Thursday, September 30, 2010

Writing! Links! For! You!

There are loads of good things out there for writer-types on the intranets lately. Here are some I found particularly worth reading.

On Pitching (not baseball)

11 Questions for Crafting a Pitch by agent Rachelle Gardner

The Last Thing An Agent Wants to Hear From You on Storyfix.com


On the Craft of Writing


12 Dos and Don'ts for Introducing your Protagonist on Anne R. Allen's blog

250 Chances (or the importance of a strong opening for your book--and tips on what NOT to open with) on author Janice Hardy's blog

How do you HOOK a Reader? Understand Great Beginnings by Kristen Lamb

5 Things A Writers Always Overlooks: chaos, lag, flab, overkill and anticlimax. by Victoria Mixon

Middle Grade Vs. Young Adult on the Invincible Summer blog

5 editor’s secrets to help you write like a pro on Remarkable Communication

Conflict--Why Should We Care by Nicola Morgan

Inception's 4 Rules for Ultimate Influence by Jeff Sexton
**I put this on because I loved Inception so much. Brilliant layered storytelling! I left the theater thinking, How can I do that? Of course, the group we were with gave me that "Oh she's just doing the crazy writer thing" once I started talking about playing with multiple yet simultaneous time lines.

"Leonardo Di Caprio looked nice," one of them said.

"Oh. I didn't notice," I replied.



So there are just a few things to keep you busy for the next hour. Did I miss any good posts you came across?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

word of the Week #116 - regnant

regnant - [REG-nuhnt] - adjective

Definition:
1. Prevalent; widespread.
2. Reigning; ruling (usually used following the noun it modifies): a queen regnant.
3. Exercising authority, rule, or influence.

Usage:
She fixed them with a no-nonsense stare. "Listen up, children. I am the mother regnant here, so you have to do it because I say so!"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Holy 100, Batman!

Last weekend, Bookmom Musings hit a major milestone:



Wowsers! To celebrate I'm going to... to... to...

... post this celebration picture.


Rayna M. Iyer (Hi, Rayna!) is my 100th follower. *applause* If I were in India I would shower her with confetti and give her a prize.

Wait a minute... that's not such a bad idea. (Not the confetti.) Giveaways are always fun. But I can't just throw out any old giveaway. I have to plan. *rubbing hands together* I'll get it all put together and let you know about it soon.

Thanks for following my blog. :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

A post inspired by Moi

My post last week about author photos was so inspiring that it lead to this post on Flavorwire, "Against Promotional Author Photographs." Then agent/blogger extraordinaire Nathan Bransford's linked to it last Friday on his blog.

That makes me, like, 2 degrees of separation from fame and glory!

It's such an honor! *waving hands in front of eyes* *sniff* Really. I don't know what to say.


And no, it's not just coincidence. (Let me have my moment of delusion, okay?)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Compelling Characters

Elana Johnson asked for volunteers to help her with The Great Blogging Experiment today, which is having several bloggers blog about the same topic on the same day, and then seeing how very different and valuable the different blogs can be. I am experimentee #114.

How to Write Compelling Characters, a la Jaime at Bookmom Musings.

1. Riddle them with weaknesses, flaws, and a behavior tendencies that seem to get them in trouble. As human beings, we all have weaknesses, flaws, and tendencies that we wish we could erase the minute we do them. As readers we can empathize with that because it's part of life. This will make your characters more real to your readers. And more real to you (which is important as you write them).

2. Give them at least one character strength that you admire. Maybe it's persistence. Maybe it's kindness to others who might not deserve it. Maybe it's the ability to laugh at oneself.

3. Make sure you have some plot problems that stem directly from your characters' weaknesses and strengths. Stick with me here. Sometimes our strengths get us into trouble too, and the true test of someone's mettle is if they stick to that strength even when it hurts.

4. Make your characters grow and change as a result of events in your story. Even better if it is by overcoming a particular weakness that a character gets the girl/beats the bad guy/saves the world/saves the whales/becomes the popular kid/etc.

5. Make your characters sparkle in the sun. (Kidding, kidding.)

All of this is easier said than done, but it can be done. I also suggest looking at some of your favorite characters in books with an eye towards why you found them compelling. I bet you'll see some of the things I mentioned. (Except the sparkling.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Music for the Word Nerd's Soul

I may not do straight poetry, but put it to music and you've got me. There are some songs that just thrill me as a writer. I'm not talking about the muse-stirring songs, but ones whose lyrics make the Word Lover in me jump for joy.

Some Word Nerd gems:

"Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven. I <3 style="font-style: italic;">pretentious in the lyrics.

"Now or Never" by Josh Groban. Not even mentioning his divine voice, just this line should do it: The tattered thought balloons above our heads sinking in the weight of all we need to say. Sigh. (If you click on the YouTube link the song actually starts at about the two minute point.)

Several songs by Sting/The Police are wonderful, but what do you expect from a man who was an English teacher before a musician? I like "Wrapped Around Your Finger." Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis. A literary reference even! *squee*(Be kind to the video. Remember it was from the early 80s.)

Or Fortress Around Your Heart which has some great lyrics, including the word chasm. That's just a fun word to say: chasm, chasm, chasm. It's almost as fun to say as schism.

Then there's One Week by Bare Naked Ladies, which is pure fun wordy randomness. My favorite line might be I'd like a stinkin' achin' shake I like vanilla, it's the finest of the flavors Gotta see the show 'cause then you'll know The vertigo is gonna grow 'Cause it's so dangerous You'll have to sign a waiver. (Technically it's more than one line but yousayitalltogetherwithoutbreathingsothatmakesitonephraseright?)

The song 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago holds a special place in my heart because they managed to make a whole song about trying to think up a song. Oh, if only I could write a book about trying to write a book. (Forget the video, just listen to the song. They had to make some sort of story to the video or else it would be 4 minutes watching the group sit on the floor in the middle of the night. 25 or 6 to 4 is the time and I think they just plugged it in the chorus.)

I know I'll think of more songs after this post is published, but I'm always open to adding to my Word Nerd playlist. What are your favorite writer songs?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Word of the Week #115 - quiddity

quiddity - [KWID-ih-tee] - noun

Definition:
1. The essence, nature, or distinctive peculiarity of a thing.
2. A hairsplitting distinction; a trifling point; a quibble.
3. An eccentricity; an odd feature.

Usage:
I want to thank you, dear blog readers, for putting up with my quiddities and coming back to read my posts anyway.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Great Author Photo Dilemma

There comes a time in every author's life when they have to pass that coming-of-age moment in their writing career: the author bio picture. The process usually begins with hours staring into the mirror trying out various ways of holding your head, positioning your shoulders and/or hands so that you look intelligent, approachable, and attractive while downplaying your large nose that makes you look like a camel. Or like Tim Curry, according to a certain online Celebrity Look-a-like program which has in no way traumatized me, thank you very much.

I know most authors hate to get their bio pictures taken. A friend went through the whole sordid experience only to have her editor tell her that it looked too much like a yearbook picture.

And there's no way you want that.
(This isn't me. Though I swear this girl went to my high school. And kept Aqua Net hairspray in business.)

There's the life or death decisions of what to wear, which accessories, how to do your hair, whether to leave the hobo beard or go clean shaven, do your own makeup or hire someone else to do it who will cake it on so thick you wipe it off and end up doing it yourself anyway, etc. And then there's the all-important decision of the general feel of the picture--the mood you want to evoke.

There are so many options:

Thoughtful. (Make sure to stare into the distance.)

Amy Tan

Intense. (With a hint of I'm thinking of a hundred ways to incapacitate you.)

Jim Butcher

Other-worldly. (A good choice for paranormal authors.)

Yasmin Galenorn

Successful. (I'm surrounded by all the books I've published, which is, like, 5,000 more than you.)

James Patterson

Distinctive. (With curly hair that others can't resist pulling just to watch it bounce back. Yes, I have read Ramona the Pest.)

Jodi Piccoult

Scary. (Which is really unfortunate if you write for children.)

Shel Silverstein

Relaxed. (Because we all know writing a book is a breeze, right?)

J.K. Rowling

Leaning against something. (Argh! Should I lean against a wall or a lamp post? I can't decide!)

Jeffrey Deaver

With an interesting background. (I think this photo was doctored. I hope.)

Rachel Caine

Or, there's always this option.
That one sounds good to me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Write This - Or Not

I just had to watch this video again. And maybe I'm crazy (don't answer that) but sometimes own brain plays both parts of this eerily-realistic skit.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Confessions

They say confession is good for the soul, so here goes:

When I was young an older lady who knew my love of reading gave me about 50 Barbara Cartland books. I read them all, and to this day I get a little twitchy about ellipses in dialogue because every heroine in Barbara Cartland books talked like a half-wit. "Oh, I... don't know... about... that..."

I eat around the chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies. Along the same vein, I leave all the M&Ms in the trail mix.

I sing along with songs on the radio, often very loudly (much to my children's embarrassment).

I was on the drill team in high school and I still have my sequined outfit and pom poms.

I know all the words to the song "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice.

I switched majors four times in college: business, commercial art, dance, and physical therapy. I finally graduated with a BS in pre-physical therapy, a minor in composite dance, and enough random credits to have graduated twice.

Orlando Bloom is hawt, esp. in Pirates of the Caribbean. Just saying.

I once dressed up as a cholera victim for Halloween. We had a class presentation in my Microbiology class on Halloween and I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I was told it was quite a realistic costume.

I can't make myself burp. Various boyfriends tried to teach me, but I'm belch-challenged.

I don't like slow songs. *gag* My husband says I'm not quite natural.

My non-writer friends sometimes don't get my humor. I guess they don't find atrocious typos in marquees as funny as me.

I don't watch TV. Sometimes I go weeks without seeing a single show.

I used to play the drums.

I have an extra ankle bone. (Technically, it's a tilted navicular bone, not an extra one, but it means I have a really prominent second bump on the outside of my ankles that makes it painful to wear ice skates or high top shoes.)

Anyone else feel like sharing a random confession? I know at least some of you also know all the words to "Ice Ice Baby."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Word of the Week #114 - tantivy

tantivy - [tan-TIV-ee] - adjective, adverb, noun, or interjection

Definition
adjective:
1. Swift; rapid.

adverb:
1. At full gallop.

noun:
1. A rush, a gallop or stampede.

interjection:
1. (used as a hunting cry when the chase is at full speed.)

Usage:
I would rather sleep today, but life is coming at me full tantivy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

WIPpet

Just for fun, here's a little snippet of my WIP:

“Are you lost, little human?”

A girl, maybe two and a half feet tall with dark skin and curly black hair stood a few feet away. She had bare feet and wore a short dress the color and texture of spring leaves. A flicker behind her revealed a set of translucent wings that opened and closed like a butterfly’s.

He sagged in relief. A harmless fairy; she’d probably help him.

She tilted her head and stroked the trunk of a nearby tree. Her small hands had fingers too long to look right, topped with claw-like nails. Some instinct deep in Bradley snapped into alarm-mode. The fairy watched him with a predatory intensity, like the tiger at the zoo that had always made him uneasy. One day it escaped its enclosure and mauled several people in the crowd before being shot.

He straightened as much as he could. Slowly. Cautiously. “I’m not lost.”

She curled her fingers, scraping gouges in the bark of the tree. “Yes you are.” She smiled, revealing pointed teeth. “You’re in the forest.”

She leapt at him, graceful and lightning fast.

Bradley scrabbled in his pocket. Found the charm and yanked it out.

The fairy stopped just beyond the reach of his outstretched arm. The charm swung back and forth, just spelled leaves and acorns in a vial dangling from a silver chain, looking too small to offer much protection.

She fluttered back and forth in the air, like an animal pacing its cage, her wild eyes fixed on him. He kept the charm between them, holding her back. She tried several times to get to him, but an unseen force stopped her every time. Bradley silently sent a quick prayer of gratitude to the universe, Aunt Claudia, and the impulse that made him grab the charm at the last second.

The fairy hissed. Her face looked gaunter than it should, with sunken cheeks and protruding cheekbones. Almost skeletal. They stared at each other for long moments. He couldn’t move, and she couldn’t reach him. His arm trembled.

Bradley started when she laughed. It wasn’t the uplifting, tinkling laugh of a normal, sane fairy. “That bauble will only protect you so far,” she said. She waved a hand. The branches around his leg bent, making the hole wide enough to pull his leg out. The fairy circled him, then flitted away through the trees and out of sight.

Bradley wrenched his leg out of the trap and gingerly put weight on his aching ankle. It didn’t buckle, thank goodness.

“This could be quite entertaining.” The fairy’s voice seemed to come from every direction.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Made for You

I tend to go in cycles where I love a song/group of songs and listen to them over and over. (I'm ignoring the chanting of "OCD, OCD, OCD," coming from some of you.) This is my most recent song obsession. I love it because it has a great beat, awesome piano, and is very catchy, but I also love it because of what it says to me, which I'm sure is not even close to what the artist intended. But one of the great things about art is how the reader/listener/viewer makes it their own.

Here are the lyrics, interrupted by my thoughts (in red).

Made for You
by One Republic
(You can listen to it on YouTube here.)

I was writing
Thinking with my long hand
Put pen to paper
Everything was sinking
**At this point I'm hooked. I think better when I write, as the long letters I composed during rough spots in relationships throughout my life will attest. And when I hit that sweet spot and really get going in my writing, it is a lot like sinking and getting lost in the words.**
Then start to wonder
How you gonna handle me
When I'm under
Swimming in the darkest sea
**Sad as it is, my writing imaginary life bleeds over into my real life. I can be grumpy when characters won't work with me. I can be elated and on top of the world when a scene or chapter comes together in a dazzling way. So when I'm swimming in the sea of my own world, those around me have to "handle" me a bit.**

Everybody wants you to make it
Its all yours
Everybody wants you to take it
Its all yours
Everybody wants you to make it
Its all yours
Everybody wants you to T-t-t-take it
**I think the writing community is one of the most selfless, giving group of people I know. You can't turn around without tripping over dozens of authors/writers/agents/editors who sincerely want you to succeed and spend energy sharing information to help you do it. All of us book lovers want more great books. If you've got a great book in you and the drive, determination, and bull-headed persistence it takes, I want you to make it. When I listen to this I flip it and and think that it's all mine, if I can put in the work to take it.**

Can you feel all the love
Can you feel all the love
Can you feel all the love
Can you feel all the love
Like it was made for you
Like it was made for you...
**One of the reasons I keep writing is so that I can see the light in the face of someone who reads my books and has connected with something in them. It's an emotional connection and bond that's almost like a spark of love, because I have given a bit of myself to the book, and a reader has accepted it and enjoyed it. I hold that motivation in front of myself, like a carrot, to keep going when it gets difficult. It's a motivation made for me.**

Tell me something
Something that can move me
Don't tell me lies
Or I swear you're gonna lose me
**I have to move my readers, and be genuine. If it's fake or contrived then I will lose them. This also applies to me as a reader.**
Begin like an ocean
Jealous of the fish it feeds
Your devotion
Swimming inside of me
**I'm afraid I don't have anything profound for this part.**

Everybody wants you to make it
Its all yours
Everybody wants to take it
Its all yours
Everybody wants you to make it
Its all yours
Everybody wants you to T-t-t-take it
[Can you feel all the love
Can you feel all the love
Can you feel all the love
Can you feel all the love]

Like it was made for you
It was made for you
Like it was made for you
It was made for you

Can you feel
Can you feel
Can you feeeel
**Ultimately writing is about feeling. Intellectual writing can never touch people like things that make them feel, because emotion is such a vital part of the human existence. I have a tendency to try and divorce myself from my feelings, so I have to make a conscious effort to not push it away, and just feel. So the words "Can you feel" has special significance for me.**

Like I said, I'm sure what I get from this song is a universe away from what One Republic envisioned when they wrote it. I have music that works for different characters, scenes, or stories, but this song is just for me.

Do you have songs that inspire you?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mind the Perishables

I'm not talking about these perishables. (Though they do look mouth-watering.)

I'm talking about perishable skills. You've heard the phrase Use It or Lose It? Perishable skills are ones that you lose if you don't use them.

Reading is not a perishable skill, but I contend that thinking is. (Not the oh, look, that cloud looks like a rhinoceros thinking, but problem solving, analytical thinking. Just try to do advanced algebra after not doing it for several years, even if you used to be a whiz at it. Go ahead, try it.)

Riding a bike is not a perishable skill. Running, on the other hand, is. If I take time off from running, then I have to spend several days playing catch up to even feel like I'm back to where I started. Having experienced this phenomenon several times, I now make sure to run at least a little every week.

Writing most definitely is a perishable skill. The more you write, the more you feel like writing. And when you take a break from it, the harder it is to start up again. Some of the things I learned from participating in National Novel Writing Month last year (besides the fact that yes, I can produce a shocking number of words that are mostly crap) is that 1) I could write consistently, day in and day out, 2) I discovered my best output per day (I was mostly coherent to a certain number of pages, but if I had to go beyond that you could kiss decent writing goodbye), and 3) when I wrote consistently it was easier to write consistently.

So mind your perishables, because it's easier to maintain your groove/habit than to get it back.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go do some advanced algebra.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Word of the Week #113 - beek

beek - [BEEK] - verb

Definition:
1. To bask or warm in the sunshine or before a fire.
2. (Of wood) to season by exposure to heat.

Usage:
I'm trying to beek as much as I can before fall.

Note: That sentence is just funny! And yes, it's just a coincidence that beek rhymes with geek.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Good Books

Do you find yourself languishing in post-Mockingjay blues?

It took me a week to get my copy and by then it felt like everyone else had already read it, including my 12 yr. old who stole it out of my hands and devoured the whole thing while I did things that couldn't be put off like making dinner, picking up children from school, etc. I threatened him with the removal of all he held dear if he uttered a single spoiler.

I'm happy to announce that I've finished it now (Yea!) and recommend it. But only if you read Hunger Games and Catching Fire first, or else you'll be soo lost. I might even review Mockingjay, but not today. Today I'm going to share another good book.

Any girl who loved Anne of Green Gables and/or Pride and Prejudice will feel at home with Scones and Sensibility by Lindsey Eland.

It's a middle grade book (grades 5-7) but I loved it. (No need to comment on what that says about my maturity.) I went through an Anne of Green Gables phase (though not to this degree) and loved meeting the younger me through the pages of the story.

From Booklist:
Growing up in a cozy seaside community above her family’s bakery, 12-year-old Polly has always been a romantic. After she reads Pride and Prejudice, though, her yen for successful love stories spills over into daily life, and she determines to spend her summer matchmaking among the locals. Of course, everything goes horribly awry, and Polly is forced to confront the impact of her meddling: “This isn’t your dumb Green Gables or England or whatever. This is real life!” says her furious best friend. To better emulate her favorite book’s “enchanting heroine,” Polly narrates in a mannered, archaic voice (“I vow to call you on the morrow!”) that may try some readers’ patience but provides comedic moments in her mixed metaphors and the curt responses she receives: “Put a cork in it,” growls her sister. The plot is as light as pastry filling, but young romantics may recognize themselves in Polly and in her puzzlement over the way love and attraction happen in the twenty-first century, beyond the pages of books.

When I saw Scones and Sensibility at my library I scooped it up, not because of my love of Jane Austen (I'm a "meh" Austen fan) but because I had read in other blogs about the great character voice. And sure enough, it lived up to the hype. You can't help but love Polly, and she is most definitely a unique character.

I had a blast reading this book. Unfortunately I can't share it with my sons, because it's not really up their alley. They wouldn't be able to get past the pink cover. But when my daughter gets older, I'll be happy to get it for her.