Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Looking down the Best list, I'm seeing a couple of movies that I don't want to see because no matter how good they supposedly are, I can't watch horror movies. I just don't have the fortitude to put scary images in my head that I can never get out. But several look really interesting and I can only blame an international move, a book deadline, and a new baby for my lack of movie-watching this year.
Take a look at the list and give me your recommendations! What did you think of these movies? Which ones should I check out on DVD? Is the new Harry Potter movie really the best one so far? Does Predators deserve its spot at #4? How about Inception at #1? (I've heard mixed reviews of that one.)
For the record, the two movies that I did get around to seeing were both ostensibly children's movies and I enjoyed them both. Toy Story 3 was a lot of fun and had one of the most emotionally draining scenes I've seen in a very long time (although I can't quite get over the fact that the teddy was irredeemable). How to Train Your Dragon was the most cliche-ridden story you can hope to see, a step-by-step guide to writing the Hero's Journey... but somehow it worked.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
***** The winner is JC Jones! *****
JC, please contact me through my website.
** Signed Book Giveaway Ended Jan 5 **
I'll bet your eyes rested on that photo of chocolate candies before you started reading. C'mon now, be honest. I know mine were focused on it while I was typing this post. I'll also bet you were confronted with chocolate in some form during the holiday. Did you give in? If so, you're like the average American who eats 11.6 pounds of chocolate (about 27,000 calories) a year. We're paltry chocolate eaters compared to the Swiss, who eat twice that amount every year. Of course they do. Swiss chocolate is so delicious and it's so close at hand for them.
Where was I? Oh, chocolate's hold on us. It has to do with hedonism - the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good. Chocolate is synonymous with hedonism, as the Aztec ruler Montezuma surely knew. He drank mugs of the chocolate drink xocolatl ("bitter water") before taking on a new sexual conquest. He thought it was an aphrodisiac, hence chocolate + Valentine's Day. This is the same Montezuma as in Montezuma's Revenge, the travelers' disease. I suppose the formula for xocolatl was a trade secret, and travelers got only the bitter water, with no chocolate added.
There are a lot of reasons why chocolate induces pleasure and happiness, other than the aforementioned scenario. The god of Chemistry has been hard at work making chocolate a triple whammy. First, it's naturally caffeinated. Caffeine works on the pleasure receptors in the brain and starts the flow of happy-making chemicals like dopamine. Next (hang on to your seats), chocolate contains a chemical compound in the cannabinoid family, closely related to the active ingredient in marijuana. It produces a relaxing, slightly intoxicated effect. We're not done yet--there's another ingredient in chocolate, phenylethylamine. Notice that "amine" on the end of it, the same as in amphetamine. It's officially a hallucinogen and would produce a high like Ecstasy. That is, if there were enough of it present in chocolate. The amounts of these chemicals are small enough that chocolate isn't a controlled substance. But it does give each of us our own personal little buzz, according to how sensitive we are to the triple whammy.
Do you have any chocolate stories you'd like to share? (Keep it decent.) Something where you think chocolate influenced you one way or another? Are you a chocaholic?
Post a comment and I'll draw a random winner for a signed copy of Sacrifice: Mortal Path Book 2! Giveaway ends January 5th, my birthday.
Monday, December 27, 2010
This is my first post on Supernatural Underground, due mainly to sloth on my part and a paralyzing fear of saying something stupid on the Internet. (Which, I realize, is what the Internet is for, but bear with me here.) But, faced with the choice between posting and digging out from under the metric crapton of snow that has fallen on Boston, I'm finally posting.
So of course, I'm going to talk about something not-quite-normal: hearing voices.
Some characters appear because I need someone in that place in the plot, and they rapidly become more than a placeholder. Some characters come out of blending ideas together -- wouldn't it be cool if someone like X did Y -- or out of the shuffle-and-change-partners dance that makes up the first few stages of revision for me.
And some characters -- particularly Evie, the protagonist of Spiral Hunt, Wild Hunt, and Soul Hunt -- are immediately present when I need them, speaking just over my shoulder. Evie was really the spark that drove these stories: I had some ideas of what mythology to play with, how I wanted to fiddle with certain ideas, and it was as if she stepped out of the back of my head, arms crossed, head tilted to the side as if to say Yeah, that'll work, so what's going to hit us next? And let's wrap this up soon; there's a Sox game tonight.
I don't know how many other authors have this experience, of hearing a character's voice so strongly that it's as if the character is relating the story and I'm only writing it down. Granted, this changes as the story changes, but her voice remains constant. Even when I hit difficult patches, places where I had to reconfigure the whole plot so that it wouldn't fall over in the slightest breeze, writing those sections wasn't the hard part. (That would be revising.) So long as I had Evie's voice in mind, her reaction to the situation and her narration, I could compose without too much trouble.
For a long time I thought this was because Evie's story is told in first person. Another character from my short stories, Charles the valet, has a similarly present voice for me (sometimes to my detriment; it's very easy to rattle off a page or so in his voice and then realize I forgot to add the important information in that scene), and since he's a first-person narrator, I thought that might be the reason. But there are other characters whose voice was absolutely clear, even as I was writing them from another's perspective. Boru, from Spiral Hunt, was very clear in my head, which was a disquieting experience to say the least. Another character stepped forward just as I needed her: Venetia Brooks-Parsons, who appears in Soul Hunt, made her presence known as I reached that point in the story and automatically commandeered that chapter. While I doubt anything short of a bulldozer could have kept Venetia in the background for any amount of time, it was still a little startling to have her speaking so clearly through the story.
So it's not simply a matter of perspective. I think some of it has to do with what characters push our buttons, which ones are loved, which ones come out of the depths of our subconscious with a story to tell. And I suspect that's why I've enjoyed writing Evie's stories so far.
I'd be curious to know if other writers have the same experience, and if there's some common thread between the characters that speak in our heads. I think I've had other authors' characters colonize my head as well -- do other readers have this reaction too? Who's speaking up in your mind, and whose voices do you hear?
(And for the record, I was very tempted to title this post "Do You Hear What I Hear," but I suspect it would have gotten me a stern talking-to. Holiday puns can only go so far in our household.)
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Kelly of Oregon, Karyn of Canada, and Cindy from NY!!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I'll be back Jan. 25 with more books to give away! Hugs!!
So I'm imagining you all tearing into your presents and squealing with joy over the lovely clothes or Ipad or Kindle you just received-- but wait! There's something missing!
A vampire. Didn't you want one of those for Christmas? Your husband will never know. You can hide your vamp in the basement. He's easy to take care of. You don't have to cook for him. He never snores. He might need a little blood every now and then, but donating blood is a good thing, right?
Santa to the rescue! Three lucky commentors will receive signed copies of All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire! So please leave a comment, then enjoy your day! Merry Christmas!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
City of Bones
The Hunger Games
(Can you tell I'm a Young Adult author???)
Sometimes even before the cover image, the title is the first impression we have of a book. And whether we want to admit it or not, they’re important. HUGELY important. And you know what? I kinda suck at titles.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the title of my first book. Love, love it, and maybe even want to marry it. But it was an accidental title, a placeholder title that ([insert sarcasm font here] with my vast knowledge of the publishing industry) I was sure the publisher was going to change anyway. THE BODY FINDER…it was what my main character could do, not a well thought out title of a YA novel. I even had a short list (a VERY short list) of alternates, just in case I was consulted in the matter. But that’s the weird thing…I wasn’t consulted. Because my publisher—the editorial staff and Sales & Marketing—they loved the title too. Thus, THE BODY FINDER it was.
And I was left standing there going: “What the hell just happened…?”
For book two I was more careful. Thoughtful. I spent a lot of time thinking about what meaning I wanted to convey. I weighed the feel of the book and the path that my main character took. And I came up with the perfect title. My agent loved it, and my editor too. Close your eyes and imagine it: *waves hand dramatically*
THE BEAUTIFUL DEAD
It had everything, it was evocative and dark and a little mysterious…
Umm, yeah, well apparently it was the perfect title...for a series of books already out in the UK. And it was way too close to Francesca Lia Block’s book (also by HarperCollins) titled PRETTY DEAD. (I only wish someone would have told me before I bought the domain name: www.thebeautifuldead.net!)
So it was back to the drawing board. And then one day I was going through my edits and I came across a line in the manuscript that stood out to me: “…the desires of the dead.” And that was it, my title: DESIRES OF THE DEAD. Another accidental title. But, again, I love it. And again, a possible impending nuptial. (What can I say? I’m fickle like that!)
For my current project, it took me a LOT longer to come up with a title...pages and pages (and weeks and weeks) of brainstorming. I S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E-D with it! I knew it when I found it, but it was a long time coming.
But in the meantime, one morning after watching the movie Role Models, I woke up and my husband had renamed my document “THE WHISPERING EYE” as a joke. If you’ve seen the movie you’ll get the reference. (If you haven’t, then you’re on your own to figure it out.) But I wonder what my editor would have thought if I'd sent it in like that. I can just imagine the Sales & Marketing meeting for that one. I’m guessing it would have been fairly controversial…
So, I want to know what titles you love and why. And if you’re a writer, I wanna know how you’ve come up with your titles.
Because this title thing, it daunts me. Like I said, I sort of suck at it…
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
And here is the Trailer.
Friday, December 17, 2010
CONTEST IS CLOSED!
I ran all of the comments through Random.org to decide the winner. However, the world must have accidentally tilted sideways at the same moment because my first winner (Danielle Gorman) actually won two online contests, with the same prize, at the same time. So much for all this randomness! Apparently, the universe is fixed. Danielle graciously consented to let me choose another person for this contest. So now, with much fanfare, the true and final winner is:
Catrina Bradley. CONGRATULATIONS! Yay to all winners, near and far!
By Merrie Destefano
I go on a mad mission during this time of year. I feel I must watch each and every one of my favorite holiday movies or I won’t be able to get in the spirit. So, since we're in the midst of the December, I thought I would share a list of my favorites:
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
I first saw this in a film class in college. First, we all heard the story behind the movie—how Jimmy Stewart wanted to quit acting, but the director convinced him to star in one more movie—then we saw the film. We all sat, crowded into it an auditorium, and I couldn’t help but think that this was how movie-goers saw this for the film for the first time. I fell in love with the movie and have loved it ever since.
2. The Bishop’s Wife
Who wouldn’t enjoy watching Cary Grant bumble around as a dangerously handsome angel, falling in love with a woman he’s supposed to be helping. Loretta Young glistens as the object of his affection, albeit always faithful to her husband, the bishop.
3. While You Were Sleeping
Sandra Bullock rescues the man she thinks she loves, although he falls immediately into a coma. In the process, she finds herself enchanted with his family—and his brother, played by Bill Pullman—and for the first time in years, she doesn’t feel lonely on Christmas. This one melts my heart every single time I watch it.
4. Christmas in Connecticut
Did I love this movie because the main character was a writer? In retrospect, it’s hard to say, but over the years this story of a columnist, Barbara Stanwyck, who must pretend she is a great cook and homemaker (I can relate to that dilemma) has become one of my favorites.
5. Home Alone
He’s a brat and he needs a spanking and, yet, you find yourself rooting for Macaulay Culkin before his family even lands in Paris. Completely alone, unless you count that dastardly tarantula (shivers), Culkin sets a trap for holiday thieves that makes me laugh until my sides hurt. Every. Single. Time. I. Watch.
6. Meet Me in St. Louis
Judy Garland at her most charming. She sings, she dances, she falls in love—literally. Her director in this film was her future husband, Vincente Minelli, and this was the first time the two of them met. This tale of a family who lives in turn-of-the-century St. Louis captures al the romance of the era.
For some reason, this is my favorite version of A Christmas Carol. Starring Bill Murray and Karen Allen (remember her from Raider’s of the Lost Ark?) star as lovers who went their separate ways years ago. Murray went on to become a lonely, wealthy TV executive, while Allen became a tender-hearted social worker who runs the local homeless shelter. Murray is given a second chance when their paths cross again.
8. Little Women
My favorite version of this movie stars Claire Danes, Winona Ryder, Christian Bale and Kirsten Dunst. Set during the Civil War, this tale of a young woman who wants to be a writer is heart-warming, to say the least. Of course, I never could figure out why Jo (Ryder) didn’t fall in love with Laurie (Bale), but then I can’t figure out why Bella doesn’t love Jacob either.
Adorable. Simply adorable. Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel (one of my favorite actresses) are just so cute in this film about a real, live elf who leaves the North Pole to find his true father. By the end of the movie you just want to give Ferrell a big hug.
10. The Family Man
A little bit like A Christmas Carol, this film stars Nicholas Cage as a rich man who gets a chance to see what his life might have been like, if he had made different choices along the way. Also starring Tea Leoni, one reason I love this show is the fact that it adds that element of an alternate universe—and I do love alternate universes.
So, I encourage you to share your favorite holiday movie with us in the comment section below. I will give away a signed copy of AFTERLIFE: THE RESURRECTION CHRONICLES to one commenter, chosen at random.
To enter to win, please post a comment below and include your e-mail address. Entries without e-mail addresses won’t be included in the giveaway. You can earn points by:
+1 Posting in the comments section
+3 Linking to this post on Twitter
+3 Linking to this post on Facebook
+1 Linking to the Supernatural Underground blog on your own blog/website
+5 Following me on Twitter
+5 Following me on Facebook
10 Following my blog
Just post the total number of points that you’ve earned in your comment. Contest ends Thursday, December 30, at midnight. Winners to be announced in this post Friday, December 31.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas, all you Supernatural Undergrounders, and have I got a package for you!
What? No, wait... not that package... get your mind out of the snow gutter, you deranged little lovers of things that go bump in the night! Somebody might think you've been reading too many stories of hunks like this dropping down your chimney, unaffected by the cold despite his bare chest, slipping under the covers to warm you from head to toe, bearing diamond rings, hot chocolate with marshmellows, and an enormous... um... candy cane.
Ah... fantasy makes the world go round, doesn't it? :)
No, today I really do come bearing gifts (and you can include that little visual as one of them), of the Supernatural Underground persuasion:
firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll mail them one of these awesome 2" square buttons that say "I Read Books That Go Bump In The Night". Pin to your winter coat, your backpack, your bookbag, your stocking (or wherever you'd like to pin it to proclaim your love of awesome reading material), or use it as a stocking stuffer for someone else you know. We'll even throw in an assortment of cool bookmarks from Underground authors like Melissa Marr, Jeaniene Frost, Kerrelyn Sparks, Sophie Jordan, Leah Cypess and me (Terri Garey) with every pin we give away!
Remember, you must send your mailing address FIRST to email@example.com (which will save us from having to track down 25 winners and get their addresses later; rest assured your address will NOT be used or shared in any other way), but you can up your chances of winning by leaving a comment, retweeting, Facebooking the link, or just shouting it from the rooftops (maybe you'll find a half-naked elf up there, just waiting to slip down that chimney... but I digress.)
At any rate, 'tis better to give than to receive, and today I'm in a giving mood! Get your goodies while they're sizzling hot! (Just like today's eye candy.) :)
Sunday, December 12, 2010
One of the best ways I've found to discover my characters is to flip through magazines and employ a skill I mastered in kindergarten--the art of cutting out pictures. Sometimes I have a character in mind and I look for a picture that's a good representation. I find having the pictures by my laptop when I write can be incredibly helpful. Sometimes I'm not sure who the character is and I flip through pictures until I find him or her.
Now, I want to clarify--I'm not looking for an exact representation. Sometimes the character in my head will look exactly like the one in the picture, but far more often, it's a look in the eye or an expression that is similar. Something beyond the surface description.
I can't entirely explain how this works, but when I see the right picture, I know it. Often, I've thought I understood who a character was until I found her picture and through it discovered an entirely new depth to her personality. The right picture speaks to me, the person in it leaping off the page, ready to tell me his or her story. Yes, I know it's crazy , but no one ever said there was anything normal about a writer's brain (especially a fiction writer's brain).
Scattered throughout this article are pictures that have inspired some of my characters. Some are pictures that simply call to me. Yes, most of these are of movie stars we all know too well, but again, it's not about the person. It's about the look. There's a vulnerability in Jennifer Garner's picture, a toughness in Natalie Portman's, an easy confidence in Reese Witherspoon's that each inspire a different character. The guys...well, they tend to inspire me in an entirely different way. But when I look at them, I don't see Clive or Hugh or Josh. I see emotions, personalities. Stories.
In magazine cut-outs I often find the windows to my characters' souls.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
a PDF download on my website, if anyone's interested.)
Not only was writing and sharing the story fun, but I got to reveal a little bit of Stella's hidden character by visiting her point of view. I love writing bad characters and finding ways to make people love them anyway.
This year, every day reveals a new piece of the unreleased excerpt from my upcoming sequel, Fins Are Forever, and on the last day you can request an extended excerpt as a PDF via email.
I love giving readers a little extra for playing along. The excerpt as revealed in the advent calendar will be posted on my site soon, but the extended excerpt is exclusive for those who get to the end of the calendar.
But, although the advent calendar is fun, I think I need to give a little more this holiday season (building up good karma points for a great 2011). I think I need to write another short story. To that end, I have poll going on my personal blog, and I'm letting you, the reader, pick which story I write. Get over there and vote and then stay tuned for short story fun!
Before you go, though, a little contest. Comment with the best holiday treat you've ever gotten from an author (or one you'd like to get) for a chance to win Forgive My Fins.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Yesssssss Undergrounders! We have a cover to go along with that whole Sable who??? issue. Isn't she grand??
FROM THE BACK COVER:
The gates of hell have opened, and one woman will stand in the crossfire as the Dark Breed -- vampyre, demons, shape shifters -- and mankind fight their last battle for survival.
Kyana is half Vampyre, half Lychen... and the last of her kind. Determined, dangerous, and damned, she has no love for the mortals who have imprisoned and misused her. But when the Order of Ancients entrusts her with a mission -- to find the key that will send the Dark Breed back into Hell for eternity -- Kyana has no choice but to accept.
She is furious to learn her assignment comes with an escort... Ryker, a demigod and fierce warrior who long ago found a way under her skin and stayed there. In a shaky alliance, they discover an ancient cult with dangerous motive and a god who seeks to destroy all others. And as Kyana begins to feel the heat that threatens to bind her to Ryker, she knows she has to resist. For it could only mean the undoing of them both...
Comment to win a signed cover flat! We have a bunch to give away!
Thursday, December 9, 2010
And, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
Hey everyone out there in supernatural land! Are you freaking out yet? If you celebrate Christmas do you have your shopping done? Do I have my shopping done? Um, that would be a big fat NO! BUT, I have a list this year so that is a huge improvement over past years!
As most of you know this time of year is crazy busy and I'm sure I'm not the only one freaking out cause Christmas is 16 days away. But it's also a wonderful time for family and friends and get togethers.
Today I'm going to share some of my favorite Christmas things:
1. My favorite memory is of hiding under the covers with my brother as we tried to keep each other awake so we could try and surprise Santa. We always fell asleep of course, but had massive amounts of giggling. But more than that it was the feeling, that anticipation and excitement that I remember.
2. When I was older Christmas Eve was for visiting several friends for some "cheer". I loved this night and the travelling around (with a dd of course)
3. My favorite movie and I watch it every year is It's a Wonderful Life. Every year I watch this. Jimmy Stewart gets to me every single time.
4. Elf comes a close second. I want to adopt Buddy and let him live with me.
5. Favorite Christmas songs, Merry Little Christmas by The Pretenders, Something about Christmas time, Brian Adams
6. Fave gift I ever received....an 8 track player (you heard me 8 track player) and the 8tracks of Grease and the Bee Gees.
7. I love my mom's homemade pastries and pies. A little too much actually, but hey, she'd be insulted if we didn't finish every little scrap.
8. My son's first Christmas. He was 6 months and had no clue what the heck was going on, but man, I had fun unwrapping the mountain of prezzies under the tree. Didn't mattr that I'd wrapped them myself the night before...IT WAS HIS FIRST CHRISTMAS!
9. My kids are older now, so I love the fact that I can sleep in. No more getting up at 5:30 on Christmas morning.
10. Most of all, I love that my family and friends are nearby and we always make time for each other. That's what Christmas is about to me, family and love.
So, what are your fave things about the holidays? Let me know and I have a stash of books, I'll pick a winner and give you a choice of your prezzie.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Phoenix was the last to comment: moonsanity!
congratulations! thanks to everyone who
participated and happy hoildays!!
hello s'grounders! okay, i'm a big fan
of nicknames and that's the best i can
come up with. or undies? haha! what do
it's been a long while since my last post.
copyedits for my sequel, Fury of the Phoenix
got in the way of my last month's post. but
that is sent off, all i need to work on now
are my brush painting chapter decorations and
my acknowledgment page--always fun and a
little nerve wracking.
especially for debut authors, there's an urge
to thank everyone from your kindergarten teacher
to her mom and pet poodle. seriously. i personally
had the feeling like i had to thank *everyone* lest
i never get the chance again!
other than that, i had a stupendous time
at ALAN conference--which is a fantastic one
for anyone who is a fan of young adult literature.
i was on a panel with cinda williams chima (The Demon King,
The Exiled Queen, The Dragon Heir, etc) and sarwat chadda
(The Devil's Kiss, Dark Goddess) and both were so lovely
and fun to chat with. i also happen to be fans of their books
and recommend them highly.
other than this spot of glamorous author's life
i've been battling cooties for the past two months.
colds, coughs, sore throats, antibiotics and now,
stomach flu. ah the joys of motherhood. =) this
time of year is certainly challenging. and thus, my
blog title--give cheer not cooties!
i'd like to spread the happiness by giving away
a signed hardcover of Silver Phoenix.
on the day of her first betrothal meeting--and rejection--ai ling discovers a power welling deep within her. she can reach into other people’s spirits, hear their thoughts, see their dreams…and that’s just the beginning.
ai ling has been marked by the immortals; her destiny lies in the emperor’s palace, where a terrible evil has lived, stealing souls, for centuries. she must conquer this enemy and rescue her captive father, while mythical demons track her every step. and then she meets chen yong, a young man with a quest of his own, whose fate is intertwined with hers. here is a heart-stopping, breathtaking tale for fans of action, fantasy, and romance--of anything with the making of legend.
this contest is open world wide!
all you have to do is answer the following
question: Silver Phoenix will whisk you to a world
inspired by ancient china. what country have you
always wanted to visit but have not had a chance to?
leave your answer in the comments to enter!
i'll choose a winner randomly on wednesday
12/15 and announce the winner at the top of
this post. good luck, undies! (yes, i've settled on
that nickname for you guys. =)
give cheer not cooties!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
So in the meantime, I’m going to following along Tracey O’Hara’s recent post and talk about some of the holiday traditions that are important to my family. Now, we do the usual thing of getting together on or around Christmas, exchanging gifts, and eating way too much food, but the things that stick out in my head are the events that take place with my immediate family.
One of my favorite things to do is to attend the Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights show. It’s the only time that you’re able to walk around the zoo at night and they have every tree and shrubs covered in lights, not to mention standing displays of lights depicting different animals in flashing lights. My mother has a knack for picking either the warmest night of December – when the zoo is at its busiest – or the coldest night of December – when you are completely dependent on cups of steaming hot cocoa in order to keep from freezing stiff.
The zoo has a small train that takes riders around the park, showing off different animals and the lights display. The video below shows off some of the lights that are on Swan Lake in the middle of the zoo.
My second favorite display and considerable warmer place is the Krohn Conservatory. My family has a very old tradition of attending this place every year to see the massive tree when you walk in the door decorated by handmade ornaments. The exhibit hall has a giant music box that is made to look like the iconic places of Cincinnati, Ohio. And there is just the joy of seeing the different plants, bonsai trees, and the tall waterfall in the rainforest exhibit. Before the end of our trip, my parents would allow us kids to pick out one ornament to take home and hang on the Christmas tree. As a result, we have a fairly extensive collection of ornaments. For me, Krohn Conservatory is a peaceful place that will always remind me of family as we discover and marvel over exotic flowers while wandering through a glass masterpiece of construction.
The video I have for this place is a little old as I made it as a promotion for my book, Pray for Dawn. There is a section of the book that takes place in the Conservatory, but it still gives you an excellent look at the place.
So, what family tradition do you have over the holidays?
Monday, December 6, 2010
One of the interesting parts for me was being surrounded by creative folks who strive to capture experience in forms other than words. I treasure time with authors and with readers, but there was something mind-stretching in being with creative folks who are working with totally different toolkits but reaching for a lot of the same goals as writers.
Personally, I think about the capturing of the moment rather a lot. It's obsessed me for a good bit of my life. How do we take an instant, a bit of life and translate that to something that can then be unfolded/consumed/lived by another person? Is it possible? Can we even re-create it for ourselves? Can an emotion or an experience actually be contained, expressed in such a way that it simulates the real?
When I write, I want to make the reader IN that space where my characters are breathing. I want the reader to feel the terror or the ecstasy. It's the goal above all else for me: I want to transfer that moment. It's impossible to ever know if that succeeds though. I cannot be in anyone's mind and skin but my own, so there is never any real way to know if what I attempt to express is understood as I meant it to be. When I define a character as "beautiful," we don't call up the same visual. Even if I say "dark hair," we don't see precisely the same thing. Add in more abstract things--love, bliss, pain. . . it gets even more improbable that the experience is transferable. As a reader, it's no better. When the text tells me she was grieving, how do I KNOW that what I feel & define as grief is the same? Love? Hate? Longing?
So, at FaerieCon, I had the ability to be lost in the emotions of songs--without words in the case of cellist Adam Hurst and in words I didn't understand in the case of the German band, Faun. As I listened, obviously, I felt. But was what I felt what was intended? ("Does it even matter" is an entirely different, albeit equally valuable question, but I'm not going to attempt to tackle both topics. tonight.) Is the ache I felt listening to Adam's art the same ache he felt while he wrote it? while he played it? With some music, I know my body wants to move. I listened to a fabulous song called "Dark Carnivale" by The Gypsy Nomads, and the tension in it made me feel like standing still was a Bad Idea. Afterwards, I bought it, and the lyrics support that emotion. . . but there's a joyousness, a defiance and a fearlessness that the song has when both lyrics and music are combined. It's richer for hearing those words. On the other hand, listening to it here in my office doesn't have the urgency that it had when the floor under my feet was literally vibrating from the dancers around me. The experience of hearing it live and with others was different even than the experience of hearing it alone. It was different with knowing and not-knowing the words. One song offered three unique reactions with different variables. Are any of them actually close to what the creators experience? Does the experience for the creators vary between original creation and playing it later?
I asked Adam (after he played) what he saw when he played because--as I say, this is one of Those Topics for me. When he plays, he stares into some place that is very obviously not the room in front of him. I recognize that look. It's what I tend towards when a story is so vivid in my mind that my eyes are no longer looking out at the world; they've focused on that room inside of me where my characters' live their lives. . . at least, that's how I understand that look but my experience of creating something is different. My experience never includes reproducing that original creation in front of others. I don't compose and then re-write in front of others; musicians compose and they recreate that by reproducing the song live. There is no real equivalent for writers.
Another of the artists there, Kelly Miller-Lopez of Woodland, seems likely to float off when she sings. She sits at her harp, seeming far more like Tennyson's Lady of Shalott. I'd be unsurprising to see her pull out a scrying mirror, spindle, or any number of other wonders. She appears to reach a near meditative state, but is it the same state I find when I am lost in my story? If so, how does the slipping in and out of that state work when there are people all staring at her? Is it the same place she reaches to create?
A lot of being there led me to ponder the creative process. It also made me pause and think about how many ways we all try to capture experiences and emotions. Walking around FaerieCon, I discovered art (Feywood) made of . . . or maybe simply revealed from nature. I purchased a journal--handmade paper, handbound, leather-covered. I sniffed, petted, and felt a couple dozen journals to find the one that was right for me. I had a surreal discussion about the reasons for getting dreds (&/or tattooes), watched women translate music into dance, listened to emotion become music, and in general reveled in the fact that so so many art forms are all trying to capture an experience. They all communicate in some way, but no one art of them--including words--captures the whole of the concept, the experience, or the emotion.
. . . a fact that was all the more apparent afterwards when I tried to tell friends why the event was so fascinating. I showed them pictures; I played CDs. . . and returned to my original stance that the medium--no matter how fabulous--cannot capture the experience. Picture, music, dance, story, et al: it's all unable to fully convey the real.
Of course, I suspect that the pursuit of that goal, the desire to capture the real, is a driving force in a lot of creative things that we enjoy--just as I suspect that the real is enriched by the awareness that the real is even better than the shadow we can capture in all of our various mediums. I can read about love; I can watch a dance that reveals joy; I can feel longing as I am transfixed by music that seems to seep into my bones even as the words are in a language I do not speak. . . and through it all, I know with complete certainty that the real thing is so much more. The art in whatever form I find it reminds me why I enjoy the real. It sends me to far shores, and it invites me to get lost in moments . . . all the more because I know that the moments are impossible to freeze, to capture, or to transfer in their fullness.
Oh, and it's a bit early to say it, but I'm off to the mountains in the morning to enjoy some time experiencing nature, writing, and pondering. . . so Happy Solstice (and whichever other of the Winter Holidays you might celebrate).
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Here in Australia, we have Christmas in summer (same time of the year – just reversed season due to being in the southern hemisphere. I’ve never known a truly cold Christmas let alone one with snow. It would be nice to experience that one day.
Right now this is a busy time of the year for most, especially for a writer. We are short in time at the best of times, but Christmas just adds another level of things to do. So today I am going to be lazy and post a couple of fun things.
And for something that really rocks.
What is your favorite thing about the holidays? What is your best memory of Christmas?
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Ah, December. In Florida the temperatures have finally dipped below sweltering and TV's are starting to play holiday shows. For me, ‘tis also the season for realizing, holy crap, where has the year gone??? But in the midst of trying to finish my sixth Cat and Bones book, and get my Christmas shopping done, I wanted to talk a little about publishing. Recently, a couple writers messaged me to ask how I broke into publishing because they’re depressed that what they’re getting right now is a pile of rejections. It almost sounds uncaring or smartass to say this is normal and it only takes one “yes” to change everything, but actually, that’s true. I wrote a piece a while back about everything I know on how to get published, and I have nothing new to add since (sorry, folks :)).
But I do have a little bit more to elaborate when it comes to rejection. I don’t know the exact odds, but I’d venture a guess that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than to never encounter rejection on your path to publication. It’s tough trying to break into publishing, and writers need to remind themselves that rejection is part of that tough process. But even with those reminders, it can still sting. Sometimes even leave a scar. The good news is – despite some claims to the contrary – it’s not impossible to break in. The doors haven’t been slammed shut, leaving self-pubbing as the only option. How do I know? I read Publishers Lunch every day and see all the new deals with those magical words of “debut author” attached to them, for one. I see agents Tweeting that they just took on a new client. I hear editors talking about what they’re looking for in submissions. This is a hard business, true, but one “yes” can cancel out a hundred “no’s” just like that. The battle scars writers endure in the slush pile can fade with time, and upon occasion, can even be looked back on with satisfaction or humor.
I was rejected a lot while querying Halfway to the Grave, and I have lists below to prove it. Some of those rejections I handled with aplomb; some, I’ll admit, brought me to tears. In fact, these lists below represent only a small portion of the places that passed on my manuscript because more often than not, I threw those rejection letters away. Not just away in my household trash can, mind you. I would walk them out to the community dumpster so that I wouldn’t even spend the night under the same roof with those dreaded little missives (oh yes, I can be THAT crazy ;-)). Off the top of my head, I think I was rejected between 50 and 60 times, so that was a lot of treks to the community dumpster. But for those places I queried electronically, or received an electronic reply instead of a paper one, I still have records saved. Hopefully this will encourage some writers currently going through the submission-and-rejection process. Maybe it will have no effect, but I want to once again highlight that rejection happens. It doesn’t have to mean that your novel is doomed. Sometimes, it just means try harder or query wider.
Please note: these rejection were received back in 2004 and 2005 when I was querying, so some of these places may no longer be in business or may have changed their submission preferences/requirements. Don’t use this as a list of places you should query unless you research their current business status / requirements, plus cross check that against Writers Beware and Predators and Editors to see if any of these places have advisories against them (good idea for any place you query).
With that being said, Halfway to the Grave was rejected by…
Sedgeband Literary Associates, Inc.
Writers House – twice (one from Merrilee Heifetz, one from Ginger Clark after I revised)
Rick Henshaw Group
Farris Literary Agency, Inc.
Curtis Brown, LTD.
Donald Mass Literary
The Vines Agency
Kimberley Cameron, Reece Halsey North
JABberwocky Literary Agency
Spectrum Literary Agency
Larson-Pomada Literary Agency
3 Seas Literary Agency
Ethan Ellenberg Literary
Trident Media Group
John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.
The Fogelman Literary Agency
Bantam Spectra Books
Red Dress Inc.
I eventually landed an agent with Lowenstein-Yost (which is now Lowenstein, Inc, and I’m currently with Nancy Yost at Nancy Yost Literary) who sent my manuscript to seven publishers. Six of them didn’t outright reject it, but didn’t offer because they either hadn’t read it yet, or just weren’t in love with the story enough to make up their minds on submitting an offer. The seventh editor, however, loved it so much that she offered a deal before even fully finishing the book. One “yes” made all those previous “no” or “eh, not now’s” obsolete.
As a side note, I received a rejection from one of the publishers I named above two weeks after Halfway to the Grave sold (they took over a year for them to respond to my submission). This was the comment that came along with that rejection:
“Well written. TMI vampire sex. ::sigh:: Why is there always one handsome male vampire on the side of Good, that the Heroine falls for? "Half vampire" female heroine also getting clichéd.”
So again, subjectivity reigns when it comes to rejection. What was TMI and cliché for that publisher turned out to be just what Erika Tsang at HarperCollins was looking for. As Halfway to the Grave was an instant bestseller and launched my Night Huntress series with Cat and Bones, which later launched my spinoff series featuring side characters from that world, turns out, it was what a lot of readers were looking for, too :).
To quote Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest: Never give up, never surrender!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Lynn Rush wins "Dead in the Family"
Anne wins "Fire"
Congratulations to both of you—if you could email me via contact[at]helenlowe.info with a postal address, I will get the books away to you asap.
And thanks again to everyone for joining in the conversation—it's been great. I'll see you again next year—on New Year's Day in fact: in between times, I'm going to think about how we can have some fun with that! :)
Last month we talked about what makes a story truly romantic and you told me that for you, the X factor can include to honor and defend; a look, a touch, and the sense that two people are meant to be together; having plenty of chemistry but also leaving something to the imagination; self-sacrifice and the willingness of star-crossed lovers to fight for each other—and definitely that element of forbidden love.
All so true—and just as much for film as for print, as Pamela honed in on a little later in the month.
Shortly after that I was watching Pretty Woman—an oldie but a goodie for me in the romantic stakes. (Of course, one of my friends maintains that the most romantic scene in the story has to be where the Richard Gere character gives Julia Roberts his credit card—but getting back on topic … )
Right at the end of the film there’s the scene where our hero overcomes his fear of heights to “rescue” the Julia Roberts character—and then asks (something like): “what happens next?” And of course she says: “She rescues him right back!”
This is the bit that got me thinking, because one of the trends of contemporary fantasy is the kickass chick—whether it’s Buffy, who always manages to rescue herself in the end as well as dusting the vamps or slaying the demons; or Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris’s True Blood novels (ok, I think they’re the Sookie Stackhouse series, but you know what I mean) who as often-as-not rescues the paras; or Katsa in Kirsten Cashore’s Graceling who is an archetypal alpha heroine.
All great stories and heroines that we love—but 'tell me true', is there any secret yearning (as last month’s comments suggest there might be) for the alpha hero who sweeps all before him to rescue our heroine from dastardly villains and “love only her” for ever after (keeping her in the style to which she would entirely wish to become accustomed, of course!)
Or do we like to mix it up a bit more, Pretty Woman and Ever After style, and have our heroine rescuing her man “right back?” Or is it just nice to have the choice, depending on time, place and mood?
I’d love to hear what you all think!
To help the discussion along, I’ve got two books from the writers mentioned above as giveaways for a couple of lucky posters: a copy of the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel, Dead in the Family (to be drawn first), and Kirsten Cashore’s Fire (to be drawn second). This giveaway is open to all Supernatural Underground followers, US or international.
Just add a comment on your preference for “Who Rescues Whom” before the next Supernatural Underground author posts to go in the draw (which will be via Random Number selection.) As always, you can earn points (i.e. the number of times your name goes into the draw) by:
+1 Posting in the comments section
+1 Linking to this post on Twitter
+1 Linking to this post on Facebook
+1 Linking to the Supernatural Underground or my Helen Lowe on Anything Really blog on your own blog/website.
Just post the total number of points that you’ve earned in your comment. And don’t forget to check back to see if you’ve won!