Monday, September 28, 2009

TEEN! DRAMA!

Easton Heights
A TEEN DRAMA
Adapted for television by Kiersten White

INT. HOUSE
Although CARA, our main character, is one of the POOR GIRLS in school, her house is miraculously huge and impeccably decorated. MOM stands at the counter, making breakfast. We know she is the MOM because she is wearing an apron.

CARA comes in. MOM gives her a smile. CARA raises an eyebrow ironically.

CARA
What's with the apron? Since when do you Martha Stewart it up?

MOM
We need it as a prop to show that I am, in fact, your mom, given that I'm only 32 and you're actually 25. I hate this industry. Pancakes?

CARA
Whatever, I'm out.

MOM watches her go, a concerned look on her face to show us all that the mother-daughter relationship isn't working here, and that CARA won't let her in. In reality MOM is giving this look because she knows she will miraculously disappear from the show and only be mentioned in passing, since TEEN SHOWS are mysteriously parent-free. MOM now goes to apply moisturizer in the hopes that the next show will cast her as the TEENAGER instead of the MOM.

INT SCHOOL HALL
CARA walks down a crowded hall in which all of the students are way too good looking and in their forties. We know they are TEENS because they are wearing trendy clothes and use horribly trendy slang. As she passes DANIEL she deliberately doesn't look at him. DANIEL stares at CARA for an awkwardly long shot, with a close up view of his eyes. We know that there is some sort of HISTORY here. HISTORY that will no doubt come into play later, creating a jealous love triangle. DANIEL is wearing a football jersey so we know he is a FOOTBALL PLAYER and not a father of two in real life.

CARA stops at her locker. All of the lockers are far too nice for an actual high school, and the hall itself is brightly lit and non-scuffed up. This is television and things are SHINY. TWO GIRLS come up, each showing more cleavage than would be decent were they actually sixteen like they are pretending. One is TOKEN BLONDE, the other is PLAIN FRIEND who is still prettier than anyone we know in real life.

TOKEN BLONDE gives a frenemy smirk. Since this is a teen show, we can use lingo like frenemy.

TOKEN BLONDE
Cara! Hi! It's been so long. I mean, what with you being in rehab and all.

CARA glares daggers while PLAIN FRIEND looks horrified and tries to smooth it over.

PLAIN FRIEND
No one knows, it's okay.

(In future episode we will find out that CARA was not, in fact, in REHAB, but having a baby, because TEEN PREGNANCY is totally hot right now.) TOKEN BLONDE smirks and we know that everyone knows about rehab. Except...NEW HOT GUY. NEW HOT GUY (with an appropriately trendy name) walks down the hall and every single girl watches him. HOT GUY ignores all of them until he catches CARA'S eyes--and we are treated to an intense LOOK that lasts longer than any dialogue we've had so far and makes it clear that these two are DESTINED to have an awkward relationship with FORCED CHEMISTRY that will heat up when they need boosts in ratings, but in the first season will only push the limits in DREAM SEQUENCES. Also, they will break up at least once per episode. But right now this smolderingly awkward look lets us know that these two are THE COUPLE.

TOKEN BLONDE
Who is THAT? Doesn't matter, he's going to be mine.

TOKEN BLONDE throws back her shoulders for maximum cleavagization as HOT GUY approaches. HOT GUY smiles shyly, but smolderingly, and doesn't even look at TOKEN BLONDE, who is immediately crushed and vindictive. HOT GUY only has eyes for CARA.

HOT GUY
Hi, I'm new.

CARA
I know. I mean, just because I've never seen you before, and I'd remember anyone that HOT.

Another pause for some awkward, intense staring as PLAIN FRIEND and TOKEN BLONDE look on. PLAIN FRIEND is clearly excited by this development, because she never has plotlines of her own. TOKEN BLONDE is giving over-the-top bitter and jealous faces. She should have been cast in that role, but will camp up hers like nobody's business in the meantime.

TOKEN BLONDE
Yeah, Cara hasn't been around for a while. She's been--

PLAIN FRIEND
BUSY! She's been busy. At...a resort.

CARA smiles tightly, and we all feel bad for her, even though so far we haven't seen her be nice, funny, smart, or charming. But since she is the prettiest girl and is destined to be with the hottest guy, we know that we should love her and root for her. Our stomachs knot in anxiety knowing that during sweeps when CARA and HOT BOY are deeply in love he will find out and it will all go to POT for two episodes.

END SCENE with at least thirty seconds more of staring so the viewers are certain that CARA and HOT BOY have chemistry.

NOTE: Determine whether to have a) vampires, b) football players, or c) really really rich kids populate the school for added drama. Or really, really rich vampiric football players. With nice cars.

I'm pretty sure I have a hit on my hands here.

Note from Laptop: Kiersten asked if it was okay to use my signature font. I said no. You can see how highly she values my feelings.


CUE MORE STARING.

Friday, September 25, 2009

One Year Later PSA

First and foremost, I'm glad I'm not dead.

Seriously. I'm really, really glad I'm not dead. That would have sucked. And, thanks to the fact that I recognized warning symptoms and had some emergency surgery one year ago today, I get to be alive to appreciate being alive. I'm a big fan.

So in honor of my not-dying anniversary, I'm doing a PSA about ectopic pregnancy. Even if you never plan on having children, these are important symptoms to know because you could very well save the life of someone you love. Or your own. (Unless you are a guy, in which case your risk of ectopic pregnancy = non-existent. Still, you like women, right?)

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy in which a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. This is a bad thing. Usually the egg implants in the fallopian tube; occasionally it implants other places. 2% of all pregnancies are ectopic. That's 1 in 50. Certain factors increase your risks--tubal scarring, abdominal surgery, endometriosis, fertility treatments, IUDs--but it can happen to anyone.

An even scarier statistic than the one-in-fifty? Ectopic pregnancies are the number one cause of pregnancy-related death. Part of the problem is that many women with ectopic pregnancies don't even know they're pregnant. Because your body doesn't produce as many hormones, you might continue having periods like normal, ignore the sudden pain, go to bed because you're feeling tired and dizzy, and never wake up.

I know that sounds terrible and scary. It is. It happens. So even if you don't think you're pregnant, or if you think you are just having a standard miscarriage (which was what I thought), always, ALWAYS call the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
  • Sharp pain on one side of your lower abdomen. When you press down on it, it will be a stabbing pain that you will feel reflected in the other side, but one side will be more tender. Once your tube actually bursts the pain will lessen considerably--DO NOT IGNORE THAT. All it means is that you are now bleeding internally.
  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded when you aren't lying down. This would be because of the internal bleeding. Also, difficulty and discomfort breathing.
  • And finally, the key symptom: when you lie down, you have a sharp, stabbing pain in your shoulder. This is called referred pain, and is caused by the blood filling up your abdomen and pushing on your lungs. This is also a symptom of a burst appendix, in case you were interested. If you EVER have abdominal pain that is reflected in your shoulder when you lie down, go to the hospital immediately. And have someone else drive you.
Like I said, you may not think you are pregnant, but if there is any chance whatsoever you could be and you have these symptoms, have someone drive you to the hospital immediately or call 911. If I had ignored my symptoms and let Hot Stuff go to work that day, I probably would have fallen asleep on the couch and never woken up again. I was in surgery within two or three hours of the pain starting, and at that point I had lost so much blood I nearly needed a transfusion.

But, because I am obsessive and had researched every pregnancy-related topic under the sun, I knew something was wrong. And I'm not dead. And that's a good thing.

Here's hoping you never have to recognize the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. But now you can, and that's the important thing.

Happy Being Alive Day!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why Hot Stuff Rocks #967

From our daily IM lunchdate:

Hot Stuff: btw, what's with your creepy what does james mcavoy smell like quiz on twitter? celebrity crush?
Kiersten: ha, no, that was just a game Stephanie started
Hot Stuff: sure...
Kiersten: lol, I promise I don't have a crush on him.
Hot Stuff: I'm just glad you haven't found out about my Angela Lansbury website . . .

Sigh. How can a girl expect to compete with Mrs Pots?

Friday, September 18, 2009

HELP!

I get to pick an author photo for my book jacket.

Yes, awesome, please freak out with me! Okay, now that we're done freaking out together, help me. I don't photograph very well, but the fabulously talented Wendy Whitacre of Blue Lily Photography left me with the odd problem of having too many pretty options.

Here is where you come in. Look at the pictures, pick your favorite, and tell me which one in the comments. The one with the most votes wins*. Plus, then when Paranormalcy comes out, you can smugly tell your friends, "Oh, yeah, I totally told her to use that picture." Alternatively, if your choice doesn't win, you can shake your head, sigh, and say, "She should have listened to me."

Option One

Option Two


Option Three

Option Four


Not an Option
So there you have it. Please leave your vote in the comments!

*My editor has veto power, but she can't pick either, so I doubt she'll use it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Words like Lashes

Words are wonderful things. I love words--they're my medium, my occupation, my joy. But words can do terrible things, too. Words can be so ugly, so hateful, so damaging they raise tender, purple bruises on our minds. They can cut us quicker and deeper than any blade and leave scars that far outlast the memory of the wound. And words never hurt more than when the damage is unintentionally and carelessly inflicted.

There's a boy I grew up with. This boy got married and had a son. It was a struggle getting him born; it was a struggle keeping him here after he was born. This child is a delight. He has a smile that melts the hearts of anyone within a mile radius. His giggle is infectious, and there is not a single person who knows him that doesn't love him. I guarantee you that his parents look at their beautiful boy with Down's Syndrome and they see only perfection. This boy is perfection. There is nothing negative, disappointing, frustrating, or bad about him.

How can anyone use the word retarded as an adjective for something bad?

I knew another boy in high school. This boy was talented. He was bright and he was kind and he was gay in the middle of a community that didn't know how to help him love himself. Ours was an awkward acquaintance, was bound to be, given that I was dating his ex-boyfriend. But I wonder about him, mourn him. What must it have been like to go to a high school where kids refused to take the name of the Lord in vain but threw around ugly, cruel terms for homosexuals like they were nothing? Where something about himself that he didn't choose and couldn't change was used as an insult, as a pejorative joke, as a substitute for stupid or awful?

He's dead now. I suppose it no longer bothers him when people unthinkingly use the word gay as an insult or negative adjective. It bothers me, though.

There isn't a person alive that can't be summed and sliced up with one cruel word. We have names for every group that can be considered "other." And when we use those awful words, we take a person--a complex person with a family and a history and a soul--and reduce them to one single thing. Their genitalia, their sexual orientation, their race. In that moment, in that single word, we have stolen their humanity.

Most of us care more than to use the truly awful words. But surely we can do better, think twice before using the ones we are used to, the ones that seem innocuous simply because they are common. Retarded and gay are not bad things. They never have been and they never will be. With so many words to choose from, a virtually infinite pool of adjectives, let's keep some safe. It's the least we can do for these people that are our friends, our neighbors, our children, our ghosts.

Please. Choose your words with care.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Q&A with Michelle Wolfson, Super Agent

Remember that Question and Answer I promised you with Michelle? She's such a good sport, she got right back to me with answers to your very deepest questions. At least as far as agenting is concerned. If she knows the meaning to life, she hasn't told me yet. Maybe I should go call her about that one...

Without further ado, your questions and Michelle's answers.

Do you realize how lucky you are to be representing Laptop's captive?
(
Note from Kiersten: Michelle initially signed Laptop as a client, and we met through him.) What first attracted you to Kiersten's work?

Yes, I definitely realize how lucky I am to be representing Laptop’s captive. And while I am eternally grateful to Laptop for introducing us, I have noticed that Laptop can be a little, ahem, cranky sometimes, so I’m glad that Kiersten is my actual client! As for what first attracted me to Kiersten’s work, obviously she wrote a great query letter which grabbed my attention, but as for the work itself, I guess I would say that I was very drawn to the premise (this is Flash we are talking about). I have always had very commercial taste and I think that it was just an incredibly well written, interesting read. However, regarding Paranormalcy, I think that first and foremost, Evie’s voice just shines and makes it an unbelievably fun read. Add to that a whole host of fabulous characters and an intricate plot (I just love the International Paranormal Containment Agency) and you have an incredible read. It’s really been amazing to watch the positive reactions from virtually every reader.

(Note from Kiersten: As Michelle put it, we have something of a mutual admiration society going on. Can you blame me for loving my agent so much?)

What made you want to be an agent?

Well, I have always loved to read, but as you may know there’s quite a bit more to it than reading. But I went through several jobs/careers on the way to being an agent, picking up skills left and right, and agenting is finally the career where I was able to apply all those skills towards something I love—books! I started to list everything I’ve done but it took up enough space for 6 posts so let’s just say that I have a little experience doing a lot of different things which is the perfect background for agenting since every day is different and you never know what’s going to come up. But the challenge of new and different issues is one of the things I love most.

Do you wear a cape while agenting? Because the way Kiersten raves about you, her readers kind of think you do.

So, I work from home and tend to be pretty casual (Michelle’s laptop is calling this a gross understatement) when I don’t have meetings. A cape sounds nice, so sure, let’s say I wear a cape. I like that. I liked those sparkles too, so yes, please imagine that those follow me everywhere I go.

How would you recommend a newbie writer choose a good agent?

Well, if you are in the lucky position of having a choice of agents, I think that, to some extent, you should go with your gut (assuming you have done some initial research and you are talking about a choice between reputable agents). You should ask questions to get a sense of each agent’s style and ask about his/her methods and plans for your book and/or career. The agent-author relationship can be a very close, important, and long-lasting relationship. Editors can move around from house to house, your books may move from house to house, but if you are lucky, you may be with the same agent throughout the course of your career (hint hint Kiersten, you are stuck with me!). I think that it’s most important to have someone who understands what your goals are and then will go to bat for you again and again to help you achieve them.

(My book was out with two other agents when Michelle offered to rep me. After talking with her on the phone, I felt like we really clicked and definitely had that gut instinct that she was the agent for me. And trust me, she's NEVER getting away from me...)

Is it more difficult to sell a series than a stand alone book? Should writers try to leave the story open so it can be turned into a series/trilogy if requested?

No, in fact I think it is usually easier to sell a book that can be a stand alone but that has series potential. And if yours is like that, you should definitely say so up front. However, not all books need to be part of a series.

How long does it take you to read a client manuscript if working on revisions?

I double checked with Kiersten to make sure I wasn’t about to lie on this one, but she confirmed that I usually respond pretty quickly. As a rule, I prioritize client reads above all other reads, so when you email me to ask why I haven’t gotten back to you on that requested partial from a few (or more) months ago, this is why. If I had to give an actual timeframe, I’d say it would depend on what else I had going on at the moment (somehow everyone always seems to turn in revisions at the same time and then I have to prioritize even within clients based on what’s going to go out first or who might have something currently on submission, etc.), but I would say it could be anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks, with the absolute longest usually being about a month.

Are you seeing a lot of YA manuscripts? What changes are you seeing in this genre? Are certain genres--for example, Urban Fantasy--oversaturated?

Well, since Kiersten’s deal was announced I’m seeing an overwhelming number of YA queries--thanks, Kiersten! And by far the majority of them are paranormal. I would say that there are fewer vampire queries, although I’m not sure if that’s because vampires are finally slowing down or if my distaste for them has become well known enough. There seem to have been a bunch of angel books lately and just more unusual paranormal ideas floating around I think. And no, I don’t think Urban Fantasy is oversaturated quite yet.

Are you finding it harder to sell with the economy and cutbacks?

I’ve been finding that I have to work harder for my sales as a general rule. And I am finding that, in some cases, books that I think would have sold a few years ago are either not selling or are having a much harder time selling. But you are all here through Kiersten’s site, and she is proof that if you write a kick-butt (see Kiersten, I cleaned up my potty mouth for you) book, it will sell no matter what the “hot” genre is now or what the economic forecast is. So stop reading these questions and get to work writing! Oh but wait, make sure you read the next question because that one is super critical for success.

Can we be friends if I bake you cookies? (Note from Kiersten: Any cookies offered to my agent must also be sent to me. It's part of our contract. Right, Michelle?)

I’ve always been more of a brownie fan, the gooey-er (how the heck (again note clean language) do you spell that word???) the better. And yes, Kiersten, you get 85% of the brownies—and the calories! HA!

(I'm not sure whether to be pleased or suspicious... Also, can you see why Michelle and I clicked?)

What books/genres would you really like to see right now?

See economy question, but to sum up, I want to see amazing books. Great writing is the key. So get out there and write great and good luck to you all!


I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say thanks, Michelle! And isn't my agent just so freaking awesome?