Friday, March 22, 2013

Publishing A Novel: Don't Believe Your Own Press?

Sorry for the slow blogging, but I've been putting the time into actually writing my latest novel. I received some great feedback from my cousin Rachael and have added yet another person to my editing team: my friend Brian. I'm trying to not make the same mistakes that I have with BAND GEEK and having so many people read over my work is definitely helping. I'm happy with my novel's progress and so far, everyone seems to be enjoying it.

I've gone for several weeks now without reading reviews. Yesterday, I had lunch with my cousin Tom and he told me that when it comes to his movies or TV appearances, he doesn't read any reviews at all. He just takes on roles that he likes and enjoys the work ... and doesn't care what others have to say. His argument is that if he's going to believe the good reviews then he also has to believe the bad reviews... and he doesn't want to be brought down by them. He also noted that if people like a certain thing that you do, you might end up doing it in excess to please them and then it's no longer authentic.

I can understand what he means, especially since I've gotten some very good and very bad reviews -- and I've been both elated and angered by them. They really can mess with your mind. But I still think that reviews can be valuable and it's a bit different when it comes to writing. When he's acting, he's taking on one aspect of a production that someone else wrote and directed. With my books, I'm in charge of the whole thing so I have a little more creative control -- and any praise or criticism is directed at me.

Perhaps I need to find a happy medium and only read certain types of reviews, i.e. reviews written by "professional" book critics? I don't know. I do like getting feedback and I believe that it's important for readers to share their thoughts. Then again, when do you draw the line between pleasing readers and writing for yourself -- and really, how do you cater to everyone's tastes, anyway?

For now, I'm going to continue writing and will stay away from reviews until the book is finished. Still, I hope you'll check out REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD and will at least let others know what you think.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Reviews: V Is For Virgin And Serial Hottie By Kelly Oram

I've discovered a Young Adult author whose work I enjoy very much: Kelly Oram, author of V Is For Virgin and Serial Hottie. It took me less than two days to plow through both novels because I just couldn't put them down! Her writing is easy and conversational, and reminds me a bit of Meg Cabot's -- which I mean as a compliment.

V Is For Virgin is narrated by a young woman named Valerie, a high school senior who -- gasp! -- has decided to not have sex until marriage. *SPOILERS AHEAD* After she's dumped by her boyfriend for not putting out, their confrontation in the cafeteria goes viral -- and Val takes a very strong stand by turning her decision to wait into a movement for other teens. Meantime, she captures the attention of a rock star and her movement becomes an even bigger deal than she'd anticipated.

Okay, so many parts of this story were pretty fantastic and slightly unrealistic, but who cares? This is why I read fiction and Oram made all of her book's events perfectly believable. I loved Val, who was strong, outspoken and determined to stick to her beliefs. I also liked the fact that her virginity really wasn't the main concern; the book's true theme was about choices and the idea of standing behind one's own decisions.

Though the book deals with the ideas of virginity and abstinence, it is not preachy at all. Val (and the author) never claim that being a virgin is the right choice; it's more about it being the right choice for VAL and she has a very specific and important reason for why she wants to wait.

Of course, with this being a YA novel, there is a love triangle and both guys involved are compelling. You can understand why Val would be attracted to either one. However, the relationships between her best girl friend and a couple of new girl friends are also very well drawn, so it isn't just about Val and the guys.

The one downside for me is that I wasn't crazy about Val's rock star suitor. I found him to be a bit too pushy and disrespectful of Val's personal space. He wasn't a bad guy, but he seemed to think that he could win her over by constantly getting in her face -- and I just didn't find that to be very attractive.

Almost immediately after finishing V Is For Virgin, I began Serial Hottie. In this novel, the narrator is 16-year-old tomboy, Ellie. *SPOILERS AHEAD* She's very attracted to Seth, the new boy in town who's just moved in across the street, but when a serial killer murders several girls who look like her, she suspects that her new suitor could be the culprit. *Gulp.*

And boy does she have good reasons to suspect him: Seth is skilled in karate and knife throwing, and seems to be a little too interested in the murders. He also has a bad temper and "kidnaps" Ellie to prove that he won't hurt her. Um... what?

I didn't like this book as much as Virgin, but I still enjoyed reading it. Again, Oram pulled me right into the story and I couldn't wait to find out who was the real serial killer. Ellie was a decent narrator, but was a bit violent for my taste (she breaks a guy's nose and punches a girl in the face, among other things). However, I LOVED her relationship with her "girly-girl" sister, Angela. At the start of the book, she and Ang don't seem to have much in common, but as the summer progresses, they bond and become friends. Once again, Oram invests a lot of time in crafting a female friendship, which I must appreciated.

My issue with this book is the same as the other: I was not crazy about the "hero," Seth. *MAJOR SPOILER BELOW*

Though Seth obviously wasn't the killer, he had major, major issues! He also had a violent streak and was jealous of Ellie's many friendships with boys. He also kept telling Ellie that he'd "make" her be his, which wasn't romantic; it was creepy. He did have a sweet side, but like the rock star in VIRGIN, was also very pushy and disrespectful of Ellie's personal space. I guess the author thinks that pushy guys are romantic? See, I don't. And I really never liked it when a guy would insist that I had feeling for him before I was ready to say that I did.

Even so, I was entertained by both stories and enjoyed Oram's writing. I'm going to check out her supernatural YA book Being Jamie Baker and will let you know what I think of it. As for the other two, I give Virgin 4.5 stars and Hottie 3.5. Both are quick reads that I recommend to anyone who loves YA!

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Publishing A Novel: Measure Of Success

There is a woman in my enameling class who is an amazing artist. I'm a decent intermediate enamelist, but she is incredible, a true artist. When I come up with a design idea, I make a rough sketch in my notebook and then get to work on my creation. However, her notebook is filled with detailed, colorful sketches of her pieces that are so beautiful, they're works of art in of themselves.

This week, we were discussing our jewelry pieces and I asked if she ever sells her stuff. "Actually, I don't," she said. "My pieces are too time-consuming to make and besides, I don't really like to part with them."

She went on to say that she sometimes makes jewelry for her friends, but other than that, she mainly keeps her work for herself.

This surprised me because she could probably get a few hundred bucks for each of her necklaces. She could even submit them to a gallery, if she so desired. If she put her name out there, she could easily become a well-known artist/jewelry designer. But she just has no desire to do this. She's happy making jewelry for herself and doesn't care if she isn't known around the world.

I'm writing about this woman because I truly admire her and wish that I could be more like her when it comes to making my own things. While I do write because I enjoy it and make jewelry because it's fun, I also want the "success" that comes with sharing my work. But what exactly is success? Does it mean that my novel is a best-seller or that I sell a certain number of jewelry pieces in a certain amount of time?

The truth is, I haven't quite figured this out yet because I always want more. I'm not raking it in when it comes to selling my work online, but my book and jewelry are selling fairly steadily. Most people seem to enjoy my work? Shouldn't I be satisfied, especially since I'm getting to do things that I like to do? I'm not always as I always hunger for something bigger, but I'm trying to take a step back. I'm trying to live more in the moment and concentrate on how much I love making jewelry or how much I like writing my latest novel. I can't worry too much about reviews or how many units are being sold because it's taking some of the joy out of my work. I wish I could be more like my classmate who wears her pieces with pride -- and doesn't give a damn what the rest of us think.

I don't know if I'll ever fully share her mindset, but I can try to find a happy medium. So I'm going to continue creating and sharing, and will appreciate any feedback that I receive. I'm just not going to let my moods be governed by other people's thoughts -- and will try to keep in mind that I'm ultimately doing these activities for my own enjoyment.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Writing A Novel: It's All In The Details

It's been about three days since I've last looked at any reviews for BAND GEEK. I'm sticking with my plan to avoid reviews until my new novel is complete ... though it isn't easy! I'm very tempted to log onto Goodreads and Amazon to see how things are going and it's taking all of my resolve to stay away from the critiques for now.

I am moving forward with my latest work. March 23 marks a year since I was laid off from Soap Opera Digest and I would love to have my draft finished by that date. Plus, I work better with deadlines, so it's forcing me to get going.

I haven't written any new chapters this week, but I've done a lot of work and editing on the first 15. Since my main male character, Griffin, is a runner and is training my narrator, Sadie, I've had to research what goes into running on a track team and running marathons. It's been interesting to learn about different training techniques, etc. Honestly, I'm no athlete so I couldn't just write what I know in this case. I did complete a 20-mile walk a few years ago, but that's not quite the same as running a marathon. I want my information to be as accurate as possible, even if the book is fiction.

There's been a little debate going on between my husband and cousin Tom regarding my book's details. Tom has warned me not to include too many details about running and marathons because he fears that it will drag down my story and make it dull. However, Jon likes the details and feels that they add to the realism of the story. His argument is that if Griffin is training Sadie to complete a marathon, she'd be interested in learning what goes into this -- and in this case, having some details of her training would make sense.

My solution is to go middle of the road. I'm including some notes about her training, but am not writing scene after scene of running stats. Most of the focus is on the characters' friendship and how her training ties into that. I hope that the parts that do center on her workouts are exciting and show how the character is gaining self esteem. I want readers to root for her and in order to do that, they have to see and understand how hard she's working.

Adding details to a story helps make it more realistic, in my opinion. In BAND GEEK, I included a lot of information on playing the flute and flute music so that readers could understand Melinda's passion. And in this book, I want them to be able to place themselves in Sadie's world.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.