Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tentative Theory

I have a new theory I want to run by you all. First, you have to believe (as I do) in the law of attraction: that what you think about, you bring about. So if you're always telling yourself that you can't find a good man, you'll find yourself surrounded by losers. If you say things like, "I'm losing my mind," you will/are, but if you profess, "I've always had incredible luck with real estate," you do (much like Mr. Murdock). It's a bit more involved than that (yes, that was sarcasm), but you get the point, right? If you're thinking about all the good things you have, you attract more good things.

So what if large quantities of people are thinking about all the good things you have, and say, they're all happy that you have so many good things--does that increase the amount of good things that come to you?

I started thinking about this a while ago, noticing how celebrities, especially those that are loved for their personalities, like Oprah or Anne Hathaway (as opposed to those who are loved for their sensationalism like OJ Simpson or Paris Hilton), seem to reach a point in their career/life where everything they want seems to open up before them, and all they have to do is say, yes, please.

Now, I'm not saying that these people aren't working for it or that they don't deserve it. Instead, I wonder if there's simply something extra going on in the whole law-of-attraction way when a single person becomes "known" to a great many people, and all those people are now rooting for them, enjoying seeing them happy, just as those famous individuals are rooting for themselves. Does it open up a wider channel, say, from the Universe to them?

Of course, this is all highly unscientific, unless we're talking quantum mechanics, and I'm not qualified to do that. Obviously none of this can be proved, but my answer to the question is yes. I think that part of being famous and having so many opportunities for great things in your life has to do with the greater manifestation of the law of attraction at work (suddenly you're meeting the people you need to meet, being in the right place at the right time more often, etc.). If ever there was a better reason to want fame than to want to have more people rooting for your happiness, I can't think of one.

What do you think? Do you think I'm being too deep for a Tuesday? (I know you do, Cody.) Do you believe in the law of attraction?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Using the Senses

Every writing instructor and writing instruction book out there will tell you to show, not tell. One of the key parts of this glorified mantra is making sure every scene comes alive to all the senses. For me, smell is the hardest to remember.

Smell plays a key part in my daily life. (Remember the gum that made me pissy? The molding green tea/skunk smell in my kitchen, thanks to my neighbors?) Bad breath can turn a conversation sour. Sweet perfumes can cheer up a mood. The delicious smell of French fries will always make me hungry, no matter if I'm, say, stuffed to the gills with Mexican food or not.

I have to remind myself, when writing, to be so in the scene that I can feel the air-conditioned air against Madison's skin, see the evil creature she's stalking (and feel all the crazy looks she's getting), hear the blare of Christmas music on the mall's recessed speakers, and, yes, smell the cinnamon of Cinnabon.

I'm sure this week's NON author, Margaret Ronald, doesn't have a problem remembering to write in the odors of her world in Spiral Hunt. Her main character can track anything by scent. To read more about her new novel and her path to publication, check out today's Number One Novels post.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Possible Sickness

Is there such a thing as blogitis? I think I've got it. Last night, I trimmed several blogs off my list of blogs I follow. What was the first thing I did today? Add a new one to the list. It's a sickness, an obsession. There, I've admitted it.

Now I'm going to read all the new blog's past posts so I can catch up.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Trimming Down

I'll be the first to admit that I follow too many blogs. (In fact, I think I've said so already on this blog.) Yet, once Cody introduced me to the world of following blogs, it was hard not to add twice as many as I did. There's so much interesting stuff out there!

However, I've come to the conclusion that I simply can't go visit all the blogs I was following regularly--not and still have time for work, writing, and life--so I've had to cut a few. I still follow 17 blogs. I also still wonder how the people that follow 30+ do it. I guess you don't have to read every post.... Ah, what a dilemma, right?

The other motivation for this trim down: I'm stuffed. To the gills. On delicious, fatty Mexican food. And I thought, I should be eating healthier and trimming down a little in a more physical way. So this was my compromise to myself. I think it worked out rather well, don't you?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Topless Transporter

I’m a huge Jason Statham fan—not a big enough fan to see everything he’s been in, but I’m actually considering seeing Crank 2, so that should tell you something. We recently saw Transporter 3. I loved it.

The Transporter movies combine many of the things I like in my action movies: fast cars (and Frank’s car is the best of both my car loves—fast and luxury); car-chase scenes; good, well-choreographed fight scenes without too much close-up of the awful consequences of the blows but just enough to show that the main character is doing some damage; escalating danger; exotic locals; and a bit of romance.

Cody thought it was all right—not an action movie to get excited about, but not the worst action movie he’s scene recently. Perhaps it was because this Transporter film seem more geared toward women than the previous two. After all, there were two scenes where Jason Statham strips down to just his black slacks—once during a fight, once for sex. Both scenes included flashes to the lead actress giving Jason appraising looks, as if inviting the female audience to approve of the half-naked man on the screen as much as she does. I’ll accept that invitation. I hope you will, too.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another Favorite Found

This is a great week of rediscovering Internet things for me! Through Cute Overload, I discovered: "Greg Rutter's Definitive List of the 99 Things You Should Have Already Experienced on the Internet Unless You're a Loser or Old or Something." On his list, he has a link to a short film I haven't seen in about 8 years: George Lucas in Love.

I was first introduced to this film when I was in college in a film class. The teacher brought it in just for fun. I tried to show it to Cody later when we had dial-up Internet, and it was horrid. I haven't thought about it since, but I rewatched it today, and it's as cute as ever.

(Sorry for those of you who tried to access the video earlier, only to have it not work. It should be fixed now.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Review: Heat Wave

I've not read a collection like Heat Wave before: all three stories followed the same setting on a reality TV show, with all the characters as participants. Of course, the characters were unique to each author's story, though there were a few carry-over secondary characters. It made it fun to have them all connected and to see how they all approached the story differently.

My favorite story was by Katie MacAlister (or Marthe Arends, which was the name her story was sold under, as stated on the copyrights page, which I read). I think that people (read: I) tend to undervalue humor. I know I'll spend money on quality--I'll pay more for a BMW than a Prism, more for a Vera Wang dress than a Issac Mizrahi dress--but I don't always think about spending money the things that make me laugh. I'm more likely to see an action film in the theater than I am a comedy because somehow a comedy doesn't rate the same crazy-high theater prices as the action film does. MacAlister's novella made me rethink this logic. (Of course, I do tend to snatch up everything she writes, and all her writing is funny, so maybe my priorities aren't so skewed when it comes to reading choices.)

Jennifer Archer and Sheridon Smythe wrote the other two novellas. Of the two, Archer's was more my taste. Smythe's novella was well-written, but I didn't care for the characters. Archer's characters were fun. Still, neither could hold a candle to MacAlister.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. Did I remember to mark my favorite lines (all from MacAlister's story)? No. There is, however, a gecko that wears a bowtie at one point. Need I say more?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Finicky Eating

I've had the opportunity recently to spend several dinners with friends. I love getting to see everyone and chat. It's been great. It has also reminded me of something I tend to forget: I'm a rather finicky eater. Not by choice, or so I like to think, but it's a hard belief to cling to when everyone around me seems to be eating whatever's in reach and suffering no side effects.

I used to be stricter about my diet--okay, more accurately, I used to be vegetarian, but that wasn't working for me. So I added meat back into my diet. Only to realize that no matter how delicious a steak sounds, smells, and looks, the moment I put it into my mouth, I want to throw up. Pork has the opposite, but equally unpleasant reaction with my body. Then, more recently, I recognized my allergy to dairy.

All in all, it really limits things, according to other people. I tend not to notice it when I'm at home, since we typically buy only foods I'll eat. (Cody will get the occasional sausage or his own type of chips--oh, goodness, I just realized I'm picky about chips, too!--but he pretty much eats what I eat, since his dietary restrictions are basically nil.)

When people ask what I eat (because, in a lot of people's minds, if you don't eat beef, there's not much left to live off of), I describe myself as a meat eater of animals with two or fewer legs. Now I have to add, "no dairy." That means pizza with no cheese, no Alfredo sauces, no cheese-artichoke dip, no ice cream, no sour cream on my tacos or ranch dressing on my chicken sandwiches. Having just watched the way David Murdock eats, I think I should get a food processor and start adding in all kinds of juiced fruits to my diet. Wouldn't that just be great to tell people: "I eat the juice of ten fruits for dinner. Do you happen to have that many sitting around?"

I guess things could be worse.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Finally Found It!

Great rejoicing commenced at my computer desk the other day. Not for anything exceptional (like a book deal or having finished the edits of Conventional Demon), but for the answer to a nagging question that has sat at the back of my mind for at least a year and a half.

While I was at work (at the day job I quit), during a break (I'm sure), one of my friends sent me a link to this fabulous website. I spent the next forty-five minutes immersed in it, and I loved it so much, I knew I would remember its name forever.

I promptly forgot it.

I've been halfheartedly searching for the site every since. Thanks to Book Flap, I've found it again!

The site is called literature-map.com. There, you can type in the name of an author you like, and it creates this very cool brainstorm-esque moving diagram of similar authors to help you find new authors you might like. Give it a try. I promise you'll love it.

Unfortunately, first-time author Chris Salvatore (interviewed this week on NON) is too new be included on the site. The same is true for all the other fabulous authors NON has interviewed. However, you can help them be included by going to the Suggest a New Writer page (or simply by entering their name in the provided field, then confirm the name by clicking on the link. And don't forget to swing over the numberonenovels.blogspot.com to see today's new interview.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reading Cover to Cover

I recently found out that not everyone reads all parts of a book. To be specific, my dad doesn't read the dedications, acknowledgments (okay, fine) . . . or the prologues! What? Not the prologue?! And, no, my dad is not a literary agent bent on eliminating useless backstory prologues in the works of future authors. He simply feels that if the information wasn't important enough to fit into the main novel, it's not important enough for him to read it's (or so I'm paraphrasing). Shocking. Absolutely shocking.

I read darn near everything in a book. Here's a list of everything I've been known to read:
  • copyrights page (if I really like the cover art or if I can't tell if I may have read the book before in a different printing/cover cycle)
  • previous works written list
  • dedication
  • acknowledgements
  • any quotes or sayings that act as a mini-prologue to a novel
  • prologues (!!)
  • table of contents
  • the novel
  • about the author
  • about the typesetting (a few books have this, and I always find it interesting)
  • any Q&A included in the back
  • author's notes
  • bibliography (usually skimmed, but still interesting)

What I don't read:

  • marketing quotes about how great this novel is (or any others the author has written)
  • teaser first chapters of the next novel (I hate the feeling when I start a book that the words are so familiar, I should know what's going to happen but don't. If I know I like the author, I know I'm going to buy the next book. Reading the teaser usually also ruins the complete/conclusive feeling of the novel by opening the world back up again--if it's a series--or by starting a new set of characters' tale, which at that point, I don't care about, because I just want more of the characters I was just reading.)
  • ads for other books (occasionally I read these, but it's so rare, it's closer to never than often)

Am I obsessive? Do you read all these things? Do you read what I don't?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sneaky Spring

Something about this year's spring really crept up on me. First there was the overly warm late January early February, then it got incredibly stormy and more winterlike, but all the trees had started to bloom, tossing out flowers in the middle of week-long rainy stretches. I guess I got it stuck in my head that it was still winter, albeit a strange winter. Sitting around yesterday, with the windows open, birds chirping, my legs bared to sunlight for the first time since late 2008 in some comfy shorts, it finally sank in that it was spring. Officially, and seasonally.

Happy spring, everyone!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Short Films and Short Stories

Cody and I recently watched Paris, Je T'aime. This film is far from our typical rental norm, being (a) foreign, and (b) a conglomeration of short films.

I don't even remember how I stumbled upon it. I think I was looking up pictures of someone to prove to Cody how alike they looked. (I tend to think people look a lot alike, where other people don't. Take, for instance, Brat Pitt:

and Djimon Hounsou:

I think they could be brothers--skin color aside. Cody think's I'm crazy.)

Anyway, once we saw one of Cody's favorite actors (Steve Buscemi) was in one of the short films, and a few were directed by directors we knew (the Coen brothers, Wes Craven), we decided to Netflix it.

It was delightful, fun, and amazing how much story could be put into about five minutes. It made me want to travel. It made me want to learn French. It made me want to read short stories.

Given that the last was the only thing I can feasibly do at this moment, when I stumbled upon Heat Wave in a discount store the other day, and saw that Katie MacAlister (one of my all-time favorite authors) was one of the authors of a novella therein, I purchased the book. I've been laughing my way through MacAlister's story the last two days. I recommend it already, and I haven't even finished it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Special

Don't forget that today is NON's Thursday special. This week (due to a fortunate error on my part) we've got two interviews! The midweek special is Jeffrey Hantover's The Jewel Trader of Pegu. I feel like you had to have been under a rock to not at least have heard of this novel in the last year. Now's your chance to find out what Hantover has to say about his journey to publishing this best-selling first novel.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Research Trip

Because I wanted to make things easy for myself, I set my current novel in my home town, as I've mentioned before. But as I do all this world-building, new story ideas are coming to me, and not all of them are for plots that fit in the home town. Which has got me thinking: How do authors plan their research trips?

If the way this novel works is any indication, I would have to make about three to five trips back to the location in which I'd set the story. With each edit, I've realized I need more information, and at times, more scenes in new places. If I didn't plan for these changes on my original research trip (and how would I, not knowing how the story would change with edits), I'd have to return to the place of choice. That could get pretty expensive, given where I choose.

Of course, I suppose there's always the Internet, movies, documentaries, the library, and personal contacts to turn to, but nothing can quite replace the feelings/vibes each person gets when they're physically in a location. Plus, if Madison gets to go somewhere fun, I want to go too.

I've concluded that if just trying to wrap my head around what would be necessary to plot and plan a novel in a foreign-to-me-but-real-to-the-world place is hard, then I'd better wait for several published books down the line before I attempt such a feat. Still, I'm looking forward to it. And I just know that new story ideas will come to me while I'm traveling--they always do, and it'd be fun to see where it would take the series.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sustained Creativity

I'm world-building. I decided after my "Avoiding the Hard Stuff Never Works" post that I need to buckle down and answer all those questions about Madison's world that I've been avoiding. For instance:
  • What are all the creatures in the world, good and bad?
  • What is the larger organization that Madison works for like? What's it called? Who are the people running things? Do they have meetings? Conventions? Performance reviews of a magical kind?
  • What's Mr. Pitt's/Niko's past and what motivates him? (Both are key secondary characters who are in book 2 and who will be in subsequent novels.)
  • What are the things Madison is going to learn to do? How will I foreshadow that?
  • What are the things that Madison has yet to learn (about the world, about her powers) that are common knowledge to everyone else?

These are big, far-reaching questions. My goal is to work on these for two hours every day this week and see where I'm at come Friday. Today, I've put in an hour and a half and have 4+ pages of notes and several ideas for future books. All in all, very successful.

Still, that last half hour looms. Sustained creativity--sustained world-building, rule-making, story-parameter-defining--is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A NON Special

Number One Novels is having a first this week: two interviews in one week! Check over there today for the first one, and check back on Thursday for a special, mid-week interview.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Good Humor

After finishing Kim Harrison's novel, I wanted to switch gears from fantasy, and this little green book (The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski), which has been sitting on my shelf for almost a year now, finally called to me.

Here's the back flap: After a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June Parker finds herself in possession of a list Marissa has written: "20 Things to Do by My 25th Birthday." The tasks range from inspiring (run a 5K) to daring (go braless) to near-impossible (change someone's life). To assuage her guilt, June races to achieve each goal herself before the deadline, learning more about her own life than she ever bargained for.

Smolinski created a very lovable character in June, and a character that I found myself cheering for and laughing with (and at). The novel was very well paced with a believable storyline and a cast of enjoyable secondary characters. The best thing about it: it had a lot of humor--there were several places where I was laughing too hard to continue to read! If you like a good story of personal growth and a good laugh, this story's for you.

Sadly, I was all over Smolinski's site, and it doesn't look like it's been updated since a few months before this novel came out in 2007 (same with Smolinski's myspace page). I was really hoping for another novel in the works. However, the website says that the movie rights of this novel were purchased on March 22 (2007). A quick web search reveals pretty much nothing has happened on the film since the news was announced. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because I'd love to see this novel adapted to the big screen. If it happens, I'll let y'all know about it.

As I've mentioned before, when I read a novel, oftentimes there are certain lines that jump out at me as exceptional, funny, vivid imagery, etc. This book had several great ones:

The change in his face was like one of those square puzzles where you can move the pieces around to form a picture--it hadn't settled yet, and since I didn't know what it was going to be, I kept talking.

To which I'd countered, "But that's more about the thrill of meeting someone new than the torment of picking up their socks from the floor for the rest of your life." To which she'd then replied, "You wind up picking up their dirty underwear, too." Which, as it turned out, was a real conversation stopper.

I tended to think of myself as an only child--one who happened to have a sibling.

"...I convinced myself that my biological clock was ticking. I don't know...now I'm wondering if it was just gas."

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Yesterday was a great day. My mood was up. Everything was going my way. Cody had done many wonderful things for me that I asked for. And yet...I was irritated. Irrationally irritated. I did my best to not take it out on Cody, but I was snippy nevertheless. It was just that every time he would open his mouth, I would get more irritated. And it wasn't what he was saying. He was saying nice things. Asking me about my day. Telling me the things he'd done. Still, my irritation mounted with each breath.

It got better after a while. We went grocery shopping and to a bookstore (always a mood-improver). But then we returned home and I wandered back into the office. Almost instantly, I was irritated again. It was if there was something in the air.

Then my eyes fell on the pack of gum sitting innocently on Cody's desk. I snatched it up and took a whiff. My back molars wanted to grind together; my fists wanted to clench. I set the gum back down warily.

"I think this is annoying me," I told Cody.

He politely tried to look like I wasn't crazy. "The gum?"

"I think so."

I left it sitting there on his desk for another few minutes. The breeze blew in the window, carrying the scent of Extra Peppermint gum with it. I wanted to snarl at something. It was definitely the gum.

What a bizarre reaction! At least it explained why Cody was irritating me while he talked (and chewed gum) despite saying things I normally like to hear. Happily, the gum is now stored somewhere where I won't accidentally be influenced by its evil effects. Fair warning to all yee who might come in contact with me: Steer clear of the Extra Peppermint gum when talking to me, or it's mood-changing effects on me might leave you headless.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Benefits of Modern Writing

In the first (incredibly long) novel I wrote, I crafted the world completely from the ground up. I know the history five hundred years into the past, how organizations formed, how the politics work, how the lands were farmed and cultivated, where civilization sprang up and why. It was a massive undertaking, especially when you consider that all of that is just backstory for me to know. It was also incredibly fun, but when I finished the 1,000+ pages, I decided I wanted to make the next book easier on myself, so I decided to write an urban fantasy.

I based the fantasy (Conventional Demon) in the city I live in. Madison goes to places I've been to. Of course, I've created a few new places in the city, but there's still the Jamba Juice on the corner that Madison goes to for her drinks, and there really are office buildings where Madison's job is located. Even the nursery she buys her plants from really exists. I didn't have to do anything to create the physical world (not counting all the fantasy elements), and that was decidedly nice after the first novel.

One of the unforeseen joys of writing a modern novel based in my hometown was finding new places that Madison would like. I met with a friend today at a new nursery/cafe, and she prefaced the meeting with, "I think Madison would really like this place." She was right. I think Madison would adore it. I did, and we have similar (though not the same) taste. Meandering around the place even gave me a fun story idea. What a wonderful surprise.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Avoiding the Hard Stuff Never Works

I sat down today to work on Conventional Demon with a two-hour block ahead of me and no interruptions in sight. Not a one. I double-checked my email. No new mail. Checked the clock. Resisted checking blogger. Read through some notes. Checked the clock. Three minutes had passed. Thought of a great post idea. Refused to allow myself to be distracted into writing it.

Finally I had to face what I so clearly wanted to avoid: beginning the rewrites. While I was working on the scene-by-scene spreadsheet and making sure my story had all the elements of a good hero's journey (and all the scenes), I didn't have to face the daunting task of conforming old scenes into new rhythms, adding new transitions, and writing entire new scenes. I felt like I was making progress, and it was relatively easy. Now I'm faced with the hard stuff, and I really, really wanted to put it off. Fortunately, my overdeveloped sense of self-discipline kicked in, and two hours later, I'm typing this blog.

I had plans today to work on the first scene. I got about ten minutes into it and realized that I needed to understand Madison's motives better to make the scene really work--something I'd been trying to gloss over during the last several rewrites. That alone should have been a sign to me: If there's anything I'm trying to ignore or avoid, it's going to come back and bite me. I should just work through these things the first time. If I had, it would be so much easier now.

So I spent nearly two hours working on Madison's motivation. Three pages of notes later, I think I have it. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get more than two paragraphs into the rewrites.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Final Take

I finished Kim Harrison's The Outlaw Demon Wails last night, including the bonus short story at the back of the book. I was sad to see the book end, and I craved more, which is ironic considering my earlier post about how I felt there was too much story packed in. The closer I got to the end of the novel, the more that feeling of "too much" faded and the more I simply wanted more.

As always, Harrison left me in awe: awe that she can fit so much story in each of her novels. Even thinking about the systems she must use to keep it all straight from novel to novel leaves me in wonder. It also reminds me to pack a lot of story into my novels, because, as long as I have the appropriate breathers, all people really want is story, and lots of it. The reason I fell in love with Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake novels--the early ones--was because there was so much story in each one. (In the later ones, there's still a lot of story, but the novel only progresses 24 hours or some ridiculously short amount of time that causes my suspension of disbelief to be stretched uncomfortably thin.)

All in all, I loved the book (and feel a bit hypocritical saying that given my earlier post).

A side note: There are often certain phrases or sentences in each book that catch me off-guard and evoke an unexpected visual. These lines usually end up being my favorite lines from the novel, even if they aren't always lines that, say, resonate with me. I think it's the surprise of the visual that I enjoy. Anyway, here's my favorite line from The Outlaw Demon Wails:

"Living a lie tore at one's being and leaked out in the oddest of places."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I absolutely can't wait until people have read my book...for many reasons, but often, because I would love to share things on this blog that right now make absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn't read the book. I had a genius idea today that probably won't come up until at least book 3, probably more like book 4, and I really, really want to share, want to hear feedback and know what y'all think, and it's simply not going to happen.

Sigh. Maybe in a couple of years.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Even Novels Need Visuals

About two or three months ago, I stumbled across my first book trailer. I admit, I'm not the first to come across most new digital things, so they've probably been around a lot longer than a few months. However, has anyone else noticed an exponential increase in number of authors who chose to create trailers for their book? If I knew more about flash, film, or film editing, I'd be starting up a new business right about now.

The quality of these trailers varies from the most basic--pictures set to move like a slide show with a little music and frames of words to tell the story, much like the original "silent" films (check out Jerk, California and my interview with Jonathan Friesen on NON for an example) to highly choreographed, scripted, and acted previews (check out today's new NON interview with Jessica Brody and her phenomenal trailer for The Fidelity Files).

I'm not sure what I think about these. The future published author in me balks at these trailers because they feel like they're fast becoming one more thing I'll likely be expected to do to market my novel. I feel like I'm whining--okay, I am whining--but doesn't it seem ridiculous that authors are expected to be gifted in their craft and adept at marketing, selling, and merchandising (not to mention they have to run a website, have a facebook and myspace page, and have a blog)? (I believe Twittering is in there now, too, but I've yet to look into that.) Now we have to know how to put together a (very) miniature movie? I see why authors who make a living at this promptly hire personal assistants of one form or another. (Mom, I hope you're not going to be busy in about a year and are willing to trade your time for access to high-speed Internet...)

All whining aside, I realize the marketing genius of the trailers--it's easier to draw people in to view a two- to five-minute "preview" than to get people to read three paragraphs of text that says the same thing. Thus, more people are exposed to the novel, and more people can rush out and buy it, telling all their friends about it along the way.

As a reader, I love them. It's fun to see the author's interpretation of their jacket copy in a miniature film, and it's a quick way for me to learn about the novel. What's your opinion of book trailers? Have you seen a lot of them? Do you like them? Are you more inclined to buy a book if there's a trailer? Have you ever bought a book just because of the trailer?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fiction Paired with Life

Yesterday's post got me thinking: Do you think people are attracted to novels that are paced similarly to the way they wish their life were paced?

For instance, I like and have adapted my life toward what I term a European pace. I don't move through the world with the Puritanical rush that captivates much of American society. I don't like having my day busy from the moment I get up until I collapse in bed that evening. I've more of a stop-and-smell-the-roses mentality. When possible, I try to work no more than a thirty-five-hour work week, because my life isn't my work. I try to get out in nature, spend time with friends, and relax into the moment with Cody. I enjoy times of action and adventure, but I also appreciate the down times between them.

Yesterday, I discussed how I like novels that follow this pattern--adventure and intense action followed by a breather. Am I unconsciously seeking novels that mimic my own inner rhythms?

I know that many people don't live at their desired pace. Many people feel stuck in a monotonous routine, their daily lives filled with tedium. Are these the people that seek out the nonstop action novels/movies/TV shows? And those who live fast-paced, nonstop, every-moment-scheduled lives, where their workday begins on the treadmill with their crackberry and doesn't stop until late at night, when the last email is taken care of, long after their children are in bed--do these people seek out the slower-paced fiction, the novels that take them to a different time and world, where time moves in longer strides and the colors and moments are brighter, more intense, more in focus?

Is our choice in fiction a subconscious (or conscious) pairing with our own inner rhythms, and when necessary, a way to harmonize ourselves, if only for during those moments in which we escape into the world of the author's creation?

Or am I reading too much into this?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Too Much Story

Is there such a thing as a novel (/TV show/movie) having too much story? I'm beginning to think that it's possible. There's a very fine line between packing in as much action as possible, and packing in too much action.

I'm currently reading Kim Harrison's The Outlaw Demon Wails, which is what brought this question to mind. I truly enjoy how real to life Harrison manages to make her fictional world, and how complex and real her main character, Rachel Morgan, feels. I love how life interferes with Rachel's plans as much as it does any real person's. However, I'm only halfway through the novel, and I find myself wondering how Rachel is able to keep moving. She feels real, reacts real, but has so much stuff tossed at her, does so much in a day, that if she really were real, she'd need an adrenaline shot every once in a while just to keep it up.

I imagine that fans of the TV show 24 can relate. I've never watched the show, but the fact that Jack Bauer never falters after twenty-four hours of nonstop action, always managing to save the day and the world (right?) begins to stretch the boundaries of willful suspension of disbelief. At some point, even heroes need to sleep, need to eat, need to take a breather and relax. Even real-life special-op marines sleep (perhaps only in four-hour increments, but they sleep nonetheless).

Similarly, I used to adore Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series, but in the more recent installments, I've found it harder to suspend my disbelief as Anita goes longer with less and less sleep and more and more strenuous physical activities.

Yet, reading about people relaxing isn't exactly captivating, is it?

Like I said, there's a fine balance. As a reader, I need the downtime as much as a character might. I need time to appreciate the events that have just happened, the changes that have just altered the character's lives forever. I can think of several authors that manage to make these "down times" as memorable as the high-action moments, their knack for pacing immaculately tuned. Off the top of my head, there's Peter V. Brett (obviously fresh on my mind), Jacqueline Carey, and Charlaine Harris. All three have completely different styles, but all three are masters with pace.

Don't get me wrong, though. I still love Harrison. I just have to pace myself while reading her.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Fresh Notebook

I used up my last spiral-bound notebook while working through the scenes of Conventional Demon and have been at a loss for a new one for a few days. Okay, I had another notebook, but it wasn't the one I wanted (the lines were too dark, seeming to cloak and confuse my words even as I wrote them). All notebooks are not created equal.

Life without a reliable notebook is a tense thing. While it's not an emergency, it did throw a kink in my workday. It took me over a half hour to realize that the four-inch stack of used-on-one-side printer paper would work just fine. A half hour. Clearly, not having a notebook messes with my head.

Today, I got a lovely new notebook that fits my specifications: college-ruled, light blue lines, serrated pages, three-hole punched, with a durable cover. It just happens to be bright pink, and I love it.

I now have two hundred blank pages just waiting to be filled with notes and new story ideas. Life is good.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I receive the weekly Publisher's Lunch deals emails, in which they list the previous week's worth of reported books that have been sold by agents to editors at major publishing houses. In there, they have a special "debut" section, which I use to mark future author's I'll be looking to contact for NON interview sometime in 2010.

These debut authors, to have made it into the deals list, have been signed with an agent and then had their novel sold, a process that can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, from what I've been reading. In other words, they've had some time to prepare for their upcoming sale. And yet, you'd be surprised (I was shocked) at how few of these authors have websites up and running.

The website, I believe, is the baseline of most people's search when they hear of a new author. They won't go to the publisher's website or to the Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Borders site or bookstore--no, they'll Google you. And if you can't be found easily (if your site doesn't come up in the first ten Google hits), most people aren't going to look much further for first-time authors.

Why, why, why would you not have a website up as a debut author? It doesn't have to be fancy. Just a little page that says who you are and what your book is about. Once you have a publishing contract, a picture of your novel's cover and a link to where and when people can buy it is pretty simple to create, too.

I was even more astonished to find this phenomenon to be prevalent among published authors, even authors with multiple publications under their name. Websites can be free, as easy to create as setting up a blogger account, or as expensive as hiring someone to design and maintain it. But websites, I do believe, are absolutely essential. I wouldn't start a business without one. I wouldn't attempt to sell a novel without one.

Am I out of line here?

Most important, all you debut authors out there: How am I supposed to contact you to interview you for NON if you don't have a website where you can be reached?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Flaws Give Perfection

I have a weird way of telling if I'm truly absorbed in the world of a book (because sometimes these things sneak up on me). It's a way I'd typically keep to myself because it's kind of embarrassing: I start to curse as the characters would.

While reading Anne McCaffery's Pern novels, I found myself thinking "Shards" when I would spill something. While absorbed in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, it was "Light" or "Blood and ashes!" With Harry Potter, it was "Wicked" (though that's less of a curse than just an exclamation).

With The Warded Man, it was no different. Last night, after I'd finished the book in record time, I found myself cursing "Core" when I discovered my heater was broken, and "Creator" when I was peeved that the maintenance men hadn't arrived to fix my leaky ceiling. It was then that I knew that I'd been completely sucked into Peter V. Brett's world.

The Warded Man captured me from the first page, sucking me into the strange world where vicious demons rise from the ground at night and are kept at bay only by special wards people paint on their houses. The plot idea was intriguing all by itself, but it was the characters that made this novel.

Brett's characters, from the three main protagonists to the cast of dozens of secondary characters to the extras populating the cities, rang true and real, rounded out by flaws and strengths unique to each. I loved the way Brett explored his characters through their weaknesses, each ordeal challenging a flaw, pressing them to either grow or be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Even better, the main protagonists did not always make predictable choices, did not always rise to every challenge nobly, but they managed to grow and change without becoming paragons of virtue or predictably perfect.

The pacing of this novel was also handled masterfully. Unlike my recent read of Gaiman's Anansi Boys, Brett managed to put his protagonists through hell, but still give them (and me) breather time to celebrate small successes and to build toward greater hurtles.

When I finished the book, I felt like a petulant child given a taste of cake and then denied an entire piece. More! I thought. I want more! More story, more time with the characters, more adventure. The book isn't even out yet in stores, and already I want to read the next. Obviously, I highly recommend this novel.

Here's to Brett finishing book 2 much faster now that he's using all his fingers to type, and not just his thumbs.

(And a reminder to all: NON interviewed Peter V. Brett back in January. Go to numberonenovels.blogspot.com to see that interview, or click here.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Third Act

I've been putting in some large chunks of time with Conventional Demon these last few days. The goal is to figure out what is missing, because something is. Hence, the extensive scene-tracking spreadsheet.

First I started with Robert McKee's Story, and by checking the story value (the universal qualities of human experience that may shift from positive to negative or vice versa) of each scene, I figured out which scenes were simply filler and which needed to be strengthened. To clarify, each scene should have a shift in story value, such as love to hate, freedom to slavery, truth to lie, hope to despair. If a scene stays at the same story value from the beginning to the end, it's a wasted scene. Pay attention next time you're watching a movie or reading a book: every scene should shift the mood from one extreme to another along a certain specific story value.

Then, I tried to map the stages of the journey according to the wonderful rules of Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey. Whether you're conscious of it or not, almost every good movie you see and book you read follows this specific "hero's journey," from Pulp Fiction to The Full Monty to Sense and Sensibility to Carrie. Everything was going great until I got to the Ordeal phase, which should come about halfway through the book as the first major climax (though not THE climax). Only, for me it was THE climax at the end.

Several hours later, and using up all the rest of my notebook on notes and ideas and I came to a depressing/joyous conclusion: CD is missing the third act.

Every story typically has three acts, and the entire last act was missing! I won't go into all the details why and how, but it definitely wasn't there. How depressing, right, that I completely missed this fact in the dozens of times I've read it? But how wonderful that I figured out what's wrong! I've got some serious work ahead of me, but at least I now have a chart to guide me!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rain Woes

For all that know me, you know I love the rain, and it's been raining nearly nonstop for a few weeks now. I love the way it cleans the air, and the way the marshland streams swells to small ponds and the cranes wade through on long, spindly legs. I love the swirl of a storm through the wind chime outside my office window.

Rain is perfect for almost all my hobbies and work. What better weather is there for writing? (Why do you think so many authors live in Seattle?) What better weather is there for reading?

Of course, all this joy for the weather hinges on a vital factor: being safe and warm, and for reading and writing, inside and dry. It's a very crucial factor, in fact, especially if said writing is being done on a computer. (Though I suppose paper doesn't fare much better in rain than a computer, but at least there's no fear of electrocution.)

Yesterday, I woke to the sounds of water dripping from the roof onto my ceiling. I tried to fool myself into believing that I was hearing water dripping outside. I wasn't. There's a discolored stain across my bedroom ceiling. Maintenance men are coming today to assess the damage and repair the roof. Later they'll be by to fix the ceiling. What a pain, though fortunately it's not as bad as it could be.

To distract myself from my wet woes, I've been reading--I'm over halfway through The Warded Man and I see why it's getting so much acclaim. It reminds me a bit of early Robert Jordan, Wheel of Time novels.

If you also need a distraction, there's a new NON author interview up: This week, we interviewed Ken Scholes about his first novel, Lamentation, which is also the first book in a series. When Orson Scott Card is praising your debut fantasy novel, you know you've written something fabulous. Check it out at NON.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

As Spicy as Promised

I just finished Lora Leigh's steamy paranormal romance, Mercury's War, and I thought this book might be a good one to test out a review format I've been toying with. Tell me what you think--Is it helpful? Are there other things you think I should include?

Mercury's War

Synopsis: Someone has been slipping the Sanctuary’s secure information to a pharmaceutical company. Now it’s up to Ria Rodriguez to pose as a clerk and uncover the leak. Yet she has no idea of the danger she’s about to encounter—or the passion she’s about to ignite in one of the greatest Breeds ever created

General Fiction Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Genre-specific Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Characters: Both main characters had the same two inner issues to overcome--finding a place to belong and learning to accept themselves for who they are. They're unique, fun, and full-bodied, believeable despite Mercury being genetically enhanced with lion's DNA.

Plot: I loved how much action (in the bedroom and elsewhere) that Leigh packed into this novel. I liked how she explored both the themes (the character's inner struggles), making the opposite one easy and hard for Ria and Mercury. What I didn't like was the surprise reveal of a major character detail more than three-fourths of the way through the novel. I won't give it away, because it changes a lot of the story. It was one of those moments when I had to reread the last few pages to see if I'd missed anything. I hadn't. There were, when I thought back through what I'd read, some minor foreshadowing moments that could easily have been nothing that perhaps were supposed to clue me into the character's true nature. Either I'm dense, or it wasn't well done.

There were also some minor annoyances throughout the novel--inconsistencies in time, inconsistencies in the way characters were referenced, which added unnecessary confusion--but like I said, these were minor.

To Recommend or Not to Recommend: Despite that character twist and those minor discrepancies, I would still recommend this novel to lovers of paranormal romances. As Angela Knight says best on the cover of the novel, "When I'm in the mood for a steamy romance, I read Lora Leigh." I recommend the same of you.