Monday, July 26, 2010

Welcome back Chevy Stevens!

This week, we're so happy that Chevy Stevens is here to visit. In case you haven't been in a bookstore lately, she's the author of STILL MISSING, which debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list at #19! Very exciting (for anyone) but especially for a first book.

I had the privilege of reading an Advance Readers' Copy of this book and let me tell you, it's awesome. I don't usually go for thrillers, but this one is a very different kind of thriller.

German Cover
The book has been sold into markets around the world. I particularly like the German cover. So fitting for the book. Chevy shared some of the "draft" covers with me as her publisher, St. Martins was trying to capture this book in an image. All of the possible covers were amazing and it was very cool to have a birds eye view of the  process.

But enough babbling. Chevy agreed to answer a few burning questions.

Welcome, Chevy!

What’s your favorite drink?

I drink gallons of tea every day. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but I do go through a few cups, with lots of milk and sugar. I love the smell of coffee, but one cup and you have to peel me off the ceiling. I’m generally running at high speed, or at least my mouth is, so I don’t need the boost. Alcoholic beverages have never been a big thing for me (are you going to kick me out?), but when I do, I enjoy pretty much anything mixed with vodka. Must be my Russian roots! Lately I’ve developed taste for strawberry margaritas, a perfect summer drink, and I have to admit there’s been some champagne poured recently. But usually two glasses is my limit, then it’s lights out for this cow girl.

Tea? (Eileen says I mock people's choices, so there it was. ;) I for one couldn't survive without coffee. ) What are you reading right now?

I just started THE PASSAGE. I’ve heard great things! The next ones on my list are Karin Slaughter’s BROKEN, Lisa Gardner’s LIVE TO TELL, and I really want to read Linda Castillo’s PRAY FOR SILENCE because I loved her first one. This is going to be an expensive month!

I've been meaning to tackle THE PASSAGE. Let me know what you think. Tell us a bit about STILL MISSING.

STILL MISSING is about a thirty-two-year-old Realtor, Annie O’Sullivan, who is abducted from an open house. Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent captive in a remote mountain cabin—which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist—is a second narrative recounting the nightmare that follows her escape: her struggle to piece her shattered life back together, the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor, and the disturbing sense that things are far from over.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what made you want to try?

When I was growing up I daydreamed about being a writer, but I actually planned on going to university for a degree in Fine Arts. I ended up leaving after a couple of months to work full time and spent the majority of my adult life in sales. Sometimes I would fantasize about writing a book and placing it next to my grandfather’s memoir, which is about his escape from Russia, but I never had anything I wanted to write about until the premise of STILL MISSING came to me at an open house. Then I become consumed with the story and sold my house six months later so I could write full time.

So far, what’s the best thing about being a published author? The worst?

The best thing is hearing from readers. I love when they take the time to write and tell me what they thought about the book. I’ve also been feeling very grateful and blessed for all my friends and family who have supported me on this long, long road. Most of them came out to my signings and it was wonderful to see them all there.

*Maureen interrupts* 
To hear what some readers and booksellers have said, (the book was #7 on the IndieBound IndieNext list!), check this out! 

**Interruption over**

The worst part? I don’t know if I’d describe it as the “worst,” because it’s a good problem to have, but I find it challenging to balance the marketing of my first book while I’m trying to write the second. I’m also still getting used to reading about myself in newspapers. I’ve never had this much public exposure before!

Ah, the scary side of the double edged sword of success. I totally get that. But, what I really want to know is: who’s going to win SYTYCD this summer?

At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this season because they were pairing new dancers with all stars and I thought it was distracting. But it’s found its groove and I’ve been enjoying the show. I was betting on Alex, but then he injured himself, which sucked big time. I don’t know if he’s going to win, but I really like Kent, so I’m rooting for him!

I felt the same way about the format, too... but came around to it. I just wish that all the girls hadn't been kicked off so quickly so that we could see some of my favorite dancers (Mark, Neil, Dominic) dance more often. :( I have a feeling you're right that Kent might win. What’s next for you?

I’ll be starting my third book soon and I’m looking forward to finding out more about Nadine, the therapist who is in my first two books. I’ve also been asked to do a couple of speaking engagements so that’s a new challenge. This fall I’ll be at three author festivals in Canada and I’m excited about meeting other writers and getting a chance to talk to more readers.

Fabulous. I for one, can't wait to read books 2 and 3 in this series and love that you're tying them together through the therapist. Such a smart choice.

Thanks so much for stopping by!


St. Martin's Press is giving away one copy of STILL MISSING to a random commenter this week!

You have until midnight on Friday to post a comment to win! Make sure to check back to find out if you won. I'll try to post the winner's name on the weekend, but I'm going to be at a conference, so if I forget, check on Monday. The winner should e-mail me at info at  :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

What to do if you're not going to RWA

Maureen wrote a great blog about RWA for first timers, well this is for writers who would like to go, but can't for whatever reason.

RWA is an amazing experience, and a great place to meet people, but there are other great ways to make writing connections without having to get on a plane. (Maureen should be writing this. Of all my writer friends, Maureen is the best at doing this, but she already blogged this week:)

First of all, get out to a local RWA meeting. Seriously, you'll meet other writers face to face, and feel like you are part of a community. They are really friendly people and if you have questions, chances are they'll be able to answer them.

Take a writing course at your local college. Molly, Maureen and I, as well as the two other members of our critique group all met at a writing romance course we took. I enjoyed the course, but really loved how it brought all of us together.

RWA allows you to make one editor appointment, and one agent appointment. Sadly, face to face meetings with industry professionals are hard to find close to home, you can check out agent blogs, and a really well written query can work as well as a face to face pitch.

Aside from personal committments, I had a couple of reasons to not attend the national conference this year.
First and foremost, I'm not published, so I wouldn't be going to promote a book, or connect with my editor or agent.

While pitches can work really well to get you past the query stage, two pitches aren't a lot. Smaller conferences usually offer the chance to pitch to more than two people and there is a greater chance you'll meet them casually at the bar.

There are a lot of choices in workshops, and while they are amazing to attend, I can order the CD' online for $100. Which I really do recommend, especially if you are a beginning writer.

Lastly, I've promised that I'm going to write 10,000 words in the five days I would have spent at Nationals. At this point, as much as I would love to see everyone, and reconnect with old friends, writing is probably a better use of my time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spanx... Why I need them.

For our male followers you may or may not have heard of Spanx. Spanx is a torture device specifically for women which attempts to make them look better than they are in real life. But mostly it just suffocates them.

In the pursuit of looking better women will suffer a great amount of pain. There is waxing, spending hours under a hot dryer with tinfoil in your hair, three inch open toe stilettos… I could go on.

But for me Spanx is an all time low. I commented regarding Eileen’s dress drama that I was choosing to torture myself rather than go up a size. I mean come on! Sure I could lose the weight, but sitting on my ass all day during my day job and drinking wine all night while I unwind from day job would both have to go.

I would rather torture myself with Spanx right now.

But all this said I am going to try and tie this into writing. It’s about being honest with yourself. (How is that for a segue?) When Molly posted about the two “cage match” books I went a little crazy talking about the Forbidden Rose because I am in awe of this woman’s talent. I see the way she uses words and my jaw drops.

I want to be her. I want to write like that. So I spent the next day writing trying to be oh so clever with my word choice, and tried to make every sentence the most amazing sentence it could be. I wanted to be smooth and flawless and effortless…

I wanted this immediately. Just like I want to be a size smaller.

Only becoming smaller can’t be done with Spanx. And writing better can’t be done overnight after reading one really terrific book. Both can only be done with hard work and over time.

Sometimes that really sucks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RWA for the Uninitiated

It occurred to me, reading the posts from the last few days, that readers of our blog who are not members of RWA might wonder what the heck we've been talking about and why we serious, highly intellectual writers (cough) are suddenly worried about hair, cocktail dresses, strappy sandals etc.

First, some background.

RWA is basically a not for profit group of romance writers.

The mission of Romance Writers of America is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy.

On the surface, it's like many other writers' organizations, but it differs in a few fundamental ways.  Some differences for the better, while for some it's debatable whether or not they are for the better... But overall, I think the organization is pretty great.

I've been a member since some time in 2002, even though I'm not currently writing romance. In fact, Sinead and I were talking the other day and I realized I gave up on trying to write romance in the summer of 2004 -- yet I still belong to RWA and have trouble breaking the habit of belonging to RWA and going to the conference. There's a real energy and lots to learn and people to meet and it's just plain exhilarating. And exhausting. And I've learned so much about character development and arcs and injecting emotion into the stakes and the words from romance writers, that I'm a little addicted to romance writers and RWA, even though it's not the genre I'm writing in.

But back to RWA.

From everything I've heard and seen about other writers' organizations, RWA is the most focussed on education -- learning to write and learning about the business of publishing. I think this is awesome. Many other groups you can't join until you've published (and getting to that point is a huge mystery--like a secret club where no one will give you the key), but in contrast anyone who aspires to write a romance is welcome to join RWA. This is both a fabulous and sometimes negative thing. It's positive because there are so many opportunities to learn and the published authors are for the most part accessible. (Just don't try to talk to Nora if she's wearing her sunglasses indoors.)

But on the other hand, with the mix of unpublished members and various states of published authors (the definition of which has become broader these past few years),  it's hard for the organization to cater to each and every member's needs. But on balance, I think this diversity is one of the very biggest strengths of RWA. It's welcoming. Here, come join our club, work hard and we'll help you get where you want to be.

Another difference between RWA and most other writers' groups is that it's mostly women. And this too can be a plus or a minus, but overall I think it's a plus. That said, I have found it refreshing to go to a few writers' conferences where there are more men. :) But on balance, I think women tend to be more humble and willing to learn from and help each other. And that yields great opportunities to learn and improve.

Yes, there is some craziness within the RWA ranks --  what group of 10,000 plus members isn't going to have some crazy?-- but on the whole, the vibe is supportive and helpful and very "high tides raise all boats".

So, what are we all getting ready for? (Except Sinead this year. *pout*) Every summer, RWA has a National conference, usually held in mid-July, but the dates vary. It's a pretty huge conference with about 2,200 members in attendance. Everyone who's anyone in the romance publishing world is there. All the big name authors. All the big agents. All the editors from the romance imprints at the big publishers. Etc. Etc.

RWA's National Conference is not a fan conference. Although I have met people who seem to go for a chance to meet their favorite authors and get free books--and there are a lot of free books-- the vast majority of the people who go to the conference are working hard at their careers as authors. (At whatever stage in their careers they might be.)

Overall, it's an educational and business conference. Writers go to learn, to meet other authors, to have meetings with agents and editors and marketing staff, and to network with other authors. But it's also a place to schmooze and have fun.

The 4 day conference climaxes (word chosen carefully) with a big ceremony for the Golden Heart and RITA awards. The RITAs are like the Oscars for romance novels and the Golden Heart is the little sister but for unpublished work. Everyone gets very dressed up.... Especially for writers who mostly live in sweat pants or pajamas. I'm on a loop with this year's GH finalists and there's some serious panic going on about hair and nails and dresses and shoes. It is a lot of pressure. If you do win and have to walk up on stage to give an acceptance speech, not only are you in front of over 2,000 people, there are HUGE screens and people taking pictures, and all that.

The first year I went to the National conference it was held in Dallas and we happened to be in the same hotel as a Mary Kay conference. That was interesting. Some might think that the two groups would have a lot in common, but actually, it was shocking how different we were. How easy it was to instantly spot which conference any woman you spotted was attending. (Even before considering all the pink.)

The Mary Kay women were so coiffed and put together, and some scolded writers in the elevators for dressing too casually and not wearing panty hose or makeup... But I digress. The main reason I thought of the Mary Kay women was that it seemed like every night they'd get dressed up in serious ball gowns for an awards event and we'd see them on the elevators wearing beauty-pageant style sashes and tiaras and huge ribbons better suited to a horse show.

I scoffed. We writers were so much more dignified.

But I have to say, one of the things I'm most looking forward to at this year's conference is wearing two very special ribbons on my name tag: GH Finalist and First Sales. But they'll be much smaller and totally more dignified than the huge Mary Kay ribbons  :)

And that wearing these ribbons matters to me makes me realize, romance writer or not, I've joined the cult. And it's suddenly all about the ribbons. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

But seriously... the ribbons represent real milestones and even with all that's going on with me right now, it's nice to have something to feel proud about.

And can't wait to see Molly with her RITA Finalist Ribbon!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dress shopping for Nationals

WARNING: This post has nothing do with writing, storytelling, books or movies. I thought about making it into a metaphor about finding the right genre to write in, but then decided to just go ahead and whine about the dress that wouldn't fit.

My sister and I did a little shopping last weekend. I needed one, maybe two, new dresses for RWA Nationals. Because in my every day life, I don't wear a lot of cocktail dresses, I'm a little loathe to buy a lot of them and tend to just swap dresses around to different events at the conference. This year, looking in my closet, I realized that everything had been to at least two conferences and some of them had been to three or more. I love those long pink pants that are slit up to the thigh, but the first conference they went to was Dallas in 2004. Plus, they're a little tight right now. In the picture above I'm wearing a dress that I've worn to a publisher party and to the Ritas. Twice. (That's the beautiful and talented Roxanne St. Claire standing next to me with her shiny Rita.)

I found an adorable little sun dress that would have been perfect for the booksigning and then the dinner I'm attending immediately afterward. Dressy, but not too dressy. Summery. Fun. Flirty. Exactly the kind of dress I like to wear to those events. I put on the dress. I'm zipping it up. It looks great over my hips and up to my ribs and then we hit the proverbial speed bumps. Or, as my friend Carol refers to them after having watched me bounce on them when I went over the handlebars of my bike, my air bags.

My sister has me blow all the air out of my lungs, flicks that zipper up and locks it in place. Ta da! I look in the mirror. It doesn't look bad from the front. Maybe a little more boobalicious than it needs to be, but that's not all bad. Then I notice the flesh coming up in the arm pit area. Yep. It's so tight that I have arm pit boobs. I turn around and shudder. I've got back boobs.

My sister (I love her. I so love her.) says, "Go find a little shrug to wear. No one will see those."

I find one. It actually does hide the extra boobs. It does not do anything about the fact that I can't take deep breaths while I'm wearing the dress. I'll spend the entire booksigning panting like an overheated dog. Then I wonder, how will I get it zipped at the conference? No problem. I have a roommate. Surely Cari won't mind giving a sister a hand. But what if she's not there? I'll be calling around the hotel looking for people to help me with my mammary management issues. It was just too much. I put it back.

Luckily I found a cute little black and white number at the next store that I can wear my Carlos Santana sandals with. Anybody else shopping for Nationals? Or have dress horror stories?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cage Match: His At Night and The Forbidden Rose

This is a close one, for me. In my heart I have a winner, but I can be swayed. For anyone who hasn't read these books - get thee to a bookstore, because once again, Sherry Thomas and Joanna Bourne have elevated the genre and for those of us aspiring to not only be published but to be as good as we can be - we have a lot to keep up with.

For me Sherry Thomas' His At Night wins. As a romance it's perfect. And I mean perfect. The characters, the conflict, the courtship dance, how it all falls apart and comes back together, broke my heart a thousand different ways. I've read reviews that didn't like that the hero is lying to everyone in his life in order to be a spy - I bought it. I loved it. The pay off of that lie, when he decides to come clean, is a bit rushed, but it's a minor quibble. Also, the subplot of the bad guy and his past, was in parts skimable, particularly when it didn't directly pertain to the heroine. When the heroine and the bad guy crossed paths - AWESOME. The twists and turns of the romance were utterly and totally compelling and Thomas makes conversation and the small reveals of the heart into page turning plot points.

The Forbidden Rose, I feel gets slowed down because it had to pretend to be a romance. I totally believed that the two characters would love each other, but unlike traditional romances, the dance between them was the least interesting part of the book. And that's because the external plot was freaking AMAZING!!! She's smuggling french aristo's out of France, he's an English spy looking for her father and the details about how he blends into every situation by simply changing the set of his shoulders was fascinating. The minor characters - AMAZING! The big bad - terrifying. This book worked in so many ways, that the romance brought it down. As soon as the two characters got to Paris and the book became about espionage and historical amazingness, I couldn't put it down. Bourne's books are coming out in trade now, at least her first book is being republished and I think she'll find as much and more success in that niche of historical mystery/romance with Deanna Raybourne. The scene where she gilds her WOW.

Either way you can't lose with these books. So, anyone else? It's a cage match....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sons of Anarchy, True Blood and Ain't She Sweet

The list above encompasses what I've been doing over the past few weeks. I've been dragged a little kicking and screaming through two seasons of Sons, wait all week in eager anticipation for True Blood and went back to a comfort read, which is Ain't she sweet.

Sons is a show that is critically well received, and not watched by a ton of people. It's about a biker gang in California, gaining its inspiration from Hamlet. It's really well acted. If you still think of Katey Sagal as the annoying wife from Married with Children, well, one episode of this will forever change your mind on that one. She is a revelation to me, layering nuance over nuance in her character portrayal, and the show has moments of amazingness and dry humor. But I find the plot points, while compelling, get dragged out over two many episodes, and too much filler. When the show works it's amazing and whenever Katey Sagal is on the scream, it's remarkable, but when it falls, it's boring, and in this age, boring is hard to accept.

Especially when my other option is True blood, which is over the top, and at times, ridiculous and the plot point with Sam and his parents is dull, and I'll forgive the show anything. Not just for introducing us to Stephanie's boyfriend, but also for Alcide, and the tremendous energy they bring to the screen, and how so much is going on at all times, I am not for a moment, bored. They've given me over the top characters that I love. I've set up a shrine to Lafayette to my house and the writers seem to have an instinctive knowledge on how to keep everything moving, and keep me enthralled.

And then there is Ain't she sweet. I love this book. So different from what I've just written about, but in a story about how the bad girl goes back home and gets redemption, SEP, manages to make the story fast paced, emotional, and funny. Molly and I keep saying we're going to disect the books we love to try and determine what makes them tick. Then the only one of us who ever really does this is Maureen, and then we're lucky because she tells us what she's learned.

I'd start with Ain't She Sweet. There is no suspense plot, no paranormal elements, and yet, it never gets boring. And yeah, we have that wonderful main heroine, but we also have a supporting cast that are so well thought through. Each one is a point of tension for the heroine, so as soon as the main romance settles, we have the heroine working through her relationship with three other characters and it all works. I think SEP is one of the best plotters in the romance business, and that combined with Sugar Beth, well, it's one of my all time favourite romances.

That's whats kept me busy. Anything I should be watching, reading. Anyone out there read the Passage? Its next on my to be bought list.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let's Get Real

The other day I was reading a book and I thought it was very nice and fresh. Funny and cute. Maybe a little immature for what it was… at least for my tastes anyway. I happen to know this person’s second two books old in a significant deal (thank you Publisher’s Marketplace!) so that means this book obviously did very well.
People loved it. For me it was okay.

And then because I analyze everything I read these days I thought about that one factor that put me off slightly. It wasn’t real. Now of course fiction isn’t real… I know that! But I didn’t buy some of the dialogue. I didn’t buy the characters reactions in certain places. Again very cute and light… but things just seemed off for me.

Perfect example – at one point in the story a character slams her hand down on the table because she’s frustrated with the hero’s answer. So hard mind you that she hurts her hand. The scene is supposed to be a cute bantering back and forth between hero and heroine – not an angry exchange. And I just didn’t get that in this fit of pique someone would slam their hand down so hard on a counter top enough to hurt them. It’s an over exaggeration to get the point home that the heroine is frustrated.

But it’s not real.

It’s why Friday Night Lights appeals to me so much. Yes, it’s dramatic. Yes, the situations tend to be extreme. But what makes it compelling is that you feel like this could be real. This could be your high school, your friends, your coach. These people’s reactions to situations feel authentic.

I need that it my fiction. I need that sense that even though what I’m reading is made up I can identify with the way these characters are feeling and acting. Another perfect example – Hunger Games. Doesn’t matter that the world is completely foreign to me. I bought every moment of the heroine’s journey because I knew it was how I would feel in those situations.

So what about you out there? Do you like the exaggeration or do you need to keep it real too?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Welcome to Margo Candela!

Margo and me at the Sacramento Public Library Authors on the Move fundraiser which is hands down one of my favorite literary events of

the year. The booze flows free. The food rocks. You're surrounded by fabulous authors. It's a complete gas.

Today I'm thrilled to present Margo Candela. I met Margo several years ago at a gathering of Bay Area Chick Lit writers (this was when it was okay to call yourself a chick lit writer and not, say, a writer of post-feminist humorous literature). She's charming, witty and disarmingly pretty. Her newest book, Good-bye To All That, is being released TOMORROW by Touchstone. Publishers Weekly says that Margo "combines a cunning wit with a deep understanding of the office politics specific to the entertainment industry to create a frantic atmosphere and a near breathless momentum as the story barrels toward an ending that's anything but your focusgrouped happy fade-out."

Congratulations, Margo! Welcome, to Drunk Writer Talk. As always, the first thing we want to know here is what's your favorite drink?

I'll drink anything fruity. It's sad, really, how junior high my tastes are.I cried when I heard Zima was no longer going to be made. It delivered the alcohol and the fruity in one beautiful bottle. I should have stocked up. My new thing is the exact opposite of a drinky drink-- ice water. Worse yet, I've recently discovered ph balanced/enhanced water. While it tastes just like normal water, at $2 a bottle I'm sure it's much better for me.

This is the point where Maureen usually says something witty and funny about our guest's drink choice. But seriously, Margo? Zima? We live in CALIFORNIA, girlfriend! As God is my witness, next time we're together, I'm bringing you a bottle of Scribner's Bend Symphony. That's give you fruity, but in a good way. Now . . . tell us a little more about Good-bye To All That. Thisis your fourth novel, but your first set in Los Angeles rather than SanFrancisco, right? Why the locale change?

It was time for a change both in my writing life and in my real life. We moved back to L.A. in 2005 and while I truly miss San Francisco, Los Angeleshas opened up all sorts of writing possibilities for me. People are not like folks in the Bay Area. I'm still just enough of an outsider to be able to appreciate the differences. I visit San Francisco any chance I get and my

third novel, More Than This, is my version of a love letter to the city.

Good-bye To All That takes place inside the entertainment industry. What kind of research did you do to learn about what takes place behind all those closed doors?

People love to talk about their jobs and it wasn't hard to get friends who toil away at the kind of job Raquel, the main character, has to open up about their days. Names have been changed and situations have been fictionalized as I'd never sell a friend out even though I heard some juicy stories. Raquel's job and experiences are amped up and sometimes cleaned up versions of what I heard. For me, office politics are as interesting as the dynamics between family members and in this book I got to explore both.

I always find that each book has something specific that endears it to me. What's the special little something in this book that makes you love it?

I love that Good-bye To All That is honest. I'm not trying to sell anyone on a fantasy of what it's like to work in Hollywood. Not everyone can have a glamorous job that's worthy of half hour reality show. The truth is, someone has to do the filing and the fetching. Raquel takes her job very seriously and she expects her hard work to pay off, but is confronted with the consequences of her choices. Good-bye To All That may not have a happy ending, but it has a hopeful one. It was the best and most honest one for the book and I'm proud I had the guts to write it as such.

What's next for you?

I recently adapted my second book into a screenplay and I'm also working on my next novel which, yes, will be set in L.A. Mostly, I'm just seeing where life takes me. Some days it takes me to my local Target where I aimlessly wander the aisles and that's okay. I like Target. The people are friendly and the bathroom is always clean.

And now my little drunklets, we have a special treat! We'll choose one lucky commenter to win a copy of Good-bye to All That. Come on, you know you want a copy of the book that the LA Times put on its summer reading list!

Friday, July 09, 2010


I'm thinking of the best books I've read lately, and they seem to have one thing in common, a simplicity of story and a brilliance in the telling of that story.

When I think of the Hunger Games, it can be summed up in one sentence. Young girl sent to fight to the death against 23 others. And, even though there is so much more to the story, that really is the heart of it. But the author keeps the story fascinating by constantly upping the stakes, changing our expectations, in what is a really simple storyline.

The new Sherry Thomas, taken to it's heart, is the story of two people shaking off their secret identities and falling in love with what's underneath and she really keeps the core of the book to that specific idea.

What I'm finding in the less successful stories I've read recently is that they can't be summed up as easily. they have so many different elements that are core to the story that each element loses impact in the telling.

Simplicity is difficult. It requires an inventive plot to keep the simple story humming along, while still remaining true to the central concept and compelling characters, because there is nothing shiny to distract from them.

Simplicity is really, really hard to do well.

Off I go to find something shiny to add to my current WIP, until I figure out how to make it more simple.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Foreshadowing... how did she do it?

Okay as writers we all know what foreshadowing is. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as I watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince over and over again on HBO. I’m addicted to those books and movies like Molly’s kids are to Nemo and Wall-E.

The one thing about that movie that had me scratching my head was the scene they added at the Burrows that wasn’t in the book. Now JK provides a ton of material so I’m thinking why would they need to add a scene. I’m giving the director the benefit of the doubt that maybe he needed to destroy the house to set up a situation for the next movie. (I’ve watched the new trailer like 10 times trying to figure out what each scene is. I can’t wait!)

But what the director did really well in this film was the foreshadowing. The scene where Harry touches the ring after he and Dumbledore learn about the horcruxes is brilliant. It’s at that point (and if you haven’t read the books stop reading because I’m about to give away a major spoiler) that you realize Dumbledore knows that Harry is also a horcrux and what that means in the end. The line is well delivered to fit both the current situation and reveals what must happen before Voldemort can die.

He also sets the last scene with Ron apart from Hermione and Harry giving us a hint of what’s to come there as well.

Here is the thing though… this guy already knows how it ends. It’s pretty easy to foreshadow when you know what’s coming. And conversely it's just that hard when you’re in the middle of a series.

Now I can go on about the brilliance of JK in many different ways, but where she blows my mind is in the foreshadowing. If you haven’t read them in a while go back and start with book one and read them all the way through. She uses elements in book one that become major parts of book seven. All along the way she plants clues that that pop up, or lines of dialogue that take on huge significance later on.

How in the heck did she do that? How can you be writing book one and already know how book seven is going to turn out? How? Big picture, sure. But it’s the little details that made me read them twice and say… oh no she didn’t!

I mean seriously, I’m a writer. I like to think a competent one, but that is simply mind blowing. I’m writing what I hope will be a series right now. I have no freakin’ clue what I may need for a seventh book. It’s hard enough trying to figure out what I need for this book!

So let’s all take the time to think about people who have used the art of foreshadowing across multiple books well and give them a round of applause.

Because it is just not easy.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Do I need a new hobby?

I read a great post this week on agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog about 11 non-writing ways to be a better writer. While she seems to represent mostly books aimed at the CBA market and doesn’t like fantasy or paranormals, based on her blog, I think we’d get along even if we don’t have the same taste in books.

My favorites on her list were watch TV, use Twitter and to do a mundane task at least once a day. Basically she’s given me great ways to rationalize some of my favorite things. ☺

But seriously… we’ve talked here before about the value of watching really good TV. So much to be learned about characterization and dialogue and pacing and hooks and cliffhangers, etc. I also really liked the idea of doing a mundane repetitive task without having music on or any other distractions. I think this is something missing in my life right now that might help me. I know Molly works out a lot of her plot problems while walking or running, but I find I rarely let my mind go quiet these past few years and I think she's right that doing something mundane and physical can free your mind. Can I get creative while pulling weeds? Maybe after this heat wave is over.

She also thinks that it’s important to have at least two hobbies outside of writing. Sounds smart, but the only thing I want to know is: does drinking count as a hobby?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Revising Part Deux

As I've mentioned, I'm revising Dead on Delivery, the sequel to Don't Kill the Messenger. It's been a fun book (once the horrid misstep with the Maenads, etc., got cleared up) and the notes from my editor were far from onerous.

But I hit a spot on Sunday where something was wrong. I knew the smart next step for my heroine was to do something that in the original she doesn't do for another sixty pages or so. Neither my agent nor my editor brought it up and for a moment I was tempted to just let it be. I mean, if it didn't bother them, why should I move it? Especially because there's a deadline looming and another book that needs to be written and my son needs a haircut and my mother hurt her arm and the cat is licking at his leg in that weird way again.

I actually left it and moved on. Then, with my head hanging in shame, went back and moved the scene. It's going to be a pain. It's going to cause ripples for the next one hundred pages or so that will have to be addressed. It would have been so much easier to leave it, but I just couldn't. It would have shamed me.

It was one of those moments that I have to ask myself for whom I'm writing. Sure. To an extent, I'm writing for my editor who signs the checks and for the readers that buy the books (please, please buy the books), but I think in the end, I'm still writing for me. I'm still writing for the joy of being as storyteller and part of that joy comes from pushing myself to be the best storyteller I know how to be.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Those A-holes at Pixar

Pixar has addicted my children to their crack story telling. Their totally addictive, smart, heart-felt, original and straight as an arrow story telling. My 20 month old asks for Nemo. She knows maybe twenty words - one of them is Nemo. Come on, that's nuts.

The only Pixar movie that hasn't gotten rave reviews (rave reviews meaning the endless repeats) is UP. But hey, not every movie can be about robots. Some have to be about bitter, heart-broken, marginalized widowers and talking dogs.

And there's a lot of things I can break down about the magic of Pixar. The purity of their characters. Their fearlessness. Their casting... I could go on. But what I think it all comes down to is; it's the same guys working on these movies. The same five people in different rotations, banging out the story, fleshing out the characters, building the world. It's teamwork.

And it's amazing to me on a couple of fronts:

1. Everyone has a clear understanding of the standard. It's excellent or it's nothing. Anything that's not excellent goes away. This has to mean an INCREDIBLE LACK OF EGO. That's a lesson I feel like I'm getting better at, but still, it's not easy putting aside things you love or you think work, because it doesn't 100% serve the story.

2. No one person makes it or breaks it. How freeing is that? I can come up with all sorts of ideas if not all of them have to be homeruns. I can go way out on a limb in terms of character or ideas, because I know if it falls apart, there's someone who can figure out how to fix things.

3. How freaking incredible is it that they found each other? Because that's a lot like a rock and roll band working on a movie. And from concept to finish those movies take years!! You've got to make all those relationships work on different levels. Amazing. What respect they must have for each other. Honestly, I don't think they could churn out the magic they do with such unerring consistency (widower movie aside) without really respecting each other.

And I'm torn between my kids for my favorite. Lucy loves Nemo and Mick loves Wall-E. It's like choosing between delicious chocolate and different, but equally delicious chocolate. How do they do that?

Friday, July 02, 2010

How can I talk about sex, if I'm not writing any?

It's the finale to sex week at DWT, and it's strange that I'm going to finish it, because right now, my characters should not be having sex. I've ventured into the world of YA, where sex is handled very carefully, and in a lot of books, is at most hinted at, or completely absent.

I'm going for the hinted at variety, where there is attraction, and interest, but, in this book, little physical interaction.

In many ways this is a relief for me. For all the reasons discussed this week, sex scenes are really difficult to write, and I've never been able to shut my writer door, and written them as unencumbered as I would have liked.
It's a little sad that I kill people hundreds of different ways in print without even blinking an eye, but writing about an intimate connection between two people who care for each other has me blushing at my computer.

But having written in romance, the one thing I never forget is the joy of that attraction, the connection between two attracted people, no matter what the age. And the complications that can add to a protagonist's life if the attraction is unwanted or stricken with tension.

I know from reading some amazing books, and what Eileen so deftly pointed out, that the actual sex scene is not necessary to create a really sexy book. It's all in the details.

And it means I have to work harder to create the mood, and details of that attraction, because I have to do it subtly, and without the obvious body parts involved.

So, no sex for me. At least in this book. But I'm still hoping there will be some romance, some sizzle and sensual tension.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Let's talk about sex baby...

Okay so we’re talking about sex this week. Molly kicked it off and it’s funny because her post was about whether she should add more. For me this is about whether I can get away with what I have.

Reading her post and dealing with the idea that I may (still no word yet) end up directing my current WIP more towards historical/mystery than romance, sex has been on the brain a lot for me. I’m at the point in my WIP where I planned for the first sexual interaction between the characters and needless to say I’m stalled.
How much is too much? How much is not enough? Do they really need to do anything?
For people writing romance or anything with “romantic elements” this becomes an issue. I don’t want to upset readers of historical mystery with graphic sex scenes. But I also want to be true to myself.

Who am I? I like sex scenes in my books. I just do. Why? Because I’m a deviant? Pretty sure I’m not. Because I’m a single woman and sexually deprived? Possibly. But I’m also deprived of having a man take out the garbage and I don’t need to add scenes like those into my books.

So what is it? For me it’s the vulnerable moment. It’s not the act or the lead up or what you can do to make it hot hot hot. It’s that point where I want to strip – literally and figuratively – my characters so that I can really see how they are in that exposed moment.

The scene I’m writing is about the hero who is torn between his desire for the heroine and his own will because he’s vowed he will not take her for all sorts of reasons. He’s angry and upset and sexually frustrated. That’s not helped by the fact that my heroine keeps tempting him and teasing him and pushing all of his buttons. I want to see that frustration. I need to see how far he’s willing to go frighten her away. To shock her into submission.

It’s just not a scene I can do behind closed doors. It’s a scene that I want to be very raw and graphic because that’s how it plays out in my head.

So I’m gonna do it. I’m going to write it like I see it. If by some miracle the book gets bought and is placed with mystery books and I shock the ever living sh*t out of someone as they read this scene causing people everywhere to blush silly… well, then I apologize in advance.

But it should be noted to all those romance critics out there who think we only write sex scenes for the sake of titillation that they are wrong. The reason why a mystery writer describes a gruesome murder, the reason why a thriller writer, describes a detailed torture sequence, and the reason why a romance writer writes a juicy sex scene – should be for the same reason.

To tell the story that is in the author's head.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...