Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Release Day to Me!

Ta da!!! Today is the official day that Dead on Delivery, my follow up to last year's Don't Kill the Messenger, hits the shelves, babies!!

I'm super excited because this book is my first ever Top Pick from Romantic Times. I actually cried a tiny bit when I found out. Of course, I also cried watching Despicable Me on Friday night, but that's another story (Sinead, I don't think we should watch movies together or maybe we should because I wouldn't have to share the tissue box).

Fresh Fiction liked it, too, and said my "distinctive voice rings gleefully throughout . . ."

So if anyone has been hankering for another installment of Melina's adventures, hanker no longer. It's here!

James Franco: I still love him

That was a bad choice. I can fully admit it. Hathaway tried, she really did. But when part of hosting the Oscars involves cross dressing, you know they're reaching. They're really reaching. And despite being young and cool and at some point wearing a cordorouy tux, Franco was a flop. I thought most of the night was a flop. The opening bit was great, though it just reminded me of how good Alec Baldwin is.

Melissa Leo, (someone please fill me on on these ads she put out, because I'm clueless) even though she dropped the f-bomb, which frankly, I liked. So genuine. So totally real. But, the hamming it up, the shock and awe just didn't ring true - and it set the tone for the night for me.

Sorkin, amazing speech. Tell me why are we cutting him off with the music and letting Christian Bale give out website addresses? Really? Even Colin Firth came off as too practiced. The only moments that seemed genuine were Spartacus, Billy Crystal and Sandra Bullock.

There were some beautiful dresses - I loved Scarlet Johanson. And Michelle Williams' dress was strange, but her look is freaking awesome.

Frankly, I don't know if pandering to a younger demographic looks good on the Oscars. For me part of the Oscars is it's class and glamour. If they're going for the same kids that watch Jersey Shore - they're going to lose me. Though, I did love the f-bomb. What did you guys think?

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's Oscar Weekend

I don't watch football, basketball, hockey or anything else sportswise, so the closest I come to a superbowl event is the Oscars. I watch, junk food at the ready, wine poured, and care about what people wear, wince at the bad speeches and pre-guess all the major categories.

And so, before the event, I'm going on record as to what I think will win. It's not the most educated guess, as I still haven't seen True Grit, or The Social Network, but when has not knowing something stopped me from having an opinion.

So here goes.

Best Picture - I'm going with the King's Speech here. It has a lot of awards going into this, and based on previous history, specifically, Forrest Gump winning over Pulp fiction, it's more likely to win.

Best director - I'm going with David Fincher here. He's overdue for some serious recognition. I'm a huge fan of Seven, and Fight Club, and to be honest, I loved King's Speech, but I think it was successful largely due to the acting and screenplay.

Best Actor - Colin Firth. No explanation required.

Best Actress - Natalie Portman seems like the best bet to win. I have a longstanding affection for Annette Benning, and she was amazing in The Kids are Alright, but Portman was spectacular in Black Swan, completely convincing.

Best supporting Actor - Christian Bale - doing what he does best, completely disappearing into a role. But a part of me wants Geoffrey Rush to win, for the small moments in King's Speech, where he expressed so much with just the look in his eyes.

Best Supporting Actress - Hailee Stanfield for True Grit - although this is really close with Melissa Leo for The Fighter.

Best Adapted screenplay - The Social network.

Best original screenplay - the King's Speech

Best animated film - Toy Story 3

I know I've missed some important categories, but these cover most of the awards.
Any one out there have their own Oscar predictions? Do you want

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Royals... A love story?

I’m not going to lie – I love me some Royals. I don’t follow too closely – but hook me up with a Royal Wedding and I am waking up at 4:00 am and watching all day coverage like it’s the Superbowl.

I watched Diana get married. I watched her get buried. I watched when she introduced the world to Wills and I will watch him marry his commoner bride and make her a princess and the future Queen of England.

Now I know everything that went down with Charles and Diana. Completely tragic. He’s in love with someone else. She can’t handle it (and why should she) they divorce and she dies. No happy ending there.

But here is my claim… Kate Middleton must love Prince William a whole heck of a lot! I watched a TMC mini-documentary of their courtship, relationship and soon to be wedding and was floored by the depth of feeling this girl must feel for him.

Now some will say… “She’s marrying a prince. She’s going to be a queen. How great it is that?”

I would say – who wants it! Hear me out. Let’s start with the fact –she’s already rich. Her family has all the money they need. Materially while she’ll be exposed to even bigger, better, more… it can’t be all that different from her current lifestyle.

Then comes the baggage. Watching your relationship play out in tabloids. Being followed 24/7 by paparazzi. They called her “Waity Katey”. They said she finally “landed” her prince. Like he was the prize to be one instead of her. I really bristled at that.

Now I don’t know what’s in this girl’s head of course – but here is what I do know. She’s rich. She’s beautiful. As princess or queen –she’ll have no real power. Yes, she can serve as a spokesperson for charities and causes she feels deeply about – but she could have done that as a citizen and again as a person of wealth still had a lot of impact.

Here is what she has to put up with. Constant scrutiny. Royal expectations. Rumors, gossip and innuendo which will be splattered across every paper in England. Her marriage, her happiness, William’s happiness will constantly be questioned. When/if she becomes pregnant will be a national event!

But the worst, the all time worst, is that she will be held up near daily to one of those most Iconic Woman of All Time. I mean seriously… Diana walks into a room would you want to be the one to follow her?

Her wedding day will be watched by 2 billion people! Two billion people will tune in to watch her walk down the aisle, say her vows and will comment on her dress, hair, shoes everything. She will be there to essentially perform for the people. Because in reality it’s their day. The people’s day.

My day… with morning mimosas… because I want to see her a girl become a real live princess.

I watched this documentary and thought how in fiction - great romances have to overcome great obstacles. It makes the relationshiop that much stronger and more meaningful. To me the title of “Prince of Whales” is just about the greatest obstacle ever. Talk about raising the stakes.

I hope I’m right. I hope she really loves him. Because I think it would take all the love in the world for a modern marriage with this kind of pressure to work. If it does then it would be a truly happy ever after.

So good luck Kate Middleton – my new favorite heroine… Don’t trip!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trying on Agents

So, back in 2009, I wrote a post on another way to look at agent hunting that got a lot of traffic on this blog. It's still a post I'm pretty proud of and with some editing, might try to turn it into a tongue and cheek article for some bigger writing sites or magazines...

But something I've been keeping largely out of the public eye is that last summer I decided I wanted a new agent. It's a long story, but I decided to make the change at a time when everything was in serious limbo for me. Very scary.

I'm not planning to tell my personal saga here... (Although I might at some time and it does have a happy ending.) What I wanted to make a brief comment on are the great tools that are out there now for agent hunting.

The last time I was on the hunt, the new thing was You no longer had to buy those big books! And that site is still great. Also back then, there was a very new kid on the block, but it was one I was highly skeptical of. You want me to store the list of agents I'm planning to query in your database? And then whether or not they request and how quickly? Who are you? How can I trust you? No way....

But when I found myself wanting to research agents again now, I went back. And boy had it improved in the intervening four (five?) years. Awesome. Highly recommend it, and paying the small fee to have the "premium" service with no ads and some extra bells and whistles I found very helpful.

And using it I came up with yet another silly analogy about agent hunting: Agent hunting is like clothes shopping. Just as fun. Just as frustrating.

You browse through query tracker, a fabulous, well laid out boutique where everything looks so chic and fabulous. "Oh, I'll take one of those!" "Hey, I think I'll try that on for size." "Oh, that one would really bring out my eyes, I mean character arc."

And then, just like trying on clothes (for me anyway) as soon as you get into the change room, reality strikes. Most things don't fit. Or the store doesn't have your size and you don't even get to try your favorite on. And sometimes the ones that looked best on the hanger end up looking the worst once you've tried them on. It almost feels like some of the clothes hate you. It feels personal.

But when you find that perfect fit? Magic.

Happy to say I now have a new agent. Charlie Olsen of InkWell Management. And while I took very few choices with me into the change room, I think I found the right fit.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sex and the Local Library

Last Thursday, I spoke to the Friends of the Woodland Library in Woodland, California. It was really nice to be asked and the lovely woman in charge of publicity managed to get the local papers to run about four different articles about me and my books. It's hard to beat publicity like that, especially with a new book coming out in a couple of weeks.

I asked if there was anything in particular they wanted me to speak about and the answer was that they wanted me to speak about romance. It was Valentine's week, after all, and I was a romance author. Great. Easy peasy, right?

Except nothing about these talks is easy peasy for me. My sister is a professor and I swear she can pull intelligent and witty lectures out of bodily orifices in about ten seconds flat. She often points out to me that she has been teaching at the University level for thirty years now, has put together a lot of lectures from which she can pull information and strcuture and simply has a lot of experience with it. I disagree. I think she hogged all the good lecture genes, leaving me with strangely stunted and mutated little things that can't create a linear speech.

So I set to work toiling over my talk. I kept coming back to sex. Why did there have to be so much sex in romance novels? Why has it gotten more explicit? What does it mean? Does it mean that our books are chick porn? How has the sex changed? What's it like to write those sex scenes?

Which is how I ended up standing in front of the Friends of the Woodland Library including, but not limited to, the incredibly adorable teacher of Life Stories at the senior center and my spin instructor from the gym and my cousin's husband's brother's wife, and giving an impassioned salute to sex in romance novels.

And you know what? I think they liked it. I had about twenty minutes of great questions after I was done and sold a pile of books. I don't think they even noticed the giant zit that had sprouted on my chin that morning.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I am late, as usual, to the party that is American Idol this season. I just saw my first episode, the group week in Hollywood. And with the hysterics and bad drama and bad behaviour, there was my favourite moment of the entire episode.

Steven Tyler. Love him. What I love most, is that, he has this shaggy rock star hair, a seemingly genuine love for being a rock star and the adulation that comes with it, his hippy shirts that fit his personality perfectly and then, after a group would perform, and the judges had to look at pictures to decide who stayed and who left, he'd pull his reading glasses from his pocket and push them on the end of his nose to be able to see the pictures on the table in front of him and suddenly went from Rock Star God to endearing grandmother and I loved him more.

Such a great detail, provided to us by reality Tv. Aging rock star and his silver framed reading glasses.

Those are the details that some writers just produce as if by magic. Molly is one of those writers.

I, sadly, am not. I'm so busy worrying about plot turns and reversing expectations and how to ramp up the tension that I overlook the details that can reverse our expectation about a character and sum up in a sentence, a perfect character trait.

That Steven Tyler keeps his glasses hidden in his pocket until he absolutely needs them, and probably reluctantly, puts them on to see, is a brilliant detail, one I wish I'd come up with.

And now I'm hooked into American Idol, if just to watch Steven Tyler.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I was recently reading a blog which featured a post where an aspiring author posted the first page of her manuscript and opened it up for critique. Among the posters was an agent. It was amazing how many tiny things the agent found just within the first few paragraphs. Two issues in the first sentence!

Little details that when reading it seemed obvious, but I know as a writer I would never consciously think to check.

Last week Sinead was commenting on Eileen’s post regarding what to reveal and what to hold back in her latest suspense novel and Sinead said you have to rely on your instinct. Excellent point.

Now – I’m not going to lie – I don’t think I have great “life” instincts. In poker when my “instinct” tells me to go all in – I do and usually lose. I’ve gone with my “instincts” when dating… no good there.

Career decisions? Currently still pending.

But my writing instinct seems to be intact because with every point the agent brought up – I instantly went back to the first page of my submission and tried to see if I could find the same mistakes - I hadn’t made them. (I’m sure I waited until the second page to commit all my errors.)

However it got me to thinking about how much I simply rely on this…”whatever” to write a book. I don’t sit and analyze each sentence and break down how it works or doesn’t. I just write. Hope it’s okay. Fix what I can and move on.

All this time I’ve been relying on writer instinct I didn’t know I had. It is sort of like realizing you have a super power. Something that makes you different from everybody else.

Now we as readers and writers know… instinct will only take you so far. You have to combine that with hard work and dedication, study of your craft, blah, blah, blah…

But still it was interesting to learn that imbedded in my brain somewhere must be some deep rooted writer’s instinct which helps me get from page to page without making the most obvious errors.

The question is – Is it born in us? Or did we develop it through reading without knowing? Or can we develop it over time by just continuing to write and receive feedback?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chasing Failure

Last week I went to see Paul Haggis being interviewed at the TIFF's new permanent location. I have to admit, it was pretty cool and he said a few things that made me nod my head and think, oh, I should do a DWT blog about that! But clearly I'm getting old, or I've been very distracted, or both, because I forgot most of them.

But one comment was during the Q&A. Someone asked about him about the importance of failures. Haggis had talked during the interview about a few TV shows he'd developed that he really loved and believed in that either never got picked up, or got canceled right out of the box, like EZ Streets. And he also talked about how he'd been shopping the scripts for both Crash and Million Dollar Baby for years before he managed to get the money together to produce them. 

And his answer to the person who asked (a young filmmaker) was: run hurtling toward failures. Pursue failures, because that's the only way to succeed.

I thought this was good and brave advice... because really, if we aren't doing this in some way, aren't we playing it safe?

I dunno. I suppose it's just another way to say, take risks, pursue your wildest dreams, do it the way you want to do it... but I think it is kind of freeing to think about chasing down failures. Hey, don't we writers actively pursue rejection and criticism in a way?

Is this too negative a way of thinking about this? I can't decide...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome Susan Hatler!

Come on in, Susan! Welcome to Drunk Writer Talk. I don't even have to ask what your drink is since we go wayyyyy back, girl! Here's your salt. Here's your slice of lime and here, my dear, is your shot of Patron. Knock it on back! Remember that time in that bar in Monterey? I'm not entirely sure how we got back to Asilomar. I just know we did not drive and that there seem to be a lot of pictures of you wearing my poncho.

Okay! Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to talking about your anthology that came out just in time for Valentine's Day. Where did the idea for Set Up for Love come from?

It happened one evening at Taco Bell. Ah, the romance of it all.

Virna and I were sharing a delicious meal and chatting about my contemporary romance short story, My Last Blind Date. It’s one of several short stories I’ll be publishing in Fall 2011 in an anthology titled Better Date Than Never.

After consuming dependably yummy food in a wrapper, we chatted about a couple of contemporary romance manuscripts we’d started and didn’t want to go to waste. Hmmm. We realized that if we combined our stories, they’d make a great anthology, lengthy enough for both an e-book and a print version. Then, we called our fabulous author friend, Delilah Sloan. Guess what? Delilah had a contemporary romance manuscript she’d started, as well. Shocker.

Between the three of us, we brainstormed Set Up For Love, an anthology about finding Mr. Right, with a little help from friends.

Three stories. Three authors. Three kinds of romance. Sweet. Sassy. Sexy. Our thought was: Women are complicated, but reading doesn’t have to be. Let’s create an anthology of contemporary romances to suit a reader’s every mood.

Deadline? Valentine’s Day. And, since My Last Blind Date is about a girl who’s dateless on Valentine’s Day, we added that as a bonus for our Valentine’s Day release. Fun!

It’s amazing what can happen when writers sit down to have a burrito.

I just adore the trailer of My Last Blind Date. Check it out here:

So . . . you're the sweet one of the trio. Was that a deliberate choice or does it simply reflect your natural voice?

It’s just the way I write. Well, thus far. Watch some hot and sexy romance novel come out of me next. It’s funny because I went to a writing retreat last weekend and amazing New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lori Wilde was one of the speakers. She loved the beginning of my novella, The Boyfriend Bylaws, and thought it’d be perfect for the Harlequin Blaze line. I was walking on air with a smile stretched across my face when Virna reminded me, “Um, you don’t have any sex in your story.” Oh, yeah…forgot about that small factor.

It sounds like your novella and your short story have as much to do with female friendship as they do with finding true love. Was it hard to strike that balance in a short format?

Yes and yes.

In addition to finding love, all of our stories have to do with the dynamics of female friendships—when to stand by quietly as your friend dates the wrong guys….and when to step in. It became the theme of our book: Friends Don’t Let Friends Date Badly.

Hard striking a balance with the short format? Um, does Drunk Writer Talk rock?

Rock. Paper. Scissors. We talk it all, sugar.

So, yes. I had to slash and cut. Sub-plots were deleted, as well as entire scenes. Painful-painful-painful! Yet I did what I had to do for the good of the story.

Creating this anthology with Virna DePaul and Delilah Sloan was a lot of hard work, but an amazing ride. I think readers will relate to how it feels when your friends get their hearts broken. Sometimes, you just need to step in and set them up with love!

Thanks for having me here and happy belated Valentine’s Day to all.

Thank YOU so much for stopping by. So Stalkers, do you want to win a copy of Set Up for Love? Leave a comment. Ask Susan a question. Let us know you're out there and your name will be entered for a chance to win a copy of this totally fun, totally sassy, totally sexy book!

Monday, February 14, 2011


Hey - Happy Valentine's Day for those of you out there who go for this holiday. I do. I really do. That arguement that people make about resenting being told by Hallmark when they have to give or get flowers - those people must give or get flowers a whole lot more than I do. I need someone to tell my husband to pick up a bouquet. Sadly, though, and it's terrible I admit it - I have totally slacked off on giving Adam anything. I used to send him these little care packages with treats and cards and mix CD's. Oh, those were the days. Now...nothing. Poor guy.

So, my Valentine's to you, our Drunk Writer Stalkers, is a couple of free books. Comment anytime this week and I'll pick two winners to get HIS WIFE FOR ONE NIGHT. As a sidenote - I love this book. I'm not sure if I love it because it's based loosely on my rad cousin, or because the writing God's smiled on me and this book just flew from my fingers, or beacuse I managed to get sex in early. Don't know. But other people are loving it too.

So - riddle me this: Do you love Valentine's Day? Or hate it. And bonus points if you can give me some ideas for my husband!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's a stakes thing

I've have a fantastic reading month. I've read some truly great books, the angel series by Nalini Singh, the first book is pretty amazing stuff, the Maze Runner had me obsessed with getting to the end for days, and then I picked up another eagerly anticipated YA book. I'm going to try and not name names, or book titles.

I'd heard nothing but positive buzz on this book, and the cover is amazing, the description of it on the back cover sounds fascinating. The first chapter is riveting and the author does an incredible job of worldbuilding. It's postapocalyptic, but a different take than I've read. So all good. Except then the book grinds to a halt.

There is a nice subtle air of menace underlying each of the scenes, but I feel like I'm forcing myself to read on. The writing is lovely, each scene does progress the plot, and really, I can't tell what is about to happen, but I'm not invested in the story, because I truly do not know what is at stake. The reader does not know the consequences for breaking the rules, we don't know what will happen if the heroine veers from the path chosen from her, and really, right now, I don't care all that much.

Maybe because she doesn't care much either. Half way through the book, there is no real sense that she wants a change in her life, and would be perfectly happy if things continued as they'd been set out for her at the beginning of the book.

So how am I as the reader supposed to care if she does or doesn't. Not every book needs a cackling villian in the background, rubbing his hands together at the thought of breaking the heroine's neck, but there has to be tension regarding the heroine's decisions, a real sense that if she makes the wrong decision there will be hell to pay, either emotionally or physically, or both.

And it doesn't have to be life threatening either. One book I absolutely love is Ain't She Sweet. The heroine has a lot to lose in this book, mostly her dignity and self-respect and there are scenes where she does hit rock bottom, and we feel every moment of her pain. It's brilliantly done.

I need to read that book again, but first I need to pick up the book following the Maze Runner, called The Scorch Trials. Anyone read them?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's a Love/Hate thing...

So in preparation for the Oscars I’m trying to cram in all the movies that I’ve wanted to see all year but are now just finally getting to. I finally saw Black Swan but because of all the “mystery” surrounding what it was really about … I ended up totally over thinking it. I will say though that Natalie Portman did an amazing job.

Then I watched Social Network. For those of you who don’t know I’m a former West Wing fanatic. I can wax poetic for hours on the brilliance of Aaron Sorkin. I was so excited to “hear” him again in the writing and in truth he didn’t disappoint. SN sounds like the Aaron I know. Nobody does “brilliant” like he does.

But here was my problem with the movie. I didn’t like the protagonist. And sadly that’s a pretty big downside. I get that in this version of the telling of the story we’re probably not supposed to like Zuckerberg, but it still stopped me from falling in love with the movie.

I can think of so many times where an editor has commented… I just didn’t feel for the heroine or hero. I didn’t like them. This used to frustrate me… but I do get it.

Now it might make people (writers) think that all heroes or heroines have to ultimately be “nice” or else the audience won’t like them. But we know that’s not true. I just read a book where the heroine is very nice. Super nice. Pleasing in all ways. Any person would want to know this very nice person. I couldn’t stand her as a character. Nice isn’t what it’s about.

With Zuckerberg (movie version) I didn't have a problem with him not being nice. But I was looking for something more than a spoiled genius, left out of the cool kid club, who was condescending and rude to everyone around him. One moment of real friendship or a truly sincere gesture from him to anyone and that might have helped.

Ultimately I couldn’t root for him. In truth I didn’t really root for anyone in this movie… except maybe the roommate a little and the ex-girlfriend. Who delivered the best line of the movie in my opinion.

We, the audience, need to “like” the protagonist. We need to empathize, sympathize, appreciate… whatever. We need to get them. Whether they be nice or (as Eileen would say) they be asshats we need to see the story from their prospective so that we’re connected.

At least I do. HBO shows excel at this. Omar – the Robin Hood of Drug dealers from the Wire. Niki – the bitchy spoiled 2nd wife from Big Love who can also fix a washing machine and hang shingles on a roof. The FBI guy from Boardwalk Empire… (forgot his name.) Who is crazy and insane but so damn passionate about his work. The Widow Schroeder who knows her boyfriend had her husband killed and seems okay with that even though we also see her as a loving and kind mother.

Anybody else you wanted to love but ended up hating? Wanted to hate but ended up loving?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Torture (and porn)

Clearly I'm doing blog titles to get hits from people who will have zero interest in our blog. Sue me. :)

We've talked here before about torturing our characters, how we need to throw the germiphobe into the dumpster, etc.

But doing that in real life, purposefully setting people up for pain, is cruel.

And, of course, I'm talking about The Bachelor. Yes, after SWEARING I'd never watch again (many seasons ago) I have again been sucked back into the busty-and-overly-made-up vortex. One of the times I swore I'd never watch again, I blogged about it, and called the show emotional porn. I stand by that.

And this season they've sunk to new lows. Yes, they always make sure the one who's afraid of flying ends up on plane, and the one who's afraid of heights ends up jumping off something high, but this season there have been two episodes that really made me angry.

One was last night. One of the girls, one of the more sane ones, actually, is deathly afraid of bugs. I mean, she seriously needs some psychological help. And clearly the producers knew this. So where do they send her and the bachelor on the only date she ever gets with him? Into a cave in Costa Rica. With lots of bugs. Nice.

But even more egregious was the Las Vegas episode. One of the contestants lost her Nascar-racer-fiancé in plane crash when she was only 18. Then she found out 3 days after he died she was pregnant. She hadn't been on a plane or anywhere near car racing since he died. Nor has she had a relationship. (and this girl is scary-beautiful. I thought she looked old for early twenties, but they've now shown her a few times without all the make up and my god. It's unfair for one woman to get so much beauty.)

And what do they do???? First put her on a small plane with the bachelor -- presumably similar to the type her fiancé died in. Then, they take her to a Nascar race track. Oh, and the exact same racetrack that her fiancé had a bad crash at when he was racing. Nice.

Sometimes reality TV is a good lesson in how to put your characters in difficult situations. But I ask... should it be?

The movie Stranger Than Fiction suddenly pops to mind, which explored the ethics of torturing fictional characters. But these women on The Bachelor are (at least partially) real. How do the producers sleep at night? Imagine the bad karma.

Monday, February 07, 2011

How revealing should we be?

No, I'm not reprising Nipplegate in honor of the Super Bowl. I'm worried about how much to reveal to my reader and when to reveal it.

I know we've talked about this before, but I'm in the middle of revising a suspense novel where I made the very interesting decision to tell the reader everything that every bad guy was doing as he was doing it and what he was thinking while he was doing it. It has created a book that my editor described as being like watching a chess game.

I've now pulled every scene from the bad guys' points of view and put them in a separate file. I'm going to print everything out and figure out what goes back in and when and where it goes back in. I spent a lot of time and thought on these bad guys. I know a lot about them. I'm thinking the reader doesn't have to know quite as much.

The whole question is how much to reveal and when to reveal it. Do I keep their identities secret? Do I obfuscate who does what? Or why they're doing it? I don't know. I hope my exercise in separating out the threads works because this puppy is due Friday and that's just not that far away.


Last night's Super Bowl was fantastic - even though we don't get the ads up here in Canada (except for the Eminem one, which only fed my love for the man) I couldn't have enjoyed that game more. Even though I'm a Pittsburgh fan by birth I have to admit the Steelers simply didn't deserve to win. All those interceptions? Green Bay dropped the ball a few times, but Rodgers never threw an interception. And he's squeaky clean. No rape charges, no pictures of his ding dong on the internet, no dog fighting. Just work. If games were decided on that sort of thing - it all worked out just fine.

But I've been thinking a lot about momentum. I feel stalled out in my book right now because I can't put together three working days in a row. Remember some of the first advice you heard about writing - write every day even if it's for twenty minutes. I'm not arguing with that advice, it's still good. But those twenty minute days screw me up more than help me. I feel lost in my story, spinning my wheels.

Last nights game was about momentum. About getting it, but not being able to capitalize on it. Favor would swing one way and that time would spin thier wheels trying to make something miraculous happen. Sometimes it did, but most of the time things would fall apart.

My foot ball analogy falls apart there because I can't squash the forces working against me (children - unsquashable) but I have decided that it's time to get my head out of my own behind and sacrifice some stuff to get this book done. No more afternoon naps. Yes, I admit it, I nap. Goodbye bad television tht I watch for no good reason. Hello Crock Pot. Hello babysitter and Goodbye Saturday Spinning class. For the first time this weekend I woke up early to do some work (5:30!) and I can safely say that's not a habit I'm ready to commit to.

What sorts of things do you do to create your own momentum? Any advice would help at this point

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The perfect introduction

One of my favourite movies is Silence of the Lambs. I watched just part of it last night, reallly only one scene. The part where Clarice meets Hannibal Lector for the first time.
And it's perfect. The walk down to just get into the cell, where the prison warden warns Clarice about Lector with the tale of the nurse he attacked. Then, the rules, don't get close to the glass, don't give him anything, and then, they close the door after her as she walks down the long corridor towards Lector's glass enclosed cell. By this time we are expecting a monster, not the civil man who greets her.

It's done perfectly. The buildup of tension is ridiculously good, and the reversal of expectation doesn't reduce the tension at all.

I watched that and realized, whether I'm introducing the hero in a romance, or the big bad in a YA, I've never built up to it as well as I could. My last book, I had a scene where the hero has a walk home, walks into his home and is introduced to the antagonist in a way that was completely anti-climatic and didn't reveal as much as should have about the bad guy.

That first meeting in the Iron Duke is done pretty amazingly well. There is a lovely build up to Mina's first viewing of the man.

Just another thing to keep in mind as I edit and try to squeeze every last thing out of every scene.

Criticism... it's tough

I did a post the other week about a book and author I was disappointed in because she happened to be a long time favorite. I made the comment that of course I wouldn’t name names, because well… no one wants to say out loud that kind of thing.
My reasons for this are simple.

1. You never know how your comments will be taken.
2. I don’t want to leave myself open for attack… the old “who are you to say…”
3. The romance community is a small one and you don’t want to make enemies.
4. And I hate to admit this… I really do… but is it because the romance community is mostly female and women by and large are more sensitive to public criticism?

I’ve read blogs on this before and I’ve always just shrugged them off, but in thinking about how reluctant I was to actually call out this author (and so many agreed that I had done the right thing) I wondered if all genre publishing is like this or specifically romance?

The truth is I would never be “mean” in my criticism. I have too much respect for authors. Even Stephanie Myers, who I have named publicly as not being a fan of her work, I still respect that millions of people love her books for their own reasons. I have my opinion – and it’s just that. An opinion. And any criticism I would point out is usually based more on a “learning” experience. I didn’t think *this* worked. I thought *this* part took me out of the story. It’s part of the dissecting process to understand what makes books successful.

Once you’re published one of the things you have to face is your books are going to be reviewed. There will be negative ones. Not maybe. Not possibly. There will be. Someone will post something on Amazon. Someone will have something to say on some review site.

Some authors choose to ignore all reviews, but then you also miss the good ones. Some laugh them off. Some are irritated. Some are deeply hurt. See my reason 1. Since I don’t know how the author takes criticism I don’t want to risk hurting someone’s feelings. There’s no point when I can avoid it.

As for 2 - “who am I to say…” I always based this on the fact that I’m not a NYT bestseller. But it makes me think – are only NYT bestsellers able to critique books? No. The truth is I’m an avid reader and have been for 30+ years. I read across genres within romance and out. I’ve taken classes on craft. I’ve read books on writing and I’ve published my own work. I’m not a chump. But even if I were – the truth is I still get an opinion. Sad but true.

Enemies – I don’t want enemies! Okay, but then it makes me think if someone makes me her enemy just because I happened to say her book didn’t work for me… what does that say about the author. If your attitude is that every person who critiques your work publicly is an enemy… well then you’re going to rack up a bunch. And truly – if you’re not listening to other people’s criticism then you’re not
growing as an author.

Which leads us to 4. Are we too sensitive? Is it a woman thing? A writer thing? Or is it completely individual? If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything. That’s like Golden Rule # 3.

But we’re talking about books for mass consumption. What if we called the authors out? What if we said – the plot fell apart. The emotion wasn’t there. There is too much exposition. All tell, no show.

These are the things new authors are told ALL the time. Send in a manuscript to a contest that critiques and the feedback is usually going to be pretty intense. Why? It’s anonymous. People feel free to say what they think.

So why can’t we say it to these “big” authors who knew all this at some point but have since forgot or just don’t care. Who does it fall to, to tap them on the shoulder and point out where the mistakes were made? The agent? The editor? Definitely not a publisher who is on a tight schedule and needs those profits. But a blog reviewer? A peer?

As a writer I’ve read reviews that said my books were horrible, stupid and that they were thrown across the room. I’ve made people’s eyes roll and have made people hate my heroes or heroines with such passion they felt compelled to write about it in a public forum. I accept all of it. The good, the bad and even the really awful.

I don’t think anyone’s ever been intentionally malicious – although I hear stories about that happening all the time. Reviewer A out to destroy Author B. But to date I have never called out anyone as being my enemy. Do I wish everything came up roses, sure. Do I question some people’s reviews – sometimes. Obviously I’m going to defend my work.

But I wonder have we all just gotten too sensitive when it comes to people in a public forum pointing out our mistakes? And if the prevailing thought is to never say anything if it isn’t nice are we putting at risk our genre by not calling out the really bad books.

What do you’all think? Do you prefer public forums to keep things positive? Do you think review sites and blogs can offer criticism without being mean or is it too fine of a line to walk?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ah, the Joy of Revising

I got my revision letter for Vanished in the Night, my next Eileen Carr book. I actually kind of groove on the revision letter. My editor always starts with like a page of how fabulous I am and how wonderful the book is and the general terrificosity of the whole situation.

She then proceeds to write 3 to 6 pages of what needs to be changed. It can be a little daunting and a little scary, but she's right more often than she's wrong, IMHO, and I know it will make the book stronger.

This time, there's been a fairly large time gap between my turning the book in and getting my revision letter so I basically have not touched this puppy since October. I barely remember my characters' names, much less their motivations. One of the first things that needed to be revised that my editor mentioned was that there was too much banter.

How can there be too much banter? I love banter. I will watch really stupid TV shows with bad plots and ridiculous characters as long as there's some banter. But, lo and behold. There is too much banter in this book. Everyone banters with everyone else. My detective hero banters with his partner about lunch plans, for Pete's sake. It's bad banter. Pointless banter. And what's worse, it makes my hero look like some namby-pamby arugula-eater with a touchy stomach. How not hot is that, I ask you?

She also mentioned some repetition in internal monologue sections. Ha! I thought. No way.

Oh, yes way. For some reason completely unknown to me, I have a scene where the heroine leaves one place thinking about something. There are then two scenes from other characters' POVs. Then I return to her as she arrives where she's going STILL THINKING ABOUT THE SAME F*CKING THING!!! Was I on crack? Drunk? Just out of my mind?

This is where the revising thing falls apart for me. When I look back what I've written and can't imagine what I was trying to accomplish as I wrote it. I know it's going to be okay. I can be ruthless during revisions. Still, where was my head?

Do you ever read things you've written and wondered what the you were thinking?
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