Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa Clause Meets Sasquatch!

I was heartened to hear that there was a decrease in Sasquatch sightings in 2009. 

I take that to mean that all those Writers as Sasquatch were hunkered down in their writing caves scribbling away with a mug of milky tea at their sides (or in the case of the real Sasquatch - a decapitated deer - yikes).

I also discovered that there appears to be a link between the Sasquatch and Santa Claus – who knew? 

I guess it’s because one of them is a mythical creature (sorry Santa). The links are explored in this book: Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years by Phyllis Siefker. Turns out, ancient European stories of the Wildpeople, Snowmen and the Yeti developed into the myth of Santa Claus. 

The 'Wildman of the Middle Ages’ was described as an ape-like creature with a beard, its body covered in thick matted hair and smelled of a foul odor (maybe from descending chimneys?) The habitat of the Wildman was the northern woods, where he lived in a cave or den and relied on the reindeer. 

I believe the natural evolution would be Sasquatch, the Grinch who stole Christmas, and Santa Claus. The Grinch was a hairy, bigfoot like creature that lived in a cave in the mountains, and ended up giving out presents ... just saying.

May all your Sasquatch wishes Christmas wishes of having time to write come true during this festive season! Make 2012 the year of the Writer as Sasquatch, may we be spotted even less frequently … and may we get much more writing done.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We need to talk about your sagging middle ...

Alright, we need to talk. It's about your sagging middle. You heard that right - Sagging MiddleYouz got one. 

What?! No, I'm not talking about the middle aged spread kinda sagging middle, I'm talking about the sagging middle in your manuscript and how to get rid of it.  

I've been reading a lot of young adult books lately (because I think my next manuscript might be one, then again, maybe not). And one overwhelming observation is that all of them have sagging middles. 

They start out strong. Then I stop reading, right at the middle. What's the cause of the sagging middle? I've found a few things.

Top ten reasons why your middle is sagging! 

I stop caring about the character, usually because the emotional stakes aren't high enough for the character;

The protag meanders through the plot - the protag needs to want something (ya, I went there bloggowers, but I had to);

The character is just dragged through the plot and isn't actively involved in finding a solution (plot driven instead of character driven); 

Another character shows up (usually a guy if the protag is a girl) to lead the character to a solution (the protag needs to solve his/her own problem);

Howz about a little inner conflict!? Lot's of inner dialogue (which makes me toggle between 'shudddd-up already' and 'say it out loud because it would create some outer conflict which might move the plot forward'); 

Howz about some emotional growth of the character? 

Too fricken many characters that aren't integral to the plot! A character needs a reason to be there - if the character doesn't move the plot forward or help/hinder the protag from getting what she wants, then remove them.   

There's no ticking clock (i.e., there is no deadline for the protag to get what she wants, solve her problem, save the world);

The book doesn't suck me in, in fact for some of the books I've had to force myself to finish reading them because I wasn't drawn back to them; and finally, 

Sub plots that could have rocked the narrative but fell flat. 

Whew, good to get that off my middle. 

So before you ask yourself: "does this rewrite make my butt look big?" Beware of the sagging middle, it can kill a manuscript faster than you can say "would you like a deus ex machina with that!?"     

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Hits right in the gold" Review of Dead Bird through the Cat Door

Dead Bird through the Cat Door, the second in the Megabyte Mystery Series and nominee for the John Spray Mystery Award, was reviewed in the CM Magazine Canadian Review of Materials

It received three *** and was recommended for children nine to eleven years old. 

Here's an excerpt from the review: 

In a riotous mixture of Macbeth quotations, odd scientific facts, the good effects of pet-visiting in senior-citizen housing, cat shows, and wild-life sanctuaries, the twins sleuth their way to a solution to the mystery, foiling the bad guys and saving their cat from the villains' hands.

 ... All this is accomplished in a rip-roaring, punny manner that I suspect nine-to-eleven-year-olds will find irresistible. ... Jan Markley has her target audience firmly in her sights, and for them, she hits right in the gold.

Can I get a Woot! Woot! 

The full review can be read here

For teachers and librarians both books in the Megabyte Mystery series are available from through the Library Services Centre and the United Library Services