Monday, November 30, 2009

Interview with a Drop-Dead Gorgeous Vampire

I haven't written in five days. Seriously. That's messed up, right?

Alright alright, that's a lie. Despite my promise to stay away from the computer over the Thanksgiving holiday, I have cheated by writing a few e-mails and tweeting. And I did spend some time reviewing Aeternus, my finished manuscript, looking for any problems late last night. But that's not writing--that's editing. Well, okay, there was yesterday's emotional blog post, which, I suppose, can be considered writing. But I haven't touched my YA Magical realism WIP (which I really should title...) Only WIPs count as real writing, right? (Insofar as a promise to my family that I would take a break from writing is concerned, the answer is definitively "yes.")

Regardless, my fingers are twitching to write. Dead serious. I need some valium or something. Is it possible to get writing withdrawal? I suppose the only remedy will be to just get on with writing (since I ran out of valium when I sent out my first query letters for Aeternus). To that end, I will finish this blog post and dive into YAMRW (the uncreative working title for my WIP). So, please welcome talented writer Courtney Reese and Caleb, the MC of her paranormal romance series....

Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads
An Interview with a Drop-Dead Gorgeous Vampire
by Courtney Reese
I'm quite pleased to present to you Ms. Courtney Reese's character interview, which she kindly gave to me to post ages ago (thank you, Courtney, for your saintly patience!) You should know that this little exchange between Courtney and Caleb is actually the second part of an interview. The first part of the interview was with Kate, Caleb's love interest in the Immortals Series, a paranormal romance series. I should also mention that Kate is a kick-ass vampire that gives Caleb a run for his money, so be sure to check out Kate's Interview here).

A little background on the aspiring author
First of all, I adore Courtney Reese. She's kind and generous, witty and talented. Only twenty-three years old, she's already well on her way to authordom with not just one series, but three! As a writer of Paranormal and Contemporary romance, urban fantasy, and young adult fiction, Ms. Reese's talents are clearly widespread. Currently, Ms. Reese is putting most of her effort in her Paranormal Romance Series "where her characters strive to make a life for themselves in a world where war is as much a part of life as breathing, where fighting for what's right can get you killed, and where love seems all but impossible" (Reese). Be sure to check out Courtney's website and her blog where you can read snippets of her work. You can also find her on Twitter.

Meet Caleb
A knock on the door brought me to my feet as the door opened and Caleb stepped into the small room. He was tall and masculine and everything I knew he would be—still, he took my breath away. I watched, awestruck, as he bowed slightly and stretched out his hand. Automatically I extended my own and he took it, bringing it to his lips for a soft kiss on my knuckles.

I was staring—I knew I was, but I couldn’t seem to stop. He was literally perfect; no wonder Kate had it bad. Did I look okay? Had my makeup smudged? Was I drooling?

Caleb: “Hm, ma’am? Are you alright?”
Me: “Huh? Oh—ah, yes. I—I stood up too fast… I’m…just a bit lightheaded is all.”

I really hoped he hadn’t caught my lie—how embarrassing would that be to be caught ogling?!

Me: “Tell me about yourself Caleb. Who are you and what is your role in the immortal world?”
Caleb: “I am the cousin to the Vampire King as well as his top advisor. A few years ago, I was given the title of Right Hand. It means that I am not only his top advisor, but also the successor to the throne and the second highest authority in the vampire world.”
Me: “That seems like quite an honor.”
Caleb: “Yes, it is. I’ve been Gabriel’s top advisor since he took the throne. He values my opinion.”
Me: “Now, you weren’t promoted to Right Hand until five years ago. That was right after you retired as General to the Slayer Army, wasn’t it?”

Caleb nodded; he knew where I was going with this, but he didn’t so much as shift in his seat.

Me: “But you didn’t retire on the best of terms. You stepped down because of a dispute between yourself and the daemon race. Can you tell me what happened?”
Of course I knew the answer—I’d done my research—but I didn’t think he’d answer. After a long minute, he spoke.
Caleb: “I insulted them. They felt as if I’d overstepped my boundaries in seeing that justice was served to one of their people. I retired to keep the daemons from going after the vampire race. It worked; they saw me as a ‘lone ranger’ instead of as the leader of an army. Soon after that, they pressed charges. It went all the way up to the gods before I was cleared.”
Me: “What was it that you did, exactly?”
Caleb: “Some say it was murder. Some say it was justice.” His voice was blank of all emotion, as if he’d used that line a hundred times before.
Me: “What do you say?”
Caleb: The corner of his mouth turned up in a smile. My questions weren’t annoying him; he was amused by me. “It depends on the day of the week.”
Me: “As the king’s advisor, do you know the details of the Assassin general’s latest assignment?”
Caleb: “Yes, I know about Kate.” He looked at me suspiciously. “She’s currently working undercover in a Dark Cell.”
Me: “I’ve heard that you and she are somewhat of an item.”
Caleb: “Uh, no. That’s not true. We’re coworkers, in a sense; we’re both advisors.”
Me: “You’re daughter seems to think you like her…”
Caleb: “My—you talked to Hannah?”
I nodded. Now I was getting into tricky territory. If I wasn’t careful, he’d up and walk—just like Kate had.
Caleb: “My daughter’s five. Of course she thinks I like Kate; I do—as a friend.”
Me: “A friend? A moment ago she was just a coworker.”
Caleb: “Semantics. You’re fishing, Ms. Reese.”
Me: “Why would I need to fish? I’ve already spoken with Kate. She’s told me exactly what’s gone on between the two of you.”

He squinted at me, probably trying to get a read on me. Of course I was bluffing but he didn’t know that.

Me: “The way I see it, the two of you have some serious chemistry and—”
Caleb: “You do realize that I can read your mind? It makes bluffing a moot point.”

Son. Of. A—

Caleb: “I should be getting back to work. I’m glad I could help you with your report, Ms. Reese. We should do this again sometime.”

I was still a bit shocked from the whole mindreading thing. How had I missed that? I knew all about vampire abilities and that Caleb was one of the most powerful of them all. Stupid, stupid...

Me: “Uh, huh. Sure.”

As he walked out, I realized—to my utter horror—he had caught me ogling him. Great.

What do you think? Did Caleb get the better of his maker? It seems to me with an MC like Caleb, it's worth it. Courtney, I bow to you, oh goddess of restraint. What a huge, yet delicious undertaking it must be to work with someone so...*sigh* Thank you for letting me post your interview! It's been a pleasure to work with you. I can't wait to see how the series turns out. Best wishes for a successful journey through publication!

If you would like to contribute to my Character Interviews series, find me on Twitter and shoot me a line. Be sure to check out some info on the series.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

And I too could end up in the line

29 November 2009, Sunday after Thanksgiving

I spent the morning volunteering in a soup kitchen today.

I drove away in my warm car with Kings of Leon on full blast and came home to a warm house, a lighted Christmas tree and three warm hugs. Hubby prepared me a turkey sandwich and listened while I told him about the family that came through the line--the mom batting her little girl's hand away from the piece of cake ("not until you've eaten your rice and chicken!")...about the pregnant teenager who laughed as she struggled to get out of her chair...about the woman who thanked us profusely ("GodblessyouGodblessyouGodblessyou") as she filled her tray with the meager offerings...about the men who would not look us in the eye...about the woman who asked for 6 sugar packets for her Gatorade...about the man who scooped all the leftover butter from every table onto a paper plate to take away with him...and so on....

Since my family had already eaten lunch, I munched on my sandwich in front of the television and together with my toddler (we'll call her Baby Sweet), I watched Wow Wow Wubbzy while my twelve year old (we'll call her Precious) worked on embroidering some Christmas gifts. When I was all done with my late lunch, my always thoughtful Precious brought me a piece of pumpkin pie with a dab of whipped cream, and Baby Sweet gave me a candy cane kiss and a plea for a round of ring around the rosie.

I played ring around the rosie with Baby Sweet in the center of our living room, careful not to smash into the Christmas tree or the piano bench. After falling several times, I decided (my willpower being all but demolished from the Thanksiving holiday) to also eat a piece of cheesecake that I made for a late Thanksgiving with my side of the family yesterday. The cheesecake was surprisingly good--always better after it sits a day or two--made with five packages of cream cheese and sour cream, loaded up with cherries. Finally, stuffed to the brim, I sat down on my comfy couch to cuddle with my children. We changed the channel to some Christmas movie on ABCFamily, and I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, daylight was all but gone, and my feet were toasty warm, wrapped in a blanket (presumably by Precious).

Friday, this was my Facebook Status: Shopped my head off today in record time! Now wondering if it would cause a lifetime of therapy to have my children wrap their own presents. Just kidding. Mostly.

Funny, huh?

Not so much.

There was a man that came through the line today that caught me off guard. He wore department store suit pants, a v-neck sweater with a tie, of which only the knot showed above the V, and scuffed loafers that dragged across the concrete floor of the soup kitchen. He would not look me in the eye as I handed him a plastic fork and spoon wrapped in a paper napkin. He picked up a plastic cup filled with iced tea, mumbled a thank you into his chest and walked away. His hair was combed back as if there had been a time he used to put gel in it.

Today, I am humbled. Today, I am reminded of all that I have to lose. One false unlucky unexpected fall of the hammer....

I have one manuscript to brush off, touch up, and continue to query as well as another one I'm working on finishing. I also have an interview to post, a clever exchange between the very talented Courtney Reese and the main character of her novel--be sure to look for it tomorrow. But tonight, even though I'm anxious to get back to writing after a four day hiatus, I'm going to go back downstairs and do absolutely nothing--and everything--with my family. I might have another piece of pumpkin pie because it's there, and I don't want it to go to waste. But I can't imagine now spending the rest of my evening away from the people I cherish most just to put words on a screen.

Go hug somebody and be grateful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

*I Did Not Enter NaNoWriMo for the Same Reasons as You

Today I won NaNoWriMo!

For those of you unaware (though I can't imagine what kind of blinders you must be wearing to have missed it), NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month--it's a contest (of sorts) where you write 50k words in one month (a novel being the goal in sight). And for busting your hump to write 50,000 words (that's four zeros, in case you're not counting) in thirty days or less, you win this:

But this shiny new badge is made extra cool because it comes fully equipped with bragging rights, see. So, once you win, you can do this:

**Look at me, Damn it! I have a shiny new badge!

Okay, in all seriousness, why do it, right? I know those of you who opted not to participate (or, eh hemm, those of you who hadn't heard of it until now), are wondering who would enter into such a contest. It's not as if you get published just for spitting out so many words in thirty days.

I don't know what all the reasons are, and actually, the only one I've really heard is that some writers feel they need the motivation to sit down and keep pumping out words to complete a novel (first time writers, too many distractions, not enough insanity, your cat gets jealous...whatever.)

But, let me just say...I am not one of those people. I wrote my first manuscript, Aeternus, in six weeks. The first fifty thousand words took me only two weeks to write (Please refer to one of my earliest blog posts: Obsessions). You see I am insanely obsessive--emphasis on insane. When I set out to do something, I put everything into it, sometimes to the neglect and detriment of some very important things. I can't fully justify excuses. It is what it is, and I'm working on it.

But I digress...

The thing is, I didn't NEED NaNoWriMo to write my new book. What I needed was a sense of accomplishment. After I wrote and edited Aeternus, I tried to get representation for it, then learned, Holy crap, it's a bazillion words too long. So, I spent the next six weeks chopping 65K words and rewriting and reshaping and chop chop chop until my head actually exploded. And then I worked my eyeballs (the ones attached to the head that didn't actually explode) until they literally vibrated researching agents and all that hullabaloo, and frustrated my powers of persuasion getting a couple of people to read it, then wracked my brain until it bled as I rewrote queries and synopses and blurbs, oh my! Can I just say this--I mean, I really need to (those of you with PG eyeballs, skip the next sentence):

This shit really sucks. In the end, I got ten queries out and got back five rejections. Don't know what happened to the other five; rejection by omission, I guess...can't blame them. I don't even answer every e-mail I get, and I'm not getting hundreds a day. Still, I felt so discouraged, so drained of any ability to even look at Aeternus again that I set it aside. And guess what happened? idea. Very next day: first day of NaNo. Coincidence? I don't know. But I knew that I needed something to work for. I knew that in the end it may not be about publication at all (Pshaw!).

Now, is this the end for Aeternus? Ha! Of course not (OBSESSION). In fact, this weekend, I will likely set out to fix up some minor issues that have plagued me about Aeternus and start a new round of beta reading, and eventually more query letters. But, I have to tell you, this shiny new badge? It didn't get me an agent or a publication contract, but it did make me feel like I was just a little bit validated, you know? And not by some writing organization--but by me. Because I set out to do something, and I did it. And now, it sort of kind of feels like maybe perhaps if I set out to publish, it will happen too.

OR...maybe it's just a shiny new badge that says "Winner" on it, and if that happens to make me feel just a little bit good about myself, well, I'll take it.

P.S. I'm crazy grateful for a lot of things, the least of which is this shiny new badge. Thank you to my family firstly for encouraging my obsession despite all it costs you; thank you to my friends for not forgetting I exist even when I ignore you for fictional people; thank you to all of the wonderful people that have helped me with the research, love, and support that it takes to write my novels; thank you to my crit partners and #amwritingparty crowd and all of the other encouraging peeps I've met via Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere. I swear, if I ever get published, I will acknowledge you personally in my book(s).

Happy Thanksgiving. Eat pie.

*I recognize that it's quite possible you entered NaNoWriMo for the same reason as me, but I needed a title, and that one seemed catchy. Get off my back already.
**Crazy person shouting pic is from

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Interview hem...a Vampire

Finally finally, getting back to the Character Interviews Series. I have some beautiful interviews queueing and screaming for my attention, gathering dust as they wait for me to set aside my WIP and my finished MS obligations to post them. Their authors must be drinking some serious patience-inducing potions as they've kindly waited for me to get on the ball without ripping into me a third ear hole. Many thanks to these most generous authors--I'm beyond psyched to get your interviews up. I promise I'm working on it (even if it means I have to hijack Santa's elves to do it). Just for being so patient, I'm going to give you this magic key that will grant you the power of publication.

Go ahead and click here to *use your key. It'll take you *someplace special.

Have I mentioned yet how much I'm really loving this series? Seriously, as an author, there are few more satisfying events than bringing your characters to life, but getting to talk to, it's magic (okay, I concede that actual publication of said characters is probably most satisfying, but get off my back already).

Now, on to the next Interview!

Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads
An Interview with a Vampire
(Oh my gosh, I'm so digging my most original title EVER! [smug smile ensues])

Today's Mawvelous Guest Blogger Ms. Rhonda Cowsert is one of the most delightful, most **snarktastic writers I've had the pleasure to encounter. I came across her blog and about fell out of my chair laughing. Somehow, Rhonda takes the most mundane subjects, gives them a little spin, and turns them into spectacles of ass-cracking humor (please be sure to latch onto your armrests as you read her deliciously snarky blog posts or you, too, shall become a victim.) Rhonda has kindly agreed to let me post her interview with the main character of her YA fantasy, Rory Spencer (who just so happens to be a vampire--hence the super awesome, original title).

But first, let's meet the author (in her own words):
Rhonda is a 30 *ahem* 'something' wife (to an amazingly supportive husband), step-mother (to a teenage girl...which explains my constant need for Tylenol and chocolate) and aspiring writer who currently pays the bills by working as an administrative assistant.

What Rhonda failed to mention is that she's also remarkably supportive, generours, kind, and a very talented writer. Be sure to check out her awesome blog SnarkTastic Ramblings. You can also find her on Twitter.

About Rory
Like most teenage girls, Aurora (aka Rory) is less than thrilled with her identity, which happens to be complicated by her tranformation into a vampire. Though vampires are not blood-sucking spawns of evil in her world, they are still saddled with heavy burdens. Frustrated with her lot in life, Rory seems to have made it her mission in life to force Rhonda to suffer her miseries alongside her. Let's see how Rhonda handles Miss Crankypants Rory:

Me: I’m chatting today with the main character of my work in progress, Aurora Spencer.
Aurora: Rory, everyone calls me Rory.
Me: Right, Rory. So, Rory, what…
Aurora: Look, I hate to pull a Kanye here and interrupt you but I was just wondering if there was some particular reason you’ve decided to turn my life upside down. Nothing interesting on tv?
Me: You’re frustrated with me?
Aurora: Uh, duh! Isn’t being a teenager bad enough without all the extra crap going on? Besides, aren’t vampires completely overdone?
Me: You may have a point, but you can’t deny who you are. Besides, you know that the traditional “vampire” label does not apply to you.
Aurora: (heavy sigh)
Me: What?
Aurora: It’s just that I want to be “normal”. I want to go to the prom in a beautiful gown, I want to graduate from high school, I want to go to college and I want to do all of that without having to worry about those things that go bump in the night.
Me: You’re not normal Rory. You’ve never been “normal”.
Aurora: So that’s it then? I just have to deal with this? Great. Fantastic. Anything else you’d like to spring on me while we’re here? Maybe I’m adopted? Or suffering from the plague?
Me: Really Rory, this isn’t as bad as it seems. I promise. It’s just rough right now.
Aurora: Right. (Sarcastic teenage tone fully intact) And what if I refuse to cooperate? What if I just decide I want to live my life and ignore all the crap going on around me?
Me: Do you really think you can ignore everything?
Aurora: (whispers) No
Me: (Silence)
Aurora: So, what am I supposed to do?
Me: Do you think you could trust me? Just a little bit?
Aurora: Maybe…a little.
Me: At least that’s a start.
Aurora: (shrugs) I suppose. By the way? You've got a shadow sprite hanging around your shoulders, you might want to watch that.
Me: (swatting over my shoulder) Ummm...thanks for the warning.

Oh, so help me Rhonda (sorry, had to do it), you've got your hands full with this one. But I must say, I am VERY intrigued. I'm dying to get my hands on this book. Please finish and publish soon! I'd like to know what a shadow sprite is thankyouverymuch. And many many thanks for permitting me to post your interview. It has been my distinct honor and pleasure.

If you would like to contribute to my Character Interviews series, find me on Twitter and shoot me a line. Be sure to check out some info on the series.

*Do not attempt to actually use the magic key to get into this building. Neither Carolina Valdez Miller nor Rhonda Cowsert shall be held liable for improper use of this key or for forced entry of Someplace Special. In no event shall any contributors of Carol's Prints be held liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, exemplary, or consequential damages (including, but not limited to, procurement or substitute goods or services; loss of use, data, or profits; or business interruption) however caused and on any theory of liability, whether in contract, strict liability, or tort (including negligence or otherwise) arising in any way out of the use of this key, even if advised of the possibility of such damage.

**All credit for use of this term goes to Ms. Rhonda Cowsert and her SnarkTastic Ramblings blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Few Words on Dialogue

Those of you following my Character Interviews series might have determined that I'm obsessed with dialogue (and you'd be kinda sort of maybe right). So, for today, allow me to not quite bore you with a not quite tantalizing discussion of the super supremo literary element of DIALOGUE [said in the Monster Truck Rally announcer's voice.]

Now, few authors choose to work solely with dialogue (those that do generally are referred to as playwrights and screenwriters). But like in plays, dialogue can actually tell the story in regular fiction. Carefully worded dialogue can tell you everything from characterization to setting, plot, and conflict. And for certain audiences, especially the younger crowd, it's essential that narrative summary does not overwhelm dialogue (this isn't a rule, but an educated guess). But even with older audiences, no matter how brilliant the prose, dialogue will often be preferred to narrative summary--dialogue is usually easier to read and often feels more engaging. As readers, we often feel a greater connection to a character if we can hear their voice. Even a first person narrative summary does not have the same kind of impact as dialogue because the words of dialogue are meant to be spoken, and the implied vocalization of a word transforms abstract thought into concrete action. Moreover, think of all the lousy books you've read; what's the first thing you do to get through it? You skip through narrative summary, focusing on the dialogue. Why? Because dialogue is often the most interesting part of a book.

Consider Ernest Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants," which is, in my humble opinion, probably one of the best examples of dialogue. I won't analyze the entire story for you--its been analyzed to the point of near extinction in probably every creative writing class, and it's all over the web. But here's a small excerpt from HLWE to give you a view of the master of dialogue at work.

An excerpt from Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants." The entire short story can be found here.

"I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural."

"Then what will we do afterwards?"

"We’ll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before."

"What makes you think so?"

"That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy."

The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of two of the strings of beads.

"And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy."

"I know we will. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it."

"So have I," said the girl. "And afterwards they were all so happy."

"Well," the man said, "if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple."

"And you really want to?"

"I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to."

"And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?"

"I love you now. You know I love you."
You can learn alot about this story in just these few lines of dialogue. Notice that Hemingway doesn't even give attribution for much of the dialogue. It's not really necessary, as there are only two characters and their voices are very distinct. It's also obvious that the "American" (as he's identified at the beginning of the story) is trying to pressure the girl into something she doesn't want to do; this is emphasized through the clever literary device of repetition (of the American's reassurances that all will be well if she goes through with it). We also get a good sense of the voice/tone in their responses to one another. Consider:

Girl: "So have I...And afterwards they were all so happy."

American's response: "Well...if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple."

It's not until you read the American's defensive response that you realize the girl's comment must have been laced with sarcasm--thus revealing the girl's feelings about the situation without the need to burden her dialogue with a cumbersome explanation of her tone. You can learn much from just this excerpt, but I won't burden you with any more analysis, especially considering that there are PhD's who have made it their life's mission to analyze and break down Hemingway's fiction....

However, I thought I might attempt to use Hemingway's dialogue techniques to see how I fare in a short piece of dialogue-based fiction myself. I wrote it in probably fifteen minutes, so don't expect too much. But I hope it comes off alright.

Carolina Valdez Miller

"Mother? Pamela did not get to the whites yesterday, and now I haven't a tank top to wear under my sweater."

"Did you tell Pamela to do the whites yesterday?"

"Of course not. I didn't think you'd appreciate me taking your job from you. Besides Thursdays are always whites."

"Perhaps you should tell her now."

"It's too late to do them now! The party already began."

"So tell her to hand-wash the shirt and throw it in the dryer. You have plenty of time before you need to be there, Annalise."

"Ughhh, no. Forget it. I'll just wear a different sweater."

"Whatever you want dear. Will you please tell Pamela to bring over some Chardonnay? Have her pour a glass of the 2006 Newton from the wine chiller."

"You mean from the wine chiller in the kitchen? Uh, over there?" Annalise tilts her head at a defiant angle.

"Yes, dear."

"Christ, Mother, I'll get it myself."

"No, dear. I don't think Pamela would appreciate you taking her job from her."

"I've got it, Mrs. Tallons." Pamela limped into the kitchen, smiling widely over her shoulder towards the breakfast table. "I left a fresh white tank top on your bed, Annalise. It should go well with the green sweater you meant to wear tonight." Her smile faded into a flat line as she pulled the bottle from the chiller.

"Whatever." Annalise rolled her eyes and stalked away from the breakfast table.

Now, this is hardly Hemingway--not even close, but I tried to write a piece that wouldn't require much attribution. If it worked well (and I'll leave that for you to decide), you should have been able to follow who was saying what, what their likely tone of voice was, hand gestures, facial expression, etc. Additionally, you should have been able to get a sense of what the mother-daughter relationship was like, who Pamela was, and how both mother and daughter viewed Pamela as a member of their household. In short, I hope you were able to get the gist of the primary conflict as well as a sense of some underlying issues/themes.

There are rules to using dialogue--nothing hard and fast, but some basics that can be shared. But this post is ridiculously long, so I'll save those rules/tips/techniques for another post. And perhaps follow through with another short--on Wednesday. Tomorrow, however, I'll return to the Character Interviews series with an interview with a vampire. Seriously.

P.S. I urge you to experiment with dialogue yourself. Of course, few works of fiction would fare well without narrative summary or attributive tags, but try writing a scene with mostly dialogue and see how well the elements of your story shine through.

Friday, November 20, 2009

*Project Jane

Yes, yes, I know I've neglected my blog lately. But what can I say? The life of a writer is never easy. The life of a writer borderline-OCD-mom on the eve of the New Moon release a week before the Thanksgiving-that-she-is-hosting gathering one month before **Christmas with one manuscript-without-a-home-or-agent and one work-in-progress-that-she's-obsessed-with both vying for her attention is simply chaotic.

Still, I apologize for slighting my most massive fan base of thirty-five (twenty-eight of which I suspect are spammers). I will attempt to make restitution by
1.Offering ***one million dollars to the first person that finds a word that rhymes with "chaos"
2.Not hiding for so long in the future
3.Providing you with this brilliant character interview:

Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads
An Interview with Jane
by Sara McClung
I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to host Sara McClung's interview! Not only is she a supportive friend, but she's a fantastic writer, super adorable, and remarkably insightful. And it seems most fitting to post her interview on the day of the New Moon release as Sara is also an avid defender of Twilight and all genre literature (like myself, though she's braver). I urge you to check out her often hilarious, sometimes educational, always entertaining blog and find her on Twitter, where you must be sure to drop by the #amwritingparty, an informal writer's support group that Sara founded which meets at any time you can find another willing to participate (though it usually picks up steam in the evenings [EST]).

Meet Sara McClung...
Sara, Sara, Bo-Bera, Banana-Fana Mo-Mera McClung currently lives in Northern Virginia (with a super hunk of a supportive hubby) and is working...scratch that...HAS FINISHED, just two days ago, the first draft of her first novel: a YA urban fantasy romance titled Shattered [feel free to throw confetti/spaghetti/streamers and shout a ridiculously loud Huzza!] She plans to spend the holidays editing and begging beta readers for feedback. Sara will thus commence the ****Moby Dickian hunt for representation at the crack of the 2010 dawn.

Now say hello to her little friend, Jane, a delicious morsel of a character to whom great responsibility is bestowed and tenuously received. Poor Jane is riddled with adolescent insecurity and angst, but has a heart that is far bigger than her little body.

Me: Alright, let’s get started. But first, Jane--what’s the scowl for?

Jane: I’m irritated. I don’t understand why Niko has to be a part of my story.

Me: The land chose her as a guardian, same as you. It was in the cards, sorry kiddo.

Jane: No. YOU chose her as a guardian. Just hit the delete button. Then type Clara into one of the guardian roles instead.

Me: I can’t do it. Sorry.

Jane: Come on. Did you forget that Niko threw brown soda all over my silk homecoming dress last year? Why are you doing this?

Me: Because, Jane, Niko makes you tense--and that makes for a more interesting story. If people don’t want to read about you, because I write a life that’s too complacent, I may as well hit that delete key...over the entire story.

Jane [pauses to mull this over]: Okay, fine. But...can you at least create a boyfriend for Niko? Maybe even that Jesse guy from Alexandra’s interview? He thinks he’s better than his peers… Niko thinks she’s better than her peers… It’s a perfect match. Just keep her away from Patrick.

Me: Oh quit the jealousy act. You already know that Patrick loves you. Plus, trust me...Niko is not what you need to worry about when it comes to Patrick.

Jane [flashes a sheepish smile]: Thanks. I know I’m being silly. I guess after everything we went through I just--wait. Do you mean there’s something else that I should be worried about with Patrick?

Me: Oops. Said too much. My lips are sealed. But anyway, shouldn’t you be thinking about the bigger picture?

Jane: You mean the guardianship? I’m always thinking about it...even when I’m not thinking about it, I think about it. sighs] There’s so much to do. I have to figure out how to control my talent...I don’t want another repeat with what happened at school. And I know my brother’s in danger, but I don’t know how to help. Patrick and I...[rolls eyes again; follows with another sigh] and Niko...don’t even know what we’re supposed to guard the land against yet! I think I’m getting an ulcer. Maybe if I--

[Jane forgets to finish her sentence; her posture instantly radiates alertness. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of metallic brown hair. I turn to see Patrick peeking in the window. He shrugs guiltily when caught and waves before walking away.]

Jane: Well, I’ll let you get back to writing. I’m gonna...I mean, I need to...[clears throat]

Me: Go ahead, I saw him too. Enjoy the downtime--the pace will soon be drastically picking up.

Peaked your interest? Steamy romance, adolescent jealousies, a dash of magic, and teen guardians of an entire city? I'll take two, thank you very much. Let's hope Ms. McClung finds a publishing home for Shattered soon so that we can see how things turn out for Jane, Niko, and Patrick. Thank you Sara for sharing your character interview with us! As always, it was a pleasure to work with you. Would love to see you chat with Niko or Patrick in the future. Best wishes for an enjoyable editing experience and a quick journey to publication!

If you would like to participate in the Character Interviews series, find me on Twitter and shoot me a line. Be sure to read about my post on the how and why of Character Interviews.

*One of the working titles used by Sara McClung before settling on Shattered
**If you did not click on this "Christmas" link, you have missed a prime piece of hilarity, especially for Twilight fans/haters.
***Even if you do find a rhyming word for chaos, which you won't, I'm lying about the million dollars.
****Do not attempt to look up this word in the dictionary.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clap Your Hands If You Believe

So, you've forgotten me, have you? I know it seems like I'm hiding behind my Character Interviews series, but really, it's such a great opportunity for writers to get to know their characters (click here to find out the how and why). And what a thrill to have such amazing writers post on my blog to introduce us to their delicious characters! (To be quite honest, it also gives me the chance to focus on my own writing, most recently a YA magical realism novel, but Shhhh...that's a carefully guarded secret.) But just so you don't forget, here's a reminder of who I am. And just for fun, you can see what I'm feeling and thinking.

And now, on to the good stuff....
Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads
An Interview with Penelope Hue
by Harley May
Please give a roaring round of applause to our most welcome additions to the Character Interviews series: author Harley May and Penelope, the cheeky, but oh-so-charming main character of Harley's modern day, coming-of-age YA faery tale, The Winged Life.

Yep, that's right, folks. We've got ourselves a faery in the house (and yes, that's faery, not fairy, in Harley's dialect), a seventeen-year old faery, to be exact, who wants nothing more than to be human. But first....

A little background on our author, Harley May
Her self description: Harley May grew up in South Korea but attended a total of 7 different schools during her k-12 years. That’s right, 7. She’s always loved books. They’ve been her escape and home through all her moves. She majored in English at BOTH The University of Alabama and The University of South Florida. She now lives in Florida with her husband and 3 children. One of her favorite movies is The Prestige (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. Hello) and she always, always, always has a pair of sunglasses on her head. Except for when she’s sleeping, showering, this picture, etc.

Wait. Check that. Only while sleeping and showering. (For some reason, these activities recall Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale to mind, with or without sunglasses. Huh.)

Be sure to check out her personal blog as well as her collaborative blog How Many Blondes Does It Take to Write a Blog? where she admittedly, does "nothing but get into trouble" with her writer-mom friend, Keli.

Now, for the pièce de résistance....

I Believe In Faeries

[Penelope Enters]
Harley: [looks at watch] You’re late.
Penelope: Demon killing waits for no woman.
Harley: Is that where you were?
Penelope: Sure. Let’s just say I was sidetracked from chocolate acquisition.
Harley: By acquisition, do you mean stealing?
Penelope: [purses lips together]
Harley: I’ll take that as a yes.
Penelope: ....
Harley: When did your love affair with chocolate begin?
Penelope: Love Affair. You’re so dramatic.
Harley: When did you start liking chocolate? Whatever.
Penelope: I guess the minute my great love affair with humans did.
Harley: I’m ignoring your sass. So you like humans?
Penelope: Well I only know 3 humans, but I love learning about their world.
Harley: What got you interested in human life?
Penelope: You’d be interested too if you had the Council squashing every dream a faery could have. I’ll never be able to leave the Colony. No one ever does.
Harley: [shakes head] The Council sounds horribly oppressive. You can’t let the Man keep you down.
Penelope: Good grief. Stop trying to be so anti-establishment. You’re so square you don’t even pee in the shower.
Harley: Wha? You have no idea what I do in the shower.
Penelope: Actually I…
Harley: [clears throat] Let’s move on to the next question. Being a faery, Penelope, you certainly know a lot about human stuff. How is that?
Penelope: Well, I practically grew up in Henley’s bookstore.
Harley: He’s one of the humans you know.
Penelope: Uh-huh.
Harley: He doesn’t mind letting a faery in his store.
Penelope: Oh, he doesn’t know I’m a faery. I acquire big t-shirts and they cover my wings nicely.
Harley: Again, by acquire, you mean steal, right?
Penelope: ....
Harley: That’s what I thought. Who’s another human you know?
Penelope: There’s Grayson. I just met him.
Harley: And what is he like?
Penelope: He’s quiet and moody. He’s dark and will have outbursts directed at no one that come out of nowhere. He’s troubled, but I like being around him. He seems to like being around me. He’s really tall. Like really. I don’t mind looking at him. Let’s just say that. Personality wise, he is the complete opposite of Elias.
Harley: And who is Elias?
Penelope: Elias. He’s another faery. I’ve been in love with him almost every day of my life. He’s my brother’s best friend and my best friend’s older brother. They’re orphans and live with us.
Harley: That’s not confusing at all.
Penelope: [glares] You wrote it. Anyway. Elias ignores every innuendo and hint I drop, and I do those a lot. I think he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. He has to know how I feel but just doesn’t reciprocate. [shrugs]
Harley: Have you tried telling him?
Penelope: ....
Harley: Maybe you should just tell him how you feel.
Penelope: Geeze! Who are you? My Mom? Quit telling me what to do.
Harley: Alright. Alright. Moving on. [widens eyes] Who is the other human you know?
Penelope: That’d be you.
Harley: Oh. [smiles] And what do you think about me?
Penelope: You’re fine, as far as vessels of story telling go.
Harley: A vessel? I’m more than a vessel. I’m the author!
Penelope: Really? “The Winged Life”? Is that what you’re going with now.
Harley: Look, you’d be nothing without me. I created you. I’m the one in charge here.
Penelope: [snort] Okay.
Harley: You know what? This interview is over. I’ve had it with your sass. I can only take so much snarkiness. [storms out]
Penelope: [looks pointedly at audience] She’ll be back.

Oh Harley, you have your work cut out for you--Miss Penelope is quite the handful! But you just can't help but love her. Thank you so much, Harley, for introducing her to us and for guest posting on my blog. It's been a pleasure to have you!

If you would like to submit a character interview, just let me know! Please be sure to refer back to my post on character interviews.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Interview with a Misfit

Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads
An Interview with Katie McCabe
by LK Gardner-Griffie
As promised, I've brought back the Character Interviews series, this time with LK Gardner-Griffie, the remarkable author of the young adult Misfit McCabe series. I am so honored to have Ms. Gardner-Griffie, an award-winning author, guest post today and even more flattered that she would share the loveable, trouble-making misfit of her series with us in her very first interview. Be sure to check out Ms. Gardner-Griffie's superb blog and website! You can also find her on twitter.

A little background on LK Gardner-Griffie
Author of the award-winning young adult novel Misfit McCabe and soon to be released Nowhere Feels Like Home, Ms. Gardner-Griffie somehow manages to write and keep a separate day job. By day, she works as a system analyst and process efficiency expert, but she spends her nights shaping her career as a young adult novelist. She is currently working on the third book in the Misfit McCabe series (yet untitled). In her own words: "I think my characters were getting a little miffed because I was the only one who didn't realize that I was writing a series. I figured it out as I started thinking about the third book."

Awarded the Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award for 2009

A brief bio of the adorable misfit, Katie McCabe (in the author's words)

Fourteen-year-old Katie McCabe was orphaned during the course of Misfit McCabe and sent to live with her Uncle Charley, and her cousins, Matt, Mark, and Sarah. Katie is basically a good kid, but she gets herself into trouble frequently. Through an escalating issue with the town bully, Katie winds up with a snakebite, a broken ankle, and a great deal of anger toward the bully who essentially confined her to bed.
My words: Oh gosh, this is so cool. Katie McCabe is also on Twitter. Check her out!

Meet Katie McCabe (this interview took place at the beginning of the third book in the Misfit McCabe series)

LK: Hey Katie, come on in and have a seat.
Katie: [Enters and throws herself into the chair causing it to tip back slightly] Am I in trouble?
LK: Why would you be in trouble? Have you done something I should know about?
Katie: No. [Eyes dart away and then shift back] I can't go farther than the bathroom or the front porch without help, so how could I do anything? I mean, look at me! [Gestures toward her cast]
LK: Hmmm. That wasn't very convincing, but we'll let it slide for the moment.
Katie: So why am I here anyway?
LK: I thought that we could have a little chat before getting in to the next book in the series. I wanted to see how you're feeling and what you're thinking and whether you were planning to give me any problems once we get going with it.
LK: Katie, come on. Open up and let me know what's going on inside that head of yours.
Katie: [scowling] Why should I tell you anything? Look at all of the things you've done to me. You killed my Daddy and now I'm living with relatives who were total strangers until a few weeks ago. And that's just for starters.
LK: I know losing your daddy was tough and you're still trying to deal with it. But sometimes bad things happen in life and we have to deal with them. Your story is helping some kids to deal with some of the bad life circumstances they run into. I know the loss of your father was a huge deal, but that's not really what's bothering you now, so what is it?
Katie: [Slumps in the chair and drops head slightly forward so her bangs cover one eye and pouts] Did you have to break my ankle? I mean if you had to maim me, did you have to take away my ability to get around? Couldn't you have just broken an arm or something? [Crosses her arms and lets a huff of air escape] A broken arm would have been cool because I could still have moved around and would have had a reason not to do homework. That would have been a bonus. Instead through an entire book I was stuck in bed and couldn't DO ANYTHING! And I STILL have this stupid cast on.
LK: I really feel bad about breaking your ankle. I think I have suffered as much as you have with it.
Katie: Ha!
LK: I've thought about it over and over again, but it was the right thing to happen in the circumstances, and I can't go back and change it.
Katie: I thought you were the writer, which is kind of like God. Don't you have control over what happens?
LK: [laughs] Like I could control you any better than anyone else in your life has done. Katie, you know I simply give you the reins and hold on for dear life. You were out in the hills in a storm and your foot slipped into a hole - the ankle had to break. If it didn't then it would weaken your case with Harvey in front of the judge. The break isn't bad, and you'll be going into a walking cast in a few pages anyway.
Katie: [Flings her head back to whip the hair out of her eyes] Really? That'll be totally cool.
LK: You still need to be cautious so you don't re-injure yourself.
Katie: Yeah...whatever...I'll be careful.
LK: Do you have any questions for me?
Katie: Do I get to spend more time with Tom this book? You keep cutting short our alone time together. Will you give me some time with him when we don't have to worry about Sarah barging in on us? It was embarrassing when she caught us kissing, and I don't want that to happen again.
LK: You'll get a little more alone time in this book.
Katie: [Curls hand into fist and jerks arm back sharply] Yeesss!
LK: Don't get too excited - I didn't say you wouldn't get embarrassed in some way. And you're relationship with Tom is going to subtly change.
Katie: You better not be breaking us up! I have to have some time with the guy when I'm not grounded. [pouts]
LK: You still have some growing to do in the relationship, so it's not necessarily going to be an easy road, but right now there are no break-up plans.
Katie: Good! Let's keep it that way.
LK: Do you have any other burning questions you want to ask?
Katie: I don't want to sound like a baby but did you have to make Sarah get engaged? As much as she gets on my case, she's the person I'm closest to and you're taking her away too. And don't give me any crap about the engagement period. You're still taking her away from me.
LK: On Sarah and Jim, we're both going to have to wait to see what happens. I know they're engaged, but they won't be getting married in this next book. In fact, Sarah is destined for a few relationship bumps in the road as well.
Katie: Really? [Grins] That shouldn't make me happy, but it does. What kind of bumps?
LK: I don't want to give too much away because I want you to react naturally to what happens.
Katie: [Jumps to feet] That's not fair! You never tell me anything! Why should I even talk to you?
LK: Give me a minute to finish. The thing I can tell you is that Sarah is already thinking about trying to convince Jim to have you live with them after they are married.
Katie: [Flops back in chair] You'd better not be teasing me.
LK: I know it's hard for you to believe, but I really do have your best interests at heart.
Katie: Yeah right! (pause) If you're going to keep someone's best interests at heart, then I want you to look after Timmy. He's had a hard life and he needs something good to happen to him.
LK: You don't think I've given him something good in his life?
Katie: Are you nuts? You made him put his own father into a coma, and he had to worry about whether he killed him or not! How on earth is that something good?
LK: What about the part where he comes to live with you and your family and is no longer in the abusive situation with his dad? And what about the fact that I have Mark taking Tim under his wing and they're doing the male bonding thing?
Katie: Well...I guess. And I guess I should tell you thanks for bringing my best friend to me after I lost Daddy and had to move away. But does Tim have to be jealous of my boyfriend? And I think Tom is getting jealous of Tim. Why do you have to mess up anything in my life that's actually going well?
LK: It's what makes it a story.

If you would like to submit a character interview, just let me know! Please be sure to refer back to my post on character interviews. Now go out and get Misfit McCabe and look for Nowhere Feels like Home to be released soon! Big thank you to LK Gardner-Griffie!!! [Applause]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Accidental Inspiration

Though I have relished my guest bloggers' posts in the Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads series, I feel the need to insert at least a modicum of my own writing in what is essentially a blog writing journey. But rest assured, the series will return tomorrow, and will hopefully continue.

For a long time, I tackled my stories in an "artistic" way: working on a scene here, a scene there, trying to pull all the different pieces together later on to form a cohesive story―which, let me tell you, did NOT work well for me. My brain just doesn't function like that. I have to know what comes first before I can determine what comes next. But I was under the impression that "creative" meant "non-linear-never-do-anything-in-a-normal-predictable-fashion." Talk about feeling like a grade-A loser. I began to wonder if I should set my sights a little lower, like maybe to become a yellow pages proofreader (No offense meant; I appreciate yellow pages most when they are typo-free).

Disillusioned and nearly drained of my will to live, I stumbled upon a flyer advertising what was probably one of the biggest things to ever happen at my university: a lecture to be given by none other than the one and only Toni Morrison. The buzz circulating around campus (alright, just the English department) was that Morrison had planned to discuss her very own writing process, and my first thought was, "OH MY WORD, I'm-the-luckiest-freaking-human-alive-since-fiction-was-invented-[breath]-hopefully-I'll-discover-the-well-hidden-secret-to-writing-the-masterpiece-novel." So the big day arrived, and I skipped classes to line up hours in advance (Yep, I was numero uno in line). Once in the auditorium, I sat down in my seat way in the back (far away from the privileged class of Tenured Professors) and waited for the magic. And this is what Ms. Morrison had to say (more or less):

Sometimes I begin in the middle; sometimes I begin with the end; and sometimes, I just start at the beginning.

Uh. Wait. What? Oh frick!

I was immensely disappointed to discover that there was no formula. But Ms. Morrison did say one thing that I have incorporated into my own writing (roughly paraphrased):

Let the image that sings to you drive you.

Okay, so I don't actually remember if she said that. But I'd like to think that she did because it grants a certain degree of validity to my writing process. Because, you see, even though I generally always start at the beginning at Chapter 1, working in a fairly linear manner towards the end, my story ideas almost always begin with a single image that drives the characterization, the setting, and even the plot. Often, I stumble upon these images by accident. For an example, allow me to refer back to an old short story of mine (also mentioned in a previous post) about an old man who steals a forklift; the central image for that story was, well, an old man driving a forklift down the road in the dead of night. That image jump-started the story for me.

Anyway, I always keep a camera in my handbag now. Okay, not for that purpose. I have two adorable kids who have a habit of creating photo ops when I least expect it, but the camera does come in handy to me as an idea-starved writer, allowing me to capture images that inspire stories. So, I thought I might share some of these scene setters with you from now on (please ignore the wrinkles―they've been stashed away from prying eyes for a long time). If you're feeling a little tapped and are in need of some fresh inspiration, maybe you'll find it here. I already have some ideas for this first one, actually. But why don't you give it a go?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Steampunk Rendezvous

Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads
An Interview with Jesse...and Remy
by Alexandra Shostak
Welcome to the second post of the Character Interviews series, an ongoing series of interviews/chats between fictional characters and their creators.

On that tinkling note, I'd like to introduce you to today's guest blogger, Alexandra Shostak, a brilliant up-and-coming steampunk author (you may have already come across her magnificence on Twitter or elsewhere). But you might be surprised to discover that Alexandra writes, in particular young adult steampunk, breaking--as in all things--the mold. If you're not familiar with steampunk, I urge you to check out Alexandra's succint description of the genre from her guest post, "An Introduction to Steampunk," on Sara McClung's writerly blog The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribbler.

A little something about Ms. Alexandra Shostak
Here's what she told me to tell you: "Alexandra Shostak is a YA fantasy writer and creative writing major in her junior year of college, currently hunting for an agent." Well, okay Miss Emily-Dickinson-totally-downplay-your-abilities-in-every-way. Here's the expanded truth: Alexandra is a brilliant writer--seriously, you should check out her blog, The publication follies of miss Alexandra Shostak . She writes in a very heartfelt, very honest manner--she's totally no-holds barred. Weeks ago, Alexandra posted photos of her scribbled-upon arms and legs, which she'd used as notepads when paper was lacking. Isn't that totally rockin? What I love most about her: she's one of the most supportive writers around. I've never met her personally, but she offers her encouragement as if we'd been meeting for coffee every Friday since the last winter Olympics. And let me tell you a little secret...shh...this girl is gonna be big. So check her out.

A personal note from Alexandra about her characters
Jesse Phoenix is one of the main characters of my steampunk novel MEMENTO MORI, and Remy Daae is the leading lady of PHANTOM BEAUTY, my novel based on Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast. I promise, they’re not this abrasive in their respective manuscripts. Er… well, not quite, anyway.
Anyway, thanks Carol/Carolina for letting me post an interview! It was a lot of fun to write!

Meet Jesse, the devilish outlaw, and sullen Remy, a most cheeky opera singer
Alexandra: So Jesse, maybe you can tell everyone a little about how you became an infamous outlaw?

Jesse: I was better than the rest of them. (Laughs.) Everyone else got caught by the government, but even as a teenager I came home with stolen gold every night. My brother and I—

(Someone coughs. Alexandra and Jesse look, but no one is there.)

Alexandra: Sorry, Jesse. Go on.

Jesse: We started off with—

(Another cough. Alexandra looks around, and rolls her eyes.)

Alexandra: Yes, Remy?

Remy: Forgive me, but I cannot comprehend what made you choose him for this interview.

Alexandra: (dryly) instead of you.

Remy: Well, yes.

Jesse: Who exactly are you?

Remy: You don’t recognize me? How can you call yourself a citizen of Valo and not recognize me?

Jesse: Well, I don’t recognize you. But come to think of it, why don’t you recognize me?

Alexandra: Jesse Phoenix, meet Remy Daae.

Jesse: Wait. You’re dead.

Remy: Do I look dead?

Jesse: But you’re in that stupid opera—the historical one about the Phantom from years ago. You’re the main character. Gods are you annoying.

Remy: Excuse me?

Alexandra: Yes, Jesse. Remy was born over a hundred years before you. So I really don’t know what she’s doing here right now (fixes Remy with a pointed glare.)

Remy: I’m saving your interview. This boor can’t possibly be as interesting as I am.

Alexandra: I think I’ve got it under control.

Remy: I think you should start over.

Jesse: Maybe you should go back to being dead.

Alexandra: You two do realize that you’re screwing up the entire spacetime continuum of my world by meeting each other, don’t you?

Jesse and Remy: Your world?

Remy: Which one of us is the best opera singer in the country?

Jesse: I’d like to see you steal an entire trunk of gold from a moving train.

Alexandra: Okay! That’s it! (Opens up a word document. Narrates as she types.) Remy Daae was the most beautiful mute to ever—

Remy: Hey! Don’t you dare add that to the manuscript!

Alexandra: Will you let me interview Jesse like I planned?

Remy: (sullenly) Yes.

(Remy stalks off, but when Alexandra looks around for her outlaw, he’s gone off to rob a bank.)

Holy cow, Alexandra has gone and shaken up the interview experiment by having characters from different books collide in the author's world! Pretty cool, huh? No, not just cool--Steampunk FABULOUS! Love it! So, we've got outlaws, opera singers, magic, fantasy worlds...steampunk in all its glory. But poor Alexandra was left all alone at the end of the interview! Wonder how she'll exact her revenge? Hmm....

Oh yes, and my friends call me Carol. So please, call me Carol. Carolina is my birth/author name, which I can't seem to grow into. If you would like to submit a character interview, just let me know! Please be sure to refer back to my post on character interviews

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Totally Sane Interviews with Vampires, Hobbits, and Talking Toads
An Interview with Abigail
by Jenni Bailey

As you may already have read in the last blog post "Why You Should Interview Your Characters," I'm starting a series of character interviews (and before you ask, vampires, hobbits, and talking toads are not the only characters interviewed).

On that note, allow me to introduce Jenni Bailey, the first guest blogger for the Interviews series. Thanks to Jenni, we have the pleasure of meeting Abigail Bloom-Gerard, the deliciously adorable, but slightly surly main character of the YA fantasy that Jenni is currently working on (a novel which may end up becoming more of a work of magical realism...but stay tuned).

A little background on Ms. Bailey:
Jenni grew up in New Orleans, spending those oh-so-fabulous high school years [insert sarcasm] at NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) [insert WOW!) where she studied Creative writing (no surprise there!). She later majored in English at the University of Central Florida. Jenni currently resides in the same state somewhere "between Orlando and the Atlantic Ocean" with her family (husband, daughter, and writing). As content as she is with the Florida sun, Jenni "craves seasons." Thus, when she becomes the best-selling novelist that I know she will be, she will pump some of her hard-earned fortune into a property "north of the Mason-Dixon line." Be sure to check out Jenni Bailey's super fun blog that will inspire you and make you laugh all at once.

A note from Jenni:
Thanks again for having me guest post! The interview is such a fun idea; I am looking forward to seeing what comes out of everyone’s brains! I can already tell I’m going to have to interview Abby again down the road because there’s still a lot of personality-altering stuff in store for her.

From the files of Miss Jenni Bailey, "An Interview with Abigail":

Me: I’m talking today with the main character of my current novel, Abigail Bloom.

Abigail: Bloom-Gerard.

Me: Oh, right. You’re kind of particular about the hyphen. Sorry Abby.

Abigail: You can call me Abigail.

Me: Oh… I thought your friends called you Abby.

Abigail: Mmm.

[awkward silence]

Abigail: Sorry.

Me: It’s okay.

Abigail: No it isn’t. I was being rude. I just have a lot going on right now, it’s making me forget my manners.

Me: I know. And I really am sorry. I have to be honest, though; things will probably get a little worse before they get better.

Abigail: You can’t be serious!

Me: Don’t worry. I’ll give you a rest. Enough time to get comfortable in your surroundings.

Abigail: [sighs] And then you’ll make me uncomfortable again?

Me: [clears throat] Let’s talk about something more pleasant, shall we?

Abigail: Definitely. Like what?

Me: Why don’t you tell me your favorite thing about your new home?

Abigail: [pauses] Nothing comes to mind.

Me: Okay. What’s your least favorite?

Abigail: That’s just as hard. Everything is my least favorite. There’s not enough green space, my family is ridiculous, everybody looks at me like they’re expecting me to be something special. How’s that for a start?

Me: Well, maybe you are something special.

Abigail: Not yet, I’m not. If you have grand plans for me please feel free to get it going. I’m beginning to feel like a big disappointment.

Me: I’ll handle that soon enough. Have you figured out your favorite thing yet?

Abigail: Yes. But I would rather not say.

Me: It’s Oliver, isn’t it?

Abigail: [blushes]

Me: Do you like him like him?

Abigail: No! Of course not.

Me: [silence]

Abigail: Okay. Maybe. He’s hyper and chatty and he asks too many personal
questions. I thought he was a pest at first but he’s not so bad when he actually sits still. But please don’t read too much into that. I’m not interested in romance right now. I’ve got enough on my plate. Plus I think that girl he works with, the one with the sourpuss face, would gladly chuck me right off the island if I got too close.

Me: She’s not all bad, you know. Not yet at least.

Abigail: Terrific. Are we done here? Apparently I have some [quote fingers] exploring to do.

Me: Sure. Go have fun.

Abigail: Yeah. Right. Super fun.

Me: Cute dress, by the way.

Abigail: Thank you. I made it myself.

Me: Of course you did.

Bravo! Three cheers for Miss Abigail, whose voice floats right off the screen. What I loved about this interview was how much we were able to discern about the character and the setting in a matter of a few words. Her surliness all but pops out at you, but so does her apologetic nature, which says a lot about her personality as well as the situation she's in (don't you just love the quote fingers?). I don't know bout you, but this is definitely a story I want to read. Kudos to you, Jenni, for creating Abigail, a most remarkable character. And my warmest thanks for your guest post. I'm thrilled to be able to post your interview--I hope you bring Abigail back soon.

If you would like to submit a character interview, just let me know! Please be sure to refer back to my post on character interviews.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why You Should Interview Your Characters

In yesterday's blog post, I had a little sit-down with Anthony, one of my main characters, who has been giving me a bit of difficulty. You see, he wasn't all that thrilled with me because I've yet to introduce him in the new YA magical realism novel I'm working on. And frankly, I was getting a bit impatient to meet him myself. So to resolve both of our anxieties, I thought it best to actually talk to him (and the cheeky bugger had just flipped me the bird, so I had to take him to task). Please review that little "interview" before finishing this post.

Alright, now that you've seen how a character interview can work, let me just tell you that I found this particular chat with Anthony immensely satisfying. Moreover, I learned a lot from it. In fact, I think ALL authors should take a little time to interview their main characters. Why? For a number of reasons. Here's what I took away from mine:

1. You gain a much better sense of who your characters are even before you meet them. Anthony isn't even in my book yet, but I now have a better understanding of how he speaks and the way he reacts. I had some sense of his backstory already, but when I sat down to talk to him, his words and his gestures flowed so freely that it was as if he already existed. I think his characterization (via dialogue and actions and even gestures) will come more easily now. Fact is, characters, when well defined, should take on a life of their own.

2. You can see if the characterization needs improvement. After rereading the interview with Anthony, I was able to see that a very clear personality was emerging with him. But if I had struggled with his dialogue or his gestures, it would have been an obvious signal to me that I needed to create a more distinct personality for him. Even static characters need to have a sense of identity. You don't want your characters to seem flat to the reader, and an interview helps you to establish a voice for them through an interaction with you.

3. If you interview your characters at different points in the narrative, you can get a sense of how they are changing throughout the story. A series of interviews can also help you to determine if your characterization is staying consistent. Even dynamic characters that change throughout the story should not lose the core of their identities--that voice that is so essentially theirs.

4. It's crazy fun to sit down with your own characters. As an author, you come to love your characters as your own children--and sometimes, if you're anything like me, you might even fall in love with one of them. I think it's natural to want to meet them, and this is one way to do it.

5. It's essential that we establish a relationship with our characters. And I don't mean that we must all cast aside our sane selves and gallivant in an imagined field of daisies with our leading men (unless you want to); but I do think that we must feel connected to our characters in order to portray them genuinely. How often have you read a book where the characters lack any depth whatsoever? I'm certain this results when authors have no sense of who their characters are because they haven't spent any time fleshing out their identities.

Now, given this long tirade on the benefits of interviewing fictional characters (of which I'm sure there are more), I thought it would be fun to begin a series on my blog of character interviews, not just with my own (though you'll likely be seeing more of those), but other authors' chats with their characters as well. Ooooo, getting excited just thinking about it--gives a whole new meaning to an interview with a vampire (eh hemm...Anthony is not a vampire, for the record, but maybe your mc is). So, if you're interested in guest posting an interview, let me know. Would love to have you.

Note: Photo is a still from Interview with a Vampire found on some Czech fan site.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Meet Anthony (Who's Killing My NaNoWriMo Word Count)

So far, no bites on my first manuscript, Aeternus. I haven't gotten a lot of rejections from agents yet (but, oh how those first few have hurt). Still waiting to hear back from most of the agents to whom I've sent queries. While I wait (and because of the distinct possibility that I may not actually get an agent for this manuscript), I have decided to move on and write another one, this time a YA novel with a touch of magical realism and romance. But, my male protagonist, Anthony, insists on making my life difficult. I thought you might like to see the kind of trouble this guy has been giving me by relaying to you the little chat I had with the youngster.

Carol: Now Anthony, why did you just do that?

Anthony: What? This?

Carol: Yes, Anthony. No need to do it again.

Anthony: It's just a finger. See?

Carol: Yes. Put it away now.

Anthony: Whatever.

Carol: You wanna tell me what's wrong?

Anthony: ....

Carol: Anthony?

Anthony: It's haven't written me in yet. [scuffs his foot, kicking up dust]

Carol: That doesn't mean you don't have a story.

Anthony: I know. I'm here aren't I?

Carol: Of course you--

Anthony: But why does it have to be all about her? How come she has to come first?

Carol: An author has to make certain choices with regard to audience. The fact is, teenage girls tend to prefer main characters that are female, just like them.

Anthony: Well, screw teenage girls. [grumbles something unintelligible beneath his breath]

Carol: [Raises an eyebrow] Uh-huh.

Anthony: I'm just as important as she is. [chin wobbles]

Carol: You love her, Anthony.

Anthony: No, I don't [sneers].

Carol: You will.

Anthony: So you think.

Carol: Oh, you will. And you will thank me for every one of her breaths when all is said and done.

Anthony: How many breasts does she have? [eyes bug out with mock incredulity]

Carol: Watch the sass, smartass. It's not too late to make you ugly.

Anyway, there's Anthony, quite the cheeky thing, but he's got my heart already. If only he weren't such a pain in the rear to work with.

By the way, this image was found here.

Now, go find out why you should interview your characters.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Holy mother of pearl! I'm so pumped! So excited!


And do you know why? Cuz I was just selected to be a proud bearer of the Kreativ Blogger Award!!!!! Man, I'm psyched.

Okay, so here's how it happened. A little birdie by the name of Sara McClung left a little note on my blog: "Just wanted to let you know...I left a little something for ya on my blog :) check it out!" And so I checked it out, and there it was, that sweet little Blogger award--my very first one! AWE.SOME.

Funny thing is, Sara's blog is WAY better than mine. I could definitely learn alot from her. And so could you. So be sure to check it out: Sara is currently working on her first YA fantasy novel, and I know I will be one of the first to buy it when it publishes. She's totally fab: a brilliant writer, encouraging, and a total cutie to boot. You'll love her and will definitely want to follow her blog. Sara McClung is a name to remember.

Now, Sara has entrusted me to continue the legacy of the Kreativ Blogger Award, and so I shall. The instructions given to me look something like this (err...exactly like this):

1. Copy and paste the pretty picture you see on the top left corner onto your own blog.
2. Thank the person who gave you the award and post a link to their blog.
3. Write 7 things about yourself we do not know.
4. Choose 7 other bloggers to award.
5. Link to those 7 other bloggers.
6. Notify your 7 bloggers.
7. Do a little dance because you just won the KREATIV BLOGGER award! (I added this rule because it's what I did and it was FUN)

So, now I have to select 7 blogs (obviously, can't select Sara, but I totally would if I could). Hmmm...tough choice, no? So many beauty queens, but only seven crowns...**sigh** But on to the selections! And just for fun, I'm working off of a little Seven Dwarves theme.

1. Doc: Behold the wonder that is Blake Charlton This one was an obvious selection as Blake Charlton is currently a Stanford med student as well as an author. His debut fantasy novel Spellwright will be released February 16, 2010. And let me tell you, it looks AMAZING. This fantasy novel is an English major's dream come true. The premise? An apprentice wizard that can't spell living in a world where words come to life via magic spells--now that's a rockin concept. Even more unbelievable? Blake is himself dyslexic...the guy is practically a walking miracle. By the way, his blog is one of the most visually pleasing that I've seen, not to mention absofreakinglutely brilliant.

2. Grumpy: Okay, now I don't know RKLewis personally (in fact, I've yet to learn his full name), but I do follow his blog, and find it to be quite exceptional, though in need of a little Kreativ Blogger Award bling. For the record, I don't actually think RKLewis is grumpy--not from what I've discerned, but he writes noir and crime fiction, which suits the needs of this particular category in that it's not necessarily cheerful, per se. You can find his entertaining writer-friendly blog here: I think you'll find that you can't resist following it.

3. Sneezy: This one has to go to Pauline Campos's blog The Afterbirth which is comprised of short and sweet daily posts, most of which are inspired by her adorable two year old daughter. It could be said that the posts are very much like a sneeze in that they are over with almost before you've realized they've started, yet they are immensely satisfying (and often hilarious) in their candor. Pauline is a writer who now stays home with her little one. She's currently working on what she terms a "bookumentary" about her ventures into mommyhood called Baby F(Ph)at. You can find the info for this, as well as submit an essay to potentially be included in this book at her other blog Aspiring Mama. Please be sure to check out both blogs. Pauline is incredibly talented, and I'm so lucky to have stumbled upon her blogs.

4. Sleepy: Please meet Simon C. Larter. Only just started following his blog which is why it's in this category. It was a sleeper, you see, and it took me a while to discover it. Simon has been very supportive since I first met him on, like 3 days ago, but seriously, his blog is pretty cool. He's a writer, and like me (and so many of us!), looking to publish. I have enjoyed browsing his posts about his adventures into publication. And let me tell you, I can so relate! So check out his blog. I guarantee you'll follow.

5. Dopey: Hmmm, this one was a difficult one because I don't follow dopey blogs. So let me just amend the stupid category by indicating that this blog is not going to be dopey, but a FUN blog! And yeah,I haven't chosen one yet. I'm only just learning to actually inspect people's blogs. So, will do some searching. Again, be patient people. Maybe your blog can end up here?

6. Happy: This category was a no-brainer. Faye Sommer is probably one of the happiest people on the planet, and almost certainly the most cheerful that I know. I've known her since childhood and have always been amazed by the beauty that is Faye. You MUST MUST check out her blog She's not a writer, but a most remarkable photographer. I do believe I will have to make it my mission to force her to publish her own coffee table photog book. I feel so inspired by her photos, and so will you.

7. Bashful: Last but not least, I have chosen M. Gray for this category. She seems to me like one of the quiet types who takes you aback when you read all of the profound things she has to say. My gosh, the brilliance! Her blog never disappoints. Ms. Gray is currently working on a debut novel, a supernatural suspense, due out in the fall of 2010. I'm quite looking forward to it. Be sure to check out her blog and follow away. She offers great tips on writing, but mostly, allows us to share in her experience, which often has me laughing and thinking, "Oh gosh, I totally GET that!"

Alrighty then--the rules state I must now move on to 7 things that you may not know about me. you go:

1. The title of my first completed manuscript currently being submitted is Aeternus. There. That's the first I've breathed of it to anyone. Publicly.
2. I have two fully connected toes on my right foot and two partially connected toes on my left foot. Quack.
3. My name is not pronounced "Carol-eye-na," but rather "Cah-roh-leena." This was a problem when I lived in North Carolina. However, I generally go by Carol. Someday, I'll tell you why.
4. I sang with my fifth grade choir at the Orange Bowl and shook hands with Fred Dreyer. I, honest to goodness, thought "this is the beginning of my acting career."
5. If I could take on a second husband, I would want him to be a nice mix of Hugh Jackman and Gerard Butler, maybe with Rob Pattinson's whacky hair.
6. I graduated from Purdue with a 4.0, double majoring in English and Creative writing. But because of a technical flaw, my transcripts show me having majored in English and Psychology, even though I only took 2 psych classes. Go Boilers....
7. You will not meet a more insecure person than me. In fact, if you don't leave a comment, I am likely to go without sleep for the next two nights.

Phew, got through that post (you and me both, baby!). Took me a while, but man, I'm so incredibly flattered. Thank you, Sara, for selecting me. I can't wait to read your book! See you at the #amwritingparty tonight (For those of you who don't know what this is, you really should join us on Twitter.)