Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ever Get A Song Stuck In Your Head?

And yes, I do dance just like Thom Yorke in case you were wondering. Enjoy!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Good Summer Reading

In between sending out query letters, following up with agents, going on interviews, and taking care of the Shapiro clan (Dave and the cat), I finished reading two amazing books.

The first, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, blew my mind. If you're looking for a quick summer read with loads of impact, this is the book for you. The story is based on a simple question - what would it be like to live forever?

With beautiful descriptions, quick pacing, and a hauntingly ambiguous ending, it's a great escape that will leave you questioning not only the character's choices, but also your own.

Plot: Imagine coming upon a fountain of youth in a forest. To live forever--isn't that everyone's ideal? For the Tuck family, eternal life is a reality, but their reaction to their fate is surprising. Award winner Natalie Babbitt outdoes herself in this sensitive, moving adventure in which 10-year-old Winnie Foster is kidnapped, finds herself helping a murderer out of jail, and is eventually offered the ultimate gift--but doesn't know whether to accept it. Babbitt asks profound questions about the meaning of life and death, and leaves the reader with a greater appreciation for the perfect cycle of nature. Intense and powerful, exciting and poignant, Tuck Everlasting will last forever--in the reader's imagination. An ALA Notable Book. --Emilie Coulter, Amazon

Side Note: I found many interesting tie-ins to the Twilight Saga. The similarities between Edward Cullen and Jesse Tuck battered me over the head a few times, with the exception of vampirism. Stephenie Meyer must also be a fan.

Grade: A

The second book, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, started off with a lot of passive voice, but quickly became un-put-downable (not sure if that’s a word, but just go with it). With the main plot told from several points of view along the timeline of a century in both Britain and Australia, the author created a compelling conflict that continuously left me wanting more. The pace seemed rather slow at times, but a twist appearing in the last act more than made up for the lag.

If you're searching for a historical fiction woven with wonderful characters and descriptions, this is a good journey on which to embark. Bon voyage!

Plot: A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book -- a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to go on, "Nell" sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book's title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales.

Side Note: Morton also wrote The House at Riverton. I devoured it on a long flight home from London and absolutely loved it.

Grade: A-

What do you guys think – should I do book reviews from time to time? Your input is mucho valuable. :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

No “Write” Reason

I’ve been spending a lot of time reassessing my motivation to write. With Autumn Leaves completed and the sophomoric book looming, the term “writer’s block” has become real to me – something I never thought would happen. What used to be 10,000+ word weeks are now zero and the joy of creativity seems more akin to burden.

Disappointment hangs over me, doubt weighs me down, and guilt pulls at my feet like an undertow.
The dark waters of failure that used to appear so distant on the horizon engulf me. Faint were the sounds of crashing waves now deafening...
Perhaps a little too dramatic.

After evaluating my process, I’ve come to realize that writing is my motivator; the language, the art, the expression. Maybe the salability aspect of publishing has harmed my desire to create. Just a thought.

I hereby vow to write what I want the way I did before with Autumn Leaves. The words poured out of me. I could barely contain them. Before query letters and synopses, agent blogs and writer forums, I wrote for me. Only me.

Whatever your motivation for writing, be it the love of the craft, the potential for glory, or even the ever-elusive payment, it’s the right reason for you.

Thanks for reading and wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Truth and Encouragement

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner posted a blog today on the topic of encouragement. The idea stemmed from her belief that realism makes for the best type of courage-inspiring support. She said, “I think hearing the difficult truth CAN be encouraging, because it forces you to make an internal decision: Am I up for this, or not? How much am I willing to give this? How badly do I want it?”

I do agree with her, but have found that praise on top of truth strengthens the intent to help. When going over another writer’s work, tempering a harsh critique with a positive comment goes further than just the negative alone. Just my opinion. Maybe Rachelle’s point is you shouldn’t seek it from your agent or editor.

But what about at your critique group?

As a member of two amazing and completely different critique groups, I’ve witnessed feedback as either bitter reality or sugar-coated half-truth. Do they have to be mutually exclusive? Each can be beneficial for various reasons, but isn’t the purpose of attending to get better at writing? Hearing what you’ve done well can be a wonderful motivator, however, delusion doesn’t help anyone. So, where’s the balance?

I would rather err on the side of being too honest than not. Of course, I always slip in an upbeat observation, but the heart of my critique is raw truth. My hope lives in the expectation that the other members of the group don’t hold back. Thick skin is a requirement in the quest for publication. Perhaps sensitivity bleeds through surface cuts, but positive reinforcement from colleagues can act as a bandage along with increased learning. Armed with feedback and determination, a writer fights to get noticed.

What do you think? Do you find criticism alone encouraging?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fear of Success

After chatting with a friend of mine, I discovered another phobia to contemplate. (I’m always on the lookout for a new one – FOMO isn’t as much fun as it used to be.) She mentioned the “Fear of Success” as an excuse to not work on her next project. The idea seemed backward at first, but as my mind began to wrap around the concept, it started to make sense: success opens the door to the exposure of flaws and threatens to let in new challenges that one may not be prepared to handle.

With my curiosity peaked, I decided to research symptoms on the only place I know to find superior medical information AKA Google. Selfishly, I wanted to find out if I had it. What I found surprised me.

The Fear of Success can manifest itself in many ways. The four most common are:

1 – Self-sabotage
(e.g. - Drinking too much the night before a presentation or reading a book well into the night when you have an early start the next day)

2 – Procrastination
(e.g. - Finding a million other things to do when it’s time to start working)

3 – Talking, but not doing
(e.g. - Spending too much time on platform-building activities and selling your project while you should be writing/editing)

4 – Negative Outlook
(e.g. - “That agent isn’t getting back to me – it must be a rejection” or “No one’s going to like my book”)

As a change-seeker and “hit-send-on-the-email-before-thinking-too-hard-and-psyching-myself-out” kind of person, I rarely indulge in numbers 1-3. However, pessimism can be my companion at times, but is that enough to say I have full-blown FOS?

Entertaining a negative outlook is normal, I think. Be sure to comment if you don’t agree.

Another factor that plays into the Fear of Success equation is guilt. Feeling like you haven’t earned the accolade or feeling like you haven’t been doing something long enough contributes to the phobia. I do know this one well – maybe there is a little FOS kicking around inside me after all. With writing, the learning curve never ends. There are always areas to improve. Always. The idea of never truly being the best rattles me.

In sum, maybe we all suffer from varying degrees of FOS. It is all right to be scared of the unknown, but when you feel the prickle of hesitation, jump in anyway. Begin typing. Throw yourself into editing. Do what it is that you talk about doing and don’t let your fear stop you from succeeding.

What do you think? Do you suffer from the Fear of Success?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Update: Warm Saturday Night in LA

Update to my May 2nd post: I now know the cause of the loud gunshot noise last Saturday night. All of you were losing sleep over it, I'm sure.

It turns out there was a drive-by but with a twist: some kids "acid-bombed" a home one street over from mine. They turned off their headlights, rolled slowly up to the intended target, and pitched a home-made explosive onto the front porch of their "friend's" house.

What's an acid bomb?

Apparently, the young people of today are chemists.

The neighborhood watch reported the malevolent high-schoolers combined tin foil with a type of acid found in cleaning products in a liter bottle and (voila!) created an acid-spewing tool of terrorism. Perfect. One more thing to add to my growing list of phobias.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book People on Twitter

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate for Twitter. Not only for keeping up with friends, but also for learning more about this crazy career path I’ve chosen.

On the Firebrand Literary Blog, agent Chris Richman discusses his positive impression of the networking tool. He mentions making connections with people he hadn’t met before as well as finding news he would’ve otherwise missed. I wholeheartedly agree. (Yes, my enthusiasm deserves the use of an adverb.) You can discover contests, changes to submission guidelines, and books to be released. Plus, following prospective agents to get a feel for who they are and what they love talking about can't hurt, right?

So, for all of you who are on the fence, here is a great link listing a bunch of people you may want to add while setting up your account. From publishers to editors, this directory of book trade people is a great place to start. But of course, you should follow me first. :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

New World of Publishing

Thanks to my agent-stalking-on-Twitter hobby, I found a great blog on Book Cost Analysis.

The overall purpose of the article is to compare the publishing model of today to the new one being ushered in by Amazon's Kindle. There's a lengthy list chock-full of details I haven't even begun to think about like book returns, printing, and marketing. Of course, my curiosity peaks when hitting the author-related sections. The percentages and figures are mind-boggling -- who knew only 1 of 3 paperbacks sells?

If you've ever wanted to know the costs associated with producing and selling a physical book, this is the link for you.

The author summarizes their findings at the end:
"My main closing thought is that Kindle Edition books and Kindle DTP are going to destroy the current model of publishing. In the ruins of the old model there will be a huge number of opportunities (such as selling customizable book covers and cover design services). Amazon and the Kindle will basically replace the publisher-distributor-retailer trifecta."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Warm Saturday Night in LA

You know you live in LA when after being sidelined with an ear infection and reduced to full couch potato status, you decide to take a leisurely stroll through your Wisteria-Lane-type neighborhood only to have it cut short by the sound of a drive-by.

Well, I'm not 100% sure it was a shooting, but after my husband pushed me into the house and yelled for me to, "Get away from the windows!" I'm kind of convinced that it might have been.

So what did Dave and I do after hearing such a shocking sound? Call the police? Phone the neighbors?

Nah. It's best not to get involved. What if the bad guys come back to get the snitch?

"Because when they come, they come at what you love," says Michael Corleone. By the way, the fact that "The Godfather" trilogy is on TV right now has nothing to do with it. I swear. Not even a little influence over the last 6 hours. Hmm. Okay… maybe it wasn't a drive-by, but it certainly sounded like a gun. Or at least a powerful firecracker. At the very least, a hoopty backfire – and that means trouble, right?

Here's what I do know: beyond the manicured lawns, accent-lit palm trees, and artistically-arranged driveway pavers, suburbs of Los Angeles, even affluent ones, share the threat of impending violence. The LA news wouldn’t be so good without it – seriously, it’s almost like watching a movie sometimes. Perhaps the traces of pharmaceutical waste (mostly anti-anxiety meds) found in tap water create a heightened state of paranoia or maybe there's just too many people here… are they all watching us right now?

Enough. Rant over. Back to some much needed sofa time and more Advil. All this worrying is giving me a headache.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Passion and Sacrifice

After watching "Frost/Nixon" last night, one major theme struck me: Dream big and go after it, no matter what obstacles stand in the way.

David Frost defied the odds and wrangled an interview with the much vilified ex-President, Richard Nixon. Lambasted by the press, ridiculed by networks refusing to pick up the show, and ostracized by fellow journalists, despite it all, Frost persisted. He had to dig into his own pockets to cover the production costs, even having to shell out $600,000 to pay Nixon for his time.

Throughout the entire movie, Frost dealt with the constant battery of pessimistic prediction. He even had to combat his own sabotaging behavior. It wasn’t enough that he believed in the project and defended it. He learned that in order to win, giving up everything was necessary, including his pride.

What followed was an interview that went into the archives of ground-breaking TV history. David Frost won. He conquered the negative opinions of others and his own issues to discover that he could do what he dreamed, but only if he was willing to sacrifice.

An excellent lesson for all of us. Thanks for reading.