Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WiP Wednesday: Inspiration Strikes!

This week I decided my manuscript for Evangeline is ready for resubmission to an agent who seems to really get the story. I proofed, double-proofed, and sent it off. There's a part of me that wants to open that file back up and check every word again, as if that might somehow change the copy I sent the agent. Even before I sent it, I was starting to feel antsy, like I'd read and re-read so many times I was just putting in commas and taking them out again (Thanks, Oscar).

I was obsessing over the minor details when I knew the revisions the agent wanted were big picture stuff, and elements I believe I've successfully addressed, but still, the nitpicking and obsessing continued.

All that stopped when I was in the shower the other morning and BAM! an idea just hit me. I had a name, a conflict, and a few key scenes. I still don't know how it ends, but I'm ready to find out.

And just in time, too. It's been a while since I wrote anything new, aside from a few chapters of a sequel to Evangeline to see if I had it in me. I've been so busy this spring with polishing up Evangeline that I haven't let myself think of anything new. I haven't had the time, and I didn't need the distraction.

Now I'm wondering if it's some kind of survival instinct, like my muse knew my brain was way, way, way too busy for a new idea. Especially now that it's hit me with inspiration at the exact moment I needed something to distract me while Evangeline is being reconsidered.

So, thanks, Muse! Glad ya got my back, baby! I owe you a Dr. Pepper. Anyone else want to share a little about how their muse works? Does yours inundate you with new ideas while you're working on something else, or are you and your muse on the same wavelength? Muses can be moody, pesky and irrational, but where would we be without them? Living in caves and not even bothering to draw on the walls, that's where. Oh, and if you're wondering, my new mc's name is Cass. Her mom's a witch, but she's not. And that's all I'm going to say about it right now.

Don't forget to enter my birthday giveaway, which will be open until Wednesday, July 7th.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Witchy Woman Birthday Giveaway!


One of the reasons I love summer is that my birthday is in July. This Friday to be exact. I'll be *mrphle* one years old. This is my week, which makes me the veritable empress, so there will be gifts!

To celebrate, I'm giving away three great prizes. To enter, just leave a comment telling me which prize you'd like to win, or if you'd like to be entered for all three. I'm a benevolent dictator. The catch is, since this is my birthday, you'll be getting things I love. Mwah, hah ha!

That means witch books, like my manuscript, EVANGELINE. First up for grabs is a copy of Hex Hall, by Rachel Hawkins. At first I wasn't sure about this one, but the more I read on, I just fell in love with Sophie and found myself enchanted by the world Hawkins has created.

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Next up is the entire Blue is For Nightmares series in softcover. This was another series I'm so glad I decided to read. The first one was a great introduction to the main character Stacey, but once she meets Jacob in White is For Magic the rest of the series, especially Red is for Remembrance, is so worth the read.

Stacey's junior year at boarding school isn't easy. She's not the most popular girl at school, or the smartest, or the prettiest. She's got a crush on her best friend's boyfriend, and an even darker secret that threatens to ruin her friendships for good. And now she's having nightmares again. Not just any nightmares – these dreams are too real to ignore, like she did three years ago. The last time she ignored them, a little girl died. This time they're about Drea, her best friend who's become the target of one seriously psycho stalker.

It started with weird e-mails and freaky phone calls. Now someone's leaving Drea white lilies – the same death lilies that have been showing up in Stacey's dreams. Everybody thinks it's just a twisted game . . . until another girl at school is brutally murdered. There are no witnesses. Worst of all, no one has a perfect alibi. With everyone as a potential suspect, Stacey turns to the one secret weapon she can trust – the folk magic taught to her by her grandmother. Will Stacey's magic be strong enough to expose the true killer, or will the killer make her darkest nightmares come true?

In this Deluxe Spellbook Edition you'll find:

Spells created by You and other keepers of secrets-poems, spells and meditations contributed by fans of this popular series. Extras also include an interview with the author.

Finally, for those who aren't exactly the witch novel type, I've got a sweet Hokusai wave notebook, an awesome pen, and I will also offer a critique of your query AND first five pages.

For extra entries:
Leave a comment with your selection for one entry
old followers +2
new followers +1
blog or tweet about this contest +5
recommend another witch book in the comments +1
add up all your points ;) +1

Good luck to everyone who enters!

Don't forget to stop by Abby Annis's 200 Follower Giveaway!

Monday, June 28, 2010

And in This Corner: The e-Reader War

So... both Kindle and Barnes and Noble's nook have slashed their prices, and just in time for my birthday this week. I've been dying for an e-reader, but now I'm more confused than ever. Many of you must be in the same boat as I am: trying to figure out which is the better e-reader for my needs.

Love the fact that nook has a replaceable battery and allows for extra memory. But when I went to play with one in the store, I wasn't sure if I liked the way the screen flashes when you turn the page. Maybe I'd get used to it, though, but I've never seen a Kindle (which is about an ounce lighter, and thinner) in person, so I'm not sure if its page turn function is any clearer.

Then there's nook's touch-screen versus Kindle's buttons, but I was able to figure out how to navigate nook pretty quickly. Of course, it's this touch-screen that limits battery life.

I like how the non-glare screen looks, so I don't think eye-strain will be a problem, and I'm pretty sure that's the same for both brands.

I'd be interested in the 3G+WiFi nook, and I hear that the selection of books is actually greater through B+N than Amazon. But the Kindle, having been around for longer, is probably less buggy, right? But do you have to send the thing back into amazon if the battery dies? Is B+N support any better than theirs? Do I REALLY need more than 2G of storage? And what about transferring pdf files from my pc?

These are the questions I've been mulling over all weekend. I'd love to hear from anyone who has either, or any other e-book.

Bring it!


~Be sure to tune in tomorrow, when I'll announce a Special Birthday Giveaway!~

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

Just finished a last revision of EVANGELINE, and I'm in love! Our romance has had its ups and downs, but I've always known our love was true. Ah, c'est l'amour!

Maybe I'm just a big old softie, but I love a good love story. Hell, I love a good romance, and I'm not going to nitpick about the differences. (Nicholas Sparks, you're a romance writer. Deal with it.) I can't seem to write anything that doesn't have an element of romance and at least a tiny love triangle. Because I love to write fantasy and paranormal romance, the romances often have their own unique problems:

I've never had a guy break up with me because he found out I was really a dragon.

I've never had to worry about whether or not the Egyptian god of the dead would make a good boyfriend.

I've never thought the guy I liked was alive when he was actually a ghost.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. With the glut of paranormal romance out there for adults and YA, writers have to be more original than ever when plotting love triangles and romantic sub plots. Instead of churning out the same sort of girl meets boy, boy drinks blood/howls at moon/etc., girl gets boy despite common sense and they all live HEA, writers are going to have to think outside the realm of convention if they want to write novels in such a competitive market.

Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Gena Showalter, and newcomer Gail Carriger have all done this, yet... it's always good not to go TOO far outside the reader's comfort zone. A fine line must be walked between what turns-on and what turns-off.

Read any good paranormal romances lately? Read any BAD romances lately? What was it about the love-story that interested you? Anything fun and unexpected? What turned you off? I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sleepy Time Down South

The heat index is rising. My attention span is shrinking. Summer in New Orleans makes me drowsy—almost instantly once I step outside. It may seem counterproductive to getting anything done, but this is actually the perfect weather for daydreaming.

I sat on my back steps this morning just enjoying the smell of green and the shade even though it was already 80 degrees. It took all my concentration not to slip into a trance right then and there. Some days I just want to play hooky, put up my hammock and daydream the whole day away. (Of course, I never do.) Summer is still my favorite season, despite the heat.

Maybe because it's so easy to experience private moments in time that drag out forever, as New Orleans summer days are wont to do. To live in that moment and let the whole world fall away until it's just me and an ephemeral soap-bubble of an idea. An idea so fragile it might pop and disappear completely, lost to me forever.

Or until the next daydream.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"RUINED" Winner!

The winner of the drawing for Paula Morris's RUINED is:


Shoot me an email some time this week with your mailing address and I'll get the book out to you asap!

For everyone else, if you're interested in reading a novel set in New Orleans, Ruined is a great one for a young lady who has never visited our fair city. But there are hundreds of books and an increasing amount of films and television programs set in Louisiana, particularly in New Orleans. There's even a Wikipedia page entitled New Orleans in Fiction that might provide a good starting point.

I highly recommend A Confederacy of Dunces if you want to experience the quirkiness of the city via a book, and Treme—if you have HBO— since it's the most authentic depiction I've ever seen on film. I get a little choked up watching that show sometimes, so I hope the rest of the country enjoys it as well as us here do.

Happy Reading, and make sure you know your evacuation plan!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who Are You Writing For?

This isn't an existential question, like are you writing for yourself, or are you a sell-out? (Both great questions, however, but maybe for another post.) This is a question of AUDIENCE. There are a lot of questions to consider when thinking about who will be reading your novel, particularly if you write YA.

The one I'm struggling with right now is:

Is what I'm writing appropriate for the age group who will be reading my book? Is it appropriate for the age group BELOW the one who will be reading my book?

Do you think it's necessary to consider the age group below the one your book is intended for? Is it their parent's responsibility to keep their children from reading a book that's "too old" for them?

When I was growing up, I read a lot of adult books because there just wasn't the breadth of YA that there is now. I learned a lot more actual facts from books about sex and drugs and relationships than I did from life from age 13-16. Life was full of contradictions, rumors, locker-room boasting. Life was scary. Books were safe.

Today's YA is a different animal from what my generation experienced. There's sex, pregnancy, death, affairs with teachers... a lot more like what kids today experience in school. I've gone off on a tangent here, but these are the kids I'm writing for. I need to remember that.

And I'm going to try not to eff them up any more than they already are.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Evangeline's New Orleans

I hope you'll hop on over to my new blog, EVANGELINE for a little taste of Evangeline's New Orleans. This weekend is the Seafood, Creole Tomato, Zydeco Festival, y'all! Let's go get some crawfish gelato. ;)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blogiversary? Already?

Has it really been an entire since my first post? A year spent spewing forth my own special brand of writing madness? A whole year that I've been fending off the demons that try to plague my writing? *checks calendar* Yeah. Wow.

Happy Birthday, Blog. You look great for your age.

Just wanted to write a quick thank-you post to everyone who's been listening to my inane ramblings over the past year. Your comments have definitely helped me gain a greater understanding of my own writing process, which is something I can never hope to repay. Thanks again, y'all!

Okay, I'm getting all sappy, so I'll switch gears.

With hurricane season coming, and a massive rewrite for Evangeline pending, my posts are probably going to get even nuttier. You have been warned. ;) But until that time, I'll leave you with one last coherent post.

A lot of people have asked me why I named the blog The Lesser Key. I wanted something that would reflect the kinds of stories I write, which are usually based on some esoteric true story or myth. The Lesser Key of Solomon is a 17th century book on demonology. It's the kind of reference I go to in order to flesh out the details of my worlds.

I find inspiration in all sorts of old books, but this is the best one for demon names—minus the weird ranks like "prince" or "president". For the demon names in Evangeline, I smashed part of one demon name with another to make it sound properly demonic.

I've also drawn on local legends to make Evangeline even spookier, like the tale of the cruel Delphine LaLaurie and the French Quarter mansion she lived in.

The truth of this story is shrouded in mystery and is probably one of the earliest "urban legends" because of the way the facts were distorted over the years through rumors and in order to entice people to come to the most haunted city in America.

Come back next week to see me complain about the heat index and how it's probably going to wind up costing us 100bucks in gas alone to evacuate if we need to this summer. But I still wouldn't live anywhere else.

And be sure to check out my fledgling blog devoted to all things Evangeline!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

WiP Wednesday: By the Seat of Your Pants

You may know me as a plotter. I've said on many occasions that I'm an out-liner, a notebook scrawler, and avidly anti-pants. Writing by the seat of your pants that is. But now that I'm 10K into the sequel to Evangeline, I realized something. I don't actually know how it ends.

Holy Frijoles! (mmm, frijoles *drool*)

This is a big deal for me, just so you know. I usually don't even start typing up a story until I've figured out all the main plot points, including at least an inkling of how it's going to end. I'm starting to surprise myself as I type up the story by adding twists that I haven't actually thought out on paper yet. But are my fingers writing a check that my brain can't cash? How will we get our heroes out of trouble?

For those of you who Pants, how do you do it? How do you drop your character into deep doo-doo without knowing how they're going to get out of it? Hopefully in a way that's meaningful to the story, right? Do you just keep writing, hoping, sweating, swearing, praying that the loose ends will come together?

Take pity on me, Pantsers. I need HELP!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm #1... Chronologically, Anyway

So my husband comes home last night with crawfish gelato.

That's right, I said CRAWFISH GELATO. That he made at work. On purpose. And it was good. We tried it, we liked it, and then he turns to me and says:

"I think I might just be the first person to make crawfish gelato, ever."

He's probably right, and he should be freaking proud of his accomplishment. He's been a chef half his life and this is the first time he's ever had the opportunity to say he's probably the first to do something.

That got me thinking, as is my wont...

There's been a lot of buzz lately about retold stories—see the DGLM blog post here. I've blogged about this before, and even tried my hand (and failed spectacularly) at one.

I don't mind reading a retold story. One of my favorite books of the past few years is Danielle Joseph's Shrinking Violet, which is more or less a Cinderella story. I haven't read Melinda Lo's Ash, but I imagine that the two stories are very different even though they are both basically derived from the same source. How hard could writing a retold story be, I thought?

Technically, Evangeline is sort of a retold story. It's loosely based on the Longfellow poem by the same name, in which a young woman loses her love during the Acadian diaspora and travels across the country to find him. I could have stuck with this plot, but instead—since I'd already decided this would be a time-travel romance before I'd even named the mc—I decided to change things to suit the story that was forming in my head.

Taking a loose idea and turning it into something completely new is much easier for me than, say, when I tried to rewrite Hansel and Gretel. I just couldn't figure out what else to do once I got them to the witch's house. I wanted to depart from the expected there, too, but I had no idea how to do that while still being true to the nature of the story. I wanted it to be about the kids tricking the witch instead of being eaten by her, but my mind kept trying to move AROUND the existing plot, not enliven what was already there.

That's when I realized I'd rather be writing something new, something exciting to me, something no one's ever written before.

I want to be the first!

The problem with that in writing is, well, are my ideas really that original? I guess the real question is, does anyone care if the story is written well and has engaging characters?

How important is being original? Does it really matter in the long run? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Don't forget to enter to win Paula Morris's RUINED!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You've Got a BRAIN CLOUD?

We've talked before here at the Lesser Key about the importance of crit groups, and about accepting criticism with an open mind and in the spirit with which it was given. But what about the times when you just don't agree with your what your reader says?

Sometimes, even with a great crit comes a few comments that throw you for a loop. So how do you know who's "right?" Is anyone right at all? How can you be sure?

Well aside from the obvious advice, "Get a second opinion" ("Brain cloud? You didn't get a second opinion on something called a BRAIN CLOUD?" Ooops. I typed that? Sorry, y'all, but when I think the words "second opinion", my mind goes straight to "Brain Cloud." That's just how I'm wired, I suppose. But I digress.), maybe think about why the reader recommended the change. It could simply be that the way you've written a scene or plot point wasn't quite clear enough for them.

Or it may be that something you wrote earlier led them to expect a different outcome than the one you depicted, leaving them feeling dissatisfied. Barring the possibility that what you wrote was just self-indulgent drivel (all the self-indulgent drivel should have been stripped out at least two revisions ago), you might find that the reason the comment rankles so much is because it means a failure to communicate on your part.

Instead of getting down on yourself—or that gosh-darn-know-it-all critter—which won't help anyone, figure out where you went wrong and fix it.

And if, after all that, you still maintain that your way was the best way, nay, the only way to write the scene, well, maybe you have a Brain Cloud after all.

Only course of action for a Brain Cloud is to get a second opinion. ;)

Oh, and don't forget to enter to win RUINED!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tis the Season... clean out your freezer.

If you live in a hurricane prone area like I do, it's time to make sure you have a solid evacuation plan, keep a full tank of gas, and keep track of your outdoor pets in case y'all have to make a quick getaway.

Are you in the spirit yet? Yeah, me neither.

So, to get us into the spirit of the season, how 'bout a book giveaway?

A book giveaway? That's a great idea. You got it!

Want to win a copy of Paula Morris's Ruined?

Here's the summary:

Rebecca couldn't feel more out of place in New Orleans, where she comes to spend the year while her dad is traveling. She's staying in a creepy old house with her Aunt Claudia, who reads Tarot cards for a living. And at the snooty prep school, a pack of filthy-rich girls treat Rebecca like she's invisible. Only gorgeous, unavailable Anton Grey seems to give Rebecca the time of day, but she wonders if he's got a hidden agenda. Then one night, in Lafayette Cemetery, Rebecca makes a friend. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to talk to Rebecca, and to show her the nooks and crannies of the city. There's just one catch.

Lisette is a ghost. A ghost with a deep, dark secret, and a serious score to settle. As Rebecca learns more from her ghost friend - and as she slowly learns to trust Anton Grey-she also uncovers startling truths about her own history. Will Rebecca be able to right the wrongs of the past, or has everything been ruined beyond repair?

Though this book was written for the younger end of the YA spectrum, I think it paints a pretty vivid picture of New Orleans—a New Orleans of high society and Mardi Gras balls that's oh-so-very different from the world my characters inhabit in Evangeline.

Ruined is centered around Lafayette Cemetery Number 1, which is a very important location in my novel. (You may also remember the cemetery from Anne Rice's Witching Hour novels, and the film Interview with the Vampire. The cemetery from Easy Rider is downtown, St. Louis Number 1, where Marie Laveau—the second Marie Laveau—was supposedly buried.)

To enter to win, just comment on this post.
Old followers= +2
New followers= +1
Blog or tweet about the giveaway= an extra +5

Contest will be open until June 16, 9am cst. Before noon on that day, I'll reveal the winner!

Good luck to everyone who enters!