Monday, October 31, 2011

Nyctophobia

The incessant clicking of the washer knob pulls me out of my reverie.  Laundry has become such a mindless chore I don't even realize what I'm doing anymore as I run through the motions.  I stop the noise by pulling the knob out and the clicking is replaced by the rush of water as it flows into the cylinder.  I reach up to the cupboard over head and fill a cup of sweet and flowery laundry soap.

It's late.  I'm in my pajamas and I'm ready to go to bed, but my husband's work pants are beyond the point of bearable...smell-wise...so I figure I better save his co-workers from passing out tomorrow.

Just as I tilt my hand to pour the sweet smelling soap over the clothes, the lights snap off and the water in the washer comes to a sudden stop.

Instantly my insides constrict.  I can't find the air around me.  My lungs are aching for it, but my muscles won't move to give them any relief.  I can feel my eyes widening as I beg for them to penetrate through the blackness of the laundry room.  But there is no light.  It's as if I've been struck blind.

Finally, a small wisp of air reaches my throat and I'm able to move.  My steps are light and slow as I wave my fingertips through the open space in front of me.  I know there is nothing in my way.  I've been in this basement thousands of times before, but the blackness is throwing off every sense of being I have.

Creeeeak

There goes the air again.  And I'm frozen in what I assume is the middle of my laundry room.  Even though I can't breathe, I manage to break the silence.

'Honey?'

No answer.  Stay calm.

'D...did the p...power go out?  D...do you have a f...flashlight?'

No answer again, but I hear something.  A soft patter hitting the cement floor.  Now it seems the air is coming in too quickly through my lips.

'It's not funny,' I say, still trying to convince myself my husband is standing in front of me playing a very nasty joke.  'You know I hate the dark.'

Something slides across one of the shelves to the right of me and crashes to the floor.  I hear the shards of glass shatter on the ground.  I jump backward, slamming the middle of my back on the corner of the dryer.  It's like a fat needle has been shot straight into my spine and I crouch to the ground, fighting back tears.

Applesauce.  That's what I smell.  Someone...something has knocked over a jar of applesauce from my pantry shelf.  I don't dare move forward.  I'm barefoot, but more than that I don't want to run into anyone.  My breathing is still coming out ragged and uncontrolled.

Something brushes against my hand.  It tickles me to the bone.  I scurry backward and slip on something very wet on the floor.  Was it the laundry soap?  It had to have been, but it didn't feel like soap.  This was much more watery than soap.  I put my hand underneath my nostril and take a tentative sniff.

Rusty, metallic, and all too familiar.

Blood.

The tears are flowing freely down my cheeks now, but the muscles in my body find their functionality and I scramble to get to my feet and dart from the room.  I don't care that there is glass on the floor.  I just want to get out of here.

One sharp and tiny piece of glass penetrates the skin on my left heel, but I still fly to the door.  I feel along the wood for the handle, but I can't find it.  My fingers fumble around and my sobs are now so loud, I'm surprised no one has heard me down here.

Something prickles on the back of my neck and I whip around.  I'm pressed up against the door as much as I can as I feel goosebumps creep up my arms and my sides.  But it's not cold.  It's sweltering hot.  So hot that sweat drips down my hairline and flicks off of my eyelashes.

I still smell blood and applesauce.  I can't hear anything but my own crazy breathing patterns.  I still can't see.  Nothing but blackness.  Sweat mingled with tears sting my tongue, and the shard of glass lodged in my heel takes on a new wave of pain.

I still can't find the doorknob.

But someone else does.

I fall backward as the door opens.  Right into a warm and familiar chest.

'Whoa.  Are you okay?'

His voice is the most beautiful thing in the world.  Fate must think so too because the lights flicker back on.  My eyes take forever to adjust to the brightness of it.

'What happened?  Did you accidentally knock that over?'  He's looking over my shoulder at the shattered jar of applesauce on the floor.

I can't find my voice.  I don't even have the strength to move.  I'm looking for the pool of blood on the floor, but there isn't any.

He lets go of me and examines the jar.  'I'll go get a mop.  Don't come in here.  There's glass everywhere.'

He stops and studies my face.  I know I must look white, and a mess.  He scoops me back into his arms.

'Hey, it's okay.'

I shake my head in his chest.  'I...I cut myself.'

He pulls back.  'Where?'

I point at my foot.

He crouches down and takes it delicately in his hands.  But his expression suddenly changes.  Now he's the one who loses his color.

'That bad?' I say.

His eyes flicker up to mine and a shadow of darkness flashes across his irises.

The lights go out.




Okay, now that I've officially scared the crap out of myself, I'm going to go change my pants.  :)  Happy Halloween everyone!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award :)

Versatile: Capable of doing many things competently.

Hmm...not sure if I deserve this award, but hey!  I will take it!  A big Thank You to Krista at I Take the Pen!  She has an amazing blog!  So check it out if you haven't already!
Here are the rules:
Thank the person who nominated you. Tell 7 things about yourself so that your readers may learn more about you and nominate 15 other newly discovered bloggers and let them know you nominated them.

Seven things about Moi.  Hmm...
1.  My left elbow can bend the other way...like the wrong way.  I broke it twice when I was younger and got this magic power from it, lol.

2.  I am a Harry Potter fanatic!  My room growing up used to be covered in posters and calendars and shelves of toys (in their original boxes of course).  Yes...I am a nerd.

3.  I met my hubby when I was 15 years old.  He's the first and only person I've kissed.  
(insert cute 'awww')

4.  One of the first stories I wrote was for a reflections contest in elementary school.  I won a medal and a journal.  It was about a hot air balloon trip.

5.  I talk to myself...a lot.  I act out scenes with my characters while I'm folding laundry or doing the dishes.  Thankfully my kids aren't old enough to tell me, "Mom, you're writing out loud again."

6.  Every Thursday night is spent curled up on the couch, glued to the TV.  Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, The Office, and Project Runway line-up.  (Don't judge me ;) )

7.  I came up with the idea for the current MS I'm writing by falling down the stairs.  My 3 year old looked down at me sitting on the landing by the door and said, "Momma, you need to be caaareful."

Now to pass on this lovely award.  I know some of you may already have it, but that's okay :)

2. Jolene Perry @ Been Writing?
4. Maggie Fechner @ Mommy's Always Write
5. Kimberly Krey @ Kimberly Krey
7. Hope Roberson @ My Protector: The Calling
9. Catherine Denton @ Winged Writer
10. Charity Bradford @ Charity's Writing Journey
11. Tara Tyler @ Tara Tyler Talks
13. Melodie Wright @ Forever Rewrighting
14. Lisa Regan @ Lisa L. Regan
15. Carrie Butler @ So, You're a Writer...

I love all of these bloggers!

Yay for awards, and everyone have a fabulous weekend!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Critique Partner for Hire

Name:  Cassie Mae
Genre of the book you want critiqued:  MG Fantasy

What should your critique partner expect from you?
     I read with an extremely critical eye, and I'm an active partner.  I check my email everyday and I'll read the chapter you send me and have notes back to you very quickly.  I'm willing to answer any questions/concerns you have with your MS at any time.

What do you expect from a critique partner?
    I want to build a relationship with someone who will treat my MS with respect and care.  I already have a critique partner (who is absolutely AMAZING!), but I am looking for another set of fresh eyes to tackle my book.  I want honesty...even if it's brutal.  But I also want someone who will answer questions for me if I'm having a difficult time getting through a certain scene, or building a character.

What kind of books are you interested in?
   Anything really, but my favorites are in the YA and MG, but I do love a good romance, or literary fiction.  I do not read erotica.  I'm too immature to be helpful with that :) and I read historical fiction, but I know next to nothing about any history...unless it was about 5 minutes ago...so if you want help with facts, I'm probably not the best person to ask.

What do you hope to achieve from the critique partner relationship?
   I want to gain a genuine friendship.  I want to learn and grow in my writing.  I want to help someone help achieve these very same things if I can.  Most of all, I want to share my work with someone who can help make it stronger.  And I love to read!  So I would be a constant cheerleader, pushing and encouraging my partner to keep going with their MS.

So, if you are looking for someone like me *sheepish grin* please send me an email and let's start critiquing!  cassiemcook@hotmail.com

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Giving Up or Moving On?

Because I'm posting this so soon after the Casting Call, I'm linking that post because it really is awesome!!  (If I do say so myself ;) ) So if you missed my last post, here it is.

Okay...prepare yourself for a long read, but I hope that you'll stick around to read it all.  Because I tell things better in story version, here it goes...

I stand in the center of a room.  At least, I think it's the center.  Everything is white, blank, like when an animator draws a solitary character on a crisp white piece of paper.  My mind races with the possibilities before me, of what I can do to make this place beautiful.  As ideas pop into my head, several staircases form in front of me, each one unique and bursting with the flames of intrigue.  I want to explore them all, but I know I must pace myself, and only choose one staircase to focus on.

I pick one to my right.  As I take my first step, an overwhelming feeling of anxiety sweeps over me.  It's a good anxiety, one I want to feel more of, so I keep climbing, creating the ornate staircase one step at a time.  After I climb for what seems like eternity, I finally reach what I feel is the final step.  I turn around and look downward at my work.  I'm so enthralled by it's beauty, and so pleased in my own accomplishments, I desire to share it with trusted friends.  I want them to look at it, to tell me what they love about it, what they don't love about it.  I know it's not perfect...not yet.

I pull out my cell phone and dial the numbers, feeling illuminated and light as my friends tell me they would love to see the grand staircase.  I sit on the 'top stair' and wait for the phone to ring.  Eventually, the calls come in.  Some of them leave me in a state of complete bliss, and I go on and on about stair number 5 with them and how I came up with the idea on how to decorate that particular step.  While other calls leave me in a state of stupidity.  How could I have messed up step number 27 so badly it takes every effort for my friends to keep climbing?

After lots and lots of waiting, my friends have seen all of my work.  They have several notes for me, all of which are extremely helpful.  I thank them and send them back down the staircase while I sit and process what they all have said.

I know I must rework.  There is tons to be done.  I stand up to move downward, but instead, another stair forms going up.  The exact replica of what I've already done lies before me, and I sigh a breath of relief that I don't have to climb the same stairs twice.

I start again, cutting out the eyesores and adding beautiful elements.  A few steps are completely demolished while others are left alone.  I reach the end again, cramped and exhausted.  I sit down on the step and call different friends.  Surely this time, I've gotten it right.

I soon realize that this staircase is just beginning.  After the same process of building, reworking, rethinking, recreating happens over and over again, I finally feel that attempt number 8 is the polished and complete staircase.  So beautiful and perfect, it's time to trust it into the hands of people I do not know.

I've heard of agents.  I've researched who wants what in their staircase.  I'm ready to let them glory in my work, as much as I have.  I'm tired, but very anxious.  I send word out to them about these grand steps, and hope they find me up here.

I receive no phone calls, but I do get lots of papers.  Letters that float downward out of the unreachable sky and land at my feet.  Each one saying the same thing.  They do not wish to see my staircase.

I'm here on this step, slowly being beat down with every letter that finds its way to me.  I create a bed, a fridge full of Ben and Jerry's, even a shelf of my favorite staircases, but I can't find it in my heart to look at them.  They only make me more depressed.

After another letter reaches me, I only read the opening line, "Dear Staircase Maker, Although..."  before I crumple it up and toss it downward.  I bury my face in my hands and let the tears cascade down my cheeks.  All my work, it truly was a labor of love, will never be seen by anyone but me, and a few close friends.  I gaze upward, seeing a never-ending ascent into the unknown.  It's dark and gives me an ominous feeling.  I flick my eyes downward again to see the ornately carved staircase I've worked so hard on.  One I have to leave behind once I reach the bottom.  But I remember there are more staircases down there.  Others that I could work on.  I look at the step I'm on.  It's comforting with it's relaxing furniture, endless supply of ice-cream, and there are lots of successful staircases I could look at.  So, what do I do?
The three choices seem to pull at me from all directions, making me cry again.  I sink my head down and pray as hard as I can to find the answer.  Tell me what to do.

The answer is beautiful in its simplicity.  One word reaches my ears.  "Move."

Move...move where?  There are two ways to move.  Up or down.  Another paper hits my foot and I reach down to look at it.  It's another rejection, but this one is different.  It gives reasoning why they do not wish to see my staircase.  Real reasoning, not just the general "I've seen a staircase like yours before."  They actually came and took a peek at my work.  

A voice reaches my ears.  A voice I never expected to hear out loud, because he only exists in my head.  A character I created to take the journey on the staircase, he's shouting down at me.  I can't see him, but I can see in my head the look on his face.  He wants to be heard by more than just me.  I can hear the pain in his voice if I stay on the step.  Feeling elated, I stand up.

Two choices now.  I won't stay here on this step, as comforting as it is.  I need to keep climbing or descending.  If I climb, who knows how many more steps there are like this one.  How many times I'll want to sit and sulk.  But my characters voice continues to echo downward at me, encouraging me to keep going up.  If I descend, there are more staircases at the bottom, and I can begin creating anew.  Several more ideas pop into my mind, and I'm excited to begin something new and different.

I gaze upward, I gaze downward.  I square my shoulders and stalk over to the fridge and grab a pint of the Ben and Jerry's.  I'm going to need it.  There's a lot of hard work ahead of me.  I take a deep breath and close my eyes as I take a step.


Yes, I'm leaving you hanging there.  Because it doesn't matter if the step was up or down.  All that matters is the narrator was moving on.  Whether it was with this project or the next is irrelevant.  He/she did not give up.

I think a lot of times we writers tend to feel guilty over times like these.  When we feel so lost in our own work, and we're unsure whether we need to keep reworking the same manuscript or move on to the next one.  It's a tough road either way, but we should not feel guilty, or feel like we 'gave up' when we put one project aside to work on a different one.  It doesn't mean we failed.  We can always hop a flight over to staircase one whenever we get tired of staircase two.  I admit I've descended the staircase a lot more times than I've climbed.  But the staircase is not forgotten.  It is always there in the back of my mind as I climb more staircases.

We only give up when we stop altogether.  It's nice to take a break on that comforting step, but to live there is dangerous for a true writer.  It stalls our creativity.  We must learn to take that rest, but pick ourselves back up and MOVE.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Warm Fuzzy for the Day

Before I begin my post, I've added a new page to my blog.  I've posted my first page up for critique! (Gulp) So if you are interested, please send me any feedback you have on it.  Thanks!

Okay, now onto my post :)

I joined Juliana Brandt's Warm Fuzzy BlogFest!  If you want to join click here or click the warm fuzzy icon on my sidebar.  :)

This week's question:  What's the best response you've gotten when you've told someone you are a writer?

Here's my scenarios :)

Scene: I'm at a church activity, leaning against the wall and chatting with a friend.
"So, I saw on Facebook that you are writing a book."
"Yeah..." I say with a sheepish grin.
"That's really cool.  How long is it?"
My face flushes.  "Like, 400 pages."  Her eyes widen and I quickly add, "but it hasn't been edited yet."
"Oh, you're like serious about it then."
I laugh.  "Ya, I'm serious about it."

(That 400 page book is now much much shorter ;) )

Scene: I'm out with a friend I haven't spoken to in a long time.  Husbands are at home with kids and I'm finally able to have some adult girl talk.
"What do you do?"
I swallow the chicken wrap I've been chewing on for the last ten seconds.  "I'm a stay at home mom."
"That must be great to be able to stay at home!" she says enthusiastically and takes a sip of her water.  "Do you want to go back to work eventually though?"
"Well, I'm a writer too," I say.  Usually I avoid divulging this information.  Past conversations have left things feeling awkward.
She raises her eyebrows.  "Wow, what kind of stuff do you write?"
My stomach tenses up.  Don't know why I'm so nervous about talking about this.  "Mainly Young Adult and Middle Grade novels."
Her mouth drops.  "Oh, I thought when you said 'writer' I thought you meant like poetry or something like that."
"I do that too, but it's not one of my strong suits."
She picks up her drink and takes another sip.  I wait for the inevitable awkward silence that comes until I find something else to talk about, but she clears her throat and says, "Wow.  I'm impressed."

We continued talking for a while about it, but I will stop there.  It was so nice to talk about my book though with someone outside of the writing community.  Got me a little more confident to tell people, 'Yes, I am a writer.'

Hope everyone has a fabulous day!  :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Casting Call!

The wonderful Carrie Butler, Lisa Regan, and Melodie Wright are hosting this week's Casting Call!  I'm here to introduce you to the fabulous people who have only been living in my head for the past, oh...let's just say they've been up there for a while, screaming to get out and let their story be told to the world!

Before you see them, I'd first like to thank my wonderful, amazing friend Taara for taking my nonsensical descriptions and drawing them so accurately.  Thank you again Taara for taking the time out of your busy schedule to create visuals of my demanding characters.

Okay, here we go...drum roll please...


Jonathan



He is the main man...uh boy...who's snarky and sarcastic, but at the same time, very socially awkward.  He finds himself thrown into a situation he can't exactly run away from, even though he has tried.  His best friends are his parents, who seem to have mysteriously disappeared.  His title is The Ultimate Immortal because, well, that's what he is. ;)


Tamara


A pain-in-the-butt Sorceress of the Elements (someone who controls Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) who kidnaps Jonathan to save him from the evil guy.  She's tight-lipped and stony with a tragic past, but she's one tough girl who can hold her own.

Trevor


If I were to spend a day with any of these characters, I would definitely be hanging out with Trevor.  He's fun and energetic who always has a (sometimes inappropriate) joke on the tip of his tongue.  He's into beating unbeatable levels on video games and categorizing his movies by genre and taste.  And since he's an illusionist, he sure knows how to be creative.

Carolyn


Very compassionate, loving, caring, thoughtful, and motherly girl.  She balances Trevor (her husband) out perfectly!  She's a transporter, which means she can pop in and out of view unexpectedly.  Comes in handy when you need a quick get-a-way.

Shawn


Shawn is one of the 'bad guys' sent to collect Jonathan and take him to The Master.  He's bad, and he likes it.  As an influencer, he's able to force people to think a certain way.  He's so cocky and so wonderfully evil.


There you have it!  My awesome characters!  Thanks for stopping by and make sure to hit everyone's Casting Calls!  (You can find the links on Carrie Butler's page, which I linked above.)




Friday, October 21, 2011

Awards and Contests

I think my stomach has been in one constant knot since I told my husband, 'Hey, I think I want to write a book.'  And now I've finally found the courage (who knows where it came from) to enter in a few contests to--forgive the cliche--test the writing waters.  I entered in a few last week, and the one I am currently in is called 'An Agent's Inbox' over on Mother. Write. Repeat.

It'll be a few days before the agent makes her announcement of who wins, and honestly I don't expect to, but I entered so I could get some opinions on my first page and query.  There are a bunch of great entries over there, and if you haven't already, you should go look at some of them.  And while you are over there, you can check out my entry and please tell me what you think of it.  I could use all the help I can get and if you have any good notes for me, that would be great!

Here's the link for my entry: The Privileged

Thanks everyone for all your amazing support!  I love this 'Writer's Unite!' blogging world and I'm so happy to be a part of it all. :)

And the wonderful A.E. Martin gave me my very first award!  (Thank you!!!)  She has an awesome blog, so hop on over and check it out.



The rules are to thank the person who gave you the award and pass it on to fifteen recently discovered blogs. I've decided to pass it on to my most recent followers:  1: Karen Lee Hallam 2: Kelley Lynn 3: Ninja Girl 4: Rachael Renee Anderson 5: L.M Miller 6: Lisa L. Regan 7: Angie C.   

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Need a Hero (Part Three): Bad to the Bone

We've reached the third and final segment of my ramblings on some pretty awesome characters, and why I think they are so loved.  I've already talked about those amazing protags and their lovers/best buds, but what is it that makes a hero?  Opposition!  If any of you have seen Megamind, you'll know what I mean by that.  Without the bad guy, it's boring!  Sometimes the bad guy isn't a guy (or girl)...it's a thing, or a personal struggle.  Either way, without the conflict it would be just some person you're reading about that has no real goal.  Let me repeat...how boring.  So, I'll be going in the same order as the other posts...enjoy!

Luke/Kronos: Rick Riordan really does his research.  He picks the demon of all demons and then sticks him inside of a demi-god's body.  Agh!  Freak me out!  Now Luke has a damaged past, vindictive feelings towards his father and such, so it makes him a perfect candidate for the antagonist.  It's hard to not want him to come around and defeat his literal inner demon, but then again, you are rooting for Percy to kick some serious butt.  What I'm saying is, a good antag can make the reader understand where they are coming from and why they are so bad.  Luke does this well.

Jane:  There are too many 'bad guys' in this story so I'm picking the creepiest...at least for me.  Little girls scare me, I'm not kidding.  Their innocent persona is all an act, and Jane is a scary little monster who can cause you so much pain you want to kill yourself, and then if she feels like it, she'll do it for you.  I think she's scary to me because she scares the crap out of Bella...and Bella is immune to her!  This is a good example of a bad girl who we don't know the entire story.  I like that too.  It's just the way she's lived her entire vampire life, so for her, this is normal.

President Snow:  There are so many 'bad guys' in this story too, but the real bad guy is this fat, red lipped, stinks like a rotting corpse, president who makes teens battle it out against each other in an arena and has everyone watch it like Survivor.  I love stories in which the government plays a huge part, because the 'little people' are trapped, threatened, and beaten into doing what they want.  Dictatorship...ugh, what an ugly word.  But Katniss' rebel fire is what takes him down, and she still manages to keep her head throughout it all.  She knows what's right.  But I digress, because now I'm talking about the protag again.

WARNING!  IF YOU HAVE NOT READ FABLEHAVEN, AND YOU WANT TO, DO NOT READ THIS PARAGRAPH!  Gavin:  Again, so many bad guys, but this one is my favorite!  He had me fooled the entire time, and I was falling in love with him and when I found out his true character, I almost threw the book across the room because I was so pissed!  How could he do this to me!  But what a great evil character to evoke such a strong emotion in its reader, and to have been able to trick me the entire way.  To this day, that is one of my most shocking reading experiences ever!

Gollum:  I like this creature.  His story is so sad, but it makes it all the more understandable.  He transforms into what he is because he was so consumed by the evil power of the ring.  The ring itself is the bad guy in this story because it will bring out the worst part of someone.  To battle with one's self is a real challenge, and sometimes we end up losing...just like this sad creature.

Lord Voldemort:  AGH!  He doesn't even have a body (for the first little bit) and he's still running the show.  And then he gets one and Bam!  It's so much worse!  And I'm sorry, a bad dude that kills little babies...that's just pure evil.  And we know his story.  And I like how he relates to Harry in many ways, but you can see the difference their choices make.  Like Dumbledore says...in the movie I think...'It's not our abilities that make us who we are, it is our choices.'  Voldemort is the ultimate bad guy, and when he finally gets his...it's one of the best parts of the book!

Now some of my own evil guys...again in the same order...

The Master:  He's an immortal who has the power to control any living organism...a puppet master so to speak.  He kills any immortal who possesses a power that would trump his own before they are old enough to know how to use it.  And he's after my protag for one purpose: to use him so he can not only have dominion over the immortal realm, but the mortal world too.  His back story is tragic, but I'm not going to give it away just yet.  :)

Zoe:  In this story, Zoe is her own personal bad guy.  She's battling with her obsession to be accepted and popular that she hides who she really is.  She inflicts every conflict on herself and it's hard to change once that's happened.

Claire Timothy:  Emmaline's sister who seeks to kill her so she can take the throne.  She's a tiny little thing with big plans to control the country.  She kills without blinking an eye, and she's very superior.  She's an evil little thing.

Well, that's it!  If you missed part one or part two go check them out!  And please mention any of your own characters or bad guys that scare the crap out of you!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Need a Hero (Part Two): I think I'm in Love

Yesterday I posted about some of the popular protags in books, and now I'd like to talk about another awesome thing about them...their love interests.  (Or for some of them, their best buddies.)  Personally, I think the love interest and the best friend are just as important as the hero of the story.  I relate to the hero because of the relationships they have, so if I could be friends with these characters, I fall in love with them, just like the main character does.  If they can evoke the same strong feelings in me when I read their lines or their actions, then the book becomes one of my instant favorites.  Enough about me...let's talk about those awesome love interests and best friends!  (I'll be going in the same order as I did yesterday.)

Annabeth:  She's awesome!  I like reading her because she puts Percy in his place all the time.  She controls that ego of his with her teasing humor and glares.  And not to mention she's brilliant and strong.  She can hold her own.  But she has her weaknesses, like everyone.  She has a tense relationship with her father...and obviously her mother...and she's in love with the bad guy.  And a girl who wants to change the guy for the better is totally relatable.

Edward Cullen:  Swoon.  He is the epitome of sexy vampire.  When I read twilight, I would reread his lines to see the hidden meaning behind them.  He says he was incapable of changing, but when he meets her, he's changed for real this time, and he can never love someone else.  Talk about commitment.  And I like that he's 'old fashioned' when it comes to sex.  He's different, he's not someone who you can find anytime, anywhere.  That's what makes him sexy.  Not the fact he's a vampire, or he's even a good vampire, but of the person he is.  (This is of course book Edward, not movie Edward.)

Peeta Mellark: Oh my goodness, I love Peeta!  He is my favorite love interest of all time, I'm not kidding!  He's so...perfect in his imperfections.  He's not the 'hunter' but he's the caring and sensitive guy who sees the good in a girl who feels she doesn't deserve it.  He's loved her since he was a little boy...come on, that's cute...and though his life wasn't as hard as Katniss', his life wasn't easy.  And yet he's so compassionate.  And he's smart.  He's smooth.  He knows how to express himself.  I reread his scenes with Katniss and fall in love with him over and over again.  (Don't tell the hubby ;) )

Bracken:  Now, I realize that this unicorn doesn't show up until the very last book, but he has such an impact on the story, it's hard not to mention him.  He befriends Seth immediately, and Kendra and him have an instant connection.  He's trustworthy and strong, and kicks some serious butt when it comes to fighting demons (real and inner).  And he gives up a lot of things for the greater good, which backfires, and yet he doesn't resent that.  He moves on and does what he can to rectify it.

Sam:  Now, Frodo doesn't have a love interest, but he does have an amazing best friend.  Sam is my personal favorite character.  He's loyal and caring and there is no way Frodo would have made it all the way to Mount Doom without him.  What I love most about him is he was never tempted by the ring.  (Book Sam)  And to me, that says a lot about his character.

Ron Weasley:  Harry has a love interest, but there is two people who stick by him throughout the entire series, and since Ron is my favorite, I'm going to talk about him.  He is a grumpy gus, but he's hilarious!  He's always put on the backburner, which is why I'm so happy he gets the girl.  He's not the brightest kid, but that doesn't stop him from triumphing.  He's average, and yet at the same time, he does more for Harry than I think anyone realizes.  I want to go through each book and tell you how, but I really don't have the space for that. :)

Now, some of my characters love interests...(again in the same order)

Tamara:  She's headstrong and knows how to take care of herself.  She has a tragic background that has caused her to keep a distance from everyone, but she's so protective over Jonathan, he can't help but be drawn to her, even if she is a pain in the butt.

Zakary Gibbons: He's a nerd who loves going to Comic Con and talking Elvish and reading the hidden meanings behind World of Warcraft.  But most of all, he's not ashamed of who he is.  He doesn't change himself for anyone just to become socially acceptable.  And he's a good friend, even to someone who doesn't deserve it.

Benjamin York: Emma and Rupert were both the narrators in this book, and I talked about them both yesterday, so I'm introducing you to Benjamin, the loyal friend and body guard of the two mc's.  He's incredibly smart, and loves learning new things.  And even though he risks his life for these two people he barely knows, he does it because he knows it's the right thing to do.

If you missed part one, you can find it here and part three here

And please share some love interests and best buddies who you love!

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Need a Hero (Part one)

Have you ever read a book and fallen in love with the protag?  I know what you're thinking...ALL THE TIME!  So it got me thinking about what makes a good hero.  They are all different, but what do they have that makes them so lovable?  There are several reasons, but I think the main one would be because they are relatable.  Here are a few popular examples...

Percy Jackson.  I love the voice he has.  He's snarky and brave, but what I love most about him is the genuine love he has for his mother.  It makes him vulnerable, but as a mom of two boys, I hope when they are teenagers they still love me like they do now...even if they don't admit it, 'cause that wouldn't be cool.

Bella Swan:  I honestly find her annoying as all get out, HOWEVER, whenever I read the book, I can't help but picture myself in her shoes.  It's not Bella talking, it's Cassie.  And I'm feeling things I don't want to feel, and getting annoyed with myself.  Think about Bella for a minute, and if you see anything that describes who you are, or who you've been in the past, then you'd be joining about all the female population.  (And if you are a guy, then you don't have to think about it, lol)  She views herself as ordinary, nothing special, falls for an unattainable hottie, has a weird relationship with her parents, has a best friend 'down the street', and gets her heart broken by said hottie and feels like it's the end of the world.  I could keep going, but for the sake of space, I'll stop there.

Katniss Everdeen:  A true bad-a who knows how to kick some serious butt!  I read in Katniss' perspective and I want to be her.  I only wish I could do half the things she can.  Not only that, but she's smart.  She's cautious and brave, and sacrificing.  Who doesn't want a heroine like that?

Seth and Kendra Sorenson: I chose both of them because the story is told from both of their POV's.  But they are so different, and yet both such lovable heroes.  Seth is naive and risky, but by making all the mistakes he does, he learns (the hard way) how to deal with difficult things.  He's also super funny and therefore a lot of fun to read.  Kendra is more cautious, but she has to deal with the same fallout that comes from Seth's decisions.  And she uses her head and takes risks as well, thinking them all the way through.

Frodo Baggins:  Who would have thought that a little hobbit could travel across middle earth battling orcs and urikai (or however you spell that) and big giant spiders, all the while carrying a possessed ring that brings out your inner demons?  And you have a freaky little mutated hobbit as your guide who tries to get you killed more than once.   Ya, I'd say Frodo is a definite hero who deserves to be loved.

Harry Potter:  (Now, you knew I'd talk about him)  My favorite hero of all time, Harry is thrown into a world he didn't know existed, after being bullied his whole life by his aunt, uncle, and cousin.  But what I love about Harry is he is human.  He gets pissed off and does stupid things.  And we've watched him grow throughout the series to become someone who keeps things in perspective and sacrifices himself for the greater good.  His ability to love is what makes him a hero.  Not his magical skills.  We can all find a little bit of ourselves as we read his story.

Now, allow me to introduce you to a few of my own protags, and why I fell in love with them when I wrote them.

Jonathan Stevens:  He's sarcastic, but socially awkward.  He's not completely confident in his abilities, but that doesn't stop him from doing what he knows is right.  And when it comes to saving someone he cares about, he'd pretty much do anything to make sure they aren't hurt in anyway, even if that means putting himself in harm's way.  I like writing for him because he says exactly how he feels, even if it comes out in an awkward way.

Zoe Livingston:  She's a total fraud, hiding behind things that would make her popular instead of being herself.  She sees what mess she's making, but she doesn't do anything to stop it for fear of being bullied or laughed at.  Her internal struggle is what makes her relatable, and fun to write for.

Rupert Hestivan:  He's got a temper, and he's had a pretty rough childhood.  He was beaten by his father up until he was eighteen.  He also pretended to be a mute his whole life because of his fear of his father.  He's vulnerable and damaged, but he's got a good heart underneath it all.  And he's driven.  When he sets his sights on something, he follows through.  Writing for him is fun because of how tortured he is.

Emmaline Timothy: She's young, naive, and outgoing, but most of all she's compassionate.  She hasn't quite found her place in the world yet and has to 'fly by the seat of her pants'.  She hasn't had to deal with tragedy, so when she does, it's a whole new experience for her.  Whenever I write for her, I make sure to have her emotions right on the surface.

There are several other things that make a hero lovable, which include their love interest and their enemy.  So stay tuned for Part Two  and Part Three of this post when I talk about those awesome characters!

Is there a hero you love that I didn't mention?  Tell me why you love them :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dealing with Inadequacy

Worst part of revising?  So far it's been the constant voice in my head that tells me I'm wasting my time because the story is good, but it's not told very well.  I rewrite, and rework it so it sounds better, but I can't help but think when I go over it a third time, I will feel the same way about what I've changed already.  I kept wondering if this was normal.  I didn't want to give up on the book because I think it's a great story, so how do I make it better?  Will it ever live up to my expectations?  Will I ever have the guts to send it to agents?

So, let me just tell you how awesome my critique partner and my beta readers are.  (I know I've said it before, but bear with me :) )  I was looking over the notes on a particular chapter and there were some typos and funky sentences, but because my readers are such wonderful people, I had some really great notes there as well.  Whenever I read an uplifting comment, it would outweigh the feelings of inadequacy, and I could keep going.

Without meaning to sound too cliche, writing is an emotional roller coaster.  One day I'm raving about the scene I just wrote and the next I'm hacking it to pieces.  My poor characters have taken some beatings from me, not to mention the real life people I interact with, and I've had to rely on a lot of things to get me through it...prayer, chocolate, hugs, movies and books that make me laugh, and did I mention chocolate?  Lots and lots of chocolate!

I hope I'm not the only writer that doesn't feel good enough sometimes.  I think that's what makes us better writers.  If we started out perfect, there is no room for growth, creativity, and ideas.  So as much as I hate 'hating' on myself, I know it'll help me in the long run.  (And keeps me balanced, for when those times I feel full of myself.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Whew, I made it!

Revision day is here!  It's been almost three weeks since I typed out those last words of my latest book, and now I can dive right back in.  During my break, I've started writing another project, spent more time with the kids, studied up on revision, and gone crazy.  I wasn't expecting to take this long of a break, but I'm glad I did.  I have all the notes from my first round of Betas, so now I can put them to good use.  Yay...very excited!

I'm also on the look out for my second round of Beta readers (my charlies :) ) So, if you are interested, let me know!

Thanks everyone again for the support.  It means so much to me!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yay for contests!

I entered a contest at Lisa Regan's blog for a 50 word pitch for my fantasy book.  I decided to enter The Privileged.

I'm also going to be doing the Casting Call, which I'll be doing for the same book.  I'm super excited about this and can't wait for you all to see the people I picture when I write them. 

Wish me luck!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Writer's Pay Days

My mommy often describes certain events as 'pay days' for mothers.  I completely agree with her about this.  When my son wraps his arms around me and says 'I love you' it's a pay day.  When my baby learns to take his first steps, when the boys share their toys with each other, or when they do anything on their own, it's a pay day.  I'm lucky that I have pay days almost every day.

As with mothering, writing is the same way.  We writers aren't guaranteed to be paid.  We work hard, put everything we have into our writing, and spend countless hours staring at the computer (or notepad) writing, rewriting, editing, critiquing, reading, and stressing, crying, screaming, all at the same time trying not to lose our sanity.  (That last part sounds exactly like mothering as well, lol)  So, I look forward to those 'pay days' as a writer, which can be just as priceless as actually getting paid.  (or so I assume)

For example:

The first chapter you ever write for a WiP, and every chapter that follows it.
Completing your first draft.
Getting those emails from your beta readers and critique partners.
When people quote things to you from your book.
Getting to the rewrite.
Laughing at a scene you've written.
Creating a lovable character.
Creating a despised character.
Completing your second draft.
When people ask when it's their turn to read one of your books.
When people ask if you've written the sequel yet.
When people comment on your facebook page or blog (wink).
Coming up with a new idea.
Completing your third draft...and the fourth, and the fifth, and the sixth...
Getting a helpful rejection...Yes I do count this as a pay day.
Getting a request for a partial or full.
Realizing where you've gone wrong, and knowing how to fix it.

I really could go on and on, and I'm sure you all have many more examples.  Please share them in the comment thread if you have any to add.

Even as a currently unpublished and unsigned author, I still get to experience the wonderful feeling that comes with getting paid to do what I love.  I see it happen every day as I mother, and as I write.  :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Character Quirks

Raisin Bran is one of my favorite cereals, however...I hate the taste of raisins.  So, every time I pour myself a bowl, I pick out all the raisins I can find before I put milk in it.  I've tried buying just bran cereal, but it just doesn't taste the same.  There's something about raisin bran that is so yummy...without the raisins.  I know, I'm weird.

But it got me thinking about the quirks I gave my characters.  Just like me with my Raisin Bran, things that made them unique. (And perhaps a little weird too.)  For example:

There is one character that twiddles her fingers when something is bugging her.  The fact that my MC notices every time she does this, makes her easier to read without her ever having to say something.

Another character hates awkward silences, and always tries to cover them with an elaborate movement.  Like slamming a book on a table, slapping his knee, stretching his arms out, or making faces at people in the room.

And my MC always makes a joke when he's uncomfortable.  The reactions he gets from different characters either makes him more uncomfortable, or eases the tension in the room.

What I realized as I gave characters different quirks like these was not only was I adding humor to the storyline, I was giving them consistency.  I was giving them personality.  I was making them human.  Whenever I went through the dialog, I highlighted whoever was talking in a specific color.  That way when I read all the blue lines, for example, I made sure it all sounded like the same person.  I've heard this works for a lot of writers, and it definitely works for me.

Body language is just as important as dialog.  The actions that come from a character need to be consistent.  That's why I loved giving them each a unique trait.

What are some quirks you have?  Or quirks you've given your characters?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Am I getting better?

WARNING: Very long post ahead.  I didn't think I would end up writing another novel ;)

Just as with anything else, writing gets better with practice.  And with a lot of studying.  I have to admit, I had no clue what I was doing when I wrote novel #1, and I queried WAY too soon.  I was unprepared, and very naive about the entire thing, but do I regret it?  No.

I'll tell you why.  I learned so much from that experience, and literary agents gave me such great feedback, even though the answer was 'no', some gave me areas where I needed work.  As I look back at that first novel, I cringe at all the things I know are wrong with it.  It needs some desperate TLC, which I hope to give it some day, but as for right now, I'm focusing on another project.  The one I started after preparing myself, and studying up on all the lingo and 'rules' of good writing.

Here are the basic mistakes I made with attempt #1, which I have since learned from and I am doing now.

No Beta Readers:  I was too much of a chicken to send it out to anyone I knew, except my mommy, and even then, I was terrified.  I know this sounds completely ridiculous, because I was willing to send it to literary agents.  For some reason, in my head, I find it so much more intimidating sending it to people I see most days, or I talk to often.  I've never been good at sharing my talents with these people, because I'm afraid they'll feel obligated to like it, and I wouldn't get the truth.  And then if I got the truth, and it was bad, I'd be afraid that our relationship would have this underlining tension...them wondering if I'm upset with them, and me wondering if they are wondering that.  (If that makes sense.)

Anyway, I'm rambling, but the point is, I need beta readers!  And I needed to learn how to trust the people I chose.  When I realized I needed them, I posted a request on facebook (with shaking fingers) and sent it out.  Of course this was after I had already queried several agents.  *slaps forehead*

No Critique Partner:  I didn't even know what a critique partner was, lol.  And until I had one, I didn't realize how essential they are.  Not only were they diving into my manuscript, I was going through theirs.  Doing this has taught me a lot about voice, descriptions, plot, narrative, character development, showing vs telling, too many adverbs, hooks, cliffhangers...things I didn't know much or anything about until I had to critique someone's work.  I have a FABULOUS critique partner now (thank you QueryTracker, for letting me find her) and I'm looking for more.

Thinking the first draft was ready for agents:  Do I need to explain more?  Ugh, what was I thinking?

Not a clear voice:  I've talked about this before, but I didn't have an intriguing enough voice...at least in the first few chapters.  As I read on, it sounded like I'd finally found it, but an agent wouldn't read all the way to chapter five if page one was all back story.

Not researching:  I researched 'how to get published' and got the basics, but I didn't research the things I needed to.  I knew the process, but I didn't know what it took to be successful.  One agent I queried, one I will query again because of her wonderfully personalized rejection said this:  (Oh I can't believe I'm sharing this with you...eep!)

Dear Cassandra,

Thank you for your query, and for the sample of the novel. I read all the material with interest, and certainly thought your concept was intriguing. I love the dilemma that your protagonist finds himself in, not knowing what choice to make with the knowledge he has.

Regrettably, though, I have to pass. While there's a lot to recommend your novel, ultimately I wasn't as taken with the writing as I had hoped to be. The descriptions of the area don't really make sense. They seem more in keeping with someone from a different area, where other land masses might be out there or life was advanced so the way of life here would be called 'primitive'. There's also a tendency to tell, rather than show, what's going on.

Naturally, another agency may have an entirely different opinion, so I urge you to query others with this project. I wish you every success.

Sincerely,

Awesome Agent

I actually loved getting this rejection letter because it gave me something that I was quickly losing: hope. Hope that someone was actually reading my work, and hope that there was something there with my idea. And it gave me direction.  Oh Awesome Agent, I want to query you again, but next time, I will prepare for it.  I received this rejection from the first draft, actually two days after I finished it.  Agh!  If only I had been ready, I may have received a request, but live and learn.

I could go on and on with what I didn't know, and I'm sure there is more that I don't know, but I am learning.  I'm studying and growing.  I can already tell with the current work in progress I've improved.  I'm hoping that I keep improving as I continue to write.  Everyone's blogs have been extremely helpful.  The online community and support we writers have for each other is amazing.  It's not a group of people fighting each other for an agent, it's a family, one I'm so lucky to be a part of.  And everyone has helped remove some of my ignorance in this writing world.

So am I getting better?  I'd like to think so.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Waiting and waiting and waiting...

Patience is the most evil word in the history of words.  It seems in the world of writing, all we ever do is wait and wait and wait...at every point in the process.  I read a post from a blogger friend which basically summed up what we wait for, allow me to paraphrase.  We wait to be inspired, we wait for an idea, we wait for beta readers, we wait for revision time, we wait for query time, we wait while querying....a lot!  Then there's the waiting that I've never experienced, which is once represented there is more submission entries, more waiting.  I bet the submission process heightens every emotion you experience during querying about ten times.  My gut clenches just thinking about it.  Then if the book gets snagged up, and you're doing your happy dance and screaming out...there is more waiting.  It may be a year or two before its release date, and during that time I'm sure before contracts are drawn out and official, you have to wait to tell everyone.

This is worse than pregnancy in terms of patience...I never thought I would say that.

So why do we writers do it?  Plain and simple, because despite all the waiting and anxiety, we love to write.  I think every writer has passion, drive, potential, and the willingness to learn.  We all have the chance to be successful in this business, as long as we push through all the hard times and learn (sigh) patience.

What inspired me to post about this today?  My ever anxious fingers want to plow back into my recently finished first draft.  It is killing me not to open up the document and dive into places I know need some work.  I have been rewriting in my sleep, I'm sure my husband has heard me talking while I'm unconscious about adverbs and showing vs telling and so on and so forth.  I still have another week before I can touch it...agh!

So, what to do with my time while I wait?  I'm always up for a good book, I've been blogging, I've started new projects, but honestly I've had to stay away from the computer as much as I can because my self control is losing its strength...and I've found myself opening that folder that says 'The Privileged', and then quickly clicking the close button before I look at the words there.  Because if I read even a little bit, I won't be able to resist my editing fingers.

Spending lots of time with the family is helping to distract me.  The boys are really good at turning my attention to other things.  And my girl's night out last night was indeed a good idea, and hopefully I see a date with my hubby on the horizon.  And maybe, just maybe with all the distractions, I can get through this week without completely losing my mind.

So, here's to waiting...and learning patience, which is a never-ending lesson in life, and to the beauty that is the life of a writer.  Though it is a tough career, it is completely worth it!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Insignificance

I would be lying to you if I felt confident about everything in my life 24 hours a day.  I think anyone who claims that would be lying to you.  And it has been one of those weeks when I felt quite the opposite of confident.

I'm a religious person, and I rely on the power of prayer to get me through these type of weeks, days, months, whatever, but I find myself often skirting around asking certain things of the Lord, feeling too insignificant, or too unworthy to be asking for them.  After all, I'm already so incredibly blessed, why should I be asking for more?

When I decided to make writing a career, I asked the Lord to give me opportunities to learn, to grow, to be happy and successful in the decision I've made.  However, I can not find it in me to ask for specifics, like getting an agent, getting published, or even finishing a book.  It felt like I would be asking to star in the next blockbuster film...it was too much, so unattainable, that I would be wasting my breath to ask for it.

Can you see the problem already?  It's not that it is too much to ask for, it is my lack of faith, my lack of confidence, in my Heavenly Father, and in myself.  Today, as I listened to many talks, there was one that struck my heart so profoundly, it made me realize how ridiculous I was being.

There was a story told, the moral being that Heavenly Father always hears our prayers, and considers everything we ask for with love, no matter how insignificant...or how outlandish it may seem to others.  Because it is important to us, it is important to Him, because He loves us.

It got me thinking, though I haven't asked for those specific things that seem too extravagant for little ol' me, I was still receiving the blessings that I have asked for.  Why would my Heavenly Father deny me the things I want/desire if He felt they were right for me?  And even if I never get published, never find an agent, why would Heavenly Father deny me the love and comfort I will need in those times of feeling not good enough?

He wouldn't.  He hasn't.

I already have so much, so many blessings that have helped me be the person I am now.  I have a loving husband and two great baby boys.  I have a supportive family, loving parents and siblings, and great neighbors.  I have my girls, those beautiful young women who inspire me daily with their strength in this scary world.  I have great friends who encourage me to be who I am, and give me a listening ear.

Back to writing...I have so much here as well.  The Lord has blessed me with the drive I need to keep going, to persevere despite setbacks and difficulties.  I have the tools to learn, to grow, and to expand my abilities in this tough business.  I have an amazing online support system, a great critique partner, wonderful beta readers, and so much more!

I am not too insignificant for the things I want, because I already have them.  And I must remember it each night as I kneel down to thank my Heavenly Father.  Hopefully now I can find the strength to ask Him for all the desires of my heart.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Can you hear me?: Finding your voice

I like to explore as I write.  Not one of my projects have been narrated by the same age or even the same gender as each other.  So how do I get a strong voice from each story?

I research for starters.  The first novel I wrote felt easy, because the character was my age so I thought I could relate, but when I read over it, I couldn't tell if the narrator was female or male.  I didn't really get a sense of who they were, or how they would respond to different situations.  So I went back over it, doing something I've heard works for other writers and interviewing my characters before my rewrite, and using it as the backbone to getting the voice I needed.  Since this book was told in two different perspectives, a 20 year old girl and a 24 year old guy, I 'interviewed' both of them.

It worked!  As I was rewriting, I found myself shaking my head at some of the dialog, saying to myself, 'Now wait a minute, that's not what Rupert would say here.'  And I changed it to make his character more consistent, more believable, and more real.  I did the same with Emma, and now I do that before every new WiP.  I interview my main character, and when another character is introduced, I do the same.  Just as it is important to do this with the 'good guys' it's good to do this with my antagonist too.  I've even used characters interviewing each other, which has been really fun.

I've loved stretching myself and working out of my comfort zones as I try writing for different ages, different genres, and finding out what works best for me. :)


 

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