Today in Kelley Armstrong’s Dark Fantasy writing class we talked about loglines.
The term loglines comes from the movie business. All scripts need a logline; apparently this is what movie producers and studios read first, rather than the actual script itself, in order to decide if they’re interested.
Here’s a logline I bet you’ll be able to identify (courtesy of Writing Good Loglines):
A police chief, with a phobia for open water, battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.
And how about this one?
A young farmer from a distant planet joins the rebellion to save his home planet from the evil empire when he discovers he is a warrior with legendary psychokinesis powers.
Pretty recognizable, right?
It turns out, though, that writing loglines isn’t easy. At least not for me. I wish I’d found the Writing Good Loglines page last night, when I was attempting to put together a logline for today’s class. It might have helped me a little!
This is the logline I ended up writing. I didn’t like it at all when I finished writing it—first, it was too long. And second, it made my entire story sound so trite and boring.
When a series of abductions and brutal murders rock the quiet town of Market Crossing, the forces of good and evil must work together to defeat an ancient enemy that threatens to annihilate all life on Earth.
After Kelley wrote my logline on the board, she pointed out the three tropes or clichés I was using. Yes, that’s right—not just one, or two, but THREE tropes. “The forces of good and evil”, “defeat an ancient enemy” and “annihilate all life on Earth”. No wonder my logline made my story sound so boring!
Luckily, both Kelley and my fellow classmates had suggestions and ideas. I used their feedback and came up with this revised logline:
When abductions and brutal murders devastate a quiet town, two teens must team up with the human embodiments of ancient forces.
Much shorter and no clichés. But I felt like it was missing something. So after class today I worked on it some more and came up with this:
Two gifted teens must join forces with a guardian spirit and a demon lord to solve a series of abductions and brutal murders devastating a quiet town.
I think that’s a little better, because it’s more specific. And it’s more specific because I finally made myself sit down and figure out who exactly one of my characters was. I still don’t quite know who she is for sure, but at least I know a bit more.
The best thing about this logline exercise? It made me see more clearly the story I’m writing. Since I don’t outline, this is pretty invaluable. I already have some revisions in mind!
So most of you know how nervous I’ve been about taking my first ever writing class/workshop. Nervous isn’t the right word, actually. Petrified is more like it. And stressed. Totally and absolutely stressed.
Well, I had my first day of class today. And while I was waiting for the elevator, I took a deep breath and told myself to think of it as an adventure. Which, strangely enough, really helped.
Despite this, I missed my subway stop. Fortunately, I was early, so that just made me a little less early.
And guess what?
I LOVED the class. Every last bit of it!
First of all, Kelley Armstrong is an awesome instructor. Simply and absolutely awesome (I’m not supposed to be using all those adjectives but I can’t help myself). She’s very down-to-earth and that was inspiring in and of itself—sometimes when I think about writing, it feels so precious. Too precious. And that’s when I stop myself from sitting down and actually writing. But Kelley talks about writing so matter-of-factly. There is no magic or mystique. It’s just about spending time doing what you love to do, and that’s something I lose track of sometimes.
We spent a bit of time talking about giving and receiving critiques, which I found extremely helpful. And then some of us read two pages of our opening scenes. I was NOT expecting this, and when I read my scene my voice quavered and my hands shook.
But it was worth it. The criticism I got was really good. Most of it was on point. Some things I wasn’t sure about, and a few things I knew weren’t right for me. Kelley had pointed out that approximately 85% of the comments she gets back from editors gets a clear “yes” from her, 10% she’s not sure about, and 5% are a clear “no”, and that was roughly how it panned out for me.
So now I have this list of things I want to change when I do my revisions. AND I’m all fired up about my story again.
Plus I feel like a writer. I feel I can do this, commit to my stories, get them finished and start the querying process.
But the most surprising thing for me? I ended up chatting with several of the other students, and it was such a wonderful feeling talking with other people who also love to write fiction. I tend to think of myself as an introvert, but I didn’t feel introverted at all today. It turns out, when you have a common ground like writing—especially when you enjoy writing the same kind of stuff—conversation is a breeze. Everyone I talked to was so interesting; I wanted to learn more about them, about what they’ve been writing, about their writing process.
I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, and the rest of the week. At the end of the course, we can submit revised pages of our work to Kelley—AND she’ll give us detailed comments if we’d like. I absolutely would like!
I have not felt so fired up about my writing in a long while. This class is definitely a good thing for me.
Feeling: Really really nervous and stressed about next week’s writing class/workshop with Kelley Armstrong. I didn’t realize just how nervous until the university sent me a link to register with the student portal so I can access the class materials—which, I think, consists of all the students’ writing submissions. Including mine. And I realized, OMG, I’m going to get critiqued. By a bunch of people. None of whom I know. Including Kelley Armstrong.
I’m not very good with this stress thing …
Eating: Guess what? I’m back to low-carb! I know I got that brain fog the last time, but it appears I had misread my research and the brain can indeed use ketones as fuel, rather than glucose. So I’m giving low-carb another try. It helps that Ward, the former book-reading demon, has stayed low-carb during my own low-carb ups and downs.
This time around, I’ve been looking for some good recipes. And I found some! On the weekend, Ward made me these low-carb cream cheese pancakes. So, okay, my food photography isn’t going to stun anyone, but trust me, they tasted much better than they look in the photo. (I have NO clue why the picture looks so blue!) You can click on the link above to see a much much better picture of the pancakes.
These pancakes had a nice sorta pancakey texture and taste. Next time, I’ll leave the cinnamon out (or rather, get Ward to leave it out), as I normally eat pancakes with butter rather than syrup so I prefer just the pancake-like taste. Can you believe it, though? These have NO flour in them!
Drinking: I haven’t been drinking this, but Ward has. He bought a package of Counting Sheep Coffee a while back and was really wowed by it. He’s been driving all over the place looking for a store that carries it, but has turned up empty-handed. So he emailed the company, and it sounds like they’ve been having trouble getting their product placed in the big stores.
Right now their site shows only the decaf pods with valerian, but he’d bought a package of their ground decaf and he swore by it. He could have his coffee at night (he says it was a nice and strong decaf) and then fall right asleep.
Reading: So I mentioned in my last post that I’ve finally broken out of my reading slump. It only takes that one book (in my case, Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris) and BOOM! you’re back to reading. At least, I am.
When I finished Elantris I went on to Kelley Armstrong’s Visions. I’d read the first book in the Cainsville series, Omens, and thought I should probably get to Visions. Especially since I’m in her Dark Fantasy class next week. She’ll be doing a reading near the end of the week, and I’m hoping it will be from Deceptions, the third book in the series, which won’t be released until mid-August.
I also decided to start Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings. It’s over 1,000 pages long, so it means this month I’ll be reading two 1,000+ page books, since I’ll also be starting Atlas Shrugged for #AtlasRAL. Atlas Shrugged weighs in at 1,200 pages. Luckily I’m reading both of these in ebook format; my wrists are thanking me already!
Listening: I just started John Scalzi’s Redshirts, partly because I want to start reading Scalzi (I have several of his books on hold right now at the library) and partly because it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton and I figured this might be a good listen while I’m waiting for my pre-ordered audio of Ernest Cline’s Armada, which should be arriving soon. Just not soon enough.
Writing: Nothing. I’ve been too nervous and stressed, thinking about next week’s class.
Working: I finished up that big index I talked about last week. I have three small ones for the end of this week, but they’re fun ones so I’m not too worried about them. I had four articles due this week, and got three of them off my desk yesterday, so that leaves just one more. I need to clear the decks so I can attend next week’s class without worrying too much about work, although I do have another large index coming in over the next few days.
Photo of the week:
I’m rather proud of this. It’s grass, in case you were wondering.
One of my cats, Hobbes, has been having trouble with hairballs. He’s Siamese, so the hairballs aren’t originating with him. But our other cat, Creeper, is a Snowshoe (the same breed as Grumpy Cat), so he’s on the fluffy side, and Hobbes is the one who’s always cleaning him. Hence the hairballs.
And the strange thing about Hobbes getting hairballs: he can’t be like a normal cat and just hock up the darn thing and be done with it. No, not Hobbes. Instead, he has to spend a few days throwing up and THEN he has to develop an allergic reaction which means he starts scratching his ears and then if I don’t stop him (which is nearly impossible despite anti-histamines and the liberal use of hydrogen peroxide) he develops an infection and has to go on antibiotics.
So I decided to grow some grass for him. Isn’t it just splendid? He’s already been grazing on it.
So that’s been my week! What has yours been like?
Time: 6:26 pm
Feeling: Ready for a nap. Mainly because I’ve been up since 6:30 am—although sadly I didn’t end up gong for a walk because (a) it was raining, (b) I decided to get some social media work done first and (c) by the time I finished up the rain had stopped and things were looking too hot outside for a walk.
Eating: We’ve been eating out too much. Or so says the latest credit card bill. Sigh. I want to spend some time looking for crunchy summery salads with a dash of protein. Maybe I’ll have a cool new recipe to link to in next week’s Snapshot …
Drinking: I’ve started making kefir smoothies! I add spinach and whatever fruit I have on hand and feel rather nutritionally virtuous as a result. On the days when I remember to make them, that is.
Reading: The reading’s taken a bit of back seat because I just haven’t had much time for it lately. *sob*
BUT I’m really excited about this:
I’m also eyeing the Atlas Shrugged (#AtlasRAL) Readalong that Ti’s hosting over July and August. I’ve not been doing so well with my readalongs, though. I didn’t finish a single readalong book from last month, and this month I’m definitely behind with the #MiseryRAL readalong.
I’m having much better luck with my audiobooks. I’m listening to Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May—The Burning Man right now. It’s always nice to slip back into the world of Bryant and May (I want to say they’re octogenarian detectives, but I’m actually not sure exactly how old they are. But May is four years younger than Bryant. I think.)
Writing: The deadline for submitting my dark fantasy for the workshop class I’m taking from Kelley Armstrong next month is June 29, so I still have some time left to make my revisions. Whew.
Working: I finished up an index on Sunday night, and this week I have five articles to write. Work on the book marketing for Booktrope is going well.
I also got started with my big readers’ site project—well, sort of. I’m still developing the site, but I finally got the Twitter account up and running: @bookstormcafe! While of course it would be lovely if you’d give it a follow, I should warn you that it is simply chockful of tweets about book news, book giveaways, new book releases, book reviews and author interviews. I’m not kidding—the tweet stream is loaded. It’s been fun diving into all this bookish stuff on the one hand, but on the other hand, let me just say there’s an awful lot of book news, book giveaways and new books out there!
We’ve had the Lord of the Rings board game for a while, and finally opened it up last night. It was a lot of fun (once we figured out the rules) but there was a certain cat who kept wanting to join us.
Looking forward to: The weekend! For once I’m actually getting out and about. We have tickets to see Titanic the Musical this Friday night, and then on Saturday a friend of mine is holding a girls-only birthday bash, which should be fun.
What about you? How has your week been so far? And what are your plans for the rest of the week?
I’d kicked July off with a migraine (my first since I was 16!), followed by a two-week long tension headache. It’s kind of funny, but once I realized it was all due to tension, I relaxed, got a massage, and the whole thing went away.
There’s one thing that’s very difficult to do when you’re caught in the throes of a headache or a migraine – read! So when I started feeling better, it was like my mind was starved for books. Really really starved. In the last four weeks, it feels like all I’ve been doing is reading, and reading, and more reading. I was getting through books so fast, I didn’t have time to Pin them, or even add them to Goodreads.
So today I’m sitting here, trying to remember what-all I’ve read over the past four weeks. I’m probably missing some reads, but here’s the list so far:
I enjoyed this series, and I’m very glad that I came to it late, since I really really hate cliffhangers – but guess what? When you have all three books of the trilogy in your hot little hands, it’s like having one lovely, long absolutely thrilling book to read. You can say things like, cliffhangers? What cliffhangers?
Book One of Kelley Armstrong’s Darkness Rising trilogy, The Gathering
I enjoyed The Gathering even more than the Darkest Powers trilogy. And I was more than a little bummed out because I got the ebook copy of The Calling, the second book in the series, from the library – and I accidentally deleted and returned it! So yes, I’m now back on hold for it. Sigh.
And from Daniel Suarez:
First, I decided to use up some of my Audible credits, and after browsing around, decided on Kill Decision. I enjoyed it, and remembered that some of the reviewers at Audible mentioned that Suarez’s Daemon/Freedom ™ books were even better, so I decided to give Daemon a try.
I LOVED Daemon! It was on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting – I devoured it in a day. I’m now at the start of the sequel, Freedom ™.
Mind Game, by Christine Feehan
I also read one of the books from Christine Feehan’s GhostWalkers series, Mind Game. And this is what I discovered about myself (well, okay, I already knew this) – I’m not really cut out for the romantic thriller/paranormal types of reads. Reading Mind Game, I loved the story, I loved the characters, and all I really wanted to know was – what’s going to happen next?
The book would have been a page-turner for me, but all the love scenes got in the way. The first love scene was great, in that it was very credible. Actually all of the love scenes were very credible – they happen at reasonable times, and not in the middle of a suspenseful bit of plot.
I’ve always disliked books where the male and female protagonists are hiding out, people are hunting them, they are basically facing death around every corner – and they somehow find the time to have mind blowing sex in the middle of it all. I mean, really, if your options are A. have ground-shaking fireworks-driven sex or B. survive to see tomorrow, what would you choose?
And even if you did choose option A, seriously, would you really be able to keep your mind on the moment? Wouldn’t you have some pesky, worrisome thoughts lurking at the back of your mind, like Wait! What was that I just heard? My God, it sounds like footsteps coming our way. I’m really glad he’s enjoying this, but I wish he’d keep the moans down to an almost inaudible level. What if the killer hears us?
Anyway, Feehan wrote that first love scene very credibly, and that first scene was all quite enjoyable. But I ended up quickly flipping through all the remaining love scenes, because what I really wanted to know was, what’s going to happen?
So, no, romantic suspense/paranormals just aren’t really my cup of tea.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
I’m in the middle of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter right now, and it’s been quite an interesting read so far. I like the way Grahame-Smith weaves fictitious journal entries into the narrative. The whole thing reads rather like nonfiction – fun stuff!
A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin
Yes! I finally got around to picking up this series! I got the audiobook version of A Game of Thrones, and enjoyed it so much in audio, when I saw the boxed set containing Books 1-4 at Costco last week, I couldn’t resist. I’ll probably end up reading them all in print first, and then going back to the audio versions for a re-read – there are so many characters, I suspect I’ll find it a little less confusing if I tackle the series in print first.
Power Play, by Joseph Finder
I’ve had Power Play in my TBR stacks for a long time now. We don’t really have much space for my TBR piles in the condo, so I stash them all in my bedroom closet, along the narrow shelves that run along the top. We’ve also managed to squeeze our dressers into the closet, the surface of which provides additional TBR room. I happened to wander into the closet one day, thinking vaguely about changing out of my PJs, and saw Power Play on the top of the stack sitting on my dresser. I grabbed it, started reading, and didn’t stop until I was finished. Definitely a page-turner. It’s the sort of book that you finish and think to yourself, this would make a great movie.
The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen
This mystery from Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen has a nice touch of humour to lighten up what would otherwise be quite a grim plot. It was an interesting, quick read, and I’d like to read more in this series about detective Carl Mørck, not so much because Mørck is that absorbing a character, but because I want to find out more about his quirky assistant, Assad!
Hotwire, by Alex Kava
This is the first Maggie O’Dell book I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be reading more in the series. I would have preferred more of a blockbuster, justice for all kind of ending, but I guess when you’re talking about government and bureaucracy, it’s not really such a credible thing. Still, I found O’Dell interesting, and have put several more of the titles in the series on my TBR list.
The Vanessa Michael Monroe series, by Taylor Stevens
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Informationist, by Taylor Stevens. Munroe is a wonderfully strong protagonist, and Stevens delivers a thrilling, suspenseful read. As soon as I finished The Informationist, I grabbed a copy of The Innocent, the second book in the series. While The Innocent was a good read, it didn’t have quite the flare of The Informationist. But I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!
And the coming attractions:
So all in all, it’s been quite a good four weeks for me, reading-wise! I suspect the rest of August will serve up more of the same, as I’ve got some great-sounding books on hold at the library, as well as some coming-soon attractions that I can hardly wait to get my hands on:
The Twelve, by Justin Cronin
The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny
What about you? What good books have you read lately?
Have you ever gotten one of these? I call it a “reading hangover”, although, luckily, the symptoms aren’t anything at all like a regular hangover.
Early yesterday afternoon, I opened up Sujata Massey’s Girl in a Box, which I’d started reading the previous night.
Time passed, and before I knew it, I’d finished the book. And without thinking, I reached, almost automatically, for the next book in my stack: Kelley Armstrong’s Exit Strategy.
I took a break to eat dinner, and then another break to put my son Dylan to bed. As soon as we finished with our reading (three picture books and Otteline at Sea, by Chris Riddell – a lovely, fun read), my husband took over (they make plays with the stuffed animals and record them on his iPhone) and I went right back to Nadia Stafford’s adventures in Exit Strategy.
I couldn’t tear myself away from the book; I read until 2:00 in the morning.
So this morning, as usually happens after I indulge in a reading binge, I woke up with a reading hangover.
What happens when I’m in such a state?
The world feels very dreamlike. Nothing seems very real, or maybe it’s more that I feel unreal myself. I’m not sure which. Perhaps surreal is the word I’m looking for.
It’s a strange feeling, and it can last for a while.
When I’m coping with a reading hangover, I do things I don’t normally do. Today, for example, I spent more than FIVE HOURS on Twitter. When life feels surreal, yes, I go directly to Twitter. (I do like to spend time on Twitter, but not normally five hours straight – in case you were wondering.)
Nothing else gets done. I didn’t even feel like finishing Exit Strategy.
Luckily, the hangover does eventually fade.
Of course, as soon as it faded, I grabbed Exit Strategy (I was about halfway done last night). And yes, I just finished it.
And now I’m writing this post so I won’t grab the next in the series, Made to Be Broken; I could, very easily, since it’s just sitting in the next room, waiting for me.
But I’m exercising restraint. Surreal is okay every once in a while; I wouldn’t like a daily diet of it.
Since it’s always nice to be able to blame these things on other people, I will now lay the blame on Jill, at Rhapsody in Books, whose review of Made to Be Broken was the reason why I ended up with Exit Strategy and Made to be Broken in the first place.
And I was going to lay the blame for Girl in a Box at Bernadette’s feet (Reactions to Reading); I could have sworn I remembered the Rei Shimura series as a result of one of her excellent and comprehensive, themed blog posts, like J is for Justice, but it appears my memory’s a bit rusty these days. So, to whoever you are (and I commented on the post in question, so there’s a record!), you wrote an enticing blog post which made me look up the Rei Shimura mysteries, so yes, you too are to blame.
See? It wasn’t my fault I went on a reading binge and then suffered a reading hangover.
I feel much better about the whole thing already.
Do you ever go on reading binges? And do you ever get these reading hangovers after going on a reading binge?
I really hate when this happens.
I’ve had Tana French’s The Likeness out from the library for a while now. It’s on its last renewal legs, so to speak, so I’ve got to either finish it up in the next few weeks or it has to go back to the library until I can check it out again.
I really liked French’s In The Woods (my review is here) – despite the ending – and everyone I know who’s read In The Woods tells me that The Likeness is even better. But for some reason, I’ve been having trouble getting into it. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it when I do sit down with it, because I am. But for some reason, the book hasn’t hooked me in quite that way yet.
When I was reading In The Woods, I couldn’t put the book down, and if I had to, I could think of nothing else but picking it back up again. This hasn’t happened for me yet with The Likeness. But with only a couple more weeks left for me to finish it, I will need to buckle down and make sure that it’s the book I pick up to read whenever I’m in the mood for reading.
Which will really be difficult, because I’ve got some very interesting books that are calling to me right now. No, really, they are. They’re all making those funny squeaky noises, the ones that my booklover’s discerning ears can hear all too clearly. And those voices are saying, “Pick me up! I’m the one you should be reading right now. Pick me up! I’m so interesting. You won’t regret it …”
First, there’s French Milk, by Lucy Knisley, which I talked about in my last Incoming! new book arrivals post. Since this one is in graphic novel format, it would be so easy to pick it up, because I know it will be a quick and lovely read.
And then there’s Wait Until Twilight, which author Sang Pak sent to me in the summer. I read the first chapter online at Sang’s site before the book arrived, and if the book had only arrived shortly after, I would have finished it by now. The first chapter was really eerie and gothic and had me wanting more. So now I keep looking at the book and thinking, yes, I really should see what happens next.
But wait, there’s more (isn’t there always, though?). I also just picked up a whole slew of books from the library that I’d put in requests for.
Most of these books ended up on my library list because I saw it on a blog somewhere, by the way. So we know who’s to blame, don’t we?
There’s Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto; this is the product description from Amazon: “Mikage, the heroine, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, Mikage is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who is really his cross-dressing father) Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale with the kitchen and the comforts of home at its heart.” Doesn’t it sound so interesting?
And then there’s Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, an eerie little book that looks like a wonderfully creepy read.
This one was a rather embarrassing find – I’d quickly skimmed through a review on a blog I frequent (I can’t remember which blog it was – I really need to start jotting down where I find my reads) and for some reason I thought it was “in the style of Shirley Jackson”.
Well, I loved The Haunting of Hill House, and “The Lottery” is one of my favorite short stories, so I quickly chirped in the comments something about being a Shirley Jackson lover, so if this was in her style, it definitely was my kind of book. Then I hopped over to my library’s website, typed in the title, and discovered that We Have Always Lived in the Castle wasn’t “in the style of Shirley Jackson” – it’s written by Shirley Jackson.
Sigh. Did I ever feel stupid for making that comment. (Do you ever make commenting blunders like this, by the way? Just asking. Would love some company on this one …)
And after reading so many really good reviews online, I also put in a request for The Summoning a while back; it’s the first book in Kelley Armstrong’s YA paranormal series.
There was a bit of a wait for this one, but at long last, it’s my turn – but it also means this is yet another book I’ll have to read within the next few weeks, because I’m pretty sure there’s still a wait list for this one.
See my growing reading dilemma?
And it doesn’t quite stop there. When I dashed into the library to pick up my holds, I saw Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow, and couldn’t resist getting it after I read the synopsis:
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
I know that I shouldn’t do things like this; I should be disciplined enough to be able to pop into the library to pick up an armload of holds without looking around at the shelves to see if something else will catch my eye.
But I’m not disciplined at all when it comes to books and reading.
So there you go. So many reading temptations. But yes, I’m going to finish The Likeness first. I know it’s going to be good – I’m at page 110 and those hooks are finally starting to sink into me.
At least I know it’s going to be a pretty good reading month this month, right?
What about you? Is there a book you absolutely must finish right now, for whatever reason? Are you oh, so tempted by other books like I am, or do you possess the iron will and discipline that I lack?