Friday, April 30, 2010

Urban Fantasy vs. Urban Reality

I call it the "hometown of my heart." When I left New Orleans a couple of years ago after almost 15 years, I thought my days of crying over NOLA were done. This week, between finally watching the first episode of HBO's "Treme" and following the massive oil spill as it heads toward Plaquemines Parish, I've learned that wasn't true.

But this is a writing blog, right, and not my old No-No-Nola blog (archived here) so instead I have to think about how much reality to inject into my urban fantasy.

My second book, RIVER ROAD, which will be released by Tor sometime in 2011, takes place primarily in Plaquemines Parish: all the way from Burrwood, a ghost town near the mouth of the river, up to Venice and Port Sulphur. The climactic scene in the book takes place in Pointe a la Hache. (This is a shot in Plaqumines after Katrina.)

Urban fantasy by definition takes place in the real world. So I'm thinking before official revisions even start on RIVER ROAD, I need to address the oil spill, depending on how it plays out in terms of again ruining the area's fragile ecology and the livelihood of its people. Two of my characters are shrimpers (well, admittedly, they're also mermen). Are they impacted by this?

All questions to answer as this diaster unfolds. Till then, NOLA and Southeast LA. How much more devastation can you take?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Ode to Lillian Bartholomew: Backwards Inspiration

Sometimes, the greatest influences in our lives come from unexpected people or places. Take Lillian Bartholomew, the middle-grade English teacher I credit with changing my career aspirations.

So there I was at Winfield City High School in rural NW Alabama, this shy and uber-cool geeky 15-year-old who kept a green notebook full of bad poetry, liked to draw pencil illustrations of rock stars, and wanted to be a doctor so I could be like Marcus Welby's young partner, Steven Kiley, riding a motorcycle to and from house calls.

"Write a book report," says Mrs. Bartholomew, assigning me James Michener's mammoth Hawaii. So I did, learning a couple of things in the process. First, I like big, massive sprawling books (which explains my love of book series). Second, I realized I could write more than bad poetry.

I didn't learn that lesson because Mrs. B praised me. On the contrary. I was called into the guidance counselor's office and told she'd turned me in to both him and the principal for plagiarizing my book report. As a 15-year-old, I was told, Mrs. B felt I could not possibly use phrases like "traumatic experience" unless I had copied them. Fortunately, the guidance counselor knew me better than the teacher and leapt to my defense.

Man, was I pissed. Forget being a doctor. I'd be a writer. I'd show her a traumatic experience.

Oh, I probably would have wandered in this direction anyway. But Mrs. B gave me the push I needed without ever knowing it.

Ever have anyone provide "backwards inspiration" you in your career or avocation?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writer's Life: Disciplined? Moi?

At my weekly writing group meeting last night, one of my group members said something that floored me: that I inspired her to be more disciplined.

Huh? Me? I do SO not think of myself as being disciplined. Most of the time I feel like a pinball ricocheting from one bouncy object to the next, hoping to avoid a concussion.

But it made me think about the writing life, and what it takes to pursue it. Most fiction writers, I'd venture to guess, cannot afford to do so full-time. So in order to commit their hearts 100 percent to writing when they can physically only give it 10 percent of their time, well, I guess it takes discipline. Dogged determination. And maybe a bit of self-delusion.

Here's my schedule. It varies a little during the week, but not much. I leave for the day job at 7:15 a.m. and get home from the day job at 5:15 p.m. I have dinner. I feed my dogs. Unless I'm on a hard deadline for book revisions or edits, I spend a couple of hours in the care and company of my octogenarian mom, who stays alone all day. About 8:30 p.m. I turn on the computer, check e-mail, respond to what I must, do a blog for the next day. From 9-11 p.m., I write. From 11-midnight, I read. From midnight to 6 a.m. I sleep. Then I do it all over again.

Hmph. Sounds pretty disciplined. All those pesky errands and household stuff get done on the weekend.

I don't have kids or a spouse to worry about. My friendships have probably suffered. But there it is. It's discipline and, in a way, it's bondage.

So, what's your B&D routine? As always, comment for a chance to win this week's giveaway: the 2010 Writers Market, with a one-year subscription to writersmarket.com. An extra entry per comment for followers!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing Critique Etiquette--What Not to Do

Comment for a chance to win the massive 2010 Writers Market and one-year online subscription to writersmarket.com. Details at right.

Normally, Tuesday is TBR day. I'll just say I'm reading John Barnes Directive 51 to review for another site and it's too early for an assessment. Now, time to rant.

About 20 months ago, I began my first novel and it has been a wild ride from writing to finding a great agent to signing that coveted publishing contract. Early in the process, when I'd finished a first draft of the first book, I joined an online crit group. I'll go ahead and plug critters.org because it's a great group. I found three or four beta readers through that group that gave me invaluable feedback.


On any group that size, however, there are some duds. And I chose this week to crit the first chapter of a  fantasy novel WIP I thought was rough but fixable. I was diligent and did a fairly lengthy critique. Here was my response from the author:


Thanks for reading my submittion (sic) and for your critique. However, the version you read is old one and I have revised it since but could not  be bothered to re-sumbit (sic). So if you want I can send you my revised version for comparison. Also, I'm looking for someone to read the whole novel. Would you be interested?

Uh, no. I don't think I can be bothered to re-read it. And you have gone onto a black list whose work I will never, ever look at again.

ARGH.

We all know the "do" list in critiquing: be polite, be respectful, understand that it's one person's opinion, give the writer positive feedback as well as constructive criticism.

If you've had critiques done of your work, or feedback from someone you've critiqued, share your horror stories! (No names, please.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monster Monday: Goblins

Comment this week for a shot at the 2010 Writers Market with one-year online subscription. Details at right!

Goblins are....Orcs....bankers in Harry Potter world...uh...

Exactly. Goblins are whatever we make them. They started out as a generic term for an evil or mischievous spirit, and became part of European folklore in the 1300s as tormenters of children.

In literature--before Tolkien turned them into Orcs and JK Rowling into gold-obsessed bankers--Charles Dickens wrote "The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton" in Pickwick Papers in 1836, and used them again in The Chimes in 1844. Christina Rossetti wrote a poem, "Goblin Market," in 1862; George MacDonald wrote The Princess and the Goblin in 1872. MacDonald's goblins were once human but lived underground so long they turned to, well, Orcs.

More recently Terry Jones and Brian Froud teamed up for The Goblins of Labyrinth in 1986, then goblins fell out of favor till they were resurrected in the Harry Potter series.

I have a stray goblin who shows up in New Orleans in Royal Street. He looks like a cross between an Orc and Willie Nelson and drinks a lot. Hey, why not?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday's winner is....

Bella! Thanks to all of you who left comments on the blog last week. Bella's name was drawn at random to win a copy of "Delta Blues," a new Southern fiction anthology signed by editor Carolyn Haines. Congratulations!

Every time you comment on the blog in the coming week (limit one per day per person) you'll be entered to win next week's BIG prize, a copy of the 2010 Writer's Market, including a one-year subscription to Writer's Market online. A $50 value. An extra entry per comment for followers.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Status Saturday: Same-Old Tune

Nothing new to report on the series. It's still in the publisher black hole. Revisions turned in a month ago, to complete silence. What does it all mean?

As for the WiP, this video says it all. Sorry I can't embed with this template, but it's worth a laugh. I'm the dog; the book is the bone. Click for Trouble

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Sad Story of a Plotter in a Pantser Suit

There's still time to comment by midnight Saturday for a chance to win a signed copy of DELTA BLUES! Details at right.

I blame National Novel Writing Month. In November, I dived into NANO with a new novel idea with series potential. But I had only 30 days to write 50,000 words, plus Thanksgiving, plus a full-time job. No time for plotting! Gotta write! Seat of the pants!

So I did, and ended up with a 60,000-word WiP that's a bloody mess (literally, in places). It has a good beginning, I think. From about the halfway mark till the end it clips along nicely. Between the opening and the middle it wanders around in a dense fog, and I have no idea what to do with it.

So now I'm in the ass-backward mode of writing an outline based on what's already written, hoping it will help me step back and figure out how to get from the great beginning to the pretty good middle without letting my characters wander off into upper Mongolia. 

Repeat after me: I am not a Pantser.It's too stressful.

You writers out there...any tips for getting a wayward manuscript back on track? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Critique Partner Unleashed

Suzanne is busy furiously working on magazine deadline, so I am here in her stead. Hello!

Who am I? Well, I'm at Wastepaper Prose, the critique partner Suzanne talks about but keeps locked in a closet or cage. Whatever's handy. Although, I'm known in more casual, non-virtual circles as Susan. (And that is not  Stonehenge, but FOAMHENGE, an underappreciated tourist attrcation in Virginia.)

I'd like to say that I'm sneaking around on her blog posting without her knowledge, but that would be a lie. She knows I'm here. She asked me to pop over and share something profound and insightful with her readers.

Too bad that's not in my agenda. *rubs hands together evilly*

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oh, Fudge! Truth, Curses, and Religion


As always, comment to be included in the weekly drawing--details at right!

Strange what ethical dilemmas arise in the world of writing fiction. Such as: To curse, or not to curse.

Okay, some of my characters throw out a few four-letter words of the mild variety. Never the "GD" word and, until recently, never the "F" word. Then, along comes Mirren, a big guy who, well, doesn't bother with too many social niceties. He just says what he says. He likes to curse.

As writers, we all cope with what I call Uncle Bill Syndrome (UBS). Uncle B is a retired minister and I figure he'll have me halfway to the unpromised land if he ever figures out I'm writing paranormal anyway, so I can't worry about a few four-letter words slipping in there. Gotta be true to my characters, yes? We all have UBS to some extent--some person, usually in our family, that we don't want to read our sex scenes or language or whatever.

But what about personal faith and belief systems? When as writers do we self-censor to remain true to our personal beliefs, and when do we let our characters have their way? I'd imagine even writers of inspirational fiction come up against this at some point--in order for their characters to grow spiritually, they must start from a bad place.

So yes, I've done some self-censoring of language--not of any character's behavior thus far (hmmm...maybe my characters aren't being bad enough). Do you self-censor language or actions? As a reader in this age of badass heroines, are there things like language or too much violence that turn you off?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Urban Fantasy: The Future of Vampires


Weekly contest info at right--comments this week put you in the running for a copy of Delta Blues signed by novelist (and anthology editor) Carolyn Haines.

I'm in the middle of an old L.J. Smith trilogy this week, the first three in her YA "Night World" series. Yes, more book bribery from my YA author/critique partner over at Wastepaper Prose. It's a vampire book, which I'd normally avoid since my work-in-progress also has to do with vampires. But this series, which is more than 10 years old now, has more of those cute little vampires that trot around in the sunlight and try to stay away from drinking human blood. Emasculated vampires, in other words :-)

But over dinner Saturday a friend and I were talking about vampires and why she won't read vampire books anymore--first, urban fantasy isn't her favorite genre and, second, Twilight and the emasculation and overexposure of vampires has her sick to death of them. She worries that by the time my current WIP gets finished and (fingers crossed) actually makes it to publication, nobody but nobody will want to read anything to do with vampires.

Still, I plod along, writing with vampire blinders on, knowing that werewolves became the "new vampires" and now angels seem to be "the new vampires."

I asked my agent if she thought vampires were a dead genre--heh. Her answer: "A good story will always sell, and a good vampire story will always sell."

Are you sick of vampires, or do you think they've run their course?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monster Monday: the Mazzikim & Jophiel


Comment on the blog this week for a chance to win an autographed copy of Delta Blues, Details at right.

The Mazzik, aka the Injurer or the Harmer, comes from Jewish tradition and is a lower-level demon. The name translates as "Those Who Lay Ambushes," and exorcisms and incantations against them were found on ancient Babylonian clay tablets. There are 14 Mazzikim. Seven live beneath the earth and cause earthquakes and epidemics, while the other seven live in the skies and cause storms and evil winds.

Seems like a lot of Mazzikim are on the loose in the world right now, eh?

Mazzikim like uninhabited wild places, deep shadows, ruins, cemeteries. Gargoyles can offer some protection from them. Just to make them more difficult, they also can shapeshift into dogs, frogs, goats or people. As their name implies, they won't chase you down but might ambush you if you wander into their territory.

Finally, the king of the Mazzikim is Kafzefoni. His angel counterpart is the archangel Jophiel, so make an appeal to Jophiel if you need protection. Although he isn't exactly an angel of the warm and fuzzy variety; he is the angel that drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and guards the Tree of Life from humans' return.

And there you have it: The Mazzikim. I might have to work one into a story.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

And the Winner is...

Nicole Z has won the chapter critique and book diary by commenting in last week's blog. Congrats, Nicole!!

I'm all strung out from my trip stalking Rick Bragg at the Alabama Book Festival this weekend, so I'll announce the new giveaway tomorrow. Sure, I'm joking about the stalking thing. Kind of.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Day, Same Old Tune

Nothing new to report, status-wise. The two series books are still in the publisher black hole. The WiP passed the 73,000-word mark, though. Yay! Only 17,000 or so to go.

I'm off to the Alabama Book Festival this morning, but will be drawing Sunday night for the critique winner. Still time to comment and be entered!

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Don't Care How Much Sarah Palin Makes

Reminder: Still time to comment this week--one commenter will win a first-chapter critique and book journal. Drawing Sunday. One comment per day per person, please. Details to the right.

re: Celebrity books. Three people in the last week or so have mentioned to me how many millions the tea party tart Sarah Palin has made from her book, Going Rogue. Of course, I probably shouldn't bash the book since 1) I haven't read it and 2) I will not be reading it in this lifetime.

There are always going to be memoir tell-alls and celebrity pontifications galore. Who cares.

Instead, let's talk about the pros and cons of celebrity fiction writers. I mean, James Franco is adorable but will people buy his forthcoming novel because it's good, or because he's James Franco and he's adorable?

Argument one: celebrity pulp is good for the publishing industry because it brings megabucks into companies that, theoretically, could spend it promoting real fiction.

Argument two: celebrity pulp is, well, pulp.

My hat's off to Joe Hill, who has three books on my wish list right now and waited till his third to reveal that he was, indeed, the son of Stephen King. He made it on his own. And I really, really want to read Horns.

Who knows? But, in the meantime, enjoy a nice excerpt from supermodel Katie Price's latest, Sapphire, a bestseller allegedly written by a ghostwriter who was wise enough to keep her name off it:

Jay, her current lover, was four years younger than her, extremely good looking and was great in bed. What more did a girl want, Sapphire reflected as she parked her cherry-red Mini Cooper in the underground garage and headed for the lifts up to her penthouse apartment."

What more, indeed. And, no, I didn't buy it. Have you ever succumbed to a celebrity-penned novel?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Series: First is Worst?

I love book series, and if the number of fantasy series on my wish list is any indication, so do lots of others. They're interesting to write, too, in both good ways and bad. Good=your world is already developed, and your much-loved characters get to come back in sequels and do nifty stuff. Bad=your characters have to grow and evolve as they do all that nifty stuff.

Still, as a friend and I were discussing recently, there seems to be a "freshman phenomenon" among series: the first one always seems the weakest.

My favorite series probably aren't very different from yours if you're an urban fantasy fan:
* Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series;
* Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series;
* Simon R. Green's Nightside series;
* Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series;
* Kim Harrison's Hallows series;
* Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series;
* J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

In every single one except the Mercy Thompson series, which I thought hit a home-run first time out, each of those series' first books was the weakest, at least for me. Obviously, they were good enough to pull me into the second, but still the weakest. In fact, I started the first Sookie book three times before finally pushing through it and on to the second book. By the third book, I was all "pick Eric! pick Eric!" [Just in case you don't know where my vampire sympathies lie!]

So, what's your favorite series, and was the first one the worst? What kept you reading?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Opening Lines

Reminder: Comment for a chance to win in Sunday's giveaway (details to the right). Up this week: a critique of your first chapter--any genre, plus a great new book journal.

Have you ever bought/read a book based only on its great opening lines? Opening lines are critical. I have tossed many back on the shelf because of a bad opening. I figure if the author can't nail the opening paragraph, the rest of it will tank as well.

Here's a book I bought based only on the opening graph: Jonathan Barnes' The Somnambulist:

"Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it."

It might be one of my favorite opening paragraphs of all time. Is it one of my favorite books of all time? No!

It was entertaining, unusual, even bizarre. I hated the ending. I didn't finish it with a sense of profound loss and an urge to start over, as I do with the books I really love. But it convinced me to buy an unknown book by an unknown author and read it. In hardback, no less.

So, I'm fearful of opening lines in my own work. But here they are, anyway. The first was probably rewritten a hundred times. The second and third will most assuredly change, because they've only been rewritten a half-dozen times so far.

ROYAL STREET:
A secluded Louisiana bayou. A sexy pirate. Seduction and deceit. My Friday afternoon had the makings of a great romantic adventure, at least in theory.
In practice, angry mosquitoes were using me for target practice, humidity had ruined any prayer of a good hair day, and the pirate in question―the infamous Jean Lafitte―was two-hundred years old, armed, and carrying a six-pack of Paradise condoms in assorted fruit flavors.


RIVER ROAD:
Jean Lafitte looked really good for a dead guy. He draped his six-foot-two-inch frame across an armchair in his luxury French Quarter suite and waited for me to start my spiel, a ghost of a smile playing on his lips.

STOCKHOLM:
Galen Murphy drilled a foot on the brake, shaken by the mental S.O.S. screaming through his head. His tires squealed on the wet, dark road as the car spun and came to an abrupt stop nose-first in a shallow ditch.
Something had happened to Mark.


So, what are the opening lines of the best book you read recently?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TBR Tuesday: What I'm Reading


As always, a comment earns you an entry in this week's Sunday giveaway--details at right. Two entries for followers!

I read about 99 percent urban fantasy, but I do have a few guilty pleasures. One of them is Janet Evanovich, and right now I'm in the final pages of the seventh in the Stephanie Plum series: Seven Up.

These books aren't deep. They aren't going to change the way I look at life. They won't challenge my intellect or keep me awake thinking philosophical thoughts.

What they do is make me put them down at least once every chapter or two and laugh out loud. How many books can do that? They also really give a feel for living in Trenton, N.J., or at least they make me feel as if I know Trenton. I wouldn't want to live in Trenton.

Stephanie Plum is a 30ish bounty hunter. A really bad bounty hunter with really good instincts and really bad luck. In Seven Up, she ends up thrown in a mud-wrestling pit with a female wrestler named animal, gets nabbed by rent-a-cops at the mall carrying a pig heart in a cooler (which she hopes to trade to a low-rent octogenarian mobster in exchange for her kidnapped grandmother), and is adept at getting her ginormous dog to secretly do his business on the lawn of her nemesis Joyce.

How can you not love it?

What's your literary guilty pleasure?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Urban Fantasy Monster Monday: The Baron Samedi


A major character in my upcoming novel Royal Street is the Baron Samedi, so I thought I'd introduce him in the first of my weekly "Monster Mondays." In the book, Baron Samedi starts tinkering in the affairs of modern-day New Orleans and creates all kinds of mayhem.

In Haitian Vodou ("voodoo" in the U.S.), Baron Samedi (literally "Baron Saturday") is the master of the cemetery, or the god presiding over life and death. The Saturday in his name might come in reference to the one day when Christ succumbed to death, the Saturday between the crucifixion and the resurrection.

The Baron has several incarnations. He's most often seen as a tall black man dressed in a tuxedo, with a skeleton painted on his skin. He wears sunglasses with one lens missing, showing his ability to see into the realms of both the living and the dead. He can call up the dead (zombies!), or he can barter with a petitioner to delay death....for a price.

Interestingly, among the vodou believers, the Baron Samedi is not seen as evil--just capricious. He can be crude and vulgar one minute, kind and compassionate the next.

My favorite image of Baron Samedi was this one from artist Wayne “Dimitri” Fouquet from New Orleans.

What's your favorite "monster?"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Swag Sunday - A Winner and a New Giveaway


Congratulations to blackroze37, winner of this week's Sunday Swag--a $10 Amazon GC plus some Mardi Gras "Lagniappe." Thanks to everyone who commented or joined as a follower to enter!

Next Sunday's prize is something I use a lot--The Book Lust Journal. It has great space to record what books you're reading, first impressions, best opening lines, etc. I've been keeping this journal for a couple of years and it's fun to read back through the old entries.

From now through next Saturday, each time you comment on the blog, it's worth an entry (only one comment per day, please). If you're a blog follower, it's worth an extra entry per comment.

Next Sunday, I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner and a Book Lust Journal will be winging its way to you!

Coming tomorrow on the blog: Monster Monday. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday Status Report:

Remember: Comment on any blog entry posted since Sunday, April 4, to be entered in this week's giveaway of a $10 Amazon GC. Followers earn an extra point. Details at right!

Saturday's the day to 'fess up, so here's the status report:

ROYAL STREET, hanging at about 92,000 words, has been revised and sent back to the publisher where it is (I hope) making its way to the "To-Do List" of my wonderful, brilliant editor.

RIVER ROAD, second in the series, is completed and under contract. It's in a holding pattern till revisions are done on Royal Street. Once I know exactly where all the niggly details are going to fall, I'll start a serious revision of River Road to make sure it's all consistent. Publisher's revisions don't start till summer.

STOCKHOLM is the work-in-progress, currently at 72,000 words. I'm taking a hard look at it, deciding if it's going to swing more toward paranormal romance or more toward an urban fantasy/paranormal romance blend. It should finish out at about 90,000 words, and I'm shooting for a polished, submittable draft by mid-summer.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Freeform Friday: Five Things I Learned This Week

REMINDER: Comment for a chance to win Sunday's drawing of a $10 Amazon eGift certificate and some Mardi Gras swag. See righthand column for more info.

1. My crit partner is a freakin' genius. Check out Wastepaper Prose for a new series where more than thirty authors answer a series of always interesting/sometimes provocative questions. But don't go over there before you comment on this blog if you want to win stuff!

Okay, actually that wasn't the No. 1 thing I learned this week because I already knew that. So.

1-B. Don't sign up for four workshops at once because you might get sick from the ginormous clouds of pollen in the air and not feel like keeping up.

2. Writing a short, one-paragraph summary of your novel-in-progress does help keep it focused.

3. It's really hard to write a killer first sentence. Actually, I already knew that, but I got a reminder this week.

4. Nice guys can be really boring. With apologies to my character Galen, who's gonna have to go darker.

5. My day job, Auburn Magazine won a "gold" medal for magazine publishing improvement from the national trade org, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education in Washington, DC. Just found out today. Woo-hoo!

Now, what did YOU learn this week?

Split Personality: Character versus Plot



REMINDER: Comment for a chance to win Sunday's drawing of a $10 Amazon eGift certificate and some Mardi Gras swag. See righthand column for more info.

When I was writing Royal Street, the book coming out next year, I had a series of manuscript exchanges with an online critter. We liked each other's writing but came away perplexed. I thought his story rambled; he didn't understand my character's inner motivation.

Finally, he figured it out. "You write plot-driven fiction," he told me. "I write character-driven fiction. You start with an idea for a story; I start with an idea for a character and then figure out what her story is." Guilty as charged. I come up with an idea for a book, then figure out who needs to play my roles and how they will be motivated. Since that exchange, I've been more conscious of trying to get to know my characters and their motivations and what will bring them to life on the page. It's still a struggle at times.

Now that I'm writing fiction, I read fiction differently. I can tell a plot-driven book from a character-driven book, and am always on the prowl for books that do both well. Doesn't mean that one type of book is any better or worse than the other, or even that one sells better than the other. But doing both well is an art I appreciate when I find it.

Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books are plot-driven. Her characters aren't deep and soulful, but they're fun and we care about them. They zoom along at a rapid-fire pace, and drag us with them faster than we can decide who's sexier: Morelli or Ranger.

Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series (regardless of writing quality) is character-driven. Even if Bella is a dishrag, she's all about the emotion. And not much happens in the books, plot-wise. In book one, girl meets good vampire and falls in love. Girl encounters bad vampire who wants to eat her. Good vampire saves girl from bad vampire. The end.

Definitely not plot-driven.

Who blends the two well? My personal favorite right now is Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. Mercy is a deep, well-rounded character involved in intricate plots that twist and turn through page after riveting page. Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, another favorite, started out as plot-driven but gradually deepened Harry's character as the series progressed.

Which do you like better--plot-driven or character-driven? Or does it matter, as long as the story grips you and doesn't let you go till the end?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wanderings: JK Rowling, iPad Lust, Author Rants

REMINDER: Comment on a blog posting this week for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift certificate and some Mardi Gras swag! Read HERE for more info.

Odds and ends from my bookmarks...

I came across author Prioleau Alexander a year or so ago when his book You Want Fries With That? came out. He'd gotten a case of burnout in the ad industry and walked out one day. The book follows him through a snort-inducing assortment of minimum-wage jobs at fast-food restaurants, ice-cream parlors, and home-improvement stores.

Prioleau (who went to Auburn-War Eagle!) found his experience as a published author--the trip-to-Mecca for all writers, after all--wasn't quite what he expected. So he decided to write a book-length, first-person account of his eye-opening experiences in the world of queries, agents, publishers, and the art of getting published. ("They don't call it the submission process for nothing," he says). Read it for FREE online at Author Rants.

It's obviously people richer than me standing in line to buy the new iPad. I still haven't embraced ebooks, and probably never will, but all Steve Jobs has to do is trot out a new Apple product, and I'm drooling. I WANT ONE. But at $500+...well, sheesh. I still cart around an early-generation video iPod. But 300,000 units sold the first day alone, plus a quarter-million eBooks from the iBookstore. That's good...But do you know how many real books I could buy for $500? Any iPad users out there yet?

J.K. Rowling was puttering around at the White House Easter egg hunt last week and, thankfully, said she had no plans to add any to the Harry Potter series. Don't get me wrong. I loved 'em. LOVED 'em. But it's wrapped up. Move on. She does plan to have another book in the next year or so, but no details. Talk about expectations. What do you think? Would you like to see a Harry spinoff?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

TBR Tuesday: What I'm Reading



REMINDER: Comment on a blog posting this week for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift certificate and some Mardi Gras swag! Read HERE for more info.

So, my buddy over at Wastepaper Prose sent me a copy of Annette Curtis Klause's YA werewolf novel Blood and Chocolate in her latest attempt to lure me over to the dark side I mean Young Adult bandwagon. It was released in 1998, so it's been around a while.

I have to admit I'm enjoying it. I like a good werewolf story, and while this one doesn't break new ground (well, okay, it might have in 1998), it's well done. It has a lot of what I tend to consider both the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the YA I've read.

On the strong side, the characters are amazing and I care about them and their relationships. On the weak side, the emo can be a little overwhelming and angst-filled at times.

If you're a YA fan, what is it you like best about the genre?

Housekeeping:, Blog Org & Prizes, Oh My

What to do with a blog...Prizes! Useful info! What not to do with a blog=endless author angst. So here's the deal (and keep reading for prize info):

Monster Mondays: Spotlight on great preternatural creatures to curl up with on dark and stormy nights. A new cuddly critter every week, because there is life after vamps and weres.

TBR Tuesdays: What I'm reading, or what's new in the TBR pile. Interesting new releases, etc., in the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal/YA worlds.

Wiki Wednesdays: Industry news or other useful info. (Basically whatever floats my boat that day, in other words.)

Technique Thursday will discuss some aspect of fiction writing, or related angst.

Freeform Friday. See last part of Wednesday.

Status Saturday, where I'll actually fess up as to how few words I got written this week.

SWAG SUNDAY. Everyone who posts a comment during the week will be entered for the weekly prize. Prizes for the next week will also be announced on the blog on Sunday. An extra entry if you're a blog follower or subscribe via a reader.

We're starting late, but to kick off this week's swag....On Sunday (April 11), one lucky commenter will win a $10 Amazon e-gift card and a Mardi Gras Swag Pack in honor of my new New Orleans-based fantasy series that's in the works.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a blog!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Woman Buried Under TBR Pile


This just in. My "to be read" pile has officially gotten so large, it is in danger of toppling over and burying me alive, probably while I'm working on my laptop. Here are the ones at the top of the tilting stack. But I just can't make myself embrace e-books.

Glutton for Punishment


So, my crit partner, Wastepaper Prose, who has at times called me Rain Man and a lunatic (and rightly so), also says I'm a glutton for punishment.

Finished my last (please, please) set of revisions on Royal Street and sent those off to agent and editor, and cast a beady gaze back on my WiP, Stockholm. But maybe that's not enough.

So I signed up for four online workshops. All in April. And one in May.

I'll probably be blogging about some of the things I'm hearing in the next month as I take on:

--"Author Promotion: Picking the Right PR Options for You" (argh)
--"Taking the Train to Somewhere" (plot, plot,plot)
--"Emotional and Sexual Tension" (woo-hoo)
--"Fixing your Fiction" (sigh)
--"A Body Disposal Primer for Writers" (bury 'em in the backyard)

GLUTTON. Can't wait!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Covers--What Are You Reading?

One of the things people ask me pretty often is, "What will be on your book cover?" And, of course, I have to say: "I don't have a clue." But that doesn't mean I haven't thought about it....a lot.

I don't know how other authors do it, but I "cast" my novels as I write, so I know, for example, that when I'm writing about NOLA detective Ken Hachette, in my mind he looks like Tim Kang, who plays Kimball Cho on "The Mentalist."



I'm not saying who I've cast as my major characters, DJ or Alex or Jake or Jean, because readers need to "cast" novels as they read them. Their DJ will look different than mine. So I'm guessing that when the folks at Tor Books get around to designing a cover for my books, DJ won't look anything like I imagine. I just hope she's not tall and lanky and covered in tattoos since in the book she's short and blonde and not very fashion-forward.

A couple of days ago, there was an interesting New York Times story about how the Kindle and iPad and other devices are taking away the joy of book covers. Has to make you wonder if, in another 20 or 50 years, the cover will just fade away and become an antiquated piece of the past like LP covers.