Monday, April 7, 2014

Nancy Drew Grows Up

I am not watching a lot of television these days. I find that it interferes with the stories that I'm trying to tell. I do watch "Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family" reruns. They never fail to make me laugh. My husband and I have a few shows that we watch together -- "The Voice", "Good Wife", and "True Detective". And then we each have a few guilty pleasures that we tape and watch alone. One of my guilty pleasures is Masterpiece Theatre, or even better, Masterpiece Mystery. Ah, Heaven.

I used to get up at five o'clock in the morning to watch fifteen minutes or so of these all by myself. They were so delicious. Most weeks, I don't get to watch them until Saturday mornings when I sneak downstairs and watch them. It's like being a kid again when I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons.

Currently, Masterpiece Theatre is the second season of "Mr. Selfridge" starring Jeremy Piven. I haven't been able to get into the show and I don't have any use for Jeremy Piven. ( I doubt he'd have any use for me, if he knew me.) That has left me without any guilty pleasures to enjoy. Until someone Tweeted last week about a show that was about four grown up Nancy Drews set in London.

Are they kidding me? Nancy Drew. London. 1950s. What's not to like?

I Googled it as fast as I could. I discovered a show called "Bletchley Circle" about a group of women who met during World War II at Bletchley Park, the famous coding and cyphering center. The show takes place ten years after the war when this group of extraordinary women are leading ordinary lives, until one of them decides to solve a mystery that the police can't. Fabulousness ensues!

To add to my extreme joy I have learned that there will be a second season of "Bletchley Circle" coming soon. Yahoo! How much do I love this? And when I went to follow the show's official Twitter feed today, I knew it was the show for me. The Twitter feed handle is @ladynerds.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Can I Have Sex With Ryan Gosling If I'm Married To George Clooney?

Let's say, just for the sake of discussion, that I'm married to George Clooney. It's true, I am an optimist, but it could happen, and my current husband knows that George Clooney is at the top of my laminated list.

Okay, as long as we're doing magical thinking, let's make this more interesting -- let's say YOU are married to George Clooney. We are all now very jealous because he's kind, movie star-handsome and most of all – super-supportive of your writing career.

But, one dark and stormy night Ryan Gosling shows up on your doorstep. He whispers wickedly sweet nothings in your ear, flashes his six-pack abs, and begs you for one delicious night of passion.

What do you do?

I don't think anyone would be critical if you succumbed to the seductive prowess of Mr. Gosling. Your friends and writing buddies would probably encourage you to go for it. They'd even offer to periodically text you with helpful and encouraging tidbits of advice.
Sure, there would be a few who would say you are betraying Mr. Clooney, but you could say they are just jealous.

On the other hand, if we return to the original scenario, and I was married to Mr. Clooney and was being seduced by Mr. Gosling, my BFF would call me on my game. "Hey, you crazy commitment-phobe," she'd say, "It's time to get back to the real world and finish what you've started. "

You see, she knows the truth. She knows how hard it is to write and rewrite a manuscript to completion. It takes courage. It takes commitment. It takes focus.

Which brings us to my current situation – I am in the process of rewriting my rewrite of my work-in-progress, which, for our purposes here, we shall call "Mr. Clooney." I love the protagonist, who has developed into such a strong and intriguing character. Her love interest has also surprised me throughout the story, and if I manage to stick to my current writing schedule, I will finish the rewrite in the next three weeks.


However… now, with the finish line clearly in sight, I've had a sudden burst of creative inspiration. It's a brilliant idea for a new book. I love the protagonist. She is amazing, and fresh and new. I call this idea "Mr. Gosling."

Not surprisingly, "Mr. Clooney" is starting to feel like a stale, longterm relationship. I know every sigh my heroine makes, every under-his-breath utterance by the hero, every plot twist, and every dark moment by heart. But "Mr. Gosling" is fresh and new. I get goose bumps when I think of another new plot twists and scenes.

I have made a commitment to the telling the stories of the characters I've created in "Mr. Clooney." And while a break from rewriting and reworking could be restorative, it might also allow me to avoid crossing the finish line.

It's a lesson in courage and commitment for me as a writer not to abandon this project. I just hope I have what it takes to remain faithful to Mr. Clooney. It may be the only long-term relationship he ever has.

Are you currently involved in a similar love triangle? I welcome your tips and suggestions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Novel Idea

When I went to film school I always wanted to write a screenplay with a female protagonist. Why would I write anything else? Unfortunately, I was always told that scripts with female leads were "not easy to sell.' You needed to write something that was "high concept" or an "action-film" or maybe something that was based on a comic book. That was the sure-fire winner in Hollywood. After a few years, I decided to turn to my first love: romance novels. 

At the heart of most romance novels you could almost always find a woman. Strong, vulnerable and in search of a good man. Of course, romance novels have changed since I was thirteen. Telling part of the story from the POV of the male hero is a must. And it is with great delight that romance novels have now started to feature the romance of same-sex characters. Romance writers have progressed!

Isn't it intriguing that meanwhile over in Hollywood, where mining for a "new and original" idea means scouring the Young Adult shelves in Barnes & Noble, very little has changed. In fact, if anything, things have gotten even worse. It's sad when the winner of the Best Actress Oscar refers to movies with female leads as niche films. And the number of women working in front and behind the camera is shrinking instead of growing.

What is wrong with Hollywood? Can it be fixed?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Bit Unexpected

I wasn't exactly thrilled about watching the Oscars this year. I didn't have a horse in the race. I hadn't seen many of the films that had been nominated. I wasn't enthusiastic about seeing many of them – the subject matter was either very intriguing but too emotionally upsetting at this time in my life (12 Years A Slave) or had absolutely no appeal for me (Wolf Of Wall Street).

I do like to watch the red carpet dance. I know absolutely nothing about fashion, and the longer that I'm out of the day-to-day grind of the work force, the less style I seem to have. As a stay at home writer, my clothes only have to pass the sniff test. Comfort is key. Style is not even a consideration.

I was appalled at how bad the coverage was of the red carpet. Every network had a team of D-listers dressed up in bad prom dresses commenting on what the stars were wearing. I saw more of these chicks lined up in a row with iPads on their laps than I did of the stars. WTH? Who thought this was a good idea? I just want to see stars dressed up in pretty clothes. I don't even care 'who' they are wearing. Just put them in the clothes and parade them past the camera dripping in jewels and clean hair.  I'll enjoy some shrimp cocktail and a nice red wine on my sofa. That to me is what the Oscars is all about.

And so this year, the bit that was unexpected for me was how much fun the actual telecast was. Yes, it is an endurance marathon rather than a well-designed sprint. But I want to see the guys below the line troop up on the stage and collect their awards. I want to see the people who win for best short feature and animation thank their kids. And most of all, I want to hear Idina Menzel sing "Let It Go" and watch Pink turn into a superstar with her version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." Bravo! Talent, pure, simple and unadulterated.

And while we are waiting for the next announcement of something big, why not a pizza and a #Selfie? That's what we're doing at home. It is all part of what the Oscars are about. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I actually enjoyed watching the Oscars. I felt good afterwards. Maybe I'll continue to make the effort to go see movies despite all the other distractions on my time.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It's A Slippery Slope

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Back at the 2006 Olympics, Matt Lauer and Al Roker learned how to luge. I have watched this clip more than once and it makes me laugh every time. I think it's because they giggle like little girls all the way down the hill. I am so excited to hear that they are going to do it again at the 2014 Olympics. Lightning doesn't strike twice, but it's worth a shot!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Perils Of A Vivid Imagination

Most days of this writer's life are uneventful. There is some hissing as the cats vie for position on top of my desk to watch the bird activities in the treetops just outside the window. My iPhone buzzes, whistles and pops with each tweet, text and news bulletin. Sometimes there are staccato bursts of the computer keyboard.

I spend a lot of time staring off into space. And my space is a window onto the street in front of my house. So while I was dreaming up a new twist for my romance novel the other day, you can imagine my dismay when a new twist for a spy novel appeared outside my front door.

Two white panel vans were parked in front of the house under a street lamp. The occupants of said van appeared to be working in tandem. I can't tell you the exact time of their arrival, but once they were noticed, they were under surveillance for the next several hours.

Lest you think that I am the only person in my world with a vivid imagination, the Handsomest Man Alive came into my office for a non-specific consultation at the lunch hour and exclaimed, "hey, look there's two white panel vans in front of the house."

You should know that we watch "Homeland", "The Blacklist" and "The Americans." We know what goes on inside white panel vans on television.

You should also know that we live next to a very nice family who are, as Jane Austen would say, "of foreign extraction." They are the nicest people in our neighborhood. The only ones who say hello. My only hesitation in having them over to supper is that the gentleman practices his hand-to-hand combat skills on a mat in his garage every Tuesday night. I'm not sure if he is the instructor or if he is taking instructions. It isn't wrestling. I know wrestling and there is some other evidence that I do not want to mention here that leads me to believe that they are not training for Olympic competition as much as they are training to be ninja assassins.  I only hope it is for self-defense.

I spent a lot of quality time that day wondering if we were under surveillance by proximity. A lot of quality time when I could've been doing something else.

So it was with great relief that long about five o'clock in the afternoon, a couple of guys with knee pads strapped over their pants wandered out a house down the block and went out to the vans. They loaded their tool bags, some scrap carpeting, and a roll of padding into the vans. And then they left.

International crisis averted

If you're going to be doing any sort of remodeling in my neighborhood over the next few weeks, I'd appreciate it if you could alert me in advance. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What Would Jane Austen Tweet?

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a romance author in possession of a book or manuscript for sale must be in want of Twitter followers. 

Social media has become integral to the success of any small business marketing plan. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Tumblr attract attention through graphics, pictures and illustrations, but Twitter is the one social media platform where your writer's voice can and really should shine. Think of each Tweet as a writing challenge. You only get 140 characters, so you must make each one count.

Your Tweets can help create and shape the personality of you as an author. Just as you have a picture of Jane Austen in your mind's eye, use your Tweets to create a public image of you in your writer's bonnet or pith helmet if that's more apropos. Think about your public image before you Tweet.

Your Tweets, like your curtsey to Mr. Collins at the Netherfield Ball, should always be light, bright, and polite. It's a saying I learned at a social media seminar by Josh Ochs that has stuck with me as my mantra.

@Emma: It was a delightful Tweet; perfect, in being much too short.

Your Tweets should be precise, witty and pithy. Try not to use all 140 characters. Leave room for your followers to RT and add comments.

A Twitter feed is a public "micro-blog," not a private text machine. Using #toomanymakebelievehashtags and text abbreviations make your Tweets about as entertaining as Mary Bennet's singing at the piano.

Unless you're Mrs. Elton, your Tweets (as an author) should be free of strong opinions, controversial topics, and politics. And remember the golden rule of social media: There will always be haters. You can choose to engage with them. Or not.

You take delight in vexing me,@LizzysDad. You have no compassion on my poor nerves. 
You mistake me, @MrsBennet. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. 

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet know to seek out accomplices on social media. Note that they don't start Tweet shout-outs to each other with their Twitter handles. Their Tweets will be seen by all their followers and not just each other. @Kristan_Higgins and @JillShalvis do this with panache. 

Use HootSuite or TweetDeck to schedule your Tweets. You can send the same Tweet up to three times a day and not worry about becoming as repetitive as Miss Bates.

Be aware of current events. Un-schedule Tweets that contain calls to buy your book or sign up for your newsletter when a tragedy or disaster strikes.

There are no tricks to gaining new followers. Engagement is key. If you schedule tweets, you still need to make time to be on Twitter live and in person; Follow, Reply and RT the posts of your author-friends. 

Engage your followers. Ask questions about their favorite books, movies and television shows and Reply. Check out @EntangledPub for great examples of how it's done.