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, February 28, 2006

Looking for a silver lining

I didn't write yesterday. There, I said it.
I had cramps, a back ache and the unrelenting urge to rip someone's head off.
So I did some website maintenance and updates, some book promo stuff and tried to figure out why good news was bad.

You see, the release date for ANOTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT has been pushed back. Again. That means my deadline for submitting the final manuscript has been pushed way back. This is a good thing because, as I said here, my work is so much better when I don't rush.


It must be the hormone imbalance.

I'm going to hunt for some chocolate. Considering my mood, I hope it puts up a fight.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Review revisions

Aspiring author and book reviewer Marilyn Puett had asked, What qualms should an author have about pulling quotes out-even ifthey are out of context. Such as "I loved it when the book was finally over" becomes "I loved it."

As a blatant own horn tooter, no I have no qualms about pulling quotes apart at all. My goal is to present my work in the best light I can and even when a review is positive/ recommended, the reviewer doesn't always have good enough writing skills to make the review usable. On the other hand, sometimes it's a matter of space [like for an ad] or a matter of focus. This is the review I got from Alane Coppinger of Romance Junkies:

I absolutely loved this story. I worried through Rei's health scare and got angry when the cliche about no good deed going unpunished proved all too true for Chris. And you know what? I think everyone needs a friend like PJ. She is Rei's staunchest supporter and knows just when she needs sympathy, a little push or some friendly advice. Chris and Rei both learned something about forgiveness, trust, and second chances. Mia Zachary not only wrote a hot story with an appealing plot and all-too-human characters, she also included serious undertones that will give readers plenty to think about long after the last page has been read. I highly recommend this book!

This, however, is what I'll actully upload to my website:
I absolutely loved this story. Chris and Rei both learned something about forgiveness, trust, and second chances. Mia Zachary wrote a hot story with an appealing plot and all-too-human characters. I highly recommend this book!

Why? Because it's more concise and focused this way. I haven't changed any of Alane's words or really taken them that much out of context. I would never do what Marilyn showed in her example because to me, that's lying.

Or is it marketing/ spin doctoring? Writers, what's your opinion?
Readers, do reviews have any influence on which books you choose to buy?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Philosophy Friday

It's been a very good day.
I spent the entire day at the bookstore with my red ink pen and my Alphasmart and the memory of the talk I had with Lisa last night.

We were planning this race- 52 pages in 8 days- but it hasn't been going well for me. I was feeling aggitated, not sleeping, tense and guilty because I'd only managed 12 pages for the whole week, not even close to the 6.5 pages per day I would need to write to reach the goal.

Lisa, God bless her, reminded me soundly that I don't do well under pressure, that my work suffers when I rush and that what makes me stand out as an author _IS_ the fact that I take my time crafting the sentences and paying attention to detail and adding layers of complexity. She reminded me that I shouldn't try to compete with other authors and, more importantly, that I don't have to.

So, with all of that in mind:
The scale still says 161 lbs
I wrote 12 rough draft pages that weren't as rough as I thought
I polished two rough chapters and gave them a shine I'm ver proud of

In the book I bought today, CREATING CHARACTER EMOTIONS, Ann Hood says, "In a story, the writer must ask more of emotions... gauge the impact of action against our characters' emotional lives... [We need to do] what Flannery O'Connor called 'painting a picture with words'... using fresh language and images to see emotions in a different light."

Idol Elimination 1

Okay, my first question is, could they have fluffed up that show any more? Good grief. It was like Dave's Network Time Fillers.

My second question- Is it me or is the elimination round kind of mean? I don't know, maybe it's Ryan Seacrests secret glee over axing somebody. Or the phony way they make everybody stand up then all but the potentials losers sit down again.

I had predicted that Stevie the Opera Singer and Bobby the Lounge Act would get cut. No surprises there. I don't think either of their performances were the least impressive.

But I was surprised that one of The Pretty Girls was eliminated. I didn't think Becky was very good from the start, but figured I'd be the only one who thought so.

And I was stunned- STUNNED- when Patrick was cut. Man! I would have shot down Sway or Bucky or David before I let Patrick go. Okay sure he butchered Melissa Etheridge's song but I thought the viewers/ voters would take _all_ of his performances into account, not just last nights.

I'll say one thing for American Idol. It can be slow paced but it's not boring!

All American Boys

Night Two of my AI obsession and I have to say that I don't think overall the guys did as well as the girls the night before. [I voted for 7 girls and only 5 guys] But it was another night of surprises.

I didn't expect to like Bucky but I did and he did a great job on the Lynard Skynard song.

Bobby was so awful I'm surprised he made it this far. Maybe he did better before but I can't remember his auditions at all.

David is adorable and I think he did well in the auditions so I was surprised how much I disliked his performance tonight.

Sway. What the hell was that? He did a good job but I hate falsetto.

Elliott was another I didn't expect to like but I ended up loving his performance. I think he was the best guy of all tonight.

I thought Gedeon would be better and was surprised to find his performance over-animated.

Ace is very pretty and knows how to camera-f*** but I'm not impressed with his voice. He of course will move ahead.

I want to like Patrick because he seems like a nice guy. I think he took the song tonight and made it his but it wasn't a great performance.

Chris was great. He just was. It was a good choice of material and he performed it well.

I don't know what to do with Kevin. He's this cute, geeky little kid but the boy can _sing_. He got my attention and I hope he keeps going.

Will is the same age as Kevin but let's face it, he's better looking and chose a more popular song and performed it very well.

Taylor. WOW. I actually didn't think tonight was a great performance but man has he got personality and he's got heart and I really like him. Go Soul Patrol!

So my votes for the guys were:
2) Elliott
3) Taylor
4) Will
5) Kevin

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

America's sweethearts

Well, we watched the 12 female finalists sing tonight and I have to say that I was surprised by some of the performances.

I thought Brenna would have been better, instead she played it safe and... boring.

Kellie is just so sweet and I wanted to like her but I thought both she and her song were forgettable, as Simon would say.

Becky will go on to a very successful career as a model/actress. I never thought she she have made it through the Hollywood auditions but I'm trying not to hate her because she's beautiful.

Ayla is also beautiful but in a wholesome, accessible way. And she's talented. I'm a _huge_ Christina Aguilera fan so I was worried, but I think Ayla pulled it off.

I think Stevie will find success as a ballad or opera singer- but not on American Idol.

Heather is undistiguishable from Kellie, except Kellie seems nicer. Heather's performance was equally forgettable.

Katherine has been one of my favorites from the beginning so I was surprised that I wasn't more impressed with her performance. She seemed uncomfortable on stage, with those goofy little head bobs at the end.

I think Paris is adorable. I love her smile and her bubbly personality. I didn't love her performance tonight, though, and I'm not sure why.

Melissa surprised me because I didn't remember her at all from the auditions but I think she chose a good song and performed it well.

I think Kinnik may have been trying a bit too hard, but I did really like her. I liked that she dressed up and that she gave it all she had.

Lisa is a young woman to be watched. I think she is amazing for her age. I hate to qualify my opinion but I think she still has some developing to do and then watch out! I guess I just felt a Jennifer Holiday song was too ambitious for Lisa's voice.

And finally but not at all least, Mandisa blew me away. Absolutely blew me away. I'm really rooting for her to go all the way.

So, my votes for the first real night of American Idol were:
1) Mandisa
2) Katherine
3) Lisa
4) Ayla
5) Kinnik
7) Melissa

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You (the reader) complete me

I found this quote over in an article on BookSquare's blog:

[E.L. Doctorow] said, “Reading is a very creative act; until the book is read, it’s really not completed. Lines on the page are like a circuit that the reader’s life flows through.”

Now I'm the first to admit to being a self-promotion slut. I'm always trying to think of ways to reach readers old and new for as little of the money I don't have as possible. One of the best ways, in my opinion, is book reviews. By sending my book out and getting a semi-professional opinion which is then posted on an Internet site, my books are hopefully seen by lots of romance readers, who will then hopefully be inspired to go out and buy said book.

But as much as I like getting a great review [cruise on over to my bragging page if you're interested] I love getting letters from readers even more. And that's saying a lot!

But here's the thing. I think Doctorow is dead on. Some authors write for money, acknowledgment, praise, ego strokes, pleasure and most write for all of the above. Myself included. But the book isn't complete, it isn't real to me, until I know for certain that one of the people I intended it to entertain has read and enjoyed it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

And they're off...!

First let me say that I'm not he fastest writer in the world. I get bogged down in perfectionist details and constant line edits.

But not this week.This week I get to write complete and total garbage. My critique partner Lisa and I have agreed to a writing challenge. She has a March 1st deadline and I just need to make more progress on MIDNIGHT .

So we're each going to write 52 pages in 8 days. That's 6.5 pages per day in Courier New 12 pt font [not sure what hers is since she uses Times New Roman].

My stomach is already knotting up at the thought but I really do need to tell the Inner Bitch Critic to shut up so I can hear what The Fiction Fairy has to say.

If we make out goal, Lis and I are treating ourselves to an evening at a jazz club when we go to New Orleans next month. Wish us luck!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Philosophy Friday

my weight is holding around 163, +/- 1
I submitted my anthology proposal 6 weeks early
I've jumped over yet another writer's block/ hurdle
I finished chapter 17 and know what needs to happen next
I got THREE great advance book reviews
I talked to my husband about respecting my writing

New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross says, "The only thing we can control -- sometimes -- in this crazy business is the Work, which is why I've tried to mostly concentrate on that."

Yeah, I admit it. I did some promotional stuff this week. [Well, you don't get great reviews and then not post them to your website. C'mon!] But after a long talk with my husband and a slap in the face from reality [namely a spreadsheet of my royalty earnings for the past two years], I am determined to stop f-ing around.

Between the approximate hours of 9:30am and 3:00 pm the only work I'm doing will be writing related. If that means grocery shopping on weekends now and folding laundry while supervising homework and only running errands 'after work', so be it.

NOW, I finally understand what Jayne Anne Krentz means when she says, "Protect the Work". I always thought she was talking about backing up your files. Maybe she should have been clearer and simply said, "Stop letting any- and everything interfere with your writing."

An Idol Obsession

I can't believe I've missed the past four years of this show!

Of course, I have Kelly's CD and I know who Clay, Reuben and Fantasia are. But I never actually watched the show until this seasons auditions began.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights are now Family Idol Night. (My husband wasn't that interested until he saw some of the girls and he really couldn't care less if they can sing LOL) During the commericals, my son and I have auditions for Barbie, GI Joe and his stuffed puppies.

I get to be Simon, my favorite judge, becasue I'm meaner than Daddy.

I think we all secretly wish we could be that brutally honest in Life and not care what people thought about us. (Although I thought his comment about Mandisa was cruelly out of line).

I still have to watch the video intereviews but so far my favorites are Katherine, Lisa, Ayla, Mandisa, Paris, Taylor, Chris and Will.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

First Steele review

Hey, a girl's gotta do...

I just received the first advance review for ANOTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT, my March 2007 single title book ( )

“Mia Zachary becomes a force to contend with in her first foray into romantic mystery. With some interesting plot twists, Another Side of Midnight grabs you right from the very beginning and keeps you until the end.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Steele Mezzanotte has been running the P.I. agency she inherited from her aunt with a fair degree of success. She also moonlights as a bartender at her family’s restaurant. Steele is excellently developed. She is sassy and strong, beautiful and smart but she also has the hint of vulnerability underneath.

Put Steele and Stone together and you get explosive chemistry. With the attraction between them still irresistible, Steele quickly realizes she needs her wits about her if she is to survive with her life and her heart intact.

The plot is well developed and has a few twists in it that should surprise the reader. Mia Zachary has turned in a first-rate novel with Another Side of Midnight.” – reviewed by Debby Guyette for CataRomance Reviews

How cool is that for a Valentine?!?!? ( )

Now I have to finish writing the damned book...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Philosophy Friday

Umm... I'm thinking...
The scale says 161 if I'm totally naked
The boy child loved the PINK PANTHER movie
Mom's surgery went well, just waiting for lab results

In his book WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, Donald Maas says, "Novels are written one word at a time and the choices made along the way can as easily produce a mildly engaging midlist novel as a highly memorable breakout. I believe that the difference lies in the author's commitment to great story telling."

That's nice, Don. First of all I _am_ committed to telling a great story and I think the majority of authors I know are also. Yes, the best promotion is to write the best book you can. But what makes a breakout isn't always up to the author since it depends so much (I think) on publicity and publisher backing.

Frankly, worrying about writing a breakout novel is damned detrimental to my piece of mind. I already spend way too much time agonizing over word choice and sentence structure. I don't need the added pressure of trying to be the Next Big Thing.

Also not every author is at a place in her career to breakout. I've only written four books- currently working on number five- and I still have a lot to learn about the craft and my own talent. So for now I'll concentrate on what I can do well- commit to telling a great story.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Creative Paralysis

In Dennis Palumbo’s book, WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT, he talks about getting out of your own way.

He goes on to quote Norman Mailer, who once described his writer’s block as the creative paralysis of being famous. “It wasn’t just me sitting down to write,” he said. “It was Norman Mailer sitting down to write and I had to live up to that.”

I’m not trying to imply that I’m anywhere near as famous as Mr. Mailer and I’m sure as hell not famous. But I very much relate to what he felt. Reading this chapter today made me wonder if I'm not so much afraid of failure but intimidated by my success.

I’ve gotten two early reviews of my April Blaze that could not have recommended the book more highly. I’ve gotten some great endorsement quotes for ANOTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT from authors I respect. I’ve gotten wonderful feedback from my CP who recently said of two particular chapters it was the best work she’d ever seen from me.

And all of that positive opinion and praise was enough to shut me down like a light switch. It only took Lisa's kudos to throw me into a tailspin for days, terrified that I couldn’t write the next page/ paragraph/ sentence/ word well enough to compete with what came before. My mother swears that because of childhood traumas, I simply cannot accept anything good about myself.

Perhaps she’s right. Or maybe it’s just that if those two chapters are the best I’ve written, I’m terrified I’ve reached the plateau and can’t go any higher. I mean, if that was the best I can write, why bother putting another single word on another single page when obviously it won’t be nearly as good?

But I know as a chronic sufferer of writer’s block- as well as a frequent speaker on the topic- the only way to get through this… is to write something else anyway.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Carlyle's Questionaire

Just a fly-by to give you the link to this GREAT and fabulously useful series of plotting/ revising questions:

Thanks Deanna!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Strong heroine's and Finding balance

I’ve been struggling a bit with the wip, which will be my first single title and romantic mystery so it has to be the very best I can do. I’ve been worrying about my characters and how I’m writing them. The heroine, Steele, is a kick-ass Vegas P.I. with a couple of secrets. The hero, Stone, is a kick-ass former soldier and mercenary with a couple of vulnerabilities. That means I’m trying like hell not to write him too needy and her too cold. But I’ve found reassurance in the following snippets:

Michele Albert on her blog “So, for me, a strong heroine that’s a match for a strong hero is a woman who is self-confident, likes herself, believes in what she’s doing, doesn’t apologize if she likes pink or cries at sappy movies, isn’t afraid to say no or make difficult decisions or make money. She doesn’t define herself by whether or not she has a wedding ring or gave birth. If she makes a mistake, she acknowledges it and learns from it. She owns up to her responsibilities, is honest with herself.”

And over on Romancing the Blog Sandy Oakes said, “She must be a woman who does not need a man to complete her, but wants a man to be her compliment. Her strength should be his weakness; his strength should be her weakness. It is the yin and yang that should be the force that pushes forth the relationship.”

With this great advice in mind, I’m going back to work.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Philosophy Friday

What does it mean...that I haven't written a single page today and couldn't be happier?

I had a little breakdown yesterday that resulted in a migraine and chest pains. Simply put- too many errands and obligations and nowhere near enough time or energy.

So today, I gave myself the goal of writing One Single Page, sometime before midnight. And amazingly, my stress disappeared. I will get the page written and probably several more later tonight. But allowing myself to take the day off was a welcome treat... and incredibly productive on other ways:

half hour of weight training for exercise
half hour of vacuuming/sweeping while dancing to the radio
took large box children's clothes to post office
washed two loads of laundry
straightened house
shopped for groceries

"Writing demands a lot from the writer: time, emotion, originality, solitude, imagination, curiosity, daring, and endless creativity. Our vision of the story is often much more perfect than our realization of it. At times that blank page seems like a big rectangular white eye glaring back at us... This means developing ruthless self-discipline and writing on a regular schedule... I advocate writing every day, even if it's only for ten minutes."Lynn Viehl, WAY OF THE CHEETAH, pages 25 and 28

I've never been one to write every day- I need time to _think_; I have to see the scenes in my head like a movie. But I'm going to try this anyway.