"Novelist time is reptile time; novelists tend to be ruminant and brooding, nursers of ancient grievances, second-guessers, Tuesday afternoon quarterbacks, retrospectators, endlessly, like slumping hitters, studying the film of their old whiffs." ~ Michael Chabon
"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." ~Louis L'Amour
"As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing it till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall." ~Virginia Woolf
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." ~C.S. Lewis
"The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative." ~Doris Lessing
"Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer's life."
"You know, I'm a storyteller. We are storytellers. And ours is an ancient tradition, contemporized by the cinema and the capturing of light. And we should all be very proud of our place in society. On any given night, millions of people across the world buy a ticket for adventures that only we as storytellers can provide. We release burdens, we galvanize emotions, we make people laugh, we make people talk over breakfast. This is a great job and I want to encourage every one of you in this room to give everything you can to the story. God bless narrative. God bless originality."
2002 SAG Award Winner
"When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth."
"Don't be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done." ~Anne Lamott
"America is now wholly given over to a d****d mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash--and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed. What is the mystery of these innumberable editions of The Lamplighter (by Maria Susanna Cummins), and other books neither better nor worse? Worse they could not be, and better they need not be, when they sell by the hundred thousand." ~Hawthorne's 1855 letter to his publisher William D. Ticknor, quoted in Pattee, Fred L. The Feminine Fifties. NY: Appleton-Century Co., 1940. p. 110.
Yes, I wrote when my kids were young, but I started in 1989 and they were 10, 8 and 5, and in grade school. They were not a month shy of being 3 and enamored of Thomas the Tank Engine and Buzz Lightyear and Barney. A month shy of being 3 means all sorts of curiosity (“Where Percy going?” while watching Thomas videos) and wanting to learn, ergo, the shoe tying lesson as @cuppacafe was getting ready to leave for work. Once it warmed up enough, we went for a walk and found acorns (“These are what the squirrels eat?” “Why?”) and pine cones, and listened to birds (“They flying in the sky!”), and then a curious, “What that sound?” when we heard a wind chime. I had to hunt it down and point it out, and he was thrilled. The walk pooped him out, and when I suggested quiet time on the loveseat with Buzz, he didn’t argue, but crawled up onto the pillows and was out in five. I spent that hour and a half of quiet time working – if you can call it that, heh. But it was a V. V. good day!
I did get some words written yesterday, but not the number I need to sustain my deadline momentum. And since I haven’t done a giveaway in awhile, and it’s month end and I’m super busy, this seems like the perfect giveaway question.
How many words did I write yesterday while Sam was in the house?
Post your guess to the comments by Monday, March 1, 2010 at 8:00 p.m. CST, and I’ll draw one name to win a $10 gift card to Amazon.
Writing a romance about a real life couple is not a lot different than writing about a fictional one, except it is. I think authors who don’t like to plot because knowing where a story is going takes the fun out of writing it would have a hard time writing a novel based on fact. Everything is known in advance. Everything. There is room for literary license, but there’s not a lot for creation. Imagination, yes, as the author would have no way of knowing what was said at a dinner party, but the party would still be part of the story bible. When talking to the series developer for VOWS at one point, I made the analogy between writing a RB Romance and the movie Ghandi. In a true life dramatization, big events can be recreated, but the minutia is strictly the author’s to imagine.
For this innovated project, our couples were given lengthy questionnaires to fill out, much as we as authors would fill out a character chart, or at least develop our characters’ backgrounds. Early home life, education, likes and dislikes, etc. I got one of the questionnaires about a week before the other, so I sat outside in the backyard using it to jot plot notes, asking questions and “what ifs?” the same way I would for fictional characters. In the end, I went back to my couple to get more info. Once I had it, I did what I do with all my books and wrote out His & Hers goals and motivations (and you can see how I do that at this post). Just because these are real people doesn’t mean there wasn’t a force driving both of them to achieve something!
Yesterday when Takumi’s coughing woke me up at 5:30 or so, I started thinking about the book, so went ahead at 6:00 and got up. I’d received the second questionnaire over the weekend, along with a document of text messages my couple had sent, and notes they’d written to one another in cards, and needed to see how much of what I’d already written could stay (almost all of it) and where I needed to go next. I spent almost five hours doing nothing but reading their answers and make a timeline in a Google Docs spreadsheet. (I love Google Docs. Use it almost as much as I use my installs of Word and Excel.) I read through HIS answers first, all in his voice, then went back and reread HERS, also in her voice. “Hearing” them makes for an awesome writing tool.
The plan today is to take my timeline, make note cards of the events, shuffle, organize, or toss, and see where I need to fudge for maximum tension and suspense. I’m a big fan of Chris Vogler’s Writers Journey and then working all of that into a three-act structure for storytelling impact. After writing a lot of action adventure, which naturally plays out in easily defined acts, it’s going to be fun to do the same with a purely character driven book that uses only two viewpoints. Haven’t done that for awhile!
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones.
This book was long. As in LONG. I read it on my iPod Touch and it never wanted to end. Had to check B&N to get the page count. 448 in hardcover. And because it was more of a literary thriller, there were a lot of passages I wanted to race through, but I didin’t. I read every word. What I think interesting about this from a reading standpoint is looking at the Amazon reviews. 423 as of this writing, and they break down thusly: 98 5-star, 81 4-star, 72 3-star, 95 2-star, and 77 1-star. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a book where the opinions are nearly equally divided between good, bad, and meh. I honestly had only one issue with the story, or the narration, I guess. One of the 2-star reviews, talking about the narrator, Detective Rob Ryan, says:
(…) when Ryan addresses the reader at the end and suggests that we have been just as befuddled as he was
Uh, no. Not befuddled at all. Honestly, I thought Ryan was fairly stupid in his dealing with one character in particular who any reader will immediately see through – and a good detective should have. That said, I enjoyed the book a lot. Enough to order the next and pre-order French’s third. It’s wordy. It’s long. But for me it was an intriguing whodunnit. I mean, I knew, but I wasn’t sure of the why, so I hung around for that. A bit disappointed that another subplot of the story was left hanging, but since it wasn’t the focus of the book, I enjoyed what it added to the plot and the character of Rob.
“There,” says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by a meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about . . . angels.
Heather survived a childhood that culminated in her own parents’ murder-suicide, so she identifies deeply with Alice’s daughter, Katie, offering herself as a mentor to the girl and a shoulder for Stephen – who flees the pulpit to be with Heather and see if there is anything to be salvaged from the spiritual wreckage around him. But then the State’s Attorney begins to suspect that Alice’s husband may not have killed himself. . .and finds out that Alice had secrets only her minister knew.
Secrets of Eden is both a haunting literary thriller and a deeply evocative testament to the inner complexities that mark all of our lives. Once again Chris Bohjalian has given us a riveting page-turner in which nothing is precisely what it seems. As one character remarks, “Believe no one. Trust no one. Assume all of our stories are suspect.”
Like French’s book, Bohjalian’s was also literary suspense, though way more literary and much less suspenseful. Bohjalian is great at dropping unexpected clues and bits of info into his narrative so the reader can’t help but keep going. His characters share vignettes of their lives in long telling passages, but they’re done well, are interesting, and are tied perfectly into the present-day plot. Again, this one was not hard to figure out. It’s told in four sections, using four viewpoints, and seeing the same events through different eyes, learning what one person knew while another didn’t, worked brilliantly, because while I had no problems with how one of the characters told the story, I was amazed at how the others disbelieved so much of what that one said. I love storytelling methods that aren’t straightforward. Enjoyed this one a lot.
Yesterday we had a fun and super easy dinner. Casey, Taylor and Sam, and @hollykate came over. No. 1 Daughter was at her boyfriend’s, where she is most weekends, doing homework, so we had a small group and decided to cook stuff that was FAST. We broiled butterflied pork chops after dredging them in Char Crust and Crusting Blends, tossed a romaine, radichio and parmesan salad, boiled mini corn on the cob ears, and wilted spinach. Thirty minutes, prep to table, if that. The thing that took the longest, and nearly killed me, were the homemade jalapeno poppers.
I’d seen the recipe on My Baking Adventures, and bookmarked it. Yesterday seemed a good day, and I set about prepping fourteen peppers. I was very good to wash my hands a lot, and only had some residual burning after showering before going to bed. My thumbs took the brunt of digging out the seeds and membranes. (And, no, I didn’t have gloves to wear. One of these days I’ll remember to get some.) But halfway through I started coughing. Every breath burned. I walked away, tried to clear my throat and lungs, ended up having to down a Mucinex to get rid of all the hot burning goo. Remind me never to put myself in any situation where someone might find it necessary to pepper spray me. Doing it to myself was stupid, and painful enough.
My finished product picture is nowhere as good as hers, but then I barely remembered to take one with the camera on my Blackberry before they were all gone. I managed to save five for No. 1 Daughter who is a fan of all things spicy, though she’s not big on cream cheese. If she decides not to eat the leftovers, I certain will! Oh, and the hot wilted spinach was another of My Baking Adventures’ recipes, and mmm, mmm, mmm.
I thought I’d start introducing them to you a bit at at time, sharing some of what I’m writing, now that I have just about all the information they’ve agreed to provide. Am waiting on one more bit, but am already getting busy on the book, and have adjusted my sidebar Scribometer to reflect just this project. Anyhow, this is the song they saved for the final dance at their wedding.
I dare you not to choke up. Or at least swoon. ;)
I don’t get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here
And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it every day
And I know
That I am
What if I’d been born fifty years before you
In a house on a street where you lived?
Maybe I’d be outside as you passed on your bike
Would I know?
Cuz in a white sea of eyes
I see one pair that I recognize
And I know
That I am
I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you
Next door there’s an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away
I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong
That I know
when you’ve queried the pubs/agents you’re interested in working with/respect & the answer is always no, it’s time
Yeah . . . no. Here’s why that doesn’t work for me.
1) Think of the stories told over the years by authors who suffered dozens of rejections before selling their work. They believed in that work. They continued to submit until they found an editor who believed, too. In genre romance, we often forget the multitude of opportunities presented by small presses who might not be on our initial radar. A bit of research and voila! We’ve found an editor we never knew about who’s highly respected and who we would love to write for.
2) Agents sell and editors buy, but authors don’t write for either. We write for readers. Agents and editors facilitate getting our stories into readers’ hands, but there are other options. A number of authors give away freebie ebooks on their blogs, building a readership, and getting ahead in the promo game. Some of these authors have snagged the attention of agents and editors by making their writing available online. This wouldn’t have happened if they’d put the project away.
3) Giving up on a project before WE are ready is giving up on ourselves. I wrote a post at GenReality last year about a project I love. It’s made the rounds and there seems to be one element most editors don’t like. I can now take that information and rework the idea into something with more marketability. But as much as I love this project? I know there will be readers who share my love of this sort of story and will want to read it. I’m not going to put it away just because it hasn’t yet hit with any of the editors who’ve read and rejected. Somewhere out there is one who’ll read and buy.
4) Limiting ourselves to agents we know and respect leaves out the ones we’re unaware of. A friend of mine recently went on an agent hunt, and she found highly respected agents I’d never heard of. Agencies who rep huge names. Who have made huge deals. Others who aren’t as “out there” because they’re busy behind the scenes of some illustrious careers. There’s no need to short change our projects because we haven’t yet come in contact with “the one” who’ll be the perfect publishing partner.
5) Continuing to submit can result in contacts we can then parlay into something else. The project mentioned above? One of the editors who rejected it asked if I might be interested in writing an offshoot, taking it in a different direction. If I’d given up after submitting to my dream editors, this other opportunity would never have come along.
Bottom line. Don’t make the project about agents and editors. Make it about yourself as the author creator. I’ve let things go after one or two rejections because I knew it was time. Other things will make the rounds until there are no more rounds to make because I believe in them – and in my ability to tell those stories – that strongly.
* photo courtesy of vramak under a Flickr Creative Commons License
After @cuppacafe leaves for work, Takumi and Snickers like to get on the bed with me where I’m usually drinking coffee and doing a first blast of email reading on my Blackberry. Snickers is a cuddler. She’ll nearly push me or Walt off the bed trying to curl into a ball in the small of our backs or in the crook of our bent knees. Takumi enjoys scratchings and rubbings, but that’s it for touching. He sleeps a-l-o-n-e. And the two of them NEVER even THINK of using each other for comfort and warmth. Weirdos.
I had jury duty yesterday. I actually had it on the 3rd, but rescheduled so I could attend a conference call with my VOWS editor, the series developer, and the other authors involved. (How cool to be tapped for feedback!) Anyhow, yesterday was the day, and since @cuppacafe and I share a car, he dropped me off around noon (had to be there at 1:00 p.m.) then went on to work for awhile. I was seated as juror #12 on panel #2 of two. Forty minutes later, the judge dismissed us, leaving me WAY down south in Houston, and Walt WAY up north. 23 miles according to the first map below.
I walked across the street to get lunch at Jack in the Box, and I had my Asus Eee pc with me, so typed up a blog post, but after an hour of sitting, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was gorgeous outside, so I sent Walt a text and said I was going to walk and he could find me when he was ready to go home. This is not as weird as it seems.
From 2000 to 2004 or so, when I was working downtown and Walt at Greenway Plaza, we carpooled in from far west Houston where we live. He dropped me off then went to work, so when I got off at 5:30, I’d start walking. It was five miles from my office to his, and once out of the downtown business district, I got to walk through some historic neighborhoods with monstrous oak trees that had torn up sidewalks in front of huge old houses that I coveted. *g* I made it several times to Diedrich’s for a LARGE iced coffee to cool me down after those two and a half, or three miles (depending on the route). And I needed cooling down because I only walked during late spring, summer, or early fall when it was light enough, meaning it was also HOT.
When I set off yesterday, it was like taking a step (a lot of steps) back into my past. I’ve been walking a lot lately, around the neighborhood and at the dog park, but I get so bored I can’t wait to get home. Walking in the city is totally different. I love it. There’s so much going on. Small businesses and restaurants and considering the area of town I was in, I got to inhale the smells of spicy meats being grilled and hear a lot of chatter in Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages I couldn’t identify. I passed cute giggly school girls, and older women, weathered and stooped, heading to the bus stops and giving me big smiles. I passed one lean and cocky black guy with dreads wrapped all over his head and he smelled SO good! Drakkar, I think. I walked by the restaurant where I last ate dinner with my sister. I passed the House of Pies and was tempted to stop. Walt arrived when I was just shy of the 3 mile mark, about an hour and a quarter later. I’m ready to move closer to town so I can do the same thing daily!
I use one. I’ve actuallyusedtwo, but Alison Kent is my best known, and no part of it is my real name. Kent was my brother who was killed when the helicopter he was piloting crashed in 1987. When I sold in 1993, I knew I would use his name. My own first name has been mispronounced my entire life, and my first editor shared the misery and understood that I wanted to take a pen name. I had no attachment to any first names, so tossed her five. Alison was her favorite, so here I am.
The weird part is having good friends who met me as Alison, and even though they know my real name, most of the time address me by my pseudo. And I do the same to them. I know they have a different, legal name, but since we rarely see each other in person (at conferences, book signings, etc.) and only interact online, I think of them by their author persona. Sometimes when I email, I’ll use their real name, but usually I email their pseudonym. In any event, if they’re friends, I always sign my real name as it’s really weird to me to get email addressed to Alison by people I know.
Emails from readers and others that come to Alison seem normal, but those from people who know me, not so much. Anyone else suffer my same insane affliction?
"Every time you write, you go to a construction site in your head. The words are waiting there, like a couple truckloads of loose bricks. They're not going to build themselves into anything, no matter how often you talk to your hands or mouth-breathe or get in touch with your inner Tinkerbell. You pick up the bricks. You mortar them together on a page. You build a story out of them. And that's it. The sweaty, nerve-wracking, non-glittery, unglamorous, orc-free work of writing."
"Writing’s not rocket science. It’s a helluva lot harder. Because once you learn all that rocket science crap, you can (at least in theory) build a rocket. On the other hand, you can read every writing book known to man and attend classes and work with critique partners and get pages of editorial input and still end up with a book that doesn’t quite hit the high notes. Scary, but true." ~Karen Templeton
"My New Year's resolution is to focus on the book and forget all the crap that surrounds the writing business. To lose myself in a story, and not give a damn if it makes any lists, has a good sell-through, gets glowing reviews on Amazon, pleases my editors, hell, even pleases my readers. I want to love what I'm writing so much that none of the rest of it matters, and if I don't, I won't write it. Life's too short to abuse the muse." ~Anne Stuart