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Z is for Catching Up On Some Random Zzzzz's...

Zip-a-dee-do-dah! Zip-a-dee-day!

Whew! Just typing up those lines are making me tired. I've been sick with a cold and cough combo that's totally kicking me in the you-know-where. Instead of writing my last A to Z challenge post over the weekend, I took a lot of naps instead. It's hard enough being sick with a bug, but to be sick and not take anything for it (because of the pregnancy)??? It just plain sucks.

But! It is the last post so I gotta give you more than a few zzzz's to put you down snooze town. So get ready for the randomness 'cause here we go:

Z is for Zuma



This dude totally freaks me out. Zuma was a Filipino movie I watched when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, and I still remember him after all these years. Well, I mostly remember cowering in fear. He's supposed to be some sort of Aztec demigod who got unearthed from a buried Aztec pyramid. He's big, he's green, he's strong, and he wears a freaking two-headed snake around his shoulders! Man, he gave me nightmares for a long time.

Z is for Zombies

 

Speaking of nightmares, I've had two consecutive dreams about zombies a few weeks ago. Both times I woke up disoriented and drenched in sweat. Now I'm not one who easily gets scared--in fact, I love to read horror books. I don't watch a lot of zombie movies, however, because (1) I don't watch a lot of TV/movies to begin with; and (2) I don't watch something that my kids can't watch (this is why books are great!) Anyway, I was surprised about the zombie dreams. Though come to think of it, prior to the nightmares, I dreamed about vampires. Not the sparkly kind. Just your ole regular blood-sucking pain-in-the-ass monsters.


Z is for Zeugma

This is your vocabulary word of the day! Zeugma (pronounced zoog-muh)is a figure of speech in which two or more parts of a sentence are joined with a single common verb or noun. (Wikipedia)

Example:

“Whether the nymph shall break Diana’s law,
Or some frail china jar receive a flaw;
Or stain her honour, or her new brocade,
Forget her pray’rs, or miss a masquerade;
Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball;
Or whether Heav’n has doom’d that Shock must fall.”
--The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope

Well, that's it for today, folks! Thanks to all who've come and visited me, and also for the new follows! A big thank you to Arlee Bird and the organizers of the A to Z Blog Challenge. It's been a cool month of posting. I'll try to catch up on your blogs this week for sure. I may be slow but I'll get there. Also, if you followed me and I haven't followed you back, let me know. Chances are, I couldn't find the link for your blog.

<3 ya!

Y is for Yay! We're almost done!

Are you excited the A to Z challenge is almost over? Or are you bummed out the next one is not til next year?

I've had a LOT of fun doing this blogging challenge--even if it meant posting and commenting every day. I wrote most of my posts the month before, except for a few letters (like U and Y, for instance) because I couldn't immediately think of an appropriate topic. But I figured when I get there, I'll get there. And here I am. :)

The best part was visiting other blogs and seeing what they've come up with--and boy, you guys are so darn creative! It was also very NICE meeting new blogger friends. *waves*

Question of the day:

What are you planning to do after the challenge? Are you thinking of going on a break, a hiatus, or will you be diving back in to your regular scheduling? Or perhaps another blogfest/blog challenge (yowza!)?

I am most definitely going on a hiatus. See, this is me right now.

Kindly ignore my pink sausage-looking fingers.
Thank the heavens you don't have to see my feet or my ankles.
They are swollen beyond recognition.

And I'm going to get a LOOOOOT bigger still. Baby boy is due this summer (yikes! Where did the time go? It's coming up sooo fast!),so the A to Z blog challenge was sort of my last big hurrah before I disappear for a while--not forever, mind you. And if there's anything worth mentioning or blogging about during my hiatus, I'm pretty sure I'll be on it STAT! So you'll still get to hear from me sporadically. :D

Have a great weekend, everyone! I'll see you on Monday for the last letter post. Zeeee yah!

X is for Xena: The Warrior Princess

Or...the alternate title to this post really is:

Does your female protagonist have to be Xena-like to be considered a STRONG character? 

From Wikimedia Commons



Let's take a look at kick-ass girl characters, shall we?


Obvious pick #1: Katniss from The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins). She may not be a warrior princess but she can hold her own with a bow and arrow. Not bad for someone who has to fight to the death in the arena, right?

Movie poster



Pick #2: Katsa from Graceling (Kristin Cashore). This girl is Graced with killing, and was hired by her uncle to work as a thug for him. She has some mad fighting skills.  
Image from Amazon.com


But then there are other protagonists who may not wield a weapon, and yet are considered strong in the sense that they have resilient spirits. The ones who rise above their failures, their weaknesses, their circumstances...

I like those characters. I feel like I relate more to them than I do with Xena because frankly, if I was thrown in an arena and given a weapon, I wouldn't have the heart to strike anyone with it. But I would have the heart to stand up for injustice, to hold on to my beliefs, and to protect those who need my protection. Yes, I'm a mama bear. :D 

What about you? What constitutes a strong character in your opinion? Do you have favorite characters?



W is for Worldbuilding

Unlike movies, we don't have CGI-created visuals to accompany us when we're reading a book. We have to rely on our good, old noggins to supply us with images. Especially when we're reading Sci-fi/Fantasy, or anything that falls under the Speculative Fiction genre.


The thing with worldbuilding is that it's all too easy to fall into the old info-dumping technique. You're the Creator of your world, and of course you want to acquaint the reader with its grandeur so at the very first instance, you bombard us with several long paragraphs detailing every hill, castle, and hybrid creatures existing in your creation.

Um, not good. You'll run the risk of putting your readers in snooze town.


Or you can go the other way: You skimp on the worldbuilding descriptions to allow for a fast pace read.

Erm, not good either. If we find ourselves scratching our heads, then it means you've lost us. How the heck are we supposed to know what a kipa is, and why does your character keep saying "sika!"? (Those are actual words found in my MG Fantasy WIP. :D )

There has to be balance. The aspects of your world should be interwoven within the scenes and around your characters' actions. A sentence here or there explaining certain things will not bore your reader (as opposed to huge blocks of descriptive text).

Here's an excerpt from my MG Fantasy WIP:


Ascan opened his eyes too fast and stars blinked in and out of his periphery. Seagull wings flapped overhead in frenzied beats as a couple of fishermen hauled in their half-empty net. Men groaned even as they began to haggle for prices.

“Pan! Pan de sal!” This came from a pudgy man carrying a woven basket on his shoulder. Ascan had only been in Dagatur for a week but he’d already learned a few necessary words in the strange, lilting language of the fishing folk. Pan was bread. Not gutted fish, not slimy octopus legs, not bitter sea kelp.

Real doughy bread. Ascan’s mouth watered.

A horn tooted, signaling the arrival of another ferry boat. A boy, half Ascan’s size, scampered by him. The beggar kids who’d been busy harassing the fishermen for a centi all morning long scattered and disappeared, sweeping the docks clean of their filthy rags. Ascan squinted at the incoming boat, noting the insignia fluttering in the wind. A W encased in chains.

The Watchers.

Ascan crept toward a group of buyers vying for a bucket of pint-sized squid. He would be safe enough in a crowd, if no one notices him. And lately, no one had noticed him—his ghostly hollow self flitting around the docks on wobbly legs. It had been three days since he last ate a stolen meal.

In Dagatur, the slave trade flourished where the fish did not. Stowaways washed over the harbor with every tide, and stowaways usually meant orphans. A long time ago, it was said that the Watchers cared for the orphans during the great War, housing them in sanctuaries, and teaching them so they could be brought up in useful trades until they come of age. But the War had long ended, and now, the only trade they were brought up for was one that involved scrubbing rich fat men’s backsides, serving them their meals, and blubbering yeses like flustered hens.

V is for Victory! Oh yeah!

Probably not what you think. Heh.

The past few days have been hectic-crazy for me, and today was no exception. So, sorry for this late V post, but after all the running around, and after wrestling with my spotty Wi-Fi (technology...GAH!), plus sick kids in the house, I finally feel...Victorious.

Also, this video totally rocks--especially if you're a Buffy fan (it'll make you feel victorious, too. Ha!). Take that, Edward Cullen!

Enjoy!

(I must add that I first saw this vid on M.J. Fifield's blog and I just had to absolutely share it with you all! Thanks, M.J.!)



U is for an Underwater Story

U stumped me. I thought by now I would have something--anything--to share with a word that starts with the letter U. But no, nada. I don't have a fancy schmancy U word to feature...until I saw this picture and realized, Hey! I know what to do. I'll share a short story that takes place Underwater.

*nods happily*

So here ya go, and I hope you'll enjoy this.

Image from http://membres.multimania.fr/mandragores/melusine.html

 



T is for Theme

Do you have a theme? Does your manuscript have one? I found this definition of THEME on http://www.learner.org/interactives/literature/read/theme1.html


And this...


In most dystopian books, themes range from political/government oppression (wide scale) to a character's internal struggle for freedom/[insert goal here]. Take The Hunger Games, for instance. Early on, we are introduced to the mockingjay--which would turn out to be a symbol for the rebellion/revolution brewing among the districts. But in book 1, we don't know this, at least, not immediately. There are references to the mockingjay throughout, but as a reader we're more focused on the outcome of the game and the fate of the protagonist. The theme is subtle, though it has the ability to seep into our subconscious so that by the time we finish the whole trilogy, everything's come into full circle. 

Question of the day:

Do you write with a theme in mind?

S is for the Saturday Slash by the Query Cat


Lo! It's the Query Cat!

The Saturday Slash is a free query critique offered by my fabulous and talented writer friend, Mindy McGinnis a.k.a. Bigblackcat97 (for those following her on Twitter) a.k.a. BBC (as she is more fondly called on Agent Query Connect). I think I may have mentioned this here before.

But! I'm mentioning it again because I volunteered to have my query go under her hatchet.

Yep. Today. No kidding. My query is in the hands of the hatchet-wielding Query Cat. If you'd like to take a peek, or give me your 2 cents, or simply see if I've made a fool of myself, go here.

And while you're there, you should follow Mindy because she's fun and hilarious, and an all-around awesome person. Plus, her debut NOT A DROP TO DRINK is slated to come out Fall 2013 by Katherine Tegen/Harper Collins. Squeeness! Besides, her blog Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire is full of great info, agent interviews, author interviews, and random thoughts that could only come from a YA librarian with the best Angelina Jolie pout I've ever seen. :D

R is for Reviews

Now if you're on Goodreads, chances are, you probably read book reviews.

So my question for the day is:

Reviews--how much weight do you give them?

Image source


I always find it interesting (and sometimes, a bit fascinating) to read reviews that are totally in the opposite ends of the spectrum. On one end, you have a reader gushing about how AWESOME this particular book is, and everyone should read it and love it!!!! (Yes, excessive exclamation marks are used extravagantly to showcase the love because mere words alone are not enough.) And then there's the snarky, this-is-a-[Twilight]-ripoff review that'll make you wish your book, if it ever gets published, will be spared from this reviewer's eyes forever and ever.


I don't do a lot of book reviews anymore. Opinions will always be subjective, and everyone's entitled to their own.


Do reviews affect your opinion of a book before you even have a chance to read it? Or do you avoid reading reviews until you're done with the book? 

Q is for Query Tips

As I have mentioned many moons ago (heh. I was trying to see if I can squeeze "many moons" in one of my blog posts. Seems like today is the day!), I've finally entered the world of queries. If you've never queried before, and if you've seen other writers bemoaning the state of their query, you've probably thought to yourself, Come on, it can't be that hard.

Reality check: It IS hard.

So I'll share with you some tips to keep yourself sane.

1. Have a handy snack nearby.

Okay, I'm pregnant so I ALWAYS have a snack nearby. But you'll need it, too. You will spend HOURS staring at the screen, vacillating between including the word "that" or the adverb "mysteriously", and hey, should I include my protagonist's pet dog who was there fighting off the alien-monster-werewolf-hybrid attacking the city?

2. Start by laying down the answers to these questions:

WHO is your protagonist?
WHAT does he/she want?
WHAT/WHO is getting in their way of obtaining their goal?

The answers may not reveal you your hook line necessarily, but they will give you an idea of where the focus of your query should be. And it should ALWAYS be on your protagonist. Not the pet dog, no matter how adorable he is.

3. The less character names and places, the better.

If you start giving us the cast of characters  right away, we WILL get confused.

Annah and Brock have been best friends for a long time, until Annah's sister Michelle, starts dating Brock. Tensions rise between the siblings. Even Sparky, Annah's trusty pet dog, senses the discord. But when an alien-monster-werewolf-hybrid mysteriously appears one night, Annah may have to push aside her resentment, and aid her sister and her best friend in fending off the unwanted visitor. As the alien-monster-werewolf-hybrid lashes havoc on their city, despite Sparky's valiant efforts to protect the sisters, Annah and Brock are separated from Michelle...

I could go on and on with this fake query, but really, it's so convoluted I'm getting a migraine. Time for a snack...

4. NO rhetorical questions. EVER.

What would you do if the fate of the world rests on your shoulders?

Agent: Erm...yikes. *cringes* Employs form rejection button.

5. Make sure to PROOFREAD for typos and grammatical errors. Then have someone else take a look at it.

And finally, when you are ready to send:

~Don't send out a mass email to the agents you are querying.

~Don't address the letter as such:
      To Whom It May Concern:
       Dear Agent,

~In other words, know who you are querying and address them by their names.

~Research. Most of the time, I see literary agents tweet about passing on a query because they don't rep the genre. Only query those who represent the genre of your novel. Please. If you do, you're saving the agent's time, and helping out all of the other writers who are following submission guidelines properly.

~FOLLOW submission guidelines. This should be a no-brainer. Most agencies have their own website. You can also check AgentQuery.com or QueryTracker.net for more info on a particular agent.

~Be polite. Always. If you get rejected, don't respond by emailing the agent back with rage and
mindless threats. It's not personal. Just take a deep breath, and move forward.

~Be professional. This is a business, after all.

~And be very, very patient. Getting responses can take a loooong time (sometimes, you don't ever get a response.)
Good luck!

P is for Picky, Picky Reader

I used to have this philosophy--that no matter how tedious or boring the read, I MUST finish the book. Who made up the rule in my life, I don't know, but I've long since abandoned it. I simply don't have the time to spend on a book that doesn't interest me. I'm sure you all do the same thing. Time is a luxury, after all, no matter how cliched that may sound. With two young kids (soon to be three) and a household to run, plus my own writing pursuits, I have to be Picky.

Photo by .reid.
I used to think that being a writer ruined reading for me. I mean, as writers we're already so hyper-aware of the rules we've encountered while learning the craft of writing.

No adverbs!
Use only the dialogue tag 'said'.
No info dumping.
No unnecessary adjectives.
Kill your darlings!
Believable dialogue
No comma splices...

And so on and so forth.

But sometimes there are books that just make me swoon so much that the internal editor never bothers to show up its face. I can read a book in one sitting (especially when I'm sick and I have a valid excuse not to do the dishes piling up in the sink). Or, if one sitting is not possible--after all, someone's got to feed the kiddos around here--then in two, or three. The thing is, if a book stays on my mind and I'm itching to get back to it as soon as I can, then I know it's a winner! For me, anyway. Reading is ALWAYS subjective.

What about you? Are you selective, too?

O is for the Opening Pages of Your Novel

I think it's safe to assume that most writers write and rewrite their opening chapters a lot more times than they'd ever spent on the middle and end part of the novel. Because really, if you can't get your readers interested in the first chapter, you can't get them to reach the awesome climax and ending you have in store for them. Lots of pressure, right?

So, how do YOU start your novel?

Here's a list of no-no's I've heard from agents and other writers:

1. Don't start with your character waking up. Or being woken up by the sound of the alarm clock going off. Or being woken up from a nightmare--which really goes to #2.

2. Don't start with a dream. Or a nightmare. If your aim is to hook the reader with a heart-stopping scene, and then wake up the character just as he was about to be eaten by a *Sasquatch or whatever...let me just tell you the truth right now: You're going to piss off your reader.

3. Don'st start with a boring scene where nothing happens to your character. If it's a day-to-day scene: A is getting ready for school, A eats breakfast, A drives to school, A goes to her first class, etc. Why would we read about your character's routine? We've already got normal, boring routines going on in our own lives, and we don't need to pay $$ to read about it.

4. Don't start with the weather. Seriously. You're not one of those people who sidles up to an acquaintance during a dinner party and goes, "Hey, what do you think of the snow outside?", are you?

5. Don't start with a high-action-packed scene where the character's world is already being blown apart, and said character is facing likely odds of being mincemeat if he doesn't run away from Sasquatch... I mean, c'mon, give your readers a chance to KNOW your characters and CARE about them, before putting them all in jeopardy. If we don't care, we'd be perfectly content to let Sasquatch get his dinner on page one.

*Sasquatch probably doesn't eat people. Or maybe he does. I don't know. *shrugs*

What other no-no's can you think of? Also, I want to say that some authors have broken above rules and have managed to succeed. They're masters, ok? They can do it. You and I, however, we gotta work our butts off to make a novel worthy to be read by all. And if it means following a few rules, so be it.

Ever heard of the Bulwer-Lytton literary parody contest? It's a yearly contest looking for fake and real worst opening paragraphs to novels. Here are a few "winners" for deliberately terrible sentences (taken from www.innocentenglish.com):

When she sashayed across the room, her breasts swayed like two house trailers passing on a windy bridge.

--Stan Higley
 Fairport, NY

The goose waddled slowly, heavily, across the road, exactly the way my mother-in-law would if she were a goose.

--Mary Montiel
Wichita, KS

Kathy, who had bound her breasts and cropped her hair, and lied about her gender to join a monastery of Jesuits in northern Kentucky, until she was discovered one night in the shower, winced as the dentist pulled her tooth.

--Terry Johnson
Tularosa, NM

N is for Never Give Up

UPDATE: The winner of my copy of T.S. Welti's THE FOUNDERS' CODE is...

*throws confetti*

Email me your mailing address at writercherie[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway!

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If you believe in something...



M is for Music

My protagonist in my WIP Hidden is a piano player.

I don't play the piano. I started lessons when I was 8, but having short fingers doesn't really make for a good piano player. Besides, my true love was Art, so my mom switched me to art lessons instead. But my family are, curiously enough, musically inclined. With me as an exception. Both my sisters can play the piano. My youngest brother plays the violin (and is actually really good at it!). My dad knows how to play the saxophone. My other brothers play the guitar.  (Yes, I come from a big family. The more, the merrier, they say...)

So, having said that, I do love music, despite my musical ineptitude. I can listen to classical music all day. And because of this, it was only fitting that my protagonist should be good at something I'm not. :) In my WIP, these are the pieces mentioned. I hope you'll enjoy listening to them.

First off, Chopin's Minute Waltz, which is full of energy. My protagonist holds a dear memory of her playing this piece and her father listening to her rather catastrophic rendition.


Next up is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, which is a perfect accompaniment to the first half of my manuscript. It perfectly sets the mood and atmosphere of my protagonist's struggle with her mental health, and the conflicts arising from her current situation (Don't wanna give away too much.) This is also the piece she played for the last time before her father's death.


The latter half of my story is best described through Debussy's Clair de Lune (which is also mentioned in the ms). It has an ethereal feel to it, at least to me it does, and it's the perfect backdrop for the events happening to my protagonist. She doesn't play this piece, but hears it on a CD player.

And lastly, my protagonist plays the piano at the end, something that would resemble the music of her soul. I don't state what it is in the ms, but I really connected with this piece: Debussy's Reverie. The title alone is so fitting for the ending. Plus this video rocks!

L is for Language

Some of you know that English is not my first language. I grew up in the Philippines and learned the Cebuano dialect of the region where my family lived before I knew how to speak the main language of the country, which is Tagalog or Filipino. By the time I started Kindergarten, I could understand both English and Tagalog without formal training. Blame it on the TV, ya know.

So anyway, we learned our ABCs along with our Abakadas. When we were home, we always spoke in Cebuano, though our conversations would be peppered with English and Tagalog words. (The funny thing is whenever I talk to my family on the phone, my husband--who doesn't know any Cebuano or Tagalog at all--can catch snippets of the conversation and actually understand (partly and with lots of mostly correct conjectures) what I'm talking about. It's because of the English words that get mixed in with the "gibberish-sounding" Cebuano words.)

Because of this, I get a little bit insecure with my writing. I know my weaknesses. I know where I'm at a disadvantage (I'm looking at you, pesky prepositions!). I have to work extra hard just because some things/phrases/sentences/whatever don't come easily to me. Or I have to second-guess myself because my brain can only process so much at one time. For instance, after talking to my mom on the phone for more than an hour in pure Cebuano, it took my brain a minute to switch back to English. It was actually faster--say, a millisecond--when I wasn't pregnant. Yep, pregnancy brain is like having half a zombie brain. Everything's in slow motion. I found myself yelling something to my kids the other day, and when they didn't respond, I realized I was yelling Cebuano words. Not English. Sigh.

Oh well.   
Photo by Jetheriot

What about you? Are you multilingual, too?  

K is for Killer Book Covers!

So you know how we're always told to NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER?

In this post, we'll let that adage fly out the window. Because it's all about the cover, baby! Ok, not really, but for the purpose of this post, it is.

What draws you to a book on the library shelf, or the one lying on top of the Barnes and Noble's table? I'm a visual person--I'm attracted to pretty things (Look, it's so shiny!). I often read books based on recommendations from trusty friends, but there's also the not-so-rare instance when I would be seen picking up a book merely because of its cover. A caveat: I don't wholly recommend this process, not if you're thinking of buying on impulse. However, if you're at the library, go ahead and pick up the pretty book and cross your fingers the pages within will be able to deliver to your satisfaction. I've had the unfortunate experience of loving book covers, only to be horribly let down by the contents inside. There's also the curious incident of book covers having nothing to do with the actual story--but today, we'll just whet our artistic appetites for all things lovely!

(By the way, I'm a YA writer so naturally, I'm going to feature YA books.)

Bonus points for the lovely artwork INSIDE this book. <3
I have my own copy at home. At the moment, I have all 3 books in the series.
The gold teardrop is really cool in real life.
Love the contrast, and the cover immediately tells you that it's a fun, quirky book about magic.
And yes, it's set in a school of magic. :) 
Haunting. And beautiful.
Haven't read this (not out yet), but I'm already in love with the gorgeous colors.



I'm sure there are lots more out there with gorgeous covers. And speaking of covers, the prettiest one yet I've ever laid eyes on is Anita Howard's cover for her book Splintered! Absolutely gorgeous! You can see her cover reveal here. And while you're there, make sure you follow the link to win an Alice in Wonderland swag from Anita!

Since K can also stand for Karma, earn good karma points from the universe by voting for Anita Howard and her debut Splintered (slated to come out January 2013!) on TLC's Virtual Book Tour contest. Anita's a wonderfully caring, totally selfless, and all-around lovely friend. Plus she has madz writing skillz (trust me, I know.) So click here and VOTE! It'll only take you a couple of seconds.

Thank you so much! Have a great day, everyone!!

J is for Jokes (the writerly kind, anyway)

Because we all need a few laughs every now and then...

*****

How many science fiction writers does it take to change a light bulb? Two, but it's actually the same person doing it. He went back in time and met himself in the doorway and then the first one sat on the other one's shoulder so that they were able to reach it. Then a major time paradox occurred and the entire room, light bulb, changer and all was blown out of existence. (link)

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This one has been circulating around Facebook. I don't know the original source, unfortunately.


*******
Also this:



*****

Lastly, I'm so gonna do this when I go into labor:

Did you hear the one about the pregnant woman who went into labor and began to yell, "Couldn't! Wouldn't! Shouldn't! Didn't! Can't!"? She was having contractions.

:D Have a good day, everyone!



Links:
http://sites.google.com/site/writersjokes/jokesaboutwriters
http://aplaceforwriters.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/apw-smile-chuckle-laugh/

I is for Inspiration

No, this is not your usual brilliantly inspiring, pick-me-upper post. It is simply this:



Yes, go there now.
And be inspired.
Erm...yeah.

H is for the Hunger Games (the movie, not the book)

Oh. My. Holy. Goodness.

Don't tell me you have not seen this. Don't tell me...


I've already seen the movie (and may go see it again!), but watching the trailer still gives me GOOSEBUMPS!

If you haven't gone to see it yet, and you've read the books, and you're a big fan, and...well, I only have this advice to give: Bring KLEENEX TISSUES!

That is all.

G is for Giveaway!

Since Ms. Welti, author of The Founders' Code was kind enough to send me a signed copy of her book, I'm giving away my copy (the one I purchased from Amazon) to one lucky winner. Sorry it's not signed, but you can't have my signed copy, which is addressed to my daughter, by the way. She's turning into a voracious reader, and one day hopes to be an author/illustrator herself. Yeah, it's in the genes, man! You can imagine her shock and surprise when she got the signed copy of Ms. Welti's book in the mail--with her name on it! Thanks, T.S.! You have no idea how happy you made her. ;)

This is the copy I'm giving away.
Please ignore my alien-looking-sausage-thumb. Pregnancy swelling, ya know.

So! What to do, what to do... (rubs hands together)

I usually hate having to go through hoops and loops for book giveaways. Books are meant to be shared and read. I don't want to have to eat fire, or make you guys eat fire, just to enjoy a book. Which means, the rules are easy:

  1. Leave a comment.
  2. U.S. and Canada only.
  3. Feel free to spread the word, but it's not a requirement. (My twitter handle is @writercherie, just in case you decide to tweet this.)
  4. That's it.
  5. Contest ends one week from now (that'll be on April 14th, Saturday)
  6. Goodluck!

F is for the Founders' Code by T.S. Welti

The Founders' Code by T.S. Welti is the second book in her Parker Chance series. Ms. Welti's debut, The Fifth Specter: Book 1 of the Parker Chance Series was a fun, engaging read, and you can find my review here.


Book Blurb: (Image and blurb from Goodreads)

After a year of dodging possessed superhumans, being cooped up in the dorms 24 hours a day feels like pure torture to Parker… until the truth about the people closest to him changes everything.

In this second installment of the Parker Chance Series, Parker finds himself rescued from a monotonous summer on campus when he's whisked away to New York to visit his only family member. His time in New York proves even more boring until he allows his curiosity to get the better of him and he discovers a secret that will fester in his mind all year long. Parker's sophomore adventures at Knobhouse Academy are teeming with encoded rings, encounters with the Infallible Five, water monsters, and frustrating prejudice. The Founders' Code, the action-packed follow-up to The Fifth Specter, is rich in both mystery and heart.


About the Author:

T.S. Welti is a single mother living in Southern California. She writes books for kids and teens and bakes in her spare time. In 2005, she began writing the Parker Chance series while sitting in the shade of a weeping willow on a sweltering summer day. Five years later, she lost her job and book one was still not finished. After many sleepless nights spent slaving away at her keyboard, she was finally able to finish The Fifth Specter and has never looked back. You can find out more about T.S. Welti and the Parker Chance Series on her website at http://tswelti.com.

Stay tuned tomorrow for something special... :)

E is for Editing ;)

Confession: I have actually grown to love EDITING.

Yep. Hard to believe, but it's true. When I first set out to edit my WIP after letting it stew for about 3 months, I didn't know how to get started. I read the whole thing in one sitting, just to get a feel for the flow, and catch blatant inconsistencies (like names that got changed halfway through the writing process. The farmer's wife couldn't be both Susan and Lori at the same time, see.) But beyond that, I was lost. I had my colored markers ready, the printout nicely organized in my binder, and...I was watching Doomsday Preppers on TV instead of making my manuscript colorful with the highlighters. My Editor Mode was on "lazy". Or maybe it was pointing to the  "I-have-no-clue-what-to-do" switch.

Thank heavens for my crit partner, who offered to take a look at it despite its embarrassing state. And while I cringed and did a lot of headslapping after getting her feedback (sheesh, how come I didn't see that?? Bless her heart for slogging through the errors. Thanks, A.M.! Love ya, sis!), I was VERY grateful. Because then I had something to focus on.

Lest you fall into the same pit I was in, I'm giving you easy tips to get you started with your editing. It may not seem like a lot right now, or even a big deal, but once your editing mode gets jumpstarted, you will like--and hopefully, LOVE--editing your work. Because first drafts are just that--drafts. But a finished, highly polished manuscript will set your heart thumping at the realization that YOU DID IT. You finished something, and it is BEAUTIFUL.



So, here we go:

1. Go to FIND (in MS Word) and jot down "JUST". Look at all the highlighted justs in your ms, and DELETE, DELETE, DELETE.

2. Do the same thing for "THAT".

3. And "LIKE".

4. And maybe even "ACTUALLY".

5. Word of caution: Do not slash blindly. Take care to look at each one, and decide if they are necessary in your sentence. If not, employ the DELETE button.

6. Wipe your brow. Grab a drink. Pop a Hershey's Kiss in your mouth--for an extra boost of sugar energy, of course.

7. Now, use the FIND feature again, and input "SEE". If you're writing in 1st person, you'll soon see how much your character is seeing everything. Not needed. Just show us what he/she sees, without actually using "see". Confused much? Don't be.

8. Do the same for "FEEL".

9. Again, don't slash blindly.

10. Pat yourself in the back. You're off to a good start.

For more awesome editing tips, check out the following links: (They are uber helpful, I promise. And much more eloquent than my own ramblings.)

Allen Guthrie's Infamous Writing Tips

Robb Grindstaff--Book Editor: Never Use an Adverb!

Tips for Editing Your NaNoWriMo Novel (Lifehacker.com) --> Even if it's not a NaNoWriMo novel, these are still great tips!

Peggy Eddleman: How Do You Know When Your Manuscript is Done?

D is for Devices, as in Literary Devices

First off, I apologize if I didn't get to a lot of your blogs yesterday. My Internet was verrrrry spotty, something to do with my Wi-Fi router going bonkers, but as I'm not tech-savvy it was rather like wrestling a gorilla for a measly banana. Not worth it. So I gave up and did productive things instead, like buying groceries (lots of bananas!) and cleaning the house. Someone's got to do it, right?

Anyway, (I'm totally jumping in without transitions here) how well-versed are you in literary devices? Do you even know what they are? Here's a quick rundown to refresh your college-day memories.

  • ALLEGORY: A visible symbol representing an abstract idea. It's also generally an extension of a metaphor. For instance, the grim reaper is a symbol of death, and everyone knows it. So if you have this:
From Wikimedia Commons
           
           You immediately know and understand that the skeleton with the scythe is really death coming for the man in the picture. (And not just a zombified skeleton who looks like he's asking the man for a dance, or telling him to cut the super long grass in his backyard. Er...)
  • ALLITERATION: The use of the same consonant at the beginning of each stressed syllable in a line of verse.

          E.g. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • ALLUSION: Passing reference or indirect mention; Also, a reference to a famous person or even in life or literature.
  • ANALOGY: Drawing a comparison in order to show a similarity in some respect.
  • ASSONANCE: The repetition of similar vowels in the stressed syllables of successive words. Mostly used in verse, not prose.
         E.g. the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain (Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven")
  • CLIMAX: The decisive moment in a novel or play; it represents the point of greatest tension in the work.
  • FORESHADOWING: The act of providing vague advance indications; hints of what is to come in an action of a play or story.
  • HYPERBOLE: Extravagant exaggeration.
          My kids are experts when it comes to hyperboles:
          When told to clean up his toys: "Mom! It's gonna take me forever and ever!"
          When told to pick up her backpack from the floor: "It's so heavy, my arm's gonna fall off!"
          When they're eager to go outside and play, but Mom says to wait for her: "Mom, you're taking bajillion years!"
  • METAPHOR: A figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity.
  • ONOMATOPEIA: Using words that imitate the sound they denote.
          Ah, I love this! I like words that sound exactly what they'd sound like in real life. For instance, CRUNCH. You can hear it, can't you? Or how about ZIP when you're pulling on the zipper. ZIIIIIIP!
  • OXYMORON: Conjoining contradictory terms. Another excellent example of how we can play with our words!
        E.g. jumbo shrimp
               clearly confused
               constant variable
               defeaning silence
               act naturally
  • PERSONIFICATION: The act of attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas, etc.
  • PUN: A humorous play on words.
  • SIMILE: A figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds (usually formed with "like" or "as").

Okay, class dismissed!

    C is for Clichés

    So last year I had a post on Clichés. I actually had fun writing a flash fic chock-full of clichés. You can still read it here, if you want to. But be warned: It might blow your brains out. Ha! A cliché!

    While there are obvious cliched phrases we try to avoid like the plague (heh), there are also physical clichés that are more subtle, and we don't realize they are clichés until someone points them out to us. Or maybe no one has pointed it out to you, but since someone did to me, I'm gonna point it out to you! (Forgive me, I'm drunk on lemonade at the moment.)

    Are you ready for this? Here's a couple of links to peruse:

    Physical Descriptions: Cliches to Avoid (ObsidianBookshelf.com)

    Physical Cliches (Kidlit.com)

    Heart-hammering, tongue-turned-into-sandpaper, gut-twisting, fist-clenching...

    I'm sure we've all read and written these kinds of physical descriptions at some point in our life. My question is: IS IT REALLY THAT BAD? Should we have our characters avoid lump-swallowing forever and ever?

    I'm not one to get stuck in a hard-and-fast rule. When I write, I usually aim for atmosphere and voice, and the flow of words together is much more important to me than making sure I did not give my protagonist a hammering heart. If it doesn't detract from the cadence of the story, it can't be that bad, right? If used in moderation, it should be fine, right?

    What do YOU think?

    Found this here.

    B is for Boy Protagonists

    My MG Fantasy has a boy protagonist. I normally don't write in a male's POV simply because I'm not very confident I can make it work. Wait, I should clarify: a teenage male POV. All too often I worry he'd come off too girly or overly macho because I'm trying to compensate for my own lack of testosterone.

    So, the question of the day is: (actually three questions. My bad.)

    If you're female, do you write in a boy's POV?
    If you're male, do you write in a girl's POV?

    Or at least, ATTEMPT to?

    My boy protagonist is a 12-year-old orphan who's searching for his sister to save her from slavery. This is Fantasy, so it's set in a world of my own making, which is not totally out there as far as geography is concerned, but does have fantastical elements and creatures that I created from the bowels of my noggin. Now, while I don't have a problem writing this boy's POV, I sometimes wonder if I have the guts to make him older. As in, have him be a teenage boy and do...whatever it is that teenage boys do. I'm not actually planning to change him. This is more of a hypothetical question.

    See, we already have Harry Potter, of course, and J.K. Rowling made it work (though Harry did start out as an 11-year-old so it was MG-ish before it became YA). The other book written in a boy's POV by a female writer that I can think of quickly is Brenna Yovanoff's The Replacement. Again, it works, though as I am female myself, my perception is flawed. Do actual (read: real and alive) teenage boys read The Replacement because it has a male protagonist, and does it make them think the voice is authentically boy? See, I wouldn't know this, and as I don't know any teen boys around my neighborhood and have none of my own (my son's into Thomas the Train at the moment), I wouldn't be able to conduct a study.




    (And vice versa for male authors writing in a female's POV)

    So:

    Do you worry about misrepresenting your characters, too? Or have you gotten it down to a T? Do share. We'd all like to know.

    Btw, here's a list of some MG and YA books with male protagonists, in case you're interested (written by both male and female authors).

    1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
    2. Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
    3. The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney
    4. The Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey
    5. Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey
    6. Percy Jackson/ The Olympians series by Rick Riordan
    7. Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld
    8. The Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
    9. Maze Runner series by James Dashner
    10. Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini
    11. Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye
    12. Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
    13. Ender's Saga by Orson Scott Card
    14. Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
    15. Tunnels series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
    16. Pendragon series by D.J. McHale
    17. The Giver by Lois Lowry
    18. Anything by Gordon Korman (e.g. Schooled, The Sixth Grade Nickname Game, Maxx Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America, etc.)
    19. Holes by Louis Sachar
    20. Neal Shusterman's books (e.g. Unwind, Downsiders, Bruisers, etc.) 
    I'm sure there's a lot more to add to the list. If you have favorites, please share with us. Thanks!

    Oh, before I forget, I'm also guest posting on Angie Sandro's blog. If you'd like to read about how my cultural background--in this case, I talk about FOOD!--affects my writing, click here.

      A is for Aardvark!

      Or A could stand for Anniversary. Either way, both will work.

      If you're wondering if I've gone bonkers, mmm, not yet, but really not. It's the first day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge! And it also happens to be my 1st Blog Anniversary!

      1 YEAR PEOPLE! I've had this blog up for one whole freaking year!
      And it's not dead yet. :) 

      Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


      So, aardvark, you say? This strange little dude happens to be the first word in the dictionary (ok, according to some, that's debatable since "A" can be a word. But where's the fun in A as in A, right? Aardvarks are way cooler!) Aardvarks, therefore, represent THE BEGINNING.

      A = Aardvark = First word = Beginning = First Blogiversary (See the logic in that? Booyah!)

      When I started blogging, I was all weak-kneed and gangly, pushing black-rimmed glasses up my nose, with sweaty hands and barely able to mutter a comprehensible hello to the other students bloggers. I ate alone in the cafeteria while surreptitiously watching the "cool" kids hang out together. Until one day, a lovely girl decided to come sit with me. Soon, others followed until we had to keep on adding table after table after table to accomodate everyone. And thus, I survived my freshman year with the help of good 'ole friends I found through blogging. (You guys know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!)

      I'm sure this story is like countless others. After all, we were not made to be alone. We thrive on making connections with other human beings just like ourselves. And when we do find these people--the kind who can laugh and smile with us, and hold our hands through hard times--we become eternally grateful. Blogging is not about being popular, or being cool, or getting 10 million hits a day. Blogging is sharing. Blogging is connecting to people we would otherwise never find on our own because of demographic and geographic factors.

      So! I'm thankful for the aardvarks in my life.  Here's to a wonderfully fascinating and fulfilling first blogging year! Cheers!

      Precy Larkins's books on Goodreads
      Winter's Regret: What Might Have Been Winter's Regret: What Might Have Been
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      Precy's bookshelf: read

      Whispering Minds
      Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
      Night of Cake & Puppets
      The Fault in Our Stars
      The Return of the King
      Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
      The Last Olympian
      The Hundred: Fall of the Wents
      Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
      Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
      The Hunger Games
      Wonder
      The Founders' Code
      Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
      The Two Towers
      The Book Thief
      Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
      The Lost Hero
      Divergent
      The Battle of the Labyrinth


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