Broken Eggs in Writing

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During undergrad, I took a detective fiction class to fulfill a requirement for my minor. At that time, I was a newbie to the genre, but after reading an Agatha Christie mystery or two, I was hooked. For me, starting a murder mystery is the same as seeing the opening scene to an episode of Law & Order: SVU: I gotta know what happened and who did it and why!

Recently, I blew through Gillian Flynn’s three novels, beginning with Gone Girl, then Sharp Objects, and finally Dark Places. While they all have mystery elements, Dark Places was my favorite. The main character, Libby, is trying to solve the mysteries surrounding the murders of two sisters and her mother when she was a small child. Soon after the murders, Libby ID’s her brother as the killer, presumably because the lawyers coached her into saying so. Now, several years later, she discovers she might have been completely wrong. I don’t want to give anything else away plot-wise (because you need to read this book ASAP–yes, you!), but I will say Gillian Flynn blew me away with not only her stellar writing, but also the way she weaved so many subplots together, tying them in a neat bow at the end that truly shocked me. I did not see the conclusion coming at all. But once I finished the novel, I thought back on the tiny breadcrumbs of hints she subtly sprinkled throughout. Though I didn’t put it together as I was reading, I loved how I could go back and see Flynn did show what happened, even if I hadn’t picked up on it.

For Christmas, my mom gave me another riveting murder mystery novel. I’m not going to reveal the title because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it surrounds two dual murder mysteries: one that takes place in the present, and one that took place twenty years prior in the same place. What tied the two cases together was one of the detectives. When he was twelve, two of his friends vanished while the three of them were playing. He was found alive, with no memory what-so-ever of what happened. Now, going by his middle name, he’s on the murder squad, trying to solve the murder of a young girl while also trying to conjure up memories of what happened all those years ago. The stories are so intriguing, and the characters are so compelling that when it’s revealed who’s behind the present day murder, I realized there’s so much more to the story than I originally thought. But my beef with this novel is that, while one of the murder cases is solved, one remains a mystery. Even when I was down to the last three pages, I held out hope the detective would discover the truth surrounding the other one. But this, unfortunately, didn’t happen. As a reader, my initial reaction was anger with the author. I couldn’t believe it! How could this writer not reveal this? How could she just leave me hanging?

But then, I remembered what one of my thesis advisors told me once: don’t be afraid to leave some broken eggs. She was referring to my thesis at the time, explaining that I didn’t have to conclude every single plot point of my novel. In fact, doing so would be boring. And this is exactly what my mom told me while we discussed the ending to this novel: sure, it made me mad not to know what happened, but on the flip side, I’ll probably always remember it. And now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I’m not so angry anymore. I’m not thrilled, mind you, but I can appreciate the author’s decision to leave this case unsolved.

It’s not as if detectives always solve murders anyway. Except if you’re Detective Olivia Benson, of course.

An Ode to my Former MacBook: RIP, Buddy.

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Last week, my MacBook that I’ve had for five years decided to crap out on me after I tried to install some updates. The funny thing is I’d starting doing a little research online a few days back about the different laptops at Best Buy, but I came to the conclusion that a) I didn’t need a new laptop at that point and b) I didn’t need to spend my money on that anyway. Well, apparently my MacBook somehow knew I was looking elsewhere to fulfill my computing needs, and decided to teach me a lesson.

After trying to bring my laptop back to life again, my husband offered to buy me a new laptop as an early 5th anniversary present – and I happily accepted! I’m now the proud owner of a brand new MacBook Air!

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Needless to say, I’m already obsessed with it. It’s faster, lighter, AND the keys light up! Three big pluses, if you ask me.

But despite how awesome my new laptop is, I thought I owed it to my MacBook to write it a proper obituary.

On April 3, 2014, MacBook took its last breath, surrounded by loved ones. It is survived by its fabulous owner, Catherine Drake, her husband, daughter, and dog. Throughout its five years of life, MacBook saw Catherine apply to, get in, and graduate with her MFA from Hollins University. MacBook was her sidekick through it all, storing all of Catherine’s stories in a safe place (with the help of MacBook’s friend, Back-Up Drive). MacBook was where Catherine started and completed her first YA manuscript, which doubled as her thesis, as well as her second YA manuscript she is in the process of editing again now. Unfortunately, MacBook won’t be alive to see this last draft finished. Despite that, Catherine will always be grateful for her time with MacBook, for with it, she learned how to be a writer. So, here’s to you, MacBook – may you find yourself in computer heaven with other trusty laptops and desktops who also left much too soon.

 

“About Time”

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This past Monday, I did something I’ve never done before – something I’ve always been scared to do: I saw a movie alone. I’m sure to most this will seem like a silly accomplishment to brag about, but that’s not the case for me. For some reason, I’ve never desired to do this in the past. Whether because I didn’t want my fellow movie goers to judge me or because I just always assumed it’d be a really lonely experience – probably a little bit of both, if I’m being honest – I never did it. And more than that, I never had to – until now.

You see, a month and nine days ago, I became a mother. My husband was kind enough to watch our beautiful baby girl so that I could go to the movies solo. And I gotta say… I didn’t hate it! Quite the opposite, actually. When I got there, I ordered a popcorn and drink, and chose the very middle seat in the very middle row (I lucked out and was the only one in the theater). It was relaxing, mindless, and exactly what I needed. And the movie was good, too!

I never use my blog for anything personal; I always just assumed if and when the day came that I wanted to blog about my family and what-not, I would simply start a new blog for that purpose. But then, as I was taking in the adorableness that is Rachel McAdams on the big screen in the movie “About Time,” it hit me: writing and parenthood aren’t so different after all.

My daughter, Arya, is the main character. It’s safe to say the whole story revolves around her needs and demands. Will and I are the supporting characters, both metaphorically and literally. Ernie, our Westie, is more of a tertiary character – sometimes he’s a part of the scene (mainly to sniff the face and/or butt of his new sister), but usually he’s off lying around by himself, not part of the dialogue; and right now, the dialogue consists of a lot of grunting, crying, and new to the past couple weeks: cooing. For the most part, the setting doesn’t really change from our house, specifically the living room, her bedroom, and our bedroom.

But the plot itself – now, that’s the unpredictable part. I’m not talking about the day to day plot of eating, pooping, and sleeping (not necessarily in that order), but rather the more extended plot of Arya’s childhood. In the movie, “About Time,” the two main characters spoiler alert marry and have three children. The dad is a time-traveler who can only travel backwards in time. Towards the end of the movie (again, spoiler alert), he realizes that he has no need to travel backwards anymore – because really, we’re all time-travelers, moving forward, one day at a time. I cried at the ending because it made me realize something about this special time with my daughter: just as every other year and time period before this one, it won’t last. She won’t be this little for long – and even on the days when I’m stressed, she sneezes and somehow it gets in my eye and/or mouth, and she poops on me (which has happened more than once; I’m almost immune to it now) like every good story, I need to enjoy it. Because sometimes, she does something that totally makes up for the bad; yesterday, that came in the form of two huge, gummy smiles, reserved just for her mommy. You better believe I cried when she did that – happy tears, of course. And unlike with writing and time-traveling, I can’t go back to revisit and revise this part later – all I have is now.

And right now, I have a beautiful, happy almost 10 pound baby girl who looks like a combination of me and my grandmother. I’ve been away from her for an hour now and I already miss her. How crazy is that?

I’m still writing. In fact, somehow in my sleep deprivation, I came up with a new idea I can’t wait to start on. I’m lucky to have a husband who both supports my dream and encourages that I find “me” time away from our baby. So I’m going to make more time to pursue writing, querying, and blogging.

But I’m also going to enjoy my time with baby Arya. She was another dream I had, too.

And I adore being her mother.

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New Years’ Resolutions

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After wasting $8 to see “New Years’ Eve” – seriously, in my opinion it makes “Valentine’s Day” look like an epic film – I got to thinking about the upcoming year, which first led me to worrying about it possibly being our last one (yes, the whole 2012 thing scares me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t look it up. And definitely don’t watch the History Channel documentary on it.)  Sure, I don’t really think it’ll happen…but that slim chance freaks me out for reals.

But anyway, after I pushed that from my mind, I started making a mental list of new resolutions that I actually think I have a shot at keeping, and I wanted to share them with you guys, especially since #1 is…

  • UPDATE MY BLOG MORE OFTEN! Lord knows I’ve dropped the ball on that one a lot this current year, but I’m going to challenge myself to get my butt in line & update it at least once a week, as well as hold a fun giveaway monthly.
  • #2: READ, READ, READ! I’ve done decently well with this task in 2011, but I’m hoping to read even more next year! And not just YA (although I’m sure that will take up the majority), but anything that looks interesting! Hopefully I’ll also get to read some more of my writer friends’ WIP’s as well. (I’m looking at YOU, Jess & Rach!) 🙂
  • #3: COMPLETE A SECOND MANUSCRIPT & QUERY THAT BAD BOY. I’ve started a few different stories over the past year that I have left hanging, but not anymore! One now has my full attention & I hope to bang out a first draft of it by March to send to my writer friends to critique, edit it based on their feedback, send them polished drafts, & then re-edit those until I’m completely happy with it – which I’m hoping will be around June or July. 
  • And last but definitely by no means least… #4: ENJOY LIFE MORE. After the recent shooting at Virginia Tech, I was reminded once again that life is a gift that can be taken from us at any moment. I know I’ve taken it for granted for some time now, but not anymore. And neither should any of you!

 

What about you? Have you thought up any resolutions yet? 

 

Olives: good in martinis. Bad in novels.

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Most of you are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about. Let me explain: an “olive” in a novel isn’t what you think. I don’t mean characters can’t enjoy olives in their drinks or even as snacks. If your protagonist does, more power to her!

What I’m actually referring to is not at all food-related. An “olive” in writing is a scene that, when you first think of it, seems perfect. It floods out of you and you can’t help but pat yourself on the back for its originality or cleverness or any other adjective you can think of that translates into “I’m awesome.” But after you let it settle for a bit – or let a trusted writing friend read it and offer feedback – you realize that the scene itself, though entertaining standing alone, doesn’t exactly fit into your narrative. More specifically, the scene doesn’t help move your plot along, develop your characters, or anything else that’s pretty much mandatory.

I first heard this term last summer from the head of my program. At the time I appreciated it, but I hadn’t actually noticed it in my own writing. Not that I haven’t cut scenes before that weren’t up to par. But I hadn’t gone back and found a scene I’d previously LOVED and realized it was like an olive on an icecream cone. It just didn’t belong. Last week, though, my first olive appeared in glowing lights. This particular closing sceneone of my favorites for a certain character – didn’t actually fit. Though entertaining, I realized it served no purpose. I have to admit I’m sad to see it go, but I think as a writer, this is something else I’ll have to learn to get over.

But just this once – scene, you know who you are – here’s the Spice Girls to send you off properly. RIP.

Awesome Give Away #1: Kiera Cass’s debut novel, “The Siren”

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For those of you that don’t know, I’m actually next door neighbors/friends with the fabulously talented Kiera Cass – YA author of The Siren as well as the upcoming The Selection, due out next year! For more about Kiera and her projects, be sure to check out her website at http://www.kieracass.com!

But anyway, she graciously agreed to give me a SIGNED copy of The Siren to kick off my (hopefully) monthly give aways and guess what? It’s up for grabs!

Want to win this copy?! Of course you do! 🙂 To enter, just do the following:

  1. Follow me on Twitter if you don’t already. (@catherinedrake).
  2. Retweet this message detailing the give away: Want to win a SIGNED copy of @kieracass’s The Siren from @catherinedrake? Visit http://catherinedrake.com for details!

*This give away is open to US residents only*

The deadline to enter is next Tuesday, March 15 at midnight (ET). With a little help from random.org, the lucky winner will be chosen and will be announced via Twitter March 16. So what are you waiting for?! That could easily be YOU! 🙂

 

GIVEAWAY CLOSED!

And the winner of the SIGNED copy of The Siren IS…

@Adriatika! Congratulations! 🙂 Check your direct messages on Twitter for details!
Thanks to everyone who entered! No worries if you didn’t win this time — there will be another YA book giveaway sponsored by yours truly in April!

Judging books by their covers: ridiculous or genius?

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We’ve all heard the golden rule of selecting a book: don’t judge it by its cover. Realistically speaking, though, is that a rule that’s even possible to follow? Think about it. Whether you select your books at a bookstore, the library, or even in an e-store, the first thing you see is their covers! Sure you can pick them up and turn them around to read their back flap, or open them and even read the first page to garner your interest, but if that cover didn’t grab you, would that book even be in your hands at all? It’s just like picking a potential boyfriend/girlfriend across the room — sure, you’ll stick around with this person because he/she has the brains and sense of humor to go along with his/her hottness, but initially, we go for the attractive ones first. It’s the same for books! Or at least it is for me.

Case in point: Recently I was in Barnes & Noble with a friend and we were perusing the teen section and out of nowhere, one cover really stuck out from the rest.

Everything about this cover drew me in. I think I even stopping talking mid-sentence just to focus on it. The trees, the snow, her boots, even her green scarf — I had to read it. I had to find out who this girl is, where she’s going, etc. And this need was solely based on the cover; I made up my mind to get it before I even read the back flap. But once I did read it, I realized it was the third book of a series and alas, couldn’t find the first one that day. But then, a couple weeks later, I was in a different B&N with my husband and saw this cover – along with the other books of the Touch series by Laurie Faria Stolarz. The other two covers weren’t quite as intriquing as this one, but were still eye-catching none-the-less. So I picked up the first book, Deadly Little Secret, and I’ll probably start reading it today.

But if this cover hadn’t stood out so much, I’m not sure I would’ve ever picked it up. I may not have even noticed it at all that day. So, what’s the lesson to be learned here? At least as far as I’m concerned, if your book’s cover isn’t awesome & intriguing, more than likely I’m not going to buy it. And I’d bet money most other readers feel the same. But if there are any of you out there that have been able to get past the superficialness of cover-hunting, let me know your secrets! I’m willing to bet it’s a skill you’re not born with. But anyway, have a great weekend, all!

OH WAIT! One more thing before I go…

Stay tuned for AWESOME give-aways for those of you loyal readers and Twitter followers! 🙂 Details to come soon!!

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