Saturday, December 15, 2012 so brave a world.

"And the world will still be imperfect, because men are imperfect. Good men will still be killed by bad, or sometimes by other good men, and there will still be pain and disease and famine, anger and hate. But if you work and care and are watchful, as we have tried to be for you, then in the long run the worse will never, ever, triumph over the better. And the gifts put into some men, that shine as brightly as Eirias the sword, shall light the dark corners of life for all the rest, in so brave a world."
                                                                                   Susan Cooper, SILVER

....The above passage was sent to me last summer by a friend who knew what a traumatic few months my family had been going through. She knew that we all felt that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I put it on my bulletin board, and reread it many times over the last few months. It just seemed appropriate to include it here, today....

I woke up this morning with tears in my eyes and wondered why. Then I remembered the horrific events of yesterday, and knew why I cried in my sleep. All Americans cried yesterday, and most are still crying today as more and more of the details of the slaughter of twenty innocent children and six adults come to light.

I'm a teacher. I've been a teacher for most of my life, teaching in a variety of situations: horseback riding, painting, Sociology and Statistics, and the History of Musical Theatre. Yet today I ask myself, if I were a teacher at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, would I have been one of those heros, one of the teachers who gave their lives to save their students? I can only hope I would have been that brave.

How are you feeling today? Me...I've been pacing, I can't focus on doing anything, like beginning my holiday baking that I promised myself I would start today. I feel angry, I want to cry...and I do cry for no reason, but yet, I know there is a reason. I just can't put it into words that do the emotion justice. Anger, sorrow, hatred of someone unknown to me, grief...what else can I feel? Where is the happiness, the wonderful spirit of the holidays, the joyousness of looking forward to Christmas? Well, it's gone. Vanished. And I don't know if it will come back any time soon. Is it just me? No, I don't think so.

Some will say, okay, you must put it behind you and move on. You can't spoil Christmas for everyone else. But you see, I am not the one spoiling Christmas. Nor do I think that "everyone else" feels differently from me. How do you put such a horrific crime behind you and move on, as though nothing tragic has happened? I don't think you do. I think this crime will linger in all our minds and memories for months, if not years, to come. I think every time we bring it to our consciousness, we will feel the same sorrow, the same anger, that we all feel now. I think we will still come to tears when we think of those twenty small children who were massacred, and the six adults who gave their lives trying to save the children and fight off the gunman.

We may not be able to put it behind us and move on in the way some would like us to. But we must learn how to heal ourselves, to find and to spread the light we each carry within us to light up all the dark corners of our world. In so doing, we will heal the wounds inside our hearts and minds that this madman and his vicious crime have put there. Do I speak only for myself? I don't think so. I hope it is not so.

Do what you have to do, whether it's to laugh or to cry, to pray in a quiet corner, to reach out and hug your wife or husband or children or other family members, to take a quiet walk all by yourself...or even, to sit down and write something. Anything. Do what you need to do for yourself, and in doing that, whatever it is, you will find that quiet light burning inside, and you will be one of those who will light up the shadows and conquer the dark. 

For we, too, live in so brave a world.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Getting to Know Your Characters

How do you know your characters? Do you think them out in your head before starting to write? Do you do a character profile, or a character analysis? Many writers do one or the other, and some do all of them.

That's all well and good, but what happens to these profiles and analyses when the characters take their lives into their own hands and decide to do or say something entirely out of character for them? I have many writer friends who often bemoan the fact that here they are, way past the middle of their story, and one or another of their characters are taking that story in an entirely different direction. My daughter, who writes for adults, says that in one of her mystery stories the villain popped up at very near to the end, and was someone she had not even thought of as being the murderer. That can make things very interesting! And very difficult to resolve in a timely and logical manner.

One of the things I've learned about characters is that they are most often far more complex than what I thought when I was developing them. After all, they come from my imagination, right? True, but that doesn't mean they are going to stay true to form, that is. So how do I...and with those who decide to be independent and go their own way? Well, I have them sit down and write ME a letter, telling me all about themselves, what they want, how they plan to get it, and what they want ME to do with them. Sometimes those letters are short, sometimes they are 4 and 5 pages long, as was the case with my WIP's main character.

Below is an exerpt from one of the major antagonists in my paranormal novel. He wrote to me to explain why he was half human and half gargoyle. And why he might not be who I thought he was. The **** indicates other pasages I'm not quoting. See what you think.


My Mama and Papa were married very young, and according to Cajun traditions. Mama was very beautiful and many Young Bloods were after her, but the marriage was arranged by both parents. She was not happy and finally, she slipped away to New Orleans. There she met an older man who enticed her into an affair. She became pregnant, and this man wanted her to marry him. She refused and fled back to her husband, had me, and they both pretended everything was fine.

 But, you see, nothing was fine. The man who impregnated my mother was only half human. His other half was a warlock. He was so angry he wanted to place a spell on my mother, but the warlocks of his coven refused to allow him. When I was born, his son, his hatred transferred to me, and he demanded to be allowed to put a spell on me. The warlocks told him he could do so, but with two demands: one, I couldn’t be made a warlock, and two, since this man was so angry, he would lose his life if he put any kind of spell on me. He hated me and my mama so much he was willing to die in order to put a spell on me. At the age of ten, I would become half human and half gargoyle. He put this spell on me, and died within minutes after.
You see, I don’t know if I am evil or good. One of the gargoyles has more power over me than the others, and she…yes, there are female gargoyles…is a bad one. No matter how hard I resist, if she tells me to do something, I have no choice but to do it. There are times when I do something she has told me to do, and I know it is wrong but I have to do it, anyway. There are other times when she tells me something, and I don’t remember doing it. But I know I did.
Now, when I help Gabriela find the killer, I will be helping myself by proving it wasn’t me.
 There is only one problem. I may be the killer.
He was not who I had thought him out to be, nor did he fit the profile I had made of him. I was totally surprised by this letter. Perhaps, if your characters wrote letters to you, you would also be surprised by what you find out about them. Anyway, it's an interesting, fun, and for me, informative way to find out who your characters really are.
Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday's Six-Sentence Synopsis

Today is December 1st. Christmas is slightly more than 3 weeks off. I hope you're not like me, totally unprepared at this late date! Because I am totally unprepared...which means shopping has not begun, Christmas Day menu is not thought out, decorations have not been brought down from the attic, etc...I decided to do something different for my blog. At least for this week, since it's practically over and this is the first I've had time to think about blogging.

I'm going to give you a brief scenario, and ask you to give me a story synopsis in no less than three and no more than six sentences. Each sentence can be as long as you want, as long as it is grammatically correct, but there can be no more than six all together. Are you up for this?

She stood at the edge of the grass covered path, looking off into the distance. She was shrouded in mist, which played delicately among the trees like a fragile shawl beginning to slip away from one's shoulders. That mist, however, didn't cover the gun which hung from her left hand.

Who is she? Where is she going? What conflict does she face? Is the gun to aid in her conflict, to help her overcome an obstacle, it for her?

I hope you'll take a few minutes and play along with me!

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Do We Stop Giving Thanks?

Thanksgiving is over, and I'm all for a day of rest. I imagine for most people, Thanksgiving Day was a rather ordinary day...ordinary only in that you gather family and close friends together and have the usual turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce dinner, or whatever your personal traditional dinner is. You revel in the love you feel from every one around the dinner table. You treasure the time spent, when quite possibly "family" means pulling in relatives from all over the country and you know that doesn't happen often. It is, perhaps, the one day of the year that those you care about the most are all in one place at the same time, and you are right in the big middle.

For us, this Thanksgiving was very different. It is the first holiday since my son was diagnosed with a very rare form of dementia, and it was a day devoted to a multitude of feelings. Frustrations were high, with a little bit of anger underneath, love, disappointment, fear, surprise, tears, and not a little grief...all mixed up in such a way it was difficult to even sort them out. It was not our usual day, in any respect, and underlying everything was the thought in everyone's mind that this may well be the last Thanksgiving we have with my son.

We finished dinner, and continued our conversation without my son's interjections. I looked around the table and saw tears in my 21 year old grandson's eyes as he looked at his father. I knew what his thoughts were, and I knew they were the same in the minds of my husband, my wonderful daughter-in-law , and in the good friends who were present.

I started thinking about Thanksgiving, and what it was all about. I thought about  the word itself...Thanks Giving...and how we should be giving thanks to our Lord for all of our blessings. And then I looked at my son, and I wondered: Do I stop 'giving thanks' when I feel right now like there is so little to be thankful for? Where are my blessings now?

Right there, sitting at the table. That's where my blessings were, except for my daughter and her family, who couldn't be with us. I could look at my son, and not see him as he is, but as he was...a wonderful boy who grew into a handsome, intelligent, responsible man, husband, and father. He was my blessing every day of his life, and will be until there is no more life. My husband, my daughter-in-law, my grandson, friends...all are blessings in a personal world turned upside down by life's quirks.

Do we stop giving thanks? For a while this summer, it would not have done to ask me that question, for I was too hurt and too angry at God to give a responsible answer. Now, I know the answer is No, we don't. We each have our own blessings to be thankful for, even if the world has given us a rotten shake. After all, we can always look around and see someone whose "shake" has been even more "rotten" than ours.

This Thanksgiving was very different, very hard. Nevertheless, most of my blessings were right there at the table with me. Even so, today I felt the need to put my feelings here, for those to read who wished to do so. I may not be "purged" so to speak, but now I can go on to the other blessings around me, and get back to writing.

Thank you for listening.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Photographs In My MInd

You've reached a point in your novel where you are stuck. Usually it's right around the 8th or 9th chapter, which is right about in the middle of the story. You like the first part of the story, and you've already figured out the ending, but now you have to get from the beginning to the end, and you're stuck.

What do you do when this happens? And don't fib, you know it happens to all of us! Do you get up and take the dog for a walk? Clean the kitchen? Do some much-needed laundry? Or perhaps you just sit and stare into space...or maybe, at your screen saver.

I'm at that point...9th chapter, right on schedule, now how the heck to I get to the ending I have all planned out? I sat without hitting a key for so long today that my screen saver came on, and I found myself staring at some really lovely pictures.

Now those photographs are carefully saved in the back of my mind, and everywhere I look, there they are...

...a beautiful field, heavily covered with delicate, fern-like grasses, deep green in color. Tracks cut through the field, narrow, the dark-brown-almost black color of rich dirt, curving and finally disappearing in the distance...

...two tall trees, standing so close together their long slender branches and pointed leaves mingle with one another. You can't see the bottoms of these trees, for a thick fog rises from the ground and distorts everything it touches...

...a long pier rises from out of nowhere, and stretches far out into the sapphire-blue ocean, ending is a small gazebo...

Photographs in my mind. What stories they can conjure up! Who was driving through that green field, and where were they going? The tracks were too narrow for a modern car, so it must have been in the early 1920's when automobiles were just coming into their own. A young couple, seeking some privacy so they could spoon awhile?  A moonshiner sneaking out to his shack to see how many bottles he had stashed away that he could sell that night?

The thick fog rises from the ground to cover the bottoms of the trees, but what else does it cover? What secrets lie hidden beneath that seemingly benign element of weather? Will a runaway teen or an abused wife or a fleeing convict seek cover within that fog?

The long pier that seems to go on forever has its own secrets, as well. Who walked that endless length of wooden planks, only to stand beneath the gazebo and gaze out upon the water? Someone facing  her own mortality, as an incurable disease wracks her body? A young teen who has been bullied to the point of considering self-destruction? A writer who seeks the peace and solitude offered by the quiet waters below?

Photographs in my mind. Or in yours? What do you see?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Deer Who Loved a Dog

Gretchen was a Dachshund, not a Mini Dachshund, but smaller than normal for a registered Doxie. She loved the outdoors, particularly where she and her people had just moved to. A wide expanse of green lawn, held in by a short white picket fence, was all hers to roam, roll in, chase balls, and even to sit and gaze at the great forest beyond.

For the first few days, while the household was in the usual turmoil of moving in and getting settled, Gretchen would take her favorite toys outside and lie just inside the fence. The forest held many strange and wonderful smells for her to sniff, and perhaps, even to daydream a bit about where...or who...or what...those smells came from. Her tiny black nose would crinkle up and go a mile-a-minute, trying to track down and isolate each whiff that came to her.

Then one day, something more than a smell came up to the fence. Gretchen stood up and backed slowly away. She didn't bark. The something was large, very foreign to the little dog. She wasn't afraid, just wary. Her female person came out of the house, walked up to her, and said, "It's okay, Gretchen. It's just a deer, a doe, and she won't hurt you."

Her person picked Gretchen up and stood watching the doe watching Gretchen. The doe's nose twitched, she stretched her neck out over the fence and seemed to sniff the air. Satisfied that there was no danger on the other side of the fence, she turned and slowly moved away.

The next morning, Gretchen went out to lay in the sun on the deck. She had hardly laid down when something caused her hair to bristle. She growled low in her throat as she walked down the steps and over to the fence. She sat down, and stared at what was in front of her: 6 deer, 5 does and 1 buck.  The buck reached over the fence as far as he could. Gretchen stood her ground. He st--re--t--ch--ed
over the fence a little bit further. Gretchen moved a couple of inches forward. The buck reached towards her with his long tongue, barely missing her twitching little nose. Gretchen moved again, and this time, the buck's tongue reached her nose. He swished his tongue around and around while Gretchen stood stock still. Then, the buck drew back across the fence and moved away. Each of the does came forward, stretched their necks across the fence and touched Gretchen's nose. When the last doe had touched her, the small herd moved back into the forest.

For the next several years, the same does and buck  came every morning and evening to the fence, as Gretchen's people kept fresh hay for them to feed upon. Each year, one or more of the does brought their new born fawns to feed, and when they were old enough, they too reached over the fence to touch the little brown dog's cold, wet nose. Summer, winter, rain, shine, or snow, Gretchen went outside to spend time with the deer.

Then one day, Gretchen's life came to an end. She died peacefully in her persons' arms as they cried over her. They decided to bury her next to the place in the fence where the deer had come to visit, day and evening, year after year. They made a grave for her, and planted a small tree in the center. Then, they stood back and watched as the deer came to visit again. Only this time, there was no little dog to greet them.

The next morning, Gretchen's persons were standing on the deck when the deer came for their breakfast and their morning visit with Gretchen. Once again, she wasn't there. The buck walked over to the grave and sniffed around it. He leaned hard against the small picket fence. Again and again he pushed at the fence. One of the does came over to help him. They pushed. They pushed again. The fence gave way, and the two deer walked over it to reach the grave. They walked around and around the grave, while Gretchen's people watched in amazement. Then the rest of the small herd came over and walked around it. A moment more, and all of the deer laid down, surrounding the grave. They paid no attention to the humans watching them, stunned by what they were seeing.

After more than 1/2 hour, the deer finally rose, finished eating, and faded back into the forest. Evening came, and once again, the deer went to the grave, walked around it, and laid down in a circle.

For the next few months, day, evening, through hot sun, cold rain, and deep snow, the herd of deer went through the same routine, never missing a day. Then, sadly, Gretchen's people moved away, content only in knowing that their beloved companion was kept safe by the deer who loved her.


This is a true story, told to me only today by two of our best friends who came to visit and bring a new toy to our injured Corgi. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you felt the same awe ( and got the same goose bumps) as I did upon hearing it...the love of "wild" animals for one so small, not one of their own.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Paderewski and Paso Robles, California

After a more than six weeks absence, I'm back. I'm going a little out of my usual blog posts to talk some about one of the most famous composers of all time, and my own little Victorian town on the Central Coast of California.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born and raised in Poland and became one of the most revered concert pianists of all time. In 1913, however, his worldwide legacy as a pianist ended due to a combination of what we now call tendonitis and arthritis. He was looking for something to heal or help his pain, when his doctors told him of the healing waters of sulphur springs.

In Paso Robles, California, there are many, many underground sulphur springs. Somehow, the Polish doctors had heard of this tiny Victorian town ( not quite so tiny today, just small) and told Paderewski he must go at once to La Ciudad de El Paso de Robles, in the United States.

Paderewski arrived here fron San Francisco on January 17, 1913, in his own private rail car. Citizens from all over came to greet him, as most had not only heard and loved his music, but many played his concertos and solos themselves. Doctors here began his treatments with the sulphur waters, and amazingly, his hands began to heal.

Through the years, even though he began to tour again, he made Paso Robles his home, and even began buying thousands of acres here to become a "gentleman rancher." The main contribution he made to this town was the fostering of the great Zinfandel grape varietal, for which our town has become very famous.

Paderewski decried the terrible things that were happening in Poland during those years, and did not return to Poland until 1918, when the Versailles Treaty returned Poland to an independent country. He became the First Prime Minister of the Independent Poland until 1922, when he resigned and returned to international concert touring. He died in New York in 1941 and was temporarily buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1992 his body was returned to Poland, where it now lies in the Royal Crypt of the Warsaw Cathedral.

From 1913 until 1941, he returned often to Paso Robles. He owned two ranches with land that covered three miles east to west and four miles north to south, most of it planted in Zinfandel grapes. He was a highly respected and beloved member of this town.

In 1991, the Paso Robles town fathers decided to have a Paderewski Festival, highlighting his life and his music. Next Thursday, November 8th,  El Paso de Robles ( the Pass of the Oaks) will begin celebrating four days of the life and musical heritage of Ignacy Jan Paderewski in our 21st annual Paderewski Festival. At 12:30 on Saturday, November 10th, there will be an unveiling of a life-sized statue of Paderewski which will stand in our City Park near our historic Carnegie Library Museum.

At 4:00pm on Saturday we will host the  Paderewski Youth Piano Competition Recital.

We will have several Dignitaries representing the Republic of Poland staying here for the entire festival.

From a tiny Victorian town, once nothing more than a rest stop for weary stage coach travelers along the Camino Real Trail, to a small Victorian town now world-renown for Paderewski and  Zinfandel wine, El Paso de Robles has come a long way! We've only lived here 11 years, but we love this town and the great community spirit everyone here has. We are proud to live here and be a part of the "music and wine" heritage Paderewski left behind.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bye For A While

Due to serious family problems, I am taking a short hiatus from posting. I'm not shutting down the blog, and I will be back, but right now my physical, mental, and emotional energies need to be with my family, and what little writing on my WIP I can do.

To all my followers, I hope you will stick around until I get back.

Thanks for your understanding.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday's Thoughts: More Best Websites for Writers

Two apologies due, the first because I didn't post last Thursday as I said I would, and the second because I didn't post the websites as links, as my daughter said I should. I'll try to remedy at least the second this time.


All Freelance Writing
You can browse by category or search for specific paying freelance jobs.

Editor & Publisher
Classified section for the latest in writing, editing, and publishing job offers.

The Market List
This site specializes in market listings and resources for writers of children's books, science fiction, mysteries, and more.

Writer Gazette
This site offers easy access to contests, markets, advice, and job listings. Extensive offerings of free articles on virtually everything writing-related.


Resources for Children's Writers
Hundreds of links to helpful resources offering advice on crafting, publishing, and marketing books for young readers.

Quantum Muse
User-created site: SF and fantasy stories and artwork for others to read and admire.

Mystery Writing Is Murder
Blog brings insightful posts on what makes a successful mystery novel.

Murder By 4
Four suspense writers join forces and open up their writing lives on a blog, which is a must for all aspiring thriller writers.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America

Horror Writers Association

Mystery Writers of America

Poetry Society of America

Romance Writers of America


Brainy Quotes:
Hundreds of quotes from famous sources speaking to the risk, struggle, and rewards of writing.

Daily Writing Tips:
Helpful hints on grammar, punctuation, word choice, style, and more will come in handy when you least expect it.

Merrian-Webster Word of the Day:
Expand your vocabulary one day at a time.

Share information about nonfiction topics, or just scour the site for valuable information on all sorts of miscellanea. It's almost as addictive as reading Wikipedia!

I hope some of the sites will be helpful, informative, or maybe just fun to go to.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday's Thoughts: Best Websites for Writers

Thoughts for Tuesday concern some of the best websites for writers. I can't take credit for doing the research, Writer's Digest did, but I thought I would post some today and again Thursday. I'm hoping that at least some of them will be new to you, and of value.

Adventures in Agentland:
This blog fields practical questions about queries and submissions.

Literary Rambles:
Not an agent-run site, but it has a long list of "agent spotlights", comprehensive looks at individual agents seeking new clients in the genre.

Red Sofa Literary:
Good submission tips and general advice for writers, as well as "Red Sofa Chat" interviews with publishing pros and authors.

Critique Circle:
Writers of all ages and genres welcome in this active online writing workshop: resources for tracking submissions, generating characters, and measuring progress on manuscripts.

Critters Workshop:
Hosts a serious critique group for writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Review Fuse:
If you're willing to review others' work, you will get impartial evaluations of your own: must do four reviews to get three back, need a membership but it's FREE.

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing:
Thriller writer J.A.Konrath offers strong opinions on how to make a living as a genre writer as he blogs abut his ongoing experiments with both traditional and self-publishing.

Plot Whisperer for Writers & Readers:
If you're struggling with plot development, Award-winning writer and writing instruction Martha Alderson knows how to help.

Writer Beware Blog:
An industry watchdog keeps writers and publishing professionals up to date on the lastest scams, hoaxes, and schemes circulating around the industry.

Author and writing instructor Larry Brooks offers expert advice on story structure, character development, and other related topics.

Writer Unboxed:
A number of top-notch contributors from leading literary agents to bestselling authors offer valuable business and craft advice for all writers.

There are more to come on Thursday. Check these out and see which one might be of use to you.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writing Contests: Do We Need Them?

Have you ever entered a writing contest? I've entered several, never won one. I came in second one time, third another, Honorable Mention still another, and nothing but a nice note from the last one! After I blew that one, I had second thoughts about entering any more.

But I've gone ahead and entered one again. This time it's a Writer's Digest contest for Middle Grade fiction...unpublished fiction. Since The Freedom Thief is still out in a publisher's never-never land, I decided to enter my fantasy novel, Lily Leticia Langford and The Book of Practical Magic. My critique group once said I should win a prize just for the name alone. Hmmm...

Here's the link, in case you're interested:

The problem  is that I just found the contest, and the deadline is Monday, August 27th. However, that still give you time to enter, because it has to be with a completely finished novel.

I've been we need writing contests? How many have you entered? Why did you enter them? Was it because you might get published if you won? Got a hefty prize for winning or even coming in second or third? Lots of reasons to enter, lots of different kinds of prizes offered even for those who don't win.

But are they of any real value? I've looked back on those I've entered, and my opinion is yes, they are. One that I entered and really,REALLY wanted to win was a very prestigious magazine, Glimmer Train. Being published in this magazine could lead, possibly, to being contacted by an agent or an editor.

Uh...this is one of those I didn't win. But I did get a nice note complimenting me on my writing. At least I knew the judges actually read my story, and liked it...even if they liked someone else's better. So, that's something, right?

Let's talk about some of the reasons to enter a contest.
1) Contests require stories of varying lengths. I write mostly novels, so short story writing is a real test for me, and for most writers not accustomed to 'writing short.' So this gives us the chance to stretch our wings and do something we're not comfortable doing. You can even take a long chapter out of your WIP and see what you can do about turning it into a short story. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you can cut out, and still have a real story.

2) Contests usually spell out the genre they want, or the age group. This gives you the opportunity to try writing in a new genre or for a different age that you may not have thought about doing before. Who knows, for someone who is an historical fiction writer, you just might become the next great steampunk author!

3) Most of us who write, whether it be novels or short stories, don't make and most often, don't keep to any kind of a deadline. Contests are all about deadlines...keep them or you're out before you've ever started. It gives those of us who normally don't set deadlines for ourselves the opportunity ( yes, it IS an opportunity) to feel the real pressure that comes from having to write a certain number of words...and a coherent story...under a deadline.

Just a few of the reasons why you should consider entering contests, and keep on entering them, even if you don't win. But suppose you DO win? Does that help you when it comes to publishing the novel you're working on? Hmm...probably the best answer to that is yes... and no. Winning a contest, even placing in one, always looks good on a query when you're asked for publishing credits. You can use it as a promotional tool: of course you would talk about it on your blog or website! You could even send a letter to your local paper or TV station and perhaps earn a blurb in the paper or on the TV news about "local author wins prominent contest." Why not create a sticker about winning as an "app" on your blog that others could copy and paste onto their own.

The "no" part of the answer concerns the actual selling of your book: winning a contest probably won't help the sales, because the people who will buy your book don't particularly care if you won a contest, they are only concerned about how much your book is going to interest them.

How do you feel about writing contests, and do you enter them?

Until later,
That's a wrap.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why Do You Need a Tag/Log Line?

Most of you know why I've been absent from posting for the past month: a family trauma that still has us all reeling. It is something that is not going away, so I've finally managed to convince myself that life goes on, and I need to get back to some semblance of normality.

Today I want to talk about Taglines...or Loglines, if you prefer. I think they are one and the same. The question is, why do we need one? Picture this scenario:

You are at a conference, waiting to make your pitch to an agent. You sit down, the agent smiles and says, "What is your novel about? You have three minutes, beginning now."

You: Uh, well, it's about this boy who lives on a plantation in Kentucky. His parents and brothers like slavery but he doesn't. He's lived there for four years and doesn't understand how slaves can be okay in one part of the country, here, and not okay in New York, where he comes from. He is close to his grandmother...yatata, yatata, yatata.

Agent: I'm sorry, but your three minutes are up, and I still don't know what the main premise is or where the story is going. Thanks for stopping by.

Or how about this one:

You've just received an advance copy of your newly published and soon-to-be released novel. You are sitting in Starbucks, gazing reverently at the book's cover with YOUR NAME as author. A woman stops by.

Woman: Oh, my, what an intriguing name! are you the author of that book?

You ( modestly): Why, yes, I am.

Woman: What is the book about?

You ( Not having prepared to answer that question in a short amount of time): Oh, well, it's about this young boy who comes from New York with his family to live on a plantation in the South, and he hates slavery and he has no friends except for a crippled slave boy and he goes on all these trips with his Abolitionist grandmother to help escaped slaves and then he finds out ...

But you never get to tell the woman what he finds out because she has dropped her Caramel Frappachino on the floor in her haste to get out the door and away from your rambling.

Now do you see why a tagline is necessary?! So what is a tagline? It's a synopsis of your book in THREE sentences or less. Okay, get up off the floor and get a grip. I know what you are thinking: I can barely put a coherent synopsis of my book into three paragraphs for a query, and now you want one in three SENTENCES? Are you out of your mind?

Umm...well, no, I'm not. Although I must say, the same thought ran through my head on the dozen or so times I've been told this is what I need to do.

Truly, we need to be able to capsulize our stories into a very short, concise, and precise statement to present to agents, publishers, and the occasional woman who has stopped by Starbuck's. That statement should include: a) the novel's genre; b)the main character; c) the MC's external conflict/problem and what act precipitated it; d) and even the MC's internal conflict, if possible.

I'll give you two examples of the taglines I've written for my historical novel, although I'm sure neither of them is perfect, and both require more work.

1) The Freedom Thief is about a 14 year old boy whose only friend is a young crippled slave, and when the boy learns his father is selling the slave, he knows the only way to save him is to lead him and his parents to freedom.

2) The Freedom Thief is an historical novel, set in pre-Civil War Kentucky, about a 14 year old boy who lives on a slave-holding plantation but who hates slavery. Ben learns his father is selling Josiah, the crippled slave who is Ben's only friend, and he knows the only way to save Josiah is to steal the boy and his parents away from the plantation and lead them to freedom. He is determined to do this even though he has no plan or map to tell him where to go after the escape,  he is alienating himself from his family,  and he could possibly end up in prison.

Even though #2 answers the 4 criteria, #1 doesn't. Both need to be improved upon. But the point is: we all need a tagline, a short and concise synopsis of our novels, so no matter who asks us "What is your story about?", we can answer without rambling, and in such a way that the person...agent, editor, Starbuck's woman, friend or foe...knows exactly what the story is about.

Do you have a tagline? Want to share?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Publishing: The Waiting Game

Most of you know that I've submitted my historical novel, The Freedom Thief, for publishing. I originally submitted it last November, and waited patiently...uh...well, maybe not so hear from them. Which I February of this year. They rejected it. But nicely! And they asked for revisions, and then for a resub. Thankfully, while I agreed with all but one of their issues, none of them was something major, like making it a contemporary novel, or changing my MC from a boy to a girl. Even the one issue I wasn't too happy about, I understood their reasoning and went on to revise it. Five weeks later, I resubbed it. That was in March.

Here it is mid-July, and I've heard nothing. Nada. Nyet. Not a word. But since this publisher promises to let you know the decision, even if it's a No, I am confident I will of these days.

So I'm playing the waiting game. Isn't that the very worst part of publishing? Waiting? And waiting. And waiting some more. So what to do while I'm waiting. Every one...every writer one...says, start another book. So, okay, I've done that. But then I hit a stumbling block about 2 chapters in, and realized I needed to do more research, since I was writing wa a a a  y out of my comfort zone. Now what? Well, I came up with a list of "what to do while you're waiting." Besides doing the required research, that is. See what you think!

1.  Take a long walk.
2.  Plant some new flowers in the hanging baskets: the old ones are looking...old.
PROBLEM: It's 100+ outside, so numbers 1 and 2 are out.
3.  Make some iced coffee and watch a TV program.
PROBLEM: I hate daytime TV.
4.  Make some iced coffee and read one of my free books on my Kindle
5.  Clean the kitchen.
6.  Clean the parrots' cages.
PROBLEM: I'm really not in the mood for cleaning, and besides, I can't drink my coffee and clean at the same time. Or so I tell myself. So numbers 5 and 6 are out.
7.  Brush the Porky Corgi. Again.
8.  Go to the library and get that research done!
9.  Get on the Internet and see if I can find some SIMPLE AND EASY instructions on how to make a book trailer. UGH! I hate trying to learn some new technological thing...I'm about as technologically inclined as the Porky Corgi, but everyone says you need a book trailer.
10. Stop messing around, and get Building The Plot going for my new book that is out of my comfort zone.

As you can see, making this list didn't help me a whole heck of a lot! The PC wanted to play ball instead of getting brushed, so he was not cooperative. I told myself that getting outside in the heat, even in an air-conditioned car, was not a good idea, so going to the library was shot down. Besides, these were all temporary "fixes."

So... I made that iced coffee ( my super deluxe Keurig, a Christmas present from my husband, is such a delight!), played ball for a while in the house with the PC, and then sat down and started to write...seriously...on Building The Plot for my new novel. Still working on that, but at least now I'm up to my 7th chapter. Oh, yes...and still waiting!

No, all of this didn't occur on any ONE day. It's kind of a silly list, I guess, but it takes up a small bit of time while you are waiting. And it takes my mind off of... you know what.

About that book trailer...that's what is known in my world as Procrastination. But more about that later.

Tell me...what do YOU do when you are... waiting?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Self-Publishing: What Does It Mean To You?

I just finished reading 4 YA books on my Kindle. I'm not going to reveal the names or the authors, because this is not a review. After I finished the 4th book, I went back to Amazon to find out who the publishers were. Each one of those books was published by the author.

Now, I don't have anything against self-publishing. I won't ever do it, but for reasons that probably most people don't have. What I do have something against is books that are poorly written and are still published.

Each of these books had all kinds of errors in them. Many punctuation errors, but I suppose that could be some kind of formatting glitch. From what I've read and heard, each self-publishing company has a specific format they want, and often a Word document doesn't lend itself easily to those formats.

But grammatical errors are not part of a formatting problem. A plot that rambles on and never seems to go in a specific direction; so many characters, each poorly developed, that some are superfluous; a lot of descriptive narration that is unnecessary for the most part...all of these are simply poorly written and poorly developed elements of a story. Only one of these stories actually held my interest all the way through. The other three I read to the end only because I spent good money for them and I refused to quit reading before I had gotten my money's worth. Only I still didn't. Get my money's worth, that is.

My question to you 'out there' is: why do some writers insist upon self-publishing? I understand that there are all kinds of options to do so these days, and that self-publishing doesn't have the stigma that it used to in the writing community. But why would any writer want to have a book published that contains all kinds of errors?

I know several writers who have published their books through Amazon and other publishing options. I know when I talked to them, they assured me they had "editors" go over their manuscripts, and they were totally proof-read, approved, and polished. Yet, one of the books I bought was from one of these particular writers. If she had an editor, it must have been a friend who knew nothing about writing. Granted, this was more of an adult book than a YA, or I guess you could call it a "crossover." But what difference does that make, if there are still errors in grammar and punctuation, and the story elements are not well written?

Stigma or not, I have yet to read a self-published book that I would recommend to someone else, or that I think is worthy of having been published. Don't misunderstand me, some of these books have great plots and even great characters. But when you are wading through grammatical errors, or you have page after page of  metaphors and analogies that don't even make good sense, then what is really good about the novel gets completely lost. And, lest I have to dodge some rocks about now, it is VERY possible that I just haven't read a really good self-published book.

 I don't really understand why someone is so anxious to get their story "out there" that they are willing to forego all the editing, revising, more editing, more revising, and then polishing to a shine before they go to the time, trouble, AND money to publish the book themselves.

I believe that ALL writers, no matter which publishing option they take, take pride in their work. We all work hard. We all make sacrifices in order to have the time to write. When we have families, we all give up certain things relating to our families in order to write.  So it's not that I think self-published authors DO NOT go through all the things the rest of us go through.  Umm...sorry about the double negative.

Self-published authors  work just as hard, make just as many sacrifices, have just as many trials and tribulations as all of the rest of us. So why does that same author settle for something less than what he or she is capable of? Why is she or he willing to publish a book that has so obviously NOT seen a capable critique group, a knowledgeable beta reader, or a professional editor?

I don't understand. Do you? I hope that's not a rhetorical question.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Success Without Failure?

We went to our clubhouse for a 4th of July barbeque, and met some new people who happened to sit at our table with our four friends and my husband and me. In talking to them, I found that their granddaughter was a big sports fan, and a wonderful basketball player in high school. When I asked if she was playing in college, I was told, No, she quit. Being the, curious...kind, I asked why she quit if she was really good. The short version is that she quit because she failed at getting the most baskets and winning the most games, and therefore, considered herself a failure. Hmm...

That, of course, suggested a blog post for me.

As writers, we fail a LOT. Really, we do. Think about it. How many times do you write a couple of chapters in your fantastic WIP, edit them, and then send them to your critique group, fulling expecting rave reviews. Only... you are shattered when they come back to you with remarks like: Your characters are one-dimensional; you have too much telling and not enough showing; your descriptive narration about the setting is too long and too boring, enough already. Oh My.

We failed. Of course, this was only our third or fourth rough draft. It wasn't polished. But characters are one-dimensional? But I LOVE my characters! And so on.

So we start again, determined not to fail again. Well, maybe we do this 4 or 5 or 8 or 10 times, and we fail each time. In some way. Maybe our characters have become fully rounded, and now our critique partners also love them. We've cut out almost all the narration. But nothing is ever perfect, so we "fail" again. And again.

Finally, our critique group says, Okay, try submitting. We're excited beyond control! Of course we're going to get accepted the first time out of the starting gate. NOT. We get to the point where we can paper our office with rejection letters. Those we actually get, that is. What about all those agents and publishers who have rejected us, but not bothered to tell us after 6 or 8 months? Now we really are failures. Oh? Really?

Of course not. Failures Quit. Writers Don't. Therefore, it stands to reason we're NOT failures.

Seriously...I've heard that the "pathway" to success can be compared to a superhighway or better yet, one of today's freeways. What do you find on a freeway? Traffic. Roadblocks. Bumps in the road. Signs indicating "This lane is closed, merge left." All of which lead to slowdowns and frustrations. Isn't that what writing is all about? Rewrites and editing slows us down. Waiting and waiting and waiting some more for either a rejection or an acceptance is the most frustrating and disappointing event we can go through.

But we are WRITERS. And we WILL become AUTHORS. Because we know that in order for us to succeed, we have to fail. And fail. And fail some more. It's the nature of the beast, and since we can't kill the beast, we learn to live with him and we learn from him. We may have to feed him a heck of a lot more than we'd like, but eventually, he's going to get full. And THAT'S when we get that treasured and oh so precious acceptance !

Writers have to have that personality trait known as "sticktoitiveness"...and yes, that's a real word! Perserverance, intestinal fortitude, whatever you want to call it, but I call it sticktoitiveness. We keep on writing in the face of failure because we never call failure defeat. That's a whole 'nother ball game, and one we refuse to play in. We know that in order to have success, we have to accept failure. We can't have one without the other.

General George Patton said, "I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs, but by how high he bounces back when he hits obstacles." I think that's a good quote to live up to. As writers, we're always hitting obstacles, but to finally be successful, we have to bounce back... and the higher we can bounce, the better we can write, and the sooner our success will come.

Here are a few success stories...AFTER their failures:

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of NBA's Dallas Mavericks: parents wanted him to have a "normal" job so he tried carpentry, hated it; short order cook, but a terrible cook; waited tables but didn't know how to open a bottle of wine. He says: "I've learned it doesn't matter how many time you fail. You only have to be right once."

Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, made into movies: wrote the first Twilight book from a dream, and never intended to try to publish it until a friend encouraged her; nine literary agents rejected her, ONE gave her a chance, which led to EIGHT publishers auctioning for the right to publish Twilight. Today she is reported to be worth $40 million.

Stephen King: first book Carrie was rejected 30 times and he threw it into the trash...his wife retrieved it and demanded he resubmit it; he's sold more than 350 million copies of all his books.

Vincent Van Gogh: only sold one painting during his life time, yet he painted over 800; today his most valuable painting is worth $142.7 million.

John Grisham: took 3 years to write his first book, A Time To Kill, and it was rejected 28 times before he got a "yes"; he's sold over 250 million copies of his books.

If you don't try and fail, you aren't going to be able to try and succeed.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Building Your Plot: Conclusion

This was supposed to be Friday's post, but little things like physical therapy, errands, and going out to lunch with my husband got in the way. When we finally returned home, our Corgi needed his walk. Badly. Or so he thought, and he was determined that we should know that. Even enticements like playing ball couldn't convince him otherwise, so another hour was gone! After that, I gave up and read my email, then curled up in my rocker with my Kindle and a new YA book I'm reading. More about that another time.

I've talked about Gabriela's problems, A and B, and the complications and twists with each. Let's go on to Problem C:

PROBLEM C: Gabriela's supernatural powers become stronger, and she's not sure she can deal with it. She learns she can intuit certain things about individuals simply by touching something that belongs to them. Remi keeps popping up out of nowhere, and finally she learns he is not all human. She feels her powers are going to control her, not the other way around, and she seeks advice from two of the "Freaks."

1)  The Sheriff has become her number one suspect in the children's murders, but she discovers that she cannot use her abilities against him: somehow she is blocked from his mind.

2)  Remi asks for her help: his human side is attracted to her, but he needs to be released from his gargoyle form. If she tries to help him, how much will that detract from her finding the killer?

3)  Remi insists upon helping her get information from the townspeople about the murders. But why is it that each time he offers his help, someone in the carnival gets hurt... or dies?

4)  Mr. Rutherford's attentions to Gabriela become even more insistent: he seems to be everywhere Gabriela is, and insists on helping her gather information about the murders that will lead to capturing the killer. But is it the right information, and what is his real intention towards her?


Gabriela discovers one of her powers is limited by certain elements, and these elements exhibit themselves at exactly the wrong time. What kind of danger does that put her in?

PROBLEM D:  Gabriela finds herself almost surrounded by Kathryn, her new friend ( supposedly) from school, Remi, and Mr. Rutherford. All three seem to be at odds with one another, and Gabriela doesn't know whom to believe or whom to trust or what leads to follow that each of them present to her. Are they real leads what might lead to solving this crime, or are they nothing more than Red Herrings? She feels she is being followed, but no one is around. She feels eyes upon her, and whispers between 2 or more 'beings,' but there is never anyone... human... there. She hears the fluttering of wings... very large wings... but no bird... or whatever... is visible.


1)  Sheriff McCray confronts Gabriela and demands to know what she is doing and why. He is angry but doesn't appear threatening. If he is the killer, what does that mean?

2)  The parents of the slain children meet with her, but plead for her to go away and leave things as they are. Why don't they want the killer of their children caught and punished?

3)  The townspeople hold a Town Meeting and demand that the carnival leave immediately, regardless of the fact that their vehicles are still disabled... and why is that? Is the entire town held in the grasp of someone... or something... evil?

4)  The one who is the Shape Shifter meets with the gargoyles. When Gabriela accidentally discovers who the Shape Shifter is, will this put her in danger that her powers cannot get her out of?


Gabriela learns that Sheriff McCray is not the murderer, nor is he the person who attacked and cut her face when she was ten years old. She discovers who the real murderer is, but he...or neither human, witch, nor gargoyle. Will her powers be sufficient to overcome this being and save her, the carnival, and the town?

And that is the end! At least, of this novel, the first in a trilogy about Gabriela and the carnival. Beneath the Possum Belly: Night Cries is the name of this novel, the 2nd in the series is Beneath the Possum Belly: Night Sounds, and the third is Beneath the Possum Belly: Night Spells.

Building the plot in this way has been a great help to me, the original I HATE OUTLINES writer, and I hope that it has at least given you some new ideas about how to build your plot, or how to outline your story.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Building Your Plot

This post may not apply to those of you who are organized enough to make thorough and complete outlines of your stories. But for pantsers like me, knowing how to build a plot is a great help. Now I know there are all kinds of ways to build a plot, but this is one I found in a great book by Nancy Kress, an award-winning author of more than twenty books.

Step One is building the Conflict. We all know that the protagonist has to have external well as internal... to get the story going. And the more problems that confront the MC, the more conflict she is going to have. You start out with Problem A, which should be the main problem she wants to solve. She is working on solving Problem A when Problem B shows up. Now she has two different problems, creating two different kinds of conflict, and before she had actually solved either of them, Problem C arrives. Since A is her main problem, this is going to be the center of the plot, so obviously she can't solve it any time soon. But she can try to solve B, so she is juggling A,B, AND C when Problem D arrives. By this time, she might have managed to solve B or C, but probably not both of them. And now she has D to consider.

Confused? Ok,let me take examples from my current WIP.

Problem A for Gabriela is the voices of the murdered children she hears in her head, calling for her to help them. She doesn't know who these children are, or how she is supposed to help them, so she must discover who they are, how they were murdered, and who murdered them, all in order to put their souls to rest.

However, problems alone don't make for a good plot. Along the way you need to have Complications arise.


1. Gabriela meets Remi, tall, handsome, and not at all who or what she believes him to be.
2. Henri, the carnival cook, meets with an accident...but was it actually an accident?
3. Josie, the Fat Lady of the Freak Show, suddenly dies. Everyone thinks it's because she was so terribly obese...but was it really natural causes? And what will happen when the roustabouts have to Red Light her body?

Then, of course, it's always nice to have an unexpected Plot Twist: the police come snooping around, wanting to know what happened to Josie... they know of her death, they also know the townspeople wouldn't allow her to be buried in their cemetery... so what has happened to her body?

Problem B:  Gabriela enrolls in the high school, since the carnival is stranded for several weeks in town. She immediately becomes the object of bullying:  because of her limp and the scar on her face, the kids treat her as just another "freak." How will she deal with this, when she wants to make friends in order to learn more about the dead children?


 1. Her history teacher takes more than a normal teacher-to-student interest in her. Where will this lead, and is he really a friend, or something else?
2. One of the students, Kathryn,  becomes Gabriela's friend... or is she?
3. Melvin, the 'chief bully,' attacks Gabriela twice. Kathryn comes to her rescue the first time, but the second is so violent Gabriela has to use her powers to defend herself. How will Melvin react to this?
4. Gabriela sees Kathryn talking secretly to the Sheriff. What is that all about?

Plot Twist:

Kathryn is secretly involved with the Sheriff. She is actually his daughter but no one knows this but the 2 of them. She had befriended Gabriela and pretends to help her with information about the dead children, but she is really keeping an eye on her for the Sheriff. She will lead Gabriela in the wrong direction, and finally, will be an ally in the last-minute attempt by the Sheriff to kill Gabriela... but is he really trying to kill her?

I hope this has been enough to whet your interest in one way to build your plot. I will have more about Problems C and D, and the complications and plot twists that go along with them, in Friday's post. Stay tuned!

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Do You Describe Your Characters?

How do you describe your characters? We're told over and over again that we should never spend paragraphs telling our readers what our characters look like. Yet, how many times have you read a story where the MC, at least, is vividly described: "Her hair was the color of fresh honey with lighter streaks of pure gold. Her beautiful eyes reminded him of pools of liquid amber, surrounded by long, curling lashes, while her sweet lips were red and perfectly heart-shaped." And on and on, ad nauseum.

Then there's the old mirror trick, where the MC stands in front of a mirror, and sees herself... sometimes as she really is, sometimes as she would like to be: She combed through her blonde hair, and spent thirty minutes carefully arranging it so that it would look wind-blown and casually unkempt. She blinked her brilliant blue eyes, moving closer to the mirror to apply layers of mascara to her exceptionally long lashes. Next, she moved slightly away, examining herself minutely as if to prove to herself that her black silk dress fitted her full and natural curves, emphasized her tiny waist, and swirled softly around her graceful legs...etc. etc. etc.

Boring! When I get to a passage like that... although it's often a full page or more...I simply turn the page and  move on to something more interesting...hopefully. Yet I've found that kind of character description in both MG and YA stories, more often in YA, but I'm sure it's enough to turn teens off, too.

To be honest, I recently used "the old mirror trick" in my current WIP. Well, sort of. Here is the way I used it:
The mirror shimmied in front of her, emphasizing the jagged scar on her face. Her torso was fat and mishappened, her dark curls shriveled up, and her legs seemed ten miles long. It was a distortion mirror straight out of the Fun House, and she hated it, but it was the only mirror her mother allowed.

You do get a sense of what she looks like: she is slim, has dark, curly hair, and a  scar on her face. But you also know that she still doesn't look exactly like what the mirror shows, because it is a distorted image. What else does that passage tell you? Doesn't it suggest that her mother is controlling? Doesn't it make you want to ask: WHY is that the only mirror her mother will allow?

There are many ways to describe our characters, without reeling out a litany of their many attributes. Here are a few:

1. Kiley stormed into the classroom, spurs ( which weren't allowed in school) clanking against the tiled floors. He slapped the dust from dirty jeans, slammed his Stetson hat down on the desk, and slid into the seat. His brown eyes glittered, and his hands balled into fists. He was ready.

What does this tell you? Hmm...spurs, dusty jeans, Stetson hat. He's a cowboy or ranch hand, rides a horse, and works ( or his jeans wouldn't be dusty and dirty.) But he's not ordinary 'hand,' because a Stetson 'cowboy' hat is one of the most expensive you can buy ( true statement, remember I was a rancher for many years), so that suggests he probably owns or his family owns the ranch. He has brown eyes that glitter so he is angry. His hands are balled into fists,  he is 'ready.' Obviously, he is expecting trouble to walk through that classroom door.

That is a great opening sentence, because it a) introduces the character; b) describes the character; c) gives you a good first impression because right off the bat you know that whatever is going to happen, he is ready and waiting; and d) makes you start asking questions right away: Who is Kiley? What kind of 'cowboy' is he, working hand who happens to own an expensive hat, or son of rancher owner who is wealthy? Why is he expecting trouble, in school of all places? And who is going to come through that door bringing trouble with him?

2.  Let's try describing our MC from the POV of 3 different people who happen to know her well:
A) Her Best Friend: "Oh, Kenzie is just wonderful! She has this great sense of humor, and she's so smart she makes straight As all the time. I just love her blonde hair and those beautiful green eyes. She's friendly to everyone, and she is the captain of the Cheerleading Squad. She wears all those gorgeous clothes that really show off her figure, and she's even offered to loan some to me that she doesn't wear any more!

B) Her Former Best Friend Who Lost The Competition for Captain of Cheerleading: "MacKenzie is a snob. She flaunts her looks around by wearing all those designer clothes her mom buys for her, and thinks she's better than everyone else. She is shallow and selfish, and she's not any better at cheerleading than I am. She just got to be captain because she agreed to go out with that dorky son of the coach. She's not funny at all, she just makes snarky remarks that all the boys think are funny. And besides, her blonde hair is bleached, because in real life, her hair is almost the same color of brown mine is."

C) The Boy Who Used To Be Her Boyfriend: "MacKenzie is two-faced. She shows the world this wonderful, talented, smart person, which she can be when she wants to, but in private she is egotistical and arrogant. She wants everything to be exactly the way she wants it, and she wants everyone to do exactly what she says. She IS beautiful and smart and all the rest, but she knows it, and she feels like she's entitled to do anything or say anything she wants, even if it hurts someone else. She wants you to be where she can reach you 24/7, and if you're not there to do what she wants, she starts screaming at you... in private, of course. She broke up with me because I told her I was going to my sister's birthday party on the same night as a party one of MacKenzie's friends was throwing. She demanded I go with her, and when I didn't she broke up with me.

Here you have 3 different but descriptive mini-portraits of the same person.  Is any one of them completely true? Probably not, but instead, you have bits and pieces of one person that, collectively, make up a whole multi-dimensional character. If you interviewed her parents, her siblings, perhaps the 'nanny' who took care of her when she was young, you could add to those mini-portraits until a whole, conclusive picture emerged.

These are just a few of the ways you can go about describing your characters. You don't have to list their physical attributes in some long and boring monologue, which will do nothing but turn your readers off. In using some of the above ideas, you not only introduce your reader to your MC and give them some idea of what their physical appearance is, but you also give them a glimpse into their personality, their emotional make-up, and maybe even a peek into what their home life is like. You set the stage for a first impression, and/or you set the reader up to expect something specific from your character... which may or may not be or come true. Either way, you have your reader hooked.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.