Finding Mulligan: Page 119

I read something on an agent’s blog about how at some convention they did a workshop where they read page 119 of a bunch of novels, and tried to decide if the novel might be good based on page 119.

Why page 119? No idea.

Out of curiosity, I of course flipped to page 119 of my novel to see if it would seem “good” if this was all you got.

Unfortunately it kind of makes it seem like a straight romance novel, even though it’s not. Heh.  Here’s my Page 119:

“You know what, I never understood why people say roses smell ‘sweet.’ They kind of stink if you ask me. I prefer honeysuckle or gardenias.”

I almost spilled the drink I was pouring when she said that. I steadied my hands and tried like hell not to conjure up the scent of gardenias in my mind.

“So, tell me about him,” she needled me as I brought the beverages into the living room and set them on coasters on the table.

“The flower’s not from a guy,” I said. “I bought it from a gas station.”

“Gas stations sell roses?”

“Yeah, haven’t you ever seen those little cups of roses sometimes, by the cash registers? The one across from the McDonald’s has them.”

“Why’d you buy a rose?”

“I wanted it.”

“But there is a guy, right?”

My cheeks got hot as I tried to cover it by sipping my drink. I glanced at her and saw that familiar mischievous expression. She wasn’t going to let me go. I was going to have to give her some semblance of an answer.

“Actually, I’ve met a couple of guys.”

“Oh, jeez, really?”

“Yes, I’m into two different guys at once. And they’re friends, and I don’t know which one to chase, ’cause they are both sweet guys and they’re talented and hot as hell, and probably not interested in me at all because I’m a boring, stupid freshman.” Okay, that had been more than I had been planning to say.

And that’s that. Amusing exercise!

Completed New Novel: Finding Mulligan

Finished writing Finding Mulligan!

Genre: Young Adult (Crossover?)/Modern Fantasy/Romance/???

Length: 26 Chapters/420 pages/~120,000 words.

Tag line: “What if you fell in love with someone who might not exist?”

Keywords: YA: Fantastical, young adult, romance, dreams, psychological, alternate-world, college, interracial romance, magical realism, young-adult crossover, chronic illness (in a family member).

Protagonist: Cassandra Howard.

POV: First person, past tense.


Cassandra Howard lives a double life—literally. She spends her days worrying about school, hanging out with her best friend, and sulking in the shadow of her chronically ill (and pampered) younger sister. But at night, she’s busy with her charmed life in an alternate universe. In dreamland, Cassie becomes a charismatic, carefree girl named Dia, and she prefers to keep her two lives separate. That changes when she falls in love.

Dia kicks off a fairy-tale romance with Mulligan, dreamland’s delicious drummer boy. But Cassie is pretty sick of her other self getting everything good about their shared life, and she talks Dia into helping her find the waking-world version of her boyfriend. All the clues point to Mulligan existing in both worlds, just like Cassie does.

A mysterious portrait of Mulligan leads Cassie to two candidates: is it Terrell, the model who posed for the painting? Or is it Jamie, the artist who painted it? Maddening maybes play tug-of-war in her mind until she finds herself attracted to both guys, and she fears betraying her dream love if she picks the wrong one.

To test her contenders, Cassie dresses up like Dia and tries to act like her, but gets the shock of her life when some of Dia’s practically magical charisma and talent transfers to her. When lines of identity start blurring beyond their comfort, they’ll have to uncover the nature of dreamland and deal with the repercussions of this love triangle. (Or . . . love pentagon. Whatever.) And one thing’s for sure: dreams of “happily ever after” do sometimes turn out to be nightmares.

Next up: Lots of editing!

The Mystery of the Cigar Box

I was a productive little author this weekend. Two more new chapters!

Actually I had originally planned for these two chapters to be one chapter, but . . . as per usual, the characters got carried away with their conversation, and it seemed like it would be an awfully long chapter if I stuck them together.

So. The book’s total word count so far: 94,751.

Oh noooooo, it’s almost 95,000! It’s inching ever closer to that horrific 100,000-word mark! 🙁

I am not, nor will I ever be, capable of a short novel.

I have a SHORT STORY that’s around 22,000 words. Good lord.

I’m pleased with the chapters. Two scenes that I thought would kill me were easily survivable. This is why I think if these characters ever stop surprising me, it won’t be soon.

So, yes. Couple-fights. Psychoanalysis. Minor injuries. Vegan muffins. Crazy cats. Crying. Grape juice. And EVERYONE is acting sort of creepy now, especially Mulligan. It’s weirding me out.

I can’t wait until I’m done with this monster. I really, really want to share it.

Although . . . I don’t know how the book ends. I rarely do. 🙂

(It’s okay—the characters always figure it out.)

Ah and I have introduced . . . THE MYSTERY OF THE CIGAR BOX!!! What’s inside? Condoms? Rat poison? Yo’ momma?

The world may never know.

About to. . . .

Just a note to say that I’m really nervous. . . .

I’m about to write a really important bit of a chapter that I’ve been putting off in my current work in progress. I’ve been kicking it around in my head and I think it’s ready to come out now, and I wrote the setup and everything, but . . . I’m about to dive in.

I have no idea how exactly it’s going to be written and what this revelation is actually going to DO to my main character’s brain, but it is very hard to pull the rug out from under someone you love—as I love all my characters—and it’s going to be very hard for me to shove all this suspicion and betrayal and realization in her face. I don’t know if she’s going to be shocked or angry or hopeless or just determined or WHAT, but I’ll know once she’s actually in the moment. I can’t write the “wrong” thing once I’m there, even though I don’t know what I’m about to write. . . .

But I kind of don’t want to go there.

Negative One: Several Reviews

My webcomic got featured in Top Webcomics, so I started getting a few more readers and, consequently, more mail about the story than usual.  Reading the mail, I have noticed several themes and things people tend to like about the comic.

  1. They tend to like the characters.
  2. They normally point out that it’s different from every other webcomic they read.
  3. And they like the realness and sincerity and inventiveness of my plot.

Some of them mention they like the art, too, but mostly almost everyone who writes me says something about having experienced a personal connection with the characters or relating to their situation.

One thing I think I do well is write convincingly about things I’ve never been through. I was discussing this with a person who contacted me about the comic recently, and after I told her I’ve never had a baby or gone to another dimension like the characters in the story have, she reacted with surprise, saying, “WHAT? I thought *sure* from this story that you were a mother!” (Paraphrased.) That’s awesome. I guess we’ll never know how convincingly I write about traveling to other dimensions. I don’t think there are any people out there who can say whether I’m doing it right or wrong. Heh.

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Gather Contest: Bad Fairy

I entered a contest at back on February 13.  It was called “First Chapters” and novelists with a completed manuscript were allowed to enter and possibly win a publishing contract.  I figured I had nothing to lose, but the experience was pretty terrible.  Because whoever came up with the rules for the contest must have been smoking something toxic.

Contestants were allowed to vote on each other’s entries.

The “points” everyone was getting were visible to everyone, with the site adjusting the top entries to always be at the beginning.  (This was not only unfair, but it encouraged people to vote down whoever was in the lead.)

The reviews were visible for every entry.  This was especially bad because Gather was bribing people to offer reviews by saying star reviewers would be chosen to receive $500 in store credit to Borders, and you were supposed to be able to win by being “insightful,” so having the previous reviews visible to readers obviously influences the opinion AND gives reviewers tips on what to say for their own review.

Can I just say again that contestants were allowed to vote on each other’s entries?  And that the rules specifically said they were allowed to do so as long as they did it “in the spirit of the competition”?

A vote-decided competition absolutely cannot have its participants voting on each other.  I was appalled.  Especially since every single entry in the contest had a 3 or 4 out of 10 by the time the voting closed because of all the really determined serial downvoters.

And yet, without addressing these issues whatsoever, Gather announced their 20 winners—one of whom was a guy whose profile page said he was a paid contributor for Gather—and opened the next round with all the same rules.  (I wasn’t picked, but that doesn’t surprise me.  My entry was regularly on the front page of highest-rated entries, and then it would get attacked with downvotes and disappear, and then it would appear again every time I got a good review.)

Anyway, I also got some grumpy guy telling me I was obviously ripping off Wicked—yeah, man, that’s likely, since I wrote the story before I’d heard of it, and after all Gregory Maguire invented the concept of a retelling, right?  And then some other snotty reviewer tried to tear me a new one claiming I’d contradicted myself because I suggested it’s possible to be original while still telling a technically derivative story (like a fairy tale retelling).  “Well if it’s derived from another story then it can’t really be original then CAN IT??”  Uh, I sure hope there’s a degree program in Missing the Point, because that guy’s got a Bachelor’s.  I’m pretty certain nobody who reads Bad Fairy is going to come out of it thinking what a copycat piece of crap it is.

So . . . yeah, good riddance to THAT contest.

On Speech Tags

Use “said.”

Did your English teacher ever pass out a handy worksheet of alternatives for the word “said” and encourage you to “jazz up” your stories with them?

Please, tell me no English teacher did this to you.

Sadly, I have heard from more than one person that English teachers actually did deliberately train them to “make their writing varied and interesting” by switching out boring old “said” for these clearly more interesting words like “jeered,” “growled,” or “expectorated.”

No.  Use “said.”

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Word of the Day: Favonian

I subscribe to Word of the Day from, so I get neat words delivered to my inbox daily.  Today’s:

Word of the Day for Wednesday, January 3, 2007

favonian \fuh-VOH-nee-uhn\, adjective:
Pertaining to the west wind; soft; mild; gentle.

With dusk came cool, favonian breezes.

I LOVE this word. I want to start using it all the time, except I guess I don’t have that many occasions to talk about western wind.

Can I use it to describe when a country star farts?

Movie Recommendation: Stranger Than Fiction

If you are a writer, or have ever fancied yourself one, you need to see the movie Stranger Than Fiction.

I went to a pre-screening with my friend and it was such a wonderful experience. I mean, seriously, when was the last time you can remember watching a movie while grinning practically the whole time, enthralled, actively involved and completely immersed in the story that you’re being shown?

I’ve been guilty of being a passive movie-watcher. There’s not a lot out there that impresses me. But once in a while there’s a movie that hits every nerve, makes me say “OH!” throughout, makes me completely relate to the characters and draws me right the hell in.

Stranger Than Fiction involves a rather interesting relationship between a writer and a character, and vice versa. It raises interesting questions about the nature of writing, of stories, of literature and story forms, of the duty of the creator and the created to their own respective worlds, with a nod at the weird little glimmer of reality where the two meet.

Will Ferrell usually plays a different kind of character, but in this I could totally believe in him as a stiff, numbers-obsessed IRS agent who’s suddenly in a situation he can’t puzzle out. Emma Thompson plays an AWESOME neurotic writer! While I was watching her I was like, “Oh my God. She GETS it.” Maggie Gyllenhaal was such a convincing bleeding-heart hippie baker . . . I was totally reminded of my college hippie days going to poetry jams. And Dustin Hoffman was his usual brilliant self—completely comfortable in the role of a literature professor who doesn’t appear to think it’s all that bizarre to be analyzing a story he’s become part of. (Queen Latifah was also in it, but I didn’t really have anything to say for or against her—I like her in everything else I’ve seen her in, but in this she felt like kind of an extra character.)

The last time I was this taken with a movie, it was also about writing. That movie was Adaptation.

Three words: Go see it.

Four words: Go see it NOW.

Finding Mulligan: Hiatus for Cassie

Well, I got away from writing my “Mulligan” story for a while because Bad Fairy got attention from an agent and I had to respond to that.  I wanted to reread the book before sending it to her, and I hadn’t gone ahead and done it before submitting because I was pessimistic (unlike me!) and thought no one was going to ask to see beyond chapter 3 for a long time. When this agent asked it kind of threw me. I had to take a vacation from writing Finding Mulligan because of that and a few other life things (visits, obligations).

Chapter three is in progress—has been for a while—but little miss Cassie . . . um, rather, Dia at the moment . . . is running around in her dream looking for her sweetheart and I think I stopped her mid-sentence. She probably won’t mind. She hasn’t been sitting around waiting to be written about for years. The idea for her only crystallized in my head recently.

The agent who was considering Bad Fairy ultimately rejected it for being too long, but told me she really likes my style and voice and wants to see my future work if it’s shorter. Still more reason to put a fire under it and try to have Cassie ready by early next year. I think her story will be fairly short if I don’t try to do stupid things to it.