Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Witch Ways and Witch Winter


And read the first chapter of Witch Winter,book two of the Witch Ways Series, now. (It should be available on August 11, Witch Ways release day.)

WITCH WINTER
It’s not the monsters beneath the bed, or the ones lurking in dank and shady basements, or even those living behind bars in our prisons that frighten us the most. The real monsters, the ones we are too afraid to face, live inside us. We listen to them. We let them bend our decisions. We call them common sense, and wisdom, or prudence. But really, they are just fears. They are our monsters, these creatures of our own design, constructed out of our hurts, wounds, and insecurities. They hold us back. They become our excuse, our justification, our rationalization. And we embrace them.
But what would happen if we allowed these monsters to take shape and form? Could we beat them and restrain them with the same strength they use on us? What if we gave them a voice, a voice loud and strong enough to battle our wits? Most of us never take that chance.
But I did. And I thought I had won. I faced the monster, confronted my fear, and sent him back into the chasm of hell.
Only to find I’d made a terrible mistake.




CHAPTER ONE
The creature stared at me with his unblinking yellow eyes, watching my every move, as if he knew what I had in mind. I turned my back to him, grateful for the bars that separated us.
“I don’t think he has eyelids,” I said.
“Mmm,” Bree muttered, staying focused on the computer monitor. “Any luck?”
“No. You?”
Moonlight streamed through the windows, illuminating the piles of papers on Uncle Mitch’s desk. I didn’t dare turn on any lights, knowing that Uncle Mitch was across the street at Janette’s house and that he wouldn’t like me poking around his lab.
“Maybe we should just go online to see if we can find the experiment ourselves,” Bree said, sending me a quick glance over her shoulder. “Didn’t he say that he based it on of some university’s study?”
I set down a pile of papers. “Yeah, but we know his worked.”
Bree grinned. “No, we don’t. Remember the love potion?” The light from the computer screen cast a green palor on the angles and planes of her face.
I turned away, shivering, my attention landing back on the creature staring at us.
Bree followed my line of sight. “It’s a guinea pig. It can’t hurt you.”
“It’s creepy.”
“No, the fact that your uncle used a recipe to make Janette fall for him is creepy.” Bree scrolled down a page on the screen. “I mean, I love your uncle, but it’s just so not like him.”
“I know. That’s what makes it interesting, right? Usually, he’d say it’s all hokum.” I turned my back on the guinea pig. “That’s why it would make such a killer article for the newspaper.”
“Even though he specifically told you not to use it.”
“No, what he said was,” I dropped my voice an octave to imitate Uncle Mitch’s professor voice, “‘It would be dangerous and irresponsible to introduce it to impressionable youths in the throes of puberty’.”
“Like fireworks.”
“Exactly. And who doesn’t love fireworks?”
But fireworks were exactly why I’d been expelled from Hartly, the school I had attended since kindergarten. Not that I had intentionally set fire to the science lab a few months ago. An itch crept up my neck. I didn’t want to be expelled from Faith Despaign Academy as well.
But I did want to make the high school newspaper, and the only way to do that was to write a great article. A wave of discouragement washed over me, because I knew that even if I wrote a great feature article on how to make anyone fall in love with you, it couldn’t match the news article I’d written about the Thornhill Thespians’ murders. “I’ll never find a story like that again.”
“I know. There’s been one murder in Woodinville in about a hundred years and you discovered it.” Bree paused. “It’s lame your advisor won’t let you use it.”
I swallowed hard. “That’s why I need a story that will create buzz.” I paused and used my fingers to make air quotes. “’And doesn’t even hint at witchcraft’.”
“But what did Lauren’s murder have to do with the witch’s coven?”
“She was a witch.”
“Huh.” Bree leaned back in her chair, clearly surprised. “Well, she wasn’t a very good one.”
“Why do you say that?”
“If she could use magic, why didn’t she try to make her life better? I mean, why wear an orange parka every day and live in a hovel if you don’t have to?”
“Maybe she was happy with her life. Maybe she was okay with the orange parka and her house on Old Barn Road.”
“Maybe…” Bree sounded skeptical. “If I was a witch, I’d at least get a nice coat.”
I didn’t tell Bree that there was a lot more to being a witch than choosing what to wear. Not that I really had any idea. I only had a tickle brewing in the back of my head, and I pretty much tried to ignore it. I disliked being tickled, even by ideas.
“Hey,” Bree said, leaning closer to the monitor. “This is pretty good.”
I peeked over her shoulder at the screen. How to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You, the banner read.
Bree squinted as she read. “It’s not all sciency like your uncle’s experiment probably would be, but it’s not too Cosmo Girl either.”
I scanned the article, liking what I read. “It’s not as if teenagers don’t fall in love every day, if not every second.’”
I pulled out my phone and copied the URL onto my browser, tucking my phone back into my pocket after I got the link pulled up. “But you won’t try it on Dylan, right?” Bree had been my best friend since my dad and I had moved next door after my parents’ divorce eight years ago, but last month Dylan Fox had interfered with that. Mostly because Dylan liked me and Bree liked Dylan. We were past that now. Sisters before misters…mostly.
“Yes…” Bree puffed out an exaggerated sigh, as if I’d asked her to give up shopping for Lent. “Even though I think it’s dumb.” Bree switched off the computer and pulled herself out of Uncle Mitch’s office chair. “I mean, if you don’t like him, why shouldn’t he fall for me?” She squinted at me through suspicious eyes and pushed her red curls off her forehead. “You don’t like him, right?”
Josh, Bree’s older brother, flashed in my head, with his dark hair, even darker eyes, and football-hard muscles. He was nothing like his wispy, fair-skinned, red-headed sister. With my pale hair and complexion, I looked more like a Henderson than Josh. I told myself that we were talking about Dylan, not Josh, and I shook his image away. Bree would make my life hell if she knew I thought of her brother like that.
Like what? I couldn’t answer that question. Besides being Bree’s brother, Josh was also Dylan’s best friend, and that just made everything complicated and weird. I fussed over the papers on Uncle Mitch’s desk, hiding my face from Bree, and trying to make it seem as if we’d never been in the lab.
Which would have been easier if it hadn’t been for Clarence, the guinea pig.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

What We See vs. What We Make


Last night, my husband and I went to see the movie Paper Towns. We were the oldest people in the theater. Most of the movie goers were teenage girls who added sighs, giggles, and ahhs. I wondered what John Greene would have thought if he'd been there to see/heat their reaction. I wonder what he thought of the movie, which, by the way, did an incredible job of following the book. I think it would be hard to take a 300 page book and condense it into a 2 hour movie, although not as hard as taking a thousand page book and condensing it.

When I was in middle school, I developed a obsession with all things Gone With the Wind. I read the book in about a week, staying up late each night reading, being too tired to attend school, reading all day and into the next night. Because this was in the days before videos, DVD and streaming, I didn't see the movie until years after I'd read the book, and when I did,  I was disappointed. At first. Clark Gable didn't fit my mental image of Rhett. But then in time, he did. I grew on me and I hung posters of him on my college dorm walls.

I heard a writer once say that the book we have in our head will ultimately be very different from the book we write on the page. The idea in our mind being not at all what we share with the world. This happens with conversations, relationships, and oh so many things, as well. The trick, I think, is to love and admire the creation for what it is, even its not how you had at first imagined.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Very First Editorial Letter

I got my very first editorial letter yesterday. After going through all of Amazon's suggestions, I read my book start to finish. I loved their input, and believe my story is stronger because of it. But some of what they had to say surprised me.

I thought I'd share pieces of it here.
Overview

I really enjoyed this story! I looked forward to reading each chapter. I was surprised, I was shocked, I laughed, I worried, and I wondered what would happen, right along with the characters. The story contains elements of humor, emotion, fantasy, intrigue, suspense, the importance of values and individuality, and more. Very early on, I found myself truly caring about the characters, especially Evie. You establish the humanity of your characters—again, especially Evie—and give the reader elements to relate to and people to root for, before even discovering the story’s secrets. There’s a pervasive sense that no matter how good the story already is, or how juicy the intrigue, there’s more to come. That’s not an easy feat to accomplish and I think your readers will appreciate the time and care you put into this story. My editorial focus was on tightening your syntax and flow so that your storytelling can do its work even more effectively. I’ve polished and refined the language as needed to make the path to the heart of your story that much clearer.


Structure/Plot Flow

Tone and Style


I grouped these sections together because the issues that affect both are very similar.

You have a great command of the feeling of your story—the emotion, the action, the plot, and pacing are strong. You are in control of the story and it’s clearly very focused and driven from the beginning. I think you can really improve the flow and the tone and style of the story—making these even more compelling—by tightening and reigning in description. Trust your characters’ actions to be enough for the reader to understand what they are feeling. 

Characterization

·         The character development is very strong and well organized. I really understood the characters personalities, idiosyncrasies, and motivations.
·         My only concern was that Evie’s dad seemed to sort of fade out as the story progressed. It was obvious that they were not that close, but I think it would be helpful to maybe wrap up their interaction again before the story ends. I also was curious as to why Evie was living with Uncle Mitch in the first place. It’s vaguely understood…but it could be a little more concrete in case the reader is wondering the same thing. 

Dialogue
·         It’s best to let dialogue speak for itself, rather than telling the reader how the narrator’s voice sounded.
     Example: “I’m okay, Mrs. Mateo,” I called. “I just dropped my…stuff.”
     Change: “I’m okay, Mrs. Mateo,” I said. “I just dropped my…stuff.”
     The previous paragraph indicated that Mrs. Mateo was in the kitchen. Since we know the character is in her bedroom, it’s understood that she would have called out her answer.

Point of View

·         Point of view is strong throughout the piece and does not confuse the reader.

Grammar
·         Overall the grammar in this text is strong. I corrected a few grammatical and spelling errors according to CMoS as they appeared during the edit, but there were no major grammatical issues. I also corrected several sentence fragments. I left some as is when I felt they were the author’s stylistic choice. The main issue was repetition of terms, which was already addressed.
·         I changed some instances of passive voice:

            Example: A knocking sounded on the window.
            Change: I heard a knock at the window.
  
·        ·         I retained your usage of okay (rather than OK)—it was consistent throughout. 


Other Comments

I hope these edits and comments are valuable in helping the manuscript achieve your publishing goals. Good luck in your revision, and I wish you all the best for this manuscript and future books. There is definitely more to Evie’s story. I look forward to reading the Witch Ways sequel or series! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

My Review of Royal Date

All the predictable romancey things I thought would happen did, but a lot of things I didn't see coming surprised me. Loved the setting. Looking forward to more royals...

The First Five Pages of Witch Winter

The creature stared at me with his unblinking yellow eyes, watching my every move, as if he knew what I had in mind. I turned my back to him, grateful for the bars that separated us.
“I don’t think it has eyelids,” I said.
“Mmm,” Bree muttered, keeping her gaze on the computer monitor. “Any luck?”
“No. You?”
Moonlight streamed through the windows, illuminating the piles of papers on Uncle Mitch’s desk. I didn’t dare turn on any lights, knowing that Uncle Mitch was across the street at Janette’s house and that he wouldn’t like me poking around his lab. A few weeks ago, he’d made it perfectly clear that his latest experiment would be dangerous to teenagers, even though I had thought then, and still do, that it would make a great feature article for the high school newspaper. And Mrs. Price, the paper’s advisor, had told me I could transfer out of sophomore English and onto the paper if I wrote a killer article.
“I think it would be dangerous for a bunch of teenagers to fall in love,” he had said.
When I had responded with, “News flash! They do it all the time.”
Uncle Mitch had shaken his head. “No, they just think they do. This was a powerful experiment. It would be highly irresponsible for you to introduce it to impressionable youths in the throes of puberty.”
As if teenagers didn’t fall in love everyday, if not every second.
“Maybe we should just look online to see if we can find the experiment ourselves,” Bree said, sending me a quick glance over her shoulder. “Didn’t he say that he based it off of some university’s study?”
I set down a pile of papers. “Yeah, but we know his worked.”
Bree grinned. “No, we don’t. Remember the love potion.” The light from the computer screen cast a green shadow on the angles and planes of her face.
I turned away, shivering, my attention landing back at the creature staring at us.
Bree followed my gaze. “It’s a guinea pig. It can’t hurt you.”
“It’s creepy.”
“No, the fact that your uncle used a recipe to make Janette fall for him is creepy.” Bree scrolled down a page. “I mean, I love your uncle, but it’s just so not like him.”
“I know. That’s what makes it interesting, right? Usually, he’d say it’s all hokum.” I turned my back on the guinea pig. “That’s why it would make such a killer article for the Despaign Detailer.”
“Even though he specifically told you not to use it.”
“No, what he said was ‘it would be dangerous and irresponsible.’”
“Like fireworks.”
“Exactly. And who doesn’t love fireworks?”
But since fireworks was exactly why I’d been expelled from Hartly, the school I had attended since kindergarten until the science lab fire a few months ago, an itchy feeling crept up my neck. I didn’t want to be expelled from Faith Despaign Academy as well.
But I did want to make the newspaper and the only way to do that was to write a great article. And I had written a fantastic article. I sighed as a wave of discouragement washed over me. “I’ll never find another story like that again.”
“I know. There’s been one murder in Woodinville in about a hundred years and you discovered it.” Bree paused. “It’s lame your advisor won’t let you use it.”
I swallowed hard. “That’s why I need a story that will create buzz.” I paused and used my fingers to make air quotes. “And doesn’t even hint at witch craft.”
“But what did Lauren’s murder have to do with the witch’s coven?”
“She was a witch.”
“Huh,” Bree leaned back in her chair, clearly surprised. “Well, she wasn’t a very good one.”
“Why do you say that?”
“If she could use magic, why didn’t she try to make her life better? I mean, why wear an orange parka every day and live in a hovel if you don’t have to?”
“Maybe she was happy with her life. Maybe she was okay with the orange parka and her house on Old Barn Road.”
“Maybe…” Bree sounded skeptical. “If I was a witch, I’d at least get a nice coat.”
I didn’t tell Bree that there was a lot more to being a witch than choosing what to wear. Not that I really had any idea. I only had a tickling brewing in the back of my head, and I pretty much tried to ignore it. I disliked being tickled, even by ideas.
“Hey,” Bree said, leaning closer to the monitor. “This is pretty good.”
I peeked over her shoulder at the screen. How to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You, the banner read.
Bree squinted as she read. “It’s not all sciency like your uncle’s experiment probably would be, but it’s not too Cosmo Girl either.” She quoted the article. “Dr. Harnette at the The University of @ has compiled the step by step recipe on how to make anyone fall in love with you.”
“I like it,” I said, settling down beside her to read. “Do you think Court and Ryan will go for it?”
Bree had no problem sharing the chair with me. “They said they would. And I will, too.”
I pulled out my phone and copied the URL onto my browser. I tucked my phone back into my pocket after I got the link pulled up. “But you won’t try it on Dylan, right?” I asked. Bree had been my best friend since my dad and I had moved next-door after my parent’s divorce eight years ago, but last month Dylan had interfered with that. Mostly because Dylan liked me and Bree liked Dylan. We were past that now. Sisters before misters…mostly.
“Yes…” Bree puffed out an exaggerated sigh of denial, as if I’d asked her to give up shopping for Lent. “Even though I think it’s dumb.” Bree flipped off the computer and pulled herself out of Uncle Mitch’s office chair. “I mean, if you don’t like him, why shouldn’t he fall for me?” She squinted at me through suspicious eyes and pushed her red curls off her forehead. “You don’t like him, right?”
Josh, Bree’s older brother, flashed in my head, with his dark hair, even darker eyes, and football-hard muscles. He looked nothing like his wispy fair-skinned, red-headed sister. With my pale hair and complexion, I looked more Henderson than Josh. I told myself that we were talking about Dylan, not Josh, and I shook his image away. Bree would make my life hell if she knew I thought of her brother like that.
Like what? I couldn’t answer that question. Besides being Bree’s brother, Josh was also Dylan’s best friend, and that just made everything complicated and weird. I fussed over the papers on Uncle Mitch’s desk, hiding my face from Bree, and trying to make it look as if we’d never snuck into the lab.

Which would have been easier if it hadn’t been for Clarence, the guinea pig.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever, a review

I'll admit that I first read this years ago when my daughter had a stack of Sarah's books in her room. I read it again this weekend. Loved it the first, loved it the second time. But then, I can honestly say I've never read a Sarah Dessen book that I haven't loved.

I read it in part because I've been doing writing sprints, where I write as fast as I can,. I am writing faster, but lately I fell that my sentences have all the grace and poetry of a can of soup label. So, I pulled The Truth About Forever off the shelves, because I really admire Sarah Dessen's pretty sentences. They're poetic, descriptive and yet never feel self indulgent or excessive.

And I love her characters. Monotone Monica...doneven..., end of the world Bert, slap-dash Delia, too perfect Jason, and of course Macy and Will.

Here are a few of my favorite sentences:

But that was the problem with having answers. It was only after you gave them that you realize they sometimes weren't what people wanted to hear.

There was a crackling energy in the air, as if everything was on a higher speed than normal.

It was like being on the other side of a frame and seeing the camera pull bak, showing me growing smaller, smaller smaller still until I was just a speck, a spot, gone.

Her best event was not, as we all thought, the 100 meters, but in fact flirting with the the boy's track team....She still liked to run, but didn't much see the point anymore if she didn't have someone chasing after her.

But I'd learned long ago not to be picky in farewells. They weren't guaranteed or promised. You were lucky, more than blessed, if you got a good-bye at all.


And my personal favorite: Anyone can be a Kristy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Writing Sprint Experiment

I just read Chris Fox's book 5,000 Words an Hour. And I loved it. Since I don't want to spoil it, I won't tell you everything the book said, but I'm going to share my sprint experiments. Mainly, because I'm skeptical. I'm pretty sure I can't write 5000 words an hour. A really good day for me is 6,000--and that will take me six hours, since I typically write about a 1000 words an hour. But Chris suggests starting off small--five minute sprints--slowly building up to 30 minutes--and tracking all of it. He insists that by tracking I'll see noticeable increases in speed. Hmm... not so sure. But I'm game to try, and I'm going to do that here.

He also suggested answering all of these questions before you start a scene/sprint: (I've modified these a tad to suit myself)
Main characters: Bree and Evie
Time:  8 p.m. December
Place:  Uncle Mitch's lab
Crux:  Accidentally let loose a lab animal
Goal:  Get Uncle Mitch's How to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You experiment
Mood:  Dark, tense

I also modified the sprint spreadsheet.
BOOK
SPRINT MINUTES
STARTING COUNT
ENDING
COUNT
DAILY COUNT
MONTHLY COUNT
DATE
Witch Winter
5
0
74


6/22

5

132
2664

6/22

5

84


6/23

5

160
2132

6/23











































































































My goal is to begin Witch Winter, Witch Way's sequel, today and finish my first draft by August 15th. This week, in addition to my regular writing, I'll write for a five minute sprint each day (5 days a week), and bump it up in five minute increments each week until I reach 30 minutes. I already have two thirds of the book outlined.

I did the 5 minute sprint twice today. This morning I logged 74 words, which at first was pretty depressing. But after doing the math I realized how closely that met my typical 1000 words an hour output. I did it again this afternoon and wrote 132 words. I'm not sure why I was so much faster. It may have been because I realized how fast five minutes can fly. (Why does it seem like forever when I'm waiting for something?) Doing the math, if I wrote at that same pace for 60 minutes my output would be 1500+ versus my typical 1000. Hmm... and I've only done it twice so far.

Here are the two sprints. (They're not very pretty. Writing fast does that.)
Morning:
The creature stared at me with his unblinking yellow eyes, watching my every move, as if he knew what I had in mind. I turned my back to him, grateful for the bars that separated us.
“I don’t think it has eyelids,” I said.
“Mmm,” Bree muttered, keeping her gaze on the computer monitor. “Any luck?”
“No. You?”

FIRST ATTEMPT. 74 WORDS. PRETTY LAME. Trying again….
Afternoon:
I stood in line, waiting to board the bus, my hands and feet cold, but my heart warm. Mrs. Price’s compliments rang in my head, and despite the Connecticut cold trying to slice through the layers of my sweater, jacket, mittens and scarf, I felt warm and bubbly inside.
“Hey, it’s Evie, right?”
I turned to watch Meredith Olson swinging through the crowd, her long dark hair bouncing around her shoulders. I only knew her by sight, as I was a lowly sophomore and she was not only a senior, but also the editor in chief of the high school newspaper. Or, in other words, the embodiment of everything I wanted to be. Smart, popular, a person of influence…cause, yeah, being an editor of the school newspaper carried a lot of clout.