Tag Archives: Rick Riordan

I Dream of a Miracle

Hello, everybody. Suze here filling in for Viv.  For all of you New Englanders currently without power (and that includes me and most of the Scribes), here’s hoping you get your juice back soon!  Start worshipping the Electricity Goddess, wouldja? (I’d give my queendom for a hot shower!)  The storm has thrown us all a bit of a curve, so we’re switching up.  Viv will be back next week, but in the meantime we’re running this vintage post of J‘s.  With all this cold and snow, and hockey season approaching, read on! 

This post is inspired by a movie: Miracle, starring Kurt Russell (dreamy even in appalling 1979 plaid pants) is a movie about the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team.  Have you seen it?  If not, rent it! 

He's cute here, but keep reading!

Now I was not quite 10 years old in February of 1980 and I lived in a house of women.  We were not sports fans – at all.  We certainly were not fans of a brutal sport like hockey.  Tales of this famous team came to me in an odd fashion.  I had a boss back in the early 1990’s who was a small man with a HUGE personality.  I didn’t know much about him personally, but I did know that he played hockey in his spare time.  On his office wall, he had a big, framed picture of a hockey team.  I once asked him if that was his team.  His jaw dropped and he looked at me as if I had just asked him if a picture of Bob Marley was Jimmy Hendrix (this actually happened to me in college – I wasn’t very worldly in the 1990’s).  You know the look, the one where you are talking to someone and you say something and they wonder if you might be from another planet all together.  Or how you’ve lived this long with your head buried in the sand.  I used to get that look a lot. 

Suze prefers Kurt Russell in Bad Boy, Rather than Bad Haircut, Mode
Anyway, Brian The Boss said in a gentle voice suitable for calming skittish horses, “No, that’s the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team.  They beat the Russians…”  OK, so I might be giving away the ending of the movie here, but it’s kinda like the end of Titanic – you know going into it that the boat is gonna sink.

So, until Miracle came out, I didn’t know anything more about the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team.  But I’ve seen it several times recently.  In 1980 (big cold war days filled with troublesome happenings in the US including Iranian hostages, high gas prices and a bad economy) the Soviet hockey team hadn’t been beaten in 20 years and had spanked the US NHL All Star team regularly.  A bunch of 21-year-old kids from rival hockey towns worked harder to build a team than anybody thought was possible.  They had a goal and they wanted it badly.  They didn’t let the nay-sayers, and there were lots of them, get in their way.  They identified the strengths of their opponents and worked to take on those qualities themselves.  They ran drill after drill after drill and practiced play after play.  They stayed focused and fought to achieve their dream.

Does any of this seem familiar to you?  It does to me.  I want to be a best-selling author and I want it badly.  For most people this is an impossible dream.  But, I’m willing to work hard to get it.  I will write the stories I want to write.  I’ll become a marketing expert to push my books out there.  And a publishing expert, as well.  I’ll make my way down every avenue I can find to reach my dream.  I will ignore the nay-sayers and focus on my goals.  And when I beat my personal Soviets to join the Stephenie Meyers, Mary Pope Osbornes and Rick Riordans of the world, I will take a moment to enjoy my reflection in the gold medal achievement.   That’s today’s secret.

What’s your dream?

How to Make (insert your name here) Stew

Hi there ~ J here.  I was chatting with another writer the other day about how to develop your own authorial schtick.  You know schtick – that thing that makes your writing identifiable as yours.  I think it’s more than voice, it’s more than tone, more than topic.  It’s all those things, plus. 

Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve been re-reading many of my favorite books looking for those nuggets of style that make the book/author one of my favorites.  Are they things that I can incorporate into my own writing style to improve it?  And what are the aspects of my own writing that are strong (keepers) and those that are weak (TBD – to be ditched!)

It took me a-few-minutes-short-of-forever to finish writing my first book, The Cordovan Vault.  By the time I published it last March, I had been through no less than 14 drafts!  FOURTEEN!  Yikes.  But much of that was learning through error.  For example, did you realize that the paragraphs that are visually lovely on a 8.5×11 page are James Joyce long when the paper size is reduced to 5×8 or whatever?  I had to go back through and fix that.

But one of the other problems I had with The Cordovan Vault was POV – point of view.  I had head-hopped (jumped from the POV of one character to another, fast and often) which is a major no-no unless you are a famous-set-in-your-ways-bagillion-time-over-best-selling-author.  Which I’m not.  Yet. 

So I had to fix this head-hopping problem. Seriously, if I couldn’t figure out who was speaking/thinking then how would my audience?!  I solved that problem by borrowing a style nugget from one of my favorite authors: Lynn Kurland.  At least in her more recent romances, each chapter is one person’s POV and she tends bounce back and forth between main characters, one chapter at a time.  I’ve noticed that other writers do this too.  Rick Riordan‘s Kane Chronicles, for example, does something similar, although some times we’ll go several chapters in on POV then switch it up. 

It was hard to fix the POV in The Cordovan Vault entirely, because it had already been written (and rewritten, and rewritten…) but it turned out. When I started writing The Peacock Tale (available October 18th) though, I learned from that experience and each chapter starts out with the name of the person whose POV we are experiencing. 

There are lots of other nuggets of style out there, too.  I love how JK Rowling names things, and she created a wonderful slang language for her magic folk.  And I love how things that seem unimportant in book 1 suddenly become important in book 4 and you don’t see it coming, but later you are like WOW!  How did I miss that?!   I love how Rick Riordan makes mythology alive.  If Percy Jackson had been around when I was trying (unsuccessfully) to memorize that boring yellow book on mythology, it would have made so much more sense!

Today’s Secret: It’s okay to find those aspects of style that you love and incorporate then into your writing.  Eventually, (hopefully!) they’ll develop into a writing style that is all your own.  J Monkey Stew, if you will.

Today’s Question: What are some of the things about your favorite books that make them your favorite?

Indie Marketing – The Book Trailer

Hi!  J here, talking about my new favorite topic, Book Marketing.  Who knew back in 2003 when I started thinking about The Cordovan Vault that I’d need to become a marketing expert.  If I’d known, maybe I could have studied, or something.

Anyway, I’ve been doing some research into Book Trailers, that “new” must-have for all serious book launches.  By research, I mean trolling around on YouTube, laughing at the bad ones (and there are a LOT of bad ones) and ooohing and ahhhing over the good ones.  Here are a couple of examples of good ones:

Stephen King’s new book: Under The Dome

Kady Cross’s new book: Girl in the Steel Corset

J Monkeys’ new book: The Cordovan Vault

Rick Riordan’s new book: The Throne of Fire

See how I snuck mine in there?  What did you think?  I think it’s good, certainly better than a lot of others I saw out there.  There’s a terrible trailer out there for a book by a GREAT author.  And I loved the book, it was a REALLY good book, but the trailer is awful!

But, truth be told, my trailer doesn’t quite live up to my expectations.  😦  This is one of the things with being Indie Published.  Everything rests on my shoulders.  I am both Chef and Bus Boy in my little enterprise.   That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.  When it comes to choosing the title of the book and cover art, I think it’s a good thing since, for me, the title of these books is important to the story.

Dixie & Taco with Grandmother

When it comes to the artwork for my Dixie and Taco series, I couldn’t have found a better artist, and he’s doing an incredible job for a bargain price.  Isn’t that a great picture?!  Hand drawn and colored.  You should see the art in Dixie and Taco go to the Zoo (launches August 9th!  Stay Tuned.)  One page is so wonderful, I made a poster out of it for my kids’ bedroom.  And giveaways…more on that topic at a later date.


But, being Indie Published also means that everything I can’t do myself comes out of my shallow, stay-at-home-mom-who-works-harder-than-ever-before-in-her-life-for-no-paycheck pockets.   Everything, from buying print copies of the books to have for sale, to buying promotional materials, paying a cover artist, illustrator, translator (Dixie & Taco will soon be available in English/Spanish, English/Russian, English/Turkish and English/Somalian) and trailer videographer.  So far, I’ve done it all on the cheap, finding great resources online and in my community.  But sometimes, you get what you pay for.

My videographer did exactly what I asked him to do for a very reasonable price, and in fact he did it twice since I changed my mind about what I wanted after he sent me the first video.  And he did a second one at no additional fee.  Any shortcoming in the final product is certainly mine.

At any rate, today secret is: If you decide to Indie Publish, be aware that there are a lot of costs to doing so.  I’m happy with my decision to go Indie.  It was the right decision for me this year.  But it is a lot of work and if you want to make a career out of writing and publishing, you need to think about it as a business, not just a craft.