Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I passed the "young adult" category many years ago, but that didn't matter as I read Aries Rising. Bonnie, in addition to other publication credits, has published five adult thriller novels, which I probably would have picked up on without having prior knowledge. Aries Rising maintains a good pace - with enough tension to keep the reader turning pages, enough near misses and successful attempts in the plot to satisfy the need for action - and dialogue that reads as real for a modern high school setting.
The story is engaging. The protagonist, Logan McRae, is likable and smart and an "ordinary girl with ordinary teen dilemmas [who] stumbles upon an extraordinary book, Fearless Astrology...," says the the publisher. With the help of the book and her friends, Logan finds her voice as a young woman and as a writer, gets the boy (but will she keep him?), and tries to solve the mystery of the Gears, a group of boys who are vandalizing school property and targeting teachers and students alike.
From the very first page, readers also learn about astrology. The information is accurate and woven skillfully into the story. Based on my dabblings over the years in attempting to create and read an astrological chart, I thought it unlikely that Logan would pick up everything she does so quickly - but the book is well-written and I was able to easily suspend my disbelief and let the protagonist be the astrological genius she is (and find out later in the book that she may, indeed, come by this skill naturally; but I won't spoil that part of the book for you). Bonnie Hearn Hill worked with a professional astrologer, so you can also be assured that the information in the book is accurate as well as fun to read.
While targeted for Young Adult readers, it is a book that people from middle school age on up can enjoy. I recommend Star Crossed: Aries Rising - and am looking forward to the second book, Taurus Eyes, which will be out in May 2010.
Title: Star Crossed: Aries Rising
Genre: Young Adult
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Running Press Kids (March 2010)
You can purchase the book at Powell's Books. (And if you haven't entered the contest yet to win a free copy, see Bonnie's visit on her blog tour on 3/29, below.)
Monday, March 29, 2010
Bonnie Hearn Hill is a full-time writer and former editor for a large daily newspaper. She is the author of INTERN and five other adult thriller novels, and she teaches online and leads a successful writers' workshop in Fresno, California. She also mentors writers and speaks at many writing conferences. Bonnie has been on tour this month for her newest book, Aries Rising, the first in her Star Crossed Series, from Running Press/Perseus Books. She agreed to stop by here at The Writing Vein for a talk and some Q&A. At the end of the discussion are instructions about how you can win a free copy of her newest book.
Without further ado, here is Bonnie Hearn Hill :
That’s what Dot asked me to discuss on this post. I like the question because when I speak at conferences, I always say that true writers, regardless as that indefinable something we call talent, are finishers. You can’t see your writing in print if you don’t finish, and you’ll never see it in print if you rewrite for the rest of your life. I’ve known writers who got so attached to their manuscripts that they became best friends with them. The writers continued revising for 10, 15 years. No way were they going to send their literary best friends out into the cold, cruel world.
Okay. Let’s say you have finished a manuscript. You have the baby in your hands. First of all, congratulate yourself for being a finisher. Most people who begin novels don’t make it through to the last page. They can complete class assignments and prompts. They might even be able to finish a short story. But a novel? Yikes.
I always remember the advice Archibald MacLeish gave to poets. Leave the poems in the drawer. Like apples, they’ll either ripen or rot, but, either way, they need time away from you. So, yes. Give the novel a week or so to rest, and give yourself some well-deserved time off.
When you open that drawer, you need to look at your poem, story, essay or novel with the cold, critical left-brain eye of an editor. If possible, read it aloud where no one can hear you.
Does your novel have a clear genre, and does the word count match that? Are you showing and not telling? Do your scenes contain conflict—organic, not sock-em-in-the-face conflict?
Now, ask yourself if this is a big story or a little story. Is it regional (my first novel was), or would it appeal to a large readership? Don’t be modest. To paraphrase my grandmother’s advice on a different subject, it’s as easy to love a rich book as a poor book. Still, you have to love the book you’ve written, and you have to know your market.
By now you should know if you need to approach small and regional presses directly, or if you need to find an agent.
Okay, Dot. Let’s hear your questions about the next step.
Q: The question about the scene having conflict fits with my "next step" questions. I've had a discussion with a couple of the writers in my writing group about what constitutes a "scene." We discussed the order of scenes and what defines a scene. And that sometimes information needs to move around from the order in which it was written and may or may not need to be chronological. How to keep that organic conflict in scenes.
A: Someone wants something. Someone else opposes it. You need goal, opposition, dialogue, action, conflict, resolution. If you don't understand this, you'll write dreaded events instead of scenes. If someone asks you scene goal, and you say, "I wanted to show the reader..." you aren't writing scenes. You need to be able to say, "My character wants A, and the antagonist in this scene wants B."
Q: Bonnie, your question, "Does your novel have a clear genre, and does the word count match that?" leads me to another question: What are the guidelines for word count / genre equivalence?
A: It depends on what you're writing--and, as a writer, you must know that, preferably before you begin. I went from 80,000-plus thrillers to 50,000-60,000-word YA books. Weird how I can pack so much into the latter.
Q: Once I know the target word count for my story, how much flexibility should I allow in the editing process from the rough draft to the version submitted? (Example: am I still within range if my first draft has 10k more than the target?)
A: Great question, but don't allow for editing. Write it the way you write it, complete with proper word count. If they cut you down, they will give you suggestions for building up.
Q: You also asked, "Are you showing and not telling?" -- This is a common topic in many writing workshops. But I'm wondering if there are any key phrases or other hints that would alert a writer that she is relying too heavily on narrative? And is there a "too much" in terms of showing - or does that also vary by genre?
A: Somewhat, but most books are scene-driven. If you see large hunks of gray with no dialogue or conflict, you probably need to back and restructure.Q: (a) By approaching small and regional presses directly, does that imply self-publishing?
A: Absolutely not. It just means you'll probably take less money to reach a smaller audience.
.......(b) Or simply smaller, limited runs and the PR, sales, and so on being done by the author and her friends?
.......(c) And, speaking of self-publishing: any thoughts on whether that is a good idea for the regional stories?
A: Not for fiction.
Q: There are also different types of self-publishing and are there any recommendations of how to (1) choose a self-publishing type (POD, electronic, local small press, regional publisher, etc), and (2) choose the best fit within the type (example: how do I know if a small local press or printer is right for me?).
A: You're writing fiction. Try to stay away from this. Some nonfiction books may succeed by way of self (not vanity) publishing. For fiction, you need either a small regional press or a literary agent working for you. Don't pay anyone money to publish your book. That's vanity publishing.
Q: If I choose to go the agent and big press route, when do I start looking for an agent?
A: As soon as you know your book is close to perfect. See my comments about the apples in the drawer.
Q: Where do I look for an agent?
A: Publishers Lunch is a great place to start. Also consider visiting a writing conference. You should consider author referrals if you know published authors, and as of today, you know at least one. Let's discuss more in depth once I've gotten through the rest of your questions.
Q: Does the formatting of a manuscript vary by publisher or are there common guidelines I should follow in preparing it for submission?
A: Most use Chicago Style. Double space. Indent paragraphs. Times New Roman, 12 p, no widows or orphans.
Q: If I decide to go the agent and big press route, what is a realistic timeline from my final draft completion to publication?
A: Finish the book first. You could see it in print as soon as six months later or as long as a year or more. Aries Rising just published, yet I sold it in June of 2008.
BONNIE: Thanks for letting me hang out with you today. Hope everyone enters to win the book and iPod Touch.
DOT: Thank you, Bonnie, for stopping by and sharing your experience and wisdom. This has been fun and informative. And I look forward to the rest of this series. I'll be posting a review of Aries Rising as soon as I complete the book (very soon!). It has been a delight so far and I'm looking forward to more adventures of Logan and her friends.
The book giveaway: Post a comment in response to this discussion below by April 2nd. We will select one person who responds to receive a copy of Star Crossed: Aries Rising. Even if you're not a writer, you can enter the contest and join in the discussion - or simply leave a comment with your Sun sign.
For the iPod contest, you need to link to a review you've written or a fan badge page, which you need to do at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming in May 2010, Star Crossed: Taurus Eyes
Star Crossed: ARIES RISING
Love is in the Stars!
Aquarius Logan McRae is a high school sophomore in Terra Bella Beach, CA and has been working all semester to impress her teachers in order to get into the summer writing camp she desperately wants to attend. But when this ordinary girl finds an extraordinary book, Fearless Astrology, her life is changed forever. Applying what she's learned about the zodiac, she lands her own column in the school paper and a date with the hottest guy in school!
But when Logan threatens to catch the members of a secret society called The Gears, who have been vandalizing school property by reading the stars, she quickly learns that she is in over her head. Will Logan be able to catch The Gears, save her love life, keep her newspaper column, and get into the writing camp of her dreams all through the use of astrology?
Genre: Young Adult
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Running Press Kids (March 2010)
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Today, though, I attended the Awakening of the Dragons ceremony. This is done by monks, with chanting, blessings, traditional string of firecrackers and, the big moment: a red dot is painted in the center of each dragon's eye ......this is for good luck and successful paddling and so on. Following the ceremony, there was a paddler's on the water clinic and a tiller's on the water clinic. I went. I have not been on a dragon boat since the Rose Festival Races last June.
And I will admit that I was a little nervous. For those who don't remember (and why would you remember all the little details I posted last year?) or those who weren't following me - statistics are that, if or when a person from the dragon boat goes into the water, it is generally the tiller (the person standing up at the back of the boat) or the caller (the person standing at the front of the boat between the dragon's mane), or during a race, the flag catcher hanging over the nose of the boat is also a likely candidate. So, I was a little nervous. My goal for today was to not get wet; meaning that it wasn't raining (it didn't) and that I didn't fall in (I didn't).
A good day.
And I am now re-certified as the tiller for MissFit Dragons and re-freshed in being a tiller. I will also admit that it came back to me just like they say riding a bicycle comes back to you. I was glad I went out today, as the expert tiller did notice that I had my feet placed backwards, which would increase the likelihood of being knocked into the water by the till. But once I got my feet planted correctly and told the paddlers to push off, paddles up, take her away -- it came back to me. I remembered where to start my turn to get us out of the harbor, I remembered what to do when there was a tiny burst of wind and I felt my control slip a little (get the till out of the water, reposition myself and start again). I remembered where to say Paddlers Let it Run, hold the boat, ready to take her back. I parked almost flawlessly, although Clyde and I have a slightly different approach of whether to go a little behind where we're parking or a little ahead.
It was beautiful. A beautiful day. A beautiful first return to being on the dragon boat.
And I was on the boat with people I didn't know, other than Clyde and Carol Lee. So I met new paddlers and tillers. I met someone who knows someone on my team and saw us doing our workout on the Esplanade last Tuesday.
And I met someone who invited me to be on her team after the Rose Festival races; her team is year 'round. I may do it in my team's off time; or may not. Now, at the beginning of the water part of the season, that sounds appealing. Sometimes I missed being on the boat - about a month after the Rose Festival Races were done; sometimes I was very grateful to get that time back and be able to do other things. But, no matter what decision I make, it was nice to be asked. I was told that I have a nice reach. I was asked to sit in the front, the lead paddler position (I know I have good timing - partly a result of early music training, I think - and that is important to being the lead). I also do really well at keeping in timing with other paddlers. Striking up the conversation with the tiller from another team is yet another example of the cameraderie of dragon boat people. Overall, we're a good lot - friendly, and willing to help each other out, and talk to people we don't know from other teams. I know there are some who keep to themselves and are highly competitive. But there are others of us who are all a part of this giant community and we get along - despite being on different teams. Don't get me wrong, we have our competitive sides, too, and want our individual teams to do well - and maybe I'm only drawn to the more community-oriented paddlers and tillers and callers. But it felt great.
I must also say that I'm proud to be a part of the team I am. Our coach is great and she does a wonderful job getting us to be a team and to do our best, whatever that is. If we were to win, she wouldn't complain and we wouldn't complain. But she has us oriented toward doing our best and being fit. Winning is a bonus if it happens and we'd all smile and shout.
But this is a great community and I sure felt at home on the water.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Being strong is more than physical ability. It is more than being able to stand firm in the face of adversity. It is about being honest within yourself and in your encounters in the world. It is about being willing to be vulnerable sometimes and being willing to open to yourself and follow where your heart and soul lead you. It is about letting go of the societally imposed images that don't fit you, that restrict you, that smother you. About listening to your inner wisdom.
Women are still often not encouraged to go within; to listen to ourselves; to be taken seriously - especially if we cry or feel strongly or want too much. But we still do.
And "strong" does not look the same in all cultures and all countries. Strong for me may very well be different than strong for you.
Below are images of women in different states of strength. And a video of a dance performance, called "Wet Woman."
Take a minute or two to look at all of the still pictures. Then watch the video. When the video is done, look at the still pictures again; one to two minutes.
Set a timer for 8 minutes and ... write. Move. Draw. Build something.
If word prompts help, try this: "A strong woman..........."
Modern Dance - Wet Woman (full Ver) - Sylvie Guillem
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Christi, the site's owner and author, wrote a wonderful introduction, which you can read here. She talks about our meeting and some writing work we did together. Then was kind enough to insert a short bio I wrote.
Make sure you visit Writing Under Pressure later in the day tomorrow to see what the word is and how I used it in a piece of writing.
Monday, March 22, 2010
I am going to be making a special appearance on Writing Under Pressure this week. On March 24th I will be the guest writer for Wednesday's Word. I chose the option of waiting to get the word of the day and then creating a piece from that, which I will submit to Christi Craig for posting. All in one day.
I had the option of taking longer to prepare something ahead - but decided to "go for the gusto."
Make sure to visit Writing Under Pressure later in the day on Wednesday or the following morning to see what I come up with Wordsmith's gem of the day.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I feel sad that I missed it! Hmm - let's proclaim it World Poetry Week in honor of those of us who missed the day - and give ourselves more time to celebrate. *grin*
Thank you, Deb!
Friday, March 19, 2010
Start the music video, keep your relaxed mind open, and take in the pictures. When you feel ready or when the song has ended, let your creativity flow. Put pen to paper or fingers to keys, pick up the brush/pen/pencil, put notes on the clefts, dance.
Go - for 8 minutes. Express what is inside of you and ready to come out.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Note to body, more accurately. I got it. Yes, I pushed a little too hard. I got it. Drained the resources.
Yes, I know. Tomorrow is the final day in this too busy schedule. Then three days of rest. And I'd rather not spend them being sick. This sore throat and scratchy ears and fatigue made the point.
Today I rested (and graded); I even missed practice. Tomorrow I have to work.
Then I will rest.
I "got it" this time. Really.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Two students waiting outside the college classroom.
A: doughnut holes, man. Sugar-coated, frosted, doughnut holes.
B: ooh. Wicked. Really?
A: yeah. I figure, if I gotta listen to 21 speeches, I need somethin' to get me through, man.
B: I hear ya.
A: yeah. Sugar, caffeine, and chew. I'm good to go for hours.
B: awesome, dude.
Impromptu prompt: who are they? Where? What's about to happen?
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Then I think about the money. Always the money. Why? Because being self-employed makes it expensive to take time off work. And the part-time job I have, I might be able to do somewhere else, at another office, but then I'd be working. Not retreating.
Hey, some of the retreats have stipends: writers in residence; some do.
But would my credentials qualify me? Depends, I know. Some yes; some no. If there were a stipend, maybe I could make the finances work. Or take on some extra work as I can and save it up and then. Maybe.
Or maybe I can make my own retreat. Find someone with a cottage or cabin to loan me or rent cheaply. (I know one place that is sometimes available; and a friend who has a friend who....) I'll have to do the cooking myself and that's okay. Preferable, actually; cheaper. Healthier. Unscheduled. Exactly what I want and when I wanted it.
And I could make it a writing group retreat if I wanted; for the entire time or part of it. A time and place dedicated to writing and soaking in the nothing mandatory and lounging and letting thoughts percolate. Just like the coffee in the kitchen. Or the wine aging on the shelf. Good things come from time.
Like the final revisions on my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel.
A retreat for and by me.
Friday, March 12, 2010
One of the poems on my list to interpret is "What Kind of Times are These" by Adrienne Rich. There are about 70 poems on our list that the students will be performing (with five or six being done twice). This is one that stands out for me and fitting as a prompt.
So -take a moment to center yourself. Or go for a walk or a bath or a bike ride and return. Then read the Adrienne Rich poem below. Next start the Ani DiFranco video, Evolve, and look at the picture.
Take 10 minutes to write. Or paint. Or move about. Or sculpt. Create what you see and feel in this week's trio.
What Kind of Times Are These
by Adrienne RichThere's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphilland the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadowsnear a meeting-house abandoned by the persecutedwho disappeared into those shadows.I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooledthis isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,its own ways of making people disappear.I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woodsmeeting the unmarked strip of light—ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell youanything? Because you still listen, because in times like theseto have you listen at all, it's necessaryto talk about trees.
It's nice to see the numbers expanded from last year, too.
How cool that poetry recitation is being revived. Even though interpreting poetry (into ASL) has its own special challenges, I still enjoy doing it.
Yes, I'd come back for a third round next year.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
WOW! Women On Writing Blog: Straight Talk About Self Publishing: An Interview with Miles Nelson of Dog Ear Publishing
Monday, March 8, 2010
As a part of this event, there will also be a book giveaway. Keep your eyes open for details and the chance to win a copy of Bonnie's newest book!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
My partner asked me if I realized that Bonnie would find my post and I answered, honestly, no.
I'm glad she did. And Bonnie and I did meet many years ago; I wish I remembered, but I don't. My uncle Delbert was one family member I really wanted to see more of and the one - I think - I saw the least.
Good news, too: Bonnie will be stopping by here on her blog tour later this month. She will be a special guest and will be talking about where to go and what to do with your novel after you reach The End.
I guess I didn't need a personality transplant. I just needed - once, again - to put out into the universe what I wanted.
Friday, March 5, 2010
The thing about "truth" is that there is very little that can be said to be absolutely 100% true 100% of the time. I know there are those who would argue otherwise and I know there are those who can find things that are always "true." But an individual's truth is often relative. And the truth of a statement or an event or a look or an action depends on who experiences it and where and when.
Take a couple minutes to center yourself, breathe, relax. Closing your eyes is optional - only do it if it helps you enter the place where you are and be present with what you are about to create.
When you're ready, look at the set of prompts and let them guide you to your creation. As a suggestion, look at the painting, watch the music video (it is both sound and visual stimulus), and the read the word prompt.
Notice what bubbles up to the surface for you.
Then create: write, draw, dance, cook, plant a garden. Follow where your heart takes you.
the music video:
of Gloria Deluxe.
Put two characters in a restricted space. One is content to be where they are because that character understands the importance of this meeting. The only negative thing is that there is no food and that character hasn't eaten since morning. The other character is anxious to go home, but can't do it without the first character's assistance, due to a physical limitation.
What is their relationship? Where are they and why? How do they resolve the conflict and both feel satisfied? Show me a story.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Today was one of those days.
Today I set my intention for the session to keep connection to my body during the next two weeks; to stay "in" my body.
You see, it's finals time. And I'm still scrambling to catch up with grading homework before I have those final assignments and videos and journals. I have 3 1/2 days off (all in a row, amazing for me, I know!) after I give my last final and I don't want to spend all those hours on grading.
I have more work to do than there are hours to do them and sleep and eat and shower. Let alone work out and go to dragon boat training and prep for the big job I have coming up next week.
So, my tendency is to dig my heels in and "get 'er done." Regardless of how I feel. No, that's not quite accurate, either. I slip in to not noticing and not feeling on some levels. I slip into being able to function on very little sleep and effectively "forget" that I haven't gone for a long fitness walk for a little while, and so on.
My intention is to not do that now. It doesn't make it any easier - but I'd like to keep "conscious" of the whole me through this process. Maybe next time I will remember what this feels like before I take on more than one human can sanely do. Keeping conscious may ease the transition into not being so busy and I will take better care of myself and not slide back into less than good for me ways.
I will get student work graded. I will keep my thoughts and body intact. I will sleep and walk when I can and forgive myself for not doing 4 or 5 miles. And after those final grades are turned in, I will rest. And I will try to rest a little before then - but I will definitely breathe easier when I'm teaching only 3 (or is it 4) credits instead of 10.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
"Hey! Hi, there. My name is Dot and we lalalalala...." Replace the lalas with the relationship or commonality.
But I'm not. I tend to shy away from that. To be honest, I will probably keep my head down and try to avoid contact and not be noticed first. If noticing does happen, They must notice me. And, even at that, I hesitate to use that potential familiarity to my own advantage.
This is to an extreme. I don't envy the social butterfly who is acquaintance-friend to everyone but best-friend to none. I don't wish to be the kind of person who is always always "on" so that every breath and step and glance must have meaning and significance. That would be exhausting and I have to know what is real and what is less or not real.
Today in my blog reader, WOW! Women on Writing popped up with a name right there that I know. I've never met her, but, gasp, the featured interviewed writer is a relative. (Or was a relative; her marriage to my paternal uncle lasted 16 years - and that ending was a long time ago.) My uncle was a writer - whom I rarely saw. He lived an exotic life in other cities and was married several times. I never met this wife - only heard of her in whispers for reasons that are publicly available on the eHarlequin website.
But now, Bonnie Hearn Hill has written a popular YA series, the first book, Aries Rising, has just come out and she's taking it on tour. WOW! talks to her about this book and her jealousy-inducing three-book-deal on their blog.
And I thought, for a minute, "Cool! A connection. A published author (she has a bunch of mystery books before the YA) with newspaper experience." And I imagined for another minute that I could call her up and say
"Hi, my name is Dot Hearn and, why yes, we are sort of related in a long ago and distant kind of way. And I am an author, too, and can you help me get an agent and an editor and a publisher, please?"
That bubble burst really quickly. But for a moment I almost imagined Me being a They with connections.
And a book deal.
With royalty checks and plenty of hours to think and percolate stories and have literary gems roll off my fingertips with minimal effort. And trips and retreats and bubble baths and. Time.
Hey, Bonnie, remember me? Oh, right, we never met.