Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Art Give-Away Contest!

This must be the week of contests. Here is another one hosted by artist Jonene Ficklin:

The Wonderful Obsessions: Jonene Ficklin Art Website Live! And a new Contest...: "There are some serious perks to having brilliant children. My oldest son, Zarin, just announced that my art website, which he has been des..."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shelley Watters Contest!

Shelley Watters is having another great contest for an agent critique by Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates. Here is my entry:

Young Adult Fiction/Magical Realism
56,000 words

When you kill someone, your life is never the same again.
Most people can’t understand that.
My parents couldn’t. They tried pretending it never happened. Impossible. Might as well try to pretend the sun wouldn’t rise in the morning.
They wanted to put me in counseling, but I refused. No way was I going to confess all to some balding stranger. Besides, I was concentrating more on suppressing.
They tried waiting. Waiting for this phase to pass.
Turns out killing your boyfriend is not something you can recover from very easily.
Then they decided what I needed was a change of scenery—to get away. At last I thought they might be on to something. Dad invited me to go work with him in Alaska, digging up decaying dinosaur bones. Given their previous attempts, this idea was not half bad. A whole summer without people prying into my emotional wreckage.
I accepted.
We left Seattle at the crack of dawn, just me and my dad, flying in his airplane on our way to the North Slope. I turned my face to the window, then reached up and smoothed down my bangs to cover the scar that outlined half my forehead, just below the hairline. My own scarlet letter—a permanent mark telling the world what I had done. That and the jagged scar that ran down the side of my left leg. An exquisite gash connecting my knee to my ankle. Shame and guilt pressed down on me so hard I was surprised we could maintain our altitude. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Google Search: "Caring for Venus Fly Traps" Yes, the kids all wanted Venus Fly Traps--except for the oldest, he wanted a pitcher plant. They should arrive in the mail any day. Stay tuned.

I decided to share with the world--or at least my meager followers--my sanctuary. We have a little nook in our master bedroom and my husband converted it into an office for me. This is where I do all my writing, editing, and other time wasting activities on my computer. (Like ordering Venus Fly Traps.)

So, here's a tour:

This is my desk and writing area. I love it because I have a nice view out the front window and there is plenty of light.

Notice the green garbage can under my desk. My 9yo daughter gave it to me for Christmas. So practical.

I love the book cases behind me. It makes me feel like I'm surrounded by author greatness.

And here is my elephant palm. The only plant I've managed to keep alive for over a year. It doesn't seem to mind only being watered once every few weeks.

And beside the palm is my muse. My Jane Austen action figure. It's okay to be jealous.

One of the best things I ever bought for my writing desk is this: a recycled mousepad/notepad. Since I got my MacBook Pro, I don't use a mouse. But I use this pad ALL THE TIME.

I jot down words that might work in a particular sentence. Names. Ideas. Any thing that I want to remember for a week or two, because thats about how fast I go through pages.

So, there you have it. My writing sanctuary.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Death by Description

Weather Check: Nice and sunny. Perfect for my bike ride. And with any luck it will cloud over and rain the moment I get home. I have a lot of writing I need to do today.

Description. The story needs it to survive, but too much can kill it. Here are a few tips I've found helpful when writing description:

- Description should match the POV character. In my mind, this is the number one rule. Everyone sees things differently based on their own unique life experiences. Take that into account when writing description. 

A girl walks in wearing a tight, low cut dress and sparkly Jimmy Choos. What's a guy going to notice first? What is a girl? An environmentalist will notice things differently than a factory worker. A person from the country visits the city--what do they see?

- There is a fine line between too much and too little. Too little and the reader is disoriented. Too much and the reader is bored. Readers only need a taste, then let their imagination fill in the rest. 

Too much detail tires the reader's mind as they try to align their mental image with the detailed description in the book. Obviously some fantasy and science fiction requires more description for world building, but the same general principle applies.

- Many writers feel the need to describe a new location/character/feeling in full detail the first time it's introduced. What if you were listening to a friend tell you about a conversation she had, and she started off with, "I was talking with Jane at the beach, she was wearing a navy-blue tankini with a matching swim skirt, fire engine red flip-flops, she had her hair in a pony tail and her skin was moist with sunscreen, and she had braces, and tortoise-shell reflective sunglasses, and her green, floral beach towel was spread out on the sand..."? 

All you need to give the reader is the part that's important to the POV character. You can fill in other details later.

- An exception to the above rule is when the description is needed to show the difference from the norm. A hot dog is a hot dog. No need to describe it. Unless it's different. A starving kid finds a withered half eaten hot dog in a dumpster--then you might want to describe the smell, the look, the taste.

- Break up description with action or dialogue.

- A general rule of thumb: use only two to three senses per description to avoid sensory overload.

- Avoid cliche. How many icy-cold fingers, rolling waves, and cars crunching on gravel do we need. It's a challenge, but writers have to come up with new and different ways to describe common things.

**Incidentally, the dictionary.com word of the day is: longueur - a dull and tedious passage in a book or performance art. Hmmmm....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sharks and Pebbles

Quote of the Day: "The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages." ~Virginia Woolf 

I had a great meeting last night with my critique group: The Sharks and Pebbles. They are an incredible bunch of authors. I am so happy to be in this group! Let me just tell a little about them.

Jaime is working on a very fun middle grade fiction about a villain who's terrible at being bad. She's witty, smart, and has done an amazing job organizing the LDStorymakers Conference for the past two years.

Scott writes middle grade fiction and is working on a cool adventure story about two kids who get stuck in ancient Iceland with the vikings. He knows a ton about everything and contributes a lot of wisdom to our group--especially about what works and doesn't work with male characters.

Taffy writes creepy, make your skin crawl YA fiction about aliens and psychotic serial killers. She's amazing at coming up with unusual concepts and pretty much knows everyone in the local writing community.

Yamile writes beautiful, lyrical YA literary fiction set in her home country of Argentina. She's clever with words and imagery and really good at getting into the hearts of her characters. We all love listening to her read.

You can check out their website by following the links on the right side of this blog.

And, in case you're wondering about our name--The Sharks and Pebbles, watch this video to see how we came up with it. **PG Content**  :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stalked by an Alien or Hidden Pictures in My Bathroom Art

Song of the Week: "Hear You Me" by Jimmy Eat World

I have this lovely giclee print hanging in my bathroom. I got it several years ago at an art sale in Lake Tahoe.

It's bright and cheery and pretty basic. At least that's what I thought at first. But since then I've found hidden objects in it. And one of them really creeps me out.

Maybe it's because Signs is one of my all-time favorite movies, or maybe I just have an overactive imagination, but there is an alien hiding in this painting. It watches me all the time from behind the flowers.

Can you see it? It's small, but definitely there. I'll zoom in on it.

Can you see it now? In the lower center peeking out from the green stems? It's just the alien's head. But it's always there, peering out from behind the carnations, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end.

I try to ignore it, but now, when I look at the painting, it's all I see. I know it's watching me blow-dry my hair, brush my teeth, or--heaven forbid--getting dressed. Gulp! Maybe I already have an implant and I don't even know it's there.

I'll know I'm in serious trouble when I hear Close Encounters of the Third Kind music coming from the print. Duh duh duh duh duh...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sunflowers and Buffalo Chips

**Update** Guess what my husband gave me for Valentines Day? Yep. A framed print of Sunflowers and Buffalo Chips. He loves me.

In honor of that gift, I'm reposting this: 

There is a picture I love called "Sunflowers and Buffalo Chips" by Gary Kapp.
Source Link
It's a pioneer mother standing in a field of sunflowers gathering buffalo chips to use as fuel so she can cook something to feed her family. I love how her girls ignore the buffalo poop chore and focus on picking sunflowers.

I also love how this painting is a perfect metaphor for real life. Sometimes it's sunflowers and everything is going great. We're happy and content in the beauty of life. And sometimes ... it's buffalo chips.

We just take the good with the bad and know that we need them both.

I gathered a lot of buffalo chips over the last year, hopefully enough to last a long time. So right now, I guess I'll just be thankful that I'm surrounded by sunflowers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

LDStorymakers 2011!

Weather Check: Wind howling, overcast skies, rain, and fog! Heaven. Don't bother me now--I'm writing!!

LOVED this years conference. Met some amazing people and award winning authors and awesome agents. Had a chance to reconnect with some old friends, too. Hats off to Jaime Theler and everyone involved in organizing the event.


Meeting Sara Megibow, of course. She was so nice it only took me seconds to realize I'd wasted a lot of sweat needlessly stressing about my pitch. And her class on Acquiring a Literary Agent was extremely helpful--and entertaining. This woman knows her stuff.

The first chapter awards! Yay! Bragging now--I came in second this year in the category of YA fiction. I placed first last year, but I didn't mind giving up the number one seat because it went to my good friend and writing partner--Yamile Mendez! She's amazing.

Larry Brooks's master class on story structure. One of those lightbulb classes where suddenly you see and understand the big picture.

Sarah Eden's hilarious shenanigans. Her video segments were too funny! Nicely done! I hope they post a recap of her kid's definitions about the different genres of fiction.

Reading the awesome and disturbing and deliciously creepy short story "Malach" by fellow bootcamper Cory Webb. Keep your eyes on her, she's got some serious talent.

And so many other informative classes and cool people. As writers we may be introverts, but get us together in one big pack and we know how to have fun!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Blurbs

Currently Reading: Heck, Superhero by Martine Leavitt

Does anyone remember that old movie with Tom Hanks called "The Burbs"? Well, if you haven't seen it, you should. It's pretty funny!

Anyway, this is about blurbs and not burbs.

I found this great post regarding Author's Blurbs on Kristin Nelson's blog. And, since I'm busy getting ready for a writer's conference tomorrow... I'll just post a link and you can go there. She had some great information about how to request other authors to write a blurb for you. A topic about which I haven't heard much advice.

Pub Rants

Monday, May 2, 2011

Query, Synopsis, First Chapter, Oh My!

Google Search of the Day: "Goose Husbandry in Medieval England" Yup. Read a whole dissertation. Very interesting, and at the same time ... not.

Selling your novel can be harder than writing it.  So when it comes time to start sending your precious story off like a lamb to the slaughter, it pays to do it right.

Most agents request three elements: the query, the synopsis and the first chapter.  These are your tools for selling your book.

Here’s a basic guide that I’ve found helpful in preparing each of these elements.

The Query:  In the query letter you are selling the concept of your book.  It should identify the main characters and setting, and then a quick idea of the main themes, the conflict, and what’s at stake.  It should have a hook to grab the agent's attention and make them hungry for more.  

The Synopsis:  In the synopsis you are selling the story of your book.  The plot, what happens, the character arc, and how it all comes together in an exciting and wonderfully original, thought-out way.

The First Chapter:  With the first chapter you’re selling the writing of your book.  This is where you let them see your amazing style, the original voicing, and the way you turn a phrase just right.  With these pages you convince them that they can’t possibly live without reading the rest of your novel.

This is, of course, a general guideline.  Ideally, you want an overlap, letting each element carry a hint of the others. For example, the fact that you are a good writer should also be evident in the query.