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Friday, February 22, 2013

In the Mood, what to do if your muse is napping by Kitty Griffin

It’s time to get busy. You’ve told yourself, “BUTT IN CHAIR” I’m getting that next chapter done! But you sit and nothing happens. Tick. Tick. Tock.

You sit and sit. You write a paragraph, but it stinks. You delete it. Try again.

Have you ever dealt with just not being in the mood to write? It happens. But what if you really want to stick to schedule and get that chapter banged out?

I have a very busy brain and I don’t ever suffer from writer’s block (think a constant push of writer’s flood), but sometimes getting to “the zone” (as Stephen King calls it—by the way, I recommend his book as being one of the best books for aspiring writers to read) well, getting to where you can let go of worrying about that thing called real life can be tough.

Have you ever done some warm-up exercises? Mental ones, to push you where you need to go?

I’ve just finished a novel set in 1952. Before sitting down to write, I’d listen to a few songs. “In the Mood” was a good one. Sometimes, I’d get out the Life Magazines from 1952 that I’d bought. I’d listen to Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller and cruise through the magazine, studying the pictures, looking at the advertisements. By pushing myself from the outside, it helped me get to where I needed to be on the inside.

Now I’m working on a Steampunk story that will be set in the late 1800s, probably 1888.  What have I done to get ready?

To help me find my way, I'll read portions of Larklight by Philip Reeve, an author I admire. This is a delightful adventure by the way. 

 I got a copy of the Steampunk Bible. I'll browse through it, finding pictures or sections that might inspire me. I'm also spending time on-line looking at Steampunk machinery. It's so fascinating.

I also watched "A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" a movie which came out a while back, one that is considered Steampunk.

Now, I'm so in the mood for writing this story I can hardly wait to get back to work on Chapter Four!

Do what you need to when it's time to get in the mood for writing. Sometimes, just a bit of music can help. It's important to train yourself so that you don't keep putting off that next chapter or the section where your writing group said is slow and needs to be rewritten. 
Find what works, set a schedule and stick to it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Exercise and Earn More


Dave Amaditz
In May of last year I posted about the benefits of daily exercise. I talked out how exercising gave me more energy and how having more energy translated into better writing. To read the entire post, follow this link . http://rt19writers.blogspot.com/2012/05/exercise-daily-and-keep-physically-fit.html

I still exercise four days a week and definitely benefit by having more energy afterwards. Except today, because for some stupid reason I decided to push it extra hard, and although I felt great after the workout, I'm paying the price now... stiff muscles, and a burning (pun intended) desire to go to bed and rest.

Of course, I won't let a little soreness stop me from exercising. Why would I? I know the benefits. And now, according to an article I recently read, research has shown that those who exercise daily earn more than those who do not exercise, by as much as 9%. To read a few different articles on the topic, follow these links.

So, now that we know how to get rich, shouldn't we be exercising? Think about it. Those who exercise earn more money. Shouldn't it stand to reason that those who exercise have more success in writing? Get more books published? Get more acceptance letters from editors and/or agents?

Hmmm. Something's wrong here. I just finished my novel, and as of last month, began querying agents... And so far... nothing. I know. I know. It's still quite early in the game. I need to give it plenty of time. So I will. I will be patient. (And keep my fingers crossed and say a few prayers in case the exercising doesn't work.)

Well, here's a shout-out to all the agents.

Hello agents! I exercise regularly. According to the article, I should be more successful...

On the other hand, maybe the shout-out won't make a difference. Maybe agents don't care if I exercise. I'll bet they do care if I'm writing and if I'm writing with quality though - - and for that, there is only one solution.

Sit in front of the computer. Write. Then rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. Workshop the manuscript with your writer's group. Then rewrite again.

Oh well, I guess it's a good thing I've been exercising after all, because now, at least, I'll have the energy to write a few quality pages.

And a stronger heart to handle the rejections I'm sure will come.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Creating Room to Read: Doing a World of Good

by Jenny Ramaley

If you are interested in children’s literature, there’s a good chance you’re also interested in making sure children have books to read.  On Sunday, February 17, Nan Cappo reviewed John Wood’s latest book, Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy (Viking). Wood is a former Microsoft marketing exec who quit his job to focus on bringing books to young people. He created the nonprofit organization called Room to Read. “The group operates in cultures where contempt for women keeps girls poor, and much worse.” Since 2000, the organization has built 13,000 libraries in 10 countries, published millions of books by local writers, built schools, and funded 17,000 girls to finish secondary schools.

If you’re looking for an organization worthy of your donations, Room to Read gets good marks for being an efficient and well-run organization.  If you’d like to check out Ms. Cappo’s article see Creating Room to Read

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Words Between Us--Dialogue by Kitty Griffin

Ah, Valentine's Day and young love!
And what big dance looms in the future? The prom.

Let's say there is a teen-age character in a story and that person has just been told that the person they hope to go to the prom with is going with someone else.

Here are four responses. What do these responses tell us about this character? Can you picture them?

A.  "Like I really care."
B.   "That's great. They make a great couple. Yeah, it's really    great."
C.   "Good. I didn't want to go."
D.  "Well, guess she wants to have a really lousy time."

Dialogue, realistic dialogue is so important in writing Young Adult fiction. Without realistic dialogue your teen reader isn't going to dig it. Like, you can't be square when telling your tale nightingale. 

No matter when your story is set, 1957 or 1597 it's important to pay attention to dialogue. If your story is historical, of course, you're going to be given more room for longer sentences.

Here is an excerpt from page five of "The Secret of the Old Clock"

"I want to apologize to you, Nancy, for thinking you hit Judy," the woman said. "I guess Edna and I lost our heads. You see, Judy is very precious to us. We brought up her mother, who had been an only child and was orphaned when she was a little girl. The same thing happened to Judy. Her parents were killed in a boat explosion three years ago. The poor little girl has no close relatives except Edna and me."

Phew...a bit long winded for today's reader. It reminds me of soap operas and how sometimes the doorbell would ring and the character at the door says, "Hello. So good to see you after six years. I just want you to know I've been around the world and fathered twenty-two children."

Even though you might be working on a historical novel and you want the dialogue to feel as though it's part of the times don't let it become too long-winded. You'll lose your reader. 

This book, published in 1993, may be a bit dated, but the dialogue still holds tension. This is from page 30.

“I want to know now,” Shane said in a harsh voice. “Now.”
The cold, cruel look came back into Kent’s eyes.
“Would you like to see your precious violin again? The Guarnerius?”
“You know I would.”
“In one piece?” Or shattered into fragments?”
Shane paled.
“Well, Lockwood?”
“You wouldn’t do that. You couldn’t.”
The man nodded slowly.
“Oh, but I could.”
“Only a savage would do a thing like that.”
The man laughed softly.
But this time it was not a pleasant laugh.
“I’ve never considered myself anything but a savage. Does that surprise you, Lockwood?”
“That violin goes back centuries. It’s a supreme work of art. It’s…”
And he couldn’t go on.
“Yes. Yes.”
“I know that very well. That’s why I took it from you.”
Shane tensed and leaned forward toward the man.
“How much money do you want? How much?”
Kent smiled an shook his head.
“Not a cent.”
“Just the favor.”

This writing is staccato. It's a finger thrust into your chest...poke...poke...hard and quick.

Here's another book from the 90s with sharp dialogue.

The Facts Speak for Themselves by Brock Cole

     The woman policeman says would you like something to drink? A Coke or something?
     No, I don't want anything.
     We're trying to locate your mother right now. We'll just wait here until she comes.
     Oh, I said.
     Is that all right?
     Yes. That's all right.
     The other policeman came in. The one with the white hair and the stomach.
     He says well how are you, Linda.
     I'm okay.
     He spreads some papers out in front of him but can't find what he's looking for.
     He says how old are you?
     Yes, I said.
     We haven't been able to locate your mother, Linda.

This novel was considered shocking when it was published. Some people would still consider it shocking. The author, Brock Cole wanted to leave out punctuation because he wanted the reader to be as close to the story as they could be. Without the dialogue marks it's as though the story is naked, isn't it?

"Inexcusable" by Chris Lynch is a more recent book (2005) and it too, deals with a shocking subject. 
Here is an excerpt from page 3. You'll see short sentences, staccato, and intensity.

     She grabs, can't grab, scratches instead at my chest, then slaps me hard across the face, first right side then left, smack, smack.
     "Say what you did, Keir."
     "Why is Carl coming? Why do you have to call Carl, Gigi?"
     "Say what you did, Keir. Admit what you did to me."
     "I didn't do anything, Gigi."
     "Yes you did! I said no!"
     I say this very quietly, but firmly. "You did not."
     "I said no," she growls. "Say it."
     "I don't see why you need Carl. You can beat me up just fine on your own. Listen, Gigi, it was nobody's fault."
     "Yes it was! It was your fault. This should not have happened."
     "Fine, then it didn't."
     "It did, it did, it did, bastard! For me it did and it's making me sick."

Wow, right? Very powerful 
So we started with Nancy Drew, very drawn out, stilted dialogue and came forward to very sharp, direct dialogue.

Words, words, words, the words between us. What makes a story powerful? What makes the reader suspend disbelief and keep reading?
Often, it's dialogue.
It has to be real. It has to feel real. And that, dear writer, is now in your hands.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Anti-Valentine? Love it!

 Roses are Red
  Violets are Blue
Is there an Anti - Valentine's day book
  Out there for you?
Happily, yes, there are two. 

I am delighted to share something not quite as Valentiney as all the rest of the Love-ly books annually displayed in bookstores and libraries.  These two treasures made me laugh out loud and each offer a slightly different take on the holiday of love. 

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell, is exactly that.  Mortimer is dateless for the upcoming Cupid's Ball. What's a vampire to do? He offers his heart to one young lady. She's not interested in the shiny organ.  He offers a diamond ring to another unsuspecting young lass. She is not quite enamored with the finger that is still attached.  Mortimer decides to place an ISO ad in the local paper listing himself as TALL, DEAD, AND HANDSOME.  Will someone similarly undead meet Mortimer at the Cupid's Ball punch bowl before the stroke of midnight?
I Loathe You by David Slonim is a little tale of unconditional loathing between a Big Monster and a Little Monster.  Written in rhymed verse, Big Monster assures...
"I loathe you more than chicken pox,
  more than stinky, sweaty socks,
  more than garbage in a dump,
  or splinters sticking in my rump. 
  Mosquito bites? I loathe them, yes,
  but next to you a whole lot less..."

Little Monster returns the loathing...
"I loathe you more than slimy rats,
  more than frostbite, skunks, or bats!
  More than fuzzy mold on cheese,
  more than fever or disease!"

But what if Little Monster goofs up? Becomes well-behaved and well-mannered? Then what? Can Little Monster always count on being loathed?

Take a break from the lovey-dovey and enjoy these two not-so-Valentiney treats.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Five YA Story Starts-- Do they work magic for you? by Kitty Griffin

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

How do stories draw you in? Do you appreciate the quick slap, the story that drops you into the volcano as the earthquake cracks the world? Or do you prefer Hoovering-- the slow pulling and when you go to look away, you can't you just have to find out what happens next?

Here are five story starts. These are recent YA fantasy stories with an anchoring to a familiar fairy tale.  

Just by looking at the covers to "Cinder" and "Scarlet" you can immediately find the anchor story-- Cinderella and the slipper (only look at that ankle, what's up with that?) and Red Riding Hood.

Here is how "Cinder" starts-- see what you think, the slap or the suck...

     The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw on gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean.
     Tossing the screwdriver onto the table, Cinder gripped her heel and yanked the foot from its socket. A spark singed her fingertips and she jerked away, leaving the foot to dangle from a tangle of red and yellow wires.

   Does that grab you?

   How about the pitch line?

   "Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population.  From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl...Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg."

Let's look at the sequel, "Scarlet"

     Scarlet was descending toward the alley behind the Rieux Tavern when her portscreen chimed from the passenger seat, followed by an automated voice: "Comm received for Mademoiselle Scarlet Benoit from the Toulouse Law Enforcement Department of Missing Persons."
     Heart jumping, she swerved just in time to keep the ship's starboard side from skidding against the stone wall, and threw down the brakes before reaching a complete stop. Scarlet killed the engine, already grabbing for the discarded port screen. It's pale blue light glinted off the cockpit's controls.
     They'd found something.
     The Toulouse police must have found something.

A livelier start, but are you drawn in? You decide.

Read each of these openings. Which one do you want to keep reading? Why? When you understand why, then you are on your way to understanding what you like. When you know what you like to read, you'll know what you'll like to write.

Believe it or not, some writers never understand that lesson. All they want to do is write something that sells, not realizing that if they don't like it, no one else will. If your heart isn't in it, people will know. Especially editors. 

A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

     I'd try to hold on to my stass dreams as long as I could. It's a game I would play, struggling to keep track of those misty images that were so easily lost. I'd try to keep mysef in stasis, keep my heart beating to slow to feel, refuse to wake up my lungs. Once or twice I managed to hold on so long that Mom panicked and turned on the resuscitator.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

(Please note: "Fathomless" has a long prologue, but for this exercise, we're starting with chapter one)

     My sisters love this place.
     It smells like sand and cigarettes and cotton candy, like sunscreen and salt. The scent builds up all summer, and now, at the height of tourist season, it's so thick that I think I could wave an empty bottle around and it would fill with liquid perfume.
     We cut through the Skee-Ball parlor and emerge on the main drag of the Pavilion, lights and sounds everywhere, crowds of people with terrible sunburns. My sisters giggle to each other, the two of them perfectly in step ahead of me. We are triplets, but they are the twins, a perfectly matched set with high eyebrows and pretty lips. To most people, we look identical; to one another, my features are a little different. A little off, a not-quite-right replica of Anne and Jane.

Dust City byRobert Paul Weston

          Once upon a time, fairy-dust came from where you'd expect. From fairies. I was only a cub, so I don't remember much of what the City was like back then. But I have a strong sense that things were different. Dreams could come true. You read about it in the paper. I've seen the clippings. Mrs. L. has some of them pinned up in her office: PAUPER GIRL GETS A FAIRY VISIT, ELEVATED TO A LIFE OF LUXURY! 
     Then one day, the miracles dried up. The fairies stopped drifting down to bless us with their charms. All at once, they were gone.

     What draws you in? What excites your imagination? What feeds your dreams? 

Monday, February 4, 2013

First Friday-Five Favorite Things: Freakling, Lana Krumwiede

This past Friday, February 1, 2013, Marcy and I posted our answers to Lana's debut novel, Freakling. Today, you get to read Lana's favorite's. First though, I wanted to mention that the idea for doing this series came to me while I was reading Lana's book. She had such great insight into her characters, and there were so many moments throughout when I found myself really intrigued by lines of dialogue or paragraphs of description as it related to her main character’s growth. After running the idea by Marcy, she and I came up with the questions for the series. Marcy and I both hoped that by doing this, both we and our readers would gain a little insight into the thought process of the authors we were highlighting, as well as a sneak peek at their debut novels.

What I didn't realize is the effect that this would have on the authors. Here's what Lana had to say about the exercise.

"This is actually very thought-provoking. I started wondering if I should start thinking about things like this in the early or middle stages of the writing process. I think a really interesting pre-writing exercise would be to journal about what is my favorite thing about this character’s personality. Or, what is her character growth going to be all about and how can it be shown to maximum effect? I do think about things like that, but I don't often write it down or perhaps explore it fully."

"Of course, sometimes the writing takes on an energy of its own, and an author can't afford to ignore that. Even so, I find that if I can plant some solid ideas in my subconscious beforehand, then more or less forget about that as I write and let my subconscious work things out on its own, things come together nicely as I write. Not sure this is making any sense... the point is that I think these questions are really thoughtful and not the run-of-the-mill author questions, so good job!"

Thank you, Lana, for the compliment! Marcy and I really enjoyed reading the book and picking out our five favorites.

Now, let's hear Lana's five favorites.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Taemon is a bit tricky to write as a main character, because his personality is reserved. He doesn’t like the limelight, and he would rather someone else take the lead. But he does have a strong sense of integrity, and when it was clear that people were relying on him to lead, he steps up to take that role. In my mind, this happens for the first time when Taemon and Amma get captured, and Taemon has to come up with a plan to escape. At that point, everyone looks to him for direction, and he doesn’t shy away from it. That’s my boy!

Here’s a quote from Taemon in which we finally see him taking a stand:

It’s not right for people with psi to use it for violence. Isn’t that why the powerless colony was established in the first place? Because being powerless makes you vulnerable?”

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

All the chapter endings in Freakling have a bit of the cliffhanger, though some are stronger than others. I think one of my favorites is the end of chapter eleven. The scene where Taemon and Amma ride in the back of Jad’s hauler is light and fun, then things get tense quickly when Taemon realizes where Jad is headed. Oh, and my other favorite is in chapter thirteen when he discovers the mysterious psi door at the colony.

Taemon faked outrage. “All right, that’s it.” He picked up another piece of hay. “All or nothing. If I win this one, you have to tell me. And if you win . . .”

“What?” Amma asked with a smile. “What do I win?”

Taemon looked at the scenery. He wasn’t thinking about the hay-spitting game anymore. A deep anxiety worked its way from his stomach to his scalp.

Earth and Sky! Was that the city wall he saw in the distance? They must be way past the drop-off station. He should have been paying attention. He never should have trusted Jad.

Taemon turned and banged on the roof of the driving compartment. “Stop!”

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Challis! She was really fun to write because she seems clueless, but she knows more than anyone can guess.

Here’s a fun line or two from Challis:

“Ah, you’ve come to see your Auntie Challis. It was always good to see you, Thayer.”

“Um, you too,” Taemon said.

Hannova looked confused. “What did she call you?”

Taemon whispered to Hannova, “I think she’s got me mixed up with her nephew.”

“Thayer’s my father, not my nephew. And another thing, the pickles next year were excellent. Sour, just the way I like them.”

“Next year?” Taemon asked.

“It’s all in the eyebrows, Thayer.”

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

This is tough because description is my least favorite thing to write; I have to make myself do it. I’m the same way as a reader—I tend to skim over description. I think the hardest thing was trying to describe psi as I introduced it in the first chapter. I rewrote that opening chapter countless times, trying to get the right tone and to inform the reader enough without getting off to a slow start. That feeling when the scene finally feels right is so satisfying.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

One day when he was about three years old, Taemon realized dishes didn’t wash themselves. Someone nearby was using psi to tell the dishes and the doors and the quadriders what to do. You couldn’t see it, you couldn’t hear it, but when an object moved, someone nearby was doing it with psi. Da said even the Earth had her psi. She used it to fetch rain from the clouds and rouse the seeds in spring.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

I think my favorite dialogue in Freakling is the kind where Taemon gets confused about how powerless things work. For example, when Amma wants him to paddle the boat around the lake and she has to explain to him how to use an oar. That “fish-out-of-water” stuff is really fun to write because it adds humor, of course, but also because it shows how strange the powerless lifestyle is to a city dweller. The psi wielders have become so dependent on their power that they no longer have the basic notions of how to do things by hand.

“Me? Captain?” Taemon asked. “How can I move a boat without psi?”

Amma rolled her eyes. “Ever heard of an oar?”

“Or? Or what?”

Vangie and Amma laughed, but Taemon shrugged. How under Blue Skies was he supposed to know these things?

Congratulations Lana on your debut novel Freakling! Be sure to check out the sequel to Freakling. Archon comes out in October, 2013.

Thank you again, Lana!

You can find Lana at:

Twitter:  @LanaKrumwiede
Amazon:  Freakling