Saturday, February 28, 2009

Writer's Digest Tips

"I keep six honest serving men They taught me all I knew; Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who." ~Rudyard Kipling

Happy weekend! Thought I'd share a couple of interesting tidbits from the latest issue of Writer's Digest...

"Romance Gets Real" is an interesting article about Harlequin's latest imprint, a non-fiction line that's currently acquiring in the areas of self-help, relationships, health, sex, diet, fitness, and beauty. Looks like the economy is forcing everyone to be promo-savvy about what the customer is looking for.

"(Over)Exposing Yourself" is a helpful article about how to create good publicity for yourself and when to stop from going too far. The tip I liked best in this one was #6, Make a Sincere Effort. If you're an author who's approaching a bookseller about carrying your titles, make a good-faith effort in the store and buy a book. Easy tip, but I bet a lot of authors don't bother.

And a great writing prompt, if you need to break away from your current WIP and get the creative juices flowing: A 20-something man is sitting in a taxi outside of his parents' house, trying to find the strength to tell them that he _____________________

Have fun!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Promo Possibilities Everywhere...Who Knew?

"Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one." ~Augustine Birrell

A few days ago, I mentioned this new site, PaperBack Book Swap, as a cool place to exchange the books you've read for ones others have posted.

I've already sent and received one each, which is pretty neat, but - guess what? If you're an author, I think this might be a place for a little self-promo. I was Googling myself yesterday and got a hit on this very site for Lost in Paradise. It's on 2 people's Wish Lists! So...think I'm going to "swap" them a copy...with a little bookmark/excerpt booklet/info about my upcoming releases inside. I mean, who doesn't like an autographed copy and a free bookmark, right?

Authors, check and see if your books are listed might be a chance to make a personal connection with a new reader! (Diane, I know 2 of yours are...)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Presenting at the EPPIEs!

"Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love." ~David McCullough

Less than 2 weeks until the EPPIE awards banquet, and I'm getting pretty excited...

Interestingly enough, a call for presenters came out on the EPIC loop the other day, and I figured since I was going to be there anyway, I'd volunteer. Turns out they still needed people, so I'll be presenting the finalists/award winner for the Non-Fiction category. Heck, I'm pretty excited for that too.

Anyway, this is cool: the presenter for my category, Contemporary Romance, is a member of my local RWA chapter and critique group. She asked to present this one specifically because both I and another member of the chapter are finalists. We're a very small chapter (less than 30 people), so to have 2 finalists in the same category is neat and a true accomplishment for us!

Can't wait to tell you all about it...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Valerie Patterson

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Say hello to Valerie Patterson...

Valerie, I know you've just had a new book released. Congrats! Can you tell us about it?

Gee Whiz Meets SHAFT was released February 14th by Asylett Press. It's such a fun book. I had a lot of fun writing it. It's a little bit of everything. It's a comedy--a spoof on spy thrillers with some espionage thrown in--with a thread of romanceto tie it all together in a neat little package.

Sounds like fun! How do you go about developing your characters?

It all starts with a name! When I start a new manuscript, I select my characters' names and build from there, fleshing ou tphysical attributes and moving on to personality traits before rounding it out with career choices. I have to be able to havea solid mental image of my characters in order to establish how they would speak, act, react, think, and even move through scenes. For me, selecting a name first allows me create a character that comes to life in my thoughts. If I can see and 'hear' my character, then I believe my readers will be able to as well. Iwant my readers to relate to this character, obviously, but I also want them to come away from the book with a strong mental image of who the character was. For me to make that happen, it all begins with the name.

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

Do not submit the first thing you've ever written unless you've gotten a ton of feedback from peers--not just family and friends--from people who are not afraid to tell you what's wrong with the plot, what doesn't ring true with your dialogue, and why they dislike your hero/heroine. Always keep in mind that your words are not valuable little pearls tied together with unbreakable twine. You have to be able to rewrite and revise and bullet-proof your work. You have to be able to take criticism without it drawing blood and shattering your confidence. And then remember that not everyone on the planet is going to like what you've written. Accept that people have different tastes, listen to their comments and then move on, using what you can to make your work stronger and chucking the rest. Above all else, never give up. If a door closes, look for a window and then crawl through it. If writing is your passion, don't give up on it. Pursue the dream until it's a reality. Anything worth having, is worth the time it takes to achieve it.

That's such great advice...So, what do you find most difficult about writing?

The middle! When I start a new project, I generally have the beginning and the ending all worked out, so it's the middle that gives me problems. I'm all excited about starting, so I jump right on chapter 1. And then I've got the ending formulated and want to jump on that. Since a book generally requires more than a beginning and an ending, I find the middle to be the most challenging.

I can appreciate that - I have trouble with the middles myself. What do you find most exciting or rewarding about writing?

You'd think it would be the beginning or the ending, right? Nope. It's the complete package from start to finish. When I type THE END on a manuscript, I'm immediately ready to read the whole thing to see how it reads. I read it through once and then I break it down by chapters, reading each one out loud. When we read silently, our brains compensate for missing letters andsometimes missing words. By reading a chapter out loud, I'm able to identify any sentences that aren't quite right, pick up on missing words, and catch problem words like They're/Their and Your/You're. For me, the entire process of creating a written work is very rewarding. I imagine--for me--it's akin to an artist just finishing a painting.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

In all honesty, writing actually balances my life! I use writing as an escape. Getting lost in a new work-in-progress allows me to take the stress of the day and pound it out on my keyboard. I like nothing better than to come home from the office and sit down at the computer and develop a character, flesh out a plot,or work on a chapter until I feel human again! Writing not only keeps me stress-free, it keeps me sane!

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I've had small bouts of writer's block that barely qualify as writer's block because I just edit through them, meaning I workon editing a piece until the creativity flows again. However,there was one point in my life where I was unable to write for more than a year. My Dad died somewhat young and very suddenly in November 2001, just about a week before I received a contract for my first book. I never got to share that joy with him, and it bothered me greatly because my dad was a HUGE supporter of my writing. I did the revisions on the piece that the editor asked for, but I didn't write a single word of a new manuscript or a work-in-progress for over a year. I just couldn't. Nothing was there.

I began writing again by writing a piece about my dad. It seemed that singular piece opened the flood gates and words just poured out of me. It was a very emotional process that not only brought writing back into my life, but helped me through the grieving process. If you're faced with seemingly unending writer's block, just sit down and write something--anything--so that the process begins again. Who cares if that very first piece is any good? Chances are whatever pours out next will be!

Valerie, thanks so much for sharing your writing journey here today. Readers, you can find out more about this author and her works right here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Inside Look: What an Editor Wants

The other day, my Samhain editor posted a brief note in our Yahoo author group about referring authors to her. I thought her response was an interesting look at what one editor, anyway, is looking for in new authors:

If you are familiar enough with the author's writing, professionalism and promotional savvy to give them a personal recommendation, you may give them my direct email address and have them submit the standard submission package directly to me...However, please don't be disappointed if I reject your friend/acquaintance, as of course I do reject the great majority of submissions that I read.

I am less receptive to sci fic/futuristic, western romance, or American-set historicals than other editors. At the moment I am actively seeking red hot Regency/Georgian/Victorian/Edwardian historicals, m/m, paranormal, and mystery/suspense and am always looking for well-written fantasy and romantic comedy.

I think it's really worth noting the sorts of things she considers. Professionalism. Promotional savvy. Those things - your behavior on loops, the reputation you develop at conferences or signings or other appearances, your willingness to promote yourself whenever possible - they do make a difference in the long run. There are so many talented authors, so set yourself apart in additional ways. And remember that the publishing world is not that big (people talk), and your behavior on the Internet will circulate faster than you might imagine.

Just thought I'd share.

Monday, February 23, 2009


"It is written." ~Slumdog Millionaire

I stopped watching the Oscars 3 years ago, after "Brokeback Mountain" won Best Director but not Best Picture because, Academy members later revealed, they couldn't bring themselves to vote for a film about gay cowboys (as if it wasn't about anything else...)

And I didn't watch last night except for the first half-hour or so, because I thought the same thing would happen with "Slumdog Millionaire." I mean, who would vote for an independent film about India with no-name stars, that's partially subtitled, when you have Brad Pitt on the ticket?

But sometimes the right thing really does happen. Slumdog picked up 8 total awards last night, as it should have, and was the darling of the Oscars this year - as it should have been. I hadn't realized how close the movie came to not even releasing in this country; it almost went straight to DVD. Now it's the Best Picture of 2009!

I have had people say to me that this film is violent. I didn't walk away the first time thinking that. I tried to understand, the second time I saw it. Yes, there is violence in the movie. It is part of the plot, part of the point, that half this world lives in extreme, unpleasant conditions -- and yet hope and love can triumph there as well. The violence is not in this film for gratuitous reasons. It's there so that the happy ending is that much more sweet when we get to it.

Anyway, I'll step off my soapbox now. Anyone else watch the awards show? Did you make it through the whole thing? Whose dress was the best?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Movie Marathon: The Review

"The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder." ~Alfred Hitchcock

Whew! Actually made it through all 5 movies yesterday without losing my eyeballs or falling asleep! The theater was almost full, so I wasn't the only crazy person, and everyone there was having a good time, being in the same boat and all. The staff even came in between movies and did trivia for prizes (no, I did not win any...)

So here's my roundup:

Milk - Wow. This movie was more amazing than I expected. Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in this country (San Francisco late 1970s). The whole movie is powerful, funny, and heartbreaking at the same time, since it's the story of a gay rights movement which really hasn't come all that far in the 30 years since. Very, very moving and GREAT acting (James Franco is great as Penn's lover). I'm pulling for Slumdog to win the Oscar, but this is a close second. And Sean Penn is just terrific.

The Reader - Um. Hmm? Not sure this one should be in the running for Best Picture. It's well-acted, but it isn't one of those movies that will stick with you for days. Plus it is incredibly depressing and beyond that, seemed to wander, especially in the second half. Kate Winslet plays a German woman who seduces a 16-year old boy...but he later finds out she's being put on trial for her actions as a Nazi guard years earlier. It seemed to have potential but didn't do it for me. The acting is good, though, and Kate Winslet has a good chance of getting the Oscar for Best Actress. She looks horrific - no makeup and she ages 40 years in the movie - I think the Academy likes that sort of thing.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Much better than I expected. Even though it's the longest (almost 3 hours), it didn't feel that way. The makeup (and the acting) of Brad Pitt is amazing, as he ages backwards from an old man to a teenager. And how is it possible that Brad Pitt can still look 19 in the right makeup?? Anyway, it's one of those sweeping life sagas, complete with a love story (his great love is played by Cate Blanchett), and it's quite moving. Sad, though, very very sad - especially at the end.

Slumdog Millionaire - Well, I've already seen this one, and it's still my favorite. I just love the originality, the acting, the story that is part-adventure, part true romance, and the fact that it exposes a world of violence and poverty that at least half our world lives in. I think this was the crowd favorite last night, too.

Frost/Nixon - If there's a dark horse in this Oscar race, it's gonna be this movie. Even though it was the last one of the night, and even though it has less action and more conversation and intellectual plotting, I was mesmerized from beginning to end. First, the story itself is fascinating: a playboy Australian talk show host gets an interview with Richard Nixon after he resigns the Presidency. The host is WAY in over his head, and Nixon is determined to exonerate his name, and so it's a battle of wills and personalities that is INCREDIBLY acted. These two actors played the same roles when it was on Broadway, and you can tell they've been living with these characters for a while. The subtleties of each give a terrific insight into what was happening in those months and years after Watergate (and I imagine this would be even more powerful for those who remember the time, as I don't). If you get a chance, rent this one - don't think because it doesn't have constant physical action that it isn't absolutely compelling. I wouldn't be surprised to see this one win, either.

So there you have it...I don't know if I'll actually stay up to watch the awards show tonight. I'm still pretty tired, and the show itself is so drawn out. But at least I can talk about the movies tomorrow!