Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Method Writer?

It’s taking me a bit longer than I would have anticipated to create my happies list (you know, the list of all the things that make me happy?)  to go along with my Happy Blog Award. But I want it to be just right. I’ll get it out eventually.

But something really cool has happened in the process of creating this happiness vlog list. First, though, let me just say, I know I said I was over the crankies—and I was feeling better—but in all honesty, the anxiety that I’d been feeling had remained. I still can’t quite put my finger on the cause, but I know that my writing has suffered, my poor CPs have been neglected, and my house has been forgotten; indeed, my home looks rather shaken, like a snow globe in the hands of a giant. And as of today, we are officially out of clean underwear. And yet, just thinking about all the things that make me happy seems to have transformed me—I am suddenly feeling kind of…giddy.

I’ve done nothing to really warrant this joy; actually, it seems inane to feel like I want to hug every (non-smelly) person on the street just to see them smile (or, okay, to see them freak out a little…but geez, minutia, people). So, it’s gotten me thinking about my manic-depressive tendencies over the years (no, I have not been psychologically labeled), and it seems to me that my moods often correspond with my writing. For years, I tried to write these heart-wrenching, literary fiction stories. Sometimes, I still do—it can be rather cathartic, actually. But not once was I able to complete an entire novel like this.  It was not until I abandoned this genre for something a little lighter, a little more in line with the happy ending I myself seek in life that I was able to complete a novel. Now I realize that it was not within my capability to slap sad endings onto those books—endings that were always, for all intents and purposes, appropriate and often essential for those stories—because they were clearly not right for me. Looking back, I see as well how deeply I would sink into myself, into the darkness created by a world of nonexistent characters, until I finally would just set the manuscript aside.

And so it seems  that I am somewhat of a method writer.
Method Writing n :
a writing technique in which authors identify as closely as possible with the characters they create by correlating experiences from their personal lives to the characters/plotlines*

Even now—with YA fantasy (romance nonetheless), I feel my moods swing with the emotional tides of my main characters. It’s as if in order to make the characters and plotlines seem genuine, I have to draw upon my experiences and emotions that most closely relate to those within the story. And let me tell ya, this can really drain a person. And, yeah, it freaks me out quite a bit. I mean, what if I were to create a character like the Joker from The Dark Knight? Am I destined for a fate like that of Heath Ledger? Or OMG, like Sylvia Plath?

I tell myself, not bloody likely. I mean, I hope not. Surely, there are preventative measures I can take, right? Like reminding myself of all the happies in my life—it seems to have done the trick this time around. Perhaps, too, I shall start a new support group for method writers. Our new motto will be (all together now): “My characters will not control me. I control my characters.”** And when in the midst of putting our characters through hell, we will declare ONLY HAPPY SONGS ALLOWED days. So to this end, I present to you a few happy songs that can lift my spirits from the lowest of depths.

Caution: These songs might make your head bop a little—try to control yourself. Seriously. You have enough problems without looking deranged too, you method writer, you.




Now go and make up your own happies list and stick it by your computer. When you start to feel yourself sinking into despair because you’ve just killed off a main character with a spoon, pull out your list, pop in your happies playlist, and revive yourself. And remember: My characters will not control me. I control my characters.

One last word of advice: No matter what, do NOT stick your head in an oven. Not for ANY reason.


*As far as I know, this is not a real term. If you use it in literary circles, you may get laughed at.
**A word of caution to literary fiction writers: avoid method writing—it will be much harder for you as your books tend to be crazy sad. If you choose to go down this path (or if you are genetically predisposed), I recommend tattooing this motto onto the backs of your hands (or, you know, use a pen), so you are constantly reminded of this as you write. And lock your oven door.

P.S. If you did not watch that first video, thank you. But if you did—yes, I realize there’s a typo. But it took an hour to upload. Not gonna change it now.

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Need I remind you about the Cosmic Coincidence Contest I’m hosting with Simon Larter? You have until midnight EST January 31, 2010 to submit a flash fiction story to win critiques and books and to be featured on our blogs. Be sure to check out the rules on Simon’s blog and the prizes on my blog. Please submit your story to carolsimoncontest AT gmail Dot com. Can’t wait to hear from you.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In a Mood

(Prepare yourself for a long post—I’ve been absent a while….)

I’ve been very cranky the last few days. Absolutely, downright peeved. Ever get like that? Like you’re not fit to be in the company of humans? Yeeeahhh…that’s been me—I haven’t wanted to do ANYTHING. I’ve sat, staring at my computer, at all the work I need to do—worse, at all the things I want to do…and yet, I can’t seem to do more than sigh melodramatically. No work, no play—just staring, feeling snarly.

I need a cat, I think. Cats are generally cranky, so we’d totally get one another, maybe.

cranky cat

See? It’s like me in cat form.

Anyway, you can imagine why I haven’t been in the best of moods to blog lately. I was afraid you’d end up with some foul-mouthed tribute to Marilyn Manson and lame jokes about Massachusetts. Or maybe you’d get a teary farewell vlog to Conan. *El Sighito.

But then, my rockin’ CP, Alexandra Shostak sent me something entirely way too cool, which seriously brightened my spirits: a “fake” (but friggin awesome) cover for my first completed novel, AETERNUS. Oh my word, check it out:

aeternus_fake_cover_by_a_shostak

OMG!! BEST. GIFT. EVER!!!!!!!! I luvs you, Alexandra!! Thank you so much for this uber special gift. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m beyond thrilled, and I will treasure it always. It’s 100% the shiznit.

So, now that I’m feeling much more chipper, thanks to my amazing critique partner (and to my other brilliant CP, Sara McClung, who always makes me happy as well), I feel far more able to blog about awards I’ve received lately.

+The Picasso Award was given to me by the ever supportive, ultra talented Sara McClung.
From_Me_To_You_Award

Now, Sara, who I nicknamed Awesomer ages ago because she’s so dang awesome  actually passed this award on to me 22 December—yeah, I know, I deserve a bit of a flogging for taking so long to blog about it. But I am ever so grateful to Sara and to the award she passed on to me. Now, the receipt of this award requires me to first list seven things about myself, but I won’t torture you with that here. If you’re interested, feel free to check out my last post with eleven things about me…. Second, I need to pass this award on to seven other blogs, so here you go. Clickety click on these marvelous blogs:


+The next award was given to me by the lovely, super sweet Shannon Messenger. Thank you, Shannon for your kindness (and for being so very entertaining pretty much all the time)! My apologies for taking so long to blog about this!

award silver_lining

I believe this one requires me to pass it on to five uplifting blogs, so here you go, five blogs I find pretty darn silver liningey (though these are only five of many, by the way):


+And yet a third award (man, I’ve never felt so popular!) was bestowed upon me by the admirable and ever so generous Corra McFeydon. Thank you, dear Corra, for thinking of me, for commenting on my silly blog posts, and for being so supportive.


creative writer award

This lovely award had no expectations or instructions attached, so I think I will pass it on to my CP’s that are two very fine writers with amazing blogs. So, here’s to you, my lovelies:

and to two other blogs that provide us regularly with brilliant fiction:

And finally, I was given this Happy Blog award by five people for whom I have the deepest respect and admiration: Diana Paz, Southern Princess (Courtney), Heather (See Heather Write), Melissa (Chasing the Dream), and Christine Danek. Yes, I’m totally lame for waiting so long to post this award.

happy award

To accept this beeeeeeautiful award, in addition to passing it on to ten other happy blogs, I’m supposed to identify ten things that make me happy.

And since I’m in a rather slap-happy mood now, I’m capable of thinking about upbeat things. So, I will write my happiness list, but I want it to be special. And I don’t want just a list. Maybe a vlog??? (Oooooo!) I’ll think on it and get back to you. Maybe you’ll be shocked to discover what makes me all giddy like a school chick. Or not.

Anyway….this whole moody business has me thinking a lot about the process of creating mood/atmosphere in your writing. And because this is—ultimately—a blog about my writing journey, I thought I’d share with you some thoughts on the matter. Yeah, I know…writing lessons=boring. And since I’m not generally a boring person, I will tell you something not boring….

Setting the Mood….



If that one is a bit ancient for you, try this one:


On Writing:

The mood in your story is EVERYTHING. The mood pretty much encompasses all that is good (or bad) about your writing. It sums up your characters, the setting (obviously), the language, the voice,  the plot, the conflict and ___(insert every buzz word about writing)___.  What does this mean? If there is no discernible mood in a scene, then you have FAILED.

Dude, I am soooo dramatic. Okay, so maybe not “failed” in all caps. Maybe it’s more like, “Hon, you’ve got some work to do here.” The fact is, when you read a scene, you should get a strong sense of mood—the picture should feel clear to you. So, think of it as a scene in a movie—in particular, think of just about any scene from a well-done horror film. What happens in those scenes to scare the living tar out of you? You get dim lighting, shadows, creepy music, scared whispers, scritchy-scratchy sounds, gravel crunching, and for some reason, a bizarre amount of eyeball close-ups. All of these things add to the feel of the film--they suck you in. But what happens if you take that “Dunnnnn dun” creepy music out of Jaws? You get a big mechanical fish in water.

But how do you accomplish mood in writing? Why, with your language, of course. Seems easy enough, but it’s actually harder to do than you’d imagine. If you’re writing a story about a goth, introverted teenager lost in the conformity hell that is high school, you can’t write things like

Annalise walked down the hall, thinking about how much she didn’t like this school.

Ugh. Horrible, right? Totally generic. Doesn’t tell us much. Okay, try this one:

Annalise tread down the brightly lit halls of her new high school, feeling a bit like an outsider.

Eh…better, but it doesn’t set the right mood. “Brightly” implies happy, for starters—even if the halls are bright. And overall, it’s still kind of sloppy. Let’s give it another go:

A defeated Annalise trudged through the overly bright corridors of her new high school, shuddering as she passed through the thick mass of Abercrombie and Fitch hell.

That’s a seriously long sentence, but you get my drift. You have to set the mood with carefully chosen verbs and modifiers, and even nouns (notice the change from “halls” to corridors” which feels sort of dungeon-like, doesn’t it?) You also need to be careful with setting. Notice that even though I set Annalise in a brightly lit hall, the use of the adverb (gasp!) “overly” gives us a sense of Annalise’s mood, so that in this instance, the contradictory setting actually helps to intensify the dark mood of the scene. And of course, the fun addition of “hell” after the oh-so-popular Abercrombie & Fitch reveals much about Annalise’s attitude towards the conformist students, while creating an atmosphere of a very dark place where bad things happen. And guess what? You also got a taste of the conflict, right? Annalise is so gonna have to deal with those A&F wannabes.

OMG, I totally got boring for a second there. Forgive me. Anyway, these are just some minor thoughts. Maybe I’ll write again on the subject. When the mood strikes.

So…what do you do to set the mood? Got any really good mood-revealing sentences? I’m very curious…Dunnnnn dun.
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Just a quick note to say that our
Cosmic Coincidence flash fiction contest ends on January 31—that’s only six days, people!!!

Simon Larter and I are hoping to see your short story in our inbox soon (carolsimoncontest AT gmail Dot com). For a refresher, check out the rules at Simon's blog and the prizes at my blog. Please do consider entering. Think about what a great opportunity this will be—not only can you win fab critiques and books, but you have the chance to showcase your skills with a really cool writing prompt. If you’re one of the winners, we’ll also feature your story on both our blogs with all the reasons why your story (and you, by default) are amazing.  And it is now within your power to boost my self-confidence (or crush it entirely).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

So You Think You Know Me?

I had an entirely different post drafted and ready to publish. But I sat on it a couple of days, dwelling a bit. I became a bit concerned that it was a touch racy perhaps for a pg-13 blog. There wasn’t anything overtly outrageous, but it could have possibly ended up offending certain people (namely psychos and creepy people, and maybe also strictly PG only people). So I sent it to a couple friends and I got some fab, helpful responses, but my favorite was this one (paraphrased):

You don’t want to fly that freak flag too high, Carol.

So, okay. I’m not posting it. Clearly. Which is kind of sad, actually. Because it really was a funny post, if I do say so myself. But I’m glad I had a few days to let it rest. Along with some much-needed reconsidering (for the sake of not seeming like a complete freak/idiot), I also got to thinking about Daisy Whitney’s brilliant guest post about branding on Lisa and Laura’s blog, Lisa and Laura Write. I mean, this whole blog thing is fairly new to me, and I’ve always been of the mind set that I’m just me—love me or hate me. But I realized:  my name means something to others now. When an agent/editor/stalker googles Carolina Valdez Miller, they will get a nice little hit list of my online activity. And this will, in turn, impact how they view me and my work (gasp!)

But here’s the problem—all that stuff you see of mine online is not wholly ME. It is me personified. Still, the stuff you put out there online—posts, comments, tweets, photos, cartoons, videos—they all create a branded image of you, whether it’s the real you or not. Because of this, the Online You must be carefully considered and yes…crafted—something that I haven’t given much thought to until now.

So, I tucked away my funny, slightly creepy blog post, and then I sat down to write out some qualities that describe my online persona.  And OMG, I realized I don’t really know who I am (online). I mean, yeah, I usually shoot for funny. Yeah, I can be fairly passionate, sometimes sentimental. But…Kooky? Freaky? Off the wall cheesy? I use words like awesome and shiznit and OMG and WTF—so perhaps youthful (yeah, I vote for this one!) But is there intelligence? Heart? Skill? Are any of those qualities present in my blog? Do people assume that because my characters have a tendency to flip me off, that I’m either 1. nuts 2. a moron 3. clever?

But here’s what I’ve come to realize—I LOVE to take people by surprise. Few things thrill me quite as much as catching people off guard by defying their expectations. And if nothing else, this should be evident in my blog. Is that what I want branding me? Sure—in part. I like to do that in my writing, too. But I want all the other stuff, too. I want my bloggy friends to know not just the Online Me, but a little more of the Carol Me. So, I’m going to give you a few facts about myself that may or may not defy your expectations (And also, I’m working on my blog awards post for tomorrow where I’m supposed to do this anyway, so killing two birds with one stone):

1. I am probably one of the most sensitive people I know. It doesn’t take much to move me. Seriously.  A Hallmark commercial will have me blubbering like a three year old who’s just left their teddy bear on the metro.

2. I am one of the most insecure people I know. If I hear you whispering, I will assume it is about me. If you don’t write me back, I will assume that I have just done something to offend you. If you don’t leave a comment, I will assume you hate me (I am only exaggerating a little).

3. I am a hermit. I like to be around people, to kick up my heels on occasion, but I thrive on being alone. It takes all of my strength and every last shred of self-confidence to walk into a room full of people I don’t know. I don’t think I was meant to be this way; I think it’s just the way I’ve evolved (this might also be tied to number 2). Writers conferences are going to kick my arse. I will likely end up blubbering like an infant, holed up in my hotel room, thinking the world hates me.

4. Despite numbers 1-3, I do actually have friends. But I’m not always the best at being one. I rarely call and I forget to e-mail and send cards. I’m not at all good at phoning people actually--I get tongue-tied and stammer and laugh like a lunatic. Texting is now my crutch. So if I text you instead of phone you, don’t take offense. It’s me, not you.

You are now wondering how it’s possible to be friends with me, so allow me to explain:

5. I love humans. I can usually find something good in most anyone, even Wal-Mart people. I’m a sucker for the downtrodden, the abused, the neglected, and the pathetic. This doesn’t mean my friends are like this, but if they are, I’m okay with it. When they need me, I am generally there (except for that time I forgot to pick up my friend’s child from school. Doh!).

6. I’m loyal. Rather like a dog, I will defend you. Unless I don’t like you. But maybe even then.

7. If you hurt my children, I will. hurt. you. And remember, I’m the creative type.

8.  I am a mother hen (see number 7), but not just to my children. I often adopt a protective attitude with my friends. I am quick to jump on the “Let’s get ‘em” bandwagon if you tell me someone has hurt you.

9. I go to church pretty much every Sunday. Our pastor knows my name. Indeed, I am a very spiritual person, though I tend to keep it to myself because it’s a private thing. But I’m inherently wicked. So it’s a struggle sometimes (I’m only exaggerating a little).

10. When I sit down I double cross my legs (cross once, then wrap my foot back around my calf). I don’t know why. It’s just a weird thing I do.

And finally, because having an 11 defies expectations:

11. I say the wrong things, leap before thinking, and stuff my foot into my mouth on a regular basis. If you can’t overlook this, we are probably not meant to be friends.

Now, I ask you: What defines you? What online persona have you tried to create? Or have you given it much thought yet?

Check out Russell Brand. Now here’s a guy with a very distinct persona. And it just so happens, in this video he touches upon the concept of, well, brands. And it’s hilarious. Love this guy.

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Just a quick reminder before I close up shop: Don’t forget about the Cosmic Coincidence Contest I am hosting with Simon. All you have to do is write a flash fiction story up to 1,000 words, and in exchange you can win books and critiques and have your story be featured on both of our blogs. So, please do enter (see numbers 1-2). Be sure to check out the rules here and the prizes here. The end date of January 31 will be here before you know it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poetry?

Shannon Messenger at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe is devoting her blog posts this week to author Lisa Schroeder. And in honor of Lisa, who is not only a novelist, but also quite the poet, Shannon has been posting her own poetry and has asked others to post theirs as well. So in honor of Lisa and Shannon, I'm going to post a poem that I wrote for my oldest daughter ten years ago. I have no idea if it's good or not. I'm not a poet. BUT the sentiment is, well, anyway...that was my favorite part of this poem. And it feels just as heartbreaking to me today as it did then. Moreso now that she's thirteen.

The Magic Beans

She digs her blue sandaled toes into the beans.
Beans, she calls them,
and pushes against the sea of brown, white, and blue

tiny pebbles.
She nearly slides......off the swing--
her too short length,
foot arched,
                      reaches for,
but barely brushes the farthest beans.

I wonder....
when will she push herself
on such a Big. Girl. Swing
instead of just pretending
                       to fly
with her tiny fists clinging
to the chains?
When will she cry out,
Release me?

I have only three years
and...fifteen...
My grief for the part
without her
brings tears in the now
                      except
for when she looks
at me.

And one day,
she will see me
in her reflection--
it will absorb her light
and bounce back and Old. Girl.
that she never thought
she never knew
she would be.
She will say,
"My mother was me           once,
and I am now mother--"
Love, put your shoes back on, were you raised in a barn?

And the beans would just be pebbles now.


Ah...the joys and sorrows of motherhood.

Alrighty then. In other news:

We've got some contests that deserve some attention. So, listen up.

Of course, must not forget the Cosmic Coincidence Contest I'm hosting with Simon Larter, in which you can win fabulous books and critiques in exchange for writing a flash fiction story (that would be a shorty short story). Check out the rules here and the prizes here. Ends Jan. 31, 2010.

Sara McClung of The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribbler is giving way some BEAAAUUUUUTiful books in honor of her 100+ followers with her 100 Followers Contest. It's a cinch to win. And you don't have to do anything more than be a follower. Seems quite simple to me. And your odds are way better than winning the lottery. You can also earn additional points by tweeting and blogging. Ends January 19, 2010.

Frankie Diane Mallis of Frankie Writes is giving away 6 ARCS  in her Major ARC Contest, and all you have to do is leave a comment in her comment section. You can win additional entries by herding others the contest as well (be sure to have them mention you). So, do me a favor and totally drop my name, will ya? Ends January 15, 2010...so act fast.

Let The Words Flow is hosting a Book Trailer Contest, in which you can win an ARC of Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison, a query critique, and yummy sweeties. I would love to do this one, and may yet, but I'm afraid I'm not the most talented at this sort of thing. But, perhaps you are? This one ends January 22, 2010.

Shannon Messenger of Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe is giving away three signed Lisa Schroeder books, including Chasing Brooklyn, Far from You, and I Heart You, You Haunt Me in her Lisa Schroeder Contest. You'll have to fill out a contest entry form, and that's pretty much it. If you blog, tweet, and herd others to the contest, you can win additional entries. This one ends soon--January 17, 2010, so get on it!

Southern Princess is hosting the California Contest in which you can win lots of goodies, not the least of which is a Coach wristlet and a copy of The California Club by Belinda Jones, in exchange for leaving a comment about California in her comments section. It's also possible to earn an additional entry by blogging about the contest. Deadline is January 19, 2010.

In honor of her 200+ following, Valerie of I Should Be Writing is hosting the 200 Followers Contest to give away some really cool books. So be sure to stop by and enter, blog, tweet, etc. and win, win, win! AND there will be two winners!! Hooray! This one ends January 28, 2010.

Last but not least, Karen from Novels during Naptime is hosting the Pampered Reader Follower Contest, in which she is giving a way a "pinkalicious pampering package for readers." Just fill out a form to enter. And if you desire additional entries, she offers some opportunities for that, too! There is only one major requirement (which is actually pretty dang fantastic): if you win, you have to fill up the package and pass it on to someone else. My hat's off to Karen for building a community within the blogosphere. This contest ends January 19, 2010.


Seriously people, these are some great contests. So jump on them. Don't do like I do and miss out, as I did with Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggin's contest at Shooting Stars. Doh! I could have kicked myself. I just spaced it on that one because I didn't ACT right away...so, be smart. GO NOW!! (Bethany and Suzette, please tell me you'll have another really cool contest just like this one. PLEEEEEAAAASE.)

And onto other news...well, actually, not. I was going to report some blog awards (which, yeah, I've pretty much mentioned over and over and never gotten to--promise I will my dearie award bestowers), but I've pretty much run out of steam. I've had about three hours of sleep, only to be awaked by the sound of my three year old clapping her hands an inch from my face begging me to make her waffles. So, um, I'm pretty sure I must go to bed now. Yeah.

But Before I go...





Do what you can, okay? Here are some links. The easiest one? Make an automatic $10 donation to the Red Cross: text "HAITI" to 90999; the money will be charged directly to your cell phone bill.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cosmic Coincidence Contest

That one time...at band camp?

Ya, that's how I responded to my friend's Facebook Status Update of "How did we first meet?"

Not smart. While I thought I was being funny, it turns out I was being really gross. Why am I telling you this? I don't know, except to pass on a very important life lesson: think before you do something really stupid. And then think again. And forget you ever saw American Pie or risk making stupid references to it for the rest of your natural life.

What does this lesson have to do with this post? Well, nothing really, except it just so happens that I made another incredibly shortsighted, remarkably half-witted mistake. I waited until 11:30 at night to write this blog post, and now I've completely blanked on how to write about this super awesome contest that I am cohosting with the amazing Simon Larter, and I sort of made a bet with him that I would finish my blog post before he finished his. And I'm nothing if not competitive (and in a major rush)...thus you get what is first and foremost on my mind: a life lesson not to do stupid things. Sorry about the dunderhead comment, dearest.

But now, in an attempt to undo all inane, myopic actions of the past few days, allow me to present to you the super fantabulous shiznit awesome contest:

~The Cosmic Coincidence Contest~
The Objective? Write a short story for Simon and me. The reason? Because you're a brilliant writer, and we want to challenge you to work that writing muscle and BECAUSE (and here comes the cosmic coincidence part) Simon and I both reached 100 followers at the same time (along with Sara McClung, but she totally jumped the gun and went rogue on us before I had recovered from the lurgy). And it so happens that there is an unwritten rule in the blogosphere that when you reach 100 followers, you must host a contest. Yeah, I'm pretty sure about this. And what better way to celebrate the cosmic collision of our individual writerly paths than to cohost a contest?

Simon has taken on the monumental (easy *cough*) task of coming up with the rules, while I get to post about the prizes. But there you have it. Men always get the breaks in this world. So please, be sure to stop by and read the rules on Simon's blog post. You have until January 31, 2010 to potentially win one of the following...

Prizes:

The Top 2 winning entries will win their choice of one of these two books:



A new, hardback edition of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl or The Finca Vigia Edition of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway.
AND, if you wish, Critiques of a manuscript up to 10 pages long, or 10 pages of a longer work, graciously provided by members of Simon's critique group. Feedback can include line edits, notes on phrasing, suggestions for tightening, expanding, or reworking, and all the other stuff that goes along with a careful critique. If you're wondering whether this is even a worthwhile prize, don't--there are some fantastic editors and writers in the group, Simon included.

2nd Prize Entry will win Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott



AND, if you wish, a critique of up to 5 pages by Simon and/or Carol

3rd Prize Winning Entry will win: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

AND, if you wish, a critique of up to 5 pages by either Simon and/or Carol


Please feel free to tweet and/or blog about this contest. We can't, in good conscience, offer any sort of bonus points for doing so, since it is a short story contest after all, but won't your win feel that much more satisfying if you're not the ONLY entry? Oh, how sporting of you. And karma...there's always that...if you believe in that sort of thing. If you don't, think of it as good samaritanship.

Finally, please keep in mind that if you enter and win, you will need to provide us with an address to send you your prize. Morever, winning entries will be featured on our blogs along with our explanations of why we loved them. All entries will be mentioned (unless otherwise requested) and will receive links to their blogs.

And don't forget! You must go check out Simon's blog for the rules! You must you must you must!*

So please, be sure to enter. Please. And win one of our spectacular prizes.!

And last, but never least...BIG HUGE THANK YOU to all of our supporters. You mean the world to us. Without you, we're just writers. With you, we're authors.

And that makes all the difference.


*Those of you who have read Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's me, Margaret likely have a different ending to that command, but still, go check out Simon's blog! You must know the rules so you can play to win!


Disclaimer: I am NOT a Jets fan. I am not a hockey fan either. Or was that basketball? Cricket? Badminton?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Which I Take Liberties with Shiznit (and Other News for Writers)

All visitors who came to our house last week were given this dress code.
<---------
Indeed, last week was a very unpleasant week. If you noticed my absence, well, first of all, thank you...now you have an explanation (that being: my head was otherwise occupied with the toilet). I took pictures to document the horror, but this blog is only PG-13, so no photos for you. Suffice it to say we have all lost weight.

On the bright side, I am now fully caught up on The Real World, which I hadn't watched since 1996. And guess what I learned? "Shiznit" is not piglatin. It's actually very versatile (i.e. useful) urban slang. Generally, it is used interjectionally to express emotional excitement or satisfaction, as in, "Shiznit! Off da chain, yo!" Or it can be used as an adjective as in "Holla! That shawty's the shiznit!" (transl. Greetings! That fine looking woman is the best!) Oddly enough, shiznit can also be used to mean the exact opposite, as in excrement. Finally, it can be used to express dissatisfaction, as in, "Oh shiznit!" I think it is only a matter of time before we see shiznit used as an adverb, as in "Shiznit awesome, yo!" But that could just be hopeful thinking*.

In other news, I'm working on a contest since I have now hit that big milestone of 100+ followers (Ya ya, take a look!) In fact, it's going to be a joint venture with none other than the brilliant Simon Larter who, in a cosmic twist of fate, has also reached 100+ followers. Simon and I have recently discovered that we, in fact, share many similarities, not the least of which is our penchant for dancing starkers on a full moon (just kidding--Simon prefers to wear clothes). But more on that to come. Maybe tomorrow. If I can get my shiznit together.

But you know who else is practically a triplet with Simon and me? Sara McClung, hell'z yeah! Cuz she also reached 100+ followers at the same time (feel free to ask her about her dancing habits). Now, in honor of this righteous feat, Sara is having her own super shiznit contest...(drumroll please....): The Sara Passed 100 Followers Contest. Now, didn't that drumroll get you excited? As well you should be, because it's a pretty kicking...err shiznit contest where you can win some bloody shiznit books (Note: "bloody" is another one of those uber versatile words). So go go go go and follow, enter, win (or don't win...I'd rather you save that little treat for me).

There. Aside from some blog awards, which I will get to on another date, I believe I'm caught up on the news. Oh wait. No, I'm not. Um, personal writer news...AETERNUS (something like draft 512, I think) is finished and in the hands of CPs. Shortly, it may also be in the hands of beta readers. I'm severely limiting the number of beta readers, at least for now, because I like my heart, and I'd rather it didn't explode. Still, I'm not sure how to go about this beta process. How do you guys handle beta readers? Hard copies or electronic? Same format used for agents? Wrap in a bow? Draw illustrations? Issue them a gag order? Any special advice? I'm a little wigged out at the thought of handing my baby over to other peeps, even shiznit ones...so please advise.

But now that AETERNUS is, for all intents and purposes, done (until CPs get back to me and show me what a nightmare piece of shiznit AETERNUS is), I now have query on the brain (I also have another manuscript sitting pretty waiting for editing, but more on that later). Does this mean I'll be querying any time soon? Noooooooooo. Even if I had the A+ go-ahead from CPs and beta readers and a stellar query letter and partials ready to go, I would not be querying right now. And I would strongly advise you to hold out awhile as well--now is not the time. I mean, you can query now, but you'd be foolish to do so as the slush pile is about the size of Snoop Dogg's mansion right now. Because for soooooome reason, everyone is raring to find an agent in January. If you don't believe me, just check out Nathan Bransford's shiznit article Query Deluge. If that doesn't teach you to wait until February (or possibly May), then by all means, go ahead and compete with the January madness--I'd rather not compete with you anyway.

Okay. Now I'm done. Aren't you glad I didn't vlog this? Well...I am.


*I realize only very uncool people like me actually use "awesome." But "shiznit awesome" has a rather shiznit ring to it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Angels are Falling...WTF


Okay, I'm seriously freaking out right now. Seriously. And not in that, OMG I just won a free taco at Rico's Taco Shack way. So, I'm scrolling down my blog roll and I come across a post titled, "Caution: falling angels," which at first I saw as fallen angles and wondered why someone would write about geometry, and then snapped out of my LSD-like haze to realize that this is a message sent down from above. Okay, actually it was sent by Jade at Jade Hears Voices (Jade, by the way, is awesome).

Of course, I click on the link because I have a manuscript about fallen angels (not fallen angles, if you're wondering), and "Caution" has just caused my heart to plummet into my stomach. I'm reading, reading, my eyes widening, and my brain screaming, "YES YES!! I totally get this." And my spirits have sunk anew. And I.am.afraid.

In short, it seems everyone (except maybe Peter and Jude who are totally been there done that) is writing a book about fallen angels, and I'm now screwed*.

So, you should read Jade's article, yeah? Go ahead, take a moment. You'll see that Jade is touching upon one of the most basic human fears--that someone else will come up with your idea first**. And then you will have to read about it. And know that all of your efforts have been wasted. And that you suck as a human being.

You should know, I wrote about this same sort of topic not long ago. You can check it out HERE, too. This blog post was an obvious effort to talk myself out of my doldrums at having just written a book that paralleled others on a topic that EVERONE (except Peter and Jude) is writing about. And you know, I did a pretty banging job of it for a while, even convinced myself that I was still an almostcool Immortal sans Im***.

So, why the sudden return to doldrums, you ask? Just because of one blog post? Actually, I don't know that it's so sudden. Even last night, as I finished up The Hunger Games (at 2 AM and totally worth it), I thought, OMG AETERNUS sucks I'mabigfataccidentalcopycat. And seeing Jade's message from above sort of drove it home. But it isn't just the fallen angel premise that concerns me. I'm also seeing all sorts of other parallels with other story ideas, and this is effing killing me. I feel like the world's most unoriginal turdhead. I mean, come on, Ron Popeil did better than this with his Ronco Rotisserie, and let me tell ya, chicken's been done before.

So yeah, I'm freaking out a little bit. But you know what is really weird? When I'm actually reading AETERNUS, I don't feel like this. While reading/editing it, I'm reminded how incredibly awesome I am. It's only when I'm away from it that I remember, once again, that I'm still just a turdhead wannabe. The real kicker is that I thought I was soooo clever with my deviation from vampires. So what can I do? What? I mean, do you beat yourself up like this? Or (gulp) is this just a sign that I should quit? I'm thinking Stephen King doesn't walk away from his manuscripts calling himself a turdhead, seeing his stories as a reflection of what's already been done.

Dang it...I want to be the copied, not the copier.

Sobby sob sob. Sniff.

*Deep breath*

Sometimes, I wish it didn't matter to me so much.



*Hyperbole: Obvious and intentional exaggeration that implies the great depth of human experience such as, "Good God, that melon head is bigger than Oprah's wallet."
**This fear runs just behind starvation, drowning, and clowns.
***Writing sentences like this is what keeps me in the almostcool category.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Chilling Interview feat. Robert Crull

Never got a chance to post for Frankie's No Kiss BlogFest. Very disappointed, but it's hard to compete with family visits, New Year's, and my daughter's birthday--oh yes, and the flu, which has hit three of my four family members (including my toddler who has been vomiting all morning....) I have, however, enjoyed reading some of the No Kiss blog posts--and I must say, I'm following some seriously talented writers/bloggers. A big round of applause to all those who participated.

In other news, I was nearly finished editing one of my manuscripts, and then decided to alter one huge plot element and one minor plot element which will now play a large role in later books in the series. I swear, this book-baby just will not breathe already. I keep pumping it full of life, and still...needs more and more gestation time. This has to be the longest homestretch in book pregnancy. Ah well...on to more exciting adventures for the moment:
Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads
Allow me to present to you author Robert Crull and his interview with Drew Sovern, a main character of his psychological thriller Dream State, available now.

I had the pleasure of meeting Robert on Twitter and remain grateful for the encounter. He's been generous and kind and amazingly supportive of other writers. Moreover, I'm dying to get my hands on his book--the premise alone of his psychological thriller gives me the shivers. Intrigued? Let me peak your interest just a tad more with the press release for Dream State:










By day a predator harbors gruesome thoughts that he wraps in a cloak of secrecy . . . at night he unleashes them without restraint.

How much of ourselves do we reveal to the outside world? Is it just enough to accomplish what we need to in our daily lives ... domestically, socially, and professionally? Where does the rest of the human puzzle fit in - the sinister, shadowy pieces? Some of us conceal these facets so that they never see the light of day. But others express them during the chilling hours of the night. You will be captivated and mesmerized by the story of Drew, an eccentric man who by sunlight lusts for power, and by moonlight performs horrific, deadly acts. Dream State is a compelling tale that tackles human nature, reveals human longings, and exposes human vulnerabilities. Will self-absorption and personal cravings push Drew to act out as the ultimate predator? Prepare yourself for a spine-tingling adventure as you read Dream State, an absorbing novel of venomous lust.
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Yowza...ever so creepy and thrilling and gotta-read-it-now exciting, yes? Well...you haven't read the interview yet. So, without further ado....
A Chilling Interview
Robert Crull: Good evening Drew.
Drew Sovern: Good evening, I see you are well.
RC: Yeah thanks. I would like to talk to you about Melinda Dodge Drew, will you tell me about her.
DS: Ah yes, Melinda, number one. She was so beautiful.
RC: I thought as much.
DS: I had this major crush on her from the time I first saw her in middle school. She was pretty popular, so I kept my distance at the time. That night she came to see me was the beginning of a dream for me.
RC: Tell me about the night
DS: It was an amazing night. My dad had been pissing me off to no end and I was determined to live my life. Out of frustration, I went for a late night bike ride to the small park in the middle of town. I was sitting there on the picnic table when she walked up. I could barely speak I was so stunned.
RC: If you had all these feelings of attraction for her what happened to make you do what you did?
DS: To this day, I don’t really know why.
DS(alter ego): Do you really want to know?
RC: Yes I really do.
DS: Can I not do a simple interview without you budging your way in, trying to control it all?
DS(alter ego): Apparently not or I wouldn’t be here you putz.
RC: Do the two of you need to be alone?
DS(alter ego): I’m ready if the idiot would shut up.
RC: Drew, are you ready for your friend to tell me the story.
DS: Go ahead, he won’t leave me alone anyway.
RC: Alright then, what happened that night.
DS(alter ego): It’s simple really. She made Drew feel things he had never felt before and he was not capable of dealing with it. He was too immature, too childish to know how that all was supposed to end. So I helped him out. I took away from him the humanity he would have shown her at the moment she bit him.
RC: But it was just teasing, teenage making out. Why did you step in?
DS(alter ego): If he had not retaliated he would have wound up being the same pussy whipped man his father had become. He would have traded his sack for a purse to carry his testicles in. There was no way I would allow him to fall into that trap. If I had not taken over, he would have spent his years as a gelding wondering the field eating grass. Such a waste.
RC: Very harsh words, Drew what do you think?
DS: There is truth in those words, unfortunately. I have come to realize that my friend is normally right, and is so in this situation. That night I learned of what I was really capable of, how far I could go to get what I wanted, what we needed. Had it not been for Melinda and the events of that night, I would not be the man I am today.
RC: Thanks to you both for coming in today. I appreciate it and I am sure my readers will enjoy a look into the inner workings of Drew. Thank you again.
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Okay, so how many of you are shuddering right now? Drew is one creepy dude, and yet, you can't help but want to read on. The guy suckers you in, whispering, clawing at that dark, disturbing side of yourself that longs to explore the possibilities of a deranged psyche. The alter-ego takes what might have been an otherwise pleasant, ordinary interview and makes it spectacular. Very chilling, but very intriguing. Many thanks to Robert for sharing his interview with us. It's been a welcome addition to the Character Interviews series, and it's been a great pleasure to work with him. Drew and his alter ego are available for futher exploration in Dream State, now available.

If you're interested in participating in the Totally Sane Interviews series, check out the how and why and give me a shout at cvaldezmiller AT gmail DOT com. Would love to see what you can do.

For now, I'm going to go to sleep. Flu 3 Carol 1
(I got a blog post written...that's worth at least 1 point, possibly a thousand).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Drunken Resolutions and Other Ambiguities







I wrote these resolutions last night, a bit (a lot) tipsy and very tired. My sister-in-law and my daughter did the same, thought theirs looked very different (and my daughter was not at all tipsy). My daughter's final resolution: "Spend more money or put it in the bank." My sister-in-law's final resolution: "Get knocked up."

In the event you don't have super eyeballs, I'll list my resolutions for you here:

1. Paint bedrooms
I know this seems like more of a "To Do List" item, but for me, it's a resolution--if you saw the colors of the bedrooms now, you'd wonder how we could possibly be so lazy to have let them remain as they are

2. Bring in some sort of income
I'm due for a garage sale

3. Learn how to dance like those people on Dancing with the Stars
Definitely a drunk addition

4. Stop being so cheap

5. Spend less money
Contradiction is my prerogative as a woman.

6. Stop Nagging!
You might have noticed this one was not in my handwriting--written not long after I kindly pointed out to my husband that he turned my arroz con pollo into risotto by adding too much broth

7. Be more realistic...cut back on nagging

8. Finish unpacking
Another one of those "To Do" items that must go on a resolutions list in order to get accomplished

9. Write, edit, & query at least 4 books

10. Be more realistic

11. Learn how to make the world's best chili and/or world's best cheesecake

12. Make a lot of noise
I enjoy resolutions with ambiguity (note: this statement is also ambiguous). So very Oprah's Book club of me.

The line in the red linked to number eleven reads, "Unofficial Almost Resolution: Learn how best to bribe agents and snag one." Contrary to popular opinion around here, it does not read, "...shag one."

On another note, tomorrow my oldest daughter turns thirteen. This time thirteen years ago, I'd already been in labor for nearly four days. I had no idea it was 1997; I barely remembered we'd just had Christmas. And I'm fairly certain the only words I wasted breath on were "Kill," "Me," and "Now." Of course, her birth made every one of those tortured moments worth it, and I would go through it again ten times over (note: I was much more demanding about epidurals and c-sections and drugs-give-me-drugs-or-I'll-effing-kill-you the second time around...nine years later....) But I am very grateful for my daughter, the kind of kid that other parents think I've sold my soul for. She's an angel, truly, quite deserving of her wings.

But

Thirteen...thirteen...OFH...thirteen....

Feel free to send your condolences.

And one more thing...not sure if I'll have a chance to participate myself, though I intend to [Time, you thieving scoundrel!]...but in honor of tomorrow's No Kiss Blogfest hosted by Frankie Mallis of Frankie Writes, and in hangover-like celebration of the New Year, thought I'd post my first kiss of 2010.




Best wishes for a memorable, most prosperous 2009...err...2010....