Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Ideas and thoughts on Series

I’m getting ready to come up with a new series idea for my Superromances. The Tyler Group Series that I’m finishing up now was my first ever attempt at connected stories. And I really liked it. I liked setting up the characters in one book and then seeing them through to the end in another.
I was/am a little worried about readers though. I never wanted anyone to feel as if they had to read all the books in the series to understand the book they were reading now. But the truth is, For the First
Time which is out in October, I think will only really be satisfying if you’ve read An Act of Persuasion and have gotten to know Mark and his daughter Sophie first. We’ll see.

I now have a real appreciation for those people writing connected stories how much the world takes over. I’ve been with these characters now for more than a year. I feel like Ben Tyler is this personal friend I know. There are times when I thought I could really use his advice about something and wanted to call him.
But I’ve run out of ideas for the series and I’m ready to move on. So this will also be my first experience leaving a connected series behind. But maybe that’s a good lesson to learn too.

I’ve read a number of series books and eventually I do get tired and leave. The characters get stale for me and the world becomes to repetitive. A perfect example is James Bond. I used to be a Bond fan for a long time. But eventually I just couldn’t watch it anymore I left when Pierce Brosnan left. But I heard great things about Skyfall and so I thought I would give it another chance. And it was a good film. But smack in the middle we have this ridiculous moment where he interacts with a beautiful woman and ends up banging her and I’m like… what purpose did this serve? Except of course it’s Bond and there has to be women and sex and martinis….
It’s that fine line of meeting the expectations but not repeating everything over and over again until fans get bored. So I guess the trick is creating the world, letting people get sucked up in it, meeting expectations but then also making each new story fresh and interesting, and then letting it go when the time comes and knowing when that time is.

Wow. Writing is really hard.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Cool World is Not Enough

I've just stopped reading another YA novel about 65% of the way through. And it's one I'd been really looking forward to reading. It's not a massive bestseller, but it definitely got some buzz and sounded cool.

But it didn't work for me.

First the good stuff: This book has a very interesting and imaginative world. And it subtly explores some really interesting ideas about gender roles and society, not to mention cool sci-fi stuff, even though it felt more like fantasy than sci-fi.

But even that is a cool thing about the book. For a long while you don't know whether it's fantasy or sci-fi, whether it's in some imagined past or the future. And the answer to that, once we learn it is satisfying enough.

There was so much about the world building of this book that I admire and/or I wish I'd thought of first. :) And the opening chapters were intriguing and exciting. I was sucked in. For a while, I thought that I was going to LOVE this book.

But then it failed to go anywhere and nit-picky things started to nag at me more and more and more.

1) The world, while fascinating, didn't fully make sense. That's the kind of thing I can easily let go if the story and characters are pulling me along but, well, see below.

2) The character's personality does a 180. To me, she becomes a totally different person after the "inciting incident". She goes from a sullen, silent teen, who's completely in her own head and doesn't share something pretty freaking important with her family, into a smart-ass who talks back to everyone, flirts with everyone, acts up to the point of putting herself in constant danger--just to be difficult. Two-thirds of the way through the book, I still didn't know who she was. And she made me more and more angry.

3) Her acting out made no sense. Even if she wanted to undermine the authority, the things she did made no logical sense. Rather, she seems determined to be punished. For no reason other than maybe the author thought that her being punished (again) would count as a plot point? And the reasons for her punishments, now that I think of it, weren't really because of her legitimately bad behavior. No. The antagonist (an adult) would punish her out of jealousy... because the protagonist kissed her favorite servant boy. Because she realized the protagonist looked good in a party dress. Because she realized the protagonist had talent and would one day be her superior. It was all such petty motivation.

4) And back to that thing she kept from her family at the start... In a nutshell, she knows that the authorities will be coming for her. In fact, she knows they're coming that night. She knows her parents don't want it to happen and have been working her whole life to make sure it won't happen. Yet.. she doesn't warn her parents that it's about to happen. Maybe because it will put a damper on her sister's birthday party??? But doesn't she think that the authorities storming in to take her away might also ruin the party??? Why not warn her family? Why not take the opportunity to say good-bye?

It didn't bother me that much at the time. Because what happened was exciting and I assumed she had a reason for not warning them, but no such reason is ever revealed. And because of her silence, her family all ends up DEAD. Worse, not once after that does the protagonist even have a passing thought that maybe she bears a tiny bit of responsibility for their deaths. Not once. Not up to 65% of the way through the book, anyway...

5) Another thing that bugged me was that characters were constantly having "big realization" moments about things that I was 99% sure they already knew, or should have known... Even the main character has this "I'm no one special" moment after it's been made abundantly clear to her over and over, that the only reason she hasn't been killed for all her bad behavior is that she is VERY special. In fact she's the key to the ongoing survival of the entire world they're in. And yet, she thinks, "They won't care about me. I'm no one special." WHAT???

6) So, it's clear the main character is an important girl. Okay, maybe not everyone knows this or knows why... but when the antagonist does things that could seriously hurt the main character, and therefore threaten their entire world... no one does anything about it or punishes the antagonist or tries to stop her! It was like nothing was connected in a world where, well, the whole point was that everything was connected and visible to the authorities. (See what I mean about the logic problems?)

7) Even though they died for it, it's hard to understand what her parents hoped to save her from in the first place... She gets taken away into what seems like a way better life than she'd been destined for if they'd been successful in "saving" her. Sure, there are subtle threats about "power corrupting the powerful" but is it worth risking death to (unsuccessfully) keep your kid from being one of the powerful few?

I suppose that question could be debated and perhaps it's one of the things the book is about... but to the point I'd reached, it had yet to be explored. And, again, the character felt no guilt about her part in her parents' deaths.

8) I found the book riddled with inconsistencies. I do know, as an author of books set in imaginary worlds... that if a reader wants to get picky, he or she can always find something to pick at... But in this book, they just piled up for me. In addition to the stuff mentioned above, at one point, the character has already seen that the authorities have wiped her sister's mind clean, and given her a new life and new memories, and the character has learned that in a few days she has to go in for a procedure that sounds like it might wipe HER mind clean, or at least alter her mind. And she thinks and worries about that. And then a page later she thinks something like: at least they can't mess with my thoughts. WHAT??? You know they can. Idiot.

9) But the biggest sin for me in this book, is that at 65% through, there was still no evidence of a plot. Worse, the main character did not have a goal. I had no idea what she wanted or how I'd know if/when she got it. The author's entire point of the story seemed to be: show readers this cool and interesting world I thought up, by making my character travel through it and to make it fun, why not have her flirt with two boys--and a creepy grown man--none of whom have any real personality.

I saw part of an author interview, and based on what I read, I don't think I"m far from wrong in my guess of the author's writing process.

Sounds like this was a first book by a seat-of-her-pants author, who had a cool idea, but really didn't have a clue as to where it was heading, or even what the story was about, other than the world ideas.

10) But the reason I finally stopped reading was that (growing frustrated) I read a few negative reviews that revealed that, even at the end, there's no indication of where the story is heading. The book ends on a cliffhanger that sounds like the author simply didn't know how to finish the book, so she didn't. If I'm this angry now, just imagine the rant if I'd taken the 3-4 more hours to finish!

Now, I actually think that it's possible to have a book that's largely about revealing cool and interesting things about an imaginative world. But only if there are fascinating characters to care about and only if that cool world holds together...

With this book's story world, if you tug on one tiny logic thread, the entire thing unravels.

(I don't want to mention the title... because I dread the idea of someone picking apart my books like this... but that last line contains a hint for anyone who might have read it.)

Can you think of a book that works with mostly world building and character development and no plot? I'm sure there must be some...

Oh, this rant got WAY longer than I meant it to. I must be on a deadline. #responsibiltyavoidance #selfsabotage

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

British Invasion

It started with Downton Abbey. It was like the starter drug. It was so easy. What harm could it do to watch one little British period drama. I burned through Seasons 1 and 2 in a matter of weeks. Then I got to experience Season 3 in real time including sobbing uncontrollably over Sybil with Catriona McPherson, morning after emails with my boyfriend's mother and horror at Amy Clarke's ability to laugh at melodrama.

It didn't last, though. Season 3 ended. I needed more. My friend Deb told me to check out Doc Martin. I checked out all 5 seasons that were on Netflix. A doctor with a blood phobia and Aspergers! Quirky villagers! Doting aunt! Loved it. But it couldn't last forever, either.

Then there was Call the Midwife. Six short episodes and I was left in tears by every single one of them.

I'm deeply into Kingdom now. In addition, we're now watching both Sherlock (British) and Elementary (American), the two Sherlock Holmes in modern times shows. I'm also dabbling in both House of Cards and House of Cards. Confusing? Yes, it is. They're VERY similar and yet quite different. Upper crust vs. up by the boot straps. Conservative vs. liberal although ideology does not matter much to either of those politicians.

I'm not quite sure what it is about the British shows that are drawing me in right now, but they are. Anybody else having a British thing right now?

Friday, March 22, 2013

American idol and truth

So I've gotten sucked back in. I don't know when it happen, well, that's a lie, I do. I was channel surfing and caught Candice Glover singing I Who Have Nothing, and there's nothing like someone with a huge voice singing really well to suck me into a singing competition.

And so I'm back in. And while watching the rest of the show last week and this week, I realized why I'd stopped watching American Idol. No one tells the truth on the show anymore, at least not during the performance show. Sure Keith Urban is seriously charming in his seemingly genuine enthusiasm. I could live without Nikki Minaj critiquing outfits, and well, everyone else in general, but even after a terrible performance, everyone just kind of goes meh!

At least Simon used to tell people the truth.

And last night, Iovine actually gave proper feedback, a night after the performance shows. There's nothing worse as a viewer than watching someone give a totally mediocre performance and having all the judges go on and on about how lovely the person is and how their soul showed through in their singing... seriously!

To me it devalues the power of a great performance, because if everyone is great, than no one is truly amazing.

And I know in the real world of pop music, how someone looks is as important as how someone sings, but for my reality tv, I'd like it not to matter, please.

And while I'm ranting, can we stop with the awful personalities grating off each other shows? Housewives, restaurant owners, art gallery workers, interior designers and anything else. Even the commercials for the show make me grate my teeth.

Ok, off for my second cup of coffee for the day. Maybe more caffeine will make me less grumpy.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lost in a Story... Why I love or hate Julia Spencer-Flemming

I wish this blog was going to be about me being lost in my current WIP. How I was so enraptured with my characters I couldn’t stand being away from them so I was writing constantly. How I was so enthralled with the plot and where it was going I couldn’t wait to write the next page and the next page and the next chapter.
This blog is sadly not about that. It is instead about the series of books I’m reading. I heard Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches in a podcast talking about reading books in a series and reading them all in row without a break. She said the one time she had done this without a problem was the Julia Spencer-Flemming books. Interested I looked up the series of Russ Von Alstyn and Clare Fergusson.
She’s an Episcopalian priest, he’s the chief of police. Strangely they solve crimes together in a way that you actually believe and through the process they fell in love. Deeply irrevocably in love. Small hitch. He’s happily married to a woman he won’t be unfaithful to and of course being a priest she refuses to be the cause that ends his marriage.
This is why straying from romance is always a risk. Because when I say I got sucked in by this couple, so hard and so quickly that’s an understatement. I’ve read four books in six days in this series. I had to buy books in advance, and go to the end, just to see how long and how heartbroken I was going to be. And because it’s not a romance I have no guarantee of an HEA as the series progress which as a romance reader could be catastrophic.
Because I’m lost in this story. This happens every once and while where I get so captured I can’t think about anything else, watch anything else or write about anything else. I have to know what happens to Russ and Clare. I have to know if they can survive the myriad of obstacles being placed in front of them.
I can’t read fast enough. My emotions are dependent on where they are in the story. And currently I’m reading about an absolutely heartbreaking moment in their relationship that I have no idea how Julia is possibly going to allow them to recover from. (But I bought books ahead so I know they do… phew!) I love Julia Flemming for giving me these characters, but I also hate her too because she's breaking my heart. (Not really hate... more like loving hate.)
Anyway I think it’s this experience that made me want to be a writer most of all. The feeling that I could fall so far into fiction that I could sit on a couch for eight or nine hours at a stretch immersing myself in this author’s world.

One day I hope to be able to do that for readers. To write something so emotional, so compelling that they simply can’t put the book down and if they do they’re counting the hours until they can pick it up again.
I’ve got about five and a half hours left of work before it’s back to Russ and Clare.

Five hours… twenty-nine minutes.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Americans

Has anyone else been watching this new series?

I have to say, I'm kind of loving it. Sure, it's a spy story, set around 1980 that could quickly devolve into repetitive missions and near misses of being caught... But I think the reason it's working so far is that, at it's core, it's a marriage of convenience romance.

And that's such a hard trope to pull off in a contemporary (or near contemporary) setting. But here it works. It's plausible.

The set up/backstory is that the two main characters, a man and a woman, join the KGB when they are in their teens. Both are separately trained to speak and act like Americans and trained to be spies. Then, when they are in their early 20's they are introduced to each other for the first time, given cover stories and moved to the US to start their missions, working undercover as spies while posing as a married couple.

Neither is allowed to tell the other anything about their real pasts -- not even their real names. They are never allowed to ever speak Russian, even to each other. They only know each other by their fake American names and only know each other's cover stories. They live together and, to be more plausible as a couple, they have two children together. But having sex to conceive is merely part of their jobs. Then about 14 years later, (as the series begins), their relationship remains purely professional, even though they are living together and raising two children.

Both often have to have sex with other people as part of their jobs. Both have to pretend to be in love with other people to gather intelligence. We find out that he had a love in his past whom he had to leave behind in Russia. We find out that she found love with a man in the US (whom she also recruited and turned into a KGB informant), but the they are only posing as a couple. They don't love each other. Or even fully trust each other. In fact, we get the impression that she, in particular, (the harder-edged of the pair), barely tolerates her husband. He's just the dude she has to work with as part of her job--something she really believes in. And he's a big risk to her if he turns.

And then something happens. Someone appears in their lives whom the Keri Russell character knew back in Russia. Someone who hurt her. And when her husband/partner finds out that this man hurt her in the past--hurt a woman whose real name he doesn't even know,  effectively hurt a woman who no longer exists--she (and we) instantly see by his reaction that he loves her. In spite of how tough and cold she is, he has fallen in love with his wife of 14 years. And then as the series progresses we get to see her fall for him too.

It's kind of awesome.

Speaking of awesome. Did anyone else see the Bates Motel premiere? Wow. Rape and multiple murders in episode one. And Vera Farmiga is pretty amazing. I honestly don't know where they go from there. But I'm excited to find out. Poor Norman.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March break and DABWAHA

Holy cow - last week was March Break and it was insane!! I slept eleven hours last night...when is the last time you did that? Now, before you think - well, she had a week with her kids and really dodgy weather, so of course she's exhausted. That's not the case. The truth is - they were at camp. But I had to take them back and forth to camp. My husband usually takes the kids to school and I pick them up. But Adam had a very intense work week and the whole reason I put the kids in camp was so I could have a very intense work week. I have new HUGE respect for the parents who get themselves and their kids out the door, work really hard at a job they love, pick those kids up and get dinner on the table. Everyday was a marathon. Hats off Mom's and Dad's who work out of the house...

Now - in other news it's DABWAHA time. For those of you who might not know this is a Tournament of Books created by the combined talents of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author. It's modeled after the March Madness college basketball tournament, with seeds and brackets. There are prizes, not just for the book/author that wins, but for readers who pick a bracket and have the best percentage of success with their picks. All in all - lots of fun.

Storytelling Rules/Drunk Writer Talk has a lot of friends in the tournament, Cecilia Grant, Laura Florand, Ruthie Knox, Sarah Mayberry and Simone St. James. And ME!!! Can't Buy Me Love is included and I'm pretty darned excited.

Now, the way the books progress from one round to the next is by reader votes - And I'll talk about that once the voting opens up. However, if you would like to participate in what is an incredibly fun month of trash-talking, bribing and authors behaving outrageously - you can fill out your bracket HERE

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Friday, March 15, 2013

how do you find new authors?

I love my kindle. Because I have it, I read more, buy more books and am open to buying new authors, because of book deals and downloading samples. 
And certainly we've seen an explosion in self-publishing bestsellers because readers have access to authors in a way we've never seen before in publishing. 

But it's also opened up a new problem. With more choices than my little mind can comprehend, how do I choose? 

I used to walk through the bookstore and choose based on authors I'd read, covers and back blurbs. So basically I let the publishers choose for me, better shelf placement definitely caught my eye. A gorgeous cover - a better chance I'd walk away with the book. 

There are lots of books out there for great prices, $1.99 even $.99 but I only have so much time to read, so the entertainment value of a book always heavily outweighs the price. So now I rely on a couple of key websites to tell me what I should be reading, along with recommendations from friends. 

So Dear Author and All About Romance have become must see websites for me, because they're honest and I trust their opinions. There are a lot of review websites out there that give nothing but great reviews, and those I stopped checking a long time ago. I won't always agree completely with Dear Author, but she does come across as completely unbiased, which is really important. 

I also check Entertainment weekly's books sections and that's sort of where it ends for me. I know I'm missing some sources, and I've love some recommendations. It's a great time to be a reader right now, but I need something to help me sort through the noise out there. 

How do you choose what books to buy? Who do you listen to in this new publishing world?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Carrie and Brody... those two crazy kids.

Okay, so I know I’m like a year late with Homeland. But I just got Showtime for free and as Eileen was talking about on Tuesday I am definitely a gobbler. While I adore my cats they don’t really offer the kind of insight into shows that I would like so I can’t really count on them for analysis. Which means I gobble freely and love it.
I watched the first two seasons in about two weeks and if I could have melted the shows down like heroine and injected them into my veins I would have done it.

Why? Because despite being a great action/spy/thriller type show… it is at its heart a romance.
Brody and Carrie, and their relationship, drives that show. And how twisted is that! SPOILER ALERT – if you haven’t seen the show and want to don’t read past this point.

He’s a spy, he’s married and he’s killed people. She’s bipolar and her mission is to stop him. I mean seriously I should not want them to end up together. But the whole time I watched season one, I wanted it to work out between them. Then when I didn’t think it was possible in season two, somehow the writers decided to go there anyway.
It brought me back to messy heroines and heroes and why I love them. I mean NOBODY is more messed up than these two. I can’t think of a couple that has as many obstacles to a happy ending. It’s why I love it. Because through it all the power of their love keeps bringing them back together.

Or they are secretly manipulating each other for their own ends. Hard to know. But I LOVE that too!
I really think it is love. I think it’s the one thing they are both holding onto to keep them sane.

It’s an amazing dynamic. One I really hope to steal (because I’m a dynamic thief) sometime in the future. But this show brings home to me the more messed up the characters are, the more impossible the  situation is, the higher the stakes, the better story you end up with.
Here is to Carrie and Brody hoping those crazy lovebirds can somehow find a way to work it out!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Great (or Terrible?) 3D Oz

Oh, how I wanted to love this movie. And oh how it disappointed me.

I've been trying to put my finger on why and here are a few thoughts:

1) This is a movie that used 3D in the worst kind of way. I love how movies over the past few years (notably Hugo, Pina, Avatar) used 3D to put you in the scene with the characters (or with the dancers in the case of Pina). And how they used the technology to make the world seem more real. Awesome.
But this movie uses it to make things come out of the screen toward the audience. In that respect it reminded me of all the really bad 3D movies from the past. Or Joe Flaherty in a vampire costume moving his face toward the camera in old SCTV sketches.

Fast fwd to about the 2 minute mark to get the first example of what I'm talking about. These old sketches were hilarious. But long... Oh, 1970's Canadian TV.
Back to Oz:  It felt as if the action sequences were planned with the central question being: How can we maximize the number of objects that shoot out into the audience's faces? Rather than: How can we make this scene exciting and further the plot?

2) The film felt really juvenile. Now, I get that people probably want to take their kids to this movie. But really little kids will be terrified. Big, scary-toothed flying gorillas coming out at you from the screen... (And I thought there could be nothing scarier than flying monkeys...) And yet the tone and dialogue and character development felt like it was aimed at 5 year olds. Or 4 year olds. I've seen movies aimed at 5 year olds which entertained me more than this did...

3) They had too many character arcs. I feel like the witches' stories got badly short changed. I get that it was a story about how the wizard of Oz ended up in Oz... but they why try to tell the wicked witch creation story at the same time? It just didn't work. Now that I'm typing this, I realize there have been tons of films where the writers successfully told both a hero and villain creation story in one (just about any comic book movie, for example) but this one did not succeed. Maybe because they spent too much time trying to be cute. Or giving us winks to things. Don't know. But the transformation of the Mila Kunis character from good to evil seemed like an incredible wasted opportunity. And I'd have loved to know more about the Rachel Weisz character too. And the politics of the good vs wicked sides of the witch world... And why witches are in charge in Oz etc. etc. So many interesting things, unexplored.

4) I've decided James Franco can't act. This might be heresy, but it's how I feel at the moment. I remember seeing him in that James Dean biopic years ago and being blown away. And the critics and everyone from that point on seemed to take it as fact that he was the next coming... But looking back on his filmology, I think he's annoyed me as many times as I've been impressed. It's like squinting and talking through his teeth, which worked for Dean, is the main tool in his actor's chest. Now... I did love him in 127 Hours... And I do admit that the Oscar hosting gig, when he acted like he was so above it all, might have turned me against him. But it does say something that I reached this, "Huh, Franco can't act," conclusion in the middle of watching Oz. I almost felt like he thought the entire movie was a big goof. Like I was watching Franco on SNL or something, doing a spoof on an Oz prequel, rather than watching him as a character in a movie.

5) Bad romance. Wow. I just thought of this while composing this post. But it was another big problem. First, they start to develop a romance with the Mila Kunis character. And we start to care about her and them. And see problems on the horizon for their relationship because clearly she's more invested in him than he is in her (which fits his philandering character to this point). So those of us who like romance subplots are rubbing our hands together thinking, this could get interesting! And then we're yanked out of that romance subplot. And another witch is tossed in his path. And for no reason other than they're on the same side in a fight, and she looks like a girl he tossed aside back in Kansas, (and she's blonde?) we're supposed to believe he's going to fall in love with her. And her with him. Insta-love. Does not work.

So, in spite of all the above, I actually didn't HATE this movie. And I thought some things were really cool. (like the way they eventually create the Oz illusion.) But overall, I was disappointed.

Has anyone else seen it?

Feel free to disagree. :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is sharing better?

So as a family holiday gift, we re-subscribed to Netflix's streaming service. We'd canceled our service a few years ago because we just weren't using it. There was lots of stuff on TV and if we wanted a movie, chances were it was on demand somewhere.

It is awesome. I can prop my iPad up while I'm straightening my hair and watch something entertaining. It's the perfect complement to being able to read while I blow-dry. I can watch something diverting while I'm doing the dishes or sorting the laundry or cleaning the bathroom. Because my gym has free wi-fi, I can even plug into my iPad while I'm on the elliptical!

The first thing I did was gobble through the first seasons of Downton Abbey. I've since moved on to Doc Martin and a few other things. I have been waiting patiently for a certain someone with more techno ability than me to hook up the little Roku box thing on the big TV in the living room so we can actually use it there.

Here's the problem. I have discovered and started watching several series that I think that same certain someone who also enjoy. The BBC Sherlock series. The Netflix House of Cards series. SyFy's Lost Girl series. I've watched the first episode or so of each and am DYING to watch more. We only have so much time for TV in the evening. It could be months before we get to all of them.

Here's the thing, though. My techno-savvy sweetheart has, over the years, become more and more willing to discuss shows and dissect them with me. I'm pretty sure that they'll all be more interesting if I wait and share them.

So which do you think is better? Gobbling them up on one's own (and potentially losing weight because it keeps me on the elliptical longer)? Or sharing them with someone who will obsess over them with one?

Monday, March 11, 2013


It's DABWAHA time and for those of you who don't know what it is - it's a Tournament of Books, set up like the March Madness College Basketball Tourny. This is the brainchild of Dear Author and Smart Bitches and for about a month, the authors that make it into the tournament trash talk each other in good fun, bribe voters and generally not behave like the polite and respectful writers most of us are! What this really is and has always been (in my mind) besides a lot of fun and a great way to highlight some great books in our genre - it's a community builder. Not just for the readers, but the writers. And I am so thrilled to be included in this years Contemporary Romance Bracket!! There are lots of Storytelling Rules friends here - Laura Florand (who is going DOWN! See...trash talk) Cecilia Grant, Ruthie Knox, Sarah Mayberry, Simone St. James and plenty more fantastic authors. Right now, if you're interested in playing, everyone gets to write in a finalist for the coveted eight spot in each category.

Check it out, make your bracket and vote! For me!

Information about how to vote and set up your bracket is here DABWAHA

Friday, March 08, 2013

Buzz and great reviews

It still seems as though publishing is in such turmoil. E-books are still throwing everyone off and pricing is a huge topic of discussion. Should E-books be cheaper? What is the magic price, and watching authors create E-book bestsellers has been pretty fascinating, but incredibly hard to define. 

In all of it though, some great books and authors, seemed to have, gotten lost in the shuffle. I loved the Meljean Brooks series of steampunk books. I have no idea what her sales numbers were, but to me she should be a much bigger name based on the strength of those books, and the reviews certainly agreed with me. 

Some others that come to mind are Cecilia Grant, (drunk writers Molly, Maureen, Stephanie and Eileen are also included in this list), and Michele Sagara, who is a new author to me, but her Fantasy novels are amazing. 

I don't know sales numbers, but I watch book stores to see what books they highlight, and there don't seem to be any really new authors breaking through that aren't erotic, or self-published new adult that are breaking into the lists. 

I remember reading Madelyn Hunter's first trilogy because of the amazing reviews and sure enough, her next few books really propelled her into bestselling status. Sherry Thomas also seemed to really get a huge sales kick based on her amazing reviews, but lately I'm not seeing the same connection. 

Am I wrong on this? I'd really love to hear about some books that seemed to get a real boost from great reviews and positive buzz. Anyone have any sense of who the next JR Ward, or Eloisa James will be? 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

I Don't Know What I'm Doing... Seriously.

So An Act of Persuasion is out now in stores. Let me take some time to promote…Please buy it... Only if you want to...  There I’m done.
This is my fifteenth book for Harlequin if I’m counting a novella I did and as I’m reading the reviews, some really good, others not so good, it occurs to me that I really don’t know what I’m doing.

Some folks on Goodreads have said nice things like my characters are multifaceted. Some have said they simply can’t connect with them.
And as I’m writing my next book (the final book in the Tyler Group series) I told myself to take in that criticism and try to work on it. Leave the good parts, fix the bad parts and maybe I’ll have a book EVERYONE loves. Which I know isn’t possible. There is no such book that can fit everyone’s taste.

But still I do believe in trying to improve. Better writing, better story, better characters. Except honestly truly, I really don’t know how. Which I know is the lamest thing ever. I could read books on craft. I could attend more workshops at RWA. I could think about my art and edit more.
After doing this for so many years though I have to say it just comes out. I think getting feedback from critique partners has made a tremendous difference. I think working out plot issues with people has helped rather than rely solely on my decisions. But at the end of the day, the book is the book. The characters are the characters. Sometimes people are going to love them and sometimes they are not.

I wrote the Doctor’s Deadly Affair and like all my books I really liked it at the time I was writing it, but there wasn’t anything I felt that set it apart other than maybe I took a little more risk. But that book got nominated for a RITA! How did I do that? I want to be that good again.
Molly recently read my last WIP for my book out this October. She said it was the best thing I’ve ever done for Harlequin. How is that possible! I didn’t change anything, or do anything different than any time I’ve done it before. In fact going through what was the worst time in my life, I have no idea how I managed to produce anything.

Now I’m on to another book, and I’m struggling, and I’m behind. And I think it’s dreck. In my head I think, make these people more relatable! Do a better job! Improve! But I’ve given my heroine freaking amnesia. Who the heck can relate to amnesia? And I know in my heart that I could read a hundred books on craft and maybe it will help a little… but in the end… the book will be the book.
I feel slightly guilty confessing this on a blog that’s aimed at breaking down the craft of storytelling. But if someone asked me how it was that I wrote a book that got nominated for a RITA and a book that at least two people have said they couldn’t even finish it… and what makes them different… not a clue.

Because I have no idea what I’m doing.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

On Mothers in Fiction

For most women, one of the most important and sometimes difficult relationships in their lives is with their mother.

She's the one we first love, on whom we depend, the one who teaches us our first important lessons and the one who makes us the most crazy when we are teens. Even once we are adults, the relationship isn't an easy or straightforward one because as grown up and successful we might become in our lives, we are still that baby she nursed, or that toddler she scolded.

For this reason, I think a lot of authors, especially in genre fiction, avoid exploring mother/daughter relationships. When I first started writing, I remember a workshop or article I read that suggested we find ways to remove parents from our stories. And in young adult fiction, unless the story is about the mother relationship, usually one or both parents are also absent.

Now, I think the reasons aren't just avoidance or laziness... I think the idea in, say, the romance genre, is to remove the heroine's most obvious source of support, with the aim of making her life more difficult. And in YA fiction it's definitely to avoid having a parent solve all the story problems. If a teen has functioning, effective parents at her disposal, why wouldn't she just run to them when problems arise? She'd seem dumb if she didn't, and YA fiction is about the teens driving the stories and solving the problems...

BUT... all that said. With competent adults as protagonists, adding a mother to a story can add another dimension, not just of support, but of conflict. But it's difficult conflict to mine for many of us, because it forces us to dig deep into our own relationships with our mothers... It can be painful and show pieces of ourselves some of us would rather keep hidden. :)

And that's why I admire authors, like Eileen, who are willing to explore these complicated relationships as part of their bigger story and/or series. And Melina's ongoing relationship with her mom adds a richness to this fabulous series as well as complications.

How about you?

Readers: Do you like when mother/daughter relationships are included in stories?
Writers: Do you include your protagonists' moms in your books?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Book Launch Party!

I had my book launch party this past Friday night at the Avid Reader in Davis on Friday night. It was great fun. We had a fabulous crowd.

My mom and my youngest son made it.

We sold tons of books. Had a great time. I should have had one (or possibly two) more bottles of red wine and could have used one (possibly two) less bottles of Prosecco. Also, I would have liked not have turned into Marco Rubio during my speech. I can't decide if the room was that hot because it was crowded or if I was having a hot flash. At any rate, I was glowing a little more than I would have liked. Other than that, it was great! I wish you all could have been there!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Writing a series, mythology and research or some Questions for Eileen....

I can't believe I haven't asked Eileen these questions about the Messenger Series before but I think in large part I've been so charmed by Melina, so swept up in Eileen voice that the usual questions of construction haven't even occurred to me. But In Dead Letter Day they occur to me, not because Melina is any less charming or fascinating or heart-rending, because she's only more so. And Eileen's voice is as warm and inclusive and funny and smart as ever.

But the world takes a turn, in this book and I've got some questions.

1. Let's talk about research and your bad guy selection...I love that each book has sort of a Mythology of the week vibe, I think it's FASCINATING. And I realize how perfectly set up the world is to do this and I need to seriously tip my hat to you!!! How do you choose which mythology to use? Because it is obscure stuff. Do you know all this stuff? Or is there tons of research?

It's really one of the great things about setting the series in northern California. There really isn't an ethnicity that didn't make its way here at some point in time or another. At least, not that I can think of off the top of my head. So . . . how do I choose? The pathway to the Chinese vampires in the first book was so convoluted that I'm not entirely sure how I got there now. I know there was a lot of time spent clicking links from one web page to another until the kiang shi jumped out at me.

For Dead Letter Day, I know exactly when I settled on Norse mythology. It was seriously something my spin instructor said as we walked out of class one night. He's very into Norse mythology and he brought up something I'd never heard of and couldn't even spell. It went steamrolling from there. In terms of research, the internet really is a vast and amazing place. I'm amazed at how much is at our finger tips and how much time I spend looking at cat videos rather than learning.

2. How much planning went into this series in terms of Melina's character arc/storyline? You've thrown some pretty delicious curve balls at us, even from the first book - how much of that did you know going in? How much more do you have planned out? Planning and selling a series is one of the hardest things to do - seriously, I'm amazed at all the balls that have to be kept in the air. Can you tell us a little about that process for you?

I actually didn't conceive of it as a series. I had the idea for the first book, wrote the synopsis, wrote some pages and sent it all to my agent who said that we needed to pitch it as a series. That meant I needed to come up with idea for at least two more books, none of which we've actually used, by the way. There were somethings I knew going in. There's a bit of a love triangle at the beginning of the first book. I didn't want to keep revisiting that. I get a little irritated with heroines of series who still haven't made up their minds 7 or 8 books in. I didn't want her to keep dealing with the same issues over and over.

I am forcing her to grow up fast. Part of it is not wanting her to tread water in one place. Part of it is not knowing how many books I'll have to tell her story. Part of it is, in the words of Stephanie Doyle, the need to throw my heroine in her personal Dumpster.

I get a little nervous sometimes because I don't want to contradict the rules of my own universe. I realize it should be easy to avoid that pitfall, but I don't always remember every little thing I've said in the previous books. A lot of authors talk about creating a "bible" for their series. I wouldn't even know what to write down. Something that's a throw-away line in one book can become a more serious issue in another. Since I've often written another type of book in-between Messenger books, I don't remember every little detail.

3. Can you tell us what's next - even the mythology?

I think I know what I want to do with Melina's personal life. I'm toying with some Filipino mythology right now, but I don't know enough about it yet to commit. We'll see.

FILIPINO MYTHOLOGY?!!! I'm in, Eileen. I'm in. Wherever you're going to go - I'm with you.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Dead Letter Week and injecting new life into Urban Fantasy

Such a fun week, celebrating Eileen's new release. Unlike Molly, I love urban fantasy, the combination of mystery, romance and kick ass into one book is tremendously appealing to me, but I went on an urban fantasy glut and they all started blending together.

And that's what I love the most about Eileen's series, is that she's taken the urban fantasy genre and given it such a cool spin. For starters, it's got a wicked sense of humour, Melina's voice is snarky, but also witty and I've laughed out loud many times reading the series.

I also love that Melina isn't mired in darkness. She's bright and has friends, and genuinely enjoys her life and the balance between dealing with the paranormal and maintaining her normal life is an important part of the book and dealt with in a way I'd never read before.

Because of that, when bad things happen, it has more impact, and the emotions come across in a way that is more impactful than most other Urban Fantasy.

I have a plane ride coming up, which means five glorious uninterrupted hours. I have Dead Letter ready on my kindle, and I'm so excited. Hope everyone else enjoys it as well
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