In Search of the Fiction Fairy

award-wining author Mia Zachary's online diary where she ponders the meaning of life, strives to improve her craft and generally mouths off

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It's not easy being green

A wonderful person and terrific author had some good news to share. Go here to read about Gena Showalter's four new sales. She's incredibly prolific and talented and deserves everything she gets. I am genuinely happy for her success.

And yet I have to be honest about the five to ten minutes I spent stewing in envy juice. For a variety of reasons, I didn't have any books out last year, only have one coming out this year and though two are scheduled for 2007, they aren't written yet. And here Gena is, like one of the Acadian aliens she writes about, with some 7 books out this year alone.

Why can't I write as fast as she does? Why can't I come up with innovative premises, why can't I sell as well, why can't I (fill in the blank]?Why can't I be happy and grateful for what I have and what I'm able to do?

After taking a deep breath - and rereading some of my book reviews- I closed my eyes, opened my heart and sent positive thoughts out into the Universe for Gena's hard work and good fortune. And got back to my own manuscript. My Creative Partner, Lisa, sent me this story today and it couldn't have come at a better time:

One evening an old Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people. He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, consideration and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather "Which wolf wins?"

The old Indian simply replied, "The one you feed."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

My AMEX answers

You've probably seen the celebrity magazine ads for "My. life. My card."In case I get to be a celebrity someday, here are my responses:

childhood ambition- to be popular; to sing

fondest memory- being pregnant with my son

soundtrack- dance music; jazz; classic rock

retreat - near the ocean, within hearing of the water

wildest dream- being on stage singing to thousands of screaming fans

proudest moment- seeing my first book on the store shelf

biggest challenge- self-discipline; self-confidenc

ealarm clock- my mortal enemy

perfect day- one during which I have no worries or obligations

first job- babysitting; grocery clerk

indulgence- jewelry for each book sale

last purchase- the damned curtain swags and corner shelves that don't fit

favorite movie- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

inspiration- Oprah; Eileen Dreyer; my CP Lisa Chaplin

My life- is a work in progress

My card- actually is American Express, both green and blue

Friday, January 27, 2006

Philosophy Friday

163.5 and still going down- woohoo!
only had to pay for labor charges, not replacement parts or rental car
great progress on WIP collage- happy with visual and creative results
wrote two good scenes in the WIP

"The more I write to please myself, the more likelihood there is that I'll please other people in the process. But when I deliberately set out to please other readers, I usually turn out an inferior book."Lawrence Block, TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFIT, page 33

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Artistic Integrity

Over at PaperbackReader, Wendy Duran had this to say: “Category writers take a lot of knocks for what is published in series romance. Some of those knocks are well deserved... however the lion's share of the responsibility belongs to the publisher. Harlequin treats their releases as throwaways..." and Kassia Krozser said: “...books produced to be treated as disposable entities are necessarily going to be short on the qualities that make for great stories.”

Now some of you reading the above, be you category writers or readers or both, are probably offended or insulted by those opinions. Me? I’m nodding my head in agreement because the truth is I hate being identified as a category romance author.

Yes, I realize I’ve only written four and a half books and maybe people didn’t think they were all that [some 2005 RITA judges, ahem]. No, I’m not biting that hand that feeds me. I’m snapping my teeth at the attitude that what I write is substandard- or worse ordinary- because the books are distributed as monthly magazines in disguise.

Few comments make me happier than hearing ‘not your typical Blaze’ about my work. I don’t spit out disposable stories- I aim for the Keeper Shelf each and every time. (I'm strictly talking about intent and purpose here- I know my skills need to be honed by time and experience and that there is a lot of craft still to learn)

But I've tried with my stories to take those tried and true sexy hooks and add an element of realism and truth. My first book RED SHOES & A DIARY touched on loss, guilt and drug addiction. YOURS IN BLACK LACE showcased a heroine who was a recovering alcoholic and abused wife. In 9 1/2 DAYS, the 'plus-sized' heroine confronted weight and body images issues while the hero came to grips with his experiences on 9/11. My next book AFTERNOON DELIGHT features a breast cancer survivor facing a recurrence of the disease.

If readers are looking for a fun, sexy read that will give them two-three hours of reading pleasure, they'll find that in my books. But I hope like hell they'll also find the qualities that make for not a great category romance but a great story period.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Too distracted

I was going to write about something deep and meaningful and craft-related today, but I'm not in the mood anymore.

The shuttle from the car dealership just dropped me at home and who knows how much it's going to cost me to get my truck back [the 'service engine soon' light was on].

So instead I'm offering this picture because it makes me smile and maybe you all could use a smile, too.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Readers Wanted

I've got SIX spots left in my current contest, a first look reader review program called PRE/views:

Sign up for my bi-monthly newsletter, Message from Mia, and then send me an email with "Previews" in the header to let me know you’re interested.

I’ll choose ten people who will receive an Advance Reading Copy of an upcoming book in exchange for writing a brief review of the story. (If you aren't chosen this time, I'll keep your name on file for the next book)

Want to read a book before it hits the shelf? Willing to give your honest opinion?

Then what are you waiting for?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Go, me!

So I'm determined to lose at least 20 pounds this year [I'd like to lose a little more but I'm not setting a specific ideal for how much because I don't want to be disappointed if I don't reach it]

I'm a creature of mostly sedentary habits so I'm begining with baby steps:
Drink more water and switch to diet soda and iced tea.
Nothing but water after 8 pm.
No junk sweets- fresh fruit and low carb yoghurt instead.
Get some kind of exercise, even if it's just dancing to a song on the radio

So I got on the scale yesterday [Brave of me, I know] and was pleasantly surprised to see that I've lost five pounds already!Not bad for only changing my lifestyle about a week ago. Yeah, babysteps!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Philosophy Friday

Taking a page from Gena Showalter's book, I've decided that Fridays will be for reflecting back on the week and reflecting in general.

GOOD STUFFI finished the new opening for ANOTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHTI got the cover art for my next BlazeI found two reviewers willing to read a partial manuscript and give me quotesI started this blog :-)

GOOD ADVICE "The work itself- the practice of the craft of writing- must be it's own reward." - Dennis Palumbo, WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT, page 53

A good reminder for people like me who, like right now , get caught up in self promotion and book promotion activities and who are easily crushed by bad reviews. At the end of the day, the most important people I need to please are not the editor or even the reader but me and the muse. I'm never going to get rich at this job and I'm never going to please everyone, so I need to write for the sake of creating something that I'm proud of.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Writing a book is hard...

...but telling a story should be easy.

I was cleaning up some of my son's 1st grade workpapers when I came across one called a graphic organizer. It has headings on the left side then nice big rectangular blocks to fill in on the right.

Here's what Zac filled in:
TITLE- The Hungry Caterpillar
SETTING- Outside
PROBLEM- He's hungry
EVENT 1- ate an apple
EVENT 2- ate two pears
EVENT 3- ate 3 strawberries
EVENT 4- got a stomach ache
EVENT 5- made a cocoon
SOLUTION- He turned into a butterfly because he ate and got big and strong

Pretty humbling, huh? Storytelling is so simple a child can do it...
Now let's see those six year-olds get published.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's been a very good day

I got the cover art for my April book AFTERNOON DELIGHT

And both my CP and my mom think that the new second chapter I wrote for MIDNIGHT is great! I realize it's okay that the hero isn't talking to me- he's revealed more with his thoughts and actions that he realizes Haha- and it's actually a better chapter if Cameron remains a bit of a mystery. Lisa said, "I love this. What's the problem? Stop fussing and move on."So that's what I'm going to do :-)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Reader vs. Writer

I'm judging the RITA again this year and my books arrived last week. I eagerly tore open the box and pulled out the contents to see what treasures were inside.I'm not that eager anymore.I will, of course, not give the author or titles or any specific information about any of the books I'm supposed to judge. Because I'm not really anxious to read any of them. Oh sure they're in the categories I asked for: Romantic Suspense, Single Title and Women's Fiction with Strong Romantic Elements.

But I don't like Western settings, I'm not crazy about serial killers and though I do like paranormal elements the ancient times setting is putting me off.

So here's where the 'vs.' comes in.

As a reader I would never have picked any of these books off the shelf. I've read one book all the way through, but found myself skipping the long pages of narrative/ introspection in the middle. I forced myself to read the whole first chapter of another, but ended up putting it aside to come back to later. Tomorrow, I'll pick another one and give it the 'opening test' and see how far I get.

However, don't let my reader complacency fool you. As a writer who has enter the RITA three times in the past, I know what it takes to put yourself into the arena, get your hopes up and then have them smashed in March when the finalists are announced.

So every book in the Fed Ex box will be read. It will be given a fair chance, especially when it's something I don't normally like. [Last year I gave a werewolf book the highest possible score because although I would never in a million years have bought it, the writing was just that damned good].

But here's a question that tends to set off arguments: How to score? You can use any number between 1 and 9 including decimals (for example 4.7). Some people think average scores should be given even if you didn't like the story because 1) hey, the book got published and 2) so as not to hurt the authors feelings.

I've been on the receiving end of some 2s and let me tell you they hurt like a bitch. So part of me hesitates to give a less than average score. But is that fair to me, who ends up lying? Is it fair to the author, who might strive to write better next time?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Silent

Well, I sent my crappy first draft of a new chapter two to my critique partner Lisa last night and begged for help. Because ANOTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT needs to be rewritten to stand alone (though I still have dreams of a series someday), I have to write a new opening.

That's not easy to do when the hero flat out refuses to talk to me! You see, Cameron is adamant that he doesn't want to reveal who he is yet to the heroine or the readers and that apparently includes me. So I've asked Lisa to help me find a purpose for the scene- besides introducing the hero...

Friday, January 13, 2006

I'm Looking for My Muse

Despite the fact that I've taught classes on how to overcome this problem, including for the RWA National conference in Reno last summer, I have to confess that I struggled horribly with writer's block for most of 2005.

With the New Year comes a new determination to get back in touch with my creativity, get some goddamned discipline and get a clue as to what I really want to be writing.

Ever since Christmas, I've been goofing off from the Work in Progress due to holiday madness and a lack of vision in regard to this story. So I've been playing. Yes, playing. I gave my inner child permission to 'be' and she's been having a good old time.

There's a great article on Jennifer Crusie's site that got me so jazzed I spent _hours_ browsing magazines at Barnes& Noble. I've started something for my wip, and though I'm nowhere near finished, it's already helping me visualize the story!

Also I was at Walmart with my son, looking for a new outfit for the Fairytopia Barbie in my office [My muse is called the Fiction Fairy]. Then my six year old grabbed something off the shelf and said, maybe she's not helping me work because she needs her own computer. Zac held up a Barbie Fashion Fever Study Room box- it has a desk with a PC, manuscript pages, Kleenex and a latte cup! The Fiction Fairy seems much happier now and I'm hoping to get back to writing again!