Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Welcome Nelsa Roberto!

Today, I'm happy to welcome Nelsa Roberto whose first book Illegally Blonde was released this week! Nelsa's been a friend of the Toronto contingent of drunk writer talk writers for years, has even come out with us for drinks a few times, and we're thrilled to have her here to talk about her new book.

Welcome, Nelsa!

Hi everybody! This is my very first guest blog post anywhere and I'm a little weirded out by it. Not that DWT - home of the awesomely supportive and amazing writers Molly, Maureen, Sinead, Eileen and Stephanie - are anything but warm and welcoming. It's just been a year of many firsts for me not the least of which has been the debut release of my YA book Illegally Blonde
just yesterday. This past year I also started my blog, Out of the Woodwork, joined Twitter (@nelsaroberto), and attended my first writers panel last week (as an author! For reals!). So, when I think about all these firsts and try and figure out how the heck I ended up doing all this 'being out there' kind of stuff which does not come naturally to me, I keep coming back to one main thing:

I wrote a book I loved.

Everything that has happened to me this past year happened because finally, after five years of writing a few 'not quite there' books, I finally wrote about something I loved. Illegally Blonde is about seventeen-year-old Portuguese-Canadian Lucy discovering she and her family are illegal immigrants, getting deported to Portugal and her attempt to get back home. It's inspired by actual events that occurred in Toronto in 2006.

That's the basic plot, but the story is so much more to me. I wrote a story about a Portuguese-Canadian girl (ya, that's my heritage too :) ) - a heroine I'd never seen in a YA book and had certainly never read about growing up. I set the story in Toronto and the rural countryside of Portugal - places I adore but don't see much of in books. I wrote a story that I hope had drama and humour with a dash of mystery and romance thrown in too - all things I love seeing in books. Discovering your cultural heritage, love and resentment of family, searching for independence and self-realization are themes threaded throughout the book - themes I care about and will probably explore in one way or another for the rest of my writing life. All these things made the writing of Illegally Blonde an absolute pleasure for me. I tell you all this because I really do believe that loving what you write - even if it may not be the most commercially viable or recognizable - makes it possible to stand the agonizing process of getting a book published today.

I've heard many writers compare getting a book published to being on a roller coaster ride. Well, I absolutely freaking hate roller coasters so why would I even attempt this? Because I love writing more than fear the plunging nausea of the book publishing world. I took that plunge with this book.

I sent out Illegally Blonde to agents in December 2006. I signed with The Carolyn Swayze Agency in February 2007. Over 2007 and 2008 I received rejections from publishers, some lovely, some not and went to acquisition meetings at 2 different publishing houses and missed it 2 times by 'that much'. I mentally gave up on selling the book I loved until in January 2009 when my agent said, "Let's try a few independent publishers here in Canada". Great Plains Teen Fiction loved the book as much as I did and without hesitation made an offer in February 2009 and Illegally Blonde was released on March 30, 2010.

It has not been the easiest path. There were twists and turns I had not expected. But, throughout it all, I never stopped loving my story. With the number of times I've had to read and edit it and with the length of time and effort it took to get here I had to love it. I couldn't have managed this roller coaster ride if I didn't. Loving that book has been my safety belt. So, to my fellow drunk writers I say I hope your own safety belt is nice and secure - because it may be the only thing that prevents you from falling off this crazy ride.

Thanks again, DWT, for inviting me! Whew. My first guest blog post has been written. I think a drink is in order…

Nelsa, a drink is definitely in order! Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Lost lost me

I'm done with Lost. Oh, I'll watch those last few episodes, but mainly because my kids and my boyfriend and are still watching and I almost always succumb to peer pressure. I'm weak that way.

I love the first season of that show. Seeing the survivors of the plane crash figure out how to live on the island was fascinating. I loved the first season of Jericho for the same reason. What would they eat? Where would they sleep? What kind of society would form?

The fact that all those questions were hung on a larger framework about the struggle between faith and reason and fate and free will made it even more delicious. The survivors decisions and choices had more riding on them than just survival. Those decisions meant something.

Still even with those grand themes, Lost was always about the people struggling within that framework. Jack and Kate and Locke and Sawyer and Sayid and Hurley and Sun and Jin and all the rest. I cared about them and how they resolved their dilemmas.

Smokey versus Jacob? Not so much. Richard? Hmm. Not really, especially when they give him stringy dirty hair for the entire episode thus removing the pleasure of looking at Nestor Carbonell's beautiful eyelashes.

Don't get me wrong. I love me some theme. Without an organizing principal like theme, books, movies and television shows become random happenings without meaning. For, me, however, there has to be a balance.

The first season of Lost hit that balance with the sure-footed confidence of an Olympic gymnast. This last season, however, totally hasn't stuck the landing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thinking About Backstory

Oddly enough, I've never read any Jennifer Weiner. I really liked the movie IN HER SHOES, but I've never cracked the spine on one of her books, until a few weeks ago when I totally gobbled up BEST FRIENDS FOREVER.

Yes, the characters are great. Yes, the writing is witty and smart and in turns thought-provoking and laugh out loud funny. But, what really struck me was something that Sinead was was talking about last week: what do you read for?

My answer was questions - I need there to be questions I want answered. Little mysteries that the writer is skillfully handing out. Why is that person doing that? What happened to them? Why are they scared of the dark? etc...

And Jennifer Weiner, in this book, is the master of the backstory questions. The what happened way back when questions? And the why questions? And then I realized, these questions - the backstory ones - are the easiest questions to create. You just don't tell the reader the backstory! It is truly that simple. Small clues. Hints. Dollops of delicious teasers will keep those pages turning forever. And I think readers are so smart, so savvy at this point, you can keep it pretty damn spare. The tiniest hint will keep a reader going. And she plays around with point of view - ratcheting up tension as she goes, revealing things in one pov that makes life harder for another pov.

Characters, much like people, live in the now. We don't spend a lot of time wondering about that big event that changed out lives so signifigantly - we just live our lives. Weiner's characters do that. And those questions about the past were mighty powerful.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Drunk Writer Rita and Golden Heart Finalists

We have fantastic news this week.

Drunk Writer Molly is a finalist for the Rita for Romance Novella, for her Christmas story
“The Christmas Eve Promise” in The Night Before Christmas

and Drunk Writer Maureen is a finalist in the Golden Heart in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category for her book, Switching Sides.

Both are amazing stories, and we are thrilled for both Drunk Writers.

Congrats to both of you.

Deliberate or Talent?

I am just now fully committed to the new season of American Idol. It usually takes me a few weeks to get there. I think about how I miss David Cook and Adam Lambert. How I’m probably never going to connect to another contestant the way I did with either of them or Fantasia. But then of course I do.

And even if I don’t I watch because I love the process these people go through. I can draw so many parallels to publishing.

You need to stand out. You need to be current, but you can’t be a copy. You need to take something that’s been done before and make it fresh. You need to have talent but you also have to have something “else” that sets you apart. And you need to make your impact fast. You don’t get a whole lot of second, third or fourth chances.

Anyone writing for a major publishing house today understands all of that. The days of slow growing an author are gone. More common is the blockbuster approach. Which means out of the gate the publisher is looking for the next great thing. Is that always the “most” talented writer? No. It’s the writer who found a way to turn something on its head. Who hit the right vibe at the right time.

The one thing we as writers are spared that Idols are not – is that they also have to have a certain look. Pretty, interesting, cool… whatever it is.

My standout so far this year… wacky Siobhan. Last week she did the Rolling Stones song Paint it Black. This performance struck me on so many different levels. First the way she started out quiet, then built the song and the performance. Then she hit her high crazy note, then she settled to a softer moment which showcased again how pretty her voice was.

David Cook mastered the art of BIG NOTE and quiet end. Adam Lambert mastered the art of drama. This girl to me combined those two elements to great effect. When I went back and watched the performance again I noticed the way her feet were positioned when she sat on the stairs to start the song. They were twisted and oddly placed. Like a doll just dropped on the stairs and it added to her look.

And what I wonder is… did she know to do that or was that just something that happened as a result of her being a gifted performer? Deliberate thought or natural talent? Simon has teased her about how “odd” she is. She has a way of speaking that sometimes makes you wonder if she’s “all” there. So I wonder is this girl just a natural and the things she does just "happen"?

Or is she really thinking about each element? The dress, the makeup, the movement, the positioning and most of all the execution of the song.

And the same is true for writers. When I read something so cool, I wonder did that just come to them? Did they think their way through it? Did they maximize a certain element because they knew it would resonate with the audience or did they simply write the story in their head and it happened to hit.

What do I do? I think about a lot of things. But then sometimes I just write and cool sh*t happens. (At least I think it’s cool).
But at the end of the day I think I would rather believe it’s deliberate. If it’s deliberate then enough brains can power you through a story that will be the next greatest thing.

If it’s magic… well then you’re relying on your muse, fate, the whims of the storytelling gods and all that other crazy stuff.

P.S. - I'm adding this after Tuesday night's performance. I didn't care for her as much this week. Which just goes to show the second hardest thing to do as a performer/writer - is being amazing. And then being amazing again!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The New Phonebook's Here!

I know I'm dating myself (The Jerk came out when Sinead and Molly were toddlers--probably Stephanie, too.) But that bit from The Jerk is still one of the funniest things I've ever seen in a movie. I'm not sure quite why Steve Martin running around screaming, "The new phone book's here!" was so funny to me, but it was.

I think it's because, even though his character was such an over-the-top simpleton, there's just something so pure and true about someone feeling legit--like a real person--because it's the first time they've ever been listed in the phone book. And his excitement over it cracked me up.

Well, I had my first listing in Publisher's Marketplace yesterday.

March 23, 2010

Children's: Young Adult
Maureen McGowan's CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR and SLEEPING BEAUTY: VAMPIRE SLAYER, the first two books in a new series of adventurous fairy tales for girls, in which the heroines are capable of saving themselves, but also claim their handsome princes, to Pink Shoes Productions, for Phoenix Books, for publication Fall 2010, by Pamela Harty at The Knight Agency.

Yes, if you're a PM subscriber, you can actually search on my name, and get a listing now!

The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!

**Maureen runs around holding it up and screaming, a la Steve Martin.**

Thanks Juliana Stone for noticing and letting me know! BTW Juliana's first novel, DARKEST HUNGER, comes out next week, and she's going to stop by here the following week to celebrate with us! Woot! (She's got a great contest going on on her blog right now. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


My brain is a tiny bit hurty right now so I apologize for my somewhat random rambling today.

I spent the weekend finishing my rough draft. It's actually beyond rough. It's a hideous mess, but that's okay. I can fix it. I have eight days to do it. I have the technology. Plus I had a great motivator. Berkley sent me the cover! And it's awesome! Check it out!

Ain't it gorgeous? I love love love it.

For those of you who haven't read the first in the series (it just came out like two weeks ago), one of the characters is named Alexander Bledsoe. I thought it was kind of a clever name for a vampire. Then I got an e-mail from . . . Alex Bledsoe! Turns out he writes paranormal novels for Tor! Vampire novels, even. I don't know who was more tripped out by the coincidence, him or me.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What do you read for?

I've got a time crunch right now, so I have few, but treasured moments, to read for pleasure. Something I think is common amongst many women out there.

Because of this, I've become incredibly picky about what I'm reading. Lately, the best books I've read have either been in YA, or literary fiction and all were recommended by writer friends.

And all in some way managed to surprise me. One key thing that needs to be present for me to really love a book is the element of surprise. I can accept a lot of faults in a book, but what I have serious issues with is when I can predict where the book is headed.

If I can forsee the events of the story, then I quickly lose interest. I can accept less than steller characterization, and even some plotholes if a story takes me places I did not expect.

I'm curious about what makes a story readable for everyone else. Is there anyone element that will elevate a book into keeper status?

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I’ve got an extreme case of it right now. The plan is to start my next historical. I’ve pitched the idea to the agent and she likes it. Although we both agree I seem to have a propensity for taking the “hard way” when it comes to story ideas. At least half of this book is going to be told through two servants’ povs. That’s right. I’m going to have to sell NY on the idea that servants can be sexy and romantic too. How much harder can that be from trying to tell people that a mute witch in 1698 is the next big thing? Let's hope I do better this time.

I’ve thought about little else besides this idea since I turned in my last proposal. I wanted to have at least 3/4 the book done by June. That’s looking a little less likely right now.

Certainly, I’ve been doing everything I can to prep for this book. Reading Victorian history books, Victorian true crime fiction, actual Victorian fiction. Books on domestic servants, etiquette, money… all of it. I’ve been studying the streets of London and maps that indicate class distinctions. Mayfair vs Whitechapel and that kind of thing.

I’ve gone over the opening scene in my head a million times. I know what the heroine is going to say and how the mystery is going to unfurl. I know the back stories of my characters. And I know how the primary relationship will progress and most importantly how it will end.

The middle is vague, but it always is. I just trust that since I know how it starts and I know how it ends and I know what has to happen in the middle that the tiny specific details will come when needed.

So why can’t I start it? I sat in front of my computer on Saturday and looked at the blank page. After several minutes, I told myself I wasn’t ready and subsequently turned the computer off.

Why the sudden case of Startabookaphobia?

I think it’s because I realized that right now it’s a really good book. I mean really good. It’s different, it’s edgy. It’s got lots of twists and turns. It has all the feel of a creepy Victorian mystery steeped in thick London fog mingled with my sarcastic humor and the propensity to create really strong heroines.

I love this book… in my head. It is the execution of it that I’m afraid of. Can I get it right? Can I handle all these pov’s? Can I make what is in my head hit the screen in a way that will be so good everyone will get behind the idea that I’m using servants as two of the main characters?

I don’t know.

Hence… Startabookaphobia.

I’ll conquer it eventually. I always do. But right now it’s really powerful. I guess I just have to wait until that moment when my desire to tell the story will override my fear of failure. I’m pretty sure that’s how I started writing in the first place. Anyway – here is hoping that happens this Saturday morning!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Post Book Burnout

Okay, so I met my write two 80K books in 4 1/2 months deadline. Phew. And I thought I'd be elated, euphoric, ecstatic. Instead, it was a real downer.

At first I couldn't relax, and then I was in a fog, and then I was depressed, and then that all merged into an antsy depressed fog.

Better now. :)

Does this happen to anyone else, or just me?

OH!!! And Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Week from Hell . . . or was it?

By the time you're reading this, I will be in Seattle to celebrate my sister's graduation from nursing school. Yes, she is awesome. It's going to be great fun. All three sisters, some nephews, a niece, an uncle (yes, THAT uncle) and a cousin or two will all be there. There will be too much food, lots of laughs, a few tears and possibly a margarita or ten.

I feel I deserve it because the past week has been so insanely crazy busy that I feel like there hasn't been a minute that I wasn't doing something. First up was my book signing which was great, but stressful. I like to make it more of a party so there's food and booze (thanks for theVampire Wine, Raquel) and music (Sir Finn and the Sharks rock!). But since it's not exactly an RSVP type event, I really don't know how many people are going to be there. There was a bad moment around 7:10 when I thought only about 30 people were going to be there. Then I turned around and the crowd had doubled. Here's what it looked like from my perspective:

Nice, huh? It turned out sweet, but not before I'd sweated a few bullets.

Meanwhile, I was not the only person having issues in my house. Both my kids had huge, major projects ending at school. My oldest (he's the one with the goofy grin in the front row) has been participating in his school's Hail to the Chief project. The kids have to create their own political party, establish a platform, raise money and run a candidate for President. My son is the Press Secretary for The Donner Party. They're "Hungry for the Presidency." They've had a lot of fun, but the project is a huge amount of work and it all came to a head this week with the elections. Last I heard, The Donner Party was one of the top three.

My other son (the blonde one on the end in the front row) had the World War I Museum project that was all due on Thursday. He and his group built half an airplane out of plywood and cardboard to house their exhibit about technological advances that helped Great Britain in the war. He's been working late and, as group leader, had some epiphanies about how much fun it is not to be in charge. (Ha! Someone rolled his eyes at HIM! Not so funny now!) It came out great and he did a fabulous job. While we at the school, several teachers and a few other parents came up to tell us how terrific both our kids are.

Meanwhile, my long-suffering boyfriend managed to double-book himself for both a music gig and a photography gig and was having a rough time, but you know, at least everybody wants him.

So everyone here was stressed out all week and everyone had everything turn out fine so it felt like the week from Hell while we were living it, but now it feels like a damn fine week where we all accomplished a lot and got pats on the back for it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

What I am Reading Now

I was going to write about my sudden and totally inappropriate rage towards other mothers and other writers, but I decided not too. I got too angry. Maybe another time, when I've had some sleep.

Instead, let's talk about what we're reading. A little lame, I know. But I am reading a book so good right now, I want to scream it from the rooftops. And I'm almost done with it, and then I have Eileen's Don't Kill The Messenger (arrived the other day, so crisp, so clean, covered in that new book smell - I love it!!) And then...after that...nothing. So, I need some recommendations and ideas. So, dig deep into your TBR pile or the ten books you have on the go right now - and let me know what's good.

As for the book I'm reading: Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

It's got two of my favorite storylines - Native Americans and War. That's weird. Can't watch diaper commercials without crying but give me a story about trench warfare and I'm glued. This time it's Cree and World War I. It's freaking amazing. So many times when writers try to tell two stories through flashbacks, one of them gets boring and the whole book pulls lopsided. Or worse, there's no forward momentum or mystery to keep the readers interested in what's happening in the pages between flashbacks. Not this book. Very much not this book. It's amazing. Big mystery, lots of questions, amazing story telling. The horrors of war told from a totally different pov. Not that a soldier POV is different - but a Canadian Cree Indian - it's fabulous.

So, what are you reading?

Friday, March 12, 2010

There is no conspiracy

There is still a vocal, albeit minority voice on some chat groups out there that editors and agents are actively trying to keep good books from being published, because their books are too challenging, too different, or too wierd.

If you want to publish a book in a specific genre, and you are really stretching the conventions of the genre, then you really have to write an amazing book. And some genre's have a smaller readership, I'm thinking men on men erotica, has a smaller reader ship than a standard romance, but truly, when books like The Hunger Games, with it's alternate world and hard decisions can get published for teens, then anything if written well enough can be published at some point.

I think it's easier to believe there is a conspiracy, than to understand that the writing isn't good enough, but if we make excuses, then how do we get better.

I'm hunting for an agent and trust me, when I get a rejection, I desperately want to hide behind the idea that my book is too different.

But I truly believe any book, if amazing, will find a publisher and readers.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Vs. Bad

I read Maureen’s post yesterday and thought about how true it was. Publishing, like music in some aspects, is being watered down because of the number of avenues people can now publish their work.

Actually “watered down” has a negative connotation so I should clarify. Some might say publishing has been enriched by having more people with more voices contribute where before it was limited. Trends are broken, new avenues explored. Maybe Urban/Paranormal/Steampunk Romance only exists because of these other avenues and that’s a good thing.

However, others would argue it’s making it even harder for the real talent to shine through. I’m on the fence. I see both the positive and the negative.

The negative was reinforced when I read a book for a contest. I’m probably going to get a lot of reaction here because it happened to be an eBook - but it was not fit for publication. Now let me be VERY clear. I know great writers who publish through non-traditional channels. And I know crappy writers who publish through traditional channels. I’m just saying - in this instance – the book was not and should not have been published in ANY format. At least not in a format that was intended to sell to other individuals to read. You want to bind it and give it out to your family and friends – knock yourself out. But to sell it…. that just doesn’t hurt me the reader, it hurts the industry as a whole.

Now some might argue that’s my taste. And yes it is. But darn it I’ve been a reader for a lot longer than I’ve been a writer and I can tell you what I read was not fit for publication. This book is part of a problem that we really need to look at. I’m not blaming the author. This was a junior attempt at writing a story and maybe after some time, practice, study and hardwork he/she will eventually become a bestselling author. He/she thought it was good enough to be nominated for something. Just like contestants who try out for Idol often do so because they think they will be a star. It’s up to the judges to say… Not so much.

So who are our judges? The publishers? I’m all for opening up new venues, allowing for different tastes and trends. And for publishers to find new ways to make money. Fantastic. But I think if we’re going to go this route we do have to have some expectation that what will be produced will be of a certain quality. That someone (the publishers, the editors, reader review sites…) will judge the work and hold it to a standard. Because if as a reader I have to purchase so many of the books like the one I read to get to a good one, I’ll eventually stop buying. My trust in what a “published” book is will diminish.

So eBook, traditional book, whatever… please let someone be that harsh judge. We need our Simon.

I finally read Hunger Games. This is an amazing book. This is something I think universally we can read and say… Wow. And to think that the book I judged and Hunger Games exist in the same “publishing” arena… well frankly it hurts me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Simon Cowell Taught Me

Well, mostly when I watch Simon Cowell, he reminds me not to be a jerk. I mean, IMO it's possible to be honest without being condescending or mean. I know, I know... for many people his caustic remarks are what makes the show. I just think he comes off as an arrogant jerk.

But beyond lessons in manners, his new line this season (instead of calling people cruise-line singers or karaoke singers, or theme park singers, bar band singers) is to say, "There are thousands like you doing that on the internet."

Seriously, the ones I liked best the week of the top 24, he almost universally said something like this to them: It was good, but I can see that any day on YouTube. And maybe he's right. Dunno. I don't cruise YouTube searching for indie music often.

But I found his new stock criticism really interesting, because I heard him say it not long after reading a Publisher's Weekly article (that I can't find now!!!) that compared what's happening in publishing, to what's already happened in music. And I do think the comparison is valid. And it scares me a little. Okay, a lot.

Just like it became easier over the past decade or so for a singer to be their own recording engineer and producer using their laptop, just like venues like MySpace and YouTube made it possible for musicians to act as their own record labels and distributors, it's become relatively easy these days to publish a novel. That is, there are many self-publishing options as well as a plethora of small, digital-first (or digital only) publishers.

Anyone who can get their opus down on paper (and by paper, I mean typed into the computer), can be a published novelist. Easy peasy. Not that it's easy to write a novel. I don't mean to trivialize what a huge accomplishment it is to finish a novel. But once it's written if you're determined to have it published, you will find a route to do it. (Whether you'll get paid or people will buy it is another matter.)

What I fear, somewhat, is that the already very crowded and saturated book market will become so crowded that it will become virtually impossible for any one book to stand out in the crowd, and that with so many more books published each year, the odds that readers will find or buy your book will go down dramatically. (And let's face it, even in the "old world" of publishing, the odds were pretty bad.)

Anyone who's taken Econ 101 knows that the law of supply and demand means this will devalue books. Just look at the recent battles in publishing over the deep discounts on hard covers and the pricing of e-books as evidence that I'm not the only one worried about this. And for those of you wanting an Econ 101 refresher... if demand stays constant, while supply goes up, prices will go down. (If you could find diamonds in your back yard, they wouldn't be so expensive.) And I fail to see any reason why the demand for reading will go up, simply because there are more books published... Maybe a little. But I fear the volume increase won't be enough to make up for the difference and that to get readers to try new authors the books will have to be virtually free, making it even harder than it already is to earn a living as a novelist.

And while many claim the above mentioned changes have been positive for musicians, it has to be pointed out that musicians also earn part of their living from performing. For writers, publishing is the only source of earning money from their creations. People don't go to concerts or bars to dance to the latest unknown authors reading...

But that's all doom and gloom. I could totally be wrong. I lack a crystal ball. (It's in the shop.) And on the positive side, if one believes that quality always wins out in the end and that word of mouth sells books, then perhaps nothing will change that much. The creme will rise to the top of the ever-expanding pack (vat of milk?) and the best books will still sell well, in the same way books in the traditional publishing world had to rise above the pack to be published by an old skool publisher in the first place.

And there's the real lesson in Cowell's new stock criticism: be different, be better, be unique. Don't be the same as the other thousands of books he read on the internet.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Keepin' It in Perspective

I like what I do and, frankly, most people are pretty impressed when you tell them you're a published author. While I've encountered some snobbery about the fact that I write romance novels, it's not as common as one is occasionally led to believe.

Yesterday, I did a radio interview at the local NPR station. Jeffrey Callison is a terrific interviewer. Smart, funny, smooth, and honestly, not too hard on the eyes, either. When I told everyone at my day job that I'd need to be late yesterday because I was being interviewed, they were all so impressed.

Then I got to the station . . . I walked into the green room to wait my turn and plopped down on the couch next to a woman who was already waiting. We introduced ourselves. I asked her what she did. She is the Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Yep. She spends her days prosecuting the people who use rape as a weapon of war. Talk about impressive!

Anyway, a little dose of humility is probably healthy for all of us. I had mine yesterday. After she told me what she did, I told her "I wrote a vampire book."

She looked at me for a second and then we both burst out laughing. It was a great moment and one I'll keep in mind any time my head starts getting a little too big to fit through doorways.

That all said, click here if you want to listen to the interview. My part starts about halfway through. Also, if anyone out there is northern California, stop by the Borders in Davis tonight between 7 and 9. Have a glass of Vampire wine and a snack and help me celebrate the release of Don't Kill the Messenger!

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Dan Brown Effect

The Toronto drunks have a very smart friend - Jude. I was talking to Jude about how slimy I feel watching Spartacus; Sand and Blood. It's not the sex, or the graphic novel blood splatter. It's how bad it is in almost every single aspect of storytelling. There is not an original character, the dialogue is ridiculous. The acting...oh, dear god, the acting. This was clearly cast on a willingness to be naked and how good everyone looked being naked.

And yet - I wasted an entire nap time watching back to back episodes of this garbage. Guilty pleasure doesn't begin to explain my complicated relationship with this crappy show.

And Jude, the sage, nodded her head and said "it's the Dan Brown Effect."

Dan Brown, for all his millions, wrote a great story but a terrible book. He got the blood pumping through a fabulous and intriguing idea and he kept the adrenaline up with cliff hangers and reversals and reveals. The terrible dialogue and 2-d characters bothered me - they bothered all of us, but not enough to put down the book.

THis is exactly what Spartacus is doing.

Suddenly - idea and plot are enough to make something successful. I know not everything can be Mad Men and I don't want it to be, but honestly, Spartacus is killing me.

Have you guys been watching Spartacus? What do you think?

Friday, March 05, 2010

I like my Vampires scary

I love True Blood, the Vampire Diaries, the conflicted, tormented vampires from Ann Rice's books, but truly, my favourite vampire moments are when they are truly the bad guys.

Once upon a time, vampires sucked people's blood, killed them and in retaliation people hunted them down and killed them and it was tense and exciting and the sensual nature of the vampire was understated, but still present.

And while I love what has happened to vampires, and JR Ward's books, and Eric, and Damon, I still prefer my vampires lethal. One of my favourite horror movies of the past few years was Thirty Days of Night, where the vamps were sharp fanged and without mercy and really, really scary.

But where it all began was with a series of books, the Necroscope series by Brian Lumley. They almost derailed my third year exams in university. In them, (and it's been a while since I read them, so bear with me) the vamps were truly horrific. Lethal, evil, fascinating, and a true nemesis. Which sort of makes sense, as the books were horror, and about as far from romance as it gets.

But tense, and riveting, and the start of my love of vampires as the bad guy. Something I miss in romance, so if anyone knows of a romance where vampires are strictly the bad guy, let me know.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My Boyfriend Eric is a Vampire

Okay so this week we’re talking about why we’re drawn to vampires. Actually not me. I’m on a beach in Jamaica hopefully not committing sistercide. But I knew in advance what the topic of the week was going to be and instantly I called dibs on Eric the Vampire from True Blood.

Discussing what I find interesting about him is easy. He’s hot. He’s uber hot. He’s hot squared. I love his chest and shoulders. And his chest. Did I mention his chest… especially when it’s naked?

But let’s talk about why as a Vampire he works. I first fell in love with him when we saw him in highlight foils basically ripping apart a human man. The blood splattered on the foils and in that one moment we were treated to the complexity of his character. The light and the dark of him… no pun intended. Throughout that season we saw lots of different layers to him. His bravery, his ruthlessness. And my favorite - his shamelessness. He reminded me of the French character from Cheers. Woody’s girlfriend Julie (??) goes to Paris and comes back with this guy. She claims they were just friends. But every time she left the room he would tell Woody in an exaggerated French accent… “I’m going to steal your girlfriend!”

That’s Eric. No bones about it, he’s going to steal Bill’s girlfriend. How does the Vampire factor in? I think the Vampire is the ultimate bad boy hero because the Vampire lives forever. There is no need for redemption. There is no begging for forgiveness. His lot in life is as old as time and will remain so. He is the ultimate “live for the moment” type of character.

It’s that reality that feeds into the shameless quality. However, a “person’s” character is still always there. We saw that with flashes from Eric’s long ago past. He was a warrior then. He is a sheriff now. We know he has a sense of justice and deep loyalties.

All that combined with … “I’m going to steal your girlfriend.” Makes Eric (for me) the most interesting character on the show and one of my favorite Vampires.

Eileen - this is a shout out to you! Good luck on your release week. Can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Vampire Love

I keep wracking my brains, because it seems like this can't be right, but I actually think the first book I ever read that featured vampires was Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. And I came to that series a tad late. I think there were at least 3 or 4 of them before I tried my first, and then read everything I could get my hands on of hers all in one shot. Boy was I hooked.

After that, I read Bram Stoker's DRACULA and loved that, too... but not as much as I loved the world Anne Rice created for her vamps. So rich with historical detail and so, well, hot.
Sure, these books could never be mistaken for romances and didn't have much in the way of actual sex scenes, either... most of the hot stuff was between two men and involved sucking on veins (nothing else. ) and the only "romance" subplot I remember involved an adult man and a very young girl... How old was Claudia supposed to be when she was turned? Nine? I think they made her a bit older in the movie so the thirteen year old Kirsten Dunst could play her... and well, they couldn't have made her as young as she was supposed to be... But the sensuous nature of the world Anne Rice created--from the sleeping Egyptian princess statue chick, and hot vampire actors in Paris who attacked the audience nightly--was so exotic and so real to me that I believed our world was secretly populated by vampires and I was terrified I might meet one. Hmmm something else cool about those books. The vamps were the protagonists, but you would NOT have wanted to meet one. Not even Louis, the one with a conscience of sorts.

I think the next vamp book I found intriguing was Susan Squires' THE COMPANION. The way she dealt with vampirism and the exotic setting of her story, and the hot, steamy sex (including some man-as-a-victim sexual abuse stuff) was fabulous for me. I didn't glom onto Squires the way I did Anne Rice (or JR Ward, see below) but I think her vampire book was the first one I'd read since Anne Rice or Bram Stoker that lived up to my blood lust expectations. ;)

And then I got talked into trying JR Ward. Or more to the point, I got sick of listening to Molly and Sinead talk about her books, without having anything to offer to the conversation. Funny... it never bothers me when they discuss their other favorite authors I've never read... but something about their discussions about JR Ward made me want to be part of the conversation. And boy was I glad I plunged in. Again. Came to them late. Read the first five very quickly... then had to wait with everyone else for the next 2... and the one coming out later this year.

JR flips everything so that the vampires are the ones who are misunderstood and being persecuted and hunted... I actually think these books might be just as interesting if her heroes weren't vampires. (They could be just about any kind of hugely powerful, highly sexual males. Even humans. Maybe. Okay, they do need to be superhuman. That's definitely part of the appeal.)

I've been pondering why vampires are sometimes so sexy in books, particularly romances, when well, I'm sure most of use wouldn't like to have our veins sucked on during sex... I wonder if partly it's about submission. I certainly don't have any sexual submission fantasies. Not something that turns me on in real life. But like all fiction lets us slip into someone else's shoes, or body, while we're between the covers of a book, maybe reading about sex with vampires lets us slip into the role of being completely and totally overpowered by and vulnerable to a lover. Don't know.

And can't think about it too much right now... I'm in the final stretch of finishing my own vampire book... A vampire book for upper-middle-grade, lower-YA readers and based on Sleeping Beauty. Very little blood. Zero sex. Okay, a couple nice kisses, but not with vampires...

Congratulations to Eileen on the release of DON'T KILL THE MESSENGER.

Comment on her post below for a chance to win her book!!!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I like my men like I like my Diet Coke . . .

Cold and in the can, baby!

Okay. Bad joke, but seriously, why do we like vampires? More specifically, why do I find them fascinating? Or, at least, fascinating enough to write a book with them in it?

Here's my true confession. I'm not fascinated by vampires. I'm not enthralled by werewolves. Elves don't make me weak in the knees and goblins do nothing for me. What I love is the idea that all these things might exist in my world. Even more, I'm intrigued by what they would have to do to get along. Now you know why I love the idea of urban fantasy.

Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted a little magic in my life. Even now as a grown-up, I prefer life with a sprinkling of fairy dust on it. At the same time, I am, at heart, a very conventional kind of girl. While I like reading the occasional full-on fantasy that takes place in a completely imagined world (you rocked my world, George R. R. Martin!), I can't imagine myself IN that world. My world with some twists to it? Now THAT I can totally put myself in. Writing urban fantasy gives me a chance to create a world like that, even if the fairy dust I'm sprinkling is a little dark and gruesome.

What do you do to get a little magic in your life? Leave a comment and automatically be entered to win a copy of DON'T KILL THE MESSENGER.

And just in case you haven't had enough of me today, stop by Mysteries and Margaritas for a little more background on me and the book.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Vampires and Twisting The Hook

I'm so excited about Don't Kill The Messenger and why I'm excited about it is incredibly well-summed up by Eloisa James' blog/review of the book. If you haven't read it - you need to.

Eileen is doing what all of us should strive to do, taking all those hooks we love from across so many genres and she's cleverly twisting them into something new. Something fresh and different. Part romance, part detective novel, part urban fantasy - loads o' Vampires. Honestly, no wonder the accolades are raining down.

This vampire thing, the fascination and's powerful. Oddly enough, I think part of it is about feeding someone you love - the intimacy of it. The instinct. I love cooking for and feeding men. It's very 1950's of me, but it's something buried deep in my psyche. Weird. I know.

But, largely I think at it's essence - it's purest form - the Vampire fantasy is about losing all control. And maybe to a less PC extent - about having control taken away from you. And it's about being desired by and protected by, a seriously handsome and powerful slightly scary creature that is barely in control of his/her humanity. That's been the script anyway since Dracula first made his way into our culture.

But this kind of crap leads to unbearable alpha males and lap dog heroines. Often it leads to poorly written near rape scenes and...well, it leads to Twilight and we've talked about that. We've got to take this fantasy and update it.

Knowing why Vampires are a source of excitement and interest to millions of readers and then figuring out a way to give them what they want in a way that's new and totally different and that's smart and strong - that's quite a task.

And Eileen is totally the writer to do it. Congrats Eileen!
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