"WORDS ARE, IN MY NOT-SO-HUMBLE OPINION, OUR MOST INEXHAUSTIBLE SOURCE OF MAGIC. CAPABLE OF BOTH INFLICTING INJURY, AND REMEDYING IT." ~ALBUS DUMBLEDORE

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Raindrops on Roses/Whiskers on Kittens



2010 is right around the corner! I have no doubt it's going to be a fabulous year--but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on 2009 before it's gone.

My Favorite Things from 2009

YA BOOKS:
  1. Shiver
  2. Hunger Games
  3. Lipstick Apology
INDUSTRY BOOKS:
  1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
  2. The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
  3. 2010 Guide to Literary Agents
WRITING (REFERENCE) WEBSITES:
  1. Thesaurus.com
  2. Wordle
  3. Wikipedia
WRITING (INDUSTRY) BLOGS:
  1. Nathan Bransford
  2. http://www.agentquery.com/
  3. Writer Beware Blogs
PERSONAL DECISIONS:
  1. Quit teaching to write full-time (a HUGE thank you to my awesome husband for this one too!)
  2. Start a writing blog
  3. Check out twitter... where I met fabulous writers and my super awesome CPs!
WRITING BUDDIES:
Okay, so I love all my writing buddies! But four in particular have really rocked my world this year...
NON-WRITING WEBSITES:
  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. Fark.com
MOVIES:
  1. Avatar... HANDS DOWN
  2. Taken
  3. The Hangover/X-Men Origins: Wolverine/Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (what? I couldn't choose!!)
VACATION:
  1. My honeymoon in St. Lucia


  2. My first ever trip to Boston


  3. Christmas in Kentucky with my in-laws and ADORABLE nephews & nieces!


GIFTS:
  1. My brand new Canon Rebel XSi!! Count on my other (photography) blog (Simply Saradise) to be updated on a regular basis.


  2. My beautiful desk (birthday present from Nelson)


  3. The wedding album that my mom made for us

MOMENTS:
  • My youngest sister Kelsey's wedding in the Outer Banks


  • A day spent in Annapolis with Nelson
  • An extended 6-week visit from my other sister, Liz, over the holidays
  • FINISHING SHATTERED!! (The first draft anyway)

BABBLING FLOW POSTS:
  1. Knowing Your Characters... Inside AND Out
  2. Literary vs Commercial Fiction
  3. Twilight Bashers

Okay, this is my last post until 2010!! Happy New Years everyone!!

♥ me

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For Writers, By Writers

One of the best things I've discovered about the online writing community so far is the willingness of other writers to offer insight and tips about the craft. Maybe it's out of the goodness of our hearts... Maybe it's because we want to build brands for ourselves/make ourselves more marketable... Maybe it's for something else entirely. But whatever the purpose of the posts, they often contain very valuable information about the industry.

I have an Internet favorites folder titled "writing". This folder houses several subfolders: "agents to query", "writing tips", "inspiration", "editing info", etc. Whenever I come across a website, or blog post, that's really helpful, I save it to one of my writing folders.

Today, I wanted to point out some of my favorite writing blog posts from the past few weeks. Enjoy!!
There are lots of fabulous posts out there--this list is just a fraction of what I've bookmarked. I promise to continue sharing what I find helpful!

Oh, and PS. I'm awfully close to 100 followers. When I reach that magic number, I just may have a super awesome contest... Just sayin'

♥ me

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Knowing Your Characters... Inside AND Out!

An introduction to my take on conflict.

I've slowly but surely been giving thought to my new project. It's still untitled and it's still unwritten. But I have been getting to know my new characters. And, man, let me tell ya--I'm having FUN doing it!

All fun aside though, the process is teaching me about something really important. Okay, maybe "reminding me" would be a better phrase, as it's something I already knew... And I'm sure it's something you already know as well. But, for me, "knowing it" and concentrating on it? Apparently they're two completely separate things!

Characters need to have internal conflict AND external conflict. And we're talking ALL characters--main & secondary.

Because conflict adds depth. It keeps characters from coming across as cardboard cutouts.

Knowing my characters' internal and external conflicts ahead of time is helping my new plot to practically write itself. Seriously. I WISH I'd done this with Shattered! Though I came to understand what drove my characters through how they behaved with the twists and turns I threw into their lives, I think it would have been much easier to write, had I known those driving forces ahead of time.

Internal Conflict:
  • Takes place in a character's mind. (Man vs. Self)
  • Helps readers to identify with the character.
  • Includes: Mixed emotions. Decision making.
  • Includes: Longings/Desires
  • Includes: Doubts

External Conflict:
  • Takes place outside of a character's mind.
  • Could be: A person (possibly the antagonist, but not all of the time) who stands in the way of what the character wants. (Man vs. Man)
  • Could be: Weather keeping the character from what they need. (Man vs. Nature)
  • Could be: Government impeding a character's actions. (Man vs. Society)
*And these lists contain just simple examples. There are a plethora of conflict options for you out there (or in there--in your crazy writer's imagination!)

Something else to think about:


Okay, that's all for today folks :-) Stay tuned for more in this series down the road... There are lots of things to learn/review/think about regarding conflict!

♥ me

Friday, December 25, 2009

Just one thing to say today...



And if Christmas isn't your thing... I hope whatever you celebrate this season is (or, if it's passed, was) wonderful!

And if holidays aren't your thing... I hope you have a fabulous Friday!

xoxoxo

♥ me

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Fear and Baring Your Soul

You know the blog posts that just absolutely resonate with you? The ones you read and then go back the next day to read again. The ones you bookmark so that you can go back to them a third (and then fourth, fifth, sixth, etc) time when you need motivation?  Yeah, well that happened to me recently, on Valerie's blog I Should Be Writing.

And what's even better? I don't need to summarize what she wrote and how it made me feel... Because she's graciously allowed me to repost her exact words! So read on and allow the message to take root in your soul, the way it did in mine!

On Fear and Baring Your Soul

I once had a voice teacher in college (Voice for non-music majors, I should add) who told us on the first day that we would be doing lots of solo singing and it was okay if we were scared because singing for a room full of people was like taking off your clothes and standing naked before them while they judge you. At first I was like, huh? But then he explained that our voice, and the instrument we use to sing is inside our body. It's hidden where nobody can see. You can't look at a person and know whether or not they're a good singer. So the act of singing is taking out that hidden part and putting it on display for everyone.

I think writing is the same way. Until you put words to paper and show it to someone, no one knows what's really inside you. Writing reveals things even you didn't know about yourself. What moves you. What you think is beautiful or scary. What breaks your heart. You're showing people how you see the world and then hoping that even if they don't see it the same way, they will at least get what you're trying to say and love it anyway. That's scary.

It's also really brave. I've always thought that in general, art is courage. Even when an idea burns inside you to get out, actually bringing it to life and sharing it with others takes courage. The truly amazing paintings, music, and books, the ones that changed or made history are the ones where the creator took a risk, followed their gut, and then showed it to the world.

I think to those of us who are unpublished and plugging away this is important to remember. It's supposed to be a little bit scary. You're sharing a hidden part of yourself. You're supposed to wonder if what's true for you will translate and resonate with other people. If you're writing, and every single word you put down has you thinking "They're gonna love this! This is exactly what people want!" Then maybe, (just maybe, because hey, you might be a writing genius) you're not reaching deep enough inside yourself to the things that make you uniquely you. You don't want to do what's already been done. You need to stand out, and that means swallowing your fear (and your pride) and showing all of you, even the hidden parts.
 
Thanks so much, Valerie, for allowing me to share your words with my readers!  (A quick note to my readers - Valerie's posts are always fun to read, so if you haven't already stumbled upon her blog I suggest you do so now!)
 
The original post can be found here!

One more note - I'm out of town for the holidays and my posts are being published on a preset time schedule, so if I don't respond to comments, I promise I will when I get home on Sunday! Happy Holidays everyone!
 
♥ me

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

May I Have the Envelope Please?

I am really, really behind on giving out awards!! Pardon this long post, but I want to make sure to give credit where credit is due!

First up:


Thanks to Diana Paz, at Writing Roller Coasters AND Shannon Messenter, from Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe! For this award, From Me to You (aka the Picasso Award) I am charged with passing it on to seven other bloggers and telling you seven MORE things about myself! Ooooooh man. Hope you're not sick of learning about me yet, lol! I'll try to make them short and sweet... But first, here are the 7 blogs that I want to pass this to!
  1. Anne Riley, at Anne Riley
  2. Jemi Fraser, at Just Jemi
  3. Jonathan Danz, at Words and Coffee
  4. Kelly Lyman, at Kelly's Compositions
  5. Carol Valdez Miller, at Carol's Prints
  6. Alexandra Shostak, at The Publication Follies of Miss Alexandra Shostack
  7. Calista Taylor, at A Steampunk Reverie
AND here are 7 new things about ME!!
  1. I'm going to Italy for a week and then Greece for a week in Summer 2010!!
  2. The names of three characters in my new WIP are: Catia, Anatole, and Tevin.
  3. I'm in a crit group with Alexandra and Carol. They ROCK. And I'm crit partners with Shannon, who ALSO rocks!
  4. Similar to Shannon's Ella, I have Gray Kitty. Surprisingly, she's a stuffed animal - a gray cat. I've had her since the day that I was born and it's a RARE night that I don't sleep with her. When I was younger, I couldn't decide on a name that was important enough to match what she meant to me, so I stuck with Gray Kitty. Her head kinda looks like that of a seal because I chewed off her ears years ago...
  5. I just started watching Dexter, and I'm pretty much obsessed.
  6. I'm HUGE on scents that I like. I always have a candle lit while I write. And since we don't have a tree this year, I light pine-scented candles all day long! My favorite perfume is still what I wore in 8th grade (White Musk from the Body Shop.) Though I have a HUGE collection of perfumes because, as previously stated, I have a thing about things that smell good :-)
  7. I love swans.
Next: 

Thanks so much to Shannon O'Donnell, at Book Dreaming!  This award is given to five other blogs... Five other UPLIFTING blogs that find a silver lining even on those gray days. How fun! There are a lot of blogs who I run to when I need some uplifting, so this was a hard choice. But, the following five nominees ALWAYS make me smile at what they've written! Whether in nostalgia, or at self-debricating humor, or youtube videos, or just general good nature... they're all superb!  My five nominees are:
  1. Lisa and Laura, at Lisa and Laura Write
  2. Sherrinda, at A Writer Wannabe
  3. Shannon Messenger, at Ramblings of a Wananbe Scribe
  4. Frankie Diane Mallis, at Frankie Writes
  5. Princess Courtney, at Southern Princess

Next up, we've got the:



A huge thank you to Carol Valdez Miller, at Carol's Prints! This award, created by Elizabeth Spann Craig, has the following (very easy) rules!

You can post this image to your blog…or not.

You may share this award with others…if you like.
You may adapt or alter this image in any way.

The blogs that I am sending this award to are my favorite writing group blogs:
  1. The fabulous ladies of The First Novels Club
  2. The similarly fabulous ladies of Let the Words Flow
Shannon O. also granted me the Honest Scrap award! Thanks Shannon :-) I've already passed that one on though, so click here to see where that one went!

Frankie tagged me in the writing TAG survey, but I'd also already answered those questions!  Thanks so much for thinking of me though Frankie!  Click here to read my answers!

Okay. So, this was a long post, but I just follow so many fabulous blogs!! If you haven't already discovered the writers/readers behind the blogs I've linked to... hightail it over there!! Because they're all AWESOME!


xoxoxxo

♥ me

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Writer's Tribute to Mistletoe

Sherrinda over at A Writer Wannabe came up with this super fun concept for writers who blog. Today, December 21st, is the Official Kissing Day Blogfest!!

In her own words,
I thought to myself, why don't we all post a kissing scene from our current WIP? All on the same day? We can hop around to all our friend's blogs and read about some sigh-producing, high-giddy-factor kisses. Who wouldn't love that? So here we go......
And I've decided to participate! The kissing scenes in Shattered were some of my favorite ones to write. But, I get nervous about posting sections from work that I want to publish. (NOT that I think anyone would steal it or anything! But because what if someday I have an agent who has a no posting policy?) So I wrote something new, just for Kissing Day Blogfest! It ended up surprising me--because I pretty much only write YA these days, but this scene came to me with adults in mind. Fun stuff! 

My Kissing Scene
“I can’t breathe... I forget how to breathe when you look at me the way you do.” She turned her head, unable to meet his eyes.

He stroked the side of her face and dragged a thumb across her lower lip, rough but, somehow, also tender.

“Look at me.”

She couldn’t.

“Look at me.” He lifted her chin so that she would.

“What are we doing? What is this?” Though no more than a whisper, her voice shook.

He held her gaze. “You know what this is.”

For a moment, silence. It pricked her neck and burned her cheeks. And then she felt nothing except for the pressure of his lips against hers.

The stubble on his chin against her neck, as his mouth traveled the line of her jaw.

The rays of warmth that blossomed in the center of her being, as his hands trailed along her spine... His thumbs, when they traced paths down her ribs to rest at to her hips.

The sharp intake of breath in the moment before his lips met hers a second time.

Only when she felt the wall at her back did she realize they’d moved. It blocked whatever path they’d been on, but didn’t matter.

More pressure. More frenzied. Driven with an urgency previously unexpressed. The last remnants of restraint shattered and she pressed herself against him, into him. Needing the connection. Drowning in it. He pressed back. And so the dance began.

Oh, yes. She knew what this was.

Hope you enjoyed :-) Now I'm off to stalk the other kissing excerpts! (Sike! Truthfully, I prescheduled this post, so chances are I'm still sleeping... BUT when I wake up I will so be reading all of the other excerpts!)

I'll leave you a photo of my own personal mistletoe moment... (From my wedding last year!) 


****Okay - I have to add this. You know how I put everything in wordle? Because I'm pretty much addicted to it? Well the kissing scene was no exception. And look how sweet the word cloud from it turned out:

♥ me

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Young Writers...ROCK ON!!

I'm not trying to call anyone out. I'm really not. But I recently stumbled across a blog with a post written about college students and why they shouldn't try so hard to get published while in college--because they'll miss too much of the "college" experience. I've read a few similar posts in the past few months. And I disagree.

Yes, college was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Dance team. Sorority. Bartending at one of the BEST bars (at the time) downtown. I wouldn't trade it in for anything! But my absolute biggest regret was that I DIDN'T focus enough on writing. I pushed it to the backburner. And you know what happened? It stayed there.

After college I got a job in marketing. And then in Government consulting. And then in teaching (math, of all things). And my dreams of publication were just pushed farther and farther away. It took me five years--FIVE--to realize that I wouldn't be satisfied at any other job because to write was my calling.

I wasted those five years, nine actually, if you count the four while in school. If I'd focused on writing during that time, maybe I'd already have a few books in the stores. I so wish that was the case.

So if you're in college and you're driven to write--DO IT. If you miss a Friday night party because you're completely ensconced in the novel you're writing? So what? There are parties every Friday night in college. (Or, if your university is anything like mine - there are parties every night in college... even Tuesdays!) Find a balance, and don't miss out on everything of course, but if you know what you want, you're already a HUGE step ahead of many other students. And I'm jealous of you, believe me. Not in a "completely green I secretly hope you fail" kind of way, but in an "I'm happy for you and wish I could go back and do what you're doing" kind of way.

The only caveat I'll add is to make sure you do get out and live beyond your computer (or notebooks) at least sometimes. The richer your life experiences, the better writer you'll be! But don't hold off on that publication dream just because other writers/people tell you not to take it so seriously while you're young.

So, to all of you young(er than me) writers out there - rock on, my friends! And make sure you keep us all updated with your fabulous success!

♥ me

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quotation Commentary #4 - M. Twain




Substitute the word "just" for the word "very" in Twain's quote - and this quote becomes absolutely perfect for me. In my first draft of SHATTERED, the word "just" showed up 291 times. 291. EW.  Thankfully, aware of my addiction to the word, I've cut it down to around 150 at this point in my editing (aka three rounds through the manuscript so far).

Be aware of your own personal "very" words. "Like" is a common one. "Eyebrows" was another for me... (Don't ask... sigh.) 

If you aren't sure what your "veries" are - check out Wordle. Just paste your document in the textbox and click "Go". Most of you probably already know that it creates a word cloud from your most used words - the ones with higher counts appear larger. (Below is an example of one of my chapters from SHATTERED.)

But did you also know that it gives you a complete word count of every word in your text? Here's how to find the count: When you've created your word cloud, click on the "language" dropdown. Scroll all the way to the bottom and select "Show word counts...".  A box will pop up listing every single word in your text - and showing the frequency with which it's used! You can sort by name or by frequency.

(Just an FYI - it does count "Mom" and "mom" as two separate words - so capitalization plays a factor. If you want to know how many times you use the word "eyebrows" make sure you look for "eyebrows" and "Eyebrows"...)




♥ me

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Scenes that Matter

I recently received a tip about the editorial process that struck me as common sense... At least it SOUNDED like common sense until I began editing my first draft. HA!  Man, oh man, did I have some serious revisions to complete because I hadn't thought about the concept while writing.  The tip?  Cut every scene in which nothing significant happens.

For example: Let's say in one particular chapter you write two scenes, A & B.

Scene A: A man goes to the doctor and browses a magazine while waiting. A picture in the magazine reminds him of his high school sweetheart.
Scene B: Flash to the memory of the high school sweetheart. She was his first love... and she died in a car accident.  It's a very moving scene and gives a lot of insight into the man - who happens to now be a commitment-phobe.
The chapter ends. At the start of the next chapter, the man is no longer in the doctor's office.

Keep Scene B, it's important.

Scratch Scene A, because NOTHING happened in it. Yes, the magazine he picked up while there is what reminded him of the sweetheart, but that could happen anywhere. So cut it and just stick with the flashback.

If you come across a scene that doesn't serve to move your story forward, creating (or adding to) tension and/or developing character, then that scene doesn't really have a purpose in your story. Use the chainsaw on it and move on :-)



Another really great peice of advice was to create a "deleted scenes" file. Mine is about 22 pages long so far (and growing). Not only is it beneficial in case I ever decide to recreate the scenes by adding something more important to them, but it also made cutting the scenes SO much easier! The text I slaved over won't be lost forever - just put on hold until I take the time to make it into something better (either for the project I took it from, or for something down the road).

Sometimes scenes are written to aid readers in following the story. These scenes spell things out - and often give information that the reader should already have picked up on. I'm pretty sure that this is what makes certain scenes so boring! It's like giving a reader a GPS for your story. They go on autopilot, which may seem convenient at first, but in doing so - the reader misses miss out on the beautiful ride along the way (AND they definitely don't get to make the wrong turns, here and there, that would ultimately have made the route more memorable).

If you're unsure of which scenes move your story forward, try this: map out each scene and attach a note to each one describing the purpose of the scene. If you can't think of a purpose - or if it's something that could easily happen in a different, more important scene - cut the scene.

This is a small part of writing more concisely, which I plan to post more about in upcoming weeks.

♥ me

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Word of the Day: Ploce

One thing I've noticed while editing is that I tend to repeat words. And not in a good way.

(For instance, in two consecutive paragraphs, I used the word summer FOUR times. Four. Whoa, Nelly.)  I have a feeling this happens with most writers. In first drafts, it really doesn't matter - as long as you catch yourself and edit them out.

But IS there a good way? Can word repetition ever be a good thing?

Why, yes, there is/it can. And, in fact, the point of today's post is to introduce you (or just refresh your memory in some cases) to a word I've recently added to my lexicon:

Ploce. (Rhymes with glow-see) - It's a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated for emphasis.  It's a technique used when a writer wants to drive a point home.



It's one of my favorite things to read, when done correctly. I've always loved this - but I never knew that there was a name for it. Now I do! (And so do you!)

Thank goodness for my word-a-day e-mails...

Here are some examples of ploce:
"Make war upon themselves - brother to brother / Blood to blood, self against self." (Richard III, Shakespeare)

"If it wasn't in Vogue, it wasn't in vogue." (promotional slogan for Vogue magazine)
"And gentle sleep the sleep of death..." (Thel, William Blake)
"The future is no place to place your better days." (Dave Matthews, "Cry Freedom") 

"Rose is a rose is a rose." (Line of poetry written in Paris by Gertrude Stein, often described as meaning things are what they are...)
"It wasn't a date date... We just got coffee." (A friend of mine when trying to deny that she's into the boy she's into... oops, I just gave another example with my example! Oh and I did it AGAIN! haha)

Okay that's all for today! My goal is to get back to writing a post 5 days a week... Starting now!

♥ me

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Playlist and the Superior Scribbler Award!

So, thanks to Frankie over at Frankie Writes, I've discovered a way to share music selections with you! I've added a playlist to the bottom of the blog (look, it's pretty and pink and everything!) If your volume isn't muted, you've already heard a random song from my selection.

What I've added to it are songs that I listen to while thinking about my next project. (Okay, okay... some of them are songs from Shattered's playlist as well - but I just LOVE them so much that they always inspire me!)
(picture found here)

I set it to play automatically - and in a random order (in case you only hop over for a minute or two, you won't have to listen to the same song each time). So I hope you enjoy!! (And if not, there's a pause button you can click on...)


Next up - Shannon awarded me with the Superior Scribbler!! Seriously, I am on cloud nine. Thanks so much Shannon - seriously, the awards make me blush! And I also find them oddly motivating in my writing process...


What I'm to do with the award is pass it on to 5 other blogs that I've recently enjoyed reading! My selection is really phenomenal - so you should absolutely hop over to the blogs if you don't already stalk them the same way that I do!
  1. Angie Kate, over at Always Write
  2. Shannon O'Donnell, Book Dreaming
  3. Valerie, I Should Be Writing
  4. Liana, Liana Brooks
  5. Rhiannon, Rhiannon Hart
Again - if you haven't checked out these blogs... you must. MUST.

♥ me

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beginnings (And G.I. Joe)

Every writer, by now, has heard the adage to start a novel in the middle of the story. It's an easy concept to grasp, but can be a much harder one to put in practice. (I pretty much cut the first chapter--and a lot of the second one--from Shattered in my first round of edits because it was all background info.)

It's easy to fill the first pages/chapters with background information about the main characters--I mean, come on! How else is a reader supposed to get to know and identify with them, right?

Wrong. That's backwards actually. A reader isn't going to care about the background information, the stuff that makes our characters tick, UNTIL they know and identify with them.

Think about it. When I'm first introduced to MC Bob in a novel, I don't care about his heart being broken a few years ago. I don't care about his allergy to cinnamon. Okay? So don't tell me that stuff. Throw me straight into the action - capture me immediately.  Because once I've seen Bob in action--or at least in some sort of tense situation, I'm much more likely to be interested in smaller details. 

Once we're past the beginning, tell me what I need to know. If Bob just can't connect with his girlfriend, Steph, I'll be curious about past heartbreaks. When Steph can't handle his intimacy issues, and adds cinnamon to a homecooked meal in retaliation - THAT'S when I care about Bob's allergy.  See what I'm saying?

Don't begin with your MC planning to murder someone. Begin with the MC having just completed the murder.

Over the weekend I watched G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra. (Um, hello... Channing Tatum anyone? Yes please!) And I must say--the movie starts exactly the way I'm trying to describe with this post.  Without giving away anything too significant, here's how the movie begins:

1st: Channing's (character Duke's) Army unit is transporting extremely dangerous warheads. (Enter tension & hook.)
2nd: The unit is attacked by a super stealthy opposing force and a lot of people are killed. The bad guys steal the warhead. And the kicker? The woman who steals it is someone Channing knows. (Expand tension & major hook!)
3rd: Before the bad woman can get away with the warhead a different team shows up and takes it back. This new team is full of good guys, but Channing has no idea who they are. He travels with them and learns about the G.I. Joe program. And he joins them, temporarily, to keep the warhead safe and complete his mission. (BAM. Thrown straight into the story.)

All three things happen in the VERY beginning. I was completely hooked. (Okay, Channing could hook me in a movie of him staring at a wall for two hours, but still...)  Throughout the movie, I found out more about his connection with the woman. I learned more about his past and who he was. And at the points I learned those things, I wanted to know them! Had I learned them all in the beginning, I would have been really bored.

For your my viewing pleasure - here are two pics of Channing. (Don't we make SUCH a cute couple? The second pic was taken, of course, before I met my husband...)






♥ me

Monday, December 7, 2009

#amwritingparty

Recently I've been asked a lot of questions about the #amwritingparty hashtag on twitter. And I thought I'd tell you a little bit about it.


Here's how it began:

One night I was really struggling with motivation while working on Shattered. I hopped on twitter and started chatting with other writers on #amwriting. (One of the three best twitter hashtags for writers, in my opinion, along with #yalitchat and #askagent.)

Usually, #amwriting really helps to spark motivation - there are SO many other writers to converse with! But on that particular night, everyone seemed to be struggling the same way that I was. Instead of motivating each other, we all were procrastinating (complaining even).  But you see, I had a self-imposed deadline to meet. I needed to be writing!

So spur of the moment, I suggested we take it up a notch, for the evening, and have an #amwritingparty! And it WORKED! For some reason, the little twist helped me and the others who participated to find our writing grooves.  We gave progress updates every half hour, cheered each other on, and even handed out rounds of ficticious shots. Time flew by - and so did the word counts. It was great!

I only meant for it to be a one night thing - because #amwriting is a fun place to hang out, believe me! But the party kind of took on a mind of its own. The next night it flared up again. And the next. And then the next. And it's been going strong ever since. And it's wonderful! There aren't really any "hosts" per se because people hop on and off as they please, but there are some really fun regulars--so be sure to check it out!

Here's what it's all about:
  • #amwritingparty is a place for writers at any part of the writing process. Writing, planning, editing, querying, etc. (even just taking a break!)
  • #amwritingparty is a 24/7 party! Though it really picks up in the evenings.
  • Sometimes we share lines from our works in progress (WIPs). The other night we played #WIPFire every half hour where you'd scroll randomly to a place in your WIP and share that line. It was fun, and frequently hysterical.
  • We have "Internet cocktails" pretty much every night - and Carol even sprinkles sparkly word dust out for writers who need motivation!
  • We often make word count pledges (#pledge4k etc) or page edit pledges. Very beneficial to the whole writing process, I promise!
  • #amwritingparty is a crew of really, really supportive writers - and anyone is invited to participate at any time!
Any of my blog reading #amwritingparty crew - feel free to add any of the fun things that I've missed!!

Here are a few examples of the fun #amwritingparty comments made in recent days:

@cvaldezmiller: @_rachelsimon Let me offer you some sparkly wordy dust. Will help you write! *sprinkle sprinkle* Happy writing! #amwritingparty

@Danisidhe: Thansk to #amwritingparty I did really well yesterday so I'm committing to you guys that I will do another 1000 words of plot again today :D

@a_shostak: @cvaldezmiller How far are you in your writing goal today? I just finished the 4k ;) #amwritingparty

@lkgg: If I'm watching the antics of #amwritingparty I'm usually laughing my head off.

@WritingAgain: #amwritingparty Drinking is optional (for most people). Fun, however, is not. Call it a writing support group.

@kidswap: So I have a question. Do you edit or go back and edit right away or do you just motor through to the end then start edits? #amwritingparty

@AngelaButts: ain't no party like an #amwritingparty party. Is it just as jumping tonight?

@frankiediane: Thank you! So what are you working on? #amwritingparty I feel like I need to meet everybody. What's everyone writing?

@ThePreyers: @lkgg Nearly 900 when I started the chop-chop! "Thats" I will destroy you! Aaaaaaaa.... #amwritingparty
@lkgg: @ThePreyers "That" is one of my all time pitfalls. While during creation, I let them fall where they may & cut later. #amwritingparty
@jkoyanagi: @cvaldezmiller You can do it! It's going well. Still in the thick of edits. #amwritingparty

Okay - so that's #amwritingparty, in a nutshell! Hope you drop by - but either way... Cheers to happy writing :-)



♥ me

Friday, December 4, 2009

Twilight Contest and Ninjadillo and a Cute Link, Oh My!

Okay. I'm blogging this even though I DON'T WANT TO. Because it means my chances of winning get lower. Ugh. But it also gives me more points so my chances get higher. Stupid double-edged sword. (grumble grumble)

The absolutely fabulous Shannon over on Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe is having an EPIC contest. She's giving away a signed copy of TWILIGHT!  And anyone who knows me knows that I. Love. Twilight.  I love it. Love it. (Do you get it yet?)

So if you hop over to her blog (link above) you can find the contest and its rules. But what I'd prefer is that you hop over to her blog and become a follower (because you're seriously missing out on fantastic writing tips and anecdotes if you don't) and then just conveniently forget to enter the contest.  K? Thanks ;-)

Oh and on a separate note - Shannon has agreed to lend me Ninjadillo.  Because I love him and also because I need someone to stick it to me to keep up with my Shattered revision!! So that's what I'll be up to all weekend! (If you haven't yet been introduced to Ninjadillo, he's an adverb-attacking, editing whip-cracking, armadillo. He's got a wicked Kung Fu death grip and he's on the look out for bad prose.)




Happy Friday :-)

Oh, and if you need something REALLY awesome to kick your weekend off on the right foot?  You must CLICK HERE.

♥ me

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Giving Feedback



In yesterday's post, I mentioned how nervous I get about giving feedback to other writers' work. And in my comments section, I found an absolute piece of gold. I didn't want anyone else to miss it! Because it really is good advice.

Even better - the advice is from an award winning author. So you KNOW she knows what she's talking about!  (And now she knows we know she knows... Friends, anyone?)

Thanks so much to LK Gardner-Griffie, author of the Misfit McCabe series. Her website can be found here. And if you're in revision stages - I highly suggest you check out her editing tips found in her Young Writers Series.

Here is what LK commented on the matter:

...When I hand over my work to be critiqued that's exactly what I want - someone to tell me where I've gone wrong - even if it is the smallest detail. You don't want to be mean, but unless you provide an honest, frank assessment you are not doing the author any favors. Even if you absolutely loved the work & it did its job, there is always something you can comment on to help the author improve either the work in question or future works. In reading my own stuff - even after being "done" I always find things that need to be changed.

When providing feedback, you are one voice, one opinion that provides YOUR perspective. The author then chooses whether to act on your feedback or not. I have received contradictory feedback from different people, and then decide which feedback best applies to my work. Any feedback is good - even when negative - or maybe I should say - especially when negative.

I started off with a writing teacher who didn't believe in sugar coating, & I learned that lesson well. My husband frequently refers to me as Mrs. Simon Cowell (now aren't you all clamoring to have ME read your WIP's? he he)

See? Brilliant, right? I mean - it's something we all probably knew, but to see it in writing makes it really sink in! So for those of you who have asked me to look at your work - I promise to try not to be so nervous after hitting send on the docs back to ya!

Thanks for your words LK! Now they'll help more than just me :-)



♥ me

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Honesty is the Best Policy



A big thank you to Shannon who gave me the Honest Scrap blog award!

So fun! I get to pass the Honest Scrap award on to 10 other blogs - all worth following... trust me! (Also, these are in no particular order!)




And now the moment I'm you've been holding your breath for... (Or pretty much I suggest duck and run because the blogs listed above probably have way more interesting - and more applicable content today...) I also have to list 10 more facts about me!  So. I kind of think I've already run out of interesting ones, but let's see what I can come up with. 

#10. My one year wedding anniversary is this month on the 13th! Yep, we had a Christmas wedding... I mean, it wasn't totally decked out with Christmas stuff - but here are some pics to show you what I mean:









#9 I could eat sushi (rolls) every single day of every single week. I love it. LOVE IT (them).

#8 I've always searched for diets (I know, I know... healthy lifestyles are the way to go - blah blah) but I found the perfect one! WRITING A NOVEL. I forgot to eat sometimes and lost like 8 pounds during the process. Too bad I'll probably gain that much if not more in the next month!

#7 My husband and I are signed up to run the ING half marathon at the end of January in Miami. He signed up because he wanted to stay in shape. I signed up because... hello - Miami in the winter? Yes please. I haven't run in months. Woops.

#6 I come across as extra bubbly online because I know how hard it is to read tone through e-mail so I naturally use a lot more explanation marks and smiley faces. I'm bubbly in real life - but absolutely not to the extent that you probably think I am.  In fact, ask my husband and he'll definitely tell you there are times in which I'm the exact opposite of bubbly... (Snarky. Bitchy... Frustrated for no reason - believe me, it happens!)

#5 I get really really nervous giving feedback on other people's writing. (Like sweaty palms nervous) For two reasons: I know how much heart and soul gets poured into writing and, even though everyone needs constructive remarks, I hate tearing into it.  Also, sometimes what I read is so good that on the parts I remark on I end up doubting my own knowledge! Once I've published (if I do) I'll probably feel more confident with this part of it. But for now? I bite my nails.

#4 I was on the dance team in college! And every year the alumni get to go back and dance at a men's basketball game. I look forward to it for months! And then am completely terrified when we go out to perform.



#3 Yesterday, I wrote a guest post about being a NaNo Rebel on K. C. Collins' blog - you should check it out! (And follow - because his posts are always interesting!)

#2 I have two half-siamese kitties named Piper and Lilah. I love them as much as my own life. Hence the next 6 pictures (out of about a zillion on my computer). They alternate back and forth starting with Lilah.
Call me a cat lady. I don't even care ;-)














#1 I'm leaving this open ended! Ask me anything you want to know in the comments section and I'll answer it!



♥ me

Monday, November 30, 2009

Me! Me!

The lovely Ms. Alexandra Shostak tagged me in this "meme" survey thing. I so love surveys :-)
Before I begin, I tag Quillfeather and Melane!


1. What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?
The last thing I wrote was a piece of flash fiction for Shannon's contest.

The first thing I wrote that I still have is a story called "For the Fear of Death". I wrote it in 5th or 6th grade and found a copy of it a few Thanksgivings ago. (My husband - then boyfriend - was the one to find it, actually, and then decided to read it outloud at the HUGE Thanksgiving gathering that year. I about died, haha.)

2. Write poetry?
I do actually! Not a ton, but my professor seems to think I have some talent in it... (I submit poems for critique in my creative writing workshop.)

3. Angsty poetry?
Not really. I did write a poem about a conch shell being washed away by the sea without anyone noticing... But I don't think that really counts as angsty.

4. Favorite genre of writing?
FANTASY! Specifically magical realism... Love it.

5. Most annoying character you’ve ever created?
A selfish daughter in a short story I wrote a year ago... Otherwise I really do love my characters :-)  (So far at least!)

6. Best plot you’ve ever created?
Um. I think it's the one for Shattered. I love the plot beneath the plot! (But I'm pretty biased.) I can also tell you about the lamest plot I ever created - but I may just save that for a future blog post...

7. Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?
If I tell ya, I'd have to kill ya ;-)

8. How often do you get writer’s block?
Not that often. (Ask me that same question tomorrow and I could give an entirely different answer!)
But Procrastination Block stikes quite frequently.

9. Write fan fiction?
Nope.

10. Do you type or write by hand?
I type. (I do have composition notebooks full of notes though.)

11. Do you save everything you write?
Oh goodness YES.  My computer died after college and I lost a LOT of things. I learned my lesson.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?
Sometimes. I don't abandon much though. I hate giving up on creative things that I put effort in to!

13. What’s your favorite thing you’ve written?
Shattered!! Hands down. (I have two poems I'm quite proud of, but they don't hold a candle to my novel!)

14. What’s everyone else’s favourite story that you’ve written?
My professor loved a poem I wrote about windshield wipers (random, I know). My husband's is the Fear of Death story from elementary school - but it's the only thing he's read yet and he's really, really excited to read Shattered when it's ready. 

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
Ditto to what Alexandra said: Everything I write has a romantic sub-plot.
Also, Shattered is a teen drama... I'm not sure about the angsty part though!

16. What’s your favorite setting for your characters?
The real world! Particularly places by the water...

17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?
I'm editing Shattered and about to start my new idea!

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Does it count that in first grade I wrote a story about a groundhog that was printed in the school publication? It was chosen out of entries from students in grades 1-6 and my class won an ice cream party for it...

19. What are your five favorite words?
I suck at picking favorite things because they ALWAYS change. Here are 5 that I really like right now:

grace, lithe, demure, lilt, ethereal

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?
Niko. But only some parts and it was completely unintentional. She's a brat.

21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?
Ditto Alexandra: They sort of just walk into my head.

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Not very often. Though Shattered came to me right as I opened my eyes one morning in Annapolis...

23. Do you favor happy endings, sad endings or cliff-hangers?
I hate cliff-hangers! I mean, I love them but I hate them because I am NOT good at waiting until a sequel comes out. I really hate cliff-hangers that are never answered. (I also don't write them.)

I lean towards happy but am not opposed to sad as long as story leads me in that direction.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yep.

25. Does music help you write?
Absolutely! I never write without music. I could, but I prefer not to!

26. Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops into your head.

It’s swallowed completely by the sea, perhaps
lost forever, but
to the rest of the world nothing has changed.

(A stanza from The Conch)


Have your fill of me yet? If so too bad bc tomorrow you get TEN MORE FACTS! dun dun DUNNN

♥ me

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tottering Regarding Plottering

About a month ago, I came across this post of W.M.Morrell's.  She introduced me to the concepts of plotters and pantsers.  I loved it. As you can see, from the comment I left, I was (mostly) a panster for Shattered.  I loved just sitting down and letting the words stream from my fingertips.

But sometimes the stream was more of a trickle... sometimes all I found at my keyboard was a dry riverbank - with a few puddles here and there. Because I didn't know where I wanted to go next. I got stuck. There were more than a few weeks in which I didn't write anything at all.

This is why I've decided to outline my next project. (For which, by the way, I just came up with a very cool concept... more on that later)

I'm a fan of Writer's Digest books... I peruse their online shop often.  The other day I came across First Draft in 30 Days.  A few clicks of the mouse and it was delivered a couple days later. 



As I'm sure you surmised, the book offers a 30 day plan for outlining a complete novel.  Apparently, the outline should be so comprehensive that the first draft will be practically written at its completion. 

So here's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to follow the 30 days plan and see where it takes me.  I'm not going to do the 30 days consecutively - it's the holiday season and my sister's here for 6 weeks!  Plus I'll be editing Shattered at the same time.  But I will blog about each day as I complete it from the schedule.

The book seems really thorough.  However, I have no clue if it really works, I haven't read reviews or heard anything about it... and don't tell me if you know one way or the other - because I'd like to go into this completely unbiased!

Wish me luck!  Day 1 will fall sometime in the next week or so :-)

♥ me

Monday, November 23, 2009

Award Numero Dos!!



Recently Melane at Chasing the Dream gave me my second blog award!! I was completely flattered when she told me... and also totally finishing my WIP at the time, and then sick, so it's taken me a little while to respond.

First of all, Melane, thank you so much! I'm a huge, huge fan of your blog and run (click) over to it salivating Pavlovian-style when I see you've updated it :-)

And now it's MY turn to pass it on!

The rules for The Best Blog Award are:


  1. To accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link.
  2. Pass the award to other bloggers that you recently discovered and think are great! Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
Oh man, I love my blogging friends!  These are the ones whom I've most recently discovered and think it'd be a shame for you to miss out on!!
  1. Courtney at Courtney Reese
  2. Valerie at I Should Be Writing
  3. Shannon at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe
  4. Southern Princess at Southern Princess
  5. Jonathan at Words and Coffee
I highly suggest you check these blogs out - I promise, you won't be disappointed!


♥ me

Friday, November 20, 2009

Max and Natalia

Below is a piece flash fiction I wrote for Shannon's contest... Shannon posted a wordle word cloud and told contestants to create a short story using words from the cloud.  (How many times can I type the word 'word' in one sentence... and now, make that two...)

I bolded the words (that I could remember) I used to form the story with.  It was fun - a definite change of pace from Shattered - the young adult urban fantasy I spent the past five months writing.

So, here it is... Will I win the prize?  Who cares! I mean, it'd be cool - don't get me wrong... It's just that I think any contest that gives writers a reason to write is a contest worth entering...


Natalia didn’t talk about Avalon.

Max didn't press her about it.

He loved her. With that deep, faerie tale kind of love that’s rarely in the cards for anyone. She was his world. So he didn’t press her.

But she was pulling away. Whatever had happened, whatever secret she kept, it seemed to set a shadow within her open, carefree nature. Max couldn’t erase the nagging suspicion that somehow Ernie Iver was involved. But he was out in California -- nowhere near Minnesota. Thank God.

The man was a goblin, a monster. Next to him, baboons looked like little kids. Natalia said they were just friends. And Max had believed her. Before Iver’s very public, very verbal, and unfortunately very truthful, attack on their relationship.


Those days were long past though. They’d made their way back to a good place. A better place, perfect and built on trust.

Still, something changed when Natalia went to Avalon. She never read books anymore. She didn’t even take the time to brush her hair.

On the second Sunday of every month since Max had known her, Natalia and her father went shopping for antiquities. They’d discovered an ancient looking table once, years ago, in a dusty old town in North Carolina. It was made out of an old barn door. They’d hauled the thing home, sanded it out on the deck, and stained it a dark, chocolate color. Four weeks they spent on the table and Natalia loved it. She guarded it like an army of one - Max wasn’t even allowed to work on his crosswords without a placemat between the magazines and the wood.

Since Avalon, she sat at the table, silent in her chair every morning and stared out of the window. But Max knew she wasn’t really looking at anything. Her mind was elsewhere. She drank glasses of water without coasters, and those glasses left rings on the oak.

So he tiptoed around her. He kept things light, trying to let the darkness run its course.

One month, though, turned into three. He just couldn’t stand the defeated look on her face anymore. So he sat down, and stared at her across the table, until she met his eyes. And he asked her to explain the business in Avalon.

She painted a picture for him with her words. By the time she finished, he’d rubbed his knucklebones raw against her beautiful antique table.

After that, Max didn’t talk about Avalon either.




Have a great weekend!!

♥ me

Thursday, November 19, 2009

First Draft... COMPLETE!


Joseph Joubert once said,
"Genius* begins great works; labor alone finishes them."

And, at this very moment, I completely agree with him.  Because without that spark of inspiration and the substantial amount of hard work that followed -- I'd never be able to type the next sentence.

I finished Project Jane!!
(The first draft anyway.)  Which I (tentatively**) titled Shattered. 

And seriously, here's how the entire process went down.

First, I had the idea.  It hit me and I couldn't ignore it.  I was revved.  I knew I had something good.  I was excited and words flowed like chocolate fondue at a fancy wedding.  (You know the type... Like 10 tiers of freefalling chocolaty goodness.)

I felt like this:



Then about 10,000 words in something happened. The words slowed down... The process began to feel more like molasses.  Thick, slow rolling molasses.  Heavy.  The excitement was still there, but I was weighed down.  Doubts, writer's blocks, the realization that completing a novel is not all butterflies and roses.

I felt like this:



And that's pretty much how I stayed for the next 85,000 words.  I loved my characters; I loved my plot.  I never stopped loving the writing process (I never will), but the hard work factor rocked me.

Oooh boy, but let me tell you.  The effort and blood and sweat and tears were all worth it when I typed the very last paragraph... the very last sentence... very last word.

So, if you're a first time writer stumbling across this blog, know this: don't give up on the first draft! It loses its magic sometimes and you might get bored with it.  But don't stop writing because finishing it feels amazing.  And you can always go back to edit the parts you forced yourself to write.  (And maybe, if you're lucky, they actually came out a lot better than you thought they did!) 
(Also, check out the hashtag #amwritingparty on twitter... It's a nightly party with writers who are super, super supportive and all in some stage - be it writing, editing, or brainstorming - of the writing process.)

As for me?  I've got a few edits to take care of immediately, before I forget that I wanted to do them.  (I made a list while I wrote, since I didn't edit while writing).  Then, I'm putting Shattered away for a few weeks before I enter the next phase, which I believe is going to feel

a little bit like this:




And a LOT like this:



(Except without the balls... and with my manuscript.)


*Genius, insofar as how I relate to the quote, refers to the creative spirit.  I'm not trying to say I have a large IQ.  (I mean, I'm blonde after all...)
**I think the title fits my story perfectly... I'm just hesitant because a quick google search told me that Dean Koontz wrote a novel called Shattered, in the 70s... And I'm not sure what the protocol is for using a title that's already been used...

♥ me

Monday, November 16, 2009

Other Fabulous Things to Read

I have a lot going on.   That being said, today I will provide you with links to other bloggers who had very interesting things to say recently - in case you missed them the first time around.
Okay, so this should be enough material to keep you occupied for a while.  I'll be back on Wednesday... Thursday at the latest!  But don't forget about me while I'm gone!  Fun stuff to come when I get back (awards, and clich├ęs, and concrete writing, oh my!  And also... setting the mood, wink wink)

Finally, one last bit of entertainment.  (Really, this is just for Ninjadillo, but still...) This is me at a friend's wedding last summer pretending that I was a ninja... using bouquets as nunchucks.  

Take me seriously.  I am very scary.




♥ me