Friday, December 31, 2010

Dear Colin Firth

Who knew? Seriously. Don't get me wrong. I've been a fan since the days of Pride and Prejiduce, and the weight and discomfort you brought to the role of Mr. Darcy. I liked the way your eyes would shine when you smiled and lets face it, you did look pretty good coming out of that lake after your swim.

And then when you essentially replayed the same role in Bridgit Jones Diary. I was charmed. Perfect casting, really. And well, when you played the same role in St. Trinians, a movie, I suspect Rupert Everett strongarmed you into. And well, I hope it gave you a lovely addition to your house.

And then A single man came out, and you were perfect in it. A role that had some familiarity and a whole ton more depth than I'd seen from you before.

And then I went to see the King's speech. And again, you are playing a stodgy Englishman, but the depth you show, how you bring such wounded dignity to this man who stammers at the worst possible time.

It's a role I literally cannot picture anyone else in. I just had no idea you were so good. Sorry about underestimating you. Clearly I won't do it again. And it did help that you were surrounded by Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, and that the script is pretty wonderful, but anyone else could have been simply good and you were spectacular.

Looking forward to your oscar speech.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

And back to world building...

Okay, I’ve talked about it and Sinead’s talked about it, but now I’m back to talking about it again. Sorry – but really it’s a topic that can stand a few posts. (I hope!)
I’m coming back to this again because I just bought this book where for me… it all goes wrong.

I had heard great things about this author and the series so I didn’t even buy the sample – just bought the whole thing and loaded it on to my Kindle. Now I wish I would have stuck to the sample. Or maybe it was a good thing because it will force me to go further into the book than I might have and maybe things will pick up once I’m better acclimated to the world.

For now though, I am a couple of chapters in to the story and so lost I couldn’t find my way out with a compass. The author is throwing really cool stuff at me – I do get that some of it is cool – but everything is being explained… sort of. But the author is also just going with it and not explaining other things which I think I need to know. I still don’t have the “big picture” concept. I’m not really sure what time I’m in, what the society is like, or the heroine’s place in any of this.

It hit me again how incredibly difficult this skill is. It makes me think of Eileen’s Messenger book. Bamm – girl is messenger between factions of a paranormals. I jumped into that book and instantly knew where I was, knew what the issues were and it just felt so effortless. The WORLD made sense.

I get it. There is something to be said for plunging into the story and allowing your readers to catch up. We know over explanations can bog a story down. However the reverse is still true. Not explaining anything or making assumptions can leave readers confused.

I remember JR Ward’s glossary which I thought was such a great idea, but then I realize that if those stories didn’t have the glossary – I still would have gotten what she was saying in context. In fact I don’t know that I ever even read the glossary. Things like a woman’s “needing” doesn’t take a whole lot explanation. The Omega – bad guy. Scribe Virgin – goddess like thing… maybe I don’t have the exact origin of what she is and can do… but I get it conceptually.

The problem with this book I’m reading is – and I’m making this example up – the author leads with words that have no sense or contextual understanding. “She used her errp on the door.” Then the author launches into this explanation of a magical mystical weapon known as the errp and I’m like huh?

There has to be that line between creating something new but still grounding it in a sense of reality that readers can relate to. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am by this book I thought I was going to love. But I just can’t seem to pick up what the author is putting down.

On a completely side note – another thing that’s going to change (at least my buying habits) with eBooks. If I had downloaded the free “sample” I wouldn’t have bought the book. Which means now more than ever those first few chapters are going to be so critical in terms of a book’s success.

I have to believe books like The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo are going to have a hard time making it in the future because the only way I know how people got through the book, is by having someone else say…. You need to get through the first 100 or so pages.

On the upside – I’m trying more authors than ever before because of the sample. On the downside - I’m ruling out books completely based on those first two chapters, books that ultimately might have proven to be good.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1970's TV Theme Songs

Is it just me, or does anyone else remember the days when TV themes were sometimes hits on the radio? I am so dating myself, aren't I?

Molly and I sometimes meet up to write in this coffee shop that's about equidistant from our respective houses where they often play a 70’s themed satellite radio station. For me, it’s a great trip down memory lane. (Even if I often annoy Molly with outbursts like, "OMG. I haven't heard this since I was in grade six! OMG. I used to slow dance to this at boy-girl parties in grade seven!"

And one of the memories that recently sparked was old TV themes, because the station played the theme from Welcome Back Kotter. "Welcome ba-ack. Your dreams were your ticket out..."

In these days, when the opening of a TV show is often just a few chords of music and the title appearing (Lost, anyone?) it’s funny to think of a time when the opening theme and title sequence took up to a minute or more. And we sang along. And listened to them on the radio. And bought the recordings...

Off the top of my head, I can think of these TV shows from the 70’s that each had its theme song released as a top 40 single:
  • Welcome Back Kotter 
  • Chico and the Man 
  • Shaft 
  • Hawaii Five-O 
  • Greatest American Hero 
  • M*A*S*H 
 I just had to go and find the openings of some of theses shows on youtube. :)

Can anyone think of others? Are there more recent examples of this music hit based on a TV show theme? (I can think of a few that used songs that were already hits... or covers of them... but not quite the same thing.)

Are memorable TV show theme songs something you miss, or do you think they were just a waste of time before the actual TV show started?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dear Ben Affleck

I should have written this letter a while ago, but I kept getting distracted by rewatching Good Will Hunting and Shakespeare In Love and to some extent Changing Lanes. And of course - looking at you. You, Ben Affleck, are a good looking guy. Seriously, that chin? And you're aging well. Clearly your wife has steered you in the skin care arena. But all of that is beside the point.

The point is I watched The Town this holiday season. And I think you are an interesting director. I think you have a voice and a simplicity as a Director. And as a writer? What a freaking suprise. You're really good. Honestly, I'm not just talking about that bit in Esquire that I've saved - about why you love motorcycles. I mean you have adapted some great books into really great screenplays. Your movies have "felt different" and considering the genre - that's not easy. Parts of The Town were awesome - casting Jeremy Renner? Awesome. Blake Lively? Who knew? There was a trajectory to the movie and I think you were shooting for something simple admidst chaos - a nice aim.

Here's your problem. You can't act. You might be great in supporting roles, but there's no way you can carry a film. And part of it is your looks. And the other part - you just can't act. And your performance in The Town was good - but it was the weakest link in a good movie - you brought the whole thing down. You ruined your own movie. With the right casting in that role - someone rougher, uglier, someone who needed that love, who could make us believe in the romantic conflict (because Ben, you did not - at all.) Or maybe you didn't show us the scenes you needed too - not sure. You were too movie star. In a gritty gritty movie, you showed up false.

Why did you do it? Why write, direct and act? I still love you Ben. I really do. But sometimes, you make it so hard.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Can you change your world once you've built it?

The answer has to be yes, but carefully, so very carefully. It's definitely a problem that rears its head during a lengthy series. I'm thinking the black brotherhood series, by Ward, or the Anita Blake series.

We should all have to deal with the problems of a ridiculously bestselling series, but I sort of understand the complications that would come with writing many books that all still read as unique.

To that end, Suzanne Collins ending the Hunger Games trilogy after three books was a really wise decision and one that probably had her publisher crying.

Because a world has to evolve to keep each book in a series different and interesting. But how do you evolve it in a way that keeps it consistent but changing and in a way that satisfies your readers.

I felt betrayed by the Anita Blake series when she made that strong, independant heroine, to my mind, a sex crazed weeping woman. I might be exagerrating, but the books became about the heroine's change into one of the creatures she used to hunt, and how she tried to keep her humanity, a really interesting preminse, but I didn't like the way she did it. It was an evolution I couldn't follow, but I understand why she had to do it.

I see the same potential problem with the Brotherhood series. What new is there to learn about the world? how does she evolve it in a satisfying way? I'm interested to learn about how she does it.

And at the same time, Ward is smart enough to start another, really interesting series.

Because sometimes the only way to deal with the problem is to end the series in a really satisfying way.

Have a very merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

You've made your world... now you have to live in it.

So I recently bought an anthology that had another story by Meljean Brook set in the same world as The Iron Duke. Here There Be Monsters. It was good. Really really good. My only complaint was that it was too short, which isn’t fair since it’s a short story.

In thinking about what I love about these stories, I told myself it was the characters and the chemistry and the story in general. I didn’t think the steampunk world mattered.

But of course it does. Brook built this world and for whatever reason I find all the elements in it really compelling. The Horde, the Frenzy, the technology, all of it. I completely buy into robot sharks and bug infected zombies.

Same with the Hunger Games book. Collins took me to this place, and while I’m not sure I want to live there, I can feel it and smell it and see it.

I’m reading another book now, a great new YA called Matched about a Utopian society. Same deal. The world the author has built is fascinating. All details accounted for. All the rules set without too much fuss. Now this place is definitely not a place I want to live, but the images and elements are all so vivid.

Worlds matter. And world building is an amazing talent. Heck, Harry Potter’s world became so real to us they built a theme park so people could go and actually visit it.

But with all this world building it occurs to me that these authors are really stuck there for a time. Thinking about what Eileen said in her post this Tuesday - it does help to write in different genres to keep things fresh. However, many authors can’t do that. Rabid fans are demanding the next book, the next chapter, the next hero and heroine.

I would think they have to spend a part of every day in that place in their heads. I also wonder how long they take building the world before they actually go to write it. And because we’re writers and all a little nuts (let’s face it) how hard does it get to be to keep separate the world you live in, in your head vs. the world you live in…

Huh… just some crazy thoughts for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas/Holiday Stories

What's your favorite movie that tends to be shown this time of year? (Or do you like to read this time of year.)

I'd have to first cite Molly's fabulous novella "The Christmas Eve Promise" in the anthology, THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, which won the RITA this summer. Think I re-read it right now. :)

My other fav is the movie, A Christmas Story. Despite the one big flaw that the kid's glasses were so much more 80's than 50's....), that movie cracked me up so much when I first saw it and I still haven't tired of it after at least a dozen viewings. How about you? Any favs?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is that a banana? Or are you just happy to see me?

So a couple of weeks ago, I got sick. Nothing horrific. Just your typical virus with a fever and a sore throat. I took the day off of work and dozed on the couch and watched TV. There was a Law and Order: SVU marathon going. I love the Law and Orders. I'm not proud of it, but I can kind of watch them endlessly. They all flow one into the other, especially if you're running a fever.

I woke up at one point and I'm pretty sure I heard Mariska Hargitay say, "Ma'am, do you know why someone would have put a banana in your husband's rectum?"

I have to admit, it woke me up. And made me snicker although Mariska didn't even smirk. The whole experience got me thinking, though. If I was a Law and Order: SVU writer would I be making up stranger and weirder sex crimes constantly, because after a while another rape is just boring?

It's one of the things that makes me grateful for getting to work in more than one genre. Or sub-genre. Or whatever it is that I do. I get a break here and there. I can stop thinking about creepier and creepier things for my serial killers to do while I wonder about the power structure in a werewolf pack. I can stop trying to make up weird magic things about my Messenger character while I think about romantic suspense plots.

I am sincerely hopeful that it will keep me from ever writing about anyone with a banana in their rectum.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

All right - will the following please email me with thier snail mail addresses so I can send them thier free books!!!

Raven 99
Shiloh T
April Witt

Thanks everyone who stopped by and I hope your holidays are booze-filled and your stockings stuffed with books.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The last day of the book give away

Today you can win Ann Lethbridge's Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress, and Ann writes wonderfully sensual, historically vibrant romances. It helps that she is English and has a charming British accent.

I've read this and it's wonderful.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The great book giveaway continues...

And in the spirit of talking about the great books we have listed, I’m adding to Sinead’s post from last week regarding The Iron Duke. It isn’t just the blending of genres that makes this book standout, although Sinead was dead on when she said how well it was done, I think it’s just flat out good.

So good I wanted to talk about it. Good thing I belong to a writer’s blog – because frankly my cats are tired of listening to me wax poetic on the topic.

Sinead said that what’s interesting about this book is that all the scenes make it go forward. So when I read it I had that little germ in my head and it really stuck. Having just finished my WIP, one of the things Molly said when she read it was that there are a few scenes were really I’m just restating information the reader already knows, because I’m trying get the information from one character to the other. It’s repetitious. No good.

Iron Duke does none of that. Everything feels fresh and new. All the information given is building on what we know. Sometimes forcing us to make connections.

Now, here is the flipside – sometimes I had to go back and re-read previous chapters to understand what she was putting together in the end (not easy in the Kindle! – see previous rant on this). But I blame that on me. A focused reader shouldn’t need the story repeated for them, a good writer shouldn’t do it. It makes me think we’ve gotten a little lazy as readers. We’re used to filler and rehashing and retelling. So much we’re not working hard enough to hold on to the details when they come. Meljean Brook forces you to think through her book and I LOVED that.

I also think if the idea of Steampunk Romance turns you off – I know I was on the fence – please dismiss the label. Call this book anything. Paranormal, Alternate Universe. Post Apocalyptic… none of that matters.

Great story. Great characters. Great chemistry. Great sex. What else do you want?

Okay so tell me the last great book you read and what made it great? Just by leaving a comment you can win The Demon in Me by Michelle Rowan - LOVE the title!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Giving Books for Christmas?

Continuing our week of gift giving, straddling the space between the gift giving holidays of Hanukkah and Christmas, today we're giving away Eve Silver's SINS OF THE HEART, the first book in her highly popular Otherkin series. (Get all three!)

Comment on this post for a chance to win Eve's fabulous book. Plus, still time to comment on the posts from Monday and Tuesday to win those books!

All winners will be selected at random and announced on Monday, December 20th.

Good luck! And if you haven't done your shopping yet... Well, you're in the same boat as me.

Tune in tomorrow and Friday for chances to win books by Michelle Rowen and Ann Lethbridge!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ho Ho Ho -- Books Books Books

To continue our great book giveaway party, today we're giving away Juliana Stone's debut HIS DARKEST HUNGER.

Juliana Stone's day job* is rock star, Molly wasn't joking about that, and she's destined to become a rock star in the book world, too!

Comment on this post for a chance at the book giveaway! And on yesterday's post for a chance to win Tiffany Clare's book.

All the winners will be announced next Monday.

*technically more of a night job, than a day job, I suppose

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ho Ho Ho Drunk Writers Do Christmas

Remember when the Holidays meant relaxing? It meant reading a couple of great books perhaps while someone brought you snacks or drinks? Suddenly, I'm the one bringing snacks and drinks which means there's little time for reading. Bah Humbug.

However, here in the great white north there's been a huge windfall, a veritable blizzard of great books being written by some pretty great Canadian women and guess what? We're giving them away! That's right - free books all week long. Make a comment, win a book, someone might just come by with a snack, or a juice box, all for you! Could we any better elves? No. We couldn't.

Today to kick off our great week of giveaways I've got Tiffany Clare's debut - The Surrender of a Lady. If you haven't heard of this dark and sexy historical romance - then you've been in a cave. Or a candy stupor.

Tomorrow Juliana Stones' His Darkest Hunger. Dark, sexy paranormal. AND Juliana is actually a rock star. So there.

Wednesday, we're giving away the lovely and uber-talented Eve Silver's Sins of The Heart - the first in her soul reapers trilogy. That's right, soul reapers.

Some of you know her as Michelle Maddox, some of you know her as Michelle Rowen, all of you should be reading her incredible paranormal books. We're giving away The Demon In Me on Thursday.

And Finally, Friday We have Ann Lethbridge's Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistess AND a compliation of first chapters from some of the hottest Historical romance authors writing right now.

So - make comment, win some books. Winners will be announced NEXT MONDAY!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm jonesing for my next fix

Apologies for the short post today, but it's close to Christmas and life is crazy busy these days..

I have nothing to read. Seriously. Well, Ok, I should read my current WIP, but otherwise, I have nothing to read!

So help me out. I have put Incarceron and The Iron King on my list, both are YA titles recommened by Dear Author, but I don't have any romances. I would kill for a great literary title. I hear good things about Room.

Any suggestions?

Can someone help a girl out before I read the Zadist book the 98th time...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

When you just want to skip ahead...

I’ve praised my new Kindle up and down the wazoo. Being able to carry around my manuscript and make notes on it was huge. Being able to download any book I wanted whenever I wanted it - also huge… and expensive.

However, I have discovered a flaw. I can’t skip ahead. Now I know there are go-tos and search options but that’s not what I’m talking about. There are times in a book especially those with multiple storylines where I get anxious as to where the one storyline is taking me. I need to flip ahead a couple of pages, or chapters, to get a glimpse of what’s coming.

Sometimes all I need is seeing two names on the same page to let me know that the characters were able to find each other again. Sometimes I need more.

I remember the final book of Harry Potter when Ron takes off. That was the only time in that book I let myself skip ahead. But I needed to know how much further I needed read before he was back because I certainly wasn’t stopping until I knew he’d found Harry again.

The people I eat lunch with every day think this is insane. They also think it’s strange for me who is both a writer and avid reader that I would commit what they consider to be a reading violation. But I think it has to do with how invested I am in the story and in the characters. I feel their anxiousness. I worry and stress about the resolution of a romantic battle.

In life I can’t always know what’s coming next. I have to wait and let it play out. But with a book – I can cheat. It never stops me from reading the whole thing but it does give me peace of mind.

Or at least it did before I got my Kindle. I’m towards the end of the latest JR Ward and all I want to know is if Blay is going to sleep with Saxton. That’s it. Just that. Nothing else matters. And it’s killing me to have to read every single page until I get there!

What about you… do you skip ahead?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Revealing and obscuring plot points

I’ve seen three movies recently that got me thinking about this topic and how there's kind of a sliding scale in terms of how much a writer decides to reveal and when.

Great storytelling constantly strikes a balance between revealing and obscuring plot, posing and answering questions, and this keeps pages turning, (or people from checking their cell phones and annoying me in the movie theatre.)

And these three films differed strikingly in this regard: what they showed the audience, what they held back.

Black Swan – As I watched this film, I was constantly figuring things out (I thought) and thinking of alternate explanations, but as many times as I changed my mind or went "aha!" I didn’t really know what was going on until the end. And reaching the end just made me want to see it all over again from the start. Every time you think you have it figured out, the filmmaker takes you in another direction.

127 Hours – The polar opposite of Black Swan in some ways, because you know how it’s going to end before it starts. At least I did, because it’s based on a widely known true story. But I liked this film too. A lot.

Certified Copy – With this film, as many things as I guessed, by the time I got to the end, all of those possibilities (and likely more) were still possible, and I never got a hint as to what the frak was really going on. Not even when I was part of a discussion of the movie with the audience and two prominent Toronto film critics.

A bit more about each:

I loved this movie. I saw it back during the tiff and can’t wait to see it again. And other than what I’ve already said, I don’t want to say more, because I fear it would be spoilerish. The trailer is very good. If you’ve seen that, you know as much as you should before going in. This is a film where the filmmaker figured out just how much to show and how much to hide and which ways to misdirect, to end up with near perfect storytelling. Of course this shouldn’t have been such a great surprise to me since I’ve admired all Darren Aronofsky’s previous films,  Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, (even The Fountain, although I’m not sure I’ve figured that one out, yet).

Even though I knew the basic true story and therefore the ending before the film started, it was one of the most tense and emotionally draining movies I’ve seen in a long time. And James Franco... That really should be enough.

Even if you haven’t heard of this movie, you might remember this guy’s story. It’s about the hiker who, back in 2003, got his arm suck under a boulder at the bottom of a narrow canyon in the Arizona desert, and the way he finally survived – by cutting off his lower arm after five days.

The moral of this story (other than being a major testament to one man’s enormous will to survive) is never go hiking alone without telling people where you’re going, and never leave home without a Swiss Army knife. (And filmmaker, Danny Boyle, manages to foreshadow both of those so cleverly...)

How this man finally manages to sever his lower arm without even, um, his Swiss army knife... well, let’s just say it was miles past horrific, and made you wish he'd remembered that knife, and if it hadn't been a true story, I’d never have believed it. Let’s just say he certainly didn’t have it as easy as Merle in The Walking Dead -- no handy saw lying on the roof :). If any of the news stories back in 2003 had the graphic details of what this guy did to get free, I forgot them.

But what impressed me about the film, and increased my awe of the fabulous Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire among others...) is how tense the story was.

Even though, right from the beginning, you know that at some point he’s going to fall and trap his arm, you don’t know when this will happen, and so the part of the movie that passes before the event is gripping. I tensed up every time he jumped over anything, or did something dangerous—both of which he does, a lot.
Then after he’s trapped, you know from the film’s title (and doing some math in your head) that he’s not going to get himself out for five and a half days... and yet even though he tries some new method at, say, 14 hours in, you’re rooting for him and thinking his plan might actually work. (Or, I guess, trying to figure out why it won’t work...)

I can’t remember when I’ve felt so physically wrecked after a movie. I cried during a lot of films at the tiff this year, and felt emotionally spent after several, but 127 Hours left me physically drained too, as if, for at least 90 minutes, I’d been part of his 127 hour ordeal.

Now this is a film that purposefully misdirects you, confuses you... and then not only doesn’t give you an answer, it gives so many contradictory clues, it’s pretty much impossible to puzzle through what happened. The whole time, I kept guessing and second guessing what was going on, and trying to relate it to the title and philisophical discussion about the value of copies vs originals in the art world... And I do admit that kept me (mostly) interested. But I felt somewhat frustrated when it ended without answering any of my questions, instead left me asking more.

Certified Copy is definitely an art film, (although, for some bizarre reason, CBC film critic, Jesse Wente, referred to it as a romantic comedy when he introduced it... wha-at?). It won Juliette Binoche the best actress prize at Cannes, and opens in North America in a few months. At least that’s what Jesse told at the sneak peek screening I saw. I can’t decide whether or not Binoche deserved that award. I found it nearly impossible to get a clear read on her character, but based on the fact that by the end I also could not come out with a clear read on the entire film, maybe her somewhat flighty performance was the point?

Now, I do worry that if any of you want to see this movie I’m ruining the experience by telling you that you'll never figure it out. At least not in the same way the person sitting next to you will... but the two critics at the sneak peek screening claimed it was richer and more interesting on a second viewing. (They both first saw it in Cannes last spring.) But I’m not interested enough to find out if they’re right. And they also said they watched it the second time looking for clues to support their favored theories... but ended up seeing so many contradictions that picking one through-line that explained it all was possible.

While I know I'm making this movie sound aggravating, I also think I'm making it sound more interesting than it was, and maybe that's why Wente went (pun, ha!) with Romantic Comedy as a genre. It's reminiscent of Before Sunrise... Most of it is one couple talking. And the main questions you have are how, or if, these two know each other and whether or not they have a history and whether or not at certain parts they're role playing to make points, or whether it's the truth, or whether the screenwriter is really just screwing with us. Which was my conclusion. Someone at the end said they thought the pair were meant to be like a copy of every couple... not one specific couple. But yeah... while I didn't hate this movie, I'm not recommending it either.

So, how do you take your stories? With cream and sugar? Revealed or obscured? A little of both?

Can you think of other cool movies or books that used misdirection well? Hmm... I’m already thinking of a few, but will stop talking now. ;)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Cover love!

Yep. The cover gods have smiled upon me. Here it is, the proposed cover for my next Eileen Carr release!

Ain't she a beaut? I just love it. It's gotten me all excited about the book again. I can't wait to get my revision letter and dive back into it!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Seventh Circle of Hell

Thanks Sinead, for that title, until you said that I didn't know what to call the last few days of my life. I've been a bad drunk writer the last week - no drinking, no writing, very little internet access. For some reason when I go to my folk's place over Thansgiving, I drop off the face of the earth, which is great in some respects and then terrible in others. But always, without fail, getting back to my regular life involves an epic struggle. This year so far has been the worst.

My son was sick in the night two nights before we left, a stomach bug that had him up every two hours to throw up in the bowl he slept with. I, of course, didn't sleep. The next night Lucy woke up WANTING to throw up because Mick had been doing it. She's a copy cat, as my son said all night, which was so helpful at four am.

I had a fabulous booksigning at Cypress House in Rochelle, Il. A gorgeous coffee shop/flower shop/gift shop. And then I packed up the kids and hit the road. I was tired, but a gigantic Panera coffee fixed that. The kid's fell asleep, I had NPR on the radio - it looked good. Until Lucy threw up all over herself. I cleaned her up as best I could and she fell right back to sleep. The car reeked of vomit. But, with that huge coffee in my system and the kids asleep, I thought I'd press on a little more. Lucy woke up a half hour later and put the kibosh on that idea.

So, hotel room. Mick, the trooper, passes right out and stays out. Lucy however, paces the room pushing aside every ice bucket and hotel towel I put under her nose, only to vomit four times all over herself. She finally passes out at 4:30. Mick is up at 6:30. The hotel coffee is terrible. Lucy throws a fit for forty five minutes about wearing Mick's pajamas - she simply doesn't understand she's thrown up over everything I had for her. I cried at this point. Just a little.

White out snow storm. Traffic jam twenty minutes from home. Backyardigan's on repeat on the DVD player - I will never hear that opening song again without wanting to cry and/or scream at my kids.

Now, what you may think, could possibly keep a woman like myself from losing her mind and I'll tell you. While home, I had a long conversation with my editor about some changes that needed to be made to my book. Big changes. Lots of thinking. And while my life was literally covered in vomit - I had my secret world to escape to. Once again, I say with great appreciation - Thank God I'm a Writer.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Genre blending. Again.

I know its a topic that's been talked about to death, but I figure it's Friday, so let's pound that subject into the ground.
I'm reading (thanks, Molly) The Iron Duke, and it's really something. It's steampunk romance, and it is sexy and fast paced and original and deserves to be read by a lot of people.
And it's a great example of genre blending. It's a steampunk mystery/adventure wrapped in a really hot romance. I don't think it's for people who need the romance to be the central focus of the book, but as direction for romance novels, I think it's a really good example of where they can go.
I want to read more romance that is also plot heavy. I want adventure novels with hot sex.
A lot of reviewers have issues if they feel the romance is underdeveloped, but for me, as long as I believe the two people belong together, and you keep me entertained through the course of the book, I'm buying in.
I love regular romance, but a lot of the books I'm reading lately feel padded to me, as though the author is struggling to meet page count with introspection and unrealistic drama.
Nothing about the Iron Duke feels padded.
Anyone out there a romance purist? Is anyone feeling genre blending fatigue?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How do you write a book?

It’s such an odd thing. My brother just sent his last kid off to college this year. He’s no longer coaching soccer, no longer driving and picking up kids. He’s not a TV fan and while he reads he’s not an insane reader like me (Who thought it would be a good idea for me to get a Kindle? I’m walking around with unlimited books in my purse. Not good!).

Anyway, he says, to put it quite bluntly, he’s going insane. He’s turned his hand to cooking, training his new puppy in Frisbee toss and ... he wants to write a book.
My brother is famous for “having an idea”. Over the years he’s always told me … Hey Steph… I have this idea. I smile and nod and let him go on. He actually inspired one of my books. Not his idea at all, but one kernel of what he said later became one of my Bombshells.

When he talks about his ideas, he does talk like a writer. I mean it’s there. He sees the characters, he sees their actions. He sees how they interact with one another. I think you have to have that bit of creativity in order to be a fiction writer. I don’t know how else you do it unless you see or hear the characters in your mind. Kind of like the Michelangelo approach to sculpture.

I don’t sit down and think about what I make. I take the image that’s in my head already and just pull it out and put it on paper.

So for me a writer has to have those images, that picture, those characters already in there and then figure out what all those people in your head are doing so you can effectively tell their story. Would you all agree? Or do you think you can build a character from the ground up? I don’t know.

But then there is the work of writing. He asked me, so how do I start? What do I do? And I drew a blank. The obvious answer is to start with page one, but I think he was looking for more of a guideline as to how it all works. How does one sit down and write a book.

I did say – because I learned this only when I met other writers - everyone has their own process. You have to find out what works for you. But it felt a little bit like if I asked someone how to cook - they might answer you need to try different things and see what taste combinations make sense.

Huh? I couldn’t do much with that. As a result – I’m not much of a cook.

I ask you - do you have books you would recommend on getting started? Would have some advice for a person who literally has never attempted such a thing before? Tell him to try plotting? Try pantsing? I mean I just don’t know.

For me one day I sat down and started to write stuff. Seems like pretty weak advice.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Writing has taught me how to fail

I read a post the other day on agent Jenny Bent's blog that spoke to me and, (forgive the psychobabble),  led to a lightbulb moment of self-realization.

Writing has taught me how to fail.

That sounds negative. But really, I don't mean it that way. Honest.

Jenny's post was at least partially about bravery and how much she admires writers who eagerly pitch to her at conferences, when chances are they are going to fail. (Not necessarily fail at the pitch, but fail at getting her to offer representation, or fail at landing a good publishing contract for the book.)

My moment of insight was that before I started writing seriously, (and the seriously part is important), I was not good at failing. I think this is because, frankly, I hadn't had all that much practice. Sure, I'd had tons of disappointments in sports and school and work and love, but basically I was used to success.  As a result, my one or two major failures before writing (BW) were, in a word, devastating. I sucked at dealing with failure.

In my BW years, the five stages of grief in reaction to a setback, took forever to go through. In fact, I think I still might be working through my grief for a couple of big BW failures from more than a decade ago...

But the good news is that after learning how to accept negative critiques (my CPs might claim I'm still on the upside of that learning curve), learning how to accept rejections, learning how to recognize that a book on which I've spent a year (or more) of my life isn't working, or just isn't good enough to stand out, or maybe simply just had bad luck... After all the things it takes to become a writer, I am learning to fail. Yay me!!!

I'm not claiming that I'm great at failing yet, but I am learning and getting better with each failure. :)

Seriously. I feel really good about this. Personal growth that doesn't involve needing new clothes. ;)

In other news... I'm part of a new blog for readers and anyone who loves a good story that launches today. I'll be blogging there about once a week.  Get Lost in a Story
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