Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to wish Merry Christmas to all my friends who celebrate it- as well as a VERY late Happy Chanukah and Happy Solstice!

Whatever way you celebrate this time of year when days grow short and dark (ok, sorry you southern hemisphere folks ;))- HAVE A GREAT ONE!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Great first chapters!

And no, they're not mine-lol.

One of my favorite authors, LIsa Shearin, just posted the first three chapters of her next book (it will be out in spring). Even if you haven't read her other books yet-I think you'll really enjoy this! (And this way you have time to go buy and read the others before this one comes out ;)

So follow the magic link to the first three chapters of Con & Conjure!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Writing is like a box of chocolates....

Today I’m blogging not about Forrest Gump, but about that box of chocolates he kept going on about. We’re smack dab in the holiday season, and I’m continuing my writing and goodies vent from last week (recipe to follow ;)).

You know how it goes, you look in a nice big box of chocolates, trying to scope out which one is the kind you like. You look for hints, clues to ferret out your favs. Maybe the last time you had some candy, you had a wonderful caramel one that was milk chocolate and square. So, you look for one that’s like that.

Problem is- other ones may be the same color and shape…including ones you *gasp* may not like. (I’m a See’s Candy gal myself- and except for coffee ones, have yet to find one I really disliked- but I’ve heard of this in theory.

Using your chocolate loving memory, you grab the most likely suspect, bite into it- and it’s a vanilla cream. Now you may not hate vanilla cream, maybe you even like it, but you really had set your mouth up for a nice caramel.

How do you feel about that candy? Bummed? Disappointed? Maybe even think that there’s something wrong with it?

Now the connection to writing (yes, there really is one ;)) has more to do with reading. What the agent, editor, and finally the reader perceive the story will be verses what they actually receive.

Have you ever picked up a book, checked out the back cover blurb, maybe even read the first few pages? You’re excited, you think you have an idea of what this story is going to be about, so you buy it.

Then you get it home and after page 10 it turns into a vanilla cream (nothing against them mind you ;)).

Now the book may be a well-crafted work. It’s just not matching what you expected- what you had your mouth set for.

Maybe you’ll keep reading, maybe you’ll stop and go back another day, maybe you’ll throw it across the room (depending how betrayed you feel).

Now think about agents and editors. They too use cues (all humans do- schema building is one of our big tricks ;)) to pick out what they think they’ll like. They start reading with a certain expectation of where things will go.

But when the vanilla cream jumps out at them, they most likely are going to step away from the project.

So how can we as writers make sure that we don’t confuse our readers (whether they be agents, editors, or fans)? We need to make sure that our beginnings match our middles (and of course- ends ;)).

I recently had that problem. An agent got a certain feel from the beginning of my book- it looked like something she’d like based on her perception.

The book wasn’t like that at all.

Her comments were mostly about nudging my book to meet her expectations. By this I don’t mean revise and send back. I mean, “here’s what would make it better- but I’m not interested.”

Most of the “make it betters” were changing the direction of my book. Now to be fair, I didn’t submit to this agent, and once I read some things on her, she wouldn’t have been on my list. Absolutely nothing bad about her, but she mentioned she prefers darker projects- and mine are not dark.

However, the one she asked to see starts out dark-ish. It looked like a caramel, when in fact- it was a vanilla cream.

Now this wasn’t the only reason she passed- she had some other very legitimate concerns, and like I said- she likes darker stuff- my stuff is fairly light.

But what if the situation were different? What if she had been my dream agent, someone who would have loved my stuff---only she thought it was something else. What if that difference was enough for her to pass?

Can we as writers take the chance that our perfect agent will walk because our beginning doesn’t match the rest? What can we do to make sure the "feel" of our story is consistant?


Ok, I don’t make chocolates, so can’t toss in a recipe for that- BUT I do have a very oogy gooey treat called “Sin”. (Even better- there’s no mistaking what’s in it when you look at it ;)).

One box German Chocolate Cake Mix
One stick butter (melted)
One can Evaporated Milk
50 caramels
One bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cake mix, melted butter, 1/3 cup of evaporated milk together.
Press half of this into a 9 X 13 inch pan and cook for 7 minutes.
While it’s cooking, melt the caramels and another 1/3 cup evaporated milk.

When cake comes out (will be very, very flat) sprinkle the chocolate chips over it, then pour the melted caramel on top. Take the remaining cake mix mixture and working with tiny pieces of it, lay it out over the caramel. (Flatten the pieces out, and place them out to cover all of the caramel.)

Cook for another 6-7 minutes.
Let cool- A REALLY long time. This is messy as heck to cut, so the longer you cool it the better ;)
Enjoy the recipe and don’t forget to comment about the “chocolate” issue!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing, Perfection, and Fudge

It’s the holidays! So let’s tie together writing and holiday food, shall we?

This week I was making some of my cheater fudge. I call it cheater because I don’t use sugar, so I don’t run the risk of that grainy taste many homemade types of fudge get.

Now my first batch started to go funky. The chocolate wasn’t melting right, and was clumping in a very bad way. In that, “oh crap- ruined the chocolate cause it got over cooked and is now seizing” way.

I was not happy to say the least.

But instead of dumping it, like I have in years past, I added more butter and beat the hell out of it.

It worked!

Instead of giving up, I fought to find a way to fix it and won.

How many times as writers have we tossed out the “bad chocolate” in our writing? We’ve worked on something, it gets tough, or screwed up, and instead of fighting through we just give up and start something new?

I think as creative folks, the urge to walk away from something that’s not “perfect” is probably pretty strong. We know how we see it in our heads, but often times that doesn’t make the leap to the printed page- so we walk away.

I know there are times when parts may have to be pulled and set aside- but completely dumped? I do have bits of stories that I never followed through on, but since I’ve gotten “serious” about my writing, I’ve fought against walking away. Sometimes things need a big change- but walk away? Hopefully from now on I can always find a way to make things work.

Have you ever walked away from a major project? When? Would you ever go back to it?

Here’s the recipe for my cheater fudge- in good writer fashion, I stole parts of it from many different recipes ;).

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ bag Hershey’s kisses
1 can sweetened condensed milk (that's why there’s no grainy sugar issue ;))
¼- ½ cube of butter
½ tsp vanilla
Half a jar of marshmallow fluff
1 cup of chopped nuts (more or less)

Melt the chips, kisses, and sweetened condescended milk. Stir often (I use a microwave and check every minute). Once smooth and all melted, stir in butter, vanilla, and fluff (you can add salt too- wouldn’t add much though). You will probably have to beat the heck out of it- but don’t give up and keep fighting until it's smooth!

Then pour into a wax paper covered dish (9X9). Let set in fridge for a bit. This is a great cheater fudge, but it dries out very easily. Keep it covered and in the fridge when not serving.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Character Love

I’ve got a confession- I love my characters.

Now this really shouldn’t come as a shock, after all- I created them.

But this is different. I just finished reading a SF novel- pretty dang good one too- and I realized I liked my SF character better than the one I was reading about. Actually, my thought was that Vas (my SF character) could sooooooooooo kick this character’s butt.

LOL- it might seem odd to think about which fictitious tough ass female character would win in a fight. But it was a fun thought. Now I don’t like just tough characters, but if something on the front of the book (or even inside) states that this is one tough chica- then she better be tough.
And I was very entertained that MY tough chica was far tougher than the other author’s “tough” chica. To be honest, even though they said she was tough, she really didn’t demonstrate it much. Vas, on the other hand, comes out swinging and doesn't stop.

That lead to the fact that I really do love my characters and not just because I created them. I like them in the same way I would some of my favorite characters written by other authors. I love that my women characters are actually tough (each in their own way) and it’s not the author simply telling you they are tough. My gals don’t need a guy- guys are fun, and often very handy, but my girls can all take care of themselves if need be. The guy compliments who they are, but they don’t need to complete them.

And my toughest, Captain Vaslisha Tor Dain, could probably beat any literary character that didn’t have super human powers (and possibly a few of those as well). Now obviously, there’s more to her (and the others) than just an insane level of kick-assed-ness. They screw up, sometimes they fall, sometimes they cry.

But they get back up and get right back into where they need to be.

This insight lead to another- I feel satisfied, REALLY satisfied, in the fact that I’ve written these books. As in if they don’t get published I won’t feel I wasted my time type of satisfied.

This is a really cool feeling.

I know many folks (me included) sometimes say, “even if I don’t get published I’m still going to write.” This is true, but some part of me still felt it would almost be a waste if any or all of my books didn’t make it.

Now I’m ok. It’s changed the way I’m thinking about my upcoming “Agent Search 2011”. I don’t feel as worried and panicky. It’s a really nice feeling and I hope it stays.

How about you- how do you feel about you characters? About other folks characters?