Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zero

Because that's exactly what I have for today's post. LOL!

But I wanted to take this time to say thanks to the hosts of the A to Z Challenge. I've had such a great time and it's been a wonderful learning experience as well.

I also want to thank all the new friends who took time to stop by here and comment, as well as my old friends (especially those not on the challenge) for all their visits.

It really has been fun! So in honor of all my bloggy buddies, please accept this award from me to you. Post it on your blog as a symbol of my gratitude. :)



Also, please check back tomorrow for a Spring Carnival running through May 8. I'll have a giveaway and you can enter for a chance to win a book. Currently there are 215 blogs participating in the giveaway, all with their own reading related prize, so it should be lots of fun! And there's still time to sign up. Just click on the pic below:



Thanks again for stopping by! Have a wonderful weekend. Got anything special planned? Please share ...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yesterday

Yesterday, this was my view:

(that's my lil guy out there watching the waves on FLA's east coast)


Yesterday, I also went and saw this movie:


I have to say, I loved it. I thought the premise was unique and awesome. The acting was great, although I know not everyone agrees with that, but it worked for me. I'm usually really annoyed with bad acting. *cough Kevin Costner cough*

Ahem, pardon me, where was I? Oh yes .... the movie. Well, I loved the techno soundtrack during the chase scenes (performed by The Chemical Brothers.) The story itself was really intriguing, but it left me wanting more. There were unanswered questions that I'm guessing will be explained in a sequel? Not sure. As someone who studies storytelling, I know it's against the rules to leave questions unanswered in a first volume, since every story, even if part of a series, should stand alone on its own. However, I got the general idea, using my own imagination. But I want more of the story.

Here's a quick premise of the story from high school student Ian Scott in The Comet:

Hanna is, strangely enough, the story of a girl, named Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) who is being raised in the snowy forests of Finland by her father Erik (Eric Bana). Long ago, corrupt CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) murdered Hanna’s mother, so now Erik, who is a former CIA agent himself, is raising Hanna in the forest as a hunter and assassin, learning only from encyclopedias and fairy tales. One day it will come down to her or Marissa ( I won’t explain it all here, of course).

When Hanna tells Erik she is “ready,” he retrieves a box that contains a switch that when flipped reveals their location to Wiegler. Hanna flips it, and the adventure begins.



(If you're in query phase, I think this blurb makes a great example of how a well done query should be written. It gives the main premise without giving away too much and makes you want to learn more.)


Anyway, that's what I did yesterday. How about you? What'd you do yesterday?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for ...

X Dare and The Quest for the Gatekeeper


That's the title of my latest story. My MC's name is Xavier Dare, X for short. It's a MG fantasy. Here's a blurb:

Thirteen year old X Dare thinks he's played every video game out there, until one day, a mysterious tattooed man offers him a game he's never heard of. Unable to resist a challenge, X finds himself transported to another world--one without leaders and in turmoil, where he must find the lost keys to restore the world to peace, or else never find the Gatekeeper to get back home.

 I'll be knee deep in revisions over next few weeks. This first draft really took a lot out of me with all the world building, but I LOVED it!

So our A-Z challenge is winding down to a close. If you've stopped by here regularly, I really appreciate it. There are so many awesome blogs out there and so many new bloggy friends to make. It truly has been a challenge, but a fun one!

On a side note, Leigh over at That's Write is hosting a Laughter is the best medicine blogfest. This one should be easy and fun, just post your fave writer joke, or any joke, on May 16 and have fun reading all the other ones. Just click the pic below to get to Leigh's blog and sign up!



Also, some thank yous are in order!

David Powers King has passed on the Irresistibly Sweet Blog award to me. Thank you, David!



Catherine Stine and Tara Smith have passed on the Versatile Blogger award. Thank you, Catherine and Tara!



My seven useless facts about me:

1. If I were an animal, I'd be a tiger
2. If I were a color, I'd be aqua
3. If I were a food, I'd be an avocado
4. If I were a number, I'd be 8
5. If I were a word, I'd be ethereal
6. If I were a fictional character, I'd be Alice in Wonderland
7. If I were a car, I'd be a '65 Mustang convertible in baby blue

What about you? How would you answer those same 7 questions?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for WRITER-ALL-NITER ...

That's right! It's finally here! I'm pleased to introduce you to a revolutionary breakthrough that will change your lives forever.

The new WRITER-ALL-NITER comes in a handy fun-size pill, coated in a deliciously rich dark chew-able chocolate. Like biting into a gourmet treat!

The WRITER-ALL-NITER is not a drug. It's all natural with no side effects. Harmless to children and pets, and %100 satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!

How do you know if WRITER-ALL-NITER is right for you?

* Do you have trouble finding time to write?
* Are there too many distractions and obligations that send your concentration down the drain?
* Does sleep become a main priority over writing?
* When able to steal those precious writerly moments, do you sometimes feel guilty for being selfish? Or too spent to focus on your other daily duties?


Well, your worries are over! One WRITER-ALL-NITER pill allows you to stay awake for up to  48 hours and feel as fresh and smart as if you've just woken from an undisturbed 8 hour slumber. The natural herbal ingredients are not only harmless, they actually stimulate the left side of your brain to produce more creativity and imagination.

Trouble with overuse of adverbs and telling instead of showing? No problem. The WRITER-ALL-NITER equally stimulates your internal editor to catch those no-nos, without interfering in the creative process. With the WRITER-ALL-NITER pill, you can work the day job, do the housework, care for the family with a smile on your face, then stow away to your writing dungeon for hours of uninterrupted writing genius without getting tired or cranky. Plus, with no side effects, you're as chipper and clever as ever.

No one will ever know you're using a supplement. The WRITER-ALL-NITER is not addictive and  purely safe. Still trying to polish off that best seller? Don't sink into that despair of frustration and self-doubt! Buy the WRITER-ALL-NITER today! Don't delay! Your one time payment of $1.99 gets you a 30 day supply of pills so you can stay awake all month and finish your work!

And that's not all ...

If you act fast, we'll throw in a bonus. You'll also receive the UNTHINKING CAP for that much needed brain restoration after your creative productivity. The UNTHINKING CAP is made of all natural hemp fibers with an invisible micro-chip stored inside, sending harmless waves that allow your brain to turn off the flow of thought and just be a blubbering idiot for awhile. Pull up the TV and tie on your UNTHINKING CAP. Let your brain have a vacation. One hour of the UNTHINKING CAP will feel like a 3 day mini vacation. A must have for any writer, while supplies last.

(Patent pending)

So what are you waiting for? Call now and all this can be yours for the ultimate low price of $1.99 for a 30 day supply!

ORDER NOW AT 1-555-DREAMON    FOR YOURS TODAY!

***************************************************************************

Congrats to Hart Johnson at Confessions of a Watery Tart for making the ABNA semi-finalists! Rock on, Hart!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Voice

Hey, gang! I'm coming at ya from spring break on Daytona Beach. Kids are enjoying sun and fun while I work. *frowns* But that's the beauty of my job, I can take it with me.

So yesterday I asked the question what makes a book unputdownable. My answer included voice, as did many others. Voice is so so important in drawing the reader into  the storytelling. Everyone has their own description of what voice is. And I've read so many, I agree with all of them. For me, discovering my voice became easier with each story I wrote.

By George! I think I've got it now! And my voice doesn't always come through in the first draft, but with revisions I focus on tweaking my voice, as well as the characters' voices. It gets clearer and easier each time.

I could go into detail about what I think voice is, but I'd rather direct you to a post by a fellow blogger, who is so crystal clear on the subject, I couldn't say it better myself.

Check out Lisa Gail Green at Paranormal Point of View's blog post on Filtering through Character. It just rocks.

Do you have any techniques you use to develop your voice? Any tips? If not, what are you working on these days?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Now Starring! And U is for ....

STEP RIGHT UP! GET YOUR TICKETS RIGHT HERE!

NOW SHOWING!


Lindz Pagel over at Rapturous Randomocity and Alexis at Kore Averna are having a fun blogfest where my story gets to be adapted to film and I get to decide on the cast.

I chose my most recent YA contemporary story called Starsong. Here's a brief blurb on what the story is, and below you'll find my choice of actors/actresses for the main characters. Check mine out, then hop over to blogfest HDQ by clicking on pic above and check out the others!

Starsong






Sixteen year old Wynonna Pinks is convinced super cute skater boy, Tanner Westin, is the guy for her. But after wrecking her new car and being forced to work a summer job, she gets stuck carpooling with the oddball neighbor kid, Sami Zaman. Wynonna not only finds she and Sami love the same rock band, she finds her body responding to him in a strange new way. It’s weird, all right, and full on electric. Sami is smart, talented and focused on pursuing music after graduation. He helps Wynonna find the brilliant voice she’s always hid from, but falling in love with Sami is nothing like she thought a first love would be. Wynonna’s Southern Baptist mom is freaked out by the fact Sami and his family are Muslim, and Sami’s parents do everything but come right out and say Wynonna’s a bad influence on their darling son. Sneaking around and lying to her parents become a regular routine for Wynonna, when all she really wants is to be free to get into “the zone” and jam with Sami. She will have to decide whether this intercultural love is worth fighting for or not. Maybe she was right about skater boy all along.


The Cast:


Wynonna Pinks  to be played by ....


EMMA WATSON


Here's why: For one, Emma has the look Wynonna should have, plus she's young and sassy, but has a really sweet and gullible side.Wynonna's character is someone who really strives for individuality. She wants her own look and sees herself as more complex than her mom and best friend, Carlin.




Sami Zaman to be played by ....


DEV PATEL


Sami is a cool, collected kind of guy--an Indian-American whose passion is a career in music. Dev could pull him off perfectly. Not only does he fit the look (with a little bit longer, shaggier hair) he's a fabulous actor and Sami's character deserves it. He has to be cool and unique enough to take Wynonna's attention away from super cute Tanner.




Tanner Westin to be played by ....








ZAC EFRON


Why? Zac has the skater boy look I want for Tanner. Plus he has to be super cool and laid back with eyes that just make girls melt. Wynonna's had a crush on Tanner forever. 


Wynonna's best friend Carlin to be played by ....


MEGAN FOX


Carlin is the best friend that makes you feel like no one's ever looking at you when you're next to her. But she's also superficial and kind of shallow. Megan just has that look.




Wynonna's mom, Mrs. Pinks, to be played by ....






GWYNETH PALTROW 




Okay so she may be a tad young to be mom to a teenage daughter, but Gwyneth is such a good actress, she could swing it with her eyes closed. Mrs. Pinks is a good looking, overbearing mom who lost her country singing voice to an illness, and she's got a chip on her shoulder since she never got to live out her dream. She wants Wynonna to live out the dream for her, always pushing her and not able to see Wynonna for who she is.




Hey thanks for checking out my cast. Thanks to Lindz and Alexis for such a good time!




And if you're stopping by for U day on the A-Z hop, my U word for today is

UNPUTDOWNABLE.




I've asked this question before, and I always like to ask periodically to see how answers have changes, or allow otther to answer who haven't before. So I ask you, what makes a story unputdownable in your opinion? 


For me, the voice is what has to make me feel comfortable to keep reading. But what really and truly keeps me reading, is cliffhangers. No joke. I need those unanswered, burning questions to make me want to read more.


What about you? 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Truth

Remember those phony peeps in high school? You could always tell. I don't know who they thought they were fooling? Themselves, I guess.

Truth plays a big part in my WIP. It's the main motivation of my villain, and the more I develop her throughout the story, the more I realize how much knowing, or not knowing, the truth can really affect someone.

Remember The X Files? "The truth is out there."

I love that. You can apply it to anything. The truth IS out there, but how bad do you want it? Sometimes we have to dig for it.

"Not being known, doesn't stop the truth from being true."

Another one of my fave quotes. We can pull the wool over eyes all we want, but the truth remains.

"And the truth shall set you free..."

This one's from the Bible. And couldn't be more necessary in any healing process. I've held onto lies before because I wanted to believe them. But that's all it is, lies. The weight that's lifted from your shoulders when you accept the truth, is astounding.

"To thine own self be true."  William Shakespeare

Could there be any more profound quote? Seriously, if we can't be true to ourselves, we're doomed to a life of trying to make others happy. I  think this applies in writing so so much. Why? Because it's so easy to get preoccupied with writing for the trends. Somehow we get these ideas in our heads that we can make lots of money with a trendy idea, or at the very least, get published.
But is that what we write for? Or is it because inside us, we have a story to tell? And because we adore the written word, and piecing words together in sentences that just flow and evoke feeling.

That's the bottom line of my post today: staying true. If vampires are your passion, but the market is fully saturated and no one wants them, who cares? Stay true to yourself. The market will come back around. Just like those bad 70s bell bottoms came back around. (Yep, I had some. Loved them.) The important thing is that we stay true to ourselves.

Okay, sorry if this post came off preachy. I didn't mean it that way. :) Thanks so much for stopping by and I'm way behind in blog visits since the kids are out of school for Spring Break, but I'll be catching up with you over the next few days. If you celebrate Easter, Happy Easter weekend! My kids have a big hunt today, so I'll be away from my computer, yet again.

On a very positive note, I'm celebrating! I just finished the first draft of my MG fantasy story. I wrote the whole thing in a month (my own personal NaNo) by pounding out chapters for 2-3 hours every morning. Of course, now the real work comes with revising the mess I've made. ;)

Do you have any favorite quotes in truth? What lessons have you learned from staying true? Please share....

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Setting

To me, the setting of a story can make or break it. It's almost as important as the characters themselves. Look at some popular stories, for instance:

Twilight: the setting is small town Forks in beautiful Washington state where it's lush and green and rains all the time.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts magical castle and realm. Even the town of Hogsmeade is quaint and cozy.

Lost, the TV show: set in tropical, breath-taking Hawaii.

Of course, there are other aspects that made these stories popular, but take away their awesome settings, and you'd be missing part of the formula that makes these stories shine.

So before you start writing, consider your setting. How will you bring it to life, make it feel real? We can't overdo it, or it's ruined, but sprinkle in just enough of a well-thought out setting to ground the reader, and we have a winner.

In my current WIP, I've had to create an entire world. It took a lot of brainstorming and when trying to keep the story under 60k words, I'm very limited as to how much I can describe this imaginary world. But I also feel like it's really important too, and I don't want to skimp on it.

What are your thoughts on settings? Does it make a difference to you? Do you notice them? Please share ....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for ....

REALITY Every so often I get a good dose of it. I like my world better.

RHYTHM Once you find your rhythm, it's like all is right with the world. It's when the rhythm is broken that I get frustrated. Nothing worse than feeling the rhythm of your story and the words are flowing, fingers flying across the keys and a little face peeps in and yells, "Mom! He's not playing fair!"

RUDY Remember that movie? Early nineties. About a kid who's always wanted to play football for Notre Dame. He's small, and really doesn't have a chance, but he makes the team as a benchwarmer, until his final moment when he gets to score and win for the team! Such a great story to remind us never to give up. Our dreams may not be fulfilled as soon as we want, but that doesn't mean we throw in the towel.

ROOM I say this because of a quote I heard one time from an agent. "There is always room for awesome." I keep reminding myself of this since I stumbled upon a published story with a similar plotline as the one I'm writing now. At first I was bummed. Then I remembered, there are only so many plots anyway, right? It just means I have to make mine extra AWESOME. Eh, no sweat. ;)

READ And right now my TBR list is taller than my nightstand. And those are actual books, not counting whats on my Kindle. Sheesh! After I finish this WIP, I'm taking a few months off just to read.

REUNION In a few weeks I'll be taking the family to Europe to reunite with some old friends of mine. My kids have never been to Europe before and they're super excited. My dear sweet German friends I met in London over a decade ago have kept in touch and have children around mine's age. I'm so looking forward to it. Haven't seen them in ten years!

REVISIONS One of my favorite parts of writing fiction, is the first round of revisions after the first draft. Just finally seeing how it reads and ties together. It's a little bit of zen. I've learned that the more you can read in one sitting, the better feel you'll have for your story as a whole.

R & R I'm looking forward to a lot of it. And although this A to Z challenge has been a blast, I'm also looking forward to slowing down a bit. I've been writing my first draft this month and doing the A to Z challenge (in my free time.) So I'm ready to take it down a few notches and refresh my brain.

What about you? How've you been keeping up? Any good R words you want to share with me? Thanks so much for stopping by! I love your comments! :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Query

Ah, yes... the obvious Q choice. This one ties in with my P post yesterday. I have pretty good experience with queries. I've written them for myself, helped others with theirs. I've got the basics down.

The formula is simple:

Main Character, Goal, Conflict, Stakes

If you can pull off 1 to 2 paragraphs including that formula and add in a little voice, you've got it. Some peeps write their queries before the actual manuscript. I usually write a logline before the story. I have a query already written for my WIP now.

Lots of fabulous resources for queries! One great place I learned to craft a query is from lit agent,  Kristen Nelson's blog website which you can find here.  I loved the way she broke down Harry Potter and how a query would work for that story. Like a light going off. *bling*

Of course there's Query Shark for the not faint of heart. And Roland Yeomans and Matt MacNish give wonderful query advice.

If you're in the query phase now, I HIGHLY recommend visiting WriteOnCon here, and scrolling through the past two query chats with lit agents, Marianne Strong and Natalie Fischer. The event with Jessica Sinsheimer is April 25th. WriteOnCon is geared toward kid lit writers, but it doesn't matter what you write when you get to see a posted query and the agent's initial reaction after reading it. Wow! I've learned a lot from those chats. My schedule hasn't allowed me to attend the chat live, but I always go back and read through them and they are just bubbling over with awesome inside information. And kudos to the brave souls who post their queries up there for critique. The process is a little daunting, the way the agents quickly say, "Next!" after reading through someone's blood sweat and tears. *cold shivers*

If you are in the query / pitch stage and you missed my post yesterday, check it out for info on Pitch University's very helpful site.

I heard a quote from SCBWI that said if you haven't queried at least 100 agents, then you haven't really queried. Good to know! It's taken some writers years to find representation for one story. I've been looking for the past two years off and on. Query a little, write a new story ... query the new story, write another new story ... and so on....

QueryTracker is an awesome place to keep track of your queries and agents.

Anyway, if you are in the query stage, good luck! If you would like me to critique your query for you, I'd be happy to do so. Just send me an email at pakazo77@gmail.com.

DO you have any special query critiques or rituals? Please share ...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for PITCH

And no, I'm not talking about baseball. :) I'm talking about that few minutes when you have an agent's attention and can pitch your story to them. Whether it be a query from the slush or a precious two minutes during a conference. It's those few isolated moments in time when we really have to shine.

I've never pitched in person, but I'm pretty familiar with the art of a query. Matter of fact, I may just give up writing stories and become a professional query writer. lol

Anyway, there's lots of resources out there for query critiques and advice. One of which I mentioned in yesterday's O post. But I found an awesome site where I just got to "try out" my brand new query for my WIP. It's called Pitch University and you can find it here.

Every month Pitch U offers an an opportunity to pitch to an agent and get real personal feedback. You can pitch via webcam or by query. Earlier this month I saw the op via Twitter (because I follow Pitch U) and kid lit agent Molly Jaffa from Folio Lit was giving feedback for YA / MG pitches. Well, I'm not even finished with the first draft of my MG WIP, but it doesn't matter. Cool thing about Pitch U is you can pitch WIPs. They also give you an op to ask questions to the agent in the comments. The agent has a few days to read through all the questions and pitches and responds to each one.

I whipped up a query real quick (literally within 15 minutes) and emailed it on the last day, sliding in to the session as one of the last contestants. Molly posted feedback for every query/pitch so we all got to see what worked and what didn't. It was fantastic. She actually gave mine a really good review and a suggestion that I hadn't thought of.

The cool part, is that if the agent during these feedback pitch sessions, sees something they're interested in and it's complete, they'll request pages. So what's not to like?

Ton of great info on Pitch U, so check it out and learn more about their next agent pitch session. Also, if you want to see my query or any of the others, visit the site and look for the session with Molly Jaffa. A really valuable learning curve! I'll have more on queries for Q day. I'm guessing it will be the theme of the day. ;)

Now, completely off subject, Magpie over at Magpie Writes awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks so much! Magpie has a wonderful blog you should check out. I'm supposed to leave you with seven facts about me, then pass on the award. Since I'm really bad at picking out only a few bloggers, I'd like for anyone who's stopped by here today and commented to accept this award for your own blog. (I'm always afraid of leaving someone out)

And my quick 7 useless facts:

1. I've gone by the name PK since I was a baby
2. I use only all natural cleaning products
3. I learned to Scuba dive when I was 16
4. I slept with a light on in my bedroom til I was 12 (overactive imagination)
5. I sometimes write longhand in a spiral notebook and rewrite into word
6. My first story I wrote when I was 10 was about a girl who falls off a cruise ship and makes friends with a Great White shark who takes care of her so she can live in the ocean. (lol)
7. I could live on cheese, tomatoes, olive oil, and almonds



Thanks so much for stopping by today! Do you have any pitch stories or sites you'd like to share? Or maybe just tell me what you're up to these days ....  

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Opportunity

And there are a few opportunities going on around the blogosphere:

If you write YA/MG, YAtopia is having a pitch contest with agent Natalie Fischer, who's currently closed to queries. Check it out here.

Gina Blechman is staring a new open critique forum on her blog, offering to critique story snippets, queries, and synopses each Friday. Find that here.

Carol Riggs does the same thing for YA / MG story excerpts , you can find here.

And talking about opportunities, the wonderful and inspiring Julie Musil just nabbed herself an agent!! Super excited for all the opportunities opening up for her! Julie is a wealth of info for writers. Stop by her blog and congratulate her here.

And I'm just sure there are plenty more opportunities out there, so please let me know in the comments! Any new opportunities fall in your path recently? Do tell ...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Narrative

Thanks so much for visiting me today! Hope you're having a wonderful weekend.

Today's post is short and sweet, and I wanted to leave you with some words of wisdom on narrative from kid lit agent, Mary Kole:

When writing fiction, whether in first person or third, imagine yourself sitting around the dinner table  retelling events to your friends and family.

This bit of advice has helped me so much. It keeps your storytelling vivid, your prose realistic, and voice genuine. Especially with revisions when you're reading over your work. Pretty much, if you can't imagine yourself saying it like it's written, it needs to be reworded.

BTW  did you see the A to Z Challenge was mentioned in Nathan's Bransford's Friday blog post? Wow it's like a phenomenon! Get down to funky town and rock on, brothas and sistas!

Okay, happy blog hopping! I'm way behind, but I'll be making my rounds. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by here and comment. It means so much and I'm so very grateful for you!

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for ...

SO the lovely Wendy Tyler Ryan thought it would be fun to infuse a blogfest with the letter M day in the A to Z challenge. The idea:

Write a short flash fiction using the words: misty, mambo, moon, musk, mongrel, myth . It's supposed to "have a dark feel," but I went a different route by, feeling in the dark ...

Read mine, then check out the others from the link above.

   Beneath the misty moon, he takes my hand, guiding me to the courtyard where the quartet sings a melody so gentle, I feel like I''m floating.
   "Dancing by moonlight?" I ask, leaning closer and breathing in his delicious, rich musk. "Why I thought such rendezvous were only myth."
   "Quite wrong, my darling," he whispers at my ear, raising the hairs on my arm, sending chills down my spine.
   "You mongrel!" I tease. I smile, looking up through my lashes. "You must'nt fluster me so."
   "My darling," he says, "this is nothing. Just wait until we mambo ..."


LOL! Okay, that was the best I could come up with spur of the moment. Cause you know, I never prepare for these things. They're much more fun when written on a whim.

Thanks for reading! And thanks so much for stopping by. How's the A to Z challenge going for you? If you're not doing A to Z, have you been blogging more this month? I think we all deserve a week's vacation come May!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for LOST

More like LESSONS from LOST. Okay, so I'm like way behind the times here. When the TV show Lost premiered I'd just had a baby and knew I wouldn't have time or energy to invest in this show. You know what I mean? Having to set aside that time to watch, forced to ignore other things so my burning questions from last week's cliffhanger could be satisfied each week at that exact hour. Not to mention the long grueling summers of repeats while waiting for a new season.

Can you tell I'm not really a fan of TV? I hate how shows get dragged out, and Lost was no different. BUT ... Hubby and I just finished Season 1 on DVD and it was so wonderful not having to wait for commercials. We've got the entire set just waiting to be watched.



And,  we. are. hooked. Here's why:

First off, the setting. I don't care what anyone says ... To me, if a story has great characters, but just an okay setting, it's weak. But if it has both, great characters and a fantastic setting, I'm ga-ga for it. I've got a whole post on setting when we get to S.
But take Lost .... Set in gorgeous Hawaii (my fave place in the world). In the story of Lost, they could be anywhere in the South Pacific. (I knew it was filmed on Hawaii by the very first episode. What can I say, I'm Hawaiian at heart.) You could put the same ensemble of characters in New York, or London, or the south of France, and it'd still be interesting since they all have their own story. But put them in a beautiful tropical setting with zero technology or modern conveniences and see how they make do.

Genius.

Then again, if you throw a bunch of boring characters in the same setting, all you have is the bread without the peanut butter and jelly.

Here are a few of my fave Lost characters, and why they work:



Dr. Jack: Total heartthrob. The committed to excellence do-gooder with soulful eyes and a secret wild side. And he's a brilliant doctor, no less. This is the guy everyone likes and needs. The foundation. The mediator. The leader.

Kate: Femme fatale with a good heart and bad luck. There's a sordid past here, and the fact we only get bits and pieces of it is genius. It makes us want to know more, and we can't hate her. We know she's a good person and admire her toughness. We want her to get a fresh start (especially with Dr. Jack) but oh the possibilities of a love triangle with sleazy Sawyer.

Sawyer: The character we love to hate. The sympathetic bad guy--so creepy he's sexy. He had a rough childhood which lets us understand his demons and why he's so selfish.  
Kate understands him too, which makes her the perfect soulmate for Sawyer. But we like Kate and we want more for her. We want her to have a good guy who'll treat her right, like Dr. Jack. But oh, the sexual tension between Sawyer and Kate is practically boiling. And part of us wants them to be together too.

John Locke: My favorite. The troubled, disabled orphan who was just some average middle class manager of a box company, with a boss who was younger than him. Now, a skillful and wise man the entire group relies on, even though they don't realize it. Everyone looks to Jack as the leader, but really and truly, it's this guy who keeps them in check, on the side, behind the scenes. John doesn't want to be the leader--he wants it to be Jack too. But he plants his seeds  in the background so Jack can keep things in control. It's like John's finally found his calling, his chance to be the man he's always wanted. And for that, we feel a bond with him. We like John because he cares about the others and he's triumphed over his painful past. He's not bitter, he shares his wisdom freely.



That is depth, and that's what makes people bond with a character.

Of course, the other characters are all awesome too. I love how we're getting to know them all, just as they're getting to know each other.

The writers of Lost made us not only care about the characters, but made us unable to stop watching. How?

1. By throwing us right into the inciting incident: the plane crash
2. Not telling us everything up front so we want to know more
3. Showing us snippets of the character's lives, not telling, and choosing which parts of their lives to show when, so that we HAVE to know more.
4. Keeping a momentum. There's always something happening, either on the island or in their past lives. Lots of action and a swift pace.
5. A setting full of mysteries. There is so much we don't know about this island that we're hooked as much by that as by the character's lives.

I can't help breaking it down while I'm watching it. Figuring out how the writers and producers pulled this off. Really, it's like a glorified Gilligan's Island, but it goes way deeper. Sure, a lot of the character's stories are predictable, but we like them enough to want to find out if we're right about our predictions. The idea of them all getting a fresh start together and a chance to step out of civilization and slow down, while trying to survive without modern conveniences is genius. Especially, in this modern day when we rely on technology so much. Here is this group of peeps who can't call anyone on their mobile phones, or google herbal remedies from their laptops, or stow away to play video games all day. How will they make it work? And will they ever get off the island?? Hubby and I think we'd like to stay. We'd be happy there.

And no spoilers!!! I know you've probably all seen the entire running of the show, but remember, I've just finished Season 1, and have a long way to go. We're loving it, though.

What about you? Did you get sucked into Lost? If so, what was your take away from it all? What made you come back to watch it each week? If you didn't like the show, why not?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for KUDOS!

There's a party going on right here



And this is a BIG FAT KUDOS going out to my friend Leigh Moore over at That's Write.

Why, you ask? She just signed with lit agent Kate McKean for her YA historical romance, Rogue. She won the contest on Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent contest and Kate liked her story so much, signed her on. I'm just jumping with joy for Leigh.

Check out the story from the link on Leigh's blog and congratulate her. These kinds of success stories just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Kudos to Leigh!

And in the spirit of K day, here's a little Kool & the Gang....

This one's going out to you, Leigh ....



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jiggy

'Cause I'm getting jiggy with it. Remember that song? I love Will Smith. 

Anyway, I'm getting jiggy with my WIP, a MG fantasy titled, X Dare and The Quest for the Gatekeeper. I'm halfway through the first draft and excited by how far I've come, and daunted by how I'm going to fit it all into 60k words. 

The left side of my brain wants to say, "Stop, take a few days off. Figure this out." But the right side of my brain is saying, "Just write, girl ... you'll figure it out."

So that's what I do, every morning before the world awakes, I get jiggy with the keys and crank out a chapter or two. Of course, I'm fully aware that this first draft is going to be crap. The real writing of this story will come in the many revisions. I've got so much going on that I can't even keep up, myself. 

This is the first story I've built an entire world for. I have the detailed map hanging over my desk, and it definitely helps. This is the kind of stuff that gives me nerdgasms. My six year old son is fascinated that I actually drew and colored a map of a world I created. He doesn't realize yet the entire story I'm writing, is for him.

And heck! Maybe it'll even be finished by the time he's able to read!

You know, writing is a lot like dancing. Confused? What I mean, is that when you think about dancing too much, you lose the fluid movement and get too concerned with how you look, rather than feeling the music.

In writing, the same is possible. We worry too much about how it reads while we're writing a story, we get caught up in the technicalities and lose our rhythm. If we just write, get out that first draft, then we can focus on the craft later with revisions. 

So tell me, what are you getting jiggy with right now?

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Intuition

I rely on my intuition quite a bit. It's one of those gifts from God that helps us simply know what to do in certain circumstances. I find it's a lot like instinct, only smarter. ;)

This is a lovely excerpt from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird book on writing. I think she puts it beautifully, in regards to intuition in writing:

"Sometimes intuition needs coaxing, because intuition is a little shy. But if you try not to crowd it, intuition often wafts up from the soul or subconscious, and then becomes a tiny fitful little flame. It will be blown out by too much compulsion and manic attention, but will burn quietly when watched with gentle concentration. 
So try to calm it down, get quiet, breathe, and listen. Squint at the screen in your head, and if you look, you will see what you are searching for, the details of the story, its direction-- maybe not right this minute, but eventually. If you stop trying to control your mind so much, you'll have intuitive hunches about what this or that character is all about. It is hard to stop controlling, but you can do it. If your character suddenly pulls a half-eaten carrot out of her pocket, let her. Train yourself to hear that inner voice. Most people's intuition is drowned out by folk sayings. We have a moment of real feeling or insight, and then we come up with a folk saying that captures the insight in a kind of wash. The intuition may be real and ripe, fresh with possibilities, but the folk saying is guaranteed to be a cliche, stale and self-contained."

She goes onto say, "Be careful, if your intuition says that your story sucks, makes sure it really is your intuition and not your mother."

LOL! I love that. It's so true. We have so many rationales, so to speak, sometimes we can't free the real character that wants to come out! I think what she's saying also has a lot to do with why you can't outline everything. Part of being true to the story is letting it unfold organically and freely. I've got nothing against outlines. I use them religiously when planning a plot. But the actual story comes from letting my characters interact spontaneously. I let them have control, and I'm just the messenger, so to speak.

Hope you're having a lovely H day. Thank you so much for stopping by here.

 BTW Did you know Carol Riggs at Artzicarol Ramblings posts the first 250 words of mss and critiques them? How cool is that? It's offered for YA / MG writers and Carol offers a very detailed critique, as well as opens it up for her readers to critique. And let me tell you, her readers are in fine tune with the craft and these are peeps you want giving you feedback. This is totally free and no requirements, other than sticking to the specified genre. Don't write YA / MG? You can still critique others and help them, or at least find some nifty blogs from the talented writers who do read Carol's awesome reviews.

So tell me ...

What are your thoughts on intuition? Do you find it easy to listen to while writing? Or while doing other things? Call me biased, but I believe females have a keener sense of intuition. Just call it my woman's intuition .... ;) 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hook

Hey thanks for stopping by here on your Saturday! I'm so so glad to have you. I"m still working on making rounds so if I haven't been by your blog yet, I'm getting there!

H is for Hook.

Nope, I don't mean going fishing, though as a little bit of trivia, I wear a charm around my neck that's shaped like a fat fish hook. It's carved from whale bone by the Chugach natives of Alaska. I got it when I was there two years ago and it has never left my neck. I love it.

There, see that white hook at my neck? Yep that's the one. Disregard that little blur that is my daughter. lol

But no that's not what I'm talking about today. I mean that hook that draws a reader in and hooks them so they can't put down the story. It's those first few pages that are so vital, and so tough to pull off.

Ever read Hooked by Les Edgerton? If not, and you're a writer, I highly recommend it. It's helped me a ton.

But today I want to direct you to a blog by a very talented writer. Back in January she read through all the entries on Nathan Bransford's Best First Paragraph contest. She then made a list of the commonalities that seemed to hold the paragraphs back and NOT hook the reader. Basically it's a list of what not to dos.
And it is so worth your while to read. If you're a writer of fiction and always on the lookout to improve your craft, Check out Elena Solodow's blog post here. Elena is also one of the 250 finalists in the ABNA contest and you can download the first few pages of her story for free on Amazon to see how she hooked the judges. Just check her blog for the link.

How about you? Any tricks for hooking a reader? Or if you don't write fiction, but read it, what is it about a story's first few pages that draws you in?

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Gusto

I just love that word. It says it all, doesn't it? Gusto is what keeps us barreling through when times are tough. Gusto is what gives our projects the extra oomph needed to make it shine. And a little goes a long way. Just that little extra gusto added in our voice, makes a world of difference.

People see it. They flock to it. They want it for themselves, want to know how they can get it.

Gusto is enthusiasm, and zest. But if I had to break it down, I'd say gusto also comes from determination, dedication, faith, confidence, desire, and never giving up.

We should write with gusto, parent with gusto, work with gusto, blog with gusto!

You know who has gusto? This girl:


Have you heard of Beth Hamilton? There's a movie out right now--the true story of her life. If you don't know, she had big dreams of being a pro surfer. She was born into a family of surfers, and lived for riding the waves. She was good too, winning competitions as early as age 8.

At age 13, Bet was attacked by a 14 foot tiger shark while on her board and lost her arm. And she thought, she'd lost her hopeful career as well.

One month later, Beth returned to the water. She would pursue her dream, regardless the obstacles. One arm? No problem. She was determined to make it work. And she did! Two months after the attack she placed fifth in a competition. One year later, she'd won her first national title.

What an amazing person. It's no surprise she's inspired peeps all over the world. How'd she do it? No one would've knocked her down for taking a break from surfing--she'd lost an arm! Imagine how to balance with one arm. Ever tried surfing? It ain't as easy as the pros make it look.

I'm willing to bet, this girl has so much gusto, she could NOT sit back and assume the disabled label wanting to take over her life. It's such a great story to remind us that we all have obstacles, and sometimes life just doesn't want to cooperate with what we want. Do we crawl inside our shells and cower, or do we shake our fist in the air and shout, "You got me this time, but I'll be back!"

Why? Because we love it too much to give up. That's gusto.

So why not add in a little extra gusto today. It's contagious.

Is there anyone you can think of that makes you think "Now that's a person with gusto!" ?? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for FLOAT

How can I not take full advantage of this opportunity and introduce those of you who aren't familiar, to F.L.O.A.T.  ?



F.L.O.A.T. is FOR LOVE OF ALL TEENS

It's a pro self-esteem campaign encouraging teens and tweens to discover their self-worth and stick up for their friends. You can learn more about the mission and how you can put it into effect in your community by checking out the website at http://floatforteens.org

Help us grow! Help get the word about FLOAT out to others and across the internet. Promote the cause so teens know there is always hope, even when things seem at their worst. It only takes a few clicks:

"LIKE" the FLOAT page on Facebook by clicking here. Then suggest the page to everyone on your friend list. It's quick, easy, and painless, and can make a big difference.

And for some fun news, FLOAT the story will be available on eBook some time in May. It's the fictional story of eighteen year old Sterling Rose's struggle to overcome a life of being bullied and the new life she claims for herself in the search for her self-worth. It's a fun, uplifting story and all proceeds will go toward funding the FLOAT mission.


So look for it in late May! I'm sure I'll be posting on it again.

Thanks in advance for your support. And if you should feel so inclined, snag the Float balloon pic and post it on your website linked to the Facebook page. Should you feel you want to do more, check out the FLOAT website for details and contacts. There is always need for help with graphic designs and with local promotions, as well as internet promotions. Want to do something worthwhile and join this non-profit organization? We'd love to have you!

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE LOVE, BABY!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Excerpt

Thanks for stopping by today! I love having you here and appreciate all of your comments. :)

E is for Excerpt. And this is an excerpt from one of my fave books on writing, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. If you haven't read it before, you should pick it up like, TODAY. If you have read it, read it again. I just read it for the second time.

Anyway .... *ahem* ...

"Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of the things you don't get in real life--wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention; we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean. Aren't you?"

My answer is a resounding YES. How about you?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D for Diagnosis

The results are in and it's official: I have Blogger-itus

The cause:

Being unable to visit as many blogs as desired in a given day

The symptoms:

anxiousness
jittery fingers
twitchy eyes
lack of attentiveness at work and with family
partial selective hearing loss

Prescription:

30 days of no distractions
Take two cups of coffee in AM
Take two glasses of wine in PM
8 hours sleep nightly
And lots of lurve from bloggy friends

If you or someone you know can identify two or more of these symptoms, it's possible you have Blogger-itus. Get help. Follow the prescription to the best of your ability. And don't worry, you're not alone.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Conflict

Funny, in real life we try to steer away from it. But fiction? You gotta lay it on thick, torture your poor little characters til they can't take no more.

But you know what comes from conflict? Character

When faced with an uphill battle, we see what peeps are made of. Are they weak, or determined? Stressed, or able to keep their cool? In fiction, your character can have any of those traits, so long as they're somewhat likeable with redeeming qualities. I mean, no one wants to spend a whole story with a whiner, right?

So see what your character's are made of. Make them shine and grow from what they've been through. When I was a girl I loved the movie Adventures in Babysitting. My daughter loves it now and I've probably seen it a hundred times this year alone. But it's notable for the conflict. From the time Elizabeth Shue who plays "Chris" answers the door in the very beginning, a whirlwind of problems come her way, each one seeming worse than the next:

-Her date cancels
-She gets stuck babysitting on a Friday night
-Her best friends runs away and needs help
-On the way to pick her up, Chris's car gets a flat
-She realizes she doesn't have her purse
-A strange old truck driver gives Chris and the kids a lift and tow, but end up making a detour when he learns about his wife's affair
-They end up at his house and the truck driver whips out a gun and Chris's windshield gets shot up
-Chris and kids hop in some random car to get out of the bullets, then realize it's being hijacked
-Hijacker drives off with them and takes them to a stolen car factory
-Chris and kids get locked up in some room, since they now know about the stolen cars
-They escape by the rafters, almost falling to their death
-They're chased by the car thieves, end up on stage at an inner city Blues club
-Chris and kids have to sing their way off the stage and out of the joint
-More chasing by car thieves, til Chris ends up on subway with kids, thinking they got away
-On the subway car 2 gangs are about to throw down with knives ...



Get the idea? If you haven't seen it, or it's been awhile, check it out. Makes for a great study on just how much conflict you can throw your MC's way. In the film, Chris becomes the kids' hero because she managed to get through the entire night without the kids' parents ever being the wiser. growth from conflict. A fully developed character arc. Before she was just a regular high school senior.

So when in doubt, make them squirm. Great stories evolve from conflict and how our characters handle it. Enjoy the rest of your blog visits.

HAPPY C DAY! 

Thanks for stopping by!

How about you? How's the A-Z tromp coming along? Any advice for adding conflict? Please share ...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Blogfest

Yep. Behold! Another blogfest. But I just love them and it's such a great way to get to know each other better. This blogfest is called Memory Lane and hosted by Vicki Rocho at  Rambles & Randomness in celebration of her blogoversary. Don't forget to check out the other entries.

The idea is simple. Answer these questions about myself:

1. When did you first start your blog?
Sometime in mid September 2010.
2. What is first price of stamp you remember?
Hmm, a tough one. I wanna say 10cents, but could that be right? Not sure.
3. How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?
I'm thinking 10. But geez my son learned at 5, so I guess I was slow getting around to it.
4. What was first concert you attended without parental supervision?
Duran Duran at age 14.
5.  How old were you when you got your first kiss?
I was 11 and it was outside the skating rink. Oh yeah. Total coolness. lol
6. What is your earliest memory?
Swimming for peanuts. Yep, I remember taking swimming lessons at like 19months old. If we could swim to the side of the pool we'd get a penny to put in the peanut machine (looked like a gumball machine) and get a handful of peanuts. Man, I remember those peanuts and how they tasted so salty after swimming.

That's it! How bout that A-Z Kickoff yesterday, huh? Great stuff. Looking forward to more of your posts. Thanks so much for including me on your rounds. 1000 bloggers participating! Outstanding.

Care to share with me any of your answers to the above questions? I'd love to learn more about you!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for AWARDS!!!

Happy Friday! If you're new here, welcome! And if you're an old friend, welcome back! Today kicks off the  Blogging A-Z challenge, and I know you've got a lot of blogs to visit so I promise to keep mine short for the month.

I hope to visit as many blogs as I can, so if you don't see me right away, you will. I'm smack in the middle of a new WIP too, so I'm dividing free time between that and blogging. I'll try to keep my posts focused on the craft or on blogging itself. Also, check out the buttons to the right. You can move right on to the next blog by clicking it. Cool, huh?

To start it off, if you've visited me today, I really appreciate it. And I want to leave you with two awards. Take these with you and post it on your own blog, from me to you. I know how busy you are and if you've stopped by here, you just plain rock!


And to keep positive vibes coming your way:


So snatch these and pass them on ... share the blog love. Make someone smile. I'm off to read for my son's kindergarten class today. I thought they'd dig a few excerpts from Silence of the Lambs--one of my faves.

April Fools! ;)

Got any of your own tricks planned for today? Please share! Or tell me what you've got planned for this weekend. I adore your comments. :)