Sunday, July 10, 2011
Even as a child, I tried to pick apart the books I loved best to discover why they affected me so profoundly. The first books I remember doing this with were Bambi by Felix Salton and Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter. The longer I worked to disassemble the gears, though, the less I understood the mechanics. At some point I finally gave up and decided that great writers were akin to great magicians. It was better to simply enjoy the performance than try to peek behind the curtain.
When I became serious about writing novels the question resurfaced. Finding the answer became more urgent. Though the experience of writing novels helped me better understand the mechanics of how they tick, however, the magic spark continued to hover just beyond my grasp.
Fortunately for me and every other aspiring novelist (not to mention all of us who love to read), Donald Maass never stopped asking the question. As a writer and literary agent, Maass came at it from a pragmatic, businesslike angle. He wondered: Why do some books become runaway bestsellers while others -- even ones written by the same authors -- don't?
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Oddly, though, I heard almost no references in all those hours of coverage to what is, to me, the most remarkable aspect of this remarkable marriage: the obvious, radiant love between Prince William and his Kate.
British kings, queens, and those in direct line to the throne have traditionally been denied that which we common folk have long taken for granted: the right to marry for love. From the dawn of the nobility, marriage was a strategic political and business arrangement. Noble -- and especially royal -- marriages have been carefully calculated to amass land and wealth, gain control of strategic military positions, and forge political and military alliances. Love never entered the picture.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
|Yes, they look cute now... but just wait.|
In this case the chickens are writing classes. Every January, my inbox fills up with promos from the dozen or so writers' groups I belong to for a breathtaking array of classes. As I believe that even a good writer can always get better, I sign up. And sign up. And sign up.
At $10-$20 each, the online ones are a bargain, and even the bad ones generally produce at least one usable tip. Unfortunately, my aspirations always outpace the hours available in my day. Especially in those months when I discover that I've signed up for six classes at the same time (what was I thinking?), I invariably end up archiving the materials for at least half of them. The result: I have stacks of class materials I've never even opened.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
From Brad Paisley's "Anything Like Me," in which the singer sees a first sonogram of his son and imagines who he'll grow up to be, to Kenny Chesney's "Somewhere With You," about a man pining for a lost love in a heart-wrenching minor key, the folks who write and sing modern country music are even better than Conway and Loretta were at telling stories that speak to the masses and tug at the heartstrings. What impresses me most is that they do it so effectively in three minutes or less.
One crop of songs that has been resonating lately with the romance writer in me deals with the theme of intimacy, with getting to know another person on a very private level. They focus on the gift of being permitted to see the person that most of us never show to the outside world, and with the trust required to let down your guard and expose the silly, messy, vulnerable and sexy sides of yourself to a lover.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
|And don't you come back!|
I've boiled down why, and what I'm left with is the same cold, black lump of coal that virtually every artist faces at one time or another: Fear. Little wonder. Each foray into marketing, each query letter, synopsis, or partial I send is another invitation for disappointment and rejection. Another chance for someone who doesn't know me -- and who knows only the barest details of my work -- to proclaim that it isn't good enough.
As I look at the black lump before me, however, I'm reminded of the auditions portion of American Idol.