A Revisionist History of the World

I finished another round of revisions on the MG book y’all! *dances* It’s now in the hands of two beta readers- one who read the old version, and one who will only have read the new. I think it’s a good balance.

I’ve been reflecting on the process these last two weeks, and it’s really a fascinating thing to hold all the truths of a universe in the palm of your hand. With a flourish of keystrokes I transformed my MC from someone who liked her dragon okay to someone who kind of hates him in a way. With another twist of my wrist and flurry of typing, a character who appeared in just a few scenes is suddenly in most of them. Another character now carries his trumpet with him almost everywhere, and another has a sister and a big square bed and glow in the dark constellation stickers she never had before.

These things did not exist in the story before, or were completely different than they are now. But unlike in the real world, things don’t have to stay as they are. Until that book one day enters the world, things can change- people, circumstances, even magic itself. Maybe that’s why revision is strangely terrifying for me. In drafting, I always pants, and anything is possible- but in revision, things exist and changing one small thing sets off a storm whose consequences I can’t necessarily predict, changes to an established way that might have ramifications I’m unprepared for.

Maybe that’s one of the greatest adventures and promises in writing. The possibility that things change.

Maybe that’s our greatest adventure in life, too.

Book Review: I Know You’re There

i know youre there buttonHi Friends!

Today I have for you a new book from a new author: I Know You’re There, by Susan Allison Dean.

IKYTGoodreads Summary: Jill Bradley is a 24-year-old nurse whose life is going great; she’s established herself in her new career, and she’s looking forward to getting engaged to her high school sweet heart. When life’s tide changes and she is bombarded by tragedy, loss, and betrayal all at once, she can no longer cope. In a moment of despair, she books a trip to a Caribbean island in an effort to escape her problems. She finds respite and romance, but her problems have also packed their own suitcase.

Helen Bradley is Jill’s mother. Like many mothers of her time, she has dedicated her life to her life to her family. Despite her best efforts, however, she hasn’t always been able to be the type of mother she wished she could be. She has a secret she was hoping would just go away, but it won’t. If she doesn’t share it with her daughter, Jill, it might bring Jill more harm.

I Know You’re There is a mother-daughter journey, celebrating the highs and delving in to the lows of family life. Can the power of love heal all things?

Review: I Know You’re There takes on the challenge of tackling some really difficult subjects. Jill is like many people – hardworking, dedicated, with a life she enjoys pretty well for the most part and work she cares about, but when an accident takes all of that away from her, the blows just keep coming. She also learns a secret, and with all the different circumstances bombarding her, she has to escape her normal life and find refuge an island, and try to figure out who she really is and who she will be now that everything is different.

I thought the story itself was interesting and had very poignant moments. Mothers and daughters are terribly complicated, and every pairing looks a little differently. This was portrayed well, as was the internal journey Jill takes to try and come to terms with a reality that is so different from everything she hoped it would be.

The pacing was a bit slow for me, as the blurb made me anticipate something with a sinister thriller feeling to it, but there were some lovely and interesting moments in it. The writing style was also a bit disjointed for me, and sometimes I felt as though I was noticeably being told a story rather than falling into one. However, among a sea of NA books dealing with romantic relationships, this book is important in opening the door to addressing familial issues and personal growth. I applaud the author for taking on this challenge. If you enjoy diving into inner journeys and characters who seek and find inner strength, I Know You’re There is for you.

susan allison-deanAbout the Author: Sue Allison-Dean is a nurse who retired from traditional practice in 1999, after working 13 years as a Wound, Ostomy, Continence Clinical Nurse Specialist. She found a second career in gardening after working in a garden center and completing an organic gardening internship at Highgrove Garden in England. She now co-owns Naturescapes with her landscape designer husband, Robert. She has authored several clinical and horticulture articles and was a contributing author to the bestselling book, Touched By A Nurse. She is passionate about the sea and loves exploring tropical islands. She extends this passion by doing volunteer work benefitting dolphins and whales. Sue splits her time between Armonk, New York and Cary, North Carolina, with her husband and English bulldog, Bubba.

Website: www.susanallisondean.com

Blog:  Read-Ponder-Comment Blog:http://www.susanallisondean.com/read-ponder-comment-blog.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Allison-Dean/388024291305521

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17822276-i-know-you-re-there

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/SueAllisonDean

Buy the Book!

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Know-Youre-There-Susan-Allison-Dean-ebook/dp/B00CA9Z2CK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389798418&sr=8-1&keywords=i+know+you%27re+There

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-know-youre-there-susan-allison-dean/1115106788?ean=9780578121413

Just Ask Yourself

What if it was this way instead of that? If he went left instead of right? If it was present and not past? If instead of fire it was rain, if instead of ice it was all falling apart? What if he was a she, what if old was young or youth was aged, what if the tragic past became crushingly perfect?

What if it was summer instead of winter? What if the new thing has a past? What if the secret becomes common truth, what if the magical is mundane, what if the mundane hides something magical?

What if down is up and up is down, what if day begins at night? What if the person you thought unimportant is pivotal and what if the important thing is just a decoy?

What if you did the opposite of everything as it is now?

The Flash By My Window

Hi friends!! I am boiling alive in the firey swamps of revisions, but just wanted to pop on for a second and share one of the little pieces I’m working out in my own book.

The magical one time appearance characters.

So far in this draft I haven’t done too badly, though in other books I have chapters littered with these strange beings. But I’ll use the example I have in front of me.

In the original first chapter of this book, the main character is described as having been in conversation with “Tony, the highschool boy who cleaned after hours.” Y’all, this Magical Tony doesn’t show up anywhere else in the entire book. He’s one hundred percent irrelevant to the story. WHY WAS HE THERE, BRAIN?

So that’s my bite-sized suggestion for your work today. Look through the book and find these sneaky little characters who waltz across your pages just once, never to return. If you want them there, if they belong, find where they belong at least once more in the story. Justify their presence. If not, which of your established characters could possibly fulfill that function- maybe even in a surprising plot twist?

if you need me, I’ll be here, rowing frantically across the fire swamp.

Until You Say It Out Loud

I had a conversation this morning with my sister and I’ve been thinking about it all day. We were discussing what she wants to be when she grows up and she asked me what I had wanted to do when I was her age.

Me: Be a writer.

LS: Do you want that to be your job now, even though you have a different one?

Me: Yes. I love my job now, but sometimes I get tired of doing so many things. It’s hard to have time to write when I have to work and go to school too.

LS: Why don’t you just stop writing?

Me: I have, in the past. But I can never really stop, because there are always stories inside me, and if I don’t tell them, I don’t feel good. Writing is the only thing I could do where I wouldn’t feel like there’s something else I should be doing too.

LS: But why do you have stories inside you? Can’t you just not think about them?

Me: I’ve tried that before too. But they always come back. They stay inside until I write them down and let them out.

I’d never thought much about why I write before. I just always have. And I’ve never been one to sentimentalize writing, in fact, sometimes I’ve rolled my eyes when people say they absolutely have to write or they shrivel up. I’m a practical believer in the Hierarchy of Needs: you need food, shelter, medicine. Writing is none of those things. But then these words came out of my mouth. And I realized it’s the truth: for as long as I make my living off of something other than words, I’ll have to balance two things. The world wouldn’t be the same place, and I wouldn’t be the same person, if I didn’t write. I see the world in story.

So tell me- why do you write?

Developing Ideas the Social Work Way

Figuring out a new idea is a bearcat sometimes. You have a vision of some kind: a character, an event, some kind of high-stakes moment, and somehow you have to take that single idea and weave it into a full-on story tapestry that has enough power to become a real live book. The enormity of trying to create this thing can be staggering sometimes. As you may or may not know, my education is in social work – fun fact – and so many times when I’m plotting or drafting, I find that I use some of the theories and ways of thinking about the world I learned in school to think about my novel.

Here are three ways of thinking that might help you wrestle your next idea beast and tame it until it allows itself to be written.

1) Systems thinking.

Systems theory is an entire paradigm that involves the study of a focal system, the macro and micro systems around it, and how change has a ripple effect within those systems.

For example, say my MC is a young woman working on a historical farm. She is the focal system. Within her, the micro systems, are her thoughts, feeling, attitudes, etc. Outside of her, the macrosystem, is the farm, her city, her family, her circle of friends, etc. If you change any one element within any of those systems, that change will ripple both inward, to the micro systems, and outward, to the macro. One tiny change in one part might be a tidal wave by the time it reaches another.

Thinking this way will allow you to address all the possible places in which you can create change and conflict. It might also help you create secondary characters, clarify geographic region, and identify your MC’s circle of impact.

2) Self-determination.

This is one of social work’s most honored principles, and it is simply the idea that people have the right to make their own decisions and be supported in those decisions, whether or not you personally agree with those choices or actions.

Who influences your MC’s life? Who does she go to with questions, fears, triumphs, or needs? Who gives her unsolicited advice? Who does she not respect whatsoever, and who’s opinion matters to her sometimes more than her own?

These things will all help you develop relationships, along with their inherent conflict, chaos, and revelation. It can also help you figure out how much your MC believes in themselves and their ability to make choices they actually want to make – and don’t forget, you’re the author…but support your characters’ choices 😉

3) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need

If you’re not familiar with this, do a Google image search and keep a copy right by your writing space. The Hierarchy of Need reminds us that human beings naturally focus on particular needs above others, and that change at one level is highly unlikely to occur unless the levels below have been sorted.

If your MC is in a fight for survival, kindly recall that the need for food and shelter will almost entirely obliterate their ability to focus on things like falling in love or the meaning of their life. Think about how extreme their need really is in light of how extreme their situation is, and how those two things can interact with each other. If they are the kind of person who can fall in love without a roof over their heads, remember to explain why this is such an integral part of their personality, and justify it in terms of their development and character.

Note that in some respect, all the levels need to be addressed in some form, even if completely casual, to show that your MC is capable of developing at the level you’re trying to bring them to. Note also that many theorists say very few people ever reach the level of self-actualization. As in a handful in human history. If your MC is one of them, you need to be able to explain why.

Those are three ways my unique educational background comes into play in my writing. What tips can you bring to the writing table from your own training?

Book Review: Solving for Ex, Leigh Ann Kopans

I have still another great book for you guys today – isn’t it a glorious thing, how many wonderful, awesome, amazing books there are in the world?!

Anyways, I have for you Solving For Ex – which is out today! Read below to see why you want this book asap.

solvingforexGoodreads blurb: 1 crush on your best friend +
1 gorgeous, scheming new girl +
1 Mathletics competition =
1 big mess

SIMPLIFY.

Ashley Price doesn’t have much in life after being bullied so hard she had to leave her old school to live with her aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh. But the camera she borrowed from her best friend and secret crush Brendan, and her off the charts math abilities, make things a lot more bearable. Plus, since Brendan is the captain, making the school Mathletes team should be easy.

But when gorgeous new girl Sofia rolls in and steals Brendan, Ashley’s place on the team, and her fragile foothold on the Mansfield Park Prep social totem pole, it’s on. Sofia is everything Ashley left her old school to escape. The only thing Ashley didn’t count on is Sofia’s sexy twin brother Vincent.

Vincent is not only the hottest boy in school, he’s charming, sweet, and he’s got his eye on Ashley. He’s also not taking no for an answer. There’s no real reason Ashley shouldn’t like Vincent, but with the
battle lines being drawn between her and Sofia, Ashley’s not sure which side he’s on. Or which side she wants him to be on.

She does know Sofia is trouble with a capital T, and she’s determined to make Brendan see it.

SOLVING FOR EX is a YA contemporary romance that remixes Mansfield Park as Clueless meets Mean Girls in a crazy mix of high school society, mathletic competition, and teenage romance

Review: I thought this book was super darling, super sweet, and lots of delightfully geeky fun. There are so few books about girls that rock the mathematical universe, and I just adored the fact that Ashely does, and unapologetically. It’s one thing about herself that she one hundred percent owns and takes pride in, and it’s something everyone else completely accepts about her. I also felt the relationship or lack thereof with Brendan was a great, very sweet, portrayal of the difficulties involved with falling for someone you’re already close to in a different way.

I have to be careful here not to get spoilery, so I’ll say that a few of the other characters were portrayed as being extremely shallow and one-dimensional, and I didn’t love the resolution of one thread as it seemed a little dramatic, but at the same time teens are dramatic and see each event as indelibly transforming their world, and because of how that truth is shown this book is spot on. If you like sweet romances, the most awesome math jokes ever, or stories about being comfortable with who you are, both the weak parts and the strong, this is a book for you.

LAKThe Author: Raised on comic books and classic novels, Leigh Ann developed an early love of science fiction and literature. As an adult, she rediscovered her love for not only reading, but also writing the types of fiction that enchanted her as a teen. Her debut novel, ONE, is about a girl with only half a superpower, the boy who makes her fly, and her struggle to make herself whole.

Leigh Ann, her husband, and four children live in Columbus, Ohio. When she’s not immersed in the world of fiction, you can find her obsessing over the latest superhero movie or using her kids as an excuse to go out for ice cream (again.)