Wednesday, November 30, 2011

14 WOW Wednesday: Leah Cypess on The Only Way to Write

For those of you who love fantasy, today's WOW Wednesday guest will not be unfamiliar. Her two beautiful books would leave a void if she hadn't written them exactly the way she did write them. And that means you need to read this post. Read it, and then go out and write the books that only you can write, in the way that only you can write them. Find Leah on her web site or on Twitter, and go read these books if you haven't done so already!

The Only Way To Write

by Leah Cypess

“The only way to write is well and how you do it is your own damn business.” — A.J. Liebling

When I was fourteen years old, my father got a high-speed internet connection at his office, and I was able to go online for the first time. The very first thing I did was seek out the writers’ communities on AOL and Compuserve. (Note: If you remember Compuserve, you are old. Like me.) Until then, I was the only serious writer I knew, and it was thrilling to find a community of people who were also interested in writing as a profession. We could discuss it! For hours! On the computer!

On AOL, I came across a thread about writing habits. One person, who was apparently a Person of Importance in a national writing group, said that if you are serious about writing, you have to treat it like a job: Sit down and write from 9:00 to 5:00. Accountants don’t get to do their work just when they are “in the mood,” so why should writers?

Now, I recognize that this is good advice for a lot of people, but it has never worked for me. First of all, unless I am in the throes of serious inspiration, I can never write (in the first-drafting sense) for more than an hour or two at a time without burning out. Second of all, if I sit down and force myself to write when I have nothing I really want to write about, I write complete crap.

So I wrote something like that in the thread, adding that I tended to write when I was in the mood, with no consistent pattern, and I still managed to get a lot done.

The original poster responded that if that was my attitude, I would never make it as a professional writer.

I responded that this wasn’t true for everybody, different people had different working habits, and if that was what I thought I had to do to be a writer, I might actually prefer to be an accountant.

Then I had go get off the internet, and didn’t get to check the thread until the next day. At which point I found that the thread had gotten a lot longer – and consisted entirely of support for the original poster and criticism of me. One post said something along the lines of, “Person of Importance, I’m sure that in your Position of Importance you have to deal a lot with this kind of immature attitude, and I’m sorry for you. It was nice of you to even bother responding to her.” There was not a single post suggesting that what I’d said had any validity whatsoever.

So, I quickly learned my first rule about the internet: people tend to let their obnoxiousness out. (Years later, I realized that many of the people on that thread were probably sucking up to the Person of Importance; I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.) That was twenty years ago, but to this day I still wish I had saved the identity and email of said Person of Importance, so I could forward his email to him with, “Remember how you said I’d never be a professional writer? Well, check THESE books out. And by the way, I didn’t write them from 9 to 5.”

I mean, not that I really would. Because it was years ago and I’m above all that. Probably.

The writing world, and the internet portion of it especially, is full of great advice for writers: on how to write, how (and whether) to seek publication, etc. And a lot of it is really, really good advice. But the important thing to remember is that it is all advice that worked for the person giving it.

Writing is, by its very nature, one of the most individualistic endeavors there is, and that’s a large part of the reason why I love it. There are many more important things that people are doing, but few things are less replaceable: if you don’t write that book or story or essay, it will never be written. Nobody else could ever write exactly the same thing that you will write. And that’s why, without closing yourself off to the possibility of good advice, you have to do it in the way that works for you. Whether you outline or wing it, devote a certain number of hours to writing per day or write sporadically as the muse hits you, revise seven million times or just once, make elaborate character charts or keep it all in your head… don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong just because they do it differently. Or even because 99% of the writers in the world are doing it differently. It’s the outcome that matters, not how you get there.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

3 Find the Rhetorical Device: A Game, Contest, and Writing Lesson

For me, a great book has to have more than a great story and memorable characters. The books I love to curl up with, the books I return to so often that they become good friends, are the books that have beautifully crafted prose on every page. It's one of the reasons I love Young Adult literature. At its best, YA lit is such a beautiful mixture of literary writing and an unputdownable read. There are many YA authors out there who literally make me thrill with anticipation when one of their books comes out.

Here are some examples of completely random passages taken from three recent YA releases. Did I mention these books are HOT?

I loved reading these excerpts and really thinking about them. I loved the cadence and the tightness of the writing. But what really caught my attention was the sheer number of rhetorical devices packed into each of these three short groups of sentences.

What do you think of the writing? Notice anything? Is there anything you already do in your own work, or a technique you want to try? Don't just look within the sample sentences. Consider the symmetry of the overall extended structure as well as the figures of speech.

Post a comment with an example of a rhetorical device from the passage, or just your general thoughts about the writing. The person who posts the most examples of rhetorical devices will will a copy of Myra McEntire's HOURGLASS.

Take your time. We'll keep this contest running until January 2nd, and then post the winner's answers.

Are you ready? Here are the examples:

Suddenly I'm acutely aware of my impractical outfit. Suddenly the wind is too callous, too cold, too painful as it slices its way through the crowd. I shiver and it has nothing to do with the temperature. I look for Warner but he has already taken his place at the edge of the courtyard; it's obvious he's done this many times before. He pulls a small square of perforated metal out of his pocket and presses it to his lips; when he speaks, his voice carries over the crowd like it's been amplified.

"Sector 45."

One word. One number.

The entire group shifts: left fists released, dropped to their sides; right fists planted in place on their chests. They are an oiled machine, working in perfect collaboration with one another. If I weren't so apprehensive I think I'd be impressed.
Tahereh Mafi, SHATTER ME, page 103-104

It's like birds worrying a crow. I've seen them in the fields, when the crow has gotten too close to their nest or otherwise insulted them. The other birds dive-bomb and scream and the crow merely stands there, looking dark and still and unimpressed.

So it's just this: Sean and Mutt, heir to the island's fortune, and Mutt's spit glistening on Sean's boots.

"Nice boots," Mutt says. He's looking down at them, but Sean Kendrick isn't. He watches Mutt's face with the same looking-but-not-looking expression he had in the butcher's. I'm kind of horrified and fascinated by what I see on Mutt's face. It's not anger, but something like it.
Maggie Stiefvater, THE SCORPIO RACES, page 67

There are master forgers in the world, folks who know exactly what chemicals ink had in it in the sixteenth century versus the eighteenth. They have sources for paper and canvases that will carbon date correctly; they can create perfect craquelure. They practice the loops and flourishes of another hand until it is more familiar than their own.

It probably goes without saying that I am not a master forger. Most forgeries get by because they are good enough that no one checks them. When I sign my mother’s name to a permission slip, so long as it looks like her handwriting, no one brings in a specialist.

But if Barron compared the notebook I hastily forged to his older ones, the fake would be obvious. We are all specialists in our own handwriting.
Holly Black, RED GLOVE page 236

So did you spot alliteration, epizeuxis, metaphor, polysyndeton? What about the zeugma? What else did you find?

Looking for a refresher on rhetorical devices beyond the basics we're all familiar with? Here are a few good links:

Happy hunting!


Monday, November 28, 2011

0 1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Final Revisions Posted

The final revisions are up for the November workshop. We invite everyone to comment and help these writers assess and improve their work.

And don't forget the December workshop begins on Saturday. We'll take the first five qualifying entries -- and that means the first five entries that follow the submission requirements EXACTLY. Email us your first 1250 words starting at noon Eastern 12/3/11. The full rules are here.

We have been extremely lucky this month to have two guest workshop mentors this month, both of them with keen editorial eyes. Please extend a special thanks to them, everyone, for all their hard work with the November entries.

Susan Sipal is published in fiction and nonfiction through articles, short stories, and a novel and has worked in the industry as an editor and marketing consultant. Over the last several years, she developed and presented "A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter," which helps writers of all genres improve their craft with Harry Potter as their text. Her next publication is a short story entitled "Running Raw," which will appear in the Belle Books' collection Tales From Mama's Heart. She Tweets @HP4Writers and blogs at where she also offers freelance editing services.

Cathy Yardley has published 14 novels with Harlequin, St. Martin's and Avon, as well as the non-fiction book Will Write For Shoes: How to Write A Chick Lit Novel. She teaches writing with Savvy Authors as well as providing editing and promotional services at

7 1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Brunner Rev 3

Max BrunnerMiddle Grade FantasyEMBER-REVISION 3

Chapter I: The Spit Wad

A ball of wet paper slapped the side of John’s face. He caught himself before falling out of his chair but was powerless to stop the hot blood that flooded his cheeks. Dice and his friends exploded with laughter. Cold saliva ran down his cheek and John swallowed hard to keep his lunch inside his stomach. The spit wad had caused him enough embarrassment for one day. He took a deep breath and remembered they wouldn’t be laughing much longer.

“I can’t wait to see your face w-w-when-“ John paused. He was stuttering again. His cheeks burned even hotter.

Dice lowered his straw, “Can’t wait to what? You got something to say to me, f-f-f-freak?”

John clenched his fists but said nothing.

“Just what is so funny Mr. Menning?” asked their wrinkled teacher.

“Nothing, Ms. Jessup,” Dice replied as he fumbled to hide the straw shooter.

The woman marched toward him. “What is that you’re hiding over there? Craig, I want you to empty your pockets, right now.”

The bullies panicked and John couldn’t help but smile. Having Craig empty his pockets was a stroke of genius.

John leaned back, folded his arms, and made sure Dice could see him grinning. “Y-You’re not getting away with it this t-t-time,” he teased. Even stammering twice in one sentence couldn’t ruin this moment.

Then it happened. Again.

One of Dice’s friends jumped into Ms. Jessup’s path, babbling on about nothing, shifting his body to keep her from looking over his shoulder at Dice.

“I’ll take it.” It was Rebecca, the girl that sat in front of Dice. “Quick,” she whispered, “she won’t search me. Give me the straw.”

John’s smile disappeared, “Not you too, Becca. I thought w-we were f-f-friends.”

Dice smirked and slipped her the straw shooter into her hand.

“You think h-he’s your friend now?” John said. “He’s not. He’s just using you, like he uses everybody else.”

The evidence disappeared just before their teacher pushed past her jabbering obstacle. She scanned the innocent items the bullies had taken out of their pockets. “Is this it?” She sighed, “I have three more slides to go over and fifteen minutes to do it in, boys. We don’t have time for any more distractions, understand?”

John wiped the remaining the saliva from his face. “H-H-He shot a spit wad at me.”

She spun on her heels and locked John in her sights. “Now how would you know who shot that at you, Mr. Davy?” She asked, glaring at him through a pair of glasses that would be too small if her eyes weren’t so beady. “You haven’t done anything but keep your nose in that book since you came through that door. Just because you are my brightest student does not excuse you from participating in this classroom.”

She spun again, this time to Rebecca, “And don’t think you’ve pulled a fast one on me, my dear. You’ll be joining Craig in detention this afternoon.”

The students groaned and John was about to rejoice when Ms. Jessup snatched the paperback out of his hands. “Just what is so captivating that you cannot seem to pay attention to my presentations?”

Ms. Jessup held the book away from her face so her old eyes could read the title but before she could get the letters focused Dice chimed in. “Another crazy book about UFOs or something,” he said, inciting a giggle from his classmates.

“T-The Hutchison Effect,” John said.

“The Hutchison Effect? I’ve never even heard of it.”

John shifted in his seat before lifting his deep brown eyes. “It-it’s about the Hutchison Effect and the Bermuda Triangle and how—”

“The Bermuda Triangle?” Ms. Jessup snickered. “Preposterous. I’ve lived on this island in ‘the Triangle’ for more than 35 years. I’ve seen more storms here than you’ve had birthdays and I have never seen anything out of the ordinary. Your time in class is far too precious to be wasted on something like this.”

“My dad told me hundreds of ships and planes have disappeared in the Triangle and even Christopher Columbus saw strange lights when he sailed through here. My dad saw—“

“Mr. Davy,” She interrupted, “We do not have time for this nonsense. The Bermuda Triangle is no different from anywhere else in the world and anyone who says otherwise should have his or her head examined. The laws of science are the same here as they are everywhere else.” She held John’s book in the air and spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. “I have studied science my entire life and I can tell you these kinds of books do not contain fact. They do not teach; they entertain. This book is full of idiotic theories by people with too much time on their hands too lazy to get real jobs. Reading things like this is a waste of your time and a waste of good paper. John, you are too bright to believe in this hocus pocus.”

“It’s not hocus pocus. You’ll see,” John said under his breath.

“What was that?” Ms. Jessup replied.

“N-N-Nothing.” John said.

“Good. Now,” she said, “put that thing away and let’s get back to these slides and see if we can teach you some real science. I don’t know why on earth a bright boy like you would waste his time on such a ridiculous book.”

“Because he’s just as nu-nu-nu-nuts as his old man,” Dice chuckled and it seemed to John the whole class laughed with him.

Sefi wasn’t laughing, however. “Knock it off, Dice,” she said slamming her fist into her brother’s arm.

She brushed her dark, pink-streaked hair away from her eyes to steal a glance at John. He caught her eyes for an instant but immediately turned away.

Ms. Jessup carried on with the rest of her slides and as his tormentors began again, John let out a quiet sigh. He was totally alone. It was like he had a disease and everyone was afraid if they came too close he would infect them. No one seemed to understand him. What made John feel even worse was that no one even tried anymore.

When the program ended for the day the children quickly crowded the exit, eager to leave the school behind them.

John stayed in his seat. If he left now Dice and his goons would be there to meet him, more eager than ever to lay their hands on him.

The room was nearly empty when Sefi walked over to his desk. “Sorry about the spit wad. Dice can be a real jerk sometimes.”

John didn’t respond. He frowned at the cover of his textbook, waiting for her to leave. All he wanted was to be left alone. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially Dice’s sister.

The boy winced as she slammed her palm onto his desk, her skull-covered bracelets rattling menacingly.

“You know why he pushes you around?” she huffed. “Because he knows you won’t push back.”

Sefi stood in silence waiting for the boy to reply. When no answer came, she pushed his book to the floor and stormed out of the room.

5 1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Clarke Rev 3

Gabriel M Clarke
YA parallel world historical fantasy

Chapter One

He came back to himself again, growling through the gag and flexing his wrists against the straps pinning him down. The men standing over him had argued, then forced something down his throat. There’d been pain and more shouting; then a blazing blue light and, at last, blackness. 

His wrists came free. He sat up, blinking and disoriented. He was alone in a different room and both hands and mouth were unrestrained.

He was in a four poster bed with a red and gold canopy, adrift in a vast room with crimson walls and a ceiling covered in complicated mouldings. Only the weight of the richly brocaded bedding had been holding down his hands. Heavy curtains hung the full length of one wall and a nightlight burned on a silver tray at the foot of the bed. The back of his head hurt. He reached behind it and found a bandage. His hair was shaved almost down to his skull. 

The nightlight blurred and doubled and he lay back down, waiting for the dizziness to pass. He dimly remembered a journey and someone important to him in danger. But who? A friend? Someone in his family? 

He put his hand to his head again. He must have been injured in some kind of accident or attack but it was worrying how he couldn’t quite bring it to mind. He tried to recall if his parents had been with him, then realised that he couldn’t remember their faces. 

Or even their names.

That wasn’t right, that couldn’t be right. He tried again, imagaining a face, any face, and telling himself that this was his friend, this was his mother but the faces dissolved and disappeared as if there were nothing to remember. He began to sense a hole in the centre of his head, a hole full of darkness trying to drag him in. He attempted to say his own name out loud but no words came. His stomach began to twist and knot and bile scorched his mouth. He turned over, pounding his fists slowly into the pillow, struggling to think of something, anything - a voice, a profile, a touch of a hand. Nothing. He felt a scream beginning to grow.

A key rattled in a lock and hinges squeaked. 

“Good morning, Master Jerald. Time to be up and at ‘em.”

He froze and the scream grudgingly receded. He forced himself to breathe slowly and deeply, aware that the panic was still there, ready to swallow him whole if he lost control for a even a moment. He needed to be calm. He needed to find out who he was, what had happened to him and who he could trust.

“Jerald?” he said out loud.

“That’s your name, young master. It’ll all come back to you, bit by bit, they tell me.”

So they knew something was wrong and he had just confirmed it. He had to be more careful. He heard the clink of a glass set down on the tray, then the sound of the man stamping around drawing curtains and pulling open drawers and cupboards. He took another deep breath and sat up, pushing the weight of the thickly layered bedding off his legs and swinging his feet towards the floor. The man was gathering an armful of clothes from a long wardrobe set into the far wall. He marched across the room, dumped them on the end of the bed and picked up the glass.

“Your drink, Master Jerald.”

“What is it? It stinks.”

“For your health and well-being, young sir. You’ve been through quite an illness and the quack - begging your pardon - the pharmacist says it’ll rebuild your strength.”

He drank it down, aware of the man watching him closely. It tasted of earth, with a trace of honey, and left grit on his tongue. He winced and the man chuckled.

“Time to get into some clothes,” he said.  He seemed old, at least in his forties, and wore a drab, grey uniform with a white sash threaded with red. A broad black belt held a hefty wooden and leather object. A holster. 

I can remember things but not people, he thought.

“You’ve got a gun. Why?”

“I’m here to protect you. You may be in danger from the same people who attacked you and your family. Can you stand up yet, sir? Easy now.”

Jerald - if that was really his name - stood up and swayed. The man took him by his elbow and Jerald resisted the temptation to shrug him off. So something had happened to his parents and he’d been injured - had his parents been hurt too? Or even killed?  

“Attacked us? Who attacked us?” 

“Rebels, we reckon. Ne’er-do-wells and Shapers. Scum from the Black Mountains or worse.”

Jerald began to fumble at the neck of his nightshirt and the man helped him draw it over my head. He handed Jerald stiff black clothes frogged with braid. Jerald’s legs wobbled and he almost lost his balance pulling on the black trousers. The man steadied him. 

“So are you a soldier?”

The man chuckled.

“I’m just a servant, sir, name of Sardis. There are quite a few of us - you’ll see us hanging about here when you need us. You’re quite an important young man. Now, the finishing touch.” Sardis handed him a red sash threaded with purple. Jerald tried to drape it over one shoulder and somehow got it tangled up. The man gently helped him sort it out.

“Thank you,” Jerald said. 

“We live to serve.”

Jeald looked at him but there was no trace of sarcasm on the weathered face. Was he someone Jerald knew? He tried to recall the faces of the men he had remembered tormenting him at the moment he had woken up but they were already fading. Sardis certainly acted like someone who knew him well, who treated him with some deference. 

“My sash is different from yours.”

“Because you’re the Regent’s son, sir. Like I said, an important young man.”

He touched the purple threads. The Regent’s son. He liked the idea of that.

“I’m feeling much better now. If my parents are here, I think I should see them,” Jerald said.

Sardis coughed and looked at the floor.

“I’m sorry, sir. That’s probably all the answers as is good for you, begging your pardon. Keep him calm, that’s what the pharmacist said. Maybe your tutor will explain more.”

Jerald wanted to argue but a wave of nausea left his head spinning and he had to sit back down on the edge of the bed. He tried to think of the attack and, again, a dark, blank space reached out for him. He opened his eyes and touched the bandage. That and the ache in his head was evidence that something had happened to him. For the moment, he needed to do what he was told until he knew who his enemies were, until the memories that seemed to be missing began to return. But what if they didn’t? He thrust the thought away and sat down to pull on the socks and boots Sardis had set out by the bed. The servant was over by the windows, opening one wide and breathing in theatrically.

“Lovely day, Master Jerald. You should see if you can get outside for a bit. Do you a world of good.”

Jerald walked carefully over to the main window and looked over Sardis’ shoulder. Beneath them, a wide lawn covered in snow and dotted with frosted shrubs sloped down towards a high stone wall. Beyond the wall, woodlands. Beyond the woodlands, white fields. Mist fringed the trees and the distant meadows, and a steam tractor clanked noisily towards a gate in a wall. The air was freezing and he shivered. His stomach rumbled.

“I’m hungry,” he said.

Sardis led him out of his room and along a wide, dusty corridor lined with sombre paintings and door after oak-paneled door. Opposite the doors, deep set windows letting in shafts of pale light alternated with dusty alcoves edged with dirty white paint. Draughts rattled the the old, loose window frames and he was soon grateful for the thick cloth of the uniform. They took a narrow, winding staircase down to a broad landing. It was hung with a huge tapestry of a city tumbling into an abyss as mountains crumbled in flames and waters thundered in. The population were no more than tiny motes of two or three stitches - all the weaver’s craft had gone into the flames and clouds of ashes. Jerald stopped in front of it. It seemed significant to him but he couldn’t place why. 

“Is this a story?” he asked. Sardis shook his head. 

“It’s the end of Old Galla,” he said. “You’ll remember, by and by. When the old Shapers tried to break the world apart and do for us. Some of our cities fell, Angle broke off from the mainland and the sky was black for a decade but the Society held things together. Well, the Society and the Empire. One and the same, really.”

14 1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Stickrath, Rev 3

Name: Kimberly C. Stickrath
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Until the Awful Spring, Aggie Winkum had never known a day of true sadness in her life...but The Sadness, when it came, crept in like a shamed wet dog, head low and tail down, and it brought with it the rain. Rain that clung to mud with the desperation of a drowning child. Rain that ate the blue right out of the sky and left only thick walls of grey behind. Cold, relentless rain that took hold of you and shook you in its teeth and would not let go…rain that soon gave Gramma Winkum a fever and The Newmoania. Instead of bustling and tutting and being fierce and feisty, she became weak and fragile. Gramma Winkum’s long, silver hair clung to her poor, tired face and her bright eyes dimmed like lamps when the wick went down.


It was bedtime, and Aggie was only a pale shadow flickering uncertainly in the doorway of her grandmother’s room. “Mommy? Mommy, can I help?”

She watched, wincing, as Mommy thumped Gramma’s frail back with the sides of her hands, just so’s Gramma Winkum could breathe. Daddy was watching them behind the mist of the steam kettle with tight, worried eyes, never saying around a word.

“Mommy?” This time Aggie more mouthed the word than whispered it, but her mother seemed to hear. Mrs. Winkum looked over Gramma’s thin shoulders and frowned sadly, shaking her head. The message was clear. Aggie was to be very, very quiet so as not to be disturbing them. [i] Gramma coughed and coughed and gasped for breath. And Aggie tiptoed away, wishing she hadn’t seen her grandmother’s backbones poking through the cotton shift, or that she hadn’t seen the way Gramma’s coughs racked through her body.

Before the rains, Mommy and Gramma Winkum had taken in laundry and made the sheets snap and gleam with brightness. Now, the lovely sheets and linens hung like shrouds on ropes inside the house, and she was forever leaving behind the temporary water-shadows caused by the little pads of her feet as she tiptoed around the puddles beneath the sheets. Outside smelled of mold, and inside smelled of sickness and damp. The only sound was Gramma Winkum’s rough cough and Mommy’s whispered prayers. And all Aggie could do was worry in silence.

As the weeks rolled by, and poor Gramma Winkum got weaker and weaker, Aggie became quieter and quieter.

Aggie watched the rain racing down the pane of her bedroom window. She had never known such misery, and crept about the house like a mouse in the baseboards. Her open, smiling face had taken on a serious, pale aspect, and her bright eyes had become watchful and sad. Her lovely hair remained unbound and fretful, for even plaiting her braids took too much of Mommy’s precious attention from Gramma Winkum. And if that weren’t enough, her best friend, Billy Brown (who knew all kinds of wonderful, useful things, including a little magic), was visiting a cousin over-the-hills-away, and he didn’t even know when he would get back!

She thought about the wilted flowers that drooped and mourned over Gramma Winkum’s wedding-ring quilt, and wished for the hundredth time that the weather would just turn long enough for her to replace them. It didn’t seem right.

It used to be that when the spring came, Aggie would march out with the biggest basket she could find and bring home the most beautiful blooms the hills could offer. More often than not, Aggie found so many daffodils brown-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace that her mother and her grandmother had to use every vase, pitcher, and cup in the house. Sometimes, Aggie’s flowers even took over the bathtub, and petals and leaves seemed to be growing over the sides as the blooms spilled out over the edges. Her mother would sigh, and her grandmother would flutter about tutting to herself that they would soon have a honey-hive in the best cupboard. However, her father would ruffle Aggie’s hair and smile and remind them that there were worse things in the world than a little girl and her flowers…and that a house that smelled of fresh flowers was always a welcome place to be.

That night, as she had for so many nights since Gramma got sick, Aggie crept into bed, with an unkissed forehead and no soft whisper for pleasant dreams.

But the next morning, Aggie awoke to sunshine!

It was as though all the world had been forgiven, and the sunlight glowed upon the raindrops as though they were diamonds. The air was fresh once more, and the blue sky beamed and beamed as though it had never once been gone. The grass was stiff and straight, like thousands of soldiers in their brand-new green uniforms, and as Aggie crept from her bed, she felt it, like a wondrous, brilliant blanket wrapping about her. Expectation. Anticipation. Certainty. Her toes danced against the moist earth. “Yes!” the world was telling her, “THIS is a day when wonderful things will happen!”

And without another thought, she got dressed and tied her hair back with a piece of Mommy’s softest red yarn, and crept out of the house without waking anyone else up. She stopped to pick up her mother’s apple basket, and with the comforting weight of the deep basket on her hip, she marched out to her favorite flower fields and began to pick flowers.

As she picked and set her flowers carefully in the basket, she found herself edging closer and closer to the Dark Woods. Children were not supposed to go into the Dark Woods, for there were many fearsome creatures living in its shadows, and there were many reasons it was not safe…but Aggie had always been curious about the lovely green darkness under the Dark Wood’s trees…and though she really was a very good little girl, she did, sometimes, try to dare herself a little

10 1st 5 Pages November Workshop - MacKinney, Rev 3

Title: The Pirates of Time and the Navigator's Watch
Genre: Middle Grade sci-fi
Beth MacKinney

Chapter 1

Dear new Everly baby-on-the-way,

Hi. I’m Ben, your dad. I won’t be there when you’re born in eight months, because I’m headed for a tour of duty in Iraq as a field medic for the army. I’ll do everything I can to come back to you.

It was the hat’s fault.

In middle school, the eighth graders are at the top of the food chain, and seventh graders are at the bottom. New kids start at the bottom, but work their way up by being stooges to eighth graders or by being exceptionally cool. As a seventh grade guy who wanted to live to make it to eighth grade, I tried to avoid the food chain altogether. I flew under the radar, invisible.

Buzz Murphy, one of the new kids, didn’t start at the bottom of anything. In spite of being a girl, she had dazzled Kenmore Junior High by being a year ahead in school and good at every sport known to man...and seventh grade boys.

I tried not to care. It worked until I looked up from my lunch in the school cafeteria on a gloomy Thursday and realized I was sitting at an empty table. My best friend Spencer, another invisible, had deserted me to hover at the edge of Buzz’s crowd a couple of tables away. For the first time, Buzz was sporting a faded, green army hat over her short brown hair. My eyes narrowed.

The army and I went way back. Thus, I hated her hat.

I sauntered over to the table of admirers, just as she ended her favorite spiel, “—and someday I’ll be flying a helicopters in the army.”

Yada, yada, yada. Like we cared.

But Ronald Rosenstein’s eyes were bugging out behind his glasses. I wanted to hit him, but settled for poking Spencer in the ribs with my elbow “With that kind of hot air, she won’t need a helicopter.”

Buzz’s face flushed red. “What did you say?”

“I wasn’t talking to you.”

Buzz rose from the opposite side of the lunch table, towering three inches below me. Every kid in a ten foot radius took a step back. Not me, of course. The hat had me in its clutches.

Buzz’s voice was low and dangerous. “I repeat. What. Did. You. Say.” It wasn’t a question.

I leaned forward. “I repeat. I. Wasn’t. Talking—”

Buzz launched herself over the table end and slammed into me with enough force to pitch me backwards into Nelson Ribicki and his lunch tray of spaghetti. My head grazed a table leg as we went down under a cafeteria table, sliding through pasta and sauce. Kids scrambled out of the way. Boys yelled and girls shrieked. Someone shouted, “Food fight!”

As we rolled back and forth, Buzz’s hat fell off, and a large red glob of spaghetti sauce dribbled off the edge of the table and landed in its place. She looked ridiculous. I snickered.

“Here comes Mrs. Temple!”

I pushed Buzz off and scrambled to my feet, pulling spaghetti off my shirt. Mrs. Temple, the lunchroom mom, could’ve been a close relative of Atila the Hun. You didn’t mess with her. My heart was pounding, but I reminded myself that I hadn’t done anything but talk. I had witnesses.

As I scraped more pasta strands off my shirt, a boy near me yelled, “Duck!”

I looked up, just in time to catch Buzz’s fist with my left eye.

Mrs. Temple steamrolled through the crowd, parting it like the Red Sea. She pulled Buzz backwards by the scruff of the neck. “Ms. Murphy! Principal’s office. Now!”

Buzz squirmed, slippery with sauce, but there was no escape from Mrs. Temple’s iron grasp. “And you, Mr. Everly, will report to the principal’s office after you see the school nurse.”

I could just make out Buzz’s smirk through my swelling eye.

Fifteen minutes later, I tried to look small and hurt next to Buzz on the ugly orange plastic chairs just outside the principal’s office. The hurt part was easy. I pressed an ice pack on my bruised eye. Fist fights weren’t my style, so I had that going for me, but Buzz’s size and gender made me look the bad guy. What a laugh.

We sat there in stony silence, smelling like SpaghettiOs and listening to the unhappy rumble of voices from the inner office.

“Well?” Buzz whispered finally.

“Well what?”

“You should apologize.”

My jaw dropped. “Me?” I squeaked. “You’re the one who should apologize. Look at my eye!” I pulled the ice pack away.

Buzz examined the eye. “You should stay out of fights. You’re not any good at ducking.”

“There wouldn’t have been a fight if you didn’t have occupational delusions. Puh-lease. The army? You’ll be lucky if they let you near a jeep.”

A hot flush of anger crept over Buzz’s face again. “Like you know anything.”

“My dad was in the army. I know plenty.”

“My dad is in the army, you moron.”

Somehow we were on our feet, and the receptionist was rounding her desk on an intercept course.

“I hope you crash and burn.”

I turned as Mr. Kalinowski opened the door to his office. “Jackson Everly and—”

“Duck!” cried the receptionist.

I looked back, just in time to catch Buzz Murphy’s fist with my right eye.

Chapter 2

Dear Jack (or Jacqueline),

I’m leaving for Train Up soon. That’s when they get us ready to go to a combat zone. It’ll be tough, but I don’t mind, because our country is worth fighting for. I’m glad I’m a medic. Someday someone will get to come home because I was there to help. That’s important to me.

Grandpa is staying with you and your mom until I get back. He’s all the family I have except for two, but he takes a little getting used to. He’ll probably teach you to garden before you can walk.

I hope you like dirt.

There is no good way to explain two black eyes to your mother, even if you got them from a girl and didn’t hit back, but I think they give courses to principals on how to break bad news to parents without traumatizing them. Mr. Kalinowski assured my mom that I was okay and could stay in school since I hadn’t thrown a punch.

Buzz didn’t get off quite so easily. The last I saw of her, she was sulking on the ugly plastic chairs, waiting for her mom.

At the end of the day I skipped out before Spencer could find me and took the back way home. I didn’t even want to look at him, the traitor.

No one was around when I slipped into the kitchen. I dumped my backpack on the floor and headed for the sofa in the family room.

A few minutes later, the back screen door to the kitchen slapped shut with a sharp crack. That would be Grandpa coming in from his garden. Water wooshed in the sink. Dirt would be sliding off his gnarled hands. I closed my eyes and watched him in my mind. Every day was the same. He’d stretch and work the kinks out of his back before heading for his chair in the family room and—

“Jumping Jehoshaphat! What’d you do? Walk into a revolving door with your eyes closed?”

“That would have been too easy,” I grumbled. “I didn’t get into a fight and lost. Impressed?”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

3 1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Lawrence Rev 3

Author: Elanor Lawrence
Title: Simulate
Genre: YA dystopia
I, Astrid K-937, am the smartest teen in the world.
Maybe that sounds egoistic, but it’s true. Everyone has to take an intelligence test when they turn eighteen. I passed it—with flying colours—at twelve.
That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, though. Far from it. That’s why I’m here in Paris. The Eiffel tower is ahead of me, a stark contrast to the white skyscrapers around it. The sight is actually disappointing; it seems smaller than when I saw it last. Maybe the skyscrapers are taller.
There are people all around, most of them dressed in the traditional flowing garments. When I look down, I’m wearing one, too. At least it’s purple. Purple makes everything so much better.
Darius, my aide, is staring at the satellite map on his wrist. We’re at one end of a plaza with the Eiffel tower at the center, surrounded by a narrow strip of gardens and fountains. After that are only more of the boring white apartment buildings, just like back home.
 “What do I have to do?” I ask. Normally I research the mission before I leave, but this time I wasn’t allowed to know anything. That’s the whole point of this test: to see how quickly I can adapt.
 “They’ve given you very little to work with,” Darius explains. I shift my weight from foot to foot. This isn’t a normal mission, where I can try again if I fail. The results of this test actually matter to me. It’s not like last mission, where I spent half an hour exploring a Scottish castle before the operators realized I wasn’t fighting the battle. This is a special test, trying to force me to care. As if fighting all America’s battles isn’t hard enough.
“We’re the only ones here,” Darius continues, staring at the satellite map on his wrist. It’s disguised as an antique piece of jewellery called a watch, but really it shows the position of every human in the area. American soldiers are blue. European soldiers are red. Ordinary citizens are grey. Right now the screen is covered in grey with two little blue dots and absolutely no red. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that this assignment was easy.
Darius and I start walking so we won’t seem as conspicuous. “You have to contact someone on the 27th storey of the Animate Art building.”
See? They’re being purposely vague. I’ve never been to the Animate Art building before, but I know all about it. They program the different styles of virtual reality there, all the ones the government deems appropriate. At home, that would mean top security, but here Animate Art is nothing but entertainment.
In America, virtual reality is a way of war.
Now is no time to think about home. I need to complete this mission as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s time to become Astrid: Superspy.
The building is on the other side of the square, taking up the whole side of the plaza. My mind takes in the details.
Reinforced, imitation-brick walls a foot thick. One-way windows shining like glass; they’re touch-sensitive. Triple doors, obviously sealed because of the blue pin-prick light flashing every two seconds. Electrical wire running in a grid on the flat roof. Weighted security pads on the ground.
 I don’t even glance at Darius to ask for a hint. The operators are looking for signs that I’m still fit to lead these missions, so I can’t show anything that looks like hesitance. They’ll be watching my every move. In this case, the most direct move is the best.
“We’ll bluff our way in,” I say. “Give me the pass cards.”
“It’s Saturday,” Darius responds in a monotone. I hate what they do to him for tests. Normally he’s friendly and cheerful; I actually enjoy spending time with him for missions. But for my tests he has to act like this, all stiff and formal.
Also, it aggravates me that they didn’t bother to inform me what day of the week it is. Back home it’s Monday, but since it’s the weekend here, all the Europeans will be on holiday and the automatic doors won’t accept Level One pass cards.
 “Alright. Let’s be maintenance workers.”
Darius pulls a tool bag out from under his cape and hands it to me. It’ll still be hard to break through the doors, but this will give us a disguise.
Gripping the tool bag in sweaty palms, I walk over to the imposing triple doors. We’re on the security pads now so they will register our presence, but they’ll think we really are maintenance workers. Off to the side is a computer panel that lights up as we approach.
“State your number and intention, then scan pass card,” the door instructs, the panel turning red to indicate where I should place the card.
I read the identity number off the top of the box, say: “Routine maintenance” and hold the surface up to the card scanner. It blinks green and states, “Please proceed.”
The first door slides open. Darius and I hurry inside, turning towards a panel on the wall. At my command, Darius unscrews the panel and hands me the forging tool. There are two more glass doors we need to get through before we’re actually in the building. This one should be pretty simple to open. The second layer of a European security system is notoriously easy to crack.
I guide the forging tool through the circuits, switching wires and polarizing electrodes. It’s a routine job, really.  Red wire to blue terminal. Switch the twenty seventh and twenty ninth nodes. Release the anterior energy converter.
An alarm blares. Beneath my hands, the wires glow bright red.
OMGoodness. The Europeans finally put a sensor on the energy converter. 
“Out. Now,” I order. Darius grabs the kit and dashes out of the building. Right behind us the doors slam closed; a second later and we would have been sealed in.
“Scan initiated,” the computerized voice intones. The building hums gently. The security system is scanning for life forms. They’ll find our contact and dispose of him.
I’ve lost the mission.
I close my eyes, willing myself not to cry. I don’t lose. This can’t be happening. I don’t even want to imagine what the operators will do to me if I fail. Maybe I’ll lose my job. American will start to lose battles. Europe will conquer us. I’ve failed my government, my country and myself.
And then, miraculously, I haven’t. “Scan complete,” the building informs us. “No intruders detected.”
My eyes flick open and I turn to Darius. “Check your map. Where’s our contact?”
“Twenty-seventh floor, just as planned,” Darius says.
I can’t imagine how he escaped the building’s notice—cloaking devices aren’t standard—but I’ll take whatever I can get. I haven’t lost yet. Now all I need is a way to get into the building.
The doors are already out. The walls are brick and steel: impassable. The windows are covered in sensors so that if the glass is broken another alarm goes off.
Then, taking a couple steps back, I see that at the side of the building, one of the windows is open.
Was the window open before? I search through my memories, trying to remember, but I’m drawing a blank. I don’t think it was.
The contact must have opened it for me. Somehow he managed to evade the building’s detection and open a window. This means that he must have special European authorization, yet the blue dot on Darius’s satellite map means that he’s American.
Could the contact be a traitor? The thought makes my heart beat faster. The operators are all sitting back home with bated breath, waiting to see what I’ll do. Try to find another way inside and waste precious time? Or head in through the window, perhaps straight in to a trap?

Friday, November 25, 2011

9 This Week for Writers 11/25/11: Our Favorite Articles and Blog Posts

Happy post-Thanksgiving! Hope everyone had a wonderful day, including those of you non-American visitors who didn't overdose on turkey and pie yesterday.

We're still struggling a little bit with the Google+ thing, so this week's list is in a slightly different format. We'd love feedback. What do you like about the format? What would you like to see us change?

And we have a special treat! This week's WOW Wednesday Post was from Inara Scott, so we have a giveaway of the first book in her Delcroix Academy series. Enter by 12/1 for a chance to win. The form is at the bottom of this post.

The Candidates (Delcroix Academy, #1)Bad things usually happen when Danica Lewis sees someone threatening one of her friends. That's why she does everything possible to avoid getting close to anyone, belieiving this way she can supress her powers and keep them hidden. But when recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room to offer her a full scholarship, her days of living under the radar may be over.

At Delcroix, everyone treats Dancia like she's special. Even the hottest guy on campus seems to be going out of his way to make Dancia feel welcome. And then there's her mysterious new friend Jack, who can't stay out of trouble. He suspects something dangerous is going on at the Academy and wants Dancia to help him figure out what. But Dancia isn't convinced. She hopes that maybe the recruiters know more about her "gift" than they're letting on. Maybe they can help her understand how to use it...But not even Dancia could have imagined what awaits her behind the gates of Delcroix Academy.

And the winner of last week's giveaway is: Ruth Setton. Congrats, Ruth! :D
Clara's Favorites
Martina's Favorites
Book Reviews and Giveaways
Congrats and Smiles
Craft, Tips, Editing, and Writing Tools
Issues, News, and Trends
Self-Publishing and Author Promotion
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Did we miss anything? Anyone? Please leave a comment!

Happy reading and joyous writing,

Clara and Martina

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

14 WOW Wednesday: Inara Scott on Writing Like a Lawyer

I know, I know. You had a visceral reaction to the title of this blog. It probably wasn't a nice reaction. It probably went something like, "Ew, why would I want to write like a lawyer?"

Here's the problem: I am/was/will always be a lawyer. Regardless of whether I am practicing law actively or not, it is part of my DNA. My lawyerly-ness influences my writing more than I want to admit. So obviously, I couldn't write a column on my journey to publication without talking about it. :-)

Being a lawyer is both a blessing and a curse. The curse part has to do with people hating your profession, and occasionally hating you because of your profession. The blessing has something to do with why so many lawyers end up as successful authors. And really, it's related to the curse. Because part of what people hate about lawyers makes us really good writers. The great thing is, you don't have to be a lawyer to enjoy these blessings. I've extracted them from my DNA and am ready to hand them over to you.

1) Care about words. A lot.

Lawyers are trained to pay enormous attention to words. Why does a statute use the word "shall" in one section, and "may" in another? Why does one case paraphrase another, instead of quoting it? What is the definition of the word? What was the definition when the statute was written?

Lawyers treat words like individual, precious beings with distinct personalities and meanings. Writers must, too. When you say your character has "auburn" hair, you convey one meaning. If you say her hair is reddish, chestnut, or sable, you convey something else. Be precise. Slender and lean are different words. So are cruel, mean, and vindictive. Don't allow yourself to become sloppy when it comes to your most precious resource.

2) Care about punctuation. Even more.

We've all seen the fantastic book, "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves." (If you haven't, go read it right now.) Everyone should know that the placement of a comma can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence (i.e., Eats shoots and leaves; Eats shoots, and leaves.) I once litigated a case over the placement of a comma. When your livelihood can turn on a semi-colon, you don't throw them around lightly.

Learn your punctuation. Dashes are powerful weapons. Commas can be confusing. God help us if you start throwing in semi-colons. Be thoughtful and learn from your copy-editor. You will get these things wrong. I do all the time. Don't try for perfection, but never give up, and never take it lightly. This is your craft and your tools. Chose the right one for the job.

3) Only use passive voice when you are avoiding responsibility. 

Then, use it all the time.
I spilled the toxic waste. The toxic waste was spilled. See? Neat, right? I went from taking responsibility to absolving myself completely. The active and passive voice both have a role in writing. But when telling a story from deep within a character's point of view, you should have a reason for them to step into a passive voice. Why would someone telling a story move from the actor to a passive bystander? Don't eliminate the passive voice completely. Just pick the right times to use it.

4) Be passionate. Care about your work.

If you've ever heard a lawyer argue a case, you'll know they get excited. Really excited. About stupid things, like commas, and "shall"s, and "may"s. You should bring this same passion to your work. Writing without passion is limp, boring stuff. Fill it with life. Fill it with passion. It doesn't matter what you're writing. Make it the most important thing in the world. Make it sparkle.

Now, don't hate me too much if you try all this and someone tells you that you sound like a lawyer. It's okay. The best writers often do.


Given Inara Scott's love of argument, it was really only a matter of time before she ended up in law school. The mossy forests and volcanic beauty of Oregon led her to Lewis and Clark Law School and Portland, where she finally decided to settle down. It took another five years for Inara to screw up the courage to quit her lawyer job and devote herself to writing and teaching. Today, she writes anything and everything, including children’s books, young adult fiction, and adult romance. Her debut novel in the fabulous Delcroix Academy Talents/Candidates/Marked series was published in 2010 by Disney-Hyperion Books for Children, with the second book released in 2011.