Tag Archive | writing

The Adventures of the Pitmad Virgin

The other day I was introduced to a concept called PitMad. It’s things like this that truly make me feel my age even though I’m only in my mid-30s. PitMad, I thought, what the hell is that? Well, it’s an event that happens twice a year on Twitter where writers pitch their novels to interested publishers and literary agents in 140 characters or less including the phrase #pitmad.

I never understood the point of Twitter and never really learned how to use it. I mean I have a Twitter account but it usually sits in the corner mumbling while nursing a glass of whiskey. There were so many things about this concept that frightened me. First there’s the whole learning how to use a new social media aspect that can be pretty jarring. Since Facebook, which I use religiously, appears to be slowly turning itself into Twitter with its own use of hashtags, the ability to post on both forums at the same time and their recent facelift that’s had everyone screaming in recent weeks, I discovered Twitter wasn’t as difficult to use as I’d thought. So that was one hurdle down.

My relationship w/Twitter

 

Then there was the more daunting task of writing that perfect pitch to get people interested again in less than 140 characters. For those of you who don’t understand just how short 140 characters actually is, check this out:

This is the name of my book. It is about this, set in this time period and the characters do this. The story is in this genre 5left #pitmad

See that? That is 140 characters. So the object of Pitmad and campaigns like it is, again, to make your novel appealing enough to get an inquiry from a literary agent or publisher. Not only that but because Twitter won’t post duplicate postings, you can’t just constantly post the same great over and over again. This means you need to come up with several decent pitches. At first I thought, oh hell, I can’t do that! Then I realized you’d better be able to do it because if you can’t figure out at least 10 different ways to show your creativity to entice someone enough to want to represent you or peddle your product, you don’t need to be writing!

So I did some research since I never experienced a Pitmad type of event before and found the following tips helped.

The following are abbreviated hashtags recognized by the literary community. They also attract agents and publishers who are interested only in certain genres and who don’t feel like wading through thousands of tweets that don’t pertain to them.

#YA = Young Adult
#MG = Middle Grade
#A = Adult
#NA = New Adult
#PB = Picture Book
#CB = Chapter Book
#NF = Non-fiction

Before tweeting make absolutely sure your manuscript is completely finished. Many times writers will tweet a pitch for a work in progress and when contacted, disappointment abounds for 9 times out of 10 these people are only interested in a finished product and now the aspiring writer has wasted an opportunity. Also, be sure to proofread your finished manuscript for typos, grammar and spelling errors. If your manuscript isn’t polished upon submission, it makes you look like the amateur you are and provides a lot of extra work that many agents and publishers may not want to do.

Don’t bombard the twitter verse with your pitches. Yes, with the hundreds of tweets marching past your feed, there’s the fear that yours will get swallowed up if you don’t. However, this is considered bad form and can be downright annoying. People searching for writers will find you via your hashtags and often times will scan the tweets once the event is over and the smoke has cleared. Your best bet is to tweet your pitch twice an hour and at less congested times. I noticed activity jumped on the hour, half and quarter hours so I chose to tweet during odd minutes like 2:17 or 4:49.

Also, while taking part in these pitch events you’re going to see a LOT of good tweets that you will like. Whatever you do, DON’T FAVORITE THEM! When an agent or publisher see a pitch they like they signal the writer by favoriting that pitch. The writer should then follow up by checking the submission preferences of said agent or publisher if the person didn’t already make that indication in a tweet. So when you, as a reader or another writer, favorite a tweet you get some aspiring hopeful jumping around, screaming, doing cartwheels etc. because ZOMG SOMEBODY WANTS TO REPRESENT ME only to find it was just some random Twittererer (Tweety?) who liked your pitch. Once the campaign is over, feel free to go back and favorite it otherwise, as one writer it happened to wrote, don’t give someone an unnecessary heart attack.

A publisher wants to read my baby!

If you are lucky enough to get a legitimate favorite and that person didn’t tweet what their submission preferences or guidelines are, look up their agency to get that information. Then send an email with the subject PitMad Request: TITLE. Whatever you do, don’t send an unsolicited query unless of course an agent or publisher tweets that you can do so. Before doing this though, research the agent or publisher who contacted you. You want to make sure that #1 the person is legitimate since there are a lot of vanity presses masquerading as agents and publishers. You also want to know that the person you’re contacting can actually represent you and is interested in your genre.

I’m happy to say that on this, my very first pitmad experience, I was pinged by four different agents and publishers. While this put me on cloud nine for the rest of the day, upon further review I realized two of them just wouldn’t have made a good fit and would be a waste of both mine time and theirs to send a submission. The other two seemed to be more up my alley though so I contacted them. It’s times like this that I’m thankful for my 10 years as a military spouse for I am now well-versed in the game “Hurry up and wait.” The average wait time in the industry is two months.

So, as I wait to hear a yay or nay by Mid May (hey, that totally rhymes;) I shall busy myself with other things. I am currently working on a work of fiction focusing on the mother/daughter relationship under my new nom de plume, Vera Colon. Once I turned my attention to a new body of work the sequel to my manuscript, Conquest of a Queen, decided to speak up so I have also started writing that one. With my brain actively engaged I am also torturing my body while helping my husband train for the cycling trials of the upcoming Wounded Warrior Games. I recently discovered I could ride 13 miles without dropping dead. Go me!

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed popping my pitch party cherry with the PitMad party and, should I not actually get a bite this time, I look forward to taking part in many more events like this.

 

 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY FANS!

one year anniversary

Wow, how time flies! It has been one full year since I started this blog. I’ve read and reviewed some great and not so great books. I’ve gotten to learn the ins and outs of the publishing and self publishing industry and met some great people along the way.

So what will 2014 bring us? Well, as you may have already seen I have pulled down the original renditions of Heroes and Hearts and Descendants of Quendaris. I’ve merged both stories and, after talking to some other writers and reviewers I’ve picked up a lot of great tips and insight that I am now using to revamp the new novel. I have spoken to a few publishers and agents who are interested in reading the finishing product and I hope to have it ready for submission by the Spring. In the meantime I will also be flexing my writing muscles via contests and short stories. It’s been years since I’ve actively picked up a pen and paper (hey I’m old school, I don’t write on computers;) but I feel confident that I’ve brushed away all the cobwebs and I’m now ready to throw down!

So keep watching this page for updates, stories, articles and of course feel free to fan or like or whatever my fan page.

Body Image and the Romance Novel

body-of-a-goddess

It never fails. When reading a romance novel, the men are always well built and muscular with enormous genitalia while the women are gorgeous and well proportioned with smooth skin and smell of either some type of flower or confection. Some say this sets the reader up for unrealistic expectations and the beautiful characters can’t be related to. I agree however, there are a few things to consider.

 #1 A large majority of women hate how they look

It doesn’t matter how beautiful, thin or curvy a woman is, most of us absolutely hate how we look. I won’t get into the whole debate about body image in society, impossible expectations portrayed by the media etc. because we’ll be here all day. The fact of the matter is women are our own worst critics. Personally, I look in the mirror at least twice a week and frown at my graying hair and extra flab. Meanwhile my husband can’t seem able to keep his hands off me and I have friends who tell me I’m gorgeous. This brings me to my second point.

 #2 The hero will always find the heroine attractive 

That’s just the way the formula goes or at least that’s how I use it. If you notice, in many novels the heroine hates her body or doesn’t feel she measures up to the goddesses who surround her yet the hero absolutely adores her. The same traits she might hate seem to drive him crazy with desire. Even if she appears homely to the hero at first, it isn’t long before he takes a good look at her and realizes, wait a minute, this woman is beautiful! In my opinion this is where fantasy and reality meet. No matter what any of us looks like the person who makes your heart skip, your pulse race and causes butterflies to flutter in your stomach with a simple touch or look is the loveliest person you will ever meet.

 

#3 How do you write a “realistic body”?

She stood framed in the doorway, her satin robe caressing her figure. He approached her, a goofy look on his face as he undid the sash and slipped the robe down to her feet. He smiled, noting how the corn pads drew his attention to the shimmering polish on her toenails. The varicose veins, born from hours of standing on her feet as a waitress, fanned out like a roadmap on her legs. He massaged her cellulite dimpled behind as he kissed his way up and around her panis. He relished in the feel of her swollen nipples brushing his forehead as he kissed his way up to her bare breasts. As he stood upright, his soft belly jiggled and slid against her body. She groaned, caressing his bald spot and running her hands through the thick hair of his back. She squeezed the extra cushioning along his waist.

“Your love handles drive me crazy!” she murmured.

****

Not too sexy is it? At least, not as sexy as a scene describing a more perfectly formed couple anyway. Reading in general is a form of escapism and the romance genre especially so. While the hero and heroine don’t have to be underwear models, I think there is a growing tendency to make these couples to be a little more realistic while still maintaining artistic license. There’s not as much call for washboard abs and perky breasts and I can’t remember the last time I’d read of a virginal heroine gasping when her hero unleashes an appendage the size of a tree trunk. There are writers who specialize in BBW romances which feature plus sized women and men and I applaud those writers. I understand they’re doing very well and I intend to study those books as I’m curious how they handle the descriptive scenes. There’s also the growing trend of books featuring men who are physically or emotionally damaged and so far the books I’ve come across in this trend are very well written. I’ll encourage anyone to seek out and pick up books featuring these types of characters if you haven’t already.

Some day we may see romance novels featuring people who look just like you and me but to be honest, wouldn’t it be more fun to pretend to be a beautiful enchantress who is driving some gorgeous hunk absolutely wild, even for a little while?

Writing Playlist

In conjunction with a featured post on Me, My shelf, and I here is a list of just some of the songs I listen to while writing in no particular order.

Sweet Lullaby – Deep Forest

Die Without You – PM Dawn

Children – Robert Miles

Icarus – Mythos

Live at the Acropolis album – Yanni

Sadeness Part I – Enigma

Why – Annie Lennox

Aquaria Album – Diane Arkenstone

Clair de Lune – Debussy

Moonlight Sonata – Beethoven

Charlie Brown Christmas Album – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Now We are Free – Lisa Gerrard

Put Your Records on – Corrine Bailey Rae

Island in the Sun – Weezer

Violator album – Depeche Mode

Over the Rainbow – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole

Jashn-E-Bahaaraa – Jodhaa Akbar

Bad Mama Jama – Carl Carlton

Enya (too many to name)

Erykah Badu (too many to name)

Great Writing in Movies

Yesterday I had the privilege of venturing to the movies with my best hubby to watch Star Trek into Darkness which, being a fan of the original series, I adored. I especially loved Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance but that’s nothing new because I adore him too. His delicious performance actually made me smile and I thoroughly enjoyed hating the villain while cheering for the heroes. That got me thinking. It’s rare that we go to the movies because there never really seems to be anything out there that makes movies today very memorable. Terrific special effects and music score are wonderful things but they can only take a movie so far. Terrific acting skills are also beneficial to the story especially when coupled with good meaty writing that presents moviegoers with memorable lines, speeches and scenes.

Now I’m going to refrain from including great infamous lines like Chief Brody’s “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” and “Come down here and chum some of this shit” from Jaws, “Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn” from Gone with the Wind or memorable speeches and moments like Network’s “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Today I’ll be covering lesser thought of, but still great lines and scenes from movies throughout the years in the hopes that it’ll bring you memories of those great films and the people who wrote them as well as introduce you to movies you haven’t seen or haven’t considered seeing:)

Moonstruck

If you’ve taken a stroll around my blog, you already know that Moonstruck is one of my favorite movies of all time so of course one of my favorite lines and movies come from this movie and no, I will not be covering the slapping scene, sorry. In this scene, the family has sat down to dinner and is trying to talk about Loretta’s upcoming wedding except Cosmo doesn’t want to do anything but eat and guzzle wine. Rose is already dealing with the fact she think’s her husband is screwing around on her and his behavior at the table is stressing her out. Throughout the scene, Cosmo’s father keeps leaving the table to feed his spaghetti and meatballs (I think that’s what they’re eating) to the pack of dogs he takes with him everywhere he goes. Finally, Rose has had enough.

The Ten Commandments

I’m not a religious person but I grew up loving Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments. The movie showcases why the cast was so legendary (although I personally believe Edward G. Robinson was seriously miscast) and has lots of great scenes, speeches and lines. My favorites both involve confrontations between Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri and Yul Brynner’s Ramses.

For some reason I can’t find the scene featuring another confrontation between Ramses and Nefretiri where he informs her “You will be mine, like my dog, or my horse, or my falcon, except that I shall love you more – and trust you less.”

Steel Magnolias

This movie made me laugh and cry and is packed full of great lines and scenes. The following clips are at the cemetery when my favorite lady, Olympia Dukakis, tries to make Maline feel better and then makes up with Ouiser.

Uncle Buck

In this movie John Candy plays the low brow uncle who turns the lives of his nieces and nephew upside down while their parents are away. In this scene he takes on the battle-axe who insists his 6 year old niece isn’t taking her career as a student seriously.

The Heiress

A fantastic old movie starring Olivia deHavilland and Montgomery Clift. She is a plain heiress alienated by her father because she didn’t grow up as lovely as her deceased mother and who is practically invisible to all eligible men. She falls madly in love with Clift who her father rightly suspects is a fortune hunter and refuses to give consent to their marriage. They plan to elope but when he discovers she’ll be virtually penniless if her father cuts her off he drops off the face of the earth only to return when the old man drops dead and she inherits it all. Now wiser and understandably a little bitter, she sets the man up to be bounced harder than Jerry Sandusky from the gates of Disneyworld.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

This movie is just loaded with great lines and scenes but the following is what I consider to be the best scene in the whole movie.

Old Acquaintance

This is one of my favorite Bette Davis movies. She and Miriam Hopkins play two old friends whose relationship gets tested over a 25 year span, usually by Hopkin’s character’s jealousy. It finally comes to a head in this scene when Kit gets tired of Millie’s drama.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

A fantastic movie featuring my favorite onscreen couple, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, as well as a young Sidney Poitier. In this movie the daughter of a white wealthy couple with progressive unorthodox views announces her intent to marry a young black doctor she met while vacationing in Hawaii. While this isn’t a big deal for most people today, back in the 1960s this was actually illegal in many parts of the country (the same parts that are fighting so hard against Marriage Equality FYI). In this clip, Katherine Hepburn terminates an employee in the most epic of ways!

Double Indemnity

While this movie doesn’t really have any lines that are overly memorable (except maybe for this corny one that says how murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle) but as the movie that essentially birthed the crime/femme fatale genre I think everyone who doesn’t know about this movie should run and see it. I especially love that the concept and story was inspired by both a conversation the author of the book had with an insurance salesman one day who told him how when you work the game long enough you sometimes start trying to figure out the angles so you could actually get away with killing someone for the insurance policy and by a murder in 1927 where a wife convinced her boyfriend to kill her husband after he took out a large policy.

And finally here’s a famous skit from the movie Naughty Nineties: Who’s on First with Abbot and Costello

The Ugly Side of Romance Novels

Like many of you, I am very passionate about my reading. I love getting lost in a book and yes when a really good book is at an end I do suddenly feel lost. I also have a nasty habit of bouncing a book off the wall or floor in disgust if it’s badly written or the plot or characters are annoying, make no sense or aggravate the crap out of me. I like searching for bad book reviews (hoping to never receive one myself but I know it will happen some day) because I like knowing what it is that drives other readers bonkers and knowing I’m not the only book throwing fool on the planet!

It seems romance novels are especially ripe with errors so bad they’re almost funny from ridiculous covers to dialogue and descriptions that range from medical textbook terminology to just plain weird. Recently I found some opening lines of romance novels that are just too damn funny not to share:

1. Beatrice was on him like a piranha on a corn dog.
2.…then he kissed her, like a butterfly kisses the windshield of a Porsche on the Autobahn.
3. With his broad shoulders and slim waist, he was a yield sign — yet she could NOT!
4. Her sun-glazed back formed a golden arch as he moved his face toward her happy meal.
5. With each breath, her chest heaved like a bulimic after Thanksgiving dinner.
6. Her embrace made his manhood swell like week-old roadkill on hot asphalt in the Georgia sun.
7. Her petticoats dropped to the ground, rustling like a cockroach in a sugar bowl.

Visuals. You’re doing it wrong!

I’ve also been noticing a couple of trends within the romance genre, and apparently I’m not the only one, that has me a bit disturbed. Now I know that historically there are women who fall for the “bad boy.” I get how alluring a rough and rugged hero that exhibits mystery and danger can be, I really do, but let’s be honest. Most of the actions a hero gets up to in many romance stories, be it book or movie, tiptoe on the line of psycho stalker and would result jail time, accidental death, hospitalization or a restraining order in real life but does the hero really have to be an abusive rapist too? I’m probably going to get a lot of flack about this but I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. When I picked them up in the bookstore to see what the hype was about, well let’s just say I put them back on the shelf after reading a few passages and walked away for the sake of my walls.  These are large and heavy books after all and it would seriously put my spackling skills in question trying to repair that damage! Bypassing the incessant writing style and heroines so insipid and annoying you have to suppress the urge to go Jack Torrance on them (not that they would mind!), the heroes of these stories are complete assholes! Why women are fantasizing about immature possessive misogynists who in real life they would be telling their friends to dump and run I’ll never understand!

That’s right, it’s charming that I break into your house while you’re in the shower after an altercation.

As bad as these books are, they’re spawning even worst copycats where the characters only seem to become meaner, dumber and more clingy and useless with each retelling of the story. Personally, I like my heroes to actually BE heroes! I like to read about a man who, whether he’s a criminal, rake, or is rough around the edges because he’s had a hard life or went through something that royally screwed him up sometime in the past, is able to keep it together and do right by the heroine. My mother was a huge fan of General Hospital when I was a kid and even then I remember and understood her rage at seeing Laura making doe eyes at the man who raped her as she stands across from him AS HIS BRIDE! I’m sorry, I don’t care how sorry the “hero” is for raping the heroine, HEROES DON’T RAPE WOMEN! They just don’t!  Why would I want to read a supposed love story about a rapist and his victim? That’s not romance, it’s Stockholm Syndrome! While I get that the romance genre is about fantasy, I just can’t understand how the depiction of domestic violence and/or a violent act such as rape, which is not an act of love or lust but of power, can be successful fodder for a romance novel or storyline?

Aw, I can still smell the chloroform you used before dragging me into that ditch!

I also like to read about heroines with a bit of sense. Granted in order for the usual instances of miscommunication that tend to spin these stories along to happen at least one or both parties have to be a bit clueless but one thing that drives me insane is when the heroine is dumber than a box of hair and seems completely incapable of staying out of trouble. Sure, having the hero come to the aid of the heroine when her life is in danger is romantic and wonderful and I have absolutely no qualms about that but I once read a book where the heroine had to be rescued ON NEARLY EVERY PAGE! Penelope Pitstop had nothing on this chick! I mean she was either so incredibly stupid that  I was witnessing Darwin’s Theory in action or she had to be doing it on purpose. I never got to find out because that particular book took wing by the fifth calamity. I almost got the feeling that the writer grew to hate the heroine as she wrote the book and just wanted the bitch dead.

Wait.. what?!

Luckily, there are some fantastic romance novels out there written by men and women who get it and I’m starting to be able to figure out which books are worthy of my attention and which books are just a waste of ink! So I save myself some grief and aggravation although once in a blue moon I will purposely search for a groaningly bad novel for a laugh. If you’ve never done this you should. I once picked up a book that looked and sounded just god awful but to my surprise found myself engrossed in a well written story with lovable characters and a villain I loved to hate.