Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blahhhhg Rating

Ha! My blog was rated "Junior High School."
At least I've gotten past the "dumb-it-down" stage of sixth grade, I guess.
So what's yours rated?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NaNoWriMo Goal Achieved!

Whew! Yesterday, I was sidetracked from writing by the usual real-life interruptions – grocery shopping and other Thanksgiving Day preparations – so got back to my computer pretty late. I was so close to 50k, I could taste it as vividly as I knew the tang of the cranberry sauce would be. So when I finally got back to writing, I couldn’t stop until I’d surpassed the NaNoWriMo goal.
But reaching the NaNoWriMo goal is one small part of the entire project. Much writing, research and ever-important revision awaits me before I can truly feel I’ve finished (if I ever can reach that point – whenever I re-read a story, I always find something to change).
When I finish the first draft and turn to revision, POV will be an ever-present consideration. As I mentioned, this is the first time I’ve used head-hopping in the style of the romance genre, so it must be done in a concise manner. Speaking from only one character’s perspective might seem an easy thing to accomplish, but in fact, in any given novel in which there’s a hero and a heroine, not two perspective exist, but three. The third is the author herself. If you’ve ever been reading a novel and been totally engrossed in the story until you came across a statement that seemed to come from neither the hero or heroine, or anyone else in the story, well, that’s a case of authorial intrusion. The writer inserted herself into the story as narrator, and unless it’s done exceptionally well, it’s often not a welcome experience for the reader.
The Short Story Writing site provides examples of authorial intrusion. More succinctly, Rob Parnell describe authorial intrusion as the writer including a personal opinion about a character, situation or scene, or anything else your characters themselves could not be aware of.
Some authors intentionally incorporate authorial intrusion. The Great Gatsy is an example.
Anne M. Marble’s Headhopping, Authorial Intrusion, and Shocked Expressions explains very clearly the POV problems that trip up many a writer. Under the Shocked Expressions subhead, it’s important to note that no character can describe the expression on his or her own face (and conveniently placing the character in front of a mirror is not cool).
Although I’ll be busy revising for quite awhile, it feels great to have achieved the goal.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Cover Art for Going with Gravity

Wow - Nicola Martinez is an amazing cover artist! She sent me the cover art today for Going with Gravity, my "Miniature Rose" for the Champagne (contemporary) line of The Wild Rose Press.
Isn't it cool?

Here again is the story blurb:
Publicist Allison Morris plans her own life – what’s left of it – around the life of her boss Michelle McCarter, the ex-wife of a famous rock star. When Michelle needs emergency public relations patchwork in Hawaii pronto, Allison arranges a flight to the dream destination. At the airport, she meets Wes Hamilton, a six-foot-three sun-bleached blond whose blue eyes and dazzling smile rekindle her fizzled-out sizzle. A world-renowned surfer, Wes captivates her with his charm and wit, though his easy fame and on-the-edge lifestyle are the polar opposite of her own. When their jet loses its fuselage in mid-air, she takes advantage of what she thinks are her last minutes alive with Wes. The plane lands safely. Wes takes care of her when her carefully constructed life begins to unravel. When Michelle accuses Allison of using Wes to gain fame for herself, Allison’s world falls apart in an explosive confrontation. Wes is waiting with open arms when she has nowhere else to go, but can Allison learn to stop planning and go with gravity?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Finding the Right Mix of POV and Tense

As Dominic Preziosi points out in Point of View and Tense: The Right Combination, the success of your story could depend on which perspective you tell it and whether told in present or past tense. As Mr. Preziosi indicates, your story will dictate which combo works best. Take your story on a test run and experiment with various types to know which will give your story the best feel.
Recently, I submitted a story to a publisher and received a rejection (though frankly, I think they only read the synopsis, not the story, but that’s a moot argument at this point. I’ve moved on. Really.) Part of the rejection said: “note that stories written in third person present tense tend to distance the reader from the action and we never accept them.”
Hmm. This made me pause.
Reading is a completely subjective experience, different for every reader. In fact, I disagree. I like the immediacy of present tense, and, like Alexander Steele, think the use of first person is a bit overdone.
First person seems more of a risk – what if your reader doesn’t readily identify with the protagonist, who is speaking as “I”?
And frankly, following a story in the past sense makes less sense than present tense. Consider it for a moment – you’re supposed to be engaged in the action with the hero/ine, yet it’s already happened. Readers are conditioned to expect, in general, third person past tense, or first person present.
But I’m curious what you think – does reading a story in third person present tense bother you? For example, my story to be released by the Wild Rose Press in March 2009 uses just that combo. Because it's set in the 1960s, I wanted to give it a more immediate feel by using present tense. Following is an excerpt from Seventh Heaven:
James stands in the open doorway. The choker gleams from his neck. “I came by to say thanks.”
“I didn’t know it was you.”
He closes the door. “So. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. It looks good. It’s an…”
“An ankh. I know.”
“The Egyptian symbol of eternity.” She doesn’t know what to do with her hands, and her breath is jagged. “Sorry. I mean, Ben told us. It really stinks.”
He runs a finger across a glazed jug. “Bad timing.”
She clasps her hands in front of her. “I guess it’s never a good time…”
He glances up, stifles a smile. “I mean, I wish we had more time.”
The air thins, seems rarified. “Me, too.”
He takes a step closer.
She folds her arms. “I hope you’ll write me, if you get a chance.”
The floor needs sweeping. And needs to be smaller. Or his steps need to be more expansive. “Sure, I’ll keep you up on the local gossip. Send you goodie packages.”
His eyes lock on hers. “That’d be nice.”
“We’re going to miss you around here.”
“You will?”
With his last step, he is so close, her skin tingles with his heat. “No one can make a margarita like you.”
He fingers her hair, tucks a strand behind her shoulder. “Come back tonight, I’ll make you all the margaritas you can drink.”
In her head she is already there, sipping at a wide-rimmed glass, serenaded by Dylan in the background, James waiting and watching, attending to her alone. “That sounds nice.”
“See you about seven, then?”
“Seven it is.” Seven, her lucky number.

So now I’m curious. Does it work for you? If not, why not? Should I have told the story from the first person perspective?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 22, Beginning of Week 4

At 40,438 words, I am struggling toward 50k. To put me to shame for my hand-wringing and whining, I found this feature article on the NaNoWriMo site. And I thought 50,000 was tough. This lady not only aimed to complete three 50k novels, but exceeded the goal at 183k. Not only that, but she is one of the successful participants whose 2006 novel will be published this year. Congrats, Anna! And all hail, NaNoWriMo goddess!
So – one week left. I’m actually kind of proud I managed to get even that many words done this week. Suffice it to say it was a week of strange and somewhat frightening occurrences. Blogging took a back seat to keeping the wood stove going during the daylong power outage (with the power line laying across my driveway), and writing when the power came back on. In addition to filling out contracts for the two stories accepted this week, I was also asked to complete revisions on another story for The Wild Rose Press before they would consider it.
Such is the writing life. I love it!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Head Hopping Pros and Cons

A topic I wanted to tackle this week was point of view, known in the writing culture as POV. I was never a great fan of head-hopping. I much prefer deep POV, although I've heard others express intense dislike for it. To me, it allows you to be completely immersed in what the protagonist experiences - an intense way of engaging a reader.
In certain instances, I like climbing inside various characters’ heads if the author doesn’t yank me there without warning. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is a great example of POV switches executed in a clearcut manner.
My NaNoWriMo story is an historical romance set in Key West, an island with a truly fascinating history (more on that later). Head-hopping is very much a staple of the romance genre. While it’s not my first attempt at writing from various characters’ views, this story marks my first attempt in the romance style of POV switching. I’m very aware of how jarring it can be to be jerked unexpectedly from one character’s thoughts to another, so am very careful to keep the various sections to one POV only.
The upside of head-hopping is, obviously, a reader can then better empathize with both the male and female protagonist. Seeing both sides of the conflict is a way for the reader to see the proverbial train crash before it happens, and hopefully make it a better reading experience.
Point of view is a complex issue, so I’ll continue with more on the subject in the coming weeks. For anyone unfamiliar with its complexity, check out New York University’s overview of the various POV choices.
Oh, and some good news also arrived this week: The Battered Suitcase will publish my short story, All is Calm, All is Bright, next month.
The Wild Rose Press also accepted Going with Gravity in their Champagne (contemporary) line. Look for it in mid to late 2009. The unofficial story blurb and excerpt are below.

Going with Gravity
Publicist Allison Morris plans her own life – what’s left of it – around the life of her boss Michelle McCarter, the ex-wife of a famous rock star. When Michelle needs emergency public relations patchwork in Hawaii pronto, Allison arranges a flight to the dream destination. At the airport, she meets Wes Hamilton, a six-foot-three sun-bleached blond whose blue eyes and dazzling smile rekindle her fizzled-out sizzle. A world-renowned surfer, Wes captivates her with his charm and wit, though his easy fame and on-the-edge lifestyle are the polar opposite of her own. When their jet loses its fuselage in mid-air, she takes advantage of what she thinks are her last minutes alive with Wes. The plane lands safely. Wes takes care of her when her carefully constructed life begins to unravel. When Michelle accuses Allison of using Wes to gain fame for herself, Allison’s world falls apart in an explosive confrontation. Wes is waiting with open arms when she has nowhere else to go, but can Allison learn to stop planning and go with gravity?
Allison pulled her portfolio from her laptop case and set it on her lap, afraid to open it. As soon as the articles had arrived on her fax machine, she’d shoved them into her bag, then hopped in the shower. Delay tactics only worked for so long. The moment of truth had arrived. She opened it and thumbed through. Eleven pages. Eleven. And these were only the newspaper articles from the past two days. TV and online news sites surely covered more. And then there’d be the inevitable blogger. Uncontrollable, overly opinionated and accountable to no one, they were the worst.
Michelle had arrived on Oahu with a bang, and then had the audacity to blame Allison for not doing her job to quell the media. She held up one photo of a topless Michelle prancing in the surf, laughing. Rumors and innuendo could be stopped with logic and tact, but to downplay this photo, she’d need a good explanation. When Michelle’s logic and tact failed her so obviously, Allison had to wonder about her mental state.
A hulking figure filled the aisle, stowing his bag in the overhead compartment.
Those shorts. That shirt.
It was him.
He checked his ticket, looked at her and smiled. His blond hair fell across his forehead as he sat next to her, his shoulder bumping hers. “Hello again.”
For two years, she’d rubbed elbows with stars of all magnitudes without so much as a blink, and fended off paparazzi following the wife of megastar James McCarter.
With two words, she’d been reduced to the rank of dreamy-eyed teeny bopper.
He smiled, raised an eyebrow.
She realized, then, she hadn’t responded. And her mouth hung open.
Make that drooling dreamy-eyed teeny bopper.
She flashed a smile. Think. Damage control is your business. Put it to good use for once.
“Hi.” Oh, yes. Very witty. What a deft deflection of his charm.
She turned back to her articles, but sensed the weight of his stare.
He frowned at her reading material. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to read over your shoulder. I take it you’re a closet fan of the poor little rich girl?”
“In the same way I’m a closet fan of train wrecks, I suppose. I guess you’re not a fan.”
“Of hers?” He chuckled. “God, no. She’s awful. Her publicist should be shot.”
Shot. Of course. Working fifty-five to sixty-five hours a week wasn’t enough to keep the spin spinning fast enough for the rest of the world. The one guy who’d interested her in the past two and a half years thought she made a good candidate for execution. Her life was in such a rut, she’d need mountain climbing gear to get out.
“If you’re a fan, I didn’t mean to offend.” Sincerity had wiped the smile from his face.
“Actually, I’m..” She turned and smiled, “…her publicist.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Heart Your Blog Award

Yesterday, I received notice that MissMakeAMovie nominated me for the I heart your blog award. Thanks, MissMakeAMovie! And the feeling’s mutual, and not just because I blog there, too. Its writers are thought-provoking and fun, and provide insight to cultures across the globe. If you haven’t yet visited, you shouldn’t miss another day!
When MissMakeAMovie was nominated, it asked for nominations, so I threw my blog site into the ring for consideration. Because my blog has received this honor, I must now, according to the rules, spread the love by:
1) Adding the award logo to my blog
2) Linking back to the blog who awarded it
3) Nominating at least 7 other blogs
4) Adding links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leaving a message for your nominees on their blogs
Selecting only seven proved very difficult, so I’ve nominated nine. The following are in alphabetical order, because it’s too difficult to rank by preference.
Bitten by Books – Reviews and interviews with authors of all types of paranormal fiction, urban fantasy and horror. Plenty of giveaway goodies!
Babes in Bookland – Seven authors sharing their inspirations and insights on the writing life.
Bookbabie - A soulful blog with inspiring art and prose.
Cactus Rose Blog - Authors of the Cactus Rose Line of the Wild Rose Press. Fun and informative – who knew cowboys never cursed?
Diary of an Adult Runaway - “Take Life with a grain of salt, a slice of lime, and a shot of tequila!” My kind of writer!
Pink Fuzzy Slippers - A group of romance and mystery writers blogging in a woman's magazine style
Riding with the Top Down - “Cruise the cyber highway with nine chicks who rock ‘n write!”
Three Wicked Writers - “Something wicked this way comes” – wicked funny, wicked good!
Writing Career Coach - “Because even the best player needs a coach” I couldn’t agree more. Always room for improvement.
Thanks again, MissMakeAMovie! And thanks to those who’ve lent support to my blog. In the few short months I’ve been at this, it’s been an enriching experience for me, and hopefully for readers as well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 15, Start of Week 3

Yikes, it’s already November 15. The halfway mark to NaNoWriMo’s end, as others have blogged about.
I poked around the NaNoWriMo site a bit today (yes, I goofed off instead of actually writing). I was amazed at how many students contributed to the Most embarrassing moments page. It’s exciting to see how many young writers are out there, even if they’re not concentrating on their classes, but writing in class instead.
Tonight is NaNoWriMo’s Night of Writing Dangerously. I can’t do write-ins. They don’t work for me, so my time would be wasted. I completely lose track of my thoughts in public, and the sight of other writers sitting all around me, their pens moving furiously across the page would completely intimidate me. I need my space.
Who has time to blog at the NaNoWriMo site? Not me. Some interesting posts here, though.
So, how am I doing, you may well ask. Not as well as I’d like. Yesterday, I wrapped up at 24,360 words, not quite halfway to the goal of 50k. I need to fast-forward my word count beyond Thanksgiving, because I know the turkey’s tryptophan will trip me up. Not to mention the cooking and cleanup.
Can I do it? Is it possible? Stay tuned, folks, and find out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More on Marketing

In these days of smaller budgets, both corporate and household, publishers will increase pressure on authors to market their books to drive up sales. The holidays are an opportunity to do just that. As American Booksellers Association says, books make great affordable gifts. With increased potential for sales comes increased competition, making marketing even trickier.
Brenda Lyons provides some great ideas for creating a “spider web effect” in capturing readers, based on an author’s comfort zone and budget. Any author can use her list of 28 methods, though some are more cost-prohibitive than others, such as purchasing ads. I don’t necessarily agree with her idea of strategically placing promo items such as pens in public places – the person who picks up the free pen may not be a reader, or if s/he is, may not like the genre.
For those authors on a zero budget, the strategies that cost only time are imperative. Build a presence on Facebook, Ning or other social networking site. Joe Pulizzi’s Using Social Media to Launch your Book suggests setting up your networks long before the book launch. Content is all-important. Involve potential readers in the process.
BookEnds LLC Literary Agency asked authors for their over-the-top marketing strategies and posted ideas on their blog. While some are predictable (i.e., MySpace pages), others are inventive, such as the author whose characters blog, or the mystery writer who holds “How to Plot a Murder” talks.
Infuse a little fun into your marketing efforts, and it won’t feel so much like drudgery. Then you can get back to what you really love – writing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

NaNoWriMo – Day 8, Week 2

I came across another blog about NaNoWriMo the other day, seeking others’ opinions on whether it was a worthwhile endeavor or not. Some of the responses surprised me.
While some recognize it's an exercise in writing to stimulate their creative juices, others look down their noses at it. They insinuate that no one could possibly write a novel in a month, and anything written in that time must be garbage.
They obviously didn’t read the NaNoWriMo mission statement. Yes, the goal is to write nonstop, if possible, from November 1 through November 30. Yes, you will have some trashy parts you’ll need to cut. Hey, that’s what revision is all about.
Who writes a bestseller the first time through? Tom Robbins reportedly goes over and over and over and over each sentence meticulously until he’s satisfied it’s exactly the wording he wants. (Definitely not a NaNo-er.) All stories have to be edited. But, as author Jodi Picoult said, you can always edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page. As a bestselling novelist, she should know.
And in fact, some of the books begun during NaNoWriMo have gone on to be published. It isn’t the fact that I’m participating in it that makes the difference, it’s the fact that I’m sitting down every day and making an effort to write. One of my favorite quotes is from author Barbara Kingsolver, who said: "Chain that muse to the desk and get the job done!" A credo echoed by Robert Ringer: “What separates professional writers from amateurs is that they take action and start putting words on the computer regardless of whether or not they are motivated. In my experience, after I force myself to start writing, a seamless transition takes place and I become motivated."
My current word count? As of yesterday, 12,485. Getting there! A feat, considering I switched stories after three days (I found the research I thought I’d lost! Woo hoo!)
As Ray Bradbury so aptly said: "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down."
So if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, and someone pooh-poohs your efforts, tell them to take a flying leap!
Happy writing!

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Flash Piece Online Today!

A Long Story Short released my flash fiction piece today - check out "A Seasonal Affair" and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pants(er) on Fire

In November, for many writers, meticulous plotting methods go out the window. It’s pantser all the way, if you’re a NaNoWriMo participant. The idea is to sit and write, write, write. Don’t let the words flow – let them gush (my word count is now 7747). No stopping to correct misspellings or consider, hmm, was that the right word choice? If in doubt, bold or highlight a suspect word or phrase so you can find it later. In December, after you’ve surpassed the 50k goal and are ready to revise.
Last month, I did a basic outline of where I thought I wanted my story to go. Not the same as plotting, which doesn’t allow much leeway if your characters decide to shanghai your story across a wild tangent you’d never have thought of until you were in the moment. For that very reason, I’m not a big believer in plotting.
But how, exactly, is plot defined?
In the article What is Plot, Anyway?, James Scott Bell defines plot as something that will take shape within a manuscript, with or without planning. Either way, the plot must move readers through the story. Bell provides an overview of his LOCK plotting system: Lead, Objective, Confrontation and Knockout.
Okay, but what, exactly, does plotting entail?
Linda Cowgill’s Plotting Along breaks plotting down into three basic steps: Arrangement of Events, Causality and Conflict - all of which lead to an emotional payoff for the reader.
According to Martha Alderson, Goals Define the Plot. Use both short-term and long-term goals to ground your readers along your protagonist’s journey.
Noah Lukeman, author of bestsellers such as The First Five Pages and The Plot Thickens, provides a set of exercises in 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life to help you define your character, and thus determine which circumstances will provide the most impact for a reader based on that character’s weaknesses.
Once you have plotting down, David Freeman suggests Adding Emotional Depth to a Plot Via a Subplot. Using American Beauty as an example, he describes how having a subplot parallel to the main plot can add emotional depth to a story.
If you're not into charting out your plot in the Snowflake Method, (I don't have enough left brain to even comprehend it), try something more flexible: the index card system. This method at least allows you to shuffle the cards as needed when your characters take an unscheduled left turn.
If you're like me, however, and think plotting is akin to John Lennon's description of life - Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans - then start with a roughed-out story idea and just write.
If you need some guidance about pantsing it, check out Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem! Chris, btw, happens to be the NaNoWriMo organizer.
Happy writing!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 1

It's November 1 - day 1 of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. How did I do my first day? Not too bad. The daily goal is roughly 1700 words, and I surpassed that with 2606.
I'd hoped for more, but had a setback when I couldn't find my background research on the story I'd hoped to write. I'll have to look for it again later. Because I have several story ideas queued up, I fell back on the next in line. Apparently every other NaNoWriMo participant tried to log onto the site at the same time I did. It crashed, and I couldn't upload my word count there, so I'll have to try again tomorrow.
And speaking of falling back, don't forget to turn those clocks back an hour tonight!