Saturday, October 30, 2010

Outside Of My Box - Blogfest

The always lovely (and sparkly) Tessa is hosting the Outside of My Box Blogfest in which participants are supposed to write something outside of the genre they usually write in. Outside of their comfort zone, if you will.

I have to say, I'm getting a little ho-hummy about all the YA and MG that's flooding the world. Not that I don't think young adults and mid-grade kiddos deserve really great stuff to read, because they do. And most of the stuff authors are writing in that genre is so good that even grown ups love it. In fact, there are a few authors I really adore in that genre myself. But there seems to be such a massive glut of it lately that I'm choking on it.

So of course for this blogfest I had to contribute to that genre. *grin*  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?

It's probably a serious stretch to say that YA is out of my comfort zone. It's not nearly as far out of my comfort zone as, say, horror. But I couldn't think of any horrible stuff to write. It's so far out of what I'm capable of writing I just can't think that way. Even for Halloween.

My contribution to Tessa's blogfest is actually a teaser for a YA series I've been mulling over for a couple of years now. I'm totally in love with the story but it's going to be so complicated I'll need to dedicate time to plotting and character development. And I've got a couple other projects in line ahead of it.

Anyway, the working title is "Last Tree on Earth" and this is a bit from the short story version I've already written. Setup: It's post apocalyptic/dystopian. Arcadia is the heroine. Auntie Willa is the tribal leader/shaman. It's kinda long, but I hope you like it.


Arcadia threw another pebble into the pond and tracked the ripples by the glint of moonlight as they drifted toward shore. Atop the largest boulder in a field of them surrounding the water, she sat with her legs pulled up to her chest, her chin resting on her knee. She threw another pebble, satisfied by the hollow sploosh as it hit the water.

“You know you’ll never be happy until you know what’s out there,” Auntie Willa said.

Arcadia jerked, “Auntie! You startled me.”

“You always sit up there when you’re dreaming about leaving.”

“My place is here,” Arcadia said, hanging her head.

“You’re of age, Arcadia. Sixteen already. A grown woman. So hard to believe how fast time disappears.”

Arcadia unfolded her long legs and slid down the side of the boulder, landing light on her feet next to Auntie. “I can’t abandon my people just because I’m curious,” she said, her tone gentle.

Auntie shook her head. “No, Arcadia, you’re special. It’s been a very long time since our people produced someone like you. For centuries all we’ve done is survive. Never asking questions. We’ve followed the tribal laws and it’s taken all of our energy just to live. But then you came along. You were a restless child, always eager to know more. You asked questions I had never heard before. Instead of keeping your head down and working hard, you were always looking up as if you wondered what was over the horizon,” Willa mused.

Arcadia slipped her hand into Willa’s and as they walked back to the village.

“I know I was a difficult child. I fought it as hard as I could. I didn’t want to be different, I wanted to fit in and be like everyone else. But I just couldn’t make the questions go away.”

“And that is what makes you so special.” They stopped at the fire ring in front of the long house. Willa took a seat on the bench while Arcadia sat on the ground at her feet. “Your favorite story was always ‘The Last Tree on Earth.’” Willa said, chuckling at the memory. “You had to know what a tree looked like, why were they gone, would they ever come back. How do we know there’s still one tree left if no one’s ever seen it? So full of questions!”

“I want to know if there are still other people in the world,” Arcadia said, frustrated. “The legends say that there used to be as many people as there are ants, or stars in the sky, or grains of sand on the beach. How can that be? There isn’t enough space! Where did they all live? How did they feed themselves? How did they breathe? What happened to them?”

“Well, the legends do say that there were more people on the Earth than stars in the sky, and that they were very needy indeed. They showed Mother Earth no respect. They poisoned her, raped her, tortured her until she could take no more. She bled for them and still they didn’t see. Until finally she realized they never would. She was heartbroken that her children had forgotten her and in her rage she loosed a plague upon them, killing them all,” recounted Auntie.

“Except our ancestors?” asked Arcadia.

“Yes, except our ancestors. They escaped the plague because she took mercy on them. They were a very small group who had been trying to show her they were beginning to understand. They begged her mercy, and she let them live,” said Auntie.

“But before the Mother let loose her plague, the people had used her up. That’s where the story of the Last Tree on Earth comes from,” Arcadia said, taking up the story. “Because the people used all the Mother had to give. They cut down all her trees to make room for themselves. They used up all her water and poisoned the air and soil so nothing would grow.”

“That’s right. But the legend says that somewhere, the Mother left one tree standing as a testament to what used to be,” Auntie said.

Arcadia paused.

“I want to see that tree.”


Hope you enjoyed it!

See y'all at NaNo in a couple days. I'll be writing sci-fi there.

Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo Pregame

There are excited posts popping up all over the blogosphere in these last days before the beginning of NaNo. Participants are in a tizzy making sure they've got their plots all plotted, their characters all sketched, and their immediate work space stocked with snacks and energy drinks. Everyone's buddying up so that those upward-inching progress bars will kick our competitive spirits into overdrive in order to have the highest word count evah!!!

So this is my NaNo pregame post. Yes, I'm participating. This'll be my second year. Last year I "won" writing 50,000 words of the second volume in my paranormal romance series. I've subsequently finished that first draft. So not only did I "win" by writing the obligatory 50,000 words, but I won because I got a usable draft out of it. Win-win, no?

This year I'll be a bit of a cheater-pants in that I'll be adding 50,000 words to a manuscript I've already started. I know NaNo purists will turn up their noses at me for such behavior, but meh. I don't care. The goal is to write 50,000 new words, it shouldn't matter what the project is. I've never been too wound up about following the rules anyway, so it's no big deal to me.

This WIP is a sci-fi/chick lit mashup I was working on this summer before I put it aside to revise in earnest book one of my paranormal romance (which, btw, I just sent out my first five agent query letters on today...wish me luck everyone!).  The NaNo project is completely pantser - no preplotting. I've decided to go this route because the story is a crazy headlong adventure written in present tense first person and I think not having a clue what happens next - much like the main characters themselves - makes writing the story much more urgent and "here and now."  The danger, of course, is writing myself into a corner. But I have a few ideas where I think these characters will end up, so I'm not too worried about it.

So...are you participating in NaNo? If so, my user name is mkdbail (I go by my "real" name over there). Go ahead and buddy me and I'll buddy you back. We'll need all the inspiration, exhortation, and cajolery we can get in order to complete the grueling journey and reach 50,000 words!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Thanks to Quinn over at seeing, dreaming, writing and Patricia at Simplicity in Volumes for hosting!

In the spirit of Halloween the idea of this blogfest is to tell a ghost story....a true one. Mine is posted below. It's my own story.


Most people’s recurrent dreams involve flying or forgetting their high school locker combination or showing up to work naked. Not me, I dream about houses. It never used to bother me all that much.

Until the day I found one of them.

One night I dreamed about a house. Primly white with neat landscaping it boasted a row of small square windows across the top floor. Inside nobody was home, but I had the guilty feeling that comes with trespassing. I snuck through the rooms, exploring, careful not to disturb anything. On the main floor I found an office, the walls paneled in dark wood.

Upstairs the back bedroom was papered in pink and white stripes, with a fireplace at one end. Another bedroom was painted mint green.

I woke the next morning and went about my life, not giving the dream another thought because it was just one of many similar dreams. Just another house.

Months later, nearly Christmas, I was shopping for a gift for my boyfriend. I planned to visit a store I’d never been to before. Navigating unfamiliar streets, I glanced to my left.

There was the house from my dream.

I drove another block and turned around, pulling into the driveway. It was abandoned, the paint peeling, the landscaping overgrown. Several of the square windows were broken and staring like hollow, brooding eyes. It had a presence. It was watching me. It knew I had finally come.

I went home and told my boyfriend the whole story and he went back to the house with me. We went inside together. I held his hand so tight I felt the bones crushing together under my fingers. The house wanted me. It had called me.

We explored the main floor – there was the wood-paneled office. Upstairs I told my boyfriend that the back bedroom would have a fireplace and pink and white striped wallpaper – and it did. Another bedroom was painted mint green.

The house was full of scattered debris, the detritus of a family long gone. On the floor in the living room, in a pile of old papers, we found a sepia photograph of a boy and girl holding hands, happy grins on their faces. It was taken in front of the house.

The hair on the back of my neck prickled, and goose bumps raged on my skin. Empty and alone, this house had reached out to me in my dreams. But now that I was here I didn’t know what it wanted. I didn’t want to stay and find out.

Some houses don’t need ghosts to haunt their halls. They have souls of their own. And often, these houses haunt my dreams.


Hope you liked it! Happy Boo-fest and Happy Halloween!

btw, I'm still looking for volunteers to critique my query letter and synopsis. Anyone interested, e-mail me at maranash66(at)gmail(dot)com.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Volunteers, Anyone?

First of all - look, over there, in the right column. See that? I've reached 100 followers!  I think that calls for a contest or a blogfest of some sort. I shall give that some consideration and let you know when I come up with something good.

Secondly, most of you know that I'm in the midst of prepping my paranormal romance for query time. The novel is done (though for any of you writers out there you know your novel is never completely done. You could reread it a billion times and every time you'll find something to fix or change or add. But for the most part, it's ready to query).

I've written a query letter and a synopsis and I'm looking for volunteers to critique it. I'd like to find a couple of writers who have written and/or critiqued query letters or synopses before, or better yet, someone who has written a query and synopsis that garnered them an agent. That would be awesome!

My query letter is one page and the synopsis is three, so it's a short read and hopefully won't be too painful. And of course I'm looking for a quick turnaround - couple of days?

So let me know if you're interested and qualified! You can send me an e-mail at maranash66 (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cliffhanger Blogfest

Here we are at one of the blogfests I'm going to participate in whilst in the midst of revisions (which, actually, are officially finished. Now I'm working on some agent research...any suggestions for agents I should query for a paranormal romance?!)

Thanks to Brenda Drake for hosting the Cliffhanger Blogfest! Participants are supposed to "leave us hanging, craving more, and cursing your name for making us want to turn a page that isn't there."

My entry is the end of section two of Chapter 12 of my paranormal romance, Faerie Fate, (yes, this is the one I've been madly revising to get ready for agent querying).

A little setup:  Holly has only recently discovered that she's half faerie and has managed the task of transforming from human to faerie form. She's overwhelmed by this new world, and when Shadow publicly claims her as his soul mate she bristles at the idea of being someone's property and about losing her right to choose. This scene takes place the same night, after Shadow has claimed her, and is from Shadow's POV.


Since the moment he’d accepted in his heart that she was his mate, after dancing with her at Lunasa, and especially after today when he’d announced his claim publicly, he’d discovered he had a growing physical attraction to her. He’d tried to fight it, especially since in his mind he wasn’t sure she’d ever acknowledge him as her mate, much less truly love him, but it was a fight he knew he was bound to lose. For now he just wished he could stop thinking about what she wore as she slept. He hadn’t offered her anything of his, so he wondered if she was still wearing her clothes - or not.

He threw his blanket off and slapped his feet to the floor, leaned his elbows on his knees and shoved his hands through his hair. Thinking about her naked on his couch was not going to help him sleep. It only made him want to go watch her sleep naked on his couch. Which, now that the idea was in his head he couldn’t resist doing. He padded on quiet feet to the living room and peeked over the back of the couch. She wore a t-shirt, but he saw her pants folded in a neat pile on the floor. The blanket tangled around her, one leg exposed high on her thigh, her foot dangling over the edge of the cushion.

He moved around the couch to sit on the edge of the coffee table and watched her sleep. Her breathing was even and peaceful, and her eyes moved back and forth beneath her lids, the long black lashes brushing her cheeks. He liked that she didn’t wear makeup, and he liked the novelty that her skin was completely clear of any body art. It was pristine, and it made him want to explore every inch of it. In his imagination it was as smooth as it was pure.

He felt his own skin heat as he watched her, the need to touch her burning hotter until the urge was overwhelming. She stirred in her sleep, shivering. Her lips parted and he thought she murmured his name. Amazed by what he thought he’d heard, he was drawn to her mouth. Just one kiss won’t hurt, he thought, and leaned to brush his lips lightly over hers. He shivered and groaned, torn, then kissed her again, barely tracing her lips with his tongue. He'd expected her to taste spicy like her personality, but she tasted sweet instead, and it made him dizzy.

His heart pounded and his mouth was dry, and he knew he should walk away. Kissing her, especially while she slept, would only complicate things. He’d feel guilty for taking advantage of her and he’d never be able to look her in the eye. And, no doubt, she’d be angry at him. But he couldn’t stop himself. He kissed the corners of her mouth, then took her lips with his in a full kiss. And this time, she kissed him back.


Hope you liked it! (does it leave you hanging?) Now, go check out the rest of the entries!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time Out

Hey Everyone.

I'm going to take a bit of a time out here while I finish up revisions. There are a couple of blogfests I'll be participating in, but otherwise I'm going to be flying under the radar until November 1, at which point I'm going to begin querying my manuscript and start my NaNoWriMo project - which I'm really looking forward to!

It's not so long, and until then - hang tight, have fun, and peace be with you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Revision is Hard...Difficult...Whatever

I've been a bit neglectful of my little bloggy space here on the internet because I'm deep into what I hope will be the final revision of my novel. I added a new Chapter One because, as I noted in my previous post, the existing Chapter One was a dud. I'm hoping the new Chapter One is much better. Of course, the new stuff I wrote means there are repercussions now that need to ripple through the rest of the novel.  That's what I'm working on now - the ripples. That, and the comments I got from betas.

One of the things I'm struggling with is making my male MC him more depth and emotion. Oddly, a couple of my secondary characters are more fun. MC dude needs to be more engaging!

But I swear, this is so the last time I'm going through this novel until I go through it again at the behest of an editor after I have an agent!

Come the first of November I'll be sending out queries. No. Matter. What.

Friday, October 8, 2010

(Re)Starting at the Beginning

In storytelling, beginnings are everything. It's not enough to have dazzling characters and a rock-solid plot. If your story starts with a fizzle nobody will ever read far enough to discover the rest.

We've all read some of the most famous opening lines ever written:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....(etc)" Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." - J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

"All children, except one, grow up." Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
"To be born again," sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, "first you have to die." - Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

"They shoot the white girl first." - Toni Morrison, Paradise

My personal favorite opening line is: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Stephen King, The Gunslinger

But even an awesome opening line isn't enough. The entire first chapter needs to hook your readers and reel them into the story. Conventional wisdom says that the first chapter of a novel needs to begin in the action. In flagrante, as it were. No more is it acceptable to spend a chapter or two or three with setup, back story, or character rumination. There was a day when readers had to plod through all that chafe to get to the kernel of the story, but not anymore! Now we start with some action then weave the back story and character development into the story as we move forward. Personally, I find this approach much more appealing as a reader, but it can be a challenge as a writer. (We all want to start with the back story...admit it.)

The reason I find myself ruminating about beginnings is that I'm stuck on mine. My novel, Faerie Fate, has had several beginnings, but none of them has stuck. First, there was a prologue. But prologues are so yesterday, so I trashed it. Then I experimented with juggling chapters one through three to see which one "felt" best as chapter one. The one I settled on is just too much back story and plods along too slowly.

So I find myself back at square one. I've had several betas read the entire novel and, aside from the stodgy chapter one, the main complaint was that the first few chapters had too much of a YA feel to it.  The remedy for these problems, at least in my mind, is to write an entirely new chapter one giving the MCs a more mature voice.  I think I've come up with a good start, but it adds an entirely new dimension of mythology to the story, which means I'm going to have to do some rewriting of the rest of the book in order to weave those new elements into the rest of the story.

My timeline? It will be done by November 1st, because: 1) I've got plans to work on a different project for NaNoWriMo, and; 2) I'm determined to start the query process by then.  If I'm diligent I can do it.

So what has your experience with beginnings been like? Do you breeze through them or struggle? Does it depend on the project?  What's your all time favorite opening line?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

At First Sight Blogfest

Thanks to Jacee Drake for hosting the At First Sight Blogfest!  You should definitely go check out all the entries. It's going to be loads of fun!

My entry is an excerpt from my novel, Faerie Fate. To set it up for you: Holly has never known her father, but pretty much by accident she discovers he's a rogue faerie intent on starting a war with humanity. But first, he wants to eliminate her. He sees her as a weakness, a loose end that needs to be tied up.  This little bit is her first meeting with him, at his place of business.


Holly heard her father’s voice from within, her very first impression of him.

“Well then, Abelo, what are you waiting for? By all means, bring her in.” His voice was like warm molasses dripped on frozen ice cream – soft and charming on the surface but brittle and icy underneath. It made her shudder and somewhere in her heart she gave up any last scraps of the childhood dreams she’d harbored about her father. She didn’t have to use her empathic skills to sense that he would be a cruel and determined force to deal with. His voice said it all.

Abelo moved further into the room, holding the door for her and allowing her a first glimpse of her mysterious father. Her heart was already pounding as she entered, but when she saw him her breath caught in her throat. She recognized their physical resemblance at once, and had to struggle with his affect on her empathy. He radiated charisma, an unyielding and powerful figure, but she sensed there was more; something buried deep down that she couldn't identify.

He was tall, with jet black hair kept neat and short, and eyes so sharply green she could see their emerald sparkle - and fierce intensity - from across the room. A dark crimson shirt, the sleeves folded to just below the elbow, accentuated his broad shoulders, trim waist, muscled arms and strong hands. The charcoal jacket which completed his suit, lay neatly over the back of his chair. He may not like being human, but he wore it well, formidably even. When their eyes met his lips spread into a magnetic smile, which didn't reach his eyes, and she sensed the wicked charm pouring off of him.

“Well, the prodigal daughter returns at last. Welcome home, Holly.”


Now, go check out the other entries!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reading Success

Not sure how many of you are aware, but I did a reading from one of my WIPs this last weekend at the women's studies conference at the state university. Given that this was my first official reading, and that I was the only creative presentation on the entire program, alongside a long list of academic research papers, I was suitably terrified.

However, I'm pleased to report that the reading went very well! The room was packed, I didn't choke in any way, and the audience was receptive. Whew!

How about you? Anybody have a first-reading story to share? I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bad News Blogfest

I totally forgot that I had signed up to participate in the Bad News Blogfest!(Thanks, Francine, for hosting!!!) I feel so bad! But better late than never, right? Below is my submission to this blogfest. It's a scene from my WIP, Faerie Fate.  This isn't the actual scene in which the bad news is delivered, it's a scene the next morning where the MC, Holly, is finally reacting to the news.


Holly woke the next morning to bright sunlight blinding even behind her closed eyes. She rolled over but now that she was conscious the first thoughts in her head were about her father.  She’d fallen asleep with dreamy thoughts of flying and living in a magical faerie world, but now, in the harsh light of day, it occurred to her that her father was hunting her down so he could kill her. Her eyes popped open. Despite a frisson of fear, though, she had to wonder how he could have harbored so much hatred after all these years for someone he'd never even met. She suddenly felt very unsafe.
She sat straight up, nearly shoving Bamboo off the bed in the process. He meowed; she thought indignantly. Her father knew about this house, didn’t he? After all, he’d been in it. How could she expect to hide if she was in plain sight? Her heartbeat jacked up a notch as she hopped out of bed and struggled to thrust one foot into her jeans while hopping on the other to peek out the window. What if he was out there right now, looking for her? She really didn’t want to be murdered by her own father. After spending her whole life wanting to know who he was, what he was like, and wanting to meet him, and it would suck if their first meeting turned into an execution.  
She managed to get her jeans on and zipped, and while she hunkered down beside the window she grabbed blindly for the t-shirt she’d tossed on the floor the night before, scanning the yard for anything that looked out of place. She didn’t see anything unusual, but a sense of uneasiness still hung over her.
She glanced at the bed where Bamboo was still lounging. “I’m just being paranoid, right Bamboo?” He didn’t answer this time. She turned, still crouched by the window and sniffed the tee in her hand, making a face at the used smell of it. She made her way to the dresser to find a clean one, staying out of the line of sight of the window. “What the heck is he up to, anyway?”  Overnight Bamboo had become her own personal therapist. “I mean, what’s he doing that he thinks I’m going to get in his way?” She wondered aloud, pulling a clean tee out of the drawer and slipping it over her head. Hadn’t Dusty and Shadow implied that her father was hiding out somewhere among humans plotting something diabolical? Revenge? World domination?  And yet, despite everything – evidence of his treachery, and the fact that he wanted her dead - she still felt an overwhelming urge to find him and meet him. She still had an empty hole that needed a father peg plugged in. “I clearly have Daddy issues, huh Bamboo?”  He opened one eye and gave her a ‘duh’ kind of look .
“But I should be able to decide for myself about him, shouldn’t I?"

Bamboo grunted a muffled meow. He didn't sound convinced.


Now, go check out the rest of the entries!

Friday, October 1, 2010

They're People Too Blogfest

Thanks to the lovely Tessa at Tessa's Blurb for hosting the They're People Too Blogfest.  I was going to post an excerpt from a WIP, but after I looked at it, it just didn't fit the spirit of the fest, so I wrote this series of haiku instead. It's supposed to be a conversation between two personified emotions. Can you guess them?

So what do you think?
I’m not sure. I can’t decide.
Well, that’s nothing new.

Why are you so mean?
Hello? Duh. It’s what I do.
Yeah. Maybe you’re right.

Of course I’m right.
Then you decide for me.
Yeah, that’ll happen.

Oh, I just don’t know!
It’s an easy choice: chicken or fish
But they’re both so good!

Did you guess the emotions? They're doubt and sarcasm. Now, go check out the rest of the entries