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Things We’re Sick Of

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So in my last newsletter (and if you haven’t subscribed, you missed out, but you don’t have to—just sign up on the sidebar at the right) I listed a few things we all seem to be tired of:

1. Dystopian YA novels. (And the dystopian YA movies they spawn.)
2. Superhero movies. We may love some of them, but they’re all starting to look alike. They’re the fast food of film, and we’re starting to be hungry for a real meal.
3. Authors promoting other authors. It’s great that we want to help each other out, but it’s like preaching to the choir. And does having 20 blogs all reveal your cover on the same day really get you anything? Except people who are sick of seeing it after the fourth or fifth time?

Then I asked people to e-mail me what they’re sick of. The answers included:

1. Football. Even though the season has only just started! Well, and with all the bad news the NFL has been generating . . .
2. Click bait Facebook posts. You know the ones. They all end with “. . . and what happened next will amaze you!” (Or, alternatively, bring you to tears—but what’s bringing us to tears are all these damn posts.)
3. Quizzes on Facebook. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for these things. Guilty as charged.
4. Facebook in general. Because so much of it has become ads, and the rest of it are quizzes and click bait. No one has anything interesting to say.

Honestly, I think we’ve come to a place where social media is all advertising and no content. And the advertisers are trying to make their ads look like content. That’s the latest thing. But—and I’ve said it before—the Internet has become a lot of people shouting and very few listening. It’s kind of depressing.

So, for those of you who didn’t get my newsletter or else didn’t e-mail: What are you sick of?

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Three Days of Music + Twitter Love

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Because I know you were desperate to hear my playlists from my walks!

Wednesday

1. “Our Song” by Matchbox Twenty
2. “Don’t Change for Me” by Gin Blossoms
3. “Change Your Mind” by The Killers
4. “Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons
5. “If You Ever Come Back” by The Script
6. “Read My Mind” by The Killers
7. “Take Your Mama” by Scissor Sisters
8. “Radio” by Matchbox Twenty
9. “Human” by The Killers

Apparently it was my day for The Killers . . . Also, I listened to Scissor Sisters twice cuz I love that song.

Thursday

1. “Daylight” by Maroon 5
2. “At Least It Was Here” by The 88
3. “Talk You Down” by The Script
4. “Science & Faith” by The Script
5. “Hard On You” by Rob Thomas
6. “California 37″ by Train
7. “I Am an Illusion” by Rob Thomas
8. “Chanson pour les Petits Enfants” by Jimmy Buffett

Probably my favorite all-time Jimmy Buffett song. I really wish they [Buffett/Margaritaville] would make a music box that played it. So pretty, and I’m pretty sure the song helped form my early storytelling skills.

Friday

1. “You Know Me” by Rob Thomas
2. “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees
3. “No Curtain Call” by Maroon 5
4. “Make a Move” by Gavin DeGraw
5. “Make Me Lose Control” by Eric Carmen
6. “Falling In” by Lifehouse
7. “Mrs. Rita” by Gin Blossoms
8. “Disease” by Matchbox Twenty
9. “Mississippi” as covered by Sheryl Crow
10. “Stealing” by Gavin DeGraw

The Eric Carmen is proof that, no matter how I deny it, I have a deep, dark romantic streak.

Meanwhile, I was flattered to have people asking on Twitter and Facebook about Peter. The manuscript is being read by a small publisher; I should know in 8 to 12 weeks whether they want it. I have queries out to other agents and publishers as well. And if all else fails, I’m prepared to self-publish it. I’m starting to feel a sense of urgency about it, given people are asking when they can read it!

I’m also toying with the idea of a follow-up book from Simeon’s POV. But right now I need a break from that world, and so I’ve started on a new YA magical realism novel.

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TBT: 9/11

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It’s the same story I tell every year and probably will continue to tell every year. Because these things are worth remembering.

I awoke the morning of 11 September 2001 in a somewhat foul mood due to a bad dream I’d had. I lived in Boston at the time, a city which would play such a pivotal role in the events of that day. Our apartment was near the Common, and I worked at Houghton Mifflin on Berkeley Street, and it was my habit to walk to work when the weather was fine, which that morning it was. Sunny, gorgeous day. That day in particular, I thought the walk might help clear my head of the bad dream.

The dream—nightmare, really—had been of being a passenger in a truck. I didn’t want to be there and had no control over where we were headed. I couldn’t see who was driving, but I remember thinking it was someone “ethnic” (with darkish skin). We were on a smoothly paved road sailing through rolling green hills. But in the distance I could see the skyline of a city, and over that city dark clouds had gathered. And the signs over the highway all read—green, with those reflective white letters—Death and Destruction Ahead.

I wanted to get out of the truck. I didn’t want to go to the city, which seemed to be where we were headed. But even as I contemplated throwing open the door and taking my chances in jumping from the moving vehicle, I woke up.

So I pulled myself together, our cat following me through the apartment and being quite vocal as I recall, and walked to work. I tended to get to the office early; I liked giving myself the extra time to settle in and get a head start. But there seemed to be a lot of people in that morning. And when I tried to check my usual Web sites, I couldn’t get anything to load. From the other side of my cubicle partition, I could hear the department admin and a few other people chattering away about something that sounded intense.

Then my phone rang. It was my husband calling from his Financial District office. “A plane hit the World Trade Center,” he told me.

“That’s stupid,” I said.

It sounds like a weird response in retrospect, but I was picturing some little Cessna with a pilot-in-training who’d made a really big mistake.

“An American Airlines jet,” my husband clarified. I’m not sure if we talked more or not before he said, “Another one.”

In the cubicle beside me, my co-worker was freaking out a bit. (I felt strangely calm, which is what usually happens to me in stressful situations.) The managers were all in the corner office for a meeting. Meanwhile, those who could get CNN to load were telling us America was “under attack,” whatever that meant. Rumors were flying about the Sears Tower, the Space Needle in Seattle, even our own John Hancock building.

My husband called again and said they were being evacuated. He told me to come home, but not to use public transportation just in case.

As people around me got increasingly worked up, I took it upon myself to go into the managers’ meeting and tell the bosses we were all going home. As I explained why, the meeting broke up. I didn’t wait for permission. I told my co-worker to call her boyfriend to come get her, then walked downstairs to wait with her. Once I’d seen her safely into her boyfriend’s truck, I began the walk home.

The Common was bizarrely peaceful. Students lounged all over the grass doing homework and reading and chatting. They don’t know, I remember thinking. They have no idea.

I stopped at the corner convenience store on the way to stock up. I wasn’t sure what we might need in terms of provisions, how long we might be home, when or if things would close up.

Then I went home and we spent the day, like so many others, parked in front of our television. At some point I was able to get a call in to my parents—September 11 is my dad’s birthday.

A little while ago, my 5-year-old son asked me, “Do you remember when the planes went into the buildings?” Clearly they’d mentioned it at school.

“Yes,” I said. “Would you like me to tell you about it?”

I am, after all, a primary source.

Fear + Tuesday Songs

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I have a 5-year journal that asks a different question each day and has space for answers over a five-year span. I’m on my third year of it now. Some of the questions are kind of dumb, but for the most part it has been an interesting exercise. The question for today (September 9) is: “What comes to mind when you think of fear?”

Two years ago my answer was that I thought of blackness and things moving in the darkness. Last year I quoted from Dune. But this year I wrote: “Heights.”

And then I thought about fear of success. You hear it mentioned from time to time, and it can be difficult to wrap your brain around the idea of it. Like, logically people want to succeed, right? Otherwise, why bother at all?

But it occurred to me that fear of success is like fear of heights. It’s not the success itself that makes people afraid. It’s putting oneself in the position of being able to fall.

“He’s on top of his game,” we’ll say of someone who is doing well. We’ll say people are “at the top” when they’ve achieved . . . Whatever. Something. When they’ve become the big boss or whatever. But being “up” somewhere implies that one can also go down. In fact, nature sort of demands it. No one can stay up there indefinitely. What goes up . . .

Of course, people aren’t always aware they fear success. They moan and groan when they fail, and are genuinely disappointed, too. They self-sabotage in minuscule ways and may not even realize it.

I’m sure there are other reasons people might fear success. The responsibility that comes with it. The pressure to continue doing as well or better. One might quickly become drained by all this. Better, perhaps, to stay in one’s comfort zone rather than push oneself to the limits.

Anyway, it was just a thought. And here are Tuesday’s songs from my morning walk:

1. “Faster” by Matt Nathanson
2. “English Town” by Matchbox Twenty
3. “Streetcorner Symphony” by Rob Thomas
4. “Here We Go Again” by Everclear
5. “I Can’t Let You Go” by Matchbox Twenty
6. “I Wish You Would” by Train
7. “I Can’t Lie” by Maroon 5
8. “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” by Train
9. “Runaway” by Maroon 5
10. “Santa Monica” by Everclear

Seems my iPod had some favorite artists today . . .

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Impatience + Monday Music

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Aaaargh! (No, not in the pirate sense. Just in the general frustrated sense.)

We’ve been waiting to hear about the final results (read: winners) of the Creative World Awards. First we were told they would be announced on Saturday. Then it was pushed to Sunday. Then it was supposed to be today by 7:00 p.m. (Pacific). But now the site just says September 8th/9th. Whaaa?

I’ve written before about the problems I’ve noticed competitions and film festivals seem to have regarding deadlines. As in: never being able to meet their own. I understand, of course, it’s a huge undertaking to evaluate so many scripts—and the number of entrants swells each year, more and more people trying to become writers and screenwriters—but . . . It’s still pretty frustrating.

Meanwhile, I’m just an impatient person by nature. Now I’ve got lots of queries out, and partials, and even one full manuscript, and I’m finding it very difficult to wait. I get restless, and then I find it difficult to sit down and write. Even though I know the best thing to do at these times is to get to work on another project. Always. Be. Producing.

Well, I did write a little today. And I also went shopping. We’ll see how much of it I actually keep.

And of course I did my morning walk!

1. “Good Life” by OneRepublic
2. “Hard Candy” by Counting Crows
3. “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow
4. “Save Me, San Francisco” by Train
5. “Exit Wounds” by The Script
6. “Here Comes Horses” by Tabitha’s Secret
7. “The Man Who Never Lied” by Maroon 5
8. “It Ends Tonight” by All-American Rejects
9. “Need” by Gavin DeGraw

I have a special love for “Save Me, San Francisco.” A few years ago when I knew I had to get out of the frigid Northeast, I was thinking about San Francisco. And then I started hearing this song on the radio and took it as a sign. I’ve lived in the area 2.5 years and just love it. (Still planning on a place in London at some point, though. I can deal with the cold and the rain, just not the snow. Would have to go somewhere else for part of the year.)

That jump from “Save Me, San Francisco” to “Exit Wounds” was a bit jarring. If I were using the songs to tell a story (like I sometimes do), I’d have to wonder what happened there.

And, yes, I realize “Here Comes Horses” is incorrect grammar. But hey, I didn’t name the song, nor did I write it. That’s all on Rob and Pookie and whoever else.

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Friday Music + Annoyances

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I’m kind of annoyed.

Back in April, I submitted a scene to ABC’s Talent Showcase. They sent me a nice response saying it was a long process, etc. In fact, they’d been very responsive to my questions prior to my submission. Which is why, when I sent a follow-up query on July 27, I was surprised to never receive a reply.

Well, I’m somewhat savvy, so when I was looking around for more information, a little [Twitter] bird told me that scene selection would be 8/1—8/15. Ah! I thought. I’ll hear something shortly thereafter, I’m sure. Well, on August 19 & 20 they announced the casts for the Talent Showcase. But still nothing about the scenes.

I tried Twitter, asking whether anyone had heard about scene selection. Nothing. (And, weirdly, when you search #abctalentshowcase, my tweet does not appear . . . It used to, but now it doesn’t.) So on September 2, I tried another e-mail. And continue to be ignored.

Way to be gracious, ABC.

Anyway, on to happier things. Like today’s music. No Gavin DeGraw this time!

1. “Rusty Halo” by The Script
2. “Believer” by American Authors
3. “Lady I Can’t Explain” by Jimmy Buffett
4. “Best Day of My Life (Acoustic)” by American Authors
5. “I Can’t Stay” by The Killers
6. “Right Behind Me” by John Mellencamp
7. “How Far We’ve Come” by Matchbox Twenty
8. “Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons
9. “It’s About You” by Train
10. “Forever December” by Tabitha’s Secret
11. “Miss Disarray” by Gin Blossoms
12. “So What” by P!nk
13. “Surround” by Dada

I’ve been extending my walks a bit, which is why I went through more songs today than in past days. I may even start jogging a little. But first I need an armband for my iPhone; right now I just carry it in a pocket. Won’t work if I’m in running duds.

10 Books

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This is the thing that has been bouncing around Facebook lately: List 10 books that impacted you and stayed with you in some way. Don’t think about it; go with what comes to you.

1. The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
2. Watership Down by Richard Adams
3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
4. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
5. Lightning by Dean [R.] Koontz
6. The Talisman of Set by Sara Hylton
7. King and Goddess by Judith Tarr
8. The India Fan by Victoria Holt
9. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
10. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

All of these are from my childhood to teen years. I’m sure I’ve read books more recently that, years from now, I’ll be able to say stayed with me. But it’s too soon to tell for those.

I’m equally sure there are others not listed here, ones that didn’t spring to mind as readily. On a different day, maybe they would have been cited first. Again, it’s impossible to say.

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More Music

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From yesterday’s and today’s walks.

Tuesday:
1. “Follow Through” by Gavin DeGraw
2. “Please Don’t Ask Me” by Gin Blossoms
3. “Natural” by Rob Thomas
4. “Home” by American Authors
5. “Secret” by Maroon 5
6. “Dim” by Dada
7. “Route 66″ as covered by John Mayer

Wednesday:
1. “I Can’t Stay” by The Killers
2. “Pieces of the Night” by Gin Blossoms
3. “Not Over You” by Gavin DeGraw
4. “Something to Believe In” by Parachute
5. “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat
6. “Sunday Morning New York Blue” by Rob Thomas
7. “Everybody Loves Me, Baby” by Don McLean
8. “It’s About You” by Train

Wheel of Fortune

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August was a great month, but September has begun with a rejection. I hope this isn’t a portent of things to come.

Back at SFWC in February, I had two agents request pages of Peter. I sent one pages on March 17 (I remember because it was St. Patrick’s Day); on May 27 she came back with a no, saying the characters and setting were great but the plot wasn’t her thing. I had by then sent out the second set of pages, which the second agent received on May 1. Today she e-mailed me saying my work was really good and “worthy of an agent,” but she wasn’t the right one for it. She was super nice about it. She said, basically, that she kept putting my work in the “maybe” stack and finally decided that she must not have enough passion for it if it wasn’t making it to the “yes” stack. Fair enough. I’m trying to take comfort from the fact she does believe the work is worthy of representation. And anyway, I’ve since had a small publisher request the entire manuscript, so there’s hope yet . . .

I do wish I could find that right agent, though.

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When It Rains . . .

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As August draws to a close, and with so much going on with my writing, it seems like as good a time as any to check in with those goals I set at the start of the year.

1. Finish the rom-com script I’m co-writing. Well, after many drafts, we’ve received some very strong feedback and are now in the process drafting an agreement with a lawyer so we can get the script into the hands of people who can do something with it. Yay!

2. Finish the thriller script I’ve been asked to pen. Long since finished, and by all accounts the director likes it and has given it to some actors and actresses to look at. But that’s all I’ve heard.

3. Finish St. Peter Ascends. Done.

4. Publish The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller. (Of which St. Peter Ascends is the third part.) Actually, I’ve had a publisher request to read the manuscript, so I’m giving them first chance at it. But I’m still prepared to self-publish if I find no takers.

5. Write the television pilot I’ve been backburnering. In the works! Can probably have a draft done in the next week or so, except . . .

♦ I have three books I’ve been asked to read and review.
♦ I’ve also been asked to look over some materials for a TV/web series startup to which I may contribute.
♦ And I’ve been invited to submit a full-length play to a theatre festival that takes submissions by invitation only.
   Which is flattering, but I’d need to pull something together fast!

And then I have a bunch of other projects that I’d like to get started on (or go back to) . . . Oh! And it looks like Adverse Possession may be nearly ready to submit to film festivals! I’ve also joined a local writing critique group. So I’m staying really busy. In a good way! The year may have gotten off to a slow start, but it certainly seems to be picking up speed!

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