Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hello New Zealand

So, The Splendor (Splendour) Falls comes out in New Zealand tomorrow. I didn't make a big deal about the UK release date because it happened in the middle of my grandmother's car accident/heart attack/rehab. So UK people, don't be offended. I mean, I've actually VISITED your country. Countries, I mean.

Now, one of the coolest things about being a published writer is getting mail from readers on the other side of the globe. My books have been read all over (waving to Hong Kong and the Philippines). But it's really neat to have international versions. I guess it makes me feel like a citizen of the world.

Plus it's New Zealand. Middle Earth! (You know they must love that, right?) But I've always had this obsession with NZ because it is so gorgeous. I mean, just look:

Also, I might have mentioned, I have sort of a thing for this guy:

Ah, Russell Crowe. I admit that half the reason I'm looking forward to Clash of the Titans is that Maximus gave me a permanent love for men in short leather skirts.

And then there's my first New Zealand crush:

That's Sam Neill (next to Jonathan Rhys-Myers just because... Jonathan Rhys-Myers is hotter than Henry VIII should be.) Slightly cheating because Sam Neill was born in Northern Ireland then raised in NZ. But... makes the list because he held is own with Meryl Streep and also Velociraptors. And also Henry VIII.

And just so I don't look completely sexist and shallow, I must include...

Lucy Lawless. Hot as a Warrior Princess, and as a Cylon.

So, yay New Zealand. I think you're pretty cool. Hope you don't hate my book.

ETA: OMG. I almost forgot one!

That would have been a shame.

Did I miss anyone else?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

iLesson: Make your hero a good investment

Your protagonist may be full of flaws (after all, every main character needs to grow), but we, the readers, need a reason to root for them, from the very beginning.

Blake Snyder calls this the “Save the Cat” rule, referring to the scene in a movie (just about any movie) where the hero does something to let us know that he’s worth rooting for. While we may like a character well enough, a heroic moment gives us a reason to invest in her.

It’s not a literal save. (Though Will Smith does save a cat in I, Robot. So does Sigorney Weaver in Alien(s).) It’s when the cop-on-the-take may give an old homeless guy money for lunch. The ice-queen socialite visits her dotty grandmother once a week. Even the revelation of a droll sense of humor can make us want to root for a character who might on the surface seem unsympathetic. (See: The Godfather, and any Quentin Tarantino movie.)

Some rules of thumb for "Saving the Cat":
1) If your protagonist acts like a jerk, give him/her a reason to do so.
2) Give us a reason to like her, even if we don’t like her present actions.
3) Show us, don’t just tell us.
4) Show us early, or we might not make it that far.
5) Don’t forget to give us a reason to root for your likable hero, too.

I’m curious: What’s your favorite ‘save the cat’ example from a book or movie?
see more Political Pictures

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quick foxes and sleeping writers

I had the coolest/weirdest dream last night. George Clooney was in it, but he wasn't George Clooney, he was just this guy who LOOKED like GC.

People kept coming up to him and saying: Are you...?
And he'd say: No, I'm not.
And they'd say: Cause you look just like...
And he'd say: I get that all the time.
And they'd say: And you sound like The Fantastic Mr. Fox*.
And he'd be like: He copied my voice.

Anyway, Not!George worked for a hotel, that had this crazy archive in the basement, full of things that famous people had left behind after they stayed there. There was FDR's cigarette case, and Jenny Lind's porcelain jewelry holder. (Don't ask me why. It was pretty and pink and shaped like a castle.)

That's the thing that I love about dreams. Sometimes they're filled with the strangest, but incredibly vivid details. Why a Swedish opera singer from the 1800's?  Why a pink porcelain castle? Even the smooth, cool feel of it was so tactile! And this big, huge room full of artifacts and knickknacks. Some of it priceless, some of it junk. The room smelled musty and the ventilation was exposed overhead.

We had to catalog and move all these things because the hotel was being torn down. I kept investigating every item and Not!George kept telling me to hurry up. He wasn't very nice. I'm sure the real George Clooney would have a much better sense of humor.

What's the strangest, most random thing that's popped up in your dreams?

*Which is so random because I haven't even seen that movie. However, I did watch a National Geographic show about foxes. That's the only connection I can figure.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

iLesson One: Skip to the End

I am lucky enough to meet weekly with a great group of writers at the DFW Writer's Workshop. And while I learn a lot at critique sessions, some of the most important things I've learned about writing come from sitting around at IHOP after our Wednesday meetings. Gabbing about life, solving the world's problems, and most importantly, discussing how to make our writing suck less.

I know y'all would love to be a fly on the wall during these gab sessions, so here begins a series of writing tips that I'm going to call iLessons. Not because they have anything to do with Apple (other than being written on one), but because these pearls of wisdom were discussed over pancakes and too much coffee.

Lesson One: Skip to the End

This was actually one of the very first pieces of advice from my BFF Candace Havens. I never thought I would be one of those "out of order" writers. I am all about things happening in the right order. So I pretty much disregarded this advice until I found myself in the middle of Prom Dates From Hell, writing in circles and just digging myself deeper.

So I skipped ahead. To that pivotal moment in the plot when the hero has gathered all the clues and metaphorical loot she needs, and is at the threshold to the last dungeon, where the Big Boss Fight awaits. In Buffy terms, it's that scene in Giles' library right before the shot of B. and the Scooby gang walking in slow motion down the school corridor to take on the monster of the week.

By the time I've roughed in the climax, I know what clues my heroine needs to make the final connections, and also the emotional point I need to get her to in order to make her almost final leap into the fire. So I know exactly what I have to write to bridge that gap. I have a target, and I stop second guessing myself.

So when I hit that point where I'm going in circles and not advancing the plot, or I don't know what happens next, I skip ahead to the next thing I *am* sure about, and (above all) keep writing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Do you ever notice how when something happens to you, or begins to be on your mind for some reason, suddenly you see it everywhere? My mom says this happens when you are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant (or, I suppose, worried you are/aren't pregnant). Everywhere you go, it seems there are pregnant people. There aren't really any more than usual. You just notice them because it's on your mind.

Okay, so, for the last month, every darned day I hear/read about/see/meet someone with thyroid cancer. Turns out that thyroid disorders, including benign and cancerous growths on the thyroid are incredibly common. Only it seems like I only met one person with the problem until recently. But now there's one Olympic skater who's mom has thyroid cancer, and a bride on Say Yes To The Dress and Vikki's daughter on The Real Housewives of the OC though that she might...

Yeah. That means what you think it means. I've got a suspicious lump on my thyroid that they can't rule out as not cancer. In other words they've scanned and poked me, and still that little bastard won't say for certain that it's benign. Now, I am convinced that it is not cancer, but somehow my denial conviction is not insufficient evidence for the doctors, so they're going to take out half my thyroid and slice it up to see for certain.

The nice thing (Um, I guess) is that thyroid cancer is very very treatable. They're the only cells that take up iodine, so they just irradiate some iodine and it kills the cells. If you have to pick a cancer, thyroid is totally the way to go.

Though it would be nice not to have to pick.

The important thing is: I'm going to be fine. But things are a little wonky right now, and I figured that my readers and online friends might want to know why I'm so schitzo. (You would be freaking amazed at how many things are controlled by your thyroid. I'm so tired, but also can't sleep, and I feel like I have ADD. It's. So. Weird.)

The surgery isn't until the middle of April, so I have plenty of time to whine before then. It is, of course, the week before the paperback release of Highway to Hell. Because life is funny that way. Because now I have to omg plan ahead. O.o

Comments with well wishes are welcome, but should include recipes for your favorite comfort food. Or alternatively, links to amusing LOL cats, or possibly pictures of Sam Worthington or alternative hotness. (Um, more or less dressed, please. This is a PG-ish blog.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Yay spring!

After the freakish weather this winter, March has come in like a tame lion here in North Texas. March and October are my favorite months in Texas; generally whichever one I'm currently experiencing edges out the other.

In the fall, October is when we start to get a break from the relentless heat (even September days are more oppressive than not). Though we've had an unusually cold and stormy winter, I don't look at the arrival of spring with the same relief as, say, someone up north might. People have been griping about the cold here for at least a month, saying they're ready for warmer whether. But knowing that summer is on the way just isn't something I get excited about.

However, March isn't hot yet. It's still cool enough I can leave my windows open and blow out the stuffiness of winter. The trees are budding, the daffodils are blooming, and the birds are chirping. Even better, I can enjoy it, because the spring winds are cool and keep the lid off the dutch oven that the city will become as summer closes in.

The dogs love it, too, as long as it's not raining. They roll in the grass, sunning their bellies, and generally are adorable. The whether motivates me to get out and take them for walks, to clean my house and organize my closets.

Unfortunately, it does not motivate me to sit at my computer and write. I guess this is what they mean by Spring Fever.

It's Friday, so don't forget to check out my post on Genreality. Today's topic: the YA protagonist.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's the little things

I bought a new toothbrush. One of those spinning kinds. Not a crazy expensive one, but a middle of the road deal. As I was brushing my teeth with it this morning, in the space where I usually thought about how behind I am on everything, how I’m never going to catch up on e-mail/interviews/blog posts, this morning I was thinking, “Gosh, I really like this toothbrush. It gets my teeth really clean and smooth-feeling, and that makes me happy.”

So, I’m trying to think whether this makes me bizarrely fastidious about my oral hygiene (which… okay, granted), or if my expectations of happiness are set so low.

I suspect it’s a combo. But really, is it a bad thing for something small to make you happy? I mean, it’s not like my worlds is changed by a toothbrush, but it’s nice when some small moment, some infinitesimal detail of life intrudes on your lackluster day to give you a moment of “Ah. That’s nice.”

It may not last. I had to rush downstairs and get my stuff for my tax appointment, certain that later I’d be putting a kidney up on Ebay to pay Uncle Sam. I’m still behind on e-mail/interviews/blog posts. But all else aside… at least my teeth are clean.

I’m curious. What little detail of life makes you happy? A warm pet on your lap? A cup of tea? The first breath of spring? Or is it something as pedestrian as mine?