Monday, August 31, 2009

Write On!

Professional: Someone who works at a job in which they have specific skills and tools.

Amateur: A sloppier imitation of the professional, i.e. a wanna-be writer getting advice from a professional writer at the Writing for Charity event.

Yes, I admit it. I am an amateur.

I had the opportunity, ahem, privilege to work with the great J. Scott Savage, author of the Far World series. I brought in the first page of my novel, read it outloud and received a fantastic critique from Mr. Savage. I want to thank those in my group; Donna, Jenn, Ryan, Taylor, and two gentlemen who's names I dont remember (my apologies), and a huge, gut-splitting (but in a good way) thank you to Mr. Savage, who not only offered ideas to improve, but also took the time to tell me what he liked about my page.

My group had some interesting, and fabulous, characters. We had an empath, a potential murderer, a criminal, a man in space, a monster, a stranger, and a bully...these were the characters on the first pages, not the people themselves...I hope.

I had a few great conversations with other authors including Brandon Mull, Dan Wells, James Dashner, and especially (my new favorite person) Bree Despain. Bree has her debut novel, The Dark Divine, which sounds AMAZING, coming out in December. Bree, thanks for the chat, and I sure would love an ARC to blog about (wink, wink).

I had a great time, but missed the Inkers (and the honorary Inker) who couldn't make it. Kirk, Arlene, DJ, and Graham. Your absence was felt.

But at the end of the day, good times, good times!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A-Conferencing We Go

I'm headed to the Writing for Charity event today with Deb and Donna. I'm looking forward to hearing from some of the great authors they have assembled. I'm not so excited to have to read a draft of my picture book aloud, but I did sign up for it. Hopefully some constructive feedback will make it worth the stress. I have not read a story aloud to a group since I was an elementary school teacher, and I've never publicly read anything I've written myself.

Anyway, since the authors of the two most recent books I've read will be at this event, I'm glad that I loved both books. First, is Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. I loved the story, the main characters, and her pacing and word choice. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series, Dragon Flight after I finish... Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Yeah, that's right, I'm apparently the last person on the planet to read Goose Girl. I'm almost finished with it and am loving it as well. She does such a great job getting you to emotionally connect with the main character and describing the world she lives in. I can't wait to see how it ends. In my defense, I have read two other books by Hale, Princess Academy and Austenland, both of which I also enjoyed.

What I love most about these two books is they both have good, strong, young female main characters. Girls today need good role models!
I'm sure Deb or Donna will blog about our experience next week, so stay tuned for the full report.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Odd Thomas...One Heck of a Book

Odd Thomas sees dead people. Sound familiar? For those people who liked The Sixth Sense, picture instead of a little boy who can see dead people, a naive young man who actually does something about what he sees (without the help of Bruce Willis's ghost). To quote Odd in his first-person narrative, "I see dead people. But then, by god, I do something about it." Odd Thomas is something of an avenger of the dead. He helps them resolve whatever is keeping them around. For example, at the very opening of the story, Odd is chasing down the murderer of a young girl in behalf of her ghost, who led Odd to the murderer.

Part of the novelty of the character Odd Thomas is that he's a "normal" person. He's a short order cook at a diner, has a normal girlfriend, and leads a very mundane life other than his ghost-helping vigilantism. His big aspirations in life are to marry his sweetheart, Stormy Llewellyn, to perhaps get into the "tire business" (selling car tires at a local tire store), and to live in his hometown of Pico Mundo, California, for the rest of his life. No Schwarzenegger. No puzzle-solving Langdon. No Jack Ryan. Just Odd.

I liked Odd's character extremely well. He is naive and callow to a T. He still has hope in humanity--almost blindingly and unabashedly. He loves his girlfriend, Stormy, as if his life depended on it. I doubt Koontz was going for the Adam and Eve motif, but even if he wasn't, he hit the mark squarely. Stormy and Odd seem (in many ways) to fit the Ademic model, in their hotter-than-habanero little desert Eden.

Koontz is thick with the foreshadowing. Loads of it until the reader cries, "Please, no more, Mr. Koontz! I've reached my carbohydrates and foreshadowing quota for the day." This isn't a bad device in the story's framework, but I assume many readers have predicted some denoument and climax events rather quickly into the story. (One major plot twist I anticipated within the first 20-30 pages, and very rarely throughout the reading did I have any doubts that this particular twist would happen.)

It's exciting when a speculative fiction author sets rules for the paranormal early on and then uses those rules as leverage for major plot elements (Brandon Sanderson, for example, is a master at this, along with Jim Butcher, Patrick Rothfuss, and others). Koontz excels here, giving the reader plenty of rules for the world of ghosts and Odd's gift so that the readers can predict some of the events to come or can at least look back after big events and say, "Oh, yes, of COURSE! That's why such-and-such happened!"

I'd recommend the story to some people but not to others. Koontz does take the story dark. The antagonists are people you'd expect to see on death row. They're not nice people. There were times I was sick to my stomach. Was it a well-written book? Yes. Did I like many of the characters and the plot? Yes. Is it for everyone? No. And mostly because of the violence and implied, psychotically criminal violence.

Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz. Bantam Books. 2003. 446 pp. $7.99 (PB).

Odd Thomas Series:

Odd Thomas
Forever Odd
Brother Odd
Odd Hours
In Odd We Trust (graphic novel prequel)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Welcome to the Future

There is a new song out called "Welcome to the Future" by Brad Paisley. In the song he talks about playing PacMan as a kid and wishing he could have it in his house. Now he has it on his phone. "Glory, glory hallelujah, welcome to the future."

The future is awesome no more waiting for things. My husband is annoyed because we can't find the latest TV show we want online and so we will have to wait for the DVD. I remember when you had to wait for reruns.

We don't touch things either. How long has it been since you dialed a phone and had to push all of the numbers? Speed dialing, voice dialing. I don't even remember some of my best friend's phone numebrs because I never dial them anymore. Other things we don't touch...door handles, sink faucets, soap dispensers in public bathrooms. Doors to stores.


I recently stopped in at the local gas station. Here is how the visit went: Got out of my friend's car. She neither touched the lights or the radio. We walked through the automatic door to the building without pausing, then into the candy aisle where I actually had to pick up my Reeses Peanutbutter Cup. She went to the drink machine and got two large drinks. Then we walked to the cashier's counter. Where the blonde (not that it matters) clerk said hello and without touching her keys scanned the bar on my candy and told me the price. She then looked off into space lost in her thoughts while I talked to my friend with the $20 bill held out in my hand. It took me a few seconds (30) to realize that something was wrong and as I looked back at the cashier and noticed her distraction I actually apologized for making her take my money.
"I'm sorry. I have cash." She came out of her debit card swipe anticipatory stupor and jumped. Then took my cash and managed correct change. My friend took the kinder more modern approach, using her debit card and the clerk went on with her duties with an audible sigh of relief.
Welcome to the future where we don't wait and we don't like touching stuff.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Writer's Group Rocks

Today I am singing the praises of writer's groups.

Fortunately for all of you, this will be a silent sing. I'm not much of a singer. In fact I have quite a phobia of singing in front of others--thanks to my two sisters who always told me to shut up! (They are both quite good singers.) Funny that I help at church with the children's singing and I have to sing in front of them EVERY Sunday.

But I digress. This is about writer's group and not long held phobias. Writer's groups are awesome (really I shouldn't be talking for all writer's groups--I've only had experience with this one group). My group helps in amazing ways.

I haven't done any serious writing (blogging is not serious writing, no matter what they say) in several months. I have drug my feet, entered big fat zero's every week for the contest, and in general just felt uninspired. In fact, I almost decided that I wasn't cut out to be a writer and I was going to quit the art all together.

Then my fabulous writer's group came to my rescue (without even knowing that they were rescuing me). We are going to the Writer's For Charity Con on Saturday and part of it is presenting page one of your YA and getting a critique. One fabulous Inker suggested that I get page one ready from one of my ideas. The idea came before my writing fast and it is a beauty.

Yesterday I sat down and started writing again. It was no Golden Pen by any means, but it felt GOOD. I had forgotten how good it feels to write. Words flowing, creating a moment--it was beautiful. Creating is what we are for, and I had almost given it up.

So, thank you Inkers for saving me--hopefully someday I can return the challenge.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Movie Review Time

What? We do movie reviews? But here's mine for Julie&Julia, just for fun.

Short version: I liked it. Meryl Streep was outstanding as Julia Child. And, because I love food AND love to cook, I immediately got out my copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" the next day and perused until I found a recipe I could make without going to the store. Chocolate Sponge Cake. Delish! But I digress. The movie made me laugh several times, kept me engrossed in Julia Child's story and made me want to cook, yes. But I was sad when I realized that the Amy Adams plot was subpar. I only minimally cared about what happened to her character through no fault of Amy's at all. Just not a great story line. But I would definitely recommend it sheerly for the delight in watching Meryl Streep say, "Bonjour!" in that throaty, Julia Child accent. Love! Love! Love!

Writing for the week: 0 words. Ouch! I have to get on it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mouth Disease

One of my favorite movie moments comes from the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In this particular scene, Neal Page (Steve Martin) is talking to Del Griffith (John Candy) and says, "Here's an idea. When telling a story, have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener." This brings me to my blog topic of the day: Think Before You Speak!

Words are cheap and used in excess and that should give us all the more reason to think about what we say. Random babblings, foot in mouth syndrome, bad jokes, and diarrhea of the mouth can all be a thing of the past if we work to engage our brain before engaging our mouth. Can you start a car before putting they key in the ignition? No. Thus we shouldn't let our mouth take over before we start our brain.

A popular story that circulated the Internet a couple of years ago involves a female news anchor at a network in Michigan. After the weather man had predicted a huge snowstorm that didn't come she said, "So Bob, where's that eight inches you promised me last night?"

Ladies and gentlemen, that's a wrap.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Name That Author

Let's play a game. Post a short passage (about a paragraph) from a novel that you admire - something that is indicative of the type of writing you aspire to, and something that is not so obscure there is a good chance no one else has ever heard of it. Add a line or two about why you admire this particular work. Everyone else tries to name the title and author. Hopefully that makes sense, because I am sick and the virus is taking over my brain.

Here's mine:

"Dill left us early in September, to return to Meridian. We saw him off on the five o'clock bus and I was miserable without him until it occurred to me that I would be starting to school in a week. I never looked forward more to anything in my life. Hours of wintertime had found me in the treehouse, looking over at the schoolyard, spying on the multitudes of children through a two-power telescope Jem had given me, learning of their games, following Jem's red jacket through wriggling circles of blind man's bluff, secretly sharing their misfortunes and minor victories. I longed to join them."

Reasons I love this book: emotional connection to characters; creation of setting; realistic; good message; mix of humor with drama

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara

Have you ever had a week where the only thing that saved you from getting trampled by a herd of stampeding "blech" was a really good meal? Well, it's been one of those weeks for me. And luckily, today I had some chicken and shrimp carbonara, with some really yummy soup and breadsticks. This meal SAVED ME this week. Thank heaven for spicy, flavorful food that turns a black-and-white week into a technocolor dream week.

I have to thank the person responsible for this good food: Alison, our departing intern, who has been double-triple-quadruple amazing. We're going to miss her as she moves on to her next big internship on the path to stardom in the publishing world.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mission Statement

I was in a discussion last weekend about mission statements and what makes a good mission statement. There were two elements that we discussed that made a lot of sense to me.
1) It needs to be hard
2) The fewer words the better

As examples we discussed Kawasaki’s mission statement “Beat Yamaha.” It’s a difficult motto to achieve and its short.
President John F. Kennedy’s mission statement “Go to the moon.” Again, not easy and yet brief.

My mission statement might be a combination like, 'Beat Kirk to the moon." LOL.
It won't be easy, but it is concise.

Actually, in my writing I try to avoid the competitiveness that can easily creep in especially when I haven't yet achieved 'Inker of the Week' status. Grrr. All competitiveness aside, I think my writing mission would be, “Create a better world.”
Somehow, some way as I write I want to remember the reason I started writing in the first place.
So what's your mission statement?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I know, I is my turn to post today. My crazy life has gotten in the way. So, here is my blog to you, my story idea of the day:

An angry, fat dwarf comes to the door.....I'm kidding!

Okay, here's the real deal:

Lance (fourteen years old) is heartbroken when his mother dies in a freak accident involving a power line and a tree. As if dealing with his mother's death isn't hard enough, he has to move from his childhood home in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin to the less-then-exciting, "Biggest Little City", Reno, Nevada to stay with his dad whom he barely knows. Things get dicey on the first day in his new school where, he isn't ridiculed or made fun of, he's simply everyone, including his teachers. In fact, it's as if he doesn't exist to them at all.

That's all folks! Catch ya' next week!

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm Just Sayin'...

If you have ever used that phrase it is probably for one of two reasons. Either you have said something shocking or offensive and need to recover, or you have said something that you want to hide your true motivations for. Let me give a couple of examples.

Shocking or offensive:
"That guy is so annoying that someone should cut off his favorite body part, burn it, then scatter the ashes on the ground and have a dog pee on it...I'm just sayin'."

You start a statement, take it a little too far, then realize everyone is staring at you with raised eyebrows and nervous smiles. That's when I'm just sayin' comes in handy. Throw out that statement and suddenly all offensiveness is removed from the sentence and eveyone can laugh along with you. Because you wouldn't REALLY do something if you're just sayin'.

Hiding true motivations:
"I know you're married, but we should totally go out...I'm just sayin'."

What you are really trying to say is "I want to go out with you and I could care less about the person you love and have sworn to be faithful to". With I'm just sayin', you have now made the sentence void and ended up contributing exactly nothing to the conversation. It's like using too much toilet paper, you don't seem to care, but then someone else always gets stuck with an empty roll.

I have exposed the truth. So to all you users of that phrase out there, we're not going to fall for it.

I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I am reading a book called "The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)" by Jack Bickham. I'm only up to number 10, but am finding it a very helpful resource/reminder as I continue to work on my novel. I plan to use it as a checklist once my first draft is finished and I begin the self-editing process.

Here are some bits I liked from #6 - Don't Describe Sunsets:

"Readers need description in the stories they read to visualize settings and people-really 'get into' the action. But sometimes writers get carried away and go too far in trying to provide such descriptions; they stop too often to describe such things as sunsets, thinking that pretty prose is an end in itself - and forgetting that when they stop to describe something at length, the story movement also stops."

"Fiction is movement. Description is static"

"...Whenever you try to inflict on your readers a detailed description, your story stops. And readers are interested in the story - the movement - not your fine prose."

"Does this mean you should have no description in your story? Of course not. Description must be worked in carefully, in bits and pieces, to keep your reader seeing, hearing, and feeling your story world. But please note the language here: it must be worked in, a bit at a time, not shoveled in by the page."
I think I have the opposite problem. I could probably use more description in my novel. I've lived with it so much in my own head I sometimes forget the reader can't see what I see.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cover Race

A good friend of mine just sent me this interesting article about the Justine Larbalestier book Liar and its controversial cover. I completely agree with the change and am glad that I'm not the only editor who has to deal with cover issues sometimes. Bloomsbury is a great publisher, mind you, and every publisher has covers that come along and just . . . well . . . make us all shake our heads with confusion.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sometimes We Miss A Step

Sometimes everything seems wrong and you can’t figure out WHY. Two nights ago I was trying to operate a simple piece of machinery (that makes my life much easier, and I would consider essential). Every time I tried to do the next step, a needle was shot across the room. I was getting VERY frustrated.

I finally gave up and gave myself the shot without the convenience of the auto-injector. Today I called the drug company insisting that my injector was broken. As I described the problem to the waiting phone specialist, I immediately saw the problem.

That night it was very late, and I was very tired. Plus I had a sleeping husband in the next room. I was trying to be quick about my business. I had forgotten a step—apparently a very critical step—one that keeps syringes from flying through the air. I thanked the lady for her time and hung up.

Then I began to think about this blog and I realized that sometimes we forget steps that make life work. We all have our own steps to take, and they differ for each of us, but we have to do them in order for our lives to function without syringes flying through our bathrooms.
In writing, we all have our own steps and processes in creating. What are some steps you take to create your works of art?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Few Things...

It's writing group tonight and I'm told we'll be discussing screen plays. I'm actually quite delighted to be discussing something that I've always been interested in, yet known nothing about. Who knows? Maybe I'm a screen writer and I just don't know it yet.

I went to bed at 8:30 last night.

We cancelled our satelite service. Hulu, here we come. ;)

A good friend of mine had his manuscript rejected. I can't imagine how it must feel to put so much time and emotion into a project just to have someone you don't know from Adam tell you its not good enough. My words to him--Stay strong. Keep it real. Keep at it. You'll get published, probably much sooner than I can get a rough draft written.

Monday, August 10, 2009

As seen on TV

There are literally hundreds of reality TV shows out there. Everything you could ever desire from A to Y (oddly, there is no reality show that starts with a Z. I know because I checked). All these shows got me to thinking: What can we learn from reality TV? Don't hurt your desensitized, television ridden, brainwashed and zombified mind over it. I have been kind enough to come up with a list, but please feel free to add since my list is certainly not complete.

~All girls come in a size 2 or less, unless they are seriously over weight and want to lose it.
~You're not really talented unless a panel of three to four people can judge you.
~You CAN find true love when placed in a house with 20 good looking people.
~In survival situations, it's more important to know how to manipulate others than how to build a fire.
~Celebrities can do anything! Dancing, apprenticeships, and rehab.
~Drinking alcohol is not a casual happenstance, it is a competitive sport.
~Elimination is a part of life. You should always rank those in your social circles by level of importance so the decision won't be hard at elimination time.

To all the contributors of the blog, elimination is coming. Sorry, Kirk. The tribe has spoken.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dear John Hughes

Dear John Hughes,

I didn't know you, but when you passed away this week, I cried.

You were one of my teachers growing up, the cool one who got that it's okay to be different, families are imperfect, and neither the geeks or the popular kids had it easy. You also made me laugh - a lot.

Thank you for characters like Samantha, Andie, Allison, Claire, and Watts. I don't know how you knew the soul of a teenage girl so well, but you did.

My only major complaint is that Andie should have ended up with Duckie and not stupid Blane. But, maybe you did that intentionally so people would have that reaction?

As a writer, thanks for the inspiration. Rest in peace.

Friday, August 7, 2009


So today I just wanted to say what amazing authors and editors I get to work with in my job! At a conference this week, it was fun to see them in action promoting their books and interacting with the booksellers at our booth. It's such a wonderful thing to see authors who can write and promote and just be normal human beings all at the same time. Renaissance men and women, if you ask me.

Also, I think I'm finally going to get a really great manuscript from a really good storyteller this next week. I'm crossing my fingers. He's one busy guy, which is good, and I think he's really establishing a name for himself by broadening his interests. Vague overmuch?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tech Failure

Don't know how or why, but today's very clever post about what if questions never posted. Sorry folks. It was a funny one. I guess I'll save it for another day.

For tight. Kirk's post is going up at 7 am so you won't have time to respond to this one anyway. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Chick Lit Author

Yes, its me. I guess? I don't really know. After discussing what genres I should try with some fellow Inkers, I was told... chick lit. Really? I laughed out loud. Or maybe to myself. Still, these people know me pretty well so maybe I'll give it a whirl.

What is chick lit exactly?

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Dramatic Arts

We all know them. We all have associated with them. And on rare occasion, though we try to prevent it, we end up getting tangled in their web. I'm speaking of drama queens, and the rarer species, the drama king.

These overly dramatic, easily provokable, and generally ridiculous people seem to be surrounded with problems. A broken nail can rain down the fires of hell, a spilled milk tsunami can wipe out a village, and if we ever give them a listening ear, endless torment in the form of a crying marathon can result.

I know a drama queen. She always has financial problems, health problems, and is constantly offended. Nothing seems to be quite right in her life, and she is always at odds with other people. But it absolutely isn't anything SHE has done. Everyone around her is at fault, of course.

I have a theory. These dramatic sorts blow things out of proportion for one of three reasons:

1. They want attention
2. They want to make others miserable like unto themselves
3. They think so highly of themselves that it's inconceivable for someone to challenge their kingdom

If you find yourself in association with someone who parallels any of these three symptoms, I suggest you run in the other direction. Fast. These parasitic, soul sucking, misery inducing, troglodytes can only bring you harm. Drama queen is just a nice way to say blood sucking vampire.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tick Tock

It used to be my biological clock that would haunt me with its incessant tick-tocking, until I was blessed to become a mother for the first time at the age of 35.

Now, as I look to the future, I think about other goals I've had for a long time. I'm not old enough to feel serious pressure about a "bucket list" (you know, the list of things people want to do before they die - made famous by the film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman), but still you think about these things when you're stuck in traffic or have a rare quiet moment.

Other than the big, important things in life, like family and spiritual progression, there are things you just want to say you've done, you know? As this is a writer's group blog, one big one of course is to get that darn novel finished, and (dare to dream), published. But, I would be sufficiently happy if it just got finished to my satisfaction.

Outside of writing, I would also like to conquer some of my fears by doing something beyond my comfort zone, like skydiving or bungee jumping. Maybe when the kids are older... However, by then, it will be my bucket list.

What's on yours?