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Monthly Archives: January 2011

On Turning 45, Recent Books, and a Rant

I had to take a blogging break due to some eyestrain and a weird problem with my eye muscles. I guess you could say I’ve been having eye cramps. I saw the eye doctor about it and we’re keeping an eye on it (hah!). I also started wearing a sleep mask at night, just in case my eye is cracking open as I sleep, letting my corneas dry out.

I also went to visit my parents to celebrate my 45th birthday.

Turning 45 is weird. I don’t feel 45. I still feel seventeen. I suspect I’ll still feel seventeen when I’m 80. Seventeen, by the way, was one of those birthdays that I consider pivotal. Here are the others:

  • 11–for some reason, this one stands out. When I was 11, I first became an avid reader. Maybe that’s why.
  • 17–By this age, I wasn’t a kid anymore. That actually happened when I was 15, but by the time I was 17, others recognized it as well.
  • 28–This was the age when I considered myself fully grown up. There was some change in my thinking that occurred between 25 and 28, and I finally felt like an adult. I think this has been backed up scientifically, that we have one last bit of brain development in our mid-20s.  If you’re in your mid 20s or just emerged from it, you probably know what I mean. I considered 28 the perfect age to be. At least, until I turned 35. Then, that became the perfect age. Why?
  • 35–Others start taking you seriously as a grown-up. Unfair, but true. When you’re 35, you still look young (if you’ve been taking care of your skin and haven’t been a smoker), but you look mature enough that no one dismisses you as a kid anymore. Unless they’re 60 or older. It’s all relative, you know.

I don’t know if 45 will be another pivotal birthday until later in the year. Happy Birthday to me!

~*~

I am also putting the finishing touches of a prequel to my Cinderella retelling. Often, I find myself writing backstory that I know I will never use, but the writing of which helps with the actual story. I am taking the example of Jennifer Estep and Dee Carney and I’m packaging it up as a free read. I’ll upload it to Amazon and everything, if it isn’t too time-consuming. It’s short–only 3000 words.

~*~

Just finished Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. It was pretty good but I had to put myself back into an epic fantasy novel mindset. The point-of-view in fantasy doesn’t tend to be as deep as what you get with the romance subgenres. I enjoyed it highly and I want to get the second book in the series now. I’ve been sampling some other books including Stephen King’s Under the Dome, which I borrowed from my Dad. It’s interesting but right now there are so many points of views–including one that was killed off right away–that I don’t yet feel invested in it. There are also a number of books on my shelf that were given to me as review copies, and I’d still like to read many of them.

I tried to buy a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at Barnes & Noble for my Nook, but I eventually gave up. Why? Because they refused to accept a perfectly good gift card that I tried to use up there. I actually had to call customer support to find out why the book was in “My Library” but was not downloadable. I entered the card information twice and finally I told the customer support person that I gave up. If I attempt to buy it again, I’ll buy it at Diesel Ebooks.

I actually told my husband that I wish I got a Kindle. The Nook is very nice, but everything associated with it is awkward and difficult to use, including the My Library feature at Barnes & Noble.com, the Nook for the PC (which is especially awful) and apparently, the experience of actually buying an ebook for the Nook. This was my first attempt since I usually buy my ebooks elsewhere, and I guess I’ll continue to do so. The saving grace for the Nook is I”m not stuck with only buying books at Barnes & Noble. Which is why I didn’t want a Kindle.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope to post more frequently this week.

My Six-Paragraph Synopsis Method

A long time ago, Colleen Lindsay stated in a blog post that there was no reason why a synopsis should ever be longer than six paragraphs. I’m not sure if she meant that literally, but I decided to see if it could be done. Since then, I developed this method for writing a synopsis that I have used for every synopsis I’ve written since.

To illustrate, I’ll write a synopsis of a novel that should be widely familiar–Pride and Prejudice.

I start by distilling the entire book to six sentences. This forces me to concentrate on only the major plot points. Here are the sentences I came up with for Pride and Prejudice.

  1. A wealthy single man named Mr. Bingley moves near the town of Meryton, and his friend Mr. Darcy comes to visit him.
  2. Darcy snubs a young neighborhood woman named Lizzy, and then becomes fascinated by her.
  3. Mr. Wickham spreads false rumors about Mr. Darcy, turning Lizzy against him.
  4. Darcy proposes to Lizzy, who refuses while disclosing Wickham’s slanders.
  5. Lizzy’s little sister runs away with Wickham, and Darcy secretly rescues her.
  6. Lizzy discovers Darcy’s involvement, realizes that she loves him, and accepts his next proposal.

Dang, that was hard. I had to distill it to its very essential elements. Left out entirely are Jane’s romance, Lizzy’s proposal by Collins, her visit to Pemberley, and any mention whatsoever of the pivotal characters other than these four, one of which I don’t even mention by name.

Obviously, this isn’t enough. So what I do at this point is take each sentence and make it a paragraph. I start with the sentence, and build.

A wealthy single man named Mr. Bingley moves near the town of Meryton, and his friend Mr. Darcy comes to visit him just in time for a neighborhood ball. Bingley drags Darcy to the ball, where he has nothing but criticism for everyone. Too late, he realizes that he has criticized the appearance of one young woman in her hearing. He takes another look as she laughs over the incident with her friends, he finds that he cannot take his eyes off her. The girl, Elizabeth Bennett, thinks Mr. Darcy is an amusing snob, and has no great opinion of him. When her sister falls ill while visiting the Bingleys, she hastens over to nurse her sister, begrudging every instant she must spend in the presence of anyone but her sister and the unexpectedly pleasant Mr. Bingley. In the meantime, with her every pert utterance, Darcy becomes more and more fascinated by her.

Oh, look what happened! I ended up combining sentence 1 and 2. That’s ok, because I’m sure I’ll need that paragraph elsewhere. Notice how I infused this paragraph with voice. It’s important to let your voice shine through. Have a little fun with it, and it’ll show. Let’s continue with Sentence 3.

A regiment takes up quarters in Meryton, and among the officers is the charming Mr. Wickham. He becomes even more interesting to Lizzy when he dishes her up some juicy gossip about Mr. Darcy, whom by now she loves to hate. Darcy is powerless to defend himself because to do so would reveal certain details about a beloved member of his family. There is another visitor to Meryton as well, the odious Mr. Collins, cousin of the Bennetts’, who stays for an intolerably long visit. Much to Lizzy’s dismay, this visit concludes with a proposal by Collins, which she soundly refuses. To her astonishment, he turns around and proposes to her friend, Miss Lucas, who accepts. They promptly marry, while Bingley and his entire party unexpectedly leave town.

So now I’m ready for Sentence 4.

The Collins marriage leads to an invitation to visit some months later, which Lizzy accepts. It turns out that the Collinses live on the edge of the property of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the aunt of Mr. Darcy. Lizzy has barely arrived when Darcy arrives as well, to visit his aunt. Lizzy regards his presence as mostly an annoyance. She suspects that he and Bingley’s sister have been trying to keep Mr. Bingley from forming an attachment to her sister, Jane. Mr. Darcy’s friend, Colonel Fitzwilliam, soon unwittingly confirms this, turning Lizzy against Darcy even more. After a woebegone letter from her sister, Lizzy is quite convinced she hates Darcy–and exactly at that point, he proposes to her. The manner of his proposal is unfortunate, as he details all of the very good reasons why he should not be marring her, including the fact that her family is so beneath his. He waits with a confident air for her acceptance–but is mortified when she refuses him in a manner that is totally dismissive of his feelings.

It’s not great, but it’s good enough for a first draft, which this is. I’m not going to bother polishing this, like I would a real synopsis. At least, not much. This is also the point where I am going to add another paragraph that is not in my original six sentences. I’ve said nothing at all about how the Wickham slander matter is resolved. So that will take up Sentence 5.

The next day, an unhappy Lizzy is mortified to meet Mr. Darcy in the de Burgh’s gardens. He hands her a letter, requests that she read it, and walks out of her life–or so he thinks. She reads the letter and learns the depths of Wickham’s duplicity when Darcy details how Wickham tried to take revenge on Darcy over an imagined cheat of his inheritance by eloping with Darcy’s very young sister. (Fortunately, Darcy intervened in time.) Lizzy reads this and feels quite guilty. However, in the second part of the letter, he admits to keeping Jane away from Bingley, and is proud of this deed. Lizzy feels vindicated, but not for long. She takes a trip with her aunt, and an unexpected change in plans puts them in the same county as Darcy’s home, Pemberley. The aunt wants to tour the great old house, and there Lizzy listens with astonishment as the housekeeper, of all people, details how wonderful her “master”, Mr. Darcy is, and how highly he is regarded.

Ok, that went on a bit long. I would definitely be looking to trim this during the revision stage. On to the final paragraphs.

Lizzy is horrified, however, shortly afterward when Darcy himself shows up while she is touring the grounds. He is much more civil than she expects and he even invites her to dine with his sister and the Bingleys. Darcy is quite attentive of both her and her aunt and uncle, and Lizzy hardly knows what to think. The next day, a letter arrives from Jane bearing bad news–Lizzy’s youngest sister has run off with Mr. Wickham! In her distress, Lizzy tells Darcy all the details, and then she hastens home. Several tense weeks pass, during which they cannot find Lydia. Lizzy has much time to think, and she concludes that Darcy is just the right man for her–but she believes he is lost forever because of the shame that Lydia has brought to them all.

The Bennetts have no reason to believe that Wickham will actually marry young Lydia, but the unexpected news arrives that he has. Through happenstance and Lydia’s inability to keep a secret, Lizzy discovers that Darcy is the reason Wickham married her. Shortly afterward, Mr. Bingley returns, along with Mr. Darcy. In short order, Bingley proposes to Jane, and she accepts. When Lizzy finds herself alone with Darcy, she hastens to thank him for what he did for Lydia, and he corrects her; he only did it for her, Lizzy. He then proposes to her once more, and this time, she accepts.

Yay! A rough draft of a very minimal synopsis! It is much easier to flesh out a short synopsis than it is to trim a long one. You can use this to grow synopses of several different lengths. I find it useful to have a 1 page, a 2 page and a 3 page synopsis. You also have the beginnings of a query.

Notice entire plotlines are left out. Lady Catherine is just the owner of a house, as far as my synopsis is concerned, and we know nothing of Lizzy’s parents or Bingley’s sister. These are all details that could be included in a fleshed-out synopsis.

To practice this, try writing a synopsis of a story you know very well, like I did here. This will enable you to write from a dispassionate point of view.

Three Books, and Update and a Brag

It’s been a sleepy January. Literary. Normally, I try to get by on as little sleep as possible as I squeeze every bit of life out of the time I have available every day. Often, I’m done with the computer by 9 and I turn it off and read. Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

Prospero in Hell by L Jagi Lamplighter. This is the second volume in the Prospero’s Children series, which looks to be a trilogy. Like the previous book, I loved it, but there were some things about it that drove me crazy. I’m going to ask Kat if she wants me to review it for her at Fantasy Literature. If I do, I’ll put a post linking to it here.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. I’m a quarter of the way into this novel and it is very enjoyable. I find Sanderson’s writing to be entirely invisible. That’s a compliment. No clever turns of phrase that gets me thinking about the author (even in a good way) rather than the story. It’s total immersion. I do wish I could get even deeper into the heads of the two main characters, Vin and Kelsier. However, maybe that’s just be because I’ve been reading a lot of romances lately, where the POV tends to be much deeper.

In Enemy Hands by KS Augustin. I’m reading this on my iPod Touch via the iFlow reader (which I LOVE. The text flows, and you control the speed of the flow by tilting the iPod. Very cool and highly readable.) I’m only in the opening chapters, but so far I’m intrigued!

~*~

I’ve also been writing. I finished the first draft of my Cinderella prequel, and I’ve done one editing pass with a red pen. I’m now incorporating those edits back into the text. That will require only one or two additional nights. Then I’ll read it aloud, make any finishing touches and send it to my beta readers.

~*~

My daughter is working very hard on a poem. It’s not making much sense to me at this point, but she’s definitely getting an A for effort. I am bemused by this because I too, wrote poems when I was a child, but when I was three years older! So am I a proud mama? I am.

Oh, and she insists its a cheer, not a poem. 🙂

~*~

Read anything good lately? Got any kid brags?

Quest for the Perfect Purse

I am on a quest for the perfect purse, which would include all these features. Because, you know, it would then be perfect.

  • All sturdy leather. No soft leather, which wears out so quickly. I want a purse that is as durable as a saddle.
  • No liner. I don’t care if the inside of said sturdy leather purse feels icky. I DON’T want a liner. They tear so easily, especially when surrounded by sturdy leather. If the liner is something sturdy itself, like canvas, then I’d consider it.
  • A long shoulder strap. Purses slide right off my shoulder. I need to be able to fling it around my head when my hands are full.
  • A short handle, by which I can grab the purse. I love purses that have a long strap and a short handle. But this is optional.
  • A front zipper pocket. This is for my badge.
  • Two gadget pouches. They can be on the inside or the outside, but if they are on the outside, they need some way to close.
  • Three separate interior compartments. Not one huge pouch with three separate liner compartments. That’s really only one compartment. The compartments are for:
    • Wallet
    • Notebook and pen
    • Glasses, business card case, pill bottle bookmarks and assorted other things of varying sizes
  • At least two inside pockets. These are for:
    • Business cards, reward program cards, membership cards
    • Small tubes of chapstick, Burt’s Bees, hand sanitizer and lotion
  • A back pocket. This is for my keys. Its optional, because I can make do with one of the compartments. A zipper is even more optional.
  • Not huge. Yes, I know that this is tough when I’m asking for so much. But the purse cannot be one of those huge old lady purses. I’d rather have a fat purse than a wide purse.
  • Less than $200. Such a purse as described above might be 500. But then, it would no longer be the perfect purse. The perfect purse would be reasonably affordable. I think being willing to go up to 200 dollars is reasonable. I’m not looking for a designer purse, here. Just a practical one to last me about 2 years.

I won’t buy a Relic purse, because I thought I had a perfect sturdy leather one, but the strap fell off within a year. This is my number one problem with purses. Got any recommendations?

Guest Post: Shawn Kupfer, Creator of Tweet_Book

It seems like so many people are taking unusual paths to publication these days. When I heard about Shawn Kupfer, I knew I had to have him as a guest, because I think you’ll get a kick out of his story. Shawn’s novel, 47 Echo, goes on sale at Carina Press next week.

There’s that old saying “Writers write.” And it’s true, for the most part — but it doesn’t say that they necessarily finish anything. Sure, we might sit there, scratching away into our Moleskines or pounding away at our keyboards, but there are times when you just can’t finish a story to save your life, try as you might.

47echoThat was the case with me almost two years ago. I’d started several projects — a follow-up to a novel I wrote in 2000, teleplays for a season of a sitcom, a feature film script, a couple of novels — but I just couldn’t manage to finish anything. I’d sit down at night with the full intention of writing the next great story, but. . . nothing.

I was way into Twitter at the time, as I recall. And I saw people using it for a variety of purposes that weren’t expressly instructed on the packaging, so I figured: why not a novel? I could sit down every night and put down another part, and maybe someone would read it, though probably not. And that, in February 2009, is how I started The Twitter Novel Project.

My first book was a crime thriller called White Male, 34, and something strange happened while I was writing it. I kept working on it every night. I’d set the goal of putting down at least 500 words a night, and I was sticking to it. Part of it was because people were watching, as I gained a handful of followers early on. Part of it was the challenge, as I’d told myself there was no way I’d be able to keep up that level of output.

I would have been happy just to finish that first novel, to get it to 50,000 words. It ended up at around 64,000, and I immediately began to think about the second one. It would have to be something completely different, something I’d never seen anyone do before.

That second novel was 47 Echo, which Carina Press will release in just a few days on January 17. I finished the first draft of the book, out in public with about 2,000 people watching, in October of 2009, and Carina acquired it about six months later. It’s a strange way to get a publishing deal, I suppose. . . but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’d love for you to come by and visit me on any of the 47 Echo sites: the Web site, the blog, or the Facebook page. Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Yes, I’m still tweeting novels 140 characters at a time over at the @Tweet_Book Twitter page, and backing the story up nightly at the Twitter Novel Project blog.

Thanks so much to Tia Nevitt for asking me to come by and tell the story on her blog. Make sure to read Tia’s own fabulous work The Sevenfold Spell from Carina Press!

Muse, Unfettered

If you followed my now defunct writing blog, you probably know that I think of my muse as a drill sergeant who looks something like R. Lee Ermey:

rleeermey

The caption is self-explanatory as to the reason why.

My muse doesn’t have a name. He’s younger than R. Lee Ermey–but not by much–and is simply the Drill Sergeant. He has a soft side–he actually likes fairy tales.

Well, I haven’t been blogging much because my muse has been keeping me so busy. My Cinderella story is now over 30,000 words and is growing. It won’t make novel-length, but it certainly will be a longer novella. I am also working on that prequel!

Some differences in writing this story and other novels I’ve written:

    • Discipline. When things got rough, I didn’t let myself work on some other story. (The prequel has all the same characters, so it doesn’t count.) I took some time off from it while I was doing my blog tour, and it was a good thing.
    • Structure. I’m much more aware of the structure of my story as I write. When I come up with something that will require a tweak elsewhere, I go back and fix it right away rather than putting it off and trying to make sense out of a cryptic note later.
    • Discipline. Oh, and I shut down all emails, Facebook and Twitter windows while I write. Sometimes, I’ve even been known to turn off my WiFi (I use a laptop). Nothing can get through. Nothing, I say!

      Some things that haven’t changed.

      • Comfort. I must be comfortable as I write. Otherwise, I have a stiff neck the next day. Not fun. Currently, I’m not all that comfortable. I have a padded lap desk just big enough for my lap and trackball (perfect with a laptop, btw, because you can use it on your leg, or a cushion). But it’s still not quite as comfortable as I’d like it. I really need a new LaZBoy, because my daughter broke the old one. Isn’t that what daughters are for? 🙂
      • Water. I must have water on hand. My husband got me a table to sit behind the couch so my water is in easy reach. Isn’t he sweet?
      • Snack. Ok, I try not to do this too much, because that’s just fattening. I carry around evidence of past snackings with me wherever I go.

      What do you think of my writing routines? I must be a pain in the butt to those I live with.

      So I went to the bookstore …

      … and was wandering around the Fantasy/Science Fiction section, looking for a new author to read. Not new as in debut, but new as in new to me. Almost bought Naomi Novik’s Temeraire omnibus, but decided I’d rather have it in ebook, and besides, I already have the first novel. I read it several years ago, but it’s on my keeper shelf. 🙂

      Then, I thought of Brandon Sanderson. I thought, I really ought to be reading Brandon Sanderson. He’s one of the hot new authors, and I’ve never read him. And from what I heard of him, I thought I’d enjoy his stories. So I headed to the S section and picked up his first novel, Elantris.

      And then I realized I was doing it again. This is exactly what I used to do years ago, before I started Fantasy Debut. I can’t seem to kick the debut habit. Amused with myself, I picked up the second story, Mistborn. I liked the idea of a female protagonist, so I decided to start with it. And so I did.

      Another debut author who I really think I need to read is Audrey Niffennegger because she wrote a time travel story (The Time Traveler’s Wife) and I’m working on a time travel historical. Occasionally. When I’m not writing fairy tales. Which is almost never these days.

      So I’m sampling Mistborn, but the book I’m earnestly reading right now is L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Prospero in Hell, which is the second novel in the Prospero’s Children series. I love it!

      ~*~

      Speaking of fairy tales, I decided to write a prequel to my Cinderella retelling and post it as a free read. I’ll be playing with ebook formats when I do, and I may even load it at Amazon, if it doesn’t look too time consuming. I’m really, really pleased with the story so far. I think it will only run 3000 words or so. The Cinderella story, however, will be close to 40,000 words, if it doesn’t go over.

      ~*~

      This week, I am scheduled to have Shawn Kupfer as a guest on Thursday. Shawn is the genius behind tweet_book, which was the first draft of a novel — 47 Echo — written entirely on Twitter. He is going to write about his unusual path to publication.

      Guest Blogging Again!

      Today, I break the laws of physics by being in two places at once. Jennifer Estep still has my post as her top post, and she till has the giveaway open. So if you haven’t visited yet, please stop by.

      Plus, Taryn Kincaid has me as guest at her blog, in a feature she calls Friend Friday. And mine is her inaugural post!

      Thank you so much, both of you!

      I took a long weekend so I’ll be replying to comments there all day.

      And finally, just for fun, I created a twitter handle for my slightly evil fairy godmother. Yes, it is silly, but I figure of some guy can get a million followers by becoming Lord Voldemort online, I might be able to snag a few with my feisty fairy. Be among the first to follow eFairy Godmother and she’ll give you a fairy blessing.