Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Boleyn King Book Launch, in Pictures

Confession: I'm an author, not a photographer. I did try to take a lot of photos, I really did. But in between ecstatic socializing, clandestine plotting, and searching high and low for copies of The Boleyn King as it quickly sold out at every bookstore within reasonable driving distance, this was what I could manage.

Here we see beautiful Laura sitting outside The King's English Bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah. Notice first, her happy smile at the massive crowd of family, friends and admirers. Notice next her impeccable fashion sense. Not only is her outfit divine, it completely matches The King's English, and she accessorized to match her book, bag and shoes. I can't say that she did it on purpose, but if she'd hired someone to make her look perfect, they couldn't have done any better.

Surprise! Becca Fitzpatrick secretly drove all the way from Fort Collins, Colorado to be with Laura on her big day.

Katie Jeppson, Laura and Becca at dinner beforehand along with a large and happy group of amazing women all belonging to Laura's once local book club. The food was good. The company was perfect.

The first Boleyn King I saw Laura ever sign. This was when I was still very much into my job as photographer. She says that up close and personal friends get to be signed as Laura A. Andersen and all other awesome people are signed without the A. Now you know.

Laura, sitting just where Elizabeth George sat, ready to sign after giving wonderful opening comments about Anne Boleyn who on that very day, May 15, 1536, stood trial with grace and dignity at the Tower of London. 

And because it would be weird to post all these pics without a shot of me, here I am sporting the wild-eyed look that I get when I've driven all over creation and talked to a thousand wonderful people when I'm supposed to be taking more pictures than I am. It also foreshadows the horrors of eventually making this post, which has not only gone up a day late, it has also spawned a a new charitable organization. The "Buy Ginger a New Laptop" fund is now cheerfully accepting donations.

Once again, congratulations to Laura!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Grabbing Your Eyeballs and Nailing Them to the Page

We all judge books by their covers.  By the blurb on the back, too, and whether we like the clever title.  But the only way to keep us reading that first page until we simply must read the second, and the third, and then rush up to the front of the store and buy it is with the strength of the writing.  So, how to write that unstoppable opener?

Well, I've got a few ideas.  A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of handing over my first page of NinChicks to be read aloud and critiqued, along with a roomful of my equally desperate fellow aspiring writers who had turned in their first page, too.

That's me almost all the way to the right on the nearly back row, in a dark pink sweater with my hair up.  By this time I'd calmed my internal shaking by downing two mini cupcakes, three strawberries and a half-dozen little squares of cheese.  Thankfully the lady next to me did not mistake me for a hungry caterpillar, and further soothed my nerves by being super sweet and chatty.

At the front of the room you can see the illustrious panel, from left to right:Jackie Ogburn, Sue Soltis, and Cate Tiernan.

The event got underway promptly, and then these amazing ladies spent the next several hours giving us brilliant feedback on our first pages.  I didn't try to take specific notes on individual stories--I knew they'd all be muddled in my brain by the end of the day.  Instead, I wrote general advice which applies to pretty much any first pages.
  • Remember that the first page is a contract between the writer and reader--figure out the promise you're making, then keep it.
  • Try not to keep your main character's name hidden. Makes it harder to identify with them.
  • Give us a concrete place which we can see--one problem with dreams is they are either too realistic and build a false expectation, or too dreamlike and lack setting.
  • With shorter books, you need to show where the story's going quickly--by the second spread in a picture book.
  • An abrupt reversal of expectation is always good for a laugh.
  • Voice should match genre and story style--mystery with ominious or mysterious tone, fairytale can have higher language, etc.
  • The style of writing, paragraph lengths, etc. should match the mood of the characters.
  • Get quick conflict by having different characters with wants that are mutually exclusive.
And, last but not least,
  • It's always good to start in a privy.
Of course I've skipped a lot of tips I think are obvious to all but beginners--the language needs to sound modern, the dialogue shouldn't be stilted, the setting details need to be to the point, and there's really no place for back story or info dumps.  Then again, it's easy to make beginner mistakes with the first page, because we feel so much pressure to get it right and maybe haven't quite found the story's start or nailed down the character's voice.

Me, I like to throw the beginning away.  Every book I've ever written, I wrote the best first page I knew how and went on to the best second, third, and so on, and then discovered after I'd finished the book and set it aside and come back to it that my actual factual shiny and glowing opener was somewhere along page three, or even deeper in the novel, with a bunch of writing piled on top of it.  Once I cleared away the fluff (translation, sobbed my way through a massive delete) the opener could take its proper place as the beginning of the book.  And that beginning did all the stuff listed above, minus maybe starting in the privy.  But I'm working on that one!

Many thanks to Jenny Murray and her writer's group for hosting a fabulous event!