Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Black and White Truth of Story

Somewhere in my Internet travels, I clicked on a link (like we all do), and landed up here.  Apparently, someone had lots of time on their hands and wanted to make a point.  And I think they make it well.  The article talks about staging scenes for films, but I think there's a case to be made for staging scenes for books as well here.

Harrison Ford and Alfred Molina (yup, the same guy from Chocolat)

Now, I am not a huge fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark (I know, I know - I should be, but I missed the movie mania when I was 12 and therefore did not have it as a part of my cultural upbringing).  I've seen it, but it was probably ten or more years after it was released that I finally got around to seeing it.  And it might have even been on something like TNT, so it was all cut-up and "formatted for television." (Ick.  Not the best way to see any movie, especially one you haven't seen before.)

But I was absolutely mesmerized by the first ten minutes (that's all I allowed myself; otherwise I would have watched the whole thing instead of getting back to work).  Without dialogue, without color, and with a new soundtrack, your eyes are drawn in. I understood the drama; I could feel the heat of the jungle; I could see the dangers and feel the excitement.    

It made me think about how authors can use staging, not visually, but with description (yes, that dreaded "Show, don't Tell" mantra).  How those details can give the reader the truth of the story or how it can just seem like recycled plots.  How those mannerisms can make the reader identify with the character: believe what they believe, feel what they feel, find themselves in the character (even if at first glance the reader and character are complete opposites). 

So check out the link and if you've got the time and inclination, watch the whole film (yup, the entire movie in black and white and no dialogue).  See if you are drawn in; notice how the camera cuts away or draws out a scene.  (I noticed it took three minutes to actually see Harrison Ford's face! It felt like forever!) And think about how to create that tension and anticipation in your manuscript.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Author Interview - J.S. Scott

Let's welcome author J.S. Scott.  She's the NY Times and USA Today Bestseller author of the Billionaire's Obsession series, The Vampire Coalition, The Changeling Encounters, The Pleasure of His Punishment, Big Girls and Bad Boys, and The Sentinel Demons.

Thanks for stopping by.  Let's get to the questions.

1)      What were your favorite books growing up?
A:  I loved anything fantasy as a child, and my favorite series as a kid was The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  I also loved The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings. I started reading romance as a young teen.  My mom read Harlequins, and I swiped them when she was done.  I started on romance very young, and I’ve been a romance addict ever since.  

2)      Now that you have, let’s say—some life experience, what would you tell your younger self?
        A: Life is way too short to be negative, or to dwell on anger, resentment or past hurts.    
3)      Describe your typical day.
        A:  My life has changed dramatically since I’ve left medicine to pursue writing on a full-time basis.  I’m still trying to catch up with myself, so I spend almost all of my time working.  I get up, (coffee is a must before I can even function) and then I try to answer emails and questions.  Right after that…I’m writing.  I usually have a daily goal or word count that I have to make myself accomplish.  If I don’t do that, I’d never get done on time as I tend to get distracted with other parts of my job as an author.  I try to take a break every hour or so just to stretch, and I break for dinner.  If I haven’t reached my goal, it’s back to the computer for me. I scheduled myself really tight this year.   
4)      Who is your favorite character in your books?
        A:  I’d have to say that I love all of my characters, but Simon and Sam Hudson were two of my favorites.  Sam was rather heart-wrenching because he wasn’t physically damaged, and he hid his emotional pain.  But he was so broken until he found Maddie again. 
5)      What do you do when writer’s block shows up, settles in, and makes itself comfortable?
        A:  I heard an author once say that there really is no such thing as writer’s block, and I have to agree.  Some days are better than others, but I think it’s really necessary to just make myself write.  My work that particular day may take more editing and changes, but even if I think my writing is awful that day, I just keep writing.  I find that the best ideas come when I’m “stuck” and just feel like I’m writing nonsense.  I think some days the ideas and words flow better than others, but it’s important to just keep writing until the ideas start flowing again, even if I think it’s junk. I’m an author every day, but some days need more editing than others.  : )   

6)      Do you find yourself pulling details from “real life” or does your imagination rule the roost?
        A:  Personally, I know my general ideas spring from life experience.  When I wrote Simon and Kara’s story, the idea came when I was thinking about how difficult it was back when I was in college, and what a tightrope I walked back then.  If one little thing had happened when I was on such a tight budget, I would have been in a real predicament.  The story went to imagination at the point, it was a “what if something had happened” scenario.  I think I would have a hard time not pulling on some personal experience for my books, but once I have an idea, my imagination runs wild. 
7)      What was the first manuscript you wrote (even if it never saw the light of day)?
         A:  A lot of my work never saw the light of day.  I started writing romance in my early twenties, and I’m sad to say I can’t even remember the titles.  I finally tossed them all because I never completely finished them.  I had convinced myself I could never be a writer, that I wasn’t good enough.  But I never lost the desire or the dream. 
8)      Have you ever pursued traditional publishing? Or did you go straight for indie publishing?
        A:  Many years ago, I had a manuscript that I’d nearly completed. I sent out a lot of queries, and every one of them was a rejection except for one.  I think it was a Harlequin line that wanted to read the whole manuscript.  At the same time, I was accepted into the Respiratory Therapists program, and I knew I’d have to work full-time while I went to school full-time.  I put aside that dream of writing and went the safe route, knowing I’d always have a job and an income if I went to college.  I don’t regret that.  It was the sensible thing to do.  But I always wondered what would have happened if I would have been able to finish and submit that manuscript—until I started writing as an indie.  Now, I think it was fate, and everything worked out exactly as it was supposed to be.  I’m very happy as an indie author. 
9)      What Works In Progress are brewing?  Any target dates for publication?

A: I’m thrilled to be working on a new series for Montlake Romance, an Amazon imprint, called The Sinclairs.  It’s a spin-off series loosely connected to my self-published Billionaire’s Obsession series.  I have a Sinclair novella coming out with Montlake on October 14th entitled “The Billionaire’s Christmas,” and the first full-length Sinclair book, “No Ordinary Billionaire” will be released March 31st, 2015. In between my Montlake books, I’ll still be releasing my self-published series, The Billionaire’s Obsession and The Sentinel Demon series.  Both of those series will have a new release at the beginning of 2015.  
10)   How can fans reach you?  
Twitter – Tweet @AuthorJSScott
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Friday, September 5, 2014

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Have you ever had to write that dreaded first day back in school essay, What I Did On My Summer Vacation?  I don't really remember writing one myself, but I do remember the my son wrote when he started second grade.  My husband and I heard about it at the parent-teacher conference a few months into the school year.  She was a bit skeptical about his story: how the truck he, his cousins, and his grandparents were in caught on fire.  Unfortunately, it was a true story  - but not a tragic one. It was just a small engine fire (no explosions) and didn't impact their camping trip too much.  Besides, it made for a great story (even if the teacher didn't quite believe it at first).

But nothing like that happened on my summer vacation. Nope, it was just days of driving, relaxing, drinking, eating, and having a great time with my husband.  (Although I was hit with a bit of mommy-guilt for not taking my son to college for his last year.)

We started off by driving up to Boston and had dinner with the hubby's boss and his wife.  While we waited, I started what was clearly going to be trend for vacation:

This is a Moscow Mule, I believe.  The magic ingredients of ginger beer (not to be confused with ginger ale), vodka, and lime juice were served in a chilled copper mug.  I had two of these (one before dinner and one with dinner) and it quickly became my favorite drink.

On Saturday, we meandered up from Boston to Wentworth by the Sea, New Hampshire.  It was a great hotel, with both a regular indoor pool and an outdoor salt water pool.  I'm not much for pools, but it was nice to hang out poolside:

Okay, so that one wasn't a Mule, but it was still tasty.  It was some kind of lemonade concoction...very nice on a warm summer day.

And we did some tourist stuff: walked through downtown Portsmouth, NH to shop and eat.

We took a day to head to Portland, ME.  It's been a long time since I was in Maine (apparently I was about 5 or 6 the day we went to Maine for dinner...but that's an entirely different story!), so I was looking forward to checking out the downtown area.  Unfortunately, nothing we saw from the car excited us, so with the help of all-knowing Google, we found something we thought we'd like: lighthouses.

So we drove across town and hit the shoreline.  We drove through some picturesque streets, and noticed several For Sale signs.  Again, with the trusty help of Google, we found out the asking prices and OUCH!!  These little postage stamp parcels of land = at least $750,000 and more often over a MILLION dollars.  And the houses were so small and sometimes looked so worn-out, it's hard to imagine anyone buying it would want to keep that structure.

We got to a lighthouse and parked.  My experiences with lighthouses is limited (okay, I don't recall that I've ever been to a lighthouse), so I wasn't sure to expect.  The walkway to the lighthouse was this:

Big slabs of rock with gaps.  Unsteady, bumpy rocks.  With gaping holes.  

As we made our way back to shore, a woman passed by and advised that we take our shoes off and walk barefoot for better balance.  

Not that you can see it, but this is a picture of my sandal down one of the gaps.  Yup, it slipped out of my hand and down a fissure.  Luckily, my hero the hubby was there.  He found a stick (an interesting feat considering there weren't any trees around) and was able to grab it up for me.

We had some great meals:

And of course another Mule - this time a Maine Mule.  (Don't ask me why they are different - it's got the same stuff in it!)

After our time in New Hampshire, we drove back home.  We had a few days before a big church event my husband was co-chairing.  So we kept up the relaxing with occasionally working on the event.  And then we spent Saturday working the event and Sunday recovering from the event.  With Labor Day the next day, we even got one more day of relaxing before it was time to get back to the real world.

But the real world did come knocking...vacation was over.  And I'm working my way back into the groove. I might even get a week or two.