Monday, April 27, 2009

Blen + Ding = Blending

Blending. Blending. Blending. Blendi...

Try saying it. Out loud. Not in your head. It isn't the same. Go ahead. I can wait.

Cool word isn't it? It sort of rolls off the tongue with blendy goodness. Curious yet?

Well, I got to thinking about blending after listening to this lil' bit of blendaliscousness...



How great is that? I mean seriously, seriously great. Mr. Cheese has an entire collection of songs. You haven't lived till you've heard him croon Snoop's Gin and Juice or Radiohead's Creep. It is blending at its finest.

My mind then jumped to the blending of people. Like having a kid. That is uber- blending. I have two boys and it never ceases to amaze me how they really are a true blend of my husband and me - looks (obviously), strengths, interests, fears, humor and dislikes. Yet, they are their own unique individual selves too. Whoa. That's deep.

And then, being the good writer that I am, my thoughts drifted towards books and how some of my favorites are really good blends. Like, A Corner of the Universe, by Ann Martin - she blends human drama with humor and ends up with one of the best books I've ever read. And 13 Reasons Why where Jay Asher blends mystery with human impact. And Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Ms. Hesse brilliantly blends free verse poetry with the novel. Great read.

And theeeennnn, being the good, I-Like-To-Have-Fun'er that I am, I thought of one of my favorite drink blends. I am not a shot person, however, a few years back my sister brought over the ingredients for a shot called Chocolate Cake. It is one yummo shot - I advise the shot for two kinds of people, either 21 years young with no responsibilities the next day or on vacation without your kids. Vacation folk have no age restrictions.

Chocolate Cake Shot recipe
1/2 oz Frangelico® hazelnut liqueur
1/2 oz Stoli® Vanil vodka
sugar to rim shot glass
sliced lemon wedges

~ Frost the rim of an old-fashioned glass with sugar and lemon.
~ Add the vanilla vodka and Frangelico hazelnut liqueur; stir together.
~ Lick the sugar rim, shoot the mixture, and immediately bite a piece of lemon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Brand New Beginning & A Prologue

I promised to share literary agent, Sara Crowe's, words of wisdom from our one-on-one critique at the SCBWI Pocono Mountain Retreat. So here goes...

Sara had the first 10 pages of The End of Normal prior to our meeting. My OLD first 10 pages mind you. My, I-thought-they-were-the-bomb, first 10 pages. I was oh so wrong-o. Luckily, I also submitted a complete synopsis of my book to Sara. She gave me really strong and positive feedback on the synopsis. Things like, "Original ~ I think you have something here ~ I'd like to read this" Good feedback on the synopsis.

Then, we switched over to the first 10 pages. She was still encouraging, but, she said I definitely started in a place that didn't get the reader right into it. Too much telling, not enough showing. Too much back story - not enough action. Since my book is a thriller and all, she said I needed more excitement up front...maybe a prologue.

She seriously echoed Lisa Graff's talk on first chapters from earlier in the day. I told Sara that I already knew where I was going to start my book and I had some time-consuming revisions to do over Easter break. (side note: got the revisions done :)

I also told her that in the two hours of free time I had before meeting with her, I'd also written a killer prologue *kate says humbly* Teee-daaah...

PROLOGUE

The book glowed orange in the cave, illuminating the absolute blackness. Fear prevented him from stepping closer than his current ten feet away. But, he had to read from the book, death would be certain if he did not. His death.

No one followed him, not after all he’d done to prevent that from happening. Ten feet shrunk to five, and then he paused.

You’re doing this because you have to. Far too much is at stake.

With that understanding his body moved forward. The stone table where the book lay was now inches from him. The book pulsated with its complete knowledge of all. The book didn’t lie. He knew that.

He’d never been this close to its raw power before, not this close. Quickly, his eyes scanned the open book. Her name stood out. Finally knowing who it was he had to kill was a relief mixed with excitement.

So young.

He did the conversion in his head. Only twelve years old.

“I’m coming for you, Thaorode,” he said as he left the cave.

Maybe it would make his mother proud of him, he thought. For once.

Friday, April 10, 2009

SCBWI Pocono Mountain Retreat 2009 REVELATIONS & AHHH HAAA MOMENTS

I write today's post from the sunny, warm brilliance of Florida. But, I'll be writing about my Pocono Mountain Retreat organized by the SCBWI's Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter. Hands down, I learned more about writing fiction in those 48 hours than, well, any other time in my short writing life.

Even though there were roughly 200 writers and illustrators in attendance, the whole retreat felt intimate and meaningful. The VIP editors and agents actually sat with the commoners throughout the retreat, which made them human. They laughed and ate and talked books, you know, like real people.

The break out sessions were where my brain got stuffed full of new and oh-so-valuable knowledge. My favorite session was on first chapters, run by Lisa Graff , an editor from Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, or FSG. Lisa is also an author of middle grade fiction novels - hard working woman. First, Lisa described the ideal first chapter and I scribbled madly...

- Must have a hook in the first paragraph & at the end of the chapter
- Must set up the main character's voice, goals, desires, challenges, personality
- Must set up the narrator's voice as well
- Must set up your themes
- Must set up the story arc & emotional arc
- Must set up the conflict
- Must set up the setting
- Must convey the tone of the novel immediately

That's a whole lotta jazz to have in chapter one, huh? Then, Lisa read aloud the first chapter from Barbara O'Connor's, How to Steal a Dog, to illustrate a brilliant first chapter, one that embodied all of the above seamlessly. Damn it was a great first chapter. It seriously hit every one of Lisa's must's.

Lisa also addressed the question of prologue'ing or not prologue'ing; and she made a very thought provoking point. She said the prologue only works well if something CRAZY happens later in your book, like maybe in the middle. Then, the prologue would do its job and suck the reader into your book from page one. She also said the prologue works really well when written from a different point of view and/or tense.

I had some time in between Lisa's break-out session and my one on one, paid critique, with agent, Sara Crowe, from Harvey Klinger Inc.

Guess what I did? I had a revelation...

I wrote a wicked Prologue & began ripping apart the first 50 pages of my book...again. I'll post my Prologue when I get back from Florida - I want to read & revise first. I've been repeatedly sneaking away to revise my first 50 pages and I am nearly done. I am so flippin' excited by how it turned out I think I may burst! The reader now gets right into the story, or for lack of a better description, right to the good stuff.

Remember, a few posts back, I told you about that wonderful writer I met at the SCBWI conference in NYC? The lovely woman from Switzerland? And she read my whole book? Remember that she gave me some incredible revising advice? Well, she essentially told me to do exactly what Lisa Graff explained with her first chapter must's. Get to the good part...SOON. Or kids will simply put your book down.

Ahhhh haaaaa!

I'll also post the feedback I got from Sara Crowe in a future post...

Monday, April 6, 2009