Plot Twists and Real Animal Encounters – Deer

Plot twists. Every editor and reader wants them. How do we think up all these plot twists? Life. Experiences. Experiencing the unusual, the unexpected.

I’ve lived in many places where deer have also lived. Here in Michigan, there are three to five of the critters which pass through our yard now and again.  If I don’t actually see them, I often see their hoofprints in the snow or mud (or nibbled down veggies, hostas, and other plants).

One spring when we lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we had a herd of about forty deer make their residence in our fenced-in backyard. We were the only people in the neighborhood without a dog. We were the deer Haven of Rest. I remember one morning running out our door and off our porch waving my arms and screaming. I expected the deer to scatter. As a herd, they turned their heads and stared at me. Knowing any one of them could crush my skull with one little kick, I turned and ran back to the porch waving my arms and screaming. Each afternoon after they’d left, I’d go out and scoop up the numerous piles of “raisins” and dig them into our garden. That particular summer my garden totally flourished.

I love catching sight of deer in the wild. However, with all our modern roadways and speedy vehicles, traveling along interstates or backroads have often included daily roadkill sightings of the large beasts. Once while driving through the hills of Pennsylvania, we came to a stretch of about twenty miles where there were fourteen dead deer along the road. Fourteen. After a while I closed my eyes and prayed for hunting season to come quickly for swifter deaths for these majestic creatures to thin the herds.

Thankfully, I’ve never run into a deer while driving, nor has anyone else in our family. But one time a deer ran into me.

I was heading to work (teaching elementary school) in the dark pre-dawn hours, the only car going down a 4-lane road in Rapid City. I was in the left lane, traveling about 45 mph when in my peripheral vision I saw eyes immediately outside my driver’s window. A running deer. One moment it was running perpendicular to the car and inches from my window, the next it had turned sideways. But it couldn’t stop its forward momentum. The deer slammed its full body against our little Sidekick car, shoving it into the shoulder of the far right lane. I stopped as soon as I could, certain there would be a dead deer in the center of the road, but the deer had vanished. When I got to school I climbed out of my car to find myself shaking rather badly. I checked the side of the car expecting to see it crushed in. There wasn’t a mark, and my logical mind has no idea why not. I was thankful to be alive, for this story could have ended much differently. But I shall never forget those huge, wide brown eyes about a foot away from my own.

So when you’re writing your stories, include the unusual, the unexpected, and you shall have your plot twist.

Animal Encounters – NY

Lately I’ve been recalling several wild animal encounters our family has had over the years. I started writing some of them down. I’m only to 10K so far, so not sure it would be enough to make a book. But I thought I’d share one of the encounters here.

In the late 1980s and early 1990’s, we lived in Cheektowaga, NY. We were a fifteen-minute drive west to a bridge to Canada, and a half-an-hour drive north to Niagara Falls.

There was a lovely eatery in Tonawanda called Mississippi Muds. It overlooked the Niagara River. We went there a few times for their fabulous ice cream. The entire other side of the road was dedicated to a riverwalk park with several playground areas scattered throughout. Next to the path on the river side, the bank was piled with large rocks to keep the water back and keep the land from slipping into the river. Bikers, runners, strollers, fishermen…the path and park was well used.

We’d gone to Mississippi Muds for an after supper dessert treat. We decided to walk the pathway at sunset while we ate our ice cream. We walked the path in the growing dusk. As it got darker, people began leaving the parkway. We kept on walking, appreciating the time as a family and the fact that there were less and less people to avoid. After a while, we were the only people on the path.

One of the boys spotted a black creature along the rocks which they had been earlier leaping from one to another upon. It looked like a small dog or large cat. We naturally stayed away from it and kept walking, telling the boys to stay on the path now. We came to a small arched bridge going over a narrow runoff leading into the river. We stood on the top of the arch and looked around us in the gathering dark. It felt great to have the park entirely to ourselves. Then I looked down and found we were not alone.

The bank edges and the water below us was alive with movement. It took only a few seconds to realize the movement was not running water, but scrambling animals. The gully was alive with rats, big black rats.

We turned and started jogging the mile or two back to our car. We no longer stuck to the path, for more and more rats appeared from the rocky barrier next to it. We ran parallel to the path, about twenty feet inland, jumping through the playground areas, keeping ever alert and minding our distance from the nighttime creatures of the Niagara River. They were not small dogs. They were not large cats. They were very, very, very big rats.

What inspires me as a MG/Tween writer?

My publisher, MuseItYoung, has a blog for MG/Tween/YA/NewYA. We authors are presented with a topic and asked to respond. The topic for this Saturday is “What inspires me as a MG/Tween/YA/NewYA writer.” I responded. So this is a reprint part of a future blog post. I added one more thing in this post.
What inspires me as a MG/Tween writer:
I write what I like to read, or what I like to do…even though I don’t actually, however much I wish I could, ride unicorns through mountains nor eat with dragons in their fall caves.
I’m inspired by people around me – the best and the worst.
I’m inspired by silence.
I’m inspired by shortness of breath on a mountaintop or by nearly tumbling off a dock into the sea during a raging storm.
I’m inspired by stories of real life heroes, those who make me cry and cheer.
I’m inspired by seven deer leaping a fence in the colorful fall, and by tiny stalks and flowers bursting through the snow in early spring.
I’m inspired by elderly people with all their experiences, and by newborn babies continuing the circle of hope.
What inspires me? Life inspires me. Hope inspires me. You reading this inspires me.

War Unicorn Book Trailer

It’s live!

The book trailer I mentioned in my last post is now L.I.V.E. Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5_96_N7vXQ&feature=youtu.be

I gave Kevin my book trailer synopsis (the words). He used most of them and added more. He read the blurb of the book on Amazon. I answered two of his questions and sent him more book details. And then in a very short amount of time — hours, I’m guessing — he found the music and pictures and completed the book trailer for War Unicorn. He showed me it last Saturday. I suggested a couple of tweeks. I may have suggested more, but Kevin did this for me for free, plus I haven’t really had any personal (online) contact with him except about the trailer. He tweeked, and — great job! — it’s live!

I told Kevin I wasn’t going to publicize it until Monday. On Monday I put it on FaceBook, I tweeted it, I announced it on three writing listservs and with two critique groups. (Ooh. I forgot. I didn’t tell my family about it yet. More chances for hits. But my family’s not very large.)

A lot goes into making a book trailer, and when I have more time, I may even run a book trailer making workshop with one of my critique groups. Ugh. Sounds like a lot of work. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer, and thank you, Kevin.

War Unicorn 200x300

 

Short Synopsis v.s. Book Trailer

An author friend whom I’ve never met other than online, Kevin Hopson, offered to make me a book trailer for War Unicorn (tween fantasy with MuseItYoung). Having made a book trailer of my own for The Town That Disappeared— which took me four months to create — I do realize some of the ins and outs of trailer making. It’s hard! And time-consuming.

War Unicorn 200x300

Kevin asked for a synopsis of my book. Instead, I thought in terms of a book trailer. After all, they are related, with climax and conclusion left out of the trailer words, naturally.

I imagined the one-second flashes of frames with epic music in the background, and then wrote my 25-word synopsis for him. Easy-peasy.

I was concerned that with two books done since then and being in the middle of a third, I might not get the essence of the story. But thinking short synopsis in terms of a book trailer really helped me highlight the points of the hook and the action.

Now I wait. Good luck, my friend.

While you wait for the War Unicorn trailer, you can check out more of Kevin’s work at http://kevin-hopson.blogspot.com/

Writing Challenge: You could try writing out the 25 words making up the essence of your own stories.

Living Nativity, Rural Values, Historical Accuracy

I attended a living nativity this year for the first time. I had never been to one before was because my opinion of them was…boring, even though every one I’ve heard of was free. And because I become so involved with hundreds of other holiday events that I never took the time to go to one. Perhaps it was my virgin experience of attending one which had such a profound effect on me. But I can’t stop thinking about this wonderful experience of a live nativity.

The setting took place in a barn. The audience sat on bales of hay. The youth of a church were the actors. The shepherds carried goats. (Sheep this time of year would have been too heavy for 12-year-old boys to carry.) Throughout the performance, a cow mooed, a rooster crowed, and the sheep and goats and donkeys and ducks were silent.

I was also impressed with the historical accuracy when the wise men (astrologers from Asia) came to visit, and there was a two-year-old boy acting as Jesus.

Afterwards, there was a petting “zoo,” and tons of homemade cookies and fudge.

The experience got my husband and me thinking about rural values and the work ethics of country folk, and how politically incorrect the live nativity was on many levels. But this bloggster found it all adorable and charming.

I took several photos, but our new computer has not yet been trained to ready my iPhone. Next year I hope to return to the event, and by that time, should have figured out the whole photo to computer to blog post deal.

 

 

Post-Post NaNoWriMo — Step One

Yes, it’s a busy time of year between the holidays, family time, and end-of-year necessities. But you still must be writing! Never give up the quest.

Hopefully, for those who wrote words during November’s NaNoWriMo, that was only the start of a long process which you will see to the end.

The first step is to look over what you wrote last month, and to dump/delete/trash all the unnecessary words, scenes, chapters, characters, and unrelated stuff. The first year I did this, I cut 47K of my 50K NaNo words. I confess. I am a NaNoWriMo babbler.  In my defense, by forcing myself to babble I often come up with some surprising to me things. One year, I gave my middle school characters an assignment by their teacher to write their autobiographies. Of course, none of those autobiographies made it into the final story, but it was a great writing exercise for this author to get to know her characters better.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

By getting rid of your babble (excess words), you will find that what’s left is a very nice skeleton of plot and character to soon start fleshing out.

Post NaNoWriMo Syndrome

One week ago today ended #NaNoWriMo2015. To those who won — Hurray! To those who wrote any new words on your WIP — Hurray!

I’ve participated seven times in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Each year during the month of October, I gear up and prepare for the writing marathon. Then, about mid-way through the month of November, I fall behind on my 1,700 words-per-day count and slink into a temporary depression. I sometimes cheat during this bleak time, just so I won’t dump too much emotion into a failure, but also, and more importantly, so I can focus once again on my story.

I didn’t reach 50,000 words on my WIP (Work in Progress), however, I certainly wrote over that word goal though the month…on other things. But I have a nice solid 25K of rough draft babbling to work with.

Today I’m to submit a fresh chapter of something to my critique group. A couple of days ago, after the collapsing break from the writing race, I once again picked up those raw words. In my mind, before looking at them, I thought those first six chapters were near perfection, but only a few days later: Oh, what a rough draft of babble.

I sat down for a three hour block to do some revisions on just the prologue and first chapter, and marked where I stopped and counted up my revised words: about 700. Seriously? I can pound off 700 words of babble in a third of that time! But that’s the trouble with revisions — it takes time and labor to get the words right, and to chuck out the worthless stuff. Or perhaps I just fell asleep at the keyboard. Somehow sleeping sounds better to me than spending three hours on 700 words of a novel revision.

Whatever your revision process is, don’t give up. Keep writing new. Keep improving what you’ve got. Don’t be afraid of the delete key. May the good words rule!