Thursday, January 28, 2010

Telling With A Purpose

One of the many things I'm working on when while writing the latest, greatest revision of Product of an Illusion, is to make sure that I show and don't tell. It's a pretty easy concept to understand. But a harder concept to apply to one's writing, especially when trying to create a fictious world in which you feel you have to educate your reader on the constraints of the reality you have created. And no matter how much you try to show the reader, there are in fact some situations where you have to resort to telling. But, what situations justify telling?

Agent Kristen Nelson stated the following in a recent post:

"Only tell when it’s imperative to do so in order to move the story forward."

I read this statement somewhere around five in the morning, and it was a beacon of clarifying light. This statement alone helped me realize what telling needed to be cut out and what telling needed to remain in my manuscript. Something clicked in my brain. To many of you this may seem like common sense. But there was something about the way Kristen explained it in this one lone statment, that made it all fall into place for me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I think I'm an addict....

One of the lingering effects of the British occupation of India upon its current day culture, is the afternoon consumption of tea- or tea time as the British call it. My mom religiously drinks chai (a mixture of tea, milk, and sugar) every morning and afternoon. If she doesn't get her tea fix, she'll get a migraine. The chai that north Indians drink is not spiced like they serve at Starbuck's, but is more of the Lipton or PG Tips variety doused with a lot of milk. Growing up I observed my mother's tea affliction and I swore that I would not become an addict myself. But then came my aspirations to become a writer....

In order to focus on writing, I would often go to the Barnes & Noble cafe to write (yes, I was one of those). And since I was spending oodles amounts of time there, I always felt that I needed to buy something. I can't stand the bitter, disgusting taste of coffee, and frappucinos contain too much sugar, and espressos tastes like dirty socks, and not all the baristas know how to make a chai latte correctly (I swear it sometimes tastes like hot milk); so I'd buy a cup of hot tea as a way to "pay" for my time there. My favorites are White Peach Tea and Mint Tea.

And then when I started hanging/writing at Panera a good bit, I started drinking Panera's assortment of the Republic of Tea. My favorite was the Ginger Peach, but now I think my palate is changing its taste towards the Mango Ceylon.

And then when life gave me a swift kick in the arse and I started working more and sleeping less, I found that I needed tea whenever and where ever I wrote. I didn't just drink the tea for the caffeine, but the actual act of putting my hand around a mug and sipping something, helped keep me awake and sustain my stays in imagination land.

And now that I've take my zany schedule up to the next level, while I'm at work, in between my afternoon patients, I have the need to find a moment to drink a cup of  hot tea! I even pack a mug, equal packet, and a tea bag in my lunch everyday. I'VE TURNED INTO MY MOTHER!!

Sigh. I'm going to go have a cup of tea now.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sites Worth Mentioning

The more I blog, the more I realize that there are more blogging writers, agents, and peeps in the publishing industry than I can fathom. And I also realize that everyone has a different list of blogs that they find are of the just-can't miss-must read everyday variety. I also find that this must-read list tends to change with the seasons. But, here are some I am currently stalking:

Agent Blogs:
Agent Mary at Kidlit (She is quickly growing into my #1 fav to read. YOU MUST read her December posts on revision)
Agent Kristen at Pub Rants (She has sample query letters from her clients on right side bar AND she recently shared opening pages that led her to sign with a client)

Writer Blogs:
Kiersten Writes (She's funny and she has a book coming out September 2010)
There are a ton I can list here that range from peeps looking for representation to soon-to-be-published. But this is one blog I try not to miss.

Publishing Blogs:
Alan Rinzler (He doesn't post often. But when he does, it's full of juicy information)

Happy Writing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

They All Turn Gay...

Try as I may, the male characters I write often end up sounding gay. This homosexual tendency in my writing is something I actively combat. I think the problem stems from a couple different facets of my life:

1. Being part of the competitive figure skating world for 18 years exposes you to a lot of happy men. I'm not saying all male figure skaters are gay. I have some male friends that are phenomenal ice skaters and are very vocal about their sexual attraction to women.

2. Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend) believes that I have a broken gay-dar. If someone tells me they play for Yankees, then I'm going to believe that they play for the Yankees. I am very trusting of my friends, so I would never feel the need to suspect that they play for the Red Sox.

3. A close friend that I've known for over a decade, and have always viewed as a model heterosexual male (despite the fact that he likes Twilight and pedicures...stupid broken gay-dar), recently said that he now plays for the Red Sox. I support his decision completely and now see that he never really played for the Yankees. But it totally shattered the image I had painted in my mind of a model straight male. 

4. When I wrote my first novel, Vicky Covington used to help me edit and brainstorm my work. And she ALWAYS wanted me to make the male characters gay in Waggledance. A few years back she gave me an autographed copy of her first published book, Gathering Home. I've been busy and so I just started reading it a week ago. One of the characters in Gathering Home is named Aaron and he's gay. One of the characters in Waggledance is named Aaron....and perhaps due to the similarity in names she felt that he needed to be gay?

5. My Daddy (yes I still call him Daddy. laugh if you want. it doesn't bother me) is a pretty quite guy. Not really into sports, hunting, or home improvement- he offsets it with a passion for action movies. But Daddy really isn't a manly man.

So since my life experiences are working against me when it comes to the creation of straight male characters. I've had to come up with a list of Do's and Don't**:
1. Straight guys don't say fabulous
2. Straight guys don't vocalize if they're on Team Edward or Team Jacob.
3. When straight guys talk in YA lit it's usually direct and to the point. Less words are always better.
Mom: "How was dinner Tom?"
Straight Version of Tom: "Good."
Metro or Gay Version of Tom: "The potatoes looked a bit peaky but the chicken was fabulous."
4. Straight guys don't go shoe shopping to get over a bad break up.
5. Straight guys don't usually instigate drama.
6. The tempo of straight guy speech tends to be a bit slower than gay guy speech.
7. Straight guys don't usually like watching What Not To Wear
8. Gay men are typically vainer than straight men

Do you guys have any suggestions to add to the list?

* The list is not concrete and is no way an attempt to stereotype straight or gay men. It's just a checklist for myself to use when I'm writing a male character and his path starts to get a little crooked.
* I love gay and straight men equally.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Day Has Come- insert evil/scary music-

From the second I exited my mother's womb I looked upon this day, January 19, 2010, with fear and disdain. But now that I've had some time to prepare for the shock, I guess turning thirty really isn't that bad.

For the past month or so my moods have varied from in a funk with a chance of crankiness to thunderstorm of tears. I'm not upset that I'm getting older, but upset that I haven't accomplished everything that I had wanted to by the time I turned thirty. And when friends and family hear how disappointed I am in myself, their responses range from speechless to protests of "But, you're entrepreneurial" or "You're a doctor" or "You don't look thirty." But, I let these words fall on deaf ears.

But over the past few weeks, my amazing friends, family, and Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend) have worked hard to convince me that I'm not a failure and that the glass is half full rather than half empty (thank you Uncle in Hotlanta). And that I still have 12 months of being thirty to accomplish the things that I would like to (in terms of the personal goals I set upon myself). I just have to give myself an extension. The mortgage company would do it if you needed a few days to make a payment, so why shouldn't I be a bit lenient on myself?

PLUS, some fabulous things happened today despite of turning 30:
1. Another beautiful day of spring like weather
2. Had an awesome skating day. I landed axel, double toe loop, double salchow, double loop, double lutz, and a double flip on one foot that I fell over on. Did all my spins ranging from flying camel to layback. I would have never dreamed that I would be able to do these things at this age. So that's something to be thankful for. And hopefully I'll still be able to do these things on my fortieth birthday.
3. Had wonderful lunch with skating coach
4. Had a productive writing day where my protagonist met her blazing hot Italian love interest

So thanks for joining in. And I promise future posts will be less of a personal nature and more focused on writing, reading, etc...
Stay Strong, Stay Wise, Just Do It!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Perfect Day

There was no alarm clock to wake up to this morning. I didn't have to get to the skating rink by any specific time. Nor did I have to be anywhere in the afternoon. Bliss.

I spent the late morning/ early afternoon writing outdoors. It was unusually warm today and the sun beat on my back as I wrote. I sipped on Mango Ceylon and Orange Ginger Mint Tea. Both delish.

Then after a few hours of productive writing I decided I was tired and I returned home and took a two hour nap in the sun. Sasha kitty snuggled up to me. More Bliss. After napping I got in another hour of productive writing and then it was time to hit the blogs.

Is this what life is like for published authors? Perhaps, for the very successful. But, I've heard that a lot of authors, especially when starting out, keep their day jobs. Being published isn't the golden ticket to care free days of writing, naps, and an assortment of fruity teas. Not trying to be a kill joy. It's just the truth. Happy Writing!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

You could be the NEXT Published Author!

Its the start of another season of American Idol. Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend) hates watching the show. But, I know there are a ton of people out there who love it. I suppose people enjoy watching American Idol because they want to see who the next greatest singing sensation will be. Others watch it because they think Simon is hot and they swoon over his smart ass comments. Others just want to check out Randy's latest glasses, Kara's perfect cheek bones, or Paula's ditsy comments. Unfortunately, 2010 will not have any Paula-isms as she is being replaced by Ellen DeGeneres. Now, that will be interesting.

I like watching American Idol because it reminds me of two things:
1. To never stop dreaming.
2. To not be self deluded.

If Kris Allen or David Cook or Daughtry had given up on their dreams of singing. They would still be doing their day jobs. But they had the nerve to put it out there, refine their craft, and refused to give up.

When I see other people achieve their dreams, I can't help but cry tears of happiness. Because I know what it's like to have a dream and I commend anyone out there who is brave enough to even have a dream. And I commend you even more if you're putting your self out there in the trenches and working towards making that dream a reality.

And now the self delusion part....
It surprises me every year how many people out there actually believe that they can sing. Some of the self-deluded have trained with a voice coach and publicly performed, while others think they innately have what it takes to be a star. No practice needed. But then when Simon says their voice is worse than the dying warble of aged rooster, the self deluded become angry and rude. Each time I see a contestant act this way, words like immature and ungrateful echo in my head. When an industry profeessional tells you that you need practice or should consider a different career, the self-deluded contestant will often lash out rather than learn from the experience.

The same goes for writers. Just because I blog. And just because I've written a novel or two doesn't mean that I have what it takes to be a published writer. I know I've got a long road ahead of me and I'm willing to learn and work hard. But at the same time, I'm not deluded into thinking that I'm the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyers either. But, there are people out there that think their writing is hotter than habanero. They believe they have what it takes. And they don't have the goods to back it up. I'm not one to judge any writer's ability. But I will judge you if you rant and rave over constructive criticism or cry woe is me all the time because the agent's dont understand that you're the greatest literary find in all of history. I haven't encountered this at all in the blogging community, but I have crossed a deluded writer or two in person.

So, yeah, I watch American Idol because I like watching other people reach for their dreams. And when Ryan Seacrest comes on the air, my mind dubbs over the words he's actually saying: Hey! You sitting on the coach! You could be the next Published Author!

Friday, January 15, 2010


I am one hour from embarking on four glorious days off. I have been looking forward to these four days since the end of November because tomorrow is the day that I will officially start writing again. I have had plenty of time to mull over my agent reviews, brainstorm, do character development exercises, and listen to the recommendations of my wonderful blog followers. Product of an Illusion, the greatest version/revision yet, here I come!

Wish me luck. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and happy writing.
And of course, stay strong, stay wise, and just do it. Love you guys!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Toxic Crusaders

When I was in middle school my friends and I weren't part of the super cool clique but we weren't on the math team either. We were just a handful of kids in advanced art class and on literary staff. We liked drawing and writing stories. Those were the days. And as a way, I suppose, to solidify our place in the social hierarchy of Whitesburg Middle School we founded a group called the toxic crusaders.

There were three founding fathers. Doesn't every legit organization need founding fathers? And no matter that two of them were girls. I was the first founding father and was dubbed A-52. My friend Megan was M-45 and the last founding father, the only legitimate boy, Alan was named A-257. In addition to the founding fathers, there was also a surgeon general and one other position that I can't remember. But I think we just gave her a position because she was a year older and cool. Our motto, which we still use at times when signing off emails, was:

Stay Strong.
Stay Wise.
Just Do It.

Yes, I know this is a bit plagiaristic of Michael Jordan. But, alas, we were in seventh grade.

The purpose of the toxic crusaders was to label people as toxic, infiltrate the cliques of the toxic ones (whilst wearing our invisible toxic waste suits), and then if we deemed them worthy (aka nice people),  then we removed their label of toxicity. We never made fun or played pranks on anyone. It was just that anyone we didn't know or that wasn't outright friendly, was immediately labeled as toxic. And then the infiltration and investigation would commence. I guess it was kind of like you're guilty until proven innocent. There were no formal procedure or guidelines. It was just fun to be part of a faction or a group. We even created playlists on cassette tapes (yes I believe CDs were just coming out back then) and produced volumes of Untoxic Music which we then shared with each other.

Interestingly enough, M-45 ended up marrying someone who at first we thought was highly toxic. And most of my other good friends throughout eight grade and high school were people we had initially deemed as toxic.

And of course this memory of the toxic crusaders reminded me something about writing. At the end of Harry Potter didn't the Malfoys change a bit in their ways? Didn't the werewolves and the vampires eventually end up fighting side by side in Twilight? And so it made me realize that I'm personally drawn to stories where people who seem to be at complete odds somehow end up being friends. Thoughts?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gossip Time....Graceling

Graceling, written by Kristin Cashore, has been an excellent listen during my car rides into work. I've frequently glanced at the cover during my many Barnes and Noble visits, and each time I would tell myself, I should read that.

Graceling is a bit like Eragon, except the protagonist is a teenage female graced with the skills of deadly fighting. And there is no dragon. It's a bit like Tolkien's works, with a detailed, believable new land full of adventure, sprawling kingdoms, and landscapes.

Cashore's writing style is fluent, descriptive, and yet simple. She is very to the point and every word in her text belongs.

In the world Cashore creates there are people who are born with graces. A grace is an extraordinary ability, such as mind reading, predicting the weather, or the efficient ability to kill, as is with the main character Katsa. A person who is graced is marked by having two different color irises. And it's interesting to see how gracelings are treated in each of the seven different kingdoms.

Reading Graceling helped me with aspects of my own book. My novel, Product of an Illusion, (which is currently under revision) deals with a race of people with superhuman abilities. It was so cool seeing how Cashore built around this concept and constructed her plot and cast of characters. Secondly, it was very helpful to read a book written with an omniscient narrator since I will be writing this revision of Product of an Illusion with this type of point of view.

Since I was astounded by this book I did a little research about Kristen Cashore and discovered that she has a blog, This is My Secret, with a wealth of information. She's just someone with a life long passion of reading, who got a degree in children literature, and likes to spend most of her time in imagination land and writing.

I highly recommend this book. And just so you know, I was not paid to write this gossip time or will I receive any sort of kick back if you purchase this book. Happy reading and writing folks!

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Crazy in Them Thar Hills

Needless to say, if you live in the south, you'll admit that things are a bit crazy around here. There's this white, fluffy stuff floating in the air. Is that red neck dandruff? Cause when it hits the ground it doesn't really stick. And the schools were pre emptively closed yesterday- due to the bad weather. School closings for Thursday were announced Wednesday afternoon before a single flake had hit the ground.

Honestly, schools weren't closed Thursday because the weather was THAT bad (at least not in Birmingham). They were closed because Thursday was the BCS Game. The National Champshionship game. THE GAME for Alabama Fans. I'm not a huge college football fan but I do understand that Alabama playing in the National Championship game is nothing short of earth shattering and monumental. It belongs up there with walking on the moon and the invention of penicillin. In fact, sources tell me, there was a line about a quarter mile long outside of Academy Sports around midnight last night just so people could get their locker room championship t-shirts and hats. It was colder than Voldemort's heart last night! But, alas, one can't be a true Alabama fan without the most up to date Alabama regalia. And one must remember these were sanctum sanctorum t-shirts and hats.
Ok. Ok. I kid. I kid.

Seriously, I am happy that Alabama won (because I wouldn't want to see what a losing hangover looks like) and also because of the fact that my work didn't open until noon today because of the....uh...snow. Yeah.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Battling with indecision.... Opinions please!

As many of you know, I'm working on outlining the latest, greatest, final revision of my novel Product of an Illusion. And since this is going to be THE VERSION, I'm giving more thought than usual to a lot of aspects of the plot and character. There is one aspect in particular that I'm indecisive on, and it's a pretty big one, so I thought I would ask your opinions.

Let me first briefly describe the concept:
There is a teenage girl who can teleport. Her mom is a time traveller (but daughter doesn't know it). And this teenager girl will fall for a super human Italian heart throb. The problem is that the heart throb's uncle is the leader of a faction of super human people that are harvesting DNA from other superhuman people to create an army of ULTIMATE super humans to take over the world.

So that's it in a nutshell. The choice to make is this:

1. Should the book open with the teenage girl already aware of her teleporting abilities? And the conflict is between her and her mom. Her mom is very over protective and has led her to believe that she is the only one who is different (aka super human). But teenage girl wants to go explore the world, find others like her, and use her teleportation abilities to help people. Mom believes it is best for her to keep her abilities secret and that it is not safe to go flitting about the world randomly popping in and out of places. Of course the teenager will rebel and will then have to face the consequence of her actions.


2. Should the book open where the teenage girl lives a fairly normal life, well as normal as you can when your mom is a secret time traveller. And the book opens with her discovering her teleportation abilities which then leads to the discovery of the super human factions, super human hot guy, etc.. etc... And then learning what her role is and taking action.

I've read books that successfully do choice one or two. In Wings, by Aprilynne Pike, the main character Laurel discovers what she is. I think she figures things out by like page 24. Or another example- Harry Potter- the book opens with Harry thinking he is just a normal boy. But, then on the other hand, in Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, the book opens with Katsa very aware of her extraordinary abilities as a killer. Her abilities are full developed and the conflict is built upon this.

What do you guys think?

Monday, January 4, 2010

An ode to 2010

Oh, 2010
Sarcastically Delicious hates CNN
And I fear that when I write I am only a person who pretends
Yet, time and again, I have feared you 2010
For you symbolize the coming of age and make me feel like an old mud hen,
But regardless of what you may mean 2010
This is my vow and I will stand by it throught thick and thin

First, I will outline the revision of my book
I promise four chapters, outlined, a week, detailed and plotted from cranny to nook
Then a daily word goal will be under took
Two hundred to five hundred words per day should be fair
For I do not want to pull out my hair
And if time allows, I will write more
By June 2010 I shall share the manuscript with beta readers galore
July and August I will edit
And I shall not to forget to give my supporters credit
And then will come September
I will send out queries that no agent will fail to remember
In October I will eat lots of candy
I'll be celebrating or commiserating, either will be dandy

There you have it 2010
I won't let you beat me down as if I'm an arthritic wren
I will write and write, over again

Go ahead and mock me 2010 with those two big despicable numbers Three and Zero
I'll make this the best year yet- we'll see who'll be the HERO!