Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guest Blogger Karen Whiddon

I am excited to introduce my first invited DWT Guest Star! Many who follow the blog and comments may recognize the name Karen W. from the comments. Karen Whiddon is my good friend and new critique partner. She writes for Silhouette Romantic Suspense and Nocturne and has so many books coming out over the next few months I can’t imagine the work!

Karen, welcome and as always here at DWT tell us your favorite drink?

Hmmm, I’d have to say it’s a toss up between beer and a good margarita. I love a good wheat beer in a frosted mug. But a schooner margarita along with chips and salsa can’t be beat.

It’s amazing to me how you were able to do this, but you have three books coming out in the next four months! Tell us a little something about them.

My October book PROFILE OF SEDUCTION is the third book in my Cordasic Legacy mini-series, though it’s a stand-alone story too. It’s the thought-provoking tale of a woman trying to overcome having been a prisoner of a serial killer. She thinks capturing the bad guy will be enough, but maybe learning to love can carry her further.

In December I have COLTON’S CHRISTMAS BABY, which is the sixth book in the Colton’s of Montana series. That book features another interesting character. My hero, Damien Colton, has just been released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

And then in January I have LONE WOLF, another one of my PACK (Shapeshifter) stories for Harlequin Nocturne. It’s the romance between a werewolf and a vampire, and the amazing child who results from their union.


Werevampie babies! Love it. Let’s take you back… when did you first get that writing spark?

I’ve always been a reader and in my mid-twenties I had to have surgery and stay home for eight weeks, so I wrote my first Harlequin (which never sold). Believe it or not, I didn’t have a computer and wrote it on an old electric typewriter!

Writers who could write a book on a typewriter amaze me! I would have given up after the first bottle of whiteout. Tell us what are you favorite and least favorite parts of being a published writer?

My favorite part is a tie between seeing the cover for the first time and seeing the book in the store. I also love getting fan mail. The least favorite part would be those pesky deadlines! They get in the way of life sometimes!

Tell me about it! Although I do think sometimes those business deadlines are necessary. You’ve written both - single title and category. What are some pros and cons of both?

With single-title, you have to do more promotion. The book stays on the shelf longer and because of the longer length, you have more time to explore the story. Category has way better distribution and though it’s only out one month, it reaches a lot more people.

Interesting. I think most people would think the opposite, but in some cases Harlequin is really the best way to get your name out there. Tell us what you are reading right now?

I just finished reading a book called THE DUFF (DESIGNATED UGLY FAT FRIEND) by Kody Keplinger and another called GREYHOUND by Stefan Piper. They are both Young Adult books and were both amazing. I’ve been reading a lot in that genre because I would like to write one myself.

Young Adult! That genre totally has it going on right now. And finally - the question always makes me pause when I think about it – if you could have written any book on your keeper shelf which one would it have been?

OMG, anything by LyVryle Spencer or Lisa Kleypas. They are both amazing writers. Also, one of the best trilogies I’ve read lately – THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. Since I got my Kindle for Christmas, I’ve read a lot of amazing books in all kinds of genres. Though I still mainly read romance, my favorite. Which is why I write it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Publishing Fairy Tales

I feel like everyone on the planet must know what's been going on with me, because, well, I've been living the drama and have been so self-involved that I feel like the story is oozing out of every pore. But I realize I have actually kept a lot of this off the interweb.

So to change that, here's the Coles Notes version. (Cliff Notes if you live in the US, but just so you know, Cliff copied it from Cole... Or actually bought the US rights for the idea. I just looked it up.)

But back to me. :)

Just less than a year ago, in mid-October, 2009, I got a two book contract to write fairy tale adaptations for the YA market, and my sale actually started out as a bit of a fairy tale. I sold based on a very short proposal (10 pages of manuscript, plus a synopsis) of  the first book, plus a few possible titles for a second book. Getting a deal like that is rare for a debut author.

I wrote both books over the winter on an insanely tight deadline.  (Everyone who reads this blog heard me complaining about that...) But just as I was completing the edits for the second of the two books, the publisher closed. Bang. Doors closed. No explanation. Just closed.

My first reaction was relief, because I was so tired from months of working around the clock that I was simply so glad to be able to take the afternoon off, that the news barely sank in. Then I entered the depths of despair. Despair I think I'm still climbing out from under.

But in true fairy tale form, the rights were free and clear and the books sold to a new publisher (Silver Dolphin Books) relatively quickly. I actually knew within days of the bad news that this second publisher was interested, but they didn't actually commit until the end of July (I found out while I was at RWA Nationals) so I had three months of shell shock, with people congratulating me on my first sale, but with me not knowing whether or not the books would ever come out.

Today, I noticed that the new publisher's version of the books are up on Amazon, with an April 1, 2011 release date for both books! (Actually, the now-closed publisher's versions are still up, too... with the old Oct 5, 2010 release date... but trust me, those versions ain't coming out. If you pre-ordered those... well, you won't be getting them. But thanks! Maybe you can pre-order the new versions?)

At this point I feel like all has worked out for the best, at least pretty damn well, considering -- although I could have done without the stress. :) Let's face it, no fairy tale happy ending comes without a few fierce battles. Especially in my versions where the heroines literally have to fight for their lives.

But since my new release date is April Fool's Day... well, let's just say I'm not 100% counting on this story being over just yet. :)

Anyone else have publishing fairy tales or nightmares they'd like to share?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Done.

Yep. Stick a fork in me. I am done. Done. Done. Done. With my rough draft, that is.

I thought this book would never end. I just kept seeing the need for more scenes and more twists and more complications and more stuff. Plus, people needed to get from one place to the other and make conclusions that led them to those places. It just wouldn't end. And now. It's finally. Done. And I seem to be channeling William Shatner.

But it's not really done. There will be revisions and copy edits and galleys. But the bulk of it?Done.

Someone should buy me a beer. What was that delightful beverage that you purchased for me the last night of RWA, Molly?

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Power of Escape

Oh crappy week for this drunk writer. Well, crappy with a side of great. Which is strange. But my aunt died suddenly last week and this weekend was the funeral - don't worry, no need to send the cyberhugs or whatever. She was not healthy but she leaves behind a family that is left grieving for the mom and wife they had years ago and the mom and wife they wished they'd been able to have and the mom and wife they could have had. It's complicated.

But the side of great was that my extended family is entrenched in those years where the only times we get together are weddings and funerals. And we're about out of weddings. But for as problematic as my aunt was (and at one time really beloved) EVERYONE came. And I mean from around the country and even my uncle in Kabul made the epic trip home.

And the hugs were amazing. And the catching up long past due and when the sun set my dad and his brothers unleashed the stories that we've heard a million times and some we've never heard and some with surprise elaborations. And it made everyone so so so happy.

The next day was tougher and everyone started drinking (which was strange because my Aunt died of alcoholism) and the stories stopped and people were not as happy. Every one's grief had lost that bright edge of happy memory.

I know people read romance novels for escape - to find some happy in not happy times. And usually I say it with a shrug like it's the more minor of it's charms. But stories and storytelling with a good dose of happy - it should be a part of a health care system. I'm not joking.

Friday, September 24, 2010

When everything fails

I have a rule for plane travel. I never watch a movie I really want to see on the tiny screen with the bad sound, so I save the really bad movies for when I have to be in a seat for a few hours.

And so it happened to be that I watched the latest Sex In the City. Seriously, if you haven't seen this, and still feel the need to, (and only if you too are in a constricted space for a few hours) then tune out now, because there will be spoilers.

The story tries to drum up drama from the most ridiculous of sources. I'd heard of these women going to a middle eastern country and being ridiculous and rude, and so I was prepared for that, but that the main romantic strife between Carrie and her husband is that he wants to watch a little TV at the end of a long day and she wants to go out, is one of the worst forms of conflict I've ever seen or read. Seriously, that's the best they could do. And that another character is overwhelmed because she feels the need to look after two kids and bake hundreds of cupcakes all in a tight dress and heels. (my daily outfit when I'm chasing my kids around a park) All this before her full time nanny shows up to relieve her.

Seriously.

It was as if the writer was trying to create conflict, you know, without stressing the characters too much.

The franchise is officially out of ideas.

To get the bad taste out of my mouth, I started to watch The Good Wife, a really solid show, based on one woman overcoming an embarassing situation with grace. I've just seen the first four episodes, but they were solid, and really well acted. And I love how they are showing this woman dealing with her embarassment over her husband cheating and getting caught publicly. She's quiet and soft spoken and really smart and so is the show.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...

This was a very interesting read for me. One of the suggestions at an agent/editor panel I attended at RWA was that romance authors should take the time to read outside the genre. In particular blockbusters so that we could see what elements seemed to work with the masses.

Then of course they all went on to say that no one can ever predict what this “element” will be. However, this book obviously had the "it" factor.

I think it absolutely lies with the heroine. (Who is a Bombshell heroine by the way – just had to get that in there.)

When I heard all the buzz about Dragon I decided to give it a try. I was a little fascinated how the Swedish voice would translate to English. I also wanted to make sure that if I ran into Alexander Skarsgard I could say… absolutely I’ve read the Larson book. (It’s important to have something in common when meeting your boyfriend for the first time.)

Freakin’ fascinating book. The first 100 pages are filled with so much info dump I can’t believe I stuck through it. Paragraphs and paragraphs of background being told through dialogue that gets interrupted every so often with the lead character saying things like. “And then what happened?”

Fortunately the heroine Lisbeth Salander is seen intermittently through these chunks of data dump and she’s so cool you have to read more.

Without giving anything away I can tell you that story takes place with the hero (a magazine reporter) being convicted of libel and we know he has to spend time in jail. (The goal as they say in my boyfriend’s country.) In the book his sentence happens half way through the story and is so…odd. Nothing happens. We basically skip right over it. It serves no real purpose.

In the movie version they switch this and put his sentence at the end of the story. By doing so it serves a very IMPORTANT purpose as our hero needs a chunk of time to write a book.

(Seriously I was wondering if that might not be a bad idea. Go to yuppie jail and get 3 months of quality time to do nothing but write and work out!)

And that’s when I saw how powerful good editing can be. This is something the editor should have seen in the original manuscript. Now maybe he/she did but Steig didn’t want to “break and fix” – I can sympathize Steig – but by merely shifting the order of a scene from one part to the next you turn a useless plot point into an important plot “element.”

If I were Steig and I saw the movie I would think… wow, that works so much better that way. Which just goes to show you what a new set of eyes can bring to something.

Would I recommend either? I definitely think the book is interesting. I will say that Lisbeth has stuck with me. Absolutely. But she’s a violent girl and has violent things done to her so for me I have to really think about taking on the second book. The movie I think was a brilliant representation of the book and that’s hard to do especially with a book over 400+ pages.

But call me simple, call me sappy, call me predictable - while I was glad I read this book - I was so happy to pick up a nice romance after it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Showing Magic and Fantasy Elements

I feel like we’ve talked about this before (after four years of blogging, we’ve probably talked about everything at least twice) but a few things recently have me thinking again about how to show things that aren’t real.

I’m judging a contest right now and one of the entries is based on a really clever little idea and the writer clearly has a great imagination and I feel like maybe she has a vivid picture of what’s going on in her head, but she’s not doing a good job of putting it down on paper. In a nutshell, she’s failed to ground me and I don’t know what’s “normal” and what’s “magic” and what’s just a mistake in her logic and/or technical writing and storytelling abilities. Basically I’m confused and frustrated.

I think especially when you have elements of fantasy or magic in your story you have to be very clear about the elements that are real so readers can tell the difference and trust you. Once a reader has lost confidence in you as a writer--forget it.

And this brings me to two films I saw at the festival. One which was awesome, and the other pretty horrible. Poor Molly saw the horrible one with me--the only film out of 23 this year I didn't like. But I’m actually glad I picked that movie because even if it does get a theatrical release it’ll be a short one, so the festival might’ve been my only chance to see it. And I think there’s as much to learn from bad movies as good ones.

The bad one was PASSION PLAY with Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox. I’m going to probably include some spoilers here to make my point, but I seriously doubt any of you will ever see this movie…  So that said, Mickey plays this has-been jazz musician who slept with the wife of a mob boss. (Mobster played by Bill Murray) And one of the mobster’s guys takes Rourke out in the desert to shoot him.

He gets saved and right away we know something strange is going on—the people who save him not only rush right off without speaking a word, they look like a cross between American Indians and a karate class out on a field trip—but although it was weird, there was nothing to really tell me whether or not I should believe what I just saw. Then he stumbles onto this small carnival in the desert, which looks like something out of the 1930’s, and consists of a freak show and a Ferris wheel. So, I start to think… okay, the strange ninja-karate-class-Indians are working for someone at the carnival. Someone saved him because they wanted him to go there. And happy with my theory I stop thinking about an explanation for his saviors and move on to the new strange bits. (And actually Rhys Ifans as the carnie was probably the one bright light in this movie. Loved him. Just the right amount of menacing creepiness.)

And once he's at the freakshow, Rourke meets a girl with wings. Yes, wings. So clearly we know we’re in some kind of altered reality, but since there are also bearded ladies etc., it’s still not really clear if we’re supposed to believe that this girl was born with wings, or if maybe someone put them on her surgically or whether it's some kind of carnie trick. And there were lines to deliberately confuse us about this whether the wings were real or not. The Rhys Ifans character says he found her in an alley, and she says she became the bird woman because she couldn't grow a beard... so it's certainly implied that this is some kind of a trick or a transformation executed after Rhys found her, but we're never really sure.

Anyway, I won’t bore you with the so-called plot—because, really, there wasn’t much of one—but for the rest of the movie I was distracted by small inconsistencies that I assumed arose because of a low budget and/or a lack of attention to detail… Details like obviously fake snow and plot holes and continuity issues… As the film went on, I got more and more annoyed at the filmmaker, thinking he’d been sloppy and hadn’t paid enough attention to the details. Plus, there were boring, unnecessary scenes that didn’t move the plot forward, and I saw zero chemistry between the two leads so had trouble caring about the romance or her plight or whether or not he’d save her…

Then, BIG SPOILER, (skip to next paragraph if you care), at the end, after this ridiculously fake and poorly shot flying scene, which made no sense based on the rules about her ability to fly we’d been told earlier, we see his body lying in the desert. Okay. He was shot at the start. He’s dead. This whole movie has been a flash dream before he dies. Or part of his afterlife, or whatever. So only at the end, do the strange inconsistencies and breaks from reality start to make sense. Maybe.

I have to say, the ending almost redeemed the movie for me, but not really.

And one reason I couldn't consider it redeemed was I’d seen BLACK SWAN a couple of days before, a film which also asks the audience to question what’s real and what’s not… and does it so, so well. And there are lots of twists that keep you guessing and lots of hints to tell you things are not as they seem. The story breaks into and out of reality seamlessly so that while the ending makes sense when you get there… you don’t really see it coming. Or at least not fully and once you do it's so gripping and heartbreaking the tension is amazing.

I don’t want to post any spoilers about BLACK SWAN, because I think everyone should see it and the trailer is so good already and reveals just enough, but it really was amazing to see how a talented filmmaker and storyteller like Darren Aronofsky solved the “problem” of confusing the audience and keeping us guessing without ever annoying us, where the other film failed so badly at this.

(General consensus about Aronofsky’s second to last film, THE FOUNTAIN, was that he didn’t pull off conveying a complicated story and ideas without annoying or confusing the audience…  I happen to have liked THE FOUNTAIN, but I did have to think about it after to figure out, or at least come up with a plausible guess, about what was going on… Clearly Aronofsky learned from that experience and grew as a filmmaker before BLACK SWAN, which I think will work for a much wider audience and still thrill the critics.)

Anyway... The only other thing I will say about BLACK SWAN is that while they’re marketing it as a psychological thriller, parts sway more into horror territory, but in a good way—at least for me. First time in years that I’ve had serious chills in a movie. Goosebumps literally prickled up my arms. The performances by all the leads, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Vincent Cassel were awesome. The three women especially. Fabulous movie.

I’m going to see it again as soon as it comes out. Early December, I think?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Promotion

The absolutely fabulous Eileen Cook has started a completely adorable promotion to celebrate the rerelease of her hysterical book Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. It's a set of videos that feature an actress playing the character of Lauren Wood giving tips on how to be popular. I can totally see these videos going viral.

Cute, funny, sassy, in tune with her youtube generation audience. I think it's brilliant. What about you guys? Does something like this whet your appetite for a book?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beautiful Boy OR subtle storytelling inside a dramatic framework

Maureen let me tag along to some of her Toronto Film Festival Movies - I would have been able to see Ryan Gosling and his beautiful skin up close - but I have children and they ruin everything. So, I got to see Ryan Reynolds buried alive, Megan Fox with Wings and my highlight - Beautiful Boy with Maria Bello and Micheal Sheen. The story is about an estranged married couple who find out thier son shot seventeen people at his college campus and then killed himself.

This was exactly the kind of movie I DID NOT WANT TO SEE! Trying to keep my brain a happy place. But I'm very glad I saw the movie, not just because Sheen and Bello were utterly devestating to watch. But because this movie was a masterclass in keep it simple, stupid. And keep it subtle, stupid.

What the storyteller's managed to do within the framework of a HUGE and DRAMATIC story was utterly brilliant. After the inital terrible event, the plot points consist of: her reaching out to hold his hand. Him unzipping her dress. MArried couple gets drunk has sex. And you think, well, that's sweet. But it wasn't. It was edge of my seat intense and nervewracking. The stakes the storyteller was able to attatch to that hand hold - ridiculous.

My lesson in this is that the BIG DRAMATIC EVENT - doesn't have to be the story. It can create the story, but what follows doesn't have to have the same big scale intensity. You can pull the shades on your characters and let them create the drama after the event. I have a tendancy to make everything BIG. Drama. Drama. Drama. And I think because I don't trust my ablity to make a woman reaching out for her husband's hand utterly riveting - so I throw in a lot of extraneous stuff.

I'm going to try for small scale. It was a great movie.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why I'm not watching Bones this season & TOTGM

I loved Bones. It was the one show with the romantic element that truly had an internal emotional conflict between the characters. An arc that over the past four seasons the writers have been developing in a thoughtful way. Each season the intimacy built until finally the hero (Booth) confronted the heroine (Bones) with his feelings.

Still not ready to overcome her issues the next four episodes were spent with her trying to deal with his feelings and ultimately ended with her running away. For me it was a plausible option. They can’t be together so they have to be apart.

Now it’s time to bring them back together and see what happens.

I hoped for only one thing. One blessed thing. That the writers would not take the tired, overly clich├ęd path and bring them back together with… wait for it… another love interest. Of course it would have to be him since he declared his feelings and got rejected. Please, I begged the TV Gods, just don’t go there. It is SO done. It caused me to stop watching House last season. There is NOTHING new in that storyline because we all know what is going to happen. The viewers will hate her. Bones will be jealous. Eventually the love interest will leave. That’s it folks.

Unless the writers have the grand idea of killing off Bones and spinning a new show with Booth and the new love… there is nowhere they can go. The end has already been written – it’s just a matter of how many shows it takes to get there. And I’m so sick and tired of watching it play out over and over again in exactly the same way. I watch this show because of Booth and Bones. Let me see their growth. Let me see them work to overcome her issues. Maybe give him some new issue… whatever. Why oh why do TV writers always get this wrong?

And it occurred to me... my fascination with TV characters was really the beginning for me as a writer. Back in the 80s there was a little known show called Tales of the Gold Monkey. It was with Stephen Collins (when he was young and hot) and an Irish actress I can’t remember. I LOVED this show. It was set pre-WWII in the Pacific. He was a flyboy pilot. She was a bad lounge singer who was actually a spy. Naturally the romantic angle was played until what happened… wait for it… he got a new love interest. She was jealous. He was uncomfortable. It all went wrong… blah, blah blah.

I wanted so desperately to change it back then. I was ten or eleven watching this show thinking no, this isn’t right. He’s not supposed to be with this new LI. Can’t he see the other Irish girl is jealous? That show ended...which led me to Remington Steele, Moonlighting, Scarecrow and Mrs. King (the only show to ever get it right in my opinion) and so on….

I became a writer to "fix" television shows. To make them go my way. To have the characters do what I want. I discovered fan fiction years back with West Wing and Josh and Donna (another couple who suffered woefully at the hands of writers who kept them apart with other love interests. I think those writers- both Sorkin and post Sorkin - did it like 5 times.) All I can say is I’m so thankful FF wasn’t around when I was growing up or all my energies would have been put into that instead of writing my own stories, my own characters.

This season I’m going to DVR Bones and have a friend tell me when the “new” love is gone. Then maybe I’ll consider going back.

But my goal is to spend that hour every Thursday working on my WIP. Making my characters do what I know they should!

Am I alone? Any other TV couples that drove you crazy with the will they/won’t they?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bad Parents in YA

I was going to blog about the film festival today, but I feel like I'm too in the middle of things right now to reflect properly on any of the films I've seen or make anything I say relevant to drunk writer talk.

But I will say that I've only seen two films so far that I loved... RABBIT HOLE and BLACK SWAN. Also TRUST made me cry about six times... But I think I'll save talking about the films until later.

Instead, I'll talk about something that's been on my mind lately: parents or lack thereof in YA novels.

Several weeks ago Sinead did a post about how common it is in romance (and in fiction in general) for the main character to have had a bad childhood, and how often writers choose not to let their main characters have strong, reliable parental characters to lean on while the story unfolds. (Often killing off the parents or otherwise putting them physically or emotionally out of reach.)

I've been thinking about this in the context of the YA market and although I haven't studied it to any extent, I think it's perhaps even more prominent in that part of the publishing world. In many of the most popular novels for this age group, parents are either absent or totally negligent. It was while reading SHIVER that this most recently occurred to me. Yes, perhaps the girl's clueless parents in that book helped put the hero and heroine on the same playing field... and built into the theme of pack as family and how badly theses kids need to belong... But it became almost comical for me how negligent her parents were. I mean, she's got a boy (who's also a wolf) living in their house, sleeping in her bed, showering in their bathroom, and they never notice. I don't think it was supposed to be funny, but it really started to crack me up.

I've heard writers on loops complaining about this common feature in YA. It seems to me that, almost without exception, the writers who don't like this are also parents. I hear things like: Why can't the mother character be more sympathetic? If she's facing such a big problem, why doesn't she go to her parents for help? Why is she staying out so late? Where are her parents???

Seems like some of these writers/readers can't bear to read a story where the kids are left to fend for themselves. Or maybe they are identifying more with the mother character than the protagonist...

But besides the somewhat obvious benefit of absent parents adding conflict and drama, I think this story element is so common in YA because becoming independent is such an important part of being a teen. Reading about kids who either have no parents or have parents who ignore or neglect them lets kids explore independence vicariously, from the safety of their own homes and families.

Hey, I just realized that one of the main elements of BLACK SWAN, the film I saw this morning, was the protagonist breaking free from an overbearing mother.

There. I tied this post together. ;)

Now, must go stand in another line.  HENRY'S CRIME tonight. It's a rom com. Yay. I could use a break from tough films right now. Tomorrow morning Molly's coming with me to see 90 minutes of Ryan Reynolds buried underground in a box. Can't wait. :)

What other YA books have negligent or absent parents? Can you think of a great one where the parents were there to help the kid through whatever it is he or she was facing?







Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coming up dry

I got nothing, people. Generally at some point in the week, something happens that I need to process and I blog about it. But not this week. Maybe my brain has gone soft from trying to finish my rough draft over the weekend. Maybe it's because I'm preparing to take my oldest child to college on Saturday. Maybe all my brain cells are being used by trying to come up with a plan to fix up my out of town sister with my mother's new wheelchair repairman (seriously, his name is Rafael and he's very handsome and has a killer Italian accent and was not wearing a wedding ring) that don't involve some kind of Medicare fraud.

Maybe I just don't have any more ideas and never will and all my brave words about not believing in writers' block are now coming to bite me very solidly in the ass.

Anybody else got nothing? (See how I'm still ending with a question, though!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Things I suck at....

I can no longer sing the tidy-up song. My house is littered with toys, my feet are bloody from stepping on transformers and blocks and the idea of singing when I want to scream at my progeny - no longer works. I suck at singing the tidy up song.

I can't make putting shoes on into some kind of game. It's a fight. It's always going to be a fight.

Sticking to the spinning class plan. I want to go. I really do. I get so far as to put on the appropriate clothes and for some reason I always find a way to bail.

Managing the roller coaster. I have two roller coasters in my life right now. The first is Mick in Kindergarten and Lucy going to day care two days a week. I am THRILLED to have two full days and every afternoon of my life back. THRILLED. and then...I'm guilty about being thrilled. And then I'm mad about being guilty. I suppose this will stop - though Eileen is taking her oldest to college this week and I can't WAIT to hear about HER emotional roller coaster - that's going to put me to shame, I'm sure.

The second roller coaster is the persepective on my work drama. One day I'm quite sure that I'm the cleverest girl around, all my ducks are in a row and they're following me on this mad downhill run to the end of the book. The next day I look and there are no ducks just terrible loose ends that have no conflict or drama and they aren't following me downhill - they're spinning off into nowhere.

I know this roller coaster is in my head and if I can occupy brain with the story - with actually getting words down on paper - the roller coaster turns into a pleasant kid's ride.

So, there you have it - where are you falling down on the job? Or better yet - give me one thing you've done right this week!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Contemporary is my new historical

I'm going through a phase. I'm an impossible to please reader. Which is frustrating for my drunk writer friends, because when we get together to gush about great books, I have at best a lukewarm meh for a lot of the books I've been reading.

The wierd thing is I know intellectually they are good books. The characters are likeable and engaging, there isn't repetition, and there is chemistry, so I should love them, hell, two years ago, I would have been the chief gusher.

Then I picked up a contemporary Molly loaned me. And I'm engaged, interested, reading it more than a couple of pages at a time. Interested in reading more like it.

I'm all historical'd out. There are amazing historicals on the market right now, and I want to enjoy them the way they deserve, but I know I won't. I need to take a sizeable break. Read new stuff, contemporaries, general fiction, more YA, something different and maybe in six months I'll want to read a great historical and I won't feel meh about it.

I would love to read a great chick lit right now. Another Susan Elizabeth Phillips, more dark YA, bring em on.

Does anyone else get genre fatigue?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Day 5 of the weekathon of writing...

I know what you’re thinking… shouldn’t this be day 6 if you started the week on Saturday? I took Saturday off to go to the beach. I mean I am on VACATION.

Don’t think I didn’t pay for it. I ended up getting stung by “something” which resulted in a swollen foot for… yep still a little swollen.

So really I started Sunday. With my foot elevated.

The goal when I decided to take this vacation was twenty pages a day. Which would mean 20 pages at 7 days of writing (I built in beach days just in case)…let me get my calculator…140 pages total. Between the 120 pages I already had plus another 140 I would have … wait one more second while I add…260 pages. Which would be well over half the manuscript.

This would be enough to push me toward the finish line. The second half is all downhill right?

Has anyone seen 500 Days of Summer (Don’t be scared by all the numbers I know this is a writing blog). In that film they do a split screen scene called Expectation and Reality. You can see what the character “hoped/thought/dreamed” would happen. And then you see what actually did happen right next to it.

My life is that split screen.

On Sunday I recognized that in all my research reading I hadn’t written a word since leaving for Florida and the conference. Nearly 4 weeks ago. I quickly remembered that writing is a muscle. It needs to be exercised daily. Like my ass does - which was also what I was supposed to be doing this vacation but see stinging event above. A freakin’ bug sting has sidelined the expectation that I was going to get in shape and drop 5 pounds in a week all while writing a fabulous book. Figures.

On Sunday I spent three hours pushing out five pages. But like all exercise the next day got a little easier, then a little easier.

Am I meeting the goal? Hell no. Expectation and Reality. I shoot for expectation but have to live in reality. So 20 pages a day became a chapter a day. (My chapters range between 15-18 pages so it’s not too too bad.)

If I continue at this pace I will be through 15 of the 21 or 22 chapters I’ve planned.

The one thing I’m sure of right now is that it sucks. Let’s face it when your pumping out that many pages a day it isn’t going to be crisp clean prose, but I’m doing it.

And loving it.

I forgot how freaking much fun it is to totally immerse yourself in the work. On the flipside when I leave my condo to go do chores I’m speaking to sales clerks with a cockney British accent.

“Oy right, sir. Don’t bother wit a bag. Environment, ya see. Gotta keep it clean, ey?”

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Lessons from TV Guide

One of my lightbulb moments in my early days of learning to write fiction was when someone likened a book pitch to a TV Guide description. Pitching stories or figuring out what they were about at their core was new to me. Reading the TV Guide was not.

The Terminator was on TV the other night and reading its description on the channel guide I was reminded of this again, and it got me thinking about the issues I’m still having with my current WIP. Finding that through line. That core thing that the book is about.

It’s hard work to tell a simple story and I’m deep in the midst of that hard work. I’ve got all these difficult emotional obstacles for the character, I've got a complicated world I don’t fully understand yet, and lots of possible subplots, some that could be in this book and some that could be in sequels. And it’s all a jumbled up mess in my head.

Then I read this: A killing machine from the future is sent back in time to destroy the woman who will eventually become the mother of a 21st-century resistance leader.

There’s no mention of the fact that there’s a man also sent back who’s not only the rebel leader’s best friend but also unknowingly becomes his father. There’s no mention of why the war happened that caused the machines to take over. In fact, there’s no mention of machines at all, except for “killing machine” which, well, doesn’t necessarily imply a machine. Because as soon as you say, “It’s a machine,” that opens up tons of questions we don’t need the answers to, in order to get what this story is about.

It’s about a killing machine, sent back through time to kill the mother of a future resistance leader  to make sure he’s never born. It’s about her survival and the importance of her survival. It’s not about man vs. machine (although it is). It’s not about the dangers of technology and artificial intelligence (although it is). It’s not about falling in love in high pressure situations (although it is). It’s not about saving the world…. You get the point.

While all those other twists and details are what made The Terminator such an interesting and well-loved movie that’s become a classic, all those elements are just details. At its core, it’s about the girl surviving so the resistance leader can be born. I think there’s a lesson in there for me right now. Just not sure what it is, yet. LOL.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Too on the nose?

I'd never heard this phrase before a couple of months ago. A friend of mine had sent out an e-mail for some brainstorming help for some names of places in her WIP. She had a brief description of the places, but didn't want the place names to be "too on the nose." 

I didn't think things could be "too on the nose." How can something be too exactly right? 

Then I heard the phrase a couple of more times, including Drew Barrymore while she was being interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show about her new movie, Going the Distance. Stewart brought up the song with the same name by Cake. Barrymore said that she loved the song, but was glad they didn't use it in the movie because it would have been "too on the nose." Again, I ask you, how could something be too perfect for the situation? Plus, that song is awesome. 
 
So clearly, this is a new thing and I would like it explained to me because if it's good enough for Drew Barrymore, it's good enough for me. Anybody out there willing to explain it? Anybody? Buehler?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Stop Start

I had a really strong start into the current WIP and then major interruptions and ever since my flow got interrupted, my pace has been awful.

It has been nothing but stop, then start, then stop, some because of life, some because I've had to revise the way the story progresses.

There is a rhythm to writing, at least for me. When I'm consistently writing, day after day, I get a lot done and there are fewer interruptions in the work. When I stop for a few days, it takes me a day just to get back into the flow of the story, and the longer I stop, the longer it takes me to get back into it, so I waste precious time trying to sort out what I've written and where I need to go.

It's why so many writers say, write every day.

It's gotten so bad that I'm moving ahead in the book and writing the scenes I know for sure are going to be in it. It's movement, it's word count, and in the end it's going to be an ugly, ugly edit, but it's either that or nothing, at least right now.

Maybe after a few ugly scenes, I'll be back in the flow, and the latter half of the book won't be a disaster. But right now I'll take disaster over an empty page.

Is this common to everyone else? Or are people going to make me intensely jealous and tell me they can pick up a manuscript after a week off and write ten pages?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Breaking things...

I’m not good at it. My kitten Grayson excels at it. Me not so much. Of course I’m not talking about bric-a-brac. (That’s such a cool word.) I’m talking about writing.
As a writer I’ve learned I have a really hard time breaking something I’ve already written in the hope of making it better. As I prepare for my weekathon of writing I spent last weekend getting caught up on what I had done, where I was in the story etc, so I could hit the ground writing.

There was one scene I thought to move. Maybe keep things vaguer for a little while longer and do it as a reveal later on in the story. But as I read the scene I really liked it. I liked how it all fit and how it transitioned. I didn’t want to break it. Breaking it would leave sharp edges that would have to be filed down and smoothed. I worried the end result would read like something was broken and put back together. Choppy. Disconnected.

I left it alone and learned that I don’t like to break things.

What I love to do however is add things. I’m a huge adder. I was trying to map out a timeline of events. In a mystery it’s crucial to know each detail of the murder so that even what the reader doesn’t see still makes perfect logical sense. I looked at what I was doing. Looked at where I was in the timeline of the story and all of the sudden it came to me…

I’m missing an entire scene. It was like that moment in Harry Potter (Order of Phoenix) where he goes to the house that magically appears between two other houses. The story moved from A-C so it was a logical forward transition. But all of the sudden B popped out of nowhere. And the beauty of it is I don’t have to break A and I don’t have to break C. I just need to insert B.

As I write this I realize how probably trivial and absolutely commonplace this is to all of you – our writing audience - but still it was the thing on my mind this week.
Moral of the story… I will add 20 chapters if I have to, but I will do everything I can to avoid breaking 1.

Crazy.

What are you as a writer? A breaker or adder?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Counseling by Marley Gibson


Since we were talking about promotion yesterday, I thought it might be apropos to do a little promotion for another author, today.  :)


The fourth book in Marley Gibson's GHOST HUNTRESS series, THE COUNSELING, is hitting shelves and she's running some great contests.


All week, Aug 29 - Sept 5, there will be giveaways on Books, Boys, Buzz.


And more giveaways through to September 15th, on Marley's website.


GHOST HUNTRESS: THE COUNSELING - in this fourth installment of Marley Gibson's popular GHOST HUNTRESS series, THE COUNSELING finds heroine, Kendall Moorehead at a crossroads in her life. Kendall has just discovered who her spirit guide really is, lost her boyfriend, and nearly died doing the thing she loves most–ghost hunting. It’s time to take a break and try to reconcile all the changes she’s going through. So Kendall heads to the Sierra Mountains, where there’s a camp especially for young people with gifts such as hers. It’s a time for reflection and self-discovery. But when she gets to California, she once again finds restless spirits–and the boy in her last vision. It may be the end of one chapter of her life and the beginning of a new one.


What people are saying about GHOST HUNTRESS:

"Real life ghost huntress, Marley Gibson, pulls no punches in this series." - Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, SyFy's GHOST HUNTERS

"Every young woman needs to read this!" - Steve Gonsalves, SyFy's GHOST HUNTERS and GHOST HUNTERS ACADEMY



Marley Gibson is the author of the hit young adult paranormal fiction series, “Ghost Huntress,” from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Graphia line.


Gibson has been a lifelong paranormal enthusiast. She started conducting paranormal investigations in August 2007 as research for her “Ghost Huntress” teen fiction series and has captured some very compelling pictures, videos, and sound files. Gibson was featured on the premiere episode of The Biography Channel’s “My Ghost Story,” as well as being interviewed by CNN.com for a Halloween feature on ghost hunting in 2008.


Gibson’s publishing credits include “Ghost Huntress: The Awakening,” “Ghost Huntress: The Guidance,” and “Ghost Huntress: The Reason.” The next titles in the series “Ghost Huntress: The Counseling” and “Ghost Huntress: The Discovery” will be released in September of 2010 and May 2011 respectively. She has also co-authored a teen ghost hunting how-to guide entitled “The Other Side: A Teen’s Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal” with Patrick Burns and Dave Schrader. Gibson is also the co-author of the wildly successful “Christmas Miracles,” written with Cecil Murphey, from St. Martin’s Press. The sequel, “Christmas Spirit” will be published in the Fall of 2011.


Gibson has investigated haunts throughout the USA, including Rolling Hills Sanitarium, Waverly Hills Sanatorium, The Sprague Mansion, The Houghton Mansion, The Stanley Hotel, and the Queen Mary alongside well known paranormal celebrities like Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson, Patrick Burns, Chris Fleming, John Zaffis, Shannon Sylvia, Chip Coffey, Stacey Jones, Mark and Debby Constantino, Tiffany Johnson, and many others.


Gibson holds a Bachelors of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in Advertising and a double minor in Political Science and Speech Communications from The University of Alabama. She has worked on several political campaigns, as a United States Congressional intern, and has been a marketing events manager in the medical, higher education, financial, and technology sectors. She travels extensively with her partner-in-crime, paranormal investigator Patrick Burns, and the two call Boston, Massachusetts home. She can be found online at www.marleygibson.com and www.ghosthuntress.com and via her group blog at www.booksboysbuzz.com



Happy launch, Marley!!! We wish you well.
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