves and those are unique and cool), is not a good way to represent yourself professionally.

You don't need to spend a lot of money on author photos, although a professional will usually get you what you want in a shorter time frame. If you put the word out that you're looking, you can often match up with a student needing to increase their portfolio, or a photographer just starting out.

My critique group found a portraitist through the local camera club and we made an afternoon of it--we had time to change outfits, get creative with lighting and a wind machine, and do a kooky group shot. And all for free.

And my latest find is an Old Tyme Photo Studio at Marshall Gold State Historic Park, where you can dress up and get your picture taken for $7. Even if these don't get used for an author photo (although, my first book is set during the Gold Rush years), they make for a memorable profile pic. That's a bargain, for $7!

2013 First Crime Novel Competition

PLEASE NOTE: I will not be posting the winner here--this is strictly a post letting people know about the opportunity to enter the contest.

So many great competitions this season! Minotaur Books and Mystery Writers of America have opened the 2013 First Crime Novel Competition for submissions.

And they've made an important, 21st century change in their guidelines: they're now accepting electronic submissions! They used to make you mail in an application to get the mailing address for your reader, and that just made it unnecessarily complicated.

What else do you need to know?

  • Deadline is December 17
  • Must be at least 18
  • Must be an unpublished author
  • "Murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story"
  • You must agree to their standard "boilerplate" contract
Full details are at the links above, and good luck if you enter!

PLEASE NOTE: I will not be posting the winner here--this is strictly a post letting people know about the opportunity to enter the contest.