Wednesday, February 26, 2014

MichMoms: Parenting Conflict: How much can we really protect our kids?

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Hanna-
I am completely guilty of wanting to encase The Girl in bubble-wrap every time she walks out of the house. But I know I'm yelling into the wind that will eventually whisk her away to her own life. What about you? Do you feel the same way about your kids? Join the conversation at Michmoms.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What I'm Reading Now: Deadly Sins by Lora Leigh

Title: Deadly Sins
Author: Lora Leigh
Publisher: St. Martins Press 2012
Hot Factor: Sexually explicit. Not for readers under 18.
My Rating: 0 out of 5 (I usually give a least a star for getting published, but this time it didn't help)

I was looking for a good romance and my sister loaned me Deadly Sins, by Lora Leigh, published by St. Martin's Press in 2012. I was looking forward to it as I've read a couple of the books in Lora Leigh's Nauti Boys series and liked them. She's known for solid plots and hot sex scenes. Just what the doctor ordered during a record cold and snowy January!

Unfortunately, this book did not deliver. I can't even say it was the author's fault. Contrary to popular belief, a writer does not slave away in their garrett, send a manuscript to a publisher and it magically becomes a novel. There are usually several rounds of editing of the plot, scene sequences, and dialogue. The last step is a thorough going over by a proofreader who should catch errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Any novel you read is a months long collaboration between the author and the team at the press.

This novel had so many technical problems it makes me wonder if somehow an early draft was released by accident. There were numerous continuity errors. For instance, a character finishes his coffee, then three paragraphs later, he's sipping it again. Wish I had one of those magic refill mugs. During one sex scene, Logan and Skye are on the bed, then the kitchen counter, then back on the bed. Ms. Leigh is already accomplished enough in writing sex scenes, she doesn't need to add teleportation.  There are character name switches, hard to follow dialogue tags, repeating sentences, and worse yet, a typo.

For this I blame the editing team. These are all things they should have caught before the book went to print. Ms. Leigh would have done better to self publish. At least she wouldn't have had to share royalties with an inept team.

As for the characters and plot, which the author is responsible for, we've got standard fare romance characters and plot. Logan is the studly, hard with a mushy interior former military man. Skye is the girl with a mission. She's annoying, though. She's supposed to have been raised to be in the FBI through some bizarre program which I cannot imagine parents agreeing to. But she's a wimp. I hate that. If she is supposed to be a bad-ass FBI agent, then she should kick-butt. Not turn a weapon over to Logan, who's hands are tied, and then proceed to get beaten to a pulp by the bad guy. Give me a break.

The plot is murky and not in a "I can't wait to see what happens" way. It was more like, "What IS happening?" Ms. Leigh didn't do a great job integrating the background from the first novel so we had an idea of what was going on. I also don't see how the prologue, which I actually read, ties into the rest of the book.

I usually give these types of books a lot of leeway. I'm aware of the genre tropes and they don't bother me. I'm not expecting fine literature, but I am expecting a professional presentation, great characters, and an engaging plot. I can't recommend this book to others and it's going right into the recycle bin. Unfortunate, because as I said before, I've liked this author in the past.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What I'm Writing Now: Experiments with outlines

Photo by Tnarik via flickr- some rights reserved

I admit it, I've never been much of a planner when I write. "Pantsing," or writing from the seat of my pants, has been my modus operandi from the get go. However, I'm finding that as I try to attack longer works, pantsing hasn't been effective. Case in point: the novel I've been working on for almost four years. I'm now convinced that I've actually been writing two novels at the same time. Talk about nightmare revisions!

My lack of planning hasn't been from lack of trying. I've read multiple books and articles about the joys of planning out your plots and characters. When it comes time to write that outline, though, I get over- whelmed and soon feel like I'm locked in a straight jacket and go "off-road" with my writing at the first opportunity.

I've been writing quite a bit of short fiction lately, mostly under 3000 words, one coming in at just under 400. However, I've had an idea for quite awhile now to write what I call "20 Minute Romances." All of my friends say they want to read but only have about twenty minutes at night before they fall asleep. I also thought women commuting or waiting for kids could read a story in 20-30 minutes and get the satisfaction of reading a full story without having to commit to reading a novel. So this means generating a story between 6000 and 10,000 words.

Almost as if I ordered it, Writer's Digest February 2014 had two serendipitous articles: Outline and Story Mapping- 7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for any Story, by KM Wieland and Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Steven James. The first caught my eye because I knew I had to get serious about outlining, but didn't want a rigid system. The second stood out because I knew that in order to have a compelling story, I had to add lots of tension and nothing causes more tension than a dilemma.

I dutifully got my spiral ring note book out and started following the steps*. In the process I've gotten to know my characters because I've been able to ask myself questions on paper like "Why is a 32 year old, educated man an exotic dancer?" (Interested yet?) I can doodle around and go way off on a tangent and then come back and refine the story line because it's not a rigid outline. I'm having a lot more fun and have been able to more fully realize my thoughts on the page, even before starting the first draft.

When I got to the conflict portion of the process, I got out Rock and Hard Place. I sat around gleefully thinking about how I could torture my characters, making them choose between two losing scenarios and racking my brain for a "third option" - something that would resolve the dilemma in a surprising way. I admit, it took me a couple days to come up with it, but I think I've got a good one.

All of this brain work has resulted in the following blurb:

Holly wants nothing more than to prove to her ex-husband, Richard, that he made a huge mistake by leaving her for her ex-BFF. When a friend invites Holly to the same New Year's Eve party as her two ex's, she hires Ryan, a young, sexy, exotic dancer, to show her husband she's still desirable. Despite his crazy life, Holly finds herself falling for Ryan. Things take a serious turn when Richard discovers Ryan's occupation and uses it as leverage to start a custody battle for his and Holly's daughters. Holly must find a way to keep her daughters and Ryan.

What do you think? If you're a romance fan, do you think you'd like to read a story like this? What do you think the third option would be? If you come up with a better idea than mine (which I'm not telling!) I might use it in the story.

*Yes, strangely enough I've found that going old school with a paper and pen for a first draft is producing much better second drafts since I edit as I type them into the computer.