May I never grow too old to treasure 'once upon a time'. ~ Anonymous

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oh My Blog!! A Delayed Gratification for the OMB Award

I apologize to my dear friend and fellow blogger Zakiya of http://walkingbutterflyfeet.blogspot.com/ because she so sweetly nominated me for the Oh My Blog! Award. And, like the bad little busy bee I’ve been, I have yet to properly thank her. Do first, BIG shout out to Zakiya for nominating me the OMB Award! (Can you do shout outs on Blogs? Oh, well. I just did.)


Here are the Rules of the OMB Award:

1.) Get Really Excited that you Got the COOLEST award EVER!!!! (Already done…a while ago (sorry!)

2. Choose ONE of the Following Options pf Accepting the OMB Award:

 Get really drunk and blog for 15 minutes straight, or for as long as you can focus. (Ha…I don’t think ANYONE wants to listen to me rant when I drink…next, please….)

 Write About Your Most Embarrassing Moment

 Write a “Soundtrack of Your Childhood” Post

 Make your next Blog a “Vlog” (Video blog). Basically, you’re talking to the camera about whatever.

 Take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning, before you do anything else (hair, make-up, etc.) and post it.

3. Pass the award on to at least three, but preferably more, awesome bloggers. Don’t forget to tell them!

The Next Oh My Blog Award goes to…Drum Roll, Please!: (in no particular order…Where You Wish Upon A Star does in no way play favorites like that)

 *Carla of
http://carlassecretlifeofbooks.blogspot.com/







*The “Bookalicious” woman behind http://www.bookalicious-ramblings.net/



 *And the Park Avenue Princess  at http://aparkavenueprincess.blogspot.com/

And now for my OMB Statement I chose to write about the "Soundtrack to my Childhood".  This basically entails all those songs you might sing to pass the time on a long road trip, a few of the classics and a few made up ones courtesy of my sister and me. As a kid, we spent a lot of time in the car, traveling to see my grandparents in Michigan and then in Connecticut when they moved. As we got older the car rides were a little shorter (only marginally so) as my sister and I travelled New England to go to tennis tournaments every weekend. Here is our music:
"On the Road Again" - Willie Nelson
"Mommy Made Me New Clothes" - Me & My Sister
"Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round" - Sing Along Songs
"99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" - Sing Along Songs
"Down by the Bay"- Sing Along Songs
"Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat..."- Sing Along Songs
"Oh My Darling Clementine"- Sing Along Songs
"Miss Mary Mack"- Sing Along Songs
"She'll Be Comin Round the Mountain"- Sing Along Songs
"Puff the Magic Dragon"- Sing Along Songs
"Rockin' Robin"- Sing Along Songs
"He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" - Sing Along Songs
"Runnin' Down a Dream" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

As we got older, our parents introduced us to classic rock and the ladies of the eighties and early nineties. We would listen to everything from Tom Petty, The Eagle, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin, REO Speedwagon, Fleetwood Mac, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, The Bangles, Belinda Carlisle and so many more. To this day, I have such a strong love of music that is so varied, one might think it a little bizarre, but I love it. I think there is a song for every season, event, mood, feeling, day and of course, car ride.
Thank you so much again, Zakiya, for nominating me for the Oh My Blog! Award. Thank you to my blog readers for taking a short break form my posts about reading and writing Chick Lit. I can't wait to hear from all those I nominated and what OMB category they will choose to write about.

Coming Very Soon. Look out for my next post on Outlining your Chick Lit Fiction Novel.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Star Book Review: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl (Audio CD) by Belle du Jour; Narrated by Anonymous

     For a novel that came out with so many covers and editions and spawned a hit TV show, I guess I was hoping for a little something more from The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. I don't know what exactly I was expecting out of this book, but I guess something different or something more...it was enjoyable in parts but I also felt it was too much "in parts”. Written and told in diary entry prose, it followed the course of about a year in the life of Belle du Jour after she graduated from college and became a High Madam in London. After a night out, a few too many drinks, a very wealthy couple and a sweet proposition followed by a cool payout, Belle quickly calculates just how easy her life (and finances) could become should she choose to make a lifestyle of sex, outward appearances and a little S&M her full-time job. She finds a reputable agency to represent her and handle the business aspects of the job, and so the story begins, with vignette after vignette filled with each of her conquests, from rich men to freaks, lonely men to boyfriends and of course, friends and ex-boyfriends. Listen in to hear Belle’s revelations on how a woman really can survive mentally, physically, emotionally and reputably as an escort in London. Despite some raunchy, kinky and otherwise graphic scenes it surprisingly, never seemed too shocking and I’d imagine that was due to the even, nonchalant tone with which Belle spoke throughout the entire narrative.


     One of my only complaints about the audio version of this story was that all of the diary entry dates were read solely in French so I couldn't always understand what date it was precisely. For the most part, I could infer the month, but my knowledge of French dates is very limited. Then I thought, for a "London" book, it was kind of odd to speak French. Maybe it was to emphasize Belle’s “classiness” as a high-end Escort and it served to differentiate her from other types of Call Girls. That said, I did love the narrator. She spoke clearly, loudly, eloquently and had a lovely accent. She reminded me a lot of the narrator of the Debutante Divorcee. I’m not sure I’ll ever know if they are, in fact, the same talented woman because the Intimate Adventures narrator was only known as "Anonymous".

     Overall, I'd hoped for a little more of a climactic arc but was left with a few enjoyable, individual pieces – there was nothing too outrageous, nothing too dull. You might just have to read or listen to this one for yourself to make your own determination.

 3 Stars
                           
     On a side note: After reading this book by “Belle du Jour”, basically just another name for “Anonymous” or really, “Beauty of the Day”, I wondered who the woman behind the book really was and if she even existed at all. I started to see the name “Brooke Magnanti” popping up in all over online searches. I couldn’t believe it. Could it be? The real Belle du Jour? Apparently, Dr. (yes, Ph.D.) Brooke Magnanti, at 33, came out, just as unabashedly as she told her story as “Belle”, admitting to the world the she was the real live Belle du Jour for which the story was written, the TV show produced and who actually lived in London as a high-class escort from 2003 to 2004 during her post-graduate years. While financial debt led her to the routine of meeting men and pleasing them for large sums of money, it’s doubtful that her current career and ambitions as a Bristol Initiative Researcher for Children’s Health will ever leave her squandering for pennies again.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Star Book Review: My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict’s Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto by Jen Lancaster, Narrated by Jaime Heinlein


The fifth installment of a set of memoirs written by and about Jen Lancaster does not disappoint! In fact, partners, Jen Lancaster and narrator Jaime Heinlen hit a proverbial home run in the publishing department for audio listeners of Penguin Audio. I only found out about the works of Jen Lancaster earlier this very same year when I got back into reading Chick Lit and joined several online book groups to discuss similar fictional and non-fictional novels. Since January, I have sped-read through all of Jen Lancaster's novels in anticipation of her latest release, My Fair Lazy (featured here). Between her first book, Bitter is the New Black and My Fair Lazy, there is a tight race vying for my favorite. I know one thing's for sure though, I already CAN'T WAIT for my next fix of comedienne, Jen Lancaster. Luckily enough for me, I recently found out (through her hilarious blog, http://www.jennsylvania.com/) that she is part of a weekly column feature, the Humor Hotel, which features her and three other funny authors writing about what she writes about best: making notable observations on pop-culture (Read: Making fun of the latest and greatest); talking about the roller coaster ride that is every relationship; gossip at the water cooler (or what happens at work), her unique, oh so very personal, take on life and finally, any other random nuance that enters her mind and lands on the published page. Basically, in a nutshell, her column, is a mini-version of one of her full-length books and something I plan to read up on as soon as I go into Jen-Lancaster-humor-withdrawal.

So, back to My Fair Lazy (notice how I'm trying hard to hang on to the very last shred of whatever I can get of her latest book to tide me over until the next release - there will be another release, right?!?!? Right???!) Okay, anyways, if you haven't guessed already, I LOVED My Fair Lazy. Once again, Jen Lancaster takes  a creative spin on a satirical memoir, this time pondering the modern quest of whether or not there Reality TV has taken the place of America's "cultural" warfare? Jen Lancaster determines that, surely, there must be life out there beyond that offered by the programming of Bunim and Murray, but what? And, so she sets off on her "cultural manifesto".

In classic Jennsylvania style, Jen Lancaster begins to include adding all sorts of "cultural" activities to her daily routine - from getting her nails done at a Vietnamese nail salon, to visiting museums in various cities, eating every kind of ethnic cuisine possible, going to the opera, listening to jazz and learning poetry for the first time and anything else that might provide a more enlightening cultural experience than Season 15 of MTV’s The Real World. With hilarious vignette after hilarious vignette, readers get to indulge further into the uniquely, insightful mind and outrageous events that make up Jen Lancaster's life. I love how she manages to take so many excerpts from her life and turn it into an entire collection of related moments, by integrating her latest book tour, visits with old friends, taking care of her (multiplying) pets (and Fletch) and of course, in this novel the purpose of it all: "culturing up". I always love listening to these books so much more than reading them myself because Jaime Heinlein does the BEST job of narrating how I imagine each story to be told - she maintains all the sarcasm, humor, slight arrogance and naiveté (if you can have both at once) throughout every word. This may just be the pair's best release yet!! I can't wait to find out what the next saga will bring. To be read anytime you need a laugh or a smile, or just a break from reality.   

Four Stars:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Fair Book Cover: or Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover (Or its Title)

How do you decide how to title your book or make a cover? There must be a lot of marketing involved in these plans because covers, and even titles, sometimes, change depending on which country the book is going to be released in. For example, if you look at the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella, I noticed that the US released books are very bright, colorful and cartoonish. This is in contrast to The UK released editions which are still cartoonish but dimmer in color hues and more emphasis is placed on the words in the title. (Se below):




UK (Left)     Vs.     US (Right)




As you can see the UK versions of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series all conformed to the same style of cover. The US also had unity in their covers, however, by the 5th book in the series, Shopaholic and Baby, they no longer maintained the Shopping “tag” look and instead, conformed to the Shopping “bag” covers which were created for a second release in the US. The latest Shopaholic novel, Mini Shopaholic has deterred from the convention of both the UK and US art work (as you can see below). However, the UK edition still maintains a “duller” appearance using softer colors, whereas the US edition maintains its vibrancy:








     UK (Left)  Vs.  US (Right)










An even more obvious example of the difference between the UK and US editions of a book’s release is evident in Lindsey Kelk’s debut “I Heart” series. The UK books have more emphasis on the words in the title and the color palette of the novel is much plainer. This is in stark contrast to the US released “I Heart” novels in which the covers portray a cartoon woman with luggage in tow, staring off into the distance of the city of the book’s title. In fact, I recently ordered the first novel of the series, I Heart New York, and was somewhat disappointed that I received the more “bland” UK edition (See the difference below):






UK (Left) VS. US (Right)
















Having received this book, it really got me thinking about what makes a cover so much more appealing to me than others? You know when you walk into a bookstore, solely to peruse the shelves and you don’t really know exactly what you are looking for but there is a brilliantly colored book (or two) that catches your eye like a diamond shining brightly in the middle of the masses of other books in the room. Or you keep taking books out by their spine to see what they are called, maybe they are written by a familiar author or maybe it was because that flashy cover caught your attention – either way, something about the title either grabs you and keeps your attention or causes you to gently place it back on the shelf (or maybe not so gently if it arouses something displeasing in your mind). So what is it that makes or breaks these books? Is it the bright cartoon characters on the cover or lack thereof? Is it the alliteration, irony or satirical nature of the title? You know the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Do we really live up to this demand on readers? Is it really possible not to form a preliminary opinion on a book, its author and/or its content based on our first glance impression of its cover page? I’m sure if you ask the marketing team that created that cover, they would most gladly (and proudly) shake their heads, “no”. After all, if we did not all make an initial judgment on the book, they would be out of a job!

So what I want to know is: what draws you to pick up one book over another? What kinds of titles make you think “Now that’s a book I’d like to read?” And if you are an author (aspiring, published or otherwise), please share with me how you chose your title and what kind of input (if any) you had on your book’s cover? As a psychology major, I am always curious about the inner workings of the human mind and spirit. So what makes a book signal out to the brain that feeling of happiness and glee that comes when we make our final purchase and bring it home to place amongst the rest of our collection on its proper shelf? I know for me, I love bright, nail polish colors, I love the cartoons and I love the vibrancy I see on each chick lit cover. As far as titles go, I also really love books that make a play on words, like a double entendre, or those that use alliteration, irony, an allegory, historical or other reference. For example, even when I create blog posts, I often try to make my titles a play on words by using the existing title of a book I'm currently reading and twisting it up to reflect the post's content. Now your turn: What books draw your eye?


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Star Book Review: I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk

     Part Two of a 25 Point Task for Red Dress Ink's Sizzling Summer Reading Challenge: City, State and Country; I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk read and reviewed July 17, 2010:
     An excellent debut novel from British author and self-proclaimed lover of New York, Lindsey Kelk. The pages literally kept flying by as I entered the life of British girl, Angela Clark and her "runaway" trip to the Big Apple in I Heart New York. Having just caught her boyfriend, Mark, with his pants around his ankles at her best friend's wedding and realizing that all her friends knew about his affair, Angela is distraught. Quicker than a flash, Angela storms out of the wedding (not wihtout telling off best friend, Louisa and her new hubby) and hops the first plane to New York City. Not sure of where she is going, what she is going to do or how long she is going to stay, Angela takes up residency at an Upscale hotel, The Union, and literally shops 'til she drops. Along the way, she meets some really good people and it's not long before she's living in an apartment with newest bff, Jenny, working as a blog writer for The Look and "shagging" two hot boys at once. Has Angela found a new home and new life in NYC? Find out what happens when Angela must finally confront who she really is and answer some life long questions she's been avoiding. An excellent novel about love, life and the relationships we have with others and most importantly, ourselves. I found myself thinking as I read this book, that similar to the style of Emily Giffin, there is really not a whole lot of action that goes on in this novel - but it is more a saga of relationships, with friends and one's self. It amazed me how entertaining it is and fulfilling a book can be when it's spent really getting to know the characters. I can't wait to find out what's in store for Angela in Lindsey Kelk's sequel, I Heart Hollywood. Definitely recommended to all Chick Lit Fans! A-Plus.       
                                            4 STARS:  










Star Book Review: Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate by Kyra Davis

     Break Out of the Box - at least that was the first part to the demands made of me for Red Dress Ink Reading Challenge Task #9 in the 5 point Category: Read a Chick Lit Mystery.

     Once again, I turned to Kyra Davis and her Sophie Katz series for murder, mystique and a litttle sex and candy. Hey, what could possibly NOT be entertaining about that combo?? Well, I know for me, mysteries are my second favorite genre to that of Chick Lit, so any book that combines the two probably doesn't have to try to hard to please my interests. Also, Kyra Davis is one of those authors who (at least to me) gets better and better at her craft the more she writes. The story becomes more involved, more intricate and more entertaining as the series continues. I also love how she maintains the core group of characters. In fact the only person not in all of them (that i can think of) is sister, Leah, who isn't introduced until book two. She does an excellent job of maintaining consistency in that core group of characters, making the reader feel like they really know this San Franciscan group (not to be called Frsico under ANY circumstances:))
However, now that I'm on my third novel in this murderous and fashionable series, it is somewhat easier to reminisce about its good moments. For instance, I have listened to all the unabridged audio books in the Sophie Katz series so far and I wasn't always so enthusiastic about them. The first book (not my favorite) was a new experience for me (to say the least). First, I had never read (or listened to) a chick lit mystery before Sex, Murder and a Double Latte so I eally didn't know what to expect from the genre. Second, the narrator, although varied in her vocal talent, was also dissimilar from many of the narrators I had listened to thus far. I guess I was used to the sweet, soft, very feminine (and often British) sounding voices of women, like Katherine Kellgren, Rosalyn Landor and Kathleen McIneney. For the Sophie Katz' anthology, Kyra Davis teams up with Gabra Zackman, who has a more alto (than soprano) sounding voice. It can get somehat gruff, even for the female characters. I think, more than anything, it caught me by surprise in the first audio book and by the third book, I didn't even think twice about her tone of voice. Perhaps Ms. Zackman's talents also grew over the years, the more she got to know the collection of interesting and diverse characters in Sophie Katz' life but maybe also I just became more open to different voices. As I listened to Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate, I credited Ms. Zackman for her efforts in portraying such a wide range of characters - this third installment seemed to have more characters than the first or second book required of its narrator - and I can't imagine how difficult it must be to constantly (and believably) change one's voice so that your audience can differentiate between them. Well done, I say. Overall, Gabra Zackman, and Kyra Davis once again offer listeners a thrilling, murderous, scandalous and sexy mystery with Sophie Katz and on-again off-again boyfriend, Anatoly Darinksky, on the hunt for their killer. As always tensions are high (and not just between Anatoly and Sophie) and listeners are kept guessing "whodunit" until the very end. Definitely recommended to Chick Lit and Mystery readers alike.
 
                                                                                         4 STARS:


Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Seven Year Speech: Tips for Writing Dialogue in Fiction

I have a love-hate relationship with writing dialogue. Some days I skip over it and other days it's all I want to write. I've been looking for some tips on writing and improving my dialogue and this is what I've gathered so far. Hope some of you find it helpful and please, share any tips you may have too!

Read it!

Always read your writing aloud – you want to make sure that it sounds realistic. Would you actually say something like this in real life? Try to make dialogue sound as natural as possible. Watch out for clichés and oddly archaic sounding conversation bits. Delete unnecessary dialogue, superfluous or filler words, phrases, descriptions, repetitive information that a character may say to clarify a scene or setting (The action in your story should be sufficient to fulfill the imagination of your readers so that they can visualize the scene at hand.) On a similar note, when in doubt, use a VERB. “Verbs are our friends.” Ask yourself: Do my characters sound natural or forced? Are they coherent or all over the place?


Read More!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, reading can be a great research tool. Look carefully at the dialogue used in other works of fiction and how it effectively fits into a scene, character description, relationship, etc. Ask yourself: Why was it used where it was placed in the story? What was effective about it? What was not effective about it? Could you have written it any differently?

 
Vary word choice.


You don’t want your dialogue to read like this: He said. She Said. She was going to say. He’d said out loud by accident. If he hadn’t said that, he would have said this. Use profanity and slang as little as possible – also be wary of stereotyping. Ask yourself: Is my dialogue active or passive? What makes this word choice better than another? Can I replace any of my dialogue with description? Or a more concrete statement/question/exclamation, etc.?



Congruency


You also want to be cognizant of the relationship between what your character is saying, their personality and the situation. Would your character truly say something like she just did? Or would it be better fit for another character to make such an exclamation? Ask yourself: Does my dialogue have fluency? Is it varied in its rhythm in accord with the story’s tone and setting?



Punctuation

Be wary of punctuation! Don’t go comma crazy. You almost never need exclamation points – the dialogue should infer the expression on its own (and if it doesn’t, think about revising.) Delete any (and ALL) unnecessary dialogue tags. Also, beware of excessive dialogue modifiers (many times you can just put dialogue in quotes with no “she said, he cried, she exclaimed, he pondered,” etc. etc. Ask yourself: Am I punctuating my dialogue correctly? Or am I confusing my reader with commas, apostrophes and tag lines all over the page?



Naming


Do you ever notice that you almost NEVER say another person’s name back to them in casual speech? Try not to have characters use another character’s name in speech to establish identity. If this is necessary in your dialogue, remember, it is most often typical of characters, such as car salesmen. When editing (see below) ask yourself: Are your characters are so individualized by their speech that you don’t even need to use things like “Joanne said.”?



Edit, edit, edit!


I have read over and over (and over) again that the delete key on your computer’s keyboard is your friend. Simplify, combine, make more concrete and clean up your dialogue. You will likely be surprised to find that you can say the same thing in half the amount of words you originally wrote. Ask yourself: What is the purpose for the dialogue here? Does it advance my story? Reveal something new about a character? Does it provide other important information? (Hint: Here are four reasons for dialogue: To convey exposition - to tell us, through the conversations of the characters, what we need to know to make sense of the story; to convey character - to show us what kinds of people we're dealing with; to convey a sense of place and time - to evoke the speech patterns, vocabulary and rhythms of specific kinds of people; and finally, to develop conflict: to show how some people use language to dominate others, or fail to do so.)



I found a web site that has some great (and fun) exercises that are applicable to the art of writing dialogue for fiction. My personal favorites are #1, 2, 4 and 10. If you happen to try any of these, feel free to post the exercise in my comments section. I’d love to see how your interpretation of the dialogue practice turns out!

Please see below for details of refer to their site:
http://www.poewar.com/12-exercises-for-improving-dialogue/


1 Write down the things you say over the course of the day. Examine your own speech patterns. You don’t have to get every word, but you may find that you say less than you think and that your statements are surprisingly short. You might also find that you rarely speak in complete sentences.



2 Find a crowded place such as a restaurant, a bar, or a shopping mall and write down snippets of the conversations you hear. Avoid trying to record whole conversations, just follow along for a brief exchange and then listen for your next target. If you are worried about looking suspicious, you might want to purchase a Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor or other hand-held PDA device. These handy spy tools make it look like you are conducting business or playing with your favorite electronic toy rather than eavesdropping.



3 Test responses to the same question. Think of a question that will require at least a little thought, and ask it of several different people. Compare their responses. Remember that you are focused on their words. Write them down as soon as you can.



4 Record several different TV shows. Some choices include: sitcom, news, drama, talk show, infomercial, sporting event, etc.). Write down a transcript using just the dialog and people’s names. If you don’t know the names, just use a description such as announcer or redheaded woman. You can also transcribe two shows of the same genre, using one show you like and one you dislike. Compare dialog between the fiction and non-fiction programming you recorded. Look for such things as greetings, descriptions of physical actions, complete sentences, slang, verbal ticks (Such as like, you know, uhhhh, well, etc.). Compare how these dialog crutches change according to the show format and quality.



5 Rewrite one or more of the shows in exercise 4 as prose, trying to recreate the show as accurately as possible. Note how easy or difficult it is to work in the entire dialog from the show. Does it seem to flow naturally and read well or does it get in your way. Rewrite again eliminating any dialog you feel is unnecessary. Try not to change any dialog though until your final draft. Work with what you have. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to rewrite the whole show. Do enough to be sure you have the feeling for it.



6 Rewrite one of the transcripts from exercise 4 using as much of the dialog as possible, but changing the scene in as many ways as possible. Change the setting, change the people’s intent, and change the tone. See how easy or difficult it is to give the same words a different intent. Again, do enough to be sure you have the feeling for it.



7 Write the dialog for a scene without using any modifiers. Just write down a conversation as it goes along naturally. After you have completed the dialog, add narrative description, but not dialog tags such as said, shouted or ordered. Instead, try to work the dialog into the action as a logical progression of the statements. Finally, add any dialog tags that are absolutely necessary, and keep them simple such as said, told, or asked. Again, only put them in if you can find not other options. Compare this to the previous dialog you have written and see what you like or dislike about the changes.



8 Write a scene in which one person tells another person a story. Make sure that you write it as a dialog and not just a first person narrative, but clearly have one person telling the story and the other person listening and asking questions or making comments. The purpose of this scene will be both to have the story stand alone as a subject, and to have the characters’ reactions to the story be the focal point of the scene.


9 Write a scene in which one person is listening to two other people have an argument or discussion. For example, a child listening to her parents argue about money. Have the third character narrate the argument and explain what is going on, but have the other two provide the entire dialog. It is not necessary to have the narrator understand the argument completely. Miscommunication is a major aspect of dialog.



10 Write a conversation between two liars. Give everything they say a double or triple meaning. Never state or indicate through outside description that these two people are lying. Let the reader figure it out strictly from the dialog. Try not to be obvious, such as having one person accuse the other of lying. That is too easy.



11 Write a conversation in which no character speaks more than three words per line of dialog. Again, avoid crutches such as explaining everything they say through narration. Use your narration to enhance the scene, not explain the dialog.



12 Write a narrative or scripted scene in which several characters are taking an active role in the conversation. This can be a difficult aspect of dialog to master, because with each additional character, the reader or audience must be able to keep track of the motivations and interests of the individuals involved. This can be especially difficult in prose, where the time between one character speaking and the next can be interrupted by action or description. See how many characters your can sustain within the scene and still have it make sense and be engaging.



I will be looking more closely at the dialogue written in the books I am currently reading and I plan to provide a follow-up post to this one on dialogue soon thereafter. If you have any suggestions for books that you’ve noticed to be extremely well-versed in the art of writing dialogue, please let me know here (either with, title and/or author, or even better yet, with an example of some of the dialogue written).






As always, thanks for reading and Happy Writing!


The Summer of Chick Lit and Me

     If you read my blog or are a member of any book groups on Goodreads, you may know that I am a bit of a Goodreads junkie (Self-proclaimed, of course – I have never been good about denying things – I’m like one of those people who wears my expression all over my face.) I recently joined a new group called, Book Blog Networking, and it is turning into one of my favorite groups on GR. It is a wonderful networking tool. It provides access to limitless book review blogs. I have met some really great people who share the same interests in reading and blogs as me; and finally, the network is a great place to sound off ideas, troubleshoot technical problems and get help and advice on any other aspect of blogging that might pop up. It has also inspired me to create a second blog and to be more diligent about posting on my original blog.


     This summer I am participating in (yet another) reading challenge with the GR group, Red Dress Ink Fans; and although I am off to a slow start (with nothing but a poor excuse), my goal is to post the books I read and write a review for each one as I cross them off my TBR list. The current challenge is what I consider a “Reading Scavenger Hunt”. You must find books that fit into various categories and after you’ve used a book for one category, you cannot double up and count it for another category. For example, the first book I read is going to be part of a three (3) book series for a 25 point task that correspond with a City, State, and Country. I just finished listening to the unabridged audio book of All-American Girl by Meg Cabot (country), am currently reading the paperback, I Heart New York Lindsey Kelk and I plan to either read Hollywood Car Wash by Lori Culwell or listen to Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle du Jour to round out the category.

     Below you can see the book covers of all the books on my reading challenge list, each corresponding with a specific category. If you are dying to read a review for one of the books on my list, please let me know and I will prioritize it on my TBR list this summer. (Sometimes I have a hard time choosing which one to read next because to me (of course) they all look great! So really, you’d be doing me a favor by making a request. Thanks so much. And, enjoy!



     All-American Girl is the first in a two-book series by Meg Cabot, narrated by Ariadne Myers, that follows Samantha Madison as she comes of age in the Presidential setting of Washington, D.C. Samantha is in high-school who has a passion for drawing and her sister’s boyfriend, Jack. As much as she loves art, she despises Susan Boone’s drawing classes, which she has been mandated to take since being caught charging students at John Adams Preparatory High for her celebrity caricatures. One day when Samantha decides she’s going to skip SB’s art class, she stands in a crowd to watch as a parade takes place in the heart of DC’s political arena. She notices an odd-looking man listening to Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl on repeat, and before she even has time to think about what she’s doing, Samantha finds herself jumping in the middle of a bullet from Mr. Uptown Girl and Mr. President, himself. Her courage and bravery catapult her into the spotlight (that and a broken arm that brings her to a local hospital) and Sam becomes an overnight celebrity. Everyone knows her name and everyone wants to be her friend – kids at school even start dressing in all black just like her. She never could have imagined life like this and now she must grow up and learn about relationships, love, family, the way of the world, and a little bit of politics in front of the public eye. Will everyone find out that she has a huge crush on her sister’s boyfriend? Will everyone start idolizing Gwen Stefani and become fascinated with art and drawing? Finally, what about David, he president’s son? Could Samantha be developing feelings for him? As her art teacher so eloquently puts, hear what happens when Samantha learns the difference between “seeing and knowing” and “hearing and listening” in this YA audio book. Ariadne Myers, who has put the voice to many YA audio books, by other Chick Lit authors such as Sarah Mlynowski, does an excellent job creating a different tone for each character in Meg Cabot’s All-American Girl. From “rebel” Jack, teen queen and big sister, Lucy to Presidential hunk and artist, David and of course, the red-headed, average, middle child Samantha and all the characters in between, Myers creates a believable world of young adult life in Washington, DC.
     I can’t wait to listen to what happens in the sequel, Ready or Not.

     Rating: 3 out of 5 STARS.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Exclusive video extract from Mini Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella

I am so excited to share this on my blog page with all my fellow Chick Lit Readers and Writers!! Sophie Kinsella's newest Shopaholic book is due out in September and we are sure to get a laugh-a-page with Becky Bloomwood and the newest edition to her and Luke's family. See the exclusive link (here) of Sophie Kinsella reading and extract from the book herself. (I grabbed the feed from her website http://www.sophiekinsella.co.uk/). Also, in other Sophie Kinsella/Madeleine Wickham news, I saw at my local bookstore this weekend (and read on her website thereafter) that the books published under her real name, Madeleine Wickham are being rereleased with all new covers, one after another. The first two are A Desirable Residence and Cocktails for Three. I thought it was interesting (but smart marketing!) how the covers both say, "Sophie Kinsella as Madeleine Wickham" even though MW is her REAL name.


Just some fun chick lit news. Hope it brightens up your Monday!



Sunday, July 11, 2010

Framework, Fiction and a Java Chip Frappucino

Structure & Framework for Fiction Writers: How do you format your novel?


     There seems to be limitless ways to format one’s work of fiction; whether you choose to set up your chapters from A to Z, as in The ABCs of Love by Sarah Salway, with Letters from one’s Credit Card Company in between each chapter as in the Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella or the story may revolve around the Stages of Grief as Lolly Winston did in her debut novel, Good Grief (Mlynowski, S. &; Jacobs, F. Once one book takes off with a certain format, many follow suit and although there may be many variations of one type of format, what was once considered creative and innovative, may all of a sudden appear redundant and outdated. In fact, the very first book I ever read in a similar fashion (predating emails) was Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. This classic story tells the true and perilous story of a drug addict via excerpts from the pages of one woman’s diary. As mentioned, since its release in 1971, there have been countless others like it. For instance, Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding was the first “modern” chick lit novel I read that was written in purely email/letter format. Since then, I have seen many more books written like this. To name a few, there was Love, Rosie (aka Chasing Rainbows) by Cecelia Ahern, Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham (which it has since been revealed that Ms. Denham is actually a Mr. – but that is a topic for another day – pseudonyms, ghost writers and such); Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers, The Guy Next Door by Meg Cabot; and Wanderlust by Chris Dyer. I’m sure there are many, many more. I love to see the differences in addition to the unique ways authors set up their books and I wonder how they decide what the best format for their story is? Is it based on plot? Characters? Setting? Once a certain format has been done to death, how does an author decide it’s time to move on to a new set up? For instance, seeing as how the diary/email template has been popular throughout the past 50 years, changing slightly with technology, I wonder if the “blog formatted” book will be the next step in this type of framework.

Other authors who I’ve noticed use unique formatting techniques in various novels:


     Emily Giffin in Heart of the Matter – Chapters alternate from the perspectives of two main characters, Tess and Val; Similarly, her two-book series, Something Borrowed and Something Blue, as a whole, each book chronicles the same incident but told from the alternate perspectives of two best friends – the first from Rachel’s view and the second, from Darcy’s eyes.
 
     **Something Borrowed is currently being filmed in NYC with stars, Kate Hudson, Colin Farrell, and Ginnifer Goodwin.



     Meg Cabot in Queen of Babble Series – Chapters begin with a “fashion history” framework; In the first book, chapters are separated by segments on the history of women’s fashion. Books 2 (QOB…In the Big City) and 3 (...Gets Hitched) have similar intermediary sections. For instance, QOB…In the Big City, has interesting tidbits regarding “vintage” and “worldly” wedding dresses in between its chapters.


     **I also just came across an article that says Queen of Babble was supposed to be opted for a movie starring Kristen Bell as Lizzie Nichols. Unfortunately, this post was from a few years ago, and it’s possible this screenplay got lost in the shuffle of novels to be made into Hollywood scripts.

     I also just started listening to All-American Girl by Meg Cabot and in more chapters than not, she separates the end of one from the next with a “Top Ten” List. For example, at the end of Chapter 13, she lists the “Top Ten Ways You Know You Made the In Crowd”. I will be on the look out for the second book in the Series to see if she organizes it in a similar way.


     Another series that has become one of my most beloved includes Kyra Davis' Sophie Katz' Chick Lit Mysteries: Sex, Murder and a Double Latte; Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights; Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate; Lust, Loathing and a Little Lipgloss; Vows, Vendettas and a Little Black Dress. I love how her series is about a mystery author who constantly gets involved in a real-life mysery/murder of her own. In accord with the running theme of framework, I also admire the consistency with which Ms. Davis uses her character's latest book release as an Introduction to each chapter. For example, in the third book, Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate, each chapter beigns with a quote from Sophie's latest novel, C'est La Mor. I also find it interesting, creative and clever how she has been able to not only set up each chapter with an overall framework by integrating a quote from the main character's own work of fiction, but almost always, I have found that the quote is relevant to the chapter that follows. Well done, Ms. Davis! While I may not have my own niche yet as far as formatting goes, I, like Sophie Katz, find absolute bliss working on the intricacies of my novel while sipping on a Java Chip Frappucino!

     As you can see, there are many different ways to unify your novel. What drives your book’s format? Is it something you think about before you start writing? After you’ve written the whole book or just few chapters? Do you write from A-Z? Do you have a prologue? An epilogue? Do you have any interesting nuances that make your books stand out from the rest of the books on a shelf? Do the covers all look similar, as in Lindsey Kelk's I Heart series with Angela Clark (Cartoon woman looking into the scenery of the city of the book's title, luggage in tow). Do you use intellectual/hsitorical or philosophical quotes to begin each chapter? 

I’d love to hear your ideas for new (or existing) formats.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Queens of Scribble or Who I'd Like to See Pen a Chick Lit Book

"All we care about are the runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles," Lady Gaga




As a member of The Chick Lit Club website I write reviews for audio books by new, old, classic and everyone in between who has ever written (and recorded) a Chick Lit book. For the month of July, we were all asked to contemplate who we would most like to see write a chick lit themed book. As my love for chick lit runs far and wide, you can imagine the difficulty that went into my decision-making on this task. Here is just a sampling of Chick Lit authors who reached celebrity status first:


Model, Incorporated by Carol Alt (Model)

He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not by Claudia Carroll (Dublin TV Actress)

LA Candy (Series) by Lauren Conrad (Reality TV Star)

The Mistress by Martine McCutcheon (Love, Actually – MOVIE Star)

Envy by Colleen Nolan

Revenge by Sharon Osbourne (Reality TV Star, Host, married to Musician Ozzy)

A Model Summer by Paulina Porizkova (Model)

Crystal by Katie Price (Glamour Model Jordan)

The Truth About Diamonds by Nicole Richie (Lionel’s daughter, Paris Hilton’s BFF)

Coming Up Next by Penny Smith

Outside-In by Courtney Thorne-Smith (Melrose Place)

 
 
 
 
Yet, for some reason, the name Lady Gaga and the show Gossip Girl kept popping into my head. Maybe because of all the recent media hype; maybe because of my passion for music that makes me want to put the “pedal to the metal” or maybe just because I think she’s wild and crazy, but ultimately, I chose Lady Gaga as the artist I would most like to see a Chick Lit book written by. She is becoming an icon in the world of fashion (with or without her music) and she never fails to pull out all the stops when making an entrance, anywhere (even if she does sometimes forget to wear her pants!). In fact, I read recently that she applied to join the Philip Treacy team of interns to learn the art behind becoming a fashion designer, specifically hat (see below for some of the outlandish creations she's donned in the past). Perhaps, she can draw on her experiences at PT, a la Lauren Weisberger's muse for The Devil Wears Prada....stranger things have happened....









More UK Celebs and CL  books to come: Fern Britton, My World by Cheryl Cole and Ulrika Jonsson



Some of the celebs I’d love to see write a chick lit novel either about the Fashion or Music industry or maybe just about partying, being a mother, a wife or a person of minority living the “large” life includes, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) and Kanye West. I’d also love to see Gossip Girl actresses Blake Lively and/or Leighton Meister pen a Teen/Young Adult Chick Lit novel. FInally, if I had to pick a Lad Lit book, I'd choose Kanye West, similarly, for his stint at Louis Vuitton and the Gap - I'm sure he has plenty of dramatic material to pull from (regardless!).













Although this may be redundant, since she already came out with a novel on How to Be an Heiress, I would still love to see a Chick Lit novel by Paris Hilton – after all, is there anything the woman hasn’t done yet?? Wouldn’t you love to hear some fictionalized version of real life events that she has the insider scoop on - whether her novel chronicled one woman’s life as a fabulously famous heiress, a reality tv star or even, her stint in jail – this book is sure to fly off bookshelves worldwide.

Until any of the chick lit books on my celebrity wishlist become realities, I will go back to working on my own Chick Lit novel.....