Thursday, July 30, 2009

10 Things New Writers Need To Know

1. Finish a book.

Really. Stop starting every shiny new idea that flashes into your brain and find the discipline and perseverance to type one idea all the way through to The End. It won't be perfect. It probably won't ever be published. But what you'll learn about yourself and the process will be invaluable and every subsequent lesson on craft will make a lot more sense.

2. Don't be so eager to share your work with others.

Not yet, at least. It's important to protect the creative process and the shape of the story itself and staying away from too much outside input until you're sure of the story and the characters is a good idea. I write and write and write ... until I know exactly where I'm going and how I'm going to get there and THEN I invite critiques from my CPs. And if you're posting chapters of your work willy-nilly on your blog/site/facebook page, stop. Editors are leery about selling a book when much of it has already been offered for free.

3. Less talk, more typing.

There are many ways to network with other writers and I agree that for most of us, that's an important resource. However, many newer writers spend more time talking about writing than actually writing. Most of my author friends have time limits for how much we can spend answering email, blogging, typing on Twitter etc. And all of us have word count/page goals etc. that come FIRST. Write more. Talk about it less.

4. Read.

You'd think this would be a given, but I often talk to newer writers who rarely read. This is foolishness. For one, reading within your genre gives you a firm grasp of the genre and what's already been done to death. Reading outside your genre gives you inspiration for new ideas you could bring to your genre. For another, it's wise to read the books you're secretly afraid you'll never be good enough to write because that's where you absorb craft and, if you let yourself, become inspired. And finally, publishing is a small world. You'll feel like an idiot if you meet a prominent author in your genre at a conference and have no idea what they've written.

5. Linger.

Set the scene. Explore the emotions. Record the sensory detail. Don't be in such a hurry to get from point A to point B that you neglect to deliver the entire scope of the scene to your reader. If you don't know how to linger without filling your pages with exposition--fill your pages with exposition. Get it out there. You can trim it down later when you've figured out exactly what needs to be said.

6. Understand that writing is largely about revising.

And revising is often harder than writing the first draft. Your novel won't be perfect the first time around. It will have clumsy phrasing, awkward pacing, missing words, lack of setting, characters whose motivation is as clear as mud, exposition where there should be action, and plot arcs that manage to get run over by a bus halfway through the book. It doesn't matter. What you didn't learn about craft by finishing your first draft, you'll learn by revising.

7. No book is ever perfect.

There's always something you can change. Another layer to add. A scene to flesh out. A question to answer or one to raise. There are no perfect books but there are excellent books and the trick is knowing when you've hit that level and can let it rest.

8. Some books won't ever be published but you should write them anyway.

I know you think the book you're writing NOW is the one. You may be right. Then again, you may be wrong. It doesn't matter. What matters is pushing yourself to write the very best book you can and then surprising yourself with how much better you can make it through revising. No finished draft is ever a wasted endeavor. You might type The End and think you've reached the pinnacle of what you're capable of accomplishing but you'll look back in two years (IF you continue writing) and wonder at how far you've come.

9. Self-doubt comes with the territory.

I've come far enough along in my career to be privileged to call many published authors friend. All of us share one thing in common--we worry that we won't measure up. We worry that we will. We worry that no agent/editor/reader will snatch up our book and when they do, we worry they won't like it. When they do, we worry our next one will bomb instead. You can't get rid of every shred of doubt and you don't need to. The trick is to answer the doubt with action. Keep your head down and write. Take praise and criticism with as much humility and wisdom as you can and then write some more.

10. Interest and inspiration start books. Determination, perseverance, and stubbornness finish them.

If you're waiting for your "Muse" to return before you discipline yourself to write, you won't finish your book. If you want life to slow down, your schedule to clear, or the people around you to suddenly come to their senses and support your passion before you make the commitment to finish your book, you won't finish. It takes guts to push past the sparkling beginning and dive into the meat of the story. Finishing a book takes giving up sleep, turning down invitations, and refusing to watch tv so you can write instead. Finishing a book means writing a scene that refuses to go smoothly even though you'd rather do just about anything else. If you want to turn your writing from hobby to career, find the determination, perseverance and stubbornness to finish a book.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Autism Speaks!

There's a really cool concert coming up a week from Saturday here in Nashville. I say "really cool" because there's a fantastic line-up of artists, the tickets are only $30, and all of that money goes directly toward helping an organization called Autism Speaks research and find treatment for autistic kids.

Go here for more info. Also, go there because my friend April blogs about life raising a beautiful autistic boy and it's a blog worth reading.

It's A Chucktastrophe!

1. I've used the same three pair of black pants for my work uniform for four and a half years.

2. Three months ago, one of the pair came apart in the crotch.

3. Yes, I stopped wearing them.

4. Last month, another pair came apart in the crotch.

5. I stopped wearing them too.

6. Last night at work, I realized my last pair--yes, the pair I was currently wearing--were one shaky seam away from a spectacular public exposure arrest.

7. So, today I'll be buying a new pair of pants.

8. I have enough wardrobe malfunctions on my own without deliberately tempting fate.

9. Daredevil's 10th birthday was Tuesday. On Monday, I took him with me to spend some of his birthday money. We stopped for lunch at Olive Garden where he proudly told everyone he met that he was finally in double digits.

10. The older couple seated at the table next to us engaged Daredevil in conversation about his birthday and their own great-grandkids.

11. Several minute into the conversation, Daredevil looked at them and said, "You know what? I like talking to old people!"

12. Luckily, he's cute.

13. On Tuesday, we honored Daredevil's birthday dinner request and entered the insanity that is Chuck E. Cheese.

14. At one point, Chuck E. himself came out to dance and sing the birthday song to a group of birthday kids.

15. For reasons that probably have a lot to do with Chuck E.'s rate of pay attracting only teenagers to the whole "get paid to masquerade as a giant mouse" gig, Chuck E. decided table dancing would be an excellent idea.

16. Chuck E. further compounded this grievous error in judgement by choosing as his platform a table that rocked ominously the moment he tried to mount its surface.

17. Chuck E.'s moment of glory was cut short by a combination of an unsteady surface, a fellow employee, and gravity.

18. We were at a side table, watching the action, and saying such enlightened things as "Chuck Down!" and "It's a Chucktastrophe!"

19. Thankfully, Chuck E. toppled backwards and therefore didn't flatten the group of toddlers in front of him.

20. The management is lucky every child in the building didn't see Chuck E.'s antics and decide that they, too, should dance on the table tops.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eyes Like Stars - Part IV

In the last installment of our peek into Lisa Mantchev's EYES LIKE STARS, we find the fairies rallied around their creator, in various stages of ... well, see for yourself.

Mustardseed: Why, I want to know, are we wearing tea strainers on our heads?

Lisa: You are going into battle. (sounds of duct tape attaching silverware-armor to the fairies' limbs.)

Moth: (peering at his gauntlets, made of pocket watch bits) Against whom?

Lisa: The demons from Prophecy of the Sisters. You're going to fight them. To the death.

Peaseblossom: I... don't think I like the sound of that.

Lisa: (more duct tape sounds) Sure you do! You can jab at them with toothpick swords, and the winners will get spectacular prizes.

Cobweb: What kind of prizes?

Lisa: All sorts of fabulous shiny things, but you'll mostly like the candy. Pop Rocks and Airheads... Peaseblossom will like all the glittery makeup--

Mustardseed: Makeup schmakeup... what if we PERISH?

Lisa: Then you go to some sort of fairy Valhalla, no doubt, and gorge eternally on cake.

(Silence a moment, then four-part harmony)


To help the fairies win their battle (and to win the totally rocking, shiny prize package for yourself!) go to the contest site and get the details. Also, hie thyself to thy nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of Eyes Like Stars (which already went into its second print run during it's debut week!).

Friday, July 17, 2009

I'm Just Saying

Just took Starshine to see Ice Age 3. (An imminently forgettable movie) During the previews, an announcer intoned gravely (in the midst of various animated what-have-you's on screen) that THIS movie (Yes, this upcoming animated what-have-you movie) is the summer's most highly anticipated movie event.


I think you have a much better chance of saying that without incurring ridicule if you choose, say, a non-Harry Potter summer.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Candidate For A Petting Zoo?

Clearly, he wants your braaaaaainz.

How NOT To Scare Away A Zombie Goat

There are many ways to scare away the Zombie Goat. Zombie Cats, of course, being the most effective, but clanging a dinner bell while tossing the brains of your enemies in the direction you wish the goats to go is also a viable alternative.

Losing your manhood on camera, however, is not.

I'm Alive! Probably.

1. Okay, I've been a bad blogger.

2. Working extra hours plus deep-cleaning my house short-circuited my brain.

3. Of course, it wasn't just all work and no play.

4. I did get to dress up and see the HP6 sneak peek Monday night and that was awesome.

5. Our whole family dressed up: Clint was a Death Eater, I was Minerva McGonagall (sort of), the Scientist was Harry Potter in his Hogwarts' robes, Daredevil was Ron Weasely, Starshine was Harry Potter in Quidditch get-up (w/broom), Myra came as Tonks and Myra's hubby (who isn't possessing whatever crazy gene makes the rest of us eager to wear costumes on non-Halloween nights) came wearing Tommy Bahama. We called him our Token Muggle.

6. I really enjoyed the movie. Being a book purist, there were a couple things I would have changed, but I was totally engrossed the entire time.

7. Now I need to go see it again to get past my first impression (Which was something along the lines of "Ooh. Aww. Yes!!") and see what I really think.

8. Wasn't impressed with the soundtrack on this one, though. :(

9. In an abrupt subject change, I have lost all respect for one of my sort-of neighbors.

10. I say "sort-of" neighbor because I don't know these people. They live a block away.

11. I drive past the house any time I head toward the interstate (which is nearly every day). I drove past them July 4th.

12. They had a Confederate flag flying instead of an American flag.

13. I find that incredibly offensive.

14. For one, this is a NATIONAL holiday. Putting up a symbol of southern pride/independence is inappropriate.

15. For another, the war is OVER. It's been over a century. Time to accept it and move forward already.

16. Also, I can't look at that flag without cringing on behalf of others who will see in that flag the oppression of their great-grandparents and the decades of hate and ignorance that followed.

17. So, yeah, I don't know who lives there and I don't want to. I seriously doubt our first meeting would go well what with their ignorance and my big mouth.

18. I've realized that Spastic Kitten is unable to purr.

19. I can tell when she's happy by body language and facial expression but she has never once purred. And yes, I've placed my hand against her throat to see if there are near-silent rumblings but there aren't.

20. I don't think that's normal but hey, this is Spastic Kitten. Normal isn't even on the playing field.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are You TRYING To Get Me Fired?

Last night, apparently, was bring an idiot out to dinner night. I didn't get the memo, but I sure did wait on the idiots. Since my mouth tends to spout off snappy sarcasm in response to obvious instances of moronic thinking, waiting on a string of idiots can get me fired.

Last night, I had three in a row.

1. I walked up to a table, greeted them, offered them tea or Coke to drink and the woman looked at me and said, "Something smells good! Whatcha cooking?" I admit I stared at her for about ten seconds of silence, trying to think of something I could say that wouldn't sound like I was accusing her of being ... well, an idiot. I mean, seriously? We're a restaurant. With one of the largest menus in the business. Whatever she's smelling could be any one of 120 items or a combination of several. I finally patted her menu and said, "Take your pick. We cook them all." She said, "It smells like chicken." I nodded wisely. "Then it probably is chicken." She nodded back. "Probably so."


2. My next table was no better. The woman looked at me and said, "I can tip you very well." She winked like we were in on some sort of conspiracy together and leaned closer. "I'll tip you well if you'll do something for me." I politely inquired as to the nature of her request and she said, "I really want the Sunday chicken. If you get that for me, I'll take good care of you." I blinked at her for a second and said in my most reasonable voice, "But ma'am, it's Wednesday." She nodded. "I know. But I want the Sunday chicken special." I nodded right back. "Oh, I'm sure you do. But, you see, it isn't Sunday. It's Wednesday. All the money in the world can't change that."

3. The very next table, the man ordered a meatloaf dinner. I always bring ketchup to the table when I serve meatloaf because I was raised by a man who drowns everything on his plate in ketchup, especially meatloaf. I placed everything on the table and asked if they needed anything else. The man said, "Yeah. Can I get some tomato sauce to put on top of this meatloaf?" I pointed to the bottle of ketchup. "I brought you some ketchup, sir." He glanced at the bottle (labeled "Kraft TOMATO Ketchup" and said, "But I want something made out of tomatoes."

It took me several seconds of rapidly rejecting every single response that flew into my head before I could calmly say, "Yes, sir. Ketchup is made from tomatoes." And then I walked away as fast as I could because it's generally considered very rude to laugh yourself silly at the customer's expense while he can still hear you doing it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Starshine--The Experience

Yesterday, Starshine bounced into my room to get the swimsuit he'd left drying over the edge of my bathtub. The ensuing conversation sounded like this:

Me: Hey! Who's taking you to the pool?

Starshine: Um ... guess.

Me: No really, who's taking you to the pool?

Starshine: *rolls eyes* My friend.

Me: You have a lot of friends. Which one is it?

Starshine: My bestest friend.

Me: Okay, that narrows it down to--

Starshine: *who, at this point, is now stark naked* It's only my bestest friend in the whole world whom I've known since the second grade!

Me: Oh. Dane?

Starshine: *pulls swimsuit on and grabs a towel* Yes! I knew you could guess it.

Me: Wouldn't it just be easier to answer my question in the first place rather than go through all that?

Starshine: *looks at me with pity* Mom. It's more of a challenge that way. Talking to me be should be an experience.

Me: It certainly is.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Spazzing Out Is Hard Work

1. In case you were wondering, Spastic Kitten doesn't always spaz.

2. Sometimes she sleeps. (see above)

3. Although the true nature of her mental instability is always apparent to the discerning eye.

4. We spent all day Friday at Nashville Shores, a water amusement park.

5. I learned two valuable lessons.

6. One, when applying sunscreen to yourself, do not get distracted by the antics of your spawn and forget to slather your face.

7. Two, women considering a tattoo on their stomachs should think long and hard about the eventual effects of childbirth and gravity.

8. Mosquitoes, apparently, love me.

9. Every time I hang around outside at dusk, I get eaten alive.

10. My kids and Clint are basically immune.

11. This A) is not fair and B) makes me glad I've never met a vampire as my blood seems to be a hot commodity.

12. The other night I had so many bites on my feet, I couldn't sleep well because of the itch.

13. I tried calamine lotion but it didn't help.

14. Clint told me to cover the bites with scotch tape.

15. I was just desperate enough to follow through on this hair-brained suggestion.

16. It worked--cut the itch down to an ignorable annoyance.

17. The next day, my kids were very interested to know why I had scotch tape all over my feet.

18. Once I explained it to them, the Scientist exclaimed "If scotch tape helped a little, you should try duct tape! I bet that would fix it!"

19. Just like a man--thinks duct tape fixes everything.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eyes Like Stars Act III

The next installment in the adventures of author Lisa Mantchev (Eyes Like Stars hits your local bookstore next week!) and four very mischievous fairies. If you missed the first two installments, go here and here.

(The fairies are in a tremendous hurry to finish, as Lisa has now eaten her fruit roll-up gag.)

Moth: Shove another peanut butter cup in her piehole!

Peaseblossom: I dunno... she might go into a diabetic coma, and then what happens to us?

Cobweb: Hm. Good point.

Mustardseed: I think the trick is just to be far, far away by the time she undoes the knots in the licorice.

Lisa: Just wait until I get back on the laptop. I'm writing a scene where you all eat broccoli. In the bathtub. While someone reads Goethe to you.

ALL: (chorus of screams) NOT THE BROCCOLI!

Peaseblossom: Maybe we should ask her some real interview-type questions. Like "what's inspired you to write this book?"

Moth: Yawn-tastic. How about "if you were going to exact revenge upon someone, what kind of explosives would you use?"

Mustardseed: Or, "what's your favorite method of extracting boogers and ear-wax?" That's actually a useful question.

Lisa: There's a difference, Mustardseed, between useful and disgusting.

Cobweb: O-ho! Look who's Miss Hoity-Toity! I saw you cleaning up that crusty Princess of yours last night!

Lisa: (unbeknownst to the Fearsome Foursome, has now untied the licorice ropes and is awaiting the right moment to grab all of them and exact revenge) That crusty Princess inspired you guys, so show a little respect. Er. Never mind. Forgot who I was talking to there, for a minute.

Peaseblossom: (peering upside-down at Lisa) Why are you eyeballing the duct tape?

Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion and order Eyes Like Stars now!

Harry Potter Trailer & More!

The final trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has been released, and I'm not going to lie. I get choked up every ti...