Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Leopard Boots and Critique Partners

When it comes to shoes and boots, I’m not so much conservative as practical.  I try on the funky and fun ones, then always end up going for the sturdy and basic.  After all, they will match more clothes and fit the maximum occasions.

 At any rate, I had to buy boots last weekend.  As I sat there with a pile of funky and practical boots all around me, I opened my mouth to tell the saleswoman what I’d decided and she said,  “OMG, you’re going to buy the boring ones, aren’t you?”

“How do you know?”

“Because you always chicken out.” She waved her hand at a pair of really cool sandals I’d been eying and said I might get for spring. “You’ll never buy those either . . . unless you break down and get the boots you really want right now.”

I sighed, then asked to try on a pair of boots I hadn’t even dared to ask her to get off the shelf.

I now am wearing my wonderful, funky and fun Ariat boots with leopard bottoms, red tops, fake fur and touches of patent leather.  

They fit like a dream. They have tough soles, which are great in snow.  They aren’t warm, but that wasn’t what I needed.  

So how do my new boots connect to writing and critique partners?

To me a great critique partner (and especially a first reader) is like that saleswoman. They are writing partners and trusted friends who don’t let me settle for the same old thing. They are someone who detects my weakness, calls me on them and pushes me to take risks and go for my dream.

I guess--as I move toward the third draft of Red Bandana and am soon to return to working on Moonhill-- I’m feeling totally grateful for my writing friends who have risked offending or angering me, who give me the honest critiques and shoves that have gotten me as far as I’ve come.  

So, what risks have you taken lately in life or writing?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Interview with Anna Staniszewski

Pat: Today on the Cabinet we are lucky to have Anna Staniszewski, author of MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE and its sequel MY EPIC FAIRY TALE FAIL, which is coming out March 1st. But that’s just the beginning. She also has . . . Well, how about if I let Anna tell you about her upcoming books.

Anna: Thank you so much for having me! Well, 2013 is going to be a busy year. The second and third books in the UnFairy Tale series will be coming out—one in March and one in November. Then I have two books in a new series, The Dirt Diary, coming from my publisher in 2014, and a picture book scheduled for that same year. Oh right…and at some point I’ll have to find time to sleep. 

Pat: Before I open this up to questions from the other Cabinet members, I have one thing I’d love to hear more about. I noticed on your website that you have a downloadable teachers' guide.  Did you know that you were going to provide this wonderful resource before you started MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE? If not, at what point did you decide to create it?

Anna: The teachers' guide came about after the book had been acquired by Sourcebooks. One of my agency-mates, Natalie Lorenzi, does fabulous teachers' guides, and I knew she’d do a great job with it. I wanted a resource that would help highlight the fairy tale and other influences in the book.

Ginger: Elaborate a bit for us on the art form of picture books versus novel-length stories. Anything surprisingly similar? Anything refreshingly different? . . . .

Read the rest of this interview on my sister blog:  http://fivecuriosities.blogspot.com

Friday, January 18, 2013

Writing: A Playlist of Aromas

After listening to the amazing playlist Jaye Robin Brown created for her upcoming debut Sing to the Wind, I was inspired to start working on one.

I’ve been playing on Groveshark and making some headway. My problem is-- I use music to brainstorm, but write in silence.

However, I do stimulate a different sense when I write. Smell.

Yeah, I know loads of people don’t like scented candles and other products. For me, they not only get me in the mood for writing a specific scene, but also reusing a smell can take me back to the same mood when I revise the same scene. 

I’m not going to pretend to be an aromatherapy practitioner. I chose scents purely by how they effect me and what memories they bring to my mind.  I also use live plants like hyacinths and garden flowers like lily of the valley when they are in season.

At any rate, here’s my playlist of aromas.  You’ll notice there are some repeats—that’s because they are tried and true, at least for me.

Moonhill (YA gothic fantasy which is with my agent right now)
Sandlewood oil in burner (mysterious/fantastic scenes)
Ripe Raspberry candle (sentimental scenes)
Rose/Jasmine oil in burner (dreamy/romantic/mysterious)
Orange clove candle or oil (mysterious and high energy scenes)
Peppermint oil—(hot writing, action or emotional scenes)

Red Bandana (YA cotemporary suspense and my current WIP)
Cinnamon candle (neighborhood scenes)
Lilac candle or oil (memory/desire scenes)
Strawberry kiwi candle (action and romance)
Peppermint oil (hot writing, action or emotional scenes)
Orange clove candle or oil (mysterious and high energy scenes)
Vanilla candle (comfort scenes/homey/emotional)

How about you? Do you use scents when you write or music--or another form of stimulation?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Research: Adding Depth to Antagonist

A way to add depth to my antagonist came into focus while I was doing a bit of research for RED BANDANA. 

I was talking to a taxidermist about modern-day and historic techniques used to remove flesh from bone. He answered my questions, but I also noticed the taxidermist’s excited voice and body language.  This was a topic he knew inside out and loved to discuss. 

The whole conversation got me thinking about my antagonist in a slightly new way. The idea of an antagonist being the hero of their own story isn’t new, but what about deepening his character by showing his passions in a more realistic instead of nasty fashion—like the taxidermist happily talking about native flesh eating beetles and soaking road kill in vats of water to rot the flesh off?

It isn’t like I’ve never shown my antagonists’ chattering about their passions in other stories, but usually my mind is focused on how disturbing it is to the main character. Point of view takes priority. Still, I think focusing less on how disturbing it is and making the antagonist's excitement as realistic as possible will add even more depth to the creepiness factor.