Monday, February 27, 2012

Show Me the Story

I'm on the eve of returning to my YA sci-fi, and I have to confess... I'm wigging.

I started this MS in the spring of 2010 after finishing the MS that's about to go out on subs now. It's appropriate because I started it to distract myself from querying that MS. My path has been so odd.

Anyway, I'm not freaked because I've forgotten it or anything. I remember the story I had in my head very clearly, and it's only changed a little. Also I still have all the notes I wrote about the other world and the aliens, etc.

(Did I just type the word aliens?)

See? That's the part that's got me nervous.

Mississippi, I-49 to I-20
JRM is my alpha reader. He's also my beta reader, he's also my best critter, he's also my post- post-revisions reader. And my constant encourager. Bless his heart.

So I'd completed three manuscripts in the spring of 2010 and was getting serious feedback from agents on the third when he said, "I wish you'd write a sci-fi for me to read."

Then we took a road trip from Spanish Fort (Ala.) to Ruston (La.), and the entire drive from the bottom to the (almost) top of Mississippi, at every road sign, he'd toss out something like, "They could live in Dabb Creek."

A few miles later, I'd add, "And Prentiss could have a brother named Braxton."

It actually got pretty good. Good enough that when I got home, I sat down and pounded out about 15K words of Prentiss's story, including her boyfriend Jackson, Jackson's best friend D'Lo, anemic Flora, and Cato. See the road-map of Mississippi, I-49 to I-20; they're all there.

Now it's time to finish it.

But I've never really done sci-fi. I mean, I loved Star Wars like every other kid my age, and when we all get together to watch it again, I can sit there and quote every character's lines for you.

And sure, I grew up thinking Flash Gordon was cool, and Xanadu was another favorite of mine. But that was more for the ELO than the story. (Or the acting--yikes!)

Then I sat down and flipped through Entertainment Weekly, and I came across this interview with Jim Rash (link). He won the Oscar for his screenplay The Descendants, and he plays the dean on NBC's Community (a show I love--in particular his character).

Dean Dean
IRL, he's a professor with The Groundlings, a comedy theater in LA that's produced actors like Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell...

Anyway, Rash said this: "We're not here to teach you how to be funny. I don't care if any of this stuff is funny. I just want to see the story."

I know, the path my brain takes is sometimes hard to follow, but that encouraged me. I'm just a storyteller, right? All I can do is write the best story possible and see what happens. (And stop psyching myself out.)

This could be my biggest fail yet, but who knows. I'll run it through my alpha, beta, eta beta pi reader, and see what he thinks. I'll let you know. Wish me luck!

More soon, reader- and writer-friends~ <3

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cat's Review - HAYWIRE

Elle Strauss (link) is a great writer and bloggy friend, and when she asked if I'd like to help promote her latest middle-grade novel IT'S A LITTLE HAYWIRE, I said a big yes!

Great news: Today only, it's FREE on Amazon! So run grab your copy here (link), and I'll list it again after Cat's review.

I read the book, of course, and loved it. The main character Owen True has a great name, and an equally great voice that pulls you right in. Laura Pauling (link) compared it to Because of Winn Dixie, and I think she's made the perfect comparison.

But instead of a boring old grown-up review, I asked my nine year-old daughter Catherine "Cat" to read and review it, and here's what she had to say.

LTM: So, Catibug, what was your favorite scene in HAYWIRE?

CGM: My favorite scene is the first time Owen ever saw the fog snake because it's exciting, and we don't really know what's happening. That makes it kind of exciting because it's all a mystery.

LTM: Who was your favorite character?

CGM: My favorite character was Owen True because he reminded me of a good friend of mine. He sounds like a nice guy, and I liked it when he wanted to [help others].

LTM: What was the most exciting part of the story?

CGM: The most exciting part was when the fog snake threw things at him. It was funny and ironic, too, because hey, it's fog. (Note: I had to change this because it had some spoilers in it. Once you read the book, you might understand why it's ironic.)

Cat loving HAYWIRE
LTM: What would you tell somebody who was thinking about reading this book?

CGM: I would tell them it's a really good book, and that he/she would like it if they ever read it. 

LTM: Did it remind you of any other book you've read?

CGM: It sort of reminded me of A Scary Good Book because they're trying to solve a mystery but trying to accomplish something at the same time.

(Note: Cat also reviewed Anita Laydon Hill's middle-grade mystery for me at this link.)

LTM: If you could ask the author a question about the book, what would it be?

CGM: I would ask why the main character's name is Owen True and not like Sam or something. And why she decided to write this story.

* * *

So there you have it! Again, here's the link to where you can get a free copy of IT'S A LITTLE HAYWIRE today. (You can still get it there later, just for $2.99. Still a steal!)

Author Elle Strauss

Have a great rest of the week, reader- and writer-friends! Get a little HAYWIRE~ <3

Monday, February 20, 2012

Green Eyed Monster

Happy President's Day! The girls are out of school, and if we were in south Louisiana, we'd be in the middle of celebrating Mardi Gras! Very distracting; I'll keep it short.

I was thinking about those negative reviews on Goodreads, and then I was thinking about competition in general.

My mind went down this rabbit hole after I encouraged a bloggy friend who's going out on submissions with a YA science fiction book.

I'm about to return to finishing my own YA sci-fi come March, and I told our bleep something like this: "I hope your book flies off the charts so sci-fi gets hot again."

I was only partly joking. Of course, I want her to do well because she's great, but it's good for all of us when fellow writers do well.

It pumps more cash into the system, gets more people buying and reading books, which in turn allows more deals to be made.

Sometimes in traditional publishing it feels like that day will never come, but I do everything in my power to resist feeling negative as I wait. Because--it's good for all of us when fellow writers do well.

I've got a head cold, so I'm probably not connecting the dots very well... This relates to those nasty Goodreads reviews because I heard it proposed that perhaps they stem from a feeling of, "Why this book and not mine?"

If that's the case, my heart goes out to the authors targeted. You can't fight jealousy.

Personally, I'd like to think I've made it past being insecure about my writing. Heck, I've written for newspapers, magazines, professional journals, educational materials... closing in on 20 years now.

But there's a layer in news. I'm removed. If someone doesn't like what I wrote, well, sorry. That's just what happened. I'm only the messenger.

Two years ago I started creative writing. I started making this stuff up. It comes from my brain, and part of it's invested with my heart.

And when someone says it stinks, that hurts.

Guess what? I have to suck it up and get over it. Because that's what we do as professionals, regardless of the profession.

But they didn't get the point.

Who said they would? Learn and do better.

But they're misinterpreting what I said!

Then maybe you didn't say it correctly, or maybe they're hearing it through their lens, or maybe they're just nutcases.

But I have to make them understand!

And no, that's where you're wrong. Because you will never make them understand.

Now they're just being mean.

So what did you expect? Kid gloves?


What I'm trying to say is as authors, we have to ignore the negative stuff. As much as it hurts. And if you're the one acting out of envy, see that part up there about how one's success helps us all.

Work hard, keep swimming, and  your time will come. It will.

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! I'll be back Thursday with a good book review~ <3

Monday, February 13, 2012

Once Upon a Time... Origins

DL Hammons (link), captain Alex (link), non-creepy expat Katie (link), and Mr. Q3E (link) are hosting this "Origins" blogfest.

We're to share how we started writing, blogging, or both.

For blogging, my story's pretty short: Janet Reid (link) said writers weren't ready to query unless they had an "online presence"--and Facebook doesn't count.

So I started a blog and coerced all my friends and family to follow. About six months later, I'd met many of you guys, and here we are. And it was the best decision ever--it led to my awesome betas/critters, it led to my agent, it led me to you...

As for writing, it's a bit longer. I wrote my first "book" when I was seven or eight. It was a sci-fi graphic-novel called Fury Woman. It was about a lady scientist who'd spilled acid on her face and turned evil.

almost-Fury Woman
I don't remember what she did when she was evil, but I do remember she looked just like Natasha Fatale from the Bullwinkle & Rocky show. Only with bigger eyebrows and a mole--those features were distorted by the acid.

Later I wrote another book that was illustrated by my bestie Dara (Rush) Bartee called Dignity & Detriment.

It had nothing to do with Pride & Prejudice, but there were princesses. I think there were also unicorns...

So it was always sort of me telling stories. Mostly to myself. Sometimes to my mom or Dara.

One day when I was a freshman in high school, I read something my brother had written for English class (he was a senior), and it literally blew me away. I couldn't believe he'd written it and I was so... burned.

How could he write that well? He didn't even want to write! He wanted to be a lawyer. (He now works in human resources and to my knowledge never writes creatively.)

But I followed his example and started taking my school writing assignments more seriously. I joined the newspaper staff, did some short fiction writing for school anthologies--and was always embarrassed by my lack of edginess compared to my peers.

My mom said I'd be a novelist then, but I quickly told her no way.

Real writers weren't dorks like me. And besides, I didn't have that... thing... that It... real writers have. I'd never write a book.

Still, I majored in English at LSU (geaux, Tigers!). I wrote some poetry for a while that made that same brother of mine cry when he read it. But when I showed it to a poetry professor at LSU, he said it was pretty derivative and not so great.

JRM said that guy was a tool, but the professor spoke words I believed.

So I stopped writing poetry.

I got my master's in mass communications and edited other people's writing for a while. I learned to write news articles and did that for a while, too. I pretty much did everything in communications, from public relations writing to television production to news writing to magazine writing and editing...

Then in 2002-03, I had two lovely little girls.

Then in Fall 2009, I sat down and started writing my first book. In December of that year, I told JRM what I was doing.

That's my origin story! Hope you liked it, reader- and writer-friends. If you'd like to read some of our other bloggy friends's stories, go here (link).

Have a great week! <3

Monday, February 6, 2012

George R.R. Martin Cares

Everybody's reading that Song of Ice and Fire (or watching Game of Thrones, the HBO show based on it). A few of my male friends here keep talking about it, and I think Matt R. (link) even did a post about it last week on the Q3E.

I'll just go ahead and put it out there: I'll probably never read this book. It's not my genre, and it's 4,000 pages long. Yes.

But in the Dec. issue of Entertainment Weekly, they named their "Entertainers of the Year," and George R.R. Martin (the author) was one of them. (link)

Amy Poehler wrote a little blurb about him and why she likes him so much, which brings me to this post.

She said, "He cares about what happens to his characters as much as we do."

I'm always interested in what readers like about their favorite books, because I want to see if there's some way I can *do that* as I write.

Anyway, so caring about your characters. That's a given, right?

Well, I got to thinking about this, and I confess, I haven't always done it. I'm thinking of one of my villains in particular. He's a bad dude, and I didn't want to get to know him. I didn't want to be in his head as I wrote.

But that's the thing. You have to care about every one of your characters--even the bad ones, even the minor ones, even the ones who just get you from here to there.

What motivates them? What are they hoping to get out of life? Why are they in the way of the main character or helping him or her get to wherever s/he's going?

I'm not saying every book needs to be 4,000 pages long, because... well, see above reason. But it should at least show that every character is a known entity and someone we care enough about to understand.

What do you guys think? Am I the only one digging this?

In other News: Our buddy DL Hammons (link) is hosting the Semi-Finals Round of WRiTE CLUB this week. (Two different entries face off every day.)

One of the competing entries this week will be mine, but I won't tell you which--or which day b/c I don't know. But if you would, try to run over every day and vote/leave a comment. All the contenders will appreciate it.


And have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! <3