Friday, March 30, 2012

How Do You Celebrate "The End"?

I have friends who are in sales, and when they land a big deal, they have a closing dinner with the client.  A no-expenses-spared meal at a super expensive restaurant (thanks to the company AmEx) with free flowing pricey wine and cocktails.  Sounds nice, huh?  Well, as a writer, I don't have a company credit card, or an entire department to give me a standing ovation.  So when I finished writing my Christmas novella at two in the morning - because when you get close to the end, you just can't stop until there's a happily ever after - last weekend, all was quiet.  My husband was asleep (he's forgiven, as it was past midnight).  Shouting in triumph would've awakened him and the neighbors.  Jumping up and down in glee was nixed because I'm on crutches.  The only option available to me?  I sent a Tweet into cyberspace proclaiming my joy.  But I didn't stay up to see if anyone responded.

Finishing a book is odd.  It isn't the same manic  thrill as landing an agent, or selling your manuscript.  Finishing a book is expected.  A contractual obligation.  At my day job, I don't expect a round of applause when I finish a presentation, or book an airline flight.  Those are required duties.  And for a writer, the biggest requirement is to finish the damn book.

On the other hand, while churning out the story, you've lived with these characters for a while.  Sometimes weeks, sometimes months.  You are emotionally invested.  And if you're like me, the last 5,000 words come out in a frantic marathon.  After all that, there must be some reward, some celebration.

I gave myself one day off (both as reward, and to recover from staying up so late).  My big reward was to dive into the next Black Dagger Brotherhood book on my list.  I read without any guilt or fear it would cut into my daily word count.  The day after that, I put my hands on the keyboard and went back to book two of my trilogy, currently almost halfway to the finish line.  There's no champagne, and few accolades, aside from my super supportive hubby.  But it still felt like a win to me.  How do you celebrate typing those two magic words, The End?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Would You Want Your Book Turned Into A Movie?

There's a lot of buzz going around about a little movie called The Hunger Games.  It is the first in what will be a huge franchise, like Twilight and Harry Potter.  And it all started with a book.  Which made me wonder, would I want any of my books turned into movies? 

First of all, there's the money to consider.  When a studio takes out an option on your book, you get a chunk of $.  Janet Evanovich had her option on One For the Money renewed something like fifteen times.  At a convention she mentioned almost being disappointed when they finally decided to move forward with the movie, because the option renewal money would dry up.  So in terms of cold, hard  incoming cash, I guess I'd be pretty darn pleased.

Next, to follow up on the cash angle, if people like the movie, chances are good at least some of them will want to read more of my books.  Ergo, increased overall sales.  Also a good thing!

But (and I'm sure every author reading this will agree when it comes to their own works) my book is perfect.  I slaved over it.  Every line of dialogue is witty and brilliant and propels each chapter seamlessly forward.  A screenwriter might very well cut some of my best dialogue, or, even worse, add some of their own!  Granted, then it wouldn't be my book anymore - it would be its own distinct animal.  I'm pretty sure it would still sting.

Then there's the quality factor.  Stephen King is a writing god, and yet many of his wonderful, amazing books have been thoroughly RUINED in the movie making process.  Ruined so completely that if I only saw the movie, I'd probably make it a point not to buy any of his books, which defeats part of my cold, hard cash argument above.  Nora Roberts, my writing idol and queen of romance, had at least nine of her titles turned into movies by Lifetime.  Quite a coup, right?  Nope.  They were horrible.  I wouldn't want that to happen to any of my books.

And it may be a small, petty reason, but I use movie and television stars as models for all my heroes.  My current WIP is 'starring' Dylan McDermott.  He and my character Sam the gourmet chocolatier are forever linked in my mind.  If I don't get to see him shirtless and covered in chocolate, I don't want to see anybody do it.

But those are emotional reactions.  Writing, for all its angst and inner torture, is a business.  So although I'd be a nervous wreck, I'd definitely sign over the rights to a movie studio for any of my books.  Would you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Sociological Thriller That Will Keep You Talking

It might be the first day of spring, but flu season lingers on.  Before it (happily) disappears for the year, I've got a book that will make you rethink the ramifications of a week filled with Kleenex, hot tea and thermometers.
The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen is historical fiction set against the deadly 1918 flu epidemic.  When a small town decides to quarrantine itself against the ravages of the outside world, men take shifts guarding the single road into town.  The action really kicks in when a cold, starving lone soldier begs to be granted access.

It is a sociological thriller about mob mentality, the instinct to fight for your life no matter what, and the moral dilemma of holding someone else's life in your hands.  This is a great choice for your book club, because discussion possibilities are numerous.  It is thought provoking, entertaining, and chilling.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Gripping, Can't-Miss Read!

My book club meets once a month.  Those of us who are speedy readers generally wait til the last week to read the book, so it is fresh in our minds.  Except this month, my friend told me she'd finished the latest pick one day after we chose it.  I figured she had lots of time on her hands.  But when I picked it up from the library, even though I have a massive word count goal breathing down my neck, I couldn't stop either.  This book demands to be read, nay, devoured, as quickly as possible.  Sort of like the driving need to scarf down a juicy hamburger the moment it comes off the barbeque.
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson is one of the most gripping books I've ever read.  The premise seems to be a common, very current trope - that of amnesia.  Except this twist is different.  The heroine forgets everything that happened in the past 20 years every time she falls asleep.  Imagine waking up, thinking that you're 25, but looking in the mirror in horror at a middle aged woman.  Waking up next to a man you don't know, a man who has to tell you the story of the mysterious accident that robbed you of your memory every day. 

Then imagine you start keeping a journal to 'create' a memory - and you discover that man, your...husband?...can't be trusted.  And maybe your amnesia doesn't really stem from a car accident.  What else might he be keeping from you, and what will happen if the memories do come back?  This book begins as a taut psychological thriller, and then takes a turn into full on suspense.  I can't rave about it enough - hurry up and go read it!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Splurge worthy treat - Bacardi Pina Colada Cake

Spring is right around the corner.  Here in Baltimore, it was 40 degrees yesterday, and (they claim) it will be 70 tomorrow.  Here is a splurge worthy treat that will definitely feel like spring invaded your kitchen, and your tastebuds, from its sunny color to the flavor punch.  Plus, it is easy to make when company is coming, because it all starts with a simple cake mix.  Big shout out to the folks at Bacardi for coming up with this one.  Enjoy!

Bacardi Pina Colada Cake


    • For the cake:
      • 1 package yellow cake mix
      • 1 (4 serving) package instant coconut cream pudding mix (I couldn't find coconut cream in my store and used vanilla - just as yummy!)
      • 13 cup dark rum (or light - whatever your prefer)
      • 4 eggs
      • ½ cup water
      • ¼ cup oil
    • For the frosting:
      • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, in juice
      • 1 (4 serving) package instant coconut cream or vanilla  pudding mix
      • 13 cup dark rum
      • 1 (9 ounce) containers frozen whipped topping, thawed
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Grease and flour 2 9-inch layer pans.
    3. Blend cake mix, pudding, eggs, water, rum, and oil in large mixer bowl on low speed, constantly scraping bowl, until moistened, about 1/2 minute.
    4. Beat on medium speed, scraping bowl frequently, 3 minutes.
    5. Pour batter into prepared pans.
    6. Bak 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
    7. Cool 15 minutes.
    8. Remove pans; cool completely.
    9. Fill and frost layer cake.
    10. Sprinkle with coconut.
    11. Refrigerate cake (and any leftover cake).
    12. FROSTING: Combine crushed pineapple in juice, rum, and pudding; beat till well blended. Fold in whipped topping.

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Writer's Retreat - A Luxury You Can't Afford to Miss

    Writing is a solitary profession.  As much as I'd like to be a NYT bestseller and quit my day job, there are things I enjoy about it.  First of all, the health insurance and four weeks of paid vacation!  But also, I like the daily contact with people.  Chatting as people trickle in about the dresses at the Oscars, or how stupid drivers get with a dribble of rain.  When I get a cold, having people check every day to see if I feel better perks me up a bit.  And if I have a problem, I have a building full of people to whom I can vent.

    Writers - not so much.  We have strong and vibrant online communities, but don't often get the chance to congregate.  My critique group meets once a month, and we desperately cram as much information sharing, venting, plotting and craft and marketing questions as we can into the first hour, and then critique each other's work for the next three hours.  The time flies by far too fast!

    So last weekend we went on a retreat.  Rented a beautiful beach house (thank you, bargain off-season rates!) and hunkered down for two nights/3 days.  It was different than a conference - no workshops, no lectures, no schmoozing editors and agents.  Instead, it was an intensive look at our writing, our questions, our issues.  We talked through GMC on Friday night.  Sure, we all know what it is.  But this was the chance for individuals to pick apart their WIPs with us and figure out where they needed more, if it was sustainable for the whole book, etc. 

    Among the 9 of us who attended, we have a range of multi-pubbed authors, writers right on the cusp of selling, and writers bravely forging ahead to finish that first manuscript.  EVERYBODY had great suggestions.  Keep in mind that you don't need a contract to have viable ideas.  All you need is an imagination, and we've got plenty of those.  If you're thinking about a retreat and worrying that without a quorum of published authors it won't be worthwhile, well, don't.  Brainstorming is about putting brains together.  Credentials are shiny and fun, but not necessary.  We've found that as long as you are committed to writing, take it seriously, take classes, read craft books, BICHOK, then you bring something eminently worthwhile to the table.  Okay, I'll get down from my soapbox now.

    Saturday morning we dove into plotting (yes, that is completley different from GMC).  In the afternoon we brainstormed on branding.  In between all of these structured activities, we talked.  We talked about editors, agents, publishing houses, contracts, conventions, swag, you name it.  We're all friends - we know about each other's children, spouses, jobs, etc.  Somehow, we never got around to any of that.  This was our chance to completely submerge ourselves into writing, and did we ever.  The sharing we indulged in was just as necesary and important as all the time we spent actually brainstorming.  So yes, taking the entire weekend away was a luxury, but the impact it will have on our writing made it almost compulsory.  Take the time, carve it out, and whether there are two or twenty of you, go on your own writing retreat.  You'll be so glad you did.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    A Book You'd Have to Be Dead to Pass Up

    I think we all need a mental palate cleanser after the last month of romance recommendations.  Trust me - today's book, Stiff by Mary Roach, will not make you think of romance at all!

    The book is about cadavers.  Yup, an entire book about dead bodies - that is absolutely fascinating.  Most importantly, it is written with a wry touch of humor.  While absolutely respectful, it lightens the tone just enough to elevate the subject matter from depressing to compelling.

    You'll visit a human decay research facility that helps crime labs solve murders.  Learn about cadavers on the space shuttle, or being used in plastic surgery seminars and as crash test dummies. Body snatching, cannibalism, even how cadavers were used to solve the mysterious crash of TWA Flight 800. 

    At times, the morbidity forced me to examine my own mortality, and I'd take a short break - but that is the beauty of a book set up in vignettes. My book club raced through this, and had so much to discuss.  Highly recommend this to everyone!