Finding What Works

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Screenwriting, I’m learning, is kind of like cooking. There’s a basic broth/recipe (formula, structure, however you prefer to describe it), and then you add your own personal ingredients to the mix. Then comes the taste testing and the tweaking.

And just like with food, no one soup is to everyone’s taste.

What got me thinking about this is the fact the rom-com I co-wrote has had some wildly varying feedback from a number of readers. My co-author and I wrote and added stuff and took out stuff until we thought we had a pretty good “dish.” Friends read it and said, “Too much salt,” or “Needs more pepper.” So we tweaked our recipe and sent the script out.

One agent said, in effect, “It’s overcooked.”

Another reader really, really liked it. (Now we’re waiting to see if it goes anywhere in that particular competition.)

And yet another reader also really, really liked it but still said something “tasted funny.” Well, what he actually said was there were some “stylistic details” were lacking. So maybe it didn’t so much as “taste funny” as was missing some ingredient, though he didn’t seem able to specifically name what that ingredient might be. Still, he did say he’d look at another draft AND would possibly consider the writers for other work. That’s a bit flattering.

The rule of thumb, for me, is if a lot of people make the same remark—if several people say there’s too much tomato or whatever—that’s when I know to take that remark seriously. If, on the other hand, one person says there’s too much tomato and another says there’s not nearly enough . . . Well, I probably need a third opinion. But on the whole, I can go with my gut about those kinds of things. Because some people just really do or do not like tomato, and so even a little would be too much, or even a lot would still have them asking for more.

This probably goes for prose as well. Workshops are handy, and beta readers and critique partners, and if you’re getting a lot of the same notes from many different people, then it’s probably time to revisit whatever issue the readers are having. But if one person loves something and another person hates it . . . Either get more input or go with what feels right to you as the author.

As for the rom-com, it seems like a lot of readers find it very commercially viable. We may yet see success with it. Someone, somewhere, may find our work suits his or her palate.


Effigy Released

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Hey, remember when I revealed that cool cover? Well, now you can own it. Go to CreateSpace for your paperback copy. Kindle and other versions to follow.

White Lady Blog Tour

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White-Lady_front-cover_no-quoteDo you like to read psychological thrillers? Well, Jessica Bell’s giving away her latest release, WHITE LADY, for FREE, to every single person who signs up to the “Two Lies & a Truth” Blog Tour (taking place October 1–31). It’s hassle-free. All you have to do is post what she sends you to your blog (or Facebook page) and Bob’s your uncle. She will also be giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader of your blog. More details and sign up form here:

You can also view the book trailer here:

I’ll be hosting Jessica on October 16th, so be sure to stop by then (and I’ll remind you closer to the date, too, of course).

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Still Here. Kind of.

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I’ve been lax about posting, but mostly because there’s so little to say. I have a list of writing projects to edit and finish, and even some I’ve hardly started on . . . But I’m having a bit of trouble staying focused these days. The kids are home for the summer, and then there was vacation, and there has been some family things popping up and absorbing a lot of my energy. And then there are the everyday errands and chores . . . All excuses, I suppose, more than reasons for not getting more work done.

But it’s difficult to stay motivated sometimes, too. I find myself restless, waiting to hear about this or that submission, and when it’s bad news I tend to spiral downward for a couple days (at least—and the more I hoped for good news, or the more I expected a positive outcome, the longer the nadir). This is probably very normal, but it means I must be mindful and continue to plow ahead regardless. Easier said than done, however.

So, yes, I’m here. And around. And hopefully will have far more exciting things to say in the future. (In the meantime, follow spooklights for reviews and such.)

TBT: 1995

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My best friend’s mom posted these on Facebook. I can hardly believe . . . Well, anyway, we were at a party at a lakehouse in Austin. I’m on the left here (and that’s my best friend Tara on the right):


Of course I had to have my Dr Pepper!

And in the middle here:



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I borrowed this from Suzi over at Literary Engineer. The “game” is to take your current or most recently finished WIP, go to page 7 or 77, go to the 7th line and reproduce the next 7 lines. I’m using The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller. This is from page 77:

The room seemed suddenly too big without Gamby there to take up most of the space. Peter envisaged himself and Charles as two planets separated by a vast expanse of airlessness; in Peter’s mental picture they rotated slowly, each moving in its orbit, with not enough gravity between them to pull them together. But what did they orbit? What was their sun?

“You can’t go back.”

Peter tightened his grip on the plate he’d been drying, not out of anger but because the sudden sound of Charles’s voice had startled him. But Peter saw how Charles’s keen blue eyes found the white knuckles, watched the conclusion being arrived at in Charles’s mind.

I went with 7 sentences rather than actual lines since it would have been weird (I think) to stop mid-sentence.



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Like so many writers, I have peculiar relationships with my tools: paper, pens, pencils, typewriters, computers. I’m picky. Which makes sense because the physical side of writing requires a smoothness to allow the mental energy to flow uninterrupted.

I have pens and they all have particular jobs. Some for marking manuscripts up, some for actual writing. I have notebooks devoted to myriad tasks, each a size and color and design that seems “fit” for its job. But I have this one pencil . . . I love this pencil. The lead in it is perfect and it isn’t scratchy. It sharpens beautifully. And I got the stupid thing from a hotel of all places—I’m not even sure which hotel because the writing has rubbed mostly away. And the pencil is nearly a nub now, so I’m starting to worry what I’ll use when it’s gone.

I have other pencils, of course, but somehow none of them quite measure up to this one. I have a couple that came from the Lab (Sandia, here in town), but they have that weird lead that isn’t dark enough no matter how hard you push, and they don’t sharpen right. When you sharpen these, the wood parts from the lead and so the lead gets loose, sometimes even falls out entirely. There’s the government for you, using crap pencils. And I have a box of unsharpened PaperMate “American Classic” wooden pencils that write okay (once you sharpen them) but have useless erasers.

If I could figure out which hotel this pencil came from, I might find such a place and go see if I could thieve some pencils. That’s seriously how much I love this one. It is, quite possibly, the best pencil I have ever had. And it’s about to leave me alone in a vast world of paper and sub-par pencils . . . A writer’s nightmare . . .

Honestly, I think the pencil says “” I must plan to stay at another one of these to scope out the pencils.


Halfway Point

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The year is now half over.

I have to say, thus far I’ve found 2014 lackluster and disappointing. While there was a lot of interest in my scripts early on, the nature of the showbiz industry is a slow, slow grind and no one will ever give a direct answer. So there’s a lot of stuff up in the air that may or may not ever come down. Sigh.

As for prose, I should probably go back to that. At least I have more control over what happens to my books and short stories; if they’re rejected, I can just publish them myself (which I’ve done in the past to moderate success).

Still . . . I’d like to have something really good to remember 2014 by. So I’m hoping this back half brings me something stellar.


Back in July!

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I’m away at a family reunion (yay! New Orleans!) but will be back in July . . . Which isn’t that far away, when you think about it. See you soon! And don’t forget to keep checking Write Club on Mondays and Thursdays. Also, go look at this fun scene from Ms. Fortune (which was my A–Z project).


Cover Reveal: Effigy by M.J. Fifield

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It’s a seriously beautiful cover (by Ravven), and I look forward to reading the novel, which comes out July 22.

The survival of a once-mighty kingdom rests in the hands of its young queen, Haleine Coileáin, as it slowly succumbs to an ancient evil fueled by her husband’s cruelty.

effigy_promoA sadistic man with a talent for torture and a taste for murder, he is determined to burn the land and all souls within. Haleine is determined to save her kingdom and, after a chance encounter, joins forces with the leader of the people’s rebellion. She gives him her support, soon followed by her heart.

Loving him is inadvertent but becomes as natural and necessary as breathing. She lies and steals on his behalf, doing anything she can to further their cause. She compromises beliefs held all her life, for what life will exist if evil prevails?

Her journey leads to a deceiving world of magic, monsters, and gods she never believed existed outside of myth. The deeper she goes, the more her soul is stripped away, but she continues on, desperate to see her quest complete. If she can bring her husband to ruin and save her people, any sacrifice is worth the price—even if it means her life.

About The Author:

M.J. Fifield Author PicArmed with a deep and lasting love of chocolate, purple pens, and medieval weaponry, M.J. Fifield is nothing if not a uniquely supplied insomniac. When she isn’t writing, she’s on the hunt for oversized baked goods or shiny new daggers. M.J. lives with a variety of furry creatures—mostly pets—in New Hampshire. Effigy is her first novel.

You can visit M.J.’s blog via my links to the right or at the following sites:

Add Effigy on Goodreads: