Monthly Archives: May 2011

Power of Tension Blogfest

From Cally Jackson and Rachel Morgan comes the Power of Tension Blogfest all this week.

Here’s what to do:

“Give us an excerpt (up to 300 words) from your manuscript or recently completed work (or just a random scene) that drips with tension and will tie us in knots wanting to know more. It doesn’t matter what the piece is about, as long as it screams tension.”

So here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Sophie, my YA historical fantasy manuscript:

         I didn’t notice the pressure on my shorts at first.  It could have been a shopping bag or an accident.

         All the people and their various accessories blocked my view.  I swatted a hand off my shorts and tried to step away, but my back pushed against a wall of bodies and I stepped on someone’s foot.  In response, I got jabbed in the ribs.  I dropped my arm down to protect my zipper.  The hand pushed back.

          What the hell was going on?  Was this really happening?

          I twisted around, but there was no space for me, so I gritted my teeth in the battle against a hand I couldn’t even see.  Looking around at the bored, glistening faces, I saw nothing suspicious.  No one seemed the least bit interested in me.

          I felt so powerless.

          “What’s wrong?” Abby asked.

          I shook my head, fast, and bit my lip.  I didn’t want the person responsible to hear me.  No words formed in my brain anyway.

          A woman standing at the next set of doors caught my attention.  She had spiky black hair almost lost in the crowd.  Her intense blue eyes veered downward and I wanted to touch my necklace, the gold medallion my mother gave me before I left New York, but I didn’t dare move either of my arms.

          I again checked the faces around and above me.  Nothing.  Not a flicker.  Not a glance.

          The spiky-haired woman stared at me as if she could read my mind.  The cello from Giselle sang in my mind again and I pictured the choreography that went along to the music, letting it distract me from the tension in my arms, the hand that had finally left me alone, and the freaky woman at the other end of the train.

Okay, there it is. Are you on the edge of your seat? Show me some comment love then go check out the other participants here.

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Read-Through Thursday: Red Glove

Yeah, I’m back!  (And revision is still going strong.  I’ve read-through and revised 5 characters so far.)

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

Red Glove by Holly Black

Over the weekend I finished Red Glove, the second book in the Curse Workers Trilogy, following White Cat.  If you like YA fantasy, you should read these books.

Black creates a richly detailed world very much like our own (so does that make this Urban Fantasy?), yet so different.  Curse Workers are people with special abilities and their “Work” was outlawed many years ago.  A mafia like series of family-based organizations formed.  And because curse work is transmitted by skin to skin contact, everyone must wear gloves all the time.

Can you imagine having to wear gloves all summer?

The Curse Worker books mix the politics of a minority, boarding school intrigue, con men (and women), crime families, family drama, and a Romeo-and-Juliet-like romance.

I actually can’t tell you much about Red Glove without giving away all of White Cat.  I can tell you that both books are page turners set in a world you won’t soon forget.  I can also tell you that the main character, Cassel Sharpe, is a hottie you wish you could actually know.

Just go read it.

What are you reading this week?

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Consistent Voice

I’m sorry I skipped last Thursday’s Read-Through post. It’s not that I don’t have plenty to talk about. I’m loving Holly Black’s Red Glove (have you read White Cat yet? No? What are you waiting for?!), and a few weeks ago I finished Little Brother by Cory Doctorow – another winner. Between the migraines, the allergies, the beginning of a cold, and some extra mommy duties, I just didn’t have the energy. I hope to be back later this week, depending on the duration of this dang cold.

Brief clarification: RocketMan is my husband (he’s aerospace-engineer-smart). Was looking for a nickname for #1 Son. What about A-Read?

In other news, did you all check out my interview on Cally Jackson’s blog and this one on Akoss Ket’s blog? These are two neato writers who deserve a peek. So go check them out and come back. I’ll wait.

Now for this week’s post on voice:

I’m still revising Sophie, but I finally reached a point where it’s coming along more quickly than it had a few weeks ago. I survived the above-mentioned complications, and then finished the structural, character and plot changes (for this draft).

Now I’m working on voice – making sure each character’s voice is consistent, yet distinct from all the other characters. Honestly, I never gave the differences between my characters’ voices much thought – I just wrote them as I heard them in my head – before Tanya Reimer, the writing friend who gave me the idea to write a scene in a different POV, suggested this voice exercise.

She suggested I highlight each character’s dialogue in a different color and then read one color at a time. When you’re focused on just one character’s dialogue, it’s easy to see (and hear, if you read it aloud) what doesn’t fit the voice. Even when I’m not reading aloud, I hear the dialogue in my head and I add accents and intonations. That, too, helps me be sure the dialogue fits the character’s voice.

Another cool thing about this is that you can see the balance of dialogue and action/description/narrative in your manuscript. And it’s colorful!

So, I’ve finished voice read-throughs and revisions for Sophie and Mireille (Sophie’s closest friend in the past), and now I’m on Louise (Sophie’s sister in the past). The weird thing is, I can’t wait to get to each character. I’m actually excited to revise – which is unusual for me as I prefer writing the first draft. Then again, I’m excited to be closer to finishing this manuscript.

What gets you excited about revising? Have you ever tried looking so specifically at voice? What do you think of A-Read as a nickname for #1 Son/awesome reader whose first name starts with an A?

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My Newest Beta

I’ve reached a new stage in my writing career. My oldest son is now old enough to be a built in beta-reader! This is the boy who reads Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Chronicles of Narnia and other books as listed here.

I didn’t reach this conclusion myself. No, it took RocketMan to point it out. In the car this weekend he asked me, “Number One Son could read Transparents and tell you the parts he likes and doesn’t like. Couldn’t he?”

What a brilliant idea! And I should have thought of this myself since a couple of weeks ago, one of my amazing CPs mentioned that she’s reading her MG wip chapter by chapter to her kids to get their impressions. When I heard that, I thought, What a brilliant idea! Yet I still didn’t make the teeny-tiny leap to trying that out myself. D’oh.

So now that the idea has been doubly pounded into my head, I will have to try this out. As soon as I complete the current revision of Sophie, and I do a revision of Tzohar, I will have Number One Son read it. Who knows? Maybe he’ll actually give me some valuable advice. Maybe he won’t just shrug at me and say, “I don’t know. I just liked it.” This might sound good, but it’s not very helpful.

Anyway…guess I need a better nickname for him now that he’s been mentioned in two blog posts just this year (plus a few last year). Any ideas?

While you’re thinking of appropriate nicknames, go check out this interview of me on the blog Cally Jackson Writes. I survived my time in the Hot Seat! Thanks Cally!

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Read-Through Thursday: More Great Expectations

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I’ve written about Great Expectations before and may do so again after today.  I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  I started reading it purely because of a distant fascination with Miss Havisham, and found all kinds of hilarity, as well as amazing characterizations.  And now that I am 90% of the way through the book, I’ve discovered Dickens’s genius at plotting.

One of my new reasons to love this book is Herbert Pocket, a young man of about Pip’s age who befriends him when Pip first moves to London to be educated and turned into a gentleman.  During their first dinner together (starting around chapter 22), Herbert explains some of Miss Havisham’s unfortunate backstory and gives us this little gem about her father:

“…it is indisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel and bake, you may be as genteel as never was and brew.  You see it every day.”

RocketMan should get a kick out of that, as he doesn’t think he can bake (but he can!), but loves to brew, and could care less about being genteel. 

Herbert also gently helps Pip learn table manners:

We had made some progress in the dinner, when I reminded Herbert of his promise to tell me about Miss Havisham.

“True,” he replied.  “I’ll redeem it at once.  Let me introduce the topic, Handel [Herbert’s little nickname for Pip], by mentioning that in London it is not the custom to put the knife in the mouth, – for fear of accidents, – and that while the fork is reserved for that use, it is not put further in than necessary.  It is scarcely worth mentioning, only it’s as well to do as other people do.  Also, the spoon is not generally used over-hand, but under.  This has two advantages.  You get at your mouth better (which after all is the object), and you save a good deal of the attitude of opening oysters, on the part of the right elbow.”

He offered these friendly suggestions in such a lively way, that we both laughed and I scarcely blushed.

I wish my father had taught me table manners in a similar way.  I must remember this for my children!

“…At last his father disinherited him; but he softened when he was dying, and left him well off, though not nearly so well off as Miss Havisham. – Take another glass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society as a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious in emptying one’s glass, as to turn it bottom upwards with the rim on one’s nose.”

I had been doing this, in an excess of attention to his recital.  I thanked him, and apologized.  He said, “Not at all,” and resumed.

Hee hee.  What a nice young man.  Just a little further on, while still telling Pip about Miss Havisham’s dastardly brother:

“Now, I come to the cruel part of the story, – merely breaking off, my dear Handel, to remark that a dinner napkin will not go into a tumbler.”

Why I was trying to pack mine into my tumbler, I am wholly unable to say.  I only know that I found myself, with a perseverance worthy of a much better cause, making the most strenuous exertions to compress it within those limits.  Again I thanked him and apologized, and again he said in the cheerfullest manner, “Not at all, I am sure!” and resumed.

If you don’t find this as hilarious as I did, then I guess I’m revealing a little too much about myself.  Of course, it is out of context.  Dickens set the scene much better than I did.

What are some of your favorite classics and why?

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The End of the Crusade

The three month Platform-Building Blog Crusade hosted by the wonderful Rachael Harrie has come to an end. My blog had huge numbers of hits every day, many comments on every post, and I’ve gained followers. My Google Reader is full of new blogs and I left uncountable numbers of comments all over the blogosphere.

I’ve learned that the key to blogging success is generosity and reciprocity. I’ve learned that there are people out there, all over the world, like me – and who can like me. I have found things in common with a graphic designer in Arizona, a francophone community leader in Saskatchewan and a teacher in Wisconsin, among others. I have found new writing friends and critique partners.

It was a great experience. Thanks, Rach! Thanks to all my new friends!

In other news, one of my new writing/blogging friends, Akoss, has posted an interview with moi on her site, Nye Louwon – My Spirit. Please stop by and say hi.

I hope to continue seeing you all around. Thanks for your support!

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