Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ready. Set. Read!

“Call me Ishmael.”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

“It was a drag queen’s worst nightmare.”

A good opening line doesn’t always mean that you’re in for an entertaining read, but it’s an auspicious start. It sets the tone. It pulls you into a story. It should give the reader an idea of what kind of book is in store. And it’s often the hardest part of a book to write.

Of the three lines above, two are classics and one is mine. Can you guess which one?

No. I did not write A Tale of Two Cities. But thank you for thinking I'm that old.

“It was a drag queen’s worst nightmare” is the opening line to DRAMA! The Four Dorothys. It’s my favorite first line that I’ve ever written. And I didn’t even write it. I "borrowed" it from a friend (with her permission) who responded with that quote when I told her the plot of the story. But how could I not use it? That line totally encapsulated the tone of the entire book series in just seven words. That’s a lot to ask from a sentence.

Which leads me to wonder if any of you have a favorite opening line? Either from books you’ve read or books you’ve written? Enquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ye Olde Mailbag

One of the best things about being a writer? The letters. I've received letters and e-mails from all over the world with questions and comments about my books. Some questions show up in many of the letters I receive, so I'm betting other authors get them, too. For today's blog, a few answers:

1) Are You Your Characters? Or Are They People You Know?

No. Characters--at least in fiction--are figments of the author's imagination (see your Merriam-Webster for the definition of "fiction.") Speaking for myself, there may be facets of people I've met in the characters I've created, or there may be snippets of conversations I've overheard worked into a character's personality, but that's the extent of it. If an author wants a career--that is, they want to write multiple books, year after year--then they need to create a variety of characters with a range of personality traits. It'd get boring writing (or reading!) about the same characters forever. Plus, wouldn't it be awful if authors WERE their characters? Think about some of Agatha Christie's murderers. Or Stephen King's demented villains.

2) Do You Design The Covers Of Your Books?

Nope. Folks with backgrounds in graphic design, art, and photography do that. The wonderful Amy Saidens does the covers for the romantic comedy line. She has talents most authors don't!

3) Why Did (Such and Such Character) Do Something So Stupid?

There are several answers to this question, so take your pick: a) Because perfect characters are boring; b) Because normal people make mistakes; c) Because it made the story more interesting; d) Because if the character hadn't made that mistake, they wouldn't have discovered XYZ.

4) Can You Name A Character _________ ? And Give Her A Boyfriend Named ____________ ?

If I do, it's coincidence. But thanks for the suggestion. (And hey, if you have characters and a story in mind, maybe YOU can write it! Why not?!?)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Too close for comfort

I have never blogged about this because my close call doesn’t seem close enough to be a close call. But just today another online article was posted about Flight 1549 that crashed into the Hudson River in New York City last January. It will not leave me alone, so I’m going to blog about it and get it off my chest.

That was my flight.

No, I was not supposed to be on it that day. No, I had not been on it the day before. I was not supposed to be on it the following day. I was supposed to be on it in two weeks.

Two weeks after the crash, I flew to New York to see my BFF from high school, attend a writers’ conference, and meet Editor Mike. My flight back was supposed to be Flight 1549 from LaGuardia to Charlotte; in Charlotte I would pick up my return flight to Birmingham.

On the day of the crash, I was watching the news reports when my husband called from the road. He’d heard about the crash on the radio in his car and wanted me to tell him more about it. He really empathized with the victims because he flies so often from Birmingham to Charlotte and from Charlotte all over the country. He wanted to make sure the passengers were okay.

In the back of my mind I was thinking...Charlotte? LaGuardia to Charlotte? Naaah... And then when I logged onto my computer, I had an e-mail from U.S. Air: “Your Flight 1549 in two weeks has been changed to Flight 1548.” Translation: “We are sorry but your airplane is floating in the Hudson.”

Everyone I’ve told about this story has laughed with me about it. My BFF said the airplane floated right past her office in the Garment District. If I had been on it, she would have waited for me to be rescued and met me at the ferry with a latte. In addition to the two-weeks-out scenario, it’s easy to laugh about because no one was killed. The folks unlucky enough to have been on this flight were as lucky as possible.

I would not let this or the French crash stop me from flying. They say it’s safer than driving and I absolutely believe it. Still, I have to say, I was very nervous flying home. I was on the lookout for birds. And all around me, the other passengers seemed unconcerned. “What is the problem? We are on Flight 1548!”

Surely you have a better brush-with-death story than this. What’s your close call?

Friday, June 05, 2009

I Winnn!!!

What? You didn't know I was playing a game? Well, I was. And the game is called Blog On the Given Day. You see, our illustrious blog overseer Jenn assigns us days to blog (not out of a desire to control the world, but simply to spread out the goodness during the month). To win the game, I really need to blog on my given day (the 5th of the month). Jenn, being a benevolent overseer, is clear that our given day is a roundabout number. Hitting somewhere nearby -- for me, say, the 7th or the 3rd -- would be just fine.

Today, I win by hitting the bullseye -- today is June 5th! Yay me. [I thought it was the 6th, and I was one day off, so this is probably a much sweeter moment for me than anyone can truly understand.]

I have missed two months in a row completely, but this new bullseye clears my record and I can do the victory dance (at least, by my rules, I can). So picture me (on second thought -- don't) doing the victory dance on the blog goal line.

This may seem to be a post without a relevant topic (something I personally loathe), so let me connect my uber-extravagant-cool-bullseye win with a point: set your goal, and celebrate when you make it.

Just for example, if you graduated or are graduating in the past or upcoming few weeks: celebrate. And not just the cap and gown, listen to the speakers kind of celebration. Nope. I want you to celebrate in the way that means the most to you. Outside celebration and recognition is wonderful -- really, I got a bike for my high school graduation (never used it because I am the world's most dangerous bike rider), lots of cash, and some fun graduation parties (and I soooo don't count the family party). But that was other people celebrating their relief/joy that I had met one of the big milestones for entering adulthood.

Graduating high school meant I was eligible for college, of course, but also that a larger job market was now available (I was only 17 when I graduated, and didn't turn 18 until I was already a freshman in college). That I was, in essence, soon to be off my parents' tax forms and grocery list. My parents and relatives could breath a sigh of relief that I'd completed twelve laps on the way to being an adult (I didn't go to kindergarten, though I wish I had).

Looking back, I can fully appreciate that sense of relief, especially since I have now managed to get all three of my children into the fitful world of adult responsibility, and two of them are not listed on my tax forms any longer.

But what I remember most, is what I did to celebrate for myself -- I agreed to help my aunt (whose Navy husband was deployed for six months), by being her "au pair" for the summer. I traveled by bus from New Castle, Delaware to Jacksonville, Florida -- alone (full disclosure -- my mother and aunt made all the logistical arrangements, as I was a complete traveler-doofus still).

My Aunt Patty made sure I had plenty of beach and reading time, but I helped out by overseeing and being a second pair of hands to take care of my cousins, who were 5 and 18 months. We even took my older cousin, and another 5 year old cousin to Disneyworld (in August...which is why DH and I took our kids to Disney in January when we went). It was the perfect break for bookish, shy, and timid me. I have to say it prepared me for college in a way I didn't appreciate at the time.

Behind me were the days of school buses, class bells, and a set schedule. Ahead were the responsibilities of getting myself up and out for classes (and really, the hardest part was sometimes tearing myself away from the 24 hour Pinochle game going on in the dorm lounge...blush...cringe.)

And for that summer, I reveled in winning the high school game. Getting the diploma. Getting into college. And having an entire summer at the beach with an aunt and two cousins I adored.

So -- whatever you won recently, remember to award yourself a prize that has nothing to do with other people's joy/relief. It's okay if it is being a family au pair (I loved babysitting my cousins, but this was a step up from that). Or, like my husband did, taking a week long beach camping trip with just your peers. It doesn't matter if your personal celebration is small or grand. You just need to thank yourself when you set a goal and *you* make it!

Enjoy the summer!


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Pub Story: Erin Downing

One more thing from me on Pub Day for Drive Me Crazy....

The lovely Reviewer X has this cool thing going where she posts stories about how writers got their start - in their own words. A new story pops up every Tuesday, and they're all really, really different and incredibly interesting. Want to know how I went from reader to book editor to writer-without-an-agent? Check this out.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Drive Me Crazy...out tomorrow!

Hey everyone. You may have seen that I've been running a little contest to win copies of Drive Me Crazy, my next Simon Pulse Ro Com, that is in stores tomorrow! (Head over to my website if you missed the ends tomorrow.)

I asked people to tell me about their favorite romantic comedy and why they love it. I got SO MANY responses from very passionate readers. In order to help readers who are somewhat new to this line, I thought it would be fun to post some of the responses here so you can see what other people love about these books. (Note: This is definitely not every response - this is just the tip of the iceberg!)

“I like the whole idea of crashing proms…and the fact that they get to go to so many proms!”

“It’s the only multiple-love interest ro com I've ever read that has an ACTUAL question of which cute boy the heroine will end up with. In fact, I was genuinely surprised (but very pleased) that Emily ended up with [?]…Not to mention that her friends and all the crashing of proms was totally awesome.”

“I really loved this book because the two characters, Drew and Virginia, are so different, but they still manage to get along in the end…I love Jennifer Echols style of writing.”

“Because I love the hate-love relationship that goes on between the two main characters, Virginia and Drew”

“The book never fails to make me laugh, and I've read it at least three times.”

“The extreme sarcasm and band geek boy.”

“The characters are great…the entire book was dripping with dramatic irony that just made me want to scream at the characters in the book, to let them know the truth so they don't screw it up!...Basically, I finished, flipped the book over, and started again.”

“It is the most heart wrenching, adorable, and best book I have ever read!!! … It was the sweetest love story I have read and I could just babble on about how I loved it but I think I will stop here.”

“It’s a real page turner, the whole plot keeps you hooked, you like don't wanna put the book down and it’s really interesting. The plot has all these twists and turns and you're just like OMG!”

“One of the main reasons is that I don't really like summer (actually, that's kind of an understatement), I'm more of an Autumn/Winter, rainy-day type girl but this book actually made me excited for summer…plus, the characters were awesome, funny and relatable.”

“It's just so funny and well-written…it was a very original plot.”

“I thought that the romance was handled in a fresh and clever way.”

“It had a good romance element but was also very funny. The characters were very realistic. Very original too.”

(I think I maxed out on images...check out the covers for the books below in the right sidebar!)

“I could relate to Jane's character and I loved the idea of Radio Karma…Animal Attraction gives me so many laughs whenever I pick it up.”

“It was really sweet and quirky at the same time. You just had to feel happy.”

“I love to read, so I like that she uses a book club to get guys!”

“I like how the main character Cass Parker is totally together and how she doesn't let the fact that she broke up with her boyfriend bother her.”

“It was one of those books you couldn’t put down until you were done. Very funny and interesting.”

“Because I love Greek mythology and that's what it's plays on.”

What your favorite???