Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Revision Tip #4: Make your Main Character likable, unlike my 7-year-old

So, we're hitting that point in the summer when my 7-year-old Kid C becomes slightly more than annoying. He's bored, whiny, and extra literal. He's getting on my last nerve, which happens to be hanging by a thread, which is burning the candle at both ends. (Revision tip #5: watch the overuse of cliches).

Anywho, I took Kid C to see Despicable Me, and ever since he's been convinced he can be adopted into a funner family.

I don't know why this particular complaint- the one where his family isn't good enough- makes me want to drive nails up my arms. 

It all comes to a big whitehead when he says, "Maybe the Petty's will adopt me. They have a cousin named Michael, and I've always wanted a cousin named Michael."

me: "Well, who hasn't? Listen, why don't you head on over to the Petty's and see if they'll adopt you. Good luck."

So he starts walking over to their house, and I don't know what comes over me, but I yell, "If you're not part of this family, then you can't come back."

And he's all, "Great!"
Here's where I pull out the harshest indictment I can think of: "If you were the main character in a book I would NOT be rooting for you. I wouldn't get past page three! I wouldn't care what happened!"

He tilts his head and looks at me, and I realize he doesn't understand a word I've said, thank goodness, because I don't have extra money for therapy bills. 
(Kid C, with the world's largest shrimp. Seriously, where did he come from?)

Despite the context, what I said is totally true. My first book had a MC whom I thought was adorable. Turns out most of the agents I sent the ms to couldn't stand her at the start, and therefore didn't get very far in the ms. 

I had committed the offense of not putting any of her redeeming characteristics up front. And they need to be there, if not on page one, then certainly on page two. 

She doesn't need to go all Angelina-UN-Goodwill-Ambassador on the world or anything. Just something little the reader can cling to. Something that will make the reader root for her, despite her flaws, and her neuroses. 

Give the reader... something to cheer for. 

Keep likability in mind when it comes to revisions. You may love your MC, but it might take the reader a little while to warm up to her. Massage little nuggets of it into that script. Like this true life example:

Yesterday, Kid C learned how to make meatballs, so he decided to share his accomplishment with the world via a "Meatball Stand".

Meatballs for sale.
95 degrees outside.
3 for $1
6 for $2

We live on a very quiet street, and every time a car would round that corner, he'd be all, "Looks like we have our first customer!" and he'd get his little pen and notebook ready to take orders, and then he would mask his disappointment when car after car didn't stop to order Carter's Famous Meatballs. 

What do you think? Rooting for him now? 
I went from accusing him of trespassing each time he stepped on my property, to secretly bribing the neighbors to come and buy his meatballs.

That darn likability factor. 

I leave for L.A. tomorrow. Have I mentioned this before? I'll try to blog from the event.

Monday, July 26, 2010

And She Doth Bring Forth... BUTTTTTERRRR!

Hey y'all. Prepare yourselves for nothing short of a miracle. 

So, I'm playing the piano in our church for primary singing time (singing with kids) and the songleader pulls out this jar of white stuff. 

She's all, "Today, in honor of Pioneer Day [okay, for non-Utah peeps, this is a Utah holiday, honoring the day the pioneers settled Utah] we're going to make butter!"

My first thought is, dude butter comes from the store. There ain't no way that little jar of white liquid is gonna become butter. (Apparently, my thoughts speak in "hick")

But, I play the piano anyway, instead of bursting their pipe dreams. 

The kids sing the songs, and shake the jar, and at the end of singing time, they have... cream. Not butter.

But it's okay, because the songleader brought her own butter she'd made the night before.

I'm all, "We've been had! We never had a chance of making butter!"

For the next group of kids (the older group) they wanted to start their own jar, not work on the one the younger kids had turned to cream. 

I'm thinking to myself, suckahs. Don't get your hopes up.
But then, because I still believe in Santa Claus, I grab the younger kid's jar, and start shaking. In between songs, I shake with two hands. During songs, I shake with one hand and play with the other. 

And you will not believe what comes next. At the end of the hour, the white stuff in my jar congealed, and separated from a milk-like substance. I stood up and pumped my fist in the air, and said, "I have created... Butter!!"

The song-leader said, "Hey kids. Look. Sister Ashton made butter."

And I'm all, "From a Jar! ... A JAR! and WHITE STUFF!"

The song-leader started to drain the milky stuff, and I'm all, "What is THAT?"

Her: "Buttermilk."

me: "It's BUTTERMILK?!?! This just keeps getting better!"

I took my jar home, and did as instructed. (Placed the butter on a clean dishtowel to soak up any excess "buttermilk") and Sam had the nerve to say, "Stop ruining my dishtowels."

And I'm all, "When God created the Earth, do you think his spouse was all, 'Honey, stop wasting dish towels'?"

I used my home made butter to butter the corn. (Check that out, butter as a noun and a verb). And then I took the corn to Sunday dinner, where no one was impressed at my accomplishment. 

They were all, "Were you sick the day they made butter in Kindergarten?"

I was all, "Yes. Yes, I was."

I'm planning on selling the fruits of my labor. You'll know it's home made when you see this in the store:

I'm leaving on Thursday for the SCBWI conference in L.A. Anyone else going? I'll have a blog on Wednesday, and then I'll try to blog from the conference.

Friday, July 23, 2010

WTH is McDonald's handing out these days?

So, we get a happy meal from McDonald's, and we open the toy to find these:

All I can think is, how many more visits before we have enough parts to make an entire boy?

What x-rated Disney movie are they promoting this week?

Maybe they're left over from the Star Trek toys. Are they supposed to be Spock's or Kirk's?

Anyone out there know what these are?

Have a great weekend! And if you're in Utah, have a great holiday weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Revision Tip #3: How Ready are You when it comes to Revising with an Agent? (Multiple Choice Quiz)

Hey y'all. So, this isn't exactly a revision tip, but it has to do with after the revision. I have prepared a multiple choice test for you, to see how ready you are to deal with an agent who gives you revision assignments. If you find yourself stumped, think "W-W-B-D: What Would Brodi Do" and then do something else. Anything else.

*Yes, these are real life examples
**Yes, Michael Bourret is a patient man/agent.

Before you've signed with an agent...

When your potential favorite agent schedules a phone call (you know... THE OFFER CALL),  you:

a. Answer the phone after the first ring
b. Answer the phone before it even rings
c. Don't answer the first time. Blow dry your hair instead. It's okay to play hard-to-get; Agents like that. They like to have to work hard to contact you. This lets the agent know you will be hard to contact in the future. (Which, as you'll read below, is totally true)

Answer: A. or B. Not C, because that's what I did.

When you decide to accept said agent's offer, you:

a. Call him to let him know.
b. Send one email, thanking him for his offer, and accepting it.
c. Send two emails: one thanking him for his offer and accepting it, the next one freaking out that maybe he really wasn't offering you representation, and the OFFER CALL was really just a chat (because agents like to call writers, just to chat, even if they don't like your work) and you misunderstood the entire thing, and if that's the case, he should disregard the first email, because no matter what happens, you don't want to look stupid.

Answer: A. or B. Not C, because that's what I did.

When your revisions are due, you:

a. Send in the correct revised version
b. Ask for an extension
c. Send in the old version, tell him it's the revised version... and it's totally not okay because he's gonna re-read the entire thing because the most noticeable change comes at the end. So yeah, he wasted his time re-reading the exact same manuscript in its entirety before he realized, "hey, nothing's different."

Answer: A. or even B's okay. Not C, because that's what I did.

When you have to reschedule the revision phone call, because the agent has to have some extra time to read the actual revised version, you:

a. Set up a time convenient for both you and your agent.
b. Make sure your phone is charged.
c. Find the most remote island in the Pacific Northwest, where the hotelier looks at you like you're insane when you have the nerve to ask, "Do you get cell reception here?" and then promptly go to that island to await the call.

Answer: A. or B. Not C, because that's what I did.

When you send an email to your agent, asking him to call you at your hotel instead of your cell phone (because it's totally believable you're the one person in the continental U.S. who can't get reception), you:

a. Call him instead, because that would be easiest.
b. Send him the number to the hotel, with your room number, and ask him to call you.
c. Send him the wrong number to the hotel, with no instructions how to reach your room, and ask him to figure it out. Because it's good form to test your agent's resourcefulness, and you always want to start out your phone calls with the agent saying these words: "In the future, if you have to give this hotel number to others, here's the correct number..."

Answer: A. or B. Not C, because that's what I did.

When you're up late at night, and the self-doubt creeps in, you:

a. Discuss it with your significant other, because he/she can't leave you, because he/she knew what he/she was getting into when he/she got involved with you.
b. Take an extra sleeping pill, and tell yourself it's best to sleep on it. You'll have your wits about you in the morning.
c. Compose a crazy a** email that showcases your neuroses, because hey, you do your best writing at midnight. Address said email to your agent, with the subject line: "Aaaaaaaccccckkkkkk!"

You can probably guess which one I chose, prompting me to make myself one of these:
Six days without incident and counting...

So, how did y'all do on the quiz? At least you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that there's always someone out there who did it crazier than you. I, unfortunately, can take no such comfort.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Revision Tip #2: The Electric Percolator

So we went on our church campout last Friday night. Sam called me Thursday afternoon and told me there was a chance he was in charge of "a large percentage of the entertainment portion of the campout." 

I assume he was using words like "percentage" and "chance" to soften the blow that he was giving me 24 hours notice.

I did what any supportive church wife would do: promptly laughed into the phone and declared, "Looks like you're S-O-L.  Wow. A guy who procrastinates. Could you be any more of a cliche? Why don't you leave the toilet seat up, and then go scratch your nether regions."

Normally, I would be totally up for planning the entertainment, but 24 hours is not enough time. I need to let an idea percolate. 

Afterward, I let the idea marinate:

And finally, I leave it alone for a while to simmer:
(Do not try this at home, because no matter how much time you have, coffee will never turn into raw meat and then potatoes. I know from experience.)

Not surprisingly, this is as close as I get to actually cooking. 

So, Sam's all, "Can't you percolate faster?"

No. I can't. And here's the thing about ideas: if you try to rush them, it just slows down the whole process, and then you get a nasty case of writer's block. At least, that's what happens to me. 

When did we stop talking about camping entertainment and start talking about writer's block? You see how I did that? Smoothly took camping story and veered left toward revision advice.  

If I have three weeks before revisions are due, you can bet two of those weeks will be simply going about my daily life, ruminating.

Ask any writer, and they'll tell you much of writing is looking out a window, taking a shower, going for a walk, leaving the brain open for that a-ha moment.

Now for a choppy segue back to camping story. So, I ask Sam what he has in mind for entertainment so far. He says, "I thought we could hang out around the campfire, and maybe sing camp songs."

What I think is: 
1. Does he even know any camping songs? Besides maybe Koom-by-yah? (totally nailed that spelling, right?)
2. Is someone bringing a guitar? Or is he going full-on acapella?
3. Is he actually going to stand up and say, "Now we shall sing" or is he hoping for a moment when the campers will just spontaneously break into song?

But what I say is: "That sounds great. Go for it."

Because if I don't have any better ideas, I shouldn't give an opinion on his. And I don't have any better ideas. Because there was no time to percolate.

BTW, Sam has since said, "Can you please stop talking about percolating?"

No. I can't.

And now I'm off to go percolate in the shower. It can get messy.

So, how do y'all cultivate ideas?

p.s. Is camping with children ever worth it? 

Friday, July 16, 2010

I'm blogging and camping! Sorry for the late blog. I'm in the mountains, in my car(because I didn't go camping to be outside) and I'm blogging from my phone, while other people watch me, with expressions that say, "poor girl's addicted to technology" to which I reply, "don't you dare judge me!"

wish me luck! I'll give a full report later!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thing #1 I Learned about Revision

I finally turned my revisions in to Michael, and so I thought it'd be fun to do a series of posts about things I learned along the way. 

To start things off:

Thing 1: I can't rely on dreams for book ideas.

It's often the first question someone asks a writer: "Where do you get your ideas?"

For me, the answer is, I have no idea. But I'll tell you where they don't come from: My dreams. Some authors can transcribe dreams about sparkly vamps in a meadow, word for word, and turn them into best-sellers. Not me.

I fell asleep as I was brainstorming ideas for a book I haven't written yet. (Part of my assignment from my agent). As I slept, I dreamed the following:

I go to the store, and - on a whim - buy a little boy, about 4 inches tall. We bring him home, and put him in a hamster cage. After a few years, the boy grows too big for his cage, but we still keep him in it for fear that if we let him out, it would mean we have a third child, and I never wanted a third child. 

When guests would come over, we'd throw a sheet over the cage, because it would be awkward if  -- during the salad course -- they noticed we kept a three-year old boy in a hamster cage.

Needless to say, this is not what I turned into my agent. Unfortunately the strangest thing about the dream is the fact that I made a home-cooked meal and actually invited guests over to share.

As you can see, I get no inspiration from dreams.

So, my first revision tip would be: Expect to do your best work when you're awake.

What are some of your revision tips?

Monday, July 12, 2010

When Revisions get you Down, Here's something to Entertain...

Howdy y'all. So, revisions are due this week. Okay, they're due today. Since I'm unable to string two words together at this point, enjoy one of my all-time favorite video breakdowns ever.

Are you familiar with the guy who said he could chop 100 coconuts in under a minute?

Now check out the breakdown. I could watch this video over and over. And over. Instead of revising.

Weirdly, my revised manuscript now has a scene where a Danish guy tries to chop coconuts with his feet. The scene really comes out of nowhere, and doesn't fit in a book about a girl who's spent a hundred years in Hell, but oh well. Michael's gonna love it.

Now, can someone please tell me how to embed a video in my book? Is that technology possible?

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Recap of the Eclipse Movie For Dummies

The Eclipse Movie in 12 Easy Steps:

1.  In the beginning, Edward proposes to Bella, interrupting her beautiful recitation of a poem in the meadow. Or it might have been her math homework. I'm not sure. I couldn't understand her.
(He proposes every other line in the movie, so if you miss it the first time, don't worry.)

2. Jacob, Bella's spurned other man/wolf, confronts them in the parking lot, accusing Edward of lying to Bella. He tells Bella he's no longer talking to her and he doesn't want her in his life. She must have misheard, because she hops on his motorcycle and takes off.  Apparently this high school is the optional kind.
3. Edward promptly forgets he just watched her ride off with Jacob, and spends the time pacing so hard his eyes turn black. When she gets back, he's all, "Do you know how worried I've been? Where were you?" and she's all, "Derh, didn't you see me ride off?" 

4. She forgives him, and he proposes again.

5. Charlie's worried about Bella's relationship with Edward, and so he begs her to connect with her old friends, who are all totally lame because they don't have superpowers, especially Jessica because she totally harshed on Bella for riding off with a scary-motorcycle guy just so she could see the ghost of the vampire who ditched her. You call that friendship?

 6. Meanwhile, some redheaded chick (not Victoria, because Victoria's all fierce, and this girl is all doe-eyed) is running through their forest, looking like she's lost.

7. In a giant step for equal rights everywhere, Edward gives Bella permission to see her friend Jacob. Bella and Jacob reconnect, ending their fight, and reaffirming that Jacob does, indeed, drive a motorcycle.

Again, it's okay if you missed it the first time. 

8. Meanwhile, the werewolves stand around looking awkward.

(Okay, so what are we supposed to do with our hands?)

9. The red-headed non-Victoria chick is birthing newborn vamps for a war with the Cullens. We know a big fight's coming, because the Cullens are all dressed alike in their team uniforms.

10. Jasper (looking slightly better since he lost his ringlets from New Moon) teaches everyone how to fight Newborn Vampires, because he was in the Civil War, which everyone knows was fought between the North and the Newborns.

(Jasper and Alice, demonstrating the best way to take them down is to hug them in the middle.)

9. They have plenty of time to frolic in the woods, because the Newborns can't possibly cross the river... Oh crap!

10. A big fight ensues, but don't worry, because Edward took Bella to the safest place possible. Bora Bora? No. Provo, Utah? Of course not. He takes her to the mountain top, in a tent, where he's surprised the sub-zero temperatures mean it will be cold. But at least she's far away from the fight. By like a hundred yards. And everyone knows vamps aren't that fast.

11. Bella's lips are turning black, but never fear, because Jacob's there to warm her up, and we finally have the answer to the love triangle: a threesome in the tent. Everyone's happy. As proof, Bella kisses Jacob and Edward's okay with that.

12. Everything's fine until Edward accidentally blabs that he and Bella are engaged. To make sure the message sinks in with Jacob, Carlisle breaks all of Jacob's bones, while the werewolves stand outside looking awkward.

... and they all lived happily ever after.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Just Like Bella, I, too, have a Sun and a Moon

Did y'all see how my main squeeze Rafa Nadal won Wimbledon yesterday? It was the perfect ending to a weekend that started with a showing of Eclipse with the Six. 

The whole thing got me thinking I have something common with Bella. I, too, have a Sun and a Moon in my life. (Okay, not really, but it makes for good blog).


My sun is often shirtless (prompting my moon to ask, "Doesn't he own a shirt?)...

Two hours later: Sorry. Got sidetracked for a while after Googling "Rafa Shirtless". 

Okay, my sun is often shirtless, while my moon likes to say, "Brodi, stop trying to undress me."

My sun can transform (or "phase") into a monster when he needs extra strength. 

My moon has a face like marble: one crack (like a bad haircut) and the whole thing will crumble.

My sun has an animal instinct to bite trophies...
While my moon has a craving for Tiger's Blood slushies. (Although he did have to use his teeth to deliver our son. Okay, it was really scissors for the umbilical cord.) But he has shot a shotgun. Are you scared now?
And just like Bella, I haven't decided who I'm ending up with. Eh, who am I kidding?
Plus, I don't think Rafa's available.

Enjoy the extended holiday weekend! I'll be back Wednesday, with my official Eclipse review. That is, if I get my revisions done. (They're due next week)  How was everyone's 4th of July?

Friday, July 2, 2010

I'm Downright Unholey... aka Surgery went Well.

Howdy, y'all!

I'm out, I'm awake, and my heart is whole again. Yay.

Here's the rundown of the high points from my hospital vacay:

1. The Male Nurse Brigade
I had an inordinate number of male nurses. Which is totally fine. Totally. Except in the pre-op when one male nurse is... um... preparing my... um... nether regions, while the other one is asking me how his writer-wife can get an agent, and I'm trying to answer but all I can think about is the man-nurse at my nethers!

Finally I grabbed the IV in my arm, and I was like, "Do I need to be here for this? Can we put that-" *points to "sleep juice"* "-in here?" *points to head*

them: "Um, that's not how it works-"

2. Forgetting Serum
The doctor came in afterward to talk to me and Sam, and he told me the drugs he gave me would make it so I wouldn't remember anything he says. I don't know why, but when this happens, I always feel like I have to prove the doctor wrong.

So, he started rehashing the surgery, and I committed every word to memory. 

He talked about this:

And this:
I can't wait to tell him his so-called "memory drug" didn't work.

3. Rockin' Support
I had so many visitors and little gifts. The Ballou's brought me an Edward bookmark and Twilight-themed bandaids. 

I put a bandaid over my heart... and the bandaid immediately sucked it dry. Weird.

Half of the Six came to visit:
(Valynne, me, Kimberly Webb Reid, Emily Wing Smith)

Emily Wing Smith brought me these:
The socks. Not the feet.

The Duffins (Linda, Heidi and Debbie) sent me this:
They named a balloon after me, thus ensuring my legacy would live on forever and ... Oh, wait. It popped.

It's good to be home. I received many other gifts and food, and it made me want to have heart surgery all over again. Thanks y'all for your kind words of support! 
So, what's everyone doing this weekend? I think I might see Eclipse. Anyone seen it yet? Any opinions?

Totally forgot to mention BFF Bree Despain's super blowout giveaway on her blog. She also has a peek at her trailer for The Dark Divine, so go check it out.