Monday, March 31, 2008

Waiting and Writing

Stewart Sternberg has an excellent post up, addressing the question, "Why Write?" I've always squarely been in the "I write for readers and I write for money" camp, but this post gave me pause.

In fact, it's the only post on the subject that's ever given me pause on the subject.

I might have to say that I write because writing is something I enjoy that will make money. And I can't think of anything else I could bear to do, let alone could do. Aside from what I already do with piano.

Anyway, all I've been doing, lately, is waiting. Waiting for DH to come home. We could be looking at another week. I haven't been able to talk to him since last Saturday, the one nine days ago.

I had a dream, last night, that I got a call and it was from someone else and they told me the ship had sunk and they were stranded on an island. I don't have the heebee jeebies, so it was kind of amusing.

I'm dying to get this novella out of the way. The story is all there, the word count is all there, I just have to go through the last few chapters. I re-wrote the ending instead of looking at what I had and editing. So now I have to re-write the rest of the ending.

But it feels like this one is never ending, even though I'm almost there.

I have a lot of writing planned for the next five months. My new process seems to be time-consuming. It's taken me two months to write this novella, which is only 25,000 words a month. I'm not usually this slow.

It's hard to judge the new process by my output the last couple months. I never miss a writing day when DH is home. When he isn't, I sometimes must do laundry and run errands. And this week I simply must get the new piano studio website up, as well as get the summer mailing out.

I can't wait until DH is home.

How are things going for you, writing-wise? Numbers-wise? Have you figured out a rhyme and reason to your output, some way to make it predictable? Some way to control it?

Read more...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What makes a story epic?

As I was writing today, my mind briefly thought of 10,000 B.C. (Excellent movie.)  It had an "epic" feel.  So I wondered: what gives some stories, some novels and some movies that "epic" feeling? What ingredients contribute?

I didn't come up with an answer, (cinematography and soundtrack didn't feel like the right answer, LOL) so I thought I'd ask you guys.

I often find myself holding back, fearing sounding pretentious.

And I was theorizing: you either have to go all the way, or not at all.

So many things can be made silly by not going all the way. Even if you are pretentious, or if you are writing silly stuff, if you keep pushing it deeper and more intense, going all the way into the moment, then you sweep the reader away from the surface, away from the possibility of pretension and silliness.

Because pretension lives on the surface. 

So if you hold back and stay on the surface, then even if you try not to be pretentious, that's what you end up with.

I don't know.  I'm just theorizing. I haven't tested that particular theory yet, not really.

DH could be home in a week, I pray. I didn't realize it, but I've already begun sleeping on "my side" of the bed. I miss him so much, it sometimes feels like he'll never be home.

Anyway, back to writing. I just wanted y'all's thoughts on "epic." What makes a story epic, and what keeps it from falling into silly or pretentious territory? It seems to me, it's a thin line. (Not that I'm trying to write an epic story, at the moment. Just wondered.)

One more question: off the top of my head, I can probably name ten or so movies that are "epic."  But I can't think of that many novels. I'm sure I'm just forgetting them or missing them. What are some epic-feeling novels you've read?

Read more...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Did you see? Did you see?

There's a real, honest, brave, and valid discussion going on in the comments section of the Thriller/Suspense Honorable Mentions entry.  There was an anonymous comment that a few people took as sour grapes, but I think there's more to it than that, and I don't think it was sour grapes at all. I desperately want to comment, but I fear I'd look stupid or ungrateful, considering.

Maybe I'll share the comment I deleted with you guys, this weekend.

This was a boost at just the right time, and I'm intensely, intensely grateful. I really needed a sign from the universe that I should take the risk and focus on my spy thriller. And I hope this turns into an opportunity, of course.

BUT, did you see, DID YOU SEE? About our friend, Aimless Writer?

"I almost didn't enter the contest after
I read aimless writer's entry about the
man in the elevator. I thought - there's
your winner right there. I thought it was
amazing and it didn't get a mention."

I think that says it all. I had the same feeling about several of the entries. I was THIS CLOSE to not entering, I swear to God, after I read your entries and some of those kick-ass female spies among the entries.

In the end, it doesn't matter if you win a particular contest, or catch the eye of this reader or that editor or this agent. I believe every single writer has readers, maybe undiscovered, who will think there story is one of their picks.

And that finding *your* readers is the one constant in this business, from beginning to end, whether those readers are agents, editors, booksellers, or "plain" readers. There will always be readers who think you suck, and there will, gratefully, be readers who think you're alright.

But, for now, let's all cross our fingers for our friends who entered in the women's fiction contest: Travis Erwin, Lainey Bancroft ... who'd I miss?

Read more...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Writing by Soundtrack

I interviewed Brett Battles for the soon-to-be-online SpyThrillers.org, and he mentioned that he often writes by soundtrack.

I've always liked soundtracks. For years, I kept a little journal of the music composers of movies, and my impressions. (Mostly so I could write off the movie ticket for tax purposes.)

I have no evidence for it, but soundtrack composition seemed to decline in favor of pop songs. There were so many movies that had no actual original composition, that I eventually stopped the practice.

Quite sad.

And then, they began re-using the same soundtrack for a couple movies, and that would get annoying.

But Brett got me thinking, and so I iTuned and CD-burned The Other Boleyn Girl. It's dark, a little tortured, and has plenty of screaming violins--just the mood for my WIP.  The music is so "background," that it doesn't distract me from writing and set my analytical music mind into high gear.

Have you ever written to soundtrack? Do you ever buy soundtracks of original composition (not compilations of tunes they stuck to a movie)?

Do you have a favorite soundtrack? A movie you remember, where the music just made the mood of the movie?

Read more...

A Thrilled Winner and a Women's Fiction Contest

After the long day writing yesterday, I groaned at my alarm, reset it (okay, all three) for 7:30, and climbed back in bed. Being as addicted as I am to the internet, I checked my email, and was wide awake when I saw Vicki's comment!

What a thrilling way to start my day!

I don't know if you've all noticed, but this makes three regulars at Erica Orloff's blog who've won. I think that surpasses coincidence and suggests two possibilities:

  1. Erica is a good-luck charm.
  2. Erica has such thought-provoking, inspiring, and educational posts, that we walk away better people for having known her, and better writers for having read the knowledge and experience she shares.

So if you have a mind to enter the Women's Fiction Contest at BookEnds blog(good luck!), then pop by Erica's blog first!

And then pllleeeeaaaase pray that she gets home safely from New York.

And stays healthy after that!!!!

Read more...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wrung Out

So, it seems like weeks I've been writing around the black moment, testing my toe in it now and then for plot purposes, but for the most part, avoiding it and procrastinating it forever.

I always do this. I need to start planning for two weeks of procrastination when I'm near the end. Okay. I've probably been putzing in and out and around it for a month, three weeks, at least. At least I've gotten a lot of polishing done.

But finally, today, I sunk into it. It seemed to go on forever. About ten or twelve thousand words, and yes, there were some strange highs within the black moment, but it was loooonng. 

It was one of those days, where you suddenly realize you're not breathing. You come back to reality every hour or so to go to the bathroom, and you feel disoriented, like you're walking in a cloud.

I was tempted to take a deep breath and refresh myself with a cozy mystery, but then I'd have to go through it all again tomorrow.

Well, I do, anyway. I've got an even blacker moment coming up.

It was one of those twelve-hour intense, non-stop writing days where, when they make the call at Borders saying they're closing in one hour, I suddenly realize I haven't eaten in twelve hours.

I know these days are gifts.

But I feel emotionally wrung out, my stomach is in knots, and I feel like I've been through hell. I am this close to throwing up.  Seriously.

Part of me fears I've gone too far this time, pushed it too deep. Another part of me finds it ironic that for all the emotion this character has put me through, the filtered result for the reader is probably one-quarter what I feel. If I'm lucky.

And tomorrow morning, I'll have to be level-headed and even-keeled, and go through with a fine-tooth comb to make sure none of it reads melodramatic or silly.

Me? Melodramatic? Never!

Do you procrastinate or avoid your hero/ine's black moments? How do you gear yourself up emotionally? And you do you let go of it when you close the computer?

I'm going to a movie. 10,000 B.C., for the second time. Loved it the first time.

Read more...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wrestling with Spy Thrillers

So I'm kinda incognito this week. I'm determined to get the Spy Thriller Database I'm creating up and running. Using a content management system is a learning experience, one with a steep learning curve. Every little thing I want to do requires almost an hour of research. I hope this process speeds up, pretty soon.

In the meantime, here's some cool things to keep you occupied:

  1. Mark Terry has a brilliant ten-part series on freelance writing. They're not exactly indexed on his site, so let me make it easy for you to visit: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
  2. Jeremy James shared a presentation he gave to a writer's group on "Web Strategies for Writers." (At the bottom of each post, you can click the link to the next one.)
  3. David Montgomery, over at his Crime Fiction Dossier has two fantastic discussions going on about promotion in the comments section, including the likes of Lee Child and M.J. Rose:
  4. And you might want to check out his newest post, Advice for Unpublished Writers, too.
  5. The Great American Book Giveaway: You can enter to win free books every week. They don't abuse your email, and I don't find it intrusive. If you tried them before, when they did a weird experiment with gather and trying to click through was confusing, don't worry: they've gone back to simple, so you can safely try again. I enjoy seeing the covers of five new books every week. This week, I discovered Ren Gen: The rise of the cultural consumer, which "argues that we are on the precipice of a major cultural renaissance." Amen to that. I must check out that book!

So what are you guys up to, this week?

(Only about 8-10 more days before DH gets home!!!!)

Read more...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Old-Time Writing Cowboys

Did you know that Norman Mailer got a monthly stipend while he worked on his second novel? AND it took him eleven years??

A monthly stipend!

For eleven years!

They sure don't do that anymore, leastways, not that I've heard.

Someone had a bit of a survey on first-book advances over the last thirty years. They haven't much gone up.

And Angie got me to thinking: things were different, writing-wise.

Like, I've read of of writers who would dictate their story. What a different process that must be! I must hit the backspace key 10 - 40 times per line I write.

I can not, and I mean, I cannot say a sentence coherently. I'm serious. My students somehow understand and put the words I spit out into coherent form. I honestly don't understand how they understand what I speak. Sometimes I can just gesture to the piano, play something, make a few more gestures and grunts, throw in a few ums, move their arm around a little, and they actually know what I mean.

It's bizarre.

And then there are the typewriter writers, who'd write a page, and that's it. If you make a mistake, you have to type the whole damn page again. And backspacing on a typewriter ... well, that's like a five-minute task! (Remember the correcting ribbon, fluid, tape, and all that other stuff?)

Then there were the longhand writers, who had others type up their stories for them. I can't even imagine all the strike-throughs and arrows and scribbles! When I write on paper, I'm suddenly gripped by the need that Every. Letter. Must. Look. Pretty.

I don't know what my words are, but the letters look neat. Fountain pen, pretty ink, everything. I love to write with a fountain pen. I just can't write with a fountain pen. It's more like drawing. Story doesn't happen.

And just think how much their hands must have hurt at the end of the day, from all that writing! My longhand writing muscles are so out shape that if I write even a couple sentences, my hand cramps up!

I read about the writers in the old days, and I think of them a bit like cowboys. Despite the better advances and monthly stipends, writing was a lot rougher in the old days. Harder work, I imagine.

I mean, they really walked four miles a day to school, through snow, with no shoes.

Me? I love the feel of keys under my fingers. It's a bit of an addiction, really. At least, half of my joy of writing, is the feel of the keys under my fingers, the letters blipping up across the screen.

And you should see my right hand ring finger on the backspace key. Man, can it fly!!!  (Yes, I know I'm supposed to use my pinky. But I don't.)

Life without cut and paste? Can you imagine?

I seriously question if I would have, could have, been a writer in the old days. What do you think?

Read more...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

4 Places To Go; A Bunch of Questions For You

I've been meaning to tell you guys about four great links. I keep forgetting, so let me do that first.

  1. Please read this story about an amazing woman raising three kids with autism. If you read any writing lists, you've probably "seen her around town." Please share, if you can.
  2. Then there's this story about another amazing woman with Crohn's Disease, and a man who's running a marathon to help out.
  3. Our friend, Edie Ramer, has started a group list where writers can get together and share promotion tips.  There's another great promo list at Murder Must Advertise. They're both great. I read both daily.
  4. And today, Copyblogger posted Three Sure-Fire Tips for Beating the Boring Content Blues.  There's genius in there, and not just because he was inspired by his father, a jazz musician.

I think he's right. I have to write every day, or things get fuzzy and stale. My skills deteriorate. I can feel it. It drives me crazy.

In fact, it's true, my best writing gets done on Fridays, when I can write all day long. The uninterrupted flow and concentration is something I have difficulty reproducing on those days when I have a million other things to do.

Alternately, a day or two or a week off of a story, can help clear things up when you go back to it. That's why sometimes I write bits of the next WIP. Or bits of something else. Or squeeze in a short story.

It keeps the gears oiled while I give the WIP some "cure time."

Plus it's nice, when you finish one WIP, to find that your next WIP has a significant foundation.

That's it for me. My saving-money-on-food experiment failed. I had no idea how eating (mostly) right was keeping me from a relapse. And my saving-money-on-gas-by-staying-home-for-five-days experiment also failed. That just makes me crazy. I might not post for a few days (sometimes when I say that, I end up posting a ton, LOL). I need to get my brain and body in working order again.

Go Yoga!  Go Macrobiotic Diet!

So what about you? How do you manage your writing time and flow? How do you balance staying in the zone with the cure time needed to polish a piece? Do you work on one thing at a time, or do you sometimes reward yourself with a quick scene in a future WIP? A short story? Do you take days off writing?

Happy writing, all!

Read more...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fuzzy Pictures.

So this week has been an experiment at writing at home. Largely, this is a bad idea. Mostly because my house is my work. And if I teach, live, and write at home, then I turn around and it's been FIVE DAYS since I've been out of the house.

Not the most brilliant of ideas for my mental state, but it sure saves on gas!

The experiment is interesting. On the first floor, it's ALL my studio, waiting room, and kitchen. It's another business, LOL, with nowhere to sit but at the piano. :-) Second floor: A bedroom and DH's office (scary place!).

All of which leave me two choices: to try to get work done at my studio computer, where I have the internet, blogging, and tons of email reminders of studio work I need to do. (You see, two blog posts today, LOL.)

Or, my bedroom. The only furniture: my bed.

Since I refuse to take my laptop into my bed, I printed out my current WIP. {gasp!}  Do you have any idea how many pieces of paper 40,000 words is? I wasn't thinking!

It's kind of cool to look at it on paper, though, in print. I mostly printed it out because I heard myself say that I never print things out. (When I hear myself say never, I try to do it immediately.)

Still, have you ever looked at something you've written, and been astonished to see that it's actually a story? It never ceases to amaze me.

During the writing of something, it becomes a huge mess in my mind, a big blob, where I'm constantly struggling to keep the big picture flow coherent, while writing the little bits.

The big picture is SO fuzzy. I have such a hard time holding it all in my head, holding the flow in my head, so I endlessly have to make my mind a blank and read from the beginning.

Reading it in print did help the "clean slate" brain a bit.

Do you ever print out your WIP? Do you struggle with holding it all in your head? Or ... how do you hold it all in your head? Are you ever astonished to find that a coherent story emerged from the fuzzy big picture? Or am I just prone to fuzzy thinking, LOL?

PS: And guess what? The historical winner has been announced, and now BookEnds is doing the thriller/suspense contest! I'm very interested in learning from all the entries.

Read more...

Stop. Breathe. Be.

Over at ZenHabits today, there's a post called 12 Essential Rules to Live More Like A Zen Monk.  He publishes his blog like it's self-help and/or pop psychology, which diminishes, slightly, the true value of what he says ... really, the bits he shares are simple and powerful.

I keep forgetting my New Year's Resolutions: To do one thing at a time, to think of one thing at a time, to focus quietly. To just breathe and be.

When I sit down to write, I manage this flow. 'Course, it can also take me up to an hour to actually sit down, LOL. When I think about writing, the business? Writing, my career? Writing, what next? Not so much.

The hardest person to hear, for me, is myself. I can worry loudly enough, but I have trouble sitting down, being quiet, and listening to myself.

But there's also a line. I worry about the election. I get pissed off about China and Africa, China and China, China and the world, China and Tibet (which doesn't even make CNN's front page??? Hello???).  I stress about the economy and gas prices. I say I'm absent-minded because I live in my story-world for most of the day, but I also worry about my students for at least an hour or two a day, sometimes all night when I'm trying to sleep.

The worry is too much. There's some sort of line. I can't make the whole world better, and I'm not convinced my worrying is productive, anyway (well, the worry about the students does help). I can only do my part. I wish I had volunteered some time for my candidate, like my best friend did. I wish I had more money to give to various causes and issues. I wish I had the time to start up this fantastic program in my community. I haven't ruled it out completely, but ...

On the other hand, if I work harder now, then I will have more time and money to share, later. But what if later never comes?

All of life is a balance, I guess. I just have to stop, listen, and breathe. Hear what is my next most important step, right now.

Are you a worrier? How are your New Year's Resolutions?

Read more...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Someday, bloody someday.

So remember last week, when I said DH should be home in two weeks? Well, that's what he said. But he has a weird way of looking at time, because when I sat down yesterday and looked at the calendar, I realized it was still two more weeks before he got home.

That was a mite depressing.

And then, because he sees the light at the end of the tunnel, he's evidently trying to save money by not calling me. (It's $1 a minute. So, I can kinda see his point.)

So I haven't talked to him in three days. That doesn't work so well for me.

To make matters worse, I am SO stalled on my current WIP. It's like, I have one good writing day, where I put out 8,000 words, but then my brain won't STOP.

So the next day, I'm trying to write on two hours of sleep and coffee. That doesn't exactly work well.

I wish coffee didn't make me sick. I could get so much done.

I'm whining. It's one of those weeks. I went to the grocery store, and in a fit of wanting to save money, I bought cheap food. $60 for two weeks of food. I was so proud of myself. Problem is, saving $100 on food doesn't help when eating pasta makes you so tired you can't even get out of bed.

Well, this is silly.

Since I have nothing good to give you today, I'll send you here. It's been awhile since I last listened to U2. I miss 'em. When I first heard Sunday, Bloody Sunday, I thought it was called, "Someday, bloody someday."

Funnily enough, that's kind of how I feel at the moment. Someday I'll get this WIP finished. Someday DH'll come home. Someday I'll get spy novel finished.

Someday, bloody someday.

Read more...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Some Bushisms to Brighten Your Day

I'm having those days where I let one person get to me. I really can't think of anything nice to say, so I thought I'd pass on a couple laughs. Or channel my snark in a positive way, at least.

I was looking up the exact wording of my all-time favorite Bush-is-so-stupid quote, and I stumbled upon some gems.

First, my favorite:

"Wait a minute. What did you just say? You're predicting $4-a-gallon gas? ... That's interesting. I hadn't heard that." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Feb. 28, 2008

Cause, you know, Bush has his finger on the pulse of the nation. Being the great president he is, he wouldn't know just about the most stressful financial challenge facing EVERY CITIZEN!

That's interesting???

I hadn't heard that???

Wait, are you serious? I hadn't heard that?

Oh. My. God.

The latest one is priceless. I can't believe we elected such an idiot. It's embarrassing. It's a humiliation for the whole country. Here you go:

"And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq." --George W. Bush, to Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008

Yes, because snatching defeat from our enemies is really why our soldiers are putting their lives on the line.

Here's a couple that just make me crack up:

"The decisions we make in Washington have a direct impact on the people in our country, obviously." --George W. Bush, New Albany, Ind., Nov. 13, 2007

"My job is a decision-making job, and as a result, I make a lot of decisions." --George W. Bush, The Decider, Lancaster, Pa., Oct. 3, 2007

I'll say this about Bush's decision. I never really understood just how much power a president had until Bush came into office and started decision-making us into mess after mess.

But this should give you more confidence about his decision-making-process:

"I got a lot of Ph.D.-types and smart people around me who come into the Oval Office and say, 'Mr. President, here's what's on my mind.' And I listen carefully to their advice. But having gathered the device, I decide, you know, I say, 'This is what we're going to do.'" --George W. Bush, Lancaster, Pa., Oct. 3, 2007

And this is how well those Ph.D's keep our President informed:

"I heard somebody say, 'Where's (Nelson) Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead. Because Saddam killed all the Mandelas." --George W. Bush, on the former South African president, who is still very much alive, Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2007

And, dear God, I'm starting to pity the poor man:

"I'm going to try to see if I can remember as much to make it sound like I'm smart on the subject." --George W. Bush, answering a question about a possible flu pandemic, Cleveland, July 10, 2007

And if you're struggling with unemployment, here's hope from our commander in chief:

"There are jobs Americans aren't doing. ... If you've got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I'm talking about." --George W. Bush. Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

And, given how health care is one of my most important concerns, it's nice to know where the President stands.

"One of my concerns is that the health care not be as good as it can possibly be." --George W. Bush, on military benefits, Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

One could forgive his numerous misspeaks, if they weren't so true:

"And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it." --George W. Bush, interview on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

And let's give Bush credit:

"I don't particularly like it when people put words in my mouth, either, by the way, unless I say it." --George W. Bush, Crawford, Texas, Nov. 10, 2007

If only he wouldn't say it. If only.

Then maybe the whole world wouldn't know that we, the American people, elected a fool for president. There's no crime in not being the smartest cookie around. There is a crime in electing a fool.

Read more...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Persistence

This week, Seth Godin wrote, "Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying.  Persistence is having the same goal over and over."

To suit me, I'd revise it to say, "Persistence isn't using the same method over and over. That will just get you the same result. Persistence is having the same goal over and over."

I like that.

That's my problem. I keep switching my goals. Write a spy thriller. Pay the bills with a novella. Get "NY-published." Pay more bills with another novella.

Gas was $3.45 the other day, and the attendant told me it was going up to $5.00 by August. I nearly choked. Nearly threw up. Nearly cried. Felt socked in the stomach.

Are you kidding me? $5.00!!! Dear God. That's when it hit home that we are headed into a recession. And I'm a little nervous about it. During the little recession in 2001, (which never ended in Ohio, actually) ALL the piano stores in the greater Cleveland area closed up shop, except one.

Yikes.

I haven't had ONE call in the last six months from a piano student who ACTUALLY HAD A PIANO.

Yikes.

It's the first time in my life when economic chatter about recession has actually made me nervous, really nervous. Just the gas prices alone would force me to completely change my lifestyle, to stay home. All the time. I would never be able to go to the fireplace Borders on the other side of the city. Let's not get started on the price of food.

But I'm determined not to get sidetracked, or scare myself into staying into nice, comfortable pseudonym world. Starting on Friday, I am writing a novel as fast as I can until I need to start another novella in mid-April. Can't say I'm not nervous, 'cause I'm pretty used to writing what I write. I feel comfortable. It may not be easy, but I know I can do it.

I don't have that same confidence with a novel that targets NY. But that's okay.

Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

That's my mantra for the next month.

What about you?

Read more...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pay It Forward

Hey, there's a really cool Pay It Forward contest over on Angie's blog. Deadline is today. I'm so sorry I'm late in posting it.

And, can I mention, Ally Carter is a genius? I read I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You a few weeks ago, and yesterday I read Cross My Heart And Hope To Spy.

It's not just good YA. It's great storytelling. Great voice. Great everything. I mean, damn, it's really good.

Every page seems to have something delightful about this world she's created. I smile on almost every page, and even laughed out loud several times, in public, at Borders.

Yesterday's writing went really well.

But writing is a weird thing. One day ... no, one moment, I think I know something of how to write, and the next moment, I'm COMPLETELY CONVINCED I SUCK.

Yesterday was one of those self-doubt days.

I suppose, when my "real name" gets published, I won't be able to say things like YESTERDAY, MY WRITING COMPLETELY SUCKED.

It's hard to sell your own work if you're advertising your insecurities about it. Maybe. I don't know.

But for now, I am so grateful I have somewhere I can talk about writing freely. Pseudonym never talks about writing on her blog. One wouldn't want to spoil the magic by discussing how it's done.

One wouldn't want to ... taint one's characters with the suggestion that they are anything less than real. Or, god forbid, created by a mere being such as myself.

Pseudonym, as a rule, does not market to other writers. She does not talk about writing.

I've often wondered about those things.

Anyway, I'm so grateful for blogging, for you guys. It's nice to have someone to talk to about the writing stuff.

What are your thoughts about writers writing about writing? About blogging one's fears and insecurities?

And have you read Ally Carter's Gallagher Girl series? It's totally awesome. Not to be missed. Even if you don't read YA.

Read more...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Power of First Person POV

Zoe's post on Head-Hopping got me thinking about POV. Haven't you heard? It's called Toggling Narrative Distance now.

First Person POV makes it impossible to head hop. It makes it impossible for you to tell the reader what other characters are thinking. It's often quoted as a weakness of first person.

I believe that weakness is its strength.

First person forces you to show, rather than tell, what the other characters are thinking.

Janet Evanovich is just about the sparest writer I know. She can show you what Ranger, or Morelli, or any of her cast are thinking with just one, small gesture. The impact of that gesture, that one sentence, becomes HUGE, even though it was just one sentence in a whole book.

Like, when Ranger tucked a strand of hair behind Stephanie's ear, I certainly didn't have to be told he was growing fond of her.

Like the open door in Erica's post today on small gestures and a wonderful man.

Another challenge of first person POV is that you can't slip into other characters' heads to make them more sympathetic to the reader. If one of them does something human, or acts less than sympathetically, the author can't justify their actions.

I like this limitation. I like letting characters be human. I like them real, not perfect, but it's a tight line to tread, because you don't want them to become unsympathetic. So you have to show, in small ways, that they mean well. They they're still good characters.

One of the greatest challenges of first person POV is the fact that the reader is seeing the world as the narrator sees it. What I find difficult, is communicating to the reader a contrasting perspective, particularly when the narrator is wrong.

In my last WIP, my girl believed one thing, but she was wrong. Everyone else didn't know what she was thinking, of course, so they couldn't out and out tell her she was wrong. So somehow, I had to communicate to the reader that my girl was misbelieving something, without making her look stupid.

It didn't work with one reader.

That's my latest quest in self-improvement. In The Liar's Diary, we had an unreliable narrator, pretty well done. There was a jarring moment, but it worked for me.

So do you have any examples of first person unreliable narrator done well? Or just first person handled expertly? Where sometimes the reader knows the narrator is misbelieving something, but at the same time, the narrator doesn't look stupid?

Do you write in first person? Have you ever? Have you ever taken a chapter and worked it up both ways?

Read more...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thank You! And Being a Proud Aunt ...

Thank you. So much. Thank you so very much for helping me!

Why is it feel like when I'm all caught up, you guys don't blog nearly enough?

I think I'm missing a couple of your feeds. I guess I'll go do that, LOL.

Oh WAIT! Let me show my niece's very first picture. I think she has a solid, confident stroke, with a good sense of color. I mean, look at how all her lines are parallel! She's barely past one years old. Isn't that pretty talented for one and a quarter years?

firstcolor

Read more...

Oh No, Help PLEASE!

Oh no! I switched ISPs, and on Thunderbird, I deleted the email account that was no longer active.

I didn't know it was going to delete the folder!

I didn't know it was going to delete all the subfolders!

And I can't find any way to restore it.

Oh, please, does someone know how to restore it? I have my royalty information for the past few years, and a list reader email addresses and TREASURED reader emails that have taken me YEARS to build up.

Oh, please, please, please. Does anyone out there know what to do? It's not in my Trash. There's no undo button. There's nothing! How can that be? It can't just disappear!

Can it?

Read more...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hypocrite!

If you ask, I'll say I don't believe in love at first sight. When I read it in fiction, love at first sight makes me scoff. In fact, I'm actually not that romantic.

If you ask me how I met DH, I'll tell you that we met in a chat room. We exchanged one sentence. He said maybe ten lines in the conversation. I had absolutely know idea who he was, and he barely even noticed me!

But I knew.

I spent the next three days, half the time on my bed and staring up at the ceiling, knowing I had met the man I'd spend my life with. I just knew.

It took me nearly TWO WEEKS to compose a "quick note" to him, introducing myself. He visited a month later, we spent Christmas and New Year's together, and by the next Christmas, he moved in with me.  (That's skipping over a little rocky patch, but ...)

Still, I'm not exactly sure if that was love at first sight, or just intuition at first sight.

What about you? Do you believe in love at first sight? And how did you meet your current partner? When did you know?

(I love "meet" stories! Please feel free to go on in the comment section, as long as you want! Incidentally, always feel free to go on as long as you want. Mi blogga, su blogga.)

Read more...

Monday, March 10, 2008

GREAT NEWS!

DH will be home in three weeks! Ohmigosh! It's been long, I feel like I'm dying.  Three more weeks. He said. Definitely.

Let's hope it snowballs, I blink, and then he'll be here!

And even more great news, Therese Fowler's Souvenir is hitting bestseller lists everywhere!

StarvingWriteNow is moving into her new house on Friday!

And Erica Orloff just signed a great deal which she's not announcing yet. The tease. She always does this. She can't help it. She's one of those storytellers who will tease a listener/reader/whatever through a blog post, a IMversation, or a novel. I bet, when she talks, she uses dramatic pauses without even realizing it.

I'm forgetting something. Something big.

Any great news to share?

Read more...

Directions, Paths, Life Crises.

So life, a couple realizations, my failure to get my foot better, and loneliness for DH has definitely instilled in me a fierce desire to make more money so he never has to go away again.

But approaching one's planning with an attitude of I don't give a damn what I do anymore; I just never want DH and I to be parted again, is not exactly the best position to be contemplating my next move on the chess board that is life. It's making me too distracted with options, and I can't hear where my next step should be.

I was also thinking of the universe, God, the Goddess, and destiny.

Well, LOL. If you're going to have a crisis, why not go all the way?

I'm always slow to take chances, and life has a way of backing me into a corner and forcing me to tackle it full-on.

Sometimes I feel like destiny forces me one way, even when I'm trying to take a safer route.

I feel like more and more doors are shutting, and I'm not sure which doors to pry open. I know it's a natural progression of life, that the more we specialize in one thing, the less we know about others. The more steps we take towards one goal, the further we get from other options.

And that makes each step forward we take even scarier, I suppose. Each step seems to have a higher price, and a higher risk, but with a greater payoff.

If you shut one door to open another, is that a failure or a step forward? At some point, the cost of keeping too many doors open means you're stuck out in the hallway and you're making a success of none.

Diversification is much safer, but safety doesn't mean greater success.

Can you tell I'm not much of a gambler?

I'm talking nonsensical circles without details. Well, I'm tired. Daylight Savings Time is the lousiest idea EVER.

Any thoughts? I sure as heck don't have any conclusions today.

Read more...

Lovin' It.

Snow melted. I shoveled half the driveway and left. My foot is SO not happy about it. Mostly my foot has adapted to walking, going up and down stairs, and doing the minimal stuff. It has not adapted to exercise or shoveling. The pain doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me is the reminder that I can't do something I love, because I can't seem to get the damn thing fixed. And every time it swells up, I feel like a failure. I'm not sure what else I can do about it except throw more money at it, but, heck, feelings are not rational things.

Ah well.

I reconnected with an old writer friend today. Okay, my first writing friend. Really, my closest writing friend. She's a brilliant writer, and I love her stuff, but she stopped writing a few years back. In my tiny world, you gotta write fast if you want to pay the bills.

She got burnt out. Sad, again, because I love her stuff.

In her email, she warned me away from letting myself get burnt out, too. And it was some surprise to me that I realized how much I love it. I realized that I could never get burnt out. Partly because I've learned the warning signs, learned the pitfalls and stuff.

And, like I said before, I've completely separated the act of writing with all the business junk, waiting for checks, and career planning. Smartest thing I ever did.

Mostly, though, I was surprised because writing was never in the grand plan. It's this other thing I do. I always say that it seduced me, and it's true. So sometimes I look around and am shocked at how much time I spend at this writing thing. I'm shocked at how much peace it gives me. I'm surprised at what a part of my life it is, how much time I put into improving and reading and planning.

It's a lover I've grown quite protective of, actually. No, I will not let the business muck it up, and I will not let anyone hurt it, not even myself.

Writing isn't the same thing as that first time I penned a story. I remember toying with a sentence for hours, literally grinning at the screen as I considered the different nuances of choosing one word over another.

It's not first love anymore, but it's a deeper love. And still, somehow, everyday it surprises me. It shows me yet another reason why I love it.

I don't love music less, or teaching less. I just failed to protect what I love from the business of it. It's improving, though.

So how has your relationship with writing changed over the years?

Read more...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

What's Your Blizzard Fantasy?

I tried to go to Borders to write this morning. Okay, you probably think I'm crazy, but you have to understand. The weathermen always say it's going to be terrible, and they're almost always wrong.

So when I woke up this morning, and saw that it had stopped snowing and the sun was out, and my driveway was plowed (thank God), I shoveled a path to my car and took off to write.

But twenty minutes later, it was snowing. I was halfway there, too far to turn back, and so I went to the fireplace Borders.

An hour after I got there, they closed.

Everything closed.

Except two movie theaters. I holed up there and watched 10,000 B.C. (pretty good), Fool's Gold (better than I thought it would be; very entertaining), and The Other Boleyn Girl again (cried, yet again).

I didn't want to go home. You have to understand, the last blizzard Ohio had, my dad's friends were stuck at our house. So we basically had a four day party. I remember poker and my mother cooking. That's it. It was a blast!

But DH is not here. What fun is being snowed in all by yourself? I'd go nuts! When we met and dated (2,368 miles long distance), I used to dream of him being here while we were snowed inside for days on end. It's a fantasy I have, of us cuddling under a blanket on the couch, watching movies all day.

It isn't my fantasy to be stuck in my house alone, LOL. So I went to the movies.

Okay, what about you? What's your blizzard fantasy? A four day party? A fireplace and your loved one? A day of movies? A day in bed? A mixture of it all?

Read more...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Trusting the Practice

You know how they say the more you know, the more you don't know? Sometimes, I can look at my writing and feel like I've come along way over the years, but ... really, I can just see just how much I need to improve. The more I write and the more I read, the more clearly I can see the flaws in my writing.

I tell my students that if you can hear it, you can fix it.

But sometimes, I can see my rhythm is off. I can change my rhythm to a certain extent, but sometimes the information I want to impart at that moment refuses to bow to the rhythm that I prefer.

I mean, I can make my rhythm not wrong, but sometimes I have trouble making my rhythm exactly what I want.

Anyway, i was thinking as I drove today, that the practice always leads somewhere. A day may not see much improvement, but add that to day after day for years, and it will add up to something.

As adults, we want lots of measurable and visible improvement every time we practice. I think, in writing, that a whole lot of the improvement happens under the surface, even unconsciously.

Or maybe that's just what I tell myself every day, LOL. We all have to have faith in something, I guess, as we sit down day after day and write.

What motivates you? What gives you faith, writing-wise?

Read more...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Telemarketing Scripts

So I've been on the phone all day, about one thing or another. It's so draining. I don't even like the phone. And now I've got it rigged so my phone calls go to my email address, thanks to Google and Grand Central.

Of course, they'll also forward to my cell phone, when I'm not sleeping or teaching and stuff.

Isn't that coolest?

And the telemarketers and politicians don't have my new number. Way cool.

So I had to cancel my landline, Earthlink (broke my heart), and DirecTV. (I have a generic DVR now, which is nowhere as cool as a TiVo! But it's good enough.)

Have you ever noticed that they talk forever? It got to the point by the third call, where I would just say over and over, "Okay, I don't want to spend any more money. I am canceling my account."

And they'd read script after script after script for EVER.

I've also been answering my phone for the last week, to see if anyone ever calls me. (No, no one important. The people I love have my cell number.)  I tell them, "You have ten seconds to tell me what you want."

They can't do it. They have to read a script for five minutes, and you STILL don't know what they want! Actually, you don't even know WHO they are!

Grrr.

I made the switch to Time Warner, after all. They kept calling me. So I finally called them, and someone NICE answered! Can you believe that?

She caught me just after I balanced my budget, so it was an easy sell.

And three technicians came out (not an interesting enough story to explain why), and they were REALLY NICE.

A TiVo is much better than a DVR. I'll live. I miss it, though.

So anyway, um ... writing, right. Um ... yeah.

How's your writing going? Hey, you know, I actually don't know what half of you are currently working on. What are you working on? Spill! (Okay, spill as much or as little as you want. I don't like to talk about my WIPs until they're on paper, for some reason.)

Read more...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Primary Election Neuroses

I almost forgot today was the Ohio Primary. See, I had in my mind March 8th, for who knows what reason, and today was only the 4th. But I was driving in my car and suddenly realized the 8th was not on a Tuesday, so ... I fled home and checked the date.

Unlike my "voting hell" experience in 2006, today was normal. I can't get used to this old-fangled voting procedure in my new (to me, kinda) precinct.

I was very careful, and I spent five minutes coloring in my circle to make sure there would be no question. And then, when I gave it to the machine, the lady did not comment on my choices.

Since I left, though, I'm suddenly terrified I might have filled in the wrong circle. I mean, I don't remember double-checking it. What if I just glanced at the names, and then was so focused on the circle that I didn't notice I'd filled in one circle above?

I'm pretty sure I double checked it. But what if I didn't?

And since I got home, I've been obsessively checking this page, even though I KNOW election results won't start coming in until after seven.

A whole lot of people are passionate about this race, it strikes me that they're more passionate than I've ever noticed, but it might just be that this time, the issues are more personal to me rather than ideological.

People say that the older you get, the more you realize that you're just choosing the least worst, and that life goes on and we make it through whatever, as a country.

But the older I get, the more I've worried. Today, I actually feel nervous in the pit of my stomach. Isn't that crazy?

Read more...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Another Contest. And Ranger Again.

BookEnds has announced their winner for the Erotic Romance Contest, and they're accepting entries for the Contemporary Romance Contest until Tuesday morning at 9 am EST.

The winner is so good, that I instantly got this shiver, and my fingers started twitching. You ever read an opening or an idea so good, that you're just dying to write it yourself? Or, second best, you're just dying to read it?

I suppose, in that sense, I can understand the allure of fan fiction. I wouldn't mind indulging myself with writing a Ranger book. (My Ranger obsession has elevated to unhealthy levels, I swear.)

Pray God Evanovich never has Stephanie Plum choose Morelli. I'd weep. And I'd probably try my hand at fan fiction, for the first time.

On a few of the audiobooks, there's an interview with Evanovich. In it, she says Stephanie will never choose, unless, perhaps, Evanovich decides to end the series. And then she joked that she'd probably have to write two books: one where she chooses Morelli, and one where she chooses Ranger.

Wouldn't that just be the coolest? I'd buy them both. I bet those would sell like hotcakes.I bet it'd get a lot of press, too.

Speaking of which, I'm looking for a series that's as entertaining, funny, and as fun as the Plum series. Preferably available on audiobook. And one DH wouldn't mind listening to. (Which, unfortunately, pretty much rules out paranormal elements, sadly.)

Any suggestions?

Read more...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Multiple POV and Movies

Here's a link to a 103 page e-book on how to write a great query letter. Noah Lukeman gives it out free. He's the author of The First Five Pages, which is one of the more brilliant books I've read on writing.

It strikes me as funny that it takes 103 pages to learn how to write 1 page.

(I believe it, though!)

Last night, I went to Vantage Point. It tells the story of a presidential shooting and a bombing from five different view points. I'm not big on multiple POVs in movies, so I went in skeptically. I got to the movie theater late, so I ended up stuck with Vantage Point because I missed Penelope. (How was Penelope, Edie?)

Sometimes, when we experiment with the form of a piece, the piece becomes more about making the experiment work, than about the story. In Vantage Point, I can definitely say that the story is made better by the format.

It has none of that, look-how-clever-I-am feel. And even though there are five viewpoints, what you really get are five twists, and each viewpoint does not tell the same story, but adds to the story and increases the suspense.

Great movie.

So how was your weekend? See any good movies? Read any good books?

Read more...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

It's been a rough week. I swear, cough medicine makes me depressed, and being depressed makes me lonely. And being lonely makes me absolutely desperate to do anything and everything I can to make sure DH and I are not parted for months on end again.

But I've been wrestling with that feeling for months now, and all I've come up with is the fact that I only can play piano and write. I have no choice but to stay the course and remain determined. I have about a month to work on my spy novel after I finish my current novella and before I have to start the next one, so I'll hope for the best.

Anyway, today I saw The Other Boleyn Girl! Last week, I saw the preview for the movie, and loved it so much that between then and today, I read all five of the Boleyn novels by Philippa Gregory.

The movie was faithful to the spirit of the book and mostly to the plot, but much of the motivations of each character was left out. Sadly, most of the spying, betrayals and intrigue was left out. (It breaks my heart.) George was never given an opportunity to show himself as the life of the court, as he was, nor was Anne given the opportunity to show how delightful she could be for the king.

Mary, however, was the truest. They tidied things up; she bore only a son in the movie, while in the book and in real life, she had a son and a daughter for King Henry.

They tidied up a few things for modern sensibilities, I suspect. First, the mother of Mary, George, and Anne never turned her back on her children in the movie; in the book, she was as cold and as plotting as her brother. Secondly, the incest never happened between George and Anne in the movie, but in the book, it did.

They switched the order of a few things, but in the end, it was a well-told story that made me just sob at the end.

And at the end of the day, no matter how much I stress out, I am completely in love with story. As I mentioned on Magical Musings earlier this week, I am deeply, deeply in love with story.

Have you seen it? I already want to see it again, it was that good. The acting was incredible.

Read more...