Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What I read in 2010

Over at my buddy Camille's blog she chatted it up about the books she's read this year. Her list is quite diverse, as is the woman. So, I am making a list of my own. I hope this is contagious and lots of people post what they've read this year and even maybe books they're eyeing for 2011. This is a great way to have almost a mini-book club.

YEAH, that's it. The Mini Book Club. We meet once a year and dish on all the reads, the good and the oh so bad.

What did I read this year? Well, there were spurts where I went on author binges. Reading as much as possible of a particular author. Then after fully gorging myself I'd change not only authors but genres.

In no particular order here's what I got....

The Nicky Sparks Fest
*Tissues used for all. Some more than others but he got me every time.

A Bend in the Road~ Fate and circumstance toss this widower and school teacher together. Overcoming loss and finding forgiveness lay the groundwork to a great love story.

The Rescue ~ Another one of his best. All the characters are compelling. Especially Kyle, a four year old with a learning disability that will melt your heart. Taylor, the fireman, is the wounded hero and Denise, the protective mother hopes for a better future. Most Sparks need to be read with tissues, this one you need extra.

Safe Haven~ Abused woman on the run, widower looking for love. Time heals all wounds but psycho hubby is on the hunt. Great story and much from the crazed abuser's POV. Different for Sparks, didn't disappoint.

The Guardian~ Widowed woman, the said deceased's BFF always loved her. They let love blossom while evading a stalker. Good.

Message In A Bottle~ Holy tissues Batman. If you've seen the movie, you ain't seen nothing until you read it.

The Choice~ Woman torn between current love and her new neighbor. Awesome testament to the power of love. You think the choice is hers, but its really his. Super sappy and I loved every second.

Dear John~ Book far better than the movie. Lot and lots of tissues. The relationship with John and his father is so much deeper here. The ending, not as hopeful as the movie. Loved it.

The Lucky One~ Guy finds a photo in Iraq of a girl. She becomes his lucky charm. He falls in love with the girl from the photo. Once home he goes on a search to find her and return it. So much more happens, as you can guess.

True Believer~ NYC hot shot reporter goes to small town and falls for the the librarian.

At First Sight ~ One of my faves. Loved it, loved it all. A sequel to True Believer. Shows life after the HEA. I want more Jeremy Marsh.

A Walk to Remember~ Young love, life changing romance, mega nose blower. Ten times better than the movie.

*I can't seem to want to read The Last Song. All I see is Hannah Montana. As the mother of a tweener I've seen enough of the young lady thank you very much.

James Patterson ~ Before the fall from grace with me. I stopped reading the mega giant after that NYT article. I kind of lost a little respect.

I, Alex Cross ~ It's Alex Cross. Can't ever go wrong with the man.

When the Wind Blows ~ First book in what later becomes the Maximum Ride Series for YA readers. Not bad but not my thing.

Step on A Crack~ Broke my heart not to want to buy anymore Patterson cause this series has potential to surpass the Alex Cross series. Great characters and secondary plots. One scene made me tear up a bit.

Swimsuit ~One of his best, co-written, but its been on the bestsellers list for over 2 years. Still love it. Wicked killer. Truly twisted.

Beach Road ~ Great read until the end. It was a WTF moment and totally contrived.

You've Been Warned ~ The most annoying book I've ever read. Garbage.

Sam's Letter to Jennifer  ~Romance and a tear jerker. Very good.

Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas ~Same as above. Current girlfriend gets the diary of the dead wife written for her son. Given to her by the man as he breaks up with her. Super sad. Super loving. Super hopeful.

Nora Roberts
Sea Swept
Inner Harbor
Montana Sky
Hidden Treasures
Black Hills

The first two I enjoyed. It had a family saga element that spoke to me and my own WIP's cast of characters. After that I lost interest fast in her writing. It's the same exact formula, no deviation, no depth, not much really that stays with you.

Formula- Heroine has a bad day and the villain is the cause. Heroine meets or reconnects with hero. Sparks fly and they both vow not to give into such temptation. Villain keeps them bumping into each other. Hot sex consummates an instant falling in love or rekindling of it. Villain strikes. They fight the bad guy. They win. They make nooky one last time. The End. Sometimes secondary characters hook up too.

Janet Evanovich
Thanksgiving~ Cute story, enjoyed it. Fluff piece about a tour guide is Williamsburg VA, the new doctor, and an abandoned baby.

Plum Lovin' ~ I couldn't get into it enough to care to finish. Bounty hunter with paranormal tendencies. Yawn.
Jodi Piccoult
Handle with Care ~Amazing. Makes you question what you'd do in the situation. Woman sues her BFF and OB/GYN about missing something in an ultrasound and if she knew she may have aborted the baby.  The said child has brittle bone disease as it about 7 years old. The suit, if won, would give them the money to give the child the best medical care but the moral costs are way high in this one. Who says in a courtoom that if they would've known their kid would've turned out broken, they would have aborted? If she doesn't she can't properly care for her...

Emily Giffin
Love the One You're With ~ You're rooting for an affair and feel just as bad as the heroine. When the heroine sees an old flame, it's on like Donkey Kong.  Awesome.
I never wanted to slap in-laws so bad before, besides my own!

Eileen Goudge
Domestic Affairs ~ Great plot of past secrets and life altering events that thrust old friends and flames together. There was a secondary plot I totally skipped but a good read overall.

Diana Gabaldon
The Outlander ~ Jamie Fraser is one of the most compelling characters I've ever read. Even at 800 pages, some of which I skipped, it is amongst one of my all time faves. Time Travel, Highlanders, Sex, Violence, and Love. She had me at the kilt!

Jennifer Haymore
A Touch of Scandal ~  My first Regency Romance. An easy fluff read. Duke, scandal, revenge, a lower class maiden, and forbidden ha cha cha, but not so bad.

Robyn Carr
Virgin River ~ Free at the NJ RWA Conference. Not bad, hero very adorable. Predictable but touching in places.

Angel's Peak ~ Annoyed at it. But I read this first and it's not the first in the series. I felt all the chaps from various POVs from people I could care less about took away from the overall plot. The hero seemed a little too forgiving he'd just found out about his three year old daughter. Sex was hot though. But the plot was all too predictable.

James Waller
Bridges of Madison County ~ This was my second read of the book. The first time was in my early twenties. Reading it some ten years later, a different and more compelling read all together. A Midwestern wife and mother looks forward to a week without the hubby and kids. A photographer stops for directions and life isn't so boring or lonely anymore. They have a few days of love that last a lifetime. Oh, Francesca and Robert, I wish things worked out differently! The movie was amazing and the book even more so. Cried my arse off.

Sandra Brown
Not Even For Love ~ Another re-read. Just wanted to see what an old fashioned romance read like. Didn't disappoint. Sweet and follows the tried and true Romance formula. Bookkeeper in Europe helps a stranded photographer during a rainstorm. Sex and a quick smell ya later. They bump into each as her engagement is announced. He is hired to be the photographer. Typical but a nice read.

Dan Brown
Angels & Demons ~ Murder, Kidnapping, the Vatican,  Art, Science, and Conspiracy. Need I say more?

The Lost Symbol ~ The White House, Masons, History, and of course murder. Not as good as Brown's two previous reads but still keeps you interested enough to finish. Great twist at the end. What's lost in this one is the religious "what if" aspect of DaVinci and Angels.

Pete Hamill
Forever ~ Young Cormac O'Connor witnesses his parents murder in 1741 Ireland. As a true Celtic man he must avenge their deaths all the way to the end of the blood line. It takes him to New York City. There he befriends slaves, indentured servants, and fights for justice while stalking his prey. When his plans go to hell, he is near death. One of the Africans he helped is a Shaman and gives him the gift of eternal life. With a catch. He can't leave the island of Manhattan. Here, you see NY and American history through his eyes. It spans from the Revolutionary War to the 9-11 attacks. Brilliant! Loved it!

Books I am reading right now...

Steig Larsson
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo ~ It was hard in the beginning but I wanted to see what the hype was about. I cheated and watched the Swedish movie. Loved it and love the book now that I picked it up again.

Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love ~ I am still on the eat part. I really liked it in the beginning but its lost my interest. Can't seem to care enough to continue on. It's a memoir and I am not sure I can relate to a woman who was paid to globe trot for a year to write said book about being a thirty something divorcee trying to find herself. Give me some money and I'll give you a memoir about a thirty something wife and mother trying to write and book and get published.

William P. Young
The Shack~ Interesting read about a guy whose daughter is brutally murdered. Three years later he gets a note to meet in the shack where she was killed. The message contains things only few would know. It could only be from the murderer or from God.

J.D. Robb
Naked in Death ~ The first in the famous Eve and Roarke series about futuristic NY, a cop, and a billionaire thrust together by a series of murders. This is SOOO not my thing. But its research for a Blog I'll be posting on in the New Year on Romance and Mystery. I read that this couple rank among the elite as far as romantic couples in literature are concerned. My take so far, that's some bull caca. This is sooo cheesy and typical. I actually vomited a little in my mouth reading lines like, "she had a mouth made for sex". Really? If a guy said that about me I'd be looking for my cash on the night stand. There are some moments where I think I may get to know these famous characters on a deeper level. But it's only a line or two and the cheese commences. Not a good cheese either. Canned cheese. Barf. BTW. J.D. Robb is Nora Roberts.

Now, I hate to sound so negative about Nora. She's the queen of Romance and a God on the NYT list. I guess, for the formula Romance genre, she's doing her thing well. She has to be right? I guess I need something a little more deeper to read. Something that sticks.

Jonathan Franzen
The Corrections ~ This was a hit in 2001. Prizes and nominations galore. A very Literary Read. And I am loving every second of all the dysfunction with these characters. Basically Enid wants to get her family together for one last Christmas before Pops goes into a retired care facility, he has severe Parkinson's. Her kids are as crazy as she is. One, a famous chef contemplatyes having an affair with her boss and his wife. The one son got fired from his teaching job at a university for sleeping with a student. He goes off the deep end writing a Clinton/Lewinsky inspired screenplay that mirrors his own failures. And the other son has a smothering wife and kids. The wife emasculates him at every turn. Enid does her best for a family gathering that may do more harm than good. I am laughing out loud in parts. Who knew Literary Fiction could be this much fun!

So, for 2011 I am finishing up the reads above. My goal is to read all of Jane Austen's Novels, The Bell Jar, Water for Elephants, The Swan Thieves, Fragments, The Hunger Games, and any sappy romances along the way.

What have you read this year? What will you read this upcoming year?

Monday, December 27, 2010


This is what an AWESOME blog looks like.

How can you get as awesome as AJ & Charli? Bathe in it everyday...lather, rinse, and repeat homey.

Today, we reached 100 followers. 51 on BLOGGER and 49 on Networked blogs. I know other blogs may boast higher numbers but I am permitted to bask in my awesomeness for a moment.


Thanks to all our peeps. You like us, you really like us! And we love you too, and your blogs. You rock the interwebs like we do. Okay, you're AWESOME like us. Why? You follow us, that's why. And we probably follow you too. It's one, big Fest of AWESOME we're having.

It takes AWESOME to know AWESOME. Pretty Awesome isn't it?

In the words of a man who knows what awesome is, the Great Ali G, Booyakasha to all our Peeps for following. Just look at him below. That's how AWESOME people get dressed everyday.

BTW, I had a three finger ring in high school and aspired to be part of the Wu Tang Clan. I just raised the AWESOMENESS bar, and you know it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In Spite of Loss...

This post is for a person I am proud to call my friend.

We're all losers. We can't escape it, not worth trying. Loss is a part of life.

You can lose your job. Keys are never where you last put them. The Battle of the Bulge is now known as being the Biggest Loser. Socks disappear into dryers, never to be seen again. We lose touch with persons we once thought we could never live without, with our spouses, children, and friends. Rocky lost to Apollo Creed. We even lose hair, eyesight, and hearing with age.

We lose. Every single day, we... lose.

The loss that is the most unbearbale, unspeakbale, and hardest to get over is the loss of a loved one. The idea, notion, realization, that someone once breathing and so full of life, is no longer of this earth, shakes you to your core. Shakes your belief in God, in what is right in the world, faith in most things if you let it.

Yes, we all lose a little everyday. But in reality we also gain, if only our hearts let us and our minds open up to the possibility.

Loss doesn't define us. Who we are, who we become in spite of it does.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Writer's Airing of Grievances


Today is Festivus. They day we celebrate the feast of...being festive without indulging in the commercialism of various religious traditions! It's the Anti-Holiday's Holiday.


On the Day of Festivus the Aluminum Pole stands in place of our tree, in the hopes that the Airing of Grievances commences with ease. The Feats of Strength begins with a bash, as someone gets pinned on the floor in a flash.

Aspiring Author Charli Mac's Airing of Grievances

1. To every agent who rejected me with a form-FYI, I wasn't all that into you either, in case I didn't let you know that.

2. To my WIP, my first MS, the bane of my existence- Make up your mind already and let me know when you have decided to be complete. You are an annoying wench and at this point, much like my cousin Wendy, you will never get hitched (signed).

3. To my second WIP- Thanks for bailing on me. You are an insecure second child. Get over it. If you get your shiznit together you may beat your older sibling and be the first one signed by an agent, I'm just sayin'.

4. To my muse- Crack is whack, hugs not drugs, you booze you lose, and that's not glue you've been sniffing. You need to join Lindsay Lohan in Rehab.

5. To my laptop- Thanks for having the Internet so readily available for me to NOT WRITE! You enable the Muse's procrastination and fuel her ADHD. Good one. You've figured out that if I finish this book and get signed YOU are getting replaced. You machines are getting too smart.

6. To the fellow author I met at that thing-Thanks for reminding me how tough the market is and that my premise has little chance of being picked up.  I hope you get crabs.

7. To my husband- Thanks for asking me if I've made money yet on this "hobby". That's like me asking you if your middle aged-overweight football team will ever win a game.

8. To my daughter, aka, The Tweener- Thanks for rolling your eyes, stomping your feet, and slamming your door every time you asked where dinner was.  I was in the middle of typing very important scenes. It's called Easy Mac for a reason.

9. To my dog- Thanks for barking, whining, and licking yourself every time I was on a roll. I should've let them ice you at the pound.

10. To that agent who sent me a cut & pasted, poorly written form rejection and really pissed me off- Thanks, know-it-all for sending me down the rabbit hole. It was funny to find out I was not the only one, thus proving me right and you wrong. Sweet vindication! This was my FESTIVUS MIRACLE!!!!!!!!!!

Please air feel free to Air your own grievances below.
*These are fictitious rants (mostly). My family rocks and I'd never wish my pooch harm.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Festivus


In just two days, the holiday we all wait for will be upon us. Are you ready? Wikihow gives these crucial tips for a festive Festivus!
1. Set Up your Festivus Pole. Set up an aluminum pole in your living room. It requires no decoration, and has a very high strength to weight ratio.

2. Celebrate Festivus on December 23rd. You need purchase no expensive gifts. Just invite your family and friends over for a nice dinner.
3. Air Your Grievances. Tell everyone at dinner how they have disappointed you over the last year. Be sure to include specific details. Have your grievances prepared prior to the celebration. There is no need to make up or hug after the Airing of the Grievances.

4. Practice the Feats of Strength. After dinner (and dessert) proceed with the Festivus Feats of Strength. "Festivus doesn't end until you pin me..." Remember however, that a participant is allowed to decline on the grounds that s/he has something better to do (which includes pretty much anything.)
Feats of Strength suggestions: If you don't want to have to pin someone, consider Thumb Wrestling, Rock, Paper, Scissors, Staredown.

Warnings! Be careful not to injure yourself or anyone else during the Feats of Strength.
Keep the pole away from all sources of electricity. Aluminum, like all other metals, is very conductive and you may get shocked.

Things You'll Need: One aluminum pole (No distracting tinsel!!)

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Want This Rejection!

My buddy Camille over at Camille Reads had this on her blog. This is an old school rejection form for screenplays but I want one for novels! I want there to be a standard like this for literary agents. I mean I think it's perfect. We get forms all the time and at least this is more specific.

Besides, it feels like the junior high notes you used to pass. Do you like me? Circle yes/no/maybe. But this gives you at least they why it's a no. Kind of cool. Old School needs to be the New School in this instance. Ya feel me?

So far I am digging number 17 on this list. Scenes of an unpleasant nature, LMAO.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I am Really Book Dumb...For Reals

Truthfully, I must confess, I am NOT as well read as I should be. Especially for being an aspiring writer and all.

In July of 2009 I officially stopped daydreaming about the story in my head and started typing. Even then I was reading mostly James Patterson. I joined one of those book clubs and snatched up some mainstream stuff. I remember getting one about a young woman helping her town after a tornado and an early reprint of a Sandra Brown. A student of mine gave me a Nicholas Sparks. I read his works off and on. Patterson kept me busy, as did some Dan Brown and Elizabeth Kostova.

But I write Love Stories and up until 2008 all I had was some Sparks and a single Sandra Brown.

I have an even worse confession. I am poorly read in the classics. In college I think I read Pride and Prejudice. The movies I remember more. I recall some titles from high school and college but vaguely remember most of them.

Does that make me a poorly trained writer? Does under-read translate into Book-Dumb? Right now I feel like I am in a place where I shouldn't write. Something inside me is unquenchable. All I want to do is read.

What should I be reading? What should I have read already?

What books do you feel all writers, at least of fiction, should read before typing a single word?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Two Idiots in New York, I Mean Newark

They would meet from a great distance. Two aspiring novelists hoping to make it big in the publishing world. Both with big dreams, light wallets and little sense...

Plight of the NoWords
Chapter 1
An Officer and a Cigarette

Harley tapped her feet, the hard plastic chair squeaked. In just a few minutes she'd meet her critique partner. BJ was traveling from a far, far away land, called Canada. Harley hoped she arrived in the United States okay. Who would've thought that two random strangers meeting on the interwebs would finally meet in person. How often does that happen? Harley knew they were pioneers in a sense.

Harley left her life behind in Philly by boarding a NJ transit bus here, to Newark International Airport. Like all struggling artists, they'd have no car. Together they'd enter the city and take it from there. Nothing but a few bags, laptops, and dreams.

Where would they sleep, who knows. All the great musicians, dancers, and actors who came to NY in movies and on TV never had a plan. Either did she, genius, huh? She thought so.

Waiting didn't suit Harley. So she people watched. Lots were reading newspapers. They looked smart too and headed for NYC, she was sure. People in NY read papers. Some people did too, back in Philly, but Harley never cared for it. Too much to concentrate on, that reading nonsense. But she was all about fitting in, so she grabbed one and sat down.
She crossed her legs and opened up the pages like the smart looking girl across from her. The office type had glasses. Dang it, Harley didn't. They'd make her look like she knew what she was doing. But she did have Jackie-O shades. The Kardashians always wear their sunglasses everywhere. And they are so, so, so smart.

She put them on and began to read. She had to squint to see but it was all about the look. Reading, reading, skimming over the big words like, inundate-mandate...lots of dates in NY. Cool.

It got more boring as she read and yawned, but she did it for writings sake. Reading and writing kind of go together, right? I mean she technically didn't have a book written yet but she had lots of ideas and that's all that mattered.

An interesting article caught her eyes. Some serial killer on the loose from... Canada? One who meets their victims on the internet?

The same INTERWEBS that brought her here, meeting BJ? Harley read in disbelief that someone else thought to use it to meet people. How rude. She prolly could've made money off that. But it had her thinking of Dexter, one of her favorite shows. It was a book before it became a hit series. Hmm, a serial killing writer...great idea!

"HARLEY!" A voice bellowed out, interrupting daydreams about being the next HBO/Showtime star!

Looking up there she was, BJ. A cigarette dangling from her mouth, unlit, but waiting. Red hair, fur coat, and hick-like stride. How exotic. "Hey, BJ, over here!"
Harley lept up but wearing those dark shades she didn't see a body in front of her. At full force she fell right into something small and soft, landing in a heap above it. Said heap groaned a bit. Her shades tilted, practically dangling like BJ's cancer stick.

"Yo, heffer, you mind?" Some deep voice came from under her. She looked down. A round portly man lay underneath her, and his member was stiff on her hip.

"Excited Mister?" Harley fixed her shades and stood.

The man helped himself up and adjusted his shirt. It read, Homeland Security. The member was actually a gun but he was prolly a little excited she landed on her. "What friggin' idiot wears sunglasses indoors and at night?"

"New York ones." Harley winked but he prolly couldn't see that underneath her shades. So she tilted them down and winked again. Shorty wasn't impressed. He was prolly from Jersey and jealous a little. The man pushed her aside, huffing about tourists and walked away. Harley couldn't agree more. Tourists were stupid idiots.

"HARLEY!" BJ's voice found her and she was being escorted by airport guards. She turned to them, yelling. "I didn't know you couldn't smoke here. I didn't smoke the whole plane ride. You think I'm some terrorist with a bomb!"
In seconds she was forced to the ground. Harley ran, yelling, hoping to intervene. "She doesn't have a bomb, she's not a terrorist. She's from a really foreign country. She's Canadian! I'm not sure she speaks American English!"

Harley felt the air leave her as she was thrown to the ground, inches from BJ's face. The cigarette was broken in half but still hung on for dear life. As Harley turned her head to look up, little man was cuffing her.

"You sure are scrappy." Harley winced as she silver cuffs tightened around her wrists. "I said she's not a terrorist. What's the problem?"

"Shut up idiot." They stood and Harley had a thought.

She bent over and whispered into the vertically challenged officer's ear. "You think she's the Interwebs killer, huh?"
"Please stop talking." He nudged her forward.

Harley caught a glimpse at BJ and the Canadian winked. "Welcome to America, eh?"

The next few hours they were questioned. Some supervisor didn't appreciate Harley's insistence about the serial killer connection or that Canada was some exotic foreign land. These guys must not have paid attention in geography class. It's called South of the Border for a reason!

Lesson 1 as an aspiring writer. You cannot say bomb or terrorist in an airport. Like really, that's stupid. Cause that episode of Jerseylicous last week was Da Bomb. For reals. And like terrorist is a perfectly innocent thing to say. Technically, the petite officer terrored-her-wrists with those cuffs. It's called word play. These guys so don't understand the craft, with writing, cause words are used in writing.

When they were finally released they hugged it out and made way to the Big Apple. BJ lit up and took a deep drag. "So you thought I was the Internet Killer, eh?"

Thinking about what to say to a possible homicidal maniac/roomate, Harley paused. "Well, we did meet on the interwebs and you are from Canada. An officer of the law could reduce that."

She blew smoke into my face, and said, "Deduce?"

"Huh?" I ask, losing my train of thought.

"Deduce," she repeated, "You meant an officer of the law could deduce that?

Stammering something unintelligable, I was glad I'd put my sunglasses back on.

"You a cop?" BJ asked, crushing the cigarette under her boot.

"Gees, no. I was a school safety in the sixth grade. Things like instinct are hard to shake."

"I know, eh. No worries. Besides, me and the family think it's my Uncle Roger. You're safe with me."
Harley nodded and hailed down a cab. Once they were in NY everything would be okay. They'd get a good night's sleep in some trendy writer's hotel. In the morning they'd eat breakfast in some cafe where people read newspapers, then walk over to Penguin Publishing and sell their stories. It would be that easy.

Picking up BJ wasn't that bad. How much worse could things get?

"Hey, let's get drunk, BJ. Celebrate." Harley elbowed her new BFF. "Tomorrow we'll be world famous authors."

"Take off, eh. That's what I was thinking."

They hopped in the cab, into the night, and New York City quaked with trepidation waiting for their arrival.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Great Scott, Universe Altering Plot holes!

Okay, my girl Camille's blog had this video about the mind crushing ending to Back to the Future and the REAL universe altering ramifications of Marty McFly. And I totally had to steal and share.

OMG is all I have to say.

This is hysterical. Balls out dead pan comedy. And it really has me thinking about plots, stories, endings, and the like. All you sci-fi world altering dystopic time traveling writers, let this be a warning. Watch how you mess with things.

Thank God the characters from the Jersey Shore aren't time traveling anytime soon. I shudder with horror at the thought.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Plight of the NoWords

If I've never told you, one of my favorite shows is Flight of the Conchords. 'Tis an HBO series that follows the misadventures of two New Zealand musicians on a quest in New York to hit it big in the music world. They sing terrible songs, have minimal talent, and suffer from a severe case of naiveness and idiocracy.

However, in their minds they are legendary.

It got me thinking, especially since I am not writing, what about a tale of two writers trying to make it big in the Big Apple? Plight of the NoWords...documenting the daily struggles of  BJ & Harley, two aspiring writers.

They risk it all and flee to NY to pursue their writing dreams. Can you imagine the shenanigans and tomfoolery they could get into? The possibilities are endless.

Not familiar with Flight of the Conchords? Geesh. I cannot be responsible for your pop culture shortcomings. Where have you people been? Really. Please click on the links and get better acquainted with Jemaine and Bret. And yes, it's JEmaine not JeRmaine.

An introduction if you will, the best of the first few episodes.

Here, the boys dabble with becoming rappers and believe their gansta personas will ward off muggers.

BJ and Harley have just arrived in New York and will make their debut this week. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Feature: Great Openings, by Ann Lethbridge

Today we're doing things a little different. Actually, we're not doing anything at all. Yesterday, as I perused my iReader, I came across a very pertinent post by multi-published author, Ann Lethbridge over at Seduced by History. It's a post I wish I'd had the good fortune to read in my early days of writing. So, without further adieu, I give you what all writers NEED, and MUST accomplish in their very first paragraph, sentence ...

More than a hook, a killer opening ...

Last week I had the privilege of reading a few five-hundred word story openings provided by aspiring authors. I was not being asked for a critique, so I was unable to offer advice and I didn't know their names, or anything about them.

I was concerned that almost all these openings suffered from what I saw as similar problems. If it had been possible for me to give feedback on these snippets, this is what I would have said.

  • A reader expects to be carried into your world in a very few lines or they might not get past the first page. One way to do this is to start with action, or dialogue. If you start where something is happening or even better, where everything changes for the worst for the point of view character, the reader will want to read on. People love conflict and disaster, so if you can hint at it, or even provide it at the beginning your book will open with a bang.
  • Providing the details up front of why and how a character arrived at the point when the book opens can cause a reader to yawn. For example, the character thinks about his miserable childhood, his awful time at school and his recent accession to a title, which will allow him to improve his life. In the meantime, nothing has happened in the story. This is an information dump. I see it over and over again in contests. It is also telling.
  • The best way for a reader to get to know your character is to see them in action. This character, for example, could be entering a ballroom, greeting people who in the past had snubbed him and piercing them with his superior wit. The reader would be intrigued. Why would this man act this way? Or he could dive in to rescue a citizen from a band of thugs in a bad part of town. Why is he there? Why is he willing to be involved? Show us whatever it is you want to show us about who this person is, or thinks he or she is right now, by having him or her react to their world. Intrigue us to read more by not telling us why.
  • Avoid large casts of characters in opening scenes. Readers can be confused and/or impatient with too many people to keep track of, especially when they don't know who is important to the story.
  • Don't have your character physically describe themselves, either by looking in a mirror, or by thinking about their appearance. She turned her bewitching blue eyes on her visitor, is, if you turn it into the characters' own thoughts: I turned my bewitching blue eyes on my visitor. How often do you think about the nature and color of your eyes when you look at someone entering your front door? If you can put yourself inside your point of view character's head, see only what they see, feel only what they feel, your reader will be right there with you. And they will want to read on.
  • Know where your story starts. I have this terrible habit of wanting to write prologues full of action. My editor is very smart. She makes me take them out. Writing the prologue puts my head in the right place for the story. Deleting it, doesn't spoil or change the story at all, indeed it leaves a question to be answered later when the reader needs to know the answer. Don't start your story too early. Start where things begin to go wrong, often in a romance at the point the hero and heroine meet.
  • If your book starts with a bang, in the middle of action with conflict, with questions, try to keep the tension going. Don't have your character go off and change their gown, for example, so you can get in some description, while the furious hero waits in the drawing room. Have her confront him right away. Keep the reader wanting to know what is going to happen next and keep things happening.
  • A great first line is wonderful. An art form if done well. If it is followed up by telling and passages of description, its impact is lost.
  • Look at the openings of your favorite authors. What did they do right? Were you bored but only continued reading because you knew in the end they would deliver? Did you skip ahead? Were you breathlessly intrigued? An editor who is breathlessly intrigued by your opening page or two might well buy your book.

Do I perfect openings? No, but I do strive for them and try to keep all these points in my head. I think I spend more time on the opening paragraphs than I do on any other scene in the book. I hope these little pointers will be of as much help to you as they are to me.

Ann writes Regency Historicals for Harlequin. Her next book, The Gamekeeper's Lady is available December 1, 2010. You can find her at her blog or her website
After reading Ann's post, I rushed over to my bookshelf and chose about ten of my recent reads. This is what I came up with ...

1. "They came for her at dawn. Through the long, dark hours Elizabeth had stared from the window at the garden made darker by the rain ..." The Queen's Captive, Barbara Kyle

Why this line? I'm not going to lie, I was sold at, 'They came for her at dawn.' The line is brilliant. Came for who? And why had they come at such an ungodly hour? What has she done, or rather been accused of doing? I want to know.

2. "Every woman should marry for her own advantage since her husband will represent her, as visible as her front door, for the rest of her life." The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory

The every woman line ... how true! In times gone by, woman of the noble class were seen as no more than chattel to be pawned, married off, well, and, expected to produce an heir. Yet one gets the impression that THIS woman knew her worth, and moved through life accordingly.

3. "The city reeked of sweat and grime. Eidolon's citizens gathered in the chilly, dank air of the commons, their eyes turned to the cloaked figure standing tethered to a post on the center platform ... musing over the prisoner's identity." Son of Ereubus, J.S. Chancellor

Immediately, I was drawn into Chancellor's world, of fear and anticipation of an execution, but who is it? I wanted to read on to find out.

I can't stress enough how critical it is for new writers to carefully craft a truly genius first line, paragraph, and even chapter. So, now 'tis your turn ... What are some of your favorite opening paragraphs?

Big thanks to Ann for allowing us to feature her post on our blog!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

One Wild & Crazy Life...of a famous Writer

I wish I could be so cool. So accomplished. I have a new idol and I've been a fan of this guy, since forever. But now, after watching a recent interview, I am left in sheer awe of his artistic accomplishments.

An American Icon. The guy who's had white hair ever since I can remember. But he never seems to age.

A comedic genius. The creative equivalent of a Trifecta. A triple threat if you will.

My three fave roles of his: a waiter in The Muppet Movie, Lucky Day in The Three Amigos and he sang and danced  in Little Shop of Horrors as a Dentist. The man also played a Jerk but if you've ever seen him in an interview he is anything but.

He can list three Grammy's for his comedic performances but, to your surprise, he also has two Grammy's for his music. Yes, his original music. And it's Bluegrass and the instrument of choice....the friggin' BANJO!

The epitome of cool.

Yes, I said the banjo was cool. If you disagree then you are an L-7 loser. The Banjo is cool and this guy proves it. Kermit tried but only got so far. This guy will have the tweeners ditching their Beiber Bobs and grabbing a 5 string BANJO. Just wait, it will happen.

Who, who is this man you ask? And did I just hear you say 'so what' about having comedic and musical accomplishments? You forget where I'm from. Philly. And I gots me some legbreakers. So shut your cake hole and give the man some props.

There is further evidence that this artist is one of the greats, I mean all time GREATEST CREATIVE and ARTISTIC LEGENDS of our time.

He is also an AUTHOR. The author of two novellas and a recent novel. He also has a memoir, short stories, and children's books published. Oh and besides that he writes his own music for said awesome banjo and of course has written for TV, the Stage and Silver Screen. You  may have seen one of his novellas on the big screen. You may have even read them.

As much as I am a fan of his acting, I can honestly say I've never read any of his works. I've only seen his  Banjo strumming skills on American Idol. And YES, the Banjo was kick ass.

Without further adieu...Banjo strum please....
It's Steve friggin' Martin.
You read it right.
Steve Martin.

I came across his interview on Charlie Rose the other day. I was channel surfing about the latest hub-bub in Korea. Charlie interviewed David Sanger from the NYT and asked me to stay tuned for Steve Martin for his latest....what...novel?

I totally forgot he wrote Shop Girl. I'd heard he wrote children's stories but my tweener only reads about sparkling vamps and six-pack-abbed werewolves. But being an aspiring scribe I stayed tuned as Charlie asked. Why not, right?

Steve Martin talked of his writing with such purity and grace. He mesmerized me. The comedian dissipated and all that remained was the writer, the author. The interview had me nodding, yes, the entire time. Yes, Steve, I get that. He discussed with Charlie about how he chose the POV for his latest novel, Object of Beauty. You can see the spark in his eye as he describes his characters.

Charlie asked him to read an excerpt and I was pulled in. His voice, his writing voice, is fresh -a natural story teller.

He is a writer, as Charlie Rose points out. A writer in all things.

A writer of screen, instrument, and word. I felt humbled just to watch this interview. They way he spoke of his approach to writing and getting to know his characters, where they come from, I just kept nodding my head. Yes, Steve, I feel that way too.

Since then I've been thinking about my own writing. I wrote a few posts ago that there is a shift happening for me creatively. My characters have been speaking to me and I think I am finally getting the message.

And for it to be channeled through Steven Martin is kind of ironic. Sitting here, jabbing at these keys, it's all come full circle.

My story, the one that's been out there in query land praying an agent bites, is taking on a new life. I think it keeps getting rejected, even my partials, for a few reasons.  I am not supposed to tell their story the way I have it now. My first MS is focused on a romantic relationship with a family saga as the backdrop.

I keep toying with the idea of introducing this ensemble cast of characters years before, when a family tragedy occurs. As I was watching one of my favorites shows the other night, it hit me. This is what I want my story to read like, Parenthood. Great show if you haven't watched. There you invest in the family as a whole. Each episode has a family problem to focus on. My MS can read the same. Where you are invested in the ensemble, the love stories won't be the sole focus. I love this show and I loved the original movie. The one starring, none other than, Steve Martin.

Cha-ching. And it all comes full circle.

I am currently reading four books. All different and I love them. I put Shop Girl and Object of Beauty on my Christmas list. The hubby always gets me a book or two.

So, after all this, this is where the post ends. It began as an homage to the ageless scribe of wonder and ends with him inspiring, in a round about sort of way, the direction I am headed as an aspiring scribe.

And if I had a banjo I'd be strumming the hell out of it now but I don't. So, I'll just sing of my all time fave songs of his. King Tut. This one's for Steve.

King Tut (King Tut)
Now when he was a young man,
He never thought he'd see
People stand in line to see the boy king.

Hah, Steve prolly never imagined peeps waiting in line for him. 

Here you can find out more about Steve.
Below is a list of accomplishments, as noted in wikipedia.

1969 Emmy Award - The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (with other writers)
1978 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album - Let's Get Small
1979 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album - A Wild and Crazy Guy.
1989 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from California State University Long Beach[40]
2001 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance with Earl Scruggs (and others) - banjo performance of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown".[41]
2005 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
2005 Disney Legend award
2007 30th Annual Kennedy Center Honors
2009 Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album for his album The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo.

Writing Credits
The Jerk (1979) (Written with Carl Gottlieb)
Cruel Shoes (1979) (Essays)
Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays: Picasso at the Lapin Agile, the Zig-Zag Woman, Patter for the Floating Lady, WASP (1996) (Play)
L.A. Story and Roxanne: Two Screenplays (published together in 1997) (Screenplays)
Pure Drivel (1998) (Stories)
Eric Fischl : 1970–2000 (2000) (Afterword)
Modern Library Humor and Wit Series (2000) (Introduction and Series Editor)
Shopgirl (2000) (Novella)
Kindly Lent Their Owner: The Private Collection of Steve Martin (2001) (Art)
The Underpants: A Play (2002) (Play)
The Pleasure of My Company (2003) (Novel)
The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z (2007) (Children's Books illustrated by Roz Chast)
Born Standing Up (2007) (Memoir)
An Object of Beauty (2010) (Novel)
Late For School (2010) (Children's book)