Thursday, September 29, 2005

Misunderstood characters...where did I go wrong? Or did I?

In amongst the good reviews my latest book is getting, there's one that is decidedly not. The reviewer loathed my heroine. Really loathed her.

I've had this happen before. A reviewer likes one of the main characters and thinks the other is totally unworthy of him or her. Usually there's a trust issue in these books, and the reviewer doesn't understand why the non-favored character is so mistrustful of the favored one, regardless of whatever motives and backstory I've given The Unworthy One. However, there are plenty of other reviewers who absolutely understand where The Unworthy One is coming from and have no problem with him or her. Instead, they describe The Unworthy One as a "perfect match" for the Favored One (which is, of course, what I intended).

Obviously, to some readers, I've blown it. Big time. Others see the story and characters the way I do. So what's a writer to do?

I look at it this way: whatever the reasons for these differences of opinion, and however disturbing it is as an author to see a character misunderstood and despised, it's really kind of kick to have people talking about my characters as if they're real people. That tells me that no matter how someone feels about my work, I've done something right.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

When reviews are wrong....

The reviews have started to come in for my next book. Most are wonderful (yeah, because I wound up throwing out at least half of the book and rewriting it -- good to know that effort was worth it), but there's one that has me muttering, "Huh? Did you actually read my book, or did you just skim it?"

I know this happens, because how else could a reviewer describe one of my heroes as "lisping?" The guy's voice box had been crushed in an assassination attempt, so he could only speak in a low rasp. That's not lisping as I understand the term. I've had other errors in terms of story events in other reviews, too (one had the setting off by a couple of centuries!). I can only think the reviewers either skimmed, or made lousy notes.

And here's the thing:
I can tell when a book was probably skimmed because of the errors in the review but somebody reading the review wouldn't. And sometimes, the reviewer's judgment is clearly biased based on their misconceptions. I've explained something they took issue with, but they apparently missed it completely.

What can an author do? Generally, nothing. To complain about a negative review, to imply that the reviewer "got it wrong" in any way, is to risk withering scorn. It's just sour grapes. If you put your work "out there," you should be prepared for criticism. The reviewer has every right to express his or her opinion.

Sure they do -- but doesn't the author have the right to expect accuracy, at least in terms of what happens in the story? That's not "an opinion." Unfortunately, in the case of a print review, by the time a correction is printed, if ever, the book's been on the shelves for weeks, and in the case of a category romance, may already be gone. So authors just generally grit their teeth and bear it.

Well, for the most part. I was so upset about the mistake made about my rasping hero that I emailed the reviewer. She did alter the review, but it was days after the initial posting. I wrote the reviewer who had the setting wrong, too. I suppose I should be grateful they eventually fixed the reviews, except...nah. If you set yourself up as a reviewer, you should be prepared to do the work -- and that means reading every word of a book you review and making accurate notes. If you don't have the time or inclination to do so, you shouldn't be offering your opinions to the public under the guise of a reviewer. It's not fair to them and it certainly isn't fair to the authors.

And if a reviewer can hardly bear to read past the third page because of the style or premise or any other reason? That should be the review. I think it would pretty much say it all.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Who needs sitcoms anyway?

I realized awhile back that I no longer watch sitcoms. Nor do I have any desire to watch sitcoms. Being a writer, the next logical thing for me to do was discover my motivation for this change of viewing habit.

My conclusion: I get more and better laughs watching my favorite reality TV shows, either directly by what's on the show, or indirectly, through the discussion with my family, or when I read the clever, very funny posts at
Television without Pity. I haven't seen much scripted TV comedy recently that was funnier than the beloved Frats on The Amazing Race. One night, while watching The Apprentice, I referred to Donald Trump as "Mr. Trump" and just about fell off the couch laughing at myself. I can easily waste an hour reading the reactions to the latest Survivor episode at TWoP, chortling away. The networks can keep their sitcoms. Give me reality TV and TWoP.

In writing news: I finally got some quiet time to work this morning. Best of all, I reworked the beginning of my book, and I think it's much stronger and more compelling now. Often a break, even if it's forced upon you, can yield good things.

And then I rewarded myself by visiting TWoP.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

When good ideas turn out to be bad. Terribly, terribly bad....

I've discovered shows about "flipping" houses -- people buy a run-down property, fix it up and hope to sell it at a (preferably amazing and immense) profit, all in a relatively short period of time. These people always underestimate how long it's going to take to do the renovations, and how much they'll cost. I confess much of the time, I'm left feeling rather smug -- don't you know any home reno is going to take more time and money than you think? Haven't you read articles about that sort of thing?

Well, no more will I sit there sipping my C2 in the comfort of my living room passing judgement. Because I just did the same thing, albeit not with a home reno. I decided that I would save time and money by preparing advanced reading copies for reviewers myself. No need to rush off to a copy shop and have to go back for a pick-up. No, I, Super Writer, would do it myself. Maybe I saved some money, but the copying proved to be way more time consuming than I imagined. I've been holed up in my office for *three days*. Seems my dear old printer/copies/scanner/fax can only handle so much before it gets hot and makes the pages stick together. And since I, to save postage, decided to do the pages double-sided, that means I have to sit and watch the pages feed at certain points.

On the other hand, the time I took a large printing job of a similar nature to a copy shop, I discovered that they'd missed several pages -- after I'd mailed the copies. At least, or so I've been telling myself, I know *that* won't happen.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Holy advances, Batman! I'm in the wrong genre!

So there I am, perusing the October issue of Vanity Fair (the one with the over-exposed in so many ways Paris Hilton on the cover) before nodding off last night, when I read something that makes me wide-eyed with shock. And I quote, referring to Dan Brown, he "made the unheard-of leap from lower-midlist thriller writer (who had reportedly agreed to write THE DAVINCI CODE and his next book for $400,000 combined)..."

What the --? This guy's a "lower-midlist" author and he's getting $400,000 for a two-book deal??? I'm a midlist author and I make no where NEAR that kind of money. Not even remotely close. Either I'm in the wrong genre BIG TIME, or Mr. B. was NOT a lower-midlist author. I suspect the latter. But it's not like I have any urge to write thrillers. Not my cup of tea. I read Mr. B's book and can see why it did well, but it's still not my cup of tea.

In other news, the distractions continue, but not the aggravating kind. Yesterday, my sister needed some emergency babysitting help. And I got two really excellent reviews for my upcoming release, so I wanted to get that information up on my website ASAP.

Today I realized that my book's on-sale date, September 27, is the same day as the start of the new season of The Amazing Race. I'm taking that as a good omen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Just when I think I'm organized....

It never fails. I really ought to know by now. Just when I think I have all my ducks in a row, something messes it up. I got work from New York to do, but here I am thinking, no problem. I'm at a good point to take a break in the work-in-progress. Actually, I was at a point where a break and some time planning the next few scenes was necessary. So, great, thinks I. Plus, the kids are back to class, and knowing this work from NY was coming, I cleared the decks of other business.

But then...the gods laughed. I discovered that the jpg of the cover my publisher had sent for a reissue was an "old" version. I had to then change all the pages on my website with the "old" cover to the "new" cover. I had an email from the PR department asking for some information that raised a few questions, so I had to write some emails trying to get some answers. Then Luis got up on the china cabinet and broke a crystal candy dish. Shattered it, really. I had some major vacuuming to do, and our vacuum gets hot. REALLY hot. And it was already stinkin' hot, so by the time I was finished that, I needed a drink. Not alcohol, because I'm not much with the alchohol, but a C2 Coke, my beverage of choice these days.

Good thing I'd already decreed it was an "every man for himself" dinner night, 'cause I'm spent....

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The heartwarming generosity of my fellow RWA chapter members and Mary Balogh

Yesterday, my RWA chapter was having a special full-day workshop featuring the very talented Mary Balogh. As everybody who's not been climbing the Himilayas or otherwise out of touch with the world knows, Hurricane Katrina has left destruction in its wake, including considerable loss to our sister RWA members in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

This past February, my husband and I were at Mardi Gras. Aside from making me feel like I'd wandered into a giant frat party when it's been, ahem, several years since I graduated from university, we also found ourselves with 18 pounds of Mardi Gras beads. These were the "real deal" -- tossed from floats by maskers or from balconies. (And NO, I did NOT "flash" for any beads -- I went with begging. My husband, bless his heart, totally worked the "silver fox" angle on the ladies.) My husband insisted we bring all 18 pounds home, even though it meant buying another suitcase. I confess I thought he was nuts.

But one day, after watching the news from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I thought of all those beads languishing in a cupboard, and a lightbulb went on in my brain. Yesterday, I took most of them to the workshop and offered them in exchange for donations to help our sister chapters. There were about fifty people there, and I'm so proud and impressed by their generosity. I received just over $400 in donations.

But there's more! In addition to giving us a wonderfully inspirational workshop, Mary Balogh brought copies of her books and is donating all the money from the sale of those books to the Red Cross. I tell ya, she is not only a fantastic writer, she is truly a kindhearted and generous lady.

My only regret is that I didn't think to bring a camera, because I didn't expect everybody to wear the beads. And they did. All day. I wish I had a group picture, but even so, it was a day I won't soon forget.

Friday, September 09, 2005

No more "surprises," please

Yesterday, I saw two stories on TV about families separated by Hurricane Katrina that were "resolved" in a way I found more upsetting than uplifting.

The first family was on CNN. A woman was evacuated to Baton Rouge while she was in labor. She didn't know the whereabouts of her other child and the father of her baby, who were eventually located in Houston. A nurse from the hospital and her husband drove all night to bring the father and son to Baton Rouge. So far, so good and so very generous.

Then it showed the woman and infant arriving at their new accommodation. A door opened to reveal the father and son, much to the mother's joy and relief. I said to myself, "Please tell me she knew where they had been and that they were safe before this 'surprise' reunion."

The second family was on Dr. Phil. A father and baby got separated from the rest of the family. The mother met Dr. Phil; his people found the father and infant, and Dr. Phil offered to fly mother and kiddies to the other city to be reunited. So far, so good, so generous.

But then they showed Dr. Phil interviewing the distraught father, who had not been told his family was there or, I gather, even on the way. No, Dr. Phil first had to ask him questions like "How will you feel when you have your children's arms around you again?" Then, and only then, were the mother and the other children brought into the room for a "surprise" reunion.

What is up with these "surprises?" This isn't -- or shouldn't be -- like the "big reveal" in a make-over or home decorating show. To keep anyone ignorant of the fate of the rest of their family, their whereabouts or even in another room a single second longer than necessary is, to my mind, cruel, and no reason is good enough to excuse it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Writing in Ma Moore's Boarding House

I'm at the stage of life where the kids are old enough to have their own, self-managed schedules. This is great in some ways, but between their schedules and my sports-playing, choir-singing husband's, I feel like I'm living -- and trying to write -- in a boarding house. People are coming and going all the time, except for me.

Unfortunately, I'm the sort of person who really works best in silence. No radio, no music, no TV. Glorious, peaceful silence. That's one reason I never lived in residence at university. I think I would have wound up running down the hall screaming for silence -- not exactly something guaranteed to make one popular on campus. Nor can I write in a library, silent though it may be. You see, they don't let you take a cup of tea into the library. Understandable, of course, but I like my tea.

However, as frustrating at this state may be, I realize that one day and not too long from now, the kids won't be living at home anymore, and I'll have all the silence I want. So I'm going with the flow. If I can write, I write. If I can't, I don't sweat it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Help for Katrina Victims....

We've sent a donation to the Red Cross to help the Katrina victims, but I wanted to do more, and thanks to the web and bloggers, I've found a way. I just spoke to a rep of the Salvation Army in Baton Rouge to confirm details.

They need toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, diapers, soap, underwear, towels and blankets. Mark your donation "Katrina Disaster Relief" and send to
Salvation Army
7361 Airline Highway
Baton Rouge, LA 70805
The phone number is 225-355-4483.

They will be very grateful. (I teared up talking to the fella on the phone.)

In other news, I live beside the laneway to a public school, so I've been watching the parade of kiddies and parents go by as I worked. Ah, the memories.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hollywood, call me....

There was yet another article in the newspaper this morning about the woes besetting the Hollywood film industry, specifically a drop in attendance (and subsequent loss of revenue). Although secondary sources of income, namely DVDs, offset this, it seems the Powers That Be in Tinseltown are blaming a whole host of reasons for this.

Basically, they need to call ME, average filmgoer of a certain age who likes to spend some of her disposable income by going to the movies. I could have saved them tons of time, effort and expense if they'd asked my opinion about upcoming movies and why I was NOT going to see them. And among those that I did see, it's not so hard to figure out why they weren't blockbusters.

In no particular order:

Kingdom of Heaven -- We went opening day, because my daughter likes Orlando Bloom, and the idea of Liam Neeson wielding a broadsword was sufficient for me. But alas! The characters were weak, especially in terms of motive, and especially Orlando Bloom's. The romance was "huh?" (I can't even remember who the woman was, so that tells you something). Nor do I have any interest in purchasing the DVD.

Cinderella Man -- we finally saw this, but I was in no rush because I felt we'd seen pretty much the whole movie in the trailer. No dramatic suspense there. And during the movie, no conflict. We were supposed to care about Jim Braddock, but we knew he'd win in the end. I was surprised to see the Star of David on Max Baer's boxing trunks. That sent me googling. I had no idea MB was Jewish, and from a German family. A German Jew boxing in the 30's in America -- and one whose real life story was every bit as interesting to me as Jim Braddock's might have been. Perhaps if they'd shown that both men had a lot of lose in that final fight, I would have cared more. And maybe if Renee Zellweger hadn't looked like she was sucking lemons the whole time, that would have made me care about her character. Also, Jim Braddock might have been called Cinderella Man, but they should never have used that for the title. It sounds really strange for a movie about a boxer.

War of the Worlds: For a movie like that to work, I really have to care about the fate of the folks in peril. Tom Cruise's selfish character sure didn't fit that bill. Dakota Fanning bugs -- she's like a mature woman trapped in a kid's body. And what was with those gloves minus the fingers? When a movie isn't working, these are the things I notice. And, remake.

Batman Begins -- Batman goes to Tibet and learns kung fu. Not a fan of the comics, so who cares? Not even Liam Neeson could get me to this one.

Bewitched -- Are you kidding me? The TV show was the sort of thing I watched if I was home sick from school. And without Mrs. Kravitz (who belongs on Wisteria Lane), forget it.

Bad News Bears -- Didn't I see this already? Wasn't it called Bad Santa? Billy Bob Thorton drunk and swearing is nothing new, or entertaining. Also, remake.

The Island -- They're clones! Who don't know they're clones! But we do from the trailers, so...why bother? If this isn't a remake, it sure feels like one.

Stealth -- AI goes bad. Been there, seen that. Yawn.

Wedding Crashers -- So let me get this straight. Apparently there are going to be women who find these overgrown frat boys attractive? Yeah, right.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin -- So, this guy is forty and hasn't had sex. Hardy har har. Sounds like a one-joke film all the way. I give them points for the poster, though.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory -- I've never seen the original, but Johnny Depp looks totally creepy. Pass. Also, another remake. Where are the original ideas, or original takes on classic plots?

And don't get me started on what Hollywood thinks makes a good romantic comedy...but I will say I have no desire to see a movie where the "heroine" is so desperate and needy, I want to give her a good shake and tell her to grow up. And much of the time, this is clear even to her children, who are way more mature.

March of the Penquins -- We saw this and it was interesting, but gave the penquins too much human emotion. Who can say how a penquin feels? I think it goes to the lack of other good movies that this is doing so well.

We did see one EXCELLENT movie this summer: Crash, which was technically a 2004 film. Interesting characters, interesting stories, lots of surprises. Somebody, give Don Cheadle the Oscar, and then give him good characters to play. This man can do more silently walking down a hall than many another actor could with Shakespeare.

I also enjoyed Fantastic Four. I went for Ioan Gruffudd, and had low expectations. They were exceeded because it was funnier than I thought. It was a cute popcorn movie, and wisely marketed as such.

I realize I'm not in the target demographic anymore (18 - 34). Nor am I a male. But I am willing to spend my money to see a good movie. And I will go to a movie a week if there are movies I care to see. So, Hollywood Powers That Be, when you wake up and realize there are plenty of other people like me you should be thinking about, give me a call.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Poor little Luis....

Yesterday, I realized bouncy little Luis the kitty (he with the soul patch, or so it looks), wasn't his bouncy self. He'd eaten a good breakfast, but then grew listless. When I picked him up, he seemed hotter than usual. Having had cats get sick on weekends, and with this being a holiday weekend in particular, I phoned the vet and took him in ASAP. He did have a fever, so they drew blood, gave him some fluid under the skin because he was also a little dehydrated from the fever, gave me some antibiotics and suggested I might have to forcefeed him because he'd need to keep his fluids up, giving me this wonking huge syringe to do it. I'm happy to say I didn't have to do that, because Luis ate on his own. The vet phoned back with the results of his blood work. He has an infection somewhere, although they couldn't tell if it was bacterial or viral. She was very pleased to hear he'd eaten on his own, and that the fever seemed to be going away. This morning, I'm happy to report that he's his regular bouncy self.

I did manage to get a little writing done, but I was also keeping an eye on Luis, so...not overly productive. I was going to go grocery shopping, but that fell by the wayside, too.

I've heard about writers who basically go off and live in the woods to write. I sometimes wish I could do that for a few days, but really, I'd rather be at home, even if it means I don't get to my writing because I've got a sick kitten who needs some TLC.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When Flashbacks Work

Tonight, one of my all-time favorite movies is on TV, Good Morning, Miss Dove." It's about a stern teacher, "the terrible Miss Dove." What's great about this movies is that, in flashbacks, we discover how she came to be "the terrible Miss Dove," and how she influenced her students. If you think honor an old fashioned concept, this probably won't work for you, but I love it. This is one story where flashbacks don't just work, they're essential. You have to see Miss Dove in "the present" and then go back to get the full impact. Bonus feature: two characters are played by alumnae of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Jerry Paris and Richard Deacon.

Also tonight: another "viewers' choice" episode of Stargate SG1. I tell ya, I am so kicking myself I overlooked this show for what, eight years? Richard Dean Anderson's cynical O'Neill is a hoot, and the perfect balance to Michael Shanks' justice-for-all Daniel Jackson. Great writing and especially GREAT continuity. They've had the same people involved since Day 1, and it shows. Any show that has me yelling "Kiss him! Kiss him!" because a guy's about to sacrifice himself after revealing his love (well, technically his symbiote's -- long story there) to Samantha Carter and then she doesn't and the episode ends with him being left behind to destroy the baddies and die in the process, and I'm tearing up.... Now *that's* a show!

I watched Prison Break. First hour -- slooooow. Second hour -- faster, better and YOUCH! I'll keep watching.

I finally got back to work on my own book last night. With everybody home and no real schedules yet, trying to write right now is like trying to write in Grand Central Station: possible, but not the most conducive to creativity. And I had hit a bit of a snag. I had to get from point A to point B in the plot and didn't want to do that via a lot of (static) discussion among the characters. I solved it (temporarily, anyway) by leaving one scene with a hint of what's going to happen at the end of the chapter. Next chapter begins where the action picks up. If I think I need to show the machinations, I'll put it in later. For now, it's more important for me to move on to the next part of the story.

Until 8 p.m., when it's TV Time!