Author Archives: dizzytangerine

Sum it Up in One Sentence


They make it sound so easy… so off-the-cuff, so matter-of-fact. “In one sentence, what’s your book about?” HUH?! One sentence? Really? Okay, here’s what I’ve realized. If you are looking for an agent or romancing an editor, these people want to figure out in a millisecond whether they should spend the next millisecond considering your work. That’s why you need a good pitch or hook. That one (or two if you have enough hubris) sentence that will snag them on the end of your line.

Having been a reporter I know all about hooks – or ledes as we call them in the business. I spent a lot of time poring over these precious sentences, making sure that they grabbed the reader’s attention and made them beg for more. And now that I’m writing fiction, I can thank my editor at the paper for helping prepare me for this next stage of writing.

Have you perfected your hook? Is it polished and does it sing? Make sure you spend time doing this because it might be the difference between the trash can and a phone call.

Write on everyone.


Building Character


Protagonists, antagonists, supporting characters… Where do they come from? Our heads of course. We can shape them, manipulate them any old way we choose. And by adding bits here and there we eventually leave our readers with an impression of the person we’ve created. If it’s our protagonist, we usually want our readers to feel empathetic towards him or her so maybe we make them vulnerable. If it’s the antagonist, we often imbue this character with traits that conflict with the protagonist thus creating tension.

We can get lots of mileage from physical attributes as well. Take Captain Hook for instance. He was mean and menacing and what could be scarier for a child than a villain with a silver, pointed hook for a hand. Or how about Fantine in Les Miserables? We see her beauty fade as she first sells her hair, her teeth and then her body.

Right now I’m creating characters for my next novel. Piecing together parts from people I know or characters from movies, books and television. Kind of like a quilt of granny squares. The eyes for one of my main characters, a 13-year-old Jewish girl, I got from from the cover of a book. It’s pinned to my bulletin board. Her friend looks a lot like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver – tough and lanky.  And the Jewish grandmother is soft and round with an ample bosom just like a dear friend I once knew.

And if we’re really good at it, creating a character, sometimes that fictional being takes on a life of his or her own. One such character for me is Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Francie sang to me. I loved her spunk, pluck and tenacity. I found myself wishing that I had known her for we’d surely have been best friends.

So what characters have left a lasting impression on you?

Write on everyone!

Say Hello to My Little Friend



By now I’m sure you’re getting sick of me saying writing is such a solitary endeavor – how we sometimes need to reach out and find camaraderie. Well I did just that the other day. Or rather I didn’t go looking for it, it just kind of jumped off the shelf!

I was in this little knick-knack place not far from here. It was a Sunday afternoon and I just had to get out of the house. You know the feeling… Anyway, I was meandering through this store with it’s surplus supply of winter slippers and live bamboo shoots thinking that there wasn’t really anything I needed and that I was just killing time so I didn’t have to go home and fix dinner, when my eye was drawn to this odd figurine. The strangeness of it caught me off guard. I mean just look at it. It took a moment for my head to get around that fact that there sat an orangutang with eye glasses reading a book. And looking rather engrossed at that. The more I looked at it, the more I felt like I was intruding – that I was invading his private space.

That’s when I knew I had to buy him. And that he would sit on my desk, day in and day out, forever reading his book. He won’t disturb me. He requires nothing, except for perhaps a little imagination on my part. So when I think I can’t write anymore, I’ll look up and see him with his somewhat irritated look, as if he’s saying, “Get back to work and stop bothering me!”

We all need that little nudge sometimes. For some it’s a mug with a special saying. For others it’s an inspirational poster or a special piece of music. I found what I needed Sunday on a shelf.

He’s perfect.

By the way. He has no name. Any suggestions?

Another Award!? First, I’d like to thank my mother and Old Man Winter…


You guys are awesome! This blogging thing is going to my head. The lovely Kate Loveton of Odyssey of a Novice Writer just nominated me for the prestigious Lighthouse Award. And I want to publicly thank her for her support. Sometimes we wonder if anyone even cares out there and so getting these little bits of affirmation really helps. So that’s why I’m paying it forward by in turn, nominating a few other blogs that I feel deserve mention.

First off, of course, is Kate’s. She is crazy about books, writing and is very witty. She likes to review novels and is into contemporary adult fiction feel-good kind of stories. So click the link above if you’d like to see her stuff. (Or see what she had to say about my blog.)

The following are some other blogs that I think you might find interesting and helpful:

Margaux’s Blog      One Book, Two Books, Old Books, New Books     DonCharisma     Writers in the Storm     Travel Chick Diaries     From the Laundry Room     Interestingliterature

Ok. There they are. The newest list of Lighthouse Award nominees! Please check out their work. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. That’s one of the things that blogging allows us to do. Spread the love. If there’s a particularly informative or inspiring blog I like, I pass it on. Especially for my fellow-writing friends out there.

Also by blogging, I am able to use my experiences to help others in similar situations. I mean, let’s face it. Writing is a lonely occupation. And sometimes we just need someone to listen. Or sometimes we need to feel someone else’s pain. That’s what the blogging community can provide.

And lastly, I want to entertain. I guess that’s the true test of a fiction writer. We want to tell a story. We don’t want to teach a lesson. I remember reading that somewhere in On Writing by Stephen King. He said for most of his novels, he simply wanted to tell a story and scare the shit out of people. Yup. My kind of guy. So while I don’t want to scare the shit out of people I do want to elicit a reaction – good or bad. So hopefully, soon, there will be more posts of the fictional sort that will entertain and not just inform.

So I think I’ve fulfilled my duty as a Lighthouse Award recipient. (Thanks Kate!) Good luck to all those nominated and don’t forget to pay it forward!

The criteria for accepting the award are:

• Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
• Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
• Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
• Share three ways that you like to help others.
• Nominate as many bloggers as you like.

Write on everybody.

Conferences Count


Writing by nature is a solitary endeavor. Ask any successful author and they will tell you that getting to the point of publication took countless hours of alone-time in front of a screen. Things can get pretty quiet; just you, a blank piece of paper and the ticking clock. And that’s one of the reasons some writers never become authors. It’s just too lonely out there.

That’s why we need to reach out to others like us and attending a conference is a great step. I just got back from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators annual conference in New York City. I was surrounded by people just like me! Writers who are almost authors. Artists who are almost illustrators. And of course those who have already found success.

While I didn’t come away with a lot of new tools for my writing box, I did leave with a renewed conviction that this is what I was meant to do. What I got out of the experience was validation that I am on the right track and that if I keep plugging away, success will follow. I just need to be patient. And I know we read this type of advice all the time. But when you pay good money for the advice, somehow it matters a little more. You are invested, literally.

In the Grand Hyatt’s ballroom on Sunday, I stood three feet away from Arthur A. Levine  (publisher of the Harry Potter series)  and was tongue-tied. This year I had nothing to offer. But next year? If he’s there, I’m going to give him the best break-out middle grade chapter book pitch he’s ever heard!

Now that’s the attitude!

Write on everybody.

Are You a Panster or a Plotter? Weigh in.


Battles rage about this issue. When writing – especially something large or complex – are you one who flies by the seat of your pants (Panster)? Or do you carefully outline the story from beginning to end (Plotter)?

Take a moment to answer the poll. It will be interesting to see which one comes out ahead…

Myself? Well, I’d say I’m a Semi-Plotter.

It all started in grade school when my teacher, Mrs. Harding, made us outline our book-reports. You know I, II, III followed by A,B,C and then 1.2.3 yadda, yadda, yadda. Sometimes it got so convoluted that I’d forget where I was in the scheme of things. I’d draw arrows from III.C.4 to I.B.2 and then erase like crazy. By the time I was done, there would be holes in the paper and tears on my cheeks.

But over time, I realized that this kind of planning was good for me. To an extent. It helped organize my thoughts, figure out where I was headed and finally bring it all together in a neatly wrapped package. Years ago, when I wrote for a local paper, I would often jot down a rough outline to get a good feel for the flow of the story. Then I would fill in the missing pieces of information. Often, I would find myself surprised when my story simply concluded on its own as if by magic.

So I’ve taken this non-fiction type of outline and plan to apply it to my next work of fiction. But in a much more organic way.

I have the story in scenes written out randomly on my laptop. Yesterday I cut up a brown-paper bag like you would if you were going to use it as a book-cover.  Next, I raided my daughter’s art cubby and scavenged a nice assortment of colored markers. I plan to sketch out a timeline of the scenes on the brown paper and use it as an “outline.”

So for those of you content to simply let the pen fly willy-nilly, I bow in respect.

But you won’t have a pretty piece of brown paper with rainbow- colored jottings to hang up on your wall now will you?

Getting Noticed… It’s Nice.


A few days ago, after my morning tea, I  discovered that my blog had been nominated for a Liebster Award! WOW! I jumped up and down and did a Happy Dance. But then I asked myself… What is a Liebster Award? After a little Google search I found that it’s a fun way to get people excited about your stuff and, at the same time, pay it forward. So THANKS to the fair and talented Lily of She thought my stuff was worthy of a shout out!

The Rules:
  • You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  • You must answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominee.
  • You must pick 11 nominees with under 200 (or 2000 if you want to go with that) followers to answer your questions.
  • You cannot nominate the person who nominated you.
  • You must let the people you nominate know they have been nominated.

My answers to Lily’s questions:

  • Favorite movie:  Little Miss Sunshine
  • Song that makes me feel alive:   The Logical Song  by Supertramp
  • If I could live anywhere, where would it be:   Bath, Maine
  • Favorite food:  Greek salad or chocolate cake
  • Favorite word:  serendipity
  • Favorite hobby:  collecting Fire King
  • If I could change my name:  I like my name.
  • Favorite snack:  buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese
  • Favorite class in college:  Editing. I know. I’m weird.
  • Favorite poem: The Red Wheelbarrow, by William Carlos Williams
  • Favorite season:  SPRING!

Here are some noteworthy blogs that I think you’ll really like. Most deal with writing and books while a few focus on travel and cooking. Enjoy!

Margaux’s Blog

One Book, Two Books, Old Books, New Books

A Penny and her Jots

Emu’s Debuts

Wicked Words

Jodie Llewellyn






Now, for those I nominated, here are your questions:

  1. What was your favorite cereal as a kid?
  2. What is your favorite movie?
  3. How old is the oldest thing in your closet?
  4. What is the name of your favorite pet (past or present)?
  5. Who is your favorite author?
  6. What is the coolest city you have ever visited?
  7. What is the oldest food in your fridge?
  8. What is your favorite brand of soap?
  9. What do you crave when you crave?
  10. What is your favorite TV sitcom (past or present)?
  11. What era in history best defines you?

I guess that’s it. Carry on everyone. I will be rooting for us all when they announce the winners of the 2014 Liebster Awards! – Kathy

Rejection’s Evolution


When No Isn’t Necessarily No – Some Useful Insights

Got two manuscript rejections yesterday. One in the mail the other in my email inbox. But I’ll tell you about these later.

When I first started sending out manuscripts and began receiving rejections I took them hard. I would vow not to do it again – not to put myself out there and be vulnerable. But invariably I would get over it and begin once more. The submission, followed by the waiting and then the rejection. Usually addressed to “Dear Author/Illustrator.” They were forms – mere slips of paper shoved into a SAS that I had provided. But with those I guess I was lucky. For it was when I didn’t hear anything for months that stung the most. My writing not even worthy of a stamp.

But things are changing. My rejections now appear on publisher/agent letterhead or are addressed to me personally via email like the ones I got yesterday. And while they both were a “pass” there still is hope. After getting over the initial let down of rejection, I reread the letters and both included invaluable insights into my writing and where I might improve. Both the editor and the agent suggested that I “tighten things up” and be more “succinct.” The tension needs to be increased.

I will take this generous editorial advice and put it to good use. Those thoughtful words will fuel cuts, rewrites and revisions. And when I think I simply cannot improve my writing any more, I will do it again.

Only then will I re-submit.

My advice to all receiving rejections: if the editor or agent takes the time to write something constructive about your piece you are SO CLOSE! Follow through and do what they say.

Sometimes the “no” is a “maybe”.

Are the 1970’s history?


How often we find ourselves using that term – HISTORY.  If we want to make something that happened in our lives seem insignificant we say, “Oh, that’s history.” We’re over it. But what is history when it comes to writing? Some history teachers tell their students that history is anything that happened in the past. So yesterday, I made a broccoli and chicken casserole for dinner. So is that now considered “history?”  I don’t think so. But no one will argue with me when I say that in June 1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo as Abba so poignantly reminded us. So where is the line between “history” and “not history”? There are differing opinions. And what about the terms “historical fiction” vs. “period fiction.” Yikes… This is getting complicated!

According to The Historical Novel Society, a novel is considered to be “historical fiction” if the story is written fifty or more years after the events described therein or prior to the writer’s birth. The American Library Association’s RUSA says that the events within the novel need to be at least a generation (25 years) before its publication. And yet, according to the veritable Encyclopedia Britannica, a historical novel need only have its setting be within a period of history with events and details depicted accurately.

So would the Sherlock Holmes series be considered historical fiction? According to the definitions above, yes. However, there are those that profess it is not because historic events are not the primary focus. The same with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. There are those that claim that these works should be considered “period fiction” – novels that occur within a specific time period but have no real focus on depicting actual historic events.

So this brings me back to the 1970’s – the time period for my next novel. Will I be writing a historical novel or a period novel? I guess it doesn’t matter right now because I’m just beginning. But come time to pitch The Summer Girl to agents I will need to be sure which genre I use. (Agents hate it when you get your genre wrong!)

What do you think? Is period fiction a sub-genre of historical fiction? Or is it a genre all of its own? Or is there an ever-morphing line between the two?

Food for thought…

Tools to Make Your First Pages Stronger

Advice from someone who knows…Linda P. Eptein, literary agent. Take heed those of you putting pen to paper!

The Blabbermouth Blog

Old Antique Tools in Vintage Carpentry WorkshopThere’s nothing more boring (to me) than a manuscript that starts off with nothing happening. Or starts off with the main character staring at themselves in the mirror (and hating their eyes or fixing their unruly hair or noticing their cheekbones are like their dead mother’s). Or begins with the main character waking up and looking around their surroundings (and describing them in detail, as if they’ve never seen it before, or love it so much, or hate it so much). Actually, can we just agree that manuscripts shouldn’t start at all with a character waking up? Start with something happening!

In the first pages of Bill Konigsberg’s Openly Straight, the main character Rafe is being dropped off at his “new home.” His dad is trying to take a picture of him with his iPhone and he tells Rafe to do some silly things for the camera and…

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