We interrupt your lazy Saturday routine to bring you this exclusive news (those chips are not going to walk away, trust me).
My good karma is paying off. This morning, I woke up to another surprise. This time, from my lovely friend Huntress who, by the way, has such an awesome name! When I think of a huntress, I immediately conjure up images of the Greek goddess Artemis, who is known for her hunting prowess and superbly athletic abilities. This goddess is not one to fool around with, I tell you.
Back to the announcement.... Huntress aka CD Coffelt keeps a dynamic blog over at Spirit Called. (Check it out, folks, if you haven't already done so.) And this morning, she handed me my second blog award: Blog On Fire Award. How cool is that.
Woohoo! Look at that thing. It's on fire!
I am really and deeply honored to have people care enough to remember me. What a nice welcome for this newbie blogger. Thank you for making me feel all mushy and tingly inside.
*grabs Kleenex box*
So. To pay it forward, I pass this award to the following blogs I frequent for the humor and fun, for the connection they extend to their readers through sincere and heartfelt posts, and for the sheer awesomeness of the blogger behind the blog.
A Still and Quiet Madness
Rookie Riter: Trying to get it write
Reads, Reviews, Recommends
Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire
Musings Of An Ordinary Mind
The Wordsmith Apprentice
The Party Pony
Congratulations! May our blogging endeavors connect us together and enrich ourselves and our readers.
UPDATE: My new blogger friend has also awarded me the Blog on Fire. Thanks to Scott Niven! Check out his blog here. His books are out and the cover art is beautiful!
I had a nice surprise this morning. My new blogger friend Lori M. Lee over at You Are The Unicorn of My Dreams (such a cute blog name) passed me The Versatile Blogger Award. Here it is in its beautiful, green glory:
My very first blog award, yay! I feel so super. Thanks, Lori! <3
There are rules that come with this baby:
1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
2. Share seven random facts about myself.
3. Pass the award along to 5 new-found blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.
I've already thanked Lori so I'm just going to say, check out her blog because she is such a cutie, she loves anime/manga (who doesn't, right?), and she loves cheese! (Yes! Yummy cheese.)
Now on to the 7 random facts. Hmm...this one needs more brain power.
#1 I went to geek school for High School. It was a government-sponsored institution and we had to take two different exams (a sort of screening test) to get in. The focus of the school was on Science and Technology (we were the ultimate nerdbots), so all of our curriculums covered advance Math and Science subjects. (We were also on scholarships, which meant I never had to pay a dime and I received a monthly stipend from the school. Sweet!)
#2 Because of said geek school, I had to live in a dormitory for 4 years. I was barely 13 when I entered. I cried into my pillow for several nights, until I made friends and my homesickness lessened. I did get to go home every weekend.
#3 On a not so depressing note, I used to join Art Poster Competitions. I won three times: school level, interschool level, and regional level. I used the prize money to buy myself a new dress and new shoes (I was 12 at that time).
#4 I went to Hawai'i for college. Blue skies, hitting the beach in between classes, it was truly paradise. =)
#5 I worked part time while going to school. I was a waitress, food server, gate greeter at an Ali'i Luau restaurant. Tourists would come up to me and have their picture taken...with me in it. It was hilarious.
|Photo by andy castro|
#6 Alright...what else is left in my arsenal? Oh, the first time I experienced snow, I was in Japan with my hubby. We were there for Christmas vacation. On our way to the airport, a huge blizzard hit and our flight was canceled. We drove through the thick sheet of snow with zero visibility. It was crazy, but we made it to a hotel safely. To this day, we joke around that it was like Planet Hoth from Star Wars.
|Ice Planet Hoth Photo by ulybug|
#7 And lastly, I come from a big family. Lots of siblings, lots of fun and chaos growing up.
Whew, glad to get that part over with. And now, I'm passing this awesome award to my new blogging buddies who have entertained me, made me laugh, helped me along the way to bloggingdom, and are just plain awesome people.
The nominees are (drumroll, please!)
Come collect your award, ladies. =)
UPDATE: I'm also fortunate enough to be handed this award two other times from these SUPERB WRITERS: Carissa from My Inner Stillness and Scott Niven from Scott Niven - Author. Check them out people! They are wonderful.
Okay, so technically they're called the Unconsecrated in The Forest of Hands and Teeth; Mudo in The Dead-Tossed Waves; and I don't know what in The Dark and Hollow Places because I haven't had the chance to read it yet (It is sitting on top of my To Be Read stack).
Carrie Ryan is a former lawyer from South Carolina turned NYT Bestselling Author with her debut novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Dead-Tossed Waves is also a bestseller). This book was chosen as Best Book for Young Adult by the American Library Association, a Best of the Best Books by the Chicago Public Library, and a finalist in the Borders Original Voices program. Impressive, ain't it? You can find her blog here.
If you're into post-apocalyptic zombie nations, this trilogy is for you. As I've mentioned above, I've only read the first two but I'll give you the blurbs for all three (as found in Author's website).
In Mary's world, there are simple truths.
The Sisterhood always knows best.
The Guardians will protect and serve.
The Unconsecrated will never relent.
And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.
But slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.
Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?
Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She's content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she's ever known, and all she needs for happiness.
But life after the Return is never safe, and there are threats even the Barrier can't hold back.
Gabry's mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but like the dead in their world, secrets don't stay buried. And now, Gabry's world is crumbling.
One night beyond the Barrier...
One boy Gabry's known forever and one veiled in mystery...
One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned.
Gabry knows only one thing: if she is to have any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother's past.
It's out now since March 2011!
There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah's world stopped that day and she's been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn't feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.
Except, Catcher has his own secrets—dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah's longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah—can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?
Why I Recommend these books:
Carrie Ryan writes beautiful, haunting prose. The first time I picked up The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I couldn't put it down. (How awesome is that title?) We were out on a mini-vacation, and there I was itching to get out of the pool to get back to my room and read. She paints the setting so eloquently that it isn't hard to imagine yourself being there with Mary, surrounded by a moaning forest of undead people rattling the chain-link fences with rotten fingers as they hunger for the taste and smell of the living.
And why were the Sisterhood so hush-hush on matters of the Unconsecrated? See, I
like love stories with lots of secrets. It's a sure page-turner. Plus, you have a classic love triangle with Mary and two brothers. Aha, I see you following me now. Throw in a fence breach, an unnaturally fast-moving zombie in red infecting every person she reaches, and there! You have a bestseller.
For The Dead-Tossed Waves, the plot runs parallel lines to the first one, with Mary's daughter Gabry finding herself torn between two guys (just like Mama), and her venture into the Forest to escape the Mudo and the Recruiters.It is another well-written book and it also gives us more glimpses of the state of the world they're living in. Although some of the questions I had from the first book were answered in this one, there are still more mysteries to find. So I was really glad to know there was going to be another one.
I will update this when I get to read the third installment. As always, bear in mind that the book business is a subjective business. If you're not into post-apocalyptic zombies ever, don't read these books and blame me for recommending them. But. Yes, there is a big but. It never hurts to try new things.
I truly enjoyed Ryan's writing and stories and I'm looking forward to picking up the last one. 'Cause me like zombies =)
This passage is a little creepy. My MC has just survived a near drowning accident when she takes a plunge into the river. As I've mentioned before, she is a teenager diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder. It's similar to Schizophrenia, though they are not quite of the same vein. She's been plagued with hallucinations...or so she's been told.
This is from Chapter 6.
Here we are again, sharpening our brains in our quest for the fountain of youth. Okay, sorta...not really.
But if half a century from now you were to find yourself *unable to spell CLOCK backwards, don't say I didn't warn you.
(*A doctor once tried this test on a grandma I know to see if she was getting on with Alzheimer's. True story.)
Actually, I really just want to see what you can do with this new set of words. Here they are, folks.
To see previous word challenge attempt, click here.
I have family here for a visit, so no tête-à-tête from me today. I hope you all have a great Monday, and here's a funny for you to enjoy.
You know how we're always told to use proper punctuation? Here's why:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
My good friend Anita Howard is playing tag over at her blog A Still and Quiet Madness. I loved tag when I was a kid--who didn't? All that running around, adrenaline pumping through your veins, shrieking when the It is about to get you...it's pure childhood fun. We had different variations of the game Tag. There was one where you have to get on higher ground than the It person, and once you're up on a rock, a tree, the fence, the neighbor's patio, they can't tag you. But you can only stay up for a minute, and then you have to find a different place. As kids we called it, Heaven and Earth (Langit and Lupa, in Filipino). It was crazy good.
So here are my seven things:
1. I'm exotic, baby! Haha! No, not really. But I was born and bred in this beautiful, tropical country of swaying coconut trees, white sandy beaches, and salt-tinged air where it's summer all year long. I grew up eating bright yellow mangoes and sweet papayas, their juices running down my skinny arms. On holidays, we'd spent the whole day swimming in clear blue-green waters, diving off rocks, hunting for star fishes until we're baked to charcoal under the sun. I came from the The Philippines.
|Photo by Robert Verzo|
2. When I was 7, I got hit by a slightly drunk driver who was coming home from a party and speeding down the highway as if his life depended on it. Instead, it was MY life that had to depend on his ineptitude and lack of obvious brain cells. He swerved off to the sidewalk where I was standing, and the next thing I knew, I had a broken clavicle and a fracture on my knee cap. Thank heavens those were the only injuries I incurred. If not, I would have haunted him until he'd learn to sober up.
3. I met my hubby in Hawai'i. Enough said. ;)
4. I was studying to become a Biologist, specifically in the field of Microbiology, but #3 happened.
5. I'm an amateur artist. I used to draw, sketch, paint in the old days, before I found my other calling in the arts--writing. Here's a sketch of a girl I copied from a Parenting magazine ad. I used a black ballpoint pen for this one on plain sketchpad paper.
And here's another one using pencil and plain paper:
Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman Cooks recipe book. She also has a website, which I frequent for newfangled recipes to
7. I'm more of a lemon bar girl than a cupcake girl.
Alright folks, there you have it! If you want to participate, head over to Anita's blog to scour out the details. Come on, it's gonna be fun learning about each other.
Happy Good Friday!
I've been reviewing my trusty guide Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. *If you're a writer and you don't have a copy, go. Get. One. Now. You won't regret it.* I'm a multi-tasker (aren't all moms?) so I was reading on Dialogue while looking up Proper Punctuation Usage in the web. My internal editor has been kicking in lately and I just have to get these things out of the way before I resume writing.
Last year, a very competent writer friend (I respect her command of grammar) pointed out to me my use of comma splices in dialogue.
*Comma Splice: the use of a comma to join two independent clauses where the clauses are not connected by a conjunction, semicolon, or period. Example:
I have a monkey, he likes to play with me.
By the rules of proper punctuation, this should be:
-with a semicolon: I have a monkey; he likes to play with me.
-with a period: I have a monkey. He likes to play with me.
-with a conjunction: I have a monkey and he likes to play with me.
(I really don't have a monkey, in case you're wondering, but my Grandpa did when he was alive. Needless to say, he was a super cool grandpa.)
Okay, now that we've established that, let's look at what Self-Editing has to say about making Dialogue less formal and less stilted (pp.101-102):
Another helpful technique is to use sentence fragments. Consider this exchange:
"Is she pregnant?"
"It doesn't matter whether she is or not. She's not going to marry him."
It sounds much less formal--and more like real speech--if you edit it to read:
"Is she pregnant?"
"Doesn't matter whether she is or not, she's not going to marry him."
In the second exchange, the writer has used another technique (in addition to the sentence fragment) to good effect: the two sentences in the answer to the question are strung together with a comma instead of the (grammatically correct) period. If not overused, this technique captures the rhythms of real speech remarkably well.
I think the key here is in the last sentence of above passage: If not OVERUSED. Grammarians will still balk at seeing comma splices in dialogues, but for us lesser beings, this is good enough proof that it can be acceptable. As long as we don't overuse it.
As with all things in life, aim for balance. Listen to your gut. Keep yourself true to the voice of your story.
P.S. If you have any questions, enlightenments, disagreements, and rantings about above topics, please feel free to comment below. I'll try to answer as best as I can (armed with Google, Strunk and White, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers).
You know how we always hear about studies saying if we don't exercise our brains, we become susceptible to diseases for the aged, such as Alzheimer's. You know that's how they promote brain games like the Nintendo DS Brain Age, and I came close to buying one.
|Image from Amazon.com|
How did I get from Alzheimer's to psychotic suicidal people? It's why I need to score extra brain cells.
Word plays, word challenges, word games. All free if you know how to go about it. I know writers are well familiar with word prompts. They help uncork the imagination to let the creative juices flow. (Ha! I've been wanting to use 'creative juices' in a sentence.)
So all you need here is a dictionary. Everybody's got one, right? I have an app in my iPhone that I love: WordBook (it's $1.99 plus tax, but hey, it's a portable dictionary. I use it all the time. Don't make me feel guilty now). It's like any other dictionary out there, except for it gives me a random list of words of the day. Six unrelated words, to be precise. And what I do to keep myself from getting Alzheimer's in the far and distant future is to use all of the generated words to create a scene.
Today, these are the words my reliable iPhone app spewed out for me:
You up for the challenge? Using the words and their definitions above, what concoction can you come up with? What do you do to keep your brains in tip-top shape?
The overwhelming facts were against me.
Everywhere I looked, the little blue birdie flashed its cerulean feathers to taunt me.
Tweet, tweet, tweet! it said.
No, no, no, I replied. Too busy. I have a WIP to finish, kids to raise, a house to clean, dinner to cook, books to read, and a blog to keep.
Tweet, tweet, tweet. Accompanied with a glint of its eye. Mocking and enticing me at the same time.
I threw up my hands in frustration. Alright, I give up. I'll come take a look.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I did not just take a look. I took a dive. I am now on Twitter and yes, you can follow me. Imagine that.
Thanks to Anita Howard who posted this, and made me think if she's brave enough to take the plunge, maybe I'm brave enough too? Hmm...still not sure.
Another thank you goes to Nina Badzin who wrote a twitter for dummies post here.
If you're already on Twitter, come and say hello. I'm still learning to fly.
Would you believe it is Monday and Rainy outside? Now I can crank up the old jukebox and sing Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters. (How many times do you think I can keep referring to this song before you all want me to shut up?)
I know I've said before I'm not a fan of Mondays because I'm a lazy week starter. But. Today is the beginning of Spring Break! I am looking forward to getting a lot of writing done, sleeping in, foregoing early morning showers, staying up extra late, and goofing around with the kids.
And, hello rain! Just another excuse for me to procrastinate running my weekly errands. Which means, I can hunker down in my cozy basement and write, write, write. *happy dance*
Speaking of writing, here's a funny about writing rules. Enjoy!
How to Write Good
2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
3. Employ the vernacular.
4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
6. Remember to never split an infinitive.
7. Contractions aren't necessary.
8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
9. One should never generalize.
10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
11. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
12. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
13. Be more or less specific.
14. Understatement is always best.
15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
17. The passive voice is to be avoided.
18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
20. Who needs rhetorical questions?
21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
22. Don't never use a double negation.
23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point
24. Do not put statements in the negative form.
25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
28. A writer must not shift your point of view.
29. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
30. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
31. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to the irantecedents.
32. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
33. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
34. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
35. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
36. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
37. Always pick on the correct idiom.
38. The adverb always follows the verb.
39. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They're old hat; seek viable alternatives.
Don't run away.
No weight scales here. Promise. The Wasteline Test is a diagnostic instrument taken from the book The Writer's Diet by Helen Sword. It's designed to show you the flab (weak verbs, abstract nouns, prepositions, etc.) in your writing. I did say in an earlier post that even books need to lose weight. Wish I knew about this test back when I first started writing.
SO. Have fun with it, go crazy if you must, and eat chocolate while you're at it. I'm off to finish cleaning my house--a mundane task, I know, but even I can't write in a pigsty. I can do it for three days...after that, my muse shrivels up from the sight and smell of unpleasant, unclean, unfamiliar, unknown substances lurking in every corner of the house. Oh wait, it's called dust.
I told you I can't write in these conditions.
Here ya go: The Wasteline Test.
Last summer, I was ambitious enough (and totally naive) to join the Summer Chapter Post and Critique Marathon over at the Speculative Fiction Group of AQC (Agent Query Connect). Each week, participants got to post a chapter of their work up for other writers to poke, prod, comment on, analyze, peer at with a humongous magnifying glass, tear apart with their teeth...oh wait, that was Jaws. Actually, my fellow writers over there were beyond awesome. Really guys, you were! At the end of the week, you had to tally up the votes--yeses for getting to post the next chapter; no's for 'um, this is ok but not good enough...revise and repost and we'll vote again'.
I learned so much from that experience. True, I was pumping out words every week to meet the posting deadline, but it helped push my word count. I mean, I had a WIP, but everytime I'd go and review the feedback I would immediately revise my chapters before posting them. It really was a marathon--you know that feeling when you're running and your legs turn jelly on you, and you're oh so tempted to curl up on the path (oh nice rocky path), or if you're on the treadmill your inner self is yelling Just push that STOP button, for the love of.... Yep, you know what I'm talking about. True, I was drowning in my sweat everytime I would open my email to see if there were any new critiques, (Hey, it was summer. And I have hyperhidrosis.) but it was all fun.
And of course, when you're taking, you have to give as well. It's the rule of the universe...only, there's not many people who've actually looked this up in the Great Manual of the Cosmic Universe. It's right next to Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. Geez, I'm a babbling mouth today. Sorry! But my point is, in order to get crits, we had to give crits to every other participant in the marathon.
Let's do the math now. If in a week, there were 10 chapters up for critique, then we would have to read 10 chapters and offer crit on each one. No Wow, this is great. The End. We're talking in-depth crits, baby! Show us what you've got! Assuming every chapter averages 10 pages, in five days you would have ended up reading 10 x 10=100 pages. Not including your own, which you would be furiously polishing, waxing, and shining for next week's posting. AND those are just AVERAGE numbers. Some chapters ran the gamut from 5 pages to 25 pages long. Anyone can join in at any week, so I think at one point, we had 18 participants.
Wow, you say? Yes, wow indeed. And I had an incredible Gandalf moment.
What do you mean you've never heard of Gandalf? Go watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and come back when you're done. That probably takes a whole day...9 hours? 10?
Okay people, eyes here now. So Gandalf the Grey theoretically died but came back as Gandalf the White. He picked up more awesome powers after his fight with the Balrog (and his demise), so he turned into this White Shining Dude. My WIP was essentially the gray version of Gandalf until I went and did the marathon, had a 6-month writing hiatus, and came back with a stronger, whiter, version of my story.
So, if you think critique groups are scary, you are absolutely right. But you'll need one. Plus, I hear they pass out virtual cookies every now and then. Don't be afraid. You are guaranteed to make friends along the way, and tighten your prose at the same time. How cool is that.
You can thank me later...by er, following my blog? Okay, okay, I'll leave it to karma. BTW, there's another Summer Chapter Posting and Critique Marathon coming your way over at AQC. Check it out, if you've a mind to! Maybe a picture of Gandalf the White will inspire you-->
|Image is from a poster.|
My main character is a 16-year-old girl diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and psychotic depression after her father's death.
Here's an excerpt from Chapter 3:
In Kindergarten, my first taste of reading came from tediously going through each page of the phonics textbook. Every night, my mom (who is ever patient by the way, and reads my blog so Hi Mom! *waves*) would help me sound off each syllable ba, be, bi, bo, bu. Followed by the list of sample words underneath it: bat, barometer, barrista, and er...batman? Okay, I'm sure they were simpler, more age-appropriate words but it's been years since I was five and I just woke up, alright?
Anyway, it was grueling. I'm not kidding. Each page was covered with words and more words. This was work, people. No goofing around the -ghts and the -ings. It was a memory test, a drill to get those sight words embedded into the soft, mushy part of your head that is your brain. (I told you my mom was patient.)
I'm sure I cried, protested, feigned sleep a dozen times to get out of it. The only consolation I got was from the little snippets of stories included after rows and rows of gag-inducing words. I remember vividly this one about the milk maid who was off to town to sell the bucket of milk sitting atop her head. While she's walking, she's dreaming of what she can do once she gets money for it. First, she'd buy an egg, which would turn into a hen. The hen will lay her more eggs, which she will sell so she can get a cow. The money that she gets from the eggs and the milk will be enough to buy herself a dress. She would then go to town and dance, and a handsome young man will ask her to be his partner. She would tilt her head and curtsey like so and...down went the bucket of milk she had on top of her head. No milk, no egg; no egg, no hen; no hen, no eggs, no cow; no cow, no milk, no dress.
So before I became a writer, I was a reader. Still am. Reading is easy. Reading is fun. But writing can be a grueling, tedious endeavor, and it is sometimes easier to dream like the milk maid. We sit down to write and muse on dreams of grandeur, of seeing ourselves signing books like a rockstar, maybe even throw in some fame and fortune (and a brand new car!) while we're fantasizing. Daydreams take a chunk off your time and imagination, just so you know. Before you know it, the kids are awake and demanding to be fed; the house is a pigsty; the chore list is three miles long; and hey, what is that strange-looking stain on the carpet, and down goes the bucket of milk atop your head.
Still, I write and keep on writing. 'Cause I know if I'm patient enough, if I can endure the ultimate phonics test while only five, I can turn that bucket of milk into a dress.
|Photo by Bill Gracey|
One of the greatest fantasy writers of all time, Diana Wynne Jones was a British writer who wrote children and adult fantasy novels. She passed away last March 26th from cancer. Her passing is a great loss to the writing community.
When I heard the news, I was shocked and saddened. I haven't read all of her books (though I will be combing the library for any available copies) but the ones I've read I have truly enjoyed. My particular favorite series is Howl's Moving Castle and the two companion books, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways. Jones' writing is brilliantly witty and the characters are entertaining as well as endearing. When you read Jones' books, you'll feel the magic come out of the pages.
For a list of her books, click here.
Blurbs for the Castle series: (blurbs and images from Goodreads.com)
In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.
After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.
The Hatter sisters--Sophie, Lettie, and Martha--and all the other girls were all warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.
In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle? When the final stormy duel with the Witch and the Wizard is finished, all the pieces fall magically into place.
Young merchant Abdullah leads a humble life. Or he did until a stranger sold him a threadbare--and disagreeable--magic carpet. Now Abdullah is caught in the middle of his grand daydreams. Waking one night in a luxurious garden, he meets and falls instantly in love with the beautiful and clever Flower-in-the-Night. But a wicked djinn sweeps the princess away right before Abdullah's eyes, leaving the young man no choice but to follow. This is no ordinary quest, however, for Flower-in-the-Night isn't all the djinn has stolen. Abdullah will have the so-called help of the cantankerous carpet, a cranky genie in a bottle, a dishonest soldier, and a very opinionated black cat. Will this motley crew be able to find the djinn's mysterious dwelling and rescue a castle full of princesses?
When Charmain Baker agreed to look after her great-uncle's house, she thought she was getting blissful, parent-free time to read. She didn't realize that the house bent time and space, and she did not expect to become responsible for an extremely magical stray dog and a muddled young apprentice wizard. Now, somehow, she's been targeted by a terrifying creature called a lubbock, too, and become central to the king's urgent search for the fabled Elfgift that will save the country. The king is so desperate to find the Elfgift, he's called in an intimidating sorceress named Sophie to help. And where Sophie is, the great Wizard Howl and the fire demon Calcifer won't be far behind. How did respectable Charmain end up in such a mess, and how will she get out of it?
Why I Recommend these books:
As I've already mentioned above, Diana Wynne Jones' books are simply magical. They are delightful to read, and you'll find yourself in one adventure after another. Wizard Howl is extremely arrogant, pompous, and rather immature but he is a funny character and his love for a certain person (won't spoil it for you) is deeply sincere. There are heartwarming themes that run throughout each novel--love, family, and friendship among others.
I urge you not to miss the opportunity to savor Ms. Jones' incredible writing. It is fantasy at its very best.
Since I'm a goody-goody and I'm hoping that the karmic universe will somehow, someday, recognize my tiny contribution to helping the less fortunate, I've been doing volunteer work for this awesome non-profit organization called the Oulessebougou Alliance. It works in partnership with the villagers of Mali, Africa to provide healthcare, education, and to teach their people ways to be self-reliant. I love this concept because all too often, when we have a charitable situation where the people involved are only doing the taking, and not learning how to get themselves out of their circumstances, they become too dependent on the organization providing for their needs. And it becomes a vicious cycle. People need to learn that they can help themselves, no matter where they're from, who they are, or what level of education they've attained in life.
I'm not trying to be preachy. I'm just 100% impressed with the Alliance's management of their charity.
Anyway, like I said, I've been volunteering. The annual fundraising dinner auction is this Saturday (I get to wear pretty clothes and pretty shoes, hooray!). I've been helping out since the year I got married, so a good long while now. =)
What I do is simply this: make the donated certificates (usually from restaurants, theater companies, recreational places, etc.) look good for the silent bidding part of the auction. I have to mount them on pretty papers, coordinate color schemes...it's like a big scrapbook party/sleepover/whatever-scrapbookers-do-when-they-get-together-thingy. Some of the certificates or gift cards are already nice and pretty and those are no-brainers at all. I can finish them in 5-10 minutes. But then there are those...
ugly er...more challenging pieces that make me want to: scream, run, cry, whine, sleep, and repeat everything in the same order.
I'm doing this for Africa. I'm doing this for Africa. So goes my mantra. I'm really hoping the great karmic universe is listening, 'cause I might need it one day when I finish my WIP and start querying. (Oh be still my quivering knees!)
Here are some pics of the mess I made:
The upside is I looove pretty paper. Oh look, glittery!
I guess this post is not writing-related, but I did want to highlight The Oulessebougou Alliance for the amazing work that they do every year for the Malians. And everytime I sit at that dinner, with pictures being shown on the huge screen of these beautiful African children, I am grateful to part with my wallet. All because I see my own children sitting there with me, happy and healthy and well, and it is the greatest feeling in the world to know they're okay and always will be.
Hey, I saw a couple of you cringed. :)
Cliches have the ability to slip in our writing because of their familiarity. We use them, we hear them used all the time and around us, and we cling to them because let's face it, trying to think of an apt metaphor for a particular scene in our novel can be intimidating. And cliches? They're part of our comfort zones.
But for a writer who wishes to get published, cliches are the plague. Run while you can. *grin* As Salvador Dali once said: "The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot." (I got that from Wikipedia. Hope it's true. You never know with internet sources these days.)
Interestingly enough, these phrases used to be regarded as striking or beautiful before they became overused and turned into, well, cliches. Just goes to show that fame and beauty is fleeting, even for words.
So. I have a game. Let's play Who Can Spot the Cliches in the Narrative Below. [I had fun making this up.]
Disclaimer: The author of this blog is not responsible for any physical damage the readers may contract while reading this piece. Proceed at your own risk.
How many did you find? Any guesses? Did you even make it to the end or did your brain explode halfway through?
|Photo by Christi Nielsen|
Tuesdays are generally considered “blah” days. Nothing ever happens on a Tuesday. People are tired and cranky, their adrenaline already spent on the grueling demands of the day before. The weekend seems so far away. No wonder restaurants have “Kids Eat Free on Tuesday” posters plastered all over their front windows. Because business is agonizingly slow on a “blah” day.
I love Tuesdays. I love knowing I’ve already gotten my grocery shopping done, how I have the option of staying home all day long in my pjs and working on my WIP, and how I can look forward to our Library Escapade, when I take the kids to our local library and come home with thirty different books and DVDs.
I must confess, I'm a reluctant, would-rather-stay-in-bed, week starter. I deplore Mondays. I groan, I ache, I slap myself awake while the song "Rainy Days and Mondays" by The Carpenters play incessantly in the back of my brain. (The Carpenters? I'm so dating myself here. I'm not that old folks--my mom was just a big fan. *grin*) And yeah, while it's not actually raining outside right now, there is snow on the ground.
It's April, for crying out loud.
*taking deep breaths...
Alright, so I say to myself: Monday Funnies. Why not start the week with a laugh, a smile, a toothy grin? Anything to get me out of the funk and start moving.
So here it is. Enjoy.
A linguistics professor was lecturing to his English class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."
A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."
Here are the blurbs for each book: (Blurbs and images from Goodreads.)
Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.
Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event--an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle.
With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.
In the year that has passed since a meteor collided with the moon, Miranda’s friends and neighbors have died, the landscape has frozen, and food has become increasingly scarce. The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda’s father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda’s complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for his future thwart their relationship. Then a devastating tornado hits, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever.
You can check out Susan Beth Pfeffer's blog and website for the Moon Books. There is a poll going on right now in her blog about whether she should come up with a fourth installment of the Moon Books.
For those of you who have read all three, what do you think?
So here's a story:
A newbie writer finishes her first draft. She is happy, ecstatic, over the moon, etc., and immediately attempts her very first query letter. It goes something like this--
My [WORK TITLE] is a [GENRE], complete at 120,000 words...
Yep. That was a true story, my friend. That clueless, achingly naive newbie was none other than yours truly. 120,000 words and no, it wasn't historical. Holy MASSIVE FAIL indeed!
But the good news is, I wasn't a complete dork. After researching and googling Query letter/How to write a query letter (see, I thought it was the content of my query that was garnering no's), I stumbled upon an awesome site that has changed my life since: Agent Query and Agent Query Connect.
Everything you need to know as a writer is there. AQConnect also has an amazing community of writers--from the pros and agented, the adorable shmucks hanging out while waiting to get their ink-and-paper dreams come true, down to the wide-eyed newbies searching for the light.
So when I first landed there (in a highly-disoriented state no less), I quickly learned three important things:
1. 120,000 words is asking for a lobotomy. My genre being YA, I exceeded their word count limit by more than a mile.
Agent Jessica Faust from BookEnds, LLC has an excellent guideline on word count here. YA (Young Adult) is usually between 50,000 to 75,000, though 80,000 is acceptable and a safe bet (providing that your ms is squeaky clean of unnecessary words). I was 40,000 off the mark. I bet the five agents I queried took one look at the first line and hit the instant REJECT button.
Yep, they've been known to do that.
2. Chop off those darlings, baby! There will always be words, phrases, descriptions that'll tickle our writerly brain and make us beam yeah, I wrote that beautiful mishmash of words. Grab a marker, preferably red, and slash, slash, slash! (Ooh, blood and gore).
Excessive and overly colorful adjectives
Metaphors that don't work/Metaphors that are out of place
I'm sure there are more no-nos to add to the list, but this is a good start. As with every weight loss regimen, *exercising and cutting out the unnecessaries will help you trim down your ms.
*By exercising, I'm referring to writing exercises, prompts, and even reading a published book to hone your writing skills.
3. That writing doesn't have to be a solitary endeavor. Thanks to all my friends at AQ for letting me be a part of their community.
Now, it's time for the other weight loss regimen--the kind I can't chop off with a red marker. On to the treadmill!