Friday, October 30, 2009

What's In a Name?

This is a little off-topic, but I'll see if I can swing it around.

There's a singer by the name of Meat Loaf. You've heard of him, I'm pretty sure. So had I.

But did I ever bother to listen to him? Meat Loaf? I mean . . . seriously. You've got to be kidding. How bad could his real name be if he has to call himself Meat Loaf? What? He couldn't go for Prime Rib? And what in the world would his music mean to me? How in the world could it touch me—a middle-aged woman who quit counting her gray hairs a while ago? Give me Peter, Paul and Mary just about any old time . . .

Somehow I clicked on a video he made of a song titled Objects in the Rear View Mirror. I've saved it and listen to it fairly often. It makes me cry every time. Every. Single. Time.

Meat Loaf?

I only wish I could download it to my iPod. But then, I'd puddle into sogginess way more often than I have time for, so I guess it's for the best.

Now, to try and bring it around to writing, which is why we're all here in the first place (aside from those of you who are here only because you love me, and really don't care what I have to say).

One of my favorite books for 2009 is by Jack Kilborn. Also known as J.A. Konrath. Before you climb all over me, there is nowhere near the emotional connection between this book and the Meat Loaf song. But I really like this story. It gripped me and held me. I read through violence that was a little strong, but I kept reading. The story was that compelling.

The title of the book is Afraid. It's a mass market paperback (what I wouldn't give) and the cover is a little over the top (still, what I wouldn't give). But . . . AFRAID?

Kind of like Meat Loaf.

Can you think of any books or songs (or artists) you've loved whose title might be the supreme turnoff?

How important is a title?

CR: Green by Ted Dekker. (You guys all know I'm a slow reader, right?)

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Colorado Snowstorm

I took this picture about 6 o'clock this morning. It will continue snowing until about 6 o'clock this evening. Tomorrow it will begin to melt. That's the kind of Colorado snowstorm I enjoy.

Before I got involved with this writing gig, I would've taken a day like today, built a big gorgeous fire, and curled up with whatever book I was reading.

Now I have a (self-imposed) deadline and a well developed sense of guilt that I can't block out of my mind, no matter how hard I try. And believe me, I've tried.

So, until my treadmill installers get here this afternoon (assuming they don't cancel), my over-developed NOSE will be at the seductive (?) GRINDSTONE.

But I will build that fire.

CR: Green by Ted Dekker.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do First Lines Stack Up?

As writers, we are taught that opening lines are important.

They do more than grab the reader, though. They set the tone. They let the reader know what they have gotten themselves into. They raise a question or two.

I wondered if books I read this year or fifteen-plus years ago, and count as my favorites, would follow this element of craft. So here are a few. See what you think:

Sidda is a girl again in the hot heart of Louisiana, the bayou world of Catholic saints and voodoo queens. It is Labor Day, 1959, at Pecan Grove Plantation, on the day of her daddy's annual dove hunt. While the men sweat and shoot, Sidda's gorgeous mother, Vivi, and her gang of friends, the Ya-Yas, play bourree, a cut-throat Louisiana poker, inside the air conditioned house. On the kitchen blackboard is scrawled: SMOKE, DRINK, NEVER THINK–borrowed from Billie Holiday. When the ladies take a break, they feed the Petites Ya-Yas (as Ya-Ya offspring are called) sickly sweets of maraschino cherries from the fridge in the wet bar. ~ Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, 1996

* * *

It had become common chatter at Brightwood Hospital—better known for three hundred miles around Detroit as Hudson's Clinic—that the chief was all but dead on his feet. The whole place buzzed with it. ~ Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas, 1929

* * *

Charlie Croker, astride his favorite Tennessee Walking Horse, pulled his shoulders back to make sure he was erect in the saddle and took a deep breath . . . Ahhh, that was the ticket . . . He loved the way his mighty chest rose and fell beneath his khaki shirt and imagined that everyone in the hunting party noticed how powerfully built he was. ~ A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe, 1998

* * *

Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that happened a long while ago, and I said to you, "That afternoon when I met so-and-so . . . was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon." I expect you might put down your teacup and say, "Well, no, which is it? Was it the best of the worse? Because it can't possibly have been both!" Ordinarily I'd have to laugh at myself and agree with you. But the truth is that the afternoon when i met Mr. Tanaka Ichiro really was the best and the worse of my life. He seemed so fascinating to me, even the fish smell on his hands was a kind of perfume. If I had never known him, I'm sure I would not have become a geisha. ~ Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, 1997

* * *

A man begins dying at the moment of his birth. Most people live in denial of Death's patient courtship until, late in life and deep in sickness, they become aware of him sitting bedside. ~ THE HUSBAND by Dean Koontz, 2006

* * *

The morning of the day I lost her, my daughter asked me to scramble her some eggs. ~ FEAR THE WORST by Linwood Barclay, 2009

My friend, author Donn Taylor, offers his (and I have to say, they're awesome):

From a John D. MacDonald mystery (I forget the name, and this is from memory, so I may not have the exact words): "We were about to call it a night and go home, when someone threw the girl off the bridge."

From Jack Higgins, The Savage Day: "They were getting ready to shoot someone in the inner courtyard, which meant it was Monday because Monday was execution day."

And please pardon my vanity if I submit two of my own:

From The Lazarus File: "Mark Daniel had never been hijacked before, but the man pointing a pistol at his heart was rapidly filling that gap in his experience."

From Rhapsody in Red: "That Wednesday two weeks before Thanksgiving was a bad day to find a corpse on campus."

Huh. It looks to me like the good ones start out pretty good. The trick is, of course, staying good and ending good. Maybe I'll take a look at endings in another post.

What about your favorites? Do they make you proud they're a favorite, or muddy the waters?

CR: Green by Ted Dekker

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

First Lines

I'm curious about whether or not the first lines in novels that are my favorites are truly worthy. Do they stand the litmus test?

I'll be posting about this tomorrow, and I'd love to see as many of your favorite novel first lines as possible.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Midlist Dreams

Wikipedia defines Midlist this way:

Midlist is a term in the publishing industry which refers to books which are not bestsellers but are strong enough to economically justify their publication (and likely, further purchases of future books from the same author). The vast majority of total titles published are midlist titles, though they represent a much smaller fraction of total book sales, which are dominated by bestsellers and other very popular titles.

Authors who consistently publish acceptable but not bestselling books are referred to as Midlist authors.

How big is your dream? How big is mine?

If my dream isn't big enough to scare me, and bring tears to my eyes, it isn't a big enough dream. But the truth is, I'm not sure I've ever allowed myself to totally feel it. Know what I mean? It's more terrifying than anything I could put on a page.

Learning this process of writing well has taught me something practical—sometimes I take Quantum Leaps, but usually I take Baby Steps. Each of them work.

The quantum leaps are easily recognizable. The baby steps are skills that creep up on me and I don't realize I have them until I look back at my previous work.

The thing is, I'm not automatically transported. Getting from A to Z requires 25 distinct steps. If I skip one of them, it means there are words I can't form. If I skip "e", at some point, I'm going to have to go back to the first part of the alphabet and take those steps all over again.

Do I want to be a Midlist author? Um, that's never been my dream.

But it could be my "e."

CR: Green by Ted Dekker.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Duh-Dum, Duh-Dum, Duh-Dum

So I'm sitting here, feeling a little smug. In control. Upward and onward with my edits. Kind of liking that my more recently written scenes in my SFD weren't requiring the same kind of gagging overhaul the earlier ones did. The really hard work was done.

I saw nothing but calm seas ahead of me.

I should've known something was about to happen when I heard the theme from Jaws begin to rumble in the air around me.

Has that ever happened to you? A shark attack out of the blue?

What happened was I got a couple of critiques back from my writing partners.

Both of them were all over my character motivations and responses to danger. They were relentless. In the spirit of the season, I tried picturing them (two gorgeous blondes) as wicked hags with warts on their noses.

How could they? And especially . . . How could they be so right???

In other words, the writing wasn't so bad, but the storyline, at this particular point, stinks. Like that shark bait . . . what's it called? Chum?


I hate it when I'm thinking I don't have to think so much and then someone forces the issue.

But I showed them. Well, I'm gonna show them. I figured it out.

Now to write it.

CR: Green by Ted Dekker

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 19, 2009

You Must Kill Someone

Parnell Hall has the right idea.

As usual.

Who have you killed lately? And are you courageous enough, villainous enough, crafty enough, to kill someone likable?

I'm working on it.


CR: Almost finished with the Joseph Finder. This guy is good.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kelly Irvin, Published Author

Kelly Irvin is both a good friend critique partner. Her debut "at your throat" novel will be published in January 2010 through Five Star Gale, and pre-orders are available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I imagine if you go to your favorite independent bookstore, they will be happy to accommodate pre-orders as well. I had a little problem placing my pre-order with BN, but happily placed it this morning with Tattered Cover, the amazing Indie in Denver.

Be sure and check out her trailer as well. Ms. Irvin's a new author who is covering all the bases.

Proudly Presenting

An idyllic wilderness hike turns deadly when homicide detective Ray Johnson tumbles into a ravine and lands on a corpse.

Not just any corpse, but the son of a prominent citizen that turns the case into a political hot potato.

Ray teams up with his troubled partner and their boss to solve the murder before city leaders bump them from the case and out of their jobs. And before the twin temptations of alcohol and lust can derail his colleagues.

Their determination to find the man’s killer leads them from the wealthiest enclaves in San Antonio to the city’s dark underbelly inhabited by a drug cartel and paid assassins.

At a crisis hotline center, a frantic anonymous call propels counselor Susana Martinez-Acosta smack into the center of the investigation and into Ray’s arms. Exactly where she doesn’t want to be. Following the tragic death of her husband, she’s struggled to build a safe haven for herself and her son. That new world doesn’t include hit men and persistent detectives with dangerous jobs.

As the pressure builds to solve the case, Ray finds himself with multiple missions: solve a murder . . . save a partner from career suicide and another from matrimonial destruction . . . and win a woman’s heart.

And stay alive to enjoy happily ever after.

A Deadly Wilderness is a romantic suspense novel that will take the reader along on a tumultuous journey as the consuming need for material wealth drives a deadly wedge among family members who haven’t learned when enough really is enough.

The journey ends where it began—in a deadly wilderness. Not everyone will survive the trip.

CR: Still working on the Joseph Finder.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Danger of a Single Story

From time to time, an old concept is presented in a new way. When that happens to me, shadows are often lifted that have been in my own life, and I'm better for it.

See if watching this video doesn't inspire you to take another look at some long-held beliefs you've had.

CR: I'm still enjoying the Joseph Finder—haven't had much time to read lately.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Who Should, Who Should Not?

November is National Novel Writing Month. It's actually international, and no one has high expectations that anyone is going to have a polished novel in thirty days. But still.

The idea is to put down 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th. (Again, I've never seen a 50,000 word novel, but there aren't any rules that say you can't write more—and a surprising number of people manage 90,000 and more.)

Participants are encouraged to start from scratch and just enjoy a word blow-out. If I felt like I had a "free" thirty-day period to get goofy with writing, the starting from scratch concept would be a kick. And if in the end, all I had was a pile of garbage, it still would be a fun experiment.

Last year, my first year, I decided to add 50,000 words to the project I was working on. It was fun, I loved the encouragement from the emails, and although I did not hit 50,000 words, I wrote quite a few. A lot of them keepers.

Who should participate in NanoWriMo?

If you have a new story brewing around in your brain, Nano would be a great way to get it off the ground.

If you want to add 50,000 words to the manuscript you're currently working on, it's perfect.

If you tend to work on multiple projects at once, and can set the others aside for a bit, I think it might be like a terrific vacation to jump into fresh waters.

If you freeze up under competitive pressure, are notoriously self-critical, or feel the need to be perfect and edit everything over and over, NanoWriMo might be the perfect tool to work through those issues, which to some writers, can be paralyzing.

If you would like to see some terrific encouragement (much of it from published, big-name authors) show up in your mailbox, NanoWriMo is without peer.

Who Should Not?

If you're pushing against a finish line for a project you're working on, and you're concerned about it, this might not be the year for you.

Unless of course, you'd like those encouraging emails.

CR: Still reading the Joseph Finder.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Reviewers in a Dither

Twitter and Facebook and writing loops have been bloated with the FTC ruling that would require book reviewers to acknowledge they received the book gratis.

So . . . what's the big deal?

First, don't you think most people suspect that there are a certain amount of books out there given to influencers who might help publishers gain sales?

Second, there's no guarantee the review will be a good one if, in the opinion of the reviewer, the book stinks.

Third, I have to wonder how many people have actually bought a book based on a review. I've bought several books on word-of-mouth, which I suppose a review essentially is, but I've never bought one because I read a review that extolled its virtues. Not once.

Fourth, if you buy books based on reviews, does it really make a difference to you where the reviewer obtained the book?

To me, this is much hoopla over nada. I'm just sayin'.

CR: Joseph Finder's Extraordinary Powers

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Book Trailers

What makes a successful book trailer?

I'm beginning to believe that just as one person loves a book while someone else puts it in their DNF (Did Not Finish) pile, it's pretty much the same with book trailers.

With all of the creativity, time—and often expense—that goes into the creation of trailers, the bottom line has to be sales. Does the book trailer make you want to go out and buy the book? Or, at the very least, check into it a little more?

Here are some things I like:

  • Short. Maybe as long as 2 minutes, but 1 minute or less is best. Sort of like a visual Twitter program.

  • Endorsements. If you've got some name-candy to throw around, throw it around early in the trailer. I'm shallow enough to pay more attention to something endorsed by Dean Koontz than well . . . Peg Brantley, or no one at all.

  • Live action. Unless your still photos are super spooky and filled with tension, I'd much rather see living beings in action. I don't need to see their faces, but I want a sense of real people, not photos or statues or drawings. Even with historicals.

  • Set the mood. If the trailer is for a cozy, it shouldn't be dark and evil. Music is huge, but so is color choice and pacing.

These are my personal preferences, and I'm curious . . . do you have any? Are there book trailers you love? Some you hate?

Have you ever bought a book because of its trailer?

CR: Extraordinary Powers by Joseph Finder. (Good, but Paranoia is better.)

It's all better with friends.