The Sweetie Chronicles

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Home to Georgia

I'm heading back to see my family in Georgia this weekend. For a long Easter weekend, really, since I leave tomorrow and won't come back until Monday. It sounds so simple, but to be honest - going home can be complicated. I want to see everyone who is important to me, but with only a few days, it's not easy to spread my time around in a way that makes everybody else happy.

First, there's my mother. She pretty much wants me to be with her the whole time. I think she's beginning to understand more and more that I'm actually an adult who can make her own decisions. For some reason, it's more difficult for her to understand that I want to spend time with my sister and brother just as much as I want to spend time with her. But when she went home to Indiana to visit her family, didn't she stay with her sister? Sure, she went to visit her Mom when she was alive, but most of the Indiana visit was with Aunt K, not Nana. So why doesn't she understand that I want to see my sister too? Inevitably, I am wracked with guilt for not spending enough time with my mother when I am home.

I absolutely LOVE going over to my brother's house. It's a beautiful house that's comfortable and friendly. Conversations with my brother are always funny and intellectually stimulating. My sister-in-law is truly just a part of the family. And she's a friend, you know? Someone I could talk to for hours without getting tired. Then there's my beautiful niece, who is growing up way too fast. I enjoy being over there with them.

My sister is the same way - but different. We don't ever spend much time with her partner, who works all the time. But I adore my niece and we have fun together. And spending time with my sister is more fun than I ever imagined it could be. Back when we were younger and we barely liked to say two words to each other, I never dreamed we would sit and talk for hours and play games and watch movies and talk about books the way we do now as adults. I love my sister very much, and I don't get enough time with her as it is.

So where do I fit my friends into this equation? With only three nights at home (maybe four), that leaves one night for each of my family, and no real time for any of my friends. There are lots of people I'd like to see when I'm home. Friends from my teaching days. Old friends from High School. Church friends. But any time I spend with them takes away from time with family - and do I really want to take time away from the people that I know truly care about me? Especially when most of these other "friends" rarely, if ever, call me and ask me how I'm doing? I guess the decision isn't so complicated after all.

Our Pet Squirrel


Okay, so we don't really have a pet squirrel. There just happens to be a squirrel in our backyard most days. And in our front yard. And on our roof. And in our trees. He seems to be a friendly little thing. I don't feed him or anything, but most afternoons when I open the back door to let Snickerdoodle (our pomeranian) outside to go potty, the squirrel is there, hanging out and watching. G had a theory that since Snickerdoodle has a bushy tail, maybe the squirrel thinks she is also a squirrel and not a dog. Hmmm.... maybe the squirrel is in love with my dog.

There's also the fact that I will often find Snickerdoodle hanging out on the stairs, gazing into the backyard through the back windows. Maybe they have a secret way to communicate and have become secret friends? I can't be sure.

All of my thoughts regarding the squirrel are not happy, friendly thoughts. Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if this squirrel decided to jump down from the fence and into the backyard while Snickerdoodle was out there. Would they fight? I'm quite sure Snick would try to run after it, but what would the squirrel do? It's not like my dog is exactly trained in squirrel fighting. And those bitches have some heinous claws! That squirrel could really fuck up a pomeranian, I have no doubt.

And sometimes, when I open the door to let the dog back in, the squirrel comes running down the fence straight at me, no fear in his little black eyes. I get scared sometimes that he'll run and jump, maybe do a little somersault into my dining room. Then what? Put up his dukes and challenge me to a duel? Or maybe he'd just rummage through the kitchen, grab a bag of chips and hang out on the couch all day. /shrug. I don't think I want to know.

Scary Weather

Last night, when G and I went to bed around 12:30, there was still about four and a half hours left on a tornado watch. G went right to sleep, but I stayed up reading for a bit, listening worriedly at the cracks of thunder and lightning and the pouring rain outside our window. Around 1:30, I finally fell asleep. The weather didn't seem too bad. Just the occasional windy sound that rattled the neighbors' wind chimes or the little bit of lightning that sometimes lit up the sky.

Throughout the next few hours, I slept very light. With every rumble of the thunder, I would wake up for a few minutes, look out the window just to make sure I didn't see anything crazy, like Dorothy's house floating by. Then, just when I had finally gotten into a nice sleep, my eyes flew open at the sound of the loudest sound all night. Honestly, G and I both woke up and grabbed each other's hands. It was as though there was an explosion of some kind. It literally shook the entire house. I don't particularly remember any flash of lightning, but there was definitely a loud booming sound, followed by a more distant thunder.

We both got up from the bed and looked through the windows, half expecting to see something on fire or at least some kind of damage outside. We didn't see anything. Outside, it was just rainy and dark. I still am not entirely sure what it was we felt last night. Lightning? Just really loud thunder? Thank God it wasn't a tornado coming through. This morning, the news reported 8 tornadoes in surrounding areas. Yikes! This morning, we are both tired from getting pitiful sleep, but at least we can be happy with the fact that we still have our home and we are both alive and healthy. That was some seriously scary weather.

Disappointment

No Golden Heart "call" for me yesterday. I'm not surprised, but I'm disappointed. And I'm definitely not alone. There are over 1000 other people feeling the same way today, and I know that some of them, maybe even most of them, are talented writers. The votes just didn't come in their favor this year. And that's part of the thing about writing and wanting to get published - disappointment is just part of it. It comes with the territory, so to speak.

Some writers collect rejection slips by the hundreds before finally selling a manuscript. For some writers, it took years to find their voice and reach their audience. I know this is not an easy business. There will probably be more disappointments over the years than successes - especially at the beginning. And according to my record so far, I'm still at the beginning. I've collected now 3 contest non-finals and five rejections from agents and editors. That's nothing in the grand scheme of things. And the fact that four of those five rejections have included a personal compliment to my writing shows that I'm on the right track. They all could have easily sent form letters.

The key is to keep writing, even in the face of disappointment. To keep telling your story. To say to yourself, "It's okay. I'll keep writing and I'll get better. I'll keep entering and I won't give up." Hard work and perseverance pays off in writing the same way it does in just about every other profession or endeavor in life. So today, despite not becoming a finalist in the Golden Heart, I am at my desk, ready to write and work hard. I am writing a new book that I can enter in the 2011 Golden Heart Competition. And maybe next time, I'll win.

Golden Heart Day!

My first thought when I woke up today: OMG. It's Golden Heart Day!

Today is the day that RWA Board members make those coveted calls to let the finalists in the 2010 Golden Heart Writing Competition. I'm following the news on two different websites. The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, a blog written collaboratively by previous year's finalists, as well as Judi Fennell's site, where she is hosting her annual *SQUEEEE* party announcing the finalists in each category. So far, it looks like four names have gone up, and I already feel certain that my name will not be going on the list today.

There are 10 Golden Heart categories, and I am entered this year in the "Contemporary Series Romance" category. My manuscript, Sea Island Secrets (formerly known as "The Millionaire's Secret Merger") is the very same one that was (nicely) rejected by the senior editor at Silhouette Desire last December. I took a peek back through the GH entry the other day just to refresh my memory on what I had actually sent in, and overall, I am very proud of my accomplishment. I actually finished a novel! I took a risk and sent it in to one of the most prestigious contests for unpublished writers in the world! Would I love to get a call today letting me know I am a finalist? Hell yes! Will it be the end of the world if I don't? Not on your life.

In fact, the chances are stacked very high that I will not get a call this year. Contemporary Series Romance is always a highly entered category with sometimes close to 200 entries, many of which have made the finals in past years. Only 7 or 8 finalists will be chosen out of those 200'ish entries, so not winning is nothing to be ashamed of. I still plan to sit by the phone all day (or rather, carry the phone with me all day:P) in hopes that it will ring with good news, but I'll be just fine if it doesn't. I'm proud of myself either way just for putting myself in the arena this year.

Congratulations to all the 2010 Rita and Golden Heart Finalists! The full announcement should be up on the RWA website by 2:00 PM central time today.

Book 7: Graceling by Kristin Cashore


Set in a fantasy world, Kristin Cashore's Graceling is definitely a fast and entertaining read. In this world, some children are born with special abilities called "Graces". Parents know their child has a Grace if their eyes settle as two different colors. Katsa, the heroine of the story, has one green eye and one blue eye. She is Graced with killing, a valuable Grace for the King of the Middluns, her Uncle Randa, and he uses her as his thug, sending her out to punish those that owe him money or have wronged him in some way. But everything changes when Katsa meets Po, the graceling Prince of Lienid. He has one silver eye and one gold, and Katsa is intrigued by him from the start. But there are more to their Graces than either of them wants to admit.

With the exception of the very first scene of the book, the beginning lags a little bit. I think most fantasy is this way, though. It's difficult to build a whole new world in a reader's eyes. It took a while to really get into the main part of the story, and the plot seems often to disappear and lose focus for a while throughout the book. Once it settles and you truly understand what the story is about, the book moves fast. I loved Katsa's stubborn personality and the juxtaposition of her rage and her caring heart. She was unique and beautiful to watch as the story unfolds. Po is a perfect companion for her, with his honesty and his open communication.

It was a sweeping tale of a journey through this strange land. It definitely had that epic tale kind of feel and I thought the author did an amazing job showing me this world and the characters in it. Definitely a good read, well recommended if you like YA fantasy.

Sandra Bullock's Husband is A Dumbass

Surely, you've heard about the drama surrounding Sandra Bullock and Jesse James, right? It's pretty much THE news these days, and I think it's because of the shocking timing. I mean, shouldn't this be the happiest days of her career? She's an immensely talented actress who can pull people to the box office to see her latest film just by name alone. She's so beautiful and young and fresh-faced (even though she's really what? 40-something? Amazing.) We all know that she's great at romantic comedy roles like Gracie Lou Freebush in Miss Congeniality, but we also all know that a role like that will never lead to a Best Actress Oscar, especially when she's competing against the likes of Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. The Blindside, a movie based on a true story, was her chance to reach deep inside and play a true Oscar-winning role. And win she did. Just this month, Sandra won her first Oscar, and possibly the only one she will ever be nominated for, unless she chooses more dramatic roles in the future. I personally haven't seen the Blindside, but damn, I loved her in The Proposal!

Anyway, my point is that Sandra Bullock is at the pinnacle of her career. This is her moment in the sun. Yet, over the past week or so, two international movie premieres, as well as a European Press tour, have been canceled. While she should be reveling in the glory of her success and riding that train all the way to Europe as the Blindside makes it debut in London and Berlin, instead she's dealing with some trashy slut who has come forward to say that she had an affair with Sandra's husband, Jesse James.

The slut in question, Michelle McGee, couldn't have timed her announcement more perfectly - for the sake of her own career at least. A few months ago, hardly anyone had ever heard of her. Cybersex star and stripper McGee, who is heavily tattoed, recently posed for some tattoo magazine, then convinced the publisher to put her on the cover saying that she'd be famous very soon. How right she was. I guess she was just biding her time, waiting to see if Sandra won the Oscar so that she could use the moment to catapult herself to fame. To me, as if it isn't bad enough that this woman slept with a married man, it's immensely creepy and disgusting that she purposely waited for Sandra's moment in the sun to come forward with this information in order to further her own career. Not only did she hurt Sandra's marriage, she also took away her joy at what should have been a very joyful time in her life.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not placing all the blame on the slut. Jesse James is more to blame than anyone if he really did sleep with her. He's the one, after all, who made a promise when he married Sandra. He's the one who was supposed to be faithful. I personally hope Sandra kicks him to the curb for good. He doesn't deserve her if he would dare treat her like that. And that goes for pretty much ANY husband who cheats on their wife. It definitely sucks to see yet another woman find success in her career only to have her personal life fall apart. That would be heartbreaking to do in private, but can you imagine going through that on such a public level? My heart goes out to Sandra Bullock. Such a beautiful and talented person who deserves so much more.

New Phone!

I was so tired of my old phone. It was a Sanyo and when I picked it out, I was swayed by the cool outer display and the shiny pink color. The battery life was really good too, but I had been using the phone for two years. In this day and age where phones are so advanced and varied, it was like torture to carry around the same boring phone for two years! Okay, so torture might be a strong word. But I wanted a new one, regardless.

This month, our two year Sprint contract expires. If we were wealthy, we would probably switch to Verizon and both get Droid phones. Either that or switch to AT&T for the iPhone. We are not, however, wealthy. Especially with my new Jenny Craig membership sucking a lot of the cash out of our wallets (for a good cause!), we cannot really afford two new cell phones. Not even with the so called "discounts" they give for signing a new two-year contract. Plus, it would be nice to afford the data plan with email and GPS and all the bells and whistles.

Instead of a new plan and new phones through Sprint, I decided to just buy a new phone on ebay! I found the phone I wanted from the Sprint site (where it costs something outrageous like $350), then went to ebay and found the same phone. The LG Lotus. There was a great auction for a gently used one, so I emailed the seller and asked if there were any scratches or if there was any wear on the phone. She said no, that it was in 'new' condition. I ended up paying only $80 for the phone and when it came, it was just as she said. It looks brand new! And I got the USB cord to hook it up to my computer, a 2 GB mini-SD card to hold pictures and music, and a car charger all for that low price. And I didn't even have to sign a new contract. I am definitely loving my new phone with its MP3 player, full QWERTY keyboard and fun new look. And when I get tired of the purple? I can buy interchangeable faceplates. :)

3 Months of Marriage! Plus... Contest Disappointment.

G and I have been married for three months today! It's crazy how time flies! We really are made for each other, and every day that goes by, it just becomes more and more obvious how much we love each other. I just had a dream the other day about us going to Vegas, and I realized just how much I miss it. Sure, we were only there for a week, but it was like a dream. Of course, I think we'd feel that way just about anywhere that we could get away, just the two of us. Wouldn't it be nice to be stinking rich and able to travel anywhere in the world on a moment's notice? Especially if you had the job freedom to just pick up and go and not worry about coming home anytime soon? But we certainly don't live in that fairy tale, so there will be no picking up and going for us in the next few months. G says that maybe when I hit my halfway goal on Jenny Craig, we can take a special trip to celebrate my progress. I definitely like the sound of that.

What I don't like is entering contests that I don't win. I entered the Chicago RWA's Fire and Ice contest with my Young Adult manuscript and found out yesterday that I did not make the finals. Booo! I know that any contest is going to be extremely subjective. You never know who is judging your entry and if they just don't like the plot or the tone, you're toast. Whereas, a different set of judges in the same contest might have loved it. It's a crapshoot, really. But, still, a crapshoot I was hoping to win! I am anxious to get my scoresheets back to see what they liked/didn't like about the first 20 pages of my book. Maybe after the 3 finalists, I was 4th in line. Hey, you never know!

Next Thursday is the dreaded "Golden Heart" finalist announcement. In some ways, I wish I hadn't even entered. There's all this hope surrounding it. I really had so much faith in my book when I sent it in! But now that it's been rejected by Harlequin, I seriously doubt it's going to final in the GH contest. Sure, the editor said my writing was great, but compared to the other entries? I don't know. From what I hear, some people revise their manuscript over and over for years, sending in the same manuscript (but tweaked!) every time until they win. It's brutal. But being a finalist for the GH is huge when it comes to RWA Nationals, and I so was hoping to make it into that group. I entered in Contemporary Series Romance, not YA, and it's one of the toughest categories in the whole contest. They usually get upwards of 150 entries in that one category, and there can only be a max of 7 finalists. Ouch! The odds are definitely stacked against me. I figure there's a 99.9% chance that I won't final. Unfortunately, that 0.1% still has hope, and that's what's killing me. I wish I could just sleep through next Thursday instead of having to live through the nightmare of finding out I didn't final in yet another contest. Ugh.

Luckily, I have the world's greatest husband (in the world), and can be happy that there is one person who would choose me every single time. :)

Writing My Novel: Sequence One Done!

A week ago, I wrote about how I've been using the advice of Alexandra Sokoloff on structuring my novel. Well, using the screenwriting tricks she talks about on her blog, I have planned my novel structure. It comes out to eight sequences and a total of 4 Acts (okay, so most people say 3 Acts, but I say 4 just because it makes it easier for me to figure things out).

For my young adult novel, I am shooting for about 80,000 words, which works out perfectly with 8 sequences - roughly 10,000 words per sequence. Of course, the beginning will probably be a little bit longer than the ending, but at least it gives me something to aim towards as far as page count and word count. On Tuesday I finally finished sequence one! Yay!! It came out to be almost 12,000 words. I know it is going to need a lot of revision as it's far from perfect, but I'm just so happy to have the first part finished and actually down on paper. Sometimes, it seems like the beginning is the hardest part for me to write. It's all about getting comfortable with the main characters and feeling out the tone of the overall story. It's difficult to make those decisions, so now that I've gotten my feet wet, so to speak, I'm over the first hurdle.

Sequence two will get its start today, and I plan to introduce a new POV character. So far, the story has been told from two points of view - the witch and the main heroine, Parrish. The witch only got one little scene, and with the exception of a short, two page news article about the CDC, the rest has been all Parrish. It makes me nervous to think about introducing a new POV in this next section. Noah Vincent, the handsome guy Parrish has had a crush on for all these years, has already been seen in the book, he just hasn't gotten to be center stage yet. I have no idea if introducing a new POV like this will actually work. I hope it does because in Sequence 3, we're going to start seeing things from the Villain's POV, then in sequence 4, I go to Crash and Carmen as well. By sequence 5, I'll have given the reader a peek inside 7 different character's heads, plus the random news articles, internet posts and such that go along with the outbreak of infection and the rising of the dead. I might even add an 8th point of view later for a short look into Trench's head - the big bad zombie who is a slave of the Sorceress.

OMG, it sounds like a mess doesn't it? I really hope I can pull this off! It could just be one of those things you're not supposed to do, but to me, it seems to make sense. The only real way to know is to write it and see. As Virginia Kantra always says, "There is no right or wrong in writing. There's only works and doesn't work." Wise woman.

Signed Up for Jenny Craig!


Yesterday, I made a very big decision for myself. I went down to the local Jenny Craig center and signed up for a year! In the past, I have tried Weight Watchers, and even though it seemed to work for me pretty well when I was in Indianapolis a long time ago, I haven't had any success on it since. On the other hand, I have heard such amazing things about Jenny Craig. Since you eat their food for almost every meal, your portions and calories are already counted out for you.

Is it expensive? Absolutely. If I lose the weight I want to lose, will it be worth it? Hell yes. I have been trying to lose this weight for several years now, but I haven't been able to stick to a program or find the willpower to resist eating sweets and huge portions. The cost comes from a full year of membership (which you can sign up for less, but I decided to do the premium membership and get full access and support - plus at one year, my insurance actually paid $100 of the signup fee!) plus the cost of food per week. I ended up paying, after the insurance discount, $300 for the year, then each week of food is going to be between $100 and $125. I was able to split the $300 into 3 payments, which is helpful. I know it's going to be a little more money than we're used to spending on food, because I will still have to buy food for G separately.

I'm so thankful that we're in a place right now where we can afford to do this and I can go to a therapist. I feel like after so long of just living in this downward spiral of depression and disappointment, I am finally finding ways to lift myself up. Marriage to the perfect man of my dreams helped! :P Anyway, I am excited about starting on a new journey and working hard to get healthy, both physically and mentally. The food is in the freezer and today is day 1. Total weight loss goal? 52 pounds. Considering I signed up for 52 weeks of membership, I know it's totally do-able. I just have to take it one day at a time. Here's hoping Jenny Craig is a great weight loss program that will work for me.

Book 6: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

I might be cheating a little bit here. I actually picked up Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth last year at the NC Literary Festival where she was speaking. I really enjoyed her and hearing what she had to say, and I was very excited about reading her book. It is one of the only YA zombie books out there that isn't about zombies at prom or zombies in high school, etc. Instead, Ryan's unique idea of setting a book generations after the zombie apocalypse really caught my eye.

Sadly, even though I started it last year, I didn't actually finish it until this weekend. Here's the thing - Carrie Ryan is hopefully someone I'd like to be friends with someday. She writes in the same genre as I do, and she even writes about the same basic subject matter. She loved Christopher Pike books when she was young and so did I! She might have come late to the horror movie/zombie movie genre, but she did get there, and I have always been a huge fan of horror films. I think she's the kind of person I would really get along with. She always seems to be upbeat and happy on Twitter, and I have nothing but nice things to say about her. Except for this - I found the book rather difficult to get through.

It's not that the writing is bad. It's not. It's beautiful. It's very lyrical and almost reads like a kind of poetry. For me, it was just that the heroine is so down all the time. She's had such a rough life, I get that. But other than her constant hope that she'll someday see the ocean, she's pretty much depressed the entire book. Seeing how this book, which just came out in paperback, has now been on the NYT Bestseller list for two weeks, I think this is something that teen readers relate to. Their lives are full of that angst and sorrow and that feeling that they were meant for something more. Ryan really taps into that.

What worries me, though, is how different my zombie book is from hers. I mean, I guess different is a good thing, but then again, will teens be able to relate to my very ensemble cast novel that is maybe more external conflict than internal? I think I need to make sure as I'm writing to really connect to that teen spirit of doubt and confusion, yet always hope that things will be better. Overall, I would definitely recommend Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Her second book in the series, The Dead-Tossed Waves, just came out this month as well. If you read it, let me know what you thought of it. Did it feel fast-paced to you? Or too much angst and saddened tone?

Weekend Project: Peel and Stick Tiles

It's nothing glamorous - not that anything called "peel and stick" every could be - but it is still something that makes me proud. Ever since I moved into G's townhouse (which is now our townhouse :), I have wanted to do something about the front entryway. It's a small little area when you first come through the door that has a tiny coat closet and a small half bathroom. The floor was a terrible green linoleum that was coming up on all of the edges. We even tried to tape it down at one point to make sure no one tripped over it, lol. Well, it was time to do something about it, so we made this weekend a home improvement project weekend.

I desperately wish I had taken a "before" picture, but sadly, I did not. What we did first was tear the old linoleum up (and when I say "we", I mean G). I helped a little bit by peeling up little pieces that were left behind when the bigger piece came up. Then, we went to this discount store called "Ollies" and picked out some peel and stick tile. Ollies is like TJ Maxx for things other than clothes. They do massive random buyouts and so you never quite know what you'll find. I just happened to be there the other day checking out the current inventory and saw the tiles. It gave me the idea for the project in the first place, so after we pulled up the old flooring, we picked out a new one.

Then, we went to a nice dinner :P. Okay, so that wasn't part of the project, but it was very nice and we had some amazing conversation. (And I had a mango mai tai, which was amazing - actually 3 of them.) Yesterday we got back to the project by measuring out the floor, figuring out where the middle of the area was and starting there with the tiles to make the room look even. Once we had all of the main area finished, we got down to the hardest part of cutting the tiles to the edges. While G tried in vain to get the baseboards off so we could put the tile underneath, I made tracings of the shape of the room in order to cut the tiles in the right shape. I did most of the cutting and I think it turned out pretty great, all things considered.

I am proud of this project for two main reasons: 1) It's just one of those things you talk about wanting to do but so rarely make time for. I'm proud that we actually made time for it this weekend. And 2) We only spent $20, and that includes an almost full 2nd box of tiles that we will use when we finish the half bathroom. Also, can I just say that I have the best husband in the world? I love that we can work together fixing a floor and not argue a single time. I love that we can laugh and have fun even while we're doing something tedious. He's the best, and I am so incredibly lucky to have him.

Now, it's off to write - which is what I really was supposed to be doing this weekend :P.

Choosing the Right POV

Picking a POV for my WIP is feeling like the bane of my existence right about now. When I first started this novel, I started telling it in first person from my heroine's point of view. Then, I decided to mix in the points of view of the other characters in the story, like Crash, Noah, and Carmen. Even the villain, perhaps. So, I added third person limited point of view for these other characters. The result, in my opinion, was a story that started to move too slowly. I had to take too much time to introduce each voice and situation. I was literally 30,000 words into a 75,000 word novel about the zombie apocalypse and there had yet to be a hint of a zombie. It was madness!

So, I backed up. I decided to write mainly from Parrish's (my heroine's) point of view. First person as if she were writing in a diary. The only other POV was going to be the witch, whose part I was going to tell in third person limited, spaced throughout the story. Unfortunately, this didn't work either. The diary seemed too limiting. It set Parrish sometime in the future going back to tell her story. I just couldn't really see it happening. Plus, in the second book (since this is going to be at least a trilogy), the friends get separated. I won't be able to tell everyone's story from Parrish's point of view if she doesn't know where they are.

And just like that, I'm back to square one. I thought we'd take a look today at some of my favorite teen novels. I'm just going to give some short examples of text from them so that we can look at the use of point of view. How much difference does something like this really make? G says he doesn't ever really notice point of view in a story. It's just either interesting or it isn't. Do you agree with that? Or is POV important to you as a reader?

Example 1: From Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Book 2 of the Hunger Games)

When I hear the screams of the crowd, I think it's because I must look stunning. Then I notice something is rising up around me. Smoke. From fire. Not the flickery stuff I wore last year in the chariot, but something much more real that devours my dress. I begin to panic as the smoke thickens. Charred bits of black silk swirl into the air, and pearls clatter to the stage. Somehow I'm afraid to stop because my flesh doesn't seem to be burning and I know Cinna must be behind whatever is happening. So I keep spinning and spinning. For a split second I'm gasping, completely engulfed in the strange flames. Then all at once, the fire is gone. I slowly come to a stop, wondering if I'm naked and why Cinna has arranged to burn away my wedding dress.
First person point of view throughout the entire book, and told in present tense, as if the action is happening at the same time I am reading it. At first, it honestly took me some time to get into this point of view, but once I was in, I was hooked. Carrie Ryan's YA zombie book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, is also told in this same POV. It definitely works to draw you in, but would it work for a multi-cast type story like mine? Where one chapter is Parrish and the next is Noah? It might feel like too much head-hopping.

Of course, I could always go with multiple first person points of view with past tense, which isn't such a strong pov when it comes to tone like the Hunger Games.

Example #2: Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

I lay facedown across the sleeping bag, waiting for justice to find me. Maybe an avalanche would bury me here. I wished it would. I never wanted to have to see my face in the mirror again.

There was no sound to warn me. Out of nowhere, Edward's cold hand stroked against my knotted hair. I shuddered guiltily at his touch.

"Are you all right?" he murmured, his voice anxious.

"No. I want to die."

"That will never happen. I won't allow it."

I groaned and then whispered, "You might change your mind about that."
You still get that closeness of the first person thoughts and feelings and narrative, but the tone is different with past tense instead of present. It might be able to work like this if I switch to other point of view characters, but I'm not sure. Sometimes in YA, it seems like first person seems to just fit since it's so much easier to portray that youthful voice.

Example #3: Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Seeing them now, at night, the ruins felt much more real to Tally. On school trips, the teachers always made the Rusties out to be so stupid. You almost couldn't believe people lived like this, burning trees to clear land, burning oil for heat and power, setting the atmosphere on fire with their weapons. But in the moonlight she could imagine people scrambling over flaming cars to escape the crumbling city, panicking in their flight from this untenable pile of metal and stone.

Shay's voice pulled Tally from her reverie. "Come on, I want to show you something."
Third person limited throughout the book, it follows Tally Youngblood's thoughts. This book drew me in and made me feel close to Tally, but in a different sort of tone from Catching Fire. It just gives a different feeling. But if I'm going to do something like follow six different characters throughout the book, maybe this is the best way to do it. Third person limited, or close as some people say.

Example #4: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of the year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard.
A short example, but isn't it amazing how she draws you in and makes you want to keep reading right from the start? This is more like third person omniscient, right? More like a separate, all-knowing narrator who is describing the setting and characters. She tends to follow Harry most of the time with the narration, but it does switch over to other characters, particularly when the reader needs to see what Dumbledore or Voldemort are up to. But for the most part, she teeters close to Harry, but in a different sort of way from the Uglies third person. It's less like Harry telling the story, and more like some one above the story instead. Does that make it any less personal? Not the way she does it. But this is J.K. Rowling we're talking about here, one of the greatest writers of all time. It worked for her story, but will it work for mine?

So with these four examples, it's still difficult to make a decision about which POV is best for my story. I think what I need to do today is write a scene each way and see which one fits better, sounds better, matches the tone I want to set. And any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated :).

Progress!

Yesterday, I finally got some pages written toward my novel! Yes, I realize that it's my job to write those pages, but lately, it's been like pulling teeth. My reticence has nothing to do with my passion for the story - I think about this story all the time! It has more to do with the fact that I'm in therapy and working through so many personal issues that there hasn't been as much room in my heart for creative thinking. Maybe this is a sign that I'm going in the right direction, then, because I got a nice scene written yesterday that I think is a great start. I hope to keep the momentum going today by just letting the next scene flow on instead of doing any sort of editing or rewriting. I have fifty pages due for my novel group this weekend, so it's crunch time!

Story Board

When a fast-working virus ravages humanity and the dead begin to rise, a band of unlikely teen heroes struggle for survival. Little do they know, zombies will soon be the least of their problems.
This is my newest logline for my novel. It isn't perfect, but it's getting there.

In order to help figure out my story structure, I have been following along Alexandra Sokoloff's blog lately. I heard her speak once and I felt like it changed my life. Like she was speaking to my heart! So many writers scoff at the idea of plotting your novel ahead of time. They feel more comfortable just writing to see what the story becomes. I admire these writers. I really do. But I am not one of them. I tried it with Into Darkness, and even though I think it started out okay, I never actually wrote an ending to it! I had no idea where I was taking the story so when I got to a certain point, I didn't know where else to go, and I quit. I do not want that to happen with my current WIP, which I've up to this point called Pandemic, but now am certain I need a new name for. (But that's another blog on another day.)

I took cues from Alex as well as local Carolina author Diane Chamberlain in creating index cards and a story board that follows the eight sequence movie structure. I know everyone keeps calling it a three-act structure simply because of the history of it, but I am jumping forward and calling it a four-act structure. I am even going to give my novel 4 distinct Parts that each have a name. We'll find out later if it actually works :P.

So, here is the board I worked on all weekend:

It isn't quite finished, as you can see in those last three sequences, but it's getting there. I have used five different colors of post-it notes for this novel. Each color is for a different POV since this is sort of an ensemble cast piece. Pink = the witch; Purple = my heroine, Parrish Sorrows; Blue = the hero, Noah Vincent; Yellow = Any official news or announcement about the virus (CDC, News, Internet, etc); Green = Any other POV, which includes the Sorceress, the boy, Carmen, and Crash so far. I know those names don't mean much to any of you, but to me it all makes sense :P.

Then, I also transferred those ideas to matching color index cards :

Isn't it funny how simply being able to use colors and copious amounts of office supplies can help my productivity? Yes, perhaps I am crazy to a degree, but it makes me happy! I feel like I now have a strong idea of where my story is headed. I watched two movies this weekend and analyzed them for story points. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and the new movie in theaters, The Crazies (which was excellent and scary). Tonight, I plan to watch 28 Days Later. Watching how stories similar to my own use structure to heighten tension, fear, and conflict really does make a difference. Thank you Alexandra Sokoloff!

"Left 4 Dead" vs. "Diary of the Dead"

Yesterday, I participated in two very different zombie experiences. First, I watched the 2007 (I think) George Romero movie, "Diary of the Dead". I thought, hey, it's Romero! It's GOT to be amazing, right? Wrong. It was nothing special. Cheese, for sure. Then, last night, I played the video game "Left 4 Dead", which I've actually done for the past three nights. (And, by the way, I finally beat all 4 main campaigns plus the extra Crash Course campaign, yay for me!)

The zombies in one were extremely different from the zombies in the other. According to most die-hard zombie extremists, the infected masses in L4D are not, in fact, zombies at all. Why? Because they move fast, they mutate, etc. We have no indication of whether the humans died before raising as zombies or if they just turned into zombies after getting infected. I guess, truth be told, you also don't really see them feasting on human flesh in the game. Mostly, they just seem to be leaning against walls or shambling around until they hear you or some other noise like a car alarm, in which case they run like crazies and try to kill you. Also, even though these infected scratch and attack you as a player character, you never seem to contract the infection yourself.

Romero zombies are the real zombies. Purist zombies. They are the living dead, corpses come back to life mysteriously craving human flesh. Anyone bitten by one of these zombies inevitably dies, then comes back as one. Interestingly, in this particular Romero movie, anyone who dies, period, comes back as a zombie. They walk slowly with stiff looking joints. You have to shoot them in the head to kill them (another difference, since you can kill infected by shooting them anywhere in L4D - although you do get special achievements for head shots). They are basically the same type of zombies you see in "Night of the Living Dead", Romero's cult classic, and the first of the real zombie movies.

The differences are important to me since I am currently writing a novel about zombies. I'm sure that if I write the L4D type of zombies and dare to actually call them zombies, some people will call foul by saying my infected beings are not pure zombies at all. Of course, I have to get published for anyone to have discussions about my work, but let's just assume that I do get published and that the novel does well. Do I want my zombies to follow the purist extremes? Or should I play around with the rules a little bit? From what I hear, the new movie "The Crazies" is also about zombie-like infected humans, but they are not true zombies at all. They are more like the L4D type infected than the Romero-like ghouls. Maybe I can talk my loving husband into taking me to see that tonight for a date night :P. Hey, it's research!

Happy Hello Kitty Find

Yesterday, I was able to go to the Crabtree Mall. Now, the cool thing about Crabtree is that they have a Sanrio store. Other than that, it's basically just a mall. It's out of the way for G and I, so we don't typically go there unless we're specifically going to the Sanrio store, which isn't too often. (At least not often enough for my tastes :P) But yesterday, I had two meetings in the area near the mall, and since they were a few hours apart, I decided to indulge myself by going to Crabtree and looking around.

It didn't take long before I found myself at the Sanrio store, admiring all the pretty new inventory. But I told myself I'd just pick out one thing and go. (ha) But nothing could have prepared me for the excitement of what I saw! Now, anyone who knows me knows I have been carrying around this Super Cute red purse with HK in a red leotard with a star on it and a gold cape. I love that purse, and no matter how many others I buy, I keep going back to this one.

Yesterday at the Sanrio store, I found this matching wallet!! I couldn't believe it when the sales lady pointed it out! It's perfect! It was $30, which is way more than I wanted to spend yesterday, but oh so worth it! I can now carry it around with my matching purse! Funny how little things like this can totally make your day. All I have to say is this: Thank God I didn't live near a super cool Sanrio store when I had all those credit cards :P.

Winter Wonderland

Another snow! That's three decent snows this year! The first one was the best because it was more like six inches that stuck around for a few days, but a little snow like we had last night is fine too. I think it's so beautiful as it's coming down. I stepped outside this morning and it almost sounds like it is raining - which has to be from the fact that the snow is already starting to melt. How sad. But totally understandable since just last weekend it was fifty something and sunny. Actually, I think it's supposed to be fifties and sunny this coming weekend too. /sigh. This snow never really had a chance. Still, it's nice to wake up to snow. Hopefully that means it will be a beautiful day all around.

Snickerdoodle's Hair Cut!

Snickerdoodle got a hair cut! And boy did she need it!! OMG, I wish I had a "before" pic so that you could see just how out of hand she had gotten. Her hair was wild, and I mean seriously wild. She had this ever growing collection of undercoat or just shaggy hair that kept leaving little white puffy balls of hair all over our carpet. And her nails were crazy long. (I hate to cut dog nails, so scared I will hurt them!) So yesterday, I bit the expensive Pet Smart bullet and had her groomed.

*So hard to get a shot of her looking at the camera, so this is about as good as it gets.*

When I saw her it was like the sun peeking through the clouds after weeks of rain. She was a new dog! I had them shave her again, like I did a couple times before ( according to their computers, it was november '08 the last time I took her in - what? bad mommie!). They even put these super cute pink and brown bows in her hair:
Of course they are no longer in there. The bows are always the first thing to go.

She looks absolutely adorable. Her nails were ground down and look smooth and short. She walks with that extra little pep in her step and wag in her poofy tail. Now if only this haircut could last forever and we could have this feeling all the time without the extreme pain to my wallet! Ah well, I'll just enjoy it while it lasts!

---> This picture is so cute! She was SO TIRED when she got home. It took so much of her energy to go on a car ride and hang out with all those other dogs and groomers all day! She was tuckered out.

Extra Purple Me

Saturday I decided to go super-purple. When I first put a purple streak in my hair, I was just testing it out to see how it looked. But the truth is that just one visible purple streak didn't feel like enough. I wanted more. So Saturday, I took the leap. I pulled out six individual sections of hair and bleached them, preparing to make just those sections purple. But then G suggested that I just put the purple everywhere. That way, the purple would go really purple on the bleached places, but just a subtle purple on the brown hair. And that is exactly what I did.

I love it! It's something different that makes me feel free somehow. Free to just do what I want and to be the person I want. It's a celebration of the fact that there's no 9-5 job that I have to answer to or be a certain way for. Even of the fact that there's no meddling mother who will shriek, "Oh my god! What did you do!" (unless of course I drive to GA in the next few weeks!). I colored my hair purple and the sky did not fall from the sky. The hair police did not come with sirens blazing. It may only be a temporary thing, but who knows? Maybe I will love having color in my hair so much that I'll just flit from purple to pink to blue and so on? It's nice to have the freedom to try it if I want.

Sarra Cannon

Young Adult Indie Author

I always secretly wanted to be a cheerleader. And a witch. Now, I write about both. The first five novels in my Peachville High Demons Young Adult Paranormal series are available now in ebook!

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Beautiful DemonsThe Time Traveler's WifeLoveroot: PoemsFear of FlyingWe the LivingAnthem

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