#Tempting Tuesday: Fighting the urge not to stuff my face

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Most of you know I lost a ton of weight over the winter. If not, you can read about that here. Keeping the weight off is a lifelong commitment, and since Grace is now in kindergarten, not eating everything in sight has become increasingly difficult. My sweet tooth fights for control every day.

The house is quieter, I miss her, I get bored. Yes, I know I should be writing. And I am. When I'm writing, I fall into a zone and forget to eat. But at other times, I still feel as though something is missing, and if I'm not careful, I'll turn to food. Ramping up my exercise has helped, but it's so easy to fall into the mindset that exercise means more calories to eat. I gain weight just looking at most foods, so that's not good for me.

But every day I win the battle. I look at the before picture and remind myself of all the awesome new clothes I've bought. I've also taken to looking for new recipes that aren't loaded with carbs and fat. Eating Well has some great ones.

What do you do to fight the munchies? What kinds of snacks do you reach for that satisfy without putting on the flab?

Manic Monday: Butt Pain and Lessons Learned

Monday, August 29, 2011

I have a pain in the butt. Literally. I don't know what I've done, but in the last couple of months, I've had a lot of pain in my tail bone. Sitting for very long periods in the car or certain chairs results in intense pain when I stand.

Why am I telling you about my butt pain? Because yesterday my husband surprised me with a new bicycle. Since Grace learned to ride without training wheels, they've been riding while I walk along far behind them. So the hubs decided I needed a bike, too. I was shocked and really touched. He wanted us all to go as a family and knew I would enjoy the exercise.

I haven't ridden a bike since I was seventeen-exactly half a lifetime ago. So I was nervous and wobbly, terrified I was going to fall and make a fool out of myself. But guess what? The old saying is true - you don't forget. Within a few blocks, it all came back to me, and I was sailing along.

We rode again before supper. I relaxed and enjoyed the exercise (although my butt was killing me). And then it happened. I rounded the corner, the back wheel dropped into some kind of divot, and the impact went right to my aching tail bone. It hurt so badly I froze up, so when the bike got caught on the edge of the sidewalk, I couldn't react. Down I went, landing on my left side. Behind me, poor Grace fell off her bike from the shock. Hubby said it was like dominos (all while trying not to laugh, of course).

I felt like an idiot. We were about five houses down from our own, and I'm sure the neighbors saw. My pride forced me off the pavement and onto the bike, insisting that I was all right. And I was. A bit of road rash, but no bumps. Just lots of fodder for teasing.

My fall made me realize two things. First, I've got to get my butt looked at. It caused the problem. Second, I really am able to pick myself up and get going again. We've all had our bumps and bruises on our writing journeys: bad critiques, rejections, self-doubt, self-loathing, etc. Sometimes the depression and frustration those injuries cause can halt our writing for weeks, even months. Some may give up for good.

But we don't have to. We can pick ourselves up, dust off, and keep pressing forward. We have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. If a critique partner or editor gives you a lot of red marks, don't get angry and blast them or your ability. Take a deep breath and consider their concerns. They're only trying to help. The rejections will happen. Steel yourself and accept that, yet look for a pattern. Are agents and editors pointing out a specific issue every time? Take the 'no' as an opportunity to learn and make your work even better.

Don't let the self-doubt get you down. Fear of failure is one of the worst evils, and it will destroy you if you allow it. The next time that nasty voice creeps into your head, ask yourself this: if I stop writing, if I choose not to follow this dream, will I be happy? Or will I regret it for the rest of my life?

I think we all know the answer to that.

What about you? What do you do when you get down? Do you have any inspiration to add?

#Row80 Sunday Check In and Book List

Sunday, August 28, 2011

First off, I hope all of you on the East Coast are doing well. Most of you probably can't read this since your power is likely out, but I'm thinking of you as Irene does her thing. This is one of those days I'm grateful to live in the Midwest.

This has been a good writing week. I outlined the first eight scenes of The Prophet and wrote the first 2000 words. Almost halfway to my Row80 goal of 5K.

My good friend has been reading the first fifty pages of Light and Dark and called me on how the book opens. "You're a better writer than this. It reads like you're not sold on it."

And I wasn't. I never have been. The book originally opened in the middle of the action, and when I learned that broke the rules, I revised. But I never felt great about the revisions. So with the help of my critique partner, I got to the bottom of the issue. There is some character setup, but the action comes quicker and the first two pages are pretty catchy. I feel good about them, which says a lot. The first pages, synopsis, and query are with a proofer this week, and I'm anxious to hear her opinion. My goal is to start querying Light and Dark by November.

Last but certainly not least, I want your books! Besides my normal suspense novels, I love good scary, psychological novels, whether they're ghost stories, horror, criminal, etc. I would love to hear your suggestions!

How has your week been? Are your #Row80 goals on track?

Thriller Thursday: Mississippi Burning

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mississippi Burning is an Academy Award nominated movie loosely based on the horrific events of the summer of 1974. The true story is even more heartbreaking.

In 1964, the state of Mississippi was at the heart of the Civil Rights debate. The Woolworth Sit-In had occurred the year before, and "Whites Only" signs were still in use. That summer, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were part of group of 1,000 northern college students that traveled to Mississippi to participate in Freedom Summer. They intended to help with voter registration and improve race relations in the state.

Mississippians were pissed about the invasion of smug college kids, and the situation got worse. The Klan was revived.

A reporter from Jackson's Clarion-Ledger had this to say about the attitude of Mississippi residents:

"Mississippians have preconceived notions about the invading students—smug, shrill know-it-all extroverts with a savior complex...problem brats defiant of parental restraint...sexually promiscuous, addicted to interracial love-making...brainwashed in Communist doctrine with no clear idea of Americansm...more hostile to the White South than to Red Russia."

Chaney, 21, was a local black Mississipian well versed with the state's racism. Goodman, 20, was college kid from New York while Schwerner, also from New York, was a veteran activist at 24. The three had been working in Neshoba county to register blacks to vote, opening "Freedom Schools," and organizing black boycotts of white-owned businesses.

Schwerner, known as "Jew-boy" or "Goatee" among the Klansmen, had become a target since his efforts at organizing the boycotts and registering blacks to vote had been more successful than the Klans intimidation tactics.

Sam Bowers, Imperial Wizard of the White Knights, had already launched Plan 4, an unsuccessful attempt to get rid of Schwerner. When he heard Schwerner had come to Neshoba County investigate a recent Klan attack on a Mt. Zion Church, he made his move.

On June 21st, Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman arrived at the burned church and met with some of the members who had been beaten. They soon learned Schwerner had been the real target as he'd been expected to be at the church when the attack took place.

Deputy Sheriff Cecil Ray Price

Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers

As the men left the area with the intent to return to Meridian, MS, Deputy Sheriff Cecil Ray Price pulled the three men over for speeding. He arrested them for suspicion of arson for the fire at Mt. Zion Church.

I can only imagine what went through those boys minds. All three had to know they were in deep trouble.

They were never seen alive again.

The KKK didn't count on the disappearance of three civil rights workers in southern Mississippi getting so much national attention. The FBI was soon involved, and after a KKK member turned informant, put together the following timeline:

* Schwerner was denied a jailhouse phone call.

* Deputy Price informed Klansmen of the capture of Schwerner.

* Klansmen organized of group for some "butt ripping."

* Two Klan meetings were held, and it was decided the younger Klan members would kill the workers.

* The men were freed from jail around 10 p.m. Price followed them up Highway 19

* After a high-speed chase, Chaney stopped the car and the three surrendered.

* They were placed in Price's patrol car and driven down a dirt road.

* The workers were taken from the car. Schwerner was shot first, then Goodmen, then Chaney. The FBI's informant said Chaney was shot twice.

*The bodies were taken to a 253-acre farm with a dam site. They were placed together and covered with dirt.

* On August 4, 1964, the FBI received information about the bodies, and they were recovered.
The bodies of Schwerner, Goodmen, and Caney.

It gets worse. The charges against 19 participators were dropped because a judge ruled the informant's information was hearsay.

The group was finally brought to trail in 1967. Seven were found guilty, including Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers.

Federal Judge William Cox, a known segregationist, imposed sentencing. Price received six years, Bowers 10.

They killed one nigger, one Jew, and a white man. I gave them all what I thought they deserved.
--Federal Judge William Cox.

We have come a long way since the terrible events in Mississippi in 1964. I can only hope the death of these three men served some great purpose. Unfortunately, racism is still alive and well in this country, especially in the south. Last year, a Mississippi federal judge ordered a school to change attendance policies that he said amounted to racial segregation. In other Mississippi counties, segregated proms and other events have taken place. Why? Is the color of skin such an intimidating factor? I will ever understand how a white person can see someone who looks different than they do and automatically believe that person is somehow inferiorer.

What about you? I know some of you are from the South - have you seen the continuing segregation? Have things changed since you grew up? What about those of you from other parts of the country and world? Is racism still a factor?


#Row80 Midweek Check-In 8/24/11

Happy Hump Day, everyone! I've been busy all morning working on The Prophet and getting a lot accomplished. I've met all of my #Row80 goals except for the first 5000 words of The Prophet, and I'm inching closer.

* Setting is done
* Main Characters established
* Timeline created
* Antagonist motivations explored and finalized
* Character's back stories done
* First 1000 words written

In the next week I want to work on the main conflicts and get going on writing. I do have my inciting incident and end game, and I'll work on the turning points as I go.

I came across this great two-part post by Donald Maas at Writer Unboxed and wanted to share with you. If you haven't read his book Writing The Breakout Novel, I highly recommend it. I question the value of some of the craft books, but this one is great.

In his posts The Elements of Awe, Maas talks about the factors that generate great word of mouth. Check them out!

How are your #Row80 goals coming?

Tempting Tuesday: The New Book Adrenaline Rush

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We've all had it. That rush of excitement that ripples through us when we get a new idea. If you're like me, you whip out your phone or whatever is closest to make notes. And yes, I've used napkins before. I've also stolen my child's kids menu and crayons to get an idea down. Don't judge—it was a major break through for Light and Dark.

The biggest rush for me is plotting a new book. I'm still a partial panster, but I work out my characters, inciting incident, and end game ahead of time. With The Prophet, I decided to create a town, which is really exciting. The book takes place in southern Mississippi, on the border of Louisiana. Deep south Bible Belt country. I've created antebellum homes, a town map, town characters—all the nuances that are vital to making the book seem real. Starting from scratch means I can do whatever I want with the place (the town is named Roselea, by the way), and I'm loving it.

Of course, this means my brain is working overtime. I'm thinking about the book when I'm supposed to be sleeping. It's on my mind as I exercise and even when I'm playing with Grace. Does Roselea have everything it needs? How would city government be ran? Would there be a city sheriff or county? Would the area be big enough to have a detective? How many churches would the town have? What do they look like? And it goes on. It's tiring, but fun. Creating Roselea has helped me iron out the plot of The Prophet and its main characters. I understand their motivations now. I'm sure they'll change over the course of writing, but I've got a strong starting point. I already love Roselea. I can see its historical homes and tree-lined streets as easily as if I were standing in the town square.

With that image in mind, I wrote the first 1000 words of The Prophet yesterday. A small start, but a significant one. It's only uphill from here.

What about you? What's your favorite part of plotting? Have you ever created a town from scratch?


Manic Monday: What's In A Name?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Happy Monday, everyone! Today's post is going to be short but hopefully fun. There are a lot of great blogs out there with awesome names, and I want to know how you came up with yours.

Here's the story behind my blog name, and it's not what you think. Turning The Page isn't a reference to writing or reading. It's actually a nod to Bob Seger's classic song Turn The Page. Why? Because it's the first song my husband and I ever danced to.

Back in August of 1998, he was still my boyfriend, and we'd gone to the Iowa State Fair with a friend. After spending too much time in the beer tent, we headed across the road to a hole-in-the-wall bar called Gene's. I knew Rob was too far gone when he wanted to dance, but I was happy to go with the flow. Turn The Page came on, and he pulled me onto the dance floor, something he'd never done in several months of dating. He had two left feet and sang off key, but the look in his eyes as he stared into mine was something I'll never forget. That was the moment for me. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

When it came time to name the blog, I couldn't think of a better title. That night propelled me into a new stage in my life, and so did blogging. Granted, one is bit more meaningful than the other, but you get the idea.

Now I want to know about your blog names. There are so many cool ones out there: Full-Tilt Backwoods Boogie, A Day Without Sushi, Atoll Annie and the Non-Specific Rim, the Ooo Factor, More Cowbell, just to name a few. How did you come up with them? Do they have special meaning?


#Thriller Thursday: The Haunting of Chatum House

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Thriller Thursday, and I'm doing something different. Here's a little paranormal suspense flash fiction for you. Enjoy and feedback is appreciated!

This had to be one of the stupidest things Nari had ever done. The chilly fall wind whipped her hair and goose flesh erupted over her cold skin. She gazed up at the night stars as she tromped through the overgrown yard lugging her equipment. What was she doing, coming here alone? She should have gone to bed when her partner cancelled. But like an idiot, she'd moved forward with the mission.

Nari had investigated hauntings throughout the southeastern United States, but she’d avoided the Chatum place the same way she avoided committed relationships. Her best friend had been murdered here. What if her ghost waited to greet Nari? What if a residual haunting played out the murder in gruesome detail?

She couldn't avoid the house any longer. Her dreams were full of dark scenes: a terrified woman running through dark halls and screaming for help, sinister laughter, and the awful, gurgling sound of a victim as she bled out.

Her best friend was trying to tell her something, and Nari had to find out what it was. That's why she was standing on a rickety front porch of an old Victorian at midnight and freezing her ass off.

The hulking, abandoned Victorian loomed before her. The Chatum place had been empty for the last five years, the hundred-year-old house crumbling beneath the rumors. They had started as soon as the bodies were wheeled out of the old house.

Six months after the murders, a family with two young children had moved in. They lasted less than three months. Neighbors reported hearing terrible cries in the middle of the night. A man walking his dog insisted the lights in the house turned on and off despite the fact the power had been shut off.

She hefted the bag onto her shoulder and slid her lock picking kit out of her pocket. Nari hadn’t bothered to get permission to enter the Chatum house. She didn’t want anyone in town to know what she was doing. Cape Charles, Virginia was a sleepy town that enjoyed the status quo. Hearing that Nari was searching for her best friend’s ghost would send them into a gossiping frenzy.

The door opened without fanfare. Darkness greeted her. The fine hairs on the back of Nari’s neck flared up, and her pulse raced. She always got an adrenaline rush the first time she entered a place with supposed paranormal activity, but as she stood on the threshold of the home she’d spent so much time in as a child, a new kind of chill went through her. There was no turning back now.

Nari flicked on her Mag-Lite and cast the beam around. The foyer was just as she remembered, its oak floor coated with dust. To her right, a narrow, spiral staircase waited. Hannah had been murdered in the upstairs hallway, the last family member to lose their life to John Chatum. The prodigal son had turned out to be a psycho with a knack for gutting people.

She stepped forward and then stalled. A whisper ran through the air. It could have been the wind or something far worse. A heavy stillness settled over Nari. The miserable feeling was one she knew well, and it took her breath away.

This house wasn’t empty.

What do you guys think? Should I continue Nari's story for Thriller Thursday?


#ROW80 Midweek Check-In 8/17/11

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rescued baby raccoon covering its eyes.

Did you know a baby raccoon covers its eyes when it's scared? Yep. I learned that watching Billy The Exterminator last week. He rescued a family and one of the babies covered its eyes just like a scared kid. Cutest thing ever.

I was thinking about that baby raccoon as I wrote this post. The last few days haven't been bad, just busy. Lots of work to get done on the synopsis but I think I'm getting the hang of it. Catie Rhodes directed me to this FREE lecture offered by Lisa Gardner at her Writer's Toolbox. Gardner does a great job explaining the nuts and bolts, which is all a synopsis is.

I also have some ideas for The Prophet. I haven't had a lot of time to write because we've been doing a lot of family things before school starts. Today's my writing day, though, and I'm ready to dig in.

But my confidence has been lagging. I know we all have those moments. We read someone else's work and wonder why the hell we even bother. I got down in the dumps Monday after starting Tess Gerritsen's Ice Cold. How can I ever hope to be that good? My writing isn't close to hers, blah, blah, blah.

Thankfully Catie jumped on my butt and reminded me we all start somewhere, and that even the best artists weren't great in the beginning. Practice does make perfect.

It's just annoying. But the effort is worth it.

Just to make you smile, another baby raccoon.
My parents had five of these outside last summer, eating the cat food.
They cried when they were frightened.

Anyway, I've resolved to stop covering my eyes and worrying about the "what ifs." They're bad news and drag me down. My writing suffers. Sometimes I'll go a day or two without doing anything, and that's just stupid. No one ever got anywhere by feeling sorry for themselves.

Light and Dark is in good shape for Row80. It's ready for the next edit, which was my goal. My new goal is to get the synopsis in working shape by this weekend, as well as the query letter.

I'm going to stop worrying about following "the plan" for The Prophet and do some discovery writing. It may not be the way experts say to do it, but it works for me and that's what counts. Once I get that under my belt, I'll be able to figure out my turning points and go from there. My goal is to have this done by next Wednesday. Hold me to it.

On the health front, I have something to be proud of because I've gotten in 60 minutes of exercise for the last four days running. That's big for me. I lost weight on a diet that banned all exercise but toning, and I excelled because I LOATHE exercise. But on day four of walking/running/biking, guess what? I feel better. Mind is shaper, I have more energy, all that jazz. It really does work.

I'm feeling pretty good about this week, but enough about me. How are your #Row80 goals coming? What have you added or revised?

#Tempting Tuesday: Guest Post by Donna Galanti

Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!
Welcome everyone from the SheWrites Blog Hop! Enjoy Donna's wonderful post and say hello!

The wonderful Donna Galanti is guest blogging for me today, and her topic is something every writer needs to be familiar with: 9 ways to get your novel ready to market. Donna's shared some valuable links as well. Enjoy!

Hi Stacy, thanks for having me on! In my quest to polish my first novel to be the-best-it-can-be here is feedback (and resources) I received along the way from the experts—agents, authors and editors.

It’s been driven into us writers over and over that before you query, you must have your novel as polished and professional as possible. In these revolutionary publishing times, it’s especially important for a debut author to have a top edited MS to send that agent or publisher. Here are some areas to address to make your novel shine.

1. Is it in the proper manuscript format?

Check out the Agent’s MS standards or Google. Here are some basics:
Double spaced. Minimum one inch margins all around. If sending a hard copy make sure it’s printed single sided, unstapled. Your name, title, page # should be in a header on each page.
A good resource list:

2. Is it too long?

Know the accepted word count for your genre. Look at another round of editing to shorten if need be. You don’t want this to be a reason you get rejected. An agentor publisher may wonder, as a debut author, if you have performed the necessary edits to make it a professional submission if it’s too long. Look at shortening your MS. Publishers think in dollars. Higher word counts = higher publishing cost.

Check out: http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/03/on-word-counts-and-novel-length.html

3. Perform a butterfly edit. Do a search for these nasty guys to replace or remove
I eliminated 4,000 words just by doing this!

*Look to remove adverbs. Those nasty (–ly) words and unnecessary words like just, even, very.
*Consider removing annoying POV filters
like: realized, thought, saw,noticed, glanced. For example: “She realized he moved closer”. If we are in your character’s POV the action is coming direct from her, so all we need to say is “He moved closer”.

*Where possible use past tense (–ed) vs. (–ing).
*One space after periods is now the standard. Can do a search with a period and two spaces after (. ) and replace with a period and one space after. (. )
*Reconsider passive language: is, are, was, were, has been, will have been, have been, etc.
*Remove exclamation points! If your MC “screamed” we don’t need the (!) to tell us so.
*Make sure you use the em dash (“No way–I can’t!”) with no space before and after.
*Do not use a dialogue tag with a sentence that ends with ? or ! (but you removed that ! – right?).

4. Do you know what genre your MS really is? Do you have a sub-list?
Make sure. Check out (library site)

Mine is a paranormal suspense and here is what I found, for example.
Then create a submission list (sub-list) of the top ten books your novel is most like. The agent or publisher will want to know that you know where your book w
ill be placed on the bookshelf (online or brick-and-mortar).

5. Does your book start with the true inciting incident?

Know where your book should start. What is the event that propels the premise in your book? Do you start with the true inciting incident or does it just seem like the true one? Sometimes it can be deceptive. The inciting incident must set the premise and the dramatic imperative for the reader to keep reading.

6. Does your book start with your main character? It should. If not, perhaps the character it starts with instead is your true MC. Then of course this changes your query letter, your synopsis…..This happened to me with one project. I was made aware of it by two author mentors.

7. Point of view (POV)

Rule of thumb. One POV per scene. Watch for head hopping. Very few authors can pull this off well. In reviewing my MS I found a few head-hopping scenes. I went back through each scene and checked off who had the most POV in it. I also decided who needed to tell the story best in that scene and changed it to that one character’s POV.
TIP: Make sure you are telling the scene through your character’s eyes. For example, if Laura is showing us the scene then we can’t “see the tears shining in her eyes”.

8. Does your book start with your protagonist sitting around thinking and not doing?

Don’t start your novel with the character sitting around alone in exposition. If your MC is doing nothing, skip it and start at Chapter 2 or 3, or wherever the action starts. For a good example read Accidental Tourist intro scene. You need to grab reader (and agent) on first page. This is the only chance you have.

9. Is your MS in the right voice for its genre?
Check out other authors in your genre. Do you have a consistent voice throughout scenes in the book? If it’s a Thriller make sure your MC doesn’t have a YA voice or your YA book doesn’t sound like it’s written from an adult’s POV.

QUIZ: Just for fun. How many things are wrong with this sentence below?

“Don’t even do that!” She screamed loudly, running away, as she realized what the writer could have done.

Good luck polishing your book so you can market it well!

Hook up with me here:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/DonnaGalanti

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1480550457

Website: http://www.donnagalanti.com/


Manic Monday: 10 Secrets to a Perfect Synopsis

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Most of you know I've been hard at work on the synopsis for Light and Dark. I've learned some things over the past week, and I wanted to share them with you. After all, social media is about making friends and spreading the love. I wouldn't want to deny anyone these secrets of the synopsis.

1) Liquor is required to write a good synopsis. Rum and Diet Coke works well.

2) When writing your synopsis, don't have anything valuable within grabbing distance. The last thing you want to do is to break something.

3) Make sure you've said a few prayers to the writing Gods. Consider an offering as well. They like chocolate cake.

4) Do a writer's version of the rain dance. Put on your best dress (or suit) and perform a jig around your computer. Make sure your motions are jerky and lack all coordination. This ensures you'll either pass out or think of something better to do.

5) Get an aroma therapy candle. Just like a dog, you can train yourself to be inspired when the scent hits you. And your writing area doesn't stink from all the stress sweat pouring off you.

6) Remember, writing a synopsis is much like doing a dirty deed for the devil. Watch some good horror movies to get in the right frame of mind.

7) Spend as much time on Twitter lamenting your sad state of life as possible. Your Twitter friends will commiserate with you and then thank God they're not the ones writing a synopsis.

8) Make sure you use every swear word in your vernacular and then make up some new ones. This is another great trick to keep your creative juices flowing.

9) When all else fails, a good crying jag helps to clear the clogged writing ducts.

10) B*tch and moan to your critique partner so they feel extra sorry for you. Then ask them to fix the piece of junk.

It took a lot of trial and error to learn the secrets of synopsis success, but I think I've got the program down now. If you follow these ten pearls of wisdom, you'll be sure to have a rough draft that needs a lot of work.

Happy Monday! Do you have any tricks to add?

#Row80 Check In 8/14/11 Emotional Hamster Wheel

This week has been an odyssey of emotion. First I dealt with the loss of a close friend from high school's mother, a lady that had a major influence on me growing up. Then I had to look at my own mother with her diabetes, congestive heart failure, and kidney issues and hope she wasn't next. On Wednesday, I took a break from writing and spent some much needed time with her, shopping and eating out like we used to. My mom is my best friend, and worrying about her health is a daily bother. But on Wednesday, I let all that go and just focused on her. It was just what I needed.

The last few days have been spent working hard on the synopsis for Light and Dark and getting back on a healthy eating plan. I'd been pigging out the past few weeks, so I'm nipping that in the bud. Cut out the carbs and most of caffeine. This is the third strict day, and I'm feeling more energy and less like I want to rip someone's head off.

And the first draft of the synopsis is done. Yay! It's got a long way to go, but it's a start. I can definitely see the benefit of writing your synopsis before writing the book, as Roni Loren suggests.

I haven't been able to do much on The Prophet this week, but I do have some ideas rolling around my head. I hope to focus more on them in the next few days.

Here are my favorite links of the week:

And the funniest post of the week? You've Got to Change Your Evil Ways by Annie Boreson

How was your #Row80 week?

#Thriller Thursday: Unsolved Murders

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

History is full of famous unsolved crimes: the Ripper murders, The Black Dahlia, The Boy in the Box, The Borden Murders, Jon Benet Ramsey and many more. These cases make the history books and crime programs, but hundreds of others wait for their chance to be heard. These are just a few of them.

1. Jason Allen, 26, and Lindsey Cutshall,23.
Engaged couple Jason and Lindsey were shot in their sleep as they camped on Fishhead Beach in Jenner, California. They were found on August 18, 2004. The camp counselors spent the summer working as whitewater rafting guides at a Christian outdoor adventure camp in Sacramento. Both were shot in the head at point blank range with an 1894 Marlin .45 long rifle.

There were several persons of interest and similarities to other murders in the area, including possible ties to the Zodiac Killer, but no one was ever charged. Cutshall's father is an Evangelical minister in Ohio and believes the murders are linked to satanic activity. There is no evidence to support his theory. The case remains unsolved, and anyone with information is asked to contact the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.

The little girl was last seen in her bedroom in Orange, Texas on the morning of July 4, 2002. Reported missing later that afternoon, it's unknown whether she was taken from her bedroom or outside the home.

Her body was discovered four days later in an isolated area on Pleasure Island in Port Arthur, Texas, approximately 27 miles from home. Raped and then strangled, she was wrapped in a torn, flowered sheet. Hair follicle and DNA test results were taken and tests were performed for months on area sex offenders and other persons of interest. In 2004, police claimed they had enough evidence to indict, but a suspect was never named and the official status of the case is open.

3. Sherry Carey
On October 29, 1992, an explosion rocked a residential neighborhood in Long Beach, California. When fire officials arrived, they discovered the front door of the home open and found the body of Sherry Carey lying facedown on a bed.

Sherry had suffered blunt force trauma, strangulation, and multiple stab wounds. She'd been coated with an accelerant and then set on fire. Sherry suffered third degree burns across her entire body.

I couldn't find much information about the case or investigation, but if you have any information concerning this case, please contact your Local FBI Office.

4. Betsy Aardsma
Betsy was 22 when she lost her life. On November 28, 1969, the Penn State grad student was stabbed to death in broad daylight in the stacks of Penn's Pattee Library. The murder weapon was a single-edged small knife. Right after the stabbing, two men went to the desk clerk and said, "somebody better help that girl," and then left. They were never identified. Betsy was pronounced dead a half hour later. The red dress she wore initially hid her blood loss and no one immediately realized she'd been stabbed.

Unsolved for 42 years, the murder and investigation will be revisited in Who Killed Betsy: UncoveringPenn State University's Most Notorious Unsolved Crime. The book is due to be released in fall 2011.

5. Amber Hagerman, 9
Amber's abduction is more well known, but it's so heartbreaking I had to include it. Her abduction resulted in the creation of the Amber Alert System. In 1996, little Amber was visiting her grandparents in Arlington, Texas. She and her brother Ricky were riding their bicycles around the block when Amber decided to ride to a parking lot of an abandoned grocery store. Witness Jim Kevil said Amber was riding around when a white or Hispanic man in a black pickup raced up to her and dragged her into his truck.

Ricky arrived home and said he didn't know where his sister was. He searched for her but came up empty, and then their grandfather drove to the parking lot to look for Amber. Police had already arrived. They told Amber's grandfather Kevil had seen a man snatching a young girl.

Amber's grandfather said only eight minutes passed from the time Amber rode away on her bicycle until Kevil called 911.

Police believed the crime was unplanned as Amber had no pattern of riding her bicycle in the area. A task force was formed and a search immediately launched. The search lasted for several days and included the resources of the FBI. Four days after she was taken, Amber Hagerman's body was found in a creek bed by a man walking his dog. The autopsy revealed she'd been alive for two days before her throat was cut.

A Dallas man asked a question on the mind of everyone involved: when a child is abducted and each minute matters, why can't the police and media join forces to inform the public with the same urgency of weather warning?

The Dallas Amber plan was initiated in July, 1997. Sixteen months later, it saved the life of an 8-week-old baby. In 2000, the US Justice Department began coordinating the program for all states, and today all 50 have the Amber Alert in place. According to the Federal Government, the lives of 240 children have been saved by the program.

Do you know of any unsolved crimes in your state or local area? Have you ever been involved in an Amber Alert search?


#ROW80 Midweek Check-In 8/10/11

This is how I'm feeling right about now. My best childhood friend's mom passed away, and yesterday was the funeral. I spent a lot of time of time with her growing up, and she was a great lady. She did a lot for all of us kids and put up with even more. She was only 65, and losing her is very sad. She died in her sleep, so we're grateful she didn't suffer. Still, the experience is exhausting, and I can only imagine how my friend is feeling. Losing my parents, especially my mom, is my greatest fear. I have no idea how I'll cope. My thoughts are with her family. We were all blessed to have had her in our lives.

Sad stuff aside, I've been focusing on my query letter for Light and Dark. *Grumbles, stomps, and throws stuff.* It's going better than I thought, and I've been learning a lot. Catie Rhodes has given me a ton of advice, including some cool exercises. The first one is writing about your book in three sentences or about 70 words: story set up (inciting incident) in one sentence, the major disasters are one to three sentences, the ending is one. Character gets one sentence, the conflict one sentence, and your book's unique aspects get one sentence. It's challenging, but it's a great practice.

The second trick is to write about your book in one sentence - 25 words or less. No names. It's tough, but again, great practice.

I'm also working on the synopsis. Even more stomping and grumbling about this one. Hate writing these with a passion. But Kathryn Craft from the Blood Red Pencil and TJ Proofs gave me some great tips: go through your book chapter by chapter and write down how each chapter moves the story/character arc along. Summarize the main theme of each chapter and then go from there. This has really helped me from being all over the place with my synopsis.

I also have to thank Donna Galanti for reading my query letter and giving some great feedback. She's had some experience with queries and is able to give some great advice.

My goal is to have a draft of the synopsis and query letter ready for critique/editing by Friday.

On The Prophet front, still in planning phase but getting closer. Working on the setting: a picturesque historical town in Mississippi, deep in the heart of the Bible belt. Very excited!

And on the way down to my parents yesterday I came up with an idea with another story. Thank goodness for voice recorders on cell phones. This one's definitely going in the to-write vault:)

Thanks to you all for your support of my blog and on Twitter. How's your #Row80 week going?

Tempting Tuesday: Walmart Edition

Monday, August 8, 2011

I have a love-hate relationship with Walmart. Most days I think of it as the seventh circle of hell, but it's hard to avoid a place where you can buy peanut butter and fishing supplies on sale. You can even get your car worked on in most Walmarts now.

And of course, how can I completely dislike a place that gives us gems like this?

World's greatest mullet courtesy of peopleofwalmart.com

The worst thing about Walmart is that it's ALWAYS busy. Doesn't matter if I go at midnight or eight a.m., there's a slew of people and every single one of them has a mission to slow me down as much as possible.

But every time I tell myself I'm not shopping there any more, I get sucked back in. It's hard to avoid the place when it's got the cheapest decent-quality groceries in town, not to mention school supplies that won't cost both arms and a leg.

And it's always entertaining. I made a sojourn to the House of Misery yesterday, and Grace and I were treated to a mother telling her kids (I'm guessing they were between the ages of six and ten) to shut the f*ck up. Then we got Subway. Lovely, isn't it?

Seventh circle of hell.

But it's got everything I need! Groceries, drugs (legal, of course), household stuff. And that's not where they get you. They get you with the clothes. And the bedding. And the linen. And the bathroom decor. The toy section. The kitchen goodies that no one needs but we all want. Walmart stuffs its pockets by having all the necessities and then heaping temptation after temptation on us. What's a materialistic society to do?

Spend money, of course.

Yet another goodie from peopleofwalmart.com. Poor kid.

Remember South Park's hilarious episode Something Walmart This Way Comes? Where the big chain came in and knocked out the small businesses, and everyone, especially Randy Marsh, became obsessed with the place? The parents went out and shopped at all hours of the night spending a ton of money just because they could. As hysterical as the episode was, the theme was spot on. We all do it. Walmart and its cheap prices allow us to gorge on material items we probably wouldn't purchase otherwise.

Walmart shows no signs of slowing down in this economy. With American's wallets tighter than ever, their stores on just getting busier. Steak? Check. Light bulbs? Check. Corkboard? Check. New tires? Check. Diapers? Check.

And don't get me started on the clearance aisle. Just like Randy Marsh and the other parents of South Park, we get sucked into buying junk we don't need from there all the time. Last week my hubby and were strolling through, and I picked up a set of greeting cards I'll never use. He got some electronic do-dad that'll probably work twice and then crap out. And we wonder where our money goes!

Walmart has its advantages. I've been grateful for their cheap prices many times. Yet they're squashing small-town America. Mom and Pop stores are dying. Locals feel bad deserting the stores they grew up with but can't resist the opportunity to save money.

Big business at its finest.

This picture's for you, Catie Rhodes.

If you've got the time, here's Matt Stone and Trey Parker's three minute plus commentary on the episode Something Walmart This Way Comes. Hilarious (cursing warning) and great social commentary.

What's your local Walmart like? Any horror stories to share? What things do you get suckered into buying that you don't need?

Manic Monday: Writing This Query Letter Can Only Make Me Stronger

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The first edit of Light and Dark is complete. I've made all the changes my critique partner suggested. I'm tweaking a secondary character and waiting for my friend (a reading/writing prof) to edit for grammar, but that will hopefully be done in a couple of months. Which means query time is closing in on me.

I hate it. Yes, I know being able to narrow down 100,000 words into 250 is a skill every writer must have, but that doesn't mean I have like the process. Writing a query is HARD. And intimidating. So much is riding on that one sheet of paper. If it's not good enough to grab an agent or editor, it doesn't matter how great our book may be. They're not going to read it.

No pressure.


The good news is that there's a ton of great resources out there about writing queries. One of my favorite is Queryshark. This isn't for the faint of heart, but it's a great way to learn what works and what doesn't.

Nelson Literary Agency has a great section on query letters here. Thanks to @JenniferKHale for the link.

Voice is a huge part of a successful query and one of the hardest elements to master. From The Write Angle has a great post on that here.

Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency blogged about making your pitch and hook sell your novel, something the majority of query letters fail to do.

The wonderful Jody Hedlund talks about query letters and what to do after you send them here.

Finally, Kaye Dacus has a great post about the technical aspects of writing a query letter.

After reading about 957 different blogs and articles on query letters, I've discovered the following:

Voice is key. Write the query in the same tone as your novel, preferably the main character.

Your hook has to actually HOOK the agent. Think about when you're browsing the shelves or flipping through the marketplace on your e-reader. What makes you want to read the book? What are the parts of the blurb that make you download the book? That's the hook.

Make sure you include the title, word count and genre. One or two sentences at most.

Keep it at one page.

Make it personal. Do your research and make it clear you know what the agent you're querying represents. Don't waste their time by sending something generic.

So that's what I've got so far. I'm no expert. I'm just sharing what I've learned with all of you. I just wrote my first query letter yesterday. My awesome critique partner Catie Rhodes likes it, so we'll see what happens with it. I'm sure we'll be doing some more tweaking.

And that brings me to my final point: make sure you have a critique partner or an honest writing friend who will help you with your query letter. Just as they are with your MS, critique partners are a major part of creating a strong query letter.

Where are you all at in your writing process? Have you started a query letter? Do you have any advice for new writers?


#Row80 Sunday Check In and Sharing

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy Sunday, everyone! Remember Calvin and Hobbes? They are my all-time favorite comic, and I so wish Watterson had continued.

Anyway, I chose this pic for today's check-in because I have lots of reasons for the happy dance.

First off, Sammy's doing well. He's got a lot of meds to take and is going very slow on food, but overall I'm happy. We are very lucky we didn't lose him. He has a big, nasty scar, and he's just going to take some time to heal. He's been showing signs of his old self, barking at the door and hovering around when I'm cooking, if only for a few minutes. He's still pretty tender, so he has to be carried up and down the steps to go potty. Trust me, it's not bothering him. He's loving all the attention.

My awesome critique partner Catie Rhodes returned the last of Light and Dark chapters, which means I'm going to end up finishing the first round of edits well ahead of schedule. And Catie really likes the book, so I'm feeling pretty giddy at the moment.

I'm getting close to querying. Thinking about that makes me nauseous, but that's another blog post.

Even better, I've gotten some serious work done on The Prophet. I spent a lot of time Friday and Saturday researching locations and brainstorming my characters. I have to give an enormous shout-out to Jessica Patch for answering all the questions I had about Bible verses, passages, etc. She's saved me a ton of time.

Thanks to Kristen Lamb, I know that the antagonist is the driving force behind any book, so I've been focusing on his character. His motivations are chilling, and he's driven by some radical religious beliefs. The more I work on The Prophet, the more excited I am.

I've also been keeping up on my blog posts, and I've even been able to get ahead on a few of them, so #Row80 is back on track for me.

Favorite writing post of the week: If you normally blog about writing, how will you promote your fiction? A great discussion at Nail Your Novel.

Looking for some great new blogs to read? Check out The Red Dress Club's weekend linkup.

How's your #Row80 going this week?

Finally, it's time for a little Sunday Sharing. What were your favorite blog posts this week? You can share your own or someone else's. Did you read an awesome book or short story? I want to hear all about it!