Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sex as an excuse to forget -- good writing

Sex week has yielded an interesting discussion so far -- one I'm not sure I have much to add to. One of the disadvantages to being later in the week, at least when we accidentally fall into one of these theme weeks, is that by Wednesday I've got nothing to say. :) But you know me, I rarely have nothing to say. So here goes...

I've been thinking about the "great sex scenes have to be about the characters' emotions" assertion... And while I don't disagree, I wonder if it's that simple.

I think the key to a great sex scene boils down to what makes any scene great. Clear goals, strong motivations, and lots of conflict and tension.

In a "make them wait" kind of romance I agree it is emotions that make those later in the book sex scenes so wonderful. We're already so invested in the relationship that we're right there with them, and it's easy to feel what the physical intimacy is changing for the couple as they consummate their developing love.

But I do think that an early-in-the book sex scene can work, too. Even if we aren't very invested in the romance at that point of the story. Those scenes don't always work... and if they don't work they can feel horribly contrived, but they can work. And maybe the key to making scenes like that work lies in the same principles that make any scene work -- having a purpose, having conflict, having something happen other than "THEY HAD SEX".

Most experienced writers would never write a scene in which the hero and heroine sweep the floor, or play cards, or even go sky diving, if all that happens in that scene is floor sweeping or card playing or sky diving. Something else has to be going on. Something else has to be revealed. Something needs to change. And "they've had sex now" isn't enough of a change in most cases.

Any scene needs to move the story forward, it needs to have conflict, it needs to have at least one of the major characters wanting something they aren't getting, or getting something they don't want... and if it's pivotal, it needs to have an unexpected outcome, or some kind of a reversal or a turning point.

Most writers know this about scene and story structure (even if it's instinctively). So why do many writers drop these principles when it comes to a sex scene?

What happens during a sex scene needs to matter... it needs to reveal plot points the reader doesn't already know and/or change things... It can't be just about the sex. Those are the skippable sex scenes. If they're skippable -- if you can pick up the story without reading the sex scene and still have the story make sense-- then that sex scene shouldn't be there. Just like any scene that could be skipped shouldn't be there.

Not sure I'm saying anything today that hasn't already been said. And I'm certainly not implying that I always do a good job with this myself... But I did use the word SEX a lot, so maybe we'll get lots of new visitors through google. :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What I learned about sexy from reviewers

When I first pitched Hold Back the Dark, my first romantic suspense novel, to my agent, she said, "You know they'll have to boink, right?"

I did know. I had written four chick lit novels where all boinking happened off the page. There was some warm-up activities, some heavy breathing and then my characters would wink and shut the door. We all knew what was happening, but I didn't describe it. In a romantic suspense novel, my first to be shelved in the actual romance section, there would have to be on-the-page boinking. I felt like I totally went for it. I specified body parts and which parts were touching the other parts and how the parts felt and everything.

Romantic Times rated the book "mild." Mild? MILD? They had no idea how much teasing I endured from friends and acquaintances about those sex scenes and how exposed I felt when writing them. I had some great reviews for that book, but not a single one of them said the book was sexy.

Then I wrote Don't Kill the Messenger. Again, my agent brought up the boinking. I said I had it under control. Once again, it's on-the-page boinking, but since this was more an urban fantasy I did dodge a little bit. There's not as much detail. I'm pretty sure everybody knows what's happening, but it's slightly more euphemistic. The scenes have a lot to do with my heroine relinquishing control a little bit and the give and take between these two strong people.

Guess what? Almost every review has had the word "sexy" in it.

So what have I learned? The sexy is not in the details. The sexy is in the mood and the interplay between the characters. Even if there are other body parts on the page, the sexy is still all in the head.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sex and the Married Writer

So, I hit my halfway mark for my Bantam book and I feel about 60% good about it. Which is nice. But the 40% I don't feel good about revolves around sex. And the lack of it. The romance world has gotten hotter and hotter and it's infiltrated almost every sub-genre, so as I sit at half-way and my character have only shared one KISS! I wonder how bad I'm screwing up my debut effort.

Now, I don't want anything to seem forced, we've all read those books. An obligatory out of the blue sex scene on page forty that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But how important is sex in romance? Is sexual tension enough? I know my answer which is yes, but am I risking a whole whack of people putting down my book? And there are some places where I could sex things up, without too much trouble - but, I like the way things are now. But would I be smarter to change them? I waffle. Constantly.

I also, stupidly, found myself killing my sexual tension - things would start off steamy. And then, by the middle of the scene, they'd be sitting there, shirts off, drinking tea, discussing thier various daddy issues.(Figuratively, of course, but as I think about it, not really) So, I've fixed that - but how long can sexual tension carry a book?

I'm reading the new Sherry Thomas (I know, Sinead, I'm weak and I couldn't resist) and how she freaking manages to create sexual tension between these characters and make me stay up too late to see it resolved both inspires and intimidates me.

I am no Sherry Thomas, but perhaps it's worth a shot?

Again, I waffle.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Reading, reading and more reading

I have been on a reading glut, a glorious, indulgent time of book bliss. After reading four books in the span of a week, I feel rejuvenated, even a little creatively energized.

And I owe big thanks to Molly and Maureen, because some of the books belonged to them, and were loaned, even though Molly hadn’t read most of them yet.

The first book was the new Sherry Thomas. I loved this book, what she does really well, interesting, non-cliché historical characters interacting in non-cliché ways, she did really well. That none of the external plot points held together, should have bothered me. The lack of logic in anything other than the relationship between the couple should have lessened my enjoyment of the book, but it didn’t. She is a rare writer where her strengths really over shine her weaknesses.

The second book was The Dead Tossed Waves. Another great YA book. And anyone who read the first book and loved it, will love this. And all the weaknesses I found in the first, I found here, but also didn’t care. I read this in a matter of hours and was completely absorbed in the story. Not that I was completely satisfied when I finished the story, but she has a way of making me turn the pages compulsively and I’ll forgive a writer a lot when they can do that.

The third book was Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews (thanks for the recommendation, Eileen) And this, this was great urban fantasy. It’s a book where the world building is superb, and it builds and builds into an ending that is really satisfying.

And then, lastly, the new Joanna Bourne. I want to love this book. Technically it’s the best written of the four, the heroine is brave, inventive, intelligent and historically accurate, as is the hero. They are in real peril, the plot is inventive. The historical details are wonderful, and completely relevant, and I feel like a bad person that I’m not rushing to turn the pages. She is getting amazing reviews for this book, and I understand why. I have no idea why I can’t love this book. (I need Molly to read it, to tell me why)

All in all, a pretty fantastic week. And True Blood is back, Mad Men is coming on soon. I am a happy person.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Know who you are...

Earlier this week Molly wrote about knowing your audience. Very important stuff. All successful writers need to understand this. It’s the thing they probably love and well… hate… about their fans. Their fans keep them going, give them success and pay the bills. But the fans also have expectations and once those are set there is not a whole lot of room to deviate. So if you want to write “everything” that’s going to be tricky.

The flip side is knowing yourself. I write category romance. I love category romance. Read it for years before I started writing it and I hope I always get the chance to keep on doing it. But I also like bigger stories. I spent a long time debating if I wanted to write romantic suspense, straight contemporary or historicals. Since I knew I could combine the suspense element with history that was a factor. Then I had to think about the ideas I had. Were they big enough? Could I support a series? Did I want to spend a significant period of my time in the past (i.e. research)?

The answers were yes to all those questions. But now a new question has come up. Most who follow the blog know I’ve got a proposal out on submission right now. The one editor currently reviewing it is not a traditional romance editor. She’s an historical/historical mystery/historical with romantic elements editor.

I could (and we’re all practical here so we know the likelihood of actually getting an offer is I would say somewhere in the neighborhood of 15% so I’m not losing sleep about this) be faced with a decision if this editor likes my idea enough to buy it but decides to steer away from the romance and focus more on the mystery suspense elements.

I’m not a mystery writer. I’m a romance writer. I’m not an erotica writer, but I do tend toward sexier scenes. Mostly because I think they are more fun to write. The question becomes can I be an historical mystery writer with romantic elements? How much of departure is this for me?

This is no small decision. If she likes the idea, if it sells, if my idea for sequels are picked up, if people read it and like it and buy it… Once again we see the small window an author has for success. I’m thinking 1%. Note: I’m being very mathy today...

Anyway if all goes well then that’s who I will be. I will be an historical mystery writer with romantic elements. That will be my world. That is where I will live. And until people stop reading the books there will not be a whole lot of deviation for me.

This post is a caution for all you folks out there thinking between two ideas. Some authors can go down two roads. Eileen of DWT is a perfect example. But the reality is most will follow a set path at least for a time.

Know who you are. Know where you want to live and make sure at the end of the day you can live with that decision for a long long time.

So will I forgo some of my more racier sex scenes and become an historical mystery author with romantic elements if an offer is made…. HELL YEAH! Do I look stupid?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And the winner is...

I'm happy to say that the winner of the copy of STAY is Marilyn Brandt!

Congrats, Marilyn! I'll be in touch to discuss delivery of said prize.

Since the RWA Nationals conference is just about a month away now, (REALLY???), it's been on my mind a fair bit.

I used to go to these conferences with such enthusiasm either for the workshops I wanted to see, or the agents I wanted to pitch or the authors I wanted to stalk.... And this year I struggle with the question of why am I going...

If you go to this conference, or other writers' conferences, why do you go? What do you most hope to get out of it?

In other news, Toronto is a like something out of a dystopian novel this week. The G20 Summit is being held right downtown on the weekend, so basically they've barricaded a huge section of the city behind huge fences, police are everywhere (very not normal for Toronto -- in fact, they've brought in 10,000 cops from outside the city... so if you want to commit a crime anywhere in Canada outside downtown Toronto this week? have at it.), and they've warned all the bankers and lawyers and accountants (oh, my) to either work from home or wear casual clothes this week so they don't get beat up by protesters for being capitalist pigs. Do not go downtown in a suit. You'll be attacked. Nice.

Now I'm all for the right to free speech and protests and whatever.... but I'm wondering if the protesters carrying the "down with the police state" placards get the irony... It's only turned into a police state in anticipation of protesters... And the protesters seem just as organized as the G20 people, with offices to help out of town protesters get acquainted with the city, get maps showing all the best windows to break...

It's all slightly crazy. But I think I'm going down there today or tomorrow to return a shirt to a store... Wish me luck. I'll dress like a slob -- I mean a writer -- and pretend to be a protester who's lost my swarm.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I got to have the fun phone call with my editor yesterday morning. You know, the one where she spends five minutes telling you everything she loves about the book and then twenty minutes telling you everything that's wrong? That one?

Seriously, I kind of groove on the revision process generally and am a little curious how this one is going to go. When I turned it in, I knew that there were some questionable transitions and probably more than a few logic issues, but I was very focused on getting it in on time as I had another book that I needed to get started on. As a result, I have not so much as glanced at this other manuscript since I turned it in nearly three months ago.

I generally hate what I've written as I'm writing it, but sometimes, when there's been some distance, I'll open up a book I wrote and haven't looked at for a while and I'll think . . . hey, that's not half bad! So here's hoping that when I open it up tomorrow or the next day (depending on when I get my editor's written notes) that I won't think it's a putrid pile of dog doo doo and will be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Know Your Audience: Judd Apatow and Spongebob Squarepants

My son has found Spongebob. My son adores Spongebob. My life is now filled with Spongebob. And, I have to say - I'm pretty amazed by Spongebob.

I'm amazed by Spongebob in the same way I'm amazed by Judd Apatow. Husband and I went to see Get Him To The Greek this weekend - and it was pretty hilarious in parts. Disgusting in others, sweet in others. But as I watched Adam laugh until he cried, I realized what Spongebob and the Apatow gang have all figured out - they know thier audience. Boys and man-boys. And, of course, the women that love them.

Which might seem simple - the common denominator for both seems to be butt jokes. But here is my arguement, Maureen-style...which means with numbers.

1. Guys love gross things. Butt jokes. Fart jokes, the strage close ups on Spongebob's disguting face after pulling an all nighter at the Krusty Krab. They love this - and both use it to maximum advantage. The jokes have a point and they're used sparingly. They appeal to the common denominator, they know where boys and man-boys live. In the bathroom.

2. They don't underestimate thier audience. Which is strange - for as low as the humor can get, they don't wallow in the gutter. For all the bathroom jokes, Apatow's crowd handles dark material with total confidence. Death, lonliness, never fitting in, never finding real love, are all pretty heavy subjects for the man-boy and to get those messages across while at the same time having Jonah Hill stick things up his butt - amazing. Spongebob is the E-Z reader version of that same dichotmy. Spongebob only wants to be loved as much as he loves - which, is my four year old son's total reason for living.

3. Lots and lots of heart. Spongebob is a nerd, with a few great friends and his heart is easily broken. Spongebob cries - quite a bit, but for good reason. He's a good guy. Apatow and gang, have the grown up versions of Spongebob. Nerds. Good friends. I think Get Him To The Greek, Pineapple Express, Superbad and Funny People rise about the other R-rated comedys because they don't rely on a man/woman romance to give them heart. That's easy - that path has been paved and lit with ballpark lights - and it's often totally forgetable. Instead, they've mastered the bromance. And it's really touching and often suprising, because the character arc reveals itself in ways that are so unexpected.

I clearly have too much time on my hands.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Welcome Debut Author Allie Larkin

This week we’re thrilled to have debut author Allie Larkin stopping by for a drink and a chat.

Allie’s debut novel STAY, was just released by Dutton and looks fabulous. I just got my copy and it’s moving to the very top of my TBR pile.

Thanks for stopping by, Allie. We might as well get down to the hard-hitting questions first. What’s your favorite drink?

I will tell you that it is not grape Kool-Aid and vodka. After writing the scenes with Van getting drunk on her Kool-Aid cocktails and thinking about what it would feel like to get sick on fake grape flavoring, I am done with all purple beverages for a good long while.

Campari and soda is my standby, although, I think I might be one of the only people under the age of 95 who actually likes Campari. I get teased about it frequently.

I love Campari. Kindred spirits already (pun intended). Although I like it best in a martini (approx. three parts gin, one part campari). You've triggered university dorm party flashbacks with the vodka and Kool-Aid thing. Scary flashbacks…

**Maureen passes Allie a Campari and soda.** Did you always want to be a writer?

No, as a kid, I wanted to be a pig farmer. Then, I found out that pig farmers don’t get to just hang out with pigs all day. It was traumatic. Short version of the story – I haven’t eaten a mammal since I was nine years old.

That’s hilarious. (Not to belittle your trauma.) Tell us a little about STAY.

STAY is the story of Van, a woman whose best friend marries the man she’s been in love with for years. After the wedding, Van gets drunk on grape Kool-Aid and vodka, watches a Rin Tin Tin marathon and accidentally orders a 100 lb. German Shepherd off the internet from Slovakia.

A whole new (scary) angle on drunk dialing! I’ve made some accidental internet purchases, myself. But never a live animal.

As writers, we love to hear first sale stories. Can you tell us about yours?

I was in Target when Rebecca Strauss, my agent, called me. She told me to sit down. I told her I was in Target. She told me I should find a low shelf or something to sit on. I lied and said I was sitting, and she told me that Dutton wanted to buy STAY. My knees started to give out on me and I had to find a low shelf to sit on.

When I got back to my car, I called my husband. I was crying so hard that he thought something was wrong and it took a few minutes before I could explain that it was good news.

What a fabulous story!

Salsa or guacamole?


**Maureen passes the dip.**

Was STAY your first completed manuscript, or do you have others stashed under the bed?

STAY was my first completed full-length manuscript. I’d written a horribly depressing novella about a woman in a mental institution. Before that, I’d made it about halfway through a horrible depressing story about a woman plotting to kill her boyfriend. Finally, it occurred to me that I tend to find a certain degree of humor in every situation, and writing suffocating, dark, depressing stories was not true to my voice.

What did you do to celebrate when you found out your book sold?

My husband took me out to dinner. I called friends and cried a lot of happy tears.

Hiking in Yosemite or partying in Vegas?

Hiking in Yosemite. I’m DYING to go.

Yosemite is awesome. Go at a time of year when you can hike up Half Dome. You won’t regret it.

Do you write full time? What’s a normal writing day like?

I do write full time. I don’t know that there’s any such thing as a normal writing day for me. Sometimes I write a little bit here and there, and sometimes I dive in and don’t do anything else for hours and hours on end. It depends on where I am in the story. But, I’m almost always thinking about my story, at least in the back of my mind. When I work on rewrites, I like to completely focus on the book – clear a weekend, have supplies at my ready, go into my office and just work.

What are your favorite books, movies, TV shows?

I absolutely love women’s fiction and read as much as I can get my hands on. Growing up, I was completely enamored with a book called THE ORDINARY PRINCESS by M.M. Kaye. I loved that the main character, Amy, wasn’t your typical princess, and she was happy being that way. When I sold STAY, I tracked down an old hardcover copy of the book, and that was my publication present to myself. I also absolutely love Willa Cather and love to revisit her books from time to time.

STATE AND MAIN is one of my all time favorite movies. And I’m also a huge fan of 80’s Brat Pack movies. There was a time in my life where I could pretty much recite THE BREAKFAST CLUB.

I’m also a bit of a TV junkie. I am completely obsessed with FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, even though I am about as far from being a football fan as a person can be. I love NORTHERN EXPOSURE and watch old episodes on DVD all the time. I adore GILMORE GIRLS, and started watching PARENTHOOD because I could watch Lauren Graham read the phone book. I have yet to make it through an episode of PARENTHOOD without bawling. It’s really well done.

Oh, you have some fellow FNL fan friends here. Some of us are obsessed with that show, too. I think you and I have similar TV taste. I love/loved all the shows you mentioned. PARENTHOOD has the same affect on me. Not sure if any of my fellow bloggers watch that one, though. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Moving on to another hard-hitting question… Chocolate or vanilla?

Chocolate. The darker the better. Oh, and my husband brought home a bar of super dark chocolate with crystallized ginger in it recently – incredible. We could probably do an entire interview just about chocolate and it would be hours before I’d run out of things to talk about.

LOL. I’m kind of a vanilla girl. Or lemon. That said, I once had this dark chocolate that had ginger and cinnamon and I think cardamom in it. Awesome. Molly was there. She might remember the ingredients. Heaven in a bite.

What’s next for you?

I could really use a shower and maybe a hot meal. It’s been hectic around here!

Oh, bookwise? I’m working on a project about a group of friends, but I’m not ready to get into specifics about it yet. I’d also love to revisit the characters from STAY someday.

What’s your favorite thing about being an author? Your least favorite?

The occasional chance to read advanced copies of books by authors I’ve admired for ages. I got to read SEVEN YEAR SWITCH by Claire Cook before it came out, and I was in absolute heaven.
As much as I love writing, I still have those days where getting my butt in that chair to write is really hard. I wish those days never happened. It would be nice if the days I needed to write were always grey and rainy, there was nothing good on TV, no one called, and my neighbors didn’t mow the lawn. All that stuff should happen on non-writing days.

I agree! It should be a law or something.
Did you dedicate your first book to anyone? Who?

Yes, I dedicated the book to Jeremy, my husband, Joan, the most amazing writing group partner in the entire world, and Argo, my dog (and cover model for STAY). I couldn’t have done this without them.

How fun that your dog was the cover model! He’s adorable.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Allie! It was great to meet you and to hear about your book. I see in your bio that you live in upstate NY. Three of us here at DWT are in Toronto. **waves across the lake**

Stop by for a drink and writerly chats anytime!

Allie will be dropping by throughout the week to answer questions, so if anyone has something to ask, fire away!

And... **drum roll** her publisher is generously offering a copy of STAY to one lucky commenter!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Waiting for all the pieces to fit together.

I'm finally getting around to watching the first season of Sons of Anarchy. It's a show I've heard is pretty great, and really compelling. Sons and Breaking Bad, and Treme, have been on my must see list.

And Sons has a lot of amazing components. Amazing acting, some really interesting writing, tons of room for drama, considering the hero is second in command at a gun running motorcycle club, and even a cute leading man. I'm enjoying it, but not loving it.

It has all the components of great TV, but that something special is missing. It's just not as fun as True Blood, not as well paced and beautifully detailed as Mad Men, or exciting as Battlestar. It's missing the crucial piece to make it great TV.

And it's an interesting case study. I've read a few books recently, where all the individual pieces are great, and all present. Characterization, pacing, mystery, all there, but the book is still not compelling. Right now, because my brain can't quite hit on what's missing, I'm going to say the magic isn't present. The magic that takes all the individual components and makes something remarkable.

And right now, as I struggle through a first draft, magic is the last thing on my mind on a daily basis. All I'm thinking about right now is "just keep swimming"...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Other Man...

Originally I was going to title this blog… Reasons why I hate Eileen. But of course I didn’t want to send the wrong message to her especially when I just finished her book… Don’t Kill the Messenger… which I LOVED. Also I would like her to produce the next one as quickly as she possibly can so I don’t want to risk offending her.

But I hate her a little and here is why. I love the hero in this story. He smells like cinnamon and I’m pretty sure I want him to be my boyfriend. But then there is this other guy Alex and I like him too. He doesn’t smell like anything but the way she described kissing him it sounded like diving into a York Peppermint Patty – and I LOVE those things.

Now I have a dilemma. I don’t know who I want the in the end. As a hardcore romance reader I’m often not a fan of the other man. I don’t like having those conflicting thoughts. I don’t like the heroine to have conflicting thoughts because in some way I think if you’re conflicted you can’t truly love just one person.

I mentioned the Stephanie Plum books in a comment a while back as a series I abandoned and part of the problem for me was the back and forth between Ranger and Joe. While I know many love the back and forth and have ideas about who she should be with – I was always a Joe girl – I got to the point where I believed that she really can’t love either wholeheartedly. Neither is her “true” love and in romance that’s what it’s all about. Since SP books are technically mysteries I suppose it’s okay. But as a romance reader I had to let go.

But now we are seeing this trend in newer romances where the conventional one guy/one girl approach is changing. There are past lovers, infidelities and multiple lovers. And I find myself in some ways resisting this, but in other ways liking it.
As I get wiser (i.e. older) I see now that relationships are tricky difficult things. That finding that right person sometimes happens in a group. I should know… I’m watching the Bachelorette right now. So the concept of the other man is here to stay and I have to deal.

Which means that I’m going to have to live with the fact that I like Ted and I like Alex. I’m not sure who Melina should be with and what that means. And if she should be with both of them at some point – not together at the same time of course – although that could be fun too - what that will mean. Oh the questions are endless!!! I now I sit anxiously waiting to see how things will progress.

Eileen… I blame you.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Scattered Brain Mine Is

The other night we were talking about which types of scenes are hardest to write and hardest to revise, and since I'd just gone through doing a revision of a book I first wrote a few years ago... and observed that I'd ended up making very few changes in many sections, and then a whole waft of changes in others... (some scenes ending up virtually unrecognizable from their originals) I realized what kind of scenes I usually find hardest to get right.

The big "thinking" scenes. The scenes where major shifts happen in terms of how the character views life the universe and everything. Usually in these scenes, not much action happens. Or, sometimes these thoughts are scattered in amongst action or dialogue, making it even more challenging to get all the ordering right. But no... now that I think about it, those ones aren't as bad, because usually the action or dialogue drives the character's thought processes. It's when my characters' minds (read mine) get a quiet moment to wander and ponder, that I get in trouble.

Maybe it's because I'm a tad over-analytical and always put in too much and have my characters look at things from too many angles, and then have to end up slicing and dicing. Or maybe it's just because I'm a tad scattered at times. Or maybe it's because I don't think about these scenes enough in advance so that sometimes I'm trying to figure out how my character feels as I write the scene... (There I go, looking at too many angles, even in doing this post.)

But with all the arrows, and crossing out and adding, and move this paragraph three pages forward, and move this one two pages back that I did on this revision, I kept thinking it would be so much easier if my characters' thoughts came out in the right order in the first place!!! **Maureen shakes fist at characters.**

This is why I find action scenes and dialogue scenes so much easier most of the time. Yes, both usually need some major edits after the first draft, but those edits are usually technical things like tightening, or adding detail and setting, or cleaning things up, or changing the sentence structure. And, for dialogue scenes, adding stage directions or reactions or (gasp) even a dialogue tag if I absolutely have to.

But for those big "thinking" scenes, it's like all my thoughts come out in the wrong order and I have to move or rewrite virtually every sentence. I think it's because I'm an NP type on the Myers Briggs thing. At least I'd rather think that, than the less palatable explanation -- I'm getting old... (My ophthalmologist called me young, yesterday. I wanted to hug her.)

Does anyone else have this problem? Or unique am I in thoughts order coming always wrong?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

In Praise of Normal

Now that The Good Wife and Lost are over, I'm catching up on episodes of Glee. Last night, I watched the Lady Gaga episode. I wouldn't exactly call myself a Gleek, but it's a fun show and generally I love the underdog makes good message.

Last night, I had a little trouble with it. In case you haven't seen it, Finn and Kurt are forced to share a room. Finn has an issue with it. He's uncomfortable. Kurt redecorates the room, but really just makes it even more uncomfortable for Finn. Finn loses his temper and calls it all "faggy" just as Kurt's dad walks in. Finn is shamed for using that kind of derogatory language and is kicked out. Later, he "comes to his senses" and rescues Kurt just before some football players are going to beat him up for wearing weird clothes.

Now generally I love it when the weird kids win. I was a weird kid. I was the girl in Lincoln, Nebraska reading Sylvia Plath poetry and wearing a LOT of eyeliner. But in this episode, I didn't feel bad for Kurt. I felt bad for Finn. No one cared that he was uncomfortable. No one cared that he didn't have a space that reflected his personality and interests. No one cared. He was the "normal" kid and apparently because of general acceptance in the world, didn't need personal acceptance at home or from his friends.

Maybe I'm having this reaction because regardless of being a weird kid, I've raised two really normal kids. They're smart, but not freaky smart. They're athletic, but not being scouted by colleges. They're popular, but not Homecoming kings. They're . . . normal. They're not homophobic, but chances are that sharing a room with Kurt would make them a little uncomfortable, too. I never want them to feel that by being normal, they're not special enough to have their needs met.

So . . . here's a little praise for "normal." Go ahead. Wear blue jeans and a t-shirt. I will still love you and honor your right to do so.

Monday, June 07, 2010

New books...summer clothes

I loved living in Santa Barbara, but it probably wouldn't be good for my career. The seasons changing gives me a huge amount of juice. The air gets cooler and I'm ready to hunker down and get work done, the air gets warmer and I'm ready to hunker down and get even more work done. It's a nice little shot in the arm, and I need all the help I can get.

I cleaned out my closet and realize that putting together five outfits in a row for Nationals that don't have stains or aren't made up of pieces from the last decade will be impossible. Unless there's a giant playground at Nationals, and that's where I'll be hanging out. Pushing writers on the swings. Catching Editors as they come down the slide... blowing bubbles...that sort of thing.

So, that's causing me some stress. Luckily, Sinead has volunteered to take over and class up my image.

I've also gotten a new website - fabulous fabulous Simone has totally classed up my online presence. I'm running a contest, the prize being a gift certificate to Amazon. So go to to check it out and enter.

How about you guys? Do you have new energy with the seasons changing? Or does summer force you on hiatus?

Friday, June 04, 2010

When good writers go to the dark side

We drunk writers are passionate about great books and when we find one, we yell it to the skies, because great books deserve whatever recognition they can get.

One of the series I was completely passionate about was the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Anyone who loves Urban Fantasy should read these books. I believe they started the UB genre, and certainly had a huge hand in creating the demand for the genre, and deservedly so. At the time these were written, they were unique, a different voice, a new kind of heroine (for me at least), and on top of that, amazing pacing, great sexual tension, and books that had me riveted.

These books hijacked my life, to the point where I spent lunch hours at work reading. And let me tell you - trying to get my head from fighting giant snakes, to looking at print patterns for baby clothes - not easy.

I handed the books to my friends, even my guy friends, even though the original covers on the first couple look like erotic novels and I often had to convince them to give it a try, and once they did, they too were hooked.

And then around book eleven, the books lost their appeal for me, book twelve did not capture my interest. I understood the author's dillema, she had to change the heroine, take the books in new directions, or she'd be writing the same thing over and over, and just because I didn't love the new direction didn't mean the books weren't great.

And so a couple of years later, I picked up (ie, Maureen let me borrow) one of the more recent paperbacks. And it feels like everything that made those early books so great is completely gone.

Fifty pages in and there is one, long, detailed sex scene, and no less than three telephone conversations, repeating basically the same message. The pacing is almost non-existent, and it's really hard to believe this is the same author that created those early books.

I can't imagine trying to write fifteen books featuring the same character, and I'm sure her deadlines are crazy and there's promotion and tons of other reasons, but in the end, I'm a little sad. I sort of wished she'd ended the series on book ten and left me with the awe and love I'd had for her books.

I know she had a publishing house with a very different opinion, but sometimes, a writer has to make the call and pull the plug. Just like Tv series and movie sequels sometimes need to stop. (Yes, Spiderman, and Law and Order, I'm thinking of you)

But I haven't had a publishing house back a dump truck full of money to my house, so I'm sitting very comfortably on my high horse and may(I wish) someday have to eat my words.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

When you just don't get it...

I’m reading a book I saw favorable reviews for on two different websites. That combined with a 4 ½ star RT review I decided to pick it up. I’m always on the lookout for new historical authors because as an aspiring historical author I want to see what people are buzzing about.

With this book - I don’t get it. Not to say it’s awful. It’s very well written. It’s just very traditional and slightly unbelievable. Big powerful nobleman falls for working class girl. Courtney Milan did something similar although her working class girl was a fake psychic. With Milan’s book I totally bought it. But with this one, not so much. I didn’t see enough in the heroine to make me believe the guy shucks everything to be with her.

In an environment where it seems new books seriously need to be pushing boundaries – I did not get that vibe here. But I guess there is a place for that too. People want the comfortable storylines they are used to.

But this is not a review site and I’m not here to talk about specific books unless I love them. What worries me when I read something that I find … enh… that everybody else loved is that I’m out of step with the mainstream. It’s ridiculous I know. Nobody knows more than a published author how differing people’s opinions can be. I’m always amazed when I see reviews on my work where people loved it and hated it in equal measure. To my way of thinking – it’s either good or bad. Not so to agents, editors, reviewers and ultimately readers. Take the same book send it out into the world and most of the time you’re going to get really different opinions on it.

Which is why when I see several people all saying they loved the same book, I jump. And then when I don’t see what they see… I think… oh no. I’m out. What I love is not what everybody else loves, therefore I must be wrong, therefore I’m never going to make it…. ahhh!!!

It’s like my experience reading Twilight. I wanted to look around and find out where the hidden cameras were. Seriously, this is being compared to Harry Potter? I was drastically out of touch with what mainstream felt about that book. And I’m not going to lie… I worried about that. Take it or leave that book is what people want. It makes me worried not only about if I’ll sell, but who I will sell too.
Okay – we all know as writers, we’re neurotic. But mine stays with me until I read something from some bestseller and I think… oh good. I like this person. Many people like this person… I’m back in baby!

So are there authors who you love who might be out of the mainstream? Any that you don’t care for that are HUGE! And let’s face it - if they are huge they won’t care if you don’t like them because they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Writers Make Great Human Beings

I don't have a whole lot to say again this week. Sorry. A lot of things are up in the air for me right now -- things I don't want to talk about publicly. Let's just say I'm preoccupied and having trouble finding inspiration for this blog.

But the most powerful thing I've been reminded of these past few weeks is what an incredible group of people writers are. How so many rally around to offer advice, support and help, without even being asked.

Sure, there are always some bad eggs in the basket, but with all the things I've done in my life, I don't think I've ever met such a supportive, interesting and genuinely generous and gracious group of people. ("That's a lot of alliteration for anxious anchors." Sorry, that's a quote from one of my favorite movies... Broadcast News.)

In one of my previous lives, I worked in a business environment where arrogance and posturing were the norm. Where success and recognition wasn't as much about what you accomplished, but about how many people you told about what you accomplished -- no matter how small that accomplishment might be. I swear I worked with people who did little else than toot their own horns for a living. Now, don't get me wrong. I met a lot of great people, too... It just seemed like too often people got ahead for the wrong reasons. In fact, in my last job of my previous career, I worked with someone who defined his success by how small he could make other people feel or appear. Toxic.

None of that kind of behavior cuts it in writing. No matter how many people you know, or how much you want to brag about various accolades, or how much you want to intimidate people, it all comes down to the work, to the writing.

Plus, in my experience, the vast majority of writers are genuinely nice people. Anyone have any theories why writers make such fabulous human beings?

I have a few, but am interested to hear what others think, first.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Flirting with Evil

Last week, I wrote a scene from my villain's point of view. Now, I've thought a lot about this guy. I know a lot about who he is and where he came from and how he came to be the way he is. I hadn't really thought a lot about how he got along with other people in the world.

Turns out he's a freakin' charmer. Seriously, he's just as sweet as pie. I really like him. So I wrote another scene from his point of view. And another. And another.

Pretty soon I realized it had been several days since I'd stopped to think about what was going on in the heads of my hero and heroine. I couldn't precisely remember where I'd left them. I did a little rereading on Sunday when I had some unexpected hours to myself (the Davis Shepherds finished at the top of their bracket and therefore had a bye in the semi-finals, we went on to take second in the Davis World Cup U16 Boys' Division today in a game that went through two overtimes and into PKs, Yay team!) and found them again, but I'm feeling a little guilty about how easily I was seduced away from them.

I am trying really hard not to make my secondary characters more interesting than my primary characters. At least, to me. It's a struggle sometimes, though. I really thought I had it this time, but here my villain goes and with barely a wink of his eye has me wandering off down the garden path with him.
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