Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oy, the Questions! (Part 1)

One of the fun things about my job is that I get to talk to all sorts of folks about writing. A recent trip to Kennesaw State University and their Entertainment Marketing Class is a great example. Their professor (Tyra Mitchell) is a dear friend and so I get the chance to putter over and explain why marketing and "brand" are essential for an author.

This time around I pulled up other authors' websites, blogs and Wikipedia entries as a means to see who has it all together and who could stand some work. The authors ranged from the very highest and mightiest (J.K. Rowling -- check out her website -- it rocks) to those far less well known. The students were vocal about their thoughts on website design, which was great.

Professor Mitchell also assigned her class the task of penning questions for me. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to answer the majority of them so we hatched the idea of using this blog as a Q&A session. I'll post questions and answers over the next couple weeks. Feel free to demand follow-up questions or post comments. Blogs should be dynamic.

Question from S. McC. -- How did you decide you wanted to become a writer?

I had no choice. You can blame it on two things -- I'm an only child and the "voices". Being an only child I quickly learned it was prudent to entertain myself rather than bugging my parents who always seemed to have an endless supply of 'make work' jobs for the child (if she was underfoot). So besides reading voraciously, I started concocting stories in my head to keep myself occupied. I could out into my little world and no one would know what I was up to, unless I starting muttering to myself or forgot to take the garbage out.

As to the "voices", fortunately they aren't telling me to conquer England or anything. They're my characters, who will start chatting at me at the most inopportune times. Pushing the cart down the grocery aisle "Hey, did you know that X in this scene is really the bad guy who...." Sitting in a doctor's office "and that the bad guy is the one who killed the nun". It's at this point I go "What nun?" and get all sorts of looks from those around me. I've often thought I should buy a Bluetooth headset (but not put in the battery) just so folks don't think I'm talking to myself most of the time.

Question from A.S -- Have you always leaned towards this style of writing, even as a child?

I've always written mysteries from the beginning. I was never one of those to wrote happy and light stories. I've always been fascinated with the complexities of human nature. I added the paranormal or supernatural element to my writing in about 1998 when I become more aware of that aspect of life. Up until that point, I'd had little to do with anything mystical. Now I see it as one more layer of complexity.

Question from R.T. -- Do the relationships of your characters in your novels parallel your own relationships in your life?

I'd love to say no, but that's wrong. Authors often work out some of their inner issues (demons) through their writing. By putting your characters through emotional (and physical) hell, you not only take them on a journey, but pull yourself along as well. If the character is being a sincere jerk, that attitude comes from somewhere. We're all a mixture of dark and light and that's what makes writing so much fun. But every now and then I'll wince because something gets a bit too close to home.

I'm off to a convention this weekend but will continue posting the Q&A on Monday!


Monday, October 09, 2006

A Signin' We Go!

Long weekends are always fun, even when they involve driving a goodly distance. Husband and I drove the Gizmo (Honda Hybrid) to Asheville and spent a leisurely day there. Hubby had never been to that fair city so we wandered up and down the streets, ate at the Tupelo Honey Cafe (awesome food) and visited a few bookstores. I usually hand out info about my book, a page of reviews, etc. One store is interested in a booksigning, another's events coordinator wasn't in and the third is, well, a bit more literary and not necessarily a great fit for my genre fiction.

Asheville reminded us a lot of Iowa City (Iowa) during the 70's. Very counter-culture. Lots of eclectic folks and nifty shops. It has great energy (suppsedly situated on a ley line) and the mountains in the distance only make it even more lovely. The trees were just starting to turn. Unfortunately, lots of other people love Asheville and an online search of real estate values tells me that living in/near the town is not going to be in our budget until I make the NY Times list... repeatedly.

Our next stop was Raleigh and a booksigning at the East Six Forks Borders Books. Wow. Talk about being treated like a celebrity. There was even a bouquet of flowers on the signing table and they gave it to me at the end of the signing! That never happens. I was signing with Raleigh resident, J.R. Fisher, the fellow who won a role in SOJOURN during a charity auction last year. (See photo above.) We were all in full Victorian garb and that got some second glances. The local newspaper folks popped in, took pictures and interviewed us. (Read the interview in the News Observer) And lots of J.R.'s friends dropped into buy books. After the signing we adjourned to the Bahama Breeze located next to our hotel for dinner. We really enjoyed ourselves.

I returned to my hotel room and crashed for a LONG nap. Then I was awake until the wee hours (Bah!) Sunday we headed home and took the scenic route southwest of Asheville (which added extra time to the trip) but allowed us to wend our way through some really gorgeous mountain scenery.

Now it's back to the grind until next weekend and another signing (this one here in Atlanta) at the Borders in Kennesaw. Let's hope it goes as well as the one in Asheville for that was one for the record books.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Citizen's Duty

The elections are in a few weeks and the ad blitz is going full tilt. Lots of full scale propoganda is issuing forth from both the Democratics and Republicans. For the most part is it all b.s. Each side is trying to make points with us voters. "So and so voted against this bill and that means he's siding with the terrorists!" [A note - the citizens of this great nation are smarter than that, guys. They know that terrorists are not, on the whole, very polite. They do not come up their intended victims and ask, "Excuse me... Republican or Democrat? Oh, you're a Democrat? Then please go stand over there so you won't get hurt when I explode this bomb."] It's just ignorant to accuse another lawmaker of helping Osama and his crowd.

So here's what we citizens need to do: study the candidates. I know, that cuts into your time watching Lost and other such things, but this is YOUR government after all. Forgot that, did you? (They prefer you do. It makes it so much easier for them.) In all honesty, we're the reason it's in such a mess. We've let the inmates run the asylum. We've not held their toes to the fire. And in the process They (and by They I mean BOTH Democrats and Republicans) are destroying what's really cool about this country.

It's time to do your homework -- read what the candidates say and then drill down through the 'spin'. Send them an e-mail and ask questions. If you get b.s. back (nine times out of ten you will) then go back after them for a straight answer. You wouldn't tolerate this kind of stupidity from an employee and yet you'll let your elected officials get away with just about everything.

Electing a government is a major life decision. Do your civic duty. VOTE. If not, in twenty-five years the Iraqis might have to help us execute a regime change to restore our democracy.

Now that's a sobering thought.