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

Friday, April 28, 2006

Something different this Friday

Instead of offering advice today, I'm asking for it.

The senior editor of Blaze has asked me for some things I need to decide if I can deliver.

So do me a really huge favor- answer the questions below and tell me what you think and what you want. If you know someone who's read my books, send them over to give me some feedback too please.

- - - You've read my work before? Book reviews? Word of mouth? One of my workshops? The cover art? The jacket blurb?

Second, WHAT MAKES YOU READ (the whole) BOOK?
- - - The hook/ setup? The characters? The hot sex? The romance? The relationships? The complex storyline? The underlying issues/ backstory/ subplots?

- - - If not, does it bother you? If so, do you want to see more of them?

- - - Does dealing with issues like spousal abuse and breast cancer enhance the story or does it take away from your enjoyment ?

- - - What do you like about Blazes? What don't you like? What would you like to see in future?

Thank you very much for taking the time to let me know what you think. I really appreciate it!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

It's a good day

Not much to say this morning, and little time to say it, but for good reason:
Mom's surgery went better than expected and she's being released from the hospital today! She'll have to go to a nursing/ rehab for six weeks of IV antibiotics therapy etc but I feel this early release is a good sign .

In other news, Kellie was voted off of AI last night. As I've said before, I like the girl but it's been obvious for a few weeks that she is now out of her league. We'll see who Vote for the Worst throws their support behind now.

Apparently the judge in the plageriasm suit against Dan Brown and The DaVinci Code decided to have a little fun with his decision. Apparently he's hidden a message in the 71 page judgment. Don't you just love it! Everybody wants to be a conspiracy theorist!

Over at Alison Kent's blog, she's leading a discussion about category/ series romance. Lynn Viehl is talking about writer's block and it's opposite. And over on Booksquare, Kassia is dissing... I mean discussing the Magic Formula I mentioned yesterday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ready, Set... Write!

There are several very cool contests you might want to know about:

Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times are teaming up again for American Title III. This time they're looking for contemporary romance, including "chick lit, romantic suspense, paranormals, romantic comedies and anything that falls in between!" The deadline is June 1, 2006

My own publisher is looking for a few good Blaze pitches. You have to have a completed manuscript and send a one-page synopsis by May 18th. Due to possible computer virues, Rae is asking everyone to "please put the synopsis in the body of the email."

Writer's Digest is hosting their 75th Annual Writing Competition. There are ten categories and $3000 on the line, but be aware this contest is only for short stories. Entry deadline is May 15th and you can enter online.

And of course if you're looking for RWA sponsored contests, I keep a list of them here on my website and update it every month.

Or... you could skip the contest route to getting your romance novel published, shell out $197 and get The Magic Formula. (Insert exagerrated eyeroll here) Tina Adams hasn't yet published a romance but she does have an ebook of poetry.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Amer Idol- Love Songs

Tonight it really was all about love- I loved three of the performances; the judges loved two of the performances and in my opinion only love is going to move anyone to the next round.

KATHARINE came out strong with what I thought was the best performance she's ever given. Usually too polished and controlled, I loved seeing her passion for the first time tonight as she belted out "I Have Nothing". I honestly think she loved the song and gave it all she had and so I was stunned to hear all three judges criticize her choice.

I said after Mandisa was cut that I wasn't going to vote again but I did- and still am trying to- vote for ELLIOTT. He did a great job with "I'm Singing This Song for You" because this is the best style for him and he so obviously loved the material. You could see it in his performance, his emotion and his effort. Elliott consistently chooses difficult songs and most often does them well.

It's time for KELLIE to go home. She is very cute and I like her personality, but at this stage it's obvious who can really sing and even more obvious that she's struggling. She butchered "Unchained Melody" and that damned Vote for the Worst website needs to stop.

It's also time for PARIS. I think she is a talented girl with a bright future ahead of her but as Simon pointed out she tries to imitate older singer instead of finding her own voice. "The Way Were Were" is a heart-breaking, poignant ode to lost love and she just isn't mature enough to understand the material. Don't be surprised if she is cut tomorrow night.

Here's where love comes into the equation again. TAYLOR did not love the song he performed and it showed. Even Simon pointed out that he looked uptight, which is normally the last word you'd use for fun, funky Taylor. But if tonight was the only time I saw him perform I'd vote him off in a heartbeat for his weak version of "Just Once."

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I think CHRIS was singing "Have You Really Ever Loved a Woman" to his wife tonight. He's a hardcore rawker but he absolutely knows how to put real emotion into his performance for the slower songs he's done. I've been having my doubts that he would make it all the way- heavy rock doesn't have broad appeal- but after these last two 'gentler' performances, I'm back to my original prediction that Chris will be the next Idol.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Out of the Desert and into my Life

I just got back last night from the Phoenix chapter's Desert Dreams Conference. I had a great time and if you get the chance, I'd recommend going next year. April in Phoenix is just gorgeous, especially coming from cool, humid, drizzly Maryland.

I want to express a special THANK YOU to chapter president Mackanzie McKade, Tina Conine and Pamela Osbeck and especially to Susan Lanier-Graham for inviting me (and for going above and beyond in the absence of hotel rooms or books to sign).

Shout outs also to Barbara "It-is-so-a-Spanish-name" Ferrer (who will never look at Charlie Chaplin the same way again); Maddie "My-righthand-woman" Corinthos; Robena "Yes-I-do-have-an accent" Grant; Chaos Kat & Troublesome Tina & So-not-a-WASP Shannon; and to Cynthia, Kristen, Joanne and the other ladies at Leos!

My best friend of more years than we usually admit lives in Phoenix and we're both turning ** this year. So... we both got tatoos Saturday night to comemorate the milestone. Yeah, I hear you. But there was alcohol involved, followed by a reminder that we were supposed to do it 10 years ago on our ** birthday and he wimped out, which resulted in a challenge that couldn't be ignored and then, since I went first, a refusal to lose face.

As you can see, I got a blue and purple butterfly on my right shoulder [it's not easy photographing your own back!] Scott- being a very manly man- got a kick-ass great white shark swimming over his left shoulder. I told him that was appropriate since sharks, like men, haven't evolved in million of years Heehee.

That's all for now, since I came home to a thousand things I need to do. I won't be around tomorrow and possible Wednesday since my Mom is having surgery tomorrow. I'd really appreciate if you could keep her in your prayers as this is going to be a 3-5 hour procedure.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Philosophy Friday



Ace got voted off American Idol
I'm in Phoenix for the Desert Dreams Conference
I'm also spending time with my best friend, Scott
I don't care what the scale says this week


I'm running out to catch a plane, so the best advice I can give you is "Go do something fun with people you love!"

Thursday, April 20, 2006

You gotta have friends

This is my critique group. [click to see enlargement]

That's me sitting at the desk, struggling to get the images out of my head in the form of words on the screen.

In the other chair is Lisa, struggling to get me to stop thinking so much and trust my talent.

Behind me is the Fiction Fairy, struggling to push me out of my own way so she can tell me about this great new idea she has that will be really great if I just trust her...

All joking aside, I'm equally envious and perplexed by writers who have enough confidence to get the manuscript finished without ever showing it to anyone except their editor or maybe their agent. Maybe this is something that comes with more time and experience? From the very beginning when I was lucky enough to find a critique group that included then-pre-published authors Kelsey Roberts and Cynthia Bailey-Pratt and multi-pubbed Linda Shertzer. I can't begin to tell you how much I learned from this group and I'm glad to say that Kelsey and I still keep in touch.

There were a couple of other attempts at critique groups but ultimately we didn't mesh or outside commitments needed to take priority. Then in 2003 I was lucky enough to hook up with this fair dinkum Aussie gal... And it's the best thing that ever happened to me. It took a while to build trust and work schedules, but now even though we don't write the same genre and have very very distinct voices, Lisa and I tend to share a brain. In re-reading a published book, it's difficult to tell which suggestions the other one made- we've learned to mesh when we need to. And I will say without hesitation there is no way in hell I could have written my last two books or my last five proposals without her.

What about you? Who are your critique partners and what do you call your Muse?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

10 Things I know about my writing

1) I try too hard to achieve an illusive perfection. I have to create an opening hook before I can begin a scene, be it action or dialogue, so I know where I need to start. That's probably why I haven't written anything on a new paranormal premise yet. Too many ideas and no idea where to begin yet. This is also why I write so slowly- I edit as I go and tend to agonize over word choice and sentence structure. So don't ever look for more than 2 books a year from me.

2) The writing goes so much better on the rare occasions that I can let go and trust my Muse. (It all goes back to that perfection thing). There are certain passages/ scenes in all four of my books that I can remember freewriting and thinking the whole time that they were going to suck... But they ended up being better than expected and I hardly did any editing. The problem of course is getting myself into that zone.

3) I don't consider writing my job. Sure, I've sold some books and I'm contracted for some more. But as to whether this is my 'career', that remains to be seen. You see, I've hated some or every part of every job I've ever had. Jobs are work- they are [usually] not fun. And if I'm not having fun with what I'm writing, it soo shows in the quality of the work and the length of the revision letter.

4) I'm never going to build a name for myself. On the one hand, I'll keep writing for Blaze as long as they want me. But there are a lot of other things I want to do, like this novella and this romantic mystery and several paranormals, a time travel and an off-planet fantasy and and and... What that means is I probably won't be very marketable to agents or editors, who it's my impression want you to stick with the same genre and style long enough to build a strong readership.

5) I'm behind the learning curve. Back in 2000, I was one of several authors who won the Harlequin Blaze contest. The other winners included Nancy Warren [who has written 27+ books since then] and Joanne Rock [who has 26+ books]. Without making any comparisons regarding talent, one big difference is that both Joanne and Nancy had completed several manuscripts before they sold. I sold my first completed manuscript and so still have a lot to learn and I have to learn it in public.

6) I need to be better disciplined. Even though I prefer to think of writing as a hobby, I still need to do some of it every day. However, between ADHD and a tendency to take on more than I can do, it's incredibly easy for me to get distracted by things like community beach cleanups and baskets of dirty laundry and speechwriting for conferences and and and. I have a really nice office now but some days I think I need Alison Kent's closet where there are zero distractions.

7) I have my own way of doing things and I need to stick with that. That sounds obvious, but in an industry of generous people who willingly share their advice and techniques it's easy to lose sight of your own process. My creative partner is a Plunger- she jumps right into the story with her aromatherapy and signature music and just pours words onto the page. I am a Stepper- testing the water of my characters as I create them and see what kind of story fits them. I had a great experience in New Orleans last month but I'm not able to plunge into the story as Lisa wants because I need to know who these people are.

8) I have to know my characters better than I know myself. And getting to know anyone takes time. Many writers advocate learning about the characters as they produce the pages. But for me the pages won't come if I don't know what kinds of situations my heroine might find herself in [is she more likely to be in a bar or a bookstore?] and how she acts and reacts to any given environment etc. I didn't do anywhere near as much character work on the heroes for my last two books as in my first two. But then my last two were about the heroine's growth.

9) I have to write my stories in complex layers. I didn't always do it consciously but in all four of my books the themes involve redemption, forgiveness and female empowerment. Many critics outside the romance genre and inside of it look down on series/ category books as nothing but sex-filled fluff. Yes, I write sensual romance but I do my damnedest to create a story that has depth and meaning and uplifting messages. My books, ultimately, are about the growth of the spirit, about discovering you can be something more but in essence realizing you're already someone special.

10) I have to write my stories my way. I admit it- I have no idea what the current market trends are and I read very few books in my genre, though I do buy them to support my friends. I won't go into details but my editor and I harshly disagreed on a subplot in AD. I tried for several days to delete what she objected to, but in the end I had to tell her the subplot was staying in. It was integral to my heroine's character development and to the development of the romance. So I guess this goes back to the trust issue in #2- Everything works better when I trust The Fiction Fairy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Amer Idol- Seven Up

I forgot American Idol was on and so I missed CHRIS. Waaahh! 'Coz I'm told he did a really great job singing "What a Wonderful World"; that it really showed the audience what his voice can do.

I did catch PARIS and I'm so glad. Simon is right- it is so weird to hear that Minnie Mouse speaking voice and then have the girl blow your mind with her singing. She did a great job, more so because she just stood there and showcased her voice instead of bouncing all over the stage. I don't think Paris will be the AI, but I do think she can look back on this experience proudly and say she tried different things to see what worked. Note to Paris- standards and classics work for you!

Soul Patrol- whoo! When TAYLOR started singing, I thought the repetitious lyrics would be boring and he was too staid, but then Wow the real Taylor showed up and kicked ass. Loved it, (not as much as the night he sang Takin it to the Streets) but loved it. Taylor is a real wild card in this competition. On the one hand he's hugely popular with his fan base. But on the other his style is a little limited. After AI he should stick to the blues and be a huge success.

I really like ELLIOTT and was so happy that he was relaxed on the stage for a change. I think it's because he likes this kind of material and knows it suits his voice. He did a very nice job with "It had to Be You" and came across as comfortable and sincere. But I think Simon was trying to influence the voting by saying he lacked personality. Which, compared to some other contestants... He does. However I hope he stays another week.

When Paula only comments on how someone looks, then you know that KELLIE's gorgeous shoes were not enough to save her performance. As Simon put it, she dropped the "Bewitched" and the "Bothered" and was just "Bewildered". She made a mess of the song and sang the whole thing through her nose.

ACE sang "That's All". I can only hope so. And as much as I pick on his pretty-boy image, he needs to leave his hair loose. Maybe it's like Samson 'coz Ace's singing was painful last night. I think the judges and I heard completely different performances.

KATHARINE did a very nice job and showed some real talent instead of just skill with "Someone to Watch Over Me", but I think the performance was too slow and I got bored toward the end. Very pretty but no Wow factor and I disagree with Simon that she was the best overall.

As for who goes home this week...? Tough call. I think Ace, Elliott and Paris will be the bottom three yet again. But while I still argue Elliott has more talent than Ace, I'm afraid the underwear model will be here next week.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Manic Monday

Sorry I've been quiet today:

My son was home for the last day of Easter break... and it rained so none of the neighborhood kids were out

I'm revising my old 1st workshop notes for Phoenix as well as writing new ones for the 2nd one I'm now doing

I'm trying to find airfare to Tuscany that won't require a second mortgage

My house seems to regenerate clutter and I can't keep up

And yeah, I'd like to get some sleep sometime tonight

Friday, April 14, 2006

Philosophy Friday



My jeans are baggy!!

AFTERNOON DELIGHT has made the Bookscan Top 100 Romance bestsellers list for the past two weeks!

I've been invited to Harlequin's autographing booth at the Book Expo of America

My creative partner's book is going to be a launch title for the new Romance line

If you plan to/ dream of having a career as an author, there are several measurments of success going in: finalling in a writing contest, getting a request for a partial, and then a full manuscript and, the greatest milestone of all, getting the call that you sold. Once you sell, the milestones obviously change and become harder to attain: making a second sale, getting a multi-book contract, getting good reviews from certain publications, being nominated for industry awards, making a bestseller list, making a bigger bestseller list etc.

Having one of my books included on a bestseller list has been a goal ever since my first book was released. I wanted to see the proof that people liked me, that I was popular and that my writing was good [so there all of you people who never supported my dream!] In my mind, making a bestseller list- any list- would give me validation as a writer; it would make me special...

Don't get me wrong- I'm thrilled that DELIGHT is a bestseller.
But... it doesn't mean as much as I thought it would.

You see, making the list was completely out of my control. The only thing I did to possibly make it happen was to write a damned good story. That's all I can do with the next book, too, and not get caught up in being a bestseller a second time. Making the list doesn't make me 'more' in any way. If my next book is not a bestseller, that _will not_ make me 'less' in any way.

Oprah Winfrey says, "All of us need a vision for our lives and even as we work to achieve the vision, we must surrender it to the power that is greater than we know. It's one of the defining principles of my life that I love to share: God can dream a bigger dream for you than you could ever dream for yourself. Success comes when you surrender to that dream—and let it lead you to the next best place. What I know for sure is that if you want to have success, you can't make success your goal... The key is not to worry about being successful, but to instead work toward being significant—and the success will naturally follow."

How I measure success, how I define it for myself, what milestone I decide makes my 'arrival' is something I'm still working on. But everytime I feel like I haven't made it yet, I'll remind myself of all the things I've already accomplished and try to remember I'm already significant.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lazy Day

My son is off school for the Easter holiday so I'm going to be lazy and send you around the blogosphere.

Kelly Armstrong on just plain entertaining

Melissa Marsh on talent vs craft

Jamie Sobrato measures success

Ten Things Lynn Viehl hasn't learned about writing

The value of critique groups from Diana Peterfreund

Joy in the Box for Monica Jackson

Take a few minutes to tell Harlequin what you think

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Long live the Queen


I was right- Ace is going to be gazing into the camera like a 13 year old girl's bedroom poster for another week while Bucky- who okay can't sing well but I still like his sweet personality- goes home.

And he'll probably stay next week, too, because the theme is ballads from Rod Stewart's latest album and Ace is good at falsetto saccharine. Ugh.

American Queen

So, okay, I didn't vote but, yeah, I still watched *blush*

BUCKY did really well with a country version of "Fat Bottomed Girls" and I don't care what Simon thinks, I like his hair

ACE... needs to go model underwear. "We Will Rock You" is a sporting event chant, not a song to sing in competition

KELLIE was surprisingly good. As Simon said, her singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" should have been a disaster but I think she did well and had fun. My husband and son loved the leather outfit

Okay, CHRIS is still a great performer but this is the 3rd week in a row I think he's rocked harder than he needed to. I guess he knows he'll be a star with or without Idol but I would have _loved_ for him to sing Katharine's song

KATHARINE didn't really impress me with "Who Wants to Live Forever", a song I love from original the Highlander movie, because I think she's still trying to impress her mother and not the audience

ELLIOTT did a good job with "Somebody to Love" , though he trilled a lot of notes that should have been simply held and I wish he'd had time to sing the whole song not just a show snippet

Whoo! Soul Patrol! TAYLOR was back to being himself tonight and though he'll never be a superstar, he's already a super entertainer

Wow! PARIS? Am I the only one freaked out by her baby talk voice vs her powerhouse singing? She looked and sounded great but Simon could only say it was 'weird' Go figure

I have no idea who'll get voted off tomorrow (Love you, Mandisa!) but with my luck it will be someone I like instead of Underwear Boy

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Don't Look Down

Movie director Lucy Armstrong and Green Beret captain J. T. Wilder don't exactly get along at their first meeting on the set of the movie Don't Look Down. Lucy, a director of dog food commercials in New York, has come to the Savannah swamps to finish up the last four days of shooting -- only to discover that her ex-husband is the stunt director, her sister seems to be on drugs, and the stars are nutty egotists. Lucy chalks this up to the usual movie production chaos; then the script for this so-called romantic comedy takes a mysterious and abrupt right turn into action-adventure land -- complete with helicopters, Navy SEALs, and exploding cars! To complicate things further, the CIA contacts J.T. and lets him in on a secret: A terrorist with the Russian Mob is using the movie as a money-laundering scheme and clearly has his own reasons for the script change. Then the body count starts to rise...

I haven't read the book yet- I'm saving it for my April 20th flight to Phoenix and the Desert Dreams conference. I can't wait! And let me tell you how hard it's been to resist the call of the bookshelf behind me.

If you want a good laugh to start your morning, you have to become a Cherrybomb, ie a person dedicated to reading the He Wrote, She Wrote blog. If the book is anything like their blog posts, I'll be chuckling across the country. If you get the chance to see The Bob and Jenny Show on the road, don't forget to ask for Moot.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hot Sex & Cold Dinners

I'm tired and my brain hurts from working on a new story idea. So I'll leave you with my short essay that was included in a charity anthology called CRUMBS IN THE KEYBOARD- Women Juggling Life & Writing. "Over seventy-five women authors share their courageous true-to-life stories of juggling life and writing in this special book dedicated to the support of women everywhere and to the education and awareness of domestic abuse."

copyright 2001
Enrico stares at her, his gaze hot and demanding as it sweeps over Valentina’s lush figure. His nostrils flare, like a stallion sensing a mare in heat, and he rips open his shirt. Val throws back her head, uttering a throaty laugh of triumph. She intends to instruct her young lover on the art of pleasing a woman in bed. Rico stalks toward her, determined to prove he has lessons of his own to teach. He holds out his arms and …

… hurls his little body toward me, screaming at the top of his two-year-old lungs. Zac’s favorite toy fire truck is jammed under the coffee table. I rescue the truck and comfort my son, realizing my train of thought is derailed. There’s no point in trying to get back to my manuscript now. Besides, it’s time to make the important decision between hotdogs or toasted cheese sandwiches. After lunch, we’ll both take a much-needed nap.

As he pulls her roughly into his embrace, Val’s nipples bead against the hard muscles of his broad chest. Rico presses one sinewy thigh to the juncture between her bare legs and lowers his head for a soul-stealing kiss. His hot lips are full and soft and taste like…

… frozen pizza. Again. It’s the second time this week, but a key scene is finally coming together and I don’t want to stop work just to fix a real dinner. I’m in the flow and really have to finish the great dialogue that appears as if by magic on the computer screen.

Val steps back, allowing the satin robe to pool at her feet. Her body is on fire from wanting him and Rico’s rigid desire is painfully obvious against his zipper. He swiftly undresses, dropping his jeans and silk boxers on the floor…

…adding to the ever-growing pile of laundry. The ‘dry clean only’ items need to be separated out before they accidentally end up in the wash. But first, I need to write a good cliffhanger for the next chapter, something to make an editor keep reading.

The harsh rhythm of her breathing matches the pounding beat of his heart. Eagerly, Val arches her body to meet Rico’s, her fingers clasping his firm butt. A fine sheen of sweat rolls down his sun-bronzed flesh to puddle between her breasts. Rico rocks his hips forward again and again as she gasps in sweet agony. The sensation is pure and explosive and Val sinks into the darkness of…

…complete exhaustion. I’ve spent most of the night trying to wring every last emotion from my brain and create what I hope is sparkling prose. My muse deserted me halfway through an awkward scene and I’m struggling to tap in to the well of whatever talent I might possess. After staring helplessly at the keyboard for another fifteen minutes, I give up. The clock reads 2:00 am and I need to get some sleep before Zac wakes up at 6:30.

The earth shakes with the power of their climax and, as Val and Rico revel in one another’s passionate ardor, the very heavens weep at the depth of their love. The End

Friday, April 07, 2006

Philosophy Friday

(This is a photo I personally took last week of the Pontalba Apartments on St Ann Street, across Decatur facing the Jackson Square park. Sorry it's fuzzy but how cool would it be to live there?)

Still feeling the positive effects of a great conference
The scale is back under the 160 mark
Doing great with the pre-creating stage of a new book
Went to settlement on my grandmother's house

Last Friday, the Novelist's Inc welcomed certified counselor and licensed family therapist Eric Maisel for a two hour workshop on The Trials and Traumas of the Creative Life. Dr. Maisel has the typical psychologist's are-you-really-sure-you-want-to-jump-off-that-roof? voice but never did I feel he was talking down to us, let alone talking us down.

Dr. Maisel started off by saying that one of the only things we can positively control is the way we talk to ourselves. (Obsessive/ compulsive codependents with ADD like me, are you listening???) Not only do we negate things - "I'm a lousy writer because ________" - but we also say negative things in camoflage - "I'm so busy right now." or "I'm too tired to write." You have to change your mind, in other words change the way you think about yourself and your work.

The official mantra from my experience is I MATTER AND MY WRITING MATTERS. That means that my work is more important than getting the laundrt done. My work is more important than email. My work is [dare I say it?] more important than blog touring. My work is more important than any of the goofing off and procrastining I allow to interfere with my writing.

Another thing I learned (which could not be more pertinent since I'm scheduled to give a workshop on this topic) is that "all writer's block is self-censorship". We have to create in the middle of things; we need to clear away the 'white noise' of other voices- editors, friends, agents, reviewers, even readers- and protect the work, trust in ourselves and honor the process. You have to say, "I'm tired BUT I can still write." and "Anxiety is like a snow globe- everything will all settle down in a minute" and "I'm commited to loving the work in front of me becasue whatever else happens is part of the process."

A couple of authors who attened commented later that they are not the 'airy-fairy' or 'artsy-fartsy' type and this workshop did nothing for them. As for me, two hours was nowhere near long enough and so I was thrilled to find out that Dr. Maisel will be giving an all-day workshop at next year's NINC conference. I'm already there.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Open & Shut

Thanks to Paperback Writer for the idea to opening lines. I'm also going to take the initiative and add closing lines for the same book because I read somewhere that you sell the current book with the opening line and the closing line sells the next book.

"What will it be like to have a physical encounter with a stranger?"
"He closed the journal with a grin. Yeah. Reality beat fantasy every time."

"You're all I think about, all that I dream of. I can't wait to get my hands on you."
"Emelio gazed at his inspiration, his friend, his future wife, and smiled."

9 1/2 DAYS
"'I want you, right here and right now!' You may never have said those words... but you must want to."
"She smiled, even as her eyes filled again, and Danny smiled back. Jordan took his hand and walked with him toward the chapel."

"If you don't already have plans with Darren tonight, do you want to get together?"
"She snuggled against Chris's side when he kissed her cheek. 'Yes, absolutely. I finally found the love of my life."

So what do you think? Having never analyzed this before- and it's too late now since the books have been published!- do my closings have the same tone and impact as the opening? I think the first two do, and they even fit in context. But the last two... not so much. I felt I had to include an extra line so it made some sense. I'll have to keep this in mind for future WIPs.

Feel free to comment and to add your own examples.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

AI Obsession ended

Don't ever tell me that the producers of American Idol haven't got an agenda to make sure that the their chosen favorites stay on the show. I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist, but tonight's elimination was fucking outrageous.

(And so were last night's clothes. I'd like to bitch-slap the stylist who jacked up Kellie's boobs in a low cut pretty red top but put Mandisa is that nightmare atrocity zig-zag knit top that ended exactly where it shouldn't have mid-body.)

Mandisa is a talented, vibrant, gracious, beautiful woman who is blessed with a great voice. Kellie is very cute and slim and photogenic and manages to warble her way through a song. Anybody want to guess why the vocal performer was knocked off the show while the singing waitress remains? (Maybe it has something to do with the night Kellie dropped to her knees on stage in front of Simon?]

Anyway, my American Idol is officially over. Why bother to vote for my favorites when it makes no difference? I'm sure, given Mandisa's shocking elimination, Taylor and Elliott will go to the slaughter as well. (I like Bucky and Paris but they've been outshone for weeks now.) That leaves us with a Top 4 of Ace [dear lord, no], Katharine, Kellie and Chris - the two Simon has announced as his favorites in various interviews- in the final showdown.

I like Kellie, but I think and hope Chris is the next AI. It won't be thanks to my votes though.

NINC Conference- Collage session

One of the NINC @ Night sessions I went to was on story collage. Is it possible for something to be energizing and calming at the same time?

I'd been working since January on a collage for my romantic mystery at home, and though I brought it to show, I had no intention of working on it at the conference. So I thought I'd just goof around and be social. A page from GQ magazine with the headline 'His Orgasm' caught my eye [Hey, I write for Blaze!] so I started gathering all kinds of photos of sexy, half naked men. One nice big picture in particular caught my eye so I pasted him in the middle of a file folder and started cutting out the other guys just to slap on the page.

Then something... weird... happened. I looked, really looked, at the picture I'd chosen and the man's eyes began to haunt me, calling out for my attention. So I went with my gut instinct and abandoned my ode to orgasms and started trusting my instincts, just ripping and cutting words and phrases from various magazines that whispered "yes".

I ended up with not a goof off project that I'd later throw away, but a really powerful combination of images and ideas for a richly detailed, haunting story that I'm excited about writing!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NINC Conference- Butler workshop

As I posted before, the Novelists, Inc. conference in New Orleans was really great and I highly recommend the organization itself as well as the weekend retreat.

The all-day workshop was given by Pulitzer-prize winning auhtor Robert Olen Butler. He made it very clear that he writes literature, not 'entertainment fiction', however the workshop was still worthwhile. The best things I got from his workshop were:

1- Sensual selectivity: adding details to a scene that actually mean something, not just describe the setting. What the character is feeling should dictate the details they notice and reinforce the character's emotions for the reader. This realy resonated with me and rang so true. I think in a highly emotional moment we've all become transfixed by a frayed shirt cuff or carpet stain.

2- Thrum vs Twang: as a way of knowing instinctively when the words on the page flow like music from that white hot center as opposed to falling out of your head

3- Dreamstorming- It was nice to finally have a name for an in-place process [that looks like taking a nap to my husband]. Butler claims this form of pre-creating the novel can be used by pantsers or plotters. Basically you free associate in your head/ dream the scenes without trying to control or direct them. Then you jot a one sentence scene title on an index card and shuffle them into a plot. [For more detailed information on this, see my 2003 article S.C.A.M.P.E.R ]

4- Being in the Moment- Butler encouraged us not to avert our eyes, to break through the unconscious into what is authentic and to keep a Sense Space Journal. This is a 15 day diary in which every morning you write about something that happened the day before. But you only write the moment to meoment sensory perceptions, without explanation, adding context, summary, analysis or interpretation. The end result to supposed to be that we write from the character's sensibility and not from their head or our own.

All in all, not a great workshop while experiencing it, but I did end up getting a lot out of it. I'm going to read his book, FROM WHERE WE DREAM, which goes into the same topics in more depth and see what else I get.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Life and other stuff

My week-long discussion about AFTERNOON DELIGHT and Life Lists is starting over at the eHarlequin message boards. You can get there from here and I'll post blog stuff later.

And if you're one of the audio contest winners, I can't send you anything until I get your address!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Big Easy- little sleep

I just got home from the NINC conference in New Orleans. I'll talk about that more over the next week or two, but for now I just wanted to say a few things:

1-The conference itself was really good but having my Creative Partner there with me made it great. If you have long-distance writing friends that you rarely see or even have never met, I can't recommend enough going to a writer's conference together. Taking the workshops together and the time we spent together talking and brainstorming were priceless.

2-I'm saying it right here and now, though I'm sure some may be offended: NINC is now my conference of choice because at the multi-published level it has so much more to offer than RWA. As a pre-pubbed and as a newbie, we too often think that after getting published, it's all smooth sailing. But as Eileen Dreyer so rightly said in one of the night sessions, "As your career gets bigger so do your issues."

One of the good things about this conference was not feeling like I had to be 'on' all the time, not having to impress anyone or to be impressed. The best thing was the relaxed atmosphere. For some reason now editors and only three agents came. That ended up being really wonderful for the majority of attendees because we could let go and be forthright without worrying about being overheard or offending anyone when the talk turned to industry matters.

The best workshop of all was Eric Maisel's. Run don't walk to your bookstore and get any one of his books that speaks to you. He was great and just so 'got' the writers life and issues. Next year the NINC conference will be in San Diego and Mr. Maisel will be giving an all-day workshop instead of just two hours. I am so there!

3- Don't believe everything you hear about New Orleans in the news. Or at least try to be objective. Yes, there have been screwups, and no things are not back to anything except a 'new normal'. But if you've ever wanted to visit the city, believe it or not now is the time. The French Quarter was beautiful, the people could not possibly be more gracious and they really need your money. (The good lord and my credit cards know I gave them plenty of mine).

Many were angry that restoration was concentrated in tourism areas and that Mardi Gras went on as if Nero was fiddling. THAT'S NOT IT. The city was smart enough to know that if you clean up the tourism areas the tourists will come back. One of the waiters in the hotel said it best when he thanked us for coming because it meant he and the others would get paid this week. Contributing on a personal level is so much more satisfying for both parties than sending an anonymous charity check.

Anyway, enough for now, I need some sleep. But don't forget to come and join my Life List discussion on eHarlequin all this week!