<![CDATA[Salem Patterson - Blog]]>Wed, 20 Sep 2017 11:24:34 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[All things in moderation]]>Wed, 30 Jan 2013 00:21:21 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2013/01/all-things-in-moderation.htmlWith the exception, apparently, of blogging.

I haven't intended to be absentee lately, but feeling open and honest, I'll admit to struggling with some depression and identity issues surrounding work.  But work is work; it doesn't define me, or you, or anyone, so moving along from that...

The key to all things, it is said, is in moderation.  I've always had a problem with this.  Not the statement or the theory, mind, but the practice of moderating myself.  I'm a bit loud, as my friends can attest; I'm passionate, and passionately protective; I laugh like a donkey on nitrous (use your imagination); I have zero willpower when it comes to food; on and on and on... I enjoy life when I can, and I tend to be swayed by my feelings fairly easily. 

But tonight, Jenn suggested I blog about Graze.  If you've never heard about Graze, it's a straight-to-your-door program that delivers tidy little boxes of healthy little snacks each week, guaranteeing variety and, yes, moderation.  (If you're interested, you can visit Graze here, and if you're more interested, use this code to sign up: JWGPZV3)   While I'm fascinated by the concept and looking forward to my first wee snackbox, the idea of moderation got its hooks in me.

Creativity is a passion, it's a constant flow of ideas and urges and needs and inspiration.  Sometimes, however, it can be too much.  Not too much in all ways-- oh, my characters can run wild in my head all day every day-- but in many ways.  You can overthink things, you can overplan things, you can overtweak thigns, you can overinvest in one opinion or another.  But the idea, of course, is moderation.  The middle ground. 

It's particularly important to me right now, as I struggle to find my place professionally and in the Boston area, as I try to determine what my next steps are and where the grand adventure is taking me.  Overfeeling that struggle can sink the biggest ship in the world-- moderation is key.  And it's key in creativity, too, in letting yourself second- and third-guess, in beating yourself up to seek perfection.  The world doesn't need perfection, or overabundance, or everything.  Because there's no such thing for all people at once.  The world needs moderate

So my goal is to be good.  Be as good as I can be, but within the bounds of my sanity and my happiness.  My mental health.  Seek quality in my writing, seek that finely honed sword, but only until it's sharp!  Oversharpening can be as bad as not sharpening at all.  Think, feel, love, be.  And remember that despite the ebb and flow and push and pull, there's always a center to come back to.

There's always the moderate place.
<![CDATA[Love and risk]]>Mon, 07 Jan 2013 04:30:03 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2013/01/love-and-risk.htmlI'm a sucker for love stories. 

I suppose that's probably evident, given my taste in books and my usual subject matter.  I started to make this blog entry only about love stories, but then I was going to say "My soft spot for love stories doesn't exactly explain my fanaticism about, say, Stephen King," and my brain went wheeling off in another direction, inspired perhaps by my husband suggesting I blog about trying new things.

Bear with me, I'm tying it all together.

Perhaps my love of the love story does encompass my love of Stephen King, and thrillers in general.  Love is risky, after all, and scary.  Falling in love-- even if you've done it before, even if you're one of those gals or guys who does it all the time and has the scars and glory stories to tell of it-- is always something new, always trying new things.  It's opening yourself up to a situation and a person and a set of circumstances that could go spectacularly, end poorly, or any of number of in-betweens.

And therein lies the fun of it, I think.  The reward.  If falling in love weren't something new, if expressing that love were commonplace, then the specialness would be lost.  It should be scary, it should be risky, it should be novel. 

The process of writing something and letting it loose onto the public has been very like that for me (and I think I can speak for both of us when I say that).  It has been scary and exhilarating.  It's definitely a new thing, and a risk.  And it's far from perfect.  Second Summer was written many years ago, and written in a hell of a hard way, through individual messages bounced back and forth.  It probably needed a lot of red pen before we set it loose onto the world, a lot of tightening and trimming (because I'm a wordy gal, in case you haven't noticed), but given its origins and how we were, at the heart of things, writing to amuse, entertain and comfort one another, we didn't give it that brutal of a red pen.  Maybe we couldn't.

There's improvement to be had, and we're falling in love all over again and taking a risk all over again with Finally Fall.  It's a risk, it's trying new things.  It's the reward, I hope, in the end, that should come of falling in love. 

And what of me, then, and new things?  And risk?  Resolutions aren't my cup of tea, as they are broken as easily as they are made and usually made in haste.  But everyone should try new things, regardless of age or where they are in life, where they've been or where they're headed.  So maybe this is a year for new things.  Maybe I'll ski for the first time (and maybe you'll send me whiskey and Icy Hot in condolence).  Maybe I'll get a new job-- one that utilizes my creativity and makes me feel right.  Maybe I'll go out on the ocean in a boat for the first time, or try dim sum for the first time.  Maybe lots of things.  And maybe I don't want to know or predict what they'll all be, because I love surprises.

I love surprises almost as much as I love a good love story.
<![CDATA[Creatus Interruptus]]>Fri, 04 Jan 2013 16:16:23 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2013/01/creatus-interruptus.htmlMy Latin is a little rusty, you’ll have to forgive me.  I think you get the point, though, which is that sometimes, things interrupt the creative process.  It can be small, like the phone ringing or the dog needing to go out.  But usually—at least for me—it’s something big that throws off my creative flow, and never for a few minutes or an hour.  No, my interrupti are ambitious, and they attack with all they have in them.  For me, the one thing that most commonly stifles my creativity and ruins my mindset is my job (and associated stressors, like time and money).  When in a role that utilizes my talents and strengths, in a team that’s collaborative, relaxed and fun, I have more time and energy, it seems, more creative motivation. 

But when I’m in a position where any number of things seem to jam up the gears, from compensation to coworkers, I find my creativity suffers for it, and is usually the first in line to suffer.

It’s hard to know how to fix that.  Unfortunately, for most people (and most writers), that full-time, working for the man role is a necessity, not something done by choice.  But I know, when stressed, I make an effort to still clean (kind of. I’m cluttery.), cook, go to the gym (sometimes), work on my marriage.  All things that are not easy to do when work is sucking the life out of me, but I make the effort.  And I make the effort with creativity, as well, but it feels more like a struggle to do so.

So why?

I think it’s easy to convince yourself that creativity, art, writing, all should come “naturally.”  I know better, and I don’t expect it of other people, but when I sit down at the computer and stare at the blinking cursor (or, when I’m really stuck, pen and paper), I am plagued with doubts because I think it should be easy.  It should be divine inspiration, the muse come to life, all the things that creation never is.  That rosy picture that doesn’t bother portraying the long hours of editing, or mentally arm-wrestling with your characters, or struggling with that ONE WORD dancing mockingly around the edges of your brain.  I know the process, and I know everyone has their own version of it, and still I sit down and nag myself.

Jenn and I have come up with a (sort-of) remedy for this.  Consider it kind of like meditation, a mantra.  Get your best, droning intonation on. 

“I can write crap.”

Because, no matter how much I beat myself up or how much work is stressing me out or how much things don’t feel right on the page, I can write crap.  And hell, I DO write crap at least some of the time when I think I’m NOT writing crap.  That’s the beauty of editing.  This is why books aren’t chiseled in stone tablets, because crap happens, and you need room to breathe, maneuver, interruptus and change.

I’m not sure how many Steinbeck fans are out there, but for the few that may be lurking around and for any writers who occasionally struggle, I highly recommend Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters.  (If you haven’t read East of Eden, go do it now.)  Each day before sitting down to write, Steinbeck wrote correspondence to his editor in the left-hand pages of the notebook where he composed East of Eden.  It was his catharsis and his warmup, and if the final product is any indication, it worked.  Another writer’s thoughts on how motivating this is can be found here.

Even Steinbeck had to prime the pump for what is, in my opinion, his greatest work and one of the greatest novels of all time.

I can write crap.

Just as long as I’m writing.

<![CDATA[How I Met My Co-Author]]>Mon, 31 Dec 2012 00:24:42 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2012/12/how-i-met-my-co-author.htmlIt's been a wild week.

For Christmas, the husband and I were in Indiana, slated to fly out on the 26th and return to our home near Boston, Massachusetts.  For several days, all my extended (and immediate) family had been able to talk about was the impending snow, and how it might affect our travel, and whether we would be stuck with no way back home.

Well, for all that we wanted to ignore them, our flight was canceled (airports delayed and canceling in Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, and Atlanta, aka every single hub we could fly into) and our options had dwindled to something approaching "We can maybe get you home Saturday?"  So we rented a car and drove more than 1,000 miles in a day and a half.  (Kudos to us; there was no yelling, fighting, anger or threats of physical harm during this time.  I think, in the confines of a tiny car hurtling across the country in foul weather, that constitutes a good marriage.)

When we arrived home, we discovered that my car battery was dead.  Not "We can jump this" dead, but "You have to replace this posthaste and can't get it to a garage without towing it" dead.  So in the second major test of marital bliss in less than a week, my husband and I sought to change my car battery this morning... in 18-degree weather, in 8-9 inches of snow surrounding my car.  We succeeded, and it was unpleasant, but kudos for no fights or threats (I didn't say no tears, notice), and ultimately, it reminded me of something else... how I met my co-author, Jenn.  I talked a little about this in our Liebster blog entry, but now it's time to find out how co-authors are forged.

One weekend years ago, a number of friends decided to get together for a weekend to read the newest Harry Potter book, gossip, spend time together, and traverse the wilds of Louisville, Kentucky.  I wasn't able to come down until Saturday, but I headed out bright and early and trekked the few hours to the big Lou, ready to reconvene with some friends, and meet others in person for the first time. 

Since you're here, reading this, you likely know how it is to meet people online, have plenty of conversations with them, but not meet them in person.  Jennifer and I had talked quite a bit online, but hadn't met in person, a similar situation with several of the ladies who were to be there that weekend.  I was comfortable and confident and less than a block from the hotel... when the downpour started.  The rain was falling hard, and as I drove along the access road to the hotel, someone drifted over the center line around a curve, forcing me to jerk the wheel... and forcing my tires right up against a curb.  It was all that was needed to tear a fist-sized hole in the side of my tire, and there I was: flat tire, pouring rain, hours from home.  I called my dad, I called my brother (who was stationed at Ft. Knox and ready to head on his way to help).  I called a friend who I thought was at the hotel, but she was shopping.

Finally, I tried to call Jenn and another friend.  No answer. 

So I limped my poor car to the hotel, gingerly driving into the lot so as not to wreck my wheel, and when I walked into the lobby, I was soggy, dirty (from inspecting my tire) and near tears.  And there sat Jenn and our friend Karen, waiting to greet me with smiles and hugs.

Minutes later, we were back in the parking lot, reading the manual and operating a jack that looked like it could barely prop up a bicycle.  (Thanks for holding my nuts, ladies!) But we changed the tire and rewarded ourselves with high fives and hot showers, and when it was time to take the car to Sears the next morning to replace the tire, Jenn was the one who followed me there and took me to breakfast after.

Fast friends.  A few years later, frustrated by our inability to kick our own butts enough to finish our NaNoWriMo projects, we decided to kick each others' butts.  And the rest, though not quite history, has led us where we are today, with Second Summer and a whole host of works in progress demanding (lovingly) our attention. 

So while sometimes, car trouble is just car trouble (and a cigar is just a cigar), you never know when you're being handed an opportunity... to bond with your spouse, to learn a new skill, or to bond with a new friend and inspiration.

That having been said, my car had darn well better behave for a while.
<![CDATA[What a character]]>Sun, 30 Dec 2012 02:44:37 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2012/12/what-a-character.htmlWelcome back to reality!  Reality being, of course, that time window where you're no longer shopping, wrapping, traveling, and spending time with family.  The window where you're reading and writing and blogging and feeding on creativity... and hopefully spinning a little creativity of your own.

I take a lot of inspiration on blog posts not just from my writing, but from what's in front of me in terms of life and entertainment.  It's easy to be a reader when you're a writer (though not always easy to juggle that, timewise), and I don't know a single writer who's not an avid reader.  But other stories and other art forms have their place and time and inspiring power, as well.

Years ago, when I was mainlining Battlestar Galactica at an insane speed (watching the first season for the first time on DVD while watching season 4 as it aired, or something along those lines), I would come across the last few minutes of Dr. Who.  And while many of my friends with similar tastes loved Dr. Who, I couldn't buy into it.  It looked campy to me, and held no interest.  I'm not usually into sci-fi, and campy sci-fi, especially.  So I settled into BSG, where I was enjoying what I would eventually learn makes Dr. Who a star-- amazing characters.

The husband and I have started watching Who on Netflix, and I'm amazed at how, while the basic plot is only of marginal interest to me and the effects are absolutely horrific, it pulls you in.  And it pulls you in because, as in BSG, the characters are extraordinarily captivating.  They are ordinary and extraordinary; you can understand and connect with them while envying them, admiring them, and laughing at/with them.  It's something I don't see often with half-hour sitcom shows-- partly because of lack of time to invest in character building, and partly because of lack of imagination.

It's an amazing reminder of what to keep in mind when we're creating-- not just the audience we're writing for, but the characters we're writing.  I have the luxury (HA!) of hearing and feeling my characters loud and clear in my mind most of the time (and sometimes when it's inconvenient), but my readers do not have that luxury.  It's not on the readers to make themselves care-- it's on the writer to make the readers care.

A show with laughable effects and sometimes downright silly bad guys has the power to draw out tears from even a skeptical viewer... it's a great reminder of what we should aspire to.
<![CDATA[Realism in romance]]>Thu, 13 Dec 2012 04:37:57 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2012/12/realism-in-romance.htmlYears ago, when we started shopping around Second Summer for traditional publishing to a variety of agents, we received feedback here and there.  One of the pieces of feedback that had the greatest impact on us, at the time, was an agent who expressed she had some issues with the realism of the piece.  Not in so many words, of course, but the timeline bothered her, the way the events unfolded. 

We took it to heart, and hadn't yet learned when a story wants to be told in its own way.  We started to tear the story apart and rebuild it, to try to make it more realistic. 

We forgot that romance is actually part of what elevates people above realism.

Love isn't necessarily realistic; if you look at the number of people in the world, it just seems unlikely that you can ever really click with any one of the tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of people you come into contact with over the course of your life.  If love were realistic, it wouldn't be exciting.  It wouldn't be exhilarating or attractive or worthwhile.  It wouldn't be love.

I wasn't sure what to blog about this evening, but as I glanced up at the television and saw an episode of CSI:NY playing, I had to laugh.  (After I ogled this guy.)  A character was using all this outlandish technology to rebuild a photo or zoom in or do something ridiculous like they do, and I considered all the other shows and movies and media we love and enjoy that have nothing to do with realism.  Most of the entertainment I love doesn't even nod to realism when they pass on the street. 

But entertainment should be entertaining.  (Hello, tautology!)  It should be escapist.  It should never be bound by realism, because our imagination is not just something we lost when we were kids-- it's where we thrive.  It's where we grow.

It's where we build and eventually attain our future.

So if you need me, I'll be sitting over here, reveling in my refusal to be realistic.
<![CDATA[The Liebster!  D'awww]]>Sat, 08 Dec 2012 19:03:33 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2012/12/the-liebster-dawww.html
The other day, we got a sweet surprise when the amazing Emma Kaufmann (author of Her Ten Year Itch) nominated us for the Liebster-- a fun little award for up-and-coming bloggers. 

Unlike prescription drug commercials, where they put all the rules, side effect and tiny print at the very end, we'll give the particulars first:

Nominees need to do the following:

  • When one receives the award, one posts 11 random facts about oneself and answers the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure one notifies the blogger that one nominated them!)
  • One writes up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees
  • One is not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated one’s own blog!
  • One pastes the award picture into ones blog. (You can Google the image, there are plenty of them!)

So now for the fun part!

11 Random Facts About Salem Patterson
(There are some combo answers, and some marked J for Jenn and A for Amanda.  To give infamy where infamy is due!)
1. In case you’ve not heard the story - Second Summer was entirely written by us via Yahoo chat. We were the cut and paste queens who nearly drove ourselves insane when it was over and we had to make sure we both had the same version. For those of you wondering, we did not the word count was off way too much for that to be possible. A rousing game of - “What sentence do you have at the top of page ___?” ensued until we were through all 300 odd pages and within a few words in word count.

2. A: Jennifer and I first met in person when we were meeting up with mutual friends and I blew out a tire in a downpour.  I was prepared to call family for help changing my tire, but Jennifer was very “can do” and we tackled the problem together.  Nothing like holding a girl’s lug nuts to make lifelong friends.

3. J:I would sneak into my mom’s closet at the tender age of 13 and ‘borrow’ her romance books. I think this is why I read so quickly - I had to have it back in place by the next day.

4. A: My bookshelf is so eclectic that whenever friends would first see it, they would be unnerved that Nora Roberts was sitting next to Stephen King that was sitting next to John Steinbeck.

5. J: I will always have a dog. Tried to live without one but as I told my husband, “I want someone who is always happy to see me when I get home.”

6. On a writing mini-vacation/girls’ getaway/writing retreat, we managed to destroy two bottles of wine before even getting into the hotel room (by dropping them in the parking lot on accident) and then realized we had no corkscrew for our poor, lonely, sole remaining bottle of wine.  We dug most of the cork out with a pocketknife and pushed the rest into the wine bottle.  Desperate times, desperate measures.

7. J: I would get up 30 minutes early on weekdays so I could watch ‘Jem’ before going to school.

8. A:  I have no idea what we would have used as a pen name if I hadn’t gotten married and taken my husband’s last name (Salem). Though MY husband still insists we should have used his name “James Patterson”.

9. J:One of my proudest moments came when I realized my 22 year old daughter knows every line to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. My 15 year old is nearly there. I realize this should make me sad - yet it does not.

10. We sometimes make our characters “karaoke” for us and discuss what they’d sing.

11. J:I used to write articles for a NASCAR website where I would have to explain the track they were at, how the cars would run on it and eventually pick the winner. There was also a podcast. Please do not try to find it.

11 Questions from Emma Kaufmann... answered!
1. Have you ever Googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found?  We’ve definitely both Googled ourselves, but the only “surprise” was one of those fun moments when you realize there’s someone out there with your name and an extensive rap sheet... as well as an unflattering portfolio of mugshots.  Yikes!

2. Who would play you in a movie of your life? J: I’ve always pictured Renée Zellweger because of her role in Jerry Maguire. That character seemed to share a few of my own foibles and traits. Though I am not sure I’d have the tenacity to walk out of my job with a hot crazy guy and a fish.

A: Tina Fey is older than me, so I’m not sure how helpful it is to choose her, but the sarcastic, speak-before-you-think personality, the haplessness, the glasses... they all fit far too well for me to ignore.  Can we cryogenically halt her aging so in a few years she’ll be ready to play me in a movie?

3. Have you ever been naked in public? J: Does birth count?  A: Does a bikini wax count?

4. If you could travel in time...where in time would you go? Why?  A: We have this work-in-progress kicking around that takes place in ancient Egypt.  A tragic love story that spans through time-- I’d love to visit that time and place and know more.  (Also, Wild West-- very fascinating!)

J: Well, at first I was going to say that I’ve never thought about traveling around in time then someone had to mention the Wild West. As a person who grew up on a farm - cattle herds and all - I think that would appeal to me. I could see myself enjoying it and fitting in.

5. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? J: I don’t go to the cinema too often and as a matter of fact I am struggling to recall the last movie I did see. I checked with my daughter and it was indeed The Avengers. What’s not to love about comic book action heroes who are hot and snarky and a woman who can kick ass?

A: I took my parents to see Lincoln.  Phenomenal cast, phenomenal acting.  Slow-paced, though, and hell on the bladder. I hit hour 2 and thought I was going to float away.  When did Joseph Gordon Levitt get so hot, you guys?  (He’s no Robert Downey, Jr., but hey...)

6. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? J: I would choose somewhere in the mountains near a stream/lake. It would not matter where in the world that place is - of course internet access is needed in order to keep in touch with my co-writer. Unless of course she wants her own place down the road?  (A: That sounds just peachy, actually!)

7. What did you have for breakfast? J: Cup of coffee and Kashi Cinnamon Harvest Cereal.

A: Oh, you had to ask.  Not feeling too hot today, so I stuck to a PopTart (the breakfast of adults everywhere) and ginger ale.

8. Who or what has made you believe in yourself as a writer? J: First and foremost my family who has always pushed me to do it because they knew I loved it and I’d have to say my co-writer who I think is a phenomenal writer and the fact that I can hang with her...makes me believe.

A: I have had the best luck in my friends and family being supportive and asking questions and keeping me going.  My husband never ceases to cheer me on and ask me how the writing is going.  And I wouldn’t be writing at all if it weren’t for my cowriter-- she was a cheerleader when I needed one badly, and she’s always ready to shoot straight with me, good or bad.  We’ve been through a lot together, and that forges quite a bond.

9. What habit or habits do you need to stop? This is one we can answer in unison... Worrying about everything!

10. Do you have tattoos? Is so what motifs are they?  One of us does, but we’ll leave it a mystery as to which one that is... a little mystique is always fun.  Apropos to our love of writing, the tattoo is an orange quill pen and an inkwell, and was at the top of mind for ten years before finally committing it to skin.

11. Have you started Christmas shopping yet? J: I have children. (yes)
A: Kinda.  Thank God for online shopping.  I have several things bought, but I am definitely NOT finished yet.

And now for our 11 questions of doom, for our victims... nominees
1. What's your biggest challenge when you're writing?
2. Have you ever used a real life person as character inspiration?
3. Do you listen to music when writing and if so do you make a playlist?
4. What is the first book you remember reading?
5. Would you like to take my 15 year old daughter to raise until she goes to college?
6. What would your last meal be?
7.What is your favorite snack or drink to have on hand while writing?
8. What’s your least favorite household chore?
9. If you could peek into anyone’s closet in the world, whose would it be?
10. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
11. What famous guy would be your leading man (or gal/woman) in your alternate universe?

Our nominees are (if you haven't done it before/don't mind doing it again/etc.!) MJ Reed, Jackie Bouchard, Cindy Roesel, Addison Westlake, Kim Jewell... and we're still securing the rest!

<![CDATA[Tying the gal to the train tracks]]>Mon, 03 Dec 2012 01:37:23 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2012/12/tying-the-gal-to-the-train-tracks.htmlWith some recent... frustrating... life events and people in mind, we had a brief chat via phone the other day about the Bad Guys.  The villains.  The people who push our protagonists to do the things they do. 

The thing is, I'm a big, fluffy marshmallow.  And so is my cowriter.  So how do you write bad guys when you're so far away from that level of bad?

Well, we thankfully don't write anyone too bad... usually.  (We do have a piece floating around out there somewhere that features a true blue, comic book level villain.  Someday...)  But still, bad's bad, and how do you get into that mindset?  It's a good question.  For myself, I think I usually delve into the photonegative.  What am I? Flip it around, see what you get.  Of course, whether we like to admit it or not, we all have darker imaginations.  We're writers, so the realm of the imagination is right at the heart of things for us.  Who among us hasn't imagined saying exactly what's on our minds in a tense moment?  Who hasn't imagined doing the worst in a stressful situation?

Villains are just the exponential version of those things, I suppose.  The very deepest, darkest parts of our subconscious, and often the very most lovable (or most interesting) parts of a book or a movie or a show.  (Anyone remember Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer?  He was kind of a crappy villain, but man, was he great.)

But we run across villains in our real life, too.  It's cheesy to say those "bad guys" are good fodder for fiction-- and therefore that fiction can be good catharsis-- but it's also true.  Writing can't fix everything, but it's a stellar start.  It's why journals, diaries, (heck, even blogs) are popular.  Writing is what gets the bile out.  I mean, we don't use leeches anymore, right?

My boss would make one heck of a boring villain, but hey, I can take bits and pieces and work on it, right?  It's a start. 

For now, I think I'll watch some Buffy and study Spike.  For, uh... research.

<![CDATA[The Next Big Thing]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2012 00:22:45 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2012/11/the-next-big-thing.htmlI hope everyone in the states had a wonderful holiday.  But now, it's time to get back to work!

The lovely Jen Tucker sent an invitation our way to tell you about our Next Big Thing.  This chain of blog posts informs our readers about our Next Big Thing while also introducing them to other writers.  I'll keep updating everyone as we pass this blog off to other people.  In the meanwhile, check out Jen's fabulous blog and work!

What is the title of your book?  We have a crazy amount of “works in progress,” but our current project is called Finally Fall.  It’s the second book in the Four Seasons quartet.

How did you come by the idea? Fall was a natural progression for us from Second Summer, the first book in the quartet.  But ages ago, when we were each writing separately, we found that we struggled with finishing anything.  The lure of new ideas combined with that awful lack of self-confidence that comes when you’re left alone with that damnable blinking cursor really made us second-guess too much.  So to pique one another’s creativity, we started making up characters and tossing them together in weird situations.  “What if…?” one of us would say, and then we’d be off and rolling with another idea.  Second Summer was the direct result of just such a “What if” and during side discussions about all the characters in the book, we started forming ideas for Finally Fall.  The basic question was “What if we did everything under the sun to try to sway the very stoic and solid Nathan Reynolds?”  It turned out to be a lot of fun to try his patience with a very lovely, very irreverent lady.

What genre does your book fall under? Finally Fall is definitely a romance novel.  There is some intrigue, but the real driving factor here is how people affect one another, how you can’t always rationalize with your heart.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?  It’s like you’re peeking into our brains… we’ve discussed this a lot more than is probably sane, partly because it’s fun and partly because when you’re co-writing, what you really want is for your co-writer to be “seeing” the same thing you’re seeing, mentally. 

I think Nathan would be played by Dominic Purcell.  Most of you would probably know him from Prison Break—he’s got that great look, the handsome, rugged, BIG GUY look.  It’s all too easy to see him in a three-piece suit, intimidating and secure and maybe a little grumpy. (That’s Liv speaking moreso than me.  I swear!)

Olivia is a dusky, brunette beauty with a lot of sass, a lot of attitude and spice, but she has a sense of humor.  She likes to push buttons and she likes to laugh, despite being a workaholic.  Eva Mendes would be a great actress to play her role, and I think she’d look great zipping around on a sleek, black motorcycle.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen photos of her in a black leather motorcycle jacket before, and my big ol’ girl crush says that’s a good match.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Former Secret Service agent Nathan Reynolds is a man accustomed to taking work seriously, but when Olivia Gordon speeds into his hotel—and his life—he’s forced to question the wisdom of “all work and no play.”

Will your book be self-published or traditional? We’ve really enjoyed the self-publishing community and our experiences with Second Summer, and we intend to also self-publish Finally Fall.  Not that we’d turn our nose up to some Prince Charming publisher who falls in love with our work!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Due to some major overhauls and rewrites, we’re still in that first draft process with Finally Fall.  I love it, it’s like dating.  You’re finding out all kinds of exciting things about one another and falling in love and just generally having fun.  Good, creative fun.  We’ve set a soft publishing date of summer for Finally Fall just to keep ourselves in line and, apparently, to confuse everyone with their seasons of the year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? This is a tough question.  Everyone would like to say their book is totally unique, but the love story is absolutely universal, so there are comparisons to be made out there.  We have authors who we’ve read over the years, like Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown and a lot of new, amazing self-published authors.  Seeing hardheaded men (or women!) swept off their feet by their true love is always fun, and while that’s not a new story, there’s always room to fill out those new elements around it.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? We’re always inspired by one another, which is what really makes this partnership tick.  We’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders and also butt-kickers, when necessary.  But when Second Summer was still a wee, young thing undergoing editing and reworking, a friend of Jennifer’s named Sharon fell head over heels for Nathan and wanted to know where his story went and what happened next with him.  We wanted to create his story in a way that we knew his fans—and his first fan, Sharon—would appreciate.  Unfortunately, Sharon passed away while we were finishing Second Summer, but Fall is written in her memory and with her in mind.  We hope she likes the story we tell for Nathan and where we take his life.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? When we first started Finally Fall, we really struggled with some side elements of the plot.  One of the things that kind of landed in our laps that we’re enjoying immensely is just a little hint of government scandal and intrigue.  As a former Secret Service agent, Nathan has some secrets that he protected during his time in that role, and those secrets are still following him around a little in his new life.

Stay tuned... we'll be tagging other authors in future posts to send you all to the Next Big Thing!

<![CDATA[Happy families]]>Tue, 20 Nov 2012 02:05:56 GMThttp://salempatterson.com/2/post/2012/11/happy-families.html"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

I'm a bit of a Russian lit nerd, and my introduction into the bleak, beautiful and dramatic world of Russian literature was with Anna Karenina and that famous quote by Leo Tolstoy.  And while I think his quote is a little oversimplified, there is truth to it.  Pair it up with the boys from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and you have a wryly amusing picture, indeed.

With Thanksgiving in a few days, for many (including me), the week will be a blur of travel, family get-togethers, food and probably a little drama.  Where there are more than a few family members, drama seems to pop up regardless of how much you try to fight it.  This year, I'll be traveling halfway across the country to my family, leaving my husband to fend for himself with our lizard, some dirty laundry, and his family.  It sparked some discussion between my coworker and me as I drove home this evening, though.

"I should write about families," I said.  "Like, our characters' families."

"Oooh.  Good idea!" she agreed.

"How many of our characters have dysfunctional families?" 

We did the math.  No more or less than reality, with slightly more having (mostly) functional families than dysfunctional.  "Taylor's family was functional," I said.  "They were just gone too soon."

"Yeah," she said, "And then he got stuck with Simon, who is REALLY dysfunctional."

I couldn't argue much, even though I love Simon, for all his faults and thorns.  Because all of those thorns, really.

When I start to let a character roam around in my head, poking around about their family is one of the first things I do, because family is very important to me. (Someday, I will blog here about being adopted, and my amazing family, and how complicated and yet simple the whole thing is.  Not today.)  And usually, they answer me.  Sometimes, the answers sneak up on me later and dovetail so neatly into what's going on in my character's heart or mind that I'm surprised.  But it's always important, I've found, and though it hadn't occurred to me until really thinking over tonight's blog entry, family is what motivates many of my characters in some form or fashion.  It's what gives them their strength or their inspiration, their energy.  Or in some cases, it gives them their doubts and their quirks, their wrinkles and flaws. 

Isn't that what our family does, however?  It's the difference between being two-dimensional and being complicated and multi-faceted.  It's the difference between being just who we are, and being the product of many, many things.  For better or for worse, family is often what ultimately adds that one last brushstroke, whatever it may be.

So for those of you spending the next few days with family, I urge you to relax, eat and drink liberally, and if necessary, remember this too shall pass.  Enjoy what you can while you can, and feel those brushstrokes settle into place.

And if nothing else, use it for inspiration