Thursday, July 30, 2009

Field Trips and Freebies!

Missed yesterday's blog post, which is sad, because I had it all planned! I headed up to Norman, OK, where I spoke to a YA Lit graduate class about writing, books, general blathering. They've been great hosts, and only made fun of my "Horny Toad" TCU sticker on my car a little bit.

So I come bearing gifts! On my website, I have Desktop Wallpapers for The Splendor Falls. They are tres awesome and artistic, so click and check it out. Thanks to for making them for me!

And while I'm on my OK field trip, I'm sending you guys to Pink Me, a blog that I enjoy reading ANYWAY, but today she's reviewing HIghway to Hell. I think this blogger is fun and funny (she's a librarian with pink hair!) and so it thrills me she gave H2H a great review. (This is not a children's blog! She reviews YA books for Adult readers. However, there's nothing untoward in this particular post.) Go read that review, then explore her site a bit.

Off to breakfast, then home to Texas. Oh, I-35, how I love you. Joy! /irony

Monday, July 27, 2009

This sign points the way...

Went last week to see the new Harry Potter movie. (The Half Blood Prince, duh.) Enjoyed the hell out of it. The story sure seemed to zip along while I was watching it, and it was only the two (count them: 2) bathroom breaks I required that let me know how long it was. I know there were changes from the book (and people will moan about them) but they still managed to cram an awful lot of story into one movie.

The movies have really reached the point where you really need to be familiar with, at the very least, the movies that have gone before, even if you haven't read the books. This is really not the place to try and pick things up. LOTS of stuff going on.

My favorite stuff is on my livejournal version of this post, because I didn't want to ambush you with SPOILERS since the movie is still fairly new. (Even if it was knocked out of the #1 spot by a bunch of talking gerbils. Seriously? Talking rodents. *shudder*)

ANyway, if you want to read my rambling opinions (and they ARE rambling) or geek out with me about the movie, click here.

But I will share this, which cracked me up because... Dude. Dumbledore in ZZTOP. How awesome would that be?

billy gibbons
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random Friday Stuff

1) I went to the Y to exercise this morning. I hate to exercise, but I love to eat, so I make myself go. I do Zumba, this sort of dance aerobics thing, and I love it. Free form, I dance like Elaine from Seinfeld. I do okay, though, if there are steps I'm supposed to follow. Then I'm only a little Elaine-like.

Anyway. Zumba is I guess very "fusion" as far as dance styles. It's Latin, Bollywood, Hip Hop, all that mixed together. The instructor is this cute girl, good at all of it, but I have to wonder if she thinks it's funny, all these suburban soccer moms (and me, and I've mentioned how I dance) trying to do these hip-hop, salsa, belly-dancy kind of moves. (The belly dancing stuff is my favorite. I have a lot of hips to bump, though I can't shimmy worth a darn. Too uptight, I suspect.)

2) My friend Katherine from NTRWA and DFWWW is moving to Ohio next week. I has a sad. I mention this, because Ohio keeps coming up in random ways! It's synchronicity. Or a sign. I don't know. But it's freaking me out.

3) Lizzie isn't supposed to get snacks, but I can always tell when my Mom has been sneaking her yogurt, because she is the messiest eater in the world. She just trotted into the office with all her neck fur stuck together and yogurt in her ears. Gross. The least a grandmother could do is wash off the evidence.

4) I had a dream about my Dad this afternoon. (Yes, I had a nap, what about it?) I guess because I mentioned him in my thank yous at the Rita ceremony. You may notice a running theme in my books, that my protagonists tend to have special relationships with their Dads. Not a coincidence, I guess. (Though I'm changing it up with the new book. You'll have to find some other link between this character and yours truly. We've all got some corresponding quirk.)

Speaking of quirks-- I rolled the dice and picked a winner from the comments on my Wednesday blog on character. Oddly enough (more synchronicity!) it's Ailya, who wrote in with her question. Thanks for all the great comments, though. Lots of new people. Yay.

I'll leave you with a loldog, that made me smile.

funny pictures of dogs with captions
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Q&A Day: Building Character... the fictional kind

From Aliya (Who’s letter cracked me up. Thanks Aliya!):
As an avid reader and a hopeful writer I find something that really makes or breaks a story is the characters. So many times I find a book that has a sturdy, interesting plot, with flimsy little characters whose only purpose seems to be to carry out said plot. What's something you found helpful when building the characters in your books, as well as keeping them from seeming too similar/one-dimensional? Was it something that came easily to you? If you could provide a little insight that would be awesome =).

My answer:
Characters are my favorite thing, except maybe for dialogue. I won't say it always comes *easily* but it's something I don't remember having to learn how to do. I had to sort of retroactively figure out what I was doing with my best characters, so I could do it consistently do it with the rest.

A good main character is three things:
1) Multi-dimensional (They aren't just one thing, they have facets and layers)
2) Relatable (You can put yourself in their shoes, even when they're making mistakes.)
3) Internally consistent and internally logical. (Their traits mesh together and make sense as a whole).

When I create a character who’s going to get a lot of page time (a protagonist like Maggie, or major supporting character, like Lisa or Justin), I start off with the character "hook.” I like that term, because it's the thing that the writer holds onto, and the thing that grabs the reader. If you had to describe ONE THING that told you the most about a character, what would it be? I knew, before I put my fingers on the keyboard, that Maggie was going to be plucky and inquisitive: the girl detective type who won’t let a mystery rest.

Everything else has to work around this core trait, whether it supports that trait, compliments it, or contrasts with it. It's the thing that drives your character's decisions, gives them direction like a compass. If you think about it like drawing, it's a bold, dark stroke on a clean piece of paper: you can't erase it, so the whole picture must be build around it.

Then you add other lines to make a more complete picture. These are secondary characteristics, quirks, hobbies, history, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses (never forget weaknesses!). Add shading: dark and light areas, fears and flaws as well as good stuff. But they all have to work with that first bold stroke. If they don't relate to it, that's when something rings false and fake. Going back to Maggie: she's very determined, but the flip side of that is she can be a bit pig-headed. She's extremely loyal, but she can be blind to her friends' faults.

See how every trait has a positive and negative side? That makes them seem natural, like a real person, and not like I'm just giving her random strengths and flaws as the plot demands it.

While many stories concern the growth and change of a character, what's actually changing is the outer layers: perspective, feelings, and how they express their core trait. For instance, Luke Skywalker starts off as a idealistic farmboy who craves action. He's a hothead, but he basically wants to do good: save the princess, join the rebellion, etc. He struggles with that hotheaded impulsiveness and when it is expressed as anger, it tempts him to the dark side, but his good nature wins out. (He's still a 'doer' but he learns to "let go of his anger.")

Stories with a major change to the character (i.e., a bad to good redemption) mean you have to think ahead and give them a core character that can be expressed in different ways so it the change is plausible. For example, if character who has a focused iron will realizes his goal is wrong-headed or even 'evil,' and then repents and changes, he's still iron willed. (It takes a lot of willpower to change.) Alternatively, you may hide the characters TRUE core with a lot of layers of other stuff. (A fearful character may find his backbone, for example.) If you don't want this change to come out of nowhere, you have to make those layers logical--why is the character fearful, and what would motivate him to change?

By playing with the core character, and all the layers and contrasts that you add to it, you can come up with a character who is textured, but in a way that seems plausible, logical, and realistic, so that all their actions, reactions, and changes ring true.

So, here’s a writing assignment. Take a character from a favorite book, whether your own work in progress or someone else’s, and say what is their ‘hook.’ My example above was Luke Skywalker, the hotheaded but idealistic boy who controls but never loses those core traits.

Post in the comments and discuss. On Friday I will randomly choose a poster from all blog comments to receive a copy of my (RITA® Award winning) book HELL WEEK.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Review of The Splendor Falls

Okay, I just HAD to share. So excited about this!

Kirkus: August 1 issue

Clement-Moore, Rosemary THE SPLENDOR FALLS

Clement-Moore forsakes her Maggie Quinn series to craft a stand-alone Southern Gothic with a Celtic flair—and leading man. After an injury destroys 19-year-old Sylvie’s ballet career and she gets drunk at her mother’s wedding, she finds herself and her dog shipped down to her dead father’s Alabama family, complete with huge estate-cum-inn and resident ghosts. The local teens wield an inordinate amount of power, their cute leader wants Sylvie and Welsh guest Rhys infuriates and attracts in equal measure. The mythological and historical grounding—legendary Welsh prince Madoc; natural magic; hidden journals; family secrets—is excellent, artfully shared via conversation when exposition is necessary, although Sylvie’s resistance to admitting the paranormal drags on a bit given all the hints. The dialogue displays the author’s trademark wit and zip, especially when Sylvie and her aunt’s business partner’s daughter spar. By digging up—literally and figuratively—her family’s past, Sylvie begins to heal and move past her accident. Long, satisfying and just chilling enough, this will please a wide audience and leave readers hoping for more. (author’s note) (Fantasy/mystery. 13 & up)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rita Award and Stuff

So some of you may have heard that my book

HELL WEEK won the 2009 RITA® award for best YA book.

Yes, that’s right. Award winning author in the house.

If you saw me on Saturday night, I was sort of a space case, because of course I was ecstatic, but it’s also this surreal and kind of humbling experience, because the other books in my category were really awesome, too. That’s not false modesty--I would not have been surprised if the award had gone to either of them. (And in fact, Tera Lynn Childs did win the Rita for Best First Book!)

And of course, despite the fact that I DID jot down my notes on what I wanted to say, I completely messed it up when I got on stage. Some of that was because I was confronted with my own giant head on the big screen, and you have a lot to think about at that moment. Including:

1) Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m standing here.
2) Is that what my hair looks like? Holy crap my teeth are HUGE!
3) Don’t say anything stupid.
4) Don’t hyperventilate and pass out.
5) Don’t forget anybody.
6) Don’t trip and fall.
7) Don’t drop the statue.

Another cool thing? The “walk down” music was the theme from Buffy! I didn’t hear it on the way down (I didn’t hear ANYTHING after “Hell…” and then it was just this ocean surf roar and my voice in my head going: “Don’t trip don’t trip don’t trip”) but on the way back… that was fun. Thanks programming people!

Anyway. I’m so grateful, and so honored. I know some people are head scratching, thinking “But Hell Week isn’t really a romance.” No, but it has what the RWA describes as “Romantic elements.” That is, a strong romantic subplot. Though, as a reader wrote to me recently, “There should be more kissing scenes.” Thankfully, the judges felt what was there was sufficient.

(Though personally, I agree--you can never go wrong with more kissing scenes. Look forward to The Splendor Falls for that. Lots of kissing in TSF. ;-) )

So, now Rita is home, and in her place of honor atop my desk:

Of course, this makes it look like she's staring at me, which is good and bad. Bad: It's a little creepy. Good: I feel she's admonishing me if I surf the internet when I should be working.

Thanks to everyone for their support and congratulations!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Random Items from D.C.

Random Collection of Items from the last few days when I've been too busy to post from D.C./RWA Convention:

• Total panic attack on the plane! That has never happened to me before. But seriously. The seat I was in was SO TIGHT, and they air wasn't on, and the walls just closed in on me. It was... actually, not funny at all. Moving on:

• I'm so lame. I haven't remembered to bring my camera ANYwhere. But there's a picture here of me and the other two finalists in my category for the Rita awards here. (I'm the one in the middle.) We are holding up our handmade "Rita Finalist" flags because the real ones didn't make it to D.C.

• Other exciting things... Went to the National Zoo (with Tina, who is on the left in the picture) and saw cheetahs and otters. The otters were SO cute. (After dogs, they're my favorite animal. They might be my favorite, if one could keep them as a pet. But they only like to cuddle with each other.)

• Mom has been sending me pictures of Lizzie. She's been making art with her toys. No lie! She arranges her stuffed toys into patterns. Stars and lines mostly.

• Internet surreal moment #346. My Mom is following me on Twitter. I guess I better stop Tweeting every time I go to the bar.

More on Monday!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Win Books!

I can't believe I haven't made a bigger stinking deal about this, but as I mentioned back in March, I'm a finalist in the RWA's RITA award, in the YA category. I couldn't be more thrilled, especially since I share the card with two writers I really like, Tina Ferraro and Tera Lynn Childs.

Over on her blog, YA Fresh, Tina is giving away copies of all three nominated books! Coolness! Go and read the post-- all three of us posted what we would have pitched if given the others' titles. For example, for Tina's book Hot to Hook a Hottie, I said: "A carefree summer fishing trip goes horribly awry when..." Well you just have to head over there and read for yourself.

Then comment to enter. Tell her I sent you. ;-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Q&A Day: How to stick with it when the end seems endless...

Hi all. I love getting letters from readers, and sometimes they ask me good questions. I love how many teens write to me and tell me they're working on their own writing projects.

Here, I'll let Grace ask her own question:
I was wondering how you stick with writing on one topic for a whole book let alone 3 books. I have a slue of journals with stories that never quite passed the 50 page mark. I just lose interest because it is not quite time for the climax and back ground knowledge and thickening the plot can only go so far. How do you keep your self interested until the end of the book?

Here's my answer:
Before I wrote Prom Dates From Hell, I also had a whole mess of projects/books that I'd started but never finished, for exactly the same reason. I would lose interest and abandon one project for the next shiny thing. A couple of things helped me: I wrote a bunch of shorter pieces so that I got used to finishing things. A short story can be 4 pages, or it can be 40 pages. But it's good practice being able to get a beginning, middle and end into a short space. There's not space for the boring stuff.

For a book, I don't just plan one climax at the end. I have several turning points that are like mini-climaxes over the course of the book. This seems obvious, I know, but it's not just about plotting an exciting book. It's about giving myself goals that don't seem so waaaaaaaay far away and unattainable. If you think about the book as a series of successively higher hills rather than one long, tedious climb up a mountain, it really helps. And since those parts are usually fun to write, it's both a goal and a reward. (I love to write the Maggie/Justin scenes, so I tell myself stuff like: well, I have to get through this scene where they explain how magic works, but then Maggie and Justin get to fight then make out... er, I mean make up.)

But whatever you do, NEVER throw away those journals! One of my abandoned projects turned into the idea for my September book (The Splendor Falls). Way back when, I had an idea for a story about a ballerina who breaks her leg and goes to stay in an old house with a ghost. The setting and whole rest of the plot ended up being completely different, but it all started from about 50 pages of story I began (then abandoned) in high school.

So to all you budding writers out there, good luck! And if you have any other writing related questions, post them in the comments or e-mail me. We can make this a regular feature.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nice News for a Monday

I'm sort of thrilled to find the first blogger review of The Splendor Falls (that I've seen, anyway).

"Wowzers. I was enthralled from the very first page. I ate it up. It was mysterious, funny, original, detailed, romantic, thrilling, and expertly written." --Addicted to Books


The reviewer is an actual teen, and mentioned the exact things I've been a little anxious about: the likability of the main character*, and the chemistry with the romantic interest. And Gigi, of course.

I'll be giving away a couple of ARCs soon. Watch this space.

*I love Sylvie, but I'm biased. Also, she's not Maggie, so I hope MQ fans will be open-minded.