Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If It's Broken

It's come down to this. I'm questioning whether my most recent mid-grade story is broken. I've had some agent rejections who loved the story idea but still passed. So this makes me wonder, is it the story??

Ah, the eternal conundrum with rejections. And with very little to go by, how can we possibly find enlightenment? So is it the agent's taste? Or is it that the story is lacking in some way? My sample pages were enough to garner some interest, but still no one has wanted to take it on.

And I have to consider something may be broken.

Here are some questions I'm going to ask while I revise, yet again, and these were taken from Blake Snyder's Save the Cat. I can't recommend this book enough.

FIXING WHAT'S BROKEN:

1. Does the hero lead the action? Is he/she proactive at every stage of the game and fired up by a desire or goal?
2. Do characters "talk the plot"? Or am I letting it be seen through action?
3. Is the bad guy bad enough? Does he offer the hero the right kind of challenge?
4. Does the plot move faster and grow more intense after the midpoint? Is more revealed about the hero and bad guy coming into the Act 3 finale?
5. Is the story one-note emotionally? All drama? All sadness? All frustration? Does it feel like it needs, but doesn't offer, emotion breaks?
6. Is the dialog flat? Does everyone talk the same? Can I tell one character from another by the way he speaks?
7. Do minor characters stand out from each other? Are they easy to differentiate by how they look in your mind's eye? Is each unique in speech, manner, and look?
8. Does the hero's journey start as far back as it can go? Am I seeing the entire length of emotional growth of the hero in the story?
9. Is the story primal? Are the characters, at their core, reaching out for a primal desire? To be loved, to survive, to protect, for revenge?

Hopefully, these questions will help you if you're feeling your story may be broken. Over these next couple of weeks I'll be working on mine. I won't be posting during that time, because I want to give it my undivided attention and since that's pretty much impossible, I'm cutting out a huge time-suck, which happens to be blog posts.

Don't get me wrong, I love it and I love you, but something has to give. I'll still be hopping around to visit yours. I hope to finish up some beta reading too, since one of my treasured CPs has been so amazingly patient with me during my house move and inability to finish beta reading for her. Do y'all know Kathryn Sheridan Kupanoff? If not, hope over to Everything Boho and say hello. She's awesome. :)

I'll be back in a couple of weeks, and hopefully with some great pics of my Halloween costume. Two of my book club girls throw a ladies only Witch's Ball every year with a costume theme. This year the theme is black and white. I hope you'll check back to see what black and white costume I came up with. :)

How do you feel about fixing what's broken in your story? Do you find it easy to determine what's broken? Or do you, like me, toil over it and pull out your hair? 

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Summer

Michael di Gesu over at In Time is hosting a blogfest with the theme, "What I did over the summer." And even though my summer was exciting and stressful in a different kind of way, I thought I'd join along.

I wish I had some fun pics to share with you, but my summer has been spent packing, moving and unpacking. Not once, but twice. Oi.

I had hoped to be doing more of this:


But you know how it goes, once we moved into our new home, it's been work, work, work. Seriously, we put our home up for sale on June 30th. It sold July 2. We had thirty days to pack up EVERYTHING. So in between kids home for summer and packing and moving, the summer was a blur.

In between packing, we had to house shop. That was the fun part. But with so many foreclosures and short sales, there was a lot of negativity in the real estate market. We'd visit homes with punch marks all over the walls or stripped clean of everything in the kitchen, including cabinetry. It was really sad.

We saw many homes that didn't interest us at all and we knew it as soon as we walked in. Then we saw a few homes we really liked but couldn't get a bid in fast enough. And then, by chance, a home in our same neighborhood (which we love) popped up for sale. The woman had passed away and after visiting it, and it seemed a perfect fit.

The rest is history, although somewhat stressful, but we're in our new home and still unpacking, along with some renovations. We just painted my bedroom:


Totally teal on the bottom and sea spray on the top. Hard to tell from this pic, but the colors are gorgeous. SO we'll be making our way around the house with redoing all the walls. Meanwhile, the kiddies are loving the pool and spend all most everyday after school swimming. I've always wanted my own swimming pool and I'm so thrilled to finally have one.

So that was my summer....

How about you? How was yours? 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Worst Movies Ever!

Today's blogfest is brought to you by Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of CassaStar and blogger extraoridnaire, because let's face it, the blogosphere essentially belongs to Alex, and we are merely his minions employed to do his bidding ... lol (just teasing, Alex, you know I <3 ya! )


This should be a blast with everyone's ideas of the worst films ever made. Can't wait to get around to read them all. Check my picks out, then head on over to HDQ at Alex's and peruse the many bloggers participating. Great way to make new bloggy friends.

On to my list.....

Please note* I don't wish to offend anyone. If any of these are your faves, my apologies. But film viewing is subjective. What works for you, may not work for me, and vice versa. ;)

(in no particular order)

1. Showgirls   **  Saw this in the theatre and what can I say. Waste. Of. Time.
2. Mars Attacks  **  What was it with this one? It had all these great actors in it, but gee whiz it just sucked.
3. Jaws 4  **  Okay, I'm a big killer shark attack fan. It fascinates me and I can sit and watch sharks on film all day. I'm a huge Jaws fan and love the first three, the original being the best, of course. The fourth one just had no story. The shark followed the family from New England down to the Bahamas on instinct? Come on.
4. Unbreakable  **  I felt like this one was M. Night Shyamalan saying "I did good with The Sixth Sense, now look what else I can do!" And he fell flat on his face. I think he's got a great imagination, but this story, as well as some of his others *cough* Signs *cough*, just lack the right structure to make them work. We saw this in the theatre and were laughing in places that weren't supposed to be funny.
5. The Wolfman (most recent)  **  Who doesn't love a good werewolf movie?? I'm a sucker for them and will never pass them up. Grew up watching werewolves and the scarier the better, but this one was such a let down. Not even scary. Just gory. It makes the list for sheer disappointment alone. I was psyched to see it, and I know it's a remake, but I left the theatre on opening night like a deflated balloon.
6. Body of Evidence  **  Huge Madonna fan here. Love her music and style and hers is one of the best concerts I've ever been to. She was awesome in Evita, even Desperately Seeking Susan wasn't so bad, but this movie was such a Basic Instinct wanna-be. It was hard to digest. I was embarrassed for her.
7. Armageddon  **  Okay, I know not everyone will agree with me on this one. My bro-in-law loves it and saw it in the theatre twice. I, on the other hand, almost walked out of the theatre I was so annoyed with it. Maybe because I saw Deep Impact first--which I thought was a way better story. But seeing Armageddon and it being so similar in concept, but so poorly executed, I wanted to ask the theatre for my money back after sitting through the travesty. And to make it worse, the Aerosmith theme song for that movie has got to be the worse Aerosmith song ever. Yeah yeah, I know Tyler's daughter was the main actress in the film and all and it's so sweet... blah blah blah. Both the film and the song are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.
8. Glitter  **  I didn't even see this one. But I'm gonna guess that it has to be one of the worst films ever made. The trailer was so bad, it said it all. What was Mariah thinking? The title alone is puke-worthy. Did she expect it to be some blockbuster?? Barf.
9.  Beloved  **  Oh my, Oprah. *shakes head* What a disaster. I love Oprah. I really wanted to like this movie because I admire her so much. Um, yeah, that didn't happen in the least. This movie was awful.

For extra credit, I took a poll on Facebook and here are the answers the crowd gave on their picks:

Rubberface
12 Rounds
The Year of the Dog
Death Race
Angry
Jason X
Red Riding Hood
Sucker Punch
Cabin Boy
Remains of the Day

I haven't seen any of these. Good thing, I guess.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

What are your thoughts? Are any from my list on your own? Do you like any of these and able to show me the light? What do you think is the worst movie ever?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Color

While I'm in the midst of massive home renovations, little ideas pop in my head as I work. I need a voice recorder I can clip onto my shirt so it doesn't slow down my painting progress. Never underestimate the power of physical labor. It's good for what ails you. Theraputic, if you will.

Yesterday, as I began the arduous process of painting our textured bedroom walls a lovely sea spray blue, I marveled on colors; how they evoke certain feelings and emotions. For instance, the color blue, as you know, gives a cool, relaxing feeling and ambiance. Our last bedroom was two shades of blue. We loved it so much, we picked two new shades of blue for our bedroom in the new house.

And for my office (yes, MY office! I get one of my very own in the new house! SQUEE!) I'm still deciding the color scheme. I'm considering some autumnal colors of yellows, burnt oranges, pumpernickel reds, etc. I want to create that warm, cozy sensation while I'm in MY office. ;)

My point, is that we use colors to represent feelings. Especially in clothes. We wear black to formal occasions because it's classy and muted. For spring outings, pastel colors feel light and airy. If we're feeling frisky and maybe want to stop some traffic, a slinky red dress. 

So my question to you is, are you using colors in your stories? I thought long and hard on this. Have I? I'm certainly going to start if I haven't already subconsciously done so. What I mean is, maybe the jaded boyfriend wears a dark green shirt to evoke a sense of jealousy.Or the kitchen of the new haunted mansion your MC moved into has a soft yellow wallpaper to arouse a feeling of safety in that area. There are thousands of ways we can use color to accent and enhance our stories. And I don't mean stating the reason in the story, but in a subtle way, so the reader doesn't even think of it and subconsciously has a feeling of bliss or dread or hatred. 

On a side note, I was thinking of starting a book swap. Not sure how it would work exactly yet, but the idea would be to list books you've read and would be willing to swap for another. Maybe post the name of a book somewhere on your blog that is up for swaps and when you see one you'd like, make a deal. What do you think?

Do you use color in your stories, or in everyday life? Please share...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memory ...

Where was I during the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on this day ten years ago?
I was at home in Florida, having my usual cup of coffee and watching CNN--a morning ritual at the time.  It was before marriage and kids and I could do those kinds of things.

When the first plane hit, I watched it on CNN thinking it was a joke. A scene from a new movie, perhaps, but definitely not real. It was like the earth stopped spinning. I think we all just kind of looked on in awe, not knowing what to think or do. My Hubby (then boyfriend) was in the other room and I  told him to come watch the news.

We both sat glued to the TV all morning, as did people around the world. I tried calling my parents from my cell phone but couldn't get a line out for hours. I had to work that day at the airline. This is back when I worked in the office at the airport and all planes were grounded all over the country. The first time in history that ever happened. 

Now, I know what I went through as an airline agent is nothing compared to what people in the heart of the chaos endured. But let me tell you, taking calls from frantic passengers was tough. All kinds of emotion was swirling around in the air and airline workers took a beating.

One passenger told me he wished I had been on one of the planes that went down, all because I couldn't do what he was asking me to do. 

Nice, huh?

But that was the kind of day 9/11/2001 was. 



I've been to the top of the WTC. It was a breathtaking view.

I work for United Airlines.

I'm married to a firefighter, and I know how hard they work and how much they care about saving lives. This last picture really hits home, just imagining what they went through .... the people they couldn't save, the brothers and sisters they never saw again... missing in the rubble; the unborn children they'd never meet, the families they left behind ...

And it was the same for people from all over the world.

The sadness, the heartache, the anger, the confusion .... we all shared it. We were united through loss.

I won't go into my thoughts on killing in the name of God. That's a bucket of worms that need not be opened on a blog. 

I'll simply say, the lives lost on September 11, 2001 was devastating to all the world. No life was worth any more than another, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Everyone lost that day. 



In memory of those we lost .....

Do you have a memory to share?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dark and Stormy Night

Hey there! Thanks so much for stopping by! First of all, let me apologize for my lack of blog visits over the last few days. We are in renovation madness in our new home and every minute of the day is spent cleaning, painting, caulking, priming, texturing, etc.

Kind of like home revisions. (writer humor there)

BTW did you notice today is 9/10/11 ??? Pretty cool, huh? I suspect tomorrow will be an assortment of memorial posts on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 attacks on the WTC. It should be an emotional day.

So I hope to catch up with as many of you as I can and share your memories with you. Recently, I joined a blog chain and every month is a new topic the group posts on different days. The topic this month, is "It was a dark and stormy night ..." Free flow fiction of any kind.
Here's my entry... just made it up off the top of my head for this post, so keep an open mind. ;)

It was a dark and stormy night. That's how I liked it. The bleary darkness let me blend in with ease. Blending is what gave predators their advantage, and it was time for me to face the truth: I was, indeed, a predator.
Forced from the only home I've ever known, the burning, insatiable desire inside had propelled me onward. The other kids at the orphanage would be safer without me there. Once six year old Megan came up missing, I knew. It was time to move on. Memories of the attacks were like debris on the ocean tides--always just out of reach. I'd never wanted to hurt anyone. But the blood coursing through my veins was now no longer my own. 
I was a changeling: a new breed of demon that mythology and fairy tales had never introduced me to. And I was out for more blood. 

Okay, okay ... not the best or the longest.... but that's what came out of my head after the topic sentence. Interesting where the mind goes, isn't it? I've never written anything paranormal in my life, but for some reason this piece was headed that way.

If you want to see more on the blog chain, check out Eric, who went before me yesterday, and Michelle McLean who posts tomorrow.

Thanks again to all who've stopped by. I just got internet hooked up at the new house so I hope to be back in blog action and hopping around soon!!

Have you ever started writing something and been surprised at what came out? Has it ever been anything out of your usual genre? Please share ...




Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writers

Today's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means the first posting from the Insecure Writer's Group! Why insecure writers, you ask? I think we all have those times when we have doubts--doubts in our abilities, in our words, in our stories. That's why it's great to know there are others out there who feel the same.

Hey we gotta stick together, man. It's a cruel world out there.

I remember when I'd just finished my first novel length story... about four years ago. I was so sure the publishers would be fighting over it. Which one would have the pleasure of reading my story first??

Okay, stop ROTFL. I know, I know. Oh, the naivety!

I didn't blog, I didn't network--other than typical Facebook with friends and fam. I had NO CLUE what I was doing, other than telling a story I  thought was pretty darn good.

It was good. If you could weed out all the overused adverbs and adjectives, overlook all the telling instead of showing, poor sentence structure, slow pacing, etc. Oh, and get this... almost every chapter started with my MC getting out of bed and ended with her going to bed. Made sense to me then. That's what peeps do in real life, right??

LOL. No wonder I couldn't get any bites. And my query? *cringe* It was horrible. I didn't understand what I was doing wrong. My story was good, dang it!

So fast forward to present day, four years and six stories later: I can now say I kinda know what I'm doing. I did figure out what I was doing wrong. I wasn't feeling insecure, I was confused why no one wanted my brilliant story. Other than parenting and the day job, I've pretty much done nothing but study craft and write stories for the last four years. Oh, and beta and critique as much as possible.

Has my writing improved? Unbelievably so
Do I still feel insecure? Sometimes

It's hard to tell when a story I've written and love is good or not. Then, I wonder if my beta readers are telling me the honest truth or just being nice. Do you go though that? You know, where you're so close to your story you just can't be objective anymore, but you still can't believe that all that mumbo jumbo that came out of your brain actually makes sense to another human being???

But what else can we do but believe in ourselves? As Dorie would say, "Just keep swimming..."
Eventually, something brilliant will come out of us.

A couple of important things I've learned so far:
* Always move on to the next story
* Critique as many other writer's stories as you can
* Let your story simmer a month before reading it with fresh eyes
* Don't be afraid to fail, it's the only way we grow

So that's how I keep swimming when I'm feeling the ugly beast of self-doubt rear its head.

What do you do?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pride

With a title like that, my topic today could be on various issues. But this Pride is about beauty that's more than skin deep, and Lauren Hammond is here today to introduce you to her brand new young adult book:



Happy book birthday to Lauren!

Pride is a story is about self-discovery and overcoming obstacles..... WOW! I love a theme like this! And I can't wait to read it!

Lauren is here today to tell you all about her book. So take it away, Lauren..... Tell us all about Pride and why you wrote it:



Thanks so much, PK! 


Beauty is only skin deep.
At age fifteen, Angela Dunne was plucked out of the crowd at her local mall by modeling agent, Olivia Lennox.

After fighting her way to the top, Angela is catapulted into the world of magazine covers, photo shoots, and runway shows. She’s traveling the globe, modeling for the best designers, and living the life most girls her age could only dream of.

And it doesn’t take long for Angela’s rising stardom to go to her head. Being beautiful has become her obsession and her image is all she ever thinks about. Her family is ashamed of her. Friends don’t know her anymore. People in general can’t stand to be in the same room with her. The new Angela, finds pleasure in belittling those who aren’t as fortunate as her in the beauty department and treats those who aren’t up to her standards like they are insignificant.

Suddenly, Angela’s modeling career comes to a halt after an accident backstage at a runway show. Now, Angela has to come to terms with the fact that she’s no longer beautiful on the outside. She’s a freak, a monster with a disfigured face. For someone who was once so beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside, it’s up to Angela to dig deep down within herself and discover what the real meaning of beauty is.

Pride is a novel that came to me because of a co-worker. On the outside, she was beautiful. On the inside, she was a bully. Always nasty, always negative.
And it makes me so sad when people like that feel the need to put everyone else down. It's not right. I appreciate every individual for who they are. I was raised to treat people with respect and treat them the way I would want to be treated. Honestly, I'm an opinionated person by nature, but there's a difference between being opinionated and downright nasty.

The truth is, we're all the same. It doesn't matter what we wear or how much money we have, or if we've been blessed with good genetics.

Beauty is only skin deep. There's so much more to a human being than what meets the eye. And a lot of times, the inner beauty is more radiant than the outer beauty.

So go' on.... Have a little Pride...

Because you're all beautiful and you deserve it.


Awesome! Thanks, Lauren! As an advocate for teen self-esteem, I think this message rocks! We all wish you the best of luck with this!!


You can buy Pride at SB Addison Books. 
                                               Smashwords
                                               Amazon
 What a great gift for any teen reader! Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win because I'll be sending one random bleep a copy of Lauren's book!

Leave me your email if you want to be entered into the drawing ...

But also, tell me what true beauty is to you ...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Problem with Patience

Happy September! Can you believe it's September already??? Remember how as a child, the school year would take forever to end, or Christmas would never get here?? Now, as a thirty-something parent, time flies so fast, it seems months are gone in the blink of an eye.... and I'm still trying to get things done from last month's agenda.

Whew! Let me stop and take a breather.

You ever wonder why we feel so compelled to rush around all the time? I think it's an American thing. We try to cram as much as we can into a single day so we can finish and have a few precious minutes of personal time..... maybe to watch some TV, or read, or if you're like me, write.

I haven't written all summer. But that's okay, because I've had a full plate and I just finished a story in April so I won't be too hard on myself. But I digress ...

ahem ...

The problem with patience is that I don't have enough of it. I've never been patient with anything. Major character flaw here. But I have learned some patience, and if nothing else, parenthood has taught me how to be more patient. Have you ever heard that saying, "Don't pray for patience because you'll get it." Meaning, we'll find ourselves in situations where our patience is tested and those situations pretty much suck..... but you'll learn patience from it.

Yeah whatever. Learn, shmern.

I hate being patient.

Yet, without it, life is too frustrating. Crafting a story takes patience... and all too soon I want to send it off for feedback, when what it needs is weeks to simmer. Raising children takes oodles of patience. Waiting at the doctor's office takes patience. Being stuck in traffic? Patience. Waiting to close on a new home because the lender has to scrutinize every little financial detail of your life?  EXTRA patience. And yes, waiting to hear back from the agents who have your full manuscript also takes patience.

So what do we do during all this?
*We read everything we can on craft, parenting, etc.
*We blog to support each other and remind each other to be patient
*We take advantage of excessive waiting room times by catching up with emails or jotting story ideas
*We  use drive time to listen to books on CD or red lights to catch up on a friend's blog post via email
*We makes lists of everything we're going to do to our new home if and when the final closing day comes (which in my case, it has, and I'm the brand new owner of a beautiful two-story pool home! YAY!) we go shopping!
*We move on to the next project, because waiting to hear back on our fulls and partials that are under review is agonizing. But I've learned to start the next story, because there's always hope the new one will be THE one.



I wonder if there ever comes a day when a person has truly grasped patience. Unless you're a monk in Tibet, I can't see how it's possible in today's environment. We're like monsters running out of time and scrambling to get more of it by rushing around. No time to wait! Hurry hurry hurry! Gosh, it's maddening.

Couple of links I'd like to share that have nothing to do with patience but are worth having a peek at:

Alex J Cavanaugh has an excellent opportunity for an insecure writer's support group, geniusly called Insecure Writer's Support Group. Sign up and join the blog hop for insecure writers who need fellow writers to lean on. Hey, we all do sometimes. Plus, Alex is like one of the nicest bloggers around and if you don't already know him, you're gonna want to.

Also, just read this Writer's Digest post on character development and it full on rocks the house and gets your brain cranking.

So tell me, how do you learn patience? Do you, like me, try to make use of every last minute in the day? Any tricks on being patient that  you'd like to share? Lay it on me ...