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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Exceptional Pink Ribbon Warrior's Memoir

 
by 
3858499
's review 
Nov 14, 14  ·  edit

bookshelves: a-quest-for-sanity-in-an-insane-worpink-ribbon,pink-ribbon-heroes
Recommended to M. by: my writing critique group
Recommended for: pink ribbon heroes fighting cancer
Read in November, 2014 — I own a copy, read count: 1

In Grit and Grace, Carrie S. Bell shares and bears her soul to provide knowledge and hope for all fighting cancer. All profits are donated to cancer charities. And she does it with love, passion, and honesty.

I met Carrie S Bell in a writer's critique group. That first time, she brought pages from her cancer-fighting memoir she was considering publishing, and I loved them. Last time we met, she handed me the published work! How thrilling to see her writing quest and her personal cancer journey at last in book form and in my hands.

We share a common love of the Sonoran Desert. The thesaurus offers alternatives to the word desert: wasteland, wilderness, waste, barren and arid region, desolate tract. Yet there are some of us who find solace, comfort, peace, and beauty there. It takes grit to not only survive the desert but to embrace it. We both admire the plants and animal life that adapted over time to flourish there. However, while I putz along on gentler slopes and less strenuous climbs with naked bow in hand, Carrie seeks the mountaintops.

In her cancer fighting memoir, Grit and Grace, she shares the ups, the downs, the in-betweens, and the difficult reality of fighting breast cancer. Her determination to trek to soaring desert peaks is the same determination she applied to her cancer battle.

We share something else, the dogged determination to pursue our writing passion.

I look forward to reading her future works of fiction, but dare I hope she'll bring the mountain tops and the desert with her into the works? I hope so!

With great admiration, Meg E Dobson, AKA M Evonne Dobson

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cover Reveal of Chaos Theory! Release Date Feb 2015

Thank you James Ryan Daley for the images!

Thank
You Poisoned Pencil!

And thank you to my editor. The art department, the publicist, and my fellow press authors!

The ARC is making rounds. If you will read for honest review on Goodreads, B&N, and Amazon, let me know?


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Jack Gantos in Final Five Kirkus Prize 2014

How do you top a Newbery Award? This works! Congratulations to the amazing author Jack Gantos.  This is how you close out a series.

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/prize/2014/finalists/young-readers/

As to the other finalists? My 'to be read' stack just increased in volume.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Single Most Important Revision Question to Ask

Your rough draft is done. Congrats. Bells. Whistles. And so what? That's nothing. It's only a pile of horse apples. Face it. Face facts. Face reality. That stinking, smelly thing goes no where, but know that hidden within are the jewels that make it special. If you have trouble finding them, put it aside for a bit before you return. Let the critic go when you come back. The critic deserves no seat at the table or a view of your laptop.

Bring new revisionist eyes and your tool box. Now it's time to roll up your sleeves and dig deep. You'll find the jewels. You're expand them, set them up early, and let them linger as the pages pass by. Yes, you need to do the grammar stuff, but right now? It's all about your story and how effectively you've told it.

The single most important revision question you pull from your tool box will be your jewel cutter tools. And the main one is, "How does this scene relate to my story?" If it doesn't--yank it, no matter how beautiful or intriguing. You HAVE to pull it. (You might find a few cases where you can rewrite it later, so never delete forever, but remember that if it doesn't belong, it's ineffective.) My rule of thumb is that every scene must advance three aspects of the main plot. It might be driving forward the plot, revealing a character's motivation or soul, or firmly tying a subplot to the main plot, or shining light on the main plot line from another perspective. The three aspects don't have to be world moving stuff. It might simply add tension to ramp up the story: a character argues with another, or has a romantic interlude, or confronts something frightening from their past.

There can be a hundred reasons to include a scene, but you NEED three reasons to prove that its earned its place. Anything less, and you're lacking the depth and richness you need to expect from your storytelling. Think of this as the bulky hammer that cracks the diamond into pieces, or finds the marble figure outlines beneath the solid block. (I love the imagery of this 3D aspect. Your manuscript needs the 3D of a fine sculpture to be good.)

Like all good Single Most Important Questions, it has layers. You now pull out your finer tools. "How does this sentence relate to my story?" Is it an effective sentence? Does it do what it needs to do? Also, it has to be clearly communicated to readers; if readers can't understand it, you failed. Use your smaller chisel to make that sentence a beautiful arm or leg, a curved buttock. Well, you get my drift.

Then you reach for your finest files from your tool box. Here, you borrow from the poet. "Is this the right word for this sentence and this scene." And yes, by now you've gotten it in grammar-okay shape by this point, but that isn't your goal. The storytelling is the goal!

Parelli is a famous horse/rider trainer. He says, "You have to slow down to speed up." Manuscripts are like horses. Rough drafts are no different; dig deep to speed up the main plot story telling.

(Sorry for the rough draft on this blog post, but I need to be working my rough draft for Book II of the The Kami Files, tentatively entitled, TET Theory.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

It was inevitable that I would read this book. I've put it off for years. How do I approach a science fiction award winner when the author despises the genre. She uses the most twisted verbal acrobatics to deny what sits on the end of her nose. She masks it in 'speculative' fiction.

To qoute the master, "A rose by any other name..." Her denial is a sad statement of her prejudices which she so deftly writes upon her pages. That her style lifts the form to mass literary acceptance can still not mask the SF skeleton and soul.
As to the novel itself, the world building is extensive and the plot lacks the strength of a strong protagonist and instead gives us a depressed and oppressed woman to excoriating depth. She does nothing to propel the plot--and it works.

The technique exquisite, the world deeply developed, and the characters are gentle glimpses of every day people in extraordinary circumstanes, and most definitely science fiction at its best, denied by the author or not.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1038725218?book_show_action=false

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Half a King is a huge disappointment bordering on fan fic

This will be my shortest ever review. See Goodreads review for longer version.

If I want GRR Martin, I will wait for his next. Even the series title is ripped from another author.

What was Abrocrombie's was cliche. I give him credit only for his mimic  abilities in the fashion of a TV series rip off.

Reading a favorite character out of another author's pen was disgusting and offensive.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Calling Research Guinea Pigs!Scientific Study Needs You. Especially teens and young adults!

Call for research guinea pigs! Especially if you are a teen or young adult, this vocabulary study needs your help, but everyone can play. Give it a shot?


 http://testyourvocab.com/


Test
your
vocab

How many words do you know?

I'm old, so nt 32600 isn't bad. 80th percentile group. Where do you fall? I was doing fantastic until I hit the last column filled with Latin based words. I could have deciphered some of them, but I stayed true to their request to only mark words you comfortably use and identify. See, I knew there was a reason I should have taken Latin over French in high school. :-(

An internet friend in her 20's was an amazing 39000 plus. With that, I had to send it to a copy editor friend. He had 40,600. 

As a writer though? The suggestion is to avoid ALL Latin based words and stick with the Saxon ones. You know, chose smart over cerebral or shit over defecate? Ha! Maybe you have some too?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Macavity Award Nominations 2014

Macavity Award Nominations 2014  <--looking a="" check="" for="" nominations.="" out="" p="" read="" summer="" these="">

You'll note that Ian Rankin's is listed. And yes, he posted this to his twitter account. I love twitter!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Writer and Michelangelo; an Editing Journey

In 1993, I spent a week in Rome. As the years pass, many of my memories fade of that trip, but standing beside and beneath Michelangelo's statutes of The Pieta and Moses? That experience will never go away. How can you ever forget such vibrant warm life created out of marble? I marvel at his ability to see those characters hiding inside that cold block of raw material. I'm staggered by the time it took to complete them, as well as the time and practice it took to obtain the technical skills to create them. That is not a miracle but determination and dedication.

My daughter calls it positive space. She should know. She's an art teacher. To me, I know only that Michelangelo had to remove what didn't belong to get to what did.

As writers in the editing phase, we must do that as well. We create our marble block, although ours is a gooey mushy clump-like clay, but once the plot and characters are there? The clump becomes hard, unyielding marble that a writer must chisel. It isn't a passive endeavor. You have to sweat to chip those parts away. Your muscles quiver with the effort. Your mind becomes exhausted.

When you finish the big chunk removal, you move on to the tiny and infinitesimal. Each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each chapter until you reach the warmth and shine of your true story beneath the crud. As you do it? The time passes--sometimes months--until your heart beats harder and your soul cries out as you see the small glimpses of what your story will become. Like Michelangelo, you apply the chisel to find the heart hiding within the cold block of marble.

I will never reach the perfection of Michelangelo, but I will try. I will never stop trying.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pushing the Envelop to Tell a Great Story; Review Jesus Jackson by James Ryan Daley due out Sept, 2014

My copy was an advanced promotional edition for review purposes. It will be released by the new imprint The Poisoned Pencil, a division of The Poisoned Pen Press on September 1st, 2014. My own Poisoned Pencil work will be released February 3rd, 2015. 

Genre: edgy YA contemporary crime fiction
Appropriate ages: 14 & up
Strongly recommend

Quality thoughtful work, not only well written but intriguing from a plot stand point as the main character deals with the death of his older brother. Both he and his brother attend a catholic high school, but neither believes in God. After his brother dies in a possible murder or suicide, the main character runs across Jesus Jackson who promises, for a fee, to help the main character find his faith. Jesus is quite willing to make that any faith you wish. His specialty it turns out is pushing, sometimes literally, his clients into a leap of faith--even our main character who wishes his faith to be nothing at all. A challenge Jesus agrees is challenging, but it's doable. Therefore $12.00 is paid and the contract is made.

The idea of incorporating a Jesus figure was not only intriguing, it works extremely well. It might turn off some readers to the work, but it frankly lifted this story up several notches in my critical review. This isn't Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume--but it's a similar quest told from the view point of a young man facing the loss of his dear brother.

I found it as funny as it was touching. The teen relationships were believable and the voice strong.

Give this out of the box book a try. I believe you also will enjoy it. 

Another Book for Your Writer's Tool Box, Writes of Passage

My basic writer’s tool box is filled with books. My go to book for writing inspiration has always been Jane Yolen’s Take Joy; for editing, it’s Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne; for in the trenches and needing humor, it’s Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Besides writing, you’ll note the common denominator is humor. As writer’s we need that.

 

To that mix, I’ve added another book, Writes of Passage, Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, Sisters in Crime, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan 2014. It’s essay collaboration on all stages of writing by writers who know. Each offers advice from the heart with humor and kindness. As I step from stage to stage as an author, each new level requires new skill sets and bravery to face new fears.

 

The best way to share this from a writer’s perspective is to list some my highlighted quotes. I highly encourage you to purchase this for your own writer’s craft bookshelf. Thank you to all the contributors for excellent advice.

 

From Hank Phillippi Ryan, “…the one secret of writing: Every single author has felt the way you do. Without question, I can assure you, every single one. …This little book is your weapon against fear, your ammunition against self-doubt, your antidote for gloom. …They say you can only learn from experience. And that may be true. But what they don’t tell you is that it doesn’t have to be your own experience.”

 

From Catriona McPherson, “…we happily share our daily word count on our Facebook page, but I’ve never seen someone post news of six hours’ good, hard thinking and expect a high five. …That’s where the stories come from.”

 

From Sandra Parshall on who you are, “You’re a writer. That’s your identity. Don’t let anyone take it away from you.”

 

From JoAnna Carl & Eve K Sandstrom on research, “People just love to tell you what they know. …Writers, don’t be shy! Ask somebody!”

 

From Kylie Logan on writing reality, “Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept. It’s all about the appreciation of imperfection and impermanence. In other words, the acceptance of transience. …I have to remember that a book, at any stage in its writing, is a product that’s growing and changing. In other words, it’s transient. ...when I’m writing—when the creative juices are flowing and the words are tumbling out of my brain and my fingers are racing across the keyboard---it’s okay for my writing to be a little wabi-sabi.”

 

From Clare O’Donohue on writing spaces, “As a home-office-less writer, I’m pretty much doomed to wander the earth looking for a place to rest my weary PC, so I’ll write anywhere I can find a seat.” But if you do it in public, expect your intent and often discomforting expressions may terrify people in public. Ha!

 

From Lori Roy on her writing organization skills, “While organization served me well as an accountant, it does me no good as a writer. Instead of papers filed in a three-ring binder, the holes of each page reinforced, my research is piled around my office, stuffed in drawers, jammed in manila folders I won’t be able to find later.”

 

From Clea Simon on writing, “As a working author, I can attest to one vital truth: There is always time for laundry, and that’s not a bad thing. …That troublesome subplot will find itself resolved somewhere between the cold and hot water loads.”

 

Proofreading advice from Elaine Viets: “Will you get them all? Not this time. But you will see the last few typos—when your finished novel arrives.”

 

From Terry Shames on A Little Help from My Friends, “I was a member of Guppy Chapter.

 

From Leslie Budewitz on above, “What groups do best…is encourage their member and leverage information. Every opportunity and accomplishment I’ve had as a writer started with something I learned from a group. And with SinC and the Guppies, I didn’t even have to put on shoes.”

 

From Deborah Coonts on talking with other writers, “From Nancy Martin, [an author mentioned by several of the contributors] the wonderful writer of the Blackbird Sisters series, I learned that…writers… are the most accepting, supportive, wonderfully weird group of friends. …Walk into writers’ conferences…knowing that you belong. …Then reach out a hand to a newbie and bring him or her into the clan.”

 

From Emily Dickinson a quote long known but always helpful, “’Hope’ is that thing with feathers—That perches in the soul—And sings the tune without words—And never stops—at all__

 

From Kaye George, “The most important thing I learned was that this is not an easy process and it would take time and patience and tons of persistence.”

 

From Barbara Ross, “The most important character trait a writer can have is not hope. It’s resilience. But how do you get it? You write more.”

 

From Sharon Wildwind, “Want to add a quick fix to the hope chest? Drink water. Two percent dehydration…impairs decision making and reduces creativity. Sometimes hope is as simple as a glass of water.” And “In the words of Galaxy Quest’s Jason Nesmith, “Never give up. Never surrender.”

 

From Joelle Charbonneau, “I learned to self-motivate based on love of the craft and the thrill of climbing the storytelling mountain and getting to the other side. …I became an author the day I made the commitment to myself and the story I was telling.”

 

Sujata Massey offers six effective marketing and promotion ideas that won’t kill ya.

 

From Cathy Pickens on hitting the wall, “The best artists learn to shove on through . And that’s the secret: not dancing around it, ignoring it, or pretending you can plan enough to avoid it completely, but pushing on through.”

 

Patricia Sprinkle offers a personal story on promotion that made me roar out loud! As her husband commented, “We can’t afford too many successful signings.”

 

Barbara D’Amato shares a hilarious road trip with another other author. They hear a precious story from a married couple at a road side vendor stall. They both get in their car smiling, knowing that they were going to use the conversation in something sometime!

 

From Luisa Buehler on Writes of Passage, “How different the feeling of knowing you’re moving forward and not muddling through. How defining the moment when you understand the difference, not only in your mind but in your heart.”

 

From Lucy Burdette and Roberta Isleib’s essay on the difference between hope and success reminded me of a quote I keep taped to my keyboard. It’s from some 15th century manuscript copied from a Great Course on literature. It reads, “Like the light of reason shining upon long cherished illusions.” This piece reminded me to shine that light of reason on my writing so I see reality as well as my dream to make it happen! Remove the illusions and then you can proceed.

 

Harley Jane Kozak shares how to translate your editor’s revision requests into happy to-do lists that fix the problems. Then “Use fancy fonts and different colors and mount it on beautiful paper, suitable for framing. …After that I filed that horrifying eight-page editorial letter in a box that I locked in a vault that I buried under the floorboards, never to read again. And then I could work.”

 

From J. A. Hennrikus, “Don’t forget to be happy. … stop and celebrate every passage.”

 

From Deborah J Ledford, “Writing can be a lonely profession, and only your fellow writers know what it takes to commit, pour out your heart, offer your soul to strangers, and hope the reader will accept what you have to offer. …Surround yourself with like-minded, supportive, and creative people.”

 



Sisters in Crime’s motto is ‘you write alone, but you are never alone.’ Not a bad offer to writers.

Friday, June 6, 2014

YA Edgar Award Winner Review - Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

The Edgar Awards are given annually by the Mystery Writer's of America, which is a professional mystery/crime fiction writer's organization. Last year, I fell in love with an also nominated Emily Dickinson's Dress and Other Missing Stuff. That book lost to Verity. Okay, great book but I still loved the small press EDOMS more. :-) This year, Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher won the YA category.

From what I can see reading the other reviews, you either love this or you don't. I would have come down with a 4.5 rating.

Title: Love it.    Ketchup Clouds

Interesting premise: young UK girl dealing with first love confusion and then guilt over a death begins writing to a death row inmate in Texas. That's cool. I like it a lot. it plays with the time line so you obtain memories from the letters as well as current action--that's cool and well done. Toss in the nice little subplots: a professional dad out of work and a guilt ridden stay at home mom over an incident involving their youngest deaf daughter, two brothers that fall for the same girl; the dead boy's mom trying to figure out how to cope and how her son died, another sister who is being bullied but isn't--those are nifty too. OK--maybe she over did the sub-threads.

Negatives: Although the young girl's voice is age appropriate, it rattles apart at various times. That was disappointing. She comes across as far too mature in some relationships (siblings) and far too immature in the romance triangle.

Mixed feelings: The inmate on death row is kinda important, but we miss his input since he's doesn't reply. As his death date arrives, I didn't feel it was tied into the story to bring about any resolution on the MC's part. That left me disappointed, and you don't want to disappoint your reader.

My ultimate guess? I'm probably going to fall in love with one of the other nominations like I did last year.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Seeking Depth, not Length

Dream piece

"Where is my classroom?" I ask.
He points down the hall. "Outside there's a little girl with a gun."

Of course your mind reads/hears this:

He points down the hall. "Outside there's a little girl...

           [obligatory comedy three beat Ba-Dump-Ba]

                                                                               ...with a gun.

Seeking the incongruity, puzzling out the pieces, taking a fine needle and teasing apart the whole to find the smallest parts, and giving the experience time to ferment--often writing and critical reading is like that.

Ten years ago, I began my serious writing education. It began with a safe internet anonymous experience with mediabistro.com. It evolved to a daring face-to-face summer weekend class at University of Iowa with Bret Anthony Johnston. (The second T that belongs in the first name is inserted into his last.) During the normal year, he teaches creative writing at Harvard. His Corpus Christi: Short Stories had been received with glowing reviews and awards. His second was a writing exploration entitled, Naming the World.

In prep for the class, he asked for a writing sample--Yeah, right. No way. I'd written my entire life and nobody but NOBODY was allowed to read my stuff [shit*]. Yet, there came a point where I knew that to improve my craft I needed to get out there. It was a huge step. Terrified I went; I added to my writer's tool box; and I learned how to proceed to make my stuff [shit] better.

Bret returns this summer ten years later. I'm taking his class again. If he asks, I may share my work [shit]. Maybe...

I digress. I'm writing about his recently released and long anticipated novel, Remember Me Like This. For starters, I was shocked. It was being sold as a psychological thriller--Yeah, right Amazon. Doesn't matter. I digress. It's about a family's story that begins where the stories usually end. It's about the tattered broken family (mother, father, younger brother, victim) when the young boy taken four years earlier by a pedophile is returned home. He's only been a few miles away--too often this is the case in real life.

In Bret Anthony Johnston's (remove T from first name and insert in last) Remember Me Like This is a storytelling triumph of an ultimate master finding the depths of character and plot. Reading his book is akin to taking an expensive tiny Swiss mechanical (forget the new stuff) watch. You pry off the back to see the working parts inside. The steam-punk gears and springs take your breath away. Yet, the masterpiece is working, barely. Something is wrong.

You begin by inspecting it. You lift it. You turn it. You angle it. You peer into the visible parts and gasp. All that in that tiny little watch. Someone invented that. Someone designed that. Someone made that. Bret's fictional family is like that. It looks intact; they crank out the time, but beneath the visible gears and springs, it's not right. The mother is an emotional wreck aiding a dolphin at a sanctuary. The father is having an affair. The younger son buries himself in his brother's passion--skateboarding and lives under overwhelming guilt for no reason. Then the older brother is found and returned to them in what appears to be fairly normal condition. The pedophile is arrested. Happy ending--Yeah, right. The pedophile is released because his mother is dying of cancer and returns to the same small community. ***SPOILER ALERT*** The pedophile is killed. In fact, Bret overshadows the entire work with an opening future scene of a washed up body and then returns to the earlier story. (See Bret, I did learn something about plot structure.)

In the work, Bret finds depth in each character's heart line, walking with pain hand and hand with each as s/he finds her/his way to some form of normalcy. He guides the reader to surgically remove the complicated master timepiece parts to reveal the gears beneath the gears to inspect what can not be seen. He invites the reader to inspect how they interlock and click to make a family. You find not one dysfunction but many. Most of the book you worry who the sea bloated body is. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Then he ultimately leaves you with the mystery of who killed the pedophile? (And, if you can believe it, it doesn't matter.) As a reader, you can't find all the answers on first read--or I couldn't. Instead, they creep into my consciousness at night.

For me, they came in:

"Where is my classroom?" I ask.

He points down the hall. "Outside there's a little girl...

              [obligatory comedy three beat of Ba-Dump-Ba]

                                                                                ...with a gun.

Where is the incongruity? Why is there a little girl outside the classroom? Why does she have a gun? (Gun in Act I, you'd better use it by Act III worries.) Why is it reported as if it were an every day event? It's my mind that added the Ba-Dump-Ba.

Back to the fine timepiece that now is in pieces on the work table under the fluorescent light. Where is the incongruity? It's been dangling there for a few days now and I'm still puzzling it out, tearing it apart with surgical care. To find my answers, I seek the incongruous.

What did Bret offer us to learn from this novel? Why the dolphin inclusion? Because it allowed the story of how a dolphin community will save a young or ill member but lifting them to the surface to breathe--sometimes for days. It takes the community working together. To survive others step forward. For me, this is the heart of Bret's tale. The father is buoyed by an affair; once he is healing the affair falls away. She always knew he would leave, but she was there lifting him in his misery. To the mother, the dolphin center in a larger city where she volunteers under anonymity offers her safe respite and the small community where she lives accepts her out of sanity moments when she breaks down in public. To the younger brother skateboarding and a new girlfriend offer him solace.

The victim who was terrified of snakes returns to his family with one he's befriended. Incongruity. He is identified by a woman who sold him mice to feed his snake. At a crucial returning to some sense of normality transition point for the victim, the snake is shedding her skin and is blind and vulnerable, ready to strike back.

Seek the incongruity within the intricate clockworks and attempt to put it back together again. In writing, you don't need to show them all, but know they are working properly out of sight. But remember the saying, "First rule of tinkering--save all the parts." Bret saves ALL the parts and leaves them carefully in place.

Still remaining on my worktable and not yet inserted? The dog. What's under that house? I'm eerily worried that I'm not going to like the answer to that. It will remain a mystery, maybe because I'm not ready to insert it because of the consequences. A book after all is now mine to do with what I want. Bret's job is done.

On the other hand, I read and dissect to learn. That dream with the little girl with the gun? Incongruity. Turns out my victim in book two is more than a victim in my story. If I hadn't pulled out the visible gears for those beneath? I wouldn't have known that.

Seek depth not length.

*This language is Chuck Wendig's fault.
                          

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Insurgent - From a Writer's Perspective


Insurgent by Veronica Roth


SPOILER ALERT!


I have grave concerns with this book from a writer's perspective. *ducking to avoid things being thrown at me* Still a neat concept, still a manuscript that delivers in the end, but it just bugs me. *Hey! Stop that. That book hurt when it hit me!*

So why? Through most of the book the protag doesn't protag. She angsts around but never takes charge. Yes, angst is great, but you still have to be a protagonist. Then there are serious logistic problems with the whole plot. Why exactly does she - SPOILER ALERT - turn herself in? How the heck does her boyfriend get in and out of IQ faction headquarters with so much ease and seems to be in control? And why the change of heart--in Truth Sayer faction headquarters? Dastardly Dauntless Eric tries to kill her, but then she's suddenly, without explanation, the holy grail answer to all the IQ's plans. Never explained.

It felt like a 1st POV cheat to use her guilt to push her to walk into that faction's front door. I mean is she really suicidal? In which case, I didn't get sold that scenario. I also didn't buy the Caleb turn around. So I find those problematic.

Yet once in the IQ faction hall, it sparkles. She protags. She takes charge. She has a goal. The boyfriend thing solidifies. There's a 'what's up with Peter' aspect that's cool.

*lifting my garbage can lid as a shield* I LIKED THE MOVIE DIVERGENT. I personally think it made the mirror/glass metaphor pop. I think they improved on the book, driving the pace and characters with more satisfaction. I'm hoping that the screenwriters will manage the same with this book when it comes out on the big screen.

*Yep, ducking more things tossed at me and running away as fast as I can.* Speaking of which, will she get a chance to heal this time, cause carrying around all those injuries and keeping them straight, and frankly disregarding them completely at times, that needs to get a fresh start.

And yes, I'm reading Book III. *SPOILER ALERT* Because why the hell the administrator faction would have decided that the 'solving' of society's ills and thinking this experiment is finally ripe and needs harvesting is beyond me...

It would have received a 3 star, but my daughter loves this series. So what do I know?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spread the Writer's Love... Please?

A long time internet friend and all around great writer and person needs help. If you've never met or touched base with Julie Butcher (Yes, NYT awesomeness Jim Butcher is her brother) your life is not complete. She's giving and incredible. She's the woman whose husband built her a 'writing house' behind their home so she could squirrel away to work without interference. I believe I blogged about it once.

Basically, her husband had a chainsaw incident. You can read the details here: leighevans.com/blog/chainsaw/  

If you are able to be of assistance, there is a neat sign up form at http://www.kerryschafer.com/blog/

The last I shared twitter notes with Julie, she had received a promotion with the awesome folks at http://www.buzzymultimedia.com/  I'm sure they will have something working as well.

You can't imagine the expenses that are associated with an incident like this: transportation, time away from work, disability issues, just to name a few. (I know because in RL I'm an insurance agent.)

My heart goes out to Julie, her husband, and their children. (Dare I call them kids? I think they are quite grown up now,)




Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Package: Premise, Beginning & Ending - Death Spiral by Janie Chodosh

Review from a Writer's Prospective: Death Spiral by Janie Chodosh

Coming soon: YouTube interview & Janie reading her first chapter!

The Package: Premise, Beginning & Ending

Getting your manuscript in front of an editor or agent is easy; it’s called the slush pile. Getting them to read it with interest is a whole different story. There is a fun, if painful, game called the “Gong Review.” I’ve seen it live at Dallas Fort Worth Writer’s Conference. A large group of editors and agents sit at a table with Gong Show gongs in front of them. Then someone reads anonymous first pages, or query letters etc. The reading continues until the gong is struck twice. Even anonymous, it is a painful game as 95% never get page the first two paragraphs. The publication world is not for the faint of heart. Buck up and learn. (BUL) Warning to the gong bong holders, "We learn more about you than you learn about our books." Want to see an agent revealing their true feelings? Check out a Gong Show Review.

In the real world your manuscript may not get read past the first line, the first paragraph, or the first page. Your goal: make the reader never stop reading. Then you’ve got something that is marketable.

This takes years of writing experience, a chest high writer's toolbox, and sufficient skill and tough skin to not simply write a great story but present a great story. 
  • Option 1: you can be an unskilled klutz and blow all three of those. 
  • Option 2: you can be a great marketer and sell yourself past initial pitch sessions—but you have to deliver the goods. No great story—pack up and go home (PUGH). 
  • Option 3: sadly, you can also have the great manuscript, but not nail the pitch, the synopsis, the premise & everything else they are looking for in a prospective author. That’s how a fantastic manuscript dies for want of a second (in parliamentary terms.)

 Janie Chodosh delivers as a skilled writer and a marketer.

HER HOOK is longer than most, but it works:

“The only good junkie is a dead junkie. They’re at the bottom of everything. Down there with hookers and drunks. When a junkie dies, no one investigates. They call it an overdose and close the book.  I should know. My mom was one.” Test one, I’d keep reading and so would you.

HER PREMISE continues with…

“The day after my 16th birthday there she was, my mother, dead on the bathroom floor. Just out of the shower. Her hair still wet. I remember that. Thinking if her hair was wet, she couldn’t be dead.  But she was dead, and just like that, the only thing left of my mother was her stuff. I called Aunt Theresa, then the cops. An officer poked around our apartment and scribbled a few notes. Heroin overdose was listed as the official cause of death. Of course, Mom was a junkie. What else would she die of? Everyone bought the story.”  Test two, I’m still on board and wanting more.

HER BEGINNING

Janie Chodosh provides an immediate strong youth voice. Example: “[On her mother’s death] Sometimes for like ten seconds, twenty on a good day, I forget. For those few winks I’m like ‘Hey, life isn’t so bad. I have my own room. Munchies in the fridge. TV.’ But then the thing is back. And I pick it open again. Let it bleed.” In Janie’s tight writing, we know the main character is not in danger; she’s safe, but she’s hurting deeply inside.

Janie opens with a typical high school hallway and classroom with friends, etc. and segways into a plot & subplot appropriate science discussion—Genetics. If you knew you had an incurable disease would you want to know? BUT every scene should do three things in my opinion. Janie rises to the challenge and introduces a male compatriot into the mix with a scene invested in a verbal battle between the two characters. TENSION while introducing characters. Great work!

As a reader, the author shows me she is competent. I want to know what happens next.

What happens next? Her crime fiction thread introduction—and a secret. (Every character needs a secret!) She finds a mysterious letter from her mom’s junkie friend. Her safe, but grief stricken world tilts and, with the Poisoned Pencil twist, hard reality too. Does the junkie friend have information on her mom’s death or is she looking for a handout? You know the main character is going to visit her. You can’t wait to find out what happens. You can’t wait to return to the slums of drug addiction haunts. OK, my preference here? I felt it was too long following the family and friend angle before she starts that quest, but it’s the author’s prerogative. I trusted her to get me there.

Janie also inserts a continuing beauty element in Chapter Three—a subplot thread concerning an albino bird. Just a nice little extra giving a sense that beneath the genetic science this book will provide something more.

Test three, the editor/agent is still reading…  If you can do that with your manuscript? Great job!

Great premise, great beginning, and now on into what the writer’s call the Great Swampy Middle. As a writer, you don’t want any swamp, but it always shows up. How you navigate it is another matter and another book review.

HER ENDING

Endings shouldn’t pitter-patter, jibber-jabber around. You want the reader (usually) to hit the top of the scariest mountain bobsled run and leap into the ride. That means there has to be a build to that scary point. That means you need a fast, dangerous slide down. On the way? You nail your plot and your subplot endings, grabbing them as you slide through the switchbacks. And when you hit the bottom? Complete exhaustion and satisfaction. You WANT to climb back on again. You WANT a series (if there is a series) to continue! Janie does this in Death Spiral with great skill.

Many writers fail in this execution. S/he simply never reach the emotional height needed before the descent. Instead, s/he roller coasters up and down, rather than zigzagging straight down. You don’t want the slow down near the TOP, but inches from the safety barrier! This is a huge debut author fault. You read it over and over in manuscripts—forgivable, but sad. Janie’s ending delivers.

The second common ending error is failing to engage reader to the main character. Someone or something intercedes to solve the problem. Dah. She’s called a protagonist, not a bench warmer. Get your main character at risk and in the action. Again, Janie’s ending delivers. Score. Slam Dunk. Job done.

So there you have it: PREMISE, BEGINNING, & ENDING.  Grab your highlighter and Janie’s book and get to work peeling back the scenes. How would you make it better? What tools in her writer’s tool box does she best use and how?

A few interesting quotes from Death Spiral:

Example of Janie’s scene depiction: “…first thing I notice beside the trash and chain link is a big graffitied wall and the words ‘Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light.’ I don’t know what it means exactly, but I like it.” 

Example of Janie’s character emotion: “Heat and pressure bubble up from my gut, turning sadness to anger like graphite to diamond, the hardest substance known to mankind. I look around for something to smash.”  For a science mystery, I loved the graphite to diamond bit.

Example of character interaction and use of fault—always a good indicator of a competent author: “[Jesse] tries to lay down a rhythm. I look around, totally embarrassed because Jesse’s not that good. But Jesse’s not at all embarrassed. He doesn’t give a crap about who’s watching.”

In Death Spiral, the main character writes a fairy tale synopsis of her deceased junkie mother and her caregiver aunt. “…the synopsis would go like this: Once upon a time there were two girls who lived in a small house by the Hudson River. The older sister was level headed and calm, born of a soft September breeze, while the younger sister was wild and angry, born of ocean waves and thunder. The older sister listened to female singer songwriters and R&B. The younger sister listened to death metal and rap. The older sister liked to stay in and read. The younger sister liked to stay out and party. The older sister turned eighteen and got into college. The younger sister turned eighteen and got into drugs.  The end.”


Enjoy Death Spiral by Janie Chodosh, published by Poisoned Pencil, an imprint of Poisoned Pen Press.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review from a writer's perspective: Disconnected by Lisa M. Cronkhite

Explore and extend your writer's tool box. Checkout my review on Good reads.

Disconnected by Lisa M Cronkhite

Lisa's book coming out June 3rd 2014 explores schizophrenia and tests the normal writing conventions of tension through dialog. In fact, much of the book is constructed around interior dialog between the two aspects within the main character's mind.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18669436-disconnected

Review: David Baldacci's new YA fantasy THE FINISHER--not your normal Baldacci.

Mixed feelings on this. Would love your take on it if you read it.

The Finisher by David Baldacci  For aspiring writers, obtain a hard copy and edit the omniscient recaps and Mary Sue* angst out. Then read the flow to see an immediate improvement to the writing style. What were the editors and Baldacci thinking?

Goodreads review:
Starts slow; ends strong. Labelled as a stand-alone but feels like the first in a series. NOT FOR THE CRIME FICTION BALDACCI FANS. BE FOREWARNED. THE TITLE IS NOT AN ASSASSIN.

As a writer, I'm warned against so many things--which Baldacci (if this is truly Baldacci) breaks in this fantasy. Something the crime fiction writer Baldacci would never do. First, the MC begins weak and spends too much time mentally verbalizing her situation when the action and dialog clearly are sufficient. This is so agonizingly repeated and time consuming that I twice put the book down. The editors weren't tough enough, didn't bother, or the author wasn't up to the task. Crime fiction writer Baldacci knows better. So what the heck is going on? This was fixable, but wasn't.

The main character goes around obtaining magical items like a common & boring RPG game--all with too much Mary Sue angst. Yes, she grows into the power she obtains, but she falls and trips into them. She is constantly agonizing over her interior conflicts--that are no brainers for even the weak minded. Then you're hit once again by the ever yet repeated omniscient character voice, "If I had known this would happen, I wouldn't..." Then you live through what is going to happen. Complete novice writer foolishness. So frustratingly irritating. This was fixable, but wasn't.

The world is rich and unique but full of inconsistencies and the main character is too easily provided luck happenstance which is basic scifi/fantasy 'never do' rules. Again a clear sign of weak writing. Again, this was fixable, but wasn't.

"Yet, you give it a four star? What's with that, Meg?" you ask. Because it was fixable and the underlying story is worth the read and the frustration. Even I, an inept editor at best, could have made this worlds better with more tightening. In fact, I heard this rather than read the book. If I'd had the hard copy, I would have crossed off every foolish recap out of sheer anger.

The ending redeems it. The one on one Hunger Game-y type ending works although the reason for it being in the book is not explained, nor why this year--of all the world's history--adds in its 2nd class women to fight. At least it wasn't on a platter and she had to go through some clever plot twists to be included as a younger. (Redeeming feature.)

Why would Baldacci chose to write this barely disguised RPG? Does he have a young daughter ready to take off on her own? If so, okay. I see where it came from. It provides moral guidance and advice. It has super tension in the last 2/3s proving that the author has what it takes to sustain an excellent story, but will he do so?(Again, Baldacci has the proven skill...) Was this a case of a major adult writer saying, "It's just young adult?" I can't believe that David Baldacci would do that. This is simply too different from his other works--and more importantly an entirely DIFFERENT WRITING STYLE AND VOICE--so different that I again ask, "Did Baldacci really write this?"

If it had been properly edited, this could be a new Harry Potter--even a prequel to Harry Potter. The world does have incredible similarities. (Could it be there was another writer? I don't know and my mind can spin conspiracies.) I hope, if there are further books, the editors will actually put their hearts into helping Baldacci raise the bar considerably.

It also gets 4 stars for aspiring writers. Take your pen and get busy editing a hard copy and see how you can easily elevate, so damn easily, raising it to 5 stars.

*Unfamiliar with the term Mary Sue? Google it. I've included Priscella Spencer's Harry Potter's list that you'll need to modify. You'll have to move down to sections 3, 4, & 6 for the obvious ones here.

DON'T take me wrong. An author includes herself in every character, but the heavy interior angst in this book screams self-insertion--the author providing a point of view that is the character's.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Excitement Builds! New Poisoned Pencil submission video is up!

The wonderful press publishing my new contemporary YA crime fiction has a great new video up on YouTube. Come take a peek and consider joining us.

http://www.youtube.com/user/thepoisonedpencil/videos

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Professional Writing Associations

I've been a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for several years. Their advice and mentoring has been invaluable. With the signing of the two book YA contemporary crime fiction, a new world has opened up.

I've joined the Mystery Writers of America, and I've now applied to International Thriller Writers. I'm amazed at the membership benefits. I can't wait to take a comprehensive class with the ITW, but it will have to wait until next year. Maybe one day, I can help teach one.

This year, I'm slated for a master's class with author Jim Butcher this May, a second weekend class with Brett Anthony Johnston from Harvard at the University of Iowa's Summer Writer's Festival in July, and then I lucked out with a late opening lottery attendance spot for my second visit to the Writer's Police Academy in September. An MFA would be nice, but this year continues my alternative route to becoming the best I can be.

In the future, my transportation funds will go to promotion, but this year feels like a grand jewel for raising my writing skills and building that every growing writer's toolbox.

There is one organization that I want to add, but I've not yet to qualify--the Science Fiction Writer's of America (SFWA). Maybe I'll find time this year to also shop one of my SciFi short stories...


Monday, February 24, 2014

New Ideas from Interesting Places

Refreshed and invigorated from Desert Nights Rising Stars writing conference this past weekend, I've added to my writer's tool box. I look forward to exercising the tools and applying them.

My debt of gratitude to the organizers from Arizona State (including author Jewell Parker Rhodes and Karen Sideris) and instructors, including YA authors Bill Konigsberg and Tom Leveen. Colors Michael Schiffer and Jay Boyer who was a Carnegie Foundation Arizona Professor of the year brought new insight into screenwriting structure and dialog. Like many writer's conference, the screenwriting sessions opened new ideas on constructing and composing dialog. Barbara Peters shared book marketing advice. it was a delight to meet Allison Moore from Little Brown again. There was a crime fic/mystery panel with author's Deborah Ledford, Dana Stabenow, and T Jefferson Parker--again different points of view to open my creative mind. And they were just part of a wonderful weekend.

My sci/fi friends will be unhappy that I didn't have time for the workshops involving Alan Dean Foster, Michael A Stackpole, or Gary Cook. Alan did read one night. And I had no time for literary fiction and poetry sessions that in the past have proven invaluable. There simply wasn't time.

If you decide to attend a writer's conference, remember that networking and learning is only a small part of what takes place. Although, I took copious notes that I meticulously e-file for future use, it's the opening of the writer's ear, mind, and eye that proves most valuable. Often my note taking slipped away as I organized a new thought shared and how it would mesh in my current work.

That new view points stays with you for a long time after you've packed up and head home. I desperately try to keep that new view point fresh and present for several months until the next conference.

I'll post later on how Michael's insights shifted and confirmed some deep structural decisions I've made in my 2nd Kami Files manuscript. as I sat and watched the interestingly different film 3 Days to Kill. The scenes with the overlapping dialog and film like the learning to ride the bicycle one is exactly what I'm trying to create with the plot threads in my manuscript. The threads cross several decades and I've been afraid that it wouldn't work due to lack of talent and tools on my part. Just seeing those film scenes with my new point of view gives me hope that confirms the end result can be powerful. I may still not manage it, but I'm going to get damn close to getting it right.