Thursday, March 29, 2007

Break Time!

Spring Break! Thank the heavens!

Spring break is my one-track-mind time, where everything I do will be focused on writing my novel!

That is, after I take a three-day mental break. I’m going to read three books I’ve been dying to finish: Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; Rose Madder, by Stephen King; and A Widow for One Year, by John Irving. (I’d thought I’d read Widow, but I really don’t think I have. Either way, good excuse to re-read it! :-)

Maybe I’ll do some cleaning. Definitely some extra sleeping. I might even spend the WHOLE day on Sunday in my pajamas. Maybe I’ll spend the whole day in BED! Wouldn’t that be nice?

So while I might pop by y’all’s blogs next week when I’m home, I probably won’t blog until April 8. I’ll be at Borders, writing, although I might take a day or two to go fishing and kayaking. (DH baits the hook, removes, and cleans the fish per a bargain we struck ages ago.)

Kitten on KayakI tried to set up my blog editor so that it would post things in the future (it said it would), but then it posted right away, hence multiple posts last weekend.

Will you come back after my break? I’ll miss you while I’m reading, writing, and kayaking!

It’s been a rough year. I’m mentally burnt-out, physically drained, and just plain out exhausted. I pushed myself right over the edge, and even though I’m writing a little (<i>leeeeeetle bit</i>) every day, I’m not getting much done other than researching and thinking and scribbles on other little stories to keep me in writing practice.

My brain is fried. My foot is still a pain in the … foot after eight months, which is totally hindering my exercise loves, which usually keep me balanced. But …

Busted Bass Boat 328There’s many more important things going on than little me, but dear universe, I pray that by the end of spring break, I’m feeling balanced, the foot is workable, and my book is racing along.

And world peace!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

24, Jack Bauer, and Sasha Cohen

marisolSo what’d you think of 24 last night? Day 6, 8:00 p.m., that is.

I swear, an hour with 24 can be an irritating and wonderful experience. Never before have I seen a tv show know how to grab the gut SO well. 24 sets up those questions that writers spend whole novels exploring. 24 is like high-concept after high-concept.

And then the actress doesn’t deliver, like the scene with President’s sister deciding to risk her brother’s life? Totally fell flat for me—and talk about a gut-grabbing, powerful moment it could’ve been!

Or the character’s reactions are preposterous, like when Nadia kisses what’s-his-name. She’s going to forgive him that quick? Or when Chloe states the obvious so that we, stupid audience, will know that things will be awkward with Nadia.

Jack Bauer made himself quite sympathetic this week, and you’d hardly know that he killed a man with his bare teeth this morning. He seems more at peace and more relaxed. Amazing how much a man can change in a day.

The bit with the vice president is intensely irritating. His character would be entirely preposterous if it weren’t for our own Mad King George (W., that is).

But the question of waking the president, risking his life to save the world from World War III? Awesome. There were several other powerful moments in this episode, too.

1140892104_9528Overall, 24 is like figure skating since the new judging system. Skaters are striving for more and better, but they’ve been falling so much more. Like Sasha Cohen, god bless her beauty and heart, who shows artistic perfection and amazing beauty in every moment … but falls, spoiling the breathtaking moment.

I feel like that with 24. It grabs my gut, and I am SO ready to hold my breath and be blown away, but then … it falls. Flat.

What do you think?

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Living, Dying, Killing ...

nw_leftnavcov_070402Sometimes life offers perfect examples of juxtaposition—gut-grabbing juxtaposition. I was sitting in Borders and reading the latest edition of Newsweek, Voices of the Fallen: The Iraq War in the Words of the Dead, when in walked a perfectly-uniformed Marine recruiter with a 17 or 18 year-old pimply-faced kid.

So I listened to the recruiter’s spiel as I read accounts from fallen soldiers and cried. (I’ve taken to wondering what the Borders people think of me, what with tears in my eyes nearly every day from what I read!)

With great style, Smith described his life in Iraq:

Hot. Overworked. Temper Short. Iraqis stupid. Hajji trying to blow me up. Insert new date and repeat.

Mundell talked about morale and attitude of the troops:

It’s just that things look a lot different down here at the point of “W”’s spear. The ones at home rattling the loudest saber aren’t here helping load dead kids into an ambulance. WE are. And that just sucks, I gotta tell you.

And here’s one of the many that made me choke up:

I’m going to need a lot of support from you guys when I get home. I have accepted the fact that any day I’m here could be the day I die. That doesn’t bother me anymore… I’ve had RPGs fly within inches of me. I’ve seen the guys they’ve hit. It blew them to pieces. We literally had to move rocks and debris to find hands, legs and other parts so we could send them home.

Anna Quindlen also has a fantastic essay in this edition of Newsweek, too, called The Weight of What-If, which talks about the effects of war on people, families, countries, the world.

From the snug harbor of their settled lives, people like to torture themselves a little with the specter of what-ifs, which is why so many still watch "It's a Wonderful Life" every year at Christmastime. A different school, a different job, a different town, a different choice. One brick out of the wall, and the whole thing tumbles. The randomness of life is disconcerting.

I haven't bought a magazine in years. I bought this one.

The pimply-faced kid seemed excited, albeit so damn young. But war has always been fought by the young, and I’m not in the mood to talk about whether or not we should be there. The views of the soldiers range just as much as the views here at home.

My point is, I feel like I often lose perspective of the world, like “my” world gets real small and the little annoyances in “my” world get really big. And then I blink and look outside my circle and feel really stupid. Just really dumb.

How do you maintain perspective?

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Know Thy Genre

I swear, this advice always sends me into a panic. It tends to make me feel like I’m a fraud, trying to write a thriller (or any genre).

But then my better sense kicks in. Then, when I think of someone advising, “know thy genre,” I want to say:

Are you out of your mind???

I write in all genres and one genre. Kinky romance, as you know, but I’ve played with every genre within that one. I literally know that genre. Like, I’ve read everything. Okay, I haven’t read anything in the past three years. But when I started writing it, and for the first five years that I did, I’d read it all.

No, I mean it. I’m not exaggerating. I’d read Every. Single. Thing.

So when someone suggests that I should know my genre, I walk into the three-aisle thriller section and hyperventilate. I seriously feel like I should read Every. Single. One.

My rational mind realizes that the admonition to know thy genre doesn’t really mean every single one. (Even though I do have a list on my computer of every single spy story I could find.) That would be impossible.  But given my history, I’m used to the comfortable feeling of knowing all of it.

It makes it so much easier and so much more fun, because when you know all the rules and conventions, you can break every single one with (embarrassingly enough) a fair bit of cockiness because you KNOW that it will work.

Without that knowledge, you may accidentally break the rules, and by sheer luck it might work, but … you don’t know that.

So I’m sitting and looking at this pile of books that grows incessantly higher on my desk, this pile of books that says, “How dare you think of tackling the Big N before you’ve read me?!”

Do you struggle with the feelings of inadequacy concerning the number of books you’ve read?

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Stephen King's Haven Foundation

Have you guys heard of The Haven Foundation? I’m so touched that Stephen King—anyone—would put something like this together. It’s a foundation to help freelance artists who have suffered a catastrophe making it unable for them to work.

It is terribly difficult to pay for insurances if you’re self-employed and trying squeak out a living word by word.

Stephen King says:

The majority of mid-list writers, audio readers, and freelancers in the book and publishing industry have little or no financial cushion in the event of a sudden catastrophic accident such as that suffered by Muller and myself. Many aren’t affiliated with any professional associations or guilds that can help them in the event of such reversals. Even those who are affiliated with organizations such as The Authors’ Guild cannot look for much beyond token help over a short period of time.

Now how nice is it that he wants to help??

They accept donations, and they sell autographed and unautographed books at their store! They even have a signed John Irving’s Until I Find You. There’s only one left.

It’s okay, go ahead. My book budget doesn’t come in until after it will be gone, anyway. :-)

Although I think the lottery’s up to 60 million now …

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Would You Look At That?

Picture 240We live in a residential area, about two blocks from the town center. There are a couple trees, but any “woods” are a few blocks away.  We glanced out our window this afternoon, and a would you believe what we saw?

A wild turkey!

I’ve never seen one that close. I must’ve missed visiting the wild turkey cage in the zoo, or on the farm. I think I took at least 100 pictures. It allowed me to come closer and closer, and even made a cute chirping, gobbling sound when he got accumstomed to me.

I almost thought he was a pet. He certainly wasn’t scared. He could’ve Picture 212been sick, but … I don’t think so.

Isn’t that really cool? And on such a nice day, too! A day of warm spring, finally!

So how was your weekend? Anything interesting happen?

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Subplots, Books, and Thursday Thirteen #8

I have a question. I want to ‘dig deep’ in the Big N, but … how deep is too deep? I always worry I’m getting too dark and depressing.

Oh … and another question. Sub-plots? In a novel vs. a novella, I’m thinking the sub-plot will need to be richer and more in depth. And will probably have to be sub-plots instead of sub-plot. Any wisdom on sub-plots?

Any thoughts? Feel free to leave a ten page treatise. *grins* Or just a word of wisdom.

My heart is in the story now. It takes awhile for that to happen, you know? But now I feel my character like I’m her. Boy, it’s going great. I’m in the exhilarating stage of the novel. :-)

Thirteen Books to Win!

  • 1. The Cleaner, by Brett Battles: To enter, go to his blog and comment on the best book you’ve read in the last year, with a link to where his other readers can find it. (By the way, I’ve read this book; well-worth a read, that’s for sure!)
  • 2. The Mark, by Jason Pinter: To win, comment on his blog the flimsiest reason why you should win the book.
  • 3. Kiss Her Goodbye, by Robert Gregory Browne: Just enter your name and email on his blog.
  • 4. Fear No Evil, by Allison Brennan: Go to Murder She Writes and comment this week, and you can win an early copy!
  • 5. The Perfect Stranger, by Allison Kent: Shiloh Walker is running it on her blog. All you have to do is describe what would be your perfect stranger.
  • 6. Seraphim, by Shelby Reed: Just join in the discussion at Shiloh Walker’s blog! Isn’t she generous?
  • 7. The Penny Tree, by Holly Kennedy: Enter by March 23rd; details at her blog.
  • 8. Stealing the Dragon, by Tim Maleeny: I raved about this book a couple weeks ago; remember the female ninja assassin? Well, you can win the book at David J. Montgomery’s blog. You can also win this book at Author Buzz.
  • 9. The Wayward Muse, by Elizabeth Hickey: Just go to the Great American Book Giveaway and enter your email!
  • 10. Portrait of an Unknown Woman, by Vanora Bennett: Just go to the Great American Book Giveaway and enter your email!
  • 11. The Last Spymaster, by Gayle Lynds: A spy story! You know how I love them! Win this book at Author Buzz, too.
  • 12. Count to Ten, by Karen Rose: Also at Author Buzz.
  • 13. How about $250 worth of books? Go to Powell’s and scroll down to sign up for a newsletter in order to be entered.

Good Luck!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Humanity: To Look or Not

I find people, humans, utterly fascinating. What we can do to each other, what we can do to ourselves. Not just the good, but the bad and the ugly. I’m not sure if this is good trait of mine, but I can’t help looking. We are fascinating creatures.

I don’t want to trivialize it; I feel for humanity, I really do. My heart is easily broken, but I can’t stop looking.

Somedays I wonder how I can write, how I can do justice to the depth and complexity that is our humanity.

img3What got me in this pensive mood is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. I picked it up today, and I was crying by page 13. Within three hours, I’d read the whole thing, and cried several more times.

It’s one of those books you read, and you’ll never be the same again. It’s one of those stories that sticks with you forever. There are images in this book that I will never, ever forget.

After running from the rebels for a year, even living in the jungle alone (at twelve!) in order to stay safe, Ishmael Beah finally finds his way to a safe town that is protected by the army. But then the army needs him, and he has no choice but to become a soldier ... at thirteen.

Storytelling is an oral art still respected in his upbringing, and it’s clear that Beah inherited the talent. His book is one that was adopted by Starbucks for their stores, but it deserves it. He’s a gifted writer, and he didn’t need to be in order to publish this book. His story was that compelling, but it’s also that well told.

It feels important to be aware of the world, but I often wonder: if you can’t directly or even indirectly help, is their any good in being aware? Or do we just depress ourselves? It feels important to know and to feel for those in pain, even when we can’t help. But does it help anyone?

It does change our perspective. Maybe that’s the most important thing of all. But one does wish one could do something, you know?

Anyway, here’s quote from Publishers Weekly:

This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone’s civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare. Beah’s harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by American hip-hop music and dance to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly, sociopathic rebel and army forces. Beah then finds himself in the army- in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he’s brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs. The process marks out Beah as a gifted spokesman for the center’s work after his "repatriation" to civilian life in the capital, where he lives with his family and a distant uncle. When the war finally engulfs the capital, it sends 17-year-old Beah fleeing again, this time to the U.S., where he now lives. (Beah graduated from Oberlin College in 2004.) Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide. (Feb.)

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jack Bauer: 7:00 p.m.

img1So ... what’d you think?

What I find fascinating about 24 is I find in it a wonderful study of what works phenomenally well, and what falls flat. 24 doesn’t go ride the gray area between the two. It’s either ridiculous or gripping.

The gripping first: Do you wake the president from his coma, essentially killing him, in order to prevent the vice-president from practically starting another world war?

Now that’s high stakes.

The Vice President thing isn’t quite working for me. Why? We’re missing his motivation. He seems flatly evil right now. Flatly irrational.

’Course, he does remind me a little of Bush. :-)

Here’s the thing: it’s a good idea to have a possible leak in CTU. But Nadia? We like her too much. She can’t be the leak. We won’t buy it, so it’s obvious it’s someone else. Why isn’t this bit working for me?

Because no one is insisting that they look elsewhere for the culprit! And if we don’t believe she’s the culprit, then it’s not believable for us to believe that the CTU people don’t believe she’s the culprit.

Under normal circumstances, I could rationalize that they don’t have time to discuss this. But during a moment of national security, when millions of lives are at stake, they’re going to ask (is it Chloe?) Chloe to check Morris’s breath??

We know he hasn’t been drinking. We know he won’t drink. So we don’t really care to see this little routine repeated ad nauseum.

And let’s just analyze Jack’s devastating news. Jack’s a pretty focused guy. His personal life gets compartmentalized right out of his mind during crisis situations. So do we really buy that he’s going to interrupt Chloe’s work on averting a nuclear disaster just to call up the folder of a dead love? She’s already dead! Wait until the damn crisis is over!

Then the most ridiculous part. Did anyone else here find it hilarious when Jack begs Buchanan to let him run point on the mission?

After disregarding and disobeying--with no consequence--his commanding officer’s orders, he bothers to beg Buchanan for permission to join the mission? Hah! I’m sorry, but it’s obvious who wears the pants in CTU. Why doesn’t Jack just tell Buchanan he’s going to go; he’s barked orders at Buchanan before!

It’s way too easy to make fun of 24. Believe it or not, I really do like the show. But sometimes ...

The show does so much right, and then their carelessness in characterization makes parts of the show ridiculous.

I haven’t seen every season. Is this ridiculousness limited to this season? Or is it throughout the series?

Anyway, that little drone plane was SO cool! I want one of those million dollar toys!

Read more...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Jack Bauer, Day 6 on 24

img jack bauerI watched the last two hours last night (5:00 - 7:00 p.m.) in preparation for tonight’s episode. Have you seen them? What’d you think?

There’s a writing lesson to be learned from 24.

See, the past two hours have been sadly devoid of any opportunities to make fun of 24, and no gripping moments to admire. Its charm are the twists, layers, and preposterous acts of Jack Bauer. Aside from the moment when he dismissed his commanding officer's orders with a wave of his hand, he’s been pretty much doing what he planned to do and what we know he had to do.

Maybe he’s getting tired. It’s been a long day for him. ;-)

The thing about foreshadowing and plot is that even though what happens is usually a given, it must happen in an unexpected or surprising or original way. If you foreshadow such and such is going to happen, and then it happens exactly as planned, it’s boring.

So what do we expect from 7:00 p.m.? We know they’re going to track Gredenko. We know they’re going to fail in some way: we still have quite a few more hours to go.

I started to admire Lennox at 6:00 p.m., but he disappointed me at the end. We all know the vice-president was behind the assassination attempt. How long will it take for the plot to be uncovered? Because we know it’ll be uncovered. How and when?

And then there’s Jack. He’s supposedly going to have a "devastating setback." Therein lies our hope for 7:00 p.m.!

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Write Hard and Spy

I wasn't going to post again today, but I just came across this post, Write Hard, at Sling Words.

I like these two best:

You must remember why you began writing in the first place - because you love putting words together.

You must remember why you write - because it is what you do; it characterizes who you are; it is a reward in itself.

I'm sorry I wasn't around for two days; I would've warned you, but I didn't know I was going to be gone so long! I've been researching hard, rather than writing hard. The story line is taking shape and I'm writing down snippets of scenes, but the research is overwhelming. I spent about thirteen hours on Friday and ten hours on Saturday.

When I haven't experienced something first hand, I'm obsessive with research. I need things to come to life for me so clearly that I feel like I'm part of that world, and I know how I would feel in that world, if I were my characters.

You know, ten years ago, it would've never been possible for me to write a spy novel. I think the CIA is on a propaganda/public relations mission, with all the fiction and non-fiction that's available the past year or two.

They need the boost.

Or do they? The other intelligence agencies of the government seem to be doing just fine without so many political problems. Are they more immune, linked as they are to the military? Or is it the nature of the political beast?

The rise in spy non-fiction and fiction could just be the upswing of public interest and popularity. They keep saying that it's the "decade of the spy" (again), but I keep saying it's the "century of the spy." I'm aiming for a long-term career, here ... LOL.

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The Great American Book Giveaway

Do you guys know about The Great American Book Giveaway? Free books! I just won one last week! They give away hundreds a week.

You just enter your email address, and if you win, they send you a book. If not, then they send you ONE quick email to say "sorry." ONE. That's it. They don't use your email again, ever. When you enter a new drawing, they send ONE "thank you." If you win, they send ONE email.

That's it. And if you stop entering, they'll never bother you again.

I just read a study that more and more people are signing up for feeds because they're in control to turn it on and off, and people more reluctant than ever to sign up for newsletters, because of all the darn spam.

No need to worry with The Great American Book Giveaway!

Speaking of feeds, I was just reading the NY Times Review of "And Then We Came to the End." On skim, it seemed like it said, "It is set at the turn of the century, when the implosion of the dot-com economy is ..."

I was thrown out of the article, saying "shit!" When did the "turn of the century" jump forward a hundred years???

But it did.

The reviewer, James Poniewozik, actually said the "turn of the current century." (Italics mine.) He didn't need to do that, but I can see why he did. How long is it going to take us to get accustomed to the 2000s?

Oh, let me snippet a bit of the review: sounds like an interesting book! Worth a glance at the bookstore, just in case it strikes a chord:

It is a brave author who embeds the rationale for writing his novel into the novel itself. But 70 pages into Joshua Ferris’s first novel, set in a white-collar office, we meet Hank Neary, an advertising copywriter writing his first novel, set in a white-collar office. Ferris has the good sense to make Neary’s earnest project seem slightly ridiculous. Neary describes his book as “small and angry.” His co-workers tactfully suggest more appealing topics. He rejects them. “The fact that we spend most of our lives at work, that interests me,” he says. “A small, angry book about work,” his colleagues think. “There was a fun read on the beach.”

“Then We Came to the End,” it turns out, is neither small nor angry, but expansive, great-hearted and acidly funny.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Innocent in Death: Have You Read It?

I'm in tears. I'm crying. Sheesh, you guys must think I'm a sappy cryaholic, but ... man. I swear, I'm really crying.

Over a mystery, for god's sake.

My God, have you read the latest J.D. Robb? I don't know how Nora does it. How, after twenty-three books, can a series have any deeper to go?

She managed, yet again, to dig deeper.

Nora Roberts is my hero.

Which sucks, because that means I can never meet her. I'd probably just break down and bawl or something.

I was going to say something intelligent about the book. I was going to point out all the evidence of her genius. I was going to rave about the technique and the skill and the craft.

But fuck. I have to go to bed so I can get up early and write. I've got twenty years of writing and a hundred and some more books to write before I can even dream of being half as good as her. Geezuz.

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Thank You! And Book Meme.

Hey, remember when I asked about short story lengths?

Writtenwyrdd did a whole post on the varying lengths, definitions, and expectations of each form of the short story. That was SO cool! Thank you!

And because whatever I post today (Sorry, TT-ers! I'll be back next week!) would be an un-cool and self-indulgent whine about my foot (I can't take it anymore! Eight months! I'm tired of it! I'm exhausted and irritable from the incessant pain!), I'm going to do a book meme. Will you join me? It'd be interesting to see what we've all read! There are too many books I haven't read!

***Oopsy! I forgot to say thank you to Confessions of a Sophisticated Writer for the meme! Sorry!***

How Many Have You Read?

*Look at the list of books below.
*Bold the ones you’ve read.
*Italicize the ones you want to read.
*leave same the ones that you aren’t interested in.
*If you are reading this, tag you’re reading it.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) (I've read parts. The sexy parts. *grin*)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)

17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)

29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck) (Okay, I think I actually read this in high school. Well, part of it, anyway. I get the feeling it doesn't count, LOL.)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella) (Yes, but her stand-alones are MUCH better.)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) (In German!)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)

59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)

63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)

72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)

87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hard Work and Rivers

Sometimes I wonder if life is a big river, and we're just riding the current.

I paddle so hard and fast sometimes, I'm worn out and exhausted. And why? Because even when I stop paddling, the current keeps taking me downstream exactly where I want to go.

All my paddling can't push my boat any faster than the current is already sweeping me.

So why do we wear ourselves out? Why do we stress and strive and work so hard?

Is it because we're impatient? Because we don't trust that we'll get there? Or because we fear we won't?

If there's a bend in the river, it's not like we can bend it in a different direction.

And if the river's already rushing at 50 miles an hour, what's the point in paddling? I can't paddle faster than 50 mph, so I'm just wasting effort. All it needs is a dip or two of the paddle, now and then, to keep on course.

Or maybe I need to put the Tao of Pooh back on the shelf. Or maybe it's like JA Konrath says: with enough hard work, you create the momentum that will carry you, even after you cease the effort.

Update on The Big N: I deleted my secondary characters. I deleted everything except the name of the protagonist, which finally feels perfect.

I've lived with the secondary characters for a year now, talking in my head. But after all that time, they've ... I don't know ... they've told their story already? So I had to say goodbye. I put them in a file that I hope I'll open again someday. I'll miss them while they're gone.

This story is going to have less action than I wanted and more heart than I previously considered. That's okay, I guess. My resolution this year was to dig deeper. I suppose emotion and character relationships are my strengths.

But who really knows?

My progress has gone from 10,000 words, to 1,000 words, to two. And yet, I swear it's progress. :-)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Do You Play?

Do you play when you write? When you dream?

Jennifer Crusie is collaging all 4 acts of her novel. She has a picture (that looks awesome!) if you click through. Wow! That would be kind of cool, to just look up and see your whole story visually.

More Writing Collages:

Here's another idea: A Motivation Collage. I need one of those!

I have another collage, a "Dream Board," in the basement (I get a happy feeling in my heart every time I look at it; I really treasure it!) ... courtesy of the book, Live Your Dream. (GREAT BOOK!) I should probably do another one; mine needs updating! Here's what Joyce Chapman writes about it:

A Dream Board--a symbolic visual representation of your dream.

Look through magazines and cut out pictures and words that portray your dream. Arrange these on a poster board to create an attractive picture of the you you want to be. Include pictures or photographs of the aspects of your life--your ideal body, family, friends, relationship, home, car, work, accomplishments, finances, leisure activities, vacations--anything and everything that's important to you.

In creating your Dream Board, you are designing your own ad and picturing your own perfect life. Be as creative as you like, but follow one rule: you can only paste in a picture when you are willing to take the action required to make it a reality.

When you finish your Dream Board, display it in a prominent place where it can remind you often and reinforce where you're headed. You have now declared your dream. And when you declare, life supports you, and conditions around you begin moving into place to make your dream a reality.

Did I mention that making a Dream Board is major FUN? It feels like winning the lottery, and you can "buy" anything in the whole world that you want.

I guess it's time to give up TV and do some playing at night.

Do you do any fun things like collaging when planning your story? When setting goals?

And finally, go to Larramie's blog to find out when you can get Free Coffee at Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts!

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Beginning Rambles

Beginnings terrify me, particularly when my brain is a big mess as far as The Big N is concerned. See, I don't normally begin with big messes. I usually start with only a title and two characters and a theme that I want to explore. Then I dive in and write. More characters come, conflict pops up everywhere, and subplots naturally unfold.

That's all fine and good, except I've worked on The Big N over seven times in the last year, always to be sidetracked by a financial emergency. So I have seven starts and seven different stories.

I deleted them all today, except one. Over 10,000 words I deleted or turned into a future story idea. That's always painful, because I'm not big on deleting. I used to cringe and think, "I just deleted $300!!!" That's why I write bare-bones and fill in. Training.

But I don't have the heart of the story yet, and that means I'm wandering around my character's lives, peeking into their subconscious motivations, and trying to find my story.

I hate that.

Sure, it's fun, but I never feel like I'm accomplishing anything unless I'm deep in the story, living it and writing it. I always try to get deep in the story before I actually write it, so I can dive right in. I neglected to finish thinking before I started The Big N.

Damn.

Anyway, I was considering a reader email the other day, and something she said provoked me to consider the themes of a novella I'd written a few years ago. I can't remember much about the novella, but she was disappointed with the climax and the resolution.

I can't see how it could have been any other way, considering my themes. I do think it's possible that I could've sold my themes more clearly at the end. I don't know, though, because I barely remember it and I don't have the time to go back and re-read it.

But I'd forgotten one important thing: readers of erotica really feel they're reading romance. In this one story, I'd written more of an erotic SF than an erotic romance.

Anyway, it got me thinking about theme, and how one needs to make sure throughout, and at the end, that one has "sold" and "proven" the theme without betraying the genre.

I generally choose my ideas by my heart, as in, I know I'm hitting on something when my heart skips a beat. My heart is skipping a beat at all the wrong things in The Big N! It's not skipping a beat where I'd planned!

Oh, I hate that. (More research.)

And I love that. (Exhilarating.)

Beginnings have too much uncertainty to make me feel comfortable. I think that's why I drive through a story so fast: I need to wrap everything up and find out how it ends, just as much as the reader does.

What are your beginnings like? I love hearing about other writers' processes.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Question and a Funny

Question:
I've been living in the 4,000 word straitjacket for so long, that I have no idea what the "standard" length for a short story is. Do you know?

Funny:
Don't you love it when you get an email from jackhome@hotmail.com, but they sign it as Anne Watkins and the "From:" box says Lissy Grahams?

Maybe that's why Outlook Express calls it "managing identities."

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Quality vs. Quantity, Part II

Quality vs. quantity: the very phrase annoys the crap out of me. It is often a choice, but what people have seem to forgotten is that it is that the two can co-exist.

It is possible to have quality and quantity. It's also possible to have neither quality nor quantity. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Bev Rosenbaum made a call for research on the CLWRWA list recently, asking for authors' feelings on the pressure to be prolific, the effect of writing prolifically, and the old quality vs. quantity argument.

For me, my answers to her questions were:

  • I sold 200,000 words in five and half months last year, which, considering I had a full-time job besides was a lot. (And that's not counting the words I deleted.)
  • At the end, I was stressed, emotionally exhausted, mentally exhausted, and burnt-out. (Big surprise for you guys, huh? *grins*)
  • However, readers' responses increased dramatically. My writing improved dramatically. Sales improved. My stories improved. Everything improved.
  • Not to mention, when I write a bunch in a focused amount of time, my story is tighter and truer, more cohesive.
  • I told her I would do it again in a heartbeat, because it made me a better writer and improved my "relationship" with my readers.
This topic always makes me buggers (Okay, why did I just use that word? What does buggers mean, anyway? Help! Did I use it wrong?) because I just don't understand how today's standards of prolific are all that prolific. A thousand words per day, six days a week, is 288,000 words (if you include 4 weeks of vacation. That's 2 - 4 books a year. It's not even pushing it to write double that at 2,000 words a day, particularly when one is writing as a job. Particularly if one is fiction-writing full-time.

If one is writing less than that, then fine. No big deal.

I'm just saying that it's not like writing 2,000 words a day is going to subtract from quality. On a bad day, 500 words an hour = 4 hours. Even if you take 2 hours for research, 2 hours for cleaning up yesterday's stuff, and 2 hours for business stuff, then you're still working, pretty much, a normal to easy day for a self-employed business person.

Maybe you write at a rate of 250 words per hour. Maybe you delete a lot of what you write. Maybe you spend more time with your family, and don't want to work that much in a day. Maybe you want to have a life besides working. Maybe you spend a whole lot more time carefully writing back your readers and blogging. Maybe you don't read during your evenings. Maybe you read during your writing time. Maybe your life just doesn't allow that much time for writing. Maybe you only write 4 days a week. Maybe you're like John Irving, and you have dyslexia and it takes a full day of painstaking work to write 250 words. Maybe you take a couple weeks to outline and plot. Or maybe you take a week to clean the house after each book.

All that is fine! Really, it's okay! It's not a race.

I'm just saying, don't knock the people who can put out an average of 2,000 words a day. They're not necessarily sacrificing quality. Heck, I've been known to put out 2,000 words a day while working a full-time job besides. I wouldn't know how to slow down. When I do slow down, my quality suffers.

I have to let my mind wander, snap out of my ultra-ADD-focus, and pull myself out of immersion in the story.

In other words, I'd have to sacrifice quality in order to produce less quantity.

I'm not saying others should be like this. I'm just saying, enough with the prolific cracks and put-downs. If I weren't working a full-time job besides, writing such research-heavy stuff, and if writing was my only job, I would probably write 2,000 - 5,000 words a day.

I hear all the exclamations. But they can't possibly be cutting enough words! They can't possibly be revising enough! They can't possibly be ___________!

Yes, we humans hate change, but we can also adapt when necessary to our survival.

It is possible to put out 5,000 words a day and write a novel that doesn't need much revision. It's sure not easy, and it's mentally exhausting (and invigorating). Sure, some people need to write 3,000 words and cut 2,000 words. That's fine! But some people, by necessity, learn to adapt and not write those words in the first place.

For their minds, and their process, the novel probably works better when they write 3,000 words and cut 2,000 words. I'm also sure there are writers out there who feel like when they rush, that their quality suffers.

That's fine.

I'm sure that there are prolific writers whose quality leaves a bit to be desired. I'm sure that there are slower writers whose quality leaves a bit to be desired.

And yeah, it's not fair that prolific writers have an advantage. We all have our weaknesses and strengths. You gotta play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. And if that sometimes means working twice as hard as someone else, that's just what you do. What else can you do? Life isn't fair.

I'm just saying prolific does not equal lesser quality for every writer. Let's cut the prolific writers a break, okay?

Good questions to ask:

  • At one point does an author over-saturate the market and lose readers?
  • How detrimental is it to start a career with no backlist and no books coming out for another year?
  • How hard it is for an author to be "a favorite" or an "instant buy" when you've only read one or two of his/her books?
  • How prolific do you need to be to get where you want to be and what you want out of your career?
  • What do you need to do to be that prolific? Or that un-prolific?

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Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ...............

Okay. I just want to know. Was this one of Bush's harebrained schemes? Or maybe it was a conspiracy of all the morning people in the world, to further detriment night-owls?

@#$#@$@#$!!!!!!!!

@#$(@%@)@#)(#)(@*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I. Really. Hate. Mornings.

They're not fair.

Period.

And it's one of those nights. I know if I go to bed, morning will be here sooner, and I'll feel like shit sooner.

I hate mornings.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Fridays for You

What did I say? What did I just say??

;-)

Therese Fowler was just added to her agent's client list, and sold more foreign rights to her book, Souvenir.

Kate Sterling's book was just released ahead of schedule, and she's headlining!

Yay!

Now I know I'm missing someone. Someones. I'll take the handy excuse that I've been researching and reading for over twelve hours. Am off to do more. And repeat it all again tomorrow.

But I'm loving it so much that I'm not in the least bit tired.

Anyway, I get more enjoyment out of your comments than anything I write here.  Hence, "Fridays for You."  I want to hear about you.  :-)

So ... what's up with you?

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Soup and Rules

I almost feel like apologizing for this post.

But. I do bring it back to writing in the end.

Kinda.

I love homemade soup. Ohmigosh, I swear, it's the best thing since chocolate, and if you know me, you know that's saying a whole lot.

Before DH came to live with me, I made a huge pot of soup every week, and ate it all week. I tried all sorts of soups. My favorite?

Matzo Ball Soup.

Except not precisely Matzo Ball Soup. First, I buy two boxes of the Matzo Ball & Soup Mix. Two packets of soup mix in 5 quarts of water.

Then comes the fun part.

I raid the 'frig, and throw in the old salad, old vegetables, and pretty much anything else that strikes my fancy.

Oh, and a bay leaf.

The making of the Matzo Balls is the best part, though. You can't make it according to directions. You have to make it with melted butter instead of oil.

Even if you have never loved Matzo Balls, you will LOVE them.

Throw a little white pepper in the mix and you've got heaven.

If you're keeping kosher, I'm sure the butter breaks all the rules.

Why is it that the yummiest things come from breaking the rules? (And don't you love I pretended this post had substance, by linking to Allison Brennan's article on breaking the rules in fiction? *grins*)

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #7: How to Make Your Debut a Success

Okay, the title was a bit tongue in cheek, but the content is not.  Tim Maleeny's Stealing the Dragon is a fresh and original debut.  Gosh, and this year is a great year for debuts!  It's well-crafted storytelling, through and through.

I mean, who isn't crazy about a female ninja assassin?

It's the sort of book that makes you say, "Oh cool!  Now that's the kind of book I've been looking for!" 

Okay, it makes me say that.  But I bet you'll like it, too.

Thirteen Lessons in Making Your Debut a Success
  • 1.) How to be Fresh #1: Give a hard-nosed detective a sidekick who is a female ninja assassin.  He lives for honesty; she lives for justice.
  • 1.) How to be Fresh #2: Make said ninja assassin a lesbian
  • 3.) How to be Fresh #3: Keep said sidekick offstage--except for intriguing backstory--for three quarters of the book.
  • 4.) How to Break the Rules #1: Open with a dream that is backstory, too.  Talk about a double whammy.  Then use the scene to hint at a character so intriguing and mysterious, that you can't help but keep reading.
  • 5.) How to Break the Rules #2: Make a good half of the book in italicized backstory, but make it so interesting that you couldn't put it down if you tried.
  • 6.) How to Break the Rules #3: Write a hard-boiled mystery/thriller (whatever) that is half-told through the eyes of a child training to be a ninja assassin.
  • 7.) How to be Quirky #1: Describe fascinating sidekick as, "part demon, part heavenly spirit," (87) or "Dirty Harry in a leotard." (97)
  • 8.) How to be Quirky #2: Throw in an earthy reporter who will spend no more than three hours a day indoors and refuses to eat sugar.  
  • 9.) How to be Quirky #3: Add a computer genius called "Sloth," who is so good he's almost part computer himself.
  • 10.) How to be Original #1: Instead of Jack Bauer, try more exotic torture scenes: snake pits, locked rooms full of scorpions, ...
  • 11.) How to be Original #2: Cool martial arts tricks with somersaults and wooden swords.  They can be really cool in books, if described well.  (And they are in this book.)
  • 12.) How to be Gripping: Mix quirk and gore, love and death, loyalty and betrayal.
  • 13.) How to Prove Your Skill: Make me cry in public.  What a story!
And of course, I have to thank Mark Terry for reviewing this book.  His interview, Take 7 with Tim Maleeny, is equally fascinating.

Read more...

At a Loss for Words

I didn't write today. I stayed home to write some cards, to some ex-students who just lost their father.

Except I just sat there with pen in hand, crying.

No child should lose a father. God. I remember when I lost my father at ten, a nun wrote me a heartfelt letter about how she'd lost her father at ten, too.

At the time, I thought she couldn't possibly understand what it was like. I was different. Me and my daddy had a special relationship. No one could possibly understand what it felt like.

But I remember the look in her eyes, and I know now that she did understand. That she wished that I didn't have to live through it, and wished that she could take the pain away.

When I write, I guess I try to put myself in the reader's or the character's shoes. That's not working so well for a personal letter. I can't think of what to write them. I want to tell them I know how it feels, but I know that I don't. Their relationship with their father was its own special, unique relationship.

And I think of how I felt, how they must feel, when going through the same thing. And I just cry.

I am a total wimp. I am one of the weakest people I know when it comes to stuff like this. Other people have this strength, this ability to be a rock when it matters most. Not me. I just cry. It's one of things that makes me a good teacher (can empathize) and bad teacher (empathize too much).

I wish I could think of what to say to them. I wish I could give them some gem to hang on to when things get tough. I wish I could give them some insight that would take just a little of the pain away. I wish I could write a few words that would warm their hearts and give them comfort.

Any advice?

Sorry for the sappy post today, LOL. What can you do? It's life, isn't it?

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Our Nightmare

I'm going to go pre-order a copy of The Mark, by Jason Pinter, because this just totally sucks. And I never pre-order.

Never.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Men Write Better than Women?

It started the other day. I was working on a website, and asked DH if he thought it screamed females only, no men please. He kind of wish-washed back and forth between giving me an honest reply and one that would net him dinner that night.

The gist of it was, he thought a man wasn't likely to pick up a book written by a woman unless ... what was it? He was coerced or persuaded?? This from a ex-SF guy who reads romances?

I let it slide. Family peace and all that.

But then, when Taro Galsomino posted "Read Like A Man," I found myself getting irked. I choked on my chocolate when I read this:

For my money, I think the reason why I’m often drawn to “men’s” books these days is because of the intelligence factor.
And this:
Sadly, I just don’t see the same amount of brainpower in the female-penned novels available today ...
I was glad to read the response of the esteemed Jane of Dear Author, until I read this:
One reason is because I think that true love is best between equals. But to say that the men do it better is not only inaccurate but demeaning.

We romance bloggers may complain about the genre we love, but love it we do because we know that intelligence comes from the heart, not just the head.

What, females can't have intelligence from the head? Okay, I know she misspoke. She had to.

Ugh. I'm trying to comment, and ... I just can't. I'm too annoyed at all of it. I suppose this is why stereotyping is such a bad idea. I'll comment with y'all in the morning. :-(

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A Watched Pot ...

It's funny to hear authors talk about getting ideas. Some people just hate this question, while others laugh at it. I think it's one of those taboo topics, mostly.

So, of course I'm talking about it, LOL.

I'm allowing myself one week to get back into the Big N, get reacquainted and my mind re-organized with it. I'm also doing a little research, which for me is SO much fun! In school, I was quickly bored by history, but then in college I had a good friend who was a historian. Once I clicked into what a creative art history is, I loved it.

And now researching spies and tradecraft and current events is a big love. I love the way politics and motivations intertwine like a big puzzle. I love the way allegiances and loyalties work for and against each other.

I find the idea that I'm writing about spies a tad preposterous (how do you get from music to erotica to ... spies?), but the subject just endlessly fascinates me. I can be so tired my eyes are closing and my brain is fuzzy at best, but put a dryly-written military, espionage, or history book in front of me, and my mind just snaps alive.

I could research for years.

I'm allowing myself only one week before I get back to writing, because I could get sucked into research for MONTHS. When my one publisher stopped buying and almost folded, I researched for SIX months.

I still feel like I know nothing.

Anyway, I was wandering around Borders, trying to come up with an idea that will solve a plot issue.

When I'm not trying to come up with ideas, they're a dime a dozen. I can't shut them up. I have more story ideas than I could write in a lifetime!

And then when I need an idea, they whisk away into hiding.

GRRRRRRRR.

Where do you get your ideas? Okay, you don't have to answer. :-) I'd still be interested, if you do want to answer!

I guess my answer would be: I either laboriously and carefully make them up, or they spark off in my brain all the time. The sparks are more fun than the labor, that's for sure!

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Free Book! And a good one, too ...

Want a free book? Remember when I talked about Natalie R. Collins' Behind Closed Doors? Well, she's offering up her first Mormon-themed novel, Sisterwife, for free as a pdf eBook. She described it at Murder She Writes (during a good post on viral marketing):

Polygamy in Utah. And just how far bent the “prophets” go to protect their sacred beliefs ... it definitely spotlights the beliefs–-and explains why Mormon fundamentalists believe the way they do–-in a way that is easy to understand. Plus there is a killer love story and some great action thrown in for good measure. SISTERWIFE, a “ripped from the headlines” story of love, lust, greed and murder, set in the crazy world of polygamy.
I love novels that take me to whole new world. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to read this one! You know, wouldn't it be nice if all books came with an eBook copy, so you can read it during quick breaks in between working? Amazon does this, I believe, for a few extra dollars. Cool, huh?

Read more...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Foreshadowing: A Burp or A Technique?

As much as I want to, I just haven't been able to turn off my brain while reading.  I've been having this problem for a year now. 

It's the constant chatter.  Sure, I'm swept away.  But a part of my brain keeps pointing out, "Oh! He started with that scene to establish that she's both dangerous and a good person."  And, "Oh! Okay, that remark is just foreshadowing what is going to happen in the story."

I just wonder: is foreshadowing a technique, or a mental burp?

I mean, really, I never think of foreshadowing.  I think of paralleling part of my story or theme in main and sub-plots, but I never think of foreshadowing.

In fact, I wonder if most of the "techniques" we fiction writers use are not really techniques, but accidents.  Subconscious burps, so to speak.

When I notice certain things in a novel that make it work, I often wonder: did he mean to do that, or did it just happen?  Was it some instinct that put it there, or a subconscious knowledge of what makes a story tick?  Do people decide, after the fact, to put that stuff in?  During the process?  Before the process?

Or do we sit there and continually ask ourselves, while writing, what we want the reader to feel?  And then end up selecting that technique (consciously or subconsciously) that will emotionally grab the reader?

Subconscious burps or conscious techniques?

That's really what I want to know.  A mixture, probably.

Do you guys "install" certain elements or techniques to strengthen your story?  Do you ever discover them in your work, a welcome surprise?

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Making TOO Much Money

Okay, a rant. I'm sorry.

Kinda.

What is it about the entertainment business? There seems to be this prevailing attitude (that speaks pretty close to communism, frankly), that there's only so much money a person should make.

Do you here people saying that Bill Gates should cut his income? That it's wrong for Donald Trump to be so rich?

NO!!!

But you hear it all the time about baseball players, authors, actors, actresses, musicians ...

What in the world is that all about???

People deserve what they earn. If millions of people are entertained by your work, then you should be paid for the entertainment they receive. Period. There is no cap. We are a capitalist society.

Yay, Ayn Rand!

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

It's Insanity! Obsession! Craziness!

Good news first!!!!  Ohmigosh, GREAT news!  My plate is CLEAR.  I am back to my spy novel, where I belong.  Ohmigosh, I can't tell you the relief.  It's been a bear writing stuff I didn't really want to write, while my heart and mind were just aching to write my spy novel.

Thank you, God, Goddess, Lord, Heavens, Gaia, Universe.

Anyway.  Yesterday, while writing at Borders, I sat next to a woman in the cafe who was drinking her coffee and staring into the fire.  Isn't that nice?  Nothing wrong with that. 

I was the insane one.

It started out with a sideways peek.  I casually glanced between us.  No books.  I looked at her lap.  No cell phone.  I snuck a glance at her face.  She didn't seem to be waiting for anyone. 

What was she doing there?

I found myself quite uncasually trying to see what was on the other side of her.  No books.  No magazines.  I looked behind her on the ledge and there was a CD!  Yay!

Okay, she was getting a coffee, having a moment of relaxation before she bought her CD.

I went back to writing.

An hour later, she was still there.  I tried to unobtrusively look at her face.  She still didn't seem impatient.  She wasn't waiting for anyone.  She was just sitting there.

And not reading a book.  This fact grated on me until she finally got up and left.  I burst out to DH, "She sat here for almost two hours, in a bookstore, and didn't read a book!"

I got a very strange look from him. I'm not sure what he was thinking, but he wisely didn't say anything.

I have this insane fear that if she's not reading a book, then the downfall of this business we love is imminent.

I had the same feelings a few weeks ago when someone proudly announced that they most certainly did not read fiction.  I almost choked on my tongue.  I couldn't speak.  I tried to be a brave knight, defending our passion, but I sat there with my mouth gaping open and my tongue tied.  (Enough cliches for you?)

I have no conclusion, except for the realization that I have an insane fear that people will suddenly stop reading fiction.

Read more...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Can I write?

After selling (for pennies a word; don't get excited; I'm just a little bee) over 500,000 words, I still have days where I stare at the page and wonder if I know how to write.

I swear to God.

Not how to write well.  Just how to write a sentence at all.  A chapter?  Hah!  Yeah, right!

When I first start a novella, the story comes to me in disjointed little snippets, like little sparks firing off here and there. 

I write half of them down as quickly as I can forget the other half, and then I look at the mess I've made.  I attempt to organize into chapters, and then I attempt to write sentences that tell the story in a smooth flow.

But after two days of sparks igniting only fragments, I step back and wonder if I've lost this thing I thought I had.  I wonder if I will ever be able to write again.  I wonder if this is it, if this is when I lose it, when I learn that I'm not really a writer.

And then I tell myself to shut up and just write. 

Maybe I just can't do story and writing at the same time.  Maybe I just need to make a mess and then write.

I spent most of the day reading a book--a whole book!!--, thanks to Mark Terry.  He interviewed Tim Macleeny today, and I was intrigued by his female ninja assassin in Stealing the Dragon.  I'm a sucker for female ninja assassins.  ;-)

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Cyber-Bullying and eSnips update

As I skimmed the headlines this morning, I found a new word: cyber-bullyingYouTube has been banned in Australian schools

after a gang of male school students videotaped their assault on a 17-year-old girl on the outskirts of Melbourne.

The assault, which is being investigated by police, was uploaded on YouTube late last year.

The state government "has never tolerated bullying in schools and this zero tolerance approach extends to the online world," Allan said.

Wow.  Cyber-bullying.  Sad.

In other news today (*grins*), RWA has taken steps to force eSnips to cease and desist.  I wonder how effective that will be.  If all the money in the movie industry and all the money in the music industry has failed to stop people from sharing and pirating, how will the book industry manage?

It will be interesting to see what happens.  Here's a snippet from RWA Alert:

RWA was made aware of a website, www.eSnips.com in January that has been posting unauthorized, copyrighted works by many RWA members. RWA immediately consulted attorneys who specialize in this area. A cease and desist letter was sent that included the following warning: Please be advised that the continued availability of the copyrighted material on your website for downloading will be considered a continued willful and deliberate infringement, contributory infringement and inducement of infringement of our client's rights, for which eSnips Ltd. will be held fully accountable. Accordingly, we demand that your organization immediately and permanently remove all copyrighted materials of our client's members from your website, and that you confirm in writing by no later than January 30, 2007 that your organization has done so, and that it will prevent such infringement in the future. Our client may be willing to forego claims against eSnips Ltd. for past infringement if eSnips Ltd. places a more prominent warning against infringement on the eSnips.com its home page, rather than in the "terms of use", since eSnips.com users are intentionally posting copyrighted material for downloading by others, and must be proactively and conspicuously warned against doing so, and RWA is going to continue to follow up on this. The owner of the site quickly responded that he would take down all copyrighted material. The company removed the material we originally reported, but it now appears the company is not being proactive in prohibiting the further posting of copyrighted materials. RWA is arranging a meeting with the attorneys during Publishers Summit week after next to explore other avenues to stop this infringement as soon as possible. Jill Limber, President RWA

And now I'm off to spend a glorious day writing at my favorite writing hole.  Best, all!

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Book Piracy

Liz Wolfe sent me an email yesterday, bringing eSnips to my attention.  Thank you!  Here are her excellent thoughts on the matter of book piracy.

People have set up folders sharing different things: music, complete novels, and other random stuff.  I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later to the book industry.  After all, it happened/happens with music, with movies ... why not books?

Okay, confession time.  I went to the site, appalled.  I totally don't believe in piracy of any kind.

First, I couldn't find any books.  After some searching, I found tons of them.  And then I saw a book by Gena Showalter.

My first thought was, "Oh! I've always wanted to try reading one of her books!"

And then I thought I'd see if they really were pirating complete books, and not just excerpts.  So I clicked on her book, downloaded it, and tried to open it.  Just to see, I swear!

I didn't have the correct program, which is just as well. 

If I had, I think I might have read a little of the book.  Ack! 

Is it that easy to steal in our society?  I didn't mean to!  Well, I didn't, but I would have, and if I had, when would I have realized what I was doing and stopped? 

I would have stopped, because I'm a big copyright freak.  I love composers.  I love authors.  I love artists.  They are cataloging our history and our society in a very special way that will speak to generations to come, in a way the history books won't.

The pirates claim that since they bought the book, they can share it as they will.  How different is that from a library, really?  No, really, think about it.  One copy is paid for, hundreds of people read it.

Then there's the camp that cries "Copyright! Copyright!"  Yes, an author/artist/musician should be paid for their work.  I completely, 100% agree.

There's the "What can you do?" camp, that says if you offer the eBooks, then good, decent people will buy them.  The others, they say ... well, there's not much you can do about it.  Napster and iTunes have certainly proven this theory correct.  People "steal" free music all the time, and yet Napster and iTunes are a huge success for both themselves and the music industry.

My student's parents are often resistant to buying music.  I once kicked out a student (technically the parent, not the student) because I made a copy of a Christmas piece, so that her mom wouldn't have to pay shipping twice that year.  I figured she could order the piece in the spring when her daughter would need several other books.  When spring came, this mother didn't want to order the Christmas piece because her daughter had "already learned it." 

If it had been a financial difficulty, I'd have understood.  But it wasn't.  A four dollar book is nothing when a kid is wearing a hundred dollar outfit.  She used the music; she should pay for it!  And her daughter even performed the piece.   It's illegal!!!

The simple fact is, if an author/artist/musician/composer isn't paid for his/her work, then they will not produce.  Best case scenario, they will not produce as much.  Or they will produce and not share. 

This is not a good thing.

In the end, however, I suspect the pirates will find authors a few fans that will buy the books, the copyright criers will keep authors fed and sheltered, the shrugging camp will find new ways for authors to get paid, and everything will balance out.

I have to believe that's the case, because what else can I do?

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Thursday Thirteen #5: Fiddles and Putzes

I've decided that Wednesdays are going to be fiddle and putz days. I've been stretching myself way too thin. I still have to work for the eight hours, but for most of the Wednesdays I'm just going to fiddle and putz. So if I feel like sitting in the tub for four hours and reading a book, I'm going to do it. If I feel like putzing around the internet for a few hours, I'm going to do it. If I feel like just surfing blogs, I'm going to do it.

And I'm not going to feel guilty about it, either. I mean, I'm still writing a lot.

Thirteen Fiddles and Putzes

  1. The new Word 2007 also serves as a blog editor and will automatically publish your post to Blogger (and others)! You can try it for free, too, at Microsoft Office! We'll see how screwed up this present post is, and then we'll decide if it's any good. J
  2. BlogJet is another great blog-posting editor. Problem: it creates WAY too much space between paragraphs. I suspect it's because of the new blogger. I'm going to check back in a few months and see if this has improved.
  3. Elicit is the favorite one I found today. Except it's not working with blogger. I suspect that it works with the old Blogger, because it works with LiveJournal and WordPress and probably everywhere else.
  4. I spent twenty minutes cutting knots out of my long-hair cat's fur.
  5. I spent another thirty minutes playing with my cats, and then running around the house chasing them and making cat noises. (You guys already know I'm a little nutso, right? I don't have to pretend anymore, do I?)
  6. I roasted marshmallows in our oven.
  7. Bleezer works. Just not with LiveJournal.
  8. Performancing for Firefox is a GREAT publisher, because it not only works with Blogger and LiveJournal, it also has a MySpace plug-in! I do wish it was stand-alone, rather than rooted in the browser.
  9. I still don't understand del.icio.us.
  10. I still don't understand php or MySql.
  11. Not that I got bored putzing around, but bored.com is actually kind of fun.
  12. Insert a "yay!" because Thursday Thirteen is back!
  13. What's your favorite fiddle or putz?

The two disappointing things about today are: 1) I visited y'all's blogs. Every single one. But darnit, Blogger's "visual verification" picture doesn't show up! I get the "visual verification" words, but not the actual picture. So I couldn't post a single comment! 2) My fiddle and putz day is almost over. This has been WAY too much FUN!

You know what's been the BEST thing about today? I got nothing done. I never thought I'd hear myself say that with such pride. I'm actually starting to feel restless to get some work done tomorrow!

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