Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Last Look

     Just when I thought I was finished with my latest round of polishing, something popped into my inbox that had me second-guessing everything I'd worked on for the last several weeks. I questioned myself  enough that I'm going through the manuscript one more time before I send it back.

     If you're a regular reader of Darcy Pattison's blog, Fiction Notes, you'll know what post I'm referring to without going to the link.  Her advice on  last minute novel revisions is a good summary of the points to pay attention to as you're nearing the finish line (for the first, third, or umpteenth time).

     Are you almost ready for submission, too? Pattison's post will help you answer that question. Good luck!


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Case of the Missing Week - A Friday Five

     Wasn't it just yesterday that I posted a Friday Five? I've been lost in the land of revisions so maybe that explains the brain black-out. Anyway, here's what I'm thinking/loving/obsessing over at the moment:
  1.  I started substitute teaching again this week. I love being in the classroom; it's a constant source of inspiration for my writing.Time moves quickly at work, but during recess/specials breaks, I bring my manuscript and make revisions with a green gel pen that I'll transfer to the computer when I get home.
  2. Speaking of home, the desk is a wreck. There's no time to clean it. Once the computer gets buried, I might have to rethink that. 
  3. Many thanks to Lisa Potts for passing on a very sweet award to Here's the Story! Check out her fabulous blog here. Thanks, Lisa! 
  4. Caramel apples! We're lucky to have not one but two local places that make them daily (hey there, The Chocolatier and Cunningham's Candies!). And it's reassuring to know the Shell station even sells them if I get a late-night craving! 
  5. Bought a new camera yesterday. Nothing fancy, but it might be a few days before I can conquer the instruction manual. I'm baaaad with technology. Please note that I did figure out how to post a picture of my most recent blog award (after failed attempt last week). It only took a half hour and the computer didn't start smoking. I think I'll celebrate with a caramel apple.
                                                               Have a great weekend, everyone!

      Wednesday, September 14, 2011

      Writing from the Shadows

           I recommend books to my kids all the time. I know what they like, so I pay attention to what's coming out and getting good reviews for my own sake as well as theirs. My oldest, however, rarely reads the books I rave about. It's partly because her pleasure-reading time is limited by the required reading for school (sadly, it's not one and the same), but also because she likes to pick her own books (though I can claim responsibility for getting her a little obsessed over a vampire romance book when it first came out in 2005). So when she picked up Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and started reading it, I was happy.
           We were at my son's baseball game and I'd brought the book along to read between innings. I hadn't started it, so I was a little miffed that she'd finally shown an interest in the one book I was really excited to start. Anyway, she sat next to me with the book and was well into the first couple of chapters. Suddenly, she jolted.
           'Oh my goodness', she said. She took her sunglasses off, and wiped her eyes. "I wasn't expecting that."
           Naturally, as a writer, her reaction got me curious. Short of taking it out of her hands, I waited until she finished reading for the day and started the book later that night. I needed to know how Riggs' accomplished that effect. And this is what I found:
           Riggs is a master of atmosphere and setting. In his story, the main character, Jacob, witnesses the mysterious death of his grandfather who, as an orphan, lived on a remote island off the coast of Wales in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Jacob sets off to visit the island and uncover the secrets which his grandfather hinted at before his death. His quest leads him to the abandoned orphanage, a hulking nightmare of a structure, which Riggs describes in haunting detail.
           But before Riggs even took me to the island, he surprised me with his breath-holding prose during the same scene that rattled my daughter. Sure, I was expecting it; I knew it would happen fairly early in the book, so my surprise wasn't pure. What I noticed is that what he didn't reveal had a greater effect on me than what he did. His scenes are full of shadow and light, things seen and unseen. His storytelling allows the reader's imagination to take the story to another level.
          The book reminded me a little of a movie that I saw when I was about fourteen. I refuse to watch it again, even as an adult after all these years. It was Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, and I saw that it was just remade (though I heard the reviews weren't stellar). In the story, a woman is terrorized by knee-high demons in her own home. I never really saw the demons until the end. Instead, they were characterized by their shadows on the wall, the moving curtains where they hid, their whispers. I was superbly freaked out for weeks. And why? Because it was the idea of them, the suggestion of what was just around the corner. Riggs accomplishes the same effect in his book.
           So I let my daughter finish Miss Peregrine until I dove into the rest. I started reading it the other night from the beginning. Last night, I read before bed as I do every night. I finished a couple chapters and really, really wanted to continue to the next. But I saw that Jacob was heading back into the house again. Alone. On a foggy afternoon. And I was alone; everyone else had gone to bed. The curtains were still open in the family room. It was too quiet, too dark outside. I was creeped out, thanks to Miss Peregrine.
           Has a book ever had that effect on you? I'd love to know which one.

      Saturday, September 10, 2011

      Revisions, Raspberries and the Rest of my Friday Five

      You know you want some!
      1. The WIP is on hold while I make edits on a previous manuscript at the suggestion of my agent. I'm excited that I get to work on it again and make it even better. Author James Thurber's words come to mind: "I am not a writer. I am a rewriter." 
      2.  Here's the Story received an award this week from Jennifer at I would display it, but in my computer-savvyless existence, I can't figure out how. Still working on it.
      3. I'm looking forward to making Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook this weekend since raspberries are on sale at the local store. If you can't imagine what heaven tastes like on the tip of your tongue, you have to try this dessert
      4. The book that my daughter is reading this week made her visibly jump during a particular scene. I NEED to know how to write to that effect! Find out which book it was next week...
      5. And finally, a somber experience today at Illinois State University: walking among 3000+ mini American flags that dotted the campus's quad.
                                        Have a nice weekend, everyone. See you next week!

              Thursday, September 1, 2011

              And the Winner is...

                   I've mentioned Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers off and on since I started blogging in July because, well, it's a fabulous book. I read it cover to cover on a 14-hour train ride to Denver a few years ago, and have since gone back to it when I need a pep talk. Yellow Post-It tags mark a handful of my favorite chapters like Chapter 8 on 'Positioning', mapping out your writing strategy for the next day. Or Chapter 19 on 'Taking Baby Along: How to Travel with a Book-in-Progress'. 
                   And since all fabulous books should be shared, I chose one winner (using the 'ol high-tech, name-in-the-hat strategy) from among the dozens of followers and countless people who have commented here during the last month and a half. Thank you to everyone who has shared your thoughts at Here's the Story. I appreciate every one of you!
                   So, the winner of Chapter After Chapter is *drumroll*:

                                      Anne E. Johnson 

                                      Congratulations, Anne!

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