Friday, March 27, 2009

Notes From the Battlefront

The battle of Little Big Move began on Tuesday evening, and has been progressing with only the smallest of hitches until today, when a setback of horrifying proportions came to light. If I was prone to hyperbole (which I am) I might even be tempted to say it is the worst thing that could have possibly happened in the middle of a campaign such as this one.

I might even call it the first sign of bloodshed.

To put it in simple terms - my Internet is being disconnected and I do not know when I will get it back again. It could be days, or even as long as a week before we are connected once more.

Certainly I knew that there would be losses, it's to be expected during the heat of battle, but this - this is almost too much to bear. I have heard rumors that in the first days, unable to truly believe it is gone, one goes to the computer and clicks on the Internet icon... only to have nothing happen. Still the itch continues, much like that from a phantom limb.

Why didn't I see this coming? Because I could not bear the thought of it. I stocked myself heavily with supplies from the wishful thinking store ("Shipping out false hope since before shipping was invented. Ask about our group rates!"), believing that they would prevent against catastrophes such as this one.

Since there is no knowing when I will have access or be able to post again, I am extending the deadline for the analogy contest (Win a free book and bragging rights and a cheesy jpeg pic that I created all by myself!) for another week.

Until we can meet again, I will think fondly of you all.

From the trenches of Little Big Move,

Kate Karyus Quinn

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday #006

It's Wednesday again. Isn't it funny how that happens every week right on schedule? Amazing. Anyway, with Wednesday comes Work in Progress Wednesday time.

If anyone else out there in the blogosphere wants to join in on the fun, 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.

It's been a pretty slow week on the progress front here. I am in the middle of revising chapter four right now. As I mentioned in my previous post, an unexpected visit from my friends pulled me off course a little bit, but to be completely honest even before they showed up on my doorstep things were not moving as quickly as I wanted.

I think part of the problem is that it is difficult to set goals like I did while writing my first draft. My 500 words a day goal forced me to produce words even when I didn't want to, but the amount of work accomplished while working on revisions and rewrites is more difficult to count. Sometimes I'll spend a whole hour just reading through a chapter and trying to identify the major problems. Then I need to figure out how to fix those problems, and sometimes that requires me to check my email five hundred times while I try and figure it out. Suddenly, it's time for bed and I've deleted a little bit, typed a little bit, but don't have that, "Ahhh, I really accomplished something" feeling that helps me to sleep at night.

So, it's a bit frustrating because I am at that point where I feel like I am sooooooo close, and yet so far away. I think this is where the temptation can come in for a writer to send out a rough draft to an agent or publisher, just wanting to move onto that next part and make something happen. This however, would be a very very bad thing, and when that kind of temptation comes over me, I just remind myself that I still need to write a query letter and that usually squelches the impulse pretty quickly.

Anyway, for the coming weeks I am going to give myself the goal of getting through one chapter a day. This week that will be especially difficult as we are moving from our apartment of three years into a nice little rental house. While it is very exciting to be getting out of our apartment where the horrible downstairs neighbors pound on their ceiling/our floor to let us know when they think we are walking too loudly, it is also going to be a time consuming endeavor. Not only do we have to pack up all our stuff and move it across town, but we have the extra level of difficulty of having to do so with a toddler. Yeah, my son is not quite two , but he already seems to have a pretty good handle on the whole terrible thing.

Anyway, sometimes life gets in the way of writing, so the second half of my goal is to not beat myself up too much over how much I am not getting done, and instead focus on what I do get accomplished.

Finally, if you missed my last post, I am also running a writing analogy contest this week. I want your best analogy about the writing process. You can compare coming up with new topics to blog about, with trying to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Or you can get creative in describing how you try to get that first draft down, tackling rewrites, pinning down a query, or anything else that you can come up with.

The prize is this really cool book called "i never metaphor i didn't like", and also more importantly bragging rights and the totally meaningless award pictured below:

Yes, I made that award myself with my rudimentary Photoshop skills (so rudimentary, in fact, that I did not even use Photoshop because that program just confuses me. No, I used a little program I call "Photoshop for dummies" aka Microsoft Picture It! The exclamation mark is theirs, not mine.)

And that's it for my WIP Wednesday. Now you tell me, how is your WIP progressing?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eat Your Heart Out

Today is many things. Number one it is my thirtieth birthday. 30.

Yes, I have entered a new decade, and I am surprisingly okay with it. Why is it surprising? Well, I have been freaking out about turning thirty, even since I turned 20. As I explained to my roommates back then, 20 is fine, except that it inevitably leads to your mid-twenties, and then after that- kiss your youth goodbye because thirty is coming at you fast, and everyone knows that adulthood officially starts at 30. And like any person with any sense, I have no interest in being an adult.

Except last Sunday I decided that this whole adult thing might actually turn out okay. On that night my husband prepared a favorite chicken dish of ours, but for some reason once the chicken was on our plates we realized it wasn't all the way cooked through and it had to go back in the oven. This left us with a dinner of mashed potatoes. Obviously, we needed to have something else to eat, which was when I suggested we go to McDonald's for hot fudge sundaes. And that is exactly what we did. The chicken went in the fridge to be used for leftovers.

My point here is that if being an adult means that I can have mashed potatoes and hot fudge sundaes for dessert, then maybe it won't be too bad after all.

Today is also my turn to post on the always wonderful, exciting, and unpredictable (especially that last one this time) blog chain.

Throwing down the gauntlet, er... picking the topic is Jessica over at Jibberings. And this is what she chose for this chain:

WRITE! I want a short story. (Mine is 250 words. Feel free to write one hundred, three hundred, five hundred...whatever! words)

There is another part to this, Jessica gave us something to use as our diving off point, and it is actually the same poem that I included in my blog chain topic a few weeks back about darkness and torturing our characters.
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

-Stephen Crane
Along with this poem came the stipulation that within our stories: "Somehow, someway, heart(s) must be involved."

Jessica actually first clued us into this topic on Monday evening. My plan was to let myself stew over various ideas for a few days and then just hope that I could come up with something when it was my turn to post. Instead what happened was that I took a shower Monday night and like magic I had my story. Knowing that I had to get it on paper (or computer) I stayed up an extra hour that night to type it out.

Jessica in her story went more literally with the whole heart idea (to awesome effect, I might add.), but I wanted to take more of the meaning of the poem (or what it means to me) and put it into a story.

Anyway, here is the story.

Salt the Earth

Everyday until it was gone, I ate one spoonful of cinnamon sugar sprinkled onto toast, with just enough butter to stick the two together. And then Mother would make some more. I can still see it, sitting beside the hard-boiled egg that made up my breakfast. The crunch of the bread and the grit of sugar between my teeth is there too. It’s only the flavor that eludes me, the memory of how that bit of sweetness tasted on my tongue.


“Excuse me.”

I call out to the attendant who watches over mother in the evenings.

“Could we get some salt? Mother’s been complaining the food is little bland.”

The attendant doesn’t even hesitate.

“Sure thing.”

She goes off to retrieve some salt, her little ponytail bouncing behind her. It isn’t just the girl’s hair that is perky, but her whole personality. Perky and trusting. When I imagine this girl’s childhood it plays in my head like a Fifties sitcom.

Not for a second does she question that I am capable of relaying the thoughts and desires of my mother, who can no longer speak for herself. She thinks we have some kind of mental connection. A mother/daughter thing. We have a connection all right, but it’s not mental. No. What we share is the same bitter heart.


My mother would make a big canning jar full of the cinnamon and sugar mixture. I’d watch as she’d first scoop the sugar in, almost to the halfway mark, and then the dark rich cinnamon. It looked as rich as soil after a spring rain. Mother would leave just enough space at the top so that after she screwed the lid on she could shake them together. I loved this part. Watching as the white and brown slid into one another, until one was just like the other.

Every time I begged her to let me do the shaking.

“Please, please, please. Mother, please.”

I was very careful not to cross the line into whining. Mother wouldn’t abide a whiner, you know. My litany of pleases came out more like a prayer, and like most prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Until one day they didn’t. The jar was pressed into my hands, without a word. It was heavy and the glass was cool. My mother always shook it with such fury, as if to punish the contents inside. There was no way my little arms could match hers, but it didn’t stop me from trying. I threw my whole body into the shaking, not just pumping my arms but bouncing my whole body. If I’d had pigtails like all the other girls my age they would have been flying with me, but mother kept my hair clipped short against my skull, she didn’t want the bother of keeping it tidy. The white and brown were just beginning to cross each other's borders, when the jar hit the linoleum and the cinnamon and sugar ran out as if relieved to be let free.

I was sent to my room. Sitting there I could only listen. The broom against the floor. The way she smacked the dustpan against the garbage can to shake every last bit of dirt loose. Then the sound of the basement door opening, her feet on the stairs, down and up again, getting another canning jar to make the cinnamon sugar once more. And all the while I wondered when my punishment would come.

It was served for breakfast. Mother said she’d run out of sugar, but we both know that it was a lie. Everyday until it was gone, I ate one spoonful of cinnamon salt sprinkled onto toast, with just enough butter to stick the two together.


I feed Mother her dinner now, and she chews slowly as I once did. The salt sits silently in every bite, so quietly hidden until it bites the tongue. Mother eats every last bite, exactly the same way that she once taught me.

And I… I eat every last bite too.


Okay, that's it for me and my little story.

If you want to stay with the chain and see more heart-filled stories, then make sure you head on over to Michelle McLean's Writer Ramblings because she is up next!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday #005

Today is not just WIP Wednesday, but also between birthdays day. Whose birthdays you ask? My husband Andy's b-day was yesterday on St. Patrick's day and my own b-day is tomorrow (Which is on the lesser known Feast of St. Joseph day. Poor St. Joseph, there is just no competing with green beer.).

And now... on to the Work in Progress Wednesday fun!

If anyone else out there in the blogosphere wants to join in on the fun, 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.

So, after finishing the first draft of my WIP aka Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea aka BTDATDBS. Um, yeah... I'll probably just continue to refer to at it as my WIP. Anyway, after finishing the first draft last week I was going to wait a week before starting on rewrites. But then Saturday night my husband was at a friend's bachelor party and my WIP started calling to me. I could not resist, and I started rewriting chapter one.

Now Annie in comments a few weeks ago mentioned that this was a fairly short time to let a work sit before jumping back in for rewrites, and I agree. When the words are fresh on the page, it is hard to have the distance to really see what is and is not working. The thing is that I wrote chapter one all the way back in July of 2008, so those words are way past their sell-by date.

Also, helping with the distance factor is my ability to quickly forget. (Sure, some people would call it a memory problem, but that's so negative.) As I've been writing I've submitted the first ten chapters or so to my online crit group, and as I've looked at some of their comments and then back at what I wrote there have been times when I've been like, "Wow, I don't even remember writing that."

The final reason though that I feel comfortable jumping into revisions so soon is that these are only Level 1 revisions.

Now you may be asking - What are Level 1 revisions? And do I need some sort of special clearance to work on them?

Level 1 revisions are... well they're kind of like this thingy:

This thingy is actually called a street roller (I found this out after much Googling trying to find an image of something that I did not know the actual name of. It was challenging to say the least.) Now I am not in construction, so I could be totally wrong about this, but I think this machine kind of smooths the blacktop and makes it all even.

And that's basically what I want to do with my Level 1 revisions, because right now crap is just all over the place. Despite the fact that I did kind of outline and plot the darn thing out, there were still elements and characters and just stuff that changed once I got into things.

Lady Glamis a few weeks ago at The Innocent Flower blog discussed this process as "working in layers", which is also a good (and less convoluted) way to think about it. I am specifically referring to her point #4 towards the end of the post where she talks about:

My first layers are polishing up the plot holes and character inconsistencies. Things that bugged me the whole way through the first draft that I kept telling myself I'd go back and fix later.

Ah. Isn't it nice when someone else's words say so well what you want to say, but can't think how to?

Anyway, I have a whole list of things that I've figured out after a scene was written, but afraid of losing my forward momentum I instead mentally filed them away (Or being aware of my super-forgetting powers I usually often recorded them on the same Word document where I keep plot points and character arcs.) to be taken care of during this Level 1 revision stage.

Really my end goal is to make my WIP pretty enough that I can ask some people to beta read it, without wasting their time with things that I already know need to be fixed. After I get my WIP back from betas, I'll take some time to absorb their comments (comments, especially the negative ones, are kind of like soup. They're always better the second day.) and then go in for Level 2 revisions.

So, that's been my week in writing. What about you? Anyone else working on rewrites, and if so what Level are you at? And if not in rewrites, where is your WIP?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Let's Start At The Very Beginning

If you are not familiar with the musical The Sound of Music then A.) I feel very sorry for you and B.) You probably do not realize that the title of this post is a lyric from the Do-Re-Mi song from The Sound of Music, which is why there is a picture from that musical at the top of this post.

Not that this post has anything to do with The Sound of Music, it does however have to do with beginnings. Beginnings of books to be precise.

You see this weekend I worked on revising Chapter 1 of my WIP (and I'll talk more about the whole revision process as always during my WIP Wednesday posting) which I am now officially calling Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. I'd settled on this title several months ago, but it wasn't official until last night when my husband, Andy, looking over my shoulder, saw the title and said that he liked it. He might even have said that he really liked it. This was amazing, because Andy's usual response to my titles is more like, "Really? That's your title?"

Luckily, he is much more encouraging in all other aspects of my writing, so I guess I'll keep him around. Andy hasn't actually read any of my WIP errr... BTDATDBS yet though, so once he reads it there is a very good chance he will tell me that the title doesn't fit at all.

Anyway, it just so happened that while I was working on this first chapter there was a discussion going on in my Passionate Critters group about writing a first sentence that hooks the readers. The difficulty of this and the questionable importance of this first sentence was debated, and I found myself wondering how effective my own first sentence was.

I also thought about what draws me into a book. As I mentioned last week in my Musing Monday post, I am a big believer in the first page test when deciding whether or not I want to read a book. This isn't to say that I always read the whole first page, but I don't think I've read only the first sentenced and then closed the book and placed it back on the shelf, knowing without a doubt that it wasn't for me. Usually I'll give a book at the very least a paragraph or two to give me a sense as to whether or not I'll like it.

I've also mentioned in a past post that Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes was a book that I fell in love with right there in the middle of the bookstore after reading the first page.

However, If I only had to go by the first sentence I don't know if I would have been hooked.

"My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born."

That's it for the first sentence. Are you hooked? There isn't really any action there, but there is some heavy foreshadowing and also a hint of the writer's voice.

For another opinion I Googled through the always amazing past posts of Nathan Bransford's blog - specifically some of this past contests, which interestingly enough started with the first sentence, moved onto the first paragraph, and then the whole first page. All this focus on beginnings should be enough to tell us that they are important.

In the first sentence contest here is how Nathan's co-judge summed up what really grabbed them:

"In looking over the finalists, I realize I tend to like the ones that leave you wanting to know what they mean. They don't necessarily ask a question, but pose a situation that you want to know more about. I guess that's what a first line is supposed to do—draw you in—but it's interesting to see how it works."

Okay, but what if you first sentence doesn't do that? Or do it enough to win the contest? Can you build upon an okay first sentence to have a great first paragraph?

Here again is Angela's Ashes.

"My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four, my brother, Malachy, three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, and my sister, Margaret, dead and gone."

For me the voice really builds here, maybe it is that brief mention of Ireland, but I start to hear the lilt of an accent. The listing of all the siblings while it could be boring, also draws me in because you note how close in age they are, and then it ends with the heartbreaking news that one sibling is already "dead and gone".

And what did Mr. Bransford have to say about the importance of the first paragraph while anouncing the finalist for one of his first paragraph contests?

"I was reading these paragraphs for clues. Clues on whether someone has a novel that I can sell. Because selling is the thing. People want to be eased into a novel. They don't want to be throttled by first paragraphs. They want the scene to be set and the characters revealed. They want subtlety, and proper word choice, grammar, sentence structure, and seamless readability. Clues that the rest of the package is a sure thing."

Finally, the full page. Actually, this isn't the totally full page of Angela's Ashes, but most of it. I'll stop at the point where I knew I was hooked good and deep.

"When I look back at my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father, the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years.

Above all-we were wet."

It was that last line that hooked me. After that long list of items, each one sadder and more horrible than the next - you get this little glint of humor, that oddly makes it all the more poignant. There also almost a feeling of poetry in these words, that also made me want to read this page again and then every page that came thereafter.

Again, back to Nathan Bransford's blog and his first page contest. Apparently, there was some grumbling after the finalists for this contest were announced and Mr. Bransford addresses those grumblings and also explains how he chose the finalist.

"A first page really can do (basically) four things: reveal the setting, reveal the characters, reveal the plot, and/or reveal the style. There were many first pages (just as there are many wonderful books) that started off with a wonderfully evocative setting, there were many that started off with wonderful characters, an intriguing plot and/or an interesting style. You could find all sorts of wonderful books that start with a combination of one, two, three, or four of these elements (ATONENMENT, for instance, begins with a fascinating character, Briony, organizing a play with McEwan's intricate style)."

I would argue that Frank McCourt in his first page hit all four of these elements. Setting he hits really hard. Characters - again yes. We get all the siblings and we know the father is an alcoholic and are also given the first glimpse of the titled Angela, the mother "moaning by the fire". Plot is probably the least of these, but the book isn't one with a very strong plot and really just follows his miserable childhood, which he sets up for us right at the beginning. And finally, style, or voice, and again I think this one is evident from the first sentence up to the last one.

Now you tell me: How important are beginnings to you, both in the books that you read and write. Would the first page of Angela's Ashes have drawn you in as a reader? Do you agree with Nathan Bransford's thoughts? And is it most important to hook the reader with the first sentence, first paragraph, first page, or all three?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Recommendations Required

The above picture has absolutely nothing to do with the following post. I just decided to add it for the following reasons:

1. I would love to be able to buy a package of Oreos that has the above pictured cookie inside. They could package it as their new formula of 95% creme filling, 5% not especially tasty cookie that you eat only to get to the filling anyway.

2. This post will be about books, not cookies, and I was going to find a picture of a stack of books and post that, but it just seemed so predictable so I went with the cookie instead.

3. It's Friday. That is reason enough.

Okay, let's move onto the actual topic of this post. As you may or may not know, I recently finished the first draft of my WIP.

And that's exciting, but it's also scary because I've been writing this thing for so long that I've become quite settled into my little writing mode, and now I need to totally reset myself into rewriting mode. To help push myself into this mode I thought that it might be a good time to read some books on the craft of writing.

The writing books that I have in my collection right now are:

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers

This book was given to me by my mother-in-law (Whom, as I have mentioned many times, is pretty awesome.) several months before I began writing my first novel.

The book was pretty great too, although it's been a while since I've read it so my memory is a bit shaky. Mostly the book consisted of: history of how the author got into publishing, advice for writers, and a breakdown of how the publishing industry works.

Now that I am thinking about it, I should just put this book at the top of my to-be-read pile since it seems due for a reread.

I bought Stephen King's On Writing between finishing the first draft of my first novel and moving onto rewrites. A close friend had read it and recommended it to me, plus Stephen King is a pretty recognizable name and I thought he might know a thing or two that I wouldn't mind knowing myself.

The book is actually half memoir, half writing advice, but both are, in my opinion, worth reading.

The writing stuff is straight-forward and filled with excellent examples, while the life stuff from getting his start, to overcoming addiction, and finally surviving a life-threatening injury after being hit by a car is all really inspirational.

I bought this one after my friend Jenny read the first draft of my first novel and filled it with comments like, "THIS IS A RUN-ON SENTENCE. PUT ANOTHER PERIOD SOMEWHERE, PLEASE!." and "YOU CANNOT JUST PUT A COMMA HERE." To be fair here comments started out more like, "Hey Kate, you might want to put a comma here", then got progressively more terse "comma", until finally at her wits end she started using the shouting all caps.

Having read good reviews for Eats, Shoots, and Leaves I decided to give it a read and see if it might solve some of my punctuation problems. After I began reading I realized there was one little problem, the author was British and as she pointed out many times throughout the book, their system is sometimes subtly different from ours.

Still, I finished the book because it was just outright entertaining. Never did I expect that a book about punctuation would make me laugh out loud, but this one did several times.

Finally, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips For Better Writing is the most recent addition to my collection and was a Christmas gift from one of my online crit partners.

I haven't actually gotten around to reading it yet, as I was waiting until I was ready to start rewrites, which now that I am at that point, I will certainly be opening it up any day now.

I should also mention that I had a copy of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style while in high school and what lessons didn't sink through my thick skull I know how to look up on the Internet.

Okay, so that's what I have, but what is my collection missing? I'd love any comments telling me what writing instruction or grammar books do you swear by? Or do you find such books a waste of time or a distraction?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday #004

Happy, happy, happy Work in Progress Wednesday!!!

If anyone else out there in the blogosphere wants to join in on the fun, 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.

So, confession time. This past week I have been sweating bullets. Why? Because for the past three WIP Wednesdays (that would be editions #001, #002, and #003 for those who are counting) I have been blathering on and on about how I am almost at the end, it's so close it's not even around the corner, but right on my own doorstep, so close that I can almost lean forward and kiss its pink little cheeks.

There was only one problem, despite all my talking about it, I did not actually get to the end of my WIP. Which kind of makes me a schmuck. And while schmuck is a really great word and even more fun to say, it is less fun of a thing to be.

So, I decided to put my foot down - no, I decided to put my butt down. Yes, I set my butt on my falling apart desk chair and decided that both my WIP and my schmuckdom would come to an end in time for WIP #004 - or else.

I don't really know what the 'or else' would exactly have been comprised of, but I know it would have been terrible, like not letting myself have dessert for a week kind of terrible (Yes, I punish myself as if I were five. And it works.).

However, I am happy to report that I have avoided the awfulness of 'or else' (and will be able to watch my DVR'd American Idol while happily eating of the chocolate chunk banana bread I made this afternoon.) because I (only minutes ago!) wrote those two wonderful words: "the end."

Since I have sort of set a progress bar precedent and would not want to disappoint anyone (especially those who are here only because they entered something like "word meter" into a Google search and this page came up. Yeah, besides people looking for Kermit the Frog, the other most popular search item is people looking for word meters or oddly enough love meters. Clearly, I do not have the latter, and also am not sure if a meter can keep track of love in the same way it does word count, but good luck anyway in your continued searches for such a meter.) here it is:

93952 / 85000 words. 111% done!

Look at that yellow just bursting out! Hmm... Wait. Stop looking. I wanted yellow for sunshine and happiness because I reached the end, but now it just looks like my word meter has a leaky bladder.

Ahem. Anyway, about the end. It was not easy reaching it, and I am not sure this is really the end, but as far as the first draft goes it will have to do for now.

The not easy came earlier in my week of writing when the words were drying up and my ideas for what was supposed to happen at the end while they had been so perfect in my head, were not working out so well on the page. I muddled through, forcing myself to write my minimum five hundred words a day. And when I wasn't writing, I kept working away in the back of my mind, trying to figure out what was wrong.

On Sunday I had my "Ah-ha" moment. I think all writers know those moments. You find something out that you didn't before, and that one thing just works and makes everything better. After that I wrote 1432 words on Sunday, 1333 on Monday, and 2358 extra late night Monday and Tuesday.

As for not knowing if this is the end, well I will have to wait until I can look at it with slightly fresher eyes after a week of rest and also see what my beta readers think. What makes it tricky is that I am envisioning this as the first book in a series, so instead of the happily ever after that I wrote in my first novel, this one is more of a hopefully ever after, which means leaving some threads dangling, instead of all tied up in a neat bow. The question is how much to leave hanging without making the reader feel like they've been cheated out of a full resolution? I am sure I will be exploring this question further in future WIP Wednesdays.

However, that's it for this WIP Wednesday. Next week I'll be talking revisions and side projects.

In the meantime how is your WIP going?

Are you feeling schmucky for taking longer to reach your goals than you planned? Have you had any "ah-ha" moments?

Or have you reached the end, and did you know it when you got there?

I really love visiting the other blogs that have picked up this weekly meme or reading your wonderful comments - so keep them coming!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Another Musing Monday

Once again from Just One More Page... it is time for Musing Mondays.

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about new authors…

What is your policy when it comes to new authors? Do you feel comfortable purchasing a book or do you prefer to borrow new authors from the library? How often do you 'try out' a new author?

As someone who very much hopes to one day be a new author with her book sitting on the shelf of your local Borders or Barnes and Noble I, of course, have to say that it is very important to give new authors a chance.

Now to be completely honest I do get 98% of my books from the library, and it is quite a different thing to get a book you might not like for free, compared to shelling out ten or twenty dollars for it only to realize at page 50 that you cannot bear to read another page.

However, when I do have a few spare dollars, or even better, a lovely gift card - I am cautious about what I buy and try to make sure I will enjoy the book I purchase.

But instead of only staying with authors that I know, the way I gauge whether a book I am about to spend money on will be something that I enjoy is simply by: reading reviews, following the star guides on the major book selling sites, and the first page test. The first page test can tell you a lot about a book, but most importantly it tells me if I will want to flip to the next page and the one after that. There have been many times where I've been in the middle of a bookstore with a book in hand as the first page test turns into the first ten pages test just because I can't put the book down.

These days with a toddler who wants to play hide and seek in the aisles or pull books from the shelves, it is difficult to find the time to stroll through the bookstore, picking up whatever catches my eye and flipping through it, so I really enjoy the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon for this last one.

Finally, my one reason for not just sticking with authors I already have read and enjoyed is that no book is a sure thing. Yes, if I love an author I will search try to search out every book they've written, and make a point of marking their new releases on my calender. But a a book by an author you love also has to live up to their previous books and your expectations... and sometimes they don't. In fact, in my January reading round-up two of the books I read were by authors who I really love, but their latest books were disappointments for me, while the other books I read that month from new authors were the standouts.

What about you? Do you stick with the tried and true, or prefer to check out something new?

Friday, March 6, 2009

I Sold A Short Story!

Today was a good day.

Today I signed my name to a contract.

The contract is for a 800 word short story that I sold to Woman's World magazine.

According to that that perfectly wonderful contract, on May 18th I will be able to find my short story inside the current issue of Woman's World with my name on it. Even better they are actually paying me for this privilege, and not the other way around.

How cool is that?

Like all things writing related the seeds of this very good day were planted a very long time ago. The story was written and submitted all the way back in September of last year. I'd read on a message board that Woman's World accepted short romantic stories and paid well for them and thought that maybe I could write something that they would like.

I did some research on the kinds of stories that they printed (thank you Archy for the stories you let me read from some current copies of yours.), and then I wrote it and had my crit group take a look at it and help me chop it down to the 800 word limit and just generally make it better. (Thanks Passionate Critters! You guys are the best:)

However, the idea for the story goes back to 2002 - the summer before I started film school when I was playing around with ideas for short screenplays.

I wrote this silly little thing about a woman with an overbearing mother, a crush on her neighbor across the hall, and a addiction to chocolate that she couldn't kick. As a short film it didn't really work, and eventually it got stuck into the gigantic pile of little bits and pieces of things I've written that I may or may not come back to someday.

Every so often I go through this pile, mining it for ideas and inspiration. Sometimes I'll break off a chunk of something I've written and graft it into another story, and other times I'll take it and use it as the starting point to build something completely different and new.

This is why I do not subscribe to the "kill your darlings" school of thought.

Instead I find it is much more sensible that when I have some element in a current WIP, whether it be a character, bit of dialogue, or an entire scene, and it just isn't paying the rent of it's current residence, then as the landlord of that story, I obviously need to evict them. However, this eviction does not mean that this element can't become a very good and reliable tenant somewhere else.

So, anyway, that is the whole story of my very first professional credit. Yes, it is only one tiny step up the gigantic ladder to success, but it is one step higher than I was before.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Memes, Awards, and Lots of Linkage!!!

Lots to talk about today, so I'm just going to dive in and get started.

First off, this past Monday Robin of My Two Blessings gave this lovely blog award to moi!

Thank you Robin! The rule is to pass this along to 5 other blogs that are either new or new to me.

Lately, I've been exploring the blogosphere and in some ways it is a daunting task, much like looking at the stars, when you realize the sheer number of blogs out there, it can start to make you feel very very small. At the same time though, there are also so many wonderful blogs hosted by funny, brilliant, and intriguing people - that I also feel lucky to be able to discover them.

So with no further ado here are five blogs that I have recently become quite attached to:

1. Annie Writes About Writing Not only is this blog new to me, but it is new to Annie as well, she just started it back at the beginning of February. What I love about Annie's blog is her sense of enthusiasm and excitement about the writing process.

2. Crimogenic - Isn't that just an awesome name for a blog? I just like the way it looks on the page. Also, I like the blog itself. I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago when I saw a link to it in the sidebar of new blog chainer Kat's blog with a posting that reviewed The Time Traveler's Wife. Since I had just recently read this book myself and it was fresh in my mind I was interested to hear another persons take on it. I thought her observations were dead on and became a fan of her blog.

3. Help! I Need a Publisher! (and maybe an agent...?) This blog is written by Nicola Morgan an award winning author who lives in Scotland. Not only is this blog full of great writing advice, but it also has some really hysterically funny stories like this one about doing a reading in a coffee shop for a bunch of schoolchildren. If this story does not make you laugh out loud, then there is probably something seriously wrong with you.

4. Old Picture of The Day - This blog is as simple and straightforward as it's title - each day an old picture is posted. For me this blog is under the inspiration category, and some of these intriguing pictures have already sent story ideas swirling through my brain. Check out this police woman from the 20's, daughter of a sharecropper, or dig through and find one of your favorites!

5. Thursday Night Smackdown - Finally, besides blogs dedicated to writing and reading I always love a good cooking blog, preferably with lots of mouthwatering pictures that allow me to live vicariously. TNS easily fulfills the picture requirement, but also delivers lots of laughs full of tart commentary and funny captions. A recent post featured a recipe for bacon toffee. Yes, I know, it sounds so good you want to lick the words on your computer screen. Don't do it, it'll just leave an ugly smear... not that I know for experience... I'm just saying.

Okay, so the award part of this post is over and now we are moving onto the blog meme part in conjunction with a blog posting from Elana at Mindless Musings today.

Here's the deal she listed 7 things about herself and challenged her readers to find one thing they have in common with her list and use that as the first of their seven and then add six more. If you're reading this and have something in common with one of my seven feel free to join the chain by posting your own entry using one of mine as your number 1 and make sure to leave a link in the comments.

For my number one I am going to use Elana's number 6:

6. I have severe addictions to the following: Oreos, bacon, dying my hair, watching reality TV, driving too fast, laughing too loud, sleeping in on the weekend, facebook, blogging, reading, stamping, salt, writing, downloading songs from iTunes and making copious numbers of (unlabeled) CDs, and eating out. It's a good thing I don't smoke or drink.

To make this my own number one though I need to make a few small changes...

1. I have severe addictions to the following: The filling in Oreos but not the blechy supposedly chocolate cookies attached to it, bacon, no longer dying my hair (I went through all the colors while in college), watching reality TV, driving too fast, laughing, sleeping in on the weekend, facebook, blogging, reading, stamping my feet when I don't get my way, writing, listening to free streaming music on Imeem, and making meals at home that taste better than ones we could get while going out. It's a good thing I don't smoke.

2. I have four sisters and no brothers. I am the second oldest and will be thirty in exactly two weeks, while my youngest sister, the "baby", just turned 21 last month. So far we have gone in order getting married. My oldest sister, Ann, got married in 2002, I got married in 2005, and my next sister in line, Amanda, is getting married this September. That leaves the last two, Nicole and Bridget, to continue the tradition.

3. I've had around thirty different jobs from the time I was sixteen to the present. The longest I ever worked one job was my first one at a Boston Market - I was there for almost two years.

Other jobs that I've held include: telemarketing, restaurant hostess and waitress at many different places including Bob Evans, Melting Pot, and Olive Garden, Niagara Falls tour guide which included getting a special license to drive the gigantic van around, Gap employee, factory line worker (for a week), data entry, administrative assistant, receptionist, janitor (my friend Jenny and I did this nights during our Sophomore year to save up money to be able to move into an apartment and out of the dorms the next year. The highlight was a car dealership and the task of cleaning the mechanic's bathroom. It was every bit as bad as you might imagine... no, actually, probably more.), day camp counselor, and grocery store cashier.

There are more, but I can't think of them all now. Currently, I have a freelance transcription job.

4. My worst fear when I was pregnant with my son was that I might have to have a C-section. The idea of being cut open while I was awake seemed like something out of a horror film. And, of course, I ended up having an emergency c-section. It was less horrible than I thought it would be mostly due to 2 factors: My wonderful husband who held my hand through it all and the lovely anesthesiologist who whispered to me right before they began cutting that he had given me some morphine. Oooh, Doctor, you know just the words a girl wants to hear.

5. I am a terrible dancer. I know this because as part of my theatre class schedule as an undergrad, I had to take a dance class every semester. First jazz, then ballet, then tap, and finally more jazz. I sucked pretty equally at all of them, except for tap, which I sucked just a little bit extra in.

The teachers of all those classes used a similar refrain of: "You'll need to know or be able to do blah blah blah when you're at a dance audition." Well, by my junior year when I was taking tap, I was pretty sick of hearing this since I already knew damn well that there would be no dance auditions in my future.

So, when I explained to my teacher that while I knew and could do the steps of a specific dance correctly, just not (unfortunately) at the speed of the music it was supposed to be done to, she gave me the old, "Well, what would you do if you were at a dance audition."

I think I laughed, and then I made the mistake of telling the truth. "I will never BE at a dance audition." Yes, I distinctly remembering emphasizing the be.

My teacher did not like that. I think she said something like, "Fine." And then she took off her taps, flung them into a corner of the studio and announced that class was over even though we still had ten minutes left.

The rest of my classmates looked at me in horror as we filed into the changing room. "Kate, what did you do?" I honestly didn't know. I just told the truth. I wasn't saying that it was her fault, or that she had failed me as a teacher, but rather with the stressed BE, I was trying to convey that this was just something at the core of who I am. I am a person who cannot dance.

6. I have never had a cavity, and I never had my wisdom teeth taken out. For these reasons I am one of the few people who does not mind going to the dentist.

7. Wow. This last one is really straining my brain. You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to think up seven things about yourself, but then you sit down to do it and suddenly you are realizing that you are the worlds' most uninteresting person.

How about this? I am a Pisces. It's a water sign as in wishy-washy. And it's a fish, which when cooked is flaky. Sadly, there are times when this sign sums me up perfectly.

Whooooo! Done.

Okay, now it's your turn to play along. If you're reading this consider yourself tagged - now go!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #003

Today is Wednesday, which means that here at the lovers, the dreamers, and me - it is WIP Wednesday!

If anyone else out there in the blogosphere wants to join in on the fun, 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.

Now if you read last weeks WIP Wednesday you may remember we left off with a cliffhanger, wondering whether or not I would reach my word count goal and whether that word goal would bring me to "the end."

The answer is yes I reached my word goal, and no I did not reach the end. Here's the current state of my progress bar:

85498 / 85000 words. 101% done!

Yes, I am more than 100% done! And I also have no idea how far over 100% I will be when I am finally finished.

Still needing to be written is the big showdown and the dénouement. Those two together are probably good for another 5000 words or so. I guess I could just change my final word count number to 90K instead of 85K, but I really like looking at that completely full progress bar, so I think I'll leave it for now.

So, that's about it for this week. Once again I really want to be able to report next week that I am at "the end", but things on the real life side of my balance sheet have been adding up and cutting into my writing time lately. Regardless, "the end" is near and already I am starting to think about getting down to the business of first rewrites and then hunting down some willing beta readers to help me make my little manuscript shine. And since I'm on the topic of hunting, how about an LOLcats to wrap things up?

What about you? Did you accomplish what you wanted to this past week?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book Marketing? Oh noes!

It is time for another blog chain. And man oh man the question is a doozy this time. Heather has thrown a major curve ball with this little question:

What plans do YOU have to market your novel? How will you make sure the public finds your work?

I like the use of the word plans. It brings to mind extensive and detailed lists, or maybe even a blue print drawing that can be used to infilitrate the publishing establishment by slipping in through the boiler room.

Unfortunately, the marketing plans that I have for my novel are nothing anywhere near as substantial as this. In fact, I would say they are more comparable to dust motes that are kind of floating around. They are out there in the air, but not something that you can firmly grab hold of. I have vague ideas about doing many of the usual things that Heather mentioned in her post, like book trailers, promotional bookmarks, building a website, etc. But what exactly any of those things would look like, I honestly can't say.

So, instead of exact ideas for marketing - I am instead going to talk about attitude. Because while the idea of marketing myself kind of fills me with dread, I do know that it is a crucial element in my goal of having a career as a writer. This means that I need not only a can-do, but also a will-do attitude - as in I will do whatever it takes to be a success.

If this means overcoming some of my introvert tendencies and forcing myself to get out there in the world and shmooze (oh dear, I don't know if those shmoozing attempts will be more painful for me, or for the people forced to endure them), or try to convince the local newspaper to give my book a plug, or even sitting at a table in a bookstore with a stack of books beside me while customers refuse to acknowledge my existance - well then that is just what I will have to do. And I will do it because even worse than not getting my book published, would be to having it published only to see it fail because I was too scared to get out there and try to make it a success.

Other than attitude, I also plan to make a point of learning everything I can about effective book marketing strategies, becoming a student of it and learning as much as I can through books, internet, and anyway who will let me pick their brain on the subject. Just like learning the whole process of querying agents, I am sure there will be a steep learning curve, but I also know that there will be a lot of people willing to help me along the way.

Okay, want to hear what other people on the chain have to say about marketing? You are in luck. Jessica Verday was before me on the chain and this is all very real for her since her book, The Hollow (go ahead and click that link to see the gorgeous cover and then also pre-order it from Amazon), is coming out in October of this year! Then head on over to Archetype Writing where I am sure she will have a lot to say about marketing both her non-fiction and fiction projects.

As for me, before I can think about marketing I first need to focus on getting my WIP ready to submit. Join me tomorrow for WIP Wednesday #003 to measure our progress together!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Musing Monday

It's time for another Musing Monday over at Just One More Page... and this weeks question is:

When reading do you read every word? Do you ever skip chapters or skim over parts?

This is an interesting question, but also one that I'm not quite sure how to answer.

I do know that I would never ever skip a whole chapter, or even a whole page. If I don't like a book I am reading so much that I want to skip over parts of it, then I simply stop reading, rather than skipping through the book just to finish it.

There are also times when I'm reading a book that I am really into and dying to find out what happens next and my eyes will skip over large text blocks full of description to the dialogue on the next page, but then I usually rein myself back in and go back to reread what I missed.

As for skimming I don't think I do this, but I do read fairly quickly, so maybe there are times when I am not completely absorbing each and every word. Does that count as skimming? I don't think so, when I think of skimming something, I think of Men's Health Magazine.

My husband received a subscription to this magazine for Christmas, and since I cannot resist flipping through shiny magazine pages, I decided to take a look. Mostly it was like a women's magazine with fashion tips, diet tips, workout tips, and sex tips - all suggesting none too subtely that you need improvement. To be fair they also have the monthly Eat This, Not That article and I have to admit to being endlessly fascinated by information like: THE WORST DRINK ON THE PLANET!!! Not only do I love their use of hyperbole, but they also make comparisons of how many Krispy Kreme donuts or strips of bacon a food is equal to - as if these were some new kind of unit of measurement.

Okay, anyway, sorry for the detour - to get back to my original point, which was skimming, (it was skimming? right?) the other thing that Men's Health does is very helpfully highlight in yellow the main idea of all the articles throughout the magazine. So, with no effort at all you can easily skim through the magazine. I'm sure the writers of those articles must love knowing that out of the 1000 or so words that they wrote, most people won't bother to read more than the 50 highlighted ones.

Well, that is all from me on this topic. How about you? Do you skim or skip when you read?