Friday, October 26, 2012

Look: An Eye on My Writing, and Yours

Hi, everyone! I'm back!

Let me tell you this: Recovering from sinus surgery is an interesting process. And when I say interesting, what I really mean is that it took more out of me physically than I expected, and that it was more intense of a process that the doctor conveyed. I'm doing well and feeling good now, but I was out of commission for a while, and that's why I didn't blog last week. Life happens, even to writers and bloggers.

This week, I'm back to share a piece of my young adult urban fantasy, what I'm calling a blend of King Arthur and Stephen King. I'll be finishing the draft during National Novel Writing Month, and then I plan to edit it and shop it to agents next year.

In the meantime, I thought it'd be fun to participate in the Look Challenge, a blog share that has apparently been popular as of late. My friend and fellow blogger, Kristin Nador, posted on it yesterday, and I thought I'd meet her challenge and post an excerpt from my novel.

Before I do, let me give you a little tip if you're writing a book right now. Try this challenge in principle, even if you don't post your writing online. Here's why: When I pulled up my current draft and searched for the word "look," I was amazed and perhaps a little embarrassed at how often it came up in my writing. I swear, I'm wondering right now if I know words other than look. I do, of course, but man! It seems to me that word searches like this can help us identify lazy areas of our writing... the places where we tell too much, instead of showing the action. I'll be searching for "look" in my drafts from now on, and seeing where I can be more descriptive or creative than I'm being right now.

But... In the meantime, here's that look (pun intended) that I promised you at my young heroine, Shae, who has just received a set of letters from her father, who has been incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital for years. Enjoy! And feel free to share in the comments a link to your own blog if you'd like to participate in the Look Challenge for yourself.


 * * * * *


“You’re losing it, Shae,” she told herself. “Pull it together.” Shakily, she put Sloan's creepy calling card on the bed and picked up her father’s latest letter. With careful fingers, Shae slit open the envelope and reached in. Her fingers hit something hard. Odd.

A key bounced out onto the soft bedspread. It didn’t look at all familiar. What was it for? And for that matter, how did her father get access to a key? Wouldn’t that be off limits? Maybe the inmates really did run the asylum—literally. Swearing softly, she set the key next to Sloan’s card, a mystery to be solved later. Maybe Sloan would even answer her question if she asked about it.

No. What was she doing even thinking about asking him about it? “You’re really losing it,” she said, more firmly.

A pinch of anxiety pressed its claws into Shae’s spine as she pulled out her father’s final missive, written on what appeared to be scraps of construction paper, possibly from some ridiculous attempt at art therapy, just like the first one. Jagged, ripped strips of pink, green, and blue paper had been taped together, and the handwriting was sloppy, as if her father had been forced to write it in haste. The letter read:

Shae,

Need to see you as soon as possible. Must make plans for your birthday. You will be free of the fools who know no better. Free to do as fate requires of you. It is urgent that you choose the proper path, and soon. Come as swiftly as you can, as soon as you get this letter. Don’t delay.

Don’t let yourself be followed. He’s watching, and he knows everything. Take precautions! Beware of those who speak promises. Share your secrets with no one, and be ready to fight for your life at all times. The hounds of hell stalk the unwary, but I have raised you to know better. You know what to do. I pray you will do it well.

I trust you have kept up your training with diligence, but there is much more to teach you. Be prepared for a test when you arrive. It is imperative!

2101 E @ Post. Stam. Lilly.

Your father

Swallowing her bile, Shae read the letter again, hoping another pass through would help her comprehend it, but it only made her father’s arrogant demands stand out all the more. Not even a please. Or a miss you. Or I love you. Ire rose in her like volcanic lava.

“God…” she spat. “Bastard!” She crushed the letter.

* * * * *

Stay tuned for news when I finish this book, because I'm going to celebrate and I want you to join me. I'll do the same for your writing projects. In fact, fellow writer Jimmy Garcia is stopping by next week to share about his writing and his new novel, so be sure to stop by next week. After that, I'll be doing a series of posts on taking and giving feedback on our writing, including some thoughts on ways to work around Amazon's penchant for deleting reader reviews of self-published books. It'll be good, so keep an eye for it.

See you next week!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. Excerpt from work-in-progress used by permission of author. All rights to blog and excerpt reserved.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Quick Update and Random Thoughts

Just wanted to give a quick update to my blog friends:

I'm having outpatient surgery this week, so today I'm not posting as usual about writing. There just wasn't time to write something thoughtful in time. I expect to be back in a week with my normal schedule, and at least an update on how I'm doing.

In the meantime, I'll offer some random observations so you don't totally feel left out of the Chipper Muse's mad thinking.

1. I'm super-excited that the new Harry Dresden book is coming out. Finally. Love those books.

2. I saw today that the actor who played Harry Dresden on the TV series now has a part on the new TV show
Arrow. Coincidence? Or brilliant marketing ploy by Harry Dresden's author, Jim Butcher? Discuss.

3. In all seriousness, I'm doing pretty well on my work-in-progress novels. I know I don't talk about this much, but here's the latest news for those who want to know:

My urban fantasy, young adult novel about a cursed girl (Shae) who has to care for Excalibur (and of course, save the world), is about 50% done. My first set of readers gave me feedback on what I've done so far; I'm editing, reviewing, and starting the book's second half. More ideas come to me daily for book two, and I'm sure the same will happen for book three. Yeah, it's a trilogy, but there's a logical reason for this, based on Shae's character development and growth.

The other book I'm working on is an alternate history and fantasy mashup set in approximately the 13th or 14th century, about a guy who loses everything, even his name, and is sold into slavery. He wants his name back and his freedom, but his owner stands in the way...a woman who is hated because she killed her husband. This was a surprise project that came to me as I was waiting for my readers to give me their feedback on the trilogy I mentioned above. This book is about 20% done.

I hope to have both somewhere in the process of going to print next year, so don't worry, I'll let you know about it when they're ready. You'll want to buy them, because they're going to be good. Working hard to make them a cut above the rest, you know what I mean? And they'll be fun too. So keep an eye out for more.

Now, your turn: What are you working on these days? What writing projects (or other parts of your life) have you excited? I like hearing about how you're doing, so please share!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Networking by Listening: Say What?

Yeah, I went for the cheap title today. What can I say? Today's post is quick and dirty because I just read what is the coolest quote ever. Or at least it's the coolest quote I've come across in the last five minutes.

Seriously, though, the quote comes from a September 14, 2012, article on Inc.com by Jeff Haden, called "Best Way to Introduce Yourself." It has some great tips for getting to know others, enjoying networking opportunities, and not being a jerk while doing it. That's useful information for writers. And in talking about the skill of listening, he points out:

"The best connections never come from speaking; the best connections always come from listening."

That idea resounds with me, because I have found it to be so true. Think back to the last time you met someone who only talked about themselves for your entire "conversation" with them. Do you remember how long it took you to start wishing you were out of the conversation (which was more like a monologue)? Probably about 30 seconds.

Now, think back to a time when you met someone who turned out to be a good listener. How did you feel when you were done talking with them? I'll bet you'd be glad to talk with them again. Maybe that person is a good friend to you now, or a business partner, or a spouse.

Listening works.

I've been told I'm a good listener, and that's probably partly because I like to get my bearings in a conversation and get comfortable before I truly open up. I'm a tester, I guess you could say; I test the waters before jumping in. But I also really enjoy people, and it's fascinating what others say and do. People can be endlessly surprising, in a good way, if you'll let them. And it takes listening for those good surprises to happen.

Listening works well for me. I meet lots of interesting people that way, and I've made some great friends.

But the other thing that's really cool about listening and networking is this: If you pay attention to what others say, you can figure out at least one thing that they like or need. And if you come across something that they like or need, you can share it with them. That is, you can give them something. Like, recently... (And yeah, I'm being slangy today, quick and dirty, remember?)

But as I was saying, recently I connected with someone on Twitter who wanted an editor for her middle-grade fiction book. It so happens I have another Twitter friend who writes and edits different things, including fiction for young readers. And he's been looking for work. I knew that about him because I was listening. So, I hooked them up because the connection made sense. It seemed like they could probably help each other.

Cool. Frankly, I just like connecting people and seeing what happens. It's fun for me, and I like the idea that my friend might be able to help that writer out, and if so, they'll both benefit.

But I also find that paying attention and helping others brings good things back to me. Karma. Whatever you want to call it. I call it good business. Who wants to work with someone who only cares about their own bottom line, especially if there's someone else out there who cares about your bottom line too?

Listening definitely has its advantages. And it's a good way to give yourself perspective on life. It's all too easy to get stuck in your own little world, when there's a bigger, wider world out there for you to participate in. Listening helps you avoid that trap.

Of course, I'm not saying you need to be the sole audience of an excessive narcissist. If you're talking to someone who just wants to monologue, it's okay to walk away. But it's usually clear early on in a conversation if the other person is open to listening to you too. And if they are, it's not so bad to let them talk first and really hear them.

Now, you share! Tell me about a time you found listening skills helped you network with someone, get new business, find an agent, meet a girl... You know, whatever. I seriously do like hearing positive stories and good news, and this is a great topic to share on, so talk to me, people!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.