Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps"

Good old William Shakespeare once wrote that in a play called "Much Ado About Nothing." The play, which could almost be called a Shakespearean version of a sitcom, isn't quite about nothing. Without giving too much away, basically there's a young couple who fall in love and another couple who are most definitely in love though they deny it thoroughly and are always at each other's throats. The young man gets some intentionally misleading information about the girl he's just fallen in love with, and he publicly slanders her and ruins her reputation on the day of their wedding. You should really read the play, but if you're not that into Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job of adapting this into a movie. (I also read that Joss Whedon has a version that just came out.)

Why am I telling you about this? Because, folks, I've decided to rewrite this play for my NaNoWriMo project this year. I first fell in love with this play when I was a lot younger and I watched the movie with my parents. Though I didn't quite understand all of it (the lines are exactly as old Billy wrote them), I still couldn't help loving the characters and their plights. I've seen the movie quite a few times and read the play a couple times, and I am really excited to try to write a new version of it.

Yes, I know some of you may be groaning on the inside because you're sick of seeing old classics retold over and over. But - and excuse me for being a little hipster - this isn't Pride and Prejudice or Romeo and Juliet, it's not quite as well known and certainly not as retold. And maybe some of you are thinking that I'm cheating by using someone else's story. But I can guarantee it'll be just as hard to modernize this story as it would be to write an entirely new one. Plus, I don't think Billy will mind.

So there you have it. That is the entirety of what I'll be working on this November. Also, for those of you who would actually like to read the story while I'm writing it, Smashwords has graciously allowed us writers to use their services to show people our progress. So after I've been onto the site, I'll be posting a link to it so you can read along. I have to warn you now - when I write a rough draft, I really do mean that it's rough. So don't judge me, but I will take some constructive criticism along the way. Especially if you happen to notice I'm missing any words!

- Natasja

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Just a few quick things to keep my faithful readers updated...

I had been fretting over what I should write for nanowrimo, which as you may know is now just five days away! Yes, November was creeping up on me, and with thoughts of my birthday and American Thanksgiving in my mind, I had no idea what my next book would be about. I think the problem was that I already have so many stories in the works that I didn't know where my next idea would come from. Someone even suggested that I take a story that I had barely started and run with that, but that felt dishonest somehow, now matter how few words had already been written. But I'm happy to say that I've finally come up with something decent to write. Now all I have to do is wait until next Thursday and start writing like a maniac.*

I feel sick, like I have a cold or "allergies" as my sister said it might be. And does anyone know what it's like to work two jobs when they're sick? And never have time for things like making actual meals, and buying new clothes, and writing The Best Best-Seller Ever? I'm quite aware that these are rather first-world problems, but sometimes I feel like I should share my misery. Don't worry - all the light, fun, fluffiness of my books will still exist in its own realm.

Things you can do if there is a lack of updates on my blog:
1) Buy my book and read it a few times.
2) Follow me on twitter @natasjaeby
3) Become of fan of my Goodreads author page
4) Start planning for your own nanowrimo challenge!

- Natasja

* The title and synopsis of which will be revealed on Tuesday!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Query Me

The hardest thing I've ever had to write (other than essays on books that I was never going to finish anyway) is a query letter. Query letters must be the bane of every aspiring author's existence, especially if it's the first time they're trying it out. I've written quite a few queries, all for the same book, and while they're all different, I do think that I'm getting better at them.

Let me tell you why query/cover letters are a fiction writer's nightmare, at least in my opinion: because fiction writers write fiction. Personally, I hate having to write about myself, about why I think my book is amazing and better than anything else out there. Not because I don't think it's amazing, but because it feels like I'm writing a heavily veiled "LOVE ME" letter to a editor I've never met before. I might as well be begging for publication for all the good it does.

The worst part of this is that I put so much work, effort, and time into writing both my cover letter and of course into the manuscript I'd like published. And generally, they go into a slush pile (read: recycling). And yes, I am aware that J. K. Rowling was rejected a million times or whatever, as were a bunch of other famous authors, and I'm sure they have binders full of rejection letters. But just because those authors have "interesting" stories about finally getting published doesn't change the fact that there could be countless other brilliant authors who didn't get published.

People say that the query/cover letter should be when you really shine by saying how good your book is, how well it fits into the market, and how good of an author you are. That it should reflect your style of writing while maintaining professionalism, and should really showcase your best work. And this is exactly what makes them so difficult. You can't just let your writing "speak for itself," you have to actually talk about it too. It's awkward, it's not easy to do, and it's a totally undervalued skill.

Which is why I'm currently working on perfecting it. Because, as cheesy as it sounds, I really would like to shine.

- Natasja

Friday, October 12, 2012

News - The Challenge

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my NaNoWriMo experience from last November. I remember very distinctly saying that it was such a good idea, and that I think everyone should try it once, and maybe I even added that I was a glutton for punishment...

Well, I just wanted to make the official announcement that I would be entering again this year. That's right - I, Natasja Eby, am going to attempt to write another 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. Even though this year, I'm working two jobs, and I don't have nearly as much time. (So, apologies in advance to my bosses, as I may end up doing a lot of writing while I'm... "working.")

Why am I doing it? Mostly because a coworker of mine, who happens to be the Municipal Liaison for my area, basically convinced me that I should do it. Partly because I've had other encouragement. And lastly because... well, to be honest, last time, it ended up in me publishing my first novel. So I can't say it wasn't a good experience.

So, now all I have to do is decide what I want to write and wait for November 1st. Friends, Family, loved ones... I'm sorry, but I'm pretty much going to be out of commission this November. Don't be offended if my laptop spends more quality time with me than you do.

You know I love you anyways.

- Natasja

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Shout Out!

The lovely Paperback Princesses at allaboutyabooks.blogspot.ca have featured my book in their Shout Out to Indies post from Sunday, October 7th. Here's what they had to say:

"My Best Friend's Brother ..... is a fun-filled quick read, that had me smiling often.  This is a new take on the classic 'body switching', and managed to be fresh and interesting.  Natasja has succeeded in making her dialogue quick witted and entertaining and it was very convincing. 

Colin and Jessica are of course horrified when they switch places but there was a huge amount of character growth as they become acustomed to their new bodies and circumstances and it was easy to believe in their triumphs and frustrations.  Have you ever watched the movie '
It's a Boy/Girl Thing'?  Well if you enjoyed it, you'll love My Best Friend's Brother...The Summer I Turned Into a Girl. I'm looking forward to seeing more from Natasja."

I should thank my wonderful coworker, Carol, for reading the book, giving me an honest review, and featuring me of course! Also, for those who have yet to buy the book, I have partnered with the Paperback Princesses and agreed to give away a free signed copy of the book. All you have to do is comment on their blog post and leave your name and email address.

Good luck! And remember, you can always buy a copy and if you live close by, I will sign it for you.

- Natasja

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Problem With Published Books

Yesterday as I was driving home from work, I passed by a place called "Baker Animal Clinic." A quick series of thoughts brought me to the conclusion that "Baker" was either the last name of the person who had opened the clinic or the name of the person the clinic should honour. And then I thought, "Hey, Baker would be a great name for a Jessica!" The reason I thought this was that I had a really hard time naming Jessica Carol from My Best Friend's Brother, who originally started out as Jessica Smith.

That's when it occurred to me that this is probably the biggest problem with finally, finally having a published book - I can no longer change anything. I mean, yes, I could always go back and fix the two mistakes that are contained in those pages (if you caught them and didn't say anything, then I thank you for your abundant kindness), but to change a character's name would be too suspect. It would say to the world, "This author didn't really know what she (or he) was doing."

Of course, now that I've publicly exposed that one truth, you might be thinking that anyway.* And I can't say I blame you. I mean, sometimes I'll read a book and think, "Man, I would have changed this or that before publishing." But it's too late, and there's no going back, not after a whole bunch of people have already read it. Which is why I have my faithful pre-readers, of course. I'll be honest with you - they do all the hard work. My sister points out every typo or grammatical error, my sister-in-law has no problem telling me when things make no sense to her, and my best friend tells me, "This is delightful! ... But that's kind of weird." And they really mean it in the nicest way, which is the great part.

But once it's published, it's pretty much stuck like that. Sure, you can add something for a later publication, an appendage or author's note. You just can't change names or events. You shouldn't need to, of course, but I could see many authors thinking back to older works and having a hundred what-ifs running through their minds. It's awful, but on the other hand, it certainly does a lot to improve my writing skills. It tells me what things I would or wouldn't do in the future. So I guess my "problem" with published books is still something I can use to my advantage.

- Natasja

*To be clear, once I'd named her "Jessica Carol" I was perfectly happy with this choice and wouldn't change it now, even if I could.