Leo's Angel Oak Tree

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Over at Roni Lorien's Fiction Groupie Blog, she is holding a massive query contest that is super easy to participate in.  I know how you all love contests, so don't hestitate a moment longer.  Go to her website:
http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com/ and join in on the fun!

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Recently my friend and critique partner, Margo Kelly, awarded me the first ever ELECTROPOSITIVE BLOG AWARD for making people smile and being a positive influence for her writing.  Thanks Margo! You Rock! (I'm sorry, did I say that too loud?)

In accepting this award, it is my duty to award it to someone else who has inspired me and made me smile.  So many choices...

The person I am awarding this to is someone I have met recently at a writing conference in Myrtle Beach, SC.  She is an amazeballs writer (her favorite blog word!) and writes in my same genre.  She inspires me by teaching me (through her own writing) to be true to my character's voices.  To write small with big ideas!  I have fortunately been granted access to a few of her pages, and they are amazing. She will go far and I'll be able to say I knew her when.  SO...congratulations to the newest ElectroPositive Blog Award winner, Alison Miller from North Carolina! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Several blogs and books I've read recently spoke about the need for a killer logline, or a summation sentence.  Both for your novel pitch or query, a logline can make your manuscript stand out from all the rest by simply explaining to the agent, editor, or reader, "WHAT IS IT ABOUT?"

Sometimes (as writers) we can get so blurred by all our our subplots and character relationships, we miss the big picture, or the theme, of our novels. Blake Snyder, author of Save The Cat, said that the logline should be the first thing a writers writes.  If you can't sum up your novel in one sentence than it needs work.

How many times have we all read The Query Shark, aka the fabulous Janet Reid, attack a query because it didn't answer the question at hand? (Sidenote: If you haven't read The Query Shark's blog, SHAME ON YOU!)  Who is the main character? What is her/his goal? What would happen if she/he didn't meet the goal? What she's essentially asking for is your logline!

Think about the number of times you have been talking to a friend about movies, trying to explain the last movie you saw, and you couldn't sum it up quickly.  That is a red flag to writers.  You must have a logline!

Book jackets wear them, movie posters display them, and we should be writing them!  Let's take a look at a few loglines from a few fantastic novels:

Seventeen year old Bella Swan falls in love with vampire Edward Cullen only to find out he might want to kill her more than love her.  TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer  (Who wouldn't read that?  It just begs for us to find out if she lives at the end, right?)

Eleven year old famous wizard, Harry Potter, is sent to wizarding school to learn magic, but ends up solving a mystery over life and death all with the most evil of wizards, Lord Voldemort, trying to kill him.  HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE by JK Rowling.  (We know we're in for fantasy, magic, mystery, and a life & death struggle with this one!)

Sixteen year old Clary Fray discovers, after her mother's kidnapping, that she belongs to a world of Shadow Hunters, a nephilum force protecting humans from downworlders (vampires, werewolves, and faeries).  CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare (Every type of paranormal creature will be in this book, and Clary will have to learn how to navigate in this world in order to find her mother!)

An angel, Bethany, is sent to Earth on a mission, but falling in love wasn't part of the plan. HALO by Alexandra Adornetto (We can tell this will have paranormal elements with tension and romance, WIN/WIN!)

So, these a just a few examples.  So, you might be asking, how do I write a logline?  Blake Snyder gives these key points.  All loglines should have:

  1. An adjective about the hero. 
  2. An adjective about the bad guy.
  3. A goal we can relate to.
  4. A Killer title
Some examples he shares from movies are: (Can you guess which movie?)

  1. A cop comes to LA to visit his estranged wife  and her office building is taken over by terrorists.
  2. A business man falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend.
If you guess Die Hard and Pretty Woman, you're exactly right.  Two killer movies summed up into one sentence each.

The logline is the one-two punch that could seal your manuscript.  If you don't have a logline (or can write one quickly), you may want to rethink your novel! Queries are more difficult to write if you don't have a logline.  In my opinion, that's one of the reasons writers hate writing the query.  Some have said to write the query before you write the novel. Isn't that fundamentally the same as writing the logline before the manuscript?

So, what's your logline?  Do you have one?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Sorry this post was a little late in the day, but I had an event at school this evening.  Now for the big announcement!  Thank you to all who tweeted/blogged/facebooked the contest, and thank you for wanting to traveling through this journey in plotting together. The Grandprize winner was selected at random using a name selector system. Everyone who entered had their name entered once.

Okay **drumrolls please**

The Grandprize winner of the SAVE THE CAT book and Writing Goodies (Plot Board SWAG) is:


And, since I love this book so much and all of you too, I am sending a book to everyone who entered!! 

That means Alison, Margo, Angela F., Angela S., Florence, K. Victoria, and PK will get one copy of Save The Cat, as well.  So ladies: email me at
melissaddean@yahoo.com with your address so I can ship your prizes as soon as possible! 

I know you all will love the book as much as I do! My hope is that after you read the book (and your mind is blown), you'll make your plot board and share pictures with me! I know I'll be sharing lots of photos soon.

Congrats to Christi and everyone else too! Thanks for entering and following my blog.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


As writers, I believe whenever we find a useful tool, we should pay it forward to other writers.  I have found such a tool in the SAVE THE CAT book.  So, I am hosting a Save The Cat Contest.  Cool, right!

The winner will receive the following:

1)SAVE THE CAT book by Blake Snyder
2)A few of my favorite writing things that will help you make your plot BOARD!!

The contest is simple.  First, you must be a follower! Then, all you have to do is tweet/facebook/blog about the contest and leave the tweet/facebook/blog address for me in the comment box with the words: HELP ME SAVE THE CAT! That's it! I will choose a winner on Tuesday.  Goodies will be shipped on Wednesday!! Easy Peasy!!

Good Luck! Stay tuned for the announcement on Tuesday's blog...

We'll be writin' and plottin',
Just a-movin' and a-groovin;

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I've been reading SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder, and I have had so manny A-HA Moments about plot structure.  In this book, he says your plot should have 15 beats to flow correctly.  They are:

1)Opening Image: The hook that gets you interested
2)Theme Stated: Statement the entire plot is based on (Life isn't fair. Quitters never win, etc)
3)Set-Up: This clearly sets up the protaganist and other main characters, antagonist, theme, and conflict
4)Catalyst: The inciting incident. The wake-up call. The thing that shakes up the MC.
5)Debate: The period of reflection, self-doubt when the character doesn't know what to do.
6)Break into 2: The hero moves into act 2 and the journey begins.
7)B Story: The secondary plot  starts here.
8)Fun and Games: The conflict and action is esculated here. The MC experiences set backs.
9)Midpoint: The climax. This is where the stakes are raised and the MC might not pull through.
10)Bad Guys Close In: The MC is in real trouble.
11)All is Lost: The MC is at their lowest point. This is where most of the changes in the MC happen.
12)The Dark Night of Soul: The MC has lost control and goes through internal struggle.
13)Break into 3: The MC has a new plan (usually thanks to someone else)
14)Finale: The MC emerges with new knowledge and new attitude. The transformation is made.
15)Final Image: This scene is a flip of the opening image.

So to put this into perspective, Mr. Snyder suggest you watch a favorite movie and compare the beat sheet for plot structure.  I did that very thing with one of my favorite movies of 2010, Letters to Juliet. WARNING: SPOILER ALERT (if you haven't seen this movie, please watch before reading.)


PROJECT TITLE: Letters To Juliet
GENRE: Buddy Love (BL)

1. Opening Image (1): Sophie Hall (Seyfried) is fact checking a source of the most romantic photo taken of all time (the sailor/nurse kiss in Time Square after WWII). Sophie is a determined detective. She likes the journey of finding things. She finds the source. This scene shows us that Sophie is a hopeless romantic and wants to be a writer.

2. Theme Stated (5): Sophie is meeting with Bobby, the editor of The New Yorker, and verifies the story that the photo of the kiss was a real celebration of true love. Bobby says to Sophie, "I guess people want to believe in true love, don't they?"

3. Set-up (1-10): Bobby asks Sophie about her trip to Verona, Italy. She explains that it is a pre-honeymoon and suggests she could write something. Bobby dismisses the suggestion and she doesn't dispute it. Sophie retreats to her fiancé's restaurant. Victor is charismatic and she loves this about him. However, he is also a workaholic and neglects Sophie's feeling of loneliness to do want he wants to do. He calls it the "win-win". In Verona, Victor continues his dominance of the schedule of events and Sophie makes a deal with him that they separate so she can see Juliet's House while he meets with his suppliers. At Juliet's house, Sophie discovers that people write letters to Juliet and those letters are then taken and answered by the Secretariats to Juliet. She spends the day with the group of ladies. Victor learns cooking techniques while Sophie helps the Secretariats answer letters.

4. Catalyst (12): While collecting letters from Juliet's wall, Sophie moves a loosened stone and finds an aged letter from fifty years ago.

5. Debate (12-25): Sophie takes the letter to the Secretariats. Victor wants to continue his cooking lessons instead of being with Sophie. The Secretariats are unsure of what to do, but Sophie explains to them that she has to write back. They agree to let her answer this one letter.

6. Break into 2 (25) Sophie is sitting with the Secretariats when young man, Charlie Wyman (Egan), enters the office asking for the Juliet who wrote the letter to his Grandmother, Claire (Redgrave). Sophie stands and tells him she is the writer. He is obnoxious and rude to her telling her it was the worst mistake. Now he is there with Claire who has come to find her long lost love, Lorenzo. She meets Claire and they agree to have a drink and to talk.

7. B Story (30): Sophie, Claire, Charlie, and the Secretariats sit at a little cafe and drink wine. Claire tells the story of her love affair with Lorenzo. How she agreed to meet Lorenzo to runaway and get married, but instead she left him waiting. Claire has decided to go and find Lorenzo. She wants to find her one true love. Sophie asks to accompany them and write about the story. Victor asks to go to a wine auction for a couple of days, which leaves Sophie free to go with Claire and Charlie.

8. Fun and Games (30-55): The fun ensues when Claire, Charlie, and Sophie hunt down all the Lorenzo Bartalini’s in Tuscany. They go from one to another; each time the man she finds gets farther from her memory. Charlie gets more irritated with the search. Claire gets more doubtful they will find him.

9. Midpoint (55): In the midpoint, Sophie learns more about Charlie, that he isn't a snob. He works on pro Bono legal work as a lawyer. The banter between Charlie and Claire sets up the potential romance and flirtatious behavior between the two of them. They spend a day together, playing, sight-seeing, ice cream fighting. Charlie reads some of Sophie's writing and tells her how good it is. Sophie finds encouragement and support in Charlie, something she doesn't get from Victor.

10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75): All three of them begin to doubt they will find Lorenzo. The last Lorenzo on the list is dead and they end up at a cemetery. Charlie become angry that Claire is hurt again. He takes his frustration out on Sophie by telling her that she doesn't know true loss.

11. All Is Lost (75): They decide to call off the search because Sophie wants to get back to Victor, mostly because Charlie hurt her so much. Charlie apologizes, but the damage is done.

12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85): Sophie breaks down about Charlie's insult. Claire comes to her room and sees how hurt she is. Claire understands that Sophie has developed feelings for Charlie and hates that he was so mean. Claire brushes her hair, helping to remember what love and care feel like.

13. Break into 3 (85): The last night, Sophie finds Charlie lying in the grass. She joins him, and they talk about the journey and that they hate to leave. They kiss. Sophie leaves and Claire watches the whole thing from her window. The next morning Claire makes a point to let Sophie sit in the front set with Charlie. She sees this as her last opportunity to get them to see that they love each other.

14. Finale (85-110): On their drive back Claire sees a sign for their favorite wine vineyard, she asks Charlie to stop so they can have one last toast. As they pass by the grapevines, Claire sees a young boy who is the spitting image of her Lorenzo. They stop. Sophie goes up to the boy and he tells her his name is Lorenzo Bartalini. They discover that the vineyard is owned by her long lost love. He rides up on a horse and they are reunited. They rekindle their romance and Sophie tells Charlie she has to leave. As she leaves, Claire turns to Charlie and says "How many Sophie's do you think are in the world. Don't wait 50 years like I did to find her. Go!" Charlie goes and follows her back to Verona where he sees her with Victor looking so happy. He leaves heartbroken. Back in NY, Sophie shows her story to Bobby who loves it and says he will publish it. She goes to tell Victor but he dismisses her again. The following day, Sophie receives the wedding invitation for Claire and Lorenzo. She makes the decision to go...alone. She goes to the restaurant and breaks up with Victor stating that she had changed and no longer understands their relationship.

15. Final Image (110): Sophie goes to Claire and Lorenzo's wedding. She sees Charlie again but believes he is back with his ex-girlfriend. During the reception, Claire reads the letter Sophie wrote to her about what If? True love is never too late. Sophie is so overcome with emotion for her love for Charlie that she runs away from the reception. Charlie chases after her, finding her on a balcony just like Juliet. Sophie confesses that she is no longer engaged and loves him. She says it is clearly too late since he is with Patricia. Charlie tells her that the girl is his cousin not his ex. He climbs the vine outside the balcony like Romeo and tells her he loves her too. Before they kiss, Charlie falls to the ground. Sophie runs down after him and they share a kiss.

So, is this more clear.  Again, I love this book. Stay tuned tomorrow for contest details. You can win your own copy. Any comments?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Okay, I must admit when I first started writing, I was not a planner. I had the story in my head from beginning to end, and I felt I didn't need to plot my story on paper.  The scenes came hard and fast. I barely had enough to write them out. Even with that said, I did do a small bit of plotting in the way of plot mapping.  I thought it was enough, but clearly it wasn't. 

This past week, I have emersed myself in a book that has literally changed my outlook on writing.  It has helped me with planning so my manuscript is healthy.  One thing I have learned in reading this fantastic book (**Yes, I will tell you the name of the book.  Give me a moment...) is that your plot structure should have a heartbeat.  Fifteen beats to be exact.  If you miss a beat, your story could die.  I don't mean to be so meladramatic, but this was a crucial A-HA moment for me. 

Okay, the book was suggested by Elana Johnson (Author of the 2011 Debut, POSSESSION), and I had to see what she was so excited about!  It's SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder (R.I.P. Mr. Snyder!).  If you haven't read it, you should.  Immediately.  I mean it. Stop reading this post and go buy yourself a copy!!

The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (Plot Structure Sequence) has transformed how I think about structure. Yes, it's a screenwriting book, but the pulse of a story really works like this.  I have been studying movies that I really like this week to see how the story unfolds structurally.  Tomorrow, I will be posting the beat sheet for my favorite movie this year: Letters To Juliet.  Stay tuned.

At the end of the week, I will be doing a contest for a copy of this fabulous book!!!!  Thanks ELANA for the great suggestion!!!

If you have read this book, what are your thoughts?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Funny Story from the Classroom!!!

I just had to share...

Last week, my students and I began studying how writing with strong verbs makes the action come alive in their own manuscripts.  We began thinking of words to substitute for the word, "climb".  After thinking of about ten words to add to our list, I suggested using a thesaurus to help us out.

One of my Fourth Graders turned to another one of my students and said (and I quote), "Dude, a thesaurus?? That's hard core!"

I laughed hysterically at the comment.  My class and I have now decided to purchase T-shirts with that quotation plastered on the front!  All real writers should wear one as well!  HA!HA!

God I love teaching!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011 To Everyone!

Happy New Year from me to you!   I hope that everyone will have a creative and productive 2011.  There are so many exciting things happening this year. The first of which is the publication dates of the Elevensies Debut List!

There are so many books coming out this year that I can't wait to get my hands on.  Just to mention a few: POSSESSION by Elana Johnson, THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab, POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil, WITCH EYES by Scott Tracy, THE TOUCH MORTAL by Leah Clifford, UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand, etc. You can find many of the titles on their Launch Website: http://community.livejournal.com/2011debuts/50914.html

As for me, I will be writing and revising.  Hopefully by years end, I will be ready to query a few novels!  We'll see how it goes. My book SOLSTICE is still in Round Three on Webook.com's PAGE TO FAME Contest.  The expert readers are giving me great critiques on how to make it better.  I've received some great scores and a few not so great.  But, we learn throughout everything we do, so I am taking the criticism with the chance to write better. 

I hope all of you a very happy New Year!