Stick Figures

End of Summer Reading Spree

imageDo forgive–lack of posts due to continuous unabashed reading.

Books of note include:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky — A classic not to be missed!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins — Humorous, adorable, and romantic.  Seriously, why is this not yet a movie?   

And my favorite of the week that made me laugh out loud in an airport and totally freak out the family next to me: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Happy end-of-the-summer reading,

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Stand Alones vs. Series

imageOften, I feel the first book of a series would’ve been a pretty good stand alone.

I will read either as long as they’re well-written, but I’m partial to stand alones because the narratives are tighter. Consider the shape of a story. We have a character who struggles to achieve a goal, passing through numerous obstacles that force that character to change (though not always–there are great literary examples that break the mold). We enjoy watching that character struggle because we are sick, sick monkeys.  But our characters reach the climax, their goal (or not) and there’s a quick race to the finish.

With a series, the author needs to set new goals and challenges before the character, forcing them to change EVEN MORE. This is difficult, especially when we’re talking about young adult literature. These stories are often (though not always) coming of age narratives. By the end of the book, a character has proven him or herself to be older, wiser–more of an adult. It is difficult to sustain that effect again and again over the course of several books. How much more does said character have to learn that he or she didn’t learn in the first book?

That said, there are several series books that have compelling enough characters, story worlds, etc. that most readers are comfortable–even excited–to follow them a little longer.

But let me ask you this: Are you usually satisfied with the ending of a series? Does it leave you disappointed because maybe it got to be like fast food and you just wanted more (not necessarily a bad thing, lol). Or do the endings to these extended narratives fail to live up to your expectations because you wanted something more for the characters? Did you really need to see every bit of their “happily ever after” or would it have been more satisfying to leave some of that up to the imagination?

Or maybe you like the way they end. 🙂 Would love to hear from you!!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Writing

Hey Jersey Writers–Check Out the NJRW 2014 Put Your Heart In A Book Conference!

NJRW 2014 Put Your Heart in a Book Conference — “30 Years of Happily Ever Afters!”

 

http://www.njromancewriters.org/conference.html

 

October 17-18, 2014
Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel 

Iselin, NJ

Early Bird Pricing: June 1-July 31st


NJRW Member $215 – Non-member $240

Prices go up August 1st, so get in early.

Don’t miss this opportunity to take your writing to the next level. This year’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference is shaping up to be the best ever.

Susan Mallery: Keynote Speaker
Stella Cameron: Luncheon Speaker
Jennifer Probst: Special Presentation*
Roxanne St Claire: 3-hour Pre-Conference Workshop ($45)

* For first 100 registrants

Some things to expect:

  • Workshops for writers of all levels 
  • Editor/Agent Appointments
  • Literacy Book Fair/Author Signings (a portion of proceeds will go to Literacy Volunteers of NJ)
  • Opportunities for Networking 

Here is a partial list of agents and editors scheduled to attend:


Agents:

  • Louis Fury, The Bent Agency 
  • Jita Fumich, Folio Literary Management 
  • Lisa Rodgers, JABberwocky Literary Agency 
  • Annelise Robey, Jane Rotrosen Agency 
  • Lori Perkins, LPerkins Agency 
  • Sarah E. Younger, Nancy Yost Literary Agency 
  • Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management


Editors:

  • Nicole Fisher, Avon Books 
  • Sarah Murphy, Bantam Dell 
  • Angela James, Carina Press 
  • Treva Harte, Loose Id 
  • Lauren McKenna, Pocket Books 
  • Mary Altman, Sourcebooks Inc. 
  • Cat Clyne, Sourcebooks Inc. 
  • Eileen Rothschild, St. Martin’s Press 
  • Melissa Ann Singer, Tor/Forge 
  • Julie Mianecki, Berkley 
  • Kristine Swartz, Berkley

… … and more to come

Workshop presenters:

  • Madeline Hunter, PAN/PUB Retreat Kickoff Speaker 
  • Susan Mallery, Screw The Muse, I’m on a Deadline 
  • Stella Cameron, People Make Your Story 
  • Jennifer Probst and Jen Talty, Sweet, Snarky, or Sexpot: What Makes a Good Heroine? 
  • Christine Bush, First Timer’s Workshop 
  • Anne Walradt, Writing the “Can’t Put It Down” Novel 
  • Laura Curtis, Personal Branding for Authors 
  • Nancy Herness, Sell Your Book, Not Your Soul 
  • Julie Ann Walker, The Hard and Fast Rules for a Kickass Query & How to Make Your Characters THUNDER 
  • Beth Ciotta, Derring-Do, The Passionate Writer’s Guide to Success 
  • Julie Rowe, Taming Twitter 2-hour block 
  • Mary Burton, Novel Write 
  • Joanna Shupe, Tech Tips for Writers 
  • Judi Fennell, How to Self Publish & Novel In A Nutshell 
  • Tina Gallagher and Pattie Giordani, Pitch Perfect 
  • Nisha Sharma, GMC in the YA Novel & Score! Game plans, Strategies, and Plays 
  • Sandra Pesso, Work Your Social Media Platform like a Rockstar 
  • Shiloh Walker, Draw Me A Story 
  • Jen Talty, Building Your Author Brand 
  • Bob Mayer, Write It Forward 
  • Jen Talty and Bob Mayer, E-pub, POD, and the Future of Publishing 
  • Laura Kaye, The Secrets Behind Becoming a Bestseller 
  • Kristen Painter, Worldbuilding Through a Series 
  • Diana Cosby, Marketing for Impact 2-hour block 
  • Donna MacMeans, Grab Your Reader on Page 1 
  • Mallory Braus and Elizabeth London, Top Ten Ways You’re Showing Rather Than Telling 
  • Laurie Cooper, This Bridge Looks REALLY High 
  • K.M. Fawcett and Cathy Tully, Looking for Action? Writing Believable Fight Scenes 
  • Leigh Duncan, A Walk In The Plot 
  • Victoria Pinder, Be Your Own Agent 
  • Judith Roth, The Art of Self-Editing 
  • Sarah Younger 
  • Jeanette Grey, Domains and Graphics 
  • Vicky Sue Dreiling, Make Them Laugh, Make Them Cry 
  • Maria Snyder, Classic Writing Mistakes 
  • Susan Wall, Book Trailer Boot Camp 
  • Louisa Edwards, How to Give and Get Better Critiques 
  • Peter Andrews, How to Write Fast 
  • Laurie Bevin Cooper, How to Make Opportunities Happen 
  • Paula Scardamalia, How to Use the Tarot To Write

 

To register, click here!

 

If you have questions, please contact: DC “Desi” Stone, NJRW’s 2014 Conference Chair, at confchair@njromancewriters.org or, Jackson D’Lynne, Assistant Chair, at jacksondlynne@yahoo.com

For registration questions, please contact: Jenny Baskwell Registrar, at registrar@njromancewriters.org.

We will be adding to the list of agents and editors, so please check our web site www.njromancewriters.org frequently for updates!

Stick Figures

A Book So Good You…Have To Put It Down?

imageThere is a book in the other room that wants to eat my brain.  I’ve shut the door, I’ve turned the key…but I can still hear its voice in my head…

Reeeeeeead meeeeee…

Tension keeps the reader hooked.  Masters of tension know how to manipulate us because they know what makes us tick.  They use our own psychology against us, keeping our eyes glued to the screen or the page–twisting us all up into ball of contradiction and unanswered questions, spinning us so we’re never sure where to look, leading us on a merry uphill chase, and allowing us to think we may have reached the answer right before kicking us back down the street and into a stranger’s yard where everything blows apart and we’re left to try and make sense of the pieces.

There are few books that have made me this tense in my life–probably a result of the fact that I’m not big on suspense novels.  I don’t think a book necessarily has to fit into that genre to make my heart feel like it’s about to rip out of my chest and do the Can-can across the floor.  In fact, the last book that did this to me was Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop which is a fantasy novel.  But suspense novels are written with the express purpose of doing just that–they are wonderfully intricate machines of thought that turn you inside out.

What book is causing such delicious frustration that I’ve purposely left it in the other room because I really, really want to find out what happens next but am so twisted up, I can’t stand to turn the page?  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  It’s one of many on my long I’ve-saved-you-up-for-summer-and-now-here-it-finally-is-so-YAY!-let’s-do-this summer reading list.

What I’ve taken away from this experience is namely this: I need to go back in the other room and turn that page.  I need to read more books like these as articles or books on the craft of writing suspense because I WANT TO MAKE MY READERS FEEL LIKE THIS!

What are some books you’ve read–in any genre–that were so good you had to put them down?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Writing

Why (In My Opinion) Books Built Around Characters Are Better

imageThe best books are the ones that change you–the reader.  They stay with you for a long time and lead you to question or think about either yourself or the world around you in a different way.

That is–those are the best books in my opinion.  There are plot junkies out there who might say otherwise, but they may never have been shown how to find the deeper meanings in literature.  To read closely.  To probe.  Once you learn how to do this, you don’t see movies, read books, or even listen to music in the same way ever again.  You’re always searching for hidden treasure…and are sometimes disappointed when you find yourself treading shallow water.

There are so many facets or ways of looking at a good book that it’s really unfair to take it all apart.  What makes it work is the symphony all those pieces create when they work together.

But If I were to start in one place and say, “Here is the heart of the story,” I would start with character.  In order to create that depth of emotion and change in attitude so desirable in a well-written book, you need to be able to access the reader on a fundamental level.  The only way you are going to get there is through strong characters.  Characters are vehicles for the reader.  We follow them as they themselves are tortured, defeated, learn, grow, and change.  Build your book around a strong, multi-faceted character with flaws and goals.  Put them in a situation that is really uncomfortable for them–that will force them to change.  Raise the stakes and make their goals something they care deeply about.  Then, hold that carrot away from them.  What will your protagonist give up to achieve his or her goal?  Their job?  Their life?  A piece of their soul?

Concepts in books can also be powerful, but they fall flat without a strong character to drive the plot.  This is a mistake I sometimes see in the paranormal and sci fi / fantasy genres.  Writers get so carried away with the CONCEPT that they forget about CHARACTERS and wind up with these wishy-washy protagonist stand-in who has no real substance or goals.

Say, for example, you decide to write a book about mermaids.  You have a few ideas for scenes in mind and start writing an outline, including this really cool part where your mermaid chick sings the highest note ever and uses mermaid magic to create a giant tidal wave of awesome!  Then you begin to write–forgetting to develop your character (or unaware that you should).  As you draft, you put words into your protagonist’s mouth and force her to do things—not in order to achieve true change but moves that are completely (sometimes laughably) out of character.  You force your character to do these things because you want something in the plot to happen just the way you had imagined.  Really, it should go the other way around.  Character CHOICES should drive the plot, and these choices need to be based on significant goals.

Let me ask you something.  When a reader turns the last page of your book, do you want them to say, “Gee, such-and-such scene was pretty cool, and I really loved the magic at the end,” or would you rather hear them say, “OMG, that book really messed with me!  I couldn’t put it down because I had to see what happened to (insert your protagonist here).  It really makes me think…(insert personal insight here).”

Now I’m really interested to hear your thoughts because I have a feeling some of you will disagree with me. 🙂

Would you rather have a plot junkie as a reader who just eats up the cool stuff that happens or a reader who reads deeply and who might be changed for all time by your awesome writing?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Writing

Mission: Annoy Everyone By Reading Like a Writer

imagePeople who read like writers add layers of complexity to their understanding of written work.  We reverse engineer novels, trying to figure out exactly how an author put it all together.  This is in addition to normal regiment of deconstruction we usually apply to books, picking out theme, structure, figurative language, characterization, conflict, etc.

Why do we do it?  It’s…well, it’s fun!  Narratives are like abstract puzzles.  In my mind, they’re meant to be taken apart and their pieces examined to see how they both echo and add up to the larger whole.

I wonder about the process of a writer. How did this masterpiece (or pile of mush) I’m reading come to be? How can studying the choices the writer made help me improve my own writing?

When you read like a writer, you annoy the people around you by over-analyzing everything.  This is part of the fun…and boy am I going to have a lot of fun with you.

So here I present a new mission I’m adding to my blog: to deconstruct good YA paranormal books, focusing on what writers can learn from them.

My job and hobby make it difficult to find time to read, but I aim to get in as many quality books as I can.  Now, I need your help!

Have you read any YA paranormal books (preferably romance) that will blow my mind and keep me up all night thinking?  I’m looking for books that are well-written exemplars for writers to use as a model for their own craft.

Hit me with some good books!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Writing

Countdown to Carousel: My Year-to-30 “Bucket List”

imageI’ll be turning 29 this week, but aside from planning a huge Logan’s Run themed party (due to take place a year from now), I haven’t given much thought to what I’ll do with my last green year.  So, here goes my abbreviated goodbye-to-my-roaring-twenties “bucket list.”

1. recline in a random field of authentic wildflowers

2. swim in another ocean

3. network with more writers, getting to know them and their work

4. read a ton of excellent books–can’t stop adding to my Goodreads list!

5. maybe–hopefully–get on the road to publication with my last book (in which I play with time)

6. write the fun, cynical, existential, paranormal romance I just started (in which I play with space)

7. write a ton of awesome curriculum

8. make life-long readers and writers out of some young minds

9. get out of the country and see something amazing

10. stop…and look around

What do you think?  Anything I should add?

By the way, if you’ve never seen the 70s cult classic Logan’s Run, look it up.  It’s one of those movies that, at times, is so bad it’s good, but it’s concept is one that always stuck with me.  In the simplest terms, Logan is a ” sandman” who lives in a post-apocalyptic, dome city.  His job it is to kill people over the age thirty who don’t willingly self-destruct at “carousel.”  See it!

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

Ode to L.J. Smith’s SOULMATE: Gateway Drug to My Lifelong Obsession with YA Paranormal Romance

soulmateLong, long ago, I dragged my mother into the nearest Barnes and Noble and proceeded to dance up and down the aisles of that new-to-me-year-round-book-fair in shameless glee.  It was in this manner that I stumbled upon the teen section–then a single row of shelves that stood between adult sci-fi/fantasy and the children’s section. Curious, I began pulling random YA books from the shelves, but nothing really grabbed me until I saw a line of thin, black books, resting on the bottom shelf.  I reached for one of the titles, and an electric shock traveled up my arm.  Despite its terrible cover art, I knew I’d found my Soulmate.

This was my first vampire-boyfriend book and though I’m no longer a fan of what’s become a cliché in paranormal fiction, I can still enjoy this book with its tight narrative; strong heroine and old soul, Hannah Snow; cool other-life flash backs; and mega antagonist, Maya the vamp-i-ya.  Without giving too much away, I found the ending rather satisfying as Hannah had to save herself.

I remember my mother wanted to “check” the book before I read it, but I took it to my room and ate it in three hours.  Emerging from my room, I proceeded to wander about the house, ghost-like–not sure exactly what just happened…but knowing I wanted more.

If, one day, somebody reads my book and gets that post-reading, fantasy high, I will have done my job.

Michelle Joyce Bond

Uncategorized

Finish Line Mirage: When Will It End?

imageAbout once every two months, I’m like: “Oh yeah, this is TOTALLY the last revision.  I’m done, damn it.  Done!”  Then I’ll close in on the end and shake my head. “No, you tiny fool.  You need to do this again.”  They’ll be adjustments in every scene for language and detail.  I’ll find weak dialogue and odd metaphors.  It’s nothing global.  I’m sculpting, and I can’t stop.  I’ve gone through this 135,000 word book at least twenty times–minimum.  It’s been almost two years.  I was supposed to be finished in June…then September.  Now, I’m hoping to finally say “done” by the new year; that is, with the manuscript.  If I’m lucky enough to attract the attention of an agent, I’m more than happy to go back to work, but I’ve got to cut myself off sometime. 🙂

Writers, how many times do you revise a book before saying, “Enough!”

Michelle Joyce Bond