Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Now This is a Contest April 13, 2010

Filed under: Write,Writing Contests,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 2:27 am
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Over at Sarah with a Chance (love that title), you can enter a fantabulous contest.  Check out the details on her blog  And let me offer congrats to her – her book is going to be published in 2012.  Yay for her – and yay for us, because it gives unpublished writers hope!

So, I think I have a contest/blogfest problem.  Like, maybe an addiction.  I enter one, and for a few minutes – maybe even a couple of days – the excitement and anxiousness all mingle together and fill my body with this warm, heady feeling.  And then, it goes away.  And I need another fix.  Is there some kind of support group I can join?  Maybe a five-step program (because ten or twelve steps is way too many).

No?

Damn.  Well, guess if you can’t beat an addiction…you try and justify it.  So here goes.

Entering contests and blogfests is fun and a great way to waste your time  improve your craft.  You work on a query/logline/scene and revise until it can be revised no more (on your own).  You enter.  You wait for feedback (if you’re lucky).  And then, you either a) find out what you thought was your best is not or b) find out you’re not the hack you thought you were.  I’ve been really, really fortunate.  The feedback I’ve received on recent entries has been incredible.  Helpful, yes – but the positive remarks also gave me a much-needed shot of confidence. 

And even when you enter a contest – and do not come out the winner – you don’t lose, either.  If you really worked on your entry, then your query/logline/scene is the better for it.  It’s amazing what happens when you do ‘micro-revisions’ – when you work on one scene or even part of a scene.  Every sentence, every word is scrutinized in a way not often done during larger revisions.  Yes, when doing any size revision you should pay attention to every single word – but sometimes it takes focusing on a small section of your novel to really get what that means.  To feel the pacing of your scene, the flow of your writing. 

Recent blogfests – Opening Scene, Murder Scene, Bar Scene.  Recent contests – First 250 words, logline and opening paragraph. 

Results – comments from readers that help me fine-tune each scene or make larger changes if needed.  And that logline contest?  Whew, working on loglines is hard.  But – while I didn’t win – the agent contacted me and said I’d made his top list.  He extended an offer to read my query, and if he passes – to let me know why.  Now, I consider that a win-win situation. 

Hmmm….maybe I’m not wasting my time using my time wisely after all.

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Bar Scene Blogfest Entry April 11, 2010

Filed under: Where Did That Come From??,Writing,Writing Contests — justwritecat @ 1:25 am
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Ooh, another blogfest!  This time it’s BAR SCENES, hosted by Tara over at Secret Story 

Well, now.  A Bar Scene.  Oh, yes….goody, goody.  Joe likes his booze, that he does.  Below is my entry, an excerpt from the first chapter of Seeing Red: Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  Set-up  – Joe’s taking it easy, enjoying his fine single-malt scotch, basking in the beauty of his favorite bartender and regular gal Pamela.  Enter the bad guys.

             I raised my drink and took a sip; the hint of smoke and sea salt teased my tongue.  I took a few more, letting the booze work to quiet my senses.  I leaned forward and set my glass down on the smooth oak bar.  Our eyes met, and Pamela gave me one of her half smiles. 

            She picked up the bottle, her soft, amber hair slowly falling across her shoulder as she leaned forward to fill my glass.  As she topped off my drink, the front door banged open.  The bottle trembled in her hand, and I watched as a drop of thirty-two-year-old single malt missed my glass and hit the bar. 

            “They’re back.”

            I looked up.  Pamela’s head was turned towards the front of the bar; her hand gripped the bottle, her knuckles white.  Worry flashed across her deep blue eyes. 

            Two goth looking wannabes had walked in, accompanied by a late summer breeze and a scent that seemed oddly familiar.  Cloves, maybe.  One of them sniffed the air and then looked at his buddy.  If they were human, I’d drink a Cosmopolitan.     

            I looked back at Pamela, who was still holding the bottle.  “Easy now, angel.”

            She looked at me, and then set the bottle down.  “Those are the kids I told you about.  They had trouble taking no for an answer when I refused to serve them beers earlier today.  I could’ve sworn one of them growled at me when I threatened to call the cops.”

            The first one walked up to the bar.  Just on the outside of sixteen, I’d bet.  Tallish, with blazing green eyes and spiked reddish-blond hair.  Looked like a damn rooster.  The second one stood close behind—appeared to be about two years younger and an inch shorter, with jagged jet black hair and eyes to match.  There was something grimy about the air around them.  And while their scent was familiar, their faces were not.  Didn’t think they knew me, but if they were trying to cause trouble, it was time I got to know them.  And if they were in any way involved with the reason I came to this town, then yeah—introductions were in order.  I was back on full alert.     

            “We’re starving.  Make it two burgers,” the older one said.

            I looked back at my glass of scotch, contemplating the drop that got away.  “Heard of a thing called manners?” 

            The second one snickered; the first one didn’t do a thing.

            “I said two burgers. Rare. And two beers.”

            I looked up at Pamela, who stood motionless behind the bar.  Still looking at her, I coughed lightly and said, “And I said, how about some manners?”

            The one with the green eyes turned to look at me.  I returned the courtesy.  That’s when I noticed something wrong with his eyes.  They were on fire.  Not because of his true nature, not because he was probably full on human blood, but for another reason.  Sick?  Not very likely, not for our kind.  Had to be drugs.    

            “Keep it to yourself, old man.”

            Mr. Jet Black hair snickered again, sniffed, and then put his arms around himself and shivered.  Drugs.  What the hell were these two thinking?  Drugs and our kind don’t usually mix.    

            “The kitchen’s already closed.  Besides, you know I can’t serve minors,” Pamela said.  “You’ll have to leave.” 

            Green eyes stared at her for a long moment, like he was cataloguing her image for later.  And that, I didn’t like. 

            When they didn’t move, I said, “So you don’t do polite, but maybe you also got a hearing problem?  The lady asked you to leave. Why don’t I show you the way out?” 

            His sidekick shivered again, then said, “Let’s go, Jeff.”  

            The first one stared at me, this funny look on his face.  Like he wanted to bite me.  Well, hell—let him try.  I laughed at the thought.

            “Laughing at me, old man?”  That was twice now.  When you’re blessed with immortality, age is irrelevant.  I hated being reminded of that fact.

            “Maybe I am, Jeff.  Now, be a good boy and listen to your friend.”  I looked at the other one.  “Your name’s not Mutt, I suppose?”

            “Huh?”

            “No, I suppose not.”  I set my glass down on the bar, pushed back my barstool, and stood up.  “Guess you do need help finding your way out.” 

            Just then, the double door that separated the bar and restaurant from the kitchen swung open.  A young waitress by the name of Daisy sauntered through and worked her way up to the bar.  Though at least a decade younger, Daisy was one of Pamela’s closest friends.  She was a cute young thing, a brunette with cocoa eyes, though a bit too cheerful for my tastes. 

            “I forgot my gym bag in the break area.”  She walked over to my side, stopping right in front of the two punks.  “I heard voices up front.”  She smiled at me.  “I’m not suprised to find you here, but who are the kids?  Friends of yours?”

            I heard a low gutteral sound from Green eyes, and in less than a second he grabbed Daisy’s wrist and sniffed it.  As he was about to lick her wrist, I moved between them and grabbed his arm.  I squeezed quick and tight, and said, “Let go. Now.”

            He let out a deep growl, like a dog makes when he’s about to lose his bone. 

            I squeezed tighter and heard bones snap. 

            He growled again, though it was more of a wimper, and let go.  As I pushed Daisy behind me, Pamela rushed over to her side. 

           He looked at me and I started to see the tips of something white and sharp poke out from under his upper lip.  What the hell was wrong with this one?  Pulling that kind of crap in front of humans was not only stupid—it was dangerous for all our kind.  Don’t call attention to yourself unless you need to use it.  Vampires fare best when following that rule.      

          Yeah, that’s what I am.  Vampire.  And it was time for my own fangs to come out.

 

Murder Scene Blogfest Entry April 9, 2010

Heh, heh, heh.  I get to kill someone today.  I LOVE when that happens. 

O.K.  – so before you think I’ve gone all ‘nutso-crazies’, I’m referring to the Murder Scene Blogfest hosted by Anne Riley.  You can find the details at her blog.  Check it out, then please come back and read my entry.  Let me know what you think!

This is an excerpt from Chapter Three of Seeing Red: Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  In this scene, medical examiner and vampire Joe Cooper has just received a call about a fire in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  Remains of something that might be human were found after the fire was put out, so he’s off to investigate. You can read the first chapter of Seeing Red here: Chapter One

Broadway Pier—one of over a dozen in the area—juts far out into the water, making it a popular parking spot for the schooners and water taxis that traverse Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  None were docked tonight, which had probably helped contain the fire.  As I walked to the end of the pier, the smells of the Harbor intensified.  Thanks to the infestation of algae that hit every summer, the water reeked of decaying fish.  I took a deep breath and got an idea of what triggered Mells’ warning bells.  There was a faint whiff of something—musky, like going deep-woods, that lingered in the cool night air.  Catalogued and mentally filed—with all the other vamp scents I knew—for further consideration. 

While all vampire senses are finely honed, and more intense than any human could possibly handle, the one we rely on the most is the sense of smell.  The way I see it, the faster you can detect someone’s scent, the better chance you have of staying one step ahead of ‘em. 

The end of the pier was cordoned off with a stretch of grey, fraying rope.  As M.E. on the scene, anything on the other side of that rope was my domain.  I lifted it up, stepped under it, and got to work. 

Every person deserves to have the full attention of another at least once in life.  I looked at the mess in front of me.  This was its time.  And it had my attention. At first look it seemed the tangled mass of grey and black was anything but human.  But it was, or had been.  Telltale signs of Homo sapiens—charred organs, broken bones and several teeth—lay in the debris.  I dismissed the sounds and smells of the others—the cops and firefighters and onlookers whose hearts still beat in time and whose blood still flowed in their veins—and focused on the victim’s scent. 

I inhaled deeply.  The scent of charred flesh hit me first—but then, not much can cut through that kind of stench.  Somewhere in that smell was a hint of copper, but it should’ve been stronger since that’s the first thing you usually detect if blood is present.  Even with a body burned almost beyond recognition, there should be enough residual blood in the corpse.  Something must’ve significantly drained the body of blood prior to chopping it to pieces, and that had me concerned because there’s only one kind of something that can do that—my kind. 

Goddamn.  One of my own had gone rogue, and in a bad way.  Targeting other vampires, leaving their remains out in public view.  And bringing unwanted attention to us all. 

I called over one of the forensic techs and told him to get to work.     

“How should I bag the—remains?”

“Carefully.”

 

Boiling it Down… March 28, 2010

Filed under: Write — justwritecat @ 4:14 am
Tags: , ,

Loglines.  Hate ’em, can’t write ’em.  Not at all.  I think it requires a different kind of talent, or maybe someone who is less chatty.  I’m a native Texan – Texans like to chat.  We like to see just how long we can make a sentence, and then we string along as many of those sentences as we can and make a really long paragraph. We’re verbose, alright?  Which is interesting, because when I write fiction I tend to write ‘small’.  Short, snappy sentences are my goal (don’t always reach my goal, but I try).

My academic writing (in my previous life I’ve been a grad student, college instructor, and academic chair for an online university) is verbose.  But, most academic writing is….graduate students are trained to write lengthy, involved papers that are rarely read for pleasure. 

My very first attempt at writing fiction was academic in nature – meaning, drawn-out and boring.  I quickly realized I had to learn how to write fiction!  Not that fiction can’t be all long and flowing, but for me – it has to be short and sharp.  I think that’s my voice.  I’m not sure, because I still don’t quite understand the whole concept of voice in one’s writing.  When someone tells me my voice really comes through or they love the voice in my writing, I nod and say why, thank you.  But inside – I really have no idea what my voice is.  Some day, perhaps.  But I digress…

Even though I aim for conciseness in my writing, my natural tendency is for verbosity.  And that’s why I have so much trouble writing loglines.  A logline is essentially one sentence that tells your reader what your story is about – a hook or premise, but also something about the overall feel of your story.  Querytracker posted a fantastic article on loglines.  According to the article, loglines should convey three things – the plot, the genre and the tone.  If you can boil down your story to one sentence that effectively covers those three things – you’re in business.

Sounds simple enough, but it’s darn hard to strip away everything until you have one line.  Writing a synopsis is hard enough, a query even moreso….but the logline (I like to call it the hook’ em line)….fuggedaboutit.  There are so many aspects to any story, and trying to find that one key element is challenging.  It forces you to give serious thought to the point of your story – what it’s about, why anyone should read it, why it’s unique. Tough questions to answer.

I’m entering yet another opening paragraph contest, which requires a hook ’em line.  The past couple of days I’ve been trying to improve mine.  Here’s what I came up with:

Booze, blood, and broads – three things medical examiner Joe Cooper can never get enough of, but it’s his hunger for justice that fuels the hunt for a gang of rogue vampires hell-bent on breaking all the laws that govern his kind.

I like the first part, but I’m not sure if the last part is specific enough.  Here’s another one, with a slight variation:

Booze, blood and broads – three things that medical examiner Joe Cooper can never get enough of, but it’s his hunger for justice that fuels the hunt for a gang of rogue vampires on a killing spree during Baltimore’s peak tourist season.

This one offers more detail – that bad vampires are killing people, but I’m not sure it flows.

Here’s one more:

Booze, blood and broads – three things medical examiner Joe Cooper can never get enough of, but it’s his hunger for justice that fuels the hunt for a gang of rogue vampires leaving a trail of human – and vampire – blood through the streets of Charm City.

I like the flow of this one – but again, not sure if it is clear enough or has enough tension.

 And finally, my original logline:

Joe Cooper’s a vampire with a lust for booze, blood and broads, but as Charm City’s on-loan medical examiner, it’s his hunger for justice that fuels the hunt for rogue vamps hell-bent on breaking all the laws that govern his kind.

I like any of the four loglines convey genre and tone, but I’m still unsure as to the plot.  Do any of the loglines really tell someone what’s going on in the story?

I’m open to your thoughts on my hook ’em lines – do any hook you?

Oh, and the contest also calls for your opening paragraph.  Mine is short, so I’m consider combining my first two paragraphs.  What do you think?

     Just me, a bottle of Oban, and Pamela the bartender.  Hard to tell which was smoother.  I’d just had Pamela, so I reached for the scotch.  I poured a double, leaned back in my bar stool and watched as

she started to close down the place.

     She shelved all but the bottle in front of me, wiped down the already gleaming bar, and then turned her attention to a few remaining dirty glasses.  She washed each one, and then began to dry them

with a glaringly white towel.  Her work was quick and focused, and she seemed eager to be done with it.  I knew the feeling.

So this would become:

     Just me, a bottle of Oban, and Pamela the bartender.  Hard to tell which was smoother.  I’d just had Pamela, so I reached for the scotch.  I poured a double, leaned back in my bar stool and watched as 

she started to close down the place.  She shelved all but the bottle in front of me, wiped down the already gleaming bar, and then turned her attention to a few remaining dirty glasses.  She washed each

one, and then began to dry them with a glaringly white towel.  Her work was quick and focused, and she seemed eager to be done with it.  I knew the feeling.

UPDATE – after much appreciated help by fellow tweeters, here’s what I’m going with…

Booze, blood and broads – three things medical examiner Joe Cooper can never get enough of, but when a mutilated corpse is left steps from his favorite bar, it’s Joe’s thirst for justice that fuels the hunt for rogue vampires hell-bent on breaking all the laws that govern his kind.

     Just me, a bottle of Oban, and Pamela the bartender.  Hard to tell which was smoother.  I’d just had Pamela, so I reached for the scotch.  I poured a double, leaned back in my barstool and watched as she started to close down the place.

 

More Contests and Giveaways! March 10, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps — justwritecat @ 1:34 am
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I subscribe to many blogs – perhaps too many given how much time I spend reading said blogs, but I consider it time well-spent.  It’s important to feel that connection with other writers, both beginning and published.  It keeps me going, gives me that extra hit of confidence so necessary for new writers (or maybe all writers???).  And, by perusing blogs, you find out about awesome contests!  Book-giveaways, query critiques, opening lines….there are many contests worth checking out.  And the way I look at it – even if I don’t win, I’m putting myself and my work out there. 

Here are a few current contests:

Dear Lucky Agent contest at the always informative Guide to Literary Agents website.  I sent my entry last week, and learned a great deal about writing loglines (namely, that I’m not all that good at it).  This one is open until March 14 – so start writing those loglines!

Shooting Stars is hosting a Fantabulous Followers Giveaway, where prizes include books & other goodies.  Top prize super cool and perfect for unagented writers.  But you’ll have to check out the contest for the details! 

YA author Elana Johnson has a book-giveaway contest.  Details are here: Signed Book GiveAway  While you’re reading about the contest, check out the covers on the books she’s giving away.  I LOVE looking at YA book covers.  They are often fantastic.  Hmmm, what might the cover of my book look like (hey, it’s important to dream)??

If you know of any other contests, please send along and I’ll add them to this blog and send out a tweet. 

Happy Contesting….

Catherine