Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Release Day!



If you're in the NYC area, join us tonight at Books of Wonder for the launch party!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

why tonight will be a phenomenal night

I have a copy of this


And I'm going to get it signed! at B&N in union square


And then at midnight






....







well, I'm sure you can imagine what I'll be doing.









Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guys, it's HERE!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I have two dogs...

One would totally figure this out. The other, not so much...


Sunday, July 10, 2011

First Page Shooter #9

75,000 words

Original Text

Sidney Bidwell and the silver Porsche zigged and zagged , leaving the courteous drivers of lesser cars in his wake. The common folk used turn signals and enjoyed the view--the mighty Hudson below or the sun-baked cliffs across the river. Sidney read his text message. He didn't see the box truck slow to a halt, and he never felt a thing (had this made the news report, some might have said it only proves life isn't fair). The delay on the bridge that morning was brutal.

Sidney stumbled through dense fog, toward an off-key whistle. The mist thinned, the clearing revealed the source of the happy melody. The little man approached Sidney and smiled.

“That’s one hell of a turn, isn’t it, Sidney?” He clasped Sidney’s hand between his own. “You died, Sidney…on the bridge. A few minutes ago.”

Sidney pushed him away.

“How could I be dead?” Sidney shouted. “Who are you?”

“Calm down, Sidney. I'm dead, you're dead…what's the difference? I’m Patrick...your only friend now.” Patrick pulled an I-Pad from his pocket, and laughed. “You've never seen these apps.You sell commercial real estate. Forty five. Divorced, two kids.”

Sidney could hardly breathe. “How do you know that? Where am I?” his voice cracked.

Patrick raised his brow. “Where do you think you are, Sidney?”

“Am I in heaven?” Sidney asked hopefully.

Patrick burst out laughing.

“Heaven? That’s rich! A foggy day and another prick thinks he’s in heaven.”

***

With Suzie's Notes

Sidney Bidwell and the silver Porsche zigged and zagged , leaving the courteous drivers of lesser cars in his wake. The common folk used turn signals and enjoyed the view--the mighty Hudson below or the sun-baked cliffs across the river. Sidney read his text message. He didn't see the box truck slow to a halt, and he never felt a thing (had this made the news report, some might have said it only proves life isn't fair). The delay on the bridge that morning was brutal.

I can tell from the opening this isn't exactly the kind of story I'm drawn to. The tone is light and ironic and a little distanced.  But for people who do like this kind of story, it's not a bad for paragraph. There are subtle details about Sidney to let us know what kind of person he was.

Sidney stumbled through dense fog, toward an off-key whistle. The mist thinned, the clearing revealed the source of the happy melody. The little man approached Sidney and smiled.

There's nothing wrong with this "after-death" scene, though I would have found myself much more interested if it was something new and different. This feels cliched with the mist thinning and a little man whistling and off key but happy song.

“That’s one hell of a turn, isn’t it, Sidney?” He clasped Sidney’s hand between his own. “You died, Sidney…on the bridge. A few minutes ago.”

Sidney pushed him away.

“How could I be dead?” Sidney shouted. “Who are you?”

With dialogue in emotional moments (no matter how distanced the narrative), less is usually more.  The problem here is that Sidney expresses three different reactions in split seconds. That doesn't work. Denial, anger, confusion are accurate emotions for him, but without slowing the pace down so the reader can process everything, they'll be distanced from the story and going "wait, what?"

“Calm down, Sidney. I'm dead, you're dead…what's the difference? I’m Patrick...your only friend now.” Patrick pulled an I-Pad from his pocket, and laughed. “You've never seen these apps.You sell commercial real estate. Forty five. Divorced, two kids.”

Again, there's too much here, too quickly, without transitions, and as a reader I'm not sure what I should be grabbing onto, what I should be getting out of this. I'm not sure if Patrick is a ghost or a reaper or something else completely. The iPad and the apps make no sense to me at all, and while the details about Sidney are things I didn't know, I'm not sure I care enough about him yet.

Sidney could hardly breathe. “How do you know that? Where am I?” his voice cracked.

Patrick raised his brow. “Where do you think you are, Sidney?”

“Am I in heaven?” Sidney asked hopefully.

Patrick burst out laughing.

“Heaven? That’s rich! A foggy day and another prick thinks he’s in heaven.”

By this point I'm completely lost and disinterested. This conversation reads too cliched, and the last few lines don't read as funny (I'm not sure if they're supposed to or not). But I don't care about or feel any attachment to Sidney or Patrick--or their situation. And I'm not convinced there's anything unique about this story. It feels too much like something I've read or seen before.

Monday, July 4, 2011

First Page Shooter #8

I did this FPS a little differently than before.  First I've pasted the original First Page, followed by some initial thoughts.  Then I edited the First Page, followed by my overall thoughts. My notes are in bold purple, and my additions to the text are in bold red. Then, to really show the difference, I included the Edited First Page, followed by my closing thoughts. This isn't something I will necessarily do every time. In this case, I really wanted to show that you can cut without losing the core of the scene.

I hope it's helpful!


CHAPTER 1

On the Thursday before leaving on my road trip, I finally got to see Holly again. There she was just standing in the hallway as I stepped out from Intellectual Property. Since I had been regularly checking her schedule online, most recently only an hour earlier that morning in the library, I automatically assumed that she was waiting for me. There was no other reason for her to be standing around like that on the fifth floor.
Of course, I realize now that this should have registered as odd. It was still only the first week back and, Holly would have never waited around just to be nice. Especially not after all the things I had said the last time we saw each other. But after months apart and thinking of her every day over summer break, there she was and when she looked up and started walking toward me, my heart started beating wildly and I could barely even contain my excitement.
Her face, arms and legs were sun tanned golden and her hair was longer, highlighted with lighter shades of brown but other than that, she looked the same. So I really can’t explain why something about her had also looked different as well. Not in any real way, just unfamiliar somehow, as if we were meeting after a much longer absence. At the time, I didn’t think much more of it than that, but since then, I must have replayed that memory at least a hundred times, searching for some clue or insight into the mystery that is Holly Levasseur.

Initial Thoughts: We don’t learn if the narrator is a boy or a girl at any point.  And in fact, we don’t even know if the narrator is talking about a friendship or a romantic relationship at all until the end of paragraph two—even then, I’m not going to assume it’s a boy.  It depends.

In that particular case, a query would clear this up (or the flap copy of a book).  But going hand-in-hand with my other comments, this narrator gives us absolutely no sense of who he/she is as a person.  All we know about him/her is his/her obsession with Holly Levasseur and that he/she is taking Intellectual Property.  That’s it.  You don’t have to give us an info-dump of his/her backstory, but something in the way he/she speaks or observes, or something else about what he/she has done since seeing Holly last might clue us in to what type of person he/she is. 

Also, all of this goes on for much, much too long.  The entire sentiment can be boiled down to 2-3 sentences, giving you much more room on the first page to let us get to know the narrator.  (See comments on cutting below)

Editorial Notes:

On the Thursday before leaving on my road trip (to where? A small detail like that could tell us a lot about your narrator), I finally got to see saw (“got to see” is a more passive way of saying “saw”) Holly again. There She was just (cut adverbs like “just” almost always—it makes the language clunkier than it should be) standing in the hallway as I stepped out from Intellectual Property (this might be only me, but I know what an IP class means—means he/she is a law student.  But that’s because my husband is a lawyer.  Would the average reader know what this means?). Since I had been regularly checking her schedule online, most recently only an hour earlier that morning in the library, I automatically assumed that she was waiting for me. There was no other reason for her to be standing around like that on the fifth floor.(None of this is necessary to move the action forward, especially since you explain why in the next paragraph.  This type of introspection that goes back and forth like this on the first page just slows everything down.  You would have lost me by now.)
Of course, I realize now that this should have registered as odd. It was still only the first week back, (misplaced comma—comes before the “and”) and, Holly would have never waited around just (I would keep this one “just” because you’re purposefully qualifying her actions with it) to be nice. Especially not She especially wouldn’t (this is a grammar fix—keeping everything in the same tense) after all the things I had said  (Give us a specific.  It will tell us more about the narrator and his/her relationship with Holly.  Something like “Not after I called her a whore the last time we saw each other.” Or whatever it is that works for your storyline.) the last May (? Give us the detail and then you don’t have to make the language clunky by explaining how long it’s been: “after months apart”—see rest of notes.) time we saw each other. But after months apart and thinking of her every day over summer break (it reads like you’re forcing this detail in here so we know exactly what months they were apart, but it makes the storytelling too meandering and clunky.  Let us find that out later. See below.), there she was, and when she looked up and started walking toward me, her face, arms and legs were sun tanned golden and her hair was longer, highlighted with lighter shades of brown (I moved this up from below to tighten). My heart started beating beat wildly (again, “started beating” is a passive way of saying “beat”) and I could barely even contain my excitement. (The wildly beating heart shows us that he/she’s excited.  No need to tell us here, too. It’s redundant.  And it slows the scene down.)
Her face, arms and legs were sun tanned golden and her hair was longer, highlighted with lighter shades of brown but other than that, she looked the same. So I really can’t explain why something about her had also As she got closer, my smile wavered. Something was different. (This is an example of how you can reword to be more active, and to keep the pacing up, but obviously the exact wording would be up to you and would have to fit with your story.)looked different as well. Not in any real way,(what does that mean? “Not in any real way”?  It must be in a real way, or he/she wouldn’t have noticed, right? Confusing.) just unfamiliar somehow, as if we were meeting after a much longer absence. At the time, I didn’t think much more of it than that, it hadbeen an entire summer after all, but since then, I must have replayed that memory at least a hundred times, searching for some clue or insight into the mystery that is Holly Levasseur. (This would be a much, much stronger ending if we knew up front that she was dead now, or exactly WHY the narrator is looking back on this moment.  We lose the punch that you’re going for because nothing about this seems mysterious at all—it’s only you telling us that it is.  Show, don’t tell!)

Overall Thoughts: The opening line and closing line of this scene are just “meh.”  But without even knowing this story, I can tell that there is potential for them to pack much more punch.  Also, as stated above, the whole moment goes on for much, much too long, and we don’t get much out of it except: He/she is seeing Holly after an entire summer, when they clearly had a fight.  That’s it.  Unless we’re going to learn more information, this should only be a couple of lines.

Without knowing the entire story, it’s hard for me to rework it, but I’ve included the final write up below, taking my notes into suggestion, so you can see how much quicker the pace is.  It leaves you a lot more room afterward for us to learn more and hook us in!  And to hopefully add a mysterious feel to it all, so that the last line makes sense and leaves the reader dying to turn the page.  A couple of the details I added just as examples on how to give details without making it clunky, and keeping the transitions smooth.  Obviously it would depend on the story!

Final Edited Page:

On the Thursday before leaving on my road trip to Alaska, I finally saw Holly again. She was standing in the hallway as I stepped out from Intellectual Property, her green eyes fixed on me.
Of course, I realize now that this should have registered as odd. It was still only the first week back, and Holly never waited around just to be nice. She especially wouldn’t after I called her a whore last May. But there she was, walking toward me, her face, arms and legs tanned golden and her hair long, highlighted with lighter shades of brown. My heart beat wildly.
As she got closer, my smile wavered. Something was different. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, it had been an entire summer after all, but since then, I have replayed that memory a hundred times, searching for some clue or insight into the mystery that is Holly Levasseur.

I was able to take this sample from 263 words, to 154 words, without losing what the heart of the scene is.  These are the things that editors and agents are looking for in a first page (in no particular order):

Voice/Style

Pacing

Good Writing

In the original version of this, we didn’t get a good sense of the voice because there were almost not specifics about the narrator—nothing that felt inherently him/her.  The pacing was also very slow, giving too much vague information and at times too passive.  Those two things tie into the writing and whether or not the editor/agent deems it good.  So it’s so important to nail it!  And of course, carry it through.

-JV

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?