Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Books I Like

For my first ever Books I Like post, I have to begin with Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. I first read this book at 20, and I've loved it ever since. It's the perfect blend of great story and cool writing.

When I read this book, I had been reading a lot of Jeffrey Archer and I was thrilled to realize that TCOMC was really like a classic version of an Archer novel. The ending of Monte Cristo had enough twists and turns to keep me satisfied as a reader who loves a good mystery and it also has a romantic element that had the sap in me entirely satisfied.

Jeffrey Archer remains one of my favorite authors today, so imagine my surprise and delight when I picked up one of his most recent releases and flipped it over to read the back. A Prisoner of Birth is about a man, wrongly framed by four supposed friends and then imprisoned, and details his life in prison and then as he takes his revenge after his jail time. Sound familiar? I can't wait to get into this book, but I'm saving it for a nice, long stretch of summer reading pleasure.

I loved Monte Cristo, and as such recommended it for my book club a few years ago. It timed with the release of the new movie perfectly so after we read the book, we all went to the movie together.

Nice eye candy.

They totally slaughtered the story.

I mean, they totally ruined it, in my humble opinion. But such is often the case.

The book is almost always better.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Write What You Know?

So one of the most basic pieces of writing advice you're ever likely to hear is the old, "write what you know," phrase. It's certainly good advice; when you're writing about something with which you have a lot of experience, it's bound to come off sounding authentic and will draw your reader that much more into your story.

But what if you don't like what you know? Take me, for example. I'm a SAHM with a degree in elementary education. Now, there's probably a great story out there waiting for me where the heroine is a teacher and a bunch of crazy things happen. But that's really not what I want to write about. Now, anyway.

In my books, my characters have time traveled, been doctors, spies, private investigators, archaeologists, antique experts and survivors of the Civil War. Some of my heroes have been accountants, tech guys, former drug addicts, blacksmiths and victims of amnesia.

Nothing in my shorter novels, (those that exclude the Civil War seris), has ever happened to anyone I know. A lot of what I've written is what I call "escape fiction," and is totally out there. That's because it's what I like to read, as well. When I read for enjoyment, I like to be completely and thoroughly entertained.

I also happen to love research.

Eeewww! So many people hate research, but I really love it. And here's one of the biggest benefits to spending a bit of time researching: it becomes what you know! I know, how great is that! If you spend some time becoming familiar with something else- a different occupation, location, time period- you have moved yourself into the realm of knowing something about the subject and when you do that, all sorts of things open up for your writing. Suddenly it becomes very easy to imagine a character with a given set of traits who, when you put her into a given set of circumstances or a profession, takes off on her own.

I suppose what I mean with all of this is that while yes, you will write with your own set of experiences behind you, it's ok to venture out into the unknown and make it known. Don't be intimmidated about writing something you haven't personally experienced just because you haven't personally experienced it.

Crack open a book on ancient Egypt, google archaeology, buy a guidebook on India or England--the sky's the limit if you don't limit yourself.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Streamlining Time!

So I was at Celebrating Sisterhood today at the Redwood Road Seagull. (Shout-out to Edie and her people for putting on a great event!). I got to visit with some friends- Michele Ashman Bell, Jeri Gilchrist, Heather Moore and Angela Eschler.

Anyway, while I was talking to Michele about this whole blogging thing, I realized I need to do what she's doing- streamlining. So NCAllen is now specifically about writing, and Nifty Nancy is where I'm hosting the stuff I've been doing until now. I'll still do the fun stuff my friends and family enjoy, (or at least they're nice enough to tell me they do!) on that blog so that this one can be devoted to what I do for a living.

I plan to dedicate each day of the week on this blog to a specific writing-related topic. This is how I envision the schedule, and here's hoping I can stick to it:

Monday- Writing tips
Tuesday- Some books I enjoy
Wednesday- Publishing industry info
Thursday- Behind the scenes tidbits on my books
Friday- Author spotlights
Saturday- Writer's Guides and websites that I've found helpful.

At any rate, I really hope that maybe some writers-in-progress will stumble across the information I put here. Heaven knows I would have loved to have had it when I was trying to get published.

Thanks for your patience while I restructure! :-)