Monday, December 17, 2012

Give and Take

The always always amazing Cole came up with this truly awesome question for our latest blog chain:

In this season of giving, what one piece of advice you can gift aspiring authors?

Oh wow. I have to give a gift of advice?!? Eek. Pressure. 

Wouldn't you rather have a $5 Starbucks gift card? You could buy an eggnog latte and... Well that's pretty much all $5 would buy at Starbucks. But still - yummy, right? 

Okay, no. I can do this. Advice. Wrapped up and with a bow on top. 

But first, let me go off on a tangent, that will then circle back around to the whole advice gift thing. I'll be quick - I promise.

I love Christmas movies and Christmas specials. And I tend to get teary-eyed very easily while watching these - it's mostly just my allergies from all those dusty Christmas decorations. I mean, for goodness sakes, I'm not really getting choked up over the stupid Folgers commercial where the girl tells her brother that he's her Christmas gift this year... could I? 

Anyway, moving on...

A lot of these specials have the common theme of family and being with those you love - like that emotionally manipulative coffee commercial. But my favorite theme - and the one that gets every stinking time - is that of belief. I guess the belief thing gets me because it's not about believing in Santa or even the power of little baby Jesus. It's bigger than that. It's belief in something good and magical and sacred that goes beyond presents and decorated trees and cookies. For me it's belief in the human spirit - that someone survives even the tragedy of this past week.

That belief is what makes the Grinch's small heart grow three sizes.

Yeah, the Grinch has always been one of my favorites. But in the last few years, there's another Christmas movie, that I might like even more. Maybe it's because this one gets a lot of play in my house due to my son - the train lover. Or maybe it's because I just love what it has to say. 

That book and movie is The Polar Express. 

So to all those aspiring writers out there - here is my gift to you - by way of The Polar Express.

First be ready to ride. 

Once on your way, don't forget that...

And finally just...

And I know it's not really in the Christmas spirit - but I totally gave myself the same gift too.

Want to open another present? You'll find it wrapped up and waiting for you on Sandra's blog tomorrow.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Darkness Most Dreadful

Today is not only my daughter's third birthday but also the start of another blog chain. Christine kicked things off with this question:

I've been described as a writer of highly emotional and dark stories. So much so, that some could not read Transcend saying that while it was "beautifully crafted and written", the story was just too dark. So I ask you...How dark is too dark for your aesthetic? And is writing "dark" and "emotional" a "bad" thing?

This is such a great question for the blog chain because I already know that everyone will answer this a different way. And that's because what one person views as dark, may not be so bleak to another person's point of view. 

For me personally, I write darker books and I like to read darker books. Although sometimes I also like to read light and fluffy books. I don't think either of these is good or bad--as long as the darkness or light fits the story that it is being told. The most important thing about reading a dark book, though, is that there is some light at the end. Endings don't necessarily need to be 'Cinderella driving away with the Prince' happy, but there needs to be hope or a feeling that things are looking up.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. 

In high school I had to read 1984 by George Orwell. I was not a Cliffnotes type of girl. I wouldn't even skim. If I was assigned to read a book, then I read every single word. I even read the rather long book within a book that comes somewhere around the middle of 1984. The last 100 pages were a bit of a slog, but I kept going - not just for school anymore - but to know how it ended for myself.

I had my fingers crossed for a happy ending. I guess I should have known better. Maybe I did. But what I didn't know was that it was a **SPOILER ALERT** strap a rat in a cage to the main character's face so that he would finally give in and be completely and utterly defeated type of ending. 

I threw that book across the room. I was so mad at it. Just thinking about it now, I feel outraged all over again . I do not subscribe to that book's vision of the world and humanity and I never will. 

That is too dark for me.  

Maybe next June when ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE hits the shelves, it will also hit the walls of some its readers. It is a dark book in some places, although the word I hear most often in feedback so far is "creepy." That might not be everyone's cup of tea and I get that. But I will promise you this - there are no rats and the ending is ultimately on the side of hope.

As you probably already know - this is only the beginning of the blog chain - to read more head on over to Sandra's blog.