My best Tip for Writers Block

11494_originalWHY INDEX CARDS ARE A WRITER’S BFF

So, recently I finished the first novel in a new series I am working on, known as UNDERTOW. You’re like, “No kidding? I would have never known except it is ALL OVER YOUR BLOG!”

Well . . . let me tell ya a secret: I didn’t write UNDERTOW from Chapter 1 to 24. In fact, I never write from page 1 onward, and by doing so, I rarely hit any form of writer’s block.

Knock on wood.

Care to guess HOW I wrote UNDERTOW?

I did it in SCENES.

Nope – I’m not crazy. Well, I am, but not about this, and here’s why:

Ever watch a movie and you love it because of the scenes? You watch it again and again, not because every second is perfect, but because you love a certain line, a certain kiss , a certain showdown. You watch it for those scenes that play endlessly in your mind, tempting you to make that one movie (or book) climb onto your “favorites” shelf.

Even int he world of film making, movies are not shot in order. They “story-board” what they need to shoot and then go from there. Sometimes they even shoot the last scene first. Where the magic comes in, is how they weave all these independent scenes together.

I basically did the same thing with UNDERTOW. It is what I am also doing for STORMFRONT and CRUEL SUMMER.

See, I tend to daydream, especially when I listen to music. And I will replay a scene (that I am to write) over and over in my head for almost a week before I sit down and start to write it. I know I’m ready to put it down on paper when the scene replays the same, over and over, in my mind — not because I force it to do that, but just because it works so well that way.

Since I write in scenes, I DO need to know (approximately) which scenes I will need in a book. I write these down on index cards. I aim for 1 scene PER CHAPTER, removing as much dull fluff as possible.

Fluff is bad – readers start skimming when you get boring.

I write down a major scene on each index card and aim for 20 to 24 or more. So for UNDERTOW, these were a few:

Elizabeth and Rysse in the Harbor Square.

Eila waking in her new room and meeting MJ.

The first day of school with Raef and Nikki . . . blah, blah, blah.

Now here is where I avoid the writer’s block thing: I don’t write the scenes in order. I write the ones I WANT TO WRITE on any give day. What am I in the mood for? What scene is solid in my head?

Whatever scene you choose to work on doesn’t have to be complete – write the parts that you see clearly. You will always go back and edit and fill out the scene, but the bones are there. Don’t over-think it either, or you will go insane.

Of course, you need to be a little bit insane to be a storyteller in the first place :)

Book Review: The Lux Series by Armentrout

Obsidian_cover1600-200x300

Want to know, hands down, the best way to diet? Read the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout. OBSIDIAN, ONYX, OPAL, ORIGIN, and SHADOWS

I know. You’re like, “Poor woman . . . her brain is finally fried. She thinks you can diet by reading.”

YOU CAN! Want to know why? Because this series is so RIDICULOUSLY ADDICTIVE you forget to eat. Stop showering. Skip walking the dog. Miss a few bills. Yeah . . . I’m serious. It’s that insanely fun. And to PROVE I am not exaggerating, I suggested it to a kid on my middle school bus and SHE BECAME OBSESSED with the stories. Buried herself in the books while I drove.

Anyway, The Lux series is about aliens – WAIT! Don’t walk away!!! I know, I know!! ALIENS???? YES! Never in a million years would I ever think that I would be so thoroughly addicted to FRIGGIN ALIENS!

The premise starts out with this high schooler (Kat) moving to a middle-of-nowhere town after her father has died. There isn’t much to do there but she befriends a girl next door, Dee, who is stunning and bubbly and all-together thrilled to have a pal in Kat. Her brother, Daemon, however, ain’t so thrilled. He wants Dee to stay away from Kat and is pretty darn insulting all around. He and Kat go at it tooth and nail, but then one night Kat gets attacked  near the library and Daemon steps in . . . and heals her. Turns out Daemon and Dee are aliens and, in healing Kat, he has made her all glow wormy which can only be seen by his kind . . . and the Arum. The bad, dark, light-sucking aliens.

How Armentrout writes is EXACTLY how I think all upper YA / New Adult should be written. She has a flawless grasp of teen hood, linking laugh-out loud scenes with run-for-your life moments. In fact, if you love UNDERTOW there is NO WAY you should bypass this fabulous series. Below is one of my favorite moments from the movie BOLT, when the Hollywood pigeons pitch an alien-take on his show. KILLS ME.

VLOG – Writer tips for Newbies

Tips for the new writer ;)

 

Behind the UNDERTOW novel – CERBERUS

mangusta-72_gallery1Behind the Story: The making of the CERBERUS yacht.

If you have managed to get your hands on one of the ARC copies of UNDERTOW, you know two things for certain:

1. Raef and Kian are loaded.

2. Their home isn’t on land.

When I was working through the technicalities of UNDERTOW I knew that the Mortis (Raef and Kian’s race) were basically drifters. For them, friendships were a liability and . . . well . . . they don’t age. You can’t exactly own a home and kick around looking the same for centuries. Plus, how could they sell a home in today’s market?!MANGUSTA_03

In addition, Kian and Raef wouldn’t be the kind to set down roots, but Kian finds a reason to stick around the summer before due to Ana Lane. Unfortunately their love falls to pieces. UNDERTOW picks up a year later and Ana is shocked to see Kian again. To say she is a “tad icy” to him, is an understatement. Their relationship and history from the summer before will be released as a novella, known as CRUEL SUMMER down the line. In this prequel novel, Kian purchases a yacht he names CERBERUS. This fabulous vessel also comes back with Kian in UNDERTOW.2007-05-03-Medici(1)

So, I had to come up with an insanely fly yacht suitable for a young, morally compromised millionaire . . . I basically though about Hollywood stars. Since I myself only own a 10′ dingy with an electric motor, I knew first-hand ownership knowledge was not in the cards for me. Instead, I used the Internet, HGTV and THE TRAVEL CHANNEL. With the help of all three, I located CERBERUS and wrote the story with printed pictures at the ready.

CERBERUS is a combination of OVERMARINE’s Mangusta 72 and Mangusta 108. I know . . . I wish I was loaded too.

yacht-charter-french-riviera-mangusta-130-afican-cat-noleggio-yacht-sardegna2

I did add in some things I loved while watching the SuperYacht show on HGTV, including a round bed for Raef’s room, a ruby-colored hull for the yacht, and interior tones of burgundy and black. I also gave it a full set of controls on a flybridge.yacht-charter-french-riviera-mangusta-130-afican-cat-noleggio-yacht-sardegna2big_les---mangusta--1119469386

As a writer it was critical that I had an accurate accounting of the yacht – of everything in the story. If you have read the story, you also know that CERBERUS plays a large part in the later half of the book and becomes a safe haven for the five friends. The yacht gave me an opportunity, as a storyteller, to confine the characters into a space so that they must deal with each other, question what they want and need from one another, and come up with a half-baked plan to find answers.

It took a while to name the yacht. At first, I was set on calling it the REDRUM, obviously from Stephen King’s THE SHINING (redrum is murder spelled backwards and appears in his terrifying book). But then some of my AWESOME BETA READERS pointed out that Raef and Kian, while they had a gruesome past, were trying to be better. Kian wouldn’t have named it something so dark, especially when he bought it with Ana Lane in mind. So I went back to the drawing board, and started thinking of what else would be appropriate. I started digging though myths and legends and came up with CERBERUS: the three-headed dog that guards the underworld. He prevents humans from crossing into the river styx of Hell and the dead from escaping. It was a perfect play on who Raef and Kian were.

See if you can find a CERBERUS twin on the Barnstable docks :)Mangusta 108 FOUR FRIENDS -  Al fresco Dining

Writer Tips and Links

Because this blog is sizable at this point, I thought I should highlight a few things with quick links. Call it a MUPPET NEWS FLASH type of thing :)

This blog is currently taking indie books for review: Click here for details: BOOK REVIEWS 

I am also looking for reviewers for my ARC (advanced reader copy) novel. Not published yet – trying to get reviews to go in the actual book. Details on the story here: UNDERTOW Sample chapters of UNDERTOW are here: CHAPTERS

A few past posts geared towards my fellow writers can be found throughout CAPE COD SCRIBE. I linked them below. Enjoy!

The Critical Self-Published Cover

Self Publishing?

Cape Cod Writers Conference 2013

Twitter Hashtags and Writer Sites

Query Hell and the Literary Agent’s Eye

Writing the Critical First Kiss

Should YA Authors be YA readers?

Do You Rock when You Write?

Book Cover Torture

UNDERTOW COVER FIXEDI must applaud those fabulous artists on DeviantArt and those insane individuals who actually brave the tortuous world known as PHOTOSHOP. I am majorly intimidated. Which is why I am using a Superhero skilled Photoshop guru for the final copy of UNDERTOW (and live models . . . which is a whole different post for a different day).

Anyway, I wanted printed ARC copies of UNDERTOW for reviewers. This also meant I needed an ARC cover – something different from the final cover because I needed more time to shoot the models. This basically left me with one choice for the ARC cover: ME. Heaven help us all.

My computer savvy brother (knowing full well I did not have Photoshop due to a severe phobia of such a complex program), suggested I build the cover in POWERPOINT. After declaring him NUTS, I gave it a shot and, low and behold, it worked!

That’s right – you can use Powerpoint to build a cover, convert it to a jpeg and then save it as a pdf. Holy Smokes! And Powerpoint is pretty darn simple – for me at least.

With my fear partial lessened and a program that didn’t send me screaming in hand, I simply needed a face. Turns out this was more of a project than I previously thought – until my daughter posted HER FACE on Instagram.

That’s right –  the face above is that of my daughter. I think it works pretty good! Above is the full book jacket – front, spine and back. I like the colors and the darkness of the overall feel.

Getting the back cover blurb right was a hair pulling experience as well. The following blogs helped greatly with trying to get the blurb right. THE BACK COVER IS CRITICAL!!!!  Romance University’s blog helped as did The Creative Pen.

Another great resource for fabulous book blurbs is the online book sellers themselves – AmazonBarnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. Read what the top-selling books have for blurbs. What grabs you about them? What makes you love them?

I will probably tweak my back cover once again, it’s true. But it sure feels good to have a cover for a story that has been in the works for several years :)

Happy Writing Everyone! Oh! And I AM LOOKING FOR REVIEWERS FOR UNDERTOW. Spread the word, y’all!

BOOK REVIEW: SIEGE AND STORM (Dark YA Fantasy)

UnknownOH YEAH! As much as I loved SHADOW AND BONE, Leigh Bardugo surpasses her first novel with SIEGE AND STORM.

SIEGE picks up with Mal and Alina on the run from the Darkling after a throw down / massacre in a dark swath of land known as The Fold (see review of first book HERE). Bardugo displays the duo’s evolving affection for one another in the early pages of the book, especially Mal’s protectiveness over Alina – the one and only Sun Summoner who the Darkling is desperate to control and enslave.

They hide out in whaling ships and blend in with the working ports of Russian-like cities. I love how Bardugo builds this landscape in the reader’s eye. I can feel the dirt and grime, the rough clothing and the filthy living quarters. It’s this ability – this world building – that makes Bardugo so brilliant.

Of course, Mal and Alina’s luck runs out and the Darkling catches up with them, flinging them onto a hired pirate’s ship. The Darkling is determined to locate a mythic beast in the frigid waters of the northern sea, in an area known as The Bone Road. The pirate, known as Sturmhond, is young and charming, but commands the absolute respect of his crew, which includes some wayward Grisha – a shocking surprise for Alina and Mal who have always known the Grisha to follow their master, the Darkling.

Sturmhond, however, is not who he seems and may prove himself a valuable asset to Alina . . . and an irritating troublemaker for the Darkling. His obsession with Alina worries Mal as well, but not for fear that Strumhond would hurt her. No – Mal fears the rogue pirate may steal her heart. Twists ensue, alliances are formed, friendships are tested and an enraged Darkling brings forth a darkness the likes of which no one has ever seen before.

There is much more to this fabulous story. But like Shadow and Bone, the novel has so much going on (in a GREAT way) that it is impossible to reveal it all. I’d blow the whole story if I did. For me though, Siege and Storm surpasses Shadow and Bone, but both books are worth your time. You won’t be disappointed!

Here’s to hoping the third book will be out soon. Write faster, Ms. Bardugo!

Cape Cod Scribe has a Liebster Award!

LASo, I am thrilled to announce that my crazy, slightly irrational bloggy, was nominated for a Liebster Award by fellow crazy –  Danielle of Ever On Word.

Gotta love her blog and the fact that she is nuts enough to be a writer, like moi. I bet there is a genetic disorder linked to our common story-telling obsession!

Anywho, to accept my fab-o award, I must complete the following rules (and, heck knows I suck at rules, but here goes!):

* Answer the 11 questions provided – DONE
* Create 11 questions for the next nominees to answer – DONE
* Link back to the one who nominated you – DONE
* Choose 11 people and link them in your post – DONE
* Go to their page and tell them – DONE
* No tag backs! – Eh?

Okay – so these are the questions that were provided to me with my answers:

1. If you were cursed to take on an animal form every night, which do you think the spell-caster would choose for you, and why? A bat, so I could fly and scare the tar out of people – both of which I would enjoy doing immensely and therefore feed the needs of my “id”.

2. Which song reminiscent of moonlight on water do you enjoy more: Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata, or Debussy’s “Clair de Lune? PLEEASE . .  Debussy!

3. Name the fairytale nearest to the story of your life. JAWS. No seriously –  for Cape Codders a shark that snacks on tourists IS a fairytale.

4. You feel sick. ): Would you rather see a doctor about it, or tough it out alone? Drag my wheezy butt out the door only to be told to take it easy and eat canned soup?? Yeah . . . PASS. I’ll tough it out.

5. Who is your favorite “Swan(n)” – Emma Swan (“Once Upon a Time”), Bella Swan (“Twilight”), Elizabeth Swann (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), or [other]? ELIZABETH!!!

6. Who is your favorite prince? (Real, fictional, the “Purple Rain” artist who partied like it was 1999… whatever.) Oh man . . . I’m not really the “prince” type, therefore I am going to say Prince Eric in THE LITTLE MERMAID. Dude was the only one that didn’t act like a wimp.

7. Who is your favorite “the”? Just kidding. X) If you had to go on a two-week walking trip with someone – any someone – who would you want it to be, and why? My BFF Laura, because combined we get into more mischief than Chevy Chase in a National Lampoon movie.

8. Are you the cool, rational type, or emotional and instinctual? Cool like a cuke, baby! OMG a SPIDER!!!! AHHHHHHHHHH

9. How far would you go to make a person fall in love with you? I never chase. Ever. I wouldn’t want to try and lure someone into loving me. Love me with all my faults or move on. I ain’t perfect.

10. Describe your early childhood home. HAHA . . . the wrong side of the tracks in a beautiful, seaside land.

11. What does “happily ever after” mean to you? That we live for the moment, never ceasing to be amazed by life.

Okay – so now I have 11 nominees I wish to bless with a Liebster award IF they too follow the rules (stated above). Here are my nominees followed by their questions:

Roxanne Crouse

Sandwich Teen Book Bites

Pen of Paul

Wynwords

A World in a Grain of Sand

Fabulous Realms

Nap Time is My Time

Dianne Gray

Singing Underwater

Khaula Mazhar

Ellis Nelson

1. Beach, pool, or no way you get near water?

2. We have a jumping bridge and the water is roughly a bone-chilling 60-degrees. Do you brave the water and jump with the teens or do you justify a reason for staying dry?

3. Best thing you read recently:

4. Character you wanted to see run over by a bus:

5. Speaking of buses, did you ride one as a kid or bum a ride off of someone, parents included:

6. First vehicle and why:

7. A TV show that your tried out and were shocked to ADORE:

8. Do you Rock n Roll when you write?

9. What made you start a blog?

10. One place that you would drop everything to visit if the trip was 100% paid for:

11. What you were doing one hour ago (this is a PG-13 blog! *cough cough*):

CONGRATS ONE AND ALL!

The Critical Self-Published Cover

KalliI’m just gonna say it: I DO judge a book by it’s cover. Well, okay – at FIRST. Then you have the book blurb to continue to lure me in. After that, I give you just the sample pages. Wait – I’ve wandered off topic for a second. Back to covers!

So . . . if so many people are like me and are drawn to the sparkly stuff (and therefore fancy covers), why, WHY, do self-pubbing authors go the cheap route with such a critical selling point? PEOPLE! If your going to go it alone, for goodness sake spend the dough and pay for a top notch cover.

It is the first thing a buyer sees. It is what draws the eye when their are scrolling through the five-zillion options on Amazon, iTunes and B&N. Stand-out from a jammed crowd!

For me, having a high-end cover for UNDERTOW is a must, but I (being a control freak just a tad) wanted more than just a great cover with stock-models from some royalty-free website. I wanted REAL people – teenagers – from the school that is featured in UNDERTOW: Barnstable High School.

“Have you lost your marbles?!” you scream. Possibly BUT there’s a method to my madness and here’s why:

1. It’s a series: UNDERTOW is book 1 in a 4 book span. I NEED the main characters to be represented by the same faces through the whole series. Thus: real models, carefully selected to mirror the characters. I COULD cop-out and have, oh perhaps . . . two hands HOLDING AN APPLE on book 1, but that just ain’t me.

2. Marketing: I want my graphic designer to make more than one cover PER BOOK. Yeah – that’s right. The hardcover will be different than the soft than the ebook. PLUS . . . I want posters, banners, candids for my blog, etc.

3. The cast becomes REAL: I would love to bring these fabulous teens with me for a book signing, maybe a meet-and-greet with fans and their own interviews about the journey as the faces of these characters. Who does that? EVER? Rather than have a 1-dimensional hero or heroine that resides solely on the page, you now have a walking, breathing REAL person. You have more than a face: you have a living star.

I will post the “cast” of UNDERTOW when it is completed – just wait until you see! I am thrilled with who we have so far!

Oh yeah . . . and those beautiful eyes belong to my daughter :)

CHEERS!

All Around the Town: Tales from Bus Driver Hell

school busIt is possible that I have been asked to write a Bombeckesque memoir about being a bus driver at least fifty times. And yes – the tales from the road could fill an encyclopdeia. But I am a professional writer (and driver) and believe it or not, my time is somewhat squeezed. So yes – someday I hope to gather the tales of craziness from my fellow school bus drivers, but for now I will stick with just a few posts from our crazy profession.

So, in honor of BUS DRIVER APPRECIATION DAY (yes – it is real. Go  figure),  I have culled the Top Ten Things a Driver Never Wants to Hear Again (names have been changed OBVIOUSLY and thankfully, not all are MY BUS but are all REAL). For another great tale, check out an older post about my bus eating the kids.

10. “Bus Driver!! I think NEMO is going to hurl! Ah crap – too late.”

9. “YOU MISSED A STOP!”

8. “Ariel just flung my gum out the window and it hit that passing car in the windshield!”

7. “Holy Sh*t! SULLY just jumped out the back door! What a moron – thank God we’re still at the school!!”

6. “Do you smell something burning?”

5. “Mike just tied Frank’s shoelaces to the seat and now he is STUCK!”

4. “YOU MISSED A STOP! AGAIN!!!!”

3. “OMG! That dude is PEEING in front of his car! LOOK!!!”

2. “I just found a shot-gun casing on my seat. Can I keep it?”

1. “Did you know there is a code blue at the school – RIGHT NOW?”

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