Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Self Promoting Like a Mofo

Why don't I write? What's the primary reason I don't meet my word count goals?

I can talk about my dogs bugging me, being compelled to clean and tidy, the call of the weedy beds, but I'd be fooling myself, the biggest distraction from my writing is self promotion.

Every morning, the first thing I do is check, respond and update my livejournal comments, myspace, facebook, blogger, the League and even twitter (new this week). Now with the help of Missy, who League readers see in the comments, a Yahoo group is in the works. Then there's the bookscan numbers and the dissecting effectiveness of various promtional activities and items. Is there a jump in sales from con attendance? Who knows? I don't. I can speculate. Boy can I speculate. What I can tell you for certain is...I'm about freakin' crazy.

Not about. Totally freakin' crazy.

I'm sitting here with 500 pens that didn't show up until after I'd already left for Romantic Times. I'm lucky I used a generic slogan and not something specific to Happy Hour or they'd just be a useless expense. I'm not even certain whether people buy books based on a recommendation of a pen. I doubt it. I like pens, especially free ones. But I've yet to ask my doctor for some Ambien or Viagra just because they're hanging out in my pen cup.

I'm more convinced that a face to face connection at cons and readings/signings is probably the most effective tool (the pen is just the reminder). Second is the blog stuff and interacting in comments. Third? Social networking has gotten me a few sales, I suppose.

The rest of the stuff that sells a book is totally out of my control and that's what bugs me most. I imagine elaborate marketing plans. Fantasize about tv spots. Viral video. Real life zombies shambling around with ad boards bolted to their backs. A Starbucks marketing tie-in would be perfect.

But still--and I know this--the most effective promotional tool is writing a better second book and a third and keeping them coming. Momentum is an author's best friend. I need that to be my mantra, before my three book deal becomes just that; a three-book-deal.

I think I'm going to have stress diarrhea.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

But did you see the movie?

I've been rereading one of my favorite books this morning. Roger Ebert's I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, a collection of his reviews of bad films. (OOH! And in finding the link I discovered he came out with a new one last year, Your Movie Sucks, which I am totally wishlisting because I must have it.)

Anyway. I love this book. And I was reading through it and came to his very funny review of the Demi Moore/Gary Oldman "The Scarlet Letter" (accidentally typed "Demo Moore" there first. Freudian slip.) And it got me thinking. (Obviously. Otherwise this would be a very short post indeed.)

I liked the book The Scarlet Letter. It was one of my favorites of the books I was assigned in high school. But of course that film is unwatchable, largely because the filmmakers--and our pal Demo--felt the need to alter it and mess about and change what it means and blah blah blah. (I was reading Empire a few years ago, which is a British film magazine, and they interviewed the director of that terrible Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice. He mentioned how after a screening in the US he was outside and some kid walked out of the theatre, and said director asked said kid how he liked the movie. The kid replied, "It sucked!" And the director used it as an example of how Dumb People Couldn't Understand Why He Needed To Make Great Literature Unrecognizeable. Of course, he just left it at Dumn People Don't Understand, and said something derogatory about the kid "not being his target audience". Well, buddy, I thought your movie sucked too, and I am its target audience. I digress.)

Point is, some movies--most movies--made from books just aren't that good. I can think of several exceptions, chiefly of course being the Godfather films (I and II--I pretend the third doesn't exist.) To Kill A Mockingbird was pretty good, and of course the Lord of the Rings films are amazing. There's a lot of them out there.

But sometimes they And it's especially disappointing when it's a book you love, and so a movie you were excited about seeing. (I still feel a little sick when I think of The Caine Mutiny, which had a great performance by Humphrey Bogart, a great performance by Jose Ferrar, and Fred MacMurray, and is based on my favorite novel of all time, and what a stupid ending they tacked onto the film and how it just ruined the whole thing.)

So here's what I'm wondering. What terrible movies can you think of that were made from great books? What books do you think deserve a good movie?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Book on the shelves? Thicken up your skin!

I can take a bad review. Really, I can. I find a lot of valid points in what reviewers of all levels have to say as I'm always trying to better my writing. I don't want to be one of those authors I read about who must address everything a reader says when the reader didn't like a book. Today, however, I'm going to delve into a bit of a bad CUSTOMER review. Not from an actual review from what I would consider a legitimate source, but a customer review at a shopping for books site.

So I'm given the lowest ranking they can give at the site, followed by a statement (paraphrased) that my plot characters and dialogue are a complete rip off of the movie "Men in Black" and that I pretty much searched and replaced aliens and put in ghosts.

I have to say that left me a little livid. If it was an accusation on their own blog, that would be fine, but this is made a very public forum.

Now to say I have tropes in my work is one thing... as, say, fellow author Rachel Vincent put very elegantly in this quote:
"Part Ghostbusters, part Men-in-Black, Strout's debut is both dark and funny, with quirky characters, an eminently likable protagonist, and the comfortable, familiar voice of a close friend. His mix of (mostly) secret bureaucratic bickering and offbeat action shows New York like we've never seen it before. Make room on the shelf, 'cause you're going to want to keep this one!"

Now I like this quote for several reasons:
1. Hey, it's positive.
2. It shows an understanding that there are nods to genre tropes, but clearly gets that they are unique takes on them.

For anyone who's read The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell, you'll know that a lot of concepts in my book are classics and not, as accused, rip offs of a movie that, yes, I did like
The rookie/veteran investigator? Gee, that's never been done before... on wait, except for the master/apprentice relationship from everything ever. And my characters are only ten years apart in age, so it's not like it's all that rookie/vet anyway...

Secret organization handling odd things? That's all over the place too, but again, my work is my take on ideas that predate what I'm accused of.

Remember that classic scene in MiB when Will Smith has to defend himself against a carniverous book case? Yeah, me neither. I fail to see how my plot even remotely touches MiB. I can't make the connection.

Again, I normally wouldn't give a review this type of time or energy, but again it is in a fairly public forum and attacks me on a level that simply is false. Yes, I touch on common ground of my genre, but I stand by my story and characters.

But I've got this great idea for a giant cockroach and a talking dog for my next book...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

American Title IV Winner: Helen Scott Taylor

Hey Y'all. Remember a while back when we interviewed all the contestants for American Title IV? Well, last week at the RT convention, Dorchester Publishing chose a winner. Yep, Helen Scott Taylor was awarded a contract on her paranormal romance THE MAGIC KNOT. They've even got the cover already. Let's wish her a big League congrats and luck with her career!

Cheers, Helen!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Book Club: A Few Words

Alright...let's talk book club.

Is five days too long? Cuz I'm thinking three.
Is once a month too often?
What do we want to read next? I'm thinking Personal Demons; I've got tons of stuff to ask about that one.

But, I kind of need a list. Something to put together for June. Does June work for the next club that's not a League member?

Getting Too Old for This...

Well, not this. Not the blogging.

I'm talking about the promotions, conferences and the constantly being "on". I'm two days back from Pittsburgh and I'm still exhausted*. I can't stay awake. But I'd better. I have to drive to Seattle in a few hours to do some stock signing at the University Bookstore. Duane, the sci-fi/fantasy overlord has ordered it and I'll obey.

A word on promo items, I'm still debating whether candy and postcards are effective for boosting sales. The pens are the only things that resonate for me. Of course, the ones I ordered for RT didn't show up until two days after we'd flown out, so I've got lots for Conestoga and Orycon (the last two cons I'm doing this year). I'm thinking I'll ask for some bookscan numbers pre and post con and figure it out from there. I'm certain that being there and being personable, gregarious, available and approachable is more effective than swag. it's Wednesday and I still haven't gotten back into the writing. I did write a sex scene for Dark Rites in the Salt Lake City airport, as well as some plotting. Let me tell you, something about being surrounded by all that restraint caused the filth floodgates to open (filthgates?). The Chuck Palahniuk book I'm reading doesn't hurt either. Have you guys read Choke? I suggested it for my book club because I've loved other stuff, but this one is particularly "dirty," which I love, but I can only imagine how the other members are reacting right about now. We'll see.

*I've been trying to capture the craziness of the Romantic Times Booklover's Convention on my regular blog. So feel free to check that out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


It's Tuesday! It's Tuesday! And I'm supposed to blog. And I have nothing to blog about.

In fact, I can't even recall, at this moment, what my post on my own blog for tomorrow was supposed to be, but I'm sure it was charming. Darnit!

Should I tell you all we had an actual glimpse of spring today? I went outside and was comfortable without a coat, for the first time in, oh, two years? Since last year was a total bust as far as weather went.

Or I could mention that everyone is home from RT now, and they are all terribly smug over what a good time they had while I sat here and moped.

Hmm. I could tell the fun story of how my older daughter's end-of-term break is over, and she's back at school now, which is just fascinating I'm sure.

Oh, and my husband's ex-stepgrandmother died today, at something like 96. Which is sad, and he's sad about it. She was his stepgrandma throughout what is sometimes called The Formative Years, and his Mum is still very close to his ex-stepdad (and we see him fairly often too), so it's distressing for him, and he will be going to the funeral when it happens (we're not sure when.) It's very sad, and I do feel bad for the ex-stepdad and my MIL. But I am slightly amused, as I always am, to realize that this woman I've never met in my life or even seen a photo of is known to me--and referred to by me--only as "Nana Ex." (Well, not Ex, she was Nana MIL's Married Name, but of course I'm not saying what it was, but you get the point.)

They had The Devil Wears Prada on DVD at Tesco for £4, so I grabbed it. I've never seen it but I heard it was okay. Better than the book, at least, which I disliked for a number of reasons (chief among them being what a whiny, irresponsible crybaby the heroine was, and what a jerk her boyfriend was, and what a lazy drama queen her roommate was and how the heroine was supposed to put all of these people ahead of the job she was actually paid to do). But, as I said, I've heard the movie was better, and it was only £4, so we'll see. Now I just need some actual free time in which to watch it.

And that's it, basically. You see what an exciting life I lead, right? Aren't you glad I remembered to blog today? Don't you feel terrifically stimulated intellectually?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

So here's what happened

Um... I counted wrong.

And yesterday, which is when I should have posted this, I was having all sorts of personal life things happening (nothing bad, just a busy day) and when I had a blogger issue last night I basically gave up.

So this is the explanation, one day late, for why we only ended up with eleven.

Sorry! Please don't hate me for being a bad counter! :-)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dialogue #11

Nathan stroked my arm. "We don't have to if you don't want to."
"I want to," I said. I moved to take unhook the back.
"Really, Keira. I mean it."
"I mean it, too." My next words surprised me. "I just want to forget they're dead."
"You can't," Nathan whispered.
"You don't understand. The past ten minutes have been only time since I found them that I haven't thought about them. I just want that for a little while longer." I started to cry then, huge tears falling down my face, sobs ripping themselves from my body. I saw a few tears splash onto Nathan's bare chest, which made me cry harder. Snot ran down my nose and I jumped from the couch to find a tissue. I couldn't believe I was making such a fool of myself.
"Having sex with me won't make you forget."
"It's worth a shot."

Jaye says:

This scene is such an opportunity to really ramp up the emotional tension, and you're on the right track. It just needs some tweaking to really hit the target. First, I'd take out that first I said. Her movement tag after it let's us know who's speaking. I also think "My next words surprised me" rips the reader out of the moment. You could move them after the dialog as a reaction, but since you're going for emotion here you're better off giving us visceral reactions. Also, "I started" and "I saw" are unnecessary. Sobs ripped themselves from my body is a bit over the top IMO. Maybe it's just sentence structure, though. Try breaking it up to build the progression from her speaking to crying so hard she has snot streaking her face--that rarely happens as quickly as you're portraying. You could pepper in some of her thoughts--flashes of her parent's faces or something--to show that progression. Nice job!

Stacia says:

I agree about the tags, and I agree about needing something a little more visceral here. This is a very nice scene, but her dialogue is awfully calm for someone with this much emotional stuff going on. Even adding a "Please" somewhere would give more of a hint of her desperation--she seems almost like she's just discussing the weather, rather than dealing with what she'd dealing with. If you make it hard for her to breathe, if her chest hurts and her eyes burn and it's hard to talk because she has a lump in her throat, that sort of thing (some of those border a bit on cliche but you see the point) I think we would feel more connected to her. Not only is she vulnerable because of what's happened before with her parents, she's also a teenage girl asking her boyfriend to have sex with her--and he's refusing, which must bring some serious insecurities to the surface. I'd like to see her more disbelieving and angry--surely he's been asking for sex, and now she's offering it on a silver platter and he turns her down?

Maybe if she were a little less aware of her true motives, and he a little more?

This is a really nicely done scene. I just think it could be more raw.

Dialogue #10

I was the very picture of wolfiness. My mass stayed the same. Only werewolves' mass could increase when morphed into a wolf. Also, vampires kept their natural hair color, so I was a raven-furred wolf. With sapphire blue eyes.

"Picture yourself as human again."

What? Human? That was easy enough done.

"Excellent! Lord, girl, you are good at this," he said. "You're a natural born vampire if I ever saw one. It took me an hour to do my first transformation."

"Really? Seems easy."

With that, I changed into a wolf again. Back to human, and back to wolf. Then I turned into a human, grinned roguishly at him, and transformed into a bat. Wow, what a rush. Suddenly, I could fly! Ok, I couldn't fly very well. I bounced off the wall three times in the first ten seconds, hit his coffin once and then the ceiling. I transformed into a woman right after bouncing off Boney's chest.

And promptly fell on my butt before him.

"We'll work on the flying part outside, tomorrow night," he said, laughing.

"Why? I thought it went well," I said, grinning.

"Yeah. We'll work on it," he said.

Stacia says:

Well this is fun! I haven't seen a shape-shifting vamp in some time, and I like the spunky heroine. This is YA, right?

Okay, this is a personal pet peeve of mine, sorry. She's a raven-haired wolf with sapphire blue eyes? I have blue eyes, I never think of them as being any color but blue. I just think it comes off as a little much--but of course, if part of the heroine's character is that she thinks of things that way, it works.

And we have my old nemesis, the dialogue tag, here again, in the last three lines. "He said, laughing"; "I said, grinning", "he said." How about if he laughs, then says his line. Then she says hers, and he says his. or he says his, then she grins and says hers, and he says his. You don't need tags for all of those lines; honestly you don't need them for any of those lines (although it's effective for the first one in the set), since it's clear from the words themselves who's speaking (very nicely done, btw. They both have pretty distinct voices, which is excellent.)

Jaye says:

Stacia covered the dialog tag issues I had, so I'll cover some other issues. I think you're flirting with info dump in the first paragraph The first line is fine, but after that it's confusing and you're losing the fun voice of the first line. "Only werewolves' mass could increase when morphed into a wolf" confused me. I had to read it a couple times to get what you were saying. See if you can rework that section so its clearer and less like a dry explanation of the world building.

"I bounced off the wall three times in the first ten seconds, hit his coffin once and then the ceiling. I transformed into a woman right after bouncing off Boney's chest.
And promptly fell on my butt before him."

The problem with writing in first person is it's super easy to use telling too much. This section above could be fleshed out a bit. First is much richer when you can give us the character's visceral reaction to what's happening. She's flying for the first time--is it scary or cool? She's bumping into stuff--does it hurt? The last part of that section could be reworked, as well. "I slammed into Boney's chest. The shock of the impact forced me to lose focus and switch back to woman form. I landed on my butt at his feet. Talk about embarrassing." Again, that's how I'd do it. I bet you could do it even better.


Blogger is giving me trouble getting posts up. I'm going to try this one and see if it works...

Dialogue #9

James said, his voice hoarse, "We wanted to surprise you. We wanted to make you proud. Just like Dad did."
Donal, looking from one face to the other, smiled around the lump in his throat. "You did, boys. You always have."
Scott said, "We'll be leaving in the morning, Grandpa. Sarge has us heading north."
"I'll be ready to go, just tell me when."
"What?" asked Scott.
"I want to go see your grandmother, boys. I've been waiting until I could ask, one man to two men. It's time."
"But..." said James.
"Let's go talk to that teacher of yours." Donal was quiet but firm. "I want to go home, boys. Take me home."

Stacia says:

Wow, I really don't have much to say about this one. Very nice, the emotional connection between this man and his sons comes through very clearly and there's a sadness here that's very natural.
Instead of "James said, his voice hoarse" I would probably just say "James's voice was hoarse."
Same with "Donal, looking from one face to the other, smiled around the lump in his throat." It might be a little cleaner if it was "Donal looked from one face to the other, smiling around the lump in his throat."
I'll leave the rest to Jaye.

Jaye says:

I agree with Stacia that this is pretty clean except for the tag issues. Personally, I think "James's voice was hoarse" is a bit awkward (Stacia adds: I agree), but it's the right direction. It might be nice to add a shared look between James and Scott before Scott says "What?" Also, I found "one man to two men" confusing at first. I assume this is a context issue, but I stumbled over it at first. Take another look and see if you agree. Overall, though, this is a touching scene.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dialogue #8

For the first time, Walsh set his entire attention on Xaphan. He stuck out his hand. "Detective Denis Walsh. And you are?"
Xaphan had to think about it. Although he could betray Jane right there and then, which would be fun, he was suddenly sure that finding out Jane's secrets would be even more fun. He shook the man's hand. "I am...very glad to meet you."
"He's my brother-in-law," Jane said. "Through marriage. Ex-marriage."
Detective Walsh nodded at Xaphan's handcuff marks. "What happened to your wrist?"
Xaphan hastily took his hand back. "Uhh..."
"Uhh..." said Jane.
And with the exquisite timing of the undead, at that moment Frank called out from his cage, "What the hell is going on out there? What's happening?"
The silence that followed lasted approximately two and half days before Jane finally managed, "That's the TV in my bedroom."
Walsh's expression didn't change. "No, it's not."

Jaye says:

That darned Frank! He's always speaking up at the worst times. Funny scene, but I think a couple tweaks might kick it up a notch.

For example, you've got this great bit here: "And with the exquisite timing of the undead, at that moment Frank called out from his cage, "What the hell is going on out there? What's happening?" But try this: "And with the exquisite timing of the undead, Frank chose that moment to call out from his cage." Small difference, but more effective IMO.

Also, I feel like Walsh's last line is kind of a let down. You build up all this funny tension to get to this part, and his reaction has to be the pay off. So he needs to say something really hilarious or do something that's the last thing they want him to do. Since I havent' read the rest of the scene, I have no idea what that would be. But I bet you know.

I'll let Stacia take it from here.

Stacia says:

Hmm. I'm going to have to disagree with Jaye on that last line, much as it pains me. I actually really like it and think it's a great character moment for Walsh, and nicely tense. I like that he's so to-the-point and not allowing them to get away with anything. He cuts right through the crap with that one, and I dig that.

But, I agree with everything else. A lot of these action beats could be tighter. Like "Xaphan had to think about it. Although he could betray Jane right there and then, which would be fun, he was suddenly sure that finding out Jane's secrets would be even more fun. He shook the man's hand."

You could cut that down to something like: Xaphan thought about it. He could betray Jane, which was always fun, or he could back her up and make her tell him her secrets in exchange. That would be even more fun. He shook the man's hand.

Also, instead of Xaphan "hastily [taking]" his hand back, he could snatch his hand back. You always want to go for the most active verb possible. It doesn't have to be a snatch, he could pull his hand back, or yank his hand back, or hide his hand, or whatever you like.

Last, instead of using a regular tag when Jane says "Uhhh..." maybe she could shuffle her feet, or blink, or glance at Zaphan like she's looking for him to help her or something. It's not wrong the way it is, that's just what I would do.

This is a really, really fun scene, though. I like it a lot, and I'm sure the ms itself is just as much fun! I got a real kick out of this one.

Dialogue #7

"Pleasure." Meg coughed nervously and pulled her hand away, stuffing it shyly in the pocket of her jeans. "So are you on the back-breaking crew or the fragile box-packing crew, Sabrina?"
"How charming." Sabrina shook her thick, wavy hair and it cascaded over her back and shoulders. "You know, Meg, you're one of the first new people I've met that didn't assume what I could or couldn't do based on my looks."
Sabrina took a step closer and Meg felt warmth rush over her cheeks and neck. "You and Ms. Hawthorne…are you…together?"
Meg flinched inwardly at the question, but forced a smile. "No. Sky is my sister-in-law and my friend. That's all."
"Interesting." Sabrina ran her tongue over her lips and grinned." Well, I'll do whatever you need me to, handsome." Meg watched Sabrina stride into the house, her movements graceful and hypnotic.

Jaye says:

Hmmm, methinks Sabrina has naughty plans for the innocent Meg. You can drop "shyly" in the second sentence. The action itself implies shyness. I also think so much is said between Meg's question and Sabrina's provocative answer later that we need a reminder. So: " Well, I'll do whatever you need me to, handsome." Could become: "As for your question, I'll do whatever you need me to do, handsome."
"Sabrina took a step closer and Meg felt warmth rush over her cheeks and neck." Could be tightened (I know I sound like a broken record by now). Try: "Sabrina stepped closer. Warmth rushed into Meg's cheeks and neck."
It might also be nice (and this may be the next sentence below where you cut for word count) to describe how Meg's feeling as she watches Sabrina walk away.

Stacia says:

Hmm. I basically ditto what Jaye's said, especially about "Warmth rushed to Meg's cheeks and neck."

I'm also not crazy about Meg's inward flinch. It's a tic I have myself, but it bugs me when I use it so I feel like I need to say something when I see it elsewhere. I'd like it more if Meg wondered exactly what Sabrina meant by the question, like:

Sabrina took a step closer. Warmth rushed over Meg's cheeks and neck. "You and Ms. Hawthorne…are you…together?"
Oh my God. "Sky is my sister-in-law and my friend. That's all."

So we feel a little more connected to Meg; we're experiencing her nervousness and attraction instead of just seeing it. It doesn't have to be that exact thought of course, but if you bring us closer to Meg, put us deeper into her body and mind, it gives us another way to see her and her feelings.

I'd also like the last line to start its own paragraph.

Is this meant to be sexy? Because it is. :-)

Dialogue #6

Hey guys! If you're just checking back, don't forget to scroll down and comment on some of the older entries too!

"You were attacked."
"Attacked?" He could not mean the events of yesterday afternoon.
"Yes, attacked." He spoke out to the trees, still not facing her. "I will not have that happen again."
"You are over reacting."
"And you are limping." He walked away from her again.
She struggled to follow him without admitting she was indeed limping. Her ankle, though no longer swollen, pained her. Each step sent a sharp stab of pain up to her knee.
She could not believe that he would think to use yesterday's events as reason to act as if Tintern was under siege. "That was not an attack. Those men happened upon us. They did not seek us out to engage us."
"Aye, I recall your words. You think they recognized you and were trying to save you from the big bad Norman."
When he spoke them they dripped sarcasm, like he knew every one of them was a lie.
She blinked. "Aye. That is what happened." He had to believe that.

Stacia says:

I think some of these tags could be turned into actual dialogue, and that might feel more natural. Like the second line: "Attacked?" He could not mean the events of yesterday afternoon.

I think that might work better as "Attacked? Surely you do not mean what happened yesterday." And the last line, also, could be smoother as "Aye. That is what happened. I know it is." or something like that. I think that would show her conviction and emotion in a stronger way.

Also, this is a case where interruptions can help add immediacy. He's obviously upset, and she's trying to convince him, so if they interrupted each other a little, it would give the scene more emotional oomph. Like where she says "They did not seek us out to engage us." How about if she says, "They did not seek us out--" and he interrupts her with "Aye, I recall your words." It shows us he doesn't believe her much more clearly, that she's sure he's right.

Jaye says:

I agree with Stacia's points, and I'll add a few nitpicky things. First, "overreacting" is one word. Second, you never use either of their names. Try varying the he's and she's a bit. You could also tighten the action and description. "She struggled to follow him without admitting she was indeed limping. Her ankle, though no longer swollen, pained her. Each step sent a sharp stab of pain up to her knee." Try something like: "She struggled to keep up with his long strides. Each step brought a stab of pain, but she'd never admit he was right."
Also, this: "When he spoke them they dripped sarcasm, like he knew every one of them was a lie."

The content of his dialog implies sarcasm, i.e. "Big Bad Norman." This is what Stacia was talking about with an earlier example where you're telling and it's redundant. If you must put something there, try showing how he's feeling with a physical cue. He could swipe at a low-hanging branch or something.

Dialogue #5

"You know what really burns my ass?"

"A flame about three feet high?"

"Cute. No, it's the fact that this is part of the vicious circle." Kyle slumped in his chair and took a drink of his coffee. "I know that justice must be served and whomever smoked Willy should pay, but this won't end the cycle. Monsters aren't born; they're created. You've read the profile on Willy's father. He was a bastard. If anyone should be rotting in jail it should be him. He abuses Willy so Willy becomes a monster. Willy's actions hurt and kill innocent children so parents become obsessively overprotective. Children grow up sheltered and stifled so they rebel, or worse. The cycle is spinning out of control and it's become our job to clean up the mess. The whole damned thing's enough to make me want to puke."

Stacia says:

Oooh, I really like this. I really only have one comment: Kyle seems like a fast-talking, street-smart guy, so hearing him say "whomever" right before "smoked Willy" feels off. His language on the whole is earthy, so I think it all should be--pare it down a bit--unless that's part of Kyle's character.
Maybe Jaye has more? :-)

Jaye says:

You start out with a very funny couple of lines of dialog. However, it's the third chunk where things go a little astray. I agree with Stacia on the "whomever." It's grammatically correct, but this is dialog and it doesn't ring true given the informal tone of the rest of the dialog. Also, I'd encourage you to tighten that section. "No, it's the fact that this is all.." Could this be pared down to "No, it's the damned vicious circle."

The rest could use the same treatment. Cut "that" and forms of "to be" if possible, and combine ideas for more effect. You wrote: "You've read the profile on Willy's father. He was a bastard. If anyone should be rotting in jail it should be him."

Could be: "You've read the profile on Willy's father. If anyone needs to rot in jail, it's that bastard."

Now, that's just how I'd rewrite it. It's your book so put your own spin on it. The point is, tightening adds more immediacy and more weight to each word. Too many that's, the fact is, etc. bog down the prose. They can be effective if you're character is prevaricating, but that's not the point of his speech.

All that is tweaking, though. You've got a great foundation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dialogue #4

"I don't think my boss wants to hear you're neutral," I countered, watching Caim's assistant strut away. Maria looked pissed as she stormed out of the restaurant. Good.

Po sighed, looking back toward the bustling kitchen. "I have fifteen workers to protect. I need to know we'll be safe."

"Caim couldn't guarantee you his protection?"

"I cannot say." His face was blank. Tight to the vest, our Li Po.

I leaned across the greasy counter, looking him in the eye. "Say Labal takes you in. What if Baal and Labal go to war? Are you neutral then? Even if Baal still owns your soul?"

He was doing some sort of calculation in his head. I couldn't imagine what it was, but he nodded, slowly at first, then two strong shakes of his jaw. A final decision. "If Labal takes us in, we will serve him to the death."

Jaye says:

You do a great job of distinguishing the speakers by their "voices." The narrator is direct and informal, while Po is enigmatic and formal-- "cannot" instead of "can't." You also make good use of action and description to break up the speaking parts and ramp up the tension, i.e. will Po agree? I honestly don't have much to quibble with because this is an excellent scene. Stacia?

Stacia says:

First, I really love the feel of this one! Very intriguing.
As Jaye says, I really can't find much to comment on here. I'm not crazy about having a character described as both "strutting" and "storming", as they're two different things. I also might go for "I leaned across the greasy counter to stare him right in the eyes" or "I planted my elbows on the greasy counter and pinned him with my eyes"--something that adds to the gritty, hard-boiled feel a bit more. But what's there isn't bad or wrong, it's just me trying to punch everything up. (And you might think my suggestions are terrible, which is just fine too. :-) )

Dialogue #3

***Note: we got a couple of submissions more than we planned to post, but decided to post them anyway, so this will run into Saturday. Also, if got an email from me, yours will be posted.**

"Consider this a verbal curtsy as you have me quite immobilized at the moment my Lord," I said trying not to sound sarcastic.

His eyes gleamed with an infuriating combination of mischief and pity. "I do so miss you at court. The way you struggle with protocol and authority, always saying the inappropriate thing or using the wrong fork. You were like a breath of spring in a withered garden."

"Yeah, well too bad I never really felt the love while I was there. I have a life now where no one is afraid of me except those who should be."

"You can't blame us for being a bit nervous around the only being that has the inborn ability to kill us. It tends to make some of us, well, edgy," he said coming to a stop in front of me.

"Being half demon didn't seem to help much either."

Jaye's comments:

You got two things I love--snark and a half-demon who can kill everyone. Plus, I like his droll humor. It's a nice foil set against her more in-your-face sarcasm. For the exercise, since we're limited on word count, I have to make a couple of assumptions. First, I assume she's supposed to sound like a modern, snarky woman. Second, I assume he's supposed to sound like British nobility. If that's the case, we're cool. If not, let me know and we can address those issues in comments.

Also, we need some commas. "Consider this a verbal curtsy, as you have me quite immobilized at the moment, My Lord," I said trying not to sound sarcastic. (note the capitalized M in My Lord--unless she's talking to God, which would take this scene in a whole new direction). I think the C in Court also needs caps.

The word "that" should be used only when absolutely necessary. Otherwise you're cluttering things. Witness: "You can't blame us for being a bit nervous around the only being that has the inborn ability to kill us."

Cut the "that has" and insert "with." It's a nitpicky change, but it's tighter.

These are mostly minor tweaks. I'll leave it to Stacia to address anything else she thinks could flesh it out.

Stacia's comments:

I agree with Jaye about the commas and the voices.

I'm not crazy about "His eyes gleamed with an infuriating combination of mischief and pity." I think I'd like to see a little more of the girl's personality in there, something like, "His eyes gleamed. Mischief, or pity? Looked like both. Jerk." or something along those lines. This girl clearly has some spunk, I'd like to see that in the attrition as well--I have a hard time "seeing" what those two emotions would look like in someone's eyes, so a little more explanation of it would be good for me. (Nothing's wrong with the line as it stands, it just doesn't work as well for me as it might.)

I also think instead of "I said trying not to sound sarcastic" you could try something like "I tried not to sound sarcastic" or "I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice." Then the gleaming of his eyes could show that he caught the sarcasm anyway, which gives them another little spark of intimacy. And cut "he said coming to a stop in front of me" altogether. It's unecessary. If you must indicate his movement, try "He came to a stop in front of me" or "He stood right in front of me" or "He was so close I could see the fine linen weave of his shirt."

And again, Jaye is right. Cut "that has" and put "with".

This was fun--very intriguing!

Dialogue #2

***Note: We have reached our entry limit, so please don't send any more submissions. Thanks!***

"She's a menace," Tournbould stated, sensing Stanislav's hesitancy over what to do with the girl upstairs, "she should never have been given such authority at such a young age. You and I know that."
"Yes, but she's so gifted. I have never met the likes."
"Which makes her all the more dangerous. I doubt she could be sent back to the Arm she trained at. It's obvious they were unable to control her. Better to send her to Grishtok. Let Rurik deal with her."
"He won't like it. And it would reflect poorly on my own control that I need to send a girl of only nineteen to my Head to deal with. Better it is dealt with here. Make her an example," Stanislav said as he considered his dilemma.
"Why don't you mask her powers? Make her a servant and have her learn some humility?" Tournbould suggested, warming to the idea. "It would be a good example and word would spread that you didn't abandon her or make her homeless but kept her safe from herself and others safe from her."
"And what if she cracks?"
"The asylum-"

Stacia says:

Oh dialogue tags, dialogue tags, thou art the bane of my existence. Here's the problem with dialogue tags: they're telling, and they're usually redundant. Also, they break up the flow of the dialogue itself, so instead of people having a conversation they're uttering a line, then standing around waiting for the other person to speak, then waiting to speak again. That's how it can feel to a reader, anyway.

It's not your fault, writer. It takes a lot of work and confidence before you really feel comfortable ripping those dirty little things out of your book--I still write too many tags in my first drafts. You don't need to tell us Tournbould sensed Stanislav's hesitance over what to do, we probably know that by this point, and we know it from the dialogue. Don't tell us Stanislav is considering his dilemma, we know that because they're discussing it. Don't tell us Tournbould warmed to the idea, it's his idea so of course he likes it. Take those out and see how much more smoothly this reads. Also Tournbould's last full line should be two shorter ones, IMO, but since I've gone on about the dialogue tags I'll see if Jaye has any suggestions for the dialogue itself.

Jaye says:

Stacia makes an excellent point about telling via dialog tags. To break up the dialog try focusing on helping the reader see the scene and learn more about the characters. If one of them is frustrated, show us by having him clench his fists. Or pacing in front of a long, wooden table with a single candle burnt down to the numb. Except not those because they're lame. You know your story, so layer in some details that fit the tone and the characters.

I think you do a great job with the dialog itself. The word choices give us good information about who these characters are. That said, it could use some tightening. I don't want to mess with your voice, but take a look to see if you could say more with less words. People don't always speak in complete sentences. Also, try breaking some of the longer stretches into shorter sentences. Like the following:

"It would be a good example and word would spread that you didn't abandon her or make her homeless but kept her safe from herself and others safe from her."

"It would be a good example. Word would spread that you didn't abandon her. Instead you kept her safe--and others safe from her."

Breaking it up like that allows you to put more emphasis on important ideas, i.e. "..others safe from her."

Also, "she should never have been given such authority at such a young age." She should be capitalized. I also think "You and I know that" is unnecessary.

I'm intrigued by this, though. "The asylum--" Poor girl.

Dialogue #1

***Note: We have reached our entry limit, so please don't send any more submissions. Thanks!***

A warm breeze brushed across the sands of the Great Fire Desert, stirring the golden grains slightly. The movement caused by the wind was about the only movement to be seen- heat lay over everything like a thick, invisible blanket.

Beneath the burning sands, in a cool, dim chamber, an amazing discovery was being made.

"Professor Hassan!" a slim girl called.

"Yes, Ophelie?" A tall man appeared from behind a large boat. He was Professor Hassan, a professor who had devoted his life to finding out more about ancient cultures.

"I just found a false wall," Ophelie said.

"Really? How?" Professor Hassan hurried around the edge of the boat as he spoke.

"I was tracing some of the hieroglyphs on the wall, and I must have pressed some hidden trigger," Ophelie explained. "The room isn't very big, though."

Stacia says:

Is this MG or YA? It has that feel to me, which is cool. I think it's the "an amazing discovery was being made" and "He was professor Hassan" lines that do it. I like those, though, although after you've said he's Professor Hassan you don't need to tell us again that he's a professor. Also, I would have him hurry around the edge of the boat, then speak:

Professor Hassan hurried around the edge of the boat. "Really? How?"

And, I'm a total sucker for trapdoors and hidden rooms.

Jaye says:

Ooh! I want to know what's behind that door. It's not dialog but I think your description at the beginning is great. You can drop the slightly in the first sentence, it's a nonessential adverb.

I'm a bit confused about whose point of view this scene is in. It seems as if a narrator is talking at the beginning: "an amazing discovery was being made" and "a slim girl called". If it's not a narrator, then those elements might be confusing. Since it's such a short excerpt, it's hard to tell if it's really an issue, though.

"I just found a false wall," Ophelie said.--You could drop the dialog tag here. It's pretty clear who's speaking without it.

Also, I agree with Stacia that the last line of dialog for the professor is too wordy. Try breaking it up a bit. I also like her suggestion about putting the Prof's action before the "Really?" It adds more urgency and breaks up the dialog. Also, it might be nice if you describe the boat. Since I assume this is a dig of some sort, this is a great place to give a clue about what they're working on, as well as adding some texture to the scene.

Nice job!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Let's have some fun, fellow left-behinds!

So. As Mark, Jill, and practically everyone else I know, jets off to the Romantic Times conventon to eat, drink, sign books, and be merry, I am stuck here. All by myself, to entertain you for the rest of the week.

At least, I would have been, except I'm lucky! And so are you.

Why, you ask? Ha ha! Because Jaye Wells, Orbit author and heckofun gal, has agreed to come by and help me out.

Here's what we're doing.

You submit a bit of dialogue from your latest wip, or a project you finished and are planning on submitting, or whatever you like.

Limit 150 words.

Jaye and I will look them over and give critiques, comments, snippy little jokes, whatever we feel like. We will then post the snippet--minus your name, and plus our comments-here on the League blog, where our readers and anyone else who happens to stop by are also invited to comment.

We're keeping the comments clean and constructive, but really, don't submit if you aren't prepared for an honest--although kindly worded--opinion. And we will be deleting disrespectful comments, so please, keep it constructive commenters!

Send submissions to me, Staciakane AT, starting at 8 pm EDT. Do NOT send them earlier!

The first 12 submissions will be used.
We'll do four a day tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday. (Sorry, we can't handle more--I have tons of edits and stuff on my plate, so don't even ask, because that will make me feel guilty and bad. It's not like this is the last time we'llever do something like this, really.)

So have at it, guys! Can't wait to see what you've got!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Answers for my peanut gallery

Nabbed from my livejournal... aeriedraconia asks:

How do you keep track of all your notes, timelines, world building and other data for you work in progress?
I'm writing a fantasy novel and I'm now at a point where I'm having to remember a lot of details, plus keep track of three different timelines in the story. How do you keep track?

I'm a skeletal writer at first... working off of an Excel spreadsheet, I start out with about 40 lines of what each scene is roughly about. I then take those over to word and expound out bullet points of details I know I have to get down for each scene and slowly the skeleton starts to fill in a bit. It's kind of like a reverse invisible man, slowly growing back to visibility until you have whole being.

Anytime I write something that seems pertinent to lasting details for the series as a whole, I flip over to my Dead To Me Bible (thanks, Alt+Tab!) and add it in... fun stuff like the fact that Connor is ten years older than Simon or that the Inspectre's mustache in somewhat walrus-like....

but it's the Excel document that really is the visual cue as to a timeline for how the story is progressing in the narrative. I add and delete from it as certain scenes become obsolete and new scenes arise. Usually I add date stamps to certain events in the story to get a quick visual as to how the story is flowing. A lot of people use Post-Its to jockey scenes around, sticking them to the wall and rearranging them, but I'm a computer nerd, so I go with Excel.

Now with all that said, I'd love to go back and drop about 20 pages from the front of Dead To Me. I guess those who can't do, teach!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Book Review? What?

I've been excited about this book longer than you have--bet you 5 dollars. I've been following Personal Demons since it was a tiny little hook contest entry on the now defunct Miss Snark (or was it Evil Editor?). A radio shrink (think Dr. Laura only with actual insight and ethics) inadvertantly starts a war with the "personal demons" that hang out on the shoulders of every man, woman and child. Awesome, right? Anyway, I took the bait, waited and emailed the author, struck up a neat little friendship, and here I am pimping her out like my favorite hooker (my less favorite hookers find their own dates).

I got myself a snazzy little PDF of this gem because I'm special (and not in a retarded way...well sometimes, but that's beside the point). So here goes...

Personal Demons is a supersexy urban fantasy, some might say paranormal romance, but like all good demon fiction, the sin of lust takes precedence over anything as wholesome as that other L word. Megan Chase, psychic therapist (though the psychic part is a secret), is up to her ears in crazy clients, radio station politics and zombies! After a near fatal attack, she's let in on a little secret: those personal demons she claims to slay on her radio talk show? Um..a wee bit miffed. It seems she's been marked for death, which is really bad timing because she's being tailed by a reporter hot for a story and a demon hot for some tail. To make things right, Megan must do battle with the spawn of Satan (both in and out of the bedroom) and the skeletons in her own closet.

Kane serves up a malevolently entertaining entry into the urban fantasy genre, the action is fierce and the sex is bonerific (I think you know what I mean), her characters are well drawn and damaged, just like I like 'em--Megan, in particular, is so engaging you'll be missing her from the second you turn that final page--and the story clips along with the urgency of an IBS victim with a public bathroom phobia.

Good work, Stacia. I had a feeling it was going to be awesome. But if you don't believe me, check out these blurbs, which may or may not be fictional--who's to say, really?

"Can I have s'more, please?"
--Pip, Dickens Character and Demon Sex Afficionado

"Greyson Dante can pound my dead ass, anytime."
--Amanda Feral, Celebrity Ghoul and Polite Gentlewoman

"Personal Demons? Mine don't seem to give a crap what's going on with me. More like Impersonal. Hmmph."
--Shitney, Waning Pop Star

Sorry about that, those three never shut up. Still, the verdict is in, buy Personal Demons today and--guys--see if I'm wrong about that bonerific part.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sneaking Suspicions

Ever since I read Stacia's book (Personal Demons, go buy it), I've had the sneaking suspicion that something's been following me.

Something sinister...

Something evil...

Something demonic...

Help me figure this out!

Okay, I don't really feel like blogging about anything serious or thought-provoking today. In part because I have some research to do on crematory ovens (if anyone knows anything about them, let me know.) But mostly? Because today is my anniversary. I've been married for eight years today, which is pretty cool, I think, and puts me in a rather festive mood.

And speaking of the hubs, he is the impetus for today's post. Last night he sent me this link to the latest Lying in the Gutters column at Comic Book Resources. I've copied the relevent image below.

It's the cover for Marvel's new "Three Musketeers", from their Marvel Illustrated line. (You can click on the image to make it bigger, or follow the link to the column and click on the image there to get a full-size version.)

Columnist Rich Johnston suggests the image is in actuality Led Zeppelin. I disagree. The dark haired-guy on the right, with the bandolier, is definitely Jimmy Page. But that's clearly Lemmy behind him, and the one on the left, with the rounded hat, looks like George Harrison to me.

But who's the guy in the front??!

He looks familiar, yes he does; but I cannot for the life of me place him. Anybody know?

And also, I just squinted at the guy in the front and I swear he snarled at me when I did.

Help me out! Identify the guy! Disagree with any of my IDs? Tell me! (But seriously, that's Lemmy, y'all.)

(OH, and. According to the Juno Books blog, Personal Demons should be in stores any day. Thanks so much everyone for your patience.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hardships beyond the book

By my usual East Coast standard, I'd be posting this late... but as I am in Arizona right now, I'm still somewhat timely in getting my Monday blog in... so nyahh!

I've been a bit absent the last few weeks, mostly due to book touring stuff or book stuff related to my day job in publishing. I'll try to be a bit more regular with my posts here and all...

If being a published author is an iceberg, seeing your book go out onto the shelf is just the tip. These past few weeks I've been experiencing the rest of the iceberg, which is to use a technical term, gigantinormous!

The love of writing and sharing it is the big reward, but all the support of it is EXHAUSTING. I'm trying not to sound whiny about it because I know how fortunate I am to see my words in print, but until you've lived it, you just never really know how fully draining an experience it is. Perhaps my other Leaguers will chime in on their peeves as such, but the surprise hardship beyond the book for me is doing signings.

Most of them have been fun and managable. Small pockets where I'll sign maybe 60 max at a time. You get to spend a little time talking to everyone, be personable, and that's that. But last week...

350+ copies were signed in a period of three hours as giveaways for B&N College Managers as I was asked to be a guest at their annual Back To Campus show. I loved doing it, but it was perhaps one of the most exhausting things I've ever done. For three hours, I was "on", talking to everyone, signing, watching the line stretch off... never ending...

It flew by in a blink, but by the end, my voice was shot, my hand had gone numb and since I had been sitting for three hours, making my legs work too awhile. It was a brief, if insightful, taste of what it would be like to be a top list author... I now have a slight inkling what it would be like if every signing was like that and I have a newfound respect for all those authors out there who can do it, and do with with ease... and with a smile.

And yes, I know you'll all going "Oh boo hoo, published author, poor you," but really my point is that there's always something to keep an author on their toes. First it's the hurdle of getting an agent to look at it, then finding an editor, then getting to publication, and now... this. I wonder what the next fun hurdle will be? I do know this, though... I will Chariots of Fire my ass through it!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Christine! You is Book Club Wiener!

Christine! Strawberry Girl. Christine! Banana Split Lady.

Here's a video for you on your special day!

And what's this, Christine?

Why it's a really shitty picture of your prize. Signed book plates for each of the three contracted books (Happy Hour, Road Trip and American Minions), two vials of genuine zombie plague, a zombie head finger mask, postcards and you'll be the first to have some of my business cards (they showed up this weekend). I wish I could send you a pen, but they're delayed. :(

Anyhow, email me:

Don't forget to give me your address and thanks for stopping by the book club to chat!


Friday, April 4, 2008

League Book Club Post #5: Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry SPOILERS!

Okay, it's our last day of the Happy Hour of the Damned Discussion! I know, parting is such sweet sorrow, isn't it?

Remember, Mark is giving away some secret zombie prizes and stuff--it's his little way of bribing you all to participate.

I'm torn between several topics today. I wanted to ask if you've ever known anyone like Amanda and if so, who. I wanted to ask which bar you'd be most likely to hang out in. I wondered which character you think deserves their own spin-off (although that ties along with who your favorite character is.)

But I think what I'm going to do instead is open the floor, thus giving you a platform and dropping Mark in the hole all in one fell swoop. Hahaha! I'm so efficient.

So, what do YOU want to discuss? Ask Mark a question! Comment on something else we didn't talk about! Complain! Anything you like!


Thursday, April 3, 2008

League Book Club Post #4: Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry SPOILERS!


And by "spoiler" I mean "give away secrets about the book", not "rotten stinky corpse" or "more ways to make fun of Mark" (well, okay, I kind of do mean that. But still.)

So spill it. What was your favorite part? Why? Which bit made you laugh hardest? Did you crave a coffee after finishing?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

League Book Club Post #3: Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry

Whee! Tomorrow we'll start a spoiler thread!

Remember, we're supposed to be nice, even to a slavering man-whore like Mark. Remember, too, said slavering man-whore is giving away prizes.

So here's today's topic. Happy Hour has been dubbed "a zombie Sex and the City". Which is partially true, especially if you consider, for example, Carrie's first time with Berger, or the very funny episode where Charlotte marries Harry and Carrie sleeps with one of the groomsmen (sorry, but I thought that guy was freaking hilarious. "People...are a bitch." I digress.) Obviously there are differences--even the SATC girls can't come close to Amanda and Wendy for snarky, bitchy fashionista fun.

But in what ways is Happy Hour like chick lit? Is it chick lit for the next generation? And if (as I think) it's not enough like chick lit, what could Mark do if he actually set out to write some genuine chick lit? Should all chick lit books be rewritten in the style of Mark? (Geez, imagine Bridget Jones as written by him!)

How do Amanda and her friends compare to the SATC girls? Which of Amanda's friends is your favorite?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Couple of Announcements avec Pimpery

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Happy Hour of the Damned worship for the following announcement...

Many of you already know that Ilona Andrews has made the difficult decision to leave the League, and instead of our normal response to such an action (involving a boiling pot of oil and fondue skewers), we support her need to scale back on the internet addiction and chill. We'd probably join her if we weren't such junkies!

As a proper send off...let's celebrate the release of Ilona's Magic Burns!

No. Wait. Well, yes. Actually. It's complicated.

Ilona is releasing a brand of Magic Burns Do-It-Yourself Chemical Peel, but that's months off and not at all what we're celebrating. Here's what we're on about...

Magic Burns (the book) hits store shelves today. We know all the peeps have been jonesin' for a Kate Daniels fix and here it is, filled with hot werelion action and a smart-ass heroine that kicks more butt than an early spring flu.

We bid you good luck with this and all your books and a fond farewell, Ilona!


While I'm at it, let's figure out whose book we're going to talk about at the end of April or early May. Nominations?

League Book Club Post #2: Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry

Ah-ha! You gluttons for punishment! Here we are, back to drive Mark Henry's reputation and self-respect into the ground!

Remember, Mark is hanging around, ready to take our abuse and love it like the sub he is give out secret zombie prizes and a free book and all that stuff, so comment away.

So. Footnotes. What did you think of them? How about the recipes and text boxes? In what way did they draw you in? Which one was your favorite (is that a spoiler)? How do you think they added to Amanda's voice?

Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells