Nathan Bransford's Paragraph Contest

Well, he and someone named May have chosen 6 finalists...I wasn't among them, alas, but now you get a chance to vote on the one that really grabbed you.

I voted for Sophie W and her imps. It just sounded like the fun beginning to a fun story. My 2nd choice was Regan and her SF entry...really creepy. But I guess I'm in a "I wanna read fun stuff" mood, so that's why I chose Sophie's.

They're all good choices, by the way, and they're not all spec fic, either, lol.

Why don't you join in the fun and leave your comment/vote? The post is here.

~Nancy Beck


What I'm Reading Now - Part Whatever It Is

It's cloudy, it's raining, my endo is acting up big time, and the personal crap is still up in the air. (Just a really fine day all around, ya know?)

So I'm in a cranky, sarcastic mood, in case you hadn't noticed. (Which is why I made the prior post, to at least make up for my crankiness.)

Having just finished a really great fantasy novel, I'm now forging ahead and...reading another fantasy novel. :-) Actually, it's pretty good so far, and what hooked me into it was a good review (a surprise to the person reviewing it) another blog. The main thing in this particular story is that the place where it, um, takes place is a cage.

No, this isn't about werewolves or some kinky sexual thing, but the idea here is that Princes of the Golden Cage (which I can't link to because I have to use freakin' Internet Exploder because Firefox isn't working here at work, and this Exploder version doesn't have tabs) holds all the princes of the sultan until one of them is deemed worthy of becoming the sultan's Number One Heir. Oh, and keeps the princes from doing naughty things, like killing the sultan and his yes men.

Yeah, it's actually based on something in Turkish history (or somewhere thereabouts), and the author, Nathalie Mallett, thought it sounded interesting and turned it into a fantasy/mystery.

Yum. Nice. My two favoritest genres. Kinda like the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercials (you know, the ones where two people "accidentally" bump into each other, one holding a jar of peanut butter, the other with piece of chocolate).

I just started it, and it'll be interesting to see where Ms. Mallett takes this (another debut author for me, as was Lisa Shearin).

~Nancy Beck

The Joys of Falling Underwear

Need a romance fix?

Strike that. Need a weird/creepy/cheesy romance fix? (It's not porn, I swear!)

Then you must check out this section of the lileks.com site. (ETA: Changed the link, which hopefully works now.)

It's the art(?) of Art Frahm, a dude who liked to paint sexy chicks (in the 1950s) in every day garb, with one exception: Their panties were always shown falling about their ankles (or thighs). Oh, and the dude had a thing for celery, too.

No, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. ;-)

Have a good, cheesy time with the, uh, art of Art Frahm and have a chuckle or three. And then check out the rest of the site, and see if some of it doesn't make you want to pluck out your eyeballs.

~Nancy Beck


News on the Fantasy Front

I received an email from Amazon this morning about Diana Pharaoh Francis (don't you just love that name? Oh, how I could go on and on about people's names...) and her latest, which is due out on November 6. It's called The Cipher, and I remember when I sent her an email about her Path series (also excellent and recommended, especially her first one, Path of Fate), that she thought this next series, Crosspointe, was even better than Path.

It's another water-based society (yes!), and it sounds intriguing. Hop on over to her website for a peek at the first chapter.

What is it with me and water? I just think I'm a water person and have been for most of my life. Nothing would thrill me more than to chuck it all and buy a houseboat. Imagine going to sleep at sea...

But I digress, heh. The next bit of news is one I found out by accident.

I've read C. E. Murphy's first book in her Walker Papers trilogy, Urban Shaman, just this past year. As I have mucho books in the To Be Read pile, I'd bought the next book in it, Thunderbird Falls, but I haven't read it as yet (and I haven't yet bought Coyote Falls). Well, she's out with her next, The Negotiator trilogy, starting off with Heart of Stone. It's about a Legal Aid lawyer coming to the defense of a gargoyle (heart of stone - yeah, I get it :-)) who's been charged with murder. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

Ah, so many books, not enough time!!

~Nancy Beck

Magic Lost, Trouble Found - A Review

Magic Lost, Trouble Found
Ace, 352 pages

Raine Benares is an elf and a fair-to-middling sorceress in the world of Mermeia (think of a big version of Venice populated with elves, goblins, and magical "experiments"). She's also a seeker, which means she finds things for people who want things found (although sometimes those people later regret that). Raine's first problem is to keep an eye on Quentin Rand, who's breaking into a necromancer's house. Raine doesn't know what Quentin is after, but she wants to make sure he makes it out of that house in one piece; she's used him on a few jobs before and trusts him - sort of.

One of Raine's cousins, Phaelan, joins her in the alleyway across the street, ready to help, if need be. Raine slipped a tracking stone on Quentin, and it allows her to see things from Quentin's point of view. He's in the necromancer's bedroom and takes out a white stone box.

Raine falls over when Quentin opens the box.

Phaelan helps her back to her feet, and she severs the connection to Quentin. But it's not long before all hell breaks loose. They hear a lot of glass breaking and Quentin's shouts. They head to the back of the house and scramble to the top of a wall. Then Quentin is on the bedroom's balcony, except he's not alone: The Khrynsani, an old goblin secret society and military order, has joined him, and it's not to enjoy the night air.

Quentin jumps into some bushes to get away from the goblins, but they follow him. Raine and Phaelan take care of the Khrynsani as best they can, with a minimum amount of blood shed. When Raine asks what Quentin stole, he's hesitant until he pulls out a chain from under his shirt. It's holding a strange but plain amulet...

...an amulet, Raine finds out, that has unbelievable power, which was taken from a soul-stealing stone. And, when she puts it on, to hold it for Quentin, she finds she can't take it off without dire consequences.

The Khrynsani aren't the only ones after her. There's also the current goblin king's brother-in-exile, and a slimy character named Sarad Nukpana. She hopes to survive with her relatives and friends giving her help, specifically, her brother, Piaras, Garadin, her godfather and former Conclave mage, Paladin and spellsinger-extraordinaire Mychael Eiliesor, and Tamnais Nathrach (Tam), a shaman of royal blood.

Can they keep Raine safe and put the amulet back where it belongs? And if the amulet is put in the box, will that be the end of Raine's troubles?

This is a well-crafted and fun story, with interesting characters and many hints of romance (which adds to the story but doesn't overwhelm it). Raine is a kick-ass heroine but no Mary Sue; she has her faults, gets nicked up from time to time, and at times her romantic feelings nearly get the best of her.

As a wannabe author, what I liked (and envy!) is how succinct Ms. Shearin is with her descriptions: They're always just right, which means I get an idea of what something looks like without it being too skimpy nor too wordy.

Take this passage from the first chapter:
The city of Mermeia in the kingdom of Brenir consisted of five islands that had been forced into existence by the determination of its founders, and kept from sinking by the greed of its merchants. A powerful force, greed. It made solid ground where there had once been marsh; built palaces and trading houses where there were reeds; and inspired humans, elves, goblins, and magic users of all races to live together in a city separated only by the canals that marked their respective Districts. Sometimes we even got along.
So we get an idea of the lay of the land, what sort of people/species we'll be reading about, and the MC's cynicism in one paragraph. Nicely done!

This is Ms. Shearin's debut offering, and it's hard to believe, because it's so well done. (And did I say how much I loved the kick-ass, cynical Raine? Ah, oops, yeah!) Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until next year for the next in the series ::sniff::, but Ms. Shearin has graciously included two chapters from her second book, Armed and Magical. Chapter One is here, and Chapter Two is here.

I can't wait! :-)

ETA: Armed and Magical is coming out in April 2008! Must. Wipe. Off. Drool. ;-)

~Nancy Beck


I Decided to Redo the Beginning

And I can blame it on Nathan Bransford's contest. He's very nicely (and courageously!) offered to look at the first paragraphs of works in progress, with a further offer of a partial crit going to the winner.

A bit of background. This is a time travel novel, with the protag, Rita Fuentes, an adoptee who wants to find out who she really is. Her adoptive mother, Margaret, has provided her with a last name of her birth mother, but little else. The phone call she's on will decide where she goes from here.

So here it is, from my WIP which is now titled (I think for about the 5th time), Yesterday's Gone.

Rita Fuentes paced around her adoptive mother's kitchen table until she was sure she'd leave a groove in the linoleum. She stopped in front of the wall phone, staring at the calendar next to it. Just tell me you've found me, Rita thought, flipping through the months with her free hand until she reached September 1974. She froze when she heard the other woman say, "Sorry."

The genealogist coughed, then said, "Don't have all my papers. Be right back."

Rita unfroze long enough to clench her teeth. "Take your time." Wrapping and unwrapping her finger around the phone cord, she turned her gaze to the nearest wall. What was her adoptive mother, Margaret, thinking when she put up that bright green and orange wallpaper? "Guess she had to make sure one part of the house fits in with what passes for decorating." Fitting in. For seven long years, since the hippies' Summer of Love, she'd wondered where she fit in.

"Thanks for holding, Mrs. Fuentes."

Rita held her breath.

"Unfortunately, I can't find anyone in Los Angeles with that last name who had a baby named Rita on September 28, 1942."

Rita blinked, but tears already pricked her eyes. "But adoption records--"

"Usually aren't available to the public, Mrs. Fuentes."

That's not the entire 1st chapter, but it's a nice chunk of it. The time travel takes place not long after this exchange. BTW, Rita is into mythology, and it's through knowing some mythology - and some mythological beings - that she's transported back in time...

~Nancy Beck


I Miss Miss Snark, Too ::sniff::

I saw a post on Patricia Wood's blog about how much she misses Miss Snark.

That's the "too" part of the title of this post. Every day, almost without fail, I would start out my work day at Miss Snark's blog, and lament either when she didn't post for a few days or my work computer would go @&*$&! on me and wouldn't connect to her blog.

It was soooo much fun, esp. when she got going on some subject or another. Yanno, there just isn't anyone else out there with the combination of snarkiness and fun (of course, it helped that she was anonymous).


Just one more time I'd like to have her post about Killer Yapp, or Grandma Snark.

Oh, and it's Miss Snark, not Ms. Snark! ;-)

~Nancy Beck


Joe Torre - A Class Act

The Yankees skipper is gone.

Joe Torre decided to turn down management's offer yesterday; a press conference is scheduled for 2:00 today, so he can give his side of what went down.

Except, since he's always been such a classy guy, I'm not expecting him to point fingers, hem and haw, whine, or otherwise carry on.

No, I expect him to say something keeping within his character: That it was quite a time he had as manager of the Yankees, he's thankful for the World Series wins he has, and will probably say something good about all the men he's managed over the years.

I listened to one of the New York stations this morning, and I agree with one of the announcers, in that I don't think this was a salary issue for Mr. Torre. So what was the issue? He'll probably say something at 2:00, but my speculation is that he thought a one year contract was not enough.

I think he may have felt that with a lot of younger pitchers and other players coming into the mix, it would take more than a year to help them hit their stride, to help them get past the inevitable bumps they're going to have. Although players can sometimes come out like gangbusters the first year or the first few times at bat, sustaining that isn't an easy thing (human nature being what it is). And I think Mr. Torre thought he could nurture those players, bring them along at a pace that would bring them a career rather than a flash in the pan.

(Not that he's a miracle worker; there was one player - whose name escapes me at the moment - who had home runs his first few at bats, a la Shelley Duncan, but who faded from the Yankee scene due to injuries and who-knows-what-else.)

But I digress. It's been 12 years since the Yankees had a different manager, and it already feels strange knowing that Mr. Torre isn't there. I'll survive, and the Yankees will find a different manager, whether it's Mattingly (who shares the exact same birthday - same year, in fact - as my hubby :-)) or somebody else, and Yankee fans will throw cheers and jeers his way, just the same.

Good luck, Mr. Torre, in whatever you decide to do from here on out.

~Nancy Beck


This Is Bad...and Perplexing

I just read a review on Amazon for a vampire romance novel.

This line is Just Plain Bad: "his chest was like paint rollers under the skin." Um, heroine to hero, I assume.

Or maybe I'm assuming too much.

But...what the heck does that mean? What the hell does a paint roller feel like under the skin? Is this something the author experienced first hand?

Eewwww...I really don't want to go there.

ETA: As I haven't read the book (and I doubt that I will, unless I can find a used copy), the line might actually be: "...looked like he was smuggling paint rollers under his skin." And it refers to six-pack abs.

WTF? Why not just say he had chiseled abs or something just as simple (and not as silly or squicky?)

Seriously, though, how can any editor or publisher worth their salt leave in something like that?

It just boggles.

~Nancy Beck

Pay to Have People Come to Your Booksigning?

Well, that's what the Donald (Donald Trump) and his co-writer, Bill Zanker, did yesterday. It was a promotional ploy to get people to buy their book, "Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life."

The NY Times blog post is here.

If you think this is anything like what people do to be the first one to have a novel going on sale (a la J. K. Rowling) or the first in line to see a Star Wars movie...you'd be right. Some dude camped out for three days in front of the store just so he could be the first in line.

Okay. Whatever makes you happy. :-)

~Nancy Beck


Another Book to Recommend

One presenter said something in her crit of a portion of the first chapter of my WIP that niggled something in my brain.

BTW, she thought it started out strong, but lost a bit of steam towards the end, so it wasn't all daisies and sunshine. ;-) Anyway, one of the things she said that the idea I've come up with - an adoptee going back in time to find her birth mother - was fun, but that I needed to make sure that it was unique to my particular story.

Unique? Wait a minute, says I, that unloosed a bit of squicky memory.

So I decided to go through where some of my other writing books (don't we all have billions of them, some good, a lot that suck?), and couldn't find the one I had in mind. As I hadn't had a V-8 (and don't anticipate ever having one again, as it tasted horrible), I finally remembered it was upstairs in the bookcase up there.

Yes, the one I have in mind is this one: Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. Yeah, that Donald Maass, the one who has his own literary agency?

I'd forgotten that this book is what helped me think differently about how my story was going to flow. Originally, it was: woman goes back in time, hangs out with her adoptive mother and girlfriends, and finds her birth mother, after not too much detection time.


In one chapter, Mr. Maass said to escalate the stakes. So how could I escalate the stakes with this particular story? I wrote and rewrote stuff; I let my mind wander. I, of course, looked at some examples Mr. Maass included in the book (really good ones, too; led me to an excellent early novel of George R. R. Martin called Fevre Dream, about vampires on the Mississippi in the years just before the American Civil War; yes, dear reader, he made it work!).

My idea made it more interesting, in that my MC has to do more work to try to meet her birth mother. And it's because of something she's done (I won't get into either here, heh). In fact, this does more than psychologically change my MC.

Anyway, although Mr. Maass gears this more toward a midlist, or already-published, author, don't let it get to you. I do have one pub to my credit, although that was 3 years ago (::sigh:: for a short story). I still used some of what he comes up with in here, and, if nothing else, he includes some really good excerpts that may make you want to go out and get the book.

It might be something to consider. I didn't bother getting the workbook, but that might help, too.



Final Thoughts On the Muse Online Conference

The conference is technically over, although the info in the forums (including chat transcripts) will still be available for the next two weeks to those who registered.

So...was it worth it?

Well, first off, it was free, and who's going to turn up their nose at that? :-)

Second, there were a couple of duds at the conference, with one presenter basically talking just about himself (during his chat) and all of the services he has available, and another presenter just giving us links to her characters' websites or whatever.

The first one imparted a couple of things, but it irked me about his services. (There was a forum where you could provide links, which is what I think he should have done.)

At least I came away with a little bit.

The second presenter? Either she wasn't prepared, she figured it was a good way to promo her novels, or she figured she could just wing it (she didn't send any stuff prior to the conference, which would have made up for the lack of anything constructive).

Note to presenters: Please don't wing it. Send something ahead of time (even if it's just two or three pages of "this is what I did") or give us an exercise or two to work with and let us know what worked and didn't with our stuff.

BTW, humor doesn't make up for the lack of exercises or paperwork sent ahead of time. Sorry.

All in all, though, I thought this was a well-presented cyber conference. Those presenters whom I didn't sit in on the live chats provided exercises, and provided their opinions, for which I'm grateful. (Whether they liked what I did or were confused or whatever, I don't care; how else am I going to go forward with this writing gig if someone doesn't give me an idea of where I'm at?)

For me, the best of the live chats was from a lady who gave ideas on pet publications; I'm looking at doing some non fiction to get in some extra bucks. She came up with a bunch of things I never would've thought of.

The best of the forums is harder to nail. For me, though, I'll pick the one on How to Make Your Love Scenes Sizzle. I didn't really think I could come up with anything halfway decent, but the presenter complimented me on that first exercise. :-) I got to the second exercise very late, but I decided to try that one, too, and...wow, I just kept writing and it was a bit sensual...

I'll be going back to my regular schedule starting tomorrow, you lucky people, you! :-)

~Nancy Beck


My Thoughts on the Online Conference So Far

The Muse Online Writers Con is in full swing, even as I type. (Just waiting for everything to get caught up in between people typing.)

The real time chats have gotten better and better. The first one was verrrry sloooow, and I felt the questions asked were too basic. The three other chats (including the one I'm on now) have been informative, especially the one on Website Essentials and Internet Marketing For Authors. I asked a question at that one :-), asking about whether having a character "own" a blog or website is a good idea for marketing purposes. The presenter said that was a good question, but his guess would be that it would be hard to pull off on a long-term basis.

Then he gave an example - he talked about Miss Snark!

Of course, I had to chime in that I missed reading her, too.

The current one is on revisions to a novel or short story. I didn't offer a question, but one of the things the presenter said was to read the story aloud. I don't know, but I found that while this was a good thing to do, I just never could get myself to do it; I can barely stand the sound of my voice, lol.

But another presenter, on the forum, said something about Adobe Reader having a talk feature. Damned if I knew that! Sure enough, it does, under the View menu (Read It Aloud). I tried it with the first page of my WIP, and although it sounds a bit funky and funny, I think this might be a good thing for me to try.

The virtual workshops are really good, with only one that I feel is a dud. I feel that presenter, while humorous (I'm a humor whore, so that's certainly not a problem with me ;-), is focusing too much attention on her websites and her characters. I'd like to see more examples of other people's characters and whether they're substantial or cardboard cutouts.

So far, I feel like I've learned a few things.

~Nancy Beck


Speaking of Romance Novels...

I just realized something last night.

I'm not very well read in the romance genre; the fantasies that I read have some romance in them, but it's usually not a heck of a lot.

But of the two romance novels I've read this year, Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey, and The Greatest Lover In All of England by Christina Dodd, I noticed a theme that struck me as funny.

Both main characters are women pretending to be men (or in Gentle Rogue, a boy).

What the heck does that say about me? Maybe it goes back to my childhood, when I was a tomboy. Oh, I couldn't play sports very well, but I could talk them up without any problem, and I climbed a lot of trees in my day. And, I never got scared during assemblies when one of my friend's father brought in exotic animals; I was especially pleased with myself when I petted a couple of snakes, while silly girls not only wouldn't touch them but they'd often let out a shriek just going by.

No doubt I'm overanalyzing this.

Time to go back to my writing...and back to the online conference.

~Nancy Beck

NY Yankees and Reading An Old Romance Novel

You're probably thinking...what does one have to do with the other?

Let me 'splain.

I was watching the Yankees last night, wondering if, yet again, the offense would be sluggish at best.

I committed to watching it because the New York Football Giants won (yay!), and I was in a good mood. Besides, I didn't feel like doing anything else.

So I decided to start in on the romance novel I have. It's an oldie from Johanna Lindsey, called Gentle Rogue. Apparently, this is the 3rd in the Malory Series, but I'm not sure it's necessary to start with the first two.

But what do I know?

Anyway, the paperback edition I have has a bland, light aqua cover with some squiggles on it. But I was reading some of the juicer stuff (it's not erotica, so everything isn't described in detail), and BAM! The Yankees erupted for some runs!

I read some more juicy stuff, and again, BAM! The Yankees erupted for some runs!


Now...is it coincidence that I was reading some of the hot stuff (for me, anyway) and the Yankees decided to become hot with their bats? (Egad, that sounds sickening. But try not to look at it that way.)

I think not.

I'm going to read some more of the book tonight, and see what happens. If it works again, guess what I'll be doing for the 5th and final game?


Okay, I'm a weirdo chick, but it's working for me.

~Nancy Beck



Boy, they sure sucked last night. Here's hoping Pettite pitches the stuffing out of the Indians tonight, unlike Wang.

Sheesh. Thank goodness I went to bed before the 5th inning debacle.


Yet Another Epublisher Goes Down the Drain - Stardust Press

But at least they're being professional about it, not slinking away into the ether.

I feel bad about their authors; their rights will be reverted, and the publisher is already setting up to make sure all royalties are paid.

All the details are on Moondancer Drake's LiveJournal post, here.

~Nancy Beck


Workin' on the Work in Progress

I should be finishing up the revision of Chapter 4 today, and, hopefully, I'll put it into high gear next week in between the online writers conference. I hope to get another two chapters done next week.

My interim goal is to join an online crit group. I did this before; last year, as a matter of fact. But I think it was too soon for me, as I psyched myself out. I now think I have a better handle on the "this is my baby" aspect of writing, and the "this is a business" aspect.

I also wrote a quick story the other day, which was supposed to be a flash fiction piece (less than 1,000 words), but I think there are well more than 1,000 words. :-) I like the concept, like the MC, so maybe I'll develop it just a tad more and send it out.

Who knows? Maybe some (paying) market somewhere will accept it. Don't know until you try. :-)

I'm also wondering about a story sitting on my laptop's hard drive. I originally thought about doing it as a short story, but now I wonder if I should expand it. It's about werewolves on Broadway in the 1930s; at least, that's the basic premise. I don't think I've developed it enough, so I may take another look-see, if not another writing stab, at it. Since paranormals are so hot right now (I know, I know - most books that are bought right now usually won't see the light of day for almost two years, so I really shouldn't follow trends), this might be the time to take a good, hard look at it. It's set during a time period I enjoy reading about, and maybe it'll be different and good enough for agents to look at.

Don't mind me; just doing a little dreaming.

~Nancy Beck


What I'm Currently Reading #2

I've been on a book buying spree lately (paperbacks only; hardbacks are too frickin' heavy to carry around), probably because my personal life is, well, not so nice. (Be careful what you wish for: If you have a boring life, BELIEVE ME, I'll take that over the nightmare hubby and I living through right now. Trust me.)

So books take me away from all that, at least for a little while.

I saw the cover of this one book in the fantasy section (duh) at the local bookstore. It looked cool, with a dirty blonde on the cover holding a huge sword, with the smirk that said, C'mon, I really want to kick someone's ass today, and it might as well be yours.


It's called Magic Lost, Trouble Found, by Lisa Shearin, and to my surprise and delight, she's repped by Kristin Nelson! :-) So far, I'm liking what I'm reading, because it has some cynical humor (some of it self deprecating), it doesn't take place in the world we know, and that woman on the cover is an elf - with a kick-ass attitude.


She's holding some sort of amulet (don't groan; this isn't the usual poor orphan finds something and comes upon powers she didn't know she had), and she's curious as to what the heck it is and why the Big Bad Dude (who sounds especially sinister) wants it.


Once I finish it, I aims to write a review, I aims to.

~Nancy Beck

Looks Like John Grisham Stepped in Some Doo-Doo

He decides to do a non-fiction book, and look what happens.

The District Attorney alleges that "Grisham and the other defendants engaged to commit libel, publicity placing a person in a false light and intentional infliction of emotion distress." This was started by one of the men in the case Grisham wrote about in the book, The Innocent Man. Both men were later exonerated and released from jail.

Maybe he should've just stuck with writing novels.

~Nancy Beck


A Writing Nudge

I have a book (that I think is out of print; I picked it up used) called Writing and Selling Your Novel, by Jack Bickham. Mr. Bickham subscribes to the Scene and Sequel method of writing, which he got from his teacher, Dwight Swain.

Anyway, I remembered a technique Mr. Bickham mentioned to get an idea if you're stuck with deciding how a certain character reacts in a certain scene.

I was stuck in the 4th Chapter, where my MC (Rita) is in the kitchen with her adoptive mother (Margaret). Basically, she wanted to get away from an argument between two other characters. She also hoped to gain more knowledge of her quest to find her birth mother (although Rita already had suspicions). Her mother is known to give melodramatic reactions to certain things, because she was in the movies in the 1930s-1940s.

What I'd originally wrote, and kept through subsequent revisions, I didn't like; in fact, I didn't like it when I first wrote it. It sounded contrived, but I couldn't come up with anything else, so I kept it as is.

What to do?


No doubt you've heard or read that the brain is divided into left and right hemispheres. The left is the logical side; the right, the creative side. The left side gives us the words to write with, while the right gives us stuff like dialogue and characters' feelings. Both sides communicate with each other, but not perfectly. That's why we often have that "inner critic" at the wrong times. In other words, when we should be in creative mode, the logical mode comes in and says things like, "This sucks," or "Why are you having this character doing that?" or "That makes absolutely no sense."

A Trick to Help Out

Now that you've had your science lesson for today ;-), I'll tie it in. Mr. Bickham suggests a trick, or technique, that may help you get unstuck.

The idea is to make a list as quickly as you can, with no thought as to rationality or corniness or any of the left-hemisphere stuff. In other words, write so fast that your inner critic doesn't have a chance to say anything.

In my example, I had to think of a bunch of things Rita can think/do/say in reaction to Margaret's overreaction. Is it real or is it Memorex for Rita? I even thought of a violent reaction, with Rita slapping Margaret. It wasn't easy, but I managed to get down about six or seven different reactions. Mr. Bickham suggests 20, but that seemed excessive to me, at least in my case. I arrived at what I thought was keeping within Rita's character, as I thought any violence at this point in the story (despite my alluding to eruptions in her past) wouldn't make sense. Not yet, anyway, as she still has to get used to the fact she's gone back in time, and thus has to get used to her surroundings.

So write that list super fast, and see what your imagination can come up with. You never know; it could be a really good twist that'll send your story in an unusual but cool direction.

~Nancy Beck