Monday, August 22, 2016

Olympic Moments

The Olympics are over - until next time.

Two weeks of emotional highs and lows. I always want everyone to achieve personal bests and to fulfill their dreams. :)

I love the athletes who are thrilled and awed to be there despite knowing they have no realistic chance to medal.
I love the camaraderie among many of the athletes despite the fact they're competing against each other.
I love learning fascinating tidbits about sports I've loved for a long time and sports that are new to me.

For me, there were many highlights, but a few stood out:
  • Watching the Men's Rugby 7s Team from Fiji listen to their national anthem after winning their country's first ever Olympic gold medal
  • A young Brazilian man achieving a personal best and surprising the field by winning the Gold in pole vault
  • Simone Biles
  • Usain Bolt
  • Our Canadian athletes - medaled and otherwise. So many amazing stories, so many incredible moments
  • Our fabulous Canadian television coverage. Three stations worked together to ensure coverage of a bazillion events. At many times I could access 7 channels all showing different events. 7!!! And not all focused on Canadian athletes. Instead, we were able to see a huge range of sports showcasing many different countries. Fantastic!
The Olympics always give me hope that Humanity is taking steps to be better, to work together, and to take peace seriously. Let's hope that's true!

Are you an Olympic junkie? What was your favourite moment?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Change

2016 hasn't been an easy year, both in my personal corner and around the rest of the world.

It can be overwhelming and devastating.

We can't fix it.
We can't forget it.
We can't let it continue.

But, we often feel so powerless.

At school, we often have conversations about change. And that the only person's behaviour we have any control over, is our own.

We can change how we act.
How we react.
How we think.
How we help.
How we love.

Start small.
Change yourself for the better.
One small improvement leads to another.
One small example spreads.
One kind word or gesture can make a bigger difference than you'd ever expect.

Be kind.
Be thoughtful.
Be better.

Be the change you want to see in the world
~ Gandhi

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IWSG & Star Trek & Floppy Disks


The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. He, his clones, minions, friends, and fellow authors make it an amazing event every month.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!


And we’re revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive! Every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

AUGUST 03rd QUESTION: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

Okay, let's see..

I think this piece would count...

A long, long time ago, when the kids were still very young, I wrote a Star Trek TNG novel. For years, I'd been making Star Trek scripts in my head and I decided to type one out.

I actually don't remember much about it, except:

  • Geordi was the main character of the main plot line
  • The planet involved had no women's rights and some very barbaric customs
  • Geordi got involved with Jaya, a woman from the planet
  • Jaya was very tough, didn't trust easily, and was trying to change her world
  • Jaya was killed at the end
  • A sub-plot involved Deanna using her empathic senses to navigate through an underground prison
  • Deanna and Worf's relationship was developing

That's about it. As far as I remember it was extremely melodramatic and a bit (or a lot!) cheesy. I think it's probably languishing on a floppy disk somewhere. If I find it, I'll have to find a computer with an A drive! 

When I got brave enough to check out a copy of Writer's Digest from the library, I discovered that only "agented submissions" were accepted by the Star Trek people. I had NO idea what that meant, but it sounded very Hollywood-esque. I assumed only famous people had agents.

End of journey.

I knew less than nothing (obviously), but that novel niggled in the back of my head (and my heart) for a lot of years. When I finally decided to actually give this writing thing a go, I already knew I was capable of completing a draft. And THAT is worth something!

How about you? Any fan fiction writers out there? Anyone know what an A drive is? Where's your very first draft?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Laurel Garver & Fish Out of Water!

Please welcome one of my bloggy friends to the blog today -- Laurel Garver!
***
The amazing power of fish-out-of-water stories

Stories about a character forced into an unfamiliar context are a staple of creative narratives, from books to plays, TV
shows, and films. The most common kind of fish out of water is geographical—crossing the urban-rural divide or visiting a foreign land. Crossing socioeconomic or class divides is common in fairy tales, yet often with very little realistic nuance—going from pauper to prince overnight would actually be quite stressful! Other divides include ethnic (My Big, Fat Greek Wedding), religious (David & Layla), educational (Good Will Hunting), temporal (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court), and generational (Freaky Friday).

We love fish-out-of-water stories because they tell us about the human condition, and make us examine our own inner workings. Every one of us has places where we feel at home and places where we don’t. Those contrasts, if handled well, make for wonderful story tension. 

Here are some of the specific “powers” these kinds of stories have, as I discovered while writing my latest novel, Almost There, about an urban teen who, on the eve of a trip to Paris, gets stuck in her mother’s rural hometown. 

Reveal temperament
Characters’ reactions to unfamiliar environments shows how adaptable, accepting, or curious they are. Does the unfamiliar threaten or fascinate? How confidently or timidly do characters carry themselves among those unlike them? 

Weaknesses and fears that never come out in familiar, comfortable environments often show themselves in new venues. Conversely, the new experiences can cause unknown interests and strengths to emerge. 

When I dropped New Yorker Danielle in rural northern Pennsylvania, I found that her city-kid independence expressed itself as curiosity—and also made her seem a bit cocky to the locals. The wooded landscape initially frightens her, but also proves an inspiration for creating new art.

Reveal a comfort zone and sense of “normal”
Your concept of what is safe or dangerous, wonderful or disgusting, cool or weird is to a large degree colored by how unfamiliar things compare to life inside your comfort zone.
An urbanite will feel far more comfortable in man-made environments and in the press of a crowd. Put one in the woods, and they’ll likely find the environment deeply sinister. Sounds they can’t account for might be a dangerous predator; dirt could be full of gross, crawly things. 

As an outsider, a character might make striking or hilarious observations a local wouldn’t. For example, on arriving at her grandfather’s, Dani describes the summer hum of crickets chirping as “a threatening cacophony, reminding me that this is their crawly, leggy, wingy territory.”

Dani’s normal is multicultural and fairly unfazed by difference. When she learns the neighbor has been labeled with the ethnic slur “Mick,” she quips, “Seriously? Is being Irish considered weirdly ethnic here? In New York, you could have earlobes stretched to your shoulders and pierce your whole face with nails and hardly get a passing glance from anyone.” 

Reveal underlying biases 
Characters approach unfamiliar things with a set of expectations—sometimes even deep prejudices they didn’t know they held until put in proximity with this environment. 

For example, when an unfamiliar beater Volvo appears in her grandfather’s driveway, Dani assumes that only an elderly person would drive such a car, and this person must be “be a granny from Poppa’s church bringing us dinner. I hope it’s one of those epic tuna noodle casseroles with crushed potato chips on top that Mum always jokes about. I bet it’s as delicious as it is lowbrow.” It’s actually one of her New York friends, an additional shock because she’s accustomed to no one learning to drive until they’re 18 and no longer a restricted “junior learner”—rules peculiar to the five boroughs. 

Awakening to biases can become an instrument for change in a character. When Dani befriends a neighbor and sees the ways he struggles that she never has, she begins to re-evaluate her own life, and realizes just how privileged her upbringing has been. 

Reveal values
We all naturally make judgments about unfamiliar things. The familiar world will be held up as a model, and the unfamiliar measured against it as either inferior or superior. How a character makes value judgments about which culture is superior gives a very accurate window into their entire value system.

For example, Dani recognizes in the neighbor boy an entrepreneurial drive she’s never seen in her city friends. She notes that he acts “like a grown man” when seeking work and calls it “intriguing.” Rather than label him a boring workaholic, she admires his maturity. 

What is your favorite fish-out-of-water story? Why does it speak to you?

About the Author
Laurel Garver is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, professor’s wife and mom to an arty teenager. An indie film enthusiast and incurable Anglophile, she enjoys geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who, playing word games, singing in church choir, and taking long walks in Philly's Fairmount Park. You can follow her on her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

About Almost There
Genre: Young Adult Inspirational

Paris, the City of Lights. To seventeen-year-old Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches a plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save. 

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?


Available here: Amazon  /  Barnes and Noble  /  Smashwords  / Apple iTunes   
***

Thanks Laurel!

I love fish-out-of-water scenes and stories. The story I'm currently attempting to plot plotting is going to have a strong element of this. 

Maybe my love goes back to my the first time I saw Wizard of Oz! 
How about you? What's your favourite Fish-out-of-Water story?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Visiting at The Insecure Writer's Support Group

Hi, everyone!

Today I'm honoured to be guest posting over at the IWSG blog. It's such a great group of people, I'm thrilled to be visiting. I hope you'll join me -- and bring your thoughts about kids today and their reading and writing habits!

(For those who were here early, sorry about the mess of this post!! I had someone with a health issue and I totally forgot to come here and check out the post! Sorry :))

Jacqui Jacoby & Those Bumps in the Night

Please welcome Jacqui Jacoby back to the blog!
***
I never set out to be a thriller writer. I always thought I leaned toward action/adventure, with a twist of romance. I don ‘t mind at all that is where I ended up. The stories are harder to write than mere action, but it was challenge I was able to face.

·       Romance means a character meets a character and fireworks fly across the page.
·       Action/adventure is the idea that somewhere in that story these characters are going to go somewhere where an escapade begins. I think it’s safe to say action will insure.
·       Defining action: that adventure that started is going to take some twists not anticipated and those twists will take your characters on a wild ride.

An action/adventure will change the way your characters see their lives.

A thriller will change the way they see their world.

Whereas the premise that action is happening, it is action that has a unforeseeable conclusion that will lead the characters down a dark corridor.

Whatever the characters are facing, it is an experience that is theirs alone.

That is a valuable quality in a relationship, it pulls them closer, makes them realize this person is experiencing this event with me. They will turn to each other for support. They may have doubt and blame the other, if only for a moment … “If you had turned left instead of right, we wouldn’t be facing this disaster … “ It doesn’t last as they come to realize they need each other to get to the other side of normal.

There are two primary elements to writing a thriller. The first and foremost is the villain. If there is not an adequate villain to put in front of your characters, if he is too easy to defeat, the point of the thriller is lost. Does a villain have to be flesh and blood? No, not at all. Think Jaws and you realize man was going up against “twenty-five feet with three tons on him …” ~Jaws

Creating a decent villain is the same process as creating your hero. You plan, you plot and you get to know them in order to know how far they will go and what is the kryptonite. 

For Dead Men Play the Game I plotted out Walter Bennett’s background to the point of before he was even turned into a vampire. I knew what he was like human. And those writer’s labeling their villain with “Ah, he’s just a psychopath, that’s why he does it…” is not the most well rounded way to go--too common and easy to use. 

SPOILER: Walter was a psychopath. I didn’t know that when I started. I knew that after I became afraid of the dark for awhile.

 MORE SPOILERS: When I was done fleshing him into existence, I knew that he had killed six people in the area where he was raised -– including his younger sister – before the vampire who turned him offered the chance to kill forever. Walter didn’t even try to decline. Walter was psychotic. He was a serial killer before anyone knew that was meant. His obsession with Ian Stuart didn’t derive so much from “Walter’s long lost love” but rather from the concept Ian walked away and never bowed to the threats mixed with the declarations. Walter was twisted beyond words, but his goal was revenge plain and simple.

 Know your villain enough to be cautious at night when you walk into that room before you turn the light on.

The other primary element in a thriller is escalation.

Which is actually a very simple concept: your heroine is faced with an ex-boyfriend who she realizes is demented and she wants out. Enter hero, Sean Branigan –Bystander.

 Whereas the inciting incident might be subtle--a hang up call, for instance. The next incident will take that up a notch—watching her work and she actually doesn’t know until he sends her the photos. When the next thing happens, it’s scarier, she’s more helpless. The pattern continues –- each event scarier than the last until the final climax hits full force and no one is safe.

Balancing the events of terror in the story is also important. You don’t want forty-seven separate incidents before the climactic scene—I used five in Bystander.

 The placement of events: you do want to stay with odd numbers verses even numbers of events. Presenting an even number creates the feeling of balance, even when you are not aware the mind is filing. Odd numbers force your brain to seek interest, it makes your thoughts move in an unexpected patterns. It keeps you on your toes. Makes you just a little closer to “What was that noise?”

Writing thrillers is a bit more work than writing a straight romance. I am half-panster/half-plotter but when working on a thriller I do have to have that minimum of planning of what event happens where, where does it take us, and finally, place them in position of the plot then work around that to create the rest of the story.

Seeing these stories unfold with comments from readers of “I couldn’t put it down …” makes it worth every moment of aggravation I might face putting a story together.

***
Jacqui Jacoby on the web:

Website
           Blog                       Twitter        Facebook

Google + Jacqui Jacoby          Instagram: JacquiJaxJacob      Pinterest: Jacqui Jacoby


The crime wasn’t in what Trevor Grant had done. It lay in what was done to him. Now, years after he lost his family, he faces life in prison for his part in removing the guilty. In Hannah Parker’s mind, she has two strikes against her: she has too much money and too many
brains. In her experience where one of these might blacklist you, the two together was a life sentence.

When the chance comes to see the boys on trial, their cause becomes her cause. With the silent resources behind her, she will work the system, securing the release of the men she believes innocent of conscience, if not the crime.

Strangers coming from different backgrounds, Trevor with Gavin, will join Hannah. She will become part of their everyday living—holding Trevor close—even as they keep an escape plan in place in case anyone ever looks twice and asks “do you live around here?” 


Buy Links


Amazon Aus        Amazon UK
iBooks        Kobo       Nook

***
Thanks Jacqui! What an interesting insight into the writing of a thriller! I love that you're a planner/pantster, too.

What about you? Anyone out there write thrillers? Any advice to offer?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

IWSG and All Things Nice

Time to jump into the IWSG pool!


The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. He, his clones, minions, friends, and fellow authors make it an amazing event every month.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

And we’re revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive! Every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 
JULY 6 QUESTION: What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

Great question!

We (or is it just me???) tend to focus on our needs and weaknesses a lot of the time. It's important to remember that we have strengths too.

I recently gained a new critique buddy and have been exchanging chapters of our current WIPs. It's a lot of fun working with other writers and each crit buddy and beta reader brings something different to the table.

This new buddy gave me an awesome compliment in a recent email... I think you are a certainty to get this published. It's quite clear you've mastered your writing craft.

Wow! As you can no doubt understand, I've been smiling ever since! 

How about you? What positives have you heard recently about your writing?
Remember to check out this link to find other IWSG posts!