Sunday, February 24, 2008

Update

I spent the weekend at the DFWWW Writers' Conference and am now sufficiently motivated to finish The Bodley Boys. Once one hears Candace Havens speak, one cannot possibly say "I do not have enough time to write." Finish and revise by March 31st. Those are my goals and by committing to them here, I'm hoping my friends and critique partners will hold me accountable.

On another note, a member of the Writers' Guild of Texas has asked me to pass this on. As writers, we need to support each other. I saw the blurb on his book and it looks fascinating. I will buy it.


Hi all,
I was asked to post on this site a way you can help. I have selfpublished a novel through iUniverse called The Samson Effect. It haswon their Editor's Choice, Publisher's Choice, and their Reader'sChoice honors. I was also able to get Clive Cussler (New York bestselling author with over 100 million books in print) to read mymanuscript and provide a cover quote for it. I am also working with amajor Hollywood film producer to turn the book into a movie.Here is where I need your help. The national booksellers at Barnes andNoble have decided to place The Samson Effect in their high profilestore at US 75 and Northwest Hwy this Tuesday for a test run of 2months. The book will be displayed on their New Paperback table at thefront of the store. If the book does well there, they will considerlaunching it nationwide.You don't know how much I would appreciate it of you could pick up acopy there. Also, please pass the word to your friends and family wholove to read. You can bring books to our meeting for me to sign foryourself or friends who purchase them. This can make a unique gift foremployees, friends, or family.Okay, thanks for indulging my pitch. I just really need your help totake advantage of this rare and short lived opportunity. The book willbe available Next Tuesday, Feb. 26th. If you get there and the book isnot on display, that's a good thing. It means it's sold out. Just askBN to order you a copy. The more request like that, the more likelythey will order larger stock.Here is the info about the store and the book:Barnes & NobleLincoln Park7700 West Northwest Hwy. Ste. 300Dallas, TX 75225214-739-1124The Samson EffectTony EldridgeISBN: 9780595451722Thanks in advance for any support you can give me.Tony Eldridge

Monday, February 18, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog

Lately I've been feeling as though blogging is chipping away at my novel writing time. I like to share my thoughts on writing and appreciate the 13 listeners (it's a DC radio joke) who visit often, but I've got to finish my WIP.

Today I read Maria Zannini's blog linking to Josephine Damian's blog. JD went to one of Donald Maass' workshops on his Writing the Breakout Novel (one of the best how-to books/workbooks I've read). Donald Maass strongly believes (read Part 1 & 2 on Maria's link to see how strongly!) that it's what's in the novel that matters, not what's in your blog (or if you blog).

Reading and writing blogs is time consuming. Useful information all, but precious minutes must be scheduled in the writing-time budget. Otherwise, the novel writing will not get done. And since my goals are to 1. Write a damn good novel 2. Get it published, I will be blogging less and writing more.

I appreciate your interest in my blog and hope you will check back from time to time. I will post noteworthy writing topics and updates on my own journey.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Call - False Alarm

Last night around 6pm my phone rang. I don't usually pick up the phone, especially if I don't recognize the number. It's always a salesperson or charitable organization. If someone really needs to talk to me, he or she will leave a message. However, this time it was the 212 area code (what writer waiting for an agent call doesn't know that one?!) My heart pounded. Could it be?

"Hello," I said.
"Is this Joan Mora?" a distinctly New York-accented voice asked.
"Yes, this is she." (Note the proper grammar.)

Oh my God. It's the one. It's the agent currently reading my full manuscript. SHE WANTS ME, SHE REALLY WANTS ME! (Who doesn't love Sally Field?)

In the space of a second, my life had changed. This was it. I was going to hang up with her and call my husband, my critique partners, my close friends...

"I'm calling about your New York Magazine subscription. It's arriving promptly and you're happy with the service?"

Huh? After I stopped dancing, I told her, yes, the magazine is fine. In fact, better than fine. See, a few weeks ago I went online to cancel the subscription. I couldn't read the magazine anymore because the perfume inserts were so strong, I had to open windows to air the house. Whenever it arrived in the mailbox, I'd toss it right into the trash. But the website offered a box to check: Send me perfume-free copies. Seriously! I checked it and from then on, the issues have been scentless.

This phone call reminded me of an incident which occurred twenty years ago. When trying to buy a Honda, I asked the car salesman to call me if he got in an Accord with the features I was looking for. His response: "If the phone doesn't ring, it'll be me."

And there you have it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Nightmare or Dream?

A writer's process of identifying and querying agents can be a nightmare. Once you start the search, you might find yourself in a loop of night terrors. Here's a handy reference guide to help you interpret some of the most common reoccuring nightmares:

Stuck in quicksand—You’ve spent six hours researching agents online or in Jeff Herman’s book and now have a list of thirty to narrow down.

Naked in public—You’ve mailed a query and the first chapter to the perfect agent and she thinks the writing’s so bad she’s passing it around the office or using it as an example in a "don't do this" workshop.

Pushed off a cliff—You’ve scheduled a face-to-face agent pitch at a conference and she’s asked for your manuscript but you can tell by her expression it’s only because she wants you to leave.

Bad guy is attacking you—You’ve opened a really mean rejection letter.

Driving up a steep mountain and falling backward (car and all)—An agent requested the full, you waited two months for the phone to ring and then received a rejection. If your car landed top up and you live, the agent complimented your writing.

Negative? Who, moi? Not really. I’m just trying to keep my sense of humor. I’ve received nothing but kind treatment from the agents to whom I’ve pitched or queried. And I know, one of these days the phone will ring.

What's your nightmare?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thoughts on Gestures

Writers: How often do your conversations between characters include gestures? In order to avoid “talking heads” as one of my critique partners likes to call it, you must offer a visual of characters’ movements.

I’ve been so consumed with mastering this writing technique, I’ve found myself play-acting while reading other books. If a character tilts her head or rolls her eyes, I mimic these gestures (in my head if I’m not alone!). Try darting your eyes back and forth; it’s a sure path to a headache.

In addition, arms and legs have to be where they’re supposed to be. If your character is holding a baby in one arm and flipping pancakes with the other, she can’t scratch her head. Plus, she’d have to stop and wash her hands and that would require juggling the baby and the spatula.

Recently, I read an interesting piece of advice: Less emphasis on gestures, more on thoughts.

However, be very sparse with this technique, writing too many thoughts of your characters (or extended segments of thoughts) significantly slows the story. The more effective, and subtle, method would be to use a combination: He sat across from her, willing himself not to touch the toe of his shoe to hers. Okay, not brilliant, but you get the point.

In my WIP, I switch POV between the main characters by using “scene” breaks. Last night a critique partner pointed out this technique is confusing, especially since I don't change scenes, merely POV. I felt the reader should know each character’s thoughts, especially since men and woman often view situations differently. I believe it reads better this way, but because it’s a WIP—and I value this critique partner’s advice—I’ll consider changing it.

Better advice: Stop worrying so much about the “rules” and tell a good story. Sounds simple, right?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Title Me

I’m not talking about Sirs and Dames. I’m talking about book titles.

I often speculate about why an author (or publisher) titled a book a certain way. Some titles are obvious like Memoirs of a Geisha or The Time Traveler’s Wife, but others keep me stumped until halfway through a book, “Aha. That’s it.” Sometimes the reasoning is not clear until the last page. I always feel very clever when I figure it out. It's fun to come across a double (In Her Shoes or Disobedience) or even triple meaning (I know there must be some, but I can’t think of any right now!)
Some of my favorite titles (Great books, great titles—the meanings unclear until close to the end):

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Second Glance, by Jodi Picoult
The Ice Chorus, by Sarah Stonich

For weeks I’ve been searching for a new title for my WIP. The perfect few words that will sum up 75,000 and entice a reader to pick up my book (when it actually lands on a B&N or Borders table). In truth, it’s more important for the title to entice an agent at this point; I’m aware titles often change after reaching the publisher’s desk.

Since my WIP is set at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, I wanted a title to incorporate the setting, without sounding non-fiction-y. The Bodleian’s nickname is Bodders or The Bod. But the titles using Bod in the title sounded like, well, bodice rippers as one of my critique partners pointed out. Since I don’t write bodice rippers (my characters never take their clothes off--my mom will read the book!) that reference was out.

Thanks to my critique partners for the great suggestions. After much agonizing (too much probably), the winner: A Night at the Bodleian. (Thanks Pamela!)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Name That Character

Lately I’ve been obsessing about names. Usually I only worry about this when I’m trying to come up with an interesting name for a character. I search the baby-naming websites, scan articles in the newspaper, yes, even check the obituaries. But now, every time I hear an interesting name, I’m thinking about how I can use it in a book.
I started a file of names for future novels and my desk is littered with slips of paper. Sometimes I’ll read a book and wonder why an author chose a particular character’s name. I’m so caught up in the name I don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the book. This is especially true if it’s difficult to pronounce.

I hate it that Pushing Daisies has a character named Olive because it’s such a great name and now if I use it, I’ll feel as though I’m cheating. Once a name is used in literature, is it off limits? Not really. But will there ever be a stronger Emma than Jane Austen’s or a quirkier Owen than John Irving’s Meany? If your character has similar traits to another literary character, will you call her Scarlett or him Holden?

A character named Caitlin will have a different personality than a character named Martha, right? And she’ll likely be of a different generation altogether. One of my favorite names for a character (though I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember the book) is Minty. She was an agoraphobic loner who was pure and na├»ve. Makes sense, right?

So, if we're in the middle of a conversation and my mind starts to wander, it’s likely I’ll be thinking about how I can use your name for a character. And if you’ll be flattered or insulted!

What are your favorite character names?