Friday, March 26, 2010

Deb is a bad influence - my rhyming query.

I so do not have time for this but am inspired by Houndrat, aka my friend Debra Driza. I do not have an agent and this is just the best, super-de-doopty idea evah. If I don't get an agent with this query, well, then, they just don't have the same amount of class that have :D cause I'm just the absolute coolest - I'm da bomb!

Yo Dude,

I wrote a book about clones
And their little brother Stone.
It has a really cool sat phone
If you ever need to call home.

Well Stone wants Larch.
Also a clone, that's not a farce
She doesn't know about her heart
If it belongs to Stone or the old fart.

So give me your cell
Cause my book you're gonna sell
And when it does we'll ring a bell
Or go out and raise some hell

And if you think I'm a little crazy
Have a drink till life becomes hazy
Go out and pick a daisy
Or don't if you're a little lazy.

Yep, that's sure to get me an agent real fast. You can also read some of my inspiration here

Disclaimer: the person who wrote this is under the influence of Hangar One Vodka. If you are an agent, please do not listen to anything she has to say. She actually does know how to write a query, she's just under the inspirational influence of two OPWFT bloggers. She's just a tad loopy - and has a husband who needs her in the car now!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where Stories Come From: idea to pen on paper (or fingers on keyboard)

This is the last post in the month-long blog series: How Writer's Do It: A Writer's Process Series. The idea came from the lovely Corrine Jackson. Once you read my blog, go here and read Cory's and follow the links to my talented, fellow writers. I've had such a great time doing this series!

The book I chose to use is Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. This book gives practical solutions for all stages of writing, except for today's topic. I think today's topic is so diverse from writer to writer and quite simply - personal, so I will share where my stories come from before my fingers ever touch the keyboard.

Dreams. It's that simple. I've always had vivid dreams and upon waking, I would finish the dream while I got dressed, drove or went about my daily tasks. Sometimes a dream would continue for days. When I was a child, I would "write" in my mind, quite often the sequels to movies. I think it goes to being an only child, and a lonely one at that. My imagination was given free reign to roam and create, I was encouraged by my mother and told I could be and do anything I wanted. While my childhood had its problems, I was given the gift of a free mind.

One day, a year ago, I had such a vivid dream that I absolutely loved and just had to know how it would end, so instead of letting my mind follow, I sat at the laptop and let my fingers type what my mind saw. That's where my first project came from. Same with the second, I dreamed and wrote the scene. In both of these projects, once I got the scene written, the rest of the story flowed out.

The next two projects have been different. They both came from a dream but I didn't have the need to get up and write it down because it wasn't a fully formed dream. Both of these are Contemporary and edgy. The idea came from an aspect of a dream and then my mind worked through the idea. For days I thought about them and figured out where the story could go. I also listened to the characters talk to each other and then I had a desire to write the stories.

So, this is the place my stories come from. I love to listen to where others get their stories and the process they go through before writing. Everyone is so unique. Processes are like fingerprints, everyone has a different one. Where do your ideas come from?

Don't forget to go to Corrine's she has prizes for participation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

This is more of a lighthearted scene from A Little Too Late where Lillian finds out she is pregnant. It was written last night so it's first draft quality.

I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. I realized I was probably pregnant so I did the only thing I could think of -- I got on the net.

I searched for signs of pregnancy and clicked them of in my mind, like a checklist. Nausea, check. Tiredness, check. Irritability, check. Mood swings, check. I can still hear the conversation when I called my friend.

“Cassie, I need your help,” I said over the phone.

“Whatcha need?” she asked.

Cassie became my friend in second grade at the same time Sanjay did.

“I need you to buy me a pregnancy test,” I whispered as tears began to fall.


More silence.

“Oh shit,” she said, “I’ll be there soon.”

Cassie was at my house in less than thirty minutes with a little brown bag.

“I bought three of them,” she said and I looked at her like she was crazy. “You know, in case you screw one up.”

I took the bag and took out one of the tests. My fingers shook as I carefully read the instructions, several times. Cassie snatched it from me.

“How hard can it be? You just pee on the thing.” She turned the stick, looking at it, then threw it at me.

I went into the bathroom and attempted to pee on it. Instead I peed all over it, including the little window. I put it on the side of the tub thinking how gross it was with my pee on it and watched as the lines appeared. I looked at the instructions. It indicated I was pregnant.

“Give me another one,” I yelled at the closed door.

Cassie poked her head in. “Something wrong with that one?”

“I peed all over it, maybe I messed it up.”

She came in with the test. “Come on, we’ll do it together.”

“What? Are you going to pee on it too, or hold my hand?”

“No, smart ass. I’ll watch and make sure it’s done right.”

I managed to squeeze out enough pee to wet the stick.

“Think it’s enough?” I asked.

“How should I know?” she asked taking the stick from me with a handful of toilet paper. “You’re supposed to hold it steady for two minutes.”

I almost laughed at the sight of Cassie holding the stick in her hand. She was very careful to make sure the toilet paper protected her from touching the stick.

“Are you timing?” she asked looking from the stick to me. “I’m not going to stand here all day and hold this stick.”

I looked at my watch and waited as the two minutes clicked by.

“You’re pregnant,” she said. “You failed two tests. Wanna try the third?”

I slid to the floor. “No,” I said.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Deepening Your Characters: What is at the heart of a complex character? Part 3 in the blog series.

What makes a character extraordinary? Personality? Disposition? Temperament? Individuality? Eccentricity? How much overlap is there?

These are questions Stein asks in his chapter: Competing With God: Making Fascinating People. I think they are a great start to getting to heart of a complex character. He goes on to caution against making a character all good or all bad. Those characters are simply one-sided and not very consistent with real life people. And that is a main key in creating a character - grounding them in reality.

I remember a girl from highschool that was perfect, or at least she acted like that and believed it about herself. I didn't like her, just like I don't like characters who are perfect, with no flaws. Flaw those characters, give us something to identify with.

Stein devotes part of that chapter to changing the character through the course of the work. We all change in life as we mature or react to circumstances. Sometimes those changes are good and other times bad. Here are some random quotes from Stein on changing characters:

Imagine you character in an armchair talking to you. Ask your character questions that are provocative. Let your character challenge you. Disagree with your character. Let him win the argument.

Have your character complain bitterly about something...Listen to the character in this state.

Unfetter your imagination. Can you see your character flapping arms, trying to fly? Or trying to kiss everyone at a party? Or walking in the snow without shoes? Readers are interested in the out-of-the-ordinary.

These are all good exercises to do with your characters. Some of it may even make it into your novel.

The next chapter in the book is: Markers: The Key to Swift Characterization. Stein begins by letting us know that the main character is important but cautioning us about using a stereotype for the minor characters. There is on quote I want to share from this chapter that conveys what conclusions a reader may draw from the detail of a character.

What does incessant chewing of gum suggest about a character? What would an ankle bracelet convey to a reader about a character? Even the transportation used by a character can be a marker.

These markers tell us something about a character and are easily inserted into the minor character's descriptions without being verbose or telling about them. It shows a side of the character and the reader can draw her own conclusion.

In conclusion, there is so much that goes into the heart of a character and in a simple blog post there is only enough room to skim the surface which is why you should go here and check out the other bloggers thoughts in this series. Also post on your own blog for a chance to win a book.

In conclusion I'm going to let you know a way I deepen my characters. I talk with them and imagine them talking back to me. I let them go and follow them, walking in my imagination. I dwell on them and think about them constantly when I'm in the middle of a manuscript. I'll even come to the point where I might say, "Wow, Jefferson would really like that." I get to know them and most of the time they take on their own life and surprise me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday, two weeks in a row :) Last week was a flashback but not this week. Lillian is in the hospital.

I stare at the ceiling thinking of Elijah and wonder what he’s telling Detective Sanchez. I haven’t spoken to him since yesterday, when it happened. I remember him finding me and telling me it would be okay, but didn’t realize he called for help.

“Knock knock,” says a female voice, “May I come in?” A beautiful woman with cinnamon colored hair comes in my room.

“I’m Dr. Carmichael. Do you feel like talking, Lillian?” she asks in a husky voice.

“No,” I say. “I don’t mind talking.”

She laughs. It’s a tinkling sound reminding me of a child, such a contrast from the voice. “I’m a psychologist. Your mother wanted me to stop by. Normally in this situation I’d be in anyway but she seems to think you really need to talk to me so I cleared some time.”

I like Dr Carmichael but I don’t really want to talk to her. What is there to say? I’m a horrible person. I killed my baby. I’m guilty. I fucked up. All of these things are true and nothing she can say will change that. I stay silent as she takes a seat and drift off again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting into the zone: What goes into the creative process of writing.

Today is part two of the blog series: How Writers Do It: A Writing Process Series. The book I'm using is Sol Stein's Stein On Writing. I didn't have the book in my hands last week, and this week I have it with two more on the way - I know you're wondering why. Well, I ordered it and found out it would be two weeks before it arrived so I ordered from a different place; it shipped but I haven't seen it, so finally the other bookstore got one in and I bought it. On the bright side, I'll be able to exchange one of them for Hourglass

Stein's book
is a book of usable solutions-how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place.
My favorite chapter title is: Competing With God: Making fascinating people. But I'm digressing from today's topic, um, actually I haven't even started today's topic. Oops.

What goes into the creative writing process? Obviously thought and imagination would top that list because without ideas there is no need to write. Stein has an entire chapter devoted to using all six senses. But wait - we only have five senses, right? Stein goes on to tell us how to develop our sixth sense as a writer.

Close your eyes. Imagine who is in the room with you. Turn all the lights on. There's no one here. Good. You can relax. Is your watch ticking louder than usual, or are you imagining it? Why is today different from other days, what is supposed to happen? Why isn't the phone ringing? If it does ring, who will it be? Close your eyes again. Are you sure someone isn't in the room with you? What if you're wrong? What if it's...?
He goes on to say that it doesn't take much to develop that imagination.

There is a lot that goes into the creative process of writing. The place we write, the music we listen to, the way our stories come to us. It differs from writer to writer. What works for one may not work for another. What goes into your creative process? Go here to find links to the other writers blogging in this series, comment and do your own blog for a chance to win.

Happy blogging!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - A LITTLE TOO LATE

I'm back for a Teaser Tuesday from my newest idea. I have a new journal forIn this scene the main character meets the interesting, new guy. Joe is her boyfriend. It's kinda long.
This is rough, unedited, first-draft work so please don't judge my writing skills on it. :)

When we arrived at school, Joe got out of the car and grabbed his bag leaving me behind as he went to his friends who occupied a picnic table in the quad. I wrestled with my satchel that was tangled up in the seat and clumsily got out of the car, catching myself on the door before I fell. Lame way to start the year. I felt as graceful as a possum.

As I was about to pass their table, Joe called to me. “Hey Lil, where are you going?”

I stopped and looked at his table and was going over there until one of his friends opened her perfectly-lined-and-lip-glossed mouth, “Come on, Joe. You know Little Miss Brain has to get to class. Did you think she’d continue to be a party girl once classes started?”

My face flamed. Before I could use my tongue to tell her where to get off, I noticed him. Standing back from the group, leaning against a tree he looked dangerous. Shaggy blond hair fell in layers around his chiseled face and lips a girl would kill for smirked at me as if to say, Are you gonna let her win?

No. No, I wouldn’t let her win. I walked towards the table. Joe glared at perfect mouth and said, “Stuff it, Michelle.”

I dropped my books and sat in his lap. At first I felt warm and wanted but then became uncomfortable, knowing someone was watching me. When I gazed at the tree Mr. Danger was staring intently at me and I saw his clear, blue eyes sizing me up. I figured he was wondering why a simple girl like me would be around such a popular group. Boy, was I wrong.

The first bell rang and I hurried off to class remembering the plan of getting a good lab partner. Mr. Dangerous had moved on but not far enough for me. When I walked in the room right as the tardy bell rang, only one seat was available and it was with Howie, the nose-picker. Howie was my best friend, Dottie’s, neighbor. He was not socialized well as a child, being one of those homeschoolers whose parents wanted their children confined to their house in order to avoid the evilness of the world. It was obvious during my summers at Dottie’s pool that their brand of protection didn’t work, since he couldn’t keep his eyes off of my boobs.

“Take a seat Miss Chambers,” Mr. Henderson said.

Sighing, I walked to Howie’s table and watched as his eyes widened. Booger boy was getting excited and I wished his mom wouldn’t have chosen that year to put him in public school.

“Lillian, I’m so excited to see you,” Howie beamed.

“My eyes are up here, Howard,” I said as I pointed to my face, “not in my bra or didn’t your mother teach you good manners in your prison?”

Booger boy didn’t miss a beat. He stuck his finger in his nose and said, “Feisty, just the way I like my women.”

I groaned and put my face in my hands. Then I heard chuckling coming from the table beside me. “Looks to be an interesting year, Brain.”

The words from the deep, rumbly voice flowed through my body like lava, making me hot. I thought it was anger but looking back, I realize it was something else. My eyes shifted to the voice before my head came off the table. Seated beside me was Mr. Dangerous, amusement showing on his Greek-god features. Not only would I have to sit with booger-boy but also danger-man.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Querying faux pas

Oh my goodness. Hold on to your seats because I am posting two days in a row and the world might end! It is really sad that it takes a group blog thing to get me to post. But today I am posting in conjunction with Old People Writing For Teens, a totally awesome, amazing group blog - yes, I am a blogger there and a shameless pimp for my friends ;)

For those of you who have entered query land, think about the biggest screw-up you've made. Perhaps it was addressing the query to the wrong agent. Or maybe, like me, not following directions correctly. I can just hear that agent now, "Silly woman, if she can't follow directions, then how can I work with her?" Ugh, sounds like my grade-school report cards. Or perhaps you called the agency and demanded to know why they rejected you. Another possibility is not including word count or the title of your manuscript.

All of these things are very easy to do - well probably not the calling the agency and demanding anything - that might border on mashugahniss, not simply a faux pas, but I'll move on from those people. I would be willing to bet that I made one of the biggest mistakes out there with my first query attempt. Now, I have only queried two manuscripts. The first is where the mistake was made and the second I've only sent out a few queries and have decided to switch my first two chapters, since I netted only rejections.

So, now you're really wondering what I did that was so bad on that first manuscript. I won't tell you just yet, but I will say that my first query letter sucked. Majorly. Embarrassingly so. Once it got changed and really sounded good I sent it out with my first chapter. And that is where I made the biggest mistake of all. A mistake that just about anyone knows not to do. Most agents blog about it, some even tweet about it. What was it? My ENTIRE first chapter had my MC waking up from a loooong sleep. Yep. That's it. Something seemingly totally minor, but completely major. Finally, one agent let me know that she would not read on after the whole, "I awakened from a deep and dreamless sleep and looked into the soulful brown eyes of my father." Eeeek! Wouldn't read on. Wouldn't even give it a chance. Not that I blame her. Not at all. I wouldn't read on either.

After I hit myself upside the head a few times with a frying pan and then threw a few pots -- and after talking with two betas -- my first chapter got totally cut. Of course, I decided to take their advice and switch it from third to first also, so it is pleasantly trunked for the time being. But writing goes on because we are all artists (shameless plug from yesterday's blog post.)

So, here's the fun part. Go here and see the other posts on this topic. Put your own faux pas, or as I like to call it - screw-up (um, I actually use a different word there but need to appear a good role model, why, I don't know), in the comments or blog on your own and put your link in so we can all read it. But make sure if you link, you do it here because so many more people read that blog than my own. And hey, if you want follow me, I love followers, not that I blog much, and I am kinda random. Okay, really random and I ramble but I so love followers and will be doing some great book giveaways soon.

The biggest advice I want to leave you with is this: don't beat yourself up if you made a mistake here or there. We can only live for today and learn from our mistakes. When the right agent is there, it will all fall into place. Mistakes happen to all of us.

Writers as Artists - A blog series

The lovely Corrine Jackson, a very talented writer had this awesome idea for a blog series. There are nine of us participating and everyone who reads our blogs can join in the fun. Each Thursday in March we will be blogging on a different topic in the series: How Writers Do It: A Writing Process Series. All you, my totally cool readers, have to do is go to Cory's blog and follow the links to the other blogs and put your own link in the comments. Now you may wonder what you will get for doing this, well along with the sparkliness of participating and getting a blog post up, you also have the chance to WIN books. What could be better than winning books?!? Books are better than food, sleep and, well you get my meaning ;)

So off to today's topic - Writers as Artists.

The writing book I will be using is Sol Stein’s, Stein on Writing. Unfortunately, that book is not in my hands at this moment in time so I can't actually quote from the book, but I can definitely give my thoughts on this topic.

When I first saw this topic I had to think for a long while. My husband majored in Art in college and has some great work. My artistic talents went along the lines of throwing pots and oil painting. We are also both musicians, so the whole artist thing really runs in our blood. All of our kids have raw talent too. However, I had never considered my writing as a form of art. Of course there is a lot of art I look at and don't really consider it art, but that is beside the point.

Are writers artists? I consider artists creative. Are writer's creative? Yes. Artists also create something that evokes emotion. Do writer's evoke emotion? Yes. How many of us, as writers, take something completely abstract, from our imaginations, and create something concrete? We create worlds where no one has been, characters no one has met and we put that into a form others can lose themselves in. When I look at a painting or a sculpture or even listen to a beautiful piece of music, I lose myself. The stresses of every day seem to fade away and I can appreciate what I'm seeing or hearing. When I pick up a good book the same thing happens, I go into a world the writer created and can forget my problems and relax.

I believe writers are artists. We create imagery with our words and we evoke emotion with stories. We do everything a good artist does in a form that will last for a long time. In conclusion, next time you pick up a book and read beautiful prose, want to get up and start punching from the kick-ass action scene, or want to yell at the author for killing your favorite character, think of the art which that good book displays.

Now, go and read these awesome blogs below, post your own thoughts on your blog and don't forget to put your link on Cory's blog for a chance to win! I can't wait to read your thoughts :-)

Cory Jackson

Kate Hart

Jamie Blair

Laura McMeeking

Debra Driza

Stephanie Jenkins

Leila Austin

Sarah Harian
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