Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Don't get me wrong. It was a perfectly lovely rendition of the song and I'm sure the band worked hard to make it so. Then why, do you ask, was it an abomination? Because it wasn't the Bing Crosby version, of course!
I believe that certain things have been done so well that they should never be redone. For me, Bing's version of "White Christmas" is one of them. It should be put on the "do not touch list" and enjoyed in its original glory forever.
Oh, sure. I'm all about innovation and re-imagining. I know that there are only 13 plots (or something like that) out there in the world. You could argue that anything I do as a writer has been done before. You'd probably be right.
However, there are lines. And artists of any kind--be they musicians, actors, writers, what have you--should not cross those lines. Some lines are personal. Some lines have been drawn in the collective sand. This is why the movie-loving world cringed as one over rumors that Ben Affleck and J-Lo were going to remake Casablanca.
Again, lovely people... but you shouldn't mess with a classic.
We are all influenced by what we love. We find ways to bring elements of our favorites into the fresh worlds we create. I know exactly why I want to write a longtime-friends-to-lovers romance. It has everything to do with the favorite books of my childhood.
But writing a story about friends falling in love is totally different than writing about a redheaded Canadian orphan falling for her best guy pal. If I ever cross that line, I'll have gone to the dark side. And I'll probably be sued.
Let's face it: Anne and Gilbert, like so many things, have already been done to perfection.
So: how do you re-imagine favorite stories or songs without crossing the line? What movie, song, book, or TV show is on your "do not touch" list? (And if anyone wants to turn this into a rant about remaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer without Joss Whedon, do feel free.)
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Maybe it's the fact that they take place on Christmas Eve - a time I've always associated with magic ever since I realized Santa was going to need some mad space-time-continuum-bending-skills to complete his route. Maybe it's the songs (Kermie's Only One More Sleep Til Christmas is my personal anthem). But I think the main reason is the idea of love redeeming even the most curmudgeonly on Christmas.
I'm one of those people who doesn't view villains as "evil". That is one of my pet peeves in reading a villain's POV - I think it's very hard to do it right because in my opinion No one thinks of himself as evil. And if you aren't "evil" then you aren't beyond redemption. And I love that little flicker of hope. You may have been hardened by life and the poor choices you made. You may have realigned your moral compass so "merciless" becomes a mercy in itself (deprivation of coal is teaching Cratchett toughness, you know). You may have built up walls to protect yourself from the very love you want so badly, but it's never too late.
I love that message.
When Carina press contacted me and asked me to write a paranormal Christmas story, I knew I wanted to play with the idea of going through hell to learn to open your heart. It was an homage to my favorite Christmas awakening stories. But No Angel didn't end up having three spirits or Cindy Lou Who. It has angels, demons, Hollywood celebs, and Lucifer himself - but most importantly to me, it has a character who, though she loves Christmas and never thinks of herself as Grinchy, needs to learn to let herself love and be loved. And if a Christmas Eve trip to the Underworld can't convince her, nothing will.
What's your favorite Christmas/Holiday story? Do you have certain ones that you watch or read every year as part of your holiday traditions?
Monday, December 06, 2010
The good news? (Yes, there's a "good news" reason I've been remiss on this blog.) I passed National Boards!
Now, for those of you not in the teaching world, this is a rigorous process that involves a year or more of endless navel-gazing. We tape ourselves teaching, we watch the videos ad nauseam, we send our reflections out for other teachers to evaluate, and we take tests in our subject area. During this time, candidates are hard to live with. We're also not the world's best teachers.
There's all kinds of hooplah around What This Means. But let's set aside the official scoop and take a trip in Kate Land, shall we? Passing my Boards means that I have a valid certificate for the next ten years. I have a decade off from certification hoop-jumping! Hurray! Perhaps that will give me more time to write... assuming, of course, that I can force myself to stop celebrating and hunker back down with my manuscript.
So. There are some of my excuses for (a) not blogging and (b) not working on my novel.
What are some of your favorite excuses for slacking off on your writing and PR?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I've had one wonderful phone call already and received Brenda's initial feedback to incorporate into my Golden Heart entry. For lots of people Thanksgiving means turkey, cranberry and relatives. For unpublished romance writers, it also means hurry and mail that entry to Texas. Run to Kinko's, check the collating of each packet, put on those clippies, count everything one more time, and then hit the FedEx desk.
Brenda suggested including more internal thought, especially from my hero, which is extremely hard for me. I'm not a very introspective person in my own life, so pulling thoughts out of the deep hearts of my characters is a big reach. Also, she hopes for a stronger sense of place because I've nailed the Army stuff but I should pump up the Afghanistan setting. On rereading my pages, I completely agree. Fifty pages with one reference to heat, two to mountains, and one to dust. Realistically dust should be on every page. Dust should fall out of the manuscript into readers' laps, Afghanistan as a 4-D Imax movie. But I'll look for a happy medium with respect to sand and dust. Third, Brenda suggested I be more specific about the passage of time between or during scenes. Right again. The challenge for me is to add specificity without constantly writing "Three hours later" or "The next day." When I have a challenge like that, I randomly pull a bunch of books off the shelf and look at chapter and scene transitions and try to learn from the greats.
I can do this. I am doing this, last night and tonight as soon as I finish this blog. (Legal stuff: Photo of Marines in Afghanistan by Lance Cpl Brian D. Jones. See more great photos at this Flickr photostream.) Side note: It is snowing in Seattle! Right now, out my window. Talk about distraction!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Pinochle, hearts, poker – those are my kinds of games. But those are all the games where you are pitting your skill (and luck) against someone else’s rather than against The Fates.
I feel like the appeal of craps and roulette and those games which depend entirely on the roll of dice or the plunking of a little ball is in throwing yourself into the hands of the Universe and letting it do what it will with you. I haven’t ever done that, but maybe I’m missing out.
(Is anyone else humming Luck Be a Lady to yourself right now or is that just me?)
In my new release, The Naked Detective, my heroine Ciara has been cautious for years, never taking a chance. Then she takes one and it works out for her so… well, she throws herself into the hands of the Universe and lets it ride. Ciara becomes an instant gambling junky, high on the thrill of her first win. And when she keeps on winning…. Oh yeah, we know how dangerous that is. She spins right out of control, but is that so terrible when the last thing you want is caution?
It’s an adventure to give up control of your life, throw yourself into the hands of Fate and let go – and if you aren’t feeling quite that daring yourself, you can live vicariously through Ciara. ;)
Are you a risk taker? Does gambling make your heart race or your stomach drop? What’s your favorite way to throw caution to the wind?
Sunday, November 07, 2010
This just in, from Julia Quinn's website:
The Smythe-Smith girls finally get their heroes.
Look for Book #1 in the Smythe-Smith Quartet
early summer 2011.
Is anyone else RIDICULOUSLY thrilled by this news? I still remember mowing through the Bridgerton series one rainy weekend in college. My gal pal and I were reading different books in the series, but we kept laughing in tandem over the Smith-Smythe musicales. Always something to look forward to, those musicales...
One can only hope that Lady Danbury makes a triumphant return in the quartet. LOVE that sassy old dame!
Sunday, October 31, 2010
'Tis the season for carving pumpkins, eating massive amounts of candy, an scary each other silly. In keeping with this particular holiday spirit, I thought I'd write a little bit about my fears.
Does anyone else experience any crippling, soul-crushing fears about their writing? I'm sure the answer is "yes." After all, we are creative people. We have vivid imaginations. And this is a good thing... usually. But when it comes to our innermost fears? Not so much.
I've recently come to the conclusion that I'm not afraid of failure with my writing. Nope. I'm afraid of success. It might sound weird, but I know I'm not alone in this. I'm afraid that if I finish one book, I'll never have another good idea. I'm afraid that it will get published... but that no one will buy it. I'm afraid that I'll blow a book contract because I can't discipline myself to write on a schedule. I'm afraid that writing will become my full-time job... and then I won't love it anymore. I'm afraid that I'll spend my writing time missing teaching. I'm afraid that I won't have health insurance anymore. I'm afraid that my income will lessen. I'm afraid that I'll be a mid-lister forever. I'm afraid that I won't be very good at being a novelist. I'm afraid that I'll become a New York Times bestseller, but then I'll try to take my career in another direction and my fans will hate me. I'm afraid I'll be sued by ex-boyfriends and ex-bosses I put in to books. I'm afraid that I'll never be able to get what's in my head out onto the page (it never quite translates, does it?) I'm afraid that my books will never be made into movies. I'm afraid Hollywood will make terrible movie versions of my books. I'm afraid that I've been inadvertently cruel and/or unprofessional, and hideous stories about my evildoing will come to light as soon as I'm published.
Weird and stupid, I know (because, really, I should be so lucky). But there it is.
Does anyone else have extreme writing fears? What are they? How do you get over them and/or push through them?
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Inspiration can come when you least expect it. I’m traveling at the moment, and whenever I tell people what I do for a living, they always want to know if I’m on a research trip. I say no, but the truth is that when you’re a writer every trip is a research trip… even a trip to the grocery store.
I didn’t come to Fiji with the intention of setting a book there or learning about the culture so I could integrate some Fijian characteristics into my next hero. (Though the fire dancers? Definite hero material!) But I wasn’t here long before story ideas began popping into my head. How can they not when I’m surrounded by natural beauty and over a hundred uninhabited islands right on the border between civilization and the primal?
No, I didn’t come here for research or inspiration, but how can you help being inspired by the unwritten potential on those islands?
It’s better than a writing prompt. Anything could have happened on those islands. Anything could happen yet. A murder mystery? A secret paranormal society? Gilligan’s Island the Sequel? Which direction would you go if you were spinning stories about those islands of possibility?
(For more on my travels, you can visit my blog at http://viviandrews.blogspot.com)
Friday, October 22, 2010
Check out Barbara Vey's blog Beyond Her Book at Publisher's Weekly (you have to go back to October 2d through 5th to see both photos in their original context). She visited the our conference and gave our Sunday keynote - an amazing story about how romance novels transformed her from an agoraphobic, depressed shut-in to the globe-trotting reporter she is today.
Most of the 250 conference attendees are aspiring (me), or published (Amanda Forester and Susanna Fraser) or best-selling (Cherry Adair and Brenda Novak) writers. We read a lot, but most of us write more. Since I started writing seriously, I've read less and read differently. More targeted, more analytical. I can't silence my inner editor or my awareness of "the industry" as I read. Barbara captured the difference at one point in her speech. As a reader, she heard someone was from PW and nodded uh-huh, and kept talking. And writers and agents stared open-mouthed ... Publisher's Weekly ... Writers think differently from readers.
Barbara Vey is a reader who devours romance, and who isn't embarrassed or ashamed to say it, say it loud, and say it to anyone who will listen. I needed to hear her. She made me spend a week reading whole-heartedly again like I used to. It felt great! Thank you, Barbara Vey! (Here I am with the rest of the ECWC Committee - in the green sweater, front row. )
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Right now, I'm focusing on the goal section of Mayer's book. It gives the common sense (but newsflash for me) advice that we have to set up our goals in conjunction with one another. If you're not looking at the total picture, you may create conflicts. In short, you're setting yourself up to fail.
So... my efforts to work my day job 60 hours a week, write 5 pages a day, exercise regularly, feed my husband gourmet meals each night, and engage fully with my family and friends on a regular basis?
Yeah, not so much.
I've been sabotaging myself. I knowingly overload myself and then wallow in the guilt when I can't accomplish everything. It's no good. I need to change! I want to be able to enjoy my life... savoring moments, not hanging on by one stray fingernail! I also want to put my dreams (including writing) first, instead of saving them for a later that never comes. (Why is it we spend so much of our time on "have tos" instead of "want tos"?)
I'm looking forward to setting more reasonable goals, via Mayer's methods. I'll be sharing those in a later post (or perhaps in the comments section of this one).
But if you have something that works for you, or you'd like to share your own goal/to-do list, please don't hesitate to share! I'd love to have some company on the road to a more balanced life.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Last week Serengeti Lightning, the third novella of my lion shapeshifter series, came out. Three is really the number of this book. I actually started writing it three different times before I finally hit on the right heroine to match the youngest Minor brother.
I knew from the start that I wanted her to be older than her heroic counterpart, but in her first iteration Mara was a tough, independent outsider introduced to the pride for the first time. She wore leather and rode a motorcycle. She would eat a sensitive (albeit muscle-bound and manly) guy like Michael Minor for lunch. In a short novella, I didn't have the pages to bring her into the world and crack the shell she'd constructed around herself. But the kiss of death was that even though I had invented her expressly for Michael, I just couldn't see them together.
Then came Mara 2.0. She was already a pride member, and while still older, she was a softer, gentler woman. This heroine was defined by longing. She wanted intensely to be loved, to have a family, to find the One. But when I tried to draw her into a relationship with Michael, I realized I couldn't figure out how I could get Mara to consider dating a guy she wouldn't take seriously as mate material. It had to begin as a fling, but in only 23,000 words, did I have the space to start a fling, have it grow into love, and then deal with the emotional fall-out of reconciling that love with the longing?
Enter Mara Ver3.0 (the keeper!). Already in the midst of a no-strings fling with Michael, Mara believes he isn't the settling down kind and decides to break it off with him in order to go after the life she really wants (with the picket fence and two point two kids). But Michael won't give her up so easily. This Mara is the pragmatic one of the relationship. The goal setter. The organized thinker. These traits contrast Michael as the emotional core of their twosome - and provide plenty of conflict. And in the end, they balanced one another perfectly, providing a match we can believe is going to go the distance.
I'm very happy with the way this pairing turned out, but it was definitely a longer road than I had anticipated to find Michael his perfect mate.
Have you ever changed a hero or heroine mid-stream to adjust the plot or relationship dynamics? Do you ever think a hero or heroine in a book you are reading would really be better matched with someone other than their author-designated significant other?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
As a teenager, I was a theater nerd. Now, I'm a high school teacher. Show tunes and sarcasm? Yes, please! I was hooked from Glee's very first moment, which featured Jane Lynch screaming belligerently into a bullhorn. I felt as if the show had been written just for me.
Yet much as I love Glee, I'm a little surprised by how hard I've fallen for Puck.
Don't get me wrong. I hated guys like him in high school and, frankly, they're still a challenge to have in class. Puck is an extreme Alpha male, flaunting his muscles and Mohawk. A bully and a jock, he throws kids in the Dumpster. He goes through girls and women like Kleenex. He expects the world to fall in line for him--and frankly, it often does. That's so frustrating! He doesn't earn his success: he manipulates or intimidates his way into it. None of these things are qualities I admire. Puck doesn't exactly scream "hero material." Frankly, he's a pig.
So why do I adore him on TV?
Because he's an entertaining pig.
I officially fell in love during the football episode, when Puck trash-talked a kid across the scrimmage line: "I slept with your mom. No really. I cleaned your pool, and then we had sex in your bed. Nice Star Wars sheets."
And therein lies Puck's greatness: he's both blunt and confident, in a way that I've never been. He doesn't think five steps ahead (will this kid try to beat me up after the game?) He says what he thinks and he does what he wants. I find that both totally alien and incredibly riveting.
Yes, Puck is consistently and unabashedly awful. But this is what makes his glimmers of vulnerability so poignant. For instance: he impregnated his best friend's girl--and yet somehow I ended up feeling bad for him. After all, the girl tells Puck to his face that he's a loser who'll never get out of town, and rejects all his offers of help. (And yes, he then goes back to man-whoring.)
He's very selfish in his love/sex life, but as a friend he's loyal. His bark might be bad, and he might mock the other Glee club members, but he bites the outsiders who threaten to hurt them. I like that, and I like Puck. There's no way in hell I'd ever want to date someone like him, but I sure love watching him on TV!
So... what's the take-away message for romance writers? Yes, there is some relevance to this post. It wasn't just a fan rant. Puck is my introductory lesson in Alpha hero boundaries and opportunities. (I tend to write beta.) Perhaps we readers/viewers can forgive a lot of belligerence so long as...
(1) The Alpha character is entertaining
(2) his actions are sometimes admirable
(3) his choices create fascinating conflict (see 1)
(4) Readers/viewers understand his motivation
(5) We occasionally see vulnerability and/or sensitivity
(6) He's smokin' hot (shallow but true...)
Hurray! I've now justified this long look at TV.
Any other Glee fans out there? I'd love to hear about your favorite characters, episodes, lines... or, even better, any writing lessons learned from this delightful show! Any thoughts you have on Alpha heroes would also be much appreciated.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Recently, I was asked that question all writers just love to hear above all others. Where do you get your ideas? (Yep, that was sarcasm.) And I gave my usual explanation - that ideas come from everything I see and smell and taste and touch. That I am surrounded by ideas and it is just a question of wanting to hear them.
I like to remind people of the opening scenes of Shakespeare in Love when I have this conversation. Young Will is roaming the streets of London, picking up little snippets of dialogue from everyone around him - the guy on his soap box screaming about the vileness of theatres becomes the piece de resistance in Romeo & Juliet with "A pox on both your houses!" Little moments, little fragments of life, sneak their way into your brain and come out in your stories. That, I think, is what is meant by 'write what you know.' Write the authenticity of those little moments.
But the fact of the matter is, even though the Shakespeare in Love anecdote is completely true and I trot it out on a semi-regular basis, there is still a certain degree of bullshit in that answer.
There's a line in the opening of Stephen King's On Writing where he's talking about the joys of being in the company of writers. One of the things he mentions as being the best part is that you know none of them are going to ask you where your ideas come from, because they all already know the answer. We don't know. That's the no-bullshit version.
You want the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I don't have a clue why I'm wired the way I am. If you don't understand where my ideas come from, I am equally puzzled by you and the fact that you don't have a dozen or more book ideas floating around in your head.
I realized, this most recent time, as I was shilling my usual Shakespeare in Love B.S. that the truth was I didn't get ideas. I had them. They had always belonged to me. There is a seemingly endless store of ideas in my subconscious, waiting to get out. I never feel like books come from someplace outside me. It isn't about finding them, it's about unlocking them.
Ideas are the most internal thing imaginable and that, I think, is the inherent fallacy in the question where do you get your ideas? Because there isn't an idea store we go to when we need to stock up. "Getting" ideas isn't about looking under your desk for one that might have slipped down there; it's about finding ways to listen to yourself, that internal voice. (Try calling them the voices in your head and watch the questioner back away slowly.) It always feels like I'm uncovering something that has always been there, always a part of me, even before I knew it existed.
But maybe I'm an anomaly. Where do your ideas come from? Do you get them or have you always had them? Do you have a certain method of unlocking them?
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
My gift to myself was an epiphany: I miss my childhood attitude towards writing.
I've been writing ever since I can remember. Before I knew how to actually write, my mother would type while I dictated. It was one of my favorite playtime activities. Fast forward to 5th grade, when I started my first novel. In 8th grade, I finished my first novel. It was a wretched Sweet Valley Twins rip-off, less of a story and more of an extended musing on (a) how much I wanted a boyfriend and (b) how little I liked sharing a bathroom with my brother. But you know what? I loved writing that thing. My parents had to force me to get off the computer and go play outside. My best friend, bless her, was always happy to hear the latest chapter.
As I've grown older--and more serious about publication--things have changed. Thankfully, I'm a better writer than I was at age 13. And thankfully, I'm no longer lavishing pages of description on my heroine's "rad" stirrup pants.
But maturing as a writer has a down side, too. My inner critic has grown stronger, and she loves to rain on my creativity parade. I've also discovered a need to procrastinate on my novel. As a bonus, I've invented clever ways to criticize myself while doing so. (Excel word count spreadsheets = an excellent time-waster. Now I've outsourced my guilt to Microsoft!)
Is there any escape from the down side? I don't want to give up my hard-won improvement as a writer. At the same time, however, I don't want to lose my sense of fun. It is, after all, why I got into this whole writing gig. So I'm asking your advice: how do you balance professionalism with pure love of writing? And how do you ignore your inner critic until it's time to revise?
Monday, August 09, 2010
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
How'd that happen? Well, it just so happens the Romance Writers of America national conference was last week. Was I there? Nope. But reading the online "live from" updates and post-conference accounts from people who were was almost as good. Their excitement spilled over into me and I remembered that conference energy, the feeling of simpatico with other authors and romance lovers. I cheered when I read the twitter feed with the RITA & Golden Heart results and I've been getting a contact high reading my emails from recently returned conference attendees.
That's the magic of conference, the power of a community of writers - they can energize you up from a thousand miles away. I'm already making plans for RWA 2011 in New York and I'm more excited than ever about my new WIP.
What about you? What gets you going again when your enthusiasm for writing starts to slip? Are you fired up by the company of writers? Already booking your tickets to NYC in 2011?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
For a history on my college friends (and why we're called the GISP) you can visit this previous post. (Bonus! The post shows me in my wedding dress, because my nuptials were Super Special #1.) In the post, I also promised to share pictures from Super Special #2: Alaskan Adventure. Fool that I am, I promised to share those pictures in a timely fashion.
Clearly, that hasn't happened... nor is it going to this moment.
Rather, I need your vote. I have two potential Super Special covers (because yes, we like to pretend that our vacations are books). I also have one gratuitously posed picture. Yes! You can click on them to make them bigger.
Which do you think would make an excellent Super Special cover? And while we're on the subject of covers... anyone have a cover you love, or a cover you love to hate? All the better if it's a BSC book!
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Many books or authors evoke a general time for me, the eighties or college or my California years, but some make me think of a specific point in my life. West with the Night by Beryl Markham resonated for me in 1993 after I jumped from the East to West Coast.
A recent plea for help identifying a book by a few plot elements at the Smart Bitches website led to a long thread about various way-old romances and someone mentioned Jennifer Blake. BOOM I was back in the mid-eighties in Ohio in my light grey bedroom with geometric black and red accents (red rubberized picture frames, I kid you not), reading Royal Seduction. Does anyone else remember Rolfe, Prince of Ruthenia, and Angeline? Perhaps you recall the feather scene? Or the back cover text, "Angeline, awakened to sensuality, was not entirely unwilling to be his captive!" Well, yearn no more - it's being reissued by Sourcebooks on August 3. Now I can shed twenty years for $7.99 instead of the price of a plane ticket to Ohio. (Mr. Richland, if you are reading this, you have an idea for a birthday present.)
Anything outrageous - songs, music, a food, a Wa-dog with cheese - that takes you back in time?
Monday, July 05, 2010
How did you spend your holiday?
I always feel slightly torn about the 4th of July. I have two aunts (one on each side of the family) who both throw killer shindigs. I can't be in two places at once... and often I am out of town altogether (my friend group is definitely in the wedding stage of life). What to do? What to do? I just want to see everyone and do everything.
When we were little, this wasn't a problem. We'd always drive to my paternal grandparents and spend a day shooting off all kinds of fireworks. Really, it's a wonder my cousins and I survived with all of our appendages in tact. My grandmother used to have to come to the back field with her dish tub full of water, admonishing, "Stop setting the anthill on fire! This is the last time I'm coming up here!" All of the "old people" would sit on the porch, drinking beer and reminiscing while we kids made the air blue with firecracker smoke. There would be tons of food and classic country music. At night, after almost everyone left, we cousins would set up our sleeping bags in the piano room. While Grandpa watched a Western outside the door, Grandma would read to us from the same book she always did (a collection of fairy tales with great illustrations and old-book smell).
This was my grandfather's favorite holiday, and it was a Big Deal in our family. I sometimes wonder why there aren't more Fourth of July romance novels... is it just me, or does Christmas really get all the seasonal book attention? Someone with marketing knowledge, please explain this to me! (I'm sure the reasoning is incredibly obvious, or perhaps there's a whole 4th of July sub-genre out there that I don't even know about.)
And yes. You may have noticed that this post really has nothing to do with writing. So true... but I'm going to go to a critique group at the end of July, so I hope to have exciting, craft-related information at that time! Stay tuned...
Monday, June 28, 2010
A writer can learn a lot from a match like that. It was an eleven hours struggle spread out over three days (called on account of darkness twice, but never called off for the sheer exhaustion of the players). Each player had winners and missed opportunities. And every time they fell behind, they battled back to even ground - again, and again, and again.
Anna's suitcase story, of the author bringing hundreds of rejections to that RWA workshop, puts me in mind of this kind of struggle. Spread out over years and countless manuscripts, we submit and submit and submit. Contests, query letters, partials, fulls. There are ups and downs. Moments of validation and frustration. But we keep going. We believe in our ability to win and we push ourselves past the rough patches with nothing more than faith and hope.
And then, after all of that, hopefully one day we get here:
And it's all worth it.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Form Rejection: 5 (33%)
Offers of representation: 0 (Is that 0% offers or 100% rejected? Which sounds better?)
Monday, June 14, 2010
Too Stupid To Live.
You know the heroine who goes into the basement rather than locking the door? TSTL. The one who leaves the car and decides to walk alone along the deserted road? TSTL. Or the classic Pacific Northwest TSTL heroine - the one who leaves her car sunroof open overnight.
It rained. I opened the car door Wednesday morning to an inch of water in the cup holder. I had to leave my coffee on the front porch while I drove Big Boy and Miss Bossy Boots to school.
Right, that would be merely a head-pounding dumb mistake, except that it was the second time this particular heroine has done that with this particular Subaru. In Seattle we have auto-detailers who specialize in dry-outs. I am now a valued repeat customer. (Readers, the real test of a hero: not whether he knows your morning coffee, but how he reacts when you call and say you left the sunroof open ... again. Mr. Richland was very polite, rather like a classic Amanda Quick or Julia Quinn hero. Perhaps he left his office and pounded a villain to a pulp before catching his bus home, but he was a prince about this.).
Do I have any TSTL sisters out there, real or fictional? Please help me feel better and offer a story to share with Mr. Richland, who kindly let me drive his convertible for the past five days. So bring on the dumb mistakes, the TSTL sisterhood, the "how could I?" moments. Thanks!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Check it out! And let me know what you think.
Friday, June 04, 2010
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Unlikeable characters? Far-fetched plots? Utterly ridiculous leaps of logic? Senseless misunderstandings? No worries. For me, whether or not I really love a book is a case of it ain't what you do it's the way that you do it.
For the truly stylish author, I could read their shopping lists and be enthralled. Jennifer Crusie does that for me. Eloisa James and Julia Quinn knock it out of the park every time. And don't even get me started on Christopher Moore and Laurell K. Hamilton.
Of course, conversely, I am likely to be very critical if your style doesn't engage me. You can have the world's most likeable characters, most unique plot, beautifully thought out, but if your style is wooden, I won't make it past the first chapter.
That author's voice is intangible, hard to pin down and impossible to duplicate. And whether or not an author's voice will resonate with a reader is impossible to predict - so editors looking for the next stylish author have their work cut out for them, don't they?
My question for you - what do you look for in a book? A storyline or theme you like? A character you can relate to? Or, like me, are you a sucker for style? What makes an author hit your auto-buy list?
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
"This is the kind you like, right?" he asked, handing over the perfect cup 'o designer Joe. I was impressed, for several reasons: (1) My drink order is embarrassingly complicated. (2) My drink order has changed since we started dating. (3) Normally I get Starbucks on the way to work, when I'm alone and cranky.
His powers of observation regarding such a little thing made me feel so loved... and so well-known. And, really, the two go hand in hand!
To me, this is real romance. I don't need an emotionally wounded vampire. I wouldn't know what to do with a wealthy alpha oil tycoon. In my daily life, I get my romantic kicks off of little things like this. I'm so glad to be married to even-keeled Mr. Marvelous, who know how to do the laundry and doesn't complain when we eat Cheerios for dinner. What a guy!
I want to know about your real-life romance! What are the little things your hero (or heroine) does to inspire you? Alternatively, who are some real life romance couples you know--and what makes them so great? (Yes, I imagine I'll go on and on about my parents in the comments section.)
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
One of the amazing things about the various Romance Writers of America chapters I've been involved with is the way they get involved in good causes. The Greater Seattle RWA does a goods drive every Christmas for a women's shelter. The book signing at the RWA National convention always benefits literacy. Each May (right now!) Brenda Novak hosts an auction raising thousands upon thousands of dollars for Diabetes Research. Hundreds of writers participate in these and other philanthropies every year, raising funds and awareness for good causes.
I'm taking a page out of their book for my current one. The heroine of my current ebook release, The Sexorcist, is a survivor of a serious congenital heart condition. She triumphed over adversity and deserves every bit of her happily ever after. In honor of real-life heroines like Brittany, I've launched the Have a Heart promo, benefiting the Children's Heart Foundation.
Here's how it works: If you buy The Sexorcist in ebook, and email a copy of your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org before July 31, 2010, I will donate 10% of my royalties for that sale to the Children's Heart Foundation. If you would like to learn more about this organization which funds research for congenital heart defect treatment, or if you would prefer to cut out the middleman and donate directly, you can visit their website at: www.childrensheartfoundation.org.
How often do you get to read a book and get warm fuzzies for helping a good cause at the same time? Well, luckily, with the efforts of the romance writers giving back, pretty often.
Don't forget to check out the Brenda Novak auction! (And keep an eye out for my Tickle My Fantasy Alaskan Gift Basket while you're there.)
Saturday, April 24, 2010
This is the problem with a long hiatus from creative writing. I feel like I've forgotten how to write anything fun. Give me a work report or some painful professional navel-gazing and I'm your girl. I can analyze my teaching six ways to Sunday and throw in the words "intentional" and "differentiated" every other sentence.
But writing a scene full of witty banter? Re-plotting my novel to fix the dragging middle? Suddenly, I'm paralyzed. I'm worried that I won't do it well, or that I won't be able to sustain any sort of creative effort. I tell myself that I'm too busy or too exhausted. If I'm going to fail anyway, I might as well go clean the kitchen or write some curriculum because that's what's really important... and that's the only place I can actually succeed.
Obviously this is not a healthy attitude. I've had writer's block before, and I've tried a number of methods to deal with it. Though I've always managed to get back to work, I haven't sustained a healthy routine. These methods have always been about perpetuating self-loathing (as opposed to self-care). For instance, I tell myself I'll sit at the computer for an hour. And when I do, I'm humming "you can't do this" in my head. Yes, there's a winning mental refrain! Alternatively, I tell myself "the creative well has run temporarily dry. You need to abandon your project entirely." Then I set aside my writing routines so that I can eat fried food, read other people's romance novels, and worry that I'll never finish my own.
Shockingly enough, neither of those strategies really works.
I knew I was in deep trouble when it took me all week to write this post. (Yes, I actually started on Monday and now it's Saturday... sad, huh?) I think it's time to dust off my copy of The Artist's Way and put myself through a 12-week writers' recovery program.
Anyone else have any other ideas? Do share: how do you bust your block?
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Last week I struggled to edit the scene where my hero and heroine visit a museum to "borrow" a valuable relic. If he appeared as a Special Forces dude, I doubted the museum director would help, so I originally disguised Wulf as a documentary film maker in black glasses and a New York accent. Result: a scene no better than packing peanuts. Then I met the Sassy Gay Friend, and voila:
"An appointment would permit me to prepare." The white-haired gentleman who met them in the Danish National Museum's Great Hall stared over his reading glasses. "The snow delayed my staff. I am alone today."
"We are so so sorry. Our funding came through forty-eight hours ago and we had scads to pack." Wulf tilted his head as he held out his hand. "To save money, the donor used frequent flier miles, can you believe?"
"I see." The Director of Danish Prehistory nodded his understanding of donor peccadilloes. "Do you have a camera person?"
"His flight was delayed in Paris, so completely unfair." Wulf pressed one hand to his cheek and pulled his shoulders forward. "I looove Par-ee."
"We plan our shots in advance." Theresa stepped between him and the director. "For this segment we're interested in sword hilts of approximately 500 A.D." Behind her back she wiggled her fingers at Wulf.
Tone it down? She glared over her shoulder and Wulf blew a kiss. Not a chance, baby. I want to see you laugh.
Sassy Gay Friend, meet Wulf, the immortal Viking warrior. Readers, go forth and flip your glitter scarves. I'm spending the week finding every tiny mistake, every "just" and "still" and "stood up" and "sat down" that sneaked through previous edits of The Soldier. [Yes, I know the right side of the video is chopped off. Lots of things get chopped off in my book, so I'm not going to deal with this. Click through to youtube or SmartBitchesTrashyBooks if you need the whole thing.]
Monday, April 05, 2010
I heard some Big Deal Authors lately talking about book signings and the way people tend to shy away from the person behind the table, refusing to meet your eyes. The theory (quite a good one, I think) was that they don't want to have to reject you in front of you. In a bookstore, they can wander through the aisles picking up and putting down dozens of books before they find one that interests them, but they never feel guilty for putting one down. With you sitting there, the author adds the guilt factor.
I get that, but how do you counter it? With chocolate? (Bribes!) With excerpts? That way, you can hand them a chapter, they can wander over to grab a latte and a scone, read your chapter in line, decide they love you, and come back to get a signed copy to take the register. I like that approach.
But what about online promo? Why are people skittish to participate there? I'm having a blog party all this month with daily prizes. (http://viviandrews.blogspot.com) Looking at my website tracking info, I'm getting a lot more hits than I am comments - but only the commenters can win. So are my lurkers shy? Are they not interested in the prizes? (A free book? Who turns down a free book?!) They are under no obligation to buy my books or the books of my guest bloggers. All they have to do is comment, possibly win, possibly discover a new author they love or win a book they can give to a reader-friend who loves that genre if they don't.
I feel weird because I'm running around trying to drum up traffic for this blog party and I feel like it should be easier than this. These are awesome prizes! There is virtually no effort involved in winning them! The big prize this month is a brand new ereader! All you have to do to enter is sleuth around my website to answer five questions (one about each of my books) and send me an email with your answers. Is an ereader not worth a few clicks?
I'm puzzled. And I feel like a realtor. See, I went to the parade of homes with my family a few weeks ago. There were a lot of realtors with a lot of different styles. Some gave away goodie bags or cookies or donuts. One actually followed us through every room of the house commenting on our comments to one another (so irritating!). But the one thing they had in common was that they were representing gorgeous homes. These houses were gems, that's why they were included in the parade of homes. But there were still gimmicks and raffles and staging to make them attractive to buyers.
So even if you write a great book (see, I really was going somewhere with the metaphor!), you still have to make it attractive to readers. (Without stalking them through every room telling them why they should buy it.)
And that is the part where I feel completely out of my depth. Oh, to be famous and rich and hire someone to be my book realtor!
Am I looking at this the wrong way? What makes you buy a book? Word of mouth? An ad you saw? A review?
Tomorrow at my blog I'm giving away a signed copy of my new book Shifting Dreams. All this month I'm giving away an ereader. No purchase necessary. Just a little fun. Come on by and play... or come on by and lurk if you want to feed my neurosis. ;)
Friday, March 26, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I haven't listened to this song in 12 years. Yet, as my National Boards deadline approaches, it's dominating my I-Pod. And every time hear it, I have a flashback to freshman year of college.
I was a bookworm, double-majoring in English and history. My roommate was an athlete, double-majoring in hockey and beer. We were the most mismatched pair in our hall. Everyone predicted we'd kill each other before Christmas. Not so!
That girl saved my sanity. Repeatedly.
Whenever I started stress-spiraling, my roommate would force me to put my book down. She'd cue the Derbies song on our CD player and start doing this ridiculous bouncy dance. It was my job to bounce--yes, ridiculously--next to her for the duration of the song. And if I still had that crazy look in my eye after it was over? Hello, repeat button. It never failed. I was always laughing by the end of our routine.
Obviously, my life has changed since then. I'm no longer sleeping on an extra-long twin mattress (thank goodness). My former roommate is now a Facebook friend, not a daily presence. I've traded in work-study poverty and terminal single status for a husband, a steady income, a cat, and a mortgage...
... And yet so much is still the same! I'm still a wacked-out stress case. I still push myself up against deadlines and then waste time berating myself for it. I still eat mass quantities of popcorn whenever I pull an all-nighter. And apparently, I still listen to Sort of Haunted House whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed.
You couldn't pay me to be a teenager again. Seriously. Yet for the past few weeks, I've enjoyed revisiting this part of my 18-year-old self. (Now excuse me while I go do the bouncy dance.)
What song connects you back to a specific memory? And what do you listen to when you're up against a deadline?