Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Writing Yourself into Your Manuscript

No way.  I’ve already written two books and none of my characters were anything like me!  That’s half the fun of writing, right?  You get to create people who didn’t even exist before your miniature God fingers went to work; breathing life into them and their complicated ups and downs.

I write about places and things I’ve never seen; situations I’ haven’t lived- all for the fun of experiencing something new and exciting.

So, why on earth would I write myself into my manuscript?  It makes no sense.

And yet,

There I am.  I totally wrote myself into my wip.  Not ME, me, but my high school self.  I didn’t realize it until it was too late.  My name is Katie.  Her name is Kelly.  I had blonde hair and green  (okay they’re really blue with yellow in the middle but for some reason they never actually look green.  For me, this defies all logic.) eyes.

Kelly has ‘honey colored hair and green eyes’.  Skinny, goofy, but coming into her own Junior year of high school.  Me,me, me, me me me!  Obsessed with Shakespeare- memorizing and reciting lines from his plays (Mi)…. won’t settle for love unless it’s like a storybook (Moi)….Falling in with the guy nobody expected.- the pretty geek and the bad ass hottie- (Mich!)  -Grrr!-   

Of course, in my wip, their love is complicated when said bad ass lover boy springs a man-tail, so that’s where the similarities end, thank God. *sigh*  How could I let this happen?

 Has anyone else accidently written themselves into their MS or am the only freak on the planet?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Do Songwriters Have It Easier?

My first songwriting endeavor was when I was nine years old.  My cousin and I decided we were going to start an early 90’s pop group.  With side ponytails and florescent microphones in hand, we went on to compose our first top 10 masterpiece entitled ‘Electric Heat’.

I think it went something like:

‘Electric Heat!  You can feel it going through your boooones’
‘Electric Heat!  You can make some of your oooown’
‘Electric Heeeeeat!’

As you can see here, what once seemed savvy and sexy to our nine year old ears now sounds more like a rather odd jingle for indoor heating.  We sang it with heart, though.  You can be sure of that.

Anyways, a good book paints a vivid picture, introduces us to people, situations, and emotions that we might otherwise have never felt.  I realize now that those books are the result of a writer’s imagination, thousands of words, hundreds of pages, a little luck, and twenty pairs of expert eyes that make it into what it is today.

A songwriter only has to come up with a few dozen words.  But it’s not a song unless it accompanies music.  The work it takes is probably about the same as writing a book and I know the music business is just as tough if not tougher than publishing.

I think the most important factor in any art form is its ability to convey a message or feeling of its own accord.  It might be the work of an author, or many authors.  But the created story has to be able to stand on its own two feet and do what it was created to do.  Sometimes even more.   

It’s no wonder how much we cling to music and photos, or paintings.  A picture is worth a thousand words after all.  And listening to a song is faster than sitting down to read a book.  - Like a ‘quickie’ escape. 

 Have any of you attempted to write songs (music and all) and did you find it harder or easier than writing a book?  If you were on a desert island and had a choice between your ipod filled with music or your favorite book- what would you choose?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Confessions From a 'Hunger Games' Virgin

It took me a long time to finally succumb to buying ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins for several reasons.

I’m not a huge fan of terror, suspense, violence, or gore.  If I’m completely honest, I don’t like intense drama either.  It’s not that I’m shallow (well, for the most part).  It’s just that, with an imagination like mine, it’s in my best interest (and my family’s) that I stay away from that sort of thing. 

I know it’s not real.  My husband tells me over and over whenever he gets me to reluctantly sit down in front of a violent movie. 

But to me, it could be real.       
I can’t stand gore movies that involve torture and kidnapping or rape.  It might not be really happening behind the screen, but I can’t help thinking that somewhere it is happening, has happened, will happen again.  And that thought alone kills my enjoyment and I end up finding the whole act of sitting down to watch a simulation of the worst our society has to offer….a bit warped.  Ok, very warped.

In most cases, I end up covering my ears.  Don't ask me why.   In tense situations, it’s just my first instinct - whether it’s a suspenseful scene in a movie, or the rival football team is about to score a goal on ours, or our car comes close to being sideswiped (which, driving in France- happens quite often).  My hands just rush to cover my ears like that alone will change the direction of things.

During all of the above, my husband has to turn towards me and ask “Why do you do that!!??”  Otherwise, I don’t realize I’m doing it and my hands will stay up for however long until I calm down.

After watching the ‘Sixth Sense’ I saw dead people everywhere.  Not really, but I imagined what it would be like to see them in the minutest detail until my whole body would quake in fear.  Dead girl in the headlights.  Dead old lady in the back seat who smells like cigarette smoke.  Dead guy behind the shower curtain about to push his face against it; his mouth in the form of a terrible ‘O’ (are you getting my drift here?). 

And when I read or watch a movie that’s too emotionally charged, I replay it over and over in my mind, trying to find a way out for the poor tragic fools who ended up dead or separated.  “Revolutionary Road” had me depressed for days.  Ok, fine, weeks.

So, when I read the premise for ‘The Hunger Games’, I was reluctant.  A future where kids ages 12-18 are thrown into hostile territory to battle it to the death? Yuck!

But, no matter where I looked, someone was talking about the book.   I started to wonder if I wasn’t just being a big baby.  SO, I finally gave in and ordered it.   Even when it came in, I read the first page and put it down. 

Poor hungry dirty people…A little girl with an ugly cat…Food shortages…something called a reaping? Like the grim reaper?.  I could feel the dark grey tension clawing at my gut from the word ‘go’.  So I put it down thinking “Um.  Nah.  I’m not really in the mood for this right now.  I want to float on a cloud of happiness and glee.  Lemme go see if Meg Cabot has anything new…”

But Saturday I broke down and read the whole thing, finishing it yesterday.  By the second page I was hooked and by the 2oth page I was completely emotionally involved.  That said, it made me think about how a writer can pull you in and make you read even if you aren’t thrilled about what’s happening.

 I simply couldn’t. put. it. down.

That’s not to say it became my favorite book ever.  There were a few things that threw me.  First of all, I couldn’t pronounce her name in my head.  Between the ‘Catnip’ and ‘Katniss’, it always ended up ‘Katsip’ when I saw the word.  Like ‘would you like some ‘Katsip’ on your hotdog?’

And there were lots of long passages where we’re stuck in her frantic-survival-mode mind that kept reiterating the same things.  Over and over again. Every chapter.  I found myself skipping over those after a while to get to the good stuff.

I often hear of an agent taking on a client because of the story they tell and not necessarily the brilliance of their writing.  And now I realize that it can also work in the opposite way.  A story expertly told can hold you in its grip even if you don’t necessarily want to see it through for whatever reason.  In any case Suzanne Collins spun a wonderful web and despite my prior hang ups, I was caught up from start to finish. 

Now, I can hold my head high and face the world knowing I am no longer a ‘Hunger Games Virgin’.

Ever any books you were reluctant to read but ended up thoroughly enjoying?


Note to Self is giving away copies of the 'Hunger Games' trilogy, including 'Mockingjay'!- contest ends Aug 24th

Angels and Demons and Portals, Oh my! is giving away a pre-ordered copy of 'Mockingjay'.

Carolina from 'Carol's Prints' is having an amazing '10 ARC Giveaway Contest'

Sarah McGlung from 'Babbling Flow' is giving away signed copies of 'Shiver' & 'Linger'

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guess That Character Blogfest Part Deux

It’s time for the great reveal!  Yesterday you all tried to guess what my character Sage Reynolds looks like based on an excerpt of his voice alone.  Can I just say so many of you came close it was almost creepy?  Without further ado, I give you:

Sage Reynolds

So many of you had the right details, but if I have to choose a winner I guess it would be the very first commenter yesterday:

Okay, so here's what I'm seeing: Not tall, but taller than Kelly, tanned skin. Brown hair, curling slightly, maybe, highlighted by the sun, with that kind of unusual beauty you get when a tomboy kid learns how to look pretty and enjoy it. Eyes with color that contrasts with her face - like a really deep brown…

Almost everyone got the brown wavy hair- how did you know??  Tanned skin and muscles.  It just strikes me as so weird how you all got such a close image from just the voice in the piece.  Ya'll are a bunch of psychics! lol.   Great job you guys!  Thanks Jen for such an awesome blogfest thanks so much to all of you for playing!

Other commenters who were on target:

Ooh - I like this guy! I'm going to say he has wavy, longish brown hair and brown eyes. He's pretty tall, with a slender but not wimpy build. And he's really hot. :)

A somewhat skinny build that he's attempting to grow into. With a slight slouch because of the weight on his shoulders. Brown wavy hair that doesn't fall into his eyes, an attempt to make people respect him again. And muscles that look misplaced because of his skinny-ness.

I'd say he's slightly taller than average, solidly built, but not intimidating. He's got a strong sense of right and wrong which makes up for what he lacks size-wise. Brown hair, and light brown eyes. Hair is a little longer, bangs falling in face.
Hmmm...jeans and tennis shoes kinda guy

Damyanti Says:
I keep thinking this guy has some serious abs...definitely a looker, brown hair, dreamy, dark eyes.

Brown hair, streaked blond from the sun. Tallish, tanned, muscular but not large. Hazel eyes. A gentle heart in spite of his quick temper. Protective of his girlfriend.

Good show!

Great scene :)

Tall (she had to reach up on her toes), tough, athletic yet lanky build.
Dark hair, eyes. Scruffy hair :)

I see a tall, dark-haired boy with a slim/muscular physique and a shaggy or messy hairstyle. I don't know his eye color, but I want it to be light and striking to contrast with his hair!

Diane J. Says:
I see a teen of about 17, he is built like a wide receiver, but doesn't play football. He has dark brown hair that is a smidge (just a smidge) too long. Brown eyes and a killer smile. Maybe even a small divet on one corner of his chin when he flashes a big smile. Very toned and very tan.

Okay, I'm totally thinking Dallas from the Outsiders--medium build but ripped, devil-may-care attitude, brown eyes,and messy hair in a good way. Very romantic with a sensitive side, though. Love him!

Great excerpt! Fantastic! Umm, okay I see a guy who tends to mold into what other people see him as. So maybe slightly distressed jeans, devil may care hair that tends to do what it wants, I'm thinking darker brown with some lighter bits. I see his eyes as dark brown with some kind of untold secret within their depths. I could also see him like playing a guitar which sounds soooo random to me right now, but whatever I guess. I am definitely checking out what he looks like tomorrow!

I see a real sweet young man, always well-meaning but clumsy, still not quite past the gawky teenage phase. He is cute in his awkwardness, though: messy, curly mop of dark brown hair, decent build, could be even better with a bit of tone. Medium height, say 5'8-5'9", brown puppy eyes.

Christine Danek Says:

I love this! Great voice.
Brwon, messy hair. Hazel eyes with hint of green. Medium build. Sneaky/sexy smile.

Can't wait to meet him!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guess That Character Blogfest

It’s time for ‘Guess That Character Blogfest’ sponsored by Jen @ Unedited!  Below is a snippet taken from my character (Sage Reynolds from wip ‘FOSSEGRIM’) ‘s point of view.  The challenge is to try and guess what Sage looks like based on his voice alone!  Good luck everyone and I can’t wait to check out your characters!
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 When I turn towards the beach, Kelly and Sheila are standing in the shallow waves.  They wave and signal for us to come in.  I tap Aiden on the shoulder.  “Looks like the princesses await their knights in shining armor.”
            “Pfft.”  Aiden rolls his eyes.  “I swear to God if Sheila doesn’t put out soon, I’m gonna have to shave my head and wear an orange robe.”
            “Nice…  Very chivalrous,” I laugh as we make our way towards them.
            “ ‘Chivalrous’?  Dude, you’ve got to stop spending so much time with Kelly,” Aiden shakes his head.
            Kelly wades toward me before I get to the beach and throws her arms around my neck. 
            “You didn’t have to go after them like that.”  Smooth caramel wisps of hair are flattened around her face by the wind as she looks up at me with big scolding green eyes.  I push the soft locks back and smile down at her. 
            “The guy grabbed your ass while you were buying a milk shake.  That’s inexcusable.”  My temper flares and my eyes search the beach.  “He better hope I never see him around here again.”
            Kelly tightens her grip, bringing my attention back to her.  “I shouldn’t have even told you what happened.” She shakes her head but then smiles and leans up on her tip toes to lay a quick kiss on my mouth.  “But thank you for defending my honor.”
            I laugh.  Kelly’s always saying old fashioned stuff like that.  She’s way into Shakespeare and poetry and medieval tales.  I used to think it was kind of weird when we were just friends but now that we’ve been together for a year, it’s become just another reason I love her. 
            I grab her chin and steal another kiss before hanging one arm lazily around her shoulder and leaving the water.  “That’s what knights are for, princess.”
            She yanks on my arm and giggles.  I think she secretly likes when I play into her day time fairy tales.  Her pace slows as we reach dry land. “I gotta head home.  We’re going to my aunt Maggie’s for dinner.  My parents said you could come, if you want…” She looks up at me from the corner of her eye. 
            I shake my head, my gut twisting at the invitation.  Kelly’s parents hate me. Actually, come to think of it, most parents hate me.  Maybe it’s my longstanding reputation as a trouble maker.  Or maybe it’s my family. Or lack thereof. 
Pretty much everyone in town knows that the McKenna’s are my foster parents.  Which isn’t a big deal, I suppose.  But when I arrived here in the third grade, I somehow managed to set fire to the classroom (magnifying glass over the garbage bin- It was science, man) and break Sarah Kane’s nose (misguided throw during baseball.  She should have ducked!) all in the same year.  From then on, I was known as that ‘troubled foster kid’ the McKenna’s had decided to keep around.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Great Escape

Some people eat when they’re trying to forget about something.  Others exercise.  

Then there’s always the ‘drugs, sex, and rock n roll’ method (which is not doctor recommended).   And of course, we can’t forget day time television, books, video games, and the internet- which holds its own myriad of distraction.

I was surprised to discover, however, in the last few days that in my case, when the going gets rough, the rough get writing.  ( Ok, I know its supposed to be ‘tough’ but ‘rough and writing’ just sound so much better together, don’t they?)

..and writing, and writing, and writing and writing.  Needless to say, I started my wip almost three weeks ago and its already 24k.  Like the gold.  Almost 10k of which has been written in the last few days.  

 I’m thinking its stress related.  I haven’t been blogging much.  I just don’t have the energy and my eyes are already starting to protrude from my head from all the time spent staring at the black and white screen.  (This is not a good look for me.  As you can see from my photo, my teeth are just a little too big for my head.  And I swear to God, they get bigger every year.  Or maybe my head is shrinking. Is there such a thing as shrinking head syndrome?)

Anyway, I want to thank everyone so much for their kind words and prayers for my daughter Lily.  She is doing HEAPS better.  Today she had her last dose of steroids and we found out she won’t be able to see the allergy specialist and run tests until at least ten days off the treatment.  But her color is a lot better and the virus seems to have run its course, so YAY!!
Tomorrow is the ‘Guest That Character Blogfest’ sponsored by Jen from Unedited!  Thanks Jen for reminding me since I’ve got cronic blogfest-find-and-forgetitisisisis.is. 

Hope ya’ll have a great humpday!


Monday, August 16, 2010

So Much For That...

So much for an easy month of August.  I thought things were crazy last week.  But then this weekend the shit really hittith the fan.

My six year old daughter, Lily had a stuffy nose and cough for the last few days. Friday night she woke up and said she couldn't sleep cause she was coughing so much.  She slept in our bed but was up quite a bit.  

Saturday she woke up pale and tired, complaining of a pain in her throat and stomache and she ended up throwing up breakfast.  We called the doctor and he came to see her and ordered us to go get x-rays right away, thinking it might be pneumonia.

The x rays came up empty and thank God a pediatrician caught us on our way out and said we should take her to a different hospital quickly (the one we were at didn't have a pediatrics wing).  So off we went to the emergency room at a bigger hospital.  And its a good thing we did.  Because when we arrived, Lily had a sever asthma attack.  Blue lips, pale vacant eyes, and so much trouble breathing she couldn't even speak even while on oxygen.  It was SO scary.  

She was admitted to the hospital and I ended up staying there with her Saterday night and into Sunday afternoon.  They woke her every three hours for nebulizer treatment so she didn't get a lot of rest. We arrived home yesterday and now she's in our bed playing hospital (I have to bring her every meal on a tray and say 'bonjour petite dame' when I enter)

She's got an appointment Thursday with an allergy specialist.  We just might have to find a new home for the newly acquired Grizzly if it turns out she's allergic to cats but the attack could have been brought on by the virus as well.  Guess we'll see!

I'll do my best to visit you guys this week.  I miss my dose of daily bloffee.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Crazy in Katie Land

So, things have been kind of crazy in Katie Land the last few days.  I don’t know if many of you remember my struggles with obtaining my French Driver’s License? 

Well, my dangerous and obstacle ridden odyssey finally came to an end on Monday when I passed the driving section of the test.  I didn’t find out until Wednesday that I passed.  (apparently monitors used to tell the drivers right at the end if they passed or failed and too many crazed frenchmen beat them up if they didn’t like the results.  So now we find out by mail three days later.)

I’m so glad THAT’s over.  It was a really tough, long road and it’s still not completely finished.  Now that I have my permit in hand, my husband has to teach me how to actually stay alive while driving around here.

Other news- we have a new member of the family.  Meet Grizzly. 
 He’s eight weeks old and we adopted him from one of my husband’s colleagues.  He loves to walk across my laptop when I’m trying to write but he’s still a welcomed distraction:)

WriteOnCon was a wopping success thanks to all the authors, agents and editors who put it together and contributed.   I still haven’t been able to catch up on all the blog posts and videos it has to offer but thankfully all the information will remain up on the website.

Hello to all the new followers!  I’m sorry I haven’t been able to make it to many blogs this week.  Between the kids, driving, writeoncon, and my current wip- time has been sparse.  I should be back in the swing of things come Monday though and look forward to  catching up with ya’ll!

Have a fantabulous weekend everyone!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Currently Glued to WriteOnCon

Can I just say this is the BEST way of giving to the aspiring writer’s community I think I’ve ever seen?  There’s such a wealth of information.  

I’ve never been to a real writer’s conference.  There are very few where I live (in the Paris suburbs, France).  And the ones that do happen…aren’t in English.  There’s only been one or two for English writers here and it costs about three times what you’d pay in the U.S.

So when I found out about the free online conference, I jumped at the chance.   Just like with a regular conference, you can pick and choose which activities to go to and take part in depending on where you are as a writer.  I personally find myself reading just about EVERYTHING.  The video blogs are especially awesome.  Feels like you’re really there. 
Because I live in France, I have to catch up on late night activities in the morning when I wake up.  

For today, I’m lurking around the WIP Critique boards where I posted my first five pages of my current WIP ‘Fossegrim’

Ok, enough ranting.  Just wanted to let you guys know where I’m at (although many of you are probably hanging around the writeoncon website right along with me;)

Question-  How can we ever thank these agents, editors, and authors who put the conference together enough?  Besides writing better books for them to work with??;)

Monday, August 9, 2010

No, Wait. THIS is the best idea I've ever had!

I don’t know about any of you, but when I get a new idea for a book, get the outline down and start writing, only to have the writing take off and completely immerse myself in the new story-
 I can’t help thinking:

‘THIS is it!  THIS is the best idea I’ve ever had.  With this book, I’m sure to catch someone’s interest!’

Problem is, I have this thought while starting just about every project. lol

When the first draft is finished and the editing and revising begin along with perfecting the dreaded query letter-  the project starts to lose its luster.  Will agents really be interested?  What makes mine so different from all the other great ideas from great writers out there?

And when I fall in love with something new, I can’t help feeling a little pang of regret for my old projects.  After all, I was just as in love with them while writing too!  It’s not that I lose faith in them.  It’s just that my shiny new idea with practiced and improved writing takes up the forefront in my mind.

I guess my question is, how do you find a balance between working on your wip (who has you completely enthusiastic and enthralled) and keeping up with the revising and editing and querying that your past projects demand?  Do you put them on hold while finishing a first draft?  Or do you divide your time equally between both?

PS- thanks so much to everyone who commented on
‘My Name is Katie.  And I Suck at First Person POV’. 

Consensus from the Comment Box:

Great examples of First Person/Present Tense:

Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Beautiful- Amy Reed
Something, Maybe- Elizabeth Scott
Water for Elephants
Wintergirls- Laurie Halse Anderson  (I actually HAVE this one and haven’t read it yet)
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist-Levithan/Cohen
Friction- E.R. Frank
Perfect Chemistry- Simone Elkeles
Cat’s Cradle- Atwood
Looking for Alaska- John Green
I Am the Messanger- Marceus Zusak
Bloody Jack- L.A. Meyer
Need- Carrie Jones
The Chosen One- Carol Lynch Williams
Sandman Slim- Richard Kadrey
You Suck- Christopher Moore

Some Fab Advice:

"You need to really just change your track. Pull that switch and forget everything you knew (or thought you knew) about writing 3rd PoV and start fresh as if you've never written before. It may sound silly, but this is how most breakthrough writers start. They'll complain that they don't think they can constantly use pronoun reference for their character the entire time. It steals personality and limelight, and all of what you've been building your sketch into. That's not at all the case."- Justin W. Parente-( quoting his professor.)

“you have to make sure to stay in your character's voice the whole time. The author can come through too often in a lot of 1st Person books. “- Jamie Grey

You could go with the method writing approach. become the character and experience it from her perspective as you write it. “- Alesa Warcan

just becareful you don't fall into the trap of telling or the mc explaining too much. But it offers your the opportunity for your character's personality to shine through. “- Laura Pauling

my advice would be to really get to know your character. You have to step out of yourself and be them.”-Victoria Saavedra

THIS is why I blog people.  Thanks to all of your feedback, my word count jumped up to 13k this weekend and I have officially found my ‘present tense’ groove.  It’s almost like reading it- once you get into the story you don’t even realize you’re writing in present tense anymore.
Have a great Monday everyone!


Friday, August 6, 2010

My name is Katie. And I suck at first person POV.

As many of you know, I started my current wip last week and so far the writing is going…okay.   

I’m at almost 9k. (never used to look at word count so closely before I noticed how much other bloggers talk about it)  So I guess that averages around 1.5-2k a day. 
In all honesty, I usually go by ‘scenes’ in my outline.  Either I finish a scene in one sitting.  Or I don’t.  Or sometimes the scene splits off into another mini scene.
In any case, all of that is going smoothly.   The only thing that’s really bugging me is the first person point of view.  And present tense

The problem is that I’ve never tried either.

So this is really a kind of experiment for me as well as just another aspect of writing I’d like to familiarize myself with.

However, it’s really daunting to be giving a play by play of someone else’s consciousness.  Especially when it’s a teenage boy who’s kind of in a dark place despite a good sense of humor and a respect for justice.

One of the things I loved about the third person is that I could concentrate on the storytelling and have the reader learn about the characters through action and dialogue with some insight into their psyche from time to time.

The story being told from my MC’s point of view is SO different from what I’m used to, it almost feels creepy.  Like I’m in someone else’s skin.

Not to mention, I have in no way mastered the fluidity of ‘I’, ‘Me’ and ‘My’.  I feel like each time they’re used, there’s a big fat fluorescent light around them.   
Anyways, I’d like to know if any of you have a favorite book written in present tense first person pov that you could recommend? 

Or if you first person pov veterans have any tips on making it flow better for this debutante?  

Thanks to everyone who commented on ‘I feel like a sperm’.  I don’t think there’s anything more I can add on the subject. lol. The analogy just came to me out of left field Wednesday morning and fit my mood perfectly :)

 I’m starting to feel a little better about the rejection and I might even take two hours tonight and query a few agents:)

Have a great weekend everyone!



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