warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/savethee/jocelynrish/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Resolute Robby

Molly with the letter RToday’s short film for the letter R is a cute student short called Robby that clocks in at an easy-watching four and a half minutes.  The most impressive thing about it is that the animator made a worm (a worm!) absolutely adorable.  Worms are nasty, slimy things, yet this lil’ guy is so charming. I think it’s the giant, googly eyes – they make anything cute.  

If you have a few minutes to spare, give it a watch:

So what’s my main takeaway from this short?  That I want a magical purse like Robby’s backpack!  My current purse has some pretty impressive clown-car like abilities, spewing forth all manner of cosmetics and personal care items, but a girl never knows when she’s going to need a backhoe . . . or a stick of dynamite.

Like last week’s film, this one deals with the importance of determination and striving toward your goal.  Robby has equipped himself with the tools he needs to dig, similar to writers learning different “rules” and techniques and styles to stuff our writing packs with helpful tools.  Robby has a compass to help guide him, just like we need to map out a plan of what we want to accomplish with our writing.  

I even think the progression of Robby’s tools mirrors a writer’s approach to revising a first draft.  First we start by shoveling some shit around (or maybe that’s just me!).  Next we kind of pick at it until we realize that ain’t getting it done.  Then we bring out the big guns like drills, backhoes, and dynamite to blow whole chapters away and make massive changes.  Then we’re ready for the detailed edits, the kind done with a delicate tool like a plastic spoon.  Then finally, after lots of hard work, we reach our goal – the cherished completed manuscript aka top of the apple..  

And the very end reminds us that no matter how hard we try, sometimes life is going to gobble us up.  Oh, wait, that’s a sad, pessimistic ending.  How about instead, it’s a metaphor for an agent/editor loving our manuscript and gobbling it up in one sitting?  Yeah, that’s much better.

What did you think about Robby?  Does his trip through the apple work as a metaphor for revising?  How Resplendent is Molly with her letter R?

 

Odorous Opinion

Bailey with the letter OThe writing tip for this week involves olfactory imagery, which is imagery dealing with scent. Smells, feelings, and memories are closely entangled because the area of the brain that processes smells is the same area that deals with emotions and memories.  This makes olfactory imagery a powerful tool for writers, since we can use it as a shortcut to connect with readers’ emotions.  

We all have scents that trigger certain memories.  Two examples for me are the smell of OFF bug spray, which always reminds me of a camping trip I took to Canada while in the Girl Scouts; and the smell of vinegar, which reminds me of dyeing Easter eggs at my grandmother’s house.  Each reader will have their own specific scent memories, but there are also some that seem mostly universal such as freshly cut grass, baking cakes, and sunscreen.  The most powerful scents are those that trigger emotions and memories from childhood, so those are the ones to really tap into when describing a scene.

We’ve all heard the writing advice to employ all five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) when describing things, since it adds life to your writing by helping the reader fully experience the world you’ve created.  I’ve even heard the suggestion to assign a different color highlighter to each sense and go through your manuscript marking each as it appears so you can visually see where the holes are for the various senses.  This strategy appeals to the OCD organizer part of me, but I also think it runs the risk of being ‘productive’ procrastination.  Most writers rely on sight and hearing to describe things, so it’s probably safe to assume you need to add more smell, taste and touch to your writing.  Even worse, seeing those gaps in bold colors might tempt you to fill them in ways that are forced rather than organic, something like:

Tina and her new foster child sat in the Waffle House not saying a word as the rain drummed a staccato beat on the roof.  The glare from the fluorescent lights highlighted the bruises on his cheek.  The comforting smell of butter and pancakes worked their magic, and he started telling her about the last fight with his dad.  Her fingers itched to hold his hands in support, but she knew that would frighten him, so ran them along the smooth, cold surface of the plastic booth.  Her stomach was growling so she leaned forward to lick a spot of sweet maple syrup off the table.

Of course this is an extreme example, but trying to fit in every sense in every scene can end up being a distraction to the actual story.  And you can also end up having your characters do really strange things to cover a sense, especially taste.

So while it is important to use all five senses in your writing, especially smell because of its powerful association with feelings and memories, make sure you use a balanced hand when doing so.  Don’t ruin the meal by dumping in a container of spices when a dash would do.  

What scents trigger memories for you?  Do you do anything specific to make sure you cover all five senses in your writing?  How Outstanding is Bailey with her letter O

Movie Madness on My Mind

Molly with the letter MIt’s Short Story Saturday, and since the letter is M that means the genre is Mystery for a story stuffed full of M words.  But first off, I have to apologize for this weak effort.  I thought about just posting a giant “M.I.A” for today’s post along with the picture of Molly and her M.  You see, today is the sneak peek screening of my new movie (extra points for my distraction being an M word?), and I’ve been in high anxiety mode preparing for it.  And since my ol’ friend procrastination was firmly in control during March, I didn’t get any posts written ahead of time.  However, I decided I could muster up a micro-mystery instead of completely missing the boat, so here it is in all its “glory.”

A Mangled Mystery

Mary Madison met a magnetic man at the museum.  He was charming, moneyed, smart, and had the most melodic voice.  They fell madly in love and were married within the month.
 
Then Mary went missing.
 
Had he moved her to a marvelous mansion in the Mediterranean?  Or was it murder most foul?
 
Therein lies the mystery. 
 
Yeah, I’m more than a little embarrassed  I posted that, but I didn’t want to skip a day.  I hope to be back on track on Monday.  Wish me luck with the movie screening!
 
So what happened to poor Mary?  Was this the most pathetic attempt at a mystery you've ever read?  How Magnificent is Molly with her letter M?

It’s versus Its Insanity

Molly with the letter IAnother common issue I see when critiquing is mixing up it’s and its.  The confusion is understandable, since apostrophes can be used both to show possession and to take the place of letters in a contraction.  I’m not going to claim I never mix them up, especially when I’m typing quickly, but I do use a trick that helps keep me on track most of the time.  

 

First the explanation:

Its = possessive
When thinking about possessives, apostrophes naturally come to mind like - 
 
The man’s laugh made me cringe.
 
The girl’s freckled face peered through the window.
 
- therefore when using its as a possessive, some automatically think it should have an apostrophe: It’s fur was brown.  But this is incorrect, since its is a possessive adjective like his, her, your, our, my, their, and whose.  All these words demonstrate possessives WITHOUT an apostrophe, like – 
 
His laugh made me cringe.
 
Her freckled face peered through the window.
 
Its fur was brown.
 
Since its is a possessive adjective, it does not need an apostrophe, just like his.  If you’re tempted to use an apostrophe with its to show possession, think about how funny it would look if you tried that with his -> hi’s
 
It’s = contraction
It’s is a contraction for it is.  In a contraction, the apostrophe takes the place of a letter(s) - in this case the letter i.  And what better symbol to stand in for an i than an apostrophe?  If you squint a little, an apostrophe looks like a mutated i. Try it:  The circle part looks like the dot above an i, and the dangling part looks like a small, withered version of the base of an i.  So when I’m trying to remember the correct usage, I always think about the apostrophe like a shrunken substitute i when it and is get smushed together.
 
Now the trick:
 
Every time I write/edit the letters i-t-s, I immediately read it in the sentences as it is.  If it is makes sense in the sentence, then I add in the shrunken substitute i - the apostrophe - since that means i-t-s is the contraction (it’s).  If it is sounds funny in the sentence, then I leave out the apostrophe since that mean i-t-s is the possessive (its).  This keeps me straight every time.  So if you have trouble with it’s versus its, then get in the habit of reading every single instance of i-t-s as it is to help you decide whether it needs that substitute shrunken i () or not.
 
Does this help clear up potential it’s versus its issues?  Do you have any tips/tricks for keeping them straight?  How Irresistible is Molly with her letter I?
 
And remember: Today is the last day to enter my contest, so click here and get your guesses in by midnight!

Temporarily Tweet Tales Sunday Week 13

15 Minute Tweet TalesWith the Blogging from A to Z challenge happening all month, I wasn’t sure what to do about posting my weekly 15 Minute Tweet Tales roundup.  My agenda designated Tuesday for writing tips, so the tweet tales didn’t fit that theme, nor did they fit in with the daily letters.  I could have just added them to the end of my tip post, but that would have made it even longer.  And I thought about doing two posts on Tuesday, but that seemed excessive.  Since the A to Z challenge gives the bloggers Sunday off for good behavior, I’ve decided to use Sundays for the tweet tales this month.  Because I didn’t post on Tuesday, there are more tweets than usual this time:

3/28 – Who’d have guessed rescuing animals would be her hamartia? But the injured wolf didn’t appreciate being reprimanded with a newspaper.
 
3/29 – They got a kick out of his waggish pranks until the night 1 went horribly wrong. 2 lives destroyed–1 in jail, the other in the ground.
 
3/30 – The poetaster considered himself a lyrical genius with gems like: Roses, how they smell so sweet/But not as great as this candy treat.
 
3/31 – Her expression remained sanguine as a sanguine flood swept the kitchen floor. She’d never be suspected of brutally murdering her dad.
 
4/1 – Frank is determined to pull off the ultimate April Fools’ prank so his friends will forever use antonomasia by calling him The Joker.
 
4/2 – Mocked by the judges for his looks despite his stellar voice, the disaffected contestant took an actual dump on stage. Reality indeed.
 
4/3 – Astrid always knew she’d be a star. But it was her fall off stage, not her stellar voice, which turned her into a YouTube sensation.
 
4/4 – As she searched the dumpster for food, she remembered her pridian life before the crash when she was blind to people living this way.
 
4/5 – I hoick the dog’s leash to keep him from licking his owner’s blood. I lead away my new pet, knowing I’ll finally win at Westminster.
 
4/6 – Mary knew how people would die, but only 30 seconds before it happened, making her clairvoyant abilities more a tragedy than a gift.
 
4/7 – The alien watched reality TV to form a pidgin before 1st contact, but the humans didn’t respond well to “I’m not here to make friends.”
 
4/8 - Tim threw his bowl at the wall & the oatmeal began to flocculate on the floor. The dog thought it was great. The dad missed the mom. 
 
In reading back over the tweet tales, I discovered two things. One, I used the word ‘stellar’ on 4/2, which was the day before ‘stellar’ actually ended up being the word of the day.  Weird!! *cue Twilight Zone music*  Two, on 4/5 it appears that while trying to shrink and juggle words to get it under 140 characters, I accidentally left out a word when I tweeted it.  I’ve fixed it for the blog post.
 
If you celebrate Easter, I hope you’re having a very happy one.  This is a picture of my brother, sister, and me last night.  Yes, we are dying eggs.  Yes, we are in our pajamas.  Yes, we are all in our thirties.  And, yes, we will be hiding them today!!
 
Rish kids dying eggs
 
And if Easter isn’t your thing, I hope you’re having a relaxing/productive Sunday (whichever you prefer).  
 
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.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?
 
And don't forget, I'm having a contest here.  Guess the most dog breeds correctly and win a prize.

Grasping at Love

Bailey with the letter GAccording to my agenda, today is Short Story Saturday.  Since the letter is G the genre is Gothic fiction, and I’ve added lots of G words.  I’ve never written Gothic before, so it was fun to tackle the melodramatic tone of those romance-horror stories. 

Grasping at Love
Gusting winds whipped Gretchen’s billowing nightshirt around her ankles, threatening her balance.  She fought to stay upright at the top of the cliff, not wanting to accidentally plummet off the edge.  If she was going to plunge to her death in the tempestuous seas below, she wanted it to be of her own choosing.  After all, nothing about her life to this point had been due to her decisions.
 
Her father had chosen to greedily swindle fellow members of the gentry out of their savings.  Her mother had chosen to send her away to safeguard her from the guilt and gossip.  The governess service had chosen to assign her to Grayson Manor to care for Gabriella.  And even Lord Grayson had chosen to pursue a romance with her.
 
Initially her heart sang with glee, having such a handsome gentleman court her.  Now Gretchen felt glum due to what she’d discovered in the cellar.  Painful groans had roused her from sleep and led her to the gloomy passages under the Manor.  In the flickering candlelight, she stumbled over a grisly gutted carcass.  Before she could even scream, ferocious growls sent her fleeing into the night.
 
Now she glanced up at the gleaming moon, wondering what kind of man kept a viscous beast like that in his home while his innocent niece sweetly slumbered upstairs?  And how was she going to save Gabriella and herself from a gruesome fate? 

Gothic manor

A low grumbling behind her raised goose bumps on her 

skin.  She turned and gasped at what she saw.  A giant, fur-covered creature with a lupine muzzle and teeth stood on two legs like a man.  With a graceful gait, it started toward her.  She took a step back and slipped off the edge of the cliff.  

She screamed and gripped a branch to stop her descent.

The beast galloped to the edge and grabbed at her with deadly claws.  She gaped up at him in terror, not sure which fate was worse – torn to shreds by the beast or smashed to bits on the wave-splashed rocks.

Then she noticed the moonlight glinting off the monster’s green eyes.  She knew those eyes.  She’d spent hours beside the fireplace gazing into them as she and Lord Grayson shared precious moments together.  Gretchen didn’t know how or why, but this monster was the man who filled her soul with gladness.

She realized for once in her life the choice was hers:  a quick, painless death on the rocks below or taking her chances with the beast who was her beloved.  She reached up and clasped his paw in her gentle grasp.
 
 
Do you read or write Gothic fiction?  What do you think of Gretchen’s decision? Doesn’t Bailey look Gorgeous with her G?
 
Are you good at guessing dog breeds?  Then click here for the chance to win a prize.
 
Gothic Manor photo credit to PsychoPxL

Flying Books? Yes Please!

Freya with FIt’s finally Friday!  And according to my agenda that means it’s Film Friday where I share a short animated film that tells its story without a single word of dialog.  With today’s letter being F, I’m pleased to present The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (TFFBOMML), which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film this year.  At fifteen minutes, it’s on the long side for a short, but if you love books – reading them and/or writing them – then you really should watch this delightful film at some point.  

 
I hesitate to say too much about it lest I ruin the magic that makes it so special. Plus, I imagine it means different things to viewers depending on their relationship with reading and writing.
 
The first time I watched it, I got teary-eyed at several points, and by the end I was full on snotty-nosed-need-a-tissue-to-mop-up-my-face crying.  I doubt most people have that reaction, but I’m at a point in my struggles with being a writer that it was exactly the catharsis I needed.  Although I do think most readers and writers will feel the charm of TFFBOMML in some way.
 
I’ve always loved books – their stories transported me to different worlds that often felt more real than the one I was living in, and I think TFFBOMML really captures that feeling.  And even though I was a computer science minor during college, I have completely resisted the move to e-readers.  As I writer I understand the magic is in the story no matter how it’s delivered, but as an old-school reader, I love books.  I love wandering along the shelves pulling out one on this shelf or test driving another on that shelf.  I love the smell of the pages.  I love the feel of the paper.  So for me, that scene where he brings a book back to life by reading it perfectly conveys the magical connection between books and their readers.
 
But where TFFBOMML turned me into a weepy mess was at the end as the man completes his journey as a writer.  Being a writer is a long, hard road, but we travel it hoping for the day our words touch others. This film beautifully expresses how all the stories that came before help our imaginations soar until the day we’re ready to release our own story that will in turn help someone else fly to new heights.  It truly is a magical process.
 
What did you think about The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore?  Did it touch you as a reader/writer?  And how Fantastic is Freya with her letter F?
 
Also, if you haven't entered yet, I'm having a contest here.

Comma Confusion

Chloe with the letter CMy agenda tells me it’s Tips Tuesday, which means I’ll share a writing tip.  And since today is the letter C, I’m going to talk about commas.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to stir up a heated debate about the Oxford comma (for the record, I’m pro Oxford comma, and they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead, typing fingers).  My comma tip concerns commas and conjunctions.

When critiquing, one of the most common issues I notice is the misuse of the comma before a conjunction.  In many sentences, the comma is needed, but it seems to have gone on vacation.  In other sentences, the comma is not needed, yet it insists on sticking its nose where it’s not wanted.  So how do we remember whether to use a comma in front of a conjunction or not?

When I consulted my friend Google, he gave me tons of links with rules mentioning independent clauses, dependent clauses, compound components, coordinating conjunctions – the types of boring phrases that made me tune out during elementary school grammar lessons.  If you want more technical explanations, you can check out Grammar Girl or university resources.  But when I’m writing/editing, instead of thinking about the whys and wherefores, it boils down to one simple test – can the parts before and after the conjunction stand on their own as separate sentences?

For these types of sentences, I like to think of the comma as a faux period... the substitute period... a placeholder period as the sentence decides to progress some more without a full stop.  

So when I’m writing and come up with a sentence like -
 
The adorable dog ran outside and chased a squirrel up a tree.
 
- I have to decide whether there should be a comma before the ‘and’.  If I think about the potential comma as a period, then I can see it doesn’t make sense to add a comma – ‘chased a squirrel up a tree’ does not stand on its own as a complete sentence.  
 
Now if the sentence were instead - 
 
The adorable dog ran outside, and she chased a squirrel up a tree.
 
- then you do need the comma because it’s two complete thoughts.  If you were to read that comma as a period, then both sentences easily stand on their own.  
 
I hesitate to mention this because I don’t want to confuse the issue, but some experts state that from a stylistic standpoint you can omit the comma between two independent clauses if they are both short.  This is a judgment call, but make sure you understand the rule before you break it.  
 
In case you need a refresher, a conjunction is a connecting word, and you can use the mnemonic FANBOYS to remember them:
For 
And
Nor
But
Or
Yet
So
 
And remember, to decide whether you need a comma in front of one of these FANBOYS words or not, pretend like it would be a period if you put it there.  If both resulting sentences are complete sentences, then add the comma.  If they don’t make complete sentences, then skip the comma.
 
Does this help clear up potential comma confusion?  Do you have any comma tips? How Cute is Chloe with her letter C?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 12

15 Minute Tweet TalesIf you follow the #15tt hashtag on Twitter, you will have noticed I’m not the only one using it now.  Two new Twitter peeps have joined me in this daily writing challenge.  A few Twitter friends have participated in the past when a particular word caught their eye, but Steve (@shyrewode) and Alex (@tomo4242) appear to be making it a habit.  I’m thrilled to have other writers playing along, and their clever tweet tales are fun to read.
 
Here are my 15 Minute Tweet Tales for this past week:
 
3/21 - Mom got that basilisk look on her face, so we scattered to our rooms and prayed Dad got home before she found the belt we’d hidden.
 
3/22 - My dad says I should join the Army to prove my mettle. I think banging his mistress for the past six months substantiates my manhood.
 
3/23 - Her overweening confidence in her looks made guys bypass her for her plainer friends. She ended up a bitter, but beautiful, old maid.
 
3/24 - Mary offered a litany of reasons they were doomed. Jim agreed with every word, but then again when had love ever made a lick of sense? #15tt
 
3/25 – The homely contestant won The Bachelorette’s “heart” in a Garrison finish since the other two men were more interested in each other. #15tt
 
3/26 – He thought he was having a clandestine affair w/ a hot babe. In fact his wife hired the escort so she could watch trashy TV in peace. #15tt
 
3/27 – No one ever paid him any attention, so Stan hired a kid from the high school band to play a tucket as he walked into work on Monday. #15tt
 
Garrison finish was another one of those tough ones because it ate up so many characters, but it’s a fun term I’m happy to add to my vocabulary.
 
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.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?

ABNA Excitement

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardIt seems that ABNA only likes me on even-numbered years, so thank goodness it’s 2012!  If you’re interested, you can read about my roller-caster ride with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) in this post.  Suffice it to say, I’ve already passed “third time’s a charm” with this contest.  But it’s a great opportunity for feedback, so I entered again.  

I was especially nervous about the pitch round this year, since I’d modified my old query with some “quirky” changes.  Last month when they announced the writers who were advancing to the next round based on the pitches, I was so relieved and excited to find my name on the list.  It gives me a boost of confidence in the new version of my query.  

Since I’ve been testing out a new “chill” attitude this go round (ha – yeah, right!), I tried not to think about the contest until the next round results were announced.  When the email popped into my inbox on Tuesday saying the results were posted, my stomach danced a fancy little jig despite my determination to stay calm.  So with a trembling hand, I clicked on the list and scrolled down... and there was my name!  Hooray, I’m a quarterfinalist again!  The two reviews from the Vine Reviewers (the judges for this excerpt stage) had some really happy-grin-inducing things to say about my first two chapters.  One even compared it to Christopher Pike, which had me doing backflips.    

Now the wait is on while people from Publishers Weekly read and review the entire novel.  SCARY!  This is where I was cut two years ago, and since I haven’t changed the manuscript, I’m not expecting to progress any further.  But you never know, so I will be biting my fingernails to nubs while I pretend I’m totally calm.  

In the meantime, Amazon has made the excerpts of all the quarterfinalists available for reading, rating, and reviewing.  It’s only the first two chapters of my novel, but if you’ve wanted a sneak peek at what I’m working on, it’s there for you to read.  The ratings and reviews don’t affect the judging or impact the contest in any way, but it’s always nice to hear what people think – what works and what doesn’t work.  

So if you’re interested in reading my excerpt for The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf (previously known as The Hunt), click here.  ABNA had some ugly formatting issues when they first posted everything.  I think they’ve now fixed everyone’s excerpts, but most of the pitches still have problems (missing paragraph breaks, dashes, and apostrophes), so don’t worry about my Product Description/pitch seeming off – I promise I usually punctuate correctly.  To read the excerpt, you can use a Kindle, or if you don't have one then either use one of the Kindle apps for your computer or phone (which are free downloads) or the Kindle Cloud Reader option which works through you browser.  To download it, click the Buy now with 1-Click button (don’t worry, it’s FREE!)  It will ask which reader option you use, so pick the one you want and start reading.  

Like I mentioned, at this point reviews and ratings don’t help or hurt me, so I’m not launching a campaign begging people to read and review.  I just wanted to let anyone who might be interested know it’s available.  And if you do decide to leave a review – I really appreciate your time and effort!  

Do you have any experience with the ABNA competition?  Do you think you might enter in the future?  Is it okay to look like a silly fool while doing my happy dance?