Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leg-Up on the Competition

Watching the Oscars this past Sunday had me asking many important questions, such as: How hilarious would the Oscars be if Sacha Baron Cohen hosted next year? And why didn’t Hugo win best picture over The Artist?

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved The Artist. Throwback pics are right up my alley, along with tap dancing and appreciating the bliss of non-verbal communication. But, for me, Hugo was an unmitigated masterpiece that perfectly blended 3-D with the art of a great film—derived, first and foremost, from a book! So, why didn’t it take the big prize?

And then as I watched in delighted glee as Angelina Jolie struck the pose twittered around the world, it dawned on me that the key to success is getting a leg-up (shameless pun intended) on the competition.

Throwback pics are right up my alley, along with tap dancing and appreciating the bliss of non-verbal communication.”

Hugo whimsically hit the theatres, striking a chord with viewers and critics alike, but it failed to show its gams and stop traffic in the way, for instance, It Happened one Night did—which incidentally won for Best Pic and made Claudette Colbert’s leg just as famous as Jolie’s, in her day.

The Artist
, though technically silent, packed a loud wallop with its glitz and old Hollywood glamour, gaining a leg-up on the competition by bringing black and white back in vogue.

I’ve noticed the book publishing world has even taken hold of this trend, fashioning many striking YA covers, of late, using black and white, with a dash of Hollywood red to give it some pop.

So, as I sit down to edit my new YA novel, I wonder will it have a leg-up on the competition to establish myself as The Artist, or may it perhaps win a Hugo, instead? Only time and a good pair or stockings will tell!

:) Tracey

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Voices Inside My Head

Now that I'm published I've realized something pretty important. Apparently I'm not the only one who hears voices inside my head. There are a ton of us out there. I think they refer to us as authors. ;)

For as long as I can remember, the dialogue has always played out in my mind. I realize most people who hear voices in their head usually think that's a problem. I, on the other hand, think it’s a problem when I don't hear those voices. Some of my best stories come from a few lines of conversation created when I'm standing in line at the supermarket or when I'm driving to the mall. Sometimes I don't even make it to the mall because I have to turn around and start putting to paper what I've just come up with. Well, that's not entirely true, since I always make it to the mall, especially when Macy's is having a sale. But, you get my point. (I always carry a notebook in my bag for such emergencies!).

The plots and conversations keep flowing, but I'm not complaining. I'm glad I've finally found a place to work them out and get the stories published. Now I don't feel so crazy!

I hope you'll get lost in my words.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Swift Inspiration

You’ll often hear about music inspiring the writer. Stephanie Meyers wrote Twilight with the help of a steady stream of musical tracks that accompanied not only her books, but the movies too.

My teen daughter is the same way, musically shuffling her way through mountains of daily homework with the help of her ipod. I tried it myself, but found I’m just not hard-wired that way. My music is silence, and through it I hear my muse best. All else is simply a distraction for me. But I do so admire those artists who can absorb every note and give back to the world something equally artistic in return.

Taylor Swift, a gifted young singer who writes her own music, recently accomplished the reverse. She was asked to write a song for the upcoming movie, Hunger Games, so she voraciously read the novel in only a few short days. Swift grew inspired by Collins’ words, much in the same way that Meyers’ literary efforts were inspired through song, and the result has produced a new single of exquisite ethereal quality never achieved by Swift before. Safe & Sound sounds nothing like Swift’s previous tunes, and that’s what I love best about it. She nails the paranormal vibe like she was born in a graveyard and her video mirrors her song perfectly too.

In a recent interview Swift said she sat on the gravesite of a couple who lived and died in 1853 and began thinking, “What were their lives like?”

I’m not Swift’s mom, and yet I feel proud of the way her career is evolving. To give yourself over to the muse and bravely create something out of your comfort zone is an act of courage to be admired. Kudos to Swift on her eerie new song. Hope the movie will live up to its soundtrack.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Quick Update

I'm really drawing a blank on trying to come up with something witty to say. It's probably because I'm tired. I'm not sure how I managed to get anything done when I had a day job. The thing is, my life hasn't changed much. I still look after my son until 7pm and then from 7 onwards I write, well I write if I'm not walking the dog, or doing dishes or having a bath.

I got some really good news this week, I'm going to be in an anthology. Which is going to be released this time next year. This will be the first thing I've done that will be in print. I hope that this is a sign of things to come. The idea is 'Once Upon A Clockwork Tale' and if you can't guess it's steampunk fairytales. My idea is based on Hans Christen Anderson's 'The Wild Swans' I'm so excited about this. I'm also working on edits for 'A Impossible Task' which is the sequel to my Molly O'Brien series.

So it's back off to do more edits. If you've got five minutes I'd love for you to check my blog out http://www.ellagrey.wordpress.com it has some musings on it and some reviews.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Skiing Is Like Writing

I'm actually off on a ski weekend with the extended family right now, but thinking about the trip the other night got me pondering all the ways that skiing is like writing.

Yeah, it kind of looks like that.
Anyone can get to the top of the hill, strap on some skis, point them down the slope and go. No lessons, no skills. They just barrel down, screaming their heads off until they fall, collide with someone else and fall, or (miracle of miracles) reach the bottom... and fall. See? Without knowing how to stop, falling tends to be how it happens. That doesn't make them "skiers," it makes them fools who fall down. It's sort of how anyone can sit down at their laptop and "write." Now, I won't argue that they aren't "writers" in that if they make it to the end (the bottom), they might fall down, but they still made it. But it doesn't make them "authors" (aka for the point of this post--"published writers").

You see, an author has gone through the lessons (learning craft). They've fallen down over and over again (written a lot, and even failed a lot). But they don't quit getting better. Mastered the green slopes? Awesome, move on to blue. Feeling good there? Let's try some blacks, maybe with moguls. Authors are the ones that strive to reach the double blacks. And sometimes, when things are good, they'll be able to hop on those slopes and hit ever curve and jump and land every trick.
There's no feeling like it.

But sometimes they'll still fall.

There will be some literary patch of ice or a broken binding on a boot or... something that gets in the way of that perfect run. The thing they don't tell you about those harder hills is when you fall there, the wipeout tends to be more extreme than anything but those crazy point-your-skis-down-the-slope-and-go falls.

I had a little tumble recently. One that knocked my skis off. For a little while, I sat there on the writerly slope, looking at my skis and the hill and wondering if it was worth trudging back up in the uncomfortable boots to get my skis and finish the run. After all, that rock that made me fall wasn't going anywhere. There's nothing quite like freezing your butt off while sitting in the snow and trying to convince your brain that you should move.

But if you want this gig, if you want to be an author, you have to finish the run. And then you have to get on the chair lift and do another one--if only to prove to yourself that you can. It's not about how spectacularly you fall. It's about how stoically you get back up again.
Smart man that Bon Jovi guy ;-)

So, while I'm on the slopes, I'll be planning for my next literary run, and damn it, this one's going to be clean and beautiful. And that little tumble? It won't be forgotten, but it won't matter anymore.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Finish is To Win

I used to do a lot of endurance racing with my horse Sabaska. For those who don’t know, endurance races are really long trail rides in short periods of time. For example 50 miles in twelve hours. They are organized by the American Endurance Ride Conference or AERC. The motto of endurance racing is To Finish is to Win. Essentially, as long as you come in under the time limit with a healthy horse you’ve won. (Note they don’t worry about the condition of the rider too much. LOL).

Training for endurance takes hours and hours and more hours in the saddle. They say you should ride the number of miles in a week that you intend to ride in a competition. For example if you are training for 50 mile rides, you ride fifty miles in a week. If you’re training for 100 mile rides, you ride 100 miles in a week. Some of this will be on flat land, some steep, some will be at a walk, some at faster gates. Sometimes you’ll get off and run with your horse or walk behind them as they go down very steep terrain.

There is a lot to learn when you start out racing. You have to learn how to safely condition your horse, how to shoe your horse, what kind of tack to use, the different tricks and practices that help you and your horse make it through long distances in short periods of time safely. You study books, you talk to more experienced riders and you get your butt into the saddle and you ride. Your horse has to learn a lot too. She has to learn to drink whenever water is offered, eat often (this one isn’t hard) and to expect long hours of trotting with very brief rest periods. She also has to learn that just because you’re back at the trailer resting, it doesn’t mean you are done for the day.

It is a hell of a lot of fun.

Writing is a lot like endurance racing. Can you see how?

Training to write takes hours and hours in a chair, staring at a computer. You have to write, read books, do research and practice, practice practice. Your subconscious also has a lot to learn. It has to learn that just because you’re done for the night, doesn’t mean the story is over. It has to learn to concentrate for the entire story and help you get the novel out. The writer has to learn those skills too.

It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

Both take discipline. You can’t finish a fifty mile ride without practicing and you can’t finish a novel without a lot of work.

The great thing about endurance? You get a lot of time to think about novel ideas.

And the most important similarity. If you finish a story you win. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

B&N Ever After

As a little girl. I used to make paper pamphlets and fill them with fairy tale origin stories, such as: where thunder came from, how Cupid got his arrows, and other such fictional tales that were sure to make me famous one day, I was certain.

Very often, my mom would take me to our local bookstore and I’d look to see if any of my stories somehow magically made it to their shelves. But, alas, not one ever appeared. Someday, I’d be famous like Dr. Seuss or Peggy Parish, I vowed, and every child would utter my name at bedtime.

On into my adult years the dream never died, but only increased to department store proportions. Barnes and Noble became my goal, a place I revered above all others.
B&N has been for me one of my happy places where I wile away the weekends, browsing through books and sampling all the tasty treats it has to offer. Every time I’m there, without fail, my mantra remains, “One day I’ll see my books on these shelves!”

Not an easy task for a writer to see their dream on display at their favorite B&N store. But just today, my life turned a new chapter and my Noble Prince Barnes called upon me, asking if I’d like to hold a book signing on March 10th at my favorite location, from 1-3pm.

“One day I’ll see my books on these shelves!”

They’ve ordered my novel, Time Warped, for their store and after the signing ends, my books will remain behind, proudly displayed on B&N’s shelves. Hopefully each and every one of them will find the perfect home or castle to live in and will be read by young adults and their parents, who may one day realize their own dreams for success.

But as for me, next month I’ll get to feel like Cinderella going to the ball, signing copies at the place I love best of all. What better news could a girl receive on Valentine’s Day? Sure beats a box of chocolate, by far, but I’ll greedily take that too from anyone offering.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Changes are in the air...

Friday Afternoon

Saturday Afternoon -->

Yes that's a wind surfer in Friday's picture and snow in Saturday's.

I'm wrapping up Prince of Light, the third and last book in my Night of Gryphon series and all my characters need to achieve their arc. Not just the hero and heroine but FIVE characters! This is causing me to eat way too many gummi fish and M&M's and drink too much diet coke. Unlike the weather, I can't have Taraly acting one way and then with the turn of the page she's totally different. She must repeatedly be put into situations that make her reassess who she is even if it's subconscious. The reader has to follow her progress.
Everyone wishes they could go to bed and wake up with that one flaw gone (I'll never procrastinate again) but it doesn't happen in real life and it can't happen for my characters.
Another challenge in my character arc is the fact it's a series. So growth has to take place over all the books while the change in that book needs to make sense. I'm sure we've all read books where we've thought, 'What? Did aliens just take over this character?' Since I don't have any outer space mind alerting characters in these books, I need to plan and plot (the dreaded four letter words).
But also I'm face with how much change is too much? People can make dramatic changes in their life but if one of my characters goes through this will my readers still like them? But if they don't change enough they become a cardboard or one dimensional character. So goes the tightrope walk of character arc…..I need some M&M's.
Have a great week!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Beethoven and Dragons Slaying

You've probably heard the tale.  Ludwig van Beethoven was one of the greatest music composers of all time.
He also went deaf.
But, he kept writing music.
He heard inside his own imagination and memory. 
I think the story goes he was at a performance of his music and he couldn't hear it and he had no idea if anyone liked it until he turned around and saw the audience.
I think Beethoven would've loved Dragon's Speech Recognition Software.  No, they didn't pay me to say that.  I have a wicked case of Tendonitis right now.  Aw, heck, it's probably full blown carpal tunnel syndrome.  I just cannot write my stories.  I'm starting to hurt just writing this short post.  But, tomorrow, my husband and I are going shopping for my birthday and we're getting this software and a new keyboard.  I'm going to create my own customized desk chair cushion.
The point is don't give up on your passion, even if a disability tries to get in your way.
Life isn't just about living.
It's also about having a *reason to live.*  And that's where passion comes in.
Thank you, Beethoven.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Writing Under the Review Cloud

While for the most part I welcome nearly every review to come down the pike, one side effect I’m noticing after publishing half-a-dozen supernatural YA novels over the past year or so is that lately I tend to write under what I call “the review cloud.”

The review cloud is a kind of spooky place where you tend to second guess all your writing decisions based on past, present or future reviews. You’re almost, but not quite, hoping the “cool kids” will like it. Or trying to impress those reviewers who dinged you the first time around, trying to prove you “get it” and can “do better” this time.

Every negative response you’ve gotten about a previous book, every ding or sling or arrow, gets cycled through your inner dialogue until you begin making conscious, or even unconscious, decisions based on that most dangerous of all creative variables: the opinions of others.

The review cloud works in reverse as well; it can become a kind of “silver lining” where you start to believe all those four- and five-star reviews and start to think you can do no wrong! (And that’s really dangerous!)

Of course, the real danger of writing under the review cloud is that you’re listening to so many different voices – most of them strangers, some of them random – that you start to ignore, or even discount, the most important voice of all: your own.

If you find yourself in this sticky situation, here are some simple tips for dealing with the review cloud:

·       Get back to squares: Know who you are. Know what you write, why you write it and what you love about it. Know that nobody’s perfect, that bad reviews happen to all of us, all the time, and just. Start. Writing. If you get preoccupied about bad reviews, or good reviews, or constructive criticism or unsolicited advice or the rabid opinions of a political cabal of particular “popular” reviewers, you will lose your most valuable writerly tool: your own, unique, creative voice.

·       Write your way through it: It can be pretty hard to ignore the review cloud, but I find that if I just keep writing I stop thinking about it soon enough and lose myself in the words, the story and the characters of my work in progress. The more you think about the review cloud, the easier it is to succumb to it. The more you just flat out write your new or next or current book, the easier it becomes to forget.

·       Embrace it: I can remember a recent review where I was really, brutally and scientifically taken to task for my zombie mythology. I’m talking, I’m convinced this reviewer was actively rabid – medically speaking – when he wrote his review. It still stings, and I can remember my first reaction was: “Holy crap, I should never write another zombie story again!” I mean, I was seriously considering dismantling my blog(s) and sending a certified letter to the publisher, demanding they destroy all remaining copies of that sucker! And, five seconds later, I thought, “Sca-rew that!” I thought of every zombie movie I’d ever seen, story or book I’d ever read, song I’ve ever heard and thought, “You know what, this is fiction! I’m not writing a dissertation, white paper or biography on the living dead.” I slept a lot better after I’d come to terms with that; hopefully, you will too.

·       Ignore it: One of the best, if not the easiest, ways to deal with the review cloud is to simply ignore it. But you have to get past it, stat, and stay there; if you write under the review cloud for too long, or too often, you will simply lose all traces of your own, unique and creative voice.

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to step out from under the review cloud. The first step, of course, is realizing you’re under it in the first place!

Yours in YA,


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Forward to the Past

A slightly different take on Back to the Future, Forward to the Past is a theme I’ve noticed of late, not only with me but many of my friends, family and even The New York Giants!!! (Congrats to my G-Men!)

"Revolution is once again in vogue, as was Madonna at half-time, during the game!"

Has anyone else noticed the time travel sequences in their real world lives? Just this past week, I’ve reconnected with a friend not seen in years, my sister received a surprise phone call from a gal she worked with twenty-five years ago, and The NY Giants played the same team they competed against four years ago in the Superbowl and won… yet again… with another immaculate reception, reminiscent of Tyree’s helmet catch in their last Superbowl outing against The Patriots.

Revolution is once again in vogue, as was Madonna at half-time, during the game! Past and present are performing a mash-up and I really don’t know what we may expect next.

There is something about time travel that has always fascinated me as a writer. In both my novels, I travel back and forth between the present and old eras gone by. But now, my literary imagination has caught up with me here in my waking world and I’m not quite sure what to make of it!

I do believe by reliving the past, we are given a chance to make an improved tomorrow. Spanks sure beats girdles, after all. But there’s a part of me that still worries my greatest nightmare may soon pop-up. I'm talking about the Flowbee and if it makes a comeback, the future of hairkind will be doomed for sure.

Someone, quick gas up the DeLorean, call Michael J Fox’s agent and let’s take a visit to see Doc to figure out how to repair this rip in the universe and stop plagiarizing the past and start forging a new and inventive future for us all! (Of course, the Giants are excluded from this wish. They may win as many superbowls as they like!)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Waiting on Submissions

Any other who writes in the e-pubbed world will know what I'm talking about--and if you're thinking about becoming a writer you will understand shortly. You write something. Spend a lot of time working on it, thinking about it, editing it, dreaming about it, thinking about it--and then, finally, you submit it for publication.

And then you wait.

Even if you have written for the publisher before and are feeling pretty confident about your story, you can't help but think about your submission all the time. Have they read it? Are they reading it? Who is reading it? Do they like it? Do they hate it? Do you think you made a bad choice in character development? Have you suddenly become an untalented hack? Did you ever have any talent to begin with?

You check your e-mail, over and over again. You try to move on and write something new but every once in a while you think about that submission. How many days has it been since you subbed it? You check again.

Yeah...that's where I am right now.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday News: Kimber An's First Adult Story!

Drive-By Valentine is due to be released Monday, February 6th, by Noble Romance.  It's 'sweet' romance, which means no nookie.  So, I don't think anyone will freak, even though the heroine is thirty.  Eve's still struggling with an issue you all will probably have nailed by graduation, if not from high school then by college.  That's finding your own path to Happily Ever After.  My YA daughter loved it.
Here's the blurb-

Pushing thirty on Valentine’s Day, Eve realizes her desperate search for love has led to nothing but misery.  Then, she takes a chance on a little old lady who’s famous for finding the perfect guy for every girl just by looking at his truck. 
Pop over to my main site if you want to learn more about Drive-By Valentine.   http://www.kimberan.com/p/valentines-day-in-hardware-store.html

Huge Sale on Pretty Souls

Just a quick announcement and lots of links!

I wanted to make sure everyone knew that Pretty Souls is on sale at Amazon. From now until February 24 (2012 :P), the Kindle version is only 99 cents (77p in the UK, .89 Euros in the rest of Europe)! If you've been waiting for it to be marked down, NOW is the time to get it!

US: http://www.amazon.com/Pretty-Souls-ebook/dp/B004RPZRE8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328136550&sr=1-1

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pretty-Souls-ebook/dp/B004RPZRE8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1328136584&sr=8-3

France: http://www.amazon.fr/Pretty-Souls-ebook/dp/B004RPZRE8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1328136635&sr=8-2

Germany: http://www.amazon.de/Pretty-Souls-ebook/dp/B004RPZRE8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328136719&sr=1-1

Italy: http://www.amazon.it/Pretty-Souls-ebook/dp/B004RPZRE8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1328136774&sr=8-2

Spain: http://www.amazon.es/Pretty-Souls-ebook/dp/B004RPZRE8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1328136812&sr=8-2

There might be others too, but those are the ones I'm aware of at this point. If it's on sale where you are (and I haven't listed it) please add it to the comments!

And have a fantabulous weekend!