Friday, June 30, 2006
As I had too much to say in the Comments Section, I thought I'd post my own thoughts on my Blog.
In a previous career incarnation I was a municipal police officer - one of the reasons I love the above TV shows, and why I love to write suspense and hopefully, thriller fiction. I've seen alot of things that most people just research, or think up. In fact, I had a hard time convincing an editor that I hadn't gotten the idea for a certain book from reading "another book", because it was so realistic...she didn't buy my book "because it's too much the same." I bought the other book, and it was nothing like mine, but convincing her I had the real dope on being a cop was impossible. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. But, as they say, I digress.
Re the idea that people watching violent video games, television, and movies will cause copy cat violent acts. This has been proven in countless studies, and countless courtrooms. Why? Because people (predominantly males 18-24) who have mental problems will watch these addictive items over and over and over again, inciting their fantasy until it becomes real to them. Then the rush it gives them isn't enough and the next thing is to *live out* their fantasy. Video games are especially a problem, which is why several of them, eg. "Grand Theft Auto", (I believe) have been revamped and restricted. An entire new rating system was devised after several copy-cat crimes happened in the States from several high-profile video games of this type.
A prominent movie that had copy-catted crimes in the States was "Natural Born Hero". Does this mean that everybody who sees these movies or plays these games will go out and steal cars and kill people? Of course not - but there are marginalized sociopaths, who will copy something that clicks with them and grabs them as the perfect fantasy. And they don't have to be individuals - there are gangs of kids who find them attractive to play out as role games.
Sandra suggests that everyone blames everyone in society but themselves for their actions - as an ex-cop I can say that that is definitely true. It's part of the criminal mentality that they are victims of the "system"; whether foster homes, criminal justice, family, school, etc. Sociopaths have no concenscious anyway, so they aren't to blame for anything. Sandra is being a bit simplistic here in forgetting who commits crimes out there. It isn't the soccer mom down the street, or the husband who had one too many after work. (although in the right circumstances they can be held up in the criminal justice system). Criminals tend to be lifers: they learn it early, it's a lifestyle, they're not that smart, and they DO blame everyone but themselves.
Sandra's final question was whether anyone had "felt compelled to stop reading a book, stop watching a movie, or change a scene you wrote because you felt it was gratuitous and irresponsible?"
I liked this question. It's great food for discussion - again, do books promote acts of violence the way the above media do? I say no. Most criminals aren't stimulated by the written word the way they are visually. Her earlier question about our responsibility for writing in such a way as to not promote copy-cat killings of vicious murders can be summed up by that answer, I think.
Have I felt compelled to stop reading a book due to it being gratuitous and irresponsible? YES. It was a Beatrice Small historical. I had no idea of how "hot" her medievals were and was completely disappointed in her one and only novel I picked up at a used book store. I didn't get past the second chapter and pitched it. The blurb promised so much, but the sex was so gratuitous...
Have I felt compelled to walk out of a movie? Hmmm......Deep Throat which was shown as part of a Pyschology class back in college in the '70's. You can imagine how much shunning I took for that act. By now, you likely think I'm one uptight Lizzie, but I have an erotica author on my right hand links - Robie Madison - so I'm not that bad! But gratuitous, and plain awful? Yep! And I didn't see how it had anything to do with Pyschology either, except that the prof wanted an excuse to see it himself.
Change a scene I wrote? I did once - it was a rape scene that I decided was too graphic after my sister read it. I figured if she was uncomfortable with it, most people would be too, and what was the point in that - there were better ways of getting my character's suffering across. The final scene worked much better and I learned something - subtlety is far superior to high detail when giving a character's POV in most cases.
When I was a cop I saw some pretty graphic things, even though I was in a small city. I don't think there's anything to be gained by crime writers glorifying the psychopathic horrors visited upon victims of some child murders, sex crimes, or murder/suicides. Most people can get the broad strokes of the thing with plain good writing. Do we have a responsibility not to glorify violence for violence's sake? Yes, I believe we do.
For the sake of the victims of crime out there, who may pick up our book at the airport thinking that it's about some other theme and then realizing it's about a kidnapped teen whose body parts are scattered along a highway. For the rape victim who buys your book not realizing that the heroine gets stalked before the hero Lt. McGregor tracks him down in LA. For the sake of all the parents who have kidnapped children, had their home/business hit by arson, got mugged, or car-jacked. Because for every scenario we come up with, it's happened in some way to somebody out there in the public arena. Maybe they're not going to be reading suspense or thrillers because of what happened to them....but while we do have a responsibility to build suspense for our readers and give them the best story possible, I don't believe we have the right to glorify the horror of what has happened to real life victims.
See why I couldn't fit all this in Sandra's Comments Section? :)
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Unfortunately for my DS, I took my computer back today and managed to work out the backstory for my WIP. I feel much more grounded now, and it's starting to gell together in my mind. Had a brainstorming session with my old critique partner on both my WIP and on her WIP as well. My challenge now will be to work in the back story on all these characters, from their younger days, to present day, and have my heroine find the clues and reveal the story like peeling back an onion. I feel invigorated and finally got rid of my headache. :) It's a great feeling when your writing starts to go in the proper direction and it's not just a pile of notes jumbled up on your desk. It's becoming a real outline on the computer now, and my characters are becoming real people. Still no title though!
He gives tips like building up your query letter like a resume if you're still unpublished - submit short stories, write amusing stand-out blogs, wear orange pleather or a mohawk, and convince your agent that you're outstanding and worth representing. (I seem to remember being told NOT to send letters edged in lavender, perfumed, or gifts of chocolate, etc. Does this somehow relate to orange pleather and mohawks? Hmm....)
In the Comments Section, I asked him "What's the most memorable first line of a query letter that resulted in your buying a book, Jason?"
Apparently I'd missed the point of the post (quite possible), or he thought I was snookin' him off (also possible), but he gave me a good answer anyway.
Answer: "The best line was for a debut novel which read,'This is the best debut novel I've read in 10 years.' And the letter was written by an agent who represents Michael Connolly and James Lee Burke. Needless to say, that stuck in my head......I can't stress enough how important it is for authors to NOT query editors, but to keep honing their craft until an agent is willing to vouch for them."
He did talk about pitching to agents in the post and I'd missed that obvious clue. However, I also wanted some explanation of *what* constituted a good, if not GREAT query letter, because it's a topic that's talked around and around and around, but nobody ever seems to get down to it.
If you read his post on MJ's blog, you will get some pointers. And his marketing plan is a good one and one I espouse, even though every friend I have since I began writing six years ago is already published and I'm not - yet. I submit to agents, and my friends are published by small presses, with the exception of one friend who kept submitting to 300 agents and editors, until one agent finally picked her up and sold her book to Kensington within 3 weeks. So, persistance certainly pays off.
Given my friend's successes with small presses, I'd have to say that their marketing plan has worked well. They will have those "writing credits" in their query letters as per Jason's post.
But Jason didn't address one thing, and that's the tremendous power of Lady Luck. Yes, it's fantastic when an over-worked and under-paid editor has a pre-vamped book sent to him by a big name agent.
But, in the final analysis of writing your best, unique, cutting-edge, novel that will out-sell the Da Vinci Code - I still say that it's not just who you know in NY, it's a crap shoot. It's a lucky day when that agent you submitted to is having a slow-down in kick-ass heroine books, or finally wants to take a chance on a historical mystery with paranormal elements. Maybe you've written a romantic suspense that *doesn't* end with the hero/heroine together at the end - breaking all the rules, and she knows just which editor to send it to.
And if you're looking to get your romantic suspense/suspense/mystery in front of an agent who's actually looking for new authors (as opposed to looking for authors who're looking for a new agent)...click on the KOD Link opposite, go to the 2006 Retreat page and check out what we're offering in late September. You can pitch, or send in a partial to be critiqued for free. It doesn't get any better than that and there's still some Registration room.
Long post today, so no new recipe. For everyone north or south of the border - have a wonderful and safe long weekend!
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Here's why I haven't had time to blog all weekend. It was perfect weather all weekend, and Honda just happened to have a sale on down at the shop. We went down for a look-see, and there sat the most beautiful, two-tone firey paint job, 2006 Shadow Sabre, softail-style bike we had ever seen. Classy, sassy, and just begging to be ridden on these ribbon Saskatchewan highways! My DH has wanted a motorcycle for years, and so far I've always said "no" figuring that at some point, his male menopause had to come to an end. (and figuring mine had to begin somewhere, right?)
Short story long, we bought it and he's been having a ball ripping around on it ever since. It's had a miraculous effect on his flying too. :) He's been acing his flights, and his exams. He says it's the relaxation involved with feeling the wind in your face and streaming through your jacket. I can't wait to get a backrest on it and ride with him. It's an 1100 model so there's lots of power for two of us on the highway. He says he wants to get used to it before carrying a passenger.
I haven't been on a bike since I was 26 yrs old, but I spent alot of time on one then as it was my current beau's only mode of transportation. It felt delicious to run the highways around Ottawa in my fake black leather pants, and go to parties on a bike. I'm sure I'll regain some of that feeling of the "untamed" highway. Nothing like bringing back a sense of your youth and fond memories to spike up your writing! Or "fill the well", as one author said in her article in this month's RWA. Guess my DH and I are both reinventing ourselves - or is it just getting back to the things we once enjoyed when we were young and unencumbered with so many responsibilities? I think so. He had a girlfriend in his young "bike" years, too.
Now we can share it together whenever I can get a sitter for the children. There's a Club in town that rides regularly Wednesday p.m.'s and on weekends. It's opened up a whole new world. This has nothing to do with writing, but it's opened my mind to fresh possibilities with my DH and that's a good thing. The more creativity you put into your relationship, the more creativity you'll have in your life as a whole. I believe that - if you feel stifled, you're not going to feel like writing much. I hope to report more on my progress this week. Stay tuned! :)
Thursday, June 22, 2006
LEMON DROP TEA PARTY
1 bottled Iced Tea or make it yourself
30 ml (2 tbsp) of vodka
30 ml (2 tbsp) of orange flavoured liqueur such as Grand Marnier
30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh lime or lemon juice (be adventurous and try the lime)
Combine all ingredients in a martini shaker filled with ice. (any shaker will do). Shake well and then strain into well-chilled glasses. Garnish with raspberries or lemon slices. Great outdoor drink.
Next week, I'll try and have something specific for meat on the BarBQ, for the long July weekend. If you haven't tried these two drink recipes by then, you can give them a whirl on either Canada Day, or Independence Day. :)
Ever have a story that would go well from either the hero's POV, or the heroine's POV? Do you try to really "mainstream" it and hope you can land an agent, or do you go with the heroine and hope you can "romantic suspense" it and sell to that market? I'm thinking I should try do write a partial from either POV and see which feels right. Sheesh. Maybe I'm just trying too hard. I keep just deleting pages in frustration and have nothing to show for myself. So much for hoping to be in the Killer Class of 2007. Ha!
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Talk about an unproductive day! I'm planning on making tomorrow a "sit-down-butt-on-chair" day, except for lunch for one hour with a friend - she conveniently has a job interview which will put a nice bookend to our gabfest at lunch.
This is my victim pic - yes, you can all guess who he is easily enough, but I wasn't going to waste any time googling "North American Indian" pics for days! :) There's actually more than one victim in the book, but it'll have to get published before you can find out who the second one is and what the story is with that person. This guy is my "Cold Case" victim, and for now, my WIP is just going to be called "Cold Case" as I can't stand not having any kind of title. As I get into fleshing out the outline I'm sure something a bit more intriguing will come to me as a working title.
I've never tried a book with two villains and two victims before, but they'll hopefully intersect nicely. If I fail, well, I can't say I didn't try!
Monday, June 19, 2006
We watched our beloved Edmonton Oilers lose the Stanley Cup. That makes 18 years that Canada hasn't brought it home.
Another couple joined us for the evening - he's Canadian and she's American but this was only her second hockey game. She surprised herself by how much she got "into it". It was a tremendous game - fast, edge-of-your seat hockey. Edmonton pushed them to seven games, and Carolina played a dynamic playoff season. Goodbye till September, boys!
Friday, June 16, 2006
- Mow the grass because I'm not strong enough to pull the choke - my kind neighbor in our semi took pity on me last weekend and did the front lawn for me as DH was studying for a big exam in the "Crystal Palace".
- Get my DD out of the ADULT pay-per-view section on our Satellite TV without calling the Satellite people to help me, and then having them talk me through putting the Parental Controls on so she can't get into them again, in French or in English!
- Get my Satellite TV back on after my DD has been fooling around with the remote and I can't figure out how to do it myself without calling the Satellite people to help talk me through it. (I know, pathetic!)
- Stop a water leak in my basement caused by tremendous thunder storm. There were only three basements flooded - it's been two days and there's two guys to fix leaky basements. Hmmm.....as I mop and squeegee, mop and squeegee, wonder if this could be used as an insanity defense for a murder....tell myself to look on the bright side, I'm renting and don't have to pay for the repairs, IF the guy ever comes....as the water continues to pour in...
- Can't fix the computer settings after DS has been fooling around on computer and playing computer games. (I know, THIS is REALLY pathetic, but I'm not computer literate at all!)
- Try and explain to special needs DS that he has to use HIS razor Mom bought him, even if he does like the colour pink. Give up and let him use pink one; in scheme of things, who cares?
- Spend most of free time chasing orange cat who special needs DD lets out of house because she likes to see "him be free". Cats aren't allowed outside here. Seriously think about letting him "go" so he'll find a nice home at the Humane Society, but it's a toss up as to who would kill me first, DH or DD.
- Get DS out of bed before 8 a.m. for the school bus - DH leaves at the crack of dawn and DS only responds to him. DS races to bus stop with three minutes to spare every a.m.
- Lay 20 patio stones, even with female volunteers, for the patio I dream of complete with patio planters and chaise lounges. Maybe next year!
- Fix computer printer so it'll do more than print gibberish. Again, not computer literate!! Argh!! (lucky I have two, thanks to his computer lease from his last job)
What does this all have to do with writing? Nothing. I needed to take a break from writing, that's all. :) Only one person has tried to guess my villian and she was close, but wrong.
To all single moms out there, I salute you! You're doing a hard, hard, job. Motherhood is most often a thankless one for which we get a one day salute at best. Whenever my DS says "I love you, mom", it's the most precious thing in the world to me. If you're single and mothering, never give up. My problems will seem petty compared to yours, likely, but you're doing a great job. And if you're single, mothering, and writing.....you're fantastic!
Back to the partial....
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Our Snowbirds aerial demonstration team is being celebrated in Ottawa today and doing two special shows - ultimately flying over the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. I saw their Inaugural Show here in Moose Jaw before they left on their US/Canada tour for the season, and it's definitely their best one yet. If you hear about them coming to your area, you've got to go see them. They're fantastic and it's an experience your kids will never forget. My dh doesn't want anything military on my blog, but I'm so proud of living in the Snowbirds backyard, and about what they do as Ambassadors for Canada all over North America, that I had to show you some pictures and mention that they were especially being celebrated today. And, it's not my dh's blog, is it? :)
I realize I've been gone awhile and I hope you check out my new Links. I've only got till Aug. 1st to finish this partial (still unnamed! - I should have a contest out of my few blog readers...ha!) to get it off to our NY agent who's coming to our Victoria B.C. "Love and Death North of The Border" Retreat, on September 29, 30, and Oct. 1st. Patti Steele-Perkins has agreed to read and comment on all partials submitted to her (in her hands), and returned to the Committee for the Retreat. IF you're a member of RWA, you can click on my link to KOD and find out all about it on their 2006 Retreat page. The attendee list is restricted to 50 people, so you want to get cracking if you want to go. And, you can only get your partial read if you're going!
Here is my villian in the story, see if you figure out which actor he is....an interesting clue I found out when I researched him: he only has a Grade 9 education! And he's been robbed of an Oscar more than once.
OKAY.....I have to figure out why Photoblogger doesn't put the photos in the place you want them to! Argh! Anyway, you can see the picture and still put a guess in the comments section.
On Thursdays, I'm going to try and give you bloggers an interesting summer recipe to try for some relaxation after a hard few hours slogging away writing in the heat, or with children begging for treats at your ankles, etc. They will all be Canadian recipes taken from either Canadian magazines or our national newspaper the Globe and Mail, but they should use easy to get ingredients for everyone. This particular recipe is a pretty drink for a backyard barbq, and with the weekend coming up, I thought it definitely applied. If you can't get Lipton's Green Tea in the States, then I recommend making Green Tea the same way you make real tea, with ice, and using the other ingredients. This recipe is for one drink - if you want a whole pitcher, well, :) you do the math!
1/3 cup bottled or canned lemon iced tea (75 ml)
2 tbsp vodka (30 ml)
2 tbsp blue curacao liqueur (30 ml)
1 tbsp fresh lime juice (15 ml)
Combine all the ingredients in a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake well and then strain into a well-chilled glace. Garnish, if desired, with lime wedges. Serves one. (like I said, do the math for a whole pitcher)
I only wish I could upload a picture to show you how pretty this looks in tall glasses, garnished with lime wedges. Something for the ladies while the men cook their steaks for Father's Day!
Back to my Links at the right. I've changed "Romance Writing Mom" to "Toni Anderson" because she's branding herself right now and has changed the name of her blog. Head on over there to see what she's up to. Also, Jason Pinter, is a novelist/editor, and has a great blog piece on attracting an agent and what to do and not do. Check him out as well. Great blog. Kelsy George doesn't have a blog anymore, but has a fantastic website and is an up and coming author to watch. She has contests, a newsletter, and articles. Hope you enjoy the New Stuff!
So, anyone guessed who my unnamed villian/actor is so far, in this multi-layered cold case novel?
Please leave a comment. ;)
Thursday, June 01, 2006
We were still churning out the synopsis, with two, not one, but *two* printers, at 4:45p.m. yesterday - trying to get it in the post in time to be post-marked for May 31st. :) Courtney said it reminded her of being in university again! We had a riot writing the chapter, back and forth via email, and it certainly primed our pumps for further writing exercises under pressure.
Courtney is really a theatre artist who does one-woman plays on the Fringe Theatre circuit. She'll be performing this summer in Regina, Winnipeg, and Saskatoon. She's amazingly talented and I envy her ability to give life to her characters through drama, acting, and using masks and costumes. She's studied in California and around the southern States. If you want to learn more about Courtney and her drama you can click on the link at the right.
Our mystery entry was her first attempt at writing in "novel" form. She's more used to writing monologues or two person dialogues. We'll have fun banging some dialogue off each other, I hope, as we each create characters who are trying to be their three-dimensional best.
The Mustard Museum houses 4,500 different kinds of mustard which can be bought. You owe it to yourself to check out the link and peruse their Gallery for online shopping! If you want some great BarBQ's this summer, I highly recommend their product....I'm planning on a little shopping myself. :)