Friday, May 30, 2008

What Makes You Pick Up a Book?

A few things happened yesterday that got me thinking. Thing One: it was Book Sale Day at the boy's school. I gave him twenty bucks, expecting to get a few bucks back in change. Silly me. Got none. But the boy did get two new books. I'm thrilled he's suddenly so excited about reading, and it's all thanks to Rick Riordan's Greek mythology series. He not only loves reading, but he's started writing his own story! (The story, four chapters in length so far, is dedicated to his favorite authors: his mom and Mr. Riordan.) When he came home today with his purchases, I was intrigued by his choices. And I asked him why he picked those particular books. What about them caught his eye? Was it the cover, the blurb, the author? Did someone recommend these particular books? He said he picked cover first, then blurb.

Thing Two: on the RWU forum, one member mentioned how, if she read a book she particularly liked, she'd automatically go on the Internet to find her website. Another member picked up on the feminine gender, and the first member admitted most of the time she tends to reach for female authors first.

Thing Three: while the boy played lacrosse, I headed to the library, which is a short walk from the field, looking for new books on CD for the office. As I scanned the multitudes, the first thing I looked at was title. If the title intrigued, I'd check out the author. Male or female? Female, I automatically picked up for a closer look. Male...well, it depended upon if it was a name I was familiar with. At last, I'd check out the blurb. I must have looked at dozens of books in the time I was there. How many did I check out? Two.

There's a lesson in these three different incidents. A lesson about what happens when your query hits an editor or agent's desk. Maybe it's not your letter, or your synopsis, your blurb or title that didn't hook the target. Maybe, sometimes, it's something you can't help: your gender or name. So don't sweat it. Regroup from that rejection, and send that query out again. If everyone had the same taste, Baskin-Robbins would have stopped after vanilla and chocolate.

Ice cream for thought...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday 13: Soundtracks on my MP3 Player

Sometimes, nothing sets the right tone but a song you connect to a movie or Broadway show. My MP3 player is chock-full of songs from soundtrack albums. Here are just a few musical shows/movies that help me create a mood while I'm writing:

1. The Devil Wears Prada: a little jazzy, great "city" style
2. The Pursuit of Happyness: soul and 60's Motown
3. The Full Monty: the ultimate fun suicide song, Big Ass Rock, wakes up my quirky sense of humor every time!
4. A Chorus Line: whatever your mood, there's a song here to match, to enhance, to inspire
5. Ice Princess: hectic and hopeful
6. Beetlejuice: mostly for the Harry Belafonte songs, but still, oh so much fun!
7. The Scarlet Pimpernel: there are actually two versions of this Broadway musical--original cast and revised. Pathetic soul I am, I have them both
8. Miss Saigon: great love songs, poignant voices, vivid imagery
9. Bridget Jones-The Edge of Reason: from Bridget's Theme to the memory of Colin and Hugh wrestling in the fountain to the tune of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, every song paints a picture
10. The Big Chill: more Motown, but with some classic rock tossed in--nostalgia to the max
11. Legally Blonde: quirky, sassy, in-your-face
12. The Wedding Singer: 80's fun that always brings a smile
13. Rent: glad, sad, mad--this one runs the emotional gamut

Do you find musical inspiration in show or movie tunes? What's on your list?

Friday, May 23, 2008

The 1-2-3 Tag Meme

Yes, I've been caught--once again by the lovely but villainous Kaige. So here are the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people

Sounds like fun, yes? Okay, nearest book is The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer. Lucky you! Page 123 starts Chapter 18. And since my three sentences occur in one line of dialogue, I went a little farther.

"'Hey,' he says, standing back to take a look. 'Don't you look nice. Turn around.'
'Uh, sorry.' I click Belinda's phone shut. 'I'm not really a turning around kind of gal.'"

Once again, I'm going to hand this over to the RWU blog for next week's posts. Be sure to stop by and read the ramblings of nonsensical Hunter Cole this week!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday 13: Revised Platitudes

You know those old adages people pull out as advice or what-have-you? Well, some of them are pretty stale and not really conducive to our current way of life. I've taken the liberty of updating a few (13, to be exact) for today's world. Tell me what you think:

1. "A fool and his money..." have lots of friends on a Saturday night.
2. "The shortest distance between two points is..." probably under construction.
3. "We have nothing to fear but..." global warming.
4. "It's always darkest..." right before the movie starts.
5. "If at first you don't succeed..." call the Help Desk and hope you get someone who speaks English clearly.
6. "The early bird..." wakes me up every &$%# morning!
7. "Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night..." shall keep a mother from her child's team sport practice.
8. "That which doesn't kill us..." is research for a story!
9. "Never judge a book by its..." blurb.
10. "The best things in life..." come wrapped in white, milk, or dark chocolate.
11. "Cleanliness is next..." on my to-do list, after hitting the NY Times Bestseller list.
12. "When the cat's away..." there's a lot more room in the bed.
13. "What goes up..." are gas prices!
Feel free to add your own.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Life Is Too Short to Read Bad Books

There was a time, not so long ago, when I'd start a book and no matter how little I enjoyed it, I'd keep going. Especially if it happened to be a book recommended to me. I'd think, "It has to get better if I keep reading, right?"

Wrong. After too many years of struggling to finish stories that didn't hold my interest in the pointless hope I might find the golden nugget that made the book a bestseller or made it click with a friend, I have now decided life's too short.

Case in point: Many, many years ago, I belonged to one of those book of the month clubs and was sent a book I hadn't ordered. I'd never heard of the book or the author, but the premise sounded interesting so I kept it and read it. The story blew me away to the very last page. I passed it around to friends, insisted everyone I know read it, and we all agreed this author was dynamite.

Fast forward twenty years. Said author is now a mega-bestseller. The author's name alone is enough to catapult a book to the NY Times bestseller list. There have been movies and television series based on this author's books and the books get churned out so fast, hardly a month goes by without a new one on the shelves. But guess what? I haven't enjoyed one of this author's books in about four years.

Earlier this year, I told a friend I'd finally decided to give up on this author. I'd been disappointed too many times in the past and Life is too short to read bad books. My friend insisted I try just one more, one she'd read and thoroughly enjoyed. more. I started that particular story yesterday. One hour later the book hit the wall, slid to the floor and still remains there, a lifeless heap of poorly written prose and unsympathetic characters. I could almost forgive the heroine for having an affair because she suspected her husband of cheating. I could almost forgive the heroine's husband for following her and learning she was cheating.

Until he decided to bludgeon the lover. Until the heroine stood upstairs watching the assault from a window without doing anything. Until the heroine watched her husband dump her lover's body in the trunk of his car and assumed the dear man was taking the victim to a hospital for treatment. Until she decided to go home and wait for him rather than confront him. Until she waited at home and when he didn't show up, she drove to every nearby hospital to find where they'd gone. Until she hears about a crime scene, rushes over, finds her lover's body and is assigned as primary on the homicide investigation. (Oh, yeah...did I forget to mention both she and the victim were cops? Well, so did the author until that very moment.)

Ka-thunk! Adios, Author. You are officially on my to-be-avoided-like-raw-sewage list.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Back to School-Part II

Yesterday I spoke about writing with my son's fifth grade class. I'd never spoken for the elementary grades before and found myself wondering how much they would understand. Silly me! These kids were bright, enthusiastic, and ready to have some writing fun.

I started by proving to all the boys that they'd actually seen and enjoyed a romance movie sometime in their young lives. They were crushed when they learned movies like "Shrek" and "Spiderman" are, at the core, romances. (Oh, the horror!) From there we moved on to the main elements of a good story: a "What if...?" question, GMC, the black moment, and so on. They loved figuring out GMC for characters like Princess Fiona and discussing the black moment in some of their favorite movies. Who knew National Treasure was such a hit?

We ended the discussion by crafting a round-robin story about a police detective who finds a body in his own basement and discovers the victim is his former partner. (Yes...these are ten and eleven year olds! I told you they were bright.) A lively Q & A wrapped up my talk, which lasted a good two hours!

Best of all, my son wasn't the least bit embarrassed that his mom came to talk to his class.

If you've never spoken to an English class before (at any grade level) I highly recommend you give it a try. You'll get some first-hand speaking experience and you just might touch a fledgling writer's soul. The teachers are always excited and eager to help and it's just a fun way to spend a few hours of your time. Why not go for it?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday 13: Things That Go Through My Head to Keep Me Awake in the Middle of the Night

Clearly, I can't be the only one out there whose brain refuses to turn off at night. And when I get up in the morning, dh takes one look at the craters under my eyes and says, "What happened last night? Is there something bothering you that keeps you up?" Bothering me? It's just that when the lights go out some demon inside my brain decides it's play time. Here are 13 thoughts that run through my head in the middle of the night:

1. What devastating secret does my hero know about my heroine's father in my latest WIP?
2. Which book do I plan to pitch at the LIRW luncheon?
3. Why can't I get that stupid song out of my head?
4. Is tomorrow Wednesday or Thursday?
5. What kind of movies can I cite for the 5th graders I'll be speaking to this week?
6. It's warm in here.
7. When did it get so cold in here?
8. Don't forget to add dog food to the shopping list.
9. Did I lock the doors?
10. What should I buy as a gift for the surprise 60th birthday party I'm attending this weekend?
11. If I fall asleep right now, I 'll only get four hours of real sleep (or three hours or two hours). Is it worth it? Or should I just get up and do some writing?
12. I have to pee, but if I get up, I'll never get to sleep.
13. What am I going to write about for this week's Thursday Thirteen?

What's on your mind in the middle of the night?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A New Look

I'm currently updating my blog for a cleaner, funner look. Tell me what you think. What's missing? What's too much? Have any suggestions? I'd love to hear them.

After all, I'm all about feedback.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

In my local newspaper yesterday, I read an article that claimed if a mom got paid a salary based on her working hours and job skills, she'd be earning a national average of almost $117,000.00 a year. Fools that we are, we've decided to settle for breakfast in bed once a year and all the hugs we can handle.

I'll be spending the day with my mother-in-law, a great mom (I'd keep her even if I ditched her son!). To all those ladies who keep the family going on a day to day basis, without any monetary reward:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Back to School--Part 1

Yesterday I spent the day at our local high school, speaking to 11th grade English classes about The Writing Process and Voice. What a blast! I thoroughly enjoy these discussions because the kids start out thrilled that they don't have to listen to their teacher for a day, but soon get into the spirit of the discussion and participate in ways that often leave me laughing until tears come to my eyes.

In order to demonstrate how voice varies from author to author, I gave each class a specific line to incorporate into a brief paragraph and then read all the excerpts aloud. Even they were surprised by the results. We had paragraphs about dead bodies, superheroes, transvestites, leprechauns, and rap artists. I also shared opening paragraphs from published works, asking specific questions regarding setting, where they thought the story might go, and what mood the writer conveyed. I even read the opening paragraph from A Little Slice of Heaven, in amongst works by
Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sarah Strohmeyer, and Jane Heller. After reading all four selections, I asked them to guess which one was mine. Out of five classes, not one student guessed correctly! (I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I'll take it as a compliment.)

At one point, one of my daughter's classmates turned to her and said, "Your mom is so cool. I wish my mom would do something useful with her life." I'm betting her mom probably does a lot of useful things in her life: for all I know she's an ER nurse or a police officer or a stay-at-home mom with three kids under the age of ten to care for. Me? I'm just a romance writer. But I thank her for the vote of confidence nonetheless.

Arriving home after a long day, I played my answering machine messages and heard my son's fifth grade teacher's voice. Her request? When can I come in and speak to her class? I'm thinking in two weeks might be good...

I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thursday 13: Television Shows I'd Love To Be On

Wouldn't you love to spend a week on the "set" of some of your favorite television shows? It wouldn't matter if you had a speaking line, if you were an extra in the crowd, or even if you appeared as animation. You just wanna somehow be a part of the fun, right? Well, here's where I'd love to find myself someday:

1. Dexter (naturally): I'll be a suspect, a cop, even a body (provided Michael C. Hall bends over me at least once. Yum.)

2. South Park: Sure, it would be as an animated character, but have you seen some of the celebrities who've been lampooned there? Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Barbra Streisand and Robert Smith from The Cure (who voiced his own character)...I'd be in excellent company!

3. The Tudors: Ooh, the gowns alone would make this a must-do. And if I can possibly kiss Jonathan Rhys Meyers or Henry Cavill, I'd pay my own airfare and hotel to get there!

4. Top Chef: No way I could compete, but I sure would love to taste some of that yummy food. I'll even peel potatoes.

5. Shear Genius: Hey! It's coming back. And I think a perfect challenge would be to transform the do's of modern romance writers into the do's of their favorite heroines. Come on, you know you'd sign up if it was offered at RWA National!

6. Two and a Half Men: Just for the laughs alone.

7. Oprah: Only 'cuz that meant I'd made her Book Club. (Yeah, I know, dream on. But this is my fantasy so don't wake me yet.)

8. MadTV: Irreverent, rude, wacky. How could you not want to be a part of the fun?

9. Mythbusters: I love these guys. And how often do regular people get the chance to blow things up in the name of science?

10. Any Home Makeover show: I love my dh, but he is really not meant to own a home. And after nearly twenty years of listening to him tell me about another beautification project he's planning to get to "someday," I sure would like to see some results! Maybe even before our 50th wedding anniversary!

11. Project Runway: Another RWA National challenge. Make gowns for the Awards Dinner for a few lucky authors!

12. Date My Mom: Ooh, the opportunity to check out my daughter's potential boyfriend even before she sees him. The power, the power. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

13. Entertainment Tonight: Being interviewed at the premiere of the movie based on my book, of course.

What shows would you like to be on?