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Third Campaigner Challenge - Party Girl

With all the preparations for making the new movie, this past month has flown by in a blur.  I almost missed the deadline for the Third Campaigner Challenge – Show Not Tell, but I wanted to make sure I participated in all three challenges, so I’ve thrown something together to squeeze in right before the deadline.  Here are the rules:

Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:
     • that it’s morning,
     • that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
     • that the MC (main character) is bored
     • that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
     • that something surprising happens.
Just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: "synbatec," "wastopaneer," and "tacise."   (NB. these words are completely made up and are not intended to have any meaning other than the one you give them).

I showed all the elements, involved all five senses, and included the three made-up words.  And even though it wasn't a requirement for this challenge, my story clocks in at exactly 300 words.  My entry is number 128, so if you like it, please go here and vote for it.  Thank you!

Party Girl

Deena sighed and took another swig from her silver flask.  She almost gagged as the bitter coffee invaded her mouth, but she needed the jolt to stay awake - the constant shushing of the synbatec waves had Girl at beachnumbed her brain.  The flask failed to keep the coffee warm, but was part of her cover, along with the short, clingy dress and forced drunken giggles.

Two days ago, a fourth party girl had been discovered under the pier, stabbed and mutilated.  Deena and her partner Bill were the best in the department, so the police chief had ordered them to stakeout the scene using her as bait.  But the sky had transitioned from black to purple to pink with no appearance from the killer.

The wind shifted, and her nose twitched as Bill’s body odor drifted from where he hid behind the dunes.  She called out, “He’s not going to show.  Go on home to be with your family.”

“It’s not safe to leave you here.”

Deena bit back a tacise retort.  “He only strikes at night, and besides, I’m armed.”

There was only a slight hesitation before Bill’s wastopaneer voice rumbled, “Fine, I’ll see you tonight for round two.”

A few minutes later, Deena sensed someone approaching from her left.  A silky voice enveloped her.  “Hello, beautiful.”

She rewarded him with a wide smile.

He wrapped a warm hand around her arm and pulled her to her feet.

She reached into her purse and curled her fingers around the handle of her weapon.

He leaned down to whisper in her ear, his hot breath making her shiver.  “I’ve got a silly blonde ready and waiting.”

She kissed him.  “Thanks, Tony.  Now we can finally get this party started.”  She yanked the knife from her purse and strode towards the pier.

So did you participate in the beach party?  Let me know where to find your story so we can all wastopaneer together!

Photo credit to Jason Nelson

The Imago’s KISS

The ThesaurusInspiration strikes me from out of the cerulean celestial sphere, but my burgeoning story is a miasma of thoughts and notions carousing through my cranium.  So I whittle at the extraneous ideas until only the essential essence of my epic remains.  Then I meticulously select pulchritudinous words that paint resplendent pictures, endeavoring to create that sublime moment of synchronicity in which the movie playing in my imagination is perfectly projected onto the gray matter of my readers.

I present my paradisiacal prose to my betas, salivating in anticipation of their enraptured reactions.  They will guffaw, they will caterwaul, their lives will be altered forevermore.  Imagine my stupefaction and mortification when their only reaction is to oscitate and dismiss it as tedious. 

Tears cascade down my visage.  I glower into the mirror, shrieking, “Why, muse, why?”  But I gird my loins, determined to decipher the modus operandi for bridging the lacuna between the exquisite narration in my noggin and the lassitude produced by my opus.  Then the panacea wallops me like a multitude of cinder blocks, and I’m electrified by my sagacity.  To help my readers luxuriate in the splendorous wonder of my story, the solution is simple: use smaller words.

*     *     *

If you made it through all of that, then congratulations on your stick-to-it-ive-ness!  For any of my blog readers who are not part of the Campaign and are therefore wondering why my thesaurus puked all over this post, this is my entry for the Second Campaigner Challenge

Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
• include the word "imago" in the title
• include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!

I used all the required words, fit in the mirror reference, and it’s exactly 200 words.  Whew!  If you liked it, you can go here and vote for entry 159.

Since I struggle with the Keep It Simple, Stupid concept in my writing (aren’t the big words always better?!?), I thought this was a fun way to approach the challenge.  And I even learned some new five dollar words to add to my repertoire.  Uh oh, future readers, beware!

Did you participate in the Second Campaigner Challenge?  If so, did you go serious or silly?  What's your reaction to my grandiloquent post?

Photo credit to Brett Jordan

First Campaigner Challenge

For my few readers who don’t already know this, as part of the Writers’ Platform Building Campaign, Rach is giving us challenges to flex our writing muscles and promote interaction.  The challenge for this week is:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

This story is the idea that popped into my head almost immediately.  After reading some of the other stories and seeing how many people had gone dark and creepy with this challenge (something about swinging doors is automatically sinister), I took a stab at a silly comedy with potty humor, but it didn’t work, so I came back to this one.  My entry is #197, and it’s exactly 200 words. 

Sweet Revenge

The door swung open, and he crept inside, careful not to make a sound.  She sat at the table with her back to him, absently twirling a lock of red hair as she balanced her checkbook. The door swung open . . .

He took a step closer.  First she had ignored him.  Another step.  Then she had screamed at him to go away.  Two more silent steps closer to his target.  He’d show her no one treated him that way.

He unsheathed his weapon, its sharp tip anxious to taste her blood. 

She cursed and slammed her pen to the table.  He sank into a crouch, eyes boring into her, willing her not to turn around.  Revenge would be so much sweeter if she didn’t see it coming until he ripped open her flesh. 

With a deep sigh, she picked up her pen.  He inched toward her until he was in range.  Time for her punishment.  He pounced. 

She screamed as the point pierced her skin. 

A small droplet of blood trickled down her ankle.  She picked him up and hissed in his face.  “I told you to stay outside if you can’t behave.”

She shoved him through the kitty door, and the door swung shut.

I can’t wait to read the other stories – if you’ve written one, leave a link to it in the comments.

Photo cedit to Mattox

Joining the Campaign

I just started this blog a few months ago, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out my mom is the Writers' Platform-Building Campaignonly person reading my posts.  Wait, scratch that.  I would totally be surprised to discover that because I’m not sure my mom even knows what a ‘blog’ is, and she definitely wouldn’t know how to find mine. 

I’ve always been a shy, introverted, scaredy cat. At most social gatherings, you’ll find me diligently doing my part to hold up the nearest wall.  It’s a little easier on the web, but it’s still daunting to reach out to strangers.  So how lucky for me that right as I’m dipping my toes into the blogging waters, Rachael Harrie is running her Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign.  As Rachael says:

"My Writers' Platform-Building Campaigns are a way to link writers, aspiring authors, beginner bloggers, industry people, and published authors together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms.

The Campaigners are all people in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs."

This is such a fantastic idea, since it gives us more bashful folks a little push to interact with our fellow bloggers.  I’m excited to meet and interact with so many like-minded writers.

For fellow Campaigners stopping by my blog for the first time: I write novels, short stories, and screenplays; and in the last two years I’ve started dabbling in making short films.  I’ve had a few short stories published, but my first love is writing YA novels in the genres of thriller, suspense, and horror.  In the non-writing part of my life, I watch an alarming amount of television and also give my Netflix subscription a robust workout.  I’m also an animal lover with a menagerie of pets; and, yes, I’m one of those people who puts party hats on their dogs and makes them “cakes” for their birthdays. 

So are you an internet wallflower or the virtual life of the party?  Are you excited for the Campaign?  Did you participate in one of the previous Campaigns?

YALLFest 2011

Y’all, YALLFest is coming to Charleston!  No, this is not a festival to see who can produce the most adorably drawn out y’aaaaalllll.  It’s a YA extravaganza bringing twenty top young adult writers to Charleston for a weekend of seminars and panels.  Even at the large kidlit conferences, you are unlikely to get this many NYT bestsellers (eleven!!) in one place, so I’m pretty much giddy with excitement that this will be happening just down the road from me. 

The festival will be November 11th and 12th.  It looks like the Friday events are only for high school and college students, so the big day for writers in the area will be Saturday.  There will be seven hourly panels at Blue Bicycle Books during the day, as well as a YA SmackDown on Saturday night.  The whole day should be a blast and an excellent way to meet other YA writers in the area.  If you live within easy driving distance, you should definitely be here.  And even if you don’t live nearby, Charleston is a gorgeous city and an excellent place for a November vacation!

YALLFest Banner

Click here to find out more about the festival, including the list of amazing authors who will be speaking. 

 

Are you planning to attend the YALLFest?  Which authors are you most excited to see?

 

 

An Unexpected Honor

When I opened my front door today, I discovered a fantastic surprise waiting for me.  No, it wasn’t Jensen Ackles in a tux extending an oversized box of Godiva chocolates.  As unbelievable as this might sound . . . it was actually more awesome than that.

Around these parts, if something is too big to fit in the mailbox, the mail carrier just leaves it at the front door.  The only issue is that I hardly ever use the front door.  Today I happened to be expecting a package, so I took a quick peek out front.  Tucked between the glass door and the wooden door was a brown box, but not the package I was expecting – instead it was from Highlights.  I don’t know how long it’d been there, but from the date on the letter inside, it’s been several weeks.  Oops!  Anyway, I’d already received my contributor’s copies from them, so I couldn’t imagine what it might be. 

I ripped into the package with the excited abandon of a kid on Christmas morning.  Inside I found a pretty pewter plate (I love alliteration!) engraved with my name, the title of my story, and Highlights Author of the Month Award“Highlights for Children Author of the Month.”  Cue the dropping of my jaw and eyes bugging out of my head.  There was also a lovely note from Highlights editor in chief Christine Cully telling me the staff had voted me Author of the Month for my story “Seeking a Hidden Hive.”  Wow, I’m so honored!  My heartfelt appreciation and thanks to the Highlights staff!

This short story has led to many amazing honors and opportunities in my writing life.  I’m just so grateful for whatever odd conversational turn of events led to my brother and me discussing honeyguides in late 2008.

 So what's the most exciting thing you've ever found at your front door?

 

A Bloody Flash

I’ve been a NYC Midnight junkie the past two weeks.  This weekend was the first round of their fourth annual Flash Fiction Challenge.  Writers from around the world are divided into groups, and each group is assigned a genre, a location, and an object.  The writers then have 48 hours to write a story of 1000 words or less that incorporates those parameters.  I’ve participated the past two years, and I love the way it pushes me creatively during those adrenaline-fueled weekends.

For the first challenge this year, my group was assigned the genre of drama, the location of a blood drive, and the object duct tape.  I was kind of bummed about the genre of drama - I’ve had it a number of times over the course of various NYCM competitions and was hoping for something to push me out of my comfort zone.  Plus drama is so broad - almost every story is a drama in some way; and with my fondness for writing thrillers, suspense, and horror, I had to be careful not to cross too far over into one of the other genre categories.  This was especially tough this time given the location was a blood drive - the horror story practically writes itself!

I spent most of Saturday pacing around the house swilling coffee rejecting idea after idea.  Of the two that were my front runners, I worried one was too sci-fi and the other was too fantasy.  In their rules, NYCM states they encourage the creative use of the parameters, so I finally had the idea to push the meaning of “a blood drive.”  Instead of the typical setting of a mall or office building with chairs, nurses, juice, and cookies, I decided to interpret the phrase literally and have a bloody protagonist driving a car.  Once I settled on that, the details began to fall into place.  By 11:30 pm on Saturday night, I finished my first draft.  It was awful.  So terrible, I thought about starting over with one of my earlier ideas.

But after rereading it a few times, I figured out where it had gone off the rails and rewrote it.  I only kept the first paragraph, some of the plot points, and a few phrases I liked from the original.  I finished that draft around 5:00 am (oh, have I mentioned I’m a night owl?), and then immediately did another round of editing.  At 6:30 am I was still 227 words over the limit, but I decided sleeping on it was the wisest course of action. 

Once I woke up, I started the painful process of chopping and tightening and tweaking to make sure every word counted.  I also sent a draft to my brother, sister, and parents to read, since they are always my first readers.  They were all very enthusiastic, but they usually are, so they’re not the best barometers.  As the midnight deadline approached, I finally got the story whittled down to 994 words, and I was pretty happy with the story I submitted.  Here’s my title and synopsis:

A Long, Bloody Road - As time runs out for her son, Sarah’s not afraid to spill a little blood to save his life.

Have you participated in NYC Midnight’s flash fiction challenges before?  Which genres would you like to get?  Which genres would you dread?

More Micro-fiction

 Last week I participated in the first round of NYC Midnight’s micro-fiction challenge.  It’s a good thing we were allowed to submit three entries, because the reactions I got in various places really drove home how subjective this whole writing thing can be.  NYCM provides forums where you can post your stories for feedback, and there the overwhelming favorite was the one on domestic violence.  However, I also posted them on twitter, and the favorite was the poop joke – I even got retweeted by several people I didn’t know, which felt awesome.  But when it came time for the judges to pick the top 25 from each group to move on to the voting round, the only one of mine they selected was the one about the reluctant wedding:  Sick of being poor, Amy clasped the withered hand of her rich groom & choked out the words, “I do.” 

Even though I didn’t feel that was my strongest of the three, I was just happy one of mine was moving on to the next step.  So then NYCM had the public vote on their favorites.  The three with the most votes in each group (plus two picked by the judges) would move on to the final round.  I was surprised to find out last night that my wedding story had the second highest amount of votes in my group, so thank you to everyone who voted for me. 

That meant today was the finals, and all 100 writers who moved on were assigned the same word: oxygen.  Today was crazy busy with some high stress things happening, so I didn’t have time to angst and fret over my entries like I usually do.  Fortunately, three ideas came to me very quickly, and arrived pretty much already in bite-sized chunks, so I did not have to spend forever trying to whittle them down to less than 100 characters.  Considering the very small amount of time I had to work on them, I’m pretty happy with what I submitted.

1.  Amy told him sex without oxygen would be a rush. A belt one notch too tight makes her a millionaire.

2.  The greedy fire consumed the room’s oxygen making her husband’s death less painful than Sue planned.

3.  Despondent from being the 3rd wheel, Oxygen split from the Hydrogens, flinging the world into chaos.

After I wrote #1, I was trying to find a three-letter name (have to keep it short!), and I picked ‘Ami.’  Then my brain started itching thinking I’d already used it before.  So I looked up my first round stories and saw that I'd used ‘Amy’ in the wedding one that advanced me to the finals.  Then I realized this new one actually made a perfect sequel for the wedding one and changed the name to ‘Amy’ to match. 

Should I write a third one where Amy gets caught to make it a trilogy?  What micro-stories can you come up with for ‘oxygen’?

WriteOnCon Returns

Are you guys participating in WriteOnCon this week?  If you’re a writer, and especially if you write for the under 18 crowd, you should check out the information-y awesomeness over there immediately.  This is the second year for WriteOnCon, which is an online writer’s conference for kidlit writers taking place August 16-18. 

While there are live events like Q&A sessions, the best part is that all of the content remains available throughout the year.  So if this is a busy week for you, you can wait until your schedule is less hectic to visit and absorb the mind-blowing amount of information.  In fact, I found it pretty overwhelming last year, so popped back in over the ensuing months to reread some of the posts that really resonated with me.

Another fantastic aspect is the forums where you can meet and interact with fellow writers.  They also have a number of critique forums available – you can post your query, first 250 words, or first five pages and fellow participants will offer feedback.  An exciting component they’ve added this year is Ninja Agents, which are agents who anonymously drop in (they are color coded) and offer feedback on what you’ve posted.  I posted my query, 250 words, and five pages last night, and within an hour, one Ninja Agent had provided feedback on my first 250 words and another Ninja Agent had commented on my first five pages.  They both said my writing had a great voice (yay!!) and asked a few questions that have me questioning if I’ve started my story in the right place.  While I have a lot to think about now, it’s invaluable to have a chance to improve my beginning before I start querying.

The most amazing part about all of this is that the conference is FREE!!  They do have a place set up for donations, and I encourage anyone who gets something out of the conference to donate a little if they can.  I thought this was a fantastic event last year, and I definitely can’t wait to see what they have in store for us this year.

Did you attend WriteOnCon last year?  Are you participating this year?  Are you putting anything up on the forums to be critiqued? 

Keeping It Short and Sweet

NYC Midnight is a group that runs all types of contests throughout the year where they challenge participants to be creative in a short amount of time, whether it’s writing screenplays, short stories, micro stories, or even making movies.  Depending on the contest, participants are assigned a genre and other parameters, and then have a time limit for producing their work of art. 

One of my favorite contests for the past several years has been the Tweet Me a Story challenge.  We are assigned a word and have only a few hours to create complete stories in 140 characters that incorporate the exact word.  Apparently NYCM decided that wasn’t enough of a challenge, so this time we have to create stories only 100 characters long.  Yikes!

Today was the first round of the micro-fiction contest, and I was assigned the word ‘words.’  I wasn’t very inspired, because first of all, it sounds weird to say, “My word is ‘words.’”  But also because ‘words’ is not one of those words (see what I mean?) that has more than one meaning, so there’s not much to play with in terms of using one of the more obscure definitions. 

We are allowed to submit three entries, and I had six ideas I played around with and tweaked at all day.  When the midnight deadline rolled around for me to submit, these are the three I turned in:

1.  Sick of being poor, Amy clasped the withered hand of her rich groom & choked out the words, “I do.”

2.  As her husband aimed his gun, Tanya smiled - her daring words had finally freed her from his fists.

3.  Sam told him to sit, but the dog confused his words; now the priceless rug is peppered with turds.

Have you ever participated in any of NYCM’s contests?  Have you written micro-fiction before?  What micro-fiction can you come up with for the word ‘words’? (never stops being weird)