A Good Plan Requires A Thoughtful Discourse

The quote, or something like it, is from Ian McKellen and Aaron Eckhart’s Neverwas. If you haven’t seen it, do. It’s a lovely little film, sort of like Bridge to Terabithia for adults. Why am I using the quote? The reason is twofold. You see, I am one day away from starting The Girl From Hell, and I need to believe in magic. Neverwas is one of those movies that makes you do that. Secondly, a good plan does require a thoughtful discourse. And ever since I started this business of writing without a plan, that bothers me.

Anyway, I don’t outline. Used to. Quit. I could have started this sequel anytime since finishing ANNA. Didn’t. It wasn’t ready. So I wrote Secret Project S. Love it. Yay. And sure enough, a few weeks after that wrapped, Cas (ANNA’s narrator) started tapping on my shoulder. I’d be hanging around my new boring day job and he’d say, "Hey…hey…maybe this happens." And I’d shrug. Maybe. And go on about my boring business. Then he’d come back. "Hey…hey…maybe we start out in a car….or maybe a train…or…" At which point I’d tell him to get lost, I’m busy. But I wasn’t. Not really. And I wasn’t that annoyed either. Because once the characters start tapping my shoulder, I know they’re getting ready to start. Sooner or later, the "maybe" disappears. A few days ago, Cas finally told me where he was. And away we go.

Where to? Don’t know. We’ll find out when we get there. I’ve got a self-imposed deadline in mind as the end of January.

Do…Re….Egon! (Sequel time! What makes a killer sequel?)

Damn, Egon was a dork. But on a sidenote, I think I went to college with Harold Ramis’ daughter. On another sidenote, what is it with the Ghostbusters movies making Bill Murray seem like a sex machine? Get on the scene! With the Bill Murray Sex Machine! No, no, no. Is Bill Murray strangely attractive? Charismatic, yes. I’ll even give you charming. And then I draw the line. The very firm line. If anyone wants to weigh in on this, I’d be interested.

The reason the quote today is from Ghostbusters II, is because Ghostbusters II is a sequel. And this post is about sequels. Why? Because it is October. And October is the month when I am going to begin writing the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood. And though I love to procrastinate, (like Ellen Degeneres says, “Don’t wait. Procrastinate now.”) I must not. Because when people hesitate regarding Anna, Anna haunt’s people’s nightmares. Fun little agent and editor story there. I’ll tell you sometime. It hasn’t happened to me, yet, and I don’t intend to let it. But in the spirit of Ellen Degeneres, let’s think a little bit about what makes a great sequel.

1. A sequel must be bigger, badder, better! It must make Hollywood types MUAHAHA and squeeze their lowballs until they shatter. But what does this mean?

A. Everything that was great about the first one, has to be carried over into the sequel. So if it had a great voice, great dynamics between this or that character, and tense conversations in dark rooms, the sequel should have that too. Only they should be greater! Tenser! Dynamic..ier.

B. The stakes must go up. Danger must become DANGER and passion must become Passion…with angst? Or PASSION…with doubt? Everything the hero fought to save or keep the first time around is once again in jeopardy. Only this time, maybe they really will lose it.

C. Go darker. The first book led readers into the world by the hand. Showed them what an interesting place it was, and tugged them away from any uncomfortable nastiness. Now it’s time to shove them, pull the rug out from under their feet, and leave them in the dark screaming, “Why, god?!! WHY?!!” But be careful. This is a love it hate it thing. When Harry Potter went all dark, I was interested. And yet part of me also felt that the magic was gone, and Harry and I shouldn’t see each other anymore.

D. Descriptions must be amped up. More elaborate and detailed. Backstory should be well-woven, and more revealed.

2. Character love.

A. Popular characters could make cameos. They do this more often in movies than books. But whatever. I think it works.

B. New characters. To love or hate. Or both. Not that these characters should just randomly replace the first characters. Like in the Karate Kid, where every  time Daniel gets a girlfriend, she magically disappears in the first five minutes of the next movie. “How was the prom?” Mr. Miyagi asks. “Fine,” Daniel-san says. “Until Allie told me she was in love with a football player from UCLA.” And then in part three: “When is Kumiko coming?” Mrs. Laruso asks. “Oh, she’s not,” Daniel-san says. “She got a scholarship to a dance school in Tokyo.”

What the hell was wrong with that kid? Why would no one love him?!

C. Old characters should evolve. But not change completely! More of the same, but better, as they say. After the first book, characters should be your friends. By the end of the second, they should be your fricken BFFs, and you will stand by them until the end of the series.

So, there you go. Most of these “rules” are tongue-in-cheek of course. But there is a lot to consider in a sequel. And while everybody loves series these days, beautiful, cash cows that they are, sometimes, a story just doesn’t suit it. Case in point: The sequels to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. Did she write Mists while under a trance? Or were the rest of them written by goats? Seriously. Not that I don’t own all of them.

Next time: To cliff-hang or not to cliff-hang?

You Better Check Yourself. Before You Wreck Yourself. (FRINGE IS BACK!)

Okay, so the quote is from an upcoming movie, which I normally don’t do. But eff it. Because it is Zach Galifianakis, whose last name is awesome, according to his grandfather, because it starts with a Gal, and ends with a kiss. I’ve had a fondness for this wacko since Out Cold. I’m glad his weirdness has gone mainstream. Now if only Bret and Jemaine would bring the Conchords back.

This post isn’t about Zach Galifianakis. And it’s barely about books. (There’ll be some bookie stuff at the bottom.) It’s about the return of Fox’s FRINGE tonight. Oh, I have gotten so into this show. The X-files shaped hole is almost healed. So in honor of the show’s return, I’m going a list of why FRINGE is kickass. We’ll call it the Fringe Fuckin Rocks My Socks list.

1. Joshua Jackson finally gets to do the only thing he’s good at, which is act like Pacey Witter, only this time he’s not bogged down by all that vapid, pseudo-introspective Dawson’s Creek whinaholic bullshit. (Wait, forgive me Joshua…you can also act like Charlie from the Mighty Ducks.)

2. Excellent cringeworthy weirdness, including hallucinatory butterflies with razor wings that will seriously cut you the eff up. And make you flail your way out a window. I thought things this wicked only showed up in Cracked.com articles.

3. Anna Torv gives us a heroine who isn’t overloaded with issues (despite any issues being completely justified), who is sensitive and human while still knowing how to beat down the badness with both mind and fists.

4. There is a cow in the lab named Jean. And they don’t experiment on her. Very often. They just milk her and pet her and stuff.

5. Alternate reality where zeppelins are still acceptable modes of transportation. No Hindenburg, no problem.

6. And finally, because it embraces the idea of possibility. Including the possibility that Walter will use the lab to whip up a batch of taffy just after using the same lab to do a really messy autopsy.

Okay, book stuff. Attended Lisa Desrochers’ reading for Personal Demons last night. Helen Landalf, author of the upcoming Broken Wings was also there. Lisa informed us that no one has yet burned a cross on her front yard, due to the blasphemy in Personal Demons. Which might just mean that Jon Stewart’s rally for moderates is working. Lisa is a cool chick and hardworking writer. She’ll be touring her butt off over the next years, so check her website for dates near you.

Also, I’ll be doing an interview with Toni Quest’s radio show to promote Sleepwalk Society on October 4th. Will post links before and after.
And I got bored and added Anna Dressed in Blood to the Goodreads site. Please do add it to your to-read list. But if you decide to bash it in a review before the book is even released, remember: You Better Check Yourself. Before You Wreck Yourself.

Self-censorship, a Rally for Moderates? and a great review from That Bookish Girl

So it occurs to me that I’m going to have to promote some books. Over the past few months, I’ve met quite a few folks who do precisely the same thing (or will have to shortly) online. And it brings up a lot of annoying thoughts. Self-censorship being one of them. Amidst all the pleasantries, and the email handshaking, and the profuse thank you’s to generous and kind compliments and suggestions, there is a lurking sensation that whispers, "Who’s reading this? What can I say and not say? Fuck, I just don’t know…shit, did I just say fuck? Who’s reading this?!!" Are teenagers going to eventually find their way to this blog and be offended? No. At least not the teenagers who would enjoy my books. But their parents might be, and I’m not in the business of offending parents, or publishers, or churches or political movements. But nor am I in the business of appeasing them.

So, in the endless internet burnout that is Hannah Moskowitz talking about what we’re doing talking to each other, and people decrying the end of internet anonymity, and author interviews and posts about censorship (read this one by Zoe’s Book Reviews), and writers wondering if their books will be banned, I am left to wonder. What….The….Fuck.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to disseminate information.

But anyway, a call to arms for moderates: Jon Stewart is doing a rally in DC in the hope that for one brief, shining moment, the moderate will be as loud as the hard-lefts and hard-rights. I’m interested, but question the feasibility. Moderates, by nature, are not the rallying type.

And Sleepwalk Society just got an amazing review from That Bookish Girl, in which Violet Monroe is likened to Holden Caulfield. The real one, not Jake Gyllenhaal in The Good Girl. It’s reviews like this that convince me I did the book right. Thanks, Bookish Girl!

WriteOnCon 2011 Debut Fundraising Giveaways!!!

So if you haven’t heard of Write On Con, it’s an online writer’s conference. And it’s pretty sweet. They had great video recordings of speakers, and live chats, and prizes, and what not. It had the feel of a live con, and all of the content is available online. So go check it out. Now, they’re doing giveaways to promote the next Write On Con, and if you like to read, or go to cons, you should go there on Tuesday the 14th and enter to win some bitchin prizes.

These prizes include pre-ordered YA books of many genres, chapter critiques, ARCs and more. They’ll be posted throughout the day on Tuesday. Here’s the schedge:

7 AM: Beth Revis
8 AM: Julia Karr
9 AM: Lisa Desrochers
10 AM: Carrie Harris
11 AM: Tom Greenwald
12 PM: Ruta Sepetys
1 PM: Maurissa Guibord
2 PM: Kendare Blake
3 PM: Tess Gratton
4 PM: Caroline Starr Rose
5 PM: Randy Russell

Hey, that’s me at 2 PM. I’ve donated a prize pack of a three chapter critique, a signed copy of Sleepwalk Society, and an ARC of Anna Dressed in Blood. More authors are sure to jump on this bandwagon, supporting this great writing resource. So, you know, go there and enter. Donate if you can for extra chances to win. Support these chicks. They bust their humps and the prizes are kickin.

More details will follow later.

There’s Life in the Old Lady Yet! (Stuffed Dog Review of ‘Horns’. New Kundera!)

This is of course, what Lestat says when he’s dancing with Claudia’s mother’s corpse, in Interview with the Vampire. And really, what else would you say when dancing with a mom-corpse? Interview was the only movie that succeeded in making Tom Cruise devilishly attractive, and many other films have tried. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Days of Thunder.) There’s talk that Cruise is trying to get The Tale of the Body Thief made. Eh. I’d watch it.

Book Review announcement from the Stuffed Dog: The long promised review of Joe Hill’s Horns is up at the website. No word on what the dog will be reading next. I think it would be fun to get the dog to review Twilight, but alas, the dog refuses to read Twilight. I trust no one will ask why not. Read his review of Horns, as well as my short reflection here:

Puppy J’s Review of ‘Horns’

I already reviewed it in detail at Goodreads. Anyway, all the hubbub over the struggles of the brick and mortar Barnes and Nobles led me to go there this afternoon, and pull a copy of Milan Kundera’s new collection of essays, Encounter, off of the shelf. It’s been too long since Kundera’s last collection, The Curtain, and I can’t wait to dig into this incredible brain. I read Kundera voraciously, because he is a genius. His powerful musings on love and art, the function of the novel, just boggle my gourd. He’s got to be pushing ninety, and it’s a miracle he’s still producing material. Someday, too soon, he’ll be gone, and I’ll mourn for someone I’ve never met. Because the world behind him will be cloudier and much more stupid.

It Can’t Rain All the Time (Sleepwalk Giveaway Ends in Four Days)

The quote is courtesy of my brother. And also courtesy of the tool who is trying to remake The Crow. You shouldn’t remake The Crow. Not that it wouldn’t be cool. Not that it wouldn’t be good. It has the potential to be both of those things. But the original was ALREADY both of those things, and Brandon Lee DIED during it, so just fricken step off.

The Goodreads Giveaway of Sleepwalk Society ends in four days. Please do enter. I’ll send you a copy of the novel. I’ll sign it. I’ll thank you profusely. We can discuss why The Crow shouldn’t be remade together.

Okay, I’ll let that go now. As estimated, Secret Project S was completed last week, and is now in the hands of the agent. This will not be the last you hear of it. However, due to contract clauses, it may be the last you hear of it for about a year. It turned out just as I’d hoped. Being a rather non-plotty writer, I don’t know how much credit I can take for the story. I suspect that it’s little to none. But the TELLING. That’s another thing entirely. And I think the language and the style was dead on for me this time, which it sometimes isn’t. And I mean dead on. On like Donkey Kong. Or like anytime late 90’s Jim Carrey got overstimulated.

I struggle in this blog, with the urge to give writerly advice. But honestly, there’s no end to the writerly advice on the internet, and I’m not at all concerned that it does much good. Anything I could tell you, you could Google and find somewhere else. And writing is such a subjective and personal thing anyway. But if useful info does cross my desk….I’ll post it.

It’s true, you are a good woman. Then again, you may just be the Antichrist. (Contracts! WIP blues!)

Has Val Kilmer ever been more appealing than in Tombstone, playing that devilishly charming lunger, Doc Holliday? No. He never has been. The quote above is from the scene where Big Nose Kate is trying to ply him with sex and cigarettes when most of his lung tissue is gone. Eh. Whatever works.

Contracts arrived in the mail yesterday!!! I think I’ll do that authorly thing and take a photo while I sign them. Probably doing some rendition of Arthur Fonzerelli. “Contracts, EY! Now sit on it.” Maybe I’ll post it to the journal.

After the contracts go back, line edits should arrive. And there’s been news of the cover design, which I will keep under my hat for now. It’s more trouble for me than you know. I look ridiculous in hats.

So, Secret Project S is finishing up next week. I now know that there are only two scenes, one chapter, and an epilogue left. Sounds so simple. I know pretty much what is going to happen. All I have to do, is sit down and do it. Ha! Too bad this a-hole is trying to kill me! Kill me! Not that it’s going badly. Or even going that slowly. But it is wringing me out. There is so much action and emotion packed into it. And then, after it’s finished, it might be finished forever. Market is tough. Always has been, but now more than ever.

I’m taking the weekend off.

We Can’t Stop Here. This is Bat Country. (Book Trailer! Interview!)

I love Fear and Loathing as much as the next guy, but not as much as my brother. He needs to stop channeling Hunter S. Thompson before he arranges to have his remains blasted out of a cannon.

I’m going to finish Secret Project S within the next two weeks. It’s sort of scary and sad, because I love this book. Sure, there are moments when I work myself to death on it and we become like a couple who spends too much time together. But for the most part, I love this book. Dying goddesses and epic romance. Blood and grit. I’m going to miss it when it’s gone. I can only hope that I’ll have the opportunity to write the sequel.

Anna Dressed in Blood is coming back with line edits from my excellent editor. Earlier this week, I got to live out a fantasy sequence: talking about cover design. And identifying actors who I thought look like my main characters, so we were all on the same page. I chose Kevin Zegers and Shiri Appleby from Roswell. These are just approximations, of course. Cas Lowood and Anna Korlov are their own people.

It was a good writing work day. I updated the website, and had a long talk with my independent press publisher at PRA. It seems that I will be headed for the London Book Fair. Interesting. I love me some London. Still my home away from home. Then I wrote over two thousand words on Secret Project S, and still have time to start dinner before Dylan gets here. I hear Roseanne Barr saying "Svelte Domestic Goddess".

I also did an interview with Kim McMillon:www.blogtalkradio.com/onword/2010/07/15/writers-sanctuary-presents-hosted-by-kim-mcmillon 

And posted the book trailer: