Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WRITING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF YOUR BRAIN; OR IS IT YOUR LEFT?

by


The subject for this blogging cycle is the corn maze of writing, or how often our plans for our novels get hijacked by characters who refuse to adhere to our initial plans for them.  Sound like raising kids? It kind of is.  One of my friends once attended a parenting class in which the instructor passed out plants.  “You’ve got a fern,” she said to the first mom.  “And you’ve got a cactus,” she told dad number two.  “Every plant is different.  They require different things from you and no matter how much you wanted a daisy, you got a rose with thorns.  Your job is to adapt.”

        In writing, when I start a novel, I’m thinking at the level of plants.   I’m quite happy at that point if I can see the forest for the trees.  I have assumptions about people in general and a think about my characters as somewhat generic, somewhat predictable people.

        At this stage, they’re like infants, somewhat uniform creatures whose needs are the same the world over.  As they grow up, or as I begin to figure out who they are, they start to differentiate themselves.  All good, all part of the process.  

        Except, just like kids, they can surprise the hell out of you.  Just like kids, they can derail what seemed like a sensible plan.   As they take on definition, they begin to stubbornly hold out for the very thing you didn’t even know they wanted. (You didn’t even know anyone would want such things.) You find yourself backtracking, rewriting, throwing out large sections and scrapping grand ambitions.  It’s painful.  It’s irritating.  Most of all, it feels like you wasted your time.  Like if you’d just known better, you could have prevented all that and gotten the story right the first time.
        The only consolation I can offer is that such push and pull between the left brained “helicopter” vision of an initial idea and the intuitive process of putting oneself into the body and brain of an imaginary (but also real) person is, I believe, inevitable.  Better yet, knowing it all ahead of time might just ruin the book.  After all, some really famous writer whose work I love but whose name, gender, era and genre I’ve forgotten said “If you aren’t surprised, your readers won’t be either.”
        In my process, there've been facets of each of my protagonists that kept evading me.  In EVERY ONE SHE LOVED, I knew what kind of car each character would drive from the get go. Except for Lucy, who is, arguably, the central character of the novel.  She’s an artist and bed-and-breakfast owner.  She’s raising her murdered best friend’s daughters and trying not to crush on their bereaved dad, whom she’s known since college.  In that story, I didn’t figure it out what kind of car went with Lucy’s personality until I’d written several drafts and gotten to the end of the book.  And when I got my answer, I also knew exactly what was going to happen that would pull all of my loose ends into place. 
In DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN, I knew Diana’s younger son would have a gift with numbers, but I couldn’t see how that would play into the story.  And I truly didn’t know what would happen at the end.  Would Diana leave her overbearing husband despite his threats to ruin her children’s lives if she did?  Would her eldest son, Humphrey, a handsome teen who spent way too much time nurturing his mother the only way he knew how (by helping her with housework, cooking, sewing and making things nice) would Humphrey turn out to be gay or straight?  This is a question he’s not dared to ask himself, having a stepfather whose masculinity announced itself in cruelty.  I won’t spoil the ending by saying how things worked out, but it would finally come to me three years into the writing process that William’s gift with numbers would unlock several plot levers, cascading in an ending where these two questions are finally answered.   This trait of William’s, which nagged at me because I couldn’t see its use, this too finally revealed its importance only at the end of my third working draft.  
Writing a novel requires a whole lot of patience, a whole lot of hope that things will turn out eventually.  As Don DeLilo put it ( or was it Walker Percy?) writing is like driving at night in the woods.  You can only see a few feet ahead of you at any given time.  It also requires confidence in the intuitive part of one’s self, while the linear, logical part of the brain recoils at the disorder and the unanswered questions.  
It is so easy to give into despair, but to paraphrase Sylvia Plath, “The greatest threat to creativity is crippling self-doubt.”
And so it goes.  Now I’m working on a book that’s taken me far too long, with far too many characters, all of whom are surprising me daily, but many of whom have begun to spill their secrets, uniting seemingly disparate parts of the plot into a more cohesive whole.  This novel will be quite long, perhaps 800 pages.  It will be quite complex. 
Despite the recent success of long, complex novels like THE GOLDFINCH and THE LUMINARIES, my process still requires staggering leaps of faith in characters who – like children – insist on finding their own path, ditching my map for the thrill of the chase and the scent of treasures that they, not I, must find.
        So the corn maze?  Think of the zigs as the left brain and the zags as the right.  Both are necessary, both take us in different directions.  At least, that’s the case for me.  How about you?
Sheila Curran wrote DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN (Berkley, Penguin USA, 2005) and EVERYONE SHE LOVED (Atria, Simon & Schuster, 2009) and is presently working on a book set in Atlanta.

The Twists and Turns to Fast Glamour













by Maggie Marr

Every book I begin to write is different than the book I end up writing. I am primarily a 'pantser'; a writer who sees only the story immediately before them—much like using your headlights while driving at night in fog—but even the times that I've outlined and plotted, the book that I end up writing is different than the book I started out to write.

I blame this on my characters. When I begin a book I very clearly hear a character's voice speaking to me. The character(s) talk to me and tell me their story. Now as any control freak ocd neurotic author often does, in the beginning, I think I know this character(s) and start writing scenes and telling them what to do. This is when I can 'oh so clearly' see how this story is going to go.

Ha!

Inevitably my character(s) rebel and resist my impulse to control them and dictate what they will and will not do and how and when they will fall in love or fix their lives. No, I do not have the last say, my characters do.

Usually around 100 pages into a first draft the characters take over and the book takes flight—the days leading up to this moment can be painful. I am resisting the character and the character is resisting me and finally, finally, finally, I do the right thing and I surrender. The book soars upward (and while not entirely painless) gets written as the character tells me scene after scene after scene.

These scenes are always different than the scenes I envisioned.

In Fast Glamour, book 3 in The Glamour Series (Out today! You can get your copy at Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and All Romance.)

I thought I knew every detail of Rhiannon and Sterling's love story and childhood and past but I didn't there were so many surprises! Surprises that I loved writing and surprises that I hope you will love reading.


A broken heart forever bears scars. . .

Sterling Legend grew up a prince in the City of Angels. His life was perfect and he wanted for nothing until his entire world shattered. He lost everything dear to him the year he turned seventeen. Now he’s grown into a formidable man on the cusp of outrageous success. His life revolves around his work and all the beautiful baubles that Los Angeles can offer to a wealthy young man. He’s buried his feelings and his heart so that he will never be hurt again.

A lost love that she could never forget . . .

Rhiannon Bliss was forced to leave L.A. to extinguish the fire of a first love, but an ocean, a different country, and seven years couldn’t quell her desires. Now she’s returned to the City of Angels to care for her mother. Can she fight her feelings for the man that once broke her heart? Does she even want to?

Finding your way back to love can be an impossible path. . .

Sterling Legend is at the top of the entertainment industry. His fast rise to success due to his talent and to his last name. But Sterling wants to find success on his own. He is on the path to producing his first film, without his famous father as the star, when the ex-love of his life re-enters his world. Rhiannon Bliss left seven years before without a word. Sterling has no need to forgive, but his desire for Rhiannon is overwhelming. Can two broken hearts use the heat of their attraction to find their way back to love? 

Leave a comment about the twists and turns you've experienced in your life or an unexpected outcome. Random.org will select a winner and I will send you an ebook copy of Fast Glamour. 

Maggie Marr is an attorney, author, and independent producer. She began her Hollywood career pushing the mail cart at ICM where she eventually became a motion picture literary and subsidiary book rights agent. She now spends her days reviewing contracts for authors, screenplay writers, directors, and entrepreneurs as well as writing books for readers. Maggie is the author of the Hollywood Girls Club Series which includes Hollywood Girls Club, Secrets of the Hollywood Girls Club, Hollywood Hit, and the upcoming Box Office Bomb (12/14). The Glamour Series is Maggie's new adult contemporary romance series which includes Hard Glamour, Broken Glamour, Fast Glamour, and Easy Glamour (9/14). Maggie also writes the Eligible Billionaires Series: Can't Buy Me Love, One Night For Love (8/14), and Last Call For Love (11/14). She has written for TV and film and ghostwritten for celebrities. Maggie has been featured on KCRW's The Business, and reviewed by Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and Romantic Times. She is the Vice President for Los Angeles Romance Authors (LARA) her local RWA chapter. She is married with a family and lives and works in Los Angeles. Maggie is grateful for the support of her readers!

 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dreamwood -- a Great Read for Kids and Adults

 Dreamwood


When people tell me that they don't "do" Facebook, I smile politely and think of friends from college with whom I would have lost contact had it not been for Facebook. Heather Mackey is one of those friends.  When we found each other years after we both graduated from Smith College, we were delighted to discover that we were both writers. Heather has a job in the high tech world, two children and somehow has managed to write a lovely book for middle grade readers although this middle aged reader loved it.

Here's my review:

From the first scene on a train when we meet Lucy Darrington, we can tell she’s made of stern stuff, determined to find her missing father in the deeps woods of Sadaarthe. At every step of the way Lucy encounters great obstacles — giant sea snakes, native people who zealously guard the land, animals with dangerous magical powers. The closer Lucy gets to her goal the more dangerous and complicated her world gets. Will she find her father? Will she survive even as grown men are dying on this expedition? What exactly happened to the settlement of people on Devil’s Thumb, the haunted outcropping of land where Lucy seeks her father? As the story expands, so do the plot twists and mysteries. This is a rollicking adventure with a lovable heroine who is both prickly and serious, not afraid to push for what she wants. Both boys and girls will enjoy this adventure story as will the parents lucky enough to spend their time reading this story aloud. I loved it and recommend it for all ages.

Heather Mackey is a writer and editor with two kids, a lot of household disorder, many books, a mischievous dog, lovely husband, and a sinking feeling that the word that best describes me right now is “harried.” I am so so thrilled that my first book, DREAMWOOD, a middle-grade fantasy, was published by Putnam’s in June of 2014.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Release Week for PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT BET!

Hi, GBC Friends~

I'm so thrilled to finally announce the release of my latest romantic comedy, Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet, which is the follow up to Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match.

*Throwing confetti in the air!!*

About the story:

The course of true love doesn’t always run smooth…

Everyone thought Beth Ann Bennet and Dr. Will Darcy had an unexpected romance in Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match (Perfect #1, January 2013). Now, Beth’s best friend, Jane Henderson, and Will’s first cousin, Bingley McNamara, begin their own unlikely love story in Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet (Perfect #2), which starts at the Darcy/Bennet wedding when they find themselves in the roles of maid of honor and best man for the newlyweds.

Jane is an interning school psychologist and a woman who wears an angelic mask in public, but she’s not as sweet tempered as she’d like everyone to believe. Turns out, she may have just crossed paths with the one person who’ll unnerve her enough to get her to reveal her true self.

As for Bingley, he’s a wealthy, flirtatious and compulsively social guru of finance, who likes to wager on stocks and, let’s face it, on just about anything that strikes his fancy. But this dedicated ladies’ man may have finally met the woman who’ll challenge his bachelor ways!

Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet…where life’s biggest gamble is the game of love.

It's available worldwide and at most e-tailer sites right now!!
Perfect Bet:
Kobo  

ALSO, in honor of the release, Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match is on sale for a limited time for just 99 cents (75% off)! If you haven't read that novel and would like to check it out, here are those links, too.
Perfect Match: 

Thanks for celebrating with me this weekend!! Best wishes to you all!
:) 

---
Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy & mystery. She was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato. 

Visit her website: www.marilynbrant.com

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Change Direction, You'll End Up Where You're Headed

By Laura Spinella

There is a subplot in my first novel, Beautiful Disaster, that, once upon a time, caused quite a stir. A character, a woman who lived a Mata Hari life was murdered years ago. Throughout the novel the reader is never quite sure if the hero, Flynn, is responsible for her death.  Because she was Flynn’s lover, we are certain that Alena’s demise contributes to his PTSD. We know that while he’s running from the authorities, Flynn is also running from the memory of her murder. Readers are left to ponder and vacillate until the very last pages: Could Flynn have killed her? There are numerous mitigating factors, various clues that lead the reader down this exact path.
        From the original draft through hot-potato passes to publishers, I must confess: He did it. Flynn killed Alena, his ex-lover. Now, I won’t get into the whys or Saul Goodman defense I devised to assuage any anger. In fact, I’ll go so far as to admit that I was so “in love” with my own character, I couldn’t imagine why any reader wouldn’t absolve Flynn of the crime and feel empathy for his guilt. I felt strongly about this particular point. It was my story, and this was the way I wanted to tell it.  When taking into consideration the array of circumstances surrounding the heinous act, well geez, it made perfect sense to me.  
        No surprise (years later) that the book did not sell while in the hands of the big houses, or even smaller publishers. Oh sure, there was interest and compliments. But ultimately, there was rejection. I cried, I cursed; I blamed everything from bad timing to a bad hair day. Then it was over. From there I moved on to another book and a shiny new agent. An agent that came with a very different way of going about her business. That’s when things started to change direction for me, and for my writing. I came on board at Writers House with a fresh manuscript, something more women’s fiction than romantic fiction, which certainly described Beautiful Disaster. Through a series of small accidents that I could not have invented on my best writing day, the book with the indefensible hero ended up in my agent’s hands. She read it. She loved it. Loved it except for that one pesky little point… You got it. I’ll paraphrase the advice: “Laura, circumstance is the villain in this book, not your hero. Don’t do that to him. Don’t ask that of your reader.”
        It clicked. It made sense. The light bulb came… well, a light bulb with correct wattage was finally installed in my writer’s brain. Not every point in every story could be what I wanted, even if was my story. The direction was not solely mine to plot. Not if that book or the next one was going to find an audience in the real world of readers. Well, as you might have guessed, the only place you still find Flynn guilty of Alena’s murder is an original draft, buried somewhere here on my desktop computer. I got lucky with that first book. My editor at Berkley remembered the manuscript. She recalled loving it, but… She went against tradition and gave the revised novel a second read with fresh pair of eyes. Clearly, the advice was spot-on and I was a little less green when making future life or death decisions for my characters.
        That seems like such a long time ago. Nowadays, I couldn’t fathom sticking so close to an original draft—nor would I want to.  I’m fortunate to have an agent whose hidden passion is editing. Her suggestions don’t come in “Here’s a thought…” phrases. They come in bulleted paragraphs that drill so deep into my story they make me wonder if I understand my books as well as she does. The answer to that is sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes she sees things I’ve yet to imagine, directions I’m flirting with but haven’t really explored.
       Drafts are linear; they’re about getting the bare bones of a story down on paper. From there, whether it’s an agent, editor, first reader, critique partner or the depth of your own imagination, you’re off to parts unknown.                                                                                     

  Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel Beautiful Disaster and newly released Perfect Timing, visit her at lauraspinella.net

You Can Go Home Again

by Sylvie Fox



Thanks to Thomas Wolfe, the phrase, ‘you can’t go home again,’ is as ubiquitous as any number of other clich├ęs.

For years, my husband and I have been searching for a place where we felt at home. We’ve debated going back to New York (where we both originate) several times over, but finally decided it wasn’t an option. We tried Cleveland, but it wasn’t for us.

Palo Alto and San Francisco were even serious contenders for a long time, until we gave up on them a dozen years ago. I live in Los Angeles, and though the weather is perfect. The driving is going to kill me slowly.

My mother-in-law always thought Boston suited my husband. My mother thought I should give Washington, D.C. greater consideration.

About ten years ago, after considering places as far flung as Sacramento and Denver, we decided to broaden our journey outside the United States. London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland were neck and neck for a while. Then my husband was in love with Portugal. Seoul was even in the running for a few months. We considered Paris for as long as it took to figure out we’d have to sell all of our kidneys to afford an apartment there.

Every place had it’s great points, but none gave us that elusive feeling we were looking for. Fast forward five years, and one child later. My husband had a work meeting in Prague. Looking at the map, we searched for somewhere else to go. With our plane tickets paid for, we wanted to get the most for sixteen hours of travel (with a two year old). The debate was between extending our trip to either Vienna or Budapest.

photo by Sylvie Fox
We chose Budapest because I wanted to see the Danube in person and we figured we’d never be there again. Five minutes outside of the train station, we looked at each other and knew, we’d found it. Home again.

I’m writing this post from our Budapest apartment. Every day I walk outside and it’s like taking a step back into my childhood. In so many ways, it’s all that I remember loving about growing up in New York City with the added beauty of Europe.

photo by Sylvie Fox
Yesterday, I was on my way to pick up my son from summer camp and walking down the street shaded by Plane and Chestnut trees transported me back for a long moment to similar walks in Brooklyn with my parents. Whenever I come to New York and drive over the bridge, I nearly cry with relief about being home. (Then I get out of the car, and I find that New York has moved on).

I get that feeling nearly every day I’m here. The streets smell like home. The people remind me of New Yorkers with gruff exteriors and warm hearts. And the food? Someone could have told me that what I considered New York diner and deli food was really central and eastern European food transported six thousand miles. Every time I go to the market, everything is so familiar I want to squeal with delight.

Despite Wolfe’s admonition, I think you can go home again as long as you look in the right place.

Sylvie Fox is the author of The Good Enough Husband. She’s also the author ofUnlikely and Impasse, the first two books in the sexy, contemporary L.A. Nights series. Don't Judge Me, the first book in the Judgment series, releases this autumn. When she’s not battling traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles, she’s eating her way through Budapest.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

And the story changed again....
by Brenda Janowitz


One summer, when I was single, Grandma Dorothy informed me that she would be renting a house in the Hamptons. No more of these silly share houses I was doing with my friends each summer. They were getting me nowhere (read: still single and over thirty). Instead, I was to stay with her and she would help me meet someone. The only problem with this scenario was that I was sure she’d meet a man before I did. She had sparkling crystal blue eyes and a killer figure. My own hazel eyes and good birthing hips were no match for her easy glamour and style.

When she found out that a Hamptons summer rental costs more than the gross national product of some countries, the idea sort of fell apart. But it gave me an idea—what if a young woman spent the summer out in the glamorous Hamptons with her even more glamorous grandmother?

The idea for my third novel was born.  It would be called RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE, and it would feature an impossibly glamorous grandmother and her not-as-glamorous granddaughter.

Both of my own grandmothers really inspired me to come up with the character of Vivienne, the glamorous widow six times over. Neither was a widow six times over, but both of my grandmothers were very glamorous ladies. When I think of my childhood memories, I’m not likely to picture them in aprons baking cookies. I picture them in evening gowns.


I began to write.  My first two novels would be classified as “chick lit,” which is to say they’re smart, funny novels with heart about a single girl living in the city. And that’s exactly what I was at the time. But just as I’ve grown up, my writing has grown up, too.

RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE is different from my first two novels in so many ways. In my first two books, I was really focused on writing a funny story. The sort of book that would make you embarrass yourself in the subway from laughing (I’ve gotten that email from numerous readers and it makes me smile each time someone tells me that!). The sort of book that could make you forget your problems for an afternoon (two different people read my second novel while getting chemo and told me that it helped them to keep a smile on their faces through an awful situation). The sort of book that’s just meant to be read on a plane, or a bus, or a beach (you could also read them on a subway, on a train, or by a lake. I don’t discriminate.).

With RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE, I was looking to do something different. Something more grown up. Something deeper. The idea for the book—a granddaughter and her grandmother out in the Hamptons for the summer—was originally played for laughs. Much was made of the fact that the grandmother meets a man before her granddaughter does.  But the book changed.

I did the first major overhaul of the novel while I was pregnant with my first son. Everything was different for me—I was changing as a person, my voice was changing, and so, too, did this novel. I began thinking more deeply about the ties that bind mothers and children, grandmothers and grandchildren. How we hurt each other. How we can forgive. What that means.

When I was six months pregnant and almost finished writing the book, my mother was rushed to the hospital for emergency open-heart surgery. It was the most harrowing 24 hour period of my life (until I had kids, but that’s another story entirely), and even though my mother made a full recovery, it took me a long time to recover myself. It was the same time that I was writing a death scene for RECIPE and it was impossible to write. I was still so scared from almost losing my mother. I wrote it quickly, tried to get through it quickly, and one of my first readers, author Lynda Curnyn, called me out on it. She told me that this wasn’t the time to write a death scene. I needed time away from it. I needed to heal. I needed to process.

She was right. It took me another year until I was able to get the scene right. And the book changed again.


RECIPE became another book entirely, and I’m happy about that.  I’m always happy to follow the story, see where characters lead me, get lost in the craft of writing.




I’m the author of SCOT ON THE ROCKSJACK WITH A TWISTRECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE, and THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB.  My short story, HOLLYWOOD PUNCH, will be released on September 2nd.


My work’s also appeared in the New York Post and Publisher’s Weekly. You can find me at brendajanowitz.com or on Twitter at @BrendaJanowitz.