Write Club 2015: Belated Observations from the Ring

It’s been about ten months since Commando Grace won Write Club 2015, but apparently, sometime last summer, I sat and jotted down a few observations from the contest. Then, I got up, went on with life, and forgot to finish and post my thoughts.

Procrastination? Perhaps a little.

At any rate, I polished and updated my thoughts and decided to share them anyway. Maybe some kindred procrastinating spirit will put this post in their TBR pile and finally get around to reading it just in time for Write Club 2017.

Without further delay…

1. First and foremost, DL Hammons and his wife are pretty spectacular! I cannot fathom all the work they put into this contest, and I’m grateful for their arduous work throughout the many weeks of Write Club.

2. There are some great writers out there. I enjoyed reading the various entries, and was disappointed more than once to have to choose between two excellent pieces.

3. You have to bring your best. Because of #2 (and because I border on perfectionist at times), there can be no half-hearted entries. Great writers make great observations, and the Write Club voters were sure to point out any issue a piece might have.

4. Sometimes critique is a matter of personal taste. It was interesting to see how each piece (not just my own) went down. Almost invariably, some people loved a piece, while others… not so much. The takeaway is an important lesson for all writers: This is a subjective business. What resonates with one person may very well make another shudder in disgust. Similarly, style choices that delight one reader may make another want to throw a book across the room. You will never please everyone.

5. But sometimes critique is invaluable.  I’m sincerely thankful to the voters who pointed out a major flaw in one of my pieces. It was a scene in a bookstore in which two sets of teenage girls face off. One of my girls said some things that were, frankly and without defense, out of character. That scene has been rewritten in such a way that Molly does not succumb to the mean girl posturing going on around her, but rather leads Grace away with dignity and gentleness, in keeping with Molly’s nature. The rewrite made the story so much better, and I’ll always be grateful to the voter who pointed out my mistake.

6. You have to know the difference between #4 and #5. A writer must neither take every word of criticism as truth nor dismiss every word as personal taste or simply “not getting” the story. We have to evaluate each comment soberly to determine where each piece of feedback falls on the spectrum of Junk to Gold. And then figure out just what to do with everything in between.

7. 500 words are entirely different from a novel. In a contest like Write Club, you have 500 words to capture your readers’ attention and get them wanting more. You need a solid plot, round characters, realistic dialogue, and a whole lot of emotion to pull readers in and make them want to stay. You simply do not have the space for unnecessary details or for things that might require further explanation. A scene from your novel probably won’t cut it – unless you cut it first. For reference, scenes I used in Write Club 2015 went from a sparse, snappy 500 words for the contest to a fuller, more detailed 700-1,000 for the manuscript.

8. Write Club can get the creative juices flowing. When I submitted my first entry, I wasn’t entirely sure where the story was going. I had a vague notion of how I might weave together several ideas I’d been playing with, but nothing was certain. Mostly it was a challenge to see how many weird things I could connect in one 500 word piece. As the contest progressed, the story became clearer and clearer and the characters more deeply ingrained in my heart. By the time it was over, I had a general outline of four books. Four books with their own individual storylines, as well as an overarching theme to tie all four together into one cohesive whole, if only I can make it work.

9. Write Club inspires confidence. As mentioned above, I didn’t know going in how Commando Grace would fare. I’d never written contemporary YA, never really read much of it, for that matter. The feedback was spectacular, giving me confidence to continue with the story. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for Grace, and especially to those who connected with her and with her struggles. That’s why we write, really, for that moment when a reader says, “That’s me!”

10. Write Club people are swell. Seriously, it’s a great little community.  The support they show one another, especially in the final days of the contest as writers reveal their identities, is heart-warming. I’m hoping to attend DFW Conference next year and look forward to meeting other Write Clubbers face-to-face.

On that note, I close. I have a manuscript to polish, thanks to Write Club 2015…

Review: UNITY (Illirin Series #2) by Laura Maisano

 

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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review… and was more than glad to catch up with Gabe and Lea!

Laura Maisono’s recently released YA Urban Fantasy novel, UNITY, provides a satisfying conclusion to the story begun in her debut novel, SCHISM.

In the early chapters of UNITY, the author inserted bits of backstory to refresh the reader’s memory. She also reintroduced the world of Illirin with rich language that fully immersed the reader in the physical setting. Several months or more had passed since I read the first book, so I found the reminders  helpful. The vivid descriptions were simply beautiful.

UNITY is told from multiple points of view. Because I was reading the book at a busy time, catching a chapter here and a chapter there, there were a couple times I had to flip back a few pages to keep track of an individual character’s storyline. This probably would not have been an issue if I had been able to read at a more relaxed time. Overall, the author made clear shifts between points of view – no wondering whose head I was in – and the multiple viewpoints served the story well in developing the characters and their relationships with one another. I especially appreciated the intrigue added by knowing just enough of a certain character’s motivation.

Stylistically, the writing was clear with a nice balance of poetic narrative and snappy humor. The dialogue was realistic, heartfelt and funny in turn. At times elegant, at times contemporary, the writing fit well with the theme of converging worlds – modern-day Earth and the more fantastical Illirin. Humor interspersed throughout the narrative brought the characters to life and a smile to my face. The book did contain some language that might be offensive to some readers. I, personally, didn’t have a problem with it, but it’s something to be aware of if the occasional swear word is an issue. On the other hand, more conservative readers will appreciate the protagonist’s commitment to “save that action for the wedding night.”

SCHISM and UNITY together tell a tender story of friendship, love, and healing. The relationships between characters throughout the series, and especially in UNITY, make this a series I would recommend to Young Adult and New Adult readers in search of a story with a whole lot of world-hopping heart!

 

Find SCHISM and UNITY by Laura Maisano

Amazon        Barnes & Noble         Kobo        Goodreads     MuseItUp Publishing

 

 

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About the Author

Laura Maisano is the author of the Illirin series of YA urban fantasy books, SCHISM and UNITY. She has an MA in Technical writing and is a Senior Editor at Anaiah Press for their YA/NA Christian Fiction.

Her gamer husband and amazing daughter give support and inspiration every day. Their cats, Talyn and Moya, provide entertainment through living room battles and phantom-dust-mote hunting. Somehow, they all manage to survive living in Texas where it is hotter than any human being should have to endure. You can find updates about writing and the random stuff in her life on her blog http://www.LauraMaisano.blogspot.com or follow her on twitter @MaisanoLaura. If you’re more interested in just the professional angle, check out her website http://www.RayhaStudios.com.

Social Media

Twitter: @MaisanoLaura

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraMaisanoWriter

Facebook Fan group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/illirinfans/

Google + https://plus.google.com/+LauraMaisano

In the Middle

It’s been some two and a half months since my last post. Sad, I know. It would be an understatement to say things have been a bit chaotic on my end. When you homeschool four children, each at his or her own level and with his or her own learning style, chaos sort of becomes the baseline. Throw in the surge of Boy Scout campouts that spring inevitably brings, as well as a few random other activities, and we pretty much can’t remember our last free weekend, nor can we figure out when the next one will be.

And yet…

We have almost completed our ninth year of homeschooling. Everyone can read. The youngest two are learning their multiplication tables and racing Daddy to label the US map. The oldest has made peace with Algebra and thoroughly enjoys Shakespeare. The one in the middle has fallen into a groove with his schoolwork, one in which he understands what needs to be done and diligently works to make it happen. They’re learning, sometimes in ways other than I’d planned, but learning no less. Often more. And while they may be sleeping till an embarrassing hour of the morning, I often catch them reading in the middle of the night, so it all evens out, right?

Somehow in the middle of all of this craziness, words came. Night after night, they spilled from my fingertips onto the keyboard and onto the screen. Almost 80,000 of them. Yes, another manuscript complete. And she’s lovely, if I may say so. This manuscript, in keeping with today’s theme, falls in the middle, the second of four planned books. It’s been a couple days since I completed the manuscript for COMMANDO GRACE: WINNER LOSE ALL, and while I’m eager to send this manuscript out for feedback, I’m relishing the peaceful feeling of having completed something lovely in the middle of life’s chaos, something lovely that I don’t have to share quite yet. With three more books to be written on either side, this manuscript is in no hurry. For now, I can savor all the joy and sorrow of the story, without the stress and uncertainty of querying.

And I can savor the release of CHILD OF THRESH, the final book in the Chasmaria series. I’ve been so busy and distracted, that it’s sort of snuck up on me. It’ll be a sad and sweet goodbye, with a high probability of tears and mental promises to revisit these characters in the future.

This is, even in the middle of the chaos, more than I could have hoped for when I walked barefoot to the alter almost sixteen years ago, when I promised to love the boy who made me laugh, come what may.

And a lot has come, sometimes in such a quick succession that we can hardly keep track of who’s going where, but somehow, by the grace of God, we end up together – the husband and I and the growing ones who emerged in the middle of chaos – reading books, playing computer games, planning a trip with us, just us. Because in the middle of it all, we kind of like each other. All crazy six of us.

Picking Poison

PHOTO PROMPT - © Sandra Crook

PHOTO PROMPT – © Sandra Crook

Picking Poison

“We’re dying, one poisonous pandemic at a time.”

I clutch Edgar’s hand, not because I’m scared, but because he needs it. We all need it. Great-Gran says there was a time people went without gloves. I wish Edgar believed legends more than pundits.

He nods at the slanted hourglass. “Time’s running out. You know, the latest-“

“Shut. Up. I don’t care about transferred bodily fluids or toxins in sliced onions or whatever the latest is.” I pull off my gloves, throw a rock at the hourglass. Glass and sand rain over the forget-me-nots. “Kiss me, Edgar. If we’re dying, we might as well live.”


Friday Fictioneers (n): A world-wide community of writers addicted to writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. 

Read/Join Here:

FRIDAY FICTIONEERS: To the Girl at the Top of the Stairs

It’s been over a month since I last participated in Friday Fictioneers, and it’s good to be back. As always, please read other stories and add your own, using the link at the end of the story!

PHOTO PROMPT © Amy Reese

PHOTO PROMPT © Amy Reese

To the Girl at the Top of the Stairs

We’re broken, you and I.

At best, our cracks are patched, our rusted places painted.

You led me through my thorns.

I stepped with you on shards of shattered hopes.

What further wounds can life inflict?

Cuts and scrapes and scars.

*

There’s not much space between us now.

Five crooked, crumbling steps.

I’ll confess to you my sins-

“Just friends” and other lies I’ve told.

*

We’ve crawled through dirt aplenty.

I think we ought to dance-

Anyway, we might give it a try.

You’re looking like an angel,

And my heart’s as open as the sky.


Friday Fictioneers (n): A world-wide community of writers addicted to writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. 

Read/Join Here:

A Glance Back, a Look Ahead

As it is the beginning of a new year and as I am trying to avoid grading homeschool Algebra, now is as good a time as any to do one of those reflective/prospective posts we only write to seem cool love so much. I’ll keep it  brief(ish).

2015 brought the release of both GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE and HEIR OF KORADIN. Sometime around Thanksgiving, I turned in the last of the content edits for the final book in the Chasmaria trilogy, CHILD OF THRESH. I also had the immense fun of participating in and winning WRiTE CLUB 2015. (Go, Commando!)

2016 presents at least as much reason for excitement. In February, I’ll be presenting a session titled “Dear Teen Writer” at a literacy conference that expects to draw around 1,200 teachers and others interested in promoting literacy. I also plan to attend the Dallas Fiction Writers Conference. Not only will this be my first writers conference, but I’ll get to meet my amazing editor face to face! CHILD OF THRESH is set to release in August, so there will be a cover design wishlist to consider, acknowledgements to compose, a little more proofreading, and a whole lot of emotions to sort through.

For the past several months, I’ve been working on a new contemporary YA series. The major mental plotting phase is over. Now, I’m drafting the second book of an eventual quadrilogy and adding details to a rather lengthy outline to ensure nothing gets forgotten. It’s a totally different project from the Chasmaria books – and quite an unexpected one, at that – but I’m enjoying it every bit as much. Just ask my Wise and Wonderful and Slightly Weary of Hearing Me Ramble Sister. I haven’t set any specific goals for this project, other than to get the story right – all four books of it – before entering the query stage. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but when a story is worth telling, it’s worth telling well, and I’m willing to take my time on this one. That said, the words are coming quickly, which is always a delight.

Also a delight is the sight of one’s four children gathered around the dining room table, each working on a story of his or her own. I’ll close with that image and this thought:

If you have a story to tell, tell it and tell it well.

Then get ready for the next story, because it’s sure to come, whether you’re ready or not.

Wishing all of you a happy year filled with the best kinds of stories!

FORTITUDE by Carrie Dalby

Today on the blog, we have fellow Anaiah Press author Carrie Dalby, whose debut novel, Fortitude, recently released. Thank you, Carrie, for sharing a little about the process of researching and writing your Young Adult Historical Fiction novel.

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Thank you, Lisa, for having me on you blog today. I thoroughly enjoy the Chasmaria series. It’s an honor to be here to talk about my debut novel.

Fortitude is a historical YA that took five years of research and plotting for me to write the first draft. I was working on another manuscript for the first several years, but I devoted much of my reading and study time to researching 1898 and the Spanish-American War. Library trips, special book orders, reading microfilm—I did it all. And though I’m not a historian, I enjoyed every minute of it, even finding the historical facts that soured my stomach.

Learning about the deplorable conditions the American troops lived in throughout Florida while waiting to disembark for war was the spark that began Fortitude’s journey. Recently drained swamps for campsites, over-crowding, disease… more soldiers died in Florida that year than in battle on foreign soil.

The other killer in the Florida camps was deadly riots. Soldiers from around the country were squeezed into unhealthy camps in a racially divided state that lived by the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws. The locals and many of the other troops despised seeing African-American men in uniform, especially the decorated Buffalo Soldiers. Fresh volunteers didn’t like being outranked by people they considered inferior and the townspeople didn’t want to serve them when they were on leave.

The riot scene in Chapter Twenty-five is based on an actual riot that took place on June 6, 1898 after white volunteers from Ohio “decided to have some fun” by snatching a two-year-old African-American boy from his mother, spanking him, and then using him for target practice. It was sickening to read so many different accounts about it, but I had to use the scene to depict just how extreme the attitudes were.

As fate would have it, I wrote the first draft of that chapter in early July 2013, when the George Zimmerman trial was happening in Florida. Anger, fear, and screams of injustice on the news echoed the voices of the past as I wrote—often with tears in my eyes.

Art imitating life?

History repeating itself?

Not learning from mistakes?

Truth is stranger than fiction?

All these and more are possibilities. What I do know is that a friend loaned me something I never would have chosen to read—a biography about the founder of the Girl Scouts. Within that book there were a couple pages about the miserable conditions the troops lived in at the Spanish-American War camps in Florida, where Juliette Gordon Low and her family tried to relieve some of the suffering. The story of those soldiers shouted at me from the pages and sent me on a research journey that lasted years and uncovered many difficult truths from American history. Facts we can learn and grow from, hopefully preventing painful history from being repeated.

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Blurb:

Growing up with a Creole best friend, sixteen-year-old Claire O’Farrell held little regard for the Jim Crow laws and the consequences of befriending those of a different color. But once she leaves the haven of her home on Dauphin Island, the reality of racial intolerance can no longer be ignored. Though she’s underage, Claire makes the bold decision to serve alongside Loretta, her best friend, in the “colored camp” hospital tents during the Spanish-American War, but her idealistic attitude and choice of working location immediately puts her in danger. Claire gives her heart to a soldier in the camp, only to find herself caught in the racial violence besieging the area. When the intolerant attitudes and stigma follow her home, she clings to her faith to navigate through her social isolation and find the path she was meant to travel.

Release Date: December 8, 2015

 

Book Links

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27855801-fortitude

Anaiah Press: TBA

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018HSNK62?keywords=fortitude%20carrie%20dalby&qid=1450025402&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

B&N: TBA

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Author Bio:

Born and raised in California, but a resident of Mobile, Alabama since 1996, Carrie Dalby is a homeschooling mom with a love of literature for young adults and children. Some of Carrie’s favorite volunteer hours are with Mobile Writers Guild, SCBWI, and Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Author workshops.

Website: http://www.carriedalby.com

Twitter: @Wonderwegian

Pinterest: pinterest.com/wonderwegian

Goodreads: goodreads.com/user/show/27124063-carrie-dalby

Google +: https://plus.google.com/+CarrieDalbyCox/posts

Facebook: facebook.com/carriedalbyauthor