Archive for February, 2006
February 26, 2006
It’s All in Your Head
You know what’s fun? I started doing this recently whenever Beth goes to BBC News online to see what they say is going on in the US. Beth was perfectly content to read it as is, but since I have to read what she wants to read, I made her start reading it with a British accent. No no, not out loud, just internally, inside her own head. It’s great fun.
Try it if you’re not British. Everyone around you will wonder what you’re laughing at. Hey, you don’t have to tell them you’re laughing at yourself because you have such a crappy British accent, which only you can hear. They’ll leave you alone because they think you’re crazy. But you know better. You’re just having fun for a change while you read the news.
I was thinking this week. I already told you I do that , although it’s not always apparent. Anyhow, it seemed to me, while watching the Olympics, that a lot of what goes on there, the reactions of the athletes who win, is true in the writing world as well as in the sports world.
When you fall you get right back up and try again.
It’s kind of disheartening to see so many people who really, really want to have written a book fall by the wayside because they don’t want to go through all that trouble all over again so many times, but I’ve seen it a lot. Most people stop because it’s Just Too Hard and it Just Takes Up Too Much Time.
But that’s the big difference between novelists who succeed and noveliests who fail. Honest, it is. Having the confidence in yourself, even when you know you don’t know everything and are still learning, even when you’ve tried and tried again and it’s still wrong, to absolutely KNOW you CAN do it, that sooner or later you WILL succeed.
For a long time now I’ve known that if you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t. That’s a cliche, yes, but it’s still true.
Whatever’s in your own head determines whether you’ll go where you want to go.
Love y’all madly, see you again in a few days,
February 22, 2006
You Just Can’t Make These Things Up
I promised to blog every Wednesday and Saturday, didn’t I, unless I was busy. Well, I’m busy today, keeping track of Beth because she’s not capable of keeping track of herself right now. She’s getting so close to the end of our new book, THE SCOUTMASTER’S WIFE, that she’s making everyone who knows her crazy because nothing seems to matter except getting to The End. I guess she wants to find out what happens herself, as much as I do, and as we both hope you will when the book comes out.
Meantime, I thought I’d put this in my blog today because I was thinking about it while I sat with Beth, who was, as usual, zoning in on the news stations this morning. Gosh darn, seems like we’re just finding out the White House wasn’t aware we were giving a huge SECURITY CONTRACT to a company in one of the mideastern countries that, rumor has it, has in the past (goshohgollygeewhiz, is this POSSIBLE?) given money to various terrorist organizations.
With that in mind, I want to share with you my all-time favorite quote, spoken by our own Donald Rumsfeld during a press conference a few years ago. This has got to be the most masterful piece of dissemination I’ve ever heard, stunning in its simplicity and effectiveness.
What it did, of course, was baffle the White House Press Corps so much that they couldn’t do anything but sit there and mull over what he’d just said, while Rumsfeld tap danced and did even more of his Show Biz slight-of-hand tricks.
I love to watch him because he’s just so damn much fun to watch. On a slow news day, always call a press conference with Donald Rumsfeld. He’ll jazz your day up fast.
In this case, Donald had just been asked a question about who knew what when over something that had happened or was happening somewhere. I heard it, but I have to admit I was so enchanted with his answer (below) that I couldn’t do anything but sit there and scream-laugh, so I forgot the question.
Anyhow, here’s his answer, worthy of a NY Times column all by itself. I hope you love this as much as I do:
“As we know, there are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns.
That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
………Feb. 12, 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense news briefing
Isn’t it gorgeous? Folks, you just can’t make these things up.
Ta Ta till Saturday!
February 18, 2006
Hotclue’s First Interview
I was sitting around sunning myself out on the deck today, chatting over the Internet with Beth, when a brainstorm hit me. It was probably sunstroke that caused it, but I decided to interview her just to see what she comes up with WITHOUT my help–for a change.
She finally agreed, as long as I said I’d also interview other authors every couple of weeks. (She hates to be greedy, don’tcha know.) But I have a secret reason and PLEASE don’t tell her. I’m hoping I can snooker into telling me who the killer is in her new book, which she’s calling THE SCOUTMASTER’S WIFE.
About that title. She’s had that title since I first thought up the book and without missing a beat SHE stole my whole idea! She loves the title because, she says, it’s a solid, no-nonsense mainstream book title. I bet her a whole box of Oreos her publisher (if she ever gets one) will make her change it. I hope I win. I adore Oreos. Anyhow, let’s get on with the interview:
Me: First Question, Beth. Who’s the killer? (Subtlety is a fine art form, don’t you think?)
Beth: I’m never going to tell you.
Me: You say that to EVERYONE! Your crit partners are about to kill you! Why won’t you tell even one person? Like me?
Beth: Because as long as I can convince myself while I’m writing that I don’t know who it is, when I write scenes with my two leads, neither of whom knows who the killer is yet, I don’t have to worry about even giving out even a hint of it. I’m so much into their heads when I’m writing that I’m as confused as they are. Although I did in several places without realizing it before I decided for sure who it was going to be. I was surprised when I read back over the first chapters to find I actually had done that.
Me: So you DO know who it is?
Beth, shrugging: Of course.
Me: You sound so..so..well, sure of yourself.
Beth: You really ARE funny. I’m the world’s most insecure human being.
Me: You are not!
Beth: Am so.
Me: Are not!
Me: How can you be insecure when you have ME around?
Beth: Because you don’t have to write query letters. That’s the business part, remember? I do that part, and I’m almost to the place where I have to write one.
Me: You’re afraid of a little old query letter? A one page letter? A piece of PAPER?
Beth. Petrified would be more accurate.
Beth: Because I’ve had six books published and I’ve never had to write a query letter. I freeze up every time I even think of it. I did write one once, actually, and I screwed it up so badly I cringe every time I think of it.
I. Did. Every. Single. Thing. Wrong.
Me: Every? Single? Thing?
Beth. Every. Single. Thing. Please don’t make me repeat myself, Hots. It makes me sound senile.
Me: What could be so hard about it?
Beth: It’s just that the first thing agents read has to entice them to want to read the whole book. It’s the most important thing an author does, other than write a dynamite book.
Me: So did you at least do that?
Beth: Yes. But that’s just my opinion.
Beth: It’s the blurb. The one paragraph blurb. I have so much going on in this book that I can’t decide what to put in that paragraph and what to leave out.
Me: But you have a blurb on the first page of your website, where the books are listed. What’s wrong with that one?
Beth: I don’t know. I’m not entirely happy with it.
Me: HA! Remember, I told you to change it!
Beth. I know. I did change it. But not enough.
Me: I don’t know what I’m going to do with you!
Beth: I don’t blame you.
Me: I thought you were going to work on that this morning.
Beth: I played Turbo Solitare instead.
Me: Oh, THAT’s really professional of you!
Beth: Hots, does everything you say have to end with an exclamation mark?
Me: You’re procrastinating again. You’re doing it right now. Aha, I get it. You wanted to do this interview so you wouldn’t have to think about a query letter, right?
Me: I might, just MIGHT, be able to help you. If you’ll listen, for once.
Me: Honk on over to: http://www.agentquery.com/symposium_pitcheditors.aspx . That’s Agent Query.com. They have a lot of info about some great agents, how they work, what they’re looking for, how to submit to them.
Then, go to Readers Room and check out a couple of things there: http://www.readersroom.com/blog , that’s Natalie Collins’ blog, Inside of a Dog, and that gal really knows what’s going on in publishing. This month it’s about writing a query letter and a whole lot more.
They also have: www.readersroom.com/jmkagent.html –that’s written by one of the new Folio Literary Agency’s owners, Jeff Kleinman, talking about the agency and what each of Folio’s agents is looking for.
If that’s not enough, at Writersmarket.com, several more top agents answer questions about the author/agent relationship: www.writersmarket.com/content/agents_secrets2.asp
Beth: You’re so smart, Hotclue. How’d you find all that?
Me: You want to know? You really, REALLY want to know?
Beth: Yes. Please.
Me: You’re absolutely, positively SURE you want to know?
Beth: Sigh. Yes. Pretty please.
Me: I’m never going to tell you.
February 15, 2006
What Makes Barry Manilow Tick?
“Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl, with yellow feathers in her hair and her dress cut down to there, la da da deee da (bump!) la da da deee da (kick!) la da da” –oh, hi! I didn’t see you come in. I was just practicing in my brand new Claudia Ciuti three-inch spike heeled, strappy, gold metallic dancing shoes, yeah, BABY! Two hundred fifty bucks On Sale, a total steal. I bought them for my next trip to the Rivera. Pays to have rich friends and it’s a good thing I do, because for sure tightwad Beth’s never going to get me there. But I can’t worry about HER right now. My problem right now is finding yellow feathers for my hair.
FLASH: In my other, other life I’m a famous singing and dancing Broadway star. I can’t tell you my real real name because…well, I guess I can tell YOU why, since it’s just between the two of us, right? It’s because in my OTHER other other life I’m a covert CIA agent. But shhh, don’t tell anybody. It’s a secret.
I was thinking, while ago. I do that sometimes. I said the other day that Beth and I pretty much split our books, with her writing half and me writing half, BUT you know what I just realized? I’ve been writing less and less lately. I would have noticed it before but I’m flying here, cruising there, and that wretched Beth has been taking gross advantage of my absence.
Like I said the other day, I get to do the funny stuff, and Jack’s funny. Or he was, until Beth started getting him all spazzed out trying to find some killer. Well, I guess the poor guy CAN’T find out who it is. We’re at page 345 and even I don’t know who it is.
Anyhow, I just now realized Jack’s not ALWAYS funny. In fact, I’ve been almost totally pushed out of the writing-funny part, because another really cool, funny character in the same book, Kimberley Clarke, is changing, too, as the book nears the end. I don’t know about the others, I only read the ones I write.
(They’re all changing, Hots.)
Beth, JUST because I let you edit this mess is no reason for you to be inserting YOUR comments. Butt OUT.
It’s hopeless, folks. She’s everywhere. I bet she doesn’t even put my name on her new book cover in tiny letters, like a lot of big authors are doing these days when somebody else helps them write their book. Sniff!
FLASH: I have to go pack my bikinis. Did I tell you I’m staying on a yacht owned by Count Babalallapaloozo? He’s Italian. I hope his wife doesn’t find out I’m staying on his yacht. For the eighth time. Well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right?
But back to what I was talking about, more or less, and that would be Barry Manilow, who is right up there at the top of our “next four husbands” list.
What makes Barry Manilow so famous?
I can hear my crit partners now, groaning OH, GOD! LESSON ALERT!! LESSON ALERT!! Well, this sweeps over me every once in a while so indulge me, okay?
It can’t be his voice. He’s got a great voice but not a MAJOR great voice. It can’t be his looks. He’s cute, yeah he is, but he’s not Tom Cruise. What is it, REALLY, that makes him such a fabulous performer that I drool every time I even hear he’s going to be in town?
Why does his music touch all of us?
(Only most of us, Hots.)
I’m ignoring you, Beth.
I think it’s because he seems vulnerable. He’s lasted for years and years because he looks shy, like he might be almost embarrassed when he sings. He looks like he’s not sure he can remember all the words or even finish the song. He looks like he’s really, REALLY hoping we like him and he’s going to bust his b–uh–butt (Beth told me to clean it up a little) to make sure we do. But he’s not sure we will.
Oh, but we do. We love him. We adore him. We want to name our children after him. Hell, we want to HAVE our children WITH him. But why would he have that effect on us?
What I said before. Because he has that vulnerable look. He gives us the feeling he just might not hit that high note and might not be able to hold it long enough if he does hit it.
We know he will. We expect him to. He always does.
But he LOOKS like he might not.
I have a theory that the world’s most famous performers, the ones who last forever and ever, all have that same look and they all give us the same feeling, that they’re somehow vulnerable to something, that there’s *something else in there*. The real greats all have that look, that’s why we love them and keep on loving them, v/s the slick, polished ones who don’t sound like they mean what they’re singing or whatever. They could be lip-synching the words for all they care. They all eventually wind up singing on cruise ships.
So in building book characters (you knew this was coming, didn’t you), especially lead characters, it seems to me that’s one of the things we need to know about them before we start writing. What is their vulnerability? What IS it that makes them unique and at the same time might, just MIGHT cause them to fail?
I guess we need to know that first, before we know anything else, because THAT ONE THING will color everything our lead characters ever say or do. Or it will if we create a truly memorable character. I think, anyhow. Like I said, I do that sometimes although not always successfully.
We might not let our readers in on it until way, waaaaaay into the book, but as long as WE know what it is from the git-go, by the time we tell them what it is, our readers will think, “Well, okay, yes, I sort of thought there might be something like that because he has been kind of (you fill in the blank here).”
But it’s not because they REALLY knew it. It’s because WE knew it and we’ve been building up to the moment when we want to reveal it, whatever IT is, when it’s natural in the course of the story to reveal it, and not one second before, right? That makes him ever so much more loveable, ever so much more mysterious, ever so much more–well, vulnerable.
Yes. He’s wonderful, but he’s not quite perfect. There’s something else going on in there.
Something to think about, anyway, unless you want to wind up writing on a cruise ship.
You can always argue if you want to. That’s what that comment thing at the bottom is for. Either that, or you can tell me how right and wonderful and adorable and gorgeous I am. I’ll take that, too.
Oh, by the way, I should tell you how many times I’m going to post. I think twice a week will do it. Now don’t y’all worry, the Count has had a special computer room built on his yacht just for me, so I’ll be able to blog you (sounds so sensous, doesn’t it) twice a week for sure, even while I’m there. I’m aiming for Saturdays and Wednesdays. Unless I’m doing something else.
By the way, M. J. Rose has been running a series of columns over at her blog, mjroseblog.typepad.com/buzz_balls_hype/ about book tours. If you’re a writer with a book coming out, you might want to go read them. They’re pretty fascinating. And if that link actually shows up in this blog as a link, since I’m just experimenting here, I’ll send you my first born child. When it’s born, of course.
Ciao for now, I’m off to the Riviera. The Count and I are going to hit a few castle sales as soon as I arrive there, to find exactly the right antique furnishings for my computer room. I’m looking forward to that. There’s almost nothing I love more than a great bargain.
Well, I SAID almost.
Ta ta till Saturday!
Love y’all, honest I do,
February 11, 2006
Actually, It All Started With the Ben-Wah Balls…
Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, I’m Free At Last!
Beth finally (FINALLY!) gave me a forum where I could say what I want. Pssst: Don’t tell her, but she’ll be sorry. 😉
Beth and I get along inhabiting the same body, but our minds war constantly. Really, our bodies aren’t the same either. Actually, there are a lot of major differences between us.
Beth is 2,000 years old. She loves to tell people that because it keeps her from having to tell people how old she really is. I’m 24 and not a day older. In fact, today is my birthday.
Well, every day is my birthday, if you want to know the truth. Hers is in April, she’s a genuine Taurus, which explains why she’s so…well…damn stubborn. Me, I just buzz along happily, doing my thing depending on which day it is. Any day’s a good day for me. Beth keeps a calendar and notes everywhere.
But I know where the matches are.
Another difference: I’m a size 8. A perfect size 8, I’ll have you know. She’ll never tell you her size, even if you’re bringing in clothes for her to try on. She would rather walk out into the store in her underwear (we’ll get to that in a minute) than tell you what size she wears. Very embarrassing, actually.
About the underwear. Well, mine all comes from V S and they’re all lacy and thongy and gorgeous. As for hers, trust me when I tell you this, you don’t want to be in a department store when she walks out to pick out yet ANOTHER outfit while she dodges the clerk, who only wants to help.
Casual wear? Mine is all designer. Hers is whatever she grabs off the floor to write in. That’s usually sweats and socks. Yes, she actually wears socks, never, ever shoes while she’s writing. Sometimes I just have to just leave the room. She doesn’t care if there are a dozen holes in them, I wouldn’t be caught dead in half the things she wears. I’m telling you, it’s embarrassing.
Our personalities are completely different and this is where I really trip her up sometimes. I love to speak in public. She would rather sit in the back corner behind a screen with a bag over her head so nobody would know she was there. So…she lets me do all the conference speaking and I LOVE it because she has nothing at all to say about what I say there, just like here. I really take over then, Believe me, I’m lovin’ this blog stuff, yeah baby, almost as much as I Love Talking!
We write together. I do all the uncluttered, breezy, jok-y stuff, she writes all the serious stuff. Right now we’re working on a thriller. I get to write Jack’s chapters. She gets to write Raven’s. That’s the only thing we don’t fight about.
See, it all started, all this conflict, with the ben-wah balls.
Up to that time I never said much, just laid in the weeds, so to speak, waiting for I wasn’t sure what, although it’s been a while since I laid in any weeds. I’ll take a duvet covered feather bed, thank you very much.
Then one day she decided to clean out our husband’s bedstand drawer. Everything was going along fine, I was watching her do all that work while I filed my nails, until I heard her say, “What the hell is this?”
I looked over and down at her, since I was sitting on top of the dresser at the time, saw what she was holding, and I thought, this is it. It’s time I came out and wised this woman up.
That’s another difference, by the way. She is totally naive. She is. Everybody knows it. Her friends all know you can tell her the most humongous, atrocious lie in the world, and she’s going to believe it because to her, all things are possible.
She reminds me of the little girl in The Grinch, remember her, the one with the big eyes, singing “Ooo ra, doo ra” or whatever the hell those things sang in that movie? Well, that’s Beth. Hoo rah, doo rah, that’s her. Waiting for her Christmas present.
Me, I’m street smart and I know my stuff. Well, anyhow, there’s Beth standing there with this little box with two big balls in it, wondering what they were for. Like I said, naive, yeah, baby.
I knew what they were. But I waited to see what our husband would say.
He said, “They’re ben-wah balls.”
Now I’m sitting there, forgetting about my fingernails, wondering why he never showed them to her before. But I kept my mouth shut. I do that once in a while.
She said, “What are they for?”
He told her.
She said, “They go WHERE?”
That’s when she met me for the first time. I jumped down from the dresser, tapped her on the shoulder, and said, “Excuse me, dummy. Are you EVER going to wise up?”
She just looked at me. “But–they go WHERE? Is he CRAZY?”
“No, honey,” I said. “You are. Just put ’em back where you found ’em and hope he forgets about ’em.”
Fortunately for both of us, he did.
But that’s the day she first met me and acknowledged there was Someone Else there besides her.
It pays to come out, folks. It really does. Because here I am, I have my own blog and we’re going to talk about a lot of things.
Beth is a news junkie. She knows the name of every politician in the universe. I’m a clothes junkie. I know every good designer in the universe.
So the war for blog space begins…