Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cover Reveal: DRAWN TO YOU

You guys!!! It's here! My cover and it's gorgeous.

Normally, I'm doing this for other people so it feels a bit weird to be doing it for myself, but holy cow, it's awesome!! 

Here's a bit about the book, DRAWN TO YOU written by moi!

Shy Ellie Baylor goes away to college in an attempt to escape her overbearing and zealously religious parents. In between dodging their daily phone call and lugging her oversized art portfolio across campus, she manages to be happy, mostly by avoiding any kind of social interaction. Then she meets River Daniels, the hot guy she's secretly been ogling in her art classes.

River is understanding and sexy, and their connection quickly grows.  However, a lifetime of listening to her parents has left Ellie uncertain not only about herself, but her relationship with River. Their blatant disapproval of River and her choices leave Ellie with the hardest choice she's ever faced- her parents' approval or the love of her life. 

DRAWN TO YOU comes out August 19th everywhere ebooks are sold. 

Here's a bit about me. (in case you didn't already know this stuff)

Angi Black is a dancer, a singer, a pirate, a poet. One of those is a lie. She writes New Adult and Adult and owns her own editing business, Wise Owl Words. She also teaches dance and theater all while baking treats and greening up the world around her. She loves music and donuts. She's Team Damon and her muse is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gene Kelley. Whedonite. Coffee. Ambassador of Awesome. Bourbon. Beatles. Zeppelin. Mraz. Queen of useless trivial knowledge. Betty White is her spirit animal. Her patronus is a chorus of back-up dancers singing Don't Rain on my Parade. Angi blogs at The Writer Diaries, All The Write Notes, and Indie Ignites. She even has a fancy website.
Find me here: 

So...are you ready? Ready to see my beautiful cover designed by Gonet Designs? Are you, are you, are you??

Okay. Here it is! The cover for my NA novel, DRAWN TO YOU. 

Is it the prettiest thing? I'm in love with it!! 

Look for a Goodreads page and a blog tour coming your way soon!  If you'd like to be in on that, let me know in the comments!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Bunch of Words About Moms

This isn't a post about the five magical things every mom should do. This post won't tell you the ten things you absolutely should not do...or the twenty-five foods you're most likely to get judged for feeding them....or how to make their lunches look a five-star chef is on retainer in your home.

But I do have something important to say.

I will never be the mom who always looks put together. I want to be. I want to be thin, and well-dressed, and have really great hair. But I'm not. I never will be. I love funny t-shirts, Chuck Taylors, and making inappropriate jokes that everyone else is thinking but refuses to say. I love driving a bit too fast and letting my kids listen to good music that's beyond their years. I love laughing with my twelve-year-old son because damn it, boobs is a funny word.

Do you "fall short" too?

Well, guess what? We're awesome. Every time we do something we are sure falls under World's Okayest Mom our kids think we are the greatest. Our mistakes usually end up making the best memories. My kids first memory isn't of the perfect desserts and birthday cakes I've made over the years. They remember the times I let them decorate with me. They remember the times we ruined aprons together because childhood is messy and that's okay. They remember the first time I let them crack eggs and it took us thirty minutes to wipe down the upper cabinet doors.

So, I'm imperfect. Besides me, who cares? No one. That's who. So now, my own list of five things every mom should hear.

1) You're doing it right!
So what you're doing doesn't work for the mom next to you. So it doesn't work for the other moms at the park. So...it doesn't for any other mom anywhere... Does it work work for you and your kids? Is it right for your family? Then congratulations, you're doing it right.

2) Your kid ate dinner!
So it was three chicken nuggets, a spoonful of grape jelly, and half a pop-tart. Who cares? At least they didn't starve. Every kid goes through a time when ONLY BLUE BOX MAC AND CHEESE WILL WORK!!!! They add vitamins to crap foods for a reason. Because kids are picky, and temperamental, and allowed to act how I want to every other Friday. So don't feel bad if you've served your seven-year-old Yellowed-hatted-fisherman fish sticks for the last ten dinners in a row. Is that what he'll eat? Then congratulations, you fed your child!
And for what it's worth, I love me some blue box mac and cheese.

3) Your kid cried!
Kids need a lot. They need love and affection and apparently to be watched while they do everything ever because WATCH ME, MAMA, WATCH ME!!! And sometimes moms need a break. So if your stories come on and you let your kid say Mama seventeen times without responding and they keep playing? It's okay. It's more than okay, it's great! If your kid cries because he can't have the cast iron skillet on aisle four and cries the entire grocery trip while you hum along to Tears For Fears playing over the Musak...you're doing just fine. So Perfect Soccer Mom in the freezer section gave you the eye, so Hey, I Just Worked Out in the gluten-free section turned up her nose, so you have half a grape soda down your front and you really love this Tears For Fears song...it's okay. Kids cry. Over dumb stuff. My son once had a full-on melt down in the store WHEN I SAID HE COULD HAVE THE TOY HE ASKED FOR. They are overwhelmed and so are moms. And those Judgey McJudgertons? Well, either someday they'll really be into Musak or they can suck it. Either way, congratulations! Your kid cried. You'll both get over it.

4) Your kid went to sleep!
Oh my god, you co-sleep? Oh my god, you let them cry it out? Oh my god, your kid goes to bed when? Who gives one damn??? Are people sleeping? Is the mother involved in the getting of the sleep? Then great, you've struck gold. Sleep is the most coveted possession a mom can have. when they're a baby, you're up every two hours/fifteen minutes feeding, changing, etc, etc. As toddlers, you choose your sleep routine which is always anything but. School age it's the fight of bedtime vs. get your ass out of bed because I wanted to sleep three more hours but I had to get up at five-thirty and holy hell, the bus is here! There's always that five seconds when you think, Saturday! I could sleep in...if it weren't for soccer/dance/voice/guitar/every other thing in the world. When you can sleep and your child can sleep no matter the means? Congratulations! Your child went to sleep.

5) Your kid says I love you.
So, toddlers are jerks. I mean grade-A douche canoes. They volley the occasional you're fat, you look funny, those clothes are dumb, all the way up to I hate you. That's usually reserved for that time you wouldn't let them run in traffic. School age kids are just as bad, only they have a bigger vocabulary to make you  feel more inadequate than every mother already feels. And teenagers? The actual worst.
But the thing is, they are just kids. They're learning how to be people and eventually adults. Let's face it, don't you have at least once a week when someone says something to you and your first reaction is, "But your face is a giant purple dinosaur and you look like an electric cat!" The only difference is you've learned to save that shit for Twitter. And even after the worst day of all time, and the fact that you feel like a total failure at momming and life-ing, your little one walks up to you and says I love YOU.
It's a moment. It's the thing that makes it all worth it. Congratulations! Your kid said I love you.

Just remember, we are our hardest critics and nine of ten times, we're rocking it. Our kids think we hung the moon even if they just laughed for fifteen minutes because we smell and look like stinky cheese hats. And you know, they're right. WE are pretty great.

So to all the Moms out there, keep on rocking it however you know best. After all, it's your circus, you do know it best! xoxo, happy Mother's Day!

Obligatory hot guy gif:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I AM A WRITER ~or~ How My "Quit" Turned into a "Break"


Yep. That's what I screamed out loud in my house Monday morning to no one. I'd ingested a pot of coffee before nine AM after another night of too-little sleep. I'd slogged through my inbox, even though I'm on 'vacation' and I'm supposed to be packing for the big move, and I found a rejection. Another one.

I slumped back against the couch. It wasn't form, only two of them have been, but it was still the same result. I immediately texted my support crew. They said the things the people who love you say.

Not form? That's great. You're getting so close.
Non-form is practically a yes.
It only takes one.
They weren't right for you anyway.
Your writing rocks. You rock. I love you.

And nothing they said is wrong, or even a lie.

But I feel like I've been here forever. I'll built report with two amazing agents, connections with even more. Two of the non-forms even said, "You are a lovely person. I look forward to more of your work."

And every single one said this: DON'T GIVE UP.

And I know they meant it. My friends have time to fluff a pillow under my defeated head, but agents who aren't mine don't. So why then did I reach my breaking point?

When you were a kid did you ever put a rubber band around the tip of your finger, or maybe a clothespin on a dare or out of childhood stupidity? Your skin would go white as all the blood ran from the area screaming at you, "But I live there! That's not right!" Eventually you'd take off the torture implement and shake your entire body as the whoosh of blood filled the tip of your finger. A sensation somewhere between pain and 'oh my god, that was freaky and kinda neat' took over your body. The pain was usually great enough to put a kabash on the activity.

And then someone would dare you to do again?

And you did?

Yeah. That's kinda what being in the query trenches is like. But did you ever leave the rubber band on just a bit too long and the feeling took thirty seconds or so to come back? And you freaked? This was that moment.

I got another lovely rejection. It was so lovely, I wanted to bake them treats and thank them for being so kind. And that's what got me. They all say the same thing.

Great voice.
I like you.
I like your writing.
I love your concept.

That's the entire reason I write. Or choreograph and dance. Why I sing. Why I draw and create and work with kids and make food for anyone in my orbit - to connect.

My heart snapped in two. I'm doing everything right. I'm not looking for a shortcut, I work way too many hours a day, I've worn myself to a nub that doesn't feel like it can even fit in the sharpener to be honed for another go. But still, something is missing. And I'm not connecting.

NO connection? What's the point?

And the thing that pushed me to that point is - I don't know how to fix it. It's possible I just haven't found The One yet. It's possible that it's sitting in the inbox of The One right now and they haven't made their way to it yet. It's possible the next MS is the perfect fit. It's possible that the R&R I'm just about done with it the thing that will make this week seem ridiculous in hindsight. It's possible I used possible too many times in that paragraph.

But right now, it feels like everything. It feels like the only thing.

I read so many blogs about how you need a community to write, how you can't give up because those are the successful people, the ones who don't give up, blogs about perfect mommies who play with their kids all day and do everything right and then bust out a book, get an agent, get a deal, and they still manage to find time for a shower everyday.

How? I fail at at least one of those things every day. (Spoiler - usually the shower.)

I spend a lot of my time being happy, or at least appearing to be. I have depression and body dysmorphia. This is an awful combination while you're trying to lose weight and accomplish really big goals. And most days, I feel like I succeed at keeping it together.

But not everyday. I bet if you ask any of my Twitter buds, or even my close friends, they would describe me as upbeat, a hard worker, driven, a cheerleader, and always there for them. And I really want to be all those things. But I'm an artist and some days it feels like that girl is just one more thing I've created. I know she's not. She's real, because above everything else, I'm genuine. That's why you're getting this blog right now.

Sorry, that was all off topic. I digress. Anywho, I read all these blogs about how not giving up has led to the agent, the deal, the successful self-pub, but what I don't see much of is - how hard it is to stay the course. And you know what? It is SO hard.

Monday had it's share of real life things before I got to the screaming in my living room, singing Avril Lavigne at the top of my lungs, oh hey another rejection point. I'd already been to hell, I'm sorry, Wal-Mart, to purchase a new coffee pot to replace the one that had mysteriously died overnight. One kid had missed the bus and I got the second one on her bus with only two minutes to spare. All the anti-freeze had leaked out of my car and it was cold - in the South!- and the heater in the house had also gone out.

Needless to say, Monday was stellar.

So after the email read through, I hopped on Twitter. A little levity, a few articles, maybe a picture of a hot guy, and I'd be good to go.

Instead, more of my friends - my very talented friends and acquaintances - had great news. Book deals! Agents! Covers! 5star reviews! 

I went into cheerleader mode. And it was genuine. And it was real. I'm legit happy for all those people. Their success doesn't take anything from me. More books sold and successful, the more deals there will be. It's a good thing. But fifteen minutes later, tears poured down my cheeks and the hollow I'd been feeling since reading the last rejection was filled with the worst thing of all - self- doubt.

That will never be me.
I'll never be that good.
I should stick to other things.
They started after me.
What am I doing wrong?
Am I not talented enough?

And so I did.

I put away my zip drives, I cleaned my desk, I put my notes and my calendar away, I wrote the appropriate emails and saved them to a folder. I was done.

Fast forward to Wednesday.  I woke up with a hole in my gut. I needed something, but I didn't know what. I ate breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, had coffee, worked out, cleaned house, smooth sailing with the kids that morning. I read for a bit. I watched TV. Nothing fixed it. It was the scratch in just the middle of your back that no amount of flexibility or contortion will allow you to reach. By noon, I was so jumpy I went outside and started cleaning my garage. CLEANING MY GARAGE, PEOPLE.

And then it hit me. I had something to say. I'd run back inside, write it down, and then get back to life. I opened up my computer, slid the zip drive into place, and pulled up my files. As my fingers hit the keys, my shoulders relaxed, the words flowed, and my mind cleared.

And I got it. Just like I need music or I have to dance, I have to write. I AM A WRITER.

I still don't know what it is that will push me to the place I want to be. If you know what it is, please tell me.  It might simply be my community and friends never letting go of my hand. It might be them shoving me into the phase. It might be the fact that I'm really, really stubborn and I'm willing to work to get better.

But most likely, I can't quit - BECAUSE I'M A WRITER.

So, I am taking a little break. I'll finish up my R&R, take another look at the MS's that aren't quite there, but mostly, I'll forgive myself for not having superpowers. I'll forgive myself for not reaching impossible self-imposed goals. I'll keep trying to smile on the days when I want to stay in a dark room and shut down. I'll keep telling my reflection she's beautiful no matter what, because pant size really doesn't have anything to do with how much I can offer to the world.

So there you have it. I'm not very good sharing the darker side of me because I like people to believe that cartoon birds braided my hair this morning. And they did, but they were still drunk from the night before and did a horrible job! I like to make people laugh, I like to give them hope, I like to spread my fairy dust and glitter all over the place. But some days are hard. And what if I share this and someone else had a hard day and their quit didn't turn into a break until they read this?

We're writers. We're artists. We're creators. We make magic and sometimes all those things really hurt to do and to be. But in the end, that's what, I'm sure, will make it worth it.

And then I'll be able to write that blog post about how I didn't give up. Because really, it only takes one.

Obligatory hot guy gif:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: Twelve Steps by Veronica Bartles Plus a giveaway!

Hey gang! It's been awhile, but the blog is back in action and I'm kicking that off with a review of TWELVE STEPS, a great YA by Veronica Bartles.

Here's what it's about:

Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling to perfect sister Laina. There in Laina's shadow, Andi's only noticeable feature is her pretty awesome hair. And even that is eclipsed by Laina's perfect everything else.
When Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with Laina, Andi decides enough is enough and devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina. After all, great hair must count for something.
Step 1: Admit she’s powerless to change her perfect sister, and accept that her life really, really sucks. OK, maybe that's two steps in one.
Step 4: Make a list of her good qualities besides great hair. There have got to be at least three good qualities, right?
Step 7: Demand attention for more than just her shortcomings, and break out of her shell. Easier said that done, but worth the effort in the long-run. 
When a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi finds that her prince isn’t as charming as she'd hoped, and realizes she may need a new program--perhaps with less steps!
As cracks in Laina’s flawless fa├žade begin to show, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.

Here's a bit about the author:
As the second of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. (She was sandwiched between the gorgeous-and-insanely-popular older sister and the too-adorable-for-words younger sister.) She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy.   When she isn’t writing or getting lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, Veronica enjoys knitting fabulous bags and jewelry out of recycled plastic bags and old VHS tapes, sky diving (though she hasn’t actually tried that yet), and inventing the world’s most delectable cookie recipes.  TWELVE STEPS is Veronica Bartles's first novel.
Here's what I thought:
What a refreshing book. I love the sister relationship and focus of this book so much. I'm a sucker for lists, I admit it, so the fact that book is based on a twelve step list, and then another list later on,  was one of my favorite things. 
The writing is strong and the reading is so enjoyable, I finished this book in two days. I loved the characters and Veronica has such a lovely voice that shows through in her writing. I loved seeing Andi's journey and the realization that the world through her eyes isn't necessarily the way the world really is. It was so easy to relate.
But hands down my favorite thing is the sisters working together. I'm trying to keep this review spoiler free, but that relationship is what kept me in this book and it's been a long time since a YA book held me with a non-romantic relationship. 
Again - the words that comes to mind is refreshing. I give TWELVE STEPS four stars and definitely recommend it!! 
Find Veronica at: 
Add and buy TWELVE STEPS on Goodreads.  

Not convinced? How about a giveaway? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 10, 2014

Trends, Tropes, and A Bit of Bravery

I had something else planned today. I was going to talk about drama and excuses. I blogged about it not too long ago, but it's always worth another go. But there's been something bugging me for a bit. It fills my brain all the time actually.

The market.
The trends.
The tropes.

And then there's what I actually write.

And this week, it popped up in four places. First, Megan Whitmer vlogged about how to make your story stand out, even if it's a familiar trope. Then #NALitChat was talking trends and tropes people were tired of and what they want to see more of. Then Jessa Russo was tweeting about how not every female MC doesn't have to be a carbon cutout. Then to top it off, Kelsey Macke vlogged a pep talk that might of been for all her followers, but I know she was sending extra love my way. Basically she said, believe in yourself.

So, where does that leave us?

As a writer, it's very tempting to see an agent you covet tweet something on Twitter and think, "I could totally write that story!" and then write a story for the market or for that one agent. While that might hook in representation, you're left with a problem. The story you wrote was Contemporary and you really write Historical. Then what happens? You have one success and then you have to start over. You wrote for the market, you wrote a book, but you didn't write for the longevity of your career.

I write Adult and New Adult and I'll admit, I've been tempted to write to trends and the market. I did it with one story and it felt so fake to me that by the end I hated it. Ironically, it probably would get published if I sent it out to people, but it's nothing like what I love to write. Someday I might let it see the light of day again, but for now, it has to go away.

In this business, you have to remember all the things I've heard this week, and all the things before that.
Your story DOES need to stand out, even if it's a familiar trope.
Readers DO want something different, even though that's a scary place to put yourself.
Not every character HAS to be the same, that's what makes books so great.
You MUST believe in yourself and keep going.

I was going to talk about what trends are popular and what people want to see, but really, there are a hundred blog posts on that. Instead, I'm going to talk about some things I'm going to try out in my books. Some may call it stupid to try and buck the trends, but I like to think I'm a little brave. And maybe someone out there has a story they want to tell and they'll feel brave, too.

Here's a few things you'll see coming in my words. They don't really fit in, and honestly, I don't really care. Someone will want to read my stories. I know they will.

1. Not all my MC's know what they want. And what they do on the outside is rarely what they feel on the inside. They say they're fine and agree to things, then in the next chapter they have inner turmoil. I've gotten varied feedback on this, but I don't know anyone who doesn't do exactly this. Sure, we read to escape, but we read to connect as well. And I want characters that act like people I know, or even myself.

2. My females aren't always strong. Sometimes they need saving. On the flip, not all my males are golden gods who are capable of doing the saving. My characters make bad choices and no, they don't do what you'd do. They do what they'd do. Everyone says they want something different, but in editing, those different choices are usually the first thing to go because people say, "No one does that."

Right. How refreshing would it be for a character to do something you didn't expect? Like a cool drink of water.If I write a female character that isn't freaking Katniss, the feminists will jump on me. If I write a male who's a jackass, people will expect me to redeem him. If the best friend is too perfect, then I'll be criticized for giving my MC some kind of inferiority complex for attention.

But what if the female MC was raised in an environment where it's normal for her to want a relationship and rely on a man? That doesn't make her a villain. It probably makes her pretty normal. I'm a strong woman, I can take care of myself, but damnit, I like my husband to open doors for me. I like help opening jars. I feel complete with him in my life. Am I weak? No. I'm in love and I have a partner. So sue me. But I write MC's like this, too.

What if the male MC is brainy? Fit but not a beefcake. What if he's the one not sexually experienced and is a bit shy about doing it with the lights on? Does that make him not a man? Maybe he likes to clean his house. He has OCD so he's a bit neurotic. So now, I'm supposed to make him meet a girl and be a big, burly lumberjack who can Hulksmash the guy who is treating her wrong? I'm rolling my eyes right now.

The number one complaint is that the women in fiction change as soon as they find a guy and an equally big complaint if the guy doesn't change as soon as he finds a girl. What??? How is this a thing???

What if the best friend seems perfect because the MC is telling the story and that's how they SEE their friend. It has nothing to do with comparison to the MC her or himself, just that they have one person they can count on. I think my best friend is the bee's knees. And she might have faults, but you can bet, when I describe her, no one else can compare.

3. I write NA and most of my stories don't take place in college. Or if they are in college, it's doubtful it will be party or frat house heavy. I have an NA story where the characters are married and getting ready to have a baby. Another character is single and has a career. She owns her own business. Not every 20-something goes from home to college to meeting a guy. Then marriage, house, babies, etc. That is one formula and it works. But it's not the universal experience. As a matter of fact, I think it's not even half. Some people travel, some go to vocational school or community college. Others go right into the workplace because they are married and have a baby on the way. Or maybe aging parents, or younger siblings that they have to help raise because their dad's a drunk. There are a million stories out there of how people do it and though one kind of NA is selling big right now, my books won't be like that.

4. My characters have relationships with their parents. NA or Adult, the parents come into play. Some love them and some hate them or love them but can't be in the same room together. That means that sometimes I have grandparents in my books. My Grandma was everything to me. We shared everything right up until the day she died. I can't be the only one in this world that was close to their grandparents and parents while I was in my twenties. Just because you go to college, doesn't mean you outgrow your parents. Some people even live at home if they go to a local school. My point is, there isn't one formula to a NA book. Most of thm just haven't made it to the shelves yet.

5. My characters might love more than one person. There might be cheating. There might just be friendship, no romance. There might be a single mom or dad. People will die. The ending won't always be happy.  Sometimes it will work out because the character makes the right decision, not the Disney approved Hollywood ending. And I know I'll get haters. But it's my story I want to tell. I don't want to put out another homogenized book for the bookstore, I want to make a work of art, something that will stick with people.

I'm sure there's more to add here, but you get the point. 

I write flawed, quirky characters who follow their own drum and have relationships with their parents that may or may not go to college and are probably not great at relationships or always using their words. And I'm not going to change. Not for tropes that are popular or trends that are....trending, (Hi..I write good.) or to catch the eye of someone or a publishing house I might not be able to maintain because I can only write one story like that.

I want a career of writing but that's not why I write. I write for the words and the characters and the chance to create something new in the world. And like I said, maybe it's foolish, but I'm going to buckle on my gold star for bravery and call it good.

Do you have something unique in your work that scares you to put out there in the world? Share it with me in comments.

See you next time. And write bravely!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Dance Party (Jan)

So I was going to do a dance party today, but I'm barely able to get off the couch because I'm so sick.

But I refuse to not be thankful.

So instead, here's some fun dance gifs. Here's your mission.

1. Play your favorite song.

2. Turn up the volume.

3. Dance like a fool and spend three minutes being that goofy little kid we all once were. I promise you'll feel much better after you do.

See? That's simple, right? Dance, smile, be thankful you have another day to breathe in the frigid air of the Polar Vortex! Unless you live in Florida, and then, really, just don't talk to me until I get warmer.

Happy Thursday!!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Writing Under The Influence: The Vampire Diaries (reboot)

One of my favorite shows. Here's the second WUTI post.

Writing Under the Influence: The Vampire Diaries

I'm sure you knew this post was coming when I announced I'd be writing about things that influence me.

                                                  If you can see this:
                                And not be influenced - you're a bigger person than me.

But aside from the The Vampire Diaries having one of the most beautiful casts in the history of ever and casting director at The CW having my dream job, TVD has been really helpful to my writing process.

If you don't watch TVD, you're probably make bad choices, but just in case you've been living in a cave here's what it's about:
TVD is the story of two vampire brothers, Damon and Stefan Salvatore and Elena Gilbert, the girl they both love. It takes place in Mystic Falls, a town rich with history and tradition, oh, and werewolves and witches.   There's a great supporting cast, smart dialogue, and Elijah.

So here are the six most important things I've learned from watching the Salvatores and friends in all their shirtless glory.(Also - mild spoilers!)

1. Commit to your characters and their personalities.

This is something Julie Plec really has a grasp on. Once your character is established, they shouldn't be quick to change. And sometimes that means they make really bad decisions. And you know what, it's okay. The Salvatores are prime examples of this. Damon, the bad boy, has spent 150 years being selfish, drinking and eating his way through his non-dead existence. And then he meets Elena. He wants to be good, or at least good enough for her, but a flip isn't something his character would do. So he does dumb shit. And he hurts people and feelings and mostly his progress with the girl of his dreams.

But in holding to this character trait, something magical happens. We root for him to do the right thing because we see his intention. We see that he is trying. And then, when it comes to crunch time and he saves the day or sacrifices something for the greater good, we cheer all the more! I wish I could write a character like this. I truly do.

With Stefan, it's the opposite. He's the good guy, the brooder, the Angel without leather pants. He is so good that sometimes I want to ring his neck and yell at the TV, get over your self-righteous self! We know he's going to make the right choice. We know he's willing to be the martyr. We know he's going to be the one who needs saving.

But this good guy has a problem - blood. What a unique thing. A vamp who can't handle drinking blood. And wow, does he go bad! And completely unpredictable. The dynamic of these two characters, or maybe I'm just a sucker for a brother story, is what drives the show. Honestly, I think it work without Elena at this point.

And then there's Katherine, the first woman the brothers fought over. She turned them into vamps for their trouble. She's what I like to refer to as 'fun Elena'. She has no inhibitions, no shame and no regrets. I know I shouldn't root for her, but I can't help but love her. 

Lesson: Pick character traits and stick to them. Change is slow. So when it comes, the impact is tenfold.

2. Everyone loves a bro-mance.
In my last post I talked about much I love the friendship between Nick and Monroe. It's one of my favorite things about GRIMM. Here, there's the same kind of relationship. Damon and Alaric. It was hate at first sight, but they had a repartee. Thrown into a situation where they had to work together or be killed, they started an odd couple kind of riffing. The hate turned to dislike but with respect. And eventually, they became best friends. Even after they made the horrible decision to kill off Alaric, he comes back as a ghost to check on Damon. And I admit, I've shed more tears watching Damon miss Ric than I probably should have.

Lesson: Friendships are important in your stories. Never under estimate them.

3. If a story line doesn't work, don't be stubborn. End it and move on.

As in every show, sometimes the story goes in a direction and you're left with this face:

If you watch True Blood, you know what I mean. But a lot of times a show, or an author, is so set on a story line they drag it out and try to make it work, cut it to fit a square peg in a round hole. Guess what? It may go inside the hole, but that doesn't make it fit. TVD has had a few missteps along the way, but I've noticed something. While many shows are dragging out crappy plot lines, TVD doesn't. It wraps it up and starts something else. And as a writer, so should you. Even better - delete it and replot.

Lesson: The only one married to your crappy plot is you. You can fix it, change it, and make it delicious.

4. Bad boys can be heroes, too.

Raise your hand if you want Caroline to be with Klaus? That girl needs to get in her car, drive to NOLA and let Klaus show her his....um, town.

But wait!

He's the big bad on the show. How can I be rooting for the bad boy to get the girl? How can I feel anything for him? He does mean things, he makes selfish choices, and oh look, he's an artist. And he knows Caroline isn't ready and he's willing to wait. And he's lonely and god, don't you just want to hug him?

And who doesn't melt every time he calls Caro 'love'? 

This is an important thing. Tom Hiddleston said, "Every villain is a hero in their own mind." I think that's a very important truth to remember when writing. And it works so well on this show. Every week I wait for Caroline and Klaus to finally get together and Damon and Elena to get it on.

Lesson: If your villain has a reason behind his madness and does the right thing, even if it's selfish, once in a while, people will love him. Also - emotional baggage helps his cause.

5. Pacing is everything.

The number one reason this show works is that it moves at break neck speed. I've never seen a show with such a fast clip. You don't have time to waste when you're watching this show. Sure, it has slow-burn will they, won't they moments as well as a season long arc. But when you get down to it, there are new plots, characters, and deaths around every corner. And somehow, in the middle of all that you still have time to get attached to the characters. (See lesson one) And when one of them dies or hurts, you hurt with them, the clock slows to a maddening tick, matching your broken heartbeat.

How do they achieve such a fast pace? Two things. They don't dwell. One character might be stuck in denial or in anger or ache, but the show moves on, just like life. Even in the supernatural world of Mystic Falls, that makes it relatable.
Secondly, they give you details along the way and sneak in backstory that makes sense with the current moment. They don't give you long explanations. It's your responsibility to pick up the clues along the way. And you know what, the show trusts the viewer enough to do just that. They give just the points of the past which are relative to the now. Stephen King says, “The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.”God, that's the truth.

Lesson: Trust your readers. They can keep up without you bashing them over the head. If you do that, you can write a story to keep their attention.

6. Personal growth is key, but be selective.

Evey character on the show has grown to a point. But two characters started out as please-die-in-a-fire and have morphed into oh-my-god-I-love-you. Tyler and Caroline. More Caroline than Tyler, but still. In season one I was ready for them to go. Caroline was whiny and shallow and just generally awful. And Tyler was a douchebag extraordinaire. But something happened, they were allowed to grow up. This doesn't happen often in stories, let alone a 'teen' TV show, but it did and it's a beautiful thing.

It works because they both retain their personalities, but grew in strength. Their positive traits are dominant now even though they still retain those annoying quirks to let us know who they are. It's an amazing thing Julie Plec has pulled off, but it works and it's a case study in how to grow a development arc.

But IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE EVERY CHARACTER. This is important, people. Take note!

For the opposite: See Bonnie. Ugh. Bonnie runs around being judgey and bitchy then comes in and reluctantly does a spell. And this is what she's been doing since day one. Flat characters? Not good.

Lesson: Character arcs are as important, if not more so, than the plot.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I just bought season four on DVD and must have a marathon...you know, to write better.

What? It's research. I mean, when research looks like this, it's easy.