Sunday, February 07, 2016

Gotta Love Those Title Moments

Time again for Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday!





I'm continuing with my YA coming-of-age mystery, Shades of Blue. (You can catch up on the earlier excerpts here.) This scene takes place a little later after Sam shows up to rescue JoJo from being molested by Chip Wiley in the woods on the way home from school. Sam and JoJo share a tender moment, but he surprises her when he says she can't tell anyone what happened because he can't be mixed up in anything to do with the police. He says that if she cares anything about him, she has to promise not to tell. JoJo reluctantly agrees, then she remembers seeing the bruises on his back through his T-shirt and realizes that his step-father has been beating him. Sam tries to deny it, but JoJo isn't fooled.


“Let me see your back.”

He sighed and turned around slowly. I lifted his T-shirt, and his back was so bruised that it was hard to find any part that was the normal color of his skin—big splotches in every shade of blue imaginable. Blue had always been my favorite color until then, but I didn't like it anymore. I guess I must have gasped, because he turned around and hugged me.

“I swear it’s not as bad as it looks,” he said. “It doesn’t even hurt much anymore. Please don’t cry.”

I put my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes. “I hate him, Sam."


Find out next week why he got beaten. Or you could always go buy your own copy of Shades of Blue here. ;-) Please also check out the other Snippet Sunday folks and the Weekend Writing Warriors. Something for everyone among these talented writers!

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Aftermath

Time again for Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday!




Continuing with my YA coming-of-age mystery, Shades of Blue, (You can catch up on the earlier excerpts here.) this scene takes place immediately following last week's snippet when Sam rescues JoJo from Chip Wiley and she realizes just before she passes out that it was a trap to get Sam out there so Chip and his two friends could gang up on him. Warning: creative punctuation used!


When I opened my eyes again, Sam was smoothing the hair away from my face and saying my name over and over in a tear-choked voice.

“Don’t cry, Sam, I’m okay.”

He cried harder.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner, JoJo.”

When he raised his head to look at me, I saw his bloody nose and cut lip and started to cry too, then we hugged each other until our tears slowed and he took out his handkerchief to wipe my face with it.

“JoJo, did he . . .” he started, then he stopped and looked at me with fearful eyes, but I was too ashamed to meet his gaze.

“No, he just put his filthy hands on me and made me . . . touch him,” I said, scrubbing my palms on my jeans and staring at them in disgust. “I don’t think they’ll ever feel clean again, and neither will I.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Yes I did, I led you right into their trap.”


Come back next week to see what they plan to do about it. Or you could always go buy your own copy of Shades of Blue here. ;-) And please check out the other WWW and SS bloggers. Something for everyone among these talented writers!

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!

Follow me on Twitter: @JoyceScarbrough
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

I Told You This Wasn't No Sweet Valley High

Time again for Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday!




Continuing with my YA coming-of-age mystery, Shades of Blue. (You can catch up on the earlier excerpts here.) Last week's snippet ended with JoJo in peril because she foolishly went into the woods with Chip Wiley on the way home from school. He doesn't rape her, but he touches her inappropriately and makes her touch him as well. As bad as that is for JoJo, she's almost more hurt by being overpowered and paralyzed with fear, because it completely shatters the tough image she's always had of herself. This snippet takes place after JoJo finally manages to scream, although they're in the middle of the woods where nobody will hear her. Or so they think.

(Image License: Creative Commons)

When I stopped screaming, Chip was laughing in my ear.

"Next time we'll—"

He broke off and let go of me abruptly. When I opened my eyes to see why, he was on the ground with Sam on top of him. My knees buckled and I slid to a sitting position against the side of the tree house as I watched Sam’s fist hitting Chip in the face over and over.

That was when I saw the bruises on Sam’s back through the thin material of his sweat-soaked T-shirt. They registered in my brain but were quickly overshadowed by fresh terror when Freddy and Danny rushed out of the tree house and grabbed Sam. I watched them pull him off Chip and realized the three of them had planned this to get Sam out here so they could gang up on him.

Then everything began to go gray.


Tune in next week to see if those new muscles of Sam's came in handy. Or you could always go buy your own copy of Shades of Blue here. ;-) And please check out the other WWW and SS bloggers. Something for everyone among these talented writers!

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!

Follow me on Twitter: @JoyceScarbrough
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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Innocence Lost

Time again for Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday!




I'm continuing with my YA coming-of-age mystery, Shades of Blue. (You can catch up on the earlier excerpts here.) Last week's snippet showed JoJo's mistake of cutting through the woods on her way home from school with obnoxious Chip Wiley. He tells her he knows where there's a treehouse that fell out of the tree, and her innocent curiosity gets the best of her. She follows him to a spot off the path that he marked with a piece of red string, and she's enchanted when she sees the gingerbread-like treehouse in the middle of a huge hydrangea bush, as if it had been built there. She wants to go inside and investigate, but Chip says he wants to tell her something first.

I used creative punctuation again, but all this was necessary for the scene.

“You wanna know what Sam said after he sucker-punched me at the creek that day?”

“Not really,” I said, realizing that I didn’t like the way he was looking at me and that my earlier uneasiness had returned.

“He said for me to keep my hands off his stuff from now on.”

“You’re lying, Sam wouldn’t say that.”

“I bet you thought he’d never go for a girl like Melissa either, but it just proves what a big fake he is, always acting like he’s so perfect and sucking up to the teachers, acting all smart and stuff.”

“Stop it, I don’t want to talk about Sam with you.”

“Fine, I don’t wanna talk about him either,” he said, his hands tightening on my shoulders as he took a step closer to me. "In fact, I don’t wanna talk at all.”

"Let me go, Chip," I said, really starting to get scared. I backed away from him, but he trapped me against the treehouse.

“I sure did like the way you looked in that wet T-shirt, JoJo.”



Nope, this can't end well. Tune in next week to see what happens. Or you could always go buy your own copy of Shades of Blue here. ;-) And please check out the other WWW and SS bloggers. Something for everyone among these talented writers!

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!

Follow me on Twitter: @JoyceScarbrough
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Friday, January 15, 2016

Mental Toughness



My husband is a coach. No, let me correct that: my husband is a Coach Extraordinaire, especially when it comes to softball. Although my own athletic ability starts and ends with bowling, I have always loved watching sports. I got my daddy to explain football to me when I was 13 years old. Okay, sure. It was mainly because the Minnesota Vikings were in the Super Bowl that year and I had a crush on Fran Tarkenton, but I also wanted to know what I was watching him do instead of just admiring the way all the players looked in their football pants. (Holla, Lee Ann Ward!)

Anyway, I said all that to make the point that I understand sports and coaching and the dynamics of being a successful athlete even though I’m not one myself. One of the main things my husband stresses to his players is their need to develop mental toughness. And trust me, none of his players will last on his team if they can’t become mentally tough.

But it occurred to me recently that the same principles of mental toughness apply to writers, so I wanted to pass on my brilliance to the blogosphere.

These are the key psychological characteristics associated with mentally tough elite athletes.

Self-Belief:
~ Have an unshakable belief in your ability to achieve competition goals
~ Have unique qualities that make you better than your opponents

Motivation:
~ Have an insatiable desire and internalized motivation to succeed. (You’ve really got to want it!)
~ Be able to bounce back from performance setbacks with increased determination to succeed

Focus:
~ Remain fully focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specific distractions
~ Don’t be adversely affected by others’ performance or your own internal distractions, such as worry or negative mind chatter

Composure/Handling Pressure:
~ Be able to regain psychological control following unexpected events or distractions
~ Thrive on the pressure of competition
~ Accept that anxiety is inevitable in competition and know you can cope with it

And the MAIN COMPONENT of mental toughness is learning to condition your mind to think confidently and overcome frustration/self-critical negativity.

Okay, so how do these things apply to writing?

Self-Belief:
~ If you don’t believe in your writing ability and love what you write, how can you expect anyone else to believe in it or want to read it?

~ Develop a unique voice that sets your writing apart from any other writer, so much so that when people read unattributed excerpts, they will immediately recognize your work.

Motivation:
~ Writing needs to be as much a part of who you are as your eye color or your sense of humor. It needs to be something inside you that HAS to come out regardless of whether you want it to or not. Everyone doesn’t have the luxury of being able to write full time, but when you’re not able to write, you should be thinking about what to write the next time you get the chance.

~ Know WHY you write. Is it for your own fulfillment, because you want to be famous, or (gasp!) because you want to make money? Or are you like me and write because you want the world to meet your characters? Whatever it is, let that be your driving force.

~ Unless your motivation is writing only for yourself, remember that writing is HARD WORK, and you must take it seriously if you want to succeed. Don’t expect anyone to do your homework for you and tell you what you need to do to get published. As my nephew Aaron used to say, “It’s Googlable.”

Focus:
~ Again, not everyone has the luxury of writing full time or having their own private writing space. Most of us have to write around family life, some more than others. I wrote my first two books between the hours of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am, after my kids and husband went to bed. But whenever and wherever you have to write, immerse yourself in the world you create for your characters.

~ As Stephen King says: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the tools to write.” Make time to read your favorite authors’ new books and other books in the same genre as yours, but don’t be dismayed by their talent. Even when I was an adolescent, there were some books I read and thought, “I can do better than this.” Then there were those I read and thought, “I’ll never be able to write this well.” The more I write, fewer and fewer books fall into the latter category, but I don’t ever expect it to be empty. I will never stop feeling that I can still improve.

Composure/Handling Pressure:
~ You CANNOT let rejections stop you or lessen your belief in yourself. If your self esteem is based on other people’s opinions, you will never make it as a writer. If you somehow manage to survive the submission process, you’ll crash and burn when you read your first negative review (everybody gets them!) and you’ll end up a suicidal, drug-addicted alcoholic. I guess that could be good if you’ve always dreamed of being famous posthumously, but that’s not for me. From what I’ve heard, suicide is frowned on in the Afterlife Admissions Office, and I definitely don’t want Flo on my case! (You’ll understand this if you read my novel After Me.)

~ Yeah, I know there are millions of books out there and the competition is harder than ever. But if you don’t think there is something about your book that makes it different and worthy of the time and money you want readers to spend on it, DON’T WRITE IT. There’s enough crap out there already. Sorry if that’s harsh, but I get tired of people flooding the market with mediocrity that even the authors themselves don’t want to read. I read my own books over and over because I love the characters and the stories. I wouldn’t have published them if I didn’t.

~ Does this mean I don’t get nervous when I have to pitch my books at conferences or through query letters? Of course not. I’m petrified, but I do it because I believe in my books and want as many people as possible to read them. I had to develop a tough skin early on in my writing career. That doesn’t mean I don’t still get mad or cry if I get a rejection from an agent or editor and they criticize something specific about my precious baby, but I do it in private (or on my BFF’s shoulder) and then get over it. And when I go back and look objectively at what they said, I find some way to put it to use and make my baby shine even brighter for the next submission.

So you can see that the principles of mental toughness are basically the same for athletes and writers, but I’ll summarize to remove all ambiguity:

NO WHINERS ALLOWED. SUCK IT UP AND GET BACK IN THE GAME. AND NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!

Follow me on Twitter: @JoyceScarbrough
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Sunday, January 10, 2016

All Together Now: "Don't do it, JoJo!"

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday!




Continuing with my YA coming-of-age mystery, Shades of Blue. (You can catch up on the earlier excerpts here.) Kudos to everyone who picked up on the early foreshadowing in last week's snippet. I don't think there will be any doubt after this week that things are about to get dark. This scene picks up right after JoJo agrees to walk home from school with Chip Wiley because Sam makes her mad.

Chip was nice enough for the two blocks from the school to the Minit Mart, but when we got to the beginning of the trail through the woods that Sam and I always took, I felt the first twinges of unease tickling my spine. Something told me I shouldn’t go into the woods with Chip, but when he said he’d race me to where the path split leading to the creek, I was still too much of a tomboy to resist his challenge, so I ignored the warning voice in my head and took off running.

I barely beat him to the split, and it wasn’t really fair since he was carrying two backpacks. He dropped our bags and bent over with his hands on his knees.

“Not bad for a girl,” he said between breaths, “even if you did have to cheat back there at the big log.”

“That wasn’t cheating, it was an accident, and you’re the one who bought me the ICEE, so it’s your fault it sloshed on you.”

“Yeah, yeah." He crumpled his ICEE cup and threw it at me. "Hey, you wanna see something cool? I know where there's a treehouse that fell out of the tree."




Alas, I don't think she'll listen to us. Tune in next week to see how big of a mistake JoJo makes. Or you could always go buy your own copy of Shades of Blue here. ;-) And please check out the other WWW and SS bloggers. Something for everyone among these talented writers!

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!

Follow me on Twitter: @JoyceScarbrough
Like my Facebook Fan Page here

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Redhead Tip: Don't Make Decisions When You're Mad

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday!




Continuing with my YA coming-of-age mystery, Shades of Blue. (You can catch up on the earlier excerpts here.) Last week we left Sam and JoJo in the midst of some unfolding drama at lunchtime. When JoJo tries to shoulder her way past Chip Wiley while holding her lunch tray, she ends up sitting on his lap—quite the sensation in a middle school cafeteria as you might imagine. Sam is not amused (even though he was currently sitting between a couple of Touchdown Twins) but he leaves without saying anything to JoJo. This next scene takes place as JoJo stops at the gym door as she's leaving to walk home and sees Sam lifting weights with the other boys who are trying out for football. While she's wondering where Sam got those new muscles he's using, Chip Wiley comes up behind her and says he wants to walk her home since she and Sam "are quits and all."




“Me and Sam were never anything to call quits except friends, and I sure don’t need you for a replacement.”

“Oh, I think you do,” he said, taking my book bag. “Girls shouldn’t be walking home alone through the woods—no telling what might happen to them.”

I eyed him suspiciously and said, “Why are you being nice all of a sudden after making my life miserable for the last eight years?”

“Maybe I been noticing things about you I never noticed before,” he said with shrug.

“More likely you just want to make Sam mad.”

He sneered in Sam’s direction and said, “I don’t give a damn what he thinks about it.”

I looked across the gym at Sam one last time just as he rose from the bench and could see him flush when he saw me with Chip, then he just turned his back. Instantaneous anger made up my mind for me.

“Come on, Chip, let's go.”


I had to utilize a little creative punctuation to keep this one from going over ten sentences, but all of it was needed to set up the snippet coming up next Sunday. Or you could always go buy your own copy of Shades of Blue here. ;-) And please check out the other WWW and SS bloggers. Something for everyone among these talented writers!

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true!

Follow me on Twitter: @JoyceScarbrough
Like my Facebook Fan Page here