Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't Lose the Magic

When I was a little girl there was nothing I loved more than curling up on the couch with a good book. And when I wasn't reading, I'd literally spend hours just daydreaming my own fantastic tales that usually involved a hero suspiciously like me sucked into various fantasy worlds of my own making. I wrote my first short story at the age of seven. It wasn't like I had a horrible childhood I needed to escape from or anything. It just plain made me happy.

So it doesn't seem all that surprising that I ended up coming full circle. I suppose looking at it, becoming a writer was inevitable. Of course now that I have claimed it as a profession I do/have done more than just write. I also blog and tweet (what some call a social media platform), query and submit, critique and accept critique, attend conferences and workshops, and so on. 

I don't often talk about the negative sides of writing. I get it though. Sometimes writing gets hard. It's a long, stumbly kind of road sometimes - okay most of the time. There are *gasp* inevitable rejections. And despite the overwhelmingly positive attitude of this community, I know that psychologically those hurtful moments, even few and far between, stick to us in a way a million compliments never could. 

The seven year old me wouldn't understand any of that of course. And that's my point. I write because I love that magical feeling. The same one that I had when I used to imagine the day away. I write in the hopes that I will touch someone else's life the way those authors touched mine. And ultimately that's what matters, that's why I do it, and that's why I will continue. 

So friends, if you find yourself getting down for one reason or another, remind yourself why you did this to begin with. And then ask yourself if your life would be the same without it. If like me, the answer is a big fat "NO!" then don't quit. Keep doing it. Because the negative will pass. But the magic will always be there waiting.
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Monday, July 25, 2011

What About the Mummy? Where Are the Parents in YA?

We tend to ignore characters if they make things difficult for us. We see so many vampires and werewolves because they're much sexier than mummies. We avoid the parents because we want to put our MC in danger. We're all aware of the trope - the teen MC with dead or otherwise incapacitated parents, or the uninvolved, either selfish or simply ignorant mother/father. I'm talking YA, but the truth is this is even harder to deal with in MG because of the level of independence a 12 year old has when compared to a 16 year old. 

So what do we do? How do we cope? We know we can't rush to the rescue, so we need some way to keep the parents out of the way. Right? Not always. Here are three possibilities that may make the characters more complex:
  1. The parent is part of the story in an integral and positive way. Sometimes they can play the role of guide or support. Yes, the MC needs to solve the problem herself. But we allow her friends and love interests, so why not adult interaction? Don't be afraid to give it a try, you might be surprised with what you find.
  2. The parent has an agenda of his/her own that whether well intentioned or not, is in some way at odds with that of the MC. So they may be around, offer guidance even, but it may not be what the MC really needs.
  3. The missing (whether physically or mentally) parent. I'm absolutely guilty of ditching the parents in my own work. I admit it. Sometimes it's just plain necessary. But (and here's the key I think) I TRY to make it a genuine part of the story - not just a convenience. It's important to me to make the pieces connect back to the larger puzzle. Sometimes I strike out, and I have to work even harder, but it's a worthy goal so I strive to meet it.
What other inventive ways can we involve the parents in the story?
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

How To Leave 'Em Wanting More! The Wonderful World of Potter

It's my turn in the Harry Potter Blogfest, folks! And I'm excited. I LOVE Harry and the entire world that JKR created. I wish there were more to come. But, like the poster says, the books and movies are ending. There's Pottermore (thank goodness say many people) now, but WOW if JK were to write another novel...

Why is that? Why do we yearn for MORE Potter? Why can't we stop talking about it? What's the difference between say, Harry Potter and Twilight? (Yeah I went there) The Twilight phenomenon is waning. I'm sure the last movies will do very well, but if you ask older teens now they will by and large roll their eyes. WHY? I'd sure like the secret to lasting success, wouldn't you? Here are a few observations about what forces may be at work:
  • The rich worldbuilding. If I say "Hogwarts" or "Muggle" do you know what I'm talking about? Most likely YES. Do you know that the "wand chooses the wizard?" and wonder what type of wand would choose you? If you are young enough - did you wait for an owl before your eleventh birthday? Stretching it? I don't think so. We love to pretend. JKR built such an intricate and fantastic world within our own that we can't help but feel it exists. We devour every detail both large and small. We soak up everything from Harry's favorite dessert (Treacle Tart) to the contents of Tom Riddle's trophy box when Dumbledore found him at the orphanage (a silver thimble, a tarnished mouth organ, and a yo-yo). 
    • The supporting cast. It isn't JUST Harry that we love, is it? It's Hermione's insufferable intelligence, Ron's desire to be the best at something, Neville's ineptitude, and Doby's loyalty. Even Snape's sneer. Peel back another layer and we have people like Professor Trelawny and her ridiculous portents of death, Victor Krum and his duck-footed walk, and even Crabb and Goyle with their brute strength and utter stupidity. Actors say, the size of the part doesn't matter, it's how well you play it. Even characters barely mentioned are crystal clear in our minds. We GET them. We feel like we know them all.
    • A truly great story and hero will live in our hearts forever. How do you NOT love Harry? The little orphaned boy who only wanted to live a normal childhood but was thrust into danger at every turn? The boy who lived. The boy who TRIUMPHED over everything despite being a normal kid. (well okay, normal besides the wizard thing) Daniel Radcliffe said at the premiere of the final film: "I don't think the end of the story happens tonight because each and every person who will see this film will carry this story with them through the rest of their lives."
    I think the key here is that JKR not only succeeded in plot, character, and world building. It's that she EXCEEDED all aspects. She went above and beyond, not just in one area imperative to writing well, but in all the major areas. Adverbial dialogue tags? Pfft. Who cares when we have Harry and Hogwarts, and He Who Must Not Be Named?

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Something Potter This Way Comes!

    Have I got a surprise for you!! This week I'm joining seven other fabulous bloggers who can't get enough Harry. Figuring that most of you feel the same, we've created #PotterChat, complete with blogfest, scavenger hunt contest with fabulous prizes, AND interactive twitter chats ALL WEEK LONG! Here are the detes: 

    Can't let go of the excitement of seeing Deathly Hallows Part 2? On pins and needles until the opening of Pottermore and hoping you'll be one of the lucky early entries?

    Then join our #PotterChat every day this week for fantastic blogging and Tweeting on all things Potter! Each day, some of our lovely and extremely interesting bloggers will bring you a new post on Potter sure to help quench your craving for that golden Harry Polyjuice. Then, at special designated times on Twitter, join us for a #PotterChat, where you can discuss live with the bloggers and other fans all things Potter -- your review of the movie, your expectations for Pottermore, whatever.

    But BEST OF ALL -- is the PotterChat Scavenger Hunt. Follow the clues from one blog to another and collect the Q&A answers. When all answers have been revealed, e-mail the answers with the name of the blog they were found on to First correct entry gets first choice of prizes, second entry gets second choice, and so on.

    Here are our fabulous Bloggers with links to their blog and Twitter:


    PotterChat Announcement!

    Writability by Avalon Jaedra on Top Five Favorite Harry Potter Moments (9:30 a.m. Eastern)


    Jami Gold, Paranormal Author by Jami Gold on Harry Potter and Beyond: What Inspires You to Write? (8:30 a.m. Eastern)

    Bekah Snow's blog by Bekah Snow on Heroes Worth the Read: Ways to Make Your Characters Jump into Readers' Hearts (7 a.m. Eastern)


    Alivia Anders; Musings of a Microwaving Burrito Enthusiast by Alivia Anders on Why We Still Feel Sympathy for the Bad Guys

    Kiki Hamilton, Author, by Kiki Hamilton on The Magic of Harry Potter: People, Places and Things (10 a.m. Eastern)


    Paranormal Point of View by Lisa Gail Green on How To Leave 'Em Wanting More! The Wonderful World of Potter (7 a.m. Eastern)

    Lyn Midnight: Against the Odds, by Lyn Midnight on The Boy Who'll Live Forever... in Fan Fiction (9 AM Eastern)


    HarryPotterforWriters by S.P. Sipal on Coming Home to Theme (9 a.m. Eastern)

    Final Round-up and Prize Winners

    Here's the schedule for our one-hour #PotterChats on Twitter each day. We've tried scheduling for various time zones. Simply follow the owl...I mean the hashtag!  :-)

    • Monday: 9 pm Eastern
    • Tuesday: 4 pm Eastern
    • Wednesday: 11 am Eastern
    • Thursday: 9 pm Eastern
    • Friday: 5 pm Eastern (where we'll reveal the prize winners!)

    Scavenger Hunt Prizes:

    Scavenger Hunt List of Clues:
    Here are the clues that you will have to follow and find throughout the week. Once you have visited all 8 blogs and found ALL 8 clues, please e-mail your list of answers and which blog they were found on to

    Please note: You cannot submit your entry until 9 a.m. Eastern on Friday, when all 8 answers have been revealed on the blogs!
    1. In Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone, when Professor McGonagall introduces Harry to Oliver Wood saying that she's found him a Seeker, she also notes that Harry caught the Remembrall in a dive that even who could not have done?
    2. In Chamber of Secrets, who helped get Harry out of trouble in Filch's office by persuading Peeves to crash the vanishing cabinet on the floor above?
    3. In Prisoner of Azkaban, what shape did Dean's Boggart take?
    4. In Goblet of Fire, what does Dobby reveal to be his pay per week for working at Hogwarts?
    5. In Order of the Phoenix, the Weasley twins planted this outside of Umbridge's office before leaving Hogwarts.
    6. In Half-Blood Prince, during Dumbledore's visit to Tom Riddle's orphanage, he instructs Tom to empty items out of his box in his wardrobe.  Name one of the three items mentioned.
    7. In Deathly Hallows, this gift was the end of Peter Pettigrew.
    8. In Deathly Hallows, on the radio show Potterwatch!, although he wanted to be called "Rapier," Lee Jordon initially introduced one of the Weasley twins as... (this name).

      Thanks for visiting and for playing! We look forward to a wonderful week with lots of fun!
      photo credit Pretty interesting post for HP fans. Creepy though!

      Thursday, July 14, 2011

      Resist the Rescue!

      We know how important it is to make our characters realistic. We spend a lot of time with them, get inside their heads, and well - love them. So it stands to reason we feel a little maternal (or paternal) toward them. Protective. We wouldn't hurt our children, so how can we possibly hurt our characters?

      It's for their own good. You know it. Putting them through the absolute worst situations you can imagine not only makes for good story telling, it is often the catalyst for the change necessary for them to grow. 

      Okay, you agree? Good, except that making mistakes isn't enough. Having bad things happen isn't enough. It's DEALING with it that makes the character and the story rich.  You might think you've put your MC in danger, tortured her, etc. When in truth you've sent in a "rescuer" to prevent her from actually suffering. Do any of these sound familiar?

      • The love interest swoops in and saves the day. Enter Edward Cullen - maybe we should deem this the "Edward Interference"? My but the MC had a fright! It's a good thing our mysterious, brooding hero who may or may not be immortal was around to save the day. No! No! No! None of that please. What kind of character arc does your MC have if Mr. Macho is always preventing things form happening?
      • It was all a misunderstanding. *shakes head* Life isn't fair. If the MC gets to let it roll off her back and skip through the sunshine and rose petals it won't make for a very good story. Trust me. No coincidences. No "but it really wasn't what she thought so no harm done" situations please!
      • Something bad happens, but it's immediately remedied. Okay I hurt her - quick where's the bandage? Tension friends. Let the ramifications sink in. Let 'em wallow in it. Don't stick her in quicksand when there's a strong, handy branch waiting inches away. Where's the character building there? Where's the excitement for the reader? Draw it out. 
      It all comes down to the same thing. LET THE MC SUFFER. 

      Monday, July 11, 2011

      Should We Write To Trends?

      Write what you love.

      I know! I know! Markets and trends and audience appeal, oh my. Yes, it’s important to know your market. But how do you do that? You read in your genre. Do I read YA? You betcha! Do I read paranormal and fantasy? I eat it for breakfast. Combine the two and you’ve got me hooked. I just got back from vacation. What did I take to read by the poolside? CLARITY by Kim Harrington. My genre. I LOVED it! And I learned from it.

      The point is, I didn’t climb on the dystopian bandwagon just because I loved Hunger Games. I’ve read quite a few, but it isn’t what excites me (writing wise) overall. It isn’t the thing that keeps me up at night with ideas. It isn’t the thing that makes me itch to get home and write when I’m running errands, or even out to dinner. Without that excitement, my work will be missing a spark. And that spark is necessary. It is VITAL.

      But paranormal is dying you say? I say, everything has a market. Everything comes back around. What I write today won’t be published for at least two years, so who knows what will be “hot” then? I have to be aware of these things, but honestly as long as I keep it original, I’m not as concerned as you might think. I write what I’d want to read, which I hope is something others will want to read as well.

      Would I write something else? Sure! But I guarantee it'll be something that get's me just as excited.

      Which brings us back to my point. You have to write what you love. Because in the end, isn’t that why you started doing this in the first place?

      Psst! Did you guys see my guest post on the amazing Julie Musil's blog? She's running a contest so check it out!

      Thursday, July 7, 2011

      Writing Can Turn You Into a Monster

      We go through so many phases when writing a book. I like to think we turn into several different creatures along the way. Let me illustrate...

      1. The Superhero. Yes we start out with soaring aspirations. We're sure this is it! This is the idea that's going to save the world! So many possibilities are laid out in front of us, it's like we can see a million different roads leading out from the core idea that sparked our interest in the first place. In this beginning stage (whether it be planning or just diving in) we feel invincible. 
      2. The Willow the Wisp. The willow the wisp (for those that don't know) is responsible for leading wary travelers astray, sometimes ending in drowning them. In this case, it means the murky middle. We've gotten into the story, we have an idea of where it should end up, but we feel like we're trudging through the swamp trying to get there. Have we led the story astray? We hope not.
      3. The Zombie. We can't see straight. We can't think straight either. We're so engrossed in the book that we put our pants on backwards. Hopefully this is an exaggeration. Maybe not.
      4. The Pixie. We've done it! We've made it through the first draft! Now we're full of energy, feeling like celebrating. Do pixie's eat chocolate? If they're writer pixies - you bet they do!
      5. The Werewolf. Revision. For the most part you are ready. You feel you can handle it. But then you have those moments - perhaps when the moon is full? - where you turn into an irrational beast. You want to tear the manuscript apart (so it's a good thing we mostly use computers now). The best thing to do is understand that you will get through this, and get rid of some of that negative energy in a positive way, like running/exercise. Preferably not by biting anyone.
      6. The Unicorn. Critiquers and beta readers have their say. We feel like a hunted beast - a dying breed. Well, hopefully not. Hopefully we ignore that sense of vulnerability enough to take the bullet. After all, bullets can't really kill unicorns. In the case of this metaphor they only make them stronger. 
      7. The Vampire. We've finished! We're ready to query or submit. We are hungry for positive responses, but know we will face much rejection, so we have to be tough. So tough that we keep our eye on the prize, and remain strong, clever, and stealthy. Okay, I just like that word. Stealthy. But you get the idea.
      So how'd I do? Did I miss a monster? 

      Monday, July 4, 2011

      When Your Character Doesn't Act Like Herself

      First of all - the winner of ORIGINAL SIN is Tanya Spencer! Congrats. 

      Check out my guest post on Harry Potter for Writers!

      Now, I have a question for you. Do you always behave the same? Are you the same person when you are home lounging around on your own as when you're out on a date or at a company party? Are you the same person around your friends on a Saturday night as with your kids? I doubt it. 

      Neither is your MC.

      Staying true to character is vital to a successful book. Sure your character can surprise you and the reader, but always within the confines of who they are. And they, like us, become different people based on who they are with. Do you have romance in your story? Well if you do, and most of us do to some level, you have to be aware that when your two characters collide they become something new. 

      The wonderful Sarah Fine had a post on the space between characters. To me this is what that means. I studied social psych for a bit, and it is fascinating the way people will change depending on who they are with and what they are doing. 

      So how do we USE this info in our writing?

      1. Compare scenes. Take a scene where your MC is alone and compare it to one where she is with her love interest. What is her behavior like? Is it different? Have her goals changed at all? Her approach to those goals? 
      2. Relate those differences to the overarching character arc. What changes in your MC by the end of the story? Are those qualities effected by her interaction with others? How so? Perhaps they prompt a positive change. OR perhaps they make it that much more difficult for your MC. Remember - you can't protect her, you have to let her suffer. 
      3. It's a great way to show depth. You want to SHOW (not talk about) different sides to your character. Putting her in varied situations with different people or on her own can accomplish this. 
      What are some other ways this can alter your writing? Good or bad?

      photo credit