Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Report Monday: Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon

Title: Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale

Genre: Adult, Fairy Tale

Author: Carolyn Turgeon

Synopsis: The story of two very different women, one mortal, one mermaid, and the clash between worlds best kept apart... It is a cold day at the end of the world when a young woman, a princess in hiding, looks out across a Northern sea and sees something she could not have seen. It looks...it can't be. It looks like a mermaid's tail. And, as she looks more closely, she sees that the mermaid is dragging a drowning sailor in her arms. Because, only hours before, another princess, the daughter of the sea queen, has decided to risk everything and take a look at the world above the sea: the world of mortals. And there she finds a storm, a shipwreck, a sailor, and sets in train events which will change both women's worlds forever. From Goodreads

Why did I pick it up?: I spent the weekend at the shore and Mermaids are my Summer Reading.

Favorite Line: "The sun was a dull ache behind a veil of gray and silver."

Likes: Mermaid is short, only 240 pages, and familiar, as it is a retelling of the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It is a great refresher course on underwater life and the struggle between sea and land that plagues many mermaids.

Rules to Turgeon's take on mermaid mythology are sprinkled throughout the novel, never overwhelming the story, just enough to make me want more details.

Margrethe, the Princess who wants to marry the Prince and unite their kingdoms, is not a villain. I wanted them both to win, which surprised me. I thought, like in the Disney version, the mermaid would be the heroine but both women are protagonists.

It reads like Magical Realism (love) and was great for the beach. It was overcast and colder than I expected on the beach and the first part of the book takes place in the North, where it is freezing. Come to think of it, maybe that added to my own feeling of cold...

Complaints: The cover is misleading. In the novel, the mermaid, Lenia, has hair so blond it is almost white and is frequently referred to as moon-colored. I think the cover is supposed to allude to Ariel, who of course has red hair. I would have liked to read more about Prince Christopher, he comes off as a two dimensional character. His situation is intriguing, but his personality is not shown much. The story is not about him, but I would have liked to know more. I guess that is a sign, she gives the right amount of details on his character.

Recommendation: Read it on the beach!

Next Week: Matched by Ally Condie

Friday, May 27, 2011

Taming the Synopsis

Think of your synopsis like an iron.

Querying agents is confusing, there I said it. Each agent has different query guidelines. Some just want a 1 page query letter, some want the first chapter or the first 5-10 pages with the query. Some say they want a query, a synopsis and the first few pages. Most want email, a few only accept paper queries, and some trash paper queries without reading them. To demystify their idiosyncrasies, I use excel to keep track of agents and their guidelines.

My research has shown that when some agents say "synopsis" they mean the summary paragraphs within the query, explaining what the book is about, and some of them mean an actual synopsis-a separate document-summarizing the whole book. That's when the sweating starts.

Synopses scare me, because I don't understand them. This is why I decided to work on one. I read blogs where several querying writers had requests for partials and a synopsis (AH!), before the agent requested the full. One writer said she had to rush to put together a synopsis when it was requested. That made me nervous. It is a big reason behind me doing one now. If an agent might request one, I want to have it prepped and polished before I query.

I turned to Google, as I always do in times of need. Now, I think I have the idea. I think the synopsis will help with my editing, querying, and writing in general. They don't seem so bad once you read some tips on writing one. Think of your synopsis like an iron. Once it gets heated up, it will be a tool to make your story crisp and ready for company.

Synopsis Resources

Nathan Bransford

Vivian Beck

Fiction Writer's Connection

Writing World

Like with all things publishing there are differences of opinion. The suggestions of the four sites above range from 1 to10 pages, double spaced. The overall idea seems to be, the shorter the better. Like your query letter, if you can condense your story into precise sentences you are ahead of the game.

I am editing now and after each chapter, I jot down a few sentences summarizing what happened. When I do my read through, I will edit the synopsis. So far it isn't so bad. It's almost easy. I'll let you know how the end result looks.

Have you worked on a synopsis?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Dreaming about life on land
 The newest trend in Young Adult is mermaids and I couldn't be more excited. Does this help my manuscript? No, no one even goes swimming in my book, even though there is a beach.

My excitement stems from how much I loved The Little Mermaid. I had Ariel sheets, sleeping bag, pajamas, underwear-yes, it was that serious. Actually, it was so serious I once had a meltdown over it. Allow me to explain...

It was at the height of my Little Mermaid obsession. We went to a seafood restaurant called Neptune's. The inside was decorated like a ship. Porthole windows and all. They gave me and my sisters golden paper crowns, which made me think of King Triton. Basically, I was in heaven. When I perused the children's menu, however, a dark cloud descended. They had themed meals for kids. Mickey Mouse, was pasta with three meatballs. And. . . it was too horrible. I threw my crown and started to cry. My mother tried to appease me. I told her the menu upset me. "Oh, but they have a Little Mermaid meal," she said. As if that could cheer me up. I cried louder and screamed, "It's fried Flounder. How could they do that? He was her best friend! He was her best friend."

I have always had strong feelings for fiction. I wonder if this incident has anything to do with the fact that I always call the god of the sea, Poseidon. And I never do eat flounder, despite my love of fish.

As you can imagine, I am eager to bring mermaids back into my life and summer is the perfect time. Here are some of the books on my Mermaid Summer Reading List:

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard (Out July 21st)

 By day, a normal teenager. By night, a siren-a deadly mermaid who lures men to watery deaths. Lexi must swim every night or suffer unbearable pain. 

That's enough for me. But it gets better.

Lexi has to choose between a new boy at school who melts her icy exterior and a sexy water spirit who can break the curse and give her the life she always wanted.

  I love this cover too. Is she moving toward him or away? I like to think both, mermaids are complex like that.

Is it July yet?

A dark retelling of The Little Mermaid.

Two women, one prince, there is bound to be drama. The mermaid, Lenia, rescues Prince Christopher from the sea, ala Ariel & Eric. Lenia falls in love with him and gives up more than her voice for legs and a chance to be with the prince. Her health is also on the line.

Margrethe, a princess from a rival kingdom, wants to marry the prince to unite their kingdoms, which are at war.

Prince Christopher is oblivious to the fact that Lenia is the mermaid who saved him, but Margarethe witnessed the rescue and recognizes Lenia. Margarethe intends to send the mermaid back to the sea and save her kingdom.

The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan

Lena is forbidden from surfing, despite living on the coast of Northern California. Something draws her to the ocean and after she sees what she thinks is a mermaid she betrays her father, who nearly died in a surfing accident, and goes out into the water.

When she wipes out and almost drowns the mermaid saves her and gives her a gold key. She must find what the key is for and unlock the mystery of her own past.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Report Monday: Divergent

Title: Divergent, Divergent #1

Genre: Young Adult-Dystopian

Author: Veronica Roth

Synopsis: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: Did you read the synopsis? It was on my list before it came out, but once it came out and immediately slammed into the Bestseller's List I moved it up.

Favorite Line: I don't have one. I was too absorbed to make a note of just one line. There are so many and the ones I found when I went back and flipped through give too much away.

Likes: Loves: Tris and her determination. The factions and their rules. The relationship between the other initiates and Tris. There is competition even among those she considers friends. She is strong but without being superhuman. She is real and easy to relate to and root for.

I stayed up late two nights in a row, because I had to finish. I had to know what was going to happen. Now I want more books. I want to know what happens, next! I can't wait to read about the other factions and how they live.

Recommendation: I would tell you to go read it, but you probably already did. So instead, I urge you to go tell your friends to read it.

Next Week: TBD

Sunday, May 22, 2011

These are memories frozen in time

Cape May Point, Summer 2001
That's me with the pink hair and goofy face, Liz and Ariel.

Recently, my friend, Liz, was back in town for a baby shower (Ariel's actually). I went to her mom's house to visit. I really should call it The Burrow since Liz's mother has kept me nourished since 1997. We hung out, reminisced and ate tofu fajitas. Chicken and steak were also available, because she is Mrs. Weasley and makes sure everyone has what they want.

At one point Liz said she had one of my yearbooks. I didn't believe her. When would I have brought it over? She disappeared upstairs and, sure enough, she returned with my 2001 yearbook. I felt old. This was from ten years ago. Then I read the ridiculous things people wrote to me and I was happy to have a decade standing between then and now. I was confused though. Why I would leave it at her house?

As if to answer me, a note fell out from between the pages. One look at it and I was very pleased to have so many years between me and the version of me who wrote it.

I always complain about "kids these days" with their horrendous grammar and spelling online and in text messages. My niece, 17, is a big fan of adding extra letters to words. I can only assume this is to highlight their imporrrrrtanceeeee. Imagine my embarrassment when I see that I was taking similar liberties with spelling and capitalization. And what's with all the stars? I know I liked them, but really, isn't this excessive?

And why am I questioning the date? Couldn't I have found confirmation of that somewhere?

I read the note and laughed at my sixteen year old self, which would have really pissed her off. Finally, I saw the bottom.

I was proud to have learned what P.P.S. stood for, I guess.

Guess what? I opened the yearbook and there was a page in the back, the top corner said, "Liz's pg" and the whole thing was blank! 10 years and she never signed it. Sixteen year old me, suspected as much.

I vaguely remember writing this note. Liz spent the Summer of 2001, working as a beach tagger in Cape May Point. This was after our sophomore year of high school and a month before I turned 17 and got my driver's license.

There had been some drama. Liz was getting close a boy she had known for many summers spent at The Point. They were starting up a fling, I believe. But then, our guy friend went to visit her for a few days and on his last night there was much kissing. Things were weird because they were friends and...I think that is what I needed the calling card for. Oh, the days before cell phones, when you had to pay for long distance.

I miss my pink hair. That is all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Overcoming the Paranoia Plague and Other Victories

I love to write in public, usually on the train to and from work. I am more productive because I don't have Internet access, and people are around. I feel the need to work, to be doing something. I can do 400 words each way.

One problem I deal with is paranoia. I fear over-the-shoulder readers. To guard my writing against these evil spies-that may or may not actually exist-I zoom out...a lot. If no one is next to me, I zoom out to 80%. Easy to read for me, but enough to thwart those devious passengers with stretchy necks.

If someone is next to me and they are occupied (reading a book, the Metro or playing angry birds) I zoom out to 70%. I do have to squint, but it's distinguishable text.

And if the person next to me has boarded with no distraction, some part of me assumes their eyes will linger to my open word document. They'll read, they'll judge, they might even ask me about it and that, that is just too frightening. I zoom out to 60%.

No amount of squinting makes this text easy to read. This sounds crazy. It is. If I am writing it's fine. I don't need to read the text. I just write.

Today, I was editing. When a guy sat down next to me, sans book, sans paper, sans Tetris or Solitaire on his phone, I paused. If I zoomed out, I would struggle to see what I am editing. So, I left it. I did glance up periodically, to be sure I was not being watched.

It didn't take long for me to be sucked into the edits and forget all about my paranoia.

Which brings me to my edits.

I am in this glowing place with the editing process.

Welcome to the Glowing Place
They are going really well. There is a lot to perfect but I feel great about the changes. Mostly they are cosmetic, restructuring sentences and things. I haven't altered much plot yet. Nonetheless, I feel great.

Not only did I overcome my silly paranoia, for now I see that is what is was-pure silliness-I also am progressing with my story.

I wanted to blog about this magical feeling. You see, there are dark days ahead. Plot holes I can't see now, but will undoubtedly suck me under to a place no writer speaks of. Hopefully, this post will taunt remind me, I will find the Glowing Place again. If I am patient.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Report Monday: Something, Maybe

Title: Something, Maybe

Genre: Young Adult-Contemporary

Author: Elizabeth Scott

Synopsis: Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she's got them all beat.
Her dad made a fortune showcasing photos of pretty girls and his party lifestyle all over the Internet, and her mom was once one of her dad's 'girlfriends' and is now the star of her own website.
After getting the wrong kind of attention for way too long, Hannah has mastered the art of staying under the radar . . . and that's just how she likes it. Of course, that doesn't help her get noticed by her crush. Hannah's sure that gorgeous, sensitive Josh is her soul mate. But trying to get him to notice her; wondering why she suddenly can't stop thinking about another guy, Finn; and dealing with her parents make Hannah feel like she's going crazy. Yet she's determined to make things work out the way she wants only what she wants may not be what she needs. . . . (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: It was my prize from Cambria Dillon's Contest in March. Also, I want to steal Hannah's bracelets.

Favorite Lines: And then, still smiling, she says, "Turn that damn thing off or I'll tell Jackson about the night you came on to me." The camerawoman stiffens, looks pissed, and drops back.

Okay so not the greatest sentence ever written, and not the most well constructed sentence in the book. However, I chose this for content. I love the casual outing of the camerawoman as gay, or bisexual or at least bi-curious. I thought it was cool, because it easily could have been a cameraman.

I don't think Young Adult books need to be preachy but it's important that they reflect the world teens live in and Something Maybe does that well, with the gay camerawoman, the boys at school who talk a big game about what they would do if they got their hands on a sexy model, and even one of Hannah's friends who wears a Promise ring, vowing abstinence.

None of it comes off as forced, all of these things happen in the daily lives of teens and it was cool to see it reflected.

Likes: At times, Hannah's mother is more like the child than the parent and I can relate to that. I found it endearing and amusing whenever her mom is mentioned. Of course, it would be mortifying if you were Hannah, but you kind of hope Hannah gets over her mom's quirks and accepts her. Actually, the mom reminded me of Topaz from I Capture the Castle and I loved Topaz.

The love triangle is hilarious to read the boys vie for Hannah's attention and she is the only one who is clueless. I didn't want to stop reading because I wanted her to reach the same conclusion I already had.

Recommendation: Great summer or beach read. Very fun and quick.

Next Week: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rough Draft by the Numbers

With Microsoft Excel, I keep track of my writing progress. Every day I update my word count and formulas automatically calculate my progress for the day and total for the week. I even have goals, and formulas that tell me how many words per day I need to write to reach the goals. It's all very nerdy.

I use Excel at work, every day and I love math. I know. It's unwriter-like. Actually it's not even normal-like. The average person dislikes math. In any event, I thought I would post the numbers for my COMPLETED rough draft, which I am finally pumped about finishing. If you are disinterest in such things, please feel free to let your mind wander.

Jensen Ackles, what are you doing here?*

I started writing this story one October day. I got 3,000 words down and decided to put it on the back burner, until February 9th.

In 92 days, I wrote 58,112 words.

My overall average per day was 657 words, but I didn't write every day. One or two days a week I wrote nothing at all. This may have been laziness, but I call it brainstorming.

My average for the days I wrote was 873 words. I said before my average daily count was 800, so I am glad that wasn't a gross overestimation.

The most I wrote in one day was 3,891 words.

The least I wrote in one day was not-as you might expect- zero, but -3...it was a dark day. Very dark.

My high for a seven day period was 10,955 and my lowest was 721 for one week...ouch.

April was by far my most productive month. I was in Austin for several days, not distracted by pesky work stuff, and wrote 23,746 words that month. That seems insane to me because February and March were both 15K-16K.

So that's my progress. My total word count is 61K. That is definitely going to increase. There were some scenes I flew through and I do a lot of telling-not showing-when flying. I feel the need to get the plot down as fast as possible, in case I lose it. Those scenes will need a lot of detail and reworking. Also there is a scene I reference, but never wrote-whoops. That will be added. I imagine the first edited draft will probably be around 70K.

*I was asked who my characters look like, who would play them in a movie. I hadn't thought about it. I googled actors and actresses. Thus far, I decided Jensen would get a part.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

At the end of my W.I.P

That's where I am, at the end of my work in progress. Just a few sentences left to tie it all up and I am done with the rough draft. Then I will be starting down the long road of editing. Normally, upon completion there is a feeling of joy, but I don't know where that ran off to because there is only dread here.

You see, I am stuck with an ending that is not an ending. Well it is...but it isn't. Oy! Contradictions!

Let's just say, there's unfinished business. Similar to the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince* where most of the plot is resolved, but Harry still has to go out and find those Horcruxes and you can't take out the Horcruxes or his need to go hunting for them, because then the book wouldn't make sense. So it needs a sequel.

One possibility is to keep writing and finish the whole story, maybe squeeze it into one book. I fear that book would be too long or too poorly done...or both. Another option would be to accept my fate and my required sequel and pray an agent isn't put off.

I didn't set out to write a series and I don't mind, but I am not sure I am comfortable with a first novel which can't stand alone. Is this going to turn off agents? Or is the set up for a sequel okay? I have a feeling that will, as always, depend on the quality of the story and the opinion of the agent.

For now, I think I will polish it, as is-a first book in a series. Then let some beta readers have a go at it and see what they say. See how they feel about the ending that isn't. Who knows, maybe I am exaggerrating. Maybe it will be so great agents will fall over themselves and publishers will beg for me to sign for multiple book deals.

But what really matters is that the joy comes. Maybe after I start my victory celebration. Wine has that effect on me.

Yes, that's Red Velvet Wine

*Not trying to talk a big game, I just relate everything back to HP. The Hunger Games and Golden Compass have similar endings that set the stage for the sequels.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Report Monday: The Dark and Hollow Places

Title: The Dark and Hollow Places

Genre: Young Adult-Zombie*

Author: Carrie Ryan

Synopsis: There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.  Annah's world stopped that day, and she's been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn't feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again. But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction? (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: Horror scares me. No, I don't think you understand. Commercials for scary movies leave me shaking in terror. The last time I entered a haunted house, Halloween 2007, I took three steps in, something moved and I had to be escorted out and given hot cocoa. When I tried to read THE SHINING I had nightmares for weeks. However, Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth series does not read like Night of the Living Dead. Was I fearful at times? Of course! But it was not the same kind of fear, because the characters are accustomed to the world. They are not surprised when the zombies attack (usually) and so the reader is not either.

To answer my own question, I read the other two books because I kept hearing about them and the premise intrigued me.

Favorite Line: "And if I've learned anything surviving on my own, it's that I can take another step."

Likes: By far my favorite book in the series. I love Annah for her strength and voice. The horde attacking the Dark City gives me the heebie-jeebies but it's okay because they were the entertaining kind of heebie jeebies.

The difference in this book, in my opinion, was the urban landscape. It changed the rules of survival. Before the characters were navigating through fences and barriers and they never faced zombies by the thousands let alone millions. There is so much less control and order to it. It's chaos. It's terrifying and Annah sees the dark side of people, who even though the world is crumbling around them will find new ways of tormenting one another. Strangers and neighbors aren't always there to reach out a helping hand and the living can be just as dangerous as the zombies, and more unpredictable.

Note: This is the last book in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series (so the interwebz tell me) she does have a Forest of Hands and Teeth short story, Hare Moon, so maybe it's not really the end.

Recommendation: Everyone should read this. If you ever find yourself in the middle of a zombie horde, you'll wish you had. Besides, when life gets you down, you can always reassure yourself with the knowledge that at least a million hungry zombies aren't snapping at your heels. After that, the day seems more manageable, doesn't it?

Next Week: Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

*I don't think Zombie is actually a genre, but it so should be.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Music & Writing

I love music.

My characters love music.

It makes sense that I listen to music when I write. Right?

Initially, this was to block out background noise on the train, but now it has become part of my routine. I am more productive with music playing. In high school, I did my homework with very loud, angsty, alternative rock blaring. I wonder if that was the same technique in practice. Blocking out other distractions, like the blinders on a horse. Only here the other distractions are usually my own thoughts...which are probably sufficient to spook a horse-I've been reading about zombies. Just saying.

My dog, Cody, loves music too

I know a lot of writer's use music to help them focus. Stephenie Meyer who cannot write without music, posted her playlists, they are probably the most widely known since they used some of the artists in the movie soundtracks. Whatever your feelings about her writing or the films, you can't deny her playlists are pretty fantastic.

My playlists, while writing, change a lot because I need new songs to break up the monotony. Also, if I don't get a lot of good work done, I will sometimes blame the music. This is wrong of me, I know.

At present my writing playlist is made up of 80+ songs. I listen to it on random. I have been favoring songs that put me in a high school state-of-mind and songs my characters would like, most of them by the following artists:

The Gaslight Anthem
Brandi Carlile
Jenny Lewis, Rilo Kiley, Jenny & Johnny
Missy Higgins
Neko Case
Katie Herzig

All None of these belong to me. Taken at Guitar Center.