well. ahem.  drum roll, please.
i'm here to make a short announcemnt. 
no, we're not agented. 
no, we haven't finished our co-novel.  but we are 25% done.
but we are taking a blog posting break.  (that was the announcement)

there are many excuses reasons for this:

1- christy hasn't visited any of you in decades weeks months and she misses your blog posts you
2- erica needs to write a chapter an hour a day
3- christy needs to crit her amazing cp's writing (kmw, don't hate me!)
4- there have been pink eye, flu, ear infectons, hacking coughs illnesses galore in christy's house and she can't keep up with all the doctor visits, laundry, feedings, grading daily tasks
5- erica needs this school year to pass move along be over to hit the fast forward button (and that has nothing to do with not blogging)

so....we'll post when we can get the urge once in a while and surprise you.  don't forget about us.  we'll stop by to visit to remind you we exist.  if anything exciting happens between now and may we'll be sure to let you know.  please do the same!

until we chat, take care and write often!
by the time may rolls around WE WILL HAVE COMPLETED TTM, OUR NOVEL! 

erica christy


I'm not who I thought I was

Okay, I'll admit, I'm stretching. It's Sunday night. I've been on spring break for the past 5 days...

*pause to say - yes, 5 days. we started SB on a Wednesday*

christy and I chose to co-blog a couple of years ago for many, many reasons. We recently chose to cowrite an MS for GREAT reasons. But we're still different people. Just look at the picture on our sidebar. yes, I know, I'm the giant one. do we still have to bring that up?? hehe
My name is Erica Olson. And I am not alone.

I read a question and answer with an agent that said she (said agent) ALWAYS googles the names of said queriers.

Erica Olson can be googled, obvs.

She is not me.

She (the other EO) is probably a very nice woman. I already looked at her picture. Nice brown hair. Nice blue eyes. Nice name.

But not me.

I'm being slightly snarky, friends. We can co=exist (I hope) - but has this ever happened to you?


a closet full of characters

james scott bell suggests (in elements of fiction writing-conflict and suspense) to have a barn full of characters.  find them in movies, in other books, in your family, at your job.  change their names.  change their sex.  change anything about them that you want.  keep them in a special place (an imaginary barn or closet in your mind), and take them out when you are ready to employ them in your novels.

do you have any characters you are saving for a special novel?

character development has yet to be a strong point in my writing.  jsb uses stephanie plum novels as an example for how to employ a colorful cast of characters.  and how true!

think, if these were the characters in a novel:

character creation exercise #1:

(directions:  write and create characters without thinking, without stopping, without self-correcting)

robert downey jr. (a sarcastic, intelligent, witty, charismatic, and handsome man)

shirley maclaine (a sarcastic, intelligent, witty, charismatic and beautiful woman--scratch that...she's too similar to the male character)

shirley maclaine as she is in steel magnolias (a sarcastic, mean, blunt, gossipy, righteous woman)

lucy liu as she is on ally macbeal (a blunt, sarcastic, mean---scratch that...too similar) (she made me think of charlie's angel's which leads me to my next character idea)

drew barrymore as she is in that movie when she has short-term memory (blissfully happy and ignorant, naive and loving)

peter pan (fun-loving, childish, energetic, magical, impuslive, brave)

what could one do with this sarcastic man, righteous woman, naive girl, and an impulsive, brave and childish boy?


what would you do?  what scenario could engage these four in conflict?  what story could unfold? 

what characters do you have in your closet?   and where were they inspired from?


a writing exercise

in divergent, the author, veronica roth, is great at providing the reader with this chain of events:  conflict, choices, decision, consequence, conflict, etc....

i'm not so great at that, so here's me practicing in front of you.

1st exercise:

my character is walking on the sidewalk and a kid on a bike is pedalling toward him.  my character can step off the curb or stay in the path of the biker.  if he steps off, he lands in a mucky stream of water.  if he stays on, the biker will either collide with him, or if he stays far enough right, might just miss him.  my character is wearing brand new white sneakers, freshly dry-cleaned slacks and a long, cream colored sweater.  she is on her way to an interview.  she chooses the least of the three evils and walks on the very edge of the sidewalk, praying the kid sees her and steers to his right.  phew.  he does.  seconds after he passes, just before she corrects her path and moves back to the center of the sidewalk, a speeding car swerves onto the shoulder of the street and splashes mucky water up the right-hand side of my character.

--purpose:  i needed to practice my conflict, choices, and decision-making skills as a writer.
--directions:  i started writing without thinking, only knowing i needed to follow the chain:  conflict, choices, decision, consequence
--explanation:  you can see that i just wrote without self-correcting.  at first, my character was a male, but once i dressed him he became a her and i stayed with that.  as i made the car swerve, she could have been killed, but while that would have certainly been a consequence, it would have ended my chain and the next link needs to be that immediate conflict.  if i were to continue, she'd have to now decide what to do about her clothing and interview.

2nd exercise:

my character is on an elevator that is crammed full of people.  he is claustrophobic and waiting to exit on the 11th floor.  he only took the elevator in the first place because it was empty and he recenlty sprained his ankle playing a game of soccer for charity, hence the stairs would have caused him pain and the elevator, being empty, seemed the lesser of the two evils.  however, as each floor passed (he entered on the first) more people got on, slowing down the ascension and filling it up. 

as the doors open on the 9th floor a rather large man stands beyond them, ready to step on.  clearly, the elevator can hold no more people, yet nobody around him seems to notice this as they stand calmly and do not make moves to object.  in fact, those in the front squeeze together to make room.  my character can either push through the three rows that stand between him and the open 9th floor, brave the stairs for two flights or close his eyes and breathe, praying the elevator won't break and get stuck, remaining where he is until the doors mercifully open on the 11th floor.  rather than chance that scenario, my character yelps and pushes through the arms of those in front of him.  he rips through the crowd and trips over the foot of the large man.  he lays sprawling on the 9th floor looking up the nostrils of the man and the crowd as the doors close,leaving him alone.  he pushes himself up onto his good foot and slides his left leg behind.  then, slowly and painfully, he moves toward the stairs. he wishes he hadn't been so stubborn as to leave the crutches lying next to his bed. 

explanation:  i suppose this concludes my initial chain:  conflict, choices, decision, consequence

this is where i'm getting horribly stuck.  what conflict can lay beyond on the stairs???  a man with a gun?  a woman being attacked?  will his ankle break?  will he discover at the top of the 11th floor that he needed the 9th floor all along? 

he's decided to take the stairs, obviously, but what consequence (besides obvious ankle pain, and embarrasment at tripping) can there be?

help me, then, with the next chain link.  what conflict can follow next?


getting started. over and over and over and over a...

i know first pages and chapters rarely stay the same (or stay in the manuscript at all) from first draft to final, but i'm still agonizing over my current (non-existent) wip's beginning.

i've read posts and how-to writing books on the topic of the beginning lines and beginning pages.

nothing is helping me.  (well, it IS, but the knowledge of WHAT to do is not enough to fuel my fingertips into lighting a fire on my keyboard.)

i'm so very  stuck.

so, in the name of research and practice, i am writing this blog post for myself.  and maybe you.  if you need help too.   or if you want to try to help me.  if you happen to pinpoint a deeper problem in my blockage of words, (yes, i need a writopsychoanalysis.) feel free to let me know.

on beginnings:

i recently shared with you that i discovered i need to add more conflict in my stories.  to remedy that, i've been reading james scott bell's elements of fiction writing-conflict and suspense (an awesome, helpful read).

in his section  on beginnings, he says:  "What grabs them (the reader) is a character in motion...."  "Readers...will wait a long time for exposition....Act first, explain later.  You will never go wrong delaying exposition."  he wants us to include conflict right away on the first page and gives examples of how doing this through dialogue can be useful.  Confrontation up front will "...make for immediate reader interest."

so this goes along with what i decided, that i need to add conflict and confrontation at every turn.

still, i've started a manuscript in complete action and turmoil before,like i thought i was suppposed to, only to hear that i'm supposed to start just before that, in the ordinary world, just before the world goes topsy turvy.

so then i start too far in the ordinary world and get boring again--

the book i'm trying to write is sci-fi, grouned heavily in reality.  so i tend to start in that real world and then the topsy turvy (inciting incident) is when my protag realizes her world really isn't so ordinary.  the problem i encounter in doing this is my beginning is boring.  boring first lines (or as jsb suggests my problem is in trying to be lyrical or in starting by describing the weather...), boring first pages, boring first chapter(s).

so today i'm examining first lines and how far away the inciting incident is from that first line.

just finished possession (by elana johnson):

"Good girls don't walk with boys."

This is what the protag is used to: rules and not following them.  This time, however, conflict occurs within paragraphs, and then within pages.  The boy she is with, and is used to being with, is acting a little off.  Then, although she's used to hovercopters above--and the worry of being found out by them--, this time she is incarcerated by one.  And the story, adventure, action and conflict take off.

just started divergent (by veronica roth):

"There is one mirror in my house."

Again, this is what the protag is used to and the author uses this information, along with the descriptions to follow, to describe the ordinary world of the character.  We, the readers, see that her world is different than the one we are used to, just enough, to prepare us for it to change.  Within pages, the protagonist's world view will change as it is the day aptitude tests are taken to set the protag on her future path as her grown up self.

in both of these cases, the novels are dystopian.  so off the bat, the world is intriguing and different for the readers.  i love these types of books and i can't wait to flip, flip, flip through the pages to find what kind of world the authors created.

so...this leads me to think i should NOT start out in a world that is too based on our reality.  (unless i'm writing a contemporary, in which case i'd need to start out with how, exactly, the world is different for my protag than others living presently.)  but since i'm writing sci-fi, i should start in a different world so it has that feel from the get go.  why suprise my readers pages or chapters in?  readers should know what kind of book it is, what kind of world they are reading about as soon as possible.

also, i tend to try to draw out the suspense.  hence, making the readers wait for conflict.  what for?  that is the wrong choice. that is the ONLY thing that will make them WANT to turn the pages.  that, and and an interesting and sympathetic character.

which brings me to another source of complication for me (character development).  and i will address the character issue in a near future post.

shatter me (by tahereh mafi):

"I've been locked up for 264 days."

It's different from our world, yet ordinary for the protag.  It begins mere pages before her world changes (she gets a cellmate) and she is set on a path of constant conflict.

hunger games (by suzanne collins):

"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold."

The first chapter describes her ordinary world and then brings us to the reaping, which sets the protag on an immediate path of change and conflict.

across the universe (by beth revis):

Daddy said, "Let Mom go first."

This starts out in a state of change.  As the family (in their last moments of normalcy) is about to embark upon a voyage that will change the protag's life forever.

i'm stopping here.  there are other books on my stack that i planned to use in this post, but their beginnings differ (from the ones above) and confuse me (on how to start my own).  they're  wonderful, and i don't mean anything negative by saying they are different. they use a different approach and a different writing style, styles i admire and wish i wrote with, but they are the ones that lead me to "try" to be poetic and lyrical and overly descriptive (envision purplish words).  so, i'll stick with the ones above.  1-start with a simple sentence that shares the protag's "ordinary" world (and shows the reader how that world is different from theirs).  2-don't wait more than a few paragraphs to initiate conflict (whether its internal--a decision to be made, a worry, a fear or external--an exam, a lock-up, a confrontation).

Then I need to start a series of events that follows this outline:

and, again, that will be something i work on in a future post.


Authors for Henryville

Just over a week ago, a tornado ripped through the community of Henryville, Indiana. There is a website set up to raise money for the residents of Henryville through a book auction. Go here to learn more and to bid!

As Wisconsinites, christy and I are no strangers to bad weather, including tornadoes. When my husband and I were first together (1995 or 1996, I think) there was a tornado that went through the La Crosse area and the next day we found out a close friend of my sister-in-law's lived in its wake. The young family was living in a trailer house and couldn't get to the shelter in time. It came while they were sleeping - they ran for their children, but didn't make it past the hallway before it hit.. Dad suffered a severely broken leg, Mom snapped several vertebrae in her spine, and their infant son was smothered to death when their trailer blew into pieces and he landed face down with the crib on top of him. Their toddler daughter was unharmed.

Mother Nature can sometimes be viscious. I am proud to be a member of a community of authors that do so much to help. Happy bidding and good luck!


Dating. Sort-of.

Yes, I'm aware that all of my posts lately are about my son. BUT he's just so INTERESTING. er, when he's not talking back, slamming doors, and arguing with me. Definitely not those times. However, this time I even tie it into writing. So stick me. Or go to the end. Or, you know, at least comment pretending you did one of those things. :)

One of the funniest things to watch is an 11-year-old boy who thinks he's a man. (don't tell him I told you that)

As far as I can tell, being a man involves telling his brother to go get things for him, announcing his favorite food is pizza, and announcing "I have to do EVERYTHING around here!" after I ask him to put away his clothes that I just got done picking up, washing, drying, and folding. But it also means one more thing that he doesn't think I know about.

Going out. With girls.

I teach Sunday School at our local church and a couple of months back, one of the boys (they're in 5th grade) asked my son if he knew *insert boy's name* and *insert girl's name* broke up. Zach replied "Yes, the whole school knows, duh." (because men are very mature in their speech patterns at this age)

My response was "What does it mean to break up? You stop walking around the playground together at recess?"

Man #1 response: "Yeah, pretty much."
Man #2 response: "God, Mom, they didn't actually walk around together." yes, my son used the word God in vain at Sunday School and I didn't realize it until just now because I laughed the first time. Momfail #35,654

Okay, now think back to last week when I shared that Zach is reading a series of books about Warrior Cats. Remember how I mentioned that the librarian at his school is a friend of mine? Tuesday, she came clean about the whole thing.

My son reads the books because he has a little crush on a girl who also enjoys the books (he also really enjoys the books, but that's how it started). And not just any girl. The only other 5th grader on his soccer team last fall. The only girl I've ever heard him talk about in any type of detail (other than the usual "she is so annoying" talk we get sometimes) in the past 6 years. The girl I thought was the only girl in his circle of friends.

She also has a crush on him.

Neither of them can figure this out. But because they're both in the library as often as they can be, the librarian - as usual - knows EVERYTHING!!

Also, another girl confided in the librarian that she wants to "read the books Zach reads". Upon further stealth-like questioning from my friend, she confided that she also has a crush on my son.

My name is erica and I am OLD!!!!

So, what, you were waiting for me to tie this in to writing or something?? Okay, fine, here it is. If you write YA and your character falls head-over-heels in love for the first time - don't let anyone tell you it doesn't happen. (okay, no, that has nothing to do with my son. that was my life. let me try again.)

If you write MG and your characters are in 5th grade and they have crushes on each other, don't let anyone tell you that romance doesn't belong in the story. Just make sure their parents are completely oblivious if they aren't friends with the school's librarian. ;)

Also, remember that 10- and 11-year-olds who date sometimes walk around the playground together.

Just for fun - do you remember your first crush?? Mine was somewhere around 5th grade. A few years ago I went through my old diaries and yes, this was an entry (I can't believe I'm admitting this) (and remember I was in 5th grade in the school year of 85/86):

*insert boy's name here* "tripped over his desk today. He doesn't know what to do with that gorgeous bod!"

Umm, yeah. Please, someone else, say something embarrassing in the comments!! :)


funny stuff

i needed a good laugh today.  luckily, erica is my blog partner and sends me web links to 1) motivate me 2) inform me 3) humor me 4) inspire me 5) scare me and/or 6) make me pee my pants laughing.

today she sent me one that fit the #6 category.

this link will take you to Arthur Slade's blog.  (He's an author.) more specifically, it will take you to a page of his blog entitled "Odd Questions Authors Get...With Funny Answers II".  go there.  laugh. ( you might want to use the restroom first.)

and please, have a happy, laughter-filled monday.  or even a laughter filled one.  whichever is correct.


Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!

erica and christy do not write rhyming picture books for elementary age students. However, we both teach elementary school, so OBVIOUSLY today is a holiday. It's Dr. Seuss' birthday, people. Party like you're 108 years old. er

At my (erica's) school, we're eating Green Eggs and Ham for lunch, watching the old-school cartoon of The Lorax, listening to books on tape 3 times over the course of the day on intercom, and having our retired-last-year-librarian read to the entire group (around 165 kids) - book TBA. There will also be color sheets and games and. . . CAKE!!

Here are some of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes (if any are wrong, sorry. blame google images). Let me know if you know of any other gems - or what your favorite Dr. Seuss book is (mine's The Foot Book) - in the comments.

My least favorite Dr. Seuss story? When I was a college freshman, as a "bonding exercise", the university had us read this story about an Australian girl who grew up on a sheep farm in the 1920s. It was such as abismal failure (the exercise, not the story), that the next year they let the freshmen read Oh, The Places You'll Go and discuss it instead. University Admin Fail (for my year) (which was *cough* *18* *cough* a few years ago).  >:(


what they said--some helpful and funny stuff

as i went through my most recent fave saves, i'm disappointed. (NOT because the ones i found saved there aren't great--they are!)  but i KNOW i  read some super posts that i thought i saved, but sadly didn't.  so i would have had even more for you.  however, i do have some awesomely informative, witty posts to share if you missed them.  enjoy!

jennifer laughran shares a genre glossary

katie ganshert posts about figuring out the heart of your character

i've been to querytracker, but here is another social networking site for publishing:  agentquery connect

have you seen this new blog?  the one that offers a bit of "romance" to lucky agents and writers?  check it out!  cupid's literary connection

i don't actually remember saving this one, but check it out in case it's worthwhile.... writing contests

brenda drake, shelley watters and cassandra marshall are hosting a march madness agent pitch match march 12-14

jody hedlulnd reminds us that perfection is not required in order to be published.  there are other imporant things to remember.  (it's called:  the story)

if you, like me, are NOT a fan of zombies and don't understand the hype, then read this.  even if you DO like zombies (first tell me WHY), you'll get a kick out of this post(both links lead to the same exact place)

always throw out the first pancake.  this may also apply to first novels....read about it here.

3 minute writer's workout warmup

some very necessary advice for writers who are waiting for a chance.  waiting...  while you wait, read this

i wish i had more.  one of the things i remember about the posts i didn't save is this:

have fun writing the draft you are working on.  it's the best recipe for eliminating writer's block.  the best recipe for creating a twisty, conflicted plot.  have fun and be mean to your characteras mean as you can.

oh, and in case you are wondering how our collab effort is going for erica and christy's novel TTM...it's slow.  it was all erica's fault, (smile!) but she finally sent me another chapter (you know, she had her life to live) and now she's waiting and waiting for me because i went back to work and got sick.  I KNOW. i had 9 weeks when i could have gotten sick.  but--back to work and BAM-- sick.  i ran out of sick days weeks ago, so i guess the kids get me all headachy and sneezy and sore throaty....teachers can go sick, but please, keep you sick kids at home.  :0)  (it's all about double standards)

and erica DID send me this,( along with her chapter--which is kicktush, btw):