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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 3

7456038The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes.

Prologue and first chapter were read: 19 pages. (We never discussed this, Carol, but I assume a prologue is not a legit chapter but a prelude and needs to be included.)

“Paul is dead!” What an opening line! (I’m showing my age, but I immediately saw the Abbey Road album cover. For those of you too young to understand, Google “Beatles Paul is dead.) Once I brought myself back to the present, it was still a killer first sentence (pun intended).

For me, it went somewhat downhill from there. It’s smoothly written, but the author pushed too much backstory, too much flashback, too much telling not showing. (Brenda is going to disagree with me on this.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some strong storytelling here. What surprises me is how the author breaks every rule Carol presented in class. Okay, with the exception of the “Paul is dead!” opening line.

The point of scene is excellent. The story takes place on a small Caribbean island and the descriptions are as lush as the landscape.

Characters are aplenty. There was the main character, Esti, of course. Then we have: the police officer who questioned her; an old family friend (in flashback); Paul, the victim (in flashback); Lucia, a local who had seen Esti talking with Paul. That would be five in the first nine pages, the prologue.

The actual first chapter introduces us to Esti’s mother, Aurora. Then come the two uppity kids from the school who seem to be members of the elite crowd: Danielle and Greg. Their main purpose seems to be to instruct Esti (and, in the process, us, the readers) about local legends, history, idioms and island patois. Oh, and establish that Danielle is in direct competition with Esti for the role of Juliet in the school play. Apparently, she’s sizing up the opposition.

The chapter had too much going on. The locations were varied and moved rapidly: the school grounds, the theater, another area in the school grounds, a flashback to the cemetery in the States, and, finally, her house. Her house took up the first chapter. The others took place in the prologue, the first 9 pages.

Prologue moved fast, first chapter not so much. Too slow, too much backstory. The two schoolmates showing up didn’t fit with the flow, I didn’t think. It seemed out of place.

Bottom line, it’s a ghost story and a murder mystery. How can you go wrong? Besides, Brenda says I’ll love it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I got much in the way of finding improvements for The Other Siders.



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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 2

 Cinder: Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer419rjQNqYhL

First chapter is 16 pages.

The first line: “The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, …” Quite the attention getter. There’s enough information given between the back cover blurb, the inside flap blurb, and the cover itself for us to know that she’s a cyborg. We don’t know how much, but we can safely assume it’s at least the foot.

The first page focuses on her removing her foot. She struggles getting the rusted screw out, then fighting with the other hardware and, finally, just letting her foot dangle from her leg by its wires. We discover not only her foot but one hand as well is artificial.

Second page begins a detailed point of scene. She has a stall filled with used android and other odds and ends electronic and mechanical in nature. We also get a picture of the stall’s position with relation to other stalls in the crowded market square in New Beijing.

Third page, also finishes with her removing the foot completely.

Because of children playing Ring Around the Rosy, a recently revived game originating during ancient plague times, there’s a hint of a plague or some other widespread health issue.

We are introduced to Sacha the baker and her disdain for Cinder because of her differences from “real” humans. There’s inner dialogue from Cinder indicating a few of the vendors in her area are aware of her differences and are somewhat uncomfortable with it.

Prince Kaito arrives with a broken android. (No, not his tablet, but a walking, talking android, or it was before it broke.) Cinder recognizes the Crown Prince, and the handsomest man in all of New Beijing. We deal with her stammering and fan craziness for a page or so.

For the next five pages we are filled with all kinds of things that might be wrong with the android: it’s old, the problem isn’t readily apparent, how was it acting before it stopped completely, etc., etc., etc. Along with the troubleshooting Q&A, we get a glimpse of character development and some insight into Cinder’s abilities. Possible spoiler: There’s more to her cyborg-ness than just her foot.

Cinder’s android assistant shows up with Cinder’s replacement foot. Cinder makes excuses claiming it’s for another client. Her assistant, though android, is smitten with the prince as well.

When all the arrangements are made for Cinder to work on the android and get it ready for the prince to pick up in a few days, the prince departs.

Shortly after his departure a scream is heard across the way. Sacha the baker has the plague… End chapter.

Okay, four characters in eleven pages. There were other people milling about, a group of kids, but nobody with any real presence, they’re there for point of scene. Sacha is removed from the equation fairly fast, so, basically, we have three characters who, from all appearances, will be central to the story.

There was a lot of useful information and character development in the first chapter. Some of it was a little drawn out, but informative nevertheless. Some things I can definitely take and use.


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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post-WIFYR (Yes, I said “POST”)

The assignment is to read the first chapter of 50 books in the Middle-Grade and Young Adult venue. They can be sci-fi, fantasy, or into whatever genre they fall. I am to read them from a writer’s perspective, paying special attention to: intro to main characters, plot development, intro to other characters, anything useful that points to why these books start out well and, as a result, get published.

So here is the first book. “Edgar Allan’s Official Crime Investigation Notebook” by Mary Amato. Middle-Grade. 140 pages.61K7EpEI-qL

From the School Library Journal:

The kids at Wordsmith Elementary School get a lesson on poetry when a thief stages a series of classroom thefts, leaving behind small poems at the scene of the crime. Edgar Allan keeps notes in his crime journal and writes some verses of his own as his classmates compete to solve the mystery. He thinks his home life is strange with his parents both employed as clowns, but when he learns more about the thoughts and personal lives of his classmates through the poetry they write, he gains a deeper understanding of himself and his community. With characters named Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett and a teacher who drinks Tennyson Tea, readers will get thinly veiled lessons describing alliteration, meter, and metaphor. … A good springboard for introducing poetry units.

Opening paragraph shows the reader the crime of stealing the class goldfish.

Characters introduced:

  1. Edgar Allan (MC)
  2. Ms. Herschel (teacher)
  3. Kip (a skinny boy whose leg was jiggling against his desk)
  4. Taz (the class clown)
  5. Maia (the person who gave the fish to the class)
  6. Gabriella (the new girl)
  7. Destiny Perkins (Another classmate. I’m guessing she’s going to be an important character later. She’s the first character given both names)
  8. Patrick Chen (Edgar’s nemesis)

Eight characters introduced in the first four pages. One complaint about my storyline was the introduction of five characters in eight pages. Apparently too many characters are not always an issue. Further study on this will be necessary.

It’s a fast beginning. The theft, the discovery, several theories of who did it, and Edgar and Patrick’s competition to discover the culprit before the other are all laid out by the end of the first chapter (page 6). Fast paced and quick. That part I get.

One comment in a review section said, “It’s a little slow paced as the story progresses and sometimes Edgar seems to think older than a fifth grader.” To people who consider that fifth graders must sound a certain way and be only so intelligent, I divert your attention to “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

I had similar complaints that my characters sound older. They sound like I sounded at 14-16. My friends were, for the most part, the same way. We were avid readers and had been for a decade or more by that age. Nerdy kids who read a lot don’t sound like kids who don’t. They don’t think the same way either. I may try to tone it down some, but if I do it too much, the characters will lose their personalities.

I’ll definitely finish Edgar Allan’s Official… It has the makings of a good ride.

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/24/15

Do you like acronyms? I think America generally is in love with acronyms. Teens use acronyms to communicate (LOL, ROFL). Companies use acronyms to advertise. The Military loves acronyms. (Now that I’m married to a Navy man, I REALLY get that!) And initialism. I’m not sure whether I’ve ever heard anyone use that word before (even the program I’m writing in doesn’t recognize “initialism” and is marking it in red as if it were misspelled!) ‑‑‑ but we use initialism (an abbreviation formed from initial letters), all the time, like FBI and company names.

Back in late December/EARLY January, like many, I made some goals. Then I scootched them around until they came together in an appropriate acronym, so they’d be easy to remember. My acronym was (appropriate!): WRECK! Because by the end of last year, I felt like one, when it came to writing and goals. WRECK stood for Write, Read, Exercise, Clean, Kind. I should Write, Read, Clean SOMETHING, do something Kind every day ‑‑‑ and Exercise at least 6 days a week. I did very well with a Post‑It which said “WRECK” stuck on the frame of my computer screen. For a while.

Then, today, I discovered the Post‑It is gone, and I haven’t thought about WRECK in weeks.

One quarter of the year is over. How am I doing?

I have written EVERY day ‑‑‑ because of 750words.com which sends me a reminder to write 750 words every morning. Sadly, not all are part of a novel or short story. Some journal, some junk. But, between reminders and online “badges” for reaching certain word levels, speeds, days in a row, etc., I am on a nearly 500 DAY streak without missing or writing less than 750.

I’ve been reading more days ‑ mostly because I want to read 100 books again this year. But I’m falling slightly behind.

I’ve been a little better at exercising (even lost 5 pounds according to my radiologist as of yesterday). But it hasn’t been nearly enough.

Clean something EVERY day? NOT even close! Do something KIND every day. OOOoooops, there too!

For your Prompt today, decide what you’d most like to get done today . . . tomorrow . . . this week . . . next month. Come up with an acronym; post it where you can see it EVERY day. Give it the Old College Try. Get it done! You’ll feel WONDERFUL if you make it (probably even if you come close).

YES! I DID IT! My acronym is still WRECK because it says so much about me. It’s on a new BRIGHT GOLD Post‑It. Stuck to the bottom of a framed fantasy picture I hung for inspiration above my desk. It hovers in my field of vision less than a foot above the top of my opened computer. I can’t NOT see it! Send us your acronyms and what they stand for. We’ll cheer you on!

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )

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Thinkin’ on Thursday: Picture This!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

At times in the past, I have modeled characters’ looks, fashion sense, even personality on unknown models in magazines. I’ve even cut them out and then built characteristics for that person on the same page or on a 4×6 card. Or I’ve envisioned an old time actor (or a current one, for that matter) as my “hero,” “villain,” “sidekick,” or whomever.

I’m going to suggest another way to utilize pictures of unknowns from magazines or books to help your writing (and the above paragraph has some good ideas too: if you’ve never tried it, give it a go and see what you think). Look through a magazine or illustrated book, preferably one you haven’t read already, or an old one you’ve forgotten all about. Find a picture with at least two main “characters” on it. THINK of these two as major characters in a story you haven’t yet thought through.

Just allow them to begin interacting with each other. Don’t “plan” ahead (this will be a good one for all of us ‘pantsers’), because this is designed to give us practice in a more “organic” method of plot construction. Just start “recording” the story’s events and let them spin out in front of you. Pay attention to other props or objects that appear in the ad or picture. If there are other people in the picture, ignore them for the moment. See how or why the two might interact with the props, objects, bits of scenery, in the picture with them. Record items and events as faithfully as possible without thinking about the “rules” of story plot structure.

Once you’ve recorded the scene, note whether your characters interacted with or used any of the props, etc., given them by the picture. What did they do with items there? Twiddle nervously with papers on a desk? Pick up a coffee cup and look for a refill? Grab a hammer or bucket of paint, intending to use it as a weapon?

How did your characters interact with each other? Were they friends or strangers at the start? What relationship was forged during the scene: adversarial? Conciliatory? Pleading? Helpful? and so on.

Go ahead. This is just a writer’s PLAY ground. Have FUN in it ! ! !

(And, at the end, is there anything salvageable there? Can it be incorporated in your current WIP? Is it the beginning of a short story? An article? An editorial? A children’s book? Even a brand‑new novel?)

See you next for Saturday’s Spellbinder!

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Saturday’s Spellbinder: The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BBAlchemyst

My TBR (To Be Read) list is so long, that once I get around to some really great book, I often feel I’m the last one at the party! And I’ve just done it again!

I’ve had what I thought was the full set of Michael Scott’s epic set for a couple of years or so, and I’ve had them on my TBR list for even longer, but I’d only actually read the first 15 or so pages of the first book: The Alchemyst.

I was deep into the second book in another trilogy, when—not having it with me one day, I picked up The Alchemyst and started over. That was seven days ago. Within about three days I’d given up the trilogy, knowing I would go back to it. Just to let you know, I walk in the early mornings as often as I can (make myself do it). I walk within the smallish community I live in, one time around about a half mile. I’m finally up to 3 times many days. And I read. Try to avoid parked cars, so I don’t walk up the back of them when I’m not paying sufficient attention. I finished today and told my husband, “I still think T. H. White’s the Once and Future King (the whole tale of King Arthur) is my favorite of all time books. But Alchemyst has GOT to be in my Top Ten now!”

Can’t wait to dig into book two: The Magician (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel). But I have to finish the trilogy I was on, so I can pick up book two (for more than my short morning walk). And then book three. And four. And five. And even six. Yes, SIX! All published, starting from 2007, at about one a year.

85b5c0a398a05ffb9e0a0210_L__V192421766_SX200_Michael Scott lives and writes in Dublin, and is known as an authority on mythology and folklore. With the years and years of materials he’d gathered, thought about, found and written, my mind is boggled at the scholarly take on the mythology and folklore from many ethnic backgrounds in this tale. And that’s only the first of them. I loved how he wove together magicians, good and evil, with weird creatures from multiple backgrounds. Many I was familiar with, and greeted as if they were old friends when they were called on stage. Others were delightfully new to me, and I loved, feared, hated them equally with my “old friends.”

Some are “old friends” because they are historical characters or mythologies. Scott claims the only characters he “made up” are the teen twins, “normal” kids who get to explore times and historical characters we all might want to meet. And The Story! I cannot imagine what it would take to add this pair of twins, who learn what magic is, to the odd, interesting and international mix of characters, critters, and creatures from all times and backgrounds. Additionally, it has humor, spunk, mystery, tension, intrigue, magic and the lore of ages. Put this one high on your TBR list!!! I dare you to resist reading the rest of them . . . I’m starting Book 2, The Magician, on tomorrow morning’s walk!

See you next for Tips on Tuesday!

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Thinkin’ on Thursday: Starting Over — in the Middle!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Just after the first of the year, Brian Klems (on‑line editor for The Writers Digest) threw out a quote by Joyce Carol Oates: “The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.” I sort of nodded in affirmation and moved on. Only later did I really start to think about it. I’ve written here before that I am now more convinced than ever (note: that was well after the succinct Oates quote should have given me pause for thought) that I should start writing and write to the end before letting anyone read, comment or critique what I have.

Now, if I could just convince myself to do it, instead of rewriting the first chapter, then writing a little more; rewriting the first three chapters, then writing a little more; rewriting the first 5 chapters, then writing a little more. As a result, I’ve covered the south end of my dining table with two Girl Scout cookie boxes (they’re the perfect size for filing) — full of papers, and a pile of 4 full loose leaf folders, the contents of which are critiqued, or not, and include multiple versions of several chapters, on my “current” WIP. When the boxes were full, I just piled more on top of them. Well, only a little more. About three inches worth. Each.

Oh, I have written the last chapter. And I love it. I just wish the eight or so before it were finished too!

What was I thinkin’?

Well, I guess I wasn’t. Thinkin’. Fortunately I went to the WIFYR class taught by Cheri Pray Earl: The Muddled Middles. Well, mine wasn’t exactly the middle — but pretty close.

I am going to start over . . . on chapter 17 (or whatever it happens to be). Again. I’ll fill in that gap in the story. Then I’ll examine everything, one chapter at a time, beginning to end. Then I’ll write (or rewrite) Chapter 1.

DONE ! ! !

See you next on Saturday’s Spellbinder!

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