Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Best Friends at Hogwarts

Well, yes ... it's another blogfest. I jut can't resist them, ya know. :) And since A-Z starts in a couple of days, what a great way to end the month of March. If  there's anyone out there who still doesn't know what A-Z is, go ahead and climb out from under your rock and listen up.

In April, there are over 600 bloggers who will be blogging every day (M-F) and starting with A and ending with Z. It can be on anything. I plan to stick mostly to craft, with a focus on creating fantasy (since that's what I'm writing right now.) I'm 12k words into my new MG fantasy, and loving it.

So my promise to you, is to keep my posts short and to the point, cause their's a lot of blogging going on. But what a great way to make new friends! Want more info? Click on pic in my sidebar for A-Z and sign up.

On to my blogfest entry....

Hosted by the wonderful Michael di Gesu over at In Time. Click on pic and check out the other entries. The idea is to write a short piece about which two kids at Hogwarts you'd choose to be your best pals, and why.

Fun, right? Here's mine ...

Without a doubt, my two best mates at Hogwarts would be Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. That's right. I prefer my buds to be dafter then me, so I can boss them to do all my dirty work. Hey, with a conceited creep like Harry Potter and his know-it-all little girlfriend, Hermione Granger, around, someone has to keep things interesting. That'd be where I come in. But I can't do it all myself. I need someone to sneak in the other dorms and snatch hairs for my Polyjuice potions, and someone to steal ingredients from Snape's storage closet, especially Gilly weed since I'd be hanging with the mer folk from the lake. I wouldn't wanna risk getting expelled, myself, so that's why I'd keep Crabbe and Goyle around. They'd make perfect gophers. And one day that Marauder's Map would be all mine! That is, once I could get those two goofs, oh, uh, I mean Crabbe and Goyle, past the booby traps in Fred and George Weasley's bedrooms.
But that's why Crabbe and Goyle would be my best pals. Sure, they may lack originality and spunk, but I've got plenty of that to keep the attention focused on me. What makes a real friend in my opinion? Loyalty. And Crabbe and Goyle would never contradict me. Besides, who else would snag the answers to next year's OWLS for me? Harsh? Maybe. But that's just how I roll .....

Muhahahahaha ......

Okay, hope you enjoyed my entry. Don't forget to check out the others. I'm sure they're all clever and goody goody and stuff, but hey, somebody has to be the villain. And yours truly doesn't mind stepping up to the plate. ;) (totally teasing BTW)

What about you? Who would you pick for your best friends at Hogwarts?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lost and Found

BLOGFEST!!! Lost and Found Blogfest hosted by the lovely Myne Whitman.

The idea is to write a short piece about something that you've lost and found. Anything! This is in honor of Myne's new romance release out this month, A Love Rekindled. Check it out on Myne's blog, as well as all the entries.

Here's mine:

When I was twenty-five I did a tour of Italy by myself. I'd just broken up from a three year relationship and I wanted to indulge myself. I know, so Eat, Pray, Love, right? Yeah, I totally get her. Spent time in India later too, by coincidence. But anyway, I bought a coach driven tour of the Tuscany countryside and bought some goods in the different villages. It was November and I was doing my Christmas shopping for the fam. Somehow, in the midst of my Italian indulgences, I lost my shopping bag with all the gifts in it. I didn't even realize it until much, much later when I arrived back in the States. After Italy I went on to Germany for another week and the bag could've been lost anywhere. Total bummer. I had some nice stuff in there. 
Well, about a month later, a week or so before Christmas, I received a package in the mail. Inside, was that shopping bag with all my Italian goodies! There was also a letter from one of the guys who had sat in the back of the coach near me. He was American as well, and he'd found my bag later after I'd deboarded and held onto it for me. Of course, I was elated. Sure, they were just material possessions, but the fact this guy went to the trouble of finding my address and mailing it, instead of keeping them for himself? Just awesome. I sent him a huge thank you card with my heartfelt appreciation. Funny thing is, I don't even remember his name. But I remember how good it felt to be the recipient of that act of kindness .

Having mentioned random acts of kindness, have y'all heard of the Write Hope campaign? You can bid on all kinds of things from books to critiques and all funds go to help the victims of the earthquake in Japan. There's some great stuff there. Click on the pic below and check it out!

How about you? Has there ever been anything you've lost and found again? Or a random act of kindness bestowed upon you? Please share ... 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Paint it Purple!

Blogfest, that is!

Erin Spock's hosting this deliciously auspicious blogfest, encouraging writers to lay on the purple prose. You know, exactly what fiction writers are NOT supposed to do, but that's what makes it so much fun. What can I say, I'm a just a rebel.

We're supposed to use a snippet from our current story, but I wrote a short piece just for this. Don't worry, it's very short. I won't make you suffer (too much.)

The sturdy weight of the brush lingered in my hand, giving me such a feeling of serene satisfaction. Gingerly, I dipped the shiny black bristles into the rich, glistening lavender paint, closing my eyes in ecstacy as I swirled it through the thick liquid. The pungent odor of chemicals filled my nostrils and reminded me of my destiny--of the elegant artist I was meant to be. Ever so carefully, I patted the excess paint from my brush, angling my hand and marveling at the hearty flow of lavender back into the paint can. Delicately, I brought color to the canvas, stroking in effervescent wisps across the white--freeing the capricious creator inside and lovingly, soulfully bringing life to the open space before me. I had entered a total trance of glorious, infinite meditation.

LOL. Yep, I's painting there. ;)

Thank you for stopping by! Don't forget to check out the other purple prose painters at HDQ. Just click on the pic above.  Also, thanks to all who commented on my last post about my ABNA review. It is so very encouraging to be in a blogging community with all of you. Such a treat getting to know all of you and experiencing our ups and downs together. I'm hoping whatever feedback I receive, whether positive or negative, can in someway help you on your path as well. Hey, we all learn from each other, right?

I'm happy to share this journey with you. You guys rock! :)

Oh and there's still time to sign up for the Harry Potter blogfest on Michael di Gesu's In Time blog! His last HP blogfest was so much fun! I really enjoyed reading all the entries. And who wouldn't wanna imagine themselves in the world of HP??

Have a wonderful weekend. And tell me, do you find yourself using purple prose in your writing? I've been known to get a little purple at times, thank goodness for trusty critique partners that call me out, though!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My ABNA Review

First off, my story, Starsong, did not make the cut to 250. I didn't expect it to, though it would've been nice. Very nice. But there were 2000 entries to choose from! That's a whole lot of fiction, and my contemporary YA up against all that fantasy .... well, I didn't have high expectations.

BUT ... it was totally worth entering for the review alone. Starsong was my NaNo project. I wrote it fast and revised a few times over the last few months. It's been a great piece of work for me to learn from, as I've had a lot of critiques on it through various contests. It was a learning tool, and while I did have high hopes for seeing it published, realistically, it's not my favorite story. It was just one I had to tell.

You can find the premise on my sidebar under Projects.

So here is the review I received from the professional:

 What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

This has an immediate hook, and the cadence is spot-on. Wynonna's shame at being discovered by Tanner is authentic, and his response, just like a cool skater guy, is also genuine. The conversation in the car with her best friend is also crackling. I loved her line, "He's a shocking fit for you." Very fresh. The transitions are clever. There is a lot of teenage levity here.

What aspect needs the most work?

Three small points. the first sentence, although it works can also be a killer for a book. How many teenage girls "just want to die" over something?

Although the dialog is authentic, it sometimes smacks of cliche, as if the writer decided on the easiest word choice. The same happens at intervals with the self-reflections of Wynonna. "My poor ego is about to be pulverized" and "a look that could shoot lasers" and a few other minor points.

Also, Wynonna's mother is right. She is mad at her, but regardless of whether her mother never worked a day in her life, her mother is rightly pointing out Wynonna's lack of responsibility. However, the fact that the title is STARSONG is telling, and I suspect that, by the end of the story, mom and daughter will be on firmer ground.

There may be too much foreshadowing, as the title predicts that either mom or Wynonna will get to sing that song before the story is over.and the conflict with her mother is destined

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

This author has talent and is aware of the craft of writing and what makes a good story. I was compelled through the entire excerpt. The rhythm is spot-on, the transitions crackle, and the characters are animated and witty. I also like the addition of Sami to shake things up.

I am concerned that the characters may turn into stereotypes, or that we have already heard this story before in 200 different ways (girl finds true love, girl and mom resolve their conflicts, girl gets a taste of celebrity), but I will bite. This is very good.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

This story will definitely appeal to young teen girls. The whole drama between Wynona and the boy she likes seeing her notebook is realistic and interesting. I also think that the relationship between Wynona and her mom will appeal to teenage girls.

What aspect needs the most work?

Eh, some of the actual writing was slightly cringe-worthy. I think it would benefit a little reworking. However the base story is good and I think it would sell.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

This seems to be a mild, yet enjoyable piece of teen fiction. I also think that it will sell. There is some cleaning up that needs to be done but I think the overall themes will appeal.

Okay, so it wasn't a fabulous review, and the "cringe-worthy" comment bruises the ego a bit, but overall, I felt totally validated by this. I actually get the cringe worthy comment pretty well. Mainly, because I just watched the movie, The Proposal, with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. It was cute, predictable, and humorous ... but there were parts of the script that made me cringe just a tad. It's all a matter of personal opinion. I liked the movie, even teared up at the end, but it was weak in parts.

Right now, I'm all over that "author has talent" comment and it's pumping me up for my next story. Maybe Starsong will make it into print someday and maybe it won't, but I gave it my best shot and told the story with all my heart and soul. And that's all you can do, right?

Now, to totally change the subject:

Arlee Bird has an awesome post today on blog follower expectations. And Nas Dean is hosting an interview with Roland Yeomans with a book giveaway! Also, I recently won a MG book from author Julie Wright called, Hazzardous Universe, that I can't wait to read. Check it, and all her books, out here

So what say you, bleeps? Do you have stories that are proverbial stepping stones to the real dazzler? It's hard to think of any story we sweat over as just a stepping stone, but alas, that's what they sometimes turn out as. And that's okay. It doesn't make them any less special. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crafting the Villain and a Wii Bit of Fun

So my new WIP has a villainous vixen. It's so gratifying to design her. I want her to be just right, so I'm taking great lengths to understand what motivates her and what her main goal is. I've talked a bit about character motivation and goals in my last few posts, so if you missed any, check them out in my archives.

Here's a little bit I've learned on crafting the antagonist from Bob Mayer's workshop:

The Antagonist: Must be someone the reader respects (fears): smart, funny, kind, skilled, interesting, different. Must seem real; flawed, layered, and have a blind spot.
The antagonist must be in trouble. People tend to forget the antagonist has
problems too. Usually, the protagonist.
Must be introduced as soon as possible, even if by proxy. This one drives people
crazy. But you can’t have an antagonist that suddenly pops in for the climactic scene.
Often, the reader meets your antagonist, but has no clue that’s their role. Or, you introduce a proxy of the antagonist, or a minion of the antagonist. Either one introduces the antagonist.

The antagonist is the person on stage in the climactic scene, fighting the
protagonist because . . . their goals conflict. The reader must believe both will lose everything if they don’t defeat the other. Their goals are difficult to achieve because of external barriers, primarily each other.

The antagonist must have strong, believable motivation for pursuing her external
and specific goal. We might not agree with what they are doing, but at least it makes sense to us, given who the antagonist is as a character.

In short, no antagonist, no story.

On a side note, I read an awesome idea on my bloggy friend, RogueMutt's post the other day and had to try it. He blogged about how he designed his characters using Mii on the Wii game. If you have a Wii, you should really try this. It was so much fun. Plus, it gives you a concrete idea of what your characters should look like--everything from the shape of their face to the arch of their eyebrows can be designed just like you want it. I love the amazing ideas I get from you guys. Such a creative lot, you are! :)

Also, still time to sign up for Erin Spock's Paint it Purple Blogfest. This time you can use as many adverbs and as much purple prose as you like. Just for kicks. Click on the pic and sign up:

So what do you think? Have you ever designed your characters on Wii? Aside from Wii, how do you craft your villains or antagonists? Any tips or suggestions to share?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Right Brain vs. Left Brain

I heard an interesting idea the other day pertaining to writer's block, but it could relate to almost anything. We know the right half of the human brain controls your creativity, while the left half controls the logic, right? Some of us are more right brain oriented, while others operate using more of the left side. 

I think I'm somewhere right down the middle. My dad is all right brained, my mom all left. I can literally pin point which thoughts/actions of mine are from my mom or dad. Dad is the artist/story-teller. Mom is the reader and mathematician. An interesting combination--kind of a yin and yang type balance. But I learned early on which one to go to for what. I didn't go to Mom when I wanted help drawing a picture. I didn't go to Dad when I needed help with a math problem. Make sense?

So this theory I heard from author Michael Levin is that writers get writer's block when they're trying to do it all at once. The right side of their brain is trying to create the story, while the left side is trying to organize it. This combined focus results in a road block of sorts. The flow is dammed.

The solution is to stop trying to use both sides of your brain at once. This could apply to anything creative where we seem to find ourselves in a rut. In writing--and probably true for any art--we must learn to control each side of our brain in order to keep the flow. This means we have to write that first draft no matter how sloppy or unorganized it is. We just have to DO it. No need to worry about anything except getting the words and ideas out. This would be focusing on the RIGHT side of your brain ONLY.

Then, once we have our first (and dreadfully rough) draft, you can begin revisions focusing on using the LEFT side of your brain only. Do the details of your story make sense? The sentence structure? The organization? Do you need to rearrange some chapters, or add some in? Maybe even delete entirely?

If we look at it this way, it makes so much more sense. If we learn when to use which side of our brains when, we can become more creative and not hit the proverbial block. Personally, I haven't hit writer's block. I think I hit the opposite and can't figure out when to turn it off. LOL. But I know many writers do come to a stalemate in their work. Or maybe it has more to do with motivation. Perhaps focusing on one side of your brain will eliminate the stress and apprehesion of continuing when you feel unmotivated. Again, it's the yin and yang balance of the brain.... just like my parents. We have to figure out which side we need, and when.

On a side note, I'm SO behind at visiting blogs. I'm sorry, my bleeps! I'm trying... really really trying to make my rounds. Seems I've got these other obligations (family, dayjob, housework) holding me back. But I'll get there. Sending you all lots of blog lurve and wishing you the best of the weekend. 

We're off to go camping and I'm so looking forward to romancing my muse with nature all weekend. ;)

What about you? Any plans for romancing your muse? What about right brain vs. left? Are you more one than the other, or split down the middle like me? Do tell ...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Luck O'the Irish...

Blogfest, that is! And a very HAPPY ST. PATTY's DAY to ye!

Colene and Alexia are hosting a Luck O'the Irish blogfest so hop over to read all the entries. The idea is to write a 200 word flash fiction, or something of the like, to honor St. Patrick's Day.

Here's mine:

I finished off my pint and wiped the heady foam from my lip. No way I was gonna feel sorry for myself today. “Bartender, how bout another?” The words seemed to disappear into the abyss of voices and music. Then I caught a glint at the end of the bar and jerked my head in that direction.

What looked like a gold coin was spinning on the bar top. I watched it spin, waiting for someone to reach out and claim it, but it just kept spinning. Snatching it, I rolled it over and examined it. It wasn't a euro, or like anything I’d seen before—a four leaf clover was imprinted on both sides.

“I was wondering how long it’d take for someone to see that there gold piece,” a voice said.

I looked down at a green clad man the size of a toddler, a red beard on his face and an impish grin.

“Ah, now don’t be telling me you nay believe in leprechauns. It’s your lucky day, lass, but you have to be willing, or your luck’ll run out fast.”

“Willing for what?”

“To follow me, lass …”

I glanced at the coin, then back at my hallucination who called himself a leprechaun. “Okay, yeah. I’m willing. And I could sure use a bit of luck.”

His smile widened, showing his crooked little teeth. “I knew you were the one, could feel it in me bones. Come along … your rainbow awaits …”

Have a wonderful day and may the luck o'the Irish be with you! Erin go bragh!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Character Interview

Thanks for all the wonderful comments you've been leaving on these character posts. I'm so glad they've been helpful. I'm in the process right now of fleshing my characters out for my new story ... I'm trying a middle grade fantasy, using a thirteen year old boy for my main character. I haven't writen in the male POV yet, so I'm really spending a lot of time getting to know my guy before I start writing him. I want his voice to come over in just the right way.

I also have a major antagonist in this story and I'm spending just as much time figuring out all her motivations as much as my protagonist's. One way I do this is by putting my main characters through an interview. Now, I know not everyone does this ... and I, in no way, insist you can't have good characters if you don't. What works for me, may not work for you, and vice ersa. I'm just sharing with you MY way of doing it, in case it helps.

The beauty of storytelling, is that there is no one right way to do it. Writers figure out what works best for them and they use it. For me, after writing five novel length stories, I've found that THIS is the way that works best for my stories and characters.

So on to the interview:

1. What does he/she look like? How does he talk? How does she act physically? Any mannerisms?
2. What is his background? Where was he born? What were her parents like? How was he raised? Where did he go to school? What level education?
3. What is her job? What special skills does her job require and how will they affect her role in the story? What about hobbies and talents learned from them?
4. What is her family? Parents? Husband? Her relation to him? Children? Relation? Why not kids? Divorced? Why? Why not?
5. What kind of home?
6. Did she have a significant event in her past that shaped her?
7. What would he die to defend?
8. What is his most likeable trait? Least likeable?
9. What trait does she respect most in others?
10. What does she want to be doing 20 years from now?
11. Who are his best friends?
12. How does he feel toward the opposite sex?
13. What is his deepest secret?
14. What does she like best about her life? Like least?
15. What is his main problem at beginning of story?
16. What is ideal happy ending for this character?
17. Why should readers like or relate to him?
18. Why should reader care about this character?

Some other aspects of a character to keep in mind:

and beliefs-needs-motives-dreams-fears-stressors

These are just a collection of questions I've gathered from different places.

Why does this method of intense character development work for me?? Because the more I know about what makes my character tick, the more twists and turns I can develop within my plot while I'm writing that first draft. For example, I did a character sketch for my antagonist with my new WIP, and I've been outlining the actual plot so I know where I want my story to go. But I really want to make my villain  awesome, so I went a step further and put her through these questions, plus the Triangle of Traits and I realized my plot is different than I expected. Once I got to know my villainous vixen better, I discovered there was more to my story than I anticipated. 

Now, I realize you can arrive at the same conclusion from writing the first draft by the seat of your pants ... and hey, if that works best for you, bravo! For me, I love being in charge of that first draft and throwing my developed characters together to see how they react with each other. 

On a side note, lots of book birthdays recently! So many new stories released and others on their way out very soon!! Any you're particularly excited for? What about character questions? Are there any you like to ask that I've missed? What methods do you take when developing your characters?

Also, still time to get in for Colene Murphey's Luck O' the Irish St. Patty's Day Blogfest! Click for the details.

Tune in next time for an in depth discussion on the villain. Muhahahahahahaha ..........
This is me when someone keeps interrupting my writing. I need a sign to hang on my office with her picture on it that says,  "Disturb me, and suffer morbid, gruesome consequences."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Character Motivation

I love you, Friday!! Hallelujah! Hoping all of you have a wonderful weekend. Got some crazy weather going on lately over here on the east coast. Just when you think Spring has sprung, it rains for 24 hours and turns cold. Fine with me, since I've not been motivated to rake all those crunchy brown leaves presently carpeting my yard. Speaking of motivation ...

I've got five activities for you:

1.  Describe your MC's primary motivation in one word
2.  Describe your MC's goal in one sentence
3.  Describe your antagonist's motivation in one word
4.  Describe your antagonist's goal in one sentence
5.  Describe your MC's blind spot in one sentence

This takes some genuine thought. You may be quick to answer, which is fine. Go ahead and answer them. But then really think about it for awhile, and you may find your answers will change.  Mine did. I had to dig deep. Got out the shovel and everything.

Motivation is an important factor because it's what drives the character toward his/her goal. Motivations come in layers that are peeled away as the story escalates in conflict, and the character is under more pressure. These layers are all present at the beginning of the story, but the character is not aware of them. There is a surface motivation driving them, but this motivation will shift as the layers are peeled away.

It boils down to the basics:

*  What does the MC want?
*  What does the MC really want?
*  What does the MC really need?

The reader must believe what the character believes: that all will be lost if they don't achieve their goal. Motivation is the most important factor to consider when having your MC make choices. Once you have a feel for your character's motivation and they come alive, you lose a certain control over your story. (I love it when this happens.)

*  Motivation comes from a concrete goal
*  Make the goals clear, so the reader can see if the MC reaches his goal
*  Don't confuse their motivation with the goal

I'll have more on character development next time. Again, these are from the workshop I'm doing with Bob Mayer, which you can find hereThanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It gives me warm fuzzies all day long. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More On Character Development

For those who missed my Monday post, I've started a series of posts on character development. I'm doing an online workshop which you can find here. There's been some really good info that's helping me get inside my protag's and antag's heads.

We recently discussed the Triangle of Personality Traits. This refers to the three sides of your character:

                                       TRAIT ** NEED ** FLAW

Example:  If your character's trait is adventurous, their need may be change, but the flaw is that your character is unreliable.

Make sense? Here's another one:

Example:  If the trait is loyalty, the need may be trust, and the flaw is that your character is gullible.  

It's important to know the need that drives your character, and the flaw that brings them to their darkest moment. Try brainstorming and writing these down for your main characters. It's not as easy as it may seem, unless you already know your character very well. For me, starting out a fresh new story, I had to really dig deep, but man, what a difference it's making and helping to mold my plot.

I know some writers like to just write by the seat of their pants and get to know their characters as they go. But for me, I've found I do much better knowing them before I start writing the first draft, which saves a huge headache with revisions.

Know what your character's flaw is. This flaw will be their blind spot, and the character's strongest defenses will be built around this same blind spot. What appears to be the main character's strongest trait is actually a cover for their weakest one. Most likely, your MC will be in denial of their potential blind spot and will react negatively to anyone or anything poking close to it. This denial will cause the MC to defend their blind spot (or flaw), which justifies their need.

Remember the triangle, and use it to develop all your main characters. If you don't know what the triangle of trait is for your main characters, chances are they're somewhat hollow.

BTW Weekly Spotlight will return soon. I'm knee-deep in character development for my new stories right now, and loving it. Hopefully, these posts will help you as they've helped me. Do you have anything more to add? Feel free to tell me what works (or doesn't work) for you when fleshing out your characters and breathing life into them.  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Character Development

So I'm taking this online character development course with best selling author, Bob Mayer, and so far, it's been awesome. He's really got me digging deep and fleshing out what motivates my main characters--protags and antags both.

So over the next few days, I'll share with you what I've learned, in hopes that you can gain some helpful info on developing your own characters.

For today, I have six questions for you to answer about your characters:

1.  What is the identity your character shows the world?
2.  What identity does this character claim for himself? How does he/she view themselves?
3.  What truth is buried so deep, your MC doesn't even realize it?
4.  What first impression does your MC create?
5.  How would your character's acquaintances describe him/her?
6.  What circumstance would make him/her act contrary to his norm?

So think about those, mull it over, sit on it awhile ....

Next, I'll have some character basics for you, so check back soon for more good info!

How about you? Have any good character questions or pointers for us? Please share ....  

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pick Up the Pace!

Yep, I'm still kickin' down the cobblestones.... stone by stone on this writerly path. It's a bizarre state of existence, isn't it??  I'm just so eternally grateful to have y'all on board with me and keeping me motivated. If writing and publication is the cake, all of you are certainly the icing.

Go on and treat yourself to a slice of lemon cake. It's %100 calorie free. See there! Do I love ya or what??

I mentioned before that I'm on the query roller coaster. Well, I'm thinking of hopping off for a bit. Just so I can immerse myself into my new project. I did receive some partial requests and even a full, which meant the agents liked my story idea and my query (huge plus!) but once they had the actual story, didn't connect with it.

Which tells me I still have work to do. Of course, each agent has their own taste and another agent may feel differently... yada, yada, yada .... we know the drill. The key factor to me, is that the stories just didn't sparkle as they should. And that's okay, because I'm still writing and I've learned something from each story I've written.

For example;

My first novel length story I ever wrote, Through the Fern Glade, was just me learning how to tell a story through the written word. Was it or is it publishable? Uh, that would be a big fat NEGATIVE. But still, I love, love, love that story because it was part of my growth.

The Mistake was my second story and it was much better (and shorter) but I hadn't fully understood the craft of writing. I could tell a story, but the writing was amateur. That story taught me I could crank out a story fast and let the words flow.

The 49th Parallel taught me how to plot. I still believe in this story and plan to go back and rewrite it some day. I learned that plot is important, and a good one is fantastic. But you still need strong characters for the reader to invest in. That's where I fell short in this story. I kicked butt with the action, suspense, and plot, but my characters were weak. I wasn't spending enough time with them.

Then I wrote Float. And in writing Float I focused on really developing my characters. I think I pulled it off too... well, for the most part I did, considering it was my first character-driven tale. And yes I queried this one because I fell in love with the characters, and I really believed in the story. I had a few requests and apparently none of the agents fell in love with it the way I did. So it's taught me I still have work to do.

Starsong I full on poured myself into for NaNoWriMo. I had a tale to tell and I was ready. I got that first draft down in a month's time and spent the next few months revising--even won a few critiques from published authors and an agent. From this story I learned that I can write. That's good. One less thing to worry about, right? But after many queries sent and only one request so far which was rejected based on overall story pacing, I realize I ain't there yet.

There's always work to do. Writers never stop learning, always honing our craft. But where I'm at right now tells me I've come a loooong way, and I need to get back to work. So far, no one has fallen in love with my work. So I haven't found that IT factor yet. In short, here's what I've learned:

*  Figure out a kick-arse, tight plot
*  Develop your characters so that you fall head over heels for them
*  Pick up the pace. Just keep throwing conflict at your characters and keep the story moving (trim the fat)
*  YA contemporary is a very tough sell 

After realizing just how tough a sell it is, I'm calling it a day with that genre. It was an important genre for me to experiment with along my path because it taught me how to develop my characters. But my true passion is in fantasy, and it seems like those are the kinds of stories readers want anyway. Heck, it's the kind of stories I want. I'm really going to focus on writing a story that I'd like to read.

Which I'm doing now. I've been world building since the year began and I'm ready to dive in and start writing my first draft. I may still query Starsong as the year goes by. I'm not giving up, just refocusing.

What about you? How has your path come along? Some of you are published and some not. Are there any lessons you've learned that you'd like to share? Enlighten us, please....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Would You, Could You in a Box?

Would you, could you with a fox? Would you, could you with a mouse? Or in a house?

Happy Dr Seuss Birthday!!

Man, I'm a sucker for a Dr Seuss book. I loved them as a kid and love them still. We have the whole collection and my kids love them too. Honestly, Dr Seuss inspired me in so many ways creatively, but the biggest way is that he taught me to set my imagination free.

Imagination works best when you set it free......

My fave of all the books is Oh the Places You'll Go. It's just so positive and encouraging. 

Oh the Thinks You Can Think is another fave.

I'd love to hop into Dr Seuss world and lose myself for a while. The colors, the fashion, the silly rhymes... Golly gee, I'd fit right in! I'd speak in rhymes and paint my skin. I love how he just made words up to fit whatever he needed. That's what I'm talking about when I say Dr Seuss inspired me to set my imagination free. He thought outside the box.... And probably without the fox. And I bet he was wearing mix-matched socks.

What an enormous influence Dr Seuss has been on people everywhere. If his stories don't get the right side of your brain cranking, not much will.

Peeps everywhere are celebrating this day and promoting literacy for children. What a fantastic opportunity to read to a child or at least encourage a child to read for themselves.

Do you have any special plans for Dr Seuss Day? Or any special memories of Dr Seuss books as a child? Please share....