Thursday, April 16, 2015
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
What's next for Liz Coley, author of the international best-selling psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13?
Pretty Girl-13, published in 2013, was a dark tale about uncovering the secrets you can't even tell yourself, of literally putting yourself back together after shattering trauma. And now for something completely different...
The new Tor Maddox series comes from "the lighter side of Liz." The stories are still page-turning thrillers, but of the adventurous variety. In the first book, Tor Maddox: Unleashed, a contemporary teenage girl who cares deeply about people and her world topples into conspiracies, pandemics, and forbidden love. Releases May 1 in print and Kindle editions. Good news--you won't have to wait a year to see what happens next because Tor Maddox 2: Embedded releases June 1 and Tor Maddox 3: Mistaken releases July 1.
Monday, April 13, 2015
This week, I'm gonna do something a little different. I'm going to give you five sort of structural and procedural prompts, because sometimes all the story starters in the world can't get a story moving, because the problem is in the shape or the execution of it!
1. Venn Diagrams
I'm a huge nerd (as you may have noticed), and part of my particular constellation of nerdisms is that I like Venn Diagrams. They're specifically created for showing how things overlap, and since stories are all about overlapping ideas, I don't know why more people don't use them as story-generation devices.
So do this:
- Draw out a big Venn Diagram. You can do the classic two-circle kind, or you can get fancy and add more. Make sure most of the space is where they overlap, since that's where the story will grow.
- In each circle, put an idea. I tend to start with really broad, metaphorical ones like Air and Water or something, but you can put anything. Pick things that're bothering you, or that you keep returning to, or that you want to tell a story about but haven't figured out how yet.
- Start filling up that overlapping space with possibilities. Like, in the example of my Air and Water circles, I could put:
- "The fish may love the bird, but where will they live?"
- The steam rising off a lake is a host of spirits
- If there's an ocean, you can build an atmosphere, and if there's enough atmosphere, eventually an ocean will rain out
- Flying fish, leaping dolphins, people moving from air to water and living there
- A place that has an abundance of one, but not enough of the other--who would live there?
- And so on
- And then, when you have a lot of stuff, see if you have a new story!
2. Steal that idea
You write books because you like stories. So what's the favorite sort of story you like to read? And which of that type is your favorite example? Inside of that, what is you absolute favorite idea that's presented?
Write that down.
Now see if there's a way you can show another aspect of that idea. What did the original story totally miss a chance to talk about? What does that idea make you think of, that you'd like to explore through prose? What sorts of characters would you like to see get tangled up in this idea? How can you add to it and trim off of it to make the story more your own?
3. Come at it from a different direction
So you've been working on this one piece for ages, and you're just up against a wall. Here's some ways to look at it from another side and see if there's something vital you missed--which, in my work, is usually the cause of getting stuck:
- Write a haiku about the core idea, or the problem at hand. The extreme limit on size forces you to clear out all the side stuff and focus.
- Pick a side character and write what they're doing right now, and why it matters.
- Skip the scene (or scenes) and pick up where you next know what's happening; as you write, take note of things that have to have happened in that gap scene. Look! It wrote itself!
- Stop entirely, and go take a shower or wash dishes. Don't think about it too hard, just let the sound of falling water smooth out your brain. Keep a notebook nearby, just in case. Maybe think about other stuff you want in the story, or in the series, but not the story problem you're working on.
- Go to sleep, and tell yourself firmly that you'll dream the answer to this problem. The subconscious loves a puzzle!
4. List it out
Lists are so useful for story-writing! If you hit a rough patch, list out:
- Every single thing that could happen here next, regardless of how ridiculous, then start eliminating the stupid ones and shuffling around the good ones until you have new options.
- All the characters currently in play, what they want, what they're doing right now, and when was the last time you saw them. Who can you bring forward with a new plot point?
- Everything you wanted to happen in this section of the story. What did you forget to include? What can be cut or moved to smooth things out?
- All the pertinent rules of the world you've set up. Can one be bent or broken? Is the story not working because one was?
- All the details you haven't gotten to yet. Which piece of worldbuilding lore could you bring in now to ease the issue? Who comes along with it? What story is dependent on it?
5. Change the names
When all else fails, you can always write a scene or three that's actually someone else holding the place for the characters you've created, and just give them the characters' names. Like, who are some literary or pop-cultural characters you've been wanting to write for or emmulate? How would they handle this scene?
How do you get through the hard times, writers?
Two years ago, Chloe lost her sister to a crack in reality; now, the cracks are picking up pace, and she's figured out a way to track them--but she's not the only one, and there's a lot more going on than she realizes.
Go check out her blog, and see my pretty book there among all it's compatriots! She's got an awesome and active blog, so stick around to see her other posts after you check out mine, and sometime next week, tune back in for my answers to her Pick Six questions!
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Today, I'm relaunching my Five + 1 Questions series with Liz Coley, who I met through the wonderful Heidi Ruby Miller (look for her Five + 1 coming up soon!).
Lets Meet Liz Coley:
- Twitter: @LizColeyBooks
- Facebook: LizColeyBooks
- Goodreads: Liz Coley
- Instagram: @LizColeyBooks
- Web Site: LizColey.com
- Amazon Author Page: Liz Coley
- Liz Coley’s internationally best-selling psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13 has been published in 12 languages on 5 continents and been recognized by the American Library Association on two select lists for 2014 including Best Fiction for Young Adults.
- Liz’s other publications include alternate history/time travel/romance Out of Xibalba and teen thrillers in the new Tor Maddox series. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and numerous anthologies.
- Liz invites you to follow her as LizColeyBooks on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and visit her website at LizColeyBooks.blogspot.com.
- When sixteen-year old Torrance Olivia Maddox, self-confessed news junkie, figures out that the mysterious and deadly New Flu is being spread by dogs, she has one question—if the danger is that obvious to her, why hasn’t the government revealed the truth and taken action?
- Her search for the answer will take her farther than she ever imagined. But then again, she never imagined that man’s best friend could become public enemy number one, that men in black might show up in her cozy suburban neighborhood, that she’d spend her sixteenth birthday as a teenaged runaway, and that her effort to save one dog would become a mission to save them all.
Five + 1 Questions is a thing I like to do to generate conversations about writing, books, and creativity with other writers. I have a list of 100 questions, and I roll dice to see which questions each person gets. Here's Liz's!
Where do you hope publishing is in 50 years?
On Mars. Seriously guys. It's time to take this gig off-planet!
I'd like to see the boom of new independent bookstores continue relentlessly. I also hope that people can still earn a living of sorts producing content. We've been brainwashed into thinking content should be free and completely on demand. Advertising has made that possible for so many things, but do you really want to see commercials in your books (ahem Kindle screen saver!). The only way free content works long term is if housing and food and clothes and education and medical care are also free. Homeless, hungry, naked, ignorant, sick authors don't work very well. Buy a book! Save an author.
[NOTE: I want to publish on Mars, too!]
What could you stand to see more of in your genre?
Me personally? In YA? Plausibility. I like my dystopias as well as the next person but for me to buy it, that future needs to be something that we could conceivably stumble into for reals. I'd like to separate "fantasy" elements from "sci-fi" elements more in story telling.
Do you consider yourself to have a Muse? What are they like?
Oh wow. When the Muse comes and sits on my shoulder, writing becomes exactly like reading. The words and scenes spin out fast and smooth and I feel like the my fingers are incidental to the writing. I'm reading the story as they type it. When I finish that burst of inspiration, I walk away with that same feeling I have putting down a book to do something else. I can't wait to get back and see what happens next. This is not something, however, that happens frequently or predictably, but it's a real high.
Do you write longhand or digitally?
I wrote my first novel entirely longhand during the kids' piano and TKD lessons and typed it in each evening. After that, I began creating on the computer, printing out the pages to review and revise as I went along. Now I do everything on the computer and maybe at some point I think about doing a full printout to store in a binder in case civilization as we know it collapses.
What is the first thing you wrote for yourself, not for a project or assignment?
I suppose the first creations all for myself were maudlin middle school poems about butterflies and that sort of thing. The first really good (you know, for a kid) poem I wrote was in a flash of inspiration when I was babysitting. The little girl had gone to bed, and I finished reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. In one of those muse moments, I wrote a poem about being institutionalized. Cheery.
And the questions everyone gets:
What do you wish I asked that no one ever asks, and what is your answer?
Who do you like--MaryAnne or Ginger?
Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Google Gilligan's Island. It's supposed to be a litmus test for guys to figure out their values. I'm not a guy. However, for me, the answer was always MaryAnne--a cheerful, optimistic, nice, can-do kind of girl next door. That's the species of heroine I like. She's the soul of Girl Scout of Pretty Girl-13. She's the spirit of Tor Maddox.
The end of the line! If my arm didn't feel like it was going to fall off, I feel like I could keep doing this forever--this show has so much open space for speculation! I went into the finale with no real idea of what would happen--and, like, none of this stuff I came up with that I wanted to see did--but it was so good.
Day Five - Finale Wishlist
Fork In The Road
They came to a branch in the hall and were forced to stop holding hands.
“Which way?” Cassie asked.
“That way–should be the third door on the left. Go there, cut the power, stay hidden. Then get out. Don’t follow me.”
“We have to at least try!” Cassie threw her hands up in the air and did her best not to throw something, but he was being stubborn and it was scaring her. He’d never turned that wall of solid denial against her before; it was always for her, with her. Against everyone else.
Letters From The Past
The scavs would be through their defenses soon, and if Jones was to die, she wished it to be on her own terms. And so she retreated to her own chambers, locked all the doors between the hall and her office, and opened her trunk. All that remained of her old life–all that remained of her whole world, and of the only few things she’d loved–was in this trunk. Hannah’s blanket, the one she’d brought her baby home from the hospital in. Pictures of everyone who had died around her. Her favorite books. Her parents’ wedding bands.
And an envelope she’d never opened.
Jones had just decided not to smoke another cigarette and was still sitting on the porch when the man in the suit stepped out of the car and strode up to her. She’d never seen him before, but he looked like he knew where he was going, and she saw recognition on his face. She didn’t know him, but he knew exactly who she was.
The Days After
They hadn’t been able to get much from the bookstore–and there wasn’t much to get anymore–so they’d left as soon as they were sure no one saw them. Cassie drove, looking straight ahead, her knuckles white on the steering wheel. Behind her, Cole scrabbled into new clothes in the back seat. He moved easily for the first time in who knows how long. Weeks. And his skin was smooth and undamaged, all his scars smoothed away. All but a solar-flare shaped burn on his chest where the needle had gone in.
Day four was the one I've been most looking forward to. I think I could write the whole week just with these two, but I made myself do other peoples' stories the rest of the week. But this day is just for them!
Be prepared for me to swing wildly between sweet fluff and sad angst.
Day Four - Casserole
No Rest -
They both had nightmares after that night. Cassie dreamed of betrayal and death and not being able to know who she could trust. Of a thousand black-clad arms with pale hands grabbing at her. Their touch was always cold, and she always woke up chilled to the bone and shaking. Usually, she woke because she’d called out and woke herself up–or because Cole woke her. His hands were always warm.
“It’s called a casserole. It’s a whole meal in one dish.”
They met up again at the door to the motel room they were living in, and as soon as they were inside, they fell into each other’s arms. It was always a relief to be back together after days apart, and for a long time they just stayed like that, as close as they could get while still standing.
Bending History -
Cole watched himself splinter out, and tried not to remember what it felt like then, two years ago, when Cassie had died in his arms. He’d spent a fairly large portion of the time since then trying not to remember, trying not to worry about when this moment came around again. They had a plan, he and Cassie.
Cole was back, and this time he was as whole as he was when he’d left only a few days ago. It was ridiculous that him coming back in only three days, covered in scabs, rather than weeks later and half dead, was a blessing, but she’d take what she could get when it came to Cole. Anything was better than nothing. And nothing was too much of a possibility.
Cassie got sick in the spring, and that’s how they knew they hadn’t changed history enough. She survived the first night, so they knew she had the slower strain–and Cole knew the previous version of him, the one concurrent with 2015, would soon surface and s brought here. The plan was that he’d leave first, that he’d keep fighting.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Today was Missing Scenes day! Whoo! I felt like crud all day, so there was no last-minute addition here, but I'd already written two things for this day, so it was fine. This is the midpoint, and I'm honestly amazed at how much I wrote for the whole thing--I hadn't realized how much Story I had welling up inside me. And there's SO MUCH MORE. It's an un-empty-able well, apparently; I'm keeping lists and notes on what I can expand on and add over the summer so I don't have to wallow in feels alone!
“Jones has a lot to answer for but she wouldn’t lie about–”
Elena cut him off before he could finish his sentence. “No, look, I brought the files with me! We had a cure!
“I don’t–I just can’t understand why he would do this! Why would he turn on us like this? He knows what’s at stake!”
“I can understand. I want to punch him until he doesn’t get up for it, but I know why he did it.”
“Because he loves you.”
Sent from my iPhone
Sent from my iPhone
Today was Extended Scenes, which were supposed to be from Atari, but which I only half adhered to because I Do What I Want (tm) even when I'm playing along. I'm that kid in the corner who painted the actual dinosaur instead of a picture of it, and who once covered the entire side of her dresser with chapstick because it smelled so good.
The bastard left her. They’d been together for this long, and Cole just left without telling her he was going to, without even saying goodbye.
Without even asking if she wanted to go, too.
“So are you.”
Cassie didn’t mean to rush forward and throw her arms around Cole, but seeing him there, right in front of her, living and breathing–it was too much.
Aaron stomped off and slammed the door behind him. She could hear him still yelling on the way to his car, but she knew he’d be back soon enough. They had work to do.
Cole stared at the cement arch over his sleeping alcove. The mattress was hard and flat, like always, but it was still better than the ground. He’d seen the fat, springy bed Cassie slept on, though, and all he could think was: how do I get her to understand that this is better than I’m used to?
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Monday, April 6, 2015
He was supposed to splinter in to just the right time, just when Dr Raily knew everything he needed to know. He was supposed to get the information out of her and then leave, find Frost, end the future. But something was wrong.
Cassie never thought Aaron would go this far. He made it very clear that he didn’t believe her when she came home, shaking and traumatized, with the cops. She’d been attacked, kidnapped, tied up—but it was the future that scared her. And she said the man disappeared before her eyes. And she said he’d be back in two years. And she believed him.3. Cat
Cole lands in the alley, two building over and busts his knee, but he hardly even notices. He’s had a hell of a lot worse, he’s come here with worse, and what matters is that he’s here at all. Where Cassie is. And she’s alive now.
“Don’t like to me, Cole. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Nothing’s wrong, it’s just–”
“It’s just that we’re now considered married by scav tradition.”