Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Play Alice

A bit ago I posted a link to a Publishers Weekly article about paranormal YA that asked where the werewolf stories are. I have been asking myself the same thing, and I have a prediction to make. I predict that in the future, "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer will write a novel set in the Twilight reality, but featuring more traditional werewolves (I mean ones who involuntarily change by the phase of the moon, not Jacob-type werewolves who can shape-shift at will). I'm saying this because, in the last book, Breaking Dawn, she bothers to explain that those traditional werewolves do exist in her world. There is no plot reason for her to explain this. It comes as a complete aside, during the climax of the last novel in a saga. Most authors and editors would have cut it because it doesn't serve a purpose. But I'm betting she's setting something up. And why am I posting it here? Because I want you all to tell me how clever I am when it happens. You heard it here first, Twilight fans! Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog :)

The Perfect Example

A while back, I posted my "blockbuster YA theory"-- an observation that, in a lot of chart-topping YA books, protags have "enviable problems,"big problems that are inextricably linked to major perks. The protags never fully enjoy the perks, but the readers certainly do, and I think that is what makes these books so charming. Well, I had to revisit my theory for a second because I am reading Meg Cabot's new book "Airhead" and I think it is the best example yet! The smart but mousy YA protag is killed in an accident, but her brain is able to be transplanted-- into the body of a teenage super-model! The protag spends a lot of time freaking out about her situation, only half aware of the fact that gorgeous guys are throwing themselves at her, she is breathtakingly beautiful, and she now earns $20,000 a day. I actually really like this book because it isn't afraid to go over the top, and yet the protag, Em, is extremely sincere and the question raised is a good one: Are we our looks? Since it is the purest example of the theory yet, I am thinking of renaming it the Airhead Theory. Obviously, Meg Cabot is still the queen of writing YA that taps into readers' fantasies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


For those of you with an mp3 player and some free time, I thought I'd post some links to podcasts of interviews with authors and editors.

Bantam Dell Publishing Group Author Podcasts (including an interview with Galen M. Beckett, author of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent)

Harlequin (interviews with both writers and editors)

iTunes has a series called "Meet the Author" which includes interviews with Chuck Palahnuk and George R. R. Martin.

Tor Podcasts (do I need to say more?)

Penguin Podcasts (very interesting podcast with Clay Shirky author of Here Comes Everybody)

Bechdel Rule

Do you think that the Bechdel Rule applies to novels as well as movies?

1. A movie has to have at least two women
2. Who talk with each other
3. About something other than a man

Here's the link to the Dykes To Watch Out For comic that created the Bechdel Rule

Thursday, November 20, 2008

May Vampires Never Die

Well, with the new Twilight movie coming out at midnight I thought it would be fitting to post this interesting Publisher's Weekly article on the trends in paranormal YA. I admit, articles like this always make me a little nervous. Since I want to work in paranormal YA more than anything, and since I have two works in progress in that sub-genre, I never want to read anything that suggests that the trend is on the wane. I work pretty slowly due to limited writing time so I know my chance of hopping on a hot trend is pretty much nil and I usually try to ignore "trend reports" for that reason. But I thought this was really interesting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Paging Dr. Jung

What does it mean if you dream that you have been committed to an institution for people with "King Arthur related mental illness." As you tour the grounds, you find that some of the other inmates have gone so far as to turn themselves into stags, unicorns and fae. Some are wearing crooked paper mache dunce caps with strange symbols on them. When you ask the nurse what the symbols mean, she gives you a disapproving look and says curtly "It means 'does not wish to be cured.'"
I had that dream last night. When I woke up, I thought sleepily, "The dunces must be the writers."

Pleasant dreams! :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stephenie Meyer Wrote a Bestselling Series (and all I got was this semi-cool t-shirt)

On Friday I took my four year old son, Harrison, to the Mall of America to spend some quality time on the Blue's Clues ride. On the way to the amusement park, we passed Hot Topic. Now, ordinarily at 11 am on a Friday, Hot Topic would be empty, but this particular day it was crawling with excited goth teenagers who had, evidently, skipped school. Since I consider black-clad teenage truants to be my reader demographic, I'm always interested in what they are doing. Turns out three stars of the new Twilight move (the actors playing Jacob, Laurant and Victoria) were coming that afternoon to sign autographs. To get an autograph, you had to buy a thirty dollar t-shirt which entitled you to a ticket which entitled you to stand in line at a particular time. When we passed Hot Topic at 11, they were still selling t-shirts, but when we passed again at noon all seven hundred t-shirts had sold out, and the kids who had bought them were joyfully taking over the mega-mall, decked out in Twilight merch (some of it hand made) and having loud, spirited debates about who was cooler, vampires or werewolves. Needless to say, I was thrilled. It was like wandering into a Twilight con! Watching them play, I felt three things:
1. Envious of them for their ability to just give themselves over joyously to someone else's fantasy and make it their own. I don't have much experience of fan culture and I usually find it kind of overwhelming, but I love the community and the no-holds-barred participation.
2. Envious of Stephenie Meyer. I don't care much about fame and fortune (they both have major drawbacks) but the ability to suck people into your fantasy world? That's priceless. That's a gift unto itself. Getting other people to play your game has got to be the ultimate rush.
3. Proud, in a weird way, that YA fantasy is such a force in pop culture. When I went to see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist at the movies a few weeks ago, I passed movie posters for Inkheart and City of Ember and Twilight. Twilight alone has over 7000 t-shirt designs on cafe press. Things like that make me realize how hungry for fantasy the world really is.

So, sorry Heather, I didn't buy you a "Team Jacob" t-shirt (although there's always the holidays coming...;) I did, however, get something out of my trip to the mall. Now I'm going to go write.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Confessions of a Geek

I'm going to see Twilight at midnight on Thursday.
I will see the Watchman, Coraline, and Spirit, at midnight, when are released as well.

I feel much better now.
Thank you!

Character Mix Tape

How about this: if your character were to make a mixed tape (CD, iPod mix, I am dating myself here), for another character, what would that tape sound like? I think this would be a great exercise especially if the characters are romantically linked or are extremely close friends.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Smile Break

Need a break? Want to feel inspired to make up some original plot? Check out the world's cutest little French girl as she improvises her own fairy tale at I think this kid's a future Death Pixie, don't you?

Does your work have a soundtrack?

I've been experimenting with giving my novel-in-progress a soundtrack.  This is not an uncommon thing- many writers do so, often posting what they've been listening to so that you, the reader, can listen in and see how it all fits together.  Or so you may become even more of a Rabid Fan if you are in to such things.

I don't usually listen to music when I write, at least not lately.  For awhile now my life has been loud and noisy and chaotic, and music often seems like just one more layer of noise and chaos.  It's hard enough to get my mind into the writing place without a distraction like music.  When I do listen to music, I'm rather picky about it - it needs to have a defined mood, and that mood has to fit the scene I'm working on.  It can't have words, or at least not so many that they interfere with my ability to write words (some of you will understand this conflict, some will not).  

While it's chaos and noise that drive me away from listening to music in general, it is actually those same elements that are driving me toward a soundtrack for this novel.  Specifically, because my writing happens in fits and starts, fit in between other things, I wanted to find a way to get my brain to the writing place as quickly as possible, no matter where or when I was writing.  I want the music to be a grounding force for me - a marker on the path that gets me oriented and moving forward.

Music also helps with other things - there's the aforementioned mood of a piece that can reflect and amplify the mood I want for my scene.  Pairing the music to the setting or the style of the story, like a movie soundtrack, can help to anchor you within the world and remember how it should feel and sound.  The energy of music can feed into the most tired of minds and propel them forward through clouds of fatigue.

I've also found another interesting use for music.  To start my soundtrack, I'm assigning my major characters a theme song.  This is helping me to three-dimensionalize  them in ways I hadn't thought of before.  For instance, my serial killer's theme song is Schism by Tool because the line "I know the pieces fit 'cause I watched them fall away" says exactly the right thing about her mental state.  The second I realized that, I knew how to tell her story.

How do you use music in your work?

Monday, November 10, 2008


"The best thing in the world, she said, was to be quite sure of yourself and not expect admiration from other people..."

The Ugly Duckling - A.A. Milne

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Life is a (Sci-Fi) Cabaret

Okay, okay, I know. It's hard enough to find time to write, never mind have a social life on top of that, and I am the last one to propose going out since my children generally keep me under house arrest (um, I mean, "since I prefer to spend quality evening time with my children" :) But that said... Patrick's Cabaret in South Minneapolis is having a special sci-fi themed variety show Friday and Saturday, Nov 14 and 15, at 8pm. It will feature, among other things, covers of favorite sci-fi themes, alien-inspired dance, and local b-boys doing a set inspired by the Dune Chronicles. (You just don't see that every day, right?) If you've never been to Patrick's, you owe it to yourself to go. It's a great eclectic mix of avant garde performers. There are no auditions, but the quality of the work is always high and the evening is always fun. The cabaret is run by volunteers, so all the gate goes to the performers. This show is $10 at the door. You can reserve in advance at I've had the pleasure of going to Patrick's since way back in the day, when it used to be in Patrick Scully's apartment and it is honestly one of my favorite things about Minneapolis.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quote of the Day

Goodness but I've been lax about our Quote of the Day lately. We will have to start calling it "Semi-Annual Quote" soon! Shame on me.
Todays quote:

"Erv had a gift for optimism. He believed what he wanted to. Ruth said that if Erv tossed a ball in the air three times, tried to hit it three times with a bat, and three times missed, he would, undisturbed, conclude: Wow, what a pitcher." --Steve Fishman

Just for today, try seeing yourself and your work-in-progress in the best possible light. Declare yourself a genius and see what it does to your work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Library Books

Today, I visited my hometown library, which I still have a library card. I checked out an older book that still contained a library check out card. The book was first checked out in 1959. The last return date stamped on the card was 1984. As archaic as this system may have been, still holds great memories of summers spent in the library. The first memory that came to mind was: how sore my hand was after writing my name 54 times in order to check out the entire Nancy Drew series. To this day, I am NOT sure how I was able to get away with checking out that many books at once. Much less, how I managed to carry the entire series home. I believe it took me five trips, six blocks and three of them were up hill.
Tomorrow’s local library adventure will be tracking down the Nancy Drew series to see if the check out card is still in there. ☺


Get out and VOTE tomorrow (Nov. 4th)!!!!!!!!

Shameless Plug

A friendly reminder to all: patronize your local library. ☺