Monday, January 31, 2011

I'll be Back

It's Monday, but I'm all tied up.

No, I'm not on the run from a hostile alien cyborg sent from the future to kill me before I have a baby who may or may not end up being his own grandpaw.

That part's a little fuzzy in my memory.

A silly work situation's requiring all my hours through today. It's part of the reason I haven't been able to make the rounds since Thursday.

I'm sorry.

But I'm thinking of you, and I miss your funny thoughts and insights.

In the meantime, say a little prayer, send some positive vibes, etc., this way. I'll update you ASAP!

Until Thursday, if not sooner~  <3

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Always and Forever...

So I write contemporary young adult romance, right? Well, how many of you have seen a teenager these days who wasn't texting? I'm not sure how many are Facebookin it. Email? Myspace? Doubtful.

My point is, we're all aware of the glacial pace of book publishing and the lightening-fast speed of technology.

With that in mind, I try to avoid new slang in dialogue as much as possible--opting for the established, "cool," "hot," etc., over whatever they're saying on iCarly or Victorious. (I know some of you clever kids make up your own slang...)

But what about technology? 

In the book I'm currently shopping, all the characters have phones that they use both to talk and to text. Otherwise, technology is not in the story. (Actually, now I'm wondering if they should be using iPod Touches like all the kids running around here, but jeez, I don't even want to get that specific.)

I think it works, but I'm curious. What do you guys think? How are you handling this?
* * *
In other news, my friend Matt Rush is helping my other friend (and Super-critter) Carolyn Abiad with her query letter today at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment (link).

Carolyn has written this amazing adventure story Burnt Amber that's set in Turkey--and in the realm of genies. It's got a strong female MC, a hot male protag., sword fights, spells, alternate realms. It's awesome! And she's a great writer. And a good friend.

Her blog Serendipity (link) is sort of a companion piece to the book, so check it out and start following her. Most of all, please run over to Matt's and help her out! Or at least give her some encouraging kudos.

Finally, THANK YOU to all my bleeps who've recently given me awards. I love you all, but specifically Dezzy (our Hollywood Spy), Angela, Tara, Jeannie, Gideon... oh, and everyone else over there on the right --->

(((BIG hugs))) and have a great weekend, reader friends! Til Monday~ <3 

Monday, January 24, 2011


I wanted to give you something inspiring today, but it's been crazy over here. I'm sorry. (I always feel like I should stockpile posts for days like this.) Or I should've done Alex's blogfest...

Of course, the minute I post this, I'm going to think of all the things that have been rattling around in my brain the last few days.

Like how the cover of Entertainment Weekly is about gay teens on television (my finger = on the pulse), and how my good friend, a single dad in his early 30s, told me there's a new show on SciFi starring a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost all living together. He said it's really good, and I should watch it. I dunno...

He also said (just like JRM did!) that Black Swan is just a remake of Showgirls. I never saw Showgirls, but I did see Black Swan and really liked it.

I thought it was an interesting, artistic portrayal of an obsessed dancer's descent into madness.

I also had this lady sitting behind me in the theater LAUGHING (loudly) at every (supposed to be) creepy or disturbing scene. No joke.

The part where she's *a'hem* on a journey of self-discovery and she sees her mother in the room? BWA-HAHAHA!!!

The part where she hallucinates a friend in her bedroom--BAH!!! The part ... well, I won't spoil the movie. You get the idea.

Naturally, I snorted and started giggling along with her. I'm like Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias: Nobody laughs or cries alone in my presence.

Over the weekend, I was again thinking about how much I enjoy writing for sheer entertainment value. And if I were to characterize myself the way they characterize musicians, I'd say I was a Pop Writer. (You?)

My ultimate goal is to make readers laugh, cry, scream, and beg for more--all with multiple exclamation points.

In conclusion, I feel like my silly cold's back. And yesterday I was feeling so overwhelmed, I had to run down and stare at the waves until I finally relaxed. Decisions, man...

Have a great week, reader-friends! I'll try to be more thought-provoking on Thursday~ <3

Friday, January 21, 2011

Significant Other Blogfest

Talli (link) & DL (link) had this fun idea for us all to unveil the men and women behind our writerly curtains. So without further ado, I give you J. Richard Moore, the man who I did not consult in Sept. 2009, when I decided to start staying up late into the night furiously typing away on Debut Novel.

I was embarrassed to tell him what I was doing, so naturally he asked me if was having an online affair. (LOL!) I came clean, making him the first person I told I was trying to become a novelist. Our lives haven't been the same since.

First, about JRM & me:
  • He's the son of educators and avid readers--his mom taught 5th grade math 30 years and his dad was a principal at all grade levels.
  • In HS, JRM was in the fictitious band, Cruel Abdul & the Camel Jockeys. They had a hit song, "Multiple Humps," and he would put up fliers around his school for their pretend gigs. 
  • We met as freshmen at Louisiana State University, where we both worked in the English Dept.
  • My sorority sister Rita Leger, who also worked in the English Dept., introduced me to JRM. Richard, in turn, introduced her to her husband Jason Rush. We're all still speaking.
  • Although we were both dating other people, JRM would go home every summer to Ruston, La., and write me long, hilarious letters (on paper!) that I still have. The second summer one of those letters was a love letter... (I still have it--*swoon*)
  • When he returned to LSU that August, before the start of our senior year, at the Thirsty Tiger in Downtown Baton Rouge, I suggested we break up with those other people and start going out.
  • He said No.
  • After graduation (he graduated cum laude w/degrees in English, political science and women's studies--nerd!) he moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt Law School.
  • In law school, JRM was in a real band, Thunder Skunk.They're still available for bookings.
  • We never dated until 2002, when I moved to Indy. We were married six months later in a fever... (OK, not really. In a guerilla-style wedding in Holliday Park).
  • He still plays guitar and writes songs today with titles such as "Keifer Sutherland's Mother" and "That Dog'd Bite You."
  • We're now the very proud parents of the two most gorgeous, hilarious little girls on the planet, Catherine Grace and Laura Carroll, who are both writing songs and books of their own.
That's our history in a nutshell, now for the Q&A with JRM:

LTM: So tell the bleeps (and keep it short--everybody hates long posts) your favorite genre and top three favorite books of all time.
JRM:  Favorite genre = non-genre fiction.  Favorite books of all time = All The King's Men (Warren);  Great Expectations (Dickens);  Quicksilver (Stephenson).

(That sets up my next question. My writing genre is YA romantic fiction along the lines of Sarah Dessen, Robin Palmer, Deb Caletti. Clearly testing the strength of our relationship, I always make JRM be my first beta.)

LTM: DL wants you to tell everyone if you read my stuff, and if so, what you think are my strengths and weaknesses--he clarified with "What gets under your skin the most about my writing?"
JRM:  Yes; strengths are character expression and development. You are really good at this, and giving your characters, especially the ones you care about, a credible and strong voice,is your most awesome writing talent.  Your main weakness is "plotting," i.e. following through on realistic character response to plot stimuli and/or underwriting situations because you are eager to get the story told.

LTM: (DL also gave me this one) Do you feel I don't give your opinion of my writing enough weight because you're my hubby?  Being biased and all?
JRM:  No.  I'm a doctor, not a critic.

LTM: Did you ever think I'd pull a stunt like this? (Try to become a career novelist, I mean.) 
JRM:  Yes.

LTM: (again, I'm curious) How has this experience changed me? (DL put it: Can you see the stress of seeking publication bleed into my day to day life?)
JRM:  This has changed you by making you a better, much more experienced, impressive fiction writer.

LTM: Here's a mandatory question--What food or drink is guaranteed to return me to a good mood, even after a bad day writing?
JRM:  I dunno.  .  .  Cava?

LTM: One more--What one thing would you change about your others writing habits?
JRM:  This is almost English, I think.  Are you operating this interview from Sri Lanka?

LTM: And the last one--How hard is it to sit by and watch someone you care for struggle to attain a dream, knowing there's very little you can do to help?
JRM:  It is almost as hard as quartz, and much harder than cypress.

LTM: This blog was another thing I sprung on you that takes up a lot of my time. What do you think of my blog?
JRM:  Clearly you were lying to me in the preface to the previous question.  Despite your mendacity, I respond as follows:  Your blog is a truly masterful combination of the feelings you showcase via your countenance and a view of the inner workings of your spirit.  You can be quite moving with what you write, without just giving vent to unrestrained emotion.  Your blog is extremely well done.

LTM: When we first got married, you wanted to be the foremost living expert on Richard Nixon. Now you've got what I think is an even better idea. Tell the readers the idea for your novel. (I think it's awesome.)
JRM: Malcolm Andrus Jones goes to work for the Nixon Administration straight out of the University of Maryland.  He wants everyone to call him "A.J." and find him to be a strong and efficient, but lovable, authority figure.  Instead, he falls in with Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy, who call him "Mutt," and unwittingly masterminds the Watergate burglary, the collapse of the Administration, and the stature of the American Presidency for the rest of our lifetimes.  Snap.

LTM: Would you rather I sing, dance or neither.
JRM:  Both simultaneously.  Right now.

LTM: Final thoughts?
JRM:  Like, my last thoughts before I die?  OK:  "Wow, I probably shouldn't have said that."
So there you have it! And if I'd been thinking, I'dve opened the comments section to questions earlier in the week. Since I didn't, I'll let you guys do that now!

If you have a burning question we didn't address, put it in the comments, and we'll answer it here.

Have a great weekend, reader-friends! Til Monday~ <3

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just a Slight Delay...

I'm pushing today's regularly scheduled post to tomorrow (Friday) when my husband, a.k.a. "JRM," will be joining us for Talli/DL's...


See you back here tomorrow for the fun! And I'm so sorry I've been the absentee bleep lately. Revisions call~ <3

Monday, January 17, 2011

(almost) Fifty years later

The kids are home for Martin Luther King, Jr., day, and for the first time since high school, I decided to review the text of his "I Have a Dream" speech.

In 2013, 50 years will have passed since 250,000 Americans went to Washington to protest the injustices to black folks under the Jim Crow laws. And having just read Katherine Stockett's The Help (link to my review), I was curious as to how many of his dreams had come true.

Starting with the easiest, the "Whites Only" designations have pretty much disappeared. So that's one. (Sure, there are still exclusive clubs in certain pockets of society, but I think that has as much to do with elitism as racism.)

With the election of President Barak Obama, I'd like to think this dream was fulfilled: "We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote."

Although, unfortunately the election exposed an angry fist of racism still lurking in our country.

As a resident of south Alabama with two little white girls in public schools, I can attest that this dream has come true: "I have a dream that one day . . . right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

And I'd like to believe we've all achieved this dream: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Lord knows, I'd like to be judged that way.

It seems we've made much progress. Yet, while I type this, I can't help but wonder if we will ever completely rise above the past, and forget the anger and fear that cause us to mistrust each other. 

I'd like to say yes. But again, as a resident of south Alabama who periodically drives past the giant Confederate flag on I-10 west of Mobile or the one on I-65 north of Montgomery, I know there's still work to be done.

And if you judged me based on how many close black friends I have, you'd say I still had work to do.

But I do try to determine people's characters based on their actions and the words they say. It's how I raise my children, and I hope it's how everyone strives to make their decisions.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; 'and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together..."

Powerful words. It's good to pause and reflect at least one day a year. Until Thursday~ <3

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's a Party~

It's the 2011 Hollywood Spy Awards Gala given by our very own Mr. In the Know himself, Dezmond~

So grab your fanciest dress and come with me to the gala event (link). And start following. You'll always have the latest scoop~

Thanks, Dez! <3

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Decisions, decisions...

When I was growing up, a popular line of thinking was that even a small, seemingly insignificant wrong decision could impact your entire life, essentially altering the course of your Destiny. (!) Occasionally this idea would be couched in phrases like "being in" (or out) of "God's will."


I've been thinking about this lately because a few Big Decisions are facing my little family unit.

JRM says that concept's a load of garbage. His position is that no decision is ever permanent, and that life ultimately keeps going, circles around. And it all works together for good. So long as we're all together and look out for each other.

That makes sense to logical, rational me. But I think I must've watched too many movies along the lines of Sliding Doors as a young person. Remember that one? The whole, how would my life have been different if I'd missed the train instead of caught it? Or turned left (and bumped into you) instead of right (and kept walking)?

And sitting here I can recall distinctly the words that came out of my mouth last fall at a restaurant out of town that started the chain of events that has us now grappling with this Big Decision.

I can't help thinking, "What would've happened if I'd kept my silly mouth shut?" (I was tired, and I almost did actually.)

Then what?

Would we be facing a difficult situation with zero options, or would other options have appeared?

Then I look at JRM and my little girls and where we are now, and I think of all the decisions that led us to this place. And how just one different decision on my part would've changed everything.

I do not regret any of my previous decisions. I'm simply fighting with the one that's sitting in front of us. It's probably for the best, but I'm not happy with it. It means giving up something that is incredibly dear to me.

Yesterday I went under the desk and tried to cry about it. But I must confess, I joke about doing that, but it really doesn't work for me. I start feeling silly and wonder what the heck I'm doing under the desk and my mind starts working out ways to Solve This. To Change it.

Then I came across the audio version of Paul Coelho's The Alchemist. I got it for free several years ago on iTunes. It's read by Jeremy Irons, and I remembered liking it very much. I started listening to it again, and it came to the part where the boy meets Melchizedek, who tells him about the Great Lie.

The Great Lie, according to M., is that there's a point in everyone's life where the future is all in the hands of Fate. He goes on to say more, but I realized my approach to life falls somewhere near that belief.

I can't help being a problem solver. It's just who I am. When faced with a problem, I get to work finding a solution. At the same time, I do believe our own power can only carry us so far, and after that it's in the hands of God.

Because even the best-laid plans can never take into account all the possible outcomes. And only God knows the future.

So I close my eyes softly til I become that part of the wind that we all long for sometimes...

How do you guys handle Big Decisions? By charging forward and letting the chips fall where they may, or by evaluating all the possible outcomes first? Are there ever really any "wrong" decisions, or do you think it all eventually comes out in the wash?

Until Monday, I'm musing. Have a great weekend~ <3

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review - Shiver

On Thursday my post was about writing for entertainment versus writing with the idea of creating Art.

I'm afraid my meaning might've been misinterpreted. I didn't mean entertainment as in throwing out craft. I think it takes as much skill to write a strictly entertaining book as it does a Work of Art.

I was thinking more, for example, a writer like Dumas or Hemingway compared to someone like Melville or Faulkner. Then I finished reading Shiver, and I have to say, it fits beautifully into that concept.

I'm sorry, but I cannot toss Maggie Stiefvater's tale of doomed love and werewolves into my A+ pile.

The book got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and I agree that her writing is at times stunning. Absolutely gorgeous.

There are passages describing the wolves and the forest that are so poetic, you can almost smell the earthy mildew of fall and the chill of winter coming...

It's really nice and very artistic.

And for the first half of the book, the romance between Sam and Grace is tense and engrossing. (He saved her life! It's his last summer as a human!)

But at about 60 percent in, the book literally stalled. I'm not kidding.

The poorly explained responses to situations, and the set-ups that never played out were frustrating. And more than once I felt like Stiefvater didn't have a good grip on Grace's character. Her behavior was often contradictory--romantic and dreamy one minute, stoic and withdrawn the next.

I pushed through it, and the story did pick up again. And I can say this: The book ends very well. 

So it's an artistic novel, but on the entertainment side, I was disappointed.

Now I'm going to contradict all of that and give a True Confession. I can see teenage Leigh LOVING this book.

Contradictory behavior? Inexplicable conflicts with parents? Isn't that what being a teenager is all about? And swooney love with a sexy sexy scene (heads up, Moms). Oh, yeah. All my little friends and I would've been passing this one around.

Teenage Leigh would've given this book an A+ with stars all around it. And I'm sure she would've already rushed out and bought the sequel, Linger.

So what's the message? I guess that it's all subjective.

Personally, I love romance, but I also like my romantic characters to do something. Of course I want to spend a little time on two characters making the astonished realization that they love someone and that the other someone feels the same way (!).

That's a big, life-changing discovery at any age.

Please give them their moment, but then get them off the couch and get them moving. Keep the conflict and problem solving going. Do continue throwing in some smooches and quiet moments, but don't stall out there.

I felt like Stiefvater became so enamored of her lovers being in love that she forgot what they were supposed to be doing. (Psst--It was figuring out how to stop Sam from changing back into a wolf forever!)

So for this reader, I say A for artistic writing, but B- on storytelling. And I'd love to hear your thoughts--both those who've read the book(s) and those who just have an opinion on the whole thing.

Until Thursday, have a great week~ <3

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Entertainer or Artist?

My first editorial job was in my early 20s. I taught high school the year after I graduated from college, and the next year I managed the textbook department at the LSU Union bookstore. While at LSU, I also started writing little freelance articles for local publications, but I wanted to work in book publishing.

So I applied for a job with a small, local publishing company and was hired to be their Director of Editorial. (Say what?) I didn't know that stood for "whipping girl" for the editorial department. It wasn't a great job, but I didn't have a lot of options in my hometown.

I remember one day the owner of the company tore me to shreds (verbally) for using blue ink instead of black on the editorial schedule I gave him. We had not gone over the company's ink policy, but he wasn't really interested in that.

As I stood there listening to him insult me loudly, I did my little math problems in my head (that's a trick for killing the tears, girls). And when I was released, I held my breath all the way down the hall to the bathroom, which was blessedly empty, locked myself in a stall and bawled into a wad of toilet paper.

Man. I was so young.

Anyway, I didn't really know what I was doing when I started, but a few other employees--the senior editor and company VP in particular--were very kind to me. I was told later they all had bets on me not making it to the end of the month.

I learned fast as I usually do, and although there were times I didn't agree with what the owner wanted in our finished product, I knew who held the whip in that office.

A very young graphic designer was on my staff at one point, and one day I had to deliver the bad news to this person that the owner didn't care for how the pages looked, and s/he would have to change them all.

This designer proceeded to inform me that s/he was an artist and was hired for his/her artistic ability and had no intention of altering the pages in any way.

Needless to say, that person didn't last very long. But neither did I. Nine months later I'd landed a much happier job as an editor at LSU. But that's not the point of my post.

Before Christmas I had some posts about marketing and Twilight. I also reviewed a novel by Libba Bray. A few days later I read a review of a different Bray book, and the blogger made the note about how beautiful Bray's writing was, and how disappointed the blogger was that she didn't enjoy Bray's book more.

Currently I'm reading Shiver for the first time. I've noticed a few repetitive bits, there are several adverbs that probably could've been cut, and the dialogue at times tests the limits of believability... In other words, it's not perfectly written according to "The Rules" we hear constantly from the writing experts.

But I'm loving this book! Seriously. And unless it just completely falls apart, it's headed for my A pile.

Which brings me to my point. Is it more important to be an entertainer or an artist? Is it better to give the reader a great, difficult-to-put-down story or to follow The Rules of perfect writing?

I know. The answer is BOTH. But now I'm trying to think of who's done it--since I started paying attention, I mean. Is it possible to get so hung up on doing it "the right way" that you lose the Wow! in your storytelling?

My brain's just turning over these thoughts as I sit here watching it rain. Have a super weekend, reader friends. Til Monday~ <3

Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Review - The Help

I'm over at the Burrow today reviewing Kathryn Stockett's debut novel The Help and talking about how as writers we have a unique opportunity to impact the way people think and possibly behave.

Run over and check it out. (link) I'll be interested to hear your thoughts!

Back here Thursday. Til then~ <3