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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Year of Intention

First, I offer apologies for the driest posting spell in the blog's history. December cannot end too soon. It was a month for the passing of loved ones, too many tasks and not enough time and hard lessons in the freelance business. I caught up on my Google Reader last night. Everyone, it seems, is looking backward. What did 2012 mean to them? Did they meet their goals? It's an obvious time for reflection, and I love reading about the journey of others. Me? I'm looking forward.

2013 will be the year of the intentional freelancer for me. I stumbled into self-employment by tripping through the backdoor during February of last year-starting with a why not? and ending with a why? With a full twelve months dedicated to ghostwriting and editing, I will know if this is my path.

I worry that I'm selling away my creative fire, that I'm giving others what I should be reserving for myself. I worry that monetizing it will turn writing from a passion to a job. I worry that in chasing the pleasures of others, I will no longer please myself.

I'm constantly amazed at the amount of freelance work out there. Even in this economy, there is no shortage of people willing to pay for writing talent. We can attribute that to the ebook revolution. I have as much work as I care to have. 2013 should be a fun ride.

I wish all my Vortex readers a happy and productive 2013.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Table of Plenty

I began a new ghostwriting assignment this week. It's a bit like holding someone's hand as you lead them behind the curtain of fiction writing. Until now, it has been an obscure place for some. Magic behind the velvet barrier. Pay no attention to the chick behind the curtain. She's only orchestrating everything and playing God.

This assignment is a short story with the promise of more. I adore short stories but don't always give myself permission to write them. It's a necessary exercise for my long-winded, tangled prose. I remember economy and the beauty of simple things.

Thanksgiving this year was, blessedly, not at my house. This did not prevent a banquet at my table. The early stages of fiction planning necessitate, for me, diving back into my old favorite craft books and files. They are the pillars to which I return each time to provide the foundation of my stories. I know them by heart. I can spout the wisdom contained within from memory. Still, I return to them as a safety blanket to remind me what's important lest I forget between projects. This banquet of knowledge still fills my table, not as grizzled leftovers, but the promise of the literary meal to come.

I am blessed to be able to wake each day and spend time doing what I love. I am blessed there are a handful of people whose lives I have touched with my writing, if only for a diversionary few moments. Perhaps they'll remember, most likely not. But for those simple moments, author to reader and reader to author, there are few things so supremely transcendent. It is a rare relationship few share so intimately. I realized only recently it has everything to do with why I'm able to ghostwrite while some authors cannot.

My brother calls me a wallflower. I suppose I am. Extraordinary in my ordinariness. While my name on the NY Times list would be nice, for financial security-not fame, it isn't what motivates me. It is in the imagining of one person, one ideal reader, holding my words in his hand and being transfixed, that I find my motivation. The name on the cover could be Rosy Longbottom. I don't care. The reader and I know the secret: the magic isn't in the name. It isn't in the Oz-like scribe at the dials screaming "I wrote this! Look what I did! Aren't I awesome?" It's what's behind the curtain that counts.

Remember to join my mailing list if you want to be one of those readers. It is through my newsletter that I share, always with my client's permission, what's behind the curtain.

May your blessings be many and your burdens be light.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Hashtag of Discontent

When the visual of my last post hit me as I logged in, it made me a bit queasy. No, silly, not Dean Butler. Manly could never do that. All the Twitter visuals. Have I become one of those people?

I've had a Twitter account for about two years. Tweet count as of this morning? Two hundred and ninety-four. There are no hard and fast statistics on this, but largely 80% of those are the result of the Vortex feed. I have tried. Tried to mine what could be fascinating in my moment-to-moment life to amuse the staggering 190 people following me because I followed them. Tried to elevate my awareness of the media such that it becomes engrained in my daily to-do list. Tried to fill those moments of waiting by whipping out my iphone and scrolling through people trying to fascinate me. Tried to raise it on my priority list of visibility and marketing. I have tried.

I'm tired of trying.

Apparently, I'm not the only one.

Forgive me for sounding like a ninety year old in a thirty-something body. What does all this nervous chasing of some nebulous social following get us? I can't attribute this to my recent theory about how somehow we've collectively skipped the track. That in Colorado, we are now teaching our kids that it's okay to smoke pot because mommy grows it in the kitchen window. That I have neighbors I barely know by sight let alone name or culture or history enough to respect them past a wave of the hand. That I am the only house on the street who displays an American flag-even on traditional flag-hanging holidays. That we again voted into office someone who can't be bothered to put his hand over his heart as a sign of respect to country and those who died so he can  have that privilege. But I digress. This isn't about politics. I can't attribute my recent social media attitude to those things because I've been thinking about it for some time now. It's about chasing the wrong things in life.

Professionally, I have only to look to my favorite authors to have an epiphany. None of them have Facebook accounts. None of them have Twitter accounts. Guess how they're spending their days? Writing. Hopefully, hugging their children. Maybe taking a walk in the Autumn breeze. And writing.

Perhaps it's because I'm hard-wired to be introverted. Perhaps because Twitter just seems like a big, crowded room filled with only a handful of people I'd ever really talk to in real life. Perhaps because there's a guy in one corner screaming to buy his book fourteen times a day and a woman in the other talking about the Greek yogurt she had for lunch whom I only follow because she edits books in New York.

I don't wish this to come across negative. Rather, a call to action of a different sort. Authors, how many books have you sold as a direct result of Twitter marketing? How many of you could have written your next book over the past six months with those hours? How many of you are exhausted trying to keep up with social media because we're told we should by someone who seems to know some grand publishing secret we don't?

I challenge you to be more aware this week of how you're spending your time. Take a walk. Nourish your body so that your mind is ready to be creative. Read a book to fill the well or get more in touch with authors in your niche. Spend time with your loved ones, not the Greek yogurt lady in the corner, because tomorrow is no guarantee. Put your smart phone with the Twitter feed down at mealtime because your children want to tell you about the butterfly they saw at recess. Social media does have it's place, but only if we put it there.

And only if it brings me Dean Butler.

Monday, October 29, 2012

#Manly...If You're Out There


Helpful Twitter promotional tidbits for my self-published and traditonally-published Vortex tweeps:
@kindlenews
@freeebookdeal
@IndieKindle
@WLCPromotions
@DigitalBkToday
@kindleebooks
@Kindlestuff
@KindleEbooksUK
@KindleBookKing
@KindleFreeBook
@free
@free_kindle
@FreeReadFeed
@freebookdude
@4FreeKindleBook
@FreeKindleStuff
@KindleUpdates
@ebook
@Bookyrnextread
@Kindlestuff
@KindleBookKing
@Booksontheknob
@Kindle_promo
@IndAuthorSucess
@CheapKindleDly
@KindleDaily

Some useful hashtags:

#FreeKindleBook #freekindle #freebook #free #kindlepromo #freeebooks #IndieKindle #IndiePub #ebooks
Cut and paste into your existing list. Don't have a Twitter reference sheet? What in the name of Dean Butler are you waiting for? I'm sure even Dean has a reference sheet. #LittleHouse, #Manny, and my personal favorite, #Manly
If the D.B. reference escapes you, try these:
I still haven't heard from Mr. Butler. A girl can go all dreamy, can't she?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Come, New Author. I Have Some Tablets For You.

I've been freelance editing and ghostwriting long enough to have reached some epiphanies. They may not be earth-shattering to some, but more than a handful of people out there have plopped out a book and are stumbling over themselves to upload it for sale. I'm more than a bit conservative, super-protective of my brand, and hyper-aware of the importance of quality writing before going "live" in a cyber-environment that often seems like an annoying in-law: quick to judge and never seems to go away. Being a book reviewer has only enhanced these commandments I believe everyone who has typed the end punctuation on the final page of that first book should memorize.

I. Thou Shalt Know Your Market

Vomiting out a long series of subsections found in a Barnes and Noble store is akin to tossing crumpled manuscript pages at the brick and mortar and praying it will stick. Pick one. If you're good by any other standard than your mother and the creepy guy at the 7-11 who loves everything about you, pick two. Don't write what you haven't read since fifth grade.

II. Thou Shalt Know The Industry

We're not talking the kind of insider knowledge that would get the Romance Writers of America yearly convention buzzing about when the hottest, long-haired male editor arrived (and we romancies know who THAT is, don't we?) Gems like that take years of immersion. Please know what an editor does. We will not rewrite your entire book for you unless you pay us, handsomely, for the title Book Doctor because you have a bleeder and your opening sentence has flat lined. For this much hemorrhaging, we could write our own books.

III. Thou Shalt Chill

Traditional New York publishing notwithstanding, writing and publishing a book is still glacial. Laborious. Exhausting. The process is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a short cut or rush the process and you'll end up in the dirt beside the trail with mud-caked knees because you forgot to tie your laces. Piss out a novel in one month and expect it to turn 50 Shades of successful? Yeah, that's gonna happen.

IV. Thou Shalt Get Your Book Professionally Edited

Both content and line edited. Then think about doing it again. Nothing steams me more than swiping to the next page in my Nook and finding errors that a fourth grader could have found. It's disrespectful to your reader's time and pocketbook and the faith they placed in you to deliver a flawless story. Shame on you if you overlook this commandment.

V. Thou Shalt Recognize E.L. James As The Exception

Debate the quality (and we have here) of Ms. James's newly-minted empire, but repeat after me: I. Will. Not. Get. Rich. Is it okay to dream? Sure. But writing is not the path to fame. Most famous writers would probably prefer not to be famous outside of their royalty checks. We are overwhelmingly introverts and write because we have to and we love to, not because it will land us on the cover of USA Today or on a Hollywood set overseeing the film version of our book.

What are some other commandments writers should know before self-publishing or submitting to publishing houses or agents?


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soft Kitty, Distracted Kitty

Remember this shirt?
I'm wearing it now. Except it's pink. Hot pink. And my arms are less hairy. Seriously, why would a guy pick this shirt out of all the Big Bang Theory shirts out there? Completely emasculating, unless you look like this...



Despite his Zack-like expression, I say, "hoo."



Before we commence more time-foolery, let's catch up on Vortex business. Since my top-secret romance novel hit virtual stores, my newsletter subscriptions have doubled. I was so excited about this development, I drew two names to give away free copies. Trouble is, neither responded to my notification email. I fear the email may have entered the black hole of their spam folders. If you are on the newsletter list, you were automatically entered in the contest. Please check for the winning announcement in your spam folders. Free books await! I'll send out another attempt by Friday if I haven't heard back.
 
My first book review went live on Monday. I'm knee-deep in a Rebecca-type throwback to the Gothic romance, my fourth book set to review. My suspicions about the depth and breadth of self-published novels have, thus far, proven to be correct. I've read some that made me want to flail myself with a frozen Eggo waffle to stay awake and some that have brought me to my knees, salivating for more, wondering why, for-the-love-of-Suzanne-Collins, wasn't this book picked up for mass distribution and film rights. I have more amazing prospects percolating on the freelance stove, and I'm beginning to worry about my momentum shift.
 
The money, absent for so long in my literary endeavors, is addicting. Never was this more clear than driving around yesterday, minding traffic (because I'm wicked-rule-follower like that) and Black Lab's This Night played on my Ipod from my novel play list. It hit me like a Stephen King tome to the gut. I was sucker-punched back to the long-ago (well, a few months ago) place where I had left my work-in-progress edits, I couldn't fight the intense sadness in letting my goals stray. I've never been great at keeping multiple pots boiling. I tend to immerse myself a thousand percent in the project at hand, to the detriment of eating and stretching important muscles and all but involuntary body functions. I would love to know how other freelancers do it. I'm highly-organized, but when accountable to others, I am sometimes no longer accountable to myself.
 
Luckily, I had been to a Body Combat fitness class that very morning. I did one of those Charlie's Angels kicks (not what they're really called) to my mental derriere and remembered my bank account until the sensation passed.
 
What do you do to keep your outside projects balanced with your personal goals?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

No Asshattery Here

I've worn many writing-related hats since starting out on this fiction road almost thirteen years ago. The romance writer hat? A softie-knitted pink jobber, of course. Then there's the militant hat of self (and hired) editor, the veiled pillbox of ghostwriter, the jester's hat of blogger, the Sherpa of nah-nah-nah-nah, I'm-not-listening-to-the-"market" time travel author and the twin crowns of Golden Heart princess and rejection queen. This photo was creepy and royalty-free, so I snagged it. Let's call it my psychological suspense hat.

Today, I add another hat to the collection: book reviewer.

What qualifies me as such? Well, I read. Quite a bit, in fact, and extremely quickly (nine hundred words per minute, a talent I catalogue right beside my ability to turn Reese's peanut butter cups into a meal--no questions asked.) I have a pulse, and I know how to use it. Oh, and I wear all those other hats in my closet. Makes for a pretty well-rounded reviewer. At least, I hope.

What drew me to this project was the carte blanche of honesty. I always hate reading reviews obviously written by the author's mother's quilting bee. Or someone who didn't bother to offer anything past what I could glean from a blurb. And then, there's the importance of it all when placed right up against this climate of self-publishing. In a world where an author's mother's quilting bee is the last stop before Amazon and B&N, God help us all to sift through the sodden dreg at the bottom of the literary cup. The cream does rise to the top. I'm just helping that cream along a bit in my own way.

And lest you think this venture is altruistic, I assure you, it most certainly is not. I will be getting paid. Not in the John Locke sense of paid reviewer--I assure you, there is no asshattery in this closet--but by the review site seeking honest feedback for their subscribers and visitors.

I will be keeping anon, by the way. Unless you subscribe to my newsletter. There are a bounty of delicious secrets in those missives, aren't there? Guess you'll just have to join. A huge thanks to so many Vortex followers for getting the word out about my ghost-novel. I might need to come up with a clever street-team name to match my love for you all.

With a tip of the hat, I'm out...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bacon Number? 1...Maybe 2

Trailers of the upcoming movie Stoker keep landing in my inbox. Could be my Google alert for all things a-certain-British-hottie. I really should remove that particular alert; it's so when-I-wrote-the-book-that-released-this-week. I just can't seem to leave him behind. This movie feels like it's a number one on my personal Bacon number: psychological suspense, Nicole Kidman (half a bacon strip away from the tastiest Aussie on the planet), and one more fresh excuse to revisit the inspiration for a past hero. So he plays a creepy homicidal maniac uncle. We can forgive a few things, can't we? The movie is rated R because the Brit's hotness might burn your retinas. Beware.


You may have guessed I would have gone to see Looper by now. To that, I would say, "Nay, my ghostwriting has kept me busy." I'm hoping to sneak out by myself for a nooner this week. I hear rumors of an awesome Bruce Willis line (while speaking to his younger self over a diner table): "I don't want to talk about time travel. If we do, we'll be here all day making diagrams with straws." Amen, David Addison.

And here I go again, breaking my newly-minted photo rule. For a booksigning? Best. Treats. Ever. This video seemed like a good place to start.


As it turns out, my ghostwritten novel is not as exclusive as previously thought. If you have a Kindle or Nook, you can join the fun. How will you know the path to titilation unless you follow me on Twitter or sign up for my newsletter? Psst! In addition to the icing aroma in the Vortex today, there is the distinct air of a contest. Just saying.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bazinga! It's Laundry Day

Today's post feels like a laundry list, but who better to provide colorful, soapy little pods of information than The Vortex, right? First, the bleach-y whites...

I could very well be violating my new policy of attaching photos not mine, but this is a perfect Monday chuckle. Remember when we talked about the awesomeness that was Looper? I give you the perfect example of what happens when a movie poster is strategically placed in a public restroom:

courtesy of HappyPlace

Forgot your coins for the wash? No problem. Check out this handy chart from Editorial Freelancers Association to find out what your services might be worth to the non-writing types. Need an hourly rate calculator? I used freelanceswitch to calculate my optimum ghostwriting rates-SO helpful, no matter which industry you're trying to pick up a little extra ka-ching.

And for the dark load...bioluminescence on a beach in the Maldives. If you look at only one photograph on the internet today, make it this one. Seriously, how many times can our retinas withstand a Kardashian-burn? This is nature's inspiration at its finest.

Also in the dark load, a rare opportunity to submit sans-agent to HarperCollins. Vortex author peeps wanting to go the traditional publishing house route have an open invitation to send in their epic fantasy, sci-fi, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia or supernatural submissions between October 1 and 14. Last Thursday's Guardian article has the 4-1-1. Good luck!

Certainly not least, please hand-wash this tee with care. It's my fave.
Bazinga!
 
 
More BBT shirts here. Best. Crazy. Catalog. Ever.


I'm super-excited to celebrate the release of my contemporary romantic comedy (with the hot Brit--remember him?) to the ibookstore this week! It's an interactive experience like nothing you've ever read before. If you don't have an Apple device on which to enjoy it, find someone who does, or-heck-buy one. This week. I'll wait. Make sure you're following me on Twitter or subscribed to my newsletter. This week. I'll wait. Since the project is ghostwritten, tweets and email are the only way you'll find links to buy and be eligible for contests and giveaways by yours truly. I won't pay for a stellar review like John Locke, but I will sing you "Soft Kitty" when you're sick. Flu season is just around the corner, people.

Have a squeaky clean Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chimps Found in My Unnatural Bubble

First, a bit of Vortex housekeeping. I moved my email newsletter to Mailchimp because yahoogroups is so turn-of-this-century, and because I love primates. If you subscribed previously in yahoogroups, there's no need to take action. If you haven't, for the love of Dean Butler, what are you waiting for?  Seriously, I don't bomb your inbox but once every, say, millenia, but I do have some amazing announcements, freebees and giveaways coming up that you'll want to know about. Subscribe now or later via the box on the blog's right column.

I just finished an online violence and weaponry class for writers taught by Rory Miller, who is so bad ass in his creditials that I'd have to kill you if I elaborated. I've written scenes here and there that required high-octane, moment by moment violence, but my latest ghostwriting project required more. Like war. Ongoing. The deep psychological place soldiers must go. For a suburban girl whose only exposure to violence is what comes in a red Netflix envelope, it was a must-take class.

The most memorable lesson he gave was one on the unnatural state of our existence. For the first time in human history, violence is essentially foreign to us. We don't raise weapons to meet our basic needs. Mass casualties are things that largely happen somewhere else. We live in a bubble of treaties and modern philosophies and shared ethics. As writers, one of the hardest things to do is get inside the head of our characters. But for a writer raised in this bubble, getting inside the head of historical characters is the greatest challenge of all. As Miller put it: "The most evil things in history made sense to someone. As an author, if you can't see that, your antagonists will be flat. As a human, if you can't see it, you can't effectively fight it."

Miller's book, Violence: A Writer's Guide, covers many of the same topics as we touched on in class and is a fantastic reference if your project requires a deep understanding about the complexities of violence.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Guyliner on Atlanteans? Nah.

One thing I love about ghostwriting is that I become a tourist in someone else's world. On the desk beside me is a stack of research books I wouldn't have picked up in a million years: theories of Atlantis, Norse mythology, a dictionary of made-up languages and a coffee table book called Drives of a Lifetime with some wicked-inspiring photography for an alternate world found right here in our world. With six different colors of post-it notes whipping out like foreign flags on a stiff breeze, it's an invitation to explore.

Back to research, but first this Vortex tidbit...

The term guyliner has migrated from pop culture vernacular to official entry in the Oxford Dictionary. I know, right? Exciting doesn't begin to cover it. Maybe they read the Vortex's official stance on the issue. Check out thirty-four other new word entries and have a great Monday.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ya'll Join Me For A Dallas Dissection

Stereotypes of the southern U.S. in pop culture. Discuss.

Why are reality shows (and I use the term reality loosely) like Honey Boo Boo and The Week the Women Left set in the South? Because stereotypes are based in reality. And those stereotypes make for WTH?-television that brings ratings.

I haven't lived in Texas my entire life. In fact, I have the unique perspective of being a nomad: pacific northwest, midwest, deeeep south. Those are just the places I set up residence for a respectable amount of time. I've heard stereotypes from the outside and lived them from the inside. I suppose that gives me a bit of cred when it comes to today's post about the reincarnation of the 80s television show, Dallas.

First a story. Everyone grab your binkies and warm milk and meet me on the swirly vortex rug.

When I went to Munich as an exchange student in the 90s, my host family spoke very little English. I learned quickly that academia had taught me high, proper German, not the low country dialect of Bavaria. I compare it to a non-native English student being placed in a deep Cajun household where every other word is hoo-eee and lawd sakes. You can't possibly guess the common ground of conversation we discovered. Dallas. Not the historical site of JFK's assassination, nor the fact that it's the ninth largest city in the United States--not even the Dallas Cowboys, but Dallas the television show. Upon finding this connection, my host father laughed boisterously, scurried to the front of his VW convertible and drew imaginary bull horns on the hood with his hands. After I assured him that all Texans did not ride horses and have cars with bull horns strapped to the hood, I realized how powerful stereotypes are.

Maybe that's why Dallas will always be a little more special to me than it should. Because the show had just started its translated syndication in Germany, gathering around for that hour each week became our common ground. Maybe that's why my host family wanted a French girl. No self-respecting French girl would put her family in the clink for oil rights.

Which brings me full circle back to the stereotypes still portrayed in the newly resurrected Dallas. Sure, the horns are gone, replaced now by sweet Italian sports cars. I can tell you first-hand from driving on both the Dallas North Tollway and the autobahn that there is little difference. Of the dozen or more cities that comprise the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Dallas is most certainly where the money is.

Dallas is also where the hubris is. The stink about moving the home of the Dallas Cowboys out of the Dallas city limits to Arlington, a suburb between Dallas and Ft. Worth, was one of excessive pride. Nevermind that the seven million people spread throughout the surrounding cities contribute financially to the success of the team via ticket and merchandise sales. The Ewing family really capitalizes on the pride-goeth-before-the-fall premise.

I can also say, without hesitation, that out of all the places I have lived and visited that there is a reason Mary Kay headquarters is in Dallas. Women take care of themselves here. Women wear makeup here, even to make the trek to the mailbox. So when the Ewing women are dressed to the nines with lined lips and manicured nails, you can rest assured they smell rich, too. All authentic.

The spectacular plethora of good looking men here in jeans and cowboys boots? No stereotype, I assure you. Entire Harlequin lines of romance novels have been devoted to this natural wonder of beauty.

What about the series strikes me as inauthentic? Not one "ya'll" has slipped into the dialogue. Stereotype? Sure. During my lifespan, there has been a huge influx of transplants into this city. Some pick up this slang, some don't. But I don't buy into a family who has had a Texas ranch in their family for a century who doesn't let the Y-word slip occasionally. I blame that on the writers. Hollywood types, I'm sure. The thing about the Y-word is that it is no measure of intelligence. Think of it as efficiency and clarity. When addressing a group of individuals, "ya'll" covers more and better than the awkward "you guys" or "you all." Even J.R. would know a thing or two about efficiency.

The last thing you need to know about Texas that Dallas got wrong? Sure, Texans pack a lot of heat, but there's no place I'd rather be stuck with a flat tire on a dark highway. You see, people make eye contact here. They stop and move heaven and the flat, prairie grazing grounds to help strangers. All that backstabbing makes for great script, but you won't find much of that here. We have the death penalty and aren't afraid to use it. There is a code of conduct inherent here. Love your mama. Be nice to your neighbor. Hang the flag out, not just when its expected. Respect authority and your elders. Family above all.

At least Ms. Ellie would be proud they got that right.

What other Texan stereotypes have I forgotten?

Monday, August 6, 2012

J.R. Is No Dean Butler

I swept the dust bunnies out from the Vortex corners and did something I had been meaning to do for awhile now: remove photographs that weren't mine or protected under the fair use rule.  Mercifully, I hadn't relied too heavily on them for the past six years. I did, however, make the conscious decision to keep Dean Butler's photograph up. I'm thinking at this stage in his career, he'd shout, "Holy Half-pint!" that someone remembered him. The benefit to housekeeping is two-fold: it's the right thing to do and gives me stats that are content-based instead of image-based. My apologies in advance, but this means you will not only see more of my corn-pone, home-grown photography, but I won't be driving to Southfork Ranch to stamp an original image on my next post regarding the reincarnation of the DALLAS television show. I haven't been to Southfork since I was eight, and I wouldn't know where to begin looking for that picture.

For now, though, I'm celebrating my new ghostwriting project. Sure, that means things will slow a bit at The Vortex, but we've been there/done that before. Consider it time travel with less vomiting. And oh, the places I'll go.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What's In Your Chapter One Suitcase?

Anyone familiar with early drafts of my writing can tell you that beginnings are my biggest struggle. Not because the beginning doesn't come. It does. Boy, does it come. In a vomit of description and character and dialogue and tonal inflections and figurative language, it comes. I want the reader to be right there with me in all the places I have discovered and all those nuances left to discover, often all at once. Sometimes I forget the reader and I are not already friends, that we haven't spoken at least three dozen times about the grand "what ifs" of fiction. Sometimes I even forget the reader is looking for one good excuse to abandon the story.

Author Benjamin Percy compares readers at the beginning of our stories to coma patients. Have a look. I shall picture a reader burdened with a suitcase labeled short term memory each time I revise a story's opening. Since we're all about London this week, I say, "Brilliant."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Behind Fence Number One

There is a team of very tired, very hot (as in Texas summer hot, not Channing Tatum hot) men replacing one section of my fence today. Not even two frosty Gatorade bottles from my fridge can allay my guilt at sitting in air conditioning watching these guys labor.

What fascinates me most about this project is what it revealed about my neighbor. I've long held the opinion that we would freak if we knew half of what goes on behind our neighbors' doors. Ten years of living on this street has uncovered everything from snotty Pottery Barn obsessions and cross collections that would put the Vatican to shame to divorces, extramarital affairs, drug use, emotional and physical abuse, life and death, all hidden behind daisies in Terra cotta pots and lacquered front doors. Behind my neighbor's brass kick plate, Roman door chimes and manicured lawn, I was certain lay more opulence, more orderliness than Martha Stewart's jail cell.

Boy was I wrong.

Yesterday, the fence came down. My neighbor's backyard was a biome unto itself. Grass high enough to brush an NBA player's fanny. Relics of children long gone. A tangled nest where a garden once stood. Why would someone who mows and trims and edges and pots daisies bother with the front and not the back? Rules, I suppose. But it's more than that.

Everyone has a pocket of chaos in their life: a junk drawer, the backseat of a car, that closet at the end of the hall. Something they don't want anyone to see. I once wrote a character obsessed with orderliness. The one exception was her purse. At first, quirky, non-purse items would fall out to reveal character. But as the story progressed, the overstuffed bag became a metaphor for all the things in her life she couldn't compartmentalize. As her trust in the hero evolved, the degree to which she shared her bag's contents deepened until dark secrets tumbled out like used tissues.

I suppose my neighbor's chaos is no more than evidence of a busy man who must have two jobs to support his family. A father who doesn't want to forget the sound of children's laughter saturating the yard on a hot summer night. A gardener who gave in to the natural world's relentless ambush.

The writer in me wishes he was hiding something in the tall blades. The neighbor in me does not.

Where are you hiding your chaos?

Monday, July 2, 2012

This Little Piggy Went Erotic

At the risk of being super-girly and super-off-topic to start today's post, I digress from including a photo of my toes. But what writerly girl wouldn't love Sally Hanson's Salon Effects stickers in the "love letter" theme? It's a little bit of Hemmingway on my piggies for the summer. Don't bother reading the comments about how difficult they are to apply. It isn't like writing a literary masterpiece in a secondary language. It's more like writing Fifty Shades of Grey while eating a twinkie and watching Love in the Wild and hoping Ben stays longer just to hear his accent.

And, no. I'm still not over the whole Brit thing. I'm thinking my interest in the Olympics will be amped this year.

Speaking of Fifty Shades of Grey, the claws are out in writing circles. Some believe the quality of the writing is shameful and should never have been published. Some adore the books and find hope that an obscure little bit of fan fiction was able to find super-stardom (and money). My take on all this is that no one has a right to give an opinion until he/she is well-informed. First-person knowledge of the book in question. Here's a link to the free-sample opening courtesy of Random House Australia and Scribd. Should we judge the rest of the book by its opening? Hell yeah. That's the way the book industry rolls. Now you can have a well-informed opinion. You're welcome.

Did you notice the new pages of the blog? Snazzy, huh? I hope to add posts specific to ghostwriting soon. Until then, I wish you happy toes, accents like hot butter and the first few shades of grey.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On Which Side of the Interactive Divide Do You Fall?

In one of those synergistic moments with the world, Nathan Bransford posted on interactive books yesterday. Imagine that. Me, ahead of the game instead of behind it. I'm so grateful to be part of technology's newest foray into the fiction experience. I loved reading through the comments, too. It seems to be a good cross-section of opinions, albeit a little heavy on the let-books-be-books side of the debate.

I've been putting off organizing my writing space. This is my way of delaying the inevitable: making that decision about which project to go with. Two novels need editing, one begs to be completed. That, along with another ghostwriting venture has my brain percolating with indecision.

I'm gorging on the last few movies in my hero-inspired list from said interactive novel just completed. It seems I'm reluctant to leave this particular Brit behind. Right now, I'm watching an indie historical flick where he has, perhaps, two script sheets of dialogue when combined. Two hours just for a few nuggets of heart-melting brilliance? Hell to the yeah. It occurred to me two days ago that I need to focus on new hero inspiration for a new project. Unfortunately, this epiphany hit while at the water park. Ask me if I found inspiration among the camouflage swim trunks and keg stomachs. If my next hero has an unfortunate farmer's tan, you'll know why.

What do you think about interactive ebooks? Would you enjoy reading a novel via tablet or smart phone if it offered a new aspect to the reading experience you couldn't get with a Kindle or Nook? How much interactive content is too much?


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Semi-Neurotic Liberation

I waited to write this post because I wanted the fullness of the ghostwriting experience, from conception with client to full-length novel publication. Publication is nearly upon us; and with it, I'm sure, the semi-neurotic mood swings all writers go through when putting words out there for public consumption. I'm prepared for them. Been there, done that. What I wasn't prepared for in this process was how liberating it was.

I no longer had to worry about marketability of concept. I'm not a marketer. I no longer had to worry about titles and pen names and cover art and the thousand and one other decisions that go into a fully-formed project. I no longer had to anticipate a media blitz, reviews and social media-ing myself until I was hugging my knees in the corner of the closet, rocking back and forth, a feeble "tweet, tweet," whispering from my lips. I'm not a publicist or a software expert or a saleswoman. I am a writer. I wrote.

And therein lies true liberation.

I often think I was born in the wrong age. A hundred years ago, when the gatekeepers to the publishing world were the only path, writers were free to do what they did best. Create. Edit. Ponder. Write some more. The current publishing climate is for control freaks and workaholics and jackanabes that subsist on every review morsel, be it nourishing or not. I know, because I am one of them. Or was. I can feel my diet shifting back to a healthy dose of what this gig is all about. Creating. Editing. Pondering. Writing some more.

And loving it.

If you're interested in my latest project, be sure to follow me on Twitter. I'll be providing a link the day it hits virtual shelves.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Going Rambo on Time Travel

So now Sylvester Stallone is a time traveler? I can imagine, were it true, he would have loftier ambitions than Pope Gregory IX at the Vatican. Snooze, right? I picture him in more of a butt-kicking revolutionary soldier. Here's Jack Black, Brad Pitt and a few others celebrity doppelgangers if you're up for comparing.

Now that the Vortex is re-calibrated for time travel again, I present my theory that has only recently solidified: time travel and television don't mix.

Sure, there are a few obscure series who have found a niche audience, but for the purposes of my argument, I'm talking major networks, major audience, major prime-time exposure. And sure, shows like the Twilight Zone and Star Trek tackled time travel successfully, but in the context of single, self-contained episodes. 

First, lets tackle the audience. We have the attention span of a gnat. We find men who can withstand extensive groin-kicking entertaining.We have hundreds of channels at our fingertips that splinter our viewing experience to channel-surfing sound bytes.

Then, there's the networks. Executives at pitch meetings hear a fantastic high-concept for a series: Awake,  Alcatraz, Journeyman, Terra Nova, Life on Mars to name a few. Perhaps they are people like me who love time travel and all its complex dynamics and inherent conflict. They think if they cast hotties from the UK into lead roles, it will drive American audiences to their couches each week.They forget their audience is comprised of gnats who would rather see fake tans and bad sex than anything remotely stimulating to the intellect. But mostly, they forget that if the premise of their show is based on time travel, it can't be wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end of the hour. And therein lies the problem.

Television is inherently fragmented. Anyone not on board from the beginning will not step onto a moving, swirling vortex of time travel confusion and the series is headed for cancellation before it ever starts.

The late 1980s series Quantum Leap worked because, for the most part, each episode was self-contained. There was a larger mythology, but it wasn't necessary to understand the bigger picture to enjoy Sam and Al's time leaps. It also aired at a time of fewer choices, thus, a more concentrated, devoted audience.

Another exception was LOST. However, the time travel element was brought in long after it hooked audiences based on the initial scenario of plane crash survivors when audiences were so far committed into the WTF-ery that they would think: polar bears? On a tropical island? Sure, why the hell not!

This all makes me want to write J.J. Abrams a letter. Tell him I adore him for loving time travel the way that I do then advise him to stick to movies. Self-contained vessels for a more discerning audience.

What is your theory on why time travel shows can't succeed on network television?


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Word Clouds and Rituals

Greetings, Vortexers! I have emerged from the Twilight Zone writers refer to as "deadline hell" relatively unscathed. The novel I was ghostwriting is finished, soon to be turned in (and published), and it has left me a little bereft. Maybe it's because I haven't been here at the Vortex for awhile. Maybe I need to get my time travel mojo back. Maybe it's because I have to say goodbye to characters. Sounds nuts, I know. But spend all day, every day for months with the voices in your head, and they become real.

I'm not sure what book-ending rituals other writers have. I have Wordle. The absolute final thing I do before I call a work finished is cut and paste it, in its entirety, into the wordle text box. Wordle takes the most frequent words and creates a montage, which you can then jack with artistically. This accomplishes two things. Practically, it helps the writer to know if there is a glaring overuse of some inconsequential crutch word-the larger the word, the more frequently it appears in the text. Visually, it's a beautiful representation of a lot of hard work.
Wordle: Novel
I'm not sure how much of this novel I'll be able to share with Vortexers since it was ghostwritten, but I wanted to share its wordle. It's a romance novel, so I suppose it's a really good thing the hero's name, Chase, turned up the biggest. In this case, size does matter. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be at wordle no longer allow a simple cut and paste and increasing its girth only distorts the words. Ahem. But if you click on the mini-graphic it'll link you to wordle's page and a larger version if you're curious.

I look forward to catching up on life and friends and chores (crazy, I know). I might finally stop watching British television, clean out the meat drawer, paint a room or two and get back to volunteering.

For writers here, what are your book-ending rituals? For readers, do you have any rituals after you read that last page?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dream Looping

I wanted to check in today because I miss everyone. Deadlines are a bugger-boo. I love that faithful Vortexers and friends Todd and Robin are celebrating new releases. Way to go, you two! The dream is alive and well. I can't wait to check them both out.

The ghostwriting project I'm working on is now in the editing stage. If  you would have ever said I could write a novel in five weeks, I would have asked what you were smoking. I have always written like a turtle on my projects. Maybe because they're deep and dark and heavy on symbolism and subplots and theme, and in my mind-a serious-novel. This project, in a word: fun.

Writers tend to lose that fun along the way. Our first project is breezy (mostly due to the plot holes) and reckless. Then writers learn conventions and rules and rules to break and industry expectations and the writer-to-project relationship becomes a long-term marriage where the writer takes writing for granted and the writing scratches itself in public and never, ever helps out around the house. Getting back in touch with the breezy and reckless side was like a fast love affair with my dreams. And it's not over yet. For three more weeks, I get to live in this world then give it away. No clinging ties, no messy breakup. Just gone. Poof!

So  you don't miss out on all the time travel goodness too much, here's a sneak peek at the upcoming film, Looper, starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.




Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

British Men With Gooey Centers

Today has been a whack day for productivity. Crazy release days for favorite books. Crazy storms. Crazy calls and texts from friends and family about said storms. I feel loved but behind schedule. Late afternoon is also my least-stellar time for optimum output...come to think of it...any output, so I'm happy to inform Vortexers that you all are getting sloppy seconds on my creativity. You're welcome.

It has been quite a while, so I'm guessing you figured out that the hot British guy on the beach has been more than a handful. And as delightfully tingly as that, no doubt, makes at least half of you, I can't begin to tell you-almost halfway through this ghostwriting experience-how much I have learned about myself as a writer. So much, it really deserves a Vortex 10 on the back end, once my final deadline has passed, but consider this a sneak preview.

I have learned to respect my limitations. Some writers have wrist and carpal tunnel issues. Some writers struggle with weight issues from such an inactive profession. Some endure self-flagellation over procrastination and writer's block. My limitations are my eyes. It's no secret I get ocular migraines-I've mentioned that here before-but it's hard to express how the unceasing marriage of eyes to back lit screen can lead to frightening results. Deliberately disobeying my eye doctor's instructions because I become so deeply engrossed in the story is both irresponsible and foolish. I have one pair of eyes in this lifetime, and I must start being the best steward of them possible.

I have learned that I am capable of a tremendous output when motivated by external deadlines. I've learned writing first person point of view comes from a minty-fresh, underused portion of my brain only previously accessed by writing this blog. Oh, and I've learned that listening to the male British accent to immerse myself in character is akin to a chocolate eclair on a diamond-encrusted platter of inspiration.

Going subterrainean again. Take care of yourselves and each other while I'm hanging with the Brit.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Randy Blokes and Nebulous Vapors

So the hot guy at Thriller Beach turned out to be British. Who knew? For me, it marks the first time a character has opened his mouth for a line of dialogue and had an accent. Initially, I fought it. What intimate knowledge do I have of that accent save my summer crush the year I was an exchange student in Europe? Will I be leaning heavily on Harry Potter? This bloke, he was persistent. So here we are. Luckily there are some great online sources for British slang. A complete and total admiration for Matthew Goode and the Inbetweeners helps, too.

You may have noticed I suspended the grow-the-blog efforts. Deadlines can derail the best-laid plans. Guess that means launching into Facebook waters isn't necessary. At least, not yet. Can you see the smile erupting on my face?

On a sad note (or happy note, depending on who you are), International Time Travel Day winner Ingeborg has yet to come forward and claim her prize. If Ingeborg ever wants to claim it, I'd be happy to send out a second copy of Love, Texas Style. It's all about the love here, isn't it? So, via random.org, Denise Z. is the winner. Congrats, Denise! la-mitchell@la-mitchell.com to let me know where to ship your copy.

When will you hear from me again? For a short time, I'll be a bit like a vapor. Transparent and nebulous but still around when you least expect. Hopefully, without the stink. Plumbing has yet to be installed on Thriller Island.

Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Hot Guy Broke the Radio

The Vortex was busting at the seams  yesterday. Huge number of visitors. Huge. Thanks to everyone who took the extra time to drop a comment and enter the drawing. Via random number generator, the winner of Love, Texas Style is Ingeborg. Sadly, Ingeborg did not leave contact information and the blogger profile is blank, so I'm calling into the black ether in the hope that Ingeborg will contact me at la-mitchell@la-mitchell.com. I'll give Ingeborg until Sunday, March 18 at midnight CST before I head to the random number generator again. Thanks for time traveling with me, everyone.

In other news, I have taken on a ghostwriting project that will put my time travels on the back burner for a bit. Does that mean The Vortex will cease to report such cutting-edge time travel information as the cancellation of Terra Nova? (Shock! Can you see my face? No, really) Nah. The Vortex will still be here reporting from thriller island even if I have now invited the guy from the beach up into my Sawyer-style lean-to. It also means a grueling deadline, so if, from time to time, communications are quiet from thriller island, assume the hot guy broke the radio.

Since we're on the subject of ghostwriting, what is the most obvious case of ghostwriting you've encountered?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

International Time Travel Day! Woot!

What better way to celebrate Albert Einstein's birthday than to have a fun mess of authors offer up the chance to win their time travel stories for free?
Blog-hop and website-hop to the following and add your comment for a chance to win the time travel story each author has up for grabs. Authors draw a name at midnight EST, so be sure to visit early.


Madeline Baker  www.madelinebaker.net
Cate Rowan
Nicholas Wisseman
Chris Karlsen  www.chriskarlsen.com
Theresa Ragan www.theresaragan.com
Cheryl Kaye Tardif  www.cherylktardif.com
Pauline Baird Jones  www.paulinebairdjones.blogspot.com

The Vortex is proud to be part of this contest. Yes, it means if you are on feed you must click through and leave a comment; and yes, that means you'll have thirty less seconds to kill on pininterest, but if there was ever a day for Vortex love, it is ITTD. One lucky Vortexer will win a print copy of the Love, Texas Style anthology containing my time travel short story "The Lost Highway." Come often, comment much. Oh, and if this is your first time at The Vortex, you are already a Vortexer.

Have fun on your time travels!

Excerpt from "The Lost Highway":


     He scrambled after the crinkled stub, gravel puncturing  the worn denim across his knees, and captured it at the base of a wild fescue. His hope of finding her again restored to the safety of his pocket, he realized the sound was an approaching car.

     White. Almost invisible through the heat cloud had the cherry-red vinyl seats not harnessed the glaring sun. The classic, rocket-shaped convertible crawled along the fractured road. Fast enough to know the '59 Thunderbird still ran. Slow enough for him to absorb the driver within.

     A woman. Thick, blond hair snaked beneath a gauzy, patterned scarf. Tied beneath her chin, its triangular point snapped in the breeze like a flag in a presidential motorcade. Jeweled, almond-shaped sunglasses concealed most of her face. Doo-wap music blared from the car's speakers.

     Perfect. Fifty miles from civilization, and he was about to be rescued by Doris Day.



Comment, comment, comment! Go....

Monday, March 12, 2012

International Time Travel Pre-Fun

The Vortex is preparing this week for the seismic shift of International Time Travel Day on March 14th. Be sure to pop over here on Wednesday for your link-happy guide to other North American authors with time travel stories to give away. I'll be giving away Love, Texas Style, the anthology that contains my short story "The Lost Highway."

The selected romance stories for Love, Texas Style had one requirement: they all had to contain at least five of ten possible words related to Texas. The editor told me she picked mine because it was so "different." Never was there a more supreme compliment.

On a desolate west Texas highway, a man at a crossroads in his life meets a beautiful woman, lost in more ways than any cardinal point on a map. Her pristine 1959 Thunderbird, her matronly dress and her optimism conspire to place her out of touch with reality. In a race against the clock to reconnect with an old love, he discovers the captivating stranger has driven straight out of her own time and into the abandoned shell of his heart.

The idea for the story came from an account of two brothers who were traveling a desolate highway and drove past a woman broken down by the side of the road. According to one brother, she simply looked "out of her time." As they traveled on past a small knoll, the brothers realized they could not simply drive on and leave this woman without offering assistance. They turned around, not two minutes had passed, and crested that knoll again. The woman was gone.

Since we're talking time travel stories this week, what is your favorite time travel story of all time?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Writer, A King and an Orange Cat

Anyone impervious to the ways of the plotting writer need only look at this hot mess to appreciate the conceptual stages of a book. I don't have an available wall, so I conquered the kitchen table (and the cat's primary napping spot on sunny days). Here, she is expressing her displeasure by tipping my Hero's Journey white board and swiping the black moment clear out of the story.


Plans are coming together to celebrate March 14th as International Time Travel Day. Yes, there is this one, but what self-respecting time travel fan can wait that long? Look for links to other participating time travel author blogs where you can comment and win free books. As Mel Brooks would say, "It's good to be the king." Next, I shall declare an International MacGyver Day where we all use the contents of our purse or pocket to conduct a means of escape from our lives.

Lastly, thanks to Vortexer Melanie, who just so happens to have a minty-new, oh-so-yummy romantic crime thriller release this month,  for sending this public service announcement my way. So true.

You're the king! Declare a holiday in the comment section...

Friday, March 2, 2012

P90x for the Vortex: Principle 2

In this, week two of beefing up the Vortex's online presence, I'm tackling Principle 2: Participate in Communities Where Your Audience Already Gathers.

By nature, I'm a wallflower. So this will be a challenge.

First, I Googled keywords: time travel blogs, time travel authors, thriller author blogs, time thriller writers, thriller readers...you get the idea. I picked ten that sounded like something I would be interested in being part of-after all, I write what I love to read. I made an arbitrary list of ten, subscribed or otherwise bookmarked to ensure I would be able to frequent these sites, and tried his step 2 suggestion: expanding my list of ten using web-based  tools. Double Click Ad Planner was no help. I'd have rather flossed Abe Vigoda's teeth during those ten minutes.

Of course, this is only half the plan. I need to sink my toes a bit in each community, make thoughtful comments and find time to participate. Easier said than done, but I did find some fun places I can't wait to return to, like the t=time blog. Who knew there were other bloggers out there who loved all things time travel?

Are you participating in online communities where your blog audience gathers? Give us your best find so we may share in the awesomesauce.

Have a super weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Six Men, Alan Alda and a Nude Woman

Did I get you with that title? Awesome.

Leap Day has a special significance in the time thriller I'm reworking/editing. The entire novel works in a backward time sequence until the chain of events began, an unraveling of sorts for all the characters involved. Every four years, the six (thus the minty-new title, Six) men and their families would gather and celebrate until dawn for reasons too long-winded to share here. After my love interest's mother died, these celebrations turned dark and debaucherous--ooh, word of the day! And on this dark day, leap day 1980, the chain of events began. Thus is the climax of Six. It would have been synergistic with the universe to hit edits on that part today, but alas, I am nearing only midpoint. I hope to reach Six's leap day by early April.

If you're in the same mood I am today, head back to this post and remember the goodness that is Matthew Goode in Leap Year. I must confess to being on a bit of a streak with him after watching Brideshead Revisited this week, but it seriously screwed up my character dialogue for a hour afterward. Everyone was suddenly British and walking about saying, "Piss off!" I switched to Alan Alda in Same Time, Next Year. At least Alan won't mess with my character's dialogue. Unless, of course, they all start wanting to talk about their feelings. What man does that anyway? An accountant, no less! The closest my accountant gets to his feelings is when he talks deductions. Makes Alan's character a bit unrealistic, I'm afraid. Love you, Alan.

Also on my mind this week is Linda. Now, anyone who grew up in Denver and has, at some point, gone to the art museum there knows Linda. She is an incredibly lifelike sculpture of a beautiful, mostly-nude woman at rest by artist John DeAndrea. Sadly, she is comprised of a polyvinyl that has not aged well and breaks down in light, so she is sequestered most of the time now. I remember seeing her for the first time on a school field trip. Right around the same time, I was also researching self-hypnosis techniques, so I hung onto her when I needed to imagine myself a clear glass form, filling with water and emptying. I still do when I have something toxic that I can't seem to shake. In this revision, I'm happy to say she is part of it. A picture hardly does her justice. Standing close enough to see her eyelashes, you can't imagine that she won't gulp a breath and open her eyes.

Have a great leap day, everyone!

Friday: P90x for the Vortex: Principle 2

Monday, February 27, 2012

Where Time Travel and Heavy Metal Hair Meet

Imagine my delight when I found nine new friends who authored nine cross-genre books related to time travel who want to plan a promo day to celebrate where time travel stories and Albert Einstein's birthday intersect. Look for that spaztastic celebration in mid-March. Until then, I have some yummy Vortex nuggets for you.

Have you heard about the upcoming NBC show Awake? It's about a detective (played by Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame) who wakes from a coma following a tragic car accident only to realize two parallel and dueling realities are playing out: one where his wife died in the accident, one where his son died instead. Add to this two distinct jobs with two different partners and mysteries surrounding the accident that make no sense and you can imagine the dramatic potential for this character. If you can't wait until Thursday, fear not. You may sneak a peek at the pilot episode in its entirety here. Sadly, he doesn't wear the luscious locks of Lucius in this one. Couldn't let that alliteration by, could I?


The first local I encountered on Thriller Island was Ted Dekker. I heard so much about him, I chose one of his recent releases, The Priest's Graveyard to explore the confounding line between the Christian and Thriller markets. Oops. I adore this author's voice and love the story so far, but looking back, it wasn't the smartest choice. Dekker's earlier works are the only ones firmly in the Christian market camp and he has clearly found his niche in the mainstream. It is an important read for me. My next series is firmly rooted in the same overarching themes of good and evil and spirituality Dekker embraces.

Like the new blog digs? I'm resisting the pull of a website overhaul. Must. Write. Until. Published. Thought this would satisfy for now.

Friday, February 24, 2012

P90X for The Vortex: Principle One

First, our starting point because all experiments must have measurable outcomes. At this time, The Vortex has 55 feed followers and averages 28 page loads, 21 unique visits and 20 first-time visits per day.

Principle #1 To Increase Blog Traffic: Target Content to Audience Likely to Share

This is tricky for me. I've built my "author brand" on all things time and time travel. The target audience for my books is predominantly Doctor-Who-loving women who prefer mainstream over romance, but still welcome that part of a story. C.J. Lyons calls them "thrillers with heart." My primary demographic is young to middle-aged women (My mom's earwig quote: "Why do your books have to be so complicated?") who appreciate complex, multi-layer stories. Men are a welcome audience, too. The men in my hero-centric novels piss in public, curse like merchant marines and can be jerks sometimes.

I adopted a pen name using initials to increase mainstream sales. Yes, I was thinking WAY ahead. But in this forum, I can't hide that I'm female. Early on, for a year, maybe more, I didn't put up a photo and tried desperately to keep my posts gender-neutral and use words like "one" and "we" to disguise it. All that resulted was a less-than-personal author-to-blog visitor relationship. Eventually, I realized I wanted to create a community. Without putting all of me into the posts, it never would have happened.

Some of my most faithful Vortex followers are men. I love you men. You keep it real and gritty and balanced. I tend to think women, however, are more likely to be my "content distributors." Genetically programmed to be more social and take advantage of social media and share links. Does that mean more beefcake references? Nah. I think we have just the right amount of that protein here.

So if I follow Principle #1, my content should be centered on:

Book/Movie recommendations that target my primary audience.
Writing/Book Industry news related to Thriller Island
A gateway of all things time travel
with the occasional Fabio and Dean Butler reference tossed in for fun

Somewhere, I read the most successful writers blogs were 10% author, 10% writing life and 80% content area. Keeping all this in mind, I grade The Vortex at a B. Points off for too many "just for fun" labels, not enough content area.

Next Friday: Principle #2 - Communities Where Your Target Audience Gathers

If you have a blog, what is your primary audience? How do you grade your blog's content in relation to that audience?

Remember, anyone who wants to take their blog to the next level with me is invited to share here. I'll be sure to include links and we'll follow your blog's progress as well. All non-writing oriented blogs welcome, too. Have a super weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Vortex Experiment Has Nothing To Do With Time Travel. I Promise.

Since landing on Thriller Island last year, I haven't been the best at assimilating. There are locals wearing loincloths and chain mail--though not necessarily at the same time (historical thrillers), locals toting Bibles (Christian thrillers), locals with Indy hats eating bugs (action-adventure thrillers), locals stockpiling for bad weather and the apocalypse (disaster thrillers), locals cursing the awful satellite reception (techno thrillers) and locals packing heat and going all Gube hunting killers (crime/serial killer thriller). Have I missed any? Oh, yeah. The hot guy on the beach-side. He's a defector from Romancelandia (romantic thrillers). He resembles Matthew Goode, so we won't send him back.
Have I spoken to any of these locals? Found out what makes them tick? Not so much. I set up a time travel camp Sawyer-style with the books I already adore, put on my nerd glasses and wrote. I've said hello to a few of the psych locals but that's it. Today that all changes. I've added to my super-rigid goal list one local per week. I'll introduce myself and see where it leads. If any Vortexers have suggestions for exactly which locals I should talk to because they are wicked awesome examples of their thriller niche, do tell.

Friday, we're starting an experiment at The Vortex. We're putting the 21 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic article to the test. Why? Well, I figured the five year mark deserved something new. I'll divulge our starting line and we'll see where we end up. I'm fearful this means wading into Facebook waters, but I guess I can't be a holdout forever. Each Friday, we'll test another principle and see where it leads us. Join us with your blog, if you wish. I'll be generous with the link-backs if you do. And what would a Vortex series be without a delicious name? Suggestions in the comments, please.

See you Friday!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Mental Pilaf Made From Quinoa, Denim and Bite-Sized Chunks of Dean Butler

One should not let an opportunity slip away to celebrate being number one. Okay, so it's not the number one Publisher's Weekly three-book-at-auction deal for the week, but it feels good. Ready? Wait for it...wait for it...
Dean Butler shirtless.

Yep. Test it out. Ga-head, Google it. Number one, baby. Woooooo!

I'm completely distracted today because I didn't get enough sleep last night. I watched the celebrity-fat cinema experience that was Valentine's Day then was sad that it was a good two hours of my life I'd never get back. Think of the literary masterpieces I could have consumed in that time. Think of the literary masterpieces I could have generated in that time. Not even a gay Bradley Cooper character was worth that.

Anyone here ever eaten quinoa? These little parasite-wormy-like grains love my keyboard. Normally I don't eat while I write because I get ocular migraines and have to take screen-time-outs, but remember how awesome edits are going? I wanted to work straight through lunch yesterday and my quinoa wanted to jump ship to beneath my M key. Longest game of Operation with a mechanical pencil lead. Ever. And while we're on bizarre grains, all this week I've been eating from a bread loaf labeled Ancient Grains.  Does the mere application of the word ancient make it somehow healthier? What about stoic grains?

Mostly today, though, I'm mourning the departure of my favorite jeans. So instead of working on my gun-chase-through-a-major-urban-area scene, I'm wisely flexing my writing muscle today by writing a missive to the Levi Strauss Company that they will, most likely, never see:

Dear Levi Strauss execs,

I have a been a faithful customer for longer than Madonna has had Devo chest armor. I hung with your brand through years when your designers thought hey, let's spread those back pockets and make a woman's ass look larger. I hung with you when your red labels went geriatric large-print and made me look like my backside was part of a presidential motorcade. I hung with you when waistlines plunged lower than The Situation's IQ  because, hey, nothing is sexier than ass-crack-and, well, women don't need to sit down anyway. But then you stopped making my favorite number and your outlet sales clerk felt my pain about as much as getting her text allowance cut by five. Jeans aren't just pants for women. They are a full-on relationship. Thus, I am ending ours. Sure, Calvin Klein's swanky back pockets are so far south it makes me look like I'm packing heat or worse--bad rap tunes on my ipod; and sure, DKNY jeans are sized for DiNKY elf-like creatures, but I shall prevail in my search.

Sincerely,

A non-geriatric, non ass-crack consumer

Whew! I feel so much better. Thanks for letting me Ranty McRant. Now I can get back to some heat-packing of the fictional variety.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Must-See Flick

The first thing you need to know about 'Til Human Voices Wake Us, a recent favorite movie I'm about to gush on is that there are two versions: the original Australian version, more a romantic drama and slower in pace, and the International/American release, which is a ghosty-thriller version of a romantic drama.

Guy Pierce (of Memento awesomeness) plays Dr. Sam Franks, a psychologist who must return to his rural Australian hometown and bury his father. While there, he faces the one haunting memory from his past he has suppressed, the untimely death of his first teen-aged love, for which he feels responsible. Along his painful journey, he meets a young amnesiac woman named Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter) whose personality begins to parallel that of his young love. Much of the story is told in flashback where we see two amazingly talented young actors with an emotional connection that surpasses the two elder actors. At times, I didn't want to return to the present day, but without both pieces, the story could not have resonnated on so many levels. Sam Franks is also an unreliable narrator-which you know I have a special affinity for-because we are experiencing the story through his suppressed memories. The movie is quiet and haunting and beautiful and poigniant and I can't recommend it enough. If you see it, do come back and tell me what you thought.

If you love trailers like I do, here ya go...


Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Prophesy: Love At Cabela's

The Google Brotherhood of All-Up-In-My-Blog is now popping up a Google-Related toolbar at the bottom. Fascinating. Google picks up keywords from the website and suggests other sites or videos with related content. Wouldn't it be great if it helped with author marketability? Oh, wait...that would be too helpful. For now, I'm getting six pictures of Bill Murray in varying poses of disheveled career-dom and links to bob-mitchell videos that highlight the fulfillment of the end-of-world prophesy. Not quite the demographic I'm writing for, but this is all a work-in-progress, is it not?

Speaking of blogs, I just broke one of the (supposed) cardinal rules of blogging: No more than three lines of text before a paragraph break. Man, are you guys in trouble. This rule would have cramped Faulkner. It cramps me. I have faith in Vortexers that their attention span is longer than my attention span while watching the Grammy's.

Gotta cut this short today so I can do my part to get on the Valentine-gerbil wheel. You may think that since I sailed from Romancelandia, I am no longer a romantic. Not true. I am just into the quiet, the meaningful, the non-materialistic, the unpredictable, the messy, wonderful everyday parts of love. Here are links backs to two of my favorite valentine Vortex Lists and more, if you're so inclined:

Everything I Need to Know About A Woman's Heart, I Learned from a Romance Novel

But I Live in Gnaw Bone, Indiana! How Romance is Possible Anywhere. Even Cabela's.

Next up: My new favorite movie is probably one you've never heard of. Looooove it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Spiritual Bent

"The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty."  -Annie Lamott


Few characters come to mind when I look for examples of the kind of spiritual nature of the love interest character in my current novel Six. I welcomed the challenge of crafting a medical researcher who creates a biological agent that allows humans to access and alter their own perception of time but who also is a highly spiritual individual. At first glance, these two parts of her fundamental make-up seem mutually exclusive. How can a scientist--someone hard-wired to seek measurable outcomes and tangible results--have an overtly spiritual side that guides her choices?

In pop culture, two characters come to mind: Dana Scully (X-files) and John Locke (Lost). Both of them resonated on a far more spiritually-based plane than those around them. While Scully struggled to find meaning in everything and was forever questioning the status quo of her past faith and her role in her world, Locke had an unceasing faith in his destiny on--and off--the island and never lost sight of the big Kahuna (they were in Hawaii...geez) picture. They had both seen too much not to question everything they thought to be true.

Is it necessary to draw a clear line between religion and spirituality with these characters? Perhaps. The lines between the two blur for all of us at times. I suppose that is the allure of this character for me. We're all trying so hard to orchestrate the notes of our lives that we forget that the real point of it all is symphony we create together.

I think there's a strong connection between what we perceive as time travel and the bigger picture we have yet to understand. People who have near-death experiences say that not only do moments of their life "flash" before them, but they feel as if they are there, witnessing and living every memory all over again in the span of mere minutes, even seconds. Time is fluid and folded on itself and more complex that we'll ever understand in our lifetimes. For now, we'll leave it to the physics rappers and dancers of the world to sort out. Oh, and the fictional characters in my world.
What other characters in literature or cinema who have a spiritual bent?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Naked Awesome Cellists

Can I express to you with any degree of accuracy how much I despise Blogger bullying me into using a different browser? But I digress...

Today is a naked-awesome kind of day. Why? Edits are still going amazing, thus the long snooze between posts. Most days I hit my daily goal and don't want to leave my story world, so I don't. I changed the title from Chasing Midnight, which is so Romancelandia-sounding, so tired, so years ago, to Six. At least Six is the working title. There is so much symbolism surrounding that number in the story, including the six o'clock hour which is the fulcrum point for time reversal each day. I can also see Six in ginormous typeface on a cover, can't you? Sounds more mainstream thriller.

The best part of today's naked-awesomeness is the discovery of a group of classically-trained Finnish Cellists who rose to fame playing Metallica tunes entirely on strings. How--you're asking, I know--did I find such a group? I was searching for one of those nebulous words and reached out into the ether of the internet in the hope that the Google-Search-anticipator-machine could help me land just the right word. I was in a high-octane scene and needed a visceral response for this guy's heart, so I was thinking apoplexic, apopelectic...oh geez...you get the idea. Google landed me on Apocalyptica. I'm very much old-school Metallica, so I have a special affinity for the end of their version of Master of Puppets. Who cares if it's like heavy-metal-muzak? There's something beyond awesome about a half-naked, long-haired guy who looks like he could kick your arse and beat you at the Mozart category on Jeopardy (1:50).


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Watch Out For That First Step. It's a Deeeeeewsey.

You might think today I'd be thinking of cute, furry little creatures or even the sneeze of an impact Punxsutawney Phil's prediction had on today's activities, but you'd be wrong. Mostly I was thinking of the Bill Murray variety of Groundhog Day. And while you may not care to know that I've had an irrational crush on him no matter how long in the tooth he gets, here are some fun things via imdb.com you may not know about the movie:

In one scene, Connors throws himself from the bell tower of a high building. This building is actually an opera house in Woodstock, Illinois. Local legend has it that a ghost of a young girl haunts the building since a girl once fell off of the balcony section inside the opera house and died.

Bill Murray was bitten by the groundhog twice during shooting.

On the DVD, Harold Ramis states that the original idea was for him to live February 2nd for about 10,000 years. Later he says that Phil probably lived the same day for about 10 years

Originally, Phil was supposed to murder the groundhog in his lair. This was changed, however, since it seemed too much like Caddyshack.

The idea comes from 'The Gay Science', a famous book by Friedrich Nietzsche. In his book, Nietzsche gives a description of a man who is living the same day over and over again.

Harold Ramis considered Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and John Travolta for the role of Phil Connors, but he considered them as "far too nice" compared to Bill Murray.

There are exactly 38 days depicted in this film either partially or in full.

And if that wasn't enough, there's more.
 



Have a great Groundhog Day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dean Butler Might Need An Acceptance Speech

I'll be flying my nerd-flag today to mark the five year anniversary of the place we call The Vortex. If you look at the early posts, it's all navel-gazing and writing philosophy and deep thoughts worthy of Jack Handy. Now, it's delivered straight up, sometimes over the rocks. Who doesn't love graphs?

Okay, so the first year I didn't keep stats. I was too busy over thinking metaphors. Label the red box whatever you wish: an oops hit, an I-thought-this-was-the-Kiwi-L.A. Mitchell, someone looking for Fabio's music tracks.  Which leads me to my next statistic. You didn't think that was all, did you? Since it's awards season, let's strap on our Joan Rivers and announce the most over-Googled keywords during these five years:

Fifth place:

Fourth

Third

Second


First
I'm not kidding. Wish I was. Maybe he should be a Vortex member. I'll get on that.
My feedburner stats, while equally impressive and rather like a gradually alarming slope in Ireland would not be nearly as much fun as this one:

Vortexers rock. Thanks for five fun years.