Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Gift

Some time ago I received a critique of the story that I've been working on this year.  My critique partner did a fantastic job of showing me where the story wasn't working and why.  For the last several months I've been focusing on my day job and not thinking about the story.  Letting it sit, you experienced writers might say. 

Now that may sound intentional but it really wasn't.  I wasn't some experienced writer who knows the first draft is going to suck and needs to shelve it for a while.  I had read that people do this but I actually thought the story was ready {read as beginners obliviousness}. Subconsciously a part of me must have known it wasn't and so I knew I had to get a skilled writer to review it.  I was thrilled that she said she'd review it and was extremely grateful for the feedback.  I also knew she was right.  But, I was disappointed in myself and I just didn't know how to fix the story.  I was wrapped up in it happening the way I wrote it.  But, it wasn't the best way.  So, I was clueless.  I put it away because I didn't know how to proceed and I was disheartened with my skill.  Or lack thereof.

Fast forward several months....

I took some time off from work for my Christmas vacation and have been spending it doing things I love to do; family time, and reading, lots of reading.  I had briefly thought about the story over the last several months but it always depressed me.  However, a couple of nights ago, I was laying in bed and decided to think about the story and the critique that I'd been given.  And BINGO, a way to fix a major part of the story came clear.

I don't know if it will be a better story, but I'm ready to work on it again.

What a Christmas present. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blog relapse

During the month of October I wrote just two blogs and none for November until now.  There are two excuses for this and I will share them with you.

1.  The first is that I had some random health problems in October that lingered into November.  My exhaustion came from my thyroid and it really knocked me for a loop.  I would take looong naps and slept my October weekends away.  I literally could not stay awake.  Even the kids noticed.  I knew that near the end of the month I was due for my annual thyroid checkup so I waited it out.  That was stupid.  Ironically, my results weren't too bad, but we adjusted the medicine and I can say that the exhaustion is finally gone.  It's amazing how much better it is when you're not exhausted all the time.  The other health issue occurred at the same time as my exhaustion, so I thought they were connected.  It was intestinal so I won't go into detail.  The doctor did tons of tests and then suggested I get tested for colon cancer.  I know I don't have cancer, because we're made of hardier stock than that (so my mother would say)!  So, I'm getting over it.  I think I just need to realize that I'm getting older and can't eat all the crap that I used to. That sucks.

2.   The second reason for not being very blog prolific is that I don't know what to write about.  I'm no expert at writing but I started a blog about writing.  Great idea, dummy, jump first and think later.  Maybe my blog scope is too narrow since I don't have much writing expertise.  I could write my thoughts and opinions about writing and how it should/could be done but there's a plethora of more skilled people already writing about the same topic.  In fact, it wasn't until I started spending time on AQC, Twitter and other blogs that I realized I knew so little about writing.  How embarrassing.  Maybe my mom was right after all and I shouldn't write. (I don't think she ever said it in those words, but she encouraged me to go in a different direction.)  But since I like doing it, I will keep doing it.  I just might have to alter my expectations a bit.  So, I started toying with the idea of writing about other things too.  Like what if I included a page that included recipes I like.  Or what if I tell amusing stories about my family or pets?  It may not float everyone's boat, but I guess the great thing about blogs is they are completely optional. 

Any way, my rant is over, my excuses have been communicated and now I'm able to shift gears and think about my NaNo story.  Thanks for reading.  Have you had challenges maintaining your blog?  If so, share in the comments section.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A silly poem and a picture!

You know those people that "have to write"?
The ones that write all day and night?
The ones that write until their fingers are sore?
Writers with ideas coming out every pore?
The picture below shows one such as these.
She chooses not to write on her knees.
The writing is from deep in her bones.
She types and types there on her throne.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who are you as a writer?

There are so many different kinds of writers.  When I decided that I was going to 'get serious' about writing, I really didn't have a clue about the access to information or other writers that was available.  I had spent the last 20 years building a career that did not involve writing anything beyond an executive summary or the occassional irritating power point presentation.  The career was good, but something was missing.  I needed/wanted to write.

I sat down and wrote the story that was in my head.  I am very organized and so I had outlined the story.  I didn't know that this was a frequently debated concept between writers.  I just did what came natural to me; what made sense to me.

The story I wrote is a chapter book geared toward 1st/2nd graders.  My plan was to take the current character education program that our local schools use and build those words into a story.  It was a journey that a young boy took to build friendships through courage, integrity, responsibility, respect, and perserverance.  Once completed, my husband and sons read it and made suggestions/corrections.  Then, my husband who is very involved in the schools, offered it to teachers to read.  Several have read it to their classes.

It has been fantastic to get direct feedback from teachers and students within my target audience.  In addition, I have been fortunate to meet many actual writers on AgentQuery Connect who were willing to provide, shall we say, knowledgeable feedback from a writers perspective.

Teachers and students were able to tell me when they laughed, what they liked, what needed to change.  The writers I met through the different web sites and twitter, etc., were able to provide me specific feedback to the science of writing.

That's the beauty of different kinds of writers.  There is so much skill, wisdom, and experience out there if you are willing to reach out and then listen.  I have learned so much about character development, pacing, plotting, outlining, grammar, queries, synopsis, and myriad of other topics.  What a blessing that writers are willing to share what they know, so that you may know too.

I'm working on my next manuscript while I am waiting on the final critique of my first story from a great writer.  I hope to work through the suggestions for improvement and then query the first story by the end of the year.  It may make it, it may not.  But I know that I have changed for the better because of it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The power of words

Excuse me...*clears throat*... moves soapbox into position....

Words have amazing power.  They have the power to lift us up or shoot us down.  They bring warmth or freezing cold based on how they are spoken.  Words can teach and words can exasperate.  Words matter.

When my 8 year old came home with a math worksheet we reviewed it like all parents do.  Here is one of the math problems:

Bianca is playing Close to 100.  She makes the number 57 with her cards and says, "I can get to 100 exactly."  What 2-digit number will she make to get to 100 exactly?  Explain how you know.

My son responded with:

"It is 43.  I used the thing called brainpower."

Okay, first of all I have to admit, we totally cracked up over his answer.  Brainpower!  That's so funny.  Where does this kid get this stuff?  But then I wasn't laughing anymore.  He got the answer right but the teacher took off a point for the explanation. 

That's right.  The question asked for him to explain how he knew the answer.  He did explain.  He said he used his brain.  That is not the right answer!

The teacher writes a comment, "This means write the addition problem or explain your strategy."

Now, he still got a good grade, so I'm not going to harass the teacher but I was pretty irritated.  Our kids have to decipher what every person says when they don't say what they mean.  To me, and maybe I'm wrong here, but EXPLAIN means use words.  If she wanted the equation or wanted him to show his work, why didn't she ask, "Show the equation or show your work"?  I mean, the kids in the class are only 8.  Say what you mean!

This reminds me of a blog I read today about the superfluous "that".  Most of the time you can take out extra words like "that" without changing the meaning of the sentence.  We scrub our ms's until they shine and only the necessary words are left on the page.  If we've written our story well, the reader will understand what we are trying to communicate.  We need to say what we mean, no more, and certainly not less.  And we can't say the wrong thing because the reader definitely catches us when we make mistakes.

We explained (with words) to our son that the teacher wanted the equation, not a sentence of explanation.  We shared with him that the teacher needs to know that he knows the math tools and isn't just guessing.  So, we reinforced the teacher's point, because we back our teachers.  We also agreed that he did use his brainpower and he got the right answer.  So we backed our son too but  told him next time to also show the equation.

I am proud that my son knows what the word 'explain' means and has not been shoved into the conformity box yet.

Have you ever had a situation where what was said/written wasn't what was meant?  Share your story in the comments section.

Monday, September 19, 2011

NaNo NaNo (not Mork & Mindy)

It's almost NaNoWriMo time!

But what is NaNoWriMo you ask?  Actually you probably don't ask because I'm willing to bet that all 22 of my favorite followers already know what it is.  Why did I mention just 22?  Because that's how many followers I have, silly.  (If you're not a follower, it's not too late.  Just click on the followers link on the right hand side of the blog.)

But even if you're not asking I'm going to tell you about NaNoWriMo anyway.

First, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. 

It begins November 1 and ends November 30.  The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel during that timeframe.  The rules are that you can not use material written ahead of time but you can plot, outline, etc your story.  The actual novel writing must take place during the timeframe.

There is a website here that you log into and join.  It's free.  The NaNo people do not read your novel.  It is your own private story.  In order to prove that you've written the wordcount required, you are able to upload your wordcount during the month.  At the end of the month, you can scramble your novel and then upload it to their official wordcounter.  If you hit 50,000, you win.

What do you win?  Satisfaction!!  Oh, and 50,000 words towards your story of course.

The other great thing about NaNo is that you can hook up with other writers in your area and write together, challenge each other, and build friendships.  You might also find some critique partners along the way. 

This is my first time doing it.  I am excited but also worried.  I am not normally a pantster.  I don't know if I can shut my inner editor off enough to just write without worrying about my spelling and my sentence structure.  I normally write, read it, modify it, read it, read it, and then move on.  This will be a very new experience for me but I hope that it will be liberating. 

Are you going to join in on the fun in November?

Monday, September 12, 2011

In the market for an e-reader?

How many of you are in the market for an e-reader?

I didn't expect to buy one.  I love my paper books! 

But there I was, needing to go somewhere and trying to stuff 2 books in my purse.  I was nearly done with one and ready to start the next.  Who takes breaks between books? Not me!  But alas, there was not room in my purse.

That's when I decided to do some research for an e-reader and see if it would be an option.

I am sure there are more than these options, but I kept my research to the four main choices.

1.  Amazon Kindle
2.  Nook
3.  NookColor
4.  iPAD

Here's what I learned (If you want super techy details, you'll have to dig into the actual websites!)

The Kindle is a good choice for an e-reader for a number of reasons.  It's backed by Amazon and they are just a powerhouse.  It's got a 6" diagonal screen with e-ink that makes it easy on the eyes to read.  It's lightweight at only 8.5 ounces and the battery life is about a month long with the wireless off.  It's also reasonably priced at $139.  The negative for the Kindle is that it's just an e-reader and you currently can't download library books to it.  It's not a tablet so it can only be used for reading books.  Which, if that's what you want it for, and you don't need any versatility, then it's a very good deal.

The Barnes & Noble Nook is a good choice for an e-reader also.  It's screen is 6" diagonal and it's weight is 7.48 ounces.  It really fit nicely into the palm of my hand (which is small).  It has an e-ink screen so that it can be read during the day and doesn't cause eye strain.  The battery can last up to 2 months.  You can borrow books from the library.  It's also priced to compete with the Kindle at $139.  The negative for the Nook is that it's just an e-reader.  But that's only a negative if you want it to be more.

The Nook Color is Barnes & Nobles take on an e-reader tablet.  It's a cross between an iPad and an e-reader.  It has a 7" full color screen.  It is backlit so that you can read it during the day or at night but it is more like a computer and might make your eyes tired because of the back lighting.  The Nook Color weighs 1lb.  There are apps that are available just like an iPad, such as Angry Birds, email, and Pandora.  The app Seesmic also provides access to your twitter and facebook accounts.  It is priced at $250.

The iPad is a full fledged tablet which can also be an e-reader.  Note the difference.  If you need a lot of functionality and versatility you might want the iPad.  However, it's about $500 which is 2x what a Nook Color (or a KindleTablet-when it comes out) costs.  It's got a much larger screen at 9.7" and weighs 1.35lbs. which is quite a bit heavier than the Nook or Kindle, or even the Nook Color.  However, it's very much like a lightweight computer.  Library books can be downloaded to it as well.  This is a good choice if you have the money and you can fit it in your purse (one of my criteria!). 

The information that I shared can easily be found by cruising the internet and researching these options.  I didn't go into the amount of storage space (GB) each one has as well as other attributes because this post would be too long!

I chose the NookColor.  I wanted something that would fit inside my purse but would allow me to do more than read.  I love that I can read a book from the library, from Smashwords, from B&N, as well as check multiple email accounts, my facebook and my twitterfeed.  I can also listen to music while I read if I want because it's got a place for my headphones and it's got Pandora (which I love!).  It's been easy to manage, fun to use, and very convenient.

Do you have an e-reader or a tablet?  What do you have and what are the pros and cons?  Share your thoughts so that others can make informed choices!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Skeleton Key Chapter 14

I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s chapters in the Blogvel:
The Skeleton Key.  This blogvel was a creation of Michelle Simkins from GreenWoman.  A lot of talented writers have gotten to join in on the fun and write a chapter.  This week happens to be my turn.  I hope that this chapter is as entertaining as all the others.  Next week will be Cherie’s turn to write a chapter.  You will find her blog here.

And now…………..  Chapter 14

My body was no longer searching for the elusive breath of the living.  The meta essence had performed its task and allowed my shape shifting abilities to mimic death.  I glanced around expecting to see Ax in the corner of the room being tortured by Angelica’s psychic attacks, but instead I found my vision clouded.  I wasn’t in the embassy anymore.  I was floating on my back in a milky way of fog.

 “So this is what an ‘astral river of transformation’ looks like,” I mumbled to myself.

Ax had said I would find a guide to help me navigate through the river and find the murdered gatekeeper.  So far I hadn’t seen anyone else floating through the fog with me.  It was quiet and I was alone.  I started to worry that Ax was mistaken when I began to drift more quickly.  I rolled over onto my stomach so I could look forward and see what was coming.

The mist looked thicker up ahead.  My river was heading toward a large swirling pool.  If I squinted I could see other streams like mine leading toward the same location.  This must be where the dead souls collected before entering the current that transported them to their rebirths.  I laughed at the ease with which I seemed able to accept this new turn of events.  You try spending a couple of days with a hot, sexy dragon and you’ll believe the unbelievable too.

The current I floated in started to churn as I got closer to the pool.  I was dumped unceremoniously into the spiraling whiteness and found myself sinking deeply.  At some point in my fall the mist dissipated and I landed on my ass at the bottom of the large cavern that I’d mistaken for a pool.

 “Here, let me help you up,” said a jovial voice behind me.

I looked around and found myself looking at the hem of a multi-colored cloak.  My eyes slowly crept up the garish robe until I was looking into the eyes of tall, slightly chubby man with white hair that stuck out in all directions.  He had his hand extended to me, and I let him help me up.

“Are you my guide?” I asked.

“Guide, tracker, best buddy.  Whatever you need I can do it!” he said happily.

“You’re not quite what I was expecting.  I guess I thought my guide would be the grim reaper or something.”

The monster chuckled, “Oh, Mark never greets the newbies.  Plus, he was busy.  There was a big hullabaloo over in the 3rd quadrant.  You know.  Some monsters just aren’t ready to die.  They make a big fuss and then Mark has to get all grim on them, ya know?”

 “My name is Greg, and I’m an Ankou.  Jump into my cart and I’ll explain on the way to the check-in point.”  I hadn’t noticed the cart behind Greg until he mentioned it, but I couldn’t believe I had missed it.  It was similar to a golf cart except it had a large wicker basket tied on to the back.  It was also painted bright orange and purple with a red bicycle flag flying from the top. It was hideous.  I quickly looked around and noticed that no one was looking at us.  In fact, it was obvious that those souls that were entering my quadrant of the cavern were trying very hard not to look at us.  Good thing I was already dead, or I would have died of embarrassment.  I was going to kill Ax when I got back.

Thinking of Ax made me remember my mission and how I needed to track down the gatekeeper.  Once I was owner of the gate I could get back to Ax and we could get my sister.  I jumped in the cart and fastened my seatbelt.  Looking at my crazy guide, I figured the seatbelt was there for a reason, even though I was dead.

“So, an Ankou is a little like a grim reaper, but just for the parishes in Brittany.  I had a great little gig going for awhile.  Drive around in this little cart and collect the souls of the dead.  It was sweet!  I was good at my job, but Mark said the recently dead don’t seem to like my colorful cart.  I never understood it, but they complained all the time.  I ask you; why not go out in style?” 

My mind immediately played the Monty Python “Bring out yer Dead!” scene.  I could just imagine how unpopular cheery Greg and his colorful cart would be when collecting souls.

Greg started the cart and pressed the horn, and Oingo Boingo’s It’s a dead man’s party blared from a hidden speaker. I hunched down in my seat hoping no one else could see me.

“Anyway, Mark gave me a job to usher monsters to the check-in point.  That’s where we’re headed now.  Once you’re checked in, you can catch the current to the rebirth center.”

“Wait,” I said as I finally managed to interrupt his monologue.  “I don’t know that I need to go to there just yet.  I really need to find a recently expired gatekeeper and talk with him for a few minutes.  Have you seen a gatekeeper?”

“Hmm.  Well, normally everyone’s at the check-in.  Most folks are ready for rebirth right away.  But, there are always a few who don’t want to go quickly; they want to rest up a bit first.  They always hang out at Starbucks.”

“Starbucks?  They really ARE everywhere.”

Greg tooted his horn and sped up as he turned a corner.  I hadn’t been looking around before this but the bottom of the cavern was actually a small town.  Greg turned into the coffee house parking lot.  I noticed that all the other carts in the lot were somber grey or black.

We went into the Starbucks and stepped in line to order our drinks.  There were three people in line before us: Two gnomes standing together chatting and one tall guy at the front of the line.  When his order was ready he grabbed the cup with only three fingers and his thumb.  That was my guy!  He walked to a corner of the store and grabbed a book from his back pocket before he sat in a comfy chair.  It looked like he planned to stay awhile.

We ordered our drinks and waited for them to arrive.  Greg was talking the whole time but I had tuned him out in favor of focusing my energy on the gatekeeper.  I needed to figure out a way to introduce myself to him without scaring him off.

Greg and I got our drinks and I walked toward the area the gatekeeper was sitting.  Greg followed behind me still talking.  The gatekeeper glanced up as I started to walk past and I knew it was my only chance.

“What are you reading?” I asked the gatekeeper.

The Metamorphosis.  It’s one of my favorites,” the gatekeeper said glancing from me to Greg.  Fortunately Greg had shut up to hear the gatekeeper answer my question.

“Oh, I liked it too,” I said and quickly sat down before he could dismiss me.  The gatekeeper looked a little irritated but shut his book to be polite.

The gatekeeper placed his book on the table and sipped his coffee.  “I’m hoping my rebirth will be as exciting as the book.  I don’t want to be a gatekeeper this next go-around.  It was a dangerous job as you can tell since I’m here.  Murdered!  Angelica totally surprised me when she killed me.  That’s why I’m hanging around.  Not really in any hurry to get back into it again.”

“Don’t you care that the person who murdered you is now in charge of your gate?” I asked.  I told them all about Angelica’s schemes for revenge on her brother’s behalf.

“Well, since my essence is still on the gate, I can tell that the monster is not really in charge yet.  There’s a second monster that has gained partial control.  They can just duke it out as far as I’m concerned.”

“But there are people that are at risk, they’re dying.  They are cut off from their other dimensions and stuck inside their embassy.  Wouldn’t you want to help if you could?” I asked.

“Well, I guess so.   But what can I do?  Since there are two people controlling the gate, there is no benefit for me to move on quickly.  Neither can own the gate, so why rush?”

“How would one of the people become the owner of the gate?  There’s got to be a way.” I mumbled.

“Oh, there’s a way alright,” said Greg.  “But it’s pretty impossible.  One of the owners would have to come to the gatekeeper here in the Astral Lake and ask for the old gatekeepers blessing.  He would transfer his blessing to the owner and remove his essence from the gate.  I don’t think it’s ever been done though.  How could someone die and then go back to living?  I guess you could enter the current in the Astral River of Transformation and go to the rebirthing center but the likelihood of getting birthed into a gatekeeper again is extremely unlikely.”

“But what if you weren’t really dead?” I asked.

The gatekeeper and Greg looked at me like I was crazy.

“What do you mean?” the gatekeeper asked.

“Look, this is really serious.  Your gate is being controlled by someone who wants to change the monster world forever.  Between the three of us, we could stop her.”  I realized that I was laying it on a little thick, but Greg seemed to love the idea of being a hero.

Greg agreed, “It could be so fun!  But what could we do?  We need the good monster to meet the gatekeeper.”

“What if I said that I am the good gatekeeper?” I asked. 

The gatekeeper and Greg began to laugh.  

“I’m serious!  And I can prove it!” I reached into my pocket and pulled out the skeleton key.  The laughter stopped abruptly. 

“How are you doing this?  How are you here?” the gatekeeper asked.  “Are you dead?”

“Yes and no.  But I need your blessing and I need you to banish your essence from the gate.  I need to take over the gate so we can catch your murderer and put the dimensional embassies back to order.  Will you do it?”

The gatekeeper looked at me and then at Greg.  He looked down at his book and sighed.  He picked up his coffee cup and drank the last swallow. 

“Let’s do it.  I can always finish my book once I’m reborn.  Let’s go get this bitch.”

I thought the gatekeeper was going to change his mind when he saw Greg’s cart.  But he impressed me by quickly glancing around and climbing in.  I sat next to him and Greg started the cart and honked the horn.

“How do you give me your blessing?” I asked the gatekeeper.

“It’s pretty simple.  I just need to do a toast while we take a drink.  Greg is taking us to the local bar.”

Apparently the local bar was just down the street.  If I’d have known that I would have walked instead of ridden in the hideous cart, but it was too late.  We were here.

The three of us walked into the bar and it was a scene right out of Star Wars.  There were all these different types of monsters at the bar and at the card tables.  The smoke in the air was heavy and the music was blues.  I felt like saying, “these are not the droids you are looking for” but I figured no one else would think it was funny.

We approached the bar and the gatekeeper ordered three shots of some awful green sludge.  I sniffed the shot glass and it smelled like a mix between moss and mint.  I was not sure that I’d be able to keep the drink down, but the gatekeeper wasn’t worried about my sensitivities.

I sniffed it again and sneezed.

“Bless you,” said the gatekeeper in an automatic response to my sneeze.  Greg and I tipped back our shots and drank.  The gatekeeper’s eyes widened in surprise, he shrugged his shoulders and chugged back his shot.

“That was easy,” said Greg.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Can you handle the truth?

Joanna Volpe of Nancy Coffee Literary is having the best contest ever!!!

Monday, August 29th, for one hour (7am-8am EST), you may send her an email query and she will respond with completely honest feedback.  You need to go to the contest rules to make sure your query will be considered.  You can do that here

I am so excited about this contest.  Can you imagine?  Sending a query to an expert and having them provide more than just a form rejection.  Really getting to know what they thought.  Whether or not it's the query itself or the story line that needs work.  I mean, we all want the agent to call and offer representation, but we get more rejections than we do that dreamed of phone call.  So why not take this opportunity and get some real feedback.  Who knows, maybe your feedback from Ms. Volpe will even be a request for a partial or full.

I know that my story as a stand alone chapter book is a tough sell to publishers.  What I would love to know is if the story has promise.  Enough promise to convince an agent that it's worth it to represent and try to get it published.  If it's not, it's time to move on and chalk it up to experience.  If it is worth it, then I'mma gonna keep on pushin' it.

Yes, I can handle the truth!!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

From Ideas to Story

"I've got so many ideas I just can't get them all down."

"The voices of my characters are in my head and I need to write to get them to be quiet."

I've read these statements on Twitter, on writing chat rooms, etc.  I'm not envious of these people, I'm amazed by them.  It's these kind of statements that make me wonder if I'm fooling myself into thinking I'm a writer.  I like to write, I enjoy writing, and I want to write stories that others will read and say 'wow'.  I know every writer does things a little bit differently, but do they all have ideas and creativity flowing all the time? 

And I don't have so many ideas that I can't get them all down.  I don't have voices in my head demanding to be put on paper.  Does that mean I don't have what it takes?  Maybe I'm not creative enough?  Is every writer bombarded by ideas and story lines all the time?

For example, here's the way my thoughts normally go.  I rarely start with a story idea.  I actually start by thinking that I want to write something.  But what should I write about?  I daydream for a bit and then I get an image of a character in my mind.  It unfolds like a movie.  He's in 7th grade.  He's popular.  He's good at soccer.  He's walking down the hallway at his school and there are some nerdy boys watching him.  But not out of jealousy.  Like they're waiting for something to happen.  For him to join them in some adventure.

But what?  What adventure?  What mystery can ensue that will force a popular boy to team up with some nerdy boys to ......whatever.  I'm stumped.  Is there a bad teacher threatening to do something?  It's been done before.  Is there a bomb in the school by the school bully?  Too quick to solve.  I don't know where to go from the original thought.  So the boy is just stumbling around in my brain.  I've got nothing for him to do that hasn't been done before.  And he's not speaking to me, telling me what he should be doing.  So he isn't even helping!  He just keeps walking down the school hallway.

So this is where some writers claim to be pantsters.  You know, they don't plan, they just start and see where it takes them.  But I have trouble really understanding how that works.  Do they start out with just a character and see where he goes, or do they really have a general idea of the mystery/activity/heart of the story and just don't know the details on how they get there.

Are you a pantster?  How much of a story is clear to you when you begin writing it down?  Help a sister out, wouldya?  Leave a comment so I can find out what others do.  Thanks!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

I won the lottery!!

I won the Lottery!!

People are fascinated by the concept of winning the lottery. 

“If I just won the lottery…” people say, and then launch into all the different things they would do.  It’s fun to think about having all that money and getting to make all your own choices.  It seems like it would be so freeing.  And yet a lot of people that win don’t handle it well.  They divorce, they spend all the money, they change who they are.

But, what if you did win the lottery?  What would you do first?  Would you be practical or wild?  Would you tell everyone or keep it a secret?

I admit that I like to think about winning the lottery.  I haven’t bought a ticket this year but I bought a few last year.  So, since this is completely hypothetical, what would I do if I won? 

This is how I would handle it (at least in my imagination).  My husband and I would rejoice, smile, cry, hug, get busy….   Then we would contact a lawyer to understand the best way to protect the assets.  Once we had a good grasp of what would really occur and how much money it actually would be, we would contact the lottery people (whoever they are).

I assume we would want to keep our win anonymous.  Even if it doesn’t change you it can definitely change how others view you.  I would quit my day job, which I really do like, but would give up for the opportunity to spend more of my time with my family.  I like to think that I’d work out in the mornings since I wouldn’t be running off to work so early.  Right now I always come up with some excuse not to work out – work, too tired, meetings, etc.  I’d also like to think that I would cook nice dinners for the fam.  Normally I don’t get home in time to do this and my husband cooks.  He does a nice job but I would like to have the time to actually think through some meals and plan. 

I would also like to travel.  There are so many places in the US and beyond that we haven’t seen.  The magnificence of this earth is overwhelming and it would be nice to experience different cultures and climates.

One of the big wins would be the freedom to write.  Winning the lottery would take away the financial burden which requires me to work outside of the home and would give me more time to write.

Lastly, or maybe firstly, I would volunteer.  Not just money but also time.  There are so many wonderful causes that need time and attention.   We already do a lot of volunteering but it would be nice to have more time to be involved.

What would you do if you won the lottery?  Am I too tame/boring?  Would you jet-set all over the world?  Have huge elaborate parties?  Move to Hollywood and hang with the celebrities?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to my blog

A funny thing happened on the way to my blog. (Badum bum!) I had all these wonderful blog post ideas for July and before I could write and post them I was kidnapped by aliens!  They held me against my will and forced me to do all these unmentionable things, which I am going to mention here.  Ha, take that you alien abductors! 

The first task that needed to be completed was a major undertaking.  It required immense brain power, long hours, and… statistics.  Yes, you read it right.  The torture!!!  The aliens informed me that if I didn’t complete this task called a “Project at Work”, the aliens would die of starvation and lose their alien shelter and spaceship.  Well, I couldn’t let something like that happen since they seemed so nice.  I mean, they did kidnap me but they were very nice about it.

The second task required me to spend a week of evenings after the “Project at Work” hours educating more of their kind about a very special book.  There were several captives performing duties during this time period for a whole bunch of alien offspring.  The other captives were required to sing songs, make snacks, do crafts, and play games.  I worked closely with the main alien kidnapper telling stories from this special book.  I surmise that he didn’t want me out of his sight.  There might have been a slight attraction between us, I admit.

The third task required spending an exorbitant amount of time at the most awful place of business where they sell everything.  I mean everything.  From food to clothes to cleaning supplies. Everything aliens need, I guess.  And boy, that place has a lot of weird looking aliens.  All types were there.  The aliens forced me to spend a tremendous amount of time choosing between different colored folders, scissors, paper, and pencils.  Apparently the young aliens were going to be doing a vast amount of learning in the months to come. 

I planned to escape but I was enamored by their sweetness, their neediness, and their lack of maternal support.  The main alien was obviously good for the two little aliens, but they needed more.  Someone had to be here for them, to guide them, to educate them, to love them.  So, I gave up the July blogs but I got so much more in return.

What did you do in July?  Any alien abductions to share?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is good, enough?

I participated in a Twitter chat for #askYAed Saturday morning with some great talents in the industry.  @Literaticat (Jennifer Laughran), @EgmontGal (Elizabeth Law), and @mmanlove (Melissa Manlove), to be precise.  One is a literary agent at Andrea Brown Lit, one is a publisher at Egmont USA, and one is an editor for Chronicle Books.  I know the east coast didn’t appreciate the hot weather but it made three great industry leaders stay inside and hold a Twitter chat, so I’m just going to say… YAY for me!
Every time there’s a chat going on, I try to go against my personality and stay quiet.  I’ve heard many writers describe themselves as introverts; however, I am definitely not one of them.  Even when I try!  I know I’ll learn a ton just by reading what others ask and get answered, but somehow I cannot stay silent.  Even if I end of embarrassing myself, which I do frequently.
So, there I was reading the chat tweets and the next thing you know…  BAM!  I’ve asked a question.

I groaned inwardly, knowing that once again, I’ve either become Mr. Obvious or Mrs. Self-Promotion.  I glanced quickly at my post, and then gasped.  It wasn’t some inane comment this time.  What a shock!  Unfortunately my reasonable question about ms formats kindled a confidence in me to ask more questions.  (By the way, the formatting question was answered with:  “just type, double spaced, with a 12 sized legible font.”  In addition, they added, have the ms show your name and the title at the top of each page. – In other words, don’t over think it and there is not one wonderful format out there.)

The next question was centered on my story’s genre, Children’s chapter books.  I’d heard they are a hard sell, and so I asked if that was true.  The story I’m getting ready to query is a standalone chapter book geared toward 1st/2nd graders and promotes integrity, responsibility, and basically, character.  The responses I received were honest and I admit a little disappointing.  Children’s chapter books are a hard sell, standalones are nearly impossible because they get lost on the shelves, and kids prefer series.  In some ways I knew this and yet, it was sad to hear it spoken from true experts in the field so specifically to my questions.  They didn’t say don’t write it (which is good, ‘cause it’s already written).  They just tried to prepare me for the fact that its future is not bright. 

And of course, that got me thinking.  “But what if it’s good?”  Now, I’m not saying my story is award winning (although you never know *fingers crossed*).  But the fact is that even if it is good, it might not be enough.  Good writing, a wonderful story, etc, may not be enough to get an agent or a publisher willing to take a risk.  I completely understand the experts’ viewpoint on the Twitter chat Saturday.  If standalone chapter books are risky from a sales perspective, it’s not in their best interest to take them on.  (It is a business, afterall.)  Even if they really think the book is good.  It might not matter enough to get past the obstacles in front of it.

Wow.  So what should I do?  Of course I’ll keep writing and coming up with new stories.  Maybe even in different genres.  At the chat, I responded with a “Thank you for answering my questions.  I am near the query stage but will have my hopes based in reality.”  I am researching agents that represent my genre.  I am working on a great query letter, and I am going to hope that someone thinks my story is good enough to take the risk.

What about you?  Have you had similar experiences?  Do you think good is enough?  Or is even great, enough?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Elevator pitches and Contests, oh my!

Bree Ogden from Martin Literary Management is hosting a contest on YAtopia! 

The contest is designed to ferret out the best elevator pitch. 

It’s short, it’s exciting, and you have the chance to have your MS read by Ms. Ogden! 

However, there are rules!  Check them out here.
My internet pal Michelle Simpkins of GreenWoman blog fame, has given me an award!  Now, I know you were thinking, “What?  How could this be?  What momentous, impressive thing has Kellie done now?”   I assure you, although it’s probably hard to believe, I didn’t earn this one.  In reality Michelle stated that I was too nice not to accept. 

(How did she know that?  I’ve really got to become a tougher internet personality!)

It’s actually a very sweet and silly award.  It’s called the Seriously Cute Blogger Award and apparently has nothing to do with looks.  In order to accept I need to share five books, movies, or TV that I’ve read/watched over the last 12 months.  The hard part will be to narrow down.  Actually, that may not be too hard, I have a terrible memory!

#5.  Book  I am currently reading The Complete Guide to Editing Your Fiction by Michael Seidman.  I love his analogy that the first draft is the stone that you pulled from the quarry.  It isn’t until you chisel away at it, through revisions that it becomes the statue of David.  I’ve only begun this book, but I’ve been a little at a loss about how to edit my story, so I decided I needed help.  Like Hermione Granger, I turn to books when I want to learn.

#4.  Movie  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.  We are eagerly anticipating Part 2.  In fact, just yesterday we competed at our library’s Harry Potter Trivia Contest.  During the last competition my 8 and 10 year old ruled, coming in second place.  This time we didn’t fare as well because there were tons of competitors and they were all teenagers.  We finished a very proud 4th place and treated ourselves to ice cream to celebrate.  My husband and I wished our boys knew math as well as they knew Harry Potter!

#3.  TV  I’ve pretty much given up TV in the two months or so.  However, I did have some TV shows DVR’d that I liked that I hadn’t watched.  So this past week on vacation I watched six episodes of GLEE.  I admit it, I’m a Gleek!  I assume that when fall TV rolls around I will continue to DVR my two shows – Chuck and Glee.  Other than that, no TV is necessary in my world.

#2.  Book  The BIBLE.  Preferably the Eastern Standard Version.  It’s the closest translation to the Greek and Hebrew.  It’s this amazing non-fiction story about God and how he loved the world so much that he gave his only son (also God) to die for our sins.  The ultimate sacrifice!  And we didn’t even deserve it.  Grace at its finest.  It’s truly a great book of Good vs. Evil with Good triumphing.  If you haven’t read it, I mean really read it to understand it, I highly recommend it.

#1.  BLOGS  Do blogs count?  Because it seems like that’s most of what I’ve been reading lately.  Take a look at the Blogolicious section of my blog to find some great blogs.  There are more that I read that I haven’t added to the list yet, but here’s a starting point.

I'd like to thank the Academy....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bloggers want to know

Meme-ilicious: My answers to my bloggy friends' questions

I don’t know who started this Meme, but DeanCRich has tagged me, so I will do my best.  One concern is that I’m supposed to tag 8 other folks but everyone I know well has been tagged.  That means I’m actually going to tag 8 people I don’t know very well which is going to throw a kink in the questions.  I will make something up (I do write fiction, after all).

If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?

My honeymoon.  We were young and in love.  (
BTW, now we’re old and in love.)  The perfection of Grand Cayman stills haunts me.  Perfect sandy beaches, a nice little city, great diving and snorkeling. The breeze blowing across our faces as we lay in the hammock watching the waves crash on the beach.  Heaven. 

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

Well, this is probably strange but I would go back to my firstborn’s birth and change the fact that I didn’t get an epidural.  What was I thinking?!  Oh, I know, I was in California, the land of fruits and nuts, and thought Natural was the way to go.  I just didn’t know that I wouldn’t dilate all the way and that it would take 16 hours to deliver.  Man, the boy and I were under some serious stress.  I would have changed that one small thing to make us both enjoy the birthing process a little more.

*On a side note, I didn’t get any drugs with the second kid either.  But not because I didn’t want them.  Son #2 waited until 12 days past my due date, waited for me to be induced, and then, when he realized we wanted him to come out, he shot out of there before the doctor could even arrive.   

What movie/tv character do you most resemble in personality?

Alright, um, I admit it.  I don’t watch tv or watch many movies.  I read and then read some more.  So, I don’t really have an answer.  When I was young my family said that I looked like Natalie Wood.  She was a movie star a long time ago.  From a personality perspective?  Geez, um, probably…oh, wait for it….my husband says Sandra Bullock or Sally Field.  I can be funny when I want to or serious.  What a sweet guy!!

If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?

I can’t even torture my characters, so I really couldn’t push someone off of a cliff.

Name one habit you want to change in yourself.

I wish I loved to exercise.
Describe yourself in one word.


Describe the person who named you in this meme in one word.


Why do you blog? Answer in one sentence.
I wanted to build my platform as a writer and see if anyone would visit.

Who am I tagging?

Karen Lee Hallam, Tansy Ragwort, Scott Niven, KaciMari, RS Mellette, Sheena, Pete Morin, and Layinda.

Meme The Second:
Upload a picture or wall paper you are using at the moment.

Talk about a Party Pony!
This was taken at a bar in Nashville.
Are you hot?
I used to be cute. Now I look at myself and think what?!
When was the last time you ate chicken meat?

I don’t remember.  It has to be recently though, right?

The Song(s) you listened to recently?Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine

What were you thinking as you were doing this?

I was thinking that I’m crazy to give up my very bad habit of constant Diet Pepsi drinking.  I’m so sad; it’s like losing a best friend.

Do you have nicknames?

My husband calls me baby or geek.

Tag eight Blogger friends.

2.  Tansy Ragwort
3.  Scott Niven
4.  KaciMari
5.  RS Mellette
6.  Sheena Mullally
7.  Pete Morin
8.  Layinda

Who’s listed as number one? 
Karen Lee Hallam.  We just met because we write for similar age groups and are looking for crit partners.

Say something about number 5. 

RS Mellette is serious about his films.

How did you get to know number 3?
He followed me on Twitter; I checked him out and followed him back.

How about number 4?

We met at Agent Query Connect.

Leave a message for number 6. 
Sheena, I don’t see you on Twitter very often so I thought you’d enjoy this chance to share on your blog.

Leave a lovey-dovey message for number 2. 

Dearest Tansy,  You’re artwork is like a whisper to my soul.  You are talented and wonderful.  Love, Me.

Do number 7 and number 8 have any similarities? 
Only that both are on AQC, I think.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Character Development - Love Languages

Have you ever read the book “The Five Love Languages” written by Gary Chapman?  It’s a really interesting read.  I read it some years ago and ascertained that my love language is “Words of Affirmation”.  The other love languages are Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.  There is even a section related to identifying your children’s love languages.  (If you’re having trouble connecting with your kids, maybe you’re not speaking their language!)

It was Marriage Enrichment Sunday at our church this past Sunday and it got me thinking about the love languages.  Marriage Enrichment Sunday is an opportunity to stand in front of the church as a couple and restate your vows.  It’s done as a group, meaning all the married couples have the opportunity to come to the front of the church, or just stand in front of their seats, and gaze into the eyes of their spouse and repeat after the pastor and renew their vows to each other and to God.  It might sound hokey, but it’s very touching, and more than one person tends to tear up.  Last year I cried during it and made the organist cry since she just happened to be watching my husband and I renew our vows.  

According to the book, we should understand the love language of the people we love and show our love to them through the language that they speak.  My love language is Words of Affirmation, but my husband’s is Quality Time.  So, to show my love for him, I wouldn’t necessarily tell him what a great job he’s doing painting the deck rails, I would sit out on the deck to keep him company while he paints.  He doesn’t need to hear that he’s doing a good job; he just wants me to hang out with him.  This I can do, and did do on Saturday.  (I admit that I also told him he was doing a good job, I couldn’t help myself.) 

My love language is a tough one for me.  I crave words of affirmation so much but rarely believe it when they are bestowed.  What’s up with that?  It’s just stupid, but it’s true.  In my opinion, it’s just that the people who need words of affirmation don’t think they deserve them.  That’s why they desire them.  So when they’re given, it makes the person doubt.  It’s really a silly catch-22.  And in fact, words of affirmation are hard to come by sometimes.  I give people words of affirmation a lot; because it’s what I wish people would do for me.  But it might not be their love language.  Words of affirmation for a writer don’t always happen very often either.  It’s not an instant gratification type of life.

In fact, writing seems to be contrary to several of these love languages.  Writing tends to be a solitary endeavor, so Quality Time and Physical Touch tends to go out the window when the writer is writing.  And then of course, providing gifts or acts of service tend to be forgotten when you’re deep into your story.  And lastly, you get tons of rejections which are definitely not words of affirmation.

So where do the love languages come into play for the writer while crafting the ms?  The love languages need to be a part of your characters.  If your characters don’t ring true, if they seem to be shallow, it might be because they are not behaving according to their love language or the love language of the other characters in the story.  This is just another facet of consistency for the character.  The building of the characters’ depth.  How would your character behave in a certain situation?  What would they think if something particular happened?  What do they need the other characters to do when the MC is in a certain situation? 

Do you believe the love languages play a role in character development?  How have you expressed the love languages in your story and in your life?  Share with us by commenting!