Friday, December 30, 2011

Resolutions

It's that time of year again, when peeps are thinking of ways to improve themselves or their lives, set some goals, set aside some regrets, etc. Or it can be a chance to reflect on how far we've come. I think it's a healthy habit to get into--noting our progress before dreaming up new expectations for ourselves.

I just finished an online workshop on publishing options in the brave new pubbing world, and it was really motivating and informative. Setting realistic goals was one of the topics we discussed. What the instructors, Bob Mayer and Jen Talty, suggested, is starting small and making it concrete. For example, I wouldn't set my goal as hitting the NYT bestseller list when I don't even have a book out yet, or just released one. I want to set goals like viable marketing plans, completing WIPs, and beta exchanges.

Once I've written down and accomplished a feasable goal, I move onto the next. 

Baby steps.

Usually, my new year's resolution is not to make any resolutions. Yeah, yeah I know... lame-o. 
But this year my goal is simple: write a really kick-butt story. Even if it means going backward to move forward. 2011 was a great year. I saw many writer friends find success with their work, and I'm so elated for them. I think many more of you will do the same. 

No matter what your goal is, I'm wishing you much success as you take your baby steps to reach it. I'll be here stepping along with you. I have tons of info to share with you in the coming weeks .... more from Mary Kole's YA/MG webinar and more on digital publishing. And hopefully, a project launch within the next couple months. 

So out with the old, and in with the new!

Let's make it a fantastic 2012! Thanks for being a part of my writerly world. :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sea Farms, Ice Clubs, Vine Fish ... Oh My!

Those are just a few reasons to check out Catherine Stine's new young adult thriller,

FIRESEED ONE




Isn't the cover gorgeous? This story is chock full of adventure and available now, just in time for the holidays. If you don't know Catherine Stine, hop over to her blog and congratulate her on her book's birthday. She's super sweet and talented. 


But first, check out this blurb on FireSeed One:


Fireseed One, a YA thriller, is set in a near-future world with soaring heat, toxic waters, tricked-out amphibious vehicles, ice-themed dance clubs and fish that grow up on vines. Varik Teitur inherits a vast sea farm after the mysterious death of his marine biologist father. When Marisa Baron, a beautiful and shrewd terrorist, who knows way too much about Varik's father's work, tries to steal seed disks from the world's food bank, Varik is forced to put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold and venture with her, into a hot zone teeming with treacherous nomads and a cult who worships his dead father, in order to search for a magical hybrid plant that may not even exist. *With nine illustrations by the author.


Catherine's artwork is excellent. I think it's so cool when authors do their own illustrations. Do Catherine a favor and LIKE her Facebook page here. Just a quick click will take you there!


And check her out on GoodReads here


Of course, to purchase this book, you can do so on Amazon, and right now eBooks are on special price at $1.50 ... all you have to do is email Catherine directly at kitsy84557@gmail.com

For those who prefer iBooks for your iPads, iPhones, etc..... you can purchase a copy here.

I'm going to leave you with a brief excerpt from FireSeed One so you can get a good taste of all this book has to offer. But before I do, don't forget to hop over to Catherine's blog for her launch party loaded with fun and giveaways! She'll be there all day and the link is at the very top of this post.

From FireSeed One:

We anchor at SnowAngel Island, trek toward the center of town, and pile into L’Ongitude. It used to be a whale-blubber processing plant. Now it’s a club full of striking, well-heeled young people gyrating to Nu-Arctic beats. We flash the fake IDs that Audun lent us. Good light show. Snowflake and icicle shapes in silvery colors whirl across the walls and across peoples’ bodies. Swallowing a lump of envy, I glance at the couples, lucky enough to already be in college, who will soon be unfolding the fronds of their dream careers.
As I watch them, I suddenly get this awful vision of the world, in, say, three or four years. A world where we never found those agar seed disks and the food bank has dried up. It’s a world where these healthy, lively party-hounds are haggard and hungry, and no longer dancing. Where they’re on their bony hands and knees in their backyards, scratching for mushrooms and sinewy worms. I grab anxiously at a pile of pink-and-yellow agar-pastries that a L’Ongitude waitress is carrying, and stuff one in.
Shaking off the vision as I chew, I glance over at Marisa. She’s arching her brows at a girl’s skimpy garb. The girl ignores Marisa but her dance partner gives Marisa an appreciative once-over. Even though Marisa’s hair is hastily pinned up with strands that blew out from the wind, she stands out in this crowd because of her unusual Land-style suit—its long pants hugging her legs. Most girls on SnowAngel dress in short frocks with hike shorts.
Little does this guy ogling Marisa know that I hold her captive with an invisible fish-tracker; that without it, she’d escape in a hot minute. The irony of it makes me cringe. I don’t need to fish with virtual line to snag a girl, and she’s certainly not my girlfriend. Marisa’s keeping step with me, and after that first bold stare at the dancers, she bows her head when someone looks her way. Anxiety is practically sweating off her. Why does she hate crowds so much? Is she in hiding? If so, why?
Thanks so much for stopping by! Congrats to Catherine! And I won't be around for a few days while I snuggle up with the fam for the holidays, but I'm wishing all of you a very merry Christmas or whatever else you may celebrate! See you back here as we round at 2011 together. Tell me, what book would you most like to receive right now?
FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu!


Hi there! Today a whole bunch of bloggers are doing it again.... reposting something from their archives that bears mentioning again. Thanks so much for stopping by here! I'm slowly getting around to everyone's blogs, so forgive me if I haven't been to yours yet. Between a nasty cold and endless Christmas preparations for my kid's last week of school, free time has been a rarity. But mark my words, I'll get there!!

Here's a post I did back in August called Giving Up:


Who's giving up? You giving up? Not me, that's for darn sure. Although, there are days when I have to set everything aside and refocus. But that's not giving up. That's changing my perspective. And sometimes that's just as important as trying.

Yesterday, I finally got to see the Soul Surfer movie.


You know, the true story of Bethany Hamilton who was attacked by a shark while she was practicing for her upcoming surfing competition and lost her arm, just barely surviving? Have you seen the movie yet? Make the time for this one. Besides the fact that it's set in Hawaii (my most fave place in the world) and the scenery is gorgeous, Bethany's story will move you and touch your heart.

The obvious take-away from her story, is to never give up. That we all face obstacles and adversity and at times, we all will fail. How frustrating it must've been to just make a sandwich with only one hand, let alone trying to get up and balance on a surfboard. No one would've blamed Bethany for giving up surfing ... or even for never going into the water again after what happened.

But she did not let it stop her. And it wasn't easy. Actually, she got so frustrated that she did give up surfing. For awhile. But only to gain some perspective. You know what she did to refocus? Found a way to help others. She went to Thailand right after the tsunami of 2004 and did mission work. How's that for a fresh perspective?

Sometimes we think we have it so bad, we forget there are thousands of people around the world who would give anything to trade places with us. We tend to wallow in our failures and self-pity. Which means it's time to step back and look at what we have already accomplished.

When Bethany returned to Hawaii, she did get back into surfing... and came in 5th place in the Hawaiian regional surfing competition. She didn't win, but she was certainly the only one-armed surfer out there. She didn't give up when things got tougher than she ever imagined. She stopped and focused her attention on what she could do for others. And THAT is what gave her the strength to press on.

Perspective. It's so easy to forget to change it. There's a line in the film that says, "Sometimes we have to change the way we look at things. If we're too close to it, we can't really see it for what it is."

I think about that with my stories. And with writing in general. Hey, it's not the end of the world if that first, second, or third story doesn't pan out like we want. We just ... move on. Until we're ready to get back in the water and catch the next wave. Why? Because it's what we love. And no one, not even ourselves, is going to stand in the way of our dreams.

It's also why we need support from each other. It's why this writing community is so so important. Bethany wouldn't have the guts she has without the support of her loving family and from people around the world who saw her story and sent her letters of support and encouragement. I know we're all supposed to be here in the blogosphere to create our platforms and that jazz ... But it's more than that! We have a network of support and encouragement from each other, and that is what will see us through to our goals.

Gosh, I love you guys. *sniff sniff* LOL! (for dramatic effect) ;)


Hope you enjoyed my repost. For me personally, remembering to never give up is something we have to encourage in ourselves, and those around us.

So tell me, how do you keep perspective? 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bah Humbug!


I'm not really a scrooge. But I'll admit there are some things that annoy me about the holiday season. Figured this was a good chance to vent, so in no particular order ...

On the TWELVTH (omgosh how do you spell 12th???) LOL!

Try this again ... *ahem* Please sing this to the tune of 12 Days of Christmas:

On the 12th day of Christmas I almost punched a wall. There was:
12 hundred tree needles on the floor,
11 strands of tangled twinkle lights,
10 thousand hungry children around the world,
9 soldiers who won't get to see their families,
8 hours of baking cookies,
7 days of undecorating,
6 red traffic lights in a row,
*5 brand new credit card bills*
4 more expensive toys to buy,
3 assumptions that I'm Catholic,
2 rude shoppers behind me,
and 1 more humid day in Florida when it's supposed to be cold.

I took a Facebook poll to see what the most popular answer was. Pretty much anything that has to do with crowds, greed, or rude people topped the poll.


Now, because I hate to leave things on a negative note, here are just a few things I love about the holidays:

* festive lights everywhere
* excitement in children's eyes
* smell of spruce, cinnimon, turkey roasting, cookies baking
* snowy scenes
* Rockefeller Center
* eggnog while wrapping presents on Christmas eve
* giving to others
* time off work and school to be together

For more on the Bah humbug blahgfest, hop over to Patrick Dilloway (otherwise known as the Grumpy Bulldog) blog and read all the entries. Never too late to jump on board either.

Tell me, what do you dislike about the holidays?  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Writing Conditions

What conditions do you need to get your best writing done? Closed door, crowded coffee house? Computer or notebook? Can you just sit down to write, or do you need to wait for the time to be right?


These are the questions on  this week's blog chain, which comes from Tere Kirkland. How do you answer them? For me, I need quiet for my best writing. I prefer my office and my laptop with no other sounds. If there's a really intense scene I have to write, I sometimes use music but only instrumental. Movie scores are my fave... but often I use piano music as well.


My best time to write is early morning when the house is still asleep. I turn nothing on. Only me and my laptop with no email up or cell phone on. For some reason my brain just flows better and freer in the wee hours of morning. It's uninterrupted and I think that's the main benefit. However, since my day job is early morning five days of the week, I resort to mid-morning for writing, when kids are in school most days. It's great to have that time, don't get me wrong ... but there are so many distractions during the day, the flow is not as good. 


Now, with all that being said, optimum writing conditions are--and have to remain--very flexible. Having a part time job, two kids, a dog and a house to maintain means time to write is pushed to the back burner on a regular basis. When this happens, I have to compromise or it just doesn't get done. Sometimes I use spiral notebooks and pen, or notecards, or make use of my non-writing time by reading how-to writing books or Popular Science magazines. If I'm not writing, I'm filling my brain with ideas.


Reading for entertainment is something I do at night before bed. It's my fave time to delve into a story, and in all honesty, it's rare when fiction grabs me so much I read at all hours of the day. Mostly, it's reserved for night time. 
There, so that's way more info than you ever wanted to know about me, right? LOL 


Remember, there are a couple blogfests coming up this week. On Dec. 15 is 


This one should be fun... and simple. Just name the twelve things that you can't stand about the holidays. Yes, it's negative, I know. But everyone needs a good place to vent now and then... and let's face it, the holidays can be a royal pain in the neck. Click on the pic of Scrooge McDuck for blogfest HDQ and sign up for the fun!


And then the following day is 


An even easier blogfest where you simply repost an old post you feel has merit and the world should see again. Click on the pic to head over to blogfest HDQ. 


For more on writing conditions, be sure to check out Eric's blog, who posted yesterday, and Michelle McLean who posts tomorrow. Awesome peeps every blogger should know!!


Thanks so much for stopping by here! I love your visits and comments. Are you doing any of these blogfests? Why not?? Tell me about your optimum writing conditions. It's alway interesting to know how others work. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writing: When Passion Wanes

Today is the first Wednesday of the month and the day the Insecure Writer's Support Group posts on, well ... you guessed it: insecure writing.


Here's something I struggle with as an unagented author: finding the passion that drives you forward and maintaining it even when rejection or bad reviews can bring you down. Personally, I'm not familiar with the bad reviews part, but I've found the query process sometimes causes my passion to wane.

Here's why: After I write a story I become passionate about it. I strive to make it the best it can be and work on it for months. I take months off at a time so I can disconnect and come back to it with fresh eyes. In short, I love my stories or I wouldn't write them. We all do, right?

But then there's this subjective thing. Not everyone is going to love our stories. Just like I don't read every book out there. When an agent rejects my story, I find my passion start to dwindle. I don't want it to. If there's something wrong with the story, I want to fix it. Agents don't always tell you why they reject something, and many times that's because it's subjective. Another agent may love it.

Maybe  you already have an agent, but so far your agent hasn't been able to sell it. Or maybe your book is already out there but sales are dismal and/or reviews are less than stellar. How do you keep your passion from waning?

I don't know if there's any one trick. And I really hate the thought of losing passion. But maybe that passion is somehow tied in with the romantic notion of the writer's life. Same as how anyone who's been married for more than two years, knows passion is something that must be worked on.

For more posts or to join the group of Insecure Writers Support Group, head over to Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog. 

How do you keep the passion? Or do you replace passion for realism? Inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blogger For Hire!

That's right! I'm giving up the day job and becoming a professional blogger. I mean, why keep fooling myself, right? The day job pays some bills, but I just don't enjoy it like I should. That's why I'm throwing in the towel and focusing on something I love to do, blog.

And that's where you come in. I can help YOU. We all know how cumbersome blogging can be if we've got family, job, writing goals....


Do you have blog fatigue, but still want to keep up with your platform?? No problemo! I can help.
PK is here. Let me do the blogging for you!


You go about your daily routine, having more time for life's other demands, while I post nifty articles on your blog, respond to comments, and keep your following interested ... all under the disguise of YOUR name. No one will ever know!

Of course, my fee will be affordable, but let's not forget the thought and effort that goes into good blogging. And, of course, I have to make a living ... so I won't be giving away the store for free ... but I'll have a coupon day for those who're having trouble making ends meet.



Why pass up this golden opportunity? It's a win/win situation--you can relax knowing your blog is under control, while you pay me to do all the work so I can make a living doing something I really enjoy. YAY for professional blogging!

LOL

Total tongue in cheek, I hope you realize. Man, I wish I could blog for a living.... would be so fantastic.  

Just a little Monday fun for my friends out there in the blogosphere. :)

How many of you would jump on something like this?? Not having someone blog for you, but you blogging for a living? Ever daydreamed about something like that? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Big Idea

What's the BIG IDEA anyway??


As promised, I'm sharing a series of posts with you on all the great info from the Mary Kole webinar I attended. Honestly, there was so much, that I'll have to break it up into several posts. Now, I'll be putting Mary's words into my own because that's just how I roll ... but know that all of it was inspired by Mary's awesome lessons on writing for kids.

To kick it off, I'll start with the basics .... and that is the BIG IDEA.

Big Story Idea, that is. In boiling down our stories there has to be a big idea or big question, or there's no story really. Pretty basic, but it's easy to toss so many ingredients into our story stew that we forget  the most important one of all.

So we figure out our BIG QUESTION or BIG IDEA and if you're like me, write the logline before the first draft so the BIG IDEA stays forefront in our mind throughout the drafting.
Next, we determine what idea will contradict our BIG IDEA--therein lies the prime conflict and heart of the story. It helps if we know WHY we want to tell our story. WHY the world will want to know about our particular characters and plot.
From this, we figure out our HOOK and the EMOTIONAL TURNING POINT. Each story must have them or who will want to keep reading?? In determining these basics, you have a rough draft for a query as well.

So what does a STORY ARC or plot look like:
* Inciting Incident
* Turning Point (or point of no return as James Scott Bell puts it)
* At least THREE attempts to solve BIG PROBLEM, each time stakes being raised.
* Black Moment (when all seems lost)
* Climax
* Resolution

And just a bit on the kid market, as advised my Mary Kole:

Right now, modern and future settings are working very well for MG. Some violence and romance are okay, but should be kept to a  minimal  for MG. For YA, romance is always powerful. Paranormal and dystopian are a tough sell right now. Some currents trends are light sci-fi, time travel, dream worlds.

Voice is vital for the teen market. And endings are best when bittersweet. The idea of sacrifice and the complexity of a world of possibilities is what draws these readers in. There needs to be BIG decisions made, consequences, disillusionment, and tests of courage and character.

Tune in next time for more on First Chapter Objectives from the uber amazing Mary Kole.

Tell me, have you noticed anything new trending in the kid market or market in general? What questions do you ask yourself before knowing if your story idea is worth writing? 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lightbulb!

Happy almost December! Hope you made it through NaNoWriMo with success. I'm presently rounding off the month at just over 20k words and feeling pretty satisfied with that since the kids were out of school for a week and I had like zero writing time.

I'm moving right along with my YA thriller and having a lot of fun. You know that feeling when you just can't turn the flow off, but you don't have the luxury of locking yourself away to get it all out?? Yep, that's where I'm at right now. Very frustrating... but in a good way. :)

So my lightbulb moment occurred two different times over the last month, in regards to my MG fantasy/sci-fi story, The Keys to Nin. I really love the story, and if my betas were telling the truth, they enjoyed it as well. But something hasn't been sitting well with me and I couldn't figure out what it was exactly. I had a hunch something was off.

The other day we were watching The Narnia Chronicles as a family and I've read the books years ago (love them) and seen the films when they came out, but hadn't thought of them too much in awhile. Watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I realized how much my MG story was like it. Completely sub-consciously,  mind you .... but here are a few similarities: I have a female antagonist who's on a power trip and rebelling. My MC is part of a prophecy. My MC is connected to the fantasy world in a certain way. My fantasy planet starts with the letter N.

Ouch. Hadn't even realized it. The rest of my story is entirely different from TNC, but wow. It gave me pause. How did I manage to be so cliche?

Then, a few days ago I was finally listening to a Writing YA and MG webinar with Kid Lit extraordinaire, Mary Kole, and she mentioned the dangers of having plot cliches in our stories. She gave some examples like MC who moves to a new school, MC with dead parents, MC who discovers magical powers, MC who is subject of a prophecy....

Um, yeah. That'd be me. Ouch.

Why didn't I realize that the prophecy in my story was so cliche? Well, at least it's fixable. I hope. So after I finish my WIP, I'm going back and eliminating the prophecy and maybe that will put my story back on track.

The Mary Kole webinar was back in September and I got the recorded copy and just listened to it this past weekend. It's really fantastic, chock full of useful tips on shaping up kid lit stories. I'm going to post a series of articles on what she went over, so be sure to check back for all the amazing info. Free from me! If you're not familiar with Mary Kole and you write for kids, you definitely want to head over to her blog, KidLit.com and sign up for her emails.

Have you ever had a lightbulb moment with a story? Please share ....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Miscellaneous Uproar and Hero Checklist

First off, to my fellow Americans, Happy Thanksgiving! It's my fave time of year and my fave holiday--a time to be thankful for all that we have. A time to give to those who don't have as much. And a time to cram in  those remaining chapters for your NaNoWriMo project!


How's it coming along? I'm still way behind, but with some unexpected turn of events this past week, I'm lucky if I get to write at all... so no worries. It's like I told a fellow writer the other day who was worried about her lack of word count... You know what happens if you lose NaNo? Nothing. Know what happens if you win? Nothing.

No big deal.

I'm chugging along with my WIP and really starting to get into the characters' brains now. It feels great... so sometimes I think maybe writing sporadically isn't so bad after all. The marinating of characters and plot is a very good thing. :)

Here are few items I've been keeping in mind from the hero checklist found in Blake Snyder's Save the Cat:

* Is your hero's goal clearly stated in the set up? Is it obvious? Make sure it's spoken aloud and/or reinstated in action
* Do clues of what to do next just come to your hero, or does he/she seek them out? If it all happens too easily, something's wrong. Destiny can't be handed to him/her. He/she must work for it every step.
* Everything your hero does has to spring from the burning desire to achieve the goal.
* Do other characters tell your hero what to do, or does you hero tell them? The others should be looking to your hero for answers, not the other way around. Make your hero active in the game.

Pretty basic stuff, but they're so easily forgotten sometimes. #guilty

There's a fun and easy De Ja Vu blogfest happening on Dec. 16 and all you have to do is repost one of your fave posts. I love no-brainers like these. Less work for the overworked. ;) Click on pic below to sign up or for more info.


I'm looking forward to spending time with family over the next few days. Also, I turn 38 on Black Friday, but I won't be out shopping ... I'll be at home with the loves of my life putting up the tree and decorating for the holidays. Busting out the holiday cheer !

I'll see you all back in a few days. And to each and every one of you who visits my blog and comments and shares, I'm so grateful to you and so glad to have found real friends in this vast corner of the universe called cyberspace. Thanks for including me in your lives.



What are you thankful for? Any big plans over the next few days? I love hearing from you ...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

You're Not a Teacher!

That was the look on my son's face when I showed up in his classroom this past Thursday, to teach his first grade class about writing fiction. He averted his eyes with a worried little look, like he wanted to say, "What are you doing here? You're not a teacher."

But I was a teacher. For a few minutes anyway--thirty to be exact, for the Great American Teach In. I had told him I was coming, but he didn't understand what I was going to talk about. I don't get paid to write fiction. SO why would I be at his school, among all his friends, teaching them about a job I didn't get paid for???

Because it's my passion.

That's what I told him, and his class. I love writing fiction so much, that I consider it my job. And that's why I was there. To share it with them.

Here's what my presentation consisted of:


I told them about two different kinds of books: fiction and non-fiction. But they were super smart and that was old news.

We discussed the different kinds of books: hardback, paperback, and eBooks. None of them seemed to know what eBooks were. So I dazzled them with my expertise. *tongue in cheek* We discussed the different platforms for eReaders, and I showed them my Kindle app on my phone.

Next we discussed fiction genres. Genre was a new word for them. So it was cool they learned something. We talked about fantasy, science-fiction, romance, adventure, thriller, contemporary, horror. We went over the types of kid lit, like picture books, chapter books, and novels (MG and YA.)

Then, we got into the meat and potatoes. We decided to build a story. I broke it down to them like this:
Building a story, is like building a house. We need the right materials and tools to start, but we can't just throw it all together and get a house. We have to start with a solid foundation so our house is sturdy and structured, then we can decorate it however we want.

Same with out stories. I showed them the basic materials to build their own stories:

* characters
* setting
* plot 
* structure (the 3 Acts of  beginning, middle, end)

Plot was a little bit tricky for them, so I explained it this way: every story has to have a problem, or conflict. No conflict, no story. Think of the plot as the story problem. So we went on to dissect Little Red Hiding Hood and pick out the basics:

*Characters: Red, Big Bad Wolf, Grandma, Woodcutter
*Setting: woods, Grandma's house
* Plot: Red has to get goodies to her sick grandma but is tricked by a big bad wolf and has to get away
* Structure: (Beginning) Red's goal is to get goodies to her sick grandma. (Middle) She meets wolf and divulges personal information which is later used to trick Red. (End) The woodcutter saves the day by chasing off the wolf and reuniting Red with her grandma.

These kids were on the ball. They understood and asked questions. Once they got the hang of it, we were ready to build our own story... we needed to gather our materials, but they needed one particular thing first ...
I handed each of them an index card with the word "imagination" on it. I told them it was their license to use their imagination. The freer they set it, the better. I let them in on a little secret that sometimes I get a crick in my neck from all the rules everywhere. EVERYWHERE. But there is one place in the world where there are no rules. And that is our imagination.

We went on to build our story, which turned out to be about an orange starfish with blue eyes named Tommy. He lived on the beach, where our story took place, and Tommy's most fave thing to do was train dolphins. (These are all answers from the kids.) But Tommy had a BIG problem. There was this whale who tried to eat dolphins and chased all the dolphins away from the beach until there were no more dolphins for Tommy to train. So how does Tommy get the dolphins back to continue doing what he loves?

Well, that's where the story became the children's to take home and finish and build however they wanted. They were so clever with their ideas... I really hope at least one of them was inspired.

My son already told me his fave "teacher" from the day was the policeman who showed off his Taser gun. But hey, that's understandable ... I mean, who can compete with a wand that emits purple electricity and shocks people??

Anyway, just wanted to share my teach-in day. I left having such a natural high from the class's eager participation and bright minds. And boiling down the story telling basics really simplifies it in my mind as well. Goes back to that solid foundation thing ... and how every story needs one.

How about you? Done any teaching lately? How do you build your story?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What is Your Destiny?

Nope, not talking Star Wars here. I'm talking about Psyche. Who is Psyche you ask? She's the stunning new lead character in Jessie Harrell's debut young adult novel, DESTINED.


DESTINED debuts today. Happy Book Birthday, Jessie! Here's a bit about Destined:

When Psyche receives a prophecy gone horribly wrong, she learns that even the most beautiful girl in Greece can have a hideous future. Her fate? Fall in love with the one creature even the gods fear. 

As she feels herself slipping closer into the arms of the prophecy, Psyche must choose between the terrifyingly tender touch she feels almost powerless to resist and the one constant she's come to expect out of life: you cannot escape what is destined. 
Destined is a fresh and heartachingly romantic retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth.




Doesn't it sound awesome?? Be sure to hop over to Good Choice Reading for details on prizes up for grabs.

You can buy your copy on Amazon here. And visit Jessie on her blog here and give her a shout out. Book birthdays are even more special than real birthdays. ;)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Plot Check

Hey, all! Hope everyone who's writing for NaNo is moving along swimmingly. So far, I have 10K words, which isn't near where I was this time last year, but I'm not stressing.

In addition to the 10K words, I have a pretty decent logline and I just wrote out all my scenes on index cards so I can move them around if necessary. In between writing and daily duties, I'm reading James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure. It's excellent. I've been putting the exercises to good use.

Here are a few questions I found helpful ...

1. My lead is a ______ and his/her objective is ______.
2. He/She is confronted by ______ who opposes him/her because ________.
3. The ending will be a knockout because _________.

Hopefully, these will help you if your plugging away like I am.

Have you read Plot and Structure? How's your WIP coming along? Anything to share?

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11

Love the date today! Hasn't happened in 100 years and won't happen again for 100 a more! And we are almost in the middle of November. Whoa... hold up! I'm still not all unpacked from my move and now I'll be decorating for Christmas in a couple weeks. *insert flustered face here*

Anyway, today is also special because it's the debut release of Ali Cross' young adult novel, Become! Yay for Ali! So excited for her! Check out all the fun going on over at the Dark C.A.R.M.A. site. Other authors are releasing as well and there are lots of prizes! Click on pic below.


Also, it's chart rush for Jessica Bell's String Bridge! Buy String Bridge today and email your receipt to Jessica for a free soundtrack download. I can't wait to hear the soundtrack for her awesome debut novel. Click on pic below for more details.



Don't forget about Susan Kaye Quinn's new YA novel, OPEN MINDS, that just released as well.

Holy smokes, it looks like I'll be spending some money on Amazon today! LOL!

Totally worth it though to support these awesome authors!! Please join me in showing your support. And if  you're looking for the blog chain post it's the one right before this one. :)

And to those who have served your country, past and present, THANK YOU! Happy Veteran's Day!

HAPPY 11-11-11! Whose book debut are you most excited about??

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Goals and Accomplishments

Today's post is part of the blog chain where one member selects a topic, and the other bloggers chime in on different days throughout the month.

Today's topic, brought to you by Michelle Hickman , is on writing goals and accomplishments.

I think I've accomplished a decent amount in life, as far as personal endeavors go, but in writing alone, there has been no big event that would register as a prestigious accomplishment. I'm okay with that though. When I stated writing novels seriously, it was never under the impression mine would be a household name and I'd be a millionaire. It was about the joy of creating a story and the hope that maybe some people would read and enjoy.

So far, I've written three of--what I'd call--salable novels. None of which have actually been sold. However, what I've accomplished with this, is the needed discipline to progress from where I was as an amateur fiction writer, to one who is learned (though nowhere near perfect) in delivering a decent story.

My most recent story, compared with the first full length novel I ever wrote, is a tremendous change for the better. I've accomplished that--and only because I've treated writing as an actual job by showing up on time and committing to it. I did put out an eBook in June, with no expectations other than to get started. I'll keep publishing them as I go, and in time perhaps, I'll have accomplished what I've always hoped--and that's to be a prolific author. With any luck, and with continuing to learn, I'll actually have some readers. lol

Time will tell.

See how other writers on the blog chain have met, or are trying to meet their goals. Eric who posted before me, and Michelle McLean who posts tomorrow.

Just for fun, I took the day off from responsibilities Tuesday and drove up to Universal Studios to meet  fellow blogger and writer, Michael di Gesu from In Time. As it would happen, Jen Daiker from Unedited was there with her family as well, so I had a lovely lunch at the Three Broomsticks with Michael and Jen. What fun! I toasted with my frothy butterbeer (which tasted like a carbonated liquid butterscotch); Visited Ollivander's wand shop, which was a hoot; Rode the broomstick through Hogwarts castle, which was a rocking action packed good time (even a little spooky); and perused Honeydukes for sweets and Zonks for the trick toys.

Check out this gorgeous pic of Hogwarts:
This was taken with my iPhone, isn't it a cool shot??

Here's me and Michael in front of the Hogsmeade script store, Scrivenshaft's:

Every bit of detail at this exhibit looks as authentic as if you were on the set. It's gorgeous! A must see for any Harry Potter fan--or as my hubby would say, "Potter Puff."

Don't forget tomorrow, 11-11-11 is the chart rush for Jessica Bell's String Bridge, and the debut of the Dark C.A.R.M.A tour. Click pic below for details:


And that's a wrap. Have you been to the HP exhibit yet? Or have you met any of your fellow blogger in person? What are your writing goals right now? 

Monday, November 7, 2011

An Unforgettable Melody

You know when you pick up a book you've never seen before and read the first chapter? You pretty much know whether or not you want to keep reading. Either nothing grabs you, or you feel a pull... compelled by voice and/or prose. Further on, the action may pull you in and the need to know what happens next. But before you get to that point, something very basic must resonate.

That's what happened with me and String Bridge by debut author Jessica Bell. Most of us in the blogosphere  know Jessica from her popular blog, The Alliterative Allomorph. If you've never been by there, check it out. Jessica always keeps it real and is down to earth, but in a very spiritual way. I remember last year when she announced Lucky Press was going to publish her story. I remember later when she announced the title, aptly named String Bridge.


And now it's here!

In String Bridge, we follow Melody Hill, an Australian living in Greece. She's married to a swoon worthy Greek man, is mother to a bouncy four year old daughter, and is a successful career woman. And for those things she's grateful, but there is something more to Melody--something she can't escape from, no matter how hard she tries.

She has an indelible yearning to play music. It is in her very soul. As a former up-and-coming guitar player and singer, Melody had the world in her palm. After meeting future husband, Alex, who promotes concerts for a living, all seemed peachy. Melody was on the brink of her dream and playing music for a living. Marrying Alex made sense in her life. She played music, he promoted it.
A dream come true, right?

Not quite. Once married, Melody finds herself living a life that isn't hers--the embodiment of domesticity. How did it happen? And why can't she just accept it and be happy with what she's got? Because the music inside her is clawing at her soul to get out. Will her hubby, who grew up in a traditional Greek household, accept this part of her? He's happy with things the way they are. And what about their daughter? Is it fair to put Melody's own desires over that of her child's?

This inner conflict is very real. I found myself relating to Melody very much. First of all, I loved her! She's someone I could see myself meeting for coffee. And she has excellent taste in music and fashion. :) But as a writer, I get her--that need to express oneself artistically, but conflicted by family responsibilities that sometimes feel like chains, even though you don't want them to and would give anything in the world NOT to feel that way.

It's what sparks Melody's depression--the guilt of not suppressing the artistic urges, laced with the turmoil of having to do so in the first place. It's enough to drive the creative soul mad.

In all honesty, I feel like a better writer for having read String Bridge. Jessica is a spectacular writer. I've dubbed her as the Queen of Metaphors in my mind. She has such a vivid and gripping way of describing a sight or feeling that it really pulls you deeper into the story. Melody's voice is fun and real  and sometimes I just wanted to reach out and give her a hug. Her inner conflict is very real and relative.

Jessica did a genius job with Melody's hubby Alex. He isn't the bad guy, though sometimes I wondered if he was going to do something really rash. But what Alex represents is what holds Melody back from the life that calls to her. I mean, who says she can't have both? Tori Amos has both. Why can't Melody? (I love that Melody is a Tori fan! She's been my fave singer since her first album twenty years ago)

Make it a point to read String Bridge if you can. Readers will relate to and bond with Melody's raw emotion, and writers will appreciate Jessica's polished craft. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!

And what's super far out cool, is Jessica created a soundtrack for her book. I can't wait to hear it!


You can download it from iTunes here.
Or from Amazon here.
Amazon UK here.

Jessica has all kinds of prizes and celebrations going on, so be sure to check out her blog for daily details. She also has this amazing writer's retreat happening in Greece next year and gosh darn I'd kill to go to that!! Here are the links to her blogs, websites, book trailer, cool merchandise, and writer retreat info:
String Bridge Website

Jessica Bell: 
Bio:
Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.
She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.
In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.
From September 2012 Jessica will be hosting the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.
Buy String Bridge as eBook on Amazon or Amazon UK
Or in paperback at Barnes & Noble
And sign up for the chart rush on 11-11-11 at Jessica's blog and win a copy of the soundtrack! 


Have you read String Bridge yet? Do you ever feel the pull of your creative soul like it's going against the grain of responsibilities of a life you should be satisfied with? Please share ...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Character Check!

Okay, so who's meeting their daily NaNo goals?? If you are... *applause*

Or if you're like me, knee-deep in other responsibilities, you may be having a hard time keeping up. Hey, that's okay.... take the pressure off. It's just a story, man. ;) Just roll with the tides ...

I've got my firt 4k words down, and a logline. And as I'm guilty of going back to do one revision on each chapter sometimes before continuing my draft, I've remembered how much I love writing stories. That's why I go back over my work... it rekindles that fire. And it helps put me back in the story when I can only write in spurts.

But I came across a post the other day that really helped me put my characters in check. I always like to get to know them BEFORE writing the first draft. Like motivations, greatest fears, etc. QueryTracker's Blog did an excellent post entitled, Your Hero's Dark Side: Looking into the Abyss.

I recommend reading the entire post, but I'll give you the gist of what resonated with me the most. These Questions:

1. What does your main character fear and hate more than anything?
2. What is he/she willing to do to exterminate the feared/hated thing?
3. How can you make his/her interactions with the hated thing taint him? In other words, each time your character looks into the abyss, how can the abyss claim him a little more?

These really got the ol hamster cranking the wheel in my head. Check out the whole article by psychologist Carolyn Kaufman. It's really worth your while.

Tomorrow I'll be posting a review of Jessica Bell's String Bridge. I'll tell you exactly what I thought of her writing and the story. Hope to see you back here then!

So do these questions hit any nerves with you? Or do you have a particular question about your characters you like to answer BEFORE writing the first draft? Please share ...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insecure Writing

Happy November! Gee whiz there are a lot of book birthdays this month! I love it! My birthday and anniversary is this month too. And then there's Thanksgiving ... and some big writing thing happening called NaNo ... lol

Who's doing NaNo??

I'm doing it this year, but unofficially. I'm rewriting an adult thriller I wrote a few years ago called The 49th Parallel, but as a young adult thriller. It's a complete rewrite from third person to first person, and the characters are getting a complete makeover as teens. I think it'll work better this way and it should be a lot of fun. The plot is already mapped out, it's just a matter of reworking it all.

And as for the first day of November yesterday, I got exactly zero words down. lol But you know that's what happens when Hubby has the same day off as I do. Sheesh. ;)

So as for the ol' insecurity all writers feel, I think unless you're Steven King or JK Rowling or someone like that, it's inevitable. The main way to gain security is to keep writing, in my opinion. I love going back to an old story that I thought was just the cat's meow, and cringing when I reread it. Um ... yeah. Love that. But ...

With each new story I grow as a writer.

Another way I grow more secure in my writing is by reading writing guides. I devour them. After I write  a story, I let it simmer for awhile and read one of my fave writing guides, or find a new one. Right now I'm into reading stuff on structure. But check out my writing guide list on my blog page titled WRITER'S BOOKSHELF. It has a list of my fave guides that have helped me so so much.

For more on the Insecure Writer's Support Group, which is welcome to all to join, click on pic below.



Tell me, what's your fave writing guide and why? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Open Minds

Happy book birthday to Susan Kaye Quinn! Today is the release of her young adult paranormal story, OPEN MINDS.


When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available in e-book (Amazon US (also UKFrance and Germany)Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and print (AmazonCreatespace, also autographed copies available from the author).

Doesn't it sound awesome! And YOU can help spread the word about OPEN MINDS and win ...
PRIZES!
Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate theVirtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.)

Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):
1)      Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post
2)      Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)
Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA avail NOW http://bit.ly/SKQOpenMinds
Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOWhttp://bit.ly/SKQOpenMinds

3)     Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)
Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes!http://bit.ly/SKQOpenMinds  

Now how easy is that? Help support a fellow writer and author. Susan is a fabulous writer and she's doing this all on her own. She's a previously published author, but this time she's taking charge and self-pubbing! I think it's fantastic! Let's show her some book love!

What are your thoughts on self-pubbing and the eBook market? Ever thought of trying it? Or have you already? Please share....

Monday, October 31, 2011

If I Had All the Magic in the World .....

Happy Halloween, my ghosts and goblins! It's a rainy wet one here in Florida. And I know the American Northeast just got hammered with snow. Hopefully, all those kids out on snow days will get to do some trick or treating. :)

Today is also the release party for Elizabeth Mueller's, Darkspell!


Winter Sky believes she is everything ordinary ... until she is kissed by Alex Stormhold. As seer of Stormhold Coven, Alex is sworn to be Winter's protector against the darkness that hunts her. Violently thrust into a magical realm she always thought impossible, she stumbles upon a disturbing secret of her own. Will love prove thicker than magic? 


Darkspell is classified as a Young Adult Paranormal Romance that will appeal beyond the genre.


You can purchase it on Amazon here
You can find Elizabeth's blog here
And her website here.

And in honor of Darkspell, we're participating in a Halloween spookafesta. The question is .... If I had all the magic in the world, I'd ....

Here's what I'd do:   I'd use my magic to beam all my blogging friends to Hawaii for a weekend luau. We'd have our own beach to get to meet in person and hula til our heart's content. Wouldn't that be fun?? I imagine meeting all of you in person for the first time together as like a long lost reunion. I just think it's so great how we all have bonded without ever having met in person.

So that's my answer, you can also head over to Elizabeth's blog for a list of others in the spookafesta and see how they answered.

And just for fun, here are some pics from the Halloween party we went to on Saturday.
The zombie couple, Hubby and Me

Dad Zombie and his skeleton son with cousin Death.

Also if you want to see pics from my black & white themed Halloween party, go here.

But how about you? What would YOU do if you had all the magic in the world?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Killer Characters and Scary Monsters!

Part three of the awesome Killer Character blogfest hosted by Deana Barnhart and E.R. King is today, concluding a week long extravaganza. It's been so much fun seeing everyone's choices and why they love them. I've learned some things too! Always a bonus. :)

Today is also my blog chain post, but I promise to keep it all short so you can move onto the next blog.

So who is my all time fave antagonist, who happens to be a killer character???
This was a no brainer for me .....


I wish I could come up with a horror story as unique and fascinating as this. Bram Stoker's Dracula is definitely in my fave book pool. And yes I loved the Francis Ford Coppola version of the film too, even though they differ in many ways.

And, well ... Gary Oldman happens to be my FAVE actor of all time. So I'm a bit biased, but gosh darn he rocked as Count Dracula. He can take me away from death anytime! ;)

Anyway, back to the character ... He was inspired by Vlad the Impaler, Romanian Prince of Wallachia, in the early 15th century,  who was also known as Dracula, or Son of the Dragon. The mythical vampire creatures had been around for awhile, so Stoker didn't create them, but what he did is give it a fresh new spin by creating Count Dracula as a charming aristocrat.

Such a rich character. I love that we see him in all his charm, yet when his plans are interfered with, he flies off the handle, showing the true person beneath all the cordiality.  And the fact he is undead, makes him supernaturally powerful over those who wish to attack him.

He can defy gravity
              communicate telepathicly
              has hypnotic powers
              shapeshift

His powers are limited, however... and I'm sure you all know the drill there: daylight, garlic, crucifixes, holy water, running water like streams

Bram Stoker is a genius. It's no wonder people today are still so fascinated with vampires. He really set the bar and creeped the world out with Count Dracula. Bravo!

And as part of my blog chain, and in keeping with the Halloween spirit, Matt MacNish over at QQQ wants to know what our fave monster is. When I was a little girl, my dad loved to rent horror movies--back when VCRs had just been made available to the average home. We weren't allowed to watch all of those films, but the older we got, the more of an event Horror Movie Night would become. Keep in mind, I grew up in the 80s when horror movies were HUGE. And this is the same dad who'd scratch at my bedroom door after watching Freddy Krueger movies. LOL! Yep, I blame him for all my issues.

But it was fun, and it toughened us up. We saw a lot of bad horror films, and some really great creepy ones. And I can truly say, they just don't make them like they used to. But through and through, there was one monster that always kept me up at night... one that felt so real, I could almost feel its breath on my neck when I'd hike up the covers over my head and swear to never watch another horror film again ....

Yep. The ol' werewolf did it to me every time. And my dad loved the werewolf movies as much as I did. They were all over the place in the 80s: The Howling, American Werewolf in London, Silver Bullet ... I can't say exactly what it was, but they freaked this little girl out. Nowadays, horror films are more paranormal and less fantastical in my opinion. And maybe that's why werewolves have remained my fave monster of all time. There is something so wild and fierce and dangerous about them. Wolves on their own are beautiful, but mingled with the human body, they become a grotesque creature that was never meant to roam the earth.


So there you have it. I'll always be a werewolf fan, for the sheer memories of childhood fear alone. Thanks, Dad!

For more on monsters who scare us, checkout others on the blog chain Eric and Michelle McLean.

What about you? Who's your fave antagonist? And what's your fave monster??

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Part Deux Killer Characters

Continuing the Killer Character's blogfest hosted by the charming Deana Barnhart and E.R. King, today's post is on our fave literary protagonist.

This is a tough call. But I've narrowed it down to three.

3. Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair --- Love her bold bravery. When life gave her lemons, she made lemonade. She wasn't what I'd call a sweet, lovable MC, but she was real.



2. Scarlet O'Hara from Gone with the Wind --- Not the most modest or considerate MC, but that's why I liked her. She had spunk, and she got the job done. She didn't let others walk all over her. She was tough as nails, and far from boring. I never knew what this little lady was gonna do next.



1. Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo --- This could be my fave story of all time. Could be, but the jury is still out. Why do I love Edmond? The tribulations he endured were horrendous. His character arc is unique, in that, he began as a noble, kind man. When wrong was done to him by his very best friend, which resulted in Edmond's imprisonment and the loss of his fiance, he sank into an all time despair--a despair that resulted in a life long ambition to get revenge. The ironic part is Edmond was so consumed with revenge, he was blinded to all the good fortune to come his way after his escape from prison. I loved following his journey.



Tune in Friday for Killer Characters Part Three and find out who my fave antagonist is. I'll also be posting for my blog chain and you can see what monster scares me the most! Ha! I love Halloween!

Thanks for stopping by! I love your comments. :) Who is your fave protagonist (s) ?