Sunday, July 25, 2010

Off to Orlando!

The conference is almost here (!!!!) and I'm headed to Orlando, Florida to explore a few DisneyWorld sites with friends prior to the RWA chaos beginning. CAN'T WAIT!

I've always wanted to see Epcot and the different "nations" represented there. (Full disclosure: I've always wanted an excuse to eat the various food specialties from around the world that they have available there!) So, I'm looking forward to finally visiting that park, to going to fabulous conference workshops/events and to seeing some of the awesome RWA friends I've had the pleasure of meeting in person and online over the past eight years. I wish everyone I know could be there, too...

For anyone who happens to be at the conference or, more specifically, at the Literacy Signing on Wednesday the 28th (Swan & Dolphin Resort, 5:30-7:30pm), PLEASE stop by to say hello!! No book purchases are required, but I'd love to get to chat with you for a few minutes in person!

I'm currently in a flurry of packing a prep, but I promise to come back with stories and photos... Until then, I tip my hat--er, ears--to you and wish you all a wonderful week ;).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Visit with Cathy Lamb

I'm so pleased to host talented women's fiction author Cathy Lamb on Brant Flakes today. Cathy is a fellow Kensington writer but, more than that, she is a truly generous and thoughtful lady, and I'm thrilled she took time to answer some interview questions for me about her writing process and about her new book, SUCH A PRETTY FACE (out next week!!). Thanks so much for being here, Cathy!

~Can you please tell us about the premise of your upcoming novel, SUCH A PRETTY FACE?

SUCH A PRETTY FACE is about a woman named Stevie Barrett who, through bariatric surgery, has lost 175 pounds. She has a new life...sort of. She's still making her fantastical, colorful wooden chairs and hiding them in her garage, still working for a wild and formidable boss at a law office, still hanging out with a friend who clearly, utterly resents her weight loss. But she's trying new things. She's actually planted a garden and sees it as an organic metaphor for her whole life. She has stopped diving behind recycling bins and leaping over fences to avoid her gorgeous he-man neighbor. Her tinker-bell sized office mate puts her on a DATE ME website and she goes on two dates. They're miserable dates, but hey, she's there.

But Stevie has to confront why she let herself get to 325 pounds in the first place, so the book is in and out of Stevie's past. Her childhood? A combination of a beautiful farm in southern Oregon with a house called The Schoolhouse House, because it used to be an old schoolhouse, a grandma with curly white hair, a stud of a granddad, a mentally ill mother who responds to voices, sunflowers, unique family members, corn, farm animals, wild flowers, a sister named Sunshine, a dark room, a cave with Indian drawings, a charm bracelet, blood, a state run hospital, jars with names of dead people on them, a rushing river, a horrid uncle, an opera singer, a broken frog, and show tunes.

I truly hope you like it. (Speaking as someone lucky enough to get an ARC, I did! I did!! Thanks for giving me a sneak peek at the story...it's a beautifully written novel. :)

~What challenges do your characters have to overcome in this story?

The challenge that Stevie has to overcome is to find a new her, a new Stevie, and be happy and comfortable with the person she is and wants to be.

~Did writing this story pose any unique challenges for you? If so, how did you overcome them?

This book was a monster for me. I went from present times, to her early childhood, to mid - childhood, her 20's, all in and out and weaved together. I overcame those unique challenges by going to Starbucks every day and holding my head in my hands and groaning. Eventually, the literary puzzle fell into place before I was muttering to myself about how I should go back to teaching grade school.

~What is your writing process? Are you a night or day writer? A pantser or plotter? A writer of habit or a spurt writer?

I think I write best late, late at night, when my kids and husband are in bed. I do write in the day, though, too, when my kids are at school. I do make extensive character sketches for every character so my books are character driven. I know my characters inside and out by the time the book is in its third draft. Every little thing about them, I know. I plan when I walk, I think of new ideas when I'm carpooling, when I'm cooking dinner, staring at a tulip, guzzling mochas, laughing with friends, out in the woods, or having a "debate," so to speak, with my husband. I feel like, in many ways, I am ALWAYS working. I have to make conscious efforts to stop thinking about my book, the hurdles, the issues, the character arcs, etc. (I can REALLY relate to this. The tasks are never ending, and it's hard to pull away from the multiple facets of the job--both the creative side and the business side--in order to relax.)

~What are your favorite parts of the writing process (i.e., storyboarding, scripting dialogue, revision, etc.)?

I truly love all parts of the writing process. I love when I have the freedom to think of a whole new plot, I love editing, I love sketching characters, I love writing freestyle - when I just write and write and don't go back and edit. All of my books are edited about 12 times before they're "real books." Even the proofs I read two times to make sure there are no errors.

~Please tell us a little about your journey to publication. How long were you working on your first novel (JULIA'S CHOCOLATES) before it sold? Had you written any completed manuscripts before that one?

I tried to get into writing romance books. I got soooo close, several times. The editors at two well know romance writing house, (If I said the names, you would know them) would always ask me to send the first chapter of my romance book after my cover letter and synopsis. I'd send it. Then they'd ask for first three chapters. I'd send it. They'd ask for the book. I'd send it. Rejected. After one particularly bad rejection, which took TWO YEARS, and was implied by an editor that they would buy my book, I decided to call it a day. I was done. I was a wreck. Any sane person would have quit years before I did. I do think there's something to be said for determination and perseverance, which I had. But I also think there's a point when I should have said, "OK, Cathy, this isn't working. This isn't your genre, you're not going to be successful here, accept it, move on." I should have said that about two years before I did. So, JULIA'S CHOCOLATES was my first women's fiction book that I wrote. It sold in weeks after I signed with my agent. Yahoo.

~What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received, and what advice would you pass along to other writers aspiring to publication?

Read. Read all the time and absolutely do not read only in your genre. Read all over the place, all kids of books. Fiction, chick lit, non-fiction, memoirs, Pulitzer's, award - winning books, the New York Times, autobiographies, etc. Study what you're reading. Study what made the book work for you. If the book didn't work for you, figure out why. Study how the author started the book and caught your attention and why your attention stayed in place for the whole book. Study the language, sentence structure, pacing, character development. What made you cheer for the main character? What made you hate other characters? How did the author build suspense? How did they build to the climax? How did they use sub-plots? Study, study, study.

Also, read reviews of books. I learn a ton about great writing just by reading reviews in the newspaper.

And, one more thing: Only read really good books. That's how you learn.

~What are some of your favorite hobbies/things to do outside of writing?

I love my kids and love spending time with them. I love to read and write. I just love, love, love books. I love going to plays and I have recently discovered that I love the symphony, too. I thought the symphony was only for rich and snobby people. As I am not rich, and no snob, I did not think I belonged there. Ha! I went, I loved it. Have seen four concerts now and have season tickets for next year. I love Broadway shows that come through Portland. I love going to coffee and walking and going to the beach and any sort of travel. If I can just get out of my house for awhile and all the stuff I MUST do, ah, I am happy.

~What project is next for you?

I am writing my next book, due in December. I have to write 3,000 words a day because I am behind. Yikes. Very busy. Late nights. (Good luck with this! I know you'll finish and it'll be another brilliant women's fiction story. :)

Thanks so much for visiting, Cathy, and thanks to everyone for reading!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Roller Coasters of the Literal and Figurative Variety

First of all: Happy Bastille Day to all of you French people out there (and, also, to anyone who's ever spent several years studying French :). Everybody should eat a chocolate croisant or drink some good Bordeaux wine in celebration. Just say oui!

Secondly: I did my drawing for the Friday Mornings at Nine t-shirt and the Starbucks coffee package this afternoon...and congrats to TINA for winning this prize! Please email me with your address (MarilynBrant AT Gmail DOT com) so I can get it out to you. Hope you'll enjoy both!!

Finally: Yesterday was my annual Six Flags roller-coaster-a-thon with my son. We go just once per summer, but we're there ALL day. Yes, 12 full hours, from opening to closing. And, aside from a couple of quick meals, we don't stop moving.

We went on coasters 20+ times...from the Viper and the Iron Wolf to the Demon and the Raging Bull to a slew of other rides that spun us and flipped us and rocketed us around in the hot summer air. Our hands-down favorite of the day, however, was the American Eagle...a coaster I remember riding for the first time in the mid-1980s as a teenager.

Yesterday, with my pre-teen son, I went on it five times.

Twice on the red train.
Three times on the blue.
Twice at night.
Three times during the day.
We just kept going back to it, despite having had fun on the others... Why? Because it was the perfect coaster for us. Lots of thrilling drops and twists. A fabulous climb--slow but very high--and the cause for great anticipation. (Especially when we were in the first car, staring down that wooden mountain!) A long enough ride to make the wait worth it, but a journey filled with moments where passengers were able to catch their breath, too. It was paced just beautifully, and it was simultaneously exhilerating and scary.

I couldn't help but think, after a few times around, how like the process of getting a book published it was--especially now, as I'm readying myself for my second publishing ride. I know a bit more of what to expect this time: There's usually a long wait to even get on the train. (Although, at the right time of night...or if your contract negotiations go smoothly, the process can go faster.) There's the high climb of writing the book, revising it and getting ready for publication. There's the thrilling descent as the new novel drops into the world and people begin to react to it. (Some by screaming very loudly.) There are the twists and turns that follow--a handful you remember and anticipate from a previous ride, others you don't. And there's the absolutely certainty at some point in the journey that you just can't take it anymore. It's too fast! Too much! What were you THINKING getting on this crazy track?! But you finish the circuit and find yourself running back to the line again, waiting to get on another train so you can do it one more time.

Everybody, raise your hands high in the air with me, feel the rush of the wind against your face and scream, "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!"

Yeah. Just like that ;).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Three Cool Things

1. My friend and fabulous author Laura Moore has the cover art now for her new book, Believe in Me--coming January 26, 2011!! This is the second in her Rosewood Trilogy. I loved book one, Remember Me, and am anxious for this one to hit the shelves, too! (But look at that poor man on the cover...having to wear a shirt in the heat like that. I do wish--for his own sake, of course--that we could convince him to remove it completely. ;)

2. I totally love being one of the lucky "Beta Testers" that Starbucks sends coffee treats to on occasion...LOVE it! Especially when I get a box on my doorstep with more VIA® Ready Brew (you all already know what a fan I am :) AND, to my surprise and delight, the new Starbucks VIA® Iced Coffee! It is GREAT!! (And, no, they didn't tell me to say that. They do not, in fact, even know I'm blogging about it, but I was excited and wanted to share.) I checked it out online and came across this coupon for $1.00 off a 5-pack (good until 8-29-10, reg. price $5.95), just in case anyone is inclined to try it for themselves. Or...

3. You could simply win this Friday Mornings at Nine T-shirt & Starbucks VIA® Coffee package* from me! Why? All together now: Because it's a Friday morning at NINE and I've grown really attached to hosting giveaways then :). I'll pick the winner next Wednesday, the 14th, from those who leave a comment in this post. If you don't win this time, don't worry, there will be more drawings soon...AND, if you're going to be at the RWA National Conference in Orlando, stop by my table during the Wednesday night Literacy Signing and I'll just give you a coffee packet!!

Okay, that's it for me. I'm headed offline for much of the weekend to write, write, write, but I'll be thinking about you all and wishing you a relaxing few days. Anyone got fun plans??

*Coffee package includes Starbucks VIA® 3-pack Italian Roast (regular), 3-pack Italian Roast (decaf), 3-pack Colombia (regular), and 2 individual servings of Iced VIA® (sweetened). YUM!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fabulous Florida...and Beyond

This is one of my favorite photos from our recent trip: a Sarasota sunset. A place so beautiful along the Gulf that I was tempted to frame every photo I snapped of it. I can't tell you how much I'm hoping that the oil spill can be contained before it reaches this gorgeous area...

On our way to visit there, we stopped at Mammouth Caves, where I'm VERY happy to say that we DIDN'T see the bats that the ranger threatened, I mean, mentioned might be inside. My son, however, was quite disappointed. (I'll admit, it was a pretty cool two-hour tour into the underground depths, but I was happy to be back in the sunlight again.)

Somewhere in Charleston, SC we made a new friend. My son named him "Mr. Gray," and he did not seem to mind at all our nearness or our interest in photographing him. Much like a wannabe model on "Project Runway," he seemed rather used to it--LOL.

We also visited the famous fort at St. Augustine. LOVED the view of those swaying palm trees. The Midwesterner in me is always awed by such sites.

And, finally, the Siesta Key coastline during the heat of the day. Look at that white sand!! That breathtakingly blue water!! Sigh... It was great to visit.

However, we are now home and--at 9am--I did a drawing for the winner of the Friday Mornings at Nine ARC. Congrats to Edie Ramer!! Please email me your address so I can mail it out to you next week ;).

To my Canadian friends, hope you all had a fabulous Canada Day yesterday! To those friends in the States, wishing you an awesome 4th of July! And to everyone, everywhere, may you all have a wonderful weekend!