Saturday, March 01, 2008

It's Time for March Madness!

"Ah, March! we know thou art
Kind-hearted, spite of ugly looks and threats,
And, out of sight, art nursing April's violets!"
~Helen Hunt Jackson

Well, since this month has arrived like a big ol' lion, in my neck of the woods anyway, it's time for me to announce my March Book-Blog Giveaway. And since this month is oh so long, I'm giving away two books: one on the 15th (can anyone tell me the significance of March 15, by the way??), and one at the very end of the month.

How do you enter? Simply leave comments on my blog. The more times you comment, the more chances you have to win. I'll pick two winners randomly from all commenters and announce the lucky ones right here!

What am I giving away? Well, this month I'm featuring Harlequin Historical author Jenna Kernan, who also just happens to be a member of my local RWA group. The March 15th winner will receive Jenna's very first book, the RITA-nominated Winter Woman, and the March 31st winner will receive her most recent release, Outlaw Bride.

Jenna's a terrific writer; you're bound to enjoy her books whether or not you've already discovered historical romances. So comment away...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year Day 2008!

"It doesn't matter who we were. It only matters who we are." ~Juliet, from the TV show "Lost"

Is anyone else watching "Lost" now that it's back on? I thought last night's episode was brilliant. Time travel is a tricky thing to portray, but it was really well written and balanced and believable. Loved the ending, too - that show doesn't usually bring tears to my eyes, but last night it did.

I"m making progress on One Night in Napa - and I'm using a slightly different strategy this time around. I'm writing all the way through, doing my best to shrug off the inner editor and just get the words down on paper. I'm not letting myself go back and look at a scene or chapter once I've finished it for the day. I'm not stopping to do research, either, or think up clever names for fictional places. So right now the pages have a lot of sentences like "Kira walked into NAME OF COFFEE SHOP HERE and tossed her cigarettes onto the counter." And so on. I'm up to 8000 words for the week, though, so I'm happy!

Finally, I have to mention how lucky I am to have met fellow authors in this area, all because of the NYC Book Fair I went to last December. Stella Price, who writes urban fantasy and lives about 30 minutes from me, is a marketing whiz. She's put together a core group of local authors and is on this crazy bender of setting up all kinds of signings and public appearances for us. I keep waiting for her to realize she could be charging an arm and a leg for what she's doing, 'cause I'm pretty sure authors hire pricy marketing people to do that sort of thing for them. :)

The latest fun event on our agenda is a "Girls' Night Out" for Mother's Day, Saturday May 10. It's at a place called The Spotty Dog, which is apparently a pub and a bookstore, combined. Cool, right? Check out the link. I'll post more info closer to the date, for anyone who's local and wants to stop by. From what I've heard so far, they're having a masseuse, a chocolatier, and romance authors on hand. How can you go wrong??

Oh, and happy Leap Year Day! What are you doing with your extra 24 hours?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Next Big Thing

"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. " ~James Bryce

Donald Maass, one of THE literary agents in the biz, has been running a neat little feature on his agency's website the last few months: What We're Looking for this Month.

It's not literal, of course, but every month the agents toss out ideas for what they'd like to see cross their desks as the next "big thing" to hit the best-seller lists. Here's Jan/Feb:

1. A literary SFF novel as original and well-written as Tim Powers’s classic The Anubis Gates or Gordon Dahlquist’s recent debut The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters: not a traditional quest adventure in a quasi-Medieval world, but a cross-over from our world with mystery, romance, historical allusions and literary references.

2. A thriller in which the unlikely doom scenario is made utterly believable with 300 pages of careful, point-by-point elimination of all the reasons why it wouldn’t happen…PLUS, featuring a protagonist of unshakeable principles whom we cheer for from their first moment on the page.

3. A multi-layered romance in which every element is as romantic as the relationship itself: setting, secondary characters, etc…PLUS, a plot in which the driving conflict is not a manufactured antipathy between heroine and hero, but the inescapable malignancy of outside forces.

4. A brilliantly written, page-turning novel with the psychological twists and turns of Donna Tartt's A SECRET HISTORY or Patricia Highsmith's THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.

5. A romantic (not romance) novel in the tradition of Peter Beagle's A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE with highly emotive characters and a compelling depth of texture and description.

6. A historical mystery or thriller that in addition to mystery plot, gives us a new or controversial look at a well known historical figure. For example, a mystery set on and around the new high-rises of New York that shows us a more generous side of Robert Moses than we see in THE POWER BROKER.

7. An alternate history like Philip K. Dick’s THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE or more recently, Sesshu Foster’s ATOMIK AZTEX or Michael Chabon’s latest, where, for example, the Native Americans were ceded territory in what is now the state of Nevada. When strange murders start cropping up, an outsider must enter the territory to investigate with the help of a young Native American who has something to hide.

8. A mystery or thriller with a bike messenger as the main character or villain,
like Tami Hoag's KILL THE MESSENGER, or maybe a bike mechanic main character, or some other character who makes their living with bicycles.

9. A work of narrative nonfiction that does for competitive video-gamers what Ben Mezrich did for the MIT card-counters in Bringing Down the House. I’d especially like a story that follows an American gamer trying to reach the top in South Korea, where audiences pack stadiums to observe Starcraft matches and top gamers earn six-figure salaries.

10. A genre-bending novel for the adult suspense market, one that functions like Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men – overturning clich├ęs of the genre, challenging ideas we hold dear, and creating suspense not through the unknown but through the sheer audacity of the villain.

Interesting, huh? So do any of you writers have a WIP like that just looking for a home?? Or would any of you pick up a book like one of those to read?

And along those same lines, a writer-friend on another loop posed this question to her blog readers, and I'm passing it along to you:

As a reader what specific kinds of books do you most enjoy but have trouble finding? Please be as specific as you can and describe any kind of book distinguished by any quality such as sub-genre, non-fiction subject, time period, length, writing style or anything else that is important to you as a reader. I am looking for the kinds of book you would buy more of, if you could only find them.

The more responses, the better, so chime in!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Sharon Buchbinder

Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! It's snowy here in the Northeast USA - how about where you are? I hope warmer (and less white) than it is here...

Anyway, for a cheering read today, pull up your chair and join me as I interview Sharon Buchbinder, author of Catastrophe, available now from The Wild Rose Press.

Hi Sharon! Thanks for being here today. Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in Washington, DC, grew up in Windsor Locks, CT, now live in Baltimore, MD. I discovered that a BA in Psychology enabled me to work for an airline caterer, chopping lettuce, so I went back a School of Allied Health at Hartford Hospital and became a Medications Technician in 1973, during a nursing shortage. More education, more degrees: MA in Psychology, AAS in Nursing, PhD in Public Health, and a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Children’s Mental Health—and I became a Professor. Still, I had the itch to write fiction. It drove me mad until I “ran away” for a month to our home in Florida and scratched my itch. I am still scratching at it. My website has more information and links to stories and articles. I love to hear from readers!

What an interesting journey to the world of writing! So when did you first begin? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

Always a scribbler, I began my “serious” writing in high school when my sister went off to college and I wrote her letters. She told me they were so funny, she read them to the girls in her dorm. Reinforced by that, I began receiving rejection letters from many, many magazines and even the MAN from U.N.C.L.E. I sent them a hand-written (on yellow note pad) script for the show.

Can you tell us about your latest writing project or published title?

The short story Catastrophe is now available! I had a lot of fun writing and rewriting this story and with the help of my editor, Nan Swanson, and cover editor and artist, Nicola Martinez, the story shines inside and out. I drew on my experience as a teacher, cat breeder (a decade ago), and dog owner. The names of the hero and heroine are actually the names of my great-great-great-great-(I lost track of how many greats) grandmother and grandfather. The story opens with Polly Griggs finding an eviction notice on her door. She’s devastated and desperate. Where can she go with twenty-three rescued cats? Old, maimed, and crippled, they were abandoned and she was the only person willing to take them in. Her drunken landlord can’t wait to get rid of her and harasses Polly at every opportunity. Little does she know that her academic advice to her handsome neighbor and secret crush, Simon, on how to succeed in his speech class will lead to her own rescue—and love.

Sounds like a charming story! How do you go about developing your characters?

They arrive on their own. They appear in my dreams, as I do housework, even shopping. I was standing in the checkout line at Sam’s one day, and a character demanded that I write about him. Usually they appear when I have no writing implement. Glad I had my PDA with me that day, as he turned out to be one of my favorites.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

If you truly want your work published, you must be serious about your craft. Write, rewrite. Set time aside every day to focus on your story. Write, rewrite. Join RWA and the state chapters and go to meetings. Write, rewrite. Find a critique group/partner. Write, rewrite. Get readers you trust (my husband is my first reader). Write, rewrite. Grow a thick skin and accept constructive comments, and ignore the destructive ones. Write, rewrite. Take online writing courses. Write, rewrite. Read submission guidelines and follow them. Write, rewrite. Find the right niche for your work. Write, rewrite. Submit your work. Write, rewrite. Believe in your story. Write, rewrite. Resubmit. Write, rewrite.

OK, what do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult challenge is being disciplined and protecting my writing time. The most exciting and rewarding thing about writing is the impact that my words have on the reader. If I move someone to tears, laughter, a sigh, and the reader wonders about the character after the last page is turned, I know I have done my job well.

Thanks, Sharon! Readers, if you'd like to know more, visit Sharon's website...or leave a comment or question here for her. Have a great day :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Chuckle for Tuesday

"The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that is laughter." ~Mark Twain

I had to share this email that a friend sent me yesterday. Too funny:

A guy goes to the supermarket and notices an attractive woman waving at him. She says hello. He's rather taken aback because he cannot place where he knows her from.

So he says, 'Do you know me?' To which she replies, 'I think you're the father of one of my kids.'

Now his mind travels back to the only time he has ever been unfaithful to his wife and says, 'Are you the stripper from the bachelor party thatI made love to on the pool table with all my buddies watching while your partner whipped my butt with wet celery???'

She looks into his eyes, and says calmly, 'No, I'm your son's teacher."

I also made some headway on my WIP, which I'm officially nicknaming One Night in Napa (thanks, Marianne!) until I make a final decision. Wrote the chapter where we meet the heroine, and I love that she's a totally non-traditional heroine, esp. for the romance genre. She has super-short, spiky hair and an eyebrow ring; she smokes; and she has no interest in dating. Tough cookie, right?? I just have to remember to make her likable, too...

Actually, I love that I have a fairly clear picture of where I want this story to go (I know, I shouldn't speak too soon, or I'll jinx myself). I think that comes from it rattling around my brain for so many years. Every so often, when I got tired of working on whatever other novel I was dealing with, I'd take a break and sketch out a character for ONIN or think of ways to up the tension. Turned out all those breaks gave me a lot of ammunition to tackle the actual novel.

So I'm happy so far. We'll see how long the bubble lasts :)

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Monday Blues

"Sometimes it pays to stay in bed in Monday, rather than spending the rest of the week debugging Monday's code." ~Dan Solomon

Well, I guess I don't really have the blues, per se. I just don't have much exciting chatter for today. Among other less-than-newsworthy notes:

1. I added a ticker to track my progress on my latest "One Night..." novel - it's over there on the sidebar. As you can see, I have a way to go!

2. I'm about halfway through Lady of the Knight by Tori Phillips, another historical romance, and enjoying it. It's a twist on the Pygmalion story, so not really anything new, but it's entertaining all the same.

3. I designed some really nice brochures for One Night in Boston, to send off to my publisher. Their marketing person is sending out mailings to bookstores every other month, so it's a relatively inexpensive way to promote my upcoming print release. Oh, and I used Vista Print. I've had a lot of things done there and always been happy with the quality. You really can't beat the price, either. Some authors on one of my loops complained recently because apparently they got signed up for a program that billed their credit card $15/month without their approval. Turns out it's one of those fine-print deals if you click "Yes" to a free offer after you order from Vista Print. Listen, folks, get smart here: don't click on any free deals that seem too good to be true. And if you do, read the fine print. And finally, read your credit card statement every month and make sure you know where every charge comes from. You have to be the smart consumer.

(steps down from her soapbox)

4. Speaking of promoting my books, I've added another appearance to my list, also over there on the sidebar. It's the annual craft fair in my hometown - quite a big deal for the community, so I'm looking forward to it.

5. I watched the red carpet pre-Oscar show last night but not the awards ceremony itself. I see that "No Country for Old Men" was the big winner - no big surprise, from previous buzz. I put "Juno" on my list to rent, though I just read an article criticizing the movie for glamorizing teen pregnancy and downplaying the negative, life-changing consequences. Anyone see it and have an opinion either way?

Well, I'm off to work. Happy Monday!!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Latest Project

"First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him." ~Ray Bradbury

Yes, as I promised yesterday, I've made a decision about what book project I want to tackle next. It is...

...another "One Night" book - a 24-hour/24-chapter sort of deal.

Why, when I have so many other single title ideas floating in my brain? Well, I'm being optimistic and thinking writing career-wise here. I'd like to show either Samhain or an agent, should I be lucky enough to find one, that I can sustain the 24-hour novel idea over a few books. Agents and publishers like prolific authors, I've heard. I'd also like to get through this one [maybe] by the end of April, which would give me time to let it sit and then revise over the summer and submit by August, let's say. That also gives me the summer (which is when I'm not working, so more time) to work on another project from scratch, and I have a couple I'm toying with.

So this one is going to be set either in or close to San Francisco/Napa Valley. It's going to tell the story of Grant Walker, a journalist who gets the break of a lifetime while doing an otherwise straightforward interview, and the woman he meets, Kira March, whose entire life could be affected by the discovery he makes...

It's inspired to a certain degree by a famous Greek play, though I'm not telling you which one :) And I thought of this storyline almost 4 years ago, so I'm excited to actually begin writing it.

I wrote about 2000 words yesterday and was pleased with the start. Think I'll get myself one of those sidebar counters to keep track of my progress; it's always good to be accountable to someone, I think!

Here's my first line:

Grant Walker knew it was going to be a long day when he woke up and couldn't remember the name of the woman lying beside him.

What do you think??