Monday, September 30, 2013

Writing Under the Influence: Smallville

Now, in my last few posts, I've only said positives things I've been taught from TV shows I love. And while it is true, mostly what I take from my favorite shows are the good things, you're bound to get some "don't-ever-do-that-ever-ever-ever" lessons mixed in there, too. No TV show is perfect.

For instance, in the TVD blog I could mention how Elena is one of the worst characters ever and I wish Katherine would kill her and Bonnie and their dual death would bring back Alaric because JULIE PLEC DO THIS PLEASE! But I digress.

Smallville, by and large, is one of my favorite shows that has graced my TV set. A watcher from the beginning, I grew up with those characters. I wept when Clark had hard times and got his heart broken, I cheered when Product-Placement Pete moved away and I only cried for a week when it was Jonathan Kent's time to leave us.

It's no secret. I love comic books and superheroes and all things geeky and nerdy. And while he's not at the top of my superhero food chain, Superman is so close that ten years worth of show dedicated to him had to make my list.

So here's are three things Smallville did absolutely right and how I apply them to writing and two things I will consider lessons learned and hopefully never go there.

The Good -
1) Embrace the quirks of your universe.
The entire time Smallville was on the air, its self-awareness was what made it work. They never had any doubt Clark was different and the characters on the show knew the things that happened shouldn't be happening - but hey, meteor! They knew - we're in Smallville, Kansas and this sh*t is bananas. And it worked so beautifully.
But more importantly, the writers and creators knew what they were up against. It was a reboot that had been told a million times. Comics, TV, movies. It had all been done. Some well, some terrible. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, they shined it up and put a big ass tire on it. They brought Clark Kent to us from a completely new angle. A teenager getting his powers as he went and applying his superpowers to the same struggles every single one of us go through. 
From learning he's an alien as a parallel to learning you're adopted to his powers equated to the inner freak we all feel we are, Smallville hit the nail on the head. But on top of that brilliance, the jokes and lore of Superman weren't shied away from, they were embraced.
A myriad of guest stars and recurring characters played by actors from the history of Superman were used. Christopher Reeve, Annette O'Toole, Teri Hatcher, Dean Cain, Margot Kidder and the list goes on.
They make jokes about capes and unitards and Clark not looking good in red and blue.And when he runs for student council his platform is truth, justice...and other stuff.
But it goes beyond that even, John Scheinder played Jonathan Kent and also famously, Bo Duke. In one episode he's in his truck listening to the Dukes of Hazzard theme song. In another, Luke Duke (Tom Wopat) shows up as his buddy - in the General Lee! And wonder Woman is Chloe's mom.
It's inception for the entire Krypton/Smallville/Metropolis universe. But completely unique.

And it works because they know it, use it, embrace it and expand it.

How it applies:
No matter what story you're writing, it's been told before. Now don't get mad. It has. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. So embrace the good things about the tale as old as time and then expand on it and make it your own. The story made have already been told, but no one is going to tell it like you.

2) Don't take yourself so seriously.
Don't be afraid to let your readers know you know that purple-alien-zombies from Planet WeLuvsWine have invaded and in all the galaxy,  one fourteen year old who can't win a chess match is the only hope is a crazytown scenario and you know it. It doesn't mean it won't work. It doesn't mean it can't be serious. It doesn't mean it can't be deep.
It means it makes your characters real.
In Smallville, when Clark finds out he's "not from around here" he asks his dad, "I suppose you hid my space ship in the attic?" Jonathan shrugs and says, "The storm cellar actually."
It's such a ludicrous thing to happen, that to not take it seriously was the only way to take it seriously.
Lex Luthor (the best one that's ever been, IMO) is so serious and we know he's going to turn bad. But in the many years it takes him to get that way, we can't help but see the good in him. That maybe if we believe in his over-the-top drama and hug the unfavorite only son, he might be good. The show lets us have that dream while shoving in our face what we know is inevitable in the cheekiest of ways.
And you know what? It's brilliant that way. We buy in to it because it's a fantasy. We're allowed to take the leaps of faith and crazy conclusions with the characters because we know we're in Smallville. We know everything here is "really? That happened?" and because we know it, we believe it.

How to apply it:
Buy doing just what those writers did. Turn it on its head and don't take yourself so seriously. Let your characters have moments of "So this is a thing that is happening" and your readers will follow them right along. 

3) Ground your stories in the people, not the fantastical.

There have been two superman movies comes out since Smallville hit the air and while both have had merit, neither have struck gold with the public. I have feelings about this, the biggest being Smallville did it right and until it fades in memory a bit, we don't need another origin story.

But how did Smallville get it right and the movies didn't? The movies relied on the audience doing the research into Superman's past and already being connected when we showed up, then tried to hold us there by explosions, loud noises, and big-box-office-budget-spandex.
But it should've been the other way around. in Smallville, Clark doesn't even suit up in his tights until season ten - in the SERIES finale.

You're so invested in the characters that when someone chews kryptonite laced gum and gets stretchy your first thought isn't "yeah, right", it's "But that power will go to Product-Placement Pete's head and he might do something to get himself killed!"
Every time a character makes an out-of -this-world choice or gets a power, you aren't pulled from the story, you're drawn in and wonder how it will affect the character you know and love.

How to apply it:
Let the audience know the character and see inside. Give away a little bit of the story. Even if we know where it's going, caring about the characters will pull us through the what and into the why and how did it get that way? Characters drive your story. Without it, it's just idle movement.

The Not-So-Good
1) How to turn a beloved love story and character into the equivalent of nails-on-a-chalkboard. See: Lana Lang.
I was a die-hard Clark and Lana fan. To the point where I didn't want them to bring Lois Lane on the show. I loved their sweet chemistry, their doomed love, their missed moments. And I admit, their last goodbye still makes me cry with each viewing.
But by the time it got to the end, I was so over her and her character's stupid whining and not understanding Clark and ugh, Lana just shut your face! I mean, the guy saved her eleventy-billion times and was always there for her and yet she never trusted him until she found out he was super. Well, not kidding you love him then!
Oh, everything snaps into place, but I won't say sorry about all those times I was crap to you and all the bad decisions I made. (Although, to be fair, two of those bad decisions were Ian Somerhalder and Jensen Ackles, so maybe girl has a point) I'll just love you know for the alien I always knew you were even when i said I didn't.
*eye roll*
She was such a fan favorite they couldn't just write her off the show, i guess. Bu they made every bad decision with her. Writing this now, maybe they did that to make way for Lois and to show she was better for Clark. Maybe it was actually so genius, i didn't even see it until this very moment. *strokes chin* So now I don't know what column this goes in,

How to apply it: Know when it's time to let go of a character. Over kill is not always, actually rarely, a good thing.

2)Stick to formula.
In season 9, Zod invades and Lex goes away. The good news is - make way for Tess Mercer! She's one of my favorite things about Smallville. But the Zod invasion with the Candorians. Of course, he wants to rule Earth and make it into a new Krypton and blah, blah, blah he's evil. Yeah. We know. The problem with this arc wasn't the arc itself, but that it forced the show to violate rule number one and two up there in serious ways.
It violated rule one by no longer embracing the already well-placed universe, but pulling every character ever onto Earth. Jor-El. Lara-El. Kara(Supergirl). And the crystals, the Fortress of Solitude,  Lex Luther, a new society, The Traveler, the Phantom Zone, time-travel to the future, The Legion, JLA. Separately, all these things are amazing and individually they had worked on the show. But in season 9, they all collided and weren't so much embraced as thrown into a blender and served up as disgusting soup.
It violated rule two by being so dark and deep it forgot to laugh. it took itself way too seriously. I know at this point, they were still deciding on a season 10, and thank god they did because they ended the series beautifully, and not just because Green Arrow was there the whole time either. But season 9 needed color and laughter. 

How to apply it: Pick a story line a run with it. Make a series if you need to, but don't over cram. It cuts out the awesome factor on so many levels. Also - make 'em laugh, or at least freaking smile.

So there you go. This was s long-winded one and I'm sorry-not-sorry. I could do a whole series on just this particular show. It holds a dear place in my heart for many reasons, and some are just weird, but if you haven't seen this one, go watch immediately. it's worth your time and effort. The first few episodes have extra-cheese as far as freak-of-the-week and special effects, but solider on. Truth, justice and the American way are just around the corner.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing Under the Influence: Supernatural

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Supernatural. The scary, the funny, the Winchesters. But really, as a writer you could learn a lot from this show. (Warning: many, many gifs today!)

Wait..You don't watch Supernatural? Well, right some wrongs in your life, people!

Supernatural is the story of two demon-hunting brothers, the Winchesters, who go off fighting evil and generally saving the day.

They also die a lot. But don't worry, they come back. Oh, and there are angels and demons and you know, armageddon. But also horror greats, like Bloody Mary, the woman in white and even, Dracula.

But how does this show influence me? Let me tell you.

1. Relationships.

At the heart of this story, there is a brother story. No matter what, these guys are there for each other. They don't always like each other and they both make really bad choices, usually to save the other, but at the end of the day, you know what comes first with them. This is so important as a writer. Build relationships that withstand trouble and turmoil. It build tension through conflict and it will keep your readers engaged.

Lesson: The strongest relationships aren't always the romantic ones. 

2. Humor and not taking yourself so seriously.

This show is full of tear-jerker moments. I mean a lot of them. And most take place with two hot guys talking while leaning against an equally hot car, but I digress. The reason we care when we get to those tear-jerker moments isn't just because we care about the characters, it's because we know them. We have beers with them and share adventures.

We laugh with them.

I don't think I can stress enough how important this is. A little humor goes a long way. Dean and Sam face life and death every day and this show could be a total...really? if not for the humanizing humor and wit they bring to the table. And the show itself has even addressing the strong and vocal fandom, poked fun at its own self and let the boys have moments of self-awareness, where they understand just how absurd their lives really are.

And it works.

Lesson: Well, I'll let Joss Whedon tell you this lesson.
 “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”

3. Retellings are key.

I mentioned this in my GRIMM blog, but retelling a story in a way that makes it fresh is key. You already have the familiarity built in, but then the anticipation of, what are they going to do with it. One of my favorite episodes of Supernatural is Monster Movie.

It's in black and white and plays into the whole grand age of Hollywood movie monsters. There's even an Intermission title card half way through. It turns out to be a monster they've battled before, but the set-up is so unique and clever, that I never tire of watching it. Plus - Dean wears lederhosen. Yeah, you heard me.

You feel comfortable right away because you know where it's going. You are just along for the ride, and then bam! Curve ball from nowhere and you are in love.

Lesson: You don't have to reinvent the wheel, just make it roll in a new direction.

4. In a series, have a hook and stick with it.

This one is especially important if you're writing a series and have recurring characters. They should do things over and over. It let's the audience know they are back in this world and reminds them why they love/hate the characters. Supernatural excels at this. Each character has a thing. It might be awesome or it might be annoying, but it is there thing. And the audience relies on it. They love it. They embrace it.

This is key, the embracing part. You want your character to be unique enough to be remembered and great way to do that is to give them a thing.

Here are some examples off the top of my head:

Dean: "Bitch."  Sam: "Jerk."

Bobby: "Idjits."

Dean: "Awesome." "Son of a bitch."

Castiel takes everything at face value, which makes for some funny misunderstandings.
Dean loves classic rock and pie.
If you sleep with Sam, you die.

Lesson: Commit to your character. Know everything about them and show what makes them different. Because that is what makes them memorable.

5. Big arcs, small arc.

I mentioned this in GRIMM, also, but the wrapped-up small plot vs. the over-reaching arc has a perfect balance on this show.

They have weekly baddies to battle. There is a season long arc. There is a series long theme. This is a hard balance to achieve and Supernatural has done is perfectly. (Let's pretend the Leviathans didn't happen, okay?)

If you are writing a series, consider this. Can the chapter of your final book in that series draw its roots from chapter one of the first book? It should be able to. And on the sad day we see the last episode of Supernatural, I promise the parallels will be there. Make sure the series as a whole is cohesive.

Next, every ten chapters should be a section (a season, if you will), and make a point to the plot all its own. Then by chapter(episode), each should forward the plot with new information or a deepening of understanding to something already introduced.

If you're writing a standalone, these principles can still be applied, just on a smaller scale.

Lesson: Your story is an arc, not a line. But make sure you can always see where you started. It's the only way for the reader to know how far they've come.

So there you have it, how Supernatural influences me.

Oh, and this.

Also this.

And then of course, this.

Happy writing! I'll see you Friday!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why You Don't Want To Be The Next Anyone

Yesterday was #PitMad. If you don't know what that is, you probably aren't reading this blog, but just to clarify, #PitMad is a day on Twitter when you get 140 characters (including the hashtag) to pitch your book. Agents and small presses stop by all day and favorite your pitch, meaning they request it.

It's a fun, stressful, joyful, nerve-wracking thing. But it has real results and several success stories under its belt.

Now, I love pitch days and Twitter contests, but I've got other irons in the fire so yesterday I was just an observer. And here's what I observed.

I saw very pitches that weren't pitches. A likes/loses B therefore must do C or doom/death/else. Yes. That's what your book is, but not why I should read it. A query uses that format above. A pitch is This is why my book is different! Read it! Or more accurately, tossing your words in the air and yelling, CATCH!

But aside from that, I saw a new trend, and it really alarmed me.

Example: The Alphabet meets The Number Ten plus Star Wars.. PB Sci-fi


No. No. No. No.

Again, comp titles are for the query. Not your pitch. I love the alphabet, the number ten and Star Wars but I don't wanna read your book based on that.

I already have all those things.

Which is what brings me to my point. - You don't want to be the next 'anybody'. You want to be you.

Sure, I get inspiration from all over the place. and I love a redux or an homage, probably more than most. But it doesn't go in your pitch and trying to be the next whatever shouldn't drive you to get to your career.

Yeah, But Ang - agents say they want the next J.K. Rowling. Well, of course they do. But they don't mean they want a story about a boy wizard written in her style, they mean they want something original that connects and the world goes crazy for it.

And sorry we already have a J.K. Rowling, the position in filled, you'll have to find another spot. Hey! You know what spot is open? The one for you and YOUR book.

 So write your book, write your query, write your pitch and tell me why your book is different, not just what it's about. But to do that, you have to make it different. You have to make it you. Even when you draw inspiration from something, it still has to be your fresh originality that makes it work.

For example, I have two people in my universe - one is writing a Gatsby inspired novel and one is writing inspired by The O.C. I'm dying to read them both because the take is so fresh and I love both of the original materials.

But if someone hands me a book and says, "Look. I write like Fitzgerald and this book is like Gatsby." I'm not reading it. I already have and love Gatsby. Why do I need another? I don't. And neither does the bookstore or that agent you want.

So when you start doubting your uniqueness or if it's going to sell or if it fits or if that one agent you covet likes this sort of thing, just remember, you are telling YOUR story, not your story that's like someone else's.

The only next anything you want to be is you, the next fabulous big thing.

Happy writing! See you Monday!

Monday, September 9, 2013

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, 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 know, to write better.

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

Reading - The Best Writing Tool

Earlier this week, I posted this on Twitter.

My best writing advice: Marry money.

I got lots of retweets, responses, and laughs and we all know I was joking. Kind of. But I had several people ask me, what is your best writing advice?


That's my advice.

You know the saying you are what you eat? It's the same basic principle. If you don't take in words and the craft of writing, how can you hope to put words on paper in a coherent form? How will you have any words to give away?

If you are a writer and you tell me you don't have time to read...I'm probably not going to read your stuff. I just don't believe it.
But I have so-and-so degree and have taken every class ever and look at all these words I've written. All that may be true. I guarantee you know the textbook way to write. But like Good Will Hunting who can quote everything (which he read, I might add) from a book about life, he doesn't really learn it until he lives.

My point is the only way to learn how to write is to write. The only way to learn how to write well is to read. The only way to learn how to write well and find something original (or at least done in an original way) in your genre/category is to read lots of your genre/category.

                             There is no substitute.No shortcut. No easy way out.

I know very few writers in real life, that aren't a major household name, that can make a living just writing at this point. That means we all have at least two jobs, writing and the 'money-maker'. Hang on. I need to wipe the laughter-tears from my eyes as I remember I teach dance. Money-maker. hahahaha. Okay, I'm better.

So two jobs. A lot of us have kids or a husband, maybe both, maybe none of it. We have families and friends. We have to write, edit, revise, and then do all that again. Not to mention blogs, cover reveals, promotions for our books and our friends, and Twitter! Finding time to read is a challenge. I get it.

Do it anyway.

I've been a dancer my whole life. Never once did I get to say: I have so much to do plus this huge performance and all these rehearsals plus regular life and you know, sleep so let's just skip warm-up or Ballet. I would've been laughed at then promptly moved to the barre and told to 'Work.'

       Reading is like that. It keeps our writer engines running. So make time.

I have a ridiculously busy life. And I have it scheduled to the minute a lot of days. I teach dance, I freelance edit, I maintain my online presence while creating my brand, I intern for an agent, I volunteer at two schools, I run the Trash for Cash programs, I have a Girl Scout troop, I have three kids, a husband, a mother who lives far away, family that lives far way, friends spread out everywhere, I blog with two writer groups, run my own blogs three days a week, sprint and sometimes lead #writeclub on Fridays, take care of my house and my yard and cook all the meals. Basically what I'm saying is, I'm busy.

On my calendar for the weekends, three things are written - library, bookstore, read.

And every weekend, we do those three things. I share the time with my kiddos. Fridays after school, we go to the library. Saturday mornings, we go to the used book store in town. Saturday and Sunday afternoons we turn on the hi-fi and read. It's such a renewal.

But more importantly, it's like taking a class in writing craft every week. Is every book a winner?? No. But I learn from that, too. It's a no-lose situation.

So read. It does a future manuscript good.

Obligatory hot guy gif. (He's reading, see.)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rebekah Crane Cover Reveal and Giveaway: ASPEN

My CP, the gorgeous and ridiculously talented, Rebekah Crane, has done it again and written another beautiful book, ASPEN.

Here's what it's about:
One quiet night in Boulder, Colorado, Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor made a mistake.

In the next instant, her life changed forever.

Aspen doesn't want to remember when Katelyn Ryan, a sleek-haired popular soccer player, crossed the yellow line in her car and smashed into Aspen's. But forgetting is pretty hard- because Katelyn may have died - but she didn't leave. Her ghost is following Aspen around, and heading into senior year, it's kind of a problem. Especially when Katelyn's gorgeous former boyfriend Ben appears to be the only person at school with a clue as to how Aspen feels.

Popularity, college, Homecoming Court, hot guys - none of these things ever mattered to Aspen. She's been busy trying to rein in her giant mass of blonde curls, keep her stoner mother Ninny away from Toaster, her mom's awful bongo drumming boyfriend, and prevent her best friends Kim and Cass from killing - or kissing - one another. But with Ben sitting next to her in Physics looking all too gorgeous, Katelyn's spirit dogging her steps, and her obsessive snow-globe collecting therapist begging her to remember all the things she wants to forget, Aspen is thrust into a vivid, challenging world she can't control … and doesn't want to.

A darkly funny, emotionally gripping story of opening up, letting go, and moving on, ASPEN is about the best-worst accident of your life ... and what comes next. 
Release Date: January 2014
Category: YA contemporary

About Rebekah: 

Rebekah Crane fell in love with YA literature while studying Secondary English Education at Ohio University, but it wasn't until ten years and two daughters later that she started to write it. Inspired by her past students, growing up in Cleveland with its fabulous musical theater community, and music of all kinds (particularly the Avett Brothers), she created PLAYING NICE. It is her first published novel, but having an unbridled imagination, it's not the only fantasy world she's lived in (just ask her husband). ASPEN, her second YA creation, is set to release in January 2014. She now lives in Colorado, where the altitude only enhances the experience.

Twitter: @RebekahCrane

                      And now, no more waiting. Here is the gorgeous cover for ASPEN!!!!!!

                                                                           Isn't it pretty???

                                                 And now - for your patience - a giveaway!

Because an awesome cover reveal isn’t complete without an equally AWESOME giveaway, so here's what you can win... *dramatic pause* 

10 eARCs of ASPEN!
1 tie-dye shirt from Moe’s Broadway Bagels in Boulder, CO (an actual restaurant in the story!) 

2 Grateful Dead bumper stickers! Groovy!
5 Friendship bracelets because WHY NOT?!
1 hacky sack! Rad!
3 flower stickers you can stick to your laptop or desk or wherever! Peace, man!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 2, 2013

Writing Under the Influence: TV Edition: Grimm

Today is the first day of Writing Under the Influence.

I'm going to cover TV, books, movies, music, authors and writers I know that influence me and my writing.

Every Monday I'll post about what influences me and what inspires me. So let's get started.

Today we're talking about GRIMM. It's one of my favorite shows on TV. And I watch more TV than I should no doubt, but I really don't at the same time. I watch a lot of the SAME TV over and over again. I do it with movies, too.

It's like comfort food on the best diet plan ever!

So if you don't know what GRIMM is, I'll tell you.. GRIMM is a show about a detective that finds out his lineage is that of a Grimm, a monster hunter and all the fairy tales we were told growing up are real and not Disney-fied. As a matter of fact, some of them can be pretty...well, grim.

Not all the Wesen(pronounced vessen), the creatures in disguise, are bad or evil. But a lot do turn out on the wrong side of the law. And as humans we can't see their true nature. But the Grimms can. The Wesen can spot a Grimm, too, but we've yet to see how the Grimms look to them.

Oh, and this guy plays Det. Nick Burkhart.

                                    Oh, hello there David Giuntoli. How are you today, good sir?

Now here's why and how it influences my writing.

1. The plotting and pacing are top-notch.

Each week there's a wrapped-in-an-hour plot but interwoven in that is the full season/series narrative. Each week I know I'm going to have resolution and yet want to come back for more.

I try to apply this to my writing because I write in series or at least in companions. And I know nothing drives me more crazy than feeling like I read a book just for set-up for the next one. I want to feel a complete story, even if there are threads that pull me in for another part of the tale.

Grimm does an excellent job of this with their resolution vs. cliffhanger ratio.

2. Every character matters.

The GRIMM world is filled with recurring characters. And although it is Nick's story, I'm just as invested in Juliet, Hank and even the Captain's stories. It has become almost an ensemble piece in my eyes.

In writing translation, make every person count. On screen you need extras, but think of your book characters as actors with speaking parts. If you take the time to mention them, they better have a purpose. Make every single person count or they don't need to be there.

3. A secondary character steals the show. 

Now I love Nick. He's the reason I started and kept watching to begin with. But within just a few episodes, a Wesen Nick befriended stole my heart and now, every week I wait for him to show up and be awesome. The character is Monroe. He's a BlutBad,(Bloot-bod) which is kind of like a werewolf but hails from The Big Bad Wolf mythology. I love him and his girlfriend Rosalee. The dialogue and sharp wit plus loads of heart he brings to the show not only showcase his quirkiness and make him memorable, but it makes Nick more likable because of the bromance. It gives him a chance for normalcy and levity and that's essential in a story.

As far as writing, your sidekick, best friend, or second in MC-land has to be strong and memorable. It will make your hero or heroine more real to the reader.

4. The world.

GRIMM is set in the current year in a major city and that is all very relatable. But underneath that is a layer and hierarchy of Wesen royalty, the long lineage of the Grimm, and the Wesen everywhere humans look but can't see. It gives a spin to something that could just be normal and everyday. For example, Nick is a cop, but so much more.

I really try to remember this one. Because there's always another way to look at something and make it new.

5. The twist.

This builds off the last one. I love how it takes a trope we've all heard a million times, fairy tales and the hero to save the day, and flips it right on its head. This is such a big reason I love this show. I want to see what they come up with next.

And this is the biggest thing I get from this show, the courage to tell it my way. If I think an idea is too out there or crazy I think, yeah, but look at how it CAN be done. It's taking one grain of 'truth' from a legend and building your own universe. While there might not be any new ideas out there, this show proves there is always a new way to tell your story.

So there you go. If you haven't seen GRIMM, I highly recommend it. Watch it once for fun and then again for a little Writing Under the Influence.

See you Friday!