Thursday, April 26, 2012

Barnes & Noble Binge

You may have noticed I didn't review Mad Men on Monday. Basically, it was impossible to be depressed this week because three friends' debut books came out!*

1) Sarvenaz Tash's Middle Grade adventure, THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST. I read the book last year in ARC form, and now I get to own a copy.

It was thrilling to see her book "in the wild." I also got to interview Sarvenaz at the Lucky 13s blog.

2) Publishing-mate Shelley Coriell's fabulous Young Adult novel, WELCOME, CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE. (Bonus: It was shelved next to THE GIRL IN THE PARK, the newest release from one of my favorite authors, Mariah Fredericks!)

3) Agency-mate Jennifer Wolf's YA, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL. I've heard nothing but amazing things about her work so I'm excited to dive in; I ordered a copy and hope to pick it up next week. Jennifer was also interviewed over at Lucky 13s.

*Okay, so I haven't watched it yet. Apparently raising a baby cuts into one's TV schedule. Who knew?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Line Edits!!!

My line edits arrived this week. I can haz feelings of being a real writer?

For those who don't know, line edits are the low-down nitty-gritty edits. I've already been through the broad, plot-based edits. Now my fabulous editor, Maggie Lehrman, is focusing her genius brain on phrasing, sentence structure, word use, character emotions, etc.

The last time I felt this excited, book-wise, was during my trip to New York City last summer to meet my agent and editor.

There are certain milestones in the life of a debut novelist that instill soul-numbing terror or heart palpitations of delight (and I have an irregular heartbeat to begin with). Line edits cause both.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled.  I'm in the game; I'm part of the great writing conversation. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING.

On the other hand, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. This is officially the penultimate chance to fix, you know, every single word in my manuscript because PEOPLE ARE GOING TO READ IT NEXT YEAR.

Next come copyedits, and then THIS IS REALLY, REALLY HAPPENING.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mad Men 5x4: Forever Plaid

Who among us hasn't wanted to see Pete receive a beat down? That it came at the hands of Lane Pryce was surprising but still satisfying; I don't think Roger would've been up to the task. Besides, Roger's style of punishment is verbal abuse.

Prostitutes automatically ensure a base rating of 1 razor blade, and Pete's whiny "I have nothing" confession in the elevator is worth half a razor blade, I suppose. Also, a guy named Handsome stole Pete's jail bait target right out from under him. Ha!

What a difference a year(?) makes. This time last season, Don was getting slapped by a "woman of the night," and living in a hovel. Now he's attending suburban soirees with his wife and actually remaining faithful to her, not to mention giving Pete the stink eye for messing around.

This is a short review because I'm having difficulty typing. I'm still blinded by the "festive" dinner jackets everyone wore to Pete and Trudy's.

1970s, I see you on the horizon and you're not pretty.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"What makes a book well written?" My Useless Response to a Tweet

Last week on Twitter I observed that whenever a book is praised for "getting people to read" it's never because the book is well written.

To which another Tweeter asked, "What does a well written book have? I am trying to write one... what do you think makes a book well written?"

Hmm. That's pretty subjective. Also, it's easier for me to list what makes a book poorly written, so naturally I am taking the easy way out.

Don't Do This:

1. Unoriginal characters (and/or characters you don't care about)
2. Telling instead of showing (don't say things, prove them)
3. Cliches
4. Carelessness
5. Poor use of language
6. Overused or redundant phrases and descriptions
7. Inexplicable behavior (if I don't believe your characters would do something, or if I don't understand why they have done something, it throws me out of the story)

There! A perfect blueprint! Go forth and write!

Oh, was that not helpful?

Hmm, again. It's hard to make a list of what well written means. It's like pornography: you know it when you see it.

If I wish I'd written it, and/or I momentarily consider quitting writing altogether because Now There Is No Point, that means it was well written.

What do you think makes a book well written?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mad Men 5x3: Rickets From the Haunted Mansion

Okay, no need to prolong this.

Let's just jump right in and award the latest episode of Mad Men 4 rusty razor blades out of 5 on the Depressing Scale (tm).

After a series of extremely uncomfortable meals (which is also an efficient summary of Inglorious Basterds, FYI), Joan dumps her rapey husband and decides to raise her baby solo. It's horribly sad that the little guy won't have a father, but it sounds like he wouldn't have had much of a father, anyway; without consulting his wife, Greg signed up for another year in Vietnam, explaining that "they need him" over there. And isn't the baby actually Roger's anyway? Wait, that just makes it all the more depressing. This isn't helping. Never mind.

Elsewhere, Sally is abandoned to her nutty step-grandma for an evening of horrors. Grandma forces Sally to eat a sandwich, "crusts and all," and later relishes in sharing lascivious information about a serial killer with the sleepless, terrorized child. Then she GIVES SALLY A SLEEPING PILL. You remember Sally, right? THE LITTLE GIRL? (And possibly the best actor on the show?) Sally proceeds to heartbreakingly fall asleep under the couch.

"Victimized females under couches/beds" was a theme. Apparently that's how the only survivor of the aforementioned Chicago-based serial killer's rampage managed to save herself. So in Don's literally feverish portion of the plot, Don dreams that he has strangled a former lover and shoved her corpse under the bed. She's wearing one heel (which ties in with the Cinderella-style ad campaign he didn't want to do).

Other depressing things, in case that's not enough: Peggy gets da-runk and wonders if Dawn, the black secretary, might possibly steal the money Peggy blackmailed Roger into giving her. (The blackmail part was hilarious, actually; Peggy got Roger good.)

Lastly, Megan endures the longest elevator ride of her life when a random woman throws herself at (male, white) Don.

I'm sure there were other depressing things but that's enough to make my case I think.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back to Work

I love my job, and I love my co-workers.

But heading back to work after my maternity leave has been tough. Luckily, my husband is a magician who works from home, so he'll be on Daddy Duty while I'm at the office. Last Thursday we did a trial run. It went like this:

Joe: It's your day off from Elliot. What do you want to do?
Me: Spend it with you and Elliot.

Eventually I headed to the computer to catch up on emails and stuff, but it was so hard not to respond when I heard Elliot fussing or crying in the other room. Joe's an excellent father and I trust him implicitly to do a great job -- but I have to admit, I wanted to step in constantly, such as when I heard things like this:

Joe: I'm going to go upstairs now. I am covered in poop.
Joe: I don't know what your deal is, little man, but you're clearly fidgety.

And of course I wanted to join in on the fun:
Me: So! What are you guys up to? Are you going on a walk? ...Can I come?
Joe: We already went on a walk.
Me: Oh.

~An Hour Passes ~

Me: Ooooh, you could Skype with my grandma. She would LOVE that. Here's my phone, her number's right there, do you need me to set it up or show you how to do it? (Keep in mind my husband is much more technologically savvy than I am.)
Joe: Um, I think I can figure it out.

~Twenty Minutes Pass ~

Me: You know what you could do right now? You could read him a book! Or tickle his feet! Or do Tummy Time! Or listen to music and dance! Or --- oh GOD I JUST WANT TO SNUGGLE HIM AND KISS HIM ALL OVER BUT I CAN'T FOR FOUR HOURS AND TEN MINUTES.
Joe: I got this. Just, go do your thing until 6 o'clock.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mad Men 5x2: We Need To Talk About Betts

Oh, Betty.



Mad Men pulled a switcheroo and got me to care again about Betty. BETTY. I've always found her fascinating, and often pitiable, but in recent seasons she's become downright villainous toward Sally, which is obvs not okay. I also found her storyline with Henry Francis to be less than compelling during seasons three and four, but now I feel bad for both of them. Henry swears he doesn't even notice Betty's weight gain.

First, we wonder if she's a suburban cliche; then we fear she has cancer; and then we realize, no, she's a suburban cliche. And in that last scene, scored to Sound of Music's "I am 16, going on 17," we watch Betty devour not one but two hot fudge sundaes -- the second being a discard of her daughter's, whom Betty accused a while back of being "pudgy" herself. Eek.

This "Betty almost dies; no wait, she's just eating too much" subplot earns the ep 3 razor blades all by itself. Add to it Pete's public, office-wide dis of Roger, and my "Dawning" realization that I don't even feel bad for Roger -- who not only mocks the new black secretary behind her back but exhibits not a single iota of sympathy toward Don regarding Betty's possible demise -- and you've got 3.5 out of 5, baby.