Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why I Love YA

  1. Genre rules don't always apply - you're limited only by your imagination.
  2. Sometimes literary and commercial are one in the same.
  3. I can let loose my inner teen.
  4. Hot bad boys! What?
  5. No fear. YA writers go for the gusto. They take risks that adult writers don't always take both in craft and in subject matter.
  6. Reaching readers of all ages. YA spans a multi-generational audience.
  7. Fantasy is mainstream, more easily accepted by YA readers. Just look what Harry Potter and Twilight have done for the genre.
  8. The characters are easy to connect with. YA tends to be very character driven, which I love.
  9. There are so many GOOD YA books out there, I know the quality of what I'm picking up is likely to be high.
  10. YA writers are the friendliest most frawesome group of people I know.
What do you love about YA?

*No offense to any MG or adult writers out there. But I gotta show my genre love. ;D

Monday, March 28, 2011

Avoid the Poison Apple

We are writers, my friends. And as such, OUR WORDS HAVE POWER. I want you to consider that. The idea really hit home for me when I was tweeting the other day and sent someone a few simple words of encouragement. He answered by thanking me for being so nice and telling me I'd earned a new follower. Now, new followers are nice and all, but that really touched me. I had an effect on him. What would have happened if I'd done the opposite? What if I'd heard what he said and responded with "better to give up now"? Of course I would NEVER have done that. And here's why:
  • If I need encouragement from my friends, why wouldn't you?
  • For all I know the person I'm speaking to is the next JK Rowling, but they haven't yet written their Harry Potter. Why should I assume otherwise?
  • I tell my kids they can accomplish anything they set their minds to if they put in the work to back it up, and I mean it. Why would I tell anyone else anything different?
  • Everyone's path is different. Yours might involve an uphill trek in the dark with vampires laying in wait, but it might be shorter than the guy next to you who has a flat, well lit path that goes on for miles. Okay I'm drowning in my own metaphor here, but everyone HAS a path, and that path leads somewhere if we keep to it.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive and supportive community we have, I admit that I've run across the occasional blogpost from an agented or published author that is a little on the discouraging side. I'm not faulting anyone. I get that this business is hard, and they may not even have intended their words to come out that way. But I emphatically (adverb alert) disagree.

Do you need talent? Well, yeah, that wouldn't hurt. But you know what? Look at singing for a second. I bet you think that's all innate talent, right? WRONG. Yes that helps, yes some are innately talented, but in reality it's practice and learning that make most singers better. Did you know that only 4% of the general population is actually tone deaf? That leaves 96% of people that have the POTENTIAL TO LEARN TO SING WELL. Why is writing any different? Learning and practicing have made an immense difference for me personally. They can for you too. Again, why assume otherwise?

So don't take a bite of the poison apple, no matter how easy it would be to believe words that make you think you can't do it. Keep going. Keep trying. Keep putting forth the effort. Because that's really half the battle. With hard work, effort, and patience


Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Interview with Ondine (via my special guest Ebony McKenna)

I recently had the pleasure of reading both Ondine the Summer of Shambles, and Ondine the Autumn Palace by Ebony McKenna. Ebony is an amazingly talented author from Down Under with a wicked sense of humor (just my kind). Today she has very graciously allowed her characters - Ondine, Hamish (who is also Shambles the Scottish ferret), and Old Col, uh, I mean the esteemed witch Colette Romano - to stop in for a visit.

Lisa: Welcome to the blog, Ondine. Why don't we start by having you tell the readers a little about yourself, and introduce your friends?

Ondine: *grins* Um, well, I’m from Brugel. That’s in Eastern Europe. I like cooking, my favorite subjects are history and science and my second favorite singer is Anna Lesko And um, this is Hamish. He used to be a ferret, but he got better.

Hamish: Hellooo *waves*

Ondine: Oh, you’ve made me blush now. I’m very new to this ‘being interviewed’ business.

Colette Romano: Is this going to take long? We have work to do.

Ondine: She acts like our manager now. Col’s my great aunt and she’s all right, most of the time. Um, where was I? Oh yes, Hamish helped save the Duke’s life. Twice now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a medal for bravery or something.

Lisa: I've heard rumors that you're psychic. Would you read my palm for me? What does it say?

Ondine: Oh no, please, let’s not do this. Who told you I was psychic? I bet my Mum did. Jupiter’s moons she’s driving me crazy. Sure I went to psychic summercamp but it didn’t do me a lick of good.

Hamish: I’ll read yer palm if ye want me to? Och hen, yer a writer! I can tell that just by looking at ye. So creative! Ye’ve got a wonderful career ahead of ye. Everyone hanging on to every word ye say.

Ondine: *collapses in giggles* *recovers* Sorry about that. *wipes eyes* Reading palms makes me feel silly. I just say the first thing that pops into my head and people keep saying, ‘that’s so true, how did you know?’ It’s weird, you know? You’ve got a spot of dermatitis there. Put some honey on it.

Lisa: *pulls hand away*

Ondine: I don’t feel the slightest bit psychic or magical or anything.

Hamish: Aye but yer magic to me.

Ondine: *collapses into more giggles*

Lisa: What's it like spending time in a palace?

Ondine & Hamish together: The food is terrible!

Ondine: I thought it would be more glamorous.

Hamish: Aye, me too. I thought working for the duke would be an exciting adventure, but they’re all mad as cut snakes.

Ondine: It was weird. And I can’t believe how hard I worked. I used to think working at my family’s pub was slave labor but the palace took it to a whole new level. The gardens were pretty, though. I had some nice times there.

Hamish: Aye, I’ll never forget meeting ye under the myrtle trees as the leaves were falling.

Lisa: You two are very cute together. Ondine, what's your favorite thing about Hamish? What about when he's Shambles?

Ondine: Uuuuuuuummmm. *blushes furiously* Hamish is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Hamish: Aww lass, I love ye right back.

Ondine: And he’s brave and clever and he makes me laugh.

Hamish: Och, go on. No, seriously. I love hearing ye talk about me.

Ondine: And when he’s Shambles? Not so much fun. But sometimes he has to be a ferret, so when it happens I just count down the hours until he’s back again.

Lisa: What do you think of Ebony writing books about your life?

Ondine: I’m horrified and embarrassed and angry. She took my life and made it public to the whole world! There are people from Thailand to Tanzania reading about me, about us. Aunt Col said I shouldn’t read what they say in the papers –

Hamish: – aye, but they keep writing such nice things.

Ondine: Yes but, they’ve taken my life and made fun of me.

Hamish: Dinna fuss yerself, they’re laughing with us, not as us.

Ondine: I guess so. And, the books make you into a hero.

Hamish: You told me you didn’t read the books.

Ondine: Just the reviews, because they’ve all been so nice. And a few chapters of each. OK, so I read book one, but seriously, you have nothing to worry about. And for that at least, she’s done a good job because now the world knows how amazing you are.

Hamish: Naw, you’re the amazing one.

Ondine: Oh stop it.

Lisa: Ahem. What's your next adventure?

Ondine: My sister’s getting married soon, and then it’s my birthday, and I hope after that to take it easy. I’m looking forward to the Eurovision Song Contest. Go Slovakia!

Brugel’s not even in it this year. Such a shame.

Oh, and CovenCon’s coming up. That’s the annual gathering of witches and warlocks and magicians of all kind. It’s in my home town of Venzelemma, which will be exciting. Aunt Col wants Hamish and I there.

Hamish: Knowing yer auntie, she’ll put us to work.

Colette Romano: Speaking of work, are we done here? They’re needed back at the pub. The dishes won’t clean themselves you know!

Ondine: It was lovely to meet you Lisa. Oh, and watch out for werewolves.

Lisa: They’ll bite me?

Ondine: No, but they’ll give you a rash.

Well there you have it! Thank you Ondine, Hamish, Colette, and most of all Ebony for arranging this. And for a fun, original story with a lot of heart. I am waiting for the next installment of Ondine's story with baited breath. And locking the door tonight so no werewolves can get in, I've been feeling a bit itchy lately...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Metaphorically Speaking

Can you believe that's actually a young William Shatner? What does that have to do with anything? Read on my friends...

Who uses comparisons in their writing? *Raises hand* Yeah those lovely similes and metaphors can really add to our work. Or hurt it... Yep, we have to consider a few things when we use these puppies because it will either work well, or jump out at the reader like a big hairy wart. Ha! See what I did just there?

Here are some questions to use as a filter when considering what to compare and whether to do it at all:
  • Is the comparison easy to understand?
  • Is it the kind of comparison my character would make? Does it match the voice?
  • Is it cliche? Because you know you can do better!
  • Is it worth it? Does it really add anything?
  • Is it overkill? Have I already used a better metaphor in this paragraph?
Let's use a nice vampire example:

First the not so good:

The boy materialized inches from Susan. He was as handsome as a young William Shatner. His eyes filled with as much danger as a nuclear missile. Susan wilted like a flower in the frost, collapsing right into his arms of steel.

Okay I can't go on! It was fun, but actually a little scary to write that! Let's try it a little differently, shall we?
The boy materialized inches from Susan. It wasn't his beauty that stole her breath, it was his eyes, sharp and cold as knives. They pinned her to the spot, and Susan wilted, collapsing right into his arms.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Catching Up

I've been a bad blogging buddy *hangs head in shame* I've had several wonderful, amazing, all around incredible people send blogging awards my way over
the last couple of months, and in my usual whirlwind of a life, I haven't recorded and returned the favors. I beg these bloggers forgiveness. But I vow to start righting this wrong immediately. So the latest of these faux pas is about to be rectified.
Thank you Corinne for this lovely Stylish Blogger award! If you haven't visited Corinne yet SHAME ON YOU! Go do that now. I'll wait. Okay. Now I'm supposed to tell you seven things about myself. Hmm.
  1. OBVIOUSLY I like to live in my own little world with sexy vampires, pretty unicorns, and scary ghosts. If I act like they're real, then they are. :P
  2. I believe in treating others with the respect you want to be treated with, and love all my writing friends, whether just starting out or on the NY Times best seller list.
  3. I don't do well with conflict. It gives me a tummy ache, but I'm also
  4. A total HYPOCRITE because I love to torture my characters and throw lots and lots of conflict at them. Usually the weight of the entire universe is on their shoulders. Yeah, I'm kinda mean that way.
  5. I won't turn down coffee. Or red wine. Or chocolate. Unless there's a REALLY good reason.
  6. I cry at almost every movie I see. Even the bad ones.
  7. I am absolutely terrible at housework. I should be fired. Please fire me!
Lori (I'm waiting for you to go visit again) passed me this Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. And you have to love an award that isn't afraid of adverbs, right? Now I'm supposed to list 4 guilty pleasures...
  1. Chocolate. Coffee. Wine. (I know I already mentioned these above, but come on)
  2. Reading - I call it work, but let's be real here.
  3. Vampire Diaries - you already know but it's definitely on the list.
  4. Sleeping in - it doesn't happen often when you're a mom, but every once in a while...
It feels a bit odd just talking about myself so much, but you all know that if you have any questions for or about me you can ALWAYS ask. Ninety-nine percent of the time I'll answer. The other one percent? Use your imagination...

Okay, now I pass your choice of these on to the following bloggers (and Lori and Corinne can switch with each other):
  1. Laura Pauling because she does such a fabulous job at writing about writing that I want to see more about HER. :D
  2. Heather McCorkle because she is one PROLIFIC blogger who is just an absolute sweetheart.
  3. Leslie Rose because she's covered in awesomesauce and happens to be the funniest woman I know. She's pretty smart and supportive too.
In fact there are so many amazing bloggers out there, I better quit here or I'll just give one of these to everyone on my blog roll!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hook Line and Sinker

I've noticed something lately. Because there's been such an emphasis on writing an incredible-can't-put-it-down hook, writers have been going a little crazy with their openings. As in I'm going to start the book by having my MC take on Godzilla in the middle of Prom kind of opening. Um, okay maybe not that specific, but you get the idea.


That's right. You heard me. I just said to NOT open your book with that unbelievably tense and exciting moment that you think will wow them. Do you know WHY? Because I don't care about your character, and I don't buy the situation, and I'm just plain confused.

No. I need to care. I need to understand what's going on. And I NEED to be immersed in the scene, not hit over the head with it. Plus if you start at your climax, what are you building up to in the next seventy-thousand words?

You can start with action. That's okay. You should hook me with something I can't quite let go. But make sure it's
  • the right point for your book to start
  • Important to the story (EVERY scene should be or you don't need it)
  • showing me something about the MC that I can connect with
So glad we could clear that up! Except that now I want to read a book about Godzilla in a prom dress for some reason...

photo credit (Kind of creepy that I actually found this picture)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Horror of Writing

What terrifies you? I'm guessing it isn't the monster under the bed. Do you feel like by writing you've exposed a little piece of your soul and put it on display? Are you worried that-
  1. People - either reviewers or critiquers - will tear apart what you write?
  2. That you're just not good ENOUGH?
  3. That you'll never get the call?
Strike a nerve? HOW DID I KNOW? Because we all have that part of us somewhere inside, that monster called self-doubt. These thoughts can become absolutely debilitating if left to fester. But what do we do about it? Just remind yourself of these truths and you will persevere.
  1. Using critiques you can and will make your manuscript even better.
  2. Not everyone likes the same things. Each reader finds the right books for him/her.
  3. No one is perfect. Even JK Rowling gets called on her adverbial dialogue tags! But by working on your craft, writing, revising, reading, and learning all you can, you will consistently improve.
  4. Getting the call would be great! Icing on the cake. But that isn't really WHY you're doing this. You're doing it because you have to. Because you can't NOT write.
Is it nice to be recognized? Of course! Should you want to? Naturally! But don't let your fear control you, because then you've lost sight of the real prize - the feeling of digging into that shiny new idea, of creating something from scratch that's uniquely you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What We Can Learn From the Vampire Diaries

Been far too long since I posted a pic of my favorite bad boy, so here's some eye candy. But he's here for a reason! I love the show the Vampire Diaries. I'm completely addicted. So I thought I'd take a closer look at WHY? Because these elements are things we should all strive for in our writing.

  1. Multidimensional Characters - Hot guys can only take you so far. The characters on the show aren't just stereotypes, and they don't always behave as you expect them too, but they DO behave in a way that is true to their character. For example? Well, let's take Damon. Every time I think he's "reformed" because of his newfound love for Elana, what does he do? Rip out someones heart. Attack and kill an innocent girl, but not before pouring his heart out to her about how he misses his humanity. It's this inner conflict that holds my interest. Let's hope all our characters have such deep and intriguing motivations.
  2. Complex Plots - The story lines on the show keep moving and building in interesting ways. They consistently up the stakes for the characters, though I admit I wonder how long this can continue. So far so good though. Lots of twists and turns that I don't always see coming (and it's pretty hard to fool me), and original material. A great example that we can write about things as common as vampires and werewolves while remaining unique.
  3. Consistent Lore - With a show this complex, it would be easy to trip up somewhere and make a mistake. I used to love the show X-files. Remember that one? But in the end, I think Chris Carter wrote himself into a corner. So far, everything in Vampire Diaries has remained plausible within the world they have created. There's been an explanation for everything. We have to do the same with our world building. The second we write something conflicting with a rule we've set out, we shatter that delicate trust we've instilled in our readers.
So I stand by my original stance regarding Vampire Diaries. It's research! But it's FUN research.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What's in a Name?

First: The winner of HAUNTED autographed by Joy Preble is *drum roll* RACHAEL HARRIE!


Why are names so important? To illustrate I've invited a friend over. Everyone give a warm welcome to my buddy, Igor.

Igor: Thanks, Lisa. it's nice to get out of the dungeon for a change.

Me: Tell me, Igor, have you found yourself hindered at all by your name?

Igor: Why YES, actually. No one ever knows how to pronounce it properly. Is it with a long I? Or an E sound? I get that all the time.

Me: Okay, well that is one very good thing for writers to look out for when naming our characters. Is it a name that's easy for the reader, or does it trip you up whenever you see it? But, Igor, what I really mean is... you know...

Igor: OH you mean the name change! Or course. I mean Renfield was nice, but it sounds more like a last name, and really that happened a long time ago...

Me: Another valid point. Writers sometimes have to change a characters name. I've had to do this myself. Not easy if you're attached, but doable with the proper care. But what I really mean is the negative connotation that goes with the name Igor.

Igor: *blinks*

Me: I'm so sorry! I just - I didn't mean - I-

Igor: Naw, I'm just pulling your leg! I totally get it. It isn't the most classically handsome name is it? I'm forever typecast as the dumb assistant, and that's no small part of it. But I've made my peace. I understand. Really. The world needs evil assistants. Otherwise the main bad guys would flounder. Trust me, they are so incompetent.

Me: Oh. Right. Well thank you for stopping by, Igor.

So what do we know about names?
  • They should be easy to read/understand
  • We should be at least a little flexible
  • They can give the reader a clear image of the character, so you better think it through ahead of time!
How do we go about choosing the right ones?
  • By meaning - Either one that fits the character, or something misleading and/or ironic.
  • By time frame - when does your novel take place? When was the character born? Was the name Gertrude really used then?
  • By origin - Where is the character from? What is his/her ethnicity?
  • By sound - is the name abrupt and punchy? Slippery and seductive? Bold? Does that illustrate your character?
  • By familiarity - search your memory for names that bring up certain personality types and attributes.
TIP: One place I like to search for names is Baby Names World - you can filter by gender, meaning, origin, and popularity in specific years. Handy.