Alligators Overhead Trailer

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sick

Finally have to throw in the old towel and pull the covers over my head. I may be back.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Paying It Forward

I pulled myself out of my VERY SICK BED (make that) I pulled MY VERY SICK SELF out of my bed today and B. Miller, blogger extraordinaire, made the effort worthwhile.

What a great contest idea she has and what a great opportunity for winning something worthwhile.

Here's the deal:
The grand prize for this giveaway is the winner's choice. EITHER a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble (or Borders, Amazon, etc - whichever you prefer) sent directly to your preferred mail receptacle,OR...
The grand prize for this giveaway is the winner's choice. EITHER a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble (or Borders, Amazon, etc - whichever you prefer) sent directly to your preferred mail receptacle,OR...

If you are a writer with published work available for purchase, I will buy your novel/story collection/chapbook, etc., up to a value of $25. I will also read your work and give a review on your chosen website, as well as a review and a plug on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook fan page. I will go to my local library and booksellers and ask that your work be stocked on my local shelves in Greenville, South Carolina. And, if you're willing, I will do a guest feature on my blog for you, complete with interview and links to your media. If you are a writer with published work available for purchase, I will buy your novel/story collection/chapbook, etc., up to a value of $25. I will also read your work and give a review on your chosen website, as well as a review and a plug on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook fan page. I will go to my local library and booksellers and ask that your work be stocked on my local shelves in Greenville, South Carolina. And, if you're willing, I will do a guest feature on my blog for you, complete with interview and links to your media. 



How fantastic is that? So here's the link to PAYING IT FORWARD. Good luck to all.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Think, Therefore, I Write

As writers I'm sure you spend a lot of time balancing family, work, and writing. I know I often feel like a high-wire act edging my way across with a balancing bar in hand and praying there's a safety net below.

I was taking a break the other day--no family, no work, no writing-- and I stumbled upon a great article about philosophy. Remember that first-year course in college when you learned about existentialism and then had to figure out how to pronounce it?

I had the idea that if I re-visited some of those master thinkers I might figure out how to do a better balancing act. I'm not sure if it will work, but I'll share what I came up with and you can let me know.

Kant: "Categorical Imperative"

Whenever you make a moral decision, test it by asking what would happen if everyone did what you're considering doing.

Simple Writer Me: What would happen if everybody failed to meet a deadline? The consequences of that sent me back to my re-write almost immediately.

Hume: "Causation"

People (writers included) often base their decisions on how past events have linked up, one causing the other. They believe that if something happened a certain way in the past it will happen that same way the next time. However, Hume maintained that's not necessarily true. Not all balls thrown will break the neighbors window.

Simple Writer Me: Not all queries to agents will be rejected. I wrote another query.

Descartes:  "I think, therefore, I am."

You can't prove that you exist by simply touching your head. You have to think about who you are to truly be alive.

Simple Writer Me: Writing is thinking. When I'm writing I'm truly alive. I wrote a chapter.

Aristotle: "Golden Mean"

Find a half-way point between two vices to be truly balanced.

Simple Writer Me: I can write and forget work and family or I can write for a certain number of hours, take care of work for a certain number of hours, and enjoy my family for a certain number of hours. I created a schedule that is flexible , but fair and balanced.

My scheduling effort satisfied Kant's Categorical Imperative (If everybody had a fair and flexible schedule, the world would be so much easier to live in.) It followed Hume's Causation (Just because other schedules haven't worked . . . ), and was in line with Descartes' idea too because I had a lot of thinking about who I was-- writer, wife,  mother, daughter, forced laborer--while I created that thing!

I'm feeling very virtuous and much more balanced. I'm also a bit depressed by these images. Here's some flowers to brighten my philosophy and the day. 

Helpful? What other philosophy might help us meet the challenges of writing and everyday life?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Eric Luper and his Love Manifesto

I love authors. They are almost always thoughtful and thought-provoking, so I like to feature one every so often to give my readers a glimpse of a new book and the person behind it.  Today my guest is ERIC LUPER. His latest book is SETH BAUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO. So glad you could come by The Write Game, Eric. Thanks.

Me:Now that you're here I have a few questions. Like, how did you come up with your idea for Seth?

Eric: Most of my books begin in my mind with a premise, or maybe better: a question. In the case of Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto, it goes back to something a close friend of mine asked me when I was a senior in high school. The question was: “What would you do if you found out your father was cheating on your mother?” Of course, the easy answer burst out of my mouth in seconds: “I’d blackmail him,” I said. “I’d get a new CD player, a new car, gas money, whatever I wanted.” But that question sat with me for years, because the situation is more complicated than that. By not saying anything, you allow your father to get away with something terrible, something that could possibly devastate your whole family. But by snitching, you risk pulling the trigger that could destroy your parents’ marriage. It’s a huge burden for a teen to carry and ever since the plot of Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto became public, I’ve discovered it’s not all that uncommon of a burden. Teens are sharper than most parents give them credit for!




Me: I'm finding that very true. Our teens carry a lot burdens, some they're not prepared to carry yet. I love you premise and how it came to be a book.

Writing books, like everything we do has its ups and downs. What has been your biggest high/low in this journey to publication?

Eric: The biggest high was the first time I saw my book in an actual store. It's one thing to see an ARC or your first hardcover... Don't get me wrong, those are great times. But there is something super-special about seeing it in a library or a bookstore. I think that is because someone out there (a librarian or store buyer) decided your writing seemed good enough to buy. And that speaks volumes.

The worst part of my journey had to be the months before my first book offer. They say it gets darkest before dawn and I think this may be true. I did not have an agent at that point and it's exhausting to keep submitting only to get rejection after rejection. My rejections number in the hundreds and there were many times I considered stopping. Fortunately, I forged ahead and things worked out... but they only worked out because I took all of my rejections as a sign that my writing was not good enough yet. Looking back at what I was submitting back then, it was a correct assumption! Ugh!



Me: Isn't that hard? Looking at what you wrote and submitted a few years back? I practically cry when I think someone, especially an agent or editor read some of what I wrote. Your attitude is great and it's good to pass that along to all those writers still subbing and still being rejected. Thanks for sharing that.

I can almost predict your answer to this question, but here it is anyway: What advice do you have for those still subbing or seeking representation?

Eric: Make lemonade out of lemons. Rejection is a part of this business. Use it as a barometer to see if your craft is "there" yet. If you are getting all form rejections, you need to rethink things. If you're getting personal rejections or invitations to submit other things, you are on the right track. Either way, keep your mind open to change; It's the only way you'll ever improve.

I've been following you and your writing for a while now, so this has been a treat for me and I hope my readers enjoy your visit. Find out more about Eric and his writing on his BLOG or check him out on TWITTER. Most important be sure to BUY SETH BLUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO.  Here's what readers are saying about it.

“Delightful, funny, and true, Seth and his manifesto will win your heart.”
–Rachel Cohn, bestselling author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

“If you’ve ever been dumped, you’ll relate to this winning story about one ordinary boy’s funny, flawed attempts at putting the pieces back together. Not just a breakup book, Seth’s story is about the complications of love in its many forms: for family, for friends, for those who don’t return our affections, and for those who surprise us when they do.”
    --Megan McCafferty, author of the NYT bestselling Jessica Darling series

“A break-up story...that turns out to be a love story...that turns out to be so much more. Awesome.”
--Lauren Myracle, bestselling author of TTYL and TTFN
“A compelling page-turner. Seth's manifesto has all the bitterness and hurt of a break-up, and his story has all the romance you need to get over it. Luper throws in some great twists and lots of angst. Add a realistic ending and characters who are quirky and real, and you get a great read.”
--Romantic Times (RT) Magazine (4-stars)

“Laugh-out-loud funny.”
--Sally Kruger, reviewer for TeensReadToo.com

“SETH BAUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO should come with a warning: Do not read while drinking milk. It will come out of your nose.”
--Marjorie Light, online reviewer

“Eric Luper is the Nick Hornby of teen writers.”
    --Sabrina Banes of Y.A. New York

“Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto is, without a doubt, the gold standard of books about teen guys who are unhappy in love… I may be a bit too old for Seth but when he grows up I’m going to marry him, because he is one of the most fall-in-love-with-able characters in all of teen fiction.”
    --Sabrina Banes of Y.A. New York

“Entertaining summer reading with heart and soul worn proudly on its sleeve.”
    --Booklist

“Supremely enjoyable”
    --Kirkus Reviews


And don't forget his other two books: BUG BOY  and   BIG SLICK. Once you read any of his books you have to become a fan.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Hate to Admit This . . . But

Last month I rambled on about that edgy YA that was so exciting, and then on day 16 it packed its bag and took a vacation. Not to be hindered by fickle characters, I gleefully launched a new project and started turning one of my middle grade novels into a YA. That lasted for several days--8?

So there I was at Chapter 7, feeling pretty smug when, wham, this other middle grade popped into my head, one I'd written and tucked away a year ago. All that book needed was a few adjustments and I'd have something ready for my critique group and maybe I could sub it by this summer.

That's when something very strange happened. Here's the story: I was at my desk, hammering out those "adjustment" when I heard this pounding at my front door. When I opened the door a whole gaggle of people clustered outside. One, a young nondescript girl wearing either a sweater or a blouse, I couldn't tell, stepped out of the group.

"They've chosen me as the spokesperson," said she.

 "They?"

"Your characters."

I cast a wary eye over the crowd. Three young boys, one in a striped T-shirt and taller than the others, stood with their arms crossed, their eyes unfriendly.

"I remember you. You're in that Dragon story, right?"

They nodded in unison.

"Did I write you as hostile young boys?"

"No," the tall boy said. "It's the waiting that's made us this way."

"I see." I noticed an older woman looking rather lost and teary in the middle of the group. "Why are you so unhappy?"

"That's the way you left me two years ago. Could you please just step on it and figure out how to get me out of this slump?"

"Gee, I didn't think . . . I mean, you're just characters--" The crowd turned hostile. I held up both hand in apology. "I'm doing the best I can. Right now I'm all over that ghost story. I picked out two characters who had to be Ben and Allie because they looked like Ben and Allie, the ones from Chapter 7, and the other characters were casting jealous glances in their direction.

The nondescript girl cleared her throat. "All we want is some follow through, you know? I'm tired of not having a personality or even decent . . . clothes." She passed her hand over her unexceptional self.

"Thank you for bringing me your concerns. I'll make a plan and stick to it. Promise." I turned to go back to the safety of my office, but stopped in the doorway and looked back at Ms. Average."BTW, are you wearing a sweater or a blouse?"

"Good question. You never decided, remember? When you get around to finishing that story, however, I'd like a sweater. Cashmere. Bright yellow." And off she walked, or ambled, or cavorted. I haven't made up my mind.

So have your characters ever organized and confronted you? If they did what would they complain or applaud about your writing plan, or like in my case, non-plan? You might consider how you'll handle what I just had to because it can be very touchy. Once they turn on you, you could be in serious trouble.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When All Else Fails . . . Clean the Refrigerator

I treasure times when the words drop onto the "page" like a perfect string of pearls, one after the other. I have those days, er, moments.  I also have days when, well, this time of year I call them "Refrigerator Days," (In the early spring I call these days, "Seed Planting" days.) days when nothing pops into my brain that I want anyone to read . . . not ever . . . even me.

When the GREAT CLOG happens, as it did a few days ago and my YA started spitting my words back at me, I posted that I'd jumped to an old middle grade ghost story with a fantastic notion that I could resurrect it if I made it a YA. So for the past few days that's what I've been hammering away at with some success and with only two or three "Refrigerator Days." I have a bit of work to do on this puppy, but I'm kind of liking it because
1)I know the background story very well.
2) I've learned to grapple with "age progression on my characters
3) The plot is holding together and I don't have to think about each step that should lead to "THE END."
Rewriting really does have its rewards.

Sometimes as I sit at the keyboard waiting for it to behave more like an old-fashioned player piano and knowing it won't crank out any tune on its own, I often visit other blogs for inspiration. Last week was no exception. Fortunately, I found some. WriterJenn had a conversation with her muse that's very similar to one I've had about being creative. Wonder if that muse is moonlighting?

  April Henry came through with some excellent advice for writers who haven't published yet, so I thought I'd link to that in case there are any of you out there struggling like me with those pesky words and wondering if it's worth the effort since you just received that Xth rejection letter. April says it is worthwhile and the only thing you can do wrong is fail to believe in yourself. I'll second her message.

Oh, and about cleaning out the refrigerator: Sometimes those gooey things in plastic containers turn out to be works of art if handled correctly. Here's what happened when I threw out some almost recognizable onions.

Hmmm. I feel another metaphor coming on. Maybe some of that "gooey" prose could be "handled" differently and it might produce something quite readable. Gotta go check that out.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Meet Rhonda Stapleton



While I'm pounding away on that ghost story and trying to ignore my edgy YA, I thought I'd pop in an interview with an old friend. RHONDA STAPLETON and I met at the 2009 Debutantes and since then she's published three books! Congratulations, Rhonda and thanks for stopping by to chat.

Me: You're about to see book number three on bookstore shelves across the U.S. Did you set out to write all of these books or did this wonderous thing happen without pre-planning?


Rhonda: I actually wrote it as just one book, but my editor thought it would make a great trilogy. Which is, of course, the coolest thing ever! So we worked together to come up with how to make the story arc continue over a three-book series.

Me: That is cool. Aren't editors the smartest critters you ever met? I adore them

Tell us about Stupid Cupid, Flirting with Disaster and your latest one, Pucker Up. Can you give us a tiny preview of what we'll find when we buy your book?


Rhonda: The trilogy is about a teenage girl who uses handheld technology to make love matches for her high school, sending special emails to her targets. However, she reeeeeally stinks at it. haha. But her heart is in the right place, and she keeps on trying.

Me: I've been blogging about this thing called the writing process and the comments I'm getting are interesting. What's your process? What works best for you when you're starting or in the middle? Any advice for those of us who might be stuck somewhere in this creative act?


Rhonda: My biggest thing is to keep pushing forward. My inner editor will cry out continually to go back and fix everything, that it's not good enough and that I need to clean it up. But I let my writer play first. I can't edit what I haven't written!

Me: Thank you for that. I just blogged about that very thing on Monday. I think we can keep saying this over and over and still not say it enough.

What is it about Rhonda Stapleton that makes her so . . . bubbly?

Rhonda: It's a deadly combination of caffeine, natural craziness, sugar, chocolate, and genetics. haha

Me: I'm imagining one of your family gatherings! That should be a riot . . . in the very best of senses.

So readers, grab these books. Enjoy a "bubbly" experience. The covers alone tell you these are fun. We need some fun, don't we? Here's your chance. Stupid Cupid, Flirting with Disaster, Pucker Up.

Also stop in at Rhonda's Blog for some cheering up. Tell her hello for me.

Next Wednesday I'll have another author stopping by to give you some relief from my angst ridden writer posts. See, I think of you readers. :-)


Monday, May 10, 2010

Almost Perfect

The other day I picked my first roses from the garden. This one was particularly stunning and yet it wasn't perfect. Two of the petals were slightly sunburned, but I didn't for a moment think about tossing this flower. Instead, those brown tinges were a part of its beauty. And it occurred to me that here was a perfect metaphor for those stories that are unfolding in my head.

I want to put them on the page so they're as beautiful and as colorful and exciting as possible.

Will they ever be perfect?
No.

Should I stew about each word or phrase or plot point?
No.

Should I get it done?
Yes.

That first draft needs to be down, then with each rewrite, the story can unfold and become the almost perfect story if not the perfect one I want it to be.

So I returned to my desk, set this rose next to my computer and wrote. When I finished what I hope will be one more chapter, I'd connected my ghost with my MC. Here she is, a draft, a line of words, not perfect, but started.

"I close my eyes and wish I could sleep and not think about anything for a while, but that doesn’t happen. Instead, I wind up on my back staring at the ceiling until, outside, the light shifts from afternoon to early evening, and shadows slip down the walls and creep across the floor. 

When the last flicker of light dips behind the mountains, my bedroom windows darken to mirrors and reflect the jumble of boxes I still haven’t touched.
It’s only a ripple across the glass. Something that’s outside? I sit up, sniffing. Roses. The hair along my arms stands out like it’s been electrified as the sweet smell I remember from summers at home fills the air. I keep my head still and shift my eyes around the room very slowly, not really wanting to find what I’m afraid I might. 
In the far corner next to the closet a hazy shape gathers and grows. Bo’s on his feet, whining and backing away. Then with a sound like smoke trailing through the air, a girl, wearing a long blue flowered dress, moves to the center of the room. Her brown hair softly brushes her shoulders and she stares at me with eyes that are the same gray as the morning sky, deep and promising. 
“Help me, Ben.” Her voice is more than a whisper, but it comes from a distance, not space but time. She's closer now, next to where I’m sitting on the bed. 

I’m asleep, dreaming of being awake, dreaming of the girl’s hand that’s cool silk on my cheek. I blink and she’s gone. I jump to my feet, my heart hammering, and turn quickly around. The room’s empty except for me and Bo who’s doing circles and barking." ©2010

When I'd put my manuscript to bed for the night I picked up The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Here's what I found on page one. "When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a wood carver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year."

Ah, yes. There's hope that tomorrow or the next day or the next year I'll find out how close I was to getting that scene right.



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Benefits of Marination

When you put a story aside for a few months or even years does it stay in your head? Then when you take it out and reread it, has it changed? I mean changed from what you remember? Mine certainly has. It's not as riveting as I had it in my mind. That's definitely not good, but at least I recognize it. I didn't while I was hammering the story out on the keyboard.




Also I'm having some trouble making my MC older as I change the book from a Middle Grade to a YA. I keep thinking of him as 12 and have to sit back and try to visualize him as the 16 year old I want him to be. The interesting thing is that I know who he used to be, almost as if while the book was in the closet, the kid had a few birthdays. I can refer to him in ways I couldn't before, like, bring up habits he had when he was younger or mention how different his tastes are now than a few years ago.  This is another interesting development that leads me to think marinating a manuscript has value.

Well, marinating an author helps too, so it's a two way street. Take a look at what WRITERJENN has to say about finding depth in characters as a writer matures. She refers to TABITHA'S WRITER MUSINGS, and when I read both of these, I thought, "We're somewhat the same page at the same time."


Speaking of marination . . . Since I tucked that other YA I was so passionate about a few weeks ago into a folder, it's been rattling around in the back of my brain and the MC keeps crooking his finger in my direction while I'm making my way through a day. Another good reason to set a WIP aside and ignore it a bit?  Maybe my characters are competing for my attention and will help me out if I give them some. Just a minute! I'm busy. Be right with you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

And Now . . . Back to Writing

Remember when I set out to share writing a book from the first idea to the last revision . . . with some side excursions along the way? Well, I think that's actually happening. If you've followed my bumpy journey, you've seen me travel from  EUPHORIA, through the discovery of CHARACTER, to the MISSTEP in plot, the need for a PRINT OUT, and then a need for a break.



You've seen me attend to some life issues, like, planting seeds for my summer garden, a book signing and an interview with a self-published author.

If I'm close to accurate, this is Day 16 of writing. So what's going on? You are not going to believe this, but it's true. I'm revising an old story. It's a middle grade ghost story that I set aside about three years ago and this morning I woke up thinking, "That would be much better as a YA." Is this a way to continue to dodge the story I started last month?

Yep!

Guess I'm not ready to return to my edgy novel and my edgy characters. I'll get back, but I'm taking another small detour. Hope you'll stick with me. I still have faith I can bring that edgy story to the page. It's just going to take some major slogging to do it.

What I'm sharing is as real as it gets and I'm wondering if what I'm going through is similar to what you go through as writers?

I'm also wondering if those of you who read, but don't write books yourselves are thinking differently about what this writing business involves? After taking on this job, I totally relate to books in a different way. First I have to write in all the books, not just some anymore. It's as if I'm having a dialog with the author along the way.

Well, off to chase some ghosts for a while. Wish me luck.