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.


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 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 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:




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.