Archive | July 2013

Novel in Progress: Week 8

I had wanted my 100th entry to be special. Special work-wise, of course, since working on my new novel is what I mainly blog about. So I thought I would record my “big achievements” in this entry.

Well, as it turned out, I can’t brag about having accomplished much last week (I revised only two chapters), but I can happily brag about my friend’s visit from Canada, with whom I had a great time.

Olga is a fascinating conversationalist, fluent in three languages, a college professor with a PhD in linguistics, and an avid reader with a great analytical mind. And she has an awesome sense of humor to boot. Our laughter was shaking the walls in my house for six days straight. Which is what any person needs once in a while, especially a writer creating some “serious stuff.”

A few years ago, Olga gave me solid constructive feedback on my novel Disengaged. This time around we talked about my new book (just a little, since I didn’t want to ruin it for her), and I hope she’ll read the final draft, when it’s ready, and do the same.

So, the entry #100 turned out to be pretty special. 🙂

Author Interview: Claire Cook

Claire Cook‘s novels are fun! They give you as the reader this light feeling about life’s opportunities and joys that you may discover (if you care enough to look for them), and they just put you in a good mood, period.

How does this wonderful author manage to achieve that? She likes surprises, so she lets them into her book during the writing process, which later surprises the reader too, as the result.  Outlining is useful, but be flexible, welcoming something new that unexpectedly pops into your mind! A great advice for a writer! 🙂

Eileen Goudge’s “The Replacement Wife”

Ladies? If you like reading about family drama and strong women, you may like Eileen Goudge’s The Replacement Wife.

Camille is a professional matchmaker. Married for twenty years to a “tall, dark, handsome” doctor, who loves her passionately and loyally, she truly believes that every person has a chance to find their other half. And she’s very good at her job of finding a perfect match for her customers of both genders.

But when the cancer that she beat a year ago returns and becomes terminal, she decides to use her expertise in finding a perfect replacement of herself—a mother for her two children and wife for her husband.

Wow! Sounds unbelievably altruistic and downright unrealistic, right? But there you have it. That’s Camille’s plan.  Her decision is based on her own ill-fated experience of having lost her mother to cancer at fourteen (the age of her daughter now) when she had to practically raise her younger sister alone, due to their father’s frequent absences. So how can she doom her own children to the same ordeal? She can’t! She’s a planner, and she’s a wise planner.

As it turns out, even a very wise, unselfish woman, like Camille, can make an unwise choice.

Needless to say, the adage “Be careful what you wish for” is a perfect premise to this story.

Some plot lines are so predictable that the novel may be called a “story of ribbons and bows, where everything is wrapped and tied up neatly.” Still, you keep reading, trying to see if your guesses are correct.

Eileen Goudge is a talented writer whose prose is well-crafted. What else is valuable about this particular book (and quite rare) is that the author pays almost equal attention to the secondary characters. They’re just as fully developed, with richly described lives, as the protagonists. And you really enjoy their stories.

Novel in Progress: Week 7

This week I finally printed out the first nine chapters that I had “finished” revising and… well, I realized that they were far from being finished. That’s why I enclosed the word in quotation marks.

I know that a text on the computer screen looks different from its printout. It may sound strange, but it does. Maybe because your eyes get so used to seeing what you’ve written only in this version—on the screen—that they’re just not capable of discerning all of the flaws. I know it from other authors’ experiences, as well as from my own, with three published books under my belt.

Bottom line is, you have to print out what you’ve written and read it with “fresh” eyes, or with the eyes of your potential reader. But I kept postponing it, thinking, I’ll just tweak here and there, make it better, and then I’ll run it through the printer. When I did, a few problems (inconsistencies in the plot and characters, and such) screamed at me: How could you have missed us? You’ve read these chapters a hundred times! Well…

I created a new file on my computer and jotted the problems down—all six of them. I thought I’d get back to them after I finished this draft, because it would be so time-consuming to fix them now; I’d rather move forward, and blah, blah, blah…

It was, of course, a stupid idea. Why would I keep dragging those inconsistencies with me, letting them grow bigger and bigger, like snowballs? Not to mention some new problems being created, overlooked, and postponed along the way. Nah! I’ve got to fix them now!

And that’s what I did. And I’ve learned my lesson: Don’t move on to another chapter until you print this one and read it out loud—many times.

Author Interview: Sandra Brown

Here’s a short interview with the author of bestselling romance novels and thrillers, Sandra Brown, whose prose is beautiful, plots are masterfully crafted, suspense is nail-biting, characters are unforgettable.

She says that during her writing process she gets very emotionally involved in her novel, and that’s the way to get her readers emotionally involved too. If you, as an author, don’t cry or laugh, your readers are not going to, either.

So this wonderful writer, one of my favorites, likes “to evoke a visceral reaction in her reader.” Well, she certainly achieves it. While reading her 300-400 page novels in one-two days, I laugh and cry and bite my nails. No wonder they’re bestsellers. I can’t wait till her next one.

William Landay’s “Defending Jacob”

William Landay’s Defending Jacob is so emotionally loaded that I find it hard to discuss this novel without ruining the suspense for potential readers.

The central premise, in my opinion? Love is blind. Especially parents’ love for their children.

They say that you can’t really know another person as well as you know yourself. Of course not. But shouldn’t we as parents know our children completely? After all, they’re our own creation.

Well, unfortunately, we can’t. Not only because our child is an individual who inherited certain characteristics of both maternal and paternal ancestors (that’s quite a big gene pool), but also because we just don’t see our offspring objectively. Often, no matter how badly our kids may have disappointed us, we tend to justify their actions and give them some slack. Because we love them unconditionally, and yes, sometimes blindly. So even if deep down we may feel that our child’s misstep is inexcusable, we still try to validate or even deny any wrongdoing.

And that’s how Andrew Barber, the protagonist in Defending Jacob, feels about his fourteen-year-old son who is on trial for the murder of a schoolmate. His love for Jacob is so all-consuming that he is in total denial—from beginning to end. Despite the overwhelming evidence against his son, Andrew, a lawyer by profession, doesn’t even consider him capable of violence, much less murder. He is willing to “go to hell and back” in order to save his child from indictment. (199)

Till the end of the novel, the readers wonder if it was Jacob who killed the boy.

William Landay raises the fascinating idea of nature vs. nurture. It seems to us quite natural to inherit talent, but can we inherit the propensity for violence too? Seems like a logical question, but it’s so scary, isn’t it, to think that you or your child may have picked from a gene pool something horrible, like murderous instincts or the lack of empathy.

Once again, just like in A Person of Interest by Susan Choi that I discussed previously, we see this loneliness imposed on the defendant and his family. “Innocent until proven guilty” seems to work only in court, not in the workplace or school or neighborhood. Andrew and Laurie Barbers used to be one of the most popular couples in their neighborhood, but now they’re being ostracized and even called “murderers.” That, on top of the horror of their teenage son being on trial.

This novel is so rich thematically that it can be discussed for hours on end. It’s a good choice for a book club.

Strongly recommend  to those who love courtroom drama.

Novel in Progress: Week 6

Writing is my passion. But when it gets tough, sometimes, and I just can’t move beyond a certain chapter or even a paragraph, I need a boost.

For me, a boost can come from various sources: praise from an appreciative reader, encouragement from my family, a retweet of my statement from my twitter followers, “likes” and “shares” of my posts by my Facebook friends, kind words about my writing from my personal friends and their anticipation of my next novel, as well as my short-term writing plans and self-imposed writing marathons, and so on.

This week, however, the boost came in the form of a trailer for my book, Disengaged (coauthored with Cindi Rockett). This novel will always have a special place in my heart—as my first. So I was both excited and nervous about how the trailer would come out. My daughter and I worked on it together, she leading, me assisting. And the result is gratifying—I love the trailer! And I can’t help but watch it over and over.

Most importantly, I had such fun making the trailer that I couldn’t wait to do it again—for my next book. And that’s all the boost I needed!

I worked like a machine these past three days and finished revising four chapters this week, the last one in just one day! Yay! 🙂