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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Massive "Passive" Hunt

   I've met so many incredible people during these last two weeks of PitchWars. The level of community among writers is staggering. Everyone continues to humble me with their willingness to provide meaningful feedback, gentle redirection, and sometimes, ego bruising kicks in the gut that are entirely needed.

     NECTAR has undergone yet another rewrite for passive voice. What is passive voice? Well, I am still struggling with it now. Agents and editors don't want to be told what your character is feeling- they want to be shown. Consider my original first paragraph:

It was already June, and Callie couldn’t remember how long she’d been on the road.
The time since she had started running seemed to blur together. She had managed to catch rides with friendly drivers when the uncanny sense that she’d come to think of as her early warning system told her it was OK, and took buses when it wasn’t. She hadn’t known where she was going to end up, only that she felt pulled in a particular direction, and when she had crossed four state lines and three rivers Callie suddenly knew she was in the right place. But she didn’t know what that meant.

Now, rewritten and revised for passive voice:

It was already June, and Callie couldn’t remember exactly how long she’d been running.
Time seemed blur together after she fled the small college town where she’d grown up. When the uncanny sense she’d come to think of as her ‘early warning system’ told her it was okay, she caught rides with friendly drivers, and took buses when it wasn’t. Halfway across the country from where she’d started, not knowing where she was going to end up, Callie followed an insistent pull in a particular direction. She hoped her odd talents were not going to let her down after all these years. Finally, after crossing four state lines and three rivers, Callie knew she was in the right place. But she still didn’t know what it meant.

     Removing some of the "had"s and "that"s  brings the reader into the action rather than reading about it, and it makes for better prose. Still have to do the "was" hunt and figure out which of the little buggers can stay or need to be squashed.

     Writing is an ever-evolving thing, and you run the danger of nitpicking until doomsday. At some point I will just have to put this manuscript in read-only mode and leave it alone, and just start submitting. As one of my new friends said, "Not like I'm obsessive or anything," lol.  Writers pick at their manuscripts forever if left to their own devices, and I'm no exception.

I'm loving all the new things I'm learning about my craft. I'm doubting I made the mentor cut, but it's been so worth it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mentee Biography

About the Author

Elisabeth Hamill is a nurse by day, fantasy novelist by night. In seventh grade, she had “Famous Author” inscribed under her name on her yearbook cover – an aspiration that, while delayed, was never forgotten! Her first published work, SONG MAGICK, saw its first draft finished during recuperation from cancer treatment and surgery, and is the fulfillment of that lifelong dream of being an author. She lives in eastern Kansas with her family, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse. Elisabeth has a new adult urban fantasy gearing up for submissions called NECTAR AND AMBROSIA, and is working on Telyn Songmaker's next adventure. 

I think that all writers love to live in the fantasy world of their own creations in their spare moments. But most of us are also avid readers, and I’ve always loved to live in the worlds of others as well…I started out with the Wizard of Oz, like many other kids, but then was introduced to Lloyd Alexander, Ursula LeGuin, and Madeleine L’Engle. My dad presented me with a hardback copy of The Hobbit when I was about twelve, and I saw Star Wars eleven times at the theaters when it came out in 1977. In high school I discovered Katherine Kurtz, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and later in my adult life, David Brin and Nina Kiriki Hoffman.

I can’t remember a time I didn’t love sci fi and fantasy. I started writing my own stories when I was twelve. Too many years later (too many than I want to admit to, anyway; I'm still a kid on the inside!) I'm still a novice writer. 

 Writing my first, recently published novel started in serialized form as a way to amuse myself and my friends. When my life took an unexpected, devastating turn, it became a way to keep my mind occupied while undergoing radiation, chemotherapy and extensive surgery due to cancer. 

As I learn to navigate this crazy world of writing and querying and pitching and revising, I'm still a padawan [:)] ...and the only nurse on the block with a TARDIS license plate holder and an Evil Dead ID badge.

Welcome to my world!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Shopping with Gollum

     I shop like a guy.

     Really, I do. I lack the shopping gene that many females seem to have. If I need something, I go in, I get it, I leave. I don't shop. Malls have me running for the exit in less than thirty minutes. Time me. I have little to no fashion sense. My wardrobe primarily consists of scrubs, stretchy pants, and t-shirts.

    Unfortunately, I have passed the lack of this gene on to my daughter. When the time came this week to get clothes for her senior pictures photo session, it was like dragging Gollum out of its cave. ("Retail! It burns us!!") I was able to lure her out with the promise of Starbucks, which, frankly, I was going to need as well to survive this deviation in our normal comfort zone.

    My girl wears almost nothing that is not a fandom related t-shirt, jeans, and Chuck Taylors every day of the week. I can get her into a Hot Topic without problems, but I knew it would be a monumental quest finding a dress that she would agree to wear. I had done some online shopping first in hopes of not having to slog from shop to shop, thinking a vintage look might be really cool and just different enough to tempt her. I found some neat dresses on Retro Vixen's website, pinup type stuff that I thought would be adorable on her.

     "It has flowers on it." This was said with a wrinkled nose, and a dubious look.

     "I think this would look wonderful," I said, trying to fight my own urge to just hit Walmart and be done with it. But the grandmas have been after me for four years to get "real" pictures taken of my kids, and not just candid iPhone shots. If I don't follow through on this, name is mud, since this is her senior year. "Look, they have steampunk stuff, too. Do you want to check it out?"

     "Sure," she shrugged. That is as close to a yes as I was going to get, so we got in the car.

     We hit two different shops (Retro Vixen and Monkey Wrench here in Kansas City. They have amazing pinup and steampunk type clothing, if you wanna look at their websites). In each place, we found these lovely dresses, but my picky Gollum was not having any of it.

      "It's too red."

      "No flowers."

      She loved the dark, shimmery black on red steampunk skirt, but there wasn't anything in the way of a shirt to go with it that would fit her also-inherited-from-Mom voluptuous figure.

     "I don't know," she said. "I really want something formal."

     I was surprised. "Like a gown? A prom gown kind of formal?"

    "Yeah." She brightened a little. "Let's go to Deb's."

    I facepalmed. No matter how many stores we go to, we always end up at Deb's, in the middle of the busiest freaking mall in the affluent county south of where we live. It's a little like an episode of that show with the rich girls and their $30K Sweet-16 parties at this mall. But, we always end up finding something she likes there that fits her well. We should have gone there first.

    We arrive at the mall and make a hurried beeline for Deb's, and she immediately finds some of the most sparkly, fluffy feminine dresses in the store. I'm open mouthed at the things she's picking out. They're gorgeous.

    And they're 70 percent off. Mom scores.

    We knew THE DRESS when Gollum suddenly turned into Arwen as she came out of the dressing room. She was smiling, the strapless bodice of the gown sparkling, the icy blue and silver floor-length skirt looking like something Princess Elsa from Frozen would wear.

    "I love this one!"

     I was too amazed by my beautiful daughter to say much other than, "I love it, too."

    She was so happy that I talked her into getting a casual outfit for the candid shots there too, and she tried on four different outfits without protest before deciding what she liked best.

     Start to finish, from leaving the house to getting home, we were gone for three hours. We were like real girls for an entire afternoon, and I loved shopping with her more than I thought I would.

     We even hit Hot Topic for fandom-related stuff. She's going to wear her anti-possession tattoo shoes with the Princess Elsa gown.