Sunday, October 31, 2010

Old dog. New Tricks.

I recently started working on a new project. It's going to be yet another departure for me. I worry that after forays into chick lit, romantic suspense and urban fantasy, adding yet another sub-genre will make me look like I have Author ADD in the worst way. My editor says it's the mark of a publishing survivor, but she's incredibly nice to me. 

Anyway, while it's true that my process for each sub-genre has been a little bit different, this time it feels REALLY different. I've always written character-driven books, but usually a scene or two will pop in my head as I figure out my characters. I like to think that the scenes have moments that show, rather than tell, what my characters are like. 

Not so much, this time. I've got a sketchbook that I'm toting around with me to jot notes in about characters and places and important ideas. I'm reading a lot and going to some lectures. There have been a few stray lines of dialogue, but no actual scenes. Instead I'm going seriously deep into these people's heads (even though they have no names) and their relationships and their backgrounds. 

I had thought that, by this point, my process was pretty much my process. I thought I was pretty set in my ways. Apparently I was wrong. It's exciting and a bit frightening, but it's nice to know I can twist myself into a new pretzel still.

How about you? Is your process always the same? Or does it change as you change projects?

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Halloween

I love Halloween. What's not to love, candy and costumes, without the stress of cooking a turkey, or buying a pile of presents.

It helps that I love scary movies, love them. I've seen an embarassing amount, and I hold them to a high standard. They have to try and scare me, not gross me out, or make me squirm in discomfort, but make me jump and get sweaty and nervous from the tension of waiting to see what will happen next.

So in the spirit of Halloween, here is a list of my favourite scary movies.

1) Aliens. No secret, my favourite movie hands down. A war movie in space with the most chilling villains and the strongest movie heroine in a scary movie. Love it.

2) 28 days later. I find Zombie movies pretty boring normally, and I've gone on record with my belied that they are more a disaster movie than horror movie, but this movie I loved. Amazing tension, characters I got totally invested in, and the turn around in the end, which I know some people did not buy, but I completely did. For me the difference between disaster and horror movies are the control the characters have over what is happening to them. In a horror movie, the characters have some semblance of control, and they can eventually turn the tables around on their attackers. In a disaster movie, they are just trying to get out of the way. When the main character goes on the attack in this movie, that's when it became a horror movie to me.

3) The descent - A group of women go spelunking, get lost and things go awry. Loved this for the tension and the atmosphere and how they still managed to differentiate the different characters and none of them were just victims.

4) High Tension - A french movie, and starting from almost the first scene, it's crazy tense and has a really cool ending I did not see coming.

5) Blade 2 - not sure if this technically belongs in hororr, but it's direected by Guillermo del Toro and has some of the most interesting and scary vampire villains ever created.

6) Halloween - the original, watched it again the other day and it still stands up.

7) The Thing - trapped scientists, an alien that can take on any form, and it still scares me.

8) Hellraiser - because what's scarier than a trip to hell and pinhead it all his logical, reasoned calmness is truly scary.

These are mine, and I didn't include jaws, although I love it, because I'm not sure it's horror, and same for Seven and The Silence of the Lambs, but they are scary, and amazing movies.

Did I miss any important ones. I never really loved the Exorcist, and didn't find The Shining to be all that scary. Does that make me a bad person?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finally a TV romance worth watching!

Have you all been watching Boardwalk Empire? It’s yet another HBO show that now dominates Sunday nights. It’s a period piece set during prohibition times in Atlantic City. Steve Buscemi plays Nucky Thompson – the “Boss” of the city.

Nucky – was a real person who did indeed run the illegal alcohol trade in AC. He was known for big parties, big gestures and show girls. Steve is staying fairly true to this on screen. He’s got a showgirl girlfriend who doesn’t appear to have too many brain cells, but of course there is this other woman… An Irish widow with two children. (Nucky made her a widow when he learned her husband was abusive.)

Through the first few episodes, you can see she admires him and goes to him seeking help for her struggling family. Inexplicably he takes interest in her. He kills her husband, then finds her a job. We can see she is grateful to him but there also seems to be something else there. She’s excited when he comes to see her. She fusses with her appearance.

On his birthday he dances with her at an extravagant party while she dazzles him with her intelligence and wit. Meanwhile his girlfriend is hiding naked in the cake. At the end of this episode the Widow Schroeder steals some lingerie from the dress shop where she works.

The subsequent episode will go down as one of my favorite TV eps ever. The episode is really a mind game between these two characters. The Widow Schroeder wants Nucky’s attention. Nucky has decided he’s got enough complications in his life and the last thing he needs is a temperance supporting suffragette widow with two kids. After all she’s a good woman. And he’s a bad man.

He ignores her at every turn. So she reports a “beer” storage facility to the IRS and names the man running the operation as someone working with Nucky. Of course she’s only doing this because she cares about the temperance movement…. Right!!!!!
Nucky’s man gets arrested in dramatic fashion and we see the Widow Schroeder singing along with her temperance sisters as she and Nucky exchange a glance that is pure genius.

I refer to this as a “I’m not going to be ignored!“ look. Which he returns with an “I believe I underestimated you” gaze. When the knock on her door came late at night I didn’t know if she was going to be fired from the job, beaten up by a gangster or kissed senseless. Nucky went with kissing her senseless. LOVED IT!

The payoff from this episode wasn’t as good as I expected, but I’m still fascinated. The Widow Schroeder is not pure and sweet. She is smart and feisty and very practical. She also strikes me as a woman who will do whatever she needs to survive. Nucky will sleep with anything that moves, has no intention of marrying anyone and making them honest, yet we see this particular woman does something to him. I really hope they continue to make this relationship interesting. They won me over with that one episode.

Well, that and the hats. I love hats!

The point - to me there is NOTHING sexier than two smart people pitting their brains against each other. It takes the physical chemistry to a whole new level.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Interesting Times and Chinese Curses

The times they are a-changing.

My  favorite quote from the NJRW conference last weekend was from Alicia Condon, Editorial Director of the Brava imprint at Kensington.  She pointed out that the line, "May you live in interesting times" comes from a Chinese curse. Yes, a curse.

Given all the conflicting predictions, dire and hopeful, floating around right now about the future of publishing, while the "experts" might not agree on much, there's no denying that the industry is going through some pretty intense changes and will continue to over the near future.

And the curse might lie mostly in the uncertainty. Publishing is stressful enough without all this dang extra uncertainty!

I'm not one to buy into all the dire, sky-is-falling predictions about publishing. I do, however, think that the publishing industry (and authors) need to educate the public--as the music industry did back in the Napster days--that downloading creative media for free, when it hasn't been offered for free by the creator or rights holder, is STEALING.

Yes, some people will always steal, but most people who'd never consider stealing a book from a bookstore might now download a book they find on the internet without batting an eyelash. And I think the generation currently hitting adulthood have been conditioned to think that any content on the internet is free for the taking and should be. So that's an issue... And a big one. But if handled, it shouldn't spell the end of getting paid to write books.

Another negative prediction I've heard that rang true for me, is that publishers might stop printing ANY copies of books that aren't expected to be bestsellers... (They are already cutting back on print runs, big time, and expecting much higher overall sell-throughs.) And this means that many (most) authors might see a day, fairly soon, when we can't actually hold our books... Sad, but...

I also think that, especially for genre fiction which has a huge established fan-base, e-books and e-readers could actually be a boon.

The reason I jump to this conclusion (instead of thinking the sky is falling) is because e-readers make impulse buys so much easier. I recently bought a kindle and I've bought a few books already that I was curious about, and/or wanted to buy to support the author, but that I might not have bought in print because, well, in print then I'd have to deal with storing the physical book and anyone who's been to my house knows I already have a serious book storage problem and it's becoming hard to spot my bed behind the huge mountain of books that surrounds it.

So, as much as I know I can't predict the future, I do expect that e-readers will lead avid readers to buy and read more books, not fewer. On the other hand, readers who tend to pick up one or two books a year, might not buy an e-reader, and if the publishers stop printing mid-list authors, this reader will only ever see the few books that retailers put in stores... But then again, the reader who only buys one or two books a year, was probably only ever picking up those bestselling books, anyway.

Who the heck knows...

But one thing is certain. Those of us trying to survive in the publishing world do live in interesting times.

Consider yourself cursed. :)

Has anyone else bought an e-reader? Which one? How do you like it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I watched my son get his nose cauterized this morning. He did great. Barely winced. I managed to stay in my chair and not pass out, but just barely. Watching someone you care about feel pain is excruciating. 

I was thinking about this in terms of writing (of course, because I think about everything  in terms of writing). I'm reading a book right now where the author is doing a great job of throwing her characters in the Dumpster. There's one main character and three secondary ones and every one of them is being forced to face her own personal nightmare. 

Unfortunately, I don't care. I should care. They're women about my age with problems I might have or that my friends or sisters might have. They're trying to balance love and family and work. I still don't care. Somehow, they're not likable. There are no "Save the Cat" moments. They're unrelentingly selfish and mean. I don't like them. 

It's not enough to torture characters. You have to make me care about the characters you're torturing. Otherwise, I have no empathy for them and you can stick hot pokers up their nose and I won't even flinch. 

What's your take? Can you still enjoy a book when you don't like the characters? Or do you have to like them to have empathy for them and to care what happens to them? 

Monday, October 25, 2010

So That's What a Real Break Feels Like?

I don't know about you guys, but in between books I like to take a little break. Usually this means I read a bunch of books and still think and obsess about either my last project or my project to come. The only difference is I don't touch the laptop. So, after that week "break" I come back to the laptop all wound up with no real sense of excitement or anticipation.

Not this time. Oh no. This time, my break happened to coincide with a trip to New York City with my husband. We went to a Broadway Show (Promises, Promises - I think in all honesty, Sean Hayes if the funniest physical actor of our time - please, someone try to come up with someone better - you can't.) We walked ourselves into exhaustion. We went to a Bruce Springsteen photo exhibit at The Morrison Hotel. We saw some really funny comedy (and in a total New York moment Judah Friedlander came into the club to do an impromptu set - my husband was over the moon). We drank some beer, ate some pizza. I had lunch with Shauna Summers and that included something called Porter Ice Cream which is no freaking joke. And then from that blissful break from not only my children, my life and my books I went to the New Jersey conference. And Maureen and Stephanie were there! And Kathleen O'Reilly! And Jessica Andersen! And Kwana! I sat next to Sherry Thomas and tried to subtly rub her magic onto my sweater to take home and study.

And then I took a few hours to sit down and work on a synopsis - my least favorite part of the whole business - and what do you just fell down from the sky onto the screen. It wasn't perfect but it wasn't torturous. And I'll take that trade off any day of the week.

So, here's the lesson I learned. If we're going to take breaks, which we need, we need to really take a break. Get out of, not only our books, but our heads and our routines and our lives. I know we can't all get to New York - but there's got to be middle ground between amazing break and no break at all - and we've got to find that middle ground. Our writing needs it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not letting self-consciousness kill the magic

I recently got my hands on the latest JR Ward, Crave(thanks, Molly). The book is great, so far, at least. And as usual, she builds her world really convincingly. A large part of that world building is in the character's voices, their word choices. And she has a different voice for each character, and their convincing, and real, and she commits to it completely.

There is always a point in a book where I wonder, am I going too far with this? Is this realistic, and when I think about it too hard, I can pull back, not commit completely and some of the magic dissipates.

It's why at a certain part of the process, primarily the rough draft, I have to shut down the outside world, forget about what everyone else is saying, selling, where certain books failed, really, what anyone else will think. Because it screws with my head, kills my productivity and can kill the magic.

Basically at this point, I'm just trying to stay out of my own way. I can fix something that isn't working, and my critique group will tell me what needs to be fixed, but it's really hard to add magic after the fact. The best magic, for me, always comes from the first draft, and as Molly pointed out earlier this week, we have to protect the magic.

I'm completely not jealous that three of the drunk writers are at a conference together. Not jealous at all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Buzz and Business vs. Writing and Crackers

Molly posted this week about the business of publishing. How we struggle to determine if you’re successful, growing, moving up and catching some industry buzz. How sometimes this can thrill you or drive you crazy.

And I was thinking… yeah, yeah… I know what that’s like. Such a smart post. Because when your book comes out you look for reviews. You do a bunch of crazy Google searches to see if anyone is talking about the book. Sometimes even the negative stuff gives you a jolt. If they really hate it, at least you know they are passionate about hating it.

I remember all those feelings… but I feel so far away from it now. When my agent told me to write the book that I had proposed I was excited and nervous because I knew the scope of the job I was taking on. Now months behind my own personal schedule (I wanted it done by 10/1 – we’re looking more like 12/1 at this point) I feel removed from the publishing world.

I realize it’s like a completely different occupation. There’s writing. There’s publishing. They are sooo different.

I’m totally out of the loop. I’m not checking my email for news from my agent or editor because there is no news. I’ve got nothing out on submission. No proposal that I’m waiting for someone to decide on… nothing. Just a book that’s 100 pages away from being done and a couple of weeks from being anywhere close to the point that I can show it to people.

I have to say… I’m not crazy about this feeling. I would much rather being moaning that I haven’t heard back from someone, waiting on that horrible precipice of acceptance or rejection. Or scanning the Internet wondering if anyone out there even knows who Stephanie Doyle is.

Instead I’m just writing and writing and nervously eating Triskets because I can’t think of what this character should do or what this character should say. Wondering the whole time if I’ve wasted five months writing a book that’s never going to see the light of day. And of course what that set back will mean to my career.

Writing and Publishing… yeah. The same, but different.

Which one is harder?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Structure -- My best friend, my worst enemy

I've been pondering this post for about 3 weeks, ever since I attended a full day workshop by Michael Hauge, in Ottawa. He's a screenwriting/storytelling guru and I really like his approach to describing three act plotting and especially how he integrates outer journey (plot) with the hero's inner journey (character arc). He also has the best theory of what makes great romances great that I've ever heard. (And I've heard a lot of romance authors speak on the topic.)

I'm pretty analytical and like "systems" and so I'm bit of a junky when it comes to storytelling craft topics. When I read my first few books and attended my first few workshops on structure, it all seemed like the keys to the kingdom to me. Magic. Now I understood how it all works, I thought. It was just a matter of execution.

But of course, it's never that easy (which is why every writer rankles at the word "formula") and no two books for me have been the same, and now I feel like thinking about structure can either work for or against me, depending on that particular WIP and what stage I'm at when I try to analyze what I've been pouring into my computer.

And that workshop 3 weeks ago was all the right stuff at EXACTLY THE WRONG time.


Or maybe it will all turn out fine.

I was feeling a little lost about how the third act of my story should play out, and I thought that sitting through this workshop would help me figure it out, but instead it made me question every step I'd taken so far. Was my "opportunity" too soon? Was my Act 1 turning point too late? And what exactly was my character's goal after all. I'd been positive I knew that...

I walked out of that workshop thinking that I needed to start the book over. That it was a total mess.

And then I sat down to read through the first 100 pages again and wow. It's not as bad as I thought. Yes, all that scary thinking helped me figure out a few places where I think things could be tweaked, and I'm sure once I finally let my critique partners see this book they'll have some other great suggestions (for which I'll hate them at first, and then love them...) But all in all, it's not as bad as I thought.

And in this particular case, thinking to much about story structure proved a bad thing. I should have just relied on my instincts. (I think.)

How about you? Do you think about structure? Do you have any one particular storytelling/plotting method you really like?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stuffing Myself on Story

The City of Davis has been renovating our public library. For close to a year, the library has been housed in temporary quarters in what used to be an inline skating rink. It's time to move back. They are closing the library for two months to make the move.

Two months! Two months with no library! When I saw the sign posted on the library door, I almost couldn't breathe. How could I live without the library for two entire months? From October 4 to December 2. No library.

So people wouldn't have to drive all over the place to return books, due dates from books checked out at the end of September were going to be in early December. There were signs up around the library encouraging patrons to check out lots of and lots of stuff so the library wouldn't have to move it.

I panicked. I checked out armloads of books. Pretty much everything they would let me take. Fiction. Non-fiction. Books on CD.

Now I'm freaking out. My TBR pile towers next to my bed and I'm reading reading reading as fast as I can because they're so much of it! How will I ever get it all read? I've got a book in the car, a book by the bed, a book in the bathroom, a book in the living room. I've got an audio book on my iPod and a book on CD in my car. Everywhere I go, someone is telling me a story. My ever so helpful and logical boyfriend keeps pointing out that I checked all these books out so I'd have enough to tide me over until December, but somehow that isn't helping. I feel compelled to get it all read and listened to right now.

It's actually kind of fun, but there is no silence in my life right now. If I'm awake, there's a story happening and I'm beginning to realize how much of my own storytelling happens in those odd moments when there is silence. Not necessarily when I'm settled down with pen and paper or computer, but when I'm washing the dishes or driving or working out and letting my mind focus on something other than a story is when a lot of my big story realizations come.

So is story gluttony a problem? Do I need to join a support group?

Monday, October 18, 2010

When The Internet is Not Your Friend

Sometimes I think this writing profession is the equivalant of sitting in a dark cave. We're not sure what's around us, if we're steps from a cliff or a giant pile of delicious brown sugar snickerdoodles. Every once in a while a light goes on in the cave and we get ten seconds to look around. But we can only see part of the cave and we make a thousand guesses as to what the rest of the cave looks like.

Drunk Writers love to have theories, but the truth is, at least for me - I don't understand the business. I don't understand what happens in a publishing house when they're deciding what to buy or what not to buy. I make a lot of guesses because I've had that light turned on a couple of times, but for the most part - I got nothing.

The one real glimpse into publishing and my success in it is my royalty statement and trust me that's a light that shines down on me and me alone. I have no idea where my books sold best, what my print run was, how many books were shipped, what my publisher's expectations were - all I know is how many books I sold. Which, you would think would answer a lot of questions, but it's kind of like the smoke monster on Lost. One answer - lots more questions.

So, like most authors I obsess on the internet. I check my amazon ratings and troll various review sites checking to see if I have any buzz. And in my head buzz=success. But the reality is that MOST romance buyers and in particular most category romance buyers don't review, don't create buzz, they don't buy on amazon. So the internet is quite possibly the most misleading light ever. It's a spotlight on maybe...a couple thousand readers? Maybe hundreds. I've heard a bunch of authors say the book with the most buzz sold the least and the book they thought was failing miserably sold like gangbusters.

TRW had a panel discussion this weekened with a lot of authors at various stages in thier careers. Some people felt good about thier careers, others were feeling some stress. And across the board, the people with the LEAST amount of information, the ones that sat happily in that dark cave trying to get better, trying to write the best story they could, ignoring the light - they were the happiest.

It's totally in our nature to want to figure this puzzle out - but sometimes, I really think, ignorance is bliss.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A little part of me wants to be Dancing With The Stars

So week after week, Dancing with the stars brings in really high ratings, usually the highest. Critics hate it, for the most part. To be honest, I've never watched it. There's been nothing to really recommend it. But it beats the pants off of the ratings for Mad Men, or Friday Night Lights, or even The Vampire Diaries, so millions of people out there are passionate about it.

It strikes me as the tv equivalent of Dan Brown's books. Critics see nothing to recommend them, but they sell to millions. But is there anything wrong with appealing to a large group of people?

Ideally we'd all like to be both, critically adored, and get incredible sales. But I wonder if it is even possible. In book form there have been a few, The Lovely Bones, the Poisonwood Bible and anything written by Jonathon Frantzen come to mind, but on TV, I can't think of a huge critical and ratings success.
Maybe Grey's Anatomy for the first couple of seasons?

But if you had to choose, ratings, or critics, where would you go?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When the pressure is on....

Who are you? When the going gets tough… do you get going? When you find yourself in the “moment” do you own it like Eminem suggests we do because we only get one shot?

As many who follow the blog may know, I’m a sports fan. Football, golf and most recently baseball. I really got into the Phillies (which was pretty easy since they’re good right now) and went so far as to buy a season ticket plan. I spent the summer eating hot dogs, drinking beer, cheering and booing and singing about peanuts and cracker jacks.

It was a blast.

Philadelphia made it to the playoffs and as part of my package I got to go to the first playoff game. The pitcher in that game - Roy Halladay - has been pitching in the major league for years. He’s won the best pitcher award (Cy Young) multiple times but he has always played for a losing team. The Phillies picked him up this off-season in a trade.

This was his first trip to the post season.

Speculation was crazy leading into this game. How would he handle the pressure? Would he perform at the same level? Or would those nasty little choke cherries that can effect premier athletes come in to play?

This man is the best at what he does, has been for years, and for the first time he was going to have to prove it on a very large stage.

I sat and watched him throw a no-hitter. Not one batter hit the ball to get on base. Only one batter out of the 28 he faced, walked. This was only the second time in the post season that this had been done EVER in 100+ year history of the game.

So there he was, in “the moment” and he was nearly perfect.

I’m jealous as hell. I’m writing this “big” book. Slogging my way through chapters, focusing on so many different elements of it, and I’m wondering if I’m even coming close to it being good. This is my “moment”. The one shot. The chance to maybe branch out and hit it big. I’m feeling the pressure big time. Only I can’t tell if I’m a “man” or a “mouse.”

Anyway, just another day in the life of an insecure writer. But I did enjoy seeing Roy pitch that game. Because it reminded me what hard work, dedication and absolute focus on what you’re doing can - not will (there are so many other factors) - but can get you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Glee

I wish this was about my personal glee, but alas. The reason I'm so late posting is I'm a little swamped under and the story of why is too irritating to share, so I won't. :)

But I did have time at about 2:00 am last night to watch Glee (previously DVR'd) and have some thoughts. Not many. Don't get your hopes up.

First. Kurt's dad. Miraculously out of his coma. Can I call em or what?

Second. Should I just give up on there being a plot or any character arcs this season? Last year the story lines were outrageous, but they were fun and they were there. Teen pregnancy. Hot tub conception lies. Fake pregnancies. Marriages ending. Affairs. War between teachers... good stuff. ;)

Third. I was entertained last night. I laughed. I snickered. I smiled. I didn't want to fast forward through any of the songs.

Conclusion: Maybe I should just let this show be what it now appears to be... A farm factory for selling CDs. But an amusing one. I'd love to see a story line, too. But for now, it's as enjoyable a way to spend an hour (44 mins w/o commercials) as watching Survivor, or Top Chef or maybe more on point: ANTM... and I think that's what I should be measuring it against. When I want a story, I'll watch Mad Men (almost over!) or Grey's Anatomy or Parenthood or The Good Wife (which I'm just starting)... Can't really think of much else. Although Dexter held my attention this week, too, for the first time this season...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Now for a pause in our regularly scheduled programming

As romance writers, we tend to write about breasts. Big ones, small ones, soft ones and firm ones. Our heroes like to think about them. Our heroines have nice ones. I would consider us, as a group, to be pro-breast.

Cancer is probably the only thing that threatens our breasts more than gravity. The American Cancer Society estimates that a woman's chance of getting invasive breast cancer at some point in her life is a little less than 1 in 8. 1 in 8. Pretty stunning odds.

I've seen how those odds play out. My sister, my mother and my practically-sister-in-law are all breast cancer survivors. My aunt was not so lucky. 

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer research has found ways to detect breast cancer earlier and found more focused and targeted way to treat it. More and more women survive diagnoses that were once death sentences. There are tons of places to donate money to cancer research. If you have a little extra jingle in your jeans, you might want to consider it.

But I'm not writing this to ask you to donate money. I'm writing this to ask you to take a few minutes to take care of yourself. Make sure you check yourself monthly. Nearly 70% of breast cancers are detected through self-exam. Don't put off that year mammogram if it's indicated either. I just scheduled a mother/daughter outing to the imaging center. 

This month, make the call. Feel yourself up in the shower. Do your part to keep your parts healthy. Yay, breasts!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Casting games

Hunger games is going to be turned into a movie, but no one yet has been cast. So I still have time to imagine who my ideal cast would be. Entertainment weekly is also playing the same game, but I don't agree with the majority of their picks.

1) Katniss - so tough, this casting. She has to be young, but tough, and intelligent and wise beyond her years. I'm thinking of Saoirse Ronan. I loved her in Atonement and I do think she has the wise beyond her years thing going.

2) Peeta- Ok, bear with me on this, but I see Cory Monteith in here. I realize this is slightly crazy, but based on the story about Glee in rolling stone, I think this kid might be able to act and he has that slightly innocent, blank faced impression that makes Katniss underestimate Peeta.

3) Gale - Armie Hammer. From the Social network.

4) Prim - Elle Fanning.

5) Haymitch - here is where I really agree with EW - who suggested Robert Downey Jr.

And Eileen, while reading Don't kill the messenger, I had pictured Emily Blunt in the role, I'd be curious to know who you would cast.

Anyone else want to cast some books?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why Tim Riggins is the greatest TV romantic hero...

Molly is a huge fan of lists so I thought I would do one for one of her favorite shows.

Tim is:

1. Handsome – this isn’t a must. In fact I’m a huge lover of the “beast” archetype. But Riggin’s looks to me are poetic. His face is beautiful. His expression is usually tortured. The combination is powerful.

2. Flawed – where oh where do I start counting the flaws. Having started watching him in season 6 and now able to go back and watch him from season 1, I don’t know that there has ever been a boy/man more lost in his own life. How he does this and remains sympathetic to the audience… amazing.

3. Heroic - for every negative action this character displays, there is an equal action that showcases his heroism. He doesn’t see his friend when he’s in the hospital, when he finally shows up he does more to lift the spirits then anyone. He sleeps with his friend’s girlfriend, he comes to her rescue when she’s being verbally abused. He hates the running back, but still comes to his defense when he’s threatened. He follows his brother into trouble, then takes the fall for everything when it goes wrong.

4. Unassuming - One of the reasons I have a hard time watching this show is because of Tim. When I saw him in season 6 as a has-been high school football star – I assumed he was a defensive player. A linebacker. Something flashy. When I realized he was a full back, I immediately saw all kinds of new facets to his character. The creators picked this position for him very carefully. For those who don’t know, the full back is one of the hardest working least appreciated members on a team. He takes the punishment, shoulders all the burdens and leads the way for the more talented and faster half back. He is not showy. He often gets no glory. But every once and a while when given the ball - he can take it all the way and score. My dad was a full back. When I watch the scenes of Tim playing and putting his body in front so that others can follow behind I always think of dad and I usually end up in tears. Being heroic is only cool if the person doesn’t show case his heroism. The full back is the definition of modest and humble. A quiet hero.

5. Sexual – the bedroom eyes, the slow drawl, the body. These are the easy reasons why Tim is a guy any girl would want to sleep with. Add on the bad boy quality – and there you go. But what I think makes him more sexual than anything else… his vulnerability. Everything about this character says, save me, help me, love me without any element of wining or pleading on his part.

6. Loving – finally, this character loves. He loves and commits deeply… if not always wisely. But what good is a romantic hero who will never love the heroine back.

Thank you DWT for giving me this show and making me realize how wonderful it was. In a year where I seem to be suffering TV malaise - FNL repeats offer me a little slice of something perfect.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pacing and What's Wrong with Glee?

Sinead and I have been talking about pacing in great YA novels and I think we both agree that it's one of the main keys for success.

Of course, I love fast pacing in novels written for any age group, but I do think that teen readers, in general, have less patience for the slow build.

To segue to a moderately related topic, the other day, Molly raised, as a topic of Drunk Writer Talk discussion, "Why does Glee suck this season?" Or maybe it was Sinead who asked the question first. Whoever did, they were right.

And tonight, I decided that amongst other things, Glee sucks this season because of pacing. There's too much singing and not enough story. Not enough focus on the characters. And too many songs destroys the pacing.

Yes, last night's episode had its emotional moments (I do confess to tearing up a little when Kurt sang I Wanna Hold Your Hand -- that song is so great as a sad ballad, as first proved in movie, Across The Universe), but mostly this season has seemed like a series of songs strung together. It's like their main objective is making sure that they have enough material to put out a new CD every second episode. And I'm sorry, but the heart attack seemed less about let's-make-things-tough-on-Kurt and more about let's-find-an-excuse-to-talk-about-religion for an episode. Who wants to bet that Kurt's dad makes a full recovery next episode? I hope I'm wrong and they actually go somewhere with that story. Not that I want Kurt's dad to die... I'll just be pissed if he's in a coma one episode and miraculously recovered the next.

But back to too many songs.

Last season the songs were tied into the overall story arc. They were about the choir improving and the competition. Or they were about rehearsals, or distracting a football team, or doing a commercial for a mattress king. In a word, they were relevant.

Now, I like a good musical where people burst into song for no good reason as much as the next gal, but I'm getting bored of Glee. It's lost its edge. It's like the writers have stopped trying.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Top Ten Moments from ECWC

I just came back from the Emerald City Writers' Conference in Seattle. Yes. The same conference where Molly and I first bonded over a potato. Good times. Good times. 

This was another set of good times. I came out feeling energized, excited, focused and ready to tackle dragons. So many wonderful, funny and inspiring things happened, I can't talk about them all in depth, but thought I'd put together a top ten list.

10. Having Ann Aguirre tell me I had pretty eyes. 

9. Attending the wonderfully insightful Laurie Schnebly Campbell's workshop on the Personality Ladder which I think will be a marvelous tool for keeping me focused during the plotting process.

8. Learning some of the many things that Lauren Dane doesn't support. 

7. Accidentally French kissing Christina Arbini before I even managed to register for the conference. Note to self: do not sneak up on people while they're eating lunch and kiss them on the cheek. When they're startled, they turn toward you and you can end up with part of their lunch in your mouth.

6. Barbara Vey's adorable and inspiring speech at the end of the conference. Talk about a great story-teller! She had the room in the palm of her hand. Get her to tell you how she ended up at an Obama rally with Caroline Kennedy as one of the speakers and everything it led to. You'll wish you wrote it.

5. Eileen Cook and Serena Robar's workshop on planning a year's worth of writing. First of all, they served wine at their workshop. It was from Target. Yes. That Target. The Pinot Noir was surprisingly good. Perhaps not as delightful as a Bud Light, but there you have it. Second of all, I came out with the tools I need to define my writing goals for the rest of 2010 and possibly into 2011.

4. Watching Alyssa Day use a bookmark as photo ID to check into the hotel. Somehow the room was booked under her pen name and not her real name and the desk clerk wasn't happy with the photo ID and credit card in Alyssa's real name (Alesia Holliday). It wasn't until she whipped out a bookmark with her picture on it that she managed to get a key.

3. Having Rosemary Clement-Moore tell me that the book that I'm afraid to write might be the book that's most important to write since I actually care about getting it right. I'm terrified that she might be right.

2. Caridad Ferrer's insightful commentary about the appeal of the Beta hero over lettuce wraps and fried green beans at PF Chang's that might have gotten me to realize what the real conflict should be in my next Messenger book.

And the Number One Moment for Eileen at ECWC? (Drum roll, please!)

1. Getting a personal shout-out in Alyssa Day's absolute barn-burner of a dinner speech. She had the room laughing, crying and cheering and did I mention that she said my name? 

Monday, October 04, 2010

Comfort Reads

Oh. Monday. I finished the rough draft of my manuscript last Wednesday and sent it off to the critique group knowing something was wrong, but the squirrel in my brain was tired of running on the wheel so I couldn't solve my own problems. Friday my big plan was to clean the top of my fridge. It's terrifying. But instead I surfed the web and got frustrated and confused and worried about how in the world I could write a book that would please everyone all of the time - which is sort of my raison d'etre.

So, I finally tore myself away from the Internet, a ball of crazy and the top of the fridge for all of it's charm - no longer had enough appeal. So, I crawled into bed (don't tell my husband) and searched through my keeper shelf for a comfort read.

A comfort read for me is about satisfaction - it's about every scene being not only exactly the best it could be - all pistons firing. But all scenes manage to move me and surprise me. It's romance at it's most compelling, characters at their most nuanced and no matter how many times I pick the book up - I get sucked in.

For this particular bout of anxiety I needed something edgy. Something sexy and dark that wouldn't make me feel bad about what I was writing and would be totally escape. I choose Lover Awakened - the Zadist story in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Good stuff.

My other two top comfort reads: Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - sympathetic heroine, unlikeable hero, everyone's backs are against the wall and there's a heart-breaking kid - it's perfect. And Finally The Star and The Shadow - Laura Kinsale. Because it's subtle and it's magic - it's the other side of the coin in terms of the Ward book.

So, what are your comfort reads?

Friday, October 01, 2010

My threesome is just not working

Before I start to write a book, I plan it out. Not intensively, but generally I know the basic direction, the ending, the main turning points and the relationships involved.
And inevitably, a lot of it changes during the writing, but having a dotted line to follow gives me confidence when I'm writing a rough draft.
In the current WIP, I'd planned a lovely little love triangle. Two boys and the girl torn between them, both representing differet facets of what she wants from the rest of her life.
And I cannot seem to make it work. Perhaps it's my background writing romance, or that the other elements of the book are so all encompassing, but this part is falling terribly, terribly flat.
I need the two boys, they each serve a purpose, but the idea that both love this girl and will fight for her, while battling my evil monsters, well, it's just not ringing true.
So I'm removing one of them from the ring. Now she only has one love interest.
I think it's the right move right now, but I'll really only know when I've finished the rough draft.
It's another example of no matter how much I plot a book, it always changes in the execution.

And for anyone out there writing, or thinking about writing, a YA, watch the Vampire Diaries, if for nothing but the pacing and plotting. And perhaps Ian Somerhalder, who's line readings are magic.
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