Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo is calling my name.

I'll admit it...I'm a deadline kind of girl. I thrive under pressure. The thrill of the impending doom of that due date fuels my creative fire. Okay, maybe I'm even a little competitive.

As long as I can remember, I have been like this. In college, lucky for me I had a roommate who didn't mind that I stayed up late. The night before an illustration deadline (I was an art major), you would find me (pencil in one hand, can of carbonated caffeine in the other) feverishly sketching my heart out until the wee hours of the morning as I created my masterpiece.

(Fast-forward three kids and many years later...)

When a friend introduced me to NaNoWriMo last year, I was totally sucked in. A seemingly impossible deadline...I could hear it calling to me. I had just started writing and this was my big opportunity to write, write, and write some more with the added benefit of the impending deadline. So I wrote. For 30 straight days. Some days I dreaded turning on the computer. Other days, I couldn't wait to get started. Sometimes I had no clue what I was writing about. I was just pounding out words. Other times the sentences just seemed to flow out like a river of dialogue that actually made sense and helped me reach my 50,000 word goal.

Last year, NaNoWriMo was frustrating, nail-biting, mind-blocking madness. Why am I doing it again? Because it was also exhilarating, liberating, shout-it-from the mountain-top awesomeness. As much as I hated it...I loved it even more.

It's the thrill of the hunt. The rush of the roller coaster. The pounding of the surf. And I'm all in again this year!

(In case you want to follow my progress, I'll post my word count here on the blog as well as on the NaNoWriMo website. My user name is wordsketcher.)

Good luck and keep writing!

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Spy Who Loved Me...Part 2 #FridayFlash

(To read Part 1 of The Spy Who Loved Me click here.)

If it’s possible to be having a nightmare while completely awake, I was currently starring in my own horror film. Chaos and confusion boiled around me as my team invaded the party. I stood frozen in the bathroom doorway. My knuckles white and numb, gripping the flash drive like a lifeline. It was all I had left of my future. In an instant, my world had been destroyed.

My husband…a Russian spy? How could I have missed this? What kind of American secret agent was I? None of this made any sense.

I took a small consolation in the fact that by the shocked look on Jonathan’s face, he had appeared to have no clue about my double-identity either. Was he feeling like this right now as he tried to escape? Shattered, betrayed, numb?

“Which way did he go?” A gruff voice decked out in camo and packing an M240 ran towards me.

I lifted my hand and pointed towards the direction Jonathan had fled. Did I want him caught? My priorities had been serving my country. Was I still so devoted that I would assist in the capture of the father of my husband? Maybe he wouldn’t be caught. Confusion swirled through my mind.

“Jenn?” a soft voice brought me out of my haze.

“I’m sorry! He got away.” I turned to the left to face Larry, our operations guy. His kind blue eyes tried to cut through the wall of my anguish.

“But you intercepted the transfer. That’s what’s important!” He said as he took the flash drive from me and placed it in a secure briefcase.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get him next time.” He laughed as he walked towards the front door.

“That’s what I’m afraid of!” I though to myself as I watched him make his way across the deserted front room.

“Nothing breaks up a party faster than a handful of Special Forces party crashers.” He turned around when he realized I wasn’t behind him. “Are you coming?”

I nodded and slipped off my heels. 4 ½ inch heels and a slick marble floor were not compatible in the least. I already had one body part broken tonight. I didn’t need another.

“Let’s go debrief so we can all head home.” I was exhausted emotionally and physically. At that moment, all I wanted was a nice hot bath and my bed. My cold, empty bed.

Two exhausting hours later, I unlocked the front door and snuck quietly in. Melissa was asleep on the couch. One twin tucked under each arm. They woke up as I neared the leather couch. Throwing off the bright green fleece blanket they were neatly tucked into, they came running with a loud “Mommy!”

I opened my arms and scooped them both up and hugged them like there was no tomorrow.

“Mommy, mommy! Is Daddy with you?” The both sang in chorus. I felt my stomach drop to the floor and nausea rolled over me. How was I going to explain this to them?

Melissa was fully awake now and explained, “Sorry! They woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.”

“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” I tried to sound as natural as possible when inside I was falling apart at the thought of telling the kids they might never see their father again.

I paid her and locked the front door after she drove off. The kids had fallen asleep on the sofa when I returned. I balanced one on each hip and carefully navigated the stairs up to my room. Pulling back the overstuffed blue comforter, I tucked the twins inside my bed. I needed them close to me tonight. To remind me that something good had come out of my marriage to Jonathan. He might be a traitor and had managed to crumble my perfect life. But I would rebuild it stronger with my two wonderful children at my side.

Exhausted, both mentally and physically, I snuggled under the covers with the kids. Immediately I was lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sounds of their breathing.

I woke up with a start and sat up quickly in my empty bed. My eyes scanned the familiar yellow walls of my bedroom as the morning sun poured through the slightly open window. Why was I wearing my dress? Empty brain finally woke up.

“KIDS?” I screamed as I jumped out of bed, ready to race down the hall to their room.

“Right here Mommy.” They said in unison as they walked through the double bedroom doors carrying a breakfast tray with a beautiful red rose, bowl of cereal and small glass of orange juice.

“Wha…” I stammered. Did I dream everything that happened last night. The spy game? The betrayal?

“We made you breakfast.” They rushed towards me.

I watched as the soggy cereal rode waves of milk over the edges of the bowl and the juice threated mutiny to the glass.

“The rose is from Daddy.”
“Shhh. You’re not supposed to tell.”
“You’re not the boss of me!”

I silenced them with a glare.

“Is Daddy here…right now?” I wasn’t sure what I would do if he walked through the door right now.

They looked at each other, wide eyed…neither one daring to speak first.

“You’re not in trouble. I was just wondering if Daddy was still downstairs.” I said quietly.

They both shook their heads side to side. “He left. He said to give you this.”

I swallowed hard and slowly took the folded note from their outstretched hands.

Until we meet again.
My Love,

“What’s it say? What’s it say?” They said in unison.

“It says he love us and will miss us because he has to go on another long trip.” My voice quivered at the lie, hoping they hadn’t read the note.

“Awww. He already told us that. Come on, let’s go play.” They bounced noisily out of the room and down the hall towards their room.

I quietly closed the doors and collapsed on the floor as hot tears flowed freely down my volcanic face.

That arrogant, stupid fool! He was NOT going to get away with this! Not on my watch! I was going to call Larry and tell him everything...just as soon as I finished...crying.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Domino Effect And Brilliant Words From Nicola Morgan

Earlier this week, I blogged about FINALLY discovering my MC's name. I was thrilled, to say the least, to be able to call him by name. He was finally complete. A whole person. Little did I know that naming him would cause a domino effect on my MS. The more I plugged his name into my story, the more I realized that he was so much more than I was writing him to be. My story was going down like a stack of dominoes.

I found myself surrounded by pages upon pages of a story that was not adequate for his character. His story was/is so much more than what I had written. Naming my character gave him depth. It gave him a purpose. It gave him new life. The life I had previously written for him was okay. But the new life I was imagining in my head was spectacular!

Am I sad that the 14,000 words I labored over mostly no longer fit my character? NO! Okay, well, maybe a little. As a new writer, I look at everything as a learning opportunity. This was my opportunity to figure out the best way for me to write the story. Should I have waited a few months to figure out my MC's name so I didn't waste 14,000 words? No, I honestly think this was the process I needed to go through to find his name.

As author Nicola Morgan points out in her brilliant blog post There Are No Rules for Writing - Just Results: "Write your book in whatever way works for you...The method, the route you take, matters zilchly. All that matters is the result."

When I finally finish rewriting my story and it's fabulous, no one will care that I scrapped the first 14,000 words. Not even me! (Who knows, along the way I will probably write 14,000 more words that don't work.) In the end, it doesn't matter how I got there. What matters most is that I'm at the end with a story that I believe in and can't wait to show the world.

Let the writing begin!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Naming My Main Character...Let The Bloodletting Begin!

For the past several days, I've been on a mission. My objective - to name my main character. The names of my lesser characters had come quite easily. My main character is stubborn and his name just wasn't surfacing without a lot of blood loss. I've written about 25% of the story calling him various versions of Tom, Dick or Harry. But nothing fit him quite right. Every time I thought I had the perfect name, I'd plug it into the story and he would say "sorry, try again." I found myself lost at the corner of Impasse Drive without a road map.

The storyline had pretty much drawn to a halt because I couldn't picture him in my head. Yeah, I know what color hair and eyes he has, how tall he is, and what his personality is like. But I was missing that one element that could tie all those traits together and make him whole. His Name!

What magical process did I use to find his name? Being a mother of three, I approached the situation much like I did when picking names for my kids. I consulted baby name websites and made a list of my favorites. I even tried the random name generator, hoping it would magically give me the perfect name. In the end, I was still frustrated because picking his name out of 50,000 names was like finding a needle in a haystack. Impossible!

The answer finally started to unfold yesterday when I had a little alone time in my car. Summer has been a non-stop kid's party (for the kids anyway) and it was the first time I had been 100% alone for longer than a few minutes since school let out. I was listening to the radio and heard the DJ mention a name. "Hmmm, that might work," I thought to myself. I couldn't wait to get home and see what it looked like in print. Unfortunately, it just wasn't a good match for him. But the process of writing that name down ultimately lead me to writing down similar names and finally discovering his name. My main character is now 100% whole!

It's no secret that I am new to writing. To say I don't understand the craft is by far an understatement! Someday, I may be experienced enough to finish writing the story and worry about naming MC John Doe during the editing process. For now, I'm satisfied I took the time to hash out his name. I feel his character will be stronger for it. Let the writing begin!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Above all...write for the love of it!

(Sorry, no #Fridayflash today.)

Writing for the love of it...interesting thought. Let's explore that for a minute. I am a new writer. I am not new to writing...I've been writing, one thing or another, my whole life. But I am new to calling myself a writer and actually committing to a relationship with said writing.

It's always been my dream to write a novel. I never really knew what I wanted to write that novel about until recently. It was one of those celestial moments where the light broke through the clouds and illuminated me. I was reading a YA book at the time and I suddenly knew that's what I wanted to write.

That was a very scary moment for me because I had no idea how to go about writing a novel. But I was determined. I started surfing...well, okay not actually in the ocean but on the internet. What I found out was there's a ton of information out there. The problem was wading through it all to find out what’s good advice and what's not.

At that time, I had the good fortune of reconnecting with a friend, Michelle Sussman, that I've know since grade school. (I'm going to toot her horn here because she is an amazing writer and has a great blog, Reading and Writing By Candlelight. You can also follow her on twitter (@michellesussman). Michelle gave me, and continues to give, a lot of great advice.) I told her I was nervous because I didn't know all the rules of writing. She advised me to just start writing. After all, the story would not write itself! She also suggested finding a local critique group.

Upon her urging, I recently joined SCBWI, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and will attend my first local meeting on Saturday. Before the meeting, I will attend the Critique Group Meet and Greet so I can be matched up with a critique group. It's all very exciting and very scary at the same time! And let me tell you, it's all happening really fast!

How does this all tie into writing for the love of it? When you love someone (or something) you will do pretty much anything for that person. You do whatever you can to spend time with that person. That’s the lesson. Find a way and make it happen. Don't spend your time saying you wish you could be a writer or you wish you had more time for writing. To borrow from Nike...Just Do It!

Close your eyes and jump in with both feet into the Ocean of Writing. The water's not nearly as cold and scary as it seems once you're in it. There are never enough hours in the day to do everything you want to do. That's just life. But if writing is one thing you desire, then surely you can squeeze in a few minutes here and there. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules! No one says you have to write every day. If you can't, don't beat yourself up about it. Allow writing to become a part of your life in whatever way it fits in.

When I sit down to write, there is no place in the world I would rather be than right there tapping on my keyboard. I have a busy family life so time is definitely something that is in short supply in my life. I write whenever I can...waiting at soccer practice, in the waiting room at kid's orthodontist appointment, late at night when everyone is asleep (my favorite time). I get my best ideas while in the shower. I think because it's the only other quiet time I get besides late at night.

Enjoy whatever time your life allows you to spend writing. Find a local writer's group or critique group to help you further your learning. Twitter is a great place to meet up with other people who love writing. (Follow me @kfentonwhite) Above all...write because you love it!

(While you're out surfing the internet, check out the new website YA Flash Death Match that Michelle has launched with fellow aspiring YA author Karly Kirkpatrick. They will be hosting contests for YA writers and awarding awesome prizes!)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'm the WOW! Women on Writing Fan of the Week!

I'm extremely honored this week to be the WOW! Women on Writing Fan of the Week. You can check it out by clicking here. If you don't follow WOW!, you should check them out. They have a great Facebook page as well as a super cool website.

As I new writer, I'm busy collecting favorite writing websites and useful writing info. I have posted a few links to groups I reference in my Fan of the Week article. They are listed on the right side of my blog under "Favorite Links". Check back often as I will be updating my favorite links weekly.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my #fridayflash posts. Tell me what you think. I'm always open to feedback and new ideas.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Spy Who Loved Me #FridayFlash

I slid my freshly pedicured toes into my slingback Jimmy Choo's. They were the perfect compliment to the sexy little black Versace dress I was wearing, which by the way costs more than my mini-van is currently worth. The babysitter would be here any minute. Click, click, click. I made my way down the wood hallway and poked my head into my six year old twins room. With a kiss on their messy tow heads, I had tucked them safely in bed about an hour ago. I'd be back before they even knew I was gone.

Downstairs, I heard Melissa letting herself in the front door. “Looking good Mrs. H!” she called out to me as I carefully took the stairs in my 4 ½ inch heels. “Where's Mr. H tonight?” she asked. Melissa had been our faithful babysitter for the past two years. I relied on her a lot when “Mr. H” was out of town on business, which happened to be pretty much every other week lately.

“Jonathan is in Sweden this weekend at a conference. If he calls, remind him I had the Mentor Program's Charity Ball tonight. The twins are already asleep.”

“I'll take care of everything for you,” she reassured me.

“Thank you. I shouldn't be home too late.” I said as I locked the door behind me.

I only had to drive a few miles to meet the limo that would take me to the gala. But this was an entirely different gala from the one I had mentioned to Melissa. I was living a lie. My husband, my children, my neighbors...they all thought I was a stay at home mom involved with charity work. The true story is when the sun goes down and the stars come out, my work is just beginning.

My eyes adjusted to the dimly lit interior of the limo as my boss filled me in on tonight's activities. I had the best job I never had. Expensive clothes, insane shoes, a limo...what more could a girl ask for?

“You might need this.” he said as he handed me a small black clutch containing a tiny handgun, a lock picking kit disguised as a small manicure kit, and a blank flash drive. I pulled on the elbow length black satin gloves to cover my fingerprints. Finally, he presented me with a large diamond necklace containing a microphone and earrings that allowed my comrades to communicate with me.

I was transformed into an elite socialite from Russia. It helped that I had been a Russian foreign language teacher before I became a stay-at-home mom...before I became a spy. I could play the part and speak the language very well.

The limo driver opened my door and I stepped out onto the red carpet outside a multi-million dollar mansion. I glided up the stone stairway that was sprinkled with party-goers.

I thought of Jonathan and how he would have enjoyed this. I wondered how his conference in Sweden was going. Jonathan's job as product developer at Wexley Corporation took him to exotic locations around the world. But he was always happy to return home to his family. I couldn't ask for a more perfect husband and father. I felt guilty living this double life. But my country needed me. I was a secret agent. A real life Jane Bond.

Tonight an American spy was passing off top secret government intelligence information to an unidentified Russian Operative. And I was going to intercept it. Yeah, that's me. Soccer mom by day. Defender of America by night.

I made my way past the throngs of guests wearing overpriced designer gowns, tuxes and bad hairpieces. Speaking of hairpieces...I brought my hand up to check my own hair. Confident that my fiery red wig was perfect, I continued on my way across the room, mixing and mingling with the guests. I quickly spotted the American spy, watching as he made his way into the bathroom. The transfer would occur there. Everything was right on schedule. I hesitated for just a second to allow him to exit the bathroom, then slid unnoticed inside and locked the door.

“I am in the nest.” I said quietly into my necklace.

“Roger that, Robin. Grab the egg and let's fly this coop.” Larry's smooth voice whispered in my ear. He was our operations guy. He made sure nothing went wrong.

I took the manicure case out of my clutch and went to work on the locked towel cabinet. The door popped open and I quickly swapped out the flash drives. Closing the cabinet, I stood up and flushed the toilet for good effect. I swiftly opened the door to make my escape.

As I stepped through the doorway, I ran right into someone making their way into the bathroom.

“Prastite.” he said in perfect Russian as we tangoed in the doorway.

“Izvinite.” I replied as our eyes locked.

I was swept away in their familiar ocean of blue. I felt my knees weaken a little as I recognized the rest of his face in disguise. His blond hair was professionally covered with a dark hairpiece. Even his eyebrows had been darkened to match. A thin beard and mustache covered his cleanly shaven face that I had kissed goodbye yesterday as he left for the airport. The look on his face gave away that he was as shocked to see me as I was him.

“Robin, do you have the egg, over?” Larry's voice said quietly in my ear.

At that moment, I knew my future was hanging by a thread. I could say nothing and allow him to escape. No one would know he had been here. But I knew our lives would never be the same. I thought about the twins at home sleeping peacefully in their beds. There was only one thing to do. The right thing.

“Copy that. Mayday! Hawk in the nest.” I said remorsefully.

Jonathan looked at me one last time before he turned around and bolted for the cover of the mingling crowd. His eyes reflected mine. Sorrow. Guilt. Anguish. Regret. Love.