Feeling Very Versatile

On Friday, I was honored to receive the Versatile Blogger award from Stevie McCoy (aka the Glitterlady).  But because I’ve been out of town the past several days, I wasn’t able to post about it.  Then today Jessica Therrien and K. T. Hanna also passed the Versatile Blogger award to me.  I’m doing the happy dance around the room that three awesome ladies thought enough of my blog to give me this award.  Fortunately, none of you can actually see me doing said The Versatile Blogger awardhappy dance, since it’s a mortifying sight that would leave all of us feeling a bit awkward.  So a million thanks to Stevie, Jessica, and K. T.!

Here are the official guidelines:

  • Post a link to the person who gave you the award.
  • Tell your readers seven random things about yourself.
  • Award 15 newly discovered blogs.
  • Send them a note letting them know you nominated them.
Since I’m new to this whole blogging thing, I decided to consult my good friend Google about blogger awards.  In his haughty know-it-all way, Googs told me many positive things about them, but he also passed along the info that some people in the blogging community see these awards as a nuisance rather than an honor and consider them chain letters, which made me sad.  
 
I read Christopher Pike’s creepy Chain Letter in high school, so I know that chain letters are EVIL.  I never even forward those chain emails, which means I’ve racked up several lifetimes worth of bad karma/terrible luck/money troubles/romance woes/etc.  In fact, if one of those chain emails has an adorable picture of a monkey hugging a baby tiger, or inspirational poem, or hilarious joke that just has to be shared with my friends, then I delete the chain instructions from the email before passing along the entertaining part.  That probably doubles the bad juju I accumulate from ignoring the instructions.   
 
So even though I am personally very excited to receive these awards, and I think it’s a great way to help spread the word about fun blogs, I don’t want the people who receive it from me to feel obligated in any way.  So I am borrowing a page from Annalise Green and Gene Lempp: I'm passing the compliment on to bloggers I enjoy while dismissing the rules - just like I do with the chain emails.  Hopefully this won’t make my blog crash or become infected with malware.  
 
Below I’ve listed some of the bloggers who have entertained me over the first few weeks of the campaign.  Turns out most of these blogs are so awesome that others have already beaten me to the punch and given them this award, so even more reason I don’t expect the recipients to link back to me or post another seven random things.  All I ask is that you enjoy knowing you made me laugh, which is my favorite part of reading other people’s blogs.  
 
F. E. Sewell – F.E. has posts from Old Time music to thinking about character growth in terms of colors to being a zombie fighting warrior.  It was the zombie post that made me a huge fan of F.E., since I spend an inordinate amount of time imagining scenarios to help me survive the coming zombie apocalypse.
 
Sam de la Peña – Sam freely admits that his dog is the Ruling Empress of All, which automatically makes him good people in my book.  On top of that, he has hilarious posts on a wide variety of topics, including one on his hatred of the mall, which as a fellow mall hater left me in stitches.  The post also includes references to zombie cows – awesome!
 
Jani Grey - Jani also has a funny voice, and she wants to find a rich husband who’ll buy her a private island where she can read all day.  Me too!!  And she has a post where she mentions zombie clowns.  Hmmm, I’m sensing a theme to my amusement.
 
Fairview – Fairview just recently returned from a trip and has been posting pictures and anecdotes from her travels.  She has an entertaining dry wit that make these stories fun – I especially like the one about visiting the Donner memorial.  So no zombies, but cannibalism – yay!
 
Annalise Green - I laugh a lot when reading Annalise's posts, and she posts about all kinds of things including Doctor Who (love!) and scary monsters.  Humor and horror combined are pretty much my favoritest thing ever. 
 
Jill Campbell - Jill’s very funny, but her posts have lots of heart too.  I think that must come from being the mother of seven (!!) kids.  Past posts have included her love/hate relationship with Costco and using the ‘snap and point’ to get people to do what you want.  I haven’t found any evidence of zombies or monsters on her blog yet, but I give her a pass because . . .  seven kids!!
 
Now on to the seven things about me bit:
 
1.  I spent a semester abroad at UNSW in Sydney, Australia.  It was awesome.  But I was very disappointed that I lived there for three months before I saw my first kangaroo and that was at a zoo.  Although it was really cute!
 
2.  I was horrified to discover Aussies actually serve kangaroo in restaurants (as dinner, not as diners).  But that didn’t stop me from trying a bite just to say I did.  I thought it was tough and gamey, so thank goodness I wasn’t tempted to eat any more of the adorable critters.
 
3.  I have an open bite, which means my teeth don’t touch in the front.  It makes eating a sandwich difficult.  And messy.
 
4.  I also have TMJ, which means my jaw clicks when I eat.
 
5.  Despite #3 and #4, I’m a lovely dinner companion.  Mostly because I’m paranoid about having food on my face and constantly wipe my mouth so I don’t end up putting anyone in the uncomfortable position of having to tell me I’ve got salad dressing dribbling down my I'm super excited in front of Stonehengechin.
 
6.  I visited Stonehenge several years ago - one of the items on my bucket list.  I got as close as I could get, reached in as far as I could, and plucked a flower from the ground.  Okay, it was probably a weed.  But I dried it and am certain it will one day imbue me with mystical powers.
 
7.  Even though I graduated from high school *cough* years ago, where we never once broke into song and dance, I still believe high school is exactly like Grease
 
Holy moly, this has turned into a long post.  Most of my short stories are shorter than this post.  If you’ve made it this far, thank you for sticking with me to the end.  I shall reward you with an inspirational quote from William Feather: "Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go." 
 
What are your thoughts about blogger awards?  Have you ever come face-to-face with a kangaroo?  If the person you’re dining with has spinach in their teeth, do you tell them? 
 

First Campaigner Challenge

For my few readers who don’t already know this, as part of the Writers’ Platform Building Campaign, Rach is giving us challenges to flex our writing muscles and promote interaction.  The challenge for this week is:

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, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

This story is the idea that popped into my head almost immediately.  After reading some of the other stories and seeing how many people had gone dark and creepy with this challenge (something about swinging doors is automatically sinister), I took a stab at a silly comedy with potty humor, but it didn’t work, so I came back to this one.  My entry is #197, and it’s exactly 200 words. 

Sweet Revenge

The door swung open, and he crept inside, careful not to make a sound.  She sat at the table with her back to him, absently twirling a lock of red hair as she balanced her checkbook. The door swung open . . .

He took a step closer.  First she had ignored him.  Another step.  Then she had screamed at him to go away.  Two more silent steps closer to his target.  He’d show her no one treated him that way.

He unsheathed his weapon, its sharp tip anxious to taste her blood. 

She cursed and slammed her pen to the table.  He sank into a crouch, eyes boring into her, willing her not to turn around.  Revenge would be so much sweeter if she didn’t see it coming until he ripped open her flesh. 

With a deep sigh, she picked up her pen.  He inched toward her until he was in range.  Time for her punishment.  He pounced. 

She screamed as the point pierced her skin. 

A small droplet of blood trickled down her ankle.  She picked him up and hissed in his face.  “I told you to stay outside if you can’t behave.”

She shoved him through the kitty door, and the door swung shut.

I can’t wait to read the other stories – if you’ve written one, leave a link to it in the comments.

Photo cedit to Mattox

Dogs Wearing Hats

Whoo hoo, I’ve now finished my first round of the writers' campaign blog trail - I’ve visited/commented/followed/friended/circled/linked everyone in my horror, suspense/thriller, and YA groups.  I’ve seen so many funny/insightful/informative/enjoyable blogs the last few days and met some really great people.  It’s been fun, but it has turned my brain into a whirling, seething mass of goo.  And now I really need to post something new to entertain my new visitors, but of course I’m drawing a blank.  It’s probably stage fright knowing all these new friends are watching.

While reading though all the lovely comments, I saw several people were supportive of my weakness for putting party hats on dogs.  Either that or they were just being kind to avoid chasing the weird girl back into her corner.  So I decided to do what any proud parent does when someone shows the slightest interest in their ‘children’… pull out pictures!

For the record, all five of these dogs are not mine.  Freya is my girl, Lily and Chloe belong to my parents, Bailey is my brother’s handful, and Molly owns my sister.  So the hat obsession is not a Jocelyn thing, but a Rish thing.  Enjoy!

Lily looks so sweet in her party hat that Freya and Chloe are giving her kisses.  It has nothing at all to do with the fact that Lily is a messy eater and the other two are keeping her clean.

Freya and Chloe giving Lily birthday kisses

 

Bailey does not like to share.

Step away from the birthday cake and no one gets hurt!

 

Chloe has always been a rebel, so she wears her hat with style.

Chloe always does her own thing

 

I can read doggie minds.  Molly is clearly thinking about how much fun she’s having.  The phrase “I keel you!” never once passed through her brain.

I keel you!

 

The reward for all this adorable humiliation?  Delicious cakes made from canned dog food and doggie treats.

See what we'll put up with for some extra delicious food

 

And it’s not just birthdays….

 Santa's little helpers    Here comes Peter Cotton Tail...

 

But I promise, putting hats on the dogs is as far as we go . . . or is it?!?

Do you dress up your pets in any way?  Do they like it or do they give you sad face?  Or did you quit reading halfway through to run find the number of the Humane Society to report the crazy hat lady?  

Joining the Campaign

I just started this blog a few months ago, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out my mom is the Writers' Platform-Building Campaignonly person reading my posts.  Wait, scratch that.  I would totally be surprised to discover that because I’m not sure my mom even knows what a ‘blog’ is, and she definitely wouldn’t know how to find mine. 

I’ve always been a shy, introverted, scaredy cat. At most social gatherings, you’ll find me diligently doing my part to hold up the nearest wall.  It’s a little easier on the web, but it’s still daunting to reach out to strangers.  So how lucky for me that right as I’m dipping my toes into the blogging waters, Rachael Harrie is running her Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign.  As Rachael says:

"My Writers' Platform-Building Campaigns are a way to link writers, aspiring authors, beginner bloggers, industry people, and published authors together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms.

The Campaigners are all people 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."

This is such a fantastic idea, since it gives us more bashful folks a little push to interact with our fellow bloggers.  I’m excited to meet and interact with so many like-minded writers.

For fellow Campaigners stopping by my blog for the first time: 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. 

So are you an internet wallflower or the virtual life of the party?  Are you excited for the Campaign?  Did you participate in one of the previous Campaigns?

YALLFest 2011

Y’all, YALLFest is coming to Charleston!  No, this is not a festival to see who can produce the most adorably drawn out y’aaaaalllll.  It’s a YA extravaganza bringing twenty top young adult writers to Charleston for a weekend of seminars and panels.  Even at the large kidlit conferences, you are unlikely to get this many NYT bestsellers (eleven!!) in one place, so I’m pretty much giddy with excitement that this will be happening just down the road from me. 

The festival will be November 11th and 12th.  It looks like the Friday events are only for high school and college students, so the big day for writers in the area will be Saturday.  There will be seven hourly panels at Blue Bicycle Books during the day, as well as a YA SmackDown on Saturday night.  The whole day should be a blast and an excellent way to meet other YA writers in the area.  If you live within easy driving distance, you should definitely be here.  And even if you don’t live nearby, Charleston is a gorgeous city and an excellent place for a November vacation!

YALLFest Banner

Click here to find out more about the festival, including the list of amazing authors who will be speaking. 

 

Are you planning to attend the YALLFest?  Which authors are you most excited to see?

 

 

An Unexpected Honor

When I opened my front door today, I discovered a fantastic surprise waiting for me.  No, it wasn’t Jensen Ackles in a tux extending an oversized box of Godiva chocolates.  As unbelievable as this might sound . . . it was actually more awesome than that.

Around these parts, if something is too big to fit in the mailbox, the mail carrier just leaves it at the front door.  The only issue is that I hardly ever use the front door.  Today I happened to be expecting a package, so I took a quick peek out front.  Tucked between the glass door and the wooden door was a brown box, but not the package I was expecting – instead it was from Highlights.  I don’t know how long it’d been there, but from the date on the letter inside, it’s been several weeks.  Oops!  Anyway, I’d already received my contributor’s copies from them, so I couldn’t imagine what it might be. 

I ripped into the package with the excited abandon of a kid on Christmas morning.  Inside I found a pretty pewter plate (I love alliteration!) engraved with my name, the title of my story, and Highlights Author of the Month Award“Highlights for Children Author of the Month.”  Cue the dropping of my jaw and eyes bugging out of my head.  There was also a lovely note from Highlights editor in chief Christine Cully telling me the staff had voted me Author of the Month for my story “Seeking a Hidden Hive.”  Wow, I’m so honored!  My heartfelt appreciation and thanks to the Highlights staff!

This short story has led to many amazing honors and opportunities in my writing life.  I’m just so grateful for whatever odd conversational turn of events led to my brother and me discussing honeyguides in late 2008.

 So what's the most exciting thing you've ever found at your front door?

 

A Bloody Flash

I’ve been a NYC Midnight junkie the past two weeks.  This weekend was the first round of their fourth annual Flash Fiction Challenge.  Writers from around the world are divided into groups, and each group is assigned a genre, a location, and an object.  The writers then have 48 hours to write a story of 1000 words or less that incorporates those parameters.  I’ve participated the past two years, and I love the way it pushes me creatively during those adrenaline-fueled weekends.

For the first challenge this year, my group was assigned the genre of drama, the location of a blood drive, and the object duct tape.  I was kind of bummed about the genre of drama - I’ve had it a number of times over the course of various NYCM competitions and was hoping for something to push me out of my comfort zone.  Plus drama is so broad - almost every story is a drama in some way; and with my fondness for writing thrillers, suspense, and horror, I had to be careful not to cross too far over into one of the other genre categories.  This was especially tough this time given the location was a blood drive - the horror story practically writes itself!

I spent most of Saturday pacing around the house swilling coffee rejecting idea after idea.  Of the two that were my front runners, I worried one was too sci-fi and the other was too fantasy.  In their rules, NYCM states they encourage the creative use of the parameters, so I finally had the idea to push the meaning of “a blood drive.”  Instead of the typical setting of a mall or office building with chairs, nurses, juice, and cookies, I decided to interpret the phrase literally and have a bloody protagonist driving a car.  Once I settled on that, the details began to fall into place.  By 11:30 pm on Saturday night, I finished my first draft.  It was awful.  So terrible, I thought about starting over with one of my earlier ideas.

But after rereading it a few times, I figured out where it had gone off the rails and rewrote it.  I only kept the first paragraph, some of the plot points, and a few phrases I liked from the original.  I finished that draft around 5:00 am (oh, have I mentioned I’m a night owl?), and then immediately did another round of editing.  At 6:30 am I was still 227 words over the limit, but I decided sleeping on it was the wisest course of action. 

Once I woke up, I started the painful process of chopping and tightening and tweaking to make sure every word counted.  I also sent a draft to my brother, sister, and parents to read, since they are always my first readers.  They were all very enthusiastic, but they usually are, so they’re not the best barometers.  As the midnight deadline approached, I finally got the story whittled down to 994 words, and I was pretty happy with the story I submitted.  Here’s my title and synopsis:

A Long, Bloody Road - As time runs out for her son, Sarah’s not afraid to spill a little blood to save his life.

Have you participated in NYC Midnight’s flash fiction challenges before?  Which genres would you like to get?  Which genres would you dread?

More Micro-fiction

 Last week I participated in the first round of NYC Midnight’s micro-fiction challenge.  It’s a good thing we were allowed to submit three entries, because the reactions I got in various places really drove home how subjective this whole writing thing can be.  NYCM provides forums where you can post your stories for feedback, and there the overwhelming favorite was the one on domestic violence.  However, I also posted them on twitter, and the favorite was the poop joke – I even got retweeted by several people I didn’t know, which felt awesome.  But when it came time for the judges to pick the top 25 from each group to move on to the voting round, the only one of mine they selected was the one about the reluctant wedding:  Sick of being poor, Amy clasped the withered hand of her rich groom & choked out the words, “I do.” 

Even though I didn’t feel that was my strongest of the three, I was just happy one of mine was moving on to the next step.  So then NYCM had the public vote on their favorites.  The three with the most votes in each group (plus two picked by the judges) would move on to the final round.  I was surprised to find out last night that my wedding story had the second highest amount of votes in my group, so thank you to everyone who voted for me. 

That meant today was the finals, and all 100 writers who moved on were assigned the same word: oxygen.  Today was crazy busy with some high stress things happening, so I didn’t have time to angst and fret over my entries like I usually do.  Fortunately, three ideas came to me very quickly, and arrived pretty much already in bite-sized chunks, so I did not have to spend forever trying to whittle them down to less than 100 characters.  Considering the very small amount of time I had to work on them, I’m pretty happy with what I submitted.

1.  Amy told him sex without oxygen would be a rush. A belt one notch too tight makes her a millionaire.

2.  The greedy fire consumed the room’s oxygen making her husband’s death less painful than Sue planned.

3.  Despondent from being the 3rd wheel, Oxygen split from the Hydrogens, flinging the world into chaos.

After I wrote #1, I was trying to find a three-letter name (have to keep it short!), and I picked ‘Ami.’  Then my brain started itching thinking I’d already used it before.  So I looked up my first round stories and saw that I'd used ‘Amy’ in the wedding one that advanced me to the finals.  Then I realized this new one actually made a perfect sequel for the wedding one and changed the name to ‘Amy’ to match. 

Should I write a third one where Amy gets caught to make it a trilogy?  What micro-stories can you come up with for ‘oxygen’?

WriteOnCon Returns

Are you guys participating in WriteOnCon this week?  If you’re a writer, and especially if you write for the under 18 crowd, you should check out the information-y awesomeness over there immediately.  This is the second year for WriteOnCon, which is an online writer’s conference for kidlit writers taking place August 16-18. 

While there are live events like Q&A sessions, the best part is that all of the content remains available throughout the year.  So if this is a busy week for you, you can wait until your schedule is less hectic to visit and absorb the mind-blowing amount of information.  In fact, I found it pretty overwhelming last year, so popped back in over the ensuing months to reread some of the posts that really resonated with me.

Another fantastic aspect is the forums where you can meet and interact with fellow writers.  They also have a number of critique forums available – you can post your query, first 250 words, or first five pages and fellow participants will offer feedback.  An exciting component they’ve added this year is Ninja Agents, which are agents who anonymously drop in (they are color coded) and offer feedback on what you’ve posted.  I posted my query, 250 words, and five pages last night, and within an hour, one Ninja Agent had provided feedback on my first 250 words and another Ninja Agent had commented on my first five pages.  They both said my writing had a great voice (yay!!) and asked a few questions that have me questioning if I’ve started my story in the right place.  While I have a lot to think about now, it’s invaluable to have a chance to improve my beginning before I start querying.

The most amazing part about all of this is that the conference is FREE!!  They do have a place set up for donations, and I encourage anyone who gets something out of the conference to donate a little if they can.  I thought this was a fantastic event last year, and I definitely can’t wait to see what they have in store for us this year.

Did you attend WriteOnCon last year?  Are you participating this year?  Are you putting anything up on the forums to be critiqued? 

Keeping It Short and Sweet

NYC Midnight is a group that runs all types of contests throughout the year where they challenge participants to be creative in a short amount of time, whether it’s writing screenplays, short stories, micro stories, or even making movies.  Depending on the contest, participants are assigned a genre and other parameters, and then have a time limit for producing their work of art. 

One of my favorite contests for the past several years has been the Tweet Me a Story challenge.  We are assigned a word and have only a few hours to create complete stories in 140 characters that incorporate the exact word.  Apparently NYCM decided that wasn’t enough of a challenge, so this time we have to create stories only 100 characters long.  Yikes!

Today was the first round of the micro-fiction contest, and I was assigned the word ‘words.’  I wasn’t very inspired, because first of all, it sounds weird to say, “My word is ‘words.’”  But also because ‘words’ is not one of those words (see what I mean?) that has more than one meaning, so there’s not much to play with in terms of using one of the more obscure definitions. 

We are allowed to submit three entries, and I had six ideas I played around with and tweaked at all day.  When the midnight deadline rolled around for me to submit, these are the three I turned in:

1.  Sick of being poor, Amy clasped the withered hand of her rich groom & choked out the words, “I do.”

2.  As her husband aimed his gun, Tanya smiled - her daring words had finally freed her from his fists.

3.  Sam told him to sit, but the dog confused his words; now the priceless rug is peppered with turds.

Have you ever participated in any of NYCM’s contests?  Have you written micro-fiction before?  What micro-fiction can you come up with for the word ‘words’? (never stops being weird)