A to Z Challenge 2013

Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Fun

Today's post is about fun, celebration, and good writing. I usually don't spam a bunch of links, but there are a few people I want to shout about. Your job is to just accept this list, and then go visit these people. I know, it's an onerous duty, but we all must do what is required. Then we'll have cake, music, and discuss some writing.

First on the list of people to visit are:

Travis at One Word, One Rung, One Day - Travis is troubled by the fact that he has not achieved publication despite eight years of hard work. We all need to let him know just how valuable he is to the writing community, and how terrible it would be if he allows his voice to be silenced. If you haven't had the chance to read Travis' blog, you need to. This is a writer with a very distinct voice and a true gift for storytelling. Do me a favor - stop by, read his stuff, and encourage him to keep at it. It would be a dark day if we didn't have Travis to lighten our moods.

Jeannie at Where Romance Meets Therapy - Jeannie has received positive news on a query she recently sent out. I'm a fan of hers, and I'm sure she'd appreciate you stopping by to say congratulations.

More Superior Scribblers - Christopher and Jamie have joined the ranks of Superior Scribblers, and the award is well deserved by both. I drop by their blogs whenever possible, and I've always found them to be inspiring and talented. Help them celebrate this neat honor.

Rebecca at From Brain To Bookshelf - Rebecca is leagues ahead of the competition in the Ms. Twitter UK contest. Her motto "The Pen Is Mighter Than The Pin-Up" is awesome, not to mention so appropriate. She only has three more days left, so make sure you stop by, vote for her, and drop a comment on her blog.

Michelle at The Surly Writer - Michelle is too cool for words. She has an article series going right now about her first job. It's truly entertaining and showcases her writing ability very well. Since I consider Michelle a friend (and hopefully the reverse is true), I'd appreciate you stopping by to see her. Trust me, you won't regret it. Her storytelling is superb.

Celebrating each other's successes and writing ability is necessary I think. It's important that we remember why we are doing this, and that we aren't on this journey alone. The writing community is really wonderful sometimes, but we need to remind each other of the little successes (and of course large ones) everyone is achieving. It helps us get through the patches when things aren't happening like we'd like them to. If I've left anyone out, let me know and I'll shout about you here too.

I do have a writing question for the English majors out there. This has been something that has bugged me for a long time, and I don't know what the rules are. I absolutely hate when people begin a sentence with the word 'however'. For example:

However, trying to ride a bicycle is not as easy as it looks.

My question is this: What is the rule about this phenomena? Is it okay to start a sentence in this manner? I always thought you had to write sentences using 'however' like this:

I know why not everyone rides however, since trying to ride a bicycle is not as easy as it looks.

It's just something that has bugged me, and I would like some clarification. These are perhaps not the best examples, but hopefully you get the idea.

I did mention fun as well, so here is where the fun comes in. Take the following scene and run with it, expanding it in whatever way you wish. Be creative, head off along any tangent you like. It has been left genre-less, so you can truly do what you wish:

The raindrops stung his bare scalp as Tad struggled up the slope, the rocks scraping against his toes. His eyes were downcast, intent on the climb. As he neared the crest...

Fun is subjective. Non-writers would definitely find a writing prompt less than enjoyable, but we're writer's dammit! It's okay if you choose not to join in, but I'd love to see where people take this. Remember, writing is fun and sometimes we just have to let our muse go haywire on the page.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday Wramblings

The title for this post have you wondering what the heck I'm up to today (no comments about the spelling either). I suppose Wednesdays should be WiP Wednesdays. I'll explain why this isn't so. Monday I was going to put up a post called Monday Muse, and it was going to be a free writing exercise. Do you think my muse wanted to talk? Heck no. Tuesday was to become Tuesday Teaser, with pretty much the same intention. Suffice it to say that I have kicked the muse out of the room and I'm just going to shotgun it.

I've started book two of the Twilight series, because I promised my son I would read through them all, no matter how painful the experience. The first book was pure torture. The writing was inane, the storyline predictable, and overall it was just a terrible read. I am trying to go into book two with a positive attitude, but it's been really difficult to maintain. For those of you who love the books, you'll probably want to skip this section of the post.

For starters, the vampires are repeatedly described as cold and hard (not very well, I might add). Okay, I get that. What makes the author think I need to be reminded once more that Edward Cullen's skin is like ice, that he's a stone statue, that Bella will freeze to death if she sits next to him too long? You've made it clear that he's cold. Check. You've made it clear that his body is like hard stone. Check Check. No need to press the concepts, they're not difficult to understand. The fact that the MC constantly thinks about these aspects of the man she loves makes me question her sanity and intelligence. Get past it already.

I'm not going to rip the book through and through, but I will say that this is going to be a long painful trip. Maybe I can claim a sprained eyeball? Le Sigh (as Elana is so fond of saying).

What can we learn from this poor writing? When we're describing our characters, we need to do what we can to avoid repetition. We have to assume that the reader will remember the fact that our fair lady has long blonde tresses, that she uses a red hair tie because red reminds her of the bloody roses growing near her dead lover's grave (this is an example, not an excerpt from Twilight). Once we've put this description out there, we should feel confident that the image has been burned into their minds and doesn't need repeating unless the situation really warrants it. Subtle reminders of a MC's physical characteristics are okay, but we don't want to bash the reader over the head with it repeatedly.

I got an email from NaNoWriMo yesterday, and it struck a chord. I was wavering on the edge for this one, but I've concretely decided to make it a goal. I will be participating this November, and come the 30th, I will have a 50K+ MS drafted. It's pretty daunting to me, considering the fact that I will need to write over 1600 words per day. But I'm going to jump in with both feet and give it a shot.

Lastly, I want to pose a challenge to you all. I received an blogger award on Monday, and although the award was really awesome, the listing of my seven favorite things was really the reward. That might sound a bit odd, but as I worked through the list, I found myself celebrating my life. It was really fun, especially as I reflected on what that said about me (thanks to Galen). My challenge to you all is this - List your seven favorite things (either in a post or here in comments). You may surprise yourself (and the rest of us) with what makes the list.

I was surprised to find that one of the items involved my writing. A year ago, that wouldn't have been anywhere in my mind. Ain't it funny where life takes us?

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Couple Things On A Monday

First off I must apologize to Christy over at Juvenescence. She awarded me a Kreativ Blogger award, which I am very thankful for. I was supposed to put a post up about this on Friday, but I either forgot or just got lazy (you pick). I also am going to refrain from following all the tenets of this award (that of picking seven other lucky awardees to give it to), but I have a good reason for this. I had such a hard time trying to decide on ONLY five people for the last award, and I just don't want to go through the emotional turmoil again. Yes, I do take these awards very seriously (even if they are meant to be just for fun), and I am surrounded by so many talented people, it's too hard to pick from the crowd.

I will follow the other requirement though, that of stating my seven favorite things:

1. Tickle wars with my youngest son.

2. Watching my oldest son become a man.

3. Movie night with my wife.

4. Doughnuts (particularly long johns).

5. Writing a scene that makes my skin crawl.

6. Playing video games (yep, still a gamer at heart).

5. Riding my motorcycle through the mountains.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that ResAliens is running a contest, and you can win a copy of Offworld by Robin Parrish. Go here for the details.
Finally, I'm in editor hell today (again) as all the writers I edit for at Brighthub.com will be submitting their articles (which should have already been submitted days or weeks ago). This is going to be a busy end of month.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm A Scribbler....YEAH!

I have been honored by Jeannie over at Where Romance Meets Therapy with the prestigious Superior Scribbler Award. Before I get into the details of the award however, I'd like to say a few thing about Jeannie. She is a character therapist (among so many other things), and you may be asking what that means. She has an incredible ability to take your character and help you figure out and understand what motivates them, what their little flaws are, what words you can use to bring your character fully to life. I had the opportunity to make use of her abilities for one of my characters, and it was amazing the insights and ideas she helped me realize. If you ever have a character whose personality you are struggling to nail down, Jeannie may be just the person to help you out.

As for the contest, she has evidently felt I am worthy of the Superior Scribbler Award (although I think if she had seen my handwriting, she would know how appropriate the moniker "scribbler" is). Thank you Jeannie, I appreciate the vote of confidence. This award was created quite some time ago by Melissa at The Scholastic Scribe, and I was amazed at the number of recipients. One of the requirements of the award is to "pay it forward" to five others, a task I found to be quite daunting. For one thing, many of you whom I would award this to are already on the list. The other problem is I am surrounded by so many talented and capable writers, it's really difficult to choose. Before I present my list however, here are the rules I was instructed to follow:

1. Each Superior Scribbler awardee must pass the award on to the 5 most deserving people they know.

2. Each Superior Scribbler must post a link to the author and blog that gave them the award.

3. Each Superior Scribbler must display the award with a link to the Scholastic Scribe's original post regarding the award.

4. Each Superior Scribbler must visit the link mentioned in #3 and add their name to the list of awardees.

5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on their blog.

As I said, choosing five people to award this to was no easy task. There are so many people I learn from here, so many talented writers that I have come to know, and narrowing that down to five people is quite difficult. But a choice must be made, so here are the five people I have passed this award on to:

The Screaming Guppy - This talented writer has helped me in more ways than I can count. Of course, it helps that she is a Diet Coke with Lime drinker, but that had nothing to do with it. I promise.

The Lost Wanderer - Wanderer has a drive and commitment to quality writing that inspires me all the time. Her thoughts are insightful, and her will to continue the journey to publication is something to be proud of.

Beth - Writing It Out is a blog that I've found to be very useful. Beth is a truly talented individual that makes me think all the time, helping me improve the quality of my work.

Davin Malasarn - Davin has professed that my posts make him think, but the reality is quite the opposite. HIS posts make me think, and always in a very good way. Davin is one of three writers at The Literary Lab, and no offense is intended towards his fellow conspirators. All are equally talented writers.

Rebecca Woodhead - This list would not be complete without Rebecca. From Brain To Bookshelf is an example for us all. Not only is she currently a twitter celebrity (yes, I had to squeeze that in there), she has overcome incredible obstacles in her life and continues to work hard as a writer. To say she is an inspiration to me is an understatement.

There are so many more of you that I could give this to, and many of those have already been honored in this way. For those I didn't pick, do not take this as a dig. As I said, it has been difficult choosing. For my awardees, I leave it up to you as to whether you decide to continue this tradition of finding five others. I have chosen you because I do believe you are worthy of recognition.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


No, I'm not chanting about Peter Pan's nemesis (even if I did use an image reminiscient of it). Cassandra over at Darkened Jade got me thinking about the hook, the intriguing thought that gets a reader involved immediately in a story. That means you all get to follow me as I work through the concepts.

When I first started writing, I would often make the worst mistake - starting a story with the character waking up. After I got to thinking about it (and read other bloggers lamenting about it), I realized how cliche it is. I have since abandoned that particular practice.

What is a hook, you ask? Well, for those of you who aren't sure, the "hook" is the first sentence (or couple of sentences) that grabs a reader's attention at the start of the story. This is what compels them to keep reading. It's what marks your story as immediately interesting. "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." There are countless examples of good openers like this one, but the point is that you want to demand the reader plunge in whole-heartedly and strap themselves in. You're about to offer a ride they won't forget, and you don't want them complaining that it feels like kiddie-land when you're trying to take them on the monster of all roller coasters.

How do I work a hook? I've found what usually works for me is to start the story right in the middle of something. Drop the reader right into the action, so they are instantly involved. I have no idea is the the best way to do things, but I think it works. Here's an example:

Alarms were going off everywhere. Jeb scrambled to grab tools, his mind racing as fast as his hands. What did he miss? How long 'til the rent-a-cops showed up? He shoved the crowbar into the canvas bag, the latex glove ripping as his finger caught on the zipper. With surprising agility, he jumped up and turned towards the door. The beams on his face and chest however, gave him a reason to pause. That and the guns pointed in his direction. He gauged his chances of dodging the hurricane of lead, trying to ignore their shouted threats. Then he moved.

As you can see, the reader is involved. Things are happening quickly, and all hell is about to break loose maybe. But what if you're not writing a thriller? How do you hook your reader if it's a different genre? Here's another possibility, from a different angle.

Leaves were falling, blocking the rays of sunlight that fell across her face. Each one dragged a shadow across her, hinting at the darkness ahead. Timothy had no idea what to do, but he'd read once that kissing a princess would wake them up. She might not really be a princess, but it was worth a shot. He kneeled next to her inert form and leaned over. He didn't want to close his eyes, because he might kiss her nose and it wouldn't work. Her lips were cold like a worm fresh from the ground; he remembered being forced to eat one last summer. Ignoring the uncomfortable memories that evoked, he held his lips against hers for a long moment before raising up once more. He must not be her prince, he thought as a tear slid down his cheek.

This passage isn't an adrenaline rush. It does perform the same action as the previous one however, which is what hooks are about. Both of them pose questions in the reader's mind, questions that need answering. Who is this person? Why are they there? Where is "there"? Why are they doing this? If it's written well enough, the reader will seek answers to all of these questions. And then you have them "hooked".

How do you approach creating a hook in your own writings? Did these two examples hook you or could they have been done better?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Dose Of Reality...In A Good Way

I don't know about you, but I have noticed lately a problem in my thought processes. I have had this sense of urgency building in my head, this feeling that nothing I am doing is happening fast enough. I attempt to write as often as possible, and sometimes I'm successful at that. The WiPs I'm crafting however, are not being built as quickly as I would like. Whether its my lack of organization or my muse just being miserly, the words do not come out with any expediency.
So the question I asked myself this morning was this: What do I need to do to change my process? What's going wrong here that I am so frustrated and stressed? I did not immediately find any answers of course, my muse continuing to hang out in the corner snickering at my inability to motivate it.
As I was browsing through blogs, I noticed an unspoken (and sometimes outright shouted)theme running through many of them. The writing industry has a pace. It's a heartbeat that runs through every publishing house, every agent. The pace is slow; it takes a great deal of time to go from inception to publication. No matter how much we as authors wish it were otherwise, it's not going to change anytime soon. This isn't necessarily a bad thing however. I related to my son a mantra the other day, one that I have to remind myself of from time to time. Everything happens at its due time. I'm not going to delve down into a philosophical discussion about whether Fate exists or if God has a plan, but I do believe that things happen when they are supposed to.
How is this a good thing for writing though? For starters, knowing that there is no quick path to publication (other than self publication, of course) makes us as writers take the time to think about our writing. We spend alot more time going over and over our works, because we know that the road ahead is long, and there's no reason to work for a year on a book to have it rejected due to poor writing. Agents/Editors/Publishers continue this process (perhaps unconsciously) by searching through massive amounts of proposals in order to find one or two decent books worth publishing. By the time it's all said and done, a worthwhile story graces the page. Yes, sometimes poor writing does squeak through (cough...Twilight...cough), but the hope is that most of these rotten apples have been thrown out.
The dose of reality is that our task is difficult, it takes a long time to complete, and we are not alone in our struggles. Everyone has to go through this process (even it seems easier for some), and the number of successful books published is inspiring. With regards to my own process, I just need to plow through the rough patches, continuing to write. I have to keep in mind all the rest of you out there working at the same task, all of us in the same proverbial boat. It's not always fun, but the successes of others remind me that it'll be worth it.
Do you struggle with the pace of publication? Or have you found methods to ignore/bypass your own impatience?

Unnamed Musing

Killing wasn’t enough anymore. The realization hit him as the knife dragged along the bone. It caught for a moment, forcing Louis to pull a bit harder until it was free. He needed to experience something new. Rapists were reviled in jail however; he’d heard they rarely survived these days. He wasn’t sure yet what new games he would play, but he had plenty of time to decide.

Louis wiped off the blade on her white towel, admiring the contrast for a moment. The tone of her skin was pale, like the towel. Her hair though, was a different shade of red than the blood. So many contrasts, so many similarities. He stood, absently putting the knife away as he adjusted the placement of her arm. She hadn’t been ready yet. He understood that feeling. It was her time however, and death had come calling.

Standing upright, he looked around the bedroom. The lamp shattered when she kicked out, a useless attempt at control. The frail thing had become a wildcat as she recognized the end in his eyes. He had actually been surprised. He could usually see the thoughts scrambling through their brains as they struggled to regain control. Each end was different however, and this time he had guessed wrong. Some women crumbled into a pile, their fear paralyzing even as the blade cut deep. Others became a caged animal, trying to bite and claw away from the abyss. This one had been caged fury, the fight almost fun as Louis finally subdued her.

He would have to start carrying rope. He could tie them up for a while, explore with his knife to follow alongside veins and tendons. Louis could enjoy watching their eyes as he worked, let them see the ecstasy they gave him before he provided a release. Nodding to himself, he checked around before climbing out to the fire escape. Another successful experience he would look back on with a smile. The recently oiled ladder made no sound as he lowered it. He swung his small frame down, dropping to the ground on soft rubber soles. He wondered how many detectives would be used in this investigation, thinking back over every possible mistake he might have made. No, there would be no knocks on his door later. Besides, Ortega and Williams were still leagues away from finding him. They were good, but he was an expert.

“You finished her too quickly.” Louis whirled around, his jaw sliding open as the man stepped from the shadows. His sweaty fingers fumbled for the knife as he backed away. “Oh don’t bother, Louis. I think we both know you’re not going to follow up this performance with an encore.”

“Who…are you??” The man towered over him, well over six feet tall. His long coal black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, it’s hue mirrored in his eyes. The smile on his face was a politician’s grin, right before they took away your house and taxed your coffin.

“Let’s not worry about inane details, Louis. I've got work for you to do.”

Pat Myself On The Back

Today is call for celebration once more. I noticed I have broken the 100 mark of followers (though who knows how many of those early followers are still checking in). I cannot believe I have actually amassed a following this large, but of course I'm pleased. Okay, pleased is way too boring a word. Ecstatic is more like it. I have been cramming my brain over the last couple days trying to come up with a fun contest to celebrate, and of course my muse is grumping in the corner and refuses to cooperate. Something about "contests have nothing to do with writing, dammit". That little gremlin won't help at all, so this may be a quiet celebration.

In any event, I shall take a moment to say "Woohoo" Homer Simpson style. Okay, celebration over.

For those of you who have stuck with me and keep coming back, I truly appreciate your support and participation. I've been a bit lax lately (yes, I know) in my content, so I'll try to ramp that up a bit. When I first started this blog, I was here every day adding new things. I'll do my best to get back to that level of activity.

It's interesting that when I first started this, the blog was for me. It was so I could have somewhere to get things down on paper (virtual, anyway). It has since evolved however, into an interactive exercise where I get to muse along with all of you. There are so many talented and intelligent people who stop by to comment, and I've even had some neat experiences interviewing authors. I got to interview Jamie Ford! Does it get better than that? Well yes, if I were able to wrangle an interview with Stephen King maybe (no offense Jamie). But all in all, this has been so much fun.

I have tried to acknowledge everyone else's successes (those that I follow), but if you have something to celebrate, drop me a comment here. I'll put up a post (or edit this one) so everyone can celebrate along with you. Tell me all about your own successes so we can party it up!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Contest Winner - Tere

I held a contest not too long ago celebrating my 100th post, and Tere was able to answer faster than a keen-eyed hawk snatching a mouse. She chose a personal interview as her prize (rather than subject us lowly mortals to her outstanding wit as a guest blogger or subject her WiPs to my skills as beta reader/editor), so here is a quick view into her world.

When did you begin your journey as an author? Did you just wake up one morning and decide to write or was it an idea building in the back of your mind for some time?

When I was fifteen or maybe younger, I started writing YA fantasy. So yes, I wrote YA fantasy before it was cool. Of course, I was a pantser then, and most of my ideas were X-men type knock-offs or were-wolf stories or something a little too close to an Anne McCaffrey planet or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain for comfort. I only actually finished one of those, so I suppose that's why, when I started writing again, I became more of a plotter.

It wasn't until after this little storm we had here in the city that I decided not to put off writing again any longer and an idea just started to come to me. You never know what the future will hold, so don't put off writing. It's easy and can be done anywhere you can put pen to paper or fingers to keys. Please don't write your novel on your Palm Pre in the middle of rush hour traffic, though. We writers get enough flack from normal people.

Describe your writing process? Do you like to outline first or do you build the story as you go?

I'm definitely a plotter, but I wouldn't go so far as saying I'm an outliner. While the pivotal scenes are pretty clear in my head, the rest is written as I go, or as I think of what to write next based on how my characters are developing. I sometimes skip ahead and write these pivotal scenes down; they become goals to catch up with to keep me writing. Whenever I overtake one of these scenes I feel like I've really accomplished something, and it makes it easier to believe that I'll soon have a finished first draft. They sometimes need a little editing when I get to them, or are even changed drastically if the story calls for it.

I never fear editing like that, and the surprises that come up, the unexpected turns and twists and complex subplots, are what make the writing fun and keep it fresh for me. I never start writing a story before I at least know how the main character is going to change, but even I don't always know the sum experiences that change said character until the first draft is done.

Who is your favorite literary character (either one of your own or someone else's) and why do they appeal to you?

This may sound weird, but Max from Where the Wild Things Are is my favorite if he counts as a literary character. With only a pair of pajamas and his imagination, he's King of the Wild Rumpus in the land of the Wild Things and back in his bed before morning. I'm dying to see the movie.

Who would you say your greatest writing influences are?

Reading Anne McCaffrey, Heinlen, Bruce Coville and even Anne Rice made me want to be a fantasy writer. Hmm, looking back on it now, I suppose reading Anne Rice at the impressionable age of thirteen probably steered me toward the paranormal and explains a lot about my current WiP. As I read more and more contemporary Young Adult fantasy, I've been taking inspiration and writing tips from authors like Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfeld and Suzanne Collins. Writing contemporary YA is a tricky business but these authors do it with flair, great storytelling and perfect pacing.

You've said before that you're new to the blogging world. What are your thoughts to blogging as a whole, as well as how it impacts your writing?

I used to be addicted to agent blogs. It's great that aspiring authors can finally hear from overworked agents in a relaxed, informal setting that can be both informative and entertaining. Since I've had my own blog, what I get most out of the experience is the knowledge that there are so many other unpublished writers out there enduring the same trials of writing-- editing, submitting, editing again, and finally giving up and starting over-- that I am. Just knowing that others, including published authors, have the same worries gives me hope. To outsiders, non-writers, it might seem odd that I would sympathize so deeply with people who at first glance would appear to be the competition. But other blogging writers have taught me more than just writing tips; they are the ones who taught me perseverance, confidence, and faith.

You're in the process of submitting works to agents/editors/publishers now. How do you feel about the whole process?

So sick of it. I'm actually about to put Evangeline out to pasture. It's hard when your betas love something, but you just can't get an agent to love it the way they do. It's a tough business when even the crafting of a simple query can make you second-guess the quality of your completed novel. It is at once the most thrilling and soul-crushing experience. Reading agent blogs does make the whole process seem less daunting, more human. It is my least favorite part of the writing process, but after shopping around my third book, I am getting used to it.

What's your chosen genre? What makes it appealing to you as a writer?

Lately all my stories seem to come out as YA Paranormal Romances. For some reason I can't write reality. Not sure if I even want to. This wasn't a genre when I was in high school, back in the days before they cracked the human genome and boy bands roamed the Earth. Sci-fi and fantasy were my favorite books to read as a teen, but there was something I always found a little dated about the books written before I was born that filled the shelves of my podunk high-school library. Still not sure how I ever survived before the invention of Amazon. The appeal is also in the unknown, and the ability to explore the limits of my creativity.

What's your favorite color and why? (see, you didn't really think I'd ask that, huh?)

It changes every few years. Right now it's turquoise. I like it because it's bright-- but not too bright-- uplifting, and plays well with lots of other colors. It used to be blue, then pink, then green...

Any hints of what works you currently have in progress?

The novel I'm currently plowing my way through-- seriously, I've never written anything so fast in my life-- is still untitled. It started out with only a hint of paranormal and no romance, but now it is thoroughly YA paranormal romance. I'm doomed to a life of writing star-crossed teenage lovers, it seems. I've been trying to figure out a plot for a sci-fi novel, but that is so back burner I don't even have characters yet, just a vague and incomplete setting/conflict concept, nothing to write yet. While paranormal comes easy, writing sci-fi is like shoving my brain through a meat grinder and sifting for crumbs of story. Okay, maybe it's more like panning for dilithium crystals.

Any lessons learned you want to share with the rest of us?

Even if you think your manuscript is ready to pitch to literary agents, wait a little while longer than you think. Send it out one last time to a reader. Make sure you're sure, because you may not get a second chance with the agents who request pages.

And while it might seem egotistical to think that your manuscript is the best thing since The Kite Runner, it doesn't hurt to be proud of your work. Just be open to the realization that the same manuscript you once thought would be a best-seller, might seem mediocre the next day. Even after countless rejections, every time I start a new project I think, THIS IS THE ONE. And because I'm learning, and growing and practicing and thinking critically about my work, who knows? This time, it just might be.

Thanks Eric, this was fun, and mostly painless. Except for the parts when I remembered my thirteen year old self reading Anne Rice. *shudders* That explains so much...

Thank you Tere, for letting us see where you're coming from. It's always really interesting to hear about writing from other viewpoints, other perspectives. I particularly like your thoughts on lessons learned. There's some good nuggets there we can all take away.

Agents and Agent Relationships

In one of the most informative posts I've ever read on agents (no offense to others who touch on this subject), Lynn Viehl discusses everything you'd probably ever want to know about agents. This is a must read, no matter if you already have an agent or if you're out shopping for your first. Oh, and thanks to Mark Terry for the heads up on it. I wouldn't have found it without him pointing it out.

Rebecca Is Leading The Pack

If you've been following along, I mentioned one of our fellow writers involved in the Ms UK Twitter contest. Rebecca was doing awesome before, but now she is on top. As responsible writers/publishers/agents/etc, we need to keep her there. Go here as often as you can and give her a vote. This woman has gone through the fire and come out on the other side reforged, so let's give her a reason to celebrate. If she wins, there will be much rejoicing everywhere in the literary community (or at least here in this little corner of the world). So please help out and thank you very much.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Devil's Gold - Book Review

Devil's Gold is the first novel by author Julie Korzenko. The premise of the story revolves around the renowned zoologist Cassidy Lowell as she tries to protect the natural world from the uncaring machinations of New World Petroleum. Unwilling to tow the NWP line, she is reassigned to a new problem in Yellowstone National Park, where she teams up with Jake Anderson. Although both of them work for the organization known as ZEBRA, there is more to Jake than meets the eye - and more going on behind the scenes than even Cassidy suspects.

As the story progresses, Cassidy becomes aware of a secretive black ops section hidden somewhere beneath ZEBRA's public facade. Jake is an enigma she finds disconcerting and appealing, despite her best attempts at ignoring the feelings building within her. Wolves in Yellowstone are dying at an alarming rate, an abnormal virus may be the cause, and everyone around her is not exactly what they seem.

Devil's Gold is a fast-paced story, sure to keep you interested from beginning to end. The characters are compelling, and there are surprises around every corner. While I hesitate to compare one author to another, Devil's Gold reminded me in some ways of Tom Clancy's books with Jack Ryan and John Clark. I'm not trying to say Julie has copied Clancy's style, but the similarities are there in some respects. If you're a fan of Clancy's books (as I am), you'll probably like this one as well. This is an awesome thrill ride, just enough romance to be intriguing but not sappy, and by the end you'll be waiting on the edge of your seat for the sequel (which as I understand it is in the works). Pick this one up today; you won't regret it.

Interview With Julie Korzenko

Julie Korzenko is the author of the delightful book Devil's Gold. I have a review of this book forthcoming, but I was lucky enough to get an interview with Julie. She is from 'across the pond', but she's settled down here in the southern US (and we're quite happy to have her). The book is thrilling, well written, and I for one am looking forward to more from this fine author. Here's what she had to say in our quick question and answer session:

Devil's Gold is situated in two distinctly different locales. Have you had the opportunity to visit either Yellowstone or the Niger Delta, or did you have to do a great deal of research for the book?

Jackson, Wyoming is one of my favorite places in the entire world. I spent several days exploring Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Forest, and it stamped an indelible visual image on my brain. The Niger Delta, however, was all done through research. It is a tumultuous region, and I'm nowhere near as brave as Cassidy. In addition, I'm a starving artist so the cost of a trip to Africa was a bit steep for my budget.

The main character Cassidy is an unusual heroine, not what one might expect for a female lead. You were actually asked to change her prior to publication, correct? What was it about the character that made you stick to your guns? How hard was it for you to stand firm on the issue?

I was told by a large publishing house that she wasn't kick-ass and, therefore, unsaleable. It was very hard for me to stand firm on not rewriting, because I am of the opinion that editors and agents know what's what and listening to sound advice is the appropriate thing to do. It really went against every grain of common sense I had. But I listened to my inner-self -- the creative voice because that's where the heart of my character lives. In the end, rewriting felt incredibly wrong. I was afraid my keyboard would go up in flames. I stuck to my guns, but, it wasn't easy.

You seem to have a number of projects in the works across multiple genres. Describe your writing process and how you manage so many stories at once? Where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration surrounds me. An entire story can be sparked by a stranger's simple remark on the weather. I have serious genre ADD which is not necessarily a good thing. Because I have always read across all genres, I think my mind is incapable of limiting itself to one particular area. What I will add is that no matter what I'm writing...all my work contains "thriller" aspects.I work full time so the physical process of putting words on the screen is done Friday through Sunday. The rest of the week is spent in "virtual" writing, twisting my plots and mentally laying out what will be put on paper over the weekend. As a new story sparks, I am very strict with myself and put down the skeleton of the plot and then focus right back on the manuscript I'm currently wrapping up. I find that the nearer I get to the end on my current work the more stronger the pull is from the next manuscript...which is definitely a good thing.

Your web page depicts a typewriter. Are you one of the few and proud authors who bang away on a typewriter? Or do you prefer the feel of a fountain pen in your hand as it glides across the page?

I love typewriters. I learned to type on one of those things! However, I am a 21st century gal and all my work is created on a PC. I do always have a journal at hand and use that to jot down ideas and new plot lines when I'm away from the keyboard. I've learned that the journal is much easier to refer to as opposed to the back of receipts and crumpled napkins.

Your passion and background with regards to animals comes through nicely in Devil's Gold. How many and what type of animals do you currently take care of?

Other than my teenagers, I have six dogs, three cats, and a slew of Koi.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or readings you'd like to make us aware of?

Currently, I am under deadline with the sequel to DEVIL'S GOLD so I don't have any signings scheduled. However, I am an active member in the International Thriller Writers Organization and have the honor of interviewing an author every month and posting that piece to the ITW monthly news bulletin. Beyond August, I will be back on the hunt for book signings.

Would you care to dole out any words of wisdom for the rest of us aspiring authors?

Well, Eric, you know that I'm a big fan of P3 - passion, perseverance and patience. I think that these three qualities are integral to becoming published. It's not an easy road to travel but stay true to your voice, work very hard at your craft and never ever give up.

Thanks Julie. I'm honored to be able to interview you, and I'm definitely a fan of your writing. Feel free to stop by anytime, and let me know when your next book is out so I can talk all about it.

Thank you Eric! Next book is ANGEL FALLS. I should have my release date within the next few weeks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Over 100 Posts!

I just realized I dashed past the 100th post without even noticing. Well that's no way to run a blog, now is it? In celebration of this event, I have a contest in mind. The first one to provide the correct answer to the question I pose will win a prize. Since I can't afford to buy anyone anything (sorry, but I'm barely making it as it is), the prize will be your choice of the following three things:

1. A guest blog spot here, with whatever topic you have in mind. I will shout your name to the blog gods, and you will suddenly be very famous.

2. Free editing/beta reading by yours truly on a work of your choosing. I am quite proud of the fact that I'm a damn good editor, and I'm more than happy to help you out with a second pair of eyes.

3. An in-depth interview of you, your works in progress, your already published books, whatever, by yours truly. As in number one, your name will be emblazoned here for all to see in all its glory.

Yes, this is a bit of silliness, as are the prizes perhaps. But hey, if I can't have fun once in a while, what good is it? Without further ado, here is your contest question:

What World War II movie farce involved a cast of French Underground soldiers named after various desserts? Bonus points if you can name them all. Oh, and try not to cheat by googling.

Cast your ballots now. Operators are standing by to take your answers.

Foreshadowing In Writing

Today I want to talk about the use of foreshadowing in writing. This is difficult to do well, but it's something every author deals with in some form or another. In case you're not sure what foreshadowing is:


(fôr-shād'ō, fōr-)
tr.v. fore·shad·owed, fore·shad·ow·ing, fore·shad·ows
To present an indication or a suggestion of beforehand; presage.
fore·shad'ow·er n.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What A Wonderful Morning

Why yes, it is a wonderful morning. Why, you ask? Well, for starters I passed my Security+ certification exam (which was a real bear), so today I am basking in the glow of success. Now I merely have one more exam to finish and a huge paper to write (not as fun as my writing projects talked about here, but anyway) and then I am done. Even though I go to an online college, I still plan on going up to my college's physical location and walking across the stage in a cap and gown to get my little piece of paper. The anticipation within me is boiling over every minute - its safe to say I cannot wait to finish this very long road.

It's also a nice morning because I am taking a week off of school. I'm not going to do any studying, I'm not going to begin my paper yet. I'm just going to sit back and let my mind rest, and in the midst of all this spare time I will be working on my WiPs. Now that is something to celebrate.

My last post erased any thoughts I have been harboring about being a weird writer. Evidently there are enough of us out there that are also not completely in control of their characters' fates. Kind of weird when you think about it, but at least all of us are weird together.

In any event, it is a sunshiny day, yesterday was payday (always cause for celebration), and I passed my test. So take a cue from me and find a couple things to celebrate on this fine Saturday - even if its nothing more than shouting out about your current WiP. These are the days that make every other one worth slogging through. Enjoy a happy day on me!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Growing Characters

Robyn Campbell over at Putting Pen To Paper got me thinking about my characters. When I begin writing, I usually have at least one character in mind. But it's very much like puppy love between teenagers. You love someone, but you really don't know what it is about them that you love, nor do you really know them very well anyway.

As my stories progress, the characters reveal themselves to me slowly but surely. Yes, I am fully admiting that I am not in charge of their progression. They are. The little mannerisms they do or the turns of phrase they use sneak onto the page whenever they decide to let it slip.

In one of my projects for example, Kris is a 25 year old who feels a great deal of disdain for his fellow man. Until recently, he thought he was the only one on the planet who had truly great power, and the rest of humanity might as well be ants crawling on the sidewalk. I have found out however, that he's not as tough on the inside as the image he portrays to everyone else. There are things he's afraid of, and the possibility that someone greater than he exists does give him a long moment of pause. He has the capacity for love, an emotion he thought long dead in his heart. He might even believe in heroism a bit, though to date he is still fighting against that ideal. Since he figures he will outlive everyone else around him, he appears to be less than concerned for their welfare. Events are conspiring to change his mindset however, so there may yet be more to him than even I can imagine.

It's very interesting watching my characters grow before me, show me the various facets of their personalities. It also makes me realize I'm much better at characterization than I am at the details of their surroundings. I focus on them so much that I usually have to go back and add in what's around them later. I get to see my characters in much the same manner the reader does, so possibly that's a good thing. As long as I become well-acquainted with them by the end of the story, my reader should too. As I craft this post, Kris is already whispering new things to me, revealing little tidbits that he thinks I should include in the story. I still can't fathom how he chooses which details to share, but at least he's still talking to me.

How do you craft your characters? Do they speak to you in the corners of your mind or do you order them about like tin soldiers?

Helping Out A Buddy

My friend Rebecca is in a Twitter contest, and she needs our votes. This is a rare opportunity to vote for a truly wonderful writer (and a great person to boot). So if you have a moment, stop by and vote for her. She has overcome a great deal in her lifetime thus far, and she is definitely deserving of a few triumphs like this.
I still haven't joined the ranks of Twitterers, but watching Rebecca go through the fun, I'm slowly being convinced that from a marketing perspective, this just might be a necessity. I don't know how much fun it is to try to write using so few characters, since I'm sure everyone is aware of my lack of ability to be concise. Yes, I'm working on it, but anyway. Rebecca is using this medium for all its worth, so I for one hope she receives alot of attention through it. Do me a favor and vote for her. A fellow writer reaching these heights is awesome, and I hope she makes it all the way. Good luck Rebecca. You know I have my fingers crossed for you.

Reading Twilight - A Weird Experience

The book I mentioned I was reading (see previous post) is Twilight. If you haven't heard of it, you're either an astronaut who's been off planet for a while or you've been stuck in a log cabin in the wilderness with no phone or tv for way too long.

Now this book is a best seller, everyone is talking about it, movies are being made, and the author is in high demand for everything from interviews to advice. So with that in mind, I was expecting to be in awe of the level of writing in the book. I enjoyed the movie well enough, despite some questions regarding some of the characters that I felt were left unanswered. Oh, there will probably be spoilers discussed here, so if you don't want to know, don't continue reading.

The main character is a young girl who evidently is completely unhappy with everything and everyone. The problem is despite the author's "reasons" for this persons actions, none of it makes much sense so far. I haven't gotten all the way through the book yet, but I'd say I have at least a decent handle on who this person is.

For example, the girl decided to move in with her father despite the fact that she hates clouds, rain, and snow. And where her father lives there is evidently very little sunlight making its way down. She says her reasons for this is because her mom has a new hubby, a minor league baseball player who isn't at home much, and she doesn't want her mom to be unhappy because the mom misses her new hubby. Huh? You move to somewhere you hate, to live with a father you don't even respect or love enough to call him 'Dad' (except to his face, where you pretend to care), all because you want your mom to be happy with her new beau (even though you don't seem to really love or respect her that much either)? Yeah, suffice it to say I haven't really understood the author's motivations for creating this character who doesn't make any sense to me. It's either an incredibly brilliant crafting of someone who is completely conflicted and nonsensical or pure baloney. I haven't decided which yet.

Then of course there's the problem that it's written in first person. I've said before that I'm not really a big fan of first person. I don't like writing it, and I rarely like reading it. The problem I find within Twilight is how insightful this main character is. It takes her forever to figure out exactly what Edward Cullins is (a vampire), and yet she is able to read the emotions and reactions from everyone around her with incredibly accuracy. I would think if you don't really know a person very well (since you don't talk to people much), it would be pretty hard to guess what their visual cues. Some facial responses are obvious, like anger or happiness. But the level of knowledge she guesses about her fellow students is astounding.

All of this is not to say I am not enjoying the story. It is intriguing to say the least, but when I compare it to other authors I've read recently, I can't say I think she is the cat's pajamas. I will withold final judgement however, until I finish the entire series. There are four (so far I think) books, so we'll see how long they keep my attention.

Has anyone else read these? Or maybe I should ask who hasn't? For those who have, am I way off base here with my interpretations?

Wrong Month, Wrong Choices

When I decided to do 30 days of writing, I should have thought more carefully about what month it is. For one thing, I have been woefully absent from the blog, something I humbly apologize for. I usually try to keep this blog about writing, but I feel the need to provide explanations for my absence (not excuses, just explanations).

Prior to the 5th, my wife and I were preparing and packing because we were taking our two boys out to Kansas. My parents met us there and took custody of said children, and they will be gone until the 18th. For two people whose lives revolve around their kids, this amounts to tragedy at its finest. My wife and I have been stumbling around, going through the motions of things, but we really haven't been coping very well. Suffice it to say we miss our boys terribly. We do get the chance to talk to them on the phone, but it's just weird for us. This is one of those life-changing events that reminds us of the impending disaster. Eventually our sons will leave our home permanently, something we haven't really prepared ourselves for. Yes, we know it's coming but we wish it wouldn't, even if we know that its normal and the expected path of these things.

I've also had my head buried in studies as I prepare for an extremely difficult test. It's on computer security, and I just want to get it over with. Thankfully, that will be done on Friday. But the stress within me is at an all time high, since I always stress before these tests. Last night however, I decided to take one night off and I read a book for a while. Perhaps I should have taken the opportunity to write, but my muse is so frazzled at the moment, I don't know how much coherent thought I could manage.

Lastly, my wife is dealing with a great number of life-changing events at the moment and requires a great deal of support from me. I'm not complaining; I love her with every fiber of my being, and this is what I am here for. It's just really tough for her. While I won't go into all the details, suffice it to say that she is dealing with health issues, the passing of her grandmother (with possibly her grandfather not too far down the road as well), our financial issues, her kids being away temporarily, and other huge things bearing down upon her. The fact that she is still able to get up and make her way through the day is amazing, because this has definitely been a tough year or so. Taking time away from her so that I can write has been too much to ask, so unfortunately my writing has suffered.

I'm aware that I haven't kept to my goals this month, but I'm okay with that. I do plan on trying to get back on track, find some balance somewhere in all of this so I can use my writing as a buffer. I need it, to give me a moment of solace from all the other crap I'm dealing with these days. I am not going to make any promises to myself (or you, my faithful followers), but I am going to try to write a bit more often. I only have one more test after this and a large paper to write, and then school will be finally over. I cannot tell you how much weight that will lift off me. Our financial problems will be resolved fairly soon, so that will help too. Then maybe I'll be able to have my muse sit beside me, watching as I build worlds for him to romp through.

I've heard it said that good habits are really hard to start, just as bad habits are hard to break. I truly believe this, since I'm smack dab in the middle of this very thing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tyrian, Part 2

This is the continuation of a musing I started a while back. Comments are welcome, hope you enjoy the trip.

Stars and planets became streaks of light, eagerness propelling him forward at an incredible pace. Too bad they weren't right. Too bad their minor planet wasn't the center of the universe. Then maybe he wouldn't have to fly so far. Tyrian's wings of pearl were folded down his back now, his arms stretched forward like a superhero.

It had been eons since his last visit with the man. Well, man wasn't really an appropriate label, but there were no words to describe someone of his magnitude. It was quite humorous watching the man work though. For someone with so much power, he was laughably humble and eccentric. He'd heard the man speak of a life long since gone, when others like himself used to work together creating and discovering. The concept of multitudes like him was too difficult to imagine however. Of course, he'd once thought his race was immortal as well. That illusion had been smashed repeatedly. Shaking the dark thoughts from his mind, Tyrian flew on, wondering if he wasn't already too late.

The immense tower floated near the edge, the blackness of space a river continuing onward into darkness. Behind him were countless stars and planets, a multitude of projects. As Tyrian slowed, he saw matter coalesce within the curtain of night, forming a opalescent sphere. Well, at least the man was still alive. This must be his next project.

He paused at the door, wondering if he should knock. Impatience decided for him however, so he turned the handle and pushed. His muscles bulged with the effort, but he was able to force the huge stone door open with a grunt. The hallway echoed his sandaled footsteps, and balls of soft light appeared to each side.

"Hello?" Tyrian hated interrupting the man, but this was important. And he was one of the few who could show up uninvited. The man loved his seclusion, no matter that everything he created was about to go up in flames.

"Come on in, Tyrian. You know the way." The familiar voice was distracted as usual.

"Sir, I can see you're deeply involved in another project, but..." He was struck dumb, the sight leaving him speechless. The creature before him was not familiar at all, instead looking like an intricate formation of amber crystals. Were it not for the eyes, Tyrian would have thought he had stepped into a cave.

"Oh my, forgive me. I forgot about my appearance." Instantly, the gargantuan talking crystal was replaced by the familiar form of an wizened old man. He still towered over Tyrian, but the eyes were their usual shade of light blue. "I was imagining myself as a Kinan. Quite interesting, if I may say so myself. I think the race will do spendidly on their new world." The old man turned back towards a large table, an image of the new planet hovering over it.

Rather than ask who the Kinan were, Tyrian started over. "Sir, I need to talk to you about Lazun. You've been absent a really long time. He's bent on destroying everything, sir. Those who don't join his ranks are being murdered."

"Yes, yes. Lazun has been a problem for some time now. There's always one, I suppose. Such a bother too. Maart tried it with the Axems, Crynat almost obliterated the Nemor. The aftermath always requires so much cleanup." The old man turned, his wrinkled hands rotating another image this way and that.

Tyrian walked around the smooth marble slab, standing before his master. "He's going to destroy them, sir. Aren't they your favorites? They used to be all you could talk about." Fury overtook him as he slammed his hands on the table. "They deserve your attention!"

The old man looked his way, eyes full of sadness. A sigh escaped as his shoulders slumped a bit. "Tyrian, you came here looking for my intervention, but you already know the answer to that. Everything I've ever done has a purpose." He swept an arm out, indicating a row of small statues along the wall. "Each of these races have been challenged at one point or another. Some failed to use what was given them, and some survived." He turned back to Tyrian, placing a hand on each shoulder. "You are no different, my son. You were given the job of protecting them from things they are not ready to see or comprehend. You are there to silently guide them, just as they have their own things to take care of."

Releasing his charge, the old man started walking towards the massive staircase going up. Tyrian was shaking, his fury at the man's ambivalence barely held in check. "And what happens when we all die, sir?"

The man paused, looking over his shoulder with a sad smile. "Everything ends sometime Tyrian. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a new world to build." Tyrian gaped as the man strode up the stairs.

Let me know what you think. Like the rest of my musings, this is first draft stuff. And thank you for any comments.

New Goals

I've been in a slump, partially because of stress from an impending exam for college as well as more editing duties I've taken on at my second job at Brighthub.com. I can easily say I haven't written regularly like I should be, though I have managed a little bit here and there. Fast forward to this morning, and I read a post over at Apollo's Lyre which has spurred me to action. Not too long ago, I joined forces with Elana and a great many others who pledged to write every day for thirty days. We all made writing goals, and I actually did manage to keep to my own personal goals.

Since today is the 1st of the month, I'm going to start a new set of goals. I am going to set a goal of 750 words per day for the next 30 days. I will post my progress here, and hopefully it will be just as satisfying as the last time. I have a few things I am currently working on, so it's not like I have to start something new. I just have to continue on current projects. Thanks for the inspiration, Apollo.

To spur inspiration in others, do you have any current writing goals? Have you managed to stick to them fairly well?