Nov 16, 2011

Why You Shouldn’t Query Your NaNoWriMo Piece

It’s November, that means – along with Movember – we’re in NaNoWriMo, the time of year when skads of people sit down and do their best to pump out 50k words in a 30 day period.
I started Nano this month… which, I’ll be honest was a bad idea in hindsight, for 3 reasons.
#1. I have something hanging in the ether – and I’m rubbish at finishing other things when I’ve got that little unknown floating about.
#2. It’s the end of the year, when my average w/c drops like nobody’s business.
And
#3. I ended up moving the second weekend of the month – inciting stress induced lack of motivation!

But I have written a first draft in under a month before. My beta and self-proclaimed biggest fan, Katie, challenged me to write a draft in a month. 20 days later I had a 72k word first draft.
But. The problem with pumping out something that quickly, is this:

That’s what it looks like when you edit something written with that much haste. (also, for an adult Science Fiction novel, I’m about 18k short of the generally accepted word count for that sort of novel.)
This was novel #5, I finished the first draft in August of last year…. And it’s still worse off than novel #6 and the first draft of #7.
And that is why you shouldn’t query your NaNo piece – as soon as December 1st comes around. It won’t be ready. Edit. Edit. Edit.
Writing a novel is step one in an extremely long process. Don’t skip  steps 2-6(all of which are “revise!”)

Are you doing NaNo this year? Hit any stumbling blocks this year?

Nov 4, 2011

Author Interview: Seleste deLaney


ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.
SD: I'm a former lab rat turned high school science teacher turned stay-at-home-mom who decided to escape the madness by diving into her first love: fiction. Since making that decision in 2007, I've written seven novels (and written large chunks--about 1/3-1/2 of two more), four novellas (and another that is almost finished), and more short stories than I care to count (four of which have gone on to be published). All told, not including re-writes, it works out to about 800,000 words. 

ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
SD: Of mine? Uhhhh...this is like picking a favorite kid and I only have two of those to choose from. It honestly changes almost daily, but for today, I'll go with Ever, the heroine of Badlands. Mainly because of her complete balls-out, honest approach to life (okay, and her bad-assery). The only time she falters is when the hero manages to touch on the love thing. She was a bit of (*cough* okay, a major) man-hater prior to him, so I loved watching her try to build her walls back up as they crumbled.

ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
SD: My favorite antagonist is actually from one of my (as of yet) unpublished young adult novels. His name is Ian Donnelly, and he's an Irish mob boss. There's a scene that I still remember writing where the hero is in a room with him. Donnelly's holding a letter opener, and the hero can't stop watching the way the light gleams on the edge of its blade. For me, that simple act with a less-than-lethal weapon still freaking the hero out showed in really simple terms just how dangerous Donnelly was. And he was a lot of fun to write. 

ABK: Was there one thing in particular that got you started in the Romance genre?
SD: A kick in the ass...or ten. The first novel I ever wrote was a romance, but then I moved to YA for a couple years. It took people pushing me to try something different to attempt to tackle romance again. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I can write other things too. 

ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel(la) (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
SD: The first novel I ever finished was started for NaNoWriMo 2007. Prior to that, I'd been slogging through a story that I just couldn't seem to make happen. I decided I needed a break and shelved it for November. Looking back, I know there was something that inspired it, but now I couldn't tell you what exactly. That story (which I promised one of my early readers I would go back and re-write to try and get it published--it's her favorite of mine) was about the island of Avalon and the heir to Arthur's throne and all sorts of magic and mayhem, oh, and dragons.

ABK: What is the most difficult part of the novel(la) writing process for you?
SD: I have a hell of a time with endings. Every time I get close to the end of a draft, my writing feels like it slows down. It's completely a mental block, because the drafting is the fun part. Once it's over the work part starts. I don't want the fun to end, so I hang onto it for all I'm worth. It drives me batty.

ABK: Tell us about an inspiration that arrived from a strange source.
SD: A strange source? Most of those I haven't written yet, so I don't want to talk about something that won't happen. But one of my favorites regards one of my Paranormal Response Team stories (YA). I was driving (I could even show you exactly what stop light I was at when this happened...and thank goodness I was at a light) when David Cook's song "Lie" came on. It's this sad song about a break-up that's about to happen. Love the song. I'd listened to it dozens of times. That day though, I had this crystal clear image of my main character from Pretty Souls, Elle, trapped in a cage and starving to death. At the time, I was barely thinking series, but that image made me examine the characters. Figuring out how she got in that cage spawned the rest of the series. 

ABK: When writing Badlands, your super steamy steampunk, did you find writing your particular alternate history difficult or exhilarating?
SD: I loved writing Badlands as a steampunk (it started out as a space western...which didn't go so well). Reimagining the United States was such a freeing experience. More than any other story I've ever written, Badlands made me feel like I could do anything with my worlds and characters. That story is the one that made me realize I like taking risks (and there are certain things I did with Ever's character that some people still get cranky at me for). To me, I'd rather be true to characters and stories than tropes and conventions, and all of that started with Ever and Badlands.

ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?
SD: Please do not look at my GoodReads page because I've been reading a bunch of books for a while now (I had to stop each of them to read something for review and most didn't get picked up again...yet). At the moment, I'm back into Heist Society by Ally Carter. It's a YA caper story. I bought a bunch of stuff when Borders closed and I honestly have no idea what's next on my TBR. 

ABK: Promo time! What’s your next book and when will it be released?
SD: My first (sort of) self-published short story came out in October. Forever Summer won the 1 Place for Romance summer contest. They provided cover art and editing, but posting it was all on me, so...I guess I'm officially an indie author now too (kind of). I also have a new holiday short coming in the Evernight holiday anthology Stockings and Suspenders (I don't have a release date on it yet, but I'm assuming early December). My story is called Making the Naughty List and is a follow-up to last year's Yes, Alana, There Is a Santa Claus. In this one, readers actually get to meet Santa, which was fun for me. The story, however, follows a young elf named Daisy who is on a mission from Santa to get a certain Mr. Gage Thomas off the naughty list...by whatever means necessary. 

Check out more From Seleste at her website and follow her on twitter!
and,
If you'd like to check out my review of Badlands, it's here.

Oct 26, 2011

10 Things That Shouldn’t Be In Your Query


Rhetorical Questions – Have you ever wondered why queries shouldn’t be printed on blue cardstock? Probably not. The problem with rhetorical questions is that the answer is usually no. Why do you want an agent to have the word “No” in her mind before she gets through your query?  A rhetorical Q as a first sentence is effectively cutting your head off. If you’ve got a rhetorical question, cut it out and find a better way to approach that. Rhetoricals are lazy.
Rachelle Gardener from WordServe Literary Group: Your query begins with a rhetorical question. The problem with this is that usually my answer to your question is “no” so you’ve already lost me. Especially the “Have you ever wondered…?” questions. (Rachelle’s Blog)
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Clichés or TropesThe point of a query is to illustrate the Uniqueness of your novel to an agent or publisher. Clichés and Tropes are not unique. Chances are, if you’re using one, an agent (or their assistant) has already read three blogs that morning with the same string of words or the same basic plot device. Give them a reason to ask for more! Make your query a shiny gem poking out of a mound of sand – make it irresistible!

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Vagueness – This thing happened and it was bad, but then it was okay because the MC turned it around. I don’t honestly expect anyone to have a sentence like that in their query… but I have seen more verbose sentences that tell me just about the same thing.  Be specific. I know you only have a limited amount of space, but make it count! Don’t leave us asking a dozen who, what, and whys.
Dan Lazar from Writer’s House: Saying “my novel is about a mom going through some life challenges” is vague, and remember: Vague = boring. (Writer’s Digest Editor Blog)

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No HookA hook does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s meant to hook an agent. Without one, there’s nothing in your query that will catch an agent’s interest. It doesn’t have to be the first sentence. It’s a unique concept delivered in a well written and well thought out way. Show the agent why they should pick you, don’t expect them to though, unless you’ve got a good reason.

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Lack of Confidence/apologizing – Rule of thumb: never apologize for taking up an agent’s time. You’re not. And never assure them that you know they have better things to do. They don’t. If you are and if they do… you’re query is in the hands of their assistant – or it’s waiting in their inbox until they have the time. By giving of an air of lacked confidence, you make yourself sound like a risk. If you don’t have any faith in your query – or the fact that it’s worth their time – why should they? Why should an editor? Why should a reader? If you don’t feel confident. Fake it.
Jessica Faust from BookEnds,LLC: frequently authors start queries by saying things like, “the last thing you probably need is another query . . .” You’re right. It is the last thing I need, and since even you don’t think yours is important enough to stand out from the rest, I think I’ll reject (BookEnd’s Blog)
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A Recent News Headline as your main PlotIf it was a major news headline in the last decade or two, chances are its too fresh in our minds to need a plot centered on it. Your main character can have a back story that involves the incident, but it shouldn’t be the thing that everything else hinges on.  Fact of the matter is: the news is competing with you for a market and when people can get the run down in a few snippets on TV, why are they going to want to read a novel, that probably isn’t going to tell them much more?

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Author Bios that don’t matter – I have an adorable dog – a rescue from South Korea – and I wrote my first “novel” when I was in the seventh grade, but none of that matters to an agent looking at the ms you’re pitching in your query.  They don’t care that you’ve loved writing all your life – so have most of the other people who’s letters fall across their desk. If you’ve got relevant bio information, put that in. If not, don’t put anything in. Relevant in this case includes degrees (in the writing field or a field that holds relevance to your novel – and that the agent can see are relevant based on the query) previous publishing credits (not self published – we’ll talk about that in a minute).  They don’t need to know how many kids you have, or that you enjoy LARPing.
Maya Rock, Prev with Writer’s House: The focus of the letter should be on getting the agent to fall in love with your book, not you. (Maya Rock’s Blog)
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Comparisons to best sellersHere’s the thing about best sellers. No one can predict them – not accurately anyway. An agent could pick up your book and think “This is going to be a best seller, I just know it!” and then never find an editor for it. Or an editor might think the same thing… and then when it’s published, it flops. In some cases, everyone knows the book is going to sell and it does. But chances are, those books are not comparable to other best sellers. Why does someone want to read another Twilight? Why does someone want to read another Davinci Code? Readers don’t want a copy. They want something fresh and stimulating. You may have written a book about vampires and a clandestine catholic underground… but if you compare it to those two best sellers, it’s going to leave a sour taste in an agent’s mouth as (s)he’s reading it.  (on a side note, don’t bother with Vampires at all for a while – that market is saturated, so unless you’ve got something that is so unique it doesn’t even resemble vampire novels, you can try, otherwise, don’t bother.)
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Themes – If you wrote your book with a specific theme in mind, or found that you had a theme when you were going through on edits, that’s great. But Agent’s don’t want to hear about it.
Rebecca Sherman from Writers House: Provide a list of issues that your novel will cover instead of an overview of your story. (Ingrid’s Notes)
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Your self-published bookIf you’ve self published a book, don’t bring it up in your query. It’s not that agents frown upon self publishing as a whole; it’s simply that no traditional publisher is going to care unless you’ve sold gobs of books. It’s not a device an agent can use to market this novel. So it does absolutely zilch for you in a query.  Also, if you’re querying a novel you’ve already self published and are looking for a way to expand your sales by taking it to a traditional publisher, stop right now. Unless you’ve sold a ridiculous amount of copies, no one wants sloppy seconds.
Lauren MacLeod from the Strothman Agency:  If your self pub book has sold under 500 copies at a $.99 price point, I don't want to hear about it. 5,000? Maybe. (Twitter)

Oct 21, 2011

Confessions of a Critique Partner: Joann

Let me start off this “Confession” post by letting you know that Joann from over at Laundry Hurts My Feelings is my fabulous Crit Partner and then by assuring you that when I asked her to write a confession about being my Crit Partner… this was not what I expected and am extremely flattered.
So, here’s Joann:

Since, I’m here to confess today, I might as well give you a whopping big confession.

I’ve written a novel. I’ve labored long and hard over my novel. I’ve sweated, what feels like blood, at times. I’ve given up a lot of living in the pursuit of these words of mine. I’ve far too often, cried in frustration. I’ve lain awake at night, my head filled with plot lines and revisions. But more than all of those tough moments put together, I’ve been euphoric, filled with a writerly joy, on the days when the words just tumbled out of me, my hands flying at super speed to catch them. And I have never felt prouder of an accomplishment than when I was able to write those two little words, The End.

And that’s not even my confession.

It’s this: I could not have done any of it, without the incomparable A.B. Keuser.

From the beginning, I have had this great circle of readers composed of family and friends. Their suggestions and critiques were an invaluable part of my writing process. And even though I will be forever grateful to them for giving me a reader’s viewpoint, one of the most crucial opinions in the literary world, none of them were writers.

I knew my novel needed a writer’s sharp eye.

But, I didn’t need just any writer’s eye. I needed a writer I could trust; who would be willing to sacrifice her own valuable time to pore over my words as carefully as if it were her prenup to Donald Trump; a writer who had my best interest in mind; a writer who could help me shape my novel into something marketable, something that would attract an agent’s eye.

And that is when A.B. Keuser came to the rescue.

We befriended each other in the blog world, through an unfortunate incident I had with a query—a dismal story for another day. She took my sad little query in her capable hands and shaped it up as easily as if she were making one of those snakes from Play-Doh, (the only thing I know how to do with Play-Doh) and out of that query, a friendship and a partnership were born.

A.B. and I became each other’s critique partners.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled to delve into A.B.’s world, so different from the one I’d created. As I read her manuscript, line by line, poring over each word, each punctuation mark, each idea, I oftentimes grew impatient, wanting to fly through the words to see what was around the corner in her tale of otherworldly suspense, thrills and danger.

I hope my suggestions and critiques helped her. But my input was so inconsequential, compared to what she gave me.

She took my novel and pulled it apart and said, “This needs to be put back together again, like this . . .” And after countless back and forth emails, her patiently explaining to me exactly what my novel needed, she finally ordered me, (with kindness), to Just. Do. It.

And so I did.

And that novel of mine was so much better for it. It now had this cadenced flow it had been missing before, something I’d been too blinded to notice.

You see, as writers, our novels are our babies. And since we gave birth to these creations, we are hard pressed to see the flaws in those pages.

Putting your novel in the hands of another capable writer is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself and for your writing.

I am relieved and proud to say my novel is headed out to the land of agent querying, a whole new journey in this writing process for me.

I wouldn’t be able to say those words, if it wasn’t for A. B. Keuser.

Seriously.

If she ever wants to give up her day job, she has a promising future as an editor and writer, of course. She could crown herself the title, The Wizard of Writing. I’d buy her a sparkly wand. That’s all she would need, because her masterful eye and her innate grasp of knowing what works and what doesn’t, is a gift.

And this writer will be forever grateful for The Wizard of Writing’s gift.

If you are a writer, my biggest piece of advice, besides be true to the voice that lives inside your head, would be to find a great critique partner, one who knows a thing or two about writing.

But don’t set your sights on A.B. Keuser. She’s mine. And she knows all the secrets.
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Oct 7, 2011

Blogger Interview: Matthew McNish

Matthew's blog The Quintessentialy Questionable Query Experiment is all about his writing journey and helping others perfect their queries before submission.

ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.
MM: Not much to know. All the adventurous parts of my life are thankfully past and not to be admitted to in public forums. Now I work a soul-sucking day job in the tech industry, raise my two daughters, collect books, walk my dog, run a blog, write stories, and drink a lot.
ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
MM: Hmm. I might say Frodo Baggins, but my love for him is really overshadowed by my love for Aragorn, Gandalf, Samwise, and Legolas, so although those are my all time favorite books, I may not count Frodo as my favorite protagonist. Harry Potter may be close, but then he's also sometimes a bit of a nob, so I'm not picking him either. I'm going to go with Nailer, from Ship-Breakr, because although I really loved Andrew Smith protagonists like Jack from The Marbury Lens and Troy from Ghost Medicine, I talk about Andrew Smith too much.
ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
MM: I don't have a great answer for this either. He really isn't an antagonist in the pure, traditional sense, but I'm going to go with Tyrion Lannister. He's just so clever and so tortured. My favorite true antagonist has to be Sauron. There's just something about the way Tolkien pulls off supreme evil, without ever bringing the "character," "on screen."
ABK: You help other writers by critiquing queries on your blog. When and why did you start doing that?
MM: It's kind of a long story. I jumped into the query waters far too prematurely myself, ended up confused and frustrated, and was ready to give up, a couple years ago. Then one day it struck me to start blogging. I figured I could share my own bad queries, and show people what not to do. Then, as I met published and successful writers who also blogged, it morphed into sharing their successful queries, which was really popular for a while, and taught me a lot. Finally, as I got good at recognizing what made a good query letter, I started offering my services to help my fellow aspiring novelists.
ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
MM: I always thought about writing a novel. Daydreamed about it. I never really tried though. I wrote a lot of short stories and poetry when I was in school, but I gave up on all of it for over a decade. Then a few years ago, a novel-worthy idea finally struck me. I actually went to reform school when I was a teenager, and one day it just came to me: what if that school had been really cool, instead of a half-formed nightmare? What it they had taught me martial arts and magic? Everything else in the book is basically true.
ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
MM: Well, and I've talked about this a lot, my big problem was knowing how to write a novel. I just sat down and wrote every thing that happened in my head, in the story. It took over 400,000 words to do so. I had no idea how long a standard debut novel was. I like long books, so I wrote a long book.
ABK: Are you a Night Owl or Early Bird? When is the best time for you to sit down and plunk out a few thousand words?
MM: Well I've really never been a morning person, but now that I have to be, because of work, I get the most writing done in the morning. I can revise a bit at night, or critique friends' novels, but I really can't draft well at night, on a laptop, in bed, three sheets to the wind.
ABK:What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?
MM: I'm reading Solstice, by PJ Hoover. I'm also reading three unpublished novels that I cannot name. Two are ones I'm critiquing, and one is just not published yet. I try my best not to let the voice of other authors effect my own, but I do remember my character getting a little sarcastic and demented after reading some Charles Bukowski.

Sep 30, 2011

Author Interview: C. M. Keller

ABK:  Tell us a little about yourself to start off.

CMK: I’m a rich and famous writer who lives in a castle in Spain. Just kidding. I live in a 1940s bungalow that’s not quite big enough for me, my husband, our four kids, and assorted pets, including a black Lab named Jezebel. 

ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?

CMK: This is a hard question! It’s like trying to pick a favorite star in the sky.

I love Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games—I’d like to be the kind of woman who can fish, shoot, and exchange my life for the life of someone I love. I adore Gabriel Allon in Daniel Silva’s spy thrillers—an art restorer who can drop a bad guy with one bullet. I love Anne Elliot in Persuasion—one of the best examples of character growth bar none. (Though she could use a little of Lizzie’s wit.) I love...I’d better stop now because I could go on for paragraphs.

ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.

CMK: Opal Koboi from the Artemis Fowl series. You’ve got to love someone who says, “Don’t look at me, it’s bad for my skin,” or “World domination. You make it sound so unattainable” or “Peace be inside me, tolerance all around me, forgiveness in my path. Now, Mervall, show me where the filthy human is, so that I may feed him his organs.”

ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)? What got you started?

CMK: When I was 12 years old, I dragged a typewriter up into the attic. The moment I saw my words printed on a page, I was hooked. Though the emotional charge may have also come from the lightning bolt that struck a tree next to the window where I was writing.

ABK: According to your blog, your daughter can be credited with giving you that final shove to self publish this title. Was it a huge push? Or do you think you would have self pubbed it without her involvement, just at a later date?

CMK: We could say she gave me a shove, but it felt more like a kick in the hiney. She nagged and cajoled me. Finally, I agreed that if the book was still unpublished by a certain date, I’d e-publish.  I probably would have self-pubbed on my own later, but without her computer expertise I might have given up.

ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?

CMK: Writing is like an addiction. In a first draft, when the story flows through your mind and onto the page, the rush is amazing. But first drafts are miserable if you fall into a plot hole and have to dig your way out. Editing is great when you find the perfect word—Mark Twain called it “the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” But when you rework the same sentence for twenty minutes without making headway—it’s slow torture.

ABK: Your novel has a large portion of it that takes place in Bodiam castle. Have you been there yourself? Or was your experience with it entirely from internet/library research?

CMK: I had a castle in my head when I started the book. Then I realized Bodiam Castle was almost exactly what I saw in my head, even down to the legend of the woman in red who haunts the castle. That was amazing!  I think it must be that ghost who was my muse for Screwing Up Time.

Oops, I didn’t answer your question. No, I haven’t been to the castle. Originally, I bought books about Bodiam. But then, I found all the pictures people posted online of their vacation trips to Bodiam Castle. They were invaluable—I even discovered some errors in the books that I’d bought, which led to rewriting.

ABK: How close are you to finishing the sequel? Can you tell us anything about it?

CMK: I’m finishing the first draft—I’m writing the climax. There’s so much I’d like to tell you, but I don’t want to spoil the book. I will tell you that most of the major characters come back, an ancient “waterslide” becomes a getaway vehicle, and Mark plays Settlers of Catan with a king.

ABK: Another novel you’re shopping is lovingly called the Platypus. How did it get that nickname?

CMK: My novels have a lot of aspects of multiple genres. (Screwing Up Time has been called every from action adventure to romantic comedy.) My other novel is the same. Although it’s literary fiction, it has aspects of historical fiction, thrillers, and romance. And the platypus with its mismatched otter fur and duck bill reminds me of my writing. Besides, you can’t help loving a platypus—they even have poisoned spurs. How cool is that?!

ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?

CMK: Right now I’m reading a George R. R. Martin novel. As much as I love reading within the genres I write, I read a lot outside of my genres—I try to glean what it is that makes the novels “work” and learn from it. For example, with the Martin novels, what keeps me reading it, even though I’m not big on fantasy, is the characterizations and the way he humanizes even rotten characters. Maybe it’s reading so many genres that makes my own writing difficult to categorize.

Thanks so much, Amy, for inviting me to do this interview—it was a lot of fun!


If you missed it, check out my review of her novel Screwing Up Time and go get your ecopy

And check out her blog A Merry Heart

Sep 15, 2011

Why I hate Romeo & Juliet


One of Shakespeare’s most known tragedies, Romeo and Juliet is thrust upon us in our high school composition classes and then mercilessly shoved down our throats.
Romeo and Juliet is not a romantic love story. It’s a story about two insipid children who married young and without their parent’s consent without knowing each other and died because they were too stupid to step back and think for half a second.
Romeo is an inconstant fool. He begins the play lovesick over Rosaline and within an act is mooning over Juliet.
Juliet isn’t much better. She meets a boy at a party and is suddenly head over heels for him and vowing her love on a balcony (yes, you know the one).
So, a fickle 15 year old boy and a cripplingly naïve 13 year old girl agree to get married in secret, having known each other all of six hours. They’re young, I know, but their entire situation could have been handled much better from the get go.
At thirteen I probably wanted to marry Mike Ringor (I had a horrible crush) but I’m pretty sure that, even if we were in a time and place where some friar was willing to marry us, I would have at least waited until I’d known him a week. And no offense, Mike, but that would have just been a plain ol’ bad idea.
And then you have a case of tight britches and hot tempers with the whole Tybalt challenges Romeo, Romeo refuses, Mercutio fights instead and is mortally wounded, Romeo slays Tybalt out of grief and guilt… Bob’s your uncle, Sally’s your aunt EVERYONE JUST DEFIED THE PRINCE!!!
Thusly Romeo is exiled, but spends the night and consummates his marriage with Juliet… and then Capulet goes off the deep end, telling Juliet she WILL marry Paris or else be drowned.  Which, come on… dude started the play saying she was too young to marry and then, when she seems grief stricken he forces her to get married? I’m not sure how you read that… but daddy might have some isues of his own.
So Juliet goes to the Friar for help and like any good man of the faith, he comes up with some grandiose plan that in no way involves being honest and instead gives her a “drug”  that puts her in a coma for 42 hours.  I recognize the fact that daddy Capulet probably would have drown her if she came out and told him – “hey, I can’t marry Paris because... well, you remember that Romeo guy? Yea….” But she went to an adult – this is what children are supposed to do when they are faced with a problem they cannot handle themselves – and somehow the friar manages to be just as childish in his handling of the situation as the kids are.
And of course we all know what happened then… Romeo doesn’t get the message in time, he goes to the crypt with his draught of poison, kills Paris, poisons himself, only to have Juliet wake seconds later to find him dead and kill herself… and THEN the families reconcile. I don’t know about you, but having the secondary characters learn something from the deaths of two completely naïve children is not what I call a satisfying ending. Stories can have morals yes, but I see no real love in this story.
The Prince’s ending words are the only part of this that rings true: For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo. Let’s face it, this story was doomed before the bard ever put his quill to parchment.

Next week, I'll talk about the Shakespeare Tragedy I love.

Aug 26, 2011

Blogger Interview: AmyBeth Inverness


ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.
ABI: When I was little I always said I wanted to be either an author or an architect. Having eventually learned that getting published was even less likely than becoming a huge movie star, I went to school for architecture. I’ve had a number of different jobs, including nanny, craft store clerk, telephone customer service, resident director and instructor at a local college. That last one was the only time I actually used my degree, teaching architecture students.
I grew up in Colorado, after IBM moved our family from Florida to Ohio, then Kentucky. I met my husband in Wyoming, and we moved to Vermont as newlyweds to be closer to my family (who transferred here after I graduated High School.) We’re still plotting our return West.
ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
ABI: It has to be Luke Skywalker. He started out as a brash, idealistic young kid who made mistakes and endured the consequences. But the arc of his character took him to become a true hero in every sense of the word.
ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
ABI: This one’s harder. I love Antagonists who have redeeming qualities that make us really feel like we understand and sympathize with what they’re going through, even though they’re the bad guy. I think the Antagonist I’ve always felt the most empathy for is Wile E Coyote.
ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
ABI: I always have a hard time figuring out what my first novel really is. I have several of those first novels that are in the back of the drawer and, if they’ll ever be seen it will be with a heavy dose of revision.
A friend told me about NaNoWriMo last October and I decided to do it. I loved the challenge of finishing a novel in one month, and having help and guidance as I did it. The caveat was my husband made me promise that, this time, I would send my manuscript to an agent or publisher.
That novel was Dogs, Cats, and Allergies, and even though it won’t be the first one I query, it counts as “first” in that it was the first one completed with the intent of eventually querying.
ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
ABI: Not flushing the whole thing down the toilet when I go through that phase when I hate what I’ve written. I have to remind myself that I won’t always feel that way, and that after the editing process it will be a much better story.
ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?
ABI: I’m reading Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right by Kieran Kramer. Her romances are playful and have a wonderful, light sense of humor. I do hope that some of her voice creeps into my writing… in fact I even earmark the occasional page to refer to later.
I’m also reading The Stars My Destination which is a sci-fi classic by Grandmaster Alfred Bester. There’s a strange story behind that… on facebook I occasionally ask my friends a “SyFy Question of the Day”. After posting a question about teleportation, John DeChancie (Yes, the John DeChancie, author of over two dozen books including the Castle Perilous series, whom I go totally fan-girl over) commented that I should read The Stars My Destination. I’m just a few chapters in, but it’s a completely different voice than the lighthearted romance, and it will be interesting to look back and see how it shows up in what I’m writing now. I’ve already started using the term jaunte in my serial Synaesthesia.
ABK: Why do you choose to be a redhead?
ABI: Both my husband and I love red hair, but other than some highlights on my rapidly graying head and some odd stray hairs in his beard, it doesn’t run in the family. I dyed it back in 2000 just for fun, and we both kinda liked it. Then we adopted the most adorable little red headed girl, and she thought it was the coolest thing that I dye my hair to match hers! So the red hair is now a permanent part of my persona, not just as a writer, but as a mom.
ABK: What sorts of creatures do you have (aside from your husband) and does wrangling them all interfere with your writing?
ABI: Wrangling the kids is definitely the biggest hurdle to my writing time. We have two girls, ages twelve and three. Our big lovey puppy, named Hemi, is not so much a distraction as he is a tripping hazard. We have five (Yes, five, long story.) cats, and they actually help the writing process. They are perfectly happy to just lay around, purring and getting pet, which lowers the blood pressure and helps me settle into my writing time. Sometimes when I’ve been writing for an hour or so I look around me and realize that every cat in the house has gravitated to me.
ABK: When it comes to writing are you an early bird, or a night owl - When do you find you’re the most productive?
ABI:“Early” should be a four-letter-word. I am absolutely the most productive at night. Unfortunately, my most creative state happens to be the just-getting-sleepy state that only lasts so long before it becomes the I’m-so-sleepy-I’m-falling-asleep-in-my-chair state.
ABK: If you had to get rid of every book you owned except one, which would you save?
ABI: I think I’d keep the Ozark Trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin. It’s out of print and hard to find, so I couldn’t replace it. I love the blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and it touched a nerve in my teenage psyche when I first read it.
ABK: To turn a few questions back on you - How much editing do your manuscripts go through before you’ll consider sending a query to an agent?
ABI: Apparently it never is ready, and I’ll never send that query! Since November, I’ve produced three rough drafts and I’m working on a fourth. (And a fifth… maybe a sixth if I do http://www.3daynovel.com/)
I’ve had a couple of experiences where I was overconfident and sent something out before it was ready, and ended up being rather embarrassed and discouraged. This time, I need to make sure what I send out is a good, professional piece of work. I have a good crit partner who will scour it for me, and hopefully after that I can decide whether it’s ready or if I need to do a second and third round of critique and revision.
ABK: Do you have rules for how steamy you write your sex scenes?
ABI: I worry about this more in the editing stage. I try to keep in mind how the book will be marketed, and make sure the heat level in the book fits that market. For example, a faith-based romance does not usually have a sex scene at all, while an erotic romance has plenty!
While writing, I don’t usually keep these rules in mind. If I feel like having the curtains flutter as the camera fades away, that’s what happens. If the sexual relationship between the characters is an important aspect of the story, I’ll write out every steamy detail.
I’ve also found that my own personal biorhythms affect the heat level of my writing. After being on fertility drugs for many months, the story I was working on started to mimic The Story of O. That’s when I depend on edits to bring the story to the heat level it should be.
ABK: If you could choose one place to hide away for a month to do nothing but write, where would you go for inspiration?
ABI: I’m not so sure my goal would be inspiration, or peace and quiet. There are all kinds of exotic locales I’d love to visit so I could do research set a story there. But if I simply wanted to finish my WIP I’d choose a nice cabin or hotel with room service and internet access. My crit partner and I have talked about renting a sea side cabin for a week, and that could work as long as I don’t have to worry about cooking and cleaning.
ABK: Why do you ask who shot first? And what is your opinion on the matter?
ABI: After I’d been doing interviews for a couple of months, I was composing questions for Ethan Stone, author of MM erotic romance. I noticed a Star Wars reference on his blog, so instead of just asking “So, do you like Star Wars?” I asked the incendiary question “Who shot first, Han or Greedo?”
This is a question that never fails to get fans riled up. In the original movie, Han Shot first. But when the movies were re-done decades later, the scene was revised to show that the bounty hunter Greedo shot first, and missed. The idea was that, since Han is a good guy, of course he could never be so sneaky as to shoot Greedo under the table! But fans were incensed, saying that Han shooting first was true to his character arc.
I compare the question to blogging. Unlike a traditionally published story, I can go back to a blog post at any time and revise the heck out of it.
My opinion? Han shot first. They should not have tried to make him look like a perfect hero who always does the right thing. He began as a badass, and he needed to start out that way in order for the arc of his character to have as great an impact as it did.
ABK: What’s the prime root of 4596^3 while balanced on a monkey?
ABI: Funny you should ask… I was trying to prove that we didn’t actually need to get a hold of an actual monkey to figure this out, and the whole conversation degenerated into a talk of unladen swallows and whether it really makes a difference whether it’s an African or a European bird. Well, it does, but we never figured out the monkey thing
Now I have to figure out what to do with all these coconuts…

Visit AmyBeth at her blog: The Inverness Press and check out her interview with me

Aug 19, 2011

Confessions of a Beta: Katie

Today I'm handing the post over to one of my Beta readers, Katie. (She is also my self proclaimed biggest fan - even turned in a resume for the position.)


****

Normally when I'm reading through a book, I think to myself, "I wonder what the author decided happened in this guy's past to make him act this way? How many planets are in this sci-fi? What happened to this country/universe/family in the ancient history of this story?" And that's where knowing the person who is writing the book comes in handy.


As Amy types up new books I get the pleasure of reading through them, usually as each chapter is finished. She will also send me rough drafts of queries, or a full novel that has been picked through by her other betas. While I may not be the best typist or speller, typos and other grammar issues usually scream out at me from other people's writing (those who can't do, teach - that type of thing). This skill doesn't usually get used while being Amy's beta until it is a proposed final draft and she is trying to tighten it up.

When she sends full chapters she is looking for feedback on the overall story lines and for any plot holes. With everything going on in someone's head while they are writing a novel, they may not catch that they haven't yet spoken of a cat that's in the story line, or they may not notice that they decided to kill off that character two chapters ago and didn't remove him later on while revising.

One of the things I love most of being a beta is firsthand seeing a story be born. I'm a huge fan of Amy's writing (the biggest fan, actually) and love the ideas and worlds that she creates for her characters. The only time it gets hard to be her beta is when she revises a story that I have already engrained in my head as being perfect. That's a small price to pay for getting to enjoy her reading!

Aug 12, 2011

Author Interview: Tiffany Reiz


The Siren, Tiffany Reisz's Debut novel about an erotica writer with a stuffy british editor and a secret night job as the city's formost dominatrix.
(I'll consider that sentence forwarning of what you can expect to find in the following interview)

Represented by the amazing Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency, Tiffany has also published an erotic novella called Seven Day Loan.

Tiffany's prose is enrapturing and completely unforgettable. Her agent said of The Siren: "I wanted to put chocolate on the pages and eat it." I think we can all agree that is a glowing reccomendation.

She has three novels coming out in 2012!

The Siren - release date: August 1, 2012
The Angel - release date: October 1, 2012
The Prince - release date: December 1, 2012

The Interview:

ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.

TR: I had a farm in Africa…

Oh, wait. That’s somebody else. My name is Tiffany Reisz and I am funky. Kentucky girl born and bred. Other than the fact that I’m a Catholic erotica writer who dropped out of a conservative seminary to become an erotica writer…there’s seriously not that much to say about me.

ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
TR: All-time fave protag? You ask easy questions. Hmmm…There’s a book by Iain Pears called An Instance of the Fingerpost. Four different men narrate the same events that swirl around the trial and execution of a woman named Sarah. I fell so deeply in love with Sarah as a person, as a flesh and blood human being, that I was in almost physical pain reading the book. I have never in my life read a more beautifully wrought female character in my life. I get chills just thinking about her.

ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
TR: I love Lestat in Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. There’s a delicious amorality to him. The best villains aren’t evil because pure evil is as cartoonish and unbelievable as pure good. I love amoral antagonists because they force the reader to make the moral judgments he or she won’t.

ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel or novella (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
TR: The book I ever tried to write was a young adult novel. As a kid growing up I read all sorts of fantasy novels—The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz…and what bugged me about them all was that the kid in the book always goes into the magic world and then almost immediately tries to get back to the real world. This disgusted me growing up. I wanted to stay in Narnia, stay in Wonderland. So I tried to write a book where the heroine gets swept into a magic world and despite having loving parents at home in the real world, chooses to stay forever. Subversive, isn’t it? If I ever get good enough to write YA, I might try it again.

ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
TR: I’m shit at plot. I always have to keep reminding myself, “You can’t just have funny people running around fucking. Something has to be going on. Up the goddamn stakes.”

The second most difficult part of writing a novel? Keeping my focus on the boohey look at the moth over there!

ABK: Your novel, The Siren, comes out in October. Are you feeling anxious about that? Or are you a cool cat who isn’t fazed by things like that yet?
TR: Well, now that they’ve moved my release date from October 2011 to August 2012, I’m much cooler about it. I asked the great and beautiful Toni Blake for some advice about what sort of marketing works to sell a book. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, your writing sells your writing. Just write more books. So that’s what I’m doing.
(Well! I'll just have to have you back on next year before it comes out - though I find this development personally tragic)

ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how or what you write?
TR: I’m reading The Woman in White by Wilke Collins. So far there’s no BDSM in it so no major influences from it to report yet.

ABK: Do you think your life, as a writer, got harder or more simple when you signed with Sara Megibow?
TR: It got more complicated. But in nothing but good ways. Agent Sara or Boss, as I call her, isn’t just an agent, she’s one hell of an editor. Sara always pushes me to write better, dig deeper, make the story richer. I owe her a lot. I found out a few people cautioned her against representing me because of the controversial subject matter in my books but she took me on anyway. I love that woman!

ABK: As far as I can tell from your twitter feed, interviews and website, you’re a pretty open book. Is there anything you can think of that might surprise us?
TR: There’s a famous phrase that describes people like me — hiding in plain sight. I talk frankly about sex and other taboo topics which other people aren’t comfortable talking about. So people assume they know everything about me. But the truth is, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that I can’t and won’t talk about.

Now you’re curious, aren’t you? You should be. ;)

ABK: Your novella is not for the faint hearted – I’ll assume The Siren isn’t either – have your family members read your work? And if so, how did they react?
TR: Oh, I don’t know. What’s a little fisting between friends? It’s funny. Some people who I thought would be shocked by SEVEN DAY LOAN were all, “Cute story!” whereas some people who write stuff I consider fairly erotic were shocked by it. Different strokes and all that jazz. THE SIREN has some intense content in it, but it’s also witty and urbane, fast-paced and fun. If I do say so myself.

ABK: What euphemisms do you find nauseating? Which do you feel are over used?
TR: I really hate erotica that is filled with “cocks” and “dicks” and “pussies” and “cunts.” I don’t need all that. What makes a sex scene erotic is the dynamic between the two or three characters, not their interlocking body parts.

ABK: Do you feel Erotic novels are becoming more mainstream? Or are you and other erotic authors fighting an uphill battle against our prudish country?
TR: It is disheartening that in America, one realistic sex scene can earn a film an NC-17 rating while a movie full of gun play and murder can still be PG. If I had kids, I’d much rather discover they were having sex than murdering people. All I can do is tell my stories that take sexy kinksters and show what real, awesome, and fun people they are.

ABK: Do you have any advice for those of us looking to break into the industry?
TR: Have talent. Use it.

I wish there was an easier way. I’m not one of those Pollyanna’s who say, “Anyone can write if they try hard enough!” I’ve met a lot of writers who work their asses off and still can’t write their way out of a paper bag. But if you do have talent, have a good voice, have a way with words, then write until your hands fall off. Recently I asked my ex-boyfriend who is a track coach how I could improve my 5K time. He said, “Run more.” That’s kind of my advice. Want to be a better writer? Write more.

Follow Tiffany on Twitter: @TiffanyReisz (something I highly reccomend)
Visit her website
And Buy Seven Day Loan from Amazon!
 
(A quick thank you to Jenna - another fan of Ms. Reisz - who suggested the Black and Blue Color scheme. It is only appropriate for her books.)