Friday, January 29, 2010

Log Lines

My obsession with one-liners continues.

For those who aren't writers, a log line is a one-sentence "poster quote" that hopefully makes people want to read the book or see the movie. When pitching a screenplay or trying to sell a manuscript, the log line is a single sentence that gives a thumbnail of the plot.

"A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea."

"A journey of self-discovery by a brilliant mathematician once he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He eventually triumphs over tragedy and receives the Nobel Prize."

"Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to do it again."
((Fake) one for the WIZARD OF OZ, attributed to Richard Polito of the Marin Independent Journal. Thank you, Wikipedia!).

Some log lines don't give too much of the plot away, yet still give a wonderful sense of the piece:

"In space, no one can hear you scream."

"Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water."
(JAWS 2)

And some use comparisons to other works to make the connection, although these are usually less official. For example, they might appear in a review.

"PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, if Mr. Darcy was a vampire."

"TOP GUN on skiis."

"DOC HOLLYWOOD with talking cars."

I've been thinking about the best log line for MINDER, of course. Here are some of the things I've come up with so far:

Sixteen-year-old Maddie Dunn doesn't just hear thoughts; she can kill with them. And when her boyfriend is abducted, she'll do whatever it takes to get him back.

Teenage mutants with superpowers - in love.


Now technically, none of these options is a single sentence. But I want to know, do any of them make you interested in the book? Which one(s)?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wicked Fun Time-Waster

"Ray, if someone asks if you are a disgruntled bear, you say, 'yes!'"

Have fun today, folks! And thanks to fairyhedgehog for the great link.

That's no moon. It's a disgruntled bear.

Which movie was this quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


There's a great line in Laurie Faria Stolarz's WHITE IS FOR MAGIC. When the MC confesses to kissing the so-called "witch-boy," her friend says:

"Was it magically delicious?"

I'm cracking up right now just remembering it.

Great one-liners I'll probably never get a chance to use in real-life:

(WARNING: Some of the following material may contain traces of blasphemy. If you are allergic, please avoid contact).

When carrying a corpse:
"You just want me for my body."

To Jesus:
"Close that door! Were you born in a barn?"

"Hey Jesus! You just think you're God's gift, don't you?"

And here are a couple that I actually have used:

Explaining why agents need to make sure that the writer they might rep isn't crazy:
"Writing is one of the things you can do from the comfort of your own tin-foil hat."

"I'd commit hari kari right now, but the carpet in here is just too nice."

Got any great one-liners you've never been able to use? Share 'em here!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Bear Update

New partial request!

Here's a little image for you: a large grizzly bear doing a giddy dance.
"Raise your hands in the air if you're a happy bear! Whoop Whoop!"

Do bears giggle?


Hi folks,

I thought I'd do another book review. I think I might write one a week or so, and I'll usually only write about books I really enjoyed. This is for a couple of reasons: first, I can tell you about a book you actually might want to read. Second, I won't have snarky comments sitting in the archives waiting to bite me in the posterior if and when I ever need a blurb from one of these writers.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

I used to live in the South. True, it was Virginia, so it was Diet South, not Deep South. But I have to say, the sense of setting in this book, the overwhelmingly oppressive-but-it's-mine sense of small town, was spot-on. I viscerally felt the disapproving looks from the good folks of Gatlin.

True to my "no spoilers" credo, I won't give much away about the plot. The MC, Ethan, dreams repeatedly of a girl in danger. Then he meets her.

And there's a whole lot more to her than most people think.

A male, first-person narrative in a paranormal romance is a first for me. But the authors make it work wonderfully as they develop the best YA romance since TWILIGHT.

Yeah, I did it. I used the "T" word. And I'd do it again, too.

I love the idea of and the word "casters." It's a great term that avoids the pejorative connotations of some of its synonyms. It takes a while to sink into this plot, this world, but the heart of the story moved me from very early on.

And as soon as I finished reading it I turned to the beginning and read it again. There's some wonderful second-level stuff that I needed to fit together in my head.

The authors left enough loose ends for a sequel or two. I hope they won't keep me waiting long.

Bottom Line: I loved this book.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More fun than rewrites

Back when I wrote my dissertation in the late 1990s, internet access was slow and deliberate. A person who wanted to surf the web or even send an email had to dial in on a phone line. Pictures loaded ... inch ... by ... inch ... so ... slowly ...that ... they ... sucked ... your ... will ... to ... live.

I don't know how people ever finish long, boring research projects like dissertations anymore. There's too much fun stuff online these days.

I love writing. I've had days when my husband has watched the kids and about 10,000 words of a first draft have poured from me. These splendiferous moments are rare, but the feeling is sublime. If I didn't love writing so much, I'd never be able to complete a book.

Not with great sites like these online:

Thanks for the links, Carrie and Al.

Enjoy! And no, I'm not trying to distract the other writers out there from the Amazon contest that opened today:

Does anyone else see the similarities to American Idol?

Friday, January 22, 2010

You don't even have to buy me dinner first

I've been courting agents for months now. But so far, no offers.

I keep waiting for The Call. Like a Disney heroine, I'm stuck in my regular routine of sweeping, cooking, laundry, and other middle-age, middle-class activities as I wait for My Agent-Prince to pull up on that white horse and offer me representation. And then we'd ride off together into the sunset of a three-book deal and a movie option in a carriage pulled by, oh, I don't know, magic moose or something, since I live in New Hampshire.

Except real life is never like a Disney movie. If it were, I'd have trained that flying squirrel that keeps breaking into the woodshed to wash dishes by now. And I wouldn't have gotten that rejection letter yesterday, the one from the agency I don't even remember querying.

Seriously, has something happened to the space-time continuum? People now are rejecting me before I've even sent them a query letter. How much does that suck?

I look at the list of queries I've sent out, and I feel dirty. I'm a query-slut! I'll put out a letter to anyone whose website tells me that they rep YA or fantasy or both. I'll give up my opening pages to anyone with a web browser.

And they never call me in the morning.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What are you reading?

What's on your nightstand these days? Have you recently finished a great book? Please comment!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Read in Tooth and Claw

Last November, I attended the BackSpace Writer's Conference in New York City. I learned a TON about the publishing business, and the feedback on MINDER kept me in rewrites for seven weeks.

The first morning session, though, yielded the best quote of the entire conference:

(Regarding personal information in query letters)
DF: Don't tell me you have a cat. You're a writer; of course you have a cat!

To me, that's right up there with:

Homer Simpson: Animals are crapping on our houses, and we're cleaning it up! Did we lose a war?

I also learned that, if you have enough teenage boys helping you remodel your house, there's a good chance that your old bathtub will end up lodged in a tree in the yard. Thanks for sharing that story, GP!

There's no deep message here, except that the parts of the writer's conference that stuck with me were the great line and the great story. The basic stuff to improve my craft got internalized: don't overwrite, don't under-emote, show-don't-tell, and avoid the passive voice. But the parts I remember best were the charming little details. I think it's the same with a good book, as well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword...

... but, if you try to commit hari-kari with one, you just end up drawing all over your stomach.

Yup, two more passes on my queries mocked me from my in-box yesterday. I feel this visceral clench now whenever I see that I have email in that account. For every "Sounds interesting! Please send the first 50 pages!" I get, there are about ten "Not the right fit for us; best of luck." emails.


I know that the chocolate in the kitchen cabinet is for my kids, but I'm considering mauling it anyway.

OK, enough disgruntlement.

Nathan Bransford has guest posters this week on his blog. Yesterday's was about making a book trailer. This was wicked timely, since I've been thinking about making my own for a while now, ever since my brother gave me his notes on MINDER.

My brother's the guy in the "IF AIR TRAVEL WORKED LIKE HEALTH CARE" thing on YouTube that I linked to a few posts back. Yes, he works in the movie industry and knows how to make movies. So he gave me a lot of notes about how MINDER could work as a movie.

And he knows people who make movies, including special effects experts, which is relevant because my characters are, as a friend from Yale so succinctly put it:


And superpowers really do need special effects to "pop" on screen. How pathetic would it look to have things lifted by telekinesis and be able to see the string?

I also know the lead singer of the band Glenridge. They have a song called "Angels" that I want to use for the trailer, if and when I make it. And he said I could. No charge, just credit.

I listen to it and picture how I could start (about 1:38 into the song) with a Voice Over:

VO: I don't know how Del and his two friends died.

Flash an image of three boys lying dead in the back of a van.

VO: I just know that I killed them.

And then I see a montage of exciting images filled with magical energy stuff. And, interspersed with the images, a few written words: "Spark" "Charm" "Telekinetic" "Healer" "Remote Viewer" "Ganzfield"

The last bit would have the word "telepath" fade into "MINDER." I'm not sure of the other words have the resonance for potential readers, but this last bit really works for me, since it explains the title.

It's this middle part, the montage, that stumps me. I don't want to make something boring and cheesy, but I don't want to spend thousands of dollars to make this thing, either.

One short clip I'd love to have is Drew, who's a spark (a pyrokinetic), running down a dark, blue-lit hallway toward the camera, then flashing up a yellow-orange ball of fire in his hand and throwing it at the camera.

I also want one of the MC and her guy, sitting cross-legged facing each other and backlit by an upturned flashlight, as they lean in slowly to kiss each other. This is probably the easiest clip to get, since I just need two actors, a dark room, and a flashlight.

I'm still thinking about how to show an RV (remote viewer) with golden threads of light flashing out and haloing her head.

Yeah, that would be cool.

I think I'll daydream about it for the rest of the day, as I watch the snow fall outside my window.

If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Give me an A - it's in a Plastic Binder!

Thanks to everyone who commented on or emailed about the last post; I'll be submitting a donation to Doctors Without Borders today.

Book Review

A few words about this:

First, if you want me to review YOUR book, please email a quick description (query letter material or jacket copy, that sort of thing). If it's YA, urban fantasy, chick-lit, humor, or some combo of the above, I'm all over it.

What's my taste? Some of the books I've enjoyed this past year include:

  • Artemis Fowl: Eoin Colfer
  • Twilight: Stephenie Meyer
  • His Majesty's Dragon: Naomi Novik
  • Dead Until Dark: Charlaine Harris
  • Norse Code: Greg van Eekhout
  • Wicked Lovely: Melissa Marr
  • Savvy: Ingrid Law
  • The Time Traveler's Wife: Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Alchemyst: Michael Scott
  • Vampire Academy: Richelle Mead
  • Shiver: Maggie Stiefvater
  • Marked: P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
  • Undead and Unwed: Mary Janice Davidson
  • Soulless: Gail Carriger
  • Graceling: Kristen Cashore
  • The Lightning Thief: Rick Riordan
  • Kitty and the Midnight Hour: Carrie Vaughn
  • Hush, Hush: Becca Fitzpatrick
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Jane Austin & Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Beautiful Creatures: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
  • Evermore: Alyson Noël
  • The Unlikely Disciple: Kevin Roose
  • Impossible: Nancy Werlin
  • The Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins
  • Strange Angels: Lili St. Crow
  • Ruined: Paula Morris
  • Blue is for Nightmares: Laurie Faria Stolarz

I'll be reviewing a bunch of these later, pretty much whenever I feel like it, 'cause it's my blog. But if there's one on the list you want to hear more about, please leave a comment. I'm not a blog tyrant.

Not yet.

But Oprah's going off the air soon, and there's going to be a void in the world of book recommendation. And, to my knowledge, Oprah NEVER reviewed a book where the MC was a werewolf.

That's where I come in.

But back to that book review. Remember? This post is supposed to be a book review.

Read away: there are NO spoilers here. I hate spoilers with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. It's one of the reasons I detest writing synopses of my own work so much.

SOULLESS by Gail Carriger

Genre(s): Humorous Historical Paranormal Romance

The tagline, "A novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols," made me smile, and that smile stayed on through the entire read. It's set in a Victorian England in which vampires and werewolves are not only out in the open, they are part of society.

The MC is Alexia, a delightfully written "spinster."* I started rooting for her with the first whack of her parasol.

"I say!" said Alexia to the vampire (when he tries to bite her neck), "We have not even been introduced!"

SOULLESS has an original take on the supernatural versus the preternatural. It's funny and sexy and a delicious read. The zeitgeist of late-Victorian England is beautifully created in the details, such as the fascination with "modern" inventions and the importance of a well-tailored waistcoat, and it meshes seamlessly with the supernatural aspects.

And I kept wondering, "What happened with the hedgehog?" the entire time.

I started this review a couple of days ago, but got so caught up in SOULLESS again that I ended up reading it cover-to-cover again. I look forward to release of the sequel, CHANGELESS, in April. You can find more info about both books at:

Bottom line: I loved this book.

* I have to put "spinster" in quotes since, more than twenty years ago, my high school English teacher wrote on my paper, "I find that word offensive; don't you?" It is only one of her comments that have haunted me over the decades. RIP Dr. Cole; my severe semicolon issues can all be traced back to you.

Friday, January 15, 2010

... By Its Cover

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I had an idea for the cover art of MINDER. Here's a mock-up:

Now, I know that, if MINDER is published by a Major Publishing House (cue angelic choir), they'll have a professional design team make up a cover and all. But a smaller house might just go with it. And, if I just punt and self-publish, I'd need to design my own, as well.

So, what do you think? Does the purple work for the text? I originally had it red, but it looked WAY too TWILIGHT-derivative.

Now it may be too derivative of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES. Green, maybe?

Yes, I did the graphic myself. I hand-drew the profiles, then PhotoShopped it into the Gestalt psych-test vase-or-two-faces thing. Do they look like a male and a female?

So, what do you think? Would you pick up a book with this cover? Got any suggestions for improving it? Color choice? Content? If you saw this cover, what would YOU think the book was about?

As an incentive to give feedback, for each comment I receive between now and midnight EST Sunday (one per person, "anonymous" doesn't count), I'll donate $1.00 to Doctors Without Borders for their emergency work in Haiti. Spread the word. Tell your friends.

Cut to a scene in which "Mr. Bear" reads the above and yells, "She promised WHAT?" Then clutches at his chest and collapses. So, for the sake of my husband's peace-of-mind, I'll cap that offer at $100.00.

I got this link (and this idea) from Nathan Bransford's blog. BTW, if you're not reading his stuff, you should be.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Writing Ambiance

Last spring I got a song stuck in my head. "Mad World." It stayed there for days.

I'm from the Eighties, so I remembered the Tears for Fears version. But this one was haunting. Sad. Filled with pain.

It was awesome.

And suddenly, I was in the right mood to start my book.

The two versions that gave me this great feeling were sung by Gary Jules and Adam Lambert. Yes, I have a Ph.D. and I went to Yale and I watch every single episode of American Idol.

There are more of us than you might think.

Current iTunes play counts:
Adam Lambert version: 510
Gary Jules version: 670

I now have about 40 songs in my "Mad World" playlist. They are songs that make me think about certain aspects of the book. They put me into the heads of my characters. They refocus me into the Ganzfield world. I put the playlist on whenever I'm writing; it keeps me in the book.

When a song comes on that pops my attention out of the book, I skip it. If this happens a few times, I take it off the playlist (Sorry, Lady Gaga. I had to take off "Paparazzi"). But most of them have been there for a while, and they now have play counts in the hundreds.

A few recommendations:
Supermassive Black Hole: Muse
Strong: Velvet Chain (I went to high school with the lead singer. Small world)
Cavanaugh Park: Something Corporate
Don't Panic: Coldplay
Fidelity: Regina Spektor
21 Guns: Green Day
She is Love: Parachute
Can't Help Falling in Love: Elvis (lyrics from this one actually appear in the book)
Blue: Eiffel 65 (these are in it, too)
Only You: Joshua Radin
Letters from the Sky: Civil Twilight

I hope that one or more of these songs gets stuck in your head today. Got any others to recommend to me?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Young Adult Language

There are a few things that distinguish "Young Adult" (YA) books from other books. First, the MC is a teenager. The rule here is that kids read up, so 12-year-olds will read about a 16-year-old MC more often than the reverse.

The other distinctions are sex and language. Usually, there's no sex in YA books. If there is, it's not described (e.g., book 4 of Twilight). I've also noticed one other exception to this: if sex in the book is THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF THE MC'S LIFE. The best example probably is in Cast & Cast's MARKED.

So, there's a not-too-subtle message in the YA lit about sex.

As for language, the line's a little more blurred. Most YA books avoid the hard-core profanity, which for the sake of my readers' delicate sensibilities, I will refer to as the F-word, the S-word, and the C-word. Oh, and the A-hole word.

If you do not know which words I mean, please do NOT email and ask. I'm a lady, and I dare not even type them so far from my fainting couch.

I'm in a grey area in my book MINDER with "God" references in both spoken and internal dialogue. Is it OK for a character to say "Oh my God" when something shocking happens? Is this blasphemy? Will it get my book banned in certain parts of Mississippi? Is that a bad thing?

Interestingly, there's no line on violence. Characters can be decapitated, eviscerated, ex-sanguinated, or otherwise killed and/or mangled in horrible ways in YA fiction, even in books with middle-grade appeal, like Harry Potter.

So, having your MC's BFF sucked dry by a vampire in lurid detail is cool. But don't you DARE let her light up a cigarette.

UNLESS that's the reason the vampire decides to kill her. What can I say? Smoking's a dangerous habit.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

I asked someone to read some pages of MINDER and give me honest feedback.

Yes, I need the honest feedback. It makes the book better. If you're reading this, June, thank you for your feedback.

I'll get right on fixing the problems as soon as I stop rocking and sucking my thumb.

A big part of me honestly wants people to gush embarrassingly and proclaim me the next Rowling or Meyer. Rave reviews are completely unhelpful, but they make me feel better. As Mark Twain once said on my website (and probably somewhere else, too), "I can live for two months on a good compliment."

I actually respect the critics more, though. People who love my book as-is have too-low standards. At least find a typo or something! And it's kinda like what Groucho Marx used to say: that he'd never want to join a club that would have someone like him for a member.

Maybe I need more current references.

Oh, and something's wrong with the TiVo. I think the cat pulled a connector out of the back. However, a broken DVR is an emergency in the middle of a New Hampshire winter, so I hope someone will tell me how to call the National Guard or send up the Bat Signal or something. I'm normally techno-literate, but I have no idea how my husband set this the system up. And the kids will start setting fires or something if we miss "Dinosaur Train," a PBS show that is completely, factually accurate about dinosaurs.

Except for the part where they sing. And ride on trains.

If I were still in college, I'd definitely have a drinking game set up around that show.

I miss college.

Monday, January 11, 2010

That which does not kill you ... still hurts like hell.

Woke up at 5:12am today. Two reasons: my 3-year-old came in to snuggle, and my subconscious is still chewing on the weekend's MINDER comments like they're made of rawhide.

The danger is there, but my MC only knows about some of it. How do I convey the elements of danger that my MC doesn't even know about? In a first-person narrative?


I'm thinking ...

1) overheard conversations.

2) another character being worried but not sharing his reasons.

And how do I further develop my MC in the opening pages so that people actually care that she's in danger? Particularly when she's not a very warm person? (Red-Green, for all you Porter enthusiasts).

Ooh, and I had a really cool idea for the cover art. At the very least, I think it may become part of the website at I'm just beginning to set it up; I'll blog-brag about it when it's worth seeing.

On an unrelated note, my brother and sister-in-law have a new video up that makes me laugh out loud while simultaneously cringing into the fetal position:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chinese for Opportunity

Well, I heard from one of the three agents who have pages.


It is my new mission in life to become so successful that the agent in question RUES THE DAY she passed on MINDER.

"I passed on Minder!" she'll say to the other agents at the agent get-togethers. "That's like passing on Twilight! On Harry Potter!"

And the other agents will shake their heads in mock-sympathy, while silently laughing at her bad judgment.

Yes. Rue the day.

So, yeah. Slight set-back in my plans for world domination.

On the plus side, she gave me lots of notes, and said she loved the voice and the characters.

Just not the setting, and what I had them doing at some points in the plot. Whatever.

The sad thing is that I initially will dismiss her criticisms, but they will gnaw at my subconscious, torturing me in the deep hours of the night, until I actually address them in the manuscript.

Sometimes, being a perfectionist sucks. On the plus side, I get to spend more time in my manuscript, and it will be even stronger when I'm done.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Passive Voice IS Bad

So is over-writing. So is under-emoting. So is telling, rather than showing. I've been deep in re-writes for weeks, and I keep shocking myself with all the times I've broken these rules.

On the plus-side, MINDER's awesome now. Read the new-and-improved first chapters here:

Another plus, I finally got Someone had been trying to sell it for years, since it's so close to the name "Ganzfeld."

So, my plans of world domination continue to move forward. World domination - woo hoo!

Happy MMX!