Sunday, February 28, 2010

SSTW The Movie

We did it! Star Saves the World is on film. Below is the link to the finished product, and I'm happy to report the little members of the cast are pleased with the results.

See what you think (link)~

That last line is "Where would the world be without orange cats?"
Reply, "I don't know!"

Good stuff.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

First the Good News

Have I mentioned how cool you guys are?

I'm not just saying that because of how positive you've all been about this book stuff. Or even because of last month when a handful of you rallied 6,000 people of all faiths all over the world to pray for a sick little girl most of you'd never even seen. In less than two days.

(She's home now, and recovering nicely, btw. Thanks to you all; thanks be to God.)

Nope, it's not even because of how impressive it was to live here during H. Ivan and watch everybody before the storm boarding up little old ladies's houses, giving advice to us newbies, helping people prepare. Then after, seeing everybody get to work cleaning up and helping people rebuild. Those of you with generators making sure folks had hot meals and a place to shower.

Or a year later after Katrina. I remember sitting on front porches with some of you as you wept telling me about your friends and relatives in Mississippi and Louisiana. Then we all went out and collected food, clothes, water, and the ones with trucks and trailers made daily runs to Gauthier, D'Iberville, Long Beach, Ocean Springs...

No, I really like your big mouths and opinions. Your funny snaps and how for the most part, you're all straight-shooters. You're just a big gang of good people.

So shoot this one to me straight. Why is the bad news so much easier to believe than the good?

Yep, I got it. The big R from one of the three asking to see more of Debut Novel.

I've been telling myself not to feel bad about it. It was the agency I was most shocked had wanted to see it at all. I honestly couldn't tell Richard why I had queried them in the first place, and it was from the early days when I had no idea what I was doing.

So it's probably for the best, right? My pants were shocked off when they asked for more, then yesterday they stayed firmly in place (not on the ground) when I read the short, "Sorry, this isn't for me."

It wasn't even my first big R. Remember O.J. Berman? But it did sting. It's the whole getting the hopes up followed by the swift kick in the guts. Bluh.

But that brings me back to my Woody Allen dilemma. It was actually easier to believe they didn't want it than they did. Easier to believe that little voice in my head that says they're probably right. A book out there with my name on it? That's ridiculous! I'm no elitist member of the literati. Have you heard me laugh?

Of course, Richard is annoyed when I say that. He might think my blog title's dorky, but he actually likes the books. At least he says he does... And having read everything on the planet, he's now taken to ridiculing all books represented by said agency. None of which I've read. (See?)

Still, I'm feeling lower than... hmm... I read a really good "lower than" the other day... What was it? I'm feeling lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut. And I don't even like cowboy movies.

Sorry, they're not for me.

UPDATE: Just got another request for full MS of Debut Novel from agent who previously rejected then came back and asked for it. File this one under "extremely pleasant and very unexpected surprises." Keep those fingers crossed...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Not the Nickleback Pickle

OK, kids, so Richard thinks my blog title is dorky.

He didn't come right out and say, "Your blog title is dorky." No, he's more subtle than that. He simply started walking around the house using his Fred Willard voice to say the following:

"That's write!" and
"I don't think so!" and
"I can't do my work!"

The benefit of knowing someone since you were teens is you can tell when that person is ridiculing you.

I know, I know. Ignore that one. But earlier in the day, my news buddy Kerry pointed out that while my blog is cool and all, it'll never catch up with that pickle that beat Nickelback for the most fans on Facebook.

LTM: Hahahahaha... oh.

Can I just say that as a fan, pickles are really hard to beat?

Well, except that one that ran for Spanish Fort mayor a few years ago. He lost pretty handily. (Richard pointed out he was one of those crazy Pineda Island Pickles, and upon reflection, I agreed. That probably was his undoing.)

We actually have a really nice Timber Creek Pickle in our church choir. There's also a Duck. And a few houses down from us live the Barefoots. (They're not Am. Indians. I asked.) Across the street are the Koors. Everyone likes to congregate at their house around 5 p.m. to unwind, discuss the day, world events...

So I'm going with the whole "can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy. If the title changes, it's going to be a Pickle. But perhaps I should distinguish myself. I could be the Laid-back Pickle. Or the nerdy, Has-Trouble-Coming-Up-With-Names Pickle.

I don't know.

What do you guys think? Is my blog title dorky? If so, some of you creative types send me some suggestions. I don't want it to be just my silly ole name.

My favorite eaterie in Shreveport was The Real Pickle. Oh, and here's that Fred Willard bit.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It Takes a Lot to Laugh

So I interviewed author Chris Warner yesterday, and after the interview, we started swapping funny stories we've been told while covering the Gulf Coast.

Chris and I crossed paths because he's currently writing a biography of Joe Gilchrist, owner of the Flora-Bama lounge. A friend of mine told him about my books and how they're all set in this area, and then she told me about Chris. So I decided to do a "Get to Know" feature on him.

Anyway, he told me a story Joe had related to him about how once the tide around Orange Beach was glowing because of all the phosphorus in the sea life or something. (Of course, I thought of Steve Zissou.)

The story went that Joe saw it and closed the Flora-Bama. He then gave his patrons two options: go home or go skinnydipping.

LTM: (LOL!) I love where we live!

So I was thinking of rewatching Zissou, but instead I hit "play" on Darjeeling Ltd. It's been hanging out on the DVR for almost a year now, and I've watched it a few times. I haven't deleted it yet because, you know. Some days are just those kinda days.

I like the movie primarily because I also like Bottle Rocket, and it's fun seeing Wilson revisiting the Dignan character. That, and I totally get the sibling relationships portrayed. Francis is so my self-appointed third guardian/older brother in that film.

"On the spiritual journey, it's crucial that we don't splinter into factions or not include somebody who has advice and may know better."

Anyway, I hadn't watched Darjeeling since writing Debut Novel, and I had to giggle at the brothers' reaction to Jack's book. Primarily because he insists it's a work of fiction whereas the movie demonstrates it's definitely not.

It was funny because my small group of test readers have already begun deciding which characters are which friends, and I'm just floored. Guys! They really ARE fictional!

But despite being works of fiction, the setting of my books is very real. I had lots of fun surrounding my fictional characters with local landmarks, events, folklore, history, etc. Even some of the names are derivations of actual family names in this area. (I'm planning to make sure that's OK before it's published, hold the emails.)

So I'm happy people are really getting into the books. What makes me even happier are the playful demands for more pages--stat! (whee!) Hopefully things will level out before long, and I can just have one writing job.

I buried the lede. As of now, I've gotten three requests so far--one for a partial and two for the full manuscript--from three different, reputable agencies. Yay!

I'm encouraged, and please do keep your fingers crossed. This is only Round 1 after all. But I'll keep you posted.

And keep those positive comments coming. I really appreciate it.

As for Darjeeling... What's up with all the spectacle-raising? Is that symbolic?

It made me think of Stephen King's advice to read back through your books, and if you notice any symbols, go ahead and play those up. (BAH!!! Thanks, "Uncle Stevie," for validating my writing style.)

And wouldn't it sound great if you could hear a train going by off in the distance right now?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Star Saves the World

[First off, my husband noted that my last post could've used a good editor. My response: I was making my point for me.]

So Star Saves the World. Last fall when I was in the throes of finishing Debut Novel, my daughters decided to write books, too. (Love them!)

Catherine started The Secret of the Nile, which I think she's still writing, and Laura wrote Star Saves the World, Book 1.

I think it's awesome she added "Book 1." As if at six years old she realizes the world is most likely going to need saving again.

Anyway, so Catherine's still writing. Hers is a thriller. An unexplained scream in the night and two girls--Charlotte and Monica--are trying to figure out what it could be.

Can I just say my children are superstars?

In this case I'm most impressed with their ability to just come up with great character names. Just like that. The hardest thing for me to do when writing my books was come up with names for everybody. Sheesh. I agonized over it. One of the my main characters went through five name changes. No joke.

Regardless, Star Saves the World (Book 1) is complete. We've all read it, laughed over it, pronounced it the best book ever written, and yesterday, as I was working at the computer, Laura came in and handed me a note. Very official.

It read, "Dear Mommy, How can you make Star Saves the World into a movie?"

Everything stopped.

Uhh... Well, honey. A lot of writers ask that question... Mommy's not really sure.

You have to understand, Laura wrote and illustrated her book. The left-hand pages contain the story and the right hold her drawings of Star, who is a cat; Star's sidekick Princess, another cat; and Star's baby Jessica.

They all have little adventures, take naps, and eat lots of snacks. Laura reads the story to Catherine, and they both collapse into giggles. It's really a big deal for them.

So I thought about it.

Well, I told her, how about we do this: 1-We cast it. (Decide which of her toys are going to play which roles.) 2-We write the script. Then 3-We plan it out. (You know, storyboard it.)

Laura was concerned. "How will Star go to the different states?" (To save the world, she travels around the country.)

Richard says, "Sorry, kid. For your first picture, no location shots."

I kicked him and suggested we use our USA puzzle map and let Little Toy Star be in the different states using the puzzle pieces. Laura prefers getting large pieces of paper and drawing the states. (OK! It's her movie, after all.)

I have a digital video recorder, so we can at least film something. My fear is she's expecting Avatar (The Last Airbender), and she's going to get Gumby. But anyway, we're giving it a try. Whatever we end up creating, I'll put somewhere if you're interested in seeing it.

Now I'm wondering how we're going to create that mysterious scream for Catherine's movie...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Self-Publishing

For some reason I have "Blame Canada" in my head this morning.

Also, finished the Dessen novel, and I really liked it. She's got a nice style of writing that's very engaging. And she manages to sneak in good advice without sounding school-marmish.

I would've handled the scene where the primaries (finally) get their first kiss a little differently. I mean, in my opinion, it was a bit wordy. I would've done more, "warm embrace, the world melted away, and it was just... perfect."

Something like that, but a little more polished. You know, give them their moment to savor, and then pick up with the bit about forever and all.

But that's just me. Otherwise, good stuff! I can totally see me reading another of her books.

So to self-publishing! Some people are curious as to why I don't like that option. I've been an editor for years. I've sent back many a bleeding manuscript. I even know how the printing process works. What's the big deal?

Well, one set of reasons is practical, the other is more philosophical.

First, let me say, I'm strictly talking about publishing books. Novels. Not cookbooks or family geneologies or things like that, which are intended for a specific group of people for a specific purpose. I'm talking about self-publishing my work of YA commercial fiction. (I.e., vanity press.)

On the practical side, publishing's expensive. There's also the problem of editing your work. Yes, I'm an editor, and I've even edited the works of tenured Ph.D.s, and guess what? EVERYBODY needs a good editor.

You just need an outsider to read your stuff and make sure all the thoughts that were in your head made it successfully into the story.

It really does take a full six-week break to be able to go back to something you've written and see that "Oh! I thought I explained that better." Or "Wow, I could've expanded on that a little more."

Second, you need a good copy-editor. You just do. Somebody's got to un-split all those infinitives.

Finally, the most important thing, Marketing. I was just telling someone that if I hadn't seen an aritcle in Entertainment Weekly about the "Twilight phenomenon"--this was back when Breaking Dawn was dropped--I would never have picked up a copy and read it. Why would I? I have no tween children. We were still reading Madeline every night.

But I did see that article, and so did a lot of my peers. And Stephanie Meyers thanks us all.

Maybe you don't care to be that successful. (What?) But even to get a little publicity--to get the word-of-mouth wheels turning--takes a lot of effort and time. At least with an actual publisher you get some help with that. I know, the amount varies and is reportedly shrinking.

Coming from a marketing background, that is just so counterintuitive...

As for the philisophical, well, it's about the joy of reading.

Now you've all heard me complain about how long this finding an agent process takes and then how long it's going to take after that to get through publishing and yadda yadda yadda.

But that's just part of it. And the complaining's primarily for laughs because I know that's just the nature of the business. I've also decided to get back into yoga.

It can be discouraging that a big part of one's success seems to hinge on the ability to write a superstar sales pitch that sums up a 300- to 500-page work of fiction in one titilating paragraph. (Angela: "I hate being titilated.")

I can only imagine the mountain of super-great books that are just never going to be published because of this whole query-letter test.

But I do think moving the slush pile out of a few publishing houses and into hundreds of agency offices actually gives more people a shot at being considered--or at least actually read once.

That just brings us back to quality control. I know that a big part of my learning came from the books I read growing up. I learned to communicate effectively, to use language, even some mechanical tricks. (But I was nerdy like that.)

Philosophicaly, there's a certain authority to a printed book. I know, there's a lot of bound garbage out there, but there's also a lot of bound good stuff. Interesting stuff. Fun stuff. Deep and meaningful stuff.

I don't know, it's frustrating and rejections are depressing, but I think authors should resist self-publishing. If everybody's doing it, then where's the value in actually getting it done?

Finally, in conclusion, when you're sick of waiting and you see that icon promising to get your book published for a few hundred dollars, stop. Think: What would Brian Boitano do?

And then send a query to Nathan Bransford.

Monday, February 22, 2010

On Life Imitating Art

First, thank you all for the nice FB comments and emails about the blog. I'm really glad you guys are enjoying it, and I wish I could figure out how to make it easier to leave comments here. I do enjoy reading your feedback!

Second, continuing my self-assigned homework, I'm half-way through Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever, and I like it! Also, oy, with the eerie coincidences again! But it's good. I'd describe it as a "gentle read." I don't know what I mean by that, but it's just the thought I keep having.

Now to the Life v. Art debate!

Without being too spoilerish, there's a scene in one of my books where a character discovers her significant other has had an affair and loses it. Like big-time over the top, trash the house, throw everything into the yard loses it.

I've never really been one of those displays of temper sorts of people, so it was an interesting scene to write. I thought of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez burning the house down or Angela Bassett's character in Waiting to Exhale loading up the car with all his stuff and then setting it on fire.

I'm always watching the cops in those scenes. They're almost apologetic about having to arrest the "love has made me crazy" person. It's all very fascinating to me.

The difference with my particular character is she would never burn her house down. It's as much a part of her identity as it is significant other's--possibly more. It's the repeated reason they're together. The dream. I really wanted to set them up as two people who care about each other but never really know each other. You know the type.

They stayed together because... well, they look great together and they're rich. And occasionally there were chances the could've gotten closer, but they just never pursued those opportunities. Work, kids, etc.

Anyway, so I was working this out around Thanksgiving, and I'd just polished off the house-destruction scene when my dad asked me if I'd heard about what happened with Tiger Woods. Not being as much of a golfer as Dad (or at all), I was all, "Huh?"

So it was another eerie moment hearing those first news reports right on the heels of writing a similar scene. Tiger's wife beat up the car with a golf club. It was close.

But my character would never go after the guy. She wouldn't know how or even why. Nope, she goes after the other female. Sort of. I like to imagine what happens next is unexpected. You'll have to read the book...

So life imitating art or art imitating life? That happened more than once as I was writing, and I decided to take it as meaning I was successfully creating real characters experiencing real life events in the course of telling the story I wanted to tell. Yep. That's what it was.

Finally, not to be cliche and not at all to say "poor Tiger Woods," but man. Talk about dirty laundry aired for the world. I wasn't alive yet (or old enough to be aware), but it seems like nobody cared when it was Warren Beatty or Wilt Chamberlain. I mean, news people didn't go after those guys, they came after us saying "Look, look what I did!" Right?

And like, why didn't those guys get sent to therapy?

Is it because he's a golfer? Is it because he was married? Did he become the leader of the Christian Coalition when I wasn't looking?

I'm just saying. I'd be fine with letting that story die.

Gotta dash now, kids. I'm on deck to sling that hash at the elementary school. Love volunteer work--and, hey, SFES parents, we need more helpers!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It's the Freakin Weekend

I love how rap stars are such masters of the rhyme. It would never occur to me that "jam" and "a.m." rhyme, but it totally works.


So it's Saturday! Yay! On tap for today, play-time with the kids, try to squeeze in a run, Catherine says she wants to try Chinese buffet. (What?) This should be interesting... Maybe I can talk her into the Oyster House instead.

Everyone get out, have fun, play wih the kiddies and we'll catch up on Monday! I'm thinking about two things... self-publishing and Tiger Woods. Not necessarily in that order.

More soon~

***We interrupt this non-blogging weekend to bring you a special report.***


Some of you are aware that youngest daughter is also affectionately known as "Ramona" at our house. Well, currently Ramona's going through a game phase, and she's extremely competitive with Beezus. Can't imagine where she gets it...

So we're happily playing a game of Sorry, during which Beezus "sorrys" Ramona (i.e., sends her back to start). This provokes the whining, refusal to go back to start, etc. Me, as Calm Mediator, notes that "Look! Now we all have one pawn in Start."

Not helping.

Ramona insists on pushing her pawn back to where it was, to which I (more firmly) respond, "Now. Don't act like that." And move her pawn back to Start.

At this point, my youngest daughter, being the little lady she is, straightens up, places her hands on her hips, looks me squarely in the face, and toots.


Daddy immediately strides out of the room leaving me alone to reprimand her and NOT LAUGH.

I think of Hitler, the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust... Oh, and heck yeah, all those images coming out of Haiti. (Thanks, Meredith Viera!) I calmly put the game away, instruct giggling oldest daughter to go upstairs and play on the Peep website while youngest daughter fetches her notebook.

She is currently writing 25 times "I will not act ugly during games."


Test passed. (How much is finishing school again?)

I'm thinking those kids who picket the World Bank could take a few pages from youngest daughter's book. Or those PETA folks. She could teach them a thing or two about nonviolent protest.

Final thought: Heck, ya'll! It's 65 degrees outside! That's practically warm enough for a beach run! Wooo! Can I get a witness?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Silence is Golden

No it's not. Silence sucks. It also blows. It's a freak of nature. And it especially blows when you're waiting to hear back about how fabulously awesome Debut Novel is...

I know, I know. I've read the writers' self-help blogs. Publishing is a waiting game. You have to be patient and learn to take no news as good news. (insert exclamation point)

But you see, I'm a talker. I really like to chat chat chat, primarily about me me me and how great my book is.

I got so bored yesterday I queried O. J. Berman.

Yep, I did! I'm sorry!

Who's he, you ask? He's the agent who is (writing) world-renowned for his fast response to queries. The man LIVES in front of the computer screen. (Says the girl who hasn't showered today.)

I think he was looking for some legal thriller or a noir mystery to turn into a movie. That was close enough for me, so I shot him my letter. He shot me back a very nice "not really what I'm looking for," but it took him ALMOST THREE HOURS!

You're slippin, O. J.

I know, that's not the way to break into publishing. That's the way to end up on Gawker.

I know I said I was mending my bull-in-the-publishing-china-closet ways (see Debut Post). But it's hard. It's super hard. And what's even super hardest about it is that my real job, my actual paying gig, requires me to sit here in front of this dang laptop writing articles for the paper or updating (Yep, that's me that got your name wrong, Elsanor School!)

So I can't just get out and do something else. And every time slows or I'm waiting for a picture to download, that little G-mail icon is right there staring at me, begging me to click it and see if some agent has written back to agree that Yes, I've done it! I've written the best work of commercial YA fiction to date, and he/she has my six-figure, multi-book deal all polished up and ready for my signature!

I was researching potential YA agents on a great blog for such things the other day (, and I read this great bit of advice from one of them: "Don’t act crazy. It’s harder than you think, but agents hate crazy people."

That actually made me LOL! In a crazy-laugh sort of way.

It reminded me of Pee Wee's Big Adventure and the meeting in PW's basement where he's got the little model of the shopping mall and he's saying, "Some questions get answered, others appear. It's like a giant sweater that someone keeps knitting... he-he-and knitting... he-he-and knitting..."

OK, I'm meeting a friend for lunch. Hopefully she won't have me committed.

Final thought: If you didn't get the agent joke, I have a homework assignment. First, google "O.J. Berman." Next, go to your local video store (or get on Netflix)...  Last, enjoy!

So Tell Me About Your Book...

It's Friday! To make up for yesterday, I'll give you two of my favorite redneck jokes:

#1-You might be a redneck if...

You've been married three times and you still have the same in-laws.

OK, one more...

#2-You might be a redneck if...

You lit a match in the bathroom and your house exploded right off its wheels.

* * *

OK. I'm getting lots of VERY nice feedback re: this here blog via Facebook, email, etc. Thank You, All! I aim to entertain! And please feel free to leave those comments here. I really do think I fixed whatever was causing the problem before.

Now everyone's asking, What's all this about a book? What's the story?

Well, I'm still looking for an agent, so I'm loath to put too much out there. That's probably not the right approach. Maybe I should put it all out there. I don't know. I'm so new at this...

Sorry, The Book. Well... OK. Here's the plot in a nutshell (deep breath):

Heading into junior year, 16 year-old Anna is expecting the worst. Her best friend has just moved, and she's left with kids who only care about trucks, football and fishing.

Enter sophisticated, wealthy twins—beautiful Lucy with a troubled past, and striking, aloof Jack. They're transfer students from an exclusive private school on ritzy Ono Island, and as Anna gets to know them, she finds a friend in Lucy and what might be first love with Jack.

But all isn't right at their home. Lucy engages in self-destructive behavior, and Jack is sullen and withdrawn. Their mother is dead, and their father is strangely detached.

When Anna's pal Julian, a promising young art student, begins making romantic overtures, she finds herself unexpectedly drawn to him.

Then, during the course of a student internship at her local paper, Anna discovers the twin's father's long-guarded secret. He insists she must keep quiet. But his secret involves Julian, and Anna is determined the truth must come out.

* * *

So ring-a-ding-ding, that's the plot in a nutshell--75,000-words of commercial YA fiction.
I already told you it's not Cormack McCarthy, but it IS suspenseful and romantic, and test readers have been V. positive.

The unique part is that I incorporated lots of fun Baldwin County elements in the setting--the local art scene, local places, and even some local folklore. I tried to capture the great art community we have here, and I really think readers will get a sense of life in this area. In a good way!
The character development's solid, it's funny at times, and it's fast-paced. Being an admitted book-putter-downer (and never picker upper again-er), I tried to avoid all the things that make me stop reading. I think it works.
So, yay! Anybody know a good literary agent?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Happen to Like New York

I had a friend with an apartment on Prince Street in Soho.

That sounds like the opening to Out of Africa. (Hmm... It could be the opening to something.) I was just thinking that it was about this time of year when I visited him there. My last visit to NYC, spring of 2001.

My friend John was very excited about the prospect of me moving up there and getting an editorial job, and he was helping me meet with folks at like Newsweek and stuff. (Don't get excited, it was just LSU alums. Nobody famous. At least not at that point.)

It was very cold, and I have a picture of me freezing on top of the WTC six months before it hit the ground. It was my third trip to NYC in less than two years, but I wasn't going to move. I didn't want it badly enough, and I was married with a husband on his way to med school at the time.

I remember John took me to some way-off Broadway play where all the actors ended up completely naked at various points. I have no idea what the name of it was, but we met up with some of the cast at a little diner after. They kept going on about how much I looked like Drew Barrymore, and John was indignant. "She is not fat," he snapped.

John was from Port Allen. Same city as that little Tracy Porter kid who made the winning play for the Saints at the Superbowl. John's apartment was huge by NYC standards and his rent was only $1,400 a month because of rent control. He'd been there since the '80s. I still can't believe he gave that place up to move to Atlanta.

That night at the diner, I just remember thinking how one of my sorority sisters used to say I looked like Drew Barrymore, and I'd never taken it as an insult.

Six months later everything changed. It was Sept. 11, and I was working at the paper in Shreveport. I remember standing out in the newsroom with the rest of the staff watching Matt Lauer covering the nightmare. Then I went back to my office where my phone was ringing off the hook with friends demanding to know what was going on. I just work here, I thought.

One month after that my (sorority) little sister Tove was killed in Amsterdam after being hit by a tram while she was riding her bike. I remember getting the email from her (bio) sister Jenny telling me what had happened, and I went straight to the phone and called her.

I had no idea what time it was in Sweden, but I couldn't believe it. Somebody had hacked into her email account and was playing the most un-funny joke of all time. But it wasn't the most un-funny joke. It was the most un-funny truth. We sat there kind of stunned, and I eventually hung up the phone. I don't really remember our conversation.

An hour later, as the email was being discovered by our other sisters, my phone started ringing off the hook again. What had happened? Had I talked to Jenny? But Tove just got married! She was going to have a baby! And she was always so healthy!

It was surreal. I had just gotten the thank-you card Tove'd sent me for her wedding present. I'd given her some of those giant bath-sheet towels we all loved so much. I remembered how one time Tove had fallen in the shower at her dorm and hit her head and we all had to rush her to the ER for stitches. Jenny had been so scared, and we'd all joked about what a klutz Tove was. Another time she got a speeding ticket, and Jenny just knew she was going to get deported. Tove was larger than life.

I sat down and scribbled out some letter to Jenny that I couldn't even read through my blurry eyes. I wrote how I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't. I wrote about how badly I'd wanted to be at her wedding that summer, but with the move to Shreveport and all it had been impossible. And I hadn't saved enough money to fly to Amsterdam...

I mailed it without even proofreading. It probably made no sense.

Another month later I'd be filing divorce papers from my first husband.

Tough year.

First Husband was a darn good guy, too. He's a neurologist now in like Lexington, I think. We keep in touch. That one is filed under the category "my bad." But not that it ended. That really was the right thing to do. And we're both happily remarried now with kids.

Not sure why my thoughts just headed down that dark little memory lane. Sorry, kids. The good news is that by this time 2002, I was surrounded by an amazing group of friends in Indy who slung me over their backs and carried me until I felt like I could walk again. You guys were amazing. Love you~

Click here for the song.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Inspiration

When I first started writing, a lot of my inspiration for plot and character came from music. I wrote in a previous post about statements people have made in interviews that stuck with me and turned into scenes (or whole books as the case may be). Well, music is amazingly inspirational to me as well, and the muse strikes during odd, unexpected songs and at absolutely random times.

Like every time I hear "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd I think of MC in Book 4--where he's going to be and his state of affairs in that opening scene. The sounds of that song are driving across the Causeway under an overcast sky watching the drifters fish from the roadside and the occasional shrimp boat pulling out for a day's work.

If there was one song in the whole world that I could get credit for writing, I'd want it to be that one.

Other inspirations? My MC in Debut Novel came to me the day I was thinking about my friend Amy Wemyss. MC's named after one of my daughters' school friends, but MC's best friend was originally named Amy.

Amy was one of my first friends when we moved here, and we always had such a fun time running down to the beach with the kids, swapping musical favorites, chatting, spending time together during the days while the boys were at work. Then after Katrina, her superstar husband (postal inspector) got transferred to Maryland for some big fat promotion. It was all very cool for them, but it left me high and dry.

Sound familiar, test readers?

Of course, all my characters are just amalgams of all the cool, interesting people I know and have known in my life. And some I've only heard about or interviewed over the telephone...

But back to music. When I was writing Book 2, I was listening to "Defying Gravity" a lot. I thought of the picture--black and white--and the connotations of manipulating for the "good"; the idea of fighting against negative stereotypes, only to lose in the end and go with one's basic urges.

I'd go jogging and "Thunder Road" would come up on my iPod, and the story of the song led me down another rabbit hole and after another potential story twist. I liked Springstein's image of the scruffy miscreant persuading the past-prime love interest to run away with him, especially the line, "Come, take my hand. We're riding down tonight to case the Promised Land."

Who would say that and why? What would happen if she said OK? What would happen if she didn't? There's so much raw emotion in that song.

So that's a little of how I do it. I don't outline. I don't draw out elaborate diagrams and character sketches. I just go into my head and follow these characters where they lead, and I tell you, by the end of Debut Novel, it was hard to keep them contained.

As Jimbo used to say, "Good stuff."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Eerie Coincidences

First, Happy Birthday to my big brother! He's turning the big 3-9 (again) in lovely Key West, Fla.! Woo! Hooray for Gregg~

Second, Happy Mardi Gras! You give a nickel and I'll give a dime--it's carnival time! The Order of Mystic Magnolias ball last night was lovely, our first Fairhope ball. Loved the Preservation Hall jazz band that greeted us at the door, the most excellent sushi being served under the big tent, and the oyster shooters... I dreamed about them all night. And I just had no idea the lead singer for Ratt had moved to the Gulf Coast to head up a party band! Those were some hot pink pants he was wearing, and he sure made 'em work...

Fun stuff.

Here's a LOL comment I read on another blog: "I used to be a night person and now I'm not. But I'm still not a morning person. I seem to have drifted somewhere to the middle."

Now, bring on the eerie coincidences!

I've already shared that last fall I got the simply outrageous notion that I would sit down and write a story, a book if you will. I went with YA because at this point in the game, I'm not looking to express my deep cynicism about the state of human affairs, I can't fathom coming up with something like the Baroque Cycle, and I'm Marian the Librarian when it comes to sexy-sexy writing. YA can deal with serious subjects and real human emotion, but it can also be light and fun. And I just had a story in my head I wanted to tell.

So I wrote these YA novels, a series, and I set out to break into the field. Quite literally. Kind of like a bull in a china closet. But I'm attempting to mend my ways, and one aspect of that is by reading YA novels published since I was a tenth-grade English teacher. (Like 15 years ago.)

I made it over to the local bookstore (OK, B&N, sorry, Martin), and I perused the juvenile section. Lots of vampires and werewolves. (FYI, my books are not supernatural in any way. Except supernaturally GOOD!) I kept looking and finally found the section of books that looked like my little tome might fall into and pulled out three to purchase: Bloom by Elizabeth Scott, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, and Little Miss Red by Robin Palmer.

I was thinking I'd read them and then decide if the agents for these books might be interested in representing mine. Well, for starters, Robin Palmer was an agent before becoming a writer, and Sarah Dessen's agent is her husband. No help there. As for Elizabeth Scott, sigh. Writers House. Sigh...

So back to Eerie. The eerie part came when I started reading Bloom. First I was wigged to read the book's heroine is dating Mr. Perfect but is strongly attracted to the dark-haired, dark-eyed punk-rocker type who knows her so well and who sits by her in history class. (Yikes!) Hallelujah, it turns out Mr. Perfect is a cold fish. But punk rocker was the son of her... wait for it... real estate developer dad's former girlfriend. Her mother, who is no longer in the picture, ... aspired to attend Yale University! (Whoa, whoa, whoa! Holy similarities, Batman!)

Richard says fughitaboutit. It's a completely different story. He's right. The plot of my book is completely different, and I gotta say. I found Bloom to be a bit repetitive and draggy at times (says the girl with no publishing contract). It comes together at the end... but my point is it was a weird read.

Richard further says it's a good sign: "Means there are people out there looking for the type of thing you've written." It's a great point, and I guess I am always the one going on about how there's nothing new under the sun...

Still. I felt like Foghorn Leghorn when that little nerd chick dug him out of the ground. FL walked over to the woodbox where he had originally hidden, but he paused and decided not to open the lid.

"No, I'd better not look. I just might be in there."

Monday, February 15, 2010

How High School Influenced My Writing Career

High school. sigh.

I went to one of the two "gifted" high schools in Baton Rouge. The other was Baton Rouge High. BRHS was distinguished by having a (really cool) radio station run by the students. My school was distinguished by having a (really nerdy) engineering program run by the engineers at Exxon (where my dad worked).

Not all us arts and literature geeks could go to BRHS. The school was only so big. And there might've been zoning issues, but it seems like a lot of my school friends lived clear on the other side of BR from me. So I don't know.

My point is this: There were some wickedly creative kids at my school. I mean blow your mind creative in art, literature, music, drama. There were also some serious nerds. (Says the girl wearing her "Team Zuko" t-shirt.)

I was always the quiet one back then, and being surrounded by all those kids who would deliver those completely out of the box ideas about literature and writing was very intimidating. The art kids were pretty amazing, too. And of course, I was always in awe of my big brother's dramatic stylings. We actually had a show choir at my school. He was in it, too. And it was cool.

What we did not have:
-Football players
-Team sports of any kind (other than intramurals)
-Hot guys... OK, there were a few. (Sorry, former classmates.)

What we did have:
-Lifetime sports, which included golf, ballet, and fencing (fencing?)
-Drafting class
-Piano lessons
-Amnesty International

Yep, that was my high school experience.

So like most writers, I've been writing all my life. My first graphic novel I wrote and illustrated when I was about seven. It was called Fury Woman, and it was about this pretty female scientist who accidentally dumped acid on herself or something. Well, it tranformed her into this hideous creature with giant black eyebrows and a protruding mole... I don't remember exactly what Fury Woman did, but I do remember my drawings of her and how much ink I wasted on those eyebrows.

The next book I wrote was illustrated by my best friend/sister (and fellow Airbender lover) Dara Rush Bartee, who is a fabulously gifted artist still. Back then she was just getting started. We were about eight or nine, I guess. That book was called Dignity and Detriment. I used the thesaurus to look up alliterative synonyms for Pride and Prejudice. I don't recall D&D having a lot in common with P&P, and I'm not sure why we went with that. I think I just liked the sound of the words, and Dara couldn't care less so long as she was getting to draw.

I didn't mind my unusual HS experience, but looking back, I realize that being surrounded by all that edgy creativity did get in my head. I decided I'd probably never write like Phillip Roth, so why bother? At my HS, you didn't settle. Instead, I spent the first 15 years of my career in editing and news writing. No books. Not me.

Is that an excuse? I don't think so. Just being honest.

Now, of course, I realize how silly that was. So listen up, high school kids, take it from a nerd: do what you love and don't look around and compare yourself. The world is full of different tastes, and you really don't know what you might do. You just gotta keep doing it. Keep putting pen to paper or fingers to keys or whatever.

And to my HS peeps, I love you guys and continue to be amazed by your creativity scattered all over the world as you are today. I'm esp. grateful for my musical education, and I love that art rock is making a comeback. As well as the new twist on the classic techno stylings of Kraftwerk. Good stuff.

Moral (Mom would say): You're only limited by you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love is in the Air

First, Bravo, Shadow Barons! Awesome ball last night. This funny exchange occurred between yours truly and a Baron who was crazy-dancing with me:

LTM: You're going to make me fall!
SB: (loudly) That's OK! I'm a member of this organization!
LTM: But I don't want to fall!

Ah... good times, good times.

So Happy Valentine's day! In honor of this special occasion, I'll share three reasons why I love my husband, Richard, so much:
1-He insists that I pursue my dreams/obsessions/creative urges.
2-He gives me honest feedback.
3-He is the voice of reason insisting that I stop going to extremes and look at things rationally.

Those would also be the three reasons he infuriates me sometimes. (Why did I ever tell him I had become an aspiring novelist?)

Here's my favorite picture of him~

Aw, look at that face. I remember the first time I laid eyes on him at LSU when we were 18 years old. I was kind of tired that night, so I begged off hitting the Chimes with those guys and went back to my dorm to get some rest. But we spent the next three years practically inseparable. Well, as inseparable as two people with other significant others can be. And during the summers, he wrote me the best, longest letters. Yep, letters. On paper even. And yes, Virginia, I've still got them all.

I knew by graduation I'd end up a Moore before it was all over. I knew it when he gave me that mix tape. He was headed to Vandy law school, and I was headed . . . well, back to my old high school to teach tenth-grade English. (That turned out to be a really fun experience.)

That mix tape contained the following songs (get out your notepads, fellas): Roy Orbison's "In Dreams," Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Springs," Elvis Costello's "Alison," Indigo Girls, "Love Will Come to You," Rod Stewart's "Baby Jane" ... I can't remember the rest, but I wore it out.

And then, ten years later, we found each other again and got married.

I can report my college boyfriend Paul said, "It's about time you two got together," when I told him we were married. Paul's a great guy.

So Happy Valentine's Day, Richard. I love you. I knew you when you had no one to talk to.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

On Story Ideas

So it's carnival time down here on the coast. Super cool friends gave us tickets to the Shadow Barons ball tonight and to the Order of Mystic Magnolias on Monday night, and (of course) I started thinking about Debut Novel and how I don't have a scene of Mardi Gras in it.

I really wanted to showcase Baldwin County when I was writing these books. It was just an idea I had because of how much I've written on the area. And as I began surrounding the plot with all the crazy, fun stuff that goes on here, it worked. I was surprised at just how much I know about this gorgeous place and how much I remembered of my complete and utter culture shock moving here.

Baldwin County does not keep a schedule.

And those Get to Knows I write. Goldmine, baby. I got the entire idea for Book 2 from a single quote by a girl who worked in hospitality with Kaiser Realty. She talked about how she had become fascinated with the history of the development of Orange Beach, and she said something about being amazed at how (said developer) had to work to "convince the farmers south of Foley to stop planting sweet potatoes in the sand..."

I love that image. Sweet potatoes in the sand.

But cramming in a Mardi Gras scene just to have a MG scene goes against the other thing I really wanted to do in Debut Novel--avoid all the crap that makes me put books down and never pick them up again. E.g., scenes that don't contribute to the action or advance the story. As dream agent calls them, "scenes of nothing."

Anyway, I had this thought as I was working on Book 3 of MC running into Bad Guy at a MG parade or ball. The image of blue eyes behind a mask is so eery and disturbing. Of course, she'll think it's Jack, but it's really her nemesis demanding she tell him what's going on with his dad.

I like the image of her yelling for help, and the sound being drowned out by the noise of the revelry. Then I was thinking a cop would come up and check on the situation and BG would say he caught her trying to pick his pocket or something and eventually it plays out that the cop leaves and MC goes away, shaken but unharmed.

Little Book 3 teaser for ya, reader friends.

I'm sure most writers experience this. They'll see something or someone will say something or they'll remember a scene from a movie or a line from a song that they just can't shake. That MG image came from a movie I saw in college. But in the movie, the female lead realizes the frightening masker who's following her is her husband and is relieved. I thought of that scene a few times when I was at New Orleans Mardi Gras--another goldmine of potential story ideas.

And maskers are creepy. Especially those guys in the white whole-face masks--the Knights of Ecor Rouge? Freaky.

So we're off to Shadow Barons, and again I expect to be reminded of how this is the most interesting and inspirational place I've ever lived. A superb backdrop for stories.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Getting Started

It's funny, no matter how much time passes, I don't think you ever forget the tension of breaking into a new field. It's frustrating and difficult, and often you wonder why you're putting yourself through all this. What was wrong with what you were previously doing?

I was in college at Louisiana State University when I discovered that there were paying jobs for people who simply "liked to read and write." Jobs besides teaching or newspaper reporting, I mean.

I was a student assistant for Dr. Jim Borck when this epiphany occurred. "Jimbo" as we affectionately called him was director of graduate studies for the LSU English Department and general editor of the Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography.

The ECCB. Talk about a snoozer! It's actually a reference book published annually listing books being written today on the eighteenth century. Confused yet? It's apparently really helpful if you're one of the 50 college professors who specialize in that time period in literature.

But content notwithstanding, working in that office with all those cool, creative nerds who shared my interests, and then getting that published copy of Vol. 12, I fell in love with the whole process.

I enrolled in graduate school and took "The Business of Book Publishing" taught by Katherine Fry, who was the director (I think) of LSU Press. She was a really great teacher. And after finishing that class I promptly switched my focus to public relations. Not really.

Back to my first thought--breaking into the business. Despite the fact that I decided to become an editor, I still lived in the petroleum and engineering capital of Louisiana. And other than LSU Press, a very, very small academic publisher with an astonishingly low turnover rate, or the Advocate, there weren't many jobs out there. Almost none, actually. And quite a large number of nerds just like me fighting to get them. (LSU grads tend to like staying in Baton Rouge.)

So as I wasn't planning to move to a major city, I had to figure out some way to distinguish myself from the other penguins. By sheer luck (and bugging the crap out of Dr. Jay Perkins in the LSU J-school), I managed to get one clip in the Business Report, which was extremely helpful. Then I just had to wait for the occasional want ad that would appear from time to time for that rare local businesses that needed an editor.

Months later, I finally landed my first job as Director of the Editorial Department at Insurance Achievement, Inc. It was a tough job working for a punishing boss, but I stuck it out. And I met some amazing, cool writers and editors who became part of my circle of friends back home.

Nine months later, I landed one of those coveted editorial jobs in the ranks of the LSU "unclassified" employees. The salary was pretty meager, but the benefits were top-notch. College holidays, two weeks "free" vacation at Christmas, ginormous-group healthcare plan, access to that gated parking lot right across the street from The Chimes...

It took a few years to get there, but it happened.

Then I moved to Shreveport and then to Indianapolis, where I became a mom, left the editorial game and focused on freelance writing alone. For a year covering 2008-2009, I went back to editing for Baldwin County Parent magazine, which is now Baldwin County Living. And then Fall 2009 the unthinkable happened. I sat down and wrote a book. Two and a half, actually. A series.

Knock me over with a feather.

Now I'm trying to break into another new field, and I tell ya. It's tough. Possibly as tough as landing a job as an editor in Baton Rouge pre-Katrina. But I'm encouraged when I remember it eventually happened and how many cool, nice people I met along the way.

I'm currently in the process of finding an agent, and it's overwhelming to say the least. If you're in the same boat as me, Nathan Bransford has an incredibly helpful blog that you should check out immediately! Don't send Query 1 before doing so. Learn from my mistake.

Try to take your time. I've learned the hard way, e-querying is not my friend. It was probably better than I'll ever know that those editorial ads appeared months apart when I was trying to break into Field #1. I had no choice but to wait, stare at my "query letter" for weeks, play with it, polish it, talk to people, do reasearch. All of those things are vital in this game.

It's hard, but I'm reminding myself what I've learned: Patience, little donkey.

And while I wait, I hope to connect or re-connect with some amazing, cool people out there doing what I'm doing--editing, writing, trying to get published, being a mom, contradicting your mom and then realizing your mistake...

Here we go~