Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The End is Nigh!

And so it begins.

In eighty-some-odd hours, the Pötterdämmerung will be upon us. As an avid reader of Rowling's series, I am both excited and somewhat sad about that. On Sunday, I went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and my nostalgia began in earnest. I sat in the theater annoying my companion with such whispers like, "Look how cute they are!" and "Remember when Dan looked like a homeless kid? Do you think that's what inspired Rupert's look?" The movie was great, but on the way home I started thinking about what it will be like to turn page 783 and realize that there is only one page left in Harry Potter's universe.

I am the first to admit that I get overly attached to characters. Don't even start me talking about Rose Tyler. But the HP kids - I've watched them grow up. With each book, I've become prouder and prouder of them as they have made difficult choices, learned painful lessons and grew to be damn fine people. Rowling has a special gift for capturing the adolescent experience, and she's made me believe in these characters like I have in few others. I feel as though I should have a memorial service for these people that I've loved so much. But that would be obsessive, right? No memorial service. Except perhaps in my head.

I suspect Saturday will see me mourning the loss of some very good friends, even as I enjoy seeing what Rowling has in store for us.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Queries, Queries Everywhere

Hands down best part of having an agent? Never having to write another query letter.

Okay, and my agent is a pretty nifty sounding board for story ideas, a great motivator and a fabu margarita buddy, too. But for my money, one of the best reasons to pursue a good agent is that they know what a winning query looks like and how to write one for your masterpiece.

For everyone who is in query hell (or query heaven--does that exist?), today's column over at Romancing the Blog has a fantastic list of resources for writing good queries. Don't you love the Internet?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fine, I Give Up!

So, I wasn’t going to venture into the fracas about Kaavya Viswanathan and the Novel that Ate New York Publishing. But as more and more allegations surfaced this week, I found some disturbing posts on some of the blogs I frequent across the Internet. Most bloggers are united in their disgust with Viswanathan for plagiarizing, with the industry for saddling a seventeen-year-old kid with the pressure that comes with a $500K deal and with the media for eating this up like a fresh pint of Chubby Hubby. I sympathize with all those concerns, and have ceased to be surprised at the new developments that come out of the case.

What concerns me, however, is the comments being made in response to some of the blog entries. More than one reader responded with weariness about the issue, and a few even wondered aloud whether there weren’t more important topics to tackle. Short answer: on a writing-centered blog? Nope.

Plagiarism is theft, plain and simple. Writers make their living by honing and selling their plots, characters and voices. For any plagiarizer to “lift” story elements, scenes or even just voice-related things like a nicely-turned phrase or character description is to infringe on that tiny spot one particular writer has carved for himself in the bookshelves of stores and readers. Forget the legal ramifications—which are serious enough on their own—morally, plagiarism is a slap in the f ace to every other writer on the planet. Readers should be insulted as well; a plagiarizer is hoping you will spend your money on a book that is merely a copy of one you may have liked before. Any instance of plagiarism, great or small, should be an affront to writers and readers alike.

Hopefully, the Viswanathan case, as well as the case of Raytheon CEO William Swanson (which would be big news if business books sold like women’s fiction), will serve as warning lights about the publishing industry. As writers, we need to be aware that intellectual theft is a threat. As readers, we should be as vigilant as the fans who blew the whistle on these and other cases and hold writers and publishers accountable for what they sell. Without help from all the parties that make the literary industry work, this kind of scandal will run rampant.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Recommendation Tuesday - Espionage Edition

For obvious reasons, I’ve had spying on the brain lately. Most of what I was going to rec for you today was intelligence related anyway, so I decided to just run with that. Here you go—recommendations for the spy-on-the-go:


John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Okay, so the Cold War is over. But it really was the ultimate espionage setting, wasn’t it? Revisit ultra-scary dictators, Soviet double agents who are not Irina Derevko, and cutting-edge technology like transistor radios and microfilm in Le Carre’s classic story of the search for a Soviet mole in MI-5. Bonus fact: If the action seems realistic, that’s because it is. Le Carre was an operations agent for British intelligence.

Listen to:

Evans Blue’s “The Melody and the Energetic Nature of Volume”

Today’s spies aren’t so much hiding microfilm in tuna fish cans as using high-tech devices to capture information via computer. Clearly, they need a kick-ass soundtrack to back them up. This album’s goth rock-ish lyrics and licks are just the thing. Check out the cover of Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” and see how long it takes you to realize that yes, you do know this song.



This British intelligence drama is a little like Alias, only it exists in something approximating reality. The spies on this show confront terrorist threats that could actually happen, and use their brains instead of goofy gadgets and lots of improbable martial arts fighting. At the same time, they’re dealing with very real personal issues including, “How do I tell my girlfriend that I’ve been lying to her since the day I met her?” and “Why do these government jobs pay so lousy?” Also, Matthew McFayden? HOTT. I’m just saying. If you’re not quite ready to commit, Netflix has all three seasons available for rent.

Monday, May 01, 2006


This weekend, having finished the edits on my spychick novel, I pulled out my paranormal WIP, brushed off the month’s worth of dust that had accumulated and chucked most of the climactic scene I’d written at the end of chapter ten. Yeah, it had to be done. I knew before I took my editing hiatus that the scene wasn’t working, but going back to it after a month made it all the more clear.

Going back to a manuscript after some time away usually changes my perspective on the writing. When I’m not working on a particular project—that is, when I’m not actually sitting down at a computer and adding to it—I generally spend time thinking about the story in larger terms. Arc terms, character terms, theme terms. . .sometimes it’s as simple as tagline terms. That often changes my thinking about the way I write the story when I go back to, and it is usually a much more directed, tighter story because of it.

I’m on a deadline for the day job today, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet. An occasional hiatus from the WIP—good, bad, nonexistent? Discuss.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Progress Update

Isn’t it nice when there is actual progress on which to update people?

Last night I finished the edits on my spychick MS and sent the new draft off for review. Yay! The booty dance that ensued at Chez Melanie was a sight to behold, I assure you all. Now I just have to catch up on some other editing and then I can return to working on my paranormal. I’m hoping the initial confrontation between my hero and heroine won’t be so difficult now that I’ve let it simmer for a few weeks.

This morning driving to work, I had the usual frantic second thoughts about the completed MS—did I emphasize the action over the romance too much? Vice versa? Should I change the heroine’s job? Would it be more believable if she was a _______? So naturally, I called a friend who has read the MS and interrogated her about it. It took about half an hour, but she eventually convinced me that yes, it’s good, and yes, an editor has already requested it even after hearing about the heroine’s job and knowing about the romance/action equation. She also convinced me that I really do like the MS (or at least I did twenty-four hours ago). It’s just an attack of cold feet, and if I try to hang onto the MS until I have tried out every possible combination of hero/heroine/romance/action/career paths, I will never be finished.

The logical part of my brain knows that this is true, but I also know that there is a careful balance. I don’t want to send my baby out there until it’s ready to leave the nest, and yet at some point it has to go. So when is the right time? Every writer’s dilemma, right?

All of you writers (and agents, and editors, and CPs) out there, how do you know when a project is ready for submission? And how often do you wish you could reach back into cyberspace and snatch that puppy back five minutes after you’ve sent it on its way?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Editing, editing now I go. . .

I am still up to my eyeballs in edits for my spychick novel, which I fully intend to have to my agent by midnight on Sunday. It’s not that I think Nephele will drop me or lecture me or take away my booze if I don’t have it in, but I have this thing about deadlines. I actually work really well under them, and tend to set them for myself as a measure of my own progress if I don’t have an official one to work under. It’s going pretty well with this project because while there may not be an official deadline, there certainly is a time issue in that Neph (and I) would like to get this puppy out to editors before everyone disappears for the summer.

I’m closing in on the end now, fortunately, and have added approximately 9,000 words to the original manuscript. Just a few more chapters to look over and tighten and it'll be ready to go. I’m pretty pleased with the progress I’ve made since I pitched the MS not quite three weeks ago, and I think the additions I’ve made really enhance the story and the characters. It is definitely a better MS than I had a month ago—and really, that’s what editing is all about, right?

Back to the salt mines now, children. What is everyone else working on?