Monday, January 30, 2012

Do I Have What It Takes To Be A Book Pimp?

I’m a bit shocked with the change in Twitter since my brief hiatus. I don’t know if I just didn’t pay attention before, but I find myself avoiding it all together. Each time I log on, my Timeline is full of the same five to ten faces, all pimping their books or blogs. The tweets vary, but are obviously scheduled and mostly sound the same.

It didn’t always seem like this. It was more about people, building relationships in 140 characters or less. Tweets were creative, drew attention to themselves with their wit and spontaneity. Those are the people I wanted to follow. 

Now it is simply feels like a pimpfest of street vendors, parading as authors. I don't blame them, but in less than three minutes . . . the same post?

If I choose self publishing is this what I’m going to have to do just to sell a book? If so, I might as well pack it up right now. I’ve never been a good salesman. I sold Avon for a short time and felt so guilty for providing people with a free, no obligation brochure. Needless to say, I closed up shop a year and a whole lotta face cream later.

But is there any other options for the indie author? Is this the only way? 

Maybe I need help from this guy. 

What do you think? Does all this blogging and tweeting endlessly about your book really help?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Did She Just Say . . . Penis? Our Critique Group’s First Experience with Romance

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard the advice to join a critique group. Some believe strongly in it, while others clutch their babies and hold on to dear life, not ready or willing to share themselves. Then there are those who simply think they are above that and want to go it alone. (Good luck on that!)

I was reluctant at first; it’s a big deal. Someone not only is peeking into your “panty drawer” but he or she is digging in, moving stuff around, and putting it on their heads like an obnoxious teenager. You want to look over their shoulder, making sure they are taking care of your unmentionables. But, this is a moment of restraint—of trust—and one that I wouldn’t change for anything. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my group.

When Kacey Mark joined my partners and me in our critiquing mayhem, we couldn’t be happier. She was blunt and to the point and offered great suggestions to keep us going. But as my critiquing friends and I delved further into her paranormal romance, we realized we had a different sort of cookie on our hands. I was writing women’s fiction at the time, while the other two were tackling nonfiction and contemporary YA. Kacey was writing romance, but this wasn’t your average romance as we’ve read. It was heated and intense.

At one point, I was behind on chapters and received an email from the biggest pervert of the group, who just so happens to be an active Mormon.

“Did you read the part about . . . ? Call me as soon as you get to the part with
the . . . “

Then another email from my other partner, who is not Mormon, but a girl who is as naïve as they come—in a good way. I call her my sunshine and roses friend.

Did you read the part about . . . ?” Call me as soon as you get to the part with the . . . "

I grabbed my laptop and started plugging away on my critiquing of A Muse Gone Rogue, I read three chapters and never got to “the part about . . .”

WTH? I emailed her, feeling cheated.

“Here’s your chapters. They look great, but I seem to be missing something.”

Can you really say, “Hey, where are my sex scenes?” Nope. “Something” would have to do.

She sent me two more chapters, which I promptly went through and still, no “part about the . . .”

Where was my dot, dot, dot?

I didn’t realize I was that far behind. Meanwhile, I received another email.

“This is good stuff. Can you believe Kacey wrote this? She looks like the PTA president. I had to read the one part with Quenton and Marie twice. You know, that ONE PART.”

No, I actually don’t know THAT ONE PART or THE DOT DOT DOT! I was digging her story. I mean check out her product description from Amazon:

“When a demonic attack leaves one child without a mother, Marie Durrant throws out her predictable lifestyle to become the little girl’s nanny.

It’s a big enough step for the virtual shut in, but even more difficult when Marie becomes inexplicably attracted to the mysterious widowed father, who happens to be the most powerful muse west of Mt. Olympus.

Quenton Blake is an extra hunky, extra irritated immortal, cursed to seek out those desperate for inspiration and feed on their souls. There wasn’t anything wrong with saving Marie’s soul for dessert, but his sweet tooth has a way of overriding his good judgment.”

Quenton was sexy and the sexual tension with Marie was great, but I had yet to get to the good stuff. I was a housewife after all. We need some inspiration to get past the boogers and whining that fill our day.

Then I got it. Finally. *insert celestial music* But my chapters also came with a note:

Here it is!

That “here it is” was a little fishy and I could’ve sworn I heard giggling. I’m thinking one of my compadres had passed on my lack of dot, dot, dots.
I’m not going to give away the juicy details, let’s just say it was definitely a read-it-twice kind of scene (or two). Especially since I had forgot to edit the first time.

So what kind of romance does Kacey Mark write? Well, let’s just say it’s enough to make a girl blush and enough to keep you turning the pages. It’s not trashy by any means, but if you have a heart condition you may want to read it with only one eye opened, just to be safe.

Lucky for you, A Muse Gone Rogue is on sale for a limited time. Evernight Publishing is offering it at the promotional price of $.99. But, that price won’t last for long. Her second book A Muse Gone Commando was released recently and is just as steamy. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Art Of A Memoir: The Golden Sky

Everyone has a story to tell and there are millions of writers out there telling them. Often these are fiction, stories we shape from the crazy characters yammering on in our heads. But then there are those who tell their own stories: the memoir writers who pull their inspiration from a piece of their lives.

One of my favorite books is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I was fortunate to listen to it on audio. I’m not sure I would’ve fallen in love with it as much simply reading the words, but hearing it . . . I’m not sure how to explain the power of Frank McCourt’s voice as he told his heartbreaking tale. I felt a surge of honor listening to his story and smiled as he sang his Irish ditties. But mostly, I was mesmerized, mesmerized by his strength and his will to carry on.

Another favorite of mine is Night by Elie Weisel. It’s the story of a young Jewish boy and his father struggling to survive a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. At one point, Elie refers to his father as “dead weight”. The burden that boy must’ve felt as he silently wished for his father’s death settled into my soul and never left. This was a real boy, experiencing real torture. Not made up. Not a dream.

Then of course, there is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, which I also prefer on audio. The audio brings her life—life which should’ve never been taken away. This young writer leads us through her adolescence with hope, despite all the death around her. We want her to succeed, however we know something that Anne does not. Each day she writes to her fabled “Kitty,” we know is a day closer to death, a day she wouldn’t see her dreams realized.

A couple years ago, I had the privilege of reading the journal of another young girl—a woman embarking on a journey of her own. At nineteen, she discovered the baby she carried inside her had serious birth defects. Doctors suggested she terminate the pregnancy. It was hopeless: the baby wouldn’t survive.

Elisa struggled to come to terms with the idea of ending the life of the baby who still moved and fluttered within her. She fought with God and ultimately decided to give her child a chance. 

Zeke is born and struggles to hang on, but that does not deter Elisa from doing what any mother should and fight for strength. He has good days and bad yet he still clings to life. There was hope  at one point, unfortunately, a nurse’s mistake changes everything and little Zeke takes a turn.

Elisa and her husband, Cade, watch their son falter and struggle against the pain of living. It is then they make the decision to let him go—to breathe on his own for the final time.

The rest of the memoir shows what happens to their lives as they battle through guilt, loss, and anger. Their relationship crumbles; Elisa questions her faith in God, survives a “rogue skunk,” finds redemption in “the good morning yahoos” all the while caring for her three-year-old daughter. Money is tight—nonexistent—and she often relies simply on the “oatmeal option” to make it day to day.

As heartbreaking as her story is, it was laugh out loud funny. I’ve known the writer for some time and had experienced all the crazy things that only seemed to happen to her, but I couldn’t believe her luck with the absurd.
Ever wonder what happens when your husband doesn't get around to fixing the toilet?  Elisa's husband doesn't. 

To preserve the authenticity of her journal, Elisa copied her words straight from the spiral notebooks, napkins, scrap papers, and hardbound diaries to the computer. It’s all real—all her. She struggled with how much to take out, while making it readable and real. She’s a storyteller by nature and although she could’ve taken liberties with her story, she didn’t. She wanted the words of that naïve and impressionable nineteen year old to come through. She once told me that although it was painful and terribly personal to put herself out there for all to dissect, she had to do it. If her story could help one person, then she’d relive it all over and over again. 

Because . . . 
The Golden Sky  comes after the storm

I'm honored to add Elisa's story to my favorite memoirs. Not only does she show strength in the face of such sadness, but she shows us all that despite the pain, we can laugh and find the bright light in anything. 

If you have a moment check out the link above and consider adding The Golden Sky to your list too. Or if you simply want a laugh or several, check out Elisa at her blog: The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Too Many #aspiringwriters Out There? Have You Considered A Career Change?

I’ve been popping in and out of twitter in my quest to get back in the writing groove. At first, I felt a little revived—I even edited a bit—but now I’m feeling a bit like the last person in line for Black Friday. The fact is there are a crapload of writers out there and each, it seems, is one-step ahead of me.

I knew there were a lot of aspiring writers, but in the short time I've been on hiatus, there have been a surge of self published writers all tweeting for me to buy their book, read their blog, review this, retweet that . . .  Ay yi yi. Am I foolish in my endeavors to become a writer?

Maybe. I chose the wrong career in the first place. I could be wrong again.

I’ve been doing some research and have found several promising careers that I’m betting are safer, more reachable. After all, the world is my oyster, right? Lots of opportunities.

Speaking of Oysters . . .

I could be an “Oyster Floater”. No really, I could. Did you know oysters need to float in specially attuned water in order to remove impurities? Yep, it’s true. Who likes impure Oysters? Not this girl. I like mine as unadulterated as a Hallmark commercial.

What about a “Pet Food Taster”? I’ve been meaning to give up real food for good, since it’s so delicious and makes my ass big. What better way than to taste pet food for a living? I can’t imagine I’d ever want to put anything in my mouth ever again, especially after I went to my part-time job as a . . .

“Vomit Collector”. Yep, no theme park would be complete without those folks whose sole purpose is to clean up the yak around the rides that inspire the worst motion sickness.

After excelling at those, I would be quite the “Odor Judge”. I mean, who wouldn’t want their nose shoved into a hairy ol’ armpit. I’m thinking after I ate some pet food and cleaned up barf all day, a whiff of an armpit would be like soft serve ice cream on a hot day.

Or, I can go a whole different route and work with animals. I love animals. I could be a “Chicken Sexer”. Think how important it is to decipher the genitalia of newly-hatched birds and inventorying the males vs. the females. That’s a big time job.

And after I checked the kibbles and bits of poultry, I could slip on over to the barn and inseminate Bessie the cow. “Animal Insemination” is a necessary for us to keep up our food supply. 

Similar to this line of work is one that I think not many would pass up. In fact, I’m surprised I didn’t hear about it before. A “Livestock Masturbator” (nope, not making this up) acquires the body fluids necessary for conception, which as all you know, play an integral role in our food supply. Have you thanked your Livestock Masturbator lately? If not, you should. A plate of cookies at Christmas would be nice. I would just avoid the cream filled center kind. 

I’m feeling a little better knowing that even though I’m one of many in a sea of wanna-be writers, I have options. There are career paths out there waiting for me. So if you see me on twitter #amvomitcollecting or #chickensexing, you’ll know I’ve embarked on a new journey.
BTW, those are real job titles. Not making it up.

So how are you feeling amongst all the promising writers out there? Feeling like jumping ship, perhaps becoming an Ostrich Babysitter? Are you overwhelmed as I am with all the pimping of books and blogs. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Unlikable Characters? Fear Not. You too, Can Be A Published Author.

One thing I expect as a parent is to be annoyed on a daily basis. Whining, arguing, spills, bills, boogers, poop, blah, blah, blah. Last night’s annoyance took me on a different tangent, however and back to writing.

My daughter was watching one of her favorite movies: “Pippi Longstocking.” Ugh! This movie kills me with the songs, bad acting, and horrible main character.

I don’t like Pippi. She drives me insane, and I don’t see how my daughter loves her. The secondary characters are boring; the monkey is even annoying. Her father is a jackass who abandons her with only her big arse shoes and dilapidated house. Why isn’t my daughter watching “Annie” or “Anne of Green Gables”: two red headed orphans with a penchant for trouble and a tongue full of sass? Those two are likable and readable.

So Pippi Lamestocking had me thinking about other annoying characters that made it to literature and even a movie. Since I’m on the children's side of things, I’ll continue with The Cat in the Hat. I hate the cat. He’s not funny. He’s annoying. I’ve read this book a few times as a kid and then a couple more when I had my own, and I’ve never loved it. Cute rhyming, sure, but the cat is an ass. I don’t like him. The Grinch was also an ass but we see him change and become likable, we root for the Grinch to love Christmas. The Cat? We want to kick the cat out of the damn house before the fish goes belly up from a heart attack—at least I do. Where's a squirt bottle when you need one?

Next, there’s Isabella Swan. Oh mama, how I hate this character. I admit that I read the books. I actually didn’t mind the story, even tolerated the love or should I say “hunger” for Edward, because I saw the potential for something great with the Italian Vamps and a possible shakedown in the undead world—oh, how you went wrong Ms. Meyer. Anyway, Bella is whiny, mopey, lame, and more lame. Seriously, how much scrambled eggs can a person eat?

I didn’t care about her; didn’t care which beastie she chose to love; didn’t care that she nearly died. Nothing. I just wanted her to grow up somehow, transform into something redeemable. Unfortunately, being a vamp was apparently the only answer because then she gets the best power of them all and becomes the prettiest vamp—LAME!

I didn’t love Twilight but the next book I’m going to talk about I did like—a lot. Hunger Games was an exciting book. Yes, there were some writing issues that I didn’t love, and the final book was a complete waste of time, but I truly liked the story. Katniss, on the other hand, I didn’t care for so much. She is a tough chick, but something about her bothered me. I loved Peeta; I sympathized with Peeta; I wanted the best for him. Katniss . . . I’m not sure. I rooted for her simply because of Peeta. She needed to win, to stay alive for his sake. The story kept me going more than the MC.

I was trying to think of a literary/movie character for adults to compare to and was having a hard time until I remembered Gone with the Wind and Scarlet. She’s a selfish bitch, yet for many of us we can’t wait to see what happens, which somehow makes her likable or at least readable. And, tomorrow, after all, is another day. 

So when someone critiques your writing and tells you your MC is unlikeable, don’t just jump on what they have to say. Likeability is different for everyone. Think of Hannibal Lector, is likability the right word? We shouldn’t like him, he is evil, yet we read on because he is dynamic—interesting. Dexter Morgan, same thing. He kills people. Sure, they are also serial killers, but his actions also screw up the lives of innocent people around him—he makes big mistakes. Doakes was a shithead, but he was not a killer. (spoiler) Dexter’s actions lead to his death. All of this aside, Dexter is interesting, complex, and we can’t get enough of him. We turn the page or buy DVDs, because we simply have to know what will happen next in the life of a serial killer with a conscience.

Harry Potter wasn’t a bowl full of excitement. He was average. He succeeded because he had a mess of great characters surrounding him, helping him grow into the great wizard he was born to be. By himself, Harry wouldn’t have grabbed me (oops, sounds a bit pervy). But add in the twins, Hagrid, Luna, and the rest and we have interesting and dynamic personalities that keep us going.

What characters have you found unlikable? And, what makes a character likeable to you? Have you ever been told your MC is unlikeable? Did you agree?  Talk to me. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I'm Ba-aaackk!

Holy crap, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. It’s a bit dusty in here to tell you the truth. Ahhh, but it’s good to be back.

So much has happened in my life the last six months. I’m not going to go into the details because life isn’t about dwelling in the past, especially if the dweller is absent a pint of ice cream—which I am. A hiatus from blogging, tweeting, and following other blogs was just too much for my already full plate. But now I think it’s time to jump back in feet first.

I started writing again and I’m determined to finish my Nanowrimo from last year. I was stranded at 63,000 words. I have heard about people starting books and not finishing them, but I was never that girl. My characters wouldn’t allow that. I don’t know if was the process of Nano or just my life that made finishing it a burden.  I’m determined to get to “the end” even if it kills me.

So if anyone is out there [taps mic] I’d love to check out your blog and find out what you’ve been up to. I would like to find some new blogs and rekindle my affections for some of the old ones. Leave a comment with your link and I’ll check you out. (if you say this with a Joey voice it’s much better). 

Hope to see ya around.