Thursday, December 30, 2010

Those Pesky -ly words

Did you know the -ly words (also known as empty adverbs) are listed as one of the top ten most avoidable mistakes that will get your manuscript thrown out by a prospective editor or agent? The reason I bring this up is because I've been noticing A LOT of them in my current WIP. I realize I'm still only on edit #1, but holy cow (and no, holy does not count!) there are a ton of them suckers. Quietly, softly, quickly, blah blah blah. It really amazes me how fast they suck the enjoyment out of a scene. She touched his face softly. Really? I think I may go throw up loudly. Do you mind? No? Good.

I want to fix them right now! There's a small problem with that, though. I'm over half way done with my edit. It will take all of the motivation I have (which is a complete surprise, so I'm not willing to do anything to comprimise it) and toss it out the window to start from square one here.

So, I have a plan, and you may want to do this with your own WIP. That is, assuming you are at the edit phase of the story. WHEN I finish with what I'm trying to do (which is clean the story up in general and fill plot holes) I'm going to go back to the beginning and I'm going to hunt down every last one of those little plot parasites. Because that's exactly what they are. They're worse than weeds, and the only way to fix the problem is to kill them. You can call me Haley Jo, -ly Hunter! Well... maybe I could use a little more work on the title.

But how do you fix this problem? What can you do to get rid of all those pesky -ly empty adverb words? Here's an example of how you can do it:

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her hungrily.

That's the sentence I wrote the first time around. I have to be able to say the same thing without telling, using passive voice, or that (bleh) -ly word hanging there at the end, poisoning the whole thing.

First of all, how is someone kissed hungrily? What exactly does it mean? Better yet, what does it look like? Feel like? It could look something like:

He pulled her into his arms, his full lips crashing down onto hers, molding them against his as he tasted her sweetness on his tongue.

Too corny?

On the bright side, that nasty -ly word is gone and this sentence gives you so much more than the last. Getting rid of 90% of those words, might get me to my 70k goal alone. I just have to be careful. If I get rid of too many of them, the story might become a little wordy. (EEK!) And no one (me) wants that.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An exerpt

If you've been following me, you know how bad I've been dreading the romance novel thing. Well, I finished the novel and am in the process of editing. I am happy to announce that I have finished with what I call "steamy scene #1." And I am so proud that I managed it, that I feel like sharing. *READER BE WARNED* 1: This scene is naughty, so if you aren't for that thing, you shouldn't continue reading, and 2: This is my first and I just did my first edit, so it may be a little rough around the edges yet. If you feel the need to comment or critique, please be gentle.
That is all...

So, here it is-an exerpt from my new novel, "Beginning Near the End"

They stopped at a light and Amelia smiled at him. Jeremy gazed at her and his blood came to a flash point watching her play with a strand of her thick, dark hair. He reached over and touched her face; the shock of that small touch almost taking his breath away. He leaned over the center counsel and pressed his mouth to hers, reveling in the softness of her lush lips.

She gasped and his tongue found hers, caressing it, tasting the sweetness of the champagne she had at the reception.

Her response was automatic. She threw her arms around his neck and tangled her fingers into his hair, her heart pounding so loudly she was sure he could hear it, too. Desire coiled tight inside her and she wanted nothing more than to press herself closer to him.

A car honking behind them broke them apart, and Amelia couldn’t believe how fast he pulled away from it, speeding toward the house.

He was quick to cut the engine when they reached the house and rapidly picked up where they left off in the car. His mouth left a burning trail on her jaw, ear, all the way down to her neck.

Amelia didn’t see the yard passing her, or hear the front door opening or closing. All she was aware of was his large, calloused hands rubbing gently up and down her arms, the way his lips were like satin on her shoulder.

He picked her up and cradled her in his arms, claiming her lips again. Her fingers dug into his back as he carried her up the stairs. When he reached his bedroom he sat her back on her feet and pulled away for a moment. “Is it too soon?”

She shook her head and closed the gap between them, pressing herself fully against him. She gasped at the bulge of his manhood straining against his pants.

After a moment, she stepped away and turned around. “Help me with this, will you?”

He hefted her thick brown hair over her shoulder and tugged the zipper down to her waist and leaned in to plant a kiss at the nape of her neck. She turned around and slipped the dress from her arms revealing lacy black lingerie that clung to her every curve.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered as she eased the dress down over her hips. He lifted his hand and let his fingers graze her arm. Gooseflesh rose where their skin met and her breath quickened.

She stepped up to him and grabbed the hem of his shirt. “Let me help you with that.”

He smiled softly and lifted his arms as she pulled the shirt up, watching her throw it aside after it was over his head. He pulled her into his arms and cupped her face in his hands, kissing her deeply.

He released her mouth and moved to her shoulder, sliding the straps down to her arms with his thumbs while he tasted her soft skin. His entire body throbbed with her so near.

Amelia reached down between them and unbuttoned his pants, releasing the pressure and his manhood. She stroked the length of his erection and her eyes widened. She turned away from him and climbed onto the bed. Jeremy pushed his pants down and followed after her.

Lying beside her, he pushed the black lace slowly up her stomach, tracing the contours with his mouth. As he neared the top, he lifted her up and pulled the scanty fabric over her head. Her chest heaved with every shallow, erratic breath.

He gently pushed her back against the mattress and moved to her breasts. He cupped them for a moment, enjoying the way each perfect mound filled his hands. Taking one bud and rolling it slowly between his fingers, his lips moved to the other, grazing it with his teeth before pulling it in and sucking hard. He glanced up when she gasped and felt her hands tangle in his hair as her back arched off the bed. She let out a soft moan and he moved to the other nub, rousing it to a peak.

Returning to her mouth, he moved one hand to her flat stomach, taking his time with his exploration of her body.

When his hand dipped lower to her thigh, Amelia’s heart hammered in her chest. She wrapped her arms around him and found his mouth. Her body was ablaze with sensations she had never known before. She felt she might shatter into a million pieces at any moment.

His finger penetrated her inner folds and found her core moist and hot. He stroked her hidden nub and smiled as her back arced and she screamed his name. He slid a finger deep inside her and felt her contract around him, anticipating the moment that his shaft would be moving inside her, filling her.

With every stroke, her moans and trembling grew until she gripped him and let her nails drag down his back. He pulled away from her, sat up quickly, and pulled his boxers off before straddling her, his erection lying against her belly.

“Please,” she moaned.

He smiled and slid back, letting the tip rub against her lower lips. He fought for control, not wanting to go too quickly, but relish in every second of this moment.

He lifted her hips and slid the tip into her moist heat. She sucked in a breath and threw her head back. Again, he moved inside of her, feeling her body stretch to accommodate him, a little further than before. A low moan rumbled in her throat.

He pulled out once more and pushed back into her immediately, filling her completely. He stayed there for a moment reveling in way her muscles clenching around him before moving back and forth inside her.

Heat built inside her with each thrust he gave. With her body and mind in tempest, she saw only Jeremy, heard only his grunts and moans, felt only his mouth on hers and his manhood moving deep within her.

With every plunge, his tempo increased until both were teetering on the edge of climax. Amelia screamed as Jeremy gave one final thrust, spilling his seed in her. He rolled away, pulling her along with him, cradling her to his side where they both fell asleep.

Well, that's it! I hope you liked it!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Final Day of NaNo

Good grief this month has been difficult. To think, when I started November, I was doing so well with the writing. Now its the last day and I've still got six chapters to write and all my time is gone. I feel like running away screaming.

I don't honestly know what happened. Last year, I felt so focused. It was honestly the first novel I ever completed. Maybe I'm in over my head with the whole romance thing. Truly, though, this novel is actually starting to feel like a novel. I've just reached that place in the story where everything starts to get interesting.

The last week has been the hardest. I've been cutting a lot of plot from my story simply to get it finished. Otherwise, I'll be sitting there trying to get in all 65,000 words that I planned, and that will most definitely take me another week at least. There have been days where I don't want to do that (ITS CHEATING!) and so I've nearly decided to quit the story altogether as I wouldn't possibly finish in time.

Amazingly, people have been very supportive. Especially people from work, oddly enough. Many of them go to school, and have taken a literary class or two, and understand exactly how much work goes into writing a novel. These are the people that have been pushing me the most to get this done. Why? They want to read it, of course. Simply put, that will not happen. I have gone to great lengths to make sure that this story will never be linked to me, because I'm actually embarrassed by some of the things I have written. Its not that I think they're bad, but they are things I would never say aloud to the people I am closest to. So, I have the pen name ready to go if I should ever get it published. More than likely, though, I will polish it up in the months to come, get a copy printed for myself and call it a done deal. And even in that case, I'll still have the cover printed with the planned pen name.

I have likened the novel writing proccess to that of raising a child before this, and this year has definitely made that analogy stronger. This child of mine has been dificult from the start, though slightly more planned. By the time I got started with it, I was ready to have it done. We fought, we walked out on each other. Even the voices wouldn't cooperate.

I intend to spend my whole day tomorrow (No work for me, YAY!) trying to get it finished. I don't think I will get all sixty thousand some words written like I wanted to in the beginning, but I will get to the point where I can write 'the end' as fast as possible, and keep writing until its time to submit.

That's the plan anyway. If you don't see me on Twitter, its because I'm avoiding the distraction. I'll try to check in before submission though, and you can all kick my butt into gear! ;D

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Nanowrimo, Writing Buddies, and other such things

Ah, November. What a wonderfully frightening month it is. Anyone who loves to write and has at least one other writer friend knows that November means NaNoWriMo.

How can I describe what NaNoWriMo means to me? As a person who's major motto is: what can be done today is better left for tomorrow, Nano is a daunting task and worthy challenge. It gets me to actually do what needs to be done here and now. Or, at least as far as writing goes. Sadly, my poor house will see the adverse effects of this month. Sure, there will be a couple days where I will wake up, look around, and scramble to make it all look presentable, but we all must hope that the house doesn't tumble to the ground in a heap of filth and dust before then.

This is my second year of NaNoWriMo. Sadly, I'm still in editing phase with last year's, "A Place Called Earth." This time around, I went a different path. Romance! *screams and moans of horror* Honestly, this is how I feel about these things. The Romance equation is such a simple one that is repeated in every story in the genre. Sadly, it is sooo much harder to write. I've been pushing over the last couple days to get ahead of schedule, because I know (its so inevitable, just like the love my characters will share.) that when I hit a certain scene (also inevitable) I am going to be so stuck. On the plus side, I may be able to skip said scene for a later time and still get well over 50,000 words for the month. Its just too bad that I think this is CHEATING! Enough of that, though. When that time comes, I am sure all my lovely followers will hear about it. Probably a few times if you follow me on Twitter.

I have this little guy that seems to be my muse for the moment. My writing buddy... my minion. Minion? Isn't that one of those short yellow guys from that movie, Dispicable Me? Why yes, yes it is. I lurves him. I think it is important to have a writing buddy. Sure, he may not be real, but his encouragment is. I'm a writer, it seriously isn't hard for me to imagine the little guy talking to me, saying, "You can do it!" and "Keep up the good work, Haley Jo!" See... now you want one too. Well, too bad! This one is mine! :D

This little guy is the only one in this house who is really giving me encouragement, and quite honestly, feeding my delusions and allowing me to continue harnessing my imagination. And without that, what am I really? Just another person that enjoys reading and wants to be famous but won't do anything about it. Of course, I have about four different pen names, though, so fame is not really coming to me no matter which way you spin it.  And I'm okay with that. I don't need hundreds of people knowing too much about me. Blogging is as much as I can handle, and really, I tend to keep the personal stuff out of it.

And on that final rambling note, I say ado and back to the Nanoing I go. Seems like it needs a catchy little tune to go along with it. Am I right?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Starting Something New

I've recently decided to try my hand at the romance genre. Honestly, I'm terrified. Plain and simple, I do not read that much romance, and the one's I do read, the romance part isn't the main genre. Usually its paranormal romance, so I feel like I'm a little out of my league. So, why do I do it? I feel like writing this story will help me grow as a writer overall. I feel like I can do the fantasy/scifi/paranormal stuff no problem, but romance? That's hard!

As, I intend to do this story for NaNoWriMo this year, mostly I'm just jotting down tidbits of things I want to remember as well as research and developing my settings and characters. In fact, I just printed off my very detailed, 7-page Chapter Synopsis. Basically, as long as I don't kill off a main character, I can't mess this up. I know the romance recipe: Man meets Woman, they fight, they argue, they fall in love; something happens in their relationship that splits them up and then something else happens that makes them realize they can't live without each other. Tada! Romance novel. Sadly, for me, this could still end terribly, terribly bad. Don't believe me? *sigh*

So, here's the dilema I'm already facing. My Female Main Character has been great. She has been wonderfully cooperative, giving me everything I need, even already interested in my Male Main Character. But (oh yes, there is a but) he is not. So, I need to vent a little bit. I have decided to write him a letter, because that's what I've been doing lately. I've been writing to get into the habit of writing. Here it is.

Dear Jeremy (that's his name),

Sir, why are you being so difficult? I understand its in your personality to be the observant one, but you need to open up to me a little, or I'm going to have to cut you from the story. I'm sure there will be someone else for Amelia. Perhaps Josh.

If you don't like hearing that, then you need to help me out a little. I need you to share some of that wit and humor with me! We already made this deal once. I'm not backing out of it. I know the next month is going to be rocky and emotional, but you have to trust me. Didn't I tell you everything would work out in the end? Didn't I promise you closure and happiness and whatnot? Why are you doing this to me?! You're driving me crazy!

That is all.
-Haley Jo

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


So, I've been home from my trip for a week now. I actually had the conversation with someone at work today. When you go 6500 miles across the country and back in two weeks, it is a trip, not a vacation. (Har har) I looked around and thought, "something is missing." And suddenly, just now, it dawned on me. I have not blogged in so long. So long in fact, it has been nearly a month! I will hang my head in shame now. *hanging head*

Okay... now that we've gotten that out of the way, I wanted to talk about what that trip did for me. First of all, it gave me a whole new appreciation for this country. Wow! Is it ever beautiful. And boy howdy, America does big well. I saw so many larger-than-life things in those two weeks: The Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Rushmore, The Badlands, the Redwood National Forest, the Pacific Ocean! I even saw some aircraft carriers on this trip. It was all so cool!

I also gained a new sense of time. Nothing makes 18 hours drag like being stuck behind the drivers wheel all night and then listening to "I'm hungry", "I'm thirsty", "I need to go to the bathroom", and my favorite, "Are we there yet?" I love my children dearly, but vacation for me means being alone. I call it vacation when I can find a babysitter and get out to the bar to see a band play, but this is all beside the point. Until this trip, I really couldn't comprehend just how long a day could be. It made me empathize for a couple of my characters. I think there will be some rewriting going on in the very near future.

The last thing that this trip did for me was made me realize that even in a different part of the country, I can feel like an alien--like I fell onto a completely different planet. The difference from state to state alone was pretty impressive. Going south into a few states with a few cities and a lot of small towns way off the interstate, and how tired that made me feel. Getting to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the strange plants that grow there, and the desert and all the canyons. Wow again.

The trip was amazing and I encourage anyone who writes to take one at some point in their life. I think this will do great things for my writing and my imagination and how could any writer pass that up?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Out of the Hidey-Hole

As it shows in my blog, Facebook, and Twitter, I've been hiding for some time now. I manage to show up every occasionally just to keep suspicions of my death squashed, but that's been about it. I'm sure there are a few of you who are wondering what may have become of me (of course, I've been wrong before...), so here I am. I'm finally ready to talk about where I've been and what I've been doing.

A few months ago, I was looking for a new kind of scary for my writing, and I turned toward my dreams. Trying to find ways to induce nightmares and such. It didn't work, sadly. Instead, I now have insomnia and very rarely dream. When I do dream, I hardly remember them, or at least they're forgotten by the time I get to my computer after work. Everyone around me seems to have found some amusement from my sleep deprivation, though. Not to say I'm the laughing stock, just its a joy working with me, because who knows what will pop from my mouth. My boss' boss found that out yesterday. I'm happy to say, I still have a job.

I have been working on editing like crazy. I have stumbled a few times and found myself stuck on a paragraph. Its been daunting, but I haven't given up. I want my story to be bright and shiney when I start sending out queries so the agents can be amazed.  It seems like I haven't had much time to work on editing though. Every time I start getting into it, a small catastrophy occurs. First it was both vehicles breaking down. Then it was a custody hearing for the boys, and the filter on the fish tank clogging and me thinking I'm going to lose over 100 fish. Now there's a vacation across the country coming up. Its been a stressful summer. I am sad to say that I'm ready for school to start so I can get back to a semi-normal schedule.

I've also been reading a ton. I got an e-reader for my laptop and I read Bram Stoker's "Dracula" for the first time. Surprisingly, it has spurred a few vivid dreams. I also read a few romance novels (though I'm a little reluctant admitting that), and a few other older works. I've learned a lot about how they keep their story from becoming dated. Of course, when the way things are written or said changes, or spellings of certain words, it really doesn't matter how timeless the story is.

All of these things have been leading to something. And, at least to me, its a very big thing. I slept in this morning. Serioiusly over-slept. I haven't been able to do that in a while, and something amazing came out of it. I've been completely under-motivated for some time, just doing what I need to do and nothing more. I go to work, I come home, I clean, I cook, etc. etc. I lost track of time. The last couple of days, I've had somethings happen that have got me thinking about what I need to do and what I need to change in my life, and apparently, an overstimulated brain has a lot to work out in sleep.

This morning (okay... afternoon) I feel so refreshed and alert. I had the most amazing dream last night. And I remembered most of it. Its written down. I have an idea for a novel that I'll be starting A.S.A.P. I don't want to lose it. Perhaps, I will share some bits and pieces of it later, but for now, I need to keep it to myself.

I can't promise that I won't return to the hidey-hole of writing and editing that I've built myself, but I will at least try to make my disappearances marked, in case anyone begins to wonder if I've dropped off the planet. And who knows... it could happen, I suppose.

P.S.- If this is complete rubbish and gibberish that no one can understand, I'm very sorry. Even catching up on some of the missing sleep, I still am having some issues with coherency.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review of "Strangers" by Dean Koontz

I have been putting off reading Dean Koontz for a while. I wanted the moment to be right. When I would have the time to actually devote myself to reading his works. And apparently I found that time. So, here's the review. Again, based on Anne Riley's reviewing format.

From the back of the book:
A terrifying and truly deadly secret--an eternal riddle come to reality--is what the protagonists of this relentlessly gripping novel sobconsiously share. Not one of them knows what the secret is, nor do they know each other. All they know is that a special terror has come to dominate and warp their lives. For each victim the torture is different.
  • For Dominick Corvaisis, in Laguna Beach, California, a writer on the verge of his first success, it means compulsive and increasing dangerous sleepwalking and awakening to cryptic and sinister messages on his word processor.
  • For you doctor Ginger Weiss in Boston, it means that unrelated objects--a pair of black gloves worn by a stranger, water swirling down a drain--have the power to send her into sudden blackouts that threaten her surgical career.
  • For Father Brennan Cronin in Chicago, an idealistic young curate, it means a precipitate loss of faith one morning when he hurls away the sacred vessels at Mass.
  • For Jack Twist in New York, an embittered ex-POW and safecracker par excellence, it means a searing wave of conscience.
  • For seven-year-old Marcie Monatella in Las Vegas, it means zombielike trances when she does nothing but draw pictures of a scarlet moon.
  • For Ernie Block, ex-Marine motel owner in Elko County, Nevada, it means a new fear of the dark so numbing that the approach of dusk reduces him to cowing paralysis.
These and other Strangers are utterly mystified until a pattern of puzzling clues and tentative contacts begins to surface. What could these disparate individuals have shared that would make powerful and ruthless agents strive so hard to make them forget it? Finding the answer, the Strangers stumble toward one another, leading to a stunning climax that will change their lives forever and provide the reader of this masterfully crafted novel with an experience haunting and unforgettable.

My thoughts:
Wow did this book give me the heebie-jeebies (which is saying a lot!). I really couldn't sit it down and even though I rarely did, it still took me about a week to get through it. Definitely one of those books that you need a dictionary for if you want to understand some of the words.

The books copyright is 1986. So the book is as old as I am. Crazy. Although it is 24 years old, I didn't find the reading to be dated. There were only a few instances where I really could tell this book was written a while back because of references to the wars. Other than that, I think Mr. Koontz did a fantastic job of making the material timeless.

His characters were fantastic and deep throughout the emotional state that he led them through. I felt for all of them and wanted to help them in some way (as though reading through the book faster would ease their suffering. LOL). He also did an excellent job of intergrating all the secondary characters into the story. In a way they seem almost like main characters just in the way they are so needed by the actual main characters. All of them were completely unforgettable.

The way the plot unfolded in this tale was perfect. So mysterious and frightening. And I was absolutely not disappointed by the revalation of this dark secret. Even the "bad guy" was good. You could actually see his way of thinking by the end of the story. He did his homework with this one. While not every term was explained, you could hear the terms the doctor and the curate would use on a regular basis. The thief's gear was explained well, and the people just seemed to fit together perfect. And the twists! I found myself surprised quite a bit throughout the whole story.

Book Rating: PG. I don't think there was any problems with language, though I could be wrong. Maybe an adult situation or two.

Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys a little thrill or mystery, but likes a happy ending.

Not recommended for: Anyone without good knowledge of the English language, or doesn't own a dictionary, or who doesn't care for looking up a few words here or there.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Editing, the Process: Beta Readers

As every writer knows, beta readers are an important part of the editing process. I think you shouldn't choose (or ask) someone to be a beta until you are as close to ready as you can tell--that is--when you are sure you are done editing.

I think you should get at least two beta readers. I think you should find one person who likes the genre you're writing in and one who is just simply good with the English language. That way, you have one person that will tell you if they simply like it, and one who will let you know about any major boo-boos you may have missed.

When you find a couple beta readers don't pressure them into a thorough review. Unless you're surrounded by other writers on a daily basis (i.e. working at a newspaper) then the person reading it won't know how to do a formal review. Be curteous, let them know that you'd like a general idea of what they liked and didn't like about your story, but you'd be fine with them just giving it a rating, like 4/5. Of course, if they're willing (and this is mainly where the good-at-English-stuff beta comes in) let them know it would be more helpful to know what needs to be changed. To make notes, and references. One other thing, let them know how they can get a hold of you if they need to ask you anything. Email, phone, facebook, myspace, twitter, whatever. Make sure they know that if they want to grill you about the plot, you will be available. And don't be offended if they call you at three in the morning! I'd see that as a huge compliment if your story kept them up into the middle of the night to finish it.

Have a list of questions ready before you send your story off to be read. Make sure they are simple things, nothing that will confuse them or make them reluctant to give answers. What did you like about it? What do you think could be different? Do you remember the MC's name(s)? Was it believeable? Favorite part? etc. etc. Make notes if you're doing this in person. Know that even though you're extremely nervous to hear what they're going to say, they could be just as nervous. If you're asking your best friend, they may be worried they'll disappoint you. When you've finished asking all your questions see if they have any. They may want to know if you plan to do a sequel, or what happens to a secondary character. Don't forget to thank them. These people have just done you an amazing service.

One final thing. You may be tempted to offer them a copy of the book when/if you get it published. Maybe even a signed copy. Granted, there are people that will be excited by the prospect, but you shouldn't be the one to ask. Its a bit pretentious. If they want one, they'll ask. Whether you say yes or no is up to you.

Well, that's it! After all that work, its time to find an agent or a publisher. And that--that's a whole other diemma for a writer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Editing, the Process: Passive Vs. Active Voice

Again, I missed a day. I'm so very sorry about that. I didn't expect an upheval of violent weather yesterday, but it happened. So, we're pushing the schedule back another day. Today's topic is passive and active voice, the difference, and how to fix this problem.

First of all, what is passive voice and active voice? Simply put, in writing, the passive voice is evil. It detracts from the action in your writing and loses the readers interest. No doubt, half the places where you lost interest in your own story while reading through it were because of passive voice. The difference between a passive and active sentence is very subtle and usually easy to fix. I'm not saying that when you write a story that you should or even will be able to get rid of all of the passive "verbs," but you will want to try to get rid of 95-98% of them in your novel.

First of all, how do you recognize a passive sentence? Here is an example of a simple sentence (subject, action, object), one in passive voice and one in active voice.
  1. The girl found a kitten.
  2. A kitten was found.
These sentences are very similar. The 1st sentence (active) clearly shows the three parts to this sentence. The subject (the girl) found the object (the kitten). Its a simple sentence. The 2nd sentence (passive) is a little different. By the same rules we used for the first sentence, the subject would be the kitten. The action (was) and the object (found?). Does that make sense? NO! Usually, with passive sentences, you can change them to a question and use this to find the subject. Who was the kitten found by? The girl. Find these sentences in your writing and you can already see how to change them.

Not all passive sentences follow this rule, and in fact, sometime when using the passive verb (is, are, was, were, am, be, been, being) it isn't actually passive. Can you answer the question to find the subject?
  1. The sun was bright. (The sun was bright for...)
  2. The ball is round. (The ball is round for...)
You can see the subject in these sentences. But they aren't the same. The subjects in these sentences aren't actually doing anything. Still, you can even get rid of the was and is in those sentences by combining them with something else. "The boy bounced the round ball." "The lady covered her eyes from the bright sun." There's the fix to those types of sentences.You also want to avoid using "the" too often.

There are two situations where you don't want to remove all of the passive "verbs" in your sentence. I call them verbs because they try to act as the action in a sentence. Usually though, they just make a sentence weak and wordy. One situation where you will want to keep them is when you don't know the subject of the sentence.
  1. A man was ran over late last night.
  2. Who was in my room?
The other place where you won't get rid of all these passive verbs are in dialogue. As we all are aware (especially since we'll be hunting these down in our own writing) people use these words a lot when they speak. By taking them all away, you make the person speaking sound funny, for lack of a better word. Take for instance this passage of dialogue from "A Place Called Earth."
     "We decided that it would only be fair to make this a random drawing to see who would be going. No one here is here because they have more money or a better job. You all come from different places and different walks of life. We regret that we could not be more forthcoming about all of this, but it is what it is. You were chosen. You will not leave here before the predetermined time, and when you do, it will be on the ship that will be taking you to your final location--your new home on Sigma 6.

     "Sigma 6 is a planet circling two stars. It is very similar to Earth in its vegetation, minerals, and looks. You will all be very comfortable there. The journey itself will be very difficult. It will not be easy on your bodies or your minds. As of tomorrow, you will all begin getting prepared for the trip." He clicked a button and the image changed to a planet. He wasn't wrong. It did look a lot like Earth. It had a lot more water, and the land was much greener. I thought it looked like one big jungle surrounded by ocean.
     "There is plenty of life on Sigma 6, also. You will find many creatures similar to animals on this planet. The first five years spent on the planet, you will all be kept in domes to protect you from these creatures. We are still uncertain as to whether both ecosystems will be able to handle the change and we don't want to do anything that will destroy both. We are very hopeful that the human race will thrive in this environment.
     "As to our planet, I am sure you have all heard the rumors about something happening to Earth. Those rumors have proven to be true. In December, astronomers located a large group of meteors on a path toward Earth. We hoped that something else would get in the way and stop them from ever reaching us, or even missing us once they came close. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The largest of these rocks is roughly the mass of the continental United States. They won't only destroy life on this planet, but the planet itself."
I hope I found all of the verbs I discussed. Anyway, these are very important to speech, because they do make the dialogue sound believable. If I removed all of them, it would sound almost robotic. Still, this section hasn't been edited yet, and needs to be. When that does happen, I will post it to show the changes. Generally, in dialogue, if you have a character that uses them a lot, keep it that way throughout the story. Otherwise, knock it down to one or two every five or six sentences. Or one or two a paragraph.

Hopefully this has been helpful. If you are still confused about passive vs. active voice, send me a comment and I'll do my best to get you an answer!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Editing, the Process: Second Read-Through & Revision

Wow... did I ever get lost yesterday! I have so much to make up for. I think what will happen is I will push the rest of the scheduled posts this week one day back so there won't be a double post. After I type this up, I will fix the schedule, too.

So, where was I on Tuesday? I mentioned fixing problems with narration and setting. I suggesting turning the narrator of the story into a character as a way to keep the voice consistent. I also talked about making a graph to create a good and believable setting.

What will I be discussing today? What to look for in your second read-through and major revision.

The second time you read through your novel, you want to read it like you're reading someone else's work. As in, not looking for spelling or grammar errors like the last time. In fact, I think the best way to accomplish this read-through is to print what you've got. Sure, it may be over 300 pages long at standard 8.5x11in. but you'll be amazed at what seeing your words on paper will do for you. It pushes you and makes you want to get it out there. Hold off for just a little longer and I promise it will be worth it.

After you've gotten yourself into your comfortable clothes and fished out a bag of chips or milk and cookies, climb into that favorite reading spot--mine is on the love seat sprawled ;)--and get to reading. I suggest even having something be slightly distracting going on in the background for this. Not something pressing though, you don't want your attention diverted at the wrong moments. Turn the tv on and keep the volume low. Here's why its important: When you start reading your favorite (or favorite so far) book from the same genre your writing, you get sucked in. Or, maybe you don't. But you know what its like to read that book and how it keeps your attention. There are just books out there that will hold on to you until the very end. You can't put it down until you see those two little words on the very last page of the MS. You want the same for your book, too! Right? So, you have something mildly distracting in the background, but once you start reading, even though you know what's going to happen, you should get sucked into your own book. [NOTE: IF THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN, YOU NEED TO CONSIDER A HUGE REWRITE RIGHT NOW!] This is good. It means you're on the right path.

What are you looking for, though? Well, if you can get through the whole story without getting distracted or wanting to sit it down, then you are good to skip this step, but I think even the best of authors would be hard pressed to do that at this point. So, every time the tv (or whatever) is able to distract you or you just feel like putting your book down, mark that spot. Highlight it somehow. My favorite methods: neon colored post-its and markers. Bright markers. How can you miss that? What is this going to tell you? There is something lacking in that particular place. When you come around to more editing, you can take a closer look. Maybe its too much info, or the info isn't clear, or your charactes aren't flat, or confusing, or the sentences are too passive (More on that tomorrow). Either way, you need to fix it. It may be your story and you know it inside and out, but its missing something. How do I know? Because you noticed it before anyone pointed it out.

I'm not going to lie... This was my favorite part of editing. It really showed me that I was getting close to the goal. It showed me that if I could manage to clean up these spots, my story might actually be worth something to someone else. Other people might want to read it. (SQUEE) You want to feel this too. You won't want to throw your story away anymore. Promise.

To continue though, the next thing to do after you've read through and marked the slow/confusing/odd parts. There will be something you will notice overall about your story. How was the ending? Did you enjoy it? Did you feel happy or sad for your characters? Did you get teary-eyed at some point? I hope so. If you can't give positive answers to all these questions, you may need to rewrite. I know, its a terrifying thought.

I dreaded my rewrite. More than that... I was in full edit mode and writing creatively was just out of the question. Why do you think I started blogging? LOL. I also started reading through every first person POV book I could get my hands on. I looked for specific things I like and things I didn't. I knew what my story needed in a rewrite, but I was so scared that by bringing the bad guy back to life for a few more chapters, it may totally change the way the story ends. Breathe. If this happens to you, it isn't the end of the world. You can still use some of the material you've slaved over for months. Break it into logical pieces and catalog it. It was hard for me. There were whole chapters that I could keep, while other chapters were broken into paragraphs sometimes. I brought the bad guy back from the dead, changing when and how he died. How'd it turn out? ITS SO MUCH BETTER! How so? My bad guy is much more frightening. And he's got more depth. Sweet success. And that isn't the best part. I got to keep the ending and spare one of my characters the emotional trama of killing a person.

You're looking for a climax. How do you make it work the right way? You have to look at all the coflict in your story. Make a list. Also, with each conflict, make note of how important it is to the plot line. You'll find a lot of minor conflicts that can seem important, but are really just side-lines to the story or the main conflict. Mine was my bad guy. No one could be happy or safe with him around. That's major to the plot! And so, I had to center my revision around him. The climax has to come when the major plot-riding-on-this conflict is going to be resolved. Now, as I say this, I don't necessarily mean there will always be a happy ending, but with the resolution, there is finally an answer as to what will happen. You're story should build on that simple question. What's going to happen to this/her/him/them? How will it all end? The way you build up to it, is to keep it constant throughout the story. Don't let the reader forget that question. Before you answer it, you want your readers on edge. They NEED to know. But if you do it soon, the reader gets bored before the end of the story. That's no good either.

You'll hear that the climax needs to be in the final third of the story, but that's too vague. You want the conflict to end in the second to last chapter of the story. It leaves the reader hooked until the very end and gives you a chance to show what happened after all that tension, to slow it down, to conclude the story or even set up for a sequel. Sometimes that means, taking a few of the conflicts you have in your story and removing them, or even a character. (I had to kill off my extras... :(  Shame on me, right?)

Amazingly, there isn't much left after this. And so far, this was one of the shortest steps for me. While the others took a month or more, this one only took about two weeks. That included the reading, and I probably read six different books! This one means your getting close. I took a break one night and started researching agents who might be interested. Hint hint...

StrangersAnyway, that's it for today. Tomorrow's post will be about the difference between Passive and Active voice in narration and how to fix those last unavoidable errors.

Special today: What am I reading? Strangers by Dean Koontz. I'll give it a review when I get finished!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Editing, the Process: Narration & Setting

In continuation from yesterdays post...

By now, if following my process of editing, you will have already finished your story and read through it once, fixing minor spelling and grammar errors, and fixing referencing problems and descriptions of your characters. Now comes the second step.

Let me tell you a few of the issues I had with this step in "A Place Called Earth." I think it will help to better explain this step. This story is written in the first person narrative, told to you by the characters themselves. Many people writing in the first person POV will stick to one MC to show the whole story. That just seemed a little too easy for me. Instead, I have eight of them. When a writer is writing in first person, it is best to know that character completely as to give themself over to that character--to be them-- in order to have it be real. The goes much further than their actions and beliefs. You have to know their mannerisms, the idisyncrosies, their dialect, and what they are feeling about things. The thought process alone for another person is hard to accomplish. I spent a lot of time getting to know these people. In the editing part of this, I found myself trying to switch from one character to another as each chapter and subchapter for characters went. I had to forget this technique quickly. I began going to the subchapters for each character from beginning to end, focusing on each one specifically until the end. It made all the difference staying in one mind for the longer periods of time.

Now, the process for narration in third person is different. You have someone that could just be an outsider looking in, or a person familiar with the situation (aka "In the know") or someone omnipresent like a higher power that just seems to know whats happening. This last one, isn't a popular POV these days. It allows the writer to tell a little too much. We want the readers to figure things out on their own, like how the character is feeling. Even in first person POV this becomes difficult. You have to look carefully at your writing to see them.

With third person POV I like to create a character to be the narrator. It isn't always going to be me hearing and retelling the story. Sometimes it makes it interesting to have a grumpy old man, or a little kid telling the story. Keep in mind, that the person telling the story has to be appropriate for the story, and they have to be a consistent narrator from beginning to end. The narrator is the only one in the story that shouldn't show any growth, because while they are an important part of the story, they exist outside the realm of it. Again, though, I do like to sometimes come up with a nameless, faceless personality to tell a story. Develop the narrator well.

Another thing to be aware of in this step is info dumping. When you're reading through your story, look for paragraphs that are simply full of details. Whether it be about a room the character is in, or about a character in general. It overwhelms the reader and doesn't look good. The settings and physical descriptions of characters should be thoroughly planned before you start a story so that you don't end up doing this. It still happens regardless. How do you break up info dumping? It differs from writer to writer. You can do several things. Dialogue is a huge help. It allows you to get vital information to the reader without info dumping. That isn't to say you can't still do it with dialogue. Be careful of long winded explainations that don't sound right coming from a certain character. That's a good sign of info dumping. Its easy to fix in first person POV. Looking through the characters eyes, notice what they notice. Strange details about a room or person. How that character can't seem to look away from the boil on the other characters face. It comes up often and there are remarks about it. You've just told your readers about something and you've done it the right way. Also, let the characters interact with thier surroundings. This helps to not dump it on the reader. What? They knocked over one bookcase and it started a domino effect on that amiour, and then a barstool. Now they're cringing as glass shatters when something else completely smashes a window. What a mess, but you've given the reader a lot of the room this way.

This process takes a long time. A very long time and it will pay out immensly if you don't try to rush it. Another important thing to remember is that you don't have to get all the details out. If one room, you forgot to mention what color the carpet is, you aren't going to get angry letters from the reader demanding to know. Just knowing that its carpeted is probably enough.

The next step, although it could be added into this, is the setting. I spend some amount of time before starting a story to work on this. Search engines work great for real locations. Look up pictures of places, make notes, print the pictures. Do what you got to do to make yourself familiar with a place that will appear in your writing. Be believable. Rooms, houses, etc. is a little different. Sure, you can google or bing a victorian house to see if there is a common layout, but you don't have to. Draw up a sample floor plan and make notes about specific appliances or furniture, carpet or wood floors, paint or wallpaper. This will also help with info dumping.

I also like to make a chart to help with this. You want to try to include all of the senses in your writing without telling, and without it being too wordy (More about this in the post on Passive Vs. Active Voice). The best way I've found to do this is to make a graph. At the top, split the page into five sections: Sight, Sound, Taste, Feel, and Smell. They don't have to be in that order. Start writing details for each one for a given setting. The forest is dark from the overgrowth of trees so close together. The air is fresh as though it just rained. Birds are chirping somewhere above in the bright green leaves. Etc. Etc. You can pick and choose details to add slowly to give the reader a great idea of where it is. It pulls them into the story to not just imagine how it looks, but how it sounds, smells, feels.

While you are going through this phase, make sure the character is involved with their surroundings. If the reader can't "see" how the characters interact with the location, the reader will have a harder time seeing it. And, one last thing. You should watch out for words that indicate that you are telling, rather than showing. "He saw," "She felt," "They heard." There isn't any reason "He heard a board creak upstairs and his eyes snapped up toward the sound" couldn't be "A board creaked from above and his eyes widened Who could be up there?." The second example is stronger, shorter, and looks better. Don't you think so? It also gives the reader more information without being so wordy.

That's all for tonight. Look for the next installment tomorrow. The topic will be revision! Until then.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Editing, the Process: Finishing a Story

First of all, before I start posting, I would like to point out a few key points.
  • These posts are just my opinion. This is what works for me, and may help you along, but you do not need to follow them like they are a guide. I don't believe that there is only one way to edit.
  • These posts are for novelists. Not that I don't think they would work for a short story, I've only ever used this method with longer works.
  • These posts are ordered the way that I have done them. I thought this process through carefully, knowing what would help the most at the first and last stages of editing. Keep this in mind when you are editing. Everyone is good at different things, and you need to take your strengths and weaknesses into consideration while editing.
Okay, now that all that is over, I will get on with my post.

One of the most important things you must do when you are considering starting to edit is to finish your story. It seems like such an obvious thing. Sadly, though, I have fallen prey to the write some, edit some technique and it did more harm than good. I have to start small when I move from editing to writing, writing blurbs, reading others' works, working my way back up to novel-ing (Yes, I'm pretty sure its not a real word.). I can't switch back and forth between the two with any amount of ease, and I've found that aside from hitting dead ends and finding where I need to cut back to, I cannot do any editing until my story is finished. It may be the same for you. Another really great thing about finishing the story before you start editing, is it gives you an amazing boost, almost like a high that pushes you to continue.

After all that effort, I like to read what I wrote, then convince myself not to throw it away. I take my time with that first read-through. I make tons of notes along the way. I also try to correct any spelling errors and major grammar blunders along the way. This takes time. My first draft of "A Place Called Earth" was only 50,000 words long and the first read-through took me nearly a month. I was working on it for at least a couple hours a day. When you aren't paying attention to these things when you write it, it gets written quickly, but you find out after that, there is a lot of deciphering involved. Lastly, I try to make notes of anything big I want to change, or important details that I think I need to add. Of course, the more important details come later. Other things I try to consider on this read-through are things that look more like telling (the ultimate writing boo-boo), and POV issues. "How would he know what she's thinking?!"

Finally, something I find important in this edit, is referencing. When I start a story, I don't create a plot line. I give myself the beginning and let it go from there. I do, however, do extensive character outlines. Someday I will show you my questionaire. Anyway, the reason I do these things at the beginning, is because once I know the things like place and hair-color and whatnot are right, I forget about them. One less thing for me to worry about!

There are tons of great word processing programs out there. My favorite is Microsoft Word. In this edit, my favorite thing to do is use the red bubbles to keep notes (almost like sticky notes) and the highlighter to keep track of where I have a word repeated too often.

This whole little process, I find takes me a while. I disect every paragraph before I can move on. If you do happen to follow this, expect this step to take at least a month, maybe two. Don't be disappointed when it seems to take forever. The next time you read through, it will make more sense and will look exponentially better.

TOMORROW: Post two of this series about narration and setting! Until then. :)

Character Interview Blogfest

After a lot of arguments with all the voices bouncing through my head about who wanted to do the interview and who I wanted to do the interview, I've finally managed to get Joanna to semi-cooperate for the Character Interview Blogfest. Joanna is the MC of a unusual story. Not many would consider her good. In fact, you may remember her from the Bad Girl Blogfest. This was our first interview where I realized there was a little more to Joanna than meets the eye.

Me: Tell us a little about yourself.

Joanna: This is ridiculous. I'm not doing it.

Me: We agreed.

Joanna: *sighs* fine. What do you want to know?

Me: Where were you born and have you moved around a lot since then?

Joanna: I think I was born in Manhatten. I can't be entirely sure. I like the New York area, but I've also lived in London and Paris. Bigger cities are definitely preferable to small towns.

Me: Why is that?

Joanna: For obvious reasons.

Me: Umm... that was insightful. What do you do for a living?

Joanna: I rob banks.

Me: Wow, so forthcoming. Why do you rob banks?

Joanna: I always had this desire to be more notorious than the greats. Jessie James, Bonnie and Clyde. But its more than that. If I do it once, then I have the opportunity to outdo myself over and over again.

Me: Aren't you worried about going to jail?

Joanna: *smirking* I've got nothing to fear from jail. It is just a small slice of forever.

Me: Interesting. So, what else have you done in your life?

Joanna: I used to be a part of a feminist movement. Suffrage and all that.

Me: You don't look more than 25, how could you have been a part of that... that was decades ago!

Joanna: Time means so little to me anymore. A year for you is like a blink of the eye for me.

Me: How old are you exactly?

Joanna: Hmm... I believe I was born on Valentine's Day in 1941.

Me: How is that possible?

Joanna:  Time passes quickly when you're immortal. I was just a baby when Pearl Harbor was bombed. It didn't mean much to me, even though my dad died in that war. My mom was never the same after that. She didn't really care what we did. My older brother took care of me. Introduced me to his friends when I was twelve or thirteen. I liked them. They didn't treat me like a kid. They let me help them. One of them showed me how to do a lot of the little things I know how to do today. Of course, we didn't have things like security cameras back then. It was much easier to get away with robbery.

Me: So, when did you become immortal?

Joanna: A few weeks after I had turned twenty-one, I was the lookout for a job. It was a cold night. A beautiful man came up to me. He looked like he was hurting. He kept complaining about the thirst. I hd no idea what he wanted to drink was me. I tried to give him change. Even though his face wasn't like anyone's I had ever seen, he still reeked of death and looked like a bum. He attacked me when I put a dime in his hand. I thought he was crazy for biting me, and I tried to fight him off. It didn't work. He killed me. I don't know why he changed me. Brought me back to life with his life-blood. I've never seen it as a curse though. I love this new life. I love the power. I love being able to do whatever I want.

Well, that's it for now. There's more interview there, but I didn't want to go on for the other six pages. Anyway, I hoped you liked the interview.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Family Vs. Writing

I have a few things to get through in this post, so bear with me. I have one post request from Harley D. Palmer, not to mention I will be doing my first blog schedule for some posts I'm planning for next week! So, let's get started!

Harley asked me to do a post about dealing with character that won't shut up and taking care of my kids. For those of you that don't know me from WDC or Twitter, I have four kids. Two boys, 10 and 7, and two girls, 6 and 3. My youngest daughter spends all her time with me, while the other three kids, have a different parent that they spend half their time with. Its complicated. I love my kids. And they're a lot of work. For those of you who are non-parents, being a Mom or Dad is definitely a full-time job. Four is utter chaos most of time. Between dressing, feeding, bathing, school, and the bed time routine there isn't a lot of time for much else. Especially when they don't like doing the same things. I'm lucky if I can find a movie that all of them are willing to watch!

I've always been a story-teller. The best proof of this I can give was my accomplished skill as a liar at a young age. Since I moved out of my parents house, that skill has turned into something good. I can create people in my head and worlds that I see in my dreams.Characters are, by far, my favorite. When I'm thinking about characters, it seems to me, more often I think about thier personality before I know what they look like. I've never been great at visualization. I still remember when the teachers would tell me, "Close your eyes and imagine..." Umm... no. I can't see without the color. A lot of times when I imagine things, my eyes are wide open and a specteral image is floating before me.

I sometimes worry that I am losing my mind a little with my characters. They just don't shut up until the story is done. To this day, I have at least three voices that are with me constantly. Even now, Vera is saying, "That's right. And you best not forget it."

For me, it isn't really about finding balance. When I start a story, it stays with me. If I have some amazing breakthrough for the plot I don't forget it. The characters themselves are there to remind me that this is what we agreed on. Yep, its that bad. I have to run it by them before I can write it. Usually with some explaination as to why they are going to be suffering at my hand. Sadly, the family has witnessed this, too. Everyone in my house, and a few of my closer friends have learned not to interrupt me when I'm having an arguement with myself. "Just leave Mommy alone for a few minutes and she'll stop." ;)

I try to keep it to myself while the kids are awake. I write notes to myself, excuse myself to my bedroom so no one has to see it. My youngest thinks its funny. Hey, whatever I can do to amuse her is worth it. Even if it calls into question my sanity. But that's saying that I was actually sane at some point... After its all said and done, my writing occurs after my kids are asleep and when the boyfriend is at work. This gives me about 4 hours of writing time on nights that I have to go to bed early for work and about 6 hours other nights. That is... when I'm not goofing off. :)

Anyway, I have a schedule for next week. I need to take a few days off of blogging to finish up this edit because it's going really well. When I come back, I want to discuss the whole process. I'd love feedback from everyone about how they do it too! I think it helps other writers to know what is and isn't working for their peers. So, keep an eye out on these posts and have some ideas ready of your own.

Monday, June 14th - Finishing a story.
Tuesday, June 15th - Narration and Setting
Wednesday, June 16th - Second Read and Revision
Thursday, June 17th - Passive Vs. Active Voice
Friday, June 18th - Beta Readers

This schedule will show up on the side bar of the blog before Monday. I don't know exactly what time these posts will be published. It depends on my schedule at work. I will try to have them up before 8 pm each day. That's the best I can do.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Practical Joke Blogfest

So, we've all had a month or so to prepare for this event. The Practical Joke Blogfest is here! I'm excited, aren't you?

I couldn't find anything in any of my own writing that was worty of the blogfest so I decided to come up with something special. Here we go.

Maya looked around the small room, noting just how thuroughly her mother had cleaned the bathroom. She gingerly prodded her nose, noting the rubbery texture. With a small grimmace she shook her head and clambered into the cupboard under the sink. She snorted. Can't believe I still fit in here.

The movie was almost over. She strained her ears to hear the credits, ignoring the throbbing in her knees. Joe would be coming in at any moment. She watched him squirming in his seat for nearly ten minutes. She excused herself, unable to watch anymore of the gore-fest. Her teeth ground together at his loud guffaws. She couldn't wait to see his face--to see who would be having the last laugh.

The door swung open. Joe's rubber-soled shoes squeeked on the tile floor, getting slightly louder the closer he came to her hiding spot. Her heart throbbed in her ears. She stared wide-eyed at a small splinter of light coming through the door. Her breathing hitched and sped wildly. Prodding slowly along her temple, she found a seam. Digging her long finger nail in, she peeled a portion away from her hairline.

A sigh issued from outside the cupboard. Joe's booming voice startled her as he yelled. "Hey Mom, where's the TP?"

Maya pushed the small plastic-wrapped package forward. Her mother's voice carried to her muted by the layers of wood and drywall between them. "It's under the sink."

The door swung away from her. Joe's thick face appeared in front of her. She forced a strangled gasp from her throat and tore at the green mud mask the clung to her skin. It crumbled and peeled away from her face. Joe's eyes widened and he backed away. He didn't seem to able to look away. His mouth fell open, but no noise escaped him. His feet shuffled back until he hit the tub and he toppled over into it. Flopping around for a moment, he finally managed to get to his feet and with a small glance over his shoulder and a whimper, he fled from the room. "Mom! HELP ME!"

Maya crawled out from under the sink and collapsed on the floor clutching her side while the laughter bubbled up from her chest.

Hope you all liked it! Now you should all go check out everyone else that signed up!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Sadly, I have no questions to answer for today. If you missed my last post, you should check it out and throw in some questions about my personal life for tomorrow. They would be greatly appreciated. Just a quick reminder before I get to my real reason for posting.

Here it is. Work. I don't really talk about work for a variety of reasons. The biggest being that I signed a form when I started prohibiting me from really talking about the place. Which is fine (I won't use a company name). I am a manager at my store and basically make sure that a few shifts a week run smoothly. It isn't difficult with the few people that I interact with on a regular basis, and the rest don't know me well enough to push limits and regulations around me. And although our handbook boasts promoting from within, I'm one of the few that has actually been promoted. Lately, it has been fellow management that has been my source of stress.

I am still "new" as far as the workplace goes. Even among many of the lower level employees, I haven't been there as long. Sometimes I feel that other people at my pay grade have felt they could use this to take advantage of me. I work a lot of opening shifts so it is usually my duty to get the store ready to open every day, including counting the previous days cash, taking deposits to the bank, pulling toppings, and doing prep. While it is not okay for me to leave until all these things are done, it is okay for the closing manager to leave me things to put away the next morning without so much as a note saying why it didn't get done, or (regretfully) an apology. Sometimes I'm busy, I understand that I'm not alone in that, but at least have the courtesy to mention these things, like I've done for them when the occasion called for it.

Communication at work is awful. I feel like I'm the last person to hear about new deals for customers or new procedures. The most recent is having our delivery drivers take food and coupons to local businesses. The drivers for the most part don't mind this so long as they are being compensated for the time in some way. I found out, though, that as managers, we can't be doing this and getting caught doing so would result in being terminated. What's my problem with it? My drivers are tipped employees. They make less than minimum wage and are expected to claim enough tips at the end of their shifts to get them to or above federal min. wage. Sadly, many of them do not reach this amount, being that we're in a college town and over half of the city is gone home for summer vacation. So what happens when they don't claim enough in tips. By law, payroll is required to pay them extra so they are making minimum wage. But when this happens, they get their hours cut for the next week.

So, in short, the drivers have to take these freebies to local businesses while they are on the clock making less than minimum wage, not be compensated, and expected to claim tips for that time even though they can't possibly be making money doing it. Then to top it all off, if they don't lie, they lose hours. I don't think that many of them even know this! Sadly, in this industry, many of the employees are seriously undereducated. And without some secondary education in business law or accounting, how would they know what's happening is illegal! What has higher management said about this? "Claim the correct amount of tips, and it will all average out in the end."

I don't know what to do about this situation. I know I should say something to someone, but I want to give the people higher on the food chain a chance to explain themselves or change the policies before I go to drastic measures. Therefore, I've been spending my time over the last couple weeks looking up payroll laws for tipped employees. I've been checking laws regarding whistle-blowers. I want to make sure that I'm not going to lose my job, and that my employees are getting what they deserve.

Sorry, I rambled for so long. What do you think about this? What would you do if you were in this situation?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Empty Headed

Sadly, there have been a lot of things going on in my life lately that are out of my control. Its made it difficult for me to really focus on my writing and blogging. Even poor Twitter has suffered my absense. :: mutters apologies to Twitter :: Anyway, I have nothing. No ideas really to speak of. As I say this, I know I could open up "A Place Called Earth" and get going on that rewrite, but I can't let myself become too involved with the computer screen right now. So I've decided to leave things up to you, the readers/followers/potential stalkers. What do you want to know? What have you been dieing to hear about from me? I'm giving you a whole week to get in as many questions as you can. They can be about writing, or about me (although I reserve the right to keep some things personal, thanks), or anything really. Sadly, I don't know how to solve for time travel, but if you want to ask me about that, I'll be happy to BS my way through it. :)

So here it is, the schedule of events for the answers:
Wednesday, June 2: Any question about writing will be answered.
Thursday, June 3: Any personal question will be answered.
Friday, June 4: Questions about my sanity will be answered. (-aka- any other questions)
Saturday, June 5: Any posting requests will be given a schedule date.

Also, I would like to remind everyone that the Practical Joke Blogfest is coming up in a couple weeks! If you haven't signed up yet, you should do that right now!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Check these out!

Sorry, I already need to get off topic... Even just reading it and knowing its not quite the same, seeing (or hearing) "Check it out!" always makes me think of "Sonny with a Chance." I love that show. Also, because I want you all to realize just how big of a dork I really am, I like "Wizards of Waverly Place" too. Why? Because they're honestly good family shows that teach you something. There is always a moral in each episode. It is exactly for this reason that Power Rangers and Spongebob is not allowed in my house. (Okay, there may be some bias going on there too... hard to say)

Anyway, now that I've gotten my distraction out of the way, I need to tell EVERYONE about a couple of blogs I stumbled on today. Both of them are sponsering really great giveaways of ARCs of soon to be released novels! How awesome is that? I want, I want. I really shouldn't even mention it, all the more chance for me to be a winner and not you. But, I'm just not that selfish.. So, here they are.

The first I stumbled upon was for Kiersten White. She's giving away a copy of her novel,  PARANORMALCY. I wish I could say I was surprised by the number of people that have already entered her contest, but I'm not. In fact, I'm a little surprised there aren't more. When this book hits shelves in September it is going to be a huge hit. JMO.

The second contest/giveaway is over on Frenetic Reader. An extra ARC of Nightshade by Andrea Cremer is up for grabs. From what is posted in the blog, it looks very interesting. Unfortunately, I don't know many details about this one, but still... I wants to win.

So, you should all go check these out, and maybe you'll decide that I should win and consider having these ARCs sent to me if you win. ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: "Blood Born" by Linda Howard andd Linda Jones

From the back of the book

Blood BornWhen the human and vampire worlds collide
Luca Ambrus is a rare breed: He is a vampire from birth, begotten by two vampire parents: blood born. He is also an agent of the Council--the centuries-old cabal that governs vampirekind, preserving their secrecy and destroying those who betray them.

When a cryptic summons leads him to the scene of the brutal killing of a powerful Council member, Luca begins the hunt for an assassin among his own people. But instead of a lone killer he discovers a sinister conspiracy of rogue vampires bent on subjugating the mortal world.

All that stands in their way are the conduits, humans able to channel spirit warriors into the physical world to protect mankind. Chloe Fallon is a conduit--and a target of the vampire assassin who's killing them. When Luca saves her life, an irresistible bond of trust--along with more passionate feelings--is forged between them. As more victims fall, Chloe and Luca have only each other to depend on to save the world from the reign of monsters--and salvage their own future together.

My Thoughts
The authors did a great job of explaining the characters and what made them the way they were. This also made it kind of hard to get into the story, because so much of it is bogged down with background information. Also, a lot of that information was repeated several times throughout several chapters (as if we could forget!) I would have liked to have seen all that information spread out a little more, giving the characters a little more mystery, perhaps.

The characters themselves were very original and I loved the premis of the story. Aside from all the info dumping, it was a good story. The only thing I saw as a problem was I knew what was coming before it happened. There weren't enough surprises. There were plenty of hints that could have made me think, "Ah! Now it all makes sense," but there was just a little too much given.

One other thing I noticed, was the characters progressed too quickly, especially given all the information given. I think more time could have been spent allowing them to grow rather than explaining and re-explaining the thought processes of the characters.

What I loved about it was that it jumped around to different characters to get into different heads, good and bad characters, even if several of the same characters were in a particular scene. I also loved the believability of the explainations. The authors did a great job of making it seem like vampires could be real.

Rating: R for adult content and language and mature situations

Recommended for: Anyone still interested in vampire novels, people who love paranormal romances, anyone looking to pass the time with a decent book.

Not Recommended for: Anyone under 18, those who are easily distracted or pay too much attention to writing flaws.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Thanks to Anne Riley for the review template!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An exercise in emotion

When I'm feeling some writer's block or worry that I'm not writing as well as I could be, one of the things I like to do is work on showing emotion in my writing. Its one of the biggest things I struggle with in my work. I love being able to read through books and find those spots that make me laugh or cry. I can go through so many of them and they are all so different, but what makes them evoke those emotions.

I had started to do exercises to figure out how someone would look when they are feeling certain emotions. What facial expressions would they make? What hand guestures would they use? It wasn't enough, but it certainly helps. When I start to feel a little stumped or something seems to be repeating too often, I pop open my notebook and look at my list. Works like a charm. But I'm still not solid on those emotional, gut-wrenching parts to the story. So, I've decided I will just start to write a small piece, focusing on different emotions and different situations. I'll try to do this every Wednesday. It would be great to get some feedback on these. Things like: Does the emotion I'm trying to portray show? How does the piece make you feel? I think it would even be awesome if any of my awesome followers would like to do the same! Just let me know.

Okay, so here is the piece for today:

She slowly scanned the room, taking in every detail. With one deep breath she walked out, letting her fingers trail against the rough concrete wall. She focused on everything, trying to absorb it for when she would need it later. It would be a long time before she would allow herself to remember this place.

When the light was behind her and there was nothing more to see, she stopped and sighed. Her empty stomach seemed to pull her back, toward the building. A pit had formed leaving her weak and hollow, but she couldn’t stop. She had made her decision and packed her things. There was nothing more to do, but to finish what she started. To leave her world behind.

Air hitched in her throat. She took one more step and her heart shattered. Tears filled her eyes to the brim and overflowed hot and wet down her cheeks. She gritted her teeth against the sobs that were threatening to overtake her body. Dropping down to the cold, damp ground she curled in on herself. Salty droplets clung to her eyelashes. She pinched her eyes shut and tried to focus her thoughts away from their current path. *She’s gone. And it's all my fault.*

She shook her head, knocking her temples against both knees. With one finally stuttering breath, she rolled onto her knees and pushed herself off the grass. Picking up her bag, she forced her numb legs to move.

Okay, so that was all I managed to write today. If you would like to do one also, just send me the link to the post!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A really awesome giveaway!

Sadly, this one isn't from me, although I am working on something for when I get some more followers. The giveaway I'm talking about is being done by Sara McClung over at . You should go over there, enter her giveaway contest and tell her that I sent you! Its very cool.

The linkie to the contest: Very Vampire May Giveaway

I think its really cool, and I've already signed up so you should all do the same. DO IT!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The little things

One of the things I have the most difficulty with in my writing is the small stuff. So many times when I do a rough draft the only thing you will see in it is the action. Sometimes you need to have some smaller things included to add to the story, though.

First of all, what do I mean by the small stuff. I think details could be included in this. What is included in the setting, what does the character look like is not what I mean by this. I'm talking about the oddities. That birthmark on your MC's bum that only one or two other characters know about. It might come into play somewhere in the plot and add to the drama. How about that broken chair leg coming back to bite the antagonist literally. How would the antagonist handle that?

Quirks are an important part of the small things. Also phrases. Characters are made by the things they say and the things they do. Do you have a character that bites their lips when they're nervous? Or twirls their hair. This goes a long way to showing what your character is feeling without having to say it. Show... don't tell. Maybe you have a character that stutters. They stand out. Or they always make an inappropriate joke at the worst possible time. These things come through and really add to your work.

Growth is something else that I would include in the little things category. It just isn't believeable if it happens all right away. When you finally get to know that character as a reader, you see when a decision they make is something that would be unusual for them. A writer would know that character even better and you can see that growth, but you have to give the character the opportunity to actually grow, and not be too hard on them if they do make the wrong decision. Remember, if you force them to make the decision you want them to, it could change the whole story.

One of my favorite things to do in any genre or style is foreshadowing. For a long time I always assumed it was only for mystery/suspense, but I've come to learn that it works for evyer story. EVERY STORY! Generally it isn't something that will come into the story intentionally until the revision, but some times the ones that are accidentally added the first time around are even better. In "Silver Bullet" which is still in the first draft phase I had described a door at a training facility. It was monstorous and made of wood with intricate carvings on it. I didn't know when I was writing the story that it would actually come to mean something more later on in the story. These are the little things that can really impact a story. 

Lots of authors use these things. I think its really amazing when an author can manage to span some of these things over a series. Personally, as far as these things are concerned, my favorite is J.K. Rowling. She wrote seven books and all these little things came into play. Some of those books were really thick, too. How did she remember all that stuff? And if she was keeping notes, how did she ever find any of it? The great thing about the growth that happens in the Harry Potter series, is that it happens emotionally and physically.

So, last night I had a dream that is the reason for this post. Lately I've rediscovered my love for RockBand. The batteries in my guitar had died, so I found a screwdriver and popped off the back to change them. Well, after that I lost the screwdriver. When I found it, I lost the screw. I dreamt I had found the screw last night. Weird, huh.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Bad Girl Blogfest

So, I couldn't just pick one scene for the bad girl blogfest! So, I'm going to post two! Yay!

Here's the link:
Bad Girl Blogfest

Scene #1
This scene is from my finished novel, A Place Called Earth. This is how Opal is introduced. The scene is a bit graphic... Just to forewarn...

“Will you just fuck me already?” I glared at him. He seemed eager enough, even with all the hesitations.

He did a double take, his eyes widened as he processed what I was saying. “Seriously?”

I didn’t give him a chance. I smiled at him as demurely as I could manage. Without a pause, I grabbed his shirt and ripped it off of him.

His blue eyes lost their startled expression and I got the reaction I was looking for. His mouth crashed down on mine and I could feel him working at my bra. As it came unlatched, my shirt started lifting.

I shoved him down on the chair, right there in my kitchen. I unzipped his pants and straddled him. His face burned. I wasn’t sure if he was embarrassed or excited, but I was too horny to really care.

When his hand dove into my pants, I forgot everything else. When I remember what was happening, we were both naked and he was thrusting into me.

I raked my nails down his bare back. He sucked in his breath for a moment before he started plunging into me harder. Faster. His eyes burned with desire.

"Fuck me!" I screamed, and he obliged. Heat flowed through me as my hands and feet started to tingle. I curled my toes toward my heels and tightened the hold my legs had on his waist.

"You like this?" he huffed before mauling my breast with his mouth. His teeth grazed my nipple sending electric currents though my entire body.

"Oh my god! You are so hot." I laughed. I leaned back, away from him on the chair allowing him greater access to my pussy. I ground into his throbbing cock and moaned when he let out a grunt.

I ran my fingers through his thick blonde hair and rode him on that chair until he was gasping for air. "I'm coming, babe."

I stood and grabbed him, finishing him off with my hand. I caught the flash of disappointment on his face before he closed his eyes and gave in to the pleasure. Apparently he had something else in mind.

"You want me to write a song about you, baby?" I crooned. I had a moment of déjà vu. This wasn’t the first time I used this line. And the look on his face now told me that it was working now.

He smiled again. "Yes," he sighed, as he shot his load onto the floor.

I grabbed a towel and threw it to him. "Clean yourself off and get dressed. I've got work to do."

I left the room and sat down on my brown shag butterfly chair, my favorite, grabbing my guitar on the way. I strummed a few chords and picked up my notepad. "Someone to fill that empty space, it's not love, but it'll do," I sang quietly. I looked around the room, smiling a little. I had specifically designed this room to bring out my creative side. Other people came in here and held their noses up at the bright splashes of color. I liked it.

I was just about to get up and grab myself some coffee when he walked in. He was still naked. I’d have to be blind not to appreciate his Adonis-like body, but it wasn’t enough for me to want to keep him around. "What are you still doing here?"

He frowned. "I thought I'd make you something to eat. You told me you really liked breakfast."

I shook my head. "I don't eat breakfast and I don't do relationships. I'll write you a song, but that's it. You need to leave now."

"Will I see you again?" he asked. He took another step toward me and froze when I glared up at him.

"Maybe." I shrugged. I shifted my Epiphone Genesis across my naked body and looked down at my notepad while I waited for him to get the hint.

"Have you bought one of those lottery tickets yet?" he asked softly.

"Hell no. If the world is going to crash and burn I want a front row seat. I need some inspiration." I lied.

He sighed again and left. I sat and played through a few covers that I knew before I got back up. I would write a song, but I wasn't going to write him a song. I wasn't even going to see that guy, uh god what was his name. Well, either way, I wasn't even going to see him again, so it didn't even matter. I went to my bedroom and opened my sock drawer. A folded lottery ticket sat there, wrinkled from the number of times I had crumpled it up to throw it away. One of these days I'd actually do it. Probably wouldn't matter though, I knew the numbers on it by heart. Word came out today there would be just under one thousand winners in the U.S. Of course, no one was certain that the world was actually coming to an end. They had sacked the N.A.S.A. guy that was saying that. That he got fired for saying it, tells me he wasn't lying. Sucks to be a patsy.

My phone started ringing. I tried my best to ignore it, but it started up again after voice mail picked up. Somebody really wanted to talk to me.


"Opal. We're playing in Pioneer Square tonight, right down by the piers. EMP nearby and everything. This is huge!" Tony, my bassist chattered excitedly.

"Nice, Tone," I sighed.

"Get your shit together Bergen and get down here. We've got to set up!"

I hung up the phone and looked outside at my emerald city. I could see the Space Needle from my apartment. I sighed again, and got dressed. Time to do what I do best.

The show was great. We had people coming up to us asking for autographs for the rest of the night. I’m pretty sure my manager was pleased. Any time he had wads of cash being handed to him he was pleased. I’d have to keep my eyes on him, sometimes it seemed like the rest of us were coming up a little short on money.

I met a few guys and got some phone numbers. After everything was packed up I picked up a twelve-pack of beer ad wandered down to the pier.

"You look like you've got a lot on your mind." Tony hopped up onto the post next to the one I was sitting on.

I nodded and looked out over the Sound. The mountains were hidden in the dark on the other side. The grey water lapped against the wooden posts below me. Clouds hid the moon and stars. I tossed him a beer and we both sat sipping them quietly.

Tony sighed. I looked over at him. He was a scrawny guy. His clothes hid it well enough that most people couldn’t tell but I’d seen him at practice with no shirt. It wasn’t that he wasn’t muscular; he just looked to be skin and bones. His beard was kinked and wild as it hung half way down to his waist. He covered his dark hair with a bandana tonight; it looked strange on him. It over exaggerated his forehead in a way that a baseball cap never did. The girls at the shows were always all over him. I never understood it. "What do you think about this whole lottery thing, Tone?"

I could almost hear him roll his eyes. This wasn't the first time I'd asked him this question. "You know what I think, Opal."

"You know, you've never actually told me." I spun around and looked at the stores and businesses lining the water. Most of the lights were out now; people had gotten out of work hours ago. Few remained, giving off enough light to see the detail of the city around them. The space needle stood proudly in the middle like a shining beacon saying, “Look at me!”

"I think it’s all a bunch of bullshit. The prize can't be all that amazing if the whole world is involved and so many people are sharing it. It also makes me think it's probably not money." He jumped down and chucked his empty can into the water.

"That doesn't really help with the whole pollution thing," I teased.

"Yeah, I know. Look, you want to come back to my place. I know you always said you'd never sleep with a band member, but I'm not looking for anything here. I just want to get laid." He paced back and forth and finally stopped in front of me. His eyes never actually reached mine. I wondered how bad it would hurt him if I rejected him now. I’d never seen him so vulnerable.

I held out my hand and he accepted it. "Sure. I feel like breaking a few rules tonight." He took my other hand and helped me off the post. I landed lightly on my feet and tried, unsuccessfully, to take my hands back.

I made an effort to be polite to him. My hand remained firmly attached to his for the entire ride, sparing a few brief moments. He wasn’t technically the first band member that I’d broken the rule for, but after the first few, I had to start a whole new band. I hoped for his sake that this was nothing, like he said. If it really ended tomorrow, I wouldn’t say anything. I really hated looking for new bassists.

Scene #2
This is a little shorter is from an unfinished and unnamed novel I've been working on. Completely unedited. Meet Joanna...
The cell phone buzzed and danced on the table.

“Are you going to answer that?”

Joanna didn’t even acknowledge the man sitting next to her at the bank. She could snap his pudgy, sweaty neck so fast no one would even notice.

“Ma’am, your phone is ringing.”

Joanna rolled her eyes before she turned to face him flashing a dazzling, toothy grin. “Really? I had no idea.”

The man visibly gulped air. She knew what he was seeing. He stared at her face for a moment and then stood and hurried away.

The phone started humming again. Joanna suppressed the urge to smash it, but knew it would get her into trouble. She reached out and picked it up, flipping it open in the process.

“What?” she snapped.

“Joanna, where are you?” Jude’s voice came from the other end. His voice was an octave higher than usual.

“It’s none of your business. Don’t you have your little family to protect these days?” Her eyes narrowed to slits as she whispered indignantly into the phone.

Jude ignored her mocking. “So help me, if you are scouting again...”

“How did you get my number anyway?” she asked, not even remotely curious. She winked at an older man sitting across from her who had been ogling her since she sat down. His eyes bulged and he quickly looked away.

“That’s really not important. Now are you going to tell me where you are? Or...”

“Jude now is really not a good time. Can I call you back in, oh say...never.” She flipped the phone closed and dropped it into her purse.