Friday, February 27, 2009


I was stuck yesterday. (I know, to many it appears I'm stuck most days, but yesterday, I truly was up to my neck against a brick wall.)

I'm not an SOP (seat of the pants) writer, but neither am I a detailed plotter. SOP writers are intuitive plotters, they just don't know it. Detailed plotters are engineers and for me to write that way would kill off the creativity and excitement of writing. I fall somewhere in between, probably closer to a pantster than a plotter.

I pretty much know what the scene-after-the-next scene is going to deal with. It's the Next Scene that was making me feel like a dud. Every idea I had that made sense, made too much sense. Every idea was flat and boring. Aaargh. There's no worse feeling in the world for a writer.

So, in a quiet predawn moment, as my thoughts rambled between whether or not potatoes could be frozen (turns out, not so much) and what time the snow was supposed to arrive, and who knows what else, I decided to focus those schizoid thoughts on options for my Next Scene.

And, by golly, I think I've got it.

On creativity:

. . . Nor is there any need for us to sit and wait, inactively, until an unexpected lucky coincidence presents us with a fruitful thought. Indeed, we can--by our conscious efforts--prepare its appearance. ~ ALFRED HOCK

CR: First the Dead.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Techno Groupie


I ordered  a Kindle this morning. Never in my wildest dreams (prior to Kindle's introduction) would I ever have thought I'd want what amounts to a little computer on which to read books. I don't like to read them on my big computer screen--why in the world would I want to read them on something smaller?

But I paid attention. Watched all the videos from day one. The features are amazing, and the assurance that although a bit odd at first, readers quickly forget they're not actually reading a book, hooked me. Even though I've never actually seen one in person, I know I've sold a few of them just because I'm so stoked.

I asked for one the first Christmas they came out. I asked again last Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I usually always get what I ask for. The Kindle just fell through the cracks, but now I'm anxiously awaiting its arrival.

I told a friend what I'd done this morning. Amazingly, she hadn't heard of Kindle (the second person today!) and was immediately worried about bookstores.

I wish I had an answer to her concern. The fact is, I don't. Maybe book stores as we know them will morph into little cyber cafes where book groups meet and orb sample pages to each other for discussion. 

All I know is that not paying attention to technology, even embracing it, doesn't make it go away. We've built up industries and expanded our own little corners of the world through the Internet. There might be some exciting things on the horizon with innovations like Kindle--fewer trees killed, lowered publishing costs, and who knows what else.

I admit I want to see my name on the cover of a book. Hold it in my hands, flip the pages. Autograph a few. Know what I mean?

In the meantime, I can't wait to hold the Kindle in my hands and figure it out.

CR: First the Dead.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where, oh Where to Begin?

The hours and frustrations, triumphs and blood-letting that writers put into their work set us apart from people who have chosen different career paths. It's hardly surprising that once we have written and edited and tweaked and polished and cut from and added to, we're emotionally connected to what we've created. 

Because I'm right there on those pages, I double-checked and triple-checked my position regarding where the book I'm reading really should have begun. Tim Downs is a multi-published author, who I've reviewed on this blog. The book I'm reading now, First Come the Dead, gives us an interesting look at post-Katrina New Orleans, and I'm enjoying the reading experience. Now. Unless something happens later in the book, it should have begun not with Chapter 1. Not with Chapter 2. Not even with Chapter 4. It should have begun with Chapter 6.

It might be necessary for bits and pieces of the first five chapters to appear later, but I'm not talking backstory as much as I'm talking no story. 

As I said, I'm enjoying the ride. Even though I feel like I waited in line at the amusement park for five chapters before I finally got on. I'm hoping I can come back in a later post and say I was wrong. But so far? Not so much.

Maybe I'm being hypersensitive. Ya think?

You know what I'm reading.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Review: NEVER TELL A LIE by Hallie Ephron

Ivy and David Rose had been high school sweethearts. Now they are happily married with careers they enjoy, and living in a beautiful old Victorian home. It seems life has dealt them all the right cards--except having a child of their own.

In the last few weeks of a carefully tended pregnancy, the urge to clean out her nest overwhelms Ivy, and the couple decides to have a yard sale. The previous owner's discarded things have clogged up the attic long enough. She wants everything gone.

When Melinda White, a former classmate of David and Ivy's, and a current yard sale customer who also happens to be pregnant, is reported missing, the trail leads to the Rose's . . . and goes cold. 

Ivy remembers David taking Melinda into the house, but did the woman come out? Ivy's relentless digging into the past threatens not only her life, but the life of her unborn child.

Suspicion is supported by secrets and shame in this solo debut novel by Hallie Ephron. Some editing concerns aside, Never Tell a Lie is a quick read that will keep you interested from the beginning to the end. 


CR: First the Dead by Tim Downs.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


From M-W:  

sprint  :  to run at top speed esp. for a short distance

When I'm under the gun and threatened, I can sprint with the best of them to make things happen. It doesn't matter what it is. 

Surprise company coming in 30 minutes? Watch me sprint.

An opportunity of a lifetime if I put together 500 words describing the social intricacies of lady bugs in an hour? Watch me sprint.

An all expenses paid trip for two to anywhere in the world if I lose five pounds in three days? Talk about sprinting!

NaNoWriMo was a specialized sprint. The challenge was to write 50,000 words in one month. Many people accomplished that goal, and everyone who at least tried, experienced some wonderful "sprint" success.

The invitation now is to be inspired to sprint within specific capsules of time.

Will you join me? The starting gun is pointed up . . .

There are three rules for writing a good novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ~ William Somerset Maugham

CR: About half-way through Dream House.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DNF, anyone?

Have you ever finished reading a book to um . . . finish reading the book?

I recently read my first book by an author who I had high hopes for. After all, he's mentioned in a very positive way in Donald Maass's, Writing the Breakout Novel. I expected to be wowed. 

I wasn't.

There are some interesting characters, I'll give it that. And I've read enough from fabulous authors to know you can't hit a home run for every reader every time you're up at bat. 

But still.

The middle-ish part of his book made me think I must've missed something. Or I'm not a clever enough person to follow a plot that's not entirely straight forward. Or maybe . . . just maybe . . . he flipped and fudged and kerfloogled things around to make his plot stretch out a bit.

Could that happen?

I have, in the last year or so, developed the skill of closing the pages of a book that simply wasn't doing the job for me. I'm proud that at the ripe age of 54, I now have about . . . um . . . 5 books that I've elected to take a pass on after reading a few pages. Those are my DNFs. "Did Not Finish" books that have passed all of the publishing hurdles are undoubtedly loved by someone--just not me.

I finished reading the book in question--if nothing else, I'd invested a little bit of time and wanted to see the resolution. That part wasn't bad. 

Will I read this author again? I will look at checking something out of the library some time. After all, he was in Maass's book and who am I to diss a successful novelist? I will, truly, give him another chance.

CR: Still reading Dream House. It's interesting and I'm wondering if it's going to go somewhere. I'm trusting that it will.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Business of TRUST

I write reviews for an award winning website. Armchair Interviews is run by two women with class, intelligence, integrity, and their fair share of talent.

Recently, I read an amazing story with equally amazing editorial challenges. I had a built-in respect for the NYTs bestselling author, but horrible conflict surrounding the ARC (Advance Readers' Copy or Edition) I was asked to review. I shared my frustration with the owners of the website, who in turn shared them with the publicist. I was asked to write a short article for their site about poor quality ARCs.

My article follows, but I encourage you to check the website out for yourself. Quality attracts quality, if you know what I mean. Once you're there, click on "The Author's Place." As a further enticement, Hallie Ephron has a great article up regarding the writing of crime fiction.

A Publisher That Rushes Out a 'Threadbare' ARC Can Spell Disaster for the Author

Imagine books as a tapestry. The first thread is the writer, and the tapestry begins. It flows through, adding agents and editors, professional readers, marketing people, bookstore owners and reviewers, finally ending up in the hands of readers—the people the writer was talking to in the first place. Every single thread can have an impact on what the reader holds in their hands. Every single thread is formed in trust.

I’ve written reviews for books that have already had their tapestry woven, as well as books whose tapestry is still being formed. When I receive an ARC (Advance Readers’ Copy, or Edition) in the mail, I don’t expect it to be perfect. The trust the publisher and the writer are placing in me is that I understand this isn’t the final product, and that there could be some minor modifications. In other words, don’t do a line edit, and don’t quote what might be cut in the final version. My trust, as a reviewer, is that the story is significantly in place—the tapestry filled in—so that when I write a review, consumers who might base their buying decision on what I have to say, will not end up loosing their trust in me.

I just reviewed an ARC of a book from a New York Time's bestselling author that's not due out for three months. This book made me feel the tapestry threads had been knotted up somehow. There were threadbare sections. The vision had been hurried and the product slapped together and out the door without much, if any, refinement. Plot threads (one of the really important threads in any tapestry) were out of whack and unfinished.

The story itself was amazing. One I think could very well land this author on the Bestseller List again.

But writing the review (a positive one) required a huge leap of faith. I have no idea if the editing issues, the plot issues, will be worked out resulting in a final tapestry built on trust for the readers. It made me very uncomfortable. I can only hope the thread I was responsible for doesn’t end up shattering trust.

The risk this publisher took—that I wouldn’t trash the book—was enormous. They held the career of their author in their hands and broke threads going both ways in the tapestry.

The reader, the person who will become the final thread, deserves the best we all have to offer. Anything less is unacceptable.

CR: Still reading Dream House, a debut novel for which I'm trying to get a genre feel.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Talent, luck and persistence.

From Merriam-Webster's 11th Edition:

tal-ent : a special often creative or artistic aptitude

luck : to prosper or succeed esp. through chance or good fortune

per-sis-tent : existing for a long or longer than usual time or continuously . . .continuing or inclined to persist in a course . . . continuing to exist in spite of interference or treatment

Let's look at talent.

I'm not sure where my little dot lands on the creativity scale. I suspect it fluctuates quite a bit, but I know I have a little. I also know part of writing talent is skill development. It's a conscious self-education. And it's consciously getting over Self.

Talent is something that is developed. It's raw and rough and sometimes mixed in with a lot of other things. But unless I'm a prodigy (not) I have to take my little dot on the artistic slide and feed it.

Luck, on the other hand, isn't something I can control. But I can be ready if and when it comes knocking.

Luck comes in different forms and strengths. I'm an optimist, so I tend to think I'm lucky most days--if I just pay attention. But when it comes to writing? Not so much. Yet.

Which brings me to persistence. That word "continue" pokes itself into each of the descriptions. I figure it must be there for a reason.

The only people who fail at a dream are the ones who quit. Who no longer continue to pursue their dream.

A writer needs talent, luck, and persistence. You can make due with two out of the three, and the more you have of one, the less you need of the others. ~ Lars Eighner (who, by the way, was homeless. Twice.)

Continuing on . . .

CR: Dream House
by Valerie Laken

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Idea Generation

Ripped from the Headlines

My current wip involves black market organs, and the greed and fear that drive that business. It's been in the news, so you know what it's all about.

There are two current, local news stories, that have held my attention. One is the case of Tim Masters, who spent years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and finally gained his freedom when DNA evidence overturned his conviction. But it wouldn't have happened without someone pushing from the outside.

The other is JonBenet Ramsey, whose murder pretty much everyone in the world has heard about. Because of DNA advancements, her killer may yet be found. Again, not happening if there isn't someone passionate about justice (and yeah, maybe a little publicity) and can't just let it drop.

International stories would have to include the one about the father who said his daughter had run away but kept her hidden in the basement. With the children he had fathered. That one was a shocker.

What if . . . ?

What if, as the First Family's possessions are moved into the White House, someone is able to access an item and do something nefarious?

What if there was a cure for breast cancer, but the money generated by research was just too great to lose?

What if someone had a real-life evil twin and they didn't know it?

Science and Technology

Have you heard about the cell phones that are actually guns? No kidding. They hold four rounds.

What about the latest discovery that the African blue-tailed butterfly's saliva can negate psychotic behavior? (Okay, I'm making this one up, but all you need is one idea to get running.)

I store ideas in a file. It's by far the thickest one I have. There's little likelihood I'll ever need to take a peak, but it's there.

So many ideas, so little time.

CR: I'm still reading The Sudoku Puzzle Murders.

It's all better with friends.