Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNo. Yeah. I'm Doin' It.

November is almost upon us and that means the writerly inclined the world over are talking about one thing - National Novel Writing Month AKA NaNoWriMo or just NaNo.

Now, I've never actually participated in the one month write-fest, the goal of which is to complete 50,000 words in 30 days, but this year it is on, y'all. I'm in. Locked and loaded and all that stuff. This month is also a release month for me (Reawakening Eden! post apocalyptically awesome!) so I'll probably be talking about that more than anything here on Das Blog, but I'll grab a NaNo widget and put it over in the sidebar there so you can harass me if I appear to be falling behind.

Are you NaNo-ing? Is it your first time two? Your twentieth? How do you feel about a one month compulsive write-fest?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sexorcism Going CHEAP, Y'all

I have never before, in all my live-long-days, seen The Sexorcist print version (regularly priced at $15 a pop) at such a screaming good deal.

Amazon. $3.71.

I kid you not, you guys. 75% off.

Now, I am a sucker for a deal. Resistance is futile in Casa Andrews when it comes to the value buys. (I already bought a stack for giving away and I'm having a really hard time not going back for seconds... so tempted.) If you are anything like me, now is the time, minions! Our moment has arrived! Like Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd at the end of Trading Places, buy buy buy. Though sadly, unlike Dan and Eddie, this purchase is unlikely to result in such mad profit that we then snap up a Caribbean island of our very own, where even our butlers have butlers. Wouldn't it be great if books were like orange juice futures? Forget pork bellies. Stock brokers are wandering Wall Street, puffed up and bragging about the killing they made in Kresley Cole futures.

I seem to have drifted slightly off topic. To recap the Public Service Announcement: Sexorcist. $3.71. Amazon. Consider yourself informed.

Have you guys seen other similar deals? Other print books going for mad crazy rates? Cuz I'm feeling spendy spendy spendy...

**UPDATE: Oh noes, you guys! The sad! The sale went away. It's back up to normal prices. Which kinda makes me want to cry a little. I will keep you posted if it miraculously drops back to the happy zone.**

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Heads Up, Tweeple

If you are on The Twitter and you want a shot at winning an advanced copy of Reawakening Eden - the post-apocalyptic romancey goodness coming in four short weeks - be sure you follow @sknighteditor and look for the hashtag #NovARC for details on how to win!

When life is a struggle, love is the ultimate luxury.

Librarian Eden Fairfax knows exactly where to find books about survival. None of them mentioned how to manage in the aftermath of a worldwide epidemic—with two young orphans in tow.

On a journey south to warmer climes, she finds sanctuary for all three of them among a community of survivors in Seattle. Until she realizes the children are the centerpiece of their bizarre new religion. There’s no choice but to run as far and as fast as her stolen car will go.

Former Army Ranger Connor Reed had planned to live out the end of the world in peace. Yet he can’t stand by and do nothing while a lone woman defends two children from an armed thug. Even if doing something means taking the trio in.

Eden’s not sure if the armed hermit is her salvation or an even more dangerous threat. A blizzard forces her to trust him with their lives, and in Connor’s arms she remembers what it’s like to live.

Just beyond the edge of the storm, though, the cult leader awaits his chance to get his hands on the children—and make Eden his next sexual sacrifice.

Warning: This book contains a strong, silent action-hero, a tough, tenacious heroine, a pair of steal-your-heart kids, and a pony-sized dog named Precious.

Pre-Order from Samhain :: Amazon :: B&N

I've been rather quiet on the blog lately, mostly because I am deep in edits at the moment and they are sucking up all my energy/will to live, but I promise to come back to you soon, beloved reader minions... unless Death By Edits proves to be truly fatal. Wish me luck.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Would You Have Read The High Bouncing Lover?

Turns out, that is almost what The Great Gatsby was called. Mental Floss has an article about ten classic books and their almost-titles.

Seemed topical since this week has been all about titles for me. Did I mention we have an anthology title for the Samhain Superhero antho that I'm in along with Jodi Redford and Kimberly Dean? It's Midnight Justice, baby. What do you think? Better than bouncing lovers?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Survey Says...

You like books, right? You like winning them, right? So hie yourself on over to the Ruby blog. Just take a brief survey about your book buying tendencies and you can win some books! Woot! Your personal information (email) is ONLY for the purpose of contacting you in case you are selected as a winner and will not be used for any nefarious or obnoxious purposes. Or really any purposes other than to give you books should you be drawn as a winner.

And if you're interested in the survey results, be sure to come back on Monday the 24th to see exactly how freakishly abnormal your book-buying tendencies may be compared to the rest of the world (or at least that portion of the rest of the world who took the survey).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Got Titles?

Need a title for a manuscript? At the Ruby blog we're brainstorming for the masses today and DUDE I'm having an abnormally good time throwing out (semi) helpful suggestions! Want to help name a yet-to-be-published book? Come play!

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Take Feedback

So you've written your novel (woot!), you've found a critique partner or vaguely impartial loved-one to read it, and they've given you an opinion (or several). Now comes the tricky part. Learning to take it. Maybe some people are born with this ability, but I think for most writers just starting out, it takes some practice to perfect. The trick, I think, is learning not to argue with your audience.

If someone says your heroine seems unmotivated, it's tempting to explain to them why their reaction is unreasonable. How you put in that one sentence in chapter three and if they'd only read it right they would see her motivation crystal clear. It's instinctive to defend our work, but every reader is going to react to it differently and you have to respect their reaction. Instead of trying to get them to read it right, or explaining why their reaction wasn't the one you wanted, consider how you can make your heroine's motivation more clear, how you can make it so your reader has NO CHOICE but to react the way you want them to. Box them in with your precision prose.

Think of your beta readers as people who are helping you find the places where your reader might escape your carefully laid path, and then patch the fences to keep them neatly corralled. And thank your betas. Profusely. Because it is much MUCH better to find out about problems in your book when you still have a chance to fix them rather than after the paying customers get their hands on it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fix It Friday: Real Steel

There is a real art to the underdog story. You start with a character you can root for, someone you like and/or relate to and can really get behind. Then you put that character up against impossible odds, and just when it seems like all hope is lost, your character's heart, tenacity, faith and sheer willpower drag them through to an incredible victory. And everybody cheers!

Karate Kid. Seabiscuit. Rocky. Rudy. Major League. We've seen it time and again and we just keep coming back for more, because that addictive underdog story sweeps us up and carries us on a tide of feel-good tinglies right out of the theatre.

Real Steel was not that movie.

Reel Steal wanted to be that movie. It wasn't trying to be Death Race or Running Man or any other kind of dystopian-social-commentary-anything. There were moments when it almost wanted to be Free Willy (if Willy was a giant robot rather than a giant whale), but in this edition of Fix-It Fridays, we're going to teach Real Steel how to be a feel-good underdog story. Ready? Let's get to it.

**STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Spoilers! We got 'em and we're not afraid to scatter them wantonly throughout the post. Consider yourself warned.**

Let's start by looking at ingredient number one of the underdog story: the hero you can root for. Within the first fifteen minutes of Real Steel, we know that Our Hero is running from several people to whom he owes large sums of money and we get to see how he came to be in debt when he himself instigates a reckless bet for twenty-thousand dollars which he loses when he is distracted by a random cute girl in the crowd, allowing his robot (and only source of income) to be destroyed. We also learn that he is a prick with children when he tells a trio of adorable little girls that they can only have a picture with his robot if they give him five bucks. AND THEN, as if that wasn't enough to make him the apple of everyone's eye, we learn that he abandoned his child a decade ago and does not know that child's age - consistently referring to him as nine rather than eleven (even after he and said son have started to bond). What do you say? Isn't that the kind of guy you want to see rise up against the odds and win the day? Of course he is. Especially after he offers to SELL his legal custody of his son (whom he sort of inherited after the mother died) to his ex's sister for a hundred grand and only agrees to spend time with the kid to seal the deal.

At this point in the film, I don't want to see him succeed. I don't even really want to see him learn his lesson about what it is to be a father and grow as a human being. I just want to see a robot malfunction and pummel the hell out of him. Please.

That's not an underdog. That's an asshole. Don't worry, Hollywood, it's an easy mistake to make. They look so darn similar.

Let's move on to tenet number two of the successful underdog film: impossible odds. We are shown a brief montage about midway through the film demonstrating the unbeatable awesomeness that is the super-robot Zeus. I think I might be supposed to dislike the team behind Zeus, though it is hard to tell why, unless it is based on the fact that they are beautiful, rich and intelligent enough to build an undefeatable robot. Yes, the odds of defeating Zeus are impossible, but they aren't really in front of our hero & his kid. Our heroic father-son robot team essentially call them out on national television, so... well, let's look at it like this: would you still root for David if he ran around trash-talking Goliath until Goliath finally agreed to fight him?

And the third element - victory through heart, passion, willpower, etc. Oi. When we see Rocky get knocked down and he struggles to his feet, in spite of the pain we know he must be in, we are awed by his strength of character. The makers of Real Steel were at a disadvantage. They don't have Rocky. They have a robot which cannot feel pain (regardless of the fact that they made a couple half-assed attempts to humanize it a la A.I.) and when he is knocked down and struggles back up in the face of system-failure, it isn't willpower that does it (his or his operator's), it's just mechanics. I'm not moved by my toaster's ability to keep popping up the toast, day after day, no matter the abuse heaped on it.

So how do we fix it? Oh my. Brace yourselves, darlings. This is a big 'un. It might take a while.

First, a quick fix with a flaw in the premise - the idea that a bloodless bloodsport could replace real boxing because it was "more violent" which implies that violence without actual threat of injury or danger is more riveting than the same including the potential for human injury... dude, seriously? Instead, we say that real boxing was outlawed because all of the MMA stuff had gotten out of control with folks dying in the ring and Robo-Boxing took its place as a safer alternative.

Honestly, if I were going to really fix this baby, I'd probably ax the entire opening and re-angle the entire film to be more from the kid's perspective. His is the most interesting story to me. But to keep as much of the story-structure in place as possible, we're going to let Hugh Jackman continue being The Star... and a huge douche (though we are going to down-grade his asshole quotient by a factor of ten).

We open on a scene twelve years before the action of the plot. It's Our Hero's big fight, his big chance as a boxer. The high point of his career. We see his trainer (Evangeline Lilly's dad), we see Evangeline and her puppy love for his manly self, and we see the woman who will become Max's mom. The commentators at the match are talking about the new Robo-Boxing fad and whether it will ever take off. Our hero will get cold-cocked by the Texas jerk in a Mayweather-esq move of questionable sportsmanship. He goes down and sustains some injury such that his career is over. He will leave the girlfriend (Max's mom-to-be) and his trainer and everyone and head off to try his luck in the Robo-ring, because he sees himself as a fighter and only that. He can't stop now. He will not know that Max was conceived and therefore is not a dead-beat dad on purpose. But we learn all of that throughout the course of the film. We cut away at the knockout.

What next we see is Our Hero, down on his luck, trying to string something together, strapped for cash and in debt (but not gambling stupidly) and getting unlucky (not losing due to his own stupidity and overly cocky attitude). The kid he didn't know about lands on his doorstep unexpectedly and he's stuck with him for a few months but he DOES NOT sell the child and he tries to sort of play at dad half-heartedly. I know this makes it into a dozen other cliche cheesy family-friendly movies (many starring the Rock and an adorable girl who likes to bedazzle footballs), but having your hero actually SELL his freaking CHILD... it's hard to come back from that when it comes to likeability.

When they find the robot, Atom, our hero will humor the kid at first (rather than telling him over and over again that his dream is stupid and pointless) and then eventually start to believe in the 'bot and through that begin to bond with the child. To make sure we still have conflict, he could, at some point, sell the kid's bot out from under him for the money and then have to make it right. Or perhaps child protective services becomes involved at some point and he has to prove that he's a fit father... but what we need is for him to be struggling against circumstances, not causing his own bad situation with bad choices (and the bad karma of his extreme jerkishness).

Also, the bad-guy 'bot, Zeus, and his owners could offer up some kind of prize to anyone who can defeat the undefeated robot. That gives the kid a motivation to challenge the Big Bad to a fight and provides a concrete reward if they win. It's always good for the audience to know what we're rooting for. (As it stands, I'm not even a hundred percent sure how this story ended. Who has custody of the kid?)

And after we've done all that, after we've developed concrete stakes for the prize-fight and have a root-able hero, we just hope that it's enough to counteract the fact that robots don't have feelings and can't overcome their emotional challenges. (Or perhaps we go to greater lengths to demonstrate that the robot has human-esq cognition. That could be cool. To have it "glitch" at convenient moments to help the kid or demonstrate emotion of some kind.)

That's the fix (or as much of one as I have energy for tonight). Then maybe, just maybe, then we'll have the makings of an underdog story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Golden Heart Tips

Today I'm over at the Ruby blog, talking with my fellow Rubies about writing tips for folks who are focused on entering the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart awards. If you are of the writing inclination, swing on by and check out the Rubies' series of Golden Heart tips.

My brilliant tip? Luck. It's all luck. That's my theory.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ghost Art!

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past, my ghosts and Valentine's curses novella (or perhaps we should call it a novella-plus since it's a bit on the long side) which'll be hitting the shelves this coming January now has a pretty face to show the world! Look, everyone, ART!

Angela Waters gave me this slice of pretty to show off. Isn't it deliciously curse-ish? I'm all aflutter.

What do you think? (And does anyone else want to steal that model's hair? Or is that just me?)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Love is SUPER!

The "i"s are dotted. The "t"s crossed. You know what that means, boys and girls. I can talk about it! Woot!

It's official. My superhero romance, Superlovin', will be included in the Spring Samhain anthology of Superhero Sexiness! It's love in capes, y'all! You know spandex has never been sexier. (I flippin' love this book, y'all. Sooooo excited.)

What happens when a superheroine finds herself falling for the very supervillain she was sent to thwart? Tune in this Spring to find out. Just in time for the next Avengers fix! (Yes, I want to be Black Widow when I grow up.)

I would kermit flail with glee right now except for the fact that I'm likely to send myself into a coughing fit, so please dance around your living rooms on my behalf until I'm healthy enough to manage it myself.