Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Snowball Fight!

Click (or copy and paste) link below to view my fun with my dog, Bella, as well as Obama, Einstein and Oprah.

Best people in the world to have a snowball fight with *snort*

Wishing all of you the very best Christmas and much joy in the coming year!

I'll be back with more posts in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What to get for the author who has everything

Most people who know me know that I don't enjoy shopping. It makes my eyes twitch and gives me cramps. This time of year is hell on a person like me. I do a lot of shopping online and in-store shopping gets done in November because I don't want to be trampled by crazed lunatics who've been imbibing in too much eggnog.

This year, I'm very proud of a couple purchases I made for myself.

Deadly serious sticky notes! On the back it claims they are perfect for letters of resignation and hit lists! What's not to love?

And the door mat pictured below. I seriously crack up every time I come home!

When delivery people arrive and Bella is barking like the crazed beast she is, I smile like the lunatic I am just because I KNOW they must be reading that mat and getting some snarky level of enjoyment out of it! So far, though, not one arrival at my door has appreciated my bastardized John Donne quotation nearly as much as I have ... nobody has even mentioned it. Except my kids. Who are embarrassed by it. But who cares? Doesn't matter squat to me because I LOVE it!

Have you bought yourself anything special lately?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 4

Tell your internal editor to go to hell.

You open your manuscript with the idea of writing a gazillion new pages and finally reaching that mid-way point in your two-gazillion page book. Except the minute you open Word you’ve gotta, just GOTTA, go back and check to see if the fact you mentioned about your protagonist liking chai tea is accurate to the story.

I mean, what would happen if you said she drank chai tea on page two hundred but waaaay back somewhere in the first couple chapters you’re pretty sure you mentioned she hates the stuff? There would be obvious anarchy, right?

So, yeah, you’re forced to go back and search through the pages for every mention of chai tea. Then you spend an hour googling the benefits of chai tea and trying to figure out what kind of messed-up creature you’ve created if she doesn’t like chai tea when it’s so damn good for her! Three hours later you close your laptop with a satisfied sigh. You haven’t written a single new word today but you feel like you accomplished something because of all the time you spent editing. You totally grabbed that little chai tea matter, wrestled it to the ground, and beat it to death with your laptop.

Here’s the thing; first draft is for writing from beginning to end. It’s all about getting the damn book DONE and having the satisfaction of writing “The End” (which your editor at any publishing house will promptly edit out).

Every single time you go back and fix stuff and don’t write something new, you stand the chance of turning into J.D. Salinger.
“Wait a second!” you say. “J.D. Salinger is amazing! He wrote Catcher in the Rye and it’s never gone out of print.”

Except that’s the ONLY book he ever published because it took him 10 damn years to write it and, afterward he turned into a recluse. Do you want to be a recluse? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life writing and fixing and never allowing anybody else to read what you’ve written? I didn’t think so.

But … but … but what if you REALLY need to fix that chai tea question? How can you possibly move forward with the entire matter burning a sizable hole in your brain?

Here’s the other thing; this happens to all authors. Some can go back and spend a couple seconds fixing and move on to their new work without issue. They’re amazingly adept at this back-and-forth stuff and they mock those of us who get sucked into the vortex of doom that is our internal editors. If you can fix issues and NOT get sucked into the vortex then, please, carry on (and I hate you).

That’s not me.

So when a burning question crops up that I know from experience will suck me into the vortex, I use a place holder during the first draft. So if I come across something like the burning chai tea question, I would make a notation in the manuscript like this: [confirm if Jane really does like chai tea] and then I just continue writing the first draft.

In second draft, every time I come across a bracketed item [ ] my internal editor goes to town and researches and fixes all those suckers to her sick delight.

Does this make the second draft cumbersome and grueling? Sometimes. But I can fix a chaotic or badly written page, or an incorrect comment in dialogue, in second draft. It’s harder to fix the blank remaining two hundred pages in a manuscript.

Off to fix some blank pages in my stupid book.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 3

Plot if you have to but only if you have to.

Many authors I know are extreme plotters. They will plot the living daylights out of their stories before writing the first chapter.

They’ll have flow charts and colorful graphs and, yes, even point-by-point lists of what comes after what. Some even plot for 50 or more pages before writing a single word in their book.

It works for them and they’ve proven it because, yup, they’re published.

Me? I’d rather light my hair on fire. Still, maybe it’ll work for you and you’ll join their crazy-assed club.

Or maybe you’re a pantser like me and some other cool authors. (Pantsers = Write by the seat of your pants.)

Truth is, there’s no wrong way. Plot or pants. Just do it! (Sorry, I had to channel a little Nike there.)

When I start a book I have a few vague ideas about my protagonist. I also have a solid nugget about the premise. After that, all bets are off.

I write scene to scene and character to character. This means that I write the scene that I believe will logically come next and I write it as it comes to me with very little questioning. If it’s the next step for my character to take, they take it. If they’re standing on the edge of the cliff, sometimes they turn around, sometimes they jump, but often I have someone else push them.

When I’m writing a mystery I don’t know whodunit until I’m about two-thirds through the book. If you read The Remains of the Dead you’ll remember there was a bit of a surprise ending there. When I realized that outcome during my first draft, I had to take a week off to recoup.

I was like, “Holy crap! I can’t believe it!” Seriously.

As secondary characters come up, I uncover their personalities as they interact with the protagonist, particularly during dialogue. I keep a separate Word document for my characters and I write out their descriptions as I make ‘em up. This helps me keep all the players straight and prevents me from creating four redheads in one book (which I actually did once).

This may sound easy and simplistic. It is and it isn’t. I guess if I’ve confused you my work here is done ;)

Just trust your instincts and trust your muse will provide the words. Don’t over think it.

Personally, I get in the most trouble when I don’t go with my gut. Right now my gut is telling me I need coffee. It’s also saying I need to go write MY stupid book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When Good Turkeys Go Bad

The following for my American friends.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 2

But does it have legs?

Everyone gets ideas. Some are better than others.

For example, the other night I had a particularly vivid dream. Sometimes I get great book ideas from my dreams so when I woke up I quickly jotted notes. Then I let it simmer during the day. As the day wore on I mulled it over. In the end, I decided that using my nail gun on a certain delicate part of my ex’s anatomy might make a great scene but, ultimately, it would be difficult to pull an entire novel out of that one idea. As much as I’d like to.

Whatever your premise, it might start with a wee nugget of an idea. But then you need to nurture it and walk around with it in your head. You should contemplate the premise over dinner, pour that idea a glass of wine then take it to bed. When you wake up in the morning, if it’s still under your skin and growing inside you like a nasty STD, it might be time to take it for a spin.

I’ll use my Ghost Dusters series as an example. If I told you my book was about a housekeeper who solved mysteries, you might be polite and say, “That’s nice.” Or go all “Church Lady” on me and say, “Isn’t that special.”

But if I told you my book was about someone who, not only cleaned houses, but cleaned them after crime scenes and, oh yeah, she’s able to talk to the dead, you’d probably be more likely to say, “Holy sh*t!” or “Wow!”.

Publishers are tight wads and they don’t want to buy a book that’s just “nice”. They want one that’s “holy sh*t”.

Truth is, your idea needs to be BIG. HUGE. It needs to have substance and biggest-loser-contestant size weight to carry you through a few hundred pages. And if you do write a few chapters and you feel the idea drying up it’s not necessarily because it was a bad idea, it could just be that this particular premise was more suited to be a scene, or a chapter, or a subplot in your next book.

Off to buy a nail gun and do a little research.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 1

I get a number of emails from fans and writers and also a few from weirdoes. Assuming you’re a fan or writer, chances are good you’ve asked the question “When is your next book coming out?”

Maybe you’ve shouted it in all caps or sent it in accusing mother-guilt tone (It’s been a long time since you wrote your last book and I’m patiently waiting). To that I say, I’m sorry. I am writing. I’m just not selling at the present time. But I'm doing everything I can to remedy that and so is my agent. You’ll be the first to know when I sell the next book. Well, maybe you won’t be the first but you’ll definitely be up there on my top 100.

If you’re a fan who’s also a wannabe writer you may have sent me the second most asked question, “What writing advice can you give me?" If you’re a weirdo you may have asked, “What color panties do you wear when you write?”

I’ve decided to do some random blogging to hopefully answer the wannabe writer inside of you. I won’t be tackling any panty questions. At least not today.

Tip number one is what I like to call: BICHOK. (Pronounced Bick Hock)

I didn’t coin this term. Within certain circles of my writing clan we’ve been known to say, “Off to BICHOK.” Or “Gotta go BICHOK.” Or even "Someone kick me in the ass and tell me to go BICHOK."

BICHOK = Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard -- put your ass in a chair and use ass glue if you need to.

The only way to get that best seller written is to write it.

Sounds simple. It’s not.
Sounds like I’m mocking you. I am.

I hear it a thousand times at book signings and in random conversations at cocktail parties.

People say, “Hey, you’re a writer? That's cool. I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

And I always say, “You should do that.”

But I’m always thinking, “You’ll never do it.”

It’s not that they’re not smarter because they could be and, hey, they might even wear nicer underwear when at their computer too. But people can SAY anything but most people lack what they need. They lack the BICHOK.

And for the record, BICHOK should actually be BICHOKWBNOFOE (Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard Writing Book Not On Facebook Or Email) but that would be really awkward to say.

So you wanna write? Go write. The only thing stopping you is you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My dog is an Ewok

At least she ASPIRES to be an Ewok.

Off to the groomers for a short-terrier cut and a new red coat. Don't know if you can see the green bow in her hair.
She was not pleased.

Sometimes this is how it is with my characters.

They may have their own aspirations but it's my job as an author to wrangle them into how I need them for the sake of the story.

Hey, I still aspire to be a rock'n roll star. We can't get everything we want, can we?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Everyone wants a piece of me

Every single morning I walk downstairs with one thought on my mind: COFFEE

So important is that first morning cup that I intentionally get up earlier than anyone else in the household so I can enjoy it in peace and quiet. There's just something simple and wonderful when it's just me and my java while I check emails to see if anyone from THE-GREAT-WORLD-OF-PUBLISHING has good news for me (NYC is 3 hours ahead so my crack of dawn is their noon time crack). Usually there are only ads about enhancing my manhood but a writer can dream, can't she?

It used to be that the precious moments before the pitter patter of annoying kids' feet was ME time. Then I got pets. Specifically, Bella the diva yorkie and the pigs.

So now Bella gets to go out in the back yard and receives fresh water and kibble before I get my coffee. You'd think the rodents can wait but nope. The minute I open my refrigerator to get non-fat, non-taste milk for my super strong coffee, those oinkers start squealing like they will positively DIE if they aren't fed IMMEDIATELY.

The problem with these sows is that they earnestly believe it has been days, no, WEEKS since they last ate even if it's been hours. It's like constant pms for them.

So now I've adjusted my morning routine to wake up EVEN EARLIER just so I can attend to furry divas and still have ME time before everyone gets up.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Busy Writing

This guy acts out exactly how I think I look when I'm starting a new book :)

Right now I'm doing research for a new book. It's not nearly as exciting as it sounds but I'm hoping I'll get to the exciting writing part soon!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sometimes you gotta take it ALL off

Many wonderful things happened this weekend at the Surrey International Writers' Conference.

My workshops seemed to be well received by the crowd and I was impressed with the caliber of participants. They came prepared to not only take notes, but pepper me with thought provoking questions. It made my job even more fun!

Speaking of fun, the amazing Robert Dugoni made the conference a hoot for all. His rousing keynote speech THIS DAY WE WRITE fired us up with enthusiasm to fill our manuscript pages. You can listen to it HERE at Books on the Radio.

Then Bob went on to donate his "This Day We Write" t-shirt (photo above) at a live auction that resembled a fun striptease. After a heated bidding war, yours truly won the t-shirt! YAY!

I was told I could strip it from Bob myself as my reward. However, he is a married man and I just don't know his wife well enough to go that far so, instead, I asked super agent, Donald Maass to help me out.

Thanks to Carol J. Garvin for posting this video of the two super powers in the writing industry attempting to awkwardly remove the t-shirt from Bob's body in a manly, non-sexual way lol. I don't know if either man will ever forgive me ha ha.

Robert Dugoni signed the t-shirt before I took it home and I am considering the best way to utilize its potential. I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Surrey International Writers' Conference

Woo hoo! This weekend I'll be at the Surrey International Writers' Conference.

I'll be presenting two sessions:

Writing Wickedly Wonderful Villains
Talking to the Dead and other Paranormal Activities

Doesn't that sound fun?

Wish you could all come!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Save the books ...

Random House, Inc.
Important Awareness Campaign - Join the movement

I just LOVE this picture and had to share it!

Personally, I don't watch Jersey Shore but I know a lot of fans :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Coffee! Yummmmmm

My newest work contains a lot of one of my favorite things .... COFFEE!

I love coffee.
Love the smell.
Love the sound of the beans grinding.
And, of course, lo-o-o-ove the taste of a good cup of coffee.

I had to research how to make coffee in a French Press. Simple and delicious!

What have you been drinking lately :)

Monday, July 04, 2011

What a thrill!

I'm off to Thrillerfest!

If you happen to be in New York, come on down. I'll be chatting about "How to Make Readers Come Back for More?"

So, as a reader, what's make you come back?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

To Kill or Not to Kill

Sometimes I reach a point in a story where I'm not sure whether or not I'm keeping a character around because I've become attached to him, or if he really play a crucial role in the rest of the plot. Like Joe in my current work in progress (name has been changed to protect the direction of the story he he). Should Joe live, die, or just be horribly maimed?

As someone who writes by the seat of my pants, I truly don't know the end result until I'm almost there. So I have a lot of "go with your gut" moments. But sometimes my gut is more of last night's spicy dinner than true creative genius. And if I kill someone off too early in a story, that's a helluva lot of work in second draft to re-write him in.

Also, if I meander around the story just doing make-work projects for Joe until I find his purpose, that's a helluva lot of deleting later.

I think I need to meditate Joe's existence ... probably while in a bubble bath.

Monday, May 02, 2011

My Jaw Dropped

I just finished reading a book (that I won't name) that used the term "my jaw dropped" and then a couple pages later "her jaw dropped" and then a chapter later "it made my jaw drop". It made me think seriously about my own tendency to repeat. It is probably the number one thing caught by my editor. If she stopped me from sounding like the book that will remain nameless, then I owe her big smooches! Seems if I think something fits in one particular scene I find a way to toss it out there again and again. Not on purpose, of course, but it concerns me because I usually don't catch it in 2nd or even 3rd scans.

I am in the process of writing a scene where my heroine is shocked...stunned...surprised and, yes, it was very tempting to state that her jaw dropped. But I was still too disconcerted by my recent read that I just couldn't use the term lol.

Back in the real world, my jaw did drop today when I brought our 2 guinea pigs to the vet for checkups and found out our boys were actually girls!

Anything cause your jaw to drop recently? :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Working my way through my TBR

Tackling my "to be read" pile lately:

Breathless - Dean Koontz
Wicked - Janet Evanovich
Don't Cry - Beverly Barton
Charade - Sandra Brown
Love Me To Death - Allison Brennan

There are more I've read lately but I'm too lazy to run upstairs and look at the pile on my night stand!

I'm also busy, busy writing.

Thanks to all who keep asking about Ghost Dusters but, yes, it's dead ... pun definitely intended ha ha!

The story I'm working on now has required a lot more research than I hoped but I'm muddling my way through.

Hope all is well with everyone in blog land!