Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Do You Need?

Right now, I'm reading Raven, a remarkable story about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. The author Tim Reiterman does a remarkable job not only describing Jones' early days as a minister in Indiana on the massacre at Jonestown, but offers glimpses of the believers and their families. We are made aware of their needs:

Jones needed power, acceptance, unchallenged devotion. Members of the Temple (the majority of them Black) needed to belong to a church and a God that loved them, saw them as important, gave them a voice, and provided for all of their earthly needs. In Jones, they saw a loving father who gave them food, shelter and political power. He met their needs. And then he exploited those needs.

Reiterman is sure to remind readers about the needs of these people, and as a result, I care about them. I want them to escape, even though I know their fates.

As a writer, this is a huge goal-identifying your characters' needs and making sure the world cares. Because what good is it when the reader simply shrugs and says, ''Whatever."

In my w.i.p, Nicole, my main character, needs to understand why she has been left alone m the world. She needs to understand the death of her husband so that she can get back to living. She also needs sleep and psychological counseling.

What do your characters need?

The Beauty of Being Ill

Can't do much writing when it's hard to, like, swallow and your head feels like the USC Trojan band has just marched on your neck.

So I vegged-out in bed all day and watched DVDs.

Must-See Movie: SUNSET BLVD. starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson, and directed by Billy Wilder.

A movie about a writer who becomes a gigolo to a used-to-be silent movie star.

Clever, witty writing about what people will do to get ahead in Hollywood.

Billy Wilder loved writing and writers, and would never let his actors change the words in screenplays. One of many great lines: Norma Desmond says, "I am big. It's the picture that got small." She's one of the greatest characters ever written.

Go to bed now.

Today's Writing in My Car...

Will be held at my dining room table because I'm sick.

I am also drafting this entry with one of my Christmas gifts-the Livescribe smartpen and notebook.

What's cool about this tool?

Well, I like writing everything out in long-hand. This pen records anything I write in this special magnetized notebook, then uploads it into the computer. I can then convert and written text into digital text. It's pretty accurate and very cool. It will come in handy when I have a blog entry I'd like to write and I'm not at a computer. It will be very helpful when I'm doing first drafts. I won't have to type all those handwritten chapters into Word.

Thanks for the pen, Honey!

Check it out at www.Livescribe. com.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Today's Writing in My Car

Time: 6:50 a.m.
Temperature: 46 degrees
Meal: Biscuit and coffee
Goal: To read through chapters, highlighting clunky and passive language. Writing summary of each scene.

Person of the Day: A white woman in her late 70s climbs out of her silver 70s-era Datsun 240Z. She adjusts her black-framed glasses and tugs on a blue Rite-Aid smock over her striped sweater. Her back slopes up - she has a hump. It's almost seven in the morning, and she's toddling across the parking lot to Rite Aid. At 70-something. Working at this age? What's her story? Why does my heart ache for her?

I jammed through 30 pages, but my mind started futzing around on me. I stopped, and scribbled my shopping list for Christmas dinner. Refreshed again, I returned to my WIP and 20 more pages. That's what I do - when energy starts to lag, I back away from it, and turn my attention elsewhere like shopping lists, To Do lists, or e-mail. Not as a procrastination method, but more like a mini-getaway. You (or your work) won't suffer this way.

What do you do to refresh?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

One More Thing...

A short story for book-buyers on a budget:

So I took Meatz (nickname for my little one) to the library. She headed to the Children's section, and I headed to the little section where they sell books. Yes! The library sells books that have been donated or not-so-fancy-lookin'. I plucked from the box Michael Chabon's latest, The Yiddish Policeman's Union, in brand-new condition for 50 cents. 50 freakin' cents!!

Lesson: Some hard covers can be bought for cheap. (This coming from someone who wants you to buy her book for full-price, go figure.)

Another lesson: Donate books to the library. Your trash is another person's blah blah blah.

Last lesson: Support your public library. It's still as cool as you remember... but without the red punch and cookies.

That is all.

Things I Hate

I love books, but there are times I hurl books across the room. What makes me go a'hurling?
  • When every character is rich and attractive, and the author constantly tells me how rich and attractive they are;
  • Blocks and blocks of uninteresting, flat dialogue that reek of cliche and deft of wit;
  • When character descriptions read like text in Saks Fifth Avenue catalogs. Describing every stitch of clothing your rich and attractive character wears? Really?;
  • Adverb abuse coupled with 'said'. In other words: "...," she said moronically. "..." he said amusedly. "..." I said laughingly.
What are your reading pet-peeves?

Editing the Beast

So, I've completed one big re-write of my Work-in-Progress (WIP), and now I've started editing all that I've rewritten. But before getting into the nitty-gritty of line-by-line of 73,000 words, I am reading through to identify dropped or forgetten plot points or elements.

For this, I use a notebook, different colored pens and highlighters and a cup of coffee. Each chapter, I write a summary of the scene and jot down things like, "The bedroom has a ceiling fan. Mention again elsewhere." or "They talk about going on a weekend getaway - does she make a reservation? When the trip nears, does the hotel call and confirm?" They may seem like random things, but random gives your world context. Pulls your story out of the generic. Gives your character more obstacles, even if they're small. I also highlight clunky sentences, weak words and passages that can be improved. Also highlighted: passive verbs like be, was, am and are.

Once I'm finished, my WIP will look like a Pride Parade.

This exercise also gives me an excuse to roam the aisles of Office Depot and buy new pens and notebooks. Squee!

What is your process for editing the Beast? And do you prefer Staples or Office Depot?


Just wanted to say thanks to all you who have stopped by! And I wanted to say a special thanks to Pam, the dame of the ab-fab blog And We Shall March. Pop over and tool around. Pam loves all things geek - from comics to Ren fairs, to Obama (yes, he is a big geek and collects comics and you've seen him in jeans, right?).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snarky Book Reviews

I like book reviews.

I like snarky book reviews.

I like snarky book reviews written by Brits.

John Crace, the book reviewer for The Guardian U.K., has an interesting way of sharing his opinions. In Digested Read, he writes in the style of the writer. Awesome and funny. Check out what he thought of J.K. Rowling's latest, The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Then, click around for some of his others, including Malcolm Gladwell, John Updike and James Frey.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cool iPhone app for the Book Lover

Sometimes, on very rare occasions, I am book-bare. Don't know how this happens, but it's a scary existence, being bookless.

To combat this horror, I've downloaded Stanza on my iPhone. Apple charges nothing - NOTHING, I say! - for this tool. There are hundreds, nay, thousands of titles available for download. Most of the classics are free. I'm reading The Lord of the Flies.

Even though I am a die-hard book-in-my-hand lover, I will never shun an opportunity to read even on a small screen.

Check-check it out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Story of the Day
About a successful writer named Darrin Strauss who battled bloggers about his book (say it fast 3 times). From the Village Voice. The article also talks about the loneliness of book tours.

I had a good experience promoting A Quiet Storm - got to meet Judy Blume and the beautiful geisha who inspired Memoirs of a Geisha. Stayed in a beautiful hotel in San Francisco. Got to share my novel - my novel! How cool is that and how long have I wanted to say that?!- with book lovers. But I did do a reading at a bookstore where only 3 people showed up - including my brother Terry. I was disappointed, but I read and we all had a great discussion. Still... 2 people and 1 person there because they love you. Le sigh.

You're a Liar... Maybe

Good morning, y'all. It's raining--no, pouring-- here in L.A. Came as quite a shock. Last night, I was sitting on the couch, playing Fable II as David wrapped gifts on the carpet. We heard this... wet... rain stuff outside. I looked out the window, and announced, "It's raining." David said, "Hunh." And then I picked up the XBox controller and unlocked an achievement - Chicken Kicker. Long story.


Read an interesting article. The BBC conducted a survey of 1,500 people. They discovered that 40 percent of the readers surveyed admitted that they lied about reading certain books. In other words, that pretty girl (or hot guy) simply wanted to impress you - she/he ain't read no Beowoulf. Forty-six percent men and 33 percent women admitted this. Seventy-four percent of teenagers admit lying about books, websites or song lyrics. Here's the link if you're interested:

What books have you lied about reading? Hamlet? The Color Purple? And seeing the movie doesn't count as READING. Why did you tell an untruth? To impress? To not seem stupid?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

5 Reasons to Write in Your Car

5 Reasons to Write in Your Car

1. No distraction. There are only so many times you can move the seat back and forth without becoming bored.

2. Change of scenery. At home, my scenery consists of laundry climbing up the wall and dirty dishes. In my car, there's sun, fancy cars and possible UFO sightings.

3. You have to stream-line. No room for computers, coffee machines, 50 reference books. It's just you, your chunk to write and pens.

4. Quiet. No hum from the refrigerator or from those doggone dust bunnies that you kinda hear and you have to get up from your desk just to check if you're hearing them or not.

5. Endless casting opportunities. People walk by. They are now in your novel.

Why do you write where you write?

Today's Writing in My Car

Time: 6:50 a.m.
Temperature: 40 degrees
Meal: Biscuit and coffee
Goal: To write crucial confrontation scene between the heroine and the villain; finish edits of 4 remaining chapters.

Person of the Day: A black man in a tan sweater and a tan baseball cap. He also wore blue floral Jams. Obviously confused about winter in Los Angeles.

When writing a tough scene, it's easier to step it out when you're commuting. Coz your mind really has nothing else to do but think. I use PostIt notes, and as thoughts come, I jot them down, making sure not to hit any people in cars or on the sidewalks. When I'm ready to write the scene, I use my notes, and write slowly, sentence by sentence. Lots of 'what's next?' With the notes, you won't have to face that empty white page - the paper dragon. You get it down - and that's the hardest part of writing.

How do you conquer tough scenes?

Hello, There.

The world is a wonderful, jacked-up place.

I'd like to share what I see with you. This may be direct. This may be a life lesson learned from Season 3 of "The Golden Girls."

You may be interested in what I'm reading, what I'm writing, any interesting observations or bits of miscellany that I come across during the week. It's all good, and it all finds its way into my writing. Maybe it'll help you in yours, too.

So, what's the deal - writing in my car? What's that about, right?

Since 2000, that's where I am, most Sunday mornings from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Writing. In my car. I wrote my first novel, A Quiet Storm, in my Ford Explorer - during lunch breaks and on Sunday mornings in the passenger seat.

More on that later. Trust me.