Thursday, December 30, 2010

Interacting with Others

Part of being a writer is good people-watching skills. You know, studying others and how they interact in different situations.

While I was sick the week before Christmas, I was in bed watching the Today show. I found myself studying how the hosts adapted to their celebrity guests. And it made me think about character development.

One of the guests was Matt Damon. He's a nice guy, laid back. A dad with four girls for whom celebrity came early with a writing Oscar. A kindred spirit.

When Matt Lauer interviewed him there came that obligatory point where Lauer says to Damon that everyone in Hollywood sings Damon's praises, what a nice guy he is, etc., etc.

And then Lauer says, "I just don't see it."

Everyone laughs, even the camera guys. Damon makes some witty reply.

Segments later, the group is with Liam Neeson talking about Toys for Tots. They're also talking about the new Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie and his role as Aslan. Lauer makes a comment about how hard it is to talk to Neeson because of his voice and the Aslan character. It's meant to be a joke.

Neeson replies that Aslan has become something of a goodwill ambassador in the protection of large cats around the globe.

The hosts become serious again, yes, this is a weighty matter. The smiles are still there, but there's no belly laughing.

Neeson is a serious-minded fellow, who got his start playing extremely serious roles on the stage.

Then I got to thinking, "How would that scene have changed if Neeson had begun spouting Aslan lines and tried to intimidate Lauer." I think it would've been very funny. It would've changed the entire tone of the scene.

I just wanted to note this interaction for future writing authenticity. So what's on your minds, writer-friends? Then New Year maybe?

Have an awesome weekend and a fabulous Friday! Do some people-watching while you celebrate.

See you next year~ (wink)<3

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

While you're making the rounds...

Just a quick off-schedule note: My mom and I are over at Mason Canyon's blog talking about writing and such today.

If you have a minute, run over and check it out. (link)

And I highly recommend following Mason's "Thoughts in Progress." She's given me several great book recommendations through the months, and I love her author interviews.

Thanks again for having us, Mason! <3

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review & Author Interview - The Hating Game

OK, True Confession: When I first started reading Talli Roland's witty, entertaining debut novel The Hating Game, I was concerned. I didn't like a single character. (Rut-roh!)

Mattie Johns, the protagonist, is introduced as a calculating media agent with no apparent moral code outside of financial independence. Her male clients are bullies with disgusting habits, and it was hard for me to believe she would touch them (let alone do anything more).

The other male plot-mover and creator of the reality show Second Chance for Romance (which becomes The Hating Game) Nate Reilly is introduced as a cowardly, doughy, barf-covered, bad-haired children's television show host.


But almost as soon as I'd decided that, Talli slowly began peeling back the layers to reveal these characters' dreams, their betrayals and heartbreaks, and their determination to succeed--all the elements that lead them to Nate's fictitious reality dating show. (Reunion show?)

Mattie's facing financial ruin precipitated by Kyle Cook, her ex-business partner and the only guy she ever loved. Nate's manipulated by the television executives handling his show. And the truth is, other than Kyle, most of Mattie's exes really are idiots. Or worse...

As readers follow these two through one humorous double-cross after another, Nate and Mattie become sympathetic characters who are just trying to move up the career ladder to success.

Mattie's defensive-aggressive personality is explained, and readers will hold their breaths in anticipation of her giving Kyle another chance. (Will she? Won't she? But it was all a misunderstanding...)

Talli does a super job maintaining tension throughout the book, and I giggled more than once at Mattie's snide observations (e.g., "decomposition was the only chemistry in that relationship"). Talli also has clever fun with names (e.g., "SiniStar Productions" and "Silver Hatchett" is Nate's cut-throat boss.)

The chemistry between Mattie and Kyle is fantastic, and while I had an idea of what was coming, the conclusion plays out in an unexpected (and satisfying) way. By the end the characters have grown and changed, and readers will be cheering for them to win.

The Hating Game is a romantic comedy for grown ups that I gladly give it a smiling A and recommend you run out and purchase right away. (link)

And now for my interview with Talli!

1-First, love the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Where did you find those? Are they real?

Thank you! They are completely made up – I shudder to think about anyone’s chances of finding love if they were genuine. I looked at real life dating statistics, then I flipped them around, exaggerated numbers, and in many cases came up with my own from scratch (using some of my negative dating experiences…).

2-I got the impression while reading that you're not a fan of reality TV. But I actually thought "Second Chance for Romance/The Hating Game" was a great idea for a reality show! How did you come up with it? And which came first, the book idea or the reality show idea?

Actually, I love reality television! I’d make a great spectator at the Coliseum back in the day – I love giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to people on the screen – and the fact that it’s real lends extra drama. But as much as I enjoy watching, I’m very skeptical. I’ve worked in the media and as an intern on TV shows and I’ve seen how editing can influence outcomes.

When I’m thinking about new ideas, I try to take things I’ve already seen and flip them on their head. I had a think about all the reality shows I know and tried to give them a twist… and The Hating Game came to life!

3-Mattie's a successful business woman who's on the verge of losing everything. I remember you blogged once that if you hadn't lost your own job, you'd never have tried to write a book. Any correlation between art and life here?

Funnily enough, I’ve written a few novels with ambition versus self-fulfillment as the central theme. But in this novel, Mattie’s ambition and the threat to her business is really just a set-up to propel her to make a decision she wouldn’t have made otherwise. The central theme in The Hating Game is more about love and trust than ambition.

4-You did a great job taking these initially unlikeable characters and giving them depth. I got misty reading one of Mattie's memories of her father (the ring). Did you start writing them that way or did you change them to be less likeable at first?

Thank you! Mattie was a tough one; she needed to start off brusque and aggressive, but with a hint of a soft centre. I don’t like wishy-washy characters and I’d much rather have them slightly over the top than passive.

Usually when I start writing, I don’t have a clear enough sense of what they want to make them much of anything. By the end of the first draft, their personalities are fully formed and I can go back and make them really come into their own.

5-Who was your favorite character and why? Or which character did you connect with the most (and why)?

I really love Nate, the misguided TV producer, because he’s like a giant cuddly teddy bear who desperately wants to be cool but is just… not. Silver, the managing director of the production company, was the most fun to write. I’ll never be able to bite into a sausage again without thinking of her! And of course I empathize with Mattie, since we’ve all been hurt by former loves in our lives and want to protect ourselves from that pain.

6-You’re also a travel writer, writing 24 Hours London (link) and 24 Hours Paris (link). How much of a switch was it for you moving to fiction? How did your approach change?

Since I trained as a journalist, writing non-fiction was very natural to me. My dream was always writing fiction, but after years spent trying to write the bare-bones facts, I did – and do – find it hard to ‘make stuff up’. I tend to write very sparse first drafts and rush through scenes with scant level of detail. The second and subsequent drafts are where I add in much-needed details and try to flesh things out.

7-Tell us about your journey to print. How long did it take? Any ups or downs you'd like to share?

I’ve written five novels which will never see the light of day! But I don’t consider them wasted – I learned something from each of them, from plotting to characterization. It took awhile for the penny to drop that execution is not enough; you need to examine the core concept carefully before you start writing. Is it different? Does it fit into a genre? And does it have enough potential for conflict to carry it through at least ninety-thousand words?

8-You went with a small, independent publisher (Prospera Publishing) for your first book. What made you choose that route? Would you recommend it? (Tell us about that experience briefly.)

I had already published two travel guides with Prospera and helped to edit a few other projects, so I had a very good relationship with the publisher already and a clear understanding of how they worked. When it came time to pitch The Hating Game, it just made sense to continue working with them. It’s been a great experience, since I’ve had input into the cover design, release strategy and been consulted every step of the way.

9-We have to mention your marketing success for THG, as you put together an impressive "web splash" for the Kindle launch of THG. Any brief thoughts on that?

First of all, a massive thanks to everyone who helped me spread the word and supported me on the day! It exceeded my expectations and I’ll never forget it. To anyone who ever doubted it, social media does help sell books. I managed to get to 24 Paid Kindle on Amazon UK and 460 Paid Kindle on (Link to Talli's blog post about it. And another link about  working with Amazon.)

10-And you're already off to the next book! Tell us a little bit about your new book, Watching Willow Watts, when you expect it to be ready, how it's going.

I’m really excited about Watching Willow Watts, about a small-town girl who becomes an overnight YouTube sensation.

I love how technology is transforming our idea of celebrity, making it possible for almost anyone to become famous if the fates allow. It’s still in the very beginning stages, and it’s due out November 2011.

Bonus Question: Spill it! Who's "A" in THG's dedication?

Mr Talli Roland, of course! He was the first person to really give me a boot up the butt and tell me to quit whining about wanting to write and actually do it! Plus, he’s a great motivator and is the first one to let me know when I’m slacking off. All that and he bakes delicious coconut cookies, too.

Yummy! Thanks, Talli~

Talli's a great writer and a super bleep. I think you'll enjoy her debut romantic comedy, and I think WWW sounds even more fun--can't wait! (Now I'm wondering if that title was intentional... www?)

Have a great post-Christmas recovery week, guys. Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

It's that most wonderful time, and I (like I'm sure all of you) am buried with holiday guests and traveling. But I'm thinking of you, and I'll do my best to check in if/when possible.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, and check back Monday for my review of The Hating Game by Talli Roland!

Until then~ <3

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Jolly Blogfest

It's Christmas week! And I'm scrambling... but I love participating in holiday cheer, so here's my contribution to Jen & Melissa's Be Jolly By Golly blogfest.

First, a photo of my Christmas tree. (I think that would've been better at night...)

The truth is, since we got our cat Flower, we've had to switch to a smaller, artificial Christmas tree. And while I want to say that bugs me, honestly, it doesn't.

You see, our cat is appropriately named. She loves to eat any live plants brought into the house, be it Christmas poinsettias (which are not poisonous, btw), or lovely bouquets of flowers (all of which must go on top of the fridge), or fragrant Christmas trees...

For fun I'll give you a photo of our booger cat (below). My daughters added a bow to her head. To make her festive, I guess. To me, that look says, "I'm about to bite your leg." (Which she does without warning.)

Back to the blogfest!

Part of the deal is we have to include a recipe for our favorite holiday treat, and then our favorite holiday drink. First the favorite holiday treat!

I love Christmas cookies, but my buddy PK Hrezo noted that everyone posted Sugar Cookie Recipes this year. So here's the link to her recipe, which is pretty similar to mine.

And I'll give you a recipe I was afraid wasn't "Christmasie" enough. But it is so good and super easy. I had it at a work party and asked for the recipe, which I discovered is from Weight Watchers, so Bonus!


Ingredients:  (Makes 2 eight-inch pies)
22 reduced-fat chocolate grahams
2 Tbsp. margarine
2 cups nonfat cottage cheese
One 8-oz box nonfat cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F).

Now for the Truth: I buy my graham cracker crusts. (I think you can even get the RF kind if you want to be faithful to the Weight Watchers spirit of the recipe.)

My brother who lives in Key West sent
me these seagrass wreaths that he says
are traditional Christmas decor there.
But if you want to make yours, here's that part: Spray 8-inch pan w/nonstick spray. In food processor, crush grahams, pulse in margarine. Transfer to pan, pressing firmly over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides. Refrigerate until chilled (15 mins).

Filling: Puree cheeses; blend in sugar, etc. (all other ingredients). Pour into crust. Bake until set (approx. one hour). Turn off oven, prop open door and let cool one hour. Then cool completely on rack. Refrigerate before serving, then unmold and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

As for my favorite holiday beverage... I have to confess... I don't have one. Wah wah waaahhh... BUT! I'm planning to run around and get ideas from all of you. So have a super holiday, guys.

No post Thursday! MERRY CHRISTMAS~ <3

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Magic Formula

It might've been the drugs (for my sinus infection!), but my last post got me to thinking about what makes books ginormous hits.

We were talking about Twilight and Yo Gabba Gabba and marketing. A few bleeps brought up word-of-mouth as being so important. Talli demonstrated that, yes?

So I made up this formula:

Engaging story + Outstanding Word of Mouth = Smash Hit

And I'd go so far as to say Engaging Story trumps everything--even mastery of the craft, which you see isn't in my little formula up there.

Now just hold on a minute, I'm not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Of course craft is important, and yes, we should only ever send our cleanest MSs off for consideration. Don't shoot yourself in the foot.

But I believe regardless of how unsophisticated your writing style is, if you've told a great story that grabs readers and doesn't let go, it's going to be a hit.

How can I say this? Well, because of Twilight. Seriously. And I'm not a hater!

I read Twilight before I ever thought about trying my hand at novel writing, so I was clueless about all the falderall over adverbs or showing versus tellling. All I knew was I picked up the first book and four days later I'd read all three and couldn't wait to get my mits on the last installment.

Sure, it's anti-feminist, sure it's not perfectly written (adverbs!), sure the dialogue is embarrassing, sure it's basically a not-so-thinly veiled abstinence sermon, but it's an engaging story that grabs readers and doesn't let go.

And that's the secret: It's the story, silly!

Let the discussions begin! Til Monday~ <3

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marketing & Yo Gabba Gabba

In view of Talli's enormous marketing success on Amazon, I thought this would be a fun repost. And I've got a raging sinus infection. So to the recycle bin!

Yo Gabba Gabba finally got an article in Entertainment Weekly. (link)

Now I've admitted I'm a techno-lover (I blame formative years spent in the late-1980s).

I recall the Kraftwerk-"Music Selector is the Soul Reflector"-turn on the strobe light and "Dance Your Love Away"-scene as the ultimate in Good Times.

So two years ago when the girls and I happened across this odd little show on Noggin starring a funny black guy in an orange jumpsuit, furry hat, and horn-rimmed glasses dancing around to the musical stylings of Mark Mothersbaugh, we were checkin' that out!

Muno did give me pause, but the girls assured me he was just a hot dog from outer space. (Me: OK!)

Yo Gabba Gabba songs are available on iTunes. I recommend the following: "Don't Bite Your Friends" (good message for kids and adults); Party in My Tummy" (see above); "Working Together" (again, good for parents and kids); The episode "Dance" (for obvious reasons).

What does all this have to do with marketing you ask? Well, I'll tell ya. Recently, I came across an online forum dedicated to why the Twilight series was so successful.

There were a lot of haters going on about how badly the books were written (e.g., adverbs overload!) and feminist yadda yadda yadda. Personally, I thought the books were a lot of fun. I read them all in less than two weeks with a Disney trip thrown in the mix. They were entertaining and escapist and had an engaging love story.

But seriously, why would those books do better than say, a Sarah Dessen novel? My response = Marketing!

My reasoning was I would never have been aware of the books if I hadn't seen a big feature about Stephenie Myer and "the Twilight phenomenon" in Entertainment Weekly.

On the other hand, I've known about YGG for two years, and EW's just now getting around to going ape over the show.

So Marketing isn't the answer.

I don't know that they did much marketing for YGG and it still became huge. Maybe because it's on TV? Maybe because there's a buncha fan-parents out there who can't stop singing the songs and giggling about it to their friends?

What is making these books/shows so successful?

From what I understand there were lots of Moms out there reading Twilight before it went viral as well. Maybe that's it? If you can find something the kids like that the parents find irresistable as well, Eureka! You've done it?

I think it's the stylish clothes myself. I mean, heck. You can't beat that orange hat. And if I ever get anywhere near famous, I'm begging DJ Lance to please please please let me be a guest... I could teach everyone my Coco the Bird Lady dance!

Til Monday--Have a great weekend~ <3

Monday, December 13, 2010

Those pesky weaknesses

In my mid-20s, I worked at the TV station in Baton Rouge (WAFB, the CBS affiliate). I started as an intern, working for credit toward my master's, but within two months I was "promoted" to production assistant.

I put that in quotes because I went from not getting paid to doing the same job for minimum wage--a paid intern with a title.

I learned a lot about television news there--things that never would've occurred to me as a passive viewer. One of my duties was to roll tape. (A position I'm sure is obsolete now.)

Here's how it worked: during the news program, the anchors talked about different stories, and after a brief intro, the director said in the headset, "Roll Tape B." Or A, depending on which deck the huge VHS-sized tape was in. That was my cue to press the red button, which started the news story.

It was a simple job that only required following directions and being able to press the correct button on time. Occasionally a tape would mess up, or there'd be some snafu, and I had to think on my feet. (Or panic.) But in the end, it wasn't really that big of a deal.

And production work was fun. There was always chatter in the headsets, and I was constantly giggling. It was also super-fast-paced, so it fit well with my undiagnosed adult-ADD brain.

I was there less than two years, but I got very good at writing copy for the anchors to read over B-roll. (That's when you're watching footage and the anchor's telling you about what happened.) I was never good at being an actual reporter--I've blogged about how painful the tags to my news reports were.

So what does this have to do with writing?

As writers, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they're the same thing. For me, my work experience has taught me to write very fast and get to the point quickly. That doesn't translate so well to novel writing.

I'll get a great idea for a storyline or a scene, and I'll charge right in there and get it down before it's gone. But the problem is while writing that scene, my undiagnosed adult-ADD brain often gets another idea for another great scene, and I'm quickly off to write that one down.

My first beta reader always complains.

JRM: This was a really cool scene, but you rushed off to the next thing.
LTM: I did?
JRM: Yes, I want to know more about what happened here.
LTM: Wait, tell me again how I wrote something really cool...

Is there a way to fix this weakness?

I don't know. I do know I'm usually able to beef things up in revisions, but gah! That's such a painful process, and I'm always convinced it would be so much easier to cut text than have to come up with new content.

Any of you guys struggle with this? Anybody got a trick or tip for me?

Alternatively, do you have a writing weakness you managed to conquer? I'd love to hear some success stories. Or solidarity! What's a writing weakness you're working on and want a tip to fix?

Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tell your story

Hubs and I were watching the 2006 documentary Maxed Out last night (link). It's all about predatory lending, consumer debt, and how the American economy was (is?) teetering on the brink of ruin.

Yes, I said 2006.

LTM: Wow. Did this guy get any awards?
JRM: I don't think so.
LTM: How was this movie received?
JRM: It was largely ignored.

That got me to thinking about writing, of course. Because that's all I think about these days. That and crickets. And I was thinking about how you just have to write your story.

The fellow who made the documentary (James Scurlock) was intrigued by a phenomenon he saw happening, and he made an incredibly prophetic film that too bad nobody heeded.

Well, I say that, but I bet all the pinch-pennies in the audience (like me) did. I remember listening to Elizabeth Warren on Fresh Air in 2007 predicting the sub-prime mortgage crisis and thinking I was going to have to pull over and barf.

But back to books! I know agents say it all the time, but I imagine it's hard with all the vampire books and angel books and demon books and Hunger Games books and etc. etc. etc. books flying off the shelves. It's tempting to say, "(you know) it. I'm writing one of those!"

I say don't.

(I mean, unless that's your story.)

Maybe I'm just a cock-eyed optimist, but I believe if you've got a great story, you're passionate about it, and you're able to tell it in a compelling, well-crafted way, it's going to do well--whether it's fantasy, literary fiction, chicklit, historical YA, or whatever else isn't considered "hot" right now.

In 2007, vampires weren't hot.

So what? Do you agree? Disagree? 

Would you say "If you're a good writer, write to trend, get your foot in the door, and after that, do what you want?

I'm just wonderin... Otherwise, have a great weekend! We're doing the Nutcracker. (link) <3

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review - A Great and Terrible Beauty

So a few months back I won a contest on Sheri's blog (link), and I chose a copy of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray from the prizes.

You might recognize Bray's name from her award-winning 2009 book Going Bovine.

The premise of Bovine sounds hilarious to me--kid gets mad cow disease, starts having hallucinations, and sets off on a Don Quixote style journey. I'd be interested to read a review of it.

As for her 2003 debut A GTB, well, I didn't really love it. But I think I'm in the minority saying that.

There's a movie in the works, and it was on the NYT bestseller list. And there are like 400 raves for it on Amazon. So I'm sure the problem was all mine. Here's the (link) to reviews and how you can buy it if you're interested.

Just fyi, here's my review:

A GTB opens in a busy marketplace in Victorian India. There's a quick series of events culminating in main character Gemma seeing her mother die in a vision to protect Gemma from "Circe," an unseen evil spirit.

Gemma's immediately sent to a boarding school in England where she continues having visions. Then she learns she's a portal to another spiritual realm where she is warned Circe could be lurking.

She's warned by this fellow Kartik, who follows her back from India. He's a member of some ancient order that isn't clearly explained, and he's constantly (inexplicably) appearing in the forest around the boarding school watching her and warning her to stop.

Problem: she brought three friends over with her, and they beg her to take them back because it's a place where all their dreams come true. Gemma's mother is also there, and Gemma longs to see her mother again.

So they keep going back until bad things start happening, and they start to lose control.
* * *

It sounds really action-packed, but the truth is, I found the book slow going. And I gotta be honest, while I cared about Gemma, her behavior was often inexplicable--and not in the "I'm a teenager, I don't always make sense" kind of way.

I didn't buy her friendship with the other three girls. Bray sets her up as fiercely independent, and then has her manipulated by them in ways that were inconsistent with her character.

But it's a beautifully written book. Bray adores luxurious description, and it's not hard to read. Still, more than once it seemed like an exciting event was lost in all the lush detail.

Perhaps I wasn't in the right mood for it.

There were a few disturbing scenes and tense moments, and there was a hint of romance, although it wasn't deeply explored. I did get a thorough knowledge of the four main girls, and I did want to know what was going to happen to them...

And I love the cover. It's absolutely gorgeous~

So I give this book a solid B.

If you're a fan of historic paranormals or gothic novels along the lines of Jane Eyre, or if you liked that movie The Craft (remember that one?) you'll probably like it.

It's not a super-fast page-turner, but it has its moments of intrigue, which got me thinking about something completely different.

Personally, I love a good page-turner, but at the same time, I hate it when a good story ends. (Don't we all?)

JRM says J.K. Rowling is a master of the long novel. (I only read the one, so I don't know.) He said all those later Harry Potter books were long, but Rowling kept the story moving and readers engaged.

That's very much a goal of mine as a writer: To master the art of the long page-turner.

What do you guys think? Yes, long books? No to long page turners? I guess my house does get super messy when I find a good, long book I can't seem to stop reading...

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's a Blommunity

It was so fantastic to watch Talli Roland's debut novel The Hating Game soar up the Amazon charts yesterday.

Maybe it was because I'd just read an agent saying publishers didn't care about blogs, because "even if you have hundreds of followers, that's no guarantee they'll all run out and buy your book."

Maybe it was because Talli's one of my bleeps, and I'd just done a Thanksgiving post about how supportive our little writing community is.

Maybe it was because I'm a fan of horse races, and I love it when the underdog comes out of nowhere and wins big.

As far as I know, Talli didn't have a huge marketing budget, but when I checked the numbers before signing off last night, her book was at #25 on the Amazon UK site and #591 on the mac-daddy site.

Update: This just in, she ended up at #24 on Amazon UK, #460 on Woo!!!

I don't know how many units that equals, but I do know Talli has 569 blog followers. She's also got 1,173 followers on Twitter, but I bet several of those are also blog followers. My point is, I bet more than 1,742 units were moved.

Sure, it could be described as expert social networking, but I think it's more than that. I've said it before--this writing community is the greatest. The members truly care and want each other to succeed.

That might not mean everyone moves from zero to the Top 100 on Amazon in one day, but I don't know. It might.

For sure it means there's always someone helping another writer out (or several). From Alex and Stephen popping up all over the place last month to Clarissa's three book deal (Karen G!). Even Matt's always-kind Query critiques are such a helpful resource.

And it's not just tangible help. There's support like when Jessica felt insecure about her MC's voice and got 50 virtual hugs and words of encouragement, or when I freaked out over a revision request and got 31 kicks in the pants... (e'rhm words of encouragement). Thank you!

Yep. It was nice watching what we could do yesterday, and swapping emails and comments as everyone cheered on one of our buddies. The blogosphere was pink and purple, and it was too cool.

So Hooray for Talli! And here's to everyone who splashed her up the charts.

Have a great weekend~ <3

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Amazon Splash - The Hating Game

Talli Roland is a great bleep, and her debut chicklit novel THE HATING GAME hits the Kindle store today on Amazon. 

Many blog-friends and I are trying to help her reach the bestseller list by spreading the word today. (And if you've got an extra $3, grab a copy! Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.)

Here's the Amazon link to the book.

And you can download the FREE Kindle for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android, etc., when you get it. It's really easy to use--I did it. Seriously.

You can also follow Talli's blog (she's a travel writer living in London) at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize?

Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing Sample Tag - POV

So I was chatting with Sheri at Writer's Ally (link) about killing a MC (main character). She did it, I did it, then she suggested we do corresponding posts today. (Me: Sure! :o)

She's looking at dialogue; my bit is on point of view (POV).

My second MS is a prequel-sequel to my very first book Dragonfly. The story is told through three journals given to the MC of Dragonfly, and it's like Rashomon--one complete account of the events is told followed by a second, and then the third. And in each version, the reader learns more and/or sees a different side of the story.

It was a lot of fun to write, and I think it turned out well. It was the first time I ever had a beta reader say she read something I wrote in one sitting. Wow. (Just between us, that made my life.)

I don't have a title I'm happy with, so I've been calling it Found Objects. It's older YA, possibly New Adult, complete at 80K words. And since it's a prequel-sequel, readers should know who's going to die going in. The Why behind the death (the secret revealed in Dragonfly) is a more interesting plot driver, IMO.

It's also the first time I attempted a male POV. See what you think!

Plot summary:

In the late-1970s three friends graduate from high school with big dreams.

Alex dreams of leaving the small, coastal town where they grew up and taking the art world by storm; Bill plans on becoming a super-rich developer and transforming their hometown into a high-end resort destination; Meg dreams of marrying Bill and taking her place as a leader of local society.

The three realize their dreams, but manipulations along the way create secrets that leave one isolated, one heartbroken, and the third dead.

May 31
            Margaret Louise Kyser. Mrs. William S. Kyser. William and Margaret Kyser. Bill and Meg. Bill and Meg Kyser. Bill and Meg Kyser cordially invite you to their estate on Bono Island
            I love starting a new journal. The blank pages just waiting to be filled with all the fun and exciting things about to happen to me.
            It’s almost as fun as planning my wedding. And planning my wedding is so much more fun than going to high school.
I’ve actually been planning my wedding since I was a little girl dressed up in my grandmother’s chiffon nightgowns and scarves. Meeting Billy provided the face to my mystery groom, and what a perfect face. I knew the minute I saw him that he was the one. Tall and slim with soft brown hair and beautiful blue eyes—it was love at first sight.
             We’ll live happily every after, of course, with little Will, John, Lucy and Megan. Will named after Billy and John for my daddy. Lucy is for my best friend Alexandra Marie LaSalle, who has the coolest name ever. We call her Lexy for short, and I know, Lucy’s not the same as Lexy. But it reminds me of Lexy, and I want my little girl to be just like her—creative, beautiful, full of flair, and loyal to the end.

May 31
Salt. Fresh fish. Warm, moist humidity, moldering wood. The air smells like bright oranges and deep reds, white-hot yellows and brown. Low buzzing of construction down to my right, a strong rush of wind, pushing my hair back. Crash… sizzle. Crash… sizzle. The ocean is rough and happy today, beckoning me to run down and join in its dance.
So my best friend Meg gave me a journal as a graduation present, and here I am writing in it. It’s funny. I'd actually considered following her example and keeping a record of all my thoughts and feelings. Then she surprised me with this gift. Let’s see…
It’s a crazy time for all of us. So much is changing. This morning I decided to run to my usual escape down by the shore to relax and find my center. I was meditating when I remembered being a little girl and stripping off all my clothes so I could run and jump naked into the surf. It was always so warm and swirly, and I would pretend I could turn into a mermaid and swim deep down to rule some magical kingdom.
               The memory made me smile, and I peeped through one eye at my surroundings. Nope, too many early vacationers to attempt a repeat performance. Even here on Fort Morris Road, the beach condos are taking over. Damn Bill Kyser. His big plan is only going to make it all worse.

May 31
            Getting married right out of high school was not in the plan.
Bryant and I had the entire thing mapped out. We even ran it past the retired veterans at the small business center in Fairhaven. They were impressed. Said if we could convince farmers south of Fort Morris to stop planting sweet potatoes and cotton in the sand and sell us their land, this thing could work.
Then Meg tells me she’s pregnant.
I can’t believe I was so stupid, and after how careful I’ve been. Damn Sadie Hawkins. That’s when it happened. We’d all been drinking, and Meg was dancing around in that short skirt. We got back to Dad’s truck, and I couldn’t wait to pull her onto my lap...
Careless. Not staying focused. Bryant’s going to sh-t, and after two years of planning.
Bryant and I got our big idea one summer in Florida. We’d spent the first two months working on my uncle’s farm, driving combines and stacking hay bales. It was hard work and in this heat I hated it. I told Bryant we'd get the farms out of here if it was the last thing we did. He laughed, but Bryant’s a good guy. We’ve been friends since we were kids.
Bryant’s grandparents own a house in South Walton, and for ten years developers have been going down there, taking old worthless beachfronts and converting them into luxury beach communities. Some have full-time residents and some are rentals.
I decided we'd bring that to our town. We’d turn those swaths of open sand around Ocean Pass and Lost Key into tourist dollars with our names stamped on every one. It was going to work, and it was going to work big.
Now I see it all slipping away.

* * *

So there you have it. I feel like the voices are distinct, but I'm the writer. You tell me. In the case of my one male voice, I tried to keep it short, focused, driving. Just the facts, ma'am. (That's also his personality.)

What do you think? How do you guys handle different points of view? Ever tried it? Ever killed a MC? 

Til Thursday~ <3  

And don't forget to visit Sheri's blog! (link)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Thursday

I'll keep this short because you should all be out there eating good food and visiting with family and/or good friends. If you're far from home, (((BIG HUG))) have a wonderful holiday! If you're home with loved ones, so am I. Don't bicker. (wink)

My (quick) Thanksgiving list goes like this:

-Above all, I'm thankful for my wonderful family and friends, good health, my home, job, living in a great location, and basically being so, so blessed.

-I'm thankful that I started writing books a little more than a year ago. Despite all the ups and downs, the excrutiating waits and the heart-breaking rejections, it's the greatest, most exciting thing I've ever done. And the most painful.

-I'm thankful that I took that advice and started blogging. This time last year I was alone against the publishing world and all that stuff in the previous bullet I was facing by myself.

To be fair, I had friends and family cheering me on, but I didn't have anyone with me in the trenches. I love my bleeps! I've learned from you, I've been entertained by you. You've encouraged me, and hopefully I've encouraged you back... Couldn't do it without you guys~

-I'm thankful for beta readers and crit partners! You guys are the best, most awesome folks. You keep me going. (((BIG HUG)))

-I'm thankful that tomorrow night, hubs and I get to sneak off and see the new Harry Potter film. (SQUEE!) And I'm thankful that I will not be participating in Black Friday madness. (Bleah!) I'm also thankful that a group of Moms and I are taking our little ladies to see Tangled on Sunday. (SQUEE again!)

Finally, I'm thankful that regardless of what happens, I live in a country where I'm free to pursue my dreams. And my wish is for everyone to have a wonderful, refreshing break, and to be surrounded by things that give you joy.

'til Monday. Got anything to add to this list? Anything you agree with? Have a great holiday~ <3

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tips & Tricks - Writing samples on your blog

Two wonderful bleeps recently shared with me that they'd been contacted by publishing professionals who'd read synopses or excerpts of their works on their blogs. (SQUEE for them!!!)

Then I over-read (like over-heard) a comment where an agent lamented that he'd like to read more of a writer's work, but it wasn't readily available on the writer's blog.

Naturally, I got to thinking... I didn't have writing excerpts here until two days ago, so I can't say whether it works for me. But it makes sense. Just because I can write a decent blog post doesn't mean I have the chops for a novel. Or even the bright idea for one.

So maybe this is more of a heads up. And maybe I'm the last person getting the memo...  (Am I?)

I'll keep this post short in the hopes that you might check out one (or all) of my new linkies to the right over there > > >

And while I still have everything crossed that I can possibly cross in the hopes that I'll hear back positive news from Dream Agent soon, I certainly won't turn away any interested parties.

Anybody else contacted through writing samples on their blog? I'm just curious. And I'd love to hear any feedback you might have on my new pages!

Hope your week is filled with things to be thankful for. Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review & Author Interview - Life, Liberty & Pursuit

Once again, blogging wins! Today I'm reviewing a book and interviewing the author, both of which I discovered through blogging. Life, Liberty & Pursuit is a young adult romance by Susan Kaye Quinn who runs the blog Inkspells.

I first "met" Susan over the summer as I read her posts about working with the independent publisher Omnific. She's delightful.

Then a month ago I won a contest over on Sheri's blog (Writer's Ally) and got my very own copy of her book! I literally finished it in three days. It's that engaging.

So without further ado, here's my review:

Eliza's headed to Princeton for college. David's headed to Chicago for Navy boot camp. Both are trying to be good sports on a farewell cruise with their families until Eliza falls in a pool and is rescued by David.

Mutual sparks fly, and they spend the rest of the voyage together, having dinner, visiting ports of call, wandering around the decks holding hands. It's all wonderful and romantic. But the reality is they'll say goodbye in three days and head to opposite sides of the country.

So the cruise ends, and true confession: I wasn't sure how Susan was going to keep the momentum going with more than half the story left. But she does a wonderful job building tension into the romance through David & Eliza's thoughts, fears, and long-distance communications.

I was so excited when Eliza got her first letter from David (he has restricted communication at basic training and they actually have to write letters--gasp!), I had to read what he wrote twice. Just like Eliza.

And I gotta hand it to Susan. She writes a fantastic love letter.

Seriously, Susan does a super job establishing the relationship between these characters and then seeing it through their initial separation and to their ultimate outcome.

The outcome is tricky as well because as Eliza prepares for Princeton, her best friend gets ready to leave for college in the same city where David is assigned (Monterrey Bay, Cal.). Eliza begins to doubt her lifelong dream of getting an Ivy League education in favor of switching schools to be with her new love.

So realistic. So emotional. I couldn't decided what I wanted Eliza to do.

Susan handles this challenge masterfully in the book, and ultimately, I found the resolution of the story very satisfying. The secondary characters are a lot of fun, too, and exploring the tidbits of David's Polish background, Navy basic training, even the different ports of call are great enhancements to the story.

I give Life, Liberty & Pursuit a very happy A, and I recommend you all rush out and buy it now. Here's the link to the cool book website.

Now for my interview with Dr. Quinn!

1-The story is about a couple who fall in love almost at first sight and then their later separation and attempts to stay together. Later in the book another couple fall in love at first sight. So confess: are you a hopeless romantic? Do you believe in love at first sight?

I am a hopeless romantic, apparently, although I discovered this as part of writing a love story! Actually, two secondary characters are modeled after my best friend in high school, who went on a vacation with my family and promptly fell in love with my “cousin” (we weren’t actually cousins, just friends of the family). They, too, fell in love in a mere four days. Then she moved to another state and they were separated for years. It took eight years before I was able to stand up at their wedding, and they now have two beautiful girls. When she read the novel, she said, “This is all about me!”

2-I read you wrote Life, Liberty & Pursuit for your niece Jenny. Why? Are there similarities between the story and her life or experiences? (I also enjoyed Jenny's 5-second review--here's the link.)

My niece was enamored with Twilight, and it was something we could bond over (living 1,000 miles apart). I was inspired to write a true-life love story (with no magical creatures) for her to see that epic love can happen, even when there are no vampires involved.

She was only thirteen when I started writing the novel (she’s fifteen now), so I sincerely hope she wasn’t planning on running off with a sailor at that point! But she did have a chance to take a cruise in the Bahamas shortly before Life, Liberty, and Pursuit came out this summer, so it was cool for her to visit the setting of part of the book.

3-The book had several unique and interesting details, from the sites they visited on the cruise, the Polish words sprinkled throughout, the emotional separation of Eliza and David, David's Navy training, his linguistic studies. How much was based on your own knowledge and how much did you have to research?

Research, research, research. I love it, and it’s one of the best parts of writing. However, much of the book was based on life experiences as well. My father worked for the Navy his entire career (as a civilian), and his father emigrated from Poland when he was six. However, I didn’t consult with him until the final editorial stages of the novel, when we had to discern the difference between a “mess hall” and a “chow deck.” One of my crit partners speaks Polish, so her help was crucial. Even when you think you know something, it’s always good to do your research.

4-I absolutely adored your theme: "Love brings you up, it makes you a better person." What was your inspiration for that?

My belief that it is true, and an amazing husband who has made me a better person every step of the way. One of my early readers was in love with that theme too – and she urged me to publish the story because of it. She believed young people needed to hear the message that love should make you stronger, not weaker.

5-I think this book perfectly targets older high school girls (YA). But it's been described as a "New Adult" book. If you would, please explain this new category and tell us how you'd categorize LL&P.

I think the “New Adult” category targets young people ages 18-22, who are having lots of life experiences in that age range: college, dating, marriage. Life, Liberty, and Pursuit will easily appeal to that age range, given that the characters are 18 and 20, but I also think it is great for girls who are in high school and contemplating big changes in their lives: where to go to college, how to deal with overwhelming feelings of love, how to know what to do with your life? These are questions that teens are asking before they graduate.

6-You used a small, independent publisher for your book and I remember reading it was a very positive experience for you. How'd you find Omnific? If you would, please briefly tell us the highlights of that experience. (and/or link to the blog post where you describe)

One of my friends, who beta read Life, Liberty, and Pursuit, joined Omnific when they opened their doors January 2010. When Omnific sent me an invitation to submit, I was surprised, but delighted. The full story is here (link).

My friend wasn’t involved in acquisitions, but once I had a contract with Omnific, she became my editor – which was outstanding! Having someone who knows their stuff and loves your story? It’s the perfect author-editor match. Publishing with a small press was an amazing experience, and helped me to understand the industry better, having gone through the entire process.

7-How much changed from your MS to published book? Did your title change? Did the story change any?

There were substantial changes from the rough draft to the submitted MS (David wasn’t even Polish to begin with), but less so between the submitted MS and the published book. Although with three editors and many rounds of editing, the book was in much better shape thanks to the editorial team at Omnific.

The story did not substantially change, although I remember arguing with my editor about whether the cars should be foreign or domestic (we compromised)! The title was the one thing that never varied from the very first draft. The Navy motto just fit: “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of those that threaten it.”

8-What's next for Dr. Quinn? What WIPs are in the works?

I’m querying my middle grade science fiction novel right now, and working on Draft 3 of my young adult paranormal novel, which I am head over heels in love with. Isn’t there some saying that your favorite novel is always your current work? I definitely plan to keep writing books for kids and teens. I enjoy it too much to stop!

Where to buy it: (names are links)
Barnes & Noble
Book Website

Monday, November 15, 2010

And now we wait

So I sent the revision back yesterday. Ten thousand words longer and much fuller, and now the wait begins.

I'm truly beat, but I have to give shout outs to JRM, Carolyn, Tami, and Jen who jumped in to speed-read and give me feedback. You guys are amazing, and in the middle of NaNo even. I have no awards to give you, but perhaps an acknowledgements section--?

It's been crazy trying to keep up with the day jobs while revising, but I wanted to share with you the feature I wrote on local writer Murray Dunlap (link). His anthology What Doesn't Kill You actually just came out. You can purchase a copy here (link).

Give it up for my oldest daughter, who is representing her class in the school-wide spelling bee tomorrow. Yay, for my baby! I'm a very proud Mamma. This is clearly her dad's influence because the only thing I do worse than spell is remember names.

And the new Harry Potter film opens Friday! Exciting times. Mix in Tangled and the holidays, and that should take the edge off my wait.

In conclusion, a little inspiration from that book I'm studying with friends. Remember last Monday, the Mother Teresa quote?

Anyway, it was talking about your strengths and flow. It talked about how in the Bible, the first person who was mentioned as having the "Spirit of God" was a guy named Bezalel. Seriously. Who the heck is Bezalel? I didn't even know, but apparently he was one of those biblical architects who helped build the first tabernacle.

The point was this quote:

"We do not work mainly for money, recognition, promotion, applause, or fame. We work for flow. We live for flow. We hunger for the experience of flow, and when it is present, something happens in our spirit as we connect with a reality beyond ourselves and partner with God." --John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

It reminded me of a quote Angie shared with me a few months back:

"Creation is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Start small. Don't let fear of failure discourage you. Don't let the voice of critics paralyze you--whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside. the more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the grater your capacity to create." --Dieter F. Uchtdorf

'til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tips & Tricks - The Soundtrack

First, Happy Veterans Day! A big Thank You to all the brave men and women who've helped keep me, my family, and this country I love safe and free! I appreciate you~

* * *

Now for today's post:

I had the hardest time getting started on WIP3 (working title is Cheveux Roux).

Anyway, I worked so hard to create writing blocks of time for it and then during those times, I played and chatted with bleeps. I researched New Orleans in the Gilded Age, read about the aftermath of the Civil War, read about French surnames and histories, downloaded photographs of clothes worn at the time...

Check this gorgeous dress I found from the period.

[Note: Image removed due to copyright concerns.]

That's black velvet on white satin--very art nouveau.

Anyway, I'm happy to say all that procrastinating was not wasted time. There was actually one thing I did that seriously helped me. Nikki posted about it Tuesday over at the Oasis.

I made a soundtrack.

The truth is, I'm a musical mush-pot. Want me to remember something? Set it to music. Seriously, it's freakish the way I remember songs. So it really wasn't a hard thing for me. It was kind of fun.

Originally, I'd wanted to write a story set in a circus. Why? I don't know. But as I got to writing, I decided a cabaret in New Orleans would be more interesting. And possibly easier because of the whole "close to home" thing.

So I mined all the musicals and sort of showy, dramatic songs I could think of and assembled tunes that to me represented certain characters. Wanna hear it? (link).

I'd never done that before and I have to give it up. It worked! 

I did not listen to it while writing. I actually didn't listen to it very much at all in the beginning. But toward the end, I put it on the iPod and one character in particular came rushing back to my mind--I went straight home and wrote an entire scene with him in it.

So cool beans and kudos to whoever came up with that idea. I remember Jennie wrote about her soundtrack over the summer, and I think Jessie did too. Have any of you guys done this? Did it Help? Want to share one or two of your songs?

And just as a very non-scientific poll, what do you guys think about a French title for WIP3? Is that a BAD idea?

Here's the logline for the book (historical YA fiction). I'd love to hear your comments/critiques:

Seventeen-year-old Hale plans to escape her life as a cabaret performer in 1890s New Orleans by marrying a wealthy, genteel suitor she doesn't really love, until a handsome stage-hand arrives and steals her heart. But when a sexual predator threatens the orphan Hale rescued and raised, she is convinced their only hope is by sticking to her original plan, even if it costs her the one she loves.

All the best with your current projects! Have a super weekend~ <3

Monday, November 8, 2010

ReviseMo, Wk. 2 - Kudos & Deep Thoughts

I'm in the trenches, but I can see the light. Woo! Still, I'm creatively sapped, so today's post is shout outs and a little inspiration.

First, BIG CONGRATS to three people who've recently had amazing publishing news.

First, my sweet Mom, Theresa Talbert, who has led ladies' Bible studies since I was too small to remember recently published The Kisses of His Mouth, an analysis of the book Song of Songs. Here's a link to where you can buy it. Mom has touched so many lives through the years with her love and ministry, and I am so proud of her. To Mom--Whoot!

Second, Jessica Bell, the Alliterative Allomorph, recently signed a publishing contract with Lucky Press! Jess writes literary women's fiction and poetry, and her first book Dead in the Corner of my Bedroom is due out Dec. 2011. Visit her blog for full scoop--she's making the official announcement today as well. To Jessica--Whoot!

And last but fabulously NOT least, one of my newer bleeps, Clarissa Draper signed a three book deal with WiDo publishing. Clarissa writes crime novels and mysteries and she was so so helpful to me with a poisoning scene in WIP3. Visit her blog here. And to Clarissa--Whoot!

That's so exciting. Man, I love it when my peeps and bleeps shine.

I have two awards to pass.

First, RaShelle gave me the gorgeous Irresistible Blog award. Thanks, RaShelle! She is just the cutest, sweetest thing. RaShelle reminds me of friends I've had and MCs I've written. Visit her blog at this link.

The second came from Lydia Kang, the supercool Humphrey Bogart "You're Going Places, Baby" award. Thanks Lydia! Also the cutest, sweetest thing, Dr. L. is an actual physician, and she dispenses medical wisdom on Mondays. Go get some at this link.

Here's the deal, when I don't get a number of who to pass these to, I've decided it means ALL my followers share these awards with me. So if you follow me, I award you--take one and peace be with you. I couldn't keep this up without you guys.

Which brings me to the Inspirational Portion of the show...

Writing is such a solitary pursuit. Combined with the time commitment required, it's easy to become separate from the other humans in your life. With the holidays coming, take time to connect and serve someone you love. I recently read this in a book I'm studying with some friends:

"If you can't do great things, Mother Teresa used to say, do little things with great love. If you can't do them with great love, do them with a little love. If you can't do them with a little love, do them anyway. Love grows when people serve."  -John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, November 4, 2010

(something like) Near-death experiences

Over the summer we talked about using The Method to get into the spirit of WIPs.

At that time I was working on WIP2, a SciFi in which the MC is trying to escape a hostage situation. There are times when she either fears for her life, or at the very least experiences some serious anxiety.

To get in that mindset after spending hours with my two hilarious little cherubs who were home full-time enjoying the heck outta summer vacation (!), I'd channel my inner Marlon Brando and try to feel the way I felt the one of two times I ...

OK, to say I "feared for my LIFE" would be a bit dramatic. Let's just say, I felt that cold fear in the pit of my stomach that said, "This could get a whole lot worse before it gets better..."

Time #1:
Catherine was three months old and we still lived in Indy. We were at a Christmas party in Carmel (suburb to the north) where JRM was part of the musical entertainment. I left to go home, nurse the baby, get some rest, and inadvertently left my cell phone in JRM's suit pocket.

Oh, well! No worries, Indy's a grid and I knew where I was going, right?

Problem: the low fuel light was on in the car, I was at least 10 miles from home, and it was the middle of a snowstorm.

Now I grew up in south Louisiana--Baton Rouge--and we don't get much snow there (if any). And when we do, it just sort of flies around like chicken feathers for an hour and we're all high on life for another ten years.

I had no clue that when it really snows, the snow sticks to the street signs, completely obscuring them and making it very easy to get lost. Carmel is not a grid, and before long, I had no idea where I was in a snowstorm and a sputtering car.

At one point, I actually got out of the car and banged on the door of a house (no one answered) before trudging back and getting in the car to stare out the windshield at the whiteness. In despair, I put my head down on the steering wheel and prayed. I was freaking out, and I felt...

The Feeling.

[I wound up with a nice little Christmas miracle. Right when I lifted my head, I noticed a green street sign (miraculously) not covered in snow that had an arrow pointing to a school that was the landmark for Meridian Street/U.S. 31, which ran a few blocks parallel to North College, which was the street where we lived.]

Time #2:
JRM and I had traveled to one of his lawyer conferences in San Francisco, and for fun, we rented a car and drove through wine country, up the coast to Mendocino where we spent the night.

JRM has always talked fondly of that little village on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, and we got a room at the MacCallum House. It was really beautiful and romantic...

Well, when it came time to drive back, rather than taking the same road back down, JRM got out the map and plotted us a "quicker route."  (That's always the way it starts, right?)

We had plenty of gas this time, the only problem was the makers of the travel atlas we used clearly had never driven in the mountains of northern California. We headed out in the direction the map said would lead us to the highway we sought optimistic, happy, refreshed...

Then we passed a green sign that said "highway ends 20 feet." And it did! Dumped us right out on a narrow, gravel road in the middle of the redwoods. We looked at our phones--zero cell service.

No worries! JRM assured me. We'll keep going and hook up with "our" road in about 12 miles--see it here on the map? LTM: (smiling) OK!

We drove on and the gravel road got narrower and narrower until we were literally on a one-lane trail, winding through the mountains looking out across treetops and hoping a logging truck wasn't headed our way in the opposite direction.

Relief! After a few miles we started passing hand-written notes on the side of the road listing the highway number we sought.

We were undeterred that they were written in marker and posted on what looked like paint stirrers... It was going to work out! We weren't going to freeze to death or end up eating each other to survive!

After 12 more miles, three more signs, and still no road, JRM made the executive decision to turn the car around and go back the way we came. LTM: (not smiling) OK!

So we turned around and headed back... until we came to a fork in the road.

You see, along the way other, identical little roads had been joining the main one from up the mountain, down the mtn, around the mtn...

JRM: Did we come from up there or over there?
LTM: (swallows knot in throat) I don't remember... I wasn't looking.

Then we looked at the little hand-written signs and realized they were written with the exact penmanship of a Serial Killer. I looked at my cell phone again--still no service.

LTM: Try going to the right.
JRM: I'm not sure that's the direction we came...
LTM: Just try it.

So we did. Then we came to another fork. And the same situation.

At that point, JRM got out of the car and walked a little ways ahead of us on the path and stood looking into the woods. I sat in the car watching him, thinking of my two baby girls at home, wishing he were a little fatter, and feeling...

The Feeling.


Obviously, we got out of that one. Another miracle, this time not at Christmas. JRM managed to spot a trash heap he remembered on the way in and got us back on the correct road and ultimately back to Mendocino where we got on the established route back to San Francisco.

Several months later we heard a news story about a couple who froze to death after getting lost in the woods of northern California in the wintertime. We looked at each other and for a second I again remembered...

The Feeling.

So that's one way The Method helps us writers. And I'd love to hear any stories you guys have to share! Continued good luck to all the Nanners and Revisers. I'm hard at work with the latter group.

Until Monday--have a great weekend! <3

Monday, November 1, 2010

That Silly Muse

Why does inspiration strike the way it does?

I was in the shower Saturday, trying to get ready as fast as possible because I was due to work the Princess Both at our school's annual Fall Festival, and voila! I had this amazing idea for how to work a requested revision into BNN...

And then when I made that change, naturally, I would have to return to an earlier scene (which page was that on?) to work in how the change would be foreshadowed.

Oh, yes, and then there's this later scene that won't make sense now if I don't make this note...

And oh my goodness! This change is so cool, it could actually become something of a "lesson" the MC learns by novel's end! Must make note to think about whether or not that will work...

Thirty minutes later I'm almost late for the princesses!

Not only that, we almost missed the entire festival. JRM is annoyed--will you ever get away from that laptop? Babies are cranky--Mommy! It's time to go!!!


I'm thinking of my NaNo bleeps today (link). I'm not participating because for me it's ReviseMo, but I would so be there otherwise. The idea of writing every day with goals and partners sounds so motivating.

And that silly muse. Am I the only one who gets inspiration at the darndest time? (Am I the only one who feels guilty for having her head in a cloud the entire time I'm working on a MS or a revision?)

Good luck, Nanners! Til Thursday~

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Scenes from Halloween

Halloween is my all-time, absolute favorite holiday.

My mother says it's because we didn't observe it at my house when I was a kid. Maybe. I think it's because the weather is finally cooling off down here, and outside is just perfectly right for the event--windy, dead leaves blowing, full moon... and everyone's so excited, something hilarious typically happens.

So in honor of the occasion, I present my Top Three Favorite Halloween Memories starting from least scary to... well, most silly.

1. The Country Fair-McCue Road.

In elem-middle grades, I went to a private school that had a Country Fair every year on Halloween. There were games, dunking booths, crafts for sale, fair food, etc.

That was all fun when I was little, but when I got closer to high school, I realized the teenagers would always take off and run around to local "haunted" sites while all the children and parents were at the fair. (Back then you got your drivers' license at 15 and I had an older brother.)

There were two sites near where we lived that had several legends around them. The first was McCue Road. It led back into the woods and started off paved, but eventually it turned to gravel. Supposedly two dead bodies drained of all their blood had been found wrapped in garbage bags back on the gravel part. Naturally, that meant there was a coven of witches doing Black Sabbath rituals that we had to investigate.

The other was a grave at this Civil War-era cemetery in Zachary, La. I don't remember the name, but the grave had bars installed across the top because the legend was it contained the corpse of a witch. One by one the bars had been removed by... teenagers... and supposedly when the last bar was gone, she'd come back and kill us all.

All sorts of stories about cars going dead and then failing to start, power windows going down and not going back up, headlights going out and not coming back on, etc., were told by kids who'd tried to steal bars off the grave.

(To me that didn't make sense because wouldn't she want to come back? So why mess with the teenagers trying to release her?)

Nothing ever happened to us on these trips, but the memory of being 13 and allowed to tag along with the cool "big kids" on those adventures is still pretty vivid. It forms the basis of my Halloween love...

2. My Hero.

In college I dated a guy who was six-foot-two, 200 pounds--big guy. He stomped around town in Size 13 Docs, was the lead guitarist in a band. Mr. Cool, right?

He was also the youngest of nine kids--good south Louisiana Catholic family--and claimed when he was out running one night he saw the Spirit of Death (a dark shadow) rise out of a gutter and go into a house in his neighborhood. The next day (he said) the man who lived in that house died of a heart attack.

My boyfriend was also a major campy-horror-movie fan. Like the super B- variety. He made me watch The Evil Dead. And the sequels. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Piranha! (the original)...

So he and I went to this haunted house one Halloween--you know, the pretend kind where people dress up and try to scare you? Many of you have never seen me in person. I'm not so big. I'm about five-foot-four, and I weigh between 120 and 130 pounds, depending on if there are cupcakes in the house.

At one point on our haunted tour a fellow dressed as Leatherface with a chainless chainsaw ran out toward us. Immediately my giant boyfriend lifted me off the ground by my upper arms and threw me in front of him, at the guy with the chainsaw.

Me: What are you doing?!?!
Him: (panicked) They won't hurt a girl!
Me: They won't hurt anybody! It's all fake!

We all know that was a completely illogical response, btw. They always hurt the girl.

3. Trick or Treat.

As I said, we didn't celebrate Halloween at my house when I was a kid. Well, my paternal grandmother thought that was a lot of ridiculousness. So one year when my brother and I were visiting her at Halloween (we were very young), she decided to take us trick or treating around her small hometown of Liberty, Miss.

I was very much a pleaser as a child, and I just knew we weren't supposed to be doing this. Internally, I was all a-fret because "if Mom found out..."

I was also a pudgy little kid. I was never very tall and until I hit puberty, I was ... well, fat. There's just no other nice way to say it. I didn't like to sweat and I liked to eat. Two plus two equals four.

So we went to several houses, got bags filled with candy. Me: Hey, this Halloween business ain't so bad! Then my Mammaw said we had to go to one more house. It was someone she knew, but at the time, I wasn't aware of that.

My brother and I walked up to the door and knocked and "REEE!!!" An Evil Witch jumped out and released a blood-curdling screech! My brother took off like a rabbit, but I knew I'd never out-run her. I closed my eyes and started swinging my Halloween bag with all my might.

To this day I remember hearing nothing but a high-pitched shree and feeling all my precious candy falling around my shoulders and disappearing through the cracks in the porch. At some point, I took off running. I was not pursued because the "witch" was bent over, hyperventilating with laughter.

I remember seeing her talking to my grandmother through the driver's-side window at the car, and I crept back and got in the backseat. We had to drive a few blocks before we found my brother...

So there you go! And I'd love to hear your stories... now I'm thinking this should've been a blogfest. Regardless, get out, scare some children, eat some candy, watch a scary movie, be safe. But most of all have a very, very