April 30, 2011

Comfort Zone

Have you seen 13 Going on 30? It's about a girl named Jenna who wants nothing more than to just get to adulthood already. She's had enough of this being 13 business - it's all taking too long. She makes a wish on her birthday and due to some magic dust... or something heavy falling on her head... she wakes up as her 30-year-old self. (And lucky her - she's a magazine editor and Jennifer freaking Garner.)

There's this scene where Jenna walks out onto a NYC sidewalk and has to get a cab. Being a 13-year-old from the suburbs and having never flagged down a cab before, she's understandably intimidated (even if she is in Jennifer Garner's body). She bites her lip. Sticks out a hand and pulls it back. Shrugs her shoulders and pulls her head in like a turtle. Giggles. And then repeats the whole process.

That's pretty much me. I'm a girl who's generally stuck to the comfort zone for a really long time. If I step out of it, I do it when no one's watching. And one toe at a time. Or jump-out-jump-back-in.

Becoming an indie author and not telling anyone? I could do that. But then what's the point? Sometime in my twenties I moved from writing for myself to writing for others. I'm not sure when the shift occurred, but it did. I was no longer content to write something and stow it away.

Between the Lines isn't the first novel I've written, but it's the first one I fell in love with. I figure that's as good of a place to start as any. It *should* be out tomorrow, May 1st, on amazon. I'll be posting a link, of course!

April 26, 2011

Copycat

I'm at the 30% point in a book I've been waiting months for - Jenny Han's We'll Always Have Summer. It's the third in a trilogy about a girl named Belly and two brothers, Jeremiah and Conrad, she's known all her life because their moms were BFFs. Talk about your painful love triangle -- ugh! Try one that's lasted practically the entire lives of all players. Oh, the confusion and angst! I love this story.

So anyway, I am happily devouring this book and I just came upon a drinking game called I Never. Well, I've never seen this game in a book before, a game which my daughter told me about (yes, we really are that open at Chez Webber) when I was researching drinking games for my novel. Which is coming out on Kindle on May 1st. In five days. And is completely done.

And includes a lively and rather important-to-the-plot game of I Never smack-dab in the middle of it. WTF.

I don't know if this is what Jung meant by the collective consciousness... but man, it sure feels like it. It makes me wonder if there was someone out there who was writing a really cool vampire book with a sparkly vampire who falls in love with a girl but also wants to kill her, and she felt all cool about it until it turns out that someone else had the same idea and got it published first.

My novel has a film director. He's not a huge character, but as the 15-21 year old characters are all actors in a movie, he's important. I named him John Richter. Unique surname, right? And then I was reading Kimberly Derting's wonderful novel The Body Finder... and a Very Important Character had the Same. Exact. Bloody. Name. (I changed the first name and left the last, figuring completely different character and far enough apart in publication, etc, plus thank GOD not a main character name.)

The very last thing I want to do is copy something already out there - in any way. But really, it's looking a little impossible to avoid. If anyone finds something after mine is published, I don't want to know.  Please don't tell me. And for everyone who's out there writing and creating right now, if I ever get a publishing deal and you buy my book and you're writing something awesome and taking a break to read and you come across the same name, place, storyline, main character's predilection for a certain type of pet, whatever - I'll understand if you want to scream my name along with SON OF A BITCH!

And I won't call you a copycat. I promise. Keep writing.

April 25, 2011

E-publishing & Impulse Buying

I'm going to walk out onto a limb here and issue a caveat that will seem strange, given the fact that I'm less than a week from e-publishing a novel: Before you buy an e-book, preview it.

To be fair, this caveat includes all e-book purchases - traditionally published and self-published -- because admit it, more than once you've purchased a book without taking the time to preview a little of it. It had a beautiful cover, was an author you liked previously, or was purchased on a friend's recommendation...You figured, "What's the worst that could happen?"

The book could suck ASS, that's what.

I read a lot, and I can't afford to waste time or money on bad books. Or even incompatible books. In the days of traditional book-buying, I swore I'd never buy another book without at least reading a chapter, even if I had to stand in the bookstore aisle because all of the cushy chairs were full. Even if I was buffeted by people passing behind me, my feet were killing me, and reading is not a standing sport.

Now we have e-books, and the need for preview is even higher, thanks to the fact that literally anyone can crank something out and throw it onto Amazon and call it a book. But guess what - previewing has never been easier.

I got a Kindle recently, and I love it. I see a book on Amazon I have to have and and BOOM, I'm downloading the thing and reading in less than a minute. Confession: I got lazy. I forgot my own rule. I was too busy thinking Talk about instant gratification!

Now let's talk about instant WTF is this shit? - because that's happened to me more than once recently.

I search through available books and find a novel with a fantastic premise. The cover looks good. The reviews are raving (that last one gets its own later post). CLICK, and I'm reading the first page... and then huh. Spelling errors? Multiple adjectives? In the first line? I trudge on, hoping it'll get better. I've read a few books in my life that started out kinda ho-hum and ended up amazing, right?

Trudge, trudge... oh shit. It's not getting better. In fact, it's going the other way. I have just wasted 99 cents - or $1.99, $4.99, and in one case (GRRR) $7.99. The worst part? This tragedy could have been avoided if I'd taken a few minutes and downloaded the freakin' sample. I don't care if it only costs a dollar. That's my dollar, and I don't want to waste it on something I'm not going to like, enjoy, or finish.

I'm about to self-publish/e-publish a young adult contemporary book. It's romantic and sexy and (if you haven't figured this out already) I curse. My children curse, the students I advise every day curse, so yes there's cursing in my book. If you download a sample... you'll see all of the above. So please, when I put this out on Sunday, download a free sample to your Kindle (or your PC/ Mac/ iPhone /iPad Kindle app). If you don't like what you read, don't buy it!

I've been working on this novel for a year and a half. It's been through critique partners and multiple readers, several of whom tore it apart and forced me to make it better. I've worked harder on this than anything I've ever done. Hopefully, you'll read the sample and still want to buy it. If not, that's okay. Because I want to tell stories, not trick people into buying something they wouldn't find the slightest bit interesting.

Repeat after me: No impulse buying without sample previewing!

Happy reading!

April 17, 2011

Flipping the Coin

We all have our moments of self-doubt, and I've never met or heard of a writer who doesn't get that creeping not-good-enough feeling occasionally (if not constantly) along with the rest of humanity. Reading an amazing novel can affect me in the same manner that viewing a Picasso might affect an aspiring artist, the way watching Kenneth Branagh play Hamlet might affect my actor son. When I read something incredible, yes, I worry that I'll never be able to measure up. The opposite of that concern is the hope that what I've written is worthy of comparison. That what I've written is maybe even good.

These self-judgments are just flip sides of the same coin, yeah? Neither is the complete truth, by itself. Put them together, and you get a realistic view of your abilities, as well as the motivation to continue creating. It's good to think what you do has value, but the fear that what you've done isn't good enough is also useful - it keeps you from settling for mediocre effort and striving to do the best you can do.

April 12, 2011

Fill 'er Up

I spend more time writing than I do at my pay-the-bills job (which, luckily, I enjoy), and there are times when I get on a writing jag and reading takes a back seat. I tell myself that I don't have time to read because I have a novel to finish. This can become a problem when I'm submerged in the creative process of writing (as opposed to the editing/revision stuff), because to be able to write, I must read.

When I don't read, my entire creative process suffers. My storyline begins to feel forced and I get writer's block and all that annoying psychological crap that makes writing - the thing I most enjoy doing - not so enjoyable. Reading is how I fill up, top off, put a flame to, however you want to think of it - my ability to create. I don't know why this is, I only know that it is. Someone told me recently that Stephen King spends four hours a day reading and four hours a day writing. I know exactly why he spends that amount of time reading. He's filling up.

On that note, I'm off to balance my writer-self by happily tackling the teetering stack on my nightstand (timely Amazon delivery today: Where She Went, Saving Francesca, Liar, After Ever After and Will Grayson, Will Grayson), plus all the stuff labeled New! on my Kindle.

April 6, 2011

Fake It Til You Make It

If you're an artist, writer, musician, actor or (as established in my last post) a software developer, if you've ever done or wanted to do something creative with your life and your time, you should read this blog post: "How to Steal Like an Artist" - Austin Kleon.

Austin Kleon is a frickin genius. Included are 10 things he wished he could tell his recently college-graduated self, one of which I already knew: Write the book you want to read - aka - WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW LIKE. (Yay for articles that tell me I've done something right! It's like a To Do list with pre-crossed-out bullet points, resulting in instant feelings of accomplishment. What's not to love about that?)

I've known for a while now that "write what you know" gave me two things to write about well (and a lot of utter crap that no one would want to read): I either wrote about really sad stuff (such as the day I learned that my little brother had been diagnosed with AIDS), or snippets of my attempt to parent (like when my son put rocks in the toilet at school because he "wanted to see if they'd flush," which I tried to excuse in my head as scientific curiosity).

I read YA almost exclusively. My favorites are contemporary romantic novels like Forget You, Leaving ParadiseFall for Anything, The Truth About Forever - and these are the authors with multiple favorites on my shelves. Lots more have one great book out and are hopefully hard at work on their sophomore effort (Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Freefall). When I branch out to paranormal (Shiver, Wicked Lovely), fantasy (Graceling, Finnikin of the Rock) or dystopian (The Hunger Games, Delirium), the more romantic the story, the better the chance I'm going to go fangirl all over it.

I set out to write something I'd fall in love with if I was a reader. So I gave it a contemporary setting, tried to create realistic characters who meet, relate, feel strongly attracted, fall in love (or lust) and do everything in their power to figure out and get what they want out of their lives while striving towards humanity's ultimate communal goal: be happy. Most of all, I refused to stray from my personal belief that love conquers all - if you let it.

April 5, 2011

Don't Look! It's SELF-PROMOTION!

One of the scariest things anyone can say to me is "marketing" (yes, even the word marketing is scary). But worse than marketing is "self-promotion," which is the most horrifying form of marketing known to man. When someone says, "You'll need to market yourself," to me, I am shortly thereafter cowering in a corner. Because yes, I really am that shy.

I know many authors are comfortable with singing their own praises (or the praises of others), but I suspect most of us aren't. We're writers, for godssake. No other profession conjures up visuals of lonerdom more (well, maybe computer programmers, but I believe they're just the techie version of fiction writers -- code-writing is a very creative pursuit). I'm a girl who goes to parties and only talks to people I know, and only then if they aren't otherwise engaged. I don't mean to be anti-social, there is just no way in hell I can go up to a stranger and introduce myself. (BTW, this is also the reason I didn't do well in retail sales. "Can I just fold shirts and organize everything?" doesn't go over well with most store managers. I still don't understand why. I'm SUPER at organizing.)

I'd love to be renowned, celebrated writer (because who doesn't want to be good at what they most want to do?), but I have a healthy, realistic sense of my own abilities. And my opinion is: "I probably don't suck. I hope I don't. But I might. And if so I'd really rather not call attention to myself while sucking at the thing I've felt born to do since I was eight."

I'm afraid the most self-promotion I'll be able to pull off is to beg book bloggers to review my novel... while I try really hard to grow a tough shell, because they've got to be honest, and I understand that.

April 1, 2011

The Last Rejection. (Sort of.)

After receiving a very nice agent rejection yesterday on my novel, I've decided to e-publish. This decision wasn't made lightly.

Frankly, I just want to tell stories, and all the hoopla an author has to go through to get to do that is simply going to take longer than I want it to take. I don't want to write a novel and then revise and pitch it for years and years. I want to write one, get feedback from critique partners and beta-readers, revise and edit it until I think it's as good as it can be, and then I want to start the next one!

Having attended a couple of writers' conferences recently, I noticed something disturbing: there are a LOT of unpublished older people out there. Some of them are extremely talented - which gave me pause. Why, after years and years of writing, revising and submitting queries, chapters and manuscripts, haven't these folks found anyone willing to champion their stuff?

I don't want to discuss my own age here because it's depressing enough to just be aware of it, but yes, age definitely has something to do with my decision. I don't want another five years to go by while I beat an unsuccessful path to agent doors, one after the other of which remain closed. Yes, the right agent could be right around the corner... but probably not. And really? I just want to get back to writing.