Thursday, August 28, 2014

Awesome Writing in Media, Part 5: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Because I'm nice, below are links to the first four parts of this series (or you can search by the tag Awesome Writing in Media on the right in the sidebar).

Part 1: Joss Whedon

Part 2: Quentin Tarantino

Part 3: Horrible Bosses

Part 4: The Book of Mormon

So we're at part five, which, if you couldn't tell from the title, is about a comic book movie.


For those of you rolling your eyes right now, feel free to click the little "X" in the corner. But I recommend that you don't... Captain America: The Winter Soldier is completely deserving of a place in this series.

There have been comic book movies for a long time spanning different franchises, but I'm not going to talk about those, either in terms of their successes or failures. We'll save that for another time. However, I will say that Marvel seems to be getting it right where others haven't quite succeeded in the same way (caveat: Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is kind of its own animal). The Marvel movies are well thought-out, carefully crafted, and have a great continuity spanning the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The concrete schedule for these movies now easily goes into the late 20-teens with rumors of movies being scheduled out as far as the late 2020s, which in this time of "let's do a sequel to this movie 20 years after the original, yeah, that'll work!" movie-making, is almost unheard of.

And while, as I said, there is plenty of continuity between the movies, they each feel as unique as they are similar. That probably doesn't make sense, but whatever. A viewer won't confuse Iron Man or Thor (the movies or the heroes), and Guardians of the Galaxy, which has been kicking ass at the box office this summer, has a distinct sense of humor and a swashbuckling feel to it--kind of like if Star Wars had been entirely about Han Solo and Chewie (but with much better writing...sorry, George Lucas). That movie probably deserves its own entry here too, but for the rest of this, I'm going to concentrate on Cap.

The first Captain America movie was good. It had a vintage feel to it with it being 99% set in the 1940s, and it gave Chris Evans a chance to prove his acting chops in a role as something other than a smart-ass frat-boy. It all worked. We rooted for skinny Steve Rogers and post-serum Capt. America Steve Rogers. But it's the rare movie that outclasses its predecessor.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was a fun, well-acted, action-packed movie, but above all else, the writing was superb. We got a smart political thriller--think Three Days of the Condor starring Robert Redford (who, incidentally, is also in CA: TWS, and who is awesome as always) with a side of super hero action. I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone, but I will say that there are plenty of twists and turns during the film, and it's a credit to the writers that they managed to keep them from tangling. The writers also didn't treat the audience like a collection of idiots; they assumed you were paying attention and keeping up with what was happening. I can't remember there being any plot holes (really big ones, at least). The pacing was good--difficult to do in any type of movie, though in my inexpert opinion, I'd probably guess that it's hardest to achieve in a fast-paced action film) and the movie never felt like it was moving too quickly or too slowly. In fact, I remember having no inclination to check my watch. But I did have the urge to see the movie again immediately.

If you're on the fence about watching some of these, they often get better. Avengers was written and directed by Joss Whedon (the subject of Part 1), as will be Avengers: Age of Ultron. The writing in the Phase 1 movies (the earliest in the MCU) was good, but some of the more recent ones (CA: TWS, Avengers, GotG) are better writing-wise by leaps and bounds.

Have you seen CA: TWS? What did you think?

xoxo Sarah

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interview Time with Susan Kaye Quinn!

Whoa, my friends are popping out books all over the place, and my friend Susan Kaye Quinn is a writing machine.  And if you read middle-grade books, have a middle-grade reader, or love books that are a little different, she's one you want to check out.  


Hi, Susan!  I'd like to start with the most important question--I know we both share the love of a good cup of tea. What's your favorite? 

My current is Irish Breakfast, although I just came off a wicked bender of all forms of Chai (without milk – heresy, I know.)
Tell everyone about yourself and how you started writing...I smile every time I hear how you began. 

I’m an ex-rocket scientist and mom of three, who started writing fiction (seriously) about five years ago… and never looked back.

It's so cool that you're an actual rocket scientist!  And what are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a writer?

Favorite—creating something entirely new out of thin air. Least Favorite—not having enough hours in the day to write all the stories I want to.

If you had to narrow it down, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to other writers?

Write as much as you possibly can. Quality vs. quantity is a false choice: the more you write, the better you get.

I absolutely love that you’re so supportive and helpful to other writers, whether they’re just starting out or are seasoned veterans. I have to ask, what gave you the idea to blog about your experiences, and then use them to create the Indie Author Survival Guide (which, by the way, is amazing!)?

Thank you! Blogging about my experiences was second nature—writing stuff down helps me sort it out in my own head, and I figure if I’m struggling with something (or learning something new), it’s likely to help someone else. It took the urging of several friends over time to convince to put it in a book for sale… but I finally realized that I could actually help more people that way. That’s what sold me on pulling it all together and putting it on the largest ebook distribution system in the world (Amazon).

I’m actually thinking of pulling together a new book just before NaNoWriMo this year. It will draw from my micro-blogs, and act as a 30 day motivational text: one page a day to inspire your writing and keep your words flowing. We’ll see if I can get it together in time, but I think (hope?) it’s something people would find helpful.

That's an amazing idea! I'm all for that--sometimes I'll hit a rut and be unable to start up again as quickly as I'd like.  

Do you prefer silence or to have music on when you’re writing? What kind?

Silence. Unless I have to drown out my boys and their rambuctiousness during the summer.  :-) Then I listen to the soundtrack to Frozen.

How’d you get the idea for Second Daughter?

My editor for Third Daughter said, “Wait, that’s it?? You are writing another book in this series, right?”
I said, “Well, yeah, if I keep that ending. Or I could change it and end the book there.”
He said, “No, you need to turn it into a trilogy. And you should name them, Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter.

No lie, that’s exactly how it went. So I brainstormed for an hour, found themes I wanted to write for Second Daughter, and wrote back to tell him that he’d have to edit two more books.

What a good, supportive editor! And how’s First Daughter coming along?

Sadly, I’m behind. My editor has most of the book, but I need to finish writing the ending. I’ll be doing that this week.

What are you working on now?

First Daughter, but as soon as that’s done, I’ll be on to starting the second season of Debt Collector. I need to remember next summer not to schedule vacations. They’re seriously interfering with my productivity!

Aw, a break can really rejuvenate the creativity, though!  

Tell us what genre(s) you write in, why, and what your experiences are like writing in Bollywood-steampunk for The Dharian Affairs trilogy?  How is the experience different from one to another?

I really write across a broad range of genres: YA SF, MG SF, steampunk romance, future-noir, non-fiction. The thing they all have in common is that they’re speculative fiction of one sort or another. I write a lot of different kinds of stories because I have a range of interests, but it does make marketing a tad more difficult. Basically, I’m starting over with each new genre. But I’m fine with that: I write the stories I love. It’s the great freedom of indie publishing.

Very true; you're not married to any type of "branding" that way. You have books out all over the spectrum—which one, or even which series, has been your favorite to write? Why?

My favorite is always the one I’m currently working on! :-) You have to be passionately in love with a story in order to do it justice. But I have to say, I’m eager to get back to writing my Singularity series, which hasn’t even been published yet. That one has seriously captured my heart.

What was your favorite scene to write in Second Daughter?

The kissing scenes (pretty much all of them) – I like the passion (and torment) that lead up to them, and if I do them right, they’re like a little reward for tension well-wrought. :-)

What scene gave you the most trouble in Second Daughter?

I would say the ending—I completely rewrote it in the second draft. Turns out the wrong character got shot the first time. :-) It was funny, because I knew something was wrong with it, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. My editor and my critique partners all thought it was fine. But as soon as I started writing First Daughter, I realized what was wrong and went back to rewrite it. That’s one reason I wrote these books (First and Second Daughter) so close together (overlapping really).

Where can we find you on the interwebs?

Where can we find your books?

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you can get a free short story!

Blurb for Third Daughter
Third Daughter (Dharian Affairs#1)
Skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue... and, of course, kissing.

The Third Daughter of the Queen wants her birthday to arrive so she'll be free to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon may force her to accept a barbarian prince's proposal for a peace-brokering marriage. Desperate to marry the charming courtesan she loves, Aniri agrees to the prince's proposal as a subterfuge in order to spy on him, find the weapon, and hopefully avoid both war and an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

Third Daughter is the first book in the The Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance that takes place in an east-Indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Susan!  

Have you or your kids read any of Susan's books?  Definitely check her work out because she writes for all ages. 

xoxo Sarah

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Inspiring envy...

I just realized that the title of this post might be a bit misleading.  The Oxford English Dictionary says that envy is "a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck".  This is completely not directed at anyone in particular; this post is all about my weird little musings, because I have a feeling I'm not the only one who's going through something like this.

And in case you're confused, I don't mean that this is a tutorial on how to create envy or make people envious. Quite the contrary. I mean that envy can be inspiring if thought about a little differently.

Specifically, with these great gals!
In 2011, I had my first opportunity to go to a writer's convention. It was RWA Nationals, and it was in NYC, where it'll be again in 2015. For the first time, I'd had the chance to be with high numbers of other people with little voices in their heads telling them things that they just had to write down. The camaraderie of being with other writers--some who I'd met online and never thought I'd meet in person, and others I was just lucky enough to meet, period--was wonderful. They were supportive, and interested, and curious, and, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I belonged somewhere.
Anyone want to get me one that grows $100s?

I should also say that has been my only real opportunity to go to one due to the ridiculous cost of flying halfway around the world.

So, for the past three-plus years, I've had to watch vicariously through social media as my writer friends have enjoyed going to the RWA conferences or the RT Booklovers Convention, or various others, having a ball and posting pics, and getting to talk about the people who live in their heads to their hearts' content.

I want to make it clear that I'm not envious of anyone in particular; it's this general sad feeling of being left out. And while even when we live back in the states I'm sure I won't be able to hit all of these up, it'll be nice to have the chance to.

But just in case you didn't think I was being enough of a Debbie Downer or was done throwing myself a little pity party, there's more to this green-eyed monster.  Part of the conferences is getting to talk about the books everyone has published, and I'm not quiiiite there yet as an author.  Am I proud of my fellow writers?  You bet your ass I am!  Do I love talking about their books?  Abso-frickin-lutely!  And I'm going to be genuinely happy and promote them and help as much as I can, because there's that camaraderie I mentioned above--it's tough enough to write a book and promote it on your own--even with the help of a publisher if you've gone that route--so it takes a village. Apparently a village of people who hear voices in their heads, but that's not the point. This has nothing to do with other writers specifically--this weirdness is all me.

But all is not's where the inspiring bit comes in.  The next time I go to a conference, I want it to be as a published author. For instance, I don't want to go to RWA 2015 (if I do actually go...hopefully!), four years after my initial one, still at the same stage I was in 2011. Will it be okay if I'm not published by then, or if I'm in the process of querying/negotiating, or self-pubbing something? Yes, but to be honest, I'll be disappointed in myself if I don't have something of my own to show for it.  Something I can point people to on Amazon or wherever to say, "I wrote this." I'm using my experience-envy to inspire myself to kick my own butt and achieve my dream. Because, though some people write solely for themselves, my dream is to make stories for others to enjoy as well.

There's a psychological component to goal-sharing--that if you make it public, it'll serve as motivation. I did that successfully last year with NaNoWriMo (I shared my daily word output and total word count on my FB page), and I'm hoping this will be as effective.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, and please, if you have a moment, leave me some words of encouragement below in the comments, because I think I might need them.

xoxo Sarah

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Interview Time with Rebekah Weatherspoon!

I was lucky enough to catch my friend and fellow author, Rebekah Weatherspoon, a few weeks ago when she'd been teasing the amazingly hot cover for her new novel, Fit, on Facebook.  It's even posted below, so you'll get to drool, just like I did.  The book is finally out (yay!) and I couldn't wait to get an interview with her so you all can see how awesome she is.

I've been a fan of Rebekah's writing for a loooong time; she writes sexy stories in a few genres, but always with diverse characters--different shapes and sizes, colors, backgrounds, and sexual orientations are represented.

Take it away!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Oh, please don't make me! Ask any author their least favorite part of the writing process. Synopsis, Blurbs, Author Bios, in that order. :)

Ha, good point. I can sympathize. What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a writer? 

My least favorite part: see above ;). My favorite part is putting all the wild things that roll around in my imagination down on paper. I'm never short on ideas and I love that I get to share those ideas with readers.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other writers?

Read and write, over and over and over again. Read everything, it'll help your writing and then you actually have to write. I know a lot of aspiring writers talking about writing and wanting to write, but a book is made of actual words put down on paper. You have to write.

Good point. I think a lot of people forget that--even seasoned authors, sometimes.  When you write, do you prefer silence or to have music on? Any particular kind?

Honestly, it doesn't matter. I've written on my phone while standing in line at the bank. I can zone out pretty easily so even if I put on some easy listening, I'm not really listening to it.

In line at the bank? That's some extreme writing! I'd love to know if someone was reading over your shoulder, haha.  And how'd you get the idea for FIT?

I saw a call for submissions to a particular publisher. I initially wrote FIT for the call, but when it was rejected I rewrote a big chunk of it and decided to self-publish it. While I was working on those revisions, I came up with two more stories for Grant's friends and decided to extend it into a trilogy.'s book #2 coming along, then?

It's coming ;)

What are you working on now?

Right now I'm working on revisions for a lesbian novella that will be out in October and revisions for Tamed (#2 in the Fit Trilogy), which will be out in September.

You're busy! What were your favorite and most troublesome scenes to write in FIT?

I can't really talk about my favorite scene because it's sort of toward the end and it's kind of a big Grant spoiler. I didn't really have any trouble with any particular scene. Fit was pretty smooth sailing for me even with the revisions.

Where can we find you on the interwebs?


Where can we find your books?

My Website:

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Okay, lovely readers...have you read any of Rebekah's books?  What did you think?

xoxo Sarah