Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Writing Advice from Louis de Pointe du Lac

Sims3 "There's a simple answer to that. I don't believe I want to give simple answers," said the vampire. "I think I want to tell the real story." -- Anne Rice, Interview With The Vampire

This is not my book vs movie post for Interview With The Vampire (that's later) but the above quote is going in my inspiration notebook. I knew I would love this book right there, because those words, spoken by Louis, the book's narrator, neatly sum up my attitude toward writing. Louis begins as he means to go on, telling the real story of his life, death and undeath as opposed to the one the boy who interviews him might wish to hear.

We follow Louis from his human origins, along the complicated path he walks for nearly two centuries, until he informs the boy in matter of fact fashion, "And that's the end of it. There's nothing else. " The boy doesn't like this, but Louis returns " I tell you, and I have told you, that it could not have ended any other way."

I think Louis was on to something there. While Louis is fictional, Anne Rice still managed to make him real, and I say that qualifies him to give advice. What makes Louis real for me is the amount of detail we get about his life, seeing through his eyes, not only what is around him, but what Louis as an individual notices. Another character going through exactly the same events would notice different things, and we would have a different story.

Author Barbara Samuel O'Neal has this to say on the importance of detail, or as she phrases it, "layering in lusciousness." http://awriterafoot.typepad.com/a_writer_afoot/2007/10/layering-in-lus.html

Louis would have approved. While his story is one I want to let sit in my mind and ruminate for a while, I can tell Louis himself is going to stick around in my head (and my inspiration notebook) for quite some time. Even though the bulk of Louis' story deals with the particular concerns of his life as a vampire, he's intimately human throughout. If he'd like to come give lessons to the characters in my imagination's waiting room, he's welcome...but I'll make sure he's eaten first. One never can be too careful.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Some Days Are Like That

Photobucket Issue with battery may be manageable if I replace the power cord, so will be looking to take care of that in the near future. Tomorrow is back to work on book stuff, and as one must mention at this time of year, not preparing to go to RWA Nationals, this year in NYC, my favorite city anywhere. Still good, though, as there will likely be other NYC conferences and I'll have plenty of time to prepare for those.

Happy Dance Friday and Saturday at the Movies posts will come either during the week or next weekend, but I will say the double SYTYCD eliminations had me making noises of disgruntlement. More on that later. Also planning a book vs movie review of Interview With The Vampire. Here's a hint; neither Brad Pitt nor Tom Cruise rank among my favorite actors and if someone who hasn't read the book can tell where big chunks of things were skipped over and/or changed, that doesn't give any points to the adaptation. Still thought provoking, though.

New-ish venture in the works. I'm reviving the Lion and Thistle Yahoo group for discussion of all things historical romance, for readers and writers alike. Interesting conversations are in the works, so jump on in.

Taking the day for that all-important creative well filling and looking forward to the work week to come.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I have the power...kinda

Happy Dance Friday and Saturday at the Movies posts still forthcoming. Having battery issues, but hope to have them sorted soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


PhotobucketI always wanted to be a rock star. Still do.

Never mind the fact that my musical skills are extremely limited. In high school, I got kicked out of chorus for having a bad voice. By the teacher. In front of the class. This did not phase me as much as I thought it would, and since it was too late to drop the course, the teacher gave me an A as long as I showed up and did not sing. He called the time ‘study hall.’ I used it to read historical romance novels.

I took piano for several years as a kid, and as a result, I used to be able to play 99% of the theme from MASH from memory. The missing one percent being the ending, which meant I would keep going until whatever adult was present lost their last nerve. I tried again as an adult, trading private lessons from a musician friend for dogsitting when she and her hubby had gigs out of town. I mastered scales. We will not mention the guitar incident.

None of this deterred me. I’m an extrovert. Put me in a bunch of people and I can run off the energy for days. Put me in front of a bunch of people and let me do my stuff and I can run off the energy for weeks. If I’m doing it right, it’s an even exchange and they take away something good as well. All of which means a career in the arts is probably a good thing.

While my high school musical aspirations came to naught (oh Glee, where were you in the 80s?)I did love theater, and if I had to do college again, I’d have majored in that instead of education. Still, the Tardis is broken, so I can only go forward. Theater and a middle school English teacher who consistently picked my assignments to read to the class pointed me towards the areas where I could excel.

Theater not only gave me the chance to experience the pure magic chemistry of a really good cast and the ability to jump into a character and walk about in somebody else’s skin for a couple of hours in front of people who paid to see it, but two moments unique to performance.

Nothing can compare to that moment in the wings right before taking the stage, the only thing between backstage and the audience being the curtain that is going to go up any second now. No more chances to get it right; this is do or die. It also leads to the other one, that skip of a heartbeat when the performer does take the stage, eyes adjusting to the footlights, and best of all, can see the audience. All those faces, focused on the stage. It’s perfect.

If I could distill the rock star ambition into one snapshot, it would be the opening frames of James Blunt’s “I’m Your Man” video, (coincidentally a song I’m playing a lot while revising a certain scene from my hero's POV.) Walking/running down the corridor on the way to the stage, right before the show is slated to begin, said corridor lined with well-wishers who all have a hand in what everybody's about to see...no energy drink can give that kind of rush.

So far, I have been less than successful in convincing my family members to reenact this on my way to the keyboard each morning, so I'll rely on knowing my cheering section is there in spirit. Then again, knowing my notoriously bad depth perception, any euphoric rush into the footlights would likely result in something perilously close to the true story behind Ben Folds' "Hiroshima" (aka "Benny Hit His Head.)

The attitude, though, that I can have. Nobody can tell my stories but me, and if I give each story my all and do it the way only I can do it, that's rockstar writing in my book. Pun intended. As long as I have the vision and the confidence and know that even if I do end up charging off the stage and doing a faceplant -and those days will come- I can get back up and with the right attitude, make that into something good.

For me, being a rockstar is about knowing my voice and finding the right platform to connect with the audience - since I'm a writer, that would be the readers. It's about dedication to doing the best job possible, to introduce the people who live in my head to the world at large in a way that connects and lets the readers into the story world. Knowing that a reader caught the writer's vision, visited the story world and met the people who live there, that's a rockstar moment for sure. Holding up homemade glittery signs for a favorite author isn't mandatory, but it couldn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Kind of Successful Writer

Forgot this image had a toddler in it before I added it to this entry, and had to give myself a headslap. I chose the picture because I'm talking about hobbies today and Sims, in its many incarnations (Sims1, Sims2, Sims3 and now Sims Medieval; this picture is from S3) is my hobby. It's fun. I can happily spend hours in it, even uninstalling and reinstalling the whole blasted game from the ground up if I think the end result will be more fun and let me go back to work and family recharged. Breeding my Sims is one of my favorite pastimes when I play, which is why I happen to have a lot of parent and baby pictures hanging in my folders. Hats off to professional gamers, and the creators of custom content, but I'm happy enough to play for fun and fun alone.

Which brings us to today's topic. I have several friends who write either entirely or primarily for their own pleasure and do not plan on marketing their work. This is a perfectly acceptable pursuit, and it’s a surefire way to become a successful writer. If you’re writing for your own pleasure and you’re having a good time, then congratulations, you’re doing it right.

Personally, I couldn’t do this. If I knew for a fact that I would never ever sell another piece, then yes, I would still write, because it’s not something I picked and not something I can turn off, but still a big part of me would curl into a ball and die. That’s because a professional writing career is hardwired in me. Having my books on shelves and in e-readers is part of the vision, so that’s the goal I move towards when I write.

I came to professional writing through fan fiction, and still have many friends I made in that venue. Most of them are writers, and most of those are indeed pursuing a profession as such. Others want to have fun and that’s that, which is perfectly fine. It doesn't make them less than a professiona; it's only different.

Let’s take a look at the hobbyist writer, who writes for themselves or fun only. Their goal is to tell a story that will amuse or entertain themselves, so if they’re having fun; goal achieved, well done. Format doesn’t matter, or genre, and the stories don’t have to end or even actually be written. If they want to complete a story, of any length, they can, and if they want to share the story, at any stage, they can, and even pick exactly whom they will share it with, but none of those is a requirement. In fact, there aren’t any. Market trends don’t matter, nor do publishing schedules, editors shifting from house to house, or any other publishing kerfluffles. As long as the hobby writer is having fun, he or she is already a success, because they are meeting the goals they set for themselves. If that's you, jump in, have fun, and dance like nobody's watching.

Writing the book of one’s heart is a classic piece of advice, and that’s one thing the writer of commercial fiction would do well to learn from those who write only to please themselves. We need to remember the love. Remember what it’s like to sneak off for a few stolen moments of dipping into the story world in the midst of day job, housework, or family wrangling and not care about anything else. Live with the characters and bleed when they bleed. Juggling the business and the art of writing can be tricky, well, business, but for those of us hardwired for a writing career, that’s all part of the process. A process, I have to remind myself, that can’t get started without a finished manuscript.

That’s where the discipline comes in. Nobody is going to pound my keys for me. Nobody knows my characters and their lives and trials and their story world like I do, and unless I write and share them, nobody ever will. That thought could absolutely suffocate me, and that’s why I haul my carcass down to a local coffee shop every day and get down to work. That’s why I am a member of Romance Writers of America and our local chapter, and have eyes to joining yet another, as well as special interest groups. This is the job I was created to do, and I want to do it all to the best of my ability. That’s what I love, the whole deal. Still, it’s that love of the story that has to be the root of it all, and I have to thank my hobbyist friends for reminding me of that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thinky think think

Thoughtful Sim gent is thoughtful, which reflects a lot of writing/reading/related issues navel gazing over on this end recently.

Since I was fortunate enough to win my very first e-reader in a Danger:Women Writing giveaway (and hope I didn't break the blog, as I really like both blog and reader) the first thing I did was hie myself on over to Smashwords. See, my brain went to the most natural (for me) place as soon as the reader was in my hot little hands - Marsha Canham's backlist. Because I need, and I do mean need, the whole darned thing. Yes, I already have all (or at least most) of these books in paperback and I have read the vast majority of the ones that I do possess, but it's different on the e-reader. I can't explain it, at least not yet.

Let me back up a minute. The first-first book I read on my reader was The Mad Baron by Summer Devon, impressions to follow in a future post. I also have my own Orphans in the Storm on there, as well as an ms I'm critiquing for a longtime writer friend, and have added a select few other titles but right now, I'm all about the Canham, and with good reason.

I love the big stories the best, the ones outside the boundaries of the Regency drawing rooms (unless there's some serious angst going on in that drawing room. Anna Campbell, I'm looking at you. ) I'll take a pirate queen over a wallflower every time, and I get itchy feet if I spend too long in the same setting. Since that's what I want to put out, that's what I need to take in, easy as that. Old, new, traditional, indie, paperback, e-book, hardcover, as long as it's a big, meaty historical with loads of angst and emotion on the way to HEA, it's within my sights.

From the start of Typing With Wet Nails, I intended this blog to be mostly for writing and reading talk and that's the direction I'm steering back toward. Happy Dance Friday is staying and Saturday at the Movies coming back, but this blog is going to get a lot more bookish. Still thinking of exactly how, but that's what's on the brain for today.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #52 - SYTYCD Season 8, episode 1

...in which there is much awesomeness, Nigel predicts an Emmy nomination, and judges are stumped. This should be an extremely memorable year.

Oh dear mercy, this is going to be an interesting year, and I mean that in the very best way. Drama right from the start, as we learn Mitchell, one of the top twenty, was sidelined due to an injury sustained in rehearsal...though that did get us Surprise Bonus Robert Roldan from season seven as a substitute. I think they keep the all stars on deck in case someone's needed, and I can't call that a bad thing. Of course, Mitchell sitting the performance out meant he'd have to perform a solo on elimination night, so I had high expectations, but more on that later.

We had two Travis Wall routines, both amazing. Sasha and Alexander's performance was raw and poignant and angry and relatable

but it was the lovelorn statues coming to life and reforming themselves into a single sculpture that earned Nigel's prediction of an Emmy nomination for Mr. Wall, and I one thousand percent agree. It's performances like this that make me proud to be a romance writer:

Anytime Iveta and her partner draw ballroom as their genre, I expect it to be a slam dunk; after all, she is world ten dance champion, so I'm betting she could get a perfect score if her partner were a life sized Raggedy Andy doll. Fortunately, she gets tap dancer Nick instead, and the results more than satisfied me:

Jess and his partner, Clarice, drawing Broadway should also have been a slam-dunk. Seeing a dancer as young as Jess with such a firm grasp of his voice as a performer is rare and gorgeous and how they ended up in the bottom three...yeah, bottom three, what the firecracker? No. Flat. Out. Wrong. At least that meant Jess solo, so some consolation there.

Bottom three? Seriously, America? Seriously?

Then the drama started. Mitchell and Robert were called back to reprise their solos. My first thought = phew, Jess must be safe. My second thought = ack, we have to lose Mitchell or the Woo Man. Nooooo. Cat seemed both interested and a little off kilter by this first time ever development, so time for the girls to perform so the judges have more wiggle room on their decision about the gents. Girl solos, then back to judges to deliver verdict on boys.

Verdict was...there was no verdict. First time ever, nobody would be eliminated, which naturally means two couples go home next week, slicing the cast by four. Augh, the tension. Plus debut of a new Lady Gaga video, the promise of Guest Judge Gaga yet to come and I didn't catch the name, but someone in the music department having a stroke being rushed to the hospital. Yikes. Prayers for a full recovery, for sure.

What stood out the most for you for the start of season eight?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #51 - SYTYCD Vegas and Top 20

Ahem. Computer issues prevented me from getting the weekend's posts up, but let's try that again, shall we?

I love Vegas week. All the drama, all those different personalities and backgrounds stuck in a pressure cooker and heated to critical level, dancers pushed to their limits and asked to do things they may never have done before. Can a b-boy jive? Can a ballroom champion conquer Broadway? What is everybody going to do with the contemporary round? No pressure, only Travis Wall choreography this time.

For me, Vegas week is a chance to see how the dancers perform under intense pressure, but the pressure gets to peek-through-my-fingers-horror-movie-style when it comes down to that final walk when the dancers must face the judges and find out whether or not they've made it. To be that close and get cut, gaaaaah. Another area where the writer can identify with the dancer. Not right for us at this time; yeah, I've had that.

It was indeed (or indubitably) close but no cigar for several favorites, including Chyna Smith, Chase Thomas, Annie Gratton, Brian Henry, and Tatiana Mallory. I'll be hoping to see all of them again next year.

Writers also can identify with the "we want you" moment, and I was very happy to see Sasha Mallory, Jess Leprotto, Jordan Casanova, Melanie Moore, Wadi Jones and Robert Taylor Jr. among the chosen. I think we can work with this bunch.

Looked a little hairy for ballroom representation, as only two ballroom dancers made it to the green mile. Ballroom Gent Whom We Didn't See Much of And Whose Name I Think Is Something Like Lenny handled his cut with professionalism and class and I hope we see him next year. That cut did, however allow us to see Iveta (world ten dance champion, ahem) perform with Surprise Guest Pasha.

Can he be on every week? Well, maybe when we reach the top ten and the all stars come back.

Until then, we have a fine group for our top twenty.

The finger chewing may now commence, because we have to lose two of them next week.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #50 SYTYCD season eight auditions pt 2

We'll start with a leftover from Salt Lake City. I actually had a discussion with a friend about Chase Thomas' choice of costume - or lack thereof, from another perspective. I maintained that other males have auditioned or performed only in trunks before, and such costume does serve to showcase the muscle movement as the dancer expressed was his intent. It's nothing prurient (ooh, look, English major word!) but showing what the human body can do.

Okay, on to my favorite city - NYC.

Brian Henry impressed me in a few different ways. I have to agree with Mary Murphy; putting down other dancers is unprofessional and unkind. Would Mr. Henry like the dancers who come after him putting him down? I don't think so. Still, from what I saw, it looks like he took the correction in stride, so let's focus on his dancing. I get what he says about writing with the body and that certainly shows here. If he makes it through to the top 20, I would love to see him attempt a paso doble. All that raw power would make him a natural.

Samara Cohen (aka Princess Lockerooo) was my first exposure to wacking, and I'll be interested in seeing how she handles Vegas and the different styles she'll be asked to perform there. Really good control of her movements and props to anyone who picks "Flight of the Bumblebee" as their audition piece. If she could carry that precision over to an Argentine Tango, that would be something to see.

Jess LeProtto's Broadway style reminds me of the Kasprzak brothers, and I'd love to see him grow as a dancer. But braces are off, sir. Let's have some more facial expressions. Other than that, I am quite impressed.

Might be interesting to someday see the Kasprzak brothers dance with the Mason sisters. This thought brought to you by the ever-growing SYTYCD family and the audition of Alexis Mason, sister of season five winner Jeanine Mason.

Looks like we could be shaping up for a really good year, and we haven't even seen everybody yet. I appreciate that this year's auditions have focused on the good dancers rather than joke auditions (which irritate me) and those who aren't quite ready aren't humiliated on national TV.

Next week, Vegas, baby!