Friday, December 21, 2012

Because I Love You: 2012's Worst Words by The Atlantic Wire

So I mentioned in an earlier post that December has become all about the Best Thing of 2012. Well, I happened across the best I've found yet. The Atlantic has compiled a list of the words that are 2012's worst. In reading it, I can assure you some of these are recognizable as fingernails-on-chalkboard annoying. Some of the more obvious are Epic, Actually, and Literally. And then there are some real gems that evoke a pickle-sour a-hah moment when you recognize them on the list. I won't spoil the fun, so check it out at the link below!

An A-to-Z Guide to 2012's Worst Words - Entertainment - The Atlantic Wire

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The horror.

I think I've stared at this screen a hundred times, trying to use this keyboard to achieve some kind of catharsis with regard to these feelings I have about those twenty babies stolen from this world. What I realized is, there really isn't anything that can be said that will make it make sense.

Evil is senseless.

Every day I look at my nine-month-old child and fear for him growing up in this world. And now that a few days have passed since the tragedy, political lines are being drawn, and I see people digging in their heels to defend the need for more guns.

More guns.

I just...I don't understand. Sometimes I feel like I don't know this country at all. As far as I know, the modern interpretation of the Second Amendment has never protected us from any foreign entity. Yet, we're killing each other or ourselves to the tune of twelve thousand deaths a year. I'm fairly certain the intent of adopting the Second Amendment wasn't so that we could wage war against fellow citizens.

More guns.

I don't know. I'm so sad, so angry for what those children had to experience in their last moments.

I hope the world changes for the better because of this. It's what those kids deserve. It's what we all deserve.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

You're the Best...Around

The Karate Kid had such awesomely terrible music. I love it.

So it's Christmastime again.  Apparently, according to Fox News and The Daily Show, there's a war being waged against the holiday. Though, with most of my local radio channels having been dedicated to Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving, I think Christmas is winning. I wonder if Roman Pagans thought there was a war on their Winter Solstice holiday when Constantine gave December 25th to the Christians?

But never mind all of that. I think I've discovered the true meaning of the holidays: Best of the Year Lists! If you've turned on a TV or a computer or read a newspaper you might have noticed The New Years Creep that began slipping into your life sometime at end of November with special year-in-review episodes, or Best of Lists. Oh, my. Are there ever lists. Lists of the year's best books, video games, fashions, restaurants, etc., etc. December is saturated in them. And why not? Thanksgiving did it to Halloween with early announcement of Black Friday specials. Christmas did it to Thanksgiving. Black Thursday anyone? I think it's only fair that the New Year get its due.

Of all these lists the one that gets me is the Best Books of 2012, put out by most literati publications. These lists inevitably make me feel like some illiterate ape. Usually, I only recognize about ten percent of what's even on them. But with editing and writing my on stuff, I run about a year behind, catching up on must reads. At least, that's my excuse.

Below, I've compiled the list of lists. A Best of List of 2012 of the Best Books of, List!! (Say that three times fast.)

1. The New York Times Best of 2012

2. Publishers Weekly Best Books 2012

3. Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2012

4. Goodreads Choice Awards 2012

5. NPR Best Books of 2012

6. Vogue Magazine Best Books of 2012

7. Huffington Post Best Books of 2012

8. Washington Post Best Books of 2012

9. Best Books of 2012

10. Entertainment Weekly / Amazon Best Books of 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Rule of Two

Not too long ago, I got some notes back from my agent on a new manuscript I sent him. Overall, they were positive and what he suggested I address amounted to optional fine tuning on an otherwise submission-ready book.

Now, I'm not bringing that up to pat myself on the back for a job well done in writing it, but rather, I'm calling attention to the necessity of criticism when it comes to the art of writing.

I've been plowing away at publication for a couple of years now. Not too many compared to some, but enough to get a sense of the predictable spectrum of those that proclaim themselves to be writers. To sum it up, they range from "I'm an amazing writer," to "Woe is my writing talent". In the middle is a sort of realist that recognizes that he or she may possess some measure of talent, but that talent needs work and training to foster any sort of success.

Believe me, you want to be in the middle.

Those that think they have some divine talent typically write like shit and those that think their writing is shit are often talented, yet they are hampered by an inability to overcome their own perceived limitations.

Usually, what both ends of the spectrum lack is a good critique partner. It's my general rule that for each of my manuscripts, I use at least two critique partners before it's ready to send to my agent. Why two? Because if two of the critique partners pick up on a particular criticism, then addressing the criticism becomes mandatory. Their criticism becomes true, so to speak, and not just opinion. Obviously, this presupposes that I've got good critique partners for this project. I do. (Thank you Shandy Lawson and Mindy McGinnis.)

Editing can be difficult trying to figure out what stays and what goes. Stephen King is famous for (among other things) coining the phrase "kill your darlings," in reference to snipping good prose. Knowing which darlings to kill helps when your critique partners are in agreement. Remember, the purpose of being critiqued, ultimately, is so you can tell a better story.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Little Milestones

My critique partner Mindy McGinnis just posted about getting a firm release date of September 9th, 2013 for her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK. It got me thinking a bit about the scarcity of moments when this whole book endeavor doesn't seem like something that is happening to someone else.

The publishing business can be one giant, somewhat coordinated ballet of hurry-up-and-wait. I've spoken before, I think, about the milestones a debut author reaches on the way to their actual - neigh mythical - release date.  The first time you get an advance, the first time the PR department contacts you, the first time you see your cover - these stepping stones on the publication path are more like waypoints cemented in reality for a journey so detached from an author's everyday life, the author often needs a reminder that he or she is even on the journey at all. Ultimately, these little moments give weight to the words, "I signed a book deal," even when that statement is met with a suspicious eye.

So when debut authors reach these milestones, we tend to want to make a big deal out of them. It's a good opportunity to stop and catch our breath and reflect on the amazingness of what is happening. Though it may seem like some kind of shameless self promotion for a book still a long way off, I can assure you there is much more catharsis to the jumping and shouting and cheering. It's our way of inwardly saying, "See? It's real! I'm not crazy!" Because let's face it, in this market, a book deal in fiction has more in common with a Bigfoot sighting than we authors want to admit.