Friday, July 31, 2009

Countdown Excerpt

Another quick excerpt from When Mike Kissed Emma:

I looked at him and smiled. “I want to dance that incredible dance in the gazebo with you, running from bench to bench.”

“I think the dance is only in the movie, not the play,” Trevor said, thumbing through the script.

That just wasn’t fair.

Countdown: 19 days

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting Ideas from Real Life

Every year I get together with some friends and the kids to do some Christmas cookie baking. If you watch the video in that link you'll see that in one of the pictures when my son was about two he has no pants on, only a shirt and a diaper. There's a story behind that.

My friend has a large house and our kids are close in age so it's possible for the kids to all be off playing somewhere, us not to hear them, and that not be a cause for concern. But this particular time we realized we hadn't seen my son in awhile and we started to get a bit suspicious that he was up to something. None of the other kids had seen him for awhile. We started calling his name (he was the quiet kind of hider - wouldn't answer, wouldn't giggle, nothing). Then we heard water running. My friend led the way to her master bathroom. And there was my son, standing in the middle of her whirlpool tub, the water on, a huge grin on his face.

So, the pants went in the dryer, he is photographed pantless and years later I'm able to incorporate that incident into a book.

Funny how that all works out.

Countdown: 20 days

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dreaming the Role

When I was a teen I liked to sing along with soundtrack albums. And there were certain characters I liked to think I would one day play on stage. There was of course Annie, from Annie, Eliza in My Fair Lady and either Liesl or Maria in The Sound of Music. I'm sure there were others, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. So in the privacy of my room I'd sing the songs and act them out.

And that's what Emma does in When Mike Kissed Emma. She dreams of the perfect role for herself and she spends time practicing it and dreaming of what it will be like when she gets that role.

I never did play any of those roles on stage, but Emma does. What one is it? Does she get the role she dreamed of? Only three weeks until those answers will be available to everyone!

Countdown: 21 days

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Break a Leg - or Don't

An excerpt from When Mike Kissed Emma

Emma, her brother, Jake, and her best friend, Lauren are waiting for auditions for the play to start:

“Break a leg, Jake,” Lauren said, tossing her hair over her shoulder.

He smiled at her. “That would be inconvenient, wouldn’t it?” Then he leaned forward and grinned at me. He didn’t have to say anything; I knew just what he was thinking. I actually did break my leg in eighth grade by falling off a stage. People just wish me good luck now. It seems safer.

Countdown: 22 days

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's in a Name?

I've talked about Mike: how his character evolved and even what kind of motorcycle he drives.

Today lets talk about Emma and how she got her name.

I've mentioned before that When Mike Kissed Emma was more or less a spin off from another story. When I made did that the character name had to change. The name had been Meg. But even that wasn't the original name of the character.

Originally the character's name was Casey. It was a nickname based on her initials, K.C. for Katrina Caldwell. I came up with the nickname first and then found a name to fit it.

And why did I chose those initials. Simple. They were my initials backwards.

After a while Casey simply became Kate.

And then when my husband and I decided to use that name for our daughter the character's name had to change. That's when she became Meg.

But Meg needed a new name for a new story: thus Emma was born.

Countdown: 23 days

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Who is Mike?

Mike, obviously is the person who kisses Emma in When Mike Kissed Emma. And yesterday I explained that the other kids in school refer to him as Biker Mike. And he's not the kind of person Emma sees herself with.

But that's not how he started out.

In the first draft Mike was an ex-boyfriend, determined to get her back from her current boyfriend.

In a later draft Mike was a good friend who Emma simply never thought of in a romantic way.

Finally, Mike became Biker Mike, the person Emma can not see herself with in a hundred years.

But then Mike kisses Emma and ... well, you'll have to read the book to find out.

Countdown: 24 days.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Biker Mike Needed a Bike

Mike in When Mike Kissed Emma is known around school as Biker Mike. This is (surprise, surprise) because he rides a motorcycle.

I was more or less content to just leave it at that. But my wonderful critique group called me on it. "What kind of motorcycle?" "What does it look like?" and the suggestion "make it something unique that tells us a little more about the character."

Right. I know next to nothing about motorcycles. So I hit my trusty friend Google. And I found a motorcycle for Biker Mike: A 1941 Indian Chief that he's restoring with his dad. I suspect it looks something like this, or will when they finish restoring it.

Countdown: 25 days

Friday, July 24, 2009

And the Winning First Paragraph?

The opening paragraph for When Mike Kissed Emma is number five.

5) I walked right into him. I didn’t even see him standing there until I bounced off his chest. Books went flying. Pencils and pens clattered across the black and white floor tiles. And I would have landed on the floor too, if he hadn’t grabbed my arms and steadied me. I looked up to thank him, and saw the most gorgeous blue eyes. Really blue. I don’t think I’d even seen anyone with eyes that blue. And then I realized who those eyes were attached to.

Biker Mike.

Jim and Barb guessed right.

Though number two was actually a close second - it was the second to last version. Number six was actually one of the first versions - before I decided to switch to first person. And as for the others, you can see how I was trying to decide where to start the story: the dance, the auditions, the lockers by the hallway. Hallway won - but not at the locker.

Countdown: 26 days.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Sentences

Opening sentences are critical. If the opening doesn’t grab an agent or an editor then nothing else is going to matter. For that reason it sometimes takes many attempts to get an opening that works for a story. Fairy tale authors had it easy: their stories could all start “Once upon a time.”

Below are six opening paragraphs from various drafts of When Mike Kissed Emma. They are not posted in any particular order.

Which opening grabs you? Which one do you think is the one you will find on the first page of When Mike Kissed Emma? Put your guesses in the comments.

1) “Are you trying out for the school play?” I asked Mike as he effortlessly opened his locker, while I struggled with mine.

“Geez, Em,” he complained, “how many times are you going to ask?”

He had a point, I suppose. “I don’t know,” I tried the combination again, still nothing. I had asked him about four times today – but he was making me ask him over and over, because he hadn’t given me an answer yet. Once more with the locker – third time’s the charm, right? The lock clicked, now, I just had to get the latch open. And it opened, suddenly, sending me bouncing off Mike. I straightened up, casually adjusted my shirt, and put my books away.

2) I walked right into him.


And knocked him over.

Biker Mike. The last person you want to knock over in the hallway: leather jacket, long hair, tattoo.

3) The gym was decorated in some sort of aquatic theme with blue streamers and paper fish hanging from the ceiling. The band, a bunch of kids from school, was playing. The only lights on were in the back near the punch and cookies, so the dance floor was appropriately dim. But the dance floor was empty. Everyone stood milling around, watching the band from a safe distance, but no one seemed willing to get things started.

Well, I was willing.

4) “When you’re sixteen going on seventeen,” I sang to myself as I spun the dial on my locker. “left to five, ‘waiting for life to start’ to the right, spin past 25, now land on 25, good, ‘somebody kind will open your heart,’ now back to the left to 18.” I pulled on the handle. It didn’t open. “Damn.”

“Do you ever stop talking?” the guy at the locker next to me asked. His locker was already open, and he was putting on his leather jacket.

“Only when I’m sleeping, Mike,” I answered.

5) I walked right into him. I didn’t even see him standing there until I bounced off his chest. Books went flying. Pencils and pens clattered across the black and white floor tiles. And I would have landed on the floor too, if he hadn’t grabbed my arms and steadied me. I looked up to thank him, and saw the most gorgeous blue eyes. Really blue. I don’t think I’d even seen anyone with eyes that blue. And then I realized who those eyes were attached to.

Biker Mike.

6) “Until you find your dream,” the girl on stage warbled. Emma Landon winced. She had a feeling that some of the people trying out would be fairly easy to rule out, that was good, less competition for the role of Liesl. She took her strawberry blonde hair out of its ponytail, and then, put it back in again.

“Stop fidgeting with your hair,” hissed her best friend, Lauren Gardner, who was sitting next to her.

“I’m not,” Emma insisted.

“It makes you look nervous,” Lauren insisted.

“I’m not nervous.” Emma insisted.

Countdown: 27 days.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Putting Yourself in the Story

It was in middle school that I really started to write longer stories. There was one in particular that got quite long and involved. I'm not sure of the exact location of the story right now - though I know I have it somewhere. And what I started to write was fanfiction. I didn't realize it at the time, and I never would have called it that, but that's what it was.

You see, I liked watching Charlie's Angels (and yes, I know I'm dating myself) and I imagined myself getting a recurring role in the show. So I created a role for myself and would think of different episodes I could star in as Jamie, Sabrina's younger sister. Remember this was when I still had delusions of being a famous actress.

Soon I started one of these stories down. I remember that Jamie had a moped. Oh, how I wanted a moped (parental veto came into play on that one). In the story Jamie was in an accident with her moped (moped accident's were the reason for the parental veto in my household) and who should come upon her on the side of the road. Of course, (don't laugh - okay, go ahead and laugh) the Brady Bunch on vacation.

Yeah. That story's a real keeper. I'll have to find it before it can be used as blackmail material by my kids.

After a while I realized that if I wanted to actually get a story published (and be the youngest best-selling author in the US...can't say I didn't have dreams) it probably needed original characters and not the Brady Bunch or Charlie's Angels.

And so I started a new story. And many generations later part of that new story became When Mike Kissed Emma.

More on that other story another day.

Countdown: 28 days.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Countdown Continues

There will be a contest.

I don't have all the details worked out yet. Part of it will likely involve trivia from the various posts this month, so be sure to pay attention.

The prize, of course, will be a copy of When Mike Kissed Emma.

Countdown: 29 days

Monday, July 20, 2009

On Stage

Posted by Picasa
When I was in middle school I figured it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that I would be a Broadway star someday. Why not? I'd gone to see Annie, starring that unknown kid, Sarah Jessica Parker, hey, if she could do it, why not me?

Well, to start with - she could sing. Me, not so much.

But I had a good reading voice and was able to act some, so I did get a small featured role in our eighth grade production. I killed the prince. It was an accident. I felt bad about it. Can't you tell? That's me informing an astonished prince that I may have just poisoned him.

That was my last acting role. I figured I'd be in the high school plays, but after not getting in the show my freshman year I didn't try out again. Instead I worked backstage - which I loved, by the way.

In When Mike Kissed Emma, Emma is much more talented than I ever was. She gets the lead in the school musical. Now, if only her boyfriend, and not Biker Mike, of all people, were playing the male lead, then everything would be perfect. But when it comes down to it - what's perfect?

Countdown: 30 days.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

One Month To Go

I'm in countdown mode now. In one month, on August 19, 2009 When Mike Kissed Emma will be released. As a lead in to it I plan to do something fun on this blog every day until then. There may even be contests and giveaways.

And to get you in the mood here's another glimpse of the trailer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Does the Character Really Want?

Characters in a story have to want something. They have to really want it. And they should be thwarted in getting it right away. That lays down the conflict for the story (it sounds so simple when put like that.)

But what does that character want? It's not simply a matter of they want to solve the mystery or find a new love. There has to be a desire for something more. Something they strive for.

Which got me to thinking - what do I strive for? What do I want? I want to be a published author. Woo-hoo as of August 19 I'll be able to say that I am. I want more than one book published, so I'm still working on that part of the desire. Other than that I'm fairly content. It's easier sometimes to think of things I don't want.

1) I don't want a tattoo. This isn't a matter of not liking needles (which I don't) or having any philosophical objection to tattoos (which I don't). I just don't want one. I don't need to debate with myself over whether I should get one or not. The desire is simply not there.

2) I don't want to jump out of an airplane. Even with a parachute. There's no little part of me that says 'if I only wasn't afraid' or 'if I had the money' I'd do this. Nope. It simply does not appeal to me.

3) I don't want to be an astronaut. I do not think it would be cool to be in a spaceship out in the middle of space. Cool views - yes. Send the pictures, I'm satisfied.

4) I don't want to go on a rollercoaster that goes upside down. This is largely because that would make me dizzy and nauseous - in which case, no one else would want me on that roller coaster either.

What do I want? What things would I do if money and time were not an object?

1) I want to go to Ireland. It's the only country where I have ancestors from that I haven't been to yet. (I should probably get to Boston too - I had ancestors from there too and it's a lot closer)

2) I'd love to take a world cruise and see exotic places. (This one requires much time and money)

3) I want to see the Grand Canyon. Not sure about riding a mule down to the bottom, but I'd love to see the Canyon.

4) I want to have a book of mine be on the bestseller list sometime.

Maybe I wouldn't make the most exciting main character in a book - but it's good to think about these things now and then.

What things do you want? What things do you totally not want? And don't go calling me a wimp because I don't want a tattoo or to jump out of an airplane, I already know I'm a wimp.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Choosing Something to Read

I was at the library today and had an epiphany of sorts.

My son was at tennis, my daughter at the camp program at the playground, so I had a few minutes to browse in the new book room and pick something out.

And nothing appealed to me. No titles jumped out at me. No authors who are on my personal 'must read list' had new books on the shelves that I hadn't already read. I pulled a few books off the shelf and read the jacket copy, then put them back.

Then suddenly I had some inkling of what an agent goes through every day as they read through their queries. Now, I realize that an agent can't simply base things on "what do I feel like reading today." An agent has to look for marketability and other things as well, but a part of it is going to come down to "does this appeal to me right now".

People caution that sometimes when an agent says no it's simply because the project wasn't right for that particular agent. And today I totally got that. All of those books on the shelves had been chosen by someone - either an agent or a publisher - and eventually even a librarian. They were the winners. The ones that got published. Yet, I couldn't find one to interest me.

So kudos to the agents who sift through queries all day looking for the gems.

And now it's time to go prepare a gem that an agent will want to read (and represent). But, if I get another rejection, I'll remember those books I didn't want to read in the library, and try again. Someone wants to read those books - and someone will like my new novel too.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Books I've Read this Year - Part 4

This is a continuation from last month's lists of the books I've read. If you're interested here are parts one, two and three.

Continuing where I left off puts me at book number 45.

45) The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten. I've been reading Karen's blog (with the shockingly clever title) for a while now, so I was delighted to find her book in my local Catholic bookstore. It's a wonderful, clear, easy to understand book sharing the mysteries of the rosary.

46) The Wednesday Sisters: A Novel by Meg Waite Clayton. This book about friends who bond over playground time with the children who all seem to harbor a secret desire to write a book was a pleasant read, but felt predictable, from the friend whose marriage falls apart to the one with cancer.

47) The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (and it wasn't that I was in a Wednesday mood or anything). This YA book had a delightful hero and a great supporting cast of characters. The Shakespeare thrown in through out was a lot of fun and the history of the time (the 60s) was interspersed in such a way that it never felt like the author was making a point of "this is what life was like then". I recommended it to my 12 year old, who and loved it (and now wants to read The Tempest so she can find the good Caliban curses.)

48) A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, Part 3) by Gregory Maguire. I found I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first two in the series (Wicked and Son of a Witch). The lion is not a very sympathetic character and there is a lot of back story and not so much new story.

49) Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy. There is something so soothing and pleasant about Maeve Binchy's books. She has such a way of creating characters who want to know more about. I was eager to read this newest book and I wasn't disappointed.

50) The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas. Fifteen-year-old Antonia wants to be a saint. She thinks she can do this without being dead. While its a cute story, it was a bit lacking in the authentic Catholic teaching department. Her obsession with saints reminded me of Millions; I thought the obsession was handled better in that book.

51) Prairie Tale: A Memoir by Melissa Gilbert. I'll admit I watched Little House on the Prairie obsessively while I was growing up, so naturally I was interested in what Melissa's real life was like. It was nothing like the life she had on the TV show. The book is honest and entertaining. She doesn't hold back as she tells of some of the difficult things she's dealt with in the past.

52) Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder. This book was a pure delight to read. The comfy style and magical adventures made this a book I immediately recommended to my twelve year old. She read it and adored it. Now we've got to convince the nine-year-old to read it (but he's busy with Goosebumps books right now.)

53) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This was a book I saw recommended by Melissa Wiley, so when I saw it in the library I grabbed it. I am so glad I did. The book was a delight to read. I was a little leery when I saw it was written in letter format - but it worked very well. Set in 1946 with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and a lot of history about the Channel Islands during WWII thrown in.

54) The Secret (Seasons of Grace book 1) by Beverly Lewis. While I often enjoy Beverly Lewis's writing style and her stories of a simpler life among the Amish, I found that this book didn't deliver. It is the first in a series and simply is not a stand alone book. Of the many plot lines started in the story only one is resolved and although the eponymous secret is revealed to the reader, most of the characters in the book are still in the dark. I enjoy series books but I think that each should tell a complete story on its own, not leave so many loose ends that I feel like I'm still in the middle of the book not the end.

55) Up and Down Scratchy Mountain by Laurel Snyder. After reading Any Which Wall I decided I had to read Laurel Snyder's first book. This is a delightful fairy-tale style adventure with a plucky milk maid and a prince (though it's not his fault.) A very fun read.

I guess I've made the 52 book challenge, and that brings me up to date on what I've read so far this year.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trailer for When Mike Kissed Emma

The release date for When Mike Kissed Emma is coming up fast (August 19) so I decided it was time to finalize the trailer and get it out here for people to see.

Without further ado - here it is: