Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays

New Blogs from the Drunk writers are going to be hit and miss over the holidays, so first and foremost.

Happy Holidays to all out there. Thanks for reading the blog and commenting, it is, in our lonely, every day worlds, really fun to hear other’s thoughts. And usually really thought provoking for us.

I’ve hit the first five chapters on the current WIP and as usual realize my initial plotting was too shallow, too vague and ultimately not going to take me any further into the book.

This is nothing new for me. I hit this stage with almost every book, and learning from past mistakes, I have to plot all the way through to the big conclusion, otherwise I end the book with a whimper, not a bang.

For me, this is the point where I also try and sort through all I learned while writing the last book, all I’ve picked up through numerous drunk writing sessions and from reading other, smarter writers.

I have to be a better plotter. No more dead scenes, no more scenes that only move the plot forward an inch, it had better be a yard, or the scene has to be changed.
No more scenes to establish character either. This is a personal point, but if I can’t establish character during the scenes that actually move the plot along, then I’m doing something wrong.
I’m trying for bigger scope, bigger stakes, my characters will face life and death situations, and I’m going to try really, really hard to up the emotional content of my books, never an easy thing for me.

So I’m spending Christmas plotting.

And I’m looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Idea Stage

Okay, so I forgot it was Wednesday, my DWT day, and I haven't thought of a thing to talk about.

One excuse is getting ready for visitors and Christmas and all that good stuff. Over the years, I've perfected the shove-everything-in-a-closet-or-corner technique of housecleaning, but the fatal flaw of that technique is coming out to bite me in the *ss. The fatal flaw is that at some point there are no more corners or closets, and then it's about 100x more work to get the house looking tidy than if you'd been doing it properly all the way along... Gah! I have a big house and I'm ashamed to admit I've been using the shove-it-over-there-and-deal-with-it-later technique since I bought the house nearly six years ago. It has come back to haunt me. Big time. I've been tidying for several days solid. And it looks worse. There are seriously rooms in my house you can't walk through right now. (Molly's going to say, "What's new?" But seriously... this is worse than anything you've seen here before.)

But that's not what I was going to post about and if I were feeling clever I might figure out a way to tie that to what I was going to talk about... but I'm tired from spending 2 hours digging my car out of heavy wet snow so I won't even try.

I wanted to just say, "Isn't the idea stage fun???"

Those of you who know what I'm up to will go, "Idea stage? How could Maureen be at that stage? She's in the middle of something."

But I'm putting that something aside for a while because I came up with a really fun idea that I love. And one that will make me eat a lot of words I've said in the past in terms of what I think I should write and what kind of writer I want to be. (But I'm a master rationalizer, so I'm sure I'll figure out a way to make it consistent with things I've said in the past.)

We'll see. Too early to talk about it, but let's just way that brainstorming is fun and I haven't been so excited about an idea since, well, ever.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cop-outs and the finale of Dexter

I received an email from an angry reader the other day. She felt that in Baby Makes Three, having Alice get pregnant at the end of the book was a cop out. Anti-woman, even. Resolving my conflict by having her magically conceive was a total breach in trust that I had created with the reader. Now, I am fine with criticism and people can feel however they want about my books -- but, man, I could not let this go. I emailed the woman back - thanked her for her time and for buying the book but I told her that having my character get pregnant - I thought - was the best way to up their conflict. Having babies, or not having babies was the external conflict that highlighted their internal conflicts. It was one of those "it seems like the best thing to happen but it's actually the worst" sort of plot points. I didn't think it was a cop-out because things got worse for the characters after she got pregnant. And I really didn't think it was anti-woman - but again, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I just didn't agree with hers.

But then I watched the finale of Dexter and man, I am pissed. How lame. How terrible terribly lame was that? The driving question of the whole series is "is Dexter good or bad." And in the finale, it seems like it's going to be proven by whether or not Dexter is going to kill an innocent man to save himself. If he does - Dexter is evil. If he doesn't -- good guy. And then the crazy ex-girlfriend strolls in and ruins this delicious balancing act. SPOILER - she kills the innocent man, for Dexter, out of coo-coo bird love. So when Dexter then off's the girlfriend it's still all part of the code that his father taught him. The code he's used to. The code we the viewers are used to. And that's not even the part that made me angry - what made me angry was the voice over at the end. Dexter says he has his own code now. He's going to stop asking if he's good or evil, it doesn't matter any more.

What?? Huh?! He just killed again, using his father's code. And that's fine if he's not going to care if he's good or bad anymore -- but we don't see it! We don't get that from him at all. He's still putting his slides in the air-conditioner and talking about his father??? How is he different? He's not. And if he's not - don't have Dexter say he's different. Don't lie to us - because it wasn't Dexter lying, it was the writer - I thought. I was with him and then he not only took an easy way out - but then he didn't even capitalize on that easy way out by making things harder for Dexter. They just got easier.

I don't know if they are setting things up for another season - but what's the tension if they are? What's the question? What's his own code? Will he kill indiscriminately - if so, don't show him using the old code.

Anyway, I understand my non-fan's anger better, now. Not that I would change my book, or do anything differently, but man, when a writer cops out - it hurts. Last night's finale really put a dent in my Dexter love.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Miscellaneous thoughts to end the week

Lots we could talk about this week. The golden globe nominations came out this week, and while they couldn’t limit themselves to nominate just five best dramatic picture nominees, they also couldn’t find any love for Friday Night Lights, or Battlestar.

Even Dexter just got a nod for Michael C. Hall, a well deserved nomination, but what about the show itself?

And I sort of get that Battlestar shows up on Space, a really far away place for a lot of the people choosing the nominees, but Friday Night Lights is easy to find.. Maybe the foreign press has a life and are out on Friday nights?

And Grey’s.. a show according to the critics I’ve read that is having a weak season managed to get nominated, as did House, which really isn’t breaking new ground this season, despite my enduring love for Hugh Laurie.

But I’m starting to be a broken record about this stuff. For a better best of List, check out Steven King’s the best of 2007 on the entertainment weekly website. The man really, really knows his pop culture and while I didn’t agree with all of his choices, I agreed with most.

Other than TV, what’s on the drunk writer mind this week?

Well, Molly’s post earlier in the week, when she talked about the elusive muse and what separates the writers from the want to be writers. Writing, even when the muse deserts you.

I would add, writing despite rejections. Getting a rejection on a project you love, and sitting down at your computer (within 24 hours, everyone gets a day to pout. I have to be reasonable) and typing another page on the next WIP. That really separates the people who are writers.

Or maybe it’s just me, but we have two choices, we can be defeated, or we can sit down and say, this one, I won’t give them a reason to reject.

And then eat a pound of chocolate, or better still drink some wine.. I’m sure it will add to the creativity..

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writing through the Holidays

So, I'm wondering what most people get done in December. People with deadlines. People sans deadlines. People who will take any excuse to procrastinate. People who are super disciplined. All of you. Do you keep up your schedule? Slow it? Stop it? Speed it up? (Gasp.)

I know in past years December has never been a big writing month for me. Looking back, I think part of it's been timing. Although I've never officially done Nanowrimo -- in that I've never started a book fresh on November 1st -- I have used that month and the collective enthusiasm of the masses to push through huge chunks of writing in November. So, I'm often switching gears in December, anyway...

But all this is just excuses. This year, in particular, I feel like I have no real reason not to try to keep working through the holidays. Sure, I've got lots to do to get ready. Sure, there are a gazillion relatives showing up to distract me. But on the same token... there are a gazillion relatives I'll need to escape from occasionally and if I'm going to have some alone time, why not spend it writing?

Any words of wisdom out there? Do you write through the holidays?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Filling the well....

That sounds dirty. But it's not -- I'm referring to Hemingway's quote about his writing process. He wrote in the morning and then took the afternoon to "fill his well" so he'd be ready to write the next morning. Now, filling the well is something every writer needs to do. We all need to seek out inspiration and ideas and creativity. For Hemingway this meant getting hammered, loading a couple of rifles and going big game hunting. Oddly enough -- I don't think there are many of us out there who still get to do this. Margaret Moore? Is that the secret of your success? Big game hunting? I know Maureen has been known to have a few mid afternoon drinks and watch Friday Night Lights, hunting for Tim Riggins, but somehow I don't think that has the same effect as Hemingway's afternoons.

Sadly, these days my afternoons are all about picking up the Mr. Potato head pieces (stupid idea to get him that toy. All the kid does is empty the bucket out and chuck the earrings at the dog.) Emptying the dishwasher, staring into the freezer wondering what I'm spending all that money on at the grocery store if my stupid freezer is always empty. A few days ago I watched two episodes of Battlestar Gallactica in a row -- that was fantastic. Almost like big game hunting - or maybe almost like getting hammered - either way, more inspiring that digging under the furniture for plastic potato ears and mouths. If I were writing a book called "The Male Toddler and His Unreasonable Attachment to Fire Trucks and Poop" I'd be done with the thing by now, having all the inspiration in that area that a woman needs. I've got laundry, grocery shopping, someone actually has to pay the bills, walk the dog, write the blog and clean the crayon off the tv set.

Is it any freaking wonder my well is empty?

Sinead's post reminded me that as stay at home mom's we need entertainment to inspire us. Because we don't really leave the house! In my life before my son I would ride the subway and look at people and write their stories based on their clothes and the way they sat and what they read and then I'd take what I had come up with and create the opposite of it and try to reverse all my expectations. It was a fun game. Helpful and creative and useful to me as a writer. I don't even have that anymore. Every time I get on the subway these days, I'm like my son, distracted by the lights and scared of the loud noises.

This will change at some point. Right? It has to. Because there is a year until the next JR Ward book and a writer's strike on and I am sucking air at the bottom of my well.

PS - I am adding this after this has been posted for a while, because I forgot the whole point of this post in the middle of my stay at home mom rant. The point is -- these moments, I think are what separate the writers from the I wish I was a writers. When the muse is nowhere to be found and you still have a page count to fill - these moments are what scare a lot of writers away. When you just pound stuff out and you know it's awful but you have to do it -- ugh. Even writing that made me depressed. But it's what we have to do - because if this was easy, everyone would do it.

Still, it would be nice if those Hollywood writers weren't on strike right now....

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What to write when your brain is empty

Hey, apologies for advance for how late this post is, and how weak..

I got nothing this week. With the writer’s strike, TV has been really disappointing, except for Dexter, which as it comes to an end in the second season has been really amazing. It’s building to something I believe is going to thrill me.

I just feel it in the air.

Heroes for me has been a complete bust this season and while I adore Friday Night Lights, even in it’s 2nd season, I feel it’s hit just a bit of a slump. By that I mean it’s gone from brilliant to just excellent, but it's still the best show on network TV.

But there’s not a lot out there that’s getting my brain moving in a storytelling kind of way.

And I’m finished the JR Ward Brotherhood series and slightly bereft that I have to wait almost another year for my next fix.

So if anyone gets to this post, as late as I’ve posted it, I’m looking for recommendations. What do you go to for inspiration, books, movies, TV, anything?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


No, not the movie.

No, not the drug.

I'm talking about writing speed. I mean, how fast we all write.

I feel sure we've broached this topic at least once before at DWT, but like with most writing topics, opinions change, lightbulbs go on (or off), bold statements made in the past are retracted, and therefore, some topics bear repeating.

I was talking about being a Nanoloser over on my other blog this week and some commenters wondered if speed might not make an interesting topic for broader discussion. So here goes my speed ramble.

To me, there are at least two sides to this speed question. First, how fast can a writer write without sacrificing quality for quantity (each writer is different) (possibly each story for each writer is different), and second, how fast MUST a writer write if they want a career in commercial fiction? Is it possible to have a career if you're one of the slow ones? Can a slow writer train themselves to be faster?

I guess another way to phrase the latter question is how fast do publishers expect you to write?

There's no clear answer here, either.

If one writes category romance for Harlequin, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that to build a readerwhip you want at least two books a year, preferably three. And the same (based on my observations) seems to be true at houses like Elora's Cave. Single title romance publishers never used to put out more than one book a year for most authors, (creating the reputed inventory backlog of Nora books), but this too is changing. Rapid, tightly packed release schedules, like Ballantine did for Allison's Brennan's debut series, have proven the old marketing mold of releasing a new book for each author every 9-12 months has been broken very successfully.

So, how fast? I've heard you need to write a book in 9 months or less several times (Madeline Hunter says this in her amazing "Surviving Almost There" talk, as does Cherry Adair. And that sounds about right to me. (Surely a book shouldn't take longer than a baby?)

Problem is, I can't seem to do it. Well, maybe if I added up the time I actually spend writing a book, it is less than 9 months, but for me it seems, all-too-often, to be maybe 6 months of actual writing spread over 18 months on the calendar.

On the other hand, I have a writer friend whose first novel will be released next year. (Because I'm mentioning some details, I'm going to keep in anonymous.) She wrote this book around the same time I wrote my April Hillson book. That is to say, in 2004-2005 (gosh, that seems like a long time ago). And she's working on her second now.

Her book's being published by an "accessible literary" imprint of a major NY house, and they don't seem to be that surprised that she doesn't have her second book ready for press yet. In fact, I don't think there was even talk of two book contract when she sold the first. And her agent doesn't think she can sell the second book on proposal, either. I've heard similar stories from other writer friends and acquaintances who write women's fiction -- even the more commercial kind -- and this is what seems to be typical in that little slice of the publishing world:
One book deals.
No second contract until the publisher sees how the first one sells.
Each book sold 100% complete and quite separately from the others.

I'm sure this changes at some point. I'm sure Jodi Picoult can sell her "next Jodi Picoult title" sight unseen or on a vague idea, but this career transition happens so much more slowly in mainstream fiction than it seems to in the romance genre where relatively new authors seem to routinely sell their second books on proposal, and many authors get multi-book deals right out of the gate.

So, the above-mentioned friend's agent recently rejected a book of another of my friends and told her she'd be happy to look at her next project when it's ready. This woman replied to the agent that it would be at least six to seven months. To which the agent replied. Take your time. It takes at least a year to write a book.

So, is there a right answer here that's based on what type of book you're writing? Is there a difference in mainstream women's fiction vs romance? I'm not so sure. To go back to my Jodi Picoult example, she seems to release a new book every year, and they're pretty complicated and original stories and at least 120,000 words. So obviously it's possible.

And while I guess some people might read between the lines of this post that I'm implying it's faster to write a romance, I don't think that's necessarily true. I do think, however, speed does vary somewhat on the complexity of the book. The structure, the themes, the relative subtlety.

I just deleted a whack of this post that was talking about whether it's faster to write romances than woman's fiction... I deleted it because I feel like I was going off topic and also because I feel like I was trying to give myself excuses for writing more slowly. But I feel like when I write too quickly. When I don't let my stories percolate. What I come up with is trite, boring, derivative, predictable crap.

But even as I get ready to post this... I feel like I'm just making excuses. That on those days when it's not working to push forward in the story, I don't try hard enough to get something onto paper, even if it's just ideas for upcoming scenes.

What do you think? Is my relative pokiness because of who I am as writer, pure laziness, or a function of what I'm trying to write?

How about you? Can you write fast? Do you wish you could? How fast do you think you NEED to write to reach your particular career goals? Do you feel pressure to write faster than you can?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Totally Blunt Conversation About Royalites and Category Romance Part 2

Ah! Royalty Statement time and in keeping with my last post about royalties I thought I'd share my numbers and thoughts again. This is the second statement for my Superromance books out last year Family At Stake, His Best Friend's Baby and Who Needs Cupid? And from what I gather, this is the end of the road in terms of North American sales. In my last post I mentioned the huge reserves Harlequin keeps between statements to see if books will be returned or sold through. And those reserves are now gone. I have maybe 300 books in reserve. So, these numbers are pretty much it. Family At Stake ended up selling around 20,000 copies retail in the US and Canada. His Best Friend's Baby sold 22,000. This translates into around 10,000 dollars. Now, I'm a pretty new writer to the line and I think these numbers reflect the middle of the pack. To be a Waldenbooks bestseller you need to sell nearly 10,000 more books retail - give or take depending on the week's sales. Who Needs Cupid sold about 23,000 books, but because it's an Anthology and I'm taking my 6% from one third of the cover price I imagine I won't see much money.

Undercover Protector was out in July and the cut off for royalties is June so the only thing that's reflected on my statement are the direct/subscription sales and advance e-book sales! That's right - Harlequin now sells on-line. Which, I think will be huge but since it was the first month and a cut off month - my 16 books sold seems a little sad. But, I think these numbers will grow. Lots.

The future for His Best Friend's Baby, Family At Stake and Who Needs Cupid? now depends on foreign translations. From what I hear Superromances aren't translated very widely. I know FAS is in France now - with a wonderful cover. The big translations are Germany, Japan and Argentina. My Duets and Flipsides have all been in Argentina and I've sold a stupid number of books there - but there doesn't seem to be much action for Supers south of the border. I should know more by the next statement.

But looking at these numbers this is what I've come to believe. Category romance buyers buy on three principals -- author recognition, covers and blurbs in the back of other category books. There's not much promotion a writer can do that will make a HUGE difference in sales. I can't control the covers or force my editor to use my book as a blurb in other books. I can do everything I can to have a great relationship with my editor and hope she thinks of me. And I can write really good books fast.

On a side note, my December book Baby Makes Three was an RT Top Pick from Romantic Times and I know when the magazine came out I got a number of advance orders on Amazon but I don't know how many. Could be three. I placed an ad in the December RT and when it came out my amazon numbers didn't change. I don't know if Amazon sales really add up to big numbers. It would be fun to know -- anyone know?

Hope this answers some questions or creates a good discussion.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Contest Winner!!!

Kimber!!! You're it! Email me and we'll figure out how to get your fabulous prize package to you!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I’m starting a new book right now, or at least sifting through three solid ideas to come up with what I want to write next.
Apparently this time it means writing the first chapter and a rough plot outline for each idea to really get a sense for where I want to go with this next book.

For me each new book is a crossroads. I have to decide going in what I want the book to be, and how far I want to take certain elements.
I remember at an editor panel, one of the editors (St. Martins) described the kind of books they were looking for as really books. She explained she was looking for books that were either really, really emotional, or really, really suspenseful, or really, really, sexy, but they had to have a very strong footing in one thing.
At the time the explanation just frustrated me. Of course we want our books to be really emotional and sexy and suspenseful, shit, we’re trying to be everything.

Now I get it. Very few writers can be everything, but we can choose to do something really, really well. This kind of relates back to Molly’s commitment post from a couple of weeks ago.

I also know as an unpublished author, if I write a book and have the good fortune to sell it, I need to know I can write several more in a similar style, so I had better love writing this kind of book.

So as I sit down to start a new book, I have to figure out what kind of book I’m going to write and commit completely to it.
Five books into this whole writing thing, I have a strong idea of what elements I’m better at, what kind of stories I like to write.
So if I’m going to write dark and suspenseful, I had better make it really, really dark and suspenseful.
Because that’s the kind of book I want to write. Because in the end I’d rather get rejected for going too far, rather than not going far enough.
That is, if I have to get rejected.
At this point, I’m not thinking rejections, I’m just thinking about writing a book that’s better than the last and wholly, completely represents the best writing I’m capable of producing.
I'm also thinking about Razor and Battlestar Galactica. Did anyone else see it and love it as much as I did?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

J.K. Rowling is Entertainer of the Year

I think it's very interesting that Entertainment Weekly Magazine has named J.K. Rowling as entertainer of the year.

Now, it might be easy to say, "Duh!" Of course she's entertainer of the year, she should've been named entertainer of the year every year for the past seven or so years, but remember, this is Entertainment Weekly.

Ms. Rowling's companions on this year's list are all actors and/or pop singers. One possible exception to my actors and singers only assertion is Tina Fey... but really, would she be as famous for her brilliant writing if she didn't also act? Another listing was "The Apatow Gang". I thought, okay. Another writer. But when I looked at the listing, they had all the actors there, too. It is true that many of the actors frequently in Judd Apatow's projects also write... but like Tina Fey, would people make such a big deal if they didn't also act? Besides, with both Apatow and Fey we're talking TV and movies, not books.

So, I guess my point (I will get to it) is that I think it's cool that a novelist is entertainer of the year. At a time when books have so much competition for our interest with movies and television and video games and the internet etc. etc. etc. I think it's so great that she has made even the likes of EW sit up and notice.

Hey, books are entertaining, not just something teachers make you read in school.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sexiest Man Alive - Matt Damon??

I've been home the last week and a half getting ready for and then celebrating American Thanksgiving. Which in my family now means deep frying turkey (so American, really, can you believe it? The only truly healthy part of the meal and now we're frying it. But, here's the's sooooo delicious. We also brined one -- which was even better. But not as fun.) We also play very violent rounds of the game Spoons, complete with wrestling and blood and cousin Heather bit my brother - it was very bloodthirsty. And of course eating Pumpkin Pie for breakfast. Just writing the words Pumpkin Pie makes me want to eat some more. In fact, after writing this I am going to put some pumpkin pie on top of the leftover fried turkey....mmmm.....heart attack.

I also got a chance to do some very important reading, namely People's annual Sexiest Man Alive issue - featuring Matt Damon. I adore Matt Damon, and not just because he makes me think of Ben Affleck. But, I feel like Matt would like to come over to my family's house for spoons and fried turkey. I feel like I grew up with Matt, not that I know anyone like him, but he's got that vibe. That, I'm-not-really-a-superstar-but-actually-the-cute-kid-from-high-school-who-comes-back-to-reunions-as-a-successful-NGO-fundraiser-and-all-the-women-talk-about-him-in-the-bathroom-like-we're-16, vibe.

But I don't think he's hot. Not like Brad. Not like George. Absolutely not like Ben or Tim Riggins (who is featured in the magazine - he's skating -- go now, Maureen.) Even the picture on the cover of the magazine, makes him look not at all sexy. Makes him look like a high school science teacher after an explosion in his classroom or something.

I do think he's probably the most underrated superstar actor in Hollywood. We watched Departed last night - and while Leo was all sparks and danger, Damon's performance was so compelling, so understated and terrified, that rewatching the movie, I actually see far more from his character than Leo's. Watching the movie the first time, you got everything you needed to know about Leo. But Damon gets better each time. So does Alec Baldwin, to tell you the truth. And I won't go into my hysterical love for Mark Whalberg...

So, I didn't think Damon was terribly sexy. But then, I read the People article, which was actually just Matt Damon's letter to People explaining why he couldn't take the honor and was, seriously, not the right guy for the job. It was the sweetest, sexiest thing ever. And then there were articles from George Clooney and Ben Affleck that just sealed the deal. Matt Damon goes a bit beyond sexy and is now my romance hero come to life.

I just need to get his cell number to ask him over for Spoons and Turkey next year. Mmmm, a fried turkey, pumpkin pie, Matt Damon sandwhich.......

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Welcome, Trish Milburn

Hey, everyone! Welcome to the party! And please welcome our special guest blogger, Trish Milburn. Trish is a finalist in the American Title IV contest sponsored by Romantic Times magazine. The winner of the contest gets a publishing contract with Dorchester, so vote for Trish and show your support! We DWT girls have been so proud to have had good friends in the past two AT contests as well. Michele Ann Young's NO REGRETS, just released by Sourcebooks, was a finalist in ATII, and K.J. Howe was the runner up last year in ATIII with her marvelous book, ONE SHOT, TWO KILLS. So we're really excited to put our votes behind Trish this year.

Also, in the spirit of the party (and American Thanksgiving) we're offering a PRIZE today. Just comment on this post to be eligible to win some goodies. (If we're really lucky, Molly's new book, BABY MAKES THREE, hitting stores in December, might be involved!)

Trish figured out that we drunk writers have been rather obsessed by television these days and chose to blog about one of her favorites. Take it away, Trish.

From my early days of watching reruns of the original Star Trek, first-runs of Woman Woman and mini-series like V (all of which I’m sure would be reallllly cheesy if I watched them now), I’ve loved shows that deal with superheroes or delve into the paranormal. I loved to imagine being able to fly or fight the bad guys without worrying about being hurt. I liked the idea of being invincible or possessing special knowledge or powers and using it for good. That’s why the Season Passes on my TiVo include programs like Supernatural, Smallville, Heroes, Journeyman, Bionic Woman, Moonlight, and Blood Ties.

Today I’m going to focus on my favorite – Supernatural. Unlike some shows that start off with a bang in their first season or two but quickly fade in quality thereafter, Supernatural just seems to be getting better and better. It’s one of those shows that’s inspiring to me as a writer. In fact, it was part of the inspiration for my manuscript, Coven, which won the Golden Heart in the Young Adult category this year.

Here are my top five reasons to watch Supernatural:

1. The Winchester brothers – Sam and Dean Winchester are just about as cool as it gets. They hunt and kill demons and other paranormal baddies that most of the world doesn’t believe really exist. They’re following in the footsteps of their dad, John, who became a demon hunter after his wife was killed by a demon. But while the brothers share a mission, they couldn’t be much different. Dean is the bad boy who wears a worn leather jacket, listens to classic rock and drives a black 1967 Impala known to fans as the Metallicar, the trunk of which is filled with guns loaded with demon-fighting rock salk, knives and all manner of other weaponry. He’s a bit of a ladies’ man and has a hilarious sense of humor. While I’m a Sammy girl, I freely admit Dean almost always has the better lines of dialogue. This reminds of of a similar situation with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, another favorite of mine. While I’m an Angel fan, it was Spike who had more of the hysterical lines. Sam is the brainier of the brothers. In fact, he was at college at Stanford, getting ready to go to law school, when Dean ropes him back into the “family business” in the first episode. He was dedicated to his girlfriend until she was killed by the same demon that killed his mother. In the parlance of The Hero’s Journey, Jessica’s death was the point at which Sam gave a different answer to the Call to Adventure (he at first refused to go hunting with Dean) and Crosses the Threshold (similar to when Luke Skywalker leaves Tatooine after his aunt and uncle are killed in Star Wars. The brothers’ relationship is fantastically created by Eric Kripke and crew and wonderfully played by Jensen Ackles (Dean) and Jared Padalecki (Sam).

2. Overarching story – While each week’s episode doesn’t focus on the “big mystery”, it’s always there in the background, coloring everything. For a long time, the brothers sought the yellow-eyed demon who’d killed their mother and Jessica. Even though he’s been dispatched now, his effect on their lives still lingers. Sam is supposed to be some sort of “chosen one”, but we’re not certain if that’s a good or bad thing, considering the source of the revelation. We still don’t know how that particular storyline is going to turn out. And now we also have the question of whether the brothers will find a way out of Dean’s deal with the crossroads demon – his life at the end of one year in exchange for bringing Sammy back from the dead at the end of last season.

3. Monster of the week – What’s really cool is that Supernatural doesn’t get too bogged down in the big, dark, overarching plot. It’s broken up by monster-of-the-week episodes, some of them quite funny. They take myths and urban legends and craft episodes around them. We’ve had Bloody Mary, the Woman in White, a ghost ship and more.

4. Dialogue – When you’re watching Sam and Dean verbally sparring, you could actually believe that Jared and Jensen are actually brothers. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re both from Texas that helps them play off each other so well. Seriously, I laugh out loud at least once an episode. For some great Sam/Dean interchanges/snark, go to any of the following:,0,7416597.special

5. Secondary characters – My friend Mary is a big fan of Papa John Winchester, but I think my favorite secondary character is Bobby, a demon-hunting friend of John’s. He’s a crusty redneck of a guy, but he’s really funny and is a father figure for Sam and Dean now that their dad is gone too. I’m also intrigued by the demon chick Ruby who is evidently helping the brothers, particularly Sam, in their fight to kill or return to hell all the demons that were released when a gate to hell was accidentally opened. Another new addition this year is Bela, who seems to be matched more with Dean. A lot of fans have expressed a dislike for out-for-herself Bela, but I’m inclined to wait a while longer to see what the writers have in mind. And we got a hint of deeper layers for her in the episode “Red Sky at Morning,” in which it’s revealed that she killed someone in her family (deliberately or not, we don’t know). She looked pained and refused to tell the guys any details, so I’m intensely curious. I have all sorts of theories running through my head.

So if you haven’t seen Supernatural, check out seasons one and two on DVD and watch the current season three on The CW Thursday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central.

~ ~

Trish's current finalist in the American Title contest, OUT OF SIGHT, mixes elements of her love for the paranormal and suspense. Jenna McCay, the heroine, can make herself invisible and goes undercover at the White House to determine who inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is sending threats to the president. To vote for OUT OF SIGHT, go to

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reading level and Harry Potter

First, I want to announce that we'll be having a guest blogger stopping by for a drink on Wednesday!

There will be a prize. Make sure you come by!

Now, back to what I've been thinking about the past few days.

I spent last week babysitting for my niece and nephew, and my nine year old niece is making her way through the fourth Harry Potter book, so I had a chance to revisit it, listening to her read aloud, and reading some aloud myself.

I read the first four HP books back to back very quickly round about 2000, I think. I can't remember the exact year, but I do know it was before I started writing novels. And, in spite of buying books 5-7 (preordering two of them...) I still haven't read 5-7. Thus, I haven't read any J.K. Rowling since I started seriously writing fiction myself. (Shame on me.)

Reading her again last week was a bit of an eye opener, and made me think about something I haven't really been thinking much about for a while, and that's sentence structure, particularly complex sentences.

I take some pride in the fact that my writing is easy to read. I do think I vary my structures to keep things interesting and get a rhythm going. At least I try to. I often have double meanings and, I hope, the occasional clever reference not every reader will get... but the sentences tend to be clean and simple, with the verb near the subject and that sort of thing. That said, I was a little disturbed, running the grammar feature in MS Word, to discover that, according to Bill Gate's staff, I'm writing at a grade 3 or 4 level.

Does that mean that a kid my niece's age should read my books? No way. Does that mean they'd understand everything in by books even if they did read one? I sure hope not. There are seriously adult themes in them thar books. Does it mean they'd understand the meaning of every word I use? Probably not. But, it does mean that my niece, if she got a hold of one of my books, could probably read it.

I'd be interested in running J.K. Rowling's books through that MS program... Her sentences are often long and complex with the verb separated from the subject by multiple clauses or phrases... Reading aloud, there were often times when I had to go back and reread a sentence realizing I'd misinterpreted what was being said at the beginning, by the time I got to the end. For my niece, this happened several times a page. But hey, she's only nine. (Reading silently, I don't find JK's stuff hard to read at all... but if you're trying to get the intonation right when reading aloud... I found I made mistakes every 3 or 4 pages. Maybe I was just tired?)

But what it really got me wondering about is whether I'm being lazy in my writing. Not trying hard enough. Or whether I should continue to be proud that my writing is easy to read.

I mean... if commercial fiction is about the storytelling, then why make it hard on the reader? On the other hand... complicated sentences haven't exactly held JK back, now have they?

Thoughts? Has anyone else checked out what grade level the folks at microsoft think you're writing at?

And make sure you come back on Wednesday for our guest blogger and PRIZES.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My secret guilty pleasure

Ok, so Maureen and I watch America’s Next Top Model, which is definitely a guilty pleasure, but we’re pretty open about it, so not so secret.

But the one show I watch and love, and then could watch again, is What Not To Wear. I was told by a friend(Molly actually) that after a few episodes it gets really boring. I was hoping that would be the case.

Except, No. I could watch it day and night. Seriously, there’s something wrong with me.

Talk about a formula. Person can’t dress. They get made fun of. They get told what to wear. They go shopping. They then get to go shopping with the hosts. They get their hair cut, make up applied and there you go. An hour of my life – lost.

I’m still trying to figure out why I love it so. There are almost never any surprises, nothing unexpected ever happens.

The hosts are witty and fun and never mean-spirited. They give you $5000 to shop for a week in New York with in my other life would be my two best shopping buddies. They give you a makeover and I’m guessing in between you get to sleep.

Sounds perfect. Where do I sign up?

Maybe that’s why I love it, the fantasy of sleep and shopping and a really good haircut.

But it’s also the formula. It’s really comforting. I can turn on the show, relax, not think too much and just enjoy.

Nothing wrong with that when the formula is done really well, be it reality TV or books.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wireless networks -- Work of the devil or heaven sent?

I saw the very funny link that Eileen Cook had on her blog recently asking the question, "What if 24 had debuted in 1994."

Yes, technology moves quickly. So quickly it's often hard to remember we didn't always have the things we use daily. (When I first started articling for a CA firm as a co-op student... most offices didn't have fax machines, so we had a teletype... And yes, all the admin staff had typewriters on their desks.)

When I first started trying to write full time, I very quickly realized that some days, in order to get anything done, I had to get out of the house. So, I go to Starbucks, or Timothy's or various other coffee-type establishments that let you sit all day for the price of a coffee.

Initially, I had an IBM laptop, that was not wireless enabled. In fact, I'm not even sure if many coffee shops were networked at the time. But I decided the weight of the laptop in my backpack was not proportional to the amount of battery life I got... So I bought a keyboard for my Palm and purposefully didn't even look into hooking it up to the web. (Involved bluetooth stuff...)

But last year I treated myself and bought my lovely MacBook, which I am still head over heels in love with. (Seriously, our relationship is a little creepy.)

My only complaint (and it's not really a complaint) is that whereas my old laptop required a special card, not to mention several minutes of struggling through various Windows menus that never worked the first time, in order to hook up to a wireless network.

My Mac, on the other hand, automatically checks for networks every time I turn it on. How handy.

But I'm starting to think it's the devil's work. The point of getting out of my office was to stop obsessively checking my e-mails and spending 45 minutes answering some stupid question (or even smart question) posted to one of my writers' loops. The point was no access to news sites, or entertainment sites, or movie listings, or blogs....

I sat down in a Starbucks just after 9:00 am yesterday morning. Guess what time I started to actually work on my manuscript??? 12:30 pm.

Damn that wireless networking.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ice Storm, Anne Stuart and that envelope....

That's right - I bought the new Anne Stuart on Saturday and I neglected my child and my husband and any sort of word count I wanted to hit this weekend and hunkered down and read the thing.

She's great - Anne Stuart is a master - she still does the same things wrong that make me mad in all her books. Repetitive dialogue, increasing conflict and tension that the character's don't seem to respond too in their dialogue or thoughts. The character's change by the end of the book in one sudden swoop of change - that is totally dramatic and exciting but means that the middle of the book things are sort of unchanging. She isn't as descriptive in her action scenes as I think she should be. I did some skimming.

But she still does the same things AMAZINGLY! Her characters are incredible - unlike any other characters out there. Her sex scenes are spicy but totally totally character involved unlike so many romances out there. Conflict is top notch.

But this is my thought while reading the book: I know I've been guilty of reading really great books, with characters and plot lines that are outside of the box in terms of what we read in the standard romance, or the standard novel. I've read these books, and I've loved these books and I've thought -- you have to be Anne Stuart to be able to do this. Or, you have to be J.R. Ward or Susan Elizabeth Phillips to be able to write about football stars, or vampires who might or might not be bisexual. Heroines who are killers, or heroes who are blind or a subplot with a porn star or anything DIFFERENT can't be done by someone new. Or sort of new. Or who writes family drama superromance.

Basically, my thought was - stay inside the envelope, Molly.

But reading Anne Stuart I realized, sure it helps to be Anne Stuart - but editors are dying for different. Readers are dying for different - the envelope is DYING to be pushed. And ANYONE can do it. Any one of us. But, you can not give an editor the chance to say no. You can't leave any room for doubt. I know there are so many writers out there thinking - I write totally different heroines and no one will buy my books but e-press or small press or no one and I'm totally pissed off and disillusioned. My answer to you is -- write better. Be better. Don't let the editor say - love the premise, but can't get into to it - because all that editor is saying is -- you didn't totally sell me. You didn't do it well enough.

You don't have to be Anne Stuart to write different books - you just have to be better than her. And, frankly, that's a hard challenge, but that's what it is. You have a great idea, something dark and scary and sexy and wild - do it. Just don't back down, don't be lazy! But do write the crap out of it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Random thoughts to end the week

My blog posting this week is a random jumble of thoughts. Apologies in advance if it doesn’t make any sense.

Publishing is a tough business right now. Publishers are buying fewer and fewer new authors, and too many published authors are getting swept up under the carpet.

I read on another blog about another E-Publisher going under. That, along with Triskelon’s demise is going to leave a lot of authors scrambling to reclaim the rights to their books.

We know first hand at Drunk Writers that having an agent is no guarantee of a sale, even a good agent, and that getting published is hard, and staying published is even harder.

I’m painting a pretty rosy picture here, aren’t I.

But there are really positive things happening. If the success of the JR Ward series tells me anything its that there are no rules except the happily ending rule, and that only has to apply to the central couple of the book.

Now is a great time to throw everything out the window and write something different and dramatic without even a thought to market. Which is really freeing.

How do we Drunk Writers remain optimistic? Well, Molly sells more books, so she’s got a reason to be optimistic these days, so let’s take her out of the equation.

First and foremost, we write the next book. We sit in our local pub and talk storytelling till anyone not a writer would be snoozing in their beer. We meet with our critique group and get honest, straightforward evaluations of our writing that help us get better.

And we take the criticism and use it to get better. If I didn’t think each book was in some way better than the last, I think I’d have to give up writing altogether.

I learn something new every time I talk with my fellow drunk writers, every time I go to a critique group meeting, every time I write a new book.

And not to sound all Pollyanna, but that’s what keeps me going. I love the challenge of creating a 400 page novel out of literally nothing and knowing it might not be pig swill.

That’s where my random thoughts took me this week. What keeps everyone else going, other than wine, beer and cider?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Interesting characters

So, we've been talking a lot about TV lately. I guess it's the season. Although now with the writers' strike... We may be losing new TV episodes pretty soon.

Watching House last night, I realized that Molly's right. That show has totally redeemed itself as a series this year. I spent some time (15 seconds) trying to figure out why. Here's what I've come up with so far.

House is great because of the characters. Sure, there's an interesting medical question each week and structuring the episode like a mystery/crime show instead of more traditional medical shows is creative and unique, but the real thing that makes this show is the characters.

Gregory House on his own is an interesting enough character, and Laurie a good enough actor, to carry this show through the first season and maybe part way through the second. He's an edgy character. In fact, I read an interview with Laurie saying the show didn't have a title when he received the scenes for his audition tape. (He auditioned remotely while filming that plane lost in the desert movie... Flight of the Phoenix?) Anyway, after reading his character's scenes, he assumed the show was about the Wilson character and he was reading for the crusty friend part.

But the show's creators didn't stop at a great main character. Cuddy is an interesting contradictory complex character and so is Wilson.

But they didn't stop there. They parceled out information about these 3 main characters slowly over the 2 seasons. Okay, we learned most of the juicy stuff about House in the first season -- but it was very juicy and extremely well delivered -- and they mostly just posed questions about Cuddy and Wilson as well as Cameron and Chase and Foreman in the first season, so we were still interested in watching the second season even though we knew what happened to House's leg and his marriage and why Cuddy puts up with him (guilt) and other juicy tidbits that we'd been fed in the first season.

But House started to bore me last season. House's quips weren't enough to get me through and after watching the first several episodes of this year I think I know why it's working for me again. I was bored of the secondary characters last year. The mystery was all gone. There was no where new to take them without getting silly. We knew Cameron had "issues". We knew she loved House, but that the two would never get together. We knew Foreman was the smartest but had trust issues and issues with authority etc. And we knew Chase had great hair. (Sorry... but pretty as he is, he was always the boring one for me.) Even the Chase/Cameron thing, which was interesting for a while because of the gender reversal -- her using him for sex -- started to be dull for me by the end of last season. (And I know I'm not doing these 3 characters justice here. Tons of stuff was revealed about these characters over the first few seasons and that's what made them interesting.)

So, they've finished revealing all the backstory for Chase/Cameron/Foreman. What did they do? Do they have one abducted by aliens? Marry a criminal? Paralyzed in an accident? Lose an arm? (All typicial of plot twists in most medical dramas.) No, they take them (at least temporarily) out of the picture and introduced a bunch of new characters. And they didn't dump too much information about any one of these new characters, either. The result, we have new character mysteries to keep us tuning in from week to week. More questions we want answered, like: What's up with 13? Why is cut throat bitch such a cut throat bitch? How far can House really push the black mormon guy before he snaps, and where's his wife? Which ones will last? And even having the character I most wanted to see survive get fired this week after he (sob) poisoned a patient to fake polio so that he could get attention and money for medical studies? Pretty out there, but interesting. Even though I was hoping they'd grow that character. I know from Huff -- that actor can do interesting things... I'll miss him. (Now, watch... all the interns will be fired next week and I'll never get my burning questions answered... But my point is I have the questions, so I'm interested in the people.)

But the best thing about last week was the adding of the new Michael Michele character. A woman strong enough to stand up to House. And with a military background so she's used to order and rules... And the sexual chemistry between those two? Yowsa. And that she gave back as good as she took?
Her: "I can kill a man with my thumb."
Him: "I was still making sexual innuendos."
Her: "So was I."
And only House could deliver a line like "I have a position open on my penis" and have it be funny instead of revolting. Okay, it was a little revolting. But I was laughing so hard I didn't care.

I am optimistic about this show again. They finally seem to have remembered their show relies not on silly plot developments like a cop out for revenge after having a thermometer stuck up his butt, but on keeping us fascinated about learning more about complex characters and seeing them interact with each other.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ya Gotta Commit!!

In the last little while I have enjoyed some fantastic reading and some fantastic television. (I've also enjoyed a lot of Wonder Pets, green snot, night wakings and days that start at 5:30 am - thank God for books and tv or I seriously would not have made it through the last two weeks) Anyway - I've figured out what is working with all of these things that I love - the J.R. Ward books, Friday Night Lights, The Elizabeth Hoyt books, Outlander, Life and yes, House. Loving House again. The writers of these varied programs and books totally committed to every aspect of what they were creating (except Life, really, but we will get to that). Friday Night Lights is a a high school drama, a marriage drama, a football drama and now, a crime drama and in every scene that contains one of those aspects - it's well researched, well thought out and creative. It doesn't pretend to be a football show - it is a football show - my husband LOVES those big hits. When the show is about football - it commits to being about football.

House isn't just an excuse for Hugh Laurie to be fantastic - it's also very compelling medical drama. It commits to both.

The Hoyt books - she takes a conflict - in Leopard Prince - it's a class conflict - and she commits to it - there is no easy way out - she doesn't make the hero a secret duke. He's the land steward at the beginning of the book and stays that way throughout.

Now, why Life is probably going to be cancelled is because they haven't totally committed to being a crime show - the weekly cases are really weak - last week's? PLEASE? The Chief of the LA police department on a stake out because someone is pooping in someone else's yard? Terrible - not believable at all!!!

Now, in writing I don't think it means that you have to turn your light paranormal, or vaguely suspenseful romance into something Dennis Lehane would write - but it does mean that in those scenes that are supposed to be suspenseful - you have to commit to it - you have to give the reader more than what is just basic. Our subplots can not just take up space and add to the word count - they have to be integral and they have to be fully-imagined.

And, I'm going to do that - any minute now.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Why aren’t more people watching Friday Night Lights?

I’m a bad blogger, I know, but I literally couldn’t think of a single writing topic this week, until now.

I know we blog incessantly about Friday Night Lights, and Dexter and Battlestar, but we do this because (I’m talking for Molly and Maureen here) we are consistently blown away by the storytelling on these shows.

This week on Friday Night Lights, they took the pimply, lanky, homely Christian Hard Rocker and made him heroic and wonderful and made the gorgeous bad girl believably fall in love with him. And then they gave him his dream moment and directly afterwards, tore his world apart.

And I loved every moment of it.

And if that isn’t reason enough to watch it, how about for the alchoholic bad boy, who is the most soulful character on the show.

Or, for my favourite reason, the best written, possibly ever on TV, married couple. The coach and his wife. Brilliantly played by the actors, but the truthful, authentic moments the writers are throwing on the screen between these two consistently blow me away.

And not to offend anyone, but freakin’ Ghost Whisperer is kicking its ass in the ratings…

I mean seriously…

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Can we Tawk?

I'm inspired this week to talk about something that shouldn't be controversial, but with writers sometimes is -- honesty.

Writing is such a personal endeavor. As writers we pour bits of ourselves into our work and then shove it out into the world for little pieces to be hacked off or smashed by others. It's just the nature of the beast. I doubt there's been a piece of writing, ever, that was universally loved. On the same token, not everyone has the same career goals or will go about attaining those goals in the same manner. While those of us lucky enough to find companions on this journey have company on our writing paths, we aren't always going to agree with the choices made by our writer friends.

So, how do we cope?

I think with a combination of honesty and tact. And because everyone makes mistakes, also with forgiveness.

I often marvel at the miracle that is my main critique group. (I'm working with two groups right now... a bit overwhelming.) My first group has been together, more or less, for over five years now. That six women can meet once a week for five years to criticize each other and still survive is seriously a miracle. Not that we haven't had problems. To prevent the total collapse of the group we've had to prune a couple members and that was tough. Tough for the prunees, I'm sure, but tough for us, too. We've also recently added a member and that too was tough. New personalities, new ideas, change. All hard. But we're sticking it out because it works, because we make each other better, because we're all in it for the writing and not for the weekly social call, and because we keep each other honest -- I hope.

I've heard stories of hurt feelings and misunderstandings that have blown up in so many other writers faces. Old friends never talking to each other again. Offense taken where none was meant, escalating into all out wars.

We all want to avoid these blow ups. Is the solution to always be nice? To never say the hard things? To continue a relationship that clearly isn't working instead of cutting it off? Gee, I hope not.

I don't want my critique partners to lie to me -- ever. Sure some things they've said have hurt. And I'm *sure* I've said things that have hurt them. (I can be a bitch.) But I'm a big girl (and I'm not just talking bra size). I can take it and I hope they can too. The thickness of my skin has increased about 100x since I started seriously writing and I think I'm a better person for it.

And each day I thank whatever higher power there might be for sending me critique partners who can be brutally honest, with tact, and who can forgive each other for the occasional and inevitable lack of tact and hurt feelings.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The information reveal.

Officially Life is my favourite new show of the Tv season and the only one I’m going to continue to watch.

I have finally given up on Bionic Woman. It was only pigheaded stubbornness that kept me watching this long anyway.

Why Life? It has it’s weaknesses, the case of the week isn’t terrifically imaginative and the lead character’s zen can be wearing. But as it goes on, the writers are doing some really, really smart things.
Well, the smartest thing they did was cast Damien Lewis in the lead role. Even with all the zen, he’s been able to project a sense of ruthlessness behind everything and this week, it really came forward and in a good way. We got a real sense just exactly how 12 years in prison had changed this guy and as much as he’s tried to hide it, he’s a different man. And not for the better and Lewis can convey that the character knows it.

The writers are taking their time revealing everyone’s demons. They’ve been doing it in quick scenes. One of the better ones was when the lead character’s partner gets covered in heroin during a bust. Her reaction tells us exactly what she is, a recovering heroin addict. And four episodes later, we find out she fell in love while undercover and he was a heroin addict also. And it was almost a throwaway line, not a huge reveal and not an information dump. Just enough to really whet my appetite to know what happened.

The Lewis character has this mission, that in some cases, the writers only hint at, and the times when his ruthlessness comes to the forefront are usually underplayed, and perfect. Each episode we learn something new about his character and the writers are trusting the audience to be intrigued enough to continue watching and patient enough not to want to know everything up front.

I really like that trust. I don’t like to be told everything about a character up front, be it movies, tv or books. It requires more trust between the audience and the writer, but as long as the payoff is worth it, then I’m in all the way

And in this show, I believe the payoff is worth it.

And I’m taking notes, because the writers are making all sorts of smart choices about what and when to reveal in terms of the overall mystery of who framed the hero and about the main characters.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gone Baby Gone and Ben Affleck

My relentless love of Ben Affleck has been redeemed. I knew he was worth my appreciation - through Pay Back and Sum of All Fears and Surviving Christmas I knew there was a reason why we should just be patient while he got the Bennifers and Daredevils out of his system.

That reason being -- the guy is clearly an amazing storyteller/director and the incredibly tense and painful to watch Gone Baby Gone just proves it. I had heard all these rumors about Good Will Hunting, that a script doctor actually did most of the heavy lifting of that screenplay and the boys took the kudos. Gone Baby Gone totally dispels that rumor. Now, granted Dennis Lehane's novel provided the bones for this movie -- and man are they good bones -- but as we all know - it can harder revising something to suit a new purpose than it is to start from scratch - which is why they have a best adapted screenplay oscar. But the dialogue in this movie is SO real. It's SO authentic. It's SO of character and not of plot necessity. And that has to be Affleck, right?

And moreover - the themes of the movie - right and wrong. The difference between moral and just? Lawful and criminal? Which could have been beaten to death (like a few characters in the film) - weren't. Everyone was good, everyone was bad. Choices were hard and harder. And Affleck handled it deftly - thanks in large part to Casey Affleck's acting. The guy is a cooler smarter Ben - without Ben's looks he clearly has had time to hone his chops in supporting parts and it really really shows. The guy is pretty darn riveting.

Ed Harris - of course - is amazing. Morgan Freeman does the same thing he always does and I'm more than tired of him. Amy Madigan (Ed Harris' wife and it's so not fair that he is aging the way he is and she is aging the way she is) steals the screen every time she's on. But the real delight is Ben Affleck. I will quietly go back to my now totally justified lusting....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Contest Winner!!!

Hey sorry this post is so terribly terribly lame but I am sick like a dog. A sweaty dog with the flu. And a headache.

Anyway our contest winner from last weekend - is Heidi The Hick!! Congrats! Please email me Heidi and I'll get your address and box of goodies out the door.

As a question -- where does the term Black Mariah come from? Anyone?

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm rambling and its the wines fault.

I’ve had two glasses of wine, so this post is going to be short and not all together coherent.

Friday night lights is over for the week. God, I love that show. I love that almost every time they show the coach’s wife, she has her newborn sleeping on her. (so true to life) I love that they’ve focused in more on Tim Riggins this year. All the better to get that female, 18-65 demographic and the way the coach furrows his brow almost all the time. The dead body storyline, well the show has earned my trust. I’ll follow them almost anywhere.

But this post is not about our collective Drunk Writer’s obsession with Friday Night Lights, or that Razor( a sort of spin off Battlestar Gallactica movie is supposed to air Nov 24th and oh, does it look amazing), nope, been thinking about Maureen’s post, and publishing and choices and most of all persistence.

I think a lot of writers feel left out in the cold. (remember now, two glasses of wine, which at this point in my life, make me seriously tipsy) they’re banging on doors and getting rejected, or worse, completely ignored.

It’s stupid hard to take a rejection and smile through it, worse still, go on to write the next book. Sometimes we just want to hear yes, something I completely understand.

And the one phrase that keeps coming up(I know, I’ve used it) is write a better book. Which I do agree with. Everyone, published, aspiring, and anyone in between, we need to get better with each book. So sure, but if writing a better book was the only answer, than Judith Ivory would be so much bigger than she is, Connie Brockway’s historicals would have been bestsellers, and Laura Kinsale would own at least three publishing houses.

Sometimes a better book isn’t enough. You need luck and timing as well. Two things that increase exponentially with the number of books completed and queries on the market.

So what kind of a drunk writer post is this. The truest kind, where the writer is maybe a little drunk. But hey, write the best book you can, because really, the next book might be the one.

I love wine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Myths, Lies and the Publishing Industry

Okay, I know this is bad form. But I forgot to do a blog today and was reminded of one of my very first posts on my other blog, so I decided to repost it here.

Updates to this since I wrote it last year? Sadly very few. :-)


A couple of recent posts on writer-lists I belong to have prompted me to do something I swore I’d never do with this blog (but already broke in the first week). I hadn’t planned to use this blog to foist my opinions about publishing on the world. Enough people already do that and do it well… But sometimes, it appears, I just can’t help myself…

So, at the risk of having cyber-tomatoes tossed my way, I find myself wanting to voice a few opinions about small pubs, e-pubs and (gasp) self-publishing.

I’m still very early in my—what I hope will be a—writing career… but, except for about ten minutes after one particularly disappointing bit of news, I haven’t even considered an option other than shooting for a contract with a major NY publisher.

Why? For me, it’s about knowing what you want. It’s about setting goals and sticking to them even if it requires a little harsh reflection and honesty—not to mention a lot of hard work on your craft and probably tossing a few early manuscripts into the trash bin.

Not that I think there’s any one right way to get published—or even a best way—I just know what I want and based on some things I read on the loops, some (emphasis on some) writers end up at e-pubs without much forethought or because they weren’t honest with themselves about their writing or about the industry.

In other words, if a writer decides to target a small press or e-pub, he/she should be very clear about why they've made that choice.

In my opinion, it comes down to goals. Writers (I hope) write because we love to write… So why do we want to be published? That’s a whole other question. Some writers may be happy just to see their name in print on a book cover. Maybe it’s being able to use that elusive title "author". Maybe they just hope a few people who don’t know them will actually read their stories. On the other hand, some writers have different goals. For example, seeing their book in major chains, reaching for or hitting bestseller lists, reviews in major publications, possible movie deals, having thousands of people read their books, earning a modest living…

If those latter goals sound like you… Then my advice is to stay focused on getting that contract with a major NY publishing house.

What saddens me most, I suppose, is when I see writers falling into the trap of believing certain myths about the industry that get perpetrated amongst we pre-published authors. Yes, it’s a tough business. Yes, the odds are against a new writer. Yes, it’s very subjective. Yes, there’s some luck and timing involved, but some things I hear out there just aren’t true. For example, I’ve heard people claiming that to get a major NY contract or even land a reputable agent:

  • You have to know someone

  • You have to be pretty

  • Your book has to fit into some kind of cookie-cutter mold

  • You have to learn a secret handshake no one’s willing to teach you

Yes, these little lies writers tell themselves can help take the sting out of the inevitable rejections that come in this business—but they are lies. Believing that you need an "in" to get published by a NY house, or that the major houses never take chances can lead writers into a world of delusion. Yes, small presses and e-pubs have launched certain fiction sub-genres -- they can take more chances because the costs are so much lower... But once those barriers have been broken and it’s proven a market exists (say with erotica or paranormal right now) NY starts clamoring for those types of books and if your writing is good enough, your storytelling gripping, your voice strong, you will find an agent and get a publishing deal with a NY house.


This is what I believe.

Am I the one who’s deluded?

I don't have a book contract yet. It took me 3 completed manuscripts to get a great agent and I recognize that it might take a few more manuscripts to get that contract... Don’t get me wrong… it will break my heart if the book my agent is shopping right now doesn't sell... But I'll recover. I also know each book I write gets better and for me (emphasis on for me) going with a small pub or e-pub is a compromise I'm not willing to make. It’s just not compatible with my goals. Your goals might be different. Just be honest with yourself and don't buy into the myths.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Guest Blogger: Michele Ann Young author of No Regrets

Exciting day for the drunk writers! Michele Ann Young - one of our critique partners and an excellent author - has her debut this month with NO REGRETS from Source Books. What's truly exciting about Michele's book is her twist on the expectations of the genre. Her heroine is A typical. Her hero is not what he seems. And her plot takes us out of the Regency ballrooms and into lots and lots of trouble. It's fun. It's smart. And I'm not just saying that because she's my critique partner. Or because we've had a lot of white wine together.

She's got a great take on research and what it's like to work with publisher on a new line AND we're running a contest this week. We'll randomly pick someone who comments anytime this week and that person will get some books and treats!!!! So be sure to check back!

I put Michele's feet to the fire in the following Q and A -

Okay, Michele, first of all thanks so much for joining us - and now what we're all really dying to know - What is your tipple of choice?

Chardonnay, or a malt scotch, depending on the time of day.

I understand totally. Chardonnay is really more of a breakfast drink. You are always off to exciting locales. So, what is your vacation of choice?

Hard to choose, because I do like a short break anywhere warm in the winter. But give me any place with buildings more than 200 years old and I really don't care what the weather does as long as I have a camera and no one is bugging me to hurry up. We went to Venice and Rome this past summer. It was like time travel, if one ignored all the other tourists. And the local people were so friendly and helpful.

I know you do a lot of research. What is your take on research? What has been particularly helpful to you as you research your novels? What recommendations would you make to people regarding research and using it effectively in books?

For me there are two kinds of research, the general kind, learning about the era, reading historical non fiction on one topic or another, biographies, or diaries, even other novels about the Regency -- sort of getting a feel for it. Then there is the detailed research on minutia. That happens when I hit a question about something my characters are doing or that I want them to do. For example in No Regrets they had to go from one side of the River Seine in Paris where my heroine was living, to a cafe that would have been in existence at the time located on the other bank. I had to stop writing and get that information in order for the scene to work. However, when I needed the hero to visit the British Embassy, I was quite happy simply highlight the spot and wait for the British Embassy to reply with the relevant information while I moved on with the story. It all depends on how pivotal the information is to the story. The most important thing is for your characters to move through your world in the most natural way, whether they are Regency Bucks or Navy SEALS. Don't have them wax lyrical about things they would take for granted just because you spent hours researching Chinese wallpaper, or Queen Ann furniture, or how a fire truck rolls up hoses. It is a fine line to walk, but as soon as you move from story into detailed descriptions, you become self-indulgent and risk annoying your reader. I thought the TV series Rome really put this in perspective for me. Rome is not my era, and I watched in fascination as the characters moved through their world, no one ever explaining anything, just one visual after another, but it all made sense because the characters interacted with the world as the story went along.

You've gone out on a limb with a publisher putting out a new romance line. What has been your experience with Source Books?

I am enjoying working with them very much. They are an independent publisher, but too big to be called small press. They are launching their new Casablanca romance line this fall with No Regrets and another book and have done everything possible to make these books a success. It is very much a team effort. Their marketing and promotion has been far more than I could ever have expected and they are very responsive to suggestions, comments and questions.

What made you start writing romance?

I always loved Georgette Heyer books, which are romances, and I thought I would like to try my hand at something similar. I like the relationship aspect, I like strong heroines and a bit of an adventure, and I love happy endings. So once I decided to write stories, which I sort of did by accident, I guess romance was a no-brainer.

We talk a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a writer. What is something that you feel like you struggle with in writing?

I feel I know my characters, when I am writing, and I am certainly emotionally involved with them and their story, but I think it is hard to put that kind of emotion on the page so that the reader can empathize with them too. Actually I think it is all very hard.

Favorite books?All of Georgette Heyer, Flowers of the Storm by Laura Kinsale, The Da Vinci Code, Outlander. To many to mention. I read anything and everything, including the serial box. If there are words, I will read them. All.

What actors would play your characters in No Regrets? Renee Zelwigger or maybe Drew Barrymore and Matthew Macfadyen. Or perhaps Ioan Gruffudd. Fun thinking about that one. I could spend quite a bit of time daydreaming about that.

Ha! I think Matthew Macfadyen would play a lot of your heroes. You're a little in love with that guy. Now, lastly, as a person who has been writing for a number of years and spent the last few being very close to publication (a very frustrating place to be) a lot of new writers read this blog - what would your advice be to authors who have been working hard but the rejections have been piling up?

Take a look at the market, see if you are writing to a trend that is past. Try sharpening up your voice maybe? Enter some contests and see what sort of feedback you are getting. Maybe write something new, a new book or even a new genre. Sometimes a new project will rekindle some of the joy that editing seems to drain away.If it is a book you believe in, keep sending it out. Persistence is an important ingredient of success.But do write something else while you are waiting. It seems to me from my limited experience that publishing is mostly about waiting for someone else to decide. And the only thing a writer can do while that is happening, --is write the next book.

Smart words Michele! Thanks so much for being here! Check out Michele's website for more information on her books and her fantastic newsletter.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More New TV and why mystery is so important

I’ve kind of being looking for this years Friday Night Lights, so I tuned into a lot more new shows than I normally would.

Some, because they looked cool. That’s my excuse for Bionic Woman and I’m sticking to it.
Some because they were recommended by TV critics, Chuck, Reaper and Life and the rest of the new shows, I’m waiting to see what stands out as the TV season progresses and perhaps I’ll just buy the DVD.

Nothing so far has come close to matching my old favs, including FNL, or Battlestar, (as an aside, entertainment weekly had a season 4 preview from on it’s pop watch section a few days ago. Looks AMAZING)

Chuck and Reaper I’m giving up on. Both shows are remarkably similar - nerdy guy, in a career slump is thrust into an unbelievable situation and he has to rise to the occasion every week. Each one has a funny sidekick/best friend and a love interest he’s too shy to declare his feelings for.
The best thing about both are the supporting characters. In Chuck it’s Adam Baldwin, amazing in FireFly, and in Reaper it’s the Devil. Both almost make the show, but not quite.

To be honest, I find the shows boring. We know each week, how the show is going to go. Each main character is sweet, and in their own way, heroic, and their character arc is slim to none, and there’s no discernible mystery, other than who is going to be the bad guy each week.

Then there’s Life. The weekly case has proven weak, but the main character, there’s a lot of mystery there. The over all mystery of who framed him, and they are doing a delicious job of feeding small clues in to each episode about what happened.
There’s the mystery of his relationship with his lawyer, what happened between him and his accountant in jail, and why he trusts his accountant(a man charged with fraud). We get glimpses into the rage underneath the zen mind set he’s trying to adopt and small glimpses into how jail changed him.
It could be due to the actor, but there seems to be so much to the character simmering under the surface, so much complexity and I love that the writers didn’t feel the need to spell everything out in the first episode, unlike Chuck and Reaper.

So that’s it. The one new show I’ve added to my list, unless anyone has any other recommendations…

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Genre Bending

So, fair warning, this isn't going to be a well thought out post.

But I'm watching The Bionic Woman right now and think I've come up with at least one reason why this show just doesn't work (in spite of the amazing Katee Sackoff as "bad bionic woman").

I think for any kind of story to work, whether it be TV or a movie or a novel, it needs to know what it is. Now this doesn't mean it can't blend genres, but if it does blend genres, it has to do it purposefully and artfully. Does the Bionic Woman do this? Not so much. Not yet, anyway.

The original 1970's series was cheesy in the same TV vein as other hits on the air at the time like Charlie's Angels. It was a show as much aimed at kids as adults. It was a bit cartoonish. (Anyone remember the sound effects when the original Jamie jumped?) This new version of Bionic Woman wants to be darker, to be taken more seriously... but then they throw in these really bad jokes that not only aren't funny, they don't fit the tone of the show, nor are they consistent with the characters. "That's right, Sir, we did talk about an attitude adjustment." Not funny and it completely undermined the Miguel Ferrer character who's still being established. In fact, it made a joke of the whole whatever-the-hell-organization they're all supposed to work for. Within the five minutes of the same episode they try to establish Ferrer's character as a cool customer who can fool lie detector tests (along with another bad joke attempt, "How do you do that?" "I was married.") and then they cut down that characterization by having him cave on something so key as keeping Jamie safe. Made zero sense to me. I'm all for character complexities and sometimes that means inconsistencies, but I think you need to establish important character traits fully before you contradict them. With BSG we knew Starbuck was super tough before we saw her be vulnerable. We knew the President was sensitive before we saw her be cut throat. We knew Adama was cool headed and tough long before we saw him let his emotions take control of his decision making. That's good complex character development.

I can't understand how the same people who darkened and deepened BSG could have blown it so badly with this one. OMG the writers just made Katee suggest to Jamie that they form a union because the guys watch them in the shower. ARGH. Not funny and so stupid. It seems like they want to poke fun at the premise, like the writers don't know whether to take the show seriously or not. Not working for me so far.

Oh, and it doesn't make any sense to me why Jamie's trusting the people who created her over bad bionic woman. They haven't done a good job of making me believe Jamie trusts the people she works for, and she has plenty of reasons not to trust them. It just doesn't make sense that she wouldn't listen to Sarah. Maybe they should have waited a few episodes before introducing the Katee Sackoff character (although she's the only good thing in the show, so that might not have worked, either.)

In contrast, I saw the second episode of another new series this week based on Alli's recommendation. (Thanks, Alli!) Pushing Up Daisies seems to know what it is. It's blending genres and doing it well, from what I saw in one episode, anyway. My personal jury is still out on this show -- I fear the narration could become tedious -- but it seems to be holding true to its vision -- an odd blend of detective show, fairy tale and quirky romantic comedy. Has promise.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

New Jersey Conference and Harlequin Changes

Hey all - sorry for the late post. I was strung out on pumpkin pie yesterday and sweating too much to sit at the computer. Hottest Thanksgiving on record -- our poor planet. Anyway -- I got back from the New Jersey RWA conference this weekend - always a fantastic conference. If you are considering going to a conference but don't want to commit to the zoo that is national - this is a great one to try. Well run. Lots of big authors and agents and editors. Fantastic chocolate buffet on Friday night - seriously, what's not to like?

Of course everyone was a buzz about the changes to Harlequin NEXT and LOVE EVERLASTING. If you haven't heard - those lines are no longer going to be published as they are. Love Everlasting will be a book a month series under the Superromance Imprint and they are looking into NEXT as a trade paperback - though they are making no promises.

So, at the PAN retreat there was the usual Harlequin-doesn't-know-what-it's-doing-the-world-is-coming-to -an -end conversation. And usually I get real swept up in this hysteria - as a person with two lines that have closed - it's easy to do. But this time - thanks to the FABULOUS Eileen Dreyer -- I kept a cool head. Eileen's whole vibe was -- it takes a long time to get perspective on your career. It takes years to get to a point where you can look at the changes in the industry and the great big teeth it has that chews up authors all the time - and go "Meh."

We say it all the time here - or in that corner book at the Duke - but it was the total theme of this conference. Keep writing. Keep getting better. Listen only to the people you love and trust. Keep one eye on the market, trends and industry and remember if you just hang in long enough everything is going change. Good and Bad. Sherrilyn Kenyon was there and she seconded it -- being as how she couldn't be more on the top of the world she understands it's not going to last. At some point she will have problems selling books -- hard to believe looking at her line up at the book signing - but she's right. Everything changes.

Which - despite the drama at Harlequin - makes me glad I write category. It will be a long time before there is NO category published at all - and if I just stay flexible within that house - I could go anywhere.

It was also a major theme that as authors you need to play nice. Do revisions. Listen to editor feedback. Stay quiet on the loops. Keep the pontificating to that back corner of whatever bar you love and don't get distracted by Facebook and Myspace and promotion that gets you exactly nowhere.

Writing a good book is still the best thing we can all do for our careers.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

POV and secondary characters

Been thinking as well since the last bout of Drunk writer talk and Maureen’s great post on Wednesday.

In romance, or women’s fiction, where deep POV is a given, how do we underwrite the big emotional scenes? Especially those wonderful black moments.

Sometimes the most affecting black moment is when we see the devastation, and the emotions, but we aren’t in the character’s head. Which sort of goes against one of the more simple POV rules. The POV of a scene should be the character who has the most to lose.

But those big dramatic scenes, if the writer has done their job effectively, we know how the character who faces the black moment will feel. We, as readers, have been anticipating this moment, and seeing it, slightly removed, rather then going through each and every thought in the character’s head, can be more powerful.

So how do we do this?

One thought I have is through our secondary characters. They can give us a POV that is slightly removed. They can show us the devastation.

But this only works if the setup to that big scene has given the reader a really strong understanding of the stakes for the main character, what they have to lose, and how it will affect them.

Then we don’t need to tell the reader what they’re feeling. We just need to show the reader and she’ll fill in the blanks, doing a much better job of it.

Just a thought. One I might try and play around with more in the next WIP.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

POV, grilled cheese sandwiches and Friday Night Lights

So, I just saw the grilled cheese episode of Friday Night Lights that Sinead mentioned in the comments when we were talking about perfect scenes a few months ago. I agree with her. That scene, that entire episode, was a work of art.

I’d already teared up twice during that episode before the oh-so-lovely grilled cheese scene. There were several big moments in that episode, but here are the two that particularly slayed me. First, the actual fight scene between the two brothers. That scene just killed me. There’s so much hurt and guilt and devotion between those two brothers and it makes me wonder if I could do the right thing, the unselfish thing, if put in the older brother's situation. And then Tim wants so badly to blindly love his father in spite of his desertion. This character trait is such powerful way of showing that, in spite of his toughness (and oh-so-hunky-good-looks), Tim's still a little boy inside. The second moment for me in that episode, was when the congregation started digging into their pockets to give money to Smash, not knowing it’s to pay for his illegal steroids. The look on his face. Unbelievable. Yet he says nothing. Does nothing.

But back to writing, POV, and grilled cheese sandwiches. When this episode was mentioned before, I commented that the scene sounded much like one from the movie Big Night, and after seeing the scene, it still does. It’s the TV version of the same scene. Somewhat shorter, somewhat less subtle. But it does its job just as beautifully, showing the viewer everything without one line of dialogue.

What I’m pondering after watching it, is how to do a scene like that in a novel—particularly in commercial fiction. It’s not that hard to imagine it in a literary novel because of the omniscient point of view. To me, a lot of the beauty of that scene is that we aren’t in either brothers’ points of view. I think that makes it more equal, less like one of them “won” or “gave in” or even apologized. Tim coming back and simply sitting down is in many ways his apology and the older brother offering half the sandwich is his. And accepting the sandwich and sip of beer is an acknowledgment of sorts that Tim knows how his big brother looks after him.

Would this scene be as powerful if we “heard” their internal thoughts? If their emotional thoughts were spilled out all over the scene in garish display? I personally don’t think so. And this is why, in my opinion, the idea that all books need to have deep points of view all the time is wrong-headed. I think we have to choose when to pull back from our characters and just show the scene without necessarily writing down all the thoughts that go with it. If we’ve done a good enough job of creating characters, then the characters’ actions will speak for themselves. (A girl can dream, right?)

My fellow drunk writers both write romance and I started out writing romance, too. And in the romance genre, deep point of view is considered a powerful tool -- like the key one must hold in order to unlock the great novel door. And for good reason. I mean, most readers of romance want the experience of being in the characters’ shoes, in their heads, in their hearts. And deep point of view is a fabulous way to create this vicarious experience for the reader. So, what I’m wondering, is a subtle scene like the grilled cheese scene in Episode 8 of Friday Night Lights possible in the romance genre? Forget romance, in any genre/commercial fiction book that uses focused points of view? This is what I’m pondering right now.

Thoughts anyone?
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