Saturday, July 05, 2008

Falling in Love Again

"Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made - like bread, remade all the time, made new." ~Ursula LeGuin

Here's what happens on the good days: I look at a manuscript after putting it away for a while and fall in love with the story and the characters all over again. I finished the first draft of One Night in Napa about 6 weeks ago and haven't looked at it since. Two days ago, I opened the file and started revising from Chapter One.

And I still really like it. I like my main characters. I like the minor ones, too. I like the storyline. About the only thing I don't like right now is the fact that I need to add about 14,000 words to get it to a marketable length (I'm aiming for 70K, for a mainstream publisher, though Samhain will take 60K and I'll send it to my editor there if no one else bites).

But despite that little (or not so little) glitch, I actually find myself looking forward to revising the novel each day. That doesn't always happen, believe me - sometimes it's much more of a struggle!

My goal is to have the story fully revised by the end of August. We'll see...

Oh, and the latest trailer I made:

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Friday!

"As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality." ~George Washington

First off, a big shout-out today to my writing friend (in real life ~ not in cyber-world!) Liz, who just won an honorable mention in the LASR Short Story contest. It will be posted on their site in August, so I'll make sure to have the link so you can read it then. Until then, give her a big congrats here, OK? She's a regular blog reader :)

And second, Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

My 10K Challenge

"If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk." ~Raymond Inmon

A non-writing-related post today:

This summer vacation, I decided to challenge myself to walking/running/covering 10,000 steps each day. This is inspired partly by Dru, who posts her steps each day, and partly by the fact that I'd like to conserve my driving and gasoline comsumption over the next couple of months. I live 2 miles from the closest small town, so yesterday I walked into town to mail some things and run a couple of errands. I'll do that a couple of times a week. And I plan on getting myself a helmet and actually riding my bike more than I ever have before.

I'll tell you, though, while 10,000 steps isn't really insurmountable, it definitely takes intention to get them all in! Yesterday I was running around all morning (putting up our pool...a story for another time), then did a bunch of errands, then went to an aerobics class at the gym, and I was still only at 8500 when I came home. So a few rounds around our property watering the flowerbeds and weeding took care of that.

10,000 steps a day...I'd challenge anyone out there to try it, even for a few days. Pedometers cost less than $10 - clip one on your belt and give it a whirl. You might be interested how many steps you do - or don't - take in the course of a day. There are a ton of articles out there about working up toward it - here's one. There are even sites where you can keep track of your daily steps. I don't keep track of my steps once I pass 10,000, though (I take off the pedometer and toss it on my bathroom counter 'til the next day :)

If any of you already keep track of your steps, how many do you average each day? And how do you manage to get them all in?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Dana Marie Bell

Welcome to another edition of Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with paranormal romance author Dana Marie Bell. Enjoy - and remember, each comment you leave today counts toward my drawing this let's hear from you!

Hi Dana, and welcome! Can you tell us a little about your background?

When I lived in Philadelphia I went to CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts High School). But my parents moved and decided I'd do better in a Catholic high school. (Can't you just hear the Psycho shower scene music?) I kept telling them that torture was against the law, but they just shook their heads and pointed to the bus stop.

I met my husband during my brief stay in college. I met him in February, and in April I told my dad that I'd found the man I was going to marry. We started dating in August, and we'd moved in together by October. I'd call it a whirlwind romance, except it took us seven years to finally get married. Now I'm a thirty-nine year old mother of two boys who keep me on my toes. I've been with my husband for seventeen years, and everyone who knows us thinks we're still disgustingly cute together. I write paranormal romances, though I've been known to pen contemporary romances or the occasional fantasy story. I love weres, vampires, mages and things that go bump in the night.

What a great story of true love! So when did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

My grandparents had a small beach house in Wildwood, NJ. I remember coming home from the beach with this story running around in my head and asked them for pen and paper to write it down. On a bed in the guest room I wrote my first short story. I've been writing ever since.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

The Wallflower is a novella that's part of Samhain Publishing's Cat Shifter Anthologies. It's also my first published work, and I'm really proud of it. It's about a woman named Emma who's dreamed of Max, her high school crush, for years. When Max comes home, it turns out he's been hiding a secret: he's a werepuma. And he's not just any werepuma, but the Alpha of the pride. He realizes Emma is his mate and marks her as his, but his ex is anything but happy over it. Emma has to prove to the pride that she has the strength to be the Alpha's mate as well as deal with a jealous ex who is hell bent on taking her position not only as Curana but as Max's lover.

To me it's a great story. I got my husband to read it, and I consider it a triumph that I actually got him to laugh out loud in at least two places.

Sounds intriguing! How do you go about developing your characters?

Develop? You're assuming I have control over them! In The Wallflower the main characters decided to have a fight in the middle of a scene where no fight had been plotted. They poked at me and hit me over the head with blunt objects until I agreed to let them hash it out. Turns out it worked, and they've been taunting me in a "we were right and you were wrong" sort of way ever since.

To me it's like I'm watching a movie, and my job is to put down on paper what I'm seeing in my mind. It doesn't always work out the way I planned, and the characters aren't always quite what I had in mind, but I'm usually pleased with the end result.

OK, what kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

Wait. I have to pick one? Only one? What about one for each genre and/or sub-genre? Can I get away with that?

I love sci/fi, fantasy, romance, paranormal, horror, mystery; I even read true crime stories. My husband and I own over two thousand books. We bought a house with enough rooms in it that we could have our own personal library just to house all of them. (My husband put the romances on a wall by themselves so the other books won't "catch their cooties".) My favorites? Sheri L. King, Lora Leigh, Mary Janice Davidson, Patricia Briggs, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Lois McMaster Bujold, Ann Bishop, Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, Terry Pratchett, Lauren Dane… the list goes on and on. A friend of mine has a t-shirt that reads, "First I buy books. When I'm done buying books, I buy food and clothing." We're not quite that bad, but we're close.

Ah, I love that quote! And speaking of which, how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Each day is different. Some days, I can't stay on that tightrope. My toddler needs me, or my older boy is home sick from school and needs me, or I'm sick and need me, lol! Other days I can walk that tightrope on my hands while juggling six different things with my feet. A positive attitude helps, along with boatloads of caffeine and a Wiggles marathon.

I'm sure many of my readers will agree with you on that one! Can you describe your writing space for us?

There is a small black cat on top of my computer. His name is Gremlin, and he is evil, in a cute cat way. He likes to bat at my cursor in the middle of love scenes. (I kid you not. I made up an icanhascheezburger-type picture with the caption "Editor kitteh shows u wat u doin wrong" and posted it on my blog.) I have books piled up, music disks, files, and other assorted stuff that's likely to fall on my head if anyone sneezes too hard. Oh, and a desk lamp to light my way under the rubble, maybe alert the rescue team as to where I'm buried.

Dana, thanks so much for being here today. Readers are welcome to stop by her website and see what's up with her latest writing adventures!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Contest - One Week Only!!

Happy July, everyone!

To celebrate the one-week countdown to the release of my novel One Night in Memphis, I'm holding a really easy, really straightforward contest. Every time you leave a comment on my blog between now and next Tuesday - July 8 - your name will be entered into a drawing to win a free download of One Night in Memphis! To sweeten the deal, I'll throw in an autographed copy of either one of my print novels, Lost in Paradise or One Night in Boston, OR your choice of a novel from my read-and-to-be-given-away bookshelf. Oh, and chocolate, of course. No contest is complete without the sweet stuff, in my opinion.

So comment away for the next 7 days, and up your chances of winning!

And here's a video I had to mention, 'cause it's just so funny. (I can't figure out how to embed it here, so just visit this fellow author's blog and take a peek. It's hilarious...)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Plans

"Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing "Embraceable You" in spats." ~Woody Allen

Ah, the first Monday morning I'm not up before dawn and rushing out the door to school...kind of a nice thing :)

Goals for today? First and most important, go through FLEs for One Night in Memphis and return them to my editor. FLE stands for Final Line Edits, and it's one of the last steps before your book gets sent to the printer (or the electronic-file world, in the case of ebooks, I suppose). It's basically the proofreading step - an editor other than your regular one goes through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb to find any errors the two of you might have missed. My editor said there were only a couple (I haven't opened the file yet...), so I hope it will be a quick read-through. And she's so sweet: she added, "The FLE LOVED your story, by the way!"

After next Tuesday, it's out in the world...wonder how the reviews will be? (Note to self: remember to apply skin-toughening cream over the next few days...)

After that, I suppose I could tackle the list of summer chores and projects that's now hanging in the kitchen. Dru asked the other day if I had summer plans beyond book promotions - well, we're taking a week's vacation to the Outer Banks with a group of friends in August, and we're going to a couple of concerts at Bethel Woods, but other than that, no big plans. Price of gas is keeping us pretty close to home!

What about you?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why I'm Not Crazy About "Twilight"

"Softly he brushed my cheek, then held my face between his marble hands. 'Be very still,' he whispered, as if I wasn't already frozen. Slowly, never moving his eyes from mine, he leaned toward me. Then abruptly, but very gently, he rested his cold cheek against the hollow at the base of my throat." ~from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

OK, it's a huge best-seller. Teenage girls have read the entire trilogy multiple times. The fourth book, to be released this August, has bookstores across the country holding midnight parties a la Harry Potter.

My students fell in love with Twilight by Stephenie Meyer this year, so I eagerly picked it up a few weeks ago to find out why.

300 pages into it, I'm still wondering.

I know some of my blog readers have read and enjoyed this book, and I know most of you aren't teenage girls, so I'm curious to know what the big draw is.

Storyline: awkward teen Bella moves to a small town and finds herself inexplicably drawn to Edward, a perfect/ godlike/ beautiful/ dangerous "bad boy" sort of hero in school. The problem? Edward's a vampire.

My problem with this book? The first half is incredibly slow, a day-by-day account of what Bella wears to school, who she sits with in lunch, how she finds Edward so amazingly gorgeous she can hardly breathe when he's around...By the middle there is marginally more action, but I'm somewhere around page 350 and there's still not a whole lot going on.

My bigger concern, though, is the way the two main characters are developed. Bella is 15, plain and clumsy according to her own accounts...yet within the first month of school 4 boys ask her out. There's a whole lot of "poor me" whining on her part that drives me up a wall. Not only that, but her insecurity makes my teeth ache. She mentions how beautiful/gorgeous/breath-taking/perfect Edward is on at least every other page. OK, I get the teenage fascination with a good-looking bad boy who's out of one's league. But I get angry when an author reinforces the idea that a plain girl who's shy and not terribly graceful is not possibly worthy of someone with good looks. Bella is absolutely submissive to the mere idea of Edward, and her world revolves around the moments he looks at her.

And Edward, by the way, is not really a nice guy for the first half of the book. Here's the thing: if you're going to give me a hero, you better make sure I like something about him early on, despite his flaws. But Edward is rude, smirks (I'd like to count how many times the author uses that verb to describe his actions), and makes fun of Bella and other kids in the school. So when my students say, with great heaving sighs, "I want a guy like Edward," it pisses me off. Why are we still raising a generation of girls who think that it's OK for a physically gorgeous, unattainable guy to be emotionally manipulative? For a girl to throw away plans with friends and lie to her father for the mere chance of spending time with a good-looking guy who at one moment is kind and the next moment is incredibly distant and rude?

My students say, "Yes, but Edward's only keeping her at a distance to protect he won't eat her. And he saves her life!" Yes, he does, more than once. He rescues her from being crushed by a careening truck and then later from being assaulted by a group of unsavory older men. For those reasons alone, I am finishing the book and reserving judgement, to see if Edward turns out to be a hero worth admiring. But I won't be running out to pick up the next book in the series.

I'd love to hear from anyone who's read Twilight and honestly enjoyed it from start to finish. Please tell me if I'm way off base here...