James River Writer’s Conference 2014

I am a very proud member of James River Writer’s organization and if you’re not, you should be too! Go here to learn more about membership.

But I’m especially proud this weekend because of the greatest writing conference on Earth (alright, the greatest writer’s conference in Virginia at least;-) Very much looking forward to seeing all of my writing peers, attending the workshops and programs, pitching MAIDEN to Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, and just having a fun weekend!

Hope to see you there!


What’s My Writing Process?

I have been extremely blessed over the past few years to have fellow writers help me become more involved in the writing community. I have learned so much by interacting and networking with other writers. Most importantly, I have grown and it has given the me the opportunity to share my experiences so hopefully others can grow as well.

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned over time is that no two writers have the same process for how/when/what they write. That’s where today’s post comes in to play. I am carrying on the chain from fellow writer and my personal mentor Lana Krumwiede, who wrote about her writing process here. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to share my writing process and I hope you come away with something that helps you.

What am I working on?

DAMSEL – The sequel to my debut YA novel, MAIDEN, (which I am actively querying, if you have an in, let me know;-). Inspired by the life of Joan of Arc, the story follows 17-year-old Jeanette as she struggles to accept her mission to help save her war-torn kingdom. I am just finishing up the outline and my goal is to have the first draft done by the end of the year.

SEARCHING FOR MALCOLM MILLER – My first foray into MG fiction, a contemporary story about a 13 year old girl, Nadia, who on the same day she is sentenced to detention for 30 days finds out her brother who died 10 years ago left her a letter. We follow her as she deals with the realization that she cares about her brother more than she thought.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I wrote MAIDEN for my daughters, wanting them to have a story with a strong female protagonist that what she thought was important in life, is really not. As a novel that is clean and meant to be uplifting, I hope it is different enough for those looking for more than just an entertaining read.

For MALCOLM MILLER, I hope that my experience working with teens for 15+ years helps give a unique voice to a story with very real emotions. It’s a coming of age story in every sense of the word.

Why do I write what I do?

I used to write because I wanted to be a famous, published author. Wrong way to do it! I have grown over recent past to realize I need to write what’s in my heart, and what is in my heart are my children. I, as a father and a writer, more than anything, want to leave a legacy. If no other person on the planet reads my work, I hope my children find joy and insight from it. But having said that, it is my dream to become a full-time writer,and I hope that as I write what is in my heart and stay true to the story and characters, my writing will find the readers that need it.

How does my writing process work?barton-fink-at-his-typewriter

Before saying anything else, if you have not read Stephen King’s On Writing, do it…now! It is, by far, the best, most inspirational advice I have read on the craft of writing. When I read it 4-5 years ago, it changed my life as a writer. Go get it…now!

This isn’t set in stone, but if I had to sum up my writing process, it is this:

1) Storyboard – I have to have an outline. That’s just me. Otherwise, I’ll work on a story for months/years and then get halfway through and go, ‘Oooh, I thought of a cool new twist!’ Yeah, I don’t have that sort of time. So I call it my Storyboard phase. No movie EVER gets made without having a plan in advance of scenes and outline. I like to think of my outline as a storyboard. I don’t start working on a project until I have a storyboard.

2) 500 words a day – It is my goal to write 500 words every weekday…period. It took me a long time as a writer to get to this point, but writing so many words a day is what sets a ‘person who wants to write’ and a ‘writer’ apart. Half of what I write is crap and won’t ever get used, but it’s part of the process. The more you write the gooder better your writing becomes. Practice, it’s that simple. So figure out how much you can write each day. It might only be 200 words or maybe 2000. The key is to be realistic and then do it. If you miss a day, start fresh the next day. Writing 500 words a day every weekday gives me 10,000 words a month. The typical fiction is anywhere between 60,000-80,000 words, so that gives me at least one first draft every year. Figure out your goal and put your butt in the chair and write!

3) Revise – I am at the point where I can only write on one story at a time, but I can write on one story and revise another. So during my revising phrase of a manuscript, I use that as the opportunity to start a new project. Revising is kind of writing, but not really. But it’s just as important

4) Beta-readers – Writer’s don’t (or shouldn’t) live in a bubble. After so much time on a project, the lines start to blur and the writing becomes hazy. Finding a few (key term…few) people you can trust to give you honest and sincere feedback is crucial. While the manuscript is out to beta-readers let your brain rest for a month or two on that story and work on something else, something new, refreshing.

5) Final edit – With feedback from beta-readers, and a fresh pair of personal eyes, you are ready for the final edit. Consider everything your beta-readers come back with, but remember that you control the story and you don’t have to make all the requested changes. Make the changes that help the story the most in your eyes, tighten it up grammatically, get rid of words/sentences/paragraphs/storylines that are not needed, and…tada!

Are you a writer? What’s your process like?

End of Summer…GIVEAWAY!!!

Did you spend all your money this summer (more than you should have)? Are you in need of a little end of summer bling?

Thank you for stopping by because to help cure your end of summer blues, enter below to win a $20 gift card to B&N or Amazon (winner choice). I thought that would brighten your day:-)

I, personally, have had a fantastic summer and am sorry to see it end. Things I did this summer:

  • Went to Emerald Isle, NC for the first time and LOVED it!
  • Actually trimmed the hedges (you can ask my wife, that’s a big deal)
  • Finished the final draft of my debut YA novel – MAIDEN. In the very near future will start querying agents (yikes)!!!
I hope you have had a wonderful summer and can’t wait to hear what fun things you did in the comments below. Feel free to share the giveaway with anyone and everyone and stop by often to keep entering.  
The giveaway will run until September 2nd!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy 4th of July – Help Give Independence to Someone in Need!

Good friend Don Bridges just recently had his 51st birthday.  A grand event seeing that he is one of the longest living ventilated quadriplegics…ever (27 years and counting)!  Each and every year is a blessing for him.

Don is an avid Virginia Tech alum and fan, an adorable cat lover, and one of the greatest people I know. While he strives to stay independent and live his life to the fullest, it takes the kind donations of others to help him do it.  This week marks the 5th annual ‘Drive for Independence’ and the opportunity for each of us to give a little (or alot) to help Don and others like him.

Please WATCH the video below, SHARE with others, and then visit Help Don Succeed to DONATE and help give independence this 4th of July!

It’s Been Too, Too Long…GIVEAWAY!

SOOOO much!

Long story short…I have missed keeping up with everyone in cyberspace for the last 2 months or so.  My regular day job as a full time writer high school counseling coordinator pretty much goes full blast for the last month or so of school.  Thank you for your patience.

I have been gone so long in fact that when I went to the site today it was all screwed up!  Apparently Blogger has changed their formatting specs.  So…consider this an introduction to my new blog layout:-)  Little more simple…I hope you like it.

And what better way to celebrate a site overhaul than to do a giveaway?!?!

WOO-HOO!!!  One $20 gift card to BN or Amazon.com…your choice!  Just a small way to say thank you for your continued support (and patience).  Look for more Sentence to Story posts, reviews of what I’m reading and updates on ‘MAIDEN’ – yes, I swear I am working on a novel titled ‘MAIDEN’ and yes one day you will be able to hold the proof in your hand!

Feel free to share the giveaway with whoever you want;-)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (Through the Shelf Thursday #11)

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA Dystopian/Science Fiction
Description from Goodreads:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Date I Finished Reading: March 16, 2013

My Rating: 4 of 5

My Review: (also on GoodreadsAmazon):

I finally read this book.  Everyone said I needed to; people in my critique group, everyone on Goodreads, and even my wife (who loved it).

What I enjoyed most…

The story certainly kept me turning the pages.  It was fast paced action and the plot kept moving forward.  I also enjoyed Tris (for the most part) and thought her actions and motivations were realistic.  I felt for her and wanted her to succeed.

I also enjoyed the writing style and it pulled me in.  I usually don’t enjoy 1st person – at least not 1st person in the last 10 years or so.  There is something about the constant inner focus that I have a hard time with.  It’s supposed to help me become more connected to the character, but usually it just pushes me away.  However, I enjoyed the flow and style that Roth employed…it did not turn me away.  She was able to focus on Tris, without being completely overwhelming.

What I thought was okay…

I thought the author did a good job with the love interest – Four – and the relationship built with Tris.  It was semi-believable for me and I thought it progressed naturally.  However, Four seemed a little too withdrawn at times.

Also with the book, especially after the reviews I had read/heard, I was expecting more substance.  It’s certainly more plot driven than character driven (at least for me).  I didn’t get connected to the characters as much as I would have liked to.

There is a twist with Tris’ mom that plays a very key role and it was okay, but I wanted more.  There wasn’t a lot of relationship building or emotional moments with Tris and her parents.

What I thoroughly disliked about the book…

I cannot say enough about the world building…which was almost non-existent.  I wanted to get so lost in this world, but I couldn’t, because it wasn’t there.  I don’t remember enjoying a book so much where I didn’t have a clue what anything looked like.

I also had a hard time with Eric, the main baddy in the book.  He is a great character and a pretty mean guy in the first half of the book, but by the second half he has calmed down slightly and is more reserved…almost like a different person.  The only problem is there was no explanation for the shift.

Do I agree with everyone who heaps praise saying ‘this is the best book/series since Hunger Games’?  Well, I don’t know, since I still haven’t read hunger games;-)  So while it was good, I don’t think I can put it into the ‘awesome’ category…not yet anyway.   In my heart I wanted to give the book a 3.5, but because it kept me involved and entertained, I bumped it up to a 4.

Have you read ‘Divergent’?  What did you think?

I Promise…I’m Not Dead!

I just realized it’s been well over 2 weeks since I posted anything…shame on me.  I have been very, very deep into revising and trying to get the manuscript for MAIDEN ready for submission.   Circumstances presented themselves recently to allow me extra time to focus on my manuscript, and I took it.

So for those who have emailed me, wondering if I am still alive, I apologize for the absence of any short short stories or writing posts as of late.  I’m not dead…yet.

But I have no fear, I will be back.  Thank you for your continued love and support!!!

Sentence to Story – Week #6: Time to Vote!

Here are the sentences for the week.  Vote for the one you think would make the BEST starting sentence to a story.

If you want to submit a sentence to be considered for next week’s voting…by all means, enter it in the comment below.  The more the merrier!

The 2 sentences with the most votes will be my prompts for next week.  Voting ends on Friday!

Sentence to Start #6 – Top 5 Submissions (Oct 29 – Nov 2, 2012)

Changes to ‘Sentence to Start’

It’s been almost 2 months since my blog went live and I can’t believe how positive it has been.  The clicks, the feedback, the positive interaction…it’s been wonderful and I have learned a TON!

One of my main reasons for starting the blog was to be more interactive, and one of the main ways to do that was the idea behind ‘Sentence to Start’ – involve other readers/writers in my daily writing process.  It has been extremely fun, but it was a big learning curve for me and it’s time for some changes.

1) ‘Sentence to Start’ is now ‘Sentence to Story’.  I think the new name helps better communicate the point.

2) I got lots of feedback that having to vote on 10 sentences was too many, so now readers will only vote on 5 sentences.

3) I found that I was overbooking myself with working on my novel, regular work, and everyday life.  With three stories a week, along with the other posts, the site was getting away from me, and the quality was going down (not a good thing).  So after readers vote on the 5 sentences, I will write stories on the top 2 (Monday and Wednesday).

So nothing major, just some corrective action to keep things moving forward, trying to keep the quality of the stories and content high, and (hopefully) keeping you guys coming back for interaction and discussion.

I hope you enjoy the stories, please continue to submit sentences, and above all, feel free to let me know other ways that I can improve the overall quality of the site!


PS – I will be taking this week off from any stories to collect new sentences and get my bearings.