Monday, February 23, 2015

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

I haven't posted anything that falls into my All Things Writing category in a while. Today, I have a wonderful guest, Dianne K. Salerni. I hope you visit her blog before this is all said and done. She's a writer who provides excellent content on her blog on a regular basis. (We all strive for it, but Dianne regularly achieves it. I admire her very much!)

If you're not familiar with Dianne (or her blog), she has several novels under her belt. She recently released the second book in her Eighth Day series, The Inquisitor's Mark, published with Harper (an imprint of Harper Collins). I wrote a review for the first book in the series and you can find it here. Today, I want to share my review of the new book before you hear from Dianne.

The Inquisitor's Mark, the second book in The Eighth Day series, hits all the right notes. Jax's liege lady, Evangeline, lives solely in the eighth day. To try and anchor her in the rest of the week, Riley ties himself to her. That plan backfires and Riley is sucked into the void Evangeline, and all the Kin, live on the other seven days. While Riley's "gone," Jax's best friend, Billy, is kidnapped by the evil Dulac clan.

Even though Riley's remaining clan members are against the idea, Jax heads to New York City to save Billy. He knows that if the Dulacs don't kill him, Riley will when he "wakes up." Jax has less than a week to get Billy and get out. Once he gets there, it's one surprise after another for Jax. The Dulacs are his family he's never met. Someone has erased Billy's memory and he doesn't want to leave. So much for an easy escape! He might, or might not, have a friend in his cousin, Dorian.

There are tunnels under the Dulacs building where time stops. Will Jax be able to use those tunnels to help Billy escape, or will they only encounter more danger there? However, all of Jax's plans could be foiled if his cousin, Sloane, erases his memory and replaces it with made-up memories. If that happens, Jax could end up hurting the people he loves and helping people he hates. The stakes have never been higher as Jax figures out precisely who he is, and what he's capable of doing, in The Inquistor's Mark. If you love Arthurian legend, you will enjoy this fast-paced magical romp through New York City (and below).

Dianne K. Salerni bats it out of the zoo in The Inquisitor's Mark!

I asked Dianne to write a post for me on the topic of her choice. I was delighted when she sent me this nugget. I think I might need to do something REALLY BAD to my MC after reading this (and buy some heartburn meds to get me through it)!

Doing Bad Things to Your Characters
by Dianne K. Salerni

In my final year of teaching (2013-14), I read aloud to my 5th grade classes my soon-to-be-released book The Eighth Day. The students were eager to keep ahead of the public, so they asked me: “What’s Book #2 about?”

“Jax discovers he has a family,” I said, referring to the orphaned main character of The Eighth Day. “An uncle, cousins, and grandparents—all wanting to give him a good home. Too bad they happen to be the same evil people who assassinated his guardian Riley’s family.”

There was a general gasp of horror, and one girl slapped her hand on her desk, exclaiming, “Mrs. Salerni! How could you do that to Jax?”

As a writer, I appreciated her empathy for Jax’s dilemma. As a teacher, I was delighted by her understanding that —as the author—I did it to him on purpose.

Before I started drafting The Inquisitor’s Mark, Book 2 in the Eighth Day series, I already had this premise, which was supposed to pose a heart-rending choice for my MC. I wrote an outline for the book, something I don’t normally do, but my editor had asked for. But I worried the plot was lacking in tension because the outcome seemed pre-ordained.  Anyone who’d read Book 1 would guess Jax’s choice – and one beta reader who looked at my outline posed another problem: “Your villains are too powerful. How will Jax ever stand against them?”

I pondered those problems at recess duty, watching the kids play basketball and kickball. Suddenly, an idea occurred to me that would address the issue of the too-strong villains and the problem of the too-easy choice. I could do something really bad to Jax.

Immediately, I rejected the idea. I couldn’t do that!

Could I? No way.  

But could I?

No. How could I maintain POV if I did it?

But could I?

I posed the idea to my husband that night. He was driving at the time, and when he flinched, the whole car lurched. “That’s awful!” he exclaimed. “You’re going to do it, right?”

I emailed a critique partner. She replied, “I hate it! It’s perfect!”

Bottom line. As the author, you have to do awful things to the characters you love.

Personally, I suffer along with my characters. When I actually wrote the chapters where I did this thing to Jax, I could have swigged Mylanta by the gallon, my stomach was churning so much. I might’ve thought I was really sick, except that by the time I wrote The Inquisitor’s Mark, I’d already learned to detect the symptoms of Climax Sickness.

Climax Sickness = When the author suffers along with her characters through the worst part of their lives.

I first noticed it when writing the climax of We Hear the Dead, where I was required to write the death of a major character (because this person really died, historically) no matter how much it stabbed my MC in the heart. I sobbed along with her. I further noticed it when I poisoned my favorite character in a (yet unpublished) manuscript. I was so distressed, I stayed up until 3 am—heart-pounding, hands shaking—until I’d written the subsequent chapter where he was saved.

I did a bad thing to Jax in The Inquisitor’s Mark. I’m sorry. It wasn’t easy, although I think it makes the book a lot better.

Awful as it was, it’s still not quite as bad as what I did to him in Book #3 … (*swigs Mylanta*)

Dianne went to the zoo (solely for the sake of accuracy:)

Have you read Dianne's blog? The Eighth Day? The Inquisitor's Mark? Have you visited a place to research your book? Do you feel ill when you do bad things to your characters?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Battle of The Bands Results... Just Tryin' To Stay Alive

Turns out that most of you didn't care for Destiny's Child's version of Emotion. I had no idea that the vote would turn out as lopsided as it did. I suspected that there might be some disco haters in there who would vote not so much for Destiny's Child but against The Bee Gees. Nope. Not really. Turns out that The Bee Gees are fairly beloved. Final tally without my vote:

Destiny's Child: 2
Bee Gees: 25

I also preferred The Bee Gees, but at the time I heard the Destiny's Child version it was SO MUCH BETTER than the music that preceded it and what followed it that I thought it was better than it actually was. Does that make any sense? I'm talking about when I heard it first sitting in the game room. Ah well.

Ironically, on my last trip into that same game room, I heard this song. You don't have to tell me I'm a creature of habit. I already know. Anyway, I found it ironic. And I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I'm a woman's man: no time to talk
Music loud and women warm, I've been kicked around
Since I was born
And now it's all right, it's OK
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York Times' effect on man

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Battle of the Bands and My Novel ~ Emotion

Hello again, friends.

Before we launch Battle of the Bands (early again), I want to take a moment and share what's going on in my world.

Now, when I talk about my migraines, I know many of you think that they are WORSE than before. That isn't true. They are better than they were when I started blogging, but they are not as good as I want them to be (that would be gone). I still have days that knock me out and put me in bed (more than I'd like), but less than I had before we made the move to Florida.

The thing is that I only get so many *good* hours in a day and I have to decide how I want to use them. When I'm  using them blogging, you know it. I'm writing blogs. I'm reading blogs. I'm posting HERE'S TO YOU weekly. If you don't know what the latter is, I apologize. When I'm not using those hours blogging, it looks very much like the last two months. Again, I apologize.

The rewrite on my novel is sucking my *good* time. I wish I could say I'm making fine headway. Mostly, I'm writing. Deleting what I wrote a few days later. Reading someone else's (good) book. Writing. Deleting. Rinse. Repeat. It finally occurred to me yesterday what the problem is. Yeah, it only took a month or so. The POV of my MC has completely changed (and I'm not talking about first to third and that business). I'm talking about the thrust of the plot. The action. All of that internal dialogue has shifted, along with the events that go with it. You see, in the old story my MC was a bit like me. She more or less stumbled into things and then had to figure out how to deal with what she stumbled into... as opposed to making things happen.

If you want an example from my life, this blog serves excellently. I had no idea what I was doing when I started writing it. I stumbled around for months (mostly without clue). Eventually ran into (quite by accident) interesting bloggers and built relationships. Then I discovered via them other interesting bloggers. When I started writing, I began to discover writer blogs. They had links to other writer things... like agent blogs. You see, I backdoored my way through this entire blogging experience. My MC was backdooring her way through my novel. That is what I know how to do (too well, I think). Turns out, it really isn't that helpful to the reader. Bryan (from a A Beer For The Shower) gave me commentary that I sorely needed. He said something like, "I'm 40+ pages in and this is entertaining as all get-out, but I have no idea what it's about." And he was right. My MC didn't arrive at *the point* until Chapter 6. She was backdooring around, allowing the reader to fully glimpse the calamity that was/is her life, but there wasn't really a *point.* Turns out, that inserting the *point* sooner changes everything. I'm struggling with it. I've already scrapped stuff I really liked about the old MS to make way for the *point.* I keep trying to work around what's already there. I'm just about at the place where I think  need to start rewriting altogether. I can't make the backdoor and the *point* walk hand-in-hand.

Actually, that's good advice for life. I think if I want to get to the point of my own life, I need to stop wandering around hoping to backdoor into it. I will ponder that more later.

Tomorrow is busy for me, but it's also Battle of the Bands. So, I'm launching early.

I discovered this cover quite by accident. Do you sense a recurring theme in this post? I didn't even recognize that it was a cover until the chorus. Then I was like, "I know this song. Just not this song." So, I scrapped what I was considering for this BoTB installment in favor of this song: Emotion. The original is a Bee Gees number featuring Samantha Sang. The cover was something I'd never heard until a few days ago (although it was apparently a big hit) by Destiny's Child.

Since I think you probably know the original, let's begin with the cover. Here's Destiny's Child covering Emotion:

And here is The Bee Gees featuring Samantha Sang:

For more Battle of the Bands fun, check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:

If you are participating in Battle of the Bands, and you are not listed here, leave me a note in the comments. Thanks!

Now, is the critical moment. It is time to vote for your favorite version of this song. I even encourage you to leave me long comment explaining all the ins and outs of why you voted as you did! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Battle of the Brand Results ~ Brand New Book

I have to fess up. I've not been on Blogger for several days. I've mostly been migraining. Yeah, that's officially a "thing" now. Mostly because I just said it was. I did feel marginally better today, and it was a good thing, because I spent most of it at church.

Anyway, even though I hadn't been here, I did count up the votes on Battle of the Bands a few days ago. Much to my surprise, it was a tie.

11 votes to The Underdogs. 11 votes to UB40.

Holy smokes. Then I started praying someone/anyone would come back and vote so I didn't have to be the You Know What. The irony is that I've thought RIGHT UP UNTIL THIS BATTLE that I really wanted a close one. Turns out, I didn't want a tie-breaking one. In a tie-breaking event, I have to break the tie. I know many of you thought as you cast your vote that my vote was obviously and clearly for UB40. The thing is I really like The Underdogs, too.

Apparently you guys are equally divided on this issue. So, even though my vote has no more power than anyone else's vote, it sure 'nuff feels like it does. I listened to both songs again. Just to be sure. And you guys know me so well. I do like the UB40 version just a hair better than the other one. But only a hair, so don't go thinking you know me TOO well, 'cuz you don't. Obviously.

So, that means UB40 won the battle. And I kinda sorta feel like I won, too. Yippee. A tie. I finally picked two versions of the same song that resulted in a tie. ::clicking heels::

In case you thought I'd given up on my Train Education (of you) due to lack of interest... rethink it. I'm only halfway there. I'm not really sure where Brand New Book falls. It wasn't on an album. It was a single that is used as the theme song for the TV Show, The Biggest Loser. I don't watch the show, but I love the song. Since it fits the sentiments I expressed above, it's getting played NOW. I present to you Brand New Book. Here I am, you still me know. Just the same old story in a brand new book.

Underneath these lifelong
Things that were right till they went wrong
When misunderstood stood in my way.
Now down in the heart of a matter-of-fact
There's a place I remember and I wanna go back
Where I stop getting even and started to change.

All I want is you to see me
Here I am
You still know me
Here I am
Take another look
Here I am
Same old story in a brand new book

If second chances were dances
You know I would have two left feet
But at least I'd have a front row seat to love
And so I've been turning it upside down
Shaking it up and shaking it out
And now I'm running for you
Instead of running from me

All I want is you to see me
Here I am
New as morning
Here I am
Just like the sun
Here I am
Without warning
I'm the one for you
Here I am
You still know me
Here I am
Take another look
Here I am
Same old story in a brand new book

And now I get set of second chances to turn
The pages of the lessons of the love that I've learned
Was true, now all that's missing is you

All I want is you to see me
Here I am
New as morning
Here I am
Just like the sun
Here I am
Without warning
I'm the one for you
Here I am
You still know me
Here I am
Take another look
Here I am
Same old story in a brand new book
Here I am
Here I am
The same old story in a brand new book

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IWSG: A Spine-Tingling, Bone-Chilling Adventure

I apologize for my lateness to this insecurity party hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. I'd explain, but I'd sound even more insecure. So, let's just leave it with "Sorry, and please forgive me."

I am posting a clip for your viewing pleasure today. It is from the TV show, Castle, which features a bestselling author, Richard Castle, mostly solving cases with the NYPD. However, he is still a writer, and the show occasionally includes mentions of his writing. In this episode, he had a new book releasing (many of you can relate) and his publisher posted a video to MARKET the book on his website. He's so excited to see it. He brings his mother, daughter, and girlfriend (soon to be wife) to his computer so that they can all view this "amazing" video the publisher has cobbled together to launch his book. To say it isn't what he was expecting... understatement. And hilarious.

Did you see the look on his face? Abject horror. "A million people have seen that?"

I know that Richard Castle is a fictional best-selling author, but I bet you dollars to donuts that even real bestselling authors have experienced blips in their publishing journey. This is your gentle reminder to relax and laugh at yourself.

As for me and my insecurities... my writing isn't going as easily as I'd like, either. I kinda feel Castle in that video: tripping around, upending my plot, jumbling my thoughts and words, and looking a lot like a bobblehead doll. It's all just part of the "fun."

Until next month friends!