Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Miscellany

This is truly a MISCELLANY: 
  • My ROW80 goals for the week. 
  • Mike Jung & Nan Marino. 
  • Veterans' Day.
Next Post: In The Throes of Thursday I'll share what I've learned about PACING.

Last week didn't produce the results I'd hoped for in my ROW80 challenge. Truth? It didn't produce anything I'd set out for myself. I'm still at around 41,000+ words with some scenes that are looking for a reason to exist. I doubt they'll find it. Still I'm not giving up. Here's my goals for next week:

1. Finish the short story for 2009 Debs Ebook anthology.
2. Write at least 1,000 words on my WIP.
3. Find the top of my desk.
4. Find that pair of Sexy Butt Jeans that Kait Nolan, another ROW80 blogger, just reminded me I should be wearing.

Do you want to join this highly motivated ROW80 group? Click here and add your blog to the LinkyTool.  Also be sure to stop in and say high to those who have already joined, especially my YALitChat compadres who are writing like crazy. Sheri Larson, Susan Kaye Quinn, Margo Berendsen


Mike Jung gave a great presentation about Social Media on Saturday. One of the best comments he made was that in building an authors' network on the media, it's more important to remember you're connecting with people than it is to create a BRAND identity. Thanks, Mike. I needed that.

Mike, Me and One of Our Favorite Books by Nan Marino

Me: I Want This Book. Mike: No Way.

Ann Nesbet and Me--Remind me where I put my glasses.

Remembering my dad today and my grandfather--both veterans--both people who sacrificed a lot for their country, but never complained. Remembering all of the veterans and giving thanks for what they've done to keep us free.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In The Throes of Thursday--What I've Learned About Writing Novels_4

As if the world isn't already TENSE enough what with
just surviving another Rapture, today I'm going to 
focus on creating tension with dialogue. 
And I'm going to use a couple of plays as examples 
since they are great sources. Without tense dialogue 
the audience falls into a stupor.

In a Stupor
Here's a little bit from Edward Albee's  
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf--there are four characters 
in the room during this exchange--a young couple, 
Nick and his wife as well as George and Martha, 
the seasoned combatants.See if you feel just a touch of tension.

NICK (Peers at Martha)
Your eyes are ... brown, aren't they?

Green! (A little too fast) Well, in some lights they 
look brown but they're green. Not like his . . . more 
hazel. George has watery blue eyes. . . milky blue.

Make up your mind, Martha.

I was giving you the benefit of the doubt.  
(Now back to the others) Daddy has green eyes, too.

He does not! Your father has tiny red a 
white mouse. In fact, he is a white mouse.

You wouldn't dare say a thing like that if he was here! 
You're a coward!

Can you picture the other two people in the room with 
George and Martha? In the audience, I was cringing. 
What sharp spear of a word would they hurl at each 
other next?

Now, here's a small of bit of classic dialogue tension. 
The audience knows what Iago is up to and watches as 
he starts to weave his web of suspicion to trap Othello

My Noble lord,--

What dost thou say, Iago?

Did Michael Cassio, when you woo'd my lady, 
Know of your love?

He did, from first to last: why dost thou ask?

But for a satisfaction of my thought;
No further harm.

Why of thy thought,Iago?

I did not think he had been acquainted with her.

O,yes; and went between us very oft.


Indeed! ay, indeed" discern'st thou aught in that?
Is he not honest?

Honest, my lord!

Notice that in these very different examples there are some 

The language is lean. No fat, but lots of sub-text in 
each one. Martha choose the very unflattering 
adjectives, milky and watery, to describe George's eye color. 

Iago chooses the single word, indeed, which 
I guess you could translate as, "foolish dupe." He then repeats 
Othello's word, honest, implying, "whatever!" 

The words themselves seem pretty innocent, but their 
meaning isn't and that's what the reader picks up. 
That's what creates the tension. 

Here are a couple of earlier post about dialogue if 
you'd like to see them. 

Back to Basics i

Back to Basics ii

As always I really love your comments. If you have a 
great example or want to add to what I've shared, 
please do. I learn so much from my readers.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Miscellany

Last week I went to San Francisco to the CBS studios to do an interview on Bay Sunday. It was great to  meet the host, Sydnie Kohara, and the producer, Akilah Bolden-Monifa. And I shared the set with the It Gets Better Project; Michael "Puck" Quinn, Artistic Director for The Blue Man Group; head of MYX TV Miguel Santos and blogger Allyn Hoang.
All kinds of Irresistibly Sweet Things happened at the same time last week. The Interview and then a wonderful Blog Award from Kip Wilson Rechea.

Now who to pass this on to?

Lisa Gail Green is an *IST, so she gets one.

Kelly Hashaway falls into that category too.

Sheri Larson, my ROW80 pard.

Susan Kaye Quinn, of course, another ROW80 writer.

Margo Brendersen who writes anywhere, but mostly at High Altitude and lot since she signed on for ROW80.

I'm also going to send this north to Alaska to Paul. His blog is definitely Irrestible.

Theresa Milstein has to have one of these from me too.

Seven things about moi!

1. I'm a rural bumpkin and I love it.

2. If there's a choice between the ocean and a lake, the ocean wins.

3. I once thought about acting as a career. (Sheesh!)

4. Fish ponds fascinate me. Well, not the ponds, but the fish. What do they "think" about all day down in that water?

5. I'm a hugely field dependent learner--have to force myself to move on without knowing "everything" or I never get anywhere with research.

6. Crosswords are relaxing.

7. Don't ever get me started on a jig saw puzzle, or dinner won't happen.

*Irresistibly Sweet Thing

Next Throes of Thursday will be about TENSION again, but how to get it in dialog. Hope to see you here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In the Throes of Thursday--What I've Learned About Writing Novels_3

Tension. What the heck is that anyway and why would you want to add it to your story?

By definition, tension is the nervous feeling you get when you're reading or watching something very exciting or frightening. It's what keeps you turning the page of a book or staying awake during a movie.  No tension=

Readers love tension (not to be confused with suspense--a whole other thingy) and writers have to give it to them. So how can we do that?

1) Set up a situation where there's friction between characters and hold it for a while, then let it go.

     "You! Get out here where I can see you. Now."
     The auditorium fell to a hush as one security guard flipped open his holster and pulled out his gun. The other stood in front of the orchestra pit, signaling everyone to remain seated and quiet.
     The curtain moved, but didn't part.
     The guard crept across the stage, holding his gun out. "You've got two seconds to show yourself."
     When he was at the parting in the curtain, he reached out to grab the edge. The audience inhaled as if it were an single person waiting for something terrible to burst from back stage.
     The guard yelled, "Time's up." And in that moment a curly head poked from between the curtains.    
     "I lost," the little boy said.

2) Write something that's really scary and is about to happen.

     In six minutes the men would arrive and it would be time for the killing to begin.

3) Trap people together who are DANGEROUS:
     Just as he came to where he could see the cottage, Patches' screams struck him as hard as Milt’s fists ever did.
    He stretched out his legs and in minutes covered the last few yards to the gate, up the front steps, and into the house.
    Patch huddled in the corner, his head under his arms.  Roan stood behind him with his belt looped though his fist and his hand ready to come down on Patch’s backside, already swollen with a wide welt.
    “Stop.”  Enrico screamed. (From Bad Boy, WIP C. Lee McKenzie)


      The waiting room chairs were already fill when he stepped in from the July heat, sweat-soaked and reeking from his last cigarette. If he were a cartoon, flies would be circling his head.
     The receptionist pulled out a tissue and held it to her nose when he approached her desk to write his name on the pad of paper.
     As he turned to find a place to stand, Miriam prayed he wouldn't choose her corner, but that's exactly what he did, smiling at her with yellowed teeth and brushing against her knee as he took up the corner next to her.

4) Use structure and word choice to create more tension. Here's an excellent example from Stein on Writing. Notice how a change in the position of two sentence, the use of paragraphing and the use of the pronoun, "she," works to stretch the emotions of the reader and make him uneasy.

Version #1
"Before I got your message, I thought we were going to meet over at Urek's like usual. He in trouble again?"
A fog of silence descended. Nobody looked at anybody else. Finally, Feeney said, "She doesn't know."

Version #2
 "Before I got your message, I thought we were going to meet over at Urek's like usual.
A fog of silence descended. Nobody looked at anybody else.
"He in trouble again?
Finally, Feeney said, "She doesn't know."

5) Using the example again in 4) if you let the reader in on what has happened to Urek, then when the girl mentions him, a lot of tension builds. "She doesn't know, but I do and it's terrible." That's what's in the reader's head.

How do you create tension in your stories?

Next Throes of Thursday: Creating Tension Using Dialogue.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ROW80 Wednesday Check In

I'm checking in for ROW80, but I also have a bit of BookBloggingNews. Teen Book Scene is interviewing and reviewing Princess of Las Pulgas starting this month. The first post in the series started on Corinne's beautiful Lost For Words blog. Hope you'll have a moment to stop by and leave a comment.

Now for the drum roll: I did what I said I wanted to do, then look what happened.

I started out just fine. A few words here. A few words there. One blog post. One fb post. A few Tweets. Then Whamo! Sock! Pow! It was four o'clock and I was down for the count--not the word count either.

So that sort of tells the story. I reached my ROW80 goal. Did the rest of you? I'll check in to see. And how about Sheri Larson, Susan Kaye Quinn and Margo Berendsen? Like I said in the video,  those three are smokin'!

To see who else is writing to goals or if you want to set a goal and write too, check out this page.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Miscellany

On this week's Miscellany I have great news. Jessica Verday has organized an e-anthology of short stories by the 2009 Debs. It will be available on Amazon, Kindle and Smashwords. The tentative release date is October 4, 2011.

Contributing authors are: Jessica Verday, Carrie Ryan, Rhonda Stapleton, Cyn Balog, Lauren Bjorkman, Leigh Brescia, Teri Hall, Stacey Jay, Janet Gurtler, Jenny Moss, Jackson Pearce, Kristina Springer, Charity Tahmaseb, Jon Skovron, Heidi Kling, Saundra Mitchell, Cheryl Herbsman, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Lara Zielin, Shani Petroff, Kurtis Scaletta, J.A. Yang, Jennifer Brown, Sydney Salter and me, C. Lee McKenzie.

Hope to have the cover to show you soon. 

More Miscellany is about this month's Stories for Children. They have a great May edition and I'm very fortunate to be there with a non-fiction piece called, Henry is a Tuatara. I always love appearing in this e-zine, and they've become a paying publication, so take a look at what they want for future editions. 

Now about that Stylish Blogger Award. Here are some very Stylish bloggers that I'd like to pass it on to.

As to telling you 7 things about ME that won't bore you into a stupor . . . 

I'd rather eat than sleep.
I'd rather hike than sit--so pity the writer in me, okay?
I love to write ghost stories almost as much as I love to read them.
If there's pickles and candy on the menu, I'll take the pickles.
I'm blonde, but don't tell anybody.
I'm short unless I'm in South East Asia, and then I'm just the right height.
I tend to be a recluse, but love a party with friends.

Whew! That's done. Now Stylish Blogger Award winners it's your turn.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ROW80 Sunday Check In

Yawns, then sips. 40, 000 words. Turning the half-way corner. Still have a few hours to meet my goal of 2,000 words this week.

Check out my fellow ROW80 writers to see where they are on the mountain. Sheri Larson, Susan Kaye Quinn and Margo Berendsen. To see who else is writing to goals or if you want to set a goal and write too, check out this page.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In the Throes of Thursday_Developing Scenes

It looks as if Blogger is back up, but it pulled this post from Thursday and all the comments with it. Sheesh! Guess I'll just keep this one up a while.
Here's what I've learned about building a scene.

Each scene must have

  • a goal
  • conflict
  • disaster
 I think of all the scenes in the book as stair steps to the end of the story where everything is resolved.

Here's an example of an early scene in Princess of Las Pulgas when Carlie has just had a scary encounter. In the following scene, she tries to tell her mom what happened without alarming her more than she usually is about Carlie's safety. In the end I bring the scene back to the even scarier move from her home to Las Pulgas.

GOAL: To pull Carlie back to the reality of her loss.
SET UP: I’m not getting out of telling her something about tonight. But what? If Mrs. Franklin calls to complain to Mom about what happened, she’ll hear a version of the story I probably won’t like. That would so be like that cranky vegan. Mom’s in a pretty mellow mood—playing her take-turns game. If I tell the Sean story, keep it light—  
“A really strange thing happened at the Franklins.” My laugh sounds forced, but she doesn’t tense up. I tell about Sean, the burglar, only I don’t use that word, choosing “suspected intruder,” “hidden safely,” and a “little nervous” to explain what happened. 
CONFLICT: “Carlie!” She lunges for my hand as if she's saving me from falling off a cliff. She’s been so protective of Keith and me that we can’t go outside to get the newspaper without her asking where we’re going. 
“I overreacted, Mom. Really. And it ended . . . fine. Sean—”
“I’m calling the Franklins. Don’t they have an alarm system?” 
“Yes, but I told you. It was a nephew who had a key. I just didn’t know. It wasn’t a big deal.”
She still hasn’t let go of my hand and now she grips it even more tightly. “It’s a big deal to me. If anything happened—”
“But nothing did. It was my imagination.” I want to say, “You have no idea how unimaginative this version is,” but instead I stroke the back of her hand. “Your turn.”
She rubs her forehead with both hands, taking her time before starting. I’ve seen her do this a lot as if she’s constructing interior dams to hold back a flash flood—sometimes tears, sometimes fear. Sometimes I think it’s anger. It's as if she'll be washed away if she doesn’t control every emotion as it rises inside her.
DISASTER: “I arranged for the moving company today.”
I’d almost forgotten about Las Pulgas. I come down from my Sean high so fast that I swear my ears pop. Now tonight’s scare is nothing compared to what the move on the fifteenth is going to be. 

The Princess of Las Pulgas, C. Lee McKenzie
WestSide Books, 2009

Here are some links you might find interesting about building scenes. Holly Lisle writes about each scene having 
  • a place
  • a time frame 
  • a change (I used the word DISASTER.)
In John August's post about writing scenes for screenwriters he includes great advice for novelists as well. Two of my favorites are:

  • start the scene as late into it as possible
  • brainstorm all the possible ways it could start
Next In the Throes of Thursday_Building Tension Into Your Story.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday ROW80 Check In

See this guy? I've hired him to scare me into doing what I said I'd do this week. He's done a fair job because I've written two blog posts and dumped 1700+ words onto my WIP. Will check today to see if all 1700+ are worth keeping.

Be sure to offer support to the other ROW80 writers out here. The links are below . . . scroll down and send your best to a few of them.

Here are some blog tips from Ink-Spells that are wonderful. Check out what Susan Kay Quinn says, bloggers and check out her ROW80 progress. Very impressive.

Noah Lukeman wrote: "There are not great writers, just great re-writers." And that's what Sheri Larson's blog post is about. Take a look at what she says AND see her amazing progress in meeting her ROW80 goals.

Margo Berendsen is another writer on fire. Loved her Ursula LeGuin quote too. It spoke to me. I loved Margo's idea about connecting 5 stories you'd like to write. Take a look at what she has to say.

Until Throes of Thursday when I'll talk about writing SCENES. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Miscellany

I'll be making a TV appearance on Bay Sunday Channel 5 in San Francisco area, May 22. They do archive their interviews on YouTube, so I can study my mistakes afterward. Oh dear. Send any and all tip you have for what to do or not do when facing a camera.

Here are more miscellany this Monday. I wish I could send the aroma that goes with them. The weather gods have looked down on the roses in my garden this year and said, "Let there be lots!"

The next important item is I actually met my ROW80 goal last week and managed to set a new one for this week. I think I may have gotten carried away, however. What was I thinking? 2000 words, blogs, life?

I think a new word counts as miscellany, don't you? Here's one I found and did not know. Can you guess what rhabdophobia* means? (If you give up, look below.) Now I'm wondering how can I work this into a conversation or write it into a novel? That's where I found it!

Birthdays this month include my son, my sister, my nephew and three friends. May is a happening month! Anyone here having a birthday? I'm full of best wishes, so tell me and I'll sing for you. No wait, click here and enjoy a special BIRTHDAY treat.

Oh, and last, but not least Tabitha Olsen sent me this: Now I have to find some Stylish Bloggers to forward the award to. Give me a few days and I'll be passing this lovely award on along with 7 things about myself. 

*rhabdophobia=fear of magic

I can't imagine being afraid of magic. It's all around us, ready to be appreciated. Like those roses, for example.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Check In ROW80

The woman, lap top in one hand, pants as she crests the mountain top! Made it! Then she looks ahead--another mountain? What will she do?

So as of this day I have 38,000 fairly decent to great words on my WIP. Next week I plan to add, er, I mean my goal is . . . no I WILL add 2,000 more words. 

I will prepare for more promotion for Princess of Las Pulgas: one TV appearance, one book signing,  two blog posts.


One more mountain! 

Check out my fellow ROW80 writers to see where they are on the mountain. Sheri Larson, Susan Kaye Quinn and Margo Berendsen. To see who else is climbing or if you want to climb too, check out this page.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In the Throes of Thursday--What I've Learned About Writing Novels_1

I probably have a century worth of posts on What I've Learned About Writing Novels. I came to this business of writing young adult novels as a writer of non-fiction--articles, newsletters etc.--and most were in my field of Linguistics and Intercultural Communication. And I came to this business accidentally. 

I've always loved to read stories, but writing hadn't occurred to me, then one day there I was creating something out of nothing except an idea I had. Suddenly I realized I really didn't know much about writing fiction, let alone doing it well.

Since that time I've read a lot about this craft. I've read in my category to see how it's different from adult fiction and I've written a lot of bad stories.  Yes. Really bad stuff. I'll save that for a future Throes of Thursday.

So now my stuff isn't as bad and that's because of this thing called learning. Today I'm focused on characters and how you can show your characters' social and cultural backgrounds.

So this is important, why?

Differences between classes, both social and cultural, create conflict. 

Conflict creates tension. 

Tension is what keeps readers turning those pages.

In other words, we need to be sure that our characters do not have an easy go of it while they're in our stories. But how do we characterize them so that when they come together, they clash because of their differences? How do we establish their personalities so that they are believable when they say or do something?

Let's start with the social class your characters come from. I know that sounds politically incorrect, but if your goal is political correctness, I'd forget about writing fiction. If you put people from the different social class together, there are tons of possible conflicts for the writer to capitalize on. Think Pygmalion or Street Car Named Desire.

Here are three areas that I use to create characters from different social classes. In these examples, I've tried to  give the people  something that suggests more complex personalities than just upper and lower class. Tell me if I succeeded.  Fingers crossed, here I go.

1. Physical Description: I'd seen her just before we got on the bus. Short and thick at the middle, her beret, a black plop of fabric, that sat angled over her forehead. When she took the seat next to me the air became thick with something eu de in the name--a K Mart bargain. I glanced at her as she opened her bag and took out a pair of nail clippers. I turned to the window and pressed against the side of the bus, listening to the plink of nail grooming. 

( I wanted to capture the stuffy observer and the woman next her who aspired to a classy look, the beret and the cologne, then proceeded with private grooming in a public place--not so classy.) 

2. Word choice, language usage: "So Charlie gives me this la de da crap about he don't do drugs no more. What's with that creep?"

(Unschooled or his grammar teacher failed. In my mind he's a street guy with friends who are also street guys. Now I have to let him meet a luscious, well-schooled, successful lawyer to fall for. Yum. I can see the sparks already.) 

3. Actions: Mable perched at the edge of the chair, crossed her legs at the knees, then smoothed her skirt and folded both hands on her lap.

(The word prim is all I can think of when I see Mable perched like that. Maybe she can meet the guy above. Another conflict. Another story.)

Now how about some cultural clash material, using the same three ways to characterize?

1. Physical Description: Jamal rolled his T-shirt sleeves just above the tattoo of the coiled black  snake, then splashed cold water on his face. He was sober enough to take on the Blancos.

(This turned out more like West Side Story than I wanted, but maybe with some twists and a different story line than Jamal meets Rebecca, I can turn this into something fresh.)

2. Word choice, language usage: Airi moved closer, his eyes intense. "I am very interesting." 
"Say what?"
"In what you did. I'm interesting in what you did." Didn't this girl hear well?

(The confusion between "interested" and "interesting" is, well, very interesting when you put a non-native speaker of English together with a native speaker. Maybe Airi will learn the difference between the words or maybe the native speaker will humiliate Airi because of his English. There are all kinds of things I can do with these two characters.)

3. Actions: (Space is a silent language in culture. In some cultures, standing close in casual conversations is comfortable. In North American it's not. Someone from South America and North American talking in a hallway, can travel the length of a hall while each tries to find that comfortable space for conversation. Read Edward T. Hall for more of these silent "mis-communication" opportunities.)
 Here I've used action, but I also combined dialog to establish the non-native speaker of English. All of these elements of characterization can and should work together.

Carla stepped back two steps.

Jose stepped in to close the gap. "Why do you always go back from me like this?" he asked. 

Carla shrugged. 

"Do I not smell good?" 

"No. Of course, not. I mean. You smell great."

(But I'll bet she continues to adjust the space between them to be comfortable and he will too. Will they be able to understand each other enough to develop a closer relationship? Will she unintentionally insult him so that he goes after another girl--her best friend? Uh oh.)

Here's something that Stina Lindenblatt posted last week about

The flawed character is the interesting character.
"We know character flaws are important for making our protagonist (and the other good guys) dimensional. If you’re stumped for ideas as to how to make your characters
flawed, check out Leslie Rose’s list to get you creative blood flowing. "

Yes, Leslie. Make them bullies. Make them liars. Make the reader hate/love/admire/cringe when those characters strut/creep through our stories.  And try doing it with physical description, word choice, and action

Hope you'll let me know if this has been helpful. Next Thursday I'll try to give some specific idea about scenes. Hope you'll join me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ROW80 Wednesday Check In & A to Z Reflection

I did it! 1000 words AND before my deadline. Onward. A lot of this has to do with my fellow ROWers, so check them out as you hop around the blogs. If you spur them on, you'll spur me on too.
Author SA Larson


Writing at High Altitude

Reflections on the A to Z Challenge 2011
I didn't get to participate in the A to Z Challenge this year, but I enjoyed watching from the sidelines. I met a lot of new bloggers, had some fun with those words and thoroughly enjoyed the Zebra Badge that everyone in the Challenge earned. Next year I'm there! 

Be sure to check out the bloggers (See Below) who joined in and went through the alphabet one letter at a time.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Miscellany

Writing. Writing. Writing. However, I did take a Miscellany break yesterday and lazed a bit in the garden--translation-- I worked my you-know-what off, but at the end of the day this was my reward.

I'd forgotten this clump of white iris, but there they were once I'd cleared the winter weeds. 
Just on the edge of garden these nutmeg scented purple and white iris burst into bloom. "Hey it's spring! Look at us." I think that's what they said, but they speak Iris, so I could be wrong. 
Euphorbia! They prefer to be green and greener and they grow where it suits them best. Plants seem to have a true sense of self. They know what they are and how they want to do things. They're much smarter than some people I know. They're definitely smarter than I am. 

Now here's a guy who has an issue with territory. Take a look at this greedy little tyrant. He'd be a great character in a story--sort of a winged Napoleon.

Be sure to visit In the Throes of Thursday when I start the series on what I've learned since I started writing. I'm starting with characterization. CU Thursday! Meantime . . . back to WRITING. I have 1,000 words to put into some meaningful order by next Sunday. Awk!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ROW80 Check In

YAY for ROW80. I made my goal this week: 500 good words! Now I know I have to stretch next week if this is really going to help me finish a draft, so I'm upping that word count to 1,000. Gulp. That's not much, except next week I have a few other things to do. I'll cut out sleep and see if that helps me get where I want to go.

As for my fellow ROW80 women of letters,  Sheri Larson, Margo Berendsen, and Susan Kaye Quinn, check in with them and see how they're doing.