Monthly Archives: March 2008

Wouldn’t It Be Good to be on Your Side, the Grass is Always Greener Over There

I’ve had that song from Pretty in Pink in my head for literally days.  It is embedded and will not go away.  It has so little to do with the actual subject of today’s blog that it would be funny if it wasn’t kind of sad.  But I thought writing it down might make it go away.

Actually, it does have a little something to do with it.  This blog is about songs.   I’m personally one of those people who picks at least one “official” song for everything I write.  If I don’t have one I feel as naked as my son when he streaks on the front lawn (and no I don’t encourage him.)

But sometimes I kill time during the writing process…doing lots of things that aren’t important.  But I also spend a lot of time riffling through sites like Rhapsody.com looking for the right musical interlude that speaks to me about my WIP.  Hey, its closer to actually making progress on my stories than when I sit in front of my screen and clip my nails which has also been known to happen.

But I started thinking the other day that I had heard a song that I decided should be the official writer’s song.  My husband says that it applies to anyone who keeps pushing for something and not making a lot of progress but let’s face it.  Aren’t too many jobs where you take as many beatings as this one.  In any other career field I would have have said, “Screw this.” by now and walked away.

So I’ve adopted the song Stop and Stare by OneRepublic as the official writer song.  Now this is not to say that it entirely fits but the chorus does and like most people I’ve decided to ignore the rest of the song and latch on to just the chorus.  This video is so bizarre I watched it with a furrow in my brows until the point where it ended and I truly said, “What the h*ll?”  And many of you know I never cuss, at least out loud.  I do it on paper a lot ;).  It’s a very odd video.  So I’ve decided to pretend that the video doesn’t exist either.  So here’s the parts that matter, seperated out so they probably don’t make a lot sense together.  Just take the individual sentences for what they are…

“I’m staring down myself, counting up the years

Stop and stare
I think I’m moving but I go nowhere
Yeah I know that everyone gets scared
But I’ve become what I can’t be, oh
Stop and stare
You start to wonder why you’re ‘here’ not there
And you’d give anything to get what’s fair
But fair ain’t what you really need
Oh, can u see what I see

Steady feet, don’t fail me now
Gonna run till you can’t walk
But something pulls my focus out
And I’m standing down…”

I don’t know about you but I constantly feel this way in the writing game.  I think I’m moving but I go nowhere?  It’s like he read my mind.  So anyway, here it is.  My ultimate writers ballad.  What’s yours?

AJ

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Knowledge Makes For Bad Reading

Remember before you began writing when books were fun and delightfully entertaining?

Yeah, I do too and sadly that is no longer the case. I have learned so much over the course of my writing and will admit that it stinks! The books I once loved to read so much are now riddled with flaws. Before I could ignore these small mistakes or I plainly just didn’t know about the errors.

Not anymore!

I am currently reading a really great story but I keep getting pulled out of it for small accuracy  problems or language that doesn’t fit the time period.

For example: Bloody — In historical novels it’s a commonly used as a curse word. We’ve all read the hero have something go a muck and he says something like “Bloody Hell!”

This would not happen! Or let me rephrase, it SHOULDN’T happen. Men back then never said this in front of a lady. It just wasn’t done. Think of it as saying F*ck in front of your very reserved church-going grandma.

I’ll continue to read the book and will most likely enjoy it, as a whole, very much. However, I personally think the finish-a-book-in-one-sitting days are over.

What do you think? As a writer do you find tiny mistakes annoying or do you ignore them and read on?

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The Not So Happy End

I’m a sucker for happy endings. I love seeing characters I’ve watched fall in love in spite or because of various obstacles end up together. I like to walk away from a movie (book) believing the characters went on to have a slap happy life full of love and other good things.

But the stories that stick with me the most and the longest are the ones that don’t end happily ever after. Some of my favorite movies end like this. I’ll stop what I’m doing to watch.

One movie is The Professional with Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. I know how it’s going to end when I sit my butt down. Still, I sit glued to the screen, secretly hoping for a different outcome. Of course the outcome is the same. Then for the next couple of days, while I’m doing house stuff, driving in the car or working on my wip, I’ll think about Leon and Mathilda and what could have been. (Anyone who has seen this movie, what do you think would have been if things had turned out differently? And their relationship, how do you think their relationship would have evolved?)

As a viewer, I’m totally bummed. I so want Leon and Mathilda to make it. To beat the huge odds against them.

As a writer, I’m inspired and challenged. To create characters, who are vulnerable and relatable despite their issues or predicament. To step up the complexity of my character relationships by exploring how basic needs and simple wants can bind people with conflicting personalities, lifestyles and backgrounds. And to write not just a story, but an ending that will stay with readers long after the book has been placed on the bookshelf.

So what movies or books have inspired and challenged you as a writer and/or reader? And in what ways?

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Filed under Kimberly, movies, writing

Trivial Pursuits

I love it. I kick A$$ at it. It’s fun. I can’t find a single soul to play with anymore. Bummer.

You know why? Because my head is so full of useless junk it is not funny. Random facts take root in my brain and they are stuck there for life. My head is a roach motel for trivia.

In a writer’s chat over at Romance Divas we were talking about oral sex. One woman mentioned, sadly, her husband has a flap of skin that secures his tongue and only an operation will fix it.

FRENECTOMY! That is what it is called I popped in. Everyone was like WTH???

Another useless bit of trivia.

Same thing happened tonight when I mentioned dragees(Cake decorating item).

Useless trivia.

Did you know that vanilla is part of the orchid family? I did.

How about that fact that poultry workers often get a skin irritation they call Chicken Itch?

A Hershey bar wrapper is NOT brown and silver. It is deep maroon and silver.

Stupid useless facts.

Or are they? Hmmmm

I love having all sorts of weird, off the wall information to throw into my stories. And I love finding new information to add.

Like I have a brief scene in my new WIP that involves a speeder in a traffic stop. Since I have never been stopped, I asked a police officer friend to walk me through one. He went above and beyond the request. Now I have not only the information I was looking for but a whole slew of new trivia. I even got to play with his handcuffs, ASP and radio. (Cops have cool stuff)

Research doesn’t have to be tedious and boring with nothing but dusty old boring books to go over. I carry a notebook and anytime I learn something interesting, I write it down. There is no organization to it. But it is there. I have read it and reread it multiple times. And keep adding to it.

I have entire sections of that notebook filled with jargon, dress, castle layouts and other junk for the medieval time period. I bought a book on holy days and their practices during the 1100’s. Fascinating stuff. It sits on my shelf right next to The Life and Times of a Revolutionary Hunter.

Recipes for bear and elk? No problem. True stories behind American folk legends? Got it covered. The proper way to drape and wear a roman toga or stola verses a greek chiton? I know it.

Do you know the feathered end of an arrow is called the fletching?

Teddy Roosevelt, not JFK, was the youngest president of the USA. He was 42 to JFK’s 43.

Because I write fiction does not mean I make EVERYTHING up. I do not. Facts are facts and you can’t change them. By having the information to make a situation believable, then you have enriched your story. If you want to have your heroine making a cake, you better know what goes into a cake mix. Same thing for driving a sports car.

I can not drive a stick shift. I just can’t. So when I wrote about my hero’s truck, I had to stop, find my hubby and ask him to explain. Ergo, we spent 25 minutes in his truck, in the driveway doing nothing but gathering informations. There is one line about it in my story. One. BUT THE LINE IS RIGHT!!!

Research is what you make of it. I make mine fun.

And I could still whoop your butt in Trivial Pursuit.

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Filed under Inez, writing

Random Bits of Information on Publishing

Agent Kristen Nelson writes a great blog titled Pub RantsThis week, she’s been explaining Payment Schedules and the growing trend among the NY publishing houses toward Payment on Publication.

Check it out. Kristen’s blog is always full of excellent information.

Next up: synopsis writing!

I just finished writing a synopsis for the YA I’m subbing to agents, so I’ve got them on the brain. Why is it that we can write 100,000 word novels, but a 2- to 5-page synopsis terrifies us? I don’t know, but I’ve met very few writers who are comfortable creating these little suckers.

If you have a synopsis in your future, I recommend The Sell Your Novel Took Kit by Elizabeth Lyon. Her “Starter Kit for a Synopsis” is a great tool. Check it out!

A few tips for writing synopses:

  • Don’t do chapter summaries. You’ll end up with a listing of events when what you really want is to demonstrate that the story is character driven, that the events spring from your characters’ goals, motivation and conflict.
  • Limit the characters you name to four or five. Include your POV character, a main character or two, and your antagonist. Refer to secondary characters by their roles (best friend, teacher, minion, etc.)
  • No matter what tense and POV you’ve chosen for your novel, write the synopsis in third-person present tense. Remember, the synopsis is the author’s summary of the novel.
  • Every word counts in a short summary, so make sure you use specific nouns and expressive verbs. Vague words have no place in this document.

Go…write a synopsis that entrances the reader and creates a need to read the entire manuscript. Sell your masterpiece!

And finally…a random bit of promotion for an anthology of fairy stories…(In case you haven’t read my introduction, I love faeries and dragons and things that go bump in the night!)

In the Gloaming: An Anthology of Faerie Stories by Various

Faeries come from all cultures and countries and range in appearance from lovely to terrifying to looking like an everyday person. Some are benign, some malevolent. Based on actual faerie lore, this anthology incorporates the work of five spectacular authors who have penned tales of iridescent ice beings, fey men who love you into forgetfulness, frightening creatures who wear caps of human skin, enchanted lovers from a long lost era, and the land of faerie dreams.

Step into the world of glamour where the beautiful, the dreamy, the vicious, and even a bit of the sexually bizarre will captivate you.

Authors: Cora Zane, Esmerelda Bishop, K.M. Frontain, Nita Wick, and Kelley Heckart
Rating: Up to Sizzling
Book Length: Novel
Price: $5.75
Genre: Fantasy/Anthology

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Hero Kiss Match

I’m doing the non-writing side of writing today, at least for the four hours from 4-8 p.m., on the Ellora’s Cave chat yahoogroup. Promotion’s tricky: you need something eye-catching, and a clever title in the subject line just doesn’t do it…because there’s always somebody more clever for you. And four hours of promotion? Yikes! I’m just glad it has a time-limit, instead of one of those all-day promo events that can be a little scary. 🙂

So instead of thinking about writing I’ve been thinking promotion. What can I possibly say for 4 hours? I only have one little book available! Sure, I’m sharing the time with another author (Cara Carnes, woohoo!) but she only has one little book available, too.

Brainstorming yielded “Celebrity Death Match,” which is totally unhelpful…but that led to “Hero Kiss Match.” One call for excerpts later and Cara and I have 22 heroic kisses squaring up against one another in the biggest, baddest kissing contest of all time, with the toughest, meanest judges ever…romance readers. 🙂

I haven’t figured out yet what the rules will be, but the kisses oughtta be entertaining!

Okay, crash course in promotion: What do YOU do when you have to talk to a group of folks for four hours, and you can only excerpt so much of your own stuff without copy/pasting the entire book? You don’t have to tell me (keep your ideas for your own stash if you want) but take 35 seconds to dig in deep for an idea and see whether you come up with anything or whether you draw a blank.

This part’s almost as hard as the writing part. I’m sweating already!

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Filed under Emily, writing

Father Knows Best

Over the years I’ve noticed a trend in Disney movies. The characters never have a mother. Very often, they also don’t have a father but for the most part the never have mothers. Why do you think that is? I have a lot of theories but my personal favorite (probably not the truth) is that the writers just didn’t want to complicate the movie by mixing in relationships with parents.

I noticed some writers saying that they got their therapy through writing character/parent relationships. Probably half my character’s parents are dead. Is this a symbol that I need therapy? The rest tend to have terrible relationships with their families. I don’t usually do the big happy family thing.

Sometimes I will admit I do it because it adds additional stress to the story. One parent or none, small alienated family, serious familial issues. Those things divorce a character from the support group that may help them when they are faced with a life and death situation. And let’s be honest. I don’t want them getting too much help.

But on the other hand do you think our issues with our parents show up in our stories? Is the psychotic harridan sister a familiar figure and not just a figment? Tell me the truth, do you borrow? Do you express your lack of childhood love through serial killers and tortured heroes?

I’m just asking. I’ll tell you a secret though. If you ever want to know about my childhood feelings of alienation and loneliness (As if you would) explore the psyche of one of my heroes. That’s my therapy.

What about y’all?

AJ

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