Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Galleys Off!

I sent off galleys of my second Messenger book, Dead on Delivery, last week. So that's it. That was my last chance to change anything. Next time I see it, it will be bound. It will be a book. It's done. My work is through. My brain child will be born for all the world to see.

It is my least favorite moment of publishing. I hate it. I always feel like I'm not doing enough at this stage, although in all truth, no one wants you to be making any big changes at this point. There are rules. Percentages. Consequences. Still . . . to just go through and fix typos and continuity errors (and that is seriously all I do at this point) seems like not enough. I should be polishing and honing more.

I can't stand to even think about it at this point, though. At this point in the process, I have read the damn thing so many times I can not stand it anymore. The idea is stupid. The execution is clumsy. The dialogue is wooden and the setting is bland. There is no fixing it. It should simply be thrown out and forgotten about.

In all fairness, in a year (maybe less), I'll pick it up for some reason or another, flip it open and something in it will make me chuckle. Or get misty-eyed. Or pat myself on the back for some reason or another.

Not now, though. Right now I hate it. At least it's off my desk.

Monday, November 29, 2010

National Day of Listening

Oh Thanksgiving. How I love thee. With your cranberry sauce and cornbread stuffing. The pie selection. The leftovers. The total disregard to calories consumed. It is any wonder this is my favorite holiday?

Truth be told it's my favorite holiday for a lot of reasons. Pie, not the least of them. But we share this holiday with my four cousins and thier families. Inevitably, the catching up with each other turns into looking back. And the stories come out. There are amazing stories - all of my cousins have spent most of thier lives in Africa building schools and wells and bridges and communities. But the stories everyone want to hear are the stories of when my Dad and my Uncle were kids. There was a lot of adventure, mishaps, a loving border collie mutt who fought to the death to protect them from various animals. And my Dad is a master storyteller. But why everyone loves these stories is the fact that my grandparents are absent - it's just Dad and Uncle Tim against the world. And the fact that my grandparents perhaps weren't the most loving or involved parents - sets the stories against a backdrop fraught with conflict.

It's compelling stuff.

My mother on the other hand, had a warm and supportive upbringing. Very attentive and involved parents. Her stories are a little boring. So are mine.

My cousins - with thier African childhoods and thier parents who were attentive and involved but often seemed to have NO IDEA where thier boys were - totally intriguing.And I've heard the stories a hundred times, but every year, my belly too full, I listen like they are brand new because I love them so much.

How about you? What family stories are your favorites?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Welcome Caridad Ferrer!

Today Rita-award winning author Caridad Ferrer's long-awaited new novel, When the Stars Go Blue, is being released and we are lucky enough to have her stop by for a little chat.

Here's a description of the book:

Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before.

But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad's affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, Allyson Noel says that Caridad "delivers a dreamy romance with all the necessary ingredients: a feisty heroine, an irresistible hero, and an ending that will make you swoon." If you want to read it for yourself, stop by Amazon or leave a comment here. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Caridad's book! Don't be shy!

Welcome, Caridad! I'm so thrilled to have you here! What's your drink of choice?

Um... Let's see: For morning, coffee, brewed very strong (I love Sumatra, if that tells you anything), during the day, it's Diet Coke w/ Splenda, in the evenings or if it's really cold outside, I switch to tea (Earl Grey, please), and if I'm in the south, sweet tea, because that's the only thing you can have barbeque with.

As far as alcoholic drinks, I love mojitos and Cosmos. What can I say, I'm fairly straightforward that way. :)

Excellent. Let me just muddle the mint and the lime. Ah, there we go. Perhaps you'd like some croquetas to go with it? No? Perhaps some pan fritos? Ah, very good. Now, down to business. Tell us about your show biz background (I know you have one. Don't be shy.). Did it help you in writing When the Stars Go Blue? Or did you have to do a lot of research on the whole drum and bugle corps thing?

Oh heavens, I'm not sure you could legitimately call it a "show-biz background," but I do have a very longstanding background in the arts, to the point where once upon a time I wanted nothing more than to be Barbra Streisand, just without the diva 'tude. I have at various times, played piano, trumpet, French horn, and various percussion instruments. These days I limit myself to singing (mostly in the car, but I can occasionally be persuaded, with the help of a mojito, to karaoke), and I absolutely adore musical theatre, with the pinnacle of my "career" coming when I played Rizzo in GREASE. I actually, when I'm being fairly honest, think I could have been a half-decent actor, if not for the massive audition anxiety that robs me of coherent thought.

As far as drum and bugle corps, that was one of the musical activities that consumed my adolescence-- from ages 15 to 18, I was a member of the Florida Wave Drum & Bugle corps, so yeah, I did live the life I write about in STARS, except I gave those kids a few more amenities (like decent buses) that I never got to experience as a member of a small, perpetually broke corps.

You speak a lot of languages and I'm not just talking about Spanish and English. You clearly speak YA very well. Kirkus Reviews mentions how authentic Soledad's first person narration feels in STARS. Tell us about writing for the teen market. Are there things you do differently than when you're writing for adults?

Why thank you! And yes, the Kirkus review was a nice surprise-- it's always comes as something of a shock when people compliment me on my young adult voice and its authenticity, because I never felt as if I was truly a "young adult." I was a latchkey kid by the age of twelve, with a lot of adult responsibilities in the wake of my parents' divorce and then, as a musician, immersed in that world, which encompasses people across a broad age spectrum, it wasn't as if I did a lot of hanging out with my peers, in terms of age. However, that said, I think that what makes my voice resonate and why people tend to compliment it, is because I write from the perspective of the teenager I was. I think it was Melissa Marr who was recently quoted as saying "write YA for the teenager you were," and without ever consciously realizing it, I think that's exactly what I've been doing all along. I'm not sure I would ever be drawn to writing a high-school set YA, for example, because for me, high school remains a blur. It was just somewhere to pass time until I could get to a rehearsal or practice piano or write in my journal. (Okay, so I DID do some of the journal writing in class, which is another reason high school is such a blur-- the worlds I was creating were far more interesting than the day-to-day minutiae of high school drama.)

I loved the excerpt from STARS on your website. Soledad talks about the "dancer" almost as if she was another person. Can you tell us more about that?

I'm not sure how good a job I can do explaining it, but I'll do my best, because I absolutely love this question and I love the quote that I'm assuming prompted the question.

"Breathing deep, I waited for the strum of the guitar, the dark insistent rhythms of the percussion to sink into my skin and work their magic, transforming me into an enchantress, a siren. With each note, the minutiae of dress rehearsal, of intense boys with pretty eyes, of the petty annoyances of life, of school, of everything.

It all faded into insignificance as once again, the dancer took over."

Yes! That's the one! It gave me shivers!

I think, when you're in the arts, regardless of what medium, you sink into the pursuit so thoroughly, it's almost as if you divorce yourself from your everyday being. You're transformed into someone or something else altogether and it's a being that even those who are closest to you might not recognize. I know, when I played piano competitively, it was as if someone else took over. That part of me that was confident and accomplished at this thing at which I worked so hard, something that very few people were privy to, until I chose to allow them to see. I wasn't the geek with the zits and glasses-- I held command over this instrument and by extension, anyone who was listening. And it always, always came as a surprise to outsiders. It was the same with acting and it's what I've always loved best about writing. That sensation of sinking into the work so deeply that the wife and mother and daughter and sister and friend simply ceases to exist. Nothing else matters. I'm only that part of me that is the writer.

Well, that gave me shivers, too! Thank you so much for stopping by, Caridad. Don't forget, everyone, leave a comment and you'll have a chance to win a copy of WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The magic of the perfect character

I don't know if it's prep, or luck, or a combination of the both, but sometimes other people(ie. not me) find the perfect character.
An example of this, for me, is Sheldon, on the Big Bang theory, a sitcom I'm only now just discovering. sigh! Always late to any party.

The character is perfection, and luckily, for the show's producers, played to perfection by Jim Parsons. The character is a combintation of Asberger's and obsessive complusive disorder with a complete lack of understanding of human nature added to a ridiculously high IQ and a complete lack of humility. And several seasons in, the character, while not fundamentally changing, is still funny and fresh and I think part of this is in the writer's choice not to overwhelm the show with too much Sheldon, but also not to try and change him.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, would be Don Draper. Totally imperfect, and a man consistently hampered by his own terrible personal decisions. But completely fascinating, always. I know this character was more prep than luck, but it doesn't stop me from being absurdly jealous.

In print, the closest to perfection for me is Zadist. The mostly riculously tortured, sexy hero ever. I could have read another 400 pages about him and that book is still a big comfort read for me.

I know I've missed a ton. Any other characters that could sustain many books, or seasons of TV?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The End

I’m about six pages and a few more read throughs from being done with my book. Really, I can’t believe it. When I decided to go ahead and write the book on spec I was jazzed with energy. Yes, I was taking a risk. Four months out of my writing life spent on a book - that let’s face it has a very minor chance of getting published - is a big deal for me. Oh and that’s not negativity about my chances – that’s publishing fact.

But when my agent said - I really think you need to finish the book if we’re going to have a chance at selling it – I thought this is great. I’ll get to do it. I’ll get to see the finished product. Sometimes it can be frustrating when you have this great idea, you write the synopsis and first three chapters, you just start to get involved with the characters and then… nothing. No one likes the idea, or can sell the idea or whatever. You never really get to know how it might have turned out. Would it have matched the vision in you had in your head when you started?

So in looking at the bright side of things – I thought lucky me. I will get to find out what happens to these characters. I will test myself and see if I can execute this somewhat complicated story. I will push myself and try to grow as a writer…

And then about sixty-percent of the way through, I thought… this sucks! I’m never going to finish. I have no idea if this is any good. I am spending months working on this when it probably won’t sell (again fact – most books don’t sell). I could be doing proposals for my editor who I stand a much better chance of selling to, but OH NO I had to write historicals!

What was I thinking?

I forgot it really does take about four to five months to write a book. I think I can always do it in three. I forgot when I’m getting up early to work on the book, and then I spend the day at my computer at work that I get this horrible pinched nervey thing going on in my neck which requires PT therapy to work it out. I forgot that when I am in full blown book mode, I tend not to exercise which I need.
But I just kept putting out the pages. Telling the story. And finally it’s here. The end. I know it’s not over. I’m hoping for feedback to fix and correct the things I got wrong. I’m hoping too for some time away from it so I can go back to it with a fresh eye. But the labor, the real hard work, is done.

People ask me how many books I’ve written. I say thirteen – because that’s how many I’ve published and that’s all they really care about. I just sat down and counted them out. I’ve written (complete books beginning to end) twenty-four books.
It never gets easier, but it always feels the same when I type those words at the bottom of the page… The End.

So freaking good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Forgettable TV

I watch a lot of TV. Too much TV. And yet, when I hear people recommend shows I've given a pass, I'm curious. And not wanting to miss out on something potentially great, I sometimes try to catch up.

I've done that with two series, lately. The Good Wife and Castle.

While I wasn't drawn into The Good Wife immediately, it really grew on me with the complexity of the characters and situations, and the truly outstanding actors and performances. And I love that there aren't any fully "good" or "bad" characters.  Love all the moral ambiguity in this show. This is one I wish I'd watched from the start and need to hunt down the episodes from this season that I missed, so I can get fully caught up. (When did the Lily Taylor character first appear? Love her...)

Castle, on the other hand, I really wanted to like from the start. And I do remember watching the pilot and thought I'd stopped watching soon after that. But, hearing that the show has lots of fans among other writers, I thought I needed to give it another chance and so I rented the first season. Watched them  this weekend in record time. Why record time? Because I quickly realized I'd seen them all before. I'd forgotten I'd watched the entire first season. I clearly found it so forgettable, I, well, forgot I'd seen it.

I'm trying to figure out why I found it so forgettable...

Nathan Fillion is infinitely likable and adorable and so is his Richard Castle character. And I really think they do capture the "writer thing" very well. Not that I know what it's like to be a mega-bestseller, but so many of the writer details ring true. Some of the dialogue and banter is great and the one liners can be clever. I do find myself believing that Nathan Fillion is a writer and not Captain Mal from Firefly. And that's no small feat.

I also like the mother and daughter characters, even if they feel slightly stereotypical to me. But as of the end of the first season, nothing very interesting has happened with either of these characters. Unlike TGW where the family and other secondary characters have depth and layers, these two just seem to be there so that Castle has someone to tell the details of the case-of-the-week to. And all the other bits of business (mother exploiting his fame and throwing parties, daughter being ridiculously responsible and cute) had no arc or nuance. (To be fair, the first season was only 10 episodes long, but even given the short season, not much happened... Really... do we know much more at the end of the first season that we didn't already know or see coming in the pilot? Or even the trailer for the series? Perhaps this is why my memory tricked me into thinking I'd only seen the pilot.)

The detective I find slightly less appealing. Beckett. That's her name, right? See, I forgot. I haven't found her character all that interesting or even consistent. She seems to go from no-nonsense-obsessed-with-difficult-case girl to drop-a-sexual-innuendo-into-every-second-sentence girl at the drop of a hat.  But again... Something happened in the very last episode of the first season that hinted that more interesting things ahead for her... And I can maybe buy that she's supposed to be a bit of a mystery for the Castle character to work out... But still, I remain underwhelmed.

Perhaps it's a pacing thing for me. I'm not into murder-of-the-week style shows that much, so for a show in this genre to work for me, (like Dexter, for example), there has to be an overarching story that's also paced well and juicy enough to draw me from week to week. For me, only *hinting* at the major character arcs and internal conflicts (other than the obvious: they want to sleep with each other) by the end of the tenth episode isn't quick enough.

What I want to know now is... Should I watch season 2? I have to admit that when I rented Season 1, I thought the current season was 2... I didn't realize how far behind I was... But who knows, maybe I blocked out Season 2, too? (I don't think so... with hindsight, I think I gave up part way into 2, not part way into 1 as I'd first thought.)

Castle fans... Is it worth getting caught up?

If season 1 was just a tease and it gets better... let me know. I still mostly want to like this show, even though I forgot I'd seen an entire season.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I love me an epistolary novel

I do. It's true. They amaze me. I'm reading one now (Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn) and while I'm wondering if it's a little too clever, I'm still really enjoying it.

How about A.S. Byatt's Possession? It wasn't totally epistolary, but I loved the old letters they found and how all the romances and relationships and everything intertwined. And how about Roxanne St. Claire's Hit Reply? My mother didn't even know what an IM was and she still loved it. It was that good.

So what is it about these novels I love? I think it's that they're all about words. There's no stage direction. You can't experience any of the action first-hand. It all has to be told to you at some remove. It's all words, words, words and I do love words.

I slid a little of my love for them into Un-Bridaled. My heroine found a box of old letters from World War II. The letters were based off a box of old World War II letters that we found in my garage. My late husband's father had written them to his sister. I have no idea how we ended up with them and anyone who might possible know was already dead. My kids and I pored over them. They're fascinating.

How about you? Do you love all things epistolary? Do you have a favorite? Do you hate them?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Totally Blunt Conversation About Royalties: Internet Sales

Royalty Statement time again and with the exception of some suprising popularity in Nordic countries - there's very little of interest. Except internet numbers. And I'm waffling between how interesting they are or not. But here goes.

My least popular book, the first that was made available on the internet all the way back in 07 has sold 74 copies. That's right. 74. On my first royalty statement for that book it had sold 11.

The first book in my Mitchell series - Baby Makes Three - has sold 373. The second in that series, about a hundred less. And the third book sold 290 - but that book was on sale at Amazon for like...a buck. That series got some buzz on Dear Author, which I think bumped those numbers a bit.

The first of the O'Neill books which was out in August and these statements end in June had sold 7 e-books and they are only available on the eHarlequin website.

So...what does all of this mean to me? Well, remember I am a middle of the road author in a not best selling line. So, my numbers are way way different than say Presents or Desire. There is no doubt in my mind but that Harlequin is ahead of the curve on the internet sales of thier standard print books - in terms of pricing and availabity - they've bypassed the agency model drama. They offer GREAT promotions on thier website and I believe that most internet sales come from the eHarlequin website. I think for as confusing and misleading the Amazon sales rank numbers are the kindle sales are the numbers to watch - and not because you get a better idea of what's what - but because Amazon is becoming an e-book seller. I imagine most authors ebooks far out sell thier print books from that seller. I believe mine do. I think my best selling book probably sold 20 print books through Amazon.

I believe that sites like Dear Author and All About Romance can give you some sales - I believe more and more fans of those sites are buying thier books on an ereader. That said - for me, 98% my sales are still paper and a large portion are still subscribers. (I made up that 98% - I'm not doing that math on a monday morning).

So, it's interesting. Sort of. Frankly, having gone to conferences I expected to be blown away by the ebook sales - but maybe it just doesn't effect Harlequin the same way it effects single title books. OR maybe it's Superromance. Once again - a lot of theory - not much proof. But there you have it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

building the monster

Vampire diaries is doing something really interesting right now. They are building the myth of a super vamp, and creating a monster, all without showing us the actual monster.
The first thing they did was have other vamps talk about the super vamp with fear and awe. A super vamp that even the big bad from the previous season is terrified of.
They introduced the concept that the super vamp is the original vampire and therefore older than anyone else.
Because they did this, we believe that he could have extra powers, without them having to explain why.
Then they introduced the super vamps foot soldier, a vamp that could easily beat any other vamp.
So now, without ever seeing this character, there is no doubt that the heroes of the show are in serious trouble.
They've done a pretty good job of building the monster, but now they have to follow through and when they do present the super vamp, he has to live up to expectations. He has to be the scariest creature they've ever presented on this show.

The opposite of this is what Stephen King did with IT. An amazing book, right up to the end. Because seriously, what's scarier than a monster clown? He created the question and then answered it with a giant spider. To me it felt like a huge let down. Sure, giant spiders are terrifying, but he needed to come up with something that could trump the homocidal clown and a spider didn't.

It's a tricky balance, building the monster in a way that satisfies the audience and also allows the hero to vanquish them.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Did anyone see Glee this week? I thought it was a really good episode – maybe only one unnecessary song – but I loved the Kurt storyline. Bullying has been very much in the news and not surprising the writers would broach this particular subject with Kurt.

What I loved most about the episode was when Kurt goes to the other school and meets these guys who sing and dance and are cool because of it. He asks the three guys who take him for coffee… “Are you all gay?” Only one is, but still there is that moment of connection. Here in front of Kurt is someone who will understand what he’s going through. Will know how hard it can be sometimes.

I couldn’t help but think it’s like that for me when I’m with other writers. I remember the first time I went to RWA. I was so new and had never had any exposure to other writers. Ever. My editor took me to dinner with a few of her other authors and I was like Kurt…

“Are you all writers?” I thought in that same awed tone.

For the first time here were people who understood what I was talking about. I don’t know if I realized how isolated I was until that happened. Writing is a big part of my life. Always has been. As a kid my parents bought me a Commodore 64 and all I used it for was as a keyboard to write. I had a card table and card chair set up in the basement, my C64, an old TV for a monitor and a printer that after three years of asking for my parents finally bought me for Christmas. And I knew they had no idea why it was so important to me.

“What’s she doing down in that basement?” My dad would forever ask and my mother would just shrug.

They had no idea what I did down there. We didn’t talk about my stories. We didn’t discuss plot points or characters, or strategize a plan to get published. In my family we were athletes, not writers. I was most definitely an outcast in that regard. Now certainly I’m not comparing being a writer to being gay. Writers as far as I know are not socially discriminated against. But for me it was definitely a part of my life that I didn’t get to share with anyone. Meeting other writers at conferences and even in part on the internet through blogs has really been life changing in that regard.

I can tell you all I’m struggling with the final death throes of my WIP and you’ll understand what that means. My assistant at my day job will come in and ask me about a plan of attack for our next electronic claim implementation and my answer will be… “I think there needs to be a little more emotional connection between these characters in Chapter 8.”

Now most of my non-writer friends have come to know me well enough that when I have book on the brain you’re only getting about 45% of the rest of me. But they really don’t “get” it. They don’t know what it’s like to fight this fight with a book. To wonder if you’ve got enough depth, if the plot is both logical and surprising, to worry about language and word choice. They don’t know the fear of sending it out and waiting to see how people will respond.

So while it’s very different as I’ve never faced bullying for being a writer either ... I still take something away from the message in Glee. Connection. We – or at least I - really need it.

“Are you all writers?”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How do you like your monsters?

Okay, so I had some other things to post about, but they were going to involve way too much thinking, and my brain is in the shop, so here's a question I've been pondering for some time now...

I don't think there's AN ANSWER, but I'd love to hear what people think.

In the world of fantasy or paranormal or dare I say horror.... do you like a monster you know or something different and unusual?

I look at a lot of the successful books out there and while they did do their own twist on vampires or werewolves or zombies or angels or demons... The monsters were variations of known mythologies.

What if the monster is something entirely new?

How close does a monster (or even a heroic creature) have to be to an already recognizable creature for readers to get attached?

Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mmmm. Brains.

So my sweetie-pie and I just watched the premiere of The Walking Dead, a new zombie/apocalypse show on AMC. We'd both give it a thumbs up if we weren't afraid of getting them bitten off. Whether we watch more of the season or not depends pretty much on whether or not I have nightmares. Generally, I prefer my zombies funny. Think Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. These zombies? Not so funny.

I'm also really drawn to the apocalypse, or near apocalypse, story, though as people struggle with how to get along with each other and rebuild a world at the same time. My kids and I really enjoyed the first season of Jericho (and interestingly enough, Lennie James appears in both) where the people were figuring out how to survive. It sort of lost us in the second season when it turned into a big conspiracy theory thing.

We also liked Battlestar Galactica, another post-apocalypse type show where people were figuring out how to put a society back together.

Now, I'm pretty sure I'd be one of the first to die in any kind of apocalyptic event. I base this one my stunning deer-in-the-headlights reactions to most situations. By the time I thought to get the shovel out of the garage and take off a zombie's head, he'd be munching on my intestines. So I wouldn't be one of the people rebuilding society. I still sort of like to imagine that I'd manage to be one of them, though, and that I'd be one of the Good Guys.

So. . . how do you feel about these kinds of stories? Which ones do you like? Which ones fell short of the mark for you?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Confidence, Ego and Optimism

I spend a lot of time thinking about ego and confidence and the differences between the two and until recently confidence was the better of the two because, in my opinion, confidence is something you earn. Trying to make yourself better, seeing improvement in your work, being open to criticism and understanding how to cherry pick opinions to match your voice and idea - those are all skills that lead to confidence.

I'm pretty confident in my work. Not confident about my place in the industry, but the work I do - yep, I feel good about it.

Now, optimism is just something we all must share as a whole. Maureen and I get together and bitch a blue streak about the industry, but we're optimistic about our work and it's place in the industry. Not confident, but optimistic. I don't know how to make myself optimistic or how to tell other people how to optimistic - I think optimism is key ingredient to the writer's make up. Otherwise how would we face the blank page every day?

Ego, I thought was kind of bad. Because it was unearned. Or perhaps a false by-product of confidence. But here's the truth - I think it's the most important ingredient to success. We have to believe that the project we are working on is IMPORTANT. Not just to use but other readers. We have to believe, with absolutely no proof that what we're doing is not only good enough - it's great. And while I used to think that ego was something I had to get over and push away - perhaps we have to protect it. We have to quietly with great discipline, nurture it. Because no matter what people say about our work, our faith has to come from some secret place inside ourselves that we can't put a finger on and we don't like to talk about.

I think ego, confidence and optimism are the most important things a writer can have going for them, and they are the first to be crushed and taken away by this industry.

So - where do you stand on those three things? Are you lacking in one area with a surplus in another? Do you agree? Disagree? Want me to shut my egotistical mouth?

Friday, November 05, 2010

We all need a little honesty

We've talked a little on Drunk writer talk about genre hopping and choosing the right genre. The challenge is, picking the genre, and ensuring we, as writers, have the skills to write in that area.

There are authors out there that can write sucessfully across different genres (Maureen can, and we should hate her for it) and right now, I'm trying to contain my jealousy towards those people, but for most of us mere mortals, we really can't switch from suspense driven to character driven.

That's why so many authors say don't chase trends, because that trend may not fit your voice. And it's why we need other writers, or readers, in our lives that can help us figure this stuff out. Or at least confirm if we've made the right decision.

I'm definitely pro critique group, because I honestly don't have the skills to look at my work and see the major failings, not the plot failings, but the tone, or voice failings, because plot I can usually figure out, but the rest is really difficult for me.

And every once in a while, if I try something new, I don't know if it's working until they look at it. I envy the authors that can work independantly and determine this for themselves, but I am not that person.
And when I read a book by an author who has been sucessful in one genre, trying a new genre and the book is falling flat, I wonder, did she had anyone in her life saying, this was not her best work.

And as a side note, and I'm really starting to get repetitive. The Vampire Diaries. Anyone watching? It's so good and it really has this amazing ability to change somewhat annoying characters into amazing characters over the course of a season. Every week it's a lesson in writing genre.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Molly said something truly profound when we saw each other at NJRW last week. (I don’t know if she remembers – she’d had a few beers, I had a few wines). But it really stuck with me despite the wine. I was moaning and groaning about my WIP, not really sure what it is –romance, mystery, historical fiction, blah, blah. I’m afraid I’m not focused enough. I’m afraid of just about everything right now. And in talking about she said, “What are you expectations? Who do you want to be?”

When I read this book… whose work should this be as good as?

Okay. My first thought was Deanna Raybourn. Her Julia Grey novels are part of what inspired me to want to write this story. I thought… I want to be as good as she is.
I just finished her latest - The Road to Darjeeling. It was, in a word, perfection.

Absolute perfection. The voice, the mystery, the setting, the feel of these people in the late Victorian era, the familial relationships, the surprises and most importantly the romantic elements between Julia and Brisbane. Now that they are married, this might have slipped. It did not. There was just as much conflict, just as much emotion. Which goes to show you can “get a couple together” and still make them interesting.

I read this book and thought F***. I cannot live up to these expectations. I can’t be this good. My writing isn’t as crisp. She does all these small things that are soooo Victorian but of course I can’t use any of it because it’s hers.

Hookay… plan B.

I can’t be Deanna Raybourn… so who can I be? Robyn Carr who was the keynote speaker at NJRW also said another profound thing during her speech. “Write the book you want to read.”

Simple, but important.

So as I was near despair after finishing the perfect book and thinking about what I was going to do I had to stop myself and say what would I change? How do I want to be different? What are the things that are going to make my story standout?
For one Deanna Raybourn gives us this hot, sexy, muscled, hairy-chested hero. I want to take this guy home and make him my sex slave. But any time he and the wife get busy we find the line “he acted on his marital affections” or some crazy euphemism like that. It was perfectly done and to great effect. Always a little tongue in cheek, it told the reader everything you needed to know without the couple actually “getting busy” on page.

And I thought – okay. That’s something that I want to do differently. I want to read a story that gives me everything that hers did and hot sex! (I know I can’t help myself) I also want more POVs. I also want things to be a little dirtier and grittier as I take my characters a little bit out of the world of the gentry.

The moral of the story is – I can’t be her. I can’t be as good as she is. She’d hardly be one of my idol’s if she was a chump though – right? Sure, I can aspire to be better. Who doesn’t do that? But most importantly – I have to be me. (That is so freaking cheesy – I can’t believe I just wrote that.)

You – out there – who do you want to be as good as?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Publishing Survivor

I've been thinking about what Eileen's agent told her to put Eileen's fears of seeming unfocused as a writer to rest. Jumping genres is what publishing survivors do. I really like that. I've been looking at all the romantic suspence, historical and contemporary authors jump from the genre that made them famous into YA and paranormal - and admitedly I've been thinking that they did it either for the cash grab, or because thier numbers were down. And perhaps all of that is true - but in reality, I imagine those authors looked at the chance to try something new with a giant sigh of relief. Or they had an idea that just wouldn't go away and didn't fit into what had given them legions of fans.

How many crime scenes can one person have in them? How many ballroom scenes? After so many years of writing serial killer books I imagine anyone would look to clear their brains and write zombie books for kids or something similar.

We often talk about writing book and then should it sell having to write a bunch more - the same but different. And perhaps we can think down the road for a series and perhaps another series, but I have no idea of what it's like to sit down to book 30 and try to think of a new way for two people to have a conversation about how terrible thier mother's are. That just made me sick to my stomach.

So, maybe people are jumping to YA and Paranormal to make some money or because thier numbers were slipping or maybe they just wanted to do something different. Something all of us take for granted - not that I ever do anything different. But I'm going to. Someday.

So what about you? Have you jumped around? Stayed in the same genre you started? Where do you see yourself jumping?
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