Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pay It Forward

I’m guessing that you’ve heard the expression pay it forward. It’s used to describe a good deed that is repaid by doing a good deed for another or others. I love this warm and fuzzy concept.

Last week a friend passed on his copy of MOON OVER MANIFEST to me. This novel, by Clare Vanderpool, won the Newbery Award Medal this year. Since this surprise gift made my day, I’ve decided to pay it forward. If you leave a comment on my blog in the next week, I’ll put your name into a hat or basket or something. Next Wednesday morning, April 6th, I’ll pull out a name and that lucky winner will receive MOON OVER MANIFEST. Pay it forward, baby.

Also, many thanks to J.L. Campbell (

for the One Lovely Blog Award. So nice! However, I'm supposed to pass the award to fifteen other bloggers that I've newly discovered. Yikes! I've discovered a few awesome blogs lately, but honestly, it's been hard to find time to newly discover anything, much less fifteen other blogs. The work in progress is almost done, but has been pretty demanding and I've also been working on another novel. Plus promoting Dog Gone and Buck Fever. All good things, but time flies by. So, if you know of a great blog for me to check out, I'd be forever grateful to hear about it. In the meanwhile, check out J.L. Campbell's blog. Paying it forward!

Thanks for stopping by. Happy reading and writing and paying it forward. ; )

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Casting Call

It’s probably not a shocker that the best selling Hunger Games books are going to be made into movies. Last week it was announced that Jennifer Lawrence has been cast to play Katniss. Here’s the link for more scoop on this:

Do you ever consider the actor or actress who might play one of the characters in something you have written or are writing? Do you ever think about a favorite character from a book you are reading and wonder who could portray him or her? It’s kind of tricky, isn’t it? Every reader, it seems to me, gets to know a character in his or her own way. No matter how detailed the character description, I picture her in a way that may or may not be exactly the way you picture this character. This applies to appearance as well as personality, I think. So, it’s interesting when Hollywood puts a face to a perception.

I should admit, too, that once I see the movie version of The Hunger Games, the Katniss in my head will probably be trumped by Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal. And Jennifer Lawrence may be Katniss forever more. Sort of like when I see Daniel Radcliffe interviewed and think Wow, Harry Potter is staring in another play on Broadway.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sympathetic Characters

What makes a character sympathetic? This question sometimes stops me, makes me scratch my head and mutter to myself. I understand that an unsympathetic character is one that I, as a reader or a writer, can’t fully relate to. But why? That's the kicker. Is a character less than sympathetic because I don’t have anything in common with him? Or maybe I don't have enough information about him--about his emotional state or his circumstances.

I once wrote about a character that was prone to good deeds. Too many good deeds. Hanging out with him made me feel like I was gagging on a sugar cube. This character didn’t survive the first draft of that particular novel. Sympathetic characters, it seems to me, should be like the rest of us--flawed, plagued by weaknesses, and prone to bone-headed moves. On hindsight, I bet that if I'd developed the reasons why Mr. Good Deeds behaved as he did, I would have liked him better. If he had a few bad habits or quirks, he'd have been more interesting. Understanding how a character is struggling emotionally as well as physically makes me care more about him. I become sympathetic.

What do you think? What makes a character sympathetic?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Laughing Out Loud

Laughter is good medicine, don’t you think? I love humor in writing and in life. I’m reading my first David Sedaris book. Hilarious! So, what makes good humor? I did a bit of light research to see what I might find. Here are a few interesting and kind of fun tidbits that I stumbled upon.

Apparently words with the k sound are supposed to be especially funny. I’m not sure I get this. Does this make a Cadillac funnier than a Ford? Or, a cat more hilarious than an ostrich? I call the ostrich the winner in that comparison. Also, words with the g sound are said to be giggle worthy. When I think of guacamole and goggles, or eating guacamole while wearing goggles, this sort of works. So, are characters with names that begin with k or g more funny? I’m not convinced.

I also read about a technique for adding humor to metaphors or other comparisons. When crafting a comparison, try to add an outrageous or funny element. So, when writing about a group of little kids, I might write: Trying to get kindergarteners into a classroom is like trying to. . . Here I am supposed to list the most outrageous and funny options that I can think of, such as: herd cats, run a marathon in clogs, organize circus clowns. Did anyone notice I that used the k sound in these examples?

Finally, statistics show that most people laugh at everyday stories more than scripted jokes. Usually because these stories are exaggerated. Ah, exaggeration. This I understand.

Your turn: Any thoughts on what makes great humor? Feel free to exaggerate.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

While Driving Along . . .

First up, some bulletin board news:

This coming Sunday, March 6th, I will be joining some of the wonderful authors that are a part of the KidLit Authors Club at The Well Read Bookstore in Hawthorne, N.J. Here are a couple links:


We’ll be there from 1 PM until 4 PM reading from our books and giving away goodies. If you happen to be in the area, we’d love to see you!

* * *

I’ve been visiting lots of bookstores since joining the wonderful gang of the Kidlit Authors Club. More visits means more time in the car. This means time listening to great music while mulling over my work. I am convinced that writers never stop writing and working on their stories, even without laptops, pencils, or pens. So, on Sunday, while driving to Well Read Books, I’ll be thinking over my latest novel. An everyday event during my trip might even lead to a novel event. This has happened before.

Not too long ago, while I was driving along, a van pulled out in front of me and cut me off. Okay, fine. This is part of the driving life in New Jersey. A driver cutting off another driver is about as common as peanut butter. It’s also one of those experiences that usually elicits a reaction, if not a variety of reactions. I started asking What if…? What if a driver cut off became so infuriated that he or she chased down the offending car and beat the living snot out of the guy who did the cutting? Or, what if the two cars ended up in a wild chase? What might complicate this chase? How could it become crazy tense? My mind started crafting all sorts of reactions and outcomes to this common (at least in NJ), everyday incident. I kept upping the stakes. Each scenario provided a different menu of character traits with any number of reasons for each character’s reactions. All because I kept asking What if? And here’s the best part: I ended up using one of these scenes in my latest work in progress. I really should thank that guy who cut me off and nearly nailed my beautiful car… And then again, maybe not.

Do you ever ask What if? and let your imagination loose?