Modern . . . CIA

Modern . . . CIA

When I started writing Yesterday’s Tides, which I’ll be pitching at conference IN FOUR DAYS!!!!, I wanted a cool job for my hero. So naturally, being obsessed with Alias at the time, I thought, “Oo, CIA!” But not an operative. Way too cliche (or something, lol). So instead, I thought I’d make him a computer geek.

In typical me-fashion back then, I didn’t actually, you know, look anything up. I relied on TV and logic and maybe a brief glance at the CIA website. Having just graduated from St. John’s, I had a few interesting tidbits of knowledge–like the fact that a lot of Johnnies got recruited for the analytical prowess. (Not that any suits every approached me . . .) So I figured that was good enough for a rough draft;-)

When I was rewriting last year, I decided I’d better check my logic against facts. I’m glad I did. While not totally off-base in some things, I was dead wrong in others. TV has soooooo led me astray! For starters–Langley, Virginia. You know how when you watch a CIA movie, the little ticker across the bottom always tells you you’re in Langley, VA? WRONG! There is such a town, yes. It’s home to such government agencies as a NASA installation. But the CIA? Nope. The CIA headquarters is right outside D.C. The compound is called Langley. It is not in the town that is a few hours south. Which really threw a kink in my plot!

I also discovered that the CIA isn’t really the glam agency we all think of. Maybe it used to be (maybe), but these days the agency has been pillaged, according to Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner. Most senior officers were fired in 2004, and the rest of the best talent was lured away by the Pentagon’s intelligence division.

Wreaks havoc on my plot–my hero was supposed to be in a Company family, one where his parents had both been in it before him, where they’re the best, well established . . . I could salvage that, but I had to account for it. Make them loyal and lucky both.

I discovered another book especially helpful for my hero’s computer geek savvy, but I’ll save that for next week. Gotta get to work memorizing my pitch, you know! While I totally sold my socks on it yesterday when I was hanging out laundry, I think the shorts were unconvinced. Better keep practicing;-)

Modern . . . Title Followup

I was going to post the Title Contest results in a weekend blog, then I thought, “Nah. Monday’s a holiday, I can be lazy and do that in place of my normal post.” Mwa ha ha ha.

So pooling all the votes from the different sites my blog posts too (ShoutLife and Facebook, by the way), Yesterday’s Tides won by two votes, with The Storm Still Raging coming in second and Deeper than the Sea getting third.

The winning title was inspired by Sandi Rog, so I will be emailing her shortly with a choice of three out of the four books, and send the other to our third place winner, Mary Proctor. (Second place is my mom, and she said “No books, please.” Perhaps because she has little shelving. Perhaps because she’d already read most of them, lol.) So congrats to these two lovely ladies who will soon be enjoying some fine reading!

I had a lot of fun with this and am going to keep it in mind for future brainstorming needs. You all rock! Now, off to enjoy my lazy holiday. Hope everyone has a good one!

Modern . . . Beaches & TITLE CONTEST

Okay, I confess. I’m a beach-nut. (Not a beech-nut, mind you . . . 😉 My family has vacationed at the beach nearly every year of my life, and it’s done something to me. Gotten the ocean into my soul.

Every year since I was 10, we’ve gone to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. (Anybody not know where they are? It’s the home of Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers flew the airplane, and where most of Nicholas Sparks’s books are set. A barrier island chain off the coast.) It’s relatively quiet, gorgeous, and has that certain something that speaks to me.

Right after I graduated from college, I had this idea for a book set in the Outer Banks. (Probably inspired by the two weeks we’d just sent there in celebration of graduating.) It kept me up all night–seriously. I think I slept three hours that night. I rose in the morning when David did at 5 (he was, at the time, traveling to Baltimore for work every day) and got out my laptop.

That day, I wrote 50 pages. As I did the day after that. And the day after that. 150 pages in 3 days! Then the next 150 pages in, well, three months. LOL. When I first envisioned the story, I wanted it to be simple. Love triangle, long-lost love, that sort of thing. But as I wrote, it got complicated. (This always happens to me . . .) The characters I’d intended to be antagonistic were nice. Lovable, even. Which means my heroine and hero couldn’t be antagonized by them. They had to work through a far more difficult issue and deal with them while liking them.

This is coming up here because my critique partners are currently reading this story and have called it my best–which means I may want to pitch it at conference. I’d originally titled it Unrequested, Unrequited. Too much, right? So I changed it to Blue Skies in the Morning. Not exactly brilliant, either. So. I’m searching for a new title before I pitch it.

So let’s have my first blog contest! Recommend a title sometime this week. Vote for someone else’s. The most popular/my favorite will be the winner, and the person to recommend it will win . . . books. See the following post for details!

Modern . . . Author Voice

This is slightly off-topic (for what I said Mondays were for), but what I’m working on right now. As I prepare for the ACFW conference that starts in three short weeks, I need to have all my pitch stuff ready. Including authors I can compare my stuff to.

Now, when it comes to historicals, I’m set on that front. Got my list, no problem. Except that I probably won’t be pitching any historicals. I’ll have them with me, just in case, but I doubt that’ll be my focus. Unfortunately, I don’t know who to compare myself to when it comes to contemporaries.

My contemporary voice has turned rather light and witty . . . chatty. And I’m having a hard time finding authors who write like that in third person. Got a few that do first person, but I wouldn’t want to say “I write like so and so” when all her stuff is in first and none of mine is.

So yesterday I went through the CBA Bestseller List and the Christy awards, checked all titles that looked promising, read first pages of a ton of books . . . and came up with a few options. Don’t know how stellar a list it is, but at least it’s something. Because last time, they really did ask me “Who would you compare your writing to?” so I better continue to have an answer!

I’m totally up for revisions, though, if anyone has an author spring to mind who writes contemporary stories in third person, with multiple points-of-view, in a fun, lighthearted voice. Not that hard issues aren’t tackled, mind you, but tackled with humor and a healthy dose of sarcasm.

All brilliant suggestions are welcome! (Stupid ones are acceptable too, though no promises that I’ll use them;-)

Modern . . . Ice Cream

Ice cream has been on my brain this weekend. I enjoyed a delightful cookies -n- cream milkshake on my birthday Friday (before dinner, no less!) and then some mint chocolate chip last night. So it seems fitting to delve into that creamy world of nonstop delight for my Modern Monday. =)

When I was reading and critiquing the YA novels of best-bed Stephanie Morrill, I nearly drooled every time she had her teen characters meeting up at Sheridan’s Frozen Custard. Now, in my neck of the woods, we have no Sheridan’s (though we have the Queen City Creamery, which is divine . . .), so my knowledge of the small chain is limited to Stephanie’s stories and then some research. Because, you see, when I set a book in her neck of the woods, I had no choice but to have my characters go to Sheridan’s too!

In my defense, when the hero and heroine of my contemporary romance decide to go for ice cream, I was totally willing to send them to Dairy Queen. (Didn’t want to copy my best-bud just for the sake of it, you know), but the local who advised me on this stuff assured me that they would drive to Sheridan’s before DQ–so to Sheridan’s they went!

Now, feel free to drool over their menu if you want some inspiration on this hot summer day. I know I spent ridiculous amounts of time going ga-ga over the choices. Can we just say “Yum!”?? Grasshopper, Caramel Pretzel, Dirt & Worms . . . ah, bliss in a cup.

Of course, one of the quirks of my heroine is that she is a genuine waffle-cone when it comes to choosing ice cream. She always knows exactly what she wants on the way and then changes her mind in line–and regrets it. Our hero gets to demonstrate his deep-abiding love for her by always ordering what she really wants and then casually trading her when she makes eyes at his treat. Is he a gem or what? 😉

So on this (or any of the other upcoming) sweltering August day, treat yourself to some joy-in-a-cone (or cup;-) and beat the heat with some ice cream. Roseanna’s perscription for a great summer evening. =)

(And do I get a gift card or something for promoting a shop I’ve never even been to?? I think I should! You know, for when I’m down that way . . . lol.)

Modern . . . Advice

Ever have one of those moments when you come up with something really original, figure you better check up on a few facts, and then learn that your originality isn’t so original after all?

Yeah. Who hasn’t been there, right? My mom has occasionally said something like, “They ought to invent such-and-such a thing . . .” and my dad points to a shelf and says, “Like that?”

We writers run into this fairly often. But I had an interesting example when I started my latest work-in-progress. I found an actual, real life analogue. One famous enough that I had to wonder if I already knew it, though I didn’t think I did.

See, I thought it would be fun to write about a mother/daughter team who writes an advice column. I figured that first I ought to, you know, actually read an advice column, lol. So I logged onto “Dear Abby.” Read the bio. And what did I learn?

Abigail Van Buren was for many years a mother/daughter advice team.


Not that I let this stop me, of course. I just let my characters observe that it worked for the “Dear Abby” folk. =) I read through a mountain of these lauded columns to get a feel for the advice industry, tweaked my premise slightly to better reflect how it works and what I wanted them to do with, and got down to business.

One of the biggies in my WIP is that my main character’s kinda young to be giving advice. Writing something with an issue like that forces me to really look around. To think about whose advice I take, whose I don’t. Does it have to do with age? Experience?

Not necessarily. I think some people are just born knowing how to advise. Seriously. I have friends whose advice I take above others, even when those others should know what they’re talking about. And as I wrote out a scene dealing with this yesterday, something struck me about the “why” of that.

Good advice, I think, isn’t a matter of telling someone what you would do. They’re not you. It’s a matter of taking you out of the equation and actually looking at their circumstances, their life. I mean, let’s face it. When someone quickly replies to my question with, “Well, I would do this,” I often think, Good for you. I wouldn’t. I don’t generally want an “I would.” I want a “You should.”

But it’s interesting–most of us simply can’t empathize that fully. Which is good for my characters, because it sets her apart;-)

This is on my mind today because I’m this close to finishing this manuscript. Always an exciting time. I should hammer it home this week (yay!), and then I’ll be concentrating on polishing up everything I want to take to the ACFW conference in September. Time’s a tickin’!

(And speaking of advice, I just got some this weekend. After cutting my finger on a really wicked blender blade, my mother said, “Why don’t you clean it out by pouring soap and hot water in and then turning it on? Then you never have to touch the blade.” To which I replied, “And why didn’t you teach me this a decade ago??” Advice I will definitely take from now on!)