11.27.14 - And We Give Thanks

By JT Ellison

A friend wrote me yesterday asking for a few sentences on what I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving. I dutifully gave her my list, which I assume is similar in nature to most others. Family, friends, gifts, etc.

But there are a lot of things in this world I am thankful for this year. So, in no particular order, a (non)exhaustive list.

  • Writer friends who let me whine and buy me wine
  • Non-writer friends who look at me like I’m insane, or brilliant, or both
  • Parents who are living, healthy, still married and rather fun to be with
  • Carmex. Enough said.
  • Those little fur mice that my cats adore; it’s so nice to find them wet and soggy underfoot in the mornings
  • Earl Grey tea
  • A husband who unloads the dishwasher and makes tea for me in the morning
  • My MacBook Air
  • Being surrounded by professionals who have my best interest at heart
  • The love of strangers
  • Progressive lenses
  • The freedom to pursue my dreams
  • The people who fight for me so I can pursue my dreams
  • And stories. Thank God for stories.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram – no, really.
  • Pinterest – and this one is special, because, you know, VISION BOARDS!
  • Hot showers on cold days
  • Warm crackly fires
  • The dust that rises in a poof when you open an old book long on the shelf (not to be seen as a commentary on my housekeeping skills)
  • Laughter
  • Smiling
  • Rembrandt tooth whitening toothpaste
  • Creme de la Mer
  • Birkenstocks
  • Boots and skinny jeans and leggings
  • 80s music aka “First Wave” on Sirius XM
  • The Clash
  • That I’ve been given a gift, and the ability to share it with others
  • My very old Coach dayplanner cover that fits my new Quo Vadis Exaclaire Journal 21 perfectly
  • Amazon Prime
  • Indie bookstores
  • Inappropriate movies
  • Harry Potter
  • Cameras
  • Advil – All. Those. Bookshelves.
  • Diamonds
  • Cashmere
  • Hot baths
  • The moment when you start reading a book and realize it’s going to be a brilliant ride
  • Pillow forts
  • Kittens
  • Ghost kittens
  • That article in the Daily Mail that suggested I lay off wheat (adios, 15 pounds this year)
  • Gluten-free pie crusts
  • Stevia
  • YOGA!
  • That my body still does the things I ask of it
  • Redecorating to address needs. Like a yoga room. And more bookshelves.
  • Did I mention the best husband in the world?
  • Cowriters
  • Those awesome little cloths that actually clean your glasses
  • Kind Bars
  • iPads
  • Rainy days in Paris

You get the idea. I could go on and on. But entirely non-irreverently, I am so very thankful for you. For coming here, and reading, and cheering on, and all that. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

What are you thankful for today?

Via: JT Ellison

    

11.25.14 - This Chicken's Head is Not Here

By JT Ellison

I stayed up much too late last night, watching TV and listening to police scanners, seeing things work, and things not work, applauding the peaceful protests, cringing at the fires and looting and shootings. I write about law enforcement, and it’s not often so front and center, so attainable. Seeing police in action is a boon for research, yes, but it’s scary, too. I applaud the reporters who braved their lives to bring us the stories from around the country, too. It was a hard night, one I hope isn’t repeated. Alas, I fear my wish will not come true.

So I’ve been in a reflective mood today, and clearly distracted, as I first forgot my car keys, then had to come back to the house three times for, in turns, my Fitbit, my PO Box keys, and the grocery list. Then I left my wallet in the car… On and on and on, all day, silly little things here and there. I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off – such is the colloquial term – and was being blonde at the same time.

My mind is not on my work or my errands. It’s somewhere else, and I finally stopped trying to make things work and instead settled in to clean my desk, do some filing and continue emptying the bookshelves. I know when the universe has bested me.

Word count – Zero.

Boo. Hiss.

But I’m here. And you’re here. So let’s have a virutal hug and some tea and a prayer for peace. Since that’s all I can really think about today.

Via: JT Ellison

    

11.24.14 - The Bookcases are Coming, the Bookcases are Coming!

By JT Ellison

I know you’re terribly surprised to hear I have several overflowing bookcases in my house. We’ve decided adding more is the only solution, and I just got the call that they guys will be here Wednesday morning at 9 to install them. Which means… CHAOS!!!!!!

I have to offload ALL the shelves in the living room, plus remove a ladder shelf in the kitchen covered with cookbooks and teapots to make room for the desk that’s moving there. This, whilst getting Thanksgiving in order, since there will be people knocking on the door at ten Thursday morning.

Plus, need to write 10,000 words this week, minimum.

HAHAHAHA… the joke’s on me, isn’t it?

1865 today. I’d keep going, but it’s always better to stop in the middle of a scene. And there’s all these books to move….

Via: JT Ellison

    

It's That Time of Year Again: The PWoC Returns

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Yes, it’s November, folks, and we all know what that means.

It means it’s time
for Christmas decorations to start appearing on the shelves and in the
streets. It’s time for Christmas commercials to begin showing up on TV.
And it’s time for loud (and ultimately useless) grousing about how awful
it is that all this is happening when it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.


All of this is followed, as the
night follows the day, by the annual Phony War on Christmas (PWOC), that
yearly ritual in which the most privileged class of people (white,
straight Christians) in the most privileged country on Earth get to
whine about how they’re being oppressed because someone wished them
“Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”


As always, the first cries of woe
came from our old friends at the Resentment Channel, aka Fox “News.”
Bill O’Reilly, whose platoons of researchers apparently comb the
Interwebs looking for stories to spin up into new occasions for
right-wing butthurt, announced, in his words, “the first salvo in the war on Christmas.”


In one school district in
Maryland, O’Reilly said indignantly, “there will be no mention of
Christmas or any other religious holiday on the school calendars going
forward. That’s because a Muslim did something!”


Now, you may be thinking,
“Doggone those Muslims! Now they’ve gotten Christmas banned! Is there no
end to their perfidy?” Not so fast. What “a Muslim” (actually several
local Muslim leaders) did in Montgomery County, Maryland, was ask for a
day off for one of their own religious holidays, known as Eid al-Adha or
“feast of the sacrifice.” They were certainly not asking that there be
no Christmas.


I imagine they didn’t expect the
school board’s reaction, which was to totally punt on the issue and
remove all religious designations from the school holidays, both
Christian and Jewish. It was a decision which satisfied no one.


Note well that the Christian and
Jewish holidays themselves are still there: Everyone still gets the same
time off for Christmas and Easter, as well as the High Holy Days of
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s just that Christmas vacation happens
over what’s now called “winter break.” Easter vacation is where it’s
always been, during “spring break.” As for the Jewish holidays, they’re
designated as days of “no school for students and teachers,” according to a report in the Washington Post.


So the kids still have the same
holidays they had before, to celebrate in any way they and their
families see fit. You’d think that would placate Mr. O’Reilly and his
colleagues. You’d think that, that is, if you’d been living in a cave
without TV for the last 20 years and were unfamiliar with Mr. O’Reilly’s
shtick. This board decision, he groused,
was “wiping out” all our traditions. “They’re wiping out — you know
Christmas and Easter and Passover, these have a Judeo-Christian
tradition in our country,” he said. “So they just wiped out all our
traditions for these people.”


Actually, “they’ve” done no such
thing. While calling the break at the end of the year “Christmas break”
is something we may have gotten used to over the years, I seriously
doubt that anyone regards how it’s designated on the written school
calendar crumpled up in the bottom of Junior’s backpack as one of their
fondly embraced traditions.


In any case, I strongly suspect
that students and parents will still refer to the holidays as “Christmas
break” and “Easter break,” and no one will try to stop them. All will
still be allowed to participate in their real traditional observances of
the season, such as trampling their fellow celebrants on Black Friday
so as to snag the last of the “door buster” 50-inch TVs for $199 at Best
Buy.


I’ve noticed that there doesn’t
seem to be a lot of outcry from Jewish people over the Montgomery County
School Board decision, even though their holidays got the same
treatment as the Christian ones. Perhaps this is because Jewish folks,
having actually been the recent targets of horrific and genocidal
persecution, are less inclined to get their knickers in a twist over
what some school board calls a holiday.


It’s a lesson some people could
stand to learn. If the thing that makes you indignant is a faraway
school board calling the end-of-the-year vacation the “winter” rather
than the “Christmas” break, or the thing you feel the burning need to
protest is someone using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,”
then I submit that you’ve actually got life pretty good and should just
be thankful for that, it being the season for thanksgiving and all.

Via: J.D. Rhoades

    

Nanowrimo: The Third Quarter Drop Dead

By noreply@blogger.com (Alexandra Sokoloff)

by Alexandra Sokoloff

Home stretch!

Well, theoretically, anyway. But I find that right about now is when people tend to start dropping during Nano. First of all there’s, well, Thanksgiving. Which even though it’s a holiday, involves family, and family is never conducive to marathon writing. (They don’t like to lose us to a book, it’s just the truth. It brings up all kinds of feelings of abandonment and inadequacy. So – pretend you’re going shopping and go to a cafe to write, that’s what they’re for.)

But also, let’s face it, it’s EASY to write a first act. It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s exciting, it’s like the first flush of being in love. You’re so high you don’t stop to think, and that means you don’t get in your own way.

It can even be not so hard to get through Act II, part 1 to the Midpoint. But it’s that third quarter where things get murky. You feel like you’re not getting anywhere. In fact, you have no freaking clue where you are, or why in the hell you’re wherever the hell you are to begin with, and you just want to give up and sleep for a week, or eat turkey and chocolate for a week, or all of the above.

I had a friend in movie development who called it “the third-quarter drop dead.”

Well, here’s an interesting thing. Structurally, this is EXACTLY the point in your story that your hero/ine is feeling those exact same things. In other words, it’s the BLACK MOMENT, or ALL IS LOST MOMENT, or the VISIT TO DEATH, which almost always ends up as the climax or just before the climax of Act II.

It’s as if we as authors have to work ourselves into the exact same hopeless despair as our characters, as if nothing good will ever come out of this situation and we might as well give up right now – in order to convey that emotion on the page and feel that exhilaration when the character SOLVES the problem and gets that final revelation and makes that final plan.

So if you find yourself in this situation, you might want to review the elements of Act II: Part 2, and take a look at some of those questions to see if they might help you find your way.

And remember – the Force is with you.

Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers “Grow, grow.”
– The Talmud

- Alex


=====================================================

All the information on this blog and more is in the writing workbooks. Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are available for just $3.99 and $2.99.


- Amazon US

- Amazon UK

- Amaxon DE

- Amazon FR

- Amazon ES

- Amazon IT

If you’re a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories, and more full story breakdowns.

- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

- Amazon US

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amazon DE

Via: Alexandra Sokoloff

    

11.21.14

By JT Ellison

Friday afternoon, and I thought I’d start up my productivity notes again.

It’s been a productive week so far. My word count hasn’t been off the charts — only averaged 1500 words a day — but that meets my word goal per day. And I accomplished quite a bit. I managed to build myself a comprehensive outline for the new Nicholas book based on the synopsis Catherine and I cooked up, which will really make things move quickly. I head out to her place to visit and discuss in a couple of weeks, so the more I can have done and planned, the better.

Did the dedication and acknowledgments for WHAT LIES BEHIND, which excitingly went up for pre-order, almost as if it knows it’s got a cover and an opening page and end papers. Funny how that happens. I finished the copyedits on Sunday, so all that’s left is one last pass through to find any issues, and that book will be put to bed entirely.

I should have fun news for you next week regarding the story I’m planning for Brenda Novak’s SWEET DREAMS boxset.

And I’m very excited to see Mockingjay: Part 1 this weekend. Might even brave the crowds tonight. The kittens are not at all happy at this prospect, as Jordan has been jonesing for a fire all day. ( I know this because she stands in front of the fireplace and gives it mournful mirps.) It will be chilly tomorrow; we’ll have one for her then.

It may be a crazy weekend for our world. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe and warm and calm. Happy Friday, and Happy Happy Birthday to my darling middle brother!

Via: JT Ellison

    

Nanowrimo: Elements of Act II, Part 2

By noreply@blogger.com (Alexandra Sokoloff)

by Alexandra Sokoloff

ACT II:2

In a 2-hour movie this section starts at about 60 minutes, and ends at about 90 minutes.

In a 400-page book, this section starts at about p. 300 and ends toward the end of the book.

Now, remember, at the end of Act II, part 1, there is a MIDPOINT CLIMAX, which I’ll review briefly because it’s so important.

In movies the midpoint is usually a big SETPIECE scene, where the filmmakers really show off their expertise with a special effects sequence (as in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and HARRY POTTER, 1), or a big action scene (JAWS), or in breathtaking psychological cat-and-mouse dialogue (in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS). It might be a sex scene or a comedy scene, or both in a romantic comedy. Whatever the Midpoint is, it is most likely going to be specific to the promise of the genre.

And I strongly encourage you as authors to pay as much attention to your midpoint as filmmakers do with theirs.

THE MIDPOINT –

- Completely changes the game
- Locks the hero/ine into a situation or action
- Is a point of no return
- Can be a huge revelation
- Can be a huge defeat
- Can be a huge win
- Can be a “now it’s personal” loss
- Can be sex at 60 – the lovers finally get together, only to open up a whole new world of problems

(More on MIDPOINT).

Act II, part 2 will almost always have these elements:

* RECALIBRATING– after the shock or defeat of the game-changer in the midpoint, the hero/ine must REVAMP THE PLAN and try a NEW MODE OF ATTACK.

What’s the new plan?

* STAKES

A good story will always be clear about the stakes. Characters often speak the stakes aloud.

How have the stakes changed? Do we have new hopes or fears about what the protagonist will do and what will happen to him or her?

* ESCALATING ACTIONS/OBSESSIVE DRIVE

Little actions by the hero/ine to get what s/he wants have not cut it, so the actions become bigger and usually more desperate.

Do we see a new level of commitment in the hero/ine?

How are the hero/ine’s actions becoming more desperate?

* It’s also worth noting that while the hero/ine is generally (but not always!) winning in Act II:1, s/he generally begins to lose in Act II:2. Often this is where everything starts to unravel and spiral out of control.

* INCREASED ATTACKS BY ANTAGONIST

Just as the hero/ine is becoming more desperate to get what s/he wants, the antagonist also has failed to get what s/he wants and becomes more desperate and takes riskier actions.

* HARD CHOICES AND CROSSING THE LINE (IMMORAL ACTIONS by the main character to get what s/he wants)

Do we see the hero/ine crossing the line and doing immoral things to get what s/he wants?

* LOSS OF KEY ALLIES (possibly because of the hero/ine’s obsessive actions, possibly through death or injury by the antagonist).

Do any allies walk out on the hero/ine or get killed or injured?

* A TICKING CLOCK (can happen anywhere in the story, or there may not be one.)

* REVERSALS AND REVELATIONS/TWISTS

* THE LONG DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL and/or VISIT TO DEATH (also known as: ALL IS LOST).

There is always a moment in a story where the hero/ine seems to have lost everything, and it is almost always right before the Second Act Climax, or it IS the Second Act Climax.

What is the All Is Lost scene?

* In a romance or romantic comedy, the All Is Lost moment is often a THE LOVER MAKES A STAND scene, where s/he tells the loved one – “Enough of this bullshit waffling, either commit to me or don’t, but if you don’t, I’m out of here.” This can be the hero/ine or the love interest making this stand.

THE SECOND ACT CLIMAX

* Often will be a final revelation before the end game: often the knowledge of who the opponent really is, that will propel the hero/ine into the FINAL BATTLE.

* Often will be another devastating loss, the ALL IS LOST scene. In a mythic structure or Chosen One story or mentor story this is almost ALWAYS where the mentor dies or is otherwise taken out of the action, so the hero/ine must go into the final battle alone.

* Answers the Central Question – and often the answer is “no” – so that the hero/ine again must come up with a whole new plan.

* Often is a SETPIECE.

More discussion on Elements Of Act II:2

=====================================================

All the information on this blog and more is in the writing workbooks. Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are available for just $3.99 and $2.99.


- Amazon US

- Amazon UK

- Amaxon DE

- Amazon FR

- Amazon ES

- Amazon IT

If you’re a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories, and more full story breakdowns.

- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

- Amazon US

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amazon DE

Via: Alexandra Sokoloff

    

One Of The Best Things About Nashville...

By squarespace@desk.pm

One of this big advantages of living in Nashville is the music. Last night, I had the pleasure of attending an awesome bi-monthly event called EAST SIDE STORYTELLIN’, which is put together by the indomitable Chuck Beard of the very cool East Nashville shop East Side Story. Every event features an author, and a musician. Words, and lyrics. What a beautiful combination.

By the way, Chuck’s bookstore is unique – populated with books by Tennessee authors only. It is a true labor of love, and I can’t recommend buying from him highly enough. Not only is it a cool bookstore, it’s filled with art and love. If you’re in Nashville, stop by. If you’re outside of Nashville – give Chuck a call. He can hook you up with just the right book. Because Nashville – heck, all of Tennessee – is FULL of brilliant writers. We’ve undergone quite the literary renaissance lately, and Chuck has all of us there.

So back to last night – a great match up of words and lyrics. The author was Alecia Whitaker, the music by Alissa Moreno. These two have been teamed together for Alecia’s book, WILDFLOWER, the story of a young singer who’s gotten her big break, and Alissa sang the breakout song that’s featured in the book. There’s even a talent search underway for the next big star, so if you know a great teen signer, send them here.

And I officially have a crush on Alissa Moreno. What a voice! You know how some songs, some people, just strike you? Well, you’ve heard her before, too, though you may not know it. She’s one of those amazingly talented singer/songwriters who populate this town. I bought one of her albums, and I’m stoked to go see her around town.

And since this has turned into a linkfest instead of my initial premise, I’ll get to it now. I am not a signer. I have no discernible musical talent. I played a bunch of instruments in school — clarinet, mostly, but sax and flute and drums and guitar, too — but they didn’t speak to me like words, and I had to choose between band and G&T classes, and I chose the latter. As such, I am always fascinated by people who have both words and melody in their heads. It seems such an ethereal gift, less workmanlike, more tangible than words alone. I know I can turn a phrase, but do I give people goosebumps and make tears come to their eyes?

That’s how I felt last night. That overwhelming spark that sends tingles throughout your body when you hear just the right voice, just the right note, just the right words. I didn’t want the evening to end.

Do check out these extremely talented women, and give Chuck a whirl — you won’t be disappointed.

Have you been moved by anything or anyone lately?

Via: JT Ellison

    

NYC trip

By Toni When Tamar and I were walking around NYC last week, we made a stop at an amazing gelato place (um, Tamar will have to post where it is)… and as we’re standing in there, she’s taste testing all of these wonderfully exotic flavors… you know, things with fruit flavors and strange concoctions that fall into the category […]

Via: Toni McGee Causey

    

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