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Monday, August 30, 2010

Blogs Of Note

The gerbil that runs the generator for my internet provider must have gone on vacation because I was down most of the weekend.

There are a couple of things that came up over the weekend that I want to pass on.

Great Contest

The really big news is that Zoe Winters is having a heck of a giveaway in honor of her release Blood Lust. Zoe is giving away a Kindle (and possibly two) if she lands in the top 25 at the Kindle store.

What makes this especially nice is that the contest is super-easy. (Thank you, Zoe!)

Give 'Blood Lust' a try! --Boy, that sounds weird. LOL. But you know what I mean.

***
Debut Authors

I was contacted by Katrina Archer to guest on her blog for a new feature called Prime Writing. This is ONLY for debut authors, which no longer makes me qualified, but I promised to pass on the info to you guys.

Thank you Mac Stone for sending Kat my way!

***
Money Saving Tip
And finally, this has nothing to do with writing but I thought this was a great idea.

For those of us who use razors you know how expensive they are to replace blades. The Damsel had a post (along with video) on how to extend the life of those blades.

I tried it on a razor that wasn't quite dull yet, but it did seem to glide smoother after I followed these steps. It's worth a try.

By the way, I love Old School, The Damsel In Dis Dress. She always has wonderful household tips. It's on my must-reads.

***

Programming note: I'll be posting a little later than normal on Wednesday because I hope to have some news I can share. Be sure to come back and visit me.

Off to catch up with everyone. I missed many of you over the weekend due to that blasted gerbil.

Huzzah! We're only in the mid 90s now. All of us are dancing in the streets in celebration of the cold snap.
What did you do over the weekend? Is the weather changing by you?

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Good Egg

Has the egg recall affected you?

By now, most of you might have heard about the massive egg recall in the US.

The average person doesn't realize just how big the mega producers are. You might see an assortment of labels in the stores, but most belong to one or two giant conglomerates; chicken factories so vast, it defies description.

This holds true for hog and beef facilities. And let's not forget the huge recall Canada had last year for dog food. Dozens of labels were affected, yet it all came from the same producer.

This isn't a political observation. These facilities are what they are. In order to feed large populations at a reasonable price, this is what was developed. In a perfect world, that would be fine. But the world hasn't been perfect since Adam and Eve.

Introduce one sick cow or one tainted egg and you could cripple an industry in a heartbeat. We all remember mad cow disease, right?

This is part of the reason
Greg and I are so keen on homesteading, trying to grow as much of our own as possible. Healthier yes, but it's also fun. I enjoy visiting the chickens, gathering eggs, and watching their antics. I had one the other day hop up on my lap while I was treating them to some hen scratch.

In all the years we've raised animals we've never gotten sick from our food. Though I will admit, our food has injured me on occasion.

I've been kicked by rheas, spurred by mean roosters, dragged through the mud by a runaway pig, and once ran for my life from a mother pig.

Note: Never try to take a piglet away while mama is watching. Mamas will tear you up one side and down the other.


Did I mention that Greg was laughing so hard he couldn't even help me escape the pen? Boy, he was in trouble that day. That mama pig nearly killed me.

I take care of my animals and use no pesticide/herbicides on my gardens. I have a vested interest in quality control because I'm eating this food and feeding it to my family.

Hopefully, I'll still have a few good years that I can outrun the next mama pig who wants to take a chomp out of me.

If you're interested in further reading on the salmonella outbreak her
e are a few posts to get you up to speed. Gail Damerow, Homegrown Evolution, and the third with a more political slant by Les Edgerton.

Most of my chickens are now five months old and laying 4-5 eggs everyday. Next week, the Reaper will visit four of the roosters. I was hoping to have more hens than roosters so I wouldn't have to kill them, but it didn't turn out that way.


I do have to select which ones get the pot
, but that's a post in itself. Circle of life.

Photo 1: Look at those orange yolks!

Photo 2: Some of the chickens have taken to flying up to the rafters.

Photo 3: If you look carefully, you'll see a fine water mist dousing the chickens. It's been so hot, Greg installed a mister that cools the temp down by at least twenty degrees. Even I'll stand out there. It feels great!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Selling My Soul To The Devil

You ought to be ashamed of yourselves; sending a poor, defenseless innocent over to the dark side of Facebook. (Okay, I'm not that innocent, but you catch my drift.) :grin:

I'm in. But I have no idea what I'm supposed to do next. Can I feed my blog into Facebook, or do I simply update it like I would Twitter?

If you follow me here, go ahead and friend me there. And if you have ANY suggestions on what to do next, (and I do mean, any) please don't hesitate to give me advice.

I was a little put off by Facebook constantly trying to find me friends. It felt pushy and a little too big brother-ish. The privacy settings was one labyrinth leading into another. I think I set most of them to Friends Only--at least until I know what I'm doing.

I can't help feeling I sold my soul to the devil. Boy, is he going to be sorry.

I was going to post this tomorrow (my regular blog day) but people are friending me left and right and I'm not sure if I'm clicking the right buttons.

For now, here I am. Lost in a Facebook sea of questions and trepidation.

Once you friend me, am I automatically a friend on your page? Or do I have to invite you too?

And what do I do if someone sends me a friend request, but I don't think I know them? Is it rude not to accept?

What about mutual friends? Facebook keeps listing all these friends of friends. Obviously, my friends are very popular. Am I supposed to invite them as friends too?

head:desk

Right now my biggest fear is that when I see people on FB, I can't be sure if these are my friends or just someone with the same name. The profile photos can be ambiguous. I'd hate to friend someone by accident and then have them turn out to be people I don't even know.

While I was setting this up (in secret), two people I know friended me. And just now, two more. I am stunned! How did you guys find me?

We'll do this for a little while and see how it goes. As long as I don't see an increase in spam we'll be cool.

For now, be gentle with me and don't assume I know what I'm doing. Please don't be offended if I fail at some Facebook protocol. You're dealing with a real FB virgin here.

Can you give me suggestions on how to use Facebook? Is there anything I should watch out for?

I should carry a sign. Facebook noob.

***
Blog posts of interest

Two blog posts caught my eye recently and I wanted to direct you to them.

The first was from Liane Spicer blogging over at Novel Spaces where she offers the best advice ever on How to Help a Starving Author. If you love books, Liane gives brilliant suggestions on how to support the author--tips that don't necessarily require cash. I highly recommend this post.

The second great find was JA Konrath's blog where he reported that Publishers Weekly is offering to place self-published titles into a quarterly list for the cool sum of $149. That's $149 to be on a list. I'll let you decide whether you think that's smart money.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another One Bites The Dust

I had another post planned for today, but I am still freaked out by what happened yesterday so we are going to talk about scorpions again.

With our continued triple digits, we've been very dry and that seems to bring the scorpions indoors more, looking for moisture, I suppose.

Iko, my scorpion dog usually alerts me when he sees one. After that incident when I was stung, I know scorpion stings leave no mark on the skin, just terrible pain. I've come to the horrible realization the same thing must have happened to Iko when he was a puppy.

When he was about six months old, he hobbled over to us one night, whining and limping badly. We checked him thoroughly but could not find a single mark or twisted bone.

At the time, we chalked it up to growing pains. Sometimes puppies grow too fast and their little bones hurt--just like kids. He limped for two days and then everything was back to normal. (We also babied him for two days.)

It wasn't until I got stung that I realized it had to have been a scorpion that got him too. Somehow, he must have made the connection between scorpion stings and intense pain, which is why he is so determined to tell me when he finds them.

Last night as I gathered the boys to go to bed, I noticed the lights on in my big closet. (They turn on automatically when the doors are open.) It had to be Tank. He often pushes the doors in so he can lay on the nice cushy carpet.

I walk in and he pops his head up. Sitting barely three inches away is a scorpion!

I don't know where I found the strength (or speed), but I lunged toward Tank and pushed that 130 pound dog away from the scorpion. In a single fluid move, I crushed that scorpion so fast and so hard, there was nothing left.

Hell hath no fury like a woman stung.

Yes, I hold a grudge. Scorpions have earned my vendetta.

Luckily, Tank is lazy at night. (We call him our solar powered dog.) He doesn't move around much, which is probably why the scorpion didn't sting him. I'm just glad I found that thing before he did.

I have to admit, I surprised myself with how fast I moved. But that was my baby. I didn't want to see him hurt.

Has anything ever happened to you that you surprised yourself with your speed or strength? Do tell. I want to hear your adventure stories.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cover Art Sneak Peak

My book cover is out in a sneak peak at Facebook!

:sigh: The author is always the last to know. LOL!

Thanks to Tia Nevitt for emailing me the link.

I'm always so antsy about cover art. I think it's because I'm too close to the subject to be objective. But go over and see what you think.

I really need to join Facebook, don't I? You guys are going to drag me into the dark side, I just know it.

You're so evil.

But what if I sign up and nobody friends me? What if I sign up and the wrong people friend me?

Oh, great. Now I won't be able to sleep tonight.

Right now, I'm active on Goodreads, this blog, Absolute Write Water Cooler, Twitter, and a couple of gardening forums. I'm on MySpace but I never go there anymore. I also eavesdrop on OWW and Broad Universe.

And let's not forget those 500+ blogs I scan daily. Some of them I visit regularly.

It's a full social calendar. I try to stay active with the writing/reading blogs, but the rest, a mixture of gardening, financial, and coupon-posting blogs, I read only if something grabs my interest.

This week has been unbelievably crazy which is why I haven't been visiting as many of you as I normally do. But it's the good kind of crazy, when you know it's all going to be worth it at the end.

So tell me... How many social networks do you belong to? Do you ever feel you need to cut something out?

What one social network would you never give up?

***
Greg's shop is almost finished. It is HUGE! Poor Greg hasn't even seen it yet. I've been taking pictures as it's been going up. I'll post some photos next week. It was a pretty awesome event.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Evil Comes In Fluffy

I knew when I got chickens that I would have to teach the dogs to remain calm even when those tasty chicken tenders on the hoof raced past. There would be no stopping a rottweiler on a feeding frenzy. And I have two behemoths.

Iko has to be reminded from time to time, but Tank, as always, is the perfect gentleman. He can wander through a flock of hens and never take notice of them.

The chickens don't
panic when they see him, having been used to seeing that giant head bend over their brooder box since they were a day old.

At 130 and 86 pounds respectively, Tank and Iko are big, brawny, and to the average bystander, pro
bably a bit intimidating. But they are good boys, the both of them.

Evil, I've discovered, comes in fluffy white fur and can fit inside a purse. Her name is Princess.

I was dog sitting this past week for Princess while her mom went to DC. I like having her visit. The boys enjoy her company and I think Princess likes hanging with her own species every once in a while.

Since the little dog is good off leash, I let her go with me when I went about feeding chickens and collecting eggs. I never allowed her to
go inside the pen with me though because the chickens don't know her.

Princess decided she wanted to be introduced and slipped in when I wasn't looking. Before I knew it, she had chickens flying, and everybody was cackling in terror. Fluffy little Princess had turned into a marauding Hun, snapping at every plump rump in the vicinity of her tiny teeth.

I tend to carry a camera with me whenever I go out because you never kno
w when something interesting will happen, so I was lucky to catch some of the action. The chickens are bigger than Princess and I was more afraid for her than the hens.

I present to you my evidence of Evil Incarnate. Don't let the cute little face fool you. She's little, but she's mean.

Bad Princess.

Somehow she managed to pluck the tail feathers off one of the roosters.

I've never seen a dog look so proud. I think she's grinning in that last picture.

Now she can go home and brag to the neighborhood dogs.

No chickens were harmed in the making of this blog post. They are, however, deeply embarrassed. How will they ever live this down? Terrorized by fifteen pounds of fluff.

Who has evil pets? I definitely want to know before you come over. LOL

Tell me your naughty dog story.

Photo 3: Those are tail feathers at her feet.
You can click on each picture to enlarge.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

The reason I asked you on Friday about what you'd like to read was because the other day, I mentioned to Greg that I needed to come up with a new story idea. I have a couple in the bank. One is contemporary suspense with paranormal elements and the other is post-apocalyptic, but I wanted one that was strictly historical.

While I'm fond of historicals set in the 17th and 18th century, I prefer to write about a road less traveled. Something further back.

One of my minors at university was in ancient art so I have a good background in Greece, Rome or Egypt, BC. That might be a good place for me to start prospecting.

Greg suggested writing a story on Atlantis.

I sighed.

I would LOVE to do a story set around Atlantis, but a year ago or so, a blogging agent (I can't remember which one) blasted anything based on Atlantis.

She was sick and tired of Atlantis and as I remember, she sounded quite hostile about it.

As I look on shelves, virtual and otherwise, I shrug. "Huh?" How many Atlantis stories are there? I certainly don't see many. Were the ones pitched to her all bad or did she not have any success in placing such stories?

I know I can't judge the tastes of an entire army of agents based on one, but it does make you a little gun shy when it's blasted with such vehemence.

It's important to write about things you love--things that excite you.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other legends to mine. Myths and conspiracy theories titillate me. I get all goosey-bumped when I read about secret societies and cover ups.
And mystical societies--oh boy! I could read about them all day and never get bored.

They're my guilty pleasures. These are the books I turn to when I want to escape.

What are your guilty pleasures?

***
Contest winner: Randomizer selected Charlie as the winner of a book.
And she won Kitchen Matches by Marianne Arkins.

Charlie, if you'll send me your email address to mariazannini AT gmail DOT com, I'll buy you a copy of this book.

Congrats to Charlie and Marianne!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Buy-A-Palooza

Addendum: Sorry for the delay. Friday the 13th hit me with a vengeance and I had to retype the entire blog post then reload all the photos because it didn't want to show the Comment icon. I need to find a four leaf clover, stat.

Thanks to Jennifer Shirk who let me know of the oncoming catastrophe.

***

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, sit back while I amaze and astound you with all the readerly goodness of my book and contest stash.

As promised, I have for you a wide variety of fiction, and one super contest you won't want to miss. Step up. Don't be shy. Browse my shelves while I go tend to this customer over here.

Looky what we got.

Compromising Prudence by Marguerite Butler
Two misfits find love in Regency England. Prudence Wemberly is desperate. Her reputation has been damaged by a cowardly suitor and her overbearing father will disown her when he finds out about it. She musters her courage and flees to the house of the most notorious courtesan in London. If she's ruined, why not become a courtesan herself and have a little fun for a change? It sounds like a reasonable idea--after she has her third glass of sherry.


Blue Lady by Shelley Munro Saber is desperate. Emily has shut him out, wallowing in depression. They inhabit the same house but his loving mate has withdrawn, and he wants his happy, matchmaking woman back. It's time to up the ante. Armed with a bag of sex toys from his wild twin brothers and a tropical island setting, Saber is determined to seduce his mate to his way of thinking, to drive the blues away, and he won't take no for an answer.


The Bloodgate Guardian by Joely Sue Burkhart Dr. Jaid Merritt doesn't do digs. The last time she ventured into the jungle, someone died. Now she's content to decipher Maya glyphs from pictures sent to her by her famous archaeologist father. But when he goes missing while trying to perform a ritual based on her translations of an ancient codex, Jaid must put aside her fears and travel to Guatemala to find him.

Also a fre
e read on Maya mythology. Well Of Sky


Forsaken By
Shadow by Kait Nolan
Banished from their world with his memory wiped, Ultimate Fighter Cade Sheph
erd doesn't remember his life as Gage Dempsey, not even the woman he nearly died for. But when Embry Hollister's father is kidnapped by military scientists, the only one she can turn to for help is the love from her past. Will Gage remember the Shadow Walker skills he learned from her father, and if they survive, will Embry be able to walk away a second time? Addendum: Here's a 50% off coupon for Smashwords: WX96V. Get it for $0.99 through next Friday!


Hush M
oney by Susan Bischoff
Be normal, inv
isible. Get close to nobody. Kids with psychic abilities tend to mysteriously disappear when they're noticed. Joss has spent years hiding. Now she has an unasked-for friend, who is the victim of blackmail by the school bully, who used to like Joss, who's friends with her crush, who's actually talking to her. Life just got complicated.




Looking For Anita by Wendy Ramer
An orphan loses her best friend and struggles to accept her past while searching for a place in her pr
esent.


Enzo's Mama by Wendy Ramer
The saga of a mother's struggle to rebuild her life while never losing hope for a future with her lost son.









Kitchen M
atches by Marianne Arkins
A feisty auto mechanic and a hunky chef cook up chaos!

Warning: This story contains flying poultry, annoying older brothers, the occasional quote from S
hakespeare, and enough sexual tension to overheat ovens--and engines.






A Clash Of Innocents by Sue Guiney
Against the b
ackdrop of Cambodia's violent past and the beginnings of its new Tribunal for "justice", a story of displaced souls unfolds. In Cambodia, innocents are everywhere. Everyone is innocent, or so they would like to believe--everyone, except the few who, for their own private reasons, take on the guilt of the many.




Captive Spirit by Liz Fichera
Captive Spirit takes place in the Sonoran Desert at the dawn of the sixteenth century. It's the epic story of a young Hohokam Indian woman who's captured by Spanish raiders and the Hohoka
m warrior who chases after them.






In Enemy Han
ds by KS Augustin
The Republic had taken everything from Moon--her research partner, her privacy, her illusions. They thought they had her under control. They were wrong. (Hard SF Romance)







The Amazing Transformation of Wicca Dog by Krista D. Ball
For the month
of August, Krista is giving away this lighthearted short story for FREE. Addendum: There's a link that asks you to set your own price. PLEASE set the price to be $0 dollars. So "purchase" it for $0.

When Robert is bitten by his nephew, he's convinced that he isn't really going to turn into a werewolf. After all, werewolves aren't real. Unfortunately for Robert, mischievous Pan is nearby, lamenting that there aren't enough shapeshifters in the world.



Book and Winner will be announced Monday, 8-16-10


CONTEST CORNER!

The Long and the Short of It is celebrating its third anniversary
in style--by giving away THREE Nook 3G eBook Readers that come with $50 BN.com gift certificates AND are already pre-loaded with dozens of romance and juvenile fiction eBooks. We're having a scavenger hunt that runs from August 2 - August 29.

Our anniversary party culminates in a two day chat that final weekend in o
ur Yahoo groups during which every post earns an entry AND we'll be announcing the winners in the final hour.







That's all, folks. I've given you plenty to browse and perhaps buy.


Here's my question for today. Without naming titles or authors, what kind of story
would you like to read? I'm not talking about genre. I'm talking about specific story lines. What haven't you seen lately (or seen enough of) that you wish someone would write?

There will be an expanded post on this next week, but I thought we'd start the conversation early.


One lucky commenter will win a book from today's bazaar. Both book and commenter will be randomly selected.


***

A big thank you to everyone who came by to visit me over at Nadia Lee's blog the other day. You sure do make me feel special. I haven't done a guest blog in a while. It was fun!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Living La Vida Loca at Nadia Lee's

The gracious and oh-so-patient Nadia Lee allowed me to visit her on her blog today. Nadia writes under her own name and also under Angelle Trieste. She has a beautiful web site, and free reads, so it's worth it just to wander and look around.

Today I'm talking about what it takes to live in the boonies and how it's made me a better writer. Can you live my life for a month? Or are you smarter than that? LOL!

Go over, say hi to me and Nadia, and tell me if you'd like to live in the country. The post goes live at 7am eastern time.

And don't forget I'm still taking release and contest news through Thursday. If you have news, send it to me. Go here for more info.

Now scoot. Go visit me at Nadia's. (Don't worry, I left the scorpions at home.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Are You Selling?

Who has books out? I told you about mine, I want you to tell me about yours.

As I was browsing the blogosphere over the weekend, I noticed several people talking about their books and contests, and I thought, we should have a virtual book bazaar. What good does it do just telling your 'regular' followers about what's going on at your place? You need to tell my followers and my followers need to tell theirs.

People want to know what's out there. Why not start here?

You all did such a good job with the Blog Shout-Outs, I thought we could try something similar with books and contests.

If you have a new release (or an old one):
Email me at mariazannini AT gmail DOT com. Send me ONE (1) Buy link and a small jpg of your cover. You can also send me the blurb IF you can keep it under 50 words. On Friday I'll post everybody's current or latest release.

If you have a contest on your blog or group blog:
Email me at mariazannini AT gmail DOT com. Send me the url address and a short pitch for the contest. If you have a graphic, send that too.

It'll be a party. We'll call it Buy-A-Palooza. If you want to be included, send me your info before this Thursday.

The idea is to introduce as many people as possible to your work or contest. And just to bring that brainchild home, I am going to buy one lucky commenter a book (chosen by Randomizer) from the list of entries on Friday.

Of course, if nobody enters somebody's going to be stuck getting my book. So you better email me.

What do you think? Are you interested?

***Addendum: Please retweet. Let's make this a real party!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Author Photo Hell

It had to happen sooner or later. Now that the new book is coming out, I am going to have to change my avatar.

I wish I could keep it. I love the cover to TOUCH OF FIRE. I helped design that cover. And the artist was very, very sweet abo
ut working with me. I knew even then I would never get a chance to give that much input on a cover again. (Not unless I self-publish.)

If you don't have an art background, you depend on the publisher's professionals to guide you. B
ut when you've been an artist and art director for more than three decades, it's hard to let someone else decide these things for you.

And let's face it. Who knows better than the author what the book is about?

But now it leaves me with the unenviable position of changing my blog's avatar, and the avatar that appears on many forums.

I could use this picture. That's me with Chelly. I love that picture, but it's a bit dated.

I could take a new photo, but in what pose? Should I be serious? Matronly? Flashy? None of those personas appeal to me because they're not me.

Author photos tend to be so fabricated. How many times have you seen a male author in a black turtleneck and a pipe? Or the woman author with makeup so thick, her eyes bug out like she'd just been goosed
by her 3 year old.

Here's the Glamour-shot me. I hate it. That is so not me--or rather it is me, but with tons of makeup. (At least there's no pipe.)

I could take a new picture of me and one of my dogs, but Tank is looking elderly and Iko slobbers on me like a lovesick teenager. That evil dog has slipped me the tongue on more than one occasion too.

I was not amused.

I've never been a fan of author photos. It's too easy to pass judgment on someone by the way they look--a look that many times is fictional itself. That's why I've always been partial to the picture of me and Chelly. That's me. That's who I am. Someone who loves dogs, lives in jeans and schleps about in the sticks.

Of all people, I know how important it is to maintain a consistent physical presence, a face to the words, but does it really have to be my face? I'm not twenty-five anymore. And the only way I'd stop traffic now is if I had a heart attack in the middle of rush hour.

Hmm...now there's an idea. LOL.

Do people really care what the author looks like? Do you?

My vote is to use a picture of one of my dogs. Maybe my future dog--whoever she may be.

What say you, guys? Author photo or cute dog?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homesteading Updatery

For the past week we've had a crew doing the dirt work and building foundation forms for what will become Greg's shop.

As we watch these men work in triple digit heat we are torn. It's all we can do not to get in there and help, which is kind of silly because we are paying a hefty amount for this work crew.

It's a strange position we're in.

This is the first time in our lives we've ever hired people to do work we would otherwise do ourselves. Greg built his last shop nearly all by himself. That shop was a testament to his skill and strength.


But this time, 20+ years later, it's a job for younger men. They can do in a few weeks what would take us months to do on our own.

Still, I don't like to see people toil like that in this heat. We bring them ice and constantly ask them if there's anything we can do for them, but they always politely refuse.

***

Garden and chickens: I've been using soaker hoses to water the garden but it's still putting out too much water, so we switched over to sprinklers. Some veggies, like melons and tomatoes need a lot of water, but others can manage on less. We're still experimenting. You can see by the photo the very nice irrigation system Greg put together. It can accommodate both sprinklers and soaker hoses.

I put in a fall garden this week. And since we allow the chickens to free range during daylight hours, we decided to put up one of those plastic fences around the garden to keep them from n
ipping at my seedlings.

I'm happy with it. Works like a charm.

On the egg laying front, we still only have
two hens laying right now. The others should be starting within a few more weeks. Greg built two sets of nesting boxes. One condo and the other a one-story job. I'll show you more pictures later, but here's a pic of the 1 story nest boxes that we put up only last night.

It's all coming together, one step at a time.

Anyone else putting in a fall garden? How do you water; by hand, sprinklers, hoses? I'm always looking for alternatives.

And...is it me, or do you think it's been unusually hot this year? We got hotter sooner here in Texas and it wouldn't surprise me if we broke a record for triple digits this year. How about where you live?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Outlining for Plan-sters

When I was a writing newbie, a critique partner introduced me to the 3-act play.

He had gone to a conference where the instructor spoke at great lengths on the subject. My CP kindly sent me a copy of his notes.

His notes were so structured and detailed I immediately saw a pattern on how the play developed. It also gave me a basis for creating an outline. I started with a nugget of an idea. Like a seed, I let it sprout, one leaf at a time.

Maria's Outline Tips


Start with a blurb: I know a lot of people do the blurb last, but I do it first. I want to know how I would pitch this. Not only does it give me the tone of the novel, but also a clear understanding on where the conflict lies.

Know how I want it to end: I know what the conflict is (from the blurb). Now I decide how it needs to end. There's nothing specific yet. 'Hero beats bad guy.' 'Heroine gets her man.' That kind of thing.

Decide how many chapters I'll need: I tend to write short chapters. I know for the average 80k book, I will need a minimum of 35-40 chapters.

Blurb the chapters: Every chapter gets a two or three line sentence diagramming what happens. There must be a conflict and there must be a resolution -- or a segue to the next conflict. For me, this is the most important aspect on how I outline.

Every chapter must have an obstacle. If I can't identify the hurdle, then the chapter has failed. It isn't moving to the next, more challenging problem leading to the black moment.

When I finish, I will have 35+ chapter headings with a two line description for each chapter.

These little pods of information keep me honest. I know the story is always moving toward its inevitable conclusion, yet it gives me total freedom of creativity when I write the actual story.

***

Fooled you with this post, didn't I? LOL.

I don't write a lot of 'writing mechanics' posts, but
Elana Johnson suggested today's topic because she was looking for ideas on how to outline. Elana has like a billion gazillion readers and she'll probably get more ideas on outlining than she needs, but this is my take.

--and I needed a topic! Thanks, Elana.

My system is easy-peasy, especially for my cluttered brain.

Writers: Do you outline? Do you have any tips you'd like to share?