The Magic City

The Magic City

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Dear Lucky Agent" Contest: Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance

The Guide to Literary Agents Editor's Blog is holding its third "Dear Lucky Agent" content for urban fantasy and paranormal romance.  First place gets a 20 page critique and a one year subscription to Writer's Market.  The link to the contest for more information is:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bringing the Funny

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.

--Bill Cosby

My motto when it comes to movies is that I either want to laugh until I cry or be amazed by a special effects department.  I have no need for tear jerkers - if I want that, there are plenty of cable news networks which can oblige me.  To this day, I have not seen The English Patient, Brian's Song or Love Story (also, I refuse to watch animal movies - they always involve Kleenex - fool me once Old Yeller, shame on you, fool me twice Where the Red Fern Grows . . .)  My tastes are similar when I read.  I would love to sound intellectual and rattle off several literary books that are my favorites.  However, I fear the lightening bolt from above that would strike me dead.  

I love fantasy and humor (The Great Brain series and Superfudge are among my all time favorites).  I used to read voraciously, then . . . I went to law school.  For years and years, the only reading material I consumed involved cases and controversies.  High on conflict, low on wit and imagination (with some exceptions - I do have a file of my favorite opinions if anyone is looking for a good giggle).  Then a good friend (I am talking about you, Joe Musso) changed things.

It was a chilly November 2001 afternoon.  I needed to schedule a deposition for sometime within the next two weeks, but opposing counsel was dodging me in terms of committing to a date.  Finally, he broke down and admitted that the date I wanted to use would not do.  He and his wife had already bought tickets to Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone.  I revealed a deep dark secret - I had never read the Harry Potter books.  After a few minutes of stunned silence, he insisted I had to read the books, and do so immediately.  I protested.  They were children's books.  I was an adult.  I was a professional.  I did not read fairy tales (with the exception of a few interesting law review articles).

So, at his urging, I asked my brother-in-law's bitchy ass Swiss girlfriend (a blog post for another occasion) if I could borrow her copy of the first Harry Potter book.  She obliged by loaning me her UK copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (again, another blog post for my initial reaction being that it must have been the Dollar Store version since I initially was unaware of the difference in the UK and USA titles).  Crack.  It was verbal crack, I tell you.

I ran to Barnes and Noble and bought the first four HP books.  I read the first three (Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favorite) in a weekend.  Then I re-read them.  Then I read them again.  I saved the fourth book until I knew the fifth would be released.  I became an addict.  I needed to feed my addiction.  I started consuming all fantasy that I could.  I noted that a lot came up lacking.  Why?

Humor.  I loved the humor of the Harry Potter series.  I noticed the same in my television viewing.  I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer (no heckling, please - watch it - it is very well written) and the West Wing (Aaron Sorkin, please return to the small screen - you are missed).  I needed humor in my entertainment.  If the author/artist didn't bring the funny, they lost me immediately.

So I find myself at a loss.  I need to bring the funny.  Without it, I can't bear to write or read what I write.  However, I tend to be on the dry side.  I spend all day talking about the right way to interpret federal regulations and statutes (let me tell you, you haven't had a good time until you try to wrangle with the language of the Family and Medical Leave Act).  By the time I find enough levity in my mood to write, it is bed time.  There are a few things about which I am serious:  bed time, cheese, and very large televisions.  My positions on all three are inflexible (all three are unlimited goods).  So I need to find a way to find the humor in what I want to write.  


Friday, February 12, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

Robert Burns wrote the "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  I am finding this to be true with respect to my writing.  Specifically, I am referring to the futile efforts to adhere to my outline.

My outline.  My dear outline, painstakingly crafted over several weekends. I think its best use at this point may be toilet paper.  I read books upon books all advising that when writing a story with mystery elements, an outline is essential.  I had a long outline, a short outline, a fluid outline, and an outline of the outline.  Worthless, all of them.

When I sit at my keyboard, eager to write the scene I carefully outlined, I find myself trying to force things that don't feel natural.  The scene felt natural when I outlined it.  Now that I am writing, the story I outlined won't work. The scenes, plot and dialogue all seem stilted and awkward.  My fingers fly typing strange remarks and actions which I had not anticipated.  I'm getting pretty scared.

An aside - I don't hear my characters talking to me.  Conference after conference I have heard authors say that their characters talk to them and whisper (or shout), "no, that is not what I would do."  Not so much as a peep from any of my characters.  Their voices are not what is derailing my outline.

The problem with my outline is that I feel that story has been written.  Now, my short attention span and flying thoughts are taking the story to places I hadn't anticipated.  I am terrified.  What if, by abandoning my outline, I write myself into a corner.

I am a planner.  I love plans, lists and organization (pipe down anyone who has seen my house).  Writing by the seat of my pants is terrifying.  Horrifying.  Mortifying.  Yet, I think I have to fly blind for a little while.  Hopefully, the time spent in the outline will not go to waste.  At least I have a lot of extra scratch paper on my desk!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Technology, Thou Art a Witch

I admit it.  The internet is much smarter than me. 

I cannot say how honored I was to be asked by Lee Lofland to write a column for his blog, The Graveyard Shift.  If you haven't been to his site, it is fantastic (  My column went up today ( 

I thought it would be fun to put a widget on this blog to have a link to his site as well as to Romance Magicians ( another wonderful blog which is put out by the Southern Magic chapter of the RWA.  I am now experiencing the adage that the road to Hell is paved with the best of intentions.  Trying to get the darn widget to work is something that Dante couldn't have envisioned.  If you see me later sporting horns, a swishy tail and a pitchfork (but the link works), you likely know what happened . . .