Thursday, March 26, 2009

Miss Snark's First Victim

This is an excellent site, one of many that help aspiring (and published - not that I've made it there yet) writers. This site is also the inspiration for the blog I'm about to write.

Order! Who knew that the order of paragraphs was so important? Well everybody, of course! Every writer (big generalization, my English teachers can quit cringing) knows the importance of the order of paragraphs. Not necessarily. I'll be the first to step up to the plate and say that, more often than not, the order of the paragraphs in my writing are not always so precise. Case in point - my recent foray into Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent contest. I learned from that foray that the last paragraph of my 250 words, should have been my first paragraph. Second Case in point - the recent crit session of 1,000 word entries going on on MSFV right now: I critted one of the entries and noted that the fourth paragraph should probably be the first (see comment from that author here).

The order of paragraphs (speaking from personal experience only) is an easy thing to mess up. It is only through a second set of eyes that the reality (crap, bad order, need to fix, NOW) of the situation rises up and slaps the writer in the face. A simple change can make all the difference.

Why? Oh, let me tell you why!! My book shopping goes as follows: cover catches my attention, I read the back flap, the interior flap, and then flip to the first chapter and read (normally) the first page. If I'm not hooked by the end of the first page I normally put the book back down and look for something else to read. Now, I've passed on a few excellent books by doing this, and only discovered the error of my ways after someone gave me said book to read. Still, had the first page grabbed my attention more, then I might have purchased the book in the first place.

So, get your completed work out to whoever to take a read, especially the first chapter, the first 250 words, the first whatever that you, as a writer, are going to submit to an agent. Use Miss Snark's First Victim and enter the crit pool, do something, whatever, to make sure that the first impression of your blood, sweat, tears (loss of hair in my case, or a few pounds when I'm really in a good writing mode) captures the attention of future agent of choice.

In the end, a good opening doesn't necessarily mean a good book, but at least it might get your foot in the proverbial door of an agent, and possibly on to the path of success.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Janet Evanovich . . .

. . . makes me laugh. Well, her writing (in a very good way) makes me laugh. I just recently (yes, I know, way behind) began reading the Stephanie Plum series. Book Two - absolutely hysterical. I love Grandma Mazur. She's a hoot. OMG, I could not stop laughing.

Book One, Three & Four - the laughs were more sparing, but too dang funny. I just never knew when some line would come across that would make me laugh out loud. My poor partner kept saying "you're making an awful lot of noise in there". Did I care? Heck, no, the lines were too funny. Sometimes, I'd read the line over and over again. Laughter is the best medicine, after all . . . well, it's a close second to margaritas!

So, if you need an easy read with lots of LOL moments - then pick up Book One (One for the Money) and keep reading. The books are a hoot.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Cover versus Title versus Both

So, a friend of mine and I were talking this weekend about our favorite subject . . . books. Yes, I lead a dull and boring life. I love books. I recently downloaded a book to my Kindle (the book was free - woo hoo) and I made the comment that the book was surprisingly good. It was a book I had considered buying throughout the years, but never did. My friend nailed the reason on the proverbial head: it didn't have a good 'cover' did it? No, in fact, it did not.

I have picked up more than one book for the cover alone. Okay, I admit it, I'm a cover shopper. If the cover catches my eye, then I'm more thank likely to pick up the book. If not, well, then the book will most likely remain on the shelf.

Then, there is the title. A grand title will catch my eye. In the case of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, the title caught my attention, then the cover, and then the texture of the pages. So, it was the perfect trifecta of a book. I'm just saying . . .

My question: how much impact do covers/titles have to do with your book shopping?

My second question: in the age of Kindle and Sony Readers, will authors have to come up with catchy titles more than publishing art houses will have to come up with intriguing covers? How many books will sit unread because the title is just not enough to catch a reader's attention?

Hmmm . . . so many more questions come to mind regarding the electronic age of books. Would I have ever read any of the Harry Potter series based on the title alone? What about The Fellowship of the Ring? The Hobbit? Tigana? Dragonriders of Pern (okay, yeah, dragons, the cover wouldn't matter - ; ))? I guess in this age of electronic books, I'll have to read the descriptions more so than I do right now based on my OMG, I just love that cover, let me see what the book is about philosophy or neat title, let me read a little more. Still, I think authors/writers are going to need to pay more attention to the titles of their books in this age of Kindle, Sony Reader, and beyond.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Death of Budzilla, Queen of the Salt Water Desert

Let me tell you about Pennywise the Killer Clownfish I have in my salt water tank! Yes, let me tell you about the bad seed fish I purchased.

My aquarium was such a lovely and relaxing place. The hermit crab (Erikus Maximus Crabulosis – that’s a whole other story) minded his own business. The snails (Jack and Daniels) inched their way along the sides of the aquarium. And, Budzilla Queen of the Salt Water Desert (my cleaner shrimp – named after our friend Bud and the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) frolicked all over the aquarium. Life was good.

Then, I added Pennywise (though, in my defense, I had no idea I had purchased a serial killer clown fish with a taste for fresh shrimp). Yes, I see, you're beginning to get the picture.

All Budzilla wanted to do was her job - clean the new fish. She tried and tried, and Pennywise (lulling his victim into a false sense of security) allowed the delicate ministrations. Oh, but that was all an act on Pennywise's (the killer clown from Stephen King's It, just in case you're wondering) part. Soon, Pennywise began to chase poor Budzilla all over the aquarium.

Still, I held hope for peace in the deep sea.

All the internet blogs said that clownfish could be aggressive toward other fish, but not to the poor Budzilla's of the ocean deep. Well, the blogs lied!

I came home Tuesday night and found that Pennywise had brutally attacked poor Budzilla and ripped her in two. Yes, poor, delicate, generous Budzilla met an untimely end. I was, of course, devastated. My devastation turned to horror when Pennywise realized I knew what he had done while I was away at work. Did Pennywise show remorse? Did he go and hide in the rocks? Did he beg for forgiveness? Oh, no, that would not be befitting of a serial killer. Pennywise swam over, picked up one half of poor, generous Budzilla, looked directly at me, and then (like a dog with a toy) shook his head - Budzilla firmly clamped in his jaws - back and forth, laughing his evil little laugh all the time.

Pennywise knew what he had done and was quite proud of himself.

Flash forward to yesterday morning. Pennywise is still proud. He sees me looking at him and - yes, the audacity of dear Pennywise is quite amazing - he swims leisurely around the tank, picks up Budzilla's legs and (again, like a dog with a toy) looks at me and shakes his head back and forth. Well, dear Pennywise almost took a vacation - an extended vacation I might add - right then and there, down the swirly water event known as the toilet. But no, I'm too softhearted - unlike the vicious killer in my salt water tank - to do such a horrible thing. I called the fish store yesterday and they agreed to take Pennywise back since I'd only had him a week.

My tank will soon be occupied by a new cleaner shrimp and other crustacean/invertebrate type critters. I have sworn off fish for my tank. The shrimp are too dang cute and quite funny at that. It will - hopefully - be a gentler aquarium once Pennywise is gone. I swear, that fish knew what he had done. You could see it in his eyes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I have journeyed . . .

. . . to the dark side and done what I swore I would not do! I have purchased - gasp, double gasp, triple gasp, cough, cough, cough - a Kindle.

Okay, the lightning bolt hasn't hit me yet, so perhaps the literary gods don't mind my purchase of the Kindle. Then again, the literary gods have been known for their drama queen moments before . . .

Why did I purchase a Kindle after I swore that I would not? Money, people, it all boils down to money. I love to read. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the touch and smell of the pages. I've bought a book or two based on the texture of the page. Yeah, I'm weird at times. Did I mention I prefer hardback books? Yes, my downfall in life is that I prefer the more expensive hardback books to paperbacks. That, dear readers, is why I have gone over to the dark side - Luke, I'm your father - and purchased a Kindle. I can save a ton of money - well, not literally, but at least figuratively (those are literary terms for those not in the know) - per year by purchasing my books on the Kindle. To date, 2 books downloaded, I have saved $20. That's, like, four trips to Starbucks. Woo-hoo!

I love my Kindle. Let me count the ways:

  1. For most books, I can download the first chapter (for free) and read it. If I like, I buy, if I don't like, I don't buy. Simple!
  2. The Kindle automatically saves my place in the book. I no longer have to worry about accidentally (it has happened to me more times than I care to admit) shutting the book. With Kindle, turn it on, and voila there's where I stopped reading. Cool beans, dear readers, cool beans.
  3. I can highlight passages and those highlights are saved in a separate folder. Woo-hoo! Now, I don't normally highlight passages in a book - personally, I believe it blasphemy to highlight or draw lines in a book (my normal mode is to write down the page # on a piece of paper and the paragraph #) - but every now and then I find a sentence or paragraph that I want to remember and cherish. Kindle makes life so much easier.

Okay, those are my top three reasons. There are a lot of other things as well, but I'm not going into depth on them . . . at least right now.

Last, I'll still buy the occasional hardback, especially since I have most of some series in hardback. There's no need to stop now. I don't want six books of a series in hardback, and the next three in electronic format. It just wouldn't do. I don't want to piss the literary gods off too much at one time. I'm just saying . . .