Friday, November 23, 2012

CSI and Me

The CSI team is always finding fibers, hairs, or biologicals on the carpet of the victim's home. Sometimes in the drain, sometimes on the sheets, there is always some sort of clue that stands apart from the myriad of other fibers, biologicals, etc... that exist in the victim's home. Except that there are no other samples. Why? Because all their victims were surprisingly clean.

Every time I watch CSI, I wash my sheets out of shame. If CSI had to come to my house, they would find all sorts of stuff, very little of it relevant to their case. I think of all the times my daughter has wiped buggers in my bed. When my husband has come to bed, collapsing fully clothed in his lawn-mowing jeans. When the bare feet that earlier went outside to feed the dog then tucked themselves under my sheets.

God only knows what's under my nails or how many toxins are in my blood just from working in Hemet. If they searched my drain, would they find samples of the killer's blood amidst all the human, My Little Pony, and Barbie hair there? Trace would be working for hours to differentiate between all the different samples. By the time they were done, they wouldn't want to solve my murder -- they'd consider it karma for them having to process all the dirty tissues in and around the trash can.

If they had to autopsy my corpse (I know, dark.) they would have to cut off my not-matching undergarments, including my too-big grandma underwear. They'd find evidence of past bruising, a lot of evidence. Eventually they would match it up to the corner of my bed, the open dishwasher, my daughter's elbow, and various other things I don't even know about. They would find all sort of residue of different lotions, topical ointments, etc... none of which were pertinent to my murder.

Of course, they writer's couldn't tell a one hour story if they dealt with someone like me. Even when they dumpster dive or have a murder in a back alley, the tiny evidence is clear enough that it stands out as relevant against the grime of the region.

These are they types of things that go through my head when I watch crime dramas. When it comes to writing a mystery, I have to be careful to give clues, but not be captain obvious. It has to be possible for the reader to solve the story, but not so blatant that the reader is frustrated. Luckily all my clues lay in paper trails and verbal accounts and I don't have to deal with soiled sheets and random, important fibers.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Yes, It is Your Fault

No, really, it is. Whatever horrible thing that just happened in your life, short of a total fluke act of nature, you had some measure of control over the outcome.

I know, that guy over there has more money than you and it's not fair. I know that your mom didn't love you enough or that the socio-economic demographic of your hometown was stacked against you. Yes, people did bad things years ago, but it's what YOU do now that matters. Be accountable. Stop pointing fingers and blaming everyone but yourself. The minute you accept responsibility for your own actions, you empower yourself to change your life.

If you are not published because editors don't understand your voice or *insert generic reason here*, blaming the editor won't solve the problem. Do you want to be published? Take the critiques, build your craft, and take the necessary steps instead of complaining about it. Be proactive, not defensive.

If you are doing poorly in school, don't blame your teacher. Too tired to pay attention? Choose more nutritious food than Flaming Hot Cheetos -- I know, you don't like vegetables, but it's a trade off. Eat well, perform well. And don't tell me you can't afford vegetables as you eat a family size bag of Cheetos and drink a Rockstar. A frozen bag of broccoli which costs $1.99 and will feed you, even if it's all you eat, for two meals. You are making the choices that impact the outcome. Didn't get enough sleep last night? That's because you played Halo 4 until your eyes bled. If you're not performing up to your potential, you've got no one to blame but yourself (except in cases of abuse -- in which case, tell me).

You are addicted to xyz? I'm sorry, overcoming addiction is hard. If it's not worth it to you to succeed  you won't do it. Blaming your genetic predisposition doesn't solve the problem, it excuses it. You think people are judging your decisions? They are.  Maybe having an addictive personality isn't your fault, but what you do about it is.

Right now I'm writing my blog, but right afterward I will do work for my day job. I could blow it off and get some writing done, but then when I'm behind and disorganized I'll have no one to blame but myself.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo

We are halfway through the month, but I am not halfway through my writing goal for National Novel Writer's Month. I was doing great for the first nine days, totally on track. Then I got busy with real life. Then I played some Bejeweled. Then I procrastinated (I read The Taker by Alma Katsu -- a disturbingly haunting story).

This weekend I plan to get back on track. I'm using NaNo as a platform to push myself to produce. I am not actually 'competing' since I'm continuing my existing work in progress, Possessing Karma (still not sold on that name). As I read other blogs about NaNo prep and schedules, I feel a little like a fraud because I don't do any of that. Yes, I have my rough outline (from which I have deviated like nobody's business), but I have no spreadsheets, flowcharts, or sacred writing hours. I just write -- which is what I've always done.

Right this moment, I'm blogging as a warm up to writing. Coffee is almost ready, the dishwasher's runing, and I'm caught up on work for the time being -- ready to write.

Do you have ways your prepare for writing sessions?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Menstruation is not Romantic

Whether it's 'that time of the month,' 'Aunt Flo is coming to visit,' 'the painters are in,' the curse, your monthly, or just plain old menstruation, it sucks. Seriously. It's a few to several day(depending on the woman) interruption of life. All decisions about daily activity, whether or not to leave the house at all, get based on it. It is often painful, sometimes embarrassing, usually unpleasant, and always inconvenient. It is a monthly reminder of the fact women are mammals. Throw your education and sophistication away and bear down for the most basic female reproductive trait, menstruation. It's touted as this magical coming of age thing to young girls, but I have yet to meet the woman who has greeted her period with glee ("Oh, thank God! doesn't count).

I have never, NEVER, read a romance where the heroine has an unpleasant or inconvenient period. She's never had a stain on her dress or had to run to the withdrawing room in a panic. Her lover never has to go to the store for supplies. She can lay sprawled naked in bed with her significant other and never make an unfortunate mess. It just doesn't happen. When romance does reference a woman's period, it usually proves or disproves a pregnancy.

I have, many times, touted romance as escapist reading. It's not supposed to include harsh realism because we have enough of that in our daily lives. Real life things like body odor, gas, or waxing don't come into play. They're just not sexy. Periods - not sexy either. They are, however, profoundly feminine. I would not be adverse to a book that included a woman on her monthly. Historically, it would be interesting to see how that was dealt with. If anything, it might help me relate. I would say, "Hey, that woman, though stunningly beautiful, is just like me!" I don't think I would be disgusted.

That said, in honor of women everywhere, I am writing a scene where my main character is unable to engage in intimacy because of her period. It is awkward and a total let down, in the true spirit of the teasing little steps towards consummation. It will probably be edited out before this book ever makes it to the public eye, but I will know I tried.

(Addendum: I already cut the scene. It was self indulgent.)


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reviews on Amazon Missing

I like to write book reviews. With the lack of quality control on self-published books, reviews are important to the readers. Good or bad, reviews are also important to authors.

An author friend brought to my attention that a few of her reviews disappeared. When she brought it up to Amazon, they said the reviewer must have removed it. I was one of the reviewers with the mysterious, disappearing review and I did not remove it. Where is it?

No clue. Amazon asked me to provide the URL to the review, but I don't have that information. So, nothing got done.

I'm writing this to alert you in case this is a problem across the board. If you are published, are your reviews all still there? If you write reviews, see any missing?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Little Earthquakes

Allow me to wallow and wax poetic. I don't do this often, so bear with me. Or not. 

It could be a job piling responsibilities and pushing you past your coping threshold. Maybe a drug addicted family member set on killing herself because she's too dumb to choose life. A natural disaster taking everything you own, everything that defines you  and wiping your slate clean. It might even be as stupid as an ignorant but politically possessed friend who won't stop spewing propaganda and takes it as a personal attack when you dare have a different take... whatever it is this time, it will be something different next time you allow yourself an indulgent moment to break down.

When life gives you lemons....

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Educating Myself on Sexiness

I've been married for fifteen years and born two children. Though not super experimental, I like to think I know what I'm doing when it comes to sexual relations. Given that I write about it and that I don't want every scene to use the same sequence of events, phraseology, etc, I do online research. Yes, I have to be careful NOT to leave certain websites up when my kids are playing Wizard 101.

Some stuff I've read is just plain common sense.Some is ridiculous. Articles that guarantee multiple orgasms invalidate themselves right away. The best stuff is approached with a sense of humor and not pretentious.

For your reading enjoyment and potentially to help improve your prowess, I'm posting links to some I've found interesting. Enjoy.

How to Touch a Woman's Breast.  This one is written with a sense of humor and really deals with the fact that the arousal process is primarily in the woman's mind. Perhaps a little overkill in the nail raking, but still good.  Along this line, you find the funkiest stuff when you do a search for "nipple orgasm." It included this picture. Why hadn't I seen this before? This is within my historical zone, a great reference for... something. Man. I've been missing out.

Clitoral Stimulation Techniques. I found this interesting and learned some new things. Not being a contortionist, I've never really been able to analyze the whole region properly.

Expensive Vibrators. Not that this helped with my writing, but knowing that these exist and people buy them was amazing to learn. This one looks steam punk.

Even more entertaining than information that I can use, is the stuff that I can't but leaves me laughing. I have shared this with friends before, but never in a blog. Here is Cosmo's 44 Most Ridiculous Sex Tips. I think the beer facial one may have happened by accident once, though.

How has your scope been expanded by writing research? Any fun stuff you want to share?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Thank you Stacy McKitrick for tagging me in this blog hop. This tag morally obligated me to answer the following questions (not that I'm complaining -- any excuse to promote my writing):

What is your working title of your book?
My current project is titled Possessing Karma, but I'm not 100% sold on the title. It's a play on words, which I like, but a little cheesy. Karma is the name of the main character and she gets possessed, so there's a literal meaning. Of course, there is the idea of what goes around, comes around, and Karma lives in a haunted home where the ghosts of two lovers are stuck in a cycle of violence and sex, karma for their lives.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea came from a dream. I've been to New Orleans a few times and LOVE it. The city, the history, the streets, the streetcars, the shutters, the brickwork, the accents, the food, even the vomit in the gutter at 2 am. Love it.In my dream, my husband and I had gone back and rented a place famous for rekindling passion. What no one knew (but me) was that it was haunted and the passion came from being possessed. I woke up with the image of the apartment in mind and the sexually aggressive nature of the haunting. Yes, it was one of those dreams -- sort of. It was also scary.


What genre does your book fall under?
Romance. The subgenre would probably be suspense. I hesitate to call it paranormal because that implies the love aspect is with paranormal beings. My love story is with two humans. The supernatural, while sexy in parts, is more of the antagonist. It is set in modern times.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Joe Manganiello would be Philippe Jarreau, the chain-saw artist/sculptor who purchased the trashed building and turned it into his studio and two condos. He's a solid rock of man, a nice guy, part of the flow of New Orleans, whose brawn makes up for any less-than-macho creative tendencies.
Halle Berry, but with pale blue eyes, would play Dr. Karma Betancourt. She goes by Kay because Karma is such a whimsical name. Multi-ethnic, with no real sense of belonging to any particular group or culture, Kay is a professor of religious studies. She has always felt like an outsider, until she arrives in New Orleans for a teaching position at Tulane.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Karma unwittingly rekindles a century old romance and finds herself the focus of a dangerous, sadistic, ghost.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Agency, please. Please?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Not finished. I started in late June. I plan to finish by the first of the year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Karen Robards meets Sylvia Day, maybe? Difficult question.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Both my husband and my critique partner urged me to move away from the historical Elizabethan era romances I've been writing. I had this idea and they both told me to go for it. I figured it would show agents I was multi-faceted, but that Elizabethan would remain my niche. I'm not so sure any longer. I love this project. It's my best work to date and I have two more supernatural romantic suspense stories percolating, just waiting for me to finish this one so they can be written.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Two words: Haunted House. Who can resist the curiosity? This book is sexy, spooky, and emotionally stimulating. It takes you to past and present New Orleans.

Here's the hard part -- Tag, you're it! (only if you want to, that is)
Raquel Byrnes - Edge of Your Seat Romance
Tanya Reimer -- Life's Like That
Taryn Tyler - Taliesin
Roland Yeomans - Writing in the Crosshairs
Morgan Shamy - Writings and Ramblings of a Redhead Writer

Rules for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:

***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Page 99 in Possessing Karma

I remember how important page count was on my first book. Knowing nothing about word count norms, I was aiming for about 325 pages and, when I finished my first hundred, I celebrated it as a major milestone.

Now I gauge progress by word count instead of page number, especially since I like to type in Times New Roman and the submissions I've had requested in the past specified Courier New. That said, I still got a little shiver of excitement when I noticed I was well past my first hundred pages. I may still have 60% of a book to write, but I'm getting there. It's healthy to be able to find validation within oneself, right.

There's an urban legend within the online writing community that editors turn to page 99 right off the bat. Of course first chapters are polished and hook the reader, but is the writing still as engrossing by page 99? So, following the precedent set by me with my other books, here is page 99 (in the Times New Roman version, Courier New is something completely different) of my work in progress.


Page 99 of Possessing Karma


“So, do you?” Rosario’s voice was barely audible over the roar of the water pounding against her scalp.
She stepped out of the stream. “What?”
“Do you plan on sleeping with him, no strings attached?” Rosario repeated her question loud enough for the whole locker room to hear.
“Oh my goodness, keep your voice down!” Karma heard her own words echo through the cinderblock room. “I’m a professor,” she added more quietly, poking her head around the corner of the stall to make sure Rosario would hear her. “If any of my students heard you…”
I’m one of your students,” Rosario answered, her voice level. “Right now we’re both naked and you want to talk about boundaries?” With one raised eyebrow, she turned back to face the shower head, presenting Karma with a view of her naked butt.
“Sheese.” Karma ducked back into her stall fully and finished her shower in silence.
#
Philippe woke up, his back aching. Lifting his head from the cold cement table top, he looked around his studio. How long had he been asleep? The sketch pad showed his half-hearted attempts to design his next piece, but more so showed rumpled proof that his nap had been a restless one.
Smoothing the crushed sheet, he reviewed the measurements and notes. He wanted to incorporate glass into the current sculpture, but didn't know if it would be possible to make the transition as seamless as he envisioned. He stood, stretching his neck and shoulders and he strode across the room. Uncovered, his sculpture laid waiting. He decided her name was ‘Becoming” and the rough pool of wood laying jagged against the workspace would merge with blown glass as if she was emerging into the corporeal world. She would be stunning, his best piece to date – if he could pull it off.


Just for fun (if you have the patience to read more), click below for the Courier New page 99.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Being a Hater

Today I'm being a hater, but not in regard to ethnic groups, religious freedom, or in respect to the definition of marriage. Today, specifically, I hate two things: skinny jeans and the word "suddenly."

Issue #1: I have worn corsets before. When you squeeze a fleshy body into a corset, the excess skin puddles out the top and the bottom as the torso takes on the shape of the desired silhouette. This is what is supposed to happen. If you've got extra girth, you will end up with bosom and back cleavage. You may also have abdominal cleavage -- which isn't pretty. Luckily everything below the waist is disguised by skirting.

This is not the case in skinny jeans. The laws of physics still apply. Ladies, just because you can button them up does not mean they fit. The jean is designed to create a specific silhouette for your leg/but/hips, but if there is any extra girth, it will puddle out at the closest exit -- the waist. It's really, really unattractive. There is not enough blousing in the world to disguise the belly rolls. You're not fooling anyone. It's not a good style if you have any body fat. Please, take an objective look at yourself in the mirror. Just because it's in style doesn't mean you should wear them.

Skinny jeans can be equally wrong on gentlemen. Years ago, men stopped paying attention to the natural waist line in favor of sagging. Now there are two generations of men out there, some wearing skinny jeans, that don't know that trouser waist bands belong closer to the belly button than the anus. Skinny jeans are not for everyone, so that alone is a problem amongst those who wear them without consideration of whether or not they should, but to then sag them creates a backside silhouette of a fully loaded baby diaper. It's just wrong. Please, take a look at yourself in the mirror before you leave the house. Please.

Issue #2: Many people say that use of adverbs in genre fiction makes a lazy writer. Instead of modifying your verb, choose a stronger verb. I agree with this sometimes. When I am critiquing someone's work, I do not automatically cross out every word that ends in 'ly.' I may comment if there is adverb over-kill, but I try not to edit the author's voice so much as their content.

That said, I will cross out every single "suddenly" I see. Usually the word is inserted to get the effect of surprise, being caught off guard. The problem there is that the word takes all that away. The bat swooping into the woman's face is much more sudden if it just happens, with the warning word of "suddenly." I really hate the word. I sigh when I see it in published books. I cross it out and recommend alternatives when I see it in something I'm editing. When I find myself using it, I slap myself and delete it quickly (adverb) before anyone can see. Lesson of the day: if you have to include the word "suddenly" (or "all of a sudden"), you have just made the scene not so sudden. Don't do it.

Okay, so that's my hating rant for the day. What do you hate?


Friday, October 19, 2012

Romantic Friday Writers

It's been a while since I've participated in a Romantic Friday Writers challenge. This one was:
We’re looking for chilling stories of ghosts and haunted locations – and maybe even love from beyond the grave.
A romantic element is essential, but we’re looking for stories with a thrilling edge of fear to add to the romantic tension building between our Hero/Heroine.

I chose to highlight a section from my work in progress, Possessing Karma. In this story, Karma (going by Kay) has recently moved in to a refurbished town home in New Orleans’ French Quarter. She and Philippe, her neighbor, have both lost time while together with only flashes of memory implying they were sexually involved. Karma thinks she’s going crazy. Philippe suspects something paranormal.

In this scene, Philippe has just come home to secure everything against a coming tropical storm. This 979 word selection is from chapter seven..

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


He stopped, before her door. “Kay? I heard you come up earlier. Just wanted to know if you needed help with the shutters.”
Waiting, he laid his forehead against the plaster wall. He listened, anticipating the creak of her stairs, the metallic click of her lock… nothing.
“Huh,” he muttered to himself and knocked again. Still no response.
“Okay, then.” He turned the key in his own door and went inside. It was almost as muggy as outdoors.
Stooping low he untied his work boots and left them on the mat by the door. He wasn’t a neat freak, but didn’t want to risk tracking debris from the workshop over the polished wood. Someday he hoped he’d just think of them as functional floors instead of works of art. He unclasped the buckles on his overalls and stepped out them. He hooked one foot under them and kicked them in the general vicinity of the laundry hamper in the closet off the kitchen.
The wind rattled the windows again, howling around the building in harmony with a roll of thunder. In his socks and boxers, he stepped into the rain pelting the second floor balcony outside his living room and closed the shutters over the windows. After securing the bars in place, he closed himself back inside, pulling the bright green shutters closed behind him then locked the French doors.
So much for needing a shower. He stripped off his soaked socks and padded upstairs, checking that he didn’t leave puddles in his wake. Uncaring if anyone saw him in his shorts in the storm, he stepped out onto the third floor balcony outside his bedroom. Nope, he wouldn’t need a shower after this. The stinging assualted him, the drops almost angry in their wind driven strength, each drop a shock of cold in the trapped heat radiating from the city.
Barefoot and soaked, Philippe turned his back to the storm and focused on his task at hand. Two out of three French door shutters secured, he turned to watch the storm. The sting of the rain nothing against the chaos of the sky, of the haze blurred rooftops spread before him. Shielding his eyes against the wind, he leaned over the figured iron balustrade to look around the tall wood fencing separating his balcony from Kay’s.
She stood there, driving rain plastering her long hair to her neck and shoulders. For someone naked and soaking on her balcony in the face of lightning, she looked relaxed – her hands in soft repose, laying gently on the ironwork. He wanted to sculpt her.
Was she crazy?
“What are you doing?” He shouted over the next rumble of thunder.
She simply turned her head, looking at him, her eyes an eerie silver glimmer in against the rich cocoa of her skin.
“Secure your shutters and get inside!”
Her lips curved into a smile, as if she were amused by him. She did not respond, but turned to face him. Placing one hand on her breast, she gasped and closed her eyes. He watched, spellbound, as her fingers traced tiny swirls in the water drops, never quite touching her nipple.
He pushed his wet hair from his face, watching the water stream down her naked body. A rivulet started at her shoulders, flowing in sleek plains down her breasts, to join in the center and stream down her abdomen. She was glorious, one with the storm. Yes, he had to sculpt her – but first he had to get her inside.
Crazy woman.
“Don’t you want to touch me?” Her soft voice carried over the storm.
“Kay, get inside.”
She looked different somehow. Maybe it was just a trick of the light, but her skin seemed darker. And, of course, she was naked. He’d seen her partially nude before, but made a point not to stare. Right now, there was no way around it.
“I knew you would come for me.”
“Kay, are you nuts? This isn't just rain – the wind can carry debris, there will be lightning.”
She seemed to have no issue with her vulnerable state. If anything, she welcomed him.
“You need me. I’m under your skin, a sickness in you.” Her voice echoed in his mind, clear and soft in spite of the steady drum of the rain.
His skin tingled, a shiver running down his spine. Philippe gasped at the jolt of sensation, of the soft caress of the rain, the almost painful pleasure of the pressure of the wind against his finger tips, tickling his scalp. Stepping back he looked at his own hands, sure he was in dream.
His arms reached toward the divider, straining with an uncoordinated heaviness. With a crash, the boards splintered, flying around him. He felt himself wince at the stinging pain above his brow. Lifting one hand to his forehead, he laughed when it came back slick with blood. He gulped greedy breaths at the joy of sensation, marveling at his living body. The way the muscles of his abdomen contracted with each breath, the taste of soot that coated each raindrop, it was magnificent.
Barefoot on the tile, he took one heavy step, then another until she was an arm’s breadth away.
“I knew you would come for me. You have no choice – not any longer.”
“I crave you always.” He reached for her just as lightning split the sky. In that single burst of light, she seemed to glow, outlined by a reflection of herself.
Philippe fought against her pull, against his own body’s response. What was he doing here? It wasn’t safe. Instead he heard his own voice say, “Does that please you? Does the surety of my desire make you feel powerful?”
She smiled, smug and sensual. God, how he wanted her – he always did, always would.
The back of his fingers grazed along her cheek, her jaw. Her responsive shiver sent a dusting of goose bumps all over her skin.
“This body pleases me.”
This is a collage of inspiring images for my project. Karma is a religious studies professor, Philippe is a chainsaw sculptor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Did I Notice Your Book? Blogfest

As part of Ciara Knight's blogfest, I chose to talk about Skeleton Woman by Mingmei Yip.

I met Mingmei at the Romance Writer's of America 2012 conference in Anaheim, Ca. She was sitting at the same fire pit after hours at the bar. I noticed Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, but was nervous about just dive-bombing her with my pitch. Mingmei, represented by Marsal Lyon, told me to go for it -- that the worst she could do was say no. Courage thus fortified, I attacked.

I ended up talking with Mingmei for a while. She told me about her books and gave me her card. I ordered Skeleton Woman when I got home.

Skeleton Woman is set in 1930s Shanghai in the midst the growing Western influence but the traditional Eastern values. A glamorous veneer hides the ever present danger. Intrigue, the life or death situations, showmanship and style sets the scene for an impossible love. For the main character, love is not an option when survival is the goal. The stakes high and the characters multi-faceted. I began this book over the summer, then lost my Kindle. I found it again last night and am just waiting for it to charge so I can finish the story.

The writing style is very formal in the way of English as a second (or third) language. The way the story loops back on itself reminds me of oral traditions. After the first chapter acclimated me, the pacing became comfortable and I found myself enjoying the author's voice very much.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Little Pervy, Really

The hot male stars I grew up crushing on are now in their forties, some older. The new male stars, while equally hot, are disgustingly young. I'll see an attractive guy and be appreciative, then realize he's ridiculously younger than I. I'm not looking to make a love connection or anything, but I still feel gross when I realize the age difference.

When all the 'Team Edward' vs 'Team Jacob' stuff was fresh in the pop culture, though I had a healthy mammalian appreciation for Taylor Lautner's abs, I could not, in good conscience, choose a side. It just felt dirty somehow, like I should don a big 70's porn mustache and hang out too close to a school. Yuck.

I'm sure that coming-on-40 year-old men have no crisis of conscience when they ogle 20-something women. They don't feel the least bit grossed out that those breasts belong to someone who was an infant when they graduated high school. I'm sure there's a long sociological explanation about why this is acceptable in regard to fertility and such, but it doesn't change the ick factor. I'm sure there's also an equally good fertility based point to support a woman nearing the end of her reproductive years finding a younger man attractive, but that doesn't stop the fact that I feel like a pervert when I raise my eyebrows in, say, Liam Hemsworth's direction.

At least Match.com sends me appropriately aged dating options in my area (unsolicited -- seriously. I don't know what I clicked or when, but I want it to stop).

Thank God for Ian Somerhalder being in just a few years younger than I. If I catch myself with pervy tendencies  I can just go to Netflix for Vampire Diaries and crush away.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Opportunity Cost

I am currently 33% into Possessing Karma. The story ready to unfold is the clearest it's ever been (for me) and it's turning into the best book I've written so far. Exciting.

Writing Karma means I'm not sewing an Irish dancing dress for my daughter. That is one of the opportunity costs of choosing to write over other activities  It also means, to a MUCH lesser degree, that I have not downloaded the new panda expansion on World of Warcraft. Whoopdie-Do. There was a time when I would have done it the first moment possible then tried to power level. Now the game has been tainted by more than pandas and I don't care enough. I hope I care again because it was fun once. But I digress....

I am also NOT writing three different books. In the past month I have had moments of genius for three different, unrelated, not in my genre niche, stories that I think would be awesome and take the publishing world by storm. If I started every new project the moment inspiration hit, I would never finish anything. So, along with my three additional Elizabethan era historicals I have planned, these ideas must be shelved for now. This is the opportunity cost of writing and finishing a book.

So I am not writing:

  • 3 Elizabethan historicals
  • A complete revision/rewrite of Courtly Pleasures
  • A chapter that will flesh out Courtly Abandon
  • 1 supernatural romance w/secret baby (but not a cheesy way)
  • 1 supernatural romantic suspense based on my time in Ireland
  • 1 kitschy vampire series (a minimum of 5 books I'll write it in 5-7 years when the market's not saturated)
  • and 1 that I won't even mention because the idea is so great you might run with it and then where would I be?


Oh, opportunity cost.

In other news, 90 days since the RWA 12 conference is approaching and that means it's time to start politely  reminding the agents and editors holding on to my submissions about me. A little nervous.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sense of Urgency Required


All of my stories have had a clear time period in which to become resolved. Frances had three months at court, Mary had twelve days of Christmas, and Jane had Frances' house party and the threat of her father taking action. All of these issues created a sense of urgency and made it easy for me to pace my story when it came to chronology.

Not so for Karma. I've made Karma so blasé  about the haunting that it might take years to resolve. There's no need to hurry, so there's no set time frame. What did I do to myself? Of course, urgency creates higher stakes, so beside the fact that I've made my pacing difficult, I've stifled the conflict. Bad Erin. Bad.

Solution? Make the ghosts less amenable and Karma more frightened and less intrigued. I can do this. Karma is one of those highly intellectual people with the common sense that usually goes hand in hand with that -- very little. She's more fascinated by the research than cautious for her safety. Right know she's on a research kick that threatens to slow the pace of the story -- so let's threaten her safety, shall we?

In the space of me mulling it over in this blog the problem has been solved. I love it when that happens and it doesn't have to be forced.

Are you having any issues with your stories?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Redacted

My husband requested I take down my Freedom of Speech blog post. Ironic? Nah... on my priority list, jealously guarding my constitutional right is outranked by the need to preserve the safety of my family. Voltaire can afford such sentiments -- he's dead already.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Inspired by Muse

 
More than once I've turned to Muse's song, "Starlight," when I need inspiration when writing about a love relationship just starting out. The song delivers that sense of yearning, wanting something out of reach – and that something is worth risking everything. This sentiment helps me understand the motivation of my characters during the passionate, romantic content of my stories. Besides the repeated "I just wanted to hold you in my arms," line (which, in its simplicity, is very seductive) the line that catches me most is:
My life, you electrify my life
Let's conspire to ignite
All the cells that would die just to feel alive.

That feeling, the emotional and physical high of being in love (or infatuation), that seems worth throwing everything away. It seems silly unless you're in the grip of it, but when it has you, nothing else is important. There's probably scientific significance to the absolute need to be with the object of your affections in regard to the survival of the species -- but even knowing that wouldn't change the effect. I'm not just talking about sex; I'm talking about the whole package. The obsession with another person that makes you want to be smothered in them, to wrap yourself around them, merge with their essence. You want to breathe their breath; their touch is the best thing in the world. The sound of their voice soothes you, no matter what they say. You feel connected, understood, desired -- and you reciprocate in tenfold. You can never quite find words strong enough to describe what you feel, yet writers keep trying. I felt the message about that need in "Starlight."

 
 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just Do It Right

My daughter has just started dancing hard shoe in her Irish step class. The shoes are slick, the heels are high, and the edges of the heels are sharp. The first few tries had Lily falling on her behind. After much scuffling, she got the hang of staying upright, but was confusing the kick motion in soft shoe with the kick in hard shoe. The hard shoe move swings the heel past the shin/knee to the opposite side of the leg and if you get too close, you might graze your shin. Lily was not the only little girl in the class with welts marked by black shoe polish. She even broke the skin in two places.

At the end of class I asked if it would be appropriate (within regulation) to file the edge of the heel to round it out. The teacher, looking confused at my question, asked me why I wanted to do such a thing. I showed her Lily's leg. Her answer -- No, I shouldn't file down the shoe or put tape over the edges; Lily should just do it correctly and she wouldn't get injured.

It was a profound, yet totally a common sense answer.  Don't accommodate doing it wrong, just do it right. Donna Means is right up there with Yoda.


I am currently reading a great story that was starts out with a prologue. That, in itself is not a problem -- the problem is that all the same info from the prologue trickled out (in very similar wording) within the first few chapters. It came across as redundant and took me out of the story.

I rarely meet a prologue that is necessary and/or not an info dump. I toyed with one myself in my first book, using a prologue to make up for the fact that I didn't get to the story quickly. You can use all sorts of bandages to cover up a badly written book but ultimately, you should just do it right. If you put all your energy into perfecting hooks, writing to trends, snappy titles, you're not concentrating on what really needs to be done -- honing your craft.

Just do it right.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ranting and Raving


A new school year has begun and, again, immature behavior has me up in arms. If I had a dime for every time a student was upset at me because “I got him in trouble,” I’d retire. There is a disconnect in the thought process that drives me nuts. Child does something against the rules. I enforce the rules, so I’m the bad guy. Hmmmmm…. No.

Who broke the rules? Was it me? No? Then perhaps the person you should be angry with is yourself. Wait – you have excuses for your bad behavior that I have to hear. You just really wanted to do whatever you did a lot, so it’s reasonable. Seriously, grow up and take responsibility.

The funny thing here is that this lecture was inspired by an adult. My students have been great.

My six year old, full of self-pity, cries after she gets in trouble. With her cute boo-boo face and tear dripping lashes, she tells me that I hurt her feelings. I did? What did I do? I put her in time out and it made her sad. Awwww. It’s cute when a cuddly six year old doesn’t get the basic life lesson about being responsible for one’s actions; it’s a teachable moment. But what do you do when an adult behaves this way? I don’t think a sticker chart will cut it.

How does this relate to writing? Um, I don’t know. Maybe you can make the connection for me.

Rant over.

Begin rave.

In other news, I received the first post-RWA conference rejection. It was personal, not a form letter. I have to say it was really nice to know the agent read my submission and took time to comment. It was disheartening to know it didn’t inspire her to read more, but such is life. I have recently read work from some of her clients and they’re phenomenal. Not that I’m not totally awesome, but I am genre fiction. While I see my work as unique within genre guidelines, the market is a big pond and my little fish might not be evolved enough to stand out. The good news is that I’m a better writer every day. While I maintain that my current finished manuscripts are completely publishable and will lead to a steady readership, my future stuff is going to rock their world. J See, there I am being accountable for my own actions. My stuff was rejected and I didn’t blame the rejector. Man, my awesomeness amazes me sometimes.

What’s happening in your world?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Another Year

Happy 37th birthday to me.

The day has been full and fun and exhausting and hot. And tomorrow I start my fall semester with the first professional development meeting of the year. This means summer is over. Sort of.

I don't start school until the 21st. This year is going to be challenging in a variety of ways, which may be fate's way of telling me that it's time for me to be a full time writer. The good news is that I don't have to set up a classroom -- and that's because I'm not getting one. Instead of being upset, I have to think of all the money I'm saving on the bulletin boards and decor that I would normally purchase this time of year. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at tomorrow's meeting -- even it means wearing socks and turning my internal editor back on.

My daughters are both getting ready for the Hidden Valley Feis in Coronado at the end of the month. While they practice their hop-two-threes, I'm putting together a gift basket for the raffle. My theme: romance novels. I selected a few Regency from the booty I got at RWA12 this summer. I have a hat box and some delicate, era appropriate items. What I can't find is ratafia. I could substitute sherry, but it just wouldn't be the same. Any Regency reader knows that ladies sip ratafia -- unless they're being contrary or brazen and go for the brandy. Personally, I think it's going to be a great gift box (even if the books are signed to Erin -- but it's a feis, so there will be many Erins around). Any other items, besides, tea, that are a must have in a Regency themed gift basket (or hat box, in this case)? A reticule? A posy? A gilded miniature of Prinny?


I thought of doing a second gift basket with vampire romances. That would be a fun theme to run with -- but I'm not sure how it would be received.

The feis will be my official end of summer. The event is at a beach resort with rooms that outshine Bath's costume museum assembly rooms, it will almost be a mini vacation. I am obligated to volunteer some, and my kids are dancing, but other than that I intend to make use of the facilities and try to relax. I'll acknowledge that summer if finally over after Labor day (even though I'll already be a couple weeks into the school year).

The end of summer is the countdown to the new year. Christmas will be here before I know it and then it will be 2013. Will anything have changed? Will I have an agent? A book deal? Finished my paranormal? Another Golden Heart deadline will have come and gone... Man, time goes so fast. I need to stop, breathe, and just think about today - August 14th, my birthday.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pick Up the Pace

In a recent interview on ACFW Fiction Finder with Raquel Byrnes, they asked the question:

You have mentioned that quick pacing is part of your writing style. Why is that so important?
Raquel's answer:
I find that often being in the thick of things, the desperate unplanned situations, reveals our true character and loyalties. Only when we are like those characters—pushed to the breaking point—can we finally see the amazing grace and strength God offers us. I think those moments resonate with people and I love to bring them to light in my books.

I absolutely agree. Life is a series of BOOM BOOM BOOM with no time to stop and ponder, to come up with the perfect solution or wittiest response. I picture that stupid teenage gimmick where your supposed-friend shakes his/her hands back and forth in front of your face and tells you you're running through the woods, trees on the left, trees on the right, your turn and (they hit you in the face) you run into a tree. It leaves you disoriented and with an elevated heart rate.

I like to think the obstacles my protagonists encounter are realistic in the same way life can be, ridiculous and inconvenient. These are the moments, in less than the space of a breath, where true character is shown and grown. Pacing is integral in these moments. You can't draw out the scene with beautiful word paint - it is not the time for that. Staccato sentences. Minimal dialogue tags. Slap the reader in the face the essence of the moment -- whether it is life or death or just intensely emotional (or in my books, passionate). The writing style mimics the urgency of the action.

Not all readers agree. As I struggle to improve my craft, I try to take all critique into account. I weigh the commentary against the story content. While every comment is appreciated, not every one is applicable and I have to trust my instincts. Romance is not all purple prose any more -- there are real stories there that stay with the reader longer than the titillation. I have been accused of having short sentences -- but I do this to aid the pacing of the scene. I am more likely to have rich descriptions in slower moments -- but even then I keep it sparse. If it's something I would skim over in order to get to the story, I don't want it.

Usually when a reader notices the pacing in a scene it's because it was done poorly. How do you, as a writer, adjust your pacing for mood?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Time Went On as the Clock Does

I'm currently in a limbo status between my full time writer career (which I truly pursued this summer) and my full time teacher career. August 15th marks the start of my teacher year. That gives me two weeks to really indulge in my fuller than full time Mommy career. I am inspired both by my kid's enthusiasm for everything and by my sense of guilt for not being the uber-Mom I could be -- so crafts and parks and quality time, here I come! I don't know why the guilt is getting to me; they won't really notice my shortcomings until puberty and, by then, I could be perfect and it wouldn't matter anyway.

School starts on August 21st, both for me and my kids. We did some back to school shopping today and both girls are now reasonably comfortable in size 7, trousers are just a little long (which is fine). The big problem is that they recently moved into separate rooms, and the eldest girl is really stuck on a "mine" kick. Thing is, they're both the same size. Other than shoes, most clothes have been community property. The younger one doesn't really care, but the older makes up for that in spades. I don't think I've ever looked forward to the start of a new school year before.

This limbo status has left me feeling purposeless and tired. I think it's because of the agents actually WANTED to see my stuff and they've got it. Now I just have to be patient and await their responses. This, I think, has left me in a holding pattern of waiting for time to pass. It reminds me of when I was laid up with my broken foot and just laying there, healing. It's insane. I don't do patience well. The solution, of course, is to get engrossed in whatever I am doing -- but I can't seem to. The sword of Damocles is looming and eventually I will get the email that changes everything (or not).

So, what should I do? I should write. Karma has been neglected for too long and her story is just itching to get out. I just need to be in a positive enough mind frame to make that happen.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Post-RWA Recuperation

Tessa Dare accepting the RITA for Regency Historical
Romance Writer's of America's national conference in Anaheim is over.

There was so much stress and planning in leading up to it, I was sure that it would be like my wedding -- over in a flash and leaving me with a compromised immune system. Not so. The three days did blend into one, but every moment was full of opportunity. Yes, I had a schedule (that I sort of kept to), but I had to be open and accessible at all times because I never knew who I was going to bump into (I got all 13 year old fan girl on Zoe Archer in the bar).

It was amazing.

I was able to pronounce empire correctly without feeling pretentious. I learned the true definition of steam-punk (thank you Karina Cooper)as a genre. I even had a discussion about butt plugs and the evolution of what was acceptable in mainstream romance.

I came home with over 100 books, most of them signed by the author. I spoke with many of those authors (who include, but are not limited to, Lynsay Sands, Julia Quinn, Christina Dodd, Suzanne Enoch, Tessa Dare, Mary Wine, Darynda Jones, and Rebecca Coleman... to name just a few).

I pitched to a few agents, all of whom asked for my submission. I tackled in the hallway spoke with a couple editors who also asked for my submissions. Almost everyone, except for one person (if you know who you are, you don't care so it doesn't matter), was accessible, courteous, and receptive.

I've been emailing off the requested first chapters and such over the past few days. I plan to start writing new material tomorrow. As for right now, this very moment, I'm just exhausted. That last hour of the conference, my feet hurt so badly that I wanted to just lay down on the floor and fall asleep. I liken it to that image of the dehydrated man in the desert who just needs to get over that next hill or he might die -- same feeling. Not that I'm complaining about the conference.. I just know that next time I'll need to eat more protein or something (and splurge for a hotel room at the conference site regardless of the ridiculous cost).

Yes, there will be a next time. The conference was so awesome on so many levels. I really, for the first time, felt like a contributing part of the industry. 

See you next year in Atlanta!

Monday, July 23, 2012

You Have Me At A Disadvantage, Sir

The subject here: male vs. female orgasms.

Reader beware, this post may be crude. Surprised? You shouldn't be. I've never been accused of being too classy.

Female virgins are the norm in my genre. It's a tried and true cliche of the young, untried virgin and the experienced rake who initiates her into the realm of pleasure. Sure, there's deviation from this norm, but even when the woman wasn't a virgin coming into this new and oh-sweet-mystery-of-life-at-last-I've-found-you relationship, she may as well have been. Usually her past sexual experiences were sub-par, which generally meant she had never experienced orgasm.


When it comes to sexual gratification, men have women at a disadvantage. They've been experimenting with their 'doofinky thingy' (thank you Mrs. Manno) since their very first bath. One day, it did something miraculous and that meant daily experimentation. It is really, really easy for men to end sexual encounters with orgasms (whether or not anyone else is involved).

Women don't have it quite that easy, especially virgins. Now I know this is not true for all women, but I feel safe in making the generalization that MOST women don't take matters into their own hands and ALL men do (and the ones that say they don't, they lie).

I have read that the romance genre creates unrealistic expectations in women in regard to sexual encounters. I'll agree that romance novels make female orgasm look incredibly easy to attain. I read a few novels (including some written by Fabio) whilst virginal and, yes, when I had my first encounter, I was expecting something... more. Even following that time, I kept waiting for that something to happen. Was it my fault? Did I not work right? Or was my boyfriend a douche-bag that didn't care about anyone but himself? I'll bet you can guess the answer.

I will agree that women should not use romance novels as a how-to manual when it comes to sex (but guys, the whole seduction idea? Maybe you should read a few. I mean, if women think they're sexy, then maybe you could get some pointers). If you take the stories at gospel, yes, you're going to be disappointed both with yourself and your partner (unless you're Salma Hayek and your partner is Joe Manganiello -- then you're good). But if read it for the fantasy it is, the sexual aspects could be inspiring and leave behind a feeling of hopeful optimism.

When it comes to real life, the statistics about female orgasm are really, really sad. Maybe that's why women enjoy the fantasy of the 100% guaranteed orgasm (or 300% in the case of Fifty Shades). Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that women are sitting around all day wishing they were orgasming (at least I don't, I don't know about you), but, when it comes to sex, it would be nice to have the same surety that men do.

It might be funny to write a scene in one of my novels where she does not reach earth shattering heights and assures the nervous guy that everything's all right, it was still enjoyable. Or, she fakes it for his ego's sake. :) Somehow I don't think that would go over well with readers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Learning to Walk

Ignore the socks.
I was cleared for jogging, wearing heels, and beach volleyball. I plan to do two of the three, but it's going to take time.

I got my first pair of heels when I was eight. I bought them for 25 cents at the local thrift store. They were white leather pumps with a clip on rosette and I loved them. I wore them whenever my mom would let me. Thinking back, I'm surprised at how often she let me.

Today I'm wearing a sturdy pair of heels around the house. It really is just as foreign feeling as transitioning from THE BOOT to sneakers. It's silly to put a lot of energy into something as trivial as heels, but I have a shoe collection that I plan to wear again someday. Call me shallow, but it's a goal that will take working towards.

*Insert smooth segue into writing here*

When I wrote my first book, I was sure it was great. It was going to take the romance world by storm and I would be an overnight sensation. Maybe I wasn't quite that starry eyed, but I did think it was awesome and no one could tell me any differently. When I did get negative feedback, I soothed my defensive spirit by saying the reader just wasn't in my demographic, didn't understand my artistry. I revised and revised and cut/pasted/rewrote/renamed until that book became a Frankenstein. Looking at it now, it is not a bad book, but it's not a great book either (though my mother-in-law would disagree ). I have since gotten over the disappointment and recognize it as a great learning experience.

As was my second book.

And my third book.

Of all my completed novels, I think books two and three are publishable as they are. Book one may be as well, but I'd rather not have it out there with my name associated with it. I would hate for it to be the one book someone reads and the reason they don't buy anything else from me. I have learned so much from the process of creating these novels. I'm an entirely different person than when I started this journey. I know who I am as a writer, I know more about the industry and genre norms. I am part of the writing community. I've come a long way from that first chapter (which I ended up cutting) that I carried around and forced everyone to read.

The RWA conference is just one more step toward being the author I know I can be. Whether or not it provides miraculous connections or leads to contracts, it will be an experience that I can use to hone my craft. I can only get better from here. Do I think I'm ready now? Of course -- but then I thought I was ready three books ago. Each book has been better than the last and I hope I feel the same way even when I am published. I don't ever want to stagnate as a writer. The RWA conference will, at the very least, be a tool to improve. If that is all it is, I will still be grateful for the expereience.

The conference is just one more baby step on the road to publishing (a very expensive baby step). I'm both excited and scared, but know I'll come out of it better than before even if I get nothing but rejection.

I just hope I can do it comfortably in heels.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Secret Stash of Clothes

I have dreams all the time about houses in which I've lived in the past. I always discover a secret basement or a whole floor I didn't know existed.

Today I discovered a secret compartment of my closet. No, I'm not joking. In the far back corner, near my wedding dress, is a whole section of "nice" clothes I've bought for cruises, concerts, etc... I wear the item once, dry clean, then hang it behind my wedding dress and forget about it. There is about 15 years of stuff there.

Disclaimer: the above scenario is fiction.
In the pre-RWA conference stress of wondering what I have that is professional, yet youthful, yet serious, yet quirky, yet edgy, yet respectable I started ordering stuff online (that, and I was laid up and unable to go out for a while). Those items have been trickling in and, guess what? When something is too good to be true, it is. Things are cheaply made, funky fits, and generally unflattering.  Last night, I actually cried. I know, sad.

After my crying jag and subsequent ice-cream fest, I pulled myself together and convinced myself that my appearance is really not important. As long as I have good hygiene, am personable, and show that I am a serious author, no one is going to reject me based on the fit of my trousers. I went to bed last night in a better frame of mind.

This morning, on a whim, I looked behind my wedding dress. It was like finding a hidden room in my house. So many NICE items that I would never wear in my everyday, middle school teaching, suburban Mommy, life. Even more amazing -- things fit. And there were enough black and white ensembles that I can mix and match and pack smart. It's such an awesome find that I expect to wake up and realize it was a dream.

It's wonderful to have that stress gone. Now it can go back to being 100% about the books (which it should be anyway). Yes, I have to pack. Yes, I still need my orthopedic surgeon to clear me for heels. Yes, I still have to reign in my social awkwardness and pretend to be a confident and not-too-weird. All of these things are manageable (yay for medication!). In the meantime, I now have a week and half to have my one-sheets printed in color. I may even be able to take a day or so and write new material. The options seem limitless.

In other news, I've decided to stay at the Hilton Double Tree on the other side of the Marriott parking lot. That means no big fat commute, which is nice. It also means potential for social time with fellow authors and more agent stalking opportunities. Are you going to RWA 2012 in Anaheim?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More One Sheet Madness

I've finished rough drafts on my three completed courtly books. My poor critique partner has a mailbox full of attachments and is probably cursing my name about now. Still not done, but getting there. I need to revise my synopsisisis on Courtly Pleasures and Courtly Scandals. Courtly Abandon will be written from scratch.

As for Possessing Karma, that book is only 20ish% written. I know promoting it is putting the cart before the horse, but I think I need to show that I'm versatile. I will write a one sheet and synopsis on that one, too. Soon. Eventually. Sigh.

Anyway, here are my revised courtly headers (Photoshop is fun) and taglines. Still having trouble with the '25 word or less' aspect of that, but hey...

 A newcomer to Queen Elizabeth’s court, Frances finally gets her husband's attention, and the attention of a killer.

 Amid the revelry of the Queen Elizabeth’s court at Christmas, Mary is desperate to hide her sordid past, but now a new shame threatens her future.

Fear is the only obstacle to Jane's future happiness. She must be brave enough to choose love over security. 
New version:  Trapped in a web of her father’s lies, Jane must find the strength to choose love over obligation

Question -- should my tagline be specific to the story? That's how I was approaching it.  OR should it be specific to my writing'? A riotous romp through Elizabethan England -- or something. I don't know. So tired. And sweaty. And I'm beginning to suspect I may be lactose intolerant. And I need to put away the laundry...

More writing specific tag line fun:
Dancing and drinking and feasting, oh my!
The Elizabethan court, deflowering maidens since 1558!
Loosen your corset and have a glass of wine. You may need a cigarette after this book.

Friday, July 6, 2012

One Sheet Chaos

Seriously, do I not know what my book is about? I wrote it, for goodness sakes! It's about... ummm.

Good greif.

I plan to have pitch sheets/one sheets on all three courtly books, even though Courtly Pleasures (previously known as Courtly Love) is my under-the-bed book. I figure, at the very least, it will show what I have produced even if it's not sellable.

My trouble lay in paring it down to the key points. I think I'm too close; I see all the little details as very important, too. Not only that, but my key story elements have to be powerfully worded. They must grab you and make you read my book. That's a lot of pressure.

So, to alleviate the pressure, I decided to write this blog. You will get to share in my process of stripping my stories down to their bare bones - but I'm not trying for finesse, just to get words on the page.

Courtly Pleasures:
Frances, suffering from post-partum depression, feels numb. She joins Queen Elizabeth's court at Hampton Court Palace in effort to feel something again. There she undergoes a transformation, Cinderella style, which shocks the pants off her husband. Henry, a slave of duty, has been too busy and stupid to ever notice how lovely his wife was. His service to the crown has gained him enemies -- one of whom is a crazy Papist out for blood and obsessed with Frances. A frequently used plot device, the danger to his wife makes him realize how much he loves her.

Now, to pare that down...
Frances goes to court, rediscovers herself and learns to live rather than survive. Her new joie de vivre gets her husband's attention, and the attention of a killer.

Courtly Scandals:
Mary was told, on the heels of an attempted abortion, that she could never bear children. This means she is not wife material. Her only worth lay in her reputation, which she blows by becoming scandalous over the twelve days of Christmas at Queen Elizabeth's court. Sir Charles, a knight and member of the Queen's guard, believes nobility lies in merit, not title. he wants to save Mary from the court, but also from herself. Mary needs to forgive herself and come to terms with her past and her worth as a person, to realize she deserves happiness, before she can accept Sir Charles. Besides, what do Elizabethan midwives really know about conception and gestation?

Now, paring that down:
Mary has a fling with Charles and falls in love. The problem is she can never marry because she believes she cannot have children. On top of that, she makes herself notorious with scandal after scandal, so no longer has value as a reputable gentlewoman companion. She has to move on and accept that she's worthy of love.

Sigh, still too long.

Okay, so here's Courtly Abandon:
Slutty but lovable Jane has to remarry in order to escape the influence of her abusive father. She chooses a husband, one wealthy and titled enough to ensure she'll never have to see her father again. Love is irrelevant, until Percy shows up. Percy and Jane were childhood sweethearts before her first arranged marriage. He's never forgiven her for not running away with him, but hasn't stopped loving her. Percy is shocked at how worldly Jane has become, but Jane is striving to be even more courtly, a lady, in order to attract the titled husband. On the cusp of success with her viscount, Jane realizes love matters and grows a backbone. With the deus ex machina of Queen Elizabeth, she and Percy get married.

Short version:
Jane and Percy were childhood sweethearts. Four years and an arranged marriage later, Jane is a widow who needs to marry again to escape her father's influence. Percy mans up this time, but Jane has too much fear of her father to trust in love. Eventually she does. The end.

Man, I suck. This is a really pain in the petunia. One thing I have done is (dun, dun, DUN!) created headers. Here they are. Enjoy.

Each story is set in a season, so I went with that rather than cheesy Renaissance Faire images.

Anyway, if you actually took to the time to read all this, take another moment or two to help me finesse my blurbs. I'm flailing here and the RWA conference is in 21 days.
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