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15 Minute Tweet Tales

I’ve mentioned before how much fun I have with the Tweet Me a Story contests run by NYC Midnight.  The challenge of creating a complete story in such a small space gives me a writer’s high (which thankfully involves much less sweat than a runner’s high).  In a seemingly random segue, the other day I unearthed a 2011 Merriam-Webster’s word-a-day calendar I bought last year and promptly forgot about as soon as the sparkly ball dropped.  Not wanting to waste those 365 treasured words, I’ve decided to use the old calendar for a daily tweet story challenge.  

Each day a new year-old word will be the prompt for a tale told in less than 140 characters.  But since I tend to obsess over and tweak my stories to death, I’m giving myself a time limit for each one.  Once I tear off the calendar page to reveal the new word, I'll only have fifteen minutes to craft my masterpiece, and then I’ll tweet the story, no matter how much it makes me cringe.  

This daily exercise will be helpful in many ways.  The most important being that by challenging myself to do this every day, I’ll exercise my writing muscles even if I don’t have time to work on my longer pieces. Also, the theory is the new words will actually stick in my forgetful brain once I’ve created a story using them (and an arsenal of big words is always better, right?).
 
I hope other people will participate, since my favorite part of the NYCM contests is reading the variety of stories everyone else produces using the same word.  Maybe you can’t commit to a tweet tale every day, but if you have a few minutes to kill, join the fun and stretch yourself creatively.  I’ll use the hashtag #15tt (for fifteen minute tweet tales) when tweeting the word of the day and my resulting tale.  And even though it uses up five of the precious 140 characters, I hope others also use the #15tt hashtag if they play along, so we can easily find and read their tweet tales.
15 Minute Tweet Tales #15tt
Each Tuesday I’ll bundle my tweet tales from the previous week in a post on the blog and invite others to share their tweet tales in the comments.  Yeah, I know Tuesday is a random day for a round-up post, but I just love the alliteration of Tweet Tales Tuesday.  
 
And while I’m not an expert at writing micro-fiction, here are a few of my tweet stories from past NYCM contests as examples (I've bolded the assigned word from NYCM):
 
She caressed the sway back of her dying horse, overwhelmed by childhood memories. Sobbing, she loaded him on a trailer bound to nowhere.
 
Comrades lost to roadside bombs. Buddies sent home draped in flags. The numb marine didn’t shed a tear until he left his Baghdad pup behind.
 
The dusty dolls stuffed in the closet mourn silently as their no-longer-little girl tries on outfits for a less innocent game of pretend.  
 
I pretend we’re driving to the dog park. He knows I’m lying, but wags his tail through the pain. It will all be over soon. 
 
Deep below the frigid water, Jack finally finds his treasure - the sun sparkling like gold on waves too far to reach with an empty tank.
 
I’m looking forward to creating and reading new tweet tales throughout the year!  
 
Have you ever written any micro-fiction?  Are you going to craft some tweet tales this year?  Don't forget to use the hashtag #15tt if you post your tales on twitter.
 
Read my 15 Minute Tweet Tales: Week 1  Week 2  Week 3  Week 4  Week 5 
 
 

YALL Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

Y’all, when I first heard about YALLFest coming to Charleston, I was downright giddy about the chance to hear so many illustrious YA authors speak in one place.  Even better, I wouldn’t have to spend a single cent – not only were the events free, but since it was happening in my backyard, I didn’t have to pony up for travel expenses.  And now that it’s over, I’m still amazed that I got such a whopping dose of inspiration for FREE - always a bonus element of awesomeness for a penny pincher like me.  

On Saturday morning, with butterflies doing excited swoops in my stomach, I puttered down the Writers during YA Smackdown at YALLFestroad to Charleston.  Now even though I technically knew this was a young adult book festival, during the months of anticipation, the event had morphed into a writers’ conference in my head, so I was a little confused when I walked into the room and half the audience was middle school students.  Since the first panel featured the middle grade authors Pseudonymous Bosch, Kaleb Nation, Lisa Brown and Adele Griffin, the room was filled with fans so excited to see them, they were practically dancing in their chairs.  After doing the ‘duh’ forehead smack, I readjusted my expectations, and the day became less about learning about the craft of writing and more about being inspired by these amazing authors.  Just watching the kids lean forward in their seats, delightedly drinking in every word from their author idols, made me even more determined to be on a similar panel one day.

Writers during YA Smackdown at YALLFestThe day was packed with interesting panels with fun titles like: Fangs Among Friends; Demons, Witches, and Casters, Oh My!; and Reality Bites.  And the authors were so entertaining – not only were they funny, but they offered great tidbits of advice.  My only regret is that I didn’t have time to read more of their books before the festival.  I’ve been so bad about reading in the last few years, and my resolve to read-n-feed has sadly sputtered (I smell a New Year’s resolution!).  But looking on the bright side, I finally figured out what to put on my Christmas list, since it is now overflowing with titles from the YALLFest authors like Carrie Ryan, David Levithan, Sarah Rees Brennan, Heather Brewer, and Beth Revis, and too many others to name (click here for the full list of YALLFest authors and be sure to add them to your reading list).  I’m practically drooling in anticipation of reading all of them, especially Katie Crouch's The Magnolia League, since it features hoodoo magic like my current short film High Heels and Hoodoo

As inspiring as listening to the authors was, my favorite part was sharing the day with old and new writing friends.  It was so cool having my writer friends from different parts of my life coming together in one place to talk about writing and YA books.  Kathleen Fox, Lisa Downey, and Jillian Gregory Utley were there from my local writing group.  I was able to get reacquainted with Kami Kinard and Rebecca Petruck, two talented and fun writers I met at a SCBWI writing conference.  I also had the chance to catch up with Rebecca Enzor, Mina Mahal, and Sarah Turpin Leyland, local writer friends from NaNoWriMo.  I also ran into Leah Rhyne, a friend from my old job at Blackbuad, who I only found out was a fellow writer after I quit to write.  I also got to meet new writer friends like Debra Rook.  It was great to have a chance to connect with other writers when it’s usually such a solitary activity.  I have faith that these talented ladies will end up on similar panels some day, and I just hope I’m lucky enough to be sitting up there with them!

Thank you so much to Jonathan Sanchez of Blue Bicycle Books and Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl for organizing such a fantastic event!  I hope it’s just the first of many!

Were you able to attend the YALLFest?  If so, what was the best part for you?  If not, have you been to a writing event lately that inspired you?  And could I possible fit any more links in a single blog post?

Third Campaigner Challenge - Party Girl

With all the preparations for making the new movie, this past month has flown by in a blur.  I almost missed the deadline for the Third Campaigner Challenge – Show Not Tell, but I wanted to make sure I participated in all three challenges, so I’ve thrown something together to squeeze in right before the deadline.  Here are the rules:

Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:
     • that it’s morning,
     • that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
     • that the MC (main character) is bored
     • that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
     • that something surprising happens.
Just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: "synbatec," "wastopaneer," and "tacise."   (NB. these words are completely made up and are not intended to have any meaning other than the one you give them).

I showed all the elements, involved all five senses, and included the three made-up words.  And even though it wasn't a requirement for this challenge, my story clocks in at exactly 300 words.  My entry is number 128, so if you like it, please go here and vote for it.  Thank you!

Party Girl

Deena sighed and took another swig from her silver flask.  She almost gagged as the bitter coffee invaded her mouth, but she needed the jolt to stay awake - the constant shushing of the synbatec waves had Girl at beachnumbed her brain.  The flask failed to keep the coffee warm, but was part of her cover, along with the short, clingy dress and forced drunken giggles.

Two days ago, a fourth party girl had been discovered under the pier, stabbed and mutilated.  Deena and her partner Bill were the best in the department, so the police chief had ordered them to stakeout the scene using her as bait.  But the sky had transitioned from black to purple to pink with no appearance from the killer.

The wind shifted, and her nose twitched as Bill’s body odor drifted from where he hid behind the dunes.  She called out, “He’s not going to show.  Go on home to be with your family.”

“It’s not safe to leave you here.”

Deena bit back a tacise retort.  “He only strikes at night, and besides, I’m armed.”

There was only a slight hesitation before Bill’s wastopaneer voice rumbled, “Fine, I’ll see you tonight for round two.”

A few minutes later, Deena sensed someone approaching from her left.  A silky voice enveloped her.  “Hello, beautiful.”

She rewarded him with a wide smile.

He wrapped a warm hand around her arm and pulled her to her feet.

She reached into her purse and curled her fingers around the handle of her weapon.

He leaned down to whisper in her ear, his hot breath making her shiver.  “I’ve got a silly blonde ready and waiting.”

She kissed him.  “Thanks, Tony.  Now we can finally get this party started.”  She yanked the knife from her purse and strode towards the pier.

So did you participate in the beach party?  Let me know where to find your story so we can all wastopaneer together!

Photo credit to Jason Nelson

The Imago’s KISS

The ThesaurusInspiration strikes me from out of the cerulean celestial sphere, but my burgeoning story is a miasma of thoughts and notions carousing through my cranium.  So I whittle at the extraneous ideas until only the essential essence of my epic remains.  Then I meticulously select pulchritudinous words that paint resplendent pictures, endeavoring to create that sublime moment of synchronicity in which the movie playing in my imagination is perfectly projected onto the gray matter of my readers.

I present my paradisiacal prose to my betas, salivating in anticipation of their enraptured reactions.  They will guffaw, they will caterwaul, their lives will be altered forevermore.  Imagine my stupefaction and mortification when their only reaction is to oscitate and dismiss it as tedious. 

Tears cascade down my visage.  I glower into the mirror, shrieking, “Why, muse, why?”  But I gird my loins, determined to decipher the modus operandi for bridging the lacuna between the exquisite narration in my noggin and the lassitude produced by my opus.  Then the panacea wallops me like a multitude of cinder blocks, and I’m electrified by my sagacity.  To help my readers luxuriate in the splendorous wonder of my story, the solution is simple: use smaller words.

*     *     *

If you made it through all of that, then congratulations on your stick-to-it-ive-ness!  For any of my blog readers who are not part of the Campaign and are therefore wondering why my thesaurus puked all over this post, this is my entry for the Second Campaigner Challenge

Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
• include the word "imago" in the title
• include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!

I used all the required words, fit in the mirror reference, and it’s exactly 200 words.  Whew!  If you liked it, you can go here and vote for entry 159.

Since I struggle with the Keep It Simple, Stupid concept in my writing (aren’t the big words always better?!?), I thought this was a fun way to approach the challenge.  And I even learned some new five dollar words to add to my repertoire.  Uh oh, future readers, beware!

Did you participate in the Second Campaigner Challenge?  If so, did you go serious or silly?  What's your reaction to my grandiloquent post?

Photo credit to Brett Jordan

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

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’?