Friday, February 26, 2010

Little Writers

February 2004 - Tootsie Roll, Age 1 1/2

February 2010 - Curly Jones, Age 2 1/2

Writing has been a part of my kids' lives from the time they were (are) very little.  Books and stories and words are just a natural part of our days every day.  Curly Jones is starting to recognize "ABC"s on the pages of books (although she thinks they all say her name) and has long repeated the familiar parts of stories that we read together.  Her current favorites are The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Napping House.

Tootsie Roll is seven now, and I find her curled up with chapter books up in her loft bed or snuggled in random places around the house.  She has always been a reader and a writer.  When she was little, I used to tell her bedtime stories about a little girl who looked just like her but whose name was Amy Jamie.  Amy Jamie would draw things on her "magic doodle" and the jump into the pictures and have her adventures. 

When we didn't have time to tell those stories (they got kind of long), we improvised by telling stories about another one of our favorite made up characters, Frank Pickle.  Frank Pickle stories, as a rule, could only be three sentences long and always started the same way, like:

Once upon a time, there was a man named Frank Pickle. 
He wanted a hamster but the pet store was out.
So he bought a snake and got over it.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Frank Pickle.
He sent a Valentine to the girl he loved but she didn't send one back.
Oh well.

Lol... poor Frank Pickle had a lot of bad luck.  Sometimes he had good luck, but that wasn't nearly as much fun.  We would crack each other up with Frank Pickle stories.  Every now and then, we still do.  I'm sure Curly Jones will put her own spin on Frank Pickle, or we'll come up with our own bedtime story characters.

Tootsie Roll does a lot of creative writing now and I'm always amazed at the way she looks at things.  She thinks it's cool that I'm working on a book and she wants to illustrate it.  :) 

I never thought about writing much until I was in fifth grade and my teacher, Mrs. Ritts, told me I could write.  She encouraged me all the time and three years later when my younger sister had her, she pulled out pieces of my writing to use as an example in class.  I never forgot that, and although I haven't tried to publish before and this is my first serious effort, I have always written and always felt like a writer.  I try to encourage my students at school in the same way, in whatever areas they excel or enjoy.  Eric Carle says in his video "Eric Carle, Picture Writer" that his kindergarten teacher told his mom that he was talented and should be an artist and she enrolled him in art classes after that.

Who encouraged your dream, whether it be writing or something else?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Let's Look Stuff Up!

I have to admit that I really enjoy the research part of a new idea.  I had done a bunch of research and then my pesky Main Character decided that she was going to take the book in another direction.  (I think she was just trying to thumb her nose at me.  That's how she rolls.)  So I began writing what she wanted (bossy) and all is going just duckily, but I needed to do new and different research.  More fun, I totally enjoy it.  But let me make one recommendation to you - When you find a New York Times article about your topic, check to make sure that it is not from the year 1900 before you write down all sorts of nifty and interesting things.

Now don't say I never taught you anything.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Show Me Your Dangerous! *Contest*

(The teacher in me feels the need to explain that the "Your" in the title is not supposed to be "You're".  It's like "Show Me Your Underwear".  Only I do not want to see your underwear.  I want to see your dangerous.  Ok.  Proceed.)

Holy wow.  There are almost 100 of you over there who "dare to follow"!  I know, it's a little preemptive, most people don't celebrate until they actually hit 100, but hey.  I'm Dangerous.  It's in the header.  But listen... we're not celebrating me here.  We're celebrating YOU!  My almost 100 Bloggy Miyagis!

That's right.  In the world of aspiring writers, I am but a babe.  I have been seriously going at my Work In Progress (WIP) since the beginning of January.  I started this blog to put my goal out there to see the process through and journal it, both because I have a terrible memory ("Mom, tell us about the time you wrote a book."  "Huh?  I wrote that?  Nah, I'm pretty sure that was aliens.") and to give myself an audience so that I would have to actually produce something.  To kick my butt when needed.  (Thanks, Mike... keep it up!).  A completely unexpected result has been finding this amazing community of fellow writers from whom I have learned immense amounts already.  So thanks, to all of you.  Wax on.  Wax off.

So let's celebrate!  Dangerously, of course.  First, the prizes: A random lucky winner will dance away with these fine trinkets!

National Book Award Finalist LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES
by Laini Taylor (with gorgeous black and red illustrations throughout by her husband Jim DiBartolo)

This book is insanely beautiful.  I got the last copy at Barnes & Noble (you'll win a new copy, I'm not giving up mine!).  Laini's SILKSINGER just won the CYBIL for Middle Grade Fantasy.  The girl is on a ROLL!

Dangerous kisses.  Believe it.

What!?!  This book isn't even out yet!  Nope.  But I'm gonna preorder it for you.  Cause that's how I roll. 

I'm going to assume that you've already read the first two books of the trilogy, THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE.  Because you have.  And if you haven't, don't tell me, just slowly back away from the computer and find the nearest copies as quickly as possible.  Or at least before August 24th, when this one comes out.

And, finally, because it's a must... my most favoritist Frustrated Writer movie.  Which you all must have.  There be murder.  And mayhem.  And a novel gets stolen.
Because what's more dangerous than being thrown from a train, anyway?

So that's what I'm gonna do.  Here's what you're gonna do:

1. Comment on this post only to enter. (+1 entry)

2.  Be a Bloggy Miyagi (aka Follower, old or new +2 entries)

3. Link to my contest in a post or sidebar (+3, please let me know)

4. Show me your dangerous!!!  Tell me a story about when you did something dangerous.  Post a dangerous part of your Work In Progress.  Write a dangerous poem.  Sing me a dangerous song.  Draw me a dangerous picture.  Get dangerously creative!  (Don't hurt yourselves, though.)  (+3!)

Contest ends on the Ides of March. :)  (Beware!)
Thanks again - love you guys - have fun!!!

Stay Tuned...

Oh, baby.  This week has been a doozy, and it's only Tuesday!  Handsome Hubby had to go to the ER on Sunday for a nasty allergic reaction to an antibiotic he was given for his sinus infection (we had matching sinus infections, isn't that sweet?).  It was also very convenient of him to need to go to the hospital just when I had to drive past it to pick Tootsie Roll up from a birthday party.  So considerate, that hub o'mine.  Oh, and they wanted to cut off his wedding ring, but he wouldn't let them.  See?  He's the sweetest thang.  Apparently it's going to take a while for him to get better but he had to head back to work yesterday like the rest of us.  He teaches TV Productions and is Tech Director for his high school's musical (not the one with Troy Bolton).  It opens this coming weekend, so this is Hell Week, Play Style for him and he's at work from 7am until 9pm pretty much all week.  Which means I have the kiddies all night and, believe me, after a day full of first graders and a night full of a second grader and a preschooler (dinner and homework and dance and Brownies and baths and bedtimes, oh boy!), I'm about ready to crash by the time he gets home and then we try to watch a little Olympics together while I mark papers.  Oh, and the little one just spiked a fever.

I probably could have just said, "I won't be posting much this week..." :)  Yeah.  I won't be posting much this week.  BUT fear not, I do have some fun in store for you.  (I couldn't leave you to your own devices for days on end, you know)  I am inching ever closer to that magical number *100* and you know what that means!  Check back  later tonight for CONTEST DETAILS!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Let's Chat: Prologues

I am currently writing the prologue of my WIP.  I think.  I started with a later chapter, a scene that just burned in my mind as clear as day and had to be written down at that moment.  Then I wrote the end of the prologue and I have been sort of working backward to the beginning.  It's a weird way to write but seeing as I have no method, I'm going with it.

I was rolling merrily along, perusing too many blogs, when I came across one that was discussing prologues and made an offhand comment about a specific agent who dislikes prologues, because if you can't tell your whole story within your story, something is wrong.  (Of course I don't remember where in the interwebs the conversation was, which  is, I know, very helpful).

Hmm.  That stopped me.  Briefly.  I thought, well, plenty of other agents must be ok with prologues because there are a lot of books out there with them.  And I thought, like all first time writers probably do with our naivete` and bravado, I'm not going to let an agent dictate what I write.  (At least until it's done and I'm querying, lol.)  Then I looked over at my bookshelf and grabbed a few random books, all very successful, to see if they had prologues.  The Hunger Games does not.  Wake begins at the beginning but then Chapter 2 really goes back and acts as a prologue to tell what happened "before".  The 39 Clues does, but calls it Chapter 1.  The Book Thief does.  A Curse Dark as Gold does not.  When You Reach Me  does not.  Marcelo in the Real World  does not.  Going Bovine sort of does, but again, calls it Chapter 1.  Madapple does, but doesn't call it a prologue or chapter one, the chapters just have titles and years, since the book skips from the present to the past with each new chapter.

So all in all, a decent mix.  But then it lead to my next question.  Is the issue with a prologue just the fact that they call it a prologue?  Going Bovine  opens with the main character describing something that happened when he was five.  The next chapter bounces to high school.  I guess it's not really a prologue since the character is in the present, telling a memory from when he was younger.

So I guess my question is - Do any of you think that a prologue is a bad thing just because it's there?  Do you not like when a story doesn't jump right in?  (I never knew there was an anti-prologue movement, lol).  The blog I was reading was sort of secondhand info, and since writing tastes are so subjective, I wouldn't worry too much about one completely anti-prologue opinion.  But it did make me think.  Seeing as I am writing one.

There are definitely times when I think that a prologue does not work well - if it is super long (that sort of says to me that there is so much backstory that maybe there should actually be a prequel), or if I don't understand what is going on.  I don't mind a little mystery in a prologue, it's supposed to plant questions in your mind and make you want to find out what happens, but I do dislike prologues that are so confusing that I really have no idea what they mean until I read so far into the novel.

I did a little searching on the topic and found this article by Marg McAlister, where she states:

"A prologue is used mainly for two reasons.
1. To outline the backstory quickly and economically, saving the author from having to resort to flashbacks or ruses such as conversations or memories to explain the background to the reader. This is commonly done in science fiction and fantasy to show why a certain quest is being undertaken or what will happen in the future. The prologue is a better option than a first chapter bogged down in detail.

2. To hook the reader and provide the story question right up front, giving them a reason to keep turning the pages to find out the answer. Quite often the prologue relates to a scene near the end of the story, and the story itself then shows what has led up to this moment. When is this justified? Perhaps when you want to introduce your characters in a more leisurely fashion, and your reader's experience with 'meeting' them will be enhanced by some sort of foreshadowing of what is to come.

Apart from these two reasons, a prologue can be used to introduce a certain character's viewpoint on one occasion only. The rest of the book may be told from just one other viewpoint, or from several different viewpoint characters that are in some way removed from the one you've used in the prologue. The prologue can bypass the danger of viewpoint violation."

That last paragraph let me breathe a sigh of relief because that's the case in my WIP.  The novel is being told in first person, but the prologue is in third person and the MC is not yet born.

She goes on to analyze when to call a prologue a prologue and when to just make it Chapter 1 (again, it's just the title 'prologue' that is a problem in some instances?  Maybe it breaks the flow?  If the backstory info can weave seamlessly into the present scene for Chapter 2, I guess it's distracting to make it a prologue?)

She also mentions a serious dislike for prologues that end up being exact duplicates of a later scene or chapter.  I can honestly say that I don't ever remember reading a prologue like that until the very last book that I read, Madapple by Christina Meldrum.  In that instance, as a reader, I thought it worked well at the beginning of the story and wondered why the info was repeated, pages worth, in italics near the end of the story.  That struck me a little odd, although I liked the book overall.

What do you think about prologues?  Books where they worked well?  Books where they didn't?  Does your WIP have one?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Which I Write Nothing About Writing

Oh, February.  How you vex me.  Teaching first grade in February goes something like this:

You've had all the holidays in December (plus I co-lead a first grade concert where another first grade teacher and I teach all of our 200-ish first graders songs about peace), then winter break.  You come back in January and hope for a nice, long, uninterrupted stretch of teaching time (except it's assessment and report card time).  And then, just when you're on a really productive roll, you run smack-dab into February.  I would really like to continue to teach important things like reading and writing biographies, how to tell time, and observing guppies and bess beetles like scientists in February.  You know.  Things we are learning right now.

But February has other ideas.  February only has 28 days to begin with, so it kind of mocks us from the start, giving us less time to work with.  20 of those days are weekdays.  Minus two days off for Presidents' Day (we get a long weekend, Friday & Monday).  Minus a half day for parent conferences.  Minus, this year, two more days for snow.  Which leaves a grand total of 15 and a half teaching days.

But guess what else happens in February?  Groundhog's Day.  Presidents' Day.  Valentine's Day.  Chinese New Year.  Dental Health Month.  Heart Healthy Month.  Black History Month.  The 100th day of school, which, in elementary school, has turned into a mathtastic celebration day.  All of those things are fun and/or interesting and/or important, so I'm not complaining about them.  Just the fact that they all occur in February, and even if we learn about/celebrate each of those things for one day, that leaves six full days of school.  Now, of course, we're teachers, we're masters at multitasking and integrating, so we observe and celebrate through reading, writing, math, and other equally educational activities.  And, ok, every now and then we make a craft.  Which, even in my very highly academic school district, we still do (every now and then, not nearly enough) in first grade.  So it becomes Whack-A-Mole:  Hitting all different things in a very short amount of time. (Note to potential first graders:  Don't even think about having a birthday in February.)

Don't get me wrong, I love celebrating interesting days with my kiddies, and they are small and many of mine are learning about American holidays and cultural activities for the first time.  So it is important to spend time on these things.  I'm not complaining about that.  But it also throws us out of routine (which is difficult at this age), and (ok, so this is just my hangup) Type A me wants to make sure that they continue to progress through reading levels, writing genres, and math skills... and there's only so much you can do to tie in Groundhog's Day with biography writing without completely interrupting what they were working on.  (Yes, we could interrupt midway through writing bios about our parents to write one for Punxsatawney Phil.  But really.) 

I hear we may be getting walloped with snow again Monday into Tuesday (we only have one built-in snow day left, eek).  Oh, and subtract today from my total, because I just got home with a pocketful of gold (aka Amoxicillin) after a doctor's appointment  and pharmacy visit for my sinus infection.   Which is probably why this post sounds a lot grumpier than I actually am (and is full of needless parentheses).

Today, by the way, is the 100th day of school.  Apologies to my substitute, but this mole is hers to whack.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Dream Come True, Monkey Love, and Something To Amuse You

This is so ridiculous, but I had a dream come true today!  Not too long ago when I had something like 39 followers, I had this dream (one of those quick, half-conscious, no-the-alarm-can't-be-going-off-yet-ugh-is-it-REALLY-5:45 dreams) that I had 61 followers.  And not that 61 makes any sense, but I have been peeking in more often than I care to admit over the past couple of days, hoping to get to 61.  Today I was riding squarely at 60 and now tonight...63!  Wooot!  You are all my dream come true! 

Lol... aaaaand... I can stop obsessing over my  :)  (I actually almost had a contest to get to 61, but I thought that sounded a little crazy... oops... I just exposed my crazy.)  I will have a contest at 100, but I won't be obsessing until then.  I promise. :)

So anyway.  I was going to post tonight about prologues.  I will do that soon because I just read something interesting and I want to see if you agree with it.  But I have one of those awful head/neck aches from coughing and I'm going to be heading to bed early, I think.  So, instead, I'll share the acrostic poem about flying monkeys that I wrote for Abby's contest.  While my first graders were at Art. (Now I can say I wrote today.)

Feathered beasties
Leap into flight
Yawling at the moon
In eerie unison
Northern winds blowing a
Gale their way.

Meekly they
Obey the Old One
None daring to break the
Knot that binds, that cuts.
Each secretly
Yearning for

Oh, and... something to amuse you, as promised.
2010 Newbery Award Winner When You Reach Me:

2010 Newbery Award Winner When You Reach Me meets Curly Jones wielding a Valentine full of stickers:

(Sorry the pic is so dark, the flash kept making a blinding white spot in the pic).  The funniest part is, not having read the book yet, the cover looks so random.  So random that I didn't even notice CJ's "improvements" until I picked it up to read it and felt the stickers under my fingers.  I particularly like how she placed the animals on the roads (except for that inexplicably suicidal cat).  Not bad for a 2 yr old! :)

Monday, February 15, 2010


Just an update on some awesome contests out there in bloggy writer land...

Cheryl and Amber at Just Your Typical Book Blog are giving away a copy of Wherever Nina Lies.  Check it out!

Michelle at Beautiful Chaos is giving away a copy of her own book, Eldala! 

Anissa's monthlong blogathon comment contest is still going strong at Anissa Off the Record.

Maggie Stiefvater's Giant Linger Giveaway is here at her LJ blog, Words on Words.

Kat O'Keefe is giving away 3 books in a 100 follower contest  at Words, Etc.

Erica at The Book Cellar is giving away a Chick Lit Prize Pack.

Abby Annis is giving away copies of Fallen, The Dark Divine, and a $10 B&N gift card HERE

And, if you are way more seriously awesome than me and ready for a query letter critique, try winning one at Elana's digs with her Pay it Forward Query Critique Contest.

Win something.  Smile.  Be merry. :)

I Love A First Draft

Just finished up about an hour of good, solid writing.  Looking to keep going.  But laughing because I just wrote a sentence with eight commas in it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Twist Endings (old book spoiler alert - Stone Fox)

So, Tootsie Roll was given Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner to read as her home "bagged book" by her second grade teacher.  Now, I found this book to be difficult for her because, even though she's a strong reader and the book is leveled grade 3.5, it really can't be read without an adult helping to explain potato farming, what taxes are and why the boy's grandfather is in danger of losing his farm, what is happening to the boy's grandfather when he goes into a paralyzing depression when the book opens, dogsled racing, and a little bit of insight into Stone Fox's refusal to speak to caucasians because his tribe was removed from their land. 

The book was published in 1980 and has won many awards and is still being sold by Scholastic in school book orders with teachers' guides, so I realize that it is a popular book.  Downright depressing, but popular.  I don't really want to debate the book's merits, though... I want to talk about the twist ending.  So if you haven't read it and don't want to know... here.  Go and watch this YouTube video of The Cutest Baby Tiger and don't peek over here. You won't be disappointed.

So... tell me how you feel about this twist ending.  The boy (Willy) enters the dogsled race to win $500 to pay the tax collector to keep Grandpa's farm and he knows it will make Grandpa well.  The trouble is that Stone Fox, best dogsledder around, has also entered with his team of Samoyeds.  He has never lost a race.  He uses the money he wins to buy back the land that the white man has driven his people from. (Sorry, poor grammar there).  Anyway.  Willy knows the course well, has been practicing with his beloved dog, Searchlight... is about to win the race... Stone Fox makes his move and pulls up next to him.  And then?
wait for it
yards from the finish line, Searchlight's heart bursts. 



Willy's beloved dog dies, right there on the spot, and to add insult to injury, Willy trips over his lifeless dog's body.

Ok.  So then Stone Fox stops, fires his gun, warns the rest of the racers not to cross the finish line or he will shoot them (thereby ending his silent treatment).  Willy picks up his dead dog and crosses the finish line.  The End.

My major gripe with this twist is that, aside from the fact that I was reading it to my daughter and my voice literally stopped and would not come out at that line - it was completely unexpected - especially because she is very sensitive and remembers sad books and movies and will talk about them until the end of time (don't get me started on when her after school program showed the movie Bridge to Terabithia), it seemed like a completely unnecessary shock value twist ending.  I got what Gardiner was trying to do in terms of us seeing into the formerly impermeable Stone Fox.  But, really, what purpose was served by killing off a beloved character, the only friend that pulled Willy through the mess of bills, his depressed grandfather, and so on, in the last few paragraphs of the book?  Of a third grade level  book?

It really seemed to me like a twist for a twist's sake.  For shock value.  To make people talk.  And it made me mad.

What are your thoughts on this book?  On twist endings in general?  I know they are very hard to write and it feels like every book needs one.  Has a twist ending ever made you really mad?  Let us know at the beginning of your comment if you are leaving spoilers, please.  Thanks!

Happy Heart Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

With much love to Handsome Hubby, Tootsie Roll, Curly Jones, Fuzzy Puppy, and Unloved Hamster,

my family, friends (bloggy and in the flesh),

and my characters.

To MC and S... May you figure out whether or not you should be together by the end of the novel (or maybe in the sequel, lol), and to my secondary characters (you know who you are), I apologize in advance for the forthcoming implosion of your relationship.  It's for the good of the novel.  I promise.

My novel is not exactly what you'd call lovey-dovey, but it does have relationships.  So there, now you know just about as much about my WIP as you did before. :)

Handsome Hubby and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day, because it just works out for us to celebrate First Date Day instead (our first date was Feb 11, 15 years ago.  OHMYGOSH we're OLD!).  We had fancy hotel reservations that got snowed out.  Bummer, but we will reschedule. :)  We did small gifts for the girls today and otherwise it's been a quiet, snuggly day.

  Hope you're all enjoying your day, whether you do the V-Day thing or not. :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I often talk in my posts about how supportive Handsome Hubby is of my writing; how he listens to me and asks questions about the plot and tries to think of movies we can watch in the genre I am writing (because he teaches TV productions and movies are more his thing).  However, I don't often talk about how wonderfully supportive my two darling children are; so let me correct that here.

My 7 Year Old, Tootsie Roll

Each morning before we head off to our respective schools, me to first grade in my school and her to second grade in hers, TR and I try to find a moment to write on our family blog about something that makes us happy.  We call it (very cleverly) Monday Morning Happiness, Tuesday Morning Happiness... you get the idea.  This past Monday, I had a lot to be happy about: Over the weekend, we had gotten snowed in and had a great day Saturday, very snuggly, then on Sunday at field hockey practice, TR made a great save and had a couple of beautiful shots on goal, plus I got some writing done while I was watching.  Later that day, a friend of hers called and told us about the Best Snow Hill EVER, so I took her over, and we had a blast.  Then I got laundry done and vacuumed all of the carpets. 

So it took me about five minutes to write all of these happy things in my blog post.  TR is not always the most patient of souls, and whined, um, a little bit as I was typing.  Then it was her turn, and among other things, she wrote (sic):

Mom took all the time to type I was yawning and wihning. She is writing a very good story but it is a little *Eh*. Mom is A lover for typing! But I am more and she takes up most of the time.

I asked her why my story is *Eh* and she said, "Because it's too old for me."  And then she asked me to dedicate it to her.

My Two Year Old, Curly Jones

Well, clearly she thinks I am the best writer ever.  Otherwise she would never leave the house such a mess and assume that I will clean it all up and ever get anything written. :)

(By the way, my kids' names, sadly, are not really Tootsie Roll and Curly Jones.  Although if I had thought of it back But those are their real nicknames.) :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Writing Time Troubles

I have the day to myself.  I am sitting in my usual writing spot, all cozy, laptop raring to go.  And I am stuck.

Maybe it's too quiet.  Usually when I get my writing time, it's delicious little moments of silence here and there.  They are rare and they are special, and they put me in the mood.  I am not at all in the zone right now.  I'm trying to be in the zone... but I'm not in that place where the story is wrapping itself around me and whispering in my ear, as much as I wish I were.  I'm trying to work on the opening scene, in which my MC's mother is the focus, and she refuses to tell me her name (which is very true to her stubborn character), which in turn is making none of what I'm writing sound right.

To add to the fun, carpal tunnel has reared its ugly head, at least only on my right side, but it is making itself known all the way from my wrist up my arm into my neck and I pulled a muscle in my back putting Curly Jones down yesterday, so it feels like one giant pain from my wrist to my back.  Probably doesn't help much that I'm here, typing away, but it doesn't make it hurt any worse, either.  If I can't kick any of my WIP out now (which I hope does not turn out to be the case), I'll put my wrist brace on and go back to the novel I've been reading (Madapple by Christina Meldrum).

Grr.  Argh.

Totally Random Fun

I'm Really Rosie
And I'm Rosie Real
You'd better believe me
I'm a great big deal
Belieeeeeeeeeeeve meeeeee....

Do you remember that?  When Carole King made an album out of a bunch of Maurice Sendak's little books, The Nutshell Library and The Sign on Rosie's Door?  (I do wish Blogger would let me underline book titles, that irks me every time).  It was also a half hour animated tv special.  Ok, maybe you don't remember, because it was 1975 (which is the year I was born, so I guess I found it later, lol), and many of you are younger than me.  Anyway, if you don't have the album, you should get it. :)  This morning Tootsie Roll put it on in the car for the drive to school and it was totally fun.  I hadn't listened to it in a long time.

(By the by, it just occured to me that Maurice Sendak was like the precursor to Neil Gaiman.  His older stories were very morbid.  Lots of kids dying because they did stupid things, like swallowing chicken bones or saying "I don't care" when a lion wants to eat you.  Yeah.  That'll teach ya!)

So... I am like jumping out of my skin excited because I have a whole day to myself!  My school had already planned days off today and Monday for Presidents' Day weekend, which, with the snow days we just had, makes for a 6 DAY WEEKEND!  Wooooohooooo! :D  Handsome Hubby is back in school today (his district has inservice, no kids), Tootsie Roll had a delay (We live in one district and each of us teaches in other districts... you should see me in  my Type A-ness coordinating school calendars with colored markers at the beginning of the year, oy.), and I could have kept Curly Jones home from preschool to hang out with me, but if I had kept her from her HEART PARTY today, I never would have heard the end of it. :)  Not that I'm complaining, off you go - quiet house for me!!  When we left, I wish I had had my camera - Curly Jones will be 3 in two months and the snow is higher than her!  I hope I can get a shot when she comes home.  It's a beautiful, sunny day, but I don't foresee that much snow melting anytime soon.  They've done a great job with the roads, but the post office refuses to deliver our mail (and several of our neighbors') because the borough plowed our mailbox in.  Oh well.  No news is good news, right? :) 

Ok, I'm off to go eat some chicken noodle soup for breakfast (because I have a sore throat but mostly because I CAN).  I should clean my house today.  But no. 

It's a writing day!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Here is something totally random and fun for you to enjoy while I try to concentrate: 30 pictures of goats being crazy .  It is exactly what it says it is.  And it made me laugh, especially the goats in the trees...)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cover Released for Mockingjay!

The end of The Hunger Games trilogy arrives August 24... but the cover has been revealed! :)

Ohhhh the waiting....!!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Holy Snow...

Remember a few hours ago when I posted a picture of this bush?

Yeah... well, now it looks like this:

This is the table on our bottom deck...

And it is still coming down like crazy with no end in sight...

Winds of Change

So the seed idea that began my WIP was a scientific article that I read in Time Magazine a few years back that stayed in my mind all this time.  Oddly enough, when I made my resolution to really commit to my writing, this idea forced its way past all of my beginnings and partials and demanded to be heard.  It unfolded right before my eyes, and excited me to no end.

Then I started writing.  My scene in the middle worked out nicely, I just went back to the beginning last week, and then it happened.

My story had other ideas.

WIP was acting ridiculously like a willful teenager.  My main character was becoming less a sketch and more a colored-in person.  And she was telling me the story from her POV (she made the decision for me, in that scene from the middle, to write in first person).  And the story was fitting together and making perfect sense.  But she was steering in a different direction.

And it didn't include my original science-y seed idea.  The one I had done all of the research for. 

Now, I don't mind that I did the research for no reason.  It was interesting anyway.  But this little fear began to grow in my stomach, one that I haven't had since this extremely positive new WIP began.  Can I drop the seed idea?  But it was so cool!  And so interesting!  And it's a real thing that people don't know about!
For lack of better terms, I thought my story was losing its "cool factor". Which left me with a decision to make.  Do I make it work with the "cool factor", or do I let the teenage protagonist have her way?

I lost a few writing days as I ruminated on that.  But that's ok, I am completely allowing myself thinking time. 

Today, I explained it all to Handsome Hubby.  He and I had talked out my original story idea and he was all about it, so I wondered how he would receive the subtraction of cool factor.  We sat here, just now, watching more feet of snow fall, and I told him the entire reworked story idea.  It works.  When I allowed myself to take out the original idea, I removed doubts and connections that were not being made and I consciously decided not to force the story.

I know I've said this over and over in my posts, but I feel this crazy rebirth as a writer with this story.  My approach is so much more relaxed and I am hearing my characters and listening.  All of you writers out there are always saying that; I guess as a beginner I had to figure it out for myself to truly understand what you meant and feel the difference between how I used to write and what is happening this time.

(For the record, when I first told HH that I was taking it out, he looked stunned, but when I explained the story, he got all excited and asked questions and even got goosebumps!  See why I love this man?)

The View From My Front Door

There is a road under there somewhere.  Spent all morning playing with the girls, now one is sleeping and the other is watching Jane and the Dragon.  Ahh. :)  Later... finishing valentines for my class and Curly Jones', making some pumpkin bread or fudge (we haven't decided yet).  We heard that we are under a blizzard warning again tonight.  Maybe another snow day tomorrow???? :)  For now, off to find a quiet spot to write...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Writerly Reading

I haven't read any books about writing.  I just write because I love it.  :)  I don't know whether these will help me or not, but I think they'll be interesting - I just ordered:

A Novel Idea  by ChiLibris (I found a pretty extensive online preview but I wanted to know what was on the missing pages!)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (Obviously well known.  He is not my favorite writer, but I think learning about his methods might be interesting)

Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Ann Lamot

I just remembered, while perusing B&N online and seeing a very familiar cover, I do have a copy of Thunder and Lightning somewhere.  In a bag or a box.  In the basement or garage.  With all of my old Writer's Market and SCBWI stuff from a time before when I tried to be serious about my writing.

I have to rejoin SCBWI and now I'm going to make myself crazy trying to find that stuff.  I guess it's lucky that we already have a snow day called for tomorrow!

Papa Dom is Smiling Down at You, Curly Jones

My two year old's new favorite line is "Don't worry about it."  Or rather, with the inflection of an old Italian man, "Don't worrrrrrry bout it."  (Imagine pudgy little fingers pursed in the air, just daring you to worry bout it).  As in, at dinner time - "It's a noodle. Don't worrrrrry bout it."  Or "I took my pants off.  Don't worrrrrry bout it."  When you're not trying to get her out the door in the morning ("I don't want my hat on.  Don't worrrrry bout it."), it's pretty funny. :)

I'm going about my writing with much the same carefree attitude.  Well, wait.  I should amend that, since I am probably too Type A for that to be true.  Let's just say that this time, I am letting my first draft actually be a first draft, without fine-toothed-combing every darn sentence in an effort toward literary Mecca.  Because I never get to Mecca, I'm the guy who gets trampled in the stampede, and nobody likes being that guy.

Many times before, I just wrote myself right out of steam.  I perfected the first chapter so much that I didn't feel like writing the rest of the darn book.  And I knew I should be saving that crazitude for revisions, but I just wasn't cool with letting go and fixing it later.

I can't say that I've had any stunning revelation about writing or revision that has changed my ways, but if you've read any of my other posts, you know that my New Year's Resolution (which I never usually make) was to get serious, work on it, have fun, no pressure, if it's collapsing, back off and rework.  My entire approach has been different (I started in the middle), and this time, for whatever reason, I am actually writing a first drafty first draft.  I'm thinking things like, "I'm not sure if I like that line," and shrugging, and writing on.  I know I'll come back to it in Round 2, Me vs. First Draft.  And the joy of writing has been like reuniting with an old flame. (If I weren't married.  And had an old flame I actually... ok, nevermind.)

So tell me about your first drafts.  Have you always been able to just.... go? 

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's Like Christmas! Or... Long Award Post Ahead

Oh my goodness. :)  If I had known that today was going to be Awards Day, I'd have put on my good sweatpants!  (Oh.  You don't blog in sweatpants?  Yeah.  Uhm... me either.  Nooooo.)

Before I get to the awards (!!!  I know... the rest of you already have these awards... but the very idea that someone wanted to add to the interior decorating over here at Dangerous just makes  my heart sing), I want to tell you that on Friday I posted about having 15 followers.  And today I have 38.  Which totally blows my mind and I find really fun, because this network of awesome people just keeps growing, from incredibly supportive friends and family to incredibly supportive fellow writers.  You are my 38 favorite people in the world. :)  But, um... now for the bad news - Each one of you is going to have to submit a picture and dossier to Handsome Hubby, who is a bit incredulous at this wave of followage, and who asked me if I created a bunch of Google profiles just to pad my own numbers. Tee hee :)  He likes to make sure that my head can fit through the door since he doesn't want to take care of the children by himself.  Especially the one in her Terrible Twos.  But I digress...

Here they are!

I got this little number from Christine at Christine's Journey .  Christine's blog is great because she is so focused on her writing but her blog tone is lovely and conversational, like "Come along with me, let's see where this writing takes us..."  Plus she has awesome taste in music.  Bonus!

I do, however, have to earn this award by posting 10 honest things about me, so here goes:

1. My favorite song is '39 by Queen.  It's based on a short story (go figure) but I have yet to find the story.

2. I just wrote three pages sitting on a gym floor while my older daughter was at a field hockey clinic.

3. I am very Type A.  But more toward myself than anything.

4. I wanted to be a ballerina when I was little so I took dance class for years.  I have since come to terms with the fact that I am not overly graceful.

5. I graduated with almost 1,000 people in my high school class.  My entire college had 1,500 students.

6. I hate talking on the telephone.

7. I am the second of three girls.  And I have Middle Child Sydnrome, LOL.

8. My dog is named after a character in a musical.

9. A colleague and friend gave me the highest possible compliment today - "Have you ever thought about writing a book?  I think you'd be good at it."

10. When I was a junior in high school, I got stood up for a winter formal.  Worse, I hadn't even bothered to get dressed up, because I had a feeling he wasn't going to bother showing up.  Even worse, in the middle of the night, we had a house fire and lost just about everything.  The Red Cross put us up in a motor lodge with vouchers to eat 3 meals a day at Burger King for a week and vouchers for clothing/toiletries at Kmart.  After that week, my sisters and Mom and I were split up as we stayed with various friends until the apartment that our insurance (thankfully) provided was ready.  We lived in the apartment for several months while our home was being rebuilt.  The silver linings:  One, Our family escaped without injury, and I learned a very valuable life lesson about stuff being just stuff and what is important in life.  Two, our apartment was near a Putt Putt miniature golf place so my sisters and I played a lot of mini-golf that summer.  I won a mini-golf trophy.  Oh yes I did.

11.  (Bonus truth)  When the alarm went off this morning, in my half-awake state, I dreamed I had 61 followers.  I have no idea why 61.  I think that would have blown Handsome Hubby away.  LOL!!!

Now it's my turn to give this award to some awesome bloggers!  Please give it up for...

JamieKate at Jamie-Kate Writes

Sorry, I'm keeping it to 3 because I have more to give!  This one is from Guinevere, who totally made me happy today!  Thank you!

Ok... must now list 10 things that make me happy.  Yippee!

1. Handome Hubby, because he said to me once, 15 years ago, "I think you're cool.  I think we're looking for the same thing."  And we were.  And we still are. :)

2. Tootsie Roll, who is my beautiful blue eyed 7 yr old.  Full of drama, crazy smart, hard on herself, sensitive, creative, sporty, book lover like her Mommy!  My Mini-Me.

3.  Curly Jones, Handsome Hubby's Mini-Me in a girl version.  Although she pointedly entered the Terrible Twos this week, she is typically so happy and easygoing.  Big blue eyes and bouncy blonde curls.  Doing well on the potty! (After a few bumps in the road, lol).

4.  Finding People Like Me who write through these wonderful blog networks.  I feel so happy to be making connections with people who share my passion!

5.  Summer vacation.  Because I'm a teacher. ;)

6.  Decorating for Christmas and Christmas music.

7.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert,  because they make me laugh.

8.  Queen II, my favorite cd.  Always puts me in a writing mood.

9.  Chocolate.

10.  Coffee!!!  And tasty creamers. :)

I would like to give this to every one of my followers.  Because you all make me happy.  So if you want it, grab it, it's yours!

And FINALLY (I think I hear the "get off the stage" music, but I'm ignoring it), this fab fancy award is from Kim over at Confessions: The Secret Life of a Writer.  Thanks, Kim! 

For this one, I have to answer each of these with just one word. Good thing, because this post is getting crazy long!  Ok, I may cheat a few times...

Your Cell Phone? Pocket
Your Hair? Boring
Your Mother? Hi, Mom!
Your Father? Gone
Your Favorite Food? Italian
Your Dream Last Night? 61 followers!  LOL!
Your Favorite Drink? Coffee
Your Dream/Goal? Publication
What Room Are You In? Bedroom
Your Hobby? Writing
Your Fear? Kids Being Unsafe
Where Do You See Yourself In Six Years? Agented... maybe?
Where Were You Last Night? Home
Something That You Aren't? Finished my MS
Muffins? Why not?
Wish List Item? Time
Where Did You Grow Up? Philly burbs
Last Thing You Did? Put away groceries
What Are You Wearing? Vera Wang sweats. ;)
Your TV? Projector
Your Pets? Furry
Friends? Yippee!!!
Your Life? Happy
Your Mood? Grateful
Missing Someone? Sure
Vehicle? SUV
Something You Aren't Wearing? Glasses
Your Favorite Store? Barnes & Noble
Your Favorite Color? Silver
When Was The Last Time You Laughed? A minute ago
Last Time You Cried? Last week 
One Place You Go To Over And Over Again? School (work)
Facebook? Yep
Favorite Place To Eat? Old Man Rafferty's
Oh my heavens. :)  I am flinging this award out into cyberspace toward:
Lora at LitDiva
Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out
Kit Courtney at Kit Courtney Writes
Jenny at Tales From a Rejection Queen
Wendy at All in a Day's Thought
Alright, kids... I have been writing this post for what seems like a century.  Sorry it's so long.  Thank you for all of the lovely thoughts!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Beginning

I had time to write today. :)

I think I shall just sit and bask in that sentence, because I don't have that time very often.  And not only did I have time to write, but we were snowed in, all Saturday activities were cancelled, and Handsome Hubby had thought ahead enough to procure coffee and donuts for the morning.  (I know.  I'm smitten just writing it.)

So since I resolved to Write the Darn Book this January, I find myself going about things in a completely different and much more enjoyable way than I usually do.  First, I took a month to just research and plan. (And write report cards.  And more report cards.  And did I mention report cards?) 

Second, I am letting the characters speak to me.  Reading so many writing blogs, I have heard over and over that writers find that the story is asking to be told, or that the characters let them know what's right along the way.  In many of my previous attempts at something like writing, I have hit areas where I definitely felt like I was forcing the story, and that was sort of the kiss of death; the beginning of the end.  This time is the first time that I really feel like the characters are not caricatures of a person, they are not the medium by which the story is told, but rather they are the story.  I am sensing their feelings and their reactions like they are real people.  And it feels so much better.  I'm not quite sure what stood in the way before, but I feel like something has really changed in my approach, and it's definitely a good thing.

Third, I have not begun at the beginning.  Everything else I've written has always begun at the beginning.  In previous writing, I've had some great opening lines and opening scenes, and even planned out the rest, but didn't have the story momentum to get there.  This morning, I woke up with a scene in my head as clear as day.  I had to keep it there for three hours, between the time I got up with the kids (it was HH's turn to sleep in, my turn comes tomorrow, we trade off on the weekends, even though sleeping in is often only until 8:30 or 9.. .still a big difference from the weekday 5:45 alarm!) and the time HH woke up.  When he did get up and settled in with the girls, I came up and started to write.  And the scene I wrote was, interestingly enough, maybe not quite halfway through the story.  I have never done that before.  I just had such passion for that scene (thank goodness my female protag finally gave me her name... at least her first name), it had to be written.  (So for those of you keeping score, first scene, first 880 words... I only have to do that about 50 more times, lol). 

Now I am thrilled because that scene revealed so much to me about my protagonist and another important character that I feel like writing everything up to that scene will be so much clearer, and I can always add scenes later in the book because I have an important checkpoint in place.  I have never jumped around like this in  my writing, and we'll see if it makes the story more disjointed (fun editing ahead) or it actually works because I have a clearer sense of who and what is to come.

Oh, and.... I had time to write today!!! :D

(On a side note, Curly Jones was an absolute Terrible Two today... she peed on the carpet five times, directly after sitting nonchalantly on the potty each time and doing nothing... and she has had very few accidents during the day this past week.  On top of that, she picked up her cup of water at lunchtime and just turned it upside down so that the entire thing spilled all over the table, she yelled at me when I was trying to clean up that she wanted to do it, and don't even get me started on the bear that she was at naptime.  It was pretty funny, though, when she said to me, "Mommy, I'm not terrible (a word I had not used)... I'm just verrrrrrrry silly!"  Oy.  Thank goodness she is usually not like this, lol....)

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Open Letter to My Characters

Dear Characters,

I would appreciate it if you would reveal to me your names.  Your story is unfurling most happily (well, the story isn't always very happy, but the writer is most joyful that the story is unfurling).  However, only one of you has been kind enough to share with me your name.  The rest of you stinkers are sitting about giggling at the temporary names I have given you in lieu of your real ones.  Names that do not fit.  So if you would be so kind, you may whisper your "YES, I can't picture him/her with ANY other name" name to me at any time, I promise to listen. 

The Slave to Your Whims

Bloggy Good Fun!

Contests aplenty, contests galore!  Check out these other writing blogs and their contest booty:

Here at Anissa Off the Record, Anissa is posting every day for the month of February.  Followers who respond to her posts get chances to win a $50 (or larger) Amazon gift card!  C'mon, you can buy a whole bunch of good books with that. :)  Besides, she hangs out here, so I <3 her.

And KristinCreative over there is giving two lucky followers Amazon gift cards for finishing her fun sentences.  She's a follower over here, too.  Give her some love!

Writer's Butt Does Not Apply to Me is giving away booooooks if you follow and tell her what books and movies stir your soul. :)  Come on, you know that blog title is calling to you. ;)

All are celebrating 100 followers!  Woot!  Someday, kids... someday...   I'll throw you a fun contest when I get near 100, I promise. ;)  Maybe I'll have a 50 followers contest... or 20... or 16... lol :)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... I've decided to turn off comment moderation for the time being so that you can get the instant gratification of your comments popping up... like... presto!... instead of waiting for me to ok them.  I don't really sense a lot of spam action coming my way, so I'll throw you a bone.

Right now, I'm going to sit here and drink the delicious coffee Handsome Hubby got for me, on the side of which he wrote "Lindsey's Writing Juice".  So indeed I shall go write.  Feel free to throw a question or 12 into the comments... we may be snowed in this weekend, I'll be happy to answer!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Heart the Interwebs

Can I tell you how much I love the internet?  (Thanks, Al Gore).  Last month, I was able to find exactly the info I needed to understand and utilize the scientific info I need for my story.

This morning, I am home (sadly, to attend a funeral later this morning), and trying to squeeze in some writing during this rare alone time.  I am jumping into the first scene, and I needed to describe something - voila, found a picture online. 

I guess it does take a little bit of the old fashioned legwork out of writing, and yes, I would love to travel to the setting that I am describing, and sense it firsthand, don't get me wrong.  But jobs and kids don't really allow for random trips to Undisclosed Story Location.  Maybe in the spring during spring break!  Until then, though, Internet, MWAH!

First Line

Eeeeeeg.  Opening lines are hard.  I have decided to choose one of the scenes I described and just... go.  I need to start somewhere, right?  I imagine that if I need to change scenes or add them or move them around, the story will let me know.

So I can picture the scene in my mind but of course the doubt kicks in - Would this sound better in first person?  How do I write a first line that will suck people in?

The weird thing about writing is the complete openness of a blank page (or screen).  There really is no direction.  Once I get started, momentum will begun to take over, but I think I am stressing too much over the opening line.  Lol.. I'd better get over it - there are a lot more lines to go!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


So my January of plotting and planning and researching recently ended (sooo much fun, though!) and February has begun with a bang, with all of my writing time going toward report cards (about 18 hours total in the past week, all on my own time during the weekend, before school, after school, during preps and lunches.... BRUTAL) thus far.  Now those are finally done (with a nice little compliment from my principal), and I can move on to Chapter One!!!  Wahoooo!

So what can I tell you about the book in general, or chapter one in particular? 

The book:  The genre is YA Dystopia

Chapter One: Three very different but necessary scenes are currently vying for the opening spot.  The choices are:

- The Scientific Beginning.  This is the scene that is sort of dark and scientific and interesting, where you learn something that happened several years before the story takes place (before the protagonist is born).  I could begin with this and then jump to a later time where the current story begins, make it a prologue, or skip it and add in the information as it becomes necessary to the story

- The Ironic Beginning.  This important event takes place when the protagonist is young, she sees it for what it is on the surface, but it has much deeper implications for the rest of the story.  If I don't put the scientific part at the beginning, this could either be the prologue or chapter one.

- The Serene Beginning. A very sweet scene with hints of the problem to come.  Will either be chapter one or come after one or both of those other scenes.  Definitely a necessary scene.

So that's the most you've heard about my baby so far, and it's got to stay vague, sadly, can't be revealing my big ideas.  So... I'm sorry if this post sucks but I heart you for reading this far.  :)  I'm just thinking out loud, because I have to get my butt in gear and get this wagon rolling.

On a completely different note, tonight my sweet Tootsie Roll looked up at me with her baby blues and said, "Mom, you are so supportive."  (Pretty mature stuff for a 7 yr old - I can't imagine a sweeter compliment!)  That's how I feel about you guys who keep coming back here, and my new followers who are fellow aspiring novelists (!!!) I see popular author blogs that have 500+ and I sit here like, "Happy dance!  Can you believe I have 12 followers?!?"

You guys are my 12 favorite people. :)  Thanks for dreaming with me! 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Alpha Beta Catherine Zeta

Don't ask me.  The title of this post just fell out of my fingers onto the keyboard completely without asking.  But it makes me giggle, so it can stay. :)

As you know, I was reading another writer's post this week about Alpha Readers and Beta Readers and while I have a few of those people in mind, it occured to me that I am getting wonderful practice (ha) with this very thing right now at my Real Job, where it is the dreaded Report Card Time.  Our rep cards are quite the complicated conglomeration of a page of checkmarks (Of Concern, Initial Stages, Developing, Achieving) for behavior, math, handwriting, science, and social studies; a second page continuum for reading and writing; and then a third page left blank for our own teacherly narration.  Our principal and vice principal read all of our comments before they go home with the kiddies.  Before we turn them in to the Powers That Be, we are asked to share them with another teacher for proofreading purposes.

So there you have it, kids - fellow teachers as Alpha Readers, PTB as Beta Readers.  Real Job, meet Wannabe Job!  And in some magical way, my worlds collide...