Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stick To Your Guns

Not one word of social criticism…has ever changed one word of any story I tell.  I believe in what I’m doing.” - Quentin Tarantino
 


Love him or hate him, you can never accuse Quentin Tarantino of fitting anybody’s mold.  He sticks to his guns (literally and figuratively) and tells the stories he wants to tell.  If you look at his body of work, there’s no real rhyme or reason to it; from a gory, two-part revenge epic interspersed with Japanese anime and spaghetti Western imagery (“Kill Bill”) to a clever (if convoluted) caper about a flight attendant (“Jackie Brown”) and a whole lot of blood in-between, Tarantino does what he wants and if you don’t like it…well, you can imagine what choice words or hand gestures he would use to tell you what he thinks.

Among the best advice I’ve ever been given is to write the kind of book you like to read (just like Tarantino makes the kind of movies he wants to watch).  If you want to write a Western, but think you have to write about vampires because that’s what “sells”…write a Western!  Unless you have an urge to write a book about cowboy vampires. J 

For every ten people who love "Pulp Fiction," ten people hate it. 
 
On the flip side, if you’ve got an idea for a legal thriller burning inside you crying out to be written but you think the genre is too crowded… John Grisham didn’t let that stop him.  You could put a twist on it like no other.  If you write anything other than what you’re passionate about, your lack of enthusiasm will shine through.  Suspense books are close to my heart, so that's what I write.  I may love “The Twilight Zone,” but it would be silly for me to write a science fiction book.  It’s just not my thing.

As a writer, self-doubt is a killer.  You spend a lot of time wondering if readers will “get” what you’re trying to say, whether or not you’re going “too far,” or not going far enough…the list goes on.  When I was writing “Live and Let Die,” I was plagued with insecurities.  It’s not your “typical” suspense book.  It’s not a procedural, there’s no DNA or forensics at work or a detective who’s on the trail of the truth.  Not to mention it’s a standalone, not part of a series. 
 
Ultimately, I had to get over those doubts and just concentrate on telling the best story I could the way I wanted to tell it.  While I carefully considered the criticisms of the draft, I only changed what I knew in my gut had to be reworked -- all the critiques did was reinforce it.  You know what’s working in your story and what isn’t. Go with your gut.

Not everyone will like what you write or the way you write it, but there are plenty of people who will. For every ten people who think “Pulp Fiction” is brilliant, there are ten people who think it’s terrible.  I doubt those ten people who hate it cause Tarantino to lose any sleep at night.

Stay true to your vision, tell the story you want to tell, write the kind of book you want to write.

Now, back to writing.

 


 

 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Getting Inspired: Writing, Reading and Watching

Anyone who’s in a creative field (writer, artist, designer, etc.) looks at the world a little differently.  Inspiration for creation can be found in a conversation overheard at Starbucks, a street sign in a strange city even in kids kicking a can down a residential street.  All of a sudden, the first chapter of a novel begins to form, a design idea leaps to life or scattered song lyrics start to make sense. 

There was an episode of “Project Runway” years ago where the designers had to design an outfit based on the sights and sounds they discovered while wandering around New York City for a few hours.  It’s amazing what they came up with; dirty gutter water transformed into an elegant evening gown, an orchid became a sophisticated two-piece ensemble, etc.  While you or I would have just seen gutter water or an orchid, the designers were able to conceptualize those abstract ideas into wearable art.
This elegant gown was inspirted by dirty gutter water.  Inspiration can come from anywhere, so long as you're open to it.
Photo:http://runawayprojectrunwayproject.blogspot.com/

As a writer, I get inspired by all kinds of things.  Because I write suspense novels about the dark side of love, I can sometimes be found rapt in front of a “Law and Order” marathon of some kind (“Criminal Intent” is my favorite.) I find lots of story ideas by listening to the radio, thumbing through the pages of “PEOPLE” (a treasure trove of inspiration), and reading the newspaper.  Remember in "Working Girl" when Melanie Griffith got her big idea from a newspaper gossip column?  I keep a massive accordion file folder crammed with articles I’ve ripped out of magazines and printed off the Internet.  Sometimes, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with an article, but I hang on to it, since I never know when it might come in handy.  I drew inspiration for “Live and Let Die” from a variety of places – including an article I read in “USA Today.” 
 
Above all, I LOVE watching Investigation Discovery.  I could watch that channel all day long (sad to say, there’ve been some rainy Saturday and Sunday afternoons where I’ve done just that).  What I love is that many of the shows – “Scorned: Love Kills,” Fatal Vows,” “Deadly Affairs,” etc. – aren’t necessarily focused on the procedure behind how the crimes are solved, but rather, on the circumstances that drove the players to commit the crime.  Jealousy, greed, lust and that all-important one, love, are at the root of these crimes.  I’m always intrigued by the interplay between people, particularly those in love, and how they can turn that emotion against each other—and others – in the deadliest of ways.  Unless you’re under the bed, you never know what goes on between two people – or what drives them to murder.
 
A good idea can come from anywhere, as long as you keep your eyes, ears -- and imagination open.  And a big accordion file folder ready to be filled.
 
Now, back to writing.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Upcoming eBook Release - Sneak Peek at "Sweet Little Lies"

Happy New Year!

I’m working away on my new novel, “Sweet Little Lies” and wanted to share a sneak peek. I’ve also created a Pinterest board for the book – have I mentioned that Pinterest is like crack? Just saying. I’ve had a lot of fun creating the board and look forward to adding to it as time goes on. I plan to release “Sweet Little Lies” later this winter and will post updates on its availability. In the meantime, here’s a summary and excerpt*:



What would you do if you found out your husband had been unfaithful? Divorce him? Take him back?
 
Kill him?
 
Unfortunately for Mark Monroe, he becomes the recipient of choice “C” after his wife, Kelly, discovers evidence of an illicit affair. In a panic, she flees, deciding she will turn herself in the next day.

 However, before she can, Kelly learns even more devastating secrets about her husband, which sends her on a frantic mission to unravel the mystery of the man she married and murdered – all while trying to stay one step ahead of a dogged police detective determined to bring her to justice.

 
The day Kelly Ross killed her husband, she went to the nail salon for a fill and a pedicure, then met her girlfriend, Shelia, at Tavern on Rush for lunch. Afterward, she and Shelia meandered around Oak Street for a few hours, shopping its exclusive boutiques and enjoying the eighty-degree spring day. Kelly thought when she got home, she’d sit outside on her balcony and wade through the stack of magazines that had been piling up on her coffee table over the past week. Later, Kelly and Shelia said their goodbyes and promised to meet mid-week for drinks. As she enjoyed the balmy breezes rolling off of Lake Michigan that day, Kelly swung her two shopping bags alongside her as she walked the few blocks to the Gold Coast condo she shared with her husband, Mark.

She didn’t recognize the doorman who opened the door for her—must have been one of the relief guys that paraded in and out on the weekends. She checked the mail before she took the elevator up to the twenty-third floor. Bills, bills, bills. Wasn’t that a Destiny’s Child song from a few years back? Kelly let out a contented sigh as she opened her door and set the mail, her purse and keys down on the occasional table immediately to the right of the entrance. She reached into her purse for her cell phone to see if she’d missed any calls. Seeing that she hadn’t, Kelly put her phone down on the table next to her keys and dropped her shopping bags down on the floor next to the table before she went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of water. She drained it in three quick gulps before she put the glass in the dishwasher and began to whistle, something she usually did when she was in a good mood. Mark hated it. Of course, he hummed, so she figured that made them even. Speaking of…Kelly checked her watch. Three-fifteen. He’d gone to the office after she left for the salon and said he’d be back around five. She’d call him in a few minutes to see if he wanted to meet somewhere for dinner, preferably al fresco.

Kelly grabbed her shopping bags and headed into her bedroom to try on her purchases one more time before hanging them in the closet. When she hit the doorway, she did a double take. Mark had made the bed. He usually left that chore to her or their twice-weekly cleaning lady.

“Huh. That’s weird,” Kelly mumbled, shaking her head. “Must have left the toilet seat up.” Whenever Mark did something unexpected around the house, Kelly knew it was usually because he’d done something stupid somewhere else in the house. Like load and run the dishwasher after leaving an empty milk carton in the refrigerator. She walked over to the bed and took a peek, running her hand down the smooth expanse of the beige duvet. Plumped pillows and fresh sheets with the spritz of lavender linen water he knew she liked. She was impressed. Kelly turned and saw that last week’s ivory sheets hadn’t quite made it into the hamper. Kelly chuckled to herself as she walked over to pick up the ball of sheets laying on the floor. Sometimes he was such a man.

Kelly snatched up the sheets and felt something cool land on her foot. She frowned and looked down, her eyes wide, her heart racking. Shaking, Kelly dropped the sheets and knelt to the floor for a closer look.

A condom.

They’d made love that morning, but hadn’t used condoms since they got married three years ago and she’d gone on the pill.

A condom.

         “That son of a bitch,” she said, hot tears stinging her eyes. Wiping the snot starting to run out of her nose with the back of her hand, Kelly fumbled toward the bathroom for a tissue. She looked at herself in the mirror. What the hell was he thinking? She’d been a goddamned supermodel for chrissakes. You didn’t cheat on goddamned supermodels! Regular Pilates classes and jogging, a few days a week, coupled with good genes, kept her 5’9 frame trim and toned. With her hazel eyes, long, light brown hair, full pink lips and creamy complexion, people sometimes mistook her for Vanessa Williams. She was a great wife. Wasn’t he always telling her what a wonderful wife she was and how lucky he was?

Unable to look at herself any longer, Kelly turned to leave and her eye fell on their wedding photo sitting on Mark’s nightstand. Slowly, she walked over and picked it up. Mark, a handsome and successful partner with one of the city’s most prestigious law firms, single-handedly building its booming sports practice; she, a former supermodel who had launched a thriving cosmetics company. Their wedding had gotten major press, including a short article in “PEOPLE,” the New York tabloids, “Jet,” a mention in Sneed’s column and every gossip site on the Internet. Suddenly, a wave of rage tore through Kelly’s veins. She hurled the glass-framed photo in the direction in the bathroom mirror. Both the frame and the mirror shattered as they collided with each other. For some reason, that made her cry even more.

She was heaving now, the tears spilling out of her eyes like water gushing from a faucet. She felt sick. How could he do this? How? Didn’t they have the perfect marriage? Didn’t Mark’s friends marvel at how he’d landed her? Didn’t her friends look at her with a twinge of jealousy whenever Mark sent her flowers for no reason or bought her a beautiful, touching gift commemorating some anniversary or just because?

Of course. It was guilt. She’d always assumed it was because he was such a loving, thoughtful and wonderful husband. Bitter laughter escaped her lips. Well, now she knew he was a lying sack of shit. Kelly started to sink down on the bed before she bolted upright, as though she’d sat on fire. He’d brought his hoochie here to their bed. Kelly began to pace. What should she do? Pack up her things and leave? No, screw that. She’d found this place and made it into the showplace for friends, family…Mark’s clients. He could leave. She’d get a quickie divorce. She didn’t need or want anything from him. Simple and painless. She looked at her watch. It was now three-twenty five; Mark would be home at five. Didn’t matter. He wouldn’t be staying long.

Kelly stalked over to Mark’s closet, yanked it open and pulled down one of his suitcases. Blindly, she jerked shirts, pants and suits off their hangers and launched them haphazardly into the suitcase. His carefully assembled shelves of clothing and shoes were dismantled in seconds as Kelly continued to hurl Mark’s belongings into their new home. Kelly continued to fill suitcases until no more were left and then dragged everything out into the living room. As she turned to walk back to the bedroom, she saw pictures. There were pictures of them everywhere—vacations, parties, family gatherings. Kelly marched into the kitchen and grabbed a trash bag from underneath the sink and began to throw every picture she saw with the two of them into it.

She went back into the bathroom. There were tiny shards of glass scattered across the ceramic tile floor and marble countertop from where she’d smashed their wedding photo. She grabbed a towel from the rack next to the door and gingerly picked up the frame from where it had fallen on the floor. She placed it into the trash bag, and began to make a mental list of every gift Mark had ever given her. Mostly jewelry, some books, lingerie, a music box she’d spotted in a shop in Madrid a few years back—things like that. Kelly grabbed whatever she could think of and into the trash bag it went.

By the time she was through, there were five huge garbage bags full of memories stacked next to Mark’s suitcases. She looked at her watch. Four-thirty. What would she say to him? She hadn’t gotten that far yet. The need to get him out of the house had superseded any confrontations they were going to have. Kelly stood in the middle of the bedroom when she saw it.

The condom.

In the middle of everything, she’d forgotten the condom. She walked over to it and bent down. Thank God for long acrylic nails. Wincing, she picked up the slimy piece of rubber and held it out in front of her as she scurried into the living room and dropped it on top of the pile of suitcases and trash bags. Let him take it with him when he left. Kelly stood there staring at everything, feeling numb. She was restless, ready to fight, yet still in shock over what had happened. She wrung her hands as though they were wet dishtowels and let out a deep breath. She needed a drink to calm her nerves.

With an agitated gait, she went to the kitchen and pulled open the refrigerator door. There was still a half bottle of Shiraz from dinner last night. She’d made him dinner last night. He’d raved about it—roast chicken, garlic green beans, whipped potatoes, an apple tart for dessert. How could she have known that would be their last meal together? Kelly clamped her hand around it and shut the door. She placed it down on the counter and stood for moment with her eyes closed, her hand wrapped around the slippery coolness of the wine bottle. She opened her eyes and then methodically took down a wine glass and poured herself a drink. She took a hearty gulp and welcoming the familiar warmth as it filled her insides. She put the glass down and stared unseeing at the butcher-block table in the middle of the room, her eyes filling with tears once more.

*Published book may contain slightly different content from posted excerpts