Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mental Balance vs. Physical

I can't remember who I was speaking with the other day (if it's you, raise your hand), but we were talking about writing environment and what was needed in order to be in the zone. Several physical things were listed. For me, it's a window. As long as I have an opening to the outside world, I can write.

But then I started thinking. (gasp!) Yes, your physical environment can affect your writing, but what about mentally?

Cue: Laugh.

Yes, of course your mental environment is just as important (if not more so) to producing great work. Balance is the key right?

Sometimes. I've done posts where I've shared that if I'm down, or angry, the positive results show. I'm able to spout off words that wouldn't have come if I hadn't have taken advantage of that emotion.

But as a whole? Yes. I need that mental balance. Those strong emotional writing bursts are great, but only last so long. Hence my theory that you can write at all times, regardless of your mental status. ***but that's another blog post***

I wanted to share some things that help clean my mental slate. Things that keep me in line. (in no order of importance! LOL)

1. Nature. I need air. To get outside and feel alive. There's something about the outdoors that reconnects oneself... that simplifies life and puts things in perspective. Me with number 3 taken a couple months ago at the Grand Canyon-->
Gorgeous.




2. Music. My music tastes differ GREATLY. I was raised very classical. My favorite period being the Baroque period--so I love everything from Bach to my fav band ever: MUSE!!! *swoons*






3. Hubby
. No words necessary. He's everything. Him climbing at Yosemite. Pretty sweet, eh? ----->


4. Dance. I have a love of all things dance. The world, the sweat, pain, beauty, all of it.
<----Special shout out to my sis. Isn't she awesome?


5. Family. Nothing seems to heal like a phone call from Mom, hug from Dad, a text session with my sis, or quality time with extended fam.

When I have these things balanced, I write better. I'm fascinated with how people tick. What kind of mental or physical organization do you need in order to produce your best work? I'd love to know your thoughts.

Red. Head. Out. :D

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Flashbacks: Yea? Or Nay?

I'm not sure how I feel about flashbacks.

Yes, they can add dimension to the story by adding depth to your characters or suspense to the plot--it's a great way to bring in history, further sympathy for your MC, etc. If done well, flashbacks put me in the moment, experiencing the past first hand. And often times, it's better than trying to tell that portion of the story later through exposition or discussion.

***but***

As a reader, I usually hate when I see a flashback coming. I don't like the current action to be interrupted. Sometimes, I even speed read past the flashback and jump right back into the story because heh, time is precious and I know it's just a sob story about the last time the MC saw his mother or was in a car accident that killed his whole family. *snicker*

If that's the case, the author isn't doing their job.

One thing that can make or break a flashback is the transition. If the transition is choppy, or cliche, I'm out. The way to make this work is by making the transition natural. Having a flashback triggered by a smell or an object--or even a person usually works. But won't if you don't have this next thing:

The hook.

If I'm not hooked, why should I care about the MC's past? If I am, I want to know what's hurting them and what makes them tick.

Also, I think a lot can be told in even just a paragraph. Usually when I see the next few pages in italics, I groan. Because I know I've got a looooong flashback coming my way.

Now, I'm no flashback guru, but I wanted to share an excerpt of how to maybe get away with a small memory without having to dive into a full blown flashback. This was originally part of the first draft of my last novel. It's not in the story anymore, but I think this is a good example of how to have a smooth transition and say a lot in just a few words:



“This you?” he asked, inclining his head to the far wall.

I knew he was referring to the collage of pictures Mom had pasted of me everywhere. She could never take any down and kept placing one on top of the other.

My hope of ignoring the wall so it would distract him from doing so, was in vain. He was across the room before I could even finish my thought. I silently cursed Mom for not ever taking down "the awkward years." It was no big deal with just the two of us, but knowing that this guy—however strange he may be—was going to get a close look at my blemished face complete with braces, made me nauseated.

I cringed as he studied the photos. Memories of me in third grade flashed to my mind—pigtails and all. When the recess bell rang, I remembered skipping to the flagpole to meet Bobby Hendricks. He had passed me a note saying for me to meet him there because he thought I was cute. He said he wanted to kiss me, but I first had to tell him my deepest, darkest secret. Of course wanting to be on the receiving end of such a kiss, I told him that I had invisible people who lived in my backyard.

I remembered the way his eyes turned cold and dark. He laughed in my face and told me I was a freak. Instead of a kiss, I found myself face-planted onto the concrete. Tennis shoes and sandals stomped around me. They teased me and called me the name that has haunted me ever since. "Crazy …

“Clara?”

I flinched.

“Hhm?” I said immediately, snapping my head up to his.  

***           

What about you? Flashbacks: Yea? Or Nay? Do you prefer them in italics as opposed to plain text? Do you use them in your writing? Is there an author that you think is the flashback guru? 

Red. Head. Out. :D 

Monday, January 23, 2012

WIP Excerpt Time!

Hahaha...

Or I could entitle this: The Easy Cut And Paste Post! *laughs*

I'm rockin' in my WIP right now. Totally absorbed, getting some nice polished words down every day. It feels great. I know I love reading excerpts on other blogs, and it's always fun to share, so here we go:

***

John Doe’s room was just two doors down from mine. His window overlooked the backyard and I shut the thin drapes, not wanting to be a fishbowl to the rest of the neighborhood. I’d chosen this room, not only because it was where John Doe would be when the extraction team came, but also because it didn’t have a bed—only a couch. I knew Zach had the wrong idea about tonight, but I hoped the room being bedless would delay things.
It didn’t.
Without saying a word, Zach shut off the lights and moved forward, bringing me down to the couch and locking his lips against mine. His scent stung my eyes and his minty breath flooded my mouth. I put my hands against his chest and pushed.
“The drugs?” I asked bluntly.
“Later,” he murmured, putting his mouth back on mine. His tongue dipped in.
“No,” I said, pushing him back again.
Anger tightened his features. He hovered over me, his arms on both sides of my head. I’d never thought of Zach as a violent person, but in that moment, with the moonlight shining on his face, I wasn’t so sure.
“I just… need them to loosen up,” I lied quickly. “I want to do this, Zach.” I tried to show sincerity in my eyes.
He relaxed, his shoulders slumping over me. “Yeah, sure. I can see how… well, knowing everything with your brother…” He rolled off to the side and reached into his back pocket, pulling out a small bottle of pills.
“This will help,” he said. “But only take one. I don’t want to do this with you half asleep.”
I didn’t want to be asleep either. I needed my wits. Checking the clock on my phone, I groaned at the time. Fifteen minutes. Could I hold Zach off for that long?
“Thanks,” I said, taking the bottle. My hands shook as I removed one small white pill. My insides squirmed and heat flushed up the sides of my neck.
I couldn’t do this.
At first, I thought it’d be enough to just have the drugs on me, but what if they did a blood test for proof? I couldn’t let anything spoil this. Not for Jason. I’d do anything for Jason.
I slowly lifted the pill to my mouth. Just this once, Al, I thought. Never again. It was for the greater good. Zach grabbed the bottle from my hands and swallowed his own, before relaxing back on the couch. Taking one last peek at the clock, I popped the pill into my mouth and swallowed. It stuck hard in my throat.
There. Not so bad. 
***
Alrighty, there you go. Thanks for reading and I hope all of your current projects are going well!

Red. Head. Out. :D 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Writer Community: Real or Fake?

When I'm online, I kind of put on a mask--a persona. <---Not a bad one, just one that I think is essential. I strike conversation, smile, exude happiness and positivity to other writers around me (hopefully not obnoxiously so) It's like playing a part, to an extent.

To survive in this business, making connections is crucial. We're all doing it, trying to friend one another, gain support.

But when does it get to be too much? Or where's the line between real and fake?

There are some out there that only look at you like a number. How many people have you run into that befriend you and then dump you the minute you download their book? *shakes head*

It hurts when this happens. Yeah, sure, all of my friendships aren't the BFF type, but I do try to show sincerity wherever I go.

The difference between the real and the fake (and I'd like to consider myself real) is that I do care. We're all in this business together. Or we should be. But I guess, just like the "real" world, there are people out there that only have one thing on their mind. Their own success. ***And yes, I get that some people don't have time to buddy up, but etiquette should be shown at all times... maybe I'll do a post on etiquette for writers on twitter or something...***

Most of my best friends are my online writer friends. Truth. I've got such a tight knit group that has been through a lot. And one thing I've learned (and felt myself) is that true or real friendship is when you find success through others. In my group, I am the odd one out--in the fact that I'm not agented or have a book deal yet. But you'd never know it by the way I'm treated. Real friends treat you as an equal, regardless of where your status is. I do hope to have my own success someday, but I do find joy at seeing my friends succeed. On the flip side, I also feel great sorrow when they're down.

This isn't meant to be a slam on the fake people out there--well, maybe it is (har har) But what I hope comes across here is that there ARE real people out there that care and will stick by you no matter what. Find those people and hold onto them, because it can make a difference in whether you survive in this business or not.

Where are you on the real to fake scale? (LOL) Have you come across both? Is there such a thing as "real" in this business? I'd love to know your thoughts on this topic.

Red. Head. Out. :D

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chemistry: Fact or Fiction?

What is it about the first glance (or to put it plainly, "love at first sight") that's so enticing in novels?

Is it real? Does it happen in every day life?

I know for me, it was. There's no denying the connection I felt my sophomore year in high school when I saw my hubby for the first time. Him, slouched in his chair, with his arms on either side of the desk, acting as if no one or anything else in the world would have the slightest affect on him... it was almost like there was a charge in the air--something unearthly that drew us together.

Certain people have chemistry. And we LOVE to read about it. I don't know about you, but for me, my favorite part of a book is when the two protagonists meet eyes for the first time and we, as a reader are captured in that magic. ***Now, I'm fully aware that this moment can be overdone and used in an awful, cliche way, so please be wary when trying to create this magic.***

I thought I'd share one such moment in the novel I've been querying. Clara, the MC, has found herself in the middle of a battle, and for the first time, sees the physical being of the voice in her head she's had a thing for. Complicated much? *winks*



Through the chaos, my eyes connected with one figure. He moved as though he were made of oil, sliding in, out, and around the enemy. Every cell in my body ached to watch him.
His head turned.
 And then, for one blissful moment, the eerie, dark hollows of his eyes washed over me. I’m not sure how I knew it was me he had looked at—it was more of a feeling that had settled between us, like he had taken a breath and drawn me into him. 
---and a bit more later on--

I took a breath. And then another.
We were together. Him. Me. After years of hearing his voice in my head and wanting to see him so much I thought I would shatter from the pain it caused, he was here.
The rain had stopped and the moonlight trickled down through the branches, making his silhouette look like an extension of the long shadows under the trees.
I was staring. But so was he. Intensity radiated off of him, mingling with my fascination in the air between us. Time had no meaning. It could have been hours, minutes, or seconds that we faced each other in silence. Then he moved and the connection broke. I felt as if I had been hurled back into my body.

Now, I'm not sure if I've captured the magic here or not, I feel it when I read it (he he), but what I do know is I'm one of the lucky ones in "real life" to have found this. I'd love to know your thoughts. Have you experienced a magical first glance in real life? Or what is your favorite connection that you've read about? I know I have oodles... 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Star Interview with Author Jason Matthews!

Let's start out with a story, shall we? (A really, really condensed version of this story)

When I was a new writer, I met Jason Matthews on a critiquing website. He took me under his wing and taught me everything I know today. Without him, I'd be some clueless writer scribbling down gibberish that I thought was good, wondering why I wasn't having any success. He taught me the rules, logistics, how to make my writing tight, clean, and how to see the big picture. He didn't have to do that, but he did. It's just the type of person he is. And I'll forever be grateful.

Jason is HERE today to talk about his life, brilliant work, and his future plans! So, without further adieu, its my PLEASURE to introduce you to one of my most FAV people EVER.

Jason Matthews lives in Truckee, California with his wife and teen daughters. He’s the author of The Little Universe and Jim’s Life, along with several non-fiction guide books such as: How to Make, Market And Sell Ebooks All for Free, How to Make Your Own Free Website: And Your Free Blog Too, and Get On Google Front Page.  He’s an amazing friend, father, and knows everything there is to know about skiing, soccer, and dogs. 

I got the chance to "sit down" with Jason and ask him a few questions. 


1. Tell us about ‘The Little Universe.’

Glad you asked. The Little Universe is that special needs writing project that seemed to take forever. It started as a hazy idea during UNC college days when I did a lot of things I don't really do anymore. It morphed from scribbly notes on bar napkins into a screenplay that began in Los Angeles traffic and culminated on a typewriter in a freezing house during my first Tahoe winter. Then it sat on a closet shelf collecting dust for 8 years while my agent drank whisky and perhaps died of alcohol poisoning. After his death, The Little Universe drove me insane by screaming obscenities to work harder on presenting its beauty to the world, so I tried. Several years of writing and marketing later… now she's my baby.

2. Having read this book a couple of times, I know how brilliant it is. How did the idea come to you? Or why did you write this book?

Thanks, M-dog (blushes). I always questioned authority and wondered about the bigger pictures in life and the universe. I demanded answers to those deep, unanswerable questions like are we alone and how did life begin and is there a meaning to it all? It boiled down to trying to define the universe. But space is just so darned big, y'know? They say the universe has billions of galaxies, is billions of years old and billions of light years across. Simply put, it's billions of brain neurons beyond my ability to comprehend it.
I wrote The Little Universe as a personal attempt to provide possible answers to those questions. Yep, pretty sure I nailed them.

3. Was there an underlying message in ‘The Little Universe’ that you wanted to bring across?

You know how sometimes things happen than stun you as fantastic coincidences or small world stories that make you think, whoa, that's seriously beyond coincidence, something's going on here. It often serves as a reminder or to start paying attention. I believe this is an indicator of some of those bigger life questions, not in the form of an answer but as a description of what's important for us to know and work on for our personal development.

4. Do you have a favorite character?

Took awhile to learn all of the characters represent aspects of my own personality. I envy Whitney for being so complete and operating out of ego, which I'm far from doing. Jim is the child in us all with potential for anything. Jon is the human with weakness and desire, probably more like me than the others. Adams thinks he knows everything yet is being set up for a hard lesson in humility. Jessica is type A, make a name for yourself. Go girl. Samantha is the wisdom behind the shot glass at the bar while Frank is enjoying that fine liquid she poured. Rose is the spirit within, forever trying to help us.
I love them all.

5. ‘Jim’s Life’ is the sequel to ‘The Little Universe’ (which I’ve also read and is fabulous) Did you find the process easier the second time around? And will there be a third?

Both novels were so frustrating at times because I only saw them in bits and pieces but had no idea how they ended. It took years each time to work with them, ask questions, do some soul-searching and hair-pulling until the final scenes presented themselves.
There may be a third that I wrote during NaNoWriMo and that's a continuation of the characters alluded to at the end in Jim's Life. Have to admit to already being in love/envy with Rain and in serious lust with fiery Krystal, two young women with powers to change the world.

6. You also write non-fiction in the form of ‘How-to’ books. Tell us about those.

After writing two novels and not having much luck with agents and publishers, I decided to go Indie and make it happen, amazed at all the free methods for selling ebooks or paperbacks. I started mentoring other authors who said, this is really valuable info. Cha-ching (cue the light bulb over head), I realized the power of information and wrote three How-to books.
How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free has become my bread and butter while How to Make Your Own Free Website: And Your Free Blog Too is for people who want to do just that and Get On Google Front Page is for those who'd like to see their sites do better with search engines.

7. What’s next on the docket for you?

Just taking it one Red Head interview at a time. Actually a lot of momentum is going on so doing what I can to network with readers, bloggers, everyone who shares a desire to be a part of that bigger picture.

8. Any advice for us struggling authors out there?

Wish I had the magic formula. Now that everyone can self-publish, it's the best of times and the worst of times to be an Indie author. Major opportunities vs. major competition. Do what you can to write a fine book and then continue to make it better while respecting reader's opinions. Make changes if needed. Stay as active with social media as possible without spamming. Blog, blog, blog about your favorite subjects and like-minded readers will find you. Keep doing it because you must. Write for yourself first, for others second and for money last.

Pop Quiz:

Red or Blue? Red definitely when it comes to women. Blue for skies.

Cinema or DVD? Cinema for films like Avatar, Terminator, Shrek. DVD for couch-cuddling or anything with Sandra Bullock or Hugh Grant.

EBook, hardback, or paperback? Ebooks because my Kindle and Xoom perch nicely on the elliptical at the gym, where most of my book reading happens these days. Hardcover for learning books. Paperbacks for fiction and free publishing with CreateSpace.

Ghosts or Aliens? Ooh, how about the Ghost of an Alien? I unfortunately haven't met any yet. The ghosts (I believe) are spirits of people who have died but still want to be around for whatever reason, hopefully not during sex though, that's creepy. I also believe the universe has intelligent aliens, way more advanced than us. If they can get here or watch us, they must pretty advanced, right?

Steak or chicken? Hmm (Homer Simpson drool)… Steak and Chicken, sorry vegans. I like a thick New York with salt, pepper and olive oil grilled hot. I also make a mean Chicken Caesar Salad with extra secret spicy tidbits on the chicken.




<-----Me with Jason. Hubby and I had fun visiting Truckee. We might just have to move there. *winks*




Links:


Isn't he great? Hope you had fun getting to know Jason and I hope you guys will check out his work. Sometimes it feels like the friends in this business are the only thing that keeps me together. 

Red. Head. Out. :D 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is it the Beginning of the End?

...Or the end of the beginning?

With my first novel, I rewrote the opening soooo many times. It's because my story kept changing. I was a pantser, and didn't have anything outlined. So I ended up wasting so much time redoing parts of the story I had previously polished and perfected. Over and over and over again.

I've learned my lesson.

This time around, with the advice of a dear friend, I vomited my whole WIP out from start to finish. No more wasting time rewriting. I know how it needs to start and that is that. (You can read that beginning here)

I wanted to do a post on beginnings because I find my whole first experience PRETTY COMICAL. I'm going to paste three different openings that my first novel displayed at one time or another. And I don't mind if you laugh because, yes, each of them could be completely different stories.


Here's take one of my first draft:


I’ve always known someone was watching me. At least I was pretty sure someone was watching me.

Let me explain.

I’m crazy. Not crazy in the sense that I do wild, foolish, idiotic things. Crazy in that I’m mad, insane. I hear voices and see things. Things I know shouldn’t exist. Or should they? It’s hard to tell when you’re delusional. 

Okay, ready for take two? 

Clara…

I heard my name spoken over the hum of the car. I glanced to Ricki, who was on her phone, texting. My eyebrows pulled together as I continued driving.

Clara… the voice whispered again. My heart accelerated and the steering wheel became slick beneath my palms. I checked the rear-view mirror. A semi-truck followed behind, not tailgating, but closer than I wanted. I looked out the open window. Was the voice coming from outside?

Blinding white light suddenly flashed into my vision, searing through my mind like a hot blade. I screamed, clutching my head, feeling as if my eyeballs were about to burst.

Take three?

My footsteps pounded down the sidewalk, urgent. I didn’t have much time. The storm would be here any minute. I darted around the busy shoppers and dashed into the restaurant where Mom worked, panic gripping my throat. Mom was behind the bar, wiping the counter.

“Mom!” I yelled.

The sea of customers didn’t flinch. They ignored me, like always, their eyes passing through me as if I were a pane of glass.

You’re not going to make it.

I felt my mouth quirk up to one side. “Wanna bet?”

I pushed my way through the crowd, grateful for the presence of his voice. The feel of him inside my head was like chocolate. Smooth, comforting.

It isn’t safe for you to be out. There’s nothing you can do for your mother.

Gritting my teeth, I shook my head. I had lost Dad to the storm and wasn’t going to lose Mom too.

I dug my fingers into Mom’s shoulder and forced her toward me. The usual look of confusion traveled over her face before a hint of recognition hit.

“Clara, what are you doing here?”

“No time to talk.” I dragged her from the restaurant like a mad bulldozer, ready to flatten anything in my path.

It’s here, he said. Clara, you need to run.

I peeked over my shoulder and stumbled. The familiar dark cloud moved toward us, gliding down the street like poison. Crap. We were too late. I shoved Mom into the car, the hair on top of my head crawling. Within seconds, we were immersed in the dark fog, the chaos churning, curling along the windshield. My heart sped and the steering wheel became slick beneath my palms. Outside, people came to a chilling halt. Faces slackened and eyes went blank.

***
Funny, huh? (it's also fun to see that I think my writing has improved since these drafts)

I've come across several writers that believe beginnings should be written last. I guess it depends on how you work. What about you? What do you do?  Is there some secret that the rest of the writing community is hiding from me? *winks*

Red. Head. Out. :D 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Query, Anyone?

With the New Year energy, I wish I were querying. But my WIP, or NaNo project that I've talked about here won't be ready for a couple months. Note to self: Don't query too early. Made that mistake last time.


And note to reader: I'm actually excited about querying again. That way I can share my querying adventures, when I wasn't able to before, being blogless.


Because I'm elbow deep in polishing the WIP, and literally, vomit from the hubby and kids, I thought I'd share my former query letter--even though I've placed this project on a well-dusted spot on my best shelf.

It's always nice to know what a successful query letter looks like. And this little puppy worked wonders:


Dear Fabulous Agent that I worship so much:

The storms come like clockwork. Every day, the dark cloud descends upon the town, erasing the memories of every person. Except Clara.
 

After Clara's Dad mysteriously disappears, the Diviners, captive souls who feed off memories, come for her. She flees to Khalom where she hopes to find safety, along with Cael, the shadow warrior who fights for the city's protection. But because she's an outsider, and has been exposed to the Diviners, she's regarded with suspicion. Forced to live the Noble life, Clara faces going to school with peers who want her dead.


Throughout this, a unique power stirs inside of her. The power to kill. And it grows until she's not sure if she can control it. Outside the gates, Clara knows she's being watched. Yet, curious about Cael, she is drawn to the perimeter, caught by his dark and deadly presence. When the Diviners break through the city's defense and students begin to turn up brain dead, Clara must find a way to stop the attacks before the city--and her mind--is wiped clean.

I know there are loads of sites that have amazing tips on how to write a great query, and you've probably all read them twice, but if I were to offer advice? Get advice. Call on your friends. I know I owe huge thanks to Jeyn Roberts, aka "The Query Queen" where you can find her fabulous book, Dark Inside, here on amazon. Heh, I can slip in small plugs here and there, right? If you haven't read it, please do. It'll keep you up at night. In a freak-you-out-I'll-never-sleep-again sort of way. 

Where are you in the query process? If you've already landed an agent, what was your query experience like? If not, are you nervous to dive in? Or are you in the middle of it now and enjoying the ride?

Red. Head. Out. :D 


 
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