Tuesday, August 31

Feels so good to go home!

My beloved family...

        I can't say how incredibly good it was to spend time with the hubby and kids after being away for six months.  It's indescribable.  I can say I'm a little more energized, recharged.  I just sort of wind down without them after a while.  We didn't even need to do anything together for me to enjoy it.  We did, however, catch up on Season 3 of True Blood!  This picture isn't the most recent, but I love it because they are for once all looking toward the camera and smiling.  Soon, hopefully by next summer, I will be home for good...

       Before I leave the blogosphere for the evening, I wanted to share another 'thank you' to my writerly bloggies.  I found recommended often on the blogs the book On Writing by Stephen King.  The book's been out for a while, but I'd never read it until I found it, a new, shiny hardbound copy, at a thrift store for $5. Money more than well spent I say.  It's not that I didn't know already about most of the writer's toolbox he offered.  I learned most of that as well from the blogosphere.  It was his story, his writerly journey.  There were parts of it that brought tears to my eyes.  Yes, my eyes.  I don't cry over books!  It's a good read, and I also put my stamp of approval on it as a recommended read for writers.

        Some quickies on Contest & Blogfests:  Don't forget to join mine, the BLOGFEAST, on Sep 23.  Stretch the theme, be creative, and bring a bloggy appetite.  Oh yeah.  About that word count thingy... well, er... I'm having trouble with the 500 roundabout count.  Both of my potential snippets run around 600-700, so whatev.  Write what you will.  I've yet to see a Blogfest post not worth the read.

        If you're catching this post today before midnight EST, jump over and enter Brad's contest to win a complete boxed set of Charlaine Harris books that inspired the HBO series True Blood. 

        If you'd like to win some great books from Lisa and Laura while they're out on their vacay, head over to LiLa's blog every day this week for a book a day giveaways. 

        Next upcoming blogfest (that I know of at the moment anyway) is Stephanie's Haiku Blogfest on Sep 3/4.  Don't know how to haiku?  Instructions are on her site.  Anyone can do it!

        A couple of pitch/query-type contests are around.  Check out the Gate Keeper's contest by Sep 3.  And tomorrow you won't want to miss the special guest @ Operation Awesome tomorrow.  You may want to have your logline/pitch ready *just in case* something crazy happens.

        So who'd I miss?  Anyone feelin left out in the cold because yer not in my sidebar?  If it's not there, then I don't know about it yet.  Comment or shoot me an email if you've got something special coming up.  I'd be happy to win promote your blogfest/contest.  Anyone else having some good family time lately or have a great, must-have book to recommend for writers?

Tuesday, August 24

Starving for a Blogfeast?

     I'm very excited to host my very first blogfest.  For our theme, I've chosen something we've all loved and hated at some point in our lives.  Something we indulge in on a daily basis.  Something we cannot live without.  Yes, I'm having a BLOGFEAST on September 23, 2010!  Not only is it a blogfest of food, but it's also a feast of blogs.  Please join me in sharing a post regarding anything *food.*

     It can be a scene where food is central or just happens to be in the scene.  It could be a poem about food.  Heck, it could even be about a character named after food, i.e., Powdered Toast Man or Cheeseboy (might wanna ask them if yer thinking of writing a lil story about these guys, lol).  If you end up simply posting a recipe, I'll be sorely disappointed if it's not at least presented in some way resembling creative and literary, something we've not seen before :)

     I suggest shooting for around 500 words or so, but if you end up over by a few hundred, we won't beat anyone up over it.  With this 'fest, it shouldn't be too difficult to keep it fairly short.  Please sign up by September 23 on the linky thing, and if you do sign up, remember to post with a link back here so everyone can find all the blogger links in the Blogfeast.  Thanks, all, for reading, and I hope you get a chance to join the fun!

Friday, August 20

All Sorts of Random Awesomeness

            I’ve recently received my first-ten crit back from Roni @ Fiction Groupie.  She’s an amazing critter!  She addressed the issues I’ve been struggling with (see my struggle), and I’ve since rewritten my first chapter—again.  But it’s so much better now.  I prefer a good, old-fashioned gory crit as long as the suggestions are valid and constructive.  I suppose it’s also a good thing if the person critiquing has some interest in your genre, whether it’s writing or reading.  I, however, fared well.  No blood loss here :) 

            Tuesday’s visit to Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog was fun.  I met a lot of new people, joined quite a few new blogs and gained new followers.  Which is all why I blog in the first place.  Keep your eye out for Alex’s new book, CassaStar, to be released October 19.

            I’ve posted a couple new contests in my sidebar, including an agent pitch to Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary.  I can’t participate, but I highly encourage all you YA/MG/PB authors to get in there.  Please take a look at a great opportunity to win a critique, publicity, copy editing and more from The Writing Show.  The show is an informative and inspirational resource for writers, offering in-depth interviews, reality shows, podcasts, and a wealth of knowledge on writing, publishing and anything related.  By entering, you'll be helping to save this great support for writers.  Also Christine at The Writer’s Hole is hosting a Rainy Day Blogfest as well as a 100 followers contest.  Check out all of the great blogfests coming up!  I’ll be posting one soon, but as I finally get to go home to my hubby and children tomorrow after six months apart, I’ll wait until I’m settled.

            One more major plug before I go.  I recently found new blog buddies, and I can’t say enough how much I enjoy their work.  It’s edgy.  It’s dark.  It’s suspenseful.  It’s fun.  It keeps me hanging on the edge of my seat from Monday to Monday.  Stilettos and Shirley Temples is a serial post written by Simon and Mercedes.  Go there, read it, love it.  You’d think these two were married, the way the story’s progressing.  Also you will be intrigued by Mercedes’ post today about the virtual masked ball.  Join in if you’d like.

            Finally an update on my current projects.  As you can see in my sidebar, I have five on the burner.  Well, only three now, the others are set aside.  My first is just about done, but I’ve got about a week or two left.  I have one major scene rewrite, which is what’s holding it up.  I open the scene to work on it and then promptly turn to my other WIP to work on that instead but, hey, at least it’s still productive. *feels guilty anyway* 

My second is smooth going and the fairly clean first draft should be complete in a month or less.  I am really having an easier time with this one than the first, maybe because I used a balanced ratio of pants to plot.  IDK.  I might like my characters even more than the last ones.  What makes one story easier to write for you than another?  Any thoughts?  And does it necessarily get any easier the longer you’ve been at the writing?

Now I just started a NEW WIP yesterday.  It’s different from the others, written in first person this time.  I am initially planning on making it a short story for the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction competition, but we’ll see where it goes from there.  Their Short Story and Poetry competitions are now open as well.  Anyone else submitting for these?

Sunday, August 15

Minus the Bitchassedness...

I’ve traveled an incredibly long learning curve over the past few months, and what’s helped me the most along the way has been—hands down—the bloggers I follow.  It doesn’t matter to me if they’re unpublished or have no agent yet or already have books out or deals made.  Even teachers can still be students and vice versa.

This business of getting published is pretty darn tough so to me being unpublished alone says nothing about the writing, although I love to see writers I follow get their agent or their book deal.  What counts to me most though is the step up you offer freely to your fellow writers with no signs of backstabby bitchassedness to be found (in public anyway, lol).  I’ve improved my writing incredibly because of what you guys give.

What I’ve personally improved on the most:

 Deeper POV.  I now remove the fat from my sentences to make the action more immediate.  For example:

Okay: She saw him walk through the door.
Better: He walked through the door.

Fewer tags.  I’ve combed through my WIPs to remove all dialogue tags that weren’t necessary.  If it was obvious who was talking, I removed it.  If I thought I needed a tag to identify the speaker, I looked for other ways to ID who it was without using a tag.  I also simplified as much as possible the tags I did need to keep in.  I wanted nothing to distract from the story.

Raise the stakes.  I figured out the plot was too shallow in my first WIP, so I’ve raised the stakes and built a better character arc for my MCs.  If the plot’s too simple, too easy, it leaves to much space for more fat (aka, scenes that don’t advance the plot) in the book.  PS—this takes a lot of work, whew!

 Be careful with the adjectives/adverbs. They certainly aren’t off-limits, but they do need to be used sparingly.  I railed against this at first, but then I figured it out.  If you use a lot, it could be an indication that you’re telling rather than showing, and showing is another way to make action/description more immediate.  For example:

Okay: He walked angrily through the door.
Better: He stormed in, slamming the door on his way.

Don’t navel-gaze.  This can apply to the writing, but I don’t usually have too big a problem with that.  I did learn not to navel-gaze too much when it comes to blogging.  I’m not just blogging for myself.  I like blogging as a way to interact with other writers.  So I try not to be all about my book, my book, my book.

I have to praise the uber-phenomenal Elana J., who was the first blogger I ever followed, before I ever moved to Blogspot to begin with.  She inspired me to completely change my blog, and through her, I found Bethany Wiggins, Suzette Saxton, and LiLa.  These people got me right on the good track with where I should head with my blog.  I’m still really working on it, but I’m getting there.

I haven’t even begun to talk about what I’ve learned about agents, querying, publishing, synopses, pitching, etc., but I’m out of space for now.  What's been most valuable to you?  Does a blogger's advice carry more weight if they're published or agented or does it depend on what the advice is?  How do you feel about offering writerly advice yourself?

Friday, August 13

My First Guest Post Invitation!

Yep, I will be on Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog this Sunday, August 15 (oops, make that Tuesday, August 17).  Just a lil' intro post on my writing journey to date.  If you haven't been by his blog, make the trip because it's awesomesauce fer sure.  I love sci-fi and can't wait to read his newly published book, CassaStar.

While I'm on here, I also want to publicly congratulate Matthew Rush at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment for winning a major-cool query contest at WriteOnCon.  Here's to you getting your stuff out there. *raises drink to you--cough, cough, it's a lil' strong*

For those of you who may have missed WriteOnCon, it was truly amazing.  Lots of great stuff.  I didn't really get to participate much since I was underway for almost all of it, but I'm still planning on going over the posts now that I'm back in San Dog.  Well, also I don't write YA/MG/PB, but what I've read was educational anyway.

If you're interested in attending an online writer's convention, a different one is scheduled for October, but registration is ending very soon for The Muse Online Writer's Conference.  Check out my sidebar to get more information.

One more thing:  Happy Friday the 13th!

Tuesday, August 10

Ways to organize (or maybe to waste your time).

     After a crazy weekend of blogfesting my brains out (and no, I’m still not done reading some of the posts), I’m eager to get roaring on my current WIP so I can get around to finishing the biggest edit ever on my first MS.  Yes, I have some great ideas to get myself in a happy place with it.  Finally—whew!!

     My second WIP seems to be in better shape than my first and I think it may be that I actually incorporated a little—and I mean teensie—bit of outlining this time.  The story arc and character arcs are all improved.  Now that I’ve worked out this method of plottsing (or is it pantsotting?  It all sounds weird.), I know how I want to edit my first MS.

     I noticed a few blog posts from writers who were having some trouble finding a system for outlining or organizing their scenes, and though I’m a big fan of the old bullet list, I don’t think anyone else is all that enthusiastic about it.  So I thought I’d look at some creative writing tools to try out.

     I found plenty of programs to choose from.  The most pricey was Dramatica Pro at $200-$220.  From what I read, this software could just about write the story—well, if you can figure out how to use it.  It asks you about a few hundred questions and then maps out the story for you down to the bitty details.  It has just about every feature available in a writing software program including structure templates, brainstorming tools, outlines, reports, conflict, plot and character development tools, and a built-in word processor.  I thought I’d laugh when I read it has no spell check or word count capability.  Sounds like some geeky engineer student oversight to me.

     If you want to save a bit, but still keep most of the features, Power Structure has just about all the same features at $149.95 except it’s reportedly a lot more difficult to use.  It doesn’t come with tutorials so you’re on your own with it.

     If you want to save even more, $29-$99 or so will buy you WriteWay, Power Writer, or StoryWeaver.  These programs give you nearly the same number of features as the other two programs, but for under $100, although the features lean more to the word processing side than to the story development side.  They’re also easier to use for the less experienced writers (like me!) as well.  On the down side, the first two programs don’t work with Mac.  For Mac, Scrivener looks pretty darn good and at such a low price.

     If you’re anything like me and flock to anything that’s free, you could try an open source program.  I’ve found a couple with some good reviews.  Storybook can help with structuring your book with tools to manage chapters, scenes, characters and locations.  It offers several different views of your work and instantly saves data as it’s entered.  You can also export in a variety of formats, txt, pdf, html, rtf, etc.  yWriter is another one developed by a writer and earning positive remarks.  Rough Draft is no longer being updated, but the software is still available for download.  I personally have Celtx, an open source screenwriting program that allows storyboards, etc., but all I ever do with that is play around with it.

     The basic thought behind these programs is that a simple word-processing program is inadequate for longer pieces of fiction and stories with complex plots or characters.  After looking at a bunch of the screenshots, I can see how some of the views might be beneficial, but I’m at my best when working simplistically, often with just a pen and paper.  Maybe I haven’t found the right program for me yet.

     How about you?  Do you have a favorite program you use or do you just prefer a basic word-processing program like Word?  Or is it pen and paper, too?  What’s in your writer’s toolbox?

Saturday, August 7

It's high time for some High Drama Blogfest...

What an awesome idea for a blogfest!  Thank you to DL Hammons for hosting.  Please visit Cruising Altitude for our other blogger-friends and check out their dramatic entries.

I had a difficult time choosing a scene.  I suppose I chose this because it reminded me of a soap opera, and if anything is high drama, it's a darn soap opera.

Like yesterday's blogfest post, it's from my new WIP, The Paladin.  It's a bit longish, but reads quickly because of all the dialogue.  Please be gentle as my entire WIP is in infancy and has been written over the last two weeks.  Thus it's an unedited, very first rough draft.

     Rainee rounded a corner not too far from her suite when she saw Tom. He stood an inch or two away from a tall, voluptuous blonde, leaning toward her and speaking urgently against her ear. The woman’s hands rubbed up and down his upper arms.
     Her immaculate, label-heavy apparel and glamorous hair and makeup pegged her as a socialite. Even the shoes she wore cost more than the average person made in a month or two. Not one to avoid conflict, Rainee ditched her limp as best she could and approached the couple.
     “Hello, Tom. Amber.”
     “Oh!” The blonde startled at Rainee’s sudden appearance at her side. “Rainee, I didn’t know you were out of the med ward yet.”
     “I never went to a med ward, Sis.” Rainee knew her sister hated being called anything but her own name. “Nice of you to come and visit your wounded sister, though.”
     “Now Rainee, you know how busy it is at the office, and I’ve been in committee meetings the last two days. It’s very hard work. Isn’t that why you left the business?”
     “Yes, of course. It must be tough fitting in the salon visit every other day. What brings you to Aurora, Amber? Didn’t you say this settlement was the ghetto?”
     “I’m sure you’ve heard about the shipping transport losses recently. We met with the Security Director and the Council to find a solution to the security issues within the shipping lines.” So that’s where Dan and Emma were this afternoon. “Tom was amazing with his insight and support. I feel confident he can get us what we need to continue operations in the area.” Rainee could almost hear the purr in Amber’s voice. The woman kept a hand possessively on Tom’s arm.
     “Sounds like all’s well in the land of movers and shakers.” Despite her gentile, upper-class upbringing, Rainee wanted to punch Amber in the face. Instead, she smiled politely and patted her sister’s cheek with her left hand.
     “What is that?” she gasped, grabbing Rainee’s hand to examine the exquisite dihydra diamond. “I’ve never seen one of these in person. How’d you get this?”
     “If you’d find a moment to answer my comms you’d know Tom and I have been dating for several months. He’s asked me to marry him, and I said yes.” Rainee bathed Tom in a radiant smile as she looped her arm through his. He’d been silently watching the terse exchange between the sisters, but when she turned the full force of that smile on him, he virtually melted.
     “I’ve been working up the nerve to ask her for weeks,” he said. Inadvertently brushing away Amber’s hand, he bent his head to kiss Rainee. Her sister’s eyes narrowed, though she pasted on a delighted smile.
     “How wonderful! Father will be happy to hear of it,” she said. Rainee noticed Amber’s sharp fingernails dig into the palms of her hands. “When is the wedding to take place?”
     “Well, our engagement is new. I’m arranging an engagement party which you’re welcome to attend. The invitations will be sent soon. I think we’ll be announcing the wedding date at the party.” He looked at Rainee.
     “Yes, that sounds good,” she answered the question in his eyes.
     “I suppose I should not hold you up any longer, Councilman. I look forward to hearing your final plan for security on the transports. I’ll be in touch with you soon.” Amber nodded curtly to him and made her exit without another word to her sister. Rainee waited until she was out of view before she turned on Tom, jerking her arm from his. He’d had a strange look on his face as he watched after Amber’s departure.
     “What the hell were you doing with that viper?” He almost cringed at her harsh tone.
     “I didn’t know she was your sister. You never talk about your family.”
     “It doesn’t matter if she’s my sister or not. She was all over you, and you let her. Why were you whispering in her ear?” His face flushed slightly.
     “She wasn’t all over me. We were just talking, and I wasn’t raised to be rude to a lady. They’re having problems with their supply transports, and I’m trying to work out some way to minimize the losses. We actually have been in meetings the last two days. Like it or not, we’ve been working together and we’ll continue to work together until the problem is solved. It’s my job, Baby.”
     “I don’t like it, and that harpy is no lady. Whatever you do, don’t make that mistake. You’re too damn nice for your own good sometimes, Tom. She will chew you up and spit you out before you know she’s taken the first bite.”
     “Were you jealous?” he asked quietly. Her jaw dropped.
     “Jealous? Of her? No. Not really. You could have been just anybody she was hanging all over, and I’d be angry. She’s a beauty on the outside, but never forget she’s really a troll. And now that she knows we’re engaged, she’ll try digging her claws into you.”
     “That’s an awful thing to say about your sister.”
     “It would be if it wasn’t the truth. I know her, Tom. Trust me.”
     “I do. I just think maybe you should give her a chance.”
     “I’ve given her plenty. When is it enough?”
     “It’s never enough when it comes to family.”
     “Once we’re married, she’ll be your family, and you can give her all the chances you want.”

Yep.  I did warn you it was longish, but I promise to make it up by reading all of yours ;)  On another note, I hope you take a moment to check out the "Help find a cure" platform contest in my sidebar.  It'd be awesome if the blogosphere can spread the word for a good cause, if only by posting the link.

Friday, August 6

Change Blogfest is here!

Many thanks to Elizabeth for today's blogfest!  I love blogfests, and it'll be even more fun because this time I get to actually visit everyone's posts this time.  My entry today from my second WIP, The Paladin, takes the change literally.  My MCs, Rainee and Sen, survived a crash and took shelter for the night.  Sen has developed a strong attraction to Rainee and felt urges he didn't know what to do with.  As an alien Kindred born without the ability to bond with a lifemate, he's not supposed to have these feelings, but Rainee indulged them, unable to control her own attraction to him and unaware of the consequences.  Afterward, a frightening transformation began that would end life as he knew it.  This scene occurs a few days after the beginning.

     Sen lay motionless along his bed, but his insides churned. He stared at the ceiling overhead without really seeing. The pain of his transformation had been like nothing he’d ever suffered, but then this pain that followed… Some days he didn’t want to live anymore.
     He’d never known what it was to be alone. There were always the others. Always. Knowing their unity would never be his again hammered at him over and over, his soul caught in the abyss of aching loneliness that walked in his Kindred’s empty footsteps. The uncertainty of what he was becoming, facing it in isolation, sharpened his fear.
     He was no longer Paladin. That much was clear, and it wasn’t just his eyes and his change to full adulthood. He’d thought Rai would be afraid or disgusted when she saw how his eyes had changed. Instead, she’d been surprised and then accepted it just as quickly. If only he could. It set him apart, removed him even further from his Paladin brethren than he already was.
     Stress tightened his stomach into a great burden balled up in the center of him. What the hell was he now? What had he become? He had no Kindred but Gabe, and even Gabe no longer connected with him once the transformation was complete. But Sen understood that. Gabe was an elder of honor and loyal to Kindred decree. He would do what he could to help, the most he could get away with, but he had his limits.
     Time had passed as slowly as Sen’s adjustment to the changes inside of him. His senses and his reflexes had grown more acute. He didn’t know his own strength anymore, and his body radiated a vast energy that didn’t have a place to go. To those around him, his eyes were the easiest to notice, but what changed behind them confused even him.
     None of this would be happening to him if he’d never been dispensed to the humans. Argent knew how he felt about them and sent him anyway. He’d hated them down to the smallest part of his being. And now he had even more reason to. It didn’t matter to him that Rai wasn’t to blame for his transformation after all. If he hadn’t been in Aurora, if he hadn’t been on Team Seven, and if she hadn’t been so… Rai.
     Today she’d prepared for battle and though they hadn’t gone out on a hunt after all, he didn’t let her down. He’d made her cry. She’d been so silent, too. But his senses were even more amplified now, and he heard it in the way she drew each breath. It should have been satisfying. His vengeful nature should have danced with each blow he delivered. It changed nothing.

Poor Sen isn't handling the change very well, and he's taking it out on Rainee.  Hope you enjoyed, even if it's not your genre, and thank you for reading!