Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This Writer's Life

There are hundreds of platitudes about writing. And although platitudes are overused expressions and sometimes trite, these little tidbits spring from somewhere. The original message may contain a nugget of wisdom but overuse often causes any kind of insight in the original words to wear thin.

I recently read the following at Mud, Mambas and Mushrooms a blog written by middle grade author Kurtis Scaletta:

I’m not a big fan of platitudes, and they abound in writing (or any creative endeavor): that you should follow your dreams, that persistence will be rewarded, that you have to believe in yourself, etc. My main opposition to such platitudes is that they are untrue. Which is not to say they are false, just that they just don’t have enough substance to have a factual status. I think people become preoccupied with the platitudes, thinking of themselves as that storied ant with the rubber tree plant as they query an eighth round of agents, rather than taking stock of the situation after the seventh round of rejections. The truth is that the secret to success at anything meaningful is impossible to condense into a memorizable principle.

While I agree with Mr. Scaletta on some level, I also believe that platitudes do serve a purpose. They encapsulate a belief, a truism, that upon further inspection can push a writer through a tough time. I do agree that some authors rely on platitudes instead of doing the necessary work. On the eighth round of rejections you are no longer the proverbial ant but a writer with a problematic manuscript. There can be any number of problems but there are problems and you, the writer must address and determine what you want to do to fix the challenges present in the writing.

The first challenge can be that the writing isn't there yet. I think after eight rounds of rejection you must assess your skill level. You need to determine *what* exactly has gone wrong in the pages. Ask yourself some hard questions about the work. Join a critique group. Workshop your pages/manuscript. Take a class. Read craft books. Pick up information from the rejections you receive. It's not easy sifting through the rejection letters for nuggets of gold but they are often in their. Take the bits that confirm what the nagging editorial voice in your head has been telling you about the piece and fix the problem.

Another challenge, which I see more and more is that the publisher doesn't believe they can market the work. This is a tough economy. There is little margin for error in any industry much less publishing. If the marketing department can't tell you exactly where the book will be shelved, and who the target reader is then guess what? An editor can *adore* the project and still you will not sell. But there is a big difference between the first challenge and this one; the editor will tell the author that they adore the project. So please, don't mistake the eight rounds or rejections with a marketing department that is unable to market your masterpiece. There is a fix for this challenge too and neither is pleasant especially if you have a piece of work that editors rave about but can't seem to get traction within the house. An author with this challenge can rewrite or wait out the market.

With both of these challenges I believe that: you should follow your dreams, that persistence will be rewarded, and that you have to believe in yourself. Any creative endeavor requires the belief in all three. Not a blind unseeing faith that all will work out if only the writer recites the above as if a creative mantra. But instead as a credo that can get a writer through challenges. You must do the work. A platitude does not replace the necessary work. The hours at the keyboard. The weeks spent rewriting, editing and rewriting again. A platitude is never a substitute for taking a hard look at the writing and diagnosing the problems. But the little platitudinal words, may, on a bad day (and their will be bad days) help you to get through to the next page.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Funny

Oh my. Change is frightening. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Criminal Instinct by Kelly Parra

Ooo boy! I love it when a friend has a new book on shelves. And I love it even more when said book can be downloaded to my handy-dandy Nook. Criminal Instinct by Kelly Parra is a brilliant knew romantic-suspense. Kelly is the author of Invisible Touch (currently under option to be made into a film), Graffiti Girl and now Criminal Instinct.

Great cover, right?

Kelly was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her latest book and her writing process.

Tell us about Criminal Instinct

Hi Maggie, thanks so much for chatting with me! Criminal Instinct published by Carina Press is my debut into adult fiction. CI is a fast-paced urban romantic suspense story involving drug trafficking. Here’s the official blurb:

Five years in prison or five years working as an undercover agent?

Not the easiest choice for Ana Moreno, who has a history of B and E convictions and a problem with authority. But it’s a decision she and four other felons are willing to make to stay out of a jail cell.

When a deadly shipment of Ecstasy heads for San Francisco, Ana’s team is sent to stop it. Ana’s task: get close to the handsome and dangerous Jonas Saven, right-hand man of a suspected drug dealer with a deadly agenda. As Ana uncovers a web of secrets, betrayal and revenge, her heated attraction to Saven grows.

But with time running out to stop the dangerous drug lord, Ana must complete her mission—even if it costs her everything...

What is your writing process like? Do you outline or are you more organic?

I often use a short synopsis to keep me going when I get stuck, but I don’t usually outline. Ideas usually come to me as I’m doing my everyday life stuff, groceries, running errands. Haha!

What is a typical writing day like for you?

A typical day usually consists of getting the kids ready for school, then a morning of emails and promo followed by shifting into creative mode for some writing. All the while fielding phone calls and urgent emails. Can you tell I’m not very organized? *wink*

What's surprised you about being a published author?

I think what surprised me the most in the beginning of my career was all the time and promotion the author has to squeeze in while trying to keep writing and with a busy family life. It’s really tough when you have young ones. I try my best to keep a schedule but there are times when life overwhelms.

But what has also surprised me is the warmth and reception I’ve received from readers. If readers connect with one of your stories, it’s amazing the lengths they will go to let you know how much they have enjoyed your story. It’s always a pleasure to hear or read positive feedback!

What's next for you?

Right now, I’m working on two projects. A new young adult title and hopefully another romance!

Thank you Kelly! Best of luck with the new release Criminal Instinct. Now, Dear Reader, go buy the book!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise and an Orangutan

Last week I was asked to comment on Tom Cruise and his current career and how he might rejuvenate his place in the movie world. You can see my comments as well as Reed Tuckers' article here.

PS my quote is on page 3

Happy Reading.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Sit Down

Ah yes, there it is again THAT word: *Notes*. I believe I've mentioned the process once, twice, (perhaps a hundred times) on the blog. But here it is again. Like a rash. Notes.

Yesterday was all about Producers and Development Notes and The Sit Down.

But we may have cracked the story. Or at the very least discovered ways to get around the primary challenges within the material. Challenges that had me stumped. Stumped. I'd sit and stare at the first 25 pages. Read. Reread. Stare. And ask; "Why isn't this working? This should be working. But it is totally NOT working." Then read these pages again...and again...and again. Plus it is time to nail this sucker down. Kick the script to the next level... 'break on through to the other side' to lift a fantastic line.

But it wasn't...breaking through. And I couldn't seem to find a hatchet, or a hammer, or an ax. Until yesterday and The Sit Down. With The Producers. At my request. Yes, they provided notes last week. Actually excellent notes. But there is something about a face to face meeting that I think when all the parties are invested can bring out MORE. Perhaps even the BEST ideas.

Lucky for us the Sit Down did provide good ideas. We discovered more twists. Twists, that we quite possibly, we wouldn't have discovered without The Sit Down.

Love The Sit Down.

So the meeting is over. And I have notes. Notes on top of notes. Which means I have an awful lot of work to do.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Posts + My Top Ten Favorite Foods!

My apologies for the lack of posts. Lots of deadlines! Lots to read! Lots to edit! I hope to get back to a normal-ish schedule next week. But now?

Top Ten Favorite Foods:

10. Cheetos

9. Pancakes

8. Lox, Cream Cheese, and Bagels

7. Grilled Salmon

6. Houston's Spinach Dip

5. Chocolate..anything.

4. Brie

3. Fried Chicken (although I don't eat chicken or red meat anymore...love this and miss it!)

2. Mashed Potatoes

1. French Fries! Loads and loads of French Fries!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Raised By Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Jennifer Lynn Barnes, newest book Raised By Wolves is out and it looks absolutely fab!

Jennifer writes for the young adult market. I have a deep and abiding love for all things YA so I am excited about this book.

The Plot Summary:

At the age of four, Bryn watched a rogue werewolf brutally murder her parents. Alone in the world, she was rescued and taken in by the mysterious Callum, the alpha of the local werewolf pack. Now fifteen, Bryn's been raised as a human among werewolves, adhering to pack rule (mostly). Little fazes her.

But the pack's been keeping a secret, and when Bryn ges exploring against Callum's direct orders, she finds Chase, a newly turned teen WEre locked in a cage. Terrifying memories of the attack on her mom and dad come flooding back. Bryn needs answers, and she needs Chase to get them. Suddenly, all allegiances to the pack no longer matter. It's Bryn and Chase against the werewolf world, whatever the consequences.

An exciting new paranormal adventure with a heroine who rivals Buffy, Raised By Wolves will leave you howling for more.

The Reviews:

"RAISED BY WOLVES is, quite simply, the most compelling YA werewolf book out there. I want it to be a series so I can linger longer with these characters." - Melissa Marr, New York Times Bestselling Author of Wicked Lovely

"The mysteries of Bryn's identity should keep readers hooked, and there's plenty to discuss in terms of gender roles and Pack politics." - Kirkus Reviews

"Fascinating glimpses into pack family dynamics add depth and texture to this latest entry in the werewolf oeuvre... Barnes has produced an appealing addition to the ranks of contemporary fantasy-horror." - Booklist

Congratulations Jennifer. Now, Readers, go pick up a copy of Raised By Wolves!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Funny

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hello June!

I hear the flip flops of Summer slapping the pavement behind me and I am shocked that we are in June. June?! Wasn't my birthday 2 days ago? I wore jackets and long-sleeved shirts (this accounts for winter-wear is Southern Cal) a mere yesterday. And now the pavement is hot and people sport pedicures (my toes are so not ready for their summer debut) and tank tops and beach tans. The children are about to be released on summer parole and me with a mere handful of activities to keep them busy for the 90 days that I am activities director. In two and a half weeks they are home full time.
Sixteen days.

I must accomplish a great deal of work before the girls are home, as once they are here, well the rhythm of the house changes, not in a bad way, but in a summertime way. The rules grow lax. Bed times become a distant memory as the sun stays up well past 8 pm. More ice cream. More beach time. More pool time. More friends and more travel. And somehow with the demise of the children's schedule, my writing schedule feels negotiable instead of concrete. As much as I rail against structure, I thrive with it. The metronomic beat of; they get up, they go to school, I write, fades... A distant beat as life, summertime life, eats into my writing life.

I must fight harder for all the writing hours I need (as this is my job, I just happen to do it from home) when the children are about. And it's not just them. Oh no, it's me too. What a delicious procrastination tool. I can think of nothing better than putting off a tough scene by eating ice cream with the girlies or swimming in the pool, or visiting family. No. It isn't the girls. It's me too. But the writer in me needs the time to put down words.

So Summer, we can hang and all, but I still need to get my work finished.