Hey there, lovely! I found you some free reads!
Scifi, fantasy, superhero, romance...drop me your e-mail and I'll send 'em with love! ^_^

What can I do for you?........Free Fic…....Writing_Tips
...Interviews…............Interactive Resumebyjenfinelli.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Protagonist Cafe--Share Your Protag With Me! Blogfest

You have an awesome protag. You love to share him, or her, with the world.

Share your protag with me!

I'm an interdimensional reporter. I like to ask questions, and I like to analyze. Even in our world, I've made part of my living asking interesting questions of interesting people and things. I'd like to step out of our world, into the worlds you've created, hang out in an imaginary eatery of your choice, and ask your protag/evil guy/random minor character some questions.

Why? First, it gets you a tiny bit more publicity--a tiny bit more hype about that gorgeous WIP. But secondly and more importantly, it can strengthen character development, and it's fun. Do not underestimate the power of fun to jump-start your writing. I interviewed a space-ninja here and my writing and his character development became better for it. When your MC is forced to answer questions you didn't think of--shoved into situations that didn't come from the tidy place in your head he belongs--well, good things happen. Mostly fun things, IMHO. Isn't fun part of the reason we all began writing in the first place?

How does this work? Leave a comment below explaining how you prefer to be contacted. I will contact you with questions for your character, you'll give us the setting, and we'll 'chat' back and forth for about 250-400 words.

THIS could be fun, people. Have some fun with me?

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Both John Krissalas and Katrina Sincek tagged me in this "Next Big Thing" Blog Hop--go back and check their Big Things out!

A lot of you already know I've got a story
awaiting representation about a comic book character who shoots his author. That gets a lot of hype already--it's my popular child--so I'm going to introduce you to the quiet kid in the family.

You know it's a noisy family when the quiet kid tells stories about space ninjas.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

1. What is the working title of your book? /2. Where did the idea come from?/3. Genre?

Neodymium Sacrifice is a YA sci fi space opera that comes from years of good friendships and sibling rivalries, and a healthy dose of insanity, kick-assery, and philosophy.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The kid who played Spiderman in the new Amazing Spiderman movie should play JE, the teenage pilot who tries to bring medical supplies to needy soldiers, but crash-lands on a planet made of diamond and finds himself attacked by an insectoid-bear!

Dakota Fanning would play Juju, the pre-teen princess who tests robots meant to protect children in warzones--but accidentally loses her robot, unleashing a killing machine on civillian populations. The robot only responds to her face, so she has to catch it and bring it back!

Then awesome youtuber Ryan Higa would play Roz Bereens, the brave space ninja searching all over the galaxy for a cure for his best friend Lem--a cure he believes his worst enemy possesses.

Finally, if Sigourney Weaver were a teenager, her hard-core attitude could play Lem, the 17-year-old space ninja whose bad genetic reaction to a bio-weapon traps her in her own mind. When she's finally healed and awakens, she finds out her entire family's disappeared, and a megalomaniac dictator-wanna-be is mind-controlling Lem's allies with her own secret weapon. Worst of all, Lem's trip inside herself convinces her she's got more in common with the megalomaniac than she wanted to admit; she wants to save her universe, but now she may need to save herself first.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When a lethal bioweapon traps space-ninja Lem Benzaran in her own mind, she must fight for her sanity while her best friend finds a cure--before Lem's own personal secret weapon destroys her family.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I really need the structure of traditional publishing.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A little less than a year.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I hate comps with a passion. I guess anything by Kathy Tyers meets Across the Universe by Beth Revis?

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The book's inspired by a childhood game my little brother invented. My siblings and I would team up with our alien friends to battle a megalomaniac who longed to take away our freedom! I don't think we really knew what 'freedom' meant back then, but now it's a tale about children's rights, and two conflicting definitions of 'freedom.' The 'bad guys' aren't really just 'bad'--there's a motive to the madness. They believe they can force intellectual freedom and defeat ignorance by eliminating the ignorant; part of this means destroying dangerous 'freaks of nature' and 'schizophrenics' who talk to invisible, interdimensional beings. Like our protags.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Neodymium maces and oxidizing death-cartridges from flayer guns! Seriously, I love the crazy new weapons and beautiful worlds. This book also celebrates a unique cross-species diversity with a ton of different sentient beings.

Thanks for reading! I don't have 5 people to tag, but I can tag:

Stacey Nash

T.Z. Wallace

Friday, November 9, 2012

Leave me be, cursed Muse!

This is part of the Thursday's Children Blog Hop about what inspires our writing. Linky below!

Dreams. Just as I'm settling to fix a story about space-ninjas, my Muse comes to me in a dream. With an absolutely fabulous story idea that I'm instantly loving.

NO! I don't even know how to pitch this new story yet. Just a crazy awesome dream--

I've got this female secret agent who's a little heavy-set--"too fat to be suspicious," she jokes. She likes My Little Pony and autumn. Her name's Jordan. She's stealing US military intelligence for South Sudanese freedom fighters.

Then I've got David. He's a palladin battling anger issues. He longs to make the world a better place, but every now and then he's possessed with the desire to hurt everyone he meets. He's supposed to capture the spy stealing US military intelligence. And he hates her.

But the way she laughs--the way she wriggles out of his grip when he catches up to her--and the way her philosophizing rends his heart in the e-mails that pass between them--David's taken with her.

Jordan finds sanctuary in a coven of monastic mountain-dwellers. She's learning meditation, farming, and basket-weaving while she heals from battle-scars--as David desperately tries to prove she exists so he can arrest her. But as he gets closer to flushing her out, he's terrified: he doesn't want to find out if he loves her more than he hates her.

YES I want this book to happen. The dream was awesome, and I want to be in more of that.


Dear God,
You're driving me crazy.
I love it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pitch First, Novel Later?

I don't know what you're like 'in-between projects,' but I'm a confused nervous wreck who just wants to read webcomics all day. So now that I've fixed up my story about the comic book character who shoots his author, I'm starting back on a high sci-fi to keep me from going insane while I wait for agents and possible revisions. Because I'll never get any of my day-work or studying done if I don't have a novel to keep me from reading webcomics all day.

I've got an idea, and I'd like to see what you think. This time, I'm not just diving in and writing the frikkin thing, even though it's all outlined and everything. This time, I'm writing the pitch first. I've had novels flop before (back in high school--DON'T TELL ANYONE GASP) because they didn't have coherency, and I found that the pitch for Issue 339 kept me going through those dead moments of, "does this book actually matter?"I knew exactly what my nerdy vengeful inner-Jason-Todd wanted to tell everyone, and I knew what I wanted to sell. If I needed a reminder, I went back to the pitch. While the book did end up going just a bit longer than I wanted, having the pitch early in the process kept me cutting as we went along. 80,000 words is much more reasonable than the, say, the ridiculous 150,000-word fluff I wrote back in high school.

I hope this pitch-to-myself-first thing works for this new story. I'm nervous as heck, because I really don't want to dive into a story and find it's unsaleable. I want to figure that out BEFORE I spend three months of my life churning out my soul. Too bad I can't, yannow, just put my pitch out there for an un-started novel and ask if it sounds like something an agent would pick up.

But that's the whole risky beauty of it, isn't it? In the end, we can't be certain. We hide from our families and friends, type like drunk sloths late into the 5 AM and 6 AM hours and then drag ourselves back into our 'day-jobs' three hours later. (Yes, I type like a drunk sloth at 6 AM--don't you?) We may not know if burning out our health or slowing down our social lives actually pays off. It's like jumping off a cliff, only without the excitement and the, yannow, death. It's like deciding to jump off a cliff day after day until you either learn to fly, or the cliff goes away. It's like being a bird.

Welp, that all sounds very ridiculous to me, but everything sounds ridiculous at 6 AM. What do you think? How do you decide your story's worth writing? Do you write only for yourself, or are you writing for a reader? What keeps you going through sloughs of doubt? And does it help to pitch first? Post in the comments below! Or just answer in your head--that's okay, too.

Here's the new story idea--
This morning, Lem's little brother crash-landed on a space flight trying to smuggle medicines to needy settlers. This afternoon, Lem's little sister 'misplaced' a super-powered killing machine somewhere in an infinite ocean. This evening, Lem's best friend will help her try out a shock-weapon that will backfire and slowly dissolve Lem into a sentient goop. This is normal stuff: Lem's a teenage intergalactic ninja, and her family fights alongside aliens of all species to stop a megalomaniac from 're-organizing' their galaxy into uniformity.

Now Lem's dying and trapped in her own head. She battles her way through terrifying memories while her best friend searches the galaxy for a cure--but when he finally manages to heal her, she awakens imprisoned in an underground sand-castle, not hidden in the hospital where she fell asleep. She also finds out her entire family's disappeared, and the megalomaniac dictator-wanna-be is mind-controlling Lem's allies with her own secret weapon. Worst of all, Lem's trip inside herself convinced her she's got more in common with the megalomaniac than she wanted to admit; she wants to save her universe, but now she may need to save herself first.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Author Interview with Joan Y. Edwards

Mrs. Edwards taught a writing workshop over at the Muse Online Writer's Conference, where I got a chance to hear a little about her work. My favorite thing about this interview is the positive message Joan brings about not giving up--so do read on!

Petre Pan: First off, you're already published as a children's book writer and illustrator. What's the key? In other words, what do you write, and why does it succeed? Tell us about your work, and share a few tips with us.

Joan Edwards: Thank you for interviewing me for your blog. I am very honored to be with you and your readers today. The key to getting your book published is “believing with unwavering faith that it will be published.” This means that you educate yourself and inspire yourself to keep on going towards publication. I believe if you are open to it and search for it, you will find your key to publication.

I write from my heart. I care about people, young and old. I do research. I read the craft books recommended by those who have made it. I read. I write. I share what seems to work for the pros. I share what has worked for me in my experience. I revise.

I teach. I love to teach. In teaching others, I learn the topic under study, even more deeply. I study the work of others by critiquing or reading books.

I love to learn something new. It inspires me. Even little things like a butterfly passing near me, inspires me. New inventions inspire me, not only because they are nifty, but also I know they didn’t listen to those voices that said, “IT CAN’T BE DONE. YOU CAN’T DO IT.” Hurray for them.

I believe this is why I succeed. Like the energizer bunny, I keep on going.

Petre Pan: Here's a curveball. What is the most important sound in the world--if you had to sum up the entire world in one sound, what would that sound be?

Joan Edwards: The most important sound in the world, if I had to sum up the entire world in one sound, would be the sound of the waves hitting on the shore. To me, it means that life continues on, that there is a rhythm to living, that I can depend on this continuous sound. That there is hope for my dreams and fun for my days. All I have to do is look for it and listen.

Petre Pan: What sound would describe your writing style? 

Joan Edwards: The sound that describes my writing style is the sound of laughter, perhaps an inner giggle or a smile but a pleasant sound of laughter as a path to wisdom.

Petre Pan: What word do you overuse when you write? 

Joan Edwards: When I write my first drafts, I use “then” way too many times. At one time I started every new paragraph with “then.” It is a most unnecessary word, yet I need it to get down the drafts out of my head into the computer. At revision time, I delete or replace them or with better words. I use the “find” factor in Word to find the ones that hide out from me. When revising this paragraph, I had to delete a “Then.”

Petre Pan: What's the most challenging part of the writing process for you? 

Joan Edwards: The most challenging part of the writing process for me has been writing the pitch, the short summary of a story. I spent the last four years researching “pitch” in order to improve my writing and help others, too. The pitch is tricky. It has to have the plot and the emotional element that pulls readers, editors, and agents to your story. I discovered that if I write the pitch for the story first (even before I write the first draft), that I almost guarantee myself that my story will have a great plot and emotional hook. The pitch can change; the characters can change, the emotional tugs can change, the bad things that happen can change. However, writing it out in the beginning gives me a path to follow: A path with wonderful characters, conflicts, dilemmas, responses, choices, and decisions. 

Petre Pan: What's the hardest disappointment you've ever experienced in your writing/publishing journey?

Joan Edwards: The hardest disappointment I ever experienced in my writing/publishing journey was submitting Flip Flap Floodle to many publishers and receiving the “No” response. It was a story I made up when I was a little girl 5 years old. I told it to everyone in my family. I told it to neighbors. I told it when I was babysitting. I told it when I became a teacher. People remembered the story and the happy little duck’s song even as many as 30 years later. It was a double whammy when publishers said they wouldn’t consider illustrations by a person who was not a professional artist.

When I retired from teaching in 1998, I spent full-time emphasis on it. I made promise to myself. “I will submit to publishers for five years. If after five years, I do not receive a “Yes.” I will self-publish the book. I repeatedly submitted my manuscript for five years. I continuously received a “No” from each.

Five years later, I followed through with my plans for self-publishing Flip Flap Floodle. I also enhanced my illustrations using Corel’s Painter software. I chose BookSurge for my publisher.
Amazon bought BookSurge and transferred printing of their books to CreateSpace. Luckily for me, color was introduced by the year 2004 when I self-published it.

Today, Flip Flap Floodle is available as a paperback and as an ebook for both Kindle and Nook.
Flip delights the hearts of children and adults everywhere. Below are links on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Flip-Flap-Floodle-Joan-Edwards/dp/1594572852/
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/flip-flap-floodle?r=1

I continued with my dream which was to have a book published by a traditional publisher. 4RV Publishing  will release Joan’s Elder Care Guide in June, 2015.

Now my dream is to be a New York Best-Selling author.

Petre Pan: What's the greatest achievement/happiest high you've reached on your writing journey?

Joan Edwards: My greatest achievement/happiest high I’ve reached on my writing journey is the fact that 4RV Publishing said, “Yes,” when I pitched it during the 2010 Muse Conference. And that In 2011, Vivian Zabel, President sent me a contract to publish “Joan’s Elder Care Guide” with practical advice that empowers both the elder and the caregiver that I learned from taking care of my mother for 14 years. I sang and danced all around the house. A smile still lingers on my face and in my heart. It was a wonderful moment. When the book actually comes out, you’ll be able to hear me on Broadway.

Petre Pan: What do you do outside of writing?

Joan Edwards: Outside of writing,
    Go to church.
    Pick up one of my grandchildren from school each week to have an adventure together
    Spend time with my family
    Spend time with my friends.
    Shop.
    Go to movies.
    Watch football games and westerns with my husband
    Travel to the beach or the mountains in neighboring states
    Travel to New York, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada, Oregon, or Washington to visit with family and friends or to explore on my own.

Petre Pan: What's the best writing advice you've received (that you remember)? 

Joan Edwards: The best writing advice I’ve received was to study the greats and to keep writing. Another was to “Write what you like to read” which I turn around and say “Read what you like to write.”

Petre Pan: Finally, I noticed from your website that you're a woman of faith, or, as I like to say, a God-follower. How has that impacted your writing journey?

Joan Edwards:  In 1980’s my first writing on the web was an email from Hemby Bridge School in Indian Trail, NC sent to California. I received an answer within minutes. I was hooked. It was truly fascinating.
In 2001 I noticed that our church, St. John Neumann had a website. My dream at that time was to make a difference to children. I wanted to reach the child that might not get to church. One that might be sick or no one to take them there. I thought they would be happy to do an interactive wordsearch or crossword puzzle using the words of the Gospel read for that particular Sunday. I taught Children’s Liturgy and explained the Gospel to the children at our church. I thought that perhaps they would like a devotional online that explained the Gospel in words they understood.
I asked our pastor, Father Thomas Meehan if I could put devotionals and puzzles on the church website. He said, “Yes. Send them to John Silvestri.” I kept sending the puzzles and devotionals so quickly that John got overwhelmed. Another thing that totally surprised me and helped me realize I was doing what God wanted me to do was that in 6 months, I had 2,000 readers of the puzzles and devotionals. Teachers wrote me asking me to do them ahead of time.
That’s when I decided I needed a website of my own. Since I enjoyed learning about how to do things, I took an online course on how to set up your own website. I created my own website in July, 2002. Another surprise, I had 2,000 more readers on my website before 6 months was up. Almost unbelievable for me, but the statistics told me it was true. I was very thankful to God. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. It looked like I was doing that with the help of the religious education teachers of many faiths, not just Catholics, and not only in America, but in Scotland, Australia, the Philippines, too.
As of October 19, 2012
    My website, www.joanyedwards.com lists more than 55,200 visitors since July, 2002.
    My Never Give Up Blog, www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com lists 33,836 views since October 9, 2009.
If you combine them, that’s 89,036 visitors/views in ten years. Almost 9,000 views a year. That is one reason that I keep on writing. People keep on reading and responding to my work. The interaction hooks me. Blogging brings me even more interaction. I love it.
Just like a character in a story, my goal has changed from making a difference in the lives of children to making a difference in the lives of everyone I meet in person or online...both children and adults.
Like Flip Flap Floodle, my personal mantra is Never Give Up. At one time in my adult life, I did want to give up. However, God helped me through that time. He sent the right people to help me look at things differently. I want to encourage others in their journeys. I want to deter them from giving up. I want to help them reach their dreams. In doing this, I feel I will reach my goals and reach my dreams. I am enjoying the journey. I plan to get there. God is showing me how.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Author Interview with Nathaniel Lee

 Short-story author Nathaniel Lee is a professional magazine editor and a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America with over 18 publishing credits. I had the honor of reading some of his tales back when he was a member of critters.org, and let me tell you, you're in for a treat if you've never read his work. Check out his short-short fiction here at Mirrorshards (buy the collection here), and see his most recent dragon tale at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show!

Petre Pan: First off, in my opinion you're a short story fantasy and sci fi
  KING--and you've alredy racked up a fair number of short story writing creds
  to prove it. What's the key? In other words, what do you write, and why does
  it succeed? Share a few tips with us.

  Nathaniel Lee:

I think you have me confused with Tim Pratt.  :-D

What I write is basically whatever interests me.  Generally I get
either a striking image or brief scene, more rarely a really
interesting character who needs a plot, and rarest of all a premise
without plot or character to go in it (which I find most difficult to
flesh out into a proper story.)  The stories generally crystallize out
from there.  Genre-wise, I'm probably closest to magical realism, if
I'm allowed to pick snooty pretentious genres.

As to why something succeeds, I have no idea.  No, really.  I have
several stories that I think are the cat's pajamas, and a couple of
them are literally running out of places to even be submitted.  Other
times, I've sent in a submission more to get it out of my hair for a
while than out of any real thought that it would succeed and then been
stunned by an acceptance note (or at least a personal note from the
editor where I'd previously gotten only forms.)

I guess that's really the only "tip" I have that I feel is worth a
darn to anyone other than me: you gotta keep trucking.  Butt in chair,
words on screen, stories on submission.  If you don't have your
stories in someone's slushpile, then your chances of getting published
are zero.  Can't get worse than that, so might as well ship 'em out
the door, ne?

Petre Pan: Here's a curveball. What is the most important sound in the
 world--if you had to sum up the entire world in one sound, what would that
 sound be?

 Nathaniel Lee:

Flussssshhhhhh...ding!  Wobbity-wobbity-

 Petre Pan: What sound would describe your writing style?

 Nathaniel Lee:

A simmering saucepan.

 Petre Pan: What word do you overuse when you write?

Nathaniel Lee:

"A bit."  Also "rather."  I blame an overdose of Monty Python in my
formative years.

 Petre Pan: What's the most challenging part of the writing process for you?

  Nathaniel Lee:

Oh, god, the editing.  I hate hate hate reading my own work.  I have
stories that are months old because I have to retype them to get a
digital copy and I can't bring myself to do it.

Luckily, I tend to produce pretty polished first drafts, so I don't
usually have much heavy editing to get done.  (Honestly, if I have a
story that needs major structural revisions, I tend to just toss it in
the 'graveyard' folder and start over from scratch in a year or so;
that one clearly wasn't ready yet.)

Petre Pan: What's the hardest disappointment you've ever experienced in your
  writing/publishing journey?

 Nathaniel Lee:

"Weird Tales."  I looooved the 'zine under Mz. Vandermeer.  I was
willing to give it a shot even under the new management, but then that
whole kerfuffle with "Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls" happened (where
Marvin Kaye posted a glowing review and a chapter excerpt of that
heinous little book and followed up by claiming that everyone who
thought it was kind of really appallingly racist were all just
knee-jerk haters who didn't understand subtlety.  And then when the
Internet went "WTF?" he tried to fix it by deleting the original
editorial and culling comments and whatnot.)  I and a lot of other
writers I know withdrew submissions on the grounds that that was A)
super tasteless and B) showed really poor business/publicity sense.
He never did post his promised follow-up article talking about the
whole mess, either.

The worst part was that the submission I withdrew had been accepted
and was awaiting a contract.  :-(  :-(  :-(

Yeah, I know.  I did it to myself.  Quit whining.  But man, that still
upsets me.

  Petre Pan: What's the greatest achievement/happiest high you've reached on
  your writing journey?

  Nathaniel Lee:

Probably that first sale of "Concrete" after 18 months of nothing.
I'd started to think about just quitting entirely.

I will also note:
- Getting my third professional sale (Thanks, Daily Science Fiction!)
and thus becoming SFWA eligible.
- Getting into IGMS, which is probably the biggest-name magazine I've
been in to date
- Alasdair Stuart describing me as having "a sun for a brain."  Al
rocks.  Pseudopod 4 Life!  (I've sold three stories there so far, and
they're one of my favorite podcasts, bar none.)

  Petre Pan: What do you do outside of writing?

  Nathaniel Lee:

I am an enormous nerd.  Not in the watered-down sense of the word
where everyone who enjoyed Lord of the Rings or who plays Call of Duty
is now a "nerd."  I got beaten up, I was a complete weirdo as a kid;
I've got my street cred.  I do roleplaying games.  I do *indie*
roleplaying games, not just D&D (though I can tell D&D war stories for
hours, too).  I make a pilgrimage to GenCon.  I've got a closet full
of probably fifty or sixty board games.  (No, not Monopoly.)  My wife
and I spent thousands of dollar on "The Emissary" from Geek Chic, a
dining room table with fold-out drawers for character sheets and dice
and a six-inch recessed acrylic playing surface under the removable
leaves.  In fact, even as I type this we have a game of Stronghold set
up around turn five, waiting for us to have a chance to finish it.

So yeah.  Lots of gaming in the pencil-and-paper and board sense.  And
reading; I still go through two to four books per week (in addition to
my slushpile load.)  I've also got an 8-month-old son who has pretty
much expanded to consume all available free time.

  Petre Pan: What's the best writing advice you've received (that you

  Nathaniel Lee:

I am a giant Roger Zelazny fanboy.  In "Unicorn Variations," he
published a brief little essay called "The Parts That Are Only
Glimpsed: Three Reflexes."  What he suggests in there boils down to
leaving things unstated and subtly implying a larger world by giving
minor characters bits of depth and creating unspoken histories for
your protagonists.  I'm butchering it by summarizing; it's a great
essay, and I strongly endorse both it and Roger Zelazny in general.

Petre: Thanks so much Nathaniel! It's great hearing what goes on behind the scenes. I have to debate you on one point--I always saw CoD as a frat boy game, not a nerd game. But I definitely see you have my little Munchkin Fu, Fluxx, and Settlers of Catan thing beat with your Stronghold! 
And that's a wrap, folks! You might also check out Nathaniel's stories here at Escape Pod and Drabblecast.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pitch Live! Issue 339

Title: Issue 339
Genre: YA 
Word count: 75,000

A popular comic book character lands a bullet in his author's chest.

The comic book industry drags teen superhero Skye through every plot twist imaginable. Skye's taken on alien invasions, his true love died as a zombie-plant-monster, and a crime ring princess can't decide whether to kiss or kill him. Every time tragedy strikes, Skye claws past the rubble, drags himself to his feet, and faces the next day with hope and courage.

Then the author writes Issue #339. Skye's best friend kills his parents--and then kills Skye. Through some ridiculous inter-dimensional physics, the weapon meant to disintegrate Skye lands him in his author's universe, where a kindly inner-city cop takes him in. Skye becomes best friends with the cop's son Jace, a quiet comic book aficionado, but Jace struggles against Skye's nightmares, mood swings, and extreme reactions to comics--it's rough trying to help a roommate with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Skye breaks. He can't handle watching his friends suffer anymore. He shoots his author.

While the cop investigates the author's mysterious murder, Jace must uncover his familiar-looking houseguest's real identity, and when the publishing company hires a new writer, Skye must decide whether one more murder will save his world, or damn his soul.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Totally Awesome Dinosaurs"--my new children's book, and the problems with Made It Moments

 Totally Awesome Dinosaurs 

This is my children's book/easy reader that just came out for the iPad. Cheesy title aside (publisher's idea, not mine), kids will like this; it's easy to read, and the illustrator is pretty dang fabulous, as you can see. It's drowning in awesome dino-facts. You can download the free trial through iTunes!

I also got a partial request during the http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com on my story about the superhero who shoots his author. (Super conference--do check it out) This is killing me; it's a request from a really, really well-established agent who I'd never have the guts to cold-query. I also got a full over at Brenda Lee Drake's for a novella about a man whose heart-beat may kill him. I'm floored, and I should be. But I'm also feeling really, really, REALLY mixed. Frustrated, even.

Why? Because I'm not there yet. No matter how close I get with my novel--even if I drown in partials and fulls--I cannot say "yes" when my coworkers ask, "Are you published?" "Can I get your book in bookstores?" No, you can't. Maybe in a year or two. Or ten.

That's why I'd actually forgotten about this kid's book. I wrote it months ago, sold all the rights to a non-traditional publisher for next to nothing, deposited the check, and moved on. I found the listing because someone googled me (looking for my wedding website!) and noticed that I'm 'an author.' "I'm an author?" I feel like I have to get a novel published before I'm an author. Otherwise I'm just a freelancer, a writer, and a ghost-blogger. Right? 

Right, but part of me demands that I pause my trek up the mountainside and gaze with gratefulness at the winding road behind me. "Let me feel this happiness! It's okay, and worth the disappointment later!" A few years ago I could have sent out a hundred queries and never gotten a single reply--and that happens to a lot of people. Now here I am. Yet there's an old fable where the rabbit and the frog compete to jump across a ditch, and the rabbit stumbles, tumbling right next to the starting edge, and the frog lands one foot on the other side--but crashes in the ditch, too. They ask who won: the fox, judging the competition, says,"Both in the ditch. Can't say which."

In C.S. Lewis' Screwtape letters the devil hopes to convince his victim that, "he's arrived." I'm not arrived. I know that. I'm struggling a bit trying to manage my feelings--I don't want my hopes up too high, because I'll need to keep pushing if I crash and burn. I'm a woman in labor, and I can't just stop half-way. I also don't want to ignore where I've come from--"I'm a failure because I'm not there yet." That would kill me. I'm a child who needs happy thoughts to fly.

So I don't think about it too much. How do you deal with your 'made-it moments'? Those times when you've hit a major milestone, but have so far to go, does your happiness overwhelm you? Does the mountain ahead make the milestone joyless? How do you find the balance? Do you need to? I'm okay with these highs and lows, but sometimes they ride me into the pavement. Share your suffering and joys with me!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How do you handle your dreams, friend?

What do you do when you're not writing?

I'm a pharmacy technician and paid non-fiction blogger (mostly ghost-blogging), but I want to go to medical school and move to Paraguay. I still like to play pretend, and I want to end my wedding reception with a lightsaber fight. Like me, I bet you also have thousands of different parts to you, each with its own desires and hopes. How do you balance them? Do you hone them down and decide some are more important than others? 
  Soldiers sacrifice. If someone has to die for the sum cause, they will, and I guess if you have to drop a dream, you have to drop a dream. But when it comes to dreams, I prefer the Ben Tennyson philosophy.

(Ben is the guy in the green jacket, about to turn into swampfire. Yes, it's a children's cartoon. = P)

In one episode of Ben 10 Alien Force, Ben chooses to save someone's life instead of stopping the DNAliens from getting technology that lets them conquer the world. The guy protests, but Ben says, 
"No sacrifices," saves the guy's life, and ends up stopping the DNAliens anyway. 

No sacrifices. I really like that. Now, Ben can turn into over 40 different aliens (last time I counted), so he's got a bit of an advantage over you and me, but you and I also have different sides and talents. I suspect that just as Ben has to turn on the right alien for the right task, you and I have to 'turn on' the right skill or self for different times. And maybe coordinating and adapting our 'selves' is the key to grabbing the time and space we need to get all our dreams accomplished.

Just ideas. I know, in the end, that sometimes we have to prioritize, but I think more often than not, we give up too easily on our dreams--because we're unwilling to sacrifice ourselves for them. Ben won't sacrifice anyone else for the goal, but he puts himself in harm's way and adapts himself to fit the need of the situation. Am I willing to change and accept critique, at the cost of my pride-self? Am I willing to trade a little less sleep for a little more time to get things done? Can I write or work instead of watching Ben 10 cartoons? (Of course not! =P Just kidding)

Call me crazy, but I think I can go to medical school and become a fabulous fiction writer, and still have love and time to give to my family and friends. It may take some shape-shifting, but I'm with Ben.

"No sacrifices."

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Can I Do For You?

Given infinite time, I could do absolutely anything for you. Unfortunately, we don't have infinite time--but, dear internet stranger, I would love to start by making your day brighter. I'm Jen Finelli. I'm a world-traveling professional scifi author. I've written a novel about a comic book character who shoots his author, and a sci fi series about space-ninja children hunted by the government for talking to invisible creatures. In 2017, I'll be a doctor. Here's what I can do for you.

 I can write you a blog post that makes your company look smart. I've ghost-blogged for drug companies, medical professionals, and cultural, language, and cooking organizations--and I've spent time free-lancing for DC newspapers. Contact me with leads or blogging jobs, and I will generate strong, informative content tailored for your SEO needs. With a degree in history, a minor in biomedical engineering, and now an MD in progress, I have the research training to ensure solid information for your clients. (Click the links in the header for my interactive resume)

I can review and critique your fiction work, if you'd like to review and critique mine. I love to cheer on other writers, and I'm honest to a fault. To tell you the truth, I'd much rather read good fiction for free--and become a part of the process--than pay for stuff from the shelves. Do you need a second set of eyes?

I can do informal therapy with your autistic child. I have years of ABA training--including some paid experience--and years of practice with the Sun-shine program. I've got family members with developmental disorders, so if you need to chat or you need a e-hug, I'm here.

I can take you to another world, place, or time. I can write you a short-story! Commissioning artwork for loved ones is becoming more and more popular these days--hire me to write something awesome for someone you care about. If you don't like it, you don't pay!

I can chat with you if you're sad. Just send me a message. For that matter, I can find you an adventure. You're bored? I dare you to ask me. I'll find you a challenge--a strange, unique, and maybe funny challenge--and that day cannot remain the same.

 I can fight by your side against the zombies. I'm a pretty bulky girl, I handle pain well, and I've got endurance like a turtle. Zombies don't exist, you say? Hmm. Well, let's skip this one then.

I can build add-ons to your laser, or fill your prescriptions, or mix your cement. Those are all things I have actually done for people. And if you check back in June 2017 I'll be a doctor, too. So, I dunno. Personally, my biggest fear is uselessness. Let me know how I can be helpful to you, and if I can entertain you or brighten your day, let me know! If all else fails, and your house falls down, I know how to make a mean batch of cement. Seriously, ask me anything. If I can't fix it, I'll try to find someone who can.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Diamond Axe

You know her--hair as black as night, skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood--but you don't know the dwarf in love with her. 

My hair's peppery-blond, my skin's calloused as the mountainside, and my lips stretch wide and thin as an oil spill. I never thought myself ugly 'til she woke up, sprawled across our seven beds, and smiled.

None of my brothers know who cracked the mirror, but I think she does.

She taught me to cook; I taught her medicinal herbology. I fashioned her a diamond-axe so she can smash rocks; she wove me a magical cloak so  I can blend with night. She doesn't talk much; I talk all the time.

And sometimes, when I shut up, she leans in and smiles like that again, and I forget the Prince for a second. The 6-foot Prince. Who's known her since she was ten. I try not to give up. I try to balance between wooing her and respecting her decisions; I wake every day hoping today she sees past my height, my race.

Today's a panel of colors, like the sunlight reflecting through the diamond axe, with changing patterns and possibilities depending on your angle. Maybe today the queen finds her, and I die, because Snow White can't die while I'm alive. Or maybe today the axe leans against the foot of his bed, diffracting light onto the floor as she sighs in his arms.

Maybe today she falls for a dwarf.

Want more flash fiction?  Click here for a bunch of free online stories, and subscribe to my e-mail list in that banner up above, or in the side, or right down here! I send about a story a month.

Just like this one story, and don't want anything else from me? Well, this was my contest entry for Lascaux Flash Fiction back in 2012. You can comment on it at the Lascaux site, here: http://www.lascauxflash.com/2012/09/139-diamond-axe.html Or below.

So many options! Have a lovely day. = )

Saturday, September 8, 2012

On revising HARD

Man, so I got blasted over there on Miss Snark's last week with the first-500 story postings. You can check it out, if you like, and read all the agent comments here. Good way to learn from my mistakes, if you like.

It was good! I went through the standard stages of writer mourning, of course--confusion/denial, frustration, giving-up on writing for a few days--before finally sitting down and saying, "Dammit, I got it! I know how to redraft!" That last agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, left a comment that really did it for me, because she showed me specifically what exactly she didn't get, and through that lens suddenly the entire beginning became as confusing to me as it was to the agents.

And then I just deleted it.

My normal redrafting style involves taking the existing sentence and hacking away at it until it looks pretty. I learned last week, after staring at my beginning for hours and hours with no idea how to rework anything, that sometimes you just gotta destroy, build, destroy. Sometimes it's not a sculptor's tool you need, or even a jack-hammer. Sometimes it's dynamite.

And--holy crap, new Ben 10 show. I just totally forgot everything writerly I was gonna say.



That is all.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Contest Entry for 1 Sentence Story about guilt and death

As I squinted past the bodies strewn around the dumpster like crushed cans of Miller Lite,
you dashed through a lighted doorway where I could not follow--
and now you cannot hear me say,
"I forgive you."

Hold My Wrinkles--250 word story contest

"Hold my hand," he breathed.
The sagging skin on my forearm flapped as I raised the claw Time left me. Blotchy flesh looked worse against the hospital bedsheet. My thin voice stung my ears, so I whispered. "I don't have a hand. I just have wrinkles."
His eyes glistened. "You have a beautiful hand," he choked. "That hand saved lives."
"And struck children, and broke wedding vows, and--" Whine, whine. Instead of my sonorous alto I heard a demoness, accusations rising to a screech. Everything trembled, and my heart-beat pounded in my ears. "And let babies die, and--"
This is a panic attack.
I catalogued the fact. That was all I could do. The demon went on.
"I don't want to die!" The scream ended in hacking sobs, but dried-out eyes can't make tears. I hate this self. I catalogued that, too.
"Please hold my hand," he croaked.
"I don't have a hand!"
"I do."
I looked at his hand, sprawling oversized on his forearm like a cartoon character's. I remembered his muscles used to flex, round and fertile like South America, but I couldn't remember his name. 60 years, but no name. Pathetic. My chest ached; I finally felt tears. My nose ran--I knew he could see.
"It's okay, Jen."
"My wrinkles, he won't take these wrinkles...and I forgot again," I squeaked.
"I'm Brian. I'll hold your wrinkles."
I exhaled. "Brian."
"Can I hold your pretty hand now?"
I nodded.
He took my hand.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kids and Family--how do they inspire/impede your writing life?

I asked new MSFV success story author Elissa Cruz: "Elissa, I find that sometimes situations at home–with little kids–make for very good story material, maybe not directly, but through quirks and funny ideas that they have. I’d love to know a bit more about whether or not your kids have inspired some of your writing, and if so, do they inspire character quirks, or is it more little things that happen or little themes that creep into a story? Do you write things your kids would want to read, or do you write more for a distant ‘public’? I find sometimes that with kids, real-world stuff is crazier than fiction, so I have to scale back and make it look more ‘normal’ (since my family is anything BUT normal). Does this ever happen to you?
Also, what’s some good advice for a newly-wed on getting married as a writer–especially to someone who doesn’t always want to read your stuff? Does your hubby read what you write? And, if not, what’s a good way to let him into your whole writing life?"

Elissa wrote: "Jen Veldhuyzen–My kids have inspired my writing, though mostly through abstract ways. For example, until recently I homeschooled my kids, so I have a humorous manuscript about a homeschooling family. Nothing about the book came from my kids other than the idea of how a family together all day would act with each other. I’ve also watched my young daughter chase butterflies across the yard, and that was the catalyst I needed for a contemporary coming-of-age tale I’m currently working on.

And, to be honest, I tend to draw more from my own experiences as a child, and then I watch the way my kids and their friends act to make sure my experiences would be relevant (and interesting) to kids today. So this also means I write for me first, or for the kid I used to be (and still am deep inside). I figure if the kid in me doesn’t like the story, I can’t expect anyone else to like it, either.

As for your questions about newlyweds and writers, I actually can’t get anyone in my family to read my work! My husband is a great supporter, but he’s just not interested in reading the type of things I write. And even though I have three MG-aged kids, none of them are excited about curling up with a Word document. :) I suspect once I have a published book that might change. So honestly, I think it’s more important that your spouse or other family members support you in ways other than reading your work. Do they give you the time and space you need to write? Do they encourage you to finish that last chapter or attend that writing conference? Do they proudly tell everyone they know that you write books and are going to be a famous author some day? If you can get that kind of support and encouragement from family, then you’ll be okay. Besides, in most cases family members aren’t the best judges of your work. They are great as cheerleaders. But critiquers? Not so much. :)"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bad Guys Have More Fun: How to Write Realistic Antagonists, From John Cusick's NJ SCBWI Workshop

Bad guys have more fun, says literary agent John Cusick, because they bring more diverse pathways to a story; often there's only one 'right way,' but a myriad of 'wrong ways,' he says. Maybe that's why John, who prefers the titles Mr. C., Professor C, and 'the Doctor,' once asked his dad for a big fur coat so he could dress as Batman's villain Penguin for Halloween.

"There are many ways to be wrong," he says.

The word villain comes from the French word villein, for 'farm hands,' from back when the elite ruling class identified all unseemly behavior--stealing, rape, murder, etc--with the lower class. Over time, of course, the word's unpleasant connotations became its definition, and the association with manual labor faded away, John explained.

Now-a-days, you could classify "villains" into bad guys and antagonists with a Venn diagram. Your 'bad guy' goes in the left circle; he's anyone in the story who does bad, or has bad behavior. The right circle holds the literary term antagonist, who opposes the protagonist or hero.

In class, John used the diagram to demonstrate that often there's overlap between 'bad guys' and antagonists, but they aren't always the same person. Dark Lords fall right in the middle. When Tom Hanks plays a cop against Leo DiCaprio's a thief protagonist in Catch Me If You Can, Tom falls only in the right circle: he's a good guy, but he's the antagonist opposing the protag. Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean generally demonstrates unsavory, bad-guy characteristics--lying, cheating, misusing women--but he's not the antagonist.

John defined the protagonist as the character who moves the plot forward--which would make Darth Vader/Anakin the surprising protagonist of Star Wars. His plots and actions change the galaxy; everyone else just tries to keep him at bay. Voldemort, Harry Potter's antagonist, is the only guy with any initiative in the Harry Potter series, says John. Harry's the focal character, but not the character moving the plot.

John introduced a few other character definitions that can help authors organize their character development. Anti-Heros--like may of Johnny Depp's dark characters--do wrong, but either work with the hero or serve as the primary movers towards good against a greater bad. Dramatic foils serve to highlight aspects of the protagonist. In Spiderman 3, Venom serves as an antagonist dramatic foil to Spiderman, because he does not choose to overcome the symbiont suit, demonstrating Spiderman's strength of character in his own victory over the suit. In Crime and Punishment, each of the prostitute, the priest, and the protag's best friend highlight a different perspective on killing, and the protag must watch and navigate their different rights and wrongs. These other characters--not all antagonists--are his dramatic foils.

While a villain may recognize himself as a villain--as does Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker, who mocks an evil laugh in the gangster meeting in Batman--you want to avoid evil for evil's sake, says John. He quotes, "All truly wicked things start from innocence." In other words, every villain needs an equally strong motivation as your protagonist's motivation.

We brainstormed a list of motivations in class:
Evil for power's sake/greed--like literary agents, says John
Evil for revenge's sake--Captain Hook
Evil for envy/jealousy
Evil for pride
Evil for the sake of advancing an agenda/making the world a better place
Evil for lust's sake
Evil for love's sake
Evil for the sake of being loved

John explained that readers can relate to more powerful motivations. Not many readers have impulses for power or lust for conquering the world, but perhaps they've wanted to be loved. He warned writers not to stop at a scarring origin story as a simple explanation for a villain's evil: "The scarred childhood thing is the foundation of your bad guy house. But it's the successive decisions the character makes that make him a bad guy and get him to be more complex."

John says writers should give the villain a motivation that we agree with--"it's the execution we have a problem with." A husband's love for a wife--a good thing--in Hansel and Gretel, causes him to cross ethical boundaries. A father's love for his children--again, a good thing--might cause him to obsess over their safety until he locks them in a tower forever. In science fiction, curiosity often becomes a villain motivation, as in Jurassic Park. The villain should be sympathetic, and become a villain because they cannot modulate their passion for a good thing to an acceptable limit.

How can we arouse some sympathy?
The reality is that most human beings are sympathetic in some way, so it makes a bad guy more real when you make him more sympathetic. The more human a scary thing is, the scarier it is, says John, because it is frightening and sad. (On the other side of the fear spectrum, of course, we find terrors so dark and alien that we fear them because of the unknown)

Sometimes we arouse sympathy with something as small as a desire to be loved. All you need to do is hint at that a villain wants a hug, and that character gains like six leagues of depth, says John. Insecurity and fear work wonderfully also because we can relate to them. We can't all relate to the desire for power, but when the Silence fights Dr. Who because of fear of his powers, we begin to understand. Childishness and a sense of humor also add sympathy to a bad guy character. An author may choose to work positive details for the villain anywhere in the story. Front-loading might strengthen the villain's appeal, but later revelation of good details might bring powerful surprises.

And once you know all those, says John, you should forget them. They are tropes--clichés. He's seen them 1.2 billion times before, and asks that you don't use them, or use them consciously and twist them.

Here are clichés he hates:
1. Wearing black
2. Scars
3. Well-dressed
4. Foreign accents
5. Smoking
6. Small pets

You're in slightly safer ground with these because of the self-awareness in some bigger sci fi etc.

But do not do this, no joking:
7. cheerleaders/jocks/blondes/hot girls who are just evil/unmotivated bully
Those are just too easy, he says.

In terms of villains over a series, John explained how in the first book of a trilogy, the protagonist will defeat the first villain, but the second book will reveal the bigger, badder, ACTUAL villain BEHIND Villain 1. That gives the author an opportunity to really explore the first villain, and in book three, Villain 1 and the hero can team up because Big Boss just has to go. Star Wars does this well, with Darth Vader in A New Hope, the revelation of Palpatine in The Empire Strikes Back, and Darth Vader's betrayal of Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. However, John sees series becoming less popular market-wise right now. Nevertheless, good trilogies exist, stories with endings that aren't cliff hangers, but "guitar solos to take us out into the next song."

All of these tropes, strategies, and definitions should work for the author like a pose-able doll, says John. The doll means nothing special--just mass-produced plastic--until the author takes it and tilts the head a little. Pose your tropes in unique ways. Write your own story. And use bad guys effectively.

Because, after all, they are more fun that way.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Author Interview with T.Z. Wallace, and I am Batman's Best Friend

Two great things happened to me today: one, I had an incredibly realistic dream where I took down the Joker, and two, I got this author interview back from Ms. T.Z. Wallace. You can now call me Robin, or Nightwing if you wish, and then to quench your jealousy about my apprenticeship to Batman, you can read about Ms. Wallace. One of my favorite things about trying to become "a real writer" has been meeting all the other "real writers" out there who have glorious stories of their own to tell--that's one of my favorite things about writing conferences, actually--and Ms. Wallace is no exception! Ms. Wallace put an incredibly popular first 250 words up on Miss Snark's First Victim just a few months ago--you should check out her excerpt here, on her blog. I'm really looking forward to see what she does in the next few years. But here she is, for herself:

Petre Pan: What is the most important sound in the world--if you had to sum up the entire world in one sound, what would that sound be?   
T.Z.: The sound of the word “mom.”  That sound encompasses childlike innocence and uncertainty and fear and hope and desperation and promise.  It is the sound that calls to me in the night and rouses me from the warmth and safety of my bed.  It is the sound that calls forth everything fearless and primal in me.

Petre Pan: What sound would describe your writing style?  
 T.Z.: The sound, “Ahh!”  I try to craft my stories so that the readers get to piece things together and have moments of discovery and excitement.  Things that may have initially seemed unimportant may have a larger meaning; I love the idea of readers scrutinizing words and phrases, places and things to try to determine whether they serve a greater purpose in the story.  I have read books like that…where I was “rewarded” for remembering a detail, some minutia, and I always felt like the author and I shared a secret.  I love that feeling and I want to give that to my readers.

Petre Pan: What word do you overuse when you write?   
T.Z.: Said.  A lot of my work is character and dialogue driven.  They are a chatty bunch.  For a while I tried to find various words to substitute, but it feels less authentic and was distracting. 

Petre Pan: What's the most challenging part of the writing process for you?   
T.Z.: Definitely finding TIME for writing.  Or, rather, finding time for what I want to be writing.  I write at my day job, and I write to pay the bills, and then there is the work of my heart…my novel and short stories.  Too often these things I most long to write are the very things that I neglect.  But I am getting paid to write these other things, so I can’t complain.  I am, however, hoping to rearrange things a bit so that I can free up more time for the stories I really want to tell.

Petre Pan: What's the hardest disappointment you've ever experienced in your writing/publishing journey? 
 T.Z: I am still relatively early in the journey, so I haven’t had any crushing experiences yet (oh, but give me time!).  I think that mostly I disappoint myself by not doing more. 

Petre Pan: What's the greatest achievement/happiest high you've reached on your writing journey?  
 T.Z.: I have a lot of little victories with my writing.  Like when I reread something that I wrote and I get goose-bumps and think, “Geez!  Did I write that?”  or when I surpass my word count for the day, or when I stumble upon a phrase or event or detail that wraps up some plot point perfectly.

Petre Pan: What do you do outside of writing? 
 T.Z.: I love to read (duh!), and I like to garden, and I taught myself to knit (I am pathetic really, and only know two stitches, but it makes me happy).  I also have a glaring of cats (apparently a bunch of cats can also be called a “clowder,” but that doesn’t sound arrogant enough for my felines, so I am sticking with a “glaring”).  Stray cats tend to find me and stick around.  I am the crazy cat lady you heard about as a child.  I also love to cook.  For me, October through February is “High Baking Season,” and I am never happier than having a rainy or snowy day where I can put something in the oven to bake, peck away at a story on the laptop, and pad around the warm house in my wool socks drinking hot tea. 

Petre Pan: What's the best writing advice you've received (that you remember)? 
 T.Z.: My grandma once told me “Don’t dally about, just put pen to paper and get on with it.”  I guess that is as straight forward as it gets, and it has served me well.  If I talk about it too much I get nothing done.  If I over-think it I get bogged down.  Best for me to just write and sort it out later.

Petre Pan: When did you start writing fiction, and why?
T.Z.: I have always written stories down and tucked them away.  I was a latch-key kid in elementary school, and I remember long summers (before cable and internet) when there were only three or four channels and they were all showing re-runs.  So I read.  But sometimes the characters didn’t do what I thought they should and I found it rather annoying.  Then I discovered that if I wrote the stories that I could control what happened.  (Or so I thought.  I have since learned that my characters tend to do as they wish and I just try to keep up with them and write it all down!)  But that is when I started writing.  I wrote a lot. 

  Petre Pan: What do you write? 
 T.Z.: I tend to gravitate toward mystery, dystopian, and horror.  I guess I am fascinated by the darker aspects of a story.  I have a bit of a…ahem…Southern Gothic family history, and it makes me smirk a bit when I try to write warm fuzzy stories--it all feels so contrived to me.  

So there you have it! Go check her out! Over here! There! Look!