Monday, September 28, 2009

Knowing All About a Vortex 10

Remember the medicine-head commerical where the red balloon floats high above the decapitated cartoon character body? That's so me today. But since I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal, what's better than an alternate-state reality to concoct a Vortex 10? Today's topic: the 2009 release Knowing starring Nicholas Cage.

Ten Ways the Movie Knowing Would Have Been Tolerable on a Nyquil-Induced High:

1. The black duster-clad alien/human hybrids might have broken into a fog-laden rendition of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus", giving them an entertaining value beyond belching a light storm from their mouths.

2. The numerical sequence the protagonist triest to decode might have resembled the optimistic spreadsheet of Harry Potter-like sales from my debut release.

3. Rose Byrne's hysterical portrayal of a worried mother might have been more drama-hysterical and less ha-ha hysterical.

4. The black pebbles could have led me back from the abyss of schitzophrenic genre. As they stood, they were a mere metaphor for the ka-ka that was the ending.

5. I could have imagined a different, better plot in the protagonist's house that looked more like a Disney soundstage than a real residence.

6. The sunspot could have lit a fire under me to want to go past 1 hour and 40 minutes on my DVD counter.

7. I could have pretended the symbolic tree at the end was my happy place instead of the heavy-handed religious propaganda that made virtually no sense given the character's set up.

8. It might have made sense that a mother would leave two hunted children unattended in a car during a pre-apocalyptic bedlam.

9. Nicholas Cage might have morphed into someone who less-resembled the guy who rotated my tires last week.

10. My laughter during the scene where Nicholas Cage runs out to fight the Depeche Mode guys, strikes a bat against a tree and screams, "You want some of this?" might have eclipsed the next, oh say, seven scenes.

Okay, so I was harsh. I really, really wanted to like this movie. It contains a time capsule for the love of Pete! The woo-woo factor (minus the alien thing) is so completely up my alley, but in the end, it didn't hold together.

What's the latest I-just-shaved-two-hours-off-my-life film-stinker you watched?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two Fist Bumps and a Snap

I hope Wells-y will forgive me for missing his birthday on Monday. National Geographic News has a great article on the staggering number of H.G. Wells's far-off, science-fiction predictions that have come to fruition over a century later. Maybe his time travel machine is, in true science-fiction form, far more elaborate than necessary. But no contraption for temporal travel will ever be as sexy as his. Hmm?

So in thinking of today's post; and given the number of red-blooded American males who've mentioned dabbling in romance writing of late (for which I give two fist-bumps and a snap) and those faithful blog readers whom I love with all my heart but think romance is trash, I'm pulling out my soapbox. I can picture Wells-y tugging on his lapels, saying, "Here, here, now, let the lady speak! Quiet your grumblings. She will not be speaking on the subject of Fabio, though he would look good on my time machine, no?" Ahem...

I am a fairly recent romance novel convert. I was a good little Catholic girl who did everything I was told, grew up oblivious to the birds and the bees (I had nun leaflets, people), and treasured books, just not the ones near the Safeway check-out line. You remember those, right? The nurse with the phallic hypodermic needle and the man running away from her on the cover? Whew! Those Harlequin Medicals had some covers that would put King to shame, but I digress. I grew up a sheltered optimist who believed everyone knew and witnessed love as I did.

When the writing bug bit, I hadn't considered romance. I started with middle-grade fiction and mysteries but my critique partner noticed I kept hooking people up in the literary sense.

CP: What about a romance?

Me: Pshaw. Right. I don't think so.

CP: No, really. Have you ever read one?

Me: Those trashy novels? Not for me.

CP: Just read one. Then you'll know.

My dear, sweet critique partner must have known the secret. Start someone with the right romance novel and they're hooked for life. Kathleen Woodiwiss was like the first hit on a Geiger. From that book on, I was forever calibrated to writing romance.

Let's get some basics out of the way. Romances are not written to a formula, though they do have one thing in common: a happy ending. Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller do not write romance. They write love stories. There is a difference. Tragic endings are not inversely proportional to how awesome the characters' love is. This seems to be a guy-writer thing, like they don't trust themselves to dig in and get their nails dirty with the innards of a relationship conflict, so they inject death. Any writer can write death, decay and destruction. Those are the easy roads. And please don't stand behind the "real life" placard. My grandparents and parents have seen their share of tragedy, but they all found their happily ever after. That's "life", too, baby.

And, just as any genre in publishing has boundary-pushing tomes, romance has fringe exceptions to the one-man, one-woman monogamous relationship. Some romance novels contain more sex or more explicit sex than others. I liken this to a candy store. One customer might go for the old-fashioned lemon drops. Another, licorice whips. But in the end, they all leave satisfied customers. Yes, the term bodice-rippers had its much-deserved genesis in the 70's, but last time I looked that was nearly forty years ago. Show me a science-fiction book written back then and I'll show you a cover even more egregious than a woman's bodice clutched by a man in tight breeches and a bad mullet. All genres evolve, though I'll be the first to defend those early works responsible for my love of romance.

I crack as many Fabio jokes as those silver-tongued lashers in the Safeway check-out line. But when I'm asked what I write, I no longer shy away from saying it. "Romance." Sometimes the lashers look at me as if I broke wind, but it feels good to own it now. I write stories that remind our ever-pessimistic society that there is hope. Love can and does endure. My readers' lives may be filled with tragedy, but I can think of no greater gift to give them than four hours of remembering the heroism and love we are all capable of. Are romance novels escapist? Yes. Is Jim Butcher or Dan Brown's work escapist? Hell, yes. Escapism is intrinsic to fiction.

Romance novels consistently out-sell every other fiction genre in the publishing industry. It is fertile ground open to many, but tread lightly. Successful romance authors know they cannot chase numbers without a healthy respect for the genre and its readers. Our reader might be a mother in line at the Safeway check-out. She might be a soldier in the Army or a brain surgeon looking to restore her hope after she lost a patient. Our readers are different races, creeds and stations, but they all open our pages seeking that one thread of humanity that can overcome anything: love. (And if that doesn't work, a mental picture of Fabio on a time machine might.)
So continue to make bump and grind jokes or strike a righteous pose when you open Oprah's latest pick. I might even laugh along with you at the line that compares a Ford F-150 to a black stallion, but make no mistake: your disdain for romance novels is more an indiction of your ignorance of the genre than any story on the page. Read one. A recent one. Ask me or a dozen others on this blog for a recommendation. Then, and only then, will I respect your informed opinion.
It's Soapbox Thursday, apparently. I'm stepping down. Anyone else Wells-y can help onto the soapbox? Air your biggest injustices. Discuss how wrong it is Fabio chose to endorse butter instead of, say, hair products. Tell us your favorite romance novel so that we may fight the good fight. Or just pop up and say hello.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ruby Slippers, Migration and Pie Charts

The inspirations over the weekend were...well, inspirational. Thanks to everyone for putting their hottie on loan for consideration and/or tolerating the creative burden of romance writers. It is strenuous work, searching for heroic perfection, but we persevere.

Today is a special day in the blogosphere for all unpublished romance writers. To commemorate the opening day for RWA's Golden Heart 2010 submissions, the 2009 Golden Heart Finalists are launching their group blog, the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. To celebrate, we'll be giving away ultra-sleek black and red mugs (perfect for your writing beverage-of-choice) and free manuscript critiques to get your pages ready for the Golden Heart. I ducked into the post-lineup a week or so into October, but you can find me hanging out there all this week. Stop by and say hello.

If you're keeping up with A Novel's Migration, the journey of Joyce Manard's release Labor Day, Vortex winner and frequent visitor Todd has posted a comment in official thread and has a bit about it on his blog. Be sure to pop over there and comment if you wish to be next in line.

Lastly, in honor of Oprah's latest pick, very few of which I follow or read, this pie chart because I adore pie charts more than Oprah:

Have a great Monday, everyone!

Where did you find inspiration over the weekend?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Horror Novels and Hotties

Before I venture into dangerously superficial territory in the Vortex, I wanted to pass along information on the Fresh Blood Contest. Dorchester Publishing is seeking the best horror novel by an unpublished author. The winner will receive a contract for publication in Leisure's 2011 lineup as well as a 2011 limited-edition hardcover release sponsored by ChiZine Publications. Novels must be 80-90K words. Submission deadline: September 30, 2009. So many of my writing peeps who visit here write horror, I had to post. This mushy romance-girl has your back.

I'm populating my new work-in-progress and could use your help. This feels vaguely like a "casting call" to me. I suppose it is. I'm looking for inspirational photos of characters to populate my novel. I'm not one of those romance writers who does cartwheels over traditional cover models. I populate my novels with real men the reader and I create together. I give them just enough and they take it and sprint to their nearest fantasy. Thing is, my inspiration must start somewhere, and that's where this Friday party comes in.

Link away. Drop celebrity names. Send me your cousin's photo if he looks anything close to Drew Fuller. I need an alpha-male/warrior type, a professor-type, a lost soul and a swashbuckler-type. All brothers, all mid-to-late twenty-ish.

See how nicely I balanced the post to reflect the male-female Vortex-reader population? Horror novels and hotties. I love Fridays.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bond Girl Day

Join me over at the 007 blog today where we're discussing time travel (okay, I have little self-control when it comes to TT) and amazing things done by our ancestors.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Is That a Planet in Your Pocket?

How long has it been since I sent you on a linkerific treasure hunt? Too long, really. My bookmarks floweth over with dazzling gems of all things writerly and time-centric.

Before I get into the first one, let me first say how delicious it was to browse Half Priced Books over the weekend and discover a "Sundial Day Planner." What does such a planner look like? I'm glad you asked. It was hard for me to see past the awesomeness of organizing my day around a circle the size of a dime, but after my left brain considered if such a thing were useful I decided I didn't need a quarter of the page to pencil in sleep whilst the details in my 3 to 6 pm life karate chop each other for day planner real estate. Great if you're a non-linear thinker, just like this next link:

Beware the Visual Thesaurus. Pretty soon you'll be looking up profanity to see how it shakes out in visual representation, right? Seriously, though, it's a great idea generator. I'm sure you can imagine what entering "time" into the search box did for me. Try the random word option under the search box if you don't want them to bother you for a downloadable trial.

Behold: Eris. Students at the School of Applied Arts in Geneva have created a timepiece based upon the newest dwarf planet in our solar system. What makes this a treasure, though, is the catalog writer's delirium that anyone will a.) wear this in a rubber lanyard around his/her neck or b.) shoved into the pocket of a man's dockers. Let's just own that this timepiece is a $450 paperweight that will roll off your desk at the slightest orbital shift.

And finally, thanks to the Mannahatta Project, I can travel back in time to 1609 New York and get in touch with my inner Pocahontas. I could wax philosophical about the importance of remembering a forgotten ecosystem that didn't involve an F.A.O. Schwartz and a couple hundred java huts, but that wouldn't be much fun, would it? Happy Monday, explorers!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Pampered Vortex 10

Sometimes I have trouble shutting off my mind. Such was the case yesterday. Instead of melting away into a viscous puddle under the very capable hands of a masseuse (a four month old birthday gift--the massage, not the masseuse), bizzare thoughts lurked at the periphery of my awareness. How else to diffuse those than a Vortex 10 List? Sounds like more fun than drowning a novel's worth of toxins with Evian.

10 Random Thoughts on a Massage Table:

1. Please don't match me to the guy in black scrubs that looks like a cross between the blond guy from Simon and Simon and Lurch. Could someone have pity on this guy and give him a detoxifying treatment? The smacked-out rings under his eyes haunt me and not in a romance novel kind of way, either.

2. Dear God, is someone butchering that exotic bird in the distant meadow?

3. Seriously, was that just a karate chop to my left buttocks?

4. I saw this move on COPS once to apprehend a suspect, only there wasn't a pan flute soloist in the background and I'm not wearing a t-shirt that says Mess with me and you mess with the entire trailer park.

5. Did she just put the hair clip she used on me back into the same drawer I saw her pull it out of? Sweet Barbicide, where are you?

6. Apparently shading in the feet on the pre-massage questionnaire "troublesome areas" means avoid like leprosy. No wonder she's overcompensating by working tension from my collarbone. Does anyone have collarbone tension?

7. I painted my toenails Sparkling Nectar for this? What's the Chinese translation for "A kingdom for my feet! I wore the cruel shoes today!"

8. Is the overly-loud second hand on the clock meant to be a relaxing rhythm to get in touch with my heartbeat or a cosmic reminder I could have written 500 words in the time it's taken her to turn my scalp into a relaxed greaseball?

9. If she reused the hair clip, what of the sheets?

10. Why does my middle finger lift when she rubs the writerly tension from my forearm?

I've had six massages in my life, but they've all been gifts. Were it left up to me, I'd have given the money to the guy that stands with a sign under the interstate overpass in hundred-degree heat. Okay, maybe I'd have kept the one from the Brazilian guy on the ship in the Atlantic Ocean, but that's all. Romance writers have to master the concept of haunting eyes, right?

What's your favorite thing to do to relax?

Monday, September 7, 2009

An Open Letter to a Poster

Dear GTR,

Let's just say it. We've met before about six months ago. I know you don't remember me, but I remember you. The juxtaposition of your mysterious post initials and the allure of your ancient language makes you unforgettable. I know you bestow your random affections on other bloggers: middle-aged Worlds of Warcraft gamers who reside in their mother's basement, PTA moms sharing bundt cake recipes, one perhaps named Ethel who spread seeds of knowledge about her tomato crop from her farm in Illinois. Only rarely does your silver tongue reach it's glorious intended audience.

Your words are a siren's song to my heart. When you mix phrases like "toot Valentine's color screen and sexuality as News" and "romantic novels," you have only to add the magic words "time travel" and I'll be forever yours. Translating your timeless Chinese characters into words meant only for me and for an intimate three thousand others-words like "concubine cinema" and "harem movie"-makes me reflect on the genius behind such poetry.

Are you twenty-something with bad hair? Do you travel through your days with a sticky hand plagued with carpal tunnel, your only true companion? Are the whites of your eyes bleeding from the seventy-two straight hours you've been staring at a computer screen in the dim shadows of a black-lit, velvet poster of Jessica Simpson? Inspiration must come from somewhere, no?

Rest assured friend, your efforts have not gone unnoticed. That you pillaged three dozen days of posts showed me your commitment to spreading your wisdom. Thank you for holding time captive so that I am the last in my writing class to complete my assignment. Thank you for illustrating time theory: what took you mere moments has translated to an hour, maybe more. These are the distractions filled with lasting memories.

Some may call you a malicious tool, but not I. Should the need arise in a future novel, you, GTR, will be the secondary character who meets his fate in the most poetic form of justice befitting such a man. I'll remember those yellow teeth. Inspiration must come from somewhere, no?


Frustrated (but not in the way you're hoping)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting Digi With It

Are you ready to embrace technology today? I am, so follow me.

Next Tuesday, Anthony Zuiker, head poo-bah behind the CSI: investigation empire, will celebrate the release of his latest brainchild: the Digi-novel. In what he believes will be a "jolt to traditional book publishing," his book-movie-website experience invites participants to read the crime novel, Level 26, log on to the book's website every twenty pages or so during the reading experience and view a "cyber-bridge", a three-minute film clip tied to the story. Readers can join in on book discussions, even contribute to the story. He predicts every television show in the next five to ten years will engage their audience in such a way, so why not books? The digi-novel concept came to Zuiker during the writer's strike, but he's hardly the first to attempt a perfect fusion of literary and media entertainment.

On September 29th, fans of ABC's Castle can purchase Heat Wave, a crime novel written by the series' protagonist, Richard Castle. So it's a case of the tube driving the book, but once this technology fusion hits big, no one will be able to tell where one experience starts and the other stops.

A year or more ago, I had the perfect plot in mind for this sort of reader interaction. It was Romancing the Stone meets time travel. A wild chase around the globe and through time, complete with a mini-site experience and links on the e-book version to places and clues that would give the reader an edge figuring out the mystery along with the characters. In my mind, it was epic and fun and all the wonderful things I enjoy about becoming immersed into a novel. But I put the idea aside. Why?

My primary goal as a writer is to launch a reader into a story and keep her there. Inviting a reader to link to stimuli outside the parameters of my book invites distraction and the put-it-down-and-not-come-back disease all authors fear. Let's face it, today's consumer has the attention span of a gnat. She links up to a map of Death Valley to find out where the shifting stones of Racetrack Playa are and I've lost her to half a dozen other time-suck links. Still, the idea is intriguing.

What do you think? Are you a reading purist or do you like your novel sprinkled with lagniappe, that little something extra that quenches our thirst for an interactive experience?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Know I Haven't Posted a Photo, But My New 'Do Is Not This One

The matronly fashion is me some days. Not red, though. Never red.
This is so me today. Talk amongst yourselves. What topic appeals to your imagination today?