Monthly Archives: May 2012

Review of “The Best Book Ever” Genius Files, Never Say Genius by Dan Gutman

The Monomaniacal Middle Grade Reviewer’s take on Genius Files Never Say Genius.

“The Best Book Ever”

You heard it here first.  Thank you, Dan Gutman.

Flash Fiction from a Six Year old — Why not? It’s better than some of my stuff

Flash Fiction from a Six Year Old.  Kids can amaze you sometimes.

I had an interesting experience with my six-year-old today.  I thought it would be fun to share.

He has a project due tomorrow.  Unfortunately, we haven’t been going through his book bag every day, so we didn’t notice it until late last night. (If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve been there before.)

Anyway…

His project is to write a five page story,  (two sentences per page) and illustrate it.  When his turn comes up (which is, of course, tomorrow) He has to stand in front of the class and read it.

I went to work today, and called him half an hour before he had to leave for school.

I said, “Do you know what you want to write about?”

“No.”

“You need to pick something.  A trip to the store?  Something that happened on vacation?”

“Tron”

My husband perks up in the background.  “No, pick something easy.  Do playing outside or something.”

“No. I want to do Tron”

I said, “If that’s what he wants to write about, then let him.”

While on the phone, my little guy talked, and I typed.  Then I emailed it home to my husband for him to print so my son could illustrate it.  Tonight, when I get home, I will help my little guy practice his story.

I tried to get him to make it shorter, but he was pretty adamant about his plot once it started flowing.  I heard my husband laugh in the background.  I don’t think he could believe it either.  His story is 14 pages (about 28 sentences).

This is my child that really doesn’t want to learn to read.  I hope I don’t have a hard time practicing it with him tonight.

Anyway, this is what he came up with.  Mommy just helped with the typing, and I had to slow him down because he was spitting it out faster than my little fingers could swipe across the keyboard.

When I read it back, I was a little surprised.  There is setting, introduction of the good guy and the bad guy, conflict, progression to climax, and the one thing that seems to elude my older children… a definitive end.

Now keep in mind that I typed it EXACTLY how he said it, so don’t go looking for clean syntax.  He’s only six.  Just check out the story arc.  This is actually a very good story synopsis.  Pretty Cool.

Title:       Tron has to do a battle with the boss

By:   Littlest Dude Eaton

 

Tron has to do a battle with the boss.

The boss has a big hood, a cape, he is on the orange team, he has a big disk and he throws it and when it hits a guy, the guy gets defeated and the disk comes back to him.

Tron knows he will be okay. Because he has a strong disc and he is brave.

Tron is at the battle stage.  First Tron throws the disk

The boss hits Tron’s disc with his disc and the disc comes back to Tron, and Tron catches the disk in his hand.

The boss closed a big giant gate that flashed blue.  Then Tron uses a powerful move on it and he threw it hard and a giant blue wall blew up.

Then the boss sends his minions who don’t have disks.  They have sharp fingernails and they stab you with them.  Tron defeats them.

Tron ran to the boss. And the boss ran super-fast somewhere past the orange gate.

A giant ship that has four bad guys on it with disks comes.  One bad guys jumps off the ship and starts attacking Tron.

Tron uses this special move that has lots of disks and the guy gets defeated.

The other three that were really powerful and fast took these soft things that have horns coming out of their helmets and they go super-fast.  They ran into Tron and threw a disk and almost hit his head but he ducked.

They all came and then Tron used a special move where he jumped and the disk hit the ground, and the ground went all over the place, and then the guys flew back and hit the walls.

They got defeated so Tron could go through the orange wall now.

And then he attacked the boss and the boss got defeated.

The end.

(Yes, he said “The End”  So cute!)

You may have also noted a few explosion in there… a boy after my own heart.

Amendment:  After practicing with him, I found out that he could say all these words, but he couldn’t necessarily read them.  Rather than frustrating him, we cut the story down to the key points and made it five pages, and made some of his sentences shorter.  We worked on reading it for about an hour.  I’m proud of my little guy for not giving up.

With his active imagination I know he would just LOVE reading if he’d just give it a chance.  I really hope this pushes him in the right direction.

P.S. – I found out this is a scene from a video game.  Funny.

Silly Things We Authors Do When We Get Punchy

I’m interrupting Flash Fiction Tuesday to share a very funny email conversation.

“Shelly” had contacted my through email to ask me a question about beta readers.  Of course, I helped her out.  Afterwards, until the wee hours of the night, we went back and forth in this silly fantasy conversation.

This is a prime example of the creativity of writers gone awry… and how silly you can get when you stay up to late.

Thank you, Shelly, for giving me permission to post this.

Now remember, this whole conversation happened through email.  After I helped Shelly, I mentioned I wished I had more time to do research.  Her answer was…

Shelly: May the Faeries of Figgy Newton grant that wish … (((((((poof)))))))))))

Jennifer: Wait! I just turned into a newt!  Very hard to type with these little fingers!

Shelly:  Oh my, that wasn’t supposed to happen! Let me find a transfiguration spell to fix it real quick …. now where did I put my damn spell book …

Jennifer:  Ribbit. Yikes. I’m in trouble.

Shelly:  Time to break out the big guns then. Prepare yourself, this ain’t going to be pretty …

Jennifer:  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Shelly:  The smoke clears, and I can see your startled face, eyes, and your hair is sticking straight out, but still there, just a tad burnt, and you are no longer green, which is good, but you are now purple.

Drat! Back to the drawing board.

Jennifer:  I feel like a grape. On that happy note, I’m going to bed.  Fix me in the morning?

The next morning: 

Shelly: Did you squeeze yourself and have Grape Juice this morning?

Jennifer:  That’s why I look so thin today. :-)

Shelly:  Well, then my magic worked! Sort of :-P

Aren’t authors just great fun?  Thanks for the giggle, Shelly!

The Road to Publication #3: The Bad News – More Editing?

Wait a minute… I just spent two months writing to a deadline.  Now I have more deadlines?  Yikes!

Wow, the day after the contract was signed, all the “stuff” came flooding in.  Tons of emails, and tons of information.  I knew that there would be a lot to do, but I must admit, when I saw it spelled out, I was a little daunted.

One of the emails contained a very long list of things that need to be done before the target release date.  Thank goodness, many of the things on the list are dates when the publisher needs to do things.  But there are things that I need to do.

***editing***

Ugh.  Editing.  I figured I would need to do a little work on it, but I was a little surprised when they asked me to go through LAST WINTER RED and look for about 50 possible things that the editors will flag, so it will be as clean as possible before they have to review it.
I am using a computer program to analyses my manuscript, and it’s surprising when a computer highlights possible problems how many things pop up that you don’t see when you read.  As always, I don’t agree with everything the computer says.  A computer does not, or instance, understand that you are looking for an emotional reaction when you purposely repeat a word five times in a paragraph, and that it was intentional…but in the instances where it was not intentional, I was able to make the changes, and the sentences are much stronger.

That is where I am now.  There are about six different reports to run like this.  Some of them overlap, but it is a lot to look at, and a lot to consider (see that… duplication of “a lot” for an emotional response… are ya feeling emotional?)

Anyway…tons to do, and now there is a new deadline, and five other authors in the same boat counting on me to finish in time.

No Pressure.

Make Believe Anthology: The back of the cover. Yay! Another Reveal!

Along with the book cover, and here ya go, in case you missed it.

Sigh… just don’t get tired of looking at my name on there…

Anyway…

Along with the book cover, we now have the back cover copy with details on all the cool stories about this little lady in red.

And no, It’s not Little Red Riding Hood.  It had to be about anything BUT that fabled character.  So without further ado, here is the back cover copy for “Make Believe”

Oh!  It would be great if you’d click on these lovely ladies’ names and give them a shout out on their blogs.  We’re all celebrating!

Back of the Book

Sacrificial Oath by Terri Rochenski

An impetuous act unwittingly makes Alesuela the fulfillment of the Sovereign’s Blood Oath to their Goddess. In five days, she’ll be forced to make the greatest choice of her life: become the virginal sacrifice already promised, or force the man she loves most to die in her place.

With an impossible choice in front of her, she searches for ways to undo the oath, and in her quest, finds not everything in her life is as she expects.

The Amulet of Ormisez by J. Keller Ford

There is only one way to save Elton Fletcher’s brother from an insanity-ridden death.

After years away from home, fighting for his people, Elton returns to discover his only sibling, Cayden, possessed by greed and malice, and responsible for malicious, unthinkable deeds. Cayden, though, isn’t the only one afflicted by the Amulet of Ormisez, and Elton finds himself in yet another battle, where the price of failure could be his own life.

Birthright by Lynda R. Young

Christa can mask the pain and hide the scars, but running from a birthright is impossible.

She’s tried to escape her grief by fleeing to a small town in Florida. Much to her frustration, the locals think they recognize her even though she’s never been there before. To make things worse, a man named Jack spouts outrageous theories about her.

Both spur Christa to bolt, to start fresh yet again, but there’s something about Jack that intrigues her enough to stay. The only problem? Someone else wants her to leave, and they won’t stop until she’s dead.

Petrified by Kelly Said

A mysterious storm has replaced summer with winter, devastating crops and smothering Castle lands in snow.  Prince Sterling August stands alone as a leader, lost in personal grief as well as a desire to help his people but with an inability to do either.

The answers he needs await him, but without Lochlyn, a woman who’s just as isolated as Sterling, he’ll never see what stands before him, cloaked in illusion.

Last Winter Red by Jennifer M. Eaton

Emily is a Red, a woman whose sole purpose in life is to produce offspring. When her husband dies and leaves her childless, she risks her life and forsakes the safety of Terra—a disease-free city born after the nuclear holocaust. Beyond its boundaries, she knows, survives a man with whom she can be properly paired.

The Outside, though, holds secrets the government struggles to keep, and what Emily discovers on her quest for a mate will change her life forever.

Escort to Insanity by J.A. Belfield

From a charity auction, to a stroll in the park, to the craziest night of her life. Nicole Harrington can’t help but wonder how a simple event went so drastically wrong.

Of course, the male escort she booked is wholly to blame. Not only charming but shrewdly intelligent, Benjamin Gold drags Nicole into a platoon of unimaginable problems—ones from which she’ll have to find the courage just to survive.

URL: http://www.jtaylorpublishing.com/books/17

So, Whattya think?

Are you Excited?

Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make #1 – Avoid the Dreaded Delete Frenzy

At a recent NJ Author’s talk on “Getting Published”, a group of published authors discussed the biggest mistakes they think new writers make.  Boy did they have a long list!

The panel consisted of: Jonathan Maberry, Mike McPhail, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jon Gibbs, Jennifer R. Hubbard, and Kristin Battestella.

As always, I love learning from mistakes others have made, and I truly appreciate them sharing what NOT TO DO.

Rather than making this an insanely long post— and since Friday is now open—

This is going to be my new “Friday Night” slot… Biggest Mistakes New Writers make.

Mistake Number one:

.

.

It is really easy as a new writer to get frustrated, and go on a delete frenzy.  The problem is, the days of crumbling up paper and throwing it into a garbage can are over.  You can’t take your deleted file out of the trash, smooth it out, and look at it again.  Once you delete… it is gone.

Deleting in a frenzy can lead to loss of very valuable work.  Especially if you are really emotional when you are editing (we authors never do that, right?)

Trust me, you may think everything you’ve written stinks now, but you may find you need to refer back to part of it later.  Even if you don’t use it, it is part of your back story, and you may need to review it to keep your story consistent.

The Author Panel suggested keeping a side file and don’t actually delete anything. Just drag and drop.  If you never want to see it again, just don’t open the file.  But if you do—

From my own experience, I know I always change my mind.  There is a huge scene near the end of my novel where one character gets his memory back.  I have re-written the scene five times, and they are all dramatically different.  You know where I landed?  With my very first draft.  I was putting so many plot twists and turns in the revisions that the scene became confusing.  I did need to re-write it a little, but I stuck with my original idea.  Believe me, a year later, I was glad I had a copy to refer back to.

Avoid the dreaded Delete Frenzy.  Make a cozy little file. Call it a nasty name if it makes you feel better.  Someday, you may thank me.  :-)

Jonathan Maberry:  www.Jonathanmaberry.com

Mike McPhail:  www.mcp-concepts.com

Danielle Ackley-McPhail:  www.sidhenadaire.com

Jon Gibbs:  www.acatofninetales.com

Jennifer R. Hubbard:  www.jenniferhubbard.com

Kristin Battestella:  www.jsnouff.com/kristin

Review of Skyline, from a Writer’s Perspective.

Skyline is the perfect example of how you can ruin a spectacular movie in the last three seconds.

This movie had everything.

Explosions? Check

Action/Adventure? Check

Well written characters? Check

Original? (Well, pretty much.  It felt a little like ID4 Independence Day shown from another perspective)

Great plot? Check (until the end)

Closure on all the characters?  Check (until the end)

From a writer’s perspective, let’s look at the characters.  There aren’t too many.  (Nine total, I think) and they are all easily recognizable.  This is a run-for your life move, so yes, not all of them will make it until the end, that’s a given, so not all nine are in the entire movie.

Each of the nine…even the two that only had a few lines, were wonderfully depicted, which is a show of not only strong writing, but also fairly decent acting.

Even though we only saw that character for a second, or a few lines, the lines or “happenings” were strong enough that we could relate to them, and we cared, even though they were not one of the main characters.  Also, to do that, we didn’t need their back story or to get too much into their lives.  We could just relate.

For instance:  There is a big loud party.  A security guard or building manager knocks on the door and very politely (and realistically) asks them to be quiet.  He walks away, knowing fully-well that they will not quiet down, with this precious look on his face.  I identified.  Haven’t we all been there?  The point is, a 30 second fully-rounded character that you can identify with.  Well done.

What was also great is that every minor character that we meet gets sewn up with an ending of some sort.  Some heroic, some unfortunate, but their stories are all completed by the end of the movie.

This was a five-out-of five star movie until the last five minutes.  As the movie was starting to end, I started to get that “awe shoot” feeling.  Realistic ending?  Probably— but I prefer something a little happier.  That’s just me though.

However, then it took a tumble.  A huge tumble.

I would love to know if this visually spectacular and probably hugely-expensive movie ran out of budget, and stopped production…because that is what looked like happened.

I will try to explain this without a spoiler…a major scene is happening.  One character turns and looks at a bad guy, takes a step… and the credits start.

The movie just stops.  Boom.  No ending.  No ending at all.  I have to say it again…

This is what really grates on my nerves.  This movie was SPECTACULAR until the last five minutes, but those last five minutes, though disappointing, were at least acceptable.  But those last three seconds?

If they had just gone on for five to ten more minutes, they could have finished.  But nothing is more disappointing that having a great time watching a movie and not having it end.

I mean, this isn’t even like Luke and Lea looking out the window while the Millenium Falcon leaves to go save Han Solo.  That at least faded into space and you knew they were doing something (and that there would be a next movie)

This movie just STOPPED right in the middle of a scene.

So disappointing.

Two Stars.  One for Awesome Special Effects, and one for great characters.

Five more minutes and this film could have been one of the best I’d ever seen.  Such a shame.

For authors:  FINISH YOUR STINKING STORIES.  Don’t leave your reader’s hanging.  I was loving SKYLINE, but instead of turning it off and saying “wow” I went to bed angry.

It’s never good to go to bed angry.

Flash Fiction Friday Now on Wednesday! – Succumb to Fire

Spend five minutes with my favorite character, Magellan.

Magellan lifted his hands to shield his face.  Heat and flames licked against his skin, taunting, begging to devour.  They reached up and around him, a wall, impenetrable, indomitable, deadly.

He stepped back, reeling from the heat, and the flames advanced.  Sweat dampened his temple as his heart shook.  The world around him: engulfed, gone, succumbed to fire.  Everything he knew was beyond the flames.  Did it still exist?  Did the people he loved wait for him beyond?

Shuttering, terrified, Magellan took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and jumped through the fire.  But he never felt its heat.  He opened his eyes, and the flames remained, taunting, begging.

“Enough,” he whispered, and the flames disappeared.

The Cover Reveal-Seeing your name on a book jacket for the first time.

***Woa.***

So, I was rattling through my email the other day, and my buddy Jenny Keller Ford sends me a message saying: “Did you see the cover with your name on it yet?”

So, yeah, I scrambled through all my emails, searching frantically, and low and behold… there it was.

The contract felt pretty real, but let me tell you—seeing your name in big bold print with cover art…

I called my kids in.  My five-year old said, “Oh, okay.  Can I have a snack?”

The Monomaniacal Middle Grade Reviewer looked at it, gave me a hug, and went on about his business.

My eight year old, Thank Goodness, stared at it with wide eyes and a big poop-eating grin on his face, saying, “That is soooo cool!”

Later on, my husband came home and finally got to see it.  I can’t remember his exact words, but it was something like, “Wow.  This is real, isn’t it?”

I think he actually needed something to validate it in his mind.   I tried to explain what an anthology was, but until he saw the cover, I don’t think he actually “got it.”

So, without further ado, here is the cover for the Make Believe Anthology.

So, what do you think?  Pretty cool, huh?

When you don’t agree with your child’s teacher.

Why, oh why, are there people in our public school system teaching children how to write that have no idea about basic fictional writing principles?

My son came home the other day with a low grade on a story he had written.  No biggie, I’m not an ogre—until I read her comments, that is.  My husband sat at the head of the table watching me with hands folded.  I think he was waiting for me to blow a fuse… which, admittedly, I did.

My husband said, “I didn’t see anything wrong with it.  I wanted to see what you thought.”

This is the comment.  Hold your breath…

“Don’t use so much dialog in your writing.  Dialog kills a story.”

Okay, so I took a deep breath, and read his story.

He had done a horrible thing.  He had allowed the dialog to tell his story… without a STITCH of show versus tell issues.  It was actually GREAT.  (No explosions, but that’s okay.  He’s the quiet one)

His story was realistic, believable, and perfectly constructed.  Now, I understand that writing is subjective, but to grade him down for writing correctly?  UGHHHH!

My husband raised an eyebrow and said, “I would LOVE for you to go in and talk to her about this.”

Yeah, he would think it was funny if I got taken out of the school in handcuffs.  This teacher is not to fond of my son to begin with (he’s a giggler and she is a drill sergeant)  We’re just biding our time until we can get him out of this class.  My husband had growled his way through a few parent teacher conferences with her already.

So, what did I do?  I explained to my son that he had written it correctly, and sometimes you are going to be judged unfairly.  I told him that I want him to know what is right, but next time give her exactly what she wants to get the grade, but know there is a better way to do it.

(It’s sad to give real-life advice to an eight year old)  I just know that there is no winning with this woman, and she, unfortunately, is in a position to make my little guy miserable for the rest of the school year.  Believe me, if it were the last day of school, she’d totally have gotten a writing lesson from me… I just need to think of what I’m doing to my child as well.

A week later he came home and said, “Mom!  I wrote a really bad story and she loved it!”

I looked at his new story.  It was 100% tell, no feeling, no dimension, flat characterization.  And she wrote “Nicely done.”

I cringed.  “Okay, but you understand that this is NOT the correct way to write, right?”

He laughed.  “Yes Mom.  I tricked her.”

What’s really sad, is the chances are the 23 other kids in the class don’t have a parent who’s an author.  They will all leave this class thinking they are great writers.

And people wonder why there are so many bad manuscripts out there in the pipeline?

“I don’t know why these agents are rejecting me.  Mrs.  So-And-So from third grade said I was a genius.”

Sad, really.

Have you ever been in a situation like this?