Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was tagged in this weekly bloghop by Annie McMahon and Beth Fred, so here goes....

What is the working title of your work-in-progress?
The Sidewalk's Regrets

Where did the idea come from? 
The initial spark came from a documentary I saw about a musician friend of mine.  Something one of his ex-girlfriends said about him really struck a chord, and by the next day, the whole book had already kind of coalesced in my mind.  Oddly, when I finished writing the book, I watched the film again and couldn't figure out what it was that had meant so much to me on that first viewing.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a film version?
I really couldn't say.  Because this is a book about rock music, most of the characters were inspired by musicians I know.

Write a one-paragraph summary

Seventeen year old Sacha McLeod has never had time for rock music.  She's far too busy practicing her violin, focused on the next competition or workshop on the horizon.  But when she hears Dylan play the guitar, the energy, violence and unpredictability of the music thrills her and she falls hard for him and his wild, inventive sound.  When her plans for the summer - and her self confidence -  are shattered, she throws everything she holds dear aside to jump at the chance to spend time with Dylan in the city.  She's expecting an idyllic summer, filled with romance, passion and music.  When she finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan's newly acquired drug habit, she realizes that despite what all the songs say, sometimes love isn't all you need.

How long did the first draft take to write?
I think around six weeks.  The revisions have taken much longer....

What other books would you compare this to, in your genre?
I really don't know.  There are other rock band books out there, like Five Flavors of Dumb, but most of them don't delve quite so deeply into the darkness as this book does.  And underneath it all, this is actually a love story and there's a ton of those out there.  

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned, the documentary I saw.  But also, I've spent most of my adult life around bands.  I'm a passionate music lover and will follow my favorites to the ends of the earth.  My best friend's a rock star.  My partner's a sound engineer.  I've spent hours at gigs and soundchecks and in studios.  I know this world and wanted to write something set within it.

What else about this story might pique the readers’ interest?
There's a kind of love triangle in there, but the third corner isn't just one person, it's several people, and a thing.  How's that for oblique???

I'm tagging for next week:

Lexa Cain
Natasha Hawkins
Natalia Jaster

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Informal break

Just a quick heads up.  I'm doing NaNo again this year, and because I know from experience how crazy it is, I'm probably not going to blog a lot during November.  I'm not going to say I won't blog, because if anything strikes me as being especially blog-worthy, I will dash off a post.  But I won't be sticking to my every-two-days schedule.

I'm sure everyone's heartbroken about that too....

So who else is doing NaNo?  Tell me about your process.  I'm the crazy one who goes in with a half-assed idea and just starts writing.  I haven't even been thinking a whole lot about this one at all, because I've been scrambling to get through my last few chapters of revision on Sidewalks before I start.  So no outline to speak of.  Just three very different characters.  I can't even decide whether I want to write in first or third person!

Would it be weird to have one POV in first and the other two in third?  I might try it.  That's the awesome thing about NaNo.  You just throw words at the page with abandon.  Most of them will need changing later, but at least you have the clay to mould.

Are you going to take the plunge?

Friday, October 26, 2012


I've been doing a bit of beta reading the past few weeks, and one of the things I've noticed in all the manuscripts I've read is the lack of contractions. There's nothing like a present day teen saying "I am going out, Dad.  Do not wait up for me." to drag me out of the story.

Everyone uses contractions when they speak.  If they don't, it's because they are emphasizing something.  When you write dialogue, and even in first person narrative, you need to use contractions or it sounds stilted and unnatural.  And you don't want your characters sounding like robots, right?

At school you were probably taught that in writing, you don't use contractions.  Writing is formal, and you should use the full words.  Yeah, that was probably true in the past, but these days, writing is much looser and freer and voice is everything.  And the voice feels unnatural if you don't use contractions.  Especially in YA.

So don't be afraid to thumb your nose at those teachers you had back in the fifth grade.  Writing 'you're' instead of 'you are' is not going to send you down the slippery slide to writers' hell.

Do you use contractions?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Questions and answers

My friend Jolene Perry posted this Q & A on her blog today and asked that people who read it answer them too.  So here goes....  A mini-interview!  If you like it, please consider yourself tagged and you can  answer the questions on your own blog!  Or in the comments.  Whatever floats your boat....

Do you listen to music while you write? Before you write? Or neither?
It really depends on the book.  Usually not.  Music is always really important to my books and there are always specific songs I reference in them (even if I don't say exactly what they are) but I need to listen to music when I'm not writing.  

Do you work on one project at a time? Or many projects at a time?

I tend to focus on one novel length project at a time.  But I do write short stories sometimes while mid-novel.  I also usually start at least thinking about my next book as soon as I've finished my first draft so I have something to work on while I let the novel rest.  And I usually start writing that new book as I'm finishing up edits on the last one.

Do you know when you've started writing something special? Or do they all feel special?
No.  I don't have a lot of perspective on my own work.  I know when a scene feels amazing as I'm writing it, but I'm never sure anything I write is anything other than ordinary until I've had time away from it.
Are there projects that you couldn't imagine changing anything in the story? And on the opposite of that, are there projects where you could shrug about change and jump in and do it?
No to the first question and yes to the second.  I know my weakness as a writer is in plotting, so I never take anything as being set in stone.  Everything and everyone can always be changed.  That's why I value my crit partners so much - they always know when I need to change things and nudge me in the right direction.

Do titles come easily for you? Or are they more difficult?
Sometimes they're easy, but most of my books spend a long time being called just 'Chris' or 'Casey' or 'Liz' until they find their title.

Did you know you wanted to be a writer when you started your first book?
I think I always secretly wanted to be a writer, but it wasn't a 'real' job so I never admitted it until recently.

Do you think your first book will be published? (I know this is a REALLY rude question to ask someone who is working on their first book ;-)
Absolutely not!  My first book is buried deep in a drawer where it will never see the light of day.  In fact, I should destroy all evidence of it in case I die and someone finds it and publishes it to spite me.  

Are there favorite places in your house where you like to write? Or do you get more work done when you go somewhere else?
 I tend to get more done if I get out of the house.  I like to write at the library, but unfortunately it's not that practical to go there all that often, so I usually write at home.  My desk is in the dining room which is also a major thoroughfare, so I get interrupted a lot.  Except when I write at 5:30am.

So there you have it!  What about you?

Monday, October 22, 2012


I'm one of those annoying people who notices spelling and grammar mistakes everywhere.  My teeth go on edge when I see a sign with a misplaced apostrophe or a blatant spelling error.  Every time I've been to the gym recently I've been confronted by posters someone put up about a lost necklace with great 'centimental' value.  There's no pen in my gym bag, thankfully, so I've been able to resist correcting every one....

So you can imagine my humiliation when I opened the newspaper on Saturday and discovered that in the ad for my cinema, there was a misplaced apostrophe in one of the film titles.

I don't make up the ads, but I do proof them, and I can't believe I didn't see it.  I'm such a stickler about these things.  And then a customer actually talked to me about it too.  Several other cinemas are also showing this film, and apparently everyone had made mistakes in placing the apostrophe on this film title.

You'd better believe that's going to be fixed before any ads go to print this week!

Do spelling or grammar mistakes in public places make you itchy too?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Always the way...

About a week ago I had a short story accepted for publication.  I haven't been sending stories out much in the last year or so because I've been focusing on writing novels instead.  But the theme of this particular journal was a perfect fit for one of my Beach House Stories, so I submitted it.

Yesterday, that same story was requested by another publication I'd sent it to months ago.

Isn't that always the way?  Months and months of rejections or stony silence, then two people want the same piece at the same time!  It's not the first time that's happened to me either.

Ah, well.  At least it's getting published, right?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Too long?

I'm still revising Sidewalks, and based on notes from my CP, today I wrote an entirely new chapter.  This new section is going to need at least another half chapter to bridge to where I need to be, so all up I'm guessing it's going to add another 3-4K to my manuscript.

And it's already around the 85K mark, which is longish for YA, but fairly typical for me.  All my books are around the 85K mark.  I just don't seem capable of writing anything shorter.  I usually have about 65-70K when I finish a first draft, but the revision process always beefs things up.

Is this too long??

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Query help

I'm not ready to start sending Sidewalks out yet, but it's never too early to start working on a kick-ass query.  So while I wait on my readers to finish the MS, I've been trying out query ideas.  And now I need some outside eyes across it.  I know it's not great yet and it needs to be.  So can you help me out?

Dear Agent of my Dreams,

#Insert personal info here and reason for choosing# I thought you might be interested in The Sidewalk's Regrets, my 84 000 word novel.

Seventeen year-old Sacha McLeod has never had time for rock music.  She’s far too busy practicing her violin, always focused on the next competition or workshop on the horizon.  She doesn’t expect a trip to the music store to replace a broken E-string to change her life.  But when she hears the guy playing guitar, something about the music grabs her gut and won’t let go.

She accepts an invitation from the guitarist, Dylan, and goes to see his band play.  The energy, violence and unpredictability of the music thrills her and she falls hard for Dylan and his wild, inventive sound.  

Sacha’s not alone in crushing on the band’s music.  A record label owner sees their live show and offers them the opportunity to move to the city and record.  With stars in their eyes, the band accept.  When her plans for the summer are shattered, Sacha jumps at the opportunity to spend time with Dylan in the city.

She’s expecting an idyllic summer filled with romance, passion and music, but tensions grow as the band, cramped in a filthy basement apartment, with little money and few opportunities to play, sink into depression and self-destructive behavior.   When Sacha finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan’s newly acquired drug habit, she realizes that despite what the songs say, sometimes love isn’t all you need.

How can I make this better?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Observations & questions

I read all the time about how the population is getting fatter and how obesity is becoming epidemic in many first world countries.  But I don't see it much in my every day life.  I'd consider myself a little overweight, but certainly not obese or even fat.  Comfortably plump, maybe?  A little rotund?  Well padded?  Curvy?

Yesterday I took the kids to the water slides, and I was horrified at the number of genuinely fat people I saw.  A lot of them kids and teenagers.  Mainly girls, too.

When I was a kid, there was usually only one fat kid at school; now it seems like a good third of kids are what I would consider chunky at the least.  Is this because of TV and computer games?  Because parents are scared to let their kids run around outside without supervision?  Because kids don't walk or bike to school every day?

I don't have an answer, but I suspect it's a mixture of things.  I know when I was a kid we ran around outside a lot.  We roller skated and biked and jumped rope.  We hurled ourselves off monkey bars and played all kinds of vicious ball-games in the playground.  As long as we were home for dinner, we could play anywhere in the neighborhood.

And we did....

By the creek.  In the construction sites.  Up the back of a newly developed subdivision.  At the school down the road.  And anyone's house who invited us.

Is life more dangerous for kids nowadays, or are we just more aware of the dangers?  We rode bikes without helmets.  We climbed trees.  We skateboarded without any pads or wrist-supports.  Did we hurt ourselves?  Hell, yeah.  Do kids hurt themselves now?  Of course they do.  There's always someone with their arm in a cast or stitches in their chin.  Maybe not so many though.

Kids were abused in my day.  Pedophiles and flashers did their dirty business.  Occasionally a kid would go missing and for a few days that would be front page news.  But after the scare was over, parents relaxed again and kids were allowed to roam free again.

Has the world really got that much worse?  Or are we just more frightened of the things we can't control?  And is this fear making people fat?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reading awesome books

With all this free time I've had this month, I've been reading a lot.  And I've discovered there are two ways I read books I'm really enjoying.

Some books I just never want to stop reading.  Once I pick it up, I want to keep reading until I've finished.  I can't wait to turn each page because I need to know what happens next.  They're quick reads.  Several times this month I've read a book in a day or so.

The other ones I love need to be read more slowly.  They're so awesome I want them to last forever, so I read slowly, dipping in and out so I can savor every word and phrase.  And when the book is finished, I miss it and wish I could read it again the same way.

But of course you can never read a book for the first time again.  And even rereading it won't be the same experience because you already know the book's secrets and surprises.  Which doesn't mean you can't enjoy a book a second time.  I have many books I return to fairly regularly because I love them so much.  They're like my old friends.

As a writer, I want my books to be like the ones I love.  I want people to savor the language and imagery, to be so involved with my characters that they can't bear to put the book down until they've found out what happens to them.

How do you read the books you love?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beta reading

Since I've decided not to start my new book for a couple more weeks, I find I have time on my hands.  And for once, I'm all caught up on beta reading.  So, if anyone wants a fresh set of eyes across their work, I'm free to read.

Just a few things you should know....

If you write fantasy, I'm probably not your girl.  I'm fine with a few magical elements in a story, but if you have elves and magic and wizards, I'm just turned off before I start.  I hate The Hobbit and LOTR and all those stories set in weird mythical worlds.

I'm very honest.  If you're not ready to hear that your story isn't perfect, I'm probably not the right reader for you.  I don't sugar-coat things.

I write gritty, issue driven contemporary YA, so that's my area of expertise.  That said, I regularly beta for a horror writer, romance writers and urban fantasy writers as well as other YA authors.

So, if you're interested, drop me a brief email about your book, and we can head on down this interesting road together.  I usually suggest I do a chapter or two to start with, just to see if my technique gels with you and that you're getting what you need from me.

While I don't expect you to read for me in exchange, if you would like to, I do have an MS that could use a few more eyes.

So who needs a reader?  I think I can probably take on three to get me through to the end of October.

Friday, October 5, 2012

On A Break

After tinkering and making a few false starts on my new book, I've decided to take a break for the month of October and blitz the draft during NaNo next month.  I'm still working through niggly little revisions on Sidewalks, and after finishing two books already this year, I feel like a month off is a good idea.

I have a big film festival starting next week and the kids are off school for two weeks, so not working on something feels like the right decision.  And I've successfully completed NaNo twice before, and know what a huge butt kick it can be.

So, until November 1st I shall blissfully enjoy watching bad television, reading books and making a dent in the pile of DVDs that continually reside on my desk at work.  Not to mention playing with the kids and taking them on outings.

What do you do with your time while you're on a break from writing?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Laughter yoga

Last night a friend of mine asked me to come with her to Laughter Yoga.  I'm not a huge yoga fan.  I'm not that bendy and tend to fall a lot.  I usually end up laughing at my own ineptitude anyway, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

As it turns out, Laughter Yoga has nothing much to do with actual yoga at all.  It's all about laughing.  Apparently the body can't tell the difference between a real laugh and a fake one, so if you force yourself to laugh you get the same endorphins etc.  And to be honest, once you get into a room with ten other people who are laughing, it's kind of contagious.

I really enjoyed myself.  It's not often my face muscles ache after a workout!  And the exercises the tutor put us through were fun, more like theatre-sports or the kind of improv games we used to do at drama school.  Except you laugh all the way through.  At the end, there was a whole ten minutes of laughing for no reason while lying on the floor.  I kept trying to stop myself, thinking it was really silly, but with all those other laughers around me, I couldn't keep the giggles from bubbling up my throat.

Afterward, I felt great.  And for the rest of the night I found myself laughing far more at little things that might usually have only provoked a smirk otherwise.

Have you ever tried Laughter Yoga?  Did you like it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Opening pages

The first pages of your book are important.  The first paragraph, the first line even.  You need to grab the reader by the throat from the get go to make sure they keep reading to the bottom and turn the page.

But you don't need to give away the whole book on the first page.

So many contests out there ask for the first 100-500 words of your manuscript and judge the book on those few words.  And yes, they are important. But I don't believe you have to give away the entire plot or even that much information in the first page.

A reader will be able to tell within a few lines if the writing is good.  Certainly, that's something I look for in an opening page.  If there are spelling or grammar errors, I will probably pass on reading any further.  If the prose is stilted or repetitive, ditto. If I'm dumped in the middle of a huge action scene, with no idea who the heroes and villains are, I'm probably going to put down the book.

So what entices me to read past the opening lines?  To take the book home from the library rather than back onto the shelves?

Voice, for one.  If I like the way the character comes off the page, I'll go with it, regardless of what's going on.  If I'm interested in the situation the character's in, I'll read on.  If I'm intrigued by something I don't fully comprehend, I'll keep going until that curiosity is sated.  And usually by then, I'm captured.

It's very rare that I'll put down a book after a first page.  In fact, usually I'll give it a chapter or two.  I hate to quit reading something and will usually keep going even if I'm not liking it especially.  I've been surprised often enough by books that are boring as hell for 3/4 of their length and then became utterly compelling in that last 100 pages.

Maybe I'm unusual...

How far into a book do you tend to get before putting it down?