Houston, we have a problem.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I've really tried for some semblance of order in my life. But my daughter has to come first. She's had a really hard time--poor thing. She lost a bunch of weight and then went on a 16 hour hunger strike. The doctor said if she wasn't doing better by morning, we would need to hospitalize her.

Long story short, we found out she needed prevacid for acid reflux and nutramigen for an inability to digest proteins.

She's regaining a little weight, and she's stopped screaming for 2-3 hour blocks. Hopefully this will fix it and things can start settling down. If not, can anyone recommend a good psychiatric unit?

Quick note

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
It's now 1:57 pm and I've yet to take a shower (can you smell me through the computer? So sorry). Anyway, I just wanted everyone to know that things went . . . okay. My spinal block wasn't complete, so things were a little painful. Good stuff to use one my next book. I'm thinking "sliced a line of fire through her perfect skin." Gives you the chills, right?

Anyway, baby is fine. Though I usually don't post pics of my kids, I think one newborn shot is okay. I'll take it down in a few days. She's not eating well, so we have to go in for a weight check on Fri. I hurt in places that should be illegal. Pain meds are making me loopy, so I refuse to be held accountable for the content (or spelling) in this post.
Other than that, I'm fine. She's a doll.

And she's crying.

But she's sooooo worth it.


I'm going on Sabbatical!

Monday, March 16, 2009
I've always wanted to say that. It sounds so important.

But seriously, I'm going to be in the hospital from Tuesday until Friday or Saturday and I've got a long recovery ahead. I'm not sure when I'll get back in the swing of things (though it might be fun to post some things while I'm on pain meds ;) ).

I wish I had some kind of update to give you, but I haven't heard anything from my agent in a couple of weeks. Soooooo . . . .

I'm going to post two possible beginnings for my novel, The Last Witch. You get to vote on which one is your favorite. The winner will go to my agent!

Version 1:

The sun scorched Brusenna’s straw-colored hair and the street's dust clung to her feet as if begging her to take it away from this stifling place. She knew exactly how the dust felt. Every part of her wanted to whirl and run as she waited for the merchant. But she and her mother needed the supplies.

“Twelve upice,” Bommer said sourly as he finished wrapping the spools of thread in crinkling brown paper.

A ridiculous price. If she were anyone else, she could have bartered it down to half that. But she was not anyone else. She was a witch. She held out the upice. The man’s gruff paw swallowed the dull coins in mounds of fat. She wondered what marvelous things he ate to flesh out his skin that way. Things like the honey sweetened cakes she could still smell in her clothes even after she'd left the marketplace.

As Bommer counted his money, Brusenna gathered the packages tightly to her chest and turned to go. She hadn’t gone five steps when a meaty hand clamped down on her arm. With a wince, she craned her neck to see the merchant looming over her.
“You tryin’ to cheat me, chanter?”

Version 2:

Brusenna sat up in bed, blinking and listening for the sounds that had woken her. The stairs creaked. A moment later, the kitchen door groaned and then slapped softly against the frame. Shaking off the remnants of sleep, she padded softly to her window.

Her mother trailed through the waist high corn as if she waded through water—her palms skimming across the plants. Wafts of witch song drifted with moonlight that cast everything in silver and shadow. Brusenna watched until her mother disappeared into the dense forest. Biting her lip, she snatched her wrap from its hook and flung it over her thin shoulders before she could change her mind.

As she approached the kitchen door, Bruke pricked his ears hopefully. “No, you stay.”
He groaned in displeasure before laying his head back between his paws. She felt a pang of guilt, but she knew he would obey.

Brusenna scanned for her mother before bursting free of the house. Darting from one shadow to the next, she searched for signs of her passing. She halted suddenly at the sound of her mother’s song. Pure, beautiful, enchanting. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the words that only a witch born could have understood, for they were sung in the Creator’s language—the language of authority, with the correct melding of harmony and pitch—by a witch.

The way I have it now, Version 1 is the beginning of chapter 1. Version 2 is the beginning of Chapter 2. You can vote to leave it how it is, pick one over the other, or neither. Have fun voting!
*sings* I'm leavin' on a jet plane (morphine), I don't know when I'll be back again . . .

Review of The Hollow Kingdom

Thursday, March 12, 2009
Writers are often reminded of how powerful the first paragraph of a novel can be. The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle has a great one: "She had never screamed before, not when she overturned the rowboat and almost drowned, not when the ivy broke and she crashed into the shrubbery below, not even when Lightfoot bucked her off and she felt her leg break underneath her with an agonizing crunch. She hadn't even known that she could . . . But now she screamed, long and loud, with all her breath."

Wowzers! Isn't that awesome? I bought the whole trilogy after reading that one line. I love how much we've already been shown about the character and the setting. For instance, horses, ivy, and a rowboat. Probably nothing modern--somewhere in the country. As for the character, she's probably adventurous and somewhat of a tough tomboy.

At the same time we're learning all this information, the tension drags the reader, kicking and screaming, into the book. See how it was all shown instead of told and woven together instead of delivered in enormous chunks?

This book is also an instance when a prologue works. It sets up a tension that the reader feels, but the heroine is ignorant to, thus keeping the reader engaged and waiting for history to repeat itself--especially since the first four pages of the next chapter, in my opinion, should have been vastly tighter and shown.

Still, I never looked back. I read the whole trilogy in less than four days and loved almost every minute of it.

I'd recommend not only reading it, but also buying yourself a copy.

5 MistaKes Amaeture Writer's Make

Monday, March 9, 2009
Note: these are not in order. *

1. Flashbacks*: General rule: don't use them.

As with every rule, there are exceptions. I would strongly warn against using any kind of flashback in the first 50 pages of your novel. Writers use flashbacks as a crutch when their story is limping along. Some examples:

A. The author finds himself needing to sketch their character's childhood. If you need us to know her father was an alcoholic, let her cringe at the smell of alcohol on a man's breath, her fear as she worries that he will hurt her--just like her father did (anytime you jerk your character to another time and place, you risk loosing the reader's interest).

B. Your character relives some important moment in there past. If it's so incredibly important, why doesn't the story start there? Seriously. If you can't live without it, change the timeline of your story so that it happens at the beginning. For instance, Luke Skywalker's childhood is shown to us near the beginning of the movie instead of having a flashback later.

So, when do flashbacks work? Again, this is tricky. When they work, they just work. Understand, using flashbacks is tricky and risky. Be warned.

2. Writing what I call the Description Pattern: describe scene, describe character (including flashbacks), describe conflict, and finally, begin story. The writer feels he needs to set up his readers in time, place, and situation before starting the story.

In essence, this is telling instead of showing . Start the story when your character becomes involved with the conflict. Show us your time, place, and situation by the characters interaction with it (She squinted as the sun blazed over the choppy, black waters.) Show us what she looks like (She absently tucked her frizzy blonde hair behind her ears). Weave these elements in the conflict instead of delivering them in chunks.

3. Poor Writing. Unbalanced writing (using too much description, using too many adverbs, show versus tell . . . ). I’ve written about this earlier, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. (http://amberargyle.blogspot.com/search?q=how+do+I+know+if+it%27s+publishable
And http://amberargyle.blogspot.com/search?q=how+do+I+know+if+it%27s+publishable

4. Overkill and Wordiness. New writers have a tendency to describe a situation 5 different ways because they’re not sure they’ve made their point. Have you ever read a book and thought, “Okay! I get it! Can we stop now!” That’s when you know you’ve had overkill. A good example is showing us what our character is like, then telling us, and in case we haven’t figured it out yet, give us a flashback. If that’s not enough, we’ll tell you all over again with different language. Another is the following sentence: Janet petulantly stuck her tongue out of her mouth. (In case your wondering, “petulantly” and “out of her mouth” should be cut).

5. Bad story. There are a million different things that can go wrong with a story. Starting it in the wrong place, sagging middle, abrupt ending, weak conflict, unidentifiable characters . . . There are entire books on the subject. I suggest you read at least 5.

*This post is about writing, as opposed to querying. That’s a whole different ballgame.
*Flashbacks are different from prologues. Prologues have their own benefits and risks. I'll try going over them later.

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Thursday, March 5, 2009
Writers are dramatic people (including me). Let's face it, we couldn't write dramatic scenes without a proliferous imagination and a flair for incredible twists and turns.

But sometimes this doesn't work for our real lives. Every rejection feels personal. Every critique a knife slipping down our skin.

Seriously, the sky is not falling. So what if you don't get an agent, publisher, or the numbers you're shooting for. You're no worse off than you were last week. You still have the ability to do something you love--something many, many people in the world don't have (think of the people that can't afford to feed there kids).

Instead of focusing so hard on the final 10 pages of your writing career, enjoy the novel!

Quick fix tips

Monday, March 2, 2009
Use Find and Replace for quick fixes:

1. Find: That and delete (ie "She pitched her voice so that none of the villagers would hear." You can delete "that" and loose nothing. You'd be surprised how many words you can cut by deleting one word).

2. Find was + ing verbs and delete. (She was starting to hate pizza. She hated pizza. More examples? was looking, was leaving, was following. Cut 'em.) Granted, you can't delete them all, but the more you delete, the stronger you're writing will become--it's less wordy and has less be verbs.

3. Find ly adverbs and replace with descriptive verbs. (She hurriedly picked up the child. She snatched the child. The man fell, crushingly, to the ground. The man crashed to the ground.)

4. Find adjectives and delete. (Perilous dangers. Isn't that repetitive? Despite his exhausted and beleaguered state, the man stumbled on. The man stumbled on--in the context of the paragraph, his exhaustion should have been show.)
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