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The Society of Unicorns & Other Exotic Goats

31 Aug

Society of Unicorns coverI’ve been at it again. Well, at a couple things.

One, I’ve turned back to my original novel and am about to embark upon a great restructuring. I think people are getting tired of hearing me say I’m going to turn it into a trilogy. It’s probably a novice move. But, hey, did you know I’m turning it into a trilogy? Yeah. I am.

Meanwhile, I’ve been using the stock/resource section of DeviantArt as a box of crayons and Photoshop as a coloring book. I made a temporary cover for book one using a fabulous tree background by Smoko-Stock and a vintage “fairy” photo. Ain’t it cute?

I’m also dipping a toe into the critique pool again by joining YouWriteOn, a UK site where you can post opening chapters of your novel and have them reviewed on a one-for-one basis. Each review you do for another writer earns you one credit. You use credits to “buy” a critique for your own chapters. The divvying of assignments is random, there are eight areas on which you can rate the writing with stars (narrative voice, plot, dialogue, etc.), and they require at least 100 words of written review after that. It all seems quite organized and fair. I’m not a UK citizen, and I didn’t even consider that when posting, but so far so good. I’m still waiting to have someone balk at my Americanisms, though.

I’ve also posted chapters to DeviantArt and requested critiques, but radio silence over there, although I’ve had views.

See, this is where you all come in. I know I have some awesome writers who read the blog, some avid readers, too. I’d love it if folks would visit my DeviantArt or YouWriteOn pages and take a look. Leave me a comment, even if only to say hello.

Please and thank you and all the best.

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Novels & Nostalgia

13 Aug

Every so often, I drag out my journal from 1993, the year I studied abroad in Russia. At a rate barely faster than that of glacier migration, I’ve been transcribing the yellowing handwritten thing into a Word file. I was tired last night and needed inspiration, so I chose a Russian classical playlist on iTunes and searched the web for a photo of the Smolny Cathedral in the snow. I found a good one on Google Images. Then realized it was from this blog.

Oh yeah. The blog. How I have scorned it!

I’ve devoted most of my summer to revising my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel and ordering various proofs. I’m finally at a good resting point. A few kind souls have volunteered to be beta readers, I have the cover I want for now, and so I’ll pull back from it for a while. If anyone wants to join the beta brigade, let me know. I have pdf and epub versions.

Here’s the cover:

Nocturne Cover (proof three)

Click on the image below for a link to the first two chapters (on Deviantart.com)

Those of you who read my 99th Page blogfest entry will recognize some of this. I moved a middle chapter from my original novel to the beginning of this one (the alternate version).

Now I’m waiting for the next prompt for NPR’s Three-Minute-Fiction…

Proof!

23 Jun

For the very first time, after three years of writing fiction, I completed a novel! I’m laughing maniacally every time I remember typing those magical words, “The End.”

I have a novel with a beginning, a middle, and an end! Whoa… [Laughs maniacally]

(So there’s some explanation for my absence from the blog.)

Thanks to the kind sponsors of NaNoWriMo, I had a code for a free proof copy. It arrived today! [Muhahaha!]

It has some errors, and I’ve made a few corrections to the story itself, so there will be a second proof, but, in the meanwhile…BEHOLD!

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May the Beats Be Ever in Your Favor

10 Apr

Jennifer Lawrence will play Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming film

Okay.

A little embarrassed by my fangirl squeeing over Hunger Games last weekend.

But…

Yes…

I read the whole damn series again this week.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta

In my defense, this time I was reading it with a critical eye, looking for technical elements — how she set up the plot, her sentence structure, et cetera. I’m still amazed at how well she grabs the reader and never lets go, not for an instant. There’s always a sense of peril. Safe times are found only in retrospect, in that, “Okay, I guess it really was okay after all,” kind of way. But you don’t believe it at the time because everything and everyone is suspect. Blake Snyder talks about how a character’s goals and stakes must be primal at their root — love, survival, hunger, protection, sex… It doesn’t get much more primal than this!

It took me until the second book to realize the story was written in present tense. Unbelievable. That’s usually something I notice in the first paragraph and have to grit my teeth to get past.  She executed it perfectly, I think, and it could not have suited the anxious, fast-paced immediacy of the story better.

On second reading, I was equally engrossed. Only in the third book did I start skimming. Exposition galore. Necessary, though, I suppose. We’re in a new place with new rules.

I do wish the last bits of the series were a little more fleshed out instead of summarized, but I guess it couldn’t go on forever.

M. Howalt — you asked in the comments last week what made the series compelling. My friend Samantha wrote an excellent post on the series here. Check it out. I agree with everything she says (and am clearly still fangirling because I got happy chills reading the title of her article, heh).

***

In my personal realm, I remain a foggy-headed, migraine-laden hermit. Gotta snap out of that somehow, someday.

But, hey, it hasn’t been a total waste. Besides falling in love with a series (which is such a great feeling), I also managed this:

My novel! All in one place! All the pieces! (Although some are vague [solves problem] or drawn in broad strokes.) Redoing  the major beats on red cards was a treat. I’m an office supply junkie and a visually-oriented person. The red cards make it feel concrete and prove to me that it’s not all an amorphous smear of a cloud. It has the bones! Look! Right there! 😉

Look at Act One — so many cards. Look at the second half of Act Two, so few cards. Not that big a deal, I think. The second half of Act Two is where I’ve drawn in broad strokes, labeling major elements. I think I pretty much  wrote the entire first act on the cards up there! Lots of details that don’t need to be there. I’m still figuring all of this out, though.

The pirate ship was already there, an unintentional metaphor for how my sons like to shoot cannons of distraction at me at all hours of the day.

The 2nd Annual Drunk at First Sight Fest

17 Mar

I’m a little late on this (a lot late for my international friends), but, in the spirit of camraderie, I thought I’d put something up. It’s a first draft of a deleted scene, and an old one, at that, but it’s all I have in the way of a drunk scene at this point. It probably makes no sense.

Learn more about the fest on the Where Sky Meets Ground blog @ The 2nd Annual Drunk at First Sight Fest.

_____________________

Elizabeth: naive college freshman in Berkeley, 1969.

Marisa: Elizabeth’s best friend and landlady, also known as The Red Queen, hostess of weekly anachronistic parties to promote her dance studio

David: Elizabeth’s ex

Jim: Elizabeth’s secret love and self-appointed protector

Paul: Marisa’s henpecked, nerdy cousin

 

This is the confusion before the storm. Bad things are just around the bend…

_____________________

As David’s façade of civility began its crumble, he’d developed a cute little trick. Creeping to the television, he’d press himself against it, one eye turned her way, growing happier and happier as Elizabeth went insane. To achieve this, he need do only one thing — flip the dial back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until her brain was full and she was screaming. Fragments, flashes, from hiss to canned laughter, static to song. Always with the sound turned up full blast, of course.

When she thought back on Marisa’s St. Patrick’s Day party, it was a lot like that torture by television — not so much for the maddening element but because of its fragmentation. She remembered it only in flashes.

Flash one: She’s in the kitchen, her default party spot. Stephanie’s threatening to kiss her if she doesn’t join the mob in the basement.

Flash two: The basement. Marisa’s sangria. Yum.

Flash three: Who drank all her stinking sangria? Dammit, Paul, get some more.

Flash four: The music isn’t loud enough. Someone — maybe Elizabeth — has organized a guerilla trip through the tangle of crowd to the stereo to do something about it. A jumbled memory of walking bent forward, one arm out, ready to snowplow anyone who got in the way. A staggering mob hanging on behind like a zombie conga line.

Flash five: Laughing and laughing and laughing with Marisa until their stomachs hurt and — whoa — who turned down the lights?

Flash six: Marisa is scolding her, brushing her hair roughly and tying it back in a ponytail. This will come in handy later when…

Flash seven: Elizabeth wipes her mouth and rises from the strip of marigolds outside Marisa’s back door, thanking the lecherous Steve for his rare act of chivalry — holding her hair while she gets sick.

Flash eight: Another Dixie cup of happiness in hand, she’s kicking said chivalrous friend to make him stop groping her.

Flash nine: A chorus line! The entire dance class is shrieking something approximating “Orpheus in the Underworld” and kicking their feet, arms around each other’s waists like the Rockettes. Jim! Jim! You have to join us! Have to! The blurry recollection of Jim recoiling slowly and cautiously, as though from a band of wild dogs.

Flash ten: Arguing. Did Jim try to talk her into leaving? She had the vague memory of calling him a poop, of feeling her attraction to him like a literal magnet and tumbling into his gravitational pull. The compelling yet all too short flash of his bicep beneath her hand and Susan’s giggle in her ear.

Flash eleven: Why is there no more Jim? Why? Why is Marisa’s shoulder so stinking wet? Oh, a handkerchief. Oh no. Oh no. Where’s that flowerbed again?

Flash twelve: Handkerchiefs are no match for sangria.

And now.

Not a flash. A flash would be merciful in its brevity.

No.

This? This was more of a swirl. An undulating, insinuating wave. A ride on the end of a cat’s tail. A whirlpool, Elizabeth alone and still in its center.

She forced her mouth to move. “Make it stop.”

“Huhhhhhhn?” A familiar girl’s voice.

Elizabeth said, “You’re moving my house. Stop.”

The feet in front of her face jerked, bumping her nose and releasing an explosion of comic book sparks and exclamation points. From the opposite end of the bed came the voice again. “Merde! I’d give my left tit for a shot of whiskey.”

“Steph?”

“Yeah, ‘sme.”

Elizabeth struggled onto her elbows. Her joints felt congested, whatever that meant. They were in Marisa’s guest bed, heads at opposite ends.

“Why here?”

Steph flailed a hand and rolled to drop her torso off the bed, re-emerging with a cigarette and lighter.

“Damn amateurs.” Steph spoke with a clenched jaw as she inhaled. Groaning and expelling a long plume of smoke, she rolled onto her back, eyes closed.

“Ama-whos?”

“Can’t take the high octane. C’mon. Show you.”

Elizabeth rose, feeling each step in her head instead of her feet. She was a ragdoll made of sandbags — sandbags full of broken glass and rotten eggs. “Holy flippin’ gravy.”

Steph shook her head. “Closer, but no cigar. We’ll get you cussing properly one of these days.” She pulled Elizabeth from the room at a shuffle.

On Elizabeth’s closed door, they found a makeshift sign. In thick, wobbly, red magic marker, but obviously Marisa’s writing, they read, “BASTARDS — don’t let them out.” Underneath this puzzling message were a tiny heart and a lopsided happy face.

Elizabeth swayed, narrowing her eyes to try to focus and read more sense into the thing. It hurt her brain. Steph smirked and inclined her head toward the knob with a raised brow. For some reason, this scared Elizabeth. Who were The Bastards? Why were they in her room? What if they got out?

Steph lowered her cigarette and wheezed with laughter at Elizabeth’s expression. Smoke came out her nose. “Elle, you are my love. Look.”

Cracking the door, she waved Elizabeth forward. All she saw was a foot clad in a white sweat sock ringed with blue stripes. It rested on her pillow, bedspread pulled primly to the calf as though it were some new form of sleeping giraffe. Steph opened the door wider, revealing half a dozen unconscious men.

Elizabeth gaped. “Why?”

“Drunk and disorderly.” Steph shrugged, taking a deep drag and exhaling it with sharp contempt into the room. “Even when she’s drunk, Marisa’s still the sheriff.” She pointed to two boys, leaning against each other, drooling and snoring. “Those two tried to feel you up.”

“What? When?”

Steph just rolled her eyes. “And that one?” A chubby blond upperclassman with a crew cut. “He tried to fight Jim when he didn’t like the way you were dancing.”

“I danced with Jim?” Her head swam.

“No, with Colonel Lardass!”

“Oh.” She looked around. “Are they all mine?”

“No. Only those three. The others just got on Marisa’s nerves. There were more, but some must have escaped down the balcony the way Mare hoped. Even scrawny little Paul was here for a while, remember?” She smirked at Elizabeth. “No, you don’t, do you?”

“Why Paul?”

“Don’t know. Just because. He’s fun that way.” She closed the door. “I just know he was out in time to sweet talk the cops.”

Elizabeth rubbed her eyes and groaned. “Cops? I don’t remember any of it.”

Steph squeezed Elizabeth. “Good for you, then. You’ve got the drinking part down. I’m proud.”

Back to the Drawing Board

1 Feb

Nathan Bransford announced the finalists in this year’s Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge this morning, and there are some great entries there. A few of my favorites made it, but we’re not supposed to mention names until the final vote is tallied — no fair campaigning, not even unintentionally.

Head over there to read the finalists’ paragraphs and cast your vote in the comments section.

I’m feeling a bit of the Day after Christmas Blues. I never expected to win or even place. I just enjoyed the wondering, the waiting, the having something out there where people could read it. Meanwhile, it marks a few firsts:

  • my first contest
  • my first exposure to an agent’s discerning eyeballs
  • my first toss into the slush pile.

But, as far as landings in a slush pile go, it was very soft, and now I feel more like an official writer. A rite of passage. Woohoo!

I guess it’s not an official rejection. The Great Hell-No Letter of Despair will come later, along with all its special feelings.

I linked to my first paragraph before, but now I’ll post it here in all of its shame glory entirety.

Elizabeth fit her feet into the rut of a forgotten rainstorm, one sneaker before the other down the old dirt road. Just a needle in a record’s scratchy groove, she sang dirges to the dying summer sun and surrendered to the pull of her secret haven. From her perch atop Mars Hill, she’d gaze over town, imagine herself as one of the soaring ravens, and forget real life, find her breath again. She couldn’t remember ever needing it more.

The entire first chapter (brief) is here.

I need to add more pent-up urgency. She now has more of a reason to be in a hurry. And, yes, there are probaby more issues to fix.

Off to The Marvelous Land of Revisions!

Read My Page! (The 99th Page Blogfest)

28 Jan

Today’s fun comes courtesy of Holly Dodson at Super Mom Writes. You can read more about it HERE. Basically, I’m posting the ninety-ninth page of my novel manuscript, as is. (So far. It will change with revisions.) The theory is that a reader can get a better idea of a book’s quality by flipping to the middle instead of reading the heavily doctored first few pages. Scary, especially since this is not my final draft. The only “cheat” here is that I finished the last sentence, which otherwise wrapped to the next page.

There are three questions for the reader to answer.

  1. Would you turn to page 100?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Based on what you read, would you consider buying the book?

I look forward to your comments. (Yes, you.) (Please and thank you)

____________________________________________

“All perches are my perch.” He pulled himself to a higher branch, feet swinging loose for a moment, just like he’d taught her not to do. “This is my tree.”

She said, “Then you are a Norse god. You admit it.”

“Lost your fire so soon, Dragon? Is that why you cower below?” He pelted her with leaves, twigs. “Don’t insult me. I only appear a god because you appear a sleepy baby.”

“Pig!” She was on her feet, hurling leaves, bark, and debris up at him.

“Can’t keep up? Ready to surrender the thimble?” He laughed, ducking behind a limb, although he was out of range.

Elizabeth took one last look at the rune-carved nest then studied the upper branches. She didn’t need to remember Rob’s path; the tree remembered for her — more than a decade of passage polished darkly into its limbs.

The air was damp in the nest, but it lightened as she climbed, dappled sunshine adding a citrusy note, ribbons of warmth.

It was intoxicating, the success of scaling such a majestic tree, the secret world of Robin Oliver Bastle. She was just beginning to feel like an immortal, invincible, when her foot slipped, and her body clenched. An eternity of pounding hot-scented confusion, and she realized his training worked. Her hands were tight on their separate branches, and her other foot had slipped but not lost its hold. In her relief, she wanted to cry, go limp and unconscious right there, forget, but, clearly, that was impossible. What seemed liberating a moment earlier now felt like a trap.

She looked down — a maze of branches funneling into darkness. She looked up and found Rob’s face, astonishingly close, pale, his posture that of a jungle cat about to spring. Had he thought he could leap down and catch her?

______________________________________________

From Bête Noire / Unicorns & Other Exotic Goats
Chapter: “The Tree of Life”
Setting: Spring 1969, Catskills, NY

It’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but not for seventeen-year-old outsider, Elizabeth Cory. Closing her eyes to the modern world, she buries herself in fantasy novels and the music of another era to escape her pain. When she’s taken in by an eccentric family whose turreted home sits on the edge of an ancient forest, she thinks she’s finally found refuge. But in her search for love and a doorway to a peaceful, magical world, she’ll find that not every Prince Charming leads to happily ever after, not every wolf is big or bad, and when you try to live in a fairy tale, the only magical doorways lead to real life.

NPR Fail & A New Writing Contest

24 Jan

By Nevit Dilmen (Own work)

I had a story planned for the NPR challenge — a silly idea based on characters from my WIP. I was poised to write, and then — kabam — a migraine came a-calling. Hey Imitrex man!

By the time I slept off the nasty side effects and scribbled a first draft, it was too late.  The deadline was forty minutes in the past, and I was forty words over limit. Besides…first draft.

My husband did finish and submit a story! I’m really proud of him. And jealous.

***

In other news, there’s a new contest, and I’m flailing because I want to participate but don’t know that I’m ready.

For those of my writer-readers who possess courage and a polished first paragraph (not to mention enough of a manuscript to enjoy the prizes), check out former literary agent Nathan Bransford’s The Fourth Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge! (Gotta love the name.)

The grand prize…

The opportunity to have a partial manuscript considered by [Nathan Bransford’s] utterly fantastic agent, Catherine Drayton of InkWell, whose clients include bestselling authors such as Markus Zusak (THE BOOK THIEF), John Flanagan (THE RANGER’S APPRENTICE series) and Becca Fitzpatrick (HUSH HUSH), among others.

Other prizes include a signed copy of NB’s novel and a query critique.

Click on the link above to read the rules and/or enter. Good luck! You may see me there. Not sure. My first paragraph is pretty, but I’m not sure it’s compelling.

***The gif of the radiometer has nothing to do with anything. I just liked it. Purty.

The opportunity to have a partial manuscript considered by my utterly fantastic agent, Catherine Drayton of InkWell, whose clients include bestselling authors such as Markus Zusak (THE BOOK THIEF), John Flanagan (THE RANGER’S APPRENTICE series) and Becca Fitzpatrick (HUS

Bridget Carle & the Mystery of the 99th Page

20 Jan

Some more blogfest fun coming up next week…

The 99th Page Blogfest is hosted by writer Holly Dodson and four of her fellow bloggers. Writers are invited to submit page ninety-nine of their novels, and then participants (and kindly blog readers) will comment, stating if they’d read further, based on that page.

Explanation of the blogfest’s origins can be found in this article from Guardian.co.uk:

Ford Madox Ford recommended instead that readers “open the book to page ninety-nine and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you”. A new website, page99test.com, launches next month to test that premise. It will offer (courageous) authors and aspiring authors the chance to upload the 99th pages of their works and invite readers to comment on whether they would buy, or like to read, the rest.

Should be fun! You will find my entry here on January 28th (next Friday). [Edit: Here’s the link to my 99th page]

You Cannot Fight the Elfman

1 Jan

Okay, Brain. You’ve wallowed in the darkness of our novel’s ending for a few days now. You’ve added an extra layer of misery to every character. You’ve brought the depths of despair into our real life.

To you, I say, “Enough!”

I’m whipping out the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack!

Yep. Yep. Try to fight that.

The beginning of the novel has a lot of misery, too. Remember? But it also has magic. We need that magic.

Listen… Listen to Danny Elfman’s twinkly, sparkly, billowing score and take us back to the beginning. Take us to that rutted dirt road leading to the Mortimer Woods. And let the rewrite begin.

(With luck, my preoccupation with the ending is an omen that I might actually reach said ending by this time next year. Or it may be because of the date. Terrible things happen on New Years Eve 1969/70. Or maybe George Harrison is still acting uptight and telling me, “My songs are at the end of the book, man.”)