October 22, 2011

SIWC Day 2: Running, running, running

Well, that was a whirlwind. I almost wrote a post last night, but then I took my bottle of wine (of which I had half left) and moved over to the table of 5 (my table had none) and offered my wares. I was, of course, happily received.

It was at this table (filled with fellow prairie residents) that I learned my NaNoWriMo idea, which I was sharing with people at lunch, made an appearance in one of the afternoon sessions. At lunch, Michael Slade sat at our table and heard me recounting how Don Maass encouraged me to do worse things to my protagonist. He didn't hear that part, of course, he just heard pregnant and zombie. I hadn't planned on marrying the two but might have to now. What a great idea, the living inside the dead.

I also did my first pitch. Sadly, I had booked my session back in August when I was still working on my YA Ghost Story, so I'm pitching to a YA editor. The only things I have complete are Cargon (already published with Martin Sisters) and Thickness of Blood - an adult contemporary. I pitched Cargon, for practice, and apparently did fairly well. I'll have to be sure to pitch my next book as well, paying special attention to the pregnant vampire, of course.

The blue pencil session was enlightening. Robert Dugoni was emphatic that he wanted to know who the main character was. If you're one of Thickness of Blood's pre-readers, you know there are three main characters. In our session we focused on the wrong one. BUT now I know that George is actually the main character! I'm ready to pitch that today if there are any openings!

The pitch party in the morning was marvelous. I was able to nail my pitch for Cargon, and armed with my knew knowledge, I'm sure I'll be able to do as well with Thickness of Blood. The same Robert Dugoni went over story structure and plot for page turners. I'm sure all that information, atop what Don Maass gave me Thursday night, will make my NaNoWriMo writing that much smoother and easier and plain better.

After my pitches, rather than settling into Maass' session, I found the YA panel and I think I'll repeat that this morning, attending Don Calame's 'Writing for Teens.' Lunch is a mystery today, and then I'm off to SIWC Idol, where my first two pages of Thickness of Blood have been submitted along with many many others for breakdown and review.

But, I need to get to the kick off this morning!!

October 21, 2011

End of Master Classes

Warning! Donald Maass just gave me permission -- nay, he urged me -- to kick even more crap outta my characters. You thought Eve had it rough, well she didn't! That first book was a breeze. She got everything handed to her (in retrospect, it does make it kinda boring). Expect more angst, more difficult decisions, more loss and despair in book 2. More than for Cargon, I plan to take this advice into NaNoWriMo. My time loop, apocalyptic novel is perfect for this. I thought I'd already set some pretty high stakes, but when Don said, "What would a more daring writer do?" I gave Cassie a few more trials to work into separate loops. Now each one will have it's own tearing, tormenting twist! Yes! People are going to scream, but they will turn the page!! A scene exercise in the same session will work nicely for helping me write those scenes I skip in first draft. We were asked to choose a blah scene.
I hate writing blah scenes, so I don't. I jump right on past and either work the details into where I start from and/or go back and write those scenes last. They are almost always short. This exercise helped me identify where I can build that scene and make it complete.

Want to know how? Donald Maass is working on writing this into a book, so watch for that!

What changes in the scene? What is fundamentally different after the scene? i.e., why does this scene need to be in the novel. Be specific. The exact 'aha' moment when the change occurs.

Now, go back in time before that specific event and look at your POV character. Who are they? What are they feeling? What do they want? What are they thinking about?
Go forward past the event, after the immediate consequences. What is he thinking/feeling now? How is it different from before?

Use those emotions and thoughts WITH the action to move the scene.

To build on that, pick out three things your POV character notices about his surroundings - the time, the people, the place - that no one else would or does. Use those to set the scene. Use one of more of these as part of the 'change' that occurs.

Finally we were asked to write the action/change of scene in one sentence in the same tone and style as our story. (i.e. past tense, first/third POV etc.) If our reworked scene did not convey more tension, more conflict, more impact than that sentence, we probably don't need the scene and can use the sentence as part of a transition.

Why am I giving you all this? Because if I lose this notebook I damn well want a record of that! You get to tag along for free. :D

We also worked on microtension and how to add conflict to smaller things like actions, descriptions and dialog.

Before this wonderful session with Don Maass, I had a breakneck session with K.C. Dyer. She walked us through the alphabet in terms of publishing, making sure we all knew about contracts, royalties, good and bad agents and publishers, beginner mistakes, everything! A lot of it was familiar, but everything that wasn't got added to my tool box.

But the day is moving on and I should get blasting into Day 2. I'm planning to start with the Pitch Party. I've never pitched before, so I want one more chance to prepare. I signed up for my pitch session with Kaylan Adair, thinking I would pitch my Ghost Story. However, that is the story that I have since scrapped. So... I'm going to pitch Cargon, even though it's already published, for practice. I might try to pitch Thickness of Blood as well, although that is not the sort of story she normally works with. After that, I'm thinking I'll listen to my Blue Pencil editor, Robert Dugoni, and learn about Creating Plot for Page Turners. I'm taking the first few pages of Thickness of Blood to the Blue Pencil session this afternoon. My pitch and blue pencil sessions should leave me enough time to take in the second half of Don Maass's "The Inner Journey" or I might crash Truth in Lies (writing convincing fiction for teens).

Don't know that I'll have time to post again before tomorrow morning (I expect not), but I'll be back in the AM to share what I've learned.

October 20, 2011

SIWC Day 1: Slow start

On the train to my hotel, I received an email warning that due to two former presidents attending a meeting the next morning, security would be increased and we might need extra time to arrive and check-in. Thankfully, I'd arrived the night before, so I avoided most of the excitement the next day. A second email arrived informing me that my morning Master Class, with Kathleen Oritz was being cancelled due to travel complications. I was disappointed, but keen on the offers for a smaller Skype-based course or a personal web presence review. I could have registered in another morning class, but I was more intrigued by these possibilities. The next morning, I knew I'd made the right choice.

As I picked up my registration, I was reminded to keep my name tag on me and am glad I did. The green paper identifies me as a writer at the conference, not a demonstrator or other bystander. The number of bright yellow vests over dark blue uniforms was rather intimidating, as were the percentage of men with some sort of coiled wire attached to a bud in their ear. That said, I had an expensive, if sparse, breakfast, met another writer. I was happy to not have to rush off to a class and take a little extra time going through the information in my welcome packet. I wrote an entry for the funny contest included in it and signed back up to do the picture prompt blog. That's it! I'm officially writing again! By the end of that, however, I could neither deny nor ignore the growing pain behind my left eye, signifying an imminent migraine. Rather than sit at my tiny table in lobby and try to glimpse either Clinton or GW for myself, I went up to my room to lie down. I didn't rest long before chanting of "Bush!" and the beating of a drum came from outside and I saw a small gathering of demonstrators outside my hotel, fourteen floors down. It was after 11 anyway, so I headed down to get some lunch before my afternoon Master Class.

Overall, my kickoff at the conference is not unlike my book release. I little something here, a little something there, but not quite in full swing. That changes in an hour when I have two master classes back to back. Just so, in the middle of July, my book was available in all electronic forms and through international distributors. Slow start, but building. Hopefully steadily growing. We'll see.

Here's the 75 word or less piece I wrote to complete the following scenario:

Young Jack tapped his pencil impatiently against his desk. Would school never end? As the clock ticked off each...slow...second, his teacher droned on about dangling participles. Jack flipped open the cover of his English book and promptly fell into the pages. Once he regained his feet, Jack took a few steps forward, then scooped up his pencil. As he waved it, sparks flew and he knew something enchanted had just occurred. He waved the pencil again and became locked in mortal combat with

a man holding a sword.
"How propitious!" a squeaky voice exclaimed. At first Jack thought her a child, but a corset emphasized her curves. She was tiny, an elf, with a wart atop one ear. "We have an opponent!"
"How can I fight with a pencil?" Jack paled as the man swung his sword.
Flailing wildly, the man dodged.
Using the alchemy of his dangling participle, Jack drove off his opponent.

Note: words to include were sword, elf, corset, alchemy, wart and propitious.

October 11, 2011

Not Really Back

I'm still on hiatus of sorts. The writer in me is seriously frightened at the moment. The last thing I did was destroy a manuscript and it's made me paranoid about ruining any works in progress.

Despite that, I have made a few writing engagements. For instance, I read to the Grade 5&6 classes at my daughter's elementary school, Lynnwood. They were very receptive to the book and everyone wanted a bookmark (a problem because I thought it was a 5/6 split class, not two classes — not enough bookmarks!). They also love the idea for my NaNoWriMo novel. Did I sell any books? I don't know, but I donated a copy to the library that I can hope will be well read.

I'm also registered to attend the Surrey International Writers Conference in two weeks. I am booked in a pitch session and a blue pen session that I might have to drop. I'd intended to pitch/submit pages from the aforementioned manuscript. At the moment, I have nothing to take with me. Maybe some pages from Cargon 2 for the blue pen, but that's it. I'm also entirely bummed about publishing in general, so most of my high on attending this conference is gone. Hopefully attending will repair that.

Finally, I agreed to attend a book club meeting in Vegreville, a little town about 2.5 hours drive down the highway. My coworker's aunt is in the book club and read Cargon. I got a call from her a week ago to set a time and I asked about getting books to them before time. She said she'd get back to me. Tonight I got a call from the leader of the club and discovered it's not just one book club, it's several. They're looking for 20-25 copies. WOW. Problem is, I haven't restocked, thinking I'd just like to unload the copies I have left. I have 13. So... I've put in a call to my publisher asking for more copies ASAP. Worse comes to worse, I'll arrange with one or more of the clubs to deliver books at a slightly later date. Also, this means I'm not meeting with people who have already read and want to discuss my book, I'm pitching to people who run book clubs. Not what I was expecting and not exactly my favourite thing to do. On the other hand, if I can do a reading and discuss like I did with grade schoolers (well, obviously the discussion will go much differently!) it might not be so bad.

So, if you'd like to order a signed copy via my website, please do! Just be aware that there will probably be a delay in shipping until I get my new supply.

And hopefully, between all these events, I'll finally get enough of a kick in the pants to start writing again and be less of a depressed, anti-social lump like I've been lately. If not, well, it'll be a while until I post again.

October 3, 2011


Not really a post, just letting you know that I'm still on hiatus. I am not in the right mindspace to write anything, even a simple blog post. I'll let you know when/if that changes.