Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Page Contest and the Blahggy Blog Blows

Shelley Watters is hosting this amazeballs contest of awesome over on her blog. In a nutshell, contestants post the first 250 words (first page) of their novel on Tuesday May 31 for a chance to win a 10-page critique by the fabulous Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates. Want to enter? Hop on over to her blog and check it out!

Anyhoo - in the next three days, contestants can post their first pages on their blogs for critiquing opportunities. I'm usually averse to posting pieces of my ms on my blog, but I can use all the help I can get. So here goes. Feel free to be constructively brutal.

PS - my first page is actually 295 words. I cut it to 250 for a different first page contest, but I'm interested to see what my blogging friends think in terms of cutting. Happy reading!

My excerpt from Envious, a YA Paranormal complete at 73,000 words.

Mookie’s suicide hit like a sledgehammer to my chest.

He didn’t leave a note. No call. Not even a farewell text. Not a single clue as to why he jumped off the top of our bleachers—over fifty feet up.

They found his body early Sunday morning.
They being a well-intentioned jogger off to start the New Year on the right track. Mr. Graham, my tenth grade Geometry teacher with a pug nose and a body to match, arrived at our school around six for a pre-dawn run. While huffing through lap number two, he spotted Mookie’s sneaker sticking out of the new fallen snow. Then a frostbitten hand nearby it. Then the pool of blood.

A police car arrived shortly after, then an ambulance. Even a fire engine although I wasn’t sure what that was for. A fire had already been put out—a burning heat that used to fuel my existence was long gone.

Mookie lay on his stomach at the bottom of the bleachers, a short rusty stake the claim to his demise. With no footprints aside from Graham’s and no evidence of foul play, the local police concluded he killed himself. Said he must’ve taken a long fall and the stake gouged his heart when he fell on it. Tox reports would take at least a week, but I knew Mookie’s system contained a combination of weed and booze—how much remained the question. Enough to delude my previously carefree best friend into thinking he should jump, ending what had seemed to be a great life with a bright future.

That’s right. Mookie was my best friend. Most of the time—my only friend. And on January 3 he took his life.

This is where his story ends.

And mine begins.


So there 'tis. Disclaimer: I've been told it reads like a prologue. And it should. It used to be one.

Happy commenting!

Oh - and speaking of commenting - I haven't been able to do much lately. Apparently a few other bloggers are experiencing similar issues. Bu-ut I found this neato nifty shortcut on a couple of blogs. And it works! The suggested solution was to UNCLICK the "Stay signed in" box. Hmmmm. I love google.

Thanks for reading. And commenting. Don't forget to be constructively brutal! You're all fabulous!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Root of All Inspiration



Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.



This Week's Topic:

Who in your life has most inspired your writing?

YAY! Time for acknowledgments!

James Patterson—for his genius page-turners. For Maximum Ride. He’s why I strive for riveting action, crisp language, clever dialogue, and page-turning chapter endings.

And he’s not the only one, but he was the first. I’m continually inspired by brilliant writers like John Green, Suzanne Collins, Lauren Oliver—gosh, I could go on and on and on and…

My students—they inspire me on a daily basis through their humor, their drama, their idiosyncrasies that make them uncannily loveable even if what they share with me is most TMI

My writer friends—to chat with them is the biggest rejuvenation. Their advice, critiques, even their tough love - mucho uplifting

My family—my skin’s pretty thick, but it would crumble off my body without the support of my family.

God—without Him I can do nothing. He constantly feeds me inspiration; therefore, He’s inspiring.

How about YOU? Who fuels your passion?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Double D



I set crazy deadlines for myself. I’ve always been super Type A so I set unrealistic deadlines, and gosh darn it—I ALWAYS meet them. Memorizing lines, completing homework, grading papers, putting together photo albums—always a target date set. Without deadlines, I can’t function. I really don’t think I’d ever get anything accomplished.


Naturally, I set deadlines for my writing too. In fact, I detail them in my planner. By the end of this month, I will (insert practically impossible goal). Believe it or not, usually I achieve most of my goals and meet most of my self-imposed deadlines. But not lately. I started my current WIP back in September. I wanted to finish by January. I mean, I wrote each of my first two projects in four months. I should be able to do that with every story, right?

Ha.

In November (and then again in January) I got side-tracked with revisions on a previous project so I reset my deadline to March. Then to May. May 31.

And it's May 22.

Oy.

I don’t know if it’s just this year, but things have been insane-o hectic. There’s been a lot of stuff going on that I need to do. Tutoring. Watching my son’s t-ball games. Chauffeuring my daughter to dance. Grading papers. But also stuff I don’t. Like check my Facebook every five seconds. Or obsess over my junk-riddled garage (that’s been like that for seven years). Or watch Easy A every time it’s on TV (I can now recite the John Hughes speech verbatim). Uh-huh. Self-destroying weapons of mass distraction.

Result: I’m making limited progress on my WIP’s rough draft. And my May 31 deadline is rearing its ugly head. And I get mucho upset with myself when I don’t meet these unrealistic self-imposed deadlines.

Guess who’s been rather depressedamundo lately?

*inches hand up*





Yep.

Distractions + Deadlines = mucho Deadly for the WIP (and for me)

So I temporarily eliminated some distractions in my life. At first I was crazed—there was a distraction with thinking about not having the distractions. But now I hardly think about it. And guess what? I’m actually making a bit more progress on the WIP. The deadline looms, but I’m okay with extending it as long as I’m making substantial progress.

Last week, YA Highway’s Road Trip had us writing about rewards. The timing was bizarre. Just a day earlier I had decided to use my eliminated distractions as a incentive. When I’m done the rough draft, I get to indulge in them.

Any thing distracting YOU from getting the job done? Are any of the distractions eliminate-able? If they are, get rid of them. Trust me. It’s sooooo freeing. In so many ways.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rewards


Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.



This Week's Topic:

How do you reward yourself when you meet your writing goals?

Answer for big goals (i.e. I will buy a Lear jet when I get published) and/or small goals (I eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting when I finish each chapter).

Goals? Wait. Shouldn't my rewards for writing be that amazeballs sense of accomplishment when I write The End? That OMG I WROTE THAT feeling when I go back and read a chapter I've spent two hours weeks crafting?

Hehe. Well, to be honest, sometimes it is. Reading back over what I've written or elation at completing a chapter is occasionally enough reward for me. Bu-ut, I'm guilty of saying to myself, "If you just get through this chapter, you can watch all your back episodes of Glee." Or I'll "let myself" get on Facebook and creep walls catch up with friends. I usually set these goals when I've been struggling with something in my writing world. And if you've been keeping up with my blog posts, you know I'm going through that right now.

Rewards are definitely in place.

BIG GOALS: If I do ever get published with that seven figure deal (dream big, right?!), my husband will get his dreamcycle (aka Harley), we'll upscale the house, and my whole family will vacay to Greece. Or Australia. Or both.

Now, don't get me wrong - those things would be AMAZING. It's honestly enough for me to get published. And if I do, I'll definitely splurge on a vacation - preferably one with lots of roller coasters.




SMALL GOALS: I do set these. A glass bottle of wine. A venti Caramel Latte. Time to finish that book I DIDN'T WANT to put down. Sometimes, it's just a chance to get on Facebook. A trip to the beach. Or (smh) a game with my children. Or a movie night with the husband.


So, how do YOU reward yourself for meeting your goals?

Monday, May 16, 2011

WIP Woes

What? WIP woes? Writing is supposed to be FUN! My hobby. My passion. This is what I do when I need to find my happy place. There is no crying in writing!

Ha.

Okay—so here’s the dealz. I LOVE my new WIP. LOVE. IT. I don’t know that I’ll ever publish it. But I do know that I love, love, love my babies. I love my premise. I love crafting scenes and dialogue. I really, really LOVE my not-so-shiny ms.

What’s wrong then?

It’s el PLOT-o that has me stymied. It’s not because I don’t have one. I just don’t have a well-defined one. Well, I did. Then the “What ifs” entered my brain.

And with that entered a ton of frustration.

Here’s a run-down of my writing ride with my current WIP:

Spring 2009: idea for series of companion novels on seven deadly sins

MOOD: HMMMM

(PS—completed envy novel May 2010—querying now)

January 2010: brainstorm novel on lust (aka the current headache WIP)

MOOD: CAN’T WAIT

September 2010: Begin writing the lust book

MOOD: EXCITED!!!

October 2010: 20K complete; still writing; hitting murky middle

MOOD: FRUSTRATED, but still EXCITED

November 2010: 40K in – break for revisions on envy book

MOOD: HMMMM (subconscious working)

December 2010: continue writing. Hit 55K. Hit a wall. Novel has grown fifty wings and taken off in twenty-five different directions. Decide I don’t like where it’s going. At. All.

MOOD: GRRRR

January, February 2011: break on lust book. Work on major overhaul of front end of envy book

MOOD: LA LA LA (subconscious working)

March 2011: re-outline lust book. My original midpoint suddenly becomes my climax. I have so many scenes I’ve always wanted to insert to add richness to the novel. I sketch out several scenarios and try to tame the wild beast.

MOOD: EXCITED!!!

April 2011: edit and rewrite. Hit chapter eight. A thousand “what ifs” pop in my head—again.

MOOD: DAZED AND CONFUSED

By mid-April I was one frustrated mama.

I knew where I needed to go, I just couldn’t execute the next step. I came back to the same chapter several times. I wrote two different versions. Then I didn’t write anything for several days. I felt like I had to get this stupid chapter finished and make some fairly crucial decisions (ugh) before I could move on.

Or did I?

Just so you know—I’m a linear writer. I write start to finish. I NEVER put an X in the middle of my books and come back to it later. I nevereverneverevernever jump several scenes ahead or write those scenes that pop into my head as I see them. I do the same thing when I read. NEVER skim. NEVER sneak a peek at the ending. For me, it’s just cheating. And discovering how it ends is the motivation I need to get me there.

But I already know how this book ends.

And so, four weeks ago I became a . . .

*swallows hard*

I became a non-li—

I became a . . .

Ibecameanonlinearwriter.

*hanging banging my head*

A non-linear writer. I know. It’s shameful. I skipped chapter eight and wrote what I’m certain will be chapter twelve. I wrote the midpoint. Right now I’m writing the climax.

I’m not proud. I feel very much like I’m cheating. I don’t know why. I know of quite a few successful authors who write this way.

But I don’t like it—for me.

But you know what? I’m writing. And I figure that maybe . . . maybe if I write the ending, then the beginning will come (Yes—I totally just had a Field of Dreams moment) And it has—sort of. I just re-re-re-outlined the first ten chapters, and I think (maybe) that I might just be happy with it.

It’s like I tell my math students who’ve been staring at the intimidating word problem for TOO LONG. Just write something down. It gets your brain moving. Before you know it, you’ll write more stuff down. And more stuff. And before you know it, you’ve solved the problem.

Maybe that will happen for me.

And maybe, just maybe I’ll finish this novel—you know—like two freaking years from now.


How about YOU? Any woes in YOUR writing world that you need to conquer?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

RTW: Voice Over

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

Some audiobooks are read by celebrities. Most recently, Cassandra Clare's CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS was partly read by Ed Westwick of Gossip Girl.

So, if you got to choose a celebrity narrator for the audio book of your WIP or your favorite novel, who would it be and why?


My main characters in two of my projects are skinny introverted brunettes armed with intelligence and a side of wry snark.

Oh wait - I just described myself. Weird.

Anyway, they're endearing, smart, snarky. At times feisty and slightly off-beat. Who could pull that off?

Ellen Page.





I'm thinking Juno Ellen Page (because that's about the only movie I think I've seen her in - NO I haven't seen Inception!)

Juno's quirky. Definitely snarky. Maybe not so much introverted as she is independent. And soooo hilarious.

And...AND she gets to deliver totally epic lines like "This is not a food baby, alright? I've taken, like, three pregnancy tests, and I'm fo'shizz up the spout."

Okay - so maybe my characters aren't completely Juno-esque, but I'm convinced Ellen could breathe life to my characters. Or voice. Or whatever.

And Ellen's favorite food is sushi. Winner right there.

How about YOU? If you got to choose a celebrity narrator for the audio book of your WIP or your favorite novel, who would it be?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why I Love Disney

Soooo—sorry I’ve been MIA for a few days. I spent the last weekend of April in the mountains, and then re-entered crazytown Monday—school, tutoring, t-ball, dance. Yep—exit spring break, welcome back insanity.

And even more insane—I spent Tuesday and Wednesday prepping for a trip to Disney World.

That’s right—Disney World.

Don’t hate. Don’t be jealous. Don’t think “Wait—didn’t she just have spring break?”

I didn’t exactly go for the fun of it. It wasn’t a complete vacation. I didn’t get any writing done. I barely got to read.

Why not, you ask?

Because I made the special trip to Disney for the class of 2011. Uh-huh, I spent the past four days chaperoning ninety high school seniors on their senior trip. Endured a twelve-hour bus ride. Got little to no sleep. Had to make sure ninety eighteen year-olds weren’t being complete boneheads.

And I’ve chaperoned this senior activity since 1998.

Why?

Well, because we do have a little fun. This year I took my own kiddos with me.

And well, it is Disney World.






I’ve driven through the gates a number of times, and it’s never lost its magic. Never. It never gets old. Not even the shows I see every year or the rides I’ve ridden, uh,…a katrillion times. The parades still tug at my heart. Soarin’ still brings tears to my eyes.





Nope--didn't have any fun. At. All.


And one of the most magical things about Disney(to me) is the “man behind the mouse.” I will never tire of hearing about his dream and his journey towards making his dream come true. And I loooove Disney quotes—from Walt Disney. From his movies. Talk about quotes that keep you going. Well, here are some I find rather inspiring. (Yes—I’m on a quote kick again)

Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.

It's kind of fun to do the impossible.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.

Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.

A dream is a wish your heart makes. (Cinderella)

The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.(Mulan)

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming… (Finding Nemo)

Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one. (Pocahontas)

Yes, the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you either run from it, or learn from it. (The Lion King)

Hope is the greatest of the gifts we'll receive. (Beauty and the Beast)

Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering. (Winnie the Pooh)

Remember: Always let your conscience be your guide. (Pinocchio)

Reach for the sky! (Toy Story)

Take it from an old spectator. Life's not a spectator sport. If watchin' is all you're gonna do, then you're gonna watch your life go by without ya. (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Listen with your heart, you will understand. (Pocahontas)

Any of these speak magic to YOUR heart today? Or do you have a favorite Disney quote that inspires YOU?