I'm author ELLE STRAUSS and welcome to my website!
I write fun, lower Young Adult (teen) fiction to do with whimsical things like time-travel, fairies and merfolk.
When my serious side peeks out, she's called LEE STRAUSS. She likes to write upper YA about real things that have happened in the past, or made up things that could quite possibly happen in the future.
This blog is about books, mine and other fab authors', but occasionally I'll share about other topics.
Thanks for dropping by!
Friday, April 30, 2010
Not so easy. This is a story about a boy who grows up in Hitler Youth. It’s complicated.
Let me back up. Way back to the spring of 2005. It was a serendipitous moment when my husband and I had our friend Mark and his father Emil over for supper. Emil started telling stories about how he, as a teenager after the war, had to walk over 200Km (125 miles) to find his family.
My muse began talking to me.
It’s not like I was a history buff. I’d lived in Germany, so that had stirred up an interest, but I’d never imagined writing about the war. You’d need to be expert to do that. Right?
Instead I wrote a movie short, about Emil’s journey. I tried to imagine my own teen sons walking, not only that distance, but through rubble and destruction, without money or food. No maps or GPS.
To research that, I had to read up on the Hitler Youth movement. People who lived through that as children and are still alive today don’t like to talk about it. There’s a reason why. The more I read, the more fascinated I became and the idea to write a novel about a fictional boy named Emil materialized.
My parents in-law were children in Germany during the war. I’d heard some of their stories and decided to include some of their real life experiences in my fictional account. Now I was reading everything I could get my hands on about the Hitler Youth movement (not a lot) and WW2 (tons), plus watching movies and documentaries.
And I began to write. Plot, write, edit write. At the time the manuscript had the boring name of The Long Walk Home.
And though the idea was good, the writing wasn’t. I still had a ways to go when it came to developing my writing chops, plus, I had bitten off way more than I could chew.
Life went on. We moved and moved again. I worked full time, saw two of my kids graduate. Kept reading about the war. Kept writing. Had people read and critique.
Started querying. Got requests. Then rejections. Lots of rejections.
By this time I’d come up with a better title, but I’d lost steam on writing and re-writing it. Finally, I’d had enough. No more war!
I put PLAYING WITH MATCHES away for over a year. I needed to work on something new. Something light and fluffy. I began CLOCKWISE. You couldn’t get any different—real-life horror/historical to time travel romance. I loved writing CLOCKWISE. And the funny thing is, this is the book that snagged an agent!
Once CLOCKWISE was picked up, I felt ready to go back to work on PWM. The first thing I did was convert it from first person to third. Amazing how big a difference that made. I did more re-writing and with bated breath, sent it off to Agent Awesome.
And she loved it! Enormous sigh of relief. Now for the agent edits. Hopefully, not too hard?
We did a first pass. Fingers crossed, is that enough? Nope. Second pass. Almost, but nope.
This last set of notes got me thinking. I didn’t really know the motivation behind my adult characters. I didn’t really know what happened before WW2, and what had shaped the psyche of the people to set them up to accept Nazism?
Drat. That could only mean one thing. More research. I couldn’t get away with knowing about WW2 only. I had to study WW1 and everything that happened in between.
This is what it means to be a writer. This is why it’s called work. I’m now reading a honking 600 page book on the Empire of Hitler.
It’s incredible and fascinating. I hope it will help me nail PWM (finally). And it’s why I’ve had to set my experiment with structure aside, for however long it takes.
What about you? Do you find you have to keep going back to do more research in order to get the layers your book needs? Do you share my love/hate relationship with the book that will not finish?
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Hillary Duff is the next in line after others like Miley Cyrus and Lauren Conrad.
ELIXER is not a memoir or memoir passed as a novel. It actually sounds like real fiction. Is it possible that it's not a regurgitation of Ms Duff's own life story assisted by "ghost" writers? Could it be something she had to write with the same painstaking processes as the rest of us?
Hilary Duff tells us what it's about: "It is a fiction. It's about a young girl who kind of comes from a well known family and is trying to find who she is."
And just who is she? "[She] is a photographer and no one really takes her seriously because of her family name," she further explained. "And she ends up going under an alias and traveling around the world and finding love and adventure and something that no one else has ever found before."
It sounds like it could be good, and we can't forget that Hillary Duff took Harvard courses on-line, so that means she must know how to put a sentence together herself.
And she has to wait until spring of 2012--no Disney like quick passes for her. Because of all of this, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I'd like to read her book when it comes out.
What about you? What do you think of starlets come novelists? Will you read ELIXER?
Monday, April 26, 2010
Nathan Bransford linked to this video on sun flares, and I thought it beautiful enough, frightening enough and awes-inspiring enough (especially for all you sci-fi writers) to pass along.
The Amazing Mystery of the Sun.
Friday, April 23, 2010
2. Structure experiment update: I’ve made it to the midpoint reversal stage, which equals the half way point! Happy to be here. I hope I can get through the second half as quickly. Took time off to work on Agent Awesome’s edits for PLAYING WITH MATCHES. Hopefully it will be sent off to Submissionville soon. If you follow me on Twitter or FB you'll have heard about my near cardiac arrest yesterday, when my edits didn't save! Eek. Had to redo...thankfully I had most notes on hard copy and only had to re-write one scene from memory (which is bad enough). Back on track now.
3. Agent sister JA Souder, is hosting a SECRET AGENT contest. If you are looking for an agent, check it out. Also, Nathan Branford’s colleague, Sarah LaPolla is looking for new clients.
4. My agent, Natalie Fischer (also actively seeking clients), of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary agency has posted on their Facebook page on her template for a good query letter. .
5. My good friend and fellow writer Denise Jaden interviewed the fabulous Lisa Schoeder with questions on writing on verse. Good advice if you’re thinking of trying it.
Happy Weekend Everyone!
PS: Isn't Survivor crazy!
Monday, April 19, 2010
In a nut shell her structure for writing a novel looks like this:
60k finished novel
There are three acts:
Opening - Chapter One
Act One End - Chapter Four
Mid-Point Reversal - Chapter Twelve
Act Two End - Chapter Sixteen
Act Three End - Chapter Nineteen
Climax Starts - Chapter Twenty
Opening - Intro of protag getting into trouble
Act One End - First major problem that throws a wrench into protag's plans and forces them to act outside of their comfort zone.
Mid-Point Reversal - Unexpected event that sends the entire story sideways.
Act Two End - Protag's actions have led them to a point where they can't back down, but they'll need to sacrifice something to continue.
Act Three End - Protag has acted in ways to bring them in direct conflict with the antag, it's do or die, all or nothing time.
Climax Starts - Showdown with the antag.
So my personal challenge is to write a 2500 chapter a day, following Janice’s structure plan. I started the first day of April writing an outline, plugging in the main ideas into her structure plan including a mid-point reversal (which I'd never thought of before, but what a great idea!), and wrote the first chapter. I had to leave it for a week until after Easter and taxes, starting up again April 9th. Since then I have made an effort to write a chapter a day, but there have been a few days I couldn’t fit writing in.
I just finished chapter nine today. I’m sitting at 20170 words, which puts me at an average of 2241 words per chapter, 259 words short of the 2500 goal. I’m not worried, though, I’m a slim writer and always have to add detail in the second pass, so I know I can pick up words if I’m short. Besides, it’s just a guideline, not a rule.
Chapter twelve, the mid-point reversal, seemed really far away when I was working on earlier chapters and I was tempted to move the mid point up to chapter ten. I’m glad I didn’t. It’s forced me to think through a proper build up.
Why am I doing this? I’ve never wrote with a real plan before. I’ve always had a general idea of what I wanted to do but mostly I just write stuff and hope it will all fit together somehow in the end. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t, but it always takes a really long time to make it work.
This new wip idea didn’t jump around through time and space like my other works do. It’s linear and takes place within a month timeframe. And I’m impatient. I want it done. Plugging the pieces into a preplanned structure with a daily goal gives me the possibility of a having a new first draft done within a few weeks instead of a few months (or years). I’m hoping to be done by Mother’s day.
Is it that easy? NO. It’s hard. Some chapters just don’t write themselves like others do. I find I’ve developed a form of ADD. I call it WADD—writers attention deficit disorder. I write a little bit, then jump out of my chair to do something else, like a phone call. Write a bit more, check twitter. Write a bit more, have a shower. Write a bit more, do the dishes. Write a bit more, have a coffee. I really have to push myself to finish, which is why I’m glad I have a goal. It would be really easy just to brush it off, or stop after one scene instead of completing the chapter.
Any questions? Be sure to check out Janice Hardy’s blog. She writes excellent how to posts. I think she should turn them into a book one day!
Friday, April 16, 2010
2. I was surprised by the response to my post on Food Inc. yesterday. Most of the commenters said they didn’t want to watch it because they were afraid of ____(fill in the blank). That was my first reaction, too—I don’t want to DEAL with more bad news. But, I’m glad I watched it. It’s really about BULLYING and what we can do to stop it. The handful of big Food Corps that virtually control the nation’s food supply are BULLYS. They bully farmers, they bully animals and they bully us with how and what we can eat. We stopped the big bad Tobacco companies, and the Food Corps can be stopped too. We vote with how we live and what we buy. Even if we don’t have access to organic shops we still can buy locally and at farmers markets. Find the people who grow and raise the food and buy from them. If you’re anti-bullying, you have to watch it.
3. I’m working on a new WIP and I’m experimenting with structure. Normally, I’m more of a pantser. I know the beginning and usually some of the middle and the end, but the rest I kind of just wing and try to make sense of it during revisions. This time I’m following a defined set of “rules”. I view it as a writing exercise. I’m planning to blog about it in more detail next week. I’ll let you know exactly what it looks like and how it’s going.
4. This was me yesterday—some days are just harder!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Can’t stop eating, obviously, but it definitely challenged me in how I shop for food. My daughter decided to become a vegetarian, a response I hear is quite common, and believe me, I’m tempted myself.
I’m not doing that. I have made some changes though. I’m only buying farm grown meat from now on. I’m not eating anything that doesn’t have room to walk or fresh air to breath or sunlight to bask in. (Their lives are short anyway, don’t have to make them miserable, too.) I’m not eating anything that is fed corn when it should be eating grass. Ditto with animals fed hormones and antibiotics.
Also going the organic route. To be honest, I never thought I’d be the kind of person to shop at Nature’s Fair or Whole Foods, simply because I was raised to be thrifty (nothing wrong with that) and I just viewed that whole thing as gimmicky and overpriced.
Oh yeah. And as much as possible I’m buying locally. We can’t grow bananas or oranges where I live, but the other stuff.
Don’t even get me started on the Food Corps who patent genetically altered grains and won’t let farmers save their own seed, or the practice of undercutting poor countries so they lose their jobs and then have to immigrate to America for work in dodgy conditions and then get arrested after they’ve given their time. Pure EVIL.
Have you seen it? What did you think? Did you make changes in how you eat and shop?
Here’s the trailer.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Oh, you can’t imagine how thrilled I was to be your agent when I read this manuscript…! It’s really incredible. You do a fantastic job really capturing the moment and emotions of what it may have been like for a little boy in Nazi Germany. ...
So, yes, I'm working on revisions and soon a second book will be out on submission.
It's moments like this that make all the hard work worth while.
Monday, April 12, 2010
When I started blogging back in October, I could write several blog posts ahead of time, two or more weeks worth. Blogging was an exciting and fun venture. I enjoyed trying my hand at non-fiction and I could write whatever I wanted. It was my blog. And besides, no one else was reading it. At least that’s what I told myself.
Eventually, I found a few friends/followers. So cool. People actually wanted to read what I had to say and I liked reading what they had to say. We all had under fifty followers and for a short sweet season we felt like (at least to me) a warm on-line supportive family.
Before too long we all started to gather followers, which, to be honest is really rather exciting. Look, someone else sees me worthy of following.
As we all gained momentum, and because it’s impossible to keep up with that many people on a daily basis, we “lost touch”. I hardly “see” those early blog friends any more.
What started out as a community of supportive friends all on a journey together, turned into something else.
For me it turned into: I need to keep writing interesting stuff, keep my happy voice on and hope they keep coming. All I have to do is follow everyone I can find, comment on everyone’s blog and also comment on everyone's blog who has commented on mine. I just have to keep reading and commenting, reading and commenting…
And the more I read the more I felt like all these bloggers were saying everything I’d like to say…better than I would say it.
I couldn’t find my place anymore. It felt like it became less about what I had to say and what I like to read and more about the numbers.
Yes, the numbers.
Why are numbers so important? Well, as touched on, it feels good to be followed and read—it sort of validates all the time spent blogging.
And, it’s supposed to help with eventual sales, right? Isn’t that why we were told to start blogging in the first place?
But really, how many blog posts can you actually read in a day? In a week? I have over a hundred “followers.” I know that all of them don’t read my posts every day, and there’s no way I can read all of theirs every day, even though I’ve tried.
And even if I had a thousand followers, would that significantly increase my (eventual) book sales? In fact, isn’t it actually the other way around? A book that sells well, brings readers to the blog---fans who have already found your book?
I don’t know. I’m just asking. I’m trying to nail it down. I know that everyone blogs for different reasons and has different expectations from it.
Obviously I spent some time thinking about this and I've come to a decision: I’m going back to the way it was for me in the beginning. I’m going to blog because I feel like I have something I want to say or share, something I want to make record of, even if nobody reads it. I’m going to read/comment on blogs because I feel like reading/commenting on them, and not because I feel like I owe someone for reading/commenting on mine.
I’m saying that you don’t have to read my blog because I read yours. You don’t have to comment on my blog because I commented on yours. Do it if you want to, but not because you feel like you have to.
I don’t mean to come back from my hiatus with a heavy blog. I’m just being honest. The pressure to adhere to certain “blogging expectations” wore me out. Took the fun out of it. I’m betting there are some of you out there that feel the same way.
Or maybe it’s just me?