Saturday, March 15, 2008

Books About Writing

Okay...this is for anyone who scours the bookshelves looking for books on writing. I've read them all and there is only ONE that ever really spoke to me... If You Want to Write by Barbara Ueland. This is a no-nonsense book by a crusty octogenarian (now deceased) who even writes at one point, "If you really wanted to be writing, you'd put this book down and go do it." I fell in love with her then. No pompous rhetoric about reading the classics. No jocularity about alcohol consumption. Nothing extraneous other than how to think and act like a writer and how to write for yourself. It's a small book and you can finish it in a weekend. Linda Kay gives it two thumbs up! Let me know how it goes.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Achieving Your Dreams

“Every step I take brings me closer to the realization of my dreams.”

Are you wondering what this is about? Well, Judi Moreo, author of You Are More Than Enough Achievement Journal (Stephens Press, Dec. '07), will embark on a virtual book tour to promote her book about how to achieve your dreams.
As a writer whose first dream of being published has come true, I can really relate to so much of what Judi writes about. I know people may be tired of hearing about The Secret, but you know what? For those of us who have been practicing The Secret long before it had a name, I can tell you that my path to success was created long before I started writing.
My first successes were not academic…they were athletic. I discovered that, at the end of a nail biting game, when everything was on the line, I wanted to take that last shot. I wanted the ball in my hands because I knew I was a go-to kind of player. It was that belief in myself and an understanding that I had trained harder, worked more, (I would shoot baskets in our yard even in the rain) and was far better prepared than even my best friends on the team. I knew I had the mental game to hit a clutch shot.
I won more than I lost, and I took this attitude, this belief that if I worked hard enough, if I studied the good writers, understood the business (like understanding an opponent), that when I started writing, I would find success.
Now, granted, it’s not best seller success (not yet), and I’m not sure my genre will ever get me there, but I have published eight novels (my eighth comes out next month from Spinsters Ink) and have had the wonderful opportunity to meet some fabulous writers, attend some wonderful workshops as a presenter, and write-off my travel for research purposes. I’ve enjoyed book signings, panel discussions, and so much more. It’s been a wonderful ride, and the best part is that I now have a new dream…to actually make some money doing this!
So…does The Secret work?
It does for me. For 20 years, I have hauled around 30 boxes of leather bound books because I knew that someday, I would have a library like Sherlock Holmes, complete with ladder, fireplace, window seat and globe. Last year, I had that library built. It was exactly how I envisioned it when I first started buying those leather bound books.
At 47 years old, I still want the ball at the end of the game…I still believe I can. And that has been my singular battle cry to all of my students when they come into my writing class. It has been the mantra I taught my own girls”
“If you think you can or can’t…you’re right.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It’s a week before Christmas and I’ve been taking pictures of all the fun Christmassy things (is that a word?) that I’ve seen here in Mexico. This guy, by far, is the coolest. On the Malecon there’s this team of sand castle builders who create the most incredible sand figures. This one is an eight foot guy we like to call Sandy Claus. How cool is that?
There is also a tradition here that the manager scenes remain without the baby Jesus until Christmas Eve…so…well…maybe you should pray for me, because I’ve been super sacrilegious. Since there’s no babe in the straw…I’ve taken photos of Little Linnie in the manger. Lol. I know…that’s TERRIBLE, but it cracks me up every time. Away in the manger, no crib big enough for Little Linnie’s fat butt…No? See, I’m still laughing.
So, my people dress anything up like Santa…the frog at Senor Frogs, the wooden guy in front of the cigar shop, sand. It doesn’t matter that it’s 90 degrees out here…It’s still Christmas Time!
So, I wanted to share that little Christmas Sandy Claus with you and start a little jingle that I can then give to the nice Mexican Sand Man. It starts like this…add this line and your own…and let’s create a fun little poem for the man who works so hard to bring joy to others on the beaches of Mexico:

On the beach, near the pier, stands a might y Sandy Claus…

Okay…it’s your turn…
Enjoy (pronounced down here, en-yoy)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Okay...I've read one of the BEST books I've read in a long time down here. It's an easy read, but makes you think and is the kind of book that you savor. I keep reading one chapter and then going back to writing because I don't want it to end.

It's called Lost and Found.Trust me. You'll laugh out loud. You'll think about people in your life who are like the characters.And if you are lucky enough to have someone who can talk to you about the dozens of GREAT lines, then Merry Christmas!

So, I've told you how I write my first draft with a fountain pen. (I brought lots of ink down here only to discover an Office Max AND an Office Depot nearly on top of each other).

How do you start a story or novel? What does your creating process look like?Just food for thought.(Can you tell I'm a teacher:) It can be SUPER annoying!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mexico #4

I've gotten so much done since we've been here, it's amazing. I don't know which I've enjoyed more...the creation of Killing Time or the revision of Time Flies.

The weather has been incredible. Each night, we get a light show sponsored by Nature, where the lightning reaches down like an eagle's claw and scratches across the ground. The sky is both blue and purple, depending on the light show. Incredible.

Here's what my days and nights look like.

We get up around 7:00 and go work out.

Coffee tea and a yummy little breakfast snack with chats at Starbucks, where I do my online universities and this blogging. There are usually five or six of us on our laptops in here.

Then it's out to sit out by the pool or on the beach and write until 1:00- ish. It's all Mexican time, here, mi amigos.

I'll take a short break to read...maybe for an hour or so...snack, chat, stretch, take a stroll down the beach. The afternoon is a good time for a siesta, but I seldom take one. I am having too much with book 5 of the Across Time series.

Back to writing until dinner.

Dinner...another 6 mile walk to old town to shop for silly things...or drink coffee on a sidewalk so we can people watch. The Malecon is the best place for people watching. It is getting busier the closer to Christmas it becomes. It's too weird to see snowmen and Santas in 89 degree weather.

Watch the sunset...always beautiful...always keeps its promise.

Find a place to eat where the natives are but the tourists aren't. We've had some great food while we've been here.
We head on to an Interent cafe to do more schoolwork, read email, get some news. Then we take a cab back...though we keep threatening to walk back, making the 12 mile journey in one day. We'll see!

At night, I am back on the laptop to work on the inputting the fourth in the series into the computer. Finally, I crack open a book and read until I can't keep my eyes open.

Last night, though, I was laying there thinking about titles...and I was wondering...what are some of the WORST titles?

I remember not wanting to go see that Jim Carrey movie about the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...or something like that. It was probably way over my head....but it made me think:

What are some of the WORST titles you've heard, and did the titles prevent you from reading the book?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Great first lines.
One thing that I do a lot now is go to Borders and open to the first page of any novel. Why? Well, I took this seminar on Great First Lines, and I realized how important that first line is. It’s like the opening scene of a movie trailer. As we sit in the theatre watching the preview, we know right away if we’ll pay money for it or wait for it to come out on video. Tell me you haven’t turned to someone and said, “Video.” We all do it. That means the first line didn’t grab us. If it was a book in our hands, we’d put it down. It didn’t hold our interest, make us question, or tug on any strings. Down it goes.
So, I started looking at first lines…to see my own reaction. To see if there was enough there to entice me. Here are some from the seminar as well as others I’ve read that resonated”
I steal.
Now, you ask…why is that a good first line? Because we are immediately in question. Who steals? Why does she steal? Does she have to or is she driven by something different? What does she steal? Is she a professional thief?
By the time we finish the questions, we’re sucked in. The very act of questioning prompts us to want to know more, and the way to get your questions answered is to buy the book.
Few of us are turned on by a lengthy description as a first line or first page. Sure, the classic writers got away with it. Men used to be able to rape their wives to, and once, slavery was legal. Things change. Readers are no exception. I don’t know about you, but if I pick up a book, open it, and there’s a block of text describing the scenery, I’m putting that book back down. No thanks. There’s a time and place for it, to be sure, but as an opening line? You do the math.
Which would you rather read:
1) I didn’t want to kill my mother, but she gave me no choice.
2) The Everett’s house had never been quieter behind the peeling yellow shutters and the overgrown hedges that said the occupants were too busy to care about things like maintaining the house.
So…anyone up for tossing out either great first lines that you wrote or great first lines from someone else’s work?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

So..what is a book launch? Well, since the publishing industry is ever

changing, things like book publishing parties have also changed. Now,
you need to have AN EVENT. Yes, an event. I am fortunate in that
I have people in my life who not only love throwing events, but are good at it. That's half the battle, I think.

So, what is a launch?

It's where you throw a big bash with friends and colleagues, relatives, and anyone else who loves reading. You have enough books on hand to sell, killer food, good wine, and lots of laughs. Then you sign books, chat up the story, and get your friends to help you get it out to as many people as possible.

It's a party, but it is also an event. And they're really a lot of fun. These people are your base, and you have to teach them..."Don't lend this book to people. If someone wants to read it, tell them to buy it." People don't know. You have to educate them that loaning books means you don't make any money for your work...and puh-lease don't be so desperate that you just want to be pubkished and not make any money.

(That gagging sound you hear is me)
We all want to make a living at this...your friends can help.
Mine buy three or four...THOSE they give away...but they tell people, "If you give this away, she doesn't make money for entertaining you. Give it away ONLY if you hated it."

That's fair, don't you think?

The launch will be one of the biggest bashes ever...and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Lesson #5 Stop and smell the roses when it's all said and done, and while you're smelling them, get your people to scatter the roses petals as far and as wide as they can.