Sia McKye

July 31, 2009

Sia McKye

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Mr. Darcy, Vampire
Amanda Grange

Sourcebooks, Inc

**ON SALE: AUGUST 11, 2009**

A MARRIED MAN IN POSSESSION OF A DARK FORTUNE MUST BE IN WANT OF AN ETERNAL WIFE…

I’ve read Pride and Prejudice more than once as well as many of Jane Austen’s stories. I’ve also enjoyed the screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. I will confess, however, I’m not a big fan of Austen fan fiction.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, aroused my curiosity. It was certainly a different take on the characters of Pride and Prejudice. Beloved Darcy as a Vampire? I wondered how Amanda Grange would handle the whole thing. Would she be true to the characters and the flavor of the era? Would she totally modernize the vocabulary and the actions of the characters and settings or maintain the expressions and culture of Regency England?

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, starts out like a sunny day with a storm brewing on the horizon, which gradually hides the sun and changes the atmosphere…

For the full review: http://siamckye.blogspot.com/

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Biting the Nail: The Discipline of Writing

July 22, 2009

Biting the Nail: The Discipline of Writing

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My guest is award winning author, Vincent Zandri. Zandri’s writing has been described as “poignant and shocking” with “depth and substance, wickedness and compassion.” He wrote the critically aclaimed As Catch Can. Vincent’s new book, Moonlight Falls will be released later this year.

How does someone who works full time as a freelance writer and photo journalist, a father, and author, manage it all? And do it so well? I hear he has an alluring partner who helps…

“Where do you get your discipline?”

That’s the question I’m asked most frequently about my solitary writing life. Most people who work according the programmed schedule of job and career find it inconceivable that a person can actually roll out of bed, face a blank page, and begin to make words. Yet, as writers, that’s what we do. We create and in order to create we have to have discipline. Discipline to work alone, according to our own rules, according to our own high standards, according to our own priorities and curiosities.

Acquiring discipline isn’t so hard when you are passionate about your work—when you have a desire not only to write well, but to do it better than anyone has done it before. At the same time you have to develop a skin of armor in order to feed the obsession. The first most important lesson of the disciplined writing life is learning that you’re not always going to be successful. Most of the time you will fail and must face the resulting rejection head on. That’s the most difficult thing about discipline: carrying on with your work unabated, even in the face of rejection.

So where does my discipline come from?

As clichéd as it sounds, I can only tell you that it comes from deep inside. It’s not something I have to work up; so much as it’s something I have to feed on a daily basis. Discipline means waking up early every day, day in and day out, and writing. It’s writing everyday in isolation no matter what’s happening in my life. Be it sick kids, angry spouses, insolvent bank accounts, a broken toilet, a terrorist attack… I write no matter what. Hemingway called this sometimes impossible but necessary process, “biting the nail.” And anyone who has the discipline to write every day no matter what, understands what biting the nail is all about. Writing, like the discipline it requires, can be an awfully painful process.

Back in 1992, I wrote in my published essay, A Literary Life, “In the morning, weariness begins with darkness. It surrounds me inside my kitchen like a weighted shroud, cumbersome and black. It continues as my fingertips search and locate a light switch next to the telephone, above my son’s hi-chair. White light stings my eyes when I flip it up. There is a clock above the sink…I interpret a big hand and little hand that have not yet made 6:00AM.”

Those were the days when I wrote in the mornings, worked a fulltime job and received rejections everyday. But still, I crawled out of bed and wrote. I guess all these years later, I can truthfully say, discipline is what I had in the place of sleep, in the place of comfort, in the place of security and success. Discipline was and remains the bedfellow I seek when I am at my most lonely.

Eventually the discipline would reap its rewards.

In the 12 years since I’ve earned my MFA from Vermont College, I’ve published three novels, with one on the way this winter. I’ve been translated into numerous languages. I’ve published almost two-dozen short stories, countless articles, essays and blogs. I’ve traveled “on assignment” to China, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Africa and more. Along the way I’ve met wonderful people, seen wonderful things, witnessed atrocities, unspeakable disease, hunger and corruption. I’ve written about much of it. Some of it, I’ve simply stored away in my brain for some future story or novel down the road.

For all its rewards, discipline demands stiff payment.

Because of my priorities, I’ve failed at two marriages and many more relationships. I’ve lost friends and lost the faith and trust of family members who have come to think of me as unreliable or flaky at best. Because after all, I tend to use a holiday like Christmas as a time to work, and when family events like birthdays come up, I might be traveling or locked up in my studio with my significant other…Well, you know her name. It starts with a D.

I have managed however, to find a way to balance time with my kids. Not that it’s always been easy. Children are a distraction, no bones about it. But they are also fuel for your discipline. I’m not entirely certain that I could have achieved any kind of success without them. Children open up emotional vaults that would otherwise remain sealed shut. You need to expose the contents of these vaults in your prose.

My writing simply wouldn’t be the same without kids. Now that they’re almost grown up, I still keep them as close as possible without smothering them. When it comes to my children, my philosophy has always been, hug them, tell them you love them, and make them laugh once a day. You’d be surprised how well this works. Also, don’t be afraid to tell them the truth. They know when you’re lying. If you can’t spend time with them because you have to feed the discipline, be honest about it. They will appreciate you for it and come to respect you.

Case and point: it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I’m writing this article. My children are home, just outside the closed door of my studio, where I can hear them engaged in some sort of friendly argument. I’m not doing anything with them per se. But I’m here with them, for them.

This month alone I will write and published 36 short architecture and construction articles, three major blogs, present a revised version of The Concrete Pearl (my fifth novel) to my agent, write one or two features, engage in pre-publicity for Moonlight Falls, and maybe, if there’s time, pen a new piece for my personal blog. In between all this, I’ll juggle time with the kids, time for exercise, time to tip some beers with friends, time for a few road trips, time to be by myself and read. Have I mentioned the discipline required to read books?

One word of warning, the discipline, no matter how beautiful a bedfellow, does not always respond lovingly. Even after you’ve scored a major book contract or two. During my second marriage, I suffered through a writer’s block that lasted five long years, a period during which I published not a single word. The block just happened to coincide with my oldest son’s nervous breakdown and the onset of severe depression (see “Breakdown,” http://www.blnz.com/news/2008/11/12/Breakdown_8563.html). At that time, as I neared bankruptcy (after receiving a mid-six figure advance for As Catch Can), I never once stopped working, never once veered from the discipline of waking up every morning and trying to write. “Trying” being the key word here.

Looking back on those difficult years, I realize I wasn’t writing so much as I was just typing, but the process helped me cope with some very difficult and serious issues in my life. If nothing else, the discipline to write can be a mighty powerful therapy.

Eventually the damn breaks, as it did in my case, and I made a return to good writing and publishing. I’m not making millions by any means, but I make a decent living as a freelance journalist and novelist, and that’s all anyone can honestly ask for.

The late great Norman Mailer also understood about the financial ups and downs of being a fulltime writer. But more importantly, he understood about the discipline of biting the nail. He wrote 2,500 new words a day right up until the end when his kidneys failed him. It wasn’t the disciple or the talent or the mind that gave out, it was the 84-year-old body. I’m told he died with a smile on his face. Not the kind of smile that accompanies peace of mind, sedated painlessness, or “going to the bright light.” But the kind of smile that only a disciplined writer can wear; the sly grin that means you’re about to embark on a brand new adventure, and that you can’t wait to write about it…

How To Sprinkle Your Articles With Humor

July 17, 2009

How To Sprinkle Your Articles With Humor

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“There are very few good judges of humor, and they don’t agree.” Josh Billings

I’ve posted several articles on writing humor. One thing most everyone will agree with is that writing humor is hard work. You have to spend a lot of time looking for just the right word or phrase or device to put the sizzle in you writing.

Even then, how do you know others will think what you wrote is funny? Maybe your twisted, little mind is the only one laughing. Professional comedians try out their material over and over again, honing every nuance and inflection. The average writer definitely does not have the time or access to do that.

If you’re writing an article that is meant to be humorous, these obstacles come with the territory. But, what if you’d like to add a little humor to a regular fiction or nonfiction piece, and you don’t have the time, or the inclination, or your comedy muse is on an extended vacation?

My suggestion is Quote the Experts.

You can add humor to any article with a few well-placed quotes from people who get paid to be funny. A few sources:

John list some resources and how to use them.

Come join in the discussion.

W Is For Writing- Lane Robins

July 15, 2009

W Is For Writing And Structure

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My guest today is author Lane Robins, also known as Lyn Benedict (Sins & Shadows).

Lane’s topic for discussion: how to keep control of a story, both in character arcs and plot lines. Especially with deadlines looming. I’ve seen all sorts of visuals and story building devices to keep everything straight. Her visual is an intriguing concept.

Writing is the best job ever. It gives you the opportunity to create worlds, characters, plots. You get to play with magic, religion, history. Best of all, you get to play with the office supplies.

Call me irrevocably warped by long afternoons in my father’s office, but I adore office supplies. As a writer, I get to use them whenever I want. However I want.

Every writer has their own process to creating a novel; mine involves a rainbow of sticky-notes and posterboard.

For me, novel genesis goes something like this:

I clear off the table, or at least half of it. I lay out a piece of foam core, posterboard, sheet of cardboard. I take the cats off of it. Repeatedly. Then I draw a giant W with a black permanent marker…

Come Join in the discussion. What works best for you?

A Writers (Evolving) Schedule

July 13, 2009

A Writer’s (Evolving) Schedule

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It’s always a special treat for me to feature authors I also love to read. Carly Phillips is one such writer and my guest today. I’ve been reading Carly’s books long before she began writing single titles. One day, I had nothing to read so popped over to my sister’s house to raid her book stash (we tend to do this with each other’s books) and picked up two books she said were good. They were Perfect Partners and Brazen.

I liked the way the author made me laugh and her characters. That hasn’t changed over the years. I recently finished Lucky Charm. Loved Gabby—my kind of woman—and Derek. I’m now reading Lucky Streak and can I just say…Mike…yum.

Carly’s topic today is something writers can relate to, scheduling writing time, dealing with distractions of every day life, as well as the way we deal with changes.

I’m often asked what’s the best part about being a writer? Easy answer. Making my own schedule. What’s the worst part? Also making my own schedule. As a stay at home mom with two girls (now 17 and 13), I’ve learned to be adaptable. I started to write when my first daughter was just one. I needed to learn to write when she napped or occupied herself (hah!). Luckily, I’ve always been a person who needed background noise to write. In High School, later college and law school, radio or TV would keep me company. In fact, silence is too noisy for me! Over the years, I kept up quite the writing pace – at times – 4 Harlequin Temptations a year. I must have written through many distractions!

When I started writing single title romances, starting with The Bachelor, the length and different complexity brought me to two books a year. Although this was still the word count equivalent to the four Temptations. But I definitely started to slow down. Hit more blocks. I used to think that when the newness of the career wore off, sometimes it became more like work than love. But then I’d realize no matter how hard the stories were to write, I still loved what I do. But I found myself in a new pattern – writing less in the beginning of a deadline, scrambling more towards the end. I realize now this isn’t so much a function of laziness or wasting time (OK well there is SOME of that) but beginnings are more difficult for me than middles and endings.

Come join in the conversation and some fun facts about Carly. Over Coffee http://siamckye.blogspot.com/

How To Write Humor–Using Humor Devices Part III

July 11, 2009

How To Write Humor–Using Humor Devices Part III

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How To Write Humor–Using Humor Devices Part III

July 10, 2009

How To Write Humor–Using Humor Devices Part III

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In a previous article, we discussed Stealing From The Barry Best (July 3rd) But you don’t have to steal the joke itself, you can steal the device, the method used by the writer to achieve a desired effect.

When you read humor you should not only enjoy the joke but observe the devices an author uses to achieve his effect.

Here are some examples of humor devices you may be able to use in some article somewhere. (All examples are by Dave Barry unless otherwise noted)

* Make up Absurd Holidays: Dave Barry uses this device all the time to exaggerate a point e.g. “Of course, congress will be unavailable as they will be celebrating National Peat Bog Awareness Month.”

* Describe a bad trait of a character, then use a word such as “yet” to indicate you are going to balance this with a good aspect and, instead, describe another bad trait e.g. “(He is) an abrasive mayor who really gets on some people’s nerves, yet at the same time strikes other people as a jerk.”

* Describe an experience with an absurd analogy e.g. “As an emotional experience, it ranks right behind having a gallstone operation, without anesthetic, performed in a blizzard on the top of a 100-foot tower erected at the North Pole.” Jon Carroll

* Use a real name to thinly disguise another real name e.g. “…a large organization that, out of respect for its privacy, I will refer to as “The Episcopal Church” (not its real name). Even though The Episcopal Church pretty much runs Utah, it’s trying to keep a low profile during the Olympics.”

* Use a descriptor to describe an item and then misuse the same descriptor in a humorous way e.g.”…to watch the men’s 90-meter ski jump, which gets its name from the fact that a sane person would have to drink a 90-meter-high glass of gin before he would even consider attempting this sport.”

* Play “blame the editor e.g.”…who have since become the most famous Canadians in world history, surpassing even (EDITOR: Please insert names of some famous Canadians here).”

Another favorite device of Dave Barry’s, for those of you who like word puzzles, is to jumble letters in a proper name of person or place e.g. “The letters in ‘Marie-Reine Le Gougne’ can be rearranged to spell “An eerie groin legume.”

* Make a purposeful error, then correct it e.g. “How a Bill Becomes a Law-First the bill secretes a substance that it uses to form a cocoon, and then it … No, sorry. That’s how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. The way a bill becomes a law is: . . .”

* Split words into syllables to make up a funny definition e.g. the word aerobics comes from two Greek words: aero, meaning “ability to,” and bics, meaning “withstand tremendous boredom.”

* Use the phrase “which, for want of a better term I will call (the obvious)” e.g. “From time to time I receive letters from a certain group of individuals that I will describe, for want of a better term, as ‘women’.”

Footnotes can also be used as a humor device:
For example, the device I call ‘none of your business with a titillating footnote’ e.g. “which is truly one of the most fascinating episodes in American history, although it is quite frankly none of your business (1). (Below Barry footnotes: “1) Especially the part about the dwarf goat.”)

Then there is always the condescending footnote: “If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s satire.” The footnote reads: “For an example of satire, reread this sentence.”

I’ll end with one of my Dave Barry favorites. You figure out the device. “There are two major schools of thought on how to pack for traveling. These are known technically as “my school” and “my wife’s school.”

Now you need some humorous articles on which to try out your new humor observation skills.

Comments on http://siamckye.blogspot.com/

Writing Humor, Part II – The Art of Exaggeration: Steal from the Barry Best

July 3, 2009

Writing Humor, Part II – The Art of Exaggeration: Steal from the Barry Best

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If you want to write comedy, you have to learn to steal. I don’t mean plagiarize; I mean steal, a long-standing, revered (or at least tolerated) technique among comedians.

Of course, you don’t lift whole sections of a humorist’s work and call it your own. Don’t even use their punch lines without giving them credit. But you can analyze their writing and steal devices. If you are going to steal, do as Milton Berle did: steal from the very best.

One of the very best is Dave Barry, one of only two humorists to ever win the coveted Pulitzer Prize (the other was Art Buchwald).

What are Dave’s secrets? One is that he’s a master of using exaggeration to heighten humor. Consider this passage about the plight of the American male when faced with the 4307 dials and settings on the modern washing machine. (See, I’m using exaggeration as well.)

“We worry that if we get just one variable wrong, we will find ourselves facing a wrathful spouse, who is holding up a garment that was once a valued brassiere of normal dimensions, but is now suitable only as a sun hat for a small, two-headed squirrel.”

What makes exaggeration most effective is when you apply it to a real situation – in this case, the known fact that an improper temperature setting can cause some garments to shrink. Then you pick the funniest garment as an example and shrink it to an exaggerated, absurd level.

“The key is to not hold back, the bigger the exaggeration, the funnier the line. Mr. Barry, some examples if you please:

“Eugene is located in western Oregon, approximately 278 billion miles from anything.”

“I have been a gigantic Rolling Stones fan since approximately the Spanish-American War.”

“If you were to open up a baby’s head – and I am not for a moment suggesting that you should – you would find nothing but an enormous drool gland.

“It is a well-documented fact that guys will not ask for directions. This is a biological thing. This is why it takes several million sperm cells … to locate a female egg, despite the fact that the egg is, relative to them, the size of Wisconsin.”

“She has enough leftovers to make turkey sandwiches for everybody in Belgium.”

Re: an explicit lingerie outfit: it was “so sheer you could read an appliance warranty through it in an unlit closet.”

Comments section and the rest of the article Over Coffee http://siamckye.blogspot.com/

Life Changing Moments

July 1, 2009

Life Changing Moments

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Please welcome Suspense author LJ Sellers.

I’ve always enjoy hot summer read. LJ Sellers has a tasty recipe for a one: toss in some criminal intrigue, add in murder, human drama, shavings of socio-political themes, and then add a cool Detective to solve it all and you have The Sex Club. Nail biting is optional. Or not.

Lj shares with us some thoughts on life changing moments. She touches on writing, day jobs, the need to feel good about yourself while waiting for that ‘break’ from aspiring author to being published.

” Milestones tend to make me reflective. Often they make me want to reassess and regroup. Not this one. Nearly 20 years ago, I sat down and started my first novel. I remember the scene clearly: a Commodore computer set up in the bedroom, a cup of coffee in hand, and a yellow reporter’s tablet with some sketched-out ideas.

Much has happened in my writing career since then, and we’d need a whole pot of coffee to cover it.

Have you had a life changing moment? If so, please share.

WRITING AND READING

June 29, 2009

WRITING AND READING

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My guest today is debut author, Lavinia Kent. She’s written a hot new Historical that’s been called “sexy and emotional experience that will sweep you off your feet!” and “an intense romance … it’s a steamy story – but also a beautiful one showing the redeeming power of love.”

I saw the cover, read the blurb and excerpt, (there is a link at the bottom of the Bio to read the excerpt) and knew it was one I wanted to read. It’s now proudly sitting on my To Be Read pile.

Lavinia touches on something that many writers and authors have noticed when reading as new books. How do you turn off the automatic editing/critiquing witch and just get lost in the book? Is that forever gone now that we’re writers?

I’ve just started reading one of this summer’s buzz books. A friend who said, “it was the book of the year” for her, gave it to me. I must admit it’s pulled me right in, but I still having a hard time really enjoying it.

Why?

It’s certainly is a wonderful book, every bit as good as I was told.

It’s even my type of book – a smart and sexy historical.

So what’s the problem?

I can’t stop reading it as a writer. I keep find myself analyzing sentence structure and thinking about plot devices. I am not doing this because the author didn’t do well. I am doing it because I want to understand and learn; to try and figure out what she’s doing and whether it’s something I would want to do. I examine how much description there is, how the dialogue tags work, how she manages to work description of the character’s emotions into the dialogue without losing the pacing. It’s all fascinating, but it definitely keeps me from enjoying the narrative the way I used to. It’s hard to get swept away by passion when examing word choice.

My problem is that I didn’t set out to do this. I just wanted to lie back and enjoy a great book. Instead, I am thinking about characterization and plotting.

I never used to be this way. It used to be that all that mattered was whether or not I enjoyed a book. I didn’t care about the whys. Now, it’s almost impossible for me to read without thinking about these things.

Oh, I can get swept away and not think about it for an hour or so, but then the very fact that I was swept away causes me to go back and think about the text. It’s a vicious circle.

I learn a lot by doing this, but I’d give even more to be able to go back to the complete absorption that I used to experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love reading. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. I am one of those people who could probably spend her whole life sitting on the beach with a cold drink and a book. I don’t get bored. I just get relaxed.

But it’s rarely the same as it used to be. I am always analyzing and thinking. I sometimes think the better the book; the more I try to figure out why. I often have to reread books before I can just sit back and enjoy them.

Does anybody else have this problem? Am I destined to spend my life thinking about why words work instead of just enjoying them?

Does anybody have the number for Critiquing Anonymous?

Come join the discussion Over Coffee http://siamckye.blogspot.com/