Thursday, June 30, 2011

When a Supporting Character Tries To Take Over

Don't miss your chance to win a copy of ORIGINAL SIN.

So you have things planned out to the last detail - or if you're a pantser then you have an idea in your brain. It might be a bit fuzzy, but it's there. Either way you now know your MC and you're moving forward when all of a sudden one of your supporting characters decides to steal the show. Chances are this character is lots of fun with a dazzling personality. It's very tempting... but you have a story to tell and it's meant for your MC! 

What do you do? 

There are a couple of things that might be going on here. The first possibility is that your MC is falling flat and your subconscious is reaching for something easier. AKA the shiny, fun character that feels natural to write. If this is the case (and only you know if it is), you should stop and reassess your character building. Do whatever it is you need to do to get inside your MC's head. Try to find out what's preventing her from coming fully to life. 

BUT if the reason is that the supporting character is just one of those show-stealers, I recommend sitting down and having a heart-to-heart with him. What? Is my insanity showing again? Seriously! I've done this. And what I said was, "Listen, this is X's story, not yours, no matter how much I love you. So if you behave and anything ever comes of this, I will make you the star of the next book." 

In other words, give yourself permission to explore this character that's so grabbed you, but in such a way that it doesn't overshadow the wonderful work you're currently pursuing. 

Good. That sounds far more sane. Um, I mean reasonable. 
photo credit

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lisa Desrochers is My Guest AGAIN!

The winner of GODS OF JUSTICE and a first chapter critique is: David Jace! Keep reading for ANOTHER chance to win.

I hope you all remember when Luc visited in honor of the release of PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers. Well, the second book of the series, ORIGINAL SIN, is set to release on July 5th! And I want to celebrate. *throws confetti* I love Lisa's writing. Especially Luc. *fans self* 

Enjoy the following guest post/scene courtesy of Lisa Desrochers, and if you stick around and leave me a comment with your email address I will pick one lucky winner of a pre-ordered copy of the book! U.S. only please. It's that easy.* This book is hot hot hot - I've read it. ;D 

Matt: *walks through wall into Luc’s apartment* It seems my sister is lusting on Lucifer, and a lot of you are rooting for them. I find this more than a little disturbing, and I’m here in his apartment to show you the error of your ways.

First, take a look around. The art alone is enough to make you think twice. He’s got three DorĂ© prints near the kitchen, depicting different stages of Dante’s Inferno, and a print of William Blake’s The Temptation of Eve, just in case you forgot that no one’s above temptation. On the wall behind the black king-sized bed is a floor to ceiling mural of the Abyss, where he’s sure to be taking you if you spend too much time on the bed. And, speaking of the bed, the fact that it’s the only furniture in here should scare you right off. This is a lair, not an apartment.

Luc: *phases into the apartment* *glares when he sees Matt* I knew something stunk. Thought I forgot to take out the trash.

Matt: *eyes slit* Speak of the devil.

Luc: What do you want?

Matt: Nothing much. Peace on Earth…an end to war and famine…you gone. Yeah, that pretty much covers it.

Luc: *smirks* Good luck with that.

Matt: Ruin any lives today?

Luc: Not yet, but the day is young.

Matt: *glares*

Luc: Are you done? Because Frannie’s on her way over, *plucks Dante off the bookshelves* *lifts eyebrow at Matt* and we were hoping for a little alone time.

Matt: *lightning crackles over fist* If you touch her I will kill you.

*knock on door*

Luc: *glares back* Make up your mind, cherub. Smite me now or get out of my face.

Matt: *grumbles* *lowers fist*

Luc: *moves to door and opens it*

Frannie: Hey. *curls into Luc’s arms* Did you miss me?

Luc: *glares over top of Frannie’s head at Matt* Always.

Frannie: *stretches up on tiptoes to kiss Luc*

Matt: *clears throat*

Frannie: Oh. Hi Matt. *smiles* Long time no see.

Matt: It’s been, like, three minutes. *scowls* You drive so fast not even the Hounds of Hell could catch you between home and here.

Luc: *holds door open* Catch you later, cherub.

Matt: *grits teeth* When I decide to leave, I won’t be using the door.

Luc: *kisses Frannie again* Suit yourself. *sweeps Frannie up into his arms* *carries her to the bed*

Frannie: *giggles* So…Matt. Umm… *blushes*

Matt: *glares at Luc* I’m leaving. *looks at Frannie* I’ll be in the hall if you need me. *glares at Luc again* *steps through wall*

Luc: *lowers Frannie to the bed* Good riddance.

Frannie: Be nice.

Luc: *climbs onto the bed* *smiles suggestively* I thought you liked it when I was naughty.

Frannie: I’ll take you any way I can get you. *lifts Luc’s shirt off*

*Fade to black*

*Winner of the book will be announced one week from today.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How To Make 'Em Care

Don't forget to enter my contest to win GODS OF JUSTICE + a critique!

I've posted before on why we need to hook the reader with character and not just explosive action. But HOW? How do you, in the first several sentences implant feelings like that? It isn't easy, but here are a few tips:
  1. Put the MC in an immediately sympathetic situation. If it's something I can relate to, then I'm hooked. Wait! What if it's a dystopian or paranormal? How can I relate to being stalked by a vampire? Again - it's the similarity in the feelings. Haven't we all had those moments when we felt someone was watching. Or everything seemed deserted and we could imagine a mugger hiding around the corner?
  2. Make your MC's reaction unexpected. You know your MC, and hopefully you've chosen well. Put the wrong person in the right situation. And assuming we are at the beginning of said character's character arc, we can watch him/her fail miserably. Let's go with our vampire stalker. Suppose the frightened girl spins around and confronts him, giving him a piece of her mind? That could be fun. I'd sure want to see what the heck is up with her! We see some flaws and some potential heroism coming through immediately.
  3. Show a contradiction in the MC's internal and external image. Give us some internal dialogue to show how she thinks. Then show us through interaction with others how she is really viewed. If there's a dichotomy between those things, I might be more interested in this complex person. Inside? She's shaking, confronting the stalker because she learned that in some self-defense class. Externally? The vampire stumbles and looks around. Can vampire's blush? 
Okay - I don't know about you, but I'm interested in both of these characters now. What do you think? Any other tips? My blogging/tweeting friend Susan had a wonderful post on first chapter characterization based on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that I recommend as well. 

Monday, June 20, 2011


The GODS OF JUSTICE superhero anthology (including my story IDENTITY CRISIS) is now available via Smashwords! 

I'm very excited about this anthology. The print version will soon be available as well. It's an awesome book, and I WANT TO SHARE IT WITH YOU. So if you'll help me spread the word, I will give one of you a pdf copy of your very own. I'll even throw in a first chapter critique to sweeten the deal. ;D 

So how do you enter? Simply leave a comment with your email, so I can let you know if you win, along with what superpower you would want if you could have one. Tweet and blog up to five times for extra entries - just be sure to leave me the links and a total count in your comment. I'll announce the winner in one week (Monday June 27). Be sure to come back then because I have an amazing special guest that day you won't want to miss. 

And for those of you in need of something writing-related, I posted today on Enchanted Inkpot about Fantasy Sub-genres. So if you get a chance go check it out!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finding the Horcrux

Remember DEATHLY HALLOWS? When Harry and the others find the Lestrange vault in Gringotts and have to find the real Horcrux amid the ever increasing horde of golden goblets? Don't you ever feel that way as a writer? Like there's so much information out there you don't know what to focus on? It's tough. There's so much to learn, and so many choices.

In my last post I spoke about taking all the information and molding it together to create what is uniquely yours. What I want to talk about now is how to know what information to take and what to let go of. Here are a few tips that I've used to sort through the vast amounts of info available - especially on the Internet.

  • Skim - remember when you were in school (some of you still are) and you were able to skim the material to pick out the important points? Useful life skill, I'm telling you. If an article is long, or looks like it may have value but I'm not certain, I start skimming to find out. It saves time.
  • Search for info relevant to your current situation - In other words, if you are just starting a rough draft of something, revision is important, but not as vital to you at this point as say a post about brainstorming, plotting, or outlining. Likewise, if you've already finished a draft, you may want to focus on revision techniques. If you see something that looks useful, but it isn't time yet, bookmark it for later. You can always come back.
  • Stay organized - that brings me to the next step. If you keep organized files (I should take my own advice here, but I'm getting better) you will know right where to go for the info when you are ready for it.
  • Assess if it applies to you - More than once I've run across a post where I think OMG! I never considered that. I better start researching this! Only to realize that perhaps it isn't actually a problem. Then I have to decide if the info adds something to my writing. If it does, then wonderful! Full steam ahead. If it isn't relevant to my personal situation? Let it go. Don't force it to fit. 
  • Ask for other opinions - Not sure where to go or what to to take from it? Look to others that inspire you for help. Agents, editors, authors, critique partners, Blogging friends, Twitter, etc. Don't be afraid to ask because if there's one thing I've learned, it's that others in this industry are ready and willing to help. 
What other tips do you have for finding the right info at the right time?

Oh and I was tagged by Leslie Rose on her blog so here goes:
1.Do you think you're hot? Umm... since I live in So Cal and it's summer - sure! :D
2. Upload a picture or wallpaper you're using at the moment. Here's my bird, Mango. She regularly stands on my keyboard preventing me from typing.

3. When was the last time I ate chicken meat? I honestly have no clue. I had a veggie(fake) chicken sandwich the other night for dinner, does that count?

4.The songs I listened to recently. For my manuscript: WHAT THE HELL and E.T.

5. What were you thinking as you were doing this? I could tell you but I'd have to kill you, and that would just be messy. Sorry.

Tag you're it! 
Heather McCorkle
Margo Berendsen
Susan Sipal
Ebony McKenna 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Secret Formula

First I want to give a shout out to my friend and critique partner Ian Kezsbom for signing with the amazing agent Jill Corcoran! Yay!!

It seems there is no shortage of plotting formulas out there. And I think they are AWESOME! Yes you read that right - even a Pantser like me has something to learn when it comes to plot and structure. The simple worksheet from SAVE THE CAT did my latest MS wonders. 

Does that mean that's the magic book? The one with all the answers? No. It's a great book - don't get me wrong. But my writing, like yours, like I suspect every author's, is a conglomeration of many variables. The more of these ingredients we add, the better our writing is.

Incorporating bits and pieces from these sources makes me feel like I'm spinning a complex web. But when I stand back to take a look, it's stronger and more elegant than anything I've woven before.  Where do I draw information from?

  1. Books on writing like SAVE THE CAT and ON WRITING
  2. Books I love like the HUNGER GAMES and HARRY POTTER
  3. Books I didn't love so much (I have to find out WHY they didn't work right?)
  4. The blogosphere - that's right! You guys!! So thank you from the bottom of my heart. You inspire me daily.
  5. Advice from other writers - Do I HAVE to mention Libba Bray's speech again? That I learned to write what scares me?
  6. Conferences and participation in professional groups - I cannot recommend SCBWI enough here.
  7. Life experience - Drawing from my own desires, fears, and feelings. Also my background in both theater and psychology lend a unique perspective to my characters. Oh and everyday things from television (E.g., Vampire Diaries) to things my kids say.
  8. PRACTICE. Yep just plain writing does wonders.
I'm sure I'm missing things here. The point is all of these ingredients combine to make - well - my work. It's something that's uniquely me. Something I hope others will find compelling and meaningful in some way. And it's something I will continue to add to and perfect as I go, much like the guy up in the lefthand corner. 

photo credit

Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's All Been Done Before

Isn't that a cool fairy? My friend Georgette made a shirt for me with her on it. Georgette knows that there are a million different variations of fairies out there, and yet she still created this piece of art. Boy am I glad she did! But why? How did she know it would work out?

Well chances are she didn't. She had a vision, and she went for it. Probably, the details revealed themselves as she worked on it. But what she DIDN'T do was say, "oh well it's been done, so it isn't worth my time."

Some people say there are only 7 plots, and every story we write fits into one of those slots. There are variations of course. I've heard 3, 9, and 13 as well. But the point is the same. Why do it if it's already been done? 

Because it isn't the story. It's how it's told

You can make it unique by taking a fresh perspective. Yes, EVEN dystopian and paranormal romance. Here are some tips, followed up by some CRAZY/SILLY ideas that just popped into my head - and by the way I am not advocating re-writing the books mentioned, just trying to get you to think out of the box:

  • Change the perspective. What if HUNGER GAMES (one of my favorite books btw) were written from President Snow's POV? WHOA. Not YA, but... 
  • Tweak the circumstances. Suppose EVERYONE in Forks was a vampire or werewolf, and Bella had to proclaim her loyalty right away in order to stay alive. And ONLY THEN did she fall for someone in the opposite group. West Side Story meets Twilight. LOL! 
  • Find a New Kind of MC. What if the swashbuckling hero had OCD? 
You have to ask yourself how your idea differentiates itself from other things out there, and go for it. Don't give up on something you really love because there are too many already "out there". Ask yourself how your story can bring something new to the table. Ask what it is there are really too many OF and change that aspect of the story. 

Is market important? Yes. But it's not everything, and by the time you write and revise it, the market will have changed anyway. If you put your energy into something you love, it will show.

Monday, June 6, 2011

YA Saves!

I know there are probably already a million blog posts out there about this, but I HAVE to write it, friends. By now, I'm sure you've seen the article in the Wall Street Journal, Darkness Too Visible. Tears ran down my cheeks as I read it. But read it I did because I felt it only fair to do so if I was to comment on it. 

This isn't the first time an inflammatory article about YA has been posted by WSJ. Remember not that long ago this one appeared as well. I can't help but wonder if the WSJ received so many hits from the controversy associated with this article that they purposely proceeded to incite a reaction with the inflammatory nature of their latest. If that is the case, it is very sad that "journalism" can have deteriorated to this extent. 

I could comment here on quotes from the article. Things like "40 years ago, no one had to contend with young-adult literature because there was no such thing." CONTEND? Interesting word choice. And "In the book trade, this is known as "banning." In the parenting trade, however, we call this "judgment" or "taste."" NOT in this parent's opinion. I call it "closed-minded" and "paranoid".

But what's REALLY worth commenting on is the amazing response from our little community and beyond. The hashtag #YAsaves that appeared on Twitter took off like a firestorm. By Sunday morning it was the third highest trending topic in the US.

Books like those of Ellen Hopkins(read her post on this here), and Laurie Halse Anderson (whose excellent blog on this very subject should also be read) have literally saved the lives of the teens who found in their pages knowledge and self-empowerment. The understanding that they are not alone, that others have the same feelings and issues, and that there are consequences for their actions. 

The article mentions Suzanne Collins' HUNGER GAMES, one of my favorite books. It's referred to as "Hyper-violent". Never once in that book was the violence glorified, or glossed over. I'm proud to say I've not only given this book to my own child to enjoy, but I've now passed it to several others (with parental knowledge of course). Do I expect my son to go out and start shooting people with arrows? No. I expect him to think about standing up for his rights and those of others. About doing the right thing in the face of insurmountable odds. About the price of freedom. And so many other lessons available for anyone willing to look between the words. 

What YA author out there doesn't pay attention to the theme of her book? To character arc? Realistic teen voice and feelings? Trying to censor the material, and talking down to or hiding truth from teens only alienates them. Besides they deserve better than that. 

I am proud to write AND read YA. And I will continue to do so, and to recommend these authors and others to friends for both them and their children. 
photo credit

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Balancing Act

I often joke around about the teetering monster made of dirty clothes on the floor in my laundry room. Okay, maybe it isn't a joke so much as reality. Shameful admission time: I suck at house work. I'd much prefer sitting in front of my computer tweeting, blogging, or just plain writing. If I'm not in front of the computer chances are I have my Kindle or a book stashed nearby.

Oh yeah and I have a family.

Funny? Not really. As amazing and forgiving as they are, I know I tend to get so wrapped up in my own little world that I am sometimes neglectful.

The following is a dramatization. Maybe.

Kid: "Mommy I'm hungry!"

Me: "Go get a snack." *types*

Kid: "Mommy I don't have any clean clothes!" (See what I mean about the laundry?)

Me: "Re-wear something." *continues typing*

Kid: "Mommy the house is burning down."

Me: "Shh! I just have to finish this scene." *types feverishly*

Well okay, if the house were burning down I'm sure I'd do something about it. But you get the idea.

Often times we hear people say they don't have time to write. But is the opposite true as well? Can you write too much? I may be an example of just that. So what should I do about it? Here's my plan:
  1. Shut the computer when the kids get home until they're in bed.
  2. Keep a detailed schedule that I refer back to often (like I used to do at my "day" job) to make sure I don't miss anything important in the real world.
  3. Teach the kids to do their own laundry. - Well okay maybe that's just wishful thinking.
So tell me, what balance issues do you have? Online vs. writing time? Family vs. writing? And what plan can you use to make it better? Perhaps if we keep each other accountable it will help us remain on track.