Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Stage Mama's Epiphany on Technique and Execution

Since I see just about everything in my life in terms of writing, it's no surprise that I can turn a stage-mama moment into a lesson on the craft :)

My 6 yr old had her first gymnastics competition this past Friday. Well, it was an exhibition - she's in the pre-competitive team program that is designed to give the girls a taste of what being on the actual team and doing competitions will be like. If they like it and make it through the program, they move up to the competitive team. Well, my daughter LOVES it. And she's good at it.

She's not the best. She hasn't been around as long (just started about 7 months ago) so she isn't as experienced as some of the girls who are older or came from the advanced class. But she's pretty dang good. And while one or two of the other (older and more experienced) girls do the actual routines better, my daughter NAILS it with her form. (Stick with me...I promise I'm not going to go all psycho-proud-mama on you...too much :D )

She might flub a move here or there, the other girls might complete the routine without as many mistakes, but my daughter's execution of the routines is really beautiful. Her form and technique are clean, solid, totally crisp, muscles taut, toes pointed - really, just fun to watch, even if there are mistakes the other girls may not have made.

And it made me think of books and getting published (because seriously, most things in my life do lol).

I know I'm not the only one to pick up a published book and think "if this got published, why can't my book?"  Or maybe you finish reading an absolutely amazing book and just feel like you want to hang up your pen because you'll never write something as awesome as that.

I feel like that a lot. Especially when I'm struggling with a particularly stubborn project that feels like I'll never get it done (to my satisfaction that is) :) I finished reading a book just last night that sort of gave the "oy, my current wip will never be this good" vibe.

And then I got to thinking. If I break it down by elements, the story I'd read really wasn't any better than the story I'm writing right now. I think my story just as interesting, just as compelling. But the form, the technique, with which the published book was executed is better than mine at the moment.

I think sometimes, when I run into issues with my books, I tend to focus on the storyline. I try to think of new elements I can add, new characters or new situations. And then I over-complicate things, bog them down with unnecessary additions. When I might just need to focus on executing the elements I already have better. I don't need to make the plot more complicated or throw in a dozen new twists. I just need to weave better, transition smoother, flow better - hone my technique and make the story I have really shine.

So in the spirit of that, I'm off to polish up a manuscript :)

How are you all doing with your projects? Do you ever have "I'm gonna hang up my pen" moments? What gets you past them?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Doing a Little Experiment

I'm trying to combine my website and blog (as I rarely use my website and all the info can be found here anyway). So, I've attempted to link them so my domain name - authormichellemclean.com - pulls up this blog site. Hopefully this will be working shortly and won't mess up anyone who uses the blogspot url to get to my blog. I have no idea how that all works....I'm slightly (okay more than slightly) technically challenged :D

UPDATE: Okay, so this is working now, but only if you type www.authormichellemclean.com. I told it to redirect it if you don't enter the www but we'll see if that works or not :D

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stupid Heroines

I was reading a book this weekend that got me thinking about heroines and the sometimes stupid things they do. This book is part of a series, and I'd really enjoyed the first book. And the second book was pretty good. The heroine is a little ditzy, clutzy, always getting herself into off-the-wall situations by doing sort of stupid things - but at the same time, you can understand why she's doing what she's doing.

At the end of the second book was quite a long excerpt for the third book. I started reading it. Until I realized that the setup for what the heroine was about to get herself into was too ridiculously stupid for even a fictional character. I mean the whole mystery/storyline, etc was fine. But the way the heroine went about getting involved was just too unbelievable for me.

In the first two books, situations sort of happened that the heroine had no control over and yes she made poor choices, but at the same time, you can understand why she was making those choices. But in book 3, her boyfriend ends up getting demoted at work because of something stupid (but understandable) that she does. He rightly and understandably tells her to keep her nose out of his work life (he's a cop).

To make it up to him, so he'll have to forgive her, she decides to help him solve his case. And this apparently kicks off a book's length of high-jinx adventures.

I stopped reading the second she decided to "help him." It is completely unbelievable to me. I don't care how ditzy you are or how badly you want to help, I can't imagine a rational person, 10 seconds after finding out that her dumb actions almost get a man she supposedly cares for fired, and 8 seconds after being told in no uncertain terms that she needed to keep away from his cases, deciding that the best course of action would be to jump right in there and start meddling again.

I'll probably still read later books in the series, but there comes a point that I just can't deal with a character's stupidity. I'm all for giving characters flaws, and this character is pretty flawed and it normally works great. But you've got to make it believable. And for me, in this instance, her actions were unbelievable and stupid enough that I lost all desire to read the book.

I had one other instance of this happening. I picked up a book everyone was raving about, but the main character was so irritatingly whiny I couldn't stomach spending more than 3 chapters with her. Maybe she got better later on in the book - but I couldn't deal with sticking around with her longer to find out.

I think there is a fine line between charmingly flawed and just downright irritating. Hopefully the characters I create don't cross it :)

Have you ever come across an instance like this? Has a character ever turned you off so badly you walked away from the book, even (or esp) if it was part of a series you otherwise liked?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness GIVEAWAY Winner!

And the winner, chosen by the ever-handy Draw-the-name-from-a-hat method is....


Congrats!! You should already have your brand new copy of The Emotion Thesaurus in your inbox and I'll be contacting you about the gift card.

Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness GIVEAWAY w/ The Bookshelf Muse

I think today is a good day to give something away, don't you? :D

Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are doing something wonderful to celebrate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus (which, btw, I've had the pleasure of receiving and am THRILLED to have it on my shelf - check it out!!).

They have started an amazing fest of Random Acts of Kindness. You can go to their blog and enter for chances to win incredible prizes. We've got a little giveaway going on at OA as well.

And, I thought I'd do a little something fun here as well. You know, you always hear that writing is a solitary act...but I don't know if that's necessarily true. So so so many people have helped me along my journey. From the wonderful Jeannie Ruesch who was the first author to really take me under her wing when I was first starting out, to my amazing group of friends and critique partners, to my non-writer friends and family who are always there with their support and encouragement.

When I very first started trying to write "for real", I was mostly on my own. I hadn't met any other writers yet, my husband was traveling a lot for work, and we were living in a new area where I didn't know many people. I got a lot of work done, but A) it was bad lol and B) it was lonely.

This whole writing journey is so much easier with a support group behind me. I don't know what I'd do without my amazing circle of awesomeness :)

So! As my Random Act of Kindness, I think I'll giveaway a $15 gift card to the online book retailer of your choice - AND a pdf or ebook copy of Becca and Angela's Emotion Thesaurus :)

Just leave a comment below with your email addy so I contact you if you win. I'll announce the winner on Friday. :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pens for Paws Auction

There is some great stuff up for auction over at Pens for Paws, including a 20 page critique by all the OA ladies and some Amarok swag from our own Angie Townsend. Come bid on something! It's for a good cause and you might get something really awesome to boot :) I just bid on a beautiful necklace. They have signed books, crits, swag packs, t-shirts and TONS more.

Check it out! :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Things I Didn't Know....

that are probably fairly obvious to everyone else #189 - Royalty free doesn't = totally free :D

I started working on my book trailer this past weekend (and was thankfully rescued from my weak attempts by the amazingly talented Lisa Amowitz) and in searching for images I learned something. Royalty-free does NOT mean free free.

I guess this should have been obvious. ROYALTY free means the images are free from royalties. Meaning you don't have to keep paying for the right to use them. However, it does NOT mean that you can use these images totally free of charge. You do have to pay a usage fee, which varies in price depending on how you want to use the image.

I did not know this. I feel kinda goofy for not knowing this. I am glad I NOW know this :D

There are luckily some really great sites with amazing images you can purchase at very reasonable prices. These were the sites I got my images from:

Morguefile.com (free images)
Stock.XCHNG (free images)
iStockphoto.com (royalty free)
123rf.com (royalty free)
Dreamstime.com (royalty free)
Fotolia.com (royalty free)

And I am lucky enough to be related to an incredibly talented musician, Bret Morrell, who let me use one of his songs. It's called Place of Dreams (you can hear a sample of it HERE and on Amazon. Check it out! It's GORGEOUS!)

By the end of it all, I found some gorgeous royalty free images, and several totally free images, and the wonderful Lisa combined them all to make a book trailer I am head-over-heels in love with :D Can't wait to share it with everyone! Someday ;-D

Do you have a favorite image site?