Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ah, the Weekend...

"Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it." ~Anonymous

Busy, busy day here today, with lots on the agenda...

The first is my local RWA chapter's annual luncheon -- always a nice event that tries to get all us members together. Check out our new website -- and also notice that we're having a Writers' Networking Luncheon in September. If you're a writer located in the metro-NY/Hudson Valley/western CT area, consider joining us!


Started reading Loving Frank the other day. It's a historical (romance) novel about the supposed true-life love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney. I know a little about Wright, but I never knew about the affair, so I'm interested. Plus the reviews on the book jacket are great, so I'm really looking forward to getting into it. Here's one of those:

It's a rare treasure to find a historically imagined novel that is at once fully versed in the facts and unafraid of weaving those truths into a story that dares to explore the unanswered questions. Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney's love story is--as many early reviews of Loving Frank have noted--little-known and often dismissed as scandal. In Nancy Horan's skillful hands, however, what you get is two fully realized people, entirely, irrepressibly, in love...Loving Frank is a remarkable literary achievement, tenderly acute and even-handed in even the most heartbreaking moments, and an auspicious debut from a writer to watch.

I'll let you know what I think!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Time for Another Trailer

"Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read." ~Leo Burnett

Well, since the release date for One Night in Napa is coming up in about 6 weeks, I've been thinking about making a trailer for it. I haven't done a lot (any) promotion for it...which is bad, but it's the end of school and CRAZY busy. Not a really good excuse, but an excuse all the same. Anyway, since it's an e-release I'll focus more on online promo, obviously, but a trailer should probably be one of those.

Lately, on the Samhain Author discussion loop, there's been talk of a trailer-making class -- whether they translate into sales, where to post them, how to make a professional-looking one. I'm not sure they do in fact translate into sales, but it's all part of the bigger strategy of branding one's name. The more places your author name appears, the more likely it is that readers will remember it.

So...maybe I'll start playing around with ideas. I do like the creative process; it just takes a while to find photos and music and put it all together. Then it's off to upload it to as many places as I can find. And if you have any suggestions, please share!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Smile for Thursday

Got this from a friend the other day and figured it was pretty much perfect to share...

One morning a husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and reads her book.

Along comes a Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, " Good morning , Ma'am. What are you doing?"
"Reading a book," she replies, (thinking, "Isn't that obvious?")
"You're in a Restricted Fishing Area," he informs her.
"I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading"
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.."
"For reading a book," she replies,
"You're in a Restricted Fishing Area," he informs her again,
But I'm not fishing. I'm reading"
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. As I said, you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.."
"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with Sexual assault ," says the woman.
"But I haven't even touched you," says the game warden.
"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment."
"Have a nice da,y ma'am," the warden said, and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Jennifer Shirk

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! I had the pleasure of meeting today's featured author, fellow Samhain author Jennifer Shirk, at a conference last fall. She's agreed to let us peek into her world today, so enjoy!

Welcome, Jennifer! Can you tell us a little about your background?

Sure! Gee, I’d love to say I’ve been writing since I could pick up a pen, but I only started writing about 4 or 5 years ago when my daughter was a toddler. Up until then, I was your average friendly neighborhood retail pharmacist.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

Well, I guess like any writer, I first started out as a reader. I started reading when I became first became pregnant. After my daughter turned a year old, I decided to try my hand at it—in between diaper changing, and naps, and cooking and cleaning. LOL!

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My latest—and only right now—The Role of a Lifetime just came out in print this past March. It’s a romantic comedy about an actor, Ben Capshaw, who does some “training” at a preschool for an upcoming movie role. He becomes enamored by a young teacher and starts to question the objective he’d originally laid out for his life. But this woman’s been burned by an actor before, so Ben has his talent cut out for him convincing her he’s not just looking for a temporary part in her life—but one for a lifetime.

Sounds like a winner! Now, how do you go about developing your characters?

When I have a story idea, I already have a vague sense of what my characters will be like to fit with the plot. Then once I name them and start writing, they kind of develop on their own.

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

I totally feel like a broken record saying this but… KEEP WRITING. The more you write, the more your style changes, the more you learn, and your voice really begins to develop and grow. I’m living proof!

Do you ever suffer from writer's block?

If so, what do you do about it? Heck, YES!! But it’s not really writer’s block. If I get “stuck”, then I know I just made a mistake somewhere in my story and I either can’t figure it out or am too lazy to figure it out. But realizing that is half the battle. So I make myself step back and look at my story from beginning. Then I know it’s time to outline to come up with some possible solutions to the problem.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Eat—er, I mean, cook, hang out at the beach, read. (Sometimes in that order!)

Jennifer, thanks so much for being here today. Anything else you’d like to mention?

I just wanted to thank, Allie, so much for interviewing me! Also, readers can check out my website: or my blog:

I love hearing from readers, so if you’ve read my book (and liked it) please feel free to e-mail me and tell me. (Even if you didn’t like it, you can e-mail me) LOL!

Thank you!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Confessions of a Plot Junkie

This is the title of an article in this month's Writer's Digest. It's an interesting piece that talks about the difference between "literary" and "genre" fiction. FYI, the first is usually considered to be more character-driven, with a focus on word choice and phrasing, and the second is considered plot-driven, with less focus on diction and more on conflict and storyline.

Which is better?

Well, of course, it depends who you ask. The "classic" works of fiction are usually considered literary, and MFA programs often feel that literary fiction is what "serious" authors should aspire to write.

Then, of course, you look at best-selling authors like Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, and the mammoth success of their books makes one think that popularity and sales trump all.

I don't know that I favor one over the other. I love certain works that would be considered literary fiction, and as an English major/teacher I probably lean in that direction when I think of my favorite authors. But then again, every once in a while I'll pick up a page-turner that definitely falls into the genre fiction category, and it will captivate me.

A New York Times best-selling author I met this past year said (more than once, because I heard this from her at 2 different venues) that she wants to be the author whose book you cannot put down, the author whose book makes you stay up until 3 am or call in sick from work to finish. She is a genre fiction author and proud of it.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Writer's Digest article concludes that genre fiction shouldn't corner the market on plot-driven stories, that literary fiction authors could learn a thing or two about writing stories that are beautifully crafted AND impossible to put down. So here's the question that concludes the article, and I'll pass it along to you:

Which do you think is more important in your writing: A well-plotted story, or a tale with less action and more robust language and meaning? Or is it possible to have both?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Writer's Digest: Random Tips and Stories

I mentioned the other day that I was making my way through the latest issue of Writer's Digest. Since I actually took some guilty pleasure time yesterday to lie out by the pool and read it cover to cover, I thought I'd share some interesting tidbits with you:

Jason Roeder shares a few pieces of advice, including this one: "If you're going to write, you'd better get used to the word 'no'" and the fact that if you're doing a public reading, "a typical audience slips into REM sleep at about the 35-minute mark" (35 minutes?! No way I could read that long...but I digress...)

In the great central article "Publishing 101," which attempts to explain everything an author should know about the publishing process, the #1 tip is that authors MUST be prepared to market and promote their own work. However, there's also a great gentle reminder to balance that: if you spend too much/all your time marketing that first baby of yours, you'll never write anything else...and continuing to write is your primary job/passion.

I also liked this piece of advice: when working with an editor, hold onto the things that are really important to you. I have learned WONDEFUL things about writing from all my editors; almost always, they are able to point out areas of weakness, sections that needed change or clarification, and the result was a better story. Occasionally, though, you might feel strongly about keeping a plot point/name/character/etc...and if that's the case, then don't give up too easily. Explain to your editor why you want to keep your plot point/name/character the way it is. She might agree. She might still ask you to change it. But don't ever be afraid to have that conversation.

And how cool is this: Marianne's friend Charity Tahmaseb, whose debut novel The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading I mentioned a few days ago, is quoted! She says, "The one thing that really stands out is how many times I ended up reading the entire book, in manuscript and page-proof form...As it stands now, the only book I've read more than my own is Pride and Prejudice." This is true as well, folks: by the time your book hits the shelves, you'll be so tired of reading through it, first for major revisions and then for minor edits and then again for typographical errors, that it's likely you'll never pick it up to read once it appears in print!

Finally, there's a great article on plot vs. prose, the debate between "literary" and "genre" fiction. More on this tomorrow...