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Archive for October, 2010

Today I made the switch.

After having a “personal” Facebook page for over a year, I decided to restructure its content to be my author page, as I’d been encouraged to do. As we’ve all read, (and many of us already know) Facebook can be a wonderful tool for sharing news and to building and nurturing a writing and reading community. I have also read over and over we readers need and want to feel connected to authors in this new virtual landscape, that is not enough to read about their writing lives, but that we would like to have insight into their personal lives too. But in the desire to be available to one another, just how much information is too much, and have we possibly lost a sense of mystique in the process?

So please tell me–how much do you all feel is a comfortable level of information to share with the web-world?

For those of you who have a web presence (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc) have you drawn your lines in the sand–or do you often find yourself unsure of how much information to reveal?

And do you appreciate authors you follow MORE when they share personal anecdotes–or does that not alter your affection at all?

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It’s growing chilly here. Nights are falling to the thirties.

Bread Pudding with Chocolate and Orange Zest

Leaves are falling too–albeit often on 80 degree days, but like I said, the nights are cold–so cold we put off our camping trip for one more day when the temps will be a wee bit higher in the overnight…

So when the weather shifts and the chill grows, I yearn for bread pudding. Okay, so I yearn for it when it’s a 110 heat index, but I really crave it when it’s cold.

Maybe it’s the brandy. Maybe it’s the warm custard infused with vanilla and orange zest. Maybe it’s the brandy. Maybe it’s the melted chunks of dark chocolate on the crusty edges of the bread. Maybe it’s the raisins plumped in a 24-hour marinade of…brandy.

I know. Suddenly you’re Cookie Monster from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street and you’re ready to pluck off those little black keys on your keyboard, because they so resemble those fat, soaked raisins…aren’t you?

The recipe is relatively simple–cube a loaf of crusty white bread, soak it in a custard of half n half, heavy cream, vanilla and eggs overnight, also soak (overnight) a cup and a half of raisins in a cup and change of brandy and lots of orange

Can't I just eat it like this? Do I HAVE to cook it?

zest–mix them together with a few TBS of the brandy reserve (and keep on reserving that reserve to pour over the finished pudding…) and bake with chopped chocolate pieces over the top for 30-35 mins at 325.

Anyone else have a winter-warmer favorite?

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Now that LITTLE GALE GUMBO is almost out the door (my door, that is) and I have a tentative publication date (October 2011!), the discussion of possible cover art is starting. My editor very generously offered me the chance to weigh in on the subject, asking if I had any ideas for the cover, or if I could provide her with a list of covers I had seen that I liked. Exciting? You bet. But not nearly as easy as I would have imagined. If I thought summarizing a 400 page novel into a one-page synopsis was hard, what about summarizing a whole book in a single image?

Thankfully there are talented designers and marketing professionals with the expertise to know how to take a book and distill its essence into a succinct and spot-on visual representation. As a graphic designer in a past life, I know there is much that goes into the decision from an aesthetic point of view–but what about the less-familiar influence of marketing? I can’t imagine the layers and research for that one (soft-focus versus sharpened-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life Test Groups?), but I do hope I get to be privy to the conditions that will influence the decision when it is made. Frankly there is nothing about this process that doesn’t rock my world. (Translation: don’t be surprised by future posts on the chemical make-up of binding adhesives. You’ve all been warned.)

But maybe it’s not too early to begin to think about covers for your own projects…if for no other reason, it can be a wonderful exercise in distillation, when a novel begins to press dangerously at its seams, and the forest that’s supposed to be there among all those trees is entirely hidden from view.

So, anyone have any thoughts on their own covers? Any covers on the shelves currently (or in the past) that are your favorites?

 

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…when you look at that paragraph/scene/line that you worshipped, the one that you wrote and immediately afterward had to stand up and walk around the room a few times because you were so full of the sheer joy and pride of its brilliance that you simply couldn’t sit still–

–then you delete it without hesitation, without an ounce of regret, without a tear. Because your agent or your editor or maybe both said it didn’t work, and you realized they were absolutely right.

Yes, dear friends. You’re a writer.

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Every story needs a storyteller. But the same story will be very different depending on who tells it. It isn’t enough to tell a story–we have to decide who tells the story we want to write.

For example, let’s say there’s a fascinating story of a roguish, worldly archeologist who seeks out ancient ruins in dangerous places and leaves a trail of broken hearts in his wake. If he were our storyteller, oh, the exciting stories he could share. Imagine the tales of lush lands, delicious foods, narrow escapes, love affairs and career-defining discoveries! Sounds like a fun, thrilling read, doesn’t it?

Now imagine the same story is being told by the neglected daughter of said aforementioned worldly archeologist. The daughter who was born to one of the man’s many mistresses, who was bounced from boarding house to boarding house, and who saw her father maybe once a year, but knew plenty of his escapades to share them. Hmm…Why do I think that story would be more heart-breaking than thrilling?

So who should tell this story? There are, of course, options to point of view. In third person, you could present both narratives, the father and the daughter, but maybe you’d rather choose one and use first person. To be simplistic for a moment, let’s say you want to write a thriller–so you might choose the father as storyteller. But if you are inclined to write the story of a daughter’s search to reconnect with her absent father, a story clearly more based on emotional impact, you would choose to have the daughter be the storyteller. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to do both. The point is that the same story can be told and impact the reader in very different ways depending on which character tells it.

And this is reason number 12,004 why I love writing.

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Garlic martinis (and endings) should always be shaken*

Every story has an ending, that much is a given. But as to what sort of ending, we can’t ever be sure. Unless, of course, we are writing our story and have control over its resolution. But just like in life, endings aren’t always tidy and they aren’t always as we expect them to be.

Now some stories are expected to have happy endings–or at least, a predictable formula. Disney movies rarely end badly. (Even though they can still start out pretty rough, ie Bambi, Cinderella, Finding Nemo, etc.)

For a writer, the question of how to end our stories is complicated. Do we want to portray real life, and show the unpredictability of it? Or do we want to give our readers the security of knowing that they can expect a sigh of relief as they round the final corner?

But is giving our readers a tidy, shiny, happy ending best serving them?

I don’t always think so. In the first few drafts of Little Gale Gumbo, I went the predictable route.  That’s not to say the story wasn’t without its drama and tension, but the ending always seemed a little too neat, and I came to realize that there was far more emotional impact and staying power in an ending that didn’t leave my characters “settled.” I think we can all agree, there is a certain degree of authenticity that comes from a book with untidy endings; endings where all lovers aren’t reunited, where arguments and riffs aren’t mended, where people die or leave, just to name a few examples.

For myself, I’ve read books that I’ve loved as I read them, but that ended in such an unsettling way that I couldn’t get past my feelings of despair to see beyond it. But is that not the goal of an author? To create a story that will affect the reader, and linger long after the book is closed?

So my question to all of you writers:  How do you like your endings? Have you ever grappled with an ending that was less than tidy, less than happy? How did you resolve your dilemma?

As readers, have you ever found yourself unsettled or even disappointed in an ending because it didn’t end neatly/expectedly?

*Recipe for Garlic Martini

Mix:
1 oz. juice from Trader Joe’s Colossal Olives Stuffed with Garlic Cloves
1 1/2 to 2 oz. of Gin
shake in shaker with ice, pour into glass with olives

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