Thursday, April 29, 2010

iLesson: The Pie in the Face Method

I had this director who talked about the “Pizza in the Face” method of acting. I think that he was actually thinking about a pie in the face, but he said ‘pizza’ and that’s what stuck in my head. However, since this is is an iLesson, straight from last nights meeting at IHOP, it’s now going to be a plate of pancakes.

clipart-pizza5.gifThe “Pancakes/Pie/Pizza in the face method” concerns the moment where you process that something just happened and you have to react to it. In acting, we call this a “beat.” It’s a pause--sometimes long, sometimes very very short--of internalization before taking our next scripted action.

It goes like this:

  1. Someone hits you in the face with a pancake (or pie, or pizza).
  2. You feel the smack in the face, the floppy, sponginess of the pancake, the stickiness of the syrup, the sweet smell of maple or salty tang of butter.
  3. You internally process the fact, and perhaps have an emotional reaction to the fact that someone threw a pancake at you.
  4. You take action.
You may instinctively flinch as something comes flying at your face, but before you can have an external action--clean it off, laugh, slug the person who just hit you, or anything else--you have to experience the pancake and have an internal response--get mad, be shocked, etc.

Look at the difference between:

A ghostly figure slowly materialized in front of her. The air seemed to coalesce with an unearthly chill, and Mary screamed in terror and ran away.

...and...

A ghostly figure slowly materialized in front of her. The air seemed to coalesce with an unearthly chill. Icy fingers of fear crawled through Mary’s insides and came out as a scream. Desperate to get away from there before it finished taking shape, she ran away.

Sometimes, especially when something action-y happens, your character may have a reflex reaction first, but then still have to process what happened before they can take a conscious action.

A bullet zinged past my ear. I dropped behind the cover of a low stone wall, took out my gun, and started shooting in the direction of the sniper.

...versus...

A bullet zinged past my ear. Instinct dropped me to the cover of a low stone wall, my gun in my hand before the sting of adrenaline had time to take hold. Where the hell had that shot come from? If I couldn’t take out the sniper, I’d be pinned until the bad guys arrived.


Spending word count on that moment of internalization gives depth and reality to your scene, and makes your character seem more like a real person and less like a stick figure that you, the author, are moving through the book.

How much time (i.e. word count) you spend depends on what’s going on in that scene, the pace you’re trying to set, and also how important the moment is to the whole story. Think about it like the musical score for your book. These ‘beats’ may be fast and light, hammered hard, or drawn out and emotional.

But whenever your characters start to feel like they’re just going through the motions, remember to stop and smell the pizza.

(Also remember, tomorrow is the last day to enter the Highway to Hell/Nothing but Nets contest!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Last days to enter to win Big Book Prizes!

It's the final days of the Highway to Hell/Mosquitos Suck contest! Check out the list of prizes below! Bookstore gift cards! Tons of books!

You have until April 30th to donate ANY amount (even $1) to Nothing but Nets. (Click here to go directly to the donation page.)

Don't forget to forward your confirmation email to NoMoreBugs@readrosemary.com

Note: you MUST forward your confirmation e-mail. I have no other way to know that you donated. (If you cannot find your confirmation, email anyway. We're trusting souls.)

Even if you don't want to enter the contest, check out Nothing But Nets anyway:

Can you believe that a $10 mosquito net could save someone’s life? In Africa, the bite of one mosquito can transmit malaria, a disease which kills one person every 30 seconds.

The United Nation Foundation’s Nothing but Nets Campaign is a global, grassroots effort dedicated to saving lives by preventing malaria in Africa. When you make a $10 donation, 100% of your contribution goes directly toward purchasing and distributing an insecticide-treated mosquito net and teaching the recipient to use it properly.

$10. That’s the cost of two venti frappe-mocha-latte drinks. To help save someone’s life.

To celebrate the paperback release of Highway to Hell, we here at team RCM (also a grassroots organization) are giving away tons of prizes to encourage people to join the campaign to end malaria. Make any size donation to the Nothing But Nets Campaign, and you will be entered in a drawing to win one of a growing list of prizes:

• $100 gift card to Barnes and Noble
• An ARC (advanced reading copy) of my next book (finished, but still untitled).
• A signed (and personalized) set of all three Maggie Quinn novels.
• $25 gift card to Borders Books from Courtney Milan*
• $25 gift card to Borders from Carrie Lofty*
• $25 gift certificate to the online bookstore of winner's choice, from Tessa Dare*
• One of five signed copies of Highway To Hell (by me).
• A signed copy of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
• A signed copy of Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
• One of five copies of On The Steamy Side‡ by Louisa Edwards*
• One of five copies of Hell Fire‡ by Ann Aguirre*

*Authors of grown up type fiction
‡Grown up type books. (Under 18 will have YA books to chose from. Over 18 can do what they like. ;-) )

If you are under eighteen, ask your parents to help you with this!

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Go to Nothing but Nets and click “Donate Now.” (Or click here to go directly to the donation page.)
  2. When you receive an email confirming your donation (it will have the amount, but we will treat a one dollar donation the same as a hundred dollars), forward it this email address:

    NoMoreBugs at readrosemary dot com

    Subject: “Mosquitoes Suck” Contest
  3. Tell your friends!

You have until April 30th to make a donation. We will draw winners on May 1st.

That's the deal. Even if you can't enter, help me spread the word with this tweet:

Donate a little, help a lot. End Malaria, win books! http://bit.ly/bi34bw

Thanks and good luck!

Disclaimers: I have no ties to Nothing But Nets or the United Nations Foundation or any of their partners. Book prizes are donated by me or their authors.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Elementary my dear Holmes...

I love Sherlock Holmes. My dad was a big fan, and introduced me to Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries when I was just a tyke. We watched every version of Holmes on the screen, too.

There’s the classic, Basil Rathbone of course:

397px-Basil_Rathbone_Sherlock_Holmes.jpeg


Dad loved Jeremy Brett from the BBC series, and considered him the closest to the Holmes in the stories.

brett.jpg

I, on the other hand, loved Rupert Everett in the Masterpiece Theater movie below, probably closest to the fantasy Holmes in my head. :)

RupertEverett2004_276473s.jpg

Holmes has even been played by Max Headroom.

caseofwhitechapel.jpg

But I know a lot of people rather like the new, Robert Downey Jr., take on the character.

RobertDowneyJrHolmes.jpg

Why do I ask? Because I watched the movie last week, of course.

Though I don’t think Dad would have approved, I was okay with how Robert Downey Jr. played Holmes, mostly because of how much I loved Jude Law as Watson. They had great buddy/bromance chemistry, and their relationship rang true for how I picture the duo. Holmes has always needed Watson to make him human, and in this case, I put up with Downey/Holmes’ annoying tics because Watson does, and it makes him more lovable through his friend’s eyes.

Sadly, as far as the plot of the recent movie is concerned, I found a lack of mystery in the mystery. The action/fight scenes were fun, and I know that ‘too much action’ is a silly complaint. But I can’t help thinking there could have been a little better balance between puzzler and pugilist. Just a little trickier in the who-dun-it would have made it more... I don’t know. Sherlock Holmes.

(Also... Why are people calling this Steampunk? Because it’s gritty Victorian with bad science?)

Anyhoo. Obviously this is going to be a franchise, and I didn’t dislike the movie. It’s worth renting, and I’d definitely give a sequel a chance. But only if Jude Law comes back as Watson.

Thoughts? Am I completely wrong? Is Downey the Best. Holmes. Ever? Are you a purist? Or do you prefer the Max Headroom version?

Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget, you have until Friday to donate any amount to Nothing But Nets and win big prizes. Books, Bookstore giftcards, ARCs and more.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Don't forget! Contest ends on Thursday!

I’m testing new journaling software. Anyone out there use MacJournal? WIll it still work if I switch to a Wordpress.org type blog?

Don’t forget about the Mosquitos Suck Contest! You have 5 more days to make a donation to Nothing But Nets to be entered to win fabulous prizes including bookstore gift cards, books, ARCs and lots more.

All the details are here.

In other news, I can add Cephalosporin to the list of drugs I can’t take. I’ve broken out all over my face and look a little like The Thing.

Thing_v2_1_coverart.jpg

Pity me, and don’t forget to enter my contest. Donate a little, help a lot. (Tons of book prizes! There’s a GREAT chance of winning!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

iLesson: I am not a character in my own novel

Here's what I've learned over the last week: Thyroidectomy (actually a hemithyroidectomy, I guess) maybe isn't any big deal compared to, oh, thoracic surgery, and trust me, I'm very very grateful to be dealing with one and not the other. But it's still no walk in the park.

I know. I'm a moron. But everyone has been so great pre-surgery, reassuring me that thyroid surgery is very common, you'll bounce right back, don't worry, etc. etc.. Plus, characters in books are always having these awful things happen to them, and they keep on going. And going.

All the things that happen to Harry Dresden in one book? How is this guy not dead by chapter 10? I rewatched Star Trek for the bazillionth time the other day and, omg, poor Kirk. How many times does he get strangled in that movie? (I was feeling particularly sympathetic for him on that count.)

You don't want to read about a hero with a hangnail, or a heroine who goes into a decline because someone insulted her dress at a ball. I'm all about giving characters big problems with big stakes. In The Splendor Falls, I didn't give Sylvie a torn ligament, even though that could have ended, or at least derailed, her ballet career just as well. No, I had to give her a compound fracture with the bone sticking out.

So, you know, I figured what's a little half a thyroid? Like, the size of a quarter? I'll just take two or three days off, slide that surgery right into my schedule. Doesn't even require an overnight stay in the hospital.

So here's what I know a week later:

Day Surgery: Ten years ago we would keep you in the hospital for this, but the wonders of modern healthcare mean we can now send you home to be sick and miserable in your own bed. But make no mistake, you will still be sick and miserable, just not on your insurance company's dime.

(Note: I would much rather be sick and miserable at home. Not only are hospitals full of sick people, I'd much rather be surrounded by my own stuff. I'll bet most people get better faster in their own home, but I'm lucky enough to have a live in nurse in my Mom. Of course, she did nearly close my head in the car door after I got my wisdom teeth out.)

Some discomfort: Doctor speak for "You will feel like someone cut open your throat and rooted around (very carefully) in there for two hours." They give you Vicodin for a reason.

Anesthesia: Not my friend. Soooooooo not my friend. "Ralph" on the other hand, is my very good friend. I spend a good amount of time talking to him on the porcelain phone that first couple of days.

Really. I'm a sensitive, delicate flower. I pass out out the sight of blood. Icy Hot gives me blisters. I can't take a Bendryl and then drive. What made me think I could spring right back to my normal schedule of travel and speaking engagements. *sigh*

I have to learn these things the hard way. If you've ever heard (by which I mean 'read') my story about being stupid enough to hunker down for Hurricane Claudette--in a double wide mobile home--you know that it ends with the moral: a minor hurricane is still a hurricane.*

Anyway, I'm feeling better every day, and I even drove to the store today. (Avoiding traffic, major roads, and parking anywhere I'd have to back up, since I can't turn my head to look behind me.) But I've had to cancel several events this week, including my attendance at Conestoga this weekend. I know there are many other reasons for you all to go, but I know it won't be quite as much fun without me there. (But Candy (Havens) will be there, and she's just as much fun as me, though she doesn't tell as many embarrassing stories on herself.)

*Okay, so this is as close as I come to a point of this post. So it's not really an iLesson at all, but, oh, let's call it a life lesson.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

iLesson: Wachunga! Shark Teeth

I make no excuse for the fact that I am tres fond of some movies that other people consider stinkers. Ghostrider? Own the DVD. Independence Day? Can quote it chapter and verse.

One particularly cheesetastic gem brings us our brief iLesson today. (Which did not come from iHop, as I had half a thyroidectomy yesterday to remove the alien embryo growing therein. In fact, as I write this, it's not yet 'yesterday' at all, but Tuesday, which I suspect may cause a rift in the time/space continuum, as I just referred to a past event that hasn't happened yet.)

Where was I? Oh. Yes. Deep Blue Sea. Ridiculous genetically engineered shark, disaster on an underwater laboratory ridiculousness. Nothing obeys the laws of physics. But this scene is... well, it's golden.



This starts as the "rally the troops" speech. All the cliches are there. The stirring swell of music. The tracking close ups. Samuel L. Jackson, for crying out loud. And then...

WaCHUNGa! Shark teeth.

Here's the lesson. Cliches exist for a reason. They serve a certain dramatic purpose. I call this the Braveheart speech, because it seems that every movie has a commander essentially says "We're all going to die but it's going to be awesome." But really, this trope dates back all the way back to Shakespeare's Henry V, and "Once more into the breech, dear friends... or clog the wall up with our English dead." And then he tops it later with "We happy few, we band of brothers."

But where they work BEST is when you take the conventional, expected moment, and then explode it. Give it an unexpected twist. Combine it with something else. Freshen it up with new elements.

I am not sure Renny Harlin meant this to be humorous. But it is, in a darkly funny way. This scene works, and frankly, if the whole movie had been more like this, and less earnestly serious, more people would join me in enjoying this movie for what it is: ridiculous fun watching dumb humans against genius sharks.

So, enjoy the weekend, and don't forget about the Mosquitos Suck Contest. See y'all when I'm coherent again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Highway to Hell goes paperback

Cue the Beatle's Birthday song. (Na na na na NAna nana... two three four)

Highway to Hell comes out in trade paperback today.

When Maggie and Lisa head to the beach for Spring Break, they get more action than they bargained for when a Jeep accident strands them in a one horse town where the locals are convinced El Chupacabra is killing their cattle. Having faced demons, sorcerers, and sorority sisters, Maggie and her allies should have no trouble with a Mexican mythical beast, right?

Go bug your bookseller to put it on the shelf. Oh, and if you want to buy a copy while you're there, that would be okay with me, too!

Remember, all month I'm running a contest to celebrate the paperback edition of Maggie's adventure in South Texas. When Maggie runs into killer mosquitos in Highway to Hell, they're (mostly) fictional. But in parts of the world, mosquitos are real killers.

Anyone who donates to Nothing But Nets (a grassroots campaign to end malaria in Africa by distributing treated mosquito nets) from now until April 29th will be entered to win one of a growing list of prizes, including bookstore gift cards, an advanced reading copy of my next book, and tons of books donated by fabulous authors.


And happy book birthday to me!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Imaginary Ninjas FTW

I'm wiped out from the DFW Writer's Conference this weekend. What a lot of awesomeness. Keynote speaker Jodi Thomas--who is simply one of the neatest people I've ever met--gave a speech that had me nodding and laughing and tearing up.

First, she talked about her drive into Canyon, TX, where she is writer in residence at the university there, and how just seeing a hitchhiker on the road can send her imagination spinning off into all direction, until by the time she reaches the office, she's killed the hitchhiker and buried his body in the foundation of the Walmart construction site.

So true. When I lived out on the ranch, sometimes on the way home from work or the grocery store, I'd miss my exit and be in Refugio before I realized I wasn't really flying a spaceship/on the run from mobsters/racing to save a captured princess from a dungeon...

(I was usually driving home from work at midnight, on an empty highway where I mostly just had to worry about hitting deer.)

What about you? Are you always somewhere else in your head? Do you sit through sermons imagining what would happen if ninjas dropped through the stained glass windows?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Query Class Handouts

If you were in my queries and loglines class this morning, I apologize that a technical difficulty that left me with no handouts. But you can download them here:

Query Class Resources: Helpful websites for researching agents and publishers.

Query Letters 101: A summary of things I talked about in class.

Sample Query Letter: Self-explanatory, right?

You're welcome to ask me questions in the comments.

Friday, April 9, 2010

iLesson: Fake people, real emotion

(Eeep! I had a doctor's appointment yesterday and forgot to post the iLesson! Hope you don't mind it being a little late this week. Today's lesson is a teaser from my class "Even Heros Get the Blues: Putting genuine emotion on the page." Which I'm teaching this weekend at the DFW Writer's Conference.)

Modern fiction readers want to be fully immersed in the emotions of the story. They want to live the story through the character’s eyes, and the only way for them to do that is for YOU to do it first.

Writing is, at heart, a roleplaying experience. That means that what the character is feeling, you have to put that out there from your own heart. Our characters are not “us,” and the situations aren't exactly the same, but we're drawing on our own emotional memories.

Here's an exercise you can do in your writing journal. This is sort of like an acting technique I learned in school, but applied to writing.

  1. Recall an event that made you cry, or terrified you, or made you weak with shame, or triumphant with revenge. Try not to just remember it, but relive the moment. What were the sensations of the emotion? The sting of tears, the stuffed up feeling of trying to hold them back. The laughter of the class as they see that you’re crying in public…
  2. Write a fictional scene about a character feeling those same emotions and sensations. It can be as short as a few paragraphs, just enough to set the scene, show the cause, the response, and what the character does.
  3. Don’t hold back and don’t edit yourself. Just pour it all out. It doesn't have to be great literature, you're just trying to get the most vivid impressions into words. Use all your senses! Be as over the top as you want.

The goal of this exercise is to get you to connect with your memories of how those emotions feel and then describe them on the page for your reader. Here's a trick: the stronger the emotion, the easier it is to recall with vivid detail. But because those can be very personal feelings, some authors hold back. They may keep to the polite emotions, or tell us what the hero is feeling rather than showing us how it feels to be heartbroken, or homicidal, or despondent.

So next time your character is in the suds, think back to a time when you felt the same emotions, even if the situation wasn't the same. Then use those memories to give your character emotions--deep emotions--that feel real and important!

P.S. Today is Genreality Day. This week's topic: Behaving yourself at writer's conferences.

P.P.S. Don't forget about the Mosquitos Suck contest! It runs all month!

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Mosquitos Suck" Contest

I hate mosquitoes. There’s this pivotal scene in Highway to Hell that draws on my experience in south Texas, where some days, if you stand still for an instant, you’re covered in the little bloodsuckers.

But that's not so bad, relatively speaking. Because in Africa, the bite of one mosquito can transmit malaria, a disease which kills one person every 30 seconds.

Can you believe that a $10 mosquito net could save someone’s life? It can.

The United Nation Foundation’s Nothing but Nets Campaign is a global, grassroots effort dedicated to saving lives by preventing malaria in Africa. When you make a $10 donation, 100% of your contribution goes directly toward purchasing and distributing an insecticide-treated mosquito net and teaching the recipient to use it properly.

$10. That’s the cost of two venti frappe-mocha-latte drinks. To help save someone’s life.

To celebrate the paperback release of Highway to Hell, we here at team RCM (also a grassroots organization) are going to do something a little different.

Make any size donation to the Nothing But Nets Campaign, and you will be entered in a drawing to win one of a growing list of prizes:

• $100 gift card to Barnes and Noble
• An ARC (advanced reading copy) of my next book (finished, but still untitled).
• A signed (and personalized) set of all three Maggie Quinn novels.
• $25 gift card to Borders Books from Courtney Milan*
• $25 gift card to Borders from Carrie Lofty*
• $25 gift certificate to the online bookstore of winner's choice, from Tessa Dare*
• One of five signed copies of Highway To Hell (by me).
• A signed copy of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
• A signed copy of Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
• One of five copies of On The Steamy Side‡ by Louisa Edwards*
• One of five copies of Hell Fire‡ by Ann Aguirre*

*Authors of grown up type fiction
‡Grown up type books. (Under 18 will have YA books to chose from. Over 18 can do what they like. ;-) )

If you are under eighteen, ask your parents to help you with this!

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Go to Nothing but Nets and click “Donate Now.” (Or click here to go directly to the donation page.)
  2. When you receive an email confirming your donation (it will have the amount, but we will treat a one dollar donation the same as a hundred dollars), forward it this email address:

    NoMoreBugs at readrosemary dot com

    Subject: “Mosquitoes Suck” Contest
  3. Tell your friends!

You have until April 29th to make a donation. We will draw winners on April 30th.

Note 2: Don't forget to forward your donation confirmation! I have no other way to know you donated!

Post any questions in the comments, or e-mail me at rosemary at readrosemary dot com. (Please use the nomorebugs address only for entries.)

That's the deal. Even if you can't enter, help me spread the word!

Disclaimers: I have no ties to Nothing But Nets or the United Nations Foundation or any of their partners. Book prizes are donated by me or their authors.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

iLesson: The POV Parrot

Today's Lesson from IHOP is about POV. Getting the nuances of point of view down can be a little tricky. We understand it in theory--first person, third person, omniscient--but POV is really the lens through which the reader experiences the story.

Imagine Point of View like a parrot with a camera tied to its leg. A magical camera that can record all five senses. (Did not invent POV Parrot, but I don’t remember where I first read about it. I’ve completely co-opted the metaphor.)

The POV Parrot is tied to the shoulder of the point of view character. It only sees/hears/feels what she does, and so only knows what she knows. It can’t see another character’s thoughts, or look back at the POV character and see her from the outside.

In first person, the POV Parrot is tied to the narrator for the whole book. In second person… Well, if you’re the type who writes in second person, you probably clicked away as soon as you read: “POV Parrot.”

In most third-person fiction, the POV Parrot is on one character’s shoulder at a time. Sometimes it stays there for the whole book; sometimes it may fly off to another character’s shoulder for a chapter or scene.

Third person omniscient is like letting the Parrot fly around the scene, taking in what it wants. It sees what everyone sees, but it feels more remote than having it on the shoulder of a particular character.

The thing about the POV Parrot, though, is that if you send it flying from one shoulder to another too often, it gets worn out, and your reader may get dizzy from the spinning of the camera.

Think about those ‘documentary style’ movies where the camera bounces all around. It can make you nauseated after a short time. Even omniscient storytelling, the camera may see all, but it focuses on one character at a time so we don’t get dizzy, and we know what’s important.

Not everyone gets the POV Parrot. It plays favorites.

The POV Parrot belongs to your hero--the person who is moving forward the story, who has the most at stake. It may follow other characters around, or perch on their shoulders for while, but only when they are doing things that are related to what the hero is trying to do, helping or in the case of the antagonist, hindering.

Good luck taming the POV Parrot. Remember that its camera is how the reader experiences the story, so treat it well, and it will be a faithful friend.