About Me

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May - 2016: Upcoming, I'll be participating in Desert Sleuth's Donald Maass Workshop. I'm afraid it sold out months ago, but if you have questions, contact me.

Apr - 2016: A 2nd Kami Short will release in the Malice Domestic anthology in Bethesda MD. I'll also be moderating a panel with authors Karen Pullen, Sue Cox, and Gretchen Archer. Don't miss the fun! I'll have special edition signed copies of the 1st Kami Short from the SinC - Desert Sleuth anthology to hand out for free.

Apr - 2016: An adult short story, Big Horn Mountain Carnivores, was selected as the adult category winner in the Tempe Community Writing Contest loosely associated with Arizona State University! The e- & print release where I read a portion of the story was the greatest fun. Thank you everyone who came by! Free download here (scroll to bottom): 

Aug - 2015: Politics of Chaos was released at an event attended by the awesome NYTimes best-selling author Sara Paretsky! Also, a flash fiction entitled, "Lightning" was 3rd runner up in the national 2015 Writers Police Academy's contest.

July - 2015: NYC FBI headquarters. Many thrilling authors were there, the presentations were fantastic, and the experience was a solid 15 on a 10 point scale. Thank you to the International Thriller Writers for inviting me. Thank you to the men and women of the FBI.

MAY - 2015: The Poisoned Pen submitted Chaos Theory for the 2015 Edgar's young adult novel award. Please note that submission is NOT a nomination. Still, it is an exciting development.

MAR - 2015:Tucson Festival of Books booksigning! Great time by all.

FEB - 2015: CHAOS THEORY, released by The Poisoned Pencil, an imprint of The Poisoned Pen Press - one of the nation's largest publishers of hard-back mysteries.

MAR - 2013: Meg was honored to receive a year long mentorship from author Jan Blazanin through the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - Iowa. Ms. Blazanin praised Meg's multiple characters' distinct and age appropriate voices.

Her writing blog is located at megevonne.blogspot.com contains reviews and writing craft tools.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tagline Contest

UPDATE: Tagline has been re-worked as shown... Probably will change many, many more times!

Magi magic manifests through trial; the greater the magic within, the greater the trial, and Eve is going to manifest a shitload of magic, or die trying. To find her parents and save the world, she races across Rome trailing ritual murders by finding and deciphering clues in order to stop a ghoul, straight out of Lucan’s epic poem. All to clean up a mess made by Isis, her mentor—a mess that has already sent two samaneri to their deaths.

Deep in editing for that final printing to send off to an editor, I missed the great Miss Snark's First Victim's tagline contest. Completely inexcusable since she actually ran three submission times. Inexcusable, but you do learn as much by reading, writings crits, and reading the posted crits as you get posting! It's an invaluable resource I visit often.

Then to my surprise, someone else opened up same type of feed back on their site. Okay, missed three and MSFV has this fabulous opportunity coming up shortly--so to miss the 4th would be completely stupid. Therefore, for your editing pleasure here is my tagline for my manuscript.

Title: Star of Isis
Genre: high concept YA magic realism
Word Count: 60,533

Fifteen-yr-old Eve arrives in Rome to find her parents missing. To save her parents and defeat a ghoul straight from Lucan's epic poem, Eve must discover her magi powers and decipher clues while trailing a series of ritual murders. She explores real history, visits authentic exotic locations, and converses with historical figures-both real and from religious mythology.

Please comment away. ANYTHING you can do to make this stand out and say, "Represent me!" would be greatly appreciated!

Friday, October 8, 2010

What is the fuss? #queryfail

Recent Miss Snark's First Victim blog asked for opinions on agents and interns (remember an intern is under the supervision of an agent) who quote from queries as a learning tool on twitter. This could be an invaluable tool for writers. Apparently, there have been some authors who have taken objection to the practice.

I am not a follower of the tweet catagory mentioned in the blog, but here is my initial take on this. For any agent who is offended by my comments, my apologies, but I assume you have the same sense of humor as the prospective client is to have when they find their query commented on in a public forum... Seriously guys on both sides! Lighten up!


"Personally, I couldn't care less, but on a professional level--perhaps. An agent has no responsibility to an unsigned author, yet there is a level of privacy assumed in the query process. For example, I doubt any of us would deny that sharing a premise, a plot line, a character quirk that the agent thought was clever would be 'all right'.

Here is the possible problem on a professional level. First, the new practice of not replying to queries places another layer of anonymity and distance between agent and prospective client. In that environment, imagine the possible anger when author sees their query picked apart publicly later? And remember, prospective authors are often following the agent in question. Tweetdom is public, blogs are public, forums are public--agents are not without responsibility when in the public eye.

Agents are professionals. Professionals do not use their knowledge or expertise to snark or ridicule others. The agent should have replied courteously with the obvious error and then could have asked to share on a blog or tweet or whatever without naming names etc. Then it would have been a true learning experience for all, without the vague possibility of harming another.

Signed Ann Landers... or maybe Pollyanna in the heartland. :-) "

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Writer's Craft and Scotch Whiskey

Is it a surprise to anyone that I am a classic Type A personality? Yes, the upholstered chair at my desk frays along the front, not the back. When I focus on a client, it’s intense, eyes in compassion, but still intense. I don’t meander; I storm. My actions reflect layers of quickly reasoned thoughts, not tending to linger on the single thought in great depth.

I don’t write short stories, but for assignments at the Univ. of IA summer program, I am forced into its tightly knit form. I learn a great deal as I organize my thoughts, reach for the concepts and writer craft skills I have and I’m learning. They give me a chance to see what I’ve accomplished on a few pages. One such work, I’m cultivating, revising, and eying for my annual contender for the Zoetrope: All-Short Story Contest. I do this without any thought or hope of recognition, but more of a final school exam, a statement of my growth.

This year, two writing projects intersected and gave me pause. One a nonsense, fun piece for an acquaintance about reviews and scotch whiskey—okay, you had to be there… The other was this short story, Eden.

After Eden’s time in the corner, in the drawer in writer's vernacular--that recommended writer’s rest and pause, this time rather than picking it up, attacking it with vigor, and devouring it, I read it through the eyes of that master brewer, deep in his caves, testing his kegs in the cold, bitter winter time, imagining the spring. The deep draw of breath from each glass, the first virgin taste on one, the middle-aged ripeness on another, and then heavenly, fully aged flavor of the cream—aged ten, fifteen, more years. Reminiscing on the smoky flavor, the subtle blend, the gentle timeless aging in a keg traveled with me into my revision of Eden—an incident unprecedented.

Being type A, these moments do not settle easily around me, but when they do, when I find that peace, when I find that time for being in the moment—it is a delicious and wondrous time, and the work does well for it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Value of Taking the Side Path...

Over and over a writer hears that taking a side path, a branch off from the planned route can add, add, add to our work, even as the writer worries about the time it takes to travel them. Yes, I've been down three side paths since last I posted.

1. I took some serious time to do 'writing craft' research on 'plot climax' from as many sources as I had on hand and available through the internet. As a result, I came to understand that my climax was actually a couple chapters prior to where I thought it was. Okay, you're scratching your head going, 'how the f****** hell can Meg not know where the blasted plot climax is after all that time!?!" Turns out, I have one climax that births another that follows immediately after that one. The first is a physical plot climax followed by a final massive mental/emotional climax puzzle to figure out. I'd erroneously figured that the mental section was the massive plot climax...

Decided after research that I had to make the physical climax even more satisfying for the reader and make it the top of my upside down plot chart. Then the mental section is an odd twist that extends that height, or might even be considered to slip down and then get pushed over the top again before resolving the book.

That might seem minor, but it put a whole new spin on how much I had to put into the physical plot climax scene...

Then 2. I've been listening to a "Great Sentence" MFA lecture series from a retired Univ of IA professor. It's a complicated, but fascinating class on sentence structures from cumulative sentences, suspensive sentences, etc. From that reading, I ripped apart Carrie Vaughn's short story from Dark and Stormy Knights to critique when and where she used them in her work to heighten tension, build suspense, etc and also a Meg Rosoff book for the same detail. Both use cumulative sentences in different but fascinating ways.

Both research side roads have paid off in huge dividends when I look at the overall effectiveness of my WiP.

3. An assignment on 'order', not flashback, but conscious reveal of back-story in book real time woven into the work has made three beautiful counterpoints of jeweled nuggets that simply make the emotion zing off the pages. Thank you, BK Loren and the Univ of IA writer's festival!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

True Winning Premise Followed by Promise Kept

Why begin with a winning premise? How better to know that you are on the track of something that screams, 'Read me!'

You know that I am taking a class from BK Loren at the Iowa Summer Writer's Festival. She recently received a New Millennium Writings Award. How can you not read this premise and immediately head over to read the story?

"As previously announced, BK Loren of Lafayette, Co, took the $1,000 Fiction Prize for her story 'Cerberus Sleeps,' a surprisingly warm and imaginative story from the POV of the famous Greek hound who once watched over Hades, but now watches over a modern American family on the brink of disaster."

Check out the winners list at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Knoxville-TN/New-Millennium-Writings/68730338624 And you can access BK Loren's story at www.NewMillenniumWritings.com

I finished reading her short story and loved it with passion. Especially since close family friends have recently moved their father into a memory unit. The father and his father spooned together over the walker--simply beautiful.

I'll ask today if the premise led the story or if the story made the premise. I suspect the latter. Wonderful work, but far, far too short. Perhaps Cerebus will return?

Friday, June 25, 2010

To Premise or Not to Premise--that is the Question

In response to concern that beginning your work with a premise statements is flawed and that they are no more than elevator statements. The position is that it is the story that counts. What follows is my reply.

On the other hand, we can't deny that trends are the meat of the industry for every published and unpublished author. Also my best writing has stemmed from premise statements. They help you condense your character's heart-line and keep you focused. They can assure that the marketable storyline on track. Premises can be more than a hook. Example: the decision to write a sibling piece marketable to boys and girls. Ages that are aimed where you think the market is hot. A storyline that grows from a hot sub genre.

A DNA structure is key to decide if your idea has the legs to make it into print. I will never go back to seat of my pants writing. I invest too much of my life, my time, and my effort into a story, and I want to know it has a chance of going all the way. Does that make sense?

The premise is your bone structure. If the right bone structure isn't there to begin with initially, it's almost impossible to go back and insert it later.

That's my two cents worth at least. Best writing all.

Friday, June 18, 2010

God's Gift to Authors--their Voice

My comment in a forum after a colleague said that she had to guard against her style changing in a WiP. "With all your writing experience, you still feel your style varies? That sucks. I hoped that tendency faded w time."

The thing is, ultimately the writer is seeking a style and theme that represents what is in the writer's soul, which is the writer's voice. Once you find the style and theme that best expresses that voice, I don't see it changing or being swayed to match others. In other words, once you've found your unique writer's voice, which is made up from style, theme, techniques, writer craft tools, it may age like a fine wine, but won't change that much. Maybe a more audible image rather than fine wine in needed. Think of your writing as the quest for the perfect bell that will resonate in the reader's mind. Most, perhaps for the vast majority, that bell is slightly off key and the work fails to reach its full potential. Thus the quest is to find that perfect pitch in our writer's voice that is at last--right. I am perfectly willing to listen to other viewpoints on this, but inside it rings true for me.

Brett Anthony Johnston from Harvard says that in a life time an author may have only one true theme or voice. (Like God only gives you one voice or maybe more correct would be to say S/He gives you lots, but its up to you to find the absolutely right perfect voice from those S/He gave you.) Brett bases that on well discussed writing advice that stems from F Scott Fitzgerald, ie that a writer has one underlying voice that s/he is compelled to tell--the writer may change the presentation, but ultimately there is only one.

So in my opinion, an author's voice and its style, which with a mature author, I see as steady and reliable and once found it won't desert or be swayed. It will be true to the author and the gift God gave to that individual.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Building Great Sentences

I am so pleased that the course I ordered with Brooks Landon as professor came with a booklet. Thus armed, I will not drown in this technical writing craft class. I admit that I'm a junkie of the writer's craft with no intention of returning to the land of sanity.

The titles are enough to get my juices flowing:Grammar and Rhetoric, Propositions and Meaning, Rhythm of Cumulative Syntax, Riddle of Prose Rhythm, Cumulative Syntax to create Suspense, Mechanics of Delay, Balanced Sentences and Balanced Forms, Rhythm of Twos, Rhythm of Threes, Balanced Series and Serial Balances.

Ah yes, those of you with your MFAs, your English BAs are cringing at the memory, but I am reveling in the excitement! How I value what you despaired. This is what age can do for the determination of the writer!

Laugh all you want at my giddiness. The great puzzle of the Great Sentence will be mine to unravel shortly!

Okay, that is now. I'm not a complete idiot in rose colored glasses. I'll read this in two weeks and will be posting how much I hate it. It matters not, the goal is to learn, to apply, to dissect, to advance my craft and I will. One way or another. Hopefully it will involve blood, sweat, and tears or it will have not been worth the effort.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Expanding the Writer's Craft Toolbox...

I am ever working to improve my craft skills. Classes have proven, other than actually writing, at doing so. I thought I would share what I've got on tap for the summer.

I'm signed up to attend two one-week courses from the Univ of IA Summer Writer's Festival. http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/iswfest/html/instructor/moranville.html and also http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/iswfest/html/instructor/Loren.html Both should be excellent revision tool classes. I'm looking forward to my first full week workshops. I've attended for weekends, but never the whole week dedicated to writing! The workshops are filled with writers from all over the world and the value of knowledge gained vs cost has never been a concern. I'm so psyched.

My huge what-the-heck have I done was sign up for a DVD/audio class from a University of Iowa professor now retired. http://www.teach12.com/ttcx/coursedesclong2.aspx?cid=2368 The class is called Building Great Sentences:Exploring the Writer's Craft. It's one of those classes you either love because you know it improves your writing or it will make you feel you never should have tried writing at all.

I may have jumped too far into the deep end. I'm hoping my college linguistics class I took is up to the challenge. (It was so lovely and terrifying to be 50+ in with 20 somethings taking that class in person one summer.) With this class, I'll either swim and learn, or I'll be gasping for air the whole time. I'm hoping that the class comes with handouts! If not, I'll sink! The lecture notes were provided for the first class--printing it out was crucial. Let's say that mastering the long sentence is this instructors forte.

The instructor also wrote a key sci fi genre review from 1900's to now that is used in a lot of writing/lit classes. It's from teach12.com

How about you? Are you forging forward with Aiden and his sisters? Plans for class coming up?

A recap is below of the general description.

Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft
Whether two words ("Jesus wept.") or 1,287 words (a sentence in William Faulkner's Absalom! Absalom!), sentences have the power to captivate, entertain, motivate, educate, and, most importantly, delight.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Value of Premise Statements

The following is from a discussion with a fellow poster concerning the market value of a manuscript. How do you decide if this manuscript deserves the time you plan on putting into it.

If you're concerned that you might be wasting time on it (and I interpreted that statement as - is this marketable, publishable, etc.) then I need a premise statement. It is the story you string upon the world and the dilemma you've created that helps me determine that.

Take a look at the Bourne Identity books/movies. They are about political corruption, but the heart line is about Bourne's need to discover the truth about himself, or protecting someone he loves, or revenging the death of his love. In the process the political is solved as well, but the STORY is in what and how Bourne grows and changes.

In other words, if you are moving toward publication goals, then I would need to see a premise statement, which is no more than two sentences (preferably one] that tells the human element, heart line, or emotional story within your neat world and your conflict. This sentence will be usually be your main character's journey.

Do not share premise statements on line. Those are too easily taken, especially if it's a great premise! The stories could be worlds different, but it WAS your intellectual property drawn down to one or two sentences. Thus the caution.

I've included 12 premise statements that authors and agent Michael Bourret successfully used to sell these books over the past 12 months. What better example than premise samples that worked? These were posted on Publisher's Marketplace, which is a great source for determining trends in publishing and agent research prior to querying. (You've heard about research, right? Don't waste an agent's valuable time if you don't write what they sell!)

From Publisher's Marketplace:
Young Adult Nova Ren Suma's IMAGINARY GIRLS, a tale reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's supernatural family dramas, it is the story of two sisters, their strong bond, and the dead body that threatens to break it, to Julie Strauss-Gabel at Dutton Children's, at auction, for publication in Summer 2011, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (NA).
Posted: July 13, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern

Science Marcus Wohlsen's BIOPUNK, chronicling a rising geek underground that wants to do for DNA what the Internet did for information, exploring both the potential for innovation and for destruction, to Courtney Young at Portfolio, for publication in 2011, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World). I love this premise and it's science! Not sci fi!
Posted: July 16, 2009 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern

Young Adult Heather Brewer's THE SLAYER JOURNALS, a five-book spinoff from the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, centering on the character of the slayer that accidentally befriends vampire Vlad before learning of his true nature, to Maureen Sullivan at Dutton Children's, for publication in September 2011, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (NA).
Posted: August 7, 2009 at 3:06 p.m. Eastern

Young Adult Dori Jones Yang's DAUGHTER OF XANADU, about a spirited young Mongolian princess who must decide between her growing attraction towards a young foreigner, Marco Polo, and proving to the Khan, and to herself, that she can be a bold warrior, to Michelle Poploff at Delacorte, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (NA).
Posted: August 18, 2009 at 5:03 p.m. Eastern

Narrative Author of Blue Clay People and Whispering in the Giant's Ear William Powers's TWELVE BY TWELVE: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream, a twenty-first century WALDEN and meditation on globalization about the author's experience in an eco-community after returning from a decade as an aid worker in Africa and South America, to Jason Gardner at New World Library, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World).
Posted: September 9, 2009 at 9:49 p.m. Eastern

Young Adult Debut author Aaron Hartzler's RAPTURE PRACTICE, a humorous, poignant YA memoir about growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home while questioning one's faith and sexuality, reminding readers that sometimes life is stranger than fiction, and often in hindsight, just as entertaining, to Jennifer Hunt at Little, Brown Children's, for publication Spring 2011, by Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (world English).
Posted: September 28, 2009 at 11:23 a.m. Eastern

Film rights Suzanne Selfors's SAVING JULIET, to Disney with Peter Chelsom attached and the Gotham Group producing, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Power of a timely name. Julie and Julia, Letters to Juliet.. can it be that simple and trivial? yep Fun to grt the scoop on a film that won't come out for a couple years! Publisher's market place is fun!
Posted: October 20, 2009 at 3:13 p.m. Eastern

Cooking Brad Thomas Parsons' BITTERS, the history and mystery of how this concentrated alcoholic infusion of aromatic plant roots, bark, herbs, spices, and fruit was first used as a tonic to remedy ills, but has since gone on to be an essential element in quality cocktails, along with more than 100 recipes for homemade bitters and classic and contemporary cocktails using them, to Aaron Wehner at Ten Speed Press, for publication in Fall 2011, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World).
Posted: November 10, 2009 at 9:10 a.m. Eastern

Young Adult Joelle Anthony's THE RIGHT AND THE REAL, following a seventeen-year-old whose father throws her out of the house when she refuses to join the cult he's gotten involved with, forcing her to survive on her own; but when Dad finds himself in danger, she comes to the rescue armed with her newly acquired street smarts, again to Stacey Barney at Putnam Children's, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (world).
Posted: December 4, 2009 at 3:35 p.m. Eastern

Young Adult NYT bestselling author of Wake and Fade Lisa McMann's DEAD TO YOU, about a teenage boy who was abducted nine years ago and is now returning to his family, and THE UNWANTEDS, about kids who are exiled from their homeland when they display signs of creativity to a hidden world where they are trained to use their abilities and hone their magical skills, to Simon Pulse and Aladdin, in a four-book deal, by Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
Posted: December 11, 2009 at 4:49 p.m. Eastern

Young Adult Erin Downing's ECLIPSED, about a girl who has always happily existed in the outer orbit of high school cliques, but is suddenly thrust to the center of the social universe after a mysterious occurrence during a Lunar Eclipse changes everything and flips life-as-she-knew-it onto a bizarre new axis, to Ari Lewin at Disney-Hyperion, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2012, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (NA).
Posted: March 4, 2010 at 5:06 p.m. Eastern

Young Adult The Dust of 100 Dogs author A.S. King's EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, about a teenage boy who, as he struggles to cope with a relentless bully, mysteriously communicates with his long-lost POW grandfather still missing in action in Vietnam, to Andrea Spooner at Little, Brown Children's, for publication in Fall 2011, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World English).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It gives me heart... 20-Under-40-Willing-to-Give-Them-Unpublished-Story

The NY Times announced they were creating a list (assume definitive) of 20-Under-40-Willing-to-Give-Them-Unpublished-Story. It gave me pause. Do not misunderstand, I am delighted to celebrate young writers and encourage it. Yet, I felt that chill of unease. Am I too old to begin this wild adventure ride? Will these wonderful, talented young writers prove that the experience of age isn't a defining quality of great writing?

The list is out and posted below. My heart is singing again. It is primarily comprised of thirty-somethings. Living life, experiencing life, gaining insight from life is still relevant! At my age, I have even more to offer.

My prayers and best hopes for your wonderful prospects and your future careers. Never forget to live life with the freshness of eye you possess today.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32
Chris Adrian, 39
Daniel Alarcón, 33
David Bezmozgis, 37
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38
Joshua Ferris, 35
Jonathan Safran Foer, 33
Nell Freudenberger, 35
Rivka Galchen, 34
Nicole Krauss, 35
Yiyun Li, 37
Dinaw Mengestu, 31
Philipp Meyer, 36
C.E. Morgan, 33
Téa Obreht, 24
ZZ Packer, 37
Karen Russell, 28
Salvatore Scibona, 35
Gary Shteyngart, 37
Wells Tower, 37

Thursday, May 27, 2010

So I'm giggling...

Someone I greatly respect posted this link on a forum that I frequent. *cough, cough..jim-butcher.com* It was so refreshing to see some simple honesty from the author who e-mailed the request and person who replied. Now I have a new blog to follow.


Enjoy and as you're giggling, remember it's because we all know we could be the next to mess up the process, ruin a perfect opportunity, stumble in life--whatever. We're here for the ride, let's enjoy it folks!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hope in Palindrome Submission to AARP

Carol M, from across the pond sent me this. It's
a palindrome (no that isn't Sarah) and reads the same backward as
forward, with quite different conclusions! It was a video that was
submitted in a contest called, "u @ 50" sponsored by AARP. It won
second place. When they showed it, everyone in the room was awestruck
and broke into spontaneous applause. Brilliant, simple, true, and
ultimately full of hope.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Writing has No Free Lunch

A friend made a rather harsh comment on one of my forums. My friend was 100% correct in her opinions of another writer's work. I know she didn't mean to perhaps crush the other writer, but it certainly was a possibility. When I decided to perfect my writing craft, I didn't think that learning to judge other writers' levels in the process would be so important. It is. My response is below. Just a nice recap on what I think it takes to become a master of the writing craft.

Handing *** some coffee...

Liger, The writing craft takes time--a ton of time, usually over years, and it takes commitment. It takes a thick skin and a thicker skull while maintaining a brain that takes what it needs to learn from a variety of sources with a variety of opinions without prejudice.

Write, the rest will come--if you commit to extreme hard work and set easy but steady increases of complexity in learning goals you WILL LEARN the craft. First and foremost write for yourself. If your goal is solely on getting published, getting fame and fortune... Well, crank down the ego by six million and start over.

Write because you must to satisfy something within you whether others read it or not. If you're writing to find a cushy career, then there are tons of easier ways to do it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Creative Mind

Interesting discussion on how the creative mind works based on a discussion with Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson. It concerned how to harness your brain state for optimum creativity. You can read the blog here, if you like and thank you to Livia Blackburne. I'm glad you decided to add me as a twitter pal! I'm going to enjoy your blog a great deal. http://blog.liviablackburne.com/2010/05/understanding-brain-states-for-optimum.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LiviasBrainyWriterBlog+%28Livia+Blackburne%3A+A+Brain+Scientist%27s+Take+on+Creative+Writing+%29&utm_content=Twitter and her guest blog at http://www.problogger.net/archives/2010/05/09/how-to-make-sure-youre-functioning-at-your-creative-best/comment-page-1/#comment-4834153 and also at

I’ve been derided by some writers who’ve claimed I was either 1. a freak of nature, or 2. lying. I write in my sleep. It began with a determination to record and interpret dreams. Somewhere in the process I gained control and could direct my dreams (your first creativity mind set), while pulling freely from the subconscious ether of swirling ideas during free sleep.

The end result is a rich, unique solution to problem solving. It’s also a great way to free associate clues to find out, ‘who done it’.

As I head into sleep, I’ll focus on what scene I have coming up, or how to get my character out of the dilemma I’ve placed them. Frequently by morning I’ll have it worked out in my head. I’ll spend the day with it perking on the back burner and after my normal work, I can sit down and write it out.

I’m glad to see proof that I’m 1. not a freak of nature and 2. that there is proof that I am not lying!

Thanks for the reaffirmation! Meg

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pace/Tension Issues in Action Sequences

I'm setting up a crit page exchange with a local author and put together this short guideline on pace/tension issues to consider. Sort of a road map of items that I've learned. If it's helpful, let me know.

So in this action sequence, I’ve hit a lot of pacing problems, which just as well could be called tension problems. It’s not unusual in first drafts, but important to keep in mind.

1. Pace/tension requires complete control of what action happens where.
2. Motivations direct your action sequence. Make sure actions match your character's motivation in the scene and that the actions fall in logical sequence.
3. Chose the best, most descriptive, active verbs you can find to use and then place them where they will count in the sentence. Cut weak ones.
4. Never (all rules are made to be broken) use reported or telling in your writing but it’s a cardinal sin in action sequences. If you must, make it a conscious writer’s decision and keep it short.
5. Shifting POVs in action makes the reader work to decide what lens they are looking through and drags the reader out of the action unconsciously---slowing down the pace/tension. If you must, make it an easy shift for your reader wiht limited number of those shifts.
6. Tighten, tighten, tighten. Keep it simple. If 36 syllables can be accomplished in 14—go for it!
7. Generally shift to shorter and shorter sentences and paragraphs as you build the tension and increase the pace. Seek out actual white space in the print in action sequences and avoid areas of dark print in action. It mentally drags the reader down. These are like non-verbal body language that the mind picks up and interprets beneath the surface of thought.

And 8. In my reading experience, only the best (my favorite author, #1NYTimes Jim Butcher) can take these amazing philosophical side steps into the mind and make it work during action scenes. He uses it to tease us away with a wicked sense of humor and murderous planned reader abuse and, addicted, we love it, even as we beg him to get back to the action. (I think this applies to love/sex scenes too. He’s postponing the climax and we…yeah, you get the idea. LOL) At one point in a book, he pulls back from the tight hard action to give me like six ways that people experience hospitals or pain or types of fear and it works! I love his segues like that, but for the rest of us—we’d better keep to the straightforward action…

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Love of Revision

There is an entire different part of my brain that cranks into gear with revision. This time around I'm firing my revision with visual and audio cues to keep me focused. It adds to the fun. (Egads, did I just call revision fun? Seriously I love it, as long as I keep a fresh work in the hopper as well.)

I've been working with www.darcypattison.com/revision/shrunken-manuscript. The concept is easy, visual, and for those who love the tactile paper approach it works well. In the real world, I scrapped the paper edition and moved straight to highlighting attributes I want to check, ie action, info dumps, dialog, clues etc and then switched my 12 pt NYTs font to 20%. Immediate color coded evidence of your sins! Info dumps glare out at you. Description that runs long blasts out. Dialog from talking heads (rather than using descriptive action within dialog sings out of key! Then that miracle view key again to blow up to full page to make your corrections on a copy you can actually read.

The other pleasure revision trigger was audible. I'm a great reader with no fear of crowds, okay I'm a phenomenal reader--years of storytelling and a BA in drama with an emphasis on oral interpretation sort of hardwired it into me. People enjoy my acting voices,they can clearly understand my words, and I can give them goosebumps or make them cry on cue. Reading my mss should have been a perfect fit, but when I tried it, I stopped short.

I couldn't stand the sound quality of Microsoft Sound Recorder. Then in a stroke of sheer Meg-non-tech-geek format I deleted the program to speed up my laptop. When I decided to try again I had to pick the brains of a young man at Best Buy. Solution: Free down load at www.AudacityDownload.org. Point of order, DO NOT ENTER audacity.com--the first thing that pops up is a notice that they ARE not the audio download site. Yikes, what fun huh? And they haven't figured out how to stick an ad on there for some income? Crazy people.

Anyway, the sound quality is more than acceptable. It has more buttons and cool stuff then I will ever figure out, but it's great. Keep it short. One page. Then listen,make corrections, and smooth out the rough spots.

So zap up your own revision work by using tactile and auditory sensors in your writer's brain and see what new twists and solutions you can discover as a result.

Of course for the ultimate caffeine fix and taste sense add chocolate.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Top Ten List of my favorite young adult boooks

Top Ten Lists:

My list: I'm with TK. I'm ready for an extended reading break. As a grandmother, I pulled out the books that made it through countless moves in various stages of abuse and many bookshelf cullings. These are the books that I can't wait to read to my grand-daughter.

  • Any of Silverstein, but Where the Sidewalk Ends wins (2 copies-because my son and my daughter fought over it at bedtime)
  • Courage of Sarah Nobel* by Dalgleish (because bravery comes is small bodies)
  • Wrinkle in Time* by L'Engle (because love of family conquers all)
  • Light in the Forest by Richter (because love overcomes culture clash)
  • Isle of the Blue Dolphin* by O'Dell (because perseverance wins)
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by Konisburg (because you can puzzle anything out--even if you're young, awkward and trying to grow up)
  • Enchantress from the Stars* by Engdahl (because an anthropologist will sacrifice her life for others to keep a society's innocence)
  • Number the Stars* by Lowry (because a young girl can make a difference against atrocity and war)
  • 21 Balloons* by du Bois (technology can be wonderful and stem from creativity) or Gilgamesh or Beowulf or the Iliad (because no story can out do the ones that survive centuries)

Enchantress from the Stars was a Newbery Award honorable mention in 1971. Remembering it--reminded me so much of the movie Avatar. Bodies changed to walk among the natives, willingness to risk all for another society, and acceptance of the adopted society over the cavalier attitude of her fellow scientists etc. Humm, James Cameron is my age. I wonder if he read this book!

*recognized by the Newbery Award committee.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Things you do...

Sometimes we need a subtle reminder of what is important. Thank you cie for reminding me.

"For the most part my life is pretty good. Oh, there are things I'm working on, because that's what you do.

move forward,
learn what you can,
try not to screw things up too much,
be good to the people and animals you love,
make a decent living
and have a little fun while you're at it.

This is life. "


C.T.Adams & Cathy Clamp's series continues with Serpent Moon coming out in March!