Wednesday, December 30, 2009
This year has brought with it so many amazing things that I don't know if I can express enough excitement over what's occurred ...
First, I completed my first novel, the 77,000-word MANAS, about a prodigy spy and a gorgeous hacker who band together to decrypt the mystery behind a genetic experiment aimed at creating the perfect soldier. In addition to finishing it, I also cut my teeth sending cold emails to agents, and even got a few very interested responses. To my first book! Unreal ... It's out under exclusivity right now, and I'm over the moon about the possibilities!
Second, I planned, started and completed my second novel, the 80,000-word ARCANE, about a girl drawn into an alternate plane of reality ruled by magic. This decaying, post-apocalyptic world is under the rule of chaos twins aimed at rebooting the flow of magical energy for their own evil greed, but Drew and her rebels are the obstacle standing in their way. This story also was send out to agents and has gotten a few nibbles. More to come on this in the new year, I think ...
Third, I planned and began my third novel, GLOW, about a woman living the paint-by-number life her father planned for her -- until she meets a stranger who teaches her how to color outside the lines. Add in that he is a being from another universe send to judge whether Earth is worth saving from the evil Dark Entity, then you've got the mixture for a great paranormal romance! I'm between 1/3 and 1/2 completed the first draft, and I'm in love with the characters ...
In addition to the book situation, I'm also thrilled with my writing progress. This year, I looked outside my comfort zone and joined Writers United, a local writing group that has opened my eyes to a culture I didn't know existed. My dear friends are a talented bunch who inspire and drive me to write better. Thank you, ladies.
And, as always, I've got my happy, healthy family! My husband is just the best man in the world and a real hard-ass critic (which I love and need), and my boys ... well, they are magic in and of themselves every moment of the day.
The best part about this past year is what wonderful things it will lead to in 2010. Keep moving forward!
Monday, December 14, 2009
The following affirmations are happy reminders of why I began to write in the first place. I don't read them daily or anything, but it's nice to skim when I'm trying to tune the mental dial into my muse for my afternoon writing sessions!
From: LIVING THE WRITER’S LIFE, by Eric Maisel
Negative self-talk is a weakness. Positive self-talk is a strength. Cultivate your strength! -Replace your doubts with affirmations like the following ones.
-I will write forever. There is no mandatory retirement age.
-Anxiety comes with the territory. I can manage and even embrace my anxiety.
-To write is to allow fortunate accidents to happen. I am open to the next fortunate accident.
-I will astonish myself. Then I’m bound to astonish others.
-A knowledge of beauty is already within me.
-I am interested in my own ideas. That interest is another name for love.
-I can say it well.
-I mean to write with integrity.
-I am taking up my writing tools.
-If I grow quiet, the writing will happen.
-I will grow savage and create whole new worlds.
-I mean to listen to myself.
-I write by myself but with people in mind.
-Will they laugh at me? Let them laugh. I’ll write anyway.
-I can learn my craft by practicing it.
-I am mine to make and make over again.
-I will stay close to my work. Writing requires intimacy.
-I expect gifts. They only come if I keep writing, but then they miraculously appear.
-I will create my own culture.
-There are infinite ways to fail. So why worry? I’ll just write.
-I will ask great questions and provide amazing answers.
-I will go deeper. Writing means cracking the surface and diving in.
-I will be the cream and rise to the occasion.
-To write is to improvise. I will become jazz.
-Writing is a way to be fully human.
-I will write big and let out the immensity inside of me.
I hope these made you day and strengthened your conviction in yourself. Things happen for a reason, people. It's your job to make sure that reason isn't wasted on someone who doesn't appreciate it.
I've found that you never can understand the true meaning of things until they are in hindsight, and I know as surely as I know the morning breeze will freeze my still-wet hair into tendrils of icicles tomorrow morning that this next year holds the key to my writing bliss.
Repeat after me: I AM good enough. Someone WILL read my story. I WILL be published. NOTHING can stop fate and talent from finding each other in the e-mail ether.
Happy Holidays from 'Suspending Disbelief,' and
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I've been editing like a crazy person in both of my finished novels for the last few weeks, and I'm so pleased with the polished products gleaned from creative workshopping and suggestions! They are gorgeous and rich and flowing ... really something I'm going to be proud to share with everyone! Last week alone, I added probably 5,000 words at least in backstory to characters that I now see desperately needed to be anchored in the realm of Enna.
Alas, something has had to fall by the wayside, and that has been my Nano. What's a Nano? It's an exercise in writing I agreed to participate in for the month of November -- the goal being to begin and finish a novel of 50,000 words in the month. I began on a hot streak with 8,000 words in PAUSE – which I'm going to debut aloud at my Pre-Thanksgiving Writers Soiree at my house in a few weeks – but I haven't even opened the file in a week. Too many things going on! Not that I actually expected to finish the entire thing in a month, but I was willing to give it a show! Besides ... PAUSE is going to be about 90,000 when it's done, by my estimates, so 50,000 would barely have been half way.
Anyway, I've decided that this is the final straw! I'm kick-starting myself back into the habit of writing everyday that I was so proud of this past year, and it starts with the week of Thanksgiving! After the Soiree, I'm officially taking the whole next week off (with the exception of eating on Thursday and shopping on Friday) to indulge my creative streak and really let my muses out of their pampered little cages!
I've got so many ideas just bursting out of my head, from descriptions like 'he spoke like an elegant douchebag,' and places like 'the Cave Sea' that are begging for a new home! I'm also stocked up on great quotes and dialogue ideas, plus I have such a set direction to go in that I'm DYING to get moving!
Can you feel the enthusiasm? Seriously. Keep moving forward!
PS – I have a meeting today with a friend and former colleague of mine who, aside from being an amazing illustrator and author of 'The Rift' comic book series, is also the graphic designer for Sherrilyn Kenyon! How cool, right?
PPS – A dear friend of mine has announced plans to write a non-fiction book about her son, who has Asperger's (a high-functioning form of autism). She claims she was inspired by my writing to start herself, but we all know she's just an *amazing* woman and mom who makes her own life and those around her so fun! Her name is Elisa Leavitt -- remember it, because her story is going to blow up – that's how good it's going to be :)
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I know you are overworked; I know you get thousands of query letters a month; and I know you reject 99.9% of them. I know you make your money off selling a writer's work, and I respect, understand and support your pickiness 100%. However, with much respect, I think you misunderstand us a little.
We are the authors who have the spine to write to you in the first place -- and in doing so, we *expect* rejection. It's inherent and inevitable, and yet you insist on sugar-coating your rejection letters as if pleasantries soften the blow.
We take our stories that we've worked on for months and we willingly package them to be flayed and torn apart. It's crazy -- insane! -- for us to be so excited, joyous and nervous about having our heart broken and our 'baby' tossed aside into a sea of rejects, but we're lying to you and ourselves if we can't admit to encouraging the rejection all the same.
However, that said, we do not care for niceties -- just give it to us straight. We do not need hollow rejection letters with encouraging sentiments telling us to 'assume' you're wrong. And, most of all, we do not want to read page-long generic form letters addressed to 'Author' explaining what you look for in a book with veiled references to how ours did not fit the bill.
That's just mean, and it's not in the least bit helpful, especially when, deep down, we already know you're not right. Don't assume we need your encouragement -- the encouragement of a person who did not see the value in our art. All it engenders is irritability, hurt and an underlying gratitude that you *didn't* find our story interesting enough to pick up, because I can't image anyone would want someone who doesn't love their story to represent it to a publisher.
But, this doesn't mean us writers don't like getting letters from you. On the contrary, it's what keeps us checking our inboxes every 15 minutes of every single day until we get a response.
What do I propose, then? A form letter is fine -- but skip the shallow well-wishes. If you're not going to be specific as to why *my* story isn't piquing your interest, then I would like nothing more or less than a 'Thank you, but your story is not right for me at this time. Good luck.'
So, dear Agent, I appreciate your effort to be helpful and informative in a generic sense, but when it borders on cruel, just skip it altogether, please.
Thank you, and good luck in your search for willing authors to represent.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The fickle genius that is my muse decided that I'm not, in fact, taking a break from GLOW. Or PAUSE either. Yeah, both ideas are jostling for first position in my brain -- think, two side of a '80s-style teen dance off!
GLOW threw down the gauntlet; Brendan, it's blond, hulking beast of a hero can do a mean breakdance.
Then PAUSE walked to the center of the floor, lead by Rainey, the mom with a chip on her shoulder and dancing shoes on her feet. Zzzzp, Zzzzp -- her Robot stunned the breathless crowd.
But, all was not said and done. GLOW and it's sassy heroine Sundae whipped out a glittery glove and, with a loud 'Sha-mon!', brought the crowd to its knees with an out-of-this-world moonwalk...
All kidding aside, this should be an interesting experiment. Can Amber juggle two very different story lines at the same time? Can my mousy widow Rainey, trapped in a world full of dead humans, compete with licorice-haired Sundae, who is stuck in a paint-by-number life? Can big, blond Brendan Sullivan get along with tall, dark Jonas? I think the answer is yes!
Being able to take a break from one while my batteries recharge and working on the other is going to be amazing! Since each project is so incredibly different, this is really going to help me explore the ideas of finding love while still kicking ass in a sci-fi mystery!
It's amazing the difference a day can make on your perspective. Yesterday, I was in a sour, caustic mood, and today I'm bright as a CFL bulb and rarin' to go. Keep moving forward!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
No, this isn't commentary on the struggles to be a professional writer (though I supposed in my current mood, that is an obvious undertone) nor is it a look at life shortcoming in general.
This is about writing, pure and simple.
A few months back, I shared with all of you my own personal joy of finishing my second novel, 'Arcane.' And what a novel it is, too. Too quickly (2 days), I began work on my third novel, the paranormal romance 'Glow.' I'm entering the second month, and I am sad to say I'm losing interest in the thread. 60 + pages in, the story just isn't holding my attention like I'd like it to.
So, dramatic shift in gears! I've taken some time to outline and storyboard my fourth novel -- a daring sci-fi medico-thriller about a widow who must follow in her virologist husband's footsteps to cure the world from a virus-induced stasis. I call it 'Pause.' Still not comfortable giving the web a free preview into the writing or characters, but suffice it to say I've gotten down the first 6 pages of the book with ease, and a little tweeking/editing has put me in good shape to keep moving forward.
Talk about things not working out as I planned them.
Alas, the moral of my super-short post is that taking a moment to re-assess where you are in projects is a great navigation tool for determining where to go next.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check my email again. Sigh.
PS -- I just wrote a rather scathing review of Dan Brown's newest, 'The Lost Symbol.' on Captivate's Book Break blog. Depending on when you check it, it might not be posted yet, so give it a day and check again. I promise it's worth the read :)
Monday, October 5, 2009
Great quote, huh? My husband said it last night, when trying to explain the way he feels when reading overdone, overworked writing -- don't worry, he wasn't talking about mine :) And, as always, I totally agree with him, but it got me thinking:
When do dropped hints and planted seeds become too much for a reader to take? Where is the line between too much information and not enough?
I'm not sure I have an answer for this question. You've all read my opinions on what a reader wants in a book, and how I try to fulfill that in my writing at every turn. After finishing reading my last book, ARCANE, Jason loved it, which is the great news. He loved the skeleton of the story, the narrative voice I told it in, and the twists and turns I have in store for the reader. Amid all the praise, though, was a deep comment I wasn't expecting:
'How do you know what the reader wants?'
'Simple,' I answered him. 'I know what I like, and I am a great reader. I am my target audience.'
'That's not going to work out all the time,' he rebutted.
'But I detest reading all the back story for a character that doesn't have anything to do with the plot!'
'Sure, I can understand that. But, how many books have you read and hated that millions of other people loved?'
Silence in the car.
See, I knew I married him for a reason :) This conversation, in direct association with the opening quote up there, made the wheels on my head spin. I want my book to be a success, I want it to be loved by millions. I want to walk into a Barnes and Noble, see someone picking up a copy of *my* book and reading over the jacket with a smile, then tap them on the shoulder and say, 'I wrote that!'
JK Rowling once said in an interview that she doesn't ever write for her readers, she writes for herself. Wise or foolish? Hmmm... Steph Meyer all but panders to her audience, engaging them in conversations on her blog and message boards. Wise or foolish? Both women are great, in their own ways, and both have fierce stories to tell, if sales are factor into this equation.
So, who's right? Should I worry about pleasing a larger audience with my writing, or should I write the story that I want to write, without breaking off into tangents I don't enjoy as a reader myself?
A few weeks ago, I got an *extremely* detailed analysis of my book from a writer friend of mine who begged me at every opportunity to explain the back story of a particular character. When writing, I found neither the need nor opportunity for this conversation, so I didn't worry about it. But should I? Is this analysis more a temperature gauge of my potential readership than my own gut feeling?
So many questions, so few answers -- ironic, I know, since I spent the last few weeks doing nothing but that.
I think I know what to do. I am going to read my own book. Start to finish. On paper. I'm going to take notes in red pen. I'm going to make it work, and I'm going to make it better.
Doesn't mean it's not great now. But, if I have the opportunity to excel, why shouldn't I? As many have pointed out, it's not over until the pages are printed :)
..... In a side note, I'd like to issue a big thanks to Simon and Schuster for holding the BLOGFEST 2009 event on their blog, which I piggy-backed for the past 2 weeks :) Hope you all enjoyed my answers to the questions, and now know me a little better!
..... Oh, and check out my work blog (www.captivate.com/byte-sized) for my new interview with Michael Moore! I had the opportunity to check out his film 'Capitalism: A Love Story' in a pre-release screening last week, so come see my review!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
And now, here is the final question before we go back to you regularly scheduled programming ...
Who are your favorite authors/what are your favorite books?
I don't think if I spent the next hour on this question I would finish it accurately. I love so many books from so many genres, I'm going to leave them out and feel silly later. Better to ask me what I don't like ... OK, here goes ...
What I love: JK Rowling; Steph Meyer's 'The Host' (though it needed to be cut by 100 pages or so); Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly series (who knew acne scars could be so hot?); Anne Rice (before she went crazy); Dean Koontz; Sherrilyn Kenyon (thanks for all those dreams, btw) ... Hmmm who else ... Greg Norris (a.k.a. Jo Atkinson, and my dear friend); Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Midsummer's Night'; Calvin and Hobbes comics; DnD authors and their adventures/commentary; 'Memoirs of a Geisha'; medical mysteries, horrors, adventures with twists and turns ... There's more, hang on ... Kathy Reight, whose name I can never spell properly, so I have stopped trying; Tess Gerritson's historical works; the story of 'Pride and Prejudice'; books with good covers (I dare you to argue with me about this) ... Oh! 'Holy Cow' was probably the best travel memoir I've ever read (the only one, too) ...
OK, that's a good taste of some of my preferences. Now, for the other side of the coin.
What I don't love: 'Catcher in the Rye' -- there, I said it; memoirs; anything older than I am, with the exception of Orwell's '1984' and other classic sci-fis I read in high school; monotonous chick lit hat's been done before; the first-person present tense in writing; John Grisham (man can write a great story but just can't end them); sorry ... i hate to admit this, but I didn't like 'Lord of the Rings' -- there is just no urgency!; women's lit, it's just not my thing; 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and other things that make me feel like I'm being preached to ...
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Ha. Hahahaha ... Wait -- nope, still a stupid question ... hahahaha!
Please. If it were easy to get a book published, everyone would do it. Of course it's hard! Aside from the daunting prospect of just writing and finishing a book, you have to go out and market yourself to a group of people who really don't want to listen to you. And, it's not their fault -- agents are picky because that's their job! Publishers won't waste money on a no one from no where! Are you out of your mind??
Getting something published it emotionally hard, too. Here is your masterpiece, your work of literary art that you slaved over and edited a hundred times. Your friends love it, your mom loves it ... Yet you hand it off like a first born child to a group of people for their direct and unflinching criticism. Your baby. Torn apart by an editor.
Yeah, that probably doesn't feel great.
However, all of these steps are in the process for a reason: to make sure that when you go to a bookstore, you're getting some great writing; to make sure the people not really interested in writing are weeded out early on. I've said it a hundred times: Keep moving forward. Don't take no for an answer. The people who are published are the ones that really work hard as perfecting their craft -- and they enjoy it.
Look, it's just fact that not everyone is meant to be a writer. You can take all the classes, attend all the seminars and writers conferences you want, but if you just don't have it, you don't have it. I can't hold a tune to save a life. I can't act myself out of a paper bag. Heck, I can't knit a stupid fair-isle sweater or remember the recipe for spaghetti sauce. But, this writing stuff, I'm pretty good at.
Oh, and another thing: If you really love it, don't let anyone (not even me) tell you that you're not good at it.
Friday, October 2, 2009
In good company. I would be honored if someone read one of my stories and had such a visceral reaction. Of course, I would then be entitled to my own visceral reaction, which would probably entail some very angry blog postings, emails and rants on the state of the country where it was banned. I would exercise my right to be vocal, but I would also lament the lives of the people with nothing better to do than decide for others the material you should read.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I am 29 years old -- that pretty much solidifies me in the era of 'adulthood,' so I say bring it on! Sex is not only something that everyone does, it's also perfectly natural, ultimately pleasing and totally exciting. It exists in every facet of commercials, TV, movies, ads, books -- you name it, sex sells it -- so why should it not exist in written stories, too?
I don't chock my books full of smut, but come on now. Too many people shy away from sex in books because they think it's too girly, or their puritan minds can't be dirtied by naughty words, or God forbid a high school girl read about a character getting to second base with her 'glorious' vamp -- I mean, boyfriend. Oh, the horror that would wreak on civilized society! Think of all the good girls turned bad!
We need to all grow up and understand that we live in 2009 (almost 2010) and that times have changed from the 1950s buttoned-up sexual repression lingering in some mindsets. Get over it, move on!
BTW, Simon and Schuster, I love how you tried to ease into the issue by adding the 'stuff like' before 'sex scenes' in your question. What is the other 'stuff' to which you are referring? Thanks for proving my point.
That rant off my chest, books are nothing without a good story. If a sex scene doesn't work within that story, then it's foolish to add one in just for some sizzle. I've read plenty of books with not even a kiss, and some with scenes that make me fan myself. A good writer knows when to draw the line and when to indulge a sweet tooth.
Overall, though, I'm always rooting for the heroine and her hero to hook up in the end. Or in the middle and the end. Or, in the beginning, then the middle, then before the climax, then at the end ...
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
It depends on the content, without a doubt. Each book you write has its own challenges, breezes and surprises; it's all these factors combined that really makes writing fun! If writing a novel got easier, what would be a writer's impetus to keep going? If writing a novel ever became so easy it was boring, I would stop writing.
My third novel, a WIP called 'GLOW,' is harder to write based on the content -- it's paranormal chick lit/love story. But the challenge it presents is what keeps me interested in the story, engaged in the relationship!
My first book, 'Manas,' was fun to write if only because of the sheer effort of writing and new found joy of the project. The second book, 'Arcane,' was brilliant in that I had so much more fun really knowing what I was doing and looking for in a particular scene. The third is great because my characters are so vivid -- they're like a big bunch of girlfriends! My novella rocks my world and is totally scary ...
So, I'm going to stick with content for this answer. The meat of the story is where the challenge and enjoyment of writing live for me, and every single story has a new set of barriers to overcome and treasures to unearth.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
In a sense, sure. Every story comes from me, but it's not like I get to choose what the characters say. They just say it. It's hard to explain, but there have been times when I didn't know that a particular scene was going to end a certain way, or a character make a cameo so late in the book, until my fingers type it out. And, that's the best moment -- when the story takes on a mind of its own.
I guess the best answer to this question is that I love my characters. They each mean something different to me, and all of my heroines have a bit of myself braided into their personality. That doesn't mean I become the character in my mind and answer to her name -- because that's crossing a weird line. It's more of an RPG experience: For a few hours every day, I can put on this hat, then when I'm done, I take the hat off and put it away. Wearing the hat is fun, but it's always nice to get back to me :)
Monday, September 28, 2009
Have you ever just wanted to give up?
I am the queen of starting projects and not finishing them. I have a closet full of partially knit scarves and baby blankets, and a fair-isle sweater, minus the fair-isle part, dating back to 2003 that I refuse to pick up because it's just too hard.
However, with writing, I don't leave things unfinished. I might not write in chronological order, and I have turfed my third novel, 'GLOW,' into a nice little carafe in my brain where it's still percolating in favor of the horror novella 'Unearthed.' It's too easy to just give up, and I don't feel like I could take the easy road out of a problem and be happy with myself. I've had to, as a dear friend of mine described, 'recharge my creative batteries' with a week or two off, but when I'm back and the ideas are flowing, I'm on top of the world.
So, no, I've never just wanted to give up on writing ... even if that fair-isle sweater is a lost cause. Grr ... stupid beautiful design ... too hard! :)
What hobbies do you have?
I love to knit and attend a bi-weekly knitting group at my favorite yarn store. It's so much cooler than it sounds, and those woman put me to shame with their intricate scarves and sweaters and dresses ... my little slippers and scarves tend to look feeble in comparison, but I still like it.
Another geeky admission: I play DnD. I'm a level 7 Drow Rogue named Gyndra -- a weapon of stealth who can see in the dark and slash through monsters before they can even react. My level 8 Half-Orc Rogue Grainne is a femme-fatale pirate with the strength of 3 men and the smile of a supermodel. DnD is such a wonderful release -- you can pretend you're someone else entirely for a few hours once a week!
I also read more than I probably should, love watching movies on XBox HD and enjoy hosting TV premiere parties and football Sundays.
More so than everything else, though, I love my family time. I've got two very young kids, and I play with them, crash on the couch with my husband and relax as a family as often as possible.
How often do you have to edit and rewrite while working on a piece?
If you asked my husband and main critic, the answer would be, 'Until it is perfect.' And, he has a point.
I am an editor by trade, so I go over my own work so many times that I can't count. This is the process:
I write out a chapter, usually in one long session when my mind is thrumming with ideas. Then, I set it down for the day and go to sleep. The next day, I open it up, love some of it, hate some of it, and rewrite whole passages to fit better. I add in dialogue and most of the meat I left out in my mad dash to transcribe the muse. Then, I set it aside and go to sleep. Third day, I pick it up again, re-read it for what feels like to 10th time, add in more details, change the sequence of events, change them back, then write forward into the next chapter, thus starting the whole process over.
The point is that I edit nonstop while I'm writing. I am a reader, and when I enjoy reading something, I feel happy. So, I edit until I feel happy. Sometimes, it's just a feeling that a scene doesn't work, or it's an idea of what could work better. Once, I switched an entire novel to third-person on a whim because I thought it might work better that way. It did.
Rewriting never makes things worse. Some of the best chapters I've ever written were done after my computer erased the entire original file and I had to start from scratch, or, came right after a 'recharge' where I couldn't move past a problem. I like my work to be perfect, and I've already completed so many versions and edits by the time my husband reads things. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy the criticism. :)
Do you feel that you stick to a certain theme (if you have written more than one book?)
Quick side note: Simon & Schuster didn't punctuate the above question correctly. I left it as-is, but it still irked me ... Didn't want you all to think it was my error.
I love fantasy: taking a normal person and throwing them into an abnormal environment or circumstances. Family within the abnormal circumstances is a big theme in my books -- how the dynamic changes, what the meaning of true family is, etc. I also touch on my own personal beliefs as an environmentalist, especially in 'Arcane,' where that is one of the main themes. Another quirk: There is an instance of knitting in each of my stories. Just a touch, nothing heavy handed.
Be sure to check in tomorrow for another installment!
Friday, September 25, 2009
Other than a slight drawback of making me a little more busy, writing has made me a happier person: I'm more creative, I listen more intently, I have thicker skin and I always carry a notebook with me. Now, I have something to talk about at parties -- writing is definitely a conversation-starter. I feel oddly satisfied and anxious at once, and my mind is set to a constant whir with ideas, dialogue and whichever scene I'm currently writing. It's a lot of fun -- and I'm even considering getting a tattoo on my right hand (writing hand) to signify the importance of the craft in my life. I've joined an amazing writer's group, which has broadened my horizons both creatively and professionally, and the additional happiness has solidified my desire to get healthier, too. I loved my life before I started writing, and this new facet has really sent me into orbit with no plans for re-entry. I owe my cosmic muses a big thank you.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
I have this recurring theme in my dreams that I can fly, only it's not so much bending my legs and taking off as catching a good column of air and swimming through the breeze. There are autumn days here in New England when I feel the drafts and think that I really can do it ...
What would your super power be?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
So, starting today with the first two questions, I'll answer one per day in tune with BLOGFEST 2009. Read along, leave your comments and email me (email@example.com) if you'd like to know more!
PS -- After the two weeks, I'm going to update you all on my current progress! A teaser: My new archaeological horror short had four published authors and a real publisher on the edge of their seats at a reading this past weekend! Yay!
What made you start writing?
There wasn't a concious decision to 'start writing' -- I've kind of always had the knack. My dad writes these fantastically creative Christmas letters every year, and when I got married, I wanted to continue the tradition.
There is nothing like a fabulous book, and I've read too many to count. My impetus for writing novels came after reading a wildly popular series and thinking to myself, 'You could have written that -- and you could have written it better.' As an editor, I'm constantly working with authors and words, and this was the first opportunity where I could create something of my own.
My dreams are these incredible stories that have plots, subplots and fully formed characters. All I get when I'm asleep are short passages, scenes and moments; and, after I translate them from my midnight scratches, they explode in my conscious.
I never thought while writing those first Christmas letters that I would love writing this much. It's completely addicting.
What was the first thing you wrote?
All sorts of stuff while I was in school ... papers and creative projects; I even tried to keep a diary multiple different times.
My very first writing that I shared with more than just a teacher were my Christmas letters. Full of deliciously purple prose and gorgeous verbosity, these letters boosted my confidence and were the lighter fluid of my future writing endeavours.
The match came in the form of my own desire to prove I really could write a better novel. I'd read so many in the recent past that I just didn't like, and 'Manas' was my answer -- full of mystery, adventure, romance, technology, danger ... all of my favorite things, and everything that makes a great read.
With the drive to prove to myself that I really could do it, I started writing 'Manas' in Aug. 2008 and finished in Feb. 2009 -- 80,000 words and a lot of humble learning later.
... Check back here once a day for the next few weeks while I answer another question in BLOGFEST 2009!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
But, summer this year brought a great treat with it -- I've completed my second full-length novel, Arcane. And, it's awesome. Weighing in at a lean, strong 70,000 words, it's full of adventure, mayhem, magic, chaos -- and yes, it is a kissing book.
Can you say, 'Reason to celebrate?' :)
Here's the back-page preview:
"Drew Morgan is just a normal girl, really. She shyly lusts after her downstairs neighbor, Nick, and enjoys quiet nights at home with her ancient cat. Except for her vivid fuchsia eyes, Drew’s life in Boston couldn’t be more mundane … Until a glowing stranger shows up in her living room and pulls Drew into Enna, a separate realm of existence ruled by the flow of magical energy called arcana. Her gorgeous neighbor Nick – a caustic spy for the Enna resistance – and his band of magical rebels fight against a chaotic regime hell-bent on rebooting the Arcanic Conductor and taking control.
Could normal Drew be the legendary prophet meant to restore the flow of arcana to Enna, or has there been a huge mistake? Drew’s vivid eyes are the key to finding the three shards of a broken medallion hidden in places only she can see. Family secrets are revealed, and new love blooms amid the desolation of Enna’s industrial decay, dangerous wilderness and fairy-tale castles. Drew must unlock her hidden arcana if she wants to restore Enna – or risk the realm falling under the rule of an evil chaos god working behind the scenes. A frenzied race to the Arcanic Conductor is eclipsed only by a climactic love scene between Drew and Nick – but nothing ever ends up the way it seems, especially when the whim of the gods is involved."
Sound interesting? Hopefully! Keep your fingers crossed and I promise to personally sign a copy for all of you when the book hits shelves :)
Moving forward, as is always the case, I've begun work on my third novel, tentatively titled GLOW.
This one is going to be a bit different (re: challenging) for me in that it's mostly a love story with a fierce paranormal twist.
Sundae de Silva's life is being lived for her. She's got a great job, great friends and a great home... but something is missing. When she stumbled into a Fenway bar to escape a rainstorm, little did she know the key to unlocking her future lay inside the lime green eyes of Brendan, bartender and superhero.
But Brendan's not a superhero. He's much more vivid and full of life than a silly drawing -- and the secret identity he's hiding has a much broader impact on humanity than anyone can guess.
Ehhhh not a great way of saying it, but I don't want to give anything away until the precise moment! :)
So, I'm having another writer's issue that I'd like some help with: I'm lost in the middle. I've got a killer beginning and a shocking, awesome end, and I know the climax of the story and the back story ... I've got everything I need to start ... except a clue what's going to happen in the middle.
Perhaps this is how you write a love story. Relationships aren't planned, thus a fictional relationship can't be planned either. I don't know what Brendan will say until he says it, and I don't know Sundae's reactions until she makes them. So perhaps this feeling of meandering is a byproduct of the type of story I'm writing.
I'm currently in the midst of writing chapter 2, and the story is yanking me along for the ride. I guess I can see it as my own writing adventure that I honestly don't know what's going to happen the next time I open up my file and start typing!
In other news ...
My writing group is going wonderfully! I highly (and with a humble head shake) advise any new or old writer to join one -- it's so supportive and the ideas that are tossed to and fro make for the most inspirational evenings!
I've finally got a web developer/designer ready to tackle my site, so hopefully I'll have more on that later...
My home office is in the works! As a brilliant friend of mine pointed out, creativity needs a home. And a home office filled with only the things that you love is the perfect place! I'll post pics once it's in good working order :)
Until next time, my friends, keep moving forward!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Let's catch you all up, shall I?
A few weeks ago, I walked into Barnes and Noble to get a computer programming book for my husband. I had a few minutes, so I browsed the shelves, wishing I would see my name mixed in among the multitude of authors. Then a flyer caught my eye: 'Deep Thoughts Writers Group -- first meeting this Wednesday night."
Well, I thought, here is my chance. As long as the people are nice and not judgemental, this might be an interesting thing to try.
Looking back, I should bite my metaphoric tongue -- it turns out, these people are incredible, and not just because they are good writers. But more on that later.
So, after changing around my child shift a little, I showed up in the cafe a few minutes early -- completely skeptical but willing to be open-minded.
I won't go into the minutiae of the meeting, but Greg and Brian were so sweet and genuine that I immediately accepted their invitation to join the full version of the same writers group in Milford (apparently, the BnN one was a satellite group). Plus, that same night, I overcame a small 2-week stint of writers' block by forging ahead in Chapter 12.
So, this past Friday, I packed up the shiny new laptop with its screen-saver bubbles and headed to the strip-mall bookstore in Milford.
And, there I met my friends.
I don't mean that in the sense I have no friends -- I mean it in the sense that writers need to be with other writers, and that there was an immediate kinship among the others at the meeting. Even in the world of editors, there is nothing quite like sitting down with real, talented (and real talented) fiction writers and discussing pop culture, debating the merits of one popular author over another, nit-picking sci-fi movies with fevered enthusiasm and sharing blueberry pie.
I mean, really ... how envious are you of this? I am green, and I was there!
Needless to say, this was intensely satisfying, not to mention that the writing that came out of it. The idea that you can relax your mind in a state of creative bliss while in the company of others on the same wavelength is incredible, let alone becoming the living embodiment of it. I *highly* recommend this ... but I can't guarantee your local writers group will be quite as awesome as mine. I'm really just that lucky.
On the actual writing front, there is not much to report. As I mentioned, I had a two-week block in my writing due mostly to the fact that no one was reading my chapters behind me. I love you all, but when there is no one to make happy with my writing but me, there really isn't an impetus to make the story go farther than my own head. I mean, I know how it ends and the twists and turns, but if no one else cares ...
But, thanks to Deep Thought (the group) and to a new resolve by my husband to read paper chapters (bound at work) in bed at night, I can feel the fire again under my bum.
And these will help keep me moving forward. Because, in every great career, there is a single point where everything has to start, where the ball towards fame starts rolling. And, for me, I think it's finally got a little push.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
A friend of mine came to visit over the weekend, and she brought with her something I'd forgot that I even gave away -- a complete, unedited version of my first novel, Manas.
The dog-eared pages and stains on the front page were good signs before she even formed the broad smile on her face.
She was bubbly, overjoyed and absolutely hooked on the story of my superspy Zellie and her leading man, Oliver. It was delightful when she even requested that I *sign* that unbound copy for her. Ten minutes later, she'd totally shook me down for every clue and even the name of the ultimate bad guy in the series. How can I possibly deny the request of my very first, not-married-to-me fan?
And this is a woman who *reads* -- the kind of woman a publisher only wishes were hooked on his new writer. Hint hint. She insisted that I take a week off work to start on the sequel to Manas, but I demurred with blushing thanks -- I have to finish what I'm working on now before focusing back on Zellie (even though she has a kick-ass story wriggling around in my head).
Well, talk about an addicting high. Having people fawn over me for my story is just something I don't think I'll ever get tired of -- but please go ahead and see if you can! :)
Alas, nothing more on it from an agent perspective, although it's been months since the last one turned me down sans explanation. Too bad -- Zellie will have her day in the sun soon, just perhaps not as a first publication.
Onto the project at hand: my sci-fi adventure Arcane.
A wise man that I do happen to be married to made a profound suggestion to me during a recent car ride: Could you tell this story another way?
Hm, I thought. Instead of pulling the reader firsthand through the experience, why not guide them using third-person?
After the shock of the idea's simple genius wore off on my husband, who glowed with pride, I sat down at my new laptop and got to work. Converting the 10 chapters I've already written gave me some much-needed separation form the writing -- enough to edit it with a fresh eye. Scenes I'd previously loved were sliced and diced; intentional love scenes were pushed farther back to highlight the adventure; and the new perspective gave way to a gush of new ideas spurred from the concept that the reader *didn't* have to hear everything going on in Drew's mind -- a peek really was more than enough.
Ah, at long last, some clarity. Now, I'll finish Chpt. 10 and move forward with confidence Arcane is now being told in the best perspective possible. Well, at least, the best that I've discovered so far.
Also, before I end this entry, I want to send out a big thanks to another friend (who, as always, shall remain nameless) who's been reading along with my chapters. You know who you are. Also, thanks for asking permission, dude. I'm glad you are enjoying it!
Friday, April 17, 2009
There are some books where you can jump right into the story without explanation -- and that's really how you can tell good writing: If the author can fit in all the basics without making the reader feel like she is reading a resume, that's the ticket.
I've reach a point in the writing of my second book, Arcane, where I have now given the reader all of the cursory information she needs to really begin: name, location, personality tidbits and a taste of a back story. We've got intrigue, growing suspense and the hint of a mystery much more epic hiding in the coming chapters.
But, I've reached a wrinkle -- falling victim to a classic new-writer problem: the brain dump. Too much information too fast.
See, I (as a writer) want me (as a reader) to have all my possible questions answered while still leaving room for interpretation. This leads to jagged, branching writing where I take on too many topics all at once. It's also incredibly confusing for me (the reader) to process it all afterward. And the last thing I want to do is read while taking notes -- I gave that up when I left college, thanks.
Dialogue must feel organic -- and organic is messy and jagged and branching. It's haphazard, without rules and tangent-y. But no, I must resist! I need to prune, trim and harness the power of conversations to give only the information I know the reader needs to know.
But please, I can hear you begin, give me some damn context! Siiigh. Fine. But If you steal my idea, I'll hunt you down and make you wish you'd never logged on :)
In the separate realm of Enna, Drew has met up with a motley crew of characters that each have their own talent over a part of Enna. Each power is different and, in some cases, comes from different sources -- either within the person or directly from the magic. This is an important distinction, or, I should say, it will be an important distinction.
So, there are two branches of information here: the individual powers and the difference between the power sources. Back to the organic conversation discussion, the problem distinguishing the two topics is that Drew wants to get all the info she can get while everyone is gathered around and talking. She wants desperately to understand why the hell she's here in Enna and who are the people she's now being asked to trust. She wants to ask the questions -- and, as of right now, does -- while the others are readily willing to give up the answers.
But, is that OK for the reader, too? Will the reader, not being able to quite see Drew's path the way I can, be able to distinguish the details, or will they feel like it's just too much to process all at once? Should I dump all the information on the reader and main character during an intensely curious fire-side chat, or leave it up to each character to show their talents in various situations? Would it be better to have a small description of each up front, then delve deeper into the theory behind how it all works later?
Hmmm .... lots to think about. I believe that the final suggestion is the one I will go with. There is only a certain amount o f information dump that I can handle as a reader, so I'm going to try splitting it up within the next two chapters instead of plopping it too heavy and thick in the current one.
See, writing it out does help! :) Thanks for following me on my little journey. The payoff will come later, when I sign a copy of my published hardcover for each of you. Thanks so, so much.
Keep moving forward ...
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I'm in the middle of Chapter 3 of my new novel, Arcane. I'm still not fully comfortable giving the whole web a free preview, but suffice it to say things are totally awesome.
My girl, Drew, is getting to know some bright new characters at the moment -- and re-meet a few she thought she knew but didn't. Do they have ulterior motives? Of course. Are they what you think? Probably not. :)
Meanwhile, we've got our first glimpse of the enemy of the moment: a set of nasty twins named Evan and Elle. Are they working alone? I'll have to write more to find out!
On the Manas front, nothing new to report. I'm still embarrassed over the horrifically honest critique I got from my friend, Kathy. But, all things happen for a reason, and I've taken her suggestions to heart and learned my lessons for Arcane. Thanks again!
I even took my focus and commitment to Manas to a new level last week by getting fuchsia hightlights in my hair just like Zellie. Now I know why she loves it so much!
I can feel the story bubbling up inside right now, and I can't wait until I have another few moments (or free afternoons) at work to delve back into the alternative realm of Enna.
The best part: Inspiration comes from everywhere! So, watch what you say or do around me for the foreseeable future -- I may just immortalize your words in print one of these days! Agents and NYT Bestseller list, watch out!
On the web site front ... well, I'm sure we'll have it up one of these days :) When it goes live, you're all going to love the design -- sleek, saucy, otherworldly ... oh, it's making me shiver in antici... pation the more I think about it.
Until then, keep moving forward!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
-too much passive voice (was)
-POV issues (facial expressions, etc.)
-show - don't tell (don't say "startled" - show raised eyebrows)
-do not start a sentence with the word it - ever! (okay, once or twice per book)
-too much he said, she said - show the reader who is talking
-tighten and eliminate unnecessary words to increase tension
-too many adverbs - use action verbs instead (don't walk slowly - slink)
-no coma needed at the end of dialogue if not followed by he said / she said
-use Times New Roman 12, double-spaced - google standard m/s format
I'm both embarrassed and humbled by her initial observations. Talk about a rough draft and a huge setback.
And, I still love her -- more so now that she was able to point out such specific and general issues with it. Not one of the 4-5 other people who've read the first chapter (not counting the 20+ agents) could break down the actual writing like that.
I guess I do need to realize that I'm not as brilliant as I thought -- which has to be the hardest lesson I've had to learn thus far.
Her words of praise rang a little hollow despite being full of sincerity ... "With that said, you are an amazing writer! Your ideas are great and your characters are interesting! The fact that you can churn out a rough draft in such a short time is truly a testament to your ability and your tenacity. Embrace the editing process and you will be a best selling author!" ... but I do appreciate the sentiment.
Sigh. Back to the drawing board ... or, writing desk. I'm not sure where to go from here, but I can tell you that it will be forward.
She suggested that I join a critique group or writing class. But will I actually have the ability to sign up for something like that? I'm not sure ...
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Thanks for keeping my head up and my eyes forward, ladies :)
Next steps for me include my Sunday-night pep talk with highly respected writer Sophie Powell, whose book, Mushroom Man, has garnered quite fantastic compliments from critics. I'm looking forward to her take on things and taking some advice.
Which leads me to a side point: Screw all of you high-horse writers who take obscene pleasure in being condescending and patronizing to aspiring authors like me who have the sheer audacity to ask for advice -- what's wrong? Don't want the competition? I've written another author, who will remain nameless, who basically told me to go to writers conferences and 'do what the rest of us have done -- keep working and moving forward.' Gee thanks. I really appreciate that. Spend lots of money to maybe get your work noticed, then sit back and watch the dollars pour in. Great. Not for nuthin', but I'm not an idiot.
Anyways ... I plan on snail-mailing out query letters to agents who I've been putting off because I don't like the idea of regular mail correspondence -- ironic for me since I'm the self-proclaimed world's best pen pal :) Aside from the environmental impact of sending all these queries out paper-wise, I also feel as though agencies who use mail only are stuck in the past. Then again, beggars can't be choosers... though I'm hardly a beggar at this point. Nah, I need a few more years to get to that point!
Also, I'm looking for some niche, boutique publishers interested in publishing my book, so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a fan of any!
And, perhaps, if there is a good one nearby, I may go to a writers' conference. Ugh.
But, do I have another story in the works or what! I've been happily writing on it for a few weeks, and I am so proud of what I'm coming up with in my magical world of Enna that it's going to blow your socks off :)
So, don't fret -- things are moving forward and, though intensely disappointed over the falling of another agency request, I will persevere. Thanks for everyone's support :)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Quite the contrary.
You see, I spent about six months writing my debut work, a awesome fictional novel whose premise I'm not about to divulge online (because it'll get published one day...).
I delighted in the 'brain bursts' that led to multiple pages and witty dialogue, and I wallowed in the problems I simply couldn't solve. I planned my twists and discovered my main villain at about the same time I'd expect a very sharp reader to. To me, my characters became real -- their story more a personal memory of mine that made-up wanderings.
It was intensely fun and self-revealing -- and much easier than I expected it would be, considering all the work that went in to it in retrospect.
You see, I'm not only a novelist -- I'm also a mom of two very young boys, a wife of an exceptional man (and drill-sargent critic) and a full-time employee for leading out-of-home media company Captivate Network. I cook dinner every night, work out three times a week, and participate in leisure activities that include but are not limited to Facebook posts, weekends and nights playing Dungeons and Dragons with my husband and friends, weekly Rock Band 2 parties and, of course, my monthly facials and Friday night knitting group.
It's a lot to take on, but, as Tim Gunn would say, I make it work. I am a trained and naturally gifted writer -- come on, we all have something we're good at, and it's OK to be confident in your attributes. Some would say I border on cocky, but that's debatable.
But... the 'getting published' part. Well, that just has me a little apathetic at the moment, to be honest.
My novel, while very well written and based on a strong story, has garnered more interest than I logically had the right to expect and/or deserve. I am, literarily speaking, a nobody from nowhere who one day decided she was going to write a book.
But, that's not where the story goes bad -- I've actually had quite a bit of intense interest in my novel. It's just that, in the given market, no one is willing to commit to something they aren't wholeheartedly passionate about. Unlike like 99% of writers whose first books go unnoticed by agents and have to resubmit numerous drafts, I've been contacted by *four* separate agencies about possible representation. That's truly amazing and an incredible compliment.
It's just that three out of the four have now declined. After requesting the whole document, I was really thinking the last agent was going to be the one -- because, after all, it only takes one.
That may become my new mantra: It only takes one -- one agent to like it, one agent to sell it and one publisher to buy it.
It's time to keep writing my second novel and, while awaiting word from the last pending agency, keep moving forward.