Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm a Platform-Building Campaigner!

Like so many awesome bloggers I follow, I have decided to join the Platform-Building Campaign hosted by Rachael Harrie at Rach Writes... which focuses on building my online presence. After reading agent and writer blogs for the past 2+ years, I decided to jump into the madness three months ago with A Time to Phil. No longer on the sidelines, I'm getting used to balancing my time between blogging and actual writing as well as keeping my blog updated (it's like feeding the beast!), but I love it! I'm still very new to the blogging world, and I'm excited to meet and learn from my fellow bloggers. The writers I've interacted with thus far have been awesome, and I can't wait to meet more.

I'm in two groups: MG/YA (3) and Contemporary/Mainstream Fiction (1). I'm the guy without a head in his pictures because I chose auto-crop.

I look forward to campaigning!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Do You Have Enough Time to Write?

Nobody has set hours to write. Most of us have to squeeze it in between work, family, and sleeping. I try to write during my 20-minute commute to work if I can grab a seat on the train. Aside from that, a problem I face is not having enough time to write for a session. I may have 15 minutes here or there, but it's not enough to sit down and write. It can take a few minutes to get into writing mode, and then just as I'm getting into a scene, my time is up. But recently, I've had a change of heart.

Do I not have enough time to write? Or do I tell myself I don't have enough time to write?

Convincing myself I don't have time to write is like a reverse-psychology procrastination method. Yes, writing in 10-15 minute spurts is not ideal, but we don't live in an ideal world. A writer writes. Period. End of sentence. I've read about lots of aspiring authors who write while waiting to pick their kids up from school, in the waiting room, in traffic. They may only have 5 minutes, but they do it. Two nights ago, I was cooking dinner, still had not written. But I had 10 minutes left until my food was ready. And I decided to find out what I could accomplish in those 600 seconds. Surprisingly, a lot! Maybe not as much as I could in 2 hours, but more than I assumed. In fact, because I had limited time, I didn't have time to waste to "get into writing mode." Even though my actual writing time was short, those 10 minutes got my creative wheels spinning so that when I returned to my WIP later that night, I could jump in where I left off. It's like exercise - even a few minutes a day of it has beneficial effects for hours afterwards.

When you think about it, if you add up all those 5-10 sessions during a day, you come out with some decent writing time. And when you publish your novel and people ask how you managed to do it between job/family/other, you can say with a smile "Oh, I just wrote a few minutes here on the train, a few minutes there in the doctor waiting room, and whalla! I had a novel!"

What is the shortest amount of time you've had to write and where were you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sparkfest! aka Thank You Amy, Lois, Caroline, Cecily, James, and Kody

I am participating in Sparkfest 2011, brought to you by The Writer Coaster. I couldn't participate in the Star Trek blogfest also happening since I have never watched the show. But I have seen Galaxy Quest. Does that count??

For this blogfest, Christine Tyler @ Writer Coaster asked us the following:
What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 
What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

I thought about this for a while. I wish there was one moment, one writer that provided the spark for me to write. I've wanted to write ever since I was a kid, unlike every other author in the universe... :) It was a steady stream of movies, TV shows, and books that gave me the enthusiasm to pursue writing.  

Amy Heckerling - Clueless
I've watched tons of movies and am known as somewhat of a movie buff. Clueless, however, will always be my favorite movie. Even though it is loved the world over, I still feel that it's underrated. The screenplay is one of the best in modern movie times. It's true! If any aspiring screenwriters are reading this, Clueless is a paragon of voiceover usage, and its dialogue is flawless - revealing, true to character, doesn't try to be cutesy (cough *Juno* cough), and darn funny. I've watched this movie around 13242 times, and I can probably quote it start to finish for you, if you'd like. The spirit of Clueless hangs over everything I write, and I aspire to write something 1/26th as good as Heckerling's movie.

Caroline B. Cooney - The Face on the Milk Carton
Lois Duncan - Killing Mr. Griffin, I Know What You Did Last Summer
My comments section blew up when I posted about I Know What You Did Last Summer the book. For good reason. I was a couch potato in middle school, but when I did read for fun, I read Cooney's and Duncan's books. Their hooks drew me in - what if you received mysterious letters taunting you about a deadly secret, what if you saw your face on a missing child poster, what if some students plotted to kill their nasty English teacher. They made reading fun for me, and their twisty, suspenseful novels provided the spark for many of my early short stories. Even today, these books still hold up. 

Cecily von Ziegesar - Gossip Girl
On a 2004 flight from London to New York, I needed a book to read to pass the time. I had heard about this hot new young adult series and decided to give it a shot. It would be a fun read for the flight. And I was hooked. I read five books in this addictive series about spoiled New York teens. (I stopped when the plots got too ridiculous and repetitive) This series inspired me to write YA. I read it and thought, "Hey I can totally write something like this." It was sharp, snarky, risque, fresh -- a notable difference from the YA of my childhood. Gossip Girl seems passe now, its references to the Hilton sisters and brand-name labels a quaint reminder of Bush-era excess. But YA had grown up, and I wanted to ride the wave. 

James Frey - A Million Little Pieces
Say what you will about the veracity of the story, but this is a compelling, well-written book. I read A Million Little Pieces post-scandal, when I suddenly found myself unemployed and didn't know when I'd get back on my feet. It was fall 2007, and I was trying to make a career writing in television with no luck. The book gave me hope and reassured me that no matter what happens, it will be ok. I reexamined the type of writing I wanted to pursue after reading it, and a few weeks later, I began my first attempt at writing a novel.

Kody Keplinger - The DUFF
I'm just not that into paranormal romance. I have full respect for writers and readers of those books, but I am simply not one of them. My genre of choice is regular contemporary. It can difficult for me to find the kind of books out there that I want to write. The Duff restored my faith in the genre. I count is as my "I wish I wrote that" novel. It gave me hope that these issue-with-a-lowercase-i books can get published and find an audience - in TV terms, a Dawson Leery can survive in a world of Edward Cullens.

All of these authors inspire me in some way, their influence molding together to give me a swift kick in the butt with my writing. Who inspires you?

***p.s. Follow me on Twitter --> @FillupSeagull ***

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Fear for the Hunger Games movie

Note to Hollywood: The Hunger Games trilogy is NOT the new Twilight.

I loved the first Hunger Games book, and I'm not alone. And I'm not alone in anticipating the movie adaptation. But the more information I read about the movie, the more I worry that I'm going to be extremely unhappy with the finished product. It was fun to speculate on the director and cast. (I always imagined Lenny Kravitz as Cinna!) Yet I think the movie is getting too much exposure from the media, especially Entertainment Weekly. They've already had two covers dedicated to The Hunger Games - and the movie is still shooting! Photos from the set have trickled out to mainstream websites. It's beginning to feel like overkill. I know the movie biz has changed; fans are more invested in certain properties starting at the pre-production stage. (I don't get why people were so up in arms about a brunette being cast as Peeta. Could you not watch the film if he didn't have blond hair?) Some of us want to be surprised when we walk into theater, not know every detail of the script, story, special effects. I want small glimpses and teases, and I think The Hunger Games production is borderline guilty of oversharing.

Now, all that will be forgiven if the movie turns out to be incredible. The producers just have to remember that Hunger Games is not Twilight. I'm get the feeling that they are pushing the Katniss-Gale-Peeta love triangle. To me, that was one of the weakest parts of the trilogy. This is a series about war and man's cruelty towards each other; it's not about what boy Katniss wants to date. I am dreading the day when I see girls wearing Team Gale or Teem Peeta shirts. I get it. Twilight has been a huge success. The Hunger Games appeals to a similar audience. Lionsgate (the studio behind the movie) wants to make boatloads of money. Ergo, Hollywood is viewing Hunger Games as the new Twilight. Romance was a natural element in Twilight; it was the crux of the story. But in The Hunger Games, it's a subplot. In the first book, it's hardly developed. I don't want the director to pander to the Twilight crowd. I want them to make a thrilling, suspensful, cunning movie.

Hollywood has an obsession with franchises and pre-sold concepts. (you did hear that they're releasing a movie based on the board game Battleship starring Rihanna, right?) Now that Harry Potter and Twilight are ending, all eyes are turning to The Hunger Games to be the next big thing. I don't want the movie to carry such lofty expectations. Just because it's garnering heaps of advanced press doesn't mean it will be a blockbuster. It may not reach the heights of those two. Will that automatically make it a bomb? And just because Harry Potter and Twilight split the last books into two parts doesn't mean Mockingjay deserves the same treatment. Those books were split just to milk more money out of the series. I don't think Mockingjay has enough material to warrant two films. Let's be honest: the first half dragged. I wonder how they will make an entire movie out of it.

Do you think The Hunger Games movie is getting too much exposure? And do you want them to beef up the romance part?

***and now you can follow me on Twitter --> @FillupSeagull ***

Friday, August 19, 2011

Overdue Shoutouts

My mother taught me to always thank someone when they give you a gift. This month, I was fortunate enough to receive two Liebster awards from Julia Hones and E.R. King, and I never said a proper thank you! So here it goes:

Thank you thank you thank you this is awesome thank you thank you!! Or as Alanis says, Thank U

For those who haven't visited Julia or ER's blogs, I strongly recommend you check them out.

Julia likes to write short stories, which is a nice change-up in our YA world. She also gets up every morning at 5:30 to write. I'm in awe. I wish I had that willpower. For those in editing mode, she has a great checklist to use when rereading your story. In honor of Julia, I'm posting a scene of another Julia - Roberts, that is, from one of my all-time favorites My Best Friend's Wedding. You are definitely not Jell-O.

If you don't know who E.R. King is, then you obviously are new to the kidlitosphere. Her blog is aptly-named Get Busy Writing, and busy she is. She puts more passion and energy into blogging than anyone I know - posting regularly, writing hilarious comments on everyone's blog, starting series like Blogger Mentor Mondays. I know she's going to get an agent and publish tons of books someday! So in honor of her, and her pen name, here is the theme song to ER (which I always think of when I see her pen name):

(I just learned how to embed videos. can you tell?)

Thank you again ladies!

also sidenote -- I'm on Twitter! The Twitter link wasn't working on my blog, but my handle is @FillupSeagull  I know I should use something more professional, but I'm not ready to retire it just yet. Feel free to follow me, and let me know your Twitter handles in the comments so that I can follow you.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Goodbye Borders

Hello readers! I apologize for my absence. Life gets in the way. My parents came into town last weekend, work picked up this week, and this weekend I helped on my friend's film shoot. I stalled on my WIP, but I am pushing myself back on the wagon!

The Borders next to my office is in the middle of its goodbye firesale. I've taken to swinging by once a week on my lunch break to check out what the discounts are. You can read a million blog posts about what Borders closing means to publishing. I will spare you another one.  I love wandering through bookstores. I love the smell of new books. I find the whole setting inspiring. Skimming the titles on the shelves and their first pages always made me want to write or create reading lists in my head. Bookstores were a fun place to hang out when I was younger, to meet up friends or just hang out. I wonder where kids today hang out. There are no record stores, no video stores, and now very few bookstores. Do they hang out at Starbucks? I feel bad for kids today.

I also feel bad for Borders. The store has been insanely busy every since it began liquidating. Where were these people before? But each time I've walked through the store these past few weeks, the same sad thought runs through my head: I understand why they are going out of business. I peruse the front covers and first pages as a book lover and writer. But I check out the price sticker on the back like a consumer. Books are expensive. When did that happen?

It's hard to justify paying $25 for a book, especially in a recession. Most people only read a book once, then either pass it along or add it to their bookshelf. People who buy DVD's will watch that movie several times, and as the market shrunk, the price of DVD's came down drastically. I feel like the opposite happened with books. One of my friends said she'll only buy a book if it will impress people who peruse her bookcase. A lot of my cash-strapped friends and I just rent from the library. I love borrowing books from my friends and vice versa. Someone told me she goes to goodwill to buy books for a dollar because they have a decent selection. Every time I go into Borders, the prices have dropped, and I keep telling myself that I will buy a book. But it never happens. I still can't justify $10-15 for a paperback. I ask myself if I need to buy it, or if I can just get it from a library or friend. I can justify paying $10 to see a movie because I enjoy the moviegoing experience on top of the actual movie. It's an evening activity. Consumers are better bargain hunters today. Our dollar has less value but has to go further. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target - and the internet! - have trained us to search out low prices. As I walked through the aisles at Borders, I got the feeling that they were still operating like it's 1999. I know there are financial reasons behind book prices - bookstores get a cut, publishers get a cut, the author gets whatever is left over. Publishers can't charge a dollar for books. I just find it strange that in these times when bookstores and publishing and families across America are hurting, Borders prices have remained exactly the same, which make them seem steeper than a decade ago. In their music section, I saw CD's priced at $20 and laughed to myself. Do you think that books seem too expensive today?

Every time I look at the shelves at Borders or any bookstore, I always think of how much hard work went into each book. Pick any random novel in the fiction section, and that author and editor works for years to get it perfect. It's a shame that our society does not value art like it used to; now cost is paramount in the consumer's mind. It's sad, but that's the world we live in, and we just have to deal with it. Musicians today know they aren't going to make money off their albums. They've found other ways to generate income: tours, merchandise, endorsements, TV shows, clothing lines, perfumes.
 What do you think the corresponding revenue streams will be for authors in the future?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Novel Film Blogfest - Day 2

This is part 2 for the Novel Films Blogfest hosted by Madeleine at Scribble and Edit . You can check out part 1 here.

For today's post, I am going to talk to you about a rare occurrence: sometimes, the movie is better then the book.

This doesn't happen often. Movies by their very nature are forced to condense and simplify in order to fit into a 2-hour time period and appeal to mass audiences. Books can delve into characters. They can take their sweet time revealing the story. It's a more personal medium than movies - you and your imagination vs. you and a theater full of strangers. Of all the books I've read that've been adapted into movies, I have always enjoyed the book more. Except once.

The Devil Wears Prada movie far exceeded the book. It hewed closely to the book's plot - smart, non girly-girl Andie Sachs (Anne Hathaway) gets a job working as assistant to Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep), the demanding, crazy editor of fashion magazine Runway, and she must perform outrageous tasks to keep her boss happy. Both book and movie were huge hits; the movie single-handedly kept female-driven films afloat for a time.

So what made the movie better than the book?

The book was a roman a clef by Lauren Weisberger, the former assistant to Anna Wintour, legendary editor of Vogue. It was pretty much 400 pages of the author saying "I'm so smart. These people in fashion are so stupid. Look how stupid they're being. Read about the ludicrous things they do and say. My boss is a crazy bitch. Why am I here?" The movie managed to convey the outlandishness of Runway magazine and Miranda Priestley, while also making us understand the world of fashion. In both book and movie, Andie, a wannabe serious journalist, is totally out of place at a fashion magazine. She guides the reader/audience through the ridiculous world of couture. In the book, she constantly demeans this world; her views never change. In the movie, she learns what the big deal is all about. She has a discussion with Nigel, Miranda's right-hand man, about how people at Runway think they're curing cancer or something. He tells her that some of the "greatest artists of the last century have walked these halls," that fashion is the best kind of art because "you live your life in it." I thought that was such a profound statement. (And for the record, I have very little fashion sense and most of my wardrobe cost under $10.) Up until that point, I had the same views on fashion as Andie. But then I got it. I understood why people were so enraptured with this world, why they would spend so much money on a shirt, why they dress for work like they're walking a runway. They get to be curators everyday. A scene or two before that, Andie gets eviscerated in a fashion meeting by Miranda for snickering over a life-or-death decision about which blue belt to use. In a brilliant minute-long monologue, Miranda tells her how the decisions made on the runway and at Runway affect every single person, down to bargain shoppers like herself.
The epic scene:
(p.s. for you Lost fans, that's Charlotte Staples-Lewis in the beginning!)

In less than 5 minutes, the movie managed to give credence and respect to the fashion world - something the book refused to do.

Secondly, the movie humanized Miranda. We saw that she neglected her family in order to get ahead, and she wound up paying the price. Again, Meryl Streep has another great scene when Miranda learns she is getting a divorce. The scene is very true to her character -- not sappy, just blunt and calm. Miranda came off as demanding and mean just like in the book, but in the movie, she also was shown to be a very knowledgeable editor. We understand why she's at the top. In that cerulean sweater scene, as in another scene when she's at a meeting discussing the new issue, she comes off as smart and savvy. We may not like Miranda, but we sure respect her. The author of the book, probably with an ax to grind, portrayed her as one-dimensional, leaving out the respect part.

Finally, and most importantly, the movie centered around the struggle between your personal and professional life - a real issue with which many people can empathize. The book just wanted to make fun of the fashion world. There is a place for that type of expose. I won't sit here and tell you that the book was unreadable. It was a fun, light read. But the movie dug deeper. It took great pains to find out what makes these people tick. It dared to make us understand the lunacy of high fashion and empathize with a character as seemingly evil as Miranda Priestley. That's why in this special case, the movie was infinitely better than the book.

How about you, readers? Are there any movies out there that you thought were better than the book? And if you haven't seen The Devil Wears Prada, rent it!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Novel Film Blogfest - Day 1

I guess it's technically Night 1. Er...sorry for the delay with this post! I am blogging as part of Scribble and Edit's Novel Film Blogfest...

I warn you. My list of titles that I have both seen and read is not long. I established a rule a few years ago not to read the book after I see the movie. Election is one of my favorite movies. It's also one of the best movies of the past 20 years, but that's another blog post for another time. I had decided to read the book, since I loved the movie so much. And much to my dismay, the two are very dissimilar. The premise is the same, but not much else. The Tracy and Mr. M in the book didn't sound at all like Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. In short, I hated the book. I found it dull.

The best part about reading a book is using your imagination to fill in the gaps - visualizing a character in your head, picturing the setting. But a movie does that for you. Tracy in the book was not like Tracy in the movie, among other differences, and that made it difficult for me to enjoy the novel on its own terms. So from then on, I would not let myself go back and read books if I'd already seen the movie. Currently, I am actually breaking that rule. I picked up The First Wives Club at a thrift store en route to the beach because it was the only book they had that seemed interesting. Even though I'm picturing the actresses in the 3 main roles, I'm working hard to not think of the movie and remembering that the two are separate entities.

Without further ado, my small list of books and movies I have both read (and there's probably a few I may be forgetting):

The Devil Wears Prada
Along Came a Spider
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
The Time Machine
Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version)
The Bonfire of the Vanities
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Gossip Girl (this is a TV show)
The Rules of Attraction
The Help (I will see this movie when it comes out in 11 days)
Bringing Down the House (movie version: 21, not the Steve Martin/Queen Latifah movie)
In Cold Blood (movie: Capote)