Coming October 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Let the music play

I’m a sucker for love songs, classic soul, R&B , or what they call slow jams. There is something about a slow melodic groove mixed with lyrics about burgeoning, everlasting or unrequitted love that I feel deep within and try to bellow out in my less then harmonic voice. Music is my muse. I remember specifically spending hours on end writing my first novel, Soon And Very Soon while listening to the Love Jones cd on continous loop. Didn't the O'jay's prohetcially say, there is a message in the music. I often find myself in a dream-like haze, lost in the lyrics as I relate the emtioanl haywireness of love to the characters' relationships in my books. I can undertsnd the state of mind that Lennie Williams feels when he belts out, "Because I love you," as well as the utter desperation and despair that would make you bust the windows out of someone's car (Jasmine Sullivan).
Music became vitally important when conceptualizing the complicated relationship that spanned over twenty years between my two main characters Deidre Collins and Andre Hicks in my secondn novel, The Manual (October 2009). Their romance was like an intricate dance and what is a dance without music? I thank the following artists, as well as the lyricist and musicians for the selections that help me understand their romance.

The Dance by Prince
I don't want to give you my love. If I do I'll loose my mind.
Weary by Amel Larrieux
This woman is growing weary of having to be so strong . . . I can't fight each battle alone
Come back by Brian Mc Knight
I got monumental making up to do with you, baby
Complictaed by Robin Thicke
I wish I could loose all of my blues. I wish I could stop putting my blues on you.
My First love by Anthony Hamilton
Now we've been through to much together and we're approaching up on stormy weather still you'll be, my first love
Say Yes& Getting Late by Floetry
There is only one for me... All you've got to do is say yes!
It's getting late, why you got to be here beside me, wanting and needing me... But I'm afraid and you say, don't be
Relections of my Heart
He boggles me when he looks at me. I know longer see whats right before my eyes. Something happens and I don't why. I begin to fall.
That's the soundtrack. Download it to your IPoD, and fall in love. Read The Manual this fall and see if you can identify the emtions these songs inspire.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Every Word Counts

Who knew there was a standard size as far as word count for trade paper back novels? I found out when my editor announced to the listserv of talent on the rooster after our inaugural year (2007) that our books are as a whole too wordy. Apparently a good size for a novel like mine was between 65,000-85,000 words. Wow, I thought, my first novel, Soon and Very Soon, was over that at 96,205. Some brought to question the contract that said up to 100,00. As it turns out that wasn't a suggested marker, but it would be mine.

I was writing The Manual, I mean - THE MANUAL, as the name suggests I was already at that point at 147,000 words and counting as I wasn't finished that draft. I must of thought I was Wally Lamb as the book neared 400 pages. A corporate manual was thick, right? I was in the thick of it, totally attached and in love with every character, every line, every word, and in its precise order. It was a blow. I was on point with my deadlines and I even considered sending it in and hoping my editor wouldn't notice the extra verbiage.

Alas, sensibility took over and I sent her a courtesy email. I told her my dilemma and asked very graciously did she want to read it and tell me what she thought could be cut or did she want to give me more time to bring it in under count. Guess which one she choose?

We all know it's the author's job to clean up their manuscript as much as possible. SO, here began the ardous task of cutting the fat of the book by 40,000 words. It wasn't like I could just whack off the last 4 chapters of the thing. The characters had revealed where they were going and the ending was set in stone. I just had to go through every line of dialogue, every event in the plot, every thought and piece of narration and relentlessly get to whacking. At first it felt as if I was losing an appendage, an appendix or something similarly vital. I literally made the decision, used the highlight feature with my mouse and closed my eyes as I pressed delete. I must have re-read the novel over 5 times with edits each time and it was still too lengthy.

I checked in with my editor and she told me to go through this time and think about the flow of the novel. Each chapter should advance the plot, not slow it down. There are only certain chapters that you camp, meaning where you take up residence and give the needed background information or research that either reveals motivation of characters or explains phenomenons occurring in the novel. The other chapters you march right through with fast pace, page turning narration. Her advice reminded me about the writing reference, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, with such pearls of wisdom such as, 'Readers don't require direction, but rather distraction,' and don't be afraid to cut anything that doesn't fit or make sense, even it is your favorite line, or as my editor Joy says, " even if it really happen to your best friend."

It all became clear to me, and easier. I became Edward Scissorhands with the copy and delete button. I stripped down minor characters who were morphing their way to major character status. I cut out a date scene set at a posh DC dessert bar that had decadent items to drizzle under a Godiva chocolate fountain. This wasn't your classic Ice cream and malt shoppe. I remember painstakingly describing the ambiance down to the track lighting and the delectables down to the buttery coating-all gone. The guys she was dating was gone so the spot had to go also. It was liberating, and I found a leaner, more concise story with only my basic plot structure and themes remaining.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cover Story

Notice anything different about my cover from the one used in the header of this blog? My publisher's logo and tag are missing. This isn't a vanishing act, but rather a conscious decision by my publisher's marketing department. Apparently the declaration, The Finest in Christian Fiction, was a turn off to some people. I find it funny to think that there are some people who liken reading a Christian Fiction story to serving 10-15 in a maximum security prison. The name, I'm told, suggests that our stories would lack the kind of drama reader's crave, or be too staunch, too preachy or paint an ideal world full of perfect characters that do no harm and subsequently no harm befalls them. I can almost understand that notion, I've read some Christian novels like that. I had also read Urban Christian novels which told stories about every topic under the sun including taboo topics in the Christian community such as incest, pornography and homosexuality.

I felt my book looked naked without the same brands my first book bore under the same publishing house. I told my fellow labelmates so. To that one of my labelmates remarked, "No it doesn't look naked, it now looks like a regular book."

There were mixed reactions between authors and editors alike. Some revealed their secret prayers that the restricting tag be removed so that their books can become more marketable to a broader audience. There might be something to this fact. One of my labelmates that I met at a signing in my hometown recounted that the bookstore almost sold out of the book prior to her visit siting that it was wrongly shelved with the street literature. We didn't voice, but probably felt bookstores can make that mistake all they want if it produces those results. If our ultimate goal it to get the books in the hands of believers and unbelievers alike then as book marketers we should remove any barriers that might keep people from our books. Others on my label were concerned that we were somehow compromising or conforming to the world's standards - that by removing this tag removed or somehow diminished our intent.

For me the cover brand was a badge of honor. With a label that boasts such talents as Kendra Norman Bellamy, Pat Simmons and Sherri Lewis, I feel I am really among the finest in Christian Fiction. It keeps me striving to produce the best work I can. The truth remains we still are and will ever be a Christian brand even if our covers don't announce the fact.