Friday, January 29, 2010

My First VLOG: How to Hit On a Writer

So, since I'll be gone for a week (to Miami, woohoo!) I thought it might be a good day to do my first VLOG. (Okay, and also because I'm in love with my mac* and the iMovie app is ridiculously fun to play with!)

As you'll see in the VLOG, I was hit on yesterday--in the funniest way ever. I had to share, because honestly, if you ever want to pick up a writer, this guy had the right idea!

Please feel free to make fun of me.

So, in case you can't tell... I am having a flipping blast with iMovie, ha. I even finished my trailer for Shattered!! I'll post it when I get back from Miami.

Oh, and one more thing! So, for Saradise I saw in the comments that some of you (Valerie, Melissa, Shannon M., SarahJayne, Karen, and Heather) wanted to do it too!! If you send me your e-mail address, I'll start like, a support chain to send out daily motivation if you want :-)

I love the motivation that comes from starting a specific schedule like this!

♥ me

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Last Chance!! DON'T MISS OUT!!

Carol and Simon's short story COSMIC COINCIDENCES contest ends on the 31st!! Look at all the fun(ny) scenarios you can choose to write about!!  Great prizes... Awesome hosts... you KNOW you wanna enter!! I still need to write my short story, but procrastination writing is one of my best skills, ha!


Heather's Signed Book Giveaway ends on February 1st!! Don't miss out to win some awesome books :-) She hosts one of my most favorite blogs to stalk, so hurry on over there and make sure to tell her I sent you!!

Okay, that's all for today... Up tomorrow?  My first VLOG! dun dun DUNNNNNN

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Usually I celebrate the month of September as "Saradise". Yes, that's right... It's my birth month and I celebrate the entire 30 days.  Okay, not really--but I pretend to... and I do really call the month Saradise, I have for years. (My photography blog--very much in need of an update--is also called Simply Saradise.)

But, I've decided* to assign another meaning to the my word. From now on, whenever I say I'm in Saradise, I mean that I've outlined a chunk of time (days, weeks, etc) in my planner during which working on my WIP(s) will take top priority. I will write or revise every single day--for as many hours as I am able. And the first Saradise is coming very soon, because...

The month without my laptop blew. I mean, obviously you already know how I felt because I whined about it often. But I didn't write at all--well, I outlined the plot for my new WIP for a couple days, but that's IT. And I am seriously lacking the motivation to get back into things. I have amazing feedback for Shattered and I need to go through it all and revise, revise, revise! I need to perfect my query. I need to write my synopsis. I need to be ready to find. an. agent.

But to do all of that, I really need to light the proverbial fire under my ass! Enter Saradise. So here, my briends (another Sara word I'm trying out... I started with "b-friends" but it sounded too much like boyfriends, ha) I pledge to you that from February 8-28**, I will be in Saradise. During Saradise I will complete the aforementioned things and, if I'm able to finish, will continue to work on my new WIP.

The best part is that Carol and Alexandra are going to do it with me!! (Though they're, of course, not required to call it Saradise!) And if any of you find yourselves lacking the drive to write (or revise) these days, or you just feel like you could use a jumpstart--the more the merrier/motivational!

Saradise Countdown: 11 Days!!

[par-uh-dahys, -dahyz]  
/ˈpærəˌdaɪs, -ˌdaɪz/

1. a period of time in which Sara makes writing/revising her TOP priority: She barely came up for air during Saradise.
2. a state of intense WIP concentration: Don't bother calling, she's in Saradise right now--the only thing she'll answer is the question her MC asks in her head.
3. another name for the month of September: Nelson, don't forget to give your wife a present each of the 30 days of Saradise--and make the big one on the 16th!

♥ me

*I actually decided this after nano--because even though I was a nanorebel and didn't follow the rules, it was so effective to keep me on track! I thought I mentioned it in a post somewhere, but I can't find it... Oh well!
**I'm starting on Feb. 8 because I'll be in Miami for the first week of the month! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Feet... I Got Those Happy Feet

Wanna know how I feel? Skip to the 25 second mark in the video!

I'd write more today, but...









Any suggestions for her name? She's gotta have one, she's just so special :-) I have a few in mind, but am going to give this matter serious consideration, so fabulous suggestions would be lovely!

♥ me

Friday, January 22, 2010

Laptops and Covers and Cookies, Oh My!

Sorry I've been MIA lately. It's hard to blog/comment/e-mail/twitter/facebook/etc without a computer. As you know, Geek Squad sucks and sent my laptop back without fixing it once already. And guess what happened? They. Did. It. Again. So, according to them it's another 10 to 15 days until it comes back again.

I'm pissed. Very politely and professionally (which was ridiculously hard to do) I've placed complaints to every Best Buy place that I can... Phone calls, online forums, store visits... The most I've gotten? Besides blank stares and silence, an offer for a $50 Best Buy gift card when I told them I'd never give business to Best Buy again. $50? Are you kidding me?

Yesterday after work, Nelson went in to the store and allowed his West Virginia side to show. And now they might be giving me a new laptop! (Which is definitely not standard Best Buy procedure.) God, do I love my husband. We'll find out this evening. And if they don't give us either a full refund or a new laptop, I'm getting a MacBook. So either way, this should be a very good weekend for me!

In cool news: Miss Alexandra Shostak has proven, yet again, what a freaking AWESOME crit partner she is!! As a present, out of the blue, she designed a sample cover* for Shattered!! Which is pretty much the most amazing thing since sliced bread, if you ask me.

See? How much does Alexandra ROCK?

And, finally I had to tell you about this! Cristin Terrill is setting up an Etsy store called Sneaky Sweet.  She's selling hand-decorated sugar cookies, as well as a fair amount of vegan and gluten-free goods.

And she's sending out free samples! If you want free cookies or candy or brownies, you just have to comment on her post. She'll use a number generator to pick ten people at random and all you have to do is: if you like what she sends you, say so on your blog/Twitter/Facebook/whatever.

Uh, can we say "YUM"? Click here to enter!

♥ me

*The sample cover contains art found on the web, no copyright infringement intended. If you happen to own an image used and want me to credit you or take the photos down, I am always happy to do so

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a WINNER! Well. Three actually :-)

First of all... I just have to say that you guys are ALL awesome :-)  My 100 Followers contest had 30 individual entrants who wracked up a combined total of 132 points!!  You guys rock!!!

I originally planned to use random.org to select the winner, but that site only makes a random numbered list... And Nelson was already asleep when I was tallying everything and I didn't want to choose the number myself. (Okay, I know it wouldn't really matter because I'm sure you guys trust me, but still!) So, instead I used the Interactive Fruit Machine to pick the two winners! (So thanks to Lisa & Laura, because I learned about the IFM from them!)

Sooooooooo... Now for the important part!!

In FIRST PLACE, winning not one... not two... but THREE books, we have NISA!! Of Wordplay, Swordplay: The Magic of Writing

Congrats, Nisa! As soon as I have your mailing address, I'll send you these awesome babies:

Coming in second is KELLY!! Of Kelly's Compositions!!

Congrats, Kelly! As soon as I have your mailing address, I'll send you these awesome babies:
  • Lament AND Ballad (by Maggie Stiefvater)
    Dangerous faeries. Otherwordly music. Unrequited love. Deirdre Monaghan and her best friend James Morgan's lives change forever as they encounter the vicious and beautiful world of Faerie.

Okay, and I have to give a shout out to Heather, from See. Heather. Write... Because, I swear, it felt like every time I signed on to twitter I had a new @saramcclung reply from her about my contest! With the proportion of her points to everyone else's I could NOT believe she wasn't chosen!  So, Heather... You win the previously unannounced 3rd place!  If you send me your mailing address, you've got a $10 Borders gift card coming your way :-)

Thanks so much to everyone who participated!  Next contest happens when my b-friend list hits 200.

♥ me

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Last Chance

Turn up the volume for a fun song while you read... and sing along with my new, improved lyrics!

Last dance, last chance for entering my contest
Yes, it's your last chance, for winning tonight
I need you blogging, beside tweeting, and to comment
To hold me, to follow me
'Cause when I blog I'm so, so funny

So let's enter it's the last chance
Let's go the last chance
Let's dance this last dance today

Last dance, last chance for entering my contest
Yes, it's your last chance, for winning tonight
I need you blogging, beside tweeting, and to comment
To hold me, to follow me
'Cause when I blog I'm so, so funny

So let's enter it's the last chance
Let's go the last chance
Let's dance this last dance today

Oh, I need your comments
To guide me, on what to blog about
To let me, get to know you
'Cause when I blog I want to know my followers

So, come on baby, enter now!
Come on baby, you know you wanna
Come on baby, enter my contest!

Alright, so by now you get it... Today's the LAST day of my contest!! I'm letting random.org pick the winner TONIGHT! So if you haven't entered yet, this is your last chance! 

Oh, and if you've blogged about the contest, MAKE SURE you left the link in the comments section... Either on this post or the original.


It's a points-based contest, with first and second prizes! Here are the rules:
  1. You must be a follower to enter.
  2. Each point you earn will give you one entry... get 15 points? you get 15 entries!
  3. All entries will be added to a spreadsheet and I will use random.org to select the two winners!
  4. You can live anywhere in the world to win!
  5. Entries close at 11:59PM ET on Tuesday, January 19th.
Here are the point values:
  • 2pts -- Leave a comment on this post and tell me the following TWO things:
          1) what your favorite babbling flow post has been so far,
          2) a topic you'd like to see me post about in the future
  • 1pt -- Tweet about this contest (up to 2 points per day)
         **Make sure to add @saramcclung to the tweet so I can keep track
         **Also, let me know if your twitter name is different than your username!
  • 5pts -- Blog about this contest
         **Make sure to let me know about the post so I count it!
  • 3pts -- Refer a follower to this blog, who mentions that you're the reason they're here
And here are the PRIZES!!

3 Books!

2 Books!
  • Lament AND Ballad (by Maggie Stiefvater)
    Dangerous faeries. Otherwordly music. Unrequited love. Deirdre Monaghan and her best friend James Morgan's lives change forever as they encounter the vicious and beautiful world of Faerie.

**Playlist removed by author

♥ me

Monday, January 18, 2010

... As a Clam!

George Sand says: “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”

Sara says: "Man, do I feel loved by my fabulous blog friends!"

Ralph Waldo Emmerson says: “Nothing can bring you happiness but yourself.”

Sara says: "Uh, yeah... and blog friends!"

Herman Cain says: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Sara says: "I got nothin' to add to this one. It's so true... Oh, and on top of it I love my blog friends ♥"

In case you couldn't tell from the quotes, and from the award that's been circulating...uh, and the image above... I've been awared the Happy Award! From some really, really fabulous people... So first and foremost, I want to give a huge thank you to HeatherJulieFrankie, Southern Princess, Diana, and VR Barkowski!!

First, here are 10 things that make me happy!

1. This prank call video

Tom Mabe: Eavesdropping

2. When motivation throws itself into my fingers and I have to write.

3. Winter boots. Can not get enough!! Seriously. My friends tease me, but I almost need an entire closet to hold all that I own. The only thing I don't like about warm weather? Not being able to wear BOOTS.

4. My kitties, Piper and Lilah... For pictures of the cutest things on Earth, click here and scroll down to #2!

5. Warm weather... and the beach. (Which is wonderful because I'm going to MIAMI for a week at the end of the month/beginning of February! Oh yeah, check out the 10 day forecast baby!)

6. My family, duh

7. Everyone who's donated to the cause for Haiti. And everyone who does so now.

8. No words necessary.

9. The package I received from Shannon!! (It actually made me squee. The first and only time I will ever do so.)

10. Crossing the last thing off on my to-do list... Which has happened only about four times in my entire life!

And now, I pass this award on to 10 blogs that make ME happy!

1-3 go to my fabulous crit partners... you already know they make my world go round!
 Alexandra, at The publication follies of Miss Alexandra Shostak
 Carol, at Carol's Prints
 Shannon, at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe

4. Angie Kate, at Always Write because I crack up every time I read the last sentence of her "About the Author" section.

5. Anissa, at Anissa off the Record because she's really funny!

6. Dennie, at Fledgling Author because she's just starting to blog and I'm enjoying reading about her process along the way!

7. Hilary Wagner because she's awesome in general. Plus she's super friendly and always informative!!

8. Natalie Brahm because she writes kickass kiss scenes gone awry, and she's sweet to boot!

9. Heather, at See Heather Write because she's really cool AND posting summaries of what she learns at the writing workshop she's attending all this week! (And I know you gave it to me, and have already received it, but you were already on my list of 10 and I really wanted to give it to you!)

10. Tere Kirkland, at The Lesser Key because she shares these wickedly informative things with her followers!

And, if you know me at all by now, you know the blogs I link to are always great--so make sure to check all these out. You'll miss out if you don't!

♥ me

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Query Workshop (and I Hate Geek Squad)

Just thought I'd pass this along... If you need help with a query, Writer's Digest is offering an online query workshop on January 28th.

It's on Thursday, January 28, at 1 p.m. Eastern (12 pm Central, 11 am Mountain, 10 am Pacific) and it runs for 90 minutes. The cost is $79.00 and the presenter is Jane Friedman, publisher/editorial director of Writer's Digest.

I took this workshop back in November, and I have to tell you... It was amazing. If we weren't already blog friends back then, here's the link to the summary I posted.

The best part about the workshop (aside from Jane's absolutely stellar knowledge about the process) is that:
All registrants are invited to submit a 1-page query letter in advance of the event. All submitted queries are guaranteed a critique.

If you're interested, sign up here.

In other, completely unrelated news, I'm contemplating a part-time job so that I can buy one of these babies:

Any suggested job places? I'm thinking about Borders maybe.

Because, perhaps you guessed it but the dumb-dumbs at Geek Squad have effed up, yet again with my Dell laptop. They've now had it since December 23rd. And I never want to have to deal with them again.

Oh, what's that I read/see? There are major complaints about Geek Squad all over?

Oh, and in addition to a MacBook Pro... I'm also considering purchasing and wearing this EVERY DAY.

♥ me

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fiction Chili

So here's what happens. You write a novel and you Love it. Capital L Love it. You revise it and work it and cherish it more than your neighbor cherishes their red-headed stepchild*. Then, you're in Borders, or on Goodreads, or out on the blogosphere and you hear about another book that's published (or about to be). And it sounds Just. Like. Yours. 

Panic ensues.

Well yesterday I made chili for the first time ever... from scratch. (I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.) I got a bunch of ingredients, browned some ground beef, and threw everything together in a crockpot and let it sit on low for 8 hours. Man did my house smell good. I was pumped because Nelson loves chili and I love when I impress him with my (every once in a while) culinary finesse.

Then I remembered that while Liz, my sister, was here visiting for 6 weeks she made chili too. And it was friggin' incredible. Really, I mean just D-E-licious. Nelson loved it. The huge batch she made was gone in less than two days, mostly thanks to him.  And BAM! the self-doubt came barreling in**. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but I was nervous that my chili wouldn't measure up...  or that he would think I copied her recipe.

But a few seconds later I laughed at myself. Because really, when have two chili recipes ever tasted the exact same? Sure, many bowls taste similar to one another--but mostly that's a GOOD thing for people who enjoy that particular type of chili. And within the realm of chili, there are So. Many. Different. Ingredients.

Stories are just like that. Even if there are hundreds of books being written/published with the same sort of premise as yours, it's what you add to it—your blend of ingredients—that will make it unique.

In the picture above, there are fifteen different ingredients that make your particular novel stand out from all the others like it. And there could be hundreds more! (I just ran out of ingredients to label...)

So take a deep breath... Believe in yourself and in your batch of chili.

And in case you need another nudge on this, check out the stellar guest post on agent Rachelle Gardner's blog about the trap you fall into when comparing yourself to other writers.

*I can make red-head jokes. My husband has beautiful red hair and I asked his permission.
** Okay, I realize that this self-doubt is nowhere NEAR the level that writers go through, but it's all for the sake of the comparison!

♥ me

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sucky Poetry

Today, for Shannon's poetry day, I'm sharing some absolutely horrible poetry from my younger years.  ONLY because I love Shannon (who posted some of her own in light of her week long dedication to Lisa Schroeder) and all of my more recent & decent poems are out on submission right now. (If you want to read some nice poetry, be sure to read Shannon's blog today.)

First though, I have to tell you... When digging out my preteen and teenage poetry journals I found some other stuff I'd written during those years. And it made me cry...


A list for your amusement:
  • For the Fear of Death--A two-part short horror story with blood drawn on the cover. (6th grade) 
  • An oh so deep note in a poetry journal (verbatim): "A human being is just a metaphor for life. I am just a metaphor for life."
  • A short story(ish) written completely with exposition about a gold digging murderess named Taylor. (9th or 10th grade)
  • Jocelyn's Choice--A long short story about Princess Jocelyn and her decision to marry based on letters she receives... Complete with an illustrated cover. (Elementary school)
  • Treasure Island and Gary's Grave--My two first ever attempts at flash fiction... (LOL 4th grade)
  • Junk Mail--An absolutely horrible short story about a man getting dumped for reading too much junk mail (some point in high school)
  • Mage's Isle--A handwritten short story about a girl named Ellen who knows magic and becomes the apprentice of an Archmage (Antik) (8th grade)
  • Another deep note in a different poetry journal (verbatim): "Deep down, everyone knows what actually is, yet everyone builds their own facades to cope with the extent of reality to which they cannot adapt to."
  • Sarchevo--An incredibly NOT PC story about a girl who's kidnapped by Indians and forced to become one's wife (Dancing Lion), whom she ends up kind of liking... EVEN though he killed her sister. (8th grade)
Anyway. If you've saved old stories/poems from younger years, I highly recommend that you take a moment to reread them because the laughs that follow will be priceless!

So, onto the bad poetry... This first one was written in 5th grade. When you read it, you will learn that I am obviously a very deep person.

Love vs. Hate

Love is a feeling
            a feeling of security
            a feeling of hope

Hate is an obsession
            that takes over you
            and wraps you in coldness

Love is beautiful
            more so than one million setting suns
            more so than one million rainbows

Hate is sad
            sadder than the deaths of one million butterflies
            sadder than the murders of one million people

Hate is our enemy.
Love is our destiny.

Ta da! So. What'd you think? Was I gifted beyond my years or what? Hahahaha.

There are really no words for my second one. This little gem is from 10th grade. It's titled Nonsense, and... well... you'll see.


Yes I know the Muffin Man
who lives on Drury Lane.

He's across the way waiting for Clementine
who'll be comin' 'round the mountain when she comes!

Someone's singing Lord,
Kum Ba Ya...
Do you hear her singing?
She's driving six white horses as she comes
(Whoa back!)

Light she is and like a fairy
and her shoes are number nine.
She brings herring boxes with out topses,
she's come to fix the London Bridge.

The Muffin Man greets her
with a hug and a kiss hello...
And those who look quite closely
see the squeeze he gives below.

When the bridge is fixed and finally finished
He takes her on a picnic
with sugar and spice
and everything nice,
like shoe fly pie and Apple Pan-dowdy.

While they eat
across the blanket
the ants went marching
Hurrah! Hurrah!

^crickets chirping^

ummmm yeah. So apparently I reached into a huge kettle filled with every nursery rhyme known to man, stole bits and pieces of what I pulled out and thought I was clever.

So, Shannon. I hope you're happy! Thanks to you, I know have my very own "Sara Shame" label, haha.

♥ me

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crit Partners Make the World Go Round

If you don't have a crit partner or group--GET ONE.

Not to sound bossy or anything... but please (pretty please with a cherry on top) take my advice today!

Don't know how to find one? Well, if you're reading this--you're already off to a good start, because actively particpating in the writing blogosphere is exactly what opened the door for me. And get on twitter if you're not already.  Connect with other writers who are looking for the same thing. There are lots out there!

Don't rush into it. Take the time to get to know people. Because believe you me (says one vain insecure writer to the next) constructive criticism can be really hard to take. But when it comes from people you trust it's invaluable.

Here's a GREAT link for people looking for Crit Partners! CRIT PARTNER WANT ADS (Thanks to Calista!)

Here, in a nutshell, is how I look at it:

Good CPs will tell you honestly when a dress makes you look fat...
Then they'll introduce you to the fabulous world of spanx.

In case you couldn't tell, I received feedback from two of my CPs (and a beta as well). Their comments were insighful and honest. And wonderful. SHATTERED will be leaps and bounds better thanks to their input.

Lata gatas... I'm off start my next round of revisions!

♥ me

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Contests! (Updated 2:45pm)

Wow... Apparently January is a month for contests!!  Just to make sure you're in the loop, here are a few of my favorite ones!! Oh, and the end dates are all posted in the sidebar over there to the right...

Oh, and of course... Don't forget MY contest either!!


Kidlit.com is having a major contest--about the beginning of your novel! Click the link for the rules... Here are the prizes:
  • Grand Prize Winner: A 15 page critique
  • First Place: A 10 page critique
  • Second Place: A 5 page critique
  • Third Place: A 2 page critique
  • Honorable Mention(s): A critique of the first page of your novel
Sourcebooks Fire #YALitChat Writing Contest
These 150 entries will then be ranked on a scale of 1-10 by three Sourcebooks Fire editors. The top 20 submissions (calculated by adding scores) will be notified and allowed to submit a pitch letter and first 20 pages of their novel for further consideration by Sourcebooks editors, as well as YA literary agent Regina Brooks, founder of Serendipity Literary agency.

Let the Words Flow is having a book trailer contest! (So cool, I mean--I don't even care as much about winning as I do the motivation to create such an awesome marketing tool! They even give you step-by-step directions about how to do it!
The winner will receive an ARC of SING ME TO SLEEP by Angela Morrison, a bag of confectionary goodies (i.e. candy), and a query letter and/or first 3 chapters critique of your work by the LTWF contributors! If you don’t want the query letter critique—or if you’re not at that stage yet—you can opt to receive a signed copy of PRADA AND PREJUDICE from LTWF’s own Mandy Hubbard!

Shannon is having a fabulous contest in light of Lisa Schroeder!!
One winner will win a SIGNED copy of I Heart You, You Haunt Me, plus the beautiful Far From You paperback, Chasing Brooklyn, and a signed Chasing Brooklyn Bookmark.

Steph Bowe is holding a First Five Pages critique contest!
In her own words: I am giving away First Five Pages critiques! So if you're an aspiring YA novelist, interested in getting a bit of feedback from, um, me (a soon-to-be published YA author and real live bonafide teenager), this is the competition for you! There will be five winners, but if there are over 100 entries I'll announce a few more.

Valerie is holding a freaking SWEET book giveaway (two books to first place, one to second) contest!
  • I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
  • Night Runner by Max Turner
  • When It Happens by Susan Colasanti
  • The Pace by Shelena Shorts
  • Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda
  • The Hollow by Jessica Verday
Nickels is cleaning house and giving away 12... that's right TWELVE books!
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
  • His Eyes by Renee Carter
  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Mary Jane by Judith O'Brien
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn
  • Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
  • The Insiders by J. Minter
  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
  • Summer Boys by Hailey Abbott
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate (ARC)
  • The Diary of and American Au Pair by Marjorie Leet Ford
Frankie is giving away 3 two-book bundle ARCs!
  • 1) Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson + The Anatomy of Wings, Karen Foxlee
  • 2) The Summoning, Kelley Armstrong + Prophecy of the Sisters, Michelle Zink
  • 3) Fire, Kristin Cashore + The Stolen One, Suzanne Crowley
Anna is giving away some awesome stuff as well!!
  • The Grand Prize Winner will receive:
    A copy of Shiver by Maggie Stievfater OR The Maze Runner by James Dashner
    AND a $15 gift card to the book retailer of your choice (Powell’s, Amazon, etc.)
  • The Runner-Up Prize Winner will receive:
    A copy of Shiver or The Maze Runner (i.e. whichever book the Grand Prize Winner doesn’t choose
    OR a $10 gift card to the book retailer of your choice (Powell’s, Amazon, etc.)
Southern Princess is having a California contest!!
  • Grand Prize:
    1 Copy of The California Club by Belinda Jones
    1 COACH Wristlet (with dustbag/bought in California)
    $20.00 Gift Card to Amazon.com
  • Second Prize
    $10.00 Gift Card to Amazon.com

Okay, that's all for now... Did I miss anyone? I've got a spot on my sidebar for all contests now, so let me know if you've got one you'd like highlighted!!

♥ me

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sucky Dialogue

True Story

Sara wakes up on Friday morning excited. She skips out to her car. The ground is covered in dirty slush, and it's freezing outside. But in Sara's mind, the sun is shining and birds are singing. Why? Well, because today's the day her laptop gets to come home from the computer hospital. No more having to use a second-hand old laptop with zero programs that she needs and no capability to download. Yipee!! She leaps and twirls into the store, with a grin from ear to ear.

Tech Dude: Yes?
Sara (after waiting 15 minutes): Hi! My laptop is supposed to be in today! I'm sooooooooooooooo excited! Here's the info so you can find it...
Tech Dude (comes back with laptop): Here it is. Here's the note that the hospital left about it
Sara (reads note out loud...gets a funny feeling in her stomach): Everything looked fine. No work necessary? (looks up) What does this mean?
Tech Dude: That it didn't need any work.
Sara: So, you're telling me, I've been sans laptop for 15 days for no reason?
Tech Dude (shrugs): Looks like it.
Sara: But. But... I don't understand. It didn't work for me.  It didn't work for other tech dude when I dropped it off two weeks ago. Do laptop miracles exist?
Tech Dude: Looks like it. Here you go. (pushes laptop to Sara)
Sara (stomach sinks further, but she tries to hold on to the shred of possibility that there was some sort of laptop miracle): Um. Can we just check that it works here, before I take it home? Just to be sure?
Tech Dude: Okay.
(The unlikely duo turns on the computer. It's still broken. The exact same way it was the day Sara brought it in.)
Tech Dude: Hm. That's weird. I guess we have to send it back. Come back in two weeks.
Sara (dies on the inside because she's now crying in public): For two m-m-more weeks?
Tech Dude: Yep.
Sara: But what if they just send it back? Can you write a note for them to make sure they fix it this time? Can you speed up the process? I can't wait another 15 days. I might die!
Tech Dude: It's going to be 15 days.
Sara: But can't you do anything? I know it's not you personally, but your team messed up.
Tech Dude: 15. Days.
Sara: But I'm a writer. Okay. So I don't make money yet or anything. But I'm a writer... that's my job. I need my computer.
Tech Dude: 15 Days.
Sara (shoulders slump, chin drops): Um. Sorry for blubbering. I'll see you in two weeks.

This time Sara notices the slush on the way home. The sky is overcast. The birds are gone. She throws herself onto her couch and stares at the secondary laptop she's been using.

Sara: Laptop, I hate you. You suck. You're slow and unfriendly.
Laptop: ...
Sara: I can't even look at you right now.

Sara hides the laptop behind the couch and decides she's going to play Mario on Wii for the day instead of doing anything writing related. She slips the disc in and waits for it to load. It doesn't load. She hits eject. Nothing comes out. She hits eject again. Nothing again.

30 minutes later, after another 30 attempts and one failed try at disassembling the Wii, Sara has a ridiculous thought.  She reaches a half foot over and hits the eject button on the DVD player.

Success.  Bittersweet success.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Warning: Long Post Ahead

Today's post is basically a smorgasbord of the things I've learned about characterization from different classes, books, and experiences throughout the years.

For my new project (WIP2), I began with character sketches. First Draft in 30 Days gave me a worksheet to go from, but I cherry picked and added a few categories of my own.  So far, for every WIP2 character, I know all, or most of, the following things:
  • Full name (and nickname if applicable)
  • Birth date and place
  • Role in the novel (e.g. relation to MC)
  • Eye/hair color/description (careful of olive skin and almond-shaped eyes... How many times have you read those descriptions??)
    • I flipped through magazines and tore out images of people (celebs, advertisement models, headshots of people randomly interviewed on the street, etc) to match with what I envisioned my characters looking like. I didn't keep them whole every time either... I used eyes from one pic, hair from another--you get my drift!
      • I also did this when creating the setting sketches... SO helpful! (School, houses, bedrooms, dining rooms...)
  • Any scars or other distinguishing marks
  • Build & style of dress
  • Mannerisms
    • One note here is to avoid using clichéd mannerisms too often (biting lips, rolling eyes, etc)...
    • Also--make note of the phrases or words that certain characters repeat
  • Personality traits: (likes/dislikes/typical mood/hobbies/allergies/anything you can think of should be added) Also:
    • How does this character view themself? Do they have any contradictions (e.g. a mother who's a slob but expects her children to keep neat rooms...)
    • How does this character react to bad news? How do they function under pressure?
    • How does this character react to perceived threats (physical or otherwise)
  • Background (This is one of my favorite parts. I can't tell you how much it sucked to cut almost the entire first two chapters of SHATTERED when I began editing. But I had to do it because I'd started off with all backstory. It was important for me to know, but not for readers at the moment. This time I can start my new project already knowing the things I need to about my characters, so it will be easier to layer that info into the story when it's necessary.)
  • Internal Conflicts (This is my absolute favorite thing so far. Each character has MORE. THAN. ONE. internal conflict.)
    • What are this character's biggest fears? secrets? desires?
  • External Conflicts (Who/what will get in the way of what this character wants?) I was worried about being able to flush this section out before starting the plot outline, but man did my characters ever come to life and tell me a lot more than I was expecting this early on!
Whether or not you know how things will end up when you first start writing, your main characters should have changed in some way by the end of the book. Growth is really important. In fact--I think it's what separates the good guys from the bad guys. Villains remain villains because when faced with adversity, they don't change or adapt... They don't grow.

Speaking of bad guys, I don't think they should be cruel all the way to the bone--in most cases, anyway.  You can add so much depth (ah, my favorite word these days) if you give the villains a redeeming trait or two... Maybe they take care of their feeble grandmother. Or maybe it's as small as caring for a pet fish. Or maybe they find peace each morning in a cup of tea with honey... But give them SOMETHING and their connection to the story will seem much more believable.  Also, make sure you understand WHY your villain is bad. What happened to them in life to make them the way they are today?

A lot of beginning writers (myself included if you read the above part about cutting the first two chapters of SHATTERED) make the mistake of throwing everything about their characters into the beginning of a story. While, yes, you should know your characters inside and out. Your readers? Not so much. At first anyway. Instead, unveil your characters at a more gradual pace so that each reader has a chance to form their own ideas about them. This, in turn, will create a much deeper sense of who your characters are than you ever could push through with a summary.

We're all driven by our own personal experiences, and authentic characterization follows suit.  But our characters' past experiences should be revealed to readers on a "need to know" timeline... Not in one big infodump.

Finally, characterization is a BIG part of the whole "show don't tell" principle.
  • Don't tell a reader that your character is funny, allow it to come out through humorous bits of dialogue.
  • Don't tell a reader that the character has a short fuse, show it in the way she slams her locker shut at the slightest teasing from her best friend.
  • Don't tell a reader that your character loves his best friend, show them through his actions... In the tender way he brushes a stray strand of hair from her forehead... In the way his heart turns into a box of Mexican jumping beans when she's near. (Okay, that's cheesy, I admit it, but give me credit--this is a LONG post and I'm getting a little loopy here at the end!)
And, most of the time, you don't really need to explain characters' motives for the types of things mentioned above. Let readers draw their own assumptions based on the behaviors of the characters. Again, it will allow them to create a much deeper connection.

What areas of characterization are the most important to you? Did I leave anything out?

♥ me

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Outlining 1, Sara 0

Some of you might remember this post, in which I said I'd be outlining my next project--instead of just flying by the seat of my pants, like I did with Shattered.  (If this is old news to you, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs!)

In case you're one of my newer followers here's a brief synopsis: I didn't outline my first novel, Shattered, and loved it. I've always been anti-outlining, because I just knew it stifled creativity. Even in high school when we had to outline projects, I'd write the project first and then go back and create an outline from what I'd done.

But by the time I finished Shattered, I was really frustrated with myself. I felt like it'd taken a LOT longer than it should have because there'd been weeks at a time when I'd been stumped about where (my characters wanted me) to go next--so I decided I'd try a new method for my next novel. Around that same time I stumbled across First Draft in 30 Days which goes into detail about some pretty cool ways to outline. And that's what I'm (loosely) doing now. Okay, you're caught up.

Well, in case you couldn't tell from the title of this post--whoa was I wrong about outlining cramping my creative style! (So far.)  I finished with Day 2* and I'm feeling more inspired than ever. Why? Because:

Day 1 was dedicated to developing my characters. Primary and secondary. And you know what happened? They've turned into these real people that live entire lives in my imagination.

My characters in Shattered did that too, eventually, but it would have been so. much. easier. had I known them this intimately when I first started writing. When I began editing Shattered, I had to go back and flush out most of the characters for the first few chapters--and I had to change a major part of the plot because I realized that the character it involved absolutely wouldn't have gone in the direction I had them going in... I'm now fairly confident that I won't run into the same problems with my new project.

Have I created every single character yet? Doubtful. I'm sure a few secondaries will still pop up along the way, but I can tell you here and now that I'll come back and create them through this process as soon as I become aware of their existence!

Day 2 was allotted for sketching out the settings of my new novel. Another thing I wish I'd done with Shattered. Because now I won't have to pause my writing process to think about what a certain place might look like. I know exactly what my characters' homes (and rooms and front yards, etc) look like. I know what the school looks like. I know what the... well, let me stop there before I give something too major away ;-)

Are there settings that will come up along the way that I didn't plan for yet? Absolutely. But, just like with any new characters, I will take my new settings through the same process I dragged the current ones through.

What are these "processes" I'm writing about? Well, you'll have to check back the next time I post--I promise it will be all about my characterization process! (Otherwise this post would be fairly epic in length...)

I'll leave you with this: Apparently outlining isn't just sitting down and making a roman numeral list with a timeline of things that are going to happen in the novel. (I'm not kidding, that's what I always pictured when people talked about outlining.) There's a LOT more to it, and just with the first two steps, I've already got such a well-rounded view of my new project... I've had ideas that I might never have thought about otherwise. I'm completely inspired, brimming with creativity, and can't wait to start the next section! (Plot sketches)

*I call the days Day 1, and Day 2, and so on, because that's how they're broken down in the book, but I sometimes take my time and use more than one day to complete that particular section.

♥ me

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

100 Followers = My 1st Giveaway Contest!

Yesterday my blog hit 100 followers--and then some!! I did a happy dance... which Nelson (my darling husband) walked in on and laughed at for the rest of the night.  I'd like to give a shout out to Harley May, who jumped right into spot number 100!

And now--as a HUGE thank you to all of my followers, I'm holding my first ever blog contest!  The rules are simple and the prizes are pretty awesome... if I do say so myself!

Sara passed 100 Followers Contest

It's a points-based contest, with first and second prizes! Here are the rules:
  1. You must be a follower to enter.
  2. Each point you earn will give you one entry... get 15 points? you get 15 entries!
  3. All entries will be added to a spreadsheet and I will use random.org to select the two winners!
  4. You can live anywhere in the world to win!
  5. Entries close at 11:59PM ET on Tuesday, January 19th.
Here are the point values:
  • 2pts -- Leave a comment on this post and tell me the following TWO things:
          1) what your favorite babbling flow post has been so far,
          2) a topic you'd like to see me post about in the future
  • 1pt -- Tweet about this contest (up to 2 points per day)
         **Make sure to add @saramcclung to the tweet so I can keep track
         **Also, let me know if your twitter name is different than your username!
  • 5pts -- Blog about this contest
         **Make sure to let me know about the post so I count it!
  • 3pts -- Refer a follower to this blog, who mentions that you're the reason they're here
And here are the PRIZES!!

3 Books!

2 Books!
  • Lament AND Ballad (by Maggie Stiefvater)
    Dangerous faeries. Otherwordly music. Unrequited love. Deirdre Monaghan and her best friend James Morgan's lives change forever as they encounter the vicious and beautiful world of Faerie.
The contest is now open!!!
Enter away lovies!

♥ me

Monday, January 4, 2010

Need Depth? Just Add Conflict

In my first post about conflict, I stated that conflict adds depth. I wanted to expand further on it. Again, the most important thing (I think) is to make sure there's both internal and external conflict...

I'm going to write two very basic (and otherwise uninteresting) scenarios and then attempt to show how adding conflict gives the scenes depth. Here we go:

Scenario A - The Soccer Game
  1. Jeremy walks to his nephew's soccer game. Here we have no conflict. No real story.
  2. But at the game, another boy's father, Steve, shoves Jeremy. Oooooh External Conflict. A reader's drawn in--who wouldn't be? We all reading love a good physical confrontation. Plus we want to know how Jeremy reacts. How do the soccer players react? How does Jeremy's nephew react? How does Steve's son react? What will this one shove set in motion for the MC and for everyone else?
  3. Jeremy takes it, and doesn't shove Steve back. He wants to, but he restrains himself for two reasons: he doesn't want to set a bad example for his nephew (ehh, okay... not tons of conflict, but it does show us a little bit about Jeremy), but also because he had an affair with Steve's wife... he flashes back to their last time together. We see his hand on her smooth tanned thigh--and then the tears in her eyes when she confesses that she's been honest with Steve and ends it. Jeremy still loves her. He let her go because it's what she wanted, but he longs for her still. So he won't push back because he's really the one who wronged Steve... and because he knows the woman he loves wouldn't want him to. Aaaaand hello Internal Conflict. Now a reader wants to know how it started... Why'd she tell Steve? What type of a man worries about setting a good example for his nephew but sleeps with another man's wife? When did it happen? Is Steve a good man, or should she leave him to be with Jeremy?
    The list could go on...
Example B -- The Failing Art Student
  1. Elena is failing her art class. On her last assignment, she recieved a 38%. So what? There's nothing special about this... lots of students fail classes.
  2. But she's actually a brilliant artist and aced the first three assignments of the year. Okay, now a reader might be a LITTLE bit intrigued, because it's natural to wonder what caused the discrepancy.  We sense the possibility of (wo)man vs self conflict here. Or maybe (wo)man vs man. We kind of want to read on to find out.
  3. She's failing because she recently found out that her grandmother is dying of cancer, and she can't seem to concentrate on anything else. She's discovered that she's scared of death and is heartbroken by the pending loss of someone that she loves. She feels selfish for this new fear of death because she wants to believe that her grandmother is going to Heaven, but deep down she doesn't believe in an afterlife. It terrifies her that when her grandmother dies she might simply end... that no part of her continues on. And now we've hit the motherload of Internal Conflict--readers form a connection with Elena. They feel sympathetic, possibly empathetic, for her. They want to see her come to terms and they'll read on because they want to see her overcome this fear of disbelief.
  4. Elena wants to go talk to her best friend about it after school, but her mother grounds her for the failing grade and takes away phone priviledges.  So Elena tries to talk to her mother about it instead, but the mom's too wrapped up in her own grief to understand. She sends Elena to her room. External Conflict adds another level to the story. Elena is kept from what she wants... in this case, what she needs. Now we want to keep reading for a plethora of reasons. Will she spiral further out of control? Will she find another source of help? Is her mother a bad mother--or just really screwed up with grief--to not see what Elena's going through? What are the other family dynamics? Curiosity is peaked and the connection to Elena deepens. This has developed into a story.
So you see what's happened? Each scenario started out with a fairly boring premise, but we added internal and external conflict to the mix and... voilà, we created depth!!

(Copyright © Adam Romanowicz)

♥ me

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An Almost Kiss Scene...

Frankie Mallis, of Frankie Writes, is hosting today's No Kiss Blogfest. (Click the link to find the other blogs participating!)  In her own words:
Totally inspired by Sherrinda, I'd like to announce The No Kiss Blogfest! We'll be posting scenes from our WIPs, favorite books, movies, and tv shows that show the almost kiss-- the rising, crushing, excruciating, longing, tension that comes from when two characters get oh-so-close to kissing that you can just feel it....and then...they don't! 
I had so much fun with Sherrinda's Official Kissing Day Blogfest, (my post is here) that of course I jumped at the opportunity to participate in today's blogfest as well!

I usually only write with past tense POVs. So for today's blogfest, I wrote a new scene and used it as an excuse to push my boundaries of a writer. It's written from two different POVs and it's present tense... (So bear with me, as I've never written this way before!) (And, also, thanks to Shannon for some last minute proofreading!)


Logan is dead. My brother. He’s gone. I don’t understand.
Last night, he ruffled my hair while we watched a movie. I was annoyed. Annoyed! So I tripped him when he left and he slammed his elbow into the corner of the doorway. It was his turn to be irritated—but only in that “you’re such a pest, but I still love you because you’re my little sister” kind of way. At least we grinned at each other before the door closed... at least there’s that.
When Reed knocks at the door, I open it to let him in. His deep gray eyes are as red rimmed as mine and we stand, for a moment, in silence. He’s Logan’s best friend. His roommate. And he’s the skeleton in my “I secretly love you, always have and always will” closet.
Today though, for the first time, my heart barely jolts at his touch when he puts his arm around me. I duck my face into his neck yearning for the comfort of his scent. As always, he smells of fresh fallen leaves on the morning after a night of rain. But the calm I search for sidesteps me and, instead, my eyes and nose begin to flow again. I sniffle into his skin and am belatedly embarrassed by the thought of what my snot must feel like against his throat.

Her shoulders shake against my chest and her tears fall silently into my neck. I smooth a few strands of hair that huddle against my chin and let my hand rest against her back.
I’m ashamed at what I feel as Abby’s body presses into mine. She’s Logan’s sister—off limits—and now’s not the time.
Because Logan is dead.
As the thought sinks in, I clear my throat to divert tears of my own. Abby shifts at the sound and pulls back just enough to look up at me. I can’t help myself. I cup her cheek and brush away a tear with my thumb.
Her green eyes are bright with sorrow, and yet still they pierce through my resolve. I force myself to look away and my gaze falls to her mouth. Her lips, just slightly parted, tremble as though in battle against tears. Again, shame floods through me at the temptation to close the distance between us. But the need. Oh, the need is there and it’s stronger than the shame. 
My lips graze her forehead… her right cheek… the left corner of her mouth…
Now my lips tremble. Like a magnet, they’re pulled toward hers. I pause—close enough to feel the shape of her mouth in the sliver of air between our faces. But here, in this instant, she takes a shaky breath. Anticipation? Fear? Grief? Whatever the cause, it jolts me back to reality—to the realization of what I’ve almost done.
 I jerk away from her.
“Christ, Abby, I’m sorry.” I run a hand through my hair, hating myself when her eyes fill once more. “This is the last thing you need. I… It won’t happen again.”
I stride to the other side of the room and resist the urge to punch a wall. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her reach out a hand, but by the time I turn to face her again, it’s dropped back to her side and she won’t meet my eyes.


Thanks for reading!!

On a lighter note, I'll leave you with one of my favorite almost kiss moments... From the MTV awards—I saw it the night it aired, and all I can really say is... SIGH

♥ me

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!!

It's that time of year!  Time to make my... <insert drum roll>...

New Year Resolutions!

"You Pick Two"
aka: I'd take two out of the three if push came to shove...
  • Find a fabulous agent
  • Get published by a kickass publishing agency
  • Make millions

"Free Shipping"
aka: I have control over these things... no shipping/querying/begging required...
  • Write new (stand alone) project--first draft complete by end of March
  • Write second book in Shattered Trilogy (tentatively titled: Pieces of Pearls)
  • Write third book in Shattered Trilogy OR second stand alone novel
  • Balance time better between being a wife and a writer
  • Host at least four blog contests
  • Be more responsive to comments left on The Babbling Flow (sorry about the recent lack thereof! the past few weeks have been crazy hectic with holiday visitors/anniversaries/laziness...)
  • Read at least 150 books

 "Buy One, Get One Half Off"
aka: 100% chance that I'll go to one of these, 50% chance I'll go to both
  • LA SCBWI Conference in July
  • Weeklong Writing Workshop at the Amalfi Coast Music & Arts Festival

aka: these would be really nice add-ons!
  • Increase blog followership to at least 250
  • Write fourth book in 2010
  • Celebrate with my CPs when each of them becomes agented/published!!

How I'll be spending my first day of 2010:
  • taking my sister and her kitties to the airport
    (sad face... tears actually... sobfest 2010 & an entire box of tissues demolished)
  • writing an almost kiss scene from Frankie's No Kiss Blogfest
    (happy face, in writing cap)
  • finish reading Shannon's chapters... that I promised her like a WEEK ago!
    (apologetic cringe and then happy face, in editing cap)
  • start my NEW project!!
  • plan my entry for LTWF's Book Trailer Contest
    (furrowed brows & lips bitten... nervous because I'm technologically challenged... I'd never be able to do something like

What are YOU up to?

♥ me