Sunday, February 28, 2010

Writing tips from Pixar

I'm an IMDB junkie. It's a great way to learn more about a movie- or simply figure out who that person is because you KNOW you've seen her in some other show. Anyway, they also had a link to this LA Times article that dissected the opening scene of UP.

I noticed that so much of what makes a good scene in a movie makes a good scene in a book. Here's what stood out to me:

Sometimes backstory is necessary. If UP had started with Carl floating away, the viewers wouldn't have cared as much. Why the balloons? Why then? The opening scene gives the entire movie an emotional center it wouldn't have otherwise.

Backstory needs specific action. The moments of Carl and Ellie's life in the montage were based on incidents the animators took from their own lives- and even the lives of strangers. The Pixar animators actually bought home videos and watched films posted on the internet.

Incomplete information can pull readers/viewers in. I'd forgotten, but that whole scene was silent, like other Super-8 films. At first, the animators weren't sure if they could get enough information in without dialog. But by pushing themselves, they were able to incorporate all the story that they needed to. Pete Doctor says it best:

"[...] there's something asked of you as the viewer or listener - you're actively engaged by creating this missing element, so it comes to life in your own head."

So go read the article! I'd love to know what you think. What stood out to you? What could you apply to your writing?

I have another question! Tess just commented that it would difficult to have a good, dialog-less scene in a novel. It got me thinking. Does anyone remember reading a great scene in a novel that didn't include dialog?

Friday, February 26, 2010

First Page Friday, #3

Here we go, everyone: a new round of first pages. Please leave your feedback in the comments session. (If you care to participate, see this post.)


Inside a dark hospital room at Charleston Memorial Hospital, Jorge Mendoza hung tenuously between life and death. His chest heaved shallowly under each uneven breath, while the consistent beat of a heart monitor echoed throughout the empty space. Only five feet away, lurking in the shadows, the massive silhouette of a man watched in silent anticipation as his prey slept, oblivious to the stranger’s presence.

With the stealth of a thief in the night, the stalker crept to the bed and covered the patient’s nose and mouth with his hand. Jorge jolted awake. His right eye scanned the room while the other drooped as the result of a recent stroke. When he looked up, Jorge met the menacing blue gaze of his attacker.

“Don’t scream or I’ll kill you. “ The stranger warned. “Blink if you understand?”

In acknowledgment, Jorge closed and opened his eye.

“Now we can chat. Do you know the reason I am here?“

Jorge lay for a moment, gasping for breath, assessing his opponent, “It doesn’t matter, I know who sent you.”

The visitor raised an eyebrow, “All the more reason to kill you, “ he countered while slowly retrieving a needle from his pocket. Then he walked to the I.V. bag and injected a substance into the tube. “Despite what you may think, my kind can show mercy. Your end will be painless.”

Jorge wanted to scream, but he knew it was futile. He would be dead before a nurse could make it to the room. All he could do was watch in terror as the stranger advanced on him.

Now, the man was chillingly close, his hot breath brushed Jorge’s ear as he whispered, “I have a message for you. It was sent directly from the one you tried to destroy.”

Jorge looked into his adversary’s eyes with unyielding resolve, “He sent you to do his bidding? Coward!”

The stranger clapped his hand over Jorge’s mouth. “The message is …His secret will die with you. But before you leave this world, he wanted you to know the game of hide and seek is over. ”

Jorge eyes widened, and he struggled under his attacker’s grip. Could he know?

The stranger’s smile contradicted the anger in his eyes, “Now, don’t struggle, it will only make the poison kick in faster. Since the end is near, and we know you possess what we want, you may as well tell the truth. Otherwise, we will have to begin our search in the home of your grieving widow. ”

In an instant Jorge grasped the true horror of the situation, ”My wife and family, they have nothing to do with this. You must believe me.” He stammered.

“It doesn’t matter at this point, we know it is in your possession. There is no other way you could have known my master’s identity.”

Jorge closed his eyes, his thoughts a mixture of sadness and regret. He should not have interfered, now he left a trail of breadcrumbs to an ancient secret his family had protected for centuries. “Help me.” He prayed.

Suddenly, a bright light flashed above the bed, and a tall, olive skinned angel with sprawling white wings, appeared opposite the stranger.

The visitor’s steely eyes narrowed, “Harut, it’s been too long. I knew you’d come running if one of your sheep was in trouble. “ The stranger tilted his head toward Jorge, smiling smugly, “Too bad it’s too late.”

The angel stroked Jorge’s salt and pepper locks, then he glowered at the stranger, “Abbadon, I will kill you for this!”

The stranger examined his nails, looking almost amused, “that remains to be seen, doesn’t it? The appointed time is near my brother. We’ll face off soon enough, then, we’ll see what you’re made of.”

The angel’s dark eyes narrowed. “Look at yourself! Walking around in sheep’s clothing pretending to be a man, the very thing you fell from grace over. Hypocrite! You embrace what you hate.”

Abbadon scowled at Harut, “Don’t push me, there are no boundaries in war and I will do what is necessary to win.“ He cautioned. “ I may be in sheep’s clothing, but this disguise got me close enough to kill one of your flock, Sheppard!”

“This is not over!” The angel promised.

A smile flickered in Abbadon’s eyes, “It appears to be for your human.” Then he turned and exited the room.

The heart monitor skipped a beat, and Jorge’s breathing quickened. He was dying and nothing could stop it. Soledad my beloved daughter he thought, now she will have to carry my cross.

The angel looked tenderly at his charge, “I wish you would not have interfered. Now I cannot help you my friend. “

A tear fell from Jorge’s eye. “I had to try, for my daughter’s sake.“ He coughed, “I failed you, I’ve failed us all,” he uttered through his last breath. Suddenly, the line on the monitor went flat and the sound of emergency buzzers overtook the silence.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Revision Wednesday, #2

Here's the revision of Friday's first pages! Please let our contributor know what you think.

I stared at the springs of Caroline’s top bunk, reaching absently for a stray thread hanging from the sheet. Damn, my hand was still shaking. I wedged it underneath my pillow, digging my fingernails into my palm, and started counting the tight black coils. One. Two. Three.

The springs groaned; Caroline would be getting up in a minute. There was no way she wouldn’t ask. What was I supposed to say? Ten minutes ago, I’d have said it was incredible. Laughing over dinner. Walking back to campus hand in hand. Our not-quite kiss goodnight.

Four. Five. Six. Seven.

It had been amazing. I wasn’t imagining that. Even this morning, both of us bleary-eyed from too little sleep and too much longing, the air between us practically crackled. I’d been worried that I was the only one who had gone to bed with my blood racing, replaying every word, every touch on an endless reel until I’d fallen into a dreamless sleep. But at least I’d slept. He admitted that he’d gone home and watched mindless TV, unable to get me out of his head. I’d laughed in disbelief; guys like Dylan did not lose sleep over girls like me.

“You don’t think so?” His blue eyes were electrifying. He’d meant it. That made it worse now somehow.

Caroline’s springs protested as she shifted to slap the off button of her alarm. I took a deep breath. She’d be gone in minutes; I could do this.

“Hey Car,” I called.

“Chloe?” She peered over the edge of her bed through a curtain of thick black hair.

“Hey. I didn’t want to scare you,” I said.

She leaped gracefully onto the nondescript beige carpeting. “What are you doing here? Didn’t you go to class?”

“I went to math, but I don’t feel very well,” I said. That was true, at least. I had nearly thrown up in the hallway. There was no way I could sit through another class.

“Are you alright?” she asked, her eyes widening in concern.

“I…I just,” I choked on the requisite fine that both of us expected. “I needed to lie down.”

“No shock there. We went to bed around two and there was definitely no sign of you,” she teased.

“I was late, although don’t get too excited. That wasn’t why,” I warned. “Speaking of, when I feel better I’m going to kill you.”

“Why? What did I do?” Caroline’s eyes widened.

“I just happened to pull out your condoms with my wallet at the restaurant. I thought I would die of embarrassment,” I accused.

Caroline’s hand flew over her mouth to stifle a giggle. “Oh shit. I’m sure you were appalled. What did he say?”

“He was cool about it,” I said, remembering his easy laugh and his reassuring hand on my arm, where it had then stayed, lightly but deliberately.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

No Comment

Since so many of our readers are also bloggers, I thought you might like this topic as much as I did. I follow Kathy Teman's Writing and Illustrating blog, and she had a great post based on Brian Wallace's post. The subject? Why people don't comment on your blog. Here are some of the highlights.

People don't comment your blog because:

1. You're boring. 'Nuff said.

2. You have no call to action. Ask readers to answer a specific question.

3. You're greedy. You don't link to anyone else. Or, worse yet, you are your own most fascinating subject. (I think we writers can do this a lot. Writing is an introverted, introspective action. I joke sometimes about blogs that document what the blogger had for breakfast, but writers can be just as self-absorbed about our writing.)

4. You're haphazard. People like a regular posting schedule.

5. You're slow in responding, or worse yet, you don't respond.

6. You aren't making it easy enough. Readers shouldn't have to jump through a million hoops to comment. I get that this can be difficult sometimes with spam, though.

7. You don't comment on people's blogs.

8. You haven't found your following ... yet. Haven't we all been there. Remember waiting and waiting for that first comment?!?

These reasons were taken from Successful Blog:

9. What you write is so complete, I don't know what to say except, good job.

10. I need to think about what you wrote before I even have a question.

11. You only respond to a few friends who mostly share inside jokes.

12. I'm too tired, busy or any number of things that you can't control. Boy, I understand this one!

13. Your content wasn't fresh and exciting, and I couldn't find anything YOU inside it. I struggle with this as well. There are so many stellar writing blogs. It takes work to present a new take on common subjects.

So... what do you think? What of the above reasons stand out to you? What other issues keep you from commenting on a blog?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

First Page Friday, #2

Here's another round of first pages. Please leave feedback in the comments section!*

I slapped blindly at the blue button two more times before I could make myself sit up, transfixed by the sliver of sunshine slicing across the floor. I’d actually slept, I realized. I hadn’t expected to, sure that I would be replaying every word, every touch on an endless reel in the hours until I saw him again.

His laugh.

His hand on the small of my back.

His eyes. Always the blue, blue, blue of his eyes.

Instead, I’d slept like the dead.

Caroline popped up from the top bunk as I stepped gingerly out of bed. “It’s about time you got up. How was it?” she whispered loudly, glancing over at Amy sleeping peacefully, her requisite eyemask and earplugs firmly in place.

“It was amazing,” I said, truthfully.

She smiled broadly, clapping her hands together. “When did you get home? We went to bed around two and there was definitely no sign of you.”

“I was late, although don’t get too excited. That wasn’t why,” I warned. “Speaking of, I’m going to kill you.”

“Why? What did I do?” Caroline asked, her eyes widening.

“I’ll tell you the whole mortifying story later, but I just happened to pull out your condoms with my wallet at the restaurant. I thought I would die,” I said accusingly. My face flushed, remembering the horror I felt as the bright blue packet hit the stark white tablecloth.

Caroline’s hand flew over her tiny mouth to stifle a giggle. “Oh shit. I’m sure you were appalled. What did he say?”

“He was cool about it,” I said with a tired smile. “He didn’t think I should kill you.”

“You shouldn’t. You’ll both thank me later. So, when do we get all of the juicy details?” Caroline asked eagerly.

“Later. Much later. I’m going to class and then taking a nap,” I said, heading for the bathroom.

I shut the door without waiting for Caroline’s reply, looking in the mirror as I turned on the shower. My eyes were bright, a combination of exhilaration remembering last night and the anticipation of seeing Dylan again this morning. Thinking about seeing him, my stomach contracted and I purposely ignored the unfamiliar desire I felt swelling in me. I had never had such a physical reaction to someone before, which both thrilled and terrified me. My God, I was insane. He hadn’t even kissed me.

*If you'd like to submit your own first pages, please see this post for more information.

Re: Not For Lisa

This was the subject line on many, many emails between most of the Slushbusters over the past several months. Lisa is expecting her second child any time now, and we wanted to do something special for her. So we knit her a blanket.

It was a challenge. It's hard to coordinate getting together often outside our regular meetings. While Sarah and I had been knitting for years, Steph and Bridget were new to knitting, Joan knew how to crochet, but not knit, and Alison had never knit before. And of course, Lisa is on Skype with us during meetings, so she can see us. But those of us who had been knitting for a while taught those who were new, and sometimes one of us hid her knitting under the table during a meeting. If Lisa had been in town, it would have been even more difficult to keep the project secret. We managed a few knitting get-togethers and one night to sew the whole thing together. Here are the photos of our progress:

Alison concentrated hard on her work.
We laid the squares out on the coffee table.
Bridget and Steph chatted while sewing squares together.

The finished blanket, pinned out for shaping.

Lisa on Skype, opening her package.
It took months, but we did it. We worked together, each bringing something a little different to the project. Each color square represents a different person. Some were knit in simple garter stitch, some in lacy patterns. Some were knit loosely, others with tight stitches. But somehow it all came together in one project. I look at it as representative of what we can accomplish when we work together.

Lisa loved it. And fortunately, none of those "not for Lisa" emails were leaked, so it was a surprise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Revision Wednesday

We have a revision based on Friday's comments! Let us know what you think.

Nathan looked out across the shadowed street and noticed a man slumped against a crumpled dumpster. He tried to look away, but something about the man caught his attention. Maybe it was the way the person laid there, discarded and alone, that tugged at Nathan’s core. Or maybe it was just the fact Nathan had wasted an hour trying to locate a warehouse that didn’t appear to exist and he needed to stretch his legs. Either way, something compelled Nathan to help the man.

He glanced back into the cargo space in his van. Empty. What should have been filled with boxes of clothing donated to his charity instead remained barren, void of anything he could have used to help the man.

Just because God could turn a blind eye to those in need didn’t mean he would.

Nathan looked over at the jacket he’d shrugged off an hour ago. He’d worn his good jacket, wanting to look spiffed up for the lunch appointment his sister insisted he keep. He rarely wore it anymore; in fact, he found it hanging at the back of his closet this morning.

Grabbing this jacket, Nathan stepped out the van, shivering against the cold gust of wind as it swung against his door. Dusk was starting to settle, enlarging the shadows across the empty street. He half expected the street lights to come on, until he glanced up and realized why they stood dark. If any glass remained on the lights, he couldn’t see it. Something like a nervous snake slithered around in his stomach. Despite the deserted appearance, it felt like a dozen eyes were following him, tracking his movements, waiting to pounce.

With a tentative smile, Nathan fixed his gaze on the man as he walked closer, hoping to receive a response beyond the haunted look on the man’s face

“Are you ok?”

Propped up against the dumpster, with his legs sprawled out, the man’s head leaned at an awkward angle. Blood trickled from the corner of his bruised mouth. Nathan cringed when he saw the discolored lumps covering the man’s face. This man had taken quite the beating.

Nathan glanced down the unconscious form, looking for any other obvious injuries. Instead of the scruffy homeless man he expected to find, this man appeared to be well dressed. The man’s shirt appeared to be well made, albeit torn and stained with what he hoped was just dirt. His pants were scuffed up, and he wore polished black Moccasin Milano’s, the same shoes Nathan wore.

Nathan searched through his pockets for his cell phone and dialed 911.

As he dialed, a groan escaped the previously silenced lips.

“Thank God!” Unaware of his muttered prayer, Nathan sighed in relief.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Details- of thee I sing

I've been thinking about details lately- and believe me, it takes a lot out of me. I am not a detail-oriented person.

However, I've learned how details make or break my writing. When I started writing, I thought deluging the reader with details would pull her into my story. As you all know, though, a flood of detail often requires the reader to wade through dense paragraphs, trying to figure out what they should attend to. Too many detail dumps and the reader will skip the page or put the book down entirely.

What, then, makes details sing? Singing details (aside from their amazing vocal abilities) do several things:

1. They reveal emotional topography as well as the physical environment.

Can I just go to one of my favorites? When I was five, I saw a live performance of The King and I- with Yul Brenner. I remember the Yul's shining head, swirling skirts from the ball dance, and the fireworks as Mom and I left the theater.

It wasn't till much later as I watched the movie that I noticed the attraction between the King and Anna. It was the moment he reaches out to take her in his arms- and she pulls back.

If I were writing that scene, I could put down paragraphs of how both of them were attracted to each other. Or, I could simply describe how the previously forthright Anna pulls back when the king attempts to put his hand on her waist. It's an amazing detail.

2. They are unusual. I remember a first pages panelist telling us we must describe something the reader doesn't expect. You could spend yourself describing a loud Marine sergeant as he greets rookies with paint-peeling language. But guess what? We expect Marine sergeants to do that. So, no matter how well you describe it, the readers won't care. You wasted space showing them something they've already seen. We need to look for the details that make our sergeants different from all the other guys yelling at the recruits.

I've been revising and revising, so I've been hunting details that sing. I sit with my eyes closed a lot, scanning a scene to figure out what a reader most needs to see.

To me, attention to important details was responsible for one of the biggest jumps in my writing. I'd never thought of winnowing through all the things I could describe to find the few that I should describe. It took a lot of work to even think that way. It still does. But it has become one of my favorite parts of revision.

I'd love to know what you think. What makes a detail sing for you? How do you choose what you describe in your own work?

Packing the virtual bookbag

The Virginia Festival of the Book is coming up next month. We all love that week here at Slushbusters, because it's like having a free conference right in our own backyard. It's primarily aimed at readers, but the Saturday of the festival is Publishing Day, so there are plenty of events with that in mind. If you're anywhere near Central Virginia, I highly recommend you come for the day at the very least.

SCBWI Mid-Atlantic
is organizing three different panels at VABook on Saturday, March 20. Loads of children's authors will be speaking, including Fran Cannon Slayton and Suzanne Morgan Williams, who have been here and interviewed with us. You can see the schedule here. I've added all three SCBWI events, plus several others, to my virtual bookbag, which helps you keep track of your own schedule and print it out so you don't miss the events you really want so see.

In other publishing news, the gang over at the Literary Lab have released their Genre Wars Anthology. Pop on over there and check it out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

First Page Friday, #1

Thanks to a brave soul, we have our inaugural batch of first pages up for critique!

It's all yours, folks. Let give some feedback.

“A GPS with the right directions would be helpful,” Nathan grumbled. The warehouse holding the supplies for his charity should be directly ahead, not the empty lot he found instead. Turning down the next street, identical graffiti-covered buildings stretched into the distance. He resisted the urge to pull over and re-configure the gadget his older sister Rachel insisted he take.

Nathan cringed as he drove through the narrow street littered with large dumpsters and homeless shelters. A group of men huddled close against the brisk wind, warming their half-mitted hands around a smoldering metal can, wisps of smoke billowing out around their shapes, casting their shadows wide against the buildings behind them. Nathan wished he had something to give them. If had found the warehouse, his van would be full of clothing he could hand out. He hated not being able to help. Just because God could turn a blind eye to those in need didn’t mean he would.

Nathan glanced at the clock on his dashboard. Five o’clock. Even if he did find the warehouse, it was likely closed. Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, Nathan decided to head for home.

“Worthless piece of garbage,” he said, turning the GPS off while making a u-turn.

Dusk was starting to settle, stretching the shadows across the empty street. He half expected the street lights to come on, until he happened to glance up and realize why they stood dark. If any glass remained on the street lights, he couldn’t see it.

He stretched his stiff shoulders, not relishing the thought of the long drive home. He flexed his toes inside his dress shoes, wishing he’d worn his running shoes instead of being concerned about his appearance. He had promised Rachel earlier that he’d be at her house in time for dinner. With a two hour drive ahead, he’d be lucky if his sister didn’t feed his meal to the wild cats living in the mountains behind her house.

On his way out of the maze he lost himself in, a blood stained man staggered into the middle of the road, teetering back and forth as he tried to gain his footing. Nathan jammed his foot down hard on the brakes. He scrambled out of his vehicle, frantic to reach the man before he fell onto the road.

“Are you ok?”

The man toppled over, landing in Nathan’s outstretched arms. Nathan staggered back from the impact, the deadweight body sagging against his chest.

Catching his balance, he eased the unconscious form onto the cold road. Dry heaves racked Nathan’s body when he swiped at his forehead and saw the blood smeared all over his hand.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sunshine Award

Our follower Steena Holmes at Chocolate Reality has nominated us for a Sunshine Award! It's our first blog award, so we really appreciate the nod. Now we're supposed to pass this award on to twelve bloggers. It's been tough to choose twelve, but we think these are relevant to the Slushbusters blog, consistent at posting, and for the most part, still small and growing, much as we are. So in no particular order, we nominate:

1. Tess Hilmo at Tess Hilmo
2. Davin, Scott, and Lady Glamis at The Literary Lab (Grammar geeks, I knew they had to be out there somewhere!)
3. Caroline at Caroline By Line
4. The Intern (who chooses to remain anonymous, giving us an inside glimpse of publishing)
5. Scott at A Writer's Blog
6. Rachele Alpine at Freckle Head
7. Authoress at Miss Snark's First Victim Great Secret Agent contests-watch for your genre.
8. Amy Tate at The Virginia Scribe
9. TerryLynn at TerryLynnJohnson
10. Rick at My Daley Rant
11. Tara McClendon at Eye Feathers
12. GreenBeanTeenQueen Like YA? So does she, and she reads more of it than anyone.

Many of these folks are long time followers of the Slushbusters, and we want you guys to know we like what you're doing too!

Rules to Accept the Award:
Put the logo on your blog in your post.
Pass the award onto 12 bloggers.
Link the nominees within your post.
Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blogs.
Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

First Page Fridays

The Slushbusters have decided that we'd like to host a weekly critique of first pages. After a flurry of e-mails, here's what we've come up with.

On Fridays, we will post one excerpt of a reader's first pages for critique. The comment section of that post will be open for critiques. We'll make sure that at least one Slushie will include her critique of the first pages as well. If our brave contributor is willing, we'll post a revision of the first pages on the following Wednesday. (We've found it's always helpful to let folks see your revision.)

If you want to participate, please send us the first 400-450 words of your work in progress. You don't have to submit first pages from a kid's book. We'd be happy to see pages from adult fiction. However, we do want to maintain a G-rated environment, so please don't send first pages that include lots of profanity or explicit scenes. Address e-mails to polishyourpitch at gmail dot com, put "First Pages" in the subject line and the excerpt in the body of the e-mail. (Don't send it as an attachment.)

We'll assign you a number and let you know where you stand in the First Pages queue. We'll also send you a reminder when we post your pages.

If we get first pages by tomorrow night, we'll have one posted by Friday. We're so looking forward to this! It just seems right that a critique group's blog should regularly have, you know, critiques.

Can't wait to hear from you.

Revising in winter

The good thing about snow preventing me from leaving the house is that I've been working on revisions. I'm sitting in my home office with a view of the gray and white trees outside, writing about a very different time and place. My story is set in Florida, where kids ride bikes on Christmas with nary a mitten in sight.

I've been wondering how you know when your work is good. You know how sometimes you write something and you think it's brilliant, but then you go back and read it later and it isn't? Kind of like when you wake from a dream at 4am and think you've had some kind of genius idea, but in the light of day you realize you were delusional. I hope I'm not delusional. I'm rethinking the beginning again. I never know exactly where a story should begin.

So I've sent the first few pages of my revision to the Slushbusters to read. We postponed our meeting last night. Some of us were still digging out from the big snow of the weekend, and yet another storm hit the east coast late yesterday afternoon. I'm feeling a bit like the Pevensies every time I set foot outside. (Was that a sleigh that just went by? A faun? Maybe I am delusional.) So I guess I'll wait another week to find out if I began in the right place. Meanwhile, it's back to revising!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Some thoughts and an announcement

I hope you had a great time with the pitch contest over the weekend! For me, the most helpful part was figuring out which elements of my story needed to be in a pitch. What did someone need to know to be hooked? I feel like I have something that can be expanded to fit into a query.

I'm also going to start playing with it to figure out how it would sound spoken aloud. Over the weekend, Tess (who just signed her contract with Farrar, Straus & Giroux this weekend) raised a point about how we need to have a more conversational version in mind as well:

"So, if an editor asked me that question and I said, "Jade had never gotten along with her brother,, when they have to team up to fight a secret society...." that editor would think I was insane."

Now that you know what you want to say, rehearse it a bit so that you can talk about it naturally. It's a great excuse to talk to yourself- or at least mutter under your breath for a bit. (Not that I've ever needed an excuse for either.)

Now, for the announcement.

Andrea suggested that we host first page critiques. We Slushbusters really liked the idea. So we're thinking about setting up a First Page Friday. We'll post a reader's first page and ask folks to critique it. We're still working out the details, but please get your first pages in order. I hope to have this up and running soon.

Thanks again, and have a great week!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

We have a winner!

The voting for the most polished pitch is closed and we have a winner:

Pitch #6, written by Jayne!

Florence Delaney expects one of three things to happen when she dies. Ascend to heaven, descend to hell, or to wink out of existence entirely. Instead the unforeseen fourth thing happens – she meets Max, with his shaved head and strange fondness for white denim. And Max has a big confession to make…

Pitch #3, by Kirsty, came in as a close second.

Jayne will have her choice of an Amazon or Barnes and Noble $25 gift card.

I'd like to thank everyone who sent their pitch in to be critiqued. I loved getting to know you better as we got the contest rolling. And many thanks to those who commented as well. Your insights and advice were invaluable. I've had a great time with this contest, and I'm already considering ideas for another one. (If you have any suggestions, please let me know!)

Something tells me this should be a longer post, but I've been shoveling snow, and I'm a bit tired. I'm trying not to think about the chapter I was supposed to turn into the Slushies by Thursday...

But I digress.

Thanks again for making the first Slushbuster contest such a great experience. I've said it before, but it bears repeating:

We've met amazing folks through this blog. We are so fortunate to know you!

Friday, February 5, 2010

It's time to vote for the most polished pitch!

We've reached the end. Our amazing contestants have worked on their pitches and sent me the final draft. I'm going to let you read the results. Please take the time to click on their names and visit their websites/blogs.

Pitch #1, written by Scott:

For all appearances, Jared had the perfect life – good job, nice house, partner of five years, a cat, accepting family, and margarita night once per month with his friends. Appearances were deceiving. Perfection did not exist. Even the most stable relationship had small flaws that could widen over time.

Pitch #2, written by Andrea:

Deep in the Yucat√°n, in 1562, a Mayan High Priest is instructed by the gods to entrust a sacred prophecy to Spanish Conquistador, Domingo Mendoza. With the assistance of an angel, the Mendoza family protects the prophecy for the next four- hundred- fifty years. In 2012, Soledad Mendoza inherits the prophecy following her father’s murder. In a race against time, the angel must help Soledad decipher the prophecy, before diabolical forces achieve their goal to take over the White House, then the world.

Pitch #3, written by Kirsty:

Little Dead Boys, a story of fairy tales and punk-rock dykes, is told in the alternating voices of a couple on the verge of breakup. Kit goes to the suburbs to sort out her relationship with Gretchen and her art project, but there discovers her family's connection to a local mystery. Gretchen needs to figure out what she’s doing with her life, her girlfriend, and her lover- but keeps getting distracted by thoughts of the mother she never met.

Pitch #4, written by Ian:

Sarah does not believe in magic. She has never tried to sneak into invisible houses or ancient magic mirrors, certainly never run for her life from dark Hunters or fought an old God who kidnaps children. But all that changes when her little sister, Jane, disappears one boring summer afternoon. Now Sarah is forced to set out on a quest to get her back home in time for tea.

Pitch #5, written by Michelle, the Slushbuster Grammar Nazi:

Jillian's ideas always feel like dares to Melanie, but she goes along with them in spite of her gut feelings. On Christmas Eve, Jillian's idea for a game leads to a terrible accident, putting Melanie in the hospital for weeks, and in a wheelchair for much longer. Melanie must learn to cope with the trials and humiliations of her injuries, find a way to forgive Jillian, and most of all, take care of herself.

Pitch #6, from Jayne:

Florence Delaney expects one of three things to happen when she dies. Ascend to heaven, descend to hell, or to wink out of existence entirely. Instead the unforeseen fourth thing happens – she meets Max, with his shaved head and strange fondness for white denim. And Max has a big confession to make…

Pitch #7, written by me:

The Looking Glass, a fairy tale, begins when Elsbeth moves to Eiden to live with her aunt, Lady Augusta. Lady Augusta believes that with enough work, plain-looking Elsbeth can make a match at a Maidens’ Ball. After a humiliating experience, Elsbeth decides to attend the next event her own way: Lady August can’t pick her partners if she can’t find her. However, as Elsbeth hides on the edges of the year’s grandest ball, she discovers a plot to assassinate the prince. Eiden’s future will be decided at a ball- by a girl who didn’t want to be there in the first place.

Pitch #8, written by Brenda:

Chloe Shepherd meets Dylan Hughes – gorgeous, funny and interested – on her first day of freshman orientation. Yet despite an amazing first date, he breaks things off. Weeks pass without a word until he finally speaks to her again, ready to confess his feelings and his secret. He is part of the ancient Rayhm clan of witches and his family (the intimidating sister, in particular) are incredibly powerful. What he leaves out, what Chloe discovers quite unintentionally, is what that really means and the dangerous course they are on that will change their futures – and the future of the Rayhm – forever.

Pitch #9, also written by Ian:

For Emmeline, it only took a moment for her life to turn upside down.

Yesterday, she was one of the most promising cadets in the nation’s military Academy for the magically gifted, but now she has gone rogue to save her friend, Poppy’s life. Aided only by her pregnant friend, Poppy and the retired assassin, Ospen Calder, she is on the run from a legion of fire-wielding swordsmen and a cabal of murderers. Together, the three strive to stay alive long enough to uncover why everyone wants them dead and what is so special about Poppy’s unborn child.

Pitch #10, written by Dan:

When she was a week old, Szandi’s mother left for England, leaving her to grow up on the Hungarian vineyard that had been in her father’s family for 300 years. Now 18, Szandi is part of Budapest’s cosmopolitan art scene, sharing a flat and a bohemian lifestyle with her lover and fellow sculptress, Yang. When she learns her father is dying, his last wish for her to return and run the vineyard, Szandi must choose once and for all: between the past and the present; between East and West; between her family and her lover.

Pitch #11, written by Tess:

(Please note that Tess intends this to be a spoken pitch. It's supposed to be conversational.)

I'm writing a middle grade, adventure novel wherein a brother and sister, who have never gotten along, are forced to team up against a secret society. The society represents the original 49ers in gold country, California. The siblings stumble across the group's secret treasure and soon find themselves in the middle of a puzzle that could cost them their very lives. Only by working together will they be able to overcome the peril and survive.

Pitch #12, written by Steena.

Nathan Hanlin, a disillusioned pastor, denies the existence of demons until he comes face to face with one. With everyone turning to him for answers, Nathan needs to figure out why his town is now infested with demons, and why he is the one responsible for it.Confused, he turns to his older sister Rachel for help, only to find a journal where Rachel has a secret she’s kept concerning his birth. Torn, Nathan feels lost. The revelation of his birth combined with the supernatural battle over his town leaves Nathan with nowhere to run but straight to God.

Please click here to vote for the most polished pitch!Pitches 5 and 7 aren't included because they're Slushie pitches.

Voting will close 4pm (EST) Sunday, February 7th.