2012 Central Coast Writers' Conference

The 28th annual Central Coast Writers' Conference was held at Cuesta College recently and I was lucky enough to attend. We had beautiful weather, wonderful faculty and interesting sessions.

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This year's keynote speaker was poet Jack Grapes. It's the first time a poet has been the keynote speaker in the conference's 28 year history. He was really good - very inspirational, gave really good advice, and read some of his wonderful poetry as well.

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We also got a brief poetry reading from the San Luis Obispo 2012 Poet Laureate Bonnie Young. 

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For my first session I chose to learn about creating suspense in mystery or thriller novels with faculty member  Jeff Carlson. This guy was a great speaker - lots of great information about plotting and pace, and lots of energy as well, which is important at the end of a long day! Last year I took a session about writing suspense, but didn't walk away with half the information and inspiration as I did with this guy.

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Saturday morning I enjoyed a lovely breakfast out in the courtyard (the conference was wonderfully catered, btw), and prepared for the day's sessions.

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The first session was about the various sub-genres within the fantasy genre. Our faculty member for this session was  Barbara Hodges. It was nice because it was a really small group - only about 7 or 8 people total! - and we had a lovely discussion about different types of fantasy stories, what we're writing, marketing with regards to fantasy and much more. 

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My next session was with Jeff Carlson again; this time talking about worldbuilding in fantasy and sci-fi stories. He repeated some of the same information as the night before, but it was still interesting.

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My last session of the day was developing the character arc in your novel with Rachel Herron. She was a great speaker - I think my favourite of the weekend - and I was lucky enough to win one of her novels in the raffle!

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At the end of the afternoon we had a final session with a panel moderated by Catherine Ryan Hyde that included book bloggers Amy Riley and Danielle Smith and literary agent Pam van Hylckama. Together they discussed the importance of marketing yourself to book bloggers for reviews and exposure. While I am not familiar with any of these ladies, I do read a lot of other  book blogs, and have been introduced to several really great books and authors by reading their reviews. 

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Overall this was one of the best conferences I've been to. The faculty were great. They provided interesting and usable information, and controlled their rooms effectively (unlike some past conferences where the instructors totally lost control of the folks in their sessions and it became a total free-for-all). It was also nice to have some different session topics to choose from, too, as the past few years, I've been taking a lot of the same stuff, mostly because I'm not ready for the marketing/query stuff and also because I'm not interested in writing children's/picture books. Anyway, it was a great weekend, and I really do recommend this writers' conference to any and all my writing friends. Cheers!


A is for Art (All About Me Blog Challenge) #allaboutme #Lovekate

For the first installment of the All About Me Blog Challenge over at Love, Kate's blog, I chose Art to represent the letter A. Art has always been a big part of my life from playing with colouring books or drawing stick figure pictures as a child to writing poems and stories, creating rubber stamped greeting cards, and taking artistic photos as an adult. 

Below are a couple of hand stamped cards I made for Thanksgiving and Christmas:

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And a few years ago I made a chapbook featuring some of my hand stamped art, photography and writing including short stories, poetry and haiku:

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Recently I have been participating in a Photo a Day Challenge hosted by Chantelle from Fat Mum Slim, and while I haven't always managed to take a photo for every topic or theme or whatever you want to call it, I have taken several pretty good shots. I posted 30 of my shots in a 30 Days of Creativity Wrap Up post just the other day. Check 'em out! 

I also enjoy viewing other people's art in museums, galleries, in coffee shops, or just on the street. 

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Painting by a local artist displayed at Bru Coffeehouse in Atascadero, CA.

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Graffiti found on a wall in an alleyway in San Luis Obispo, CA.

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A statue in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Santa Barbara, CA.

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A painting in progress in the gardens of the San Juan Capistrano Mission, San Juan Capistrano, CA.

'Till next time ... cheers!


Accidental Display #31Photosin31Days

Whilst deadheading my Midas Touch rose bush the other night, I accidently snipped off this blossom that had just started to open up. I felt so bad for the poor thing I took it inside to put it in water in the hopes that it will continue to bloom. Turns out my tall Lambeau Field shot glass make a perfect bud vase!

Midastouchrose1a poor little rose bud / your bloom was just beginning / you were snipped too soon


Page 99 Blogfest

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The Page 99 Blogfest is hosted by Holly at Super Mom Writes where today writers share the 99th page of their WIP novel. My novel - I still haven't come up with a decent title for it - is a MG/young YA story about a boy named Chris who struggles to come to terms with his ability to communicate with ghosts. Among other things. Yeah, I really have no idea where I'm going with this, so just bear with me! Oh, and by the way, I've removed certain names and pronouns so as to not give away too much of what happens in the story. Enjoy!

A light tap-tap-tap at my window pulled me away from my jumbled thoughts. I crawled out of bed and went over to see Mitzie's face peering in at me between her cupped hands. I unlocked the window and pushed it up, stepping aside to let her come in.

"It's late," I said, closing the window against the bitter cold.

"I know," she said apologetically. "But I'm just SO excited about what we did today! What you did, I mean. Helping [the ghost] find [the thing he was looking for]? That was amazing! I can't stop thinking about it."

In spite of myself, I had to smile. Her enthusiasm was contagious and, I realized, very much needed.

"I know," I said. "Me, too. Kinda.”

I went back to my bed and crawled into it, shivering, and propped my back against the wall. Mitzie hopped up and sat Indian-style at the foot of my bed.

"I still can't believe you can actually see and talk to ghosts! I try and try and try and can't get anything! Not a whisper!"

I thought right then about telling her everything: How I came to have this ability, whether I wanted it or not. How everywhere I looked there were people claiming to be psychics or mediums who could communicate with spirits. How they would go to peoples’ homes and hold séances with candles and Ouija boards to contact dead relatives. I watched shows about these people on TV, thinking I was going to see someone like me, someone who could really see and communicate with ghosts, just so I could feel some connection with someone, like I’m not the only freak out there. But they were all just scams. Just some old woman pretending to be “possessed” by the spirit of someone’s loved one to get some cash out of a sad family, or “sensing” the presence of a missing person in a vacant lot or garbage dump to gain notoriety with the police and be interviewed on the local news. I could tell they were lying though. Because I could see the ghosts, right there on the TV screen, standing right beside them, and the mediums and psychics were ignoring them completely.

But I just couldn't tell her any of this. Not yet. It was still too painful to ... to go back to that night, when it all began.  I can still smell the smoke and feel the heat of the flames …

"Hey, Chris? Hello? Earth to Chris! Come in, Chris!"

I jumped at the sound of Mitzie's voice. I was so caught up in my memories I had forgotten she was there.

“Wow, you were really spacing out!”

“Yeah,” I said. “Sorry!”

 


Another Writing Blogfest

I know this is last minute but I just recently came across this new blogfest:Logo 

The basic concept is to post page 99 of your WIP novel, then invite people to stop by to read it and leave a comment as to whether or not they would continue to read the book based solely on that page. And, yes I'm cutting it close because this blogfest is happening THIS Friday, January 28th! So, I've been frantically writing - not only trying to finish my page 99, but tweak it so that it's not only readable, but interesting and intriguing enough for people to stick around! Gah! Why do I DO these things to myself?

Still, it'll be fun, I'm sure and if nothing else, it's getting back into my as-yet-untitled MG/YA ghost story novel. If I keep participating in projects like this, I might actually finish this thing this year!

 


Showing Mine for the Show Me Yours Blogfest

The following is the first 500 words of my unfinished NaNoWriMo 2010 novel. Comments and critiques welcome. Enjoy!

"Of course you know, the place is haunted," the real estate agent said with a big, dorky grin. The tag pinned to his bright blue blazer read George Finkle. A funny sounding name for a funny looking guy: short, bald, with what my dad used to call a “beer belly”. 

My mother sighed, but smiled politely at his attempt at humour. "I'm sure it is."

George Finkle chuckled and reached out to muss my hair. I hate when people do that, like I'm four years old instead of almost fourteen. 

"Of course, since the cemetery has been abandoned, you won't actually be responsible for the upkeep of the grounds or anything," he continued. 

"Of course," my mother replied as she peered into the small living room just off the narrow hallway where we stood. Jojo nudged past us and started sniffing everything: the fireplace, the ratty rug on the floor, the legs of the old wingback chair; anything she could get her nose on. Like she was a Bloodhound instead of a purebred German Shepherd Dog, and a retired police dog at that!

"And, this is the kitchen." George Finkle lead us off to the left into the small, old kitchen. It looked like something you'd see in a museum. Except dirtier. Peeling floral wallpaper, grimy cupboard doors, dirty green stove, chipped countertops and grungy, spotty floor. 

"Oh, gross!" My hand flew to my mouth. I hadn't meant to say that out loud.

"Chris!" My mom said. She gave me a look like, "Yeah, I know it's nasty, but we can still be polite!" 

"Sorry," I said.

"Oh, um, yeah, well, the house has been unoccupied for some time now," George said, blushing. "The original owner, the fella who caretaker for the cemetery for over 45 years, died and well ..."

"Did he die in here?" I asked. I didn't really want to know, but I couldn't help myself.

The realtor coughed and cleared his throat before answering. "Uh, well, yeah, as a matter of fact, he did. Right upstairs. In the first bedroom on the left."

"Man, I would NOT want to sleep in that room," I exclaimed. 

My mom looked at me and smiled. "I wouldn't expect you to, son," she said. "I'll take that room."

"You mean, you're really going to buy this house?" I asked.  Okay, I shouted, a little, and my voice might've gotten a bit squeaky at the end.

"Oh, there's nothing to be afraid of," George said, reaching to mess up my hair again. I ducked at the last minute. "Uh, I was just joking about the place being haunted. Of course. Everyone knows there's no such thing as ghosts."

 I wanted to say, oh, really? but luckily kept my mouth shut this time. How does he know? Has he ever seen a ghost? Because I have. Lots of them. Jojo, too. We both know ghosts are real, and places, especially places like this, where someone has died, can be haunted.     


A New January Writing Project

Today I discovered this interesting writing project, which is occuring the month of January 2011, during a visit to Gemma's website (where I was admiring her lovely photos!). I thought it sounded not only like a fun writing project, but helpful as well. As stated on the Small Stones website:

A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention.

Writing details, descriptions has always been difficult for me, so hopefully this little writing exercise will help me see details better and therefore be better able to describe them. Please click on the badge above to join in!


Look! It's a Blogfest!

Show me yours

The point of this blogfest is to share an excerpt of your NaNoWriMo novel. It can be any scene but try to keep it at 500 words so we can all get around to as many blogs as possible.

Honestly, I'm not signing up for this Blogfest just because the graphic is adorable (but it is, isn't it?!). I'm doing it because even though I didn't finish NaNoWriMo, I still kinda like the story I started writing, but I wonder if it's worth completing. So, what better way to find out if it's crap or not than to put 500 words of it out there for all the world to read and see what people think!

Or something like that. Anyway, if you're curious about my latest creative failure effort, stop by on January 3rd and be sure to let me know what you think! Cheers!

 


Script Frenzy 2010

Because I obviously don't have enough to do in my life -  working a 40-hour week, exercising with a trainer at the Club 3-days-a-week, looking for a landscaper to fix our backyard, writing a novel, going to doctor appointments as well as the monthy blood-letting, er, I mean blood draws for lab tests, trying to update my blog/Twitter/Facebook on a regular basis, and maybe get some sleep - I decided to add one more thing to my schedule during the month of April. Last year I participated in the National Poetry Month, but this year I'm trying Script Frenzy.


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I have an old manuscript (seriously old, like, I wrote it back in the Dark Ages, i.e., High School!) that I was working on writing up into a trilogy, but then thought, hey, this might make a really cool graphic novel! Now, I've never written a graphic novel (and am only just now reading my very first one) and I can't draw to save my life, but, what the heck, I thought I'd give Script Frenzy a shot this year.