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!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Are you staying up to watch? I probably am not, but I will watch the reruns the next morning. Did you watch Diana and Charles get married?
So, in honor of the up coming nuptials, I'm re-posting the video of the song my DH co-wrote. It has gotten over 22 thousand hits so far and climbing. If you haven't seen it yet, take a look:
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
2. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me on my solo journey to Victoria last week. I had the best weather and lots of time to think. It was fun to hang out one on one with son #2.
3. Immediately upon returning I had to focus on the surprise party I'd been planning for DH. I have to say the surprise was expertly executed--he had no idea! So fun. And all the kids were home to make it extra special.
(not the best pic but you get the idea)
5. Which brings me to number five the ultimate support activity: in two short weeks I'm leaving for Europe! Yay, I love Europe. This is a combined work/play trip. Hubby and I are going to Romania first, where we are involved in humanitarian/missionary activities. I'm working towards eventually teaching English as a second language there. See www.hftn.ro for more info. Then we're taking a 3 day jaunt into Naples Italy--this is the vacay part. After that it's off to Germany where we are involved with an artistic community near Dresden. I'll be gone for three weeks, while DH stays an extra two weeks to do a house concert tour. I'll share more as we get closer.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
In fact I was so impressed by how they developed the structure for this season, I decided to do a deeper study. I re-watched each episode and took notes on the main story beats (not the episodic stories), on the development of the characters and on the mystery elements, ie: clues, red herrings and a believable bad guy.
It was very enlightening. So, like I said at the end of the previous VM post, I wondered how the writers/producers would deal with season two-- the sequel.
This takes me to book sequels in general. They are hard to do well. The first book is all about gaining answers--who are the main characters, what's their problem, how will it be solved. When a second book is introduced, that all becomes back story. Now the writer has to create a second book that is just as compelling at the first, something that can stand alone, yet be a part of what came before it and in most cases (the trilogy) what will come after.
I've never written a sequel, but I've read blogs by different writers who have, and they have all stated this very thing: It's hard.
Not that its impossible, many have done a stellar job. For instance, J.K. Rowling and even Stephanie Meyers (if you don't include the 4th book, imho). Others not so well. I just put down a second book of a trilogy. I really liked the first book and had high hopes for the second. I looked forward to hanging out with those characters again. But it just wasn't the page turner the first one was. The characters lacked mystery, the story thrust wasn't as compelling and the stakes weren't as high. Maybe it would've picked up by the last act, but I'm no longer the type of reader that gives a book that kind of chance, with my TBR pile higher than my house.
Back to VM season 2: same problems here. I know lots of people loved this season, so feel free to disagree. My criticism is not about its success as a TV series, but how the structure and world building compares to the novel. I've only watched 16 of 22 episodes so far, and if I weren't already invested in the characters, I'd be tempted to stop watching. If I had to wait a year to start this season, like you do when you're waiting for book 2, I would've had enough distance from it to easily walk away.
Why? I found the main story arc to be very weak. It's taken on a the soap-opera feel I'd feared. The mystery is rarely touched on.The Mr. Darcy-like character has crashed and burned, as far as I'm concerned. In the beginning of season 2 he was a jackass, in season 3 he's kind of a sleaze. I don't actually want Veronica to get back together with him because I think she could do better than that. (Must be the mama bear in me.)
Harsh? Maybe. But that's my personal take away. It's going to take a lot for the writers to get me to love the Logan character again. We'll see if they manage. And even if they do, it's a little too late, if I'd been the kind of person to stop watching before now.
If I got a series deal, would I take it? You bet I would!! But, I wouldn't go in lightly. I'd plan and outline until I was blue in the face. Just because book 1 is a success doesn't guarantee life long fans. You've got to make sure book 2 and book 3, etc, stand up to scrutiny.
What about you? What are your thoughts on sequels?
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Sometimes you have to go out of your way to do stuff, make it happen and sometimes it just is there to do.
So, here's what has come to me. I'm driving to Victoria, BC this weekend to pick up my second son who goes to university there. I'm going by myself because our truck is only a two seater and so there's only space for him and me. It's a five hour drive through the coastal mountains, plus a 2 hour ferry ride from Vancouver to the island and another hour to his place--which I've never been to.
I'm a little nervous. I've traveled alone before, and I've done the mountain drive many times before too. Still, I feel a little bit of anxiety tumbling around. I'm not sure how to get to the Ferry terminal, and I have to navigate that and my way to my son's place on my own. Good thing I have google maps on my iphone. Part of me wants to make my husband do it again (he took our son down), but I know I'll enjoy the time away, and especially the time spent with my son.
Sometimes it's good to do things that make us feel a little anxious or afraid. It makes us personally stronger when we gain the upper hand. And it reminds us what it feels like, in order to write about those emotions accurately.
Also I get to hang out a bit with my writing bud, Denise Jaden and my sister-in-law I don't get to see near enough.
And did I mention season two of Veronica Mars arrived today! Watching inspiring tv series is part of the writing life too, isn't it? I'm sure it is.
Plus, I do have a new idea. It's just a little germ seed right now. It needs time to grow and germinate. Maybe it's the next thing I'll write? Who knows.
I'll be away until early next week. See you then!
Monday, April 11, 2011
It started innocently enough: we watched a couple episodes together during Spring break, I was moderately enamored by the main character and the premise. Then my daughter got too busy with school and dance to keep watching regularly so I thought I'd keep going on my own. I imagined an episode every other day or so. By episode six, I was hooked. It was like being caught in a really good book you keep reading while stirring spaghetti sauce on the stove. I had to keep watching until the end. A total VM glut.
So what does this show do right? I'm not sure where to start. WARNING: Some spoilers to follow, but I'll try to keep it to a minimum. If you compare it to a novel, 22 episodes would be like 22 chapters. There is an overall mystery arc, Who Killed Lilly Kane? that takes 22 episodes to solve, with each episode having a mini mystery. I never guessed who the killer was, (and the writers had me suspecting everyone, even people I really wanted to be innocent) but it made perfect sense in the end. All the clues were there, making it probable and logical.
Plus the character arc development of all the main characters was expertly executed. Not too fast, a nice slow build and simmer all the way through. And the writers managed to do what Jane Austin did best--made a Mr. Darcy out of this:
How did the writers do that? That is masterful. I mean,look at him--not exactly a heart throb on first sighting. Not only are you rooting for him and Veronica to make it as a couple at the end, you're left feeling a little bereft when the season ends and it looks like there's no possible way they could make it.
In the beginning you're led to believe that Veronica will end up getting back together with her cutie, if not tormented, ex-boyfriend. Not so. He's around and you feel for him, but unbelievably you still want that guy pictured above. Plus, Logan, (the jackass turned heart-throb), had all the best lines. He made you laugh. You couldn't help but fall for him.
Each episode, like each chapter should, left you with enough new information and an unanswered question that made you want to watch the next one. Not that there weren't any flaws--there were, but I think that's inevitable when you're basically publishing each chapter before the whole book is written. Some things are going to fall through the cracks, but over all, the writers really nailed season one. I haven't watched season two yet, so I'm eager to see how "the sequel" is handled.
How about you? Have you watched Veronica Mars? Did you find it helped you as a writer? If so, how?
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Details make the difference. When I make a second, third, fourth, etc pass on my ms, I'm always on the look out on how I can add details to add dimension. Details are what help to keep our characters and settings from appearing flat and two dimensional.
To demonstrate I'll go back to using THE CAY as an example, re-writing the first two paragraphs here, first without the details, and then again with the details the author, Theodore Taylor, provided.
Like sharks that swim in the sea, the German submarines arrived at night.
I was asleep in our house in Willemstad, on the island of Curacao, the largest of the Dutch island just off the coast of Venezuela. I remember that, in February 1942, they attacked the Lago oil refinery on Aruba, the island west of us. Then they blew up our lake tankers, the ones that still bring crude oil from Lake Maracaibo to the refinery, Curacaoshe Petroleum Maatschappij, to be made into gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil. One sub was even sighted off Willemstad at dawn.
You get the picture--you can envision this, right? The scene is set accurately. But the author wasn't satisfied with just accuracy. He wanted to paint a picture. He wanted to add depth. So he wrote this:
Like silent, hungry sharks that swim in the darkness of the sea, the German submarines arrived
I was asleep on the second floor of our narrow, gabled green
This version as found in the book tells us all the same things the first version did, but the details added entice the reader, helping him or her to really see it and want to read on.
Here is a scene from THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX with the details removed.
I wonder how Lily knows a priest in a mission so far from Boston. We reach the end of the cemetery and come to the wall of the church that borders it. Lily pulls open a wooden door, and we slip inside. My eyes adjust and I see a domed ceiling and then a crucified figure. Christ. Yes, Christ. I remember.
Now as the author, Mary E Pearson, wrote it:
I wonder how Lily knows a priest in an ancient mission so far from Boston. We reach the end of the cemetery and come to the great wall of the church that borders it. Lily pulls open yet another large wooden door, and this time we slip
Ms Pearson's use of detail in this passage not only permits us to fully see/smell/taste the setting, it enlists our emotions--we feel Jenna's emotional process of remembering.
Please note that I'm not saying you should just add a bunch of adjectives and adverbs to your text, though some of those may be useful. The point is to create depth and emotion by adding worthy details--details that enhance the writing, not bog it down.
Any questions? What do you think of the examples I've provided? Do you have any of your own you'd like to share?
Monday, April 4, 2011
1.Don't forget to back up your blog every once in a while. For Blogger, click on design, then HTML, then download full template.
2.Lessons on what not to do if you get a less than stellar review: If you haven't heard about this brouhaha already then check out the taboos performed by this author. This reviewer's post got 309 comments before he closed them. I'm positive that the author's antics created a spike in his follower list at the very least. I'm a new follower now.
3. You may have heard me cheering last week when I finally bought my iphone--I LURVE my iphone! Honestly, is there anything it can't do? Well, one great thing I recently found out is I can download e-books and audio books from the library.
Video courtesy of Nathan Bransford.
4. I ran a short series of posts on Character these last few weeks. (See How To links in the labels). Rachelle Gardner recently posted on what Editors are looking for in character. Like her sweatshirts says: Don't Make Them Get Out Their Red Pen
5. And finally, my good friend and awesome YA author of Losing Faith, Denise Jaden is hosting #YALITCHAT this Wednesday. The topic is Faith in YA. Be sure to check it out!