Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reflections on My 1st Writer's Conference

This past weekend I went to the Coronado Springs resort at Disney for my first regional SCBWI conference and workshop. That's Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators in case you don't know. It's a non profit organization made up of published and unpubbed peeps who have anything to do with children's books. I only recently became a member earlier this year and I'm so glad I did.

This organization is so friendly and genuinely helpful. The conferences run off the volunteer's help and I was impressed. I'll tell you a little about what it involved, then I'll go into actual writer details in later posts.

So they had a writer's intensive workshop on Friday, which I missed, but Saturday was the different tracks with the industry professionals. I did the mid grade track, and I have to say, the intimacy we had with our instructors was awesome. There was about twenty of us in a mid size room with easy access to ask questions or make comments. Our instructors were kid lit agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe from Nancy Coffey agency and lifetime kid lit author Gordon Korman.  I knew who Joanna was but I've never submitted anything to her. But I'm embarrassed to say I wasn't familiar with Gordon. If you know anything about kid lit, The 39 Clues series is widely popular with kids right now, and Gordon is the author of two of those books, as well as collaborating author, along with Rick Riordon, among others. So I'd definitely heard about this series, and when I realized he was one of the authors, I was really excited. I even bought one of his books and had him sign it like a big ol groupie. lol! He was cool enough to sign it, "Nice working with you." :)

Anyway, we heard him speak a lot about his works and writing in general, his very witty life observations and how he applies them to his writing. I'll have more on that in later posts. In short, he's an all around great guy and been writing for kids since he was 12.

We spent the day in the classroom learning from Gordon and Joanna directly and having them answer questions. They also critiqued everyone's first pages (I forgot mine. dork)  and it was great to hear their thoughts right after each first page was read--what needed work, what wasn't working, etc. Everyone was really friendly and excited to be there, so that was cool. I sat in the front row like a big geek and listened attentively. I also introduced myself to Joanna and told her I planned to query her, of which my dorkdom was probably ridiculously obvious, but you know what, I don't care! I was there for a reason and I wanted her to put a face with the name if by some miracle she even remembers me.

But the cool part is that I got a golden ticket to submit a partial, not only to Joanna, but another agent as well as a few editors directly. So that alone was worth showing up. I guess what I got most out of the conference was the opportunity to network and mingle with like minded peeps. It's really all about getting out there and making yourself known in person. It was a good feeling.

I also got some swag, and I have two Beastly lapel pins if anyone's interested, leave me a comment and I'll select two recipients.





I'll go into what Joanna and Gordon talked about more in later posts. Bottom line: I'd do it again for sure!

How about you? Have you been to any? What were your thoughts? Or are you a newbie like me? Please share!    

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Epic Mom Fail

Happy Monday! Can you believe it's almost July??? I just can't keep up ... chug chug chug ...



So I went to my first writer's conference this past weekend. I'll be posting more on that through the week. And if you don't know already, there's still time to post the first 250 words of  your YA / MG story on Shelley Watter's blog for an agent contest. 

And congrats to Liz P. who won a copy of Creep from Jennifer Hillier! Thanks to everyone who commented that day. Winner was selected by Random.org.

I had to share with you what happened the other night, when I hung my picture in the mommy hall of shame. My sweet little six year old managed to yank out his loose tooth (third one ever) and was so excited he did it by himself, and of course, for the tooth fairy to come. I have a little pillow with a pocket in it for such occasions--one I used when I was a little girl. My son tucked away his tiny tooth and even went to bed early that night--so anxious for his prize.

So, being the tired mom that I am, I fell asleep early that night, with a passing thought that when I woke early, I needed to slip some money in the pillow and snag the tooth. Since I always wake up before my kids, it was a perfect plan. Except, when I woke up, I forgot! I made coffee, sat at the computer, did some beta reading. All the while my sweet little baby sleeping and dreaming of what lie in store when he woke up.

Next thing I know, he peeks out at me from the glass door to see what I'm doing in my office. As soon as I see his cute, hopeful little face, it hit me: I FORGOT HIS TOOTH!!! *facepalm*

My heart sunk. I knew there was no way I could pull it off without blowing my cover and ruining his childhood fantasies of a chipper little fairy dashing in and out of houses with money. Well, of course I still had to try. I hoped somehow he hadn't noticed his tooth was still in the pocket of the pillow. He'd even left it at the very edge of the pocket so the tooth fairy didn't get stuck trying to get inside. (is that the cutest or what?) So, feeling like the worst mom ever, I scrambled for some way to pull it off. I sat with him and talked, waiting for him to ask why the tooth fairy hadn't come, and finally he mentioned how it was still dark out.

Aha! My chance at redemption! I made him lie down and try to go back to sleep while I pondered a way to slip some bills into the pocket and grab the tooth. It was right next to him, and never once did I see him close his eyes again. He was sad. I could hear him sniffling, trying to be brave while he staved off epic disappointment. Oh the torture I felt! 

After finding I had no bills in my wallet or anywhere else, an idea popped in my head. I scrounged for loose change from our toll fund in the car and sealed it in an envelope with a little note from the tooth fairy herself. I snuck outside and left it at the front door, then went back and acted cool while my son was still sniffling. It was light out by then, and obvious that the tooth fairy didn't make it to our house. :( 

I said, "Let's talk. Seems like the the tooth fairy didn't get here in time. But, yanno, that happens sometimes on busy teeth-losing nights. Maybe we should check outside and see if the tooth fairy had trouble getting to your tooth."

I could almost see the little lightbulb go off inside his head. He went right outside and found the envelope, a look of pure astonishment on his face. He found $2 in change and a note that said something to the effect of, "My magic stopped working and I couldn't get inside your house. Please keep your tooth as a souvenir to remember me by. Love, the Tooth Fairy."

And he was ecstatic! It all made perfect sense! Of course her magic wore off! Of course she'd leave  a giant envelope with heavy change, because her magic had worked fine up until that point! And of course, everyone knows the tooth fairy never leaves her home without pen and paper! ;) My son was even more thrilled that he got to keep his tooth. So what could've been the day I blew it big time, turned out to be a "think outside the box" time and ended up being even more magical for my son since he got a personalized letter AND got to keep his tooth. lol

But boy oh boy, for awhile there, I felt like crawling into a hole and hiding. How could I forget to do the tooth fairy thing?? What a horrible mother I was?? It was a nice reminder of how kids will believe anything you tell them, as well as how magic can exist in anything, if we're willing to be creative. Having children opens up a world of magic, and I never want to keep that from them. For a few minutes there, I had actually considered spilling the beans because I didn't know how to recover my epic fail. But I'm so glad I didn't.

How about you? Have you made any big goofs you've recovered from? Or found a way to think outside the box at the last moment? Please share ....



     

Friday, June 24, 2011

Have You Seen My MC?

So the MC blogfest is going on today, hosted by the charming Elizabeth Mueller. Do you follow Elizabeth's blog? She is one of the nicest bloggers out there.


It's funny how writers put so much life into their characters. I mean, if you really think about the details that go into them, it's like we really HAVE created real people. And when it works, readers and fans believe they're real too. That, in itself, is a phenomena.

The idea here is to answer three questions about my MC, and since I just wrote a MG sci-fi /fantasy I'm using my MC from it. Here's a brief blurb about the story:

X DARE & THE KEYS TO NIN is the middle grade adventure story of Xavier Dare. He thinks he's played all the greatest video games, til one day a mysterious tattooed man gives him a game he' s never heard of. Unable to resist a challenge, X accepts and finds himself transported to another world--one without leaders and on the brink of turmoil. X must find the lost keys to find the Gatekeeper, or he may never get back home again.


Question 1: What is X's greatest fear?
During the story, his greatest fear is he won't get back home to let his family know how much he really loves them. Not so unique, except that before he ended up in another galaxy, he was pretty ungrateful.


Question 2: What's X's greatest accomplishment?
He once solved and completed a video game in a single day.


Question 3: What is X's biggest regret?
Being angry at his disabled younger sister. It's no secret X is tired of being her caregiver while both his parents work, but it's not his sister's fault. He'll realize this later.


So that's a tiny glimpse into my character Xavier Dare. I'm currently letting the story marinate after some awesome and amazing feedback from betas / CPs. Hopefully, in the next few weeks here I'll be diving in with more revisions and rewrites. Thank God for good betas!!


For more entries in the MC blogfest, click on the pic above to be whisked away to HDQ at Elizabeth Mueller's. 


Hey! There's still time to win an ARC of Creep, Jennifer Hillier's debut novel. Just click on the link here. Get a comment in by today for a chance to win.    


Things are pretty crazy for me right now. We are packing up our house to sell, so that's a HUGE chore, but also so nice to get rid of clutter. And I've got my first regional SCBWI writer's workshop this weekend. Super excited to check it out. I'll be posting info on that next week. 
Needless to say, my blog hopping has been minimal, and I regret missing out on so many great posts these last few days. Thank you so much for stopping by! I always appreciate your comments!


Tell me, can you answer these questions about your MC? Or how do you think knowing these types of answers affects your writing of the story? Do you like knowing before the first draft? Or after? If you're not writing anything, what do you have going on this weekend?  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Look Who's Here!

Thanks for stopping by! I have the lovely and talented Jennifer Hillier as a guest today. Her debut novel, Creep, is releasing on July 5th and on presale now. I was lucky enough to snag Jennifer for an interview before her craziness really starts. I love a good thriller, and I can't wait to read this one!



So read on to learn more on Creep and Jennifer's path to publication. Also, Jennifer is giving away an arc to one random lucky person who leaves a comment, so be sure to leave a note! Coolness!

About Jennifer:

Born in Toronto, which is where she spent the first three decades of her life. When her husband was offered a transfer to Seattle, she didn't know which would be worse: leaving Canada or moving to the West coast. She spent her first few months on American soil bemoaning her existence and writing her first novel. Now nicely settled in the Pacific Northwest, the only thing she misses – other than family and friends – is snow.


Jennifer blogs at The Serial Killer Files (www.jenniferhillier.ca). You can also find her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JenniferHillierAuthor), Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/JenniferHillier), and her official author website, www.jenniferhillier.org.



1.   1. Tell us about your book!

Thanks for having me, PK! Very happy to be here. CREEP is a psychological thriller about a popular college professor who is stalked and terrorized by her teaching assistant, also her former lover. I've always been fascinated by villains, and serial killers are my favorite kind. Having worked on college campuses for a quite a few years, I always wanted to write a story that took place in a university setting.

2.     2.  How long have you been writing?

Like most writers, I've been writing my whole life. But other than a few angsty years in high school where I wrote tons of short stories, I didn't get serious about writing for publication until 2007 (which is when I wrote my first novel, now trunked).

3.     3. What was your path to publication like?

Other than the rejections, it's been pretty great! Ha! In all serious, my path to publication has been fairly linear. I wrote a novel, revised it six times, then sent out about a hundred queries to literary agents (but not all at once). I received rejections on about half of those before signing with my agent, then got rejected three times by editors until my publisher made an offer. While it all seems straightforward in hindsight, at the time it felt like a rollercoaster! Every rejection stung like crazy… but in the end, it was all worth it. It really just takes one yes.

4.  4.   How long did it take to write the first draft?

Five months. And then I spent another nine months revising.

5.   5.    Is published story very different from your original?

The main storyline is the same as how I originally wrote it, but during revisions, I cut out an entire subplot and tightened up the writing considerably. My first draft clocked in at over 135,000 words. Yikes! The book that will be on the shelves in two weeks is just under 95,000 words.

6.     6.  Plotter or pantser?

I've always been a pantser, but I'm seriously rethinking this! My first drafts are always a mess.

7.    7.   Advice to aspiring authors?

I'll pass along the advice I got from Stephen King's book, ON WRITING, because it definitely worked for me: read a lot and write a lot. I'll add to this that we have as many chances to get published as we can write books, so if your first book doesn't make it, write another one. Of course, this is much, much easier said than done.

8.       If you were a car, what kind would you be? And why? 

I actually think I'd be a motorcycle. Free-spirited and independent, but not so great in the rain.

This was so much fun, PK! I'd love to offer one of your readers an ARC of CREEP. Anybody who comments below by Friday, June 24th will be entered in a random drawing. Again, thanks so much for having me!

Thank you so much, Jennifer! The literary world awaits your debut!! Wishing you much success. :)

Readers, don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win! Thanks so much for stopping by here. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Where's PK?


Find me? I'm in there somewhere wearing a red and white striped swim suit. :)

But seriously, come find me over at Liz Fichera's blog today. I'm guest blogging with her and there may or may not be something free in it for you. ;)

Liz has an awesome blog and also has a new book coming out next month.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

To All the Dads!

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!!


Dads are so important in our lives ... they may not get the same kind of recognition as moms, but they are just as important. I couldn't raise my kids without the help of my husband. And my dad was such an important part of my life. 


So, dads around the world, I salute you! Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

May I Have This Dance?

If you're a writer, like me, you've undoubtedly been on the ups and downs of the roller coaster. We get so much fulfillment from creating stories, and most of us want to share that creativity with the world. A few lucky ones actually get to. The rest of us struggle and work and struggle and work ... always hoping that one day we'll really make it where we want to be.

I think it's important to remember we're all on different paths. Sometimes it's hard to see others around you succeeding--even though you may be truly happy for them--when you still have nothing to show for your hard work but a pile of rejected manuscripts. But then you have to ask, "How many rejections did that successful writer have to go through to get to where they are? How much work?"

It's different for everyone, of course. And it's not a race, or a game. It's our art. And it always needs polishing and honing, just as any craft or art does. Some will get there faster than others, but the important thing is that we focus on what we love about what we do.

Take ballet, for instance. Some ballet dancers start at the age of three. A few will love it so much, they'll stay with it well into their teen and young adult years. Will all of them make the New York Ballet Company in their prime? Uh, probably not. But does that mean they give up halfway through because the odds are against them? No way! Why? Because they are undeniably infatuated with the dance.



Does a ballerina set her sights on the New York Ballet Company, but never practice ballet? Maybe, but she ain't too smart if she does. Most likely, the aspiring ballerina dances every day, for hours at a time, always trying to perfect her pirouettes and pliets and piques.  She never assumes she can just audition for Swan Lake based on the fact she loves to dance and can see herself as a ballerina. She would be a fool.

No, the aspiring ballerina works diligently to become the best dancer she can. And she would NEVER dream of auditioning for the NY Ballet Company unless she'd spent years of perfecting her technique. Are their a few lucky ones who make it through, even though their ballet is not in tip top form? Maybe. But it shows. And will they be the ones who make the starring role? Never.

Does the aspiring ballerina stop dancing because she doesn't make the cut? Possibly. But not if she ever DOES want to make it. She knows she must keep working and dancing and hoping and dreaming that one day she will be good enough.

Just like writing.

Sure, it may be hard getting there, but if we keep working at it, we'll feel much more confident in our abilities, and when we do make it, we'll have EARNED it.

* A ballerina keeps practicing, keeps learning, in order to be her best.
* A pianist practices day and night to become better, more skillful.
* A painter is always open to learning new brush strokes or techniques for the best artwork.
* A writer writes every day, reads everything they can, and keeps honing their craft for the best, most seamless, story they can create.

I've written six novel-length stories so far and have nothing to show for it, other than a lengthy finished projects list. But does that mean I'm not cut out to be a writer? I say no. It just means I have more work to do. And just like ballerinas love to dance, I love to write. I love to dance too, but definitely not cut out as ballerina material. lol

Are you there yet? If so, how long did it take? If not, are you ready to commit to and work for your dream, your passion? I know, I am. Care to join me? May I have this dance?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

POSSESSION PARTY!!



It's a BIG day for author and blogger extraordinaire, Elana Johnson! It's a day to party because her YA book, Possession, is on sale and there are all kinds of awesome giveaways. Click on pic above to go to the Resistance website and see a vlog from Elana herself.

Elana's been such a cool example of what hard work and a positive attitude can do for authors--aspiring and published. I've had the pleasure of reading her dystopian tale and it's outstanding. Excellent writing, fun voice, high stakes and super unique and imaginative world.

Haven't heard of or read Possession yet? No worries! There are plenty of opportunities to win copies:

  1. Twitter: There will be three prize packages to be won on twitter today. Tweet using the hashtag #POSSESSIONparty from 8:30 - 9:30 AM Mountain time (10:30 AM Eastern). Then again from 12 - 1 PM (2 PM Eastern). And once more from 5 - 6 PM (7 PM Eastern). 

The prizes for the twitter contests will include book and swag packages from the Elevensies, some Utah authors, and a dystopian package. Watch the #POSSESSIONparty thread for details.

2. Inside the Resistance fan site: There will be three prize packages to be won in the forums of the fan site. Each has it's own thread, and all you need to do is go over there and comment in the thread of the package you'd like to win. CLICK ON PIC ABOVE FOR THIS. 

Prizes include book and swag packages from the Bookanistas, the Elevensies, and a dystopian package. 

3. On Elana's blog: You can enter to win a POSSESSION package, with some Bookanista swag!

4. Simon & Schuster UStream live chat: Tonight at 7 PM Mountain (9 PM Eastern) here. You can log on and ask Elana questions or just chat! 

And even if YA dystopian is not your thing, check out everything that's going on and learn how you can promote your own book. Elana's networking skills are nothing less than impressive. 

Help support a fellow author and blogger and get a chance to win! Who could resist that???

Congrats, Elana! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Your Ideal Space

Ever have big dreams of your ideal work space, should you ever succeed beyond your dreams? Of course you do. We all do. It's fun imagining it ... and I know if you're a writer, you've fantasized about it. That's what writers do ...

As a child I knew I wanted to be a writer. I always envisioned myself as Joan Wilder poring over my typewriter with a headset on, no makeup, and a box of tissues ... in my own little apartment with my cat.


Yep, I reference that movie a lot. It was always my fave.

But in all actuality, my writing space is nothing like it, nor do I live alone or have a cat anymore.

I do have my own desk, which faces a big window of the woods behind my house.



I also have two small children and a big playful dog. But I'd never complain about the abundance of love in my life. *blushes*

Here's my dream space: Picture it: A seaside cottage at the base of a lush green hill, with woods to one side, and ocean ensconced by cliffs on the other. My writing office would have a corner nook with big picture windows to each side so I can look out and gaze at the panoramic view below. My desk would be carved from a refurnished wood, salvaged from a prestigious galleon or something with a lot of history like that. I'd have an orthopedic leather chair that smelled as good and rich as it felt. There would be world maps on the wall, next to hand crafted works of art from various cultures throughout the world. My shelves surrounding me would be filled with my fave books ... and of course, let's not forget my cappuccino machine placed strategically at arms length with a finely polished silver tea service ...

Okay, wake up, PK! Reality check. :)

What about you? What does your ideal space look like? Please share ...

BTW Michael di Gesu has a great post on how writers can stay in shape. Check it out!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday

Greetings, and welcome to another week. Sometimes I feel like I'm in the belly of a ship hunched over on a wooden bench with an oar in my hands and hearing the incessant dronings of a man with a whip yelling, " STROKE, STROKE!"

LOL! Oh the mundanes of Monday ....

Anyway, it's really not all that bad. I'm lucky to have a job, a family, a house, and a car. Because in this economy, all that is becoming a challenge for a lot of folks.

So here on my Miscellaneous Monday i just wanted to tell you about a couple of things:

1. Bloggerdise is a free site to advertise /promote your work, blog, product, whateves. Pretty cool too! You can check out all kinds of ads by clicking on pics. Took me all of five minutes to post an ad Here's the link: Bloggerdise.

2. In celebration of her recent signing with an agent, Natalie C. Parker is offering to critique the first 5k words of anyone's manuscript. For free. Yes, you read that correctly: ANYONE'S MANUSCRIPT FOR FREE! It's first come first serve, so don't be shy and hop on over to get instructions on how to submit to her.

3. I need some willing peeps who I can send F.L.O.A.T. postcards to. I'd like for them to be placed in local libraries or anywhere you think peeps will see them. I don't mean actually posting them to a wall, but just setting out on a counter or what not as you may do with business cards or coupons. You can use your discretion on where and how to use them . The postcards will be promoting the FLOAT story and teen self-esteem campaign. To learn more about the story click on the pic to the right, and or visit the FLOAT website.  If you'd be willing to help with this simple and painless task for a good deed, please email me at pakazo77@gmail.com. Support indie stories, promote literature, and encourage teen self-esteem.

Have any helpful links or info to share with me? If so please share and I'll add it to my Miscellaneous Monday post. How was your weekend??

Friday, June 10, 2011

Save the What???

At this particular point in time.... it's save the parents! Yikes! Today is the last day of school where we live and the long hours of trying to entertain two kids all summer is hanging over my head like an anvil waiting to crash.


ARGHHHHH!!!!!!!

Nah, I'm just being dramatic. I'm excited to have so much time with my special little guys. My daughter graduated preschool last night. So I now have a kindergartner and first grader on my hands. Such great ages! Wish I could freeze this age and keep them here forever. *sniff sniff*


Now that's a proud Little PK. :)

But the reason for the title, Save the What??  Is because I just read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. I've been hearing about it through the blogosphere for awhile now. And since I just finished a draft  a month ago, thought it was time to brush up on some techniques.

After reading Snyder's checklist for structure, I knew exactly where and how I needed to fix my story. His formula makes so much sense. The book is for screenwriters, but it applies to any writer. It was interesting reading about how films are written, too. Like, did you know the reason there are so many sequels made is because they're surefire moneymakers? It's true. Peeps would rather spend money on characters or stories they're familiar with, rather than try something new they're unsure of.

And gosh darn I love the internet. I hopped on over to Mr Snyder's blog and told him how much I got out of it. Anyway, just wanted to mention how much Save the Cat helped me and recommend it. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Are there any books you've read lately that you'd recommend?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Been Tagged! And Check Out This Op ....

My new bloggy friend, Deana Barnhart tagged me to answer some questions. She has a super cool blog with lots of great info. She's also hosting the query blogfest. You can find more info on the right. Check her out and follow her!

Below are my answers, but please read on for an excellent opportunity if you're in the querying phase or about to be soon.

1. DO YOU THINK YOU'RE HOT? Alright, well let's just say I wouldn't kick me outta bed. (lol)

2. UPLOAD A PICTURE OR WALLPAPER YOU'RE USING AT THE MOMENT:

I took this pic a few years ago. One of my fave places in the world, Kailua Bay on Oahu in Hawaii. Not far from where Magnum PI was taped. (Little secret: I have the hots for Magnum. I can simply hear the Magnum theme song and I get all flustered) Shhhhh

3. A SONG YOU LISTENED TO RECENTLY:  I've been listening to the BT Ima CD in my car. I know no one prolly knows who he is. He mixes and creates house tunes.

4. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU WERE DOING THIS? How much I love my blogging friends. :)

5. DO YOU HAVE NICKNAMES?  Obviously. I've been called PK since I was a baby. And of course every variation of that as well: Puck, Peekers, P dot K dot, PKayness, etc

6. TAG SOME FRIENDS:  Okay so if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. Answer these questions on your own blog and let me know in the comments so I can check it out.

Now for this amazing opportunity. Have you heard of Pitch University? AKA Pitch U? I did a post on it a few weeks back. There's an op for June for romance and YA/MG writers, and it's coming up June 12-18. There will be 6 agents on the panel and you can either submit a pitch video via YouTube or an actual query. It's an excellent op for feedback, even if you don't get a request for pages. I did it in April and got personalized agent notes on my query for my WIP. That's the best part, even if your ms isn't finished, you can still play along.

It's free and the only catch is that you have to get  your pitch in before it fills up. So I'm giving it another go. How about you? Check out the deets here.

Also, if you didn't know already, Clarissa Draper does entire chapter critiques and posts them on her blog. I think I'm gonna sign up for this also. Find out more about this awesome free service here.

And last but not least, I wanted to thank my good friends, Donna Yates for awarding me the Laurel of Leaves. And also Norma Beisher for mentioning me in her blog the other day as well. These are amazing writerly women who you should be following if you get the chance. Thanks, ladies!

So what's your story? Are you in the pitching/query phase yet? If not, where are you at in your endeavors? 

Monday, June 6, 2011

It's All Fun & Games ...

Hooray! Another blogfest! This one's short and sweet. Simply share three of my fave games!

Click on the pic to get to blogfest HDQ and check out the other entries.

Here are mine:

1. Balderdash  Okay, I kick butt in this game. Why? Because I'm a writer. Duh. :)

2. Trivial Pursuit  My idea of a good time? An all nighter of this game with friends. Yep, I'm such a nerd.

3. Canasta  I know, I know... old ladies's game. But I used to play it with my parents every Saturday afternoon and it's darned fun!

Sadly, once the kiddies came along our game playing took a total dive. BUT! They're getting old enough now we can start playing again. So who's up for a crazy night of board games??

What's your fave game? 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Do You Read?

My last post about breaking down a bestseller evoked some comments I found interesting. It's really cool to learn about what different peeps like in a story. One comment, in particular, brought up this question for me, and I found myself thinking about it a lot.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) left a comment regarding the tension in The Hunger Games. I had mentioned that was part of why the book is such a page turner--the tension has you tearing through the pages. Sarah brought up a really great point. In her own words:

"I actually felt there was too much tension. Yes, it kept me reading instead of going to bed, but i don't actually like that. I'd rather feel free to take my time and read something than feel forced to not put it down. That's just me though, i like a mid range pace."

I totally get this. And I'm so glad Sarah mentioned this. It seems like today writers are so pressured to create the high tension kind of story people can't put down. And don't get me wrong, I love a fast paced story that has me on the edge of my seat. But I also love the kind of story you can curl up and enjoy at your own pace, without a lot of action or tension.

Matter of fact, when I first started pursuing novel writing, I was dumbfounded by the requirements of having so much tension in a story. Now, I agree high stakes and conflict and tension make for a great story. But what about those of us who just love a good story?

I thought it was a great point Sarah made. And I open the question up to you. What are your thoughts? Do you need the fast paced kind of story like The Hunger Games to stay interested? Or can you enjoy a good story without all the tension? Inquiring minds want to know ...

BTW I'm happy to announce FLOAT has been released to eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Smashwords. For more info on FLOAT the story, click here. Proceeds go to fund the FLOAT mission and encourage teen self-esteem.

Have a groovy weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Breaking Down a Bestseller

Alright, so I know I'm way behind in the game here because I JUST finished reading The Hunger Games and it's been a bestseller for a few years now. BUT! I just had to put in my two cents.

Many times during the story I'd ask myself, "Self, how did Ms. Suzanne Collins do it? How did she captivate me like this? What is her trick?" And I don't know if there is any one answer. So let me break it down into the areas I think are what really made this story such a success. And let me just say in case it's not already apparent, I LOVED it. Duh!



* The MC rocks. Katniss Everdeen is tough, clever, naive, a devoted sister, oblivious to her good looks, more concerned with her family than herself, a survivor. There are so any reasons to connect with Katniss--perhaps because she's been through so much. Or perhaps because she's tougher than most guys are. Perhaps it's a combination of these things. But the fact she is only remotely aware of her qualities allows us to love her even more.

* We see her in action. Throughout the story, Katniss is put into situations where the readers are along for the ride. We see her qualities and weaknesses unfold throughout the situations she's faced with. Never does the author tell us Katniss is tough, or pretty. She just is. We deduce this ourselves by joining her in her scenes.

*  The voice is comfortable and practical. Although, I have to say there were many times I felt the voice of Katniss was that of a grown woman and not a teenage girl. Even so, it didn't matter because I was so gripped by the story.

*  The plot was so fresh--pure genius. And in all actuality, it's not that original. It's similar to that of the ancient Roman gladiators being forced to kill or be killed as a spectator sport. But the fact Collins twisted this into a futuristic teenage game? Totally original and exciting!

* TENSION! Wow, there's so much tension throughout the entire story. It really is what compels readers to want to know more. The intensity draws us in.

Those are pretty obvious elements of what worked for The Hunger Games. But what about that ju ne se qua that reaches out and pulls the reader into the story? I truly felt like I was on this adventure with Katniss. How did Collins do that? How did she make me feel like I was really there?

I think the key word there is FEEL. That's the true art of telling a story. We can describe the setting so our readers can picture it vividly. We can have such snappy dialogue that our readers laugh aloud. But if our readers aren't feeling something stir inside them when they read our story, we're missing a HUGE element that makes it unputdownabale.

So what's the trick in making our readers feel? Wish I knew how to pinpoint it. But here's what I gathered from The Hunger Games. ....  Collins uses just the right balance of description and introspection to trick our brains into believing we are really there with Katniss. Katniss feels what happens every step of the way: her pangs of hunger, her grimy skin, the dirt beneath her fingernails, the grief of Rue dying, the comfort of Peeta's body warmth.

We also get the unique setting and awesome story line with original creatures like mocking jays and tracker jackers. We get to picture all of it, and it sparks our intellect in imagining a dystopian world like this. But Collins only gives us what we absolutely need to know. And the rest ... she makes us feel it.

Awesome. It's no wonder why so many peeps love this story. After reading it and connecting with it on such a personal level, I now know I need to go back into my own story and make sure the MC is feeling everything ... not just the five senses, but his thoughts on how he feels about what's happening as well. The trick is in the balance.

And if you still haven't read it, consider reading it as a study for fiction writing. I promise you'll find it worth your while, and maybe you can let me know what elements of the story you found to make it so unputdownable. Please share ...