Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Wintry Saturday

Well, I woke up to a 1/2 inch of snow on the ground this morning...guess summer is officially over, huh? Darn...


I'm off today to help out at a big adoption event for the animal shelter I work with. Hope we can find some of those cute furry faces a permanent home!!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Words of Inspiration

I finished A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas this week, a really touching memoir. Here's a passage I wanted to share (there are beautiful ones just like it throughout the book):

I didn't start writing until I was forty-seven. I had always wanted to write but thought you needed a degree, or membership in a club nobody had asked me to join. I thought God had to touch you on the forehead, I thought you needed to have something specific to say, and I thought you needed all that laid out from the git-go. It was a long time before I realized that you don't have to start right, you just have to start. Put pen to paper, allow yourself the freedom to write badly, to get it wrong, stop looking over your own shoulder. You idiot I would say to myself after half a page. What makes you think you can write, and then I'd crumple it up and aim for the wastebasket. The one day somebody told me a story about a daughter at her mother's funeral, and something in the story caught in my mind and wouldn't let go of me. I tried to write it and failed, but instead of throwing it away (you idiot, give it up), I tried again, from a different angle. I realized that I had been imitating the voice of the woman who told me the story, but it didn't ring true coming from me. I decided to make the funeral my own, and to imagine one of my daughters as the narrator, and after three hours I had three pages that I actually liked. I was off and running. For the first time a story was more important than my ego, and the know-it-all voice that told me not to bother held no sway...

Great words, right?? Good to stow away and remember when that fiend writers' block or his friend doubt comes to hang over your shoulder for a while.


And here's the Friday Feast!

Which snack do you like to get when you go to the movies?
Depends if I'm in a sweet (Junior Mints) or salty (popcorn) mood!

What year did you start using the internet?
Yikes, I'm not sure...probably around 1997, when I started my first full-time job.

What is your first name in Pig Latin? (Here’s how to speak it if you don’t already know!)
"Allieay" - kind of fun, right?

Main Course
Name something you are picky about.
My students' work in English class. I'm really old-fashioned when it comes to grammar!

Fill in the blanks: I ____ ____ yesterday and I ____ ____ today.
I woke up late yesterday and I woke up early today (probably 'cause it's Friday and payday and the beginning of a 3-day weekend!)

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Guess What?

I have my galley for Lost in Paradise! The galley is the PDF file that I have to go through with a fine-tooth comb, checking for any typos or last errors in formatting. Of course, I've read the first chapter and already I'm itching to change this wording, or that action, which I can't because all the content editing is finished. Why do we always see things we want to change, even at this point? Sigh. Oh, well. Once I do finish proofing the galley, and send it back to my editor, I should have an official book released sometime soon!


Guess what else? I have a short story featured over at The Long and the Short of It, today. I don't normally write short stories (it takes me longer than a few hundred/few thousand words to get a whole plot developed). But "Schoolyard Love," interestingly enough, came out of a random prompt at one of my writers' groups. I sat down and wrote this story (it's very short, about 200 words) in less than an hour. And I really liked it!

So go on over and check it out...then you can come back here and tell me what you think :)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wriers' Wednesday: How to Write Last Lines

Author interviews return next week on Writers’ Wednesday! Today, though, I thought it would be interesting to look at last lines.

Yes, you heard (read?) me correctly.

As authors, we often struggle with the opening lines of a book much more than we do the final ones. We must get that “hook” just perfect, we think! We must reel in the reader right from the start! And indeed, we do.

But last lines have power too, perhaps more so than first ones. I blogged a few weeks back about ways in which to wrap up your novel. But the structural or thematic ending is somewhat different from the literal one. You can get your emotional point across but fumble with the words you use to do so. You want those last words to echo in the reader’s mind, to stay with the reader long after he or she has closed the book. No pressure there, right?

So what makes a great last line? Well, over the weekend I read an article about this topic, and the co-writers were at odds. One nominated the final lines of Charlotte’s Web as the best in modern literature:

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

while the other thought The Great Gatsby’s final lines were better:

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Both are powerful, I think. Both thud against your heart in just the right way. So I started thinking about how to apply this idea of last lines to my own writing, and here’s what I came up with. You could…

1. Re-emphasize the theme of your book. That’s what E.B. White does masterfully with Charlotte’s Web. We’re reminded, finally, of the power of true friendship along with the rarity of true talent and devotion. Fitzgerald does it equally well in Gatsby, with his final commentary on the futility of trying to find one's place in the world.

2. Show the main character’s growth. One of my favorite last lines appears in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon). To me, these lines are a glorious celebration of the success this narrator (an autistic teenager) experiences:

“And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington? and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.”

3. Send the reader a lesson or moral. This does not mean “be preachy.” It does mean share a thought with, or challenge, your reader. I’m pretty pleased with the last lines of Lost in Paradise (Yours Truly, coming soon!), because I’d like to think they’re a reminder that stepping outside of one’s safety zone is where the most fun/learning/thrill/reward takes place:

“I know now that being lost is sometimes that best thing that can happen to a girl. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump.”

4. Remind the reader the promise you made at the start. A romance novel by Jenny Crusie promises a happy ending:

“The evening was turning out much better than she’d expected.” (Welcome to Temptation)

One the other hand, a horror novel by Stephen King promises a gory, terrifying, unpredictable ride:

“Of course it’s impossible, but it was all impossible to begin with.
I keep thinking of George LeBay in Ohio.
His sister in Colorado.
Leigh in New Mexico.
What if it’s started again?
What if it’s working its way east, finishing the job?
Saving me for last?

His single-minded purpose.
His unending fury.”

5. Leave ‘em hanging. Especially if you plan to write a sequel, frame those last lines so that you give away most of the answers, but not all. Or introduce just enough element of wonder so the reader will need to pick up the next book to find out what happens. Or leave something about the characters’ lives unresolved.

It can be tough, when you really think about it, to get those final words just right. But that’s part of the creative process, isn’t it? Because when you do, and when you type the words “The End” at the bottom of the last page, that feeling of perfect conclusion can be magic.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

So This is Cool...

Over the weekend, I got an email from someone who saw Diane Craver's book trailer for A Fiery Secret on Youtube (that's the one I made for her), and the woman asked how much I would charge to make one for her! Whoa. Um...I wouldn't even know where to begin guessing. Still, I emailed her back and said I'd be glad to work with her. Hey, if I can make a little extra $$ doing something that's creative and fun anyway, why not?


WOW's ezine has a great issue this month: The Agent in the Middle, all about finding the right agent. I haven't had a chance to read all the articles yet, but it's on my list to check out this week. "99 Blopics" and So You Want to Write a Romance" look like good blog posts, too, so take a visit over there!

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hooray! I got the good news from my editor at The Wild Rose Press that Lost in Paradise is finally in its last production stages and should be released by the end of this month.

Things were at a standstill for a while, but with my upcoming appearance at the Independent and Small Press Book Fair on December 1 (free to the public, by the way!), they're pushing to have it ready for electronic sale there.

That would be nice.

So I'm in a bit of a crunch this week, trying to do all the final editing. It's interesting because with my other publisher, I didn't do any of the formatting. But with TWRP, I have to go through the manuscript and check spaces after periods, single vs. double quotation marks, formatting of em-dashes, etc. I guess it's because they're a very small press and they don't have someone solely assigned to that job.

I also have to think of cool promotional things to do for this novel! Hmm...yet another thing to add to my overflowing "To Do" list. should be able to purchase the electronic version before the holidays - exciting, right?? And in case you haven't scanned my sidebar in a while, here's a reminder of how yummy the cover is: