Friday, January 29, 2010

Questions, questions

Yep, you guessed it. I'm about to merrily jump on the bandwagon. Everyone else has answered questions. I'm starting to feel like I'm being evasive by not doing the same thing. And I don't want that. I have no reason to be all. *whistles*

So, leave some questions in the comments. As long as your questions have nothing to do with witness protection or the CIA, I would be happy to answer them in my next post.

If they do relate to those things... well, I can tell you, but then I'll have to make you a hero/heroine in one of my books (trust me, it's a fate worse than death).

Let the questioning begin! :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What I learned from Miss Snark - part 2 - revisited

Yes, it is that time again! Another lesson from the book of Snarktacus! :) Sit down and buckle your seat belts. We're in for a bumpy ride.

At the start of the book, the chapter, the scene--give us action. Don't give elaborate descriptions until the reader is hooked by what is going on...then you can describe. Tell us what is happening and why we care, then tell us what color their hair is. etc.

Using "looked like" or simile, takes a reader out of the narrative. It makes someone else interpret for you what they are seeing. Using "was" or metaphor pulls them right in and describes what the reader is seeing, instead of the intermediary. This is particularly important in first person POV.

The first step for great writing is imagining deeply. Put yourself in the story and drag it around you, smell it, feel it, taste it, and make sure the reader is pulled in with you.

Characters reading e-mail or letters is in general uninteresting. Don't use this in the first 1/4 of your book, or at least show us what it says by reactions and not by just pasting it in the book.

Everything doesn't have to be explained fully--particularly people. Unless the characters eye color is integral to the plot, it doesn't have to be mentioned--particularly not right off the bat.

The only reason to ever have your characters sitting around doing "nothing" is to make the reader and everyone else feel the underlying tension. If that tension is absent, then the scene is pointless.

In regards to over-writing, try not to repeat yourself. If you have already made the point in one way, resist the urge to further clarify with another statement. Trust your readers and they will trust you.

When your MC has relentless action pushing them forward they aren't paying attention to much except what's going on. Don't put in things that you wouldn't notice at that moment if it were you in that exact situation. (the color of the drapes or whatever)

If you remove your reader from the action and the characters with over-writing, you will fail to grab their attention.

Sentences starting with "when" or "after" or "even so" can pull the reader out of the action because it usually doesn't put you in the moment. Likewise, starting sentences with "but" and "so" can be really awkward. Make sure it is absolutely necessary before doing it.

Building the emotional connection with your character is almost as important as building the story itself.

Phrases like "by the way/did I tell you/so it began/etc." in narration break the 4th wall and jerk the reader right out of the narrative.

That's it for today. I hope you learned as much as I did. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

What I learned from Miss Snark - part 1 - revisited

Unfortunately, the Universe decided to give me strep throat. Thanks a lot Universe! Now you owe me! Ha! Talk about backfiring! All you have to do is get me all published and stuff and we'll call it square. Okay? *crickets chirping*

Because I'd rather be doing anything than thinking at the moment, I've decided to revisit an old post from early last year.

If you've seen it before: WOW! You've been actively following me for a year! I love you guys!

If you haven't: Miss Snark's fab and you should totally check out the following.

I have undertaken a momentous task. I've determined to start at Miss Snark's beginning and read through to the end. I have to say that I already wish I started writing a few years earlier so I could have been a follower of her blog when Her Great Snarkiness was still active.

But as I can't turn back time (yet! Doc Brown, I'll meet you a in the mall parking lot tonight! Bring your 1.21 gigawatts baby!), the next best thing is to read back and see what I missed. Without further ado, I present you with the things I've learned from Miss Snark this week.

- Double verbs are BAD! Watch the had, was, were verbs and avoid them unless you really understand the past perfect tense and KNOW that it's the correct way to convey what you want.

- Writing is NOT the same as a police report. You don't have to include every fact, every detail, every causal link. Trust your audience enough to let them work to keep up with you. They won't mind, in fact, they will become more involved in the story.

- The rhythm of your sentences is almost as important as the actual words. Shorter sentences at the start, building to longer ones in the middle, falling off to shorter ones at the end. Not an ironclad rule, but practice and perfect this so that when you break the rule, you are doing it because it is a choice you make and not because you just don't know how else to do it.

- Don't overwrite!

- When you're trying to build tension, keep your sentences short and punchy. Long sentences drag down the reader and the intensity.

What I found really interesting about most of these rules is that it is more about perfecting the art than hard and fast rules. Almost every writing rule CAN be broken if you know what you are doing and choose to break the rule for the right reasons.

I feel educated, don't you? ;)

P.S. Final tip of the day - if you get a chance to retire and run away with George Clooney, follow Miss Snark's example - YOU TAKE IT!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marketing 101

Many of you may not know this, but I have quite an extensive background in marketing. My B.S. is in Public Relations with a minor in Psych (watch out or I may analyze you). After graduation I worked as a P.R. Analyst and later a Marketing Coordinator.

With this kind of background, I've developed some pet peeves when it comes to the publishing world. There are so many aspiring authors and debut authors that seem to think the world ends with a happily ever after upon publication. Understandably, they don't seem to be able to look past that momentous event to the reality of what happens after. This leaves them in a world of hurt.

I've heard it said that it's hard to get published and even harder to stay published. I'm absolutely certain that is the truth. In light of that, I thought I'd do a post with nine quick basic marketing tips.

Many of you may already know most of these. Let's face it, I'm preaching to the choir here. But nonetheless, I hope you might find something new or interesting that can benefit you or another author-friend of yours.

1 - Be accessible - Establish a web presence, have a website, let people find you.

2 - Network, network, network - This one takes work and maintenance. Get out to writers conferences, develop a blog following, connect with people who might in turn connect with you.

3 - Have Giveaways/Contests - Universal truth = people love to win things, and it doesn't matter what. Contests and giveaways always raise the excitement level. Help spread the buzz about you and your work, get people involved in new creative ways and they will want to help you succeed.

4 - Start at Home - Get involved on a local level. Get familiar with writers groups, schools, libraries and bookstores in your area, and allow them to get familiar with you.

5 - Contact Bookstores/Libraries/Schools when traveling - Let's be honest, few debut authors get sent on massive, nation wide book tours. Whether or not you have a book tour, if you happen to be traveling, you should take advantage of it. Contacting bookstores/libraries/schools on your travels will help spread the word to other regions.

6 - Learn how to write a good press release & get a list of contacts - This is huge. Monumentally huge. Even if you spent 24 hours a day out there, spreading the word, you won't reach as many people as if you learned to properly utilize the media. And I mean every form of media. Arrange a blog tour, know the contacts of local newspaper, radio, tv, podcasts, vlogs... everything you can think of. Just do it.

7 - Know what is newsworthy - It doesn't take a lot to turn a note on the newspaper calendar into a local interest story, and many more people read those than check out the calendar listings. Service to your community is never a bad thing. Use your meetings and signings to coordinate support to give back to the community.

8 - Gather support - Recognize that your supporters want you to succeed and let them get involved. Form street teams, give them bookmarks to pass out, whatever. Just be creative and help them spread the word on your behalf.

9 - Be yourself - The most interesting and dynamic authors out there are the ones who aren't afraid to have a little fun with it. Enjoy yourself. You are living your dream. Have fun with your marketing and those who are around you will have fun too.

Anyway, there are some basics. If you have any questions, go ahead and leave them in the comments.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Avatar vs. um... Avatar

Okay so, I'm not the first to admit I'm wrong about something...maybe the ninth, or twentieth, but you are all here to witness it.

I was wrong about James Cameron's Avatar.

*pause for gasps*

Let me begin by explaining what I was actually wrong about.

You see, it all started with the same old story. Girl meets airbender, girl loves airbender, girl gets mad at famous movie director for naming his movie after the airbender show *cough* James Cameron you and your bazillions are dead to me *cough* all know how it goes.

Yes, I confess. I love the real Avatar, aka the Last Airbender. Because of this love, I admit, I acted childish. I may or may not have yelled "Pick a new name you big copy cats!" everytime I saw those tall blue people on my TV.

Harsh? Yes. Don't mess with my loved ones and nobody has to get hurt.

But now, I admit--I was wrong. James Cameron's Avatar, by any name, is AMAZING. Don't get me wrong. The Last Airbender still has my heart, but I've grown. I've discovered I have the ability to love them both.

And so, I dedicate this post to my Avatars. They both possess incredible worlds that I love to lose myself in. The writing, plots, and imaginations involved are among the best I've seen.

So, in the spirit of all I've learned, I say: Be you freakishly gigantic and blue, or short, bald and tatoo-covered, you are welcome on my blog. Thank you.

P.S. I am SO excited for The Last Airbender movie coming out this summer. Thank you Hollywood! I will now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

Monday, January 18, 2010

And The Winner Is...

So my friend, the random number generator, told me the Winner is: *drumroll*

Shannon O'Donnell
Yay!! *thunderous applause* Congratulations Shannon! Drop me an e-mail and tell me which of the options you'd like (and which book). From your comment, I'd guess it might not be an easy choice for you... that dirty old sock is really tempting. :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blogs Can Predict the Future

First, if you haven't entered my Fantabulous Giveaway, you should. It is open for entries until 11:00pm MST on Sunday, January 17th.

Now, on to my discovery. It's pretty big, so feel free to hold your breath if you feel it necessary.

Blogs can predict the future.

I'll pause for shocked muttering...ahem...done now? Okay, I'll continue. More specifically, MY blog can predict the future. Allow me to demonstrate my proof.

In my last blog post, titled: Giveaway! - Triple Digits! - Back in the Saddle!, written on January 12th, I felt a compulsion (born primarily of caffeine-induced hyperness) to include an optional entry into the contest. It was written as follows: "If you have 10 fingers and toes, tell me how you appreciate them (come on, those opposable thumbs are useful people!)"

A mere two days later, I had a mishap. I may have caught my heel on a tiny hole at the end of my driveway, rolled my ankle and caught myself using my fully extended left ring finger...or I may have injured it skydiving.

Alas, we may never know the truth, but fortunately, how it happened doesn't matter. The vital (and easy to miss) fact, is that my blog KNEW! It knew I needed to appreciate my fingers and toes! It knew something was going to happen----It knew.

Now, I have no conclusive evidence to accuse my blog of sabotage...not yet. Who knows? It could be a conspiracy of many household and digitized objects out to teach me a lesson, or it could be the Universe communicating through this blog.

The investigation is ongoing, so I musn't say too much. Let me just say...if you see a post on here that includes lottery numbers, or possibly discusses the importance of essential body parts...consider it carefully. It could be a warning.

On that note, I'm off to "hunt and peck" away at my edits.

I may be here for awhile...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Giveaway! - Triple Digits! - Back in the Saddle!

I don't know how many of you have noticed...but as I am writing this, I have 99 followers. So, in honor of (hopefully this week) jumping to the LAND OF TRIPLE DIGITS!! (echo, echo, echo) I am going to be holding a giveaway.

Let's start with the prize, since that is the primary means of excitement in any good giveaway. The winner, will be able to pick any author attending the Life, the Universe and Everything (LTUE) conference in February. Some of the attending authors are: James Dashner - The Maze Runner, Brandon Mull - Fablehaven Series, L.E. Modesitt - The Recluce Saga, Brandon Sanderson - Mistborn, and many more. I will get the book and have it signed by the author - OR - I can also get a copy of The Time Travelers Wife - signed by Audrey Niffengger - OR - a dirty old sock.

THAT'S RIGHT! The Winner gets to pick! Are my giveaways cool, or what?!

So, there are several ways to get an entry. All require commenting on this post. Tell me what entries you qualify for and I'll pick the Winner randomly next Monday, January 18th.

If you start following me here or on twitter - 1 entry each

If you are already following me here, or on twitter - 2 entries each

If you have 10 fingers and toes, and tell me how you appreciate them (come on, those opposable thumbs are useful people!) - 2 entries

If you tweet about or link to this giveaway on your blog - 2 entries each

If you've ever taken some time off from writing or blogging, (if you haven't--may I suggest a vacation?) tell me a tip for how to get back in the saddle (see? the picture of the horse above was NOT totally random.) - Your tips earn you 1 entry each, but you can tip as many times as you'd like.

*Phew* I just used 12 parenthesis in one post, now that takes talent! Let the games begin. Entries will be accepted until 11:00pm MST on Sunday, January 17th.

P.S. There are two other really cool contests going on right now at some friends blogs. The fabulous Kasie West and the lovely Bree Despain. Go check them out!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Seeing the Big Picture

I've been debating about whether to write this post for weeks. It's a difficult subject to put into words, but I've decided it's important. Another blogger friend, Kiersten White, wrote a post last September that really stuck with me. I'm glad it did, because it educated me, helped me understand what was happening, and saved my life.

Last October, after two years of trying, we found out I was pregnant. We were ecstatic. Unfortunately, just before Thanksgiving they told me I was having a miscarriage. At the time, it was excruciating. A personal pain that is impossible to describe. I didn't understand. We didn't deserve this. How could this have happened?

A few weeks later, my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels hadn't dropped like they should. They decided to perform a D&C and make sure everything was all right. It wasn't.

Days later, the levels still hadn't dropped and I was having pain on my right side. They did an ultrasound and found an ectopic pregnancy inside my right ovary. 2% of all pregnancies are ectopic, of those only 1 in 6,000 is in the ovary. They gave me a shot of methotrexate, essentially a chemotherapy drug, in hopes of avoiding surgery.

My levels dropped, it was working, and yet the pain still persisted. My OB/GYN ignored it, but it was only getting worse. Finally, my family doctor decided I needed another ultrasound. There was a significant amount of blood in my abdomen and a tear in my ovary. I was put on strict bedrest while we determined if it would heal itself or if I would need surgery to fix it.

Luckily, it healed and I've made a full recovery.

I wanted to share my story for two reasons: to share what I learned, and to direct everyone to Kiersten's post. If you are a woman, or you care about a woman, you should read it. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial.

This taught me an important lesson. Although the miscarriage was emotionally and physically agonizing, if it hadn't happened as early as it did, the baby would have kept growing and my ovary would have ruptured. I would have lost my ovary and my tube at the very least, at the most--it could easily have killed me.

In the rough times in life, always remember the big picture. In life, as in art and literature, some of the darkest shades are what bring out the depth and beauty of the whole.