Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tension on Every 'Page' - True Blood Style

I've read all of the Sookie Stackhouse books. A telephathic waitress who falls in love with a newly outed vampire in a small and sheltered Louisiana town? Umm, yeah, definitely my cup of tea, but until last week, I'd never watched the HBO show based on the books.

So, what do True Blood and Donald Maass have in common? Or more specifically, why do I think Mr. Maass would applaud the efforts of the show? Because of the constant and unrelenting tension!

Every episode, no matter what problems arise or are solved, ends in a cliffhanger. Very few shows do that. Sure, a season finale usually leaves us hanging, and To BE CONTINUED breaks our hearts every once in a while, but every, single episode? I've rarely seen such a thing. Maass teaches 'tension on every page,' so that a reader won't be able to put down your book, and television must use that same tactic (replace 'page' with 'episode') to keep the viewer coming back. That's the only reason shows go for seven, eight, ten seasons.

As a side note, there are some fantastic shows that have great tension (and story and characters and...) that get cancelled, and I severely dislike the execs who make those decisions (I'm looking at you, Veronica Mars).

But back to my point. Writers can take at least one lesson from True Blood. Every chapter, every section of a chapter, needs to push our readers forward. Tempted to end with your character going to sleep? I sure am. It's easy, but don't do it. How about ending a scene with your MC being deliriously happy? Go ahead, but you better break her heart soon. :) I'm half kidding on those, darlings, but I'm sure you see my point.

Whew! When I edit my MS in September, I hope and pray I remember my own advice. ;)



Monday, August 29, 2011

100 Words for Fright Night

Let me start by saying that I'm a huge wuss, and The Lost Boys (the original one) scared the jeepers out of me. But I need to qualify that. I loveLoveLOVE Buffy and all that is Spike and, on occasion, Angel. Twilight? Um, YES! And Damon Salvatore can bite me anytime. ;)

So, even though it was a horror movie and sure to have me shivering in my movie-friend's lap, I braved Fright Night in bloody 3D. Here's my review in, well, you know.

The terribly handsome and deliciously evil vampire, Jerry (yes, Jerry) moves into the house next to Charley's in an isolated Vegas neighborhood. People begin disappearing, Jerry stalks Charley's mother and girlfriend, and a bloody good time is had by all. There were scary, something's-right-around-the-corner-LOOK-OUT parts, but the grisly vampire effects and the gratuitous 3D blood-spurting kept it oddly light. Colin Farrell has the 'half smile paired with gruff, bedroom voice' down to an art, and the Twilight/Buffy/Scooby gang references never got old. This wasn't a terrible movie, but I'm glad I saw it in the middle of the day.

Do I have any horror movie buffs out there? You're SO brave!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Spelling Fail! Would you buy this?

My spelling and grammar here at the Cheetah isn't always perfect. I admit and accept that. I've spelled names incorrectly, I've capitalized when capitalizing isn't necessary, and I desperately need to start italicizing movie titles (next week, I promise!). So, we're clear, right? I make spelling and grammar mistakes.


I am not a well-known clothing store partnering with well-respected universities to print 'team spirit' shirts. I am not Old Navy, and I did not print a heckuva lot of t-shirts with 'Lets go!' emblazoned across the fronts. Here's the link from which I took the image.

The big question for all of us shopper extraordinaires is this. If Old Navy sells these shirts, will we buy one to represent our favorite team? Well, would you? :) Because they're kind of cute (my opinion).

On a completely unrelated note, Rach at Rach Writes is starting another Platform-building challenge, Rachelle Gardner at her blog gives us hope with a post about 'pass' letters, and our dear Mr. Bransford posted this. He may be one of the most positive-while-still-helpfully-honest bloggers I've stumbled across, and I loved his post.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Battle Royale! First Pages vs. Query Letter

There are many categories of fear along this winding road to publication. Fear of not being good enough, fear of sharing your work with others, fear of no one liking your story, but once you get through those psychological hoops, there are new fears. The greatest, to me, is the fear of rejection.

But we can't be rejected until we submit, which brings me to the demons that are the first pages and the query letter.

*Ding!* Let the fight begin.

In this corner...
We obsess over the 250 words in our query, spending hours, days (weeks?) perfecting it. Is the voice right? Do I put my comparable titles at the beginning or end? What if I don't have any personal information to add? What's the formula? We freak out, and fear sinks its claws into our minds. We need that page to shine, so that every agent asks for more.

In the other corner...
Once we get a request, fear is back. The agent wants to see ten, thirty, fifty pages, maybe even the full MS, but they'll stop reading as soon as we give them a reason. That means the first page must sparkle like a *insert your favorite clique here*. Every word has to propel that agent to the next and the next, so that they're never ABLE to stop reading. Pressure? You bet! Fear? No doubt.

So, who wins this fight? Which of these deadly creatures strikes more fear into your heart of hearts? Anyone interested in a First Pages Blogfest? ;)


Monday, August 22, 2011

The Help in 100 Words. Grab those tissues!

In The Help, a budding novelist writes about the lives of the maids in Jackson, Mississippi. How they raise their employer’s children, prepare their food, clean their messes, but aren’t allowed to use the same toilets. My heart broke over and over in this movie, because some piece of this tale rings true of our history. At some point in America, people treated other human beings like a different, inferior species.
The casting is superb, the emotions real, the story tragic but trimmed in delicious hope. You absolutely must see this movie, but take some tissues. J

Hate is worse than the plague in how it spreads and grows, mutates and devours, but there is a cure. Courage. These stories light a fire in me and in you, too, I hope, to work hard to make our world a better place for everyone to live. Agree to disagree, no matter the subject, and just like my post last Friday tried to convey, live your life to the fullest for you and for everyone you meet. You will never regret it.
And on a lighter note, check out the cutest thing EVER!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Leasing our Lives?

Most of us have heard the expression to 'give a new lease on life.' It means to make something healthy or to rejuvenate, but I tend to frown when it's used to talk about people. Let me (briefly) explain.

If I'm a really crappy person (hypothetically, thank you), whether it's because I'm mean or unhealthy or bored or whatever, and something miraculous happens to 'give me a new lease on life,' what does that say about the lease on my old life?

Do we lease our lives instead of owning them? And, if so, who's the landlord? No, I'm not talking about religion, though the religious among you may see a connection. I'm more making the point that we shouldn't think of our lives as 'borrowed time' or 'out of our control.' No one else makes our decisions, and good or bad, we have to walk the path we choose.

Here's the thing, though. Nothing's irreversible except death and, ahem, taxes. Hello, Accountant here :). But, seriously, life should be a happy experience. We're only sure of just the one, right? So why not wake up every day with a determination to make it better for yourself or someone else. Go to the spa, give to charity, buy some shoes, sit in the sunshine, see a movie, or whatever you enjoy.

Don't lease your life. Own it, and I promise you'll smile a bit wider, laugh a little louder, and see the world in high definition.

Thanks for stopping by the Cheetah, and Happy Friday!!!!!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A New Set of Eyes

I miss my manuscript.

I've had three writer-friends read it, and the feedback was, umm, consistent. Tighten, tighten, tighten. Revamp the first thirty (fifty) pages. Get to the action SOONER. Where I tried to build intrigue, I created a horrifying frustration monster. Where I thought something was cute and funny, my beta readers wanted to murder me. I want to dig into my MS and rip it to shreds!


I told myself I wouldn't touch it until September. As much as I itch for it, I won't. I won't! Because I think looking at it with a new set of eyes, a fresh set of eyes, will be magical for it and for me (and hopefully for my lovely critters. Thanks, ladies!!!!).

So, I need help! How do you keep yourself away from a manuscript in need of a good revision? Is it a struggle? Do you dream about it? :)


Monday, August 15, 2011

Friends with Benefits in 100 Sweet, Sexy Words!

Friends with Benefits is a romantic comedy poking fun at all romantic comedies. Though it’s not the first movie to do this, the funny, fast-talking Timberlake and Kunis pull it off with a lot of sex, a lot of sass, and a deeper plot than the previews lead me to believe. The recurring jokes and everything Woody Harrelson did kept me laughing, and SPOILER ALERT, there is a ‘happily ever after.’ Oh, and Shaun White? Hilarious as he dons that goofy smile and threatens Justin Timberlake in the most creative ways possible.
My opinion? Better than No Strings Attached. :)  

Another movie, darlings! Though I had planned to see The Help, it just didn't turn out that way. Maybe next week. Have you seen any good movies lately? Excited about the Fall lineup? Breaking Dawn, Part 1? Abduction? Any non-Taylor Lautner movies?


Friday, August 12, 2011

When Writer-Friends Find an Agent!!!!!!

It's time to celebrate, darlings!

Christa at Christa Writes snagged herself a fabulous agent! She put in the work, jumped over the hurdles and through the hoops, and it all paid off. I'm delightfully jealous! Stop by her blog and show her some love.

That's the kind of encouragement that helps us all through the dark days. Knowing that it really can happen. No matter how sick we are of a manuscript, there's always another idea floating through our brains. No matter the rejections or frustrations or plot holes or excessive description (yeah, that would be me), there's a day when you're ready. When that perfect, beautiful story is ready. Who knows when, but eventually, it'll happen.

Someone at Backspace, can't remember who, mentioned that musicians don't pick up an instrument and master it in a month. Artists can't just throw paint on a canvas and call it The Mona Lisa. It takes time and work and tears and work and giving up and coming back and, oh hey did I mention, WORK.

Show of hands, who's committed to it? Anyone?

*raises hand!*


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Celebrity Crush

We all have them. Insane crushes on the rich and famous. There's something very safe in feeling 110% devoted to someone you've never met, maybe who doesn't exist, because admit it, sometimes we're head over heels for a character a person plays, not the person themselves.

It happens in books too, but the visual of a celebrity, someone we can google and read about, drool over in magazines, wonder what they're doing right now, it's the visual that pulls me in. Shallow? Mmmmyeah, but is it really? You all know my feelings for Peeta from The Hunger Games (112% devotion, seriously), so when Josh Hutcherson was cast, I was instantly crushing. That smile, his open and honest attitude toward the role. Yep. Crush, and the 10 years that separate us mean nothing, right? Right.

Right?! :)


One of my best friends had and still has a crush on Mufasa from The Lion King (cartoon version). She always said "Just imagine him as a human being," then she made a 'hubba-hubba' cat noise kind of like a rrrrOU and clawed at the air. Go on. Imagine it. Finished? Crush. hehe

My college roomie had a mad celebrity crush on Nicholas Cage. Say what you will about his movies and acting, but my friend was/is in love. Owned every movie, posters on the wall, called him Nick, and made a deal with her boyfriend-turned-husband that Mr. Cage was the only man for whom she'd leave him. He agreed, making the same deal with Reece Witherspoon.

My current celebrity crushes are Harrison Ford in the seventies (sorry, not now), tanned and smiling Robert Pattinson, Tom Felton, and always, ALWAYS Hugh Jackman. From a fangirl crush perspective, we could add Emma Watson to that list.

It's been a while since I did a totally fun, related-to-nothing blog post, so let's go to town on this. Who are your celebrity crushes? Do you have a deal with your partner like my roomie?


As always, thank you Google Images for the pic!

Monday, August 8, 2011

100 Words for Rise of the Planet of the Apes!

Don’t be fooled by the previews. This isn’t ‘Attack of the Killer Apes’ or ‘How the Humans Die.’ It's a tearful tale of one baby chimpanzee, Caesar. Born in a lab, Caesar’s genetic makeup has been altered. He is smart, fast, emotional, and so very confused. His tale from ‘pet’ to leader of a revolution is heartbreaking, but somehow triumphant.
John Lithgow pulls off ‘struggling and sick father’ so well, and Tom Felton, who's probably the final catalyst of the ape revolutionary, made me hate him…well, almost. The effects blew me away, and for a prequel, I highly recommend.

Trivia Time!

What makes a primate a monkey versus an ape? :) I learned this from my five year old niece. Answers in comments, please!


Friday, August 5, 2011

Pride versus Pride: How Do You Use It?

Ever since I put The Lion King (Broadway version) soundtrack in my car, I've heard the word Pride a lot more often. It's used as a good thing in most of the show as long as a hero uses it. So, that got me thinking (yikes!). Pride does double duty, being warm and fuzzy and strong on one hand, but villainous on the other.

The Good
"I'm proud of you."

"We're so proud."

"You should take great pride in that."

When Pride is a good thing, it's usually directed from one person to another. My parents, especially my super awesome and very sentimental Dad, always told me how proud they were, even when my successes weren't all that spectacular. The Lion King uses this play on words (pride of lions, harharhar Disney) over and over. 'Remember my pride,' 'matter of pride,' you get the idea.

In our writing, when our spin on Pride is positive, we build strength and depth into our characters. They have emotion, they feel for other people. Or maybe pride becomes a redeeming quality. If your MG starts off in the dumps and finding his/her Pride restores him/her to everything he/she used to be...hello, that's the hero's journey, right?

The Bad
"He's a proud man."

"Your pride will be your downfall."

"See past your pride, and look at what's standing right in front of you."

But there's another side to it. I mean, come on, Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It's that thing we have to step over, get around, throw away to get to that 'better place.' Mr. Darcy is one of my favorite bad pride examples, and I'll use him because I usually lose readers when I talk about Saiyans and Vegeta, but for the record, fantastic pride example there. Anyway! Mr. Darcy has to push his pride aside to allow himself to love Elizabeth. She also has pride issues, making them a pair of charming mountain goats in a cliffside battle.

When we create a prideful character, we puff them up, build a layer of arrogance into their makeup, make them more real. Now, we take them it is again...the hero's journey! They must defeat the pride demon inside them to become all they're able to be. It's a piece of Redemption, wouldn't you agree?

How do you use Pride in your writing? Deadly sin? Parental emotion? Little of both?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

July Books and New Year's Resolution Update!

I can't believe it's August!!!!!!

The Cheetah's been flying for seven, whole months, and I've met some of the most amazing writer-friends (that's you!). I'm so grateful for your time. I know there are a ton of great blogs out there, and stopping by mine...well, you make me happy!

The NYR's haven't been dropped yet. Yay! I'm still exercising, still watching what I eat (though the weekends are a struggle), and I'm still reading and writing. I see no reason why August won't be even better than the seven months before it. :)  

On to the reviews!

My July reading was sparse, SORRY, but I did polish my manuscript and send it to some amazing crit partners. They'll be ripping it to shreds very, very soon. hehe.

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Such a heartbreaker. Dickens has a dry humor in much of the book, especially when focusing on the bodyguard Jerry Cruncher or dear Lucie's 'nanny,' Miss Pross. But the heart and soul of this book lies with a waste of space named Sydney Carton, who can't say one good thing about himself until the last page. He's a tragic doppleganger of the well-to-do Charles Darnay, who I find myself disliking for no other reason than he seems bland and goody-goody. Though it's tough to get through the language, especially when I'm used to YA novels written in strict first person, it's worth the journey. LOVE this story.

2. Timothy and the Dragon's Gate by Adrienne Kress
I met Adrienne at BackSpace in May, and what a doll! Though Dragon's Gate is solidly MG, it has a quick quirkiness to it that, once it started moving, refused to let me go. Timothy is too smart for his own good, and somehow finds himself the keeper of a key that controls a dragon. And when I say dragon, I mean an elderly Chinese man named Mr. Shen. Mr Shen's a hoot, by the way! This book has dragons, pirates, ninjas, monks, gamblers, 'ghosts,' and Peter Pan. Now, please tell me it doesn't sound awesome!

3. Writing the Breakout Novel: The Workbook by Donald Maass
This is the companion workbook to Writing the Breakout Novel (that I read in June), so I won't go into details except to say Buy It, Buy It NOW! Write your novel, read the book, go through the workbook, and prepare to rewrite. It's an amazing tool and sits firmly on my desk between Strunk and White's Elements of Style and King's On Writing. Wonderful!

No, I didn't get through The Princess Bride. Not Original Sin either. I was bad, I know, but sometimes the MS takes center stage. So, I read it twice in July. Does that count? ;)

Plans for August:
Well, The Princess Bride and Original Sin are high on my list, and I have a handful of books on my Kindle that've never been touched. Shame on me! I'll also have the pleasure of critting a couple manuscripts (Lynne, Tonya, Eliza!) when they're ready. We'll have to play things by ear.

What are your goals for August? Books? Writing? Movies? Travel? Sharing is caring, you know!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love - A Review in...drum roll...One Hundred Words!

Happy August, everyone! I'll go through my New Year's Resolution update and July books on Wednesday, but today, I have 100 words for Steve Carell's recent romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. Oh, and stay tuned for some fun housekeeping after the review.

If Steve Carell left The Office for movies like Crazy, Stupid, Love, then I say HOORAY!
One couple separates, one finds each other, and one doesn’t stand a chance. This movie seamlessly ties them all together along with a zany cast of secondary characters. Steve Carell again proves he’s leading man material, Moore and Stone are lovely, and Ryan Gosling? Better abs than Green Lantern. I laughed, found myself with a goofy grin, made an ‘awww’ noise more than once, and the 'fight' scene was hysterical!
Just an excellent and wonderfully well done story. See it right now!

Seriously, you don't want to miss this one. I've vowed not to buy DVD's, because my collection's slowing turning into a house-eating monster, but I will own this when it comes out. So worth the money, and the Best Zingers Award goes to Liza Lapira as Emma Stone's sassy friend. She's such a great addition!


Housekeeping. You need towels?

Okay, a bit of housekeeping.

First, the lovely Laura Stanford is having a Facebook contest! Check out her blog and head over to her Facebook page for a chance to win a Barnes and Noble gift card.

Second, my polished first draft of EXQUISITE GRAY, my Katherine Wake story, is in the hands of my fantastic writer-friends from BackSpace. My amazing pal, Escape Artist, has been reading as I go. Such a brave soul! So, hopefully I don't bore anyone to death, and I get a ton of great feedback to polish for...

Third, I'm about 89% sure I'll be going to the BackSpace conference in November. Sending my MS to my crit partners gave me the itch. You know the one. If anyone else is considering it and want to split the hotel bill (it's NYC Marathon weekend, so the price is higher than the May conference), I'm game!

Last, thanks to everyone who read my entry into Lisa Galek's Happy Birthday, Harry fanfic contest yesterday. I love my little tear jerker! :)