Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's Summertime!

Are you guys as busy as we are? Vacations, swim lessons, and of course writing are making for a fun summer. We've decided to cut back on posting on our blog from three days a week to two.

Hope you are enjoying the summer and finding time for plenty of this:

Suzette & Bethany

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Ultimate Anti-Bella

To celebrate last Friday's post about female heros, I thought you guys might like to see this (Thanks Jo Schaffer for sharing it with me).

Buffy, the ultimate Anti-Bella!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Strange Reading/Writing Habits...

Stephen King admits to reading almost anywhere - in line at the bank, while driving (okay, not really, I made that one up) and while (ahem) peeing.

I, too, read almost anywhere, but thanks to the invention of the laptop, I also write almost anywhere. Recently, much to my teen son's chagrin, I plunked down in the middle of the DMV and worked on a chapter while he waited in line. My young daughters kept shouting out plot ideas, like "Hallie should totally chop down the wall with an ax, Mom." Being the quirkiest little family in there, we actually had an audience. (And yeah - the DMV is like the most boring place in the world, so almost anything would entertain.)

What are your strange reading and/or writing habits? I would love to know!


I'm including a little gem from Stephen King below. It's short - just over a minute - be sure to listen to the end because that's the best part.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Female Hero

Dude. This is a subject I love. LOVE. Because I can't stand wimpy, helpless female characters who would die if not for their love interest saving them (Bella Swan, anyone?). In fact, I so dislike Bella, I wrote my main character to be the Anit-Bella. (Okay, in all fairness, my MC is saved once by a male character.)

Here is a list of my Anti-Bella's qualities:

1. She stands up for herself.
2. She doesn't need a male character to save her every five pages because she can do it herself.
3. No whining in spite of unfavorable circumstances.
4. She's not afraid to throw a punch.
5. Accepts and faces her fate even when she doesn't want to.

Did you guys know that Ripley from Aliens was written as a male MC? They did NOTHING to change it when Sigourney Weaver played the part. Ripley is AWESOME.

Katniss anyone? She's brave, traded places with her little sister even though she'd be faced with certain death, compassionate, and knows how to use a bow. And she kicks butt, yet maintains all of her female allure.

Eowyn from LOTR. She is beautiful, elegant, and can wield a sword like a man. Not only that, she dresses up as a man and risks her life to go fight the bad guy.

Judith Mercado has some interesting things to say about the female hero. Also, Carolyn Kaufman posted this article about female protagonists, which is far and beyond anything I could write.

What makes your female hero a hero? And what female heros do you love? Hate? And why?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Wells. Know this: He is not scary. He is not a serial killer. He is a great guy...albeit with telekinetic book-signing abilities. (More about that at the end of the post...)

First Sentence: Mrs. Anderson was Dead.

A Favorite Passage: The dark thoughts were still there, underneath, but my actions stayed clean. In other words, I was really good at pretending to be normal. If you met me on the street, you'd never guess how much I wanted to kill you.

A Brief Summary: Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means. 
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love...if only he could.

What I Liked About This Book: I liked John Wayne Cleaver, the main character. A lot. He is brutally honest about who he is - and he knows himself well. Going into this book I thought it was pure contemporary, and when an element of "otherness" was mentioned I was not pleased. (Hang on - this turns into a thing I like!) When the, um, "other" element manifested itself, it was done so masterfully that I was literally rocked off my socks - and loving it! I also like that John's "disability" became the exact ability he needed to attempt to save his small town. And the ending - very touching!

What I Didn't Like About This Book: There was a lot of exposition (with a couple of dead bodies thrown in - nice!) for a pretty hefty chunk of the beginning of the book. The action didn't really start until page 98; the first major (and I mean major) plot twist happened two pages after that. For me, this was the "tipping point" - when I could not stop reading until I got to the end. But it would have been nice if some action had come sooner. Also there was a "major" plot twist that I figured out early on...and it bugged me that as smart as John Wayne Cleaver is, it took him forever to figure out.

Book-Alikes: Instead of comparing this to books (which will give too much of the plot away) I'm going to do an Author-Alike: J.D. Sallinger meets Stephen King

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Profanity: None
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Sexuality: None
Violence: Oh Yeah! Not for the faint at heart.

About the telekinetic signing abilities. When I met Dan at a conference he was signing books - but I had bought his book the day before and left it home. When I told him, he said not to worry - he would sign it telekinetically. He closed his eyes, put fingers to brow, concentrated hard, then looked right into my eyes and assured me it was signed. When I got home, guess what? His signature was on the title page.


P.S. This book was read as part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blog Contest Link

Hi, guys! I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that my cousin is hosting a contest on her blog. (Sorry Angela! *hugs*)

Her contest is totally simple to enter. All you have to do is click right here, become a follower and comment. Total piece of cake, right?

So go on over and tell her hi. She's awesome.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Hero

We talked villains, now let's talk heros. First may I say the lists of heros are few and far between, but the lists of villains are abundant! Why is that? Do people like villains more than heros?

Second, where are the women? Seriously! I'll blog about that on that on Friday.

I pulled five heros from here and posted them below.

1. Indiana Jones
2. Han Solo
3. Robin Hood
4. Obi-Wan Kenobi
5. Batman

Now, think about it. All of these guys can really kick some butt. And half of them, we don't know if they're good or bad... they're kind of in between (Robin Hood robs, Batman lives in a secret cave and attacks people in dark alleys, Han Solo's only helping for money).

So what makes them heros? Is it the fact that they choose to use their dark talents for good? The fact that they kick butt? The fact that they risk their lives for others? What is it?

What heros do you love? Love to hate?

What makes your hero better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Villain Love

1. The White Witch from The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe
2. Mrs. Coulter from His Dark Materials trilogy
3. Alec D'Urberville from Tess of the D'Urbervilles
4. Sauron from Lord of the Rings
5. The Joker from Batman
6. Voldemort from Harry Potter
7. Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians
8. Darth Vader from Star Wars
9. The Grand High Witch from The Witches
10. Captain Hook from Peter Pan
11. The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
12. Miss Trunchbull from Matilda

So, I've listed a dozen characters. What do they have in common? Yep.


Want to know something else they have in common? They don't really curse/cuss/swear, and yet they are in the top ten/fifty lists all over the internet. Sorry... I find that pretty interesting. Anyway, language aside, what makes them so vile? How do you write that evil, creepy character?

Here are a few things I think a villain needs:

1. Likability. (Yeah, even Voldemort is mildly likable as a kid.) (But, yeah... Sauron? Not so likable.)

2. A good reason for being bad. (Mrs. Coulter is only trying to do what's best for her daughter, Lyra, right? And that's a good reason to be bad! Every mother has the right to protect her kid.)

3. They are as complex as (of not more so than) the hero. (Cruella de Vil is so much more interesting than all the "good guys" from her story bunched together!)

4. They are easy identify with. (Darth. In Star Wars III, I feel his pain so completely, I GET why he turns evil. And it breaks my heart.)

5. They're human. They have flaws. And weaknesses. And weakness exists in all of us. So we get them. (Alec D'Urberville loves Tess, in a twisted, vile sort of way. LOVE is his weakness. And who can blame a man for loving a woman?)

If you want to see the lists I pulled these villains from, click here, here and here.

And tell me, what makes your villain shine? And do they cuss/curse/swear?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Title Trauma First Aid

Dude, guys. You're so full of inspiration I feel like I can die and go to heaven with a sense of peace. Friday I posted about coming up with THE perfect title, or rather my inability to do so. And here is the wisdom that my fellow bloggers bestowed upon the comments section of the post.


Ina said... I usually make a list of 10-20 words that describe my novel. Then, I look for a pattern within those words, and if they seem mundane and boring, I use a thesaurus to come up with better versions. If it's a character driven story, you could think about combining your MC's name with one of the words on your list (i.e. "Carrie's War").

Personally, I like titles that have two meanings. The reader will likely have an interpretation of your title when beginning your story, and another when finishing it. I think a truly successful title manages to reveal a second layer of meaning to the reader who makes it all the way to the end of the book.

KM said... For my YA dystopian WIP, I used the idea that the culture was hollow and dead; also, I used a Biblical passage for inspiration (Ezekiel 37, which talks about a valley of dry bones coming to life). Thus, the title became "The Valley of Dry Bones."

John Sankovich said... I generally use a theme for my titles. Like my current project is "Unveiled Secrets" Because of the secrets that are revealed throughout the book.

Angela said... For me, I can't push too hard for a title . . . otherwise, naming my MS is pure torture. But if I take a walk, do some laundry, wash some dishes, then ideas usually come to me on their own. They practically fall like rain from the sky.

Linda Sandifer said... I find that some books have titles before I ever begin. Others I stumble onto while writing. Still, others are a struggle. Then you finally come up with one and, if you are lucky enough to get the book published, low and behold the editor will change it (and oftentimes to something totally stupid!).

G said... It's funny, but For my recently finished project, I pulled the title from the 1040 tax form. Specifically, line 21 aka "Other income". The title fits perfectly with the story, which is about a woman who needs to raise money to pay off a debt collector.

DaniSue said... I'll leave it up to the people who get paid to think up great titles and settle for mediocre ones as I write and query.

Jemi Fraser said... Titles either spring into being with the idea of the book - or must be dragged kickiing and screaming from the bowels of hell. Usually it's the latter *sigh*

Renae said... I have a horrid time coming up with titles! I keep a list of phrases or clever words that grab me and use those, but even still titles are almost always problematic.

coffeelvnmom said... When thinking of the title for my completed MS I used something that has to do with the main character and her husband. But on one of the WiPs I've been working on occasionally for the past few months, the title came to me out of the blue two nights ago while I was trying to fall asleep. It was actually something that I imagined she would say and then *lightbulb moment* I realized it could be the title!

Vatche said... I always come up with titles almost the first time I step into a story, because I know the general plot. I usually title it something catchy like "Rules to Live by", "The Human Compass", or "The Good Left Undone." Titles are always important to me, because I never want to use a title that's been done before or is very common.

Stina Lindenblatt said... For my last project, a song from the movie ENCHANTED inspired the title. I have no idea how I came up with a title for my current wip, but it made sense. Plus it shaped the ending paragraph of the book. Not so with the project I'm outlining. I have no idea what to call it. Right now it's Snow White, but that's definitely NOT what it will be called when I'm finished. But that's better than having a file called YA contemporary. ;)

Dana Elmendorf said... My current WIP is called DAY GLOW BLUE, I really don't like the title but figured I have time to come up with something more genius later. Also I did not convey that to my crit partners either and yet two of them went our of their way to tell me the LOVE the title. Where did I get it, it is the color of the light my MC can see and no one else. Titles are torture but you get the right one and your audience is hooked on title alone.

Southpaw said... I played around with titles but nothing clicked until I was almost done. It just seemed to fall into place.

Michelle H. said... I come up with a name at the beginning, change it umpteen times throughout, and then change it back to the original at the story end. And I'm still never satisfied.

Caleb said... Usually, the name comes to me before the story, but this can tend to be distracting in the end. I find poetry is a great place for inspiring titles.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Title Trauma

So, we talked about book titles the other day. And we talked about the right ingredients to make a delectable character.

But when you've written your masterpiece, how in the freaking world do you find those sparkly, shiny, perfect words by which your masterpiece will be know? Seriously. I have three kids. Naming them was a piece of cake. It helps that my husband named two of them. But naming my manuscripts?



Where do you get your titles? From a phrase in the book? Or... see, I can't even think up more than one way to get a title.

Or are you one of those people who name the story before you ever write a word of it?

People, I need to know! Ease my struggles! Teach me how Titles are done!

And if you want to know what writers love to hate about other books, check out Elana's post here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When You're Weary...

Ever feel like this?

If you're a writer - heck, if you're human - chances are you've felt blue at one time or another. Today on the QueryTracker blog, writers are coming together in a show of support, offering advice of who to turn to (or what to eat!)

I hope it will inspire you - and be sure to check out tip #3 - because that one's about you!

You can find the QTblog post here.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Recipe for Love

Recently I posted about to-die-for, scrumptious, better-than-chocolate-cake characters (okay, I didn't put it quite like that). Here are a few examples...

You know Christian Bale in Batman? Yum.

How about Mr. Darcy?

And someone mentioned Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables.

Can I hear it for Edward Cullen?

And the dude from Time Traveler's Wife (don't know his name!).

What makes these characters so appealing? And if you're not into male characters, what women knock your... er... socks off?

This isn't a direct quote, more like something I pulled from memory, but Elizabeth Bennett sums up the reason why all these characters make us swoon. She says something like:

I'd like to love a man who has the potential of being evil, yet chooses good.

Evil capacity=definite major ingredient in a great character. But what do you guys like? What draws you to characters? What makes you LOVE a character? Inquiring minds want to know.