Monday, January 24, 2011

Meet the Author - Flintridge Books' Mother-Daughter Book Party - 1/30/11

Looking for a fun family event?  Come join me this coming Sunday, 1/30/11 at 3:30 pm for Flintridge Bookstore’s Mother Daughter Book Party!  It “speed dating” with your favorite YA authors.  I'll be there along with Morgan Matson, Margaret Stohl, Amy Goldman Koss and the fabulous Cecil Castellucci! 

Flintridge Bookstore, 964 Foothill Blvd., La Canada, CA 91011.  Call to make a reservation at 818/790-2701.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dr. King


In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, you might have the day off from work or school.  My husband asked me what I was going to do today.  Today, I'm reading this speech and thinking about it.  What it means today, what it meant 48 years ago.  How one person helped change the world.

What are you doing today?  What are your dreams?  Whatever your answers, take a minute to think how they might have been different, or harder to achieve without Dr. King.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Under Reconstruction-- When Good Stories Go Bad

buildings,construction sites,demolitions,houses,industries,iStockphoto,Malcom Romain,scaffolds
So, have you ever started a project-- maybe a story, maybe baking a cake, or choosing what to wear-- and somewhere along the way you think "Oh, that's not right."  I've done it with a cake-- I forgot to add salt to the batter, and something else that all these years later I never figured out.  The first bite of that cake and I thought, "Oh, no, that's not right."  I've done it with my wardrobe, usually at the worst possible moment when you are already walking through the door at school or work, and you discover you are still wearing your slippers, have a blob of toothpaste on your shirt, or my favorite, your toothbrush in your pocket (yes, I've done this).  Most definitely NOT RIGHT.

Well, that's where I am with one of the books I'm working on right now.  It was a great idea, it's been a ton of fun to write the first few drafts.  And now I'm giving it a hard look.  Too much salt?  Is that toothpaste?  Whatever it is, something is off kilter and it's Just. Not. Right.

So, what do you do?  If you're me, you go shopping online.  And then you come back to it.  You stare it in the face, you flip it around, and you get angry/depressed/hungry/distracted.  Then, you come back to it again after dinner.  And you give yourself some good advice.  Take the pulse of the story.  Where does it sag?

How does one take a story's pulse?  I do it with a handy chart I learned from Linda Seger's Making a Good Script Great.  In fact, this chart is an excellent illustration for where this blog got it's name.  You see, I write my stories in a classic three-act structure.  If you were to draw a horizontal line, this is the timeline of your story.  Now, bisect it into thirds, with the middle section being the longest.  The first section is your first act, or beginnning of the story, the middle is the second act, and the end is the third.  I try to build my story along this so that the action rises, climaxing at that second line, or pole.  It looks like a circus tent to me, when it's done right.  When it's done Not Right, it sags in the middle.  Those middle pages, or the middle hundred. 

So, I take my manuscript and drag a pen along the page to draw this chart based on what I have.  I call it an EKG, like a heart monitor for the life of my book.  Then I can see where I've got problems.  The book I'm working on is arrhythmic.  It sags in the beginning and the middle... and the end.  Whoops.  Time to apply the paddles.

Where does that picture of the house under construction come in?  The scaffolding is my outline, the structure of my story, the bones.  I'm working on putting the scaffolding in the right places now by brainstorming.  I'm also knocking down a few walls and dreaming up what else could go there. 

It's like the wardrobe issue.  Say you just bought an orange shirt and you want to wear it today.  You love this shirt, but you can't figure out what it goes with.  You pull out jeans, skirts, shorts, overalls-- everything you own in an attempt to turn this shirt into an outfit worthy of such awesomness.  And it isn't working.  Now you're late for school, or that date, or work, or an appointment.  Guess what, folks?  Time to ditch the shirt.  I'm not saying return it-- you need the receipt for that and you loved it so much you tore up the receipt.  I'm just saying, the shirt will have it's day.  But now, you need to get dressed, and you've laid out seven other great outfits just by emptying your closet looking for THE outfit to suit that shirt.

That's where I am now.  I'm taking off the orange shirt for another day, and I'm getting dressed and moving on.  Or, at least I will be when I stop procrastinating by writing this post.

apparel,Asian,clothes,colorful,colors,concentration,expressions,faces,facial expressions,males,men,oranges,persons,Photographs,pinks,shirts,ties

Monday, January 3, 2011

Creative Spaces Interview

Ever wonder where writers work their magic... and do their rewrites, grind their teeth, and take naps?  Check out my interview on From the Mixed-Up Files of Jennifer Bertman.  Now's your chance to see the innner sanctum and the easy chair I like to slouch in when I'm between ideas. 

You won't believe the awesome list of authors that have let Jenn check out their "creative spaces."  I'm just giddy being in the same group as Zilpha Keatley Snyder! (I loved TheVelvet Room when I was a kid.  Ms. Snyder's books are the wallpaper to my childhood!) Thanks for the interview, Jenn.  What a fun way to start the new year!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Clock showing New Year's Eve

Welcome, welcome, 2011!  Wow, my fingers feel like they're stuttering just typing that.  It's a new year, ladies and gentlemen, and a new chance to write something fantastic.  That's my goal with every new year-- what books, short stories, or ideas can I dream up this time.  I've just spent a few moments writing my aspirations for the new year.  I've got projects on my plate that are ongoing works in progress, and a few seeds for things down the line.  I'm excited to get started.  But first, I have to clean house.  (Isn't it appropriate that chores are called chores?  A word synonmous with heel-dragging, Idontwannadoit-ness.)

So, once you clean house and toss out all the wrapping paper, vaccum up the pine needles, chisel off the candle wax, or whatever other detritus is left by your winter celebration, what do you dream of doing?  New year, clean slate.  Let's write something!