Tag Archives: books

Land the Plane Already!

I’m a huge film buff, and I’m pretty generous with filmmakers. If they entertain me, I’m not terribly critical. However, there is one area where films and books alike can set off my inner critic.

Endings.

A writer that can’t ‘land’ a book or film drives me nuts. It’s not that I don’t understand their pain. I do. Endings are so difficult. They must be organic and sometimes that means kneading until they are just right. I have read too many books and seen too many films where I thought the book ended, only to face five more endings. Seriously, a book only needs one. The right one.

Find it. Use it.

Some writers know their ending in advance and even write it in advance. This is fine as long as you review and refine it after the book’s written. After all, changes have probably forced adjustments to that ending. Some endings are so perfectly organic, they shock. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” comes to mind. It’s a great example of building to one ultimate ending.

Endings don’t actually have to provide total closure. Some endings leave the opening for sequels in film and series in books. Some endings like to leave questions in the reader’s mind, things to mull over in the aftermath of reading. A lot of  Jodi Picoult’s books are this way. Especially, Change of Heart, which is rife with so many social issues I swore to my husband that there was no way even she could ‘land that plane.’ I’ve never been more thrilled to be wrong in my life. The book is still in my favorites list after all this time. It resonated in my thoughts for years after I read it. A good book, even one that leaves questions in your mind, will always satisfy.

Once a reader invests 200 -500 or more pages with you, they need a pay off. Never wax the ending. A writer should spend as much time polishing that ending as he did the beginning pages used to market the book or the query or pitch to sell the book. In the end, it’s the last thing the reader will remember about your book. Did they walk away satisfied or frustrated?

Are endings tough for you? What’s your favorite book/story ending?

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Write Under the Influence

IMG_0870A young friend of mine is in one of life’s worst situations through no fault of her own. She must make a heart wrenching decision, and it is her’s to make. If you’ve lived long enough, you know that people scurry out of the woodwork to tell you what to do. Often well-meaning, but not always, these ‘it’s the best thing’ advice givers serve only to wreak havoc unnecessarily. This is no ones  business and no one else can or should help her. The words “butt out” come to mind.

While I was in grad school, we had a professor who ranted against this same mind-set in writing, only it is in our heads, set in place by a society full of rules and judgments. I can’t write this or say that because it might offend this group or that group. What if it lands my book on a banned book list? By the way, have you seen those lists? Some impressive books are on it. We would be hard pressed to find our books in better company.

The problem is we allow societal standards and norms to dictate to us as we write. This is what I call writing under the influence. It’s the worst for a writer. Beyond hindering creativity, it skews reality. If you want your fiction to reflect our daily lives, then it better be messy and chaotic and yes, offensive to others. Because that’s what life in a free country is all about.

This guy smokes and it offends me, I can cuss like a sailor and it offends this lady, a woman over here prays and it offends the atheist, who offends the Muslim, who offends the…you get the point. Life here is not pretty and dainty. If your writing is, no one will buy it except maybe someone who lives in a bubble. Our fiction must have some basis in reality. Therefore, you must write with all your flaws exposed, unfettered by that judging muse on the shoulder telling you to stop.

It’s important never to fall victim to the ‘what if this offends’ question. This is where your writer friends come in. Friends, don’t let friends write under the influence. Ever. If that nasty judgmental muse is sitting on your shoulder telling you that you can’t have a gay character because the Bible Belt won’t read your book, call your friends for an intervention. And let me know when your book comes out. I live in the Bible Belt. I’ll help you promote it.

That professor? Pope Brock. If you haven’t read his books, you should.

Have you ever written under the influence? How do you handle it?

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Edge of Truth

EdgeOfTruth.indd

Edge of Truth is a dystopian tale by author Natasha Hanova. Trapped in a world where she can never achieve more than the society has ‘approved’ for her, Rena Moon is a typical teenager. She rebels against everything from the Overlord to the Synbots to her father and aunt. Rena wants more and determines she can get more. The slight wrinkle to things is her ‘secret’. She’s an Other, one of those gifted with a hidden ability.

Like most girls she’s got a bestie, Blaze, and a crush, Nevan, and she has a lot on her plate. There’s the Solstice Celebration, avoiding her problematic little brothers, and her constant search for a way out of ‘Hollowdump’ as she calls her hometown. On one search into Westrock, she stumbles upon a treasure. That might be an understatement since Rena’s ‘Other’ trait is the ability to sense earthquakes. In this case, the quake unearths the cave of riches.

The fortuitous find represents freedom from the oppressive Overlord Andrick and the way of life she’s fought against. A reluctant Blaze agrees to help her market the treasures. Unfortunately, they don’t make it home before curfew and seek refuge from the Synbots at Nevan’s home much to Rena’s horror. Embarrassing moments pile up for her there, and she’s still got to face her father the next day. Rena’s grounding forces Blaze to go to market without her and attempt to sell the goods. This is Blaze’s strength and she does well. Both girls gear up for the Solstice Celebration now that they have outfits fit for who they really are, not who society has made them.

The first sign of a problem is when Rena shows up, but Blaze doesn’t. When it becomes apparent someone has kidnapped Blaze, Nevan joins Rena in the search for her bestie. Balancing her growing attraction to Nevan with her worry for Blaze and her guilt that her desire to leave Hollowdump is what caused her friend to go missing, Rena follows the path of clues. She knows her ‘directions challenged’ best friend is completely unable to lead her kidnapper to the cave and fears what he’ll do when he realizes it. What results is a suspense filled ride across uncharted territory during the ‘burn’, a dangerous sun without the protection of the ozone layer. Problem with her ability is she also causes quakes. She has to worry about and control her emotions as they search. This would be totally easier without Nevan by her side.

Rena is an independent minded female character, which is a huge plus in YA. Blaze is also a strong character although quite different from Rena. Nevan is the quintessential guy crush who can send a girl over the edge causing her to almost forget everything, even her missing bestie, by simply touching her hand. Power is at the heart of the book. In a dystopian society, it often is. However, independence and hope and loyalty win the day in Edge of Truth. The book is an edge of your seat roller coaster ride through a mine field, at the same time it maintains a sweet tale about friendship and first love. It’s a YA must read.

I received an ARC of Edge of Truth for the purpose of this review.

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Reading as a Writer

I stopped enjoying reading in grad school. Why? I used to read as a reader, getting sucked into the world of the book and enjoying every minute. Total relaxation. Then, I spent two years studying my craft. I quit reading the authors I used to read. I no longer enjoyed their books. I couldn’t have put my finger on it; I just didn’t. I read differently now. Every book is a lesson in craft.

I still have authors I enjoy, and I will read all their books. But now they teach me. One of my favorites has a new book out, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Have you ever picked up the wrong drink? You have an iced tea and you pick up hubby’s Coke by mistake? That OMG reaction your mouth has to that unexpected taste is what I am getting from this book. This is a good writer, but this book is driving me nuts. I want to tell my inner writer to shut up and let the reader just enjoy but…

We’ve all been told there are rules for a reason, BUT breaking them is also done for a reason. I’ve seen accomplished writers break rules and paid close attention in the hope that I could replicate that success. (still waiting) I’m a child of the sixties so I’m all about rule breaking but trying to break as many as possible in one book is too much for even a talented writer.

Some lessons a writer learns in reading are more painful than others. Such as, even our favorite writers, even those gifted in craft, make missteps. Has a favorite author ever let your inner reader down? (No names, please)

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Ripple, Pulse, Flow…

One of my critique buddies, Natasha Hanova, has started a blog chain on the ripple effect. The premise behind the blog chain is for you to write this question at the top of a post, link it back to the person whose blog you read it on, answer the question, and invite others (consider this your formal invitation) to participate. Last, post a link to participant(s) who link back to your blog to complete the chain. For this chain, Natasha asked the following question:

Has your manuscript (WIP or completed) experienced a ripple effect, where one change affected the manuscript from beginning to end? If so, how?

My YA novel is about a girl who discovers she’s genetically engineered. This news sends her on the run from good and bad guys alike with the help of lifelong friends, Toad and Mayo. As I wrote the first draft of the initial scene with Toad, he stunned me by  “rolling into the room” behind Ginny. It wasn’t something I thought about in advance or planned. The character told me he was in a chair. That one small detail caused ripples throughout the rest of the book and has ramifications in the next books as well.

Some were big, leading to ample questions for me like how could genetic engineering be used to help him and how might that impact Ginny’s mixed emotions about her status as a “freak”? Some were smaller, happening within my world building, such as a ramp that her dad built on his back deck for ease of access since Toad was there…a lot. The one simple detail enriched both the character of Toad but also impacted his relationships with Ginny and Mayo, his history (how and when did he end up in a chair?), and complicated his ability to help Mayo rescue their best friend.

Ripples are amazing. They continue to pay dividends long after that initial cause. Check out Writes by Moonlight’s blog on Ripples.

I’m interested in hearing whether you’ve experienced the ripple effect in your work and if so, how? If you decide to participate in this blog chain, please let me know so I can include a link. If you just want to leave your comments below, that works for me, too.

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The Oracle

Anyone remember a trilogy from the 90’s called The Matrix? I thought so. It was a thought-provoking series for many of us and enjoyable on many levels. I’ve been thinking about one particular line from the first film a lot lately. It’s when Neo visits the Oracle. She gives him the following advice about being “the one”.

        “Being the one is just like being in love. No one can tell you you’re in love. You just know it. Through and through. Balls to bones.”

Writing is a lot like this for me. I know I’m a writer, have known it for longer than I have vocally admitted it. It is as the oracle said something that you know balls to bones. I have that level of understanding about what I am, but these days, I’m questioning that level of commitment in my craft. The writing is solid but my ‘life’ has been on a collision course with chaos for two years, and I have begun to realize that I did something smart for me on a personal level and deadly on a writing level. Emotionally, I clocked out. This has allowed the horrid circumstances surrounding me to not destroy me. However, my writing has all the emotional honesty of a pet rock.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been an honest writer. I’d love to lay it all on the page the way Les Edgerton does. I read his stories and the gut ravaging honesty is in every word, hell, every bit of punctuation. Of course, the second semester of grad school I was given two mandates – no more emotion and no more killing. Man, I write mysteries. Killing people was what I did best, and I lived for it. It was both the worst and the best thing that ever happened to me. My writing itself improved. The melodrama disappeared (I hadn’t even realized it was there), and I found the drama inherent in life beyond dead bodies. Still, it may have done more damage than I realized.

After grad school, I was a writer by definition. I sold my stories. I marketed my YA novel. But I am sad to say that I am a bit adrift. I’m a mystery writer having difficulty killing people. I have an adult mystery novel based on one of the worst of all emotional situations for a parent – that of a missing child – and I’m having difficulty getting that voice out of my head. No emotion! No killing! I yell at it to shut up, and it simply yells louder.

Now, the Oracle’s voice is replacing it, telling me to go all in “balls to bones”. I have to put as much of myself into the writing as exists in me. If it truly is all of me, I have to find a way to shove aside the doubts, the voices that say anything other than, “Write!”

What do you do when your commitment waivers?

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Be Inspired Meme

Be Inspired

I was tagged by blogger Natasha Hanova for the Be Inspired meme. The instructions say to answer the following questions, and then tag five people. Thanks for tagging me, Natasha. Now, for those questions…

1. What is the name of your book?
THE G.A.P. PROJECT
2. Where did the idea for your book come from?
The concept and the main character came from a dream.
3. In what genre would you classify your book?
YA Science Fiction Suspense

Ginny

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose? I know enough to know I’d have no say so I’ll not go there. Like many writers, I have pictures of my characters. My main character’s looks are based on a former student. Her other characteristics are a composite of many people. Which is, of course, the real fun of building characters.

5. Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book. Ginny Carrera discovers she’s genetically engineered to survive a nuclear holocaust AND on the international auction block so with the help of friends, Toad and Mayo, she sets out to take down an evil senator and his crew of human engineers.

6. Is your book already published / represented?

It is being shopped with appreciable interest so I’m hopeful.

7. How long did it take you to write your book?

The first writing was three months. The rewrites and edits have been unending.

8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?
Not a lot of books that I’m familiar with, but there are authors who inspired me. Kevin Brooks, Caroline B. Cooney, and Harlan Coben.
9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?
An author didn’t inspire me to write this. My childhood fascination with only one aspect of science class did. I was not a science kid but when the introduced genetics, I lit up. It fascinated me and still does. The ongoing growth in this area of research keeps me reading everything I can get my hands on.
10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book. 
Puberty is hell for everyone. Try doing it after discovering that you really are the freak you feared people thought you were. Then, try doing it on the run because nearly everyone is after you for your invaluable DNA.

Now to tag five others…

Victoria Dixon @ http://victorialeedixon.com/

Rachael Harrie @ http://rachaelharrie.blogspot.com/

Michelle Wallace @ http://www.writer-in-transit.co.za/

Hildred Billings @ http://hildredbillings.blogspot.com/

Andria Parker @ http://anchorsandfreedom.com/about/

I can’t wait to hear more about you. Please leave a note in the comments if you decide to participate. Thanks!

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