Tag Archives: AE Cannon

The End or Something Like That

Just over a week ago, I went Ann Dee’s book signing.

The End or Something Like That.

She read.

A perfect reading.

I’d heard this book before. Had read it. Maybe even more than once. Loved the book as I watched it develop.


Here’s the thing about Ann Dee. She is a fast, smart writer. She knows how to move the plot forward.

Her characters are wacky. There are scenes that make you laugh. Make you cry.

She’s powerful with language. She keeps scenes tight. Not a wasted word.

The voice is incredible. A.E. Cannon is right–No one does voice like Ann Dee Ellis.

I honestly don’t know how she does it.


(Ann Dee and I are working on a book together. Sending crappy chapters back and forth to each other. Even her crappy chapters are great.)


And then you send your book to an editor.

Look, I know an editor’s job is to make your good book into a great book.

Do I always agree with editors?


Not when one is messing with your pal’s great novel.

(Actually, I have always agreed with MY editors. Except for one.)


Ann Dee kept telling me what was going on with her book. Sort of. Whisperings of what the editor wanted.

And I was like, Don’t do it!

Too much!



But this weekend I read The End or Something Like That.

Today, I am remembering the book emotionally.

There’s this sad blanket over me.

For lots of reason.

But the biggest is because Ann Dee did a beautiful job at a difficult time in her life and wrote a terrific book.


I will think about The End or Something Like That for a long time.


the line play

the character development

the emotion

Las Vegas









I could go on and on. It’s all there.


Beautiful, Ann Dee.

Thank you for the trip.

(Though I have to admit, I’ll probably be sad for a while. And I will blame you.)

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Filed under Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Family, Plot, Revision, writing process

No Phone or Internet Today

until right this second!
And I had a perfect post.
But it will lose something in the lateness-of-the-afternoon translation.

Dictionary.com says a dream is:

1.a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.
2.the sleeping state in which this occurs.
3.an object seen in a dream.
4.an involuntary vision occurring to a person when awake.
5.a vision voluntarily indulged in while awake; daydream; reverie.

So this morning I woke up from a vivid, full-color dream. (If I had posted this right away I would have remembered the details.)
In the dream my friend, Debbie, from Vermont College was stepping out on her husband.
And that’s about all I remember except there were two guys not unlike the karate chop I-love-technology brother in the Napoleon Dynamite movie–including his mustache on one of the fellows.

Earlier in the night I had a scary dream. So scary I cried out and woke a daughter.
It’s weird. When I have scary dreams, after I first wake up I feel all icy in my joints.
Then the icy feeling spreads to the rest of my body.
And I need a snuggler to snuggle me.
That means borrowing a daughter. Which I can do since I have several girls.

Once, a million (or so) years ago, I heard the amazing Louise Plummer (A Dance for Three, Finding Daddy) say (in a speech) that a writer should always include a dream in her novels. She probably meant his novels, too. But I’m going with the females on this. Anyway. When I heard her say this, it just so happened I was writing dreams in my books–but I had wondered if that was okay. A dream in each story? Sure! Why not! I thought Louise was quite wise. I still think she’s quite wise. She is also funny and beautiful and I’m happy she’s my friend. I love her. She just had a birthday. I have a birthday this month, too. That makes me and Louise practically twins.

We already know the rules about dreams in books: Don’t open with a dream. And don’t end the book with people waking up from a dream as though nothing really happened because–you know what I’m going to say–It was all a dream.
Here’s something else I think about dreams–they need to play a part in the novel. You can’t just throw a dream around and have it mean nothing. Every word must pay off. And that includes when a character has involuntary visions. No willy nilly (double adverb there) stuff.

Miles from Ordinary starts with a dream. The main character, Lacy, wakes up from a nightmare. But the book is a nightmare of sorts and so the dream pays off. And the book I’m working on, my DD? It’s full of dreams that are (hopefully) helping our main character Shiloh learn what she needs to know about her life.

Ann Edwards Cannon (The Losers Guide to Life and Love, The Great Chihuahua Race) does not have a birthday in September but is a writer who can do nearly anything with words. I adore her, too. Once she said (in a lecture) that we should keep a notebook and something to write with next to our beds. I believe she called that notebook a Dream Journal. Did you know if you write your dreams right when you wake up, you remember them better? Well, you do. So there.

My worst nightmare was about a house. Part of the house was evil. And I knew if I walked through the doors that had been sealed off, I would let the evil things out into the rest of the house. I remember the house had glass doorknobs. I’d love glass doorknobs in my house now.

When I was a kid I dreamed something I thought was hilarious. I walked down a street and I heard someone singing, “No school today. No school today.” The singer was super happy–joyful. When I finally caught up to him, I saw the singer was a fish. Get it? No school today?

What dreams have you had that would work in your novels?
What dreams could you add to help–or hinder–your main character?
Feel free to share any you’d like here. Even if it is 2:30 pm.

A final note–did you know that creative people are plagued with nightmares? That’s what I read somewhere and I believe it.


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Three Things and More Critique Suggestions

One: So this is true. I had to have Rick Walton come over and babysit for me the other night. (Party here. Couldn’t leave the kids alone.) Anyway, Rick was here only 30 minutes but he managed to make it over to my computer and USE it!
“I can’t believe you have so many things on your desk top,” he said. “Haven’t you ever heard of folders?” This was an odd question from a guy who got on my computer without asking. He’s probably taken all my picture book ideas. Oh wait, I don’t write picture books.

And yes, I have heard of folders, but I always seem to lose things I put in folders.

Two: I found this book at a garage sale a while back. It’s one I read when I was a kid called THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. When I finished reading the novel I flipped to the back of the book and I found this list:

Lengthen stirrups
sit up straight
Look up
sit down in saddle
head is cocked
right arm, let hang
straighten shoulders

I like the Look Up suggestion best of all. It just seems kind of smart.
PS–The second time I rode a horse, I fell off mid-gallop. This was a good horse. It didn’t trample my guts out and I was thankful for that.

Three: The First Annual Teen Book Festival was pretty darn good. Scott Westerfeld  spoke at the Provo City Library and his speech was great. I learned some cool things. Later, I emailed AE Cannon about them.

Now on to the questions to ask yourself while revising! Woot! Woot!

31. Do you know the rules before you break the rules? That spy Rick Walton is ALWAYS breaking rules–like going through someone’s computer–especially when he’s writing. If editors say don’t write in rhyme, he does and he sells the book. If they say don’t write an ABC book or a Numbers book, he does and sells them. If editors say, No talking animals Rick writes a book with talking animals and sells it. Rick knows the rules about writing picture books. He knows them so well–he knows why they are there– he can (and this is from his own mouth, I’m on the phone with him now) find exceptions–“Knowing the rules and why they are there means you can find the exceptions to the rules and use those in your writing ‘cause that’s where innovation comes.”

32. Watch tags—are they invisible to the reader? The he said and she said of writing–the tags or identifiers–should almost always (meaning 98.2 %) be said or asked. When you reach outside the tag box you jar the reader from the story. “Put that bun away,” he bellowed. Add an ‘ly’ word to it and it becomes even worse. “Put that bun away,” he bellowed violently. You can rewrite such a tag, show how the bellower is acting and make a stronger sentence that leaves the reader firmly in the story (she bellowed. Violently.).

33. Is dialog strong and real? Let’s answer this question with a question–Would your character say what she’s saying, or are you–the old person, putting in what YOU would say?

34. Does your character suddenly do something that s/he would never do? Your character may do something unexpected–but if it is completely out of character for your character, then you need to look at the motivation to see if what the character does is supported. If, all along, your main character would never speak above a whisper, and then he screams at the top of his lungs, we need to see the growth the character has made to make him act so.

35. Are you writing what you know (either because you truly know it or because you have researched the subject)? Randall Wright also says to write what you love. I believe writing what you know makes you an expert and that means the feelings and story will ring true.

36. Watch the words it, very, started, well, that. Those words can almost ALWAYS be thrown away. I’m just saying. There are more words like this but I can’t remember them.

37. Is your story realistic within the frame of what you are writing? Just like your character cannot do something he would not do, so must your story stay true to itself. If your world is a contemporary story, and you have gotten to the end and can’t think what to do so you drop a bunch of bombs on the city to end things, well that is unexpected and  only works if you have foreshadowed such an event might happen.

38. How long does it take for your story to start? Some authors say start with action. Richard Peck says don’t start with scenery. Whatever you start with, make sure it’s INTERESTING so you grab your reader. And make sure you start at the TRUE BEGINNING of the story. If you find yourself jumping into a flashback very soon after the start of the story, you probably have not begun in the right place.

39. Is your main character flawed or perfect? Sometimes we tend to make the bad people REALLY bad and the good people way too good. There is no completely perfect human and there is no completely evil human. There are good and bad things to everyone. Remember that when you write. It will add dimension to your characters.

40. Are you introducing too many people at once? Too many characters that enter a scene all at once means the reader may have a hard time keeping them separated. It’s like walking into a room and meeting 23 people all wearing black and white, with no distinguishing characteristics. They seem the same. When you introduce fewer characters then you have time to make them distinct.

JUST TEN MORE and WE’RE DONE! Next week is the end of revision suggestions. There will be a quiz.  I hope these suggestions help you once you finish your NaNoWriMo experience and you sit down to start rewriting.

Good luck to all who undertake the 30 days/50,000 words writing marathon.

And for those who want a writing exercise–here’s one:

Look at OUT OF THE DUST or CRANK or ONE OF THOSE HIDEOUS BOOKS WHERE THE MOTHER DIES. Now take a bit of your own work and put it in this style of writing. You will have fewer words to work with. Tighten, throw away, put just the right word on the page. What does this do for your writing?

Here’s another writing exercise.

Using the list of words I found in the back of CATCHER IN THE RYE, write a 250 + word piece (that is not about riding a horse).


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