First Campaigner Challenge - A Killer Sound

I wasn’t sure I was going have time to write something for Rachael Harrie’s First Campaigner Challenge, but I had so much fun last time I really wanted to give it a whirl.  Here are the rules in Rach’s words:

The monster's orange eye

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count. 
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:
end the story with the words: "everything faded." (also included in the word count)
include the word "orange" in the story
write in the same genre you normally write
make your story 200 words exactly!
 
So pushing up against the deadline as usual, here’s my entry.
 
A Killer Sound 
 
Shadows crept across the wall, as Daisy cowered under the bed.
She strived not to make a sound, while squeals of terror rang ‘round her head.
 
Her younger brother crouched in the closet, the door not quite shut;
Far too late to push it closed without risking the monster’s cut.
 
The beast stalked into the room, his feet leaving smears of blood;
And as he peered around, she prayed he’d not hear her heart thud.
 
Just when he turned away to leave, they both heard a frightened squeak;
Her brother had betrayed his hideaway as his terror reached its peak.
 
The creature’s orange eyes grew round, full of predatory glee,
And though Daisy was devastated, she knew this was her chance to flee.
 
But her parents had taught her better than that: they were mice not lowly rats.
It was her duty to protect him, even from brutal tomcats.
 
So she scurried from her safe haven to capture the killer’s eye,
And donned a courageous face to prove she wasn’t scared to die.
 
As her brother scampered to freedom, she had no regrets for the life she’d traded.
Then the feline’s teeth sank deep, and Daisy smiled as everything faded.
 
 
When I started this one, I thought it would be in the same vein as my entry for the first challenge from the last campaign – sort of a companion piece from the POV of a new victim rather than the kitty villain.  So I decided to try my hand at writing a poem to push myself and also set it apart from the first one.  I planned to have a light-hearted, funny ending like the earlier one, but as I was writing, that’s not the direction it took.  Since I was determined to use the “everything faded” ending, it seemed like Daisy had to die, and if she was going to die, I wanted it to be a noble self-sacrifice.  I hope reading this wasn’t too much of a bummer for your day; and if you thought it was worthy, you can go here and vote for #204.
 
I started and ended the poem with the challenge words.  I used the word “orange.”  I usually write YA thriller/horror/suspense, so I think this qualifies.  And it’s exactly 200 words (although meeting that part of the challenge ended up bungling the meter in a few of the stanzas *sad face*).  
 
So are there shadows creeping across your blog wall?  If so, leave a link to let me know where to find your entry.  And if you have any feedback on my entry, please let me know.
 
Photo credit to darkwallz.com

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 7

It was tough to keep up the 15 Minute Tweet Tales this week since I was out of town for most of it at the Beaufort International Film Fest (update on that coming later in the week!).  But I remembered to take my word-a-day calendar with me and managed to squeeze in the time each day so I wouldn’t break my tweet tale streak.  Not my best work, but I’m proud I got them done:

2/15 – They voted viva voce, and Liz’s stomach sank at Tom’s ‘yea.’ Fearing him, everyone would follow his lead and agree to sacrifice Liz.
 
2/16 – The farmer dragooned his son into helping with the crops; despite the bruises, the boy still made new dresses for his sister’s dolls.
 
2/17 – The stars’ testimonials said the shampoo would make her the center of attention. Truth in advertising, since it turned her hair green.
 
2/18 – His plangent heartbeats called to her, but they were muffled by the icy silence he emitted to protect his pride, so she kept walking….
 
2/19 – The director wanted to wring tears from the audience, so he hoked up the melodrama. They did end up crying… from laughing so hard.
 
2/20 – As the bus rumbled by, she intensified her diligent scrubbing. She didn’t want her son to see the last few drops of Dad on the floor.
 
2/21 – The prostitute watched him deliver another speech full of rectitude and wondered which paper would pay the most for their sex tape.
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.
 

Eleven Questions

Eleven answers:Eleven questionsRachel Morgan, a new blogger friend from the Fourth Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign, has tagged me in the 11 random questions game.  The rules are that I answer Rachel’s 11 questions, and then I tag 11 people and ask them my own 11 questions.  Rachel had some toughies, but it was fun figuring out my answers.  Here they are:

1. Describe yourself in one word.
Procrastinator (even with this - Rachel tagged me six days ago!) 
 
2. What was your favourite book as a child?
Hmm… depends on what age you mean when you say child.  As a small child, probably Green Eggs and Ham.  But the one book I read over and over as a tween/teen was Dean Koontz’s Watchers, showing I liked the dark and twisty stuff from an early age.  But it also had a super smart dog, so that was a big part of the appeal.
 
3. eBooks or paper books?
I love everything about the weight and smell and feel of paper books.  But having said that, I’m seriously thinking about breaking down and getting an ipad 3 when they come out to see what all the fuss is about.
 
4. If you could go back in time and change one thing in your life, what would it be?
Figure out I wanted to be a writer sooner in order to get an earlier start.
 
5. What song is currently stuck in your head?
Not just currently, but seemingly all the time – the Glee mash-up of Adele’s “Rumor Has It” and “Someone Like You.”  I love both songs, so smooshing them together in one song of awesomeness has put it on a permanent loop in my head. 
 
6. What fictional character do you most resemble?
Velma from Scooby-Doo.  I’m kind of a nerdy know-it-all, I love a good mystery, and I bribe my dog to do what I say with tasty snacks.
 
7. If you could have any super power, what would you choose?
The ability to teleport, so I could easily travel the world (and also pop into a room to eavesdrop).
 
8. What is your favourite quote?
“It takes less time to do a thing right, than it does to explain why you did it wrong.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  Why, yes, I’m a perfectionist – why do you ask?
 
9. Are you a full-time writer or do you have some other day job?
I’m a full time web surfer TV watcher reader writer. 
 
10. Which book would you pick up first: awesome cover or super cool title?
I’m a sucker for a good title (especially the punny ones), but I’m also attracted to bright, shiny objects.  But in the end, a great title with a bland cover will get me to commit more than a fancy cover with a blah title.
 
11. Cream or ice-cream?
Ice cream – Always. And almost every night.
 
Here are my 11 questions:
 
1. First draft: do you type it or write it by hand?
 
2. Which television show (current or sadly canceled) best depicts your life?
 
3. Which television show (current or sadly canceled) do you WISH depicted your life?
 
4. What types of pets do you currently share your house with and what are their names?
 
5. Because I will shamelessly take any opportunity to plug my first short film Saying Goodbye: If a cat predicted your death, how would it change your life?
 
6. Because I will shamelessly take any opportunity to plug my second short film High Heels and Hoodoo: Do you believe it’s possible to communicate with spirits?
 
7. What book are you currently reading and why did you decide to read it?
 
8. What was the last movie you saw in a theater?  Worth it or did you wish for a refund?
 
9. Which actress/actor would be perfect to play you in the movie about your life?
 
10. When it comes to the craft of writing, what is your biggest weakness?
 
11. Writer’s block has set in with a vengeance – what food do you reach for first?
 
So the big question… who am I going to tag?  Well, as I’ve been making my rounds through my ginormous YA Campaign group, it seems like pretty much everyone has already been tagged.  And since I like to break the rules when it comes to these things, I’m going to tag… YOU!  That’s right, you there reading this post.  But that’s only if you want to play along.  If you’re weary of the random questions, then please ignore my cheeky tag.  But if you haven’t been tagged yet and wanted to answer some questions, then consider yourself tagged.  Or if you’ve been tagged before, but just can’t get enough of these random questions, then you’ve been tagged again.  And you can either answer these on your own blog or just leave a comment with your answers if you prefer.  I can't wait to read your responses!
 
Are you enjoying reading/answering these 11 questions?  Any questions you wished someone would have asked but hasn’t?  If you answer my questions on your blog, please leave a link in the comments because I’d love to read the answers.

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 6 – Valentine’s Edition

Valentine's Day Tweet TalesHappy Valentine’s Day!  Since this past week led to the big day of flowers and chocolate, I decided to give myself an extra challenge by making each of the 15 Minutes Tweet Tales a romance.  The word-a-day calendar delivered some toughies, but I tried to keep the tales in the realm of romance rather than wandering down the dark and twisty road of murder and mayhem like I usually do.  Although I think this little exercise has proved I’m much better at writing murder and mayhem (and it managed to sneak in anyway on the 12th).  

Anyway, to get you in a romantic frame of mind, here are tweet tales for Valentine’s week:

2/8 – The pabulum that tumbled from her lips was mind-numbing, but the other things she could do with that mouth kept him head over heels.
 
2/9 – He jumps on stage brandishing a “Will you marry me?” sign. To the crowd’s delight, she cries yes just before the guards tackle him.
 
2/10 – She worries her love for him is immoderate, but then she sees the way he looks at her & knows he deserves every drop of her affection.
 
2/11 – She fell for the adorable turophile as he explained the difference between Gruyère and Gouda – even though she preferred Velveeta.
 
2/12 – With unexpected candor, he mumbles his heart is hers. Then he rips it from his chest & hands it to her. Zombie love can be so messy.
 
2/13 – After the abstemious way he ate dinner, she was shocked, yet satisfied, when her date later demonstrated more creative uses for food.
 
2/14 – Valentine’s Day, desperate for her attention: uploads spoony video declaring his love. She uploads video blowing him a kiss: Victory!
 
Whether you have a special someone or you’re single like me, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  
 

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 5

15 Minute Tweet TalesThis week had the best word of the day so far.  Heck, I love this word so much, it just might be my new favorite word, and it’s definitely in the top five.  So what is this magical word?  Frigorific.  It actually sounds like one of those portmanteau smash-up words that teens come up with, but its first known usage was 1667.  The definition is not quite as exciting as the sound of the word itself – it means causing cold; chilling – but I think it’s a fun word and will be looking for ways to use it casual conversation.  

 
Here are the 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the first week of February:
 
2/1 – The public thinks the Kardashians are otiose, but that’s their cover as they maneuver world leaders to follow their plan for peace. #15tt
 
2/2 – Arranging her DVDs… By genre? Release year? An abecedarian method: title or director? After an OCD meltdown, she threw them away. #15tt   
 
2/3 – “I’d as lief eat dog doo than let him touch me.” When she married him 6 months later, her sister tossed dog turds rather than rice. #15tt
 
2/4 – Despite the hermetic grip autism has on her son, she convinces herself a tear, not sweat, rolls down his cheek while she passes away. #15tt
 
2/5 – Spot wags his tail until he sees her frigorific glare. Uh oh, she’s found his secret pee spot. Time to ramp up the sad, adorable eyes. #15tt
 
2/6 – Her role in the ad was just a tittle in the background, but the jaded “actress” felt like a star when it aired during the Super Bowl. #15tt
 
2/7 – In his quest for epistemic domination, he memorized an entire set of encyclopedias. Too bad it was his grandma’s set from the 1960s. #15tt
 
Since this is the week leading to Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to give myself an extra challenge - I’m going to try to make all the tweet tales for this week romances.  Since I’ll be single this Valentine’s Day (as usual!), we’ll see how that goes....
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.   
 

A New (mini) Campaign

Fourth Writers' Platform CampaignThe internet can be a vast and scary place, yet ironically it has become a great place for a shy and introverted gal like yours truly to meet new people.  Last fall I participated in Rachael Harrie’s Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign and met a bunch of fun people.  And as is the goal of this social networking thingamajig, one of those fun people (K.T. Hanna) has helped me meet even more fun people.  

In January, K.T. started #writemotivation to bring writers together to cheer each other on to meet the goals we set for ourselves.  Although I didn’t meet one of my big goals, with the encouragement of these new enthusiastic friends, I met a lot of my other goals.  And as a late #writemotivation check-in, I DID finish my story for the Highlights Fiction Contest and zipped it over to the post office with just a few hours to spare until the final pick-up of the day.  Whoo hoo!  

I want to thank K.T. again for being the captain of the #writemotivation cheerleading squad.  I think she must be made entirely of positive energy.  Not only does she make truly impressive progress on her own projects, she is always there with an encouraging word for the rest of us.  And to bring things full circle, I just found out she’s helping Rachael with the Fourth Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign, which starts today.

The fourth campaign is going to be a mini-campaign running from February 6th to March 17th.  I’ve signed up again, although this time I’m not signing up for as many groups.  I was so excited last time, I signed up for three groups, and it became overwhelming trying to keep up with everyone, so I’m trying to keep things more realistic this time.  

Here’s how Rachael describes the campaign:

“Basically, the Campaign is a way to link those of us in the writing community together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms. The Campaigners are all bloggers in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs.”
 
I’m looking forward to meeting more new people, and if you’re interested, you can sign up here.
 
For those of you stopping by my blog for the first time because of the Campaign, here’s a quick introduction: I write novels, short stories, and screenplays; and in the last two years I’ve started dabbling in making short films.  I’ve had a few short stories published, but my first love is writing YA novels in the genres of thriller, suspense, and horror.  In the non-writing part of my life, I watch an alarming amount of television and also give my Netflix subscription a robust workout.  I’m also an animal lover with a menagerie of pets; and, yes, I’m one of those people who puts party hats on their dogs and makes them “cakes” for their birthdays.
 
Are you excited about the mini-campaign?  What are you hoping to get out of it? Did you participate in previous Campaigns?  

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 4

15 Minute Tweet TalesWow!  I can't believe I made it through an entire month of writing 15 Minute Tweet Tales without skipping a single day.  I’m actually very proud of myself, since that means I’ve done something writing related every day of 2012 - that’s a pretty big deal for a procrastinator like me.  

Isn’t it supposed to take something like a month for an action to become a habit?  My friend Google tells me that both 21 and 28 days are the supposed magic number.  Either way, I’ve hit the milestone, and that’s pretty exciting.  Writing the tweet tales has become part of my routine; and while some days are easier than others, and some words are more fun to write about, it’s hard to imagine missing a day.  

Here are the tweet tales for the last week of January:

1/25 – Her boyfriends were a mélange of ethnicities and personalities - eHarmony imploded trying to find her type. She met Sarah on her own.

1/26 – The vox populi was that her husband was a monster, so when the media exposed the crime, she was able to slip away with all the money.

1/27 – Trash can chaos. 3 innocent looking dogs. Amy played hawkshaw by sniffing their snouts. No surprise when Trouble had garbage breath.

1/28 – Before killing his wife, he consulted his mistress – a true Philadelphia lawyer notorious for keeping vile criminals out of jail.

1/29 – Tired of being a nerdy boffin, he hit the gym. Soon the women at work were drooling over him, but he only wanted his cube mate, Jim.

1/30 – She swore she’d only eat a salad, but the lasagna at the trattoria was too tempting. A trip to the toilet & a mint fixed everything.

1/31 – His wife’s eidetic memory drove him crazy, but when he needed to dump her body, it would have been useful for finding the car keys.

The toughest word this week was Philadelphia lawyer – soooo boring and soooo many characters.  But I’ve always been a fan of the word mélange, so that was fun.  

Play along and craft tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. 

 

A Highlighted Goal

#writemotivationOn this last Monday of #writemotivation month, I only have a quick update since I’m frantically trying to meet one of my goals.  Update for last week: I wrote a 15 Minute Tweet Tale every day (hooray!), and I had two blog posts (double hooray!).  Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to rewrite one of my NYCM flash pieces for the Glimmer Train contest (sad face), but I think I’m going to be able to submit a new story for the Highlights Fiction contest (tentative hooray).    
 
Last week I reported that after several false starts, I was abandoning my squirrel idea in favor of an elephant idea.  Well, I spent the rest of the week writing and discarding openings for the elephant idea.  The main problem was too much back story to fit into the 750 word limit.  So I chucked the elephant idea.
 
I had actually decided to put another #writemotivation goal into the fail column by skipping this year’s Highlights contest when I woke up yesterday with new inspiration for the squirrel idea.  After some initial bickering with my muse, I pounded out a rough draft and felt pretty victorious.  Then I read it.  Ugh!  I was immediately back to skipping this year.  But just to be sure, I sent it to my family members (always my first readers) to get their opinions.  And while I know they are all incredibly biased, they all swore up and down there was a kernel of a cute story buried in there.  
 
So I have spent all night filing away at those rough edges, and I think I finally have something that doesn’t suck too much.  Now I just need to polish it until it shines.  Unfortunately, I only have about 24 hours of polishing time left, so off I go!
 
How are your resolutions going?  Any victories?  Any goals you regret dropping?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 3

15 Minute Tweet TalesThis week I had to “cheat” several times to make the stories fit by using shorthand.  I know using abbreviations and numbers is typical for tweet speak, but it always reads choppier to me (‘cause I’m old!).  And while it doesn’t bother me in regular tweets, I think it kind of interrupts the flow in story tweets.  But when you have a tale to tell in only 140 characters, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  So here are the 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the third week:

1/18 – His lips curve into a smile just 4 me, sending my heart into a staccato dance. His wife tugs his hand. He follows her out of my life.

1/19 – Fran proudly entered the Westminster ring with her pug, but his sudden diarrhea brought an infra dig end to her quest for greatness.

1/20 – He told her she’d always be his queen, now shards of glass form a bloody diadem on the head he grew bored of hitting with his fists.

1/21 – His wife blew in like a williwaw shrieking about toilet seats, but her soaked outrage was so sexy, he planned to “forget” again soon.

1/22 – He spent years perfecting his manuscript, never spotting the solecism in the 1st sentence that made editors dismiss him with a laugh.

1/23 – It started with meditation to better control his rage, but he was soon buried in a mountain of self-help books and pompous solipsism.

1/24 – She thought “Leave me alone!” was a univocal statement, but he heard “I want to be with you forever” & decided death was the only way.

My favorite word from this week is williwaw – I just love the way it rolls off the tongue.  Not a meaning I’d use in everyday conversation, but now I'm going to look for ways to work it into random sentences.

Play along and craft tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.   

ABNA Loves Me, ABNA Loves Me Not

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardSince today is January 23rd, according to my original resolutions I should be done rewriting my WIP in order to submit it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition.  But since I wised up (or depending on how you look at it, sunk to new depths of procrastination) last week, I decided not to rush the rewrite.  However, that doesn’t mean I decided not to enter.  So I gathered together my pitch, excerpt, and manuscript, and I’m now officially submitted to the 2012 ABNA.  

This is the fourth time I’ve entered this novel, and it’s a true testament to my powers of procrastination that the last three times have been with the exact same manuscript.  The first year, I didn’t make it past the pitch round, which was like a punch to the gut of my writerly ego; but I didn’t know much about writing query letters back then, which is what the first round (i.e. the pitch round) is all about.  And it was probably a blessing I didn’t advance any further, since my manuscript was very rough, and I’d have ended up embarrassed that anyone (not related to me) read it.
 
By the time the second year rolled around, I’d rewritten my manuscript and learned more about the fine art of pitching.  I waited on pins and needle until the first round results were released, and I was so excited when I made it past the pitch round – whoo hoo!  So then there was more waiting while the excerpts (first 3000-5000 words of the novel) of the advancing pitches were evaluated.  When the list was released, I whooped and screamed and even cried a little to see that my novel was advancing to the quarterfinals.  That meant it was time for the scary part – someone from Publishers Weekly was going to read and review my entire manuscript.  Gulp!  So I fretted through more agonizing waiting until the day the list of semi-finalists came out.  Sadly, I couldn’t find my name on that list, no matter how many times I looked or used Ctrl+F on various spelling of my name ‘just in case.’  I was bummed, although not really surprised because deep down, I knew it wasn’t truly ready.  
 
As the ‘prize’ for being quarterfinalists, we got our manuscript reviews from Publishers Weekly whether we were moving on or not.  Since I didn’t advance, I was sure my review was scathing, so I didn’t want to read it when it came, but I put on my big girl panties and read it anyway.  Then came more whooping and dancing around the room because it was a great review - one I’d be darn proud to have if it were the real thing.  The only negative thing the reviewer said was that my supporting characters were too stereotypical, which is true, since I wrote them that way on purpose.  And that has been what’s been giving me so much trouble with the rewrite.  The supporting characters are stereotypical because the story is written from the first person POV of a shallow teen who sees people that way.  So my challenge is to give them depth that’s obvious to the reader even if it’s not to the narrator.  I’m still struggling with the best way to do that.
 
Anyway, fast forward a year to my third attempt at ABNA.  I’d been so busy with Saying Goodbye, I hadn’t rewritten anything, but I decided to enter again anyway thinking different judges would mean a different outcome, and boy was I right!  Since my pitch worked so well the previous year, I didn’t change a word; and to my utter shock and dismay, I didn’t make it past the pitch round this time.  I was definitely taken aback by that, but it really does show how subjective this business is.  
 
So that brings me to this year.  While I’m entering the same manuscript as the previous two years, I’m going with a different pitch.  During WriteOnCon this year, I participated in their critique forums, and I got a lot of very helpful feedback on my query.  I’m using the final version of that query as the basis for my pitch.  I really hope to make it past the pitch stage this year to give me confidence in my query, but I’m taking a much more relaxed approach to it this time.  I didn’t get all spun up about formatting or enter the second the clock ticked over to midnight like I have in previous years.  And while I’m hoping for the best, in the meantime, I’ll be working on the rewrite so I can get started querying agents.
 

As for the rest of my #writemotivation goals, I’ve been keeping up with my 15 Minute Tweet Tales and blog posts, so a tiny victory first pump on that front.  And after four different horrible false starts trying to make a story about a squirrel work for my Highlights fiction contest entry, I’ve now moved on to a story about an elephant, so at least there’s forward momentum there.
 
How are you doing with your writing goals?  Have you entered or thought about entering ABNA?