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Delaware, United States
Deborah Hawkins, penned Debra Renée Byrd, began writing after a blank book project in elementary school and never stopped, fashioning stories based on her favorite TV shows and movies before creating more original works. She studied at the University of the Arts and Florida State University before settling down and graduating from Temple University. She now resides in her hometown of Dover, DE, where she spends most of her time at work or at church. She loves fantasies, superheroes, is a trekkie and a brown coat. She loves television and lives for Final Fantasy video games, having collected most of them. She has read a myriad of authors, and her favorite authors change whenever she finds a new book that changes her life... "When you can't run, you crawl. When you can't crawl...well, you know the rest." -Tracey, Firefly, "The Message"

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Back to my query...(Dead man walking)

So, one of the more annoying questions a writer with a newly finished manuscript gets is "So do you have a publisher yet?" It's not really their fault for asking, but they don't know there's a process that you have to go through to get an agent first when you're going the traditional route of mainstream publishing.

That process generally starts with a query.

A query is a proposal that sells your 70-100-thousand-word book in under 250 words. You need a hook. You need a touch of what goes down. You need to get it as close to right as possible.

And as Revo said in his WriterWorld of Horror, the flawless horse doesn't exist.

You just need to pique an agent's interest. But what's too much? What's not enough? What do you show, and what do you tell? These are questions we writers deal with on a critique-to-critique basis, and I got so fed up with my inability to get more than one agreeing response (I've had people look at the same query and have one person say I said too much while another said I didn't say enough), I stopped looking at it for two months. I also sent a proposal to a company that said, "Don't send us queries, they're ineffective." I'm paraphrasing, but that was still a blessing.

Anyway, after we get it as right as you want it, we then play the waiting game, because once you send in a proposal, synopsis, query, many places let you know there is a wait on the 2-6 month scale, so, here's to throwing your baby out there and seeing if someone says, "Can you send us the full manuscript?" or "Thanks for letting me read that...but no."

*imaginary shot of rum taken*

The other day, I decided to write a query off the cuff without looking at the last one I'd written. It was about as vague as it could get, and when I finally found the last query I concocted on AQConnect (writers need to go here, by the way, it was much more detailed, too. I like things out of both of my last two queries, so I'm going to splice them and see what happens. I'll probably get some AQC's to critique it first, but I will post it here.

 Crossing my toes! (Because I need my fingers to type.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Color Line

Now, I've actually had this thought in the back of my head for years, but not until recently has it started creeping closer and closer into my frontal lobes.

Do I want to change the color of my main character??

At the moment, and as I've always envisioned it, Ghuli has mirrored the likes of Rinoa in FF8 and Dagger in FF9. Can I add pictures? (edit July 24: NOPE. lol Just read a blog about a woman who got sued.)

Here are some links. Rinoa. Dagger.

That pale, large-eyed, black-haired damsel. I've had the Crystal Bearers described in the same manner. Fair, dark hair, dark eyes.

For the movie adaptation (you know, for the book I haven't even published yet), I have SERIOUSLY been monitoring Jodelle Ferland to make sure she doesn't grow into some awkward looking child as most adorable child actors do. She's succeeding, thank God.

I also want Kristin Kreuk to play her mother, but anyway, that's part of the point. This face is the thing right now, as seen on those Fallen novels and Twilight, and TV's version of Vampire Diaries, Snow White every 10 years. That innocent, pale-faced, dark-haired damsel.

I used to just wonder, "What would happen if I made Ghuli brown?" out of curiosity. My first thought has always been, "What would the jewels in her hands look like then??" That's the big thing that stops me from changing her color. The jewels are white because they look good against just-as-white skin. White jewels embedded in a brown hand? I think of pus. Gross, I know, but my mother's a nurse, so that's what I think of. I thought of changing them to red to compensate, but then, I thought of blood. I'll come back to this in a moment.

Now I'm thinking, since we're inundated with this stock face, while beautiful, I'm now wondering if I should change Ghuli's color to propose a new type of heroine? I don't ever really jump into the conversations about race portrayal in movies and such, but if anyone else read all the racist comments that happened after The Hunger Games came out, it's clear that people have their ideas of who's innocent and who doesn't matter. Would the population accept a brown-skinned (and when I say brown, I mean like the crayon color, since many people label tan people brown and brown people black) damsel/heroine, and will my story get the same attention, or would it be shelved under "African American" literature? Not that it couldn't be as popular, but would it?

One simple question birthed SO many other ones! Well, I guess then it's not so simple.

I just asked my sister, and she said, "It would definitely get people's attention."

It also goes deeper, as a symbol of me embracing MY color, as a black girl who grew up in Southeastern PA just north of Philly where everyone's Italian or Jewish, so my identity was shot to Hell by the time I hit the first grade.

I think it could work. Perhaps a Kerry Washington type face? She could be the face of the Crystal Bearers. It's blowing my mind right now. And it's not like I'll lose the Jodelle Ferland face. In fact, the Crystal Bearers, like the Humans, can be black AND white! Epiphany #2.

So, I think I can do this (and I know it means going through another read-through to change any instance of describing Ghuli and identifying the Bearers as exclusively pale, white, fair, etc.). I think I will.

So back to the jewels, I think an amber stone would work, even a diamond...Let's do this.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Musical Chart for Emotional Writing

So, first, I'm stealing the idea from my AQ Bud SC, so go read his blog on the idea first. DO IT.

Now, I'm a screenwriter/producer at heart, so whenever I'm writing, I see my stories as though they were in movie format. Often, soundtracks come with the full vision, so I often know what specific song will fit what scene. I'm a dreamer. I can't help it.

Below I shall outline what I believe will be the best genres/songs to fuel your emotions for specific emotional scenes while you are writing, if you are someone who is able to tap into music for that sort of inspiration. If not, I apologize on behalf of SC as well. lol

While his list was heavy on Adele, I love her, but I need more variety, so I will do my best to provide it right now.

Anger ----------------- Heavy Metal all the way! Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, anything where the singer is more screaming than anything, and all you hear is guitar and blood in your head (from that vessel that popped because you didn't turn the music down before you started listening). I'd even say System of a Down, but oddly "Disorder" makes me happy...but definitely, for an Alternative route, Foo Fighters "The Pretenders" and Paramore's "Let the Flames Begin" (which is in my unwritten movie soundtrack for my unpublished novel).

Pain, heartbreak------- Of course, Adele, because that's "all" she wrote about. But also, if you want to be not ashamed (because I'm not), the Backstreet Boys' "Back to Your Heart" will do it. Also, three Sara Bareilles songs that make me sad (one of which: soundtrack), "Between the Lines," "Hold My Heart," and "Breathe Again."

Depression------------ Paramore "When it Rains," U2 "With or Without You," Rihanna "We Found Love", which you might want to watch the video, too, because that will crush your soul something fierce. Any of those Punk Rock bands who write "anti-suicide" songs that are all about suicide? Yeah. Just don't cut yourself.

Longing--------------- Jeff Buckley. His voice alone will make you want him, but he died in the early 90s, so you can't have him. You will long for him, thus make you feel longing. See how I did that? "Last Goodbye," "Lover, You Should've Come Over," "Forget Her," etc.

Breaking free -------- Punk and Classic Rock. Any song about Atlanta, California, leaving, going, tearing down/breaking through something, fights breaking out.

Happiness------------- Happiness is what you make it, really. Like I said, SOAD's "Disorder" makes me happy, but so does Led Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain". Beyonce's "Radio" (which is playing right now on my mp3 player), songs that make you get up and dance. But don't dance too much; you're supposed to be writing.

Bittersweet----------- This one is hard, too, maybe because it's so specific. Those "it's over, but we'll be okay" songs...You're with someone else, but that's best...You'd have to actually listen to the lyrics, I guess. (Late addition:) Luther Vandross, "Dance with my Father."

Some that weren't on SC's list! (Boys. lol)

Romance------------- Hello? Pop/R&B? I can make up so many combinations of what r and b stand for, but I won't. Alicia Keys "I'm Ready," "Butterflyz," Luther Vandross...OH! Hey, he's got a bittersweet song (See Late addition above). Get in enough of the mood to write the mood. Then go take a cold shower.

Fear------------------ Enter The Doors, Pink Floyd, and Marilyn Manson territories, and you're probably good. Supernatural (on CW) is particularly good at using rock music for scary scenes. I actually was scared to get in the car with a co-worker because "Bad Company" came on the radio. Youtube the scene.

Crime----------------- More Classic Rock (sorry) and maybe Speed Rock (is that the term? the fast heavy metal like Pantera?). Styx "Renegade," Bon Jovi "Dead or Alive", Boston's "Foreplay/Long Time"?? No contest! No songs that actually reference Bonnie and Clyde, because if you saw the movie, they were brutally riddled with bullets for the last 5 minutes of it, so if you're getting away with the crime, no Bonnie & Clyde references. ;)

Then, of course, as SC and some commentors mentioned, you have tv soundtracks that work well, too, so just do what feels right for you, and tap into that emotion. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Other writings

Something brought to my memory that I have a Spanish-to-English short story floating around on Temple's website! It's based on the world's weirdest experience that I had with a stranger, and I added more to make it a surreal(ish) story for my Spanish class. Then, I was invited to submit the story for Temple's program "In Other Words." Sadly, I don't think they're doing it anymore, because the last edition was in 2010.

So here is the link to the main page so you can browse around if you like:

And here is the link to my direct story: El Celular

Also, back when I dabbled (badly) at poetry, I submitted two poems to this very open poetry forum, so here are the links to:

an excerpt from Chain of Haiku from a Rambling Cancer:

and Journal Entry from My Imaginary Lover:

Ignore the pen name; I was testing names for a long time. Ignore the tense changes, too, because I forgot to edit before I sent it in. Youth. *sigh*

Friday, June 15, 2012

Webcomics to Read

I'm not even sure how I got into reading webcomics. I think I followed a link one day, and it took me to one, which led to another, and so on. Here are three that are a must-read, and if you have time, you may want to catch up.

The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kerschl
Follow the travels of a bigfoot-like creature and the shenanigans of the animals around him. Updated every Wednesday.

Ellie Starling's Very Long Walk by Travis
A young tomboy gets thrown into a fantastical world that feels like a video game. Updated every Tuesday and Thursday.

Monster Pulse by Magnolia Pearl
A young girl with her head in the clouds gets accosted by a mysterious ghost-like monster, and what happens next is something you must experience to believe. Updated every Tuesday and Thursday (I think).

Friday, June 1, 2012

Romance in Non-Romance Novels

I love love stories. (That looks weird.)

I get goosebumps when I read intimate scenes of any level as long as they're written well, and as a teenager, I loved writing those angsty teenagers who couldn't quite come to terms with loving another person right until the very end of the story.

But now I'm an adult (I think), and I don't write angsty teen love stories. That doesn't mean I don't still love a good love story, though. That does, however, mean that since I don't write romance, if there's a love story building within the story, it can't be the focus.

For a good instance, Lord of the Rings. I didn't finish the book (sorry, Tolkien), but I remember someone saying Arwen's character was shown much more in the movies than she was seen in the book. Of course, this was to enhance her love story with Aragorn for Hollywood get-the-girls-in-the-seats purposes (I would've still been in the seats regardless, but some people, maybe not). It doesn't take away from the main story, and what girl didn't like seeing Aragorn shove his tongue down her throat in that concluding scene in Return of the King (he quite literally did. That was a hungry kiss if ever there were one)?? It was a perfect (to me) addition to the story that made sense. He's human, she's the Elf princess, and they can't really be together because she's immortal and he isn't, but she sacrifices herself for him, and thus Elrond grievingly takes the Sword of the King (or whatever, it's been a while) to Aragorn so he can do his job and help slay Sauron's dark forces. Good job, Peter Jackson.

For a bad instance, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller's story was so...WEIRD. He went away to war, and she was so distraught after his friend (her brother, I think) accidentally got blown up and transformed himself into the villain that he kidnaps Sienna, lowjacks her brain, and turns her against Channing. Then, the lowjack starts malfunctioning, so she remembers that she loves him, and she's all weakish and heartbroken again before she dies (did she die? I forget). WHAAAAT? That whole love story could've gone into the trash. It would've been a much better movie. Now Shawn Wayans and (google) Rachel Nichols (she looks best as a red-head) had an adorable love story. She's the genius who can't quantify emotion, and Shawn's the hopeless romantic who thinks she's hot, so he pursues her for most of the movie until she caves. It didn't take away from the story, and it was enjoyable to watch them blossom. We didn't need the Chienna ship; we had the...Shawchel...which was a minor story that wasn't awkward.

Since I used Final Fantasy games as a skeleton for the story, I kept in the back of my mind how love stories were used in FF6 and FF7. In FF6, the love story was between two of the supporting characters: Locke and Celes. For the most part, there was no attention paid to it at all, but in the end I felt like, "Aw, they fell in love. How nice." In FF7, there were two...halves of two love stories? The first was tossed out the window when Sephiroth killed Aeris ( <-- Watch it and get a tissue, because the music WILL break your heart. I still remember the preview for this game calling it "A love that never was," and as GameSpy says, this was how the Playstation era began. The second love story doesn't even really happen, but it was the whole reason Cloud set out to become part of SOLDIER in the first place. Either way, both love stories succeeded in not taking away from the main story.

So, for Save the Queen, when I (had thought I had) finished writing, the final scene resolved a love story. I even had the track for the scene that would play while the credits rolled (Yes, I have a soundtrack prepared for the movie. I'm partially embarrassed)! However, my sister, Masters degree in English that she has, said the most enlightening thing to me one day when I was talking about it: "But it's not a love story." And then the light came on. It's NOT a love story! There's a metal army trying to destroy the world to find a girl whose mind is fractured. Who's watching the love??? So, while it's pretty clear from the introduction of Andyrsn that sparks will fly between him and Ghuli, I had to push them to the side. I not only took out a couple of mushy additives in some scenes, but I added a closing scene better suited to end the novel. I'm proud of myself.

I say all of this to say keep your focus. You can have a Sci-fi Romance or a Fantasy Romance, but if you're just writing non-Romance, make sure that if there is a romance involved, it doesn't take over.