Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zoology

A few fun facts from the zoologist (that's me):

This animal has the same number of vertebrae in its neck as you. (How many might that be?)

This animal can eat up to 600 insects in one hour. (source)

Photo by Merlin Tuttle (source)

This animal everts its stomach (its stomach comes out through its mouth) to release digestive enzymes that pulverize its prey.


What's your favorite animal?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yes

It finally happened... an editor wants to publish my work. It's not the very first "yes" but it's the first one that will lead to a paycheck (small though it might be).

One of my non-fiction articles is going to be published in Boys' Quest magazine. (In 2012.)

It's amazing how one little "yes" brightens the bio section of a cover/query letter and gives that little push to keep writing. 

What keeps you going?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X marks the spot

Ah, a lovely view. Just the kind of thing my muse enjoys, particularly when she spots that stegosaurus-looking thing on the ground.


What do you think you would find if you had a chance to explore? 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Writers, Wine, and Weather

Last night, we had a writers' night out.

Four hours at La Cocotte, five courses of fabulous French food, each course with a paired wine, while a thunderstorm raged outside.

It was a delightful evening.

And it was the last time the four of us will be able to go out like this. We'll miss you, Amber!

I'm over at The Rapscallion today, go check it out!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Voice

Voice is one of those aspects of writing that plays a big role in getting attention from agents and editors. If you've stopped to look at successful queries, you'll find that both the query letter and the ms have voice. It's the voice that grabs attention and cries out “read me”.


I'm a pretty nice person (or so I like to think; others may call me on this). I believe strongly in helping others, I've signed the charter for compassion, and yet when I write, the characters whose voices come through most clearly are the nasty ones. The selfish ones rule the roost. Is it some hidden part of me that I try to squirrel away? If so, I hope it only comes out on paper. But it makes me stop to think.

Where does voice come from?

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Unprepared

The end of the alphabet completely snuck up on me. So I am completely unprepared for the letter U.

But since today is World Malaria Day, here's a little something to consider.
  • Half of the world's population—3.3 billion people—are at risk of contracting malaria. (source)
  • Between 300 and 500 million people contract malaria each year, and one million of those die. (source)
  • 650,000 children under age 5 die of malaria each year; that's 65% of total malaria deaths and the third leading cause of under-five mortality. (source
  • Malaria contributes to the continuing cycle of poverty in developing nations. (source)
Ready for some good news?
  • Malaria is caused by a protozoan parasite transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. (As an interesting tidbit: only female mosquitoes bite; males eat pollen and are an important part of the ecosystem.)  
  • Anopheles mosquitoes are active at night, biting while people sleep. (source)
  • Bed nets can cut incidences of malaria by at least 25%. (source)
  • You can donate a bed net and save a life for as little as $5 through Malaria No More or Nothing But Nets
Think of it as paying it forward. You don't suffer from malaria; help others to achieve the same goal. 

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    T is for Thanks

    Every day I stop to think how incredibly thankful I am for what I have in my life. Wonderful and supportive family and friends, a roof over my head, and lots of love from the people who matter most.  But I rarely take the time to thank people individually for being the wonderful people they are.

    Time to fix that.

    Beloved Husband: for his unflagging support, even when he reads my horrendous early drafts. Thanks for being a wonderful husband and father to our kids.

    My critique partners: Julie Hedlund, Megan K. Bickel, Juliette Wilk, Valerie Larson-Howard, Christie Wright Wild, and Kellie DuBay Gillis. Thanks for all of your wonderful feedback on my work. I don't know what I'd do without you.

    My Berlin writer friends: Jen K. Blom, Astrid Paramita, and Amber McPhee. Thanks for the support, encouragement, and girls' nights out.

    My 8th grade typing teacher: Yep, you read that right. In 8th grade, I wasn't so keen on my fifties hold-over teacher. She was strict and, well, she kind of scared me. I never in my wildest dreams thought that thirty-minute drills filling pages with pqpqpqpqpq (moving only the pinkies) would ever, EVER come in useful. But they did. Because I can now type fast enough to keep up when my muse is on a roll and the story is flowing. And it's all thanks to her.

    There are others. Lots and lots of others. But I'll tell them in person. :)

    What (or who) are you thankful for?

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    S is for Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge

    The Challenge, as described by Rachael at Rach Writes...

    Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge: In 300 words or less, write a passage (it can be an excerpt from your WIP, flash fiction, a poem, or any other writing) that shows (rather than tells) the following:

    • you're scared and hungry
    • it's dusk
    • you think someone is following you
    • and just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: shimmer, saccadic, substance, and salt.

    Here we go...

    As I swallow the clear, sweet water, I see it, reflected in the shimmering surface of the lake: blond hair. I strain to see more, but everything below the man's neck disappears into the tangle of plants behind him. He glances up.

    Electricity charges through me and I back out of view, keeping an eye on him through the leaves. He appears to be talking to someone.

    I have to get out of here. I don't know who he is, but he knows where I am. Moving as quickly as possible, I head for the far end of the lake.

    Staying on animal trails, I move easily though the vegetation. I can make it, I just need time.

    A shout makes me jump. How could he go so far so fast?

    Ducking, I dart into shrubs that have more substance. The pungent scent of damp earth fills my nose as I work my way through the undergrowth, stepping as lightly as I can.

    Branches crash and I freeze.

    Just uphill lies a fallen tree, the trunk flanked by saplings and ferns. Their leaves might cover me if I stay low.


    My eyes go saccadic at the shout. I have to hide. Now.

    Heart thumping, I step over the plants, careful not to break any twigs. I lie down, pulling clammy, rotting leaves over me. The forest is getting darker, as the sun sets on the valley. Please, please let me look like a shadow.

    Not a minute later, twigs snap as one of the men creeps near. I breathe through my mouth, trying to keep quiet. A rivulet of sweat runs over my lip, dripping saltily on my tongue. He comes into view, still, listening.

    My stomach grumbles and his head whips around.

    * * *

    There you have it, 294 words; a modified bit of my current WIP, as it turns out. After all, saccadic isn't a good word to use for middle grade. :)

    Now, go check out the other entries!

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    R is for Revision

    For the longest time, I didn't know how to go about revising. I can line-edit, but I didn't know how to go about tackling the big picture.

    Last month I attended a revision workshop hosted by SCBWI Germany/Austria. They brought in Sara Grant (co-founder of Undiscovered Voices and editor at Working Partners), and her Revision Game workshop was FABULOUS! I learned a ton.


    I can't share everything Sara taught us, but here are a few snippets to get you started.
    Figure out what's at the heart of your story. What's the meaning behind it? (What point were you trying to make? Why did you write it?)  Now read your story with this in mind. Did you tell the story you wanted to tell? No? Revise accordingly. Get rid of anything that doesn't get at the heart of the story.

    Create a time line. You probably wrote over weeks, months, or even years, and it's easy to lose track of the day of the week/time of day in the story. Is the timing consistent?

    Check for duplications, action (too much? not enough?), exposition (too much? not enough?), dialogue, and setting.  Make sure your readers know where the scene takes place and who is talking, but don't overuse attributions.

    Read the story for each character (read only that character's scenes). Can you track the character's emotional arc? Do you even need this character? If not, can you combine it with another underused character to make one stronger/more relevant character?

    Once you've got the big stuff figured out, it's time for micro-editing.

    (If you're a member of SCBWI, see if you can get your region to host a workshop. Sara lives in the UK, but her debut novel Dark Parties comes out in the US in August, so she might be in the neighborhood if you're state-side. Seriously, look into it. I can't recommend it highly enough.)

    What do you do first when you start to revise?

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Q is for (how not to) Query

    [note: I have spent a LOT of time lately researching how to write an outstanding query letter... you know, the kind that will rise to the top of the slush pile. In particular, I have relied heavily on the extremely informative and always reliable Querypolitan for advice. So here is my carefully crafted query letter with first page of MS...]*

    Dear Editor Mr. A ent,

    Did you ever wish you could wake up to find yourself on another celestial body? To meet creatures you never dreamed existed? To ma ically understand every word of their bizarre lan ua e? And to join forces with them to figh the dark forces of the universe? Cissi the elephant does all of this in Moons of Shambala, my 80,000 word debut middle  rade novel.

    I am thrilled to submit "Moons of Shambala" for your perusal. It has the amazing potential to be the next Harry Potter, and I'm sure that Matt Damon Ben Affleck will jump at the chance to play the role of Cissi the Shambala leader.

    I have taken the liberty of translating the story into Shambalian (a lan ua e I have created over the past ei ht years), and I have included the first few pa es for your deli ht and entertainment. (Please excuse the missin  --letter between f and h--my keyboard is missin  that key.)

    I look forward to hearin  your enthusiastic response.
    A. Stevens

    Moons of Shambala

    Cissi rolled over. She couldn't  et comfortable. The cushion felt lumpy and she squirmed. Then she si hed and opened her eyes. No way to sleep, she thought  rumpily, as she rolled to her side and lumbered to her feet.

    Cissi rubbed her eyes with her trunk and looked around. She  asped. Nothing looked right. Her cushion was a rock!  Cissi swung her  reat head from side to side and spotted a blue and white orb in the sky. She  asped again. It was Earth!

    Wait, she thought. Am I on the moon? Is this a dream? She rubbed her eyes a ain and blinked furiously. She pinched her ear with the end of her trunk.

    "Ow!" Nope, I  uess I'm not dreamin . Now what?

    As Cissi stood helplessly in the  reat crater, she heard a sound. She turned to see some purple creatures with antennae and five le s walking toward her. Their  iant compound eyes reflected the li ht of the earth,  litterin  as they came nearer.

    "¤Þξ æ Ч¤ω," the leader said as they drew near.

    Cissi was amazed that she understood. "ζÝ," she replied. The leader  lanced at a slightly taller individual to his left and they nodded.

    "ζÝ ξÐæ," he said, and the Shambalans turned to leave. Cissi followed behind, curious to know how they thou ht she could help.

    * This post is from the archives.

    In your opinion, what's the biggest mistake an author could make when writing a query?

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    P is for Patience (or lack thereof)

    My children are a constant source of inspiration. They are also extremely strong-willed, stubborn children. I love them to death, but we're in throes of the terrible threes (I don't know why people complain about the twos--they're nothing compared to three), and I can only hope to survive until Snuggle Monkey turns four.

    Every now and then the poetry muse hits, often after something my boys have done. I wrote this last year around Easter. Hmmm. I detect a pattern...

    I Want to Run Away

    My children test my patience almost every single day.
    Some days it gets so bad, they make me want to run away.
    Run off to join the circus, where I'll train the dancing bear.
    Or maybe to the city, to sell fancy underwear.
    No, retail's not for me, instead I'll travel 'round the world.
    Outracing storms and tidal waves with massive sails unfurled.
    I'll go on a safari and I'll sleep up in a tree.
    I'll fend off greedy pirates, search for treasure in the sea.
    I'll climb upon the pyramids, go see the Taj Mahal,
    commune with some orangutans and walk on China's wall.
    I'll ride a Russian rocket, yes, I'll take it straight to Mars,
    then further out to space to see Orion's eighty stars.
    I'll travel 'round the universe, but come home when I'm tired
    from all of the adventures that my children have inspired.

    What about you? What inspires you? What tests your patience to the limits? (And how do you cope?)

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    O is for Open-mindedness

    When I was in high school, and everyone was worried about whether they'd be accepted by their preferred college or university, my English teacher told us, "You carry your campus with you."

    What she meant was that it didn't really matter where we ended up; what mattered was our attitude. If you decide you will be happy in a new place, you probably will be. If you decide you're going to be miserable, you probably will. Very wise words, indeed.


    When my husband was first offered a job in Germany, I was really resistant. I had never been there, and all I knew of the country was what I had learned in my history classes. That meant I learned about World Wars I and II (lesson? U.S. good, Germany bad), and about how the U.S. had rescued West Berlin during the Russian blockade during the years of the cold war (lesson? U.S. good, Russians and East Germany bad).  Not exactly the best way to start a new life in a foreign country.

    But despite my worries, we did it (I reminded myself of my English teacher's wise words over and over again). And you know what? I have been happier in Berlin than I had been living anywhere else.

    And now we're gearing up to move to somewhere in the Midwest. I won't tell you where. (If you know the U.S., you'll say, "Oh. *long pause* Really?" and if you don't, you'll say, "Where? I'll have to look that up.")

    When Beloved Husband first interviewed for this job, I had the same reaction. I was resistant. But then I stopped to think: the city we will be moving to meets just about every criteria I had said I wanted in a permanent home (the only thing missing is mountains). And, given my experience moving to Germany, my preconceived notions have been WAY off-base before.

    So I think we'll be happy there. Because we decide to be happy, wherever we are.

    Are you open-minded about new places and experiences? How do you carry your campus with you?

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    N is for Networking

    One of the benefits of blogging (and twittering and facebooking) is building a network of contacts in the publishing industry. (But then, you already knew that.)

    How does networking benefit you? A few things I have learned from other writers (and agents and editors):
    They're a great source of information. For example, Dear Editor is holding a giveaway for a FREE Fiction Edit (for Adult, YA, or MG). Deadline to enter is April 21.

    As much as we all want an agent, things don't always go swimmingly with an agent, and new associations must be made.

    I discovered the Writers Workshop for children's writers hosted by the Highlights Foundation and held each summer at the Chautauqua Institute. Intensive sessions with major players in the children's publishing world. Wow!

    I discovered that the Highlights Foundation offers scholarships to help defray the cost of said workshop. (Thank you Toby!)

    I learned to apply for things (like said scholarship) even if I didn't think I had a chance in the world of getting them. Sometimes you do.

    Sometimes, editors don't want to buy the book you proposed; they want you to write something else, and they'll buy that.

    Release dates change, sometimes just days before the originally scheduled date.

    Writers are amazing, supportive people, and I'm proud to call many of the people in my network friends.

    What benefits do you see in networking?

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    M is for Making the Most of the Moment

    We have a limited amount of time left in Berlin. We will be moving this summer, a big, inter-continental move. It's a stressful thing, moving. Uprooting the family, removing ourselves from our home, our friends, and the lives we have made here.

    It's exciting to look forward and bittersweet to look back. But what I'm trying hardest to do right now is live in the moment.

    Of all the places I have lived and the many seasons I've been through (including autumn in New England), spring in Berlin tops them all. Everything is in bloom, a procession of color that started a couple of weeks ago. First the purple of the early-spring crocuses, followed quickly by the yellow of the forsythia and holly grape. And then come the pink cherry blossoms, purple lilacs and the pink and purple azaleas. The air is, quite literally, perfumed with the scent of flowers for six to eight weeks.

    I am soaking up every moment of it, reveling in every breath of sweet air (when the wind doesn't blow the scent of manure from the neighboring farms), because where we're going, it won't be like this.

    How do you live in the moment?

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    L is for Laughter

    I don't have a car, so I either walk, ride my bike, or take public transit. I thoroughly enjoy the first two, the last one, not so much. But it becomes tolerable with the aid of a good book.

    A couple of months ago, Beloved Husband and I discovered Christopher Moore's books, and they have become my favorite distraction from the tedium of waiting for the bus. They're irreverent. They're entertaining. And they are the only books I've ever read that regularly make me laugh out loud.

    When you start laughing for no apparent reason on the bus, people get worried. They shoot you a glance, curious but not wanting to make eye contact. They fidget, looking around for another open seat. And those poor people who are in the window seat, penned in by the crazy laughing woman? They ooze up against the window, as if hoping the glass might suddenly release them from their hell.

    And that gets the giggles going all over again.

    What's your favorite source of humor?

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    K is for Key

    If you had the key to this door, what do you think you would find on the other side?

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    J is for Jog

    No, I'm not talking about jogging. I don't do that if I can help it (when we first moved to Berlin, my son thought people only ran to catch a bus).

    Unstable walk

    I'm talking about jogging your mind, jostling your muse, getting the creative juices flowing.  How? Go for a jog. Or a walk, a bike ride, a run. Get out of the house/office, get some fresh air (avoid city streets; if you're deep in thought, you might as well wear a target for muggers, not to mention the hazards of crossing if you're not really paying attention to traffic).

    Aside from the obvious health benefits of physical activity, it enhances creativity.

    You don't have to go for a hard run or spend an hour at the gym. Moderate activity (a brisk walk) stimulates creative function in the brain immediately after you finish the activity AND for a good two hours after. (For real: check this out.)

    Wrestling with an idea? Haven't seen your muse in a while? Go for a walk (jog, run, bike ride) when you'll have some time to write afterward. When I'm struggling, I sit down to write in my journal after a walk, and the problems, more often than not, resolve themselves.

    And your back will thank you.

    How do you overcome creative block?

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    I is for Irony

    Ever picked up a crayfish or lobster and had it flip its tail? Yep, it's trying to get away.

    In the wild, they avoid predators by scooting backwards into some kind of small space. This escape behavior is so important, they (shrimp, lobsters, and crayfish) have a nice large muscle that evolved for just that purpose.

    I'm sure you're familiar with it. But when you see it, it looks like this:


    We eat the very thing the shrimp (and lobsters and crayfish) have evolved to avoid being eaten.  Talk about irony.

    What's your favorite dish? Is there anything ironic about it?

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    H is for Hook

    The stellar opening. It's what hooks a reader and keeps them reading. It's what gets an agent or editor to request a partial or even a full. Bad beginning? Your novel isn't going anywhere. 

    But where do you begin? And how do you craft an opening that hooks your reader? I really struggled with this until I read Hooked by Les Edgerton. Entertaining to read and overflowing with examples, Hooked can help you avoid writing three chapters that you'll end up cutting later on. (If you need those chapters to explore your chosen characters and/or world, that's another matter.)

    Things to seriously consider:

    The inciting incident Your story is made up of incidents. But which one is the true inciting incident? (The inciting incident is the trigger that sends your MC through a life-changing series of events.) How can you tell which one is the right one?

    The initial surface problem  The inciting incident exposes the initial surface problem. Surface problems will be the meat of your story, the action your character takes to deal with the trouble in his or her life. And through these events, we come to learn the story-worthy problem.

    The story-worthy problem  How will your character change over the course of the novel? The story-worthy problem is almost always an internal struggle of some sort, and that struggle moves along through a series of surface problems that the character must face.

    Setup and Backstory  How do they fit into your opening, and how can you segue from the current scene into a bit of essential background information?

    And then he explains how to fit all those pieces into a solid, engaging beginning that will hook your reader and keep him or her reading to the end. I can't begin to explain it all here (and would probably be breaking a few laws if I did), so I'll leave it at that. If you're struggling with your beginnings, I highly recommend this book.

    What are your favorite writing resources?

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    G is for Goals

    I think setting goals is helpful to put things into perspective. Sure, you want your novel published RIGHT NOW, but let's be realistic. Publishing is slow. It takes most people years to write and polish their novel before it's ready to go to the presses.

    Those years can feel like a never-ending race, yearning to cross the finish line that never appears on the horizon. So how to avoid the inevitable sense of discouragement. That feeling of, "I'll never get there?"

    Setting a series of goals can help you measure your progress. Not just the "I want my book published" end goal (if that is your end goal), but a series of goals that will move you along in a stepwise fashion.

    This isn't my idea. I got it from Jack M. Bickham, who mentions it in The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them). He recommends using a five-year plan. Start with where you want to be in five years. To achieve that, where will you be in four years? And in three? In two? At this time next year? And then, what can you do this week, even today, to move you forward?

    If you set a series of goals, you can make them small, things you can accomplish in a reasonable period of time. How long will it take you to write the first chapter? Or to do research? To figure out how the story weaves together?

    By taking things one step at a time, you will be able to measure your progress, even when you feel you aren't getting anywhere. A series of goals helps keep discouragement at bay. And it gives you lots of reasons to celebrate along the way.

    What are your writing goals? Over the next five years? For this year? Today?

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    F is for Follow Faster

    One of the things that drives me crazy about blogging is the unbelievably slow process of following and commenting. I don't know if it's the time of day, the pull of the moon on the electrons flowing through the computer, or frequent storms of vermicious knids, but I quite often find that when I want to follow a new blog, Blogger won't let me. If it does, I am required to wait at least fifteen minutes for said request to process, and I usually give up before it finishes.

    But guess what? I found a shortcut. And it works for following Wordpress blogs, so all the blogs you follow can be in one place, rather than having some posts showing up in your inbox. Copy the URL of the blog, then go to your Blogger dashboard and scroll down to your Reading List. Under the Blogs I'm Following tab, click on Add. Paste the URL, click Next, and you're good to go. If you choose the follow publicly option, your avatar will still show up on the person's blog, so they'll know you're there.

    This takes 15 seconds, rather than 15 minutes. And then you have an extra 14 minutes and 45 seconds to write something.

    Does Blogger do this to you? Or is it just me?

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    E is for Edit

    I've been doing a lot of editing lately, on the first (now second) draft of Thunderstruck and on some non-fiction articles and picture books, as well.

    First, start at the macro level. Why put your effort into line edits when you have to turn around and cut the whole scene because it doesn't work, after all? Wasted time and effort (if good practice).

    I'll post more about the macro approach to revisions when we get to R, but for today, here are some things to consider when editing your work.

    Show, don't tell Hopefully everyone knows this by now, but it can be easy to tell without realizing you're doing so. Did you tell the reader a character is angry, sad, puzzled, happy, irritated? If so, you're explaining too much. Their words and actions should get their emotions across.

    Use beats in place of speaker attributions I've been reading Roald Dahl's The BFG to my son lately, and each and every line of dialogue has a speaker attribution (Sophie said, the BFG said). I find it distracting and usually end up not reading them aloud. My son doesn't ask "who's talking?" He can tell from the words and the exchange who it is.

    Read your dialogue. Can you tell who's talking without the attribution? If you have more than two people, maybe not. But if you have only two people, and if those two people have distinct voices, it will be easy for the reader to follow along without the distraction of attributions.

    Instead of attributions, use beats. Do the characters DO anything during the conversation? Not scratching their heads (unless they have lice) or looking around, but movements that provide some punch and a bit of insight into their emotional state. You don't want to overuse beats, since they can detract from the tension of a scene, but beats are a useful component of dialogue.

    Read aloud I always read aloud when I'm editing. Why? Because sometimes sentences that seemed okay on the page sound terrible when read aloud. The rhythm of the sentence is off, the word choices poor. In my case, the sentences may be out of order, and reading aloud helps me figure out how they would flow better.

    And if you want your work published, you may be asked to read it some day. You don't want to get tongue-tied reading your own work.

    Check for white space  Flip through the manuscript. Is there a lot of white space, or do you have page after page of description? White space indicates action; a story that will move along quickly, and will therefore be of greater interest to readers.

    If you're looking for a good resource to help with editing, I highly recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. They include lots of great examples and exercises to help you put their advice into practice.

    How do you approach editing?

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    D is for Daylight

    Berlin is at 52 degrees north latitude. That's just 14 degrees south of the Arctic Circle. And it means that we go from 7 hours, 39 minutes of daylight on winter solstice to 16 hours, 50 minutes on summer solstice.

    Over the course of six months, we gain over 9 hours of daylight.

     This time of year is the best: we gain four minutes a day. So by this time next week, the day will be half an hour longer. It happens so fast, it's noticeable. Almost as if we can watch the world wake from its winter slumber.

    What's your favorite thing about spring?

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    C is for Chris Barton (Marketing Monday)

    For those of you who are new here (welcome!), I periodically run a Marketing Monday feature. Most of these are "case studies" of authors and what they (and their publishers) have done to market their books. If you're interested, you can see the others here. Today's installment is a little different.

    When I contacted Chris Barton (author of The Day-Glo Brothers, Shark vs. Train, and the soon-to-be-released Can I See Your I.D.?), he replied that he didn't have time to write up a post. But, gracious Texan that he is, he didn't leave me empty-handed.

    Last August, Chris did a Writer's League of Texas panel on book marketing. And it's all available on YouTube. So here is a ton of great information from a group of publishers: what they do and what you as an author can expect to do to market your book.

    It's a 12-part series; if you're interested in the rest, go here for part 4.

    If you are a published author and you would like to share your experiences with marketing and promoting your book(s), I'd love to share your story! Please contact me at anpstevens [at] gmail [dot] com. 

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    B is for Berlin

    For nearly five years, I have made my home in Berlin. It's a vibrant city and I love it here. A few of my favorite things:

    The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)


    The Berliner Dom


    Buddy Bears


    The Berlinale

    There are lots of others, but they don't all start with B.

    What do you like best about your city?

    (Yesterday's Fact or Fiction? Fact. I think. I heard the account from a trusted source, but when I did some research to add some realism, I couldn't find anything about alligators caching.)

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    A is for Alligator (Fact or Fiction Friday)

    Today's the start of the A to Z Challenge! And yes, as little time as I seem to have, I'm jumping into the fray. 

    The stench hit first; the rot of decaying flesh filled her nostrils, snapping her out of unconsciousness. She tried to move, lifting a hand in the darkness to find slime coating the walls that surrounded her. The air was dank and oppressive, filling her lungs with a physical presence her body tried to reject.

    Coughing, she rolled onto her side and nearly passed out from the pain. Testing with her left hand, she felt the break in her upper right arm, the lower piece of bone jutting forward. She couldn't remember how it had happened.

    How had she gotten here? She tried to remember as she sat up and clawed at the muck with her good hand. She had leaned down to collect a sample of water from a pool in the swamp... There was a big splash and then...  Nothing. It was blank.

    She got her feet beneath her, slipped, and slid onto her hip. Her arm hit the wall and a wave of pain washed over her.

    She fought back panic as she tried again, holding a tree root with her good hand for balance. For some reason, she knew she had to get out quickly. Had an overpowering feeling that something was coming back for her.

    Her movements opened the mat of vegetation that covered the hole, and cool air rushed over her. She gulped the fresh air and tried not to gag as the breeze shifted and the stench rose again. She had to get out.

    Using her left hand, she reached as far above her as she could, grabbed hold of a low-hanging cypress branch, and scrabbled up the slick walls. The lure of fresh air and the threat of something she couldn't quite recall drove her on. After several minutes of struggling, she lay on the spongy surface, staring up at the distant sky.

    And then she heard it, the deep staccato of an alligator call, and it all came rushing back, filling her body with a surge of adrenaline like an electric shock. She had leaned down to collect the sample and the splash... the splash was an alligator. It had grabbed her arm and pulled her under water, rolling over and over to kill her. But somehow she had not only survived the death roll, she had been cached for later. Mating season. That was the only explanation.

    A tail hit the water nearby and the woman struggled to her feet. She had to get out before the alligator returned.

    What do you think? Fact or Fiction?
    Last week: Fact. (down to the three-story drop, bounce, and run)