Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm back!

Sort of.  I'm still not totally sure what day it is...or what time it is...or where the heck I am.  lol  But I'm here!  *waves*

I was 100% without internet for the duration of my trip, and that was probably a good thing.  I needed a break to get back into tune with, you know, life.  Without the internet clouding my head, I also feel more in touch with my writing brain.  Which is an added bonus.

Our trip was fantastic.  There was so much laughter and excitement, it's a trip we won't soon forget.  Nor will my feet, which are still sore.  :P

As it turns out, my Super Spawn is a bit of a daredevil already at four.  He enjoyed the big rides like Splash Mountain and Test Track the most.

For those of you planning a trip with kids, we rented a stroller from Magic Strollers, and it was fantastic.  It was clean, great quality, and ready to pick up early.  In fact, I liked the stroller so much, I decided if I ever have another kid, I'll be buying one of them for myself.  lol

How has everyone been this week?  I feel so out of the loop!  What'd I miss?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Disney World -- Park Tips

Here I am again with my non-writing (but really writing) related posts on Disney World!


;)  So, today I've got some tips on venturing through the parks.  I've been about eleventy billion times, so maybe this'll be useful for...someone...somewhere.

Anywho, on with the show.

Tip #1 - Wear sunscreen.  Oh my gravy please, please wear sunscreen.  I don't care if it's cloudy and overcast or chilly or whatever.  You WILL get a sunburn.  And so will your kids.  SUNSCREEN.  (Don't make me shout, I really don't like to.  My family calls me the sunscreen nazi for a reason.)

Tip #2 - If you go in the summer, it will rain.  Just embrace the idea.  It won't last long -- probably thirty minutes from storm onset to sunny skies.  Buy a poncho and enjoy the shorter lines.

Tip #3 - If you're going with small children, plan on an afternoon break at the resort.  The parks are HUGE.  There is tons of walking, and the kiddies are going to get cranky by 2pm.  You watch, I'm right.  (Also, Disney rental strollers?  So not comfy for sleeping.)

Tip #4 - Animal Kingdom is not an all day park.  If you plan to visit AK, I suggest you buy the park hopper option so you can morning in the AK and then jump over somewhere else for the evening and fireworks.  OH and for the safari, be there first thing in the morning to see the most animals.  ;)

Tip #5 - Yeah, so I know you're on vacation and all, but if you want to deal with less crowds, get to the park at opening.  For real.  I'm going to try and get some pictures for proof on this one (I may have some from the HP World trip, actually.). 

Bonus Tip #6 - Buy the water.  So, my senior year in high school my graduating class went to Grad Night at Disney.  For several days actually.  And I'll tell you, the prices in Disney are not cheap -- for anything.  So my bestie refused to pay their ridiculous prices for bottles of water.  Can you guess where that got her?  She collapsed on the sidewalk and wound up in an ambulance, and then the hospital.  I don't care how much the bottled water costs, buy it.  Stay hydrated.  It's incredibly important, especially in the summer months. 

There you have it -- Disney from a regular's perspective.  (Also, shoes -- don't be crazy, wear something comfortable.  These people in high heels in the parks just kill me.)

As they say in Disney, "Have a magical day!"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Disney World -- Vacation Planning Tips

I thought to occupy you while I'm in the Happiest Place on Earth, I'd share some of my knowledge of Disney World and Florida in general.

What does that have to do with writing?  Ummm...  Well, to be a good writer you've got to get out and experience stuff.  Live life.  Dream and then dream bigger.  That's what Disney is all about.

Plus, I write fairy tales, so I'm calling it research.  HA!  ;)

Tip #1 -  It is freaking hot down here.  Plan accordingly.  From June through September the temperatures will range from about 92 to 110 during the day.  The highest temps in July and August.  But just because you come in December, don't think you'll escape -- for New Years we wore light jackets in the mornings, and t-shirts all day.  (Although it's obviously much cooler than July, but you're not gonna find any snowflakes around here.)  Also, highest crowds are during summer vacation, spring break, and around major holidays.  Just an FYI.

Tip #2 - Don't get ripped off.  When you buy your Disney tickets, buy them through someone reputable.  You cannot buy someone's ticket who has only used 3 of their 5 days.  Disney uses a biometric scannery thing when you enter the park, and tickets are not transferable between people.

Tip #3 - Move to Florida.  What?  We get discounts just for living here.  :P

Tip #4 -  If you scroll to the bottom of the Disney World webpage, there's a link called Special Offers.  Right now I think they're offering a free dining plan if you come during certain dates.  Free!  Woopie!  You're welcome.

Tip #5 - Don't worry.  Disney never disappoints.  If you're going with someone with food allergies or special needs, Disney will bend over backwards to accommodate you.  The bakeries are even stocked with allergen-free goodies for the kids!  (I was SO excited to learn this.  Super Spawn is never able to get bakery treats because of his nut allergy.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Here!

The long anticipated trip date has finally arrived!  Tonight is Super Spawn's Big Birthday Surprise reveal, and first thing in the morning we jet off to the Happiest Place on Earth!!

*cue sappy music*

SO, I will not be blogging regular stuff on Monday or Tuesday.  Because I'll be here:

Aren't you jealous?  ;)  I promise to share pictures upon my return.  Anyway, check in Monday and Tuesday for Disney World tips for your next vacation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Adverbs," she said silkily.


–noun Grammar. Any member of a class of words that in many languages are distinguished in form, as partly  in English by the ending -ly

 Oh, the beloved adverb.  I don't know about you guys, but my first drafts are rife with these little beauties.  Sometimes it seems like every other word has that pretty -ly stuck on the end of it.

You know, maybe that's why my second drafts wind up being so much longer than my firsts -- all the adverb replacing takes extra words.  ;)

Now, let's get right to the point -- finding a lot of adverbs in your MS is a good indicator that you're doing a lot of telling where you could be showing.  Does that mean every single adverb needs to be eliminated?  No.  Absolutely not.  Every once in a while an adverb is the best choice for making the biggest impact in a sentence.  Just use them sparingly.

I know a lot of people preach on about the adverb, but I think I'll give you a few examples to help you out on your journey to a stronger MS. 

Adverb/Telling --  Savanah bounds to her feet angrily.

Showing --  Savanah bounds to her feet with a flourish of lace and golden curls, her face redder than the reddest rose.

Adverb/Telling --  She looks at me knowingly.

Showing -- She cocks her head at me and purses her lips.

Something I do when I'm trying to rid myself of unnecessary adverbs is to put myself in the character's position.  If I were this character, what facial expression would I make, or what would it look like when I get so mad I jump out of my seat?

That approach, for the most part, helps me to form a more firm visual of the situation, which makes it easier to show it to my audience.

Are adverbs an issue for you?  What are some methods you use to keep yourself from being a little too liberal with them?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday on Fire!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
Your house is on fire, and you can only grab five things.  What are they?

Our neighbor's house actually burned down about a year ago, which prompted me to invest in a fireproof safe.  So most of my irreplaceable things and important documents are stored in there.  But there are definitely things I'd still need to grab and dash.

1)  Super Spawn.  Duh.

2)  My jump drive.  I can replace the computer, no problem, but if I can save all the work I've done since my last backup it'd save me some trouble.

3)  The picture of my brother and Super Spawn playing the last time we ever saw him. (This is also backed up on the web, but I'd still grab it if I could.)

4)  My cell phone.  Calling the fire department would be essential.

5)  Super Spawn's "Jack".  He's a little knight in shining armor doll that my sister brought back from Paris for him -- and he sleeps with him every day. 

What about you?  What would you save?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I've got a post today over on Paper Hangover about Teen Romance, if you want to check it out!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Super Spawn!

My sweet boy turned four years old yesterday.  Four!  I can't believe the time has gone so quickly, but in the same breath I can't imagine ever being without him.  I'm not even sure who I was before I became his mom.

*Pardon me while I get all sentimental and mushy.  Feel free to skip over it. lol*

It's funny how children change you.  The day (well, night) Super Spawn was born I swear the whole world shifted.  I felt a jolt run through me when they laid him on my chest, changing me forever.  I was no longer the timid, shy girl who let people run over her.  I had morphed into Super Mom, ready to slay anyone who dared glance at my baby the wrong way.

Then it seemed like every day I surprised myself.  I was different.  I don't think I realized it in my sleepless daze, but I was stronger.  Ready to take on the world with a different outlook.  And every day after that I've grown.

Super Spawn pushes me to achieve my dreams without even knowing it.  He has taught me the true meaning of happiness and love by doing nothing more than being himself.  In his short four years of life, Super Spawn has helped me become the person I always wanted to be.  And I'm so thankful that I have him.

Happy birthday, sweet boy.  Mommy loves you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tweet Me!

Jump over to Paper Hangover and join in on the fun!

I'm about to do some serious pimping.  But, hey, this subject is begging for a tongue-in-cheek post. Please excuse me while I fulfill that obligation.  ;)

1)  ME!  Duh.  If you're not following me on Twitter, well, why not?!  @hddodson  Go.  Now.  I'll wait...

2)  My buddy, Susan.  @stdennard  She's fabulous and talented and has a book coming out next Summer that's gonna knock your socks off.

3)  Beta readers extraordinaire -  @fussymonkey2  @aliciagregoire and @KO_InsectWrtr

4)  @MeredithMcP  Because she's super awesome and fun to talk to.

and last, but most definitely not least 5)  @keekeehockaday and @pamharriswrites  Who are two very talented and very sweet ladies.

HA.  I'm pimpin' all my friends out.  Well, all of the ones that I could cram into a short list of 5 anyway.  ;)  There are more!  Trust me, there are more.  :P

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cartoon Inspiration

You've gotta love kid movies.  Super Spawn has been into Kung Fu Panda lately, and I'll admit -- it's pretty darn cute.  We were watching it last night for the billionth time, and I was staring at my screen trying to come up with a descent post for you guys when Shifu delivers this little jewel of a line:

"You will have the one thing that no one else does."

Pretty much what's going on is the bad guy has defeated the five masters, and Shifu said that Po (the panda) is the only one that can defeat him...because he has the one thing that no one else does.

I think this applies to a lot of parts of life, and writing especially.  Each of us have different takes on stories, different ideas and approaches to telling them.  We each bring something special and unique to the table.

So why should we stick to this arduous journey of becoming published authors when the market is so tough?  What makes us special enough for that?  We each have something that no one else does -- and we need to share it.

Keep writing, keep dreaming.  I can't wait to see the world the way you do.  <3

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday -- What are you reading?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

You're re-reading one of your favs when someone asks the dreaded question: "What's that book about?" Give us your best off-the-cuff blurb of any book, any genre, and have your readers try to guess the title in the comments!

Okay, well...this is hard!  How do I even pick a book to use?!  AAAA!!!  ;)

Here it goes:

"Fifteen year old Nina lives in fear of turning sixteen.  Most girls her age are anxious to receive the Governing Council-ordered tattoo upon their sixteenth birthday, but to Nina, becoming a "sex-teen" is the last thing she wants.  Once she has that tattoo, there's nothing to stop the boys that eye her with such hunger."

Okay, go ahead and guess!  Do you know what book I'm using?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writing and Acting

As I've been working on my newest draft of the WIP, I've noticed something.  I draw on my past theater experience a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.

Any time I start a new scene in my head, the setting begins to materialize.  It's like everything is on a stage and the backstage crew pulls it on piece by piece as I decide it's needed.  Once the room is set, my characters waltz in, or stomp or prance, depending on their mood and personality.

Then as they interact and go about the scene, I put myself in their heads -- if I were on stage trying to portray this emotion, what would I do?  How would I move my face, my hands?  Where would I walk?

And that's pretty much how I think through every single scene I write.  (And the rule of the 4th wall is super helpful.)  For the first draft.

So in the first draft, my scenes are nothing but a little setting, thoughts and movements, etc.

My second draft is where it really fills out -- I go back in and take my stage setting and deepen it, defining it further.  Like, what it smells like, if there's a breeze rustling the drying leaves still clinging to branches, that kind of thing.  Just like you would if you were portraying a character on stage.  We used to fill out character worksheets and spend hours mapping out our character's lives and interests.  Not different at all than defining a character for a novel.

What about all of you?  What kind of process do you have for visualizing scenes?  Have you ever taken acting classes?  Has anything in your past contributed to your writing in this kind of manner?

Monday, June 13, 2011

When Holly Fails

Yeah, that's kinda how I feel this morning.  I'm super busy and sorry I don't have a real post for you.  Take heart, I'll give you some real content tomorrow.  ;)  Work is kicking my but right now on top of the WIP and other writerly stuff going on.  (No worries, it's good stuff.)  

Happy Monday, lovelies!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Fives in the Summer Sun

Visit Paper Hangover to join in!

Summer is my favorite time of year, and not just because of all the great books that come out.  But that totally plays a big role.  I'm going to take this prompt as a reason to recommend you some of my all-time favorite summer reads!

Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and 

1)  Jemima J by Jane Green -- Now, this is not a YA book, but it's one that I've read several times and always enjoy.  Lots of humor, and actually quite empowering.

You Wish

2)  You Wish by Mandy Hubbard would make an excellent summer read.  Romance, humor, a teen learning about life, and a spark of the fantastical -- it doesn't get much better.

Once Upon a Marigold

3)  Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris -- Guys, I just adore this book.  Again, humor, romance, fantasy -- total summer read WIN.

Anna and the French Kiss
4)  Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins -- If you haven't read it yet...well, why not?  Make sure it's on the top of your summer reading list!

The Princess Bride

5)  The Princess Bride by William Goldman -- Nobody's reading list will ever be complete until they've read this one.

What do you think, lovelies?  What are your five best summer reads?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bloggity Blah

I'm having a blah day, let's do a check in!  

I'm chugging along through my WIP with my shiny new outline.  I'm really loving working with it surprisingly enough.  I even still feel like I have plenty of room for the spontaneity that comes with pantsing.  Which is awesome.  Just yesterday as I was writing along my characters surprised me with a quite genius bit of worldbuilding I hadn't even considered.  Which is, again, awesome.

Super Spawn has officially started summer camp (which is still at his school) and is enrolled for 4k in the fall.  His birthday is in just one short week, and our Super Disney Vacation is only two weeks away.  To say June is an exciting month would be a gross understatement.  ;)  I'm left sitting here wondering where the last four years have gone, and how my sweet baby has turned into such a sweet big boy.  *insert mushy mom-ness here*

So, how are all of you?  WIPs coming along nicely?  Query trenches treating you fairly?  I hope so.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday -- No Pants for Me!

Haha, sorry I couldn't help myself.

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
Are you a plotter or a pantser?

If you had asked me that same question a couple of weeks ago, you'd have gotten a very different answer than you will today.

As my posts from Monday and Tuesday will prove, I have developed into quite the organized plotter.  Who'd a thunk it?  ;)  As it turns out, writing to an outline is actually (Dare I say it?) easier.  Then there's the fact that I've already solved some major plot holes because I could see them in advance -- which means one less round of revisions later.

Dude, I'm in love.  :)

What about you all?  To plot or to pants, that is the question!  (hahaha I'm such a dork today!)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Outlining Your Novel - Part 2

We're back today still talking about outlines.  Here's the template I made for you guys that matches my own, if you're interested in using it. (If you want the excel file, I suspect that if you email me and ask nicely, I'll send it to you.  I just cannot figure out how to get it online in the right format.  :P)

Okay, now the formula I used for the structure of the sheet goes like this:

ACT I is about 25% of the scenes

The purple color represents stage 1, or the setup.  At about 10% into the story you have the inciting event.

Then we move into the yellow, which represents stage 2, or the new situation.  Which leads us to the change of plans at about 25% of your total scenes.

Is your brain hurting yet?  I'm an accountant, I love numbers.  :P

At the end of Act 1, you have a that will be built upon for the rest of the novel.

ACT II is comprised of about half of your scenes.

The green section represents stage 3, or the seeming progress your MC is making.  Which leads right to your midpoint climax or Point of No Return.

The peachy color is for stage 4, where you raise the stakes.  This is where we have our 75% of the way through Major Setback and Act II climax.

ACT III is about 25% of the scenes.

The pink color represents Stage 5, or the Final Push.  Tension is at an all-time high, it's do or die.  Then you have your final climax and the wrapup.

And they all lived happily ever after.

;)  So, what do you guys think?  Do you format your plots in a similar fashion?  What kind of format do your outlines take?  Is this at all helpful?  (I hope it is.  :P)

I mean, this is by no means the only way to outline, but this was was actually much easier for me to follow than any other method I've seen. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Outlining Your Novel - Part 1

So the self-professed pantser here has some news.  I... um, how do I say this?

*deep breath*  Imadeanoutline.

Didn't catch that?  Okay, okay... I made an outline.

Yeah, me.  An outline.  To write to.  I know, I'm shocked too.  It just kinda happened.  I didn't mean to -- I opened excel to organize my thoughts on the new WIP and before I knew it I had a color-coded outline of awesomesauce.

What the heck?  ;)

Anyway, seeing as Erinn loved the form I made, and even asked to share it with the Weekend of Awesomers, I figure maybe I should share it with all of you too.  Along with all the reasoning and explanations for the way it looks and such.

That is a bit much for a single blog post, so I'm going to break it into a couple.  One today and one tomorrow.  And tomorrow I'll give you the form I created so you can use it too if you like it.  (So long as you don't, you know, try to go and sell it or something.  That wouldn't be cool.  But feel free to use it for your own purposes.)

The first thing I always do when I have a new novel idea is sit down with a pen and pad of paper and write out my thought process.  At the top of the page I put the question that spurred the idea and just see where it develops.  I do this even if I don’t plan on making a formal outline.

Once I can see what my basic concept is, I write a general synopsis.  Could be one page, could be three, it just depends on how much is running through my head.  The only goal here is to get out an idea of where I see the story progressing at the moment.  So I approacheded my outline with a solid concept and a general idea of where it was going, but NO idea how to put it into any kind of outline structure.

When I was in High School and college, I wrote plays.  I was very into theater and took a lot of classes on it and whatever, so when I approached this outline I looked at it almost like I would a play.  And I know there are some books out there who tout the advantages of using a three-act-structure in novels.  Why not, right?

Here's what my outline looks like:

It's three pages, five colors, eighteen chapters, and thirty-six scenes worth of outline.  :D

The side of my brain I use for the day job LOVES this outline.  It's so shiny and colorful and ORGANIZED!!!  And there are numbers and percentages and formulas and... *gasps for breath*'s beautiful.

At the top I have my working title and a little blurb about the concept.  The notes along the right margin are subplots.

Along the left margin are structure notes based on the three-act structure method.  There's a column for chapter numbers, scene numbers (because I write in scenes), location, characters, and a description of what happens.  *whew*

Okay, this post is super long.  Come back tomorrow for more info on the structure, what the colors mean, and to grab the file.  :D

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Fives -- Excuse Me!

This week's topic on Paper Hangover is:

1)  I don't have time -- Nobody has time these days.  If I want to do this, I'll make time.

2)  I'm too tired -- Sometimes, it's legit to be too tired, but most of the time I use it as an excuse to cop out of working on the WIP, and it must stop.

3) Research is boring -- And?  Shut up and do it anyway.

4) I don't like my project enough -- So come up with another one.  Nobody said I have to write that project but me. 

5) It's too hard -- It only becomes too hard when I give up, and that's not going to happen. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Second Date Syndrome

So, I'm sitting here wondering what to blog about as I munch my english muffin this morning.  (Yum.)  My mind zips through possibilities, dismissing each before they even have a chance to form.

Then I started thinking about that WIP I really should be working on, but just can't seem to face.  My right mind says, "Yeah, it sucks."  Then my left brain says, "The concept is solid, just push through it."  My right mind pipes back up, "No, really, it sucks.  I don't wanna."

That's when I had a realization.  Being a pantser isn't always easy.  (Duh, but that's not the realization.)  You go into a story pretty much blind aside from a character and an idea.  The first chapter is akin to the first date.  "Oh, hi, tell me about yourself!"  Yeah, he's cute and all, but oh my gravy did you hear him laugh?  Sounds like a donkey!  And if you're honest with yourself, maybe he's a little dense, and not at all funny.

But you agree to a second date.  "Give it another shot," you think, "I'm sure he's a super nice guy, and he was just nervous."  When the date comes though, you're full of dread.

Well, maybe it's time to open your eyes and face the fact that it's just not a good fit, huh?

That's about where I'm at with this dumb WIP.  Second Date Syndrome is in full effect.

Do you guys ever have this problem?  Or am I just creating excuses for myself?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Super Spawn Takes the Stage

I'm home with a sick Super Spawn (again) today. So, in lieu of a normal post, I give you video preciousness.

My adorable Super Spawn reading his favorite book, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. You'll see his hilariousness as he tells my mom (sitting with him) to shush and let him read the story his self.  I wonder where he gets that from...  ;)