Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Subject of Subjectivity

We've all heard the publishing biz referred to as "subjective." But I've been realizing lately just how much is subject to subjectivity. Two people can read the exact same book, or look at the exact same thing, and walk away with two completely different opinions of it.

As a fun example, everyone supposedly has a celebrity doppleganger. Any time someone looks at me with wide eyes and says, "Omigod! Do you know who you look like?" the answer is almost always one of three people.

One of three people who, in my opinion, LOOK ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE ME (thought I'd kill to look like any one of them). But you tell me.

The one I get most often is Angie Harmon:

Hi! We're an unbelievably hot Hollywood couple!

What a coincidence! So are we! (Seeing it yet? Me neither.)
The next one is Penelope Cruz:

There you are Gina! My long lost twin.

It is I, Penelope! Look how we both nail the over-the-shoulder
pose! (Um... not even close.)

Next we have Melina Kanakaredes:

Maybe it's the hair?

See what I mean? These three women don't even look like each other, so how could all three look like me? It all depends on who you're asking.

Publishing works the same way. Recently, a published author took pity on my constant Twitter laments over the loser that is my query letter, and offered to look at it for me. Do you know what her assessment was?

That it was great. Great! Just like that, with an exclamation point!

Yet, the agents I've queried thus far obviously don't agree. While my lovely author friend saw the Penelope Cruz of queries, agents see it a little more like this:

Chuuuuunk! Or should I say, Sluuuuushhhh!
In this case, subjectivity is clearly not on my side.

Hope your luck is a little better than mine today, peeps. Oh, and who's your celebrity doppleganger?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Disturbing Trends

*This is an old post, from back when no one read my blog. I thought it was worth digging out of the archives. Ignore the reference to thirty-degree whether, as it was written in winter.*

I noticed a few things today that seem to be emerging trends with me, and are really quite bothersome. Some writing related, some not. Here goes:

- Inspiration tends to strike in the wee hours of the morning.
Case in point, an idea for a new story started rolling around in my head this morning, around 4:30 a.m. At that hour, I have neither the energy nor coherence to get up and start writing. Plus I risk waking up my husband, who will start talking to me, thereby derailing my train of thought entirely. Seriously, "the brilliance" couldn't have waited until 4:00 p.m., when I suddenly found myself with nothing to do at work? Which, interestingly enough, is the perfect segue to disturbing trend # 2:

- I am almost never near my home computer when I get a really great (totally subjective, I know) idea. I wind up whipping scraps of paper out of my purse in the middle of the grocery store, just to be sure I don't lose an image or a witty bit of dialogue. Or, when I'm lucky, I will type out a page or two at work before someone needs me to do the actual work I was hired for (imagine!). Then I e-mail it to myself at home, knowing the IT nazis are probably reading my sent files and wondering WTF my deal is. Especially when I've just written a kissing scene. Oh, how I would love to see the look on their meddlesome little faces!

- Number three is that I can be madly in love with an idea when I first start outlining it. Then, without fail, the self-doubt sets in. The nagging little devil on my shoulder starts telling me it will never be good enough, that I must be on crack to keep wasting my time this way. I convince myself I'm writing the dumbest story conceivable, with the stupidest characters and the worst plot ever. Yet, all the while, the angel on the other shoulder tells me to keep plugging, damn it. So I do.

- Number four: My main characters are always prettier than me. And I'm kind of jealous of them. But this is part of why I read, and why I write: to escape the boring, average parts of my life. This includes the way I look. I wouldn't go as far as to say I scare small children, but I'm no great beauty, either. Just average. See?
So I suppose it only makes sense that when I escape reality, it's in the form of a girl who's much more attractive, with far juicier drama infiltrating her life. And boys fighting over her, which never happens to me. Ok, it did, once. Tee hee. Ahem... But should I really get pissy when I look in the mirror and haven't morphed into these girls? Yeah, that's where the disturbing comes in.

And lastly... a thought on an ACTUAL trend. While I was grocery shopping this evening, I saw not one, but TWO high school age girls wearing SHORTS with their Ugg boots. SHORT shorts. Ummm... it's thirty degrees outside right now. What are they thinking? And what are their PARENTS thinking, letting them go out like that? Am I old fashioned, or is it really acceptable to walk around looking like a hoochie mama for the sake of a fashion trend? It makes me wonder if I'm too out of touch with high school to be writing about it. But guess what? I'm going to anyway, damn it!

As always, if anyone stops by, I would love to hear about your disturbing trends, too!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Songs That Could Have Used Crit Partners

Since I'm in not in the best frame of mind for a new blog post today, I thought I'd re-run an oldie but goodie. Have a good day, everyone.

Maybe it's the writer in me that needs things to flow in a logical, sensical order.  I love music, and I can truly appreciate a song with a good beat, creative lyrics, catchy hook etc.  But all it takes is one little line to throw off the whole experience for me. 

You know how it is (if you're neurotic like I am).  You're singing along, enjoying the song, and then all of a sudden you listen to what you've just sung and think... what??  Did that even make sense?

Just for fun, I've compiled a list of the songs that send my neurosis spiraling out of control.  I give you The Lackluster Lyric List (or in some cases, just plain stupid):

Song: How Do You Sleep?
Artist: Jesse McCartney
Lyric: How do you stay awake knowing all I do is think of you?

Wait... weren't we questioning her ability to sleep, not stay awake?

Song: Two is Better Than One
Artist: Boys Like Girls
Lyric: I remember every look upon your face/the way you roll your eyes the way you taste/You make it hard for breathing

Really?  Eye rolling is sexy now?  'Cause I always thought it was perceived as rude and kinda bitchy.  I would have gone with something like the pretty way you smile/the way you taste...  But if bitchy is hot then hey... talk to me once a month when I'm the hottest girl on the planet!

Song: All I Have to Give
Artist: The Backstreet Boys
Lyric: Does he leave/when you need him the most/Does his friends get all your time?

BAD GRAMMAR ALERT!  TERRIBLE GRAMMAR ALERT!  The English major in me cringes at this song, each and every time.  I've heard of poetic license but this is just wrong!

Song: You're In My Heart

Artist: Rod Stewart
Lyric: The big bosomed lady with the Dutch accent/who tried to change my point of view/Her ad lib lines were well rehearsed/but my heart cried out for you

Anyone else see something wrong with that sentence? Her AD LIB lines were well rehearsed? Isn't ad libbing the art of coming up with something on the spot, UNrehearsed? Now my husband pointed out Rod may be using ad lib tongue-in-cheek.  But, since I never interpreted it that way, and since it negates my whole arguement, I'm going to pretend I didn't hear him.  So which is it, Rod, ad lib or well rehearsed? Because it sure as heck can't be both.

Song: Into the Night
Artist: Benny Mardones
Lyric: She's just sixteen years old/Leave her alone they say/Separated by fools/who don't know what love is yet.

This song literally enrages me.  Here is this middle-aged dude singing about his lust for a sixteen year old, and he thinks it's everyone else who has the problem?!  For shame!  Unfortunately, when you can only tune in to easy listening stations in your office, this song is going to crop up a lot.  Which makes me wonder who thought borderline pedophilia qualified as easy listening in the first place.

So there you have it.  Did I miss any?  Have I ruined these songs for you?  Or am I the only one who lets stuff like this drive them up the wall?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quittin' Time

No, I'm not talking about doing anything crazy, like giving up writing or reading (as if!). I'm talking about trying to get through a book that's just not doing it for you.

It takes a lot to make me give up on a book. Even if I'm not feeling it, I keep turning the pages in hopes that the next one will replace my niggling doubts with sheer, unadulterated bliss.

Sometimes my perseverence pays off, and sometimes it doesn't.  The last book I "quit" was a work of adult fiction (which could have been the problem, given my penchant for YA), and I just couldn't bring myself to read another page. The plot synopsis had intrigued me, but I knew I'd been duped within the first chapter.  Repetetive phrases, slow-moving pace, and unrealistic dialogue were all present. Not to mention that every last character was self-absorbed, sex-obsessed, and downright unlikable. I simply didn't care what happened to them.

There was another book (and this one was YA) that everyone raved about, and while it was beautifully written and definitely intriguing, I found it torturously slow moving. I actually put it down halfway through, and read two other books before I convinced myself to pick it back up. In this case, I did care about the characters, and I wanted to know what happened to them. I'm pretty sure that's what made the difference (thought not enough to read the sequel, unfortunately).

Does this ever happen to you? Are you willing to power through a less-than-thrilling book if you feel a fondness for the characters? What makes you care enough to keep turning the pages - or not care enough?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When YA Romance Grows Up

We all have our reasons for adoring YA romance. I think one of the best summaries I've come across is this one here, from the Chocolate and Spice blog.

I think another reason I love to revisit the early days of falling in love is because my husband and I were high school sweethearts. I was dating one of his friends when we first met, and we totally fell for each other. I ditched the other guy, and the rest is history.

If my life were a YA novel, that's where you'd see THE END. And they lived happily ever after.

But flash forward a few eons (at least that's how ancient I feel these days) and here's the scene you'll see: Me, curled up in a leather chair on the upper floor of our modest house, now married to said high school sweetheart.  I'm reading my ARC of Brodi Ashton's EVERNEATH, (go pre-order yours now, if you haven't already) and hubs is downstairs, watching TV on the couch.

The ending of EVERNEATH (without giving anything away) depicts a teenager doing something so beautifully selfless, and so driven by love, it is absolutely making me weep.  And then I hear this:

Baaaaaaabbe! Why are you still reeeeeeading? You said you'd spend some time with meeeeee!

Me: I'm almost done. Did you fold the towels?

Him: No!

Me: You know I hate it when you pretend not to hear the dryer buzz. Since I cooked dinner, AND cleaned the mess, do you think you can go fold the towels? Then I'll come watch TV with you.

Him: Fiiiiiine. *Grumble Grumble Grumble*

Five minutes later: Baaaaaabe! You said if I folded the towels you'd come sit with meeeee! Why are you still reading?

*Sigh.* So much for love-driven acts of selflessness, right?

So why AM I still reading? Because sometimes, I miss those days when all we had to be was in love, and the rest took care of itself. As much as I love my husband, I miss the days when I had no idea that one load of laundry could yield a pile of white t-shirts to rival Mt. Everest. I miss being able to read without feeling like I'm neglecting someone. I miss not having to cook if I don't want to. I miss sleeping in a bed where I can sprawl out, steal all the covers, and not worry about being awakened at some ungodly hour by a meaty, fast-asleep paw landing on my head.

Those are the things you never hear about in YA novels.

But then there's the flip side.

I love waking up every morning to kisses on my face. I love getting hugged and kissed before I leave for work. I love snuggling up next to someone before I fall asleep. I love that he holds my hand, whether we're walking together or just sitting on the couch. And most of all, I love moments like the one at my aunt's wedding, when hubs and I were slow dancing. He sighed, wrapped his arms around me, and said, "Babe, I love you. You're my whole heart."

*Sigh again, in a good way this time.* So what happens when YA romance grows up? It changes, for sure. It's not as idealistic, and it's not always perfect. But what doesn't kill it only makes it stronger and deeper, and in its own way, it's even better.

You'll still find me in that leather chair, though. I'd never want to BE 17 again, but I sure as heck want to re-live as many vicarious versions of it as I possibly can! How about you?

The day my YA romance grew up: October 14, 2006

Monday, August 8, 2011


Sorry for the scarily enthusiastic title. After last Wednesday's post, I was in a serious funk. Yes, I know, I'm a ginormous baby. One little rejection and a few comment bubbles (ok, a whole crapload) on my query, and I was ready to lay down and die.

Seriously? What the heck was my problem? You'd think a person who's faced rejection plenty of times would have a thicker skin by now.

But I'm happy to say that the very thing causing my self-doubt wound up being the thing to pull me out of my rut: writing.

I started and abandoned a new WiP a while ago, and lately the characters, the images, and the story have started swirling around in my head again. Loudly. I ignored them, telling them I sucked far too much to ever turn them into anything other than a Word document, so just leave me alone already.

They didn't listen. 

On Friday, I had to write this scene, and haven't looked back since. I'm pumped. If the project I'm querying now isn't "The One," I think this new baby has a solid chance.

Join me in some fist pumping and Running Man, won't you?

Fine, I'll look like a dork all by myself. But I'll leave you with these photos from one of my favorite places on the planet - and the setting for New Baby - Newport, Rhode Island. Who wouldn't want to fall in love here??

Strolling the Cliffwalk

Girl, I think my butt gettin' big!
AKA walking the gardens at Rosecliff mansion

The Breakers. My home in a former life.

The harbor at sunset

The gardens at the Elms mansion

The Cliffwalk again. Because it most definitely makes an
appearance in the story.
Mansion converted into a Salve Regina dorm. Beats
the crap out of my dorm at UConn!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Coming Off the Query High

Go to fullsize imageAfter Monday's post, and all the wonderful encouragement I received, I was pumped about querying.

Now, I've crashed from my query high. Hard.

I'd forgotten one of my CP's had offered to let her crit group have a go at my query, and I'd said yes. And while they agreed my premise intrigued them and the novel sounded like something they'd like to read, the query itself was torn up, down and sideways (in a very constructive, unoffensive manner, just as an aside).

I panicked instantly, now terrifed that I'd sent out a subpar query this weekend.  Add to that the fact that I received my first rejection within 24 hours of hitting send, and you can see why I'm back in Query Hell.

The rejection was brief, stating that while the agent was happy for my support of her clients (I'd mentioned admiring the work of one in particular), she is only taking "few new clients" and must pass.

Is that really supposed to make me feel better?  "Few" new clients is not "no" new clients. So she's obviously taking on SOME new projects, just not mine. Another nice way of saying, "It's not me, it's you."

Add to that the absolute craziness that is my job right now, my ongoing failure to have a child, and the fact that the day simply isn't long enough to do everything I need to do, and what you get is me apologizing for not having a very uplifting blog post for y'all today.

Guess I needed to vent.  Sorry, all.

But yes, I do plan to muster up the energy from somewhere to make more tweaks to my query. And no, I'm not giving up. Yet.

You tell me, though - how do I know if it really IS me, and not them?

Monday, August 1, 2011

On Finally Hitting Send

I officially ran out of excuses. Last week, I revised my query letter. And liked it. Then, I showed it to two of my CP's, who also liked it.

Up until that point, I hadn't queried because I hated my letter. So I started thinking, Crap. Now I have to send this thing out into the world.

Go to fullsize imageNope.

Can't do it.

Too. Freaking. Afraid.

I cautiously researched a few agents, and promptly supplied myself with another excuse: I didn't have a synopsis written, and most of them seemed to want one, at least at some point in the process.

So, I wrote one. Sent it off to Leigh Ann. She deemed it "perfect." I thought, no way. It took me a year and a half to write a decent query letter, there is no way I wrote a perfect synopsis in an hour.

I mean, it's really freaking hard to condense 78,000 words into 600. So, I also took Natalie Whipple's advice and sent the synopsis to a bloggie friend who hasn't read my ms, thinking she might find some egregious error, points that needed clarification, etc.

Nope.  She told me it was clear and concise, and that she loved my premise.  Yikes!

Fresh out of excuses, I went ahead and did it. I put my query in an e-mail, and hit send.

Wish me luck, peeps.

And please tell me - were any of you this terrified to hit send?