Saturday, 22 December 2012

White Christmas? I'll take it.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in a while. The reason for that is because I've been away, involuntarily visiting a place I call "Why-I-Even-Doing-This." I'm pretty sure every author has been there at least once, maybe a few times, yet it still seems like one of the loneliest places on the planet.

Nevertheless, the snow this morning has brought me back to a happy places where words flow like water in Niagara Falls (or something like that). Well, that and the fact that my friend and pseudo-editor has been bugging me every day for something new to read. What more motivation could I possibly need, right? So with my week off for the holidays, I plan on setting a proverbial pen to paper and getting some stuff done. Maybe I'll even finish another book. Who knows?

Anyway, mostly I just wanted to wish everyone a very happy and safe Christmas, and that the next year of your life will be the best one yet.

- Natasja





PS. If you're a fan of bad music, head on over to Josh's blog.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Not In My Good Books

Since the beginning of November, I had been trying to write a book based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing for a little challenge called "National Novel Writing Month." Of course, if you follow my blog, you probably already knew that. But what you probably don't know is that a couple of days ago, I stopped writing. (At least, I stopped writing that book. I can never make myself stop writing in general, no matter how defeated I feel.) I feel like I owe you faithful readers an explanation, so here is a list of factors that contributed to my decision to stop my Nano challenge:

I work two jobs, which leaves very little time for much else. Sadly, this has affected my writing more than I like.

The story wasn't going as well as I'd planned. I think I was expecting this experience to be like last year's, but it wasn't.

I couldn't force myself to keep writing, which is the whole point of Nanowrimo.

And lastly, I tragically lost my my book file because the only place I had it saved was on a USB stick that consequently died. I had most of it in some emails, but at that point, this was pretty much the straw that broke the camels back.

A part of me wanted to keep going, but I could find little reason to do so, particularly since the whole thing was stressing me out more than it should have. So I've stopped writing and gone back to other books and characters that need me more right now. (Or maybe it's that I need them more?) Maybe some day I'll resuscitate my neo-Shakespeare guys, but for now, I'll leave it to time and space, or wherever it's disappeared to.

Thank you so much for reading, for understanding, and for your support. It means so much to me that people think I'm capable of such expectations, and I also appreciate that people appreciate me and what I do. And don't you worry folks, this will not be my last Nano challenge, and My Best Friend's Brother won't be my last book.

- Natasja



P.S. Have you bought this yet?

Friday, 2 November 2012

This Book Is About Nothing

With Shakespeare in mind, I've set my quill to the screen and begun a new chapter of my life...

Too many metaphors? Yeah, you're probably right. But truly, I have started my new novel, entitled This Book Is About Nothing, which is of course a play on William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. As I noted in my last post, I'm hoping to be able to let you guys read along with my writing through Smashwords's support. I haven't yet uploaded anything, since I only have about 2000 words so far (and counting!) But once I've done that, there will be links and happy times!

So far, the writing is going well! I'm more than keeping up with my quota of 1667 words per day. (Of course, it's only been a day and half, so it's not like it was that hard.) I've also let a couple of my friends know that they should definitely be pestering me every day to make sure I've actually done so. Apparently I work well under pressure

Someone told me yesterday that I was "plagiarizing" and so I pointed out to her that one of her favourite movies is Bride and Prejudice. That title should sound extremely familiar to you, since it's a take on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Just sayin.

Okay folks, I have no more words to spare for you today. Happy Movember!

- Natasja

Tuesday, 30 October 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, 26 October 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, 19 October 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, 12 October 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, 9 October 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, 2 October 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.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Less Than Perfect Preview - Cover

As promised, here is the cover of Natasja's new book, "Less Than Perfect." It's still in its final stages of tweaking, but this is what it will basically look like. A big thank you goes out to Michelle for all the hard work she did, even though she's currently working on her own projects. And also, thank you to Joel and Eli. Keep checking back for a new preview!


 A little side note from Natasja:

I would just like to let you all know that I'm re-evaluating my priorities. Trying to find the time to write lately has become a challenge. I work two jobs and it feels like when I'm not working, I'm always giving my time to someone else. That's not to make myself sound like a saint, because saints don't generally complain about things and well... I do. But that's besides the point. What I'm trying to say is that I will try my very hardest to keep writing, because that's what I love. But if things go slow, please know that it's not you - it's me. That's all :)

- Natasja

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Stay Tuned...

Look out, friends! The grand unveiling of the cover of Natasja's brand new novel, Less Than Perfect, is coming! Check back next Friday, September 28th for a first look!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Things I Like To Write About

I thought, for those of you that might be even vaguely interested, I would share some of the things I like to write about. So, here is a concise list of some themes, characteristics, settings, or other elements that I like to incorporate into my stories.

Love
For anyone that knows me, they'll tell you this is a pretty major theme of mine. In fact, I told my husband the other day that I couldn't think of a single story I've written or started that "doesn't have kissing in it." This was followed with him telling me that he could only think of two books he'd read that had kissing in it - one of which was mine. I should mention, however, that I don't always write about those kinds of relationships; I also like to delve into the love shared between siblings, friends, or children and their parents. See? It's not all about kissing!

Space Ships
It may surprise you to learn that I have a special affinity for sci fi, especially really technical stuff. I love space ships, and I have to admit that I have a few stories that involve space ships or even take place on space ships. But more on that later...

Orphans
There's a special soft spot in my heart reserved for children who have no home and no family. There's something just so sad about it - it's almost callous to say that I feel very inspired by such dire circumstances. Having said that, my aim is not to make anyone feel bad, but rather, I like to explore what it would be like for such a character to not know where he or she is from and how they would deal with it.

Music
Being a music-lover and musician myself, it's only natural for me to include that in my writing. In fact, if you're looking forward to the publication of my new novel, Less Than Perfect, then you should know that there will be plenty of music involved in it. Yes, it is very difficult to write music into words, but I'm hoping I've done a good job of it. Plus, it's never really about the music itself, but about how the characters use music, how they grow in it, and bond over it.

Flaws
No one loves a perfect character. Why? Because they're boring, annoying, and generally too unbelievable to tolerate. When a character has flaws, it makes them real and more rounded. It gives them obstacles, something to overcome. In the same way, no one wants to read a perfect storyline. Sure, we all get mad while reading Pride and Prejudice, thinking, "Aren't they just ever going to get together?" But without all that tension, and the obstacles placed in their way, there would never be a good storyline. No one would read a book that simply said, "They met each other, fell in love, and then got married." Or "They found a treasure map, looked for the treasure, found it easily, and lived happily ever after." Or "He was born, lived a good, full life, and then died of natural causes." Or... I think you catch my drift.

There are other things that influence my writing, such as the town I live in, the people I know, the places I've been to, and random things I come across every day. That's not to say that any of what I write is autobiographical - and if you've read My Best Friend's Brother, then you should already know that. But it's easy to take what you know and what you've experienced and put it into a character's personality or situation.

So there you have it. A little insight into my world of writing.

- Natasja

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

NaNoWriMo

Fun little fact about My Best Friend's Brother: The entire novel was written in just 30 days. Why? Because last year, I decided to do a little challenge called "National Novel Writing Month." During the month of November, writers challenge themselves to write a whole 50,000 words - the equivalent of one full novel. While this sounds like a stressful proposition to some, this can be a great way to get hesitant writers to over-write in an attempt to bring their skills to the foreground. Though many do not make the goal, I still believe that what they gain is a far greater understanding of what it's truly like to write an entire novel.

Some writers find themselves being caught up in small details, errors that they hastily go back to change over and over, writer's block, or simply getting bored with their stories. By joining NaNoWriMo, these hopeful novelists are forced to go beyond their inhibitions and just write - no matter what they write, or whether they are going to have to do major edits later on. For me, quantity trumps quality, especially in a first draft. I am a firm believer in making many revisions, and the more you have to work with, the better.

How did I complete the challenge? Well, that part is a little harder to explain. No doubt every writer has his or her own technique for such a huge amount of writing. I started with an idea for a story I had had months before actually writing any of it. (One of the rules is that you can't have started writing the story before November 1st. And yes, it goes by the honour system.) At first, I had tons to say, so I just wrote and wrote, disregarding the many mistakes I knew I was making. Like I said, it doesn't matter - write first, revise later.

One of the things I struggle with when trying to write a novel is always the middle part. You know, the part of the book that's supposed to take you from that brilliantly written beginning to that oh-so-wonderful ending. And while I'm usually pretty proud of my beginnings and endings, my middle parts always need more work that I care to admit. I get bored with the action, or the characters aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing. And sometimes, I just find it hard to write all that... stuff. There's no other way to describe it. It's the stuff of the story.

Having said that, I felt a little defeated when it came to November 15th and I didn't have 25,000 words written. By November 20th, it was getting pretty clear that I wouldn't make it, and I almost gave up. However, one of my other techniques of writing is that I always have a couple of people who read my stories as I write them. (Test subjects, if you will.) So when I told my friends that I didn't think I would make it, they complained enough that I decided to keep going.

I think maybe if it weren't for them, I might not have done it. Hey, maybe peer pressure works sometimes! So I just kept going. Would you believe that I wrote 18,000 words in just the last three days of the challenge? Yup, on November 27th, I had just under 32,000 words. So, I apologetically ignored my family and pushed through. And I'm really glad I did it. Because if I hadn't, I don't know how long it might have taken me to finish otherwise.

For anyone that's thinking of doing it, I say just go for it! There really is no harm in trying. NaNoWriMo doesn't cost anything (though they take donations) and I honestly think it would be beneficial for anyone who loves to write but struggles with actually finishing something. So if you're one of those people, scroll back up to the link and sign up. You still have plenty of time to plan out your book and there's plenty of support in the writing community. Plus it's super fun to try to write something very quickly without looking back.

- Natasja

Friday, 7 September 2012

LOTR and Self Publishing

Publishing a book myself makes me feel very much like Frodo taking the Ring into Mordor. You know, he's just a little guy with a huge quest and there's no way he could ever get it done. Imagine that scene in Rivendell where everyone's deciding what should be done with the Ring.

Then suddenly it's you standing up, saying, "I will do it. I will tell the story, and I will publish the book."

A hush falls over everyone as they all turn to look at you with a mixture of fear and admiration on their faces. Then someone says, "Then you have my cover art."

"And my type-setting."

"And you can't go anywhere without my editing."

"Or my marketing skills."

Then, of course, your best friends barge in telling you that there's no way you're going to leave them behind. And while the publishing world isn't quite the fiery depths of Mordor, it's still a very scary place to go to all by yourself. Therefore, don't leave home without your Samwise Gamgee. I am not kidding about this. "Self-publishing" is a team effort, and all of my close friends and family know it. It's a scary world out there. Don't leave without help... and maybe take Orlando Bloom with you, too.


In other words... Thanks for all your help. You know who you are.

- Natasja

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

News - Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect is a young adult novel you can look forward to reading in early 2013. While completely different from My Best Friend's Brother/The Summer I turned Into A Girl, you'll recognize Natasja's handiwork in the narrative and themes involved in the book.

The book follows fourteen very different high-schoolers who start a band together and form an unlikely bond. Readers will fall in love, cry, laugh, and hope for the best as Trey, D-rock, Claire, Marty, Chloe, Meg, Rach, Max, Hacks, Bryan, Harmony, Amber, Corbie, and TK find themselves in a world where fitting in is the only way to survive high school. As their stories progress, however, they discover that fitting in doesn't mean as much to them as the meaningful relationships they create.

Readers will find themselves drawn to the lives of these realistic and relatable characters, and they may even find themselves wanting to make decisions right along with the gang -whether good or bad. And when the band members finally pull themselves together for their finale, everyone will be rooting for their success.

Be sure to check back regularly for more information and previews of this incredibly fresh book later on!

My Best Friend's Brother/The Summer I Turned Into A Girl

My Best Friend's Brother/The Summer I Turned Into A Girl is a young adult novel about a teenaged boy (Colin) and a teenaged girl (Jessica) who accidentally switch bodies and have to find their way back into their own. Not only that, but Jessica now has to learn to play soccer for Colin and Colin has to memorize Jessica's dance moves. They have one week to either figure out how to change back or be each other. Can they do it? Find out here or if you're Canadian, here.

While the book is short and easy to read, the complexity of the situation and Colin's and Jessica's reactions to it make for an interesting read. The reader will feel for each of the characters involved, including Cassidy, Colin's sister and Jessica's best friend. While Natasja doesn't go deep into the science of body swapping, she does a good job conveying the emotional side of it, with a realistic view into what it would be like to suddenly find oneself in another's body.

If you're the type of person who likes previews before actually buying a book, you can read the prologue and entire first chapter here. If by the end of it, you find yourself wanting more, please do redirect yourself to Amazon. If you're still not convinced, check out this awesome review by Josh Terry.

What other people have said about the book is that the dialogue is very realistic; the narrative is engaging and shows an understanding of teenagers; there is just the right amount of humour, sincerity, and complexity without being hard to read; and that the book is a quick, enchanting, and fun read.

If you read the book and liked it, you can become a fan on Facebook.
If you would like to rate and/or review it, you can do so on Goodreads.