Friday, October 30, 2009

My Work Space

First - Robyn needs to quit reading my mind. Here it was, 5 AM-ish on Thursday morning, and I'm thinking Self, you need to post pictures of your workspace on blogger or something to that effect. Yes, the places my mind goes at 5 AM are quite scary, quite scary indeed.

Imagine my surprise when I checked in with Robyn on Thursday morning and . . . she had posted pictures of her workspace!!!

This is where, sometimes, I hone my brilliance to diamond like perfection.

This picture is where I sometimes sit, stare out the window, perhaps read, perhaps pet the cat, or just sort of meditate on life.

I've gotten quite a bit of inspiration from sitting in this chair and just staring out the window.

The wall color is candy apple red and was painted by the previous owner of the house. The pictures don't do the color justice. I wasn't sure if I would like the color or not when we first bought the house, but I love, love, love it now.

Here is the window I find my self staring out and meditating on life, story ideas, or just nothing whatsoever. : )

In the spring or fall I love to open the windows and let the fresh air into the house. Those days are few and far between since spring always morphs into summer, and fall into winter, far too quickly.

Here are the built in bookcases. Yes, built in! My dream - well, one of them - come true. These cases house my favorite, favorite books. There are books scattered throughout the house in various places as well.

Here's the armoire opened wide to reveal my workspace. Like how neat and organized it is? I'm such the neatnik!!! NOT!

I organized this morning . . . and it was ugly, very, very ugly. I pulled all the loose piles of paper I have a tendency of scattering here, there, and everywhere (I do mean everywhere) in my office, took them into the kitchen and began the sorting process. Then, I pulled out file folders, labeled them, and started filing the papers neatly away to create a sense of order in the chaos that is normally my workspace.

Lastly, here's my other office. Really, it's the dinette table in the kitchen nook. I write here more than anywhere else lately, mainly because the dogs sunroom is to the right. If they can see me, they're happy. If they can't . . . well, Jesse is quite whiny at times, and that disturbs my writing flow, so most times I just write at my other office.

Still, there are many times when I escape into my private domain, turn up the music, and write.

Hope everybody has a great weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I was bantering back and forth with a friend of mine, and we were getting quite snarky (go figure) with our emails. It was a game of one up-manship, and - please hold your applause - I won! Woo-hoo.

The whole banter back/forth thingy made my brain cells do the funky synapse dance that they like to do when I'm, well, thinking!

And, the result of the funky synapse dance (similar to the funky chicken, but with out the arm flapping thingy) is this question: do your characters banter?

I've written about character dynamics before, and other character things as well. For me, characters often become alive - i'm a real boy, i'm a real boy - for me when the characters banter. They seem more real.

So, are your characters alive? Do they banter back and forth, do their ears hang low, do they wobble to and . . . dratted Walmart commercial!!! Arrrgghhh! Or, are your characters just listlessly immersed in the pages of your brilliance? Do they need a little bang for their buck? Do they need a little salt with their pepper?? Is the cool missing from their whip?

If you answered yes to any of those questions . . . please join me in the loony bin!! Kidding.

I know the whole point of dialogue is to propel things forward, a natural progression, and all that jazz, but I firmly believe that the quirkiness of your characters, their inner snark so to speak, must shine forth as well. People have hum-drum conversations everyday. I don't bother to eavesdrop on those conversations. No fun, no fun at all. I love to eavesdrop on snarky conversations. I often find myself laughing at something that the people I'm eavesdropping on say.

I laugh at conversations between characters in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. LOL! ROTFLOL!!!

I laughed a few times today with the snarky email banter between a friend and I. I've forwarded that email home so I can include the banter in some future novel. Why? Because, if I do say so myself, there's a vibrancy that shines forth in the back/forth emails. There's a sense of me, and my friend, in the back/forth banter. There's a sense of, well, character.

So, my challenge to you . . . go read the conversations between your characters. Do you sense the characters in those conversations? Do the conversations give you a sense of the characters? Do the conversations seem alive and vibrant or dull and listless? If you were a fly on the wall . . . would you eavesdrop on said conversations, or fly off to irritate somebody else?

As for me, if I input said email banter/conversation into say, Margarita Nights, and was reading said banter/conversation . . . I'd LOL. No, I'm not tooting - okay, maybe I am - my own horn, because I only wrote 1/2 the conversation. Said snarky friend also wrote 1/2 of the conversation. Still, 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 Funny Email Exchange . . . at least in my opinion.


p.s. no, i'm not going to post the conversation on the blog . . . well, at least not today.

p.p.s - since I'm all about linking this week. Go and check out Nathan Bransford's post about themes schmemes!

p.p.p.s - check out Janet Reid's post about notes from the effective query class at SCWW

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Novel Checklist

Well, this is the week where I'm just linking all the readers of my blog to other sites.

Today . . . I'm sending you to The Blood-Red Pencil for a nifty Novel Checklist.

As many of you know, I'm not a heavy duty outliner. I'm more of a free flow, wing it, a note here, a note there, where in the heck did that post it note go with the brilliant idea I had for Chapter 2112 go to, kind of outliner. There are no detailed lists, no maps, nothing but a haphazard way of outlining that works for, well, me! Woo-hoo.

I still asks (okay, that was a typo, but I figured it was meant to be there, so I'm leaving it) myself questions along the way . . . many of which I have found on Lady Glamis' blog The Innocent Flower and/or The Literary Lab, the blog she co-authors with Scott and Davin. The questions are many that a writer needs to ask during the writing process. The novel checklist provides some more dandy questions to ask, and breaks these questions down into categories, such as . . .

Story Arc


Point of View

Dialogue . . .

. . . and some more that I'm not going to repeat here, but direct you to here so you can read these for yourselves, book mark the page, print it out, and have it as a handy-dandy reference as you are going through the writing process.

I hope everyone is having a productive week. Me? Well, not so much, but I'm hoping that changes as the week progresses.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

According to Janet Reid . . .

. . . we are writers.

In a week where I didn't have much faith about having anything to post . . .

. . . well . . .

. . . yesterday, Lynn Behler provided the inspiration, and . . .

. . . yesterday, Janet Reid provided the inspiration, but I'm scheduling the post for today!

Okay, more to the point, I'm directing you to their blogs. It counts. In my world . . . it counts.

Go and read Janet's post titled Less Than Zero for some inspiring words that every writer, published or not, needs to hear.

You see, I think every aspiring writer, at some point, begins to doubt whether or not they are, well, actually, a writer. According to Janet ~ Make no mistake about this: if you have written and finished a novel you ARE a writer.

So, I've written and finished a novel! You know what? That makes me a WRITER! Woo-hoo.

She's given some other great examples as well.

Now, go read her post, because, as always, it's to the point, very informative, and very direct. Janet doesn't mix any words. She tells you like it is!! She even uses the word horsedoody, but she uses the actual word and not the doody word. I'm just saying . . .


Monday, October 26, 2009

Voice = Literary Fashion

Quick post today - go to Lynn Behler's blog. She has a great, great, great post about voice today that, as usual, makes perfect sense. Oh, and she also has a beagle for an assistant who makes margaritas. I mean, life doesn't get much better than having a beagle who can make margaritas. : )

But, as normal, I digress . . . go read the post, and check out some of her other posts as well.

The essence of the post ~ a newspaper columnist with a unique voice was downsized to the online version of the paper, people complained, they brought her back to the print edition, but . . .

The paper had removed the very essence of this talented woman’s unique writing – her ability to analyze the mundane of family life into the special. The thoughtful. I feel badly for Teryl because her articles lack zing.

And, because the articles lack zing, Lynn Behler no longer reads the columns, and stressed her point with this statement: And that's the importance of voice.

Without voice, well . . . who's gonna love ya baby????

Now, hop on over here, read the rest of the article, and find out how Lynn Behler thinks of voice as literary fashion!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Idea Storm

Last night, driving home, listening to satellite radio, and pretty much minding my own business. Okay, perhaps my mind was drifting here, there, and everywhere . . . but I was still paying attention to my driving.

Then . . .


No, I didn't hit, nor was I hit by another car. I was hit by . . .

. . . an idea storm!

I blame it on all on Lady Glamis and her post over at The Literary Lab yesterday about this roller coaster's going to kill me. Go on, click on over, read the post, and then hop back here . . . otherwise, you're going to be totally lost. : )

So, as normal, her post started my brain cells to synapse . . . like crazy. Mostly, it was in the back of my mind throughout the day as I worked in the diamond mind along Crazy, one of the newest additions to the Dwarf Clan. Okay, she's only Mildly Crazy, but still . . . Then, on the way home, everything kicked into gear.

I began to think of ways to experiment with my writing. I love a good old, crazy experiment, that really challenges me and tests my limits as a writer. Bring. It. On. Baby!


So, there's this manuscript I completed a few years ago, you know, the one with three different endings because I couldn't decide who I wanted the main character to end up with? Yeah, that one.

My thoughts where . . . how can I change this up and make it work better. Then, the ideas began to flow. No, I'm not going to share right now . . . well, at least not everything.

Here are the possibilities . . .
  • Focus the story from the perspective of Character B, rather than have three perspectives. Begin the book with ultimate confrontation that currently happens toward the middle of the book. Explore the consequences of Character B's actions, along with developing friendship with confronter, and also deal with confronter's spiraling emotions as she deals with the impact of what has happened in her life.
  • Refocus the story based on a single perspective only using Character A.
  • Refocus the story based on a single perspective only using Character C. Oh, wait, Character C isn't really that sympathetic. Is a story with an unsympathetic character truly possible?
  • Refocus the story based on a single perspective only using Character D, who was truly only a peripheral character, but is much more sympathetic than Character C.
  • Then, the grand finale of an idea . . . well, I'm keeping that one to myself. Sorry.

Basically, my mind took a good look at what I'd written and wasn't happy, not at all, not at all. This is part of the process of being a writer. We have to be able to recognize our own brilliance, and, we have to be able to recognize the cubic zirconias in our midst as well. Not everything I (we) write is going to be brilliant, not matter how much I (we) think it is brilliant, stunning, the best thing ever . . .

Every writer, at some point in their lives, writes a piece or two of . . . doody!! Big Doody! It happens. We move on. We do not - I repeat - we do not give up because we wrote one piece of doody, no matter how big.

Lady Glamis came to that realization and wrote about it here. She also made a very inspiring comment . . .

I think we reach a threshold, though- a place where we can see our work clearly, a place where we can make sure the writing doesn't interfere with the story

Truer words, at least at this point in my life, haven't been written. These words are gold.

If something isn't working, then we need to recognize it. Sometimes, we just set the manuscript aside forever. Other times, we look at the words we have written, the characters we have created, and we hope for an idea storm that will replace the cubic zirconia with an actual diamond.

As easy as it is to give up in life, I really think, as writers, we need to keep writing. Writing is not easy. Writing takes time and effort. We have to balance our desire to write, with the fact that we must venture forth into the diamond mines with Sleepy, Grumpy, Menopausal (oh, that was a bad three years of my life working with Menopausal - very bad), and all the other Dwarves out there that are an integral part of our life because we have bills to pay.

We can do all of it. Balance does exist. Faith in our abilities exists as well.

So, next time you read something you wrote and think geesh, this is doody, well . . . you're probably right. So set the doody aside and move on to something else. Don't foget about the doody, because there might still be some promise within the words you wrote. There might be a character that might spring to life in another novel.

Write, for it is a gift we have been given.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WiP Wednesday

Okay, back to WiP (Work in Progress) Wednesday . . .

Since last time you tuned in to the fabulous writing life of, well, me . . .

The project that starts at the end and works its way to the beginning is progressing, slowly, very slowly. My brain hurts!

I've also begun the second draft phase of another project . . . the openings of which appeared on this very blog on Monday. Go figure. The revisions are progressing very well at this point.

As I mentioned before, everything is about balance. I try to do a bit of this, a little of that, and a smidge of some other stuff every evening, while still finding time to have a life. It might not be much of one sometimes, but it's still a life.

I hope everyone else is making fabulous progress on whatever they're working on!


Monday, October 19, 2009


It’s all about the opening . . .

The lights in the theater dims, the music begins to play, and the curtain goes up . . .

In a book, it’s a bit more complex, and often less dramatic. In a book, the opening – the first sentence, paragraph, page – is often the determining factor whether or not someone will do more than just pick up the book because of an interesting cover, title, or a combination of both. If, like me, the potential buyer is going to read the first sentence, paragraph, or page before they will buy the book . . . well, the stakes just got a heck of a lot higher.

As for me, I read the blurbs on the back, the book cover, and the first page or so of a book before I fork over my hard earned dollars from work in the diamond mine with Grumpy, Doc, Sleepy, Bashful, and the other Dwarves. Yes, I make my decision based on some of the pages in the book.

Now, I will admit, my favorite book of all time (well, one of them) is Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. I love, love, LOVE, the book. I didn’t love the opening of the book. In fact, I owned the book for probably three years before I forced myself to sit down and read this book that someone gave me. Oh, joy of joys, I am so glad I did. Brilliant. Brilliant. BRILLIANT!!!!

So, the book didn’t have the best opening in the world. It is still probably one of the best books I have ever read in my life.

But, I digress, and you probably have better things to do than get lost amid my various digressions (well, some of them have been quite fun, but those will have to wait until my autobiography is published – HA!).

Following are three openings from a current Work in Progress (WiP). The first is, well, the opening I wrote when I did the initiall draft of the project . . .

Jake was beyond furious. If rage had a color, his would be the most vibrant red tinged with just a hint of yellow for drama queen effect.

Rage, unfortunately, did not have a color. Rage – silent for so long, if he didn’t speak the words, they wouldn’t come true – only had an outlet now: his mother. She stood across from him in her newly updated – granite counters, stainless appliances, hardwood floors – kitchen. She had wiped away the kitchen of his childhood, just as she had wiped away the truth regarding his private adoption 32 years ago.

“Don’t you think this is something I should have been told about at some point in my life?” He reached up and ran his fingers through his curly dark hair.

Cordelia met his angry gaze. “Perhaps.”

He arched one brow slightly – an affectation learned from his mother and his Aunt Ophelia. “Perhaps? That’s your response?”

The second, is from a possible revamp of the opening . . .

Jake looked out the window. He couldn’t look at his mother. Where was the woman who taught him the difference between right and wrong, honesty above all else? Who was this woman who seemed so calm and composed, so indifferent to the horrible lie she and her sister told once upon a time in the way of fairy tales and unhappy endings?

He inhaled, held the breath for the count of twenty, and slowly exhaled.

He turned to face his mother. She stood across from him in her newly updated kitchen. She had wiped away the kitchen of his childhood, just as she had wiped away the truth regarding his private adoption 32 years ago. “At what point, Mother, does a person decide to tell such a lie and toss away her soul?”

“Souls are so easy to toss aside.” She shrugged her shoulders. “How long have you known?”

This last opening, is what I wrote this morning . . .

The first day Jake’s partner hit him wasn’t the worst day of his life. Oh, it was a bad day, but not the worst, just a prelude to worse days yet to come. The day Jake learned the truth about his parentage – you are the son of Antonio and Ophelia DeMarrco – wasn’t the worst day of his life. The day he learned his private adoption wasn’t legal, wasn’t the worst day of his life. The day he learned the full specifics of his alleged adoption, the lies told by two women and the lives devastated in the process, wasn’t the worst day of his life either. The day he finally realized what he would have to do to protect his mother and aunt’s dark secret pretty much scored first place as the worst day of his life.

Today – here, now – was slowly gaining on the worst day of his life. He didn’t think tomorrow would be much better, or the next day, or the day after, or the months yet to come that would each take their place in the lovely algebraic equation of his life.

I will strip of your free will! Esmeralda DeMarrco, matriarch of the DeMarrco family, spoke those words to him from beyond the grave. He had – arrogance at it’s beth, plus a healthy dose of youth and naiveté – laughed at those words.

He was no longer laughing.

Jake looked out the window. He couldn’t look at his mother. Where was the woman who taught him the difference between right and wrong, honesty above all else? Who was this woman who seemed so calm and composed, so indifferent to the horrible lie she and her sister told once upon a time in the way of fairy tales and unhappy endings?

He inhaled, held the breath for the count of twenty, and slowly exhaled.

He turned to face his mother. She stood across from him in her newly updated kitchen. She had wiped away the kitchen of his childhood, just as she had wiped away the truth regarding his private adoption 32 years ago. “At what point, Mother, does a person decide to tell such a lie and toss away her soul?”

Yes, the third incorporates some of the second, which incorporated some of the first. I’m clever that way.

For me, I personally like the third the best. I like the tone of the third – a bit laid back, a sense of snark, but not too much, and a bit more revealing than in the previous openings.

For me, personally, I’d more likely keep reading a bit before I forked over that money that Bashful is so stingy about handing out after a hard week in the Diamond Mine.

How about your openings? Are they dramatic? Revealing? Would you fork over your hard earned money if your opening was written by somebody else and you were perusing the book in your local bookstore? Do you change the opening of your brilliance throughout the various phases of the writing process? Huh? Huh? Huh??

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WiP Wednesday

So, since I accidentally (perhaps intentionally) posted two posts yesterday, one of which was (so I thought) scheduled to post today . . .

I thought I'd give you a little bit of a WiP Wednesday for a change.

From The End to The Beginning is progressing nicely. I have about 2,500 words written on that project. It's slow going right now, because, well, it's quite difficult writing from The End to The Beginning. Trust me on that one.

Word Elimination - is still going on. Slowly. Surely. Inexorably. Do you like those lovely adjectives? I just decided to throw them out there, just for the heck of it. I might even throw a few more into this post before I'm done. I'm such a rebel sometimes.

Revision Phase of Another Project - I'm revamping the first few chapters and then we'll get into the nitty-gritty of the Second Draft phase. Wish me luck.

All of this, of course, has to do with balancing new writing with the whole editing thing of other projects in preparation for querying said other projects and still feeling that I'm accomplishing something.

Oh, then there's my short story for the Genre Wars thingy over at The Literary Lab. I've written the rough draft, and my blogger/facebook friend Robyn at Putting Pen to Paper has given me her brutal, I mean brutal, I might need therapy brutal - okay, seriously kidding - opinion of the rough draft. Yes, I'm paying close attention to all her suggestions. She's pretty much right on the mark with everything she said . . . and it was the rough, rough, pound the story out, draft of the short story.

Yes, my plate's pretty full. I didn't write last night because, well, I crashed on the couch with the boyz (Jesse and James) and watched some TV. I was tired. Very, very tired, and writing when I feel like that isn't pretty, not at all, not at all!

Hope everyone has a great and highly productive week.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I'm not writing near as much as I'd like to write. I have no excuses. I'm just not writing. Well, I'm revising, eliminating words, blogging here, there, and everywhere, but I'm not working on anything from Point A to Point Z.

Well, to be technical, I wasn't working on anything from Point A to Point Z.

I am now, but it's more like Point Z to Point A.

Yes, I'm writing backwards. I'm starting at The End and working my way backwards to The Beginning.

This is an experiment in chaos. This is a writing experiment. I know how the story ends. I have no clue how the story will begin.

Yeah, try those shoes on for size. I wrote the very last chapter . . . FIRST!

I began this experiment on Sunday afternoon. I've just had this urge to do something besides revise, edit, and blog here, there, and everywhere. I need to write, to explore the depths of depravity, to uncover the truth, to have my characters hear the police sirens wail in the distance as they look down at the body sprawled on the cobblestone driveway.

This experiment of writing from The End to The Beginning is also an experiment in trying to balance the various phases - writing, editing, revising, blogging (and life) - of the writing process. It's about trying to write something new while still fine tuning the brilliance I've already written. It's about fulfilling a need in me to . . . well . . . write, to create, to delve into the psyche of my imaginary characters, to make a political statement through my writing, and to have fun at the same time.

Life is hard. Writing is hard. Balance is even harder. There's only so much time in the day. I get up early enough as it is to exercise five days per week. I'm not willing to give up any more time in the morning, or truly at night. That's a self-defeating prophecy, btw. So, my life becomes more about divvying up the time I have in the evening, and on the weekends, between editing, revising, blogging, writing something new, bonding with the animals . . . and with Frank . . . and still finding time for me.

Wish me luck!!


Five Minutes

Today's post is a challenge . . .

. . . take five minutes out of your busy life and . . .

. . . take time to . . .
  • smell the coffee
  • breathe in the scent of the air after a gentle rain
  • listen to the sounds of leaves popping off a tree on a crisp autumn morning
  • watch a spider spin its web
  • watch the rabbit eat the monkey grass you paid good money for
  • enjoy a glass of wine
  • enjoy a margarita
  • enjoy the world around you, as you take a step back, forget about deadlines, places to be, people to see, eating green eggs and ham in a box with a fox, or in the rain on a train . . .

You see, life is passing each and every one of us by. We're not taking time to watch the parade because we're too darn busy with this crazy thing called life.

My question: how are we truly supposed to write about the brief moments in time when we stop to just take in the beauty all around us, if we never stop to take in the beauty all around us?

How can I truly capture the essence of a cold, crisp autumn morning and the sound of leaves popping off the tree and gently falling to the dew soaked, slightly frosty ground, if I don't experience that moment?

Yeah, I know, I'm a writer and should be able to write about that moment without experiencing such a moment . . . but . . . isn't it better to write about something I know?

So, my challenge, to each and every reader of this blog, past, present, and future . . . STOP whatever you're doing and take some time to watch the chickadees at the bird feeder, or the deer wandering through the backyard and eating your prized roses, or the wild turkey that suddenly appears out of nowhere to eat your neighbor's blueberries, or sit outside with a cup of coffee on a cool autumn morning to stare up at the bluest-of-blue skies you've ever seen in your life.

As writers, we can create fantastic characters, worlds, and situations, but every now and then our characters need to STOP whatever they're doing in the crazy scenarios we've created in the depths of our imagination and let them just experience a subtle, quiet moment of life on a crisp autumn day or . . . whatever!

So, if your characters can do such a momentous thang, shouldn't you?


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Hook

The Hook – the one sentence that must a) grab the attention of a prospective agent and b) ultimately, grab the attention of prospective readers.

The Hook – not such an easy thing to write, but probably #2 on the Top Ten Things A Writer Must Do to Become A Published Author list. Okay, maybe there’s not ten things to do, but it sounded good, and I went with it!

The number one thing to do is, obviously, write a novel. Not just any novel, dear readers, but a novel that others beside yourself and your momma want to read. Sorry, Mom’s are great and all that jazz, but Mom’s recommendation isn’t going to make prospective fabulous agent want to read what you wrote. In fact, if you mention your mother’s recommendation in your query letter, an agent is more than likely not going to want to keep reading your query, let alone your fabulous novel.

Wait . . . what if . . . My mother would be horrified to know I wrote this novel. Hmmmm, would that make an agent keep reading? I mean, if I can horrify my mother with my own writing . . . oh, wait, maybe not so good after all. Scratch! That!

So, we all need a hook to sell our fabulousness (i.e. idea done brilliantly) to prospective agents and readers. This is the one sentence that you need to always have ready in case you bump into ultimate agent in an elevator, a hotel lobby, their favorite coffee shop, on the subway, in a chat room, or wherever.

I’ve been struggling with my hook because I’m attending an online conference this week and have the chance to pitch my book. I get five minutes, no more, and probably less depending on my pitch. Yes, Robyn, I’m working on it!

So, I decided to pull some of my favorite books off the far too dusty bookshelves and see what made me buy them in the first place. Here are the results . . .

Being immortal is not all it once was – Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Jared is torn between three possibilities and must decide what price – if any – he is willing to pay for happiness – Margarita Nights by Scott Mitchell

The Messenger of Magnolia Street tells the haunting story of three childhood friends who reunite to fight the unnamed presence that is slowly draining their beloved town of goodness and light – River Jordan.

Jared realizes that love is not enough to save a slowly deteriorating relationship and must discover if he has the courage to, potentially, face life as just Jared, instead of as one half of a couple – Margarita Nights by C. Scott Mitchell

Matt (Matilda) Black possesses the unique ability to speak with inanimate objects and witness the dreams of other people - A Red Heart of Memories by Nina Kiriki Hoffman.

Tyrone is a margarita drinking gladiator ensnared in the tendrils of the gayvine (telephone, telegraph, tell a gay man) and at the mercy of a very fickle Fate. Can he survive the catty whispers and find happiness without his partner of five years? Are potentially endless nights of loneliness worth leaving his partner of five years when he discovers that love isn’t enough to sustain their relationship? – Margarita Nights by C. S. Mitchell

When bookstore owner Sylvia Lynn hears her grandmother’s voice on the phone, she knows she must finally return to her childhood home in upstate New York – Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip.

Jared’s far from perfect life begins to unravel when he realizes he is no longer in love with his partner and has feelings for another man. Is he strong enough to walk away from a fairly good relationship to search for something better? – Margarita Nights by S. Mitchell

When Dorothy triumphed over the wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her archnemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil? – Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire.

Jared is his own worst enemy. He knows he isn’t happy in his current relationship. He’s scared to death to walk away from a semblance of happiness, afraid he’ll end up alone. He must decide whether partial happiness is enough for him, or whether he has the courage to risk everything truly find happiness – Margarita Nights by Scott

The day I returned to Templeton, steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass – The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.

For the most part, each and every example above is the first sentence off the book cover. The only exception is Wicked, and that example is from the back cover of the book. Yeah, it took more than one sentence, but the first sentence did make me read more of the description, which ultimately led to my buying the book.

I was hooked with each of the above examples . . . well, at least enough to keep reading the book jacket and ultimately purchasing the book. Okay, I will admit, that I purchased The Messenger of Magnolia Street because of the first paragraph in the book which reads as follows . . .

God is walking through Shibboleth, rummaging through the pockets of his memory, the distant past and the near future. The people of Shibboleth are sleeping, unaware of his presence or that he is considering them and their present circumstances.

He turns the corner of Magnolia and Main, observing that time has not passed well here but has come tearing its way along with such deceptive quietness that the people live unaware, tricked into silence. This isn’t the way that the story of Shibboleth, keeper of an eternal key, was meant to unfold.
(The Messenger of Magnolia Street – River Jordan – 1)

Okay, more than one paragraph – really, first paragraph and part of second. Still, the very first sentence on the page grabbed my attention. I wanted to keep reading more because of that very first sentence.

Now, an agent and/or potential readers, need to want to keep reading more because of the hook.

I know this. You probably know this. Everybody probably knows this. Still, the hook is not so easy (at least for me) to write. The hook is stressing me out. I need more coffee right about now. Heck, I probably need something in my coffee right about now.

In the end, I can only do the best I can do.

In the end, I can use the above examples to help craft my hook.

In the end, I have to sell my book to . . . well . . . me first.

I have to write a hook that would make me pick up this book and want to read me. Yes, I have to convince an agent and/or potential readers as well, but if I’m not hooked, how in the heck can I expect to hook an agent and/or potential readers?

Now, since questions seem a necessity of life: would you read any of the books above after reading the what I consider the hook for those books? Yes, I know, it’s not the actual hook, but close enough for me. J


p.s. Yes, I did it. I inserted potential hooks for my own piece of brilliance. I couldn't resist. So, since I did it, you tell me . . . which potential hook works for you? Any? All? None? I do expect brutal honesty! Oh, and the one about Tyrone is purely a shout-out to Traci from Words, Words, Words . . .

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Revision Saturday

Welcome to Revision Saturday!!! Woo-hoo!

Do I sound overly excited? Perhaps a bit . . . insincere! : )

Once upon a time, in a different place and time, perhaps an alternate reality, I began this blog to track my writing progress. Somehow, this blog became something more than a daily status report of my writerly life.

I don't think it was a bad transition. In fact, I kind of like the new and improved blog.

Still, progress is progress and should be, every now and then, duly noted. Ooooh, I sounded kind of knowledgeable in that sentence. Go figure.

So, today, dear readers, this blog is traveling back in time to the very beginning, when it first emerged from the depths of my - sometimes - slightly depraved mind.

Today, I'm revamping - slightly, a tweak here or there, nothing major, no anesthesia needed - Chapter One of Margarita Nights.


Well, dear readers, fellow bloggers, aspiring writers, I don't like the opening of Chapter One. Nope. Not at all. I did, once upon a time, in the way of fairy tales and happy endings, but not anymore. I have no clue why. I'm just going with my instinct here.

Chapter One needs a slightly different opening. It doesn't need more impact or drama, just . . . something!

So, wish me luck as I open up the document in Word and began this minor surgical, no anesthesia needed, procedure. If you happen to hear a blood curdling scream at some point in the day . . . don't worry, it's just me going totally insane!


Friday, October 9, 2009

The Violinist

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned agasint the wall to listen to him, the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tugged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.

Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time.

This action was repeated by several other children.

All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it.

No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.

The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be – If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

The Washington Post won a Pulitzer in the feature writing category for Gene Weingarten’s April 2007 story about this experiment.

One last note ~

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Should you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?

So, this post has little, and everything, to do with writing, but, for me, it is still important.

There is infinite beauty in the world, and the written word. There are passages that make me laugh, and passages that make me cry. There are passages that make me so very angry.

In the end, every little passage should tie together in a neat little emotional package that affects your readers and makes them remember your book long after they read . . . The End.

Don’t skimp on the beauty of the written word, the emotions: humor, sadness, anger, joy, whatever. Infuse your writing with those emotions. Infuse the beauty of the world around you into your writing, the story your want to tell, so that people don’t just read you once, but many times over.

So, my questions, dear readers, is pretty much the same: Do you have time for beauty? Do you take time to smell the roses, coffee or whatever? Do you take time to listen to the leaves – popping, popping, popping – as they fall from a tree on a cold Autumn morning? Do you stop when the cardinal sings it’s trilling song? Do you watch the hummingbirds battle over the feeder? Do you stop or do you just keep on walking?

Last, but not least . . .

. . . find moments to stop and listen, to enjoy the world around you!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nine Steps of Creativity

Hop on over to Adventures in Writing and read this post: Is creativity a “joyful struggle”? It’s very interesting, and there’s a video to go along with these nine steps of the creative process.

Here are the steps:
  • Intended Outcome
  • Information Gathering
  • Information Analysis
  • Incubation
  • Insight
  • Inspiration
  • Integration
  • Implementation
  • Incarnation

For me, the list would read as follows

  • Inspiration
  • Intended Outcome and/or Incubation
  • Incubation and/or Intended Outcome
  • Integration
  • Information Gathering
  • Information Analysis
  • Implementation
  • Insight
  • Incarnation

In order of appearance, here are a few explanations to my madness . . .

Inspiration – doesn’t any idea begin with inspiration, that sly, capricious entity who dances away from us more than She dances with us?? I mean, without the lovely Inspiration how would an intended outcome even exist?

Intended Outcome and/or Incubation – for me, this step is probably third in the process since after the initial Inspiration I need to decide whether I’m going to write a short story, novella, or novel. With this logic, intended outcome really must come in third, rather than second. Sorry intended outcome, but I just stripped you of that beautiful ribbon you were given for coming in second.

Incubation and/or Intended Outcome – seriously people, once the initial burst of brilliance hits me, I need to step back and think for a while, thus the incubation period of the Inspiration.

Integration – this is where I take the Inspiration + Incubation and/or Intended Outcome and merge everything together into a coherent plan.

Information Gathering – well, I have my Inspiration so now I need to gather the necessary pieces to fit the puzzle together. Where is the story going to take place? Is it fantasy? Vampire novel? Heaving bosom romance novel? Snarky diatribe on the State of Margaritas???

Information Analysis – okay, here’s where I decide what pieces of information I need, and how in the crap I’m going to fit them together to form brilliant coherence!

Implementation - here's where I really begin to write.

Insight – hmmmm, I’m guessing insight is what happens as I’m writing and suddenly go in a different direction then originally intended. This is the point where I hit the wall and can’t figure out what to do next. This, my friends, is instinct.

Incarnation – finished, done!! The End!!

How about you? What order would you place the nine steps of creativity??

BTW, I do hope you checked out the blog post at Adventures in Creative Writing.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Words, Words, and More Words

As everyone should know by now, I've been in the midst of eliminating a gazillion words from my manuscript. It's been a very slow and world weary process.

I am, making some progress. I've eliminated about 15,000 words so far, with about 15,000 to go, or maybe only 5,000.

This past weekend was spent searching and eliminating, sometimes replacing the word about. Slow. Tedious. Arrrrgghhhh!

Well, about is only the first word in a list of words suggested for elimination by Rachelle Gardner in her post about Tighten Up Your Manuscript back in August. The full list of words is . . .

about, actually, almost, almost, like, appears, approximately, basically, close to, even, eventually, exactly, finally, just, just then, kind of, nearly, practically, really, seems, simply, somehow, somewhat, sort of, suddenly, truly, utterly, were.

Yeah, that's a heck of a lot of words to search/eliminate. Did I mention that's a heck of a lot of words to search/eliminate?

Still, I need to eliminate words, and this is a good start. In many cases, a word can just go - poof - and be gone from the manuscript. In other cases, the word goes - presto chango - and becomes a different word. Fun, Fun, Fun!!!

Rachelle also gives some great advice on other ways to tighten up your manuscript so, you know the routine . . . CLICK the LINK!!!

The advice is extremely helpful and has really aided the elimination process, at least for me.

Now, in a similar vein, Janet Reid did a post called Let's Have a Pop Quiz in which she answered some burning questions we all probably have, so CLICK the LINK!!

The basics of her rant (trust me, it's a rant) is . . . if an agent speaks/blogs/whatever . . . LISTEN. Agents know what they are talking about. Agents know what they want from an aspiring and/or published writer! Agents, for the most part, are in the know.

So, since agents are in the know, it made sense to pull out Rachelle's post as I near the end (well, at least for this round) of the revision process and follow her nifty little advice as much as possible.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Elana . . . ROCKS!!

So, everyone by now knows about Elana's EBook From the Query to the Call! If you don't, click right on over to her site and buy the book!

I bought the book, slightly delayed because of technical malfunctions with Google Checkout. I mean, seriously people, I tried time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time . . . again.

I received the same error over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over . . . again!


I love the book. It's to the point, concise, and contains Elana's distinct personality. It doesn't contain the nifty bookcover picture of Elana . . . but you can check that out on her site.

The book is very helpful - nifty little worksheets to help in crafting the hook, lovely linkity-links, and so much other information your head just might explode! Seriously!

So, this post today, is just a great big THANKS to Elana for taking the time/effort to compile this resource and get it out there to every aspiring writer in the blogsphere, and facebooksphere, and everywhere!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday . . .

No great, in-depth, brilliant post today, so I thought I'd share a very appropriate email I received yesterday . . .

Important Health Issue:

Do you have feelings of inadequacy?

Do you suffer from shyness?
Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Margaritas.

Margaritas are the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. Margaritas can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you're ready and willing to do just about anything. You will notice the benefits of Margaritas almost immediately and with a regimen of regular doses you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live. Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had.

Stop hiding and start living, with Margaritas.

Margaritas may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Margaritas. However, women who wouldn't mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.

Side effects may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Incarceration
  • Erotic lustfulness
  • Loss of motor control
  • Loss of clothing (ooohh, this happened to a friend of mine on Halloween - not pretty, not at all)
  • Loss of money
  • Table dancing (hmmmm, is that what I did that night - omg!)
  • Headache
  • Dehydration (drinking more margaritas might help alleviate your thirst - i'm just saying . . . )
  • Dry mouth
  • And a desire to sing Karaoke (bad, very bad, step away from the microphone)


  • The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you are whispering when you are not.
  • The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.
  • The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to think you can sing.
  • The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you can logically converse without spitting.

Please share this with other people who may need Margaritas.

Hope everyone has a fantastic Friday!!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fear of Failure

Only thing we have to fear, is fear itself - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Do you fear failure? Does it keep you up at night? Does it cause your brow to furrow furiously? Whoa, trying saying that five times fast!! Does it cause you to twitch at odd moments? Does your mouth get all dry? Do you fear your brilliance will never shine forth? That you'll never write an acceptable query? That you'll never find an agent, an editor, a publisher, your space on the shelves at Borders?

Aren't we all plagued by similar fears? Do we give in to these fears or do we . . .

Now that I've spent the night thinking about it, I think that Robert's advice to me about being a book publisher really applies to anyone who wants to work in the industry in any capacity--but perhaps especially to writers. To sustain a state of high tension and desperation--you know, the kind the whole submission process usually creates--is not only physically exhausting, it's creatively exhausting. It also makes us less likely to make wise decisions when we're presented with opportunities. Paychecks aside--and let's face it, even the best-paid among us would-be publishing/published peeps don't make THAT much money--I think we survive by letting go of a fear of failure. Our desperation makes us lose sight of what we got into this for--in many cases, to write. Writing is the joy, and if you are joyful you have not failed. We should be happy when good things come about, but not live in fear that they won't.

The above comes from Moonrat's blog post yesterday, which Janet Reid directed me to here.

I don't think truer words (well, other than I'm writing the most brilliant novel ever) have ever been spoken.

We cannot let fear of failure rule our lives. We must plod ever forward, writing, writing, writing, editing, editing, editing, on to the next project, on to the next project, on to the next project, query, wait, query, wait, query, wait, play some Bejeweled Blitz, write, write, write . . . and so on. Yeah, fear of failure lurks in the back of my mind. It happens. But . . .

. . . well, read the italicized section above, especially the last line that I'm about to happily copy and paste . . .

We should be happy when good things come about, but not live in fear that they won't.