Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Contract for HEAVY NETTING!

Received a contract this morning for my short contemporary romance, HEAVY NETTING!  HEAVY NETTING is a story in The Wild Rose Press's "Lobster Cove" series.  All the stories in the series will take place in the small fishing town of Lobster Cove, Maine, and will cross all lines and lengths offered by The Wild Rose Press.  The characters from each story will interact with those from other stories, so it truly is a community project for a fictional community!

Here's a little teaser on HEAVY NETTING while you wait to read it:

(A Lobster Cove Story)
Coming Soon from The Wild Rose Press

Branson Cudahy is as southern as it gets, a cyber crime investigator from happily-landlocked Lexington, Kentucky. Bran has been chasing a hacker for three years, and now the trail has led him to Lobster Cove, Maine ... which is a real problem for a guy with a shellfish allergy.

Jenna Sanborn waits tables to pay the bills, but she dreams of opening a quilt shop in the heart of town. She'd never even think of leaving Lobster Cove, but the handsome newcomer is tempting beyond her wildest imaginings.

Bran and Jenna never expect the whirlwind romance that comes out of their meeting. As hard as they fight to control their feelings, their hearts are fighting to push them over that dizzying lover's leap. Will love win out, or will the hacker - and their dreams - slip the net?

Excerpt from HEAVY NETTING

"All right, Jenna," Bran said. "Tell you what. I'm gonna be at the coffee shop about four o'clock. If you want to meet me there and talk Lobster Cove, I'll be all ears. If not, no pressure."

She giggled. Giggled. Like a teenager going to her first concert with a cute boy. Mortified, and now convinced that her cheeks were as red as a stop sign, she backed away. "I'll keep it in mind. See you later, Mister Cudahy."

His grin sent a flutter through her midsection. "Bran."

"Okay. Bran." She waved goodbye, then hurried off down the street with her groceries.

As she walked, she sensed his gaze on her, and she beamed, flattered and flustered and for once, feeling beautiful.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

In Hollywood, it's really, really hard to get a sequel to live up to a blockbuster first film in a series.
Dreamworks doesn't seem to know that.  In fact, I'd venture to say Dreamworks knows just about nothing regarding how to make a bad animated film.  They're horrible at bad films.  Really really.
But I digress.  Let me first say that it's rare that my migraine-prone hubby wants to see a film in 3D ... but he said we were going to see it in 3D, and he didn't care.
So.  Worth.  It.
Dragon 2 didn't throw stuff at the screen just because they could.  The 3D effects were integrated very nicely into the storyline, while adding a few cool treats for 3D viewers.  Hiccup and Toothless have grown, and Hiccup is dealing with some more grown-up issues in this film, but he's still Hiccup, and it's still a joy to watch him fly Toothless.  Toothless.  Did I mention Toothless?  I loved the dynamic between these characters in the first film, and that between Hiccup and his dragon-riding friends.  You can't have too much of a good thing, and there's more of that in this film.  I laughed out loud in several places.
I have only one knock on this film, and that is its length.  It's too short ... and not because I was having so much fun with it.  I did feel a little rushed from one plot point to the next, and there is a very serious, bring-your-tissues moment that needed more screen time to sink in.  While I understand that there are kids watching the film, and you don't want it to be too "heavy," I was still sniffling by the time the action went on to the next thing, and found myself thinking, "Hey, wait!  Back up!  I'm not done crying yet!"  I felt a little cheated out of that moment.
Otherwise, it feels like a return visit to people you love, in order to see what they're up to now.  We have the same characters, older now, and a few new faces, including a character voiced by Game of Thrones star Kit Harington.  If you liked How to Train Your Dragon, you're going to adore the sequel.  Way to go, Dreamworks.  We had a ball with this movie, and I think you will, too.
SCORE: 4 of 5 stars

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!  I hope you're doing something fun with your families today.  Be safe, and have a great time!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

CNYRW Guest Speaker Susan Meier / Storyboarding Your Book

Susan Meier

Last Saturday, the CNY Romance Writers hosted Susan Meier, author of more than 60 books for Harlequin and Entangled Publishing.  Susan brought a lot of knowledge and humor to our afternoon, and presented, among other things, her method for storyboarding a novel.  For a visual writer like myself, storyboarding is ideal.  Everything is visible in nutshell form.  I've dabbled in storyboarding more and more these days, even as a pantser, because it's the easiest way to make certain I've formed a cohesive story.

What is Storyboarding?

Storyboarding is a concept taken from the film industry, where it's important not to waste time and resources filming something that's only going to be cut later due to pacing constraints.  Your time is money, too, and storyboarding can help you lay out your book's "bones."  This helps you spend your actual writing time in the important places.  For us writers, those are the inciting incident, turning points, climax, black moment, and resolution.  For romance in particular, it means plugging in the first kiss and/or love scenes, too.  Everything is laid out where it's going to happen.  You can use a large sheet of blank paper or, as I do, index cards on a cork board.  Then all you have to do is "knit" your book together, stopping at each point on your road map on the way to The End.

Storyboarding is just a more visual alternative to writing an outline of your book.  It's not written in stone (no pun intended), but it is a guide to help keep your book on track.

Storyboarding for Pantsers

If you're a pantser, and you worry about the excitement of writing being sapped by knowing the end of the book ahead of time, know this: everything you learn about writing a complete story internalizes in your head, the more you study it.  So chances are, if your book isn't expressly mapped out on paper, you're already beginning to do so in your head.  Storyboarding just puts it all out there on a paper or index cards, so you don't lose any of those great ideas, and you have somewhere to plug them when you get them.  The actual scenes are not yet written, so your pantser heart should be appeased.  Plotters could take it a step farther and enter as much about the scene as they like into the chart, so it works that way, too!

Chapter by Chapter

Susan uses the back side of a large monthly calendar - the kind you'd use as a desk blotter.  She divides the blank sheet into squares, one for each chapter, and then inputs all the details and where they need to happen.  It's a brilliant and portable snapshot of her book, and she was kind enough to hand around an actual storyboard for one of her books.

I do this a bit differently, using my trusty index cards and cork board:

This is the blank board for FIRE, Book Four in the Elemental Series.  The two cards in the bottom right corner stick around for every single book I write.  They illustrate Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which every writer should learn. Those are the building blocks for things a human being can't live without.  Take away one of them, and you have instant conflict for your character.

My version of the storyboard is a bit looser, because the cards can be rearranged if necessary.  It's still portable, because I can take the cards with me.  FIRE will probably have about sixteen chapters, so I'll need sixteen cards on my board.

Susan's method of plotting isn't the only way to write your book, of course, but it does help make certain that you can write the entire book, with all its necessary parts.  She had much more to say during this all-day workshop, but her method of storyboarding is one concept that resonated with me.  Susan is knowledgeable and funny, and it was a pleasure to have her at our chapter this month.

"Inspire that spark within yourself that desperately wants to write." - Susan Meier


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Double Book Review: GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell and SCARLETT by Alexandra Ripley

There isn't much I can add to the many reviews that have been done since the publication of Margaret Mitchell's saga GONE WITH THE WIND.  I can't add anything except that I am kicking myself for having gone so long without reading it.  I tried in the 7th Grade, but the material was way over my head for a girl still enamored of the fantasy genre.  I never got past the first chapter, even though I had seen the movie multiple times.  (It's my mother's favorite movie and book.)
If Margaret Mitchell was only going to write one book in her lifetime, she picked a good one.  It's meaty and rich, and provided a depth of character that I never saw in the film.  I still found myself wanting to shake Scarlett by the shoulders, but her fears and flaws came across so much better in the book than they do in the film.  I didn't like her, but I understood her.  And as wishy-washy as Melanie Wilkes always seemed in the film, I saw a backbone in her in the book that earned my unfettered admiration.  Don't get me wrong: the film is a masterpiece.  The book is that, plus ten.
As a romance writer, my single favorite scene in the book is one between Rhett and Scarlett, where she's attempting to stay angry with him, even though she's glad of his visit.  Their banter shines, and I can only assume that any romance writer who's ever read GWTW has read and re-read that scene in the hope that some of that genius rubs off on her.  I wish, wish, wish Mitchell had put more of those scenes in the book.  Rhett is still my favorite character, from Clark Gable's cocky smile onscreen to his unflinching view of reality in the novel.  He is the lens through which we see what Scarlett is, and what she can become if only she gets out of her own way.  (That's the best kind of hero.)
REVIEW: Five of five stars (What else could I give it? LOL)

It's really rather unfair to be tasked with following GONE WITH THE WIND with a sequel.  GWTW is so iconic that nothing short of a sequel penned by Mitchell herself could possibly have added up.
Knowing that, and knowing the instant condemnation Alexandra Ripley's SCARLETT had earned from fans of GWTW, I approached this book cautiously.  Unfortunately, even with an attempt at fair judgment, I could not love it.  It might have been a good one, if it had been a stand-alone novel about a post-war southern belle who travels to Ireland to find a new life.  Good, but not great, because there are still many flaws in this novel.  Comma splices run rampant.  The plot wanders, filling page without adding substance.  The thread picks up pace only when Scarlett moves to Ireland, and that's more than halfway through the book.  Even there, we wander ... just in another country.
The most glaring error is the author's lack of attention to character.  Scarlett and Rhett both do things in this novel that they would never have done in Mitchell's hands.  This is what brought me to the conclusion that this should have been an unrelated, stand-alone novel.  These characters, even if they'd been changed by the war, would never have been so fundamentally altered that they seem like such separate people.  I don't doubt that Ripley had respect for the original characters, and maybe a hefty dose of sophomore-jinx-related intimidation, but it hardly feels true to the spirit of Mitchell's Rhett and Scarlett.  One can't help making comparisons when the characters in a sequel are supposed to be the same as those in the original, after all.
The one thing I did love about this book was the presentation of a life in 19th century Ireland.  I enjoyed the rhythms of planting and harvesting, of Irish folklore and daily life, and even the friction of the English-Irish dichotomy.  I so wanted this to be a stand-alone book, so I could fully enjoy that part without the "taint" of its being a sequel to GWTW.  By the end of the book, however, events seem so rushed that it feels as though Ripley was being hurried to get it done by deadline.  Perhaps if she'd begun illustrating the conflict sooner, and given it a more gradual incline, it might not have felt so hurried.  Less wander, more tightening - that's what this book needed, and sadly didn't get.  I'm sorry to pan this book, because I love a good historical and wanted to enjoy it on its own merit, but the flaws just got in the way of what might have been a good story.
REVIEW: Two of five stars