Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Single Most Important Bit of Writing Advice I Can Give You

The Witchy Chicks have been sharing publishing wisdom for aspiring writers all week. If you have a moment, please go here to benefit from their wonderful words of wisdom. On the same note but from a slightly different angle:

Selling that first book is a dream come true for so many writers. When The Call comes in, the world takes on a rosy glow, fairy sparkles drift down like confetti, and your cheeks hurt from that maniacal grin you can't seem to wipe off your face. Not that you mind. The world is now your oyster, and you are the pearl! Your life is going to change (in a good way!) overnight! You see dollar signs! Fame! Fortune! Someone to clean the bathroom for you!

Ah, the life of the published author. It doesn't get any better than this. Am I right?

Maybe. But then again, maybe not...

Being a new author in the writing biz can be a little bit like being submerged in a shark cage in the Bermuda Triangle -- the sharks are circling, the holes in the cage are bigger than you thought they were, and you're in danger of passing over into the oblivion of the abyss. If you're lucky you might go the easy way, but the hard way is nibbling away at your hard-won self-confidence, and you are horrified to find that the decision might not be yours to make.

The dangers? Oh-so-many things can go wrong. You might find that your editor has so many authors that he/she doesn't really remember your name (it's terribly disconcerting to have to remind the editor that bought your book who you are... again). Your book might have been bought as filler for a spot on the list, but nobody bothers to tell you -- in fact, they are hoping you don't realize it, because it brings up all sorts of uncomfortable questions that no one really has answers to. The agent you struggled so hard and so long to acquire might not be terribly interested in putting out a lot of effort on your behalf until you become a proven commodity -- something that takes excellent writing, an idea that grabs the reading community by its throat, perfect timing, years of building a readership, and a whole lotta luck. Your publisher might not show a lot of support until that same readership provides evidence of itself, which means you have a lot of work ahead of you trying to grab the attention of a lot of people who have no idea who you are or what you have to offer, because no one has ever heard of you or your book, let alone manage to come across it on bookstsore shelves, because the bookstore owners and buyers haven't heard of you, either. You have no say over the cover, little say over the title or back cover copy, little to no publicity unless you do it yourself, and to top off this bitter mouthful, you *will* at some point be asked to make changes to your story that you might or might not be comfortable with.

Still with me?

Take a deep breath, prospective author. I know you might have issues with control (most of us do), but I'm going to let you in on The Secret. You know, the one that you've KNOWN has been out there all along while you were struggling to learn your craft. The Secret that is whispered about on author loops, and shared in quiet corners at conferences.

Ready? Here it comes.

The only true control you will have is what you choose to put into the work. It's all about the work. Your writing, your voice, your characters, your world-building, your story. When your agent drops you because you're not moving up the ladder, when your royalties scarcely cover the groceries, let alone the heating bill on the house you can't afford, when publishers go out of business, or lines are let go, when the cargo train carrying copies of your book from east coast to west derails and bursts into flames, along with a large percentage of the first and only printing of your book (this actually happened, by the way), you will realize that you have absolutely no control over these very influential outside influences on your writing career. This will trouble you greatly. Try to ignore that little voice that insists you Must Retain Control At All Times. It isn't possible. Instead, devote the bulk of your energy to nurturing and learning and maturing at this career that is part craft, part art, and all you.

Protect. The. Work.

Guard it like a jealous dog with a particularly juicy bone. Don't let the negative voices of critics (whose numbers are truly astonishing, by the way) drag you down into the mire that is their world. They don't realize the amount of energy you put into your latest manuscript, how you struggled, how you bled. They only know that something about it did not work for them, but haven't the subjectivity to realize that their voice is only one in thousands. (With luck, hundreds of thousands. :) ) Don't play comparison games with other authors, whose careers are not the same as yours and never will be. (Just as you don't know the intricacies of their lives, you also don't know the intricacies of their careers, and the reality might not be as pretty as you might believe...) Don't waste energy on things that have no impact on your career, but can have a terribly detrimental impact on your ability to WRITE.

Protect. The. Work.

Learn to trust those people who are in your corner (agent, editor, marketing departments, publicity, etc.) to do their jobs. Do everything you can to help them do their jobs, but at the same time, realize that you have to be involved in your career, too. Learn as much as you can about the publishing business in all its glory. Ask questions, but be aware that some questions will not have immediate answers, and sometimes the answers aren't going to be ones that you will feel comfortable with. Plan out the way that you want your career to go, but be flexible. Read all of the wisdom from the W'Chicks as provided on the link above, and study it well... but always remember that the quality of Your Work is the real reason you're here.

Protect. The. Work. It cannot be said enough.

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Top Five Fave Paranormal Movies & TV Shows

Like with the book list, this is such an easy topic for me. I love books, love writing 'em, love reading 'em, but my second favorite thing in this world would be a really well-done movie. I've always preferred fantasy-land over the real thing, I suppose.
My top faves, in no particular order (and I know I'm going to be leaving out a whole lot, but these are what came to me off the top of my head):
Practical Magic
What is not to like about girl-next-door Sandra Bullock and gorgeous Nicole Kidman as a pair of sister-witches descended from a long line of natural witches whose family suffers beneath the weight of a curse placed upon them from one of their very own? The crazy Victorian house filled with antiques, the seaside village, the garden and yard surrounded by white picket fences, the book of shadows thick with centuries of magical words and remedies, the hippy-chic clothes and hair extensions. Oh, and Aidan Quinn, in one of his most charming roles ever. There is something very quiet and steady and reassuring about his character here.
The scene at left is probably my favorite in the whole movie, for atmostphere and for the way magic is shown as just being a natural part of Sally/Sandra's existence. She has a nagging feeling, then hears her daughters and sister calling for her on the wind. I just love it. I even love the soundtrack.
A doctor loses his pregnant wife, an M.D., while she is on a Red Cross mission to a South American country. She is presumed dead, but he never recovers her body, a fact that haunts him through the vast depths of his grief. Suddenly this man of science begins hearing and experiencing things that are at odds with his aetheistic non-beliefs. Is Emily haunting him for not accompanying her? Is she reaching out to him from beyond the grave because she wants him there with her? Or is he just going mad?
I loved this movie. Loved it for its atmosphere, for its sensitive rendering of the emotions a person suffers after a loved one passes over, but mostly for the questions it raises about human consciousness. Kevin Costner and Linda Hunt (as a Catholic nun who got into trouble for investigating near death experiences) are both wonderful, as is Susanna Thompson as his late wife.
The Mists of Avalon
This made-for-TV miniseries is based on the novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley and tells the King Arthur story from the viewpoint of one of the most reviled women of the original versions, Morgaine Le Fey. The opening scene, with Morgaine parting the mists is gorgeous.
The movie suffered in a few places from overacting (or was it the script?) and from non-movie-quality sets, but it was fascinating and beautiful, nevertheless. It also has a gorgeous soundtrack, sometimes airy, sometimes ominous, sometimes both at the same time as it follows the tale of treachery, deceit, and the longings of the human heart.
John Edward Cross Country
Actually I don't consider this paranormal, but I know there are lots of people out there who would put it in the realm of fantasy and the paranormal, so I will include it here. From my standpoint, John Edward is amazing. He has done more to bring the paranormal and communication from the other side to the skeptical masses than anyone else I can think of, and he does it with a kindness and sense of humor that keeps him accessible. The man is a phenomena in and of himself. I sense things from him that I don't get from all of the TV self-proclaimed psychics. I think he's the real deal. What do you think?
Dracula 2000
Stop laughing. Yes, I will include this B-movie gore-fest spectacle on my lists of favorites. Why? Well, I can assure you, it had nothing to do with the wonder that is Gerard Butler.

Yes, that's him...

Seriously, forget the bad script, forget the writhing vamp vixens who couldn't act their way out of a shoebox, forget the less-than-spectacular-or-original descent into gratuitous blood and gore. Beyond all of that was a truly original theory behind the Dracula myth and what made him into this being that he is. Had the film focused on that and hired real screenwriters (with talent, I might add), this movie had the potential to do something great, to perhaps even become a classic in Dracula moviemaking history.

Besides, if you saw *him* coming at you out of the mists, would you run away? LOL.

Co-star Christopher Plummer said that Gerard Butler had a stillness about him that made him amazing to watch.I wholeheartedly concur. Heh.

Oh, and speaking of Gerard Butler:

Phantom of the Opera

I know, I know. The Opera Ghost isn't reeeeeeally a ghost. But just to humor me, let's pretend that he is, because that gives me the opportunity to display this:

Seriously. The movie is fantastic. Fabulous sets, talented actors, a gorgeous production. I even bought the soundtrack, and after two years of wearing it out, I still can’t listen to the CD set without tears. The emotional honesty of the premier voices never fails to amaze me. Emmy Rossum’s haunting soprano blends seamlessly with Patrick Wilson’s quietly accomplished Raoul, and the circle is completed by the raw energy and heartstopping pathos in Gerard Butler’s appealing baritone--sometimes rough-edged, sometimes smooth and pure, but always, always compelling with sheer masculine power. If you have somehow managed to miss this, do whatever it takes to get your hands on it. You’ll never forget it.

So he's not really a ghost. He could be.

"Come to me, my Angel of Music..."

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}