Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Be Nice"

"Be nice!" It's a phrase being passed around a lot these days. With the whole YA Mafia thing. When ever people list Do's and Don't for social media. We are frequently told of the importance of courtesy and kindness. But what about compassion?

I'm sure many of you have at least heard about the "Author attacks reviewer" debacle going on. If not, here's a link: http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html

Look, when I read the blog post, I was totally shocked at Ms. Howett's behavior. She was unprofessional, rude, childish, and frankly out of control. But there has been a reaction on Amazon that has me deeply troubled.

Starting yesterday, Ms. Howett's book has received 42 one star reviews. (And the number is climbing.) Many of them admit they heard about the book only because of all the buzz. Some reviews only comment on the author's behavior. But almost all of them freely call the book "trash," "crap," and various other hyperbolic insults.

Many claim they read the sample (which is free to download on a Kindle,) "to be fair." But I don't think that was quite the intent. I think they read or claimed to read the sample as a way of justifying their review. When the fact is the vast majority of them came to Amazon straight from the blog with the express intent to give Ms. Howett what's coming to her.

Here is one review, titled "Because you will learn" :

"Without consequences, mankind is doomed to repeat its mistakes for all of eternity.

Look at that, right off the top of my head. No forethought or planning!

But I digress, let's get back onto the meat. I lol'd at the reviews, but the support reviews really got to me. Many people claiming she should be spared the public flogging, simply because "she's human" and "everyone makes mistakes". That sounds like commie talk to me. Howett has to be publically punished and ridiculed for her actions.

It's the only way she'll learn. Bet she won't make that mistake again. "

Really? I mean, really?

Here's the thing, don't you think Ms. Howett probably feels about like a pile of crap right now? Her own actions (or rather, reactions) have done a perfectly adequate job of condemning her. Does she really need dozens of people to kick her while she's down? She has almost 50 one star reviews. Isn't that enough of a slap on the wrist? Do potential future customers really need more proof that the book is bad?

I'll be honest,there's an unsettling glee in those one star reviews. It smacks of bullying.

So back to my original question, what happened to "being nice?"

Ms. Howett had a hissy fit online. She reacted poorly. But guess what? She's a human being. And probably a perfectly normal, decent person. I say, lesson learned. Time to put away the pitchforks. Time to "be nice."

(You have now experienced a rare Renee Rant. Hope you enjoyed. ;) Please feel free to discuss in the comments section.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Photoshop Friday

As summer and summer blockbusters approach, so begins the season of intense movie merchandising. You can't get away from it. I once saw a Pirates of the Caribbean sack of potatoes in the produce section.

So we were wondering, wouldn't it be totally sweet if they merchandised books like they do the movies? Can someone get on that please? We present a few suggestions in our post:

Novel(T) Items

Our first product is here to improve the mornings of women everywhere. Just imagine. Instead of waking up the harsh screech of your alarm clock, the smooth, creamy voice of Rhett Butler coaxes you from your dreams.
Personalize real phrases from the novel with your own name instead of Scarlett O'Hara's!

Ever get the munchies? Ever find yourself making the slow march of shame to the refrigerator for a snack, and therefore smashing your final hope to restart that diet you've been neglecting? Sure, ladies. We all have. But now, with our Big Brother refrigerator, you'll have a searing pair of eyes needling into you at all times. Don't even think about grabbing that leftover slice of cake! Because Big Brother is ALWAYS WATCHING.
You're guaranteed to lose five pounds within the first two weeks!

We all want the best for our children. We want them to be loving, smart, and cultured individuals. Well now, you can get a head start on that! With our new Moby Dick Mobile, your little tyke can gaze up at icons from one of our cherished works of literature. Imagine his or her delight as they watch the murderous white whale and insane, revenge-driven Ahab dangle over them at night. It's sure to be flying off the shelves, so act now!
Comes in Sea Green™ and Blood-of-the-Drown Blue™!

What about you? Are there any products you're dying to own?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting for a tow....

I am a bad driver. Don't believe me? Ask my husband, he seems to have a lot to say on the matter...
Yesterday was one of those days that confirmed it. As I was backing down a very steep drive way, I drove the back tire over a curb and off the edge. We were all safe, but the car was stuck. Like this- Ok, not that bad, but it was still scary.

I tried to put it in first and drive it back over the curb and up the hill, but when I did, the wheels only made a hideous screeching sound and the tires smoked. I did this a few times and my friend even tried pushing the car, but it was no use. I was stuck.
As I stood there in the rain waiting for the tow truck to arrive, feeling humiliated and angry, I had an "ah-ha" moment: I am the car..well, my writing is. Let me explain.

In my writing, I have backed myself over a curb and am hanging off a cliff, helplessly stuck. No matter how I try to move those wheels and make progress on my book, all I get is some hideous screeching and smoke.

Now, in my defense, this has been a busy time. We are managing the apartments we live in and my husband is planning to start law school in the fall , so we are in the middle of deciding where we want to live for the next three years, and I very little time to write, but that feels like a pretty poor excuse. And is it even the lack of time that is hindering me? Or is it just time to move on to a new idea?

I guess, for now, I am just waiting for that tow truck to come and pull me over the edge. That magical beautiful "muse tow truck"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trust me, you'll know

Housekeeping note: To prevent confusion, Diana and I will now post our individual posts in the colors from our Twin Talk Tuesdays. Renee=Red, Diana=Blue.

Anyway, as you may know, I've been searching for the right book idea for a long while. Since early last summer, to be exact. That's almost eight months! (Geez, where does the time go?) In that span of time, I've been working quite a bit on edits with my lovely, brilliant agent, so that has distracted me. But still. Eight months, I've been struggling with this.

It's not that I haven't had ideas. Oh sheesh. Ask Diana or my husband, I've had PLENTY. Some I cast away instantly. Some I scribbled a page or two of notes on, and then lost steam. And many of them are still in my notebook, simmering. But it seemed as if I just couldn't pick one and have it feel right.

Finally, I narrowed it down to two very different ideas. And for the past month, those two ideas have been bouncing around in my head. I found myself waffling back and forth, back and forth between them. I even picked one, and started to outline, but once again lost steam somehow. To tell the truth, part of me was starting to wonder if I'd run aground with my writing.

Then, three days ago, the floodgates opened.

For whatever reason, I started to think about one of my two ideas, and I couldn't stop. I started to dream about the main characters, write notes about them. Then, those character notes turned into overarching story notes. And those story notes turned into plot notes. And all of the sudden, I was writing an outline.

Three days later, I've finished a detailed, seven page outline, and HOLY CRAP I CAN'T WAIT TO START WRITING.*

All of this has reminded me of one very important truth with writing: when the idea is ready, you'll know. As I looked back on every story I've written, I've always had that BAM moment, when I could see the path ahead of me, and the writing engine suddenly roared.

It hasn't always taken me eight months (thank goodness!) For one of my novels, it took two days from idea to BAM. But the point is, I've never been able to stick with a story without first having that moment.

How about you? Do you have to have a BAM moment before writing? Or are you one of those people that joyously writes anything you want, the moment you sit down to write it? (If so, please accept this punch in the nose.)

*Note to my agent, should she be reading, I have not forgotten Searcher edits! I will be dutiful and work on them before I start writing this new book. Pinkie swear.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photoshop Friday

(On Monday! Wonders never cease here at Midnight Meditations.)

Today's post explores that elusive thing called creativity. Ah, creativity. The life blood of writing. The magic that brings out stories to life. The power that makes our words flow. The Muse!


I'm about to blow the lid off these rosy, romantic visions.

Your Muse is Actually a Big, Fat, Cat

You know it's true.

1. Your Muse must constantly be fed.Reading good books, watching movies, listening to music, or gaming, you name it, the big, fat Muse demands it. If you go too long without feeding your creativity, hello writer's block.

2. Your Muse needs lots of rest. (Read: is lazy)Writing is hard work. For the writer. Your Muse doesn't work hard. Sorry, that's your job.

3. Your Muse is fickle.There you are, sitting down to your computer, ready to make something beautiful happen. You reach out for your Muse. You call for her, the one you have fed and nurtured and cared for. Well, good luck. The Muse is not one to be summoned from her various perches and warm, sunny windows.

In the end, it's really up to you to get that story on the page. It's a little known secret that you and you alone will make it magical, beautiful, wonderful. Trust me, you don't need the Muse. Only don't tell her I said that . . .

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I studied Art History in college. It's an interesting major because, essentially, my entire education was learning how to break down this-

-into context, motive, design, color, theme, etc. While I absolutely loved every second of my education, I have found this to be an obstacle in my writing. I find myself dissecting -and when I say dissecting I mean picking to death- my word choices, my characters, even my idea:

Why am I writing this? What is her voice? Will this book make a positive difference in the world? Should I put a wood nymph here?? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE??? *sobs*

Then I have to snap myself out of my existential rut and remind myself I am supposed to be having fun.

Am I the only one who over thinks things? What are your motives for writing?

Sunday, March 6, 2011


So my friend Jill Hathaway, whose VERY cool sounding debut novel Slide is coming out next winter, is hosting a contest at her blog. The prize? An ARC of Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

Do you want to know how many times I have entered various blog/twitter contests to try and win this book, guys? TOO MANY.

And here I am now, blogging to give myself three more points. But by doing so I am introducing more people to the contest, which means more COMPETITION. Grrr.

So here's the deal. Go enter the contest! But if you win, you have to send it to me when you are done. Fair enough? Great! Hugs n' kisses.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Twin Talk Tuesday

We've all been there. You're going along, thinking you have the bestest WiP EVER. Then, you see it. Your idea. Sitting on the shelves in Barnes and Noble. Written by someone else. Or maybe it's a movie coming out this year. Or a T.V. show you just saw. The point is, we've all been there. We've all felt the despair that our brilliant, one-of-a-kind idea has been snatched up and sold by someone else.

Never fear, my friends. We could spend a whole post telling you that ideas, while important, are only as good as their execution. That even similar sounding stories will be completely different in the end. But you guys know this already. And besides, it's much funner to SHOW you.

Renee: Today we are going to illustrate how execution is everything. We're going to take the exact same idea and each write our own synopses for it.

Diana-Now realize that we are identical twins. We grew up in the exact same house. We read the same books. Saw the same movies.

Renee: Have a creepy, psychic connection. . .

Diana: Exactly. So if there were ever two people who could potentially write identical stories, it would be us.

Renee: I'm very interested to see how it turns out, actually.

Diana: I hope we don't disprove our whole point.

Renee: Only one way to find out. Okay, so we need an idea.

Diana: Hmm. *thinking*

Renee: *brainstorming*

Diana: I know! How about a girl who can turn herself into Jello?

Renee: Pure genius.

Diana: I try.

Renee: Perfect. That's our idea. A girl who can turn herself into Jello. Go forth and write your synopsis. Meet you back here in a bit. In the meantime, enjoy this visual inspiration.


Renee: Okay, I'm ready! VERY interested to see what we came up with. Here's mine:

Hello, Jello

In a family where everyone has special powers, Matilda Waters got the short end of the stick. Her brother can fly. Her sister walks through walls. Matilda? She can turn into strawberry jello.

When her family is captured by a secret government agency, Matilda is left behind. Apparently she’s not the only one who sees her power as useless. Distraught, Matilda seeks out the help of the Hinklesons, a fellow power-wielding family. But they’ve been captured as well. Only Andrew Hinkleson, their dark, dangerous foster child, is left. Matilda fears all is lost, until Andrew reveals that he also has a special power. He can turn himself into a corn dog.

Together, Matilda and Andrew form a mock catering company, and manage to land a job catering the secret government agency’s annual summer picnic. On the menu—corn dogs and jello, baby. Revenge never tasted so sweet.

Diana: Brilliant.

Renee: *bashful shrug* Aww, come on. Let's hear yours.

Diana: Cursed

For Alice Mint, having a mother who is a beautiful enchantress has many perks. She always has whatever she wants, lives in a beautiful home, and has lots of “help” with her schoolwork at the mortal high school she attends. Life seems perfect.

Then, one day, one of her mother’s jilted lovers puts a powerful curse on Alice so that she won't become like her mother. He curses Alice that if she makes a boy fall in love with her, she will turn into Jell-o. Literally. That poses an interesting problem for Alice, who is an enchantress-in-training.

Alice teams up with Jake, a handsome young Lifter (someone who steals powers from Warlocks), to find the Warlock who put the spell on her and break the curse. The only problem is Alice is falling fast for Jake and she can see in his eyes that his feelings are growing. Can she break the curse in time? Or will she spend the rest of her life as a tasty dessert?

Renee: HA! That's really good, actually. WRITE IT.

Diana: Maybe I should, maybe I should.

Renee: Well, we've proved our point! Look how different those two stories are. And they both came from the exact same, very specific story idea.

Diana: It really should put any fears to rest. The stories WILL be different. It's all about execution.

Renee: Amen, sister.

So there you have it. Nothing to worry about. Just ignore that book/movie/T.V. show, and keep working on your brilliant idea.