Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is it the how or the what?

I was looking at an Interview article about the new fall TV lineup and got totally sidetracked by Terrence Howard, who's bringing star quality to the new Law & Order: Los Angeles. Then I click on an in-story promo in the next column to gaze at Blair Underwood for a minute or two. Seems he's one of the stars in The Event, premiering on NBC this fall.

Oddly enough, the thought that came to mind as I read the two features was not how fine those two male specimens are (okay, maybe for a second), but the concept of versatility.

Have we not seen Terrence and Blair in all types of movies? They've acted in romances, thrillers, fantasy, on TV and on the big screen. What takes them there, I wonder? Is it the mode of transmission or the story they're telling? (Though I have no doubt it's simply been a matter of needing a paycheck on some occasions.) Hollywood has proven that it's not for everyone. Look at Kiefer Sutherland, son of movie-great Donald, who has fared far better on weekly television. Don't you think?

So, as I acknowledge that big isn't for everybody (though it can lead you to the same fulfilling outcome), I turn this idea inward and wonder about my own writing quest. Is publication about the mode of transmission or the story I'm telling?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tell-tale details

The chances of your character scrawling words across a piece of paper are getting less and less likely. Well, depending on the age of your character and how tuned in you are to that generation's traits.

This year's Beloit College Mindset List says that writing in cursive is one of those things the class of 2014 just doesn't do. (And I can attest to that. While my oldest learned cursive in second grade, both my younger two rolled right through the early grades without it. I'm told it's a less-than-useful skill in these modern days and precious curriculum time can be devoted to some other subject.) But back to our topic.

The references we use as writers to frame setting are often mired in tiny details like planners for work, post-it notes on the fridge, CDs in drive time. But depending on your target reader, they might be accustomed to a life with PDAs, text reminders, and those fancy iPod hookups in the car. Your assumption that you're on the pulse of the times might totally disconnect your reader from the story and compel them to write you off as old-fashioned or not their type of author.

Admittedly, we can't predict every new tide changing times bring. For example, I was reading a Dean Koontz book last year (sorry, can't recall which one), and a single character action snatched me out of the story: There was a doctor in a hospital and he went into the lounge to have a cigarette.


I immediately turned to the front of the book and searched for the copyright. I found that the book had originally been released in 1972 (or thereabouts), which explained why the doctor was lighting up in the hospital. We all know that doesn't happen nowadays. In fact, I know of at least one local hospital that prohibits smoking anywhere on the property. Obviously, smoking was still 1950s cool when Dean penned that manuscript. Who knew that two decades later it would rank right up there with the plague? lol

So, we should -- I think -- do what we can as authors to remain timely, yet timeless, and true to our characters. That takes research, social perception, and a little leeway from readers if we're blessed with Dean's longevity.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Debating the realities of normal

Click over to Novel Spaces today and let me know what constitutes normal in your world. As a reader or writer how do you define what's ordinary and every day?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dangling from a Dorchester thread

The author, reader and industry blogs have been all aflutter since Publisher's Weekly leaked word that Dorchester Publishing changed its business model mid-stream and unbeknownst to its authors. Today, after several days of asking questions of colleagues with no answers, I came across this "letter to authors" from Dorchester.

I can't even think of a word to describe the knotted, pit-of-stomach, ball of dread and confusion that news caused when it tore across the internet like wildfire, vanquishing hopes and expectations -- not to mention good-faith agreements -- in its destructive wake. Dramatic turn of phrase? Well, yes. But our publisher going e-book and POD (print-on-demand) is huge, game-changing news. And we didn't take that second hand news lightly.

After all, we're authors. We write. We publish. And with Dorchester, we expected to see physical, hold in my hand books. Downloadable, read on a screen text is fine as an option at this point in the industry's evolution. But for many readers, it's still about choice. To me, Dorch's chosen course is a bit like the Big Three automakers deciding to produce only electric cars as a way out of  their financial woes. Sure, we drivers believe in green living. But are we all ready to free ourselves of gasoline run cars today?

As one of those Dorchester authors with a book "in the pipeline" I can tell you I'm a whole slew of tangled emotions at the moment. I'll let you know how this all pans out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The ties that bind

I'm blogging over at Novel Spaces today about The Karate Kid and how common themes unite readers behind a story or viewers behind a movie. Do you believe appealing to the masses has merit? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Journal Entry: Walking and chewing gum

I really can do more than one thing at a time; like write a book and live my life. Honest. It's the running down the buffet line trying to inhale a four-course dinner that I'm not so good with.

But you know how the universe can be -- so doggone demanding sometimes, like "Give me all your attention NOW." So that's where I've been these past blogless months, doting on the fates and forces that make you focus and think and prioritize your world. That kind of stuff.

I am happy to report that while I mandated a slow-down in the breakneck pace of my life, the writing trickled (oh, in agonizing fashion), but the to-do's "magically" sorted themselves into manageable bites, and the planets realigned themselves just for me. Voile!, all is right with the world:

The manuscript is off to my editor. The next set of characters are knocking at my brain asking to be set free on my keyboard, and the kids have made me swear to a movie and game night this weekend. Sure, why not? After all, I can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Today's life lesson: Know thyself. I'm an INTJ -- which, I've heard, is only 12% of the population. As a writer, this means understanding that most people aren't necessarily as intuitive as me and my writing has to to speak to people who tend to need their plot twists spelled out and less often inferred. Who I am makes a difference in not only how I relate to the world, but how I approach my writing as well.

It's good to be back in my nearly right-sized life aiming for new adventures and prepping for my January release. I'll have a cover for you in a few weeks (I'm told). I'll try not to keep you guessing. ;)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Step Away From the Keyboard

I'm blogging over at Novel Spaces about a writer's need for perspective. If time away from a work benefits Stephen King, I figure it'll work for me, too!

Some writers outline and plot, others “wing” their stories. Some need silence to create, others rely on music to set a mood, or field trips to develop a scene. Personal styles and craft techniques run the gamut of approaches among authors. Yet, I’ve found one practice common across genre and experience level: stepping away from the story.

I think I happened on the tactic accidentally with my first novel. I’d finished the book and so I set it aside to focus on getting it published. When I started getting feedback on the manuscript, I revisited my story and found myself reading it like it was the first time I’d seen it.

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