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Brewhaha Book Cafe

For Writers, Readers & Tea-drinkers

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mez_blume

Childrens/ Middle Grade Author & Adventurer

Big News: Book Launch + Giveaway!

Well, Friends, it’s really happening.

Katie Watson and the Painter’s Plot launches this Sunday,

December 10th! 

For those of you who haven’t heard, this is my debut MG novel, written last year during NaNo. Now, over a year later, it’s finally making its way out into the world with River Otter Books.

(You can find out more about the book on my website: Mezblume.com)

You will find the book on Amazon & in all good bookshops in both print and digital, and as a little bonus, I’ve included a link inside the book to download a free audiobook version. *(hint: look in the inside cover of the ebook!).

And speaking of FREE…

I’m so eager to share this story, I’ve decided to run a 5 DAY FREE PROMO!

That means from 10 – 15 December, you can download the ebook absolutely free.

**So, basically, that picture of the cosy Kindle-reader by the fire could be YOU this 10 December!** 😉

Now for the Contest. drum roll, please …

I’m giving away free signed copies of the book to 2 winners, announced on Dec. 11th. Here’s how to enter for a chance to win one:

  • Visit Amazon (in the site for whichever country you live) on 10 Dec. and download the FREE Kindle version of Katie Waston and the Painter’s Plot
  • Return to this post and leave a comment to say you’ve downloaded!

For a second entry:

  • Share this page on your own site, or post this banner (below) on Social Media
  • Return to this post and leave a comment to say you’ve shared

Need a little mystery this Christmas? Sherlock meets Shakespeare in...-2

I’m truly proud of this book, and I’d love to see it in the hands of folks like you — fellow readers, writers & tea-drinkers!

And of course, please leave me a review on Amazon after you’ve read it. I’d love to know what you thought!

Thank you for all the support, and GOOD LUCK!

Mez Blume

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PS. Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle. Amazon provides an e-reader download for your device.

PPS. If you’re a reviewer and interested in receiving an advance copy for review, please do get in touch!

 

Novel in November Update: Day 15!

Greetings, Friends!

I don’t know about where you are, but here in West Berkshire, it is most definitely mid-November! The sky is Charlie Brown grey (if you’re a Peanuts aficionado, you know what I mean), my garden grass has disappeared beneath a blanket of brown leaves, and it’s proper chai-tea-sipping cold out!

But what’s more, we are HALFWAY through National Novel Writing Month!!

Are you finding your groove? Feeling stressed? We’re here to celebrate with you and to commiserate with your stress, so leave a comment & exult or vent all you like. Either way, I promise you, you’re not alone.

And that brings me to business: My own NaNoWriMo update (drum roll…..)

Learning curves + new publishing tools

In case you’re not up-to-speed with these updates, I (Mez) decided to use this November not to write a brand new manuscript, but to launch the novel I wrote last year for N in N.

It’s been a bumpy road with many a sharp learning curve, but…

I’m loving it!

Here’s where I’ve got up to so far this month:

  1. Completed developmental edit to smooth out story glitches
  2. Have been (& still am) working with a cover designer, & I’m SO excited about his concept drawings. One this is certain, this is going to be a beautiful book!
  3. Am just finishing up formatting the ebook & print versions to send them off to my Proofreader (last polish!!)
  4. I’ve gathered an awesome launch team & polled them on potential title options. The winner? Katie Watson and the Painter’s Plot. 

What I still need to do:

  1. Create an audiobook version (any tips? Please share below!!)
  2. ORDER print copies from IngramSpark
  3. Market, market & market some more!

**I’m always on the lookout for willing & able reviewers. Do you review Middle-Grade books? Please get in touch– I’d love to send you a copy!

Like I said, indie publishing is a new world for me, and I’m learning tons at a crash-course pace as I race to Launch Day (10 December). I couldn’t have got this far without a few tricks of the trade, so of course I’m going to let you in on these little secrets…

Trade secrets/ tools that have been game-changers for publishing your book:

Scrivener is my new best friend — how did I ever write without it?! If you’ve not tried it out, you can trial the software for FREE. But honestly, it’s the best $40 I’ve spent this year!

Reedsy.com is an awesome online publishing market where you can link up with vetted professionals (these people work for the big time publishing houses!) & hire them for your book — editors, cover designers, formatters, you name it!

Vellum is a book formatting software, and my goodness, it’s amazing! Formatting has been the one thing I’ve most dreaded. I’m not super techy, and I’ve heard this can take even experienced authors days upon days. But Vellum does all the hard work for you! It’s actually fun to use! Not exactly cheap, but definitely a good investment if you plan on publishing in ebook or print!

So there you have it! My November journey has been an exciting one. Watch this space — I’ll be sharing links to get your FREE ebook copy of my novel very very soon!

*And next week, more from Bri! I can’t wait to read her TWO Novels. I know she’s behind in one, & a lot behind in the other, but still, she’s written a TON of words which are sure to be brilliant!

Happy writing (or publishing!) this week!

Mez

Novel in November – Day 1!

I had a crisis yesterday (31 October). I’m probably not the only one — maybe some of you went into melt-down mode when faced with the knowledge that NaNo was but one day away!
But my crisis wasn’t caused by dread or fear of NaNoWriMo. In fact, I’ve been almost like a kid waiting for Christmas these past months, I’ve so been looking forward to spinning a fresh yarn alongside tens of thousands of my fellow story-spinners!
Then my plans went a little topsy-turvy … for a good cause! I have the opportunity to publish last year’s NaNo novel in December. But to make it happen, I have at last admitted to my more ambitious slightly insane self who forgets about the need to sleep, I will need to WORK HARD all November, editing, finalising cover design choice, formatting and marketing. So while I shed a tear for my lost NaNo novel, I do nevertheless have a writing goal this month, AND it’s an exciting one. So — to make it official– for my Novel in November, I will be launching my next novel! Lots more juicy details about my journey to publication to come!

Announcing Novel in November 2017!

It’s that time. Can you believe it?

Camp NaNoWriMo is next month!

Which means that right now, all across the globe, tens of thousands of aspiring & already successful authors are getting in gear to write 50,000 word draft of their novels in the 30 days of November!

Bri & I absolutely Love this time of year. Like so many of you out there, we have become Camp NaNo junkies & true believers in the magic that happens when you have add a strict deadline & a sense of camaraderie to writing your novel. In fact, we love it SO much, we started our own spinoff called Novel in November last year.

This year, for Novel in November, our aim is to help you not only win at Camp NaNo (winning, by the way, simply means completing the challenge, not competing against other writers) but to wind up with 50,000 words you can be proud of… maybe even 50,000 words that you can brush up & send off to agents, publishers, or publish yourself in December!

But to do that, you’re going to need to do some preparation over the next 20 days…

Now is the time to GET READY!

To help you get yourself geared up & ready for success, we’ve put together a list of some of the best NaNo advice out there — from writers we admire & some from our own experience. Don’t get overwhelmed! It’s all about the baby steps. Aim to follow these, one step at a time, over the next week.

  1. Get intentional! Bri’s article Where Do You Start? will help you literally set yourself, your schedule & your space up for success.

2. Capture your idea & LOVE IT! Here are some exercises to help you with that.

3. Outline your story’s plot. Trust us on this. If you want to save yourself grief during NaNo and produce a coherent story you won’t spend months editing, a little planning goes a long way.

Not sure how to structure a story? Here are some great resources:

Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn shares 7 tips for writing your novel, including how to use classic story structure. She also explains the Snowflake Method of building your story’s structure scene-by-scene. And so many more goodies besides!

Nick Stephenson of Your First 10K Readers is co-hosting a webinar on story structure this Saturday. I highly recommend signing up to his email list for more details!

If it’s books you’re looking for, here are the two we recommend & why.

Finally, if you’d like to join us on this journey, you can sign up for Novel in November & get emails with our top tips & updates!

Happy Prepping, everybody!

Mez & Bri

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the deal with Wattpad?

I’m writing with a pressing question for all you readers, writers & bloggers out there:

What do you think of Wattpad?

If you haven’t got a clue what Wattpad is to begin with, it is (as I understand it) a social network aimed solely at sharing stories. So virtually, anyone can write anything & gain a following on the merit of their writing. For writers, this sort of networking has an edge on platforms like Twitter  & Facebook because, rather than trying to gain readers with 140 characters or fewer, you can actually connect with readers who have read your work & are hungry for more! Sounds pretty catchy, no?

As I venture into the mirky waters of online platforms, I know this one thing: my readers are out there & I want to find them, connect with them, & offer them the best stories I can magic up. I’m hoping Wattpad will prove a good avenue for doing just that (although its largest audience demographic is 13-18, which is a bit beyond my gamut. Then again, I’m nearly 30 & still love a good Middle Grade adventure, so you never know!). If you’re a teen fiction writer (hint hint, Bri), I’d think Wattpad would be a no-brainer for connecting with your audience.

So there are a few musings from me. I’m in experimental mode with Wattpad at the moment, publishing chapters of my historical fiction murder mystery (with a twist of magic), Manor of Mystery serially. If you’re a Wattpad veteran, or would fancy joining me on this venture, you can find the book (& my Wattpad profile) here: https://www.wattpad.com/user/mezba4

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Now over to you! Any experience with Wattpad, either as a reader or writer (aspiring author)? As the newbie here, I’m all ears for tips & advice for how best to connect with readers, so do please bring it on!

Yours gratefully,

Mez

Dear Brewhaha Book Cafe Subscribers,

Mez here, after a long, silent summer. I do hope the summer months have been filled with all manner of Story reading & writing delights… not to mention tea (because it’s never too hot for a cuppa, I say!).

A little summer update from us: I made the voyage from England to sunny Georgia for a five week visit, which meant that Bri & I actually had the chance to catch up face to face, drink lots of tea together, review each others’ latest manuscripts (in HARD COPY!), and talk about the future of this blog.

And while we’re on that subject, we do apologise for leaving you in a lurch for so many weeks without hide nor hair of us. BUT, cross our hearts, we didn’t forget you. In fact, we have some exciting news to share about some changes on the horizon…

As lots you know, Bri & I are both working independently on our professional writing careers, & things have been coming along to the point that we feel it’s time we both host our own author pages (as Bri’s audience is mostly YA enthusiasts while mine is more Middle Grade).

What does that mean for Brewhaha? The good news: the cafe is not going anywhere! We will still be bringing you the best of our YA & Middle Grade book adventures, + news updates on our own work, + links to my new writing course (coming soon!) & our new author pages!

So thanks for sticking it out with us over the summer months. We’ve missed you, & we’re excited about getting back to sharing the wonderful world of Story with YOU!

We’d love to hear about your summer — any  book recommendations for us? Bring them on!

Yours truly,

Mez

Awesome Blogger Award

Thanks to Loonyloonyvish at Idlejabber for this award!! According to her own post in response to this award, it is  “an award for the absolutely wonderful writers all across the blogging world. They have beautiful blogs, are kind and lovely, and always find a way to add happiness and laughter to the lives of their readers. This is what truly defines an awesome blogger.”

Which makes Mez and me super flattered for being chosen!! Those of you following our blog may have noticed we are reposting our older posts. One reason is that we want to share what we consider our best writing advice (the stuff we’ve learned the long, hard way) with our new readers. The other reason: we are BUSY! Mez is in the middle of packing and editing and I have 50k words to write before she gets here, so we are going to answer the questions, but hold off on making our own questions and nominating others for now.

Who is your favourite superhero?

Bri: Confession time: I’m not a huge superhero fan. But if I had to pick, Catwoman. Not technically a hero, but she’s a girl, and a cat, what better for a girl who loves cats??

Mez: I always liked Spiderman as a kid because he’s more lighthearted than the other brooding superheroes who always seems to be wrestling with an identity crisis.

 

 

How do you go about forming a new post?

Bri: Intense planning and lots of thought. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

Mez: To start with, Bri & I will usually agree on a monthly theme. Then I try to write from  experience so that what I share is fresh, tried & tested & hopefully helpful to other writers walking the same path!

 

 

Describe your dream home?

Bri: In the woods, no neighbours, lots of windows, and a multi-floor library with a sun room at top. With a large theater room in the basement for watching movies on a huge TV.

Mez: I’ll happily live in Bri’s dream home if she’ll invite me! Only addition- put it in a tree!

 

 

What do you prefer: writing or typing? Why?

Bri: Typing. Definitely typing. Everything has to be typed anyway, writing it out just adds a step. Plus, half the time I can’t read my own writing!

Mez: While typing is the only way I can get a book done quickly, I don’t love screens. I really enjoy the planning phase of jotting down wild ideas in a journal. But when it comes to serious drafting, it’s got to be typing.

 

 

Is it appreciation, or the lack of it that motivates you to strive for perfection?

Bri: Probably appreciation. Though I can be a bit contrary about people telling me what I will or will not do (as in, you’ll change your mind about having children when you get older, I HATE hearing that, makes me want to prove people wrong), when it comes to my writing, someone telling me it’s good will drive me further than someone telling me it’s awful.

Mez: I’m a person who thrives on encouragement and words of affirmation. It’s very easy to deflate me with criticism, but I’m working on taking it graciously and using it constructively as all writers must!

 

 

What is your fondest childhood memory?

Bri: Playing in our treehouse. It had an awesome rope swing and we would ‘cook’ things over a ‘fire’ and pretend to be fairies or that we were that grand old age of 13!

Mez: Building dens in the woods with my brother and sisters, going for wheel-barrow rides with my Dad & the neighbourhood dogs, my mom’s amazing bedtime stories,  running a “restaurant” in the stream with my friend Katherine… I had a good childhood. Too good to choose just one memory!

 

 

When did you start blogging and why?

Bri: It’s been a little over a year now, and it was kind of funny because I had just decided to talk to Mez about us co-blogging because I’d read it could only help us when it comes to full on writers. And then Mez suggested it! Great example of great minds.

Mez: Need I say more? 😉

 

 

Which is that one flaw in you, however major it may be, which has become part of your identity?

Bri: Probably my procrastination. It is a part of who I am and I’ve given up trying to fix it, so I’ve just learned to deal with it. If I work best in the last hour of the day, that’s when I work. I’m much more productive at the end of a time limit than the beginning.

Mez: I’m a pushover. I hate disappointing people to a crippling level. Most everybody who knows me can tell you I have issues with the word “No.” But again… I’m working on it!

 

 

What do you prefer: fiction or nonfiction? Prose or poetry?

Bri: Fiction, hands down. I don’t read nonfiction except for writing books or when I’m researching for a book. And prose. Now and then I find a poem I like, but it’s rare. And it’s usually poems that tell stories I like.

Mez: Fiction. Prose. Having said that, my favourite book is Surprised by Joy which is C.S. Lewis’s personal memoir. Ha!

 

 

Which is that one movie that you can watch anytime without getting bored?

Bri: Almost anything. I watch movies over and over. Aliens, Strange Magic, Ultraviolet, Delgo, and all of Criminal Minds are my go to when I want something on in the background. But really, unless I really don’t like it, I can watch any movie a zillion times and still enjoy it.

Mez: How many times have we watched the BBC Pride & Prejudice, Bri? And we’re planning on watching it again this summer while I’m in the States. There’s your answer!

 

 

A Time to Create. A Time to Critique. (are you putting a cork in your creative flow?)

Let’s get brutally honest for a moment. Writing — I mean really going for it — is terrifying!

Each and every time you sit down to put words on page, you’re actually transcribing a little piece of you: your wildest dreams, your deepest desires. So what if you don’t like what you see looking back at you? What if your reflection exposes you to be not the creative genius you’d hoped and imagined, but a failure and a fraud?

And that’s just the first cause of anxiety… (Who wouldn’t want to be a writer?!) As if looking at your own work wasn’t cringe-worthy enough, if you have any hope of publication, at some stage you will have to cast your story (that hard-laboured insight into your soul) before the eyes of complete strangers! Or worse: people you know!

To some extent, the anxiety is only natural: the nerves, the fist-fulls of hair and palm-to-forehead moments… it’s all part of the writing process!

 And yet, anxiety may be the very thing that’s putting a stopper in your creative process. You may be carrying a parasite: a little monster I like to call…

 The Horrible What-iffer

The Horrible What-iffer comes along to gawk over the shoulders of would-be writers as they attempt to plant their sapling idea into the soil of a First Draft. Then, just as that idea is about to blossom, the Horrible What-iffer strikes!

What if it’s over-the-top?   

         What if it’s too long? Too slow?  

  What if it’s not what the market’s going for these days?

         What if your characters are a bit flat?

                                                                 What if it’s just. plain. dumb?”

I guarantee, if you’ve ever tried to create anything, you’ve heard that measly, mettling voice of The Horrible What-iffer. His antics are enough to make Shakespeare want to drop his quill, crumple his parchment and curl up in a fetal position on the floor as he beats his brow and sobs “No one will ever want to read this RUBBISH!” (Hey, it might have happened for all we know!)

You see, the Horrible What-iffer is absolute death to your creative process as a writer. There is nothing more paralyzing to Creativity than self-critical thoughts. They drown out the sound of our creative thinking and lead to self-destruction and eventually quitting before you ever have the chance to know what sort of full grown tree your sapling story idea would have matured into!

Thus ends tragically the career of many a writer before it’s begun. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Don’t be defeated by the Horrible What-iffer!

You can be creative. You can be self-critical. But like Harry Potter and Voldemort, the two cannot co-exist. One will eventually have to kill the other. There is only one solution: You must destroy the Horrible What-iffer before he destroys your story… your joy of writing… YOU! Shakespeare did it, and here’s how.

Imagine a big, bald tattooed club bouncer. Make him as repulsively scary as you like. Now set him to work in front of the VIP Creative Party going on in your mind every time you sit down to draft. When smarmy old Horrible What-iffer comes whiffling along with his party-pooping, negative notions to gate crash, POW! Mr. Mental Bouncer gives him what’s coming to him. And your Creative Party can go on in peace! It takes practice, but it’s well worth the discipline to keep your story alive and moving forward.

But aren’t we writer’s supposed to self-critique? Isn’t it our job to chip away at our ideas until they become the perfected story we can present to the world with pride?

Yes… and No. We will never create the perfect Story. Aiming for perfection will again paralyze your creativity. But we can strive to write better & better stories all the time. And yes, that requires revising your story with a critical eye.

 The point here is this: make sure you’re bringing in a critical eye at the right time (ie. NOT while writing your FIRST DRAFT!!!).

Here’s why you can’t Create & Critique at the same time:

 

The writer wears two different hats: The Creator Cap (that corresponds to our creative right-brain hemisphere), and the Editor Cap (which alerts our analytical left-brain hemisphere). New writers often try wearing both hats at once, but this is a fatal error. Each one has its time to shine. The left-brain helps the right-brain turn all of its fluttering fancies into some sort of coherent plan. But then it’s time to swap hats and let Mr. Editor left-brain take a backseat while Mr. Creator right-brain drives. Eventually, after the drafting phase, Mr. Editor left-brain will return on the scene to analyze, problem solve and tweak away to his heart’s content while Mr. Creator gets some well-earned R&R.

And so you see, the balance between Creativity and self-criticism is like a dance! But it’s entirely up to you, the writer, to make sure criticism of your work isn’t self-criticism (product of the Horrible What-iffer), and it isn’t stepping on Creativity’s toes. That would only throw off the whole process and put you back from achieving your goals.

So next time you sit down to draft, put criticism in his place, or you might just have to call your mental bouncer on him!

The Art of Asking: putting the Quest back in Question

One of my all time favourite albums is This Side by the blue grass band Nickel Creek. I’ve stolen quite a few maxims from them as well. This one’s my favourite:

Only the curious have something to find.

It’s true, isn’t it? Think of the most creative person you know. That person who always sees shapes in the clouds and pulls stories out of thin air. That person who sees the world, not as it is, but as it might be. That person who’s forever asking the question “But what if…”

Maybe that person you know was just lucky to be born with a creative soul. But then, aren’t almost all children born with a sense of awe, a readiness to absorb information &, most notable of all, a billion questions on their lips?

The problem with many of us struggling artists is not a missing ‘creative gene’ but rather a loss of our childlike sense that life is a Grand Adventure. Thinking we’ve seen it all, we stop looking (see Part II on the Art of Observation). Not wanting to appear ignorant, we stop asking questions. We become jaded, & our imagination just doesn’t work like it used to.

But what if we could revive that lost art that comes so naturally to children…        the Art of Asking?

There is a direct correlation between Curiosity and Creativity. The one fuels the other. So if you let Curiosity dry up, you can bet your Creativity will sputter out & wind up rusting in the junkyard of your busy, uninspired mind… unless you choose to embark on a quest that can reverse the hands of time & get your Creative mind banging on all cylinders again.

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3 Ways Asking Sparks Creative Thinking

In his book for cooking up Creativity, Five Star Mind, Tom Wujec explains the revitalizing power of asking questions like this:

Inside the word ‘question’ is the word ‘quest’,  suggesting that within every question is an adventure, a pursuit which can lead us to hidden treasure.

1) Asking questions excites your mind out of its drowsy state by laying an open road before it.

Just like Bilbo Baggins startled from his stupor by a troop of adventuring dwarves, your brain secretly longs for a mystery to solve, a quest to fulfill. Asking questions is an invitation for the brain to step out of its routine & into an adventure.

2) Asking questions gets your brain moving. 

Wujec explains that a question puts the brain in a state of irresolution, a bit like an itch that demands scratching. And believe it or not, your brain LOVES this irresolute state! If you don’t believe it, just look at the masses of Sudoku & crossword puzzles sold in your local bookstore. The brain sees the challenge & sets right to work to scratch that itch. Before you know it, your creative mind is on fire!

Irresolution is a potent fuel, a source of energy & motivation. – Tom Wujec

3) Asking questions gives you a target & helps you aim. 

Here’s where you can apply the Art of Asking directly to your writing, & especially when you feel utterly & hopelessly stuck. Asking the right kind of questions can be the hand up you need to get you unstuck & on your way again. So just what are the “right kind” of questions? 

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The Quest for better Questions

The best questions drive us to see the bigger picture, not just the immediate problem.

For example:  Instead of Why is my protagonist so BORING?! Try What do I already know about this character?  -or- How might this character respond in another situation?

The best questions are open-ended, inviting not just one answer, but many possible solutions.

For example:  In what ways can I make my protagonist more interesting? or more believable?

Then scribble away! You’re only limited by the size of your paper.

The best questions may not lead you to a final resolution… They may even lead you to ask yet more questions! 

That’s OK! In fact, that’s the point! For the creative writer, it’s not the answers but the Art of Asking that counts. Merely asking keeps the creative mind in motion & childlike wonder alive. Mastering this art will take practice — so much unlearning to do before we can have the humility to learn afresh! But the pay-off is enormous! Just consider all the books on your shelves that began with a simple, silly question:

“What if you fell down a hole in the ground & landed upside-down in a fantasy world?”

“What if you walked into a wardrobe & found yourself in in a winter’s wood?”

“What if an ordinary boy discovered he was actually a wizard?”

Do you dare to begin the quest? Who knows where your questions may take you…

 

If you enjoyed this article, check out Got Creativity Parts I & II.   Sign up for email notifications so you never miss a writing tip!

 

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