Friday, April 29, 2011

Come Together

Ah, one of my favorite Beatles songs... When things come together, it's like the sunrising, like hitting all green lights, like eating chocolate lava cake.

This week has been good for me, professionally. I came up with the perfect title for my WIP, Invented Lives. I finished editing the first draft of said novel, printed two copies, and today I will deliver them to my first beta readers.

I also updated my web site, came up with a cover image (only me playing around, not the "real" one), one that accurately portrays the feeling of the book. And, I'm listening to the Beatles.

Wait, I also just noticed it's FRIDAY. Sweet.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Conclusions, conclusions

Funny how timing works, isn't it? A moment here, a minute there, and our whole lives could be different. Or, for instance, when people come into our lives and tell us something really valuable for where we are at that moment in time. How many snippets of advice have gone in one ear and out the other because the timing wasn't right for us to hear it? How many people have we just missed meeting who might have become friends?

Yes, this is going somewhere.

Last week I had a phone consultation with Jenny Bent from the Bent Agency about my finished novel, On A Midnight Street. I've worked on it, off and on, for about 18 months. It's complete and as polished as it's ever going to be unless an agent/editor/publisher demands changes. (I should be so lucky.) After speaking with Jenny Bent, after she perfected my query letter, I was all charged up and decided I would send it out once more, to say 10 more agents.

Then I read a blog post by Allison Winn Scotch, about when to quit querying. I suddenly came to the conclusion that I was ready to move on because at this point, I couldn't bear to do one more rewrite without the promise of publication. Even though my novel is "perfect", even though my query letter is "perfect", I'm movin' on. I've written an 83,000-word first draft to my next book, Invented Lives, and that's all I want to focus on now.

So, done. There it is. Close one book, open another. I am completely happy with this decision.
For now.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: The Informationist, by Taylor Stevens

This is a great book, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a tense drama. Taylor Stevens is an excellent writer, and her story was gripping through the final scene.  The story is extremely detailed, taking place mostly in Africa. Thank goodness I could flip back and forth from the novel in iBooks to GoogleMaps to follow along! A word of advice to future readers, you'll have to concentrate to keep the names straight: Breeden, Burbank, Bradford, and Beyard are all major players.

The main character, Vanessa Michael Munroe, was intense, and Stevens did an excellent job of evoking sympathy for such a violent person. I was pleased with the ending in that she truly evolved. That was important to the success of the book. Stevens threw in a few red herrings that kept me guessing who the real "bad guy" was until very late in the story. I like that in a book.

Amazing that this is a debut novel. It was seriously cinematic; I could picture the action as it happened, although, if it becomes a movie, I'll have to cover my eyes for the final scene from Africa! Whoa!

Well done, Taylor Stevens. Can't wait for the sequel in December!
Four Stars. (I reserve 5 stars for the literary giants.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

David Bowie on Creativity

"If I'm going to do something that could be provocative or artistically relevant, I have to be prepared to put myself in a place where I feel unsafe, not completely in control. I have no fear of failure whatsoever, because often out of that uncertainty something is salvaged, something that is worthwhile comes about. There is no progress without failure. And each failure is a lesson learned. Unnecessary failures are the ones where an artist tries to second guess an audience's taste, and little comes out of that situation except a kind of inward humiliation."
- David Bowie

It Comes As No Surprise

Yesterday I had a phone consultation with the fabulous Jenny Bent from the Bent Agency in Brooklyn. She told me I am a female with brown hair. Ok, not really, but what she did tell me should have been just as obvious.

I write Noir Fiction.
Why didn't I know that? Once she said it, it was so obvious, and yet, I hadn't latched on to that term. Better still, thanks to Wikipedia, I found out that one of my favorite authors, Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train, The Price of Salt) also falls in the category of Noir Fiction. As does Elmore Leonard, though somehow I've never read any of his books (seen the movies though, does that count? I didn't think so.) I don't know what this says about my personality, but that's me... noir. I even dress in all black, too often! (Though I blame that on being a former art dealer & a fashion nerd.)

All right, off to write some black magic.

Any Elmore Leonard recommendations? Where do I begin?!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Invented Lives

What's a child without a name? (an orphan?) What's a date without a name? (a one night stand?) What's a town without a name? (a concert tour?) What's a book without a name? (a work no one will read!)

My work in progress (WIP), here to date known as The King Family, now has an official title. Not unlike Kate Middleton, my novel has been christened: Invented Lives.

It's perfect!

That is exactly what my novel is about, invented lives. In essence, it's a family saga, and yet it is so much more. I have finished the first draft, which means I now begin my second draft, which means I'll be looking for beta readers, which means I'll soon be looking for agents, which means one day I'll be published, and you will be able to read for yourself!

It's moments like these that really charge my batteries. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to edit I go!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vacationally Challenged

An Essay by Karolyn Sherwood

When my husband asked me, “How would you like to spend two months in paradise?”  I said, “Define ‘paradise.’”

It’s the second time around for both of us, married for six years now, and before I met him I didn’t think true love really existed. It does. However, when it comes to the perfect vacation, he likes to relax on a sandy beach; I like museums and theater and energy. Just the mention of remote villages, hot sun, and high tide makes me start looking around for sunscreen and Free Wireless Internet signs. And sympathy. Few people understand my reluctance to leave our home in the upper-Midwest for two of the coldest months on record for a villa in Costa Rica that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. 

My husband is older and wiser and retired. Together we have seven children, ages 19 to 29; now official empty-nesters. With record snowfalls across the country, it is the perfect winter to get away. And, being a writer, I can, theoretically and according to The Dream, write from anywhere. Writers long for the day they can sit perched on a mountain top, overlooking the deep blue sea as I am doing now. So, one might ask, what’s the problem? Go, relax, enjoy!  

The problem is I don’t want to relax. I’m a city girl with goals and an agenda. Scratching through each entry on my To Do list makes me happy. And what about family, friends, kids? I will not have access to my omnipresent iPhone, my ancillary brain. Even if we can Skype occasionally, it won’t be the same. Writing, reading, working out, watching the stock market, lunching with friends.... I love my life no matter what the temperature is outside my door. Now I’m supposed to find time to learn Spanish and explore a new country?

My husband has a different perspective on life. He turns sixty this year, a milestone he never thought he’d see. Twenty years ago he was diagnosed with a rare, congenital disease. In 1995, he quit working and eventually sold his company. Now, each day is a gift he opens at sunrise, never to be taken for granted. Not a day goes by that we don’t laugh. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t tell me how much he loves me. Going to a third-world country for two months is the least I can do for him.

I admit I’m a bit high-strung. (Play laugh track from kids here.) It’s not that I want to be high maintenance, I just like what I like. And I don’t know how to say, “Just cover the grays,” in Spanish. So in my extra-large suitcase, I’ve packed a few sundresses, shorts, t-shirts, swimsuits, and flip-flops. No heals, no Prada, no diamonds. Instead, I have a box of hair color, sixty days worth of vitamins, basic pharmaceutical supplies, face products (Please, no wrinkles!), and a full-size Pilates mat with five workout videos. Four thick novels, two Spanish phrasebooks, my iPod, camera, various chargers, and most importantly, my laptop, and I am prepared for paradise.

When we board the plane, it’s two degrees outside, twelve below with wind chill; ninety-five and sunny when we land. My husband stretches his body, soaking in the warmth. I break out in a cold sweat, panicked that I might have forgotten my clinical-strength deodorant. It’s late, I’m tired, and culture shock begins swirling through my body like venom. Just as we find our car, a lizard slithers by my feet, and I jump onto the hood. The look in his eyes says, “Ah, you’ve arrived.”

The first week is a sneak peak into my personal hell: sunburn, heat rash, dripping sweat, three showers a day, dusty winds blowing hot air through the house. Tarantulas, scorpions, geckos, monkeys, and vultures surround our villa, and a few rudely invite themselves inside. Carved into the steep cliffs, the streets are so rough they put the average roller-coaster to shame. My husband thinks it’s heaven.

By the third week, I learn to navigate the potholes and that the geckos that scamper through my bedroom, down the walls, and into our kitchen are really our friends; they eat bugs, I’m told. I try to smile so they don’t realize I am more afraid of them than they are of me, the Giant. I take tree-top tours and natural mud baths and devour juicy ceviche sprinkled with just-picked mango while watching salmon-colored sunsets.

After a month, I finally start to relax. Once, I actually fell asleep on the beach for almost ten minutes. My new challenge is remembering what day of the week it is. (If it weren’t for my pill box, I’d really be lost.) Thankfully, this is the twenty-first century and our villa has Internet access so I’ve been able to keep in touch and even accomplish a few goals. I’ve learned to focus like never before. “Efficient work, efficient relaxation” is my new motto, leaving me more time to spend with my happy husband.  

And so we sit on our balcony, enjoying the evening breeze, drinking club soda, suddenly the final week of our stay. My husband is contemplating life. I’m not quite that far down on my To Do list yet, but the good news is, having the perfect marriage means I get to choose the next vacation.  Paris anyone?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Playing Catch-up

I've been neglectful - I mean traveling! And, since I recently moved my blog (so much confusion!), I'm going to re-post a couple of my more relevant posts from the past... Kind of a greatest hits, if you will. Hope you enjoy the ones I've chosen.

Eenie, meenie, minie, moe
The dilemma, should you chose to engage: Ebooks vs. real books vs. audio books vs. movies

Last month I mentioned that I went to see the movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and how much I enjoyed it, and how I was kicking myself for not reading the book first, years ago. I ran right out after the movie to pick up The Girl Who Played With Fire in paperback, and I read the 600+ pages in a couple days. This morning I tried to order a paperback copy of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest from my local Barnes & Noble store, to pick up later today, and got a text message back saying they only had a hardback copy available and that the price was $28, if I still wanted it. After careful consideration (and a quick shower), I declined their generous offer, and bought the book via Kindle for Mac for $9.99. Thus, in one trilogy, I will have had three very different experiences in the adventures of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Sander. I can also throw in the audio-book experience, but from a different author: In February, I listened to Dark Place by Gillian Flynn, the story of a young girl who was the lone survivor of a murdered family.

So, what’s a popcorn-loving, minimalist-techie, avid reader to do? Read the book asap, and proudly shelve the novel once finished? Conspiratorially buy the ebook version, thus stealing strangers’ opportunities to judge me by the cover of the book I’m reading? Wait for the movie to come out and indulge my snack-habit? Plug-in headphones and sit like a statue for umpteen hours? Ah, the agony of choices!

In the past 12 years, I have moved 5 times... more than some people, less than others. But the past 3 times I’ve moved, I’ve had to give away stacks of books, out of necessity, not desire. I currently live in a fabulous glass and concrete loft with my fabulous husband, but I no longer have room for a fabulous library. Ok, so ebooks sound like the way to go. And, if I save money on “real” books I can pay for my latest obsession, aka the iPad.

But, I LOVE curling up with a juicy paperback (yes, I usually prefer paperbacks to hardbacks because they’re more intimate and cozy). There’s something just so... intimate and cozy about books. Ok, so then, make room for more books, or learn to enjoy giving them away. (One specific comment about Larsson’s trilogy: When I read The Girl Who Played With Fire, I must admit that I was a bit overwhelmed by 600 pages of Swedish names of people and places, and got all the ‘holms and ‘sons confused, not to mention I’m sure I massacred the pronunciations. The movie didn’t present that problem.)

In February, when we were traveling and I did not have access to English books, I downloaded the audio version of Dark Place to my iTunes, and listened to people being bludgeoned to death while at a sublime tropical resort. Not bad, as I laid by the pool slathered in sunscreen. At least I didn’t worry about getting the book pages wet or greasy. Alas, audiobooks are two or three times as expensive as ebooks or “real” books. However, I learned a lot about how readers will “hear” my own books.

And, movies? Well, there’s the popcorn aspect, and the rapid delivery, and the enveloping atmospheric visual delight, but movie adaptations rarely live up to the book. Movies don’t usually have the option (due to time and money restrictions) to go as deep into a story as a well-written book. Plus, who has the patience to wait for the movie if the book is one you want to read? Not me, unless I completely drop the ball and overlook a good book, as in the case of The Dragon Tattoo.

So... clouds clear, sun shine, crowds hush, like the old E.F. Hutton commercials... In my humble opinion, there is obviously a time and place and reason for all of the above. I (as a writer and a reader) really, really, really, really hope that “real” books will always exist, but I also hope that the iPad will come down in price by October, my birthday and our next overseas trip, so I can load up on the newest, juiciest, most fabulous ebooks to pack in my featherweight carry-on. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Fresh Start

After a ten week escape to Costa Rica, I have now been home for five days, trying to re-assimilate to my "real" life. Things are almost back to normal, piles of mail and magazines are under control, taxes are ready for my accountant, the refrigerator is full of my "normal" food (very different from my Costa Rican food). 

But what I want is to get back to writing!

There are many events in life that necessitate a Fresh Start. Most of them aren't good, but the fresh start usually is. For instance, after an injury or illness, getting back on a regular workout schedule feels great (at least for a while). Vacation may seem like heaven, but I like being productive so it feels good to get back to my desk. Perhaps a breakup or divorce might necessitate a fresh start. Or a new job, a new week, or even a new book. I guess that makes me an optimist.

I have said before, if you dread Monday mornings, change your life. Every Monday morning is a fresh start. I love Mondays, always have (For a mom with kids in school, it's the beginning of a little peace and quiet!). Very soon I will be back on my writing schedule. I recently finished the first draft of my WIP. After being away from it for about two weeks, I cannot wait to see it with fresh eyes. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

New and Improved

Hello Faithful Followers and Newfound Friends. I began this Mind Blowing Blog a few years ago, then set up my own web site and blog with Apple several months later. The more active I get in blogging (3x a week is my goal), the more I realized that (for the first time in history) Apple didn't have the best product. Of course, it's likely that the problem is "Operator Error", but I've decided to come back to Blogger none the less.

For the record, here is my old blog. There's a good two years worth of posts if you're interested (or bored).

So, sign up now - be the first! to follow here. Please Follow/Tweet/Like/Email my posts to your heart's delight. I'll do my best to entertain you and make the transition as easy as possible.

Bye for now!