Panelists Needed to Discuss “Women of Doctor Who”

Doctor Who Women

Do you know the women of “Doctor Who?” Would you like to geek out in front of a live audience? If so, I am looking for you!

On March 18-20, I will be attending Wizard World Comic-Con in Las Vegas, where I will be moderating a panel on “Women of ‘Doctor Who.’” We will be talking about all our favorite females (Rose Tyler! River Song! Missy!) and whether the criticisms of gender depictions in the show are justified. And of course, we will be addressing the most important question: should the next Doctor be cast as a female?

I’m looking for people who know and love “Doctor Who,” but aren’t afraid to criticize it. You also need to be comfortable speaking in front of an audience.

My area of expertise is the “regenerated” (post-2005) “Who,” so that’s going to be the primary focus of the panel, but I would love to get some people who are more familiar with the classic series so we can talk about that as a basis of comparison. I also want this panel to be as diverse and inclusive as possible.

Right now, I don’t know when the panel will take place, but I should have this information soon and will let you know as soon as possible.

As a presenter, your conference admission will be covered, but your transportation and hotel will not, so you will need to make your own arrangements to get out to Vegas.

If you are interested, please contact me via e-mail—bethwoodwardwriter [at] gmail [dot] com. Tell me a) what interests you about this panel; and b) who your favorite female character on “Doctor Who” is and why.

If you have any media presence, or anything you’d like to publicize at the panel—books, comics, artwork, movies, a blog, etc.—send that information along as well, with links if possible.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday Book Recommendation: TRULY by Ruthie Knox

Truly Ruthie KnoxI’ve discovered recently that the romances I like best are the ones that are about messed-up, broken people discovering love in spite of themselves, which is probably one of the reasons why I gravitated to Truly by Ruthie Knox.

The story follows May, a New York City transplant who recently turned down an engagement by stabbing her boyfriend with a lobster fork. (But in fairness, he kind of deserved it.) She hates the city, and wants nothing more than to return home to Wisconsin. But a series of unfortunate events leaves her without money or identification in a Manhattan sports bar, where she meets Ben. Ben is a former chef who lost his restaurant in his divorce. But that restaurant nearly cost him his health, between high blood pressure and anxiety issues. Now, as a rooftop beekeeper, he’s much more at peace—if not exactly happy.

Both of the leads here are incredibly broken in their own ways. May is a people-pleaser who has allowed others to dictate how she acts and feels about herself: she’s the plain one, the steady one, the ordinary one. Even after years away from the high-pressure restaurant business, Ben can barely control his temper, and he initially comes across as unlikeable and surly.

But the magic in this book is how they discover each other’s better selves. Underneath Ben’s surliness is a kind, compassionate heart, and when May stops trying to make everyone happy she becomes a confident, intelligent woman. It happens slowly, layers being peeled off, with one step back for every two steps forward.

The other thing I loved about this novel were its vivid, beautiful descriptions of New York City. I went to college in New York City, so the frenetic, overwhelming city has always had a special place in my heart. Early in the book, Ben sets out to make May fall in love with the city as he once did. Their half-touristy, half-city insider journey through New York reminded me a lot of Before Sunrise, the 1995 Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy film about two young adults on vacation who fall in love while exploring Vienna. Knox gives New York City that same kind of beauty and magic.

But unlike the idealistic lovers of Sunrise, May and Ben are older, more seasoned, harder in a lot of ways. Their romance doesn’t have the ephemeral quality of Before Sunrise, but you also feel like whatever happiness they can get, they’ve really earned. It makes the story that much more triumphant.

 

Buy this book on Amazon

Buy this book on Barnes & Noble

Morning in the Life of a Cat Wrangler

11116554_10152772554101053_3460329316836423490_n

Annabel (left) and Shay (right). Who’s house is this anyway? Apparently, not mine.

 

Saturday morning, 7:00 a.m.

SHAY: Meow, meow meow! I’m hungry!

ME: [Asleep.]

ANNABEL: That’s not gonna get her up.

 

7:15 a.m.

SHAY: Meow, meow, meow! Still hungry! Meow, meow, more meow!!!

ME: [Asleep.]

ANNABEL: I’m telling you, that’s not gonna work.

 

7:25 a.m.

SHAY: MEOWMEOWMEOWMEOWMEOW…

ME: [Asleep.]

ANNABEL: Must I do everything? [Annabel walks over to my side of the bed.] BLERGH! [Annabel vomits all over floor, right where I put my bare feet when I get up.]

ME: What? What? What? [Looks down at mess.] Annabel, did you get sick again? Ugh. Guess I better clean this up.

 

7:30 a.m.

ME: [Cleans up vomit.]

[Two pairs of cat eyes look at me expectantly.]

ME: I guess you want breakfast now? All right, I’m getting up. [Grabs food bowl, heads to kitchen.]

ANNABEL: [Looks at Shay.] Now that’s how a professional does it.

Are You A Pantser or Plotter?

252470_10150195773061053_4603757_n

To Annabel, it doesn’t matter whether I am a pantser or plotter, only that I drop everything to pet her.

 

For most of my writing life, I have been a “pantser.”

For those of you not familiar, a pantser is basically a writer who writes by the seat of their pants, without doing a lot of planning beforehand. A pure pantser might be someone who just sat down in front of a computer or notebook and wrote whatever happened to come out, sort of a Jackson Pollack approach to fiction.

For me, it’s always meant that I start with at least a germ of an idea—usually, but not always, a beginning and an ending—and maybe a few markers in the middle. I’ll come up with new scenes and sequences as I’m going along, but I’m often only a few scenes ahead of my actual writing. I roughly know where I’m going, but I don’t know how I’m getting there until I’m well into the book.

The advantage of this, for me, has always been the rush of creativity while I’m writing. I often find myself doing things that I didn’t expect: killing characters, creating a conflict where I didn’t expect there to be one, inventing new things. The feeling of creative freedom is awesome.

But the disadvantage is that because I didn’t have a direction, my plots sometimes tend to meander or lose their focus, and sometimes my story just isn’t tight enough. When I was working on revising The Demon Within for publication, I ended up rewriting about 80-90% of it. Even after I submitted the draft to my editor, Bob Peterson, it needed a lot more work; the middle section got completely gutted, which was another 30,000 words I had to start from scratch. It was very frustrating, particularly since I’d already been working on the book for four years before I was contracted for publication. But when my editor and I started tugging on some of the strings, I realized there were some fundamental, structural issues and it had to be gutted.

The whole process, from the time I signed the contract to the time I turned in the final draft to Bob for copyediting, took 18 months.

For Embracing the Demon, my editor asked me to write an outline before I began the book. With only a year between the releases of The Demon Within and Embracing the Demon, I do not have the luxury of completely deleting the middle of my book and spending another six months on rewrites. Bob wants to make sure we iron out any story issues before I really sit down to write. (I suspect he also wants to have an idea of what I’m writing about so that when the folks at Rare Bird Books and Publishers Group West ask about the book, he has a better answer than, “It’s about…demons? And, uh…embracing stuff?”)

An author who routinely does this kind of prewriting and planning is called a “plotter.”

I’m in the middle of the outlining process now. Not gonna lie: it’s been tough. Basically, I’m trying to force my brain to work in a way it hasn’t before, and 25 years of writing habits are hard to break. But I can see the advantages. As I’m outlining, I’m getting that rush of creativity, that feeling of possibility. I get to throw ideas at the wall and see what works! And that’s my favorite part!

My first outline was a jumble of bullet points. Bob sent it back to me with a few notes and then asked me to break it down by scene, so he (and I) could get a better sense of the organization of the book. About a week or so later, I sent it to him: 6,000 words detailing major plot developments, character arcs, and set pieces. It was a thing of beauty. Bob was going to love it, and send me on my writing journey with his good wishes.

Or so I thought.

Instead, he came back almost immediately with comments, some of them pretty fundamental to how I had structured the book. Basically, I was starting out too boring, and the pacing of the first half was too slow. And once I stopped pouting and pulled my head out of my ass, I realized he was right. The pacing was too slow, and the beginning was never going to hook readers in—and it might lose existing readers.

I was still upset and frustrated. But then I realized that it takes a lot less time to fix a 6,000-word outline than it does to fix a 90,000-word book. This was some of the toughest stuff Bob and I worked on during the revision process of The Demon Within. I’m getting it out of the way before I actually start writing the book.

It didn’t completely cure my frustration. But it helped.

Since I haven’t started writing the book yet, I don’t know how the experience will be for me. Will I feel like the outline constrains me too much, zapping the process of its spontaneity and creativity? Or will I experience a sort of freedom by having a map of my journey: freedom from fear of failure, and freedom from blank page syndrome?

I’m not the first author who’s contemplated this: Chuck Wending wrote an awesome blog post on his journey from pantser to plotter, and this Goodreads post quotes several famous authors on both sides of the spectrum. (Sidenote: That’s harsh, Stephen King. Seriously.)

Fellow authors: Are you a pantser or a plotter? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

 

 

Tuesday Book Recommendation: THE TAMING OF THE BILLIONAIRE by Jessica Clare

TamingBillionaire

So I am going to start trying to recommend a book I like every Tuesday. It won’t necessarily be a recent release, and it won’t necessarily be a fantasy or science fiction book. (When you write it all the time, sometimes you don’t want to read it anymore!) It’s just going to be a book I really liked and want to spread the word about.

My first Tuesday Book Recommendation is The Taming of the Billionaire, a contemporary romance by Jessica Clare.

So I realized some months back that contemporary romances about billionaires are my book crack—which makes Jessica Clare my main supplier. There are a lot of books on the market right now featuring billionaire heroes—it’s wish fulfilment, amiright?—but for my money, none of them are as sexy, funny, or just plain entertaining as Jessica Clare’s. Her Billionaire Boys Club focused on a secret society of billionaires who helped each other to success. Now that series has ended, and Clare has moved on to another series, Billionaires and Bridesmaids, set in the same world, with many of the protagonists from the previous series playing secondary roles.

The Taming of the Billionaire is the second book in this spinoff series, but you don’t need to read any of the other novels to enjoy it. While I liked Clare’s other books, this one had some elements that seemed specifically designed to appeal to me.

–A video game programmer hero.

–A cat behaviorist heroine with an—ahem—acerbic personality.

–Lots and lots of cats.

Seriously, it’s like she took a look at my Twitter feed and said, “What can I write for this girl?”

The book is a take on The Taming of The Shrew. The heroine, Edie and her sister Bianca attend an engagement party, and one of the groomsmen, Levi, falls hopelessly in love with Bianca. But Bianca is Edie’s assistant; Edie was disabled in an accident several years earlier and now has difficulty sitting, walking, or standing for long periods of time. Bianca gives Levi an ultimatum: find someone to distract my sister so I can go out with you.

Enter Magnus, Levi’s brother, who unfortunately didn’t make such a good impression on Edie during their first meeting. (She overheard him insulting “crazy cat ladies.”) He comes off as sort of a jackass when you first meet him, but you start to see his softer, more caring side quickly. He’s a video game programmer, and he and his brother made billions off of a game they created years before. My fiancé is a programmer, albeit not video games, and Clare’s portrayal of Magnus makes me think she must have known a programmer or two in her time. The scene where Magnus is sitting at his computer, headphones cranked up full-blast, cursing at the screen was very, very familiar to me. Verisimilitude at its finest.

But what really made me love this book was Edie. Edie has a take-no-shit kind of personality that leads others to sometimes call her bitchy. (Boy, can I relate!) She seems to keep people at arm’s length, lashing before they can get close enough to hurt her. But some of her takedowns—like her evisceration of the guys who she overhears making sexist comments at the engagement party—are things of beauty. Her disability is dealt with directly. You see some characters react quite poorly and trip all over themselves, and some treat it matter-of-factly. One of my favorite aspects of Edie and Magnus’s relationship is how he just accepts her disability without angst, and he tries to find ways of accommodating her and making her life easier without treating her like an invalid.

…And the cats, did I mention the cats? Edie is a cat behaviorist (think Jackson Galaxy, only without the tattoos and guitar case), basically my dream job when I forget that I’m still a teeny bit afraid of getting my eyes gouged out. As a cat lover and animal shelter volunteer, I loved that this book dealt so honestly with the realities of cat behavior and the difficulties of adopting out older or sick cats. Kittens, on the other hand, are sweet and cuddly and adorable. One of the reasons I do the volunteer work I do is that I hope I can help, in some small way, get the adult cats adopted out faster and make sure they find the right homes. So right away, I was in Edie’s corner, fighting the good fight with her.

This is a sweet, sexy love story that will appeal to fans of the billionaires…and of course, fans of cats. For me, it hit exactly the right notes.

 

Ilona Andrews and the Hugh D’Ambray Book

First things first: I’m sorry for not posting this sooner. My only excuse was that I was closing on a house in December, plus celebrating the holidays, so things were a bit chaotic. But I should have posted this last month.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite authors. Regardless of whether it’s the Kate Daniels urban fantasy, the Edge paranormal romances, or the basically unclassifiable Innkeeper serials, Andrews’ books are among the best in the genre. Both the worldbuilding and character development are kickass, and they have a knack of making their bad guys more complex and sympathetic than many.

Which is probably how this whole thing started.

About a month ago, I wrote an entry asking whether Ilona Andrews was punking us. I had been scanning the comment section of one of her blog entries, and she referenced writing a Hugh D’Ambray book–one of the aforementioned complex, sympathetic villains in the Kate Daniels series.

It was a very quick comment, and things don’t always translate very well online. And certainly, a blog comment isn’t the same as an announcement. What you guys don’t know is that I reached out to Ilona on Twitter afterwards. And then this exchange happened:

Screenshot 2016-01-26 16.25.04

Welp. That certainly sounds like a “this book is going to happen” to me! *Cue squeeing.*

Now, this isn’t an official announcement. Things could change, they might change their minds, etc. But it’s certainly better than an April Fools’ joke, right?!?