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Saturday, July 11, 2009

From Thrillerfest...
Andrew Gross - Get in a scene fast and then get out.
From Thrillerfest...
Lisa Gardner - End your novel with the character that had the most at stake.
From Thrillerfest...
Gary Braver - Write about the underdog.
From Thrillerfest...
Steve Berry - Start the story as close to the end as possible.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Great Storyteller

Happy (belated) Birthday America!

Of course, I think of my brother-in-law, Brian, on every patriotic holiday. Actually, I remember him everyday, but red, white, and blue holidays are special.

MSgt Brian McAnulty was killed in Iraq on December 11, 2006. He was a lifelong Marine. His funeral celebrated his military service. He touched a lot of people and had a wonderful influence on his fellow Marines.

Until the day Brian came home in a casket, I'd never seen him in his uniform. There had been pictures, but when he visited he never wore his dress blues or camouflage. Brian was a Marine through and through, but I'll always remember him as a great storyteller.

One of my favorite stories was about a young Marine who reported to Brian. The Marine was deathly afraid of squirrels. Yes, deathly. The kid would rather jump off a cliff than face a squirrel. And the Marine had good reason. He'd been attacked by the small beasts on three occasions. (Guess it's like being struck by lightening...)

I wish I could remember all the details. But on a training mission in the mountains of California, the young Marine tried to rid the West Coast of the little buggers and Brian had to subdue the rampage. (No animals were seriously hurt in the telling of this story.)

Brian told us stories from his time in Paraguay, Iraq (Desert Storm), Korea, and Burundi. Places my family will never visit. He could describe the landscape and the conditions he endured. He could paint colorful pictures of the people (maybe not the most ordinary people you'd ever meet, but the typical crew Brian used to find). And he could make your mouth clamp shut with descriptions of the local cuisine.

Brian had his own voice. It contained a lot of four letter words and slang. (This could be a military thing, because my dad has a similar voice when talking about Vietnam.) He had a great sense of pace, humor, action, and suspense. He could draw a crowd and keep them hanging on until the last word.

To my knowledge, Brian never took a writing course. Storytelling was one of his many natural gifts. I wished he'd taken a class. Not to stifle his natural voice or correct his language, but so we'd have a few of his stories to read after he was gone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Product Placement

We've seen it in movies and on television. Jack Bauer drives a Ford SUV. Simon Cowell drinks Coca-Cola out of a super-sized red cup. And everyone uses Apple computers. (According to Apple products have appeared in 11 number-1 movies this year.)

I've heard rumors that authors are getting in on the action, but there is little evidence that writers are being paid to promote Prada or Budweiser. Instead, characters just seem to have brand loyalties. (Think James Bond or Carrie Bradshaw.)

I see no issue with paid product placement in novels and would like to volunteer my books to the manufacturers of the world. I do have my standards and will only use products I love (or my characters need).

And until these marketers coming knocking, here's a list of products I'd gladly plug.

Secret Clinical Strength Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant - Great stuff. My heroine will apply this deodorant before going into a fist fight to save her daughter. Even in a tank top, she won't stink when she lifts her arms to throw a punch.

Dark Chocolate M&M's - I've mentioned them before in previous blogs. They are my favorite candy and I'm willing to have my protagonist addicted to them as well. Maybe she'll eat them for breakfast with her coffee because she's recently given up adding artificial sweeteners to her beverages.

Facebook - There's an obvious problem with using technology in novels. Thrown (my in-progress novel) will not likely be available until 2011. (This is me being optimistic.) By then, Facebook may be out, Twitter may be out, and something completely new will be capturing Ashton Kutcher's attention. teenage characters will be avid Facebook-ers.

Entertainment Weekly - The hilarious best-friend/sidekick character will have a subscription. She'll read the recommended books (even if the magazine seems to only like memoirs). She'll schedule her TV viewing using the "What to Watch" section. And she'll collect the covers featuring anyone from Twilight.

And, of course, all of my characters will have iPods, iPhones, and use Macs. If Apple is good enough for ...
17 Again
Hannah Montana The Movie
He's Just Not That into You
Madea Goes to Jail
Marley & Me
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Race to Witch Mountain
The Proposal
Watchmen's good enough for me.