Monday, November 19, 2012

Color Me Food

There has always been talk against describing characters skin tones by using food—especially describing people of color. But it was a recent comment I read calling writers who do this as “lazy” that got me thinking.

I am of the firm belief that whatever will give your reader the clearest, quickest view of your character is a description worth using. Does that mean you have to call a character tall when gangly may do, or describe someone as fat when portly can say the same? No. I still think employing creative ways to describe something otherwise unremarkable is the better way to go.

With that said, to describe you character as having brown skin isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but saying her skin is the color of cinnamon seems instantly better to me. Brown has so many shades. I get an instant picture when you say cinnamon, or chocolate, mocha, or brown sugar, or honey, or caramel, or coffee…

To me, it seems a wonderful way to give a person a clear picture of a complexion. Yes, this can become cliché and even lazy, but if the way an author describes her characters is considered lazy, there will be other lazy writing flaws as well.

I looked up synonyms for the color brown and came up with this: amber, auburn, bay, beige, bistre—WTH?, brick, bronze, buff, burnt sienna, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, copper, drab, dust, ecru, fawn, ginger, hazel, henna, khaki, mahogany, nut, ochre, puce, russet, rust, sepia, snuff-colored—Seriously?, sorrel, tan, tawny, terra-cotta, toast, umber…

Some of these are perfectly fine; bronze, chestnut, cocoa, copper, mahogany. But others are just not the thing. I’ve seen sepia use before, quite a lot actually. But the word doesn’t bring a color immediately to mind. I know it’s brown, but what shade? Maybe it’s me. I don’t think it has to be that complicated. I wouldn’t want to read a book where the character was described as having snuff-colored skin, or ochre, or bay, or terra-cotta, or bistre. One of the last books I read described a character as having warm brown skin. That was perfect to me. I didn’t need more. I didn’t need a word that would make me stop reading to look it up and go, “Oh, it means brown.”

It’s not just for characters of color either. I’ve seen white characters described as milky, creamy, or peachy. Basically, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using food to paint a picture of your character. There’s a way to make everything work. Would I suggest you refer to your character’s skin tone as brown-sugar or peachy every time you referenced it? Absolutely not. But, I’m not going to be one of those people who rolls her eyes if I see another character of color referred to as mocha, or honey, or chocolate.

These are just my opinions and I’d love to hear yours.

Friday, October 19, 2012

HELP! I Need a New Laptop!!!

No, I didn’t punch my laptop, but I really, really, really, want to. It’s been twitching when it first comes on, like it’s having a seizure and it will only stop when I position the lid in exactly the right way. Bad luck for me is that the position is not at all comfortable for me so I spend a lot of time hunched so I can see the screen. It’s not pretty, people. A few more months like this and I’ll have a hump on my back. But if it’s a millimeter off, the screen blinks so rapidly that I know it’s communicating with the devil or something, and I wait for the face of a killer to appear to tell me to turn around, cause he's standing behind me waiting to behead me.

Okay, so clearly I’m loosing my mind. Not to mention I’m a little too attached to my laptop and the fact that it’s leaving me for some cyber hussy is too much for me to handle. But that’s okay, I’m doing a preemptive strike. I’m leaving it before I can be dumped!

But I need help. What laptop do you recommend? I have a Compac Pesario and would probably not get another one, but it was a gift. I can tell you what I really want, A Mac Book Pro, but um…I don’t have $3000 just lying around. Not until I sell my book for billions of dollars, the movie rights for trillions and open my theme park for ga-zillions! Until then, I have to budget and I don’t want to go over $1000.

Help me! You all know what I mainly need it for, writing. So tell me how much you love your laptop and maybe I can find a new one! Otherwise, I’m heading quickly to a padded cell and no one wants to see that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Establishing Rules for Your Paranormal Character

One of the things my agent asked me to clarify was the rules to my characters abilities. She has psychic dreams and while I never though it needed to be defined more than that, I can now clearly see why it is oh so important.

The more I began to think about all the paranormal, fantasy or sci-fi stories I’ve read over the years, the more I began to realize they all had rules. Some rules are inherent, such as vampires being unable to go out into the sun, or werewolves changing with the full moon. Others are more mandates, like in Harry Potter, underage wizards aren’t allow to perform magic away from Hogwarts. They are physically capable of performing magic, however they face expulsion.

Rules in speculative fiction create conflict and raise stakes: the vampire who needs to go out in the daylight to save his one true love; the werewolf locked in a room with his family minutes away from the full moon; Harry Potter performing magic away from school while still underage is brought before an inquisition.

But on the flip side, establishing rules means exploring what happens when the rules are thrown out. The day-walking vampire or the werewolf who can change at will.

I thought about all of this while establishing the rules for my psychic dreaming mc. I needed rules for her actual dreams, how they come to her, how she sees them and how she can control them. Then I needed to establish the rules for her interference or lack there of. There has to consequences to just about every action taken, otherwise, why do it? I’m still thinking and tweaking. Hopefully, I’ll get it together.

How important are rules to you? Have you established rules for your speculative characters? Have you taken well known rules, such as no sunlight for vamps and turned them on their ear?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Pandora Bracelet

Back in August I celebrated a birthday. A friend of mine gave me a Pandora bracelet. If you aren’t familiar with Pandora, check out their website if you are a fan of charm bracelets. Most of the women I work with have them and I’d decided that I didn’t want/need one. But now that I have one—which I truly appreciate—I’m happy about it, but I’m having the hardest time finding charms that resonate with me. That is the purpose of a charm bracelet, isn’t is?

While I was on vacation the cruise ship had a sale on charms. The best one I found was an owl to represent my love of Harry Potter-lol. So I began to wonder if I’m having such trouble finding something that speaks to me—as I watched other women snatch up charms like they were platinum M&Ms—because I’m not passionate about things.

I don’t have a favorite song, book, movie, or color. I love too many to narrow it down. Favorite songs change with my mood. Favorite books and movies change with the genre and favorite color changes based on what it is. I think I look nice in red, pale blues and pink, but I wouldn’t decorate my house in those colors. My mother, on the other hand, loves yellow. She likes to wear it, have her appliances in that color and paint her walls that color.

These are the things I’d love to have on my Pandora bracelet if I could…some I think I can pull off, but others might prove to be tricky.

A computer

A Book


A quill or some other writing instrument

The Big Bang Theory

Pride & Prejudice

The Walking Dead

So tell me, I can take it. I’m not normal. I know. What would that bracelet look like? A computer, a book, a music note, a quill, an atom, a petticoat and a zombie. Yeah, disturbing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Multicultural Characters in YA

I know this is a well-discussed topic, however, I wanted to discuss it a bit more. One of the recent emails I received from my agent—gonna take me a while to get used to writing/saying that. My Agent!—listed all the things she loved about my ms. Diversity was one of them. She mentioned a specific passage she thought was handled well.

My MC is Cuban-American. She is second generation American and doesn’t speak much Spanish. I thought hard about that when she came to me as this tall, awkward, olive-skinned, Cuban girl with a love of auto mechanics. I don’t speak Spanish, although I’m on my way to learning. I didn’t want her to be CINO: Cuban In Name Only. But I didn’t want my book to be full of my flawed Spanish either-lol.

I had two things going for me. 1. I was writing this book in English and therefore, I didn’t need that much Spanish and 2. I used to live in Miami. Anyone who’s lived in, visited, flown over southern Florida knows it’s almost like living in Cuba. I had a diverse group of friends, ate Cuban food, danced in Cuban clubs with Cuban men…hem-hem, getting off topic. My point is I decided I had enough knowledge to create a character with first generation, Spanish speaking parents and make it as authentic as my experiences would allow.

One of my MC’s best friends is Jewish. As he is a side character and we don’t meet any of his family, and I didn’t want to play on the stereotypes, there are only certain things that will point to his Jewish-ness. I did consult with a few of my Jewish friends with some of the things I had him saying and doing. One thing in particular was his Jew-fro. He has very bushy hair and while I couldn’t see that being offensive, I wanted to check and make sure.

My MC’s other best friend is black. I didn’t really have to consult with anyone as I have personal experience being a 16 yr old black girl-lol. Although, I was never the daughter of a mega-rich rapper who just crossed over to action film star. But even as I tried to stay clear of stereotypes, they are there for a reason. They are based in some truth.

Years ago I was speaking with a fellow writer who explained why she wasn’t comfortable having a main character of a different race. She said it was because she had no experience being a black, Asian, or Hispanic woman so she couldn’t write them authentically. Well, I’ve never had any experience being a man, a white woman, a vampire, or a werewolf but I write them. That’s what research is for. That’s what exposing yourself to other cultures is for. I think these are things we owe to our readers. Showing them other worlds means showing them worlds with other races outside of the one you currently inhabit.

With all that said, you have to be comfortable to write well. So maybe everything I just said won’t matter to you. But it is a huge market that’s being underrepresented.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


This story is a year in the making. I queried The Sheldon Fogelman Agency back in June 2011, sending along three chapters. The request for the full came in July. At the time I had a few other fulls and partials out and was happy to add one more to the list!

In the meantime I began writing another book. I continued to check the forums for any information on all the agents who currently had my work—you know, just in case there was a scathing update about them that turned me off. All the while I wrote and bit my nails to the quick!

Well, a few rejections came in. *Bummer* But my new philosophy was, all those who rejected me just made room for my agent to come.

After about two months, I knew I hadn’t heard from a few agencies, namely The Sheldon Fogelman Agency. I waited another few weeks and then sent out emails for status updates. Only one agency got back to me.

Three guesses which one.

That scored them major points with me, because not only did they get back to me, but they got RIGHT back to me—within a few hours. The submissions coordinator, Amy—who is now an assistant agent—assured me that I had not been forgotten and had apologized for the long wait. Um…I could totally be patient, cuz what was the alternative? Telling them that I wouldn’t wait for them to consider my work? Yeah, cuz I just went crazy, right?

Over the next five months I sent two more status emails. Both emails were responded to quickly and both gave me a bit more hope as they said things like, “The fact that we haven’t made a decision about your manuscript is a good sign.” Apparently, my manuscript received a very positive first read and needed to be read by the rest of the staff. Once I knew that, I was content to wait…well, content-ish.

Then one day in April I got an email from Janine Hauber saying she managed foreign rights at The Sheldon Fogelman Agency and was now taking on her own clients. She was very interested in working with me if Platinum Diaries was still available.

Hell yeah it is! ‘Course, I didn’t write that, but I was screaming it—in my head since I was standing in line buying some much needed summer clothes-lol.

Long story, short—I know, too late, right?—she asked for revisions and sent me the most wonderful email with her views on what worked and what didn’t. That email seemed to awaken all these ideas and thoughts I hadn’t even known I had about my manuscript. That has to be the most awesome thing about having an agent. She loves my story and can guide me in the right direction.

We actually had two phone calls. The first, I knew she wasn’t going to offer, because they are a very collaborative agency—which is something else I love—and she needed to talk with me first. You know, make sure I’m not crazy, or in my case, have my crazy well contained-lol.

We had a great conversation. She answered a lot of my questions and I answered hers. Then, she took the revisions I made and passed them on to her colleagues. After they read it, an editorial meeting was set to review Platinum Diaries as well as the manuscript I’d been working on in the meantime. While this was going on, I went on a 10-day cruise-lol. I came back from vacation on September 9th. Took the 10th to decompress and emailed Janine on the 11th. As luck would have it they were having the editorial meeting about my work that day!

She called me at 5pm that night and offered to rep me!!! I tried not to scream my acceptance, but I’m not sure I succeeded.

It was a long wait, but I think it was meant to be. And it really didn’t feel like a year, not when I kept writing and living and doing all the other things we writers do to distract ourselves. I’m just really happy with Janine. It’s a wonderful feeling to talk with someone who is excited about your work and gets your characters.

So there you have it, my “how I got my agent” story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When to Disregard a Comment

As I’ve been working with critique partners for the past few months, the one thing that’s always come up is when to heed or ignore a comment given about your work. Luckily, with this last project, I haven’t had many comments that I disagreed with. However, in the past I’ve had some feedback that nearly blew me off my feet.

From rude, to ignorant, to right out of left field—like they’d been reading someone else’s book and confused it with mine. These types of comments are easy to flush away, even though they often stick with you.

It’s the ones that are kind and thoughtful and full of respect for your work that make you bite your nails to the quick trying to decide if you should follow it or disregard.

I recently had a comment that had all the makings of a stress induced ulcer, but somehow it didn’t:

My wonderful crit partner, Abby suggested that I delete an entire chapter! What?! Oh no she di’nt! LOL. Now, being on both ends of that type of suggestion, having given similar advice to a crit partner of mine and having been given that advice by Abby, I know she did not offer that advice lightly. To be honest, I only read the first line of her long comment—which went something like this: Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think this chapter is needed.

I stopped reading there. Not because I was angry or heartbroken that she didn’t love every last inch of my novel. I stopped to think. I ran through that chapter in my mind and although there were some sweet moments with the male lead and his mother, the chapter didn’t add much to the story. Not only that, but it took away tension from the female lead and from the big reveal at the end. It took about 30 seconds to realize the chapter needed to go. I went back and read Abby’s full comment and her insight made it all the more clear that the chapter should go. I don’t regret cutting it.

I know that isn’t always the way it goes with comments given about your work. Some people are WAY off the mark. Sometimes you just can’t or don’t want to see the flaws being pointed out to you. And sometimes, you just have to go with your gut.

How do you all do it? Are you a gutster, letting that gut reaction to suggestions be your guide on whether you yay or nay it? Do you gather up other opinions and then let the majority rule? Or do you take all suggestions thrown at you like a giant magnet? :-)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sorry for the Long Absence

Hi all,

I’ve been away for so long I’m almost ashamed to show my face, or rather, my words, around here. Please forgive my absence. I can’t even blame it on any one particular thing. Not only did I abandon my blog posts, but I stopped reading other’s as well. The only thing I can say is for a long few months I did no writing at all. I was tired. Which I now see was probably some sort of mild depression behind my health and other minor things.

But I’m back now! I’m feeling great and I’ve been writing steadily for the last couple of months. I’m not going to promise that I’ll post once a week, but I’m going to give it a try. I just wanted to drop in and say, “Hey!” to everyone. Hope the winter treated you all well.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Be My Nook Friend...

I can't believe I've become one of those know, the electronic book people. I was determinded never get one as I love my paper books so much. But, I got a Nook for Christmas...and I think I love it. Please don't tell my books. I haven't broken it to them yet.

Now I'm looking for Nook Friends to share books with. Every year it's my goal to read 100 books. I know this may seem like small potatoes for some people who read/skim books with the spead of light, but it takes me time to read, especially when I'm really enjoying a novel. I know I'm backward. Still, for the past few years I've fallen short of my 100 goal, ending at about 75. Now that I have my Nook, I hope to see what others are reading and that way I can add to my list. Maybe this time I'll meet my goal of 100 books read in 2012!

If you have a Nook and want to be my friend, send me an email, or leave your email in the comments and friend you!

Monday, January 2, 2012


• February 3rd slipped on ice and dislocated my right shoulder, resulting in a broken bone. Ouch!
• March 8th had surgery to remove bone shard and repair damage.
• May 7th went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Beyond Awesome!
• July 7th three requests for my full manuscript!
• July 15th the final Harry Potter movie came out and I went to my fist midnight viewing! I’m sorry that I waited until the last one to do it. There is such a nerd-energy that I love. Thank you J. K. Rowling for giving me something to be super nerdy about.
• July 23rd went to New York to see Daniel Radcliff in How to Succeed in Business Without Trying. Was part of the crowd who sang happy birthday to Dan. The musical was FANTASTIC. I wonder if there is anything he can’t do once he sets his mind to it.
• August 3rd turned 39. I’m blessed to have 39 years in this world and be comfortable with who I am. No complaints!
• August 23rd the East Coast Earthquake. Nothing more to say about that. LOL
• August 27th-28th suffered zero damage from Hurricane Irene. Thank you God!
• November 7th test results from endometrial biopsy came back negative!
• December 9th pathology results from D&C came back negative.
• December 21st my sister came to town for Christmas.
• December 23rd head to Delaware to spend the holidays with family.
• December 28th bought a new car! 2012 Hyundai Sonata. I love it!
• December 31st had a very restful New Year’s Eve.

While I have some goals that were not achieved during the year of 2011, namely, weight loss and obtaining an agent (I’m still waiting to hear back from two of those agents who requested from me in July), I think my year has been very good. The days between each of the listed dates were days filled with writing, reading, laughter and love. I don’t have one complaint. Hope all of you had a full and wonderful 2011 and may 2012 be even better!