Monday, November 7, 2011

Fiction vs. Reality

            I’ve been ruminating a lot lately about the market for adult thrillers.  This is something my friend, Lisa Regan, and I have talked about many times, as she also writes in the genre along with me.  Her book, Finding Claire Fletcher, has been on submission for thirteen months just waiting for a home.  And while it is still in the running with three major publishers, in the time she has been on submission, she’s seen few titles close to our genre sell besides cozy murder mysteries, which I just don’t understand.  Murder is anything but cozy.  It’s difficult to figure out why good thrillers aren’t selling when forensic TV shows are so popular and thrillers are a favorite in the movie theater.  So why aren’t adults buying and reading thrillers much any more? 
            Yeah, we have the same old, same old from the tried and true like Patterson and Cornwell, but publishers aren’t biting from newbies much these days.  A couple of editors who turned down Lisa’s book said they couldn’t believe that a young kidnapped girl wouldn’t try to escape her captor.  Uh, hello?  Ever heard of Elizabeth Smart?  Does Jaycee Dugard ring a bell?  Their true-life stories were more horrific than anyone could have ever imagined or written, and they didn’t try to escape.  That’s real life and it harkens back to that saying that life is stranger than fiction.  I’m beginning to think that it’s the selling of reality as entertainment that is desensitizing us to what might otherwise thrill us.
About a decade or so ago, the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike for better residual compensation.  That strike lasted a long time and the big TV networks had to come up with an idea to replace the scripted programs affected by the striking writers.  This is when we first started seeing a glut of reality TV programming.  And I’m not talking about shows like America’s Most Wanted or Cops.  I mean shows like Survivor, which were good ideas based on the question, “What if…?”  They were interesting and marked the first time Americans became fixated with other relatively unknown Americans, people whose lives were transformed overnight.  This was the beginning of our obsession with being famous. 
Since then, a plethora of reality programs have come onto the market, but these aren’t “What if…?” kind of shows.  They are simply tapings of average folks doing their thing, whatever that is.  It might be buying unseen junk left abandoned in a public storage unit, or maybe a mother’s consumption with getting her three-year-old daughter every pageant tiara in existence, or watching a Nazi-like dance instructor bully her students into performing better, or perhaps even following the lives of the relatively unknown, but totally spoiled step-children of former star athletes.  Whatever it is, these shows are all supposedly unscripted.  No writers had any part in the performances of the participants.  Yeah seriously, you couldn’t make that stuff up.  And frankly, would you really want to?  Quality it is not.
This fascination with reality TV has skewed the way we seek entertainment.  Gone are the days when we were fascinated by a story where dinosaurs are reanimated from DNA strands extracted from insects entombed in crystallized amber, or where an average married man is drawn into the intrigue of a long lost lover come back to haunt him.  It’s all about fame these days, about how a former Playboy bunny married a famous football star and had a baby, or the daughter of a prolific TV producer reflecting on her life as a “poor little rich girl,” or *gasp* an actual novel—yes that means fiction, baby—written by an overly indulged young woman whose drunken and promiscuous antics have proven fodder for public disdain. 
Man, do I ever crave a good, action and emotion-packed adult thriller where the protagonist has to overcome unbelievable odds to save his life and win the girl, where the woman FBI agent has to battle the misogynistic status quo just to get her boss to believe she knows what the hell she’s doing and can solve the serial murder case, where a newly-engaged, sex-addicted college professor goes head to head with her former student-lover who’s kidnapped her, or where a grief-stricken man seeks revenge on the woman who killed his pregnant wife only to discover he’s victimized the wrong woman, imperiling not only her life, but his own and his brother’s, as well.
Yes, I want reality, too.  I want real life, down and dirty and gritty.  But I also want real people.  Not homespun wannabe stars.  Real, authentic heroes who might be anything but, yet they still soldier on and at least try to save the day.           

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

IWSG: Dreams vs. Expectations

Today is another entry in

            I’ve been following a common thread lately in some of my favorite blogs.  It expands on an ideal most writers postulate:  Getting published will make me happy.  What’s not to believe about this statement?  This is our ultimate goal, is it not?  We write.  We edit.  We query.  We submit.  We get published…maybe.  We know the road is laced with potholes of disappointment, but we believe in ourselves and our stories, so we carry on. 
Keep the dream alive!  Yeah!!

            But what if the dream is not what we expect it to be?  I first pondered this a few weeks ago after having lunch with my friend, Jennifer Hillier, author of Creep.  Not only do I hold Jenny in high esteem for her talent and skill, she is someone I relate to on a personal level.  We’re both women writers who write similar stories in the same genre, and we live near each other, so we chat about writing and blogging and books and all that sort of thing. 
            At the time of our most recent lunch date, Jenny was in the final throes of her last edit before sending her latest manuscript, Freak, off to her agent and editor.  She expressed what a brutally difficult experience it was, nothing like the first time when she wrote Creep.  She lamented that it would never be as enjoyable as it was that first time around.  She was under contract now and had deadlines and expectations to meet.  As I listened to her, I couldn’t help but think of that old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.  You just might get it!
            Then on October 17th, Natalie Whipple wrote a blog post she called Smelling the Roses. Or Whatever wherein she bemoaned how obsessed she had been over the last five years with getting published.  More than merely driven, but rather “maybe more like desperate,” she wrote.  She said she had put all her “feelings of self-worth into publishing” and she “would never, ever be happy if I didn't sell a book.”  Then, almost immediately, Natalie said that selling her book, Transparent, didn’t make her happy after all.  It seems that publishing wasn’t all she had expected it to be, that in the end, it’s really all about the writing—the book itself—not the publishing of it. 
            On Tuesday (November 1st), Rachelle Gardner wrote a post called Writing Ain’t Easy.  In it, she wrote about one of her less-experienced writer friends who wondered if her “lack of confidence would dissipate as she gets more experienced in writing,” to which another, more experienced writer friend replied, “The complete lack of confidence will likely persist and even become worse as you progress.
So, in other words, unlike most jobs where people become better and more comfortable the longer they perform their tasks, writing will always be difficult.  It will always be rife with insecurities and self-doubt.  Even my blogger friend Joylene Nowell Butler commented on my Bad News Isn’t Always a Bad Thing post last week, saying, “One day there is that sale, and while you believe wholeheartedly that your life is about to change forever, it's not in the way you think.” 
I’m getting the message that having my book published might not live up to my lofty expectations.  It might not make me feel any better as a writer.  It might not make me feel successful.  And, in and of itself, it might not be what makes me happy.  Writers who have had the same dreams that I have, and who have achieved them, now tell me it only gets harder, and I might not ever feel what it is I want to feel when I’m done.
But I suppose writing is like anything else.  When we reach our goal, we bask in our success for a short time then move on to something else, a new thing that will challenge us, that we can enjoy for the sheer effort.  Being totally satisfied means not having the need to accomplish something else.  Well, that’s not me.  I am many things, but static is not one of them.  So maybe I’m a bit jaded now, but at least I know what to expect.  Or what not to expect anyway.          

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Little Halloween Housekeeping

This is just a quick mini-post since I will be blogging for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group on Wednesday.  Today I'm doing a little housekeeping.

First off, Laura Barnes over at Laura B Writer has graciously critiqued my blog this morning.  She’s a marketing consultant with loads of experience in writing, as well.  She was very complimentary and had some great suggestions on how to improve my blog.  Some I will definitely do.  Others I haven’t a clue on how to fix so I’m not sure what I’ll do.  But overall, Laura has been very helpful.  She does these critiques for free so contact her if you want any feedback on your blog.

Second, I’ve been very fortunate to receive a couple of blogger awards in the last two weeks. 

The first one is the Friendly Blogger Award from Gary & Penny over at Klahanie.  Thanks, Gary!  This is a new one for me.  Go check out Gary’s blog.  It’s both beautiful and inspiring.   


The second is the Liebster Award from Rebecca Kiel.  This is an award given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.  While I have received this award before, I still want to thank Rebecca for considering me.  I feel quite privileged!  Last time I received this award I think I had like 40 followers.  Now I have a combined 164 through Blogger and NetworkedBlogs so you can see it really works!  

In response to these illustrious honors, I will quickly list a few blogs I believe worthy of your attention:

Happy Halloween everybody!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Casting Call Character Bloghop

Cool, a good reason to come up with another blog post this week!  I’m lucky if I get in one a week, so this is a nice surprise for me.  It seems my good buddy Lisa Regan and fellow writer/bloggers Carrie Butler and Melodie Wright are hosting a Casting Call Bloghop in which we introduce our characters in whichever form we like best. 

Since I’m a film buff and have often visualized my novel as a movie, I thought I would use the actors I believe best embody the main characters in my book, THE MISTAKEN, a psychological thriller.

First, the pitch:

Vengeance tastes sweet the day Skylar Karras pledges his wife's killer to sex-traffickers in the Russian Mafia.  In exchange for the woman, they’ll let his brother leave the business for good—with his debt wiped clean and his heart still beating.  But when Sky mistakenly targets the wrong woman, deal or no deal, he’s forced to protect them all from the very enemy he's unleashed. 

Now, the casting:

The male lead, Skylar Karras, is really a composite of two people, a friend of mine and an actor, Andy Whitfield.  Sadly, Andy past away on September 11th at the age of 39, a victim of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

For the role of Skylar’s wife, Jillian, I think actress Jessica Alba would be perfect.

For Skylar’s brother, Nick, I like Michael Graziadei.  Doesn’t he look a lot like Andy Whitfield?

For Hannah Maguire, the woman Sky has mistakenly targeted, I love Mila Jovovich.

For bad guy and Russian mobster, Alexi Batalov, the suave and debonair Ben Gazzara fits like a glove.  

What about you?  Do you have anyone particular in mind for your characters?   

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bad News Isn't Always a Bad Thing

Being a writer is a tough gig.  There’s very little payback and we generally work alone.  Yes, it’s true, this new age of blogging has allowed us to reach out and connect with others, more so than we would have been able to at any other time.  But still, we are pretty much alone, stuck in our own heads, making up strange tales set in strange lands with strange people. 
            We experience minor victories from time to time.  We string together coherent sentences, then paragraphs and chapters, plots and subplots, until, finally, we have a book.  We are so proud.  Not many people even attempt to write a book let alone finish one.  Afterwards, we read and revise, edit and add content.  We scrub and buff until it shines like an uncut diamond.  Then, if we’re lucky, we find amazing critique partners who help us polish our gem until its sparkles like Edward Cullen on a sunny day. 
            When we’re ready, we go through the whole process again with our query letter.  Scribble, scratch, buff and shine.  We are not daunted by the research necessary to find the appropriate agents to send our query.  We compile our list and format our submissions, cringing with raw nerves when we hit the send button.
            Then we wait.  And wait some more—more and more and more and more.  Every time we get a new email, we wonder if it could be the one.  And when it’s not, when it’s nothing more than another rejection, we shrink a little lower in our seats, lose a little more confidence.  We may even cry. 
            But then we get one, maybe even two or three, or—good God almighty—four:  a request for pages, a partial or the whole damn thing.  A happy dance ensues, perhaps a bit of screaming and raising of one’s arms towards God in heaven. 
But not for long.  Gotta get those pages out.   
            Then we wait.  And wait some more—more and more and more and more.  We thought we were tense before, but now with our baby out in the big, bad world, we’re ready to spin like a top we’re so wound up.  Again, every time a new email arrives, we wonder.  But it’s been so long, we almost forget.  Until we see that agent’s name above the subject line with our book title right below.  Our hands shake, our breathing gets shorter and more labored as we open it.
Then the world comes crashing down around our ears.  Utter devastation.  That first rejection of our full manuscript is unbearably painful, but eventually, after days of tears and heartbreak, we brush ourselves off and move forward.
            The next rejection hurts, as well, but there’s nothing really to glean from it because, once again, it’s just a simple no thanks, but good luck to you.  Nothing to tell us we’re on the right track or not.  So, though our pride is stinging and our confidence is waning, we trudge onward, perhaps making a revision or two, just a tweak here and there to make us feel like we’re improving it somehow.  And out go more queries in sporadic bursts. 
            Then we wait.  Again.  But this time, we’re a bit numb.  Our skin is definitely getting thicker.  We’ve learned to put those queries out of mind and get on with life.  And so, when another request comes in, we’re excited, but wary, especially since we know this is likely just a favor from our friend’s agent.  But it’s a request nonetheless.  So out go those pages, one more time.  We sigh, thinking of the long wait before us, cringing at that stupid typo in the very first paragraph on the very first page that we didn’t notice until after we’d already sent it.    
            But then another request comes in.  Hope!  Pages go out.  Another long sigh.  Another long wait.  And then another request.  Even more hope!  Sigh.  Wait.  And wait some more.  And more and more and more.
            Then something remarkable happens.  It’s not a good thing, mind you, but neither is it entirely bad.  Yeah, it’s a rejection and so it hurts a little, but the skin is pretty tough now and the pain is just a tingle of disappointment rather than a ripping out of the heart.  It was improbable anyway.  This was, after all, that favor request.  But this time the email is not a one line denial of interest.  And while the agent is “just short of enthusiastic enough to take it on and fight for it,” she says “there’s a lot of wonderful stuff in there” and “goodness knows, it was very close.”  So even though she suggests a change in the protagonist’s name, it’s cool.  It’s an easy fix.  And if that’s the worst thing she can think of, there’s reason to feel good.  That’s the best rejection letter ever!
            My point here is that we get a lot more bad news than good, but bad news is not always a bad thing.  Sometimes it lifts our sagging confidence, offers a push back onto the road, granted with a little coarse correction.  We know we’re getting closer to our destination.  We can feel it.  The trick is to not give up, even when the bad news is really bad.  You never know when a little ray of sunshine will come along and brighten your otherwise dreary day.  And hey, there are still a few requested pages out there.  And after that, there are always more agents to query.  It’s not the end game yet.           

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay It Forward

Today, awesomely cool bloggers Alex Cavanaugh and Matthew MacNish are hosting the Pay It Forward Blogfest.  The idea is to introduce all of us to everyone else, to meet and follow as many other bloggers as we like. In our posts, participants are to list, describe, and link to three blogs that we enjoy reading and believe others would enjoy, as well. 

Hmmm…only three blogs, huh?  That might be a bit of a problem, but I’ll try to contain myself.

  1. Lisa L. Regan – Okay, for those of you who already know me, this is a given.  After all, she’s my very best friend and confidant, my number one critique partner, and a fellow thriller writer.  And while Lisa is a fantastic agented writer with two books currently on submission, she also has a lot to offer other writers.  Both her new blog and web page are filled with juicy bits of wisdom as she’s journeyed farther than most of us toward publication.  And what’s more, and possibly most important, is the fact that both she and her agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of the Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency, have teamed up to host a variety of book contests with a reading of the winner’s full manuscript as the grand prize!  That’s right!  No querying needed.  Just enter the appropriate genre contest and you have a good chance of having her agent request your full manuscript.

  1. Jennifer Hillier of The Serial Killer Files – I know Jenny is already well-known in the blogosphere, but if you haven’t trolled through her blog archives, you’re really missing something.  Not only has Jenny written a novel, she’s successfully landed an agent and sold her first book, Creep, which, I must say, I’ve read twice now and think it’s freakin’ fantastic!  I know I’m partial.  She’s also a fellow writer of psychological thrillers.  Her second novel, Freak, already sold, by the way, is due out sometime next year.  On a personal note, I’ve become personal friends with this lovely lady and I can’t say enough good things about her.  I owe her BIG TIME!  So here’s a tiny little bit of payback, Jenny!

  1. Julie Musil – There’s a reason Julie has so many followers and that reason is wisdom.  I swear, every time I tune into her blog, she teaches me something new.  Her archives are a virtual treasure trove of valuable literary insight.  She shares tip after tip on her blog.  I’ve taken to copying each one and compiling into a file I call “Great Writing Advice.”  And what’s even better than all that, if that’s not enough already, is that Julie personally replies to every comment I make on her blog.  She cares and takes the time to reach out and touch her followers.  In a word, Julie is amazing!

See, I knew I couldn’t keep it to just 3.  But I’ll make this honorable mention brief…er.

  1. Jami Gold – Now, I don’t know Jami like I know the ladies listed above, but what I do know is that this writer is smart as hell and gifted beyond all get-out.  Her posts hit on what every writer wants to know or really, really should know.  This gal does her research and delves deep into the issues that concern us writers the most.  And damn if she doesn’t manage pull shit out of me in my comments that I swore I would never talk about.  Like I said, it’s a gift.   

I love each and every blog I follow closely.  Why else would I list them on my blog roll?  If you’re a Pay It Forward Blogfest blogger who is new to my neck of the woods, scroll through the left sidebar of my blog.  They are all worth a look and a follow. 

Like me, once you follow them, they follow you right back.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fantasy Novel Hook For Your Book Contest

            Do you write fantasies?  Is your novel all polished and ready to go?  Are you ready to query for an agent?  If so, I have just the thing for you. 
My BFF, the lovely and talented writer Lisa Regan, is hosting another Hook For Your Book contest, this time just for fantasy novelists.  It will be judged by her literary agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of the Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency.
            The contest will run until October 17th. That means you have until midnight Eastern Time on 10/17/11 to enter your pitch on Lisa’s blog.

To Enter: 

You must be a follower of Lisa’s blog and provide a link to either a tweet or a blog post spreading the word about this contest.

You must have a completed novel. That means your novel MUST be finished to enter this contest.

Write a 50 word paragraph that is the hook for your book. Basically pitch your book in fifty words.

Post your 50 word pitch in the comments section of Lisa’s Hook For Your Book post with a TITLE and your contact info before the closing date of the contest.

The example Lisa used for the previous mystery/thriller contest was as follows:

Finding Claire Fletcher

Detective Connor Parks, newly divorced, with his career in jeopardy, spends the night with a woman he meets at a bar. The next morning Claire Fletcher is gone; leaving behind a hint of a decade-old mystery. Abducted when she was 15 years old, no one has heard from her…until now. Will he find Claire Fletcher?

Lisa L. Regan

Ms. Pantelakis will choose three finalists. The finalists will send her a synopsis of their book as well as their full manuscript. From those three finalists, she will choose one manuscript and that manuscript will get a full read and a possible contract with Sullivan Maxx.

The best of luck to you all!