Monday, December 24, 2012

Images from PbF Chapter 55

Here are some images from Pinned but Fluttering Chapter 55:

Here is Bella's locket:

And here is Edward's note, in his own handwriting --sorry if it's a little blurry, but you can at least see how he wrote it in his copperplate penmanship:

And the locket engraving:

Bella bouquet--missing a few of the flowers I listed in the chapter but containing most of them. Don't forget: Edward picked them himself and Alice tied the ribbons:

And Bella's dress...only about 4-6 inches longer, hitting her mid-calf, and worn with white peep-toe pumps:

Bella's shoes:

And Bella's hairstyle:

Thanks for reading Pinned but Fluttering!! 

Much love and a Joyous Christmas to you all,
~Cassandra :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nearly There!

I have drafted the remaining chapters of Pinned but Fluttering during the craziness that was National Novel Writing Month 2012. Now I only have the epilogue left to write.

My posting schedule for PbF:

Chapter 53: Thursday 12/13
Chapter 54: Thursday 12/20
Chapter 55: Christmas Eve
Chapter 56: Thursday 12/27
Epilogue: New Years Eve

Because I'm not really into writing lemons, I'm saving the intimate scene for the epilogue so that readers who don't care to read lemons can merely skip it and be satisfied with the end of the story at Chapter 56. But for those who don't mind or enjoy reading such scenes, they can enjoy the epilogue. 

I have never written a lemon, so we'll have to see how it turns out. ;) 

But I'm really proud of all that I've accomplished with Pinned but Fluttering. While Evening Star, my first fan fiction story, enjoyed moderate success, the clamor over Pinned but Fluttering has been simply mind-blowing. 

On Wattpad, Pinned but Fluttering will reach 1.3 million reads by this weekend (officially it's at 1,298,880 reads as I compose this post, with over 8,000 votes and 6,235 comments). Its success on has been more mellow but still flattering at nearly 150,000 hits and almost 1500 reviews between the regular story and the separate outtakes. 

Evening Star remains somewhat popular with over 750,000 reads on Wattpad and nearly 40,000 hits on I'm toying with writing a sequel to this first story, starting with Edward and Bella's reunion in Volterra, then covering the gap between New Moon and Eclipse. We'll see. 

I also have an idea for an original paranormal-type story. A few ideas, actually. We'll see how they pan out. One idea is such that I can write it as fan fiction but easily change the names and details later to make it original. Again, we'll see. 

But right now I'm thrilled to be almost finished with a story I started in August 2011. Yay!!

Thanks for reading!!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Racing Toward the Finish Line....

Well, I picked a very busy month to attempt to write 50,000 words before November 30th. Unfortunately, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) occurs every November, right in the middle of one of my busiest months of the year. 

So what have I been doing this month?

I've been inundated with essays to grad for my co-op high school writing class--two sets of essays from a class that's full past the class size limit. And the essays required a lot of commentary from me--corrections, encouragement, suggestions, praise. 

In other words: time-consuming.

Then I also am completing my online high school MLA research essay course with twice the number of students I had last year. And this month they submitted outlines, first drafts, and final drafts of their research papers, all of which required detailed grading not only of content and usage but also of all of the nit-picky details of the MLA format. 

In other words: crazy time-consuming. 

Then, add to that the fact that I'm trying to finish editing the first draft of an e-book on grammar for work, and we have complete and utter chaos.

And then I decide to try to finish my novel and write 50,000 words during this insane month?

I really should be committed. 

There are two days remaining of the NaNoWriMo challenge, and I have 13,000 words left to write. 

Well, that's a vast improvement over last year's challenge in which I posted 14,000 words on the final day, making the midnight deadline with a mere eight minutes to spare. 

This year my goal was to complete a first draft of Pinned but Fluttering while still posting weekly chapters (the editing along with the writing is positively killing me!) and perhaps finish a couple of one-shots I've started. 

I doubt I'll be getting to any of the one-shots. But I am starting the final chapter of Pinned but Fluttering and the next chapter is ready to post for tomorrow...I mean, later today.

And I have time to write tomorrow (Uh, I mean, today) both before and after teaching my writing class, and Friday is fairly clear. I still have the grammar book to work on and a chapter of Pinned but Fluttering to post online, plus three teen boys to homeschool, but I am finally seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the NaNoWriMo tunnel. 

 Even if I am writing this post at 2:00 in the morning. 

Okay, going to sleep now so I can teach and write tomorrow--uh, I mean, TODAY. 


Writing furiously,
Cassandra :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bella's Ring from Pinned but Fluttering

This is my great-grandmother's ring that I started wearing when my own set of engagement and wedding rings could no longer fit over my swollen fingers, thanks to rheumatoid arthritis.

Sorry the pictures aren't the best; my hands also shake a bit, and even with the normalizing setting on my camera which is supposed to minimize shaking, I still have problems.

This ring was dated to the late 1880s-early 1890s, so should be just about right to belong to Edward's mother. I love it almost more than my own set because of the old-fashioned styling. I remember my grandmother wearing this ring all the time when I was a child, so I'm thrilled to wear it now.

When I have time, I'll write my review on Breaking Dawn Part 2--which I liked much more than I thought I would!

Take care!
~Cassandra :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Photos to Accompany PbF Chapter 48

Chapter 48 of Pinned but Fluttering requires illustrations, so here they are:
Part of the cottage

This stained glass window was designed and created by my husband, K, as a commission for our doctor. It looks amazing in their home, and we had it hanging for a couple of weeks in our house, too, before the installation. It's quite large--four feet by five feet.

Another view of the cottage...inside the picket fence
The fireplace in the cottage--which is actually the fireplace in our mountain cabin (pine walls and all).

Painting of the grapes inside the cottage--a watercolor painted by my mother-in-law and hanging in our home (on the pine walls)

I'll post a photo of the ring when I can--it's on my finger and belonged to my great-great grandmother, and yes, it dates back to the 1890s. 

I hope you enjoyed Chapter 48!! I am currently drafting Chapter 51 of PbF, so NaNoWriMo is really helping my productivity!! 

Have a wonderful week!!

~Cassandra :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Breaking Dawn Part 2: Worth the Wait?

Image from Breaking Dawn, Part 2

Yes, there are fewer than two weeks until the final film of the Twilight Saga is released.

And know what? After seeing Breaking Dawn Part 1, I'm not dying to see Part 2.

I admit--Twilight, the first movie of the series, was well-cast but had its cringe-worthy moments: the big vampire reveal was horribly written and acted, and Bella being saved by Edward in the dance studio is simply horrid--Rob looks like he's going to puke at any moment. And the vampire growling scene on the baseball field--laughable. The movie had its good parts, too--don't get me wrong. But they're rather few and far between.

By the time that New Moon came out, my daughter was a real fan, so we attended the midnight showing together, seeing Twilight as the first part of a midnight showing double feature (for the first time on the big screen). And I admit--New Moon was practically seamless. The only part that was laughable was Aro reading Alice's mind and seeing Edward and Bella, both as vampires, running through the forest. But Rob runs like a girl, and the whole thing still makes me snort with derision. But otherwise, the movie is amazing...and the soundtrack is even better than the first one.

And yes, we watched both Twilight and New Moon before seeing Eclipse as the third part of a triple feature, the other two playing earlier in the evening and the third installment at midnight. And Eclipse was nearly seamless as well. I can't think of any cringe-worthy elements except for Ron Howard's daughter not knowing how to growl like a vampire. (Yes, they should have kept the first Victoria!!) And again, a stellar soundtrack followed.

So it was with high hopes that we attended the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn Part 1--all by itself this time. Parts of it were great--the wedding was beautiful (but NOT the reception-ugh!! Those speeches made me squirm with embarrassment!! I don't care that making us totally embarrassed for B&E was the point. I hated it.). And Isle Esme was well done. But the talking wolves had me laughing right there in the theatre--and it's supposed to be one of the points of high drama as Jacob takes on his birthright in order to protect Bella. But, no, I was stifling giggles the entire scene. And Edward was played all wrong once they returned from Isle Esme--whether that's the directing or Rob himself, I felt that he was emotionally dead rather than emotionally a wreck. Bella becoming concentration-camp thin was amazingly well done, and parts were okay, but overall, I was not satisfied with the film. And my daughter refused to buy the soundtrack since it consisted of famous pop musicians rather than up-and-coming indie artists.

Images from Breaking Dawn, Part 2

So we're skipping the midnight madness associated with the fifth and final installment of the Twilight Saga. If she isn't working, I'll take my daughter to the Friday morning matinee (one of the advantages of home schooling: FIELD TRIP!) I know they changed the ending to a fight scene...or at least a partial fight while the book made Bella's shield the deciding factor in avoiding a Volturi vs. Cullens & their allies battle. I can understand that change because it would feel even more anticlimatic on film than it did in the book. So we'll see how Breaking Dawn Part 2 shapes up. And I'm not holding out for a terrific soundtrack, either.

So, any thoughts about the fifth and final film in the Twilight Saga?

Take care!!

~Cassandra :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

To NaNo or Not to NaNo....

I've taken part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)several times in the past few years.  NaNoWriMo involves writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November; the fun part is that NaNoWriMo is a global effort; participants do the challenge with over 300,000 other writers around the world. One can have Writing Buddies, and participants also receive encouraging e-mails from some fairly impressive authors; participants may update their progress daily. NaNoWriMo provides some fun bells & whistles that allow progress to be posted on blogs or websites.

With a bunch of my online friends, I joined up in 2008 and managed to write half of a highly-autobiographical novel called The Pilgrim Pathway that I doubt I'll go back to edit; it was a decent first attempt at writing fiction, but it isn't really interesting or publishable. In 2009 I completed the second half of  The Pilgrim Pathway. I took a break in 2010, participating in a poem-a-day challenge on the Writer's Market website, hosted by the editor of Poet's Market. I don't think writing a poem a day was much of a "break"; it was actually more taxing than writing the 1,667 words daily to complete NaNoWriMo.

In 2011 I returned to NaNoWriMo, challenging the students in my homeschool co-op expository writing class to join me for extra credit. Between teaching two co-op classes and an online course through Brave Writer, plus homeschooling the boys, it wasn't easy to find time to write 1,667 words per day...which I rounded to 2,000 words/day to keep it easier to track plus allowed me to take off Thanksgiving and a few other days (such as teaching days). But I still ended up posting 14,000 words on November 30, verifying the completion of 50,000 words with eight minutes to spare. Whew!

So, with only one co-op class to teach (but with more students than last year) and the same Brave Writer online class going, plus the three boys to teach, should I attempt NaNoWriMo this year or not?

Last year I completed one of the novels I was publishing online in weekly installments, and I managed to get several chapters ahead on another novel I was also publishing online. If I attempt NaNoWriMo 2012, I will be completing the second online novel and then either starting a new novel or completing several unfinished short stories. I would love to be that productive!!

However, the problem I ran into last year was that as I post a new chapter online each week, I have to go back and edit that chapter for publication. Yikes! That's a lot of extra writing!!

I am offering the same extra credit incentive to my co-op writing class as I did last year, so I will need to participate somewhat so that I can track their progress. Plus, at least one member of our small town's writing group is participating, and we meet once a week during NaNoWriMo to write together in the library.

In addition, a lot of writers in the online communities where I post my fiction are doing NaNoWriMo, and I've made two NaNoWriMo accounts, one under my real name for my students' benefit, and one under my pen name for chatting with my fellow fiction writers.

So, should I participate in NaNoWriMo or not? I'm hoping to, but I suppose we'll see if it's realistic to actually finish. So I suppose at this point that I will TRY, but know that I may not finish this year. 

If anyone is doing NaNoWriMo and would like to become a Writing Buddy, you can find me under the user name of Cassandra Lowery--I love having writing buddies!! :)

Writing with you,

Cassandra :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Florence + the Machine Concert

On October 4, my daughter Elizabeth and I attended the Florence + the Machine concert at Cricket Amphitheater in Chula Vista. The outdoor concert was wonderful, and our seating was amazing. The handicapped seats were right behind the mosh pit, so we were really close to the stage. 

And the concert truly was incredible--Florence is one of the few singers whose voice is better in concert than on CDs. Her enthusiasm and love for her fans was inspirational, plus it's lovely to attend a concert in which the singer is dressed modestly.    

And the art-deco screen behind Florence was incredible; sometimes it was lit softly, other times in bright solid colors, and at other times in full Tiffany stained glass images. The concert was truly a feast for our eyes as well as for our ears. 

And what other concert could we attend with harp solos??? The music truly was incredible, and this concert was well-worth the time, money, and energy we expended. 

So, I'll get back to work and writing now so that I might get the next chapter of Pinned but Fluttering up by Monday at the latest. (The next chapter is an outtake in Edward's POV of Chapter 44 and 45.) 

Cassandra :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Milestones, Writing, and Reading

Late last month I reached a major milestone: Pinned but Fluttering reached 1 MILLION READS on Wattpad!! It's absolutely crazy and wonderful and stunning and un-fricking-believable. Pinned but Fluttering does well enough on where it's at 99,000 hits and 997 reviews (almost ready to break some records there as well!!), but over a million reads on Wattpad is I am still wrapping my head around it. And the numbers keep on going--in the two weeks since passing the million mark, it's garnered another 80,000+ reads!! Wow. 

I just wish that I could enter Pinned but Fluttering in the Watty Awards, but I started it at the wrong time. All stories must have been written over the past year: between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012, and I started it in August 2011. Plus I seriously doubt I could complete it by October 31. Well, I COULD, but it wouldn't be easy. 

I think I'll enter a couple of poems in the Atty Awards contest, judged by Margaret Atwood. Having Atwood involved at Wattpad is a huge feather in their cap; she's one of the premier literary authors and poets of our time, and she's simply marvelous. Somewhat recently I attended a lecture on Atwood's work at University of San Diego (where I earned my Master's in English) and discovered that she had been acquainted with one of my former USD professors while at Harvard; they worked on their doctorates together. But having Atwood associated with Wattpad brings the site a whole new level of authenticity and respectability. Very cool! :) 

And although it's been complete for nearly a year, Evening Star continues to scrape up more reads as well; it's over 720,000 reads but never really caught on at FFN. I am constantly asked for a sequel on Wattpad, so perhaps that may be my next major fic. I have ideas for lots of EPOV one-shots, too. We'll see.

I know I've neglected this blog horribly, but all of my writing time has been devoted to new chapters for Pinned, plus I spent September up to my eyebrows in teaching an online discussion class of Jane Eyre for homeschoolers. I have been teaching online courses for over ten years, and now I'm helping to write curriculum as well, so when I'm not actively teaching, I have quite the to-do list. :) But that's where I disappeared to in September and why I spent two weeks posting each chapter of Pinned.

I've also read some great fics lately; scroll down my sidebar to "Fics I Have Read in 2012" and you'll see quite the list. A current fic I'm reading is "Letters from Corporal Masen" which is set during World War II, specifically the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The author, solostintwilight, is the author of one of my favorite stories of all time, "Our Yellow House" (which I happen to be re-reading on my Kindle right now). Anyway, solostintwilight listed some other war-based stories, and I've been making my way through them. And are they ever heartwrenching!! Last night I finished reading "Finding Home" (and outtakes "Finding Liberty") by jennde, and I don't think I've ever cried so much while reading a fan fic story (unless it was for "Our Yellow House" or SillyBella's "Peonies"). The story starts a couple of days before Pearl Harbor and goes through the war from there. A couple of other amazing war-based stories are "A Soldier's Homecoming" by morsus mihi (set during Vietnam) and  "The Wallflower and the Flyboy" by A Cullen Wannabe. All of these stories are incredible, and I eagerly await each update of solostintwilight's "Letters to Corporal Masen" (which has an incredible Facebook page with WWII photos; plus, her Bella is the lovely Gene Tierney) as we find out how Edward is faring after parachuting into the French countryside in advance of D-Day. 

So what have the rest of you been reading? I love recommendations, even though I have pages and pages of recs written down in my writing notebook. 

Well, I'm off to see Florence + the Machine tonight with my daughter, and I have a sizable pile of work to complete first, so off I go. 

Thanks for reading this blog and my stories!! I appreciate each and every one of you!! :) 

Take care!!

Cassandra :) 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Busy, Busy...but a PbF Excerpt to Make Amends....

Ugh...real life interrupts writing again....

This week we started our 16th year of homeschooling, with my boybarians in grades 7, 10, and 12. Co-op classes begin next week. But the first few weeks are all about finding our "groove." I'm using different curricula for all three boys, with a few tried-and-true faves still in the mix. 

I hope to pick back up with Pinned but Fluttering and be posting this weekend. Life just has been crazy with planning, ordering textbooks, and then getting used to our new schedule which starts an hour earlier than we used to so that I have time for my jobs. I start teaching online classes again next week and my full-and-with-a-waiting-list expository writing class the following week after that. I also have curriculum writing and rewriting to do for work...both of which I've fallen a bit behind in doing over the last two weeks with starting a new homeschool year. 

Part of me can't believe that summer is over and that I have to begin teaching again. Summer never really felt like summer with teaching the online fan fiction class and with working all summer on curriculum development. But the boys are slowly falling into their patterns and they're getting done with school around 2:30 which leaves me with several hours to work and teach online courses before physical therapy and dinner. 

Since I'm soooo late on this next chapter of Pinned but Fluttering, I think I'll give you what I've written so far. Please keep in mind that this is a first draft and will undergo several revisions before I publish it online. But this is everything I've written so far for Chapter 42:

Feeling perfectly at home in Edward's embrace was a new but very welcome development. As I mentally thumbed through my human memories, fogged as they were, I remembered the tension between us, the constant draw I felt toward him.

And his kiss...our kiss: tender, restrained, joyous. 
And his declaration. 
Edward loved me.
I looked up at him, certain that the wonder I felt was plain in my expression. He smiled down at me, his eyes warm and tender. 
“Shall we go for a walk?” he asked quietly.

A walk? I felt confused for a moment, then I cottoned on. A walk...away from the prying eyes and too-sensitive ears of his family. A walk seemed like an excellent idea.

I nodded. He gave my hands a gentle squeeze, then turned his back on the crowded room and led me out the back door of the house.

Exchanging a look of amused annoyance, we ignored Emmett's loud wolf-whistle as we closed the door behind us, Edward rolling his eyes.

He reached for my hand, and it seemed perfectly natural to allow his long fingers to fold around my much smaller hand, and we exchanged shy smiles.

Following a narrow path, Edward led me along the riverbank. The scenery was lovely; we were shaded by majestic Douglas Firs, spreading cedars, and ancient oaks. As we walked hand-in-hand in comfortable silence, the music of the gently running water soothing and peaceful, my eyes drank in the amazing detail of our natural surroundings now afforded by my new vampiric vision.

After strolling slowly, even for humans, Edward pulled me to a cluster of rocks that jutted over the river bank. We seated ourselves side-by-side, our feet dangling several feet above the surface of the gently-moving water. He took my hand again, and with a smug grin I noticed that we were both the same temperature now.

It wasn't actually sunny—this is Forks, after all—but the pale sunlight sifted through the trees and warmed us. I peered up at him shyly through my eyelashes and was astounded to see his face aglow in the late-afternoon light. Twisting toward Edward, I lifted my hands to his face, marveling at the radiance of his visage between my hands. And my hands were luminous as well.

I think my mouth popped open with surprise at the brilliance of his skin...our skin. Between my palms, Edward, smirked at me.

“Haven't you seen a vampire in the sun before?” he teased.

“As a matter of fact, I haven't,” I returned nonchalantly, trying to hide how awestruck I really was. “It's a good thing that we don't burn to a crisp or something in the sun, right?” It was my turn to smirk.

“Myth,” he said softly, and his expression shifted swiftly from amused to desirous.

As quickly as his expression changed, my mood did as well. With his face still in my hands, I leaned forward and pressed my cool lips to his. It was bliss...sheer bliss...kissing Edward like this.

But I was in no way expecting what happened next....

I'll keep on writing and will hopefully have the new chapter up over this next weekend. Thanks for understanding!! 

Love to you all,
Cassandra xxxooo

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Advice to Young Writers

Each week I receive soooo many requests to read and offer feedback on the stories and novels of young writers on Wattpad, and it breaks my heart to refuse them. With my uber-busy schedule that barely allows me the time to update my own stories, I simply can't afford the time to read upteen stories and write long responses to young writers. The writing teacher side of me hates being unable to help these beginning writers develop the skills necessary to write compelling fiction.

So what I've decided to do is write this article, offering advice to young writers that they may find helpful as they begin or continue their writing journeys. I know that such advice does not replace detailed feedback, but it may assist authors in honing the skills necessary to write and write well. 

At the end of the article, I'll also post some helpful links to articles on different aspects of fiction writing as well as some inspirational quotations. 

So what makes good writing good?

The first ingredient of good writing is details. As authors, it's our job to help our readers experience our writing.  We want to create a "movie in their heads" as they read. And strong, specific details are the best way to accomplish visualizing a novel. 

  • So write in a way that appeals to the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. 
  • Describe people, places, things with strong visual and sensory detail, using similes (comparisons using "like" or "as": her voice was like the softest breeze) and metaphors (comparisons not using "like" or "as": "All the world's a stage" -- Shakespeare). 
  • Avoid cliches: comparisons that are so overused that they've lost their meaning and freshness: white as snow, eats like a bird, runs like the wind, pretty as a picture, etc.). Always try for new and fresh ways to describe something or someone.
  • Always show rather than tell.  Don't write: "No!" he said angrily. (Here you're telling us that the character is angry.) Rather, show us that he's angry: "No!" he said, his lips folded into a thin line. See the difference? It's fine to "tell" once in a while, but try to "show" as much as possible.
The next ingredient is compelling characters. Our readers need to be able to identify with our main characters (and with all characters, if possible). Our main characters cannot be perfect; they need to be flawed and "human" in order for the readers to like them and want the best for them. Our characters need to make mistakes, to grow and develop over the course of our story in interesting ways. 

One great way to develop believable and complex characters is to write a character sketch for each of our main characters. Jot down their pasts, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. Don't be afraid to draw on people you know or other characters to develop certain aspects of characters, yet don't base a character entirely on one or two people. Then keep those character sketches near you when you write. We aren't bound by our character sketches, but we at least have a starting place to base their motivations. For example, if a character was beaten by his father as a young boy, he may have problems obeying authority figures in adulthood. That's a flaw based on his past. Yet from that same past, the character may have great compassion for the suffering of others and can't bear to see a child hurt. That's a strength based on his past. 

Another ingredient for good fiction writing is believable dialogue. As writers, we need to pay attention to dialogue wherever we encounter it: an argument between a mother and toddler in the grocery store, a love scene in a really great book or movie, a confrontation in our workplaces, witty banter in television programs, etc. We need to figure out what works well and what doesn't work well in dialogue. What our characters say is often more important than what they do, so dialogue is of the utmost importance in stories and novels.  

Taking time to revise our writing is of the utmost importance, and it's one area which young writers tend to skip. A first draft should NEVER be posted as a final draft! Ernest Hemingway, arguably the best American novelist of the 20th century, wrote 39 drafts of his short story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." 39 drafts!! Most fiction writers don't write that many drafts, but posting a first draft online is the biggest mistake an aspiring writer can make. 

Writer and teacher Anne Lamott in her book on writing Bird by Bird, tells us about the writing process in her chapter entitled "Shitty First Drafts." (Seriously.) She outlines the writing process this way: Our first draft is our "down draft" in which we "get down the basics" of our story, chapter, or article. Our second draft is our "up draft," in which we "fix up" our draft by adding details and descriptions, develop our characters more fully, and spruce up dialogue. Our third draft is our "dental draft" in which we examine each and every word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph to make sure each one is healthy and sound and doesn't have any gaps or holes, expressing ourselves as well, as powerfully, and as clearly as we possibly can. 

After we have our third or "dental draft" completed, we need to edit our writing. Writing with correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling is extremely important. We shouldn't worry about writing correctly when we're writing our first draft because we'll drive ourselves crazy. But after we've polished the content of our story, then we need to read through our story or chapter to make sure that everything is correct: commas, capitalization, spelling, etc. I'll post a site or two below to help with grammar and punctuation issues. A lot of readers refuse to read stories that are a grammatical mess; plus, incorrect grammar, punctuation, and spelling can distract and confuse your readers...things which young writers need to avoid at all costs if they want to catch the eye of a potential publisher or agent. 

So these are the most important aspects of writing well. I hope that you'll find these points helpful. Feel free to post any questions you many have in the comments. 

Helpful Websites
Writing World: --excellent articles on characters, plotting stories, writing dialogue, etc. The most helpful writing site I've seen.

Fiction Factor: --helpful articles on the entire writing process

Writer's Digest: --sign up for a writing tip each day, delivered to your e-mail

Links to Grammar Sites: --great list of grammar sites for help with all aspects of writing

Helpful Books
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. An excellent book on learning to be a writer. (Some adult language)

On Writing by Stephen King. An inspirational and helpful book on writing by the master of horror. (Some adult language)

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. Although written in the 1930's, this book can really help beginning writers learn the discipline to become a professional writer. 

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style by Laurie Rozakis, PhD. The best and most helpful grammar guide I've ever used. Easy to look up certain grammar, punctuation, and capitalization issues, and great exercises to cement correct usage into our minds. 

Helpful Quotations
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." --Richard Bach

"Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped." --Lillian Hellman

"There is no great writing, only great rewriting." --Justice Brandeis

"Books aren't written; they're rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept." --Michael Crichton

"Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what will sell." PD James

"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." --Martin Luther

"If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." --Margaret Atwood

"If I waited until I felt like writing, I'd never write at all." --Anne Tyler

"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one becomes a master." --Ernest Hemingway

"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth." --Kurt Vonnegut

"If the doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I'd type faster." --Isaac Asimov

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." --Nathaniel Hawthorne

Happy Writing, Everyone!!!
~Cassandra :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Excerpt from Jane Eyre Fan Fic

Photo from Bel Ami--but Rob could easily portray a young Edward Fairfax Rochester, no?

After thinking about the obvious similarities between Twilight and Jane Eyre, I sat down and started writing a one-shot from Edward Rochester's POV of the morning in which he finds that Jane has left Thornfield. It still needs *a lot* of work as I focus on writing with the vocabulary and cadence of the mid-nineteenth century in which Jane Eyre was set and written.

So let me know what you think as I write from a different (but strikingly similar) Edward's POV:

My Hope—My Love—My Life”: A Jane Eyre Alternative POV

I paced the floors of my room all the night. Unable to find escape in repose, unable to still my restless mind and body, I walked, each breath a sigh of anguish.

My Jane.

She had looked so beautiful yesterday morn, robed so unaccountably in white rather than in her dark, simple gowns. Her face aglow with expectation and happiness, she descended the stairs to my anxious impatience. 

After declaring her “fair as a lily, and not only the pride of my life, but the desire of my eyes,” I hurried her through a breakfast that neither of us wanted.

Although wound as tightly as a watch spring, I made all the practical arrangements necessary to ensure our swift leaving of Thornfield as soon as we were legally wed. I refused to allow my conscience its voice as it declared to me roundly: This young innocent shall never be your legal wife, for you are already wed to another. It makes no matter that you were mightily deceived, for today you commit two sins: first, the breaking of your wedding vows to your first wife to whom you are legally, if not morally, bound, and, second, the deception and wrong you do to Jane. For no matter how utterly and completely you love this young girl, you well know that these vows you shall speak before God and the witnesses gathered in God's House are false when you remain legally bound to another, no matter her mental instability.

But I dismissed the loud objections of my conscience, determined to fully own the one thing I desired above all others: the fragile yet indomitable woman-child, Jane Eyre. Knowing well that I would not breathe easily until Jane was made legally and bindingly mine, I had nearly dragged her to the small chapel, holding her childlike hand in mine as, grimly resolute, I strode through the house, out the wide front doors of Thornfield Hall, and just beyond the gates to the small but ancient chapel in which our wedding ceremony was to proceed.

It was only as we reached the churchyard gate that I realized that Jane, her tiny legs forced to run to keep up with my long, determined strides, was nearly faint from my rushing her so. Her face was nearly as pale as her gown, and a light sheen of perspiration covered her face; her lips were as colorless as her cheeks, and I berated myself for my unforgivable hurry.

“Am I cruel in my love?” I inquired solicitously. “Delay an instant; lean on me, Jane.”

Her arm wrapped around mine, Jane filled her lungs with the crisp morning air, and very soon all was well once more, and Jane and I entered the church.

As Jane had regathered her strength after my rushing her to the church, I had noted two strangers speaking quietly in the shadows of churchyard. Both entered quietly as Jane and I took our places at the communion rails, preparing to speak our vows to one another.

The service began but then was rudely interrupted. Even now I cannot bear to think on the flurry of activity that took place once our wedding was broken off for a mere “insuperable impediment to this marriage.”

I battered my poor Jane with the truth, with the attempt at bigamy, at the presence of my first wife, crazed and murderous, within the very walls of Thornfield Hall. She took all in, her eyes becoming larger and her visage paler with each revelation. I asserted Jane's innocence in the legal matters, then escorted clergyman, wife-to-never-be, and our two guests to view the “wife” whom legally belonged to me.

After I had effectively tussled with and restrained my mad wife, I had told the shocked witnesses, “And this is what I wished to have,” as I rested a hand on her delicate shoulder, “this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon.” I asked my witnesses to compare the wild Mrs. Rochester, at present bound to a chair for her safety and ours, to the young girl beside me and demanded their judgment.

But now, as I paced my floor this long, long night, I thought I knew judgment; however, my own judgment had scarcely commenced.


So this is what I have written thus far. Please keep in mind that this is only a first draft, so I hope to improve it and extend it. 

Please do let me know what you think. :)

Always writing,
~Cassandra :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Twilight and Jane Eyre

Even though I've been wrapped up in teaching my fan fiction class and writing Pinned but Fluttering, I have had a few story ideas floating around.

I've written parts of some, and others remain stuck on a Post-It in my writing journal. 

But my first non-Twilight fan fic idea came to me the other night. Lately I've been reading some pretty darn angsty fan fics with Edward in some rather sad and anxiety-provoking situations (like The Blessing and the Curse by The Black Arrow, The Diva Diaries by KivaRaven, An Angry Man by katinki, etc.), I thought about his literary predecessors, including another angst-ridden Edward: Edward Fairfax Rochester. 

So I'm seriously considering expanding my Twilight fan fiction repertoire with a one-shot of Edward Rochester awaking to find Jane gone on the day after their almost-wedding. 

I can almost place a Robert Pattinson, aged by 15 years, in the role of this Edward, one equally haunted by his past sins and tied to a dark mystery in which he drags a young, innocent girl into because of the depth of his love. Only Edward Cullen leaves his Bella while Jane leaves Rochester...but both for what they believe is the "right" reason.

Jane and Bella, and their stories, definitely parallel each other. Both raised in unusual circumstances, Jane an orphan and Bella parenting her own parents, Jane and Bella are rather strong-minded in some ways, yet their teenaged romanticism colors their world greatly. They're young, innocent, trusting girls who are drawn to dark, angsty men who conceal dangerous secrets and checquered pasts. After a climatic event in the story line, a separation ensues during which both women discover another possible love interest, Jane with St. John Rivers and Bella with Jacob Black. Both women's lives are in danger because of this relationship as Jane could easily die on the missionary fields of India where St. John intends for her to join him while Bella learns to love a werewolf. 

Supernatural forces (Jane hearing Rochester call for her, and Bella learning of Alice's vision of Edward's suicide attempt with the Volturi) bring the couples back together, Jane to a blinded and contrite Rochester, Bella to a contrite and apologetic Edward. Choices must be made regarding which love interest the women will choose, and of course they choose their angsty guys, marry them, and live happily ever after, children and all. 

And the two Edwards are so similar. They both possess sinful pasts that they are reluctant to share with their innocent teenaged loves, and both have a deep-seated self-hatred based on those pasts and on their perceived danger to their women. Once restored to their loves, both are appropriate contrite although Rochester has truly changed during the separation from Jane while Edward Cullen changed more before the separation. 

Both men are loners to an extent, have past romantic interests in Blanche Ingram and Tanya in Denali, neither truly worthy of the angsty guys, who inspire jealousy in their teenaged loves. Both men are altered greatly by the introduction of these pure, idealistic women who look past the ugliness in the men's lives (Rochester's physical ugliness and the ugliness of who Edward is as a vampire) and love them not only despite the men's flaws but perhaps because of them.  

As many parallels exist between Jane Eyre and the Twilight Saga, it seems a natural place to go, fan fiction-wise, to write from Rochester's POV when he discovers Jane gone, the pearls and other valuables left behind, and "right to prevail." Angst will heavily color Edward Rochester's thoughts as he realizes that Jane, friendless in their world, has left with nothing. 

So let's see if I can clear the time to write this one-shot soon, shall we? And yes, I hope to keep writing the Twilight stories I've started or jotted down the basic plot ideas in my notebook. So keep your eyes peeled....

On another quick note, on Wattpad Pinned but Fluttering passed 700,000 reads this week, and Evening Star passed 650,000 reads; in addition, my vote count for all of my works on Wattpad has passed 8000! So thank you to my wonderful readers--you are the reason I write and keep writing!!

With love and thanks,
~Cassandra :)  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fan Fiction Class and Flash Fiction

Well, I'm a week and a half into the Fan Fiction class I'm teaching online at Brave Writer. I have ten students (all females), about half of whom are experienced fan fiction readers and/or writers. 

During our first week, we explored what fan fiction is, defined some terms, reviewed story elements and literary analysis, and discussed what the students wanted to get out of the class. I also dug up ten one shots from various fandoms, and they had to choose and analyze three of them. I chose stories from Harry Potter and Twilight, of course, plus Teen Wolf, The Avengers (two from here). I also included some more "classic" fandoms for the more conservative home schooled kids such as Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and Sherlock Holmes. I asked students for rec's of course, and I also put up a post where they can rec some of their favorite completed stories.

The challenge in teaching this class, of course, is in balancing the two very different worlds of fan fiction and home schooling. Many, if not most, home schooled students are Christians, and while Brave Writer is a non-sectarian business, we still need to be sensitive to our clients. Yet we also have non-Christian students as well. The student age range is 12-17, so we have to be careful of what we post. 

Along with the owner's input, we wrote Guidelines for Posting Fiction that we hope will aid parents in protecting their younger kids yet will also allow for whatever expression of creativity students wish to explore. The Guidelines explain the Fiction Ratings categories (those used on of K, K+, T, M, and MA, plus the MPAA ratings used for movies (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17), then request that only K-T and G-PG-13 stories (written by students or as rec's) be posted in the classroom, with T, PG, and PG-13 stories being uploaded at attachments with a warning so that young readers don't accidentally read something they shouldn't. 

Stories rated M/MA or R/NC-17 will be e-mailed to me, and I'll offer feedback via e-mail. 

One student (age 15!) e-mailed me to ask about posting slash story recs; I had to tell her that it wasn't appropriate for our classroom with such young students, but that she could e-mail me the link and I would be happy to discuss the story with her. Teaching fan fiction definitely produces a challenging balancing act. 

Today students are submitting their first stories: flash fan fiction. Their assignment: write a fan fiction story of 300-1000 words, and we'll all read and comment on them. I'm thinking that I'll do the assignment, too, and thus provide Jacob with a voice before we find out what happens to him. 

This week we're also discussing the elements that the students reported struggling with the most: plotting, character development, effective dialogue, and judicious descriptions. In addition, I've also posted on writer's block and finishing a long WIP. 

They'll be starting their two longer stories soon; they may write two one-shots or two chapters for a new story, or two chapters for a current WIP. I think it'll be fun, and I'm looking forward to reading their stories submitted today. :) 

So that's what's been going on with me. I'll be writing the second half of the wolf/vamp battle from either Carlisle's or Edward's POV (possibly both) for Sunday, but I may sneak in that flash fiction from Jacob's POV before then. 

Happy Reading!
~Cassandra  :)    

Monday, July 9, 2012

Teaching a Fan Fiction Class This Summer!

Starting today, July 9, I am teaching the first Fan Fiction Class at Brave Writer! I have taught online courses on this site for over ten years, and I've designed and written several classes, this one among them. I am thrilled to have ten students so far which is pretty nice for a first-time offering of a class. This class is designed for students ages 12-18 and we'll be examining how fan fiction stories work and then apply those principles to the writing of one-shots or chapters of a new or continuing story. 

I still have some spaces left, if anyone is interested. Brave Writer caters to home schooling families, but some families use Brave Writer to supplement their kids' private or public school offerings. This four-week class is worth .25 high school credits for home schooled students. 

Here is the link to this class if you'd like more information: Brave Writer Fan Fiction Class

And here is the basic outline of the class:

Tentative Class Schedule: 

Week One: Discussion of definition of fan fiction and which authors have requested their works to not be the subject of this genre. Examination of fan fiction story examples. Free writing exercise to determine topic/work of fan fiction to be written.

Week Two: Character study exercise to aid in developing already established characters. Plot exercise/assignment to study the elements of plot in preparation for plotting the story. Discussion and writing of a plot outline for the story.

Week Three: Writing of first draft of fan fiction story.
Week Four: Peer evaluation of first drafts of fan fiction stories. Revision and editing of first drafts. Posting (and possible online publication, with parental permission) of final fan fiction stories.

Since we have so many experienced fan fiction writers in the class so far, we may be tweaking this schedule and deal more with writing and offering feedback on multiple chapters. We'll see how it goes. 

If you are interested yourself or have or know of a child who is interested in taking the class, please click on the link above and register immediately as today is the first day!

In other news, I should be posting the next chapter of Pinned but Fluttering in the next day or so; it will be my longest PbF chapter to date and is an outtake of the battle in Chapter 38 from Carlisle's POV. I will be writing another outtake to continue where Carlisle's leaves off, either from Carlisle's or Edward's POV, most likely the latter. 

So I shall "see" you soon! 

Cassandra :)