Friday, February 22, 2013

Just for the Fun or The Things a Mom Does for Her Kids

This weekend the family will go skiing. A few months ago a dear friend asked me if we would like to go with them to Okemo, Vermont. We did it a couple of years ago and had a blast, so I jumped at the chance. Believe me, it couldn't have been better timed if I had tried. I mean, my brain is about to go belly up and my new crime story is making me sweat bricks. Who knew writing outside your comfort zone will be so hard?

Anyway, I'm happy and positive that the brake will work wonders on me. I can already picture myself going down the slope. Yeah, you read that right, I said slope. The shortest, easiest, like one degree more of inclination than the kiddy slope. That's my ride. Nope, I don't really sky that well and nope, I'm not ashamed that my eight-year-old will son go down harder rides than mine. I'm self-assured like that.

In fact, I'm terrified of heights, reason why the lifts make my heart pound like crazy. I also have a mini heart attack every time I have to go off the damn thing. I mean, would it take too long if you just stopped the thing for a second so I don't have to jump off with everyone still in my way? Also, why would you put a blue slope, or sometimes a black (!!), so close to the landing spot? I can picture myself stumbling to my death down a hill designed for Shaun White.

The worst part? I've seen both things happened to friends of mine. No, no one died on a black slope! But he had to slide on his behind aaaall the way down. On the other hand, we--his 'friends'--had a lot of fun watching him from the lift. You'd think he'd hide in the car after that, but no. He got back on the lift and waved us a very colorful hand sign.

That same weekend, another friend of mine, this time a girl, just never gather up the nerve to jump off the lift. It wasn't her first time that day--though it was her first time skiing--but she just couldn't make it and as the lift took her back down, the guy controlling the thing stopped it for her. Very entertaining for us again, not so much for her.

Oh, and my sister! Paola is a menace to every skier on the hills. We took classes together the first time she tried, my future husband, her, and me. After two hours, we decided we were ready and wanted to try an easy hill. The future hubby went first and stopped midway to check on my sister and me. Paola, who was before me, realized she couldn't move sideways to zigzag down the hill, so she went in a straight line like a comet. As she passed by my future hubby she screamed: "I don't know how to stop!" A second later she was on the snow with both skis off, somehow.

We helped her up, told her how to zigzag, and there she went. Again in a straight line at light-speed. A poor lady that was going from right to left just happened to turn at the worst possible moment and her skis tangled with my sister's. That didn't end well, obviously, but you know what they say, if at first you don't succeed... Well, they shouldn't have told that to my sister.

She tried once more and this time she missed collision with the same lady! Sadly, the woman got toppled over anyway when my sister went on top her skis. Paola couldn't stop, so she simply went on, fast as a bullet. And even though she yelled "I'm sorry!" I doubt the lady appreciated it. That was it, my sister never tried skiing again. Thankfully.

With all that in mind, I really don't mind going down the greenest of the slopes and would even consider using the kids' slope, but they don't let me. And despite all this, I do have fun, and the best part is spending time with the family. Looking at my young offsprings all excited heals my heart of every mini-arrest and puts a smile on my face.

Ah, the memories...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Best Five Movie Taglines and Why You Should Have One

We are always selling something, our abilities to do a job, our version of an argument, the movie that we want to see this weekend, the fruits of our work, our books, our stories. Marketing and negotiating are abilities that should be ingrained in us, they should come naturally. Instead, we struggle to make those sales.

Few areas instill more horror into regular folks than Marketing (if you don't do that for a living, that is), specially for authors. The world of Literature is a complex world where you're in for the love of the art, hoping you might become the next JK Rowling, or simply because the voices compelled you (I'm with the latter if you wonder).

Those who view Literature as an Art are a very selective, posh, tiny group of writers and critics that will pretty much pander everyone who makes money out of their books; which, by the way, do not require of a dictionary to read. They are elitists against every form of marketing because Art is not for sale.

But if you're reading this, you probably aren't with them and so, you need to learn how to sell your work. An awesome blurb, a killer cover, a few nods from some better-known fellas, and a tagline are your best weapons. Today we'll focus on the last one there.

Taglines are nothing new in the marketing world. They have been proven to be an effective way to make a brand memorable. Think of Nike's "Just Do It," or Loreal's "Because You're Worth It." Movies, of course, were the natural progression; now, books, on the other hand, have not embraced the idea all that warmly. Once again, the elitists run the show by saying that your story should sell itself--if you so want to cheap your art, that is--so taglines are a sure sign of tackiness. Then again, we've stablished you are no snub. So, why haven't you written one?

There are genres that lend themselves perfectly for taglines, like Horror, Romance, and Young Adult in particular. Span-attention-challenged teens will have a hard time choosing between a bazillion Post-Apocalyptic sagas, or Paranormal Romances, and remembering titles/authors is just out of the question. This is how a tagline can set you apart and incline a reader toward the cash register with your book in hand.

Ok, so I got your interest now. But how to write one?

Well, it has to be short, powerful, intriguing, and memorable. It needs to reflect the style of your story and the atmosphere. I would make it two lines at the most. If there is comedy in your piece, make it sassy; if the language is that of young people, use idioms; if it is a mystery, ask questions. The closest thing that can give you an idea of how it is done are movies. So, I recommend you check the most memorable taglines in the genre of your book and used them as inspiration.

In this spirit, I have here the Five Most Memorable Horror Taglines I've found. Let's analyze them...

5. "It started in May in a small town. And every month after that whenever the moon was full... It came back." ~Silver Bullet (1985) 

This one tells you it is a werewolf story and that a whole town is involved somehow. Not the brightest, but still effective in setting the suspenseful atmosphere.

4. "They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and cities will be your tombs." ~Demons (1985) 

This one I like in particular because I hated the movie. You see, the tagline is so good that even if I couldn't handle the movie, I still remember it. It is dark, scary, and paints a bleak future for the human race. Bestselling features all.

3. "The last man on earth is not alone." ~I am Legend (2007)

Holy cow! Eight little words say so much! Now, this uses 'antithesis', a resource that will punch your brain and force you to re-read and think about the hidden meaning. The last man, but he's not alone?! Oh, shit! Elegant, simple, and effective.

2. "Between the world we see and the things we fear there are doors. When they are open, nightmares become reality." ~A Haunting. TV Show.

Now, this one appeals to our inner demons. We all have nightmares and we are thankful they stay like that, but messing with reality and blurring the line between dreams and our everyday lives is a scary prospect where going crazy, ironically, would be the best case scenario.

1. "When there's no more room in Hell, the death will walk the earth." ~Dawn of the Dead (1978) 

This movie is a classic and its tagline is just as memorable. Its prophetic kinda statement is scary as hell and it manages to put a grotesque image in our heads that has endured for decades. It is the reason zombies are at the top of the scary machine.

So, I hope these inspire you to go write an awesome tagline for your book. Do you remember a tagline that has stayed with you for years? Which one, and why?

Remember, research within your genre and go for it. Be bold, be different, don't be afraid.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

About Editing and Insecurities. February's IWSG

February has arrived, another IWSG is here, and I'm still up to my eyeballs in things to do. And though I'm feeling less overwhelmed by all my tasks, my insecurities have flared up.

For two weeks now I've been working in a story I wrote about a year ago. Back then I wrote and rewrote, edited a third time and sent it to my editor for a final check up which ended in a fourth and final version. The story was on the long side with 7000+ words but I was happy with it. I submitted it and received seven different rejections, so I decided to read it once more. And I was horrified by the thing. Which brings us to the present, to the new editing process and to the old insecurities.

It doesn't matter how much I work on it or how many times I rewrite, I always feel like there's something wrong with it. After two weeks now, I dread the moment I'll go back to work on the thing. But I know that's the way it is, I'll never be sure about how good it is, not even if it gets published. I just have to keep giving my all and hope I'll know when to let go.

Which brings me to a question. Fellow insecure writers, what do you think of editing programs like Autocrit, Editminion, and Pro Writing Aid? I'm using the latter and it has been of great help but no matter what I do, it keeps finding 'mistakes', like I use too much "like" or that my median sentence is 10.5 instead of 11... This last thing is a big problem for me because my published novella has been accused of runaway sentences, so I tend to be more concise now. Then comes this program and I'm supposed to be ok with 35 word-long sentences? I just don't know... Help, please!!

The story is down to 5900 words, which is a small success in itself, and at the end of the week I think it'll be ready for someone to read it. It is a horror short with strong Italian folklore elements. If you feel like reading it and give me your harshest critics, I'll be happy to pay in the same token.

Well, I guess it is time to get back to work. Wish me luck!

Have an awesome, insecure-free month of February!