Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Openings Contest #2

April is gone! That means I have to come up with my second "Openings Contest" and soon. My first one turned up a great opening, so I'm hoping this one will too.

This time I'm only stipulating, "Write a damned good start to any novel." Pull me into the story. I don't care if it's a WIP or something you're only thinking about writing someday, sometime, maybe.

The prize is the same: a critique of one opening chapter--any opening chapter, just not War and Peace, okay?

Here's what Mike Boyd, our first winner says:

"I encourage everyone to jump into this. It's free, it's fun, it's fast (a lot quicker than a Best New Novel competition!), and as Samuel Johnson said of an impending execution, 'It focuses the mind wonderfully.'

When a reader picks up your book or manuscript, the first sentence is the most important one in the entire work. It's what motivates her to read the second (which then becomes the most important sentence--but only briefly). What this means is that an Openings contest is one of the most valuable writing exercises you can try. And best of all--you might win!"

So? What are you waiting for? Let's see those entries. The judges are itching to get started.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Silver Phoenix Takes Off

Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix is here. Congratulation to her and her book. Take a look at her knockout trailer; then rush to buy the book.

Don't forget to stop by her blog and enter to win a fabulous Chinese brush drawing by the author herself.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Take a Moment

One friend sent me a perfect picture. I hope you'll enjoy the beauty of all things new and wonderful. Another friend sent me this. I hope you'll enjoy the moment it takes to see it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Editor's Chair

As spring comes to the garden, I drag my editor's chair (a rather bad, recycled plastic thing that I vow to replace every year) to the pond. At last I can sit outside and read and then think about what I've read while I look out at my front yard of redwood trees. Some of them are over a hundred years old, and they are what has kept me in this place for years--so long that I've taken root almost as deeply as the trees I love.

I promise no more poetry, but I might take a chance and write a story about his place one day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring and Poetry

This whole month I've been reading poetry at different blogs. Some is springtacular. Love Susan T. Brown's California Native Plant Haiku. She's written an entire collection.

Kelly Polark posted about Lisa Chellman's Poetry Roundup. I now have Cardinal envy.

So today when I confronted my wisteria I had to think of something poetical.

Blue fragrance
a delicate dance of spring
Too soon green

I think I need a poetry workshop!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Michelle Zinc Blogs

Michelle Zinc, author of Prophecy of the Sisters, has been so gracious in her post about Sliding on the Edge. Many thanks to her for her Book Review. It was a super debut book present.

Opening Lines--A Winner!!!

Mike Boyd wins with his opening:

"The next time someone wants me to keep a secret, I'll do something easy instead--like baptize a cat."

Here's what the deciding judge (a young reader who knows her stuff) said: "It came to me as funny in an ironic sense, and I'd love to know what the secret was and what happened! That would be my first choice . . . "

Okay, Mike. Send me your opening chapter. I look forward to reading it and offering a critique.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wimbledon 1937

With all of the stir about Amazonfail and the disappearing sales rankings of books dealing with homosexuality buzzing in my head, I was very interested in hearing the author of A Terrible Splendor speak on NPR today. I haven't read his book, but from the radio broadcast I gleaned this:

In 1937, when the world was poised on the brink of WWII, the Nazis were coming into their own, and already were imprisoning homosexuals. The championship match that year at Wimbledon was between an aristocratic German named Von Kron and an American, Don Budge. Von Kron, who was a homosexual, felt that if he took the cup home to Germany he might escape persecution. The match was brilliant. It was hard fought. And people were glued to their radios to find out who won. A lot of Americans rooted for Von Kron, the man who was admittedly playing for his life.

In the end the match went to Budge. Von Kron was later imprisoned in Germany because of his sexual preference.

One other interesting point the author mentioned was that the coach for Germany that year was an American named Big Bill Tilden--also a homosexual. I loved the irony of 1937's Germany having two gay men as key members of their team.

Earth Day on Ramble Street

Nan Marino, author of My Uncle is Neil Armstrong and Other Lies Muscle Man McGlinty Told Me, spreads the word about plastics vs. the environment. Check out her Ramble Street Blog.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day

Kelly beat me to the post about Earth Day, so just go there and leave your comments. I think it's important to continue increasing our awareness of how vital each of us is to making a difference.

Tune for Tuesday/I Heart our Earth

Monday, April 20, 2009

Don't Ever Give Up

Take a look at this great post about not giving up as a writer. I laughed about the agent's take on the dog narrator and how the writer took control. Hurray! So many books, so little time From the blog post I immediately wanted to hear what that canine character had to say.

In The Knife of Never Letting Go everything talks including a particularly wonderful dog. I loved that book. (I didn't love the loss of the dog, but that's another issue--one I'd like to take up with the author.)

I've added a favorite picture that I keep above my desk. It has helped me a lot.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Deva Fagan Visits The Write Game

FORTUNE'S FOLLY is here and so is DEVA FAGAN to tell us about her book and the author behind the story. Welcome, Deva. Let's start by knowing a bit about Fortunata, your fortune-telling main character. Here's how Fortunata's story goes.

Ever since her mother died and her father lost his shoemaking skills, Fortunata has survived by telling fake fortunes. But when she's tricked into telling a grand fortune for a prince, she is faced with the impossible task of fulfilling her wild prophecy-or her father will be put to death. Now Fortunata has to help Prince Leonato secure a magic sword, vanquish a wicked witch, discover a long-lost golden shoe, and rescue the princess who fits it. If only she hadn't fallen in love with the prince herself. . . .

So how about Deva? Here's what I've read.

Deva likes searching for patterns, which is how she explains both her degree in mathematics and the echoes of old fairy-tales in her stories. She also loves tea, gardening, and playing the fiddle. She lives in Maine with her husband and her dog.

Deva took some time to tell a bit more about herself as a person. I asked her a few questions and here's what she told me.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

Tough question! I don't think there's anything quite like the experience of reading a book -- writing a book is fun and thrilling in its own way, but I don't know that I would sacrifice the enjoyment of the first time I read WATERSHIP DOWN or THE BOOK OF THREE or THE HUNGER GAMES or ANNE OF GREEN GABLES to be the one who wrote them.

You've chosen one of my favorite books, Anne of Green Gables. What fictional character do you wish you could be?

I would be Betsy Ray, from Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy series. I'd get to enjoy the wonderful, warm Ray family, taste one of those onion sandwiches Mr Ray is famous for, have Miss Mix make me pretty clothes, hang out with a bevy of high-school chums, making fudge and singing and dancing, go on picnics with Tacy and Tib, flirt with Joe Willard, and even spend a year touring Europe in preparation for being a Writer.

Everyone who writes complains in varying degrees about "writer-block," and most of the ones I've talked to say they rely heavily on comfort food during these muse-less days. After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

When I encounter writing troubles I tend to drink even more hot black tea with milk than I do usually.

Sounds very comforting, Deva. Thanks so much for the interview. I've enjoyed your visit.

Deva's book is available at Amazon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Waiting to Score

The strength of this young adult book lies in the pacing and character development. None of the people and none of their stories are predictable and you relate in some fashion to each of them--even the bad guy.

I would recommend this for teens (both male and female), for parents, and for teachers. There's a lot to pay attention to in J.E. MacLeod's book.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taxes and other Incidentals

So today is the day to lick those stamps and seal those envelops and kiss your bank account goodbye.

Tax preparation has consumed hours of time, diminished my capacity to write anything coherent because all I can think about are numbers, and in general made me examine my patriotism.

April 15th! May it not return for another year.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Carrie Ryan Interview

I'm so excited to have CARRIE RYAN here. Her book, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH was released in March and is quite prominent on the book shelves.

About The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is about a young girl named Mary growing up generations after an apocalypse in a village surrounded by fences protecting them from the Unconsecrated, zombie-like creatures inhabiting the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Cut off from the rest of the world and told they are the last survivors of the Return, every part of her life is controlled by the religious order called the Sisterhood. As Mary starts to fall in love with someone she shouldn’t, she learns the extent of the Sisterhood’s power and starts to discover more of their darkest secrets. When the security of the fences is threatened and her world is thrown into chaos, Mary must decide what she’s willing to risk to find out if there’s life beyond the Forest.


Carrie was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, Carrie Ryan is a graduate of Williams College and Duke University School of Law. A former litigator, she now writes full time. She lives with her writer/lawyer fiancé, two fat cats and one large puppy in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are not at all prepared for the zombie apocalypse.

Hi Carrie. I've been blogging about the opening lines of books for the past few days. I know authors take a lot of time crafting those lines, so I hope you don't mind my sharing the way your book begins. It did all of the things a good opening should: It made me curiosity about the character, it introduce the setting, and gave the story resonance. Here's how The Forest of Hands and Teeth starts.

"My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away."

So immediately I need to know who this person is that doesn't know what an ocean looks like and what kind of world she lives in. Great start.

Readers like to know about writers, so here are some questions that might give your readers a peek at the person who created this world of dark secrets.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

I wish I'd written a Dr. Seuss book. I was reading a few to my nephew recently and had forgotten just how fun and clever his language is! Those books are just pure fun!

He was a master at making language fun.

What fictional character do you wish you could be?

I'd probably want to be someone like Batman -- he has so many cool gadgets! Having the fate of humanity resting on my shoulders wouldn't be fun though...

I thought you were going to tell me The Cat in the Hat. Now that's one cat that has nothing resting on his shoulders.

I know writers have some times when they just can't put those words down--at least not the way they want. So, after chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

Pumpkin seeds and diet coke. Most random food ever, I know, but it's what I practically lived on while I was revising the sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth!

Random or not, it worked. The Dead Tossed Sea is on its way. Congratulations.

Thanks for the visit, Carrie. I'll be looking for your next book.

Be sure to visit Carrie at her website. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is available at Amazon and at your local Indie.

Carrie's making the rounds of a lot of blogs. Catch her next interview with Sarah Ockler tomorrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Opening Lines

I've become more and more interested in how books begin. If a book doesn't capture a reader immediately that book doesn't leave the shelves. Here's what Stein on Writing says about that first paragraph.

"The ideal goals of an opening paragraph are:
1. To excite the reader's curiosity, preferably about a character or a relationship.
2. To introduce a setting.
3. To lend resonance to the story."

Wow! No wonder those opening paragraph take so much time to write. That's a lot to pack into such a small space. But how does a writer do it?

I've been looking at some openings and here's what I see in the ones I like.

The writers give their character(s) personalities that tweak my interest. I want to know who these people are. What they might do or not do? Here are a couple of my favorites.

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Catcher in the Rye

"My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog."

Because of Winn Dixie

So different, right, but both hook you by the nose and pull you right into those books. Immediately you have to know what happens to these characters.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Good Openings

I've received several posts for the Openings Contest and they are pretty darned good. This ain't going to be easy. I'm calling in my consultants as judges. They are serious and scholarly as you can see by their photo.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Once Upon a Time

I remember when "Once Upon a Time" lured me into stories where I could be guaranteed a handsome prince, a few elves, and maybe a unicorn. These words promised an adventure and hours of enjoyment.

I still read the beginning of books that I consider buying and it's those opening words that either capture my interest or don't. I thought it might be interesting to see what kinds of openings grab people.

So, here's a challenge. Once a month (this is not a contract, but a goal) I'll post a story type: Young Adult Adventure or Romance or Fantasy. And then I'll write an opening (no more than one sentence, but it doesn't have to be a sentence).

I'd love to see what kinds of other opening lines you'll contribute. Hey, maybe I'll think of a prize for the BEST STORY OPENING--one I won't be eligible to win.

So how about this month we play with that YA Adventure story? Here's how my story would start.

I've kept the secret for almost three months, but I have to tell someone soon because I've only got another week before it'll be too late.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gearing Up

I'm looking forward to interviewing Carrie Ryan next week. Her Forest of Hands and Teeth is out and on the shelves.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Trying to catch up on a lot of reading right now. I have three books on my desk all open, all very different. I'm disappointed in one, but want to plow through because I'm hoping it will turn around. Another one is riveting and I hope to review it when I'm done. Another I've just started and am not sure about yet.

I'm looking for something I can dive into and not come up for air until The End.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009