Friday, July 30, 2010

Brrr-eak Time

Princess Frostine

Ah Friday. The day that used to mean: here comes two days of freedom! Now it means: what in the world am I going to do with my children so we don't end up in a hair-pulling free-for-all over who got the Princess Frostine card while playing Candyland?

ldsc363_0607 - A grizzly bear cub looks for breakfast near Bow Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

This weekend will be a little different as the kids are headed to their grandparents while the husband and I are off to Banff for a couple days of hiking. Schweet! This little break couldn't have come at a better time. After several weeks of rewriting, I'm having trouble looking at my manuscript without wanting to hurl chunks. Sorry pal, it's not you, it's me.

So I'll be on a blogging/commenting hiatus until next Friday. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

I've got to admit, I didn't plan on reading this. I looked at it in the store and thought, "Nah, it's so short, and I already know the ending, so what's the point?" Then my good husband bought it for me as a surprise. Who am I to turn down a gift?

If you are wondering whether to spend the $14 or not, you may want to save your money for something else and check this out at the library or borrow it from a friend. It's not badly written, but--unless you're a teenager and/or uber-obsessed with these vampires--it won't rock your world. What I do like is how Meyer takes a doomed character and makes you wish for a different outcome. For a writer, seeing the mechanics of this is worthwhile. There are moments when Bree could have changed her fate if only she had . . . I like that in a suspense novel. Let your reader know something terrible is going to happen, present a clear escape hatch, and then have the character pass it by. These "if only" moments create fantastic page-turning tension.

The ending has an interesting (to me) tidbit. Spoiler Alert! When Bree realizes her love interest is dead, she welcomes her own death. Did Meyer want to cushion the blow of Bree's impending doom after taking the time to make her readers care about her? Or is it a character thing, because feeling suicidal after losing your (almost) boyfriend reads like classic teenage angst. Yet Meyer seemed to take the moral high ground with sex by having Bella and Edward wait until marriage. This novella, on the other hand, revels in a teenager's reckless attitude toward life and death. Perhaps the contrast is deliberate, another way to enhance the "goodness" of the vegetarian vampires against the evil of the rest.

I'd be interested in your opinion.

Monday, July 26, 2010

All In The Family

Howdy and Good Evening! Big Bear (and as of Tuesday morning, Little Bear too) came down with a virus/fever/who-knows-what and stayed home from summer camp to play all day with mommy. So this blog is for them. We've read many of Laura Numeroff's books such as If You Give a Cat a Cupcake and If You Give a Moose A Muffin, so Big Bear decided she should write her own version. I like it because it gives you a pretty accurate picture of a day in the life of me and mine-minus the trip to Paris.

THE FOX IS SHEDDING ITS WINTER COAT . SPRING , ONTARIO CANADA Artic fox - Alopex Lagopus White phase shedding hair

If You Give a Fox a French Fry

If you give a fox a French fry
He’ll want some ketchup to go with it.
And if you give him some ketchup
He’ll think of chicken nuggets.

If he thinks of chicken nuggets,
You’ll have to take him to McDonald’s
After he’s done eating,
He’ll want to play in the playground.

After playing for a while,
He’ll need to go to the bathroom.
If you take him to the bathroom,
He’ll want to play in the sink.

He’ll get all wet and you’ll
Have to go get extra napkins.
If you give him some napkins,
He’ll want ot make a plane out of them.

These airplanes will make him want to go
On a trip to France to see the Eiffel Tower.
Then he’ll want to come home.

On the plane ride back,
He’ll start to get hungry
So he’ll ask you for a French fry.

And chances are
If you give a fox a French fry
He’ll ask for some ketchup to go with it.

The End

Close-up of a carton of french-fries with ketchup

Friday, July 23, 2010

Query-Query Bo-ery, Banana Fanna Fo-ery . . .

Family playing board game

Yesterday, Christi Goddard likened the query process to American Idol. I’m thinking that it would also make a good board game. Imagine the little plastic pawns with laptops glued to their fingers and Hummel-wide eyes dreaming of interviews on The Today Show and red carpet movie premiers (based on the No. 1 New York Times Bestseller!).

Roll the dice and see where you land. One square might say, “Oops, you addressed your query Ms. Bransford instead of Mr. Bransford. Go back one space,” or “Congratulations, you got a partial, move forward three spaces!” What would be the endgame? When you got an agent? Or when the book sold to a publisher?

Silly as this is, the board game—or video game if you prefer—idea can be useful. Having a hard time handling rejection? Tell yourself it’s all just a dream, a bad dream. No wait. A game (a bad game). If the ghosts eat your pac man, do you feel personally insulted by your computer and mope around the house for days? (If you didn’t say no, go back four spaces.) Maybe you curse, or maybe you go grab a Ho-Ho, but if you want to reach 100,000, you hit play and keep on truckin’.

Queries are a game of chance. Your (Herculean) task is to come up with a set of words to entice the agent to ask for pages only knowing (if you’re lucky) a snippet about the agent’s likes and dislikes from their website (if they have one). It’s like buying a Christmas present for a stranger who likes Jack Nicholson. Well, fine. Do you send The Shining, Batman, or As Good As It Gets? Answer: none of the above. The agent actually likes Jack Nicklaus and wants a book on the greatest golfers of all time. What? Didn't you know non-fiction was easier to sell than fiction?

So get on your game face, and when those rejections show up—you’ll know right away because they all start “Thank you . . .”—regroup, rewrite, and keep on playing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I have a dark fascination with high school shootings, which isn’t surprising. Horror books and movies are an addiction I’ve had since childhood. High school shooters are boogeymen made all the more terrifying by their familiarity—they’re someone’s classmate, brother, boyfriend, son.

In We Need to Talk About Kevin, the boogeyman’s tale is told in letters from Kevin’s mother, Eva Khatchadourian to her husband, Franklin. Talk about ‘round’ characters. Shriver is brilliant here. I must reread this book again just to study how she brings Eva to life. It’s masterful.

Ms. Shiver isn’t a mother, but she captures the frustrations of parenthood perfectly. Young Kevin makes Damien from The Omen seem like piquant prankster. In one memorable scene, Eva picks up five-year-old Kevin and chucks him across the room. Instead of being horrified by this child abuse, part of me felt Eva’s actions were (almost) justified. Child-rearing can take you to very dark places. I haven’t tossed my kids across a room, but they have made me angrier than any other person on the planet. Whenever I see parents losing their tempers with their kids in public, it gives me the warm fuzzies—not because I’m enjoying the parent’s pain, but there’s comfort in knowing it’s not just me. Eva’s loss of control moved me in the same way.

Another hurdle Ms. Shriver handles beautifully is suspense. The massacre is not a surprise. We know it’s coming. The juicy part is seeing how the main event fails to be prevented despite all the warning signs. It’s like the frog-in-hot-water phenomena. Put a frog in boiling water and it’ll jump out. But put a frog in warm water and heat it up slowly—well, supposedly you can boil that sucker alive. Eva acclimates herself to the horror of her son in order to survive, but she pays one hell of a price. (Be warned, the ending has a gut-wrenching twist.)

As an interesting footnote, Ms. Shiver’s agent did not want to send this book out to editors, so Shriver shopped it around herself. Not only was it published, it won U.K.’s Orange Prize for fiction and is being made into a movie.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blog, blog, blog

Hello! I’m back from inner space. The family branches have been hosted, the carpet is in, and there are no more excuses—back to blogging. Actually, the families/carpet warn’t the problem. No, it was the big R on the full. The agent sent back specific criticisms that I decided to address. Was I busting tail to get it done? Hell yes and then some, because what if I get another request for a partial or full in the meantime?

Stop laughing. I mean it.

Now that two weeks have passed and my mailbox has virtual tumbleweeds rolling around in it, I’ve come back down to earth. Here’s what going on in my little corner of the blogosphere:

Christi Goddard tuned her followers in to this really nifty site called "I Write Like". Go on over and paste in your writing and see what great scribe is in you. You can even grab the badge and paste it on your website.

I put in about twenty different chapters of my wip (a multiple point of view work), fully expecting to see Stephen King. He showed up only twice. It seems my detective/hero voice is channeling Ian Fleming and Douglas Adams. My feisty female FBI Agent’s voice is written ala Margaret Atwood. I’m especially proud of my twenty-something psy-chic. She comes out as written by J.D.Salinger and Dan Brown. What a combo! And Leo Tolstoy popped up for my FBI Director of Intelligence. Cool. Oddly enough, my violent car crash, a sure bet for King, came up Stephanie Meyers.

So what does it all mean? Either I suffer from multiple-personality syndrome when I write, or maybe I’ve done a decent job of giving these different characters their own voice.

Speaking of badges, I suppose it’s legal for me to post a couple now. Zoe Courtman awarded all her followers the You Are My Sunshine badges several weeks ago. Thanks! If I had to design a badge, I’d call it the ‘Yellow britches’ award and give it too any blogger who made me laugh hard enough to, well, you know. Zoe, you’d be a recipient with that fluffy cat bottom thing from right before your vacation.

I also ended up in a very cool photo montage over at the Creepy Query Girl’s page. This lady has some skills, friends! She also invited several of her followers to pick a badge of their liking and I’ll take blogger buddy. Thank you, CQG, it’s delicious.

Justine Dell is back from her blog break. She shared some extremely important query pitfalls last week. If you are in the query stage, go read them. Please. Will she have the Grammar Police out in force today? Check for excellent tips most Mondays.

If you love cute cats, and who wouldn’t, be sure to head on over to L.Diane’s aka 'Spunky' for the Sunday Sillies. You’ll be glad you did, and you can even come up with your own silly caption for one of the pictures.

If you like beautiful poetry, awesome pictures, and a cute "Waffle" dog, go meet Terresa Wellborn over at The Chocolate Chip Waffle. Hannah Kincade over at Musings of a Palindrome also has mad skills for finding awesome graphics. I'd comment on her writing, but it's not loading. Technology is not my friend today. Writing Nut has reached the 100 follower mark! (And then some.) Congratulations!

And, finally, I saw several author interviews posted by Jennifer Daiker at Unedited.

Now I have two days to think of something to post other than mootching off you fine people!

Friday, July 2, 2010

What's Going On

Message with web address inside bottle

Good Morning. Let’s see what’s going on in blog world:

1. June 30 and July 2: The Creepy Query Girl shows us how to deal with a full rejection. I got my first this morning, but it came with specific reasons for the rejection, which gives me something useful to ponder other than the general “I didn’t love it enough.” The agent was also kind enough to say they were sure another agent would feel differently, which I’ll interpret as, “This isn’t good enough for us, but your book isn’t worthless, so do continue on your quest for representation.”

2. June 28: Spunk on a Stick’s L. Diane Wolfe shared some personnel trials and tribulations of burn-out which are particularly enlightening. See, even published authors get the blues.

4. Justine Dell’s on a two-week hiatus. We’ll miss you, and hope it’s a productive break.

5. Christi Goddard’s 106th Follower Contest closes on the Fourth, so get your short stories in (around 500 words). Excellent gift-card prizes await.

I’ll be spending time hosting different relatives at the house, which means I actually need to clean up this dump. Plus I'll be traveling to a family reunion next week, where there will be a professional photographer lurking around. Uhg, why didn't I get my hair cut this week? Or lose ten pounds? Maybe I can hide behind my children.

The week of the 12th, I’m hoping to schedule our new carpet installation. The present rag on the floor is 23-years-old and has stains on its stains. Begone, foul berber! Your giraffe-spotted spoilage sickens me! So blogging may sporadic. Hope you have an excellent 4th, dear readers.