Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lightbulb!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Miscellaneous Uproar and Hero Checklist

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


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

No big deal.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

You're Not a Teacher!

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

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

Because it's my passion.

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

Here's what my presentation consisted of:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What is Your Destiny?

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


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

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

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




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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Plot Check

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

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

Here are a few questions I found helpful ...

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Goals and Accomplishments

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

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

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

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

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

Time will tell.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, November 7, 2011

An Unforgettable Melody

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

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


And now it's here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Character Check!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insecure Writing

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

Who's doing NaNo??

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

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

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

With each new story I grow as a writer.

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

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



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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Open Minds

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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