Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Hand of Poker with the Weasley Twins ~

Hi All!  I won't be featuring Writerly Wednesday today.  I hope you'll forgive me?  Instead, I'm participating in a Harry Potter Best Buds Blogfest, hosted by Michael at In Time...   Please check out Michael's blog - he's awesome and an HP Super-fan! - and check out the other entries in this fun event.  The challenge was to create a 350-word flash fic involving you and two HP characters you'd love to hang out with. 

Here's mine:

I dropped the cards to the table when the jack in my hand stabbed his spade-scepter into the tip of my finger. I sucked at the blood that appeared at the point of strike.

“Must we use your Poking Poker Cards?” I asked George.

George ran a hand through his mop of red hair and grinned. His eyes scanned the shelves behind me. “I’m sure I’ve got a pair of gloves around here somewhere.”

“Oh, I saw the hot-hand gloves earlier. No, thanks. I’ll take my chances with the jacks.”

George sucked on his pipe and iridescent bubbles blew high into the air.

“What you got, Bro?” He said to the apparition sitting between us.

Fred waved a misty hand through the cards set in front of him and frowned. “I don’t know why you two insist on dealing me in every time.”

I picked up Fred’s cards. He had three kings. The King of Hearts started making kissy faces at me.

“It’s because you always win, my friend. Even when I know your cards.” I winked at him. “Besides. I like having you here. Seems like old times.”

Fred smiled and touched my hair. It was a cool breeze against my cheek.

“I could always whip you at poker, Donea.” Fred agreed.

Small licks to my palm made me squeal and I slammed Fred’s cards face down.

George laughed so hard, his pipe went flying to the floor. I punched him square in the shoulder.

“Ow. What was that for?”

“You put that snogging spell on the King of Hearts again, didn’t you?”

Fred snickered.

“Well, at least its antics let me keep an eye on the little bugger,” George said.

“Umm, I believe that’s called cheating?”

“Fine. Call.”

We laid our cards face up, turning over the two blind cards we always played with to make things fair for Fred. I had a pair of jacks. George looked pretty smug with his three aces, until he spied the two queens that paired with Fred’s kings.

“Fred wins again,” he said.

I smiled at my dear friends as he waved his hazy hands about in victory.

“As he should.”

:)  Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Your Writing Cheerleader!!

Happy Monday to everyone!  I'll be back to my mood music and munchies starting next Monday.  But, today my daughter is trying out for cheerleading - so I want to send ALL my good luck mojo her way today!!

And here's a little writing cheerleader for you!  I think it's so important to have someone in your life championing your dreams.  Rah, Rah, Shish, Boom, Bah!  Happy Writing out there today!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Find the Story Friday!! The Cottage...

Hi!  How's it goin'?  How's that WiP coming along?  Pretty good?  I ask because I care ~ :) 

Before I give you my pic for the week - I want to let you know that I'm stylish and creative.  No, that's not my ego talking.  Although good ol' ego did get a boost when two lovely bloggers gave me some awards.

E.C. Smith gave me The Stylish Blogger award.  Thank you, E.C.!!!  Please check out her lovely blog HERE.

And Deirdra at A Storybook World gave me this GORGEOUS Creative Blog Award!!!

Oh my gosh, I love it!!  It's just so pretty ~ :)  Thank you, Deirdra.  Please visit her adorable blog HERE.

And now for Friday's pic:


Your MC stumbles across this cute little cottage in the middle of nowhere (or somewhere, or space, or an alternate dimension, get creative!)   There might be a witch and breadcrumbs involved, there might not.  Let your mind wander and tell me, what happens next?

Thanks for stopping by today!  I hope you all have a FABULOUS weekend.  Write, travel, sleep, have a game night, read a book, cook, watch a favorite movie, hang with a friend, buy a new book, listen to your favorite song over and over and over again, dance, splash around in the rain, write - just enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Poor Fishy! A Crusader Challenge and a blurb on rejections...

Welcome to Writerly Wednesday at The QoP!  Now, I really do have a writing tip/life lesson for you.  But, I'm going to squeeze in a little flash fiction here.  Hope you don't mind? 

I'm part of Rachael Harrie's 2nd Crusade!  If you haven't heard about this awesome writing venture - it's a group of writers helping each other out, strengthening writing platforms and having some fun with challenges.  If you didn't get in on it this time, I believe Rachael has plans for another crusade soon.  You can read all about it "HERE".  *OH - and if you haven't checked out her AMAZING Write Hope blog, offering up some amazing prizes for auction and proceeds going to help the efforts in Japan, please click HERE!  :)

My challenge was to write a 100 word or less flash fic piece that starts, "The gold fish bowl teetered..."   So, here you go:

The gold fish bowl teetered on the edge of my nightstand before crashing to the ground.  I watched Fish Boy flounder, sloshing for a second in the wet carpet before the water soaked in.  My instinct was to scoop the poor fellow up and race him to the bathroom sink, fill it with water.  But, what did it matter?  In another minute a bigger tremor would hit.  This was it.  The radio still crackled the news, “Yellowstone Super Volcano has erupted.”  I watched Fish Boy’s gill splutter to a stop as I waited for my own end.

Ummm... yeah.  Not sure where that dark turn came from!  But, I got it down in only 97 words!!  Yay, me?  :p
On that chipper note...I came across another Writer's Digest article about rejections, by Sue Fliess.  It's about perseverance.  Writing is so subjective and your story might be rejected for a number of reasons.  How many of you keep your rejection letters?  Are they filed away as a sad reminder that someone thought your writing wasn't quite right?  I hope not!  Ms. Fliess suggests that they should spur you on to do better!  To keep at it!  She had a unique analogy about the subject, so feel free to read the entire article HERE.
And just one last thing today, lovely bloggers/readers/adoring fans ~ :)  Here's a few cool links to some awesome my fellow blogging friends are offering up:
-Visit Shelley Watters blog for a chance to win a MS critique from agent Suzie Townsend!!
--Michael at In Time is hosting a Harry Potter blogfest on the 30th!!
---And don't forget the A-Z challenge ~ coming April 1st!
This meager list probably doesn't even touch all the amazing events going on.  If I'm missing something REALLY cool - let me know?  Pretty please?
Have a GREAT day of writing out there!! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Maybe I've got Laryngitis? My "Show Me the Voice" entry...

Happy Monday, all!!!  So sorry - I'm WAY off my regular schedule today.  But, I've got a reason.  Sort of. 

I'm participating in Brenda Drake's "Show Me the Voice" contest today!

I'm supposed to post the first 250 words of my MS for critiques today.  I've tweaked the first few paragraphs of my MS 1,365,479 times (or so, you know...)  Even a few more times this morning!  Still not sure if I like/love it.  It's more likely that I dislike/loathe it.  Depends on my mood ~ :)

Anyhow - if anyone is out there and feels like dishing some brutal honesty today - I'd appreciate comments on the following:

My birthday morning started the same as always. For a girl who was so not a morning-person three-hundred and sixty four other days of the year, I woke up alert and smiling, my energy meter tipping into the red. I woke Mom up with a sound she best described as a helium-sucking squirrel. She threw on a robe and scampered down to the kitchen to cook my favorite breakfast meal; Belgium waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, burnt bacon and mint cocoa.

“Gonna let me help this year?” I offered.

“Nope. Shove off, birthday girl.”

So I spent thirty minutes in the living room waiting, daydreaming of birthday presents and tonight’s party. It was a silly ritual for a newly seventeen-year-old. I should be cooking my own darn breakfast and daydreaming of boys, one in particular. Shane. Although, handling a hot griddle while daydreaming of one luscious boyfriend was clearly an accident waiting to happen. Focus, Clara! I decided it might be best to shake off all thoughts and wrapped myself in the blue-speckled afghan that hung over the back of my favorite leather armchair. I closed my eyes and sucked in the smell of bacon. My toes dug into the plush, mulberry-colored carpet and I let my body lax and my mind wander.

When it hit, I opened my eyes to make sure no one was actually slapping my face. No one hovered near me. I still heard my mom tinkering in the kitchen. But flashes started to pop in front of my face, as if some phantom hand shoved picture after picture a half inch from my nose.
So, there you have it!  (if you hear some virtual gagging, ignore please...)  I believe there's still time to get in on the contest, which offers a critique from agent Natalie Fischer as a prize.  Click the button on my side bar.  Again, all comments welcome.  And here's hoping that all your first paragraphs actually LOVE you!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Find the Story Friday! Giving you the Bird ~ :)

I think there's a way to type "the bird"...a couple of m's...a 1 in the middle...something, something.  But, COME ON, now!  Would I really do that to my lovely blog friends??  Perish the thought.  PERISH it!  :)

Actually, I'm taking a cue from Jen Daiker, who recently blogged that "fun" blog titles draw in the readers.  And as I just didn't feel right about posting a pic this Friday that involved anything to do with "naked" or "balls"... I thought I might be able to get away with this one:


Now, look closely.  My little bird friend wanted to pop by today and tell you that we have a lovely spring coming soon this year.  In three short days, March 21st, the first day of Spring arrives (per my calendar, anyhow.  Does this differ outside of the U.S.?).   I must be channeling my inner Mary Lennox today.  Just had to post a pic of this "cheeky little beggar".

Please tell me ~ your MC comes across this fine feathered friend on the first day of spring.  What happens next?

Wishing you warm showers, flowers, and sunny weather soon!  Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SPD @ the QoP!! Blogfest entry...

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!!  A day of luck, luck, and a little - oh, yes - luck!  (So, does this mean if I send my query out today, I'll get lucky?  Hmmm....)  Actually, I'm typically the girl that this saying applies to... "If it weren't for BAD luck, I'd have NO luck at all!"  Yep, that's me. 

But, today's no day for pity partying.  It's to celebrate with two awesome bloggers, Colene Murphy of The Journey and Alexia Chamberlynn of The Life and Literary Pursuits of Alexia Chamberlynn, as they host their 1st EVER blogfest!!  There's still time to get in on it - so follow this linky link HERE.  Bloggers were asked to post a 200-ish word flash fiction or favorite memory piece involving St. Patty's day.  So here's mine:

If I squinted at the sun, the Dunluce castle ruins on the Antrim Coast were whole again. I saw the flower garlands strewn from all four towers, strings of harebells, meadowsweet, yarrows and primrose. The courtyard was cluttered with bright dancers, torchlight glinting off their wings. Flute music mixed sweetly with the crashing waves on the cliff side below.  I'd been here before, a long time ago, I was sure of it.  But, not like this.  Not in this human form.

I drew my sunglasses down and the scene changed - gray rubble amidst the green scrub and rocks.

"Do you want to go down to the cave, Ehva?"

Roark's hand, warm on my back, made me waver.  I rubbed the cool weathered coin between my thumb and forefinger.  I was in Ireland on March 17th on my seventeenth birthday.  If the letters were true, today was it. 

"Yeah, babe.  Race you?" 

Roark took racing seriously.  It was hard to watch him running before me, laughing, his white smile and warm brown eyes twinkling at me.  As if in competition, the coin in my hand winked even brighter, the gold forcing through the aged patina.  I couldn't stay here.  Could I?

The cave, damp and smelling of fishy seaweed, made this place in my life easy to say goodbye to.  Roark cooing and taunting me in the dark made it harder.  I had two choices here - a kiss with the human I loved, hoping his embrace would hold me here forever.  Or I could toss this coin into the sea and buy my way back to the past, to the realm of Fae.  I turned my cheek to Roark's kiss and flipped the coin into the dark water.

So - there you have it!  I'll dance a jig, drink a green beer (or lightly sip, because - ewww!), wish on a rainbow and chow some corned beef and cabbage for you all today!  Best of LUCK!!  Tell me, how will you spend SPD?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writerly Wednesday - Voice, Avoiding Melodrama, and Secrets to Great Storytelling!!

Now, I know you're all holding your breath for the day when I hit you on a Wednesday with original, witty, top-notch, Donea-esque writing tips...right?  Well, go ahead and breathe out.  Today is not that day.  (sorry!)  But, it will come.  Have faith!!  I'm just waiting for an agent to deem me worthy... :)  It's all about the validation, baby!

HOWEVER!  I do have some fabulous links for you.

#1:  "Like, seriously dude, if you're givin' me the blah, blah, blahs about this, that, and the other - shut it!  You get the hand." ~ *palm out*!  

Ah, you're thinking "a tutorial on cliches"!  Nope.  It's voice.  Check out this interview with agent Natalie Fischer on VOICE.

#2:  Omigosh, I read this blog about avoiding melodrama in writing and I just about DIED!  It was THAT good and after I read it, I was like flying through the clouds and my brain was a-buzz with all its FABULOUS tips and ideas and I have to cement them to memory TODAY or I might just seriously kick it!  (Melodramatic enough?) 

If you want to avoid the above suckage in your own writing... (thanks for still reading, btw)  Martina at Adventures in Children's Publishing posted an amazing article about writing emotion and avoiding melodrama by digging deeper. You can find it HERE.

#3:  Again I turn to Writer's Digest for some useful writing tips - the offer today?  3 Secrets to Great Storytelling!  What are they? 

A.  Always, always include a chimpanzee in your story. 
B.  If your MC's aren't macking (that's '80's slang for "making out")  They should be! 
C.  Don't forget to kill off an integral character.  You always get bonus points for making a reader cry...

Oh, oh!  What if the chimpanzee kills the integral character while he's making out!!!??

Ah, my bad.  Those are MY secrets to great storytelling!!  (see, told you I'm not certified for advice giving just yet...)

*Actually,  Steven James' article on Writer's Digest suggests that the 3 best secrets are:

1. Cause and Effect are King,  2. If it's Not Believable, It doesn't Belong, and 3.  It's all About Escalation

Please click HERE for the full article and details on these 3 awesome writing secrets.

*Don't forget!  There's still time to enter Brenda Drakes "Voice" contest to win a critique with agent Natalie Fischer.  Post the first 250 words of your complete novel on March 20th and 21st.  Don't forget to sign up!  The link is on my side-bar.

**Oh, and guess what?  I have a secret admirer!!  (Well, not so secret any more...)  E.J. Wesley of The Open Vein had some lovely things to say about blog.  Thanks, E.J.!!  You can read all about me it HERE.

***Friendly reminder!  I'll be out and about in blogger land tomorrow, Thursday, 3/17 - for Colene Murphy's and Alexia Chamberlynn's St. Patty's Day Blogfest.  There's still time to join up!!  Click HERE and follow the girl on the pig!

I have to say I'm constantly amazed by all the enlightening writing tips, generous contests, and heart-felt support this wonderful writing community of ours has to offer.  I hope these tips find you and your writing well.  HAPPY WEDNESDAY!!  :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Need a Writing Snack? J.K. suggests potato crisps...

So, as I was considering recipes for today's Mood Munchies Monday ~ I wondered what foods some of my favorite authors turned to when they get those nagging tummy rumbles.

I think J.K. Rowling had a great explanation for one of her go-to snack foods when writing.  I found a quote about it HERE.

"“When I write, sophisticated foods are difficult to eat one-handed. Crisps (potato chips) are good,” she said.

Now, I suppose you could just run to the store and pick up some of these:

But, I wonder if Ms. Rowling had something more like this in mind:


Depends on if I feel like cooking or not - but, either yummy option can be eaten with one hand.  But, if you'd like to begin one creative venture by dabbling in another (cooking IS an art form!!), here's a recipe for Herbed Potato Crisps:


- 3 large potatoes
- 2 T. oil
- 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 t. oregano
- 1/2 t. thyme
- 1/2 t. sage
- 1/2 t. rosemary
- celery and garlic salt to taste

What you do:

*Preheat oven to high temp.  Clean and cut unpeeled potatoes into thin slices.  Place on well-oiled cookie sheets.  Brush all slices well with oil and mixed herbs.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are well-browned and crisp.  Sprinkle with combined salts (if desired) and serve.  OR eat one-handed as you write... :)

Who knows...?  The next time you're hunkered down writing, pop of few chips/potato crisps in your mouth.  What you write as you eat just might be the next world-wide sensation to hit print!  (Never hurts to try....right?)

What's your favorite writing snack? 

Happy Writing!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Find the Story Friday...What a B**CH!!

Happy Friday, all!  :)

First, a little business ~  I'll only be blogging on M-W-F the rest of March.  So sorry.  This is just my attempt to save up some bloggy strength for the A-Z challenge in April.  (trust me, I'll need it.  And if you don't know which A-Z challenge I'm referring to?  Check my side-bar!)  Another bit of business - I happily accept two more awards from two fabulous bloggers!

Tanya Reimer of Life's Like That awarded me the Stylish Blogger Award.  She blogs about Life. Period.  and is a LOT of fun.  Please go check her out.

And Samantha Sotto-Yambao of The Slight Detour awarded me this adorable little thing:

This is my first time receiving this one - yay!!  Samantha's got a book coming out in August titled "Before Ever After"!  And it sounds AMAZING!  Please go check out her blog and learn all about this wonderful story she'll soon release!  And I will pass these awards on next week ~ promise!

Also - have you checked out my side-bar lately?  Some cool stuff over there ~ including an opportunity to WIN a critique from agent Natalie Fischer, compliments of Brenda Drake.  Hop on over NOW!

Ok - now for my pic of the week!!  Did I fool anyone?  Are you expecting a picture of some spray-tan, platinum blond, Barbie-doll figured, tiger-stripe skinny-jeans wearing, lady with Kruger nails giving you the stink eye?  Sorry.  (for my tricky title AND for the long string of hyphenated descrips...)  What I've actually got for you is this:


Who's the girl?  And why is she alone on a b**ch?  I mean, beach?  Hmmm....idk.  You tell me.

Thanks for stopping by today!!  I can't wait to see what story this picture stirs in you.  Make sure you share it in the comments!  (pretty please?)  And as always, Happy Writing!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Writerly Wednesday - For When Your Plot Seriously Bites....

Happy Wednesday, friends!  So...I know what you're thinking.  "Why hasn't Donea been posting on Tuesdays?"  I hate to admit it, but I've come down with a nasty case of...Lazy-Blogger syndrome.  You might want to draw a poised finger back.  No concrete facts yet, but the condition is possibly contagious....  I tell you this because I care.  :)

Speaking of caring...for those lovely bloggers who've awarded me The Stylish Blogger or Versatile Blogger Award in the past few  *cough, cough* ummm...weeks... I DO appreciate it!!  Seriously.  You all rock.  And by "you", I mean:

Deniz Bevan at The Girdle of Melian
Lady Jai at Snippets From My Mind
and Alison Stevens

Thank you, ladies!!  And, my fine readers - please check these great bloggers out and follow, if you like what you see.

One last thing before I actually get to the nitty-gritty of the title of this post - WRITEONCON, 2011 is coming to a computer near you in August!!!!  Now - I wasn't a part of this event last year (merely because I hadn't heard of it yet, but no excuses...) HOWEVER - I will definitely be there this year.  It's put on by some bloggers that I just LOVE - Shannon Messenger and Elana Johnson, and their awesome others.  There's a cool badge over on my side-bar with a count down to the big event.  Feel free to check it out!  *They are giving away agent query critiques - so GO NOW!

So - what to do if  your plot:  a)  blows chunks  b) sucks, like thick chocolate shake up a tiny straw  or c) reads so badly, you want to cut your eyeballs out?

My advice?  Kill someone.  No, wait!  Blow something up.  Yes - that's a good one!

Better advice?  Listen to a professional.  I am not one.  I know, I know...shocking.  :)  Again - I turn to the good people at Writer's Digest with a recent article titled, "6 Common Plot Fixes", posted by Brian - it's an excerpt from James Scott Bell's "The Ultimate Revision Checklist".  Here's my bare-bones edition, but you can read the whole article by clicking HERE.

First - ask yourself the following questions about your plot:

Is there any point where a reader might feel like putting the book down?

Does the novel feel like it's about people doing things?

Does the plot feel forced or unnatural?

Is the story out of balance? Too much action? Too much reaction?

*If you answered "yes"...try one of the following:
Plot fix #1:  Keep nabbing ideas.  During revisions especially, you mind will be running the plot points of your story through your head, over and over again.  New ideas could emerge.  Be prepared to write these down whenever/where ever they strike!  A good rule for writers - keep a notebook and a pen handy.
Plot fix #2:  Create Two Trajectories.  Try giving your MC a personal problem and a plot problem.  The personal could complicate how he/she deals with the plot.  Think about it...
Plot fix #3:  Add another level of complication.  Basically - don't hold back on the magnitude of bad you can inflict upon your poor MC.  (See!  My killing or blowing up things idea wasn't sooo far off, after all!)
Plot fix #4:  Add a character.  Too few characters can lead to a weak plot, or a weaker way to deal with the plot.  Too many characters can just be too much.  Find the right mix.
Plot fix #5:  Beware of unmotivated actions.  Newton's law, right?  Actions and equal reactions.  If your MC does something, there better be a darn good reason for it!
Plot fix #6:  Change a setting.  Your world, your settings are pretty integral to your story.  BUT!  It never hurts to switch things up.  The more unique the locale, the better.  Take a fight out of the bedroom and stick it in a crowded theater, Midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture show or something like that.  They can throw toast at each other.
Just a few ideas.  You know your story and deep down, you know how to fix it if it needs fixing.  Hopefully these tips just spur you to action.  Happy writing, all!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mood Music Mondays - Bat For Lashes....

I'm blaming the rain for my music choice today.  It was a long weekend full of blankety gray skies and drizzle.  Still, there's nothing quite like taking a drive in the rain, pulling to the side of a lonely rode, turning off the engine, leaning the driver's seat all the way back, closing your eyes and just listening to the pelting raindrops all around you.

It's almost surreal.  And probably why this song seemed appropriate for my mood at the time.  Words like "ethereal" and "atmospheric" sprung to mind as I listened.  And the only way to listen to this song, in my humble opinion, is loud - eyes closed, body loose, and just let it move you.

It's Bat For Lashes' "Daniel":

Love it or hate it - it's just got something.  :)  And that's what I have for you today.  Happy Monday and have a great day of writing out there!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Find the Story Friday!! The Lurker...

Happy Friday, everyone!!  If you haven't stopped by on a Friday before, here's a quick descrip. of how this day works at The QoP:  I post a random picture (always one I've taken myself) of a person, place or thing, and then I let your imagination run wild with it!  Oh, and please share ~ :)

So, since last month was all about romantic places...I thought I'd throw in a person today.  Here you go:


I dub him "The Lurker", because he...umm...lurks.
So, your MC/s are strolling through a park, an empty underground parking lot, a dark street, or maybe even an outside amphitheatre in the middle of nowhere.  The moon is full (unless you're in the parking lot, then...the light bulbs are bright?).  All seems well...until they see this guy!!  What happens next?

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!  Stay AWAY from lurkers and Happy Writing!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In the role of Chapter One? The Devil...

Welcome to another Writerly Wednesday @ The QoP!

First, may I ask a question?  Is there a brutal murder of chapter one in your foreseeable future?  Do you want to hit it with a hammer?  Stake it through the heart, maybe?  Gunshot to that first word?  String up the ending and just let it hang?

I was thinking ice pick, but heck.  I'm no Sharon Stone.  It's more likely I'll need to call a priest, because I'm not dealing with plain ol' maniacal chapters here.  My first chapter is THE DEVIL!!

Yeah...not really as cute as he looks...

Luckily (and since I really abhor violence of any kind...) the wonderful random e-mail subscription jockey at Writer's Digest sent me the following:  8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One!

Because I know people stopping by appreciate brevity, I'm going to give you the condensed version of this wonderful advice.  But, if you'd also like to read the meatier version by Elizabeth Sims over at Writer's Digest, you can find it HERE.

#1:  Resist Terror.  My first thought, "So, nothing scary up front, eh?"  *le sigh*  It's been one of those days, you know?  Basically - don't work yourself into a terror.  Don't let all those "don't"s floating around in writer-advice land keep you from writing something unique, honest, real and ALL you.  Relax.  Let it flow.  Remember who you are and why you're writing your book.  Ms. Sims also suggests that even the most basic of outlines can help.  If you know where the story is going, you can relax and let your inner genius run with it.

#2:  Decide on Tense and POV.  So important!  I got creamed in a few critiques for switching tenses and telling the story in a POV that didn't suit the reader's taste.  Obviously, you want to pick a tense and stick with it.  First time writers might want to go the universal route - 1st person, past tense.  Remember you can always change it later!  Elizabeth suggests playing with a few different povs and tenses, write a paragraph in each and see which seems the most natural for you.  Or look at some of your favorite novels and how their authors approached it.

#3: Choose a Natural Starting Point.  To quote:  "Think about real life. Any significant episode in your own life did not spring whole from nothing; things happened beforehand that shaped it, and things happened afterward as a result of it. Think about your novel in this same way."  No, this doesn't mean you want to hit us with a lot of backstory and consequences.  You just need to think about it organically, logically - and start where it feels right.

#4:  Present a Strong Character Right Away.  A given, right?  But, an intro up front to your strongest central character is really key.  Consider what they know already.  What they might learn as they move through your story.  What their world means to them.  People (readers) want to connect to people (main characters) after all.

#5:  Be Sparing of Setting.  Of course you want to ground your reader in your world, but I think we've all heard that paragraphs of detailed setting are a big, bad "NO!"  Elizabeth gave some examples of stories that made it work, like Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath", but said you should consider how the setting was used in a story like that.  For starters, give a tid-bit to give the reader an idea about where the story takes place.  You can always expound on setting later.

#6:  Use Carefully Chosen Details to Create Immediacy.  Basically, if a detail serves the story - run with it.  It's those extraneous details you want to steer clear of.  And if you're an expert on something, all the better!  Use what you know, providing it serves the story and use it economically.  Great examples of this given in the longer article.

#7: Give it a Mini Plot.  Ok, this is a tip I've always heard and I think it's a great one.  Every chapter should really have its own beginning, middle, and end.  Elizabeth suggests some ways to accomplish this: make trouble (always want conflict!), focus on action, be decisive and end with a bit of closure.

#8:  Be Bold!  Put your best stuff out there, right out of the shoot!  Be bold, be audacious, don't hold back. 

She likened chapter 1 to an appetizer (yay, food!), which I really loved.  If your first chapter is delicious in just one quick bite - the reader is going to stay and relish the whole meal/story and will stick around for dessert and a night cap to boot.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling less and less of the evil-eye from my chapter one after reading these tips.  There's a white light there now.  So, I'm off to tackle it - in a violence-free way, of course.  How about you?  Does this help?  Do you agree, disagree?  Anything you'd like to add?

And as always, Happy Writing out there today!!