May 20, 2014

Writing Tip: Nothing Kills a Story Like Happiness

In real life there's nothing better than happiness, but in fiction nothing will kill your story quicker. Conflict, a little tragedy, a bit of jealousy, a helping of anger...that's what will keep people reading what you write. A happily-ever-after ending is fine but it only works if your hero/heroine has gone through hell and back to get there.
Here's an excellent post to help you learn how to write conflict from one of my new favorite writing sites, Live Write Thrive.

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May 10, 2014

The Day My Mom Was Supportive

Mother/daughter relationships are fraught with emotion. There's so much riding on them.
I wish I could say my mom and I were close but our relationship was difficult, from the time I was a teenager until the day she died. We tried. Some. We talked about it when I was an adult; why we misunderstood each other, why we took things the wrong way. We made an effort to understand what we needed from each other, but were never able to figure it out in a way that would smooth our road. We were oil and water.
As I look back now I'm sure she was proud of me and my accomplishments, but she never said it and I never felt it. I didn't feel support or encouragement from her. It seemed to me that nothing I did was good enough. Possibly she felt the same about me.
After high school I went to the University of Toledo part time, paying for it with money I earned working at Bargain City and money I borrowed from my aunt. My parents didn't have a lot of money - I'm sure they had no idea how they'd come up with the funds to send me to college. I talked to my dad about college during my senior year of high school and he put me off, said, "We'll talk about it later," and I was always the kind of kid (and adult) who thought, "Well, fuck you then...I'll do it myself."
I majored in theater and fantasized being an actor. I pretty much sucked at it, though.
So I quit school and got a full time job at a trucking company. I know you're envious but it wasn't as glamorous as it sounds, tho there was a really cute guy who worked on the loading dock.
So by then I was twenty, still living at home, still clashing with my mother, dying to escape, wanting more of life than trucking. I knew what I wanted wasn't in Toledo, and, truly, getting away from my mom was a major motivator so I decided to move to Cleveland.
Being that I was a daddy's girl it came as no surprise when he tried to talk me out of it. He was afraid for me, thought I was too young to be living in the "big city" on my own. He offered me a car if I'd stay home (an old, used one). I passed on that.
And then I told my mom, sure she'd think it was a stupid idea - not that it mattered. I didn't really care what she thought.
Imagine my shock when she said, "Good for you!" She told me she'd wanted to do that when she was my age and never had the opportunity - girls didn't do that kind of thing then. She said, "I think it's great," and offered me sheets and towels for my apartment.
It's a powerful memory. It's the one time in my life I remember her being supportive and encouraging, and it always brings a tear to my eye. It makes me wish I'd tried a little harder to learn who she was as a person, not just as the mom who was a pain in my ass.
For a time I was aggrieved that I didn't have a June Cleaver kind of mom, but I gave that up long ago. She may not have been the mom I wished for but at some point I understood she did the best she knew how to do.

May 4, 2014

For An Author, Book Clubs Are The Best!

Some of the members of the Beverly Book Club
As an author there's nothing more satisfying than being present at a book club discussion about a book you wrote. I was recently invited to attend a book club in Beverly for a discussion of my novel, What More Could You Wish For. One of the members had won an auction at the Beverly Arts Center that included copies of my book! Unfortunately some of the members had left before I remembered to take a picture but here I am with some members of this hospitable group.

Skyping with Norfolk book club
Another favorite experience was Skyping with a book club in Norfolk, Virginia. One of the members happened upon my book in a book store, chose it for a book club selection, and then contacted me for discussion questions. I not only posted discussion questions on my website (which I'd been meaning to do forever), but I offered to meet with them, virtually. And voila! a Skype meeting. What fun!

I love interacting with people who have read my work. It's fascinating to hear what resonates (or doesn't) with my audience and to discover how people interpret things, even if I didn't intend that interpretation. What it reminds me is that once a book leaves an author's hands it's no longer ours alone. Now it belongs to the reader, and you have no control over what they see. I really love that.

When I was with the Beverly group they talked about an incident in Libby's life, the main character in What More Could You Wish For, something monumental to her, something that happened when she was seventeen. Later in the story when Libby's fifty she's discussing that incident with her mother, who doesn't remember it at all. One of the book club members said, "Oh come on...really? How could she not remember that?" I thought she was saying I should have changed that in the book, that it wasn't believable. But it turned out she thought the mom was pretending she didn't remember. Which says to me that the characters were alive for her, and that's so gratifying.

So, one last thing they did was cast the movie. Here are their picks:
Libby: Diane Lane or Julia Roberts
Patrick: Kurt Russell or Sam Elliott
Michael: Stanley Tucci or Colin Firth
Mom: Helen Mirren
Dad: Clint Eastwood or Michael Caine

If you've read the book what do you think of their casting? Not to prejudice you but I think it's brilliant!