Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Showdown....

In one corner, we have the original story as it was told by the author, call it what you may: book, eReader, etc. THE defending champion who will stand up today and reclaim its title, if it can.

In the other corner, we have the film version of the same story, hoping to throw down some new moves and claim the title for itself.

I give you, the Friday Showdown :    Book vs. Film


So tell me, my writerly friends, are their any stories out there where you prefer the film story over the original author's story? In most every case, the book always rules for me and the films are often a disappointment. I love the in depth story the books give and how I get to imagine the characters and scenes. Some films are pretty close to the originals (Harry Potter, Star Wars) but some films tend to leave out very important details or fly through pivotal scenes so the crux of the story is missed.

There just so happens to be a few films I prefer over the original story. Not to say I didn't enjoy the books as well--most are my favorite books as well as films--but in these rare cases, I actually prefer the film version story to the original author story.

A few off the top of my head:

The Count of Monte Cristo

Either it's the happier ending or just the addition or blending of characters/scenes that made me enjoy the film version more than the original story. Now, I give all credit where credit is due. The films would be nothing without the original author story. I LOVE all four of those books written by talented authors who dreamt up these stories in the first place.

BUT .... when it comes down to it, the film version stories are more fulfilling. Those happen to be four of my fave movies as well.

What are your thoughts? Any films you prefer over the original story? It's rare, I know. But they are out there. Do you disagree? Why?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nanners, Start Your Creative Engines!

First off, a humongous thank you to Quinn over at Seeing, Dreaming, Writing for the lovely Irrisistable Blog Award. It's so purty! And I'm equally flattered. Check out his blog and his wicked cool Halloween fingernails if you haven't already.

Nanners, you ask? Yes, as in NaNoWriMo .... THE event that the writer blogosphere has been talking about for the past two months. In three days time writers around the globe will be hunkering down to pound out 50k words. I can feel the excitement. Okay, so it's kinda weird to anyone who isn't a writer. My hubby thinks I'm crazy that it even sounds fun to me. Must be a writer thing.

Last night I stumbled upon a blog that mentioned GMC. What is GMC?

Here's the basic formula:   Character wants Goal because Motivation but Conflict

If you can figure out that, you've got your logline and your hook. And probably a great first sentence for a query.

I spent a good while trying to come up with the GMC for my NaNo story. The logline was no prob. But the graph had me thinking away and really considering what my internal and external motivations and conficts are.
I've already got my chapter outline and character sketches and I'm ready to go. But when you have to break it down into this GMC formula, it can get a little tricky. It should be cut and dry, but I've got all these subplots tangling their way into the main plot thread.

I'm guessing if you can keep the GMC in mind while you're writing your first draft, you can keep yourself on track with the story and prevent too much deviations. I foresee going WAY over 50k words, but I love the numerical goal. Keeps it in line with something to work toward.

Anyway, here's the link to Adventures in Children's Publishing.  It's the must-read post on GMC, complete with graph that I recommend writers use for every future story. It applies to any writer, not just kid lit.

That's my bit of advice for my fellow Nanners as they fill up their coffee cups and rev their creative engines. What about you? Any last minute helpful tidbits to add (besides showering at least once a week?)

lay'em on me.... I'm ready to rock-n-roll!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Weekly Spotlight

Wow, Blogger's slow this morning. Must be like congestion in a traffic jam. A kind of blogging rush hour, if you will. :s (I'm a dork, I know.)

Welcome to my new followers. Glad you're here. Feel free to comment. Love to hear from you. :)

Wednesday is the day I shine the spotlight on one of the blogs I follow and tell you why I follow them. If you're following me, then I should be following you. If I'm not please let me know. Because unless your blog is rude, crude, or offensive my face should be one of the many in your little sea of floating heads. (I know that doesn't include any one of my lovely followers.)

Love my blogging friends, and while I can't read every blog every day, there are those I read regularly for their awesome writing, voice, tips, humor, etc. You never know when it may be YOUR blog in the spotlight, so check back each Wednesday ... it's always a surprise. :o

Today, the Blogger Oscar goes to .....    


*gasps of anticipation*


You may be following her blog already. If you are, don't you love it?? I'm always eager to learn what she will post next. She's over in India and every day has been posting a drabble. What's a drabble you ask? A drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words. And Rayna always has a great one.

Her posts make me stop and think. They make me appreciate the world, and question what's wrong with it. Just read her post from yesterday on what wives do for their husbands. If you're not following her already, you should be. Read a few posts and you'll be making it a point to read her blog daily.

So what are you waiting for? Click on the link above and check her out.

And if you don't see your name in the spotlight this week, don't worry ... keep posting on those awesome blogs and you never know when it'll be your name in the spotligt next.  

Cheers my firends!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Never Underestimate the Power of Body Language

Hello again, wacky and wonderful blogosphere! My husband is always like, "How can you be on the computer so much?!" He has no idea what goes on here... and how you can literally get blogged down for hours. (I'm coining that phrase btw.) Can you believe NaNo is six days away??? Okay, breathe in, breathe out ...

In other news, I just read that lit agent Chip MacGregor is hanging up the blog for good. He had a really helpful one too. But I get it. I mean, how much more can you say once you've said it all??

I stumbled upon an awesome blog the other day (which I neglected to copy the name of and I'm sure it's somewhere on my Google reader but I just don't have time to find it right now) with a post on the importance of body language. She had a list of suggestions, which I took down and will share with you below.

My characters tend to do a lot of shrugging, rolling of the eyes, nodding, etc.... you know, the cliches. But if we really focus on the body language we won't have to add in those extra adjectives, adverbs, etc. Body language can even take the place of dialogue tags. Body language conveys emotion without us having to tell the reader. It allows us to show the reader. Could be as simple as crossing one's arms over his chest.

So here's what I found, I'm sure there's plenty more, but this will get the ball rolling....

* The direction someone is facing - good for first impressions of a person's mood, where their attention is focused, and how safe they feel.

* Where a person is looking (making eye contact or looking at a particular object) - good for showing what a character is paying attention to, and how ready they are for conversation or confrontation.

* Open or closed body posture - this shows mood and receptiveness. The more bunched up a person is, the more uncomfortable they appear . A person can also close body to one side and open to another by crossing the legs and turning the shoulders, perhaps to show preference to one love interest over another.

* Placement of the hands - this shows mood, anxiety level, and can also give information about character and personality depending on what the person is holding or what they are doing with their hands.

* Height of the shoulders - another mood indicator.

* Ease of breathing - great to show fear, relief, relaxation, excitement, etc.

Do you have some to add? Please share!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Have You Seen My Crossover??

No, I'm not talking about my awesome roller skating skills.... I cut it up on the rink this past Friday with my book club. I crossed my leg right over the other with my smooth turns while doing the "bounce."  LOL! What fun it was! Next time I'm pimping myself out.... I mean WAY out with shiny jacket and neon pink wheels. It' all about the style, baby.

But no, I'm talking today about an uber-fantastic group of writers on Writer's Digest Community called YA/Crossover. We're of like minds since most of our MCs are eighteen years old and on the cusp of the YA genre. But we all feel it's a really important age for teens--a time when they're on the brink of full adulthood, but not quite ready for all the accountabilities that come with being a full fledged grown-up.

We just reached 100 members and we're celebrating with a simultaneous blog post today!!

Does this category fit your work? If so, click on the link above and join us in our writing endeavors. It's a great bunch of peeps who are always supportive and postive. Sometimes we share snippets of our work, our blogs, contests, etc.  Come check it out!

BTW I discovered this weekend a nifty little thing you can do to your Blogger blog to prevent that annoying word verification from coming up. You know what I'm talking about?? That thing that always makes you type in some funky word before you can comment on someone's blog?? We don't really need it. Spam doesn't really make it's way into writer's blogs. We're kind of a network all our own. So if you'd like to remove that (and I kindly suggest you do if you wanna make it super easy for others to comment) head up to your Settings and Comments, then disable your word verifiaction

Also, I was intrduced to this cool new application called Digby. Click on the link to learn how you can arrange all your social media into one platform for easy access. It looks really cool.

And as a reminder, if you haven't done so already, please click on the blue ribbon to your right and become a fan of the Facebook pro teen self-esteem page, F.L.O.A.T.

WriteOnCon's monthly chat tonight at 9pm EST.  Anything else going on I missed? So many contests I can't keep up with'em all. Hope your week is extra creative! How was your weekend??

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Over the last few days I've been trying to figure out what the key ingredients are to making a book unputdownable. Honestly, I rarely read a book's first chapter where I can't put it down. For me, a book doesn't become unputdownable til halfway through it. So what's the big deal?

I know taste has a lot to do with it. What makes a book unputdownable to me, won't always be the same for someone else. I've always given novels a kind of grace period at the beginning to get my interest flowing. Usually if it doesn't by the third chapter, I don't come back to it. But in today's publishing world, it's not enough. The first chapter has to practically sing itself off the page.

I get it. And it's tough creating that hook in the first chapter... that unputdownable-ness. But what is it exactly? I'm sure it's different for every story, but can you pinpoint the qualities or quality? I think with my story FLOAT, there is some unputdownable-ness in the first chapter, but I'm finding it varies from reader to reader. That's why finding the right agent is so hard.

BTW I got some great feedback from my book club last night. I even got quoted! How cool is that? One friend had singled out quotes from my book. I'm so glad I had them read it. They really liked it and are so positive about me seeking publication. That makes me feel there's hope. :)

But tell me, do you have any inklings as to what the key ingredients are to capture that unputdownable quality? Tell me everything, g'head.

Friday, October 22, 2010

To Boldly Go...

So I realized after I posted on Tuesday that I forgot to leave the five things about me with The Versatile Blogger Award.  And just so you can get to know me better, I thought I'd throw them in now:

1. I'm a fifth generation native Floridian (very rare these days. Most peeps here are from somewhere else.)

2. I didn't get married til I was almost twenty-nine. (spent my twenties traveling)

3. In 2004 I spent two months on assignment for work in India, came home and got pregnant with my son.

4. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter one year later while on assigment in Mexico. (If our kids didn't look so much like my hubby he'd be suspicious)

5. I spent three years in college but never finished--once I got the travel bug I couldn't spare the time.

Okay so the point of my blog title:

My book club is made up of eight girls whom I graduated high school with. Two of which are my lifelong best friends, the other five I reconnected with when Facebook started blowing up. It's been exactly a year since our first book club meeting, and since then we've read some phenom books:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Angry Housewives eating BonBons
The Help
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

And this time around was my turn to host and pick the book. Well, being the bold person that I am, I asked them if they'd mind reading my latest ms, FLOAT. Okay, so it's kind of cheeky of me because I'm just a no-name aspiring author, but they were really agreeable and encouraging. So last month I sent them all a copy and they've been reading.

Our meeting is tonight--we're going roller skating--and it's gonna be really weird discussing my work. I've already heard some really positive remarks, so I'm not nervous about the work itself. I'm nervous about being the center of attention. I hate it. I liken myself to a backup dancer/singer. I don't really want the spotlight, but I wanna be a part of the show.

Luckily, going skating, we'll have other things to do so we're not sitting around drinking wine and talking about me. LOL! But really, I'm super excited to hear their responses and I'll let you know how it goes. I had special tee shirts made up for all of us to commemorate the event. I'll post pics tomorrow.

Enough of that,  also want to tell you about a groovy contest going on over at Beth Fred's Project 52. Check it out! She always has super cool prizes.

Hope everyone has a stellar weekend. Any special plans? Please share .....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Re-visions : Part 2

I'm late posting today. Thursdays I volunteer at my son's school library, which is so great having access to all the kid lit.  Still, the most popular I see are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson series, Lemony Snicket.

But that's not what I want to discuss today. I saw a cool quote the other day (wish I'd have written it down) about how an author's real writing is in the revision. It's so true. I've revised my story Float so many times now, and it gets better each time--which makes me wonder if you're ever really done. Sometimes, you just gotta step away and move on.

So the second round of revisions should provide you with a more seamless feel to the story--finally you're weaving it all together and tightening the loose threads.

Check for:

Scene structure
Character development

This second time around is when we should be focusing more attention on individual scenes. We should have a story world so real that the page disappears. We can transform dull settings so that there's more mood and tension. Maybe there's a scene where not much happens but at the time you wrote it, it helped the story flow. Cut it. We have to learn to see which scenes can be cut because nothing's really happening. Another reason why beta readers/ CPs are so valuable.

Maybe your MC spends too much time alone, or you don't have enough cliffhangers at the end of your chapters.

Here's a good checklist for beta readers:

1. Does story move fast enough to hold readers' attention?
2. Are there any summaries that should be developed into scenes or vice versa?
3. Need to add any foreshadowing?
4. Actions of characters make sense?
5. Is time passing in a clear, understandable way?
6. Each scene have setting details?
7. Does each scene raise the stakes?
8. Are characters consistent?
9. Any long introspection in need of trimming?
10. Does dialogue match characters' vocabulary, intelligence, emotions?

I got these questions form one of my trusty writing manuals and I find them so helpful.

On a lighter note, there are a couple of contests for pre-published writers happening!

For YA writers:

And Miss Snark's Baker's Dozen for both YA and Adult:

How cool is that?? I participated in Miss Snark's Secret Agent contest this month and it was extremely helpful. I got some great feedback on my first 250 words, and while the secret agent didn't request any partials from me,  she did remark that the writing was good and and the subject matter interesting.

What about you? Anything to add to second round revsions?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Weekly Spotlight

Wow, awards are so much fun--giving and getting both. I mean, they're not even tangible--just a photo--but they have such a positive effect.

Wednesdays, as you know, are the day of the week when I shine the spotlight on one of the blogs I follow. It's my opportunity to show appreciation to them for a job well done and let others know about them (if they don't already.)

Today, the Oscar goes to....... *trumpets sounding*

Sheri A. Larsen       of      Writer's Alley

Sheri's blog is fantastic! She always has groovy contests going on and throws an I Got U Blogfest to show blog love around the blogosphere. It's because of Sheri that I started this little weekly spotlight to begin with. I was so impressed with her blogfest, I thought, "Wow! We need to do more for each other because it feels great!"

As writers we tend to relish our time alone and sequester ourselves away whenever possible so we can toil away at spinning tales. We don't get a lot of appreciation and understanding from those around us (if we're not yet published) so having fellow bloggers to support us is invaluable.

I love Sher's positive energy and outlook on life. Just check out her blog and you'll see what I mean. She's also running a Halloween contest with smashing prizes, and there's still time to sign up! Which reminds me.... I need to get my story to her ASAP....

On that note, I bid you adieu. Happy hump day! The weekend is in sight. I can't wait to tell you about my special Book Club event on Saturday, so be sure to check back. Tomorrow, more on revisions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Have You Seen This Book?

Brand spankin' new sci-fi book by Alex J. Cavanaugh is out today!! This is the grand debut and how cool would it be if he got some mega support from fellow writers.

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

Doesn't it sound awesome?? Can't wait to read it.

You can buy it on Amazon here. Watch the trailer here.  This is making it's way around the blogosphere but how cool! Wouldn't you love it if your fellow writer/authors supported you and sread the word about your debut book?

Go Alex! Congrats!!

(If you're looking for the awards from earlier today they're the next post down.) :) Peace and blog love!

Ahem .... Awards, please!

I've been a slacker at passing some awards along, Sharon K. Mayhew just awarded me with The Versatile Blogger so I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to her! Love signing in to find an award! Also, Quinn, Talei, Leigh, and JE Fritz have left me awards recently and I'm so grateful. :)

So I must pass on The Versatile Blogger and with it there are some rules. You must list five things about yourself, then pass the blog on to five others.

So here we are... *clears throat*  I give you five versatile bloggers who always dazzle me with their posts:

Margo Kelly
Mary Waibel
EJ Wesley
Trish Leaver
Regina Linton

Please collect your award and add it to your blog! I love reading your posts and always take something away from it. :)

As for a friendship award, I'd like to leave this one to my new blogging friends who I think are just plain awesome:

Sharon K. Mayhew
Talei Loto
JE Fritz
Leigh Moore

Check out all  the great blogs and make some new friends! Cheers!

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Did They Do It ???

Ever wonder that about published authors? How they managed to get themselves in print on this daunting path to publication? I always do. With the first novel I wrote, I had no idea it was such a challenging process. I thought you wrote the story, sent it in, and were published. Oh the naivety! LOL!

Recently I entered a mentor program from author, Sacha Whalen's, website. (I'll blog more on how stellar she is in another post.) Today, I want to share an interview with YA author, Jennifer Hubbard, represented by Nathan Bransford. She's my mentor from Sacha's program, and wow is she ever helpful! She not only took time out of her busy schedule to critique my query for FLOAT, but she let me interview her to learn more about her debut novel, The Secret Year.

So I won't keep you waiting. Here's her answers to how she made it publication. Everything from "the call" from Nathan-to revisions-to holding her ARC in her hands for the first time. Super interesting stuff! And don't forget to check out her website and, of course, The Secret Year, which is in stores now! (links below)

1.     . Your story, The Secret Year, is about a teen who discovers his girlfriend’s life was full of secrets. What gave you the idea for the story?

I started with the idea of a secret relationship, a death, and a notebook left behind. I wrote the book to find out what was in the notebook, why the relationship had to be secret, and what would happen next. I’m not sure where the ideas came from, though!

2.      How long did it take you to write the original draft?

I’m not sure, because I go back and forth between projects. And I revised it so much that I’ve forgotten what the first draft was like. But I would guess it took a few months.

3.     It’s written from the male POV. Did you find this challenging?

Colt’s voice was the one that came to me from the beginning, and I never struggled with his voice. Julia, whom we hear from in some diary entries, was actually more challenging because I probably have less in common with her. (She has more money, beauty, and confidence than I!)

4.     .How many times did you revise before you felt ready to send the ms out?

I’ve lost track. There were at least eight or nine major drafts, with several passes on each draft.
  D .Did you have beta readers? If so, how many?

Yes, I had two people who critiqued an early version of the manuscript. I had a paid critique of the first chapter at a SCBWI conference. A couple of members of my local writer’s group also critiqued it. My agent had a few comments on it before we submitted to editors. And when I was revising for publication, I had my local critiquers and my agent weigh in on one scene that had been difficult for me to rewrite.

6.      Is the published story very different from your original draft?

There are some subplots and minor characters who disappeared. That deleted material mostly dealt with the increasing real-estate development in the town, and with Colt’s workplace—and they were really tangents that diluted rather than enriched the story. The ending changed a lot. I chopped it back substantially, because it used to go on and on about the summer before Colt’s senior year, and more about Syd’s parents’ divorce. Frankly, it was starting new stories where I really needed to just wrap up the story I had been telling: the story of Colt and Julia.

7.     . How long did you query before getting finding your agent?

With The Secret Year, it was a very short, fast process from query to representation. But I had shopped another manuscript before The Secret Year that had interest from a few editors and agents—all of whom agreed the story was almost publishable. But they differed on how to fix it, and I myself didn’t see how to fix it, so I moved on to The Secret Year—which turned out to be the right decision.

8.     . Your agent, Nathan Bransford, is very popular in the lit world. Was he a dream agent?

I’m a little leery of the “dream” word because we’re talking about a business relationship. As much as dreams are part of the writer’s process, I encourage people to think in practical terms when seeking representation. That said, Nathan was my top choice for this manuscript, and he’s been excellent to work with. I think you know you’ve made a good decision when your respect for the person only grows over time.

9.     . Did you have any idea he would be the one? Tell us about the call if there was one.

Nathan was my top choice for this manuscript based on what I knew at the time I submitted the manuscript. But I did have a long list of questions for prospective agents that I’d cobbled together on my computer. I wasn’t home when he called, but when I returned to find his message on the answering machine, I printed out my question list (just in case this call was what I thought it was) and called him back. And I can tell you that I’m glad I prepared that list in advance, because I could not have remembered all my questions, particularly in the excitement of the moment. He had some questions about the manuscript and about my background as a writer, and then we talked about my questions, and he offered representation. I felt good about the conversation, but I still took a little more time to think about it because, after all, signing with an agent is an important career step.

10  How long did it take from signing with Nathan to holding your printed book in your hand?

I did some very light revisions based on his notes, and then the manuscript went on submission. One of the first editors to see it offered on it, but the acquisition process took a while. Then there were editing, design, marketing plans. The book’s release was pushed back from 2009 to 2010 because the publisher often juggles books to try to showcase each book in its best season. In total, all that took about two years.

11  Did the publisher request many changes from your original?

At the time, it seemed like a lot of changes, but when I look back, there really weren’t so many. It’s fundamentally the same book, with certain things enhanced and others deleted. The ending changed the most. But everything was a change for the better, and I never felt that I was being asked to change anything against my will.

12  What was it like holding your printed book for the first time?

I was sitting at the desk where I wrote the book when my husband came in with a package that had just been delivered from Penguin. I opened it to find a note from my editor, along with the book. I had seen ARCs, so I knew how the cover and the internal design looked, but it was still a thrill to see the finished hardcover. I showed it to my husband, and to my cat, who was under the desk at the time. Then I inscribed the copy with the date and “This is my first copy of my first book.”

13  Did you always know you’d be a writer?

I always wrote. I published my first short story at a young age. But I wasn’t sure I would publish a book until it happened.

14  What pitfalls, if any, did you run into during your path to publication?

I was paid for a couple of short stories while I was still in high school, and the first was published when I was seventeen. Having sold a story so soon, I thought the acceptances would just flood in. Instead, I had a long dry spell before selling another story. For a while, I went on selling short stories here and there, and racking up the rejection slips in between, as most writers do. Since I’d always read YA books, and had made many attempts at writing them while I was still in high school, I finally decided I should try another now that I had more experience. But I had to write more than one before I wrote a publishable book. And then when I did sell one, it seemed like the publishing industry went through a massive upheaval—recession, editor layoffs, the rise of e-books plus much uncertainty about the digital future. By far the hardest part was waiting for the book to come out, and hoping the whole world would not change before that could happen.

15  What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Read a lot and write a lot.

16  Do you think YA books should have a subtle teen message or more for entertainment purposes?

I think we need all kinds of books. I don’t think any book with an underlying message should be preachy about it, or hit the reader over the head, but it’s great to have books that make us think. It’s also fun to have escape reads, and comfort reads, and all kinds of reads.

17   What’s in store for you? Any new stories in the works?

I do have another contemporary realistic YA novel in the pipeline. I hope to say more about that soon. In the meantime, the paperback of The Secret Year will be out December 23, with a different cover from the hardback.

Check out Jennifer Hubbard's website.  You can purchase The Secret Year from Amazon. This link will take you right to it. Read how awesome the reviews are!! Support your fellow authors!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Adventure....

Well, one of many. As a major perk to my airline job, I get to travel. For free. Hey, it's the whole reason I signed up for the gig. I started working for the airline when I was 23 and spent the next thirteen years traveling everywhere and anywhere I could get to. Needless to say, I've had many adventures, but the one that sticks out as my most favorite goes a little something like this.....

Four of us, two guys and two girls, who had never traveled anywhere together before, hopped on a plane and went to San Jose, Costa Rica. No reservations. No plans. Just to get there and start having fun. One night in San Jose was all we needed before moving on up country. We took a bus to La Fortuna near the Volcano Arenal and by chance, met a local named Hugo. Hugo offered to be our guide for the day for a small charge, and since we had no car, no plans, and no idea what to do next, we eagerly agreed.

Let's just say Hugo hooked us up real nice. Now, I was only 24 at the time--still an unplucked chicken in the travel world--so I was wide-eyed and loving every minute. I'd always dreamed of visiting Costa Rica. It did not disappoint. That day, we rode horseback through the lush tropical forest to the valley of a gorgeous waterfall. It took us an hour to hike down to it, but well worth it, as we dipped in the pristine pool and refreshed our tired limbs.

After hiking back up the mountainside, we re-mounted our horses and headed back. It began to rain. A good, strong rain. No lightening. Just a hearty rainstorm. Mind you, it was just us in the forest and nothing else but the wildlife. No convenient stores or anything like that. We found shelter in an old shed, where we sat on our horses and waited out the heavy rainfall. It was beautiful watching the swirling gray skies and the rain blowing. We were all giddy.

Once it let up, we rode the remainder of the way back in the drizzle. It was terribly romantic, though no romantic notions were happening between any of the friends. It was romance between man and nature, alone in the elements and soaking it all in. We were in need of a good meal after all that hiking and riding, so Hugo set us up with a meal at the Tabacon resort nearby, and we were in for a treat.

If you've never heard of Tabacon (like I hadn't at the time) let me just tell you, it is amazing. It's acres of verdant emerald vegetation grown up over hot springs at the base of the Volcano Arenal. You move along the pathway of green arcades and dip into the natural springs. One spring will cascade over into the next and keep going. Oh. My. Gosh. It was heaven.

Now add in the bubbling volcano in the distance, with neon pink lava flowing down in the night; More stars than you've ever seen in your life twinkling overhead--even the purplish galaxy dust was visible. All while you rest your limbs in the hot springs, maybe rinse your hair in the waterfalls, let the warm water transfix you into a state of total relaxation. The swim up bar at the far end of the springs was nice too... nothing like a fruity cocktail to cap off the experience. Drink while lying on the chaise lounge chair, listening to the roaring falls while watching the lava trickle down the side of the volcano. I didn't even need a drink. I was intoxicated on life.

This whole day was an adventure. But I think it was so memorable because it was all natural. I'm your quintessential granola girl (hippie at heart) and back then at age 24, this had to be the best day of my entire life. I've had many adventures since then, most wonderful in their own way, but this one just stands out for me. Just two months ago I took my husband to Tabacon to share it with him (his first time to CR). He was spellbound for sure. And it was wonderful being there again, although not quite the same as when I went back in 98. It will always be one of my fave adventures.

You can enter Beth Revis' Adventure Contest right here, just click on her name for the link. And be sure to check out her new book Across the Universe... you can read about it on her blog.

Now, to leave you with something totally funny. I ripped this off N.R. Williams' blog. Seriously, I almost spit coffee out my nose I laughed so hard.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Empowerment Day!

By chance, I stumbled upon a cool experiment going on today called Empowerment Day.

Lettucehead over at the Lettucehead (love that name!) is hosting an all day event where bloggers post on what empowers us as individuals and why.

First of all, I adore the word, empowerment....  Just say it a few times and let it roll off your lips. The sound alone is empowering. Being a woman, I find the word especially important. I'm a huge advocate for empowering teens and women everywhere to take charge of their lives and learn how to stand up for themselves.

There are many things that can empower us: a job title, a fast car, a divorce, a promotion, etc. Different strokes for different folks, as usual. What empowers me, may not empower you. Today's post is about what empowers me.

I don't even have to think twice. My kids. Everything is for them. They make me want to be the best person I can be. They force me to take charge, make big decisions, be brave, love unconditionally. And if those things don't empower an individual, I don't really know if anything can.

Now, I know I can be and do all those things without kids. No question. But doing it for me and doing it for them are totally different. They're the jelly on my toast. My kids empower me. I'd wrestle an alligator to save them without a second thought. I have to be the best person I can, because I'm their example, protector, provider.

Their existence gives me power.

What about you? If you didn't participate in the experiment leave me a comment and tell me what empowers you. Also, check out the other posts from Lettucehead's link at the top. Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Author Envy

Ever feel envious that another writer is where you want to be? It's probably normal for us to feel that way at some point along our path to success. I mean, just think about it---no matter where you are on your path, there's always someone (or even many) who are more successful with it.

Take the newbie novel writer--perhaps he envies his writer friend who's already finished her novel and is on revisions. Or perhaps it's the aspiring author stuck in the query phase who envies a writer friend with an agent. Perhaps the agented author envies the writer with a two book contract, or the published author who envies the NY Times bestseller.

You catch my drift. Everyone's path is unique. There will always be more to strive for, and that's good. But I don't think we can compare ourselves to other writers. Even as a NY Times bestseller someone out there will think our work sucks. That's the brutal hard truth of it. Look at how many writers out there thing Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga was written poorly. I, for one, can excuse the writing if you tell me a good story. But as I grow as a writer, I tend to notice it more.

Growing as a writer is my whole point of this post. It makes no sense to envy other writers when we are all  constantly growing and evolving into better ones. Almost two years ago I emailed a story I wrote to one of my best friends (who's not a writer.) And she promised to read it. It was a short, 60k word contemp romance, so I knew it wasn't asking too much of her to read.

However, time and parenthood got the best of her and she never read it, and I forgot about is as I moved on to other projects. Well, about two months ago she called me and told me she just read the whole thing and loved it. I cringed. I could only imagine how bad my writing was, I've grown so much since then. Of course, I was flattered she read it, and flattered even more that she was able to overlook the poor writing and enjoy the story.

Out of curiosity, I went back and read the first few chapters and naturally I was editing as I went. My skin was crawling at the poor sentence structure and overuse of adverbs and adjectives. I mean, wow! I should probably just rewrite the whole thing... that's how bad it is. But the story was there. So even through the bad writing I was able to see that I'm a storyteller.

Which brings me to the next point: I think it's important we recognize our potential and strength and talent, just as much as we recognize our need for constant growth. If we are ever changing, learning, and growing there's no doubt we'll succeed. No need for author envy. There will always be someone ahead and someone better, but if we persist through personal growth and build a network of positive writer friends around us, we will taste our own personal success.

And we'll arrive there from our own unique path.

What are your thoughts on author envy? Ever felt it? How did you overcome it?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Weekly Spotlight

I just feel so fortunate to have made so many wonderful writer friends via the internet. There is such a network of support and motivation and ambition. Even though I may never actually meet some of you, It's just really great knowing you're there and we're on the same path (though all different in their own way.)

Wednesdays are the day I shine the spotlight on one of the blogs I follow and tell you why I follow them.

Today, the Oscar goes to .....

T. Romel Blossom's    My Blossoming Mind

T. Romel Blossom has this great thing going on with her blog. Every Thursday night she offers a live chat right from her blog. It gives writers a chance to discuss how we approach different areas of our writing. We have fun and it's so great to chat in a small group so that everyone has a chance to type and be heard (or should I say read.)

Last week we discussed the areas of YA age groups. This week the topic is synopses. (UGH!) I just finished revising mine (again.) So if you're interested in discussing this (hated) topic, drop by her blog tomorrow at 9pm EST. There's only room for 9 in the chat room but you can participate via Twitter if you're late.

T. Romel Blossom is a dedicated writer and her blog posts are focused on honing the craft. And how cool is it that we get to chat with her and make new friends from her blog chats. I've been there the last two weeks and learned something both times. Even if you aren't game for the live chats, I'm sure she'd appreciate the follow.

So what are you waiting for? Go check her out by clicking on the link (My Blossoming Mind) above. And if you can't join the chat tomorrow night, check back next week.

On a side note... is there a blog you just  love and want to make me aware of it? Chances are I'm following it already, but maybe I haven't heard of it. Please feel free to make suggestions. I don't wanna miss anything ... especially if it's a blog with great writing/market/ publishing advice. So you tell me... is there a blog you just love? Please share!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

By Request: More Queen Pics

Some of you wanted to see some more Queen party pics. Ask, and you shall receive.....

This past weekend was our annual Witch's Ball. The theme this time was "Queens." As always, anything goes. I was runner up for my White Queen costume in the Most Creative category. The winner was the Queen of Controversy: Lady Gaga (the one with the yellow caution tape wrapped around her.) Yeah, I voted for her, too. :)


Tune in tomorrow for my Weekly Spotlight..... Could be you!! :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

More From Mary Kole Webinar

"Writers of books about the real world have to dig deep and tell the truth." Ursula Nordstrom

Isn't that a fantastic quote?? I'd never heard it before til Mary's webinar. Honestly, I didn't know who Ursula was, but she was responsible for introducing some very famous stories to the kidlit world.

I'll break the recap up into a few different posts since there was so much. For starters, Mary gave some tips for being successful in your writing:

Most important is
         Researching the market
         Polishing the writing
         Getting/giving critiques
         Revision skills

Her tips for queries:
         Always follow agency guidelines and personalize
         Isolate the hook
        What is the selling point?
        Who will read it? Similar successful books?
         Brief, professional approach
        Make agent care about the MC and story

Agent will care about your query if you do these things:
        Show who the MC is
        What is the action that launches the story?
        What or Who does the MC want most?
        What or Who is the obstacle?
        What is at stake if MC doesn't get it?

Mary said YA sales are up %30 and kids are online and want to get to know authors. Great market potential for books in a series... especially for MG authors.

Her suggested length for the different kidlit areas:
      PB---- 500 words
      MG----35-60k words
      YA----45-90k words

She said to stay away from your MC being 14 or 15 because kids like to read up and there's a gap with protags in the 14-15 age range.

She said you should always submit work/queries simultaneously.
Don't write in the style you think kids should be reading, but in how they want to read.        

She suggested these books for kidlit writers:
       Writing Great Books for YA  (Brooks)
       Spilling Ink  (Mazer & Potter)
       Writing the Breakout Novel  (Maass)
       Story   (McKee)
       On Writing (King)

Man, I so need to read those. Gotta find the time to do it all! I'll have more on Mary's webinar later, breaking it down into MG and YA.      

I had a fab costume party on Saturday. Check out my White Queen costume below.....

Ha ha! Good for a laugh, right?? Lots of great "queen" costumes: zombie queen, 4 Cleopatras, Queen Mary, 2 Dairy Queen employees, Snow White Queen, Queen of controversy: Lady Gaga, 2 beauty queens..... lol! Good times!

Happy Monday! How was your weekend??

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Redundancy. Redundancy

Ah, yes. A sneaky little sucker. Why do we feel the need to over explain things in our writing?? I blame my dad. he always overinstructed everything he taught us to do. We would nod and roll our eyes and mumble, "Yes, Dad... we've got it."

Truthfully, I don't even notice it when I revise. It seems so natural for me to read redundancy because I know it's me explaining to the reader. But it all goes back to trusting the reader--understanding they are intelligent and can make intuitive leaps and bounds. Just like with my dad ... he couldn't assume that we understood the first round of instructions because we were young.

Recently, I attended kidlit agent Mary Kole's WD webinar. Ironically, it was redundant for me. Only because I'm past the point of what she was teaching on the teen/tween market. (Stuff I've already researched) However, there were some great reminders and interesting to have her perspective as coming from one of the top kid lit agencies in the country, Andrea Brown.

My main incentive for participating was the 250 word critique Mary was offering everyone of their first page. This, I could not resist. And since I'd recently wrote a brand new chapter for FLOAT, I needed her critique badly. She was amazing on the turn around time. Two weeks later she emailed the critique, and what was her number one issue with my writing??? You guessed it.... REDUNDANCY!

I'd even had betas read the first chapter and they hadn't caught it, either. Not to say they're not great betas...  I love, love, love my betas! I don't know if I'd notice it, either. Obviously, I don't notice it in my own work. Mary picked out three different paragraphs from my first page where I restated something I'd already said, but in a different way. She said I started the story in a good place, but I'm not trusing the reader to get it.

Hmm.... I said to myself. That mans I have to go back through the entire ms and edit for redundancy alone. Cool. Glad it's apparent to me now. I plan to watch out for it. Also, she mentioned when writing in first person, imagine yourself sitting around a campfire telling a story. Don't use an outside-looking-in approach. In my dialogue I had used the tag:  I said, my voice quiet, determined.

That was her point... that a person would never tell a story like that about themselves, that that is a third person narration technique.

Hopefully, that will help some of you as well. I'll post more on Mary's webinar later next week. I've got a busy day ahead and have our Annual Witch's Ball tonight. Some girlfirends from high shool and I do it every year in costume. This year the theme is "Queens."  So I'm dressing as the White Queen from Wonderland and I'll post pics later.

Any of you have any thoughts on redundancy? Does it plague your work as well? If not, what does?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tweaky Tweaky

Totally been neglecting the blogosphere so I could tweak my ms and synopsis before sending it out again.

Now, I just sit back and wait. No, not really. I've got so much to do. BUT I am officially on staycation for the next week so I vow to catch up on my beta reading. And hopefully, enjoy some more of this incredible weather before locking myslef in doors for NaNoWriMo.

I attended a webinar with kid lit agent Mary Kole a week or so ago, and I plan to do a recap early next week. I also have an author interview coming up with YA author Jennifer Hubbard. So please check back for that great info.

Since today is already shot, I'll be back tomorrow to post on redundancy. An ugly little issue that tends to creep it's way into my writing. When I write, I tend to restate what I've already told the reader. LOL... see what I mean??

Happy Friday! Have a great weekend! Peace and love!

And if you haven't already, join the facebook anti-bullying movement at F.L.O.A.T

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


So my most recent manuscript is called FLOAT. It involves teen bullying and the main character learning to overcome it. She creates a movement to stop bullying called F.L.O.A.T --- For Love Of All Teens.

As I search for an agent who is interested in this story, I realize this idea should be out there right now. I've just created a Facebook page called F.L.O.A.T. Please become a fan and help support the idea that bullying is lame.

Let's help teens learn to stand together and have each other's back. Let's take Facebook by storm and really create a movement. Not something fictional like in my story, but real.

Look for F.L.O.A.T on Facebook now! Spread the word!!/pages/FLOAT/160826343935912

Wednesday Weekly Spotlight

Hey, it's that time of the week again! The time when I tell you about a blog I follow and why I follow it.

Without further ado .... The Oscar goes to .....

Drumroll please...

     Florence Fois       of         Ramblings from the Left

I love me some Florence Fois (last name sounds like voice!) She is a super witty and talented writer whose blog is always full of juicy tidbits. What I like about Ramblings from the Left is that I can kinda sit back with my coffee and read a memory or two from Florence's Manhattan reflections. She does such a great job of capturing vivid details of life in NYC. But that's not all! She has a stellar appreciation for talented women and also posts fun interviews and snippets. She is active in so many different groups that I don't know how she keeps up with it all.

But she is so down to earth, you'll be wondering why you haven't been following her sooner.

So are you following Florence's blog already? If not, check her out with the link above. You'll be glad you did.

Read an awesome quote the other day:     "Good work will find a way."

WOW! I gotta remember that one.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Wow! October is such a BUSY month! But so many cool things going on... not to mention the change in weather always seems to liven things up.

A HUGE thank you to Lydia Sharp for featuring my blog on her group Writing Mothers in the Writer's Digest Community. If you're a writing mom and are looking for some like-minded ladies, check out the group. Lydia also runs a super informative blog with lots of helpful writer info. Seriously, some of her posts have had me jotting notes.

There are also a couple of Halloween Horror writing contests going on, so if you need to step away from your WIP and refresh your brain with a quick but fun 1k word scary story, check out SA Larsen and
 Hannah Kincade's blogs for details. Awesome prizes!

Speaking of Blogtober, you ever sit back and think about the whole blogosphere idea? I know I'm gonna sound like I've been out back smoking the wacky weed, but it's really amazing. I mean I can sit at my laptop and read blogs all day and never walk outside. I will have taken in so much info, met so many new bloggers, entered contests, shared stories, maybe even won some stuff. All without ever getting out of my seat.

Okay, so I'd never spend the entire day blogging... especially not in this weather, but if I let it, it could easily consume me. What blows my mind is that most of you and the other bloggers, I'll never even meet. You're just a floating photo with posted words that make up your personality. Huh.

Speaking of weather, it's so nice in Florida right now that the AC is off and the windows are open. The sky is so vividly blue it's hard to stop gazing at it. I adore this time of year and love driving with the windows down and music playing. Of course, it's usually only driving my kids to and from school, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

This morning I was thinking of music, and how it has such a dramatic effect on films in particular. There are some films out there that I truly love, and part of the reason I love them is because of their original score. My favorite writing music comes from original film scores. Without this music, these films would not be half of what they are. The way the composers nailed the feeling of the scenes is just baffling.

For example, some of my fave soundtracks are: Avatar, Stardust, LOTR, Braveheart, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon ... Just to name a few. Sometimes in moments (or hours) of no inspiration, I listen to these soundtracks and find my muse. They're mostly instrumental so the imagination is carried by the sound.

Is your writing like this? Does it possess some kind of magical fluidity that transfixes the reader? We can't exactly add real music to our stories, but we can allow music to affect our words so that they're rich and meaningful and hypnotic.

What do you think? How does music affect your life or your writing?

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Heart and Brains.... PART 1

Happy Monday! This week I'm starting a short series of posts on Revision.

*Boo Hiss* *Wrinkles nose* *Pretends to barf*

Nah, it's not that bad. I actually really like the first round of revsion. Why? Because I get to read my story as a whole and savor the tale I've told. I've mentioned before why I think the first draft is just a backbone of  a story. It's skeletal, which is fine. It's a start. It's in the first, second, and third rounds of revision that we go back and add the heart and brains of the characters, dialogue, setting, narrative, etc.

I know what you're thinking... Who the heck am I to be giving advice? I'm just a pre-published writer. BUT I've been studying the craft like a madwoman. I devour anything that teaches me how to be a better writer and storyteller. So I'm simply sharing with you what I've already learned. We're all on different levels, but we all have the same goal: to be a darn good writer!

Here's my checklist for the first round of revisions: (Think Big Picture)

* Does the plot make sense?
*Is the structure sound? (Beginning, Middle, Ending)
*How are the POVs or POV? Is there a distinct, consistent voice?
*Any plot holes or motive unexplained?
*Is there too much summary? Are there places you can turn into actual scenes?
*Are the scenes in the right order? Should they be moved around?
*Does each scene/action move the story forward and contain some kind of conflict?
*Is the timeline consistent?
*Is there too much description in certain places? Is the description coming through the correct POV?
*Anything not make sense? Do you need to add any flashbacks to help it make sense?
*Can any characters be combined because they're too similar?

Sometimes it helps if you can read as if you're an editor. An editor would notice things like too much backstory, or characters with very little depth.

Jessica Morrell suggests printing out your manuscript in a different font than the one you wrote it in. This will help give you new eyes for the story you already know. Mistakes are much easier to pick up from a hard copy.

I haven't tried the different font, but it sounds like an awesome idea. I'm finding that with my most recent ms, Float, I've been through it at least six times with different beta readers. Everyone will find something different. And even though you may feel a sense of completion after the first round.... the big fact is of the matter is that you ain't done!

So how many times do you revise before calling it a finished ms and sending it out to the wolves? Any tricks of the trade that help you add in the heart and brains?

And yeah... that one's all mine up there. Gotta claim him. My sweet, destructive little kindergartner. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Let's Talk About Blogs, Baby....

Let's talk about you and me.... Let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that could be....

Okay, okay... I'm a loser. I know this already. But sometimes while I'm blogging an old song will pop in my head and insist I substitute with the word blog in the lyric.

Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday and not glued to the computer all day. If you're working like me, then I just wanted to mention a couple of blogs that need your help.

First, Talli Roland has a book coming out Dec. 1 and needs some fellow bloggers to help her sweep Amazon with sales on its first day. Why not support a fellow author? If it were your book you'd sure want some support for it, right? Check out her blog and her book from the link above. She's super cool and nice!

Also there's a contest on Project 52 where you can help a fellow writer and aspiring author get to 50 followers. And Beth's giving away The Hunger Games trilogy. I'm probably the only person who still hasn't read them, but they're on the list!!

Also, Tammy McKee has a brand spankin new blog up and needs some followers so Trish and I don't look so lonely. This is a great new blog. Just read her first post and see for yourself.

Have a great rest of your weekend and a HUGE WELCOME to my new followers!

Tune in tomorrow for a little bit on the R word.... No not rejection... the other one... REVISION!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Query Quandaries

For anyone who is also in the query stage of their work, remember.... you are not alone. My most recent story I queried about twenty different agents back in June and out of those twenty I got one partial request. Three months later the partial was rejected (in a very nice way) and that made me realize it was time to revamp the story and the query.

So I have. I now have a totally different first chapter where the inciting incident is VERY clear. My query has been polished and I'm almost ready to go out into the fray again. I still want a couple more pros to review the query for me. Anyway, isn't it insane how much research that querying alone requires?? I thought I'd share a little of what I've learned so far in case it helps anyone else.

 I can't post it all in one sitting, but I'll start with some good info my mentor gave me. I'm part of a YA mentor program and my mentor, published YA author Jennifer Hubbard, has given me the formula that worked in getting her agent, Nathan Bransford, and her novel, The Secret Year, published:

Greeting to agent, brief line about why I was contacting him or her specifically (e.g., I liked his client's books or saw her speak at a conference or whatever).

Gave the book's title, genre and subgenre (contemporary YA), and a hint at the topics/themes ("secrecy, loss, and obsession").
This is where most people seem to put the book's word count, too. I'll confess that I have never included a word count in a query. I couldn't see how it mattered. Probably the main thing someone can glean from the word count is whether you have any idea of the typical word lengths of books in today's markets--and if your book is in the ballpark, fine. 

2-3 sentences telling who the main character is, and what sticky situation he has gotten involved in (the setup for the main plotline).
1-2 sentences describing the first complication/setback for the main character.
1-2 sentences mentioning one of the subplots that affects the novel's climax in another major setback, & describes that climax.
1 sentence discussing how the MC dealt with the climactic event, what he learned, how he did or didn't change.

Brief paragraph about my previous publications (short stories). This is also where you would include relevant platforms/experience, if you have any (e.g., if your book is about Iraqi doctors and you spent 3 years as a medic in Iraq, or if your book is about dog shows and you have experience running a dog show, or if you happen to host a radio show whose thousands of listeners are likely to buy your book). But if you have no previous publications or relevant experience, it's fine to just say, "This is my first novel."

Closing with contact information.

If anyone else is wallowing in the bowels of query hell, perhaps this smidgen of info will help. If you get a chance, check out Jennifer's website above.

BTW Georgia McBride of YALitChat just got herself an agent after querying for 13 months!! So happy for her, and that goes to show.... persistence and patience are number 1 when it comes to getting published.

So keep at it! I know I plan to!

Now, I'm off to start writing my 1k word horror story for Hannah Kincade's contest. I've been swishing ideas around for the last week and last night it hit me...... I'm looking forward to stepping outside my comfort zone and trying my writerly hand at something different. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010


Crazy cool blogfest going on at Serena's blog  I See You See  ....

Bloggers pick a name from Serena's selection and write a few words about that location, using only.... what's that? Yes, our imagination!

I picked:


Follow the yellow brick road north of Topeka, Kansas and you will be in Nowhere. Drive a few hundred miles west of Nowhere, and eventually you'll run into Letham Grange. In the fall, the yellow-gold fields of wheat rustle in the breeze agains the cobalt sky, for acre after acre as far as the eye can see. Nestled amidst it all is a giant,delapidated old barn, the russet colored paint faded from time's unforgiving seasons. It's been attempted before to demolish the old barn--rumor in the nearby town is that it's the main source of eerie mischief that causes livestock to disappear and children to wake up screaming. Sherriff Tomkins and his men tried to investigate once, but they were never the same afterwards, their hair soon a permanent shade of gray. Only answer anyone ever got was, "Even after his death, Farmer Letham's never changed." 

Okay, so I left you hanging with that... but that was kinda the point. Let your own imagination run with it. Have some fun! Use it for a prompt and write something spooky for Halloween!

Be sure to visit Serena's blog for the rest of the entries and enjoy all the locations!

Happy Friday! And Happy October! It's my fave time of year.... I can feel fall in the air (and when you live in Florida it's like a glass of cold water on a hot day.) Fall can never come fast enough.

Have a most excellent weekend! :)