Monday, January 31, 2011

Goodnight, Sweet Prince (aka Courtly Pleasures)

I wipe away a brimming tear as I close the folder containing Courtly Pleasures one last time.  This, my first book, is destined to remain in the dark.  Beloved by few (me), a piece of my heart, never to see a bookshelf.

A year or so ago I was speaking with my brother who has had a story percolating in his brain for years.  He has been resistant to actually writing because he hates the idea that this story is going to be his worst book.  Why?  Because it is the book where he'll discover who he is as a writer.  Actually, he didn't say that last bit -- I did.  He's not nearly that introspective. 

Courtly Love, which became Courtly Pleasures, is my first book.  It's not a bad book, but my second book is much better.  Courtly Pleasures doesn't know where it belongs.  Is it romance?  Chick-lit? Historical fiction?  Yes, it is all three.  It's a journey of discovery, a lot of history, some hot sex, a lot of personal growth. All of it.  Character driven, but more focused on the female main character than on the male.  But it's not clearly a romance (when I was finishing the book, there was a point where I had to decide on whether or not she would get her happily-ever-after with the male lead, a genre requirement, or if she would be happy with herself and not have to rely on another person for her own happiness).  Plus, the protagonist deals with depression so it's a little bit of a downer at points.

While I still think it is a good book (better than many I've read and, I think, totally publishable) I can't pin my hopes on it.  I have to move on.  I will focus on Courtly Scandals, which has substance along with being  much more of a joyous romp.  This is the book that agents will respond to.  This is the one that will start the ball rolling. It has taken a major mental restructuring for me to stop seeing Courtly Scandals as a spin off from Courtly Pleasures, but I think it has to happen.

Courtly Pleasures is one for vaults, but it was not a waste of time.  It helped me learn that writing was what I was meant to do.  It helped me develop my style and my process.  I am a better writer for it. 

So, goodbye for now, Courtly Pleasures.  Some day I'll read you again and figure out where I went wrong and if you are salvageable.  I worry that if I rework you too much you will become a Frankenstein, so for now, rest in peace.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Page 99 Blogfest

Thank you to Holly at Super Mom Writes for hosting this blogfest.  The idea is to post page 99 from one of your works.  Participants in the blogfest will bloghop and read the pages, determining if they, from that one page, would be interested in reading the manuscript.  The concept comes from Page99test.  It's a fun idea.

So, here we go.  This is from Courtly Scandals.  Read and see if you feel like it makes you want to turn the page.

Oh my!  Page 99 is really inappropriate.  In spite of my "you must be over 18..." warning, I just don't feel comfortable posting it.

So let's check out Courtly Pleasures.  Page 99.... hmmmm... Well, I'm going to post it if only because I already committed using Mr. Linky.  I also took a few words from page 100 to finish off the sentence.

            Henry felt his wife melt into his arms as he deepened the intensity of the kiss.  He could not have anticipated how much her tentative touch would inflame him.  He felt her bury her fingers in the hair on the back of his neck and wanted to feel those soft fingers all over his body.  The lingering scent of roses embraced him as he ran his hungry mouth down her throat to that sensitive hollow at the base.  He heard her sigh of pleasure and felt her body slacken, yielding to his touch. 
           As he tried to control himself enough to consider how far this first encounter should go, a gloved hand parted the satin drapery, flooding the alcove with red light.  “Traitor!”  He stood up straight to confront whomever had so rudely insulted and interrupted them, when he noticed Frances waver in his grip then violently wrench herself away only to retch all over the stone bench under the window.  He moved to offer her support as she righted herself and was ready to catch her when she fell, unconscious, into his arms.  Well, this was not how he had imagined the night ending, but he was grateful that, at least, she had been with him when she collapsed.  Shaking away the unpleasant thought of how vulnerable she may have been had she found herself in this situation with someone like Oxford, Henry lifted her limp form into his arms and stealthily escaped the revelry of the hall.
            It was no trouble to find Frances’ room off the gallery.  He had already heard talk about how Frances had a penchant for sunlight and fresh air, and how she had already taken four baths since her arrival.  He could not blame the gossiping men for having looked; hell, if he had spied her during her bath, he wouldn’t have been able to take his eyes off of her.  Reaching her chamber, he toed the door open and crossed the room to her bed.  Laying her on the thick coverlet, he stood back and gazed down on her unconscious form, still glowing like an angel in spite of the fact she had just vomited and passed out.  She looked decidedly uncomfortable with her bumroll forcing her back into an unnatural angle, her corset cutting into her bosom, and her hoop skirts springing in all directions.

           
In reading it now, I don't know if I'd want to read more.  I overdid the adverbs and some of it sounds forced, unnatural.  My own toughest critic, perhaps, but I'm still not pleased with it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Titles Matter. Hot, Asian Dating. Viagra 4 U. Refinancing Your Mortgage. This Blog is About Writing -- Were You Expecting Something Else?

The new version of Blogspot has a 'Stats' tab.  It is really cool to look and see how many hits you get per day, what sites of referring them, where in the world my audience is located, etc...  There is no way to know if the hits are real people who read or just Google updating its data, but it's still neat.  I can tell when viewers have come to me via the links on other blogger's sites.  I can see which blog posts have had the most hits and what time of day people view them.  It's really interesting.

Oddly enough, my most popular blog to date is My Naughty Blog.  Keywords used in searches that most frequently led here were 'naughty' and 'blog.'   This leads me to think that, perhaps, the web surfers were not actually hoping for blogs from a struggle writer musing about the writing process.  Chances are good that they were disappointed.   

The blog that had the second highest amount hits is the blog from a few months ago, Side Kick Spin-off.  Sadly, most people found that one via Google Images when looking up the key words 'Batman and Robin' in Google images.

This actually brings me back to writing.  Titles count for so much.  They are the first impression.  I just retitled my W.I.P. yet again.  It started out as Courtly Consequence, then became Courtly Marriage, and is currently (FTW!) Courtly Abandon.  It has both the staid element of history in Queen Elizabeth's court and something a little more provocative.  I think we're in good shape.

Fellow bloggers, look at your blog stats.  Let me know if you find anything interesting.

And, as for the images, I figured if people came across my blog looking for something else (directed here by my somewhat misleading title), I'd at least give them some eye candy.  I tried to offer variety for diverse tastes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Romance Gets a Bad Rap Yet Again

A friend has been sick in the hospital and I recently paid her a visit. I decided to bring a book her her -- The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe.  I bought this book at the grocery story before checking into the hospital myself a few years ago.  At the time, I had not heard of the author and usually didn't go for fantasy/romance cross over, but it was available.

I loved it. The legend, the characters, the story, all of it.  It was all tight, well developed, well paced.

I have since forced this book and the rest of the series on a variety of people.  Most of them loved it and bought their own copies.

I decided to lend it to my sick friend while she was laid up.  I had no idea if she liked romance specifically, but it didn't matter because the story was good in its own right.  My companion on this mercy visit commented that she had read it too.  Expecting a glowing endorsement I was stunned when she said, "Don't worry, it's the type of book that only has four word sentences."  My jaw dropped at the blatant disrespect.  Pleased with her witty put down, she continued, "There might be one or two sentences that wrap from line to line, but not many."

What?!!

The moment was actually awkward enough that my ailing friend picked up on it.  After all, my companion had just called the book, the book I had already said I loved and wanted to share, crap.  Under any circumstance insulting a gift someone just gave someone else would be inappropriate.  In this case it went even deeper.

My companion is a writer as well.  Her writing emulates the style of the wizened sage, rocking in front of the stone hearth and spinning tales of her youth, bursting with colorful descriptions and life lessons told in the slow, considered pace of Great Uncle Nephi who has wisdom to share with the youngsters.   I write character driven historical romance with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.  I keep euphemisms and purple prose to a minimum despite the industry standards of the early 1980's.  We cannot read, let alone edit, each other's work and I always thought this was due to our relationship.  Now I wonder if that might be, yet again, a sign of Romance Prejudice.

RP rears its ugly head so frequently that it's frightening. In no other genre do you hear belittling remarks based strictly on genre.  Sure, you may hear, "Oh, I don't enjoy science fiction," but people don't say, their voices thick with derision, "Oh, is that book about a chosen one who has to save the world?"  In mystery, non-mystery readers don't jeer, "I can't believe you read those books, they're all about crime and stuff."   But romance you get to hear it ALL THE TIME.  Apparently it is porn for women, too effusive, and they're all the same with different names and eras.  Sure, there are only a handful of story archetypes, but that is true in every genre -- it's what the author does with it that makes all the difference. Sometimes the harshest criticisms come from closet romance readers who are secretly ashamed of their low taste. 

I have a question -- why do you read it if it is so terrible, so beneath you?  You probably read it because it has a great story, good characters, and helps you escape real life for just a little while... In which case, why does that make it something to be mocked or hidden?

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Topsy-Turvey Story

Taryn at Taleisin opened up this literary idol contest in honor of 12th night.  It was during my last week of winter break and my family and I were spending a week at a time-share too close to home.  The result was that my husband went to work everyday.  On the way to his office, he brought our pre-schooler (whose school had started at that point) to school.  My daughter Lily and I were left to our own devices during the day, which would have been fine if Lily had not gotten sick.

So, there I was feeling sorry for my sick girl and sorry for myself and VOILA!  Taleisin's role reversal writing challenge.  I jumped on that and churned out a quick scene, a moment in life of Lily and Mommy... only in this reality, Lily took care of me. It is not a deep literary piece, but it was not intended as such.

For your reading enjoyment, here is my submission to the Topsy-Turvy Literary Idol.  I had fun with it and I hope you will. 



“You’ll be okay, Mommy.  Just use the bucket if you have to throw up.  Try to be careful not to get it on the sheets.”  Lily’s small hands did their best to be soothing as she secured her mother’s long hair into a bun.  It was better to do this now than to have to worry about it getting gross stuff in it that she would have to wash out later.
            Her mommy whined and pulled away, almost knocking her off the bed.  “You’re hurting me!”
            “Shhhh, shhhh.” Lily rubbed her Mommy’s temples, behind her ears.  “You’ll be fine.  Be my brave girl, okay?”  Mommy’s head was hot to the touch.
            Lily got up and scampered to the bathroom to find the medicine.  Cursing to herself, she unscrewed the adult-proof cap.  These were far too easy to open.  She wished the manufacturers would stop making the medicine taste so good.  If Mommy were able to figure out the lid, and Lily was sure she would given enough time, she would probably down the whole bottle of Margarita flavored Tylenol.
            Mommy sobbed again and burped loudly in the general direction of the bucket.  Lily brought over a syringe full of the lime green liquid and Mommy smiled.
“Medicine!”
“Remember, medicine is only for when we are sick.”
“I know already, Lily.”
Lily excused Mommy’s tone of voice.  Mommy was a sick woman and needed compassion, not a lesson about attitude.  “If I give you the medicine do you think you can keep yourself from throwing up?”
Mommy nodded, burping once more.
Well, if she threw it up, they could always try a cool bath to lower the fever.  It was never Lily’s first inclination: getting Mommy into and out of a bath required strength and a functioning knowledge of physics.  Lily did well enough, but it was always a struggle.
            It was exhausting taking care of a sick Mommy.  She hoped she could get some sleep tonight before she had to be at school in the morning.  Mrs. Weston had said they were going to make marshmallow snowmen and Lily didn’t want to miss that.  If Mommy didn’t get better, she might have to take the day off and stay home with her.  She didn’t want to miss school if she didn’t have to.  First grade was a very important growth year.

Head on over to Taliesin's blog page and check out the other entry!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Books Are Not Epic'd

The other day it occured to me that my experience with World of Warcraft is a lot like my experience in writing.

Bear with me.

In WoW you create your character and follow chains of quests.  As you do so, your character becomes stronger, the quests more difficult, and the story unfolds (some call gaming a modern form of literature).  You quest and quest until eventually your character reaches the maximum level.  Once you are as experienced as you can be, you fine tune your character, selecting specific skills that will help you.  You continue to improve, earning better armor and stats so that you will be able to participate in the end game (and so other players will take you seriously).  Eventually your character is one of the best of the best.  Elite.  New players ask you for guidance.  Tasks that once were daunting now are easy because your character is almost all powerful -- still not good enough for the end game (the final fight against the boss-de-jour), but pretty darn good.

And then a new expansion comes out.

All the work you did to make your character the best it could be is now moot.  Your gear is obsolete, the fights are harder... you have to reinvent yourself in order to get to that end game boss.  Players that you once pwned become better than you faster than you thought possible (because they are all home-schooled 12 year olds).

I have just gotten my character to the maximum level - 85.  But now I need to regear.  I have to relearn my spell rotation and make sure I'm equipped to handle the new quests/dungeons.  The easy part was getting to 85.  The hard part is making my 85 level character count for something.

And that brings me back to writing.  You will earn 90k experience if you get the analogy without an explanation.  You will earn an additional 10k experience plus my thanks (which is epic) if you do not mock me for exposing my inner-geek.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Warning: Extended Infatuation May Lead to Schizophrenia


We all remember that initial thrill. The surreptitious glances, the butterflies in the stomach. Breaths caught in your chest. The frisson of awareness at each touch. Infatuation. It was fun. Exciting. Is he/she thinking about me? When will I see him/her again? You are so enamored you're not even aware that it is uncomfortable sharing a twin bed all night.

Then the relationship progresses into something more subtle. There is honest affection and contentment, but the thrill is gone. The infatuation has matured into something more sustainable. This is the point where something like 66% of marriages fail. It usually happens at the 3 year mark.

My husband and I just celebrated 13 years of marriage. The original excitement, long gone, has been replaced by something more comfortable. Though hardly romantic, it is wonderful to know that I can trust the man I married not to take umbrage when I make him roll over (because he's snoring) in the middle of the night.

I have learned that the initial infatuation phase is partly caused by an increase in our production of dopamine. The high is because we are actually high and creates a form of OCD and an almost addictive state (addicted to love). It is not sustainable over long periods of time and eventually tapers off. Some people, when the high is over, seek a new high in a new relationship -- again, not sustainable. In fact, if you have exposure to dopamine for too long, you could develop schizophrenic symptoms.

As the relationship matures and the dopamine dwindles, our brains produce oxytocin. This chemical is related to orgasms and helps perpetuate the idea of a sustainable love.

This all leads me to romance (like it usually does). A romance novel tells the story of a new love full of dopamine. We readers are like voyeurs, living vicariously through the fictitious characters as they experience that thrill of obsessive compulsive disorder. As a writer of romance I have to pull from my memories and rediscover moments in order to put them into words. It creates a means to relive the euphoria that came along with those infatuations, only it's much less complicated and angst-ridden. It's like young-love light, all of the high, none of the herpes.

And on that note, I will end this post. I hope you are all enjoying your new year thus far.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Stupid 2011

So I created blog posts and scheduled them prior to noticing that I had been scheduling them to post in January of 2010.  Of course, I could not just change it to a future date for some reason -- when I did that, it just showed that future date on the already posted blog post.  Sigh.  So I had to copy, delete, and recreate.  But what did I do when I went to schedule those posts?  THE SAME DAMN THING!  I am an idiot.

2011, will I ever get used to your ways?  You are so different, I don't know I can acclimate.  Perhaps we can both change a little, meet in the middle?  No?  You're hear to stay and I don't have the powers to mess with the space/time continuum?  You know what I need, I need the powers of Q and then trixy 2011 will no longer mess with my blog posts, calendar, and checks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Creation Blogfest

Thank you to Summer for hosting the new creation blogfest.  The premise is to post as follows:

1)   A closing sentence from a finished work.  This sentence is from Courtly Scandals, my recently completed novel.  Note -- I scrolled randomly and selected this sentence from the first stopping point I came across (which happened to be the end of chapter 9).
This time, Mary took a swig of her drink.  Hardly tasting the honey and spice of the mead, she swallowed and choked, “Pray excuse me,” before turning back into the fray of the ballroom.


2)  The first sentence from my newest project (written yesterday).  This is the opening sentence from Courtly Marriage.  I wrote a different opening last week, deleted the whole thing, and rewrote it yesterday. :)
Jane hefted her full hoopskirts and sprinted across the orchard as fast as she could .  

Happy birthday, Summer!


Image from: http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?assettype=image&artist=Dick+Palulian 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Double Whammy

I started two projects at the same time.  Apparently a lot of writers do this, but to me it feels like I'm doing something wrong.  The thing is I have two stories that I'm itching to tell right now and I couldn't pick.  I actually have a third story that is percolating, but that will have to wait for now.

So we have Jane's story, the third installment of the Courtly books.  This one is set entirely in the country during the early spring.  I'm fairly organized on this one, I even used my Dramatist program to block things out and develop characters prior to writing.  Crazy, huh?

The fun part is in developing Jane.  She was the archetypal slutty friend from Courtly Pleasures.  I'm taking the slutty characterization and turning it into earthy and sensual, unashamed.  I think she's destined to have quite a story.  Right now I'm going with Courtly Marriage (which will fit the story, but is not exciting).

Karma, who likes to go by Kay, is my mc in a contemporary paranormal romance (no title yet). No, there are no no vampires or werewolves, but it is set in New Orleans so I may throw in a bit of the V-bar/Anne Rice culture.  Or not.  Who knows where the story will take me?  This is a true seat-of-my-pants project but I have a very good idea of large portions of it (I just haven't written it down).  This story is based on a dream and I'm looking forward to it.  It is about possession and has the potential of being slightly more risque than R.  I have to ask myself if I want to go down that road.

I plan to finish both these books by Christmas 2011.  The stories are there and they're ready.  I'm only getting better as a writer and the crunch time prior to finishing Courtly Scandals for the Golden Heart competition has taught me I can produce. Of course, right now I'm blogging instead of writing... so on that note, I'll sign off.

What projects are you working on?


Image from: http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?assettype=image&artist=Compassionate+Eye+Foundation%2fAndrew+Olney%2fOJO+Images+Ltd

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

My husband asked me if I had any resolutions for the New Year. My immediate response was "No." I mean, seriously, every year I say I'm going to lose weight and be more health conscious. I will drink less and do more things out of doors. I will start going to church and become more community conscious. All these things I say I'll do and don't. What am I doing? Setting myself up for failure. It's like a form of self flaggelation. Last year I set no New Year's resolutions and this New Year's Eve I did not feel guilty about anything. It's a win-win situation.

Of course, after my immediate "no" I rethought. Well, I do want to get my query and proposals together on Courtly Scandals. My goal for the New Year could be to simply get an agent (last year I would have said to get published, but now I know baby steps are in order). I could set a goal on finishing the two books I have just started. These are not ridiculous goals, they just require effort on my part and that is effort I am willing to give.

So, I amended my negative answer with I will get an agent and finish my new projects. Next New Year's Eve I actually, probably, maybe will have accomplished these goals (honestly, they'd be things I'd be working toward anyway) and will be proud of myself.

Then again, who needs a New Year's resolution to be proud of an accomplishment?

What are your New Year's resolutions?
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