Jayme Woods

Writer. Geek. Adventurer.


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Special Request

At my little sister’s request, here’s a Valentine for the Frozen fanatics:

Olaf Valentine

Like this? Check out my Nerd Valentines.

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Nerd Valentines

Love it or hate it, this Friday is Valentine’s Day. To celebrate, I’ve whipped up a few Valentines for that special nerd in your life. This is all done with Sharpies and the Microsoft photo software that came with my computer (no Photoshop here), so apologies in advance if the TARDIS is not quite the right shade of blue.

First up, one for all my fellow Castle-holics:

Castle Valentine

For you Whovians out there, here’s one to get both of your hearts thumping:

Doctor Who Valentine

Fellow Teen Wolf fans will go crazy for this one (see what I did there?):

Teen Wolf Valentine

And finally, since one Teen Wolf Valentine just isn’t enough, here’s one for all you future Mrs. Stilinskis out there:

Stiles Valentine

Can’t choose? Get all four here:

Nerd Valentines PDF

Hope everyone has a great week!


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How Hanson Makes Me a Better Writer

I just got back from Orlando, and my ears are still ringing from the best concert EVER. Six concerts, actually. They spanned two nights and featured none other than my favorite band: Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!

electric mayhem

Kidding. It was Hanson. They dropped into Epcot November 4-5.

Clearly I was too excited to hold the camera steady.

Clearly I was too excited to hold the camera steady.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Hanson (or if you haven’t heard anything since MMMBop), here’s the cameo-studded video for their new single, Get the Girl Back (yes, that’s Kat Dennings and Nikki Reed and Drake Bell and Drew Seeley and… you get the idea). The song starts at about :35. Consider it the soundtrack for this post:

Awesome, right? So now you all understand the depth of my excitement when I found out Hanson was coming HERE. To Florida. To say the wait was long would not do it justice. By 5:29 November 4th I felt like this:

This guy's from the The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney Hollywood Studios, btw.

This guy’s from the The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney Hollywood Studios, btw.

Only better fed because, you know, theme park food:

The soft pretzel loves Hanson... and that random dude in a baseball cap. But mostly Hanson.

The soft pretzel loves Hanson… and that random dude in a baseball cap. But mostly Hanson.

To top it off, my shiny new camera has [in my best Po impersonation] legendary zoom capabilities that are the stuff of legend!

Here’s a shot of all the guys:

group shot

Isaac killing a guitar solo:

isaac

Taylor making everyone jealous of that random person with the blue watch:

taylor

Zac going all Animal on the drums:

zac

Also, here’s one of Zac on piano. Because hair like this needs to be appreciated. Go ahead. Take a moment. I’ll wait.

zac piano

If you’re jealous of my mad photography skills, don’t be. 90% of my pictures came out like this:

blurry isaac

And all 90% of them are still eating up memory on my computer – because those blurs are HANSON BROTHERS! 😉

Which brings me to the “better writer” portion of this blog. Just before the very end of the very last concert – I’m talking end of the whole shebang – the lights went down. For a second, I thought it was over… and they hadn’t played my favorite song. My thought process went something like this:

I am a grown person. I can deal with this. An awesome time has been had. Epic poems shall be written. Or perhaps epic picture books. Because:

issac taylor

What’s one song to all that?

Then the lights came back up, Taylor whipped out a harmonica, and the band started in on – you guessed it – MY SONG!!! And I died a little. Okay, a lot. Just so we’re absolutely clear about the level of awesomeness involved, here are more exclamation points:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!

In that instant, I was twelve again. When I left, I turned to my sisters and the exact words I’d used after our very first Hanson concert *cough, cough* years ago flew out of my mouth: THAT WAS AWESOME!

It’s in all caps because, by then, I was kind of deaf from loud music. It was totally worth it.

As someone who writes MG, experiences like these are golden. It’s easy to forget how powerful firsts are. The first day of a new school year. The first time your best friend betrayed you. Your first crush, first dance, first heartbreak.

And, yes, the first band that totally *got* you.

What about you? What songs/memories instantly take you back to a point in time?

Wishing everyone a Hanson-tacular weekend!


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Greetings from the Revision Cave!

I’m happy to report my first draft revisions are all wrapped up. I actually finished a few days ago *just* in time to meet my self-imposed deadline – the October 8 release of The House of Hades. If you’re wondering, “deadline” means I refused to let myself buy HoH until I finished. Motivation thy name is Percy Jackson.

With the revisions now in the hands of my trusty CPs, I’ve also had a bit of time to catch up on things like scrubbing my bathroom (joy) and throwing a proper viewing party for Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

If that tablecloth looks familiar, it’s because it’s the playing card from my sister's Now You See Me  party butchered into what were supposed to be checker squares. Just go with it.

If that tablecloth looks familiar, it’s because it’s the playing card from my sister’s Now You See Me party butchered into what were supposed to be checker squares. Just go with it.

Unfortunately, my brain’s still in revision mode. While watching Wonderland, all I could think was, “Man, this could’ve used some editing.” I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it. I’m sure as heck not saying I’m not tuning in next week. I think we all know I am.

What I’m getting at is this: the Wonderland pilot gave me clearer perspective on my own revisions. It was hard, painful even, to bring the ax down on some of my “darlings,” but most debut authors don’t have the benefit of an established world like Wonderland (or a franchise like Once Upon a Time). We’re inviting readers in for the first time. If we take a lengthy detour into the Mallow Marsh readers might not wait for us to get unstuck.

mallow marsh 2

Sometimes these little detours, while dear to the author, are more like speed bumps for the reader. They kill the momentum when the audience just wants to know when the heck Jafar’s going to show up.

While we’re on the topic of villains, one of the most common complaints I’ve read online is that the Red Queen on Wonderland was trying too hard to be the Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time. Don’t sell your characters short trying to make them the “next” Hermione Granger, Percy Jackson, or KHAAAAAAAN (sorry, couldn’t resist). Give us someone new to love/hate/ship.

But that’s enough shop talk for me. I’m going to enjoy the rest of these lovely white chocolate coconut bars…

If you're wondering why these aren't on a cute serving tray, it's because it is impossible to pick one up without eating it. Seriously good.

If you’re wondering why these aren’t on a cute serving tray, it’s because it is impossible to pick one up without eating it. Seriously good.

…before I hear back from my CPs and attack the Mallow Marshiest bits of my revisions with the ferocity of a feral Cheshire Cat.

Are you wrestling revisions? Did you enjoy Once Upon a Time in Wonderland? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


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Query Lessons from City of Bones

WARNING: I am not an agent or an expert of any kind. Everything that follows is based solely on my experience in the query trenches and my personal taste. If everyone wanted the same thing, we’d all be dating your grandmother, as the saying goes. What works for me may not be what works for you or for others.

Confession time: I’m the only person on the planet who still hasn’t read City of Bones. Before I saw the movie trailer, it was a few books down on my TBR list. After I saw the trailer, it got moved to the vague “whenever I get to it” pile where TBRs go to die. The movie just looked so dark and heavy. So not my cup of tea.

Fast forward a few weeks. My sister goes to see the movie. Loves it. Drags me kicking and screaming. After the end credits, City of Bones jumped to the VERY NEXT spot on my TBR list. I’m also now the proud owner of my very own stele prop replica:

Oh so shiny!

Oh so shiny! 🙂

That’s right. I now own merchandise from a movie I didn’t even want to see.

This got me thinking. Movie trailers can teach us a lot about querying. I’ve heard agents warn you should never, ever, EVER pattern your query like a movie trailer. If, like me, you wondered what that meant, watch the teaser for City of Bones:

Before I saw this trailer, I was loosely aware of The Mortal Instruments, its characters and premise, etc. For the sake of argument, let’s say I wasn’t. If my sister had tried to sell it to me following the structure of the trailer, it probably would’ve gone something like this:

Sis: Imagine this. A random dude murders someone in a really crowded conspicuous place, but no one can see it except Clary. Not even her hot bespectacled friend.
Me: Why? Is she crazy?
Sis: No! She’s just not a Mundane.
Me: What’s a Mundane?

Okay, at this juncture my sister and I both would’ve replied, “A Muggle.” In fact, that’s exactly how we did describe the movie to our dad. But since you can’t exactly say that in your query, the rest of the conversation may have gone something like:

Sis: A Mundane is someone who isn’t human.
Me: I don’t know, man. Clary looks pretty human to me.
Sis: Well, she isn’t! She’s a Shadow Hunter.
Me: What the heck’s a Shadow Hunter?
Sis: Shadow Hunters are half-angel, half-human warriors locked in an eternal battle against evil!
Me: Ooookay. So… why do they need Lily Collins?
Sis: Because she’s different.
Me: [does double-take at trailer] Was that Kevin Zegers?!
Sis: Focus! Clary’s got a map inside her head, alright?
Me: Why didn’t you just say that? [glances back at trailer] Does the map lead to Kevin Zegers?

If you don’t know why this is funny, you need more Air Bud in your life.

If you don’t know why this is funny, you need more Air Bud in your life.

Do you see where I’m going with this? This particular trailer got so bogged down in world building that it didn’t get a chance to showcase what made City of Bones awesome. When agents say not to structure your query like a movie trailer, I think this is partially what they mean. My first query was a mess because I was so in love with the world I’d created I wanted to shove all of its beautiful intricacies into my query. But guess what? All that world building didn’t need to be there. It just ate up precious words that could’ve been used to showcase what really mattered: why an agent should want to read more.

I’m reminded of an article I read a few weeks back, What Separates ‘City Of Bones’ or ‘Divergent’ From ‘Twilight’ or ‘Hunger Games’? Simplicity. The author, Scott Mendelson, gives advice that lends itself directly to queries:

“You’re selling a movie [in the case of a query, a manuscript], not a rule book on the fantasy world in question.”

and

“Don’t sell the rules of the game, but rather sell why the moviegoer [reader] would want to play.”

If I may be so bold, I think this is the cardinal rule of querying. I’m not saying you should be vague and cagey in a query. That’s just as bad as being overly specific. However, I think you need to be able to distill the bigger picture into a brief, snappy hook so that you can spend the rest of your 250-300 words, as Mr. Mendelson puts it, “teasing the actual adventure being offered [not just the world where the adventure takes place] or offering character beats that might make me want to spend time with these people.”

In the case of City of Bones, I might’ve said: “When Clary’s mom is kidnapped, she must venture into the dangerous world of demon hunting to get her back.” Boom. Is it more complicated than that? Yes. Is the scope of the world grander than that? Of course. But by simplifying the hook you give yourself room to show how grand and complicated your manuscript is. If the trailer for City of Bones had hinted Clary’s first love might just be using her to get the treasure map inside her head, I’d have been all over it. Hello, internal conflict and potential heartbreak! Throw in a tease about the conflict Clary might feel trying to choose between her old safe life (i.e. her funny, loyal, awesome best friend) and the rush of something new and dangerous, and I’d have been like:

Why, yes, this is Tinkerbell from Once Upon a Time.

Why, yes, this is Tinkerbell from Once Upon a Time.

The moral of the story? Conflict is key.

I’m not saying a simple query tweak would’ve sold my first manuscript. It was just as messy as my query. But if your manuscript is in good shape and you’re still not getting the responses you’ve hoped for, you may need to approach your world building with a wider lens so you can really dig into the specifics that make your book unique and engaging.

Still here? In that case, here are my last two cents: it is imperative to capture the tone of your manuscript in your query. While watching the trailer for City of Bones, I found myself thinking: Why so serious? The movie is actually very funny in places, which I love, but the trailer is all gloom and doom and weepy violins. Don’t do that.

Above all, don’t give up. You CAN do this!

Thanks to everyone who’s read and good luck to anyone in the query trenches. I hope this post helped a little.

Also, for hanging around until the end, here’s a hula dancing snowman. Enjoy:

Frozen snowman


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10 Reasons I Loved the New Percy Jackson Movie

Anyone who’s read the book can tell you Sea of Monsters wasn’t perfect. Plot points got rearranged willy-nilly. Parts I loved didn’t make it at all. Having said that, I loved Sea of Monsters. Here are 10 reasons why:

***MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***

10. Clarisse
I’m just going to get this one out of the way. When Leven Rambin got cast, my first reaction was, “Justin Russo’s angel girlfriend is going to play Clarisse? Are you kidding me?!” But I actually liked Clarisse. I liked her so much I wish we’d gotten more of her (like her scene with Ares).

P.S. I love Wizards of Waverly Place and Justin Russo. No hate intended. :)

P.S. I love Wizards of Waverly Place and Justin Russo. No hate intended. 🙂

9. Young Grover
You can never have enough Grover. Or Luke or Annabeth or Thalia, for that matter.

8. George and Martha
I thought for sure these two would hit the book-to-movie chopping block. I’ve never been happier to be wrong. Their performance was perrrrrfect.

7. Overall Sense of Humor
George and Martha weren’t the only comedic touches I appreciated. I felt the whole movie was closer to Riordan’s sense of humor. For instance, Percy has just broken loose on a yacht adrift in his home turf. The dude’s literally surrounded by one giant weapon… and what’s Luke’s biggest concern? His boat’s pretty white paint job. The look on his face when he said, “Don’t walk on my roof.” It slays me.

hermes - killing these shorts

6. Mr. D
Speaking of humor, how awesome was it to finally hear Mr. D butcher Percy’s name?!

5. The Oracle
Okay, she wasn’t supposed to be in this movie. I get that. But since she got cut from The Lightning Thief, I sort of feel like this was the filmmakers’ way of apologizing to fans – and what an apology it was. First off, whoever designed that attic set (and the rest of Camp Half-Blood) deserves a giant stack of blue waffles. So cool. The Oracle herself was exactly what I’d hoped – creepy and awesome and THOSE EYES! Cap it off with that stained glass backstory scene, and the entire sequence made we want to fist bump every single person associated with the movie.

4. It was just so pretty!
I’m no movie expert, but Sea of Monsters struck me as really beautifully lit, framed, and edited. Say what you will about Circeland not being book-accurate, but that place was gorgeous on screen. The transition from Oracle’s eyes to Percy’s gave me shivers. I could go on and on.

3. Grover in a Dress
Does this one need an explanation? Sure, the scene was condensed down to almost nothing, but it was there. And it was awesome.

grover googly eye 2

2. Smart Budget Choices
Let’s face it. The Princess Andromeda was dinky. So dinky they dropped the “Princess” from its name. And, yes, the CSS Birmingham was run by zombies instead of the awesome skeleton/ghosts described in the book. But those are sacrificing I’m willing to accept if it means the movie gets made, especially when so many other things – Rainbow (I want one!), the bronze bull (how cool was that thing?), and Charybdis’s gaping maw – are all executed flawlessly.

And, finally…

1. TYSON!!!

Tyson two ways

It’s no secret I love Tyson. A lot. If they’d botched him, no amount of awesomeness could’ve saved this movie for me. Thankfully, they didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I hated that Percy didn’t get to bond with Tyson prior to Camp Half-Blood. My heart broke when Tyson didn’t shout “Pony!” upon meeting Chiron. To be honest, I was on the fence… until Tyson explained how he’d accidentally scared a bunch of campers in the woods. With his big sad Cyclops eye, he added, “And I’m pretty sure I smiled.” With that line, he won my heart. After that, I was willing to forgive pretty much anything – even a prematurely resurrected Kronos.

My biggest disappointment? I wish Sea of Monsters had been longer, more leisurely paced. But, you know, it could’ve been three hours and I’d have still wanted more! Speaking of which, since I’m making lists, here are 5 reasons Titan’s Curse NEEDS to be a movie:

1. We all know Luke’s not dead. I want to see him put the hurt on Polyphemus.
2. Need. More. Thalia. I can’t wait to see her go toe-to-toe with Percy.
3. Who ISN’T stoked to get their first glimpse of Nico? Bring on the di Angelos!
4. Blackjack. (Yo, boss!)
5. MORE TYSON! 🙂

What did you think of Sea of Monsters? Should Titan’s Curse be a movie? Let me know in the comments!


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Tysinion!

I wasn’t sure what to blog about this week – and, really, who has time to read blogs with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters in theaters?

So I decided to doodle. This is what happens when you leave me unsupervised with colored pencils. I give you Tysinion!

Tysinion

One half Minion. One half Tyson. Clearly, I’ve got Sea of Monsters on the brain. If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you thought!

Wishing everyone a great weekend!