Archive for September, 2011

See if you can guess which movie I’m going to gush about by these quotes:

  • As you wish.
  • Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
  • You are sure nobody’s follow’ us?
     As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable. No one in Guilder knows what we’ve done, and no one in Florin could have gotten here so fast. – Out of curiosity, why do you ask?
    No reason. It’s only… I just happened to look behind us and something is there.
    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


  •  Hear this now: I will always come for you.
    But how can you be sure? 

            This is true love – you think this happens every day?

  • You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.
  • I told you I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?
    Well… you were dead.
    Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.
    I will never doubt again.
    There will never be a need.
  • Why won’t my arms move?
    You’ve been mostly-dead all day.
  • You truly love each other and so you might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the story books say. And so I think no man in a century will suffer as greatly as you will.
  • We are men of action, lies do not become us.
  • Offer me money.
    Power, too, promise me that.
    [He slashes his other cheek]
    All that I have and more. Please…
    Offer me anything I ask for.
     Anything you want…
    [Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]
    I want my father back, you son of a bitch! 
  • Can you move at all?
    Move? You’re alive. If you want I can fly.

You guessed it~

Okay I still haven’t read this book even though it is on the top of my list but I’ve watched it countless times (especially when I had such a thing for Wesley in high school). It was on today and since all I do is hold and feed Annabelle all day I’m always happy when such a classic is replayed. As I was watching this time, (instead of figuring out what I love so much about Cary Elwes) I studied this masterpiece to find out why so many people love this story. This is what I came up with:

*It’s told in a fairytale format and aren’t we all suckers for a fairytale?

*It’s a fantasy but set in a very realistic and recognizable world. The author plays with some fantasy elements such as the R.O.U.S, the screeching eels, and the magic to bring Wesley back from death, but the rest of the story feels like could have occurred in some far away kingdom long ago.

*It appeals to both men and women, young and old. The mix of romance with adventure keeps everyone entertained.

*It has fantastic comedic elements. The Princess Bride as some of the best comedic one-liners of all time. If you even start to quote them anyone can finish them. Both the heroes and villains are hysterical. It is extremely difficult to walk to serious line of a romance adventure with such humor woven throughout.

*The characters, good and bad, are so well-developed and fleshed out. The characters are so unique and immediately engage you. These are all characters you will never see again or ever forget.

*The romance is not heavy-handed. It is a simple romance but so true and sweet. The whole movie begins with this romance and it’s established within the first few minutes. It’s unusual in that the romance itself is established immediately when most books take the whole novel to build the relationship. The love between Wesley and Buttercup is never questioned and it never has to be in doubt to be compelling. It is simply true love conquers all and that is wonderful.

Maybe if I keep watching this it will seep in somewhere in my subconscious and come out in my writing. I wish there were more stories/movies like Princess Bride and if anyone knows of any with all these components I would love to know about them!

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If you’re considering self-publishing it’s critical that you look into all of these forums: Kindle Boards, Absolute Write, Nathan Bransford, Self-Publishing Review, Goodreads, and Library Thing. You should join each one for a different reason and the earlier you learn how to navigate these forums the better it will be for you in the long run.

Kindle Boards – A fantastic, extremely self-publishing friendly forum filled with people with extensive self-publishing knowledge where you can ask any question you have on your mind. Especially helpful with promotional ideas. (If you join only one forum join this one!)

Absolute Write – If you’re shopping for an agent or query writing this forum is wonderful but I find it’s a little less supportive of self-publishing even though they do have a whole posting area for self-publishing. I still find this forum extremely helpful for testing a book description, approving a cover, and for promotional opportunities.

Nathan Bransford– This forum has much less traffic but is still good place to get some feedback on book description, cover approval, and as a promotional tool. His blog is also very entertaining and he’s discussing more about the benefits of self-publishing lately and on Fridays he gives a run-down on the latest news in publishing and in the blogging world.

Goodreads – A great forum for advertising your book once you publish. A wonderful place to connect to your readers.

Library Thing – This is a website geared toward readers. They seem to frown on promotional attempts but if you join and connect to readers legitimately through your love of books you might attract readers subtly towards your book. Once you publish though there is a section for book giveaways that can be very useful for collecting reviews.

Self-Publishing Review – A forum for self-publishers only where you can receive great information and exposure if you decide to post.

And even though this is technically not a forum, I strongly recommend to follow David Gaughran’s blog. He is not only very helpful and super informative but he wrote a wonderful guide to self-publishing that will save you tons of time. His posts keep you updated on all the latest self-publishing news and he exudes such a positive and contagious outlook on self-publishing. If you have any questions he is extremely knowledgable and warm.

In conclusion, these forums are essential for information you can’t find in the self-publishing how-tos and as a promotional tool but I find the most important thing these forums provide is the support that someone going out on their own needs. It must be terrific to get an agent who tells you your novel is fantastic and who tucks you under their wings telling you they’ll take it from there but for those of us who only have a handful of beta readers giving us the thumbs up you need to have people out there who have been through the self-publishing trenches and emerged satisfied and proud. You will need their success stories, their support, and their inspiration to press forward and produce your novel. Reach out to these people and ask any question no matter how basic you think it is. The only dumb question is the one that is never asked.

Are there any others I forgot?

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Okay now back to our regularly scheduled programing. Still up most of the night, but I will forgo daytime naps and laundry to make sure to post again. Not sure about the quality of these posts due to the lack of sleep, but I will give it my best.

Before I was sleep deprived (which seems like months ago) I was in the process of revising and having my crit partner chip away at the sequel. Without giving too much away, the second book has a POV from a young boy in one reincarnation. I tried to keep that in mind as I wrote it but my terrific crit partner found a few instances where the thought or dialog seemed too mature for the child’s age. This got me thinking about how limited a character’s voice is by age. The writer is constrained by vocab, awareness, and innocence when using a younger character. In order to keep the reader engaged the writer must be extremely aware of what a certain age is conscious of. This requires a major walk down memory lane, trying to place yourself inside your younger self in order to see the imagined world through younger eyes.

For example, my crit partner (have I told you how amazing she is?) highlighted this (twelve-year-old POV):

“He put out his hands to help her down to the entrance and I can’t believe the change that’s come over him. How he seems to lose his childish ways overnight.

So I’ve changed it to this more age appropriate thought:

“He put out his hands to help her down to the entrance and I can’t believe the change that’s come over him—growing up overnight.

Another example (Andres is ten):

“Andres pulls away from his grasp. ‘I’m proud of my little belly, it’s been concave for months!'”

Changed to this:

“Andres pulls away from his grasp. ‘I’m proud of my little belly, it’s been sunken for months!'”

Yes, you are limited in some ways when choosing the POV of a young character, but there are also some benefits. I decided to use a younger character in this life for three important reasons:

#1) The reader will have immediate sympathy for a young character in trouble

#2) Since this life is centered around a historic event filled with complex battle details I can explain things more to the reader if there is a young person POV. The reader can learn along with the child.

#3) I’m no nautical battle expert so I can play a passive role where the child observes adults carrying out tasks without having a deep and skilled understanding.

It is critical though when you have a young character observing a complex historic event that you must have older characters that explain things to the younger character.

The other benefit the writer has when using a young POV is that even though you must be careful to maintain a child’s view of the world, sometimes children can see or phrase things in ways that adults can’t. Children can possess a sagacious wisdom that only comes from the innocence and the magic of childhood,  unobscured from cynicism and corruption. The writer can take advantage of this and utilize simple understandings touched with poetic observations only a child can convey.

So when deciding the age of your POV character keep these points in mind in order to make the best choice for your story.

I also want to let everyone know about my awesome crit partner’s blog contest going on until Friday. She’s celebrating her 150th follower–go Bethany! She’s giving away a couple of awesome prizes and her blog is fantastic if you aren’t already following her.

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Why I haven’t posted…

So sorry for the delay everyone. I’ve been in baby heaven this whole week! I had a fantastic and virtually pain-free delivery and I’m over-the-moon with this little cutie:

My sweet little Annabelle

I might have to delay a few more posts until I can bear to put her down for the computer, but I will be back in action and working toward my launch once again soon I promise!

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Psychologists Sheryl C. Wilson and Theodore X. Barber are credited with identifying Fantasy Prone Personality by testing for fourteen traits.

Here are the criteria:

(1) being an excellent hypnotic subject, (2) having imaginary playmates as a child, (3) fantasizing frequently as a child, (4) adopting a fantasy identity, (5) experiencing imagined sensations as real, (6) having vivid sensory perceptions, (7) reliving past experiences, (8) claiming psychic powers, (9) having out-of-body or floating experiences, (10) receiving poems, messages, etc., from spirits, higher intelligences, and the like, (11) being involved in “healing,” (12) encountering apparitions, (13) experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations (waking dreams), and (14) seeing classical hypnagogic imagery (such as spirits or monsters from outer space).

Wilson and Barber considered having six or more traits worthy of the designation of fantasy prone. Let’s see how I rate:

(1) being an excellent hypnotic subject= Not sure, I’ve never been hypnotized but I have trouble meditating so I doubt that I would make a good subject

(2) having imaginary playmates as a child= No (thank god, those really creep me out)

(3) fantasizing frequently as a child= Yes, I was an extremely imaginative child

(4) adopting a fantasy identity= No, not sure what this means but I’m guessing you imagine yourself as some sort of character or alter ego.

(5) experiencing imagined sensations as real=  I don’t think I’ve done this yet but would you be able to discern this if you had imagined sensations as real? On the occasions I’ve seen unusual things I’ve had another witness to back it up, so I’m going to say no.

(6) having vivid sensory perceptions= Yes, again this is hard to understand, but I do feel like I have a high sensory awareness (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, intuition)

(7) reliving past experiences- Yes, again not sure if I’m understanding this right but I have very vivid recall. I can even remember little details as young as three or four years old. I also tend to live in the past more than most people.

(8) claiming psychic powers= Yes, I do think I have slight psychic sensitivities.

(9) having out-of-body or floating experiences= No, I’ve never had this experience

(10) receiving poems, messages, etc., from spirits, higher intelligences, and the like= Yes, this has happened to me before.

(11) being involved in “healing,”= No, I’ve never been involved with a healing before

(12) encountering apparitions= Yes, but I think growing up in pre-revolutionary houses contributed to this

(13) experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations (waking dreams)= No, I’ve never experienced this half-dream state.

(14) seeing classical hypnagogic imagery (such as spirits or monsters from outer space)= Now, this I had to take apart and define in order to understand what they meant by this. Classical =well-known.  Hypnagogic = of, relating to, or occurring in the state of intermediate consciousness preceding sleep. So I understood this to mean a stereotyped hallucination preceding deep sleep and I’ve never experienced this.

I do have six of these traits so I’m apparently fantasy-prone. Does this explain my draw to creating worlds and stories in my novels? Does a writer benefit from being fantasy prone in order to create the world building and immersion needed for the reader? I wonder if the higher the degree of fantasy-proness the better the creativity?

Well, this study seems to correlate the two (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3746620?dopt=Abstract). “Fantasizers were found to outscore subjects in both comparison groups on all of the measures of fantasy, imagination, and creativity…”

Now I feel compelled to see if I’d make a good hypnosis subject.

So all my fantasy or sci-fi blog followers, how do you rate? Are you fantasy prone as well?

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9/11: Ten Years Gone By

With so many things in life there seems to be a strange confliction in how much time has passed. When I think of where and who I was ten years ago, it seems like just yesterday and an eternity has gone by. So much has changed since then–so much in my life and so much in the world.

I was in my last year at college, living off-campus in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. That morning I was already cleaning out cages at the wildlife rehabilitation center where I interned. I was sent back to the work shed to get another wheelbarrow and heard on the radio, that was left on all day regardless of an audience, that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. I heard it just as I was walking back to the bear cages and it seemed like the newscasters where doubting the information and many thought if it was anything it was only a small wayward private plane crash.

I told the owners of the center what happened and they shrugged their shoulders and we continued to clean and feed the animals. I jumped into my jeep wrangler and headed home on the country road, listening to John Denver, and passing beautiful Amish farms. The crisp sunny autumn weather made me yearn for an apple cider candle. I decided to stop at a candle store and found the shop eerily empty. I located the two cashiers in the back of the store with hands over their mouths watching two buildings burning on the small TV. They didn’t even turn at my presence and I realized something was horribly wrong. I rushed out the store and turned on my radio as I speed home. On the way the first tower collapsed and I ran into my little house to see what they described on the TV. It was such a gut twisting sight, to see that tower cave in. I remember feeling that it all must not really be happening. That this was such a profound event that it couldn’t possibly be true. Strange how shock interferes with reality.

I called my mother first and tried to think of everyone I knew and if they worked in the area. My mind even raced to figure out if anyone I knew was flying on a plane that day. I had a sister that had flown out only days before from the same airport they hijacked the planes from and a sister who normally worked in NYC was vacationing in France. Thankfully everyone I knew was safe that day. The boyfriend I was with at the time worked in Paramus, NJ directly across from the Towers and his building had bomb threats right after the attacks. He could see the World Trade Center towers smoking and saw the whole area consumed by the dust cloud. It took him all day to get to my house with the bridges being closed due to terror threats. Classes were canceled and I stayed glued to the TV for the next few days. I drove home the following weekend and cried when every bridge I passed had our stars and stripes hanging from it. Houses all flew their flags as well as passing cars. I will never forget that incredible feeling of patriotism surrounding me.

So now it’s ten years later. The anniversary ground zero readings all seem to blur to a single rainy, tear-filled day. I’ve graduated, said goodbye to that boyfriend, found a job completely unrelated to the animal behavior major in NYC, got married, had my first child, and now I’m about to have my second. It’s quite possible that he or she might be born on that day and I’m not so sure how I feel about that. Obviously what’s meant to be is meant to be but it’s day filled with so much emotion, I wonder if it has room for any more?

All of us who were alive on that day can relive each detail this Sunday. It’s a day etched and fortified in our memories…the day that can never be lost.

How are you feeling on this day? Does it really feel like ten years have passed? How have these ten years changed you?

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The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines plausible as :
1. Seemingly or apparently valid, likely, or acceptable; credible: a plausible excuse.
2. Giving a deceptive impression of truth or reliability.

Plausibility is critical in order to keep your reader engaged in a novel. The moment someone pauses and says “this couldn’t happen” the spell is broken and they’ll shut the book. Some think plausibility is only important with conspiracy theories, thrillers, suspense, crime, and sci-fi novels but really every genre, no matter how simple, needs to have plausible elements to allow someone to fully submerge into the text.

But plausibility can be a very strange thing when writing fiction. I remember a session at a writer’s workshop where many in the group brought up that the order of events seemed implausible in another’s piece. The author protested that she based it on an actual event that happened to her. The teacher stepped in to explain that as fiction writers we must write for the greatest acceptance of our reader and to ultimately write the best story possible. Sometimes real life doesn’t seem believable and if someone tells you something doesn’t seem possible it will affect their investment in your story.

This seemed so ironic to me that you would have to change a story that actually happened to something different for those to believe it. But then I reread the definition of plausibility and that it’s not necessarily what is true but more what others will deem as credible or likely.

So how do test your draft for plausibility?

Critique partners and beta readers!

Yes, listen to these incredibly helpful (and valuable) self-less people who will let you know where you lost them or when something a character does doesn’t fly. Listen! If they say something doesn’t seem realistic (even if it happened) you must change it so that they can accept it better. Beta read widely and early in your drafts since you may have to change major elements.

Plausibility crops up its ugly head many times for me since I love to include little-known and odd details of past cultures. I don’t like the normal facts and well-known history, but my eyes widen and my pulse races at the bizarre and seedy secrets buried deep inside dusty research books. Well, this makes an interesting story but I hear so many times–“did this really happen?”

I can’t site these amazing details since I’m not writing non-fiction. I know that some historical fiction authors may throw one or two footnotes here and there to back up a true event but I would have one on every other page. Plus I’ve found that many detest these notations in fiction. So what did I decide to do?

Remove these details…

Heck no! My creativity thrives on these crazy real-life events. I didn’t want to write about the ancient Egypt that everyone knows from 9th grade history text-book or the Spartan society depicted in the movie 300. I wanted to surprise people! I want to take the reader deeper into a past that will even expand a historian’s knowledge.

So I decided to listen to my betas and tried to make the details as credible as possible. But I thought it would be best if I created a whole page on my website that will discuss these incredible facts and suggest further reading for those who are interested. I will post this background information upon my novel’s launch.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with plausibility in your novels or have heard those horrible words from a beta reader?

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Nothing scares me more than lawsuits involving authors. I haven’t been able to read the best-selling novel The Help yet (on my to-read list) but the lawsuit that was dismissed recently has caught my attention. Ablene Cooper filed a lawsuit against the author, Kathryn Stockett, claiming the character Aibileen was based on her without her permission. The case was dismissed due to the one-year statute of limitations expiring since the author gave Cooper a copy of the book along with a letter stating that the even though the maid’s name was similar it was not based on her.

This brought up a lot of concerns for me. I hate thinking that if I ever made it big with a novel that someone from my past or present would try to lay claim that I defamed them or portrayed them without permission. I definitely use inspiration from people in my life in order to make my characters seem real, but they are not closely based on these people and I’m careful to use little touches of these traits on top of a completely imaginary characters.

At first I felt like Cooper was probably stretching a claim for money until I read that she sited that the character not only shares a very similar name, job, gold tooth, but also lost a son. Something personal like losing a son as well as having those shared traits is a little inconsiderate in my opinion. Even if the author wasn’t intending to use her for character basis she should have been more aware of the similarities and chose another name. Again I haven’t read the book, so she might have shown this person in a fantastic light but when something so personal is involved like the death of a child I think she could have been more careful.

This lawsuit only reminds me that as writers, we must be careful with character inspiration and mindful that someone close to us might feel exposed. Some may think (especially when self-publishing) that your novel most likely won’t hit the bestseller lists but you really never know. Once something’s written and released you don’t have much control over it and it could get attention. If you based a fictional character too close to a real life person it could come back to bite you.

Writers of historical fiction/fantasy must be just as careful when they are writing about real people from the past. Since it’s fiction/fantasy we have some leeway with the facts and no one can file a lawsuit if they are dead, but you still must remember that these were real people and their descendants and legacy can still be effected by what you write. Be gentle.

So just in case you hit it big and someone wants a piece of your pie, you should follow these rules when writing fiction:

~Never use real names or similar names to characters you might use for inspiration.

~Be considerate when using a character for inspiration. Don’t write about obvious identifying traits or detailed personal experiences someone’s trusted you with.

~Don’t ever tell anyone you based a character on someone you know.

~I try to combine different inspirations for my characters, sometimes merging real traits of many different people. Don’t allow one character to be too similar to a known person.

~Always think of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Think about what you’d want someone to write about you to the public and remember this, even when your tempted with a truly terrific real-life character.

~If you can’t resist closely basing a character on a real person, get their permission in writing first or be sure to send a copy of your book to them at least a year before your movie’s released 🙂

Happy Labor Day everyone and I’m just happy I’m not in actual labor today! I hope it’s a beautiful day of beach/pool/picnics/bbqs or whatever you choose to close up the summer.

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Yes I’m still getting them!

I couldn’t believe it when I checked my email yesterday and saw the kind form reply apologizing for being a bit late (eight months!). Could that really have been only eight months ago! I feel like so much has happened since then.

How did I come so far in only eight months?

I learned how to query, how to process promising agent’s rejections, decided to self-publish, began a blog and website, and took on self-publishing. I can’t help but be proud of so much growth.

I reminisced about those hopeful replies and requests that I checked for every hour and had to laugh out loud when I saw it. It felt so wonderful not to care at all about it.

But what if this had been an interested agent’s reply at this point, what would I have done?

Right away I knew that this was the right direction for me to go in with this series and I would have politely turned down the agent at this point.

That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t query a new novel in the future but this series is made for self-publishing. I agree with so many other self-publishers out there that you must evaluate each project’s needs and marketability on a case by case basis. But I am so excited by this process and love this adventure. I love the support from all the self-publisher’s blogs, forums, and my blog readers and I can’t wait to see my first proof, get my first positive review, hold that finished book in my hand, sell my first 100 copies, and get an email from an appreciative reader (I will frame that you know).

Yeah, I realize there are all the negatives to cope with also: the first negative review, slow sales, emails from disgruntled readers demanding refunds, but I’m going to focus on the reason why I’m expending all this energy to begin with–I have to get this story out and I just hope there are some that will enjoy all my hard work.

It really has been so much fun so far!

What about you? How has your writing/ querying/ publishing journey progressed so far and how do you feel about it?



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