Monday, February 28, 2011

If You’re Ever In Sun Valley…

As a follow up to my ‘A Place to Call Home’ post I get to announce the winners of my wolf-ish prizes and spread a little Sun Valley love.
First off, if you’re ever in Sun Valley there are a few places that I recommend visiting.  These are places I try to go every time I’m there and would recommend to anyone I know, so I’ll recommend them to you.
Chapter One Bookstore on Main Street in Ketchum.  I love this cozy bookstore.  It has a great selection of kid’s books as well as lots of interesting local flair.  Every time I’m there I stock up on new and interesting books for the kids to enjoy throughout our stay.  The staff is always friendly, but then who isn’t in Sun Valley, and the selection always fun to browse.  So if you’re ever in the Sun Valley area please give this local bookstore your business, because after all, we love books!  chapteronebookstore
Gretchen’s at the Sun Valley Lodge.  This little restaurant is located on the main level of the lodge and has some seriously good food.  I had crème brulee there with a blackberry sauce that made time stand still.  Really, I think it stopped for a moment.  Even the iced tea is exceptional.  You won’t regret a meal at Gretchen’s.  SunValleyLodge
The Kneadery in Ketchum is another wonderful dining experience.  They serve a breakfast that feels truly local with fresh and flavorful ingredients.  Their lunches are just as pleasing, so stop by anytime for a great and filling meal.  Really, we take guests there all the time.  TheKneadery

Ok, before I get too long winded on the Sun Valley recommendations, yes I could go on and on, I’ll jump ahead to the winners of my blog giveaway.
Drum-roll please……….
And the winners are:
Toby and Melissa – Wolves At Our Door by Jim and Jamie Dutcher
            This is a story of how wolves came back into Idaho.  I fell in love with these wolves on my first trip to Sun Valley and I hope you do too.  Their story is heartbreaking and magnificent.  This is why I had to incorporate wolves into my Sun Valley novel.

Beth – The Werewolves of Millers Hollow
            This is a game I just discovered that sounds like a lot of fun for a group of people.  I can’t wait to try it out myself at my next gathering. 

So, all the winners should contact me by email or DM on Twitter and pass along their addresses.  I’ll ship those giveaway prizes right out for your enjoyment.  Thank you for taking the time to view the blog and enter.  It’s always great hearing from readers out there.

And remember, if you’re ever in Sun Valley you’re sure to meet the friendliest folks around.  Oh, and the potatoes really are better there too.

I love you, Sun Valley!  Thanks for letting me call you ‘home’ even if it’s only once in a while.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Place to Call Home

Coming Home
Have you ever known a place that felt like home?  Maybe it wasn’t where you were born, where you grew up or where you’ve even lived.  It’s just a place that feels like you.  A place that feels like home.
I have a place like that.  I’ve known it less than half my life and I’ve never lived there.  I’m blessed to visit every year and every time I come into that valley surrounded by mountains I know I’m home.  I can’t tell you what it is that makes me feel this connection, but I do.  I guess it’s a lot like love that way, you just know it when you feel it. 
I would love to own a vacation property there, so I could be there every free moment I had.  I would love to live there, but my husband insists that a job is rather important and his isn’t there.  Someday maybe, if all the pieces of life work out just right, I’ll find myself there at least part time.  What I do know is that every moment I’m not there, I wish I was.  I try not to let it distract me from my daily life, but my heart really is at home somewhere else.
So, what do I do to pass the time when I’m not there?  I dream about being there.  In fact, if every novel I wrote could take place there I’d find a way to make it happen.  There are only so many vampires and wolves and various mythological and paranormal characters you can gather into one real valley unfortunately.  Maybe I’ll have to end up writing about real human people just so I can place them there.  Uggg, who am I kidding?

So why am I telling you about this valley surrounded by mountains that I love?
First of all, I get to go there soon.  Yea for me!
Second, I thought maybe a giveaway was in order…
I’m going to bring ya’ll back something from my private little mountain home, but you’re going to have to do a couple things for me.
1)     Tell me the name of the place I love, the place that feels like my home (there are clues close by).
2)     Tell me if you have a place that feels like home, and what makes it feel that way to you.
3)     Leave a way for me to contact you (email, twitter name...)
4)     Do all these things by 12 noon on Monday February 28, 2011.
The contest will close at that time and winner(s) will be selected by random org the same day by midnight PST.
If you like the contest, please Retweet or post it on your blog.  I’d love to get lots of entries and will give out more prizes based on number of entries.  What will the prizes be?  Here’s a hint: there may be wolves involved and books as well, all related to my happy place.

Have fun, and dream of ‘home’.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Paying Homage – The Digital Transition of the Literary Word

I hear a lot of debate about the transition to digital medium in the book world.  Of course, we all do.
More recently I’ve been hearing a lot about piracy and illegal downloading of e-books and what that means to writers as well as readers everywhere.  In all the talk about how terrible this is, and in fact it is stealing, so yes, it hurts us all, I see one subject has gone unrecognized.
This transition is hard, be we have the fortunate position to not be the first artistic medium affected by the digital change.  If you recall back to the dark ages when computers were monstrous machines that didn’t fit in your back pocket, but agggg, sat on your desk with a hard-drive somewhere hidden underneath, out of sight, then you might remember when the terms illegal downloading and piracy were all over the MTV news.  (Oh the days, I’m having my own private flashbacks now.)
Of course I was but a wee child at the time, but I remember one group in particular, Metallica something-or-other, who launched a campaign to end the piracy of music downloads.  They fought hard, they didn’t give up, and one could say they helped change the world of digital medium forever.
I think that as we all prepare to make another leap in the direction that music took those many years ago, we need to bear this in mind.  It has been done before.  Others have helped pave the way.  We are not going it alone into uncharted territory.  This is an advantage.
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and uncertainty that can come along with change.  It’s easy to feel history is being left behind and a certain sadness about a part of our lives changing forever.  But the truth is, we will survive.  Writers, authors, publishers, agents, and books will survive.  They may not look the same, function the same or even sound the same, but they will come out the other side of the wheels of time and will be enjoyed by all, not less, but probably more.
I know it’s hard to believe, isn’t it.
There used to be ‘records’.  People loved their records and their record players.  People still have vast collections of these little black discs that are now antiques to be cherished.  Then there were tapes and CD’s.  Yes, I remember both of those.  Now there are digital downloads and iTunes!  Whoa, no way.   Music has come a long way, and that’s only a fraction of its history.  Yet today music still exists, music artists, music producers, agents and record labels all still exist. 
So, as we, the collaborative book, writing, word industry, prepares to make a journey through this same transition process, let’s remember to take a little time and reflect on those who have gone before.  A lot of the rough water we are entering has been swum before.  We are fortunate for that.  It may not mean smooth sailing, but at least we have a compass.  There are laws, guidelines, companies and systems in place that can help us get through the changes ahead.  Which we will do.
No matter what our new roles may be, no matter how our product appearance may change, books will survive.  Books will flourish.  Books have been around since man could carve into thick stone tablets.  Books are our collective history, and they are our glimpse into the future.  You don’t really think we’ll give up on them now, do you?  I don’t.
So while the publishing industry figures out this whole process anew, I’ll do my job.  I’ll write.  I trust them to do their jobs.  Then, when it’s my turn to transition from a writer to an author, I’ll still need them doing their jobs so that I can continue doing mine.  Together we’ll make it through.  The future is in the books, no matter what form they’re in.


Thank you to all who have paved our way and to all who are blazing new trails right now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

POLTERGEISTFELD

Yes, it’s true.  I have my own little poltergeistfeld.
When my sweet little girl was born she had a strange fascination with the way her voice could make a deep, raspy, possessed sort of tone.  Over the many months she has had to develop this tone it’s taken on a carefully controlled, eerie tone.  She loves to switch rapidly between her raspy tone and her little sing-song girl voice, creating a great contrast.
Now, I wouldn’t say I’ve coached her on this voice, but I haven’t exactly encouraged her to stop using it either.  She seems to enjoy playing with the sound this way, and yes, sometimes I play along.
I must admit that I’ve tried to teach her how to use that voice in one way.  I’m trying to get her to say ‘red-rum’ in it.  I figured this might really freak out a few people, especially the ones in the church nursery.  But alas, no luck yet.  She’ll probably save it for her preschool entrance meeting or something totally untimely like that.
From the very early days, this voice has been a source of amusement around the house and I was, from the very first note of it, impressed with how poltergeist it sounded and how well that worked with our name.  The Shining connection was natural as well.  There have, however, been a few moments when it almost freaked me out a little too.  The time in her eating chair when she began making the sound and I turned to see her shaking her head back and forth, yes, it did almost appear to be spinning.  I expected the green jell-o to spew forth at any moment and chair levitation to follow.  It makes it all the better that she happens to be an adorable little blondie, with curls, big blue eyes and a ready, wide smile.
Yes, my beautiful little girl has a mind of her own, a seriously good sense of humor and a poltergeist performance that would leave you speechless.  She’s just over one.  Oh, what the future holds.  Of course, that kind of just fits with my life.  A little unexpected, a little unruly, and a whole lot of fun.  Just what we needed to give my 5yo a good run for his money.  Together, they somehow work perfectly.
I can only imagine what the next 20 years will hold for us.  Crazy.  Mayhem.  Fun.  Arguing.  Most of all, a whole lot of love.
Here’s to my kids, who keep me on my toes and give me a whole lot to smile about (and write about too.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What I Want to Read…

There are a few books I really want to read.  Some of them I have in my possession, some are on the way to me now, and some I have yet to invest in.  My problem?  TIME.  Basically I can’t seem to find any extra lying around unused.
Between being a mom and a wife and all the whatnot associated with that, and trying to get some amount of my own writing and editing and all that fun stuff done, and having one seasonal cold that runs into another… well, time is not a commodity that is left unspoken for.
When I’m in the middle of writing a book, I tend to avoid doing any reading.  I get wrapped up in my story and if derailed by another, it can cause me flow issues.  Right now I am in the middle of writing my own book, so that puts a kybosh on any new reading for a little.  But as soon as I get myself in gear and finish this MS, I have a list of books that’ll be vying for my attention.
I recently got BLUE BLOODS by Melissa DeLaCruz, well, three books actually, and they’re calling to me a lot.  I don’t know what to expect from this one, but hope it’ll be a fun read. 
I would also love to read through 100 CUPBOARDS by ND Wilson and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON by Cressida Cowell.  I have both these books now, but they’re yet unread.  I’m working on a MG book (on the side) and would like to have a little more related reading under my belt.
There’s one book that I must make my very next read though.  LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (LET ME IN) by John Ajvide Lindqvist has caught my attention.  It’s a vampire book, but from a different angle, and sounds promising.  The book and DVD are on the way to me and I’m really excited to get both.  I think I’ll like it and I’m so eager to find out that it’ll be hard to resist.
Another one tha’s probably second on my list is HANDLING THE UNDEAD, also by Lindqvist.  It sounds like a Zombie book from an entirely different perspective, so I’m really excited about it as well.  I don’t have that one yet, but I doubt I’ll be able to hold off for long.  I’m sure it’ll be in my hands well before I find the time to read it.

So, in the event I can manage to finish my writing, and free up some time around midnight or so, then perhaps I’ll get to spend time in a book that is both bound and not written by me.  That’d be a nice change of pace. 
In the meantime, happy writing and happy reading to you.

Giveaway Alert!!

My Uber-Fabulous Beta reader Nikki Brandyberry is doing a giveaway over on her Facebook page.  If you want more details you can go to her blog Ramblings From A Chaotic Mind or go find her blog's Facebook page.  Basically all you have to do is 'like' her Facebook page and you are entered into a giveaway for book $$$, and who doesn't need that?  The more followers by the end of February, the more she'll give away.  While you're at her blog, follow that too!  She's entertaining, informative, and fun.  She does book reviews that are honest and direct, plus much, much more.

So for a great site to add to your reading regulars list, check out Ramblings!

Thank you!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Thankless Task: The Secret Lives of Betas

They don’t write, they read.  With a careful eye and a thoughtful heart, they read.
They’re the unsung heroines of writers everywhere, and their task is oftentimes a thankless one.
They give our dreams wings and they cut us down to size.  One moment our spirits may soar, the next we find ourselves crying.  Then we stop crying and we get to work.  When we’re done working we know our writing is better, because through all the tears of disappointment we were forced to make it better.
That’s a beta’s job, to make writers face reality before it’s too late.
We don’t want to hear that our book has a plotline with more holes than swiss cheese.  We will cry when you say our main character is as flat as day old soda.  We’ll be tempted to close our laptops and never write again when you tell us that our story is unoriginal and dated.
But since writing is very much like a disease contracted in the deep jungles of Timbuktu, we will write again.  Plus, despite what you may think at the time, we don’t hate you.  We can’t hate you.  We need you and we respect you.  We value your opinions.  We lay the first fruits of our labor at your feet and we wait on pins and needles for your response.  Good or bad, we want to know the truth.
If we didn’t value your opinion, there would be no tears.  If we didn’t accept your criticism, then we wouldn’t close our laptops in pain for days as we came to grips with the truth.  We would merely say “what do they know, they’re so wrong!” and go on without another regard.  It wouldn’t hurt if it meant nothing.  But it does.  We’ve put our faith in you.  Everything you say matters.
We may go on to make a lot of changes, or a few changes.  We may pick and choose where to implement those changes. The point is, you make us think, in this painfully, brutally honest way, about our stories.  That’s not supposed to be pleasant.  That’s why we would rather do it with you, now, than with someone else down the road.
I know it can’t be easy to deliver bad news.  Truth seldom feels as good as our imaginations let us believe it will (heck, we are writers after all.)  We will hurt, we will not take it well.  But we don’t blame you.  We blame us (writers are good at that.)  Our dreams were too big, our excitement too premature, our characters too close to us.  Hence the mental shut down when the truth hits.  But it won’t last.  Because as much as we don’t want to hear it, we know we have to. 
We don’t come to you so that you’ll love it all and never question a single thing. 
That’s expecting a lot out of anyone, I know.
No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, especially not a tough as nails beta with a heart of gold (like mine.)  So when she knows just how hard I take her criticism, it hurts her.  Then I feel terrible.  Then I feel really afraid that she’ll never speak to me again, or want to read any of my stuff again.  Then I feel doubly terrible.  Because the truth is, I want her to criticize me.  I want her to see all the things that I can’t or that no one else has.  It will hurt, yes.  But that’s exactly why I trust her.  She has the gumption enough to deal it out the way she sees it.
So, if I’m confused and don’t know what to do after unexpected feedback, it’s only because it actually means a lot to me.  If I could write it off, then it wouldn’t be a problem.  But I can’t write it off, because I trust its source.
Will knowing any of this make my disheartened beta feel better?  I don’t know, but I hope so.  If she still wants to read for me, I want to know that she won’t be afraid to cut me down.  It will never feel good to take that kind of criticism, but I know it’s probably harder to be the one handing it out.  Just know that even when it feels like a thankless task, we are always thankful for what you’re willing to do.  Taking your time to read our works in depth so that they can become polished, perfected, and hopefully one day, published, is a huge deal to us.

So, thank you betas.

Thank you, Nikki.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Snark or Not To Snark, That is the Question

I will write again.  Really.
It’s not like I’m depressed and not writing, it’s more like I’m regrouping.  Yeah, that’s it!
You see, I have this MS. It’s completed and I’ve done some editing, but I knew it needed a lot more.  That part I was aware of.  But I’ve had lots of great feedback on it from my readers/critique-ers.  In fact (it’s a YA) one of the younger readers who doesn’t get swept away with books too often, couldn’t put it down and finished in two days.  Wow, I thought, I have something here.
So with that feeling in mind I sent it off to another reader, my queen of beta-ing reader.  YA isn’t her norm for personal reading, but that doesn’t really matter with her.  She knows her stuff and she’s able to put aside her personal preferences and judge it based on story strength and genre.  She’s great and I trust her judgment, a lot.
So when her review came back on the first three chapters, my prior happy bubble, burst.  Maybe I should say, BURST. 
My main character is snarky, whining, and unlikeable?
Yes, there were other issues, a lot of which I expected since I really needed to do another edit to trim the fat.  There were also some issues that are easy enough to alter that will make the flow better.  But, Snarky, Whining, and Unlikeable?  Holy Cow, what do I do with that?
Since then I’ve been busy, plus I’ve been trying not to think about it, while trying to resolve what I can possible do at the same time.  Thinking about something without thinking about it can be harder than I expected.  So now I’m here, ready to mentally hash this out.
Yes, my character is snarky, but it’s all inside her head.  She has the outward, verbal, her and the inward one that’s free to think what it wants.  She also reads minds, in a unique way, so she sees a lot of the hypocrisy in people, kinda like the hypocrisy in her, but she figures that out later.  At first she’s let her thoughts have a pretty free reign, but as she realizes that her thoughts aren’t exactly private, she has to start being responsible for them.  She has to grow up, and quickly, but that’s easier said than done.
Apparently my young readers connect to this snarky-inner thoughts-girl.  Thinking one thing, acting out another, still developing your own opinions in a lot of ways.  My older readers never mentioned anything negative about her, so I assumed all was good.  (Yes, I’ve put out a second request for them to tell me their thoughts on her, so I can hash it out a bit more.)
I guess I connect with her too.  When I was young I thought a lot and spoke a little, I still do I guess, unless writing counts as speaking, then I’ve become a chatterbox I suppose.  I don’t think I’m mean to people, but maybe in my thoughts I give myself a little room to speculate and poke fun.  That’s not nice, but I think a lot of us do it to a degree.  I think young people do it to a greater degree.  It’s how they decide their own opinions about people, taking the surface into account, taking speculation into account, adding in perceptions and then formulating your own idea.
So now I’m at a difficult point.  How snarky is too snarky?  I don’t want her to turn people off, and yet maybe I have to turn some people off in order to connect with others.  Do I tone her down?  Will I lose the interest of those who connect with her if she is toned down?  Do I grow her up more in the beginning, and in doing so lose the part of her that drew me to her?  How do I know when her voice is right for her and when I’ve harmed her voice by changing it?
To be honest, I still don’t know the answers.
I know there are a lot of other editing issues I could tackle.  I know I should do that first and decide on her voice and the degree of her snark after I spend more time with her.  Before I can do that I need to finish my current WIP, which was halted due to time constraints and too much thinking and trying not to think.
It’s time to get back to it.  I know it is.  Nothing will happen if I don’t pick up the laptop and get busy.  It’s up to me, so I better beat the funk and do my job.

My question for you is this:
How do you reconcile the varying opinions of your readers and critique partners without losing the original vision and voice which made you want to write the story?  When the responses don’t agree, where do you find the balance?

Thanks for traveling with me for this little while on my writing journey.