Friday, May 27, 2011

Find the Story Friday!!! Driveby Shooting....

Of a PICTURE, thank you!  :)

I realize I don't offer many people pics on Find the Story Friday.  It's simply because I feel a little weird about snapping pictures of random strangers.  ESPECIALLY when they could see me doing it and think, "What the heck is that creeper doing????"  Do you do this?  IS it weird?  Is it just me?  I suppose I could plaster a pic of my daughter up here every Friday.  Or more of my doxie, Sammy.  But, there's only so many adventures those two can find themselves in.

So, I thought I'd try the "slick" approach.  You phone at the ready, roll the window down as I slowly drive by a group of random strangers, hand goes up, CLICK, hand slams back down, window up, and *SIGH*.  Over.

And here's what you get, my friends:


So, tell me ~ What happens next?  What's going on here?  What are these people doing?  Give me your best!! 

And have a FABULOUS Memorial Day Weekend!!  May it be filled with sunshine and BBQs ~ :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writerly Wednesday!! Presence and Presents ~ :)

First of all, I want to thank my wonderful blogger friends who checked out my aspiring author interview over at Abby Minard's.  I love getting to know you all through interviews, tag-lists, I-got-an-award-and-must-now-list-seven-things-about-myselfs type stuff!  I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about me!! :)  And if you missed it...feel free to click HERE.

My writing advice today is simple.  At the Pike's Peak Conference, Deb Dixon (CEO of Belle Books) was a keynote speaker at one of our lunches and she said something that really kind of hit it home for me and for a lot of the other attendees:

"You must be present to win."

This adage applies to many areas of life, but for writing specifically - I took it to mean that you have to be in the now, you have to be actively present, writing, editing, networking, getting out there and working on your craft.  You also need to be present at conferences, online, and in the slush piles.  You must be present to win!

Case and point:  (in a round about sort of way...)

I don't usually consider myself a "winner".  Raffles, drawings, games, stuff like that?  Nada.  However, the company I work for is a HUGE supporter of Primary Children's Hospital and every year we have a slotted time-frame to hold as many fundraising events as possible.  I usually try to hit as many as my budget allows, but this year my schedule wasn't working with me.  I'm also leery to go to these events by myself.  Sure, I "know" the people hosting them.  But, I'm a shy gal and feel more comfortable if I have my daughter, one of my sisters or friends to go with me.  Well, this wasn't an event for my daughter...and beg as I did, none of my friends were available to go.  I almost didn't go.  But, yesterday morning I read a blog post (tee hee!) about the rewards of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes.  So, I picked up the phone and RSVP'd and went by myself.

And guess what?  I WON!!!  Not the game, mind you.  I still can't win at those.  But, I bought extra raffle tickets and CLEANED HOUSE on prizes!!  Check this out:

WOO HOO!!  Fancy perfumed soap, free hair cut, free deep conditioning treatment, candle, basket full of chocolate, spatulas, gourmet cooking mixes...BAKED GOODS mixes!!

And these super cute Emory boards!!  SOOO cute, right???


 I'm hauling this into my house last night, remembering I need to come up with a writing post today, and Deb Dixon's words came to mind.  Perfectly apt.  Had I stayed home, stayed comfortable, sat on my tush and watched tv all night...well.  To top it all off ~ I ate one piece of chocolate last night after I'd decided on the subject of today's blogpost and the message inside the wrapper was this:

Now, if that's NOT a sign, I don't know what is.  :)  You must be present to win.  Presence = Presents!!  What do you think?  Are Deb and I on to something here?  Put yourself out there, my friends!!  Hammer out that first draft, edit the crap out of it, revise, revamp and QUERY!  And I hope to see some winners very soon!

Monday, May 23, 2011

WOO HOO!! My FIRST Aspiring Author Interview with Abby Minard!

Hello, my friends! 

The lovely Abby Minard is interviewing me over on her site today.  I would be ever so happy if you'd pop over and take a look.  Abby was one of my first followers and she's interviewed a LOT of wonderful aspiring authors.  It's quite an honor to now be listed among them.  You can link to the interview by clicking "HERE".

And if you're not following Abby - you should be!  She's awesome.  I interviewed her a while back in a kind of 3-person mashup interview.  Search "AbCoJen" and you'll get it.

Thanks, all!  Have a HAPPY MONDAY!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Find the Story Friday!!!! Rain, rain - GO AWAY!

I generally love it when it rains.  I love the sound of it.  I think I've mentioned this before, but I love to sit in my car off-road somewhere, recline my seat, close my eyes and let the pitter-patter of the water lull me.  It's strangely magical.

However... when I'm not sure Winter has ended and Spring has arrived (and it's May freakin' 20th!!!), because it rains and rains and rains and rains a little more...I kind of want to strangle rain. 

But, here's my pic of the day anyway:


What are your thoughts on rain, lately?  And can you pretty please put that in story form?  :)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writerly Wednesday!!! Words, Words, Words...Report #2 from PPWC

I missed my last Find the Story Friday!!!! (Although – it coincided with a #bloggerfail, so post may not have been there anyhow?) I’ll make up for it – 2 fun pics this Friday for sure!

How’ve you all been? How’s the writing? Revisions? Are you in love, yet? With your words, I mean. Because, if YOU love your words – chances are a reader will feel the love, too.


I attended a workshop at the Pike’s Peak conference, given by Epic Fantasy writer Carol Berg. You can find her blog and a great post on revision by clicking “here”.

The workshop was ALL about words. Words, words, words. Writer’s fodder. Words are the instruments we use to translate our dreams and ideas to the world. Clearly, VERY important!

A few key things that Carol brought up in the workshop:

CLARITY is key! Now this one may seem like a no-brainer. Obviously, we want our words to be clear to the reader. This doesn’t necessarily mean – simplistic. Carol said don’t be afraid to introduce a new word with enough context to be understood. You don’t want to pepper your prose. Know what the words you use mean and know the right context. Accessibility to the reader is the goal.

DULL words – it’s ok to use these when getting your story out. You can always go back and develop sensitivity in words through the revision process.

SPECIFICITY! This is a word that really resonated with me. I personally think you need to keep this word in mind as you’re writing and as you’re revising. Be specific. No sweeping generalizations, please! I struggle with descriptiveness in my stories and I believe this idea of specificity helps me with it. For example – you can have a perfectly ok sentence like this:

She parked the car on the street.

Or be more specific and write:

Clara parked her Corvette on the corner of Drury Lane.

Not the best sentence in the world, but version two packs a better punch, doesn’t it?

Think about OVER-USED words like: walk, look, smile, shrug, turn. I know I have an MC who smiles and shrugs WAY too much!! Is there a different way to say these things? Is it even necessary to say she smiled or shrugged or walked as much as I do? Think about body language in general.

And if you do consider actually body language and movement – answer this:

Can a smile actually creep across a face? Can you actually turn on your heel? Does one eyebrow actually arch? :)

WEASEL words: I’m guilty of using these, too. They come in several categories:

Vague weasel words: somehow, very, really, quite, nearly, sort of, just…. For example:

He wasn’t quite sure. *Is the “quite” necessary? I mean, he’s either sure or he isn’t. Pick one and don’t be vague.

SOMETHING and TRY are weasel words: something like, something in his voice, try to walk across the street, try to understand. Here again – be specific and don’t be vague. Your MC can’t try to walk – he/she either walks or doesn’t walk.

SEEM/APPEAR: (I’m seriously cringing here, people….”Bad, Donea. Bad!”) Per Carol, when it comes to these two weasel words – she says omit and just get on with the story. Be direct! Don’t hem and haw about things:

She seemed worried. *Ok. Well is she worried or isn’t she??

The business/pleasure of writing really is all about the WORDS. I know this workshop helped me. I hope my humble recap of it will help you, too.

Happy writing/revising/living out there today!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writerly Wednesday - What You May Want to Know about Sara Megibow!! (that rhymes... :))

Welcome to Writerly Wednesday at The QoP!!  :)  How's it going?  Good?  Great!

Now, I know I promised more gold nuggets of writing advice I learned from Pike's Peak.  And they're coming!!  But, I took the opportunity to attend the LDStorymaker's Conference last Saturday.  I REALLY wish I'd been able to go to the whole thing.  On Thursday they did a writing bootcamp session, in which "bootcampers" bring the first 15-pages of their manuscript for critique.  They are split up into groups, generally with others who write in their genre, and instructed by a published author.  The idea is to find the strengths and weaknesses in your writing, learn critiquing skills, hone your own skill and, hopefully, make some awesome writer connections!

I missed out ~ but, there's always next year.  A few other highlights:

  • MC and author Sarah Eden was absolutely ADORABLE and HILARIOUS!!  Instead of judging a book by its cover, she asked her young children to judge an author (and what they might write) by how they look - you can find the videos and her thoughts on the conference HERE
  • DOOR Prizes Galore!!!  They even gave away a "James Dashner Do-it-yourself Shrine Kit".  Too funny.   James was there to pick the winner and he actually picked his own name first - what are the odds?!  The lucky winner was very enthusiastic about her win.
  • I spied the illustrious Elana Johnson from afar.  (and one of these days I'll actually hunt her down and introduce myself...there's always her book signing in June... *le sigh*  I know, I know...I'm a total chicken...)
  • Took a class from awesome-agent Sara Megibow  (may-gi-bow..."bow" as in tie one)
And here's where I tie into the title of today's blogpost - a few things I learned from Sara Megibow:

  1. If you don't know already, Sara is an agent working with Kristin Nelson and the Nelson Literary agency.  This agency has a fabulous reputation and Kristin's blog "Pub Rants" is a blogger/industry favorite.
  2. Sara is a HUGE proponent of RESEARCH, when it comes to looking for your dream agent.  She suggests looking at the links/resource pages for the literary agencies your interested in...spend some time here EVERY week!  You'll be ahead of the game if you do.
  3. The ideal query she's looking for is really simple:  Start with what you've got for her - word count, genre, title and the words "complete manuscript".  The blurb about your novel?  Well - that's exactly what she wants - 4 lines, she said.  Yes, you read that right.  Just 4 lines. END with your author bio and/or why you've considered her.
  4. What she cares about on a first page?  That the writing is stellar.  GREAT, concise writing may sway her opinion about almost anything. 
  5. Make sure you do not query her for a project she does not represent.
  6. She's ALL about on-line presence for new authors.  If she likes your query, sample pages, the NEXT thing she is going to do is check out your author page (*she suggests you have one, even if you are not yet published), blogs, twitter accounts, FB pages, etc.  Something to think about, right?
  7. Marketing is kind of her bag, baby ~ she is a marketing wiz!
  8. She's REALLY passionate about her job and about her clients.  She had two of her new clients there and just raved and raved about their work.  It was awesome to see!
  9. I'm pretty sure she said that she currently has 16 clients and is looking to top it off at around 25, so you know what that means?  :)
  10. Hearing her speak - she came off as just really knowledgeable, specific about what she wants, and she had a great sense of humor.  She's an agent I would seriously pursue.
Seriously people.  I cannot say ENOUGH about the benefits of attending writing conferences!!  Even if you're not ready to pitch - and this is always optional - attending is a FABULOUS way to stay in the know about the industry and to find out agent wants, preferences, advice, etc.  PLUS, it's always great to get more info on writing.  Honing our skills, learning more and more, is always a good idea.

My humble two cents...  Have a GREAT day!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

In which I kind of suck...

Happy Monday, All!! 

Yeah, OK.  So I've got nothin'... 

EXCEPT!!  For my LOVE for ALL of you!!  And this:
 Just wanted to let you know that I've got some writing projects I really need to focus on, so I'm cutting my blog posts down to Wednesdays and Fridays only, for awhile.  I'll visit as much as I can!!  Happy writing/editing/living!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Find the Story Friday!! Cherie Reich's Flash Fic Blogfest ~ :)

Click HERE for other blogfest info!!
Happy Friday, everyone!!  Today - I'm cheating a little, resurrecting some recent flash fic I posted for Cherie Reich's flash fic blogfest.  So - for those of you here for Find the Story Friday, here's how it's going to work.  I've found a story for you already.  HOWEVER - please tell me where you might take the story from here.

*And for those of you here for the blogfest ~ please enjoy:

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.

**Thanks for stopping by!  Have a fabulous weekend and Happy Mother's Day!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writerly Wednesday - A Report From Pike's Peak!

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!!

I had the pleasure of attending the Pike's Peak Writer's Conference this past weekend, in Colorado Springs, CO.  For those of you who have never been to a writing conference - my general advice?  GO TO ONE!!  Like, NOW!  :)   Look at this cool clock I won:

From Linda

This is just my humble opinion, of course - but, if you're serious about your writing, AND even if you don't plan to pitch to an agent, the networking opportunities, learning workshops, and chance to get industry professional's insights into the market and publishing industry today are PHENOMENAL! 

Just a few highlights from Pike's Peak:

The Read & Critique!!  The R&C sessions allow you to submit the 1st page of your novel to published authors, agents and editors.  There's a few options - you can give a log-line and read your own work for an agent or a published author.  OR - the road I took (because I'm a chicken!!) is to have a reader read your work anonymously for a panel of 3 - editor, author and agent included.  I had the GREAT pleasure to have my work read for Deb Dixon (President/CEO of BelleBooks Publishing), David M. Gill (author of Kirkus award winning "Soul Enchilada"), and agent-extraordinaire Andrea Brown (ummm, HEAD of the Andrea Brown Literary agency, eep!!).  Either option you take - the people looking at your words will give their immediate feedback/impressions of your writing.

Now, a first page in traditional format starts nearly a 3rd of the way down the page - so they were basically looking at the first 16 lines.  And what did they think about my first 16 lines?

Andrea Brown actually said (summing up here, and not quite verbatim, but...) that mine was a great example of consistent YA voice that works!! :)

Deb Dixon and David M. Gill agreed that my writing was good, good voice, but there wasn't enough action going on.  Deb said she'd be on the fence about my submission, whether she would turn the page or not.  David M. Gill said that as a male reader, there wasn't enough action for him to connect to the story.  BUT - Andrea Brown turned to both of them and asked, "Why isn't the voice alone enough?"  She said that the voice alone, that made her already like my MC, would have her and likely any agent working for her turning the next page to read more.

*Pauses to FREAK OUT as I relive this awesome moment!!!!*

Ok, I'm back.  :)  What I loved about this opportunity is that it really hit home for me that IT'S ALL SUBJECTIVE!  It made me realize that, YES!  I do have talent as a writer.  However - good writing aside, there are things that I may do in my story telling that won't work for everyone.  BUT - I'll never know who it works for and who it doesn't unless I get my writing out there.  Rejection letters actually DON'T mean that I suck.  (woo hoo!) And, any guesses who I might try to query next?

Anyhow - the R&C sessions at Pike's Peak are the Bomb!  Just sayin'...

A few other things I learned from the R&C's (I also sat in on one that Natalie Fischer officiated):

Per Natalie: 
  • She wants to connect with a personality up front. 
  • She really does like anything prince/princess, twisted fairy tales. 
  • She LOVES Steampunk! 
  • She HATES Prologues. 
  • She's not worried about MC names coming out upfront, and especially not worried about last names.  *good point here, for characters who already know each other, are they even going to intro or think about another person's last name - if it were a real life situation?
  • She said it's really important to simplify, you don't want to make your reader have to pause to figure out what you're trying to say
  • NEVER assume your reader knows where you're going with something
Per David M. Gill:
  • 1st page should answer, "Who's there?" and "Why do we care?"
  • try to immediately ground in time, setting and place
  • In dialogue - every good character should lie
Per Andrea Brown:
  • She said if your writing makes her laugh or cry - she'll take your book.  If it makes her laugh AND cry - she'll auction it!
  • Write sentences so good - it makes your reader have to stop to catch their breath
  • Said there are a lot of Sleeping Beauty type books out there right now
  • Especially for MG and YA- School Settings WORK!  Kids go to school, so there should be school scenes in your stories.
  • Don't be afraid to use dialogue in MG/YA - the more the better.
  • Andrea personally doesn't like too much blood and violence.  In fact, she said if The Hunger Games had crossed her desk, she likely would have passed on it.  Interesting, no?
  • Said Fantasy is going to be a tough sell...
  • MORE MG, please! 
  • Humor is always good.
I really can't write enough about how I LOVED this part of the conference.  And there's more "love" to write about, but I think this post is long enough, so I'll save it for next Wednesday.

A final note - next year, 2012, is Pike's Peak's 20th Anniversary!!  They're looking to pull out all the stops for this milestone conference, which is planned to be held the weekend of Apr. 19-22nd.  Any Donald Maass fans out there?  How about Jeffrey Deaver?  Sherrilyn Kenyon, anyone?  I even heard that Nathan Fillion is on their wish list!!  You should think about it, really.  Maybe I'll see you there?  :)  Have a great day of writing today!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sammy Caption Contest Winners!!!

Happy Monday, everyone!!  I just wanted to say, "THANKS!!!" to everyone who stuck with me and still stopped by my blog these past few days, while I was at the Pike's Peak conference and completely ignoring my blogger responsibilities.  :)  I will catch up as best I can this week and visit, visit, visit!!

The conference was pretty amazing, btw.  I learned so many wonderful, really helpful things.  And I'll recap some awesome-sauced goodies I learned at the conference in my post on Wednesday.

 Today I need to announce the winners of my Sammy Caption Contest!!  Thanks to all who participated!  You made me laugh ~ and who doesn't need a good dose of laughter in life from time to time, right?  I'll post the pics with the captions I liked the best.  All caption winners earned extra entries in the drawing for the $50 gc.  The lucky winner will be announced at the end of the post:

Hot Dog with a side of Stuffing!  ~ Cpt. Pownzor
"No, I'm not part Cocker Spaniel."  ~ Bish Denham
"Your table is ready, madam."  ~ Bossy Betty
"I believe I can fly..."  ~ Alex J. Cavanaugh  (I started singing the song and then got visuals of Sammy singing the song...oh, too funny..  :)

Dammit...I took it easy on Thanksgiving and skipped like five Christmas parties to fit into this thing and it's STILL tight...damn you, Donea, with your extra doggie treats around the holidays...
~ Jess at Falling Leaflets
 So much fun!  And the lovely winner is....

Bish Denham!!!!
*whoops, hollers, dances a jig!!*

Congrats, Bish!!!  Please let me know which e-mail address you'd like me to have the Amazon gc code sent to, please?  :)  E-mail me at donealw(at)aol(dot)com.

ALSO - I'm going to give out a $20 Amazon GC to one more person - she is one of only 2 people who came up with a caption for EVERY pic AND she had a winning one at that, so...

Congrats, Jess!!
*throws confetti and attempts a cartwheel!!*

Jess - e-mail me, too please!!

Congrats to my winners and I hope all of you have a FANTASTIC day!  :)