Monday, November 29, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Sequel ...

Writing the sequel to my spy novel has been a lot like trying to refuel a plane in mid-air: There are so many things at work simultaneously; one wrong move can lead to a fiery explosion. Or re-write. Whatever.

The characters might be mine, but they think for themselves more than I think for them. I picked out this totally cute outfit for Zellie the other day – a flouncy black skirt, teal tights and shiny red ballet flats – and she dissed me in favor of a black running suit. What a bitch, right? Nah, she’s just being the kick-ass girl I wrote. And still love, no matter how many times she makes me crazy.

Case in point: Chapter One of ‘Nero.’ It’s been nearly two months since I put aside my partial, 60,000-word, almost-done alien love story in favor of the sequel to ‘Manas’ – and I promise you that two months has been spent deciding how to start. I have my adventure, I have my new characters/love interest, I have my clues and subplot and more than 36 pages of random scenes from future chapters. But, that darn beginning had me stumped for 8 solid weeks.

Everything’s OK now; I capped the chapter with a killer one-liner over the long weekend, and I’ve plowed forward at a dizzying pace into Chapter Two. But, I feel the need to examine why in the name of JK Rowling it took me that damn long to write 14 pages, double-spaced.

You see, sequels are funny things – much more so than a regular novel. With a regular novel, you are the master of the world. You make up the rules, dress your characters in clothes and personalities, and make them say anything. (Even if it’s corny and dumb; I’m looking at you, SK). But now … well, those things are already done for me. I’ve been confined to a mold I lovingly created, edited and honed to this ferocious, fast-paced novel, and now I have to navigate my way out of it without writing myself into a stereotyped corner. (I’m looking at you, Friends.)

But, if Zellie has taught me anything it’s this: When one door closes, you have to break out your lock-pick set and brute-force crank that sucker open.

In the two years since creating ‘Manas,’ I’ve changed as a writer. The original ‘finished’ document is similar only in its bones to the beauty now being submitted to publishers. What used to take me 5 or 6 drafts (spaced months apart) has translated into 3 drafts written under a much shorter time frame. I’m honing my craft and impressing my husband along the way.

So, what’s the hard part? The recap. If you’ve ever picked up a sequel, you know what I’m talking about. There are plot points introduced (and lived) in the first novel that the reader needs to be reminded of before the sequel can really begin. And, what about those poor people who picked up No. 2 first? They need to know what’s going on if they’re keeping pace – and, with my Zellie novels, that’s dizzying even when you know what’s going on.

It’s all about distilling relevant information – much like a real spy would, actually. You have to think ahead and realize that this chapter will most likely evolve the deeper you get into the story. Be OK that your first draft (no matter how many goosebumps it gives you) is a *first draft* and will only get better.

Keep moving forward, and I’ll see you back here soon! ; - )

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meet My Newest Tricks and Treats

Halloween is almost here, and while I dread passing out my 3 Musketeers Dark Chocolate Mint bars to all the adorable princess and superheroes (who just won't experience the same enjoyment from those little minty pillows of heaven as your truly), I would like to tell you a real a scary story ...

Imagine, if you will, a girl. She's quirky, cute and highly opinionated. One day, she decides to can it with her snark and try her hand at writing a book -- after all, she can't keep saying 'I could've written that better' when she'd yet to actually try.

So, she writes cet book – and it's not half bad. In fact, it's *so* not half bad that, after 18 nauseating months of cold email attempts (with some shudderingly horrible rejections), she secures an fabulous agent to represent this book to publishers.

(Cue angelic music as sunshine bursts through the clouds.)

But, here's where this story gets scary. Our girl must face down the dreaded nemesis of .... HER OWN IMAGE! Dun-dun-duuuuh!

..... OK. Let's pretend that wasn't so thinly veiled as I reveal this pink-haired lass is in fact me. The climax, though, is absolute fact: I don't know what the hell to do with myself now that I'm sorta kinda half-way to being a published author.

Here's hoping a few paragraphs explaining what I feel has become my MANIACALLY large ego clears up the confusion. But first, from where does all this scary proselytizing stem? Actually, a very happy announcement:

(Cue confetti bursting from cannons in a shower of brilliant, sparkly paper bits.)

MY NEW WEBSITE IS LIVE. is totally open to your viewing pleasure! My fabulous web designer, Shawn Koczarski, has come up with an elegant, playful and clean design that I will be filling with delicious little bits of info about me in the coming months – including playlists of songs that have inspired me, my favorite quotes and, of course, this blog on the homepage.

But back to my slightly awkward explanation: I'm not an expert when it comes to Facebook and Twitter. In fact, as recently as a month ago I was publicly (and professionally) denouncing 'tweeting' as the second coming of the apocalypse. My teetering with social media most likely stems from the fact that I'm shy.


No really, I am. I've always prided myself on my ability to exist quite happily *not* in the spotlight. So, imagine the unbelievable burst of pink satin HORROR when I realized there is this whole PROMOTING thing you have to do when you want to be a successful author!

Think I'm being dramatic? Have YOU ever created your own fan page on Facebook and had to have your personal site 'like' your professional one? Have YOU ever created a Twitter feed whilst weighing the simply unbelievable notion that people are going to want to read your posts? Have YOU ever carefully considered how to craft and propagate a professional image for a profession you don't even have yet?

Then back off and let me apologize for seeming like a ego-maniac who is CLEARLY tooting a very large horn that she hasn't quite learned to play.

However, please don't confuse this personality trait with any lack of confidence or arrogance on my part. I'm a true triple writing threat: I'm cute and marketable, I'm clever and intelligent, and I can write better than most people can think. So there.

... I just don't know what the hell I'm doing. :-D And, it's kinda fun being so low on totem pole, knowing that one day I'll look down at these days and think, 'You were such a n00b back then.'

Because, *trust me*: I know I am.

Drive slow and have a safe Halloween with all your tricks and treats ... and here's hoping you enjoy mine!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two years ago this week ...

... I decided I was going to write a novel. I'd always thought the idea was intimidating -- worth bragging about, for sure -- but YIKES. Talk about a daunting project, but I was determined to prove to myself that I could do this. I'd read too many poorly executed books, and said too many times, 'I could have written that better.' Well, here was my chance.

I started with an empty paper sack and tossed in everything I love to read about: hackers, knitting, pink hair, adventures, European travel, British accents, geeks, romance, genetics ... I figured if I was going to put in the time and effort to write a book, I was going to make the process totally fun and, at the least, create something that I was proud of.

Six months (and many personal revelations) later, the rough 'dirty stone' (as Naomi Campbell refers to them) was 90,000 words of a mess, but it was my first finished novel and I loved it. I even went out and got fucshia highlights like Zellie in my hair to celebrate.

Without wasting a beat, I started in on ARCANE, my second novel, and five months later had completed that one as well.

... But MANAS fought it's way back to the foreground of my brain again. Now, knowing a little more of what I was doing re:writing, I retackled the novel, cutting 15,000 and adding back in another 10,000. I reworked passages so they read more smoothly and polished. Then, I gave it to very dear and very honest friend who ripped it to shreds -- and I actually found that I appreciated the criticism. Who was I becoming? I read, revised and edited until my eyes just couldn't take any more.

That fall, I gifted copies of the book to family -- they loved it, but once again I found I was unhappy with the final product. MANAS needed something, but not before I started my third novel (and current WIP) GLOW.

This spring, while taking a break from GLOW's Sundae and Brendan, the MANAS bug hit me again. I woke up one morning and realized I'd just dreamed up the opening to the sequel -- which means that my heroine, Zellie, had more story to tell. It then became my job to make sure her first story was the best I could make it. I read and re-read, and eventually subjected myself to the possibility of another heinous review from my friend. Thankfully, this time around, she loved it.

So, now it was time to show the new and improved MANAS off a little. Agents were contacted, copies were requested and here we are, back at present day.

I'm not sure exactly where this little-book-that-could is going to take me in the future, but I can tell you that it all started two years ago this week.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Editor decides to get an Editor

It's been a while since I took to the blogosphere to chat about anything besides the work side of my life (, but I have found myself with quite a bit to say over the past few weeks.

Let's do a recap.

At the beginning of April, I discovered the joys of a writers' retreat. Twelve members of my Toadstool writer's group rented a house in mountain country for a long weekend of eating and writing and more eating -- though truth be told, the delicious prose coming out of the event was much more satisfying than any bangers and mash and sticky mango rice I may have consumed (but just barely re: the mango rice).

Working off an idea that electrified my muse into near blathering hysterics, I furiously penned a 20,000-word novella in weeks, typing the final first-draft words over a schmeared bagel and cream cheese the day before we all left for home (the final copy has been sent off in hopes of publishing, so fingers crossed).

My story is about an island where men the likes of romance novel covers are created, imprinted and sold to women looking for life-long love. Meg, a strong girl tired of the dating scene, picks out her Mr. Perfect, only to secretly fall in love with the geeky doctor who owns the tropical lab but spends his nights online gaming. When the trio are stranded on the island, Meg must decide who she really wants. It's a very tingly, dense romance with the most beautiful men, a sarcastic heroine and the sexiest kind Clark-Kent geek I could imagine. If you're interested in reading it, shoot me an email ( and I'll see what I can do.

The retreat also served another writing purpose: On the final morning, I woke up and was once again struck by lightning: The missing plot point I've been struggling with in GLOW solved itself. Well, I'll give my multiple muses (especially the one who looks like Eric Northman from 'True Blood') due credit: Someone found the missing film reel and played it in my mind before my feet even touched the floor -- and I knew instantly my months of stoppage was at a dramatic end.

Sundae and Brendan now know where they are going -- well, that's not really accurate. I always knew how my story about the universe-crossed lovers would end, I just couldn't see how they got there. But, now I know. And whooo boy it's epic.

Moving on, I've also realized something extremely important re: writing: Even editors need editors.

No matter how much experience one has as an editor (meaning my 8+ years and eagle-sharp eye), you simply *cannot* edit your own work. Ever. It's a certified impossibility, and anyone who disagrees with me needs a real editor like whoa.

I asked a dear friend of mine who has nearly 45 years experience teaching English grammar to please 'BE MEAN' to my book, 'Arcane' -- Miss Phyl took the whole thing and, in 12 days or so, gave me back a copy that made me squeal. Every single page had at least one mark of editing to help clarify, fix, edit, correct, etc. Not that 'Arcane' was messy or not well written by any stretch -- I am, after all, a professional and, as I've proffered a few times on this very site, pretty darn good -- but it just goes to show you how blind you can be to your own mistakes.

My favorite part of the whole editing process is the distance it's given me from my own work. I'm going back over passages I thought were perfect only to find they were A.) not necessary to the overall plot, B.) long-winded and verbose, or C.) too quick and needing more explanation. It's truly fascinating how things can change with another set of eyes.

I am happy to announce that the scrub of my 80,000-word paranormal romance/adventure is complete, as is the novella 'Mr. Perfect.' I expect to be querying agents within the next few weeks for 'Arcane,' then I'm going to finish 'GLOW' before the end of the summer.

It's going to be a busy few months.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What's so amusing about muses?

Let's talk about muses. Why? Because I'm having a bit of a Renaissance with mine at the moment and I'd like to sing some praises while the mood so strikes :)

I've recently discovered a few very interesting things about my muse -- aside from the love/hate relationship we've been having lately. Fortunately, I think we've patched things up and are relishing in a little make-up love, which is leaving my writing hand damn sore.

But before I go there, let's get intellectual. Muses originated in Greek mythology as the 'women or spirits who inspire the creation of literature and art,' according to Wikipedia. There is actually a pretty fascinating history and lore behind the myth -- sorry, I meant conception! -- of the muses. Here's the Wiki excerpt on each of the 9:

"Calliope (epic poetry) carries a writing tablet; Clio (history) carries a scroll and books; Erato (lyrical poetry) is often seen with a lyre and a crown of roses; Euterpe (music) carries a flute, the aulos; Melpomene (tragedy) is often seen with a tragic mask; Polyhymnia (sacred poetry) often is seen with a pensive expression; Terpsichore (dance) is often seen dancing and carrying a lyre; Thalia (comedy) often is seen with a comic mask; and Urania (astronomy) carries a pair of compasses and the celestial globe."

My muse -- or, muses -- don't exist within this seemingly extensive list of inspirations. My muses whisper in my ear as my conciousness is slipping off to dreamland. And I dream every single night in full 3-D Technicolor, complete with plotlines, narration, sensation ... the whole 9 yards. Many of my best ideas began as nighttime synapses placed there by my lucky muses.

When I do finally take pen to paper, I, like pretty much every writer I know, look to well known faces to be the embodiment of my characters. I think in terms of who would be best suited to star in movie adaptations of my stories, and from there I can visualize them interacting on my own planes of imagination.

And, the funnest part is that there are no rules. A dear friend of mine calls himself 'Mrs. Flanigan' after his perpetual muse Joe Flanigan, who has an up-front, starring role in every book he's written ... as far as I know.

Mine? Well, I actually have more than one. My favorite female muse is Zooey Deschanel (Left). Her innocence is twisted and jagged, which leads to branching avenues of saassiness, hidden strength and witty banter that just keep me turning the pages. I also absolutely adore Yohanna House (right), who won ANTM a while back. She's just, well, feirce ... and I don't think I've ever seen more beautiful physical features. Oh, and how adorable was Kenley from 'Project Runway' fame? :)

As far as male muses ... well, that list is a bit more extensive. But, I'll offer another three jsut for space's sake. First and foremost, I would hand-pick Ian Somerhalder (left) for pretty much any male role I've ever written. He's perfect, the king of my muses, if you will. And that smirk --gah! Next up and current star of my sequel is Billie Joe Armstrong (right) ... whose name I've changed to Faolan Vale. The darkness and, again, strange innocence leaves me feeling mischevious and coy. Then, we've got Alexandar Skarsgard. I don't actually find him particulalry attractive, but the way his eyes brood, and the sheer size of the man leave me kinda breathless.

So, why all about my muses? Well, I'm glad they came back.

I've been completely hijacked from my normal relaxation time by this new story I'm tentatively calling 'Perfection.' I expect it'll be novella-length -- about a girl who goes looking for the perfect man and ends up finding a geek instead. Think 'LOST' scene, mixed with 'Jurassic Park' science, and toss in some original sc-fi brilliance and, of course, gaming.

Off to write some more and cuddle with my muses while they whisper in my ear. Talk to you all later!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cleverly disguised as an editor, waiting to throw off the cloak

I've got a hot cup of Hawaiian Hazelnut with a few shots of espresso to give it some perk; I've got a not-busy day at work filling in a spotlight of International Business Tips (which I wrote); and I've got plenty of new inspiration to type a few hundred words, at least, so let's get to it!

Last night I was settling into my memory foam mattress, on my memory foam pillow, while my noisemaker made it sound like I was living under a tin roof in a rainstorm -- and that's when the muse decided to take a walk into Chapter 9 of GLOW. I only let him/her get a few steps in -- I was honestly too tired and too comfortable to scrawl in the minimal light a few ideas. So, I rolled onto my belly and let the ideas fill my dreams.

I've had a lot of wonderful dreams lately -- and I mean real dreams, not the scenarios I concoct in my waking hours about being interviewed about my latest best-seller. These dreams have filled pages in my writing notebook with a homage to William Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' that I'm currently calling 'A Midsummer's Nightmare' -- at least until something cooler strikes my fancy. It stars a few ghosts, a few ghosthunters, some jilted dead lovers with an eye for vengeance and, of course, Nym, a mischievous overseers just trying to do the right thing.

I've got a mysterious scene tumbling around where I wake up at a police station in London with no idea how I got there -- but it's not really a police station, but a cover for an underground organization that takes me in to help me find out why I came to be there in the first place. It's kind-of awesome, actually ... I have the whole story and an ending that will leave you out of breath and smiling, but I'm not telling yet :)

But, best of all, I had a dream the other night that I've since translated into the opening chapter of MANAS II, the sequel to my first novel that is out with an agent right now under exclusivity for possible representation. Bodyparts crossed, please. I'm calling the book NERO (as MANAS means 'knowledge,' NERO means 'power'), and I've met a few new characters, including a brother-and-sister-in-crime Faolan and Lynly Vale, who would like to join in for a little fun.

So, creatively, things are really moving forward. I'm in a great place, with a ton of great ideas ... and I'm enjoying myself, which is hard to do once you start viewing your writing as a business venture rather than an awesome hobby that you're good at.

My coffee is getting cold, and my fingers are itching to transcribe the muse from last night's untimely interruption. Have a wonderful day, and buy a Kindle, will you? hehehee

PS -- The new website design is *stellar*! The timeline was set back a little, as my web designer was buying a house and the deal fell through (due to the moronic sellers who need a punch in the face), but the design is really lovely, sleek, professional and still manages to have my personality :)

PPS -- Hair appointment today to refresh and brighten up all my pink! So excited, and it's really bringing me more in tune with Zellie, who in the sequel will again have some pretty awesome hair! I'm thinking ... bright bubblegum at the roots, fading through fuchsia (her/my signature color) and into a candy-apple at the tips. Fierce! I'm gunna try it out today on me first! :)