Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ten Things You'd Probably Rather Not Know About Me

David Powers King recently gave me the Kreative Blogger Award. (Thanks, David!)  For the creative blogger award I'm supposed to share ten things about myself and then pass the award on to six other bloggers. (It was very hard to chose only six.) So without further ado, ten things that you'd probably rather not know about me.

Ten Interesting things about me (some fall into the “don’t try this” category).

1. When I was a teenager, I was swimming in the ocean, saw a sea turtle, and grabbed on for a ride. It was amazing. Until he pulled me out to sea and decided to dive to the ocean floor.

2. I drove a car home from school (in Los Angeles) with my eyes closed. It was okay though because my best friend told me when to turn, when to slow down and when to stop.

3. I’ve been a runner for 29 years. (With some months off here and there when I was pregnant; puking didn’t mix so well with running.) And I actually hate running, but it feels so good when I stop.

4. I’m face-blind. I recognize people by their height, shape, hair color, facial hair, etc. When my husband shaved his beard and mustache, it took weeks before I didn’t have a split-second of panic, thinking “who is that stranger,” every time I saw him.

5. My family calls me the “orchid whisperer” because my orchids bloom prolifically. But the truth is that I don’t do anything except ignore them and give them leftover ice cubes for water.

6. I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue.

7. My favorite junk food is honey-mustard pretzel pieces. They make me happy...until I realize how many miles I have to run to cancel out my indulgence.

8. Clowns and circuses really creep me out. I still can’t figure out why face paint and demon-possessed eyes makes people laugh. Oh, and those weird wind-up monkeys that bang cymbals...they’re creepy too.

9. I still have nightmares about missing a final for a college class. I graduated a long time ago.

10. I love office supplies. Post-it notes, triangle-shaped paperclips, red pens (I must have at least 12 at a time.), highlighters, push pins (even though I don’t have a cork board.), floral binder clips, etc. One of my favorite pastimes is going to Staples and redeeming my store credits for more organization supplies. Bliss.

Six Bloggers to Whom I now Pass on the Award:

4.  Patti

Don't forget there are only a few days left to enter the contest to win a free e-copy of Screwing Up Time at Novel d'Tales

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


If you’ve been a writer for long, you’ve probably heard whispers about the “sophomore novel.” If you haven’t, it means the sequel. And it’s often talked about in hushed tones because it’s a scary thing to write. I know because it scares me even as I write one. But I’m not alone, many authors struggle with it.

In fact, I just finished reading the sequel to a novel that very well-received and sold lots and lots of copies. The sequel was a good book, and I enjoyed it. But not nearly as much as the first book. I’ve read a lot of sophomore novels over the last year and asked myself why the good ones worked and why the poor ones didn’t in hopes of learning to avoid the pitfalls. Here’s what I’ve gleaned.

I suspect the reason that sequels are hard for most writers (at least this is the reason it’s hard for me) is because we’ve rung every bit of punch from the story in the first book. And this isn’t wrong. It’s what makes a great book. By the end, the secrets are told. For example, when the reader finishes Screwing Up Time, he/she has seen what it’s like to travel through time. You can never go back to not knowing. And the novel’s world building is complete. You know Bodiam Castle pretty well by the end of SUT. You don’t wonder what the halls smell like or how cold the air feels during the winter nights. And you know the characters. You’ve seen Mark and Miranda’s strengths and weaknesses. You’ve seen them grow.

That daunting task to a sequel writer is to find new secrets, new worlds, and new character growth. That’s why JK Rowling’s books are/were so amazing. She found new secrets (or secrets that kept growing). She wrote about new worlds/places like the Ministry of Magic, the house belonging to the Order of the Phoenix, even the nightbus (which I loved), etc. And she found new ways for the characters to mature. Because of that, we loved Rowling and her novels. She gave us a rare gift.

That’s the task of the author who writes a sequel, to give the reader new secrets, new worlds, and new growth—without sacrificing the chemistry, tension, and relationships of the first novel. Wow...that sounds impossible. Time for some chocolate. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so please comment!

N.B. Yesterday I won a blog award. (Thanks so much, David!) I’ll put the award up next Tuesday and share ten things about myself. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Short Stories Vs. Novels

I’m now 7000 words into the short story, which makes it a long short story since it’s not done. The other day, I was reading an article by a famous novelist who released a short story about her famous characters between the publication of one novel and the next. Her fans did not like it. They complained. But as the author listed the complaints, it occurred to me that the complaints were because the readers didn’t understand the difference between a novel and a short story. They had “novel-type” expectations of a short story. And there’s no way an author can satisfy those types of expectations. A short story can’t be a novel. So I thought, since I’m working on a short story, that it might be helpful to reader and writers to discuss what the difference is between a novel and a short story. Especially since I’ve had the same confusion.

When I was in junior high, my teacher assigned our class to write a short story. I started off with a bang. Then, twenty pages or so into the “short” story, I realized that I had no hope of finishing it. And instead of the teacher saying, “My dear, here’s what you need to do.” She said, “Twenty pages? Wonderful. Don’t worry about finishing the story, just turn in what you have.” (Now maybe she said this because she didn’t want to read another twenty pages of junior high penmanship—I lived during pre-PC days.) When the teacher handed back my “short story,” I’d gotten an A. At that point, I realized the assignment was about putting pen to paper, not writing a short story. I was bummed. And I never learned how to write a short story until I got to college.

I was anxious when I took my first fiction writing class—was I going to write another long mess without an end? Then, I discovered something. (Clearly, I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer or it would’ve occurred to me sooner.) A short story has one plot point and a limited number of characters. Ah, that was my problem. Every time I’d written a short before, I wasn’t writing a story, but a novel. (Or a novella, but that’s a whole other discussion.) So what’s a short story? According to Poe, who some call the originator of the short story, a short story is a narrative that can be read within 1 ½ to 2 hours (depending on whether you have to get more chocolate—okay, I added that part) and is limited to “a certain unique or single effect.” In other words, you have to have a limited number of characters and the whole story has to lead to a single purpose or conclusion. The “effect” may be the resolution of the plot that’s developed, or it may be an exploration of a character, which is common in modern literary fiction (and may be really boring to read).  This means that a short story can’t be as intricate as a novel—not as many twists, not as much character development, etc.

Think of a short story, especially one where the author is writing a short about characters that already live in a novel, as a love letter to the reader. The author is giving you a snippet of the characters’ lives while you wait for the next novel, something to tide you over while the hard work of writing the next novel happens. It’s something to remind you that the characters aren’t sitting around doing nothing while you wait for the next book.

If any of you have thoughts about the differences between short stories and novels or expectations of each, I’d love for you to share them.

N.B. The information about Poe came from Abrams’s A Glossary of Literary Terms.
A new blog, Novel d'Tales, is hosting a giveaway and my novel, Screwing Up Time, is the prize. Check it out. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Unicorn Tapestry

The first draft of my short story is going very well. For more on the why of doing a short story between two novels, check this blog post on my “other” blog.

Besides the characters, the short story and Screwing Up Time share a plot feature, the tapestry that hangs in Miranda’s chamber. While Miranda’s tapestry exists only in my imagination, it was influenced by real tapestries that I saw at The Cloisters, which is a museum in Northern Manhattan dedicated to the art and architecture of Medieval Europe.  And it’s actually built like a medieval cloister. (If you’re ever in NYC, visit! It’s amazing to find a place of quiet and serenity deep in Manhattan.)

Of the three thousand pieces of artwork, some of the most prized exhibits are the Unicorn Tapestries. Click the link here to see the six tapestries. They might even be familiar to you—the tapestries are so popular that they show up on notecards, etc. These tapestries inspired the tapestry on the wall of Miranda’s bedroom, which hid something of great significance to the novel. And the tapestry will play a small role in the short story. Though not because of what tapestry hides, but because of the story it tells.

If you’re not familiar with tapestries, they’re usually more that just pretty weavings. For example, the Bayeaux Tapestry (which is more of an embroidery than a weaving) tells the story of the Norman conquest of England. The Unicorn tapestries tell the story of the hunt of a unicorn. As for Miranda’s tapestry and the story it tells, you’ll have to wait. But I’m working hard, and I’ll keep you updated. 

Click here to read a new review of Screwing Up Time.

You might also like this post, Book Marketing Tribulations, on my other blog. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Happy New Year!

I hope the New Year finds you all well. My big news is that I finished the first big edit to the sequel of Screwing Up Time. My goal was to finish it before the New Year. Okay, my goal had been to finish it before Thanksgiving. But the seven family surgeries of 2011 took care of that very, very fast. Still, I’m pretty excited that it threw off my goal by only a month.

Now my first beta reader has the book. She’s looking for plot inconsistencies or holes. As soon as she’s finished, I’ll get back to work. For my next edit: I’ll be fixing any plot holes or boring parts (hopefully, there aren’t many). After that, I’ll do a voice edit. That’s where I’ll get into the nitty gritty of the text to make sure that the book “sounds right.” Mark/Henry tells the story and if it doesn’t sound that way, the novel will fail.

So while I’m waiting for the beta, what will I be doing? Writing a short story that takes place between book one and book two. I’ve got the story idea, so, assuming my family can stay out of the hospital—we’ve already had one trip this new year, I’ll start it today.