Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where does inspiration hit you?

Even though I'm still struggling to finish my fourth book, I've recently been bombarded by the voices of some new characters.  Actually, they aren't new characters.  The idea for the plot of this book came to me a few months ago but the characters didn't really speak to me then.  I'm excited about this new adventure, especially since I've got a break from work coming soon. 

Every time this happens to me, it baffles and excites me.  I don't know how it happens for any other writers out there, but for me it usually strikes me at random times.  There are a few places or times when I find my characters speak louder to me than others: while I'm washing the dishes, when I'm in the shower, and when I'm driving to work.  I've found that my characters talk to me when I'm engaged in activities that don't require a lot of thinking, though the driving to work thing is a little frightening!  I guess I should start working out, because that seems like a time when my mind would need to be otherwise engaged.

When I was working on my first book (one that I will likely NEVER publish, by the way), I couldn't stop the characters from talking to me wherever I went.  I once sat in the waiting room of my orthopaedic doctor and scribbled pages of writing into an old calendar that I found in my purse.  However, over time I've learned to quickly scribble notes to myself and come back to them later.  I've learned to quiet the characters, but not completely shut them up. 

Does all this make me sound crazy? 

Do other authors out there have conversations with their characters, or listen in on the conversations that the characters have with each other?  If so, when does it happen for them? 

Where does inspiration hit you?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Character Connections

A colleague and I continued a great conversation today that we started at a meeting yesterday.  She was telling me that over the weekend she read Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun.  For those of you that don't know what that is, it is the Twilight story from Edward's perspective.  I have read it myself, but that's not what made our conversation great. 

She said that she actually missed Edward when she finished reading it.  She said that when she was finished reading the partial draft of Midnight Sun she actually missed the characters.  For me, that news was groundbreaking!  Part of me had always wondered if I was crazy because I felt that way.  I never talked about it with anyone, not even my book nerd friends. 

The first time I felt an emotional connection to a book character was when I read The Catcher in the Rye.  It wasn't a positive connection for me, but it was powerful.  I read it one summer while I was working at a daycare center.  While the little kids were napping I read my book.  It took me a little over a week to figure out why I was so angry when the kids woke up.  It wasn't because I wanted to read more, it was because I felt Holden's anger.  Once I figured out where my anger was coming from, I stopped reading it at work.

Over the years I have experienced this intense feeling a few more times.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I get emotional attached to the characters in the Harry Potter series and the Twilight Series.  I know that there are people out there that may look down on me for admitting that, but I'm not going to lie to you.  Sorry!  Try not to judge me too harshly!  I have also felt a connection with characters in Austenland, with Darcy and Elizabeth in Pamela Aiden's Fitzwilliam Darcy trilogy, and with a few of Jill Mansell's characters.

However, the place where I've had the biggest connection is with the characters I write myself.  I've authored four books (one is self-published, Christmas in Hell, and is available for purchase and download on Amazon).  While writing, my characters float around in my head, talk to me, and tell me what they're going through.  It can take me anywhere from two weeks to six months to get their stories down.  When I'm done, the silence is deafening, but not nearly as difficult as the loss I feel when they're gone.  When I finish with a book, the characters leave me.  I don't dwell on them for weeks afterwards.  Their departure leaves me feeling lonely and sad, like a lifelong friend has just disappeared from my life.

Please do not assume that I wrote this post simply to promote my own writings.  Okay, so maybe a little of my motivation was to promote my books, but not all of it!  I wrote this post to start a conversation with you, my readers, about your own character connections.  Was there a book/character that settled into your being and left a mark when it left?  Have you ever mourned the loss of a character?  Share your thoughts with me, please!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review- Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton

I picked up this book over the weekend.  The colorful cover caught my eye and I was immediately drawn in by the phrase at the bottom "A Do-Over Novel".  The first page warns you that this is not a regular book.  You cannot read it cover to cover.  It claims that while there is one beginning, there are 150 endings.

The premise of the book is that, like life, you make one decision that alters your destiny.  After the first hour of reading, I had lived at least five lifetimes in five different ways.  The decisions can be as simple as choosing where to move to, or as drastic as whether or not you should leave your verbally abusive husband.

I was a fan of the choose-your-own-adventure novels as a young reader.  Perhaps that fondness is why I was drawn to this book.  Before I go any further I would like to say that the logistics of the book (turn here for this choice, etc) are executed well.  It must have been harrowing to put it all together and make sure that it all came out making sense.  I commend the author and the publisher for that.

My problem with this book is that it all felt so cold.  You aren't just the reader, you are the main character.  You are in charge of your own destiny because you make all the choices.  Despite the fact that I was in control, the story always seemed cold, unfeeling, and distant.  There was no connection, no spark, between me and my character.  The author seemed to be forcing the story on me.  It reminded me of a more detailed, and adult, version of the old MASH game.  "You marry David.  You live in a shack.  You have eighteen children, and you drive a garbage truck."  The writing style felt very forceful.  At times, especially when I was frustrated with where my choice had left me, I felt like the writer was pushing the story on me.  There were times when I could almost feel the weight of my choice as I read. 

As for the plot, or should I say plots, of this novel, I wasn't all that impressed.  I'm glad that I am better at making choices in my real life than I am in McElhatton's literary world.  It seemed like every choice I made left me addicted to meth or dying a tragic death.  Rarely did I end up happy.  The worst was when I ended up being murdered by an angry mob in a foreign country.  Talk about a downer! 

Again, the logistics of the book worked well, not once did I find that my choice didn’t line up with where I had left my story.  A few times the stories would overlap, and when they did it was almost a disappointment.  The stories tended to evolve quickly.  In an hour or two of reading, you could easily live several lifetimes, making the other decision each time.  The book is definitely an easy read.  If you are a fan of short stories then this book may be a great read for you.  You could spend months reading this book and never live the same life twice. 

I’m giving this book 2 out of 5 stars.  It just didn’t do it for me.  I like the concept, but not the plot.  I commend McElhatton for giving it a go, but I just did not like the story itself. 

Have you read this book?  Do you have an opinion on it?  Share it with me! 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kindle, Nook, or just a plain old book...

I spent the weekend at a conference for my real job.  (My fake job is sitting at home blogging, writing, and collecting royalty checks from all my bestselling novels.  I'm not so good at this one yet!)  Anyway...on the five hour long drive to the conference we had the increasingly popular and important discussion: Nook or Kindle?

I am a Kindle owner.  I have a Kindle because that's what my family purchased for me for Christmas.  I did my research before I gave them the thumbs up.  I already spend enough time in front of a computer screen, thanks to both my real job and fake job, so I didn't want to add any extra strain to my eyes by enjoying a good book.  I love my Kindle.   

The discussion got me thinking, though.  Has the introduction of these electronic readers issued in an era of Reading Renaissance?  There have been a few things that have occurred in the past few years to help precede this era; J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, and most recently Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.  However, I am curious if the accessibility of books via electronic readers will encourage more reading. 

As a hopeful author, I certainly hope it does.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Celebrity Authors

Just wondering how others feel about the abundance of books out there "written" by celebrities?  Does it make your stomach turn a little when you hear that Snooki and LC from The Hills both had books on the Bestsellers list?  Am I a snob for feeling this way?

As someone who hopes to someday be a published author, shouldn't I be happy that another person made it?  What I can't help wondering though is...why?  Why would publishers jump at the chance to publish a book written by some of these people?  I've thought about it a lot.  I tried being mad at the publishers, but that just didn't do it.  Next, I moved on to the celebrities themselves.  However, it really can't be their fault, they're just doing whatever it takes to make more money and/or get their name out there.  After careful consideration I've finally figured out who needs to take the blame for's us, the readers!

Yes, it's true!  We, the readers, are 100% responsible for the multitudes of awful celebrity books that litter the shelves.  Let's face it, publishers aren't going to put something out there that has no audience.  How many of us hopeful writers know this all too well? 

If we stop fawning over these people, then perhaps we can recapture our literacy! 
Stand up to these awful books! 
Turn your back on celebrity penned novels! 
If we ban together, we can make a difference! 
Who's with me?!?!?!

Monday, March 14, 2011

May I recommend...

Here's the deal...I love chick lit, but I'm very particular about what I like.  I like romance, but not smut.  I like funny, but not obvious gags.  That being said...

I love Jill Mansell!

First of all, let's be honest, I love anything with British men in it!  I think it has a lot to do with Jane Austen and Colin Firth, but that's another post all together.  I simply adore anything Jill Mansell writes.  My first encounter with her was "Perfect Timing" from there I moved on to my all-time favorite, "Rumor Has It."  Oh Jack, ahh...

Anyway, if you are a fan of light, funny, British romance then I highly recommend checking out all things Jill Mansell!

Here's what I've read so far:
Perfect Timing
Rumor Has It
Take A Chance On Me
Millie's Fling
Miranda's Mistake
An Offer You Can't Refuse
Staying At Daisy's

See, I told you I loved her...

Christmas in Hell

Christmas in Hell is my first self-published book.  It follows Kate, an American girl, who finds herself alone in London for Christmas.  As much as she hates the holiday, she can't bear the thought of spending it alone.  Desperate for something to do, she goes home with her only friend, Claire.  Claire's family turns out to be just as much a disaster as the one Kate ran to England to get away from.  Tom, Claire's older brother, seems to be the only sane one in the family, but Kate just can't seem to stop embarrassing herself in front of him.  Read Christmas in Hell to find out what happens when Kate experiences her first English Christmas.  Will it change her mind about the holiday or will it be another Christmas in Hell?

Welcome to Virginia's Bookshlef

Hi!  Thanks for stopping by to check out my bookshelf.  I started the blog to help promote my books, but I'd also love to have you stop by and chat about your own books, your favorite books, or whatever you'd like.  Think of this site as the internet's front porch.  Pull up a chair, grab a glass of refreshing iced tea, sit a spell, and relax.