Saturday, September 29, 2012

THE PRINCESS PARADOX : The Original Chapter One

My original chapter 1. This was before edits and revisions. (except I did add the essay like heading to help readers understand what this first chunk is) I am posting to get feedback about the flow and first impressions. Especially the first 150 to 250 words.
Should I keep it?
Do you want to see the new Chapter One?
Please comment. Yes YOU!


Sad but true, some people out there are very dishonest and steal others' work. To see more about it, support fellow writers, and get smarter about what to post and what not to post, read the blog of her account: Where Ladybugs Roar

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Your gut: It's not just for lunch.

View details
Trust me!

Hey fellow writers. Today I want to blog about something on the serious side. This is a shout out to all writers, whether you are published or not. Trusting your gut.

This week was a week of whirlwind emotions for me. My current manuscript, the one in contests and sitting in the slush pile, is a story I totally believe in.

Let me start from the beginning. I have a beautiful six-year-old daughter who's in love with all things princess. It started after a family vacation to Disneyland. Right when we walked in the front gates, her jaw dropped and she stood there, frozen. A cute three-year-old (at the time) girl, who'd never watched any Disney princess film, just witnessed "the most beautiful girl in the world." Belle stood in front of us in her golden sparkly gown signing autographs and taking pictures. My daughter strolled right up to her and asked, "Who are you?" After being told politely she had to wait in line and then she'd get her time with Belle, we went to the back of the line and waited for at least ten minutes.
An illustration of a child dressed up as a princess
We were almost at the front when the photographer with her said, "Belle needs to take a break. Look at your maps for her next visit and we'll see you there." Sure we were disappointed, but my daughter was determined to find every princess she could. (We found a few) But more than anything, that moment created what was to be the vision for a story. A girl, so in love with princesses that for her, happiness would only exist if she was a princess.

Three years later, my daughter still plays with princesses and loves all things princess, although she has branched out to things like unicorns, fairies, and cats. Always the cats.

The other part of my inspiration came from teaching and becoming a fan of Sex and the City. Odd combo? You bet. But at the time, I was teaching my 8th graders how to write using commentaries as mentor texts. We analyzed the traits of commentaries to figure out "what does a piece of writing need to include to be considered a commentary?" After commentaries, we analyzed book reviews, debates, and genres of fiction (namely my favorite genre science fiction).

It was then that I applied the same idea to the princess stories. I asked "What does a novel/story need to include to be considered a fairy tale/princess story?" I combined the answer to that question with a Carrie Bradshaw-esque commentary on each element.

My story became a combination of op-ed pieces commenting on each part of the fairy tale, with each chapter of the narrative paralleling the op-eds. What I ended up with was a fun and unusual storyline which is unlike anything out there.

Sure, you say, every writer believes his/her work is unlike anything out there. But for me, it's truth. I know it. This is now why I'm reminding you of the reason for this post. I knew when I was writing my manuscript, I'd have an uphill battle. I knew it would be a) hard to explain and b) hard to sell to agents. But I believed in it. And I knew I was offering readers something they've never seen before. Some will love it. Some will hate it. For the record, all my betas love it.

Here's the problem. It's a pattern the reader picks up after seeing three or four chapters. After many partial rejections, listening to my betas and critique partners, I did the unthinkable. I changed part of my story. I added a chapter that was never supposed to be there. It's a funny chapter. It draws readers in. But it was never supposed to be there.

Screen bean character with a hand on its head while crying
I questioned myself so much I got to the point that I hired an editor to line edit and critique of the first 30 pages. I needed a professional insight to why my partials weren't turning into fulls. She did a fantastic job. Wanna know what her biggest feedback was? Start your story at Ch 2. WHAT? Ch 2 is much more engaging, you get the meet-cute right off the bat and it tells the reader everything you said in Chapter 1 but in a more subtle way. WHAT? Start at Ch 2. As in my original Ch 1 before I added. Facepalm.

Now, I am in a dilemma. Do I keep the chapter because it's engaging and gets a lot of attention, or do I nix it, begin where my story truly began? I don't know. I am in a bind.

I know what you're thinking. "So? Start it at Chapter 2, Carey. What's the big deal?"

Remember how Carrie starts each episode typing her op-ed piece on something having to do with relationships, then the episode would be directly related? That's my novel.

I will take any excuse to
post a pic of the gorgeous Adam Levine.
All of my original chapters started with the Carrie Bradshaw-esque op-ed pieces. Slamming fairy tales. I think it throws readers off because it's an in-your-face "fairy tales suck" kind of way to start a story. Think "Payphone" by Maroon Five and you get the idea.

You meet my MC, but there's no action in the first 2 pages, just funny sarcasm. But the point is, my MC is so busy critiquing fairy tales, she fails to see her life is EXACTLY like one. Which is the irony of the whole thing. My whole premise was that fairy tales are so engrained into us, we don't realize it. It just becomes a part of our worldview and then girls are left wondering why our prince charming and happy-ever-after isn't waiting for us. We then become disappointed, jaded and cynical, when really, it was silly to believe in fairy tales in the first place. We had unrealistic expectations.

My gut told me to keep my original story. I told my gut to go stick it where the sun don't shine. Now I'm regretting it. I've changed my manuscript based on what others were saying and not being true to myself or my story. I cried a lot this week. And still have a rock sitting in my dumb shoulda-known-better talkin' gut.

And I'm not alone.

I have two critique partners who are now going through the same thing. They were told their story is too slow, or that waking in a dream is cliché. They have rewritten and toiled and cut and revised. They have stressed and worried. One has cried. We are probably keeping Kleenex in business. Like me, they're both talking about shelving their story and starting with a new WIP or completing a WIP. (Work in progress for those who are non-writers) This pisses me off. They both have great stories that should be told.

Man with book and questions
Don't EVER...
All the writing books tell you, don't start with backstory, or setting, or dream waking, or prologue, or in a different POV from your MC. The thing is, at some point you have to stop listening to everyone else. You have to listen to your heart, your story.

If you give your story to ten different people, they'll tell you ten different things. If those ten things they tell you to change don't fit your story or your MC, don't do it. If you write well, and your story is compelling, those things won't matter. We, as writers, have to believe that someone will see our story, and will get it—the way it is.

When agents say they have to love the story to want to represent it, we have to remember that we too, have to love the agent as much as our story. We have to get each other, because that's the only way to make the partnership work. I don't think it's coincidence that most pubbed authors have a friendship with their agents. Getting our story means they get us. And getting us means we get them. It's a Mobius strip, forever looping.

So, when you're thinking about shelving that story even though it breaks your heart, or when someone asks you to change it in a way that doesn't seem right…trust your gut. It's ALWAYS right.

I wish I would have learned this sooner. So…gotta go revisit my original. See if I can jazz it up.
By the way…I'm thinking of posting my original first chapter on my blog. If this is something you would like to see, please leave a comment.

Would you like to read the original first chapter?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday Recap: Reader Appreciation Award, A New CP and Contest Updates, not in that order.

Friday. Only 171 days left of this school year. Or so my co-worker tells me. This means I have 171 days to get my butt in gear and get an agent for my present manuscript, finish my WIP and query the hell out of that. All before summer. I better get on it. No more procrastinating. Like working on anything other than my writing. Certainly not a blog. Er…

briefs,cartoons,clothes,underwearSo this week was so crazy. Being in 3 contests made me lose half my mind. I was checking my local blogs and websites more times than Brittney Spears checks to make sure she's wearing underwear. That's a lot, by the way.

The results are in! I had 2 agent requests. One for 75 pages and one for 150 pages. I am so excited, but nervous as hell. So, I am doing (yet another) read through just to make sure there is nothing that blurts out "mistake". Not that there should be. I have read my novel more times than I care to admit, and I can practically say the whole thing out loud. But, still, even now, I get nervous twinges when I send my baby out in the world. I hope I've prepared her for what she may face. I hope she can speak for herself and not let others take advantage of her. I hope she shines. It's the best I can do. At the end of the day, a writer has to believe in their story. Because if they can't, why should anyone else?

I do. I believe this story needs to be told. I believe there is an audience. I believe that not every girl wants the traditional story with the expected storyline. I think there is room for a protagonist that is flawed and makes mistakes. When I started out writing my novel, the question I wanted to answer was this: What if the character we were rooting for was not necessarily a perfect person? What if she made the wrong choices? If she did something so unspeakable, would we still forgive her?

accessories,apparel,Cinderella,cushions,entertainment,fairytales,glass slippers,high heels,household,pillows,storiesI also wanted to take a hard look at what fairy tales do to girls as they grow to be women. Do these princesses and their stories make it into our own worldview? I think they do. I think they color how we look for love. Obviously, as we get older, we realize the truth. Life isn't a fairy tale, and how boring if it was.

I'm now entered in GUTGAA and made it in the email window. New query. We'll see how that works. Same 150. Because I love it. And that's how I roll.

Now, even more exciting…I was nominated for a Reader Appreciation Award. I know. Cool right? Yep. It totally is. And I am honored. See, the plus of all these contests is the networking and making new writing friends. And they are really wonderful women. The community of writers I have found on sites like Query Tracker and Twitter amazes me. We are all here, going through the same things. I see published writers helping unpublished. I see unpublished rooting each other on. I see fellow fangirls tweeting to their mentors, co-writers, and would be writers. It's amazing.

Can I tell you a secret? Don't tell, because if this gets out…I will be out one wonderful CP. That's critique partner, for those who don't know. These are the fellow writers that read your writing when it's crap and tell you it's crap. But they also tell you what they love about it. They give you honest feedback, but support you at the same time. It's fabulousness. And I have some of the best ones around. Especially my new one.  I swear, I think we were born to meet. One of her screen names even matches my manuscript…paradox girl. How crazy is that? She loves rain. And coffee. I'm from Seattle! That's not coincidence! It's kismet! I heart you Jodie Andrefski

Not only is she keeping it real on my first foray into YA lit, she's a tremendously talented writer. It's going to be months, not years, until she is signed. I know it. I can sense it. She really is that amazing. Kind hearted, smart, funny…all wrapped into the cutest little blond package. But, shhh. I don't really want this getting out. Else others will be clamoring for her, and she'll realize what a nerd I am and ditch me. I would die. DIE! So keep that on the down low.

So, I must also follow the reader appreciation guidelines. Because those be the rules, yo. (I'm not sure what possesses me to free style like a rapper sometimes, just go with me on this.)

If I tag you next, and you are reading this…remember. You must follow before you can lead. So…read the directions below and rinse and repeat. (which is to say, it's your turn)

  • Identify and show appreciation to the blogger who nominated you (yep…I'll get to read all about me. Love this part. Take heart, when you do it, you'll have your blog love-fest too!)
  • You must add the reward logo to your blog.
  • Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.
  • You must nominate 5-10 of your favorite bloggers for this award.
  • Inform your nominees that you nominated them.

See? Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!

7 Things:

1.       I flew a plane. For reals. I was on an internship study, going down to Mexico. Guaymas  to be exact. We were researching one of the most endangered marine mammals of our time. The vaquita. At the time we went, there were only 1000 or so left in existence. Since porpoise don't survive in captivity, their chance of survival is pretty bleak. Beautiful animals. Their name means "little cow" in Spanish. We stayed with one of the top researchers at the time, Omar Vidal. Awesome host. We drank WAY too much mescal, ate crickets, and skinny dipped in the Gulf of California. On the way back, the pilot (a friend) let each of us (6 passengers on a Cesna) fly. Yeah, I flew us into the U.S. Pretty damn cool.

2.       My best friends growing up were usually boys. I didn't get along with girls. Too much drama. Besides, I smoked cigarettes, cussed like a sailor, and never wore a dress. Yeah. I was badass. In college, I dated one of my best friends. He is now happily married (as am I) to a wonderful girl and they are so great for each other. But I miss him and the crazy times we had, along with our other friend from Jersey. He's the real Jersey Shore. Good times. Taught me what a Philly Cheesesteak is supposed to taste like. And introduced me to TasteyCakes. Those on the East Coast, know this.

3.       I taught drama for three years to a bunch of 8th graders. I put on 4 amazing productions. And I loved every minute of it. Directing a play was like being god. I got to tell everyone what to do and how to do it. It was like Glee every single day. It was so awesome. And to see kids who were poor academically shine in the spotlight…man, that was a proud moment for me. The cast and crew became like a family. We bonded because we worked every day in class, and for hours at night, eating pizza, listening to music. Generally causing chaos. Drama folk are CRAZY. And I love them. I found an appreciation for theater and productions that are still with me. There is nothing like the feeling after a show. Better than any high. Ever. Which is probably why my WIP characters are all thespians. Write what you know.

4.       I volunteered at Seattle Aquarium collecting sea otter poop and separating the DNA from the other compounds. Yep…I scooped poop. That's marine biology at it's finest. But you know what, I got to get close and personal with the otters. It's cool that they began to recognize me. They were all like "hey, there's the chick with the food!" I also helped rehabilitate some wayward green sea turtles and learned they LOVE having their shells scratched.

5.       I play guitar and I am learning the ukulele. My first song was a Radiohead tune. Green Plastic Trees.

6.       I have the unfortunate luck of being both a sibling and an only. My brother, Darren, was struck by a truck at age 12. I was 8. Shattered my world. We were best friends. I miss him every day.

7.       I've ghost hunted. It intrigues me. Never have seen anything, but have put myself in some creepy situations. And I have experienced some things that defy explanation. I think the death of my brother propels me to prove there is something more.

Wow. That went a little heavy. Okay, turning the tables. Here are some of my favorite peeps.

  • 1.       Sarah Ahiers: Sarah Ahiers Writes One of the coolest writer chicks I know. She is badass. A great supporter of everyone, she helps anyone who asks. Never one to shy away from any topic, she'll tell you like it is, whether it's what you want to hear or not. And this is a GOOD THING. Love her.

  • 2.       Lisa Chickos:Kicked, Cornered, and Beaten Could a person be any awesomer? No. No they could not. Lisa is a) talented b)friendly and supportive and c) one of the most committed people to her passions. She puts 120% in everything she does. An amazing human being. Makes the rest of us look like punks.

  • 3.       TJ LovelessQueen of the Padded RoomMy orginal CP. Love this lady. LOVE. She is sweet, funny, committed to her characters, all around amazing person. Wonderful mom, devoted wife. She is someone who I want to remain in contact with forever. I cannot say enough good about her.

  • 4.       David List: Regarding Silexare Funny as hell. Smart as a whip. Has damn good taste in music. Need anything more be said? Oh yeah, talented writer. He writes a little darker and more fantasier…(is that even a word? Spellcheck says no. I politely disagree) Supportive, friendly, and all around good guy. Did I mention his cutting wit?

  • 5.       Mere Joyce: Mere Joyce Another fantabulous writer and person. This is the girl you want to talk to about YA. She knows it all. Well read, well spoken (typed), total supporter to everyone, she is one of the nicest people around. Not to mention she knows a thing or two about writing. She's one to watch.

There are some others I'll just mention, but I don't think they have a blog, Suzan Headley, Beth Brodie, Mary Beth Bishop, and Jill Urbach are also amazing ladies I'm proud to call CP's. Love to you.

That's it. I'm out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This work thing is interfering with my writing!

I’ll have to try and do something about that.
 Happy Tuesday. Yes, as in it has been a long while since I have last blogged. I can partially “blame” it on GUTGAA. It was Meet and Greet week after all. It was for a week, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it? I had to stay meeted and greeted.

This past week has been super-duper exciting. And I’m not even being sarcastic. It really has!
They look so meek. It's a LIE.
 They're savages!

First, I went back to school and met my new batch of 8th graders. They seem pretty cool. Very tame compared to last year. But, it’s the “honeymoon period”.  Which is teacher code for “they just playin’ you, yo’.” They try and act all sweet and into learning, but as soon as you blast them with an actual assignment…BAM! Out come the fangs. Yikes. My carotid artery is pulsing. (Well, I guess that’s good news, otherwise I’d be dead.)

On to other news. Last week was the week of the contest. Pitch Madness over on the incredible Brenda Drake’s blog. If you haven’t visited it, you are missing out! Get on over there. Here’s a link. (Just come back!)Brenda Drake  I entered my 35 word pitch and first 150 into a slush pile of 300. I imagine reading through the slush was not unlike the movie 300. Blood everywhere, death, carnage, and really hot half naked men writhing about. And that's just the judges! (well, minus the half naked men part. Those were the entries!)

brushes,dripping,drips,paintbrushes,painting,paints,phrases,signs,text,wet,wet paint
Wish me PAINT!
If you want to take a look-see at my entry, you can visit another fabulous blog from writer and agent intern, Erica Chapman. Here’s her link. (Again, please come back)Erica Chapman   Scroll down. E-7. That’s me. Isn’t it pretty? This time tomorrow, I’ll either be basking in agent request heaven, or drowning my sorrows in Cabernet and ice cream. Chocolate. Häagen-Dazs. Compliments the wine.

Why? Agents are paint balling as we speak. Making bids for the manuscripts they’d like to see. It’s madness. Lo to be the one with no requests. That. Would. Suck.

Another fabulous contest I’m in is hosted on Cupid’s Literary Connection. Another great blog. See here. Cupid (Do I even have to say it? BACK PLEASE!) This lovely little contest involved being the first of 100 emails with my query and the first 250 words. Scroll down. I am CAGI numero dos dos. For the non-espanol speaking readers, that’s 22. Well, actually it’s 2-2 to be exact. This little contest has judges choosing the best 4 entries in their set, which will then go on to be judged by agents. So, don't know my status there yet, but I’ve got everything crossed.

Then there’s GUTGAA next Friday. My email is prepared. Stand back. You won’t want to get whiplash when my hand makes a move toward the send button. I’m not kidding. It gets scary.

Kim Lionetti (A-Mazing Agent) is hosting a twitter pitch. My first sentence is in the running. Eegads.

My flash fiction piece is awaiting results with agent Maria Lamba in the Women on Writing quarterly contest. Prays. Prays. Prays.

Finally, the last fun news, I made a whole lotta friends from these contests. Namely one Fizz and one Apples. They crack me up. Seriously. Tweeting with them is the most fun I’ve had in a while. Which may just say a little something about my social life.
This one’s for you Summer!
If you want to see I'm why I'm going on about them, visit their blogs and see. Dee's blog and Summer a.k.a. The Fizz (Wouldn't blame you if you never came back. They're blogs kinda suck you in. Like a Hoover. Or a Dyson.)
If you are a writer and you haven't tweeted...get thee to Twitter. It's social networking at it's finest. I resisted for awhile. I was a naysayer too. But I caved. And shoot boy howdy was it worth it. Fantastic writing community. Uber support. Agents all over the place tweeting advice, query stats, and wishlists. It's Disneyland for writers. Except Writerland doesn't really sound that fun.

So, yeah. Basically a busy week in my writing life. As I said, this working every day seriously interferes. What’s that? Yes, please put your test on the stool. Talk amongst yourselves. No, no homework. I’m blogging here! Guess I should go teach.

Later cupcake.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Meet and Greet!

Happy labor day. The day we all get to labor. No, that's not right. The day off from labor. Because working 364 days a year is tough. For real.

Anyway, today is Meet and Greet for the GUTGAA. Yay! Check out Deanna Barnhart's blog for more info. So for those of you who have geared and met and popped over to say hi, 'how you doin'?'

View detailsShort bio first.

I live in Seattle now (mostly because of the movie Singles...wasn't that a great movie?), but was born and raised a California girl. Yep. David Lee Roth loved me. I have a ton of passions, and the list is long, so I will attempt to keep it on the shorter side.

animals,nature,Photographs,sealsFirst, I studied marine biology in college and was going to be a marine biologist, until I realized after failing organic chemistry twice, it might not be for me. I spent years volunteering and working in internships for National Marine Fishery Service, Marine Mammal Rehabilitation, Seattle Aquarium, San Pedro Aquarium and was active in a college group called MMRG (Marine Mammal Research Group). So I can tell you more than you probably ever wanted to know about studying sea otter poop and what a bite from a harbor seal can do to your knee. Intibating a seal? Done it. Necropsy on sea lions? Yep. Anyway, loved it and it still is near and dear to my heart. That guy right there? He's cute no? Elephant seal pup. Huge and stinky. Miss these guys.

Second, I love to teach. I teach 8th graders English. People say I am crazy to work with middle schoolers, and that could well be the truth. But I love it. The kids are great, even though they drive me bonkers and they push me and challenge me to become a better person and teacher. Truly, I am their student just as much as they are mine. I'm glad to say I've made life long connections with many of them, and I am there to watch them graduate. Yeah, teaching is pretty cool. Having summer's off isn't too shabby either.

In addition, I am a freak over the show LOST. I am a LOST junkie. I collect the figurines. I've been a Dharma scientist two years running, and I even planned a family trip to Oahu so I could go and visit the filming locations. It was so COOL! I am a Jack fan, and he can play Doctor with me any day. Although Desmond (see you in another life, brotha) and Sawyer rock it too. And Hurley. And Jin. Okay, they all are amazing! Why, oh why, did that show have to end. There has never and probably will never be anything else like it on tv. It was a show that truly pushed my intellect. I learned a lot about writing from that show as well. Fabulous writers. I kinda have a crush on Damon Lindelof. Not gonna lie. That's my daughter. Yep. She is standing on THE Dharma sub. Right where Juliet stood. Cool.

My family is another passion. I have a wonderful six almost seven year old who amazes me every day. She is my world. I adore her. Actually, she is why I started writing. I wanted there to be books out there for girls like her that are feisty and independent. Strong female characters who don’t only think about love, friends, and other people, but characters who put themselves first. Ones who aren't afraid to go for what they want.

That's me. In a nutshell.

Now for the GUTGAA questions:

-Where do you write?
Usually at my kitchen table. I need an office. What I would give for a private writing space. (I say this as the dishwasher is on, my husband is washing dishes, and my kid is on the couch. Asking for more fruit snacks.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
My tablecloth. I keep the table clear of clutter. I guess there is a bottle of diet Pepsi too. :)

-Favorite time to write?
At night, when the kiddo is in bed. Yelling down. "Mom, can I have some more ice water?" "Go to bed!"

-Drink of choice while writing?
Ummm. Diet Pepsi. And cabernet. Not together. And not in that order.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
SILENCIO, por favor! Anything around me drives me bonkers. Although some scenes I have written with low background music. Pandora…the Death Cab for Cutie Station. Or maybe Coldplay.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
Wow. I knew I wanted to do a modern retell of a fairy tale. Snow White had been DTD, same with Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. So, I thought Ariel needs some new life. I thought of the title first. Speechless. Then the rest kind of evolved. I'm really liking the way it's shaping up. And I love my MC, Lorelei.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?
View detailsGet critique partners. A few good ones are worth gold. I have some now that are fabulous and catch things no one else, including me, have caught. I'd be lost without them.

So, there it is. Me. On a page. Wow. I look a lot different than I imagined.

Nice to meet you. Comment on me and I will for sure visit your page. Love to give the love back, you know what I mean?