Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 End O' Year Recap

2011 was a great year for me as an author - a year of many firsts. If Mr. Peabody will scoot over just a tad ("Tsch!"), there's plenty of room for you to join me in my literary time machine to revisit some of the highlights. Please, no eating in the time machine. We'll stop in 1972 for a snack - bowl of Quisp, anyone?

Why he had to be armed to sell us cereal, I will never know. The sugar content and the awesome green bodysuit already had me enthralled.


Anyhow, clearly the best time/place to start our recap o' 2011 would be in 2010. Specifically, December 2010. Two major things happened in that month to Author Amy: #1, SHADOW POINT was released. #2, I submitted the completed manuscript of ROMEO FAILS to my publisher, Bella Books.


February 2011 brought the exciting news that (a) someone had actually read SHADOW POINT and (b) liked it enough to give me an award! Thanks again, wonderful and discerning women of the Alice B. Awards!


Around the same time, I had finished my editing of HEAVENLY MOVES - the first novel I started, the second one I finished and (it appears) the third one to be published. I share this with you as an example of how a writer is often focusing on three different projects at once, with each project in a different phase:



  • the recently published book being sold/read/publicized/reviewed/lambasted/loved/used as a doorstop (one HELL of a doorstop!)


  • the recently finished book being edited (first by the author prior to submission to the publisher, later by the editor and the author)


  • the new manuscript being written

It can be a bit challenging to shift gears and redirect one's concentration from (for example) the ghost story to the Midwestern love story to the 1982 murder mystery. Lots of different characters and plots running around loose in my brain, that's for sure. Fortunately, 90% of them are thinly disguised/vastly improved versions of myself, so... yeah.


Speaking of The New Manuscript, aka the work in progress, April 2011 was when I started writing my post-apocalyptic young adult tale, THE BOOK OF KELL. Eight months and 63,000 words later, I'm about 80% done. This one has been a lot of fun to write! There's something so relaxing and care-free about the post-apocalypse, wouldn't you agree?


Back to the highlight reel: In May 2011, I was thrilled to be invited to attend the Saints & Sinners literary festival in New Orleans where I gave my first public reading! Woo hoo. (dat)


June was my first Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) convention in Orlando, where I was honored to receive a Goldie for best debut author. The chance to meet other readers and writers of lesbian fiction was all that I expected. GCLS also brought my first autograph. (aw shucks)


June 2011 was a swell month for me as a newly published author. SHADOW POINT was (favorably!) reviewed in the Lambda Literary Review that month. Lara Zielinsky of www.blogtalkradio.com/readingslab was kind enough to interview me on her online radio program that month. I also received my first check from the publisher that month!


And then... uh... six more months happened. Yay for 2011!


I'm excited about 2012 and hope you are, too. Valentine's Day is guaranteed NOT to suck this year due to ROMEO FAILS going on sale that day. How 'bout that?! You are welcome. :-)


Thanks again, Dear Reader, for making my 2011 a memorable and rewarding year. I look forward to our literary adventure continuing in 2012 and beyond.

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Get up! You're borrowing time."

Aimee Mann

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239
08-18-11: 38805
08-24-11: whoops...
08-31-11: 40495
09-07-11: 42129
09-14-11: 44136
09-21-11: 46325
09-28-11: 47647
...time passed...
12-14-11: 60283
12-28-11: 63009

Saturday, December 17, 2011

so now I'm worried about the giant Chinese pirate babies

I have a big head.

And while it is important for authors to have a healthy dose of self-esteem, pride in their work and just a wee bit of arrogance - because SO MANY MORONS WILL DIS YOUR BOOK WHICH IS ACTUALLY TOTALLY AMAZING - this post is about the dimensions of my skull.

So large. Lady hats don't fit me. I'm serious. Bring on the tape measure. Bring on the phrenologists!

Anyhoo, it's cold these nights and I've been looking for an un-pom-pommed knit hat to hang onto some of that heat. You know, like "...ma in her kerchief and I in my cap..." Without the ma. They say you lose a lot of body heat off the top of your head. Even more so with an enormous cranium like mine. (It's actually good it's so big, because I need the room - there's a LOT going on in there)

So, I'm in Whole Foods
(sidebar: Whole Foods = lesbo magnet? Discuss.) and I see the perfect hat.

It's from http://www.sandiegohat.com/. Hey, I'm from San Diego.


I duck behind a display of way overpriced, and yet oddly NOT gluten-free, Whole Foods food, and try the hat on - it fits!

I buy it. I take it home. I read the label. It says it's for children, ages 2-4.

BUT IT FITS MY GIANT ADULT HEAD!!! My stars, what 2-4 year old child has a head as big as mine?

Disturbing.

It's made in China.

So now I'm all worried about the giant Chinese pirate babies.

[pause to worry some more]

I could be a pirate... I think my parents wanted me to have that option. My middle initial is R, after all. A. R. Briant. ARRRRRRRRR Briant.


Pleased to meet you. (and I still love the hat)

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"You got a nasty disposition - no one even knows the reason why."

Social Distortion

Friday, December 16, 2011

sofa (cough)

Several years ago, I moved from Los Angeles to a faraway town in another state. I lived for a year in a third story loft in an industrial building on the outskirts of downtown. It had once been the Cadillac dealership. Across the street were two lovely old Victorian houses with tin roofs. One was abandoned. The other had been converted into a law office. A homeless man slept on the sidewalk in front of the law office every night. Sometimes we would pass each other as I walked around the neighborhood in the daylight hours. He avoided eye contact almost as assiduously as I did.

The industrial building formed one side of a square surrounding a little park that was one city block in size. Another side of the square was a hospital. The helicopter that took off and landed on the roof of the hospital flew about five feet above my ceiling at least ten times a day. The noise was deafening. The old Cadillac dealership would shake in its bones. I swear I could feel the wind ruffle my hair every time the chopper passed. Sirens were a constant in that neighborhood.

The population of the town was approximately 1,000,000 Jesus-lovin' homophobes and 1 Amy.








Good times.

My stuff was in storage for the year, so I furnished the loft sparsely with a bed, a night stand, a rented piano and a sofa.

This is a story about the sofa.






An unremarkable brown leather couch, not quite long enough for me to sleep on, but it was on sale and JC Penney delivered it. It looked good backed up against the nearly floor to 20 foot ceiling windows that peered out on the Victorians, the bum and the big blue sky.

Many things have changed in my life since I bought that cheap (and now saggy) couch, but it has not. I still have it. And lately, whenever I sit on it, I get Very Good Ideas, like:

• A fantastic ending to the third book in the Madison McPeake series! (But Amy, you protest, you haven't written the second one yet. You really bug me sometimes, you know that?)
• A perfect bit of back story for the love interest in the next novel I plan to write!
• An awesome plot for a short story about football! (I love football!)
• Maybe even the name for that Russian villain I've been trying to come up with - Sofikov?

Okay, maybe that last one's not for sure, but the couch is really working for me these days!

Oh. Damn. I can never buy a new couch now...

Wait - this is NOT a story about the couch. This is a post about writing. And the point is that in writing, as in life, it's important to set yourself up for success. Writing a novel is not easy. In fact, I have found it to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. If something is working for you (and we shall hope it is not a self-destructive and/or illegal something, but whatevs), then take advantage of that! Be open to these occasional bursts of dumb luck/inspiration. Embrace The Couch. And write those ideas down. If the Universe has been kind enough to deliver to your brain (much like JC Penney, but without the extra charge for stairs) a good idea for your novel, be grateful and accept it! respect it! protect it! Good ideas are precious to a writer.


As you develop habits that are conducive to the writing life, recognize and cultivate those. (fortunately, I was already aces at sitting on the couch, so this is just a bonus)

And don't worry, I know it's not a magic couch. Eventually, I will get rid of it.

But I'm keeping my butt.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239
08-18-11: 38805
08-24-11: whoops...
08-31-11: 40495
09-07-11: 42129
09-14-11: 44136
09-21-11: 46325
09-28-11: 47647
...time passed...
12-14-11: 60283

I'll be doggoned, I passed my 60K goal, I'm at 207 pages and not done yet! Still going strong and with The End in sight! Not bad (for me) at the eight month mark. Now excuse me, the Amazons are having a town meeting and my characters must attend...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"The moon was yellow and the night was young."

From an old song called (wait for it) "The Moon Was Yellow"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Everything is swell. You don't like it, go to hell."

Bonnie Hayes

Thursday, November 17, 2011

back in 5...4....3...

Well, THAT was an eventful respite from cyberspace! There was boating...anesthesia...GOOD NEWS!...several conversations with the auto club when The Car Broke Down In The Wilderness... Most of them went like this:

AAA: Yeah, so where are you again?
Me: Dude, I TOLD you - we're by the rock and the tree.

But most important, there was the final editing of ROMEO FAILS. Woo hoo! Less than 3 months until Valentine's Day 2012, which you might think is an odd non sequitur, but is actually a fully pertinent reference to the release date of my second novel. Called ROMEO FAILS. By me.

Say, I should do an excerpt from ROMEO FAILS! And will, in a blog post in the very near future.

Can a book trailer be far behind?

Today's Imaginary T-Shirt Is...



Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"These are the reasons you believe in all your ugly lies."

Edna Scafe

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beta Left Unsaid?

I've been meaning to blog about beta readers for a while now, but for some reason, that seemingly harmless subject fills me with RAGE!

I keep tinkering with the draft blog post. It's up to almost 1500 words. And who wants to read 1500 words of rage? Actually, less than a hundred are enraged - the rest involve kickball, margaritas, super glue, an obscure reference to BLAZING SADDLES and the pros and cons of beta readers.

Beta readers. Grrrrrrrr.

Hmmmph. I could NOT post it and simply move on to another topic. (...unicorns?)

Or I could post it and reap the whirlwind.

Maybe I need another blog - an anonymous one - where I can be 100% honest.

Well, I'll have to think about it. And check to see if anonymousamybriant.blogspot.com is still available. :-)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"She was not welcome here."

Edna Scafe

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Valentine's Day 2012

Only 4 months and 15 days until my second novel, ROMEO FAILS, comes out on Valentine's Day 2012! Can't help it - excitement building!

ROMEO FAILS is nothing like SHADOW POINT. So, if you liked SHADOW POINT, you can be all "what a delightfully refreshing change of pace!" If you didn't like SHADOW POINT, you can be all "thank you, Jesus!"

Such a win/win, people.

How is ROMEO FAILS not like SHADOW POINT? Let's review:

- No ghosts
- Not a sequel - totally different story. A more traditional love story (well, as traditional as I can get) with a dash of mystery. (of course!)
- Set in the Midwest. The Mysterious, Romantic Midwest...
- The protagonist is a young woman named Dorsey Larue, who has two wonderful brothers named Goodman and Shaw. Together, they run the family business, Larue's Swingtime Hardware.
- I promise you don't need to know anything about hardware, Shakespeare or swing music to enjoy this story. (although the hardware store cats, George and Ira, might recommend the latter) (if you got that one, I may wish to marry you) (we'll talk)


ROMEO FAILS: the story of a lonely heart,

a red Volkswagen bug and

a love affair that is anything but simple.

COMING FROM BELLA BOOKS
VALENTINE'S DAY 2012

(awwwwwwwwwwwwww)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239
08-18-11: 38805
08-24-11: whoops...
08-31-11: 40495
09-07-11: 42129
09-14-11: 44136
09-21-11: 46325
09-28-11: 47647


I numbered the chapters this week - always a big milestone for me and a sign that the end is kinda sorta almost near. And by "the end", I mean the beginning of the first rewrite. :-) Woo hoo!

I also named the chapters in this book, which is a first. Well, I used the days of the weeks as chapter titles in HEAVENLY MOVES (which takes place over the course of 13 days in July 1982), but those were more "markers" than true chapter names. To me, at least. We'll see if these post-apocalyptic chapter names stick.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Artichokes Began To Drool

A rare event for me - a blog post that is not writing-related. So the local TV station has started showing reruns of The Big Bang Theory. As a musician and a fan of the show, I feel it is my civic duty to share with you the following tidbit. The first few words of the theme song are "Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state..." Simultaneous with "state" is the delicate ping of a chime. I don't know why, but I just love that little ping! Listen for it: Our whole universe was in a hot dense PING!

It's delightful. :-)

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Kicking it's hard, but the bottom's harder."

Aimee Mann

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239
08-18-11: 38805
08-24-11: whoops...
08-31-11: 40495
09-07-11: 42129
09-14-11: 44136
09-21-11: 46325

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"But false cheer is draining..."

Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog Post To Say

SURVIVOR!!!

Yes, the 23rd season of Survivor starts in just a few minutes, Dear Reader. I'm a big fan. (don't judge me :-)) (oh, stop, Judgie McCritical - I'll bet you do dumb things, too)

Although I enjoy watching Survivor, I'd never win. Those bast-... people would vote me out in a heartbeat. And I'm so charming, too...

I also do not watch Survivor for actual survival tips. For that, my new go-to show is MAN, WOMAN, WILD on the Discovery Channel. Very entertaining.

My need for survival tips is primarily research for my post-apocalyptic YA tale, in which two teenagers are making their way across a hundred miles of post-apocalpytic Northern California wilderness, on foot, with very little gear.

They're in Berkeley for the moment, in case you're wondering. Or what was Berkeley...

The rest of my need for survival tips is Just. In. Case.

And though I may have semi pooh-poohed research in a recent post (which is totally different from the FULL ON pooh-pooh), I do not disdain it when it appears on my TV screen and entertains me when I least expect it. So, yay for free, unexpected and valuable research! And who knew you could do that with kelp?

Gotta go - think I heard Probst say "Come on in, guys!"

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239
08-18-11: 38805
08-24-11: whoops...
08-31-11: 40495
09-07-11: 42129
09-14-11: 44136

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Title Town USA

Let's talk titles. How does an author name her book? Mine have been obvious choices so far.

1) SHADOW POINT is a story set in a place called Shadow Point.

2) ROMEO FAILS is a story set in a place called Romeo Falls, where someone has just spray painted the highway sign outside of town to make it say Romeo FAILS instead of Falls. Get it? Maybe not - because now I'm hearing and seeing references to Amy Briant's new book Romeo Falls. D'oh! It's FAILS, people, FAILS. If you call it ROMEO FALLS, that would actually be a fail.


Is it too late to rethink the title of this book? :-) Nah... I love it. Besides, what else would I call it? Love & Interpersonal Conflict At Larue's Swingtime Hardware? Small Town Midwest Lesbians In Turmoil? It's So Damn Annoying When Your Best Friend Is Straight? (actually, that last one has kind of a ring to it...)

You know, I always loved those 19th century books that had a long, explanatory subtitle, so maybe... Maybe not.

3) HEAVENLY MOVES is a story about a girl named HEAVENLY who MOVES into a new apartment. See how hard I work on this stuff? Actually, I did have to work a little hard on this one. For years (decades?), the working title was THE LUCKY STIFF. When I finally finished the book and found myself thinking hopeful thoughts about publication, I checked Amazon to see if there was already a book called THE LUCKY STIFF. I figured there would be at least one. But maybe it would be from years ago, so no biggie. It might be a mystery - with a name like THE LUCKY STIFF, that was definitely a possibility. But, I figured hey, what are the odds it would be a recent lesbian mystery? Then I checked Amazon. D'oh! There I found LUCKY STIFF by Elizabeth Sims, a recently published lesbian murder mystery!


COME ON! WHAT ARE THE FREAKIN' ODDS?!

Okay. No problem. Renamed my book HEAVENLY MOVES, which I think will actually be better in the long run if it ends up being the first in a series. I've already got plans for #2, HEAVENLY MISSES. Yay. It's all good.

By the way, after seeing LUCKY STIFF on Amazon, I went to the bookstore, bought a book by Elizabeth Sims and greatly enjoyed it! Even better, I then got to meet Elizabeth Sims in person at the 2011 Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) conference this past June. I said hello, introduced myself, then told her I'd read and enjoyed her book, the one titled... er, blanked and couldn't come up with the name for a split second, so said something like "you know, the one with the rabbit? Todd?" (I know someone who's married to a Todd who used to have a rabbit, so that stuck with me) For just the briefest of moments, she looked at me like I was completely nuts and I thought in horror, "Oh, no, was that NOT the book with the rabbit named Todd?" Because going around talking about rabbits named Todd to random people is NOT a good thing. (Back me up on this, Elwood P. Dowd.) But then she nodded, smiled and was very gracious. Thank you, Elizabeth Sims.

4) THE BOOK OF KELL is a book about Kell.

So... titles: you want it to be catchy, memorable, something that will reach out and grab the reader standing in front of the shelf (including the cyber shelf) and make her pick YOUR book over everybody else's. Eventually, you hope your name on the spine of the book will be what sells. As I look at my own bookcases, I see some BIG NAME AUTHORS with little teeny titles. Ha.

Often a title is a cliche or well known phrase. ('cause it's catchy, memorable, etc.) You can't copyright a title, which is why you see books, movies and songs with the same titles.

When it comes to titles for a series of books, the author (or publisher) has some thinking to do. Name each book based on its plot? Or come up with some device that will readily identify it to the reader as another volume in the series. Obviously, starting each title with "Harry Potter and the" worked pretty well for J. K. Rowling. (not to mention Scholastic) I've mentioned Sue Grafton's alphabet series before, using the "a is for, b is for, c is for" device.

Depending on the author and the publisher, sometimes one of those parties decides on the title and sometimes the other. The publisher will likely make the decision on cover art, perhaps with input from the author. And what about the author photo, if there is one? Usually up to the author to have that taken, unless he or she is a big time author with a huge publisher. I always check out the author photo - don't you? The classic seems to be the "wearing the black turtleneck headshot while posing with chin on fist." Classic! Cracks me up every time.

Note to self: buy black turtleneck.

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"...and when your secret heart cannot speak so easily...from a whisper, start..."

John Hiatt

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239
08-18-11: 38805
08-24-11: whoops...
08-31-11: 40495
09-07-11: 42129 (AKA page 143 - closing in on 150!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Aunt Misbehavin'

As previously noted, I self-identify (heh) as a mystery writer. Everything I write has a mystery component to it. After all, isn't Life just one big ole dang mystery?

So, as far as I'm concerned, I write mysteries. The reader, the publisher, the booksellers, the Library of Congress might slap some other genre tag on there. Doesn't matter much to me - at least, not so far. I even came across a website recently that had SHADOW POINT tagged as "aunt fiction." Who knew there even was such a thing? It's true, the protagonist of SHADOW POINT is an aunt (at age 28) and her relationship with her 5 year old niece is a big chunk of the story. Other chunks being ghosts, murder, romance and an English bulldog. (romance AND an English bulldog, not romance WITH an English bulldog)

Aunt fiction... what a weird categorization. Is there some subculture of people out there obsessed with aunts? Well... probably.

I'm having genre-related thoughts lately, because I'm wondering a little bit if my work-in-progress, The Post-Apocalyptic Young Adult (PAYA) tale, is really turning out to be YA. Or is it simply a story about two 17 year olds (aka YAs) struggling to survive in a dangerous PA world?

And the answer is: I don't care. (at least, not so far) I think lots of teenagers read stories written for adults, and vice versa. I certainly DO care about writing the best, rip-roaring-est, exciting adventure tale I can. And it's coming along. I went back to page 38 this morning to add one more sentence (I cannot hope to STOP myself from rewriting and revising and self-editing, I can only hope to mitigate it) and found myself caught up in a scene, even wondering for a split second what would happen on page 39! You dummy - you WROTE page 39. Oh, yeah.

That bit on page 38 is from a chapter currently (and, if you knew the context, ominously!) entitled "The Apple Tree." Here are 2 sentences: "The birds, which had grown quieter and quieter as we squabbled, suddenly all took flight as if there'd been a silent signal. I think we all jumped."

Hey, that was the first public bit of PAYA! Aka THE BOOK OF KELL. Woo hoo.


Defining YA is a bit tricky. Most folks seem to agree it includes fiction written for young adults with a young adult as the protagonist. After that, the definitions get a bit fuzzy.

I guess I'll worry about writing the book first, then decide how I feel about the genre. After all, I think I once described SHADOW POINT as a MysteGhoRo or something like that. (mystery/ghost story/romance) Maybe THE BOOK OF KELL will turn out to be a Post-Apocalyptic Provocative Adventure Young Adult story - a PAPAYA!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"I just feel so beat."

Aimee Mann

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239
08-18-11: 38805
08-24-11: whoops...
08-31-11: 40495

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Starting On Page 1 (what a concept!)

Several years ago, I got to hear one of my favorite authors, Robert B. Parker, speak at the Pasadena Public Library. Among other things, he described his writing process, which was:

• Get up.
• Write pages 1-5.
• The next day, get up and write pages 6-10.
• Next day, pages 11-15.
• So, in about 60 days, he'd write a 300 page novel.

This intrigued me, because Mr. Parker was a hugely successful (and by that I mean RICH!) mystery writer and also a prolific one. Obviously, that process worked for him.

At the time, I was struggling to write my first novel. I didn't know it, but there were 3 big problems holding me back. One was my inability to write new pages without first reviewing the pages I had already written. This inevitably led to rewriting. Often, I'd get sucked into a lengthy rewriting session and never get around to writing any new pages. I must have rewritten those first 25, 50, 100 pages a hundred times. I got SOOOOO sick of them.

Plus, the problem with constantly rewriting a mystery-in-progress is that one small change on page 37 can cause many other dominoes to fall. If you alter one clue or plot point in a mystery, before long, you don't have a mystery - you have a mess.

Argh. I definitely had a big mess. A mess-tery.

So, the disciplined approach Mr. Parker described (to an avid audience of hundreds, by the way) was inspiring, but seemed impossible to me at the time. I didn't have the skills as a novice writer to sit down and write the first five pages on Day 1, next five pages on Day 2, etc. I was all over the place. Driving myself crazy with all the rewrites. Writing lots of stuff that got tossed. Writing scenes out of chronological order. Messy!

It took years, but I did finally finish that first novel. (HEAVENLY MOVES) (And I love it!)

Now I'm working on my 4th novel. I think my mechanics and my process have improved as I've learned over the years. I'm still not able to write 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, etc., but I'm a lot closer to that than I used to be. With this 4th book (THE BOOK OF KELL), it kind of feels like sitting around a campfire, spontaneously spinning a tale... Not going back and re-reading/re-writing previous pages feels weird, but kind of good. It's keeping me from reading and writing those pages over and over again, which eventually leads to those pages being nothing but gibberish to me. You know? Like if you say a word or phrase over and over, it starts to lose all meaning. Lamp. Lamp. Lamplamplamplamplamp.

...Lamp?

I am working from an outline and I try hard to stick to that, since that works best for me. I will occasionally jump out of chronological order and write a scene from some other part of the book if (a) I'm ablaze with inspiration, or (b) the opposite - if I'm stuck, glum, in The Swamp, just can't get started, I'll sit down and write ANYTHING. Anything to get me started. Even in the murky depths of The Swamp, I'll trick myself by saying, "Oh, just sit down and write for 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes and then you can do whatever you want." Usually, an hour later, I'm still writing and happy with what I've produced. (apparently I am both gullible AND persuasive!)

My writing process has changed with every book I've written. I think it will continue to evolve until I figure out what works best for me. I may never get to that Parker level of 1-5, 6-10, etc., but hearing him speak and describe his process that long ago night was certainly a milestone event for me as a novice novelist. Writing is a solitary practice. It's good, once in awhile, to get out there and hear what other writers have to say. Sometimes all you learn is what NOT to do, but that's important, too.

Looking back, that trap of rewriting ad nauseum was one of the worst habits I had as a beginning writer. On a daily basis, a little bit of rereading and rewriting is both good and necessary - anything more than that is A TRAP, Dear Reader. Don't fall in!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Research (And How To Avoid It)

I am a bit of a nomad. I just moved for like the 27th time in my life. I'd like to settle down for good one day and NOT HAVE TO UNPACK ANY MORE BOXES, but the timing's never been quite right.
Some day...

From the Department of Silver Linings, the good thing - from a writer's perspective - about all this moving and living in different places, is that you get to see things, learn things, maybe even pick up a little bit o' Life Wisdom. Which you can then use in your writing! Score.

Some writers, I hear, do a ton of research. Blechhh. Is it just me, or are those people DEADLY to sit next to at dinner parties? No, seriously, if that's what needs to be done to write a good story, then go to it. I have been fortunate, I guess, in that Life On This Planet has provided me with 99% of what I've needed so far to write 3 1/2 novels. SHADOW POINT was set in the place where I grew up. ROMEO FAILS draws on time I've spent in two small Midwestern towns and some personal experiences. HEAVENLY MOVES is perhaps the most autobiographical of the three. (of course I threw in a fictional murder to give it some pizzazz, since my real life is hell of boring)

But... it turns out I don't know everything. The protagonist in ROMEO FAILS is an accomplished carpenter and woodworker, two things I know zilch about. (I had to use a power tool this weekend while moving in and just about blew up the the whole dang building! Luckily, Scotch tape saved the day. And my security deposit.) But I read a book, watched a TV show, surfed the net and voila (well hopefully voila), I think I pulled it off.

HEAVENLY MOVES is a murder mystery. A friend's father who is a retired police officer kindly answered some of my procedural questions for that story. Another big part of that story is '80's rock'n'roll - I looked in the mirror and found my expert right there for that topic. I'd just gotten up, so even my hair was contributing by looking somewhat Flock of Seagulls-ish. (I know it's time for an intervention when it starts resembling Gary Oldman's 'do in "The Fifth Element.") Even the protagonist's new apartment in that novel is one of my old apartments, crazy trap doors and all.

You call it normal everyday life. I call it research.

I was going to say something about Truman Capote here, but I keep getting sidetracked by thoughts of "Murder By Death." (two two twain)

Getting back to research, though - you'll be amazed how much knowledge is available to you out there if you use your six degrees of separation. Even if you don't personally know the expert you're in need of, your friend's brother's cousin's neighbor no doubt does. Or one of your Facebook friends does. Many people are thrilled (believe it or not) to answer questions from a novelist. Even if you cold call an organization or person, you might just get what you need. That "Hi, I'm a writer working on a book about ___ and I'm hoping you can answer a question for me about ___" works like a charm an awful lot of the time.

Imagine how grueling research must have been pre-internet. (I love you, Wikipedia! I don't completely trust you, and you never call, but I love you!)

Is it possible to fake stuff when you're writing fiction? Of course it is! FICTION IS FAKE STUFF, PEOPLE.

Of course, this can lead to public ridicule. If you have no idea what real police officers (or chemists or tow truck drivers) say and do, it's probably best to not create a major character who is a police officer if you're not willing to do the research.

So, in conclusion (and inconsistence), I say: research shmesearch. Make it up. You're a writer, for crying out loud.

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"I'm looking forward to the future - but my eyesight is going bad."

Fallout Boy

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"This is the last worthless evening that you'll have to spend."

Don Henley

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pay No Attention To That Novelist Behind The Curtain

I knew I wanted to write a novel long before I knew what novel I wanted to write. How could I possibly come up with a story that could be sustained over 200 pages or more? And be cool and keep the reader's interest and frequently make sense? It seemed impossible for a long time.

But I knew I wanted to do it. I started to actively think about plots. I began to mentally collect bits and pieces of real life that I knew I wanted to include in a book. But the Big Idea didn't hit me until somewhere around 30, when I had moved into a ramshackle apartment two blocks from the beach in LA. Like every new tenant, I kept getting mail for the previous tenant. And wow, his mail was WAY cooler than mine.

SHAZAM! The main idea for HEAVENLY MOVES was born.

Yay. But the point is: the first idea was terribly hard for me to come up with. I struggled and yearned and failed and kept trying and eventually got it together. These days, ideas for novels come easily to me. My brain bombards me with them. My fingers can't keep up.

Wait - that's not the point. The point is: sure, it's easy to come up with an idea for a novel, but it's tremendously difficult to actually write a whole book. Really, really difficult, at least for me it is.

But the point is (ah, now we've arrived): if you find that you CAN achieve something tremendously difficult, it makes you feel good. Makes you feel like maybe you can do other stuff, too!

Writing Novels: Good For Your Self-Esteem.

Until some a-hole writes a bad review. But let's just ignore those, shall we? :-) More on that later...

There is one wee downside to writing novels, though. The more you write, the better you get at it. (in theory) You start to see how the process works, how things hang together, what will get your blimp off the landing pad, what mistakes to avoid...

And then you start to see those things in OTHER people's books. And movies. Even HGTV, for crying out loud. You find you suddenly have a deeper understanding of structure than you did before. You're all like "Arc!" You see things coming. You guess who the murderer is in the first seven minutes. You know who the victims are going to be and in what order they're going to go. (dude, he's IN the house)

But THEN, you realize that's kinda fun, too. Perhaps you appreciate things on a whole 'nother level now.

You - and Toto, too.


Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239
08-18-11: 38805

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"And if you find she helps your mind, better take her home."

Kenny Loggins

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dear Magic 8 Ball

Dear Magic 8 Ball,

Is it too early to start plugging my next book, ROMEO FAILS, which comes out in February of next year?

Sincerely yours,

Amy









Excellent! I shall plug away. But first -

Man, I hope no one concludes from the title ROMEO FAILS that the book involves man-bashing.

The title comes from the name of the imaginary town where the story is set - Romeo Falls. (Falls, not Fails) A baffling series of malicious crimes have beset the small Midwestern town, starting with the defacement of the highway sign just outside the city limits. Somebody spray paints ROMEO FAILS on the ROMEO FALLS sign - thus the title.

Behind The Scenes Trivia Alert: The draft name for the town was Chopin Falls. Once a music major, always a music major... After a while, I realized that name made zero sense, plot-wise, plus many otherwise lovely people would pronounce it Choppin'. Eventually, my brain suggested...Shakespeare Falls? Eh. Then: Romeo Falls! Aha.

Anyhoo, no man bashing. I must admit most of the male characters in SHADOW POINT had a rather rough time of it (sorry, guys!), but hey - [fictional] shit happens. The protagonist in ROMEO FAILS, however, is blessed with two great brothers who play important roles in her life and in the novel. They all work together at the family business, Larue's Swingtime Hardware. Protagonist also had a wonderful dad she adored. Oh, and the chief of police is also a strong and important male character - and also a good guy.

Or is he???!!! I did mention those baffling crimes...

Mystery! Romance!! HARDWARE!!!

What more could you want? How about the great tag line Bella (the publisher, Bella Books) came up with:


The story of a lonely heart,
a red Volkswagen bug,
and a love affair that is anything but simple.

ROMEO FAILS
COMING FROM BELLA BOOKS
VALENTINE'S DAY 2012
(awwwwwwww)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137
08-11-11: 35239


That's funny... it felt like I wrote a LOT this week. But only 1,102 more words! Oh, well. 1,102 AWESOME WORDS. That's right, "the" and "and" and "of" - I'm looking at you! :-)

I've been trying to get my characters across a fictional version of one of the bridges that span San Francisco Bay. It's a bridge I don't drive very often, but as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to drive it 3 times this week. Perfect! I got some great notes (which I jotted down after I had safely reached my destination and parked). Notes which include key words like guano and cormorants. Actually, I guess the cormorants come first before the guano, both in real life and fiction. OK, no more blogging about guano tonight - I'm pooped. Good night, blog. Good night, cormorants.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brand A(my): You're A Fine Girl

I do think about my "brand" as a writer. Perhaps I shouldn't, but I do. "Brand" means that je ne sais quois that makes it an Amy Briant book. Is it the genre? Well, if so, I already screwed that up because I see myself as a mystery writer - and the first book I got published is a paranormal thriller. With an element of mystery! (Hopefully, the mystery is not "What is that smell?", though my protagonist does wonder that a lot in SHADOW POINT. No, the mystery is "Who [or what] is doing all these terrible things?!")

So, fine, I am a self-declared mystery writer. MYSTERY WRITER. We're all clear on that now. Which is why my second book is a love story. What? D'oh!!! OK, fine, love story but with an element of mystery!

Really. I swear.

Well, my third book is totally a mystery. Totally totally totally. Whew.

But now I'm working on my fourth novel and it appears to be a Post Apocalyptic YA story.

I am loving the opportunity to explore these different genres. Book #2, ROMEO FAILS (the love story) was an experiment for me. A successful one, in my opinion, because I'm proud of the book and I really like it.

Why do I consider it an experiment? First, it was an experiment in writing in 3rd person. That part turned out OK, but I'm really more of a 1st person kind of gal. (she said endearingly)


Second: Frankly, it was an experiment to see if I could (a) write a traditional romance and (b) crank it out in six months or less. Clearly, it was Commercial Amy (my only semi-evil alter ego) (one of many), not Artiste Amy, who came up with THAT one. Well, I gave it my best shot to write a traditional romance, but I couldn't have done it without the mystery element. Traditional romance is just not my thing. (in more ways than one :-)) I didn't crank it out in six months, either. Do I want to be the writer who cranks out traditional romances every six months for the money? Post-experiment, I have to say no, I guess I don't. Which is good, because I'm not capable of doing that. I'm just not built that way. There are very popular authors who do this - good for them, I say. Just not my thing. But I'm proud of ROMEO FAILS, glad I wrote this "one-off" and excited for people to read it! It's so different from SHADOW POINT - I wonder how folks will react. Hmmm...

Getting back to my "brand" theme for this rambling post of rambility: Genre alone has not yet defined what makes an Amy Briant book.

It's the voice, right?

Well... ROMEO FAILS deviates from my usual voice as well. 3rd person helped me to do that. Again, it was something I did on purpose - to see if I could. And I can... but I'm out of my comfort zone.

The voice is back big-time in #3. (HEAVENLY MOVES, the 1982 rock'n'roll murder mystery set in a Northern California beach town not unlike Santa Cruz, CA) It makes me smile just to think of that voice... well, after all, it is my voice.

Moving on to book #4, the post-apocalyptic YA story: this was an experiment, too, to find out if I can successfully write YA. I read YA. I read children's books, too. And cereal boxes. The classics. And lots of mysteries. So as a reader, yay YA. But YA is tricky as a writer... I have not been a Young Adult for a long, long time. You don't want to be preachy. You don't want to come off as some old bag who's trying to sound like a teenager. If you're writing about 17 years olds, you don't want to miss the mark and have them sounding like 14 year olds. Unless you're specifically trying to capture a particular time period, you don't want to get caught up in using too much YA slang because that will be out of fashion in six months. You don't want to curse too much. And sex in a YA book is a whole 'nother minefield.


Tricky.

So - I read books for adults, YA books, children's books. Always have (well, since I was about 12) and always will. And you know who writes the best YA books? Not YAs, for the most part. So being a grouchy old lady is not necessarily a drawback when it comes to writing YA.

Along with the trickiness comes a feeling of responsibility I do not experience when writing for adults. (you're on your own, grown-ups!) When I was a teenager, there was zero LGBT fiction available to me. Zero. Partly due to the marketplace, partly due to my circumstances. There is much more now and it's much easier to get your hands on it. I am keenly aware as an adult and a lesbian and an author, that if I write a YA book, the possibility exists that I could perhaps positively impact some young LGBT reader out there. Maybe in a small way. Maybe in a big way. Maybe change a life. Maybe save a life. Some books have this power.

Whew, that's way too heavy (not to mention pompous) for me to worry about!

I'm just a writer. So, what I need to focus on is writing a rip roaringly great story. That's all. That's my job as a writer.

Although if I end up writing a crappy book that somehow still manages to get published, I could still change lives. Some young lesbian aspiring writer out there might read it and think, "What a pile! I could totally write a better book than this one!"

Go to it, kiddo. :-) And you are WELCOME.

Inspiration, after all, comes in many forms.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Every night as I go to sleep, I tell myself a story."

Edna Scafe

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196
08-03-11: 34137


Coming right along, if I do say so myself... take that, Wall! :-)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Wall

I have previously blogged about The Swamp, my own personal name for writer's block. Now I'd like to talk about The Wall. The Wall is completely different from The Swamp. You might think it would be a good thing to have a Wall around your Swamp - to keep the neighbors from falling in, etc.

But The Wall is not good. Not Good At All. And yet, apparently no novel would be complete without it.

I've been working on my current manuscript, the Post-Apocalyptic YA story, since April. I hit The Wall about ten days ago, coincidentally around the 100 page mark. That would be the 50% or less mark. I usually slam right into that wall around the 2/3rd's mark. (That would be 67%. Although The Wall makes me feel fractious, I did not intend this blog post to be a lesson on fractions.) (Hey, is there any pie left?)

I have yet to meet a wall-free novelist. If you haven't guessed already, The Wall is that sharp and sudden decompression, that violent impact with an invisible barrier, that abrupt and total loss of confidence in what you're writing. Or your writing, in general. Quite possibly, in yourself!

Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a long time, and during that long time, at least once, you're going to hit the wall. Everything will be going swimmingly and then suddenly, without warning, you realize your beloved tale is TERRIBLE. It's AWFUL. It's HORSE PUCKEY!!!

Worse, it CANNOT BE SALVAGED because you SUCK.

I wonder how many first-time novelists have quit forever when that horrible wall rose up and menaced them?

Experienced writers know that The Wall is simply part of the process. Perhaps even a necessary (?) part of the process. Hopefully, it does not result in the complete loss of your self-esteem as a writer and a human. It can even be put to good use. Take it as an opportunity to objectively think about your story. Any major gaps in the plot? Bogging down a bit in chapter two? Got the balance right between narrative and dialogue? Is the first page as kickass as possible? Have you thrown in the pack of wild dogs yet? Does the world really need another post-apocalyptic YA book?

Well, duh, of course it does! :-)

Like The Swamp, The Wall can be overcome with perseverance. Don't give up, Aspiring Writer. It's just another one of those mind-*&^%$#@!ing tricks our brains like to play on us. I've been warned about another one - the one where you're more than halfway through the book and suddenly your cerebral cortex comes up with an Awesome, Totally Amazing Idea For ANOTHER Book. In general, I agree that this is just a distraction that you need to ignore while you finish the book you're working on. In general, I agree with that. In specific, however, I have another name for that idea-your-brain-comes-up-with-for-a-second-book-while-you're-struggling-to-write-the-first-one. And that name is SHADOW POINT.

So, in writing, as in life, it's good to know the pitfalls, know the tricks, persevere and sometimes break the rules anyhow.


Then, have some pie.

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"It's a hotel at best. You're here as a guest. You oughta make yourself at home while you're waiting for the rest."

Jackson Browne

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748
07-20-11: uh...
07-27-11: 29196


I hit 100 pages this last week. But also hit The Wall. Not to be confused with The Swamp. Argh. More on that later...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"I wish I could have a garage sale."

A. R. Briant

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"The more clearly one sees this world, the more one is obliged to pretend it does not exist."

James Salter

Friday, July 15, 2011

100 pages!

Who knew the post-apocalypse could go this smoothly?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073
07-13-11: 26748

My brain decided to think about the (first?) trailer for ROMEO FAILS this week more than PAYA. Still, progress was made. Pack o' wild dogs, anyone? :-) And the trailer's coming along, too... I love making book trailers - so much fun! In a previous
post, I compared writing a book to going for a swim. (a long, LONG swim!) To extend that metaphor, creating the book trailer - for me - is then like getting an ice cream cone after that long day at the beach or pool! Pure delicious fun!

Ummmmm... ice cream..................

I should probably get out more.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"It amuses me that I invented someone who has gone on to support me."

Sue Grafton

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677
07-06-11: 26073

Up and over the 25,000 mark - woo hoo! You may think I'm writing fast. You may think I'm writing slow. Either way, you can see I'm writing consistently. I'm on track to finish this novel in 9 months or less, so I'm stoked. If I could write a novel every 9 months, I'd be way stoked! (I mean a GOOD novel, of course.) We'll see...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Don't Back Down - DO BACK UP!

Hola, Aspiring Writers & Dear Readers. It recently occurred to me that while I've blogged about several different aspects of novel writing, I have failed to mention A REALLY, REALLY


R E A L L Y
important subject!

That would be backing up what you've written. I don't mean with the strength of your convictions (also good), but "backing up" as in Make Sure You've Got A Second Copy Of Your Masterpiece!!!

Let's say you've just written 1,000 (or twelve) fabulous words. You are en fuego, AW! Yet you will be a sodden sobbing heap o' ash if those words suddenly disappear into The Great Beyond. We've all had documents, revisions, blog posts (*^%$#@!) vanish into that not so sweet hereafter. Losing a blog post is bad enough, but losing a scene or a chapter - heck, even a paragraph! - I've carefully crafted, sweated over and painstakingly eased into existence is the pits.

So make sure you back it up!

If you write on a computer like I do, you've got lots of options:



  • save it to a thumb drive (my current practice)


  • burn it to a CD


  • e-mail it to yourself


  • print a hard copy
The point is, if your computer goes belly up (as they are wont to do), you haven't lost The Preciousssss.

If you write on paper, then (a) really?, (b) copy machine or (c) today's word of the day is AMANUENSIS. (and you thought it was "wont"!)

And when should you back up your document? Every time you've written something new. Every Single Time. Even if it's only a sentence. Just make it a habit - it only takes a few seconds, right? And the risk of losing your epic tome is too dreadful to imagine - so back it up! Always Back It Up.

Also... don't forget to hydrate.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762
06-29-11: 22677

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Let's Review

June 2011 brought, among other things, two great reviews of SHADOW POINT! Here are my favorite excerpts. First up is Victoria Brownworth from Lambda Literary (http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/06/07/bits-pieces-summer-2011/):

"...Briant’s characterizations are strong. Madison’s first-person narration is in the hard-boiled-and-lives-alone-with-nothing-in-the-fridge-but-alcohol-and-condiments amateur detective mode and rings true... (Note from Amy: I love that line.) We believe everything about her right from the first paragraph. And like her, despite her foibles... Madison is a character who could easily return for a sequel... Shadow Point is super summer reading."

And now, some kind words from Salem West, aka The Rainbow Reader (http://rainbowreader.blogspot.com/2011/06/shadow-point-by-amy-briant.html
):

"SHADOW POINT is a feisty little romantic paranormal thriller... Madison McPeake is truly brilliant. (Note from Amy: Have to say I'm loving that line, too!) Her thoughts, actions, rationalizations, and internal dialogue were pure comedic poetry, even in the darkest part of the story.... a great book that scores high points in humor, mystery, and creepiness... Madison McPeake is someone I hope we get to meet again, because she is absolutely fun, fabulous, and a once-in-a-lifetime type of character... I can’t remember ever laughing my way through something this fiendish."


And now, of course, if we combine the two, we get: Super Boiled Fabulous Fiendish Condiments! Perfect for July 4th burgers and hot dogs. How I relish them...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"There doesn't seem to be a reason to change."

Rick Springfield

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120
06-22-11: 20762

1/3 of the way there?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"I'm on a Mexican radio."

Wall of Voodoo

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082
06-15-11: 18120

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"You are too beautiful to be what you seem."

Rodgers & Hart*

*Apparently, I have misremembered (???) this line from a Rodgers & Hart tune. And yet, I will continue to sing it to myself in the mirror. (when applicable)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stray Thoughts From GCLS #1

If you merged all the different groups that are meeting here at the hotel, you could create an awesome superhero.

A lesbian gymnast funeral director superhero.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560
06-01-11: 12107
06-07-11: 15082

A line I wrote this past week: "Sometimes the rain would be a gentle mist and sometimes it came down in buckets like somebody up there was mad at us."

A note I scribbled this past week: "Add a pack of wild dogs!"

I'm looking forward to writing lots more on the long plane ride to Orlando. Yay for writing on long plane rides!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"No matter where I am, I can't help thinking I'm just a day away from where I want to be."

Jackson Browne

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560 (not in The Swamp - just reconfiguring a bit...)
06-01-11: 12107

Is it wrong to only be on page 41 and have already killed off 28 people? Well, come on now, people, this is the post-apocalypse, not Judy Blume!


(Are you there, Zombie? It's me, Marg--AAARRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

June Gloom, The Opposite Of

From the Department of Self-Promotion: June 2011 is shaping up nicely.

On June 5th, I'll be discussing SHADOW POINT with the Portland Lesbian Book Salon.

On June 11th, I'll be doing a reading at the Golden Crown Literary Society's annual conference in Orlando. (and otherwise enjoying meeting lots of readers and writers at my first GCLS) The sub-department of SHAMELESS Self-Promotion wishes to mention that SHADOW POINT is a finalist for a Goldie award in 2 categories - yippie-ki-yay!

On June 16th, I'll be on Lara Zielinsky's blogtalkradio show at 7:30 pm PST. (http://blogtalkradio.com/lara-zielinsky) Start thinking of a fabulous question to call in with now... preferably nothing involving geography or history...

Check, Please!

May 2011 brought this first-time author her first check from the publisher! It's very exciting to get paid (even a small amount) for something I just made up. Not ready to buy the private island yet, but every little bit helps.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Across the pale parabola of joy..."

P. G. Wodehouse

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020
05-25-11: 10560 (not in The Swamp - just reconfiguring a bit...)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"I Think He Meant Peep"

I recently did my very first public reading. Yay! Clearly, I am now an expert on the subject.

Okay, not. But I used to work as a corporate trainer, so I've had a lot of public speaking experience, to groups large and small. Hopefully, that experience prepared me to go forth as Author Amy and do things like: thank the folks who invited me, speak clearly and loudly enough, make occasional eye contact with the audience, smile and otherwise appropriately emote, read the material at an acceptable pace and overall, make the reading an enjoyable experience for the audience and myself. And by enjoyable, I mean brainwash those people into buying my book.

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to do this reading (thanks again, Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans!!!) and thoroughly enjoyed it. It went well - people laughed at the funny bits and did not laugh at the unfunny bits. (both equally important) The audience was engaged and attentive - thank you, room o' literate strangers!

Although this was my first time reading from my novel, I have heard other authors read from their works over the years. A few were famous, big-time writers (Robert B. Parker and John Irving) who were speaking to enormous crowds of avid fans. Some were well-known within their genre, speaking to much smaller audiences. Most were obscure new authors like myself, who brought varying degrees of charm, wit and clarity to their presentations, and were speaking to teeny tiny groups. Some of these writers were shining examples of How To Do A Public Reading. I applaud you and aspire to emulate you. Some - equally educational, if not more so - were just flat out awful. This blog post is dedicated to that latter group.

The Author You DON'T Want To Be When You're Reading In Public:

Speed Racer Author:
Speed kills. S - l - o - w it down, buddy and take a breath. Oxygen is a requirement, not an option.

Terrified Author: The quavering voice, the shaking hand, the trembling knees. Huge, unblinking eyes in a pale, sweaty face. Wow, you are dead meat up there. We, your audience, feel really bad for you and urge you to consider Toastmasters. And/or pharmaceuticals.

Overly Dramatic Author: You are not Hermione Gingold in "The Music Man." ("A Grecian urn...") (why my brain conjured up Hermione out of all the actors I could have chosen, I'm not sure, but wow, that was an awesome totally-obscure-pop-culture reference!) Less drama, please, Oscar - tweak it back to, say, local Emmy level.

I Am Drunk At 10:00 In The Morning And Adorable Author: Yes, you are. And no, you're not. If you can't do it sober, then please just stay in your hotel room. We'll have room service bring up some more mimosas for you.

3 More (Often Simultaneous) You Don't Want To Be: The Low Talker, Monotone Molly, Zero Eye Contact Author.

I can't wait to do my next reading! Maybe you'll be there, Dear Reader. If it turns out I'm delusional and I actually suck at reading in public, don't tell me, all right? Just leave an anonymous voicemail on my hotel room phone, identifying yourself as Hermione Gingold.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Short people are just the same as you and I."

Randy Newman

Series-ously?

One of my favorite authors is Sue Grafton, who is best known for her Alphabet Mysteries, starting with A IS FOR ALIBI and currently at U IS FOR UNDERTOW. She is an enormously successful mystery writer and obviously has a good thing going with her long-running Kinsey Millhone series. Before she wrote A IS FOR ALIBI, however, she did write some other books that have nothing to do with the series.

I realize from your perspective, Dear Reader, that I've written one book. Uno. That's all. (in which case, you may also be thinking I've got a hell of a nerve to be blogging about writing like I actually know something! Well, you're right. I do have a hell of a nerve.)

But from my perspective, it's more like four:
• SHADOW POINT was published in December 2010.
• ROMEO FAILS is coming in February 2012.
• HEAVENLY MOVES is complete and why I am waiting until June to submit it to the publisher is
something not even my own brain completely understands.
• Now I'm working on THE BOOK OF KELL. (although said brain is still fighting with itself - not
mano a mano, of course - lobe-o a lobe-o? - over whether this should be the title...)

But these four books are not a series. Far from it. SHADOW POINT is a ghost story, ROMEO FAILS is a Midwestern tale of three women whose lives intertwine, HEAVENLY MOVES is a 1982 rock'n'roll murder mystery and THE BOOK OF KELL is a post-apocalyptic YA story.

Am I a literary flake who can't commit to a series? Flitting from one unrelated (or are they?) one-off to the next? Should I commit?

SHADOW POINT could definitely be the first in a series. HEAVENLY MOVES could definitely be the first in another series. I even have some rudimentary notes sketched out for books 2 & 3 with Madison and Pipe, and thoughts for more Heavenly Wilcox novels as well. It is a big commitment to just stick with one protagonist for a whole series of books, though. I mean, if it takes me roughly one year (maybe longer) to write just one novel, think of the time commitment involved with an entire series. As an author, you'd better REALLY love your protagonist and her world if you're going to live there for many, many years. I wonder if Sue Grafton ever found it daunting and overwhelming to think she had to stick with what she'd started in A and keep it going through B, C, D, E...

On the other hand, if someone told me I'd make a million bucks for every sequel I wrote to SHADOW POINT, I'd be all over it!!! Heck, if I could make even a modest living from writing a series, I'd commit in a heartbeat.

I'm not reluctant to write a series, actually. (Nor do I want anyone to think I suffer from fear of commitment. I'm highly committable.) It's just that I have all these other ideas bouncing around in my skull, clamoring to be written next before I revisit Madison McPeake. And the fact is SHADOW POINT's only been out in the world for six months. People seem to like it. Not everybody, of course! Not everyone has such good taste as you and I, Dear Reader!

So, do I plan to write a sequel to SHADOW POINT? Absolutely! Should I be working on that now instead of another one-off, THE BOOK OF KELL? Well... It's unlikely that I'll ever get rich from writing the books I write. That's just reality. A silver lining of that reality is I'm pretty darn free to write whatever I want. Which is not a license to bore. I write books that I would like to read. Entertaining, sometimes amusing, slightly thought-provoking commercial fiction. Other people may have important things to say - not me! What a relief, to not have to worry about that!

As a reader, I love a good series. (emphasis on good) As a writer, I see lots of different challenges associated with writing a series. As a blogger, I'm wondering if this blog is too damn boring.

More graphics?

Blistering, unvarnished honesty??

Snacks???

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757
05-18-11: 10020

Monday, May 16, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

(on a Monday, after getting home at 1:00 am after a trip)

"There's no place like home."

Dorothy Gale

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528
05-11-11: 7757

Sunday, May 8, 2011

So Wear Your Good Underwear For Me To Picture You In

I'm very excited to announce my first public reading of (a few pages of) SHADOW POINT. The fine folks at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans have invited me to participate. I'm thrilled and honored to do so! This Saturday, May 14, 2011, I'll be one of several authors reading from their works at the festival. I will also be on a panel discussing the evolving nature of the women's literary community. Should be a blast! I'm looking forward to meeting lots of readers and writers. And my flight has a brief stopover in San Diego, where SHADOW POINT takes place - which means a gorgeous aerial view of Point Loma, the "real" Shadow Point and my childhood home. How's that for pre-conference inspiration? Yahoo! Not totally sure what I'm going to wear yet for My Big Debut, but the outfit will probably involve the word "converse." If this were a cold weather event, I could throw a blazer on top of jeans, t-shirt & converse and pretend to be fancy. I am not fancy. And it won't be cold in New Orleans in May - more like steamy, hot, humid and awesome! I am EXCITED, Dear Reader!!! I get to read my novel out loud in front of people!!! FABULOUS.


Now, what to wear...



Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Tsch."

Cesar Millan

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mona Leases A Chevrolet

A fellow author posed the question awhile back: can a car be a character in a book? I say YES! (For you Dear Readers of a certain age, I have four words: My Mother The Car.)

In my 3rd novel, HEAVENLY MOVES, a major character is a young woman named Mona. The story is set in 1982. Let's meet her car:

"Mona picked me up around 7:00 p.m. in her car. Originally purchased by her grandmother in 1963, it was a very large American vehicle of unknown pedigree. The nameplates identifying the make and model had long ago fallen off. We called it the Monamobile. The original bright lemon-colored paint job had faded to the palest of yellows, almost white, with patches of rust throughout, except for one replaced side panel in a dark and disturbing shade of green found nowhere in nature. As always, the back seat was a mess, littered with fast food debris, candy wrappers, soda cans, miscellaneous papers, broken bass strings, picks, a few random articles of clothing, bottles of motor oil, a naked plastic baby doll without the head (don't ask) and who knows what else. Mona tended to throw trash over her shoulder into the back and only clean it up about once a month or so. With the trash, the duct-taped seats, a big crack in the windshield and mismatched, rusted exterior, it was a vehicle only an owner could love. Someone had once told Mona it looked like the car of a serial killer. She loved it."
copyright Amy Briant 2011


I have a vivid picture in my mind of the Monamobile, but have not yet found a picture that captures all her magnificence. As noted above, by 1982, she's rusty and beat up, but still a stalwart steed. As to her mysterious make and model, she looks a little like this:


Or this:


Or maybe one of these:


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-11: 0
04-27-11: 2774
05-04-11: 5528

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"There's a someone that I'm hoping to see."

The Gershwins



Note from the house piano player: You can play almost all of this line with ascending black keys if you start with F sharp. Or G flat. Your call.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Word Count Wednesday!

Untitled Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel
Goal: 60,000 words (at least)

04-01-12: 0
04-27-12: 2774

Saturday, April 23, 2011

That's What I'm Tolkien About

In a previous post, I blogged about someone's (not mine) theory that there are only 3 stories in the world: Road Trip, Stranger In Town, Person Meets Person. Not sure I buy that, but it does seem to apply to 90% of the stories I know.

For today, let us speak of Road Trip. What's the best road trip novel ever written? I vote for THE HOBBIT. The protagonist goes on a very long and wearisome trek (yep, that road DID go ever on and on!), but the author kept it exciting and moving along the whole way. Well, at the risk of being sacrilegious, maybe almost the whole way. But that's the challenge of writing a road trip.

Even a real life road trip, say a solo drive from Texas to California in a '97 Chevy with a broken tape deck, can be mind-numbingly boring. So many cacti... oh my gosh, is that a Stuckey's???!!!

I've decided to start working on my 4th novel, a post-apocalyptic YA road trip. I need to be careful to not get bogged down in the details. I must remind myself that I don't need to document every single step of the journey. That is a trap that I fall into as a writer so I need to watch myself in that regard. On the flip side - as a reader, I hate it when authors merrily skip over big chunks of narrative/plot/time and don't provide ENOUGH details. Oh, well, I suppose it's all about balance. Or maybe it's about some of us like details and the rest of you probably haven't read this far anyhow! (ha)

But even though my Oh So Logical Brain is thinking of this story in terms of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc., I can be creative with the structure of the novel. Right, Pinky? Just like I'm creative with the characters, the plot, the dialogue. I hate to say it, but my brain has ideas for at least 4 other novels kicking around inside it. (it's very loud inside there) One of those has an untraditional structure, so it may have inspired me for the PAYA. (post-apocalyptic young adult (YA) novel) I've had a title for this book for almost 2 years, but just recently I've been having a major argument with myself about that title and am now not so sure. (yes, you are! no, I'm not!) So for now, I guess PAYA is as good a name as any.

If writing a novel is like going for a swim, then I've got my suit on and sunscreen applied, I've got a "good" chaise lounge staked out with my towel and I'm dipping a toe in one end of a very, very long pool. The idea for PAYA came to me around July 2009, so I've been scribbling notes here and there for awhile. I know the beginning, middle and end of this story. I know the major plot points and twists. I may or may not know the title. And, of course, I already have thoughts on the cover art!

I just need to begin. And hey, I might even use this blog to keep track of my progress. (Wednesday Word Count, anyone?) Unlike Bilbo, I'll be alone on this epic journey, but at least there won't be any kram!

And so #4 begins...

*&^%$#@!

I just wrote a whole post and it disappeared. Criminy.

Saturday Quote-O-Rama!

"Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"

"The same thing we do every night, Pinky - try to take over the world!"

Pinky & The Brain

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What The Dickens? (ramblings on Bleak House)

I finished reading BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens today. I'm a big Dickens fan. Haven't read all his works yet, but - like Desmond - hope to in my lifetime. I very much enjoyed BLEAK HOUSE, but it is also notable (to me) for perhaps being the longest book I have ever read. My paperback edition came in at 933 pages. (Middlemarch much?)

Some say I am overly fond of the ellipsis... The last sentence of BLEAK HOUSE does not contain an ellipsis, but I can imagine Dickens's editor frothing over its punctuation. It's a really long sentence, so I'm going to pick it up from right after the semicolon. I doubt this qualifies as a SPOILER ALERT, but just in case, you have been warned I'm about to quote the last few words of BLEAK HOUSE: "and that they can very well do without much beauty in me--even supposing--."

Ha! Dickens cracks me up and that sentence did it again. Ending an almost 1,000 page novel with a dash!!! You crazy son of a biscuit! That sentence was perfect for that character, though. (of course! he's Dickens!)

There are lots of rules for grammar, punctuation and for writing in general. It's a relief not to worry about them while writing this blog. I've had to give up on several beloved writing "rules" that were burned into my brain when I learned to type at age 8. What?! There AREN'T two spaces after a period? W. T. F... There's no comma needed in the sentence "I'm getting older, too"??? Say it ain't so, Chicago Manual of Style. Which, speaking of cracking up, can be a hell of funny website at chicagomanualofstyle.org - seriously! If you're a writer or lover of puns, check it out.

I'm a fan of rules in general. (Because if you don't have rules, how do you know who's winning?) I want my novels to be well-written in every way. And the publisher, of course, has standards set for every book they publish. So I pay attention to those kinds of rules (mostly) when I'm writing a novel. Some rules are just dumb, though. I mean, why not end with a preposition? What's the big deal?

BLEAK HOUSE also struck me because much of it is written in the voice of a very young woman. Charles Dickens was not a very young woman. He totally pulled it off, though. If the narrator is a different gender than the writer and I'm thinking about that while reading the story, that's a problem. It was no problem during BLEAK HOUSE because Dickens was a genius. I am not a genius according to many people who are not geniuses, but I have plans to one day write a novel in the first person with a straight male protagonist. Should be fun...

About a hundred years after BLEAK HOUSE came out, Vladimir Nabokov (who never learned to drive, type or fold an umbrella according to Wikipedia) (one must LEARN how to fold an umbrella?) was teaching literature at Cornell. My hefty paperback included excerpts from his lectures on BH. Here are a couple of quotes I liked a lot:

"A writer might be a good storyteller or a good moralist, but unless he be an enchanter, an artist, he is not a great writer." An enchanter - wow, I dig that! A good book certainly puts me under a spell while I'm reading it.

"A great writer's world is indeed a magic democracy where even some very minor character, even the most incidental character...has the right to live and breed." I am such a sucker for minor characters! I want them all to be memorable, to have a moment, to live during their brief time on the page. I love seeing that in other people's books and strive for that in my own. Minor characters need to know their place, so to speak, and not outshine the major characters, but in their very limited roles, I enjoy seeing them be unique and/or robust without being overwritten or cheesy - minor characters are people, too, right? In SHADOW POINT, I loved writing the scenes involving minor character Patricia Klein, the preschool teacher. A minor character with even less "face time" was Madison's ex, Isabel - although I purposely said very little about her, more than one reader has told me she found Isabel quite intriguing and wanted to know more... stay tuned on that one, Dear Readers!

Just as there is a subtle homage/reference to THE TURN OF THE SCREW in SHADOW POINT, there is a (probably not so) subtle Dickens homage/reference in HEAVENLY MOVES. (I'll be curious to see if anyone catches that!) I managed not to rip off any 19th century novelists in ROMEO FAILS, but there is a reference to Bruce Springsteen in all 3 of my books. Clearly, I'm a very confused person. Yes, I read classic literature (some of it), but I've read a lot of less-than-classic fertilizer, too. I look forward to a future blog post discussing some of the worst fiction I've ever read - and how I learned a lot from it! In closing, to paraphrase Esther from BLEAK HOUSE, I'm sure you can very well do without more blogging from me tonight--even supposing--.