My First Book!

My First Book!

I am super happy to announce the Feb. 2015 publication date of my first novel BRICKS, a young adult, contemporary retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of OZ. So excited to be working with Anaiah Press @AnaiahPress and the amazing Kara Leigh...

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Plowing the Page

Plowing the Page

I come from a family of farmers, and though I now live in a suburban setting, as a kid I hauled hay, weeded the peanut fields, planted corn, etc. As a writer, I often think about how similar writing is to the planting/growing process. I approach a blank page much like a farmer preparing to tackle an unplowed soil. Not all soil is appropriate for planting, but every empty page–digital or physical–holds promise. Through struggle and sweat (and caffeine–sweet tea please), I plow through an initial outline. I tried writing without one, and I ended up lost and having to ask myself for directions. Terribly embarrassing for a man, but that’s another post… Writing without an outline made my rows very crooked, if not unidentifiable. Once the rows are tilled, I plant the seeds of my words. And though I try to be careful as I write–to get the words in the right place the first time, it always requires further care, ongoing tending: weeding (removal of those that choke out the emotional growth in my characters and emotional response of my readers) and watering and fertilizing (adding or modifying them to be healthy)–all in the hopes that the manuscript will blossom and grow into something to be proud of. Through diligence the wip becomes a w–a finished product that resembles a beautiful field of fully formed vegetation, and as I look across my work, I’m proud of turning a once blank platform into a complete story with complex characters and rich plot–a satisfying journey for the reader. But crops don’t sit on a shelf. They’re meant to be consumed. And I think that’s where most writers are. I’m not planting a private garden. At its least I want it to be  community garden, shared and experienced by many. At its best, a commercially viable enterprise. All farmers want their crops to be known as delicious or high quality–just like writers. I know my uncles always glowed with pride when they brought in the biggest crop or the tastiest vegetables. The money paid the bills, but there were things money couldn’t do–validate the hard work that went into producing something of value from an empty field and seeds. I pray that the empty page will grow fruitful from the seeds of my ideas into a healthy work that brings joy to others. And eventually, grow into an opportunity to focus solely on the plowing of new...

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The Post Formerly Known as One Bite at a Time

The Post Formerly Known as One Bite at a Time

So  originally, I had planned to name this post on editing/revising after the old saying: Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time. But after some thought (not much really), I decided to change it. The title, while fitting for the methodology doesn’t match my analogy. See  I routinely use too many words while writing. In my most recent WIP, I came in at 103,000 words. Now that isn’t crazy high for YA sci-fi. But it is outside the sweet spot. Add to that, I am currently an unpublished writer, so the farther outside the norm I am, the worse for my chances to attract an agent/editor. The problem is, I had been through four passes of the novel, and the feedback I was getting from CP’s and beta readers was that I needed to provide more details to characters and give more attention to world-building. By the time that was done, I logged in add a genre-threatening 107,000 words. Not good. Another pass shaved about a thousand words, but that still left me well over the mark. After some input from uber-freelance editor Chuck Sambuchino (Thanks Chuck!), I shaved about 2,000 words, but that still left me at 105,000–still, way too high. I took another pass using Chuck’s advice to eliminate scenes that did not: Further the plot Introduce or promotes characters and their arcs Establish the setting (which includes both the physical world building, but can also include things like establishing and furthering themes) Doing this left me staring at a 103,000 result. Better, but still frustrating. I believe in my novel’s concept. I believe in its characters and voice. But I felt like I needed to do everything I could to give my “baby” its best chance to succeed in this world. The problem was, I felt like I had done all I could do. Needless to say I was still frustrated. During college I managed a health food store. Around the first of the year–every year–I would have people come in and want something, a pill, drink, etc. that would help them get into shape. Our biggest seller was a pack of pills that on average resulted in weight loss of about ten pounds. Great, right? Not really. It contained a daily water pill. A water pill can take off most of that ten pounds without having to do much...

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The Writer as Magician

The Writer as Magician

While watching The Incredible Burt Wonderstone the other day, an interesting thought hit me–not just that Jim Carrie looks slimy with long. stringy hair.  While watching Steve Carell’s character get acquainted with his childhood hero, I was struck with how similar the magician is to a writer. When watching a magician perform, I do what I often do when reading.  I don’t focus on the artistry and presentation.  I focus on trying to figure out how the trick is being done.  Invariably, I fail, but I want to know how they tricked me.  Likewise, when reading, I get very caught up in what the author is doing and how he/she is doing it rather than enjoying the process.  However, there are times when the writing absorbs me.  I forget the fight to look behind the curtain and allow myself to get swept up in the artistry.  In the movie, there is a scene where Wonderstone’s mentor discusses how lazy he has become, how sloppy the tricks the younger magician perform have become.  He shows him how to better carry out the tricks.  Inspiration struck in that moment–once the trick is revealed and the magic is dead, it becomes a matter of artistry–a matter of craftsmanship.  How well can the performer carry out the trick?  Now it is less wonder and more admiration. In this way a writer is much like the magician.  Strip away the wonder and awe that a great story invokes, and you’re left with the artistry reached by a focus on craft.  BUT, while most magic tricks are easy to understand–not easy to figure out, but easy to understand once the trick has been demonstrated and explained–for the majority of readers and even writers, there is magic in a well-crafted tale.  And reading the author who can weave a tale of enchantment over and over again is nothing short of amazing–and bewildering.  How did he or she do it? As a writer, the trick is in careful study–reading, studying, breaking the writing into pieces to dissect and digest.  If successful, just as the magician with magic stripped away becomes an artist, so then does the author. So here’s the real trick for all aspiring writers to learn: study the craft, learn those tricks–the turn of phrase, the opening line, the all-important first chapter, authentic dialogue, the conflict and pacing–anything, everything that makes magic happen.  The results...

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So I’m a boy…

So I’m a boy…

If you don’t know, I’m a big fan of Maggie Stiefvater.  The lady has a magical way with words reserved for people who are gifted enough to use them in the right order.  I read a post of hers the other day entitled “So.  I See I’m a Girl. :/” where she discusses growing up reading books/watching movies that lacked female characters who exhibited what might be considered to be male attributes: swagger, toughness, humor–strength.  She says it much better than me, and I don’t want to warp her words or put new ones in her mouth (please just read her post), but the gist is that the attributes she most admired were reserved for men.  And she envied them. Now, let me say.  I love Puck, Katniss, Tris.  Strong, independent female characters who don’t give ground to their male counterparts–who don’t need to.  But–puts hands in pockets and shrugs–I’m a dude.  Growing up in my neighborhood, <enter get off my yard mode> before 2″ x 3″ screens or handheld controllers kept kids off the yard </end mode> all the kids played outside.  Now there were plenty of girls in my neighborhood, and they could sword fight with the best of them, but there were times when, being a dude, I wanted to re-enact a scene from Star Wars–not THAT scene–I wanted to take the girl in my arms and swing her to safety.  (The part of the cables was played by a jumprope attached to a swing set sans the swings.)  The point is I wanted a girl to save.  A part of me needed that.  Didn’t have anything to do with a girl not being capable of doing it herself.  There were some girls I knew were capable of slinging me over a shoulder and jumping to the other side, but I totally get that some ladies dream of kicking butt and slugging it out, and I write characters like that because I like them too, but there are also times when, as a dude, I want to save them.  I think part of we of the other chromosome need...

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The Scorpio Races review

The Scorpio Races review

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is an absolutely beautiful book masquerading as young adult literature.  I mean that as a compliment.  Her arrangement of words is a thing of beauty.  As a writer, it can both inspire and irritate as you envy over the simple ways she paints the watercolor scene in black and white (or sepia if you have chosen to set your e-reader that way). For the purpose of this blog, I’m not going to focus so much on the things like word choice, sentence structure, or syntax.  These are style issues that are personal and develop over time and with practice.  Instead, I’m going to focus on particulars within the book that I believe every writer can incorporate to improve his/her writing and chances of getting published. Structure The book is written in first person present tense (fpp).  Common in many YA books, and I really like this  as it removes all the barriers.  Third person POV places a narrator in the way.  Past tense can create distance since the reader feels like someone is telling what already happened.  With fpp, you are the character and you are there now.  Whatever the character is experiencing the reader does too–as it’s happening. The all critical first line sets the mood and sucks the reader in: It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.  Right away, the reader wants to know:  What happens in November that kills people?  As a writer you might be able to get away with that meandering chapter that paints the scenery and builds suspense along the way, but I think the truth of it is: You can only get away with it if you are a proven author who the publisher believes the readers will trust enough to put up with your meandering. –and– The readers do in fact trust you to get wherever “there” is. Bottom line for me is: I’m not a published well known author.  I should probably stick close to convention.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, but there are simply too many agents/publishers who preach this concept to ignore. Characters She establishes the character’s voices right away, doing what I think is quite difficult to do—she creates a “loner” character that readers want to know more about in Sean Kendrick. I am wretchedly attached to creating loner characters—orphaned, isolated, wall flowers.  These...

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