Week Twenty-One: Creating Characters and Connecting with Writers

May 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

May 28, 2012

“ . . . the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s.” —Stephen King, On Writing

Just reading about how King came up with the idea for Carrie is harrowing. He described two downtrodden, outcast girls he remembered from his school days that he drew from to create the character of Carrie. It reminded me of an incident from my own childhood. A quiet and unassuming boy showed up at school one day with a new haircut and new clothes. The smile on his face and the bounce in his step showed he felt pretty spiffy. Until a boy and a girl sat at his table, surrounding him, and, right there in the classroom, picked on him until he started crying.  I will never forget that. I admit I have seen the movie Carrie but never read the book. I started it and couldn’t get past that opening shower scene as only King can write it. It was just too awful.

On a brighter note, I stared reading Fly Me to the Moon by Alyson Noël. One of the published authors at the LERA meeting recommended reading a lot of books in one’s chosen genre when re-writing, so . . .

I finished typing the second draft. I didn’t even have to get out the ACE bandages. Yay!

Now for the rewrites. Help! The serious work begins. Four different writing experts, including Kirt Hickman (Revising Fiction) and Doug Eboch (Sweet Home Alabama) say you must write bios for all your main characters. Now I can’t believe I didn’t do this before; I thought I knew my characters pretty well and didn’t have to. But they have also changed over the course of two drafts and now it’s clear there are a lot of inconsistencies. Completing the character bios will fix all that, and guess what? It takes forever! I spent two hours figuring out the hero’s astrological sign. Good thing, too, because her original birthday, that I had come up with to suit the plot, was totally the wrong sign for her.

Alyson Noel and Me at Alamosa Books

I went to Alyson Noël’s book signing for her Soul Seekers series at Alamosa Books last Tuesday. Book signings are a golden opportunity to talk to and get great advice from stars: published writers! Alyson Noël talked to us one-on-one as if it were a given that we would be successful writers. When I told her I had just finished the second draft and that I was now beginning the process of making it tight and publishable, she said to enjoy that process now that I have the time. Because when I start having deadlines and am going crazy, I will look back on this stage of my life fondly.

Duly noted.

Week Twenty: Alyson Noël, Typing Pains, Nikita, and the Solar Eclipse

May 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

May 20, 2012

I finished The Temptation by Alisa Valdes, a tale of star-crossed kindred spirits caught in a battle against pure evil. The images and emotions this book evoked stayed with me long after I put the book down. I am really looking forward to the second book in the trilogy! Click here for my post on Valdes’ book signing.

I started and finished Faking 19 by Alyson Noël, a young adult novel about a girl who flees the suburbs to L.A. with her best friend to escape her crumbling academic and home life. I love Noël’s writing style, and she is doing a book signing this coming Tuesday at Alamosa Books here in Albuquerque! Noël is promoting Fated, the first book in her new paranormal series, set in New Mexico!

I started reading Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. Everybody’s talking about it, even Marlos Thomas. A friend of mine said she had to take a lot of cold showers when she was reading this book. We’ll see . . . I haven’t made it to the juicy section yet; this book actually contains story and build-up.

I should take my friend up on her offer to transcribe for me—she types 95 words a minute! But she’s a single mom and a schoolteacher and has plenty on her plate already and I hate to impose. Besides, I can’t have somebody reading the end of my novel before reading the beginning. So my right arm will probably end up wrapped in an ACE bandage by the time I finish typing. Did I mention I suffer from repetitive motion disorder? The sacrifices one makes.

The Nikita season two finale aired on Friday and thank God it’s been renewed for a third season. Show runner Craig Silverstein has created a modern day myth with his super-cool spy thriller. One of my gushing post-finale-watching tweets (I am @shannonymoreau) got included in a blog post by Pop Culture Nexus—how cool is that? Here is an interview with Silverstein on TV Line about what’s coming up in season 3. Warning, it does contain spoilers.

Sunday my friends and I went to the University of New Mexico Observatory to watch the solar eclipse. Albuquerque was right on the central path so we had a perfect view. Click here for ABQ Journal photo gallery. I couldn’t resist trying to take pictures with my digital camera. I’d look at the eclipse through my solar glasses, hold my camera up (which completely obliterated my view), then my friend would hold her glasses in front of my camera lens and I’d snap the picture, hoping for the best. I had a lot of misses with this method, but a few pictures came out pretty decent for an amateur. When the ring of fire appeared in the sky at 7:33 pm everybody started cheering. It was pretty freaking awesome.

My pic of the ring of fire taken with my Canon Powershot and solar eclipse glasses held in front of the lens.

Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: Dark Reunion by L. J. Smith (Book #4)

May 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Bonnie is having disturbing dreams. Elena made the ultimate sacrifice in The Fury and is trying to tell Bonnie something from the other side. But in the dream Elena’s words are riddles and her body is decaying and unspeakable things are crawling out of the ground. Before Elena can utter her warning, Bonnie wakes up screaming. I would, too.

Dark Reunion begins with Caroline planning a surprise birthday party for Meredith. Bonnie has serious misgivings about this plan and for good reason. The festivities culminate in a shocking event that sends Bonnie and Meredith on a nightmarish mission to stop the malevolent entity that is preying on girls in Fell’s Church. Using her psychic powers, Bonnie summons Stefan and Damon for help. But when the Salvatore brothers arrive, it becomes horrifyingly clear that the evil force they are facing might be undefeatable.

The fourth book in The Vampire Diaries series is told almost entirely from Bonnie’s viewpoint. It works. I’ve been curious what the hapless, reluctant sidekick who channels spirits from the other side thinks about all the craziness going on around her. Bonnie is empathetic, which we already knew, but she also shows a surprising splash of wit—

Bonnie felt control of the situation slipping away from her. This is a bad idea, this is a very bad idea, she thought. But Caroline was going on, looking dreamy and almost romantic as she talked about the good old days. Bonnie didn’t have the heart to tell her that the good old days were as dead as disco.

—and spunk:

“For God’s sake,” Bonnie whispered, outraged.

“What do you think we’re here for?” Stefan hissed back. But his fingers paused on the second button.

Bonnie watched a minute and then made her decision. “Get out of the way,” she said, and when Stefan didn’t move immediately, she gave him a shove.

Dark Reunion is, well, darker than the previous three books. It is a return to the sinister creepiness of The Awakening and The Struggle, yet its themes, such as helplessness, terrorization, and sadism, are more grim. We travel into dark underworld territory here: bargains with the devil for ultimate power and selling of the soul to boost a damaged ego. On the brighter side, signs of a fresh and exciting new connection emerged between two of the characters that is outside of the Stefan/Elena/Damon triangle. I hope this plays out in the next segment of the series, The Return.

One problem I had with Dark Reunion is that a crucial development at the end of the book came out of the blue with no groundwork or explanation and did not fit in the context of the world L.J. Smith has created. Hopefully, more will be revealed in the next book, Nightfall.

Week Nineteen: Books on Mom’s Day, LERA, and TV Season Renewal

May 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

May 13, 2012

I had my mom over for Mother’s Day and I was babbling to her about something, then realized she wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention because she had started reading my copy of Darynda Jones’ Third Grave Dead Ahead, which I had sitting on my coffee table. After I gave Mom her Mother’s Day present, I lent her First Grave on the Right. She’s got to start at the beginning, after all.

Cover of "The Power of Myth (Illustrated ...

I now own a copy of The Power of Myth, the transcripts of the Bill Moyers interview with Joseph Campbell that aired on PBS in 1988. I am so stoked. I have wanted this book for a long time, and I won it at a Land of Enchantment Romance Authors (LERA) meeting, which leads me to— 

“With symbolism, we create myth.”—Sarah Shade, at her talk “The Secret Language of Words”

I attended my first LERA (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) meeting, and the speaker for this month, Sarah Shade, talked about how symbolism creates powerful universal connections that turn stories into myths. So when I was watching Howl’s Moving Castle on Sunday for the fifth time, I saw all kinds of symbolism. The fire demon! The doorways! The boy! The dog! The bird! The scarecrow! The tunnel in Sophie’s dream with the monster at the end of it! I must get a book on symbolism.

Many of the LERA members are successful, published authors who know the business, and they enthusiastically answered my shop questions, even though I was a first-time guest. I got to sit next to Darynda Jones, the New Mexico author who writes the wonderful Charley Davidson series, and I ran into a fellow writer I hadn’t seen in months. The meeting discussions were lively and interactive and encouraging. I do believe I have found my new writing group.

In TV news, I am so excited:
Nikita—renewed for season three—yes!
Scandal—renewed for season two—awesome!
The Vampire Diaries—a killer season finale with lots of twists, turns, and tears. Read this article on TV line about TVD writer Julie Plec crying onto her keyboard. I know how she feels.

Movie Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Howl's Moving Castle (film)One of my top five favorite movies is Hayao Miyazaki’s animated gem, Howl’s Moving Castle. Beautifully rendered, it is a witty, whimsical, gloriously romantic fantasy with an unconventional heroine, a troubled, conflicted hero, and a motley crew of misfits who help and hinder the quest. In a kingdom at war, all the main players are trapped by a curse or self-imposed façade. This plays well into the movie’s main theme: overcoming fatal flaws.

The heroine, Sophie, is a quiet, hard-working girl who puts the success of the family hat shop above her own pleasure. One day, two soldiers accost her in an alley, and the beautiful, powerful wizard Howl swoops in and rescues her. This spurs the jealousy of the Witch of the Waste, who casts a spell that turns Sophie into an old woman. Hunched over and barely recognizable as her former self, Sophie heads out into the wasteland of witches and wizards in search of a cure. Her journey takes her aboard the wondrous moving castle of Howl, and she begins the adventure that forever changes her life and the lives of all those she encounters.

When I first saw this movie, I couldn’t believe that somebody had encapsulated my idea of the perfect fairy tale. The heroine’s strength is her weakness, and vice versa. Sophie’s work ethic and complete lack of vanity are what help her cope with her curse. “You’re still in pretty good shape,” she says, looking at her wrinkled visage in the mirror, “and your clothes finally suit you.” Yet her forced old age gives her the wisdom to appreciate the beauty of life around her, the antidote to her workaholic flip side. Howl is the dark hero, one minute kind and protective, the next minute self-centered and despairing. Until Sophie shows up, Howl has never had a reason to rise above his self-indulgent cowardice and answer the King’s summons to fight in the war. Ironically, it is Sophie’s arrival as an old crone that arouses the joy and adoration of the needful inhabitants, which forces her to face her own inability to recognize her feminine charms and accept love.

The allies and enemies are more than stereotypical fluffy cutesies and straight-up evil-doers. Calcifer, the fire demon who is forced to fuel the castle, lacks confidence and develops a bickering brother-sister friendship with Sophie. Markl, the wizard’s apprentice, at first begrudges “Grandma” Sophie’s presence but comes to depend on her like a son. The roly-poly wheezy dog has to be literally carried by Sophie out of and into trouble. The wicked Witch of the Waste is consumed with a trauma many of us can relate to—the inability to let go of a lost love. Each scene sparkles with sophisticated humor, and some of the lines are almost throwaway. While prepping Sophie for a dangerous mission, Howl says, “You’re wearing that hat? After I used all that magic to make your dress pretty?” All of this makes for a magical masterpiece.

Finally, the wonderful thing about this fairy tale is that although the characters are cursed, they learn that triumph comes from saving each other, and that conquering their internal demons is the ultimate battle.

Alisa Valdes Talks about The Temptation

May 11, 2012 § 5 Comments

The storm came out of nowhere.” —From The Temptation by Alisa Valdes

Alisa Valdes read from her new YA novel The Temptation at Bookworks in Albuquerque last week. From that first line, I was mesmerized. New Mexico storms are spectacular, but add a violent car crash, a circling pack of hungry coyotes, and a mysterious cowboy with unnerving powers, and you’ve got a storm to remember.

The Temptation, the first in Alisa Valdes’ Kindred trilogy, was released by HarperTeen on April 24, 2012. It is a supernatural suspense novel about two teens from opposite worlds who are kindred spirits. She’s urban prep school, he’s rural cowboy. That isn’t their biggest obstacle, however. Their biggest obstacle is that the boy is dead.

“The idea for this book came from somewhere other than me,” said Alisa. She knew she wanted to write a Romeo and Juliet ghost story, and originally her male lead was going to be a gang member. When she told people the idea, however, they weren’t sympathetic to the character, reformed or not. She was casting about for another opposite to her girl when she saw an article about two rodeo boys from Roswell. They were handsome young men, and one had just won a competition at a PRCA. And they were dead, victims of carbon monoxide poisoning while they slept in the camper of their truck. The tragedy struck Alisa, and her male lead, Travis Hartwell, was conceived. Her book is dedicated to the two young men who died.

Author Alisa Valdes and her YA novel The Temptaion. At Bookworks bookstore in Albuquerque.

As for the girl, Alisa wanted to create a female hero in a paranormal romance who is a stronger alternative to the Twilight-Bella mold. While the Twilight books tell a story of epic love and that is wonderful, Alisa feels girls should have something more than a hero who doesn’t go to college, gets pregnant, and wants to become a vampire. Enter Shane Clark, a girl who plays violin in the Albuquerque Youth Symphony, attends prep school on an arts scholarship, and has doubts about her boyfriend. Alisa even tried to inject some unconventional braininess into her hero, by having Shane solve one of the mysteries using algebra. HarperTeen nixed that idea. “They were like, ‘Keep the ghosts, no math,’” said Alisa.

I have started The Temptation and it is a fast, exciting read with evocative imagery. If you love paranormal romance and suspense and want something different than the vampires and werewolves fare, pick up this book.

Visit Alisa’s blog and learn more about her book The Temptation.

Read my post about Alisa’s talk at the Southwest Writers meeting in December 2011.

Week Eighteen: The Temptation, Still Typing, and the Awesome Avengers

May 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

May 6, 2012

I started reading The Temptation, a new YA novel from best-selling author Alisa Valdes. The Temptation, which was released on April 24th, is the first in Alisa’s supernatural romance Kindred trilogy. It’s about a girl who begins a strange and dangerous journey after her car crashes in a snowstorm and she is rescued by a mysterious young man with healing powers. The author, who lives in New Mexico, gave a talk and book-signing at Bookworks in Albuquerque last week. I will post more details on Alisa’s talk later this week. I am also still reading On Writing, which leads me to—

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”—Stephen King’s first editor, from King’s book On Writing.

I’d like to be rewriting, doors open or closed, but I’m still typing, often times while eating dinner. I wrote a lot of freaking pages that need to be transcribed, so, yeah, I’m still typing. Coffee is my best friend, and I am two episodes behind on Mad Men. You’d think with all the typing I’m doing that my speed and accuracy would improve, but no.


Albuquerque Studios, a movie studio located at...

Albuquerque Studios provided sets for The Avengers.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was up until 2:00 a.m. Saturday, all because of The Avengers (parts of which were filmed here in Albuquerque). When my friend and I got to the theater on Friday night, all the shows were sold out until eleven o’ clock. So we got tickets to the 11:00 p.m. show and whiled away the time at a nearby Asian restaurant and ate and talked until the smell of bleach told us the crew was cleaning—and closing the place. We went back to the movies a half hour before showtime, and as soon as the previews ended, people started clapping. I couldn’t be happier that Joss Whedon (whom I adore for Buffy and Dollhouse), broke opening weekend box office records and had people applauding before the movie had even started. The Avengers popped with Whedon’s particular brand of off-beat humor and snappy bicker/banter, and he characteristically turned the traditional female role on its head with one statement from Black Widow: “I’m in the middle of an interrogation!” I loved how he wrote the sad, haunted, emotionally isolated Bruce Banner, whom Mark Ruffalo portrayed perfectly. My favorite line: “A little secret—I’m always angry.” The entire audience laughed, clapped, and cheered throughout the movie, causing my friend to jokingly gripe, “People are acting like they’re watching live theater.” That is how much we were moved by The Avengers.

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