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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Jokes

Q: What do you get when you divide the circumference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin Pi.
Q: How do you make a witch stew?
A: Keep her waiting for hours.
Q: How do ghosts begin their letters?
A: "Tomb it may concern..."
Q: What happened to the guy who couldn't keep up payments to his exorcist?
A: He was repossessed.
Q: What do you call a person who puts rat poison in a person's Corn Flakes?
A: A cereal killer
Q: How do you mend a broken Jack-o-lantern?
A: With a pumpkin patch.
Q: What is a ghost's favorite ride?
A: A roller ghoster.
Q: Why are there fences around cemeteries?
A: Because people are dying to get in.
Q: What do you get when you cross Dracula with Sleeping Beauty?
A: Tired blood.
Q: Why was the mummy so tense?
A: He was all wound up.
Q: What kind of street does a ghost like best?
A: A dead end.
Q: How do you know if a ghost is lying?
A: You can see right through him.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Plot Strategies, Part III: The Fulfilling-a-Wish Story

In this type of story the main character's wish must be something that seems almost impossible to achieve. The main character may try once or twice to fulfill his wish, but he must fail so miserably that the reader sees just how truly difficult it would be. The main character also may simply wish without making the effort because she thinks her dream is unattainable.

There are two types of Wish stories. In one the person gets what she wants because of who she is. The poor girl wants to marry the gallant prince and when she has a chance to meet him he is so impressed with her good qualities (which the rich women he has met lack) that he wants her to be his bride.
In other wish stories, the main character gets what he wants because of what he does, but it must be unrelated to his original goal. He may loves sports and therefore wants a summer job at the local minor-league baseball stadium. He knows it's a longshot to get a job there, because he is under eighteen, but he did set up an interview.

On his way to the interview, the boy may stop to help someone change a tire. As he gets dirty and sweaty and late for his job interview, he talks to the driver. The driver is opening a sporting good store, but he is worried no one will show up for his grand opening. The main character misses his job interview, because he is late after helping change the tire and talking so long to the store owner because the main character is so interested in what the store owner has to say. The main character finds out that someone else, much more qualified, got the job with the minor-league team.

The next day the main character goes to the grand opening of the sporting goods store. There are few people stopping by. The main character suggests to the store owner, who remembers him from the day before, that he could help the store owner by dressing in various pieces of sports clothes, going outside and carrying the Grand Opening sign that is just sitting in the window.  The owner agrees. The Grand Opening is a success. The store owner offers the main character a job as a sales clerk at the sporting goods store and the main character happily accepts. Though it's not with the minor-league baseball team, he has a sports-related job.

The wish in this type of story must not be filled until the very end. It must be a suitable one for the main character. The main character must be one the reader likes and will root for.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Getting Past the Block, Guest Blog by Author Jo Ramsey


Getting Past the Block
     Last spring, I did an appearance at my town’s middle school. I spent the entire day doing presentations in the school library, and one question that I was asked by nearly every group was, “Do you ever get writer’s block?”
     Short answer: Yes. Frequently.
     I don’t think there’s a writer alive who doesn’t deal with writer’s block at one time or another. If such a writer exists, I’d really love to meet him or her and find out the secret to not getting blocked! No matter what one is writing, there are always going to be times when the story isn’t going quite the way you want it to, or when you aren’t sure what way you want the story to go. Eventually the block gives way and the writing starts to flow again, but sometimes that can take a while.
     So what does a writer do when writer’s block attacks? Personally, I’m usually working on more than one project at a time. I write romance (under a super top-secret pen name) as well as young adult, so I kind of have to have more than one project going or I wouldn’t be able to get everything written that I need to. Sometimes that pace is a little hectic, but it does give me a way to deal with writer’s block. If I get stuck on one story, I just work on another one for a while. Sometimes all I need to get past the block is to stop trying to figure out where the problem is.
     That would be my advice to any writer. If you’re blocked, put the story aside for a little while. Work on something else, or go for a walk, or watch a brain-candy TV show. When you try too hard to push through the block, sometimes it backfires and you end up more stuck than you were before. Or you end up with a bunch of words that you have to delete because you only wrote them to get past the block and they don’t really work for the story.
     If you step back from the story and focus your mind on other things, part of your brain will probably keep working on that story. At least, that’s what happens with me. As soon as I stop consciously thinking about the block and how I can work through it, part of my mind keeps processing and all of a sudden, the perfect solution pops into my head. I don’t know if everyone’s brain works that way, but if you’re fighting writer’s block, it might be worth a try.
     And you might end up with something better than what you expected.
     Jo Ramsey is the author of several novels for young adults, including the two urban fantasy series Reality Shift and The Dark Lines, and the upcoming contemporary novel Cluing In. She has been writing since age five. Jo lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, her husband, and two cats, one of whom has declared herself the mighty hunter of the household. Find out more about Jo and her books, and where else to find her online, on her website, http://www.joramsey.com/.

             

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Plot Strategies, Part II - Story of Problem Solved/Objective Accomplished

In this type of story the main character has, as the title suggests, a problem he needs to solve or an objective he wants to achieve. He has to struggle to solve the problem or achieve his purpose. He will gain ground, but then lose it. He must keep struggling before forging ahead and in the end accomplishing his goal. While others can help or advise, he must do things on his own.

Any abilities the main character needs to solve his problem must be revealed to the reader before he needs to use them. If he can start a fire by rubbing sticks together, for example, he should be seen doing that, maybe demonstrating it to a younger sibling.

Plan the story carefully. Don't let things just "happen" to the main characters. Readers like to read about a character with whom they can identify who solves a realistic problem that they too might face and have to solve.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Favorite Love Stories

In books and/or movies.
Pride and Prejudice (book & movie)  Delightful dialogue and characters
Gone With The Wind (book & movie) The drama of it all--and Will She Get Him Back?
The Thornbirds (book & TV movie) Forbidden love...
Gidget (movie) Great first-love story!
Edward Scissorshand (movie) I cry every time.
Camelot  (movie) again, I cry--and sing along
Casablanca (movie) Putting duty ahead of love
Titanic (movie) love everlasting
Roman Holiday (movie) saw this as a re-release in a small theater on my first date with my husband, when we were in high school)
Katherine (book by Anya Seton) a historical romance in the classic literary sense

What are your favorite love stories?

For some love in YA books, check out  mine:

Snowed In Together  http://www.amazon.com/Snowed-in-Together-ebook/dp/B005M3ITT4/

How to Survive a Summer Romance (Or Two)
 http://www.amazon.com/How-Survive-Summer-Romance-ebook/dp/B0054M6ODG/

The Farewell Season (only 99 cents!) http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/70155

Monday, October 3, 2011

Plot Strategies, Part I

Though every story has a beginning, middle and end, the Happening story is the most simple and basic, and it is often found in picture books. There is not truly a plot, as the main character is not striving for anything, but rather reacting.

A trip downtown, to Grandma's house, to the beach can all be Happening stories. The main character sets off to the destination, reacts to all the new things he/she sees and returns home. There is almost always another character with the main character--a friend, parent, teacher. This allows for dialogue and sharing of reactions.

Sarah might go to the grocery store with Daddy, pick out some apples, stop at the post office to buy stamps, see a neighbor who is also out shopping and then return home. The Happening story is short, anywhere from 300 to a maximum of 1500 words, but more usually no more than 600.

The Happening story is an adventure to the main character, it is something he/she is doing for the first time. There should be a number of incidences in the story and the pace should be quick. Sights, sounds and smells should be incorporated into the story.

People think picture books are easy to write because they are short, but many consider them the most difficult of all books to write.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How to Pitch Your Book to Agents

There's no point in querying an agent about a book for a Young Adult novel, for example, if the agent's focus is non-fiction for adults. With the web and market books it's easy to find out which areas of writing an agent represents.

Have a one or two sentence pitch. You need to grab an agent's attention right away. Which would you read first? Two sentences or three-pages?

To create that short pitch, ask yourself what challenge your main character faces. How does that challenge test the main character? What is the climax? Answer these questions consisely and you can more easily come up with that attention-grabbing pitch.

Of course, be sure to follow instructions for querying. Does the agent want snail mail? E-queries? Sample pages? Attachments or pasted into the email? And be sure to spell the agent's name correctly! (I'm an author, not an agent, but I can't tell you how many times people spell my first name incorrectly--and I notice!)

Query about five agents at a time and have a list of five more for the next round. You may not need a next round, you may need several next rounds. Meanwhile, work on your next manuscript, and good luck!