Jayme Woods

Writer. Geek. Adventurer.


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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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Talk Like a Pirate – or Walk the Plank, ye Scurvy Dog!

Ahoy there, mateys! It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and Krispy Kreme be givin’ away GOLD(en delicious glazed doughnuts)!

barbossa edited

Me parrot wishes to drop by, but me waistline be disinclined to acquiesce to his request. If the wind carry ye in that direction, ye scallywags must be doin’ a bit o’ extra plunderin’ for good ol’ Red-Handed Jayme, savvy?


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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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Monday Motivation

Did you know the Eiffel Tower was only meant to stand for 20 years? Before it was built, some of the most respected French architects and artists fought its construction, calling it useless and monstrous. Today, it is one of the most recognized and visited monuments in the world. Never let other people’s expectations limit the way you see yourself. Even very smart people can be wrong.

With that in mind, I’m going to dive back into my writing. If you’re chasing a dream, today’s a new day. Forget about whatever may’ve held you back in the past and go for it! I believe in you.


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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!


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Happy Sister’s Day!

It’s just been brought to my attention that today is Sister’s Day. My first thought was: How did I not know this?! I have the best sisters ever!

My next thought, as it often is, was The Goonies:

goonies brand edited

Poor Brand. As much as I love Mikey, I have to admit: Brand’s sort of missing out. Sisters are special things. You might fight with them – but never as hard as you’d fight for them. You can tell them anything without ever worrying they’ll spill because, let’s face it, you’ve got just as much dirt on them. Sure, when you split lemon meringue pie your sister might eat all of the lemon and leave you nothing but meringue…

GIF credit to the fantabulous Sara

GIF credit to the fantabulous Sara

…but she’ll also swap her Red Ranger card for your lame Madam Woe because she knows Red is your favorite. She’ll do your hair and makeup for your first dance – and your first photo shoot. And, if your sisters are as awesome as mine, they’ll sing “That Thing You Do” with you nonstop for the entire drive to Disney (sorry, Mom and Dad) because it really is that great a song.

So to all you sisters out there thanks for being awesome! And to my sisters: thanks for always being there, even when “being there” meant reading endless drafts of manuscripts and query letters and *gasp* notes to boys. Y’all are the best!


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Warm Bodies and Writing: The Importance of Secondary Characters

When I mentioned zombies in my last post, it was just to give my sister a hint about her birthday gift:

kayce's gift 3

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized writers can learn a lot from Warm Bodies. An entire post could be devoted to the differences between the book and movie, but for this post I’m going to focus strictly on the movie. Specifically, I’m going to focus on the importance of its supporting characters: Nora, M, and Perry.

At first blush, it’s easy to think the magic of Warm Bodies is all about R and Julie. They are, after all, the main characters. However, I’d argue it’s the characters around them who really sell the story and, in many ways, endear R and Julie to us.

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

Take Nora. Sure, she fulfills the stock role of sarcastic best friend, complete with zippy one-liners and a makeover scene for poor unsuspecting R.

makeover edited

But Nora’s most important scene, to my mind, is one of her very first, when R and his zombie buddies ambush Julie and company. Why does it matter? Because, later in the movie, when Julie tries to fight her way out of a zombie infested airport with nothing but a weed eater, we might ask ourselves: why now? If she’s such a fighter, why not fight earlier, when she was much less outnumbered? One quick pan to terrified Nora, cowering under a desk, and we understand.

Nora edited

Julie goes with R to save her friend. This sacrifice immediately makes her more sympathetic without compromising the tough-girl side that makes her so awesome throughout the rest of the film.

Much like Nora, R’s best friend, M, instantly ups the humor ante. He also lays the groundwork for the ultimate redemption of the zombies. One scene in particular always kills me. In it, M talks about regaining his memories. His mom. Summertime. Then, like it’s some profound revelation, he adds:

cream... of wheat edited

The first time I saw it, I died laughing. Let’s be real, I still do. But, as trivial as it sounds, this was a profound revelation for M. He’s been so lost for so long that he’s completely forgotten what it is to be human, right down to the tiniest (and most hilarious) details. It’s this reignited glimmer of humanity – something we’ve already seen blossoming in R – that allows us to forgive the zombies for the otherwise unforgivable things they’ve done. Like eating people. Which brings us to…

perry edited 2

I’m probably going to catch some flak for this (yes, I’m talking about you, sis), but in my opinion Perry is the linchpin of Warm Bodies. Our opinions of R, Julie, and their entire romance rest squarely on his shoulders. Why? If he’s too unlikeable, we’d never believe Julie would put up with him. She’s tough. She’s hot. It’s the end of the world. She’s got to be getting other offers. We have to believe she and Perry have something special enough to fight for. Even though Perry is broken and pushing her away, we see him in flashbacks being a boyfriend worth having, possibly the first guy to ever tell Julie he loved her.

BUT – and here’s why I say Perry could’ve ruined the whole movie – he can’t be too likable. As the audience, we have to believe sweeter than pie Perry is gone, replaced by an apocalypse-wearied soldier. We have to be able to forgive R for, well, eating him – and we have to believe Julie would too. Otherwise, the whole movie falls apart. Ten minutes later, when Julie’s falling for R, we wouldn’t feel warm and fuzzy. We wouldn’t want to root for them. We’d be outraged.

retail therapy edited

That, my friends, is the magic of supporting characters. Sometimes they cower under desks or muse about breakfast foods. Sometimes they get eaten. But through it all they hold the story together and, in the case of Warm Bodies, make it an incredibly fun ride.


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Now You See Me, Now You – OOH, CAKE!!

I like theme parties. A lot. So when my sister’s birthday rolls around I don’t play around. Our place has been transformed into everything from Hogwarts (complete with floating candles and boggart cabinet) to an Avatar Day celebration:

avatar

Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, and this year I had no clue what to do… until we went to see Now You See Me. For those of you who don’t know, Now You See Me is pretty much the best heist movie since 2003’s The Italian Job – only with magic! I’m a sucker for classic stage illusion, so this was pretty much the perfect movie.

Thankfully, my sister agreed, so I *finally* had a theme to run with. This is what happened:

****WARNING: SPOILERS****

table

That giant card in the background was inspired by my sister’s favorite part of the movie: Atlas’s opening trick. Shout out to the ladies at work, who gave me the tablecloth I used to make it! 🙂

Here’s a close-up of the falling money inspired by the Four Horsemen’s final trick (note: it’s been photo bombed by Beauty and the Beast):

falling money

You know that Canon commercial where all the photographers do crazy stuff to get the perfect shot? That’s pretty much how my sister looked when she snapped the picture above. Here’s another one from top-down (taken on her tippy toes from a chair) because she’s thorough like that:

falling money 2

Thankfully, what I lack in photography skills I make up for with baking prowess:

cake

Okay, not really. That’s from Costco. But it was seriously delicious. If I ever have to plan a last meal, I’m going to order a barrel of the chocolate mousse they put in the center. *drool*

Where was I? Right. The party.

Here’s the rose and note that greeted the Four Horsemen in that creepy abandoned apartment:

flower

Fun fact: not only can Jack Wilder turn playing cards into deadly weapons, apparently he also keeps them arranged in Fibonacci sequence:

cards

Again, not really. But it’d be really hot if he did.

Moving on. Here’s some Merritt McKinney swag:

merritt

Last but not least, here are some Minions. Everyone knows it’s not a party without Minions:

minions

Again, we’ve been photo bombed by a Disney character. That’s life in the fast lane.

So there it is. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIS!! Love ya like a zombie loves brains…

And, yes, that might’ve been foreshadowing for my next post. 😉

Wishing you all a lovely weekend and a great big slice of Costco cake!


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If There Aren’t Photos It Didn’t Happen

It’s been brought to my attention that, for all its GIFs, my last post lacked something very important. Photographic evidence. So here it is!

Here’s me with my contract:

me-with-contract

I’m actually playing it cool in this shot. I was totally freaking out.

And here’s the real star of this blog post:

signing

My Lego Stormtrooper pen. Under the helmet, he’s actually Lego Han Solo. *swoon*

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!