Monday, April 30, 2012

Dangerous Attractions Rides Again

First published in 2003 under my Colleen Easton pseudonym and now available for the first time for Kindle under my Gwyneth Atlee brand, Dangerous Attractions is the story of forbidden passions that unfold in steamy Key West when shipwrecked heiress is rescued by a man she'd thought dead, a forbidden local "Conch" boy she befriended as a child, a man who has grown into a wrecker captain working in the 1851 Florida Keys' fascinating wrecking industry. With memories of a deadly Seminole attack--and all of society's strictures--stacked against them, nothing can stop the flame ignited so many years before. To write this book, I extensively researched both the period and the place, using diaries, charts, and other primary research from Key West's own library archives. The result: a unique blend of historical romance and historical fiction that's steeped in tropical flavor. Here's what Booklist had to say about Dangerous Attractions:
After surviving a shipwreck, Genna Whitworth, a Boston heiress fleeing from scandal, is stunned to learn she's been saved by a childhood friend she thought was long dead, a victim of the Seminole raid in which her father died. Eli Blaylock is also surprised to see Genna, the friend he blames for betraying his trust that fateful night. Amid secrets and guilt, Genna and Eli must decide if loyalty is stronger than love, and if sins from the past can be forgiven. The one word that describes this book best is "different." From the unique, culturally diverse setting of the mid-nineteenth-century Florida Keys to the integrated use of past and present, Easton has created a story a breed apart from the typical romance novel. However, it is indeed a romance, one that should interest readers looking for historicals beyond European ballrooms, as well as readers who never thought they'd like to read romance in the first place. Nina Davis Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
If you're a Kindle reader, I hope you'll consider checking out this very special historical romance. And how 'bout this wonderful new cover, courtesy of the very talented Joni Rodgers? I'm just in love with it.

Letter to an Emerging Writer: How to Stay Motivated

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I led a writing workshop at a writers conference, and today was contacted by a participant with questions that still burned: How do we keep going?  How do we make ourselves keep writing, without any real deadline or urgency?  How on earth do we stick to it?

Here, in part, was my answer to this serious, thoughtful, curious writer:

"I do understand entirely how it is easier to work when you have deadlines imposed from outside you.  But in general, you see, the world doesn't demand that we write a novel, so we have to find ways to trick the mind.  Yet no trick in the world will work unless you have a story you really want to tell.  If we just have a vague ambition to write a novel, we may never get it done.  That is looking at the thing, the product, the artifact, rather than at what it's designed to wrap and contain: the hunger to tell a story that won't leave you alone, won't leave your mind, won't leave your digestive track in peace.

"So the first thing you have to figure out is if there is a story of some kind (or a character or characters in search of a story) that keeps bugging, haunting, prodding or tickling you.  This doesn't have to be a heavy-duty haunting; it might be just a yen.  But locate it.  Because this is a source of motivation that will hold up longer than a vague idea that you would like to write a book or that it would be nice to be an author and make some money writing books.  (I will say that there are some people who can stay motivated just by keeping such ideas in mind, but I am not one of them, and don't know how to give you advice in that direction.)

"When I know there is some story or character that will not leave me, and that I know, moreover (as I said at lunch), is ticklish enough to keep me jumpy for years (if need be), I'll then use any number of strategies to stay motivated:

a. I set deadlines.  I will have so many words written by the end of the week.  I will have this much written by the end of the month.  I will finish a draft by such and such date.  I write these dates on a calendar as formally as I would any wedding day or appointment with the IRS.  I trick myself into believing these are firm.

b. I consult my own sense of mortality.  This sounds morbid, but it works.  I am only going to be on the planet for so long.  There is only time to write so many books.  Will I die happy if I have not gotten this particular story out of my gut?  Probably not.  I use this pitchfork to the abdomen to help me stick to a) above.

c. As I'm working on a story, I allow myself little pleasures.  I take it a step at a time (while trying to stick to the deadline).  You have to enjoy the work moment-by-moment, in spite of the overarching, long-term, time-sucking goal.  You have to let yourself have fun with sentences.  Enjoy the turn of a phrase even if most of the rest of the paragraph or chapter is daunting and needs work.  Celebrate the little glories and things you get right along the way.  The little (or big) discoveries about a character.  That scene or bit of dialogue you get right the first time, or suddenly find the fix to.  This will keep you at, and eventually get you addicted to, the process.  You have to let yourself be fascinated by the strangeness of the enterprise, its serendipities and slogs and fragile bravery. Often, if we let ourselves think too much about the whole of a work, we grow disheartened, it seems impossible, we give up.  Sometimes I try to think like a surgeon.  I know I am responsible for the life of something complex and whole, and that there is machinery whirring all around me and a cast of serious beings involved and a certain amount of pressure, but all I really need to worry about right at this minute is getting this one suture tight.  Wipe brow.  Move on.

d.  When a draft is finished and it becomes time for revision, I celebrate.  I celebrate every milestone before I hop onto the next one.  I have been known to print shitty first drafts up, turn loud music on, and wave the pages in the air while dancing around the house.  I know, when I do this, that I am not done.  But I am constantly celebrating temporary moments of rest and accomplishment.  I have finished a chapter. I have finished a draft.  Today I wrote a sentence. Whoop!

"These strategies have worked for me for about fifteen years and four books--but I tell you what, if they stop working, but I still have a story or stories to tell, I will invent new ones.  This was very much what our workshop was about yesterday.  We must take responsibility for using our imaginations not just to write our stories and poems and plays, but also to invent the narratives that will sustain the narrative of writing itself.  This is a highly personal endeavor, and all we can do is share models and approaches with each other, swap what is going on with us.  But ultimately we have to take charge of crafting the framework that will help us write.  We must do this work. This, in my opinion, requires as much dedication, and willingness, as the story itself.  We can't just throw our hands up in the air and say, 'I don't know how to stay motivated.'  We must plot motivation as cannily as we would any other mystery.

"I hope this helps you."

Warmly,
Mylène

Friday, April 27, 2012

"All We are is Writers:" Letter from Hemingway to Fitzgerald about Tender is the Night

You may have seen this already, but on twitter today, someone pointed me to a link to this letter from that fantastic website, Letters of Note.  It's a letter from Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald on the publication of Tender is the Night, and Hemingway isn't altogether flattering.  But what he is is honest, especially with his almost painfully accurate advice for the writing life.  Among other nuggets, this stood out:

For Christ sake write and don't worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. You feel you have to publish crap to make money to live and let live. All write but if you write enough and as well as you can there will be the same amount of masterpiece material (as we say at Yale). You can't think well enough to sit down and write a deliberate masterpiece and if you could get rid of Seldes and those guys that nearly ruined you and turn them out as well as you can and let the spectators yell when it is good and hoot when it is not you would be all right. 
For more of Hemingway's advice (and to hear about how Fitzgerald was too "stinking" drunk in New York), go to Letters of Note and read the whole letter.  It will make your day--and then some.

And hey, follow me on twitter if you're not already!  My twitter name is just KathrynPaterson.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dear Friends,

I'm very proud to announce that I am now part of new graffiti, a grassroots publishing project that gets literature out of our iPads and Kindles, off of our bookshelves, and onto the streets! Want to get involved?  Go to http://newgraffitipublishing.com/ and check out its latest project, which marries my short story "Observatory" with artwork by Sarah Stone.  Visit the "Downloadable" page to print a poster-, letter- or postcard-sized image of "Observatory"--and post it wherever you think it will create beauty and magic in the world!

And thank you, friends, for all you do to support writing, words, and creativity.  It is a joy to be part of this time and place with you.

Mylène

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thought for the Day: Sylvia Plath on Self-Doubt

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” -Sylvia Plath

Monday, April 23, 2012

W.B. Yeats: "Where My Books Go"

Where My Books Go
William Butler Yeats

ALL the words that I utter,
   And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
   And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
   And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
   Storm-darken'd or starry bright.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Great Research Debate

Do you exhaustively research before you begin work on a writing project, or instead, do you concern yourself first and foremost with story and only afterward go back and clean things up? I've known champions of both methods, and I've also run across those who have erred on one side or the other. Some would-be writers delve so deeply into the research that they become hopelessly mired in it, so much so that they risk never actually getting to the writing. Or they worry that unless they become a leading expert on the area in question, they won't be able to pull off writing about it convincingly. Others whip through the story and then belatedly find out the research doesn't at all support their plot points. When they try to rearrange the scaffolding, the whole sad mess collapses, never to rise again. My solution has been a hybrid approach. While preparing to embark on a project that includes an unfamiliar component, I spend a couple of weeks checking out primary source websites, read two or three books, and sometimes (depending on how important a part I feel the subject will play in the completed manuscript or how confident I am about selling the idea) making contact with an expert. (This may include traveling to the book's prospective setting or experiencing something crucial, where possible--such as a horseback tour of ranch country or a flight in a glider, as I've done a couple of memorable occasions.) This preliminary research always gives me a number of interesting ideas and helps to shape the story, but at some point, I shove it all aside and focus on the characters and the inciting incident. Most often, I begin writing at this time, just noodling about until I find my opening. I'll usually write a few "discovery" chapters to get to know the characters, and then I'll stop to write a synopsis for the book proposal. (I generally sell on proposal--or try to.) Once I have the plot sketched out to make sure the story works as a story, the protagonist has a satisfying character arc, and all that good stuff, I usually come up with a list of further research questions I'll need answered. As I work on the chapters, I look up any "road-block" questions but often leave the detail stuff for later. I'm a big fan of jotting myself to-do notes inside the manuscript so I'm not stopping to research constantly and interrupting the flow of the writing. It's a survival technique learned from writing on short deadlines, but it's an efficient use of time, too, whether or not you're working under contract. I'm also a big fan of the "fake-it 'til you make it" approach, where I do my best to bluff the reader into thinking I know way more than I actually do. I start this by leading off strong with convincing details. Once I've earned the readers' trust, it buys me a little room for fudging as the plot demands. As a former middle and junior high school teacher, I've developed some pretty strong b.s.-ing skills, but when it comes to pulling off a book, even those are not enough. That's why I have good beta readers/critique partners to call my bluff when needed. And if the material's especially tricky, I definitely do some detailed fact checking with a expert in the field. Thankfully, most are willing to help a novelist who expresses a commitment to "getting it right." People hate seeing their area of expertise botched in books and movies, and they're often just as interested in what you do as you are in their field. Sometimes, I've had experts read passages from the manuscripts, though I don't hand them the whole thing because (confession time) it freaks me out to risk having them monkey in the works of the storytelling. At the end of the day, I make sure to thank everyone for their assistance by including them in the book's acknowledgments and (especially in the case of expert sources) sending them an autographed copy. I also often include a note in my acknowledgments section that explains that some facts might be gently tweaked, massaged, or even omitted in the service of the story. So far, I haven't had any complaints. The methods I have outlined may not work for everyone, but over the course of the more than twenty books I've had published/contracted, they've proven to be an effective way of dealing with the facts that inform fiction. Do you have any tips of your own to share or any questions about research? Pictured: One of my favorite research trips, to Fort Davis, Texas.

Go with God, Levon Helm

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Online Workshop

Hello, writers!

I think this online event at mediabistro sounds really compelling!

http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/mediabistro-launches-online-literary-festival-writing-workshops_b50136

I just wanted to share. What other conferences/festivals do you think are great for writers to consider attending?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

BtO Co-Founder & NYT Bestseller Joni Rodgers Free on Kindle


I loved Boxing the Octopus co-founder and New York Times bestselling author Joni Rodger's brand new short book on the writing life. And best of all, First You Write: The Worst Way to Become an Almost Famous Author and the Best Advice I Got While Doing It is absolutely free on Kindle today.

Please download, enjoy, and share it with a friend today!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Riding the Waves

I had the best of intentions to try to be a more consistent poster lately, but once more, I find myself swamped, this time, with a tight revision deadline, along with a new writing project that's been keeping me enthralled.

I've learned to ride the waves of writing enthusiasm where and when they take me. All too often, the day-to-day routine, as with any other job, gets to feeling like hard work. It's the moments of absolute passion that serve to remind us of why we ignored Mom's advice and didn't shelve our dreams in favor of the nice, safe day job with its health benefits and retirement plan.

So if I'm absent for a while, I hope you'll trust that I've caught a good, long roller. And I'll do my best to milk it for everything it's worth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Recommended Writing Class:Patricia Kay

I've known Patricia Kay for a number of years, and every time I've heard her speak, I've come away impressed. Friends who have taken her online classes rave about them, so I wanted to take a moment to recommend her latest. Check it out while space is still available.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming announcement on my own upcoming online class for RWA University this June, titled "The Marathoner's Guide to Writing: Staying in It for the Long Haul without Losing Your Patience, Your Persistence, or Your Mind."

"Make 'em Laugh, Make 'em Cry, Make 'em Wait"
by Patricia Kay
May 1-25, 2012
$30 at www.WriterUniv.com

Great books are about more than good plotting, likable characters, lots of conflict, and skillful writing. For a book to really grab a reader, the author must make an emotional connection with that reader. Otherwise, even though the reader may enjoy the book, it won't be one he'll remember. It won't be one he'll talk about. And it won't be one he'll recommend to to others. In this class, you'll learn various dramatic techniques that will help you stir your reader's feelings and make him feel he has an emotional stake in the story's outcome.

* Making your reader care: the dramatic journey
* Crafting powerful scenes that accomplish what you envision
* How sequels help you involve your reader
* Psychic distance: one of your most powerful tools
* Suspense and tension on every page
* Various emotional responses and ways to elicit them
* Building your own emotional palette

Patricia Kay is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 50 novels of romance and women's fiction. An acclaimed teacher, she formerly taught writing classes at the University of Houston and has given workshops all over the country. She now limits her teaching to online classes. You can learn more about her on her website at www.patriciakay.com.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Here's Peepin' at You, Kid!

This made me laugh so hard, I had to share it. Happy Easter!

My Rule: Make Love, Peace & Joy Whenever Possible

I have a strict rule in Words With Friends: Make LOVE, PEACE and JOY whenever and wherever possible, even if you don't score a lot of points for it.


Friday, April 06, 2012

Emily Dickinson's Advice to All You Dreamers


"Finite to fail, but infinite to venture..."
-Emily Dickinson

Have you strayed lately from the surer path? If not, what are you waiting for?

We're given only so much time to take chances. Are you wasting yours?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

In the Company of Walt, Beatrix and Benjamin (Session on Self Publishing with Dorothy Hagan)

For those of you who are Houston area residents, I just wanted to give you a heads up about an upcoming professional development session at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. The session is with self-pubbed novelist and teacher Dorothy Hagan about "self" and "indie" publishing. Something that strikes me about what she says in this video is the sentence "the changes in technology have made it virtually possible for anyone to see their work published professionally now." I know that we've discussed the options available for writers now and the pros and cons of epublishing versus other types of self publishing, as well as traditional or "legacy" publishing. And as Joni has said before, just because someone has a story, doesn't mean that they will automatically have the skill to tell that story. So then the question becomes, just because it's possibleItalic to see your work published professionally, does that mean it's ready to be published professionally, or that readers will actually want to read it? In this video, Hagan does say that she will discuss the concept of making sure the work is as polished and professional as possible before putting it there, which I think is good. But I must admit that I'm a bit skeptical about the "gold rush" of self publishing in general. I think it's great for both readers and writers to have options, but what does it mean to be a professional writer now? What will it mean in the future?

If you're interested in meeting Hagan and having breakfast with her and hearing more of what she has to say, her session is part of UHCL's "Small Talk, Big Ideas" series on Tuesday morning, April 17 from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. at the University of Houston's Clear Lake campus. The session costs $12 for UHCL students, alumni and staff, and $15 for the greater Houston community. Seating is limited, so you'll need to RSVP by next Tuesday (April 10). You can reserve a seat at the breakfast table either by calling Kris Thompson at (281) 283-2040, or by visiting http://www.uhcl.edu/smalltalkbigideas.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012
7:30-9 a.m.

Metallica "Nothing Else Matters" from S&M

Every book I write has "anchor music" that takes me back to a specific vision of a character, place or moment. This one works for all three, evoking the lonely longing of the protagonist in my forthcoming novel, a crime scene cleaner entangled in a complicated love affair and an even more complicated struggle with his own sanity.

Fabulous Fungi, anyone?

With all the talk of free and 99 cent ebooks, I thought it would be fun to post this link from ABE books about their most expensive rare books sales. I'm not sure what strikes me the most, the first edition of Moby Dick, or the $13,916 17th century Dutch study of mushrooms.

And yes, I am still alive! :)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

This blows! Amazing storm footage of flying semi trailers

I've been a little obsessed with storms for the last several years, pretty much since the epic hurricane season of 2005, which sparked the story in my latest novel, The Hurricane Lover.

My husband and I volunteered with relief efforts here after Hurricane Katrina and watched agog as the Houston metroplex was strangled by the biggest evacuation debacle in US history as Hurricane Rita threatened the city.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike roared up I-45 like a colonoscopy, doing all the damage we narrowly escaped during Rita. During the height of the storm, my curiosity got the better of me. I went outside so I could experience it. I couldn't have written about it if I hadn't seen, heard, smelled and tasted it. Incredible.

Anyway, this today outside of Dallas. Holy flying 18-wheelers!

 

Monday, April 02, 2012

Material World: the difference between Big 6 and indie, brought to you by Madonna and Nicki Bluhm

One of the things I love about indie publishing is the feeling that I'm getting a more intimate experience of the story.

A lot of Big novels in recent years felt overly edited to me. As I gain more experience as an editor, I can see another editor's handprint more clearly. The book has been produced to an extent that most indie authors frankly can't afford, and (I would hope) would resist, even if money was no object.

To illustrate: "The Material Girl" is a great song. Catchy as hell, tons of mass audience appeal, and as you're about to see, it holds up both fully produced and in the raw. Here's the classic version we know and love: Here's the same song by Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers. Intimate, raw, unfiltered, not glossy. Suddenly, the lyrics are conversational and accessible, the tone is between you and me. Two ways to deliver the same story. I love them both, but I've kinda had enough of books that are slickly produced and sanitized for my protection. As a reader, I'm ready to connect with authors more intimately. And as an author, I'm comfortable connecting with readers in jeans and tee shirt instead of my fancy pink dress.

Material World: the difference between Big 6 and indie, brought to you by Madonna and Nicki Bluhm

One of the things I love about indie publishing is the feeling that I'm getting a more intimate experience of the story.
A lot of Big novels in recent years felt overly edited to me. As I gain more experience as an editor, I can see another editor's handprint more clearly. The book has been produced to an extent that most indie authors frankly can't afford, and (I would hope) would resist, even if money was no object.
To illustrate: "The Material Girl" is a great song. Catchy as all get out, tons of mass audience appeal, and as you're about to see, it holds up both fully produced and in the raw.
Here's the classic version we know and love in all its high-polished glory:

Here's the same song by Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers. Intimate, raw, unfiltered, not glossy. Suddenly, the lyrics are conversational and accessible, the tone is between you and me.

Two ways to deliver the same story. I love them both, but I've kinda had enough of books that are slickly produced and sanitized for my protection. As a reader, I'm ready to connect with authors more intimately. And as an author, I'm comfortable connecting with readers in jeans and tee shirt instead of my fancy pink dress.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Fill the Well Sunday

After months of being basically housebound as I struggled to meet a pair of tight deadlines, I decided it was time to get out in the world again and refill the well with images, experiences, and enjoyment. Today's foray was classic Texas all the way: longhorns and bluebonnets in the sunshine, barbecued brisket in a family diner sort of spot, and long hours of meandering talk with the man in my life, the kind of drive to remind us when and where and how we fell in love all those years ago.

So what's your favorite way to recharge your creative batteries? And when's the last time you indulged?

If it's been too long, make a date with yourself. Life's definitely too short to work 24/7, and anyway, your work will be far sharper for the fresh new images and ideas you will bring back to it.

Not a half-bad Sunday, one that's left me freshly energized for a good week writing.

Dylan Thomas recites "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"

THANK YOU

To subscribe to BtO, click "Subcribe to: Posts" at the bottom of the page and then "Subscribe to this feed."

Want to borrow a cup of content? Feel free to share our link or a brief quote with your friends. But please e-mail for permission to reprint or repost our work elsewhere, and always add an attribution and a link back to our site.

We welcome your feedback. Feel free to post comments. PR and outreach from publishers and published authors should be sent to: boxocto@gmail.com.

Boxing the Octopus: all content copyright 2008 Colleen Thompson and Joni Rodgers all rights reserved.

We welcome payola in the form of pies, cakes, neatly folded laundry and free books!

In accordance with FTC regulations, we're required to inform readers that we receive books from publishers, authors, and PR folk for review. We'd like to receive money via an offshore bank account, but that hasn't happened yet. When my dad was in radio back in the '50s, a local baker used to sneak over in the dead of night and fill the back seat of his car with bread and pastries. We would NOT object to this. Please review our review policy here. And let us know if we should leave the car outside the garage tonight.

Peace, love, and statutory compliance ~
Joni