Fully Exposed – Day 29

IMAG0264Today was the first day I was able to get back to my YA mystery in weeks.

I spent about five hours of butt-in-chair, looking at, and incorporating, feedback from my super amazing writer’s group and then rewriting (for the third time) the very first scene of the novel. I didn’t get as many words down as I wanted, but was happy to see the word count wasn’t less than when I started. (That happens sometimes in revisions). So in essence, I didn’t put very many new words down yet, but mainly revised the words I already had (some 48K).

It was a good way to get familiar with my novel again. My head has been in the Gabriella Giovanni mystery world for four weeks and now it is time to get back into the head of a 17-year-old Minneapolis girl instead of a 28-year-old San Francisco one!

Today I hope to start writing where I left off, which was somewhere a bit after the midpoint.

I like to roughly plot my novels before I first sit down to write them.

Usually my process involves a giant stack of notecards held together with a rubber band. When I’m in the process of writing the first draft of a book, I cart this little bundle everywhere.

When I first begin, I try to fill out as many scenes as I can, but also, I label the cards with plot points.

My method varies.

Overall, when I plot using index cards, I hit several important moments in the book by using three or four act structure plotting.

For most of my novels, I use a combination of points I hit based on Christopher Vogler’s book, “The Writer’s Journey” combined with advice from Larry Brooks, “Story Engineering” which outlines a four-act structure that makes total sense to me.

With this method, I’ll have cards that say this:

Act 1 (0 to 25%) The Set Up:
Description of characters “characteristic” behaviors, plant the seed of the special world she’s going to enter in this novel, what does she want? what is standing in the way of her desire?

At 25% mark: First plot point or Doorway of No Return: Enter into new world. This is about 1/4 or 1/5 of the way through your novel where your character does something that means nothing can be the same for them ever again. On this card, I’ll have a note as to what actually thrusts/propels my character through this doorway. In my current book, my character pulls the cord on the bus and gets off. From that point on, her world will be changed. This is the most important moment of your story when the story problem becomes clear.

Act II (25 to 50%) Show how character responds to new world, her reaction
Up until this point, my character has been passive, running, hiding, observing but not fighting back really. Not very heroic or brilliant.

Midpoint: (Halfway through your book)
Different books on craft have varying definitions of this part of the book. It can be a reversal of everything the character has known so far. It can be a moment when the character looks in the mirror and sees who she is for the very first time. It can be a “curtain parting” moment. Whatever it is, make it a critical scene to shift or move the story forward.

Act III (50 to 75%) The attack! The second plot point. This is where she uses everything to go after antagonist on the attack, facing set backs of course.

ACT IV. The resolution
From here on out, you can’t introduce any new characters or puzzle pieces. Everything must already be in place in the book at this point.Here is where the protagonist shows the courage to overcome inner and outer obstacles in her path.

So, those are the main index cards I set up, with scenes in between leading to each point.

Ideally, each index card WOULD say, Scene, who, what, where, when, goal, stakes. But yeah, that’s in my ideal world. I hope to someday plot that thoroughly. But I don’t. At least not right now.

If index cards aren’t your thing, you can download Xcel spreadsheets that will show you exactly how and when to hit those key moments in your novel.

Goals: writing – 2,000 words, walking – one mile
Results: 800 words, 0 miles.

Check out Matthew Clemen’s posts on our project at www.matthewclemens.com or on his Facebook page:

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Fully Exposed – Day 28




On Sundays, some of you already know, my routine is this: Mass, after party at my mother-in-laws house with tons of family, and then work at the newspaper.

But this weekend, something amazing happened. THIS:


A Review: New Crime Novel By Kristi Belcamino
Posted on April 24, 2014by Bruce DeSilva

Gabriella Giovanni, police reporter for a daily newspaper in the San Francisco Bay area, is passionate about her work; but a younger colleague is trying to steal her job, and her boss is eager to push her out.

So there’s a lot at stake for Gabriella when a big story, the kidnapping and murder of a little girl named Jasmine, happens on her beat. It’s the sort of story that can be emotionally draining for any reporter, but it’s a lot tougher on Gabriella, who’s still suffering from survivor guilt over the childhood kidnapping and murder of her older sister Caterina.

The story gets tougher still when a cab driver named Jack Dean Johnson, the only suspect in Jasmine’s kidnapping, refuses to speak with anyone but Gabriella. He intimates that he’s killed dozens of little girls. And one of them, he hints, just might have been Caterina.

That is the premise of Blessed Are the Dead by Kristi Belcamino, a crime novel so skillfully executed that it’s hard to believe it’s her debut.

In Gabriella, the author has created a compelling, utterly believable character who is at once vulnerable and tough as they come. The supporting cast, including the police detectives, the cunning villain, and denizens of the newsroom, spring to life from the page. The plot is as suspenseful as they come. And the gritty prose, distinguished by short, muscular sentences, is truly first-rate.

Belcamino’s own experience as a police reporter infuses her story with realism. She covered some high-profile cases including the Laci Peterson murder and the disappearance of Chandra Levy. And she also reported on a serial killer linked to the murders of little girls, a case that inspired the novel.

Blessed Are the Dead, intended as the first in a series of novels about Gabriella Giovanni, is scheduled to be released by William Morrow on June 10.

Here is a little about Bruce. (You can see why I’m so thrilled with his praise!)

Bruce DeSilva’s crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies including Akashic Press’s award-winning urban noir series.

He has reviewed crime fiction for The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Publishers Weekly, and The Strand Magazine, and his book reviews written for The Associated Press have appeared in hundreds of print and online publications.

Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for The Associated Press. Earlier in his career, he worked as an editor and national writer at The Hartford Courant and as an investigative reporter at The Providence Journal. Stories edited by DeSilva have won nearly every major journalism prize including the Polk Award (twice), the Livingston (twice), the Robert F. Kennedy, the Ernie Pyle and the Batten Medal. He edited two Pulitzer finalists and helped edit a Pulitzer winner.

DeSilva has worked as a consultant for more than fifty news organizations, taught at the University of Michigan and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and lectured at Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation. He has been a sought-after speaker at professional gatherings including the National Writers Workshops, the Abroad Writers’ Conference, Bouchercon, and Thrillerfest.

He and his wife, the poet Patricia Smith, live in New Jersey with an enormous Bernese Mountain Dog named Brady, and a big loveable mutt named Rondo.

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Fully Exposed – Day 27

IMG_0681Dear Friends,

I was Italian-mama all the time today. Which was awesome. I accomplished nothing writerish except posting my Do Some Damage blog post here!

I must admit that I’m a bit relieved that the final days are upon us for this blog project. While it has been fun, it really turned out the opposite of what I’ve expected. I thought for sure it would be all about writing my young adult mystery novel, keeping track of my word counts and my daily walks. Not so much.

Revisions on my second novel took over and that is fine. I probably should have expected that, but as a debut author, I’m still learning the ropes.

For other writers: I hope that some small part of this project was helpful or inspirational. Matthew Clemens has all sorts of wise advice about writing, so I hope you caught all his posts.

Meanwhile, here is another call to sign up for my newsletter (see sign up on right). I’m going to hopefully send out the first one this week some time (as soon as the publisher provides the excerpt for me to share). I promise not to bore you or but you too much. I figure an email newsletter once a month will keep that from happening.

When this project is over, I’ll probably start a new, shorter series called Letters from a Serial Killer (photo above) documenting my correspondence with the killer who inspired my antagonist in Blessed are the Dead.

Thanks again for reading!

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Fully Exposed – Day 26

What I did yesterday …


St. Paul father, son rescued from burning apartment fire, treated by onsite ER team
By Kristi Belcamino
[email protected]
POSTED: 04/25/2014 12:01:00 AM CDT | UPDATED: ABOUT 7 HOURS AGO

Firefighters and emergency room doctors who rushed to an apartment fire might have made a life-or-death difference for an unconscious father and his toddler son.

The pair were pulled from the bathroom of their apartment after firefighters doused the flames Friday morning, officials said.

The blaze, sparked by an electrical space heater left too close to a couch, broke out at 10:19 a.m. in a third-floor apartment in the 12-unit building in the 1800 block of East Seventh Street, said St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard.

The Regions Hospital emergency room doctors were a few blocks away when they heard the call and rushed to the scene, arriving even before the ambulance crews. They are part of a team that works with the St.Paul Fire Department to respond to emergency calls.

By the time the father and son were rushed from the building, the doctors had their equipment ready to treat them.

“They were rescued right away, and having ER physicians on scene meant they received the best care they could have, giving them the best possible chance of survival,” Zaccard said.

“A 30- to 60-second delay could’ve been a whole different story,” said Dr. Bjorn Peterson, one of the Regions doctors at the scene.

When firefighters brought the victims out, both were unresponsive, Regions spokeswoman Ashley Burt said. The child, Fred Stewart Jr., 3, was revived at the scene, she said.

The boy and his father, Fred Stewart Sr., were listed in fair condition Friday afternoon, Burt said.

The boy’s sister, Trawanda Harris, 19, said he was eating and drinking but still on an IV and using oxygen. The elder Stewart was sedated and unable to talk, Harris said.

“When they are unresponsive, every minute counts in getting them back,” Burt said.


Assistant Fire Chief Jim Smith said the fire broke out near the front door. He said firefighters using a thermal imaging camera quickly found the pair in the bathroom, where they had taken refuge.

“Using that lets them quickly distinguish between a body and a pile of clothing,” Smith said. “It makes a huge difference in the amount of time it takes to find somebody.”

Zaccard said firefighters extinguished the blaze within minutes of their arrival.

A neighbor, Rose Eichele, said the child’s mother was at the grocery store when the fire started. “The mother had just come home and walked up and went straight to her baby, more stunned than anything,” she said.

Neighbors ran through the building, knocked on doors and screamed for residents to get out.

“I went upstairs, saying ‘Where’s the baby?’ But the smoke was too strong; it was black smoke and I’m pregnant and was worried breathing the smoke would hurt my baby,” said Melisa Moe, who lives on the second floor.

“We were yelling for them to break the window to get out.”

Yolanda Cyrus went door to door, alerting tenants on the second floor. “At first people didn’t believe me and waited a little bit before they came out,” she said.

Burt said a unit within the hospital monitors emergency calls, then dispatches the ER team to calls where they think the doctors can help most.

“I do believe it made a difference to be on scene,” Peterson said.

Peterson and Dr. R.J. Frascone were awarded the Meritorious Service Award last year for going into a burning building to care for a victim.

“The patient had no pulse and wasn’t breathing,” Burt said. “Dr. Frascone directed life-saving efforts while Dr.Peterson put a tube into her windpipe and a firefighter performed CPR in order to get her breathing again. After five minutes, she had a pulse.”

Friday’s fire was confined to the one apartment, Zaccard said.

Harris said she lost all her belongings in the fire.

“We are basically just a family struggling on the East Side and our house is burned down and we’ve lost everything,” Harris said. “We have nothing now.”


Check out my partner in crime’s progress on this project, here (Matthew Clemens website) and on his Facebook page.

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Fully Exposed – Day 25

typewriter_royalIt is the end of the day and I’m celebrating after I write this by curling up with a glass of wine and a good book (I’m deep into Under the Dome by Stephen King.)

I turned in my revised Blessed are the Meek to my editor today! Yay!

After working on it for about four hours, I was done. I sent it off and then worked on a giant stack of paperwork, officework, I had set aside. I was waiting to finish the revisions on time first. So I tackled paperwork, made appointments I’d been putting off, and wrote a rough draft for my Sunday post on Do Some Damage.

I’m so excited to be done with Blessed are the Meek. And once again, grateful for such an awesome editor, who pushed me to make it the best I could.

In other news, I’m going to start a newsletter. If you want to sign up, you can do so on the sidebar. I plan on sending out an email newsletter once a month. I figure if I only do it once a month, I can make sure to have quality and exclusive content. I’m already brainstorming fun things to include in that newsletter.

I’m most excited about being able to sit down and write again. I discussed it with my agent this week, and I plan to get her my polished young adult mystery by mid-summer. Which means, I have to finish writing it first (deadline June 1), let it sit for about four weeks, revise for another few weeks and then turn it in to her.

I’m more motivated than ever to work on this YA. My writing group got me all charged up last month when they told me how much they loved it. One guy said it was the best writing he’s read from me, so I’m PUMPED to get back to it.

revision for four hours, walk for one mile
revision for four hours, walk for 0 miles*


Don’t forget to check out Matthew Clemens on his webpage here and Facebook page here.

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