Friday, January 29, 2010
In fact make that some weeks...
I have been wracking my brain, searching for a highbrow topic to post on, but the truth is, all I want to talk about right now is The Vampire Diaries,
seriously, love this show and the more episodes they air, they more I really enjoy it.
I'm always curious when a new show does really well right off the bat, and this one did and while the cute vampires have a lot to do with it, it's more than that.
These writers know pacing. Nothing gets dragged out, the show continually surprises me with how quickly they resolve mysteries, and at the same time, drag three more into the spotlight. It reminds me of the best of the YA books I've read recently.
And they've reduced the amount of teenage diary love annoyance that was my problem initially with the show.
I still find the two main leads bland, but it doesn't bother me much. They have an unrepentant bad boy( and he is actually bad,) and they haven't even explained why he is the way he is, haven't even really hinted at it much, and it doesn't detract from the character much at all.
It doesn't make him unredeemable, they just aren't weighing him down with tortured backstory.
Something I think, would be interesting to use in the romance world. Sometimes a guy is bad, and he can still be redeemed.
Ocassionally I feel like a teenage girl while watching the show, but I find I'm anticipating it each week. I think right now, it's my absolute favourite show on tv.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I remember a conversation I had with my Dad about the idea. He passed this past year after a very long battle with Parkinsons. And he also suffered from dementia. But before things got bad he asked me about my writing. (My family mostly just accepts that I do it, loves to brag about it, and hopes it pays off.) But he asked about the process like he really wanted to understand how it all worked. I tried to explain to him about all these “girls” in the basement and how I pick what stories I’m going to tell.
Later when we eventually had to put him in assisted living I would visit him and he would say things like… “Is that witch still in the basement at your house?” My mother would shake her head to let me know that it wasn’t a good day for him, but I knew exactly what he meant. “Yeah Dad, she’s still there. Waiting.”
I recently called up a “girl” from the basement. An idea that had simmered down there for almost two, maybe three years. I know the characters. I know the story sort of. It sat down there because of the time period. (Victorian – which only recently has come back into play) It also sat down there because I knew I didn’t have the chops to pull it off. Four character POV. Just writing that scares the crap out of me.
Naturally, now is the worst time. I’m in midst of another proposal – which I should be focusing on. But it’s like I don’t have a choice. This “girl” is banging loudly and wants out. So I opened the door, let it into my head and now there is all this pressure on me to execute. Part of me is tempted to slam it back down, lock the door and never let this idea see the light of day. But of course I can’t.
So here I go again down a path that in reality is mostly likely to lead to failure. It’s an odd odd thing being a writer. I’m grateful I have a place to come like DWT and share stories that I know other writers will get.
I sent a silent prayer to my Dad last night to let him know the crazy suffragette, her detective maid, the Irish seaman who is afraid of water and the brilliant bastard lord are about to have their time in the sun.
Good luck guys. I hope I do right by you.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I was excited to get an ARC of my friend Chevy Stevens' upcoming debut in the mail yesterday. Thanks, Chevy!!! **Maureen waves across the continent**
STILL MISSING, her debut thriller, is coming out in hardcover from St. Martin's on July 6, 2010, and is destined to be a bestseller. (And I already have a copy. Nya-nya-nya-nya Nya Nya.)
I'm sure we'll have Chevy stop by for a guest blog closer to the release date. Chevy, consider this an official invitation. You name the date. :-)
In other random thoughts. Does it bother anyone else that the Bachelor dude keeps taking these girls for dates on the back of his motorcycle? Picture this: he's dressed in a leather jacket, jeans, boots, gloves. Girls dressed in strapless cocktail dresses and high heels. I shudder thinking of the road rash. Even if he's careful, accidents happen.
Oh if that were the only thing that drove me crazy about The Bachelor! Why do I waste 45 min a week on that show? I can't help myself.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
But I am totally aware of what he means to film acting - as Meryl Streep said - he took the lessons from Brando one step further. DeNiro is a trailblazer and the clips from all those early movies are simply reminders that this man created characters that are part of not only pop culture, but our collective consciousness. One after another - Raging Bull, Godfather II, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino - seminal movies, seminal characters.
So, I was watching these clips, thinking - Bobby? Where have you gone?
And then Scorsese got up and talked, saying how - in their minds, at that time - there was nothing more dangerous than making those movies. And it dawned on me. Obviously, what was so amazing about those characters and DeNiro's portrayal of them was that he touched center. He got the danger and the fear and the violence. Something in his life connected to something in those lives. His art was dangerous so he got right under the skin of the dangerous characters.
Now, I'm guessing there's not much danger or fear in DeNiro's life these days - which is why his more recent characters seem cookie cutter. Except for those characters in which he makes fun of the old characters - Analyze This, The Fockers. Those are just good fun.
Which reminded me of something Eileen said about voice. That part of what makes up our voice are the characters and stories that we create time and time again. The themes that we always return to. Those things, on which, we touch center. And I think it's why some books we write are better than others - because some aspect of it our subconscious fully understands what we're trying to convey.
Sinead has this thing about really understanding what we're good at and trying to capitalize on that - and so far we talk about things like plot and characters and emotion. But I think we need to go one step further - what are the things we "get." Those books or scenes or ideas that come together like a boulder rolling downhill - why? And if we can distill the magic of why something works - can't we apply it to things that aren't working?
Or maybe, like DeNiro, somethings work and somethings don't. Be grateful when they do.
Friday, January 22, 2010
And then re-read the one scene I have now re-written at least five times. Five bloody times.
And it still sucks.
And now I'm looking down the ass end of another re-write of the same scene. And I know I've lost all perspective on the story, and very specifically, that scene.
But I can't send it out as it is. So I'm looking into ways of getting it right. I'm going to start writing it by hand, because obviously, writing it directly into the computer hasn't worked for me.
I might get up really early and see if some pre-dawn sleepiness will work on my head. (this is a serious sacrifice for a person with a baby, so you can see I'm desperate)
Other than that, I'm out of ideas. This is a pivotal scene and I can't get it wrong. Anyone have any suggestions for me.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I still rent a shore house. I’ve only written 12 category romances for 5 different lines. I think in those same amount of years JAK must have written 100! I’ve developed no following whatsoever and the bestseller list is about as far away from me as Saturn. Those books that were supposed to “make it” - all currently collecting dust in a folder on my PC appropriately named “Someday Stories”. I prefer this to “Reject Folder.”
And because of this dramatic veering off from the “plan” it’s brought a lot of fear into my writing.
I’m about to try and write for another line. I’m nearly paralyzed with fear. Can I do this? This is not what I thought I could do. Will it work? Will I like it? Will I get half way through this story and realize it sucks?
As a kid – and let’s face it all 26 year-olds are kids – I had no fear. I wrote the story. I had confidence it would sell. I LOVED it when it was done. Now older and wiser, I worry if it will sell, if it will be reviewed well, if the numbers will be all right.
In a way – I want that cocky kid back. I want the writer who just did it because she loved it with no worries. Who was so confident that it would all work out in the end.
But in another way – a very strange way – I’m glad she’s gone too.
I don’t know what comes next. I have no idea if I can pull off this new story in my head. I’m scared sh**less. And it feels … exhilarating. There is a certain thrill about NOT having a plan. Anything can happen. I can write any story.
So I’m afraid… but I’m loving it. Make sense?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Your best friend when you've got it, or at least when it's moving in the right direction, and your worst enemy when it's stalled.
But the really great thing about momentum (sometimes) is that once it gets moving, it keeps itself moving and even builds. Until, of course, it decides to stall out and stop. Fickle.
And yes, I am trying to project control of my brain's and fingers' collective ability to get pages done on this new WIP onto some outside force. Trying to make it "not my fault". But the truth is that I've been struggling getting going on this one, and can hardly blame momentum. Inertia maybe? Something in science must be to blame, because it can't possibly be my creative juices, or my dedication, or my work ethic. ;-)
According to my trusty spreadsheet/plan, I was supposed to complete the first draft of said WIP by, well, tomorrow. And let me tell you, even if I pulled an all nighter, that ain't gonna happen.
But I did finally feel today (yesterday) like I finally found some forward momentum. Yippee!
Any tips for keeping it rolling in the right direction?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
And I said: "wait a second! I'm living in a writer's panic"
And then Sinead said: "more cider!"
Or something like that. But we did talk about stress and frankly, how utterly unavoidable it is.
I'm not even going to discuss the stress of waiting, of being on submission and spending every moment of your life denying the deadly siren call of booze, chocolate and your email inbox. And I'm not going to talk about the stress of rejection which can, in turn, make you fighting angry, or reduce you to a quivering mass of insecurity. I'm not going to talk about bad covers, bad reviews, low sell-through numbers or option books. Because, frankly, those are the given stresses. The kinds that come with the business of writing and we all know - business is stressful.
It's the secret stress that's killing me. The writing stress. Coming up with crap that is interesting and in some way unexpected, but also totally satisfying - stressful. Then remembering that crap when you're in the process of switching it all around. Sure, you can have notes and programs, but things are going to slip through the holes in our Swiss cheese brains. Knowing something is wrong, but not being sure how to fix it. And then realizes what will fix it requires pretty much a total rewrite - which means coming up with new crap.
And it would be one thing if we could all go to our office, work for a few hours, go to lunch, come back work a few more hours and then leave all that work behind and get back to a life. But we can't because we're writers. So, we're writing in the car on our way to holiday parties like Eileen. We're waking up at some stupid hour so we can get ten pages in like Stephanie. F***ing Sinead, has a new baby, is moving next week and she's heading to her computer every night to work on a new project. What the what???
Maureen and I are both on deadline - Maureen's is insane. She's got to write 23 hours out of 24 and the few hours she spends getting plastered with her writing buddies - are hours she should be thinking about fairy tales. Every minute I'm not at my computer right now is a minute that stresses me out, because I'm sure with just three hours in a row I could get past the hump in my rewrite. But all this life is getting in my way.
The agony of a writer's life is that when things are going well - we live in a panic. Of course, when things aren't going well - we also live in a panic.
Writer's stress - totally unavoidable.
Friday, January 15, 2010
But what the Biggest Loser really does is give us the perfect hero/heroine at the beginning of the show and then shows us them overcoming odds and adversity, and one screaming woman, to become the person they want to be.
So smart. On the first show, they bring in these very overweight people and on national tv, show exactly what they weigh and in agonizing detail, show us the shame and hopelessness on their faces.
Then they torture them for weeks on end. Seriously, those workout sessions go on for hours every day. (and yet whenever I watch it, I feel the need to workout)
In the process, our hopeless, overweight protagonists gain what they want the most, weightloss.
It's a pretty classic story structure.
I watched the beginning of Legally Blond the other day, and yes, the pretty, thin blond girl has little to do physically with the overweight contestants on The Biggest Loser, but the movie does something very similar to Elle.
They take everything from her, her boyfriend, her popularity, her success in school, until she is miserable, and then they give it back to her.
Seeing someone at their lowest point, and watching them regain what they have always wanted is fascinating, compelling entertainment, in any genre.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I’m on record as being a reality TV fan. (Frankly, I thought the Bachelor was one of the most entertaining moments in TV this week… when confronted with kissing the cameraman the lovely model said… “I don’t think my personal life is anyone’s business.” Uh…you’re on a dating show. Yeah it sort of is.)
My other favorite, beyond Idol, is Survivor. After 20 seasons in 10 years I still go back time and time again. The reason is that throughout the seasons true heroes have emerged. Men and women who have been stronger than others, skilled at leadership and able to mentally withstand various different challenges. The “alpha” is alive and well and this show highlights that.
As a fan of romance that features alpha characters, both male and female I love watching to see how they emerge and the different characteristics these people can have. Some are straight up, honest, hardworking stalwarts. Some are charismatic and charming. And others are devious and manipulative and don’t pull any punches to get what they want.
This next season will feature Survivor All Stars: Heroes vs. Villains. And it brings back two of my all time favorites. Tom the fireman and Boston Rob. I was so excited these two particular men were returning because for me they really showcase the opposite spectrum of the romance heroes we love to read about.
Tom dominated the game. Through strength and mental toughness. He was simply bigger than life. A man in his late forties he schooled the younger men with his prowess and never once had to lie or connive to make his way to the top. He was the leader from day one and he won with a unanimous vote.
Boston Rob also dominated the game. Through his strength but also his charm. He attracted people and made them loyal to him, even though they knew he wasn’t always trustworthy. He found the strongest woman on the show, aligned with her and then (much to my delight) fell in love with her. They became an awesome power team. When it was over the outcasts hated him, so they gave her the money. But it was too late. Rob had already proposed so in a sense the money was his. At one point mid-season he said to the camera…. “At the end of this thing either she’s going to be spending my money or I’m going to be spending hers.”
Now I get to watch as these two types pit their skills against each other. Throw in some strong women, some sinister folks and you’ve got a recipe for great drama. At least I hope so.
So tell me – are you an alpha fan? And what aspects of the alpha attract you the most?
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Unlike Molly and Stephanie, I'm not so good with lists. Every time Molly asks me for a top 10 list I panic. The pressure's too high. What if I miss something really great?
Okay, the truth is that my brain's simply not quick enough these days to come up with a list on the spot.
But here are a few random great things from 2009.
The Hurt Locker
Okay, just looked up a review I wrote about this film when I saw it, only to realize that I actually saw this film in 2008. Ooops. But it was released in theaters in 2009 and might be up for Oscars this year, and let's just say, I think it deserves some. Stunning performance from the lead actor, some great cameos by famous actors and a non-traditional storytelling structure that really worked.
Okay, how's that for jumping from a limited release movie to a blockbuster. But I grinned all the way through this fast paced, smartly written movie. Fun. Fun. Fun.
500 Days of Summer
Another clever, funny, smart movie that's not what you expect, had a cool storytelling structure, and made me laugh out loud before the title even appeared on the screen. (Seriously. Do not miss the "disclaimer" at the very beginning.) This film gets the slightly satirical tone perfect, being both romantic and a send up of romantic comedies at the same time.
Unobtanium aside (OMG did they really think it was a good idea to call it that???) I loved this movie. Spectacular to look at, sure, but felt like more than merely a special effects movie to me, and certainly didn't feel like an animated film like the very creepy Polar Express from a few years ago. I actually thought the acting in this film was believable too, and while the story is fairly predictable, the context and world were different enough to make it fresh.
Continues to raise the bar for good TV. I was blown away by the final episode this past season and can't wait for it to come back.
Can't believe it's over. But also glad they didn't keep going until it got dull or jumped the shark.
I know this is old, but I watched all five seasons in 2009. Awesome. Idris Elba aside, I think Season Four was my favorite. Heartbreaking. I liked the idea and theme of Season Five, but it jumped the shark a bit for me in terms of the things the cops did. Hmmm... Just realized I believed the "Hamsterdam" thing in season 3, but didn't believe that fake serial killer thing in season 5. Or at least not that those particular characters would've done it.
I think the pilot episode of this new show is the best written 30 minutes of TV I've ever seen. (Okay, maybe even with the pilot episode of Mad Men.) I still have it saved on my DVR and although I must have watched it 5 or 6 times by now, I laugh out loud every time. To me this is a show where the writing and acting are so good, I see new things every time I watch. I wish I'd saved the second one where Cam and Mitchell take Lilly to the playgroup and Mitchell cheats at blocks. Seriously. Will have to buy this show on DVD. Cracks me up. And I think it's because most of the comedy comes from the characters not the situations... Hmmm.. Will have to think on that some more.
Most weeks just plain fun. And so audacious. Love it. I'm having trouble believing they'll be able to carry this show over multiple seasons, but who cares. We'll always have 2009. ;-)
This one falls under the category of big surprises for me. Did not expect to like it, but really got hooked and looking forward to when it comes back on. Blogged about it here.
Hunger Games and Catching Fire
Gobbled up these two books. Catching Fire had a bit too much "recapping" at the beginning, but I was so eager to read it, I didn't care. If you haven't tried these books, go buy them now. The third book in the series comes out this fall and I can't wait.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
The conventions of historical romance get me every time. I adore absolutely adore long conversations wherein the characters don't talk about what really needs to be talked about because the CAN'T. Society dictates they not talk about that kiss, or their past, or what he said at the soiree, or her drunk uncle or his bankruptcy. All that subtext is delicious. Kills me.
I also love a good misunderstanding - as long as it's short and sweet and doesn't get too ridiculous. A misunderstanding can be bigger and go longer in historicals because of all those conversations they can't have.
Forced marriages, marriages of convenience all work better in historical. They rarely work at all in contemporaries - because marriage isn't what it used to be.
And therein lies my problem. I keep trying to put these conventions to work in my books and they fail - miserably. Maybe I'm just doing them wrong. This conversation with my editor that resulted in a giant rewrite was all about the fact that characters not having a conversation they need to have - is not a plot point. It isn't satisfying and it didn't work. In contemporary romance those conversations need to be had and they need to make things worse between the characters.
I swear I knew that.
The other big change was about a secret that starts in Chapter 2 and is revealed at the end of the book. Not much changes about this secret - stakes don't get changed all that much. It's a static subplot. And I think that was part of what bugged my about the Hoyt series - that mystery was so stagnant. Who was the traitor? For four books. Anyway -that's a side note.
I have to take a historical break and get back to some contemporaries. Victoria Dahl's new one is getting rave reviews - I'll start there.
Friday, January 08, 2010
It's a train wreck of low self-esteem and impossible expectations. A scary number of women admitted to being ready to marry some man they'd never met before, because they deserved him, and they wanted kids right away.
And as I watched the show, I thought, more of these women need to be romance novels. Our genre takes a lot of crap for sustaining unrealistic expectations, but the vast majority of romance novels describe a relationship worked out by two people interacting a lot, overcoming obstacles and getting to know each other and falling in love because of who the person is, not what they've seen on TV.
But then again, if the bachelor show found twenty five intelligent, reasonable women, there wouldn't be much of a show.
And I'm going to try never to watch it again. It sort of makes me angry.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
1. Valerie Bertinelli - for getting into that freakin bikini and making me think that it’s possible.
2. My treadmill – for the recent torture it has inflicted on me.
3. All people with good metabolism – including my two sisters. (Are you all sensing a pattern… day 3 of jogging sucks!)
4. Movie screen writers - the ones who make six and seven figures for writing unoriginal crap.
5. Aaron Sorkin - for leaving me without television like the West Wing. I miss you Aaron.
6. My inner muse – for handing me stories about a mute witch, an American Revolutionary and a Viking that I can do nothing with. (Not really inner muse – you know I love you. Just keep it coming.)
7. My writing ability – for failing me at crucial moments. Like when I thought I had a great idea but didn’t execute it well enough to attract anyone’s notice.
8. My assistant – for telling me I really should read New Moon.
9. My favorite authors - for not being able to produce books faster but also for not taking the time to make each book as good as the last because they’re going too fast. (Seems unfair I know, but it’s my list!)
10. Time – for not giving me enough of it in a day to sleep as much as I want, write as much as I want and exercise as much as I need. (Oh wait… that’s not time. That’s my day job.)
Who/What do you want revenge against?
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
From our guest Drunk Writer Eileen Cook
People always want to know if I’ve ever sought revenge like the main character in GETTING REVENGE ON LAUREN WOOD. Obviously, due to legal implications there is no way I’m going to admit to anything. If you crossed me earlier in life and now that you’ve read the book you’re wondering if what happened with your favorite pair of jeans maybe wasn’t an accident… well, I can neither confirm nor deny anything.
What should be clear is that people shouldn’t mess with us writer types. We’re a lethal combination of overly sensitive and creative. Our imaginations are capable of creating entire new worlds, people, and futures. Coming up with a way to mess someone up is practically easy. Luckily, we’re typically satisfied to have those that cross us have their brains sucked out of their nostrils by hungry zombies on the page and don’t need to take our revenge into the real world.
I actually prefer fictional revenge. You’re highly unlikely to jail time for fiction. Plus, it can be really hard to find a hungry zombie when you need one. They’re highly unreliable. For me, writing has always been a cathartic way to deal with strong emotions: anger, passion, despair. There’s a release that comes with letting those thoughts that we normally keep locked down, tucked away from public viewing, out for some free time. On the page, unlike life you want to constantly increase conflict. You push your characters to the breaking point to show that even what seemed imaginable can be survived.
Writing allows us to put old demons to bed. (I like to picture them in footie jammies) We’re able to play things out on the page and let them go. Writers don’t need to live in the past, because we can live in any world we can imagine. And we can imagine better than just about anyone.
Thanks for having me!
Monday, January 04, 2010
Friday, January 01, 2010
Not a great legacy for a year.
But for me what I want from 2010, is a complete and total return to the joy I once got from watching movies, tv, reading a great book. This year I am going to turn my inner critic off, because I want to watch a movie and experience the sheer rush of exhileration that I got from watching Jaws, or Raiders, for the first time.
As writers we teach ourselves to be critical. How else do we get better, but there has to be way to turn it off. I used to love certain authors, certain books, and re-read them all the time. I can still read the books I loved before I started writing, but rarely feel that way about any I've read since. (I appreciate the artistry and the effort but rarely do I reread a book anymore), and I will recapture that this year. And if I'm lucky, Judith McNaught will publish something magnificent this year.
(Judith, no stress or anything)
And this year, I'm writing just for the joy. I'm writing stories and characters, simply because they fascinate me.
Not the fastest route to publication, but the one that gives me the most joy.
And much more drunk writer talk.