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Jennifer Gregson Posts

Quick Fix: Just Gone

By: Jennifer Gregson

“Landing procedure beginning.”

The mechanical voice echoed through the empty ship. I glanced out the window and saw the dark red planet growing bigger by the minute. I shut my eyes and swallowed hard. Please don’t crash, I said out loud to no one.

The past few years had taken it’s toll. I felt old. Too old to just be seventeen. The trip started fine. One happy family on their way to an exciting adventure. Until the sickness came. One by one I watched, helpless, as it started. Fever, chills, seeing the dead. The hardest was my sister, who died just a few days ago. She kept talking to my parents as if nothing had happened. One by one, they fell sick and saw people who weren’t there, and then they were just gone.

As soon as the door swooshed open I walked out expecting a welcome party, but was met only with silence and the faint smell of blood. My eyes burned and teared up. I wiped the sweat off my forehead and decided to follow the blinking light at the end of the hallway.

“Don’t move!” a female voice said. “Who are you?”

“My name is Michael, we were expected today.”

“How many in your party?” she asked.

“Just me.”

“But you said we,” she said as she pushed passed me. She was a young girl, possibly 15, with short brown hair, much like my sister’s.

“Some things happened on the way here,” I said.

“Well, some things happened here, too.”

“What?” I asked.

She walked away from me, muttering, “They might be back. We have to contact Earth.”

“That could take awhile,” I said.

“Well, what do you suggest?” she yelled.

I hugged myself with my arms and shook my head. The only person here and I already couldn’t stand her.

“Come on…let’s go. We need to keep moving.”

I followed her at a distance for her own safety.

We entered a command center, maps were displayed on a large wall with red blinking lights. Two men, or what was left of them, were lying on the floor, dried blood trailing from their bodies to a door on the other side of the room.

“What the hell happened here?” I asked again. Again, she ignored me.

She kicked the one guy out of the way and stepped over the other one. I noticed her glancing down ever so slightly, and I wondered if that was her father or brother, maybe.

I tiptoed over the bodies and walked over to the other door. It swooshed open with a cold breeze that made me shiver and I looked around. There on the ground was the body of a young girl. I blinked. I blinked again. The cloudy eyes of my new friend stared back at me. I ran into the command center, but it was empty. I shivered again and wiped the sweat from my eyes. She wasn’t there, she was just gone.

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I’ll Show You Mine….

Clean first draft, before the pens took over.

So, it has occurred to me that I haven’t actually told you guys what my novel is about. Bad writer! Without further ado, my novel in a sentence:

A young art protege, thrown into early fame, yearns for a normal life with her immature parents, only to discover a shocking secret about her birth.

The Art of Lying (working title) is a Young Adult coming of age story with a romance subplot (of course!). I really like my main character, Rachel, and her parents. Even though all of them are flawed, childish, temperamental, and whiny. Rachel was so much fun to write. She’s creative, scared, hopeful, sarcastic, and trying to grow up. Along with that comes problem after problem after problem that she has to deal with. Some she handles better than others.

I didn’t shy away from the problems either – poor thing – doesn’t get much of a chance to breathe before something else falls on top of her. I was proud of myself with this during the first draft – I wasn’t too easy on my beloved main character, I liked watching her struggle.

With revisions underway, I’m making her even better. More witty, more sarcastic, and more…well brave. Yes, she’s scared – growing up isn’t easy – but she was a bit too whiny first go round. I’m taking most of that out. Not all of it because 18 year olds whine (hell, 36 year olds whine – trust me!).

I’ve been working on revisions for a full week now and I’ve made really good progress. I realized snacks weren’t helpful, they were more distracting actually. Except the fizzy water, that stuff is awesome – this week’s flavor is Peach. I’m moving ever forward – cutting, adding, making changes, moving stuff around. It’s exciting. I’m about a quarter of the way through so I’m on target to hit my goal.

So, my fellow creative peeps? I’ve shown you mine (as it were) now show me yours. What are you working on? Novel, poem, short story, song, scarf, painting, what? Let me see!

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Believe or Not…I’m Walking on Air

Friends, Cheers, MASH, Golden Girls, Facts of Life, and Greatest American Hero (see title – and YouTube clip). What do these shows have in common? Memorable theme songs. Even though MASH didn’t use the lyrics (suicide is painless didn’t really fit the show) the song is hummable.

What happened to theme songs? Some new shows have them, like Community, New Girl, and Psych, but most of the times they’re short – very short. New Girl especially. Who’s that Girl? It’s Jess! That’s it most times, although there is a slightly longer version. Psych does this too – they have a short version and a longer version.

I’m partial to theme songs. I have…let me count…six CDs dedicated only to TV theme songs. And when I did my solo cabaret show six years ago my musical director, Steven Ray Watkins, my director, Lennie Watts, and I came up with an amazing TV theme song medley which started with the entire song from Facts of Life and ended with the entire song from Golden Girls. It was my favorite part of my show, and I loved everything about my show (thanks guys!), but every night when I got to the TV part I felt alive, I felt electric.

Want to know my favorite theme song? My absolute favorite? It will surprise you. Perfect Strangers. Yup, that silly show with Balki and Cousin Larry (see YouTube clip #2). I adore it and it’s message. It’s called Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now and it’s only 1 minute and 15 seconds long, but I love it. My favorite part: Standing tall on the wings of my dream. Rise and fall on the wings of my dream. The rain and thunder, the clouds and haze, I’m bound for better days.

It’s uplifting and I sing along at the tops of my lungs every time I play it. It makes me happy and gives me courage to keep trying. To stand tall on the wings of my dream.

So, the next time you’re feeling blah – throw on a TV theme song – see what happens. You might even want to throw your hat up in the air when you’re done.
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Block Revision Has Begun

Well, I’ve started. Block Revision, that is. This is a process – a major process, a very long major process – that involves going scene by scene and fixing things. Finally writing on the actual manuscript using all the worksheets and index cards from the past few months.

The process: You start with your new outline (the bright colorful index cards) and go from your new #1 scene (in my case that was my old #3 scene) and just start. You take a pen and make revisions based on your hit list (or laundry list – which I mentioned last week was the list of all the things you don’t want to forget to change as you’re going through this process), your targets (or goals for your revised novel), and your new ideas (from the worksheets and the index cards themselves). As of right now, I’m on Scene #3 which is a brand new scene.

So, before I started this process I set up my desk with all my supplies (some stuff I bought at Staples last week –  I love school/office supply shopping!). I have my Hit List, my index card outline, my manuscript binder, my worksheets binder, additional notebook paper for new stuff, and a major amount of pens. Then I bought snacks! I got trail mix with nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips. I bought fizzy flavored water (this week is Watermelon) and double chocolate chip mini cookies. Ahhh…snacks!

The last thing I needed was courage. This was huge. HUGE, I say! It’s a constant battle too, as I keep second guessing myself at every turn…and I’m only on scene 3. Yikes. I don’t mind going slow – I really only get to work when little man naps – but I still would love to be done with the block revision by late October. For one thing, we’re going on a family vacation at the end of October and for another, I hope to have the entire revision process done by the end of the year, and there’s still stuff left after block revision before type in (where you go to your actual computer document and make the changes).

So…I’m trying not to think of what’s ahead. I’m just concentrating on the scene in front of me and trying my hardest to make it the best scene it can be. One scene at a time.

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Quick Fix: Loser

By:  Jennifer Gregson

“You are a loser.”

Roger stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. His head hurt. The party had been loud, but the music couldn’t drown out Mindy. Everyone saw her dump him. Everyone saw her leave with the captain of the football team. Everyone would be talking about it on Monday at school.

Roger turned on the shower and stepped under the hot water.

“I’m not the loser,” he thought. “She is. She dumped me. She’s the one missing out – I’m a catch! Craig’s a moron who’s only claim is football. Who cares?”

He turned around to grab the shampoo and screamed.

“What the hell, Roger?” Mindy yelled.

Roger was standing in Mindy’s bedroom. He was wet and very naked.


“You’re naked!”

“I was in the shower.”

“My shower?”

“No, my shower.” He said, covering himself up with his hands.

“Here, put these on and then get out. Pervert!”

“I’m not a pervert. I swear, I was in my shower, and all of a sudden…”

“You expect me to believe that?!?! Get out….use the window so my parents don’t have a cow.”

He opened up her window and crawled out on to the limb of the large oak tree. Something he had done just last week when leaving after curfew. He turned to say something, but Mindy closed and locked the window and drew the curtain.

He hugged the limb, trying to decide if he could think his way back to his own house, or if he was going to have to walk the six blocks in these tiny shorts with the word CUTE on his butt.

Roger was just about to drop down to the ground when he saw Craig walking up to Mindy’s front door. He slowly started to lower himself off the tree so he could hide when he heard a loud rip. He had snagged on something and ripped the booty shorts right in half. Roger sunk to the ground, hoping Craig hadn’t seen or heard him.

“Hey…who’s there?” Craig asked.

“I’m not the loser…” thought Roger, hoping this would somehow magically teleport him back to his own shower.


Roger needed a plan, and fast. He stood up, the bush just managing to cover his lower half.

“What are you doing here? And without clothes on?” Roger could tell that Craig was getting mad. This was it. In an instant, Roger had his plan.

“Nothing, I just climbed out of Mindy’s window…her Mom was coming, you know how it is. Do you think I could borrow your lettermen jacket so I can get home?”

Craig, looking like his puppy had died, handed over his jacket. Roger threw it around his waist, fixing the sleeves so they covered his front and walked away.

“I’m not the loser,” he thought. Roger blinked as steam surrounded him. The hot water felt good on his head and he smiled as he realized that Craig’s leather jacket was getting soaked. “I’m just fine.”

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Other Side of the Coin

Okay, so last week I told you about five pop culture phenomenons that I didn’t get until it was too late (although, is it ever really too late to join a fandom?)….this week, it’s the opposite. Five things I just don’t understand – and, trust me, you’re going to be upset.

1. Mad Men. I’ve seen the first season and I just don’t understand why people keep watching this show. I never found a character to root for or even like and maybe that’s the appeal to some – to hate each character, but for me, I need at least one person who has some redeeming quality, even if they screw up from time to time. I did like watching it for the hairstyles and the clothes and the mod sets, but that’s not enough to keep me watching. And it wasn’t the anti-woman stuff, because, that I get – it’s historically accurate. Annoying, but accurate.

2. Harry Potter. Okay, this one is going to get me in trouble….and it’s not the writing, JK Rowling is a great author and I can understand it from that point, but (and this is strictly personal) he talks to snakes. Snakes?! I hate snakes, with a passion – I’m terrified of them. I can’t watch them on TV or in movies (see the fact that I have never sat through an Indiana Jones movie as proof of this) and reading about them icks me out too so although I read the first book and sat through the movie (although my husband had to tell me when the snake scene was over so I could come back into the room) I just can’t with the rest. So, for now, the rest of the series is out. I’m sure they’re great…and I’ll probably have everyone and their brother yelling at me, but I just can’t get over the snake thing. Sorry. (Hangs head in shame and walks away)

3. American Idol. Or any reality tv really. When I worked in an office, the other admins around me would always ask me what shows I watched. When I would rattle off things like How I Met Your Mother, South Park, Friends, Castle, Psych, White Collar, etc. they would look at me and then ask – No, what reality tv shows do you watch. When I told them none they were always shocked. Always. I like scripted television, with writers and actors. Yes, I know reality tv is far from real and they usually have writers, but it’s not the same. And as a singer, people always assumed I watched American Idol especially – why? I’ve been through auditions and call backs and rehearsals. I don’t need to watch it every week, especially with Simon (is that his name?) – the arrogance of that guy to assume he knows what’s what annoys me and I’ve only ever seen about 10 minutes of the show.

4. The Sopranos. Not much to say about this one really. I’m not big into the mobster shows or movies (I’ve never seen the Godfather movies or Good Fellows and actually, I get these two confused when my husband talks about them). And since I’ve never actually had HBO or Showtime, this wasn’t right at my finger tips, but even still – this is just one show I never had any desire to watch. Sorry gambinos.

5. Okay, honestly, I couldn’t come up with a fifth one so I asked my husband and he said Sports. I thought that was a bit broad and not really a pop culture phenomenon, but he begs to differ. He watches baseball, football, hockey, and basketball. Luckily, not all the time, but now that he has a smartphone he can check scores while in the bathroom (and I know he does) so he doesn’t feel the need to watch every game anymore. Thank you Apple. So…I don’t see sports as a culture phenomenon, but I guess in a way it is. I guess I could group the Olympics here too as I hate watching those…seriously, you take away my good comedies for this? Horse dancing, ice skating, and luge? What the heck is luge anyways? And don’t even get me started on curling. Ugh! Canada, come on! Pushing a metal tea kettle with a broom is NOT a sport.

There you go….do you hate me now? Can we no longer be friends? I’m sorry. I’m just being as honest as I can be about who I am and what I like and don’t like. I know people out there might be wondering about other things so let me know….what pop culture phenomenons would you like to know about? Doctor Who perhaps? Hunger Games? Cheesy 80’s Movies? (The answer to that last one is YES, I’ve seen them all)


Worksheets, Index Cards, and Timelines…oh my!

I’ve been busy, as little man has napped really well lately, and I’m nearing the end of filling out worksheets and playing around with my outline cards. I’m getting ready to actually start cutting, rewriting, revising, and reworking my manuscript. I’ll be using those worksheets I spent weeks painstakingly filling out, I’ll be using the outline cards (a lot actually), and I’ll be grateful that I did all that work ahead of time – but part of me is nervous. Very nervous.

So, last time I wrote I was working on characters and I only cut two minor characters. I’m going to bump up one minor character to a slightly bigger part, and all others are just getting some juice added to them – that sounds weird – but I mean, they’re getting some work done, but nothing too major. I just want to get them back to where I had originally (in my plans before I wrote the first draft) thought of them. My main character especially. I had envisioned her being a bit more of a firecracker than she turned out to be. I think my first idea wasn’t quite right either, but I need more spunk and less frightened five-year-old.

Once I had that worked out, I moved on to working through my conflicts. I have one main plot and two subplots so I went through and figured out if the conflict was strong enough to withstand an entire book. Luckily, it did with minimal tweaking and a few additions. After conflict came time. This was actually harder than I thought it would be.

On my outline cards I had to write down the day, time, season, etc for each scene. I had to map out (for myself) on a piece of scrap paper a month and write down times, day of week, and season details so I wouldn’t get confused and then used that to fill out my cards. Once that was narrowed down and the cards were in the right order, then we had to fill in how time played out within the scene. This was the hard part. Trying to figure out how long the action would take versus what was happening in the background. I thought it would take about 30 minutes to fill out my 40 scene cards, but it took closer to 2 hours. Again, I’m very grateful that my son is taking healthy naps lately.

Now…the only two things standing between me and cutting/rewriting/revising are playing around with time within the book (linear timeline, backwards timeline, jumping around from head to head) and figuring out my Hit List – the things I need to think about as I’m working through and changing things. I’m not there yet, but right off the top of my head I’ll add some thoughts about my Main Character, adding some more details to her art studio (I was insanely vague with details my first draft, but boy is my dialogue good), and making her romantic lead a bit more smarmy at the beginning. I’m sure I’ll have more as I read the lesson more carefully – I’ll admit, I skimmed just to see what was coming up.

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Late to the Party

While my little man was trying to wake up this morning, and I thought about this here blog…my mind wandered to television and some of the new shows we’ve been watching in our house.  This led me here – five pop culture phenomenons that I started liking way too late.
1. Firefly.  I love Nathan Fillion, but I did not get this show when my sister first started talking about it – and she talked about it a lot.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that a marathon was on the Science channel that I finally got it.  I have now seen each episode at least three times and I now get it.  Stupid FOX, messing up a good thing.  Maybe if it had lasted more than a few episodes I would have caught on sooner.  
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Look, I have nothing against Joss Whedon, I swear…I just didn’t get the appeal of this show.  Now, this is a new one for me and I’m only on the sixth or seventh episode of the first season, but I get it now.  It’s funny, scary, twisted, dark, interesting, and clever.  I will get around to finishing this series, but it’s a bit much to watch around my toddler and my husband isn’t a fan….so it will take awhile, but I will finish it, I swear.
3. The West Wing.  It has Dulé Hill in it (Gus from Psych!) and apparently Matthew Perry shows up (right?) but I just was not into this show when it first aired.  I was a senior in college and not into politics, not that I’m really into politics now, but I can at least understand and appreciate more about what goes into the White House and the Presidency.   Also, I think I’m the only person who enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – and I can see where his style is used in both shows.  What else has he done?
4. Game of Thrones.  Okay, this one is a bit different as I’m talking the books and not the HBO show.  We don’t have cable so I haven’t seen any episodes but everyone talks about it on Facebook and Twitter.  The thing is, I probably would have gone my merry way for years except the Revision class I’m doing strongly suggested we read the book as a character study lesson – and she’s right, the first book is rich with amazing character development.  I get to the end of the chapter and I’m like….wait, but what comes next?  I have already added the discs to my Netflix queue and will get around to that as soon as I’m done reading.  I have a feeling I’ll be reading the whole series too.  
5. Community.  Okay, back to television.  I knew this was becoming a cult classic and that the network threatened to cancel or something….right?  Anyways, we accidentally caught an episode this past season and I laughed my butt off, even though I knew nothing about the characters or what was really going on – that’s good TV!  So we loaded up Hulu Plus with the rest of the show and we’re almost caught up.  Troy and Abed (in the morning!) are my favorites, although Jeff is the best douche in the world.  

So….there you go, five pop culture phenomenons that I realized way too late were awesome.  I’m fixing that, though, slowly but surely.  Next week – check out part two, the opposite side of this coin – five things other people think are ah-may-zing that I just don’t get.  I’m sure to piss off some people too, so good times. 

Quick Fix: Nothing Better Than a Good Story

By: Jennifer Gregson

Lola turned the street corner, her heart racing.

“Yes!” she yelled, dropping to her knees. She wiped her hands on her blue and white Monroe High School cheerleader sweater. “I found it, I finally found it.”

Practice that morning had started as usual, but then she heard the laughing. And the pointing – how could she forget the pointing. It’s hard to keep secrets in high school, especially when your parents get arrested for embezzlement. Nothing better at Monroe than a good story.

That’s why she took off after the stupid rainbow in the first place. She was just trying to get away from the cacophony of squeals, but then she realized there was real money to be had if she could just run fast enough. As the bright colors faded in the sky, Lola realized there was no pot of gold.

She knocked down trash cans, searched behind trees, and looked under shrubs. She only stopped once she saw him. The little man dressed in green with the knife sticking out of his back.


“Murder.” The tiny voice seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere. Lola spun around, but didn’t see anyone.

“Excuse me?” she asked.

“He was murdered.”

“I can see that, but what I can’t see is you.”

“Down here.” Standing directly in front of her was another little man, this time dressed in brown with a diminutive detective’s hat on.

“Oh, hi.”

“Don’t hi me missy. You are under arrest.”


All of a sudden, with a wave of his tiny hand, a large brown sack came out of nowhere and covered Lola head to toe. It closed up and lifted her.

“Please, can’t we talk about this? I just got here. I didn’t kill him, I swear.”

“Then who did?” he squealed.

“How should I know? The tooth fairy?”

The bag dropped and opened.

“Do you really think so?” he asked, his tiny face touching hers.

“Uhm…sure, I mean, she’s gotta be running out of money, right?”

Lola could relate.

The small man helped Lola out of the bag. He studied her for a few minutes, nodded in agreement, and shoved his hand into his pocket.

“Here.”  He handed her a tiny green bag with a small rainbow on it. She pulled the strings open and shook out the contents into her hand. Five gold pieces glinted in the late afternoon sun.

“Shiny,” she said, “thanks!”

“No problem. They’ll turn into real money as soon as you leave. Not much, but enough to say thank you for helping us and to help you forget what you saw here.”


“We can’t have you talking about this now can we?”

All of sudden Lola realized she didn’t want the money. She put the gold pieces into the bag and handed it to the leprechaun.

“What’s this?” he demanded.

“Once upon a time,” she said with a smile, as she turned to walk away, “a leprechaun was murdered and the tooth fairy was on the loose.”

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My First Draft Sucks! Now What?

Now what?  Well, I eat chocolate.  Of course, I do that on most days so nothing really helpful there…
No, no….come back.  I have a solution.  It’s this magical thing called REVISION.  Ooohhh, see how it sparkles?!?!  OK, it doesn’t sparkle, but it is magical.  It can turn your shitty first draft into something wonderful – at least, it can with a lot of hard work.
Luckily, I found a course (and a teacher) that’s just short of a miracle: Holly Lisle’s “How to Revise Your Novel.”  Holly teaches you how to go from the wrecked imperfect novel you have to the shining beautiful novel you want to have.  It’s a big course (she has a few big courses and a few smaller ones, all worth looking into) – right now I’m on Lesson 12, and I think I’m about half-way through the course.  It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t always been fun, but it has been interesting to see things I would never have seen.  Mostly, to realize that my novel isn’t that bad and I can make it even better.  I can make it great!
Right now I’m working on characters.  Who stays, who gets better, who goes, who gets blended with another guy to make an even better guy, etc.  I did okay in this regard with my first draft.  Most of my characters stay and most have minimal work to get better.  I didn’t blend (nor did I have to) and only two (very minor) characters got the boot.  This is not to say I won’t have any rewriting to do.  No, no….I already figured out that I have about 10 new scenes to write (from scratch) and at least 10 more have to be completely rewritten.  See….hard work.
I’m using index cards to keep track of how much rewriting (or totally new writing) each scene needs and it’s quite colorful – and I’m not even using as bright of colors as Holly suggests I use.   On these cards I’m also listing characters by scene to see the players all laid out in front of me.
Now, I have a theatre background.  I have a BFA in Theatre Performance so it’s easier for me to call my characters players and places to be called Sets and Scenery.  She also had us list all the props – again, terminology that makes complete sense.  This is not to say that I don’t get confused sometimes and lose my way.  At least twice now (maybe three times) I have thrown my hands up in the air and admitted defeat.  “I quit!”  I’ve said to my husband, “The book is too bad, I’m going to give up.”   He kisses me and tells me it’s not as bad as I think.  I call my Mom and tell her the same thing.  She tells me to take a few days, take a break, then come back.  They are both right.  Damn!

So, I trudge along with my index cards, my binder full of worksheets, my colored pens, and my Muse sitting next to me – waiting for me to need her again (thank you Muse).  I’m not sure what comes next because I haven’t read ahead (truth time – I usually do) so I do the work one week, sometimes two, at a time and keep going as best as I can.
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