Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lesson 12: A Song and Bonus Lesson w/Canadian Author Elle Strauss

Hi! Today  we've got a special Treat!  Elle Strauss has hailed all the way from Canada (another rockin Canadian author!) to give you a lesson on structure.  It's an awesome lesson, so sit back and learn!


I was sitting with my best friend, Lucinda, on the sidelines of the football field. As usual, we were watching the yummy football players, rather than the scrimmage going on because really, who cared about the actual game?

Despite the glare of the setting sun, I saw the brown speck hurtling towards me. Impulsively, I jumped up and thump, Nate Mackenzie’s football, signed by the famed Tom Brady himself, was in my arms. I couldn’t believe it. I’d caught Nate Mackenzie’s ball! Gingerly, I raised my head. Sauntering across the field, with all his hunky hotness, was the cutest boy in the school, the most valuable senior varsity football player of Cambridge High, and the love of my life.

He stopped right in front of me.
“Good catch.” His rugged and manly voice lassoed me. He'd said, good catch. I couldn’t move or take my eyes off his face. The way the sun glistened off his sweat, emphasizing his strong jaw and the brightness of his blue eyes, brighter still because of the contrast of his dark, shaggy hair…
“So, can I have my ball back?”
My hands gripped his football with sticky sweat. The ticker tape in my brain searched for the right response before flashing ERROR in red neon twelve-point font.

“Casey?” Lucinda nudged my back. With a slight swivel of my head I saw her expression. Mortification. Give the dumb ball back!

Did I just have an aneurysm? I felt woozy, like throwing up. I imagined myself vomiting all over Nate’s feet.
Unbelievably, there are some things worse than puking in front of the football team. A wave of dizziness threatened to wash me away into black nothingness. But I couldn’t be so lucky to just faint.

It was happening. Oh no. Not here. Please, not in front of Nate Mackenzie.

In an instant, my world brightened like a nuclear blast as I spiraled through a long white tunnel. When I opened my eyes, he was gone. Nate was gone and so were Lucinda and all of Nate’s football team.


“It's Nate,” Lucinda whispered. I know, Nate, Nate, Nate. She nudged me again. I looked to my right. I felt like a girl dying of thirst in the desert, convinced there was a stream of water running toward her. It really looked like Nate was walking our way.

I glanced behind me. Just a wall. Back to Nate. Yup, he was still walking towards us. My eyes popped wide. My brain was shutting down. I tried to remember my mantra. Hate Nate. Hate Nate.

He stopped right in front of me. The only thing I could think of was how tall he was. Even with my heels on, he had to look down at me.

“Would you like to dance?” he said. To me. Nate to Casey. Wants to dance.

I should have said no. My mind understood this. My spirit understood this. Somehow my mouth got it wrong and I heard myself say, “Okay.”

The thing was it was a slow dance. He took my hand in his and put his other hand around my waist. I wasn’t breathing. I put my free arm on his shoulder and gulped. Maybe I'd fainted from lack of punch and standing against the wall for too long, and this was just a hallucination. He sure seemed real. He smelled good, spicy. Was I moving my feet? I was still standing so I must be breathing. My heart beat wildly. I was going to hyperventilate.

When I dared to look at his face, he smiled. I was so confused! I stole a glimpse at the crowd by the punch table. Nate's friends were laughing.

Jessica looked really mad, and pulled Craig tighter, if that were possible. I was starting to enjoy this.

We didn't talk, just swayed to the music. I wondered what life was going to be like for me post-dance. I would be miserable. Purely miserable, since Nate would surely never set eyes on me again. Jessica would make certain of that.

I decided to just enjoy it for what it was.

“You look very nice tonight.”

What? He spoke! He thought I looked nice. I was hyperventilating. I felt faint, dizzy. Was that bad? Nate was so strong, he would hold me up.

Uh-oh, it was bad. Very, very bad. I wasn’t dizzy because of Nate.

Oh, no!


He drove into the school parking lot in his rusty ’82 BMW. It was great to see him in jeans and a hoodie again. He looked tired, but hot, hot, hot.

I waited by the door, wondering what he’d say to me, hoping he’d talk first, because I had no clue what to say.

He caught my eye. His mouth pulled up slightly at the corners, a sparkle in his countenance, an acknowledgment: we shared a secret.

Then his eyes flitted over my head to his jock friends and he brushed by me with a little nod. No one else would have noted our brief communication.

That was it. Just like I knew it would be. I was beneath him. Lucinda and I, we were minions on the totem pole of Cambridge High. Nate, he was perched on the very top.

Click on the Pictures to Enlarge them:

Elle Strauss

Thank you so much, Elle!  Your book looks amazing!  Jenni

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lesson 11: Querying the Query

Lucky for me I found this old blog post from my real blog HERE, dated a couple of years ago. I think this is exactly what you're looking for:

Okay so many of you already know this... and even more of you have already stumbled across my query letter that is posted around the net in various places. Yes, I'm very open about my publishing process, so if there's anything you would like to know--anything at all--ask me and I'll answer as best I can.

A little while ago, I had a few requests to post my REAL query letter. The one that got me my totally awesome agent Kirsten Manges back in August. (Along with 6 other very interested agents--that I had to turn down.)

For those of you who have no idea what i'm talking about, don't worry, you're not alone. I had never even heard of a query letter until last April--and then I freaked out trying to decide how to write one. So here's the deal. After you write your novel (COMPLETE it. Step One) and then you give it to all of your friends to read for critiques and edits (EDIT it. Step Two) then you start searching for literary agents online and write out your query letter to see if they're interested in your book. (Query it. Step three) Once you've come up with the perfect query letter that sounds like you, makes your book exciting, and convinces the agent to ask for more--This is Not easy btw--You begin to query.

Now, I tweaked this letter about 6 or 7 times during the 8 weeks I sent out 50 queries to 50 different agents... by the time I tweaked it for the last time, my "thanks but no thanks" rejections became..."Ooh, I love the sound of this. Send me more."

Once the agents started getting interested I knew I had hit query perfection! LOL! Yes, I was a happy girl. And amazingly agented just 2 1/2 weeks after the final query was made.

So here it is. My final draft. Hope this helps.

Dear Ms--- (add their full name!),

In a world where drama is everything, Chloe Elizabeth Hart has found she cannot abide the conceited antics of the popular crowd. –Or more importantly, one very annoying self-possessed guy, Taylor Anderson, who is determined to make her the president of his fan club! As if! Every girl in the whole city of Farmington, New Mexico is in love with Taylor, but he seems to be only interested in her.

The reader laughs, simmers and loves with Chloe in the romantic high school roller coaster ride called Pride and Popularity. Chloe follows the same lines and battlefields drawn out by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice two hundred years ago, with a much more modern twist:

~Instead of attending balls…its parties, dates and high school dances.
~Instead of letters…it’s passed notes, emails and cell phone calls.
~And instead of marriage proposals…its boyfriends, prom and gorgeous dresses!

I am a professional children’s theater director/playwright and have written and produced three full length (3-act) plays for children/teens, Cinderella (2006), The Greatest Fairy tale EVER! (2007) and Snow White a Tale of Envy (2008). This is my first novel. With my background in professional theater I have spoken in many public speaking events and theater seminars.

Please, let me know if you are interested in reading more of the completed 63,500 word count YA manuscript. Until then, I will continue working on its Jane Austen sequel Persuaded, which is set in the same rural city as Pride and Popularity. Being part of the world wide fan base of Austenites who love rewrites/sequels, I hope to modernize and recreate all six of the beloved Austen novels for teens. –Which has never been done before! As a mother of six, my ultimate goal is to present tweens/teens with an alternative to the ever popular chick lit novel on the shelves today, with good clean characters and positive heroes to emulate.

NOTE: If the punctuation marks are off-kilter, it is due to my email program. The full manuscript has been edited by a second party. Below, I have included a brief synopsis and sample chapter.

Thank you, for your consideration and your time.
Jenni James

(Then all my contact info: email, phone, addy)



I want you to query me.  I will PRETEND to be an agent and tell you PASS or ACCEPT, just to let you know if I would've asked for more of the book simply based on the query.  You're welcome to write more than one query if I PASS just to see if I'll ACCEPT again with a stronger query.  :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lesson 10: The End

So after they get together and kiss and talk about how much they love each other... blah, blah, blah... because this is a series, this is how AJ and I chose to end the book--just to give the reader a little taste of what is to come--taken from Eternity:


After I had cooled my heels for a considerable while outside I was finally allowed in.  I’d almost lost my nerve a few times, but then every instance I began to change my mind, my brother’s worried face would come to the forefront again and I just knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had to do this.
Laurelia was right, I would never be happy unless I knew my brother was okay.  Not now, not after all we’d been through, I couldn’t let him go and face a world like that on his own.  A world that might ultimately lead him to kill himself; I knew Aurelius would never make it through a life like that. 
“You wanted to see me?” Father asked as he motioned into his office.
“Yes.”  I took a deep breath and gazed vacantly at the beautifully decorated room, while settling down into the plush chair that was offered .  God moved around to sit in the chair next to me, swiveling his around to face mine.  His eyes searched through me for a minute or so, before he nodded his head and let out a sigh. 
“I was afraid of this.  Are you sure you really want to go this route?”
“Yes.  I have to take his place. I realize that by working my way up the chain of command as I did—changing my destiny, and becoming a general, I’ve also ruined things for my brother.  I can’t do that to him.  I can’t.  I have to go back and be the man I was meant to become, or he will face my trials and die.”
Father’s brow creased and he pursed his lips while he looked me over, his head shaking a little in confusion.  “You’re a greater man than I gave you credit for, Petrus.”  He brought his fingers up to stroke his short beard and continued, “Do you have any idea what people would do for the life you’ve been granted with General Laurelia?  Many men would give their souls to be with her.  Look at Soren, he went mad in his attempts to woo her, and yet you—you own her heart and are willing to walk away.”
“No.”  I held my rising anger in check, barely.  The sensation was raw and confusing, particularly in God’s presence.  “You completely misunderstand the situation then, Father.  I love her with everything I have.  There is no one—no one, I would rather be with—and this is by far the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do. The only way I could do it, is with her blessing.  Had it not been for her assurance that everything will work out, I would never propose to leave her side for a single moment.”
God too was angry—I didn’t see it coming until he slammed his hand upon the arm of his chair.  “And what of Laurelia?  What of her?  Have you not thought of what this could do to her?  You saw Lucifer’s reaction towards her.  How could you leave her unprotected like that? What if he claimed her life before you proved yourself worthy of joining her side again?  If you take on this life with your brother, you will be living on two very separate continents, it’s not even guaranteed you two will ever meet. ”  He stood up.  “Perhaps, my son, you do not love her as you believe you do.”
Until that moment, I didn’t realize how close to Laurelia he truly was—how could he not be close?  Her whole strength and unwavering devotion and faith to him would make any father proud, but one who truly knew her worth would be over the moon. 
“Father,” I tried to maintain some decorum and a level of respect for the man in front of me, “I love her.  There is nothing at all that I wouldn’t do for that woman.  My life did not begin until I met her, there was no purpose and never will be again if anything were to happen to her.  My reason for coming here, was not just to propose I be given my old life back—but to ask that you also allow me to endure all of Laurelia’s trials. Anything Satan wishes to send her way, divert to me.  Give them all to me, until I can be there to hold her and support her as I need to—until I can find my way back to her.  I will find her.”
“Great Heavens,” God mumbled as he sat back down.  “Petrus, do you have any idea what it is you’ve proposed to take on for yourself?  Any idea what your life would become?  You know the life that awaits you—the life that would kill Aurelius, and now you intend to take on all the trials of the one woman Lucifer has pledged to target, as well?  Are you completely out of your mind?”
I remained standing, my jaw tightening.  “I don’t care—I-I cannot leave her to him unprotected and I cannot shirk my duty towards my brother.  What would you have me do?  Until I can be with her, this is the only way.  Give them to me; all of their pain and suffering—make it mine—all of it.”
“Petrus, no!”  God shook his head.  “No man could withstand what you propose and live, it’s too risky.”  He got up and moved over to the desk, walking behind it—in a dismissive gesture.  “You’re too important now to the end of the world, we can’t risk losing you.”
I slammed my hand upon the desk to get his attention.  “Better me than her!” 
“You can’t do it!”                                                                                           
“Yes, I can!  If anyone can it’s me.  You know this.  Think Father; think what I have accomplished already.  I, the only man in all of heaven to do so—you must let me do this!  You must.”  I leaned forward searching his eyes.  “Besides, if I don’t take on her trials, Laurelia will have it no other way; she’s determined that I help my brother.  You know how she is—there will be no convincing her otherwise—and I can’t live knowing she’ll be attacked by Satan as she will be—I need your reassurance, and I need it now, that she will have as perfect a life as you can give her until I can find her again.”
Father met my stare straight on, but I didn’t flinch, allowing him to see to the true depth of my character. 
“Does she know?” he asked quietly.
“No.”  I closed my eyes, running my hand over my face.  “No, and she’d annihilate me if she did.  This will only work if I have your permission now, and a promise that she will never know what it is I’ve done in exchange for her protection.”
Father nodded his head slowly his hand reaching out to clasp my elbow.
“But you must understand, my son, I do not bargain with my children often and I only do so in this manner with you now, because I think of the love between your sweet Mother and I, and how your words echo some of my own.  What man wouldn’t wish to protect his love as you are?  It is done.  It will all happen as you wish.”
I let out a sigh of relief and bowed as low as I could, sealing my fate forever. 
“Thank you.  I promise that you will not regret this.”
He looked at me with great sadness.
“I already do, my son; I only hope that I do not grow to regret it even more deeply.”

Homework HOMEFUN ASSIGNMENT: Post your endings.  For those of you who are really proud of your endings, I'd like you to post them so everyone else can learn from you as well.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lesson 9: Destiny

Hi, guys!

For your writing secrets class, I'm answering the two most asked questions today:

1. My friends and family are telling me writing is stupid, should I keep writing?
2. How did you get published?

Here are your answers:


Let me know if there's something I haven't covered so far.  What else would you like to learn?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Writing Secrets, Lesson 8: CryBaby

Howdy!  First off, before I get into the lesson... I wanted to let you guys know of a contest i'm doing.  Technically it doesn't start until Monday, but here it is.  I'll be announcing the forum thread where I'll be accepting all entries on on Monday.  But I thought I'd let you guys see it early. :)

Now, onto the lesson.  Today we're discussing how to put emotion into your stories.  I hope you guys love it.  Here's the video:

Example One--This is showing emotion through the backdoor with narration.  This is from my middle grade book Prince Tennyson.  Most people cry by the end of the second chapter.  I've posted the first two (unedited) chapters here.  Maybe you can see how it is I make people cry.  

Chapter One:

            I will never say a bad word again.  Never. 
            I know it’s going to be hard to stick to it, not because I go around everywhere cussing every ten minutes or something, but because everyone else around me does. 
            My Grandma Haney took me to her church today.  I wasn’t going to go, but then she promised to buy me a new skirt with a pretty new jacket that matched.  It was bribery really.  I didn’t care.  I love my new light blue jacket with the glittery purple butterfly on it.  The blue flowered skirt was just a bonus, it was the jacket I was really after.  I don’t know if I’ll ever wear the skirt again.  Too fancy for school, I think.
            At church the lesson wasn’t about not swearing.  It was about finding a goal that will make the Lord proud of you for keeping.  We all had to come up with a goal.  I didn’t know what else to say, so I chose to not cuss.  I figured it would be the easiest for me since the last time I said a bad word in front of my mom she slapped me.  Right on the face.  It hurt too.  A good reason not to cuss, don’t you think?
All the kids at my new school say swear words all the time.  I’ll probably get teased or made fun of for not swearing.  Oh well, I guess I better get used to it.  I will never say a bad word again.  Not even if I want to.
I’m very good at keeping my goals.  Some people say it’s because I’m stubborn, others say it’s because I’m headstrong, but Mrs. Chee, my old third grade teacher told me it’s because I’m determined.  I liked that word.  I had to look it up, because I didn’t know what it meant.  When I looked it up, it made me smile.  I wanted to be very determined after that.  I even told my family about that word.
My dad liked it too.  He used to say, “You are the most determined girl I’ve ever met.”  Then he’d rub my hair and remind me, “That’s a good thing.”
That’s another one of my goals actually.  I’m determined to remember my dad.  It’ll be hard as I get older, I know.  Some days it gets hard now.  Some days when I close my eyes and think really hard, I can barely see his smile and the rest of his face is fuzzy.  Other days I can see him so good it’s like he’s standing right next to me. It’s a good thing I’m good at keeping my goals and I’m the most determined girl.  I know I will never really forget my dad.  At least I hope I don’t.
I don’t want to.
I think my mom is trying to forget my dad.
It’s true.  When we were moving here to grandma’s home she told me to empty the trashcans around the house.  Except I think she forgot about the trashcan in her bedroom.  It’s the big one she used in her office, not the small one that was normally in there.  When I went to pull the bag out I couldn’t believe what I found. 
A whole bunch of pictures of my dad.  Some were loose and scattered everywhere in the trash and other were still in their broken frames.  It looked like my mom just freaked out and hurled them all into the garbage can.
My mom does that a lot lately.  Just freaks out and hurls stuff.  She’s even done it at Grandma’s house.  I know because I heard my grandma shout in my mom’s old bedroom at her, “Tiffany!  You can hurl things all you want, but he’s not coming back, so stop it!”
My mom stopped it.  She had to.  Grandma is my mom’s mom, and she can be mean sometimes.  Grandma says, “It’s because I’m the head mom around the house.”
It’s okay, though.  Mom doesn’t know, but I saved those pictures.  I only cut my finger once pulling them out, too.  I figured one day she’ll want to remember Dad again.  I know I would if I was married to him and he was my handsome prince.
My mom loved my dad’s uniform.  She was right.  He looked just like a handsome prince in it.  Maybe that’s why Dad died?  Maybe the bad guys thought he was a prince and not just a normal dad.  You know a normal dad with a normal family and kids and stuff.      
Three kids.  The three musketeers. 
Well, it’s a good thing I’m the oldest and I’m a determined girl, so that way I can take out my secret box and pull out Dad’s pictures and remember him.  One day I’m going to teach my little brother and sister to remember him too.  But right now, Mom still freaks out too much.  I think I’ll keep my secret box a secret for a little while longer.
Besides, now I have something else to figure out.  Something that’s had me puzzled for a whole two days since I went to church with Grandma and Mom stayed home with the other kids.  I have to decide if I want to go back.  Grandma’s already asked me if I survived and if I wanted to come to church again.  I’m not sure.  I’m not sure there’s a point to go back.  I mean, what if they ask me to make another goal? 
I don’t think I could handle that.  I’ve got a lot on my plate right now and the swearing one will keep me busy for the rest of my life.  Plus it just doesn’t make sense.  Sure, we’re promising the Lord, but how does he know anyway?  Just who is this guy and what makes him so special that almost a million other people make promises to him?    My mom says, “God isn’t real.”
My grandma says, “Yes he is, Chelsea, and your mom knows better.” 
But how do I know which one is right?  As far as I can tell it’s one big mess, as messy as the living room when the movers were helping us pack.  As far as I can tell there’s no way to know which one is right either, because the guy is invisible. 
Hmm… Maybe my mom is right.  I’ll have to think about it.   

Chapter Two:   

            I went to school today.  I think Wednesdays are the worst days for school.  Really.  I think we should have the whole day off, just something fun for the middle of the week to look forward to.  I bet I would work much harder if I only had to go to school Monday and Tuesday and then Thursday and Friday. 
Maybe I’ll ask the principal.  I’ve only been going here about three weeks now, so I’m still new enough to make ideas and point out flaws in the school.  I mean, change must be brought up somehow and it might as well happen when someone new comes, someone who can see what needs fixed. 
Wednesdays need fixed.
Why is it I get in trouble on Wednesdays?  Always on Wednesdays.  It’s like that day is doomed or something.
The worst part is I’ve made my mom cry again.  I didn’t mean to.  Honest.  Ugh.  Even Grandma, when she came to pick me up from school and heard the teacher’s report, got all watery eyed.  I knew if she wasn’t standing in that classroom listening to my teacher telling on me, she would’ve probably started crying too. 
It started out like any other day—well, except it was Wednesday.  I hung my backpack up outside at the end of the row of hooks where my name was.  Everyone could tell I’d just moved to the school, because my sticker with my name on it was a different design and color from the other kids.  Then after a moment where I just stared at the bright yellow sticker that said Chelsea Tennyson across the top, I noticed that most of the kids where done hanging up their stuff.   I quickly followed them into Mrs. Sheridan’s fifth grade class, and found my seat near the back by two other girls. 
Those girls were actually pretty nice.  One was named, Sarah with an “H” at the end, and the other one was called, Jasmine.
The problem didn’t start until after math, when Mrs. Sheridan asked us all to write about someone very special in our lives.  Someone that we loved very much.
She said, “It can be a family member.  Like a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, sister, aunt, uncle… anyone.  Or it could be a very special friend that you have or it could be a special neighbor or a ballet teacher.  Anyone special in your life, just choose one person.”
Then after that she gave us a whole twenty minutes to write something about this person.
So I chose to write about him.  I wish I didn’t now.  Especially since it made Mom cry, and made Grandma get teary, and made Mrs. Sheridan get mad.  I really didn’t know it would cause that much trouble if I wrote about him.  But it did.
I don’t like to say my dad’s name very much.  It makes my heart hurt, and then I get all quiet and stuff.  So I don’t.  Instead I call him a prince, just like mom used to.  I like to think of him that way.  Handsome and strong and brave and fun and a real good singer and dancer—like all prince’s are. 
Except Dad wasn’t a very good singe.
We were supposed to put the name of the person on top of the paper for the title.  Well, it was Wednesday and Wednesdays are just bad period.  So I figured I wouldn’t risk it by writing my dad’s real name.  Instead I put:
Prince Tennyson.
Then I wrote all about how he and mom met and how he swept her off of her feet and took her to his castle and married her.  Just like how Mom used to always tell me when I was little.  For some reason I wanted my new teacher to know that story too.
Then I told about how after I, Princess Chelsea, was born he would spin me around and dance with me real close, sometimes just me and him, and sometimes in between him and Mom. 
Me and Mom really liked that—to dance together, all of us—it made us giggle like crazy. 
I also wrote about how Prince Tennyson used to read me nighttime stories and then tickle me until I shouted, “Uncle!” 
That drove Mom crazy.  She would come into my bedroom every night with her hands on her hips saying, “Ryan!  How is she supposed to go to sleep with you tickling her to death?”  But my mom wasn’t really mad, I could tell.  She always had a smile when she said it. 
The part that I guess I shouldn’t have written, and the part that I think made my teacher mad, was I said that he flew off to battle.  Maybe I shouldn’t have told that part about Prince Tennyson.  Maybe I should’ve just said that he was normal and went to work on computers somewhere in a bank or something.  I don’t know.  It couldn’t have been anything else, because Mrs. Sheridan wouldn’t let me read the rest of it.  
She just said, “Chelsea!  That is enough.  You will not read out loud anymore.”  Then she walked over to me and asked for my paper.
 Not that anyone would’ve heard what I said, the class was laughing too much.  I guess no one really thought of their dad as a prince before.
After Mrs. Sheridan snatched up my paper she walked to the front of the room and tore it up.  That made me sad, especially when the class laughed more.  Then my teacher said really loud to everyone else, “I don’t want to hear about anymore imagined fairy tales, do you understand?  School will be taken seriously, or you will have your parents called like Chelsea’s will be.”
I sat down and put my head in my arms for the rest of the time the kids talked about their favorite people.  I didn’t care if I got into trouble again for not listening.  It’s all because it was a stupid Wednesday, anyway.  If it was Thursday this never would’ve happened.
I really needed to talk to the principal about Wednesdays. 
Grandma was very mad when we drove home.  She kept swearing under her breath and saying how she hated the arrogance and rudeness of some people.  I just looked out the window and didn’t say a word.  I couldn’t.  Grandma was almost crying and my heart hurt really badly.
When we got home, I let Grandma tell my mom.  I knew she was going to be really sad with me.  She was.  When I walked by later I heard her sniffling into her pillow on her bed.  Her door was open, so I peeked inside. 
She looked like a little girl, with her pink frilly bed and girly curtains hanging around her.
I wanted to tell my mom I was sorry, that I didn’t mean to make her cry.  But then I heard her whisper, “Prince Tennyson, Prince Tennyson, Prince Tennyson…” over and over again.  I decided now was not a good time. 
Instead I went and found my little brother playing in my Uncle Jeremy’s old room.  He was playing with a whole bunch of cars, the Hot Wheels kind.  Cameron was just a baby when my dad left for battle, only a few months old.  Now he was two and two months.  Dad was supposed to come back the week before Cameron’s first birthday.  We were going to have a huge party for my brother and my dad all on the same day.  Except Dad never came home.
It was Wednesday when they said my dad wasn’t coming home.
I hate Wednesdays.
            If God is real, I wonder if he hates Wednesdays too. 

Example Two (This is from Persuaded--spring 2012):

Chapter Twelve

            “Which part of the pool is the deepest?  Do you know?”
            Gregory’s whispered baritone sent shivers in my ear and I tried really hard to remember to be mad at him and not to enjoy being held in his arms.  It was a losing battle.  I shook my head for an answer; I really couldn’t trust myself to speak.
            “No?”   He chuckled.  “You don’t know?  Well, I guess we’ll have to figure it out ourselves.”
            That did it!  I started squealing.  Loudly.  The last thing I remember before plunging into the lukewarm water was that Gregory’s laughter was still tickling my ear.  He jumped with me!  Sputtering I came to the surface, free of his arms to find his face smiling above mine. 
            Water poured from his forehead, streamed past his eyes and right down that beaming smile.  He rubbed his face and laughingly attempted to get the water from his ears.  “Dang girl.  You can scream loud.  My ears are still ringing.”
            “Serves you right.” I smirked and lowered myself into the water to smooth my hair off my face.  I jerked to the side when I saw a big white mass float to the surface.  What in the-?  “Hey!  You even got my towel wet.”  I had forgotten I had wrapped it around my waist. 
            Gregory out and out laughed as he removed the soaking lump and set it on the patio.  “That’ll teach you for wearing a towel around a swimming pool.”
            “Gregory!”  Kylie called as she and Lilly made it over to us.  “That looked like so much fun; you have to jump in with me, too.”
            “Yeah?  You want to?”  He happily obliged by climbing out of the pool and then waited for her.  
            Lilly and I waded in the water while watching Gregory scoop Kylie up and jump in with her the same way he had with me.  She came out laughing and sputtering and eager to do it again.  Kylie was out and dragging Gregory back up to the patio before he’d even had a chance to wipe the water off of his face.  He didn’t seem to mind.  The way he laughed down at her as he scooped her back up onto his broad chest, totally stopped any thoughts I might’ve had of Kylie annoying him.  Gregory was far from annoyed.  As a matter of fact the only one who seemed to be even a tiny bit perturbed by the whole display, was me.  Even Lilly giggled as they crashed back into the water and Kylie yelled,
            “Again!  That was awesome!  We’ve gotta do it again!”
            Gregory’s answering, “Sure.  It’s fun, isn’t it?” sealed it for me. 
            Good grief.  Are they going to do this all night?  They’re getting me wet.  Never mind, the fact that I was in a swimming pool and supposed to get wet; I wasn’t exactly thinking rationally at the moment.  All I knew for sure was I wanted to escape Kylie’s screams of delight and Gregory’s laugh.  Quickly I peered into the dark around me.  Carson and Madison were talking quietly over in the corner under an imported palm tree.  Yeah, rather not interrupt them.  The shallow end of the pool seemed to be the best bet. 
I swam over to the steps and sat down on one, allowing the water to lap up around my waist.  Kylie and Gregory’s antics had changed from jumping into the pool to dunking and splashing each other.  By the looks of it, Lilly had joined in too.  I went ahead and stayed where I was for about ten minutes, in case anyone was watching.  I wanted them to think I was actually enjoying myself.  Besides, the night breeze was picking up and I didn’t think I’d last much longer.  After another five minutes I glanced once more around the pool and then I climbed hurriedly out. 
            Brr.  It’s cold.  Dang, I wish I had my towel.  I grabbed my flip flops and didn’t even bother putting them on, before I lightly jogged on the patio and up the walk to the back door.  It was just as I was lifting the handle that I heard a wolf whistle behind me, and a distinct male voice holler out,
            “Who’s the babe without a towel?  Where are you going?” 
            You’ve got to be kidding me.  Talk about trying to leave unnoticed.  Grr.   Frantically, I managed to jerk the door open, but not before I heard Gregory call out, 
            “Ethan, leave her alone.  You’re…” the rest was muffled by the door as it slammed behind me.
            Once inside the air conditioning hit me like an Arctic breeze.  I stopped a moment and slid my shoes on, before continuing my hurried jog to my room.  Thankfully no one was around. 
            As quick as I could I jumped into a nice hot shower to warm back up again.  After a few minutes I climbed out and got dressed in some old jeans and a T-shirt. 
The night was still young. 
I debated over which book to choose and figured I could plop onto the soft comfy couches in the family room and read it.  Then if anyone would come by, it would look like I was still part of the group and interacting and stuff.  It was as I was combing through the books that I came across an autobiography of a famous composer.    
Oh my gosh.  The piano.  I almost forgot.  In a flash I was out the door and running—literally running—down the hall to the music room.  It was dark and after a few tries I found the switches and bathed the room in a sea of warm cream-colored lights. 
The piano beckoned me, just as it had before and I quickly walked up to it.  My smile would’ve burst if it could’ve got any bigger.  Sitting gingerly on the stool provided, I carefully lifted the lid.  I took a deep breath and willed my hovering hands to stop shaking.  Slowly I lowered my right hand as my thumb pushed down on middle C for the first time in over two years, and then, out of nowhere, I cried.  Like a baby.  Totally cried. 
            I allowed the emotions of the past two years wash over me as my fingers galloped and danced their way across the keys, exploding into crescendos all around me.  At first I chose strong, vibrant pieces to play before experimenting with softer, calmer melodies.  And then as always, I ended with happy, joyful—even playful--arrangements that uplifted and tingled all the way into the darkest corners of my heart.  Until all that was left, was a blissful carefree being, whose body hummed with the excitement and cheer that should come after playing with such enthusiasm. 
            My tears had long since dried.  In fact I wasn’t quite sure just how long I had been playing, leaping and bounding through song after song.  But I did notice the profound stillness of the room when I stopped.  It was too still.  I looked up into the stunned faces of my all friends.  Even Sydney stared at me from across the room.
            Oh no.  How long have they been here?  “Uh, I-I’m sorry.”
            No one spoke. 
            Self-consciously, I swiftly shut the cover and stepped off the raised platform.  I stood a bit in the center of the room willing someone to say something. 
            No one said a word.  They all just stared. 
            Fidgety and beginning to shake slightly under the pressure of their gaping, I lowered my eyes a little and said, “Excuse me.”
            Once in the hallway I began to dash back to my room.  I am such a freak.  Seriously.  Had I known I had an audience I wouldn’t have dreamed of playing like that.  Honestly.  I can’t even begin to imagine just how loud some of my chords were.  I hadn’t held anything back for myself, my audience of one.  But for them, no, I would’ve chosen much less-personal pieces to play.  More widely accepted rational arrangements. 
            Mortified, I burst into the room and hastily shut the door.  I paced a second or two between the bed and the bookshelf, before I grabbed a book at random and plunked onto the mattress and landed on my tummy.  Bringing my feet up behind me, I opened the book without rhyme or reason to a page and hoped I presented a look of casual bliss.  It was somewhere in between the pages of a galactic battle scene and a New Age war council that I heard the faint knock. 
            “Amanda?”  It was Madison.
            “Can I come in?” she asked hesitantly.
            Great, she sounds afraid of me.  “Of course.”  I don’t bite.  I just get a little carried away on the piano, that’s all. 
            I heard the door handle click open and then just as softly snicker shut. 
            “A-are you all right?”  Madison walked up to her bed and looked across at me.
            I nonchalantly glanced up.  “Yeah, why?”
            She seemed a little taken aback.  “Oh, you just—you just—it seemed that you were a little upset that’s all.
            A little upset.  I let the phrase fully sink in.  “No.  I wasn’t upset.”  Confused, embarrassed, awkward… not upset. 
            I returned to my book.  Yep, a New Age war council.  
            After a few minutes I noticed Madison had found a book on gardening and crashed on her bed too.  She pretended to read a bit, until frustrated, she tossed the book aside and sat up.
            Here it comes. 
            “Where did you learn to play like that?”
            I acted as if I had read a few more sentences before turning toward her. “Huh?”
            She didn’t buy it.  Madison laughed out loud.  “You aren’t any more interested in that book, than I am in mine.”  She shoved her book closer to the edge of her bed for emphasis. 
            I chuckled and closed the book.  “Caught me.  Sci-Fi’s aren’t my thing, anyway.”
            She grinned, “So are you going to answer me or what?”
            “Gee, how do most overly spoiled rich girls learn to do anything?” I sighed as I sat up.  “By Daddy paying for the best instructor money can buy.”
            “I don’t believe that for two seconds.” She snorted.
            “Why not?  It’s true.”
            “Because, first off, you’re not spoiled.  Second, a million instructors in the world couldn’t have taught me how to play like that.  And thirdly, you devoured that piano like you hadn’t played one in years.”
            Good grief.  I would get stuck with the one roommate who had psychic abilities.  I decided to change the subject.  “How do you do that?”   It worked. 
            “Read people so well?”
            Madison shrugged, “I don’t know.  I’ve always been that way.  I guess I’m just more observant than most people, or something.”  She looked at me funny a moment and then grinned. “Good try, by the way.”
            Dang.  “What?  It didn’t work?”
            “Nope, it didn’t work.”  She tucked her feet underneath her.  “So why would a musical prodigy need to come all the way to Moab just to play a piano?”
            “We don’t own one.”  Plain and simple.
            “Why not?”
            “Can’t afford it.  The money my family had, we lost.  Besides, it’s a good thing they sold the grand piano or we would’ve never had a place for it in the new house.”
            “How long ago?”
            Is nothing sacred?  “Just over two years.”
            “So you never got an upright?  Or a keyboard, or anything?  Your family hasn’t bought you anything to replace it with?”
            “My sister got a new fuel-efficient car.”
            “Yeah, I’ll bet.  I’m not talking about Sydney.  Why wouldn’t your parents buy you a piano?”
            I don’t know.  “Because I’m the only one who plays.”
            “Yeah, so what!  Do you share Sydney’s car?”
            “Uh, no.”
            “Do you have a car?”
            “No.  But I don’t want one.  I can use my parents’ cars.”  Why are we discussing cars anyway?
            “Are you kidding me?”  Madison raised her hands up in a no shoot gesture.  “I think I’m going to cry!”
            Don’t you dare.  “That’s not even funny, Madison.”
            “I didn’t say it was.  I’m serious.  Do you realize you probably live with the most selfish family in the world?” 
            “Uh—” was all I managed to gasp out, before Madison plunged on.
            “Do you have any idea why we were all so speechless earlier?  Any clue at all?”
            I shook my head.
            “You’re good!  You’re not just good, you’re amazing.  Seriously.  You’re incredible.  The most talented person any of us had ever come close to in our entire lives.”
            What?  One small tear crept to the corner of my eye.
            “And the crazy thing is; Sydney didn’t even know it!  She was just as flabbergasted as we were.  Sydney—who can’t ever have anything come out of her mouth, unless it’s an insult—actually complimented you!”
            Are you kidding me?  The tear spilled over.  
            “Amanda Ellis do you even know how inspiring you are?  How just by the sound of your music, we were drawn in one by one, to hear you play?  Do you think just any pianist can do that?  Honestly, do you have any idea how much I so want to be you right now?  How much I would love to have something in my life that creates such passion and excitement within me.  Holy Cow!  Hasn’t anyone ever told you how wonderful you really are?”  She waited then.  She actually expected an answer.
            Speak!  “I uh—n-no.”  The second tear fell.  “N-no one.” 
            Except Greg, three years ago. 

Tell me about an instance in your life that was sad, or emotional that you can use to show emotions in your stories.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lesson 7: Double Trouble

Hey guys!  Today we're going to be talking about Double Trouble... or in other words, those pesky repeat words.  <--Did you see that?  I just put the same word twice.  That's what I'm talking about.

Here's the video:

Example One: If you notice, none of my sentences start with the same word, in the same paragraph.   

Persuaded Chapter 13:

          He did!?  I smiled and rolled my eyes.  “Oh, please.  What do you care anyway?”
            My flippant reply seemed to check him.  Gregory squinted his eyes and looked away for a moment, before he brought his chocolate gaze back to mine.  “You know, I may have to answer that one day.  Do me a favor and keep asking, okay?”
            Keep asking what?  “What?”  I grinned; I couldn’t help it.  Gregory looked so unbelievably hot with those dark eyes smoldering into mine.  Flirting wasn’t my strong point; I never thought I had fully mastered the art.  Okay, fully mastered?  Who am I kidding?  That would imply that I actually practiced doing it first.  And since I had never done any such thing, I wasn’t exactly prepared for Gregory’s next words.  But I had a strong suspicion the guy was flirting with me.

There are creative ways to start you sentences... other, better ways--you've just got to find them.  

Example Two:  Watch carefully how I overuse the word arm(arms) in this paragraph. I did awesome on making sure each of my sentences started differently, but forgot to check inside that paragraph.  

Persuaded, Chapter 15--

        After a few more minutes; my aching muscles had turned to putty in his hands. Gregory ran his fingers down my arms to my elbows and gently turned me back around to face him.  When he released his hold on me, I looked up and smiled.  He had his arms outstretched, wide and inviting.  I didn’t hesitate or think; I just stepped forward, wrapped my arms around his waist and snuggled against his chest.  Tenderly his arms folded around me.  We stayed like that for a while in the darkened lobby of the hospital.  I wondered briefly what it would be like to always be held by Gregory.  


FIRST I want you to go through your manuscripts and catch your double trouble.  <--this is crucial.  I can be giving you all the tips in the world, but if you're not applying them, then I'm wasting my breath!  Lol!

SECOND You can do one of two things in the comment section: I'd like you to either fix my paragraph above, trying to only use the word ARMS once.  Or, you can show me one of your double trouble paragraphs that you fixed.  

Thank you so much for coming on by!  Hope this helps! Can't wait to see what you put down.  

PS If you're interested in one of the signed copies of Pride & Popularity, click here!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lesson 6: Skizzle-Skerped

 Howdy guys!  Here's the video that'll explain what it is we're doing this week.  My daughter Bailey stopped by to help with some fun announcements.  Hope you enjoy! 

 So to make sure you don't skizzle-skerp your readers I'm gonna walk you through a couple of different scenes.  I'll be using one scene to show the difference between 1st, 3rd, and the lesser used 2nd person and then a another scene to show the difference between past and present tense.  Watch for those words that I change to make the tense or person different.  

Taken from Northanger Alibi (Oct 2011)--
“So are you trying to tell me you’re some sort of super hero and I’m your nemesis?”  
            “Nemesis, huh?  I think I like that word.  It sends out all sorts of danger signals.”
            Danger signals?  All at once I pictured Tony kissing me and I wondered briefly if his lips would be like Edward’s--cool marble.  And then, the silliest thing happened.  I said something so completely baffling and unlike me.  Maybe it was the recent conquest of Jaden, or the realization that Tony was interested, but whatever it was, I found myself going all movie star and using the most flirtatious line built into my subconscious that related to danger signals.  “So, do you like playing with fire?” 
            Tony groaned.  He fell for it.  Hook, line and sinker.

“So are you trying to tell me you’re some sort of super hero and I’m your nemesis?”  
            “Nemesis, huh?  I think I like that word.  It sends out all sorts of danger signals.”
            Danger signals?  All at once Claire pictured Tony kissing her and wondered briefly if his lips would be like Edward’s—cool marble.  And then, the silliest thing happened.  She said something so completely baffling and unlike her.  Maybe it was the recent conquest of Jaden, or the realization that Tony was interested, but whatever it was, Claire found herself going all movie star and using the most flirtatious line built into her subconscious that related to danger signals.  “So, do you like playing with fire?” 
            Tony groaned.  He fell for it.  Hook, line and sinker.
(this is generally used if you're writing a nonfiction book, or teaching someone something.)
“So are you trying to tell me you’re some sort of super hero and I’m your nemesis?”  
            “Nemesis, huh?  I think I like that word.  It sends out all sorts of danger signals.”
            Danger signals?  All at once you pictured Tony kissing you and wondered briefly if his lips would be like Edward’s—cool marble.  And then, the silliest thing happened.  You said something so completely baffling and unlike yourself.  Maybe it was the recent conquest of Jaden, or the realization that Tony was interested, but whatever it was, you found yourself going all movie star and using the most flirtatious line built into your subconscious that related to danger signals.  “So, do you like playing with fire?” 
            Tony groaned.  He fell for it.  Hook, line and sinker.

The very beginning of Persuaded

(most publishers and readers prefer to read this tense
            There was an awkward tug, a twist and a slight jerk, before the glass beads spilled all over the floor. 
            I’m such an idiot!  This wasn’t even my necklace!
            He was supposed to have left by now.  He’d already said good-bye to his friends.  I watched as Gregory hovered in the doorway, debating over what he should do.  I decided I’d make it easier for him.  As I knelt on the floor I turned my back, completely ignoring him and picked up the mess. 
            There, now you can go.  See?  I don’t need you.  It’s only a few beads after all.  I sighed at the thought of being such a klutz in front of him, again.  It wasn’t a loud sigh, so I was surprised to see his long lean fingers surrounded by mine and the beads.  I glanced up and saw the top of his blonde head as he avoided me, yet, at the same time acknowledged the fact that I needed help.  It had been years since I’d seen that head and those hands so close to my own.  Years.  Bewildered, I paused a moment and didn’t know how to handle myself. 
            What I expected least was the joy of him being so near.  I’d anticipated misery and pain and awkwardness, but never joy.  With Gregory returned, I fully expected him to break my heart—as the punishment I deserved—not bring it joy.  Never joy.  I don’t deserve to be happy. 

            There is an awkward tug, a twist and a slight jerk, before the glass beads spill all over the floor. 
            I’m such an idiot!  This wasn’t even my necklace!
            He was supposed to have left by now.  He’d already said good-bye to his friends.  I watch as Gregory hovers in the doorway, debating over what he should do.  I decide I’ll make it easier for him.  As I kneel on the floor I turn my back, completely ignoring him and pick up the mess. 
            There, now you can go.  See?  I don’t need you.  It’s only a few beads after all.  I sigh at the thought of being such a klutz in front of him, again.  It isn’t a loud sigh, so I am surprised to see his long lean fingers surround mine and the beads.  I glance up and see the top of his blonde head as he avoids me, yet, at the same time acknowledging the fact that I need help.  It has been years since I’ve seen that head and those hands so close to my own.  Years.  Bewildered, I pause a moment and don’t know how to handle myself. 

This is me trying to look all calm but really freaking out because I've finally got to see and hold my book!  YAY!!!
 McKenna was officially the very first teen to get to hold my book!  
See how excited she is? :)
 Doesn't it look like the cutest book ever?  Hehehe!  
 I love the spine!  So beautiful!  My design artist over at Inkberry Press did amazing!  I LOVE AMY! :)

Homework HOMEFUN ASSIGNMENT: After you read through your book and make sure you're not skizzle-skerping your readers, I want you to come on here and comment.  Let me know what you plan to do the day you actually get to hold your book in your hands.  What will you do to celebrate when you get published?