Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Short Story: 'Letting Go'

Here's my contribution to the Halloween-aplooza! It's a short story I wrote this week. I don't usually do short stories. And I don't usually do horror. So I'm not sure how this will turn out!

I laced up my faded blue sneakers and blew on my fingers. The morning air felt frigid against my cheeks, but running was the only thing that would keep my mind off Jared. And the horrible way he’d dumped me last night.

I’d deleted the text message hours ago, but hadn’t been able to sleep. So, at the crack of dawn I drove to the dismally empty park at the edge of town, just to avoid running around the track at school. There were too many memories there. Homecoming parade. Jared kissing me on the field after their big win. Let it go.

With a couple of quick stretches, and a dash at my eyes, I began to jog along the worn path that followed the edge of trees around the park. The sun still hung low on the horizon, casting long shadows in front of me. Ancient trunks and gnarled branches formed the high wall of a formidable fortress on my right side. I kept a solid pace, finishing the mile long loop and starting again.

The gunshot of a snapping branch echoed right behind me as I entered the stretch of path closest to the trees. Leaves rustled overhead before falling around me, orange and brown and red. My pulse leapt and my heart thundered in my chest.

It’s just an animal. Keep going.

But the sound of gravelly footsteps proved me wrong. I began to run faster, pushing my toes into the ground and pumping my arms to either side. The footsteps got faster too.

Just when I thought my heart would split open from all the pressure, I stumbled. I barely caught myself with my hands as tiny stones embedded in my palms. I bolted upright and forward, anxious to flee the steps behind me. But they’d stopped.

I slowed, infinitesimally, my hand reaching to my back to massage against the dull pain that had formed in the fall. Great, I probably tore something. I forced myself to breathe through my nose and out my mouth as I continued on, fearful to look back. Realizing that I’d missed the exit back to the parking lot, I continued race-walking forward.

Just, one last lap. That thing is gone. And, hey, you’re no longer thinking about Jared.

My breathing had about returned to normal when I heard another sound behind me.


The whisper startled me into a frantic sprint.

“Katie, wait.”

Another voice. This time male. Other voices chimed in, a chorus all calling my name. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Adrenaline and terror raced through my veins in equal amounts.

Finally, I spotted a small crowd on the path, far ahead of me. Someone knelt in the dirt. Another seemed to be talking into a cell phone. A couple others bent over something on the ground.

“Help me!” I tried to shout but it came out more as a croak. “Please, help me.”

They didn’t turn. I finally reached the group and stopped short with a gasp. They’d gathered around someone. A body, face down in the dirt. With a knife protruding from her back and blood pooling out to the sides.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I saw. It was me. But I’m right here.

Taking a step backward, away from the impossibly grisly scene in front of me, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whirled around, shocked for the upteenth time today, to see my family standing there. My grandmother. My aunt Shelly. My cousin Aaron. And others that I only recognized from pictures.

It wasn’t my entire family. Just those who’d died before me. They stood still … eyes bright … mouths smiling … arms held out in welcome.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


In keeping with our weekly Halloween-Extravaganza, I'm posting a short Halloween story I wrote and recently submitted to a local publication for a contest. *crossing fingers and toes* The requirements: less than 700 words & I had to include three local business that had ads in the newspaper. There are some true elements in this story and a few fabricated ones. See if you can guess what really happened to me. Mwhahaaaa.....


Sitting on the tattered seat in the family’s den, I hesitantly downed the volume on the TV. The plaited window shutters were ajar to my front, my back exposed to the bare bay window behind me. Shadows of crooked branches clawing the sky crept across the pumpkin pine floorboards. But it was the clunk from the basement and that dang buzzing that drove me batty. I wondered if Frederick Heating would come take a peek at the furnace.

The ancient stairs to the upper floor creaked and groaned; the whooshing wind shook the foundation. I sighed and pressed the off button on the remote control; George’s Banana Stand commercial vanished from the screen. I knew I’d disappointed three-year-old Sabrina. She’d wanted me to read another story from the book I’d brought, but the latest episode of Vampire Diaries had started. Was it too much for a love-starved junior in high school to want to escape into such a scrumptious show?

Practically punching my clenched fists into the cushions, I stood and made my way toward the skinny staircase to check on her. Having a conscience sucked worse than thinking about the dress Mom bought for me to wear to the Homecoming dance. Okay, maybe not that bad but pretty close.

As I ducked under the archway, the buzzing got louder. I detoured down a narrow hallway, dark and dingy with floor-to-ceiling shelves on both sides. Rustic family photos lined the walls. The dank corridor slowly swallowed me, the darkness consumed my sight. Then, I saw a line of light pulsate a few feet ahead of me. Palming the air, I felt a door and opened it to find a well-lit bathroom. The wallpaper was from a time gone by and so were all the fixtures. Seriously, I was sure these were the first fixtures ever made. The sound faded and then stopped.

A tad miffed and now with no intention of checking on Sabrina, I left the door wide to light my way and rushed for the den; my vampire fix needed a feeding. Air burst past me, as the door slammed shut. All went black. I froze; my feet rumpled the frayed area rug. Spider-like prickles needled my spine, the tiny hairs on my limbs in salute. Crouching, I inched toward the door just like the stupid blonde in some B horror flick as the chainsaw splattered raw. I was drawn, a force tugged me.

My fingertips brushed the dirty doorknob. I yanked them to my chest, as the door moaned open and the thin corridor flooded with light. Every inch of the nasty wallpaper was crawling with bugs. I cringed and clamped my hands over my ears. The jumbled hisses pierced the air. Blinking my drying eyes, I stumbled backward. The heel of my shoe wedged between floorboards.

“Where are you going?” The raspy voice asked, and slithered up one side of me and down the other. The bugs hovered in one speckling clump and took shape.

A shallow breath was all I could manage. “Sabrina?”

“We said we wanted another story.” Her body was one, but her voice was many.

I had no intention of answering or of staying here, let alone reading any story. She broke apart into a minion of bugs, as I bolted to the den, the books and creepy photos mere blurs now. Shadows clipped at my heels.
As I rounded the corner, the TV clicked on. Stefan from Vampire Diaries gaped at me from the fuzzy screen, my book from Children’s Book Seller shown tattered in his palm. A breeze fluttered my hair, as he rumpled the pages. My gut panged.

“It’s about time you join us for dinner and that story,” said Stefan.

“We couldn’t agree more.” The buzzing hive that was once Sabrina encapsulated me.

I screeched and wriggled but the grip was too much. The hive dragged me into the TV screen, into Stefan’s waiting arms.

“Come now.” His eyes rolled back as he captured my scent. “Let me read you a story.”
© 2009 Sheri A. Larsen All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Week: A door, a computer, and two toys.

Well, most of you know that I come by the parnormal in my books quite naturally—or is that paranaturally.  :D  Anyway, if you don’t know what I mean it’s that the paranormal is actually quite normal in my life.  And it all started when I was in the fourth grade.  You can read that story here. 

Well, here’s another experience I’ve had.  Let me tell you it’s been hard having to choose which ones to tell, but I think this is a good one.  I’ll also have another story Thursday on my personal blog, so make sure to check it out.

Anyway, my husband and I bought our first house when we were twenty-one.  We’ve lived in it now for 8 years and mostly it’s a great house.  But it’s one of the oldest in our neighborhood and it’s only had 2 owners.  My family and the people who had it built.

The gentleman and his wife who had it built raised their two daughters and a son here, then eventually retired, and, as all ways of life, died.  We’re not sure where the wife died, but we do know the husband died in a hospital.  Not in the house. 

However, since we moved in, we’ve had strange things happen.  Their daughters' room, which is now my daughter's room, was originally used as a storage room, until we unpacked everything.

The first few years were quiet.  It was just a quant little house.  But after I got back from the military and we moved all my stuff into the storage room, strange things started happening.   And they all centered on that room.  We’d hear things fall over and break, but we’d go in there and nothing was disturbed.  

At night, I would swear I heard a woman laughing and when I looked out my bedroom door to that room’s door, I’d see a shadow cross from one side of the door to the other, then disappear.  I started sleeping with my door shut.

We eventually cleared out the room and used it as the game room.  But I never felt comfortable in there.  If I was in there alone, I’d feel sick.  Or like someone was watching me.  I eventually refused to go in there by myself.

As soon as I started doing that, a toy of my sons started going off for no reason.  It was a Thomas the Train toy mountain that would make choo-choo noises when a certain button was pressed INSIDE the cave of the toy. 

We moved it on top of his closet because we thought he was playing with it and lying about it--he was only four or five.  But it still went off in the middle of the night, as if a child was playing with it.  We even removed the batteries.  It still kept working.  We eventually tossed it out and things became quiet again.

Except the creepy room and the shadows walking in front of the door, or the occasional woman’s laughter coming from it when it was quiet.

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, we had no choice but to give her that room.  I was hesitant, but it’s not like we could just move.  That would be silly.  So, we cleaned out the room and set it up as her nursery.

Things had been pretty quiet for a while and while I painted and cleaned and primped the room, I felt fine.  I wasn’t sick. I didn’t feel like anyone was watching.  Nothing.  So I felt pretty at ease when we first put her in that room when she was six-months old.

Then almost immediately things started happening.  The leapfrog catepillar toys she loved would start playing by itself.  We removed it from the crib, thinking she was rolling over on it and hitting buttons.  We placed it on her toyshelf on the other side of the room. 

It still went off on it’s own.  Again we removed the batteries.  It still played.  So we got rid of that toy as well.  And things were quiet for almost two years.

Until recently.  The front screen door started opening every night and then shutting.  As if someone was walking through the door.  It happened every night for 2 weeks between 9:30pm and 11pm and I thought it was just the wind tugging on it—it is old after all.  I would remind myself to lock it after everyone was home for the night, but I never remembered until it did it.

Finally one night I did remember.  I locked the door, making sure it was really shut.  Then deadbolted the regular door, thinking nothing of it.  Then at the same time as usual the door opened, then shut. 

I immediately went to check the door and it was still locked. 

Then, that night my daughter woke up SCREAMING at the top of her lungs.  I went in to see why and she was just standing at her door, which was open, like she couldn’t leave. 

I placed her back in bed and sat with her until she went back to sleep, but I started getting that weird feeling like someone was watching me.  And it was coming from her closet.

Then my desktop computer started turning on every morning at 6 something.  We checked the settings and they were fine.  Nothing was set to make it turn on at that time

Every day for another 2 weeks the door opened by itself, the computer would turn on and off, and my daughter woke up screaming.  I finally gave in and let her sleep with her light on, but she still woke up every night.  Then she started tearing apart her room during naptime.  Starting with the closet.  She’d pull everything out.

When I asked her, she just said she didn’t like the closet.

Frustrated and tired, I shoved her toy box in front of the closet door, so she couldn’t open it.

It seems to have worked.  She no longer tears apart the closet and in the last week she’s slept through the night.  The screen door still opens and shuts, but the computer isn’t turning itself on and off.

While all this could be coincidence, it’s weird, so I’m going to start my own paranormal investigation. I’m going to be getting a tape recorder and video camera to watch it when no one’s around and/or asleep.    I might be surprised by what I catch.

Happy Halloween, every one.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

YA-Inspired Halloween Costumes

Now, I know not all of my Oasis Sisters share my same passion for Twilight, but I had a *wee* bit of an obsession with the series in years prior.  Take last year for example...
With my vampire-phelia renewed by the series, I forced my daughters to dress up with me. I know most kids get to pick their own costumes, but not mine. Not last year anyway. We were the newest Voluturi -- minus the red eyes. (Yeah, I know you can't *turn* kids, but cut me some slack.)

So this year, the kids are picking their own costumes.  My little one -- she's being Spiderman. (Not girl ... man!)  Which made me think, she's picked another costume that comes from a book character.  I mean, comic books are a form of literature. We just call them graphic novels now.

And then I got to thinking about HOW MANY characters (and costumes) got their start from books.  Any superhero, right?  Harry Potter.  Star Wars (it was a book before a movie).  Even traditional vampires would be nothing without Bram Stoker's Dracula.

So as you and/or your little ones prepare for Halloween, be sure to pay homage to any literary characters who inspired your garb.  Any shout outs you want to share?

Monday, October 25, 2010


This week, we are suspending out normal schedule for some good spooky fun! We all love Halloween, and to celebrate one of the best times of the year, we'll be sharing our own ghost stories, etc. So, I'm sharing a a super short flash fic I wrote years ago, and then a quick real life ghost encounter.

My flash fic:

The angel breezed by, wings sparkling and halo askew. She giggled, a high sweet sound in the deepening twilight. A devil followed close behind, tail dragging in the gravel, pitchfork snagged on the angel’s skirts.

Then, their mother walked past. Each engrossed in their pursuit of sweet treats, and all oblivious to me.

I lay beneath a golden maple, upon the carpet of autumn’s splendor. A chill breeze unsettled my costume in its passage. And, the fallen leaves whispered softly beneath my weight--complaining, displeased that my blood stained them crimson…

And my real life ghost encounter actually took place the summer of 2009, in the ICU of the heart hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

My father had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhagic aneurysm, and was hospitalized in a coma. From the moment I walked into the room, I knew there was something, someone, more there than the staff and family members. I felt a presence at the foot of his bed. Not the cold spot some talk about, no electronic disturbances. But there was another spirit keeping watch.

A couple days into his stay, Dad "woke up" and was highly active while I was spending the night in the hospitality house. For hours my nephew and I fought to keep him occupied and not allow him to rip out something he should. My nephew left to take a break and I stood on the side of Dad's bed that the presences occupied. When I could get him to stop pulling at his many IVs and other wires and tubes, he'd look to my right side, and stare.

"Who's that guy?" Dad asked.

"I don't know, Daddy. Who do you think he is."

Dad squinted, rubbed his face, so I put his glasses on him. I watched those pale blue eyes open wide, and for the first time in days, something other than pain radiated from him.

"It's Greg," Dad answered.

My brother Greg had passed away when I was fourteen. He was there for my Dad in his hardest moments. I like to think, when the heart damage from his massive heart attack took his life a couple days later, that Greg was there with the nurse, and Greg lead him to the other side.

When the family gathered in the room later, two presences were gone.

Friday, October 22, 2010


They say confession is good for the soul. And I've been very disgusted with myself lately. I've melted into a big ole puddle of whiny. My brilliant, beautiful pink laptop has been out of commission for two full weeks now, and I will have to wait until NEXT FRIGGIN FRIDAY to get it back. *spit snort snarl* I'm in the middle of two different novels and have been bouncing from kid's computer to kid's computer, even used my hubby's partially fossilized PC out in his testosterone zone of a workshop. My agent took pity on me and shipped her HP Mini at the end of last week, then yesterday, the trial period on the writing program ran out! *sob and moan*

I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself so, I'm doing some soul cleaning. Letting y'all know I'm pretty much a worthless whiner right now. And while on the topic of fessing up to my limitations, I decided to make this post bookish.

We tread a thin line as authors and 'pre' published writers. We blog. We tweet. We're internetly active. We read. Some of us read a LOT. Some books we're nuts about. Some we don't like.

We rave about the books we love, and for me the past binge has produce a couple few love affairs. I'm head-over-heels for Paranormalcy, The Replacement, and Beautiful Darkness. It also brought on one book I'll almost felt betrayed by. I love-love-loved concept and I wanted so bad for the story to equal the awesomeness I thought would be in it. Sadly, I struggled to like the character, and the storyline given just didn't match how high I'd hyped it up in my anticipation.

Did I set myself up for a fall because of what I expected? Am I just too damn picky? Yes, to both, I suspect. There were definite moments of Oooohhh in the story, a fight scene I loved and have even reread because I wasn't expecting it. I still love-love-love the concept. It is getting great reviews. The best part, I know of one of my Oasis sisters loved it.

Confession time: I didn't like Firelight.

Soooo... I'm giving my copy away! I know each book is different to each reader. Some are going to love it, some are not. I know someone out there would probably love this book more than me and give it a good home.

How can you get it? Simple. Fess up! What book have you read lately YOU didn't like? Did you read one you absolutely loved? Please leave me an email I can contact the winner with. On Saturday, I'll count the number of comments and then have my daughter pick a number.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Author Acknowledgments

As part of Thankful Thursday, I thought I'd chat briefly about author acknowledgments - the ultimate thank you in your published novel.

Did I mention I have a fear of acknowledgments? Well, not all of them - just my own. I'm terrified that I'm going to forget someone. Upset someone. Leave out a key person. I can only imagine how Academy Award winners feel.

So, I've done my research to figure out who exactly you should thank in your author acknowledgments. Here's my go to list:

  • Your Editor(s)
  • Your Agent(s)
  • Your Family
  • Your Critique Partners
  • Your Sources
  • Your Coach/Mentor (if you used one)

Once you have your list of people, try injecting a little personality or humor into your thanks. Many people won't read your acknowledgments, but many people will! I found this interesting article in the Guardian that says, "Acknowledgements are one of the few places in a book when a writer can break out of their fictional world and address readers in their own voice. This is something that perhaps is more powerful than we realise. While I know the text is supposed to be the most important thing, and I'm well aware that the biographical details of a writer's life should be incidental to the reading experience, the acknowledgement pages can have a subtle effect on the way I read a book."

I tend to agree with this. I do read the acknowledgments section of most novels, and it's interesting to see who the author thanks, and how they go about doing it.

Hopefully I'll be writing one again sometime in the future. Do you have any tips to share?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

LITERARY TERMS: A Writer's Choice

For the last few Wednesdays, my fellow team bloggers—Jessie and AE—have explored some of the different terminology associated with the writing world. We’ve discovered the true meaning of genres such as Steampunk, Edgy, and Rom-Com. We’ve also learned there is a difference between beta reader and critique partner. For those who missed them, you can explore them on our new INDUSTRY TERMS PAGE. I’ve decided to jump on their bandwagon and explore LITERARY TERMS in writing.
(image borrowed from deviantART)
We all write. It’s what we do. But how? To be a successful writer, one must know the nuts and bolts, and literary tools available and then gain understanding of their usage. Let’s explore the difference between Syntax and Diction. Next time I’m up for Wednesday, we’ll move onto Mood and Tone.

Diction is the choice of using a particular word over another to communicate ideas, feelings, and settings. It also contributes to a writer’s style and tone. Using the subject book, for instance, in a passage could elicit a range of reactions from the reader depending on the word chosen to represent book. Paperback, magazine, tome, edition, and even literary archival (yes, that’s extreme yet possible) could be used. The reader is now faced with questions. Why that word? What is it saying about the story, character, or setting that I’m reading? The writer must choose the correct word to covey his/her meaning and contribute to the overall story.

This plays into what is called concrete and abstract diction, which has also been referred to as high/formal and low/informal diction. As you might have already surmised from the latter terms, high/formal diction lends great detail to sophisticated or technical vocabulary and proper grammar. Low/informal diction concentrates on slang or everyday usage. It allows for a more relaxed and conversational feel, and for grammatical slip-ups. All this conveys meaning, setting mood and tone and exercising style.

Syntax is the arrangement of words in a sentence to communicate ideas, feelings, and settings. Basically, it’s the management of words to create a sentence. We all know sentences can be simple and complex. Syntax is a writer’s ability to arrange simple words into phrases and clauses, and then mix and match those in a sequential unit. This leaves a writer a minion of choices and sometimes a dilemma. Poor ordering of phrases and clauses can change the intended meaning and confuse the reader.

Just as with diction, syntax is important to mood, tone, and flow. (Flow – the rhythm of words and Content – the actual meaning of words is for another discussion.) Standard English teaches us to order sentences in a Subject-Verb agreement, and mostly with a latched on Object. This, however, can be tweaked within some genres—poetry, for instance—for the writer to achieve Flow or to exercise his/her creative license.

Simply put: Diction is word choice and Syntax is the arrangement of those words.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Tunes: Music through the ages

Or, at least, through the last few decades.

I’m starting in the 1950’s because…well it’s my favorite for music. It was the start of what I consider the musical revolution (though I’m sure others would disagree). We went from big band to rock n’ roll, and everything in between.

Now music has evolved so much our parents and grandparents wouldn’t even recognize it!

I’m going to list a number 1 hit for each year so you can see how much music—and our tastes—have changed. How many do you recognize?

White Christmas
Bing Crosby
Come on-a My House
Rosemary Clooney
Nat King Cole
You, You, You
Ames Brothers
That's Amoré
Dean Martin
Rock Around the Clock
Bill Haley & His Comets
Elvis Presley
Love Letters in the Sand
Pat Boone
It's All In the Game
Tommy Edwards
Mack The Knife
Bobby Darin
Theme from "A Summer Place"
Percy Faith Orchestra
Tossin' and Turrin'
Bobby Lewis
Chubby Checker
Sugar Shack
Jimmy Gilmer & Fireballs
I Want To Hold Your Hand
Rolling Stones
Ballads of the Green Berets
Ssgt. Barry Sadler
To Sir With Love
Hey Jude
Fifth Dimension
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simon & Garfunkel
Joy to World
Three Dog Night
First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Roberta Flack
Tie A Yellow Ribbon
Tony Orlando & Dawn
The Way We Were
Barbra Streisand
Love Will Keep Us Together
Captain & Tennille
Silly Love Songs 
Paul McCartney & Wings 1977
Tonight's The Night 
Rod Stewart 
Shadow Dancing1
Andy Gibb 
My Sharona
Call Me
Bette Davis Eyes
Kim Carnes
Olivia Newton John
Every Breath You Take
When Doves Cry
Careless Whisper
That's What Friends Are For
Dionne Warwick & Friends
Walk Like an Egyptian
George Michael
Look Away
Chicago -
Nothing Compares 2 U
Sinead O'Connor
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Nuthin' But a "G" Thang
Dr. Dre
Gangsta's Paradise
California Love
Mo Money Mo Problems
Notorious B.I.G.
Doo Wop (That Thing)
Lauryn Hill
Santana and Rob Thomas
Can't Get You Out of My Head
Kylie Minogue
By The Way
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Britney Spears
Wake Me Up When September Ends
Green Day
Amy Winehouse
Sea Legs
The Shins
This Is Our Lot
Wild Beasts

Monday, October 18, 2010

Visual Oasis

As some of you know, I have 2 girls, ages 5 and 4.  They're 13 months apart and tend to "share" friends.  So last night, we hosted our first sleepover.  My older daughter's friend, Cookie, spent the night with us, complete with ice cream sundaes, nail polish, and watching movies way past bedtime. And yes, they were up at 7 am sharp, raring to go again.

Not only am I exhausted, but I learned something new about my kids last night.  If you'd asked me before Cookie came over whether my children could possibly be any louder, I would've said, "No way. They're already the loudest kids on the planet."  Turns out, I was wrong.  They can get louder.  And they did!

So this morning, I grabbed a few minutes of visual oasis time where I could: when they were outside swinging, when they were eating pancakes in the playroom, when they were tracking spilled bubbles through the house (hmm... maybe I should've been watching them then).

Anyway, I had such a nice little oasis -- fantasizing about the places I'd love to go for my 10th anniversary next year (not that any of them are in the budget) -- that I thought I'd share some of the amazing destinations with you.  Scroll through, check out the scenery, breathe in and relax.

Do you have any dream destinations that you "escape" to from time to time?

Grace Bay Club, Turks & Caicos
Can't you just imagine, sitting with your laptop on the beach bed, watching the sun sink over the ocean as you work on your WIP? And when you wake up and look out over your balcony the next morning, the water is a crystal, azure blue that blinks in the sunshine?

Four Seasons Maui
One of my friends says this is her favorite place on earth.  With views like this, I can understand why.

The Tides, Riveria Maya, Mexico

This one may be my favorite, although hubby is extremely reluctant to head to Mexico.  Each of the 29 villas has its own private plunge pool and is just steps from miles of white sands beaches.

Banyan Tree Resort, Seychelles
Of course, while I'm dreaming, why not stop by Seychelles?  The place I consider the most beautiful in all the world (not that I've been there...).  But it's got glittering waters, smooth rocky coasts, and lush peaks.  Too bad the Indian Ocean is so hard to get too.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Freestyle: Crawled Out from Under a Rock Contest

So, apparently, I live my life hidden under a rock.  Fortunately, I'm not alone.  Turns out some of you live there with me.

What am I rambling about this week?  Well, despite being a Mundie Moms blog follower, I didn't pick up a copy of City of Bones until a couple of weeks ago.  Yeah, I know.  There are three books, a prequel, and now a movie series in the works.  See -- living under a rock. (If you want to know what I thought of the book, check out my review over on my blog.)

You're going to stone me when I tell you I haven't read the Catching Fire series yet either. *hangs head and waits for rocks to hit*

Thankfully, my fellow Oasis ladies made me feel better.  You see, Jessica only finished the Mortal Instrument series a week or so ago -- meaning she was hiding under the same rock I was.

A.E. only recently read the Catching Fire series to make sure they were nothing like her own dystopian and to see what all the fuss was about. (She didn't like them enough to read book 3 even, but admits that will make her a "sinner" to most of y'all.)

Nikki confessed that she didn't pick up the Twilight saga until after the movie roles had already been cast. (Not that I blame her for reading them at that point - 'cause holy hotness, Batman, I love me some Rob Pattinson. But I digress.)

The point is, from time to time, we all find ourselves emerging from under the shadow of a rock.  If you've been sharing rock realty with me on the Mortal Instrument series, it's time you came out too.  Leave a comment below, telling us what book(s) you put off reading when it seemed the rest of the world was devouring them.  Add your e-mail address to the comment and you'll be entered to win my personal copy of City of Bones (Nope, nothing special about it, except that I read it, which is, you must admit, sort of cool. Okay, or not.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thankful Thursday.

This week has been a struggle for me. I knew I was going to my mother's to take care of her after she had surgery. I thought I'd take my laptop, she'd sleep a lot and I'd get some serious writing done. WRONG.
My laptop is having serious issues. (I'm using my daughter's fossil laptop right now) Friday morning I arrived to watch Mom's dogs while she was in the hospital. She's 75, the house is big, we just lost my dad last summer and she lost a lot of her umph for cleaning it. So, I spent eight hours cleaning the dust, the cigarette smoke, washing all the linens and blankets, vacuuming carpets twice. Saturday Mom came home and was very a wake and very miserable. She hardly slept, night or day. I scrambled to keep her from tearing up, I made coffee baked her favorite desserts, I cooked lunch and dinner. We shifted from the sofa to the back room to the deck and back through the cycle. I didn't sleep worth a damn. I missed my son's birthday party. And I ended up staying until Monday.

Writing? Oh yeah. I got four pages. HAND WRITTEN. *_*

Are you thinking, AE this sounds like a lot of complaining. So what am I thankful for? I'm thankful for so much. My mother didn't suffer a stroke during surgery, which was a highly possible major complication. My mom's dogs are sweet and cute and funny and kept my mood up when it could've sank. My sister stepped up to the plate and helped. Mom is healing. I DID get four pages handwritten. My mother so appreciated the time I gave...

For every cloud, my friends, there is a silver lining. Sometimes it takes the storm blowing over for us to see the good in things, but it is there.

I pray for you, in your times of difficulty, that you rise to the challenge with grace.
I pray for you though your test may be difficult, they are nothing you cannot conquer.
I pray for you that you have help and company on those difficult paths.
I pray for your gifts will be truly appreciated, that you are a light to others.
And, I pray for you all to know some joy despite the dark clouds that sometimes threaten.

Much love to the Oasis readers from AE, who is still exhausted.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WRITER WEDNESDAY: Start Your Novel Where the Conflict Starts

One of the things I've learned during this long journey of writing, is that you need to start your book where the conflict starts - and while it makes sense, it's often hard to implement! Most authors want to start the novel where the story starts. But, honestly, that may not be of much interest to your reader. They don't need to know upfront about a bully at school, an abusive parent, or failed love interests.

In that first chapter it's important that you get your main character into a scene where the conflict is presented, so that the manuscript has continuous forward movement and keeps the reader hooked on the journey.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • If your MC is moving: Start the novel on moving day, or even arriving at her new home. Don't have it two weeks before, lamenting the move with her best friend (unless your book takes place during those two weeks!)
  • If your MC finds an enchanted object: Get him to that location in the first chapter. We don't need to see the reason he's there, or how he got there. You can add that in as you go.
  • If your MC develops a special power: Give us a glimpse in those first few pages. Get us to the scene where she's questioning (whether internally or everyone's watching) what's going on.

By getting us immediately to your source of conflict and growth in the novel, you're cutting out the backstory and hooking in your reader. There's so much to pack into these first few pages, but throwing your MC into the middle of conflict is the best way for your reader to learn all about them (how they handle themselves, their sense of humor, their outlook on life, and more.) Use it as an opportunity to explore your voice and quickly get your story moving!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Story's Soundtrack

Imagine yourself sitting in a cushy seat of your local movie theater. Smell of popcorn, lull of voices, and the golden flicker of the sidelights lining the stairs all stimulate your senses.

What is the first thing that grabs your attention at the opening scene of a film? The music, right?
Every film is comprised of individuals scenes with settings, actor lines, and movement. Just like a story set between the pages of a hardcover. But you can't splice music into a storybook...or can you?

When you think about a story you've already written, your current manuscript, or one brewing inside you, what genre of music would best represent that body of work? If you're a reader, think of a story you've read.

AE ~

Music Genre: Rock
Story Genre: Dystopian.
Description: Shifting psychic powers is the one Gift Isilen Temple doesn't want. She was born with the death sentence, but it brings her new life in the form of Aaron Auchul, a government Operative who cannot bring himself to kill her. Together, they find common ground tainted with decades of government lies. 
Song (lately): The Catalyst, by Linkin Park

Jessie ~
Music Genre:  Folksy Rock (not sure that's a genre, but that's mostly what I listened to when writing DESTINED)
Story Genre: Romantic Retelling
Description: When Sadie destroys the one relationship she can't live without, she must journey alone through ancient Greece, and confront the goddess who would see her dead, if she wants to reclaim an immortal love.
Song(s): What if You by Joshua Radin, Crack the Shutters by Snow Patrol, Strange and Beautiful by Aqualung

Nikki ~
Music Genre: Alternative Rock
Story Genre: Urban Fantasy (Greek Mythology Driven)
Description: Sixteen-year-old Maya Georgiou is a beautiful ocean nymph faced with an impossible decision. She must choose between sacrificing Nate, the only boy she’s ever cared about, to a Greek Goddess with insane demands - or take his place instead.
Song(s): Here We Go Again by Pararmore, Starlight by Muse, Perfect by Flyleaf

JA ~

Music Genre: POP
Story Genre: Steam Punk Dystopian.
Description:  Evelyn Winters has been trained from the age of three to be an Enforcer--a trained assassin--and the only child of the Governor and Governess of the underwater utopia know as Elysium.  But, when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, finds his way into her comfy little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.  The happy little bubble she’s lived in all these years has just popped and the person she knows as Mother is a monster.  She must now find a way to rescue Gavin from her murderous mother’s hands, regain control of her body and the implanted instructions constantly urging her to kill, and start a new life with Gavin on the surface.
Song(s):  Keep Moving On by Avril Lavigne; Breathless by The Corrs; Precious Illusions by Alanis Morrisette.

Me ~
Music Genre: Alternative Rock
Story Genre: Paranormal Romance
Description: Sixteen-year-old Anastasia Tate is a tenacious tomboy who must break an ancient curse, saving a yuppie boy, before she literally looses her mind. Only problem: she must die first.
Songs: When I'm Gone by 3 Doors Down, Storm by Lifehouse, Scars by Papa Roach   

Now share your answers with us. Thanks for the discussion. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Sanctuary: The power of...two or more?

Every week on Monday Sanctuary we always talk about ways to relax from writing by getting away from writing, but this past weekend I realized something.  We don’t have to get away from writing to refresh our muse.  Sometimes we just need like minded people to remind us why we spend so many hours shedding blood and tears over our characters.

This weekend I attended my RWA chapter’s Super Saturday where I spent 6 hours with a group of paranormal writers learning craft, sharing stories, even learning a few new tricks.

It was great, but it wasn’t just because I was learning new things, it was the companionship of being with like-minded people.

We’re always told that writing is a solitary adventure, but it doesn’t have to be.  Not all of it anyway.  While no one else can write or us, other writers can help us strengthen our writing, help us see faults when we think it’s perfect and commiserate with us when things aren’t going well.  Whether it be a rejection or a scene that just won’t work.

I highly suggest joining some kind of writing group either online or in-person, because the benefits are extraordinary.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Book Review: Soul Screamers Series by Rachel Vincent

Since I don’t have an interview for today I decided I’d do a book review.  Today’s book is called My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent.   I was given this book last year at my RWA’s chapter annual Holiday book signing and I was very excited to start reading it. 

It’s a Young Adult Paranormal published by Harlequin Teen and is part of a series.  So far there are 3 books out in the series. Plus a short story prequel that’s available free as an e-book.

This is a 5 palm tree rating from me.   It’s got everything I love in a book.  A little romance, a lot of tension, and a character I can relate to.  Not to mention some truly kick butt paranormal creatures that haven’t been done to death.

The first line of the back cover reads. “Something is wrong with Kaylee Cavanaugh…”  How can you not read a book with that line? 

Here’s the rest of the cover blurb for those that would like to read it:

She doesn't see dead people, but...
She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.
Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about the need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next...

It’s about a girl who’s mother died when she was a baby and whose father abandoned her to live with her Aunt and Uncle, who while they aren’t exactly picturesque of Harry Potter, they are somewhat similar on how they treat Kaylee, including a spoiled rotten cousin who can’t stand the sight of her.

It starts off with the heronine, Kaylee, sneaking into a local bar with what is presumably her best friend.  She runs into one of the popular boys from school, Nash, who—for reasons she can’t understand—actually wants to hang out with her, but things quickly go wrong.

She sees a girl and, for some reason, there’s a shadow over her and has to fight this uncontrollable urge to scream her lungs out.  Something that apparently has happened before and placed her in a mental hospital.

Then there’s Nash who seems to not only realize why she needs to scream, but is able to calm her down, by mumbling to her. 

Then it just keeps getting stranger, the girl is found dead—for no apparent reason—in the girls’ bathroom, and shortly after, other girls from her school start dying, as well.

I won’t give away anymore, but this was an awesome read.  I couldn’t put it down.  It’s most definitely not anything close to anything you’ve ever read and best of all, it’s a paranormal that has nothing to do with werewolves or vampires.  I've also read the rest of the available books in the series and I can only say that it just keeps getting better.  You won't be disappointed.

This is a must have for any teenager, or teenager-at-heart, on your Holiday list.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

ThankLESS Thursday (Come Grouch with Us)

 Some days, it's hard to be thankful.  I know, I know.  There are a million reasons to count my blessings.  I'm American. I'm employed. I'm an author. I have a great family. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Here's an example of what I mean. There are some days I tell myself that every rejection is just leading me closer to the agent I'm meant to be with. I should be thankful that a particular agent passed because it obviously wasn't meant to be.

Other days, just saying that little mantra makes me want to punch myself in the face.

So here's the deal, instead of telling you all the reasons we're thankful -- whether it's for something good or bad -- today we're going to have a GRIPE SESSION.  That's right, let's celebrate a ThankLESS Thursday by ridding our shoulders of all the concerns that've been weighing us down.  We'll go first...

A.E.: I'm the baby of five in a dysfunctional family. When my father suffered an aneurysm last year and languished 8 days in the hospital, I was the one to spend nights in the ICU, signing papers, giving permission for procedures, fighting for what I knew my dad would want. Now, my mother needs to have surgery, and I'm stuck being the one watching her when she gets home. My brother "has work out-of-state," my sister works locally. So, I'm packing right now to spend at least this weekend, if not longer with Mom. While I love my mom, I'll miss my own son's birthday too. Grrrrrr.

NikkiMy company's major annual event is next week in Las Vegas and it's crunch time.  Outside of having to work extremely long hours, and having horrible headaches, I'm just going to say that it's tough dealing with all the people involved in a venue like this.  And outside of all the egos and issues and fulfillment - some people need to learn to grow tolerance and realize that everyone is human.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Everyone deserves a break, and if they are willing to work with you to rectify a situation - take it. Don't throw salt on the wound.

JessieI'm 32 and just found out this week that my blood pressure is higher than Mount Kilimanjaro.  This translates into me needing to cut out sodium as much as possible (read - my favorite microwave lunches) and getting cardiovascular exercise 5 - FIVE - times a week. Not only do I despise exercise - I find nothing redeeming about sweating, at all - but those are 30 minutes when I might otherwise be writing.  So that's my grrrr! for the week. Yeah, it could be a lot worse.  But I'm still gonna growl about it.

Sheri:I've already mentioned that my eleven-year-old daughter had surgery this past Friday, which requires her to be prisoner to a foot cast for eight weeks--two spent home from school. She's recovering well. I have a major online conference next week to prepare for, and yes, I haven't even started. Oh, and then I got a lovely surprise from a local publication, wanting me to write a few articles for them. 

I should be happy about all these, and I am...really. But, um...yeah, I had just rediscovered my writing mojo!! And I was flying! Converting my current ms from 3rd to 1st POV had been going so smoothly; I was loving it and just knew I'd be ready for NaNoWri in November. Now I can hardly find time to fire up my laptop, let alone use it. By nature I'm far from a selfish person, but come on universe. Could your timing be worse???

Jessica:Um, I'm going to have to say that I'm frustrated beyond everything with the VA.  Every time I turn around they're denying this treatment or denying that treatment.  Even though my doctor there as determined it's medically necessary.  I went to the ER almost 4 months ago because I passed out in my bathroom at 4 in the morning.  

It was eventually determined it wasn't that big of a deal, just an ovarian cyst the size of a quarter, but we didn't know that until I was at the ER for several hours.  The ER doc. kept thinking it was appendicitis. 

 Now the VA is denying payment, even though they're the ones who sent me to the ER because they said they couldn't take care of me at the VA clinic.  

Wanna join in our Grouch-fest?  Tell us what's pissing you off this week.  Sharing the load makes it lighter.  (yeah - that expression makes me want to punch someone too.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

WRITER WEDNESDAY: Demystifying industry terms

Last week Jessie helped us all by demystifying the genres we work with as writers. Some of us write Contemporary, others Paranormal Romance and still some of us mix and match to fit the story pouring out of us. Well, it got me thinking of a few more industry terms I know I've batted around. Is it? Isn't it? Are you? Aren't you? My terms? Beta reader versus Critique Partner. The may overlap, but according to YA writer and romance editor Heather Howland, they are not the same. Then, logline versus pitch.

A beta reader reads the manuscript and gives an overview opinion. It can be as in depth as they want, but their focus is on the broad issues like plot and pacing and characters.You want a beta in the beginning to gauge the interest you're generating with your story. They're also valuable at the very end after you've worked out all the kinks of the story with a critique partner

A critique partner
takes that same read and goes a level deeper. They question word choice, sentence cadence, motivations, use of white space, dialogue, etc...They are available to brainstorm, cheer you on, and will gently tell you when a book you're working on needs to be trunked.

Short summary: A beta reader offers opinions. A critique partner offers solutions and support.

Another two I kick around and wonder about... logline versus pitch. So, I turned to my agent, for an Agent's Eye View. Here's what Gina had to say:

The term 'logline' has been adapted from the movie industry, where a single line summary of a movie script is used to quickly sort the mountains of material to be considered. In publishing, an effective logline can be just as useful, since you can quickly distinguish your story from the hundreds of others vying for the agent's or editor's attention at any given time. A good logline will tell the reader the major characters, the conflict, and, done extremely well, convey the story arc in a way that seems fluid, convincing and compelling. That's a lot to ask of a single line, so you can see why this should be given a lot of careful consideration!

A pitch is considerably longer and more detailed, and though the term used to be reserved more for verbal exchanges (like conference appointments or personal meetings) the term has begun to be used interchangeably (and sometimes confusingly) with query, though the pitch is exclusively about the story and lacks query elements like the author bio. Pitches are usually two-to-three well-constructed paragraphs and will give much more information than your logline, focusing on distinguishing your story from others already on the market with fresh characters and presenting your plot clearly.

Summary: Whether you're being invited to submit a logline, a pitch or a query, know that key to success is to present a fresh approach. If the story elements you're presenting are too familiar (or you are presenting them that way), your book's going to be lost in the avalanche of material editors and agents have to sort through.

So...I hope this was helpful for y'all. Knowledge is power, and I hope we here at the Oasis can help empower you!
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