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Welcome back to #55WordChallenge! For those that are uninitiated, the 55 Word Challenge is a contest to write a story in 55 words or less. Not an easy task, but fun and I have been blown away by some of the entries. See for yourself...
Welcome back to #55WordChallenge! For those that are uninitiated, the 55 Word Challenge is a contest to write a story in 55 words or less. Not an easy task, but fun and I have been blown away by some of the entries. See for yourself, past contests can be found here. The challenge begins at noon Eastern time every Wednesday and ends at noon Thursday. The story is based on one of three photo prompts. My only request is no porn. I don't want to hear graphic details. If it is erotic, make it titillating, not obscene. I know that can be done and done well. The story is to be posted in the comment section below, along with your twitter handle or email address, so I can contact you if you are the winner. And what does the winner get? Besides bragging rights? This badge, which can proudly be displayed on your blog or website. You can even have it tattooed onto your body, but that might be a little weird. I have also added 2 new badges. An Honorable Mention badge and an Overachiever badge. To be eligible for the Overachiever Badge, you need to use all 3 prompts. If anyone is interested in contributing a prize, a book, cover art, whatever you want, let me know and we will work something out. If you are an artist that would like to have your work featured, let me know! Photo Prompt: Shameless Plug: The Bainbridge Witch Elizabeth and her little brother David are on their way home, when David decides to cut through the Cemetery. When she goes after him, they meet up with Darren, a boy from her school and discover a secret passage in one of the crypts, that leads to a long forgotten secret.. The Bainbridge Witch. They thought she was just a legend. Awakened by the children, she begins revenge on the town that vanquished her a hundred years earlier. Available on Gumroad, Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords
about 6 hours ago
Italy is the setting for a great many fine crime novels and also, without question, one of my favourite countries in the world. So I thoroughly enjoyed spending a week in north Italy, based in Bologna, but venturing out to some of the hi...
Italy is the setting for a great many fine crime novels and also, without question, one of my favourite countries in the world. So I thoroughly enjoyed spending a week in north Italy, based in Bologna, but venturing out to some of the historic and beautiful towns in the area. Bologna itself is a vibrant city with an ancient university and plenty of fascinating places to visit, including its very own leaning tower, as well as plenty of street performers, open air concerts and so on.You could spend a lot longer than a few days there, just marvelling at the history and architecture as well as the culture, the often hidden canals, and of course the food.In terms of sightseeing, first stop was the impressive library in the Piazza Maggiore. It's unique in that you can also visit the ancient Roman ruins and the old town that lie beneath the building, some of which can be seen through panels in the floor at ground level. And then it was on to the Whispering Gallery, Eataly (a combination of bookshop and restaurant that stocked loads of Golden Age classics and served very good food) and the amazing Teatro Anatomica, where public dissections used to take place. Spot the dissecting table in the photo!The Basilica of San Luca stands just outside the old city walls, at the top of a hill that can be reached via a walkway with 666 arches - a very stiff climb in searing heat, and I confess I opted for the little train that wove through the city streets before tackling the hill. The result was spectacular views, enjoyed without being exhausted. Just as well, since there was lot of walking to be done, both in Bologna and in the other towns within easy reach by train.Despite Italy's economic problems, Bologna seems a pretty affluent place and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of bookshops, even by the standards of university cities (incidentally, there were also loads of bookshops in Budapest, but my Hungarian is even worse than my Italian!). Reading does seem to be enormously popular in Italy and tomorrow I'll say a bit more about Italian crime fiction. I did manage to get some reading done, mainly on the plane and train trips, but the real focus was on discovering a part of the world that seems to me to have enormous appeal. I'm also pleased to say that Bologna gave me two brand new ideas for short stories, though with my current schedule, I'm not quite sure when I'll get round to writing them.Finally, a special word of thanks to the Bologna tour guide, namely Catherine Edwards, a linguist who is dividing her year abroad between Bologna, Rome and Berlin, lucky thing. An aspiring journalist who has already worked on a number of publications, including The Big Issue, for which she reviewed Harlan Coben's latest, she has just started her own blog, From Bologna to Berlin. Biased as perhaps I am, I think makes very interesting reading and which will be featuring on the blogroll shortly.
about 8 hours ago
Honorable Mentions: @redshirt6: Wow, scary. I can imagine the frustration felt. @DavidALudwig: Creepy feel to this! @LurchMunster: My heart caught in my throat with that last line! Overachiever: @blackinkpinkdsk: I like the feeling of ...
Honorable Mentions: @redshirt6: Wow, scary. I can imagine the frustration felt. @DavidALudwig: Creepy feel to this! @LurchMunster: My heart caught in my throat with that last line! Overachiever: @blackinkpinkdsk: I like the feeling of despair. Great job! Winner: @lastwordy: I love Stand By Me! I also love the way this one ends… so wicked. So delicious. "Come on," she said. "It'll be like Stand By Me." Of course Teddy believed her. He believed anything Jackie said. Always had. "Lean over the edge," she told him. "It's so awesome." Poor, stupid fuck. I think he knew. because his eyes were open all the way down, finally seeing her smile just for him. ***Check back at noon for the new prompt!
about 8 hours ago
Read chapter one!By Angie Smibertfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsHow do you end a trilogy or series?That is a good question. As I look back on writing the Memento Nora series, I feel like I’m more qualified to talk about how not to...
Read chapter one!By Angie Smibertfor Cynthia Leitich Smith's CynsationsHow do you end a trilogy or series?That is a good question. As I look back on writing the Memento Nora series, I feel like I’m more qualified to talk about how not to write one—let alone end one.First of all, I didn’t intend Memento Nora to be a series. When I sold it, I thought it was a stand alone. (And that probably shows!) I had the ending and epilogue firmly in mind.(Spoiler alert: Nora would sacrifice herself and her memory and ultimately save her mom. Her mom would hear Nora’s story, then spit out the pill, and later tell Nora what happened. The end.)But somewhere in the revision process, my brilliant editor, Marilyn Brigham, scribbled a question in the margins that changed everything. Would Nora, the old Nora, the Nora who’d forgotten everything that happened in the book, believe her mom?Facepalm. She certainly would not.And at that point I saw where the story needed to go next. Or at least I thought I did. I thought I had a brilliant idea about how Nora and Micah would rediscover what they’d forgotten from book 1.I wrote a version of The Forgetting Curve that summer and subbed it…and the publisher turned it down. Needless to say I was more than a little deflated.Lesson 1: Writing the second book is really hard.But it’s a good thing Marshall Cavendish passed on it.That version of The Forgetting Curve did continue the story, but it didn’t cover new ground, either in terms of character development, theme, or plot. And that version didn’t advance the overall plot of the series. It didn’t take the reader further down the rabbit hole—or deeper into Mordor or the Matrix, depending on your taste in analogies.Each book in a series or trilogy has its own story, but each also has to fit into an overall story arc that progresses with each new book.Lesson 2: Lead the reader (and characters) farther down the rabbit hole with each book.Still, I knew there was more story there. So I stared at the proverbial drawing board (AKA, out the window) until I saw it. And I saw that I’d need new characters to tell the next part of the story and give the reader a wider perspective on this dank rabbit hole I was digging. And since I’d made everyone from the first book forget what happened, someone new had to play detective. Enter Aiden and Velvet. (Technically, Velvet wasn’t new, but she’d only had a few lines in the first book.)Lesson 3: Don’t dig yourself into too tight of a corner! So then I wrote spec chapters of my new version of The Forgetting Curve (which the publisher liked, thank goodness)—and I nearly spit-taked coffee all over the dashboard of my car when my agent told me how soon I needed to have the rest done.Publishers like to have books in a series, at least a YA one, come out not more than a year apart.Lesson 4: Write fast!Again I ended the second book with a key character getting her memory wiped (or did she), but at least this time I didn’t erase everyone’s memories (See lesson #3.) This time I also had an idea where the third book was going.I sold The Meme Plague on spec. (I learned that lesson, too.)And I did not spit-take coffee this time when told it was due in a month (not kidding), but then my agent got me two months, which seemed like total luxury. Still.Lesson 5: Write smart—and fast! The key challenge in book 3 was to tie up everyone’s story as well as the overarching one (on top of revealing what’s at the bottom of the rabbit hole)—while not making it too pat.Easy. (Ha.)The latter part of that requirement was mainly because I don’t like pat endings. I love stories that leave a little to the imagination and not everyone gets what they wanted. Life is messy, and fiction should be, too. At least a wee bit.During the revision process of book 3 I did end up including additional points of view and storylines in order to show what happens to Winter and Aiden. (Another brilliant suggestion from Marilyn.)Read Chapter One!The POVs of the last book are Micah
about 9 hours ago
By Alythia Brown Please help me welcome Alythia Brown to the blog today, to chat with us about that scary time between hitting send and hearing back from an agent, and what might be causing that silence. Alythia is an author, wife, mothe...
By Alythia Brown Please help me welcome Alythia Brown to the blog today, to chat with us about that scary time between hitting send and hearing back from an agent, and what might be causing that silence. Alythia is an author, wife, mother, and owner of two stupid dogs. Her first novel, Dakota Captive, released October 1st. She also blogs about publishing and loves to read your comments! Take it away Alythia... You did it! Finally, after months and months of querying and countless form rejection letters, you managed to get an agent’s attention and she actually asked to read more of your manuscript. First, you probably held some kind of party-of-one celebration in your office. Second, you sent the work over as quickly as possible to avoid slipping out of the agent’s mind and losing the chance forever. Third, you checked your email every day (or hour) for about a month. Your fourth step in all of this is possibly where you are right now: wondering why you haven’t heard from the agent who so enthusiastically requested to read a portion of your book. That empty inbox stings every time you open your email. So what does the silence mean? After ruling out computer mishaps or vacation schedules for the agent, you may want to ask yourself some questions. How’s My Voice? Does your main character have a strong narrative voice? I don’t just mean someone who can throw around swear words in a weak effort to come off as tough. I mean, someone who can paint a complex picture of who they are. You don’t want to lose their flavor while consuming yourself with other details. A Plain Jane voice will lose the agent’s attention and emotional investment. Are My Characters Consistent? Are they Cliché? Readers get annoyed when they find inconsistencies. They’re also easily vexed by clichés. Remember that agents are readers! They are big-time booklovers who became agents because they’re passionate about literature. So, when you submit your work to an agent, you are submitting your work to someone who has probably devoured books since kindergarten. They’re going to notice if your MC said his favorite color was green when he already mentioned it was blue. They’re going to spot one-dimensional, cookie-cutter bullies who demand lunch money or else. If your book already has replicas with weak development within the first fifty pages, an agent will probably pass on reading much more. Does Anything Drag? Many writers have a talent for setting an intriguing stage and steadily building steam for the first three chapters or so. But it’s a hard act to keep up and, sometimes, the work can fall into a lull. Dear Agent may have nodded off. Although you need a smooth balance of serenity and excitement, all scenes should serve some kind of purpose in the great scheme of things and continue to engage the reader. Down time could simply be an opportunity for two enemies to sit together and begin to overcome their differences. It could be the time for developing romantic relationships. No matter the nature of the scene, you need to ask yourself if it’s necessary or if it’s just a bit of fat that needs trimming. Don’t make the agent wonder where is this going again? Does My Punctuation Annoy People? Do you use too many question marks???? Maybe you’re always excited! Perhaps—you—love—these—things—but—you—kind—of—forgot—how—or—when—to—use—them—so—you—use—them—all—the—time. OR YOU CAN’T STOP YELLING! Agents spot amateur moves right away. Frankly, they don’t have the time to correct your bad habits before shopping your book around to publishers. Do yourself a favor and take a refresher course on Mr. Semi-Colon and his friendly punctuation pals. While you’re at it, ask yourself… Grammatically Speaking, Am I Behind? This is a similar problem to the punctuation issue above. Review, review, review! Is this World-Building or Data Dumping? This issue is especially huge for fantasy writers. You have an insanely vivid imagination that allows you to create a world
about 12 hours ago
That right there. Yeah, that - my book on the shelf (at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, where my launch party will be on Saturday the 19th from 3-5PM, by the way) qualifies as both the thrills and chills of this post's headline...
That right there. Yeah, that - my book on the shelf (at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, where my launch party will be on Saturday the 19th from 3-5PM, by the way) qualifies as both the thrills and chills of this post's headline. Let me just mention that again - book. on. shelf. Yeah, that rocked. You know what else rocked? Even before this close encounter, I was able to be at the SCiBA tradeshow where I not only got to meet fabulously wonderfully independent booksellers but I also go to sign my first hardcover! And not just one. No - the whole pile! By sheer coincidence, I signed at a table with Ron Koertge who, without knowing it, was the person who had inspired me to really start writing Fibs (and is mentioned in my first Fib post, in fact). I got a copy of his new Coaltown Jesus - skews older than mine and is, as his other books, a great read. Earlier, walking around at the tradeshow I found the Scholastic table. Guess what? Yeah. It's another photo of my book, but let me see if I can set the scene for you. Gah!!!!! My book on a table with other Scholastic books!!!! Captain Underpants! Harry Potter! The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. Gah!!!! One of the oddest things I've seen so far is that the very first day my book shipped anywhere, there were already used copies for sale online. Hardcover. Which, like, had never been seen anywhere. Hmmm. While I'm still waiting for my first Amazon review, I've been lucky enough to get some nice reviews on blogs and in traditional review sources, too. AND, yes, from booksellers and librarians and parents and kids. There is much rejoicing on this end, I admit, when I hear that people actually like the book. As always, it's been a blast sharing the experience with so many of you here, on Facebook, on Twitter, and, yes, in person. The support and camaraderie means a lot, and I'm very grateful for it - in fact, it makes me say.feel "gah!!!!"
about 16 hours ago
I wrote the following for self-proclaimed ‘corporate misfit’ Srinivas Rao’s new book The Art of Being Unmistakable: A Collection of Essays About Making a Dent in the Universe, released today. Check it out. The future...
I wrote the following for self-proclaimed ‘corporate misfit’ Srinivas Rao’s new book The Art of Being Unmistakable: A Collection of Essays About Making a Dent in the Universe, released today. Check it out. The future belongs to the misfits. Perhaps it always has. It seems fitting that I’m writing this at Burning Man, a strange and alternative pop-up city that had to venture into the middle of nowhere – an ancient lakebed in the Nevada desert, known as the playa – to bring itself into being near the end of every August. Each time I come here, to this world of portapotties, alkaline dust storms, sweltering days, freezing nights, and no Starbucks – I swear to myself, this is the last freaking time. And yet there’s a point when something in me shifts over and I know I will return. How could I not? This is where your inner misfit can come out to play. This morning, walking to Center Camp, I watched a guy ride around in an art car built to resemble a giant roast chicken. I like to imagine him waking up one morning (in his ordinary life, in the ordinary world) brushing his teeth, checking the weather and the traffic report, bracing himself for another day at his San Francisco startup, and realizing: I must build an art car that resembles a giant roast chicken. It wouldn’t have been his carefully polished, expensively educated, khaki-pants-and-buttondown persona that decided this. He probably didn’t see it as a way to get women into bed (“Hi. I’m building a giant chicken. Want to have sex?”) His colleagues at work, his drinking buddies, his best friend, the cute but shy waitress at his favorite diner who has been crushing on him for six months, probably never looked at him and thought, Within that man there lurks a giant-roast-chicken-rider, bursting to be unleashed upon the world. >The Art of Being Unmistakeable: A Collection of Essays About Making a Dent in the Universe, released today. Check it out. The future belongs to the misfits. Perhaps it always has. It seems fitting that I’m writing this at Burning Man, a strange and alternative pop-up city that had to venture into the middle of nowhere – an ancient lakebed in the Nevada desert, known as the playa – to bring itself into being near the end of every August. Each time I come here, to this world of portapotties, alkaline dust storms, sweltering days, freezing nights, and no Starbucks – I swear to myself, this is the last freaking time. And yet there’s a point when something in me shifts over and I know I will return. How could I not? This is where your inner misfit can come out to play. This morning, walking to Center Camp, I watched a guy ride around in an art car built to resemble a giant roast chicken. I like to imagine him waking up one morning (in his ordinary life, in the ordinary world) brushing his teeth, checking the weather and the traffic report, bracing himself for another day at his San Francisco startup, and realizing: I must build an art car that resembles a giant roast chicken. It wouldn’t have been his carefully polished, expensively educated, khaki-pants-and-buttondown persona that decided this. He probably didn’t see it as a way to get women into bed (“Hi. I’m building a giant chicken. Want to have sex?”) His colleagues at work, his drinking buddies, his best friend, the cute but shy waitress at his favorite diner who has been crushing on him for six months, probably never looked at him and thought, Within that man there lurks a giant-roast-chicken-rider, bursting to be unleashed upon the world. But he knew there was something deep inside him, weird and whimsical and apart from the structures of everyday life, that needed to play. It might not have made sense in any “rational” way, but not everything does, or is meant to; it just is what it is, and what it must be. It’s your inner misfit. This is all very well, you might be thinking to yourself, and maybe even slightly amusing, but what
about 17 hours ago
Join me this Saturday for a fun-filled event with four awesome YA authors! DETAILS: Who: Me, Jessica Khoury, Rachel Hawkins, and Megan Miranda Where: Books-A-Million, 164 Forum Dr., Columbia SC. Directions here. When: This Saturd...
Join me this Saturday for a fun-filled event with four awesome YA authors! DETAILS: Who: Me, Jessica Khoury, Rachel Hawkins, and Megan Miranda Where: Books-A-Million, 164 Forum Dr., Columbia SC. Directions here. When: This Saturday from 1:00-3:00pm What: A fun panel where we will talk, goof-off, and probably say inappropriate things before we sign your books. Come! It'll be fun!!
about 20 hours ago
I don't usually post movie reviews, but I also don't usually see a movie as wonderful as Gravity. This film had been on my radar for awhile, but I'll admit that I had my doubts. When the movie trailer first came out, I wonde...
I don't usually post movie reviews, but I also don't usually see a movie as wonderful as Gravity. This film had been on my radar for awhile, but I'll admit that I had my doubts. When the movie trailer first came out, I wondered two key things: Can Sandra Bullock and George Clooney carry a movie alone? I know they're both talented, but an hour and a half with just two people? What's the plot? Is there a plot? Is it JUST Sandra lost in space? The answers are simple. Can Sandra Bullock and George Clooney carry a movie on their own? YES. And brilliantly so. And, to be fair, most of the movie is Sandra alone, and it is amazing. Can a movie about Sandra lost in space have a plot? YES. I think the trailer does one big disservice--it makes it look as if the entire movie is Sandra drifting. And, while the space photography would be lovely in such a case, that would actually lead for a boring story. Instead, the plot is more about how Sandra has to figure out a way to survive. After a field of debris strikes the shuttle Sandra, George, and a crew of astronauts were on, the survivor(s) must find a way back to Earth. Using space stations currently in orbit and whatever supplies they can scavenge, they must attempt to survive in a place that is not capable of supporting human life. In short, it's a survival story in space. And it is mind-blowingly gorgous. First, you have all the shots of Earth and space from space--and while the movie could have just been done with a backdrop of space, I have to say that director Alfonso Cuarón actually turned the setting into a character, one of the best things a movie (or book) can do. The title of the movie is apt--it takes place almost entirely in space, and you see all the glorious weightless shots you'd expect--things floating away, drifting, astronauts soaring. But there are a few moments when it's just breathtakingly well done. My friend Megan Shepherd recommended we see the movie in 3D, although I was doubtful--I rarely think 3D is worth it. It is for this movie. It so is. There's a scene where a single tear floats out of the screen, and it looks real. And rather than 3D being an afterthought, the 3D features of this movie, with only a few rare exceptions, enhance it in such a way that I cannot think of a better 3D movie in existence. You don't just have space in the background. In one of the opening shots, you have a view of Earth and space, and then, slowly, the camera pans to a tiny speck. The speck grows larger and larger and eventually you see that the speck was actually the shuttle the astronauts are working from. Sure, you know space is big. But you also know the shuttle is big, so seeing it in perspective suddenly puts you in perspective. Perspective is also the strength of Sandra Bullock's acting in this movie. She plays the character of Ryan, a woman on her first mission in space. She's not there for the love of it--she's there to work on the Hubble telescope and go home. Her fear is real and visceral even before the debris field strikes, and after--her fear becomes our fear. She is a the perfect "every man." And even moreso, she shows us her character rather than tells us. There is a tiny amount of backstory to her life--just a hint of what she's like back on Earth--but the vast majority of the movie isn't so much about who she is in normal conditions--it's about who she is right here, right now. I don't to spoil anything for you. So rather than give away the plot, I thought I'd just say this: this movie literally had my heart racing, tears burning my eyes, my breath caught in my throat--and I could not look away. Too long; didn't read version: PS: I'm calling it now. ALL THE OSCARS. ALL OF THEM.
1 day ago
By Cynthia Leitich Smith for CynsationsA.B. Westrick is the first-time author of Brotherhood (Viking, 2013). From the promotional copy:The year is 1867, and Richmond, Virginia, lies in ruins. By day fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices...
By Cynthia Leitich Smith for CynsationsA.B. Westrick is the first-time author of Brotherhood (Viking, 2013). From the promotional copy:The year is 1867, and Richmond, Virginia, lies in ruins. By day fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother to the meetings of a brotherhood, newly formed to support Confederate widows and grieving families like his. As the true murderous mission of the brotherhood—now known as the Ku Klux Klan—emerges, Shad is trapped between his pledge to them and what he knows is right. In this unflinching view of the bitter animosity that stemmed from economic and social upheaval in the South during the period of Reconstruction, it’s clear that the Civil War has ended, but the conflict isn’t over.What inspired you to choose the particular point of view featured in your novel? What considerations came into play? Did you try the story from a different point of view at some point? If so, what made you change your mind?Research photo of Richmond, Virginia after the Civil WarI drafted Brotherhood in first person, present tense, but on revision changed the manuscript to third person, past tense. Such a difference!I love to draft in first person-present because it’s intense. It’s arresting. First person-present forces me to enter into my protagonist’s world and imagine his actions as if they are happening right now: I smell what he smells, and touch what he touches. I taste, see and hear the specific, concrete moments of his life.To some extent, I experience his emotions while I’m writing, and can observe exactly what my own body is doing. Am I breathing or holding my breath? Curling my toes? Clutching the edge of my desk? Chewing on the inside of my lip… or my fingernail… or a pencil eraser?First person-present demands a sense of immediacy that’s honest and real, and forces me to shed stereotypical concepts of who I think this character might be or become. Instead of an idea or symbol or construct, he becomes an individual.But my first person-present version was over the top! My protagonist is an illiterate 14 year-old boy whose awful grammar is difficult to read. Sure, I created a strong voice with an honest cadence rolling on the page—I could hear him speak—but the choppiness of the dialect detracted from the story. I had to let it go.Visit Kathi AppeltI decided to keep his Southern dialect in passages of dialogue, and remove it from narrative sections, and I rewrote the story in third person. But even in the dialogue, there were times when I cleaned up the words, knowing that once the lilt of his speech was established, the reader would supply the Southern accent organically. Readers would hear him; they’d get it.So for example, instead of writing something like, “we gonna git ’im,” I’d spell it correctly (“we’re going to get him”) and leave the pronunciation to the reader.(By the way, it was my advisor at VCFA, Kathi Appelt, who helped me wrestle with these tense and point of view changes. Oh, that we could all have critique buddies like Kathi Appelt!)When I switched to third person, I considered omniscient third, and decided that it created a greater sense of distance and perspective than I wanted. So I re-wrote in close-third. When the protagonist learns something, the reader learns it simultaneously and not before.As someone with a MFA in Writing for Children (and Young Adults), how did your education help you advance in your craft? What advice do you have for other MFA students/graduates in making the transition between school and publishing as a business?I’m a debut author, so I’m still figuring out the business, and there’s a lot to figure out! You can put your whole day, every day, into social media and book promotion, but if you don’t love the process of writing, if you don’t write for the story and the language and the characters, and instead you w
1 day ago