Saturday, November 28, 2009

Restitution in Cute

I feel terrible for not posting on my blog more often, because I'm writing writing writing. To make it up to you, I shall share with you with Possibly the Cutest Thing I've Seen In My Entire Life.

Seriously. I cannot write any more because I'm dead from the cute.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm told that the galleys of The Splendour Falls went out to reviewers in a beautiful package! Wrapped in velvet and rose petals with an "hand-written" page that comes from Hannah's Journal:

It is harder than I thought it would be. I think the day is coming quickly, and I look forward to it, grateful for escape.

Still hard at work on the next book. Turkey day approaches, followed by Avoid-the-mall Day. Actually have some presents purchased this year, which is, like, a record for me. Took a break to play Beatles Rock Band at a friends house. It. Was. Awesome. (Also, friends, I CAN sing, I just can't sing on Rock Band, because you have to follow the little bar thing, and do exactly like them and used no vibrato and... and really. I sound better than that, really.)

Back to work!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sofa Rambles: Ghosts of TV past

Under the weather the past two days. Spent a good bit of today on the couch watching Joan of Arcadia mini-marathon on Syfy. There are shows that are fun, consistently entertaining, and have some episodes that really stand out as awesome. And then there are the shows that are just stunningly well crafted, make me think, laugh, and occasionally bawl a little. Shows were *everything* just clicks. Vintage West Wing is like that for me. Joan of Arcadia was like that.

Simple premise: This very ordinary girl (bright, sarcastic, bit of an underacheiver) starts having conversations with God, who quotes Bob Dylan and the Beatles, but almost never scripture. I love that God is portrayed as having infinite faces (and very often ones that you would dismiss or overlook), and that what the characters profess to believe (or not) doesn't automatically make them good or bad people, just human beings.

This show is a study in character and storytelling. Unfortunately, the second half of the second season gets all out of whack (I'm sure due to network tinkering*) and ends on not only an unresolved chord, but a discordant one. You should watch it--but stop with season two through "Friday Night." (Episode 2.8) This episode is heartbreaking, bittersweet, and ends beautifully--painful and hopeful and oddly joyful, against the odds. Just like life.

Anyway. I wonder if this show influenced my writing YA as much as anything else. It wasn't a YA show, but the protagonist was definitely in that 'figuring things out' stage. I think it illustrates why YA literature can have such wide appeal. We're ALL trying to figure things out, over and over again, at different stages in life. I have the same struggles and questions as Joan, about the world, the divine, and my role and relationship to both. And I love shows and books that explore those questions without dogma or easy, pat answers.

There you go--today's ruminations from the sofa. You're welcome. ;-)

*JoA wasn't bringing in the demographic than CBS wanted, so there was substantial inconsistancy and lack of focus, not to mention dumbing down of the characters and plots. This was a show about subjects with no pat answers or clear villains. It was replaced by The Ghost Whisperer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just so you know...

...Petsmart will not ship gerbils to you by mail order.

In unrelated news (Seriously) my Fresh Takes Column is up on Fresh Fiction. Read what books have caught my eye in November YA releases, and the cool books from the cool chicks I met at the Texas Book Festival in Austin. (Did I say this already?)

Also, booksigning on Saturday in Highland Village, Texas. Barnes and Noble, 2 - 4. I am having cheese fries at some place with the scary name of "Snuffers" before hand. Pray for me.

And Saturday at 5 PM, it's Getting Fresh With Vampires, with me and Candace Havens. Lincoln Park Barnes and Noble, across from North Park Mall in Dallas.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Splendour Falls

Check out the cover for the UK edition of The Splendor Falls!

I know. Looks about the same, right? It's missing the blood drop, and this rose is a little sharper and more violet than pinkish purple. But check out that extra letter in Splendor. So British, right? (jimsissy on Twitter quipped that the book should be even fatter with all those extra u's.)

I wonder if they translate other differences. Like the whole pants/trousers and trunk/boot thing. (Since a major character is British... well, Welsh, he makes me point out... I tried to watch those in his dialogue at least. I hope I didn't screw it up too badly. I'm sort of angsting about that. Because, you know, I never have enough to angst about.)

Oh, and you guys in the UK and it's territories are so lucky. Apparently the cover price is zero pounds.

Other places I'm on the web today: My Fresh Fiction column is up, where I talk about the Texas Book Festival and upcoming November YA releases that have caught my eye.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Movies and Writing (my favorite things)

Wow I tweeted a lot yesterday. You can tell I was at my desk working all day.

Tonight! Mansfield Writes. Checking out the webpage, I see that they'd like for you to reserve a spot if you're coming, but I *believe* it's otherwise free. (Though if you join the Friends of the Mansfield Library, you get a tote bag.)

Among yesterday's tweets was a mention of That Hamilton Woman, a movie starring Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier as Emma Hamilton and Admiral Horatio Nelson. It may surprise people to know, since I write contemporary fantasy novels about snarky girl detectives and sarcastic ghost plagued ballerinas, that I grew up obsessed with all things nautical. The Hornblower books, the history of the Age of Sail. I loved everything ship--except actually being on one, because I get horribly sea sick and slightly claustrophobic. (Okay. A lot claustrophobic.)

I wrote my thesis for my military history and leadership classes about Lord Nelson, which is only funny because the class was taught by the Army ROTC department.

But That Hamilton Woman isn't about Lord Nelson. It's about Emma Hamilton and her love story with the war hero. Which is why I'm going to talk about point of view, not in the first/third/omniscient sense, exactly, but in the sense of perspective and what is important to the character in whom you're investing your story.

Decide what your story is about, and then tell (or show) your reader only what they need to know about that story. That Hamilton Woman is Emma Hamilton's story. What's going on with Nelson and the British Navy is important, but only where it impacts Emma Hamilton.

Except for, I believe, one brief battle scene midway through the movie and the depiction of the Famous Thing That Nelson Didn't Really Say (Exactly), there's not that much Naval stuff in it for a movie about a famous admiral. The interesting thing, to me, was that because it was through Emma Hamilton's eyes, it was about victualing the ship, politicking with Naples to get water and supplies. Which, of course, is a big part of war. Armies march on their stomachs (a quote attributed to Napoleon).

Obviously, Nelsons fame and success as an admiral is such a part of that, you can't leave it out of the Emma/Nelson story. It would be boring... and incomplete. But what we see of battles and tactics is through Emma's eyes. Nelson goes off all beautiful and whole (and Laurence Olivier was certainly lovely, I'll say that), and comes back missing an arm and the sight in one eye. Because we didn't see that battle, only the after effect, watching Leigh/Emma's face as she sees him and processes what happened is truly heartbreaking, because we're experiencing it through her eyes. "I'd heard about your victories," she says, "but not the terrible price."

Likewise, there's this scene later, where she and Nelson have been cozy and domestic for awhile, and they have his old navy buddies over, and Nelson starts talking tactics at the dinner table, using salt shakers and gravy boats to illustrate naval tactics. (Which, by the way, was awesome, and the way I first really understood why the British beat the holy heck out of the French and Spanish at Trafalgar. He basically did what the Americans did in the Revolution--ditched the idea of standing/sailing/marching in a straight line.)

Anyway. Are straight line naval tactics important to the story? Does the movie go into a big long discussion of them? No. The moment is just long enough to show that 1) Nelson is an out of the box thinker and 2) he'll never be happy sitting at home being domestic. The scene is about Emma realizing he's going to leave her for the sea. Again.

What a lot of you will find as you're writing your NaNoWriMo projects is that, writing without editing, you're going to tend to go off in directions, and put everything and the kitchen sink in the book, and include a lot of author-vanity scenes--that is, scenes that are interesting or fun for YOU but maybe don't serve the book that well. That's great for first draft. (THese scenes are the reasons it takes me 600 pages to write a 300 page manuscript.) But remember it's okay to leave those on the cutting room floor.

I always come back to staying in character. Emotional resonance, info-dumps, sidetracked plots, show don't tell--stay in your character's head, and it will keep you on course. Always come back to think: How would my character view this? Does she need to know this? How is this important to her?

Happy read-- er, writing. :) Come by in Mansfield or in Southlake (Barnes and Noble 5 - 7 PM) tomorrow, and say 'hi.' We can chat about naval tactics, Laurence Olivier, or even writing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Upcoming DFW Events for readers and writers

I'll be all over the DFW Metroplex the next two weekends!

This Friday, November 6th

Mansfield Writes
Are you working on your NaNoWriMo novel? Are you an aspiring writer working on something at a reasonable pace? Do you just want to know what goes into writing a novel and getting published? Then you should get yourself to Mansfield, Texas on this Friday, November 6, from 7 - 9 PM. SEVEN super authors will be speaking on the craft and business of writing, taking your questions (and signing books).

Featured authors:
Sandy Blair ("The ABCs of Solid Storytelling")
Rosemary Clement-Moore ("The Actor's Guide to Better Writing")
Candace Havens (... I have no idea! But Candy is ALWAYS great and inspirational)
Arlene James ("And Introduction to Christian Publishing")
Wendy Lyn Watson ("Murder by Numbers: Plotting the Mystery Novel.")
William F. McKinney ("Let Your Characters Go Where They Will.")

The event takes place at the Mansfield Public Library.

This Saturday, November 7
5 - 7 PM
Southlake Barnes and Noble

This is a fundraising events for the Southlake Association for Gifted and Talented. (Perfect, since I am so very gifted and talented.) So come chat, buy books, and support education.

Other gifted and talented authors who will be there:
Lillian Stewart Carl
Suzanne Crowley (Music warning, in case you're at work.)
Marianna Jameson
Karen Kendall
Misa Ramirez

Next Saturday, November 14th

From 2 - 4 PM -- Multi-author (Like, a bazillioin local authors) booksigning at the Highland Village Barnes and Noble. (Sort of near Lewisville and Flower Mound.)

From 5 - 7 PM -- Getting Fresh With Vampires. (Yes, really!) Talking about vampires with Candace Havens, who wrote (among other things) Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy, and is tapped into the current bloodsucker entertainment trend. And I'll just be giving my Deep Philosophical Opinions about Vampires and Certain Vampire Sagas. Facilitating will be Gwen Reyes of Fresh Fiction. Should be a spirited discussion. /understatement

That smackdown will happen at the Lincoln Park Barnes and Noble, which is directly accros from North Park Mall in Dallas, TX.


Monday, November 2, 2009

All Soul's Day

Had a great time on the panel "Hot Reads for Cool Chicks" which I talk about in my Fresh Fiction column. But do you ever do that thing where someone asks you a question, and you give some lame answer, and then later you realize what you really wanted to say but couldn't seem to come up with at the moment?

Being Halloween, and a panel full of writers who write paranormal and fantasy novels for teens, of course the question came up, have we ourselves had any paranormal experiences, maybe of a ghostly variety. The other panelists--Victoria Laurie, Isobelle Carmody, Katherine Marsh--had amusing things to say, and I blathered about how my mom keeps my dad's urn in her closet so that she can talk to him while she's getting dressed and ready for her day, just like she used to when he was alive. (I should point out, my mom's closet is a palatial sort of arrangement. It's not like he's stuck in some cramped little hole.)

So, I said then, as I do believe, that I think we're closest to the spirits of our departed loved ones maybe not so much in the big dramatic moments, as happens in books and movies, but in the small domestic times, in the routines that we shared from day to day.

(See my dad? This is, like, his high school picture. Somewhere I have his army photo, where I swear he looks a lot like Elvis in G.I. Blues.)

What I didn't say, because I didn't want to be That Girl Who Brings Up Rather Personal Beliefs in a Public Forum, is that as a reasonably spiritual person, is that I hold that we are more than just flesh and bone. I have a character in The Splendor Falls who says pretty specifically what I think; I do believe there is some part of us that continues after the physical body has ended, but I hope that there's something better destined for us than hanging around here. :-)

So I don't really think every "ghost story" is really a ghost. But I'm not a complete cynic, either. And who's to say that evoking someone with memory and imagination isn't as "real"--at least to the person experiencing it--as any "true" paranormal activity.

And this is NOT as untimely as you might think, despite Halloween being over. Today is The Feast of All Souls, when the Church remembers and prays for the souls of the departed.Awesomely, in Latin America, they turn it into a big, rather macabre, party.

So today I remember specifically my dad Wallace, my grandfather Eugene, and Jean, the mother of my dear friend Carole, who passed away just a few weeks ago. Who are you thinking of today, on All Soul's Day?

(If you like, I'll remember them by name at Mass tonight. But only if you post before 6:30, since I will NOT tweet/check mail while waiting for Mass to start, like I did on the Feast of St. Luke. I forget that my mother reads my tweets, and I'm not too old for a maternal reprimand.)