Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #19

This weeks WIP Wednesday post is going to mostly consist of pictures. This is because:

A. I am so sick of hearing myself talk about my revisions and my book in general. Yes, I have hit that point.

B. On Thursday morning (early morning, and regular followers should have a pretty good idea of how I feel about that) I, along with my husband and toddler son, are boarding a plane to Denver, Colorado. The trip is because my husband's brother is getting married this weekend in Boulder on Saturday. It should be a really fun time (not counting the plane ride required to get there) and I will be posting pictures next week of my son looking like the most precious thing ever in his suit that he will be wearing as the Ring Bearer for the ceremony.

Am I still on point B, without having actually gotten to the point? Sorry about that. Anyway, I have lots of getting ready to go stuff still needing to be done, and so an abbreviated post mostly consisting of pictures seems wise.

So, let's bring on the pics.

As you may or may not recall from last week, I discussed wanting to print out my WIP and see it on paper as opposed to the glaring computer screen. So, on Friday evening after dinner the family made a little trip to Staples, and we did just that.

Isn't the little box they put it in lovely? I am totally flaunting it.

And here are the pages filling up the box. It looks like a lot of pages doesn't it?

And even more from this out-of-the-box side view.

That's because it actually is a lot of pages. 325 of them to be exact and a smidge over 100,000 words at this point. Yeah, one of my revising tasks will be going through to cut some of those words out.

I didn't take a picture of the red pen that I bought, especially made for marking up the pages, mostly because it is pretty much your standard red pen. I mean, it came in a three pack that cost five bucks (my whole cheap thing at work again there) and it's most interesting feature is that it's a "gel" pen.

I haven't actually used that red pen yet, except on my query letter, which I have been putting most of my time these past few days into, while I give myself a tiny break from my manuscript. I am really itching to start querying though, so after this round of revisions I think it will be time to send my book baby out into the world.

And how has your weekly progress gone? Make any major process? Hit any milestones? Or are you just sick of talking about it?

************************************************************************************<br>If you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Monday, June 22, 2009

AMAZING Research Methods

Time for another ride on the blog chain. Kat started things off this time with these questions:

How do you do research for your settings, your story and your characters' quirks? What interesting tidbits about yourself and the world you live in have you learned along the way?

My immediate response was, "Well, I don't really do research." However, being towards the end of the chain this time around, I've had a chance to rethink this while reading through the responses of the other blog-chainers (from Christine, Michelle, Elana, Annie, and Caroline). While many talked about the kind of research that requires paging through large dusty books with a highlighter, many others opened my mind to alternative research methods.

So, that brings me to:

"Kate Karyus Quinn's AMAZING Research Methods."
(Feel free to print this out and highlight the really good parts)

#1. Living my often random, sometimes boring, but always uniquely mine LIFE.

Yes, I count the very act of breathing as research! And this means that I am researching ALL THE TIME!!! With thirty years of experience under my belt, I have to say that I am getting rather good at this type of research.

Being an over-achiever I began this research right at birth, unfortunately my note-taking techniques were not what they are today, so some of the very early information was lost. However, here is a sampling of some of the information that during my first decade or so:

-Experience of having four sisters. Having the foresight to be second in the birth order, I was able to see sisterhood both from the angle of the being the younger and older sister.
-Experiencing Catholic school from Kindergarten to Eight grade.
-Experience living in a suburb of Buffalo, New York. Cold snowy winters, short humid summers, and a lifelong obsession with a losing football team.

Of course, as I grew older, I was inspired by Mark Twain who had held many different jobs and drew inspiration from them for his stories. With this in my mind I began my first official job at sixteen at a Boston Market restaurant. I stayed there for almost two years, and to this day it is the longest I have ever managed to hold down a job. From then on, in the name of research (and my need to have money to live and stuff) here is a sampling of the jobs I worked some for months, others for weeks, and um, one or two, I might have lasted only half a day. These are not in chronological order.

-Restaurant hostess
-Teacher Asst.
-Low-Level Office Stooge
-The Gap
-Day-Camp Counselor
-Night time Janitor
-Niagara Falls Tour Guide
-Asst. in theatre Costume Shop
-Factory worker
-Person who sits at the seasonal calendar kiosk at the mall
-Grocery store cashier

The experience I received during these jobs is more than what I list (or more often conveniently leave off of) my professional resume; it is also the different people I met and interacted with at each of these jobs whether they be co-workers or customers.

#2. READING and Internet surfing.

I am not a big fan of just sitting and thinking. Instead I prefer to be constantly doing something, or preferably two or three somethings at once. If I were an outdoor enthusiast I would probably jog and knit at the same time, but since I am more a fan of activities that allow me to stay in a climate-controlled environment, my preferred mode of entertainment is reading. I read books, magazines, newspapers, and whatever strikes my interest on the Internet. It turns out that there is a lot that falls into this last category, and that provides a good deal of my research.

For example, I read an article with the headline: "Mom Taught Her 2 Kids to Fake Retardation" online way back in 2007. I thought it was interesting, and might even make a cool story so I bookmarked it. The idea continued to bubble away at the back of my brain, and while I didn't take directly from this story, there are definitely traces of it in my current WIP where my heroine is a con-artist who was raised by her rather shady family.

Mostly I'm drawn to these types of human interest stories, but I also pick up little tidbits on the various writing and cooking blogs that I follow.

#3. Traditional research aka I GOOGLE.

Yes, there are times when I go digging into my brain for information, and my brain is like, "Um, am I supposed to know that?" At times like these there is no alternative but to Google. Oh, and I should also give Wikipedia a shout-out, cause that is usually the first Google result that I end up clicking on.

Again, for my current WIP, which is an Urban Fantasy, I had some demon stuff I needed to put into it. Perhaps it is due to all those years of Catholic schooling, but my knowledge in this area was pretty much limited to what I had gained during obsessive Buffy the Vampire Slayer watching. I ended up doing quite a bit of research that mostly consisted of me cutting and pasting stuff I might find helpful into a Word document. Most of this information I didn't end up using, but some of it did eventually find it's way into my story.

I also use Google Image Search quite a bit when I need to describe something, but I just can't get a good picture in my head. Sometimes it's something as simple as the exterior of a Jeep, but at other times I need to know what someone's neck would look like after they've been choked almost to death or what an eyeball that's been pulled out of it's socket looks like (these last two were problematic in the extreme since I have a very low tolerance for gore, but in the name of research I peeked out from between my fingers and clicked on.).

And that's pretty much it. I'm sure there are many more ways that I research without even knowing it, but since my son woke up from his nap early I have to go continue my research on how to be a mommy to a toddler boy.

In the meantime I'd love to hear about the different ways that you approach research. Is it a chore or something you love? Do you find yourself using stuff from your life, what you learn in books, or a mixture of the two?

And to read the final entry in this chain head over to Mary Lindsey's blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Random Thoughts For A Thursday Night

Why do I have a random picture of the Lady Gaga?

That is the question you may be asking... or maybe the question you're asking is what you'll have for dinner tonight. While I cannot help you with the second one, I will happily answer the first.

Driving home from where I had dinner tonight (After my crockpot french dip sandwiches dinner wasn't ready in time due to extended power failure, we went out to this place that has the most delicious NY Style pizza, and they also give everyone who eats in FREE breadsticks. I am a bit of a carb fiend, and so free bread before a meal is always a win for me, but delicious buttery and Parmesan slathered toasty breadsticks... well, that's like a win to the hundredth power.) they were playing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on the radio.

If you have not heard this song, then you probably do not listen to your local pop radio station. I honestly don't know why I listen to my local pop station, especially since lately it either makes me feel:

1. OLD because I either do not know the music being played.

2. DISGUSTED with songs like that one with the lyric, "Shush girl shut your lips, Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips" (seriously I heard it, and I said out loud, 'You have got to be kidding me.' And then I switched to the Oldies station.),

3. Or else I just get SICK of them endlessly playing the same songs over and over.

"Poker Face" and Lady Gaga's previous "Let's Dance" song both fall in the overplayed category.

So, anyway, as I was listening to "Poker Face" for the bazillionth time in my life, and kind of humming along to it, I suddenly stopped, looked at my husband, and said, "You know the only words to this song that I can understand is when she says "P-p-p-p-p-p-p-poker face. P-p-p-p-p-p-poker face." Then my husband replied with something about the song sucking, and that was pretty much the end of the conversation.

Later though I was sitting at the computer, and the song was running through my head once more, and maybe it was due to the fact that I was reading something about query letters, but suddenly I was hearing new lyrics to the song and in my head it was, "Query day, query day. But you can't read my poker face, my poker face. P-p-p-p-p-p-p-poker face, p-p-p-p-p-p-poker face."

Now, I am pretty sure that those are not the actual lyrics, but the next time I hear it on the radio (and we all know that I will) I don't see any reason not to sing it the way that I hear it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #18

Working it. Working it. Working it.

That is what I have been doing this past week, and I am happy to report that I am now one hundred and ninety-nine pages into my revisions. Okay, so yes, my WIP is currently 336 pages long (and getting longer every day - oh crap! but that is another story) - so I do have a ways to go still.

However, the bulk of the BIG changes I needed to make fell in the first 200 range, and I think that things will (hopefully) move a little faster now.

And once I get through this round of revisions, my next plan is to take a little trip down to the local Kinko's and print this sucker out (With my last MS, I tried to do it at home and that was a huge mistake. My ink jet printer took ffffoooorrrreeevvveeerrrr to print the whole thing out, and it totally killed a whole black ink cartridge.). I have yet to look at it on paper, and I think that is an important part of the revision process. In fact, if I wasn't so cheap I would probably print it out for every round of revisions, but alack I am really quite cheap... or maybe just frugal?

In other news from this week, something very exciting happened...

I got to meet a writing friend, live and in-person, and we got the comfy chairs at Starbucks, and the toddler stayed home with daddy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, it was pretty much my dream Sunday morning (Okay, technically we met at noon, so it was afternoon, but as I've mentioned before I am not a morning person, and so I usually count morning as going until 1... sometimes 2 on a very lazy day. And Sundays should always be very lazy days, it's like in the Bible and everything.) the only thing that was missing was a Belgian waffle with fresh berries, real maple syrup (Mmm... the real stuff is so much better, although once again, due to my cheapness I almost always buy the crappy imitation stuff), and whipped cream (I actually don't mind imitation Cool Whip or the stuff in the can here.).

Anyway, I got to meet Annie, since she was vacationing in the nearby town of Gatlinburg, and realizing that it was close to my home in Knoxville, TN she suggested that we get together. And so we did. And it was great.

And there we are. I am in the one in the white shirt, and Annie has the sunglasses on.

So, that pretty much sums up my week. How has your week in writing progressed? Hit any major milestones? Or have anything else exciting happen?

If you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #17

Another week brings another tale of endless revisions. Right now I'm working my way through Chapter 9 of 29... so clearly I still have a ways to go.

Other than that I don't really have anything else that is terribly exciting to report about my revisions process. Luckily, Nathan Bransford - the owner of quite possibly the most popular literary agent blog in the galaxy - (Hmm... that sounds hyperbolic or perhaps sarcastic, but honestly his blog really just is that good.) was kind enough to post today on the subject of revisions.

More specifically he posted a checklist of big questions to ask yourself while in the revisions process.

While reading through the list some of them received a definite thumbs up for my MS, some were "Oh yeah, that's a problem I know about and I'm working on it", and others were "Ummm... I don't know. Now you're making me worry about this."

Some of the bigs ones that fell into the latter two categories are:

- Is your voice consistent? Is it overly chatty or sarcastic?
- Is the tense completely consistent? Is the perspective consistent?
- Is there sufficient description that your reader feels grounded in the characters' world?
- Do you know what your writing tics are? Do you overuse adverbs, metaphors, facial expressions, non-"said" dialogue tags, or interjections? Have you removed them?
- Do you overuse certain words or phrases? Is your word choice perfect throughout?

There were other ones on the list that I think deserve my attention as well, but these were the ones that really set my internal alarms off.

That's it for my WIP Wednesday. How has your past week been? And if you've checked out Nathan's list which of his questions sets off your internal alarms the most?

If you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: June Prompt

For the month of June Christine posted a creative writing prompt with the topic of Waves. So below is my attempt to to stretch my short story writing muscles.

I wanted to keep it really short, and at 471 words, I think I reached that goal.

My other idea for this story was to do a kind of play on Edgar Allan Poe's Tell-Tale Heart. You can be the judge of how successful I was with this one.


Waves roll in with great fanfare.

Great white foaming crowns. Crash and roar as each one breaks against the rocks. And then that final plume of spray, water droplets of confetti. Such pageantry.

It’s easy to forget that silently beneath the surface, they are sucked under to roll back out. It’s perpetual motion in both directions. A simultaneous hello and good-bye.

Growing up Oceanside it was the fear of the latter that ruled my life. There were constant reminders of the Ocean’s power to take things away.

It started small with the goldfish annually won at the County Fair that died a week later and was then returned to the sea.

Then the toddler next door drowned.

A few years later a whole fishing boat of tourists were lost. They searched for over a week, but not a trace of them was ever found.

The message was clear. Things put into the sea - disappeared.

That’s why it seemed the logical place to dispose of a dead husband.

I killed him. Let’s get that out of the way. Not entirely on purpose. I did love him in my own way, after all.

In the wan moonlight as I watched his body being sucked beneath the waves, I even felt sorry that I would never see him again.

I would have been ever more sorry if I’d known how wrong I was.

The next night the ocean brought him back. Flopped up on the shore like a dead fish, the outgoing tide lapping at his bloated toes.

Pulling him back into the water was even more unpleasant that time than the first, and at that point I had no desire to see him or anyone else in such a state again. And yet he returned. Night after night the ocean deposited him on the stretch of beach that served as my back doorstep.

No matter how many times I pushed him back out the man refused to disappear beneath the sea.

Clearly, things could not go on this way.

And so pockets were filled with pebbles, the weight of them making even walking difficult suggested that drowning would be easy. Then together, my dead husband and I, we waded out to sea. The waves started at our feet, pushing against me even as they climbed higher, as if a warning to turn back. Then they were overhead and as if giving into the inevitable they relented, no longer pushing me away, but now sweeping me off my feet into their embrace and away.

At the bottom of the sea the waves roll in and out upside-down. The surface drama is muted, while the power beneath them to give and take is on constant display.
But they no longer carry my husband with them.

No, he is now at last resting beside me.

If you want to take part in this creative writing prompt check out the post on Christine's blog and leave a link back to your own blog there.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Isn't It Romantic?

Light some candles, scatter some rose petals, and then sit down with a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. It's time for another blog chain and this time the topic centers around romance.

Specifically the questions posed by Sandra are:

Do you write romantic relationships in your books? If so, what do you do to show the attraction between your characters? What problems do your characters encounter? What qualities do you think make a romantic relationship work in fiction? If you wish, feel free to include examples of your favorite couples.

Wow. That is a lot of questions - so lets break this down so I don't miss any.

Do you write romantic relationships in your books?

My answer to the first question is easy. YES!!!! Of course, I do. I LOVE romance. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.

Just so we're clear.

If so, what do you do to show the attraction between your characters?

Mostly they argue a lot before giving into a passionate kiss. Okay, not really, but kind of.

I mean, it's not:

HIM: I hate you.
HER: Not as much as I hate you.
Cue the swelling music as they kiss.

Clearly, there are no music cues in novels. Also, I like to believe that my dialogue is a bit more subtle.

No, seriously, I try to show that the characters are drawn to one another despite themselves. Even though there is every reason to be apart, they keep finding a way to come together.

What problems do your characters encounter?

Usually I like to find both internal and external reasons to keep my love interests apart. In the post before mine Carolyn touched on this as well.

For example, in my first novel, which was a contemporary romance, the external problem was that she worked for him. The internal problem was that he was distrusting after being burned before, and she always wanted to play it safe and not take chances.

What qualities do you think make a romantic relationship work in fiction?

I think tension is the key.

Although the "I hate you" scene I sketched out above is twenty different kinds of lame, even worse would be a scene where the characters were instead declaring their mutual love for one another. There is no conflict in that, unless one of them (or both, I suppose) is holding a knife behind his/her back.

If you wish, feel free to include examples of your favorite couples.

I do wish to include them.

So, okay, well besides the hero and heroine in every romance novel I've ever read... let me think.

-Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice

-Buffy and Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Clearly, not a novel, but a BRILLIANT relationship dynamic. If your familiar with the show all I have to say is, end of season 2. Amazing.)

-Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester

-Wall-E and Eve (They have been playing this on Starz since the past weekend, and I have never been so touched by robots in love.)

I know there are more that I am forgetting, but it is late and my brain is denying me access to crucial memory chambers where I have further information stored. Feel free to help me out in the comments by naming some of your favorite romantic couples, or just your thoughts on romance in literature.

And if you want to read more of this blog chain, check out Carolyn who was before me over at Archetype Writing or head on over to Mary's blog because she is up next!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #16

Howdy to everyone and welcome to another Work in Progress Wednesday!

After last weeks accomplishment high this week has been a little less exciting.

Yes, I've gotten things done and have made progress on my revisions, but it is slow going and I am still fighting the pregnancy tiredness monster. (Although to be fair to my unborn child, my tiredness could also be due to my inability to even think about going to bed before midnight, despite the fact that I have a toddler waking me up at disgustingly early hours, which in case you're wondering this is defined as anytime before 10 AM. This is also why I compose my WIP Weds. posts on Tuesday night, because if I did them early Weds. morning they would read something like this: "Go away. I do not like you. I do not like the world. It is too early. Leave me alone.")

Anyway, I am in the midst of Chapter 6, which used to be Chapter 5 until I chopped Chapter 4 in half. Confused yet? It is very tedious to halve chapters early in the MS, because this meant that I had to go back and change the number on all my subsequent chapters, all the way up to what used to be 28 and is now 29.

Other than that I have nothing else to report, so this is a short one for me. However, I will be posting again later today with another blog chain topic - this one discussing the question of having romantic relationships in books.

In the meantime if you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!