Tips on Writing a First Page for Kids’ Books

These are what I once learned from the First Pages Panel at New England SCBWI Spring Conference on a Saturday when people were still able to gather in groups.

(The cool editors involved were Katie Cunningham, Alyssa Henkin Eisner, and Diane Landolf)

Eight Hot Tips (Ouch! On fire!) To Writing A Good First Page

Tip 1

It’s cool to be funny. It’s cool to be poignant, but it is awesome to be funny AND poignant. 

TIP 2

It’s good to have lovely language but not too much of it because then it’s easy to forget about character and plot. Yes, character and plot are actually important in children’s stories.

TIP 3

Every sentence should make you move towards the next sentence. Dogs eat cake. The martians have yellow hair. Journal writing is incessant.  Those are examples of sentences that do NOT move forward.

TIP 4

A good strong voice is much better than a wimpy little voice. Voices are like superheroes. We want them to have muscle. They have to save us from evil plots and menacing back story.

TIP 5

Kookiness is good as long as it is kid-friendly kookiness. 

TIP 6

Your first page shouldn’t be a character study. Your character study should be a character study. 

TIP 7

Don’t stay inside your own head too long, Author Person! We need emotion and movement to propel us readers forward.

TIP 8

Don’t sound 87 if you are supposed to be 15. Adult voice or datedness makes us not connect with the narrative.


Come Write With Me!

I coach, have a class, and edit things.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.


Link to Jose’s bonus interview. Jokes, Stuffies, And Using Your Weirdness for Good, An Interview with Jose De La Roca

Link to Caitlyn’s bonus episode. Books, Law School during Covid-19 and just being Kick Butt – Using Law to Create Lasting Change – Interview with Caitlyn Vanover

This week’s episode. Money Is Not the Enemy and the Habits of the Rich

Last week’s episode link. Emotional Insecurity Is Us and Farts are Everywhere.

NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

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Are you Beige? Do you Think in Words?

Some people, it seems, have a constant inner monologue that never stops.

Are you Beige? Do you Think in Words?

 
 
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This week, I’ve been editing two male authors’ stories and there is a lot of internal monologue embedded within the paragraphs of dialogue and exposition. At the same time that I’ve been doing this a man’s reaction to some people not having an inner dialogue has gone viral. 

It began with a tweet as so many things do. 

Kyleplantemoji wrote: 

Fun fact: some people have an internal narrative and some don’t. 

As in, some people’s thoughts are like sentences they “hear,” and some people just have abstract nonverbal thoughts, and have to consciously verbalize them. 

And most people aren’t aware of the other type of person. 

Later, on his blog, Ryan who is also Kyleplantemoji wrote: 

My day was completely ruined yesterday when I stumbled upon a fun fact that absolutely obliterated my mind. I saw this tweet yesterday that said that not everyone has an internal monologue in their head. 

This became a very big deal.

Some people, it seems, don’t hear thoughts in word or sentence form in their heads. Ever. 

Some people, it seems, have a constant inner monologue that never stops. Ever. 

And people are stunned, flummoxed, and sometimes horrified that not everyone processes information or thinks the way that they do. 

Some people simply share their experiences like Skva who responded to Ryan’s blog post by saying,

I myself have a dialogue going on 24/7, it will keep going non-stop to the point that I cannot fall asleep. I sometime have to chant sleep sleep sleep, Just so my mind doesn’t go off around in loops or one thing to the next.

And some people superimpose their realities upon the others in an attempt towards understanding.

“I can’t possibly understand how people function without one. In fact, when you mentioned the person who “sees words” in her head? That really stumped me. Like you, I asked “But how does she ask question? Answer questions? She has to read her own thoughts before she can speak them?” I can’t take it in. I have come to the conclusion that they have an internal voice but that, like people who claim they never dream, they simply don’t remember their voiced thoughts in the same way some people instantly forget their dreams. It’s the only way I can make sense of it.”

As humans and writers, it’s important to remember that our way of doing things isn’t necessarily the only way, or the only right way and that’s not just true about how we load the dishwashers, or our political ideologies. It’s also true about how we process and think. Don’t be beige.

Writing Tip of the Pod

When writing, try to think of how your characters aren’t like you. How are their speech patterns, values, and thoughts different from yours. Do they all sound alike? They shouldn’t. 

Dog Tip for Life

When living, don’t expect all people to be the same and instead of superimposing your thoughts and values and experiences, realize that they have their own experiences. It’s like in the dog world, a Rottweiler has a different life and interactions than a poodle wearing a tutu. They are both dogs and have similarities, but they aren’t the same. Even two poodles aren’t the same. We’re all unique and amazing. That should be respected not diminished as we all try to raise each other up. 

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

BALLSY SPONSORED THIS EPISODE!


We’re super psyched because this episode is sponsored by Ballsy. 

Best sponsorship ever. 

And why is that? 

Because Ballsy is for fun couples like us who are not into lame gifts for Valentine’s Day and they have a cool gift set just for Valentine’s Day and people like us. 

You want this, don’t you?

There’s an I’m Nuts About You gift set and the You’re Incrediballs heart box set. 

They are running a promo right now for LOVE DAY and all days, really. The retail price is $less than $50, and the coupon code is for 20% off.

Here is your code for you, our cool listener: DOGS20 

It has the word DOG in the code. That’s so cool. Just like you’ll be cool if you give this to your special man for Valentine’s. So go check Ballsy out at ballwash.com

Big News!

I just published a super cool adult novel. Gasp! I know! Adult! That’s so …. grown-up?

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can preorder it here. Please, please, preorder it. 

So, um, please go buy it. I am being brave, but that means that despite all my reasons for doing this, I’m still terrified that nobody will buy it and I really, really love this book. A lot.


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

Am I the Butt Face? How to Make (and be) a Likeable Character

Am I the Butt Face? How to Make (and be) a Likeable Character

 
 
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Why Do People Suck So Much?

One of the biggest things you hear in the world of writing is to make your character likeable, which is great and all but gives you two questions: 

  1. How. How do you make your characters likable?
  2. How do you make your characters likable when in real life people suck so much? There’s an entire Reddit thread called “Am I the A-Hole?” 

We talk about the second question in our RANDOM THOUGHT in the podcast, so the writer-helpful stuff is here, now. Ready? 

What Do the Bad Guys Care About?

Usually they are propelled by greed or power. In our society those things are usually indicative of a bad guy. Although, some segments of our society seem to laud those traits now. 

What Do We Have to Do to Make Our Characters (or our selves) Not the Bad Guy?

People want to care about the character. You automatically think that means the character is nice, right? No. 

Think about those Marvel movies. Iron Man’s kind of a jerk. Sherlock Holmes? Jerk. But we still like and care about them. Why? 

Here is What You Need To Do To Make Your Character Not an Butt Face

The character has a big want and/or need.

Iron Man wants to save the world. 

Sherlock Holmes needs to catch a murderer. 

We connect with that because we all have wants or needs. 

I want to make $5,000 a month. This possibly make me a bad guy because that seems to be about money BUT if I want to make $5,000 a month so that I can pay for my child with autism’s medicines? Not quite so awful, right? It’s all in the presentation and the reason. 

Conflicting Wants are What Really Makes It Pop

When our character wants to save the world, but saving the world mean that he must sacrifice his entire business that he’s worked so hard to build up? That’s when our interest is super EXCITED. We’re all – Oh. Snap. What will he choose? What would I choose? 

Caring About Others Who Are More Vulnerable

This is the big one, really.

In the Star Wars movies, Rey is super snarky with the little droid when we first meet her, but then she refuses to sell that little droid baby for scrap money and protects it. Bing. We love this resilient go-getter named Rey who now has conflicting wants of her own survival (needs money) and protecting the droid (probably going to cost her money and her life). 

So, we care about Rey because she cares. She has empathy. 

What are the characteristics people admire in others? 

Authenticity

Caring

Kindness

Empathy

Bravery

Charisma

Loyalty

Give your character one of those if you can. 

Give them a Wicked Sad, Sob-Story Life Before the Story

Harry Potter? Orphan. 

Rey? Orphan. 

Captain America? Orphan. 

Iron Man? Orphan.

Luke Skywalker? Orphan. 

Captain Kirk? Orphan. 

James in James and the Giant Peach? Orphan. 

Do you see a pattern? Characters WHO HAVE HAD a background full of grief or pain or sadness, we’re more likely to love them. You grieve for them. You want to feed them. You root for them.

Write in the First Person or the Close Third Person Point of View. 

When we see what the characters do and why they do it, how they think, what they feel, then it’s easier to feel, think, relate and be like them.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD:

Make your character a lovable orphan who cares about others, basically. 

DOG TIP FOR LIFE:

Move beyond your sad story. Realize that someone out there is going to make you the villain in their story and try not to care about that. Just do little moment of goodness. Do them over and over again. 

Random Thought:

In the audio of the podcast, we talk about

  • The bigger picture of being a part of a society that celebrates butt-hole people.
  • Helping a friend.
  • You get to hear a tractor
  • Other random stuff like whether or not the word a** is explicit

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

WRITING NEWS

THE NETHERLANDS IS AWESOME

Steve Wedel and I wrote a super creepy book a few years back called After Obsession and it’s making a big freaking splash in the amazing Netherlands thanks to Dutch Venture Publishing and its leader Jen Minkman. 

Check out this spread in a Dutch magazine. I met a whole bunch of Dutch readers last Friday and let me tell you? They are the best. 

Learn With Me at the Writing Barn!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here!

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

GLOSSARY OF IMPORTANT LITERARY TERMS, WHICH I WOULD FIND IN A CRAFT BOOK IF I COULD BRING MYSELF TO READ ONE

Let me just say this up front: I don’t like craft books.

Yep. You read it, right. 

I don’t like craft books. 

I’m sure there’s a deep-seated reason for this, which probably requires years of counseling; however, I am a writer who has holes in her clothes and I can’t afford years of counseling. So, unless someone decides to cough up the money to take care of my soul, it seems the roots of my craft book dislike may never be discovered. 

So because I have some sort of death wish (Please do NOT kill me fellow toll writers, especially writers of craft books), I am going to create my own, special GLOSSARY OF IMPORTANT LITERARY TERMS, WHICH I WOULD (MAYBE) FIND IN A CRAFT BOOK IF I COULD BRING MYSELF TO READ ONE AGAIN, WHICH I CAN NOT, SO NO TRYING TO FORCE ME! I AM NO LONGER IN A MFA PROGRAM, SO JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW. IT’S MY OWN LIFE DAMNIT:

Let’s Begin

A is for

Active Verbs

These are the verbs that everyone wants. These verbs take no prisoners and aren’t all namby-pamby passive like everyone’s complaining Bella in the Twilight series is. These are the Rambo of verbs, the Natural Born Killers of verbs, the Stephen Colbert of verbs. 

Interestingly enough, in the sentence, I WILL LICK YOUR FEET, MR. PRESIDENT, lick is an active verb, not a passive verb. 

See? It makes no sense.

Amazonaddictionitis

The horrifying addiction (not described in most craft books) that happens to authors after their book debuts. Symptoms include:

  1. Obsessive checking of book stats, namely Amazon.com Sales Rank
  2.  Screaming
  3. Massive Depression
  4. Constant murmuring of “It’s #831,051 in books, how can this be? How? CAN? THIS? BE?”
  5. Frantic calls to editor/agent
  6. Consumption of a lot of cosmopolitans (if you write chick lit) and/or rum and Cokes (if you write werewolf horror novels)

B is for

Book contract

This is the ultimate of all goals for most writers, unless of course, you are Stephanie Meyers, J.K. Rowling, or God, then your goal is media domination or at least a multi-book, seven-figure contract.

Here. Let me use it in a paragraph: 

The author claimed to have a book contract, but actually it was a book contact. It’s true. She touched a book. Once.

C is for

Comma 

Oh, the comma. It is the evilest of the punctuation marks. It once made a Kirkus reviewer very mad at me. Who would think that this ,,,, could be so evil? Oh. Right. The Kirkus reviewer.

Comma Curse

This is what happens to writers who do not memorize Diane Hacker’s RULES FOR THE WRITER ( Memorize that fifth edition – it’s the best!!!) and they fail to remember not to “use a comma between compound elements that are not independent clauses.”

You can never be free of the comma curse once you have it. Trust me, you don’t want it. It causes embarrassing itching in between the typing fingers.

D is for

dénouement (IPA:/deˈnuːmɑ̃/)

The hoity-toity word for all the stuff that happens after the climax. The climax in the book. Geesh…

E is for

Evolution. 

According to Evolution 101 at Berkley this is “descent with modification. This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations). Evolution helps us to understand the history of life.”

Try not to write about this. It may make your book banned.

F is for

Foreward

This is what happens when you get super famous and dead and other people (teachers) force students to read your work in high school or college and they (the forward writers) have to explain before the actual text how important you and your writing is to the entire universe or at least to post-colonial New England, specifically Amherst, Massachusetts. It also shows up in those BEST OF AMERICAN SHORT STORY collections. 

Hint: If you have a foreward in your book, you may be dead.

### I will continue with this next week if I don’t get kicked out of the Writers Club of Writerness


Now, I’m going to Revision Land and when I get to page 300 I’m going to reward myself and never think about tan people rubbing basil on their bodies again.

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 




Aw, Ah, Aah, Awe, or Ah is that Underwear?

Aw, Ah, Aah, Awe, or Ah is that Underwear?

 
 
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None of us are perfect with the grammar, especially not us native-English speakers. We’ve got all these words that mean totally different things but sound EXACTLY THE SAME! 

And today, we here on Dogs are Smarter Than People are going to do things.

  1. Prove that dogs are smarter than people because they don’t have to spell.
  2. Help you all out about a five-some of evil. Yes, I’m talking about Aah, ah, ahh, aw, and awe. 

I know you’ve all seen it on Facebook. Someone you love writes, “Awe (a-w-e) that’s so cutie.”

And you’re like, “No! Agh. I don’t want to be evil and tell them but they are using the wrong spelling here.” 

Let’s get started. 

Aah! Is an interjection. It’s like a giant mosquito as big as a velociraptor is hovering in front of your nose. You are afraid. Aah is what we use for those moments. 

It has a super close relative – Ah! 

Ah is an interjection, too. But this time you aren’t expressing fear; this time you are expressing love, surprise, pleasure, a realization. 

“Ah! I now understand that was not a mosquito but was actually an Amazon delivery drone.” 

And then we have their lovely relative, Ahh.

Ahh is when you get something or you accept something. 

Ahh, I do love you and your way with drones. 

Ahh, this is how the world works, you act like a narcissist on social media and you suddenly have a million followers. 

Let’s move on.

Aw is what most people are meaning when they write ‘awe.’

Aw is when something is super cutie or adorbs. 

Sometimes we use it to show we’re disappointed. Aw! English! You make no sense. 

So, it’s like this: 

Aw, you are the bestest, cutiest Rotary club president ever. 

Aw, your puppy is adorable! 

Aw, that manatee lingere is the best underwear ever! 

Aw, I probably should have realized that I have no chill prior to taking a leadership role and now I’m just sub-tweeting everyone and whining about their underwear. 

And then we have the all-mighty awe. 

Cue God music.

Feeling like you are full of admiration, fear, reverence because of something super big-time like God or manatees swimming nearby or some really amazing underwear? 

This is awe. 

She raised her hands to the sky, overwhelmed with awe as the flying manatee in purple plaid underwear approached. 

At the edge of the Grand Canyon, he grasped her sleeve in awe of the magnificence below them. 

Writer Tip of the Pod

Dictionaries are our friends. Words have meanings. Don’t stress out if you mess up. We all mess up, but try to do the best you can. We’ll be in awe of your mad wordsmithing skills. 

Dog Tip for Life

It’s easy to spell ‘bark.’ Don’t sweat the small stuff. We make mistakes. If you don’t hurt anyone, yourself or end up in jail, it’s probably all good 

Shout Out

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps).

Check it out here.

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 


Flirt Your Eyelashes Off, Writers

Flirt Your Eyelashes Off, Writers

 
 
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A quick web search for the words ‘flirting’ and ‘dangerous’ gets a lot of hits.

To be fair, so does a quick web search for the words ‘flirting’ and ‘fun.’

But we’re not here to tell you about the perils and delights of flirting. We’re here to talk about writing, life, and dogs. Actually, flirting is part of most people’s lives. But we’re FOCUSING on the writing aspect.

Flirting is showing someone that you are attracted to them.

Hall, Carter, Cody, and Albright, (2010).

If you’ve listened to the random thought portion of the podcast, it’s obvious that Carrie fails at flirting and in knowing when other people are flirting with her.

Side note from Carrie: This is because it’s really extremely rare for me to be attracted to people in that way.

So, when it comes to writing about flirting, she has to do a lot of research about how people flirt, how people react to flirting, what the common aspects of flirting are.

All of us, as writers and humans, have blind spots or flaws. These places can be viewed as writing weaknesses or human weaknesses, but they honestly just make us real.

Second side note from Carrie: Not being attracted to people that way isn’t a flaw, it’s just something that’s different than what our society considers the ‘norm.’

When we’re writing, we have to look for those places where we’re not as strong. It could be setting. It could be showing our character’s emotions. It could be plot. It could be making a character realistically flirt. It could be making dialogue real. The secret to becoming a better writer is to dive into those places where you’re not as strong, and focus on them.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Be courageous. Go right to where your weaknesses are and excavate them. If you can’t write a fight scene. Go write fight scenes. Read them. Watch them. Go into the places where your weaknesses are.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Flirting is not the same as being friendly. It’s about intent.


SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


Writing News

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

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WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

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HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

ART

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You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 




IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?


Even Potatoes Can Be Creepy When They’re Randomly Showing Up Everywhere

Even Potatoes Can Be Creepy When They’re Randomly Showing Up Everywhere

 
 
00:00 / 00:21:13
 
1X
 

The city of Jackson, Mississippi is having a weird situation.

To be fair, Jackson has had weird situations before. People left Christmas trees in potholes. They decorate road signs in ways road signs aren’t supposed to be decorated.

But now what’s happening in Jackson is about something sacred.

It’s about the mashed potato.

People are leaving bowls of mashed potatoes in all sorts of random places.

According to a Huffington Post piece, a resident is quoted as saying, “So we don’t know if someone is just playing a prank or if someone just had a lot of leftovers.”

Nobody knows what it’s about. That’s sort of creepy. Also, it’s a great base for a story. The best stories come from unexpected details and places. The best stories involve mysteries to be solved and motivation to solve them.

Writing Tip of the Cast

Don’t be afraid to take something beautiful like a potato and turn it into something creepy and evil. Keto certainly wasn’t afraid to do that.

Dog tip for Life

Always sniff things before you eat them.

SHOUT OUT! 

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Roombas, Shaun Talks About Robbing Houses, and Random Mashed Potatoes in Jackson, Mississippi

The city of Jackson, Mississippi is having a weird situation.

To be fair, Jackson has had weird situations before. People left Christmas trees in potholes. They decorate road signs in ways road signs aren’t supposed to be decorated.

But now what’s happening in Jackson is about something sacred.

It’s about the mashed potato.

People are leaving bowls of mashed potatoes in all sorts of random places.

According to a Huffington Post piece, a resident is quoted as saying, “So we don’t know if someone is just playing a prank or if someone just had a lot of leftovers.”

Nobody knows what it’s about. That’s sort of creepy. Also, it’s a great base for a story. The best stories come from unexpected details and places. The best stories involve mysteries to be solved and motivation to solve them.

Writing Tip of the Cast

Don’t be afraid to take something beautiful like a potato and turn it into something creepy and evil. Keto certainly wasn’t afraid to do that.

Dog tip for Life

Always sniff things before you eat them.

SHOUT OUT! 

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Talk to Me, Baby! Dialogue Help on Writing Tip Wednesday

It’s Writing Tip Wednesday and today we’re talking about talking.

What’s that mean?

Dialogue, baby. It’s that magic place where the characters get to speak for themselves.

So, the number one tip is super obvious, but yet… so many of us don’t do it.

SAY YOUR DIALOGUE

Out loud.

 

That’s easy enough, right? But actually listen to how the words sound. Is it awkward? Too perfect? Is someone saying an 895-word sentence?

Think about the breath units.

Wait. Breath units? What’s that?

A breath unit is how many syllables are read in one breath. You breathe at periods and commas and punctuation marks, right?

So, if your dialogue sentences have more than 20 syllables? It’s going to be cruddy. If it’s all five or less? It’s going to sound cruddy too.

Poets use this writing tool and think about this all the time. Fiction writers should too because the cadence of your words and your writing matters AND because you should have as many tools in your tool box as possible.

Once you know the tools, you can break the rules for dramatic effect. Stephen King often writes a 100-word sentence full of long breath units and follows it with a one-breath-unit sentence-slash- paragraph for a dramatic punch.

Genius.

And I sort of did that up there.

See? This sentence is super long (40 syllables):

Stephen King often writes a 100-word sentence full of long breath units and follows it with a one-breath-unit sentence-slash- paragraph for a dramatic punch.

And followed it with this (2 syllables):

Genius.

That’s not dialogue, but it helps make it understandable, right?

And to be fair, not all people and all cultures have that typical upper middle class white person in the United States breath unit. Think of Eminem or Busta Rhymes or Tech N9ne for a second and all the words each of those men can say in one breath. Chopper-style rap has this awesome, intense emphasis on speed and pronunciation, which throws the rules of breath units out the window. Here’s a link to some fast rap examples courtesy of Red Bull.

Warning: There is profanity.

And those differences are important. It’s good to remember where the ‘rules’ come from and who they come from and also to give yourself the liberty to play with them or against them.

So, do that. Say your dialogue aloud. Play around with the breath. Think about the things your character is feeling underneath the words she’s saying.

If a cop or a werewolf is chasing your Scooby gang, they aren’t going to be eloquent and have long beat units. If they’re on drugs, giving a speech, or borderline hysterical? Those beats are going to show that.

WRITING NEWS

I’m heading to Freeport, Maine on Sept. 28 and then Houston and Virginia Beach pretty soon to promote my picture book biography of Moe Berg. It’s called The Spy Who Played Baseball. 

My Post copy 6

I’ll be hanging with a lot of other cool authors in Freeport.

Copy of A Nerdy evening with authors and illustrators (3)

 

ENHANCED, the follow-up to FLYING is here! And the books are out of this world. Please buy them and support a writer.

 

The last TIME STOPPERS BOOK is out and I love it. You should buy it because it’s empowering and about friendship and bias and magic. Plus, dragons and elves.

Timestoppers3_005

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Art Stuff

You can buy prints of my art here. Thank you so much for supporting my books and me and each other. I hope you have an amazing day.