Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Naughty Blog

It's actually not that naughty.

You may or may not have noticed my newly included "you must be 18 years or older..." warning that pops up when you try to access my blog. My boss asked me to include it as a nod to decency. I understood the concern and complied graciously.

I teach middle school. On the off-chance (actually, pretty decent chance) that a student should Google my name, he/she could come upon my blog. I write historical romance that is R rated. I blog about the writing process. Sometimes that includes discourse, often somewhat mocking, about R rated things. Parents might object. I would object. Then again, I wouldn't give my 11 year old free reign on the computer.

Of course, if the parent is not supervising and there are no parental controls/filter on their computer, the 18+ thing will just make my blog that much more enticing.


The only real solution is to blog under a pseudonym -- but part of the purpose of the blog is to establish a web presence under my name. As much as I sort of love the idea of publishing under Vixen De La Coeur, I am proud of my writing and want to stamp it with my real name in spite of the sci-fi/family medicine feel of it. So, no fake name.

For now the problem is temporarily solved. The next step will be when a parent complains that I am posting inappropriate content online and aiding the corruption of the minor. At that point I will argue my right to have a life outside of school and the parent's role to monitor what their child views online. I mean, it's a crazy world out there, full of things inappropriate for young children, like Austen Powers, Britney Spears, and pedophiles.

To my fellow writers -- Do you write under a pseudonym? Why did you choose to or not to? How did you choose your name?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Word Painting Blogfest

Thank you to Dawn Embers for hosting this blogfest.

Old school romance is very flowery. My husband once joked that every noun had to have at least two adjectives.I don't write like that. The authors I enjoy reading do not write like that. I think it's much more effective to create the ambiance of the environment without overdoing it. I'm not reading poetry, I'm reading a story and I want to know what happens without cluttering everything up with too much description.

But I do want to be immersed in the story, and the description helps.

My entry is from my W.I.P., Courtly Christmas. It is set in a winter garden. I wanted to give the feeling of the environment, the beauty and the cold, but not overdo it.

White snow dusted the garden. The plants themselves had no hope of surviving the chill, but for the moment, they looked magical. Frozen in time.
Anne laughed as a clump of snow fell on Mary’s head. Mary shook the hood of her cloak, spraying Anne with flakes.
Mary took a deep breath and felt the chill sting her nose. “I have always loved winter.”
“ I remember that.”
Arm and arm the two ladies took their time. Being outside in a frosty garden triggered a memory. Mary laughed out loud at thought of one instance. “Remember that year that the Signore Pantalones was meeting with Lady Burghley’s companion in the still room?”
“Yes, and we waited outside for hours, hoping to catch a glimpse to see if he really was as hairy as he seemed.”
“He had hair tufting out of the top of his ruff. It was disgusting.”
Anne lowered her voice conspiratorially. “It was even more disgusting when we saw what he and Lady Collins were doing in the still room.”
“Aye.” It had only been disgusting because Signore Pantalones was the one doing it. Mary had never liked the greasy, little man. “I caught the ague from being out in the cold so long.”
“And father found out and had Lady Collins sent back to her family.”
Both ladies laughed together over the reminiscence, but Mary could not help but wonder whatever had become of Lady Collins? Had her family accepted her back? Had she married? What if she had gotten with child?
“Anne, have you heard anything more about Lady Collins?”
Anne paused at the odd question. “No. Why would I?”
“I just wondered. She had been in your mother’s household for a few years – almost like family at that point.”
Anne did not respond, focusing her attention instead on a frost encased bloom. The Queen’s privy garden was guarded by a high wall, so they were well protected from the wind. The snowfall from last night was even, covering all the foliage. The groundsman must have been out first thing that morning to clear the paths. Mary could feel the chill working its way through her woolen gloves and clapped her hands together to warm up. Everything around her sparkled like a fairy story; Mary wondered if Anne could even see the beauty around her.
Mary chose her words carefully. “Do think it is fair that Lady Collins was sent away but Signore Pantalones stayed on for three more years?”
“He was our dance master – we needed him.” As always, Anne was matter of fact.
“But his behavior was just as scandalous as hers. Even more so, perhaps.”
Anne scoffed. “Mary, you are always so righteous. You have to learn the way of the world. Right or wrong, fair or no, it is what it and we abide by the rules.” Anne increased her step. “If you had behaved as you should the other night, you would not be in the trouble you are now.”
Mary sucked in a breath, too fast, in shock. The cold made her choke. Coughing she asked, “What would you have had me do? Smile docilely while a man threatened to rape me?”
“That man was an earl. My earl. You owe him your subservience.”
How much subservience was Anne talking about? “What if he had followed through?”
Anne straightened her posture and looked Mary in the eye. “I have thought about that. If he chose to take his pleasure with you, I would not blame you. We would be able to continue our friendship so long as he did not form any affection for you. It is the way of court and we both must accept it.”
Mary had nothing to say. There was nothing she could say. Clearly Anne was not the friend Mary thought she was. It was odd – that knowledge didn’t even make her sad. Angry, maybe? No, she had nothing to say.
They walked on in silence. Mary focused on breathing evenly and keeping her mouth closed. Flurries had begun to fall and she did not wish to start coughing again or she might throw up.
She might throw up anyway.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Missing Sock and Other Problems

Years ago, before kids, my husband and I used to host parties. We were the first among our friends to buy a house. In fact, many of our friends still lived with their parents.

Our little house was the party pad. Every weekend people would show up with various snacks and beverages and our house was a happy place. I remember snippets of one particular party. I kept playing our VHS tape of Sergent Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (staring the B-Gee's, Peter Frampton, etc..) and thought everyone was enjoying it as much as I was. I noticed at one point that I was only wearing one sock. I couldn't remember taking it off. I spent the rest of the night asking people about my sock.

People still talk about having to watch that movie over and over again and about my missing sock.

Sigh. That was a long time ago. Our parties nowadays involve a huge, inflatable waterslide that I'm too big to go on. :( But the kids have fun.

Anyhoo, I'm writing a scene where my lead is drunk but doesn't realize it. Her thought process and behavior is random but she's unaware of any problem. She's feeling fine (until she isn't).

Now, I am writing adult romance, not young adult. I am totally R rated. But I am still concerned that I may alienate a group of my demographic by including the use of alcohol. I am not glorifying it, I am simply showing (historically) that it was used in festive (and non-festive) events. Should this actually be a concern? Or am I being paranoid because of one publisher's F.A.Q. page about alcohol consumption in romance?


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Weather Blogfest

First and foremost -- happy birthday to me. I am not really celebrating my birthday this year for a variety of reasons, and it makes me sad. :(

Second: Raquel clued me in to this Weather blogfest, hosted by Nick. I tend to ramble about the weather when I'm looking for the right words to show up. Weather does help set the scene, but I end up taking a lot of my weather ramblings out unless they actually feature in the story. This one showcases summer's warmth and is one of my favorite scenes.

This is how Frances starts to get her groove back in Courtly Love:

Slats of light from the open windows striped the floor of her bedchamber as she walked across the room toward her armoire. The moment she felt the sun touch her skin, Frances paused, distracted by the warmth and the unexpected delight. No longer thinking about donning her lady of the manor costume, she moved as if drawn to the window. The sun kissed her skin, reminding her of picnics and play. Lifting her face to capture the warmth, she breathed in the fresh scent of summer, of harvest, of cut grass, of heat. She closed her eyes and felt the warm orange glow through her eyelids. For a moment she was just a woman letting the sun caress and soothe her body. Heedless of any witnesses from the courtyard below, Frances stood in the window absorbing the rays as the daylight faded. She did not want to move from the joyful light of the summer back into the gloom of Holme Pierrepont… she did not want to resume her role as chatelaine or child-rearer or wife. She was happy here, naked and warm, kissed by the sun. At that moment, she was simply a woman. Amongst all the roles and duties, she had forgotten she was a woman. She was not Mama or Mistress Pierrepont or a dutiful daughter… she was Frances.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who Do I Write Like?

I found this quiz on someone's blog. I always love these little quizzes, particularly when I do not have to give them authorization to access all my personal information just so I can find out what my aura is and/or what dog I am.

This one seemed neat, so I took it. You cut and paste a few paragraphs of your writing and it analyzes your style and likens you to an author.

I used one ms, my wip, Courtly Christmas. It is written in 3rd person alternating, past perfect. I switch pov between my leading woman and man. The speech is formal, but written in modern English.

That said, I write like:

I write like
Lewis Carroll
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

And then I decided to scroll ahead in my doc and post a few more paragraphs for analysis. I did this several times. Mind you, the same ms. I write like:

I write like
Annie Rice
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Dan Brown
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Gertrude Stein
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
William Shakespeare
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Kurt Vonnegut
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I figured if I was schizophrenic, it would have manifested itself by now. So it must be just my writing.

Each section was based on sequential paragraphs from the first thirteen pages of my first book. For honesty's sake, I have to admit I got Gertrude Stein five or six times in a row (mostly during dialogue).

Someday, there will be some cheesy online quiz where people get randomly told they write like Erin Kane Spock.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In Which I Address My 'Hook' Yet Again

So I just put together all my chapters thus far in order to figure out where I'm at w/word count. (I save each chapter in its own file. To further complicate things, the second half of chapter 6 will soon be chapter 12, but right now I'm only on the new chapter 10. Once I catch up with myself at 12, I'll have through 17 or 18 completed, but it's awkward right now. This is a long aside, I know. Back to the compilation...)

This got me looking at my hook again. To make a long story short (too late), here it is -- all 104 words.

Had she made the right choice? Mary had stayed on with Queen Elizabeth’s court as a favor to her long-time friend – but somehow ‘friend’ no longer seemed the right word. Lady Oxford, Anne, had changed so much over the past three years. What was it? Her new title of Countess? A sense of assumed maturity? She still did not understand why Anne had chosen to marry the Earl of Oxford. Oxford had destroyed Mary’s only chance of having a home and family of her own; Anne had known that. And still she married him. The thought made Mary sick – and yet, here she was.

I really welcome thoughts on this. Does it get your interest? Is it too contrived? I, of course, retain the right respectfully disagree and/or ignore any and all critiques (but I usually take them seriously, whether or not I apply them verbatim. After all, I am asking). Months ago I revised the living bejebus out of it, trying to make it shorter. But did I make it disjointed? Do we get a clear idea of era? Setting? The main character? Does the reader care?

Again, do your worst. Or, preferably, your best. :)

Addendum 9/2/2010: Yesterday I wrote an entirely new first portion of my first chapter. It's not as contrived and happened very organically. But is it intriguing enough to hook the reader (or an agent)?

Here are the first 250 words:

Mary’s corset bit into her back and hip as Anne gripped her in a firm embrace.
Anne appeared unaware of Mary’s discomfort. “Christmas will be so wonderful this year!” She grabbed Mary’s hands and threw herself into a reel, towing Mary with her. “I have you, my dearest friend, with me. It will be such a jolly time.”
Mary smiled as Anne pulled her into another swift hug. She had not seen Anne for almost three years. Mary had left Anne’s father’s household just before Anne had married the Earl of Oxford and become the Countess. She had never had high expectations for the marriage, but been horrified to see how sapped, how spiritless Anne had appeared upon their reunion at Hampton Court Palace. In spite of the fact that she had not heard once from Anne in the three years they had been apart, she felt like she had no choice but to accompany her to Whitehall palace for the Christmas festivities. Anne needed a friend.
While her smile seemed genuine, Mary could not believe that she actually intended on attending any of the twelve nights of Christmas revelry. Anne was much too somber to actually enjoy a good party.
Mary did not have that particular problem.
If everything she had heard was correct, the twelve nights would be full of the most amazing entertainments, some provided by the Queen’s household legitimately, some by the courtiers unable to control themselves under the guise of Christmas. She could hardly wait.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Changes Blogfest

I went with a very basic change for my entry in Elizabeth Mueller's blogfest: a change of clothes. In a Cinderella-esque manner, the change of clothes is a complete transformation of the person.

Frances had been holed up in the country for the past ten years. She'd done her duty to her husband, her children, and the estate, but she was not happy. She decided to take a little break from it all and join Queen Elizabeth's court for a month or so before resuming her duties.
Of course, that meant shopping. And boy did she shop.

This is not a deep and meaningful part of the story. Her transformation happens slowly as she learns to find validation from within. This is just a pretty dress.

Below is an exerpt from Courtly Love. It lost all formating in the transfer.

(At this moment, Frances is being ushered to meet with a group of the Queen's elite. She is an integral part of planning a Masque.)

...There was no reason to be nervous. No reason at all. Completely absorbed in repeating this mantra in her head, she nearly jumped out of her shoes when she was gripped firmly on the elbow and exclaimed over. Mistress Parry. Relaxing somewhat, she tried to follow the flood of approving remarks about her remarkable transformation. Frances, still completely distracted by thoughts of the masque, took a moment to realize what Mistress Parry was talking about, and, remembering her new gown, allowed Blanche to lead her across the room to stand in front of a full length mirror.

Before her stood a beautiful young woman. The green of the gown turned her pale blue eyes into a striking aqua and the copper accents emphasized the strawberry tint in her fair hair. Her halo of golden coils reflected the sunlight with a faint glow, while her creamy complexion was enhanced by the sharp contrast against the emerald green gown. The woman in the mirror cut a very stylish silhouette and the form fitting bodice emphasized her slim torso and full bosom. The full skirts, aided by the bumroll and farthingale, made her waist look ridiculously tiny while the fitted sleeves made her arms appear slender and willowy. Even her hands, framed by the stark white wrist ruffs, looked elegant and feminine. In short, Frances could not find a flaw in the surprising visage in the mirror. Frances had never thought of herself as unattractive, but she had never considered herself beautiful. And she had definitely never thought of herself as sophisticated and stylish. The news of her transformation was a complete shock, one that she eagerly embraced. She allowed the image of herself to imprint upon her consciousness and turned to greet Mistress Parry and Her Majesty’s court.

The small circle of Her Majesty’s favorites blinked in surprise at the changes in their newfound country mouse. Frances beamed at them all, giving them a graceful reverence to show her respect for their rank, and waited to be recovered by the courtier of highest rank in the grouping, Baroness Sheffield.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

High Drama Blogfest

Thank you to DL Hammons at Cruising Altitude for hosting this High Drama Blogfest.

I did not expect this to be a challenge. I looked through my finished ms and my wip, both packed with dramatic elements, and could not find one scene that started and finished within a reasonable distance from 500 words.

As it was, I think I was able to keep the tension of this scene by only including the action portion. This was the scene when I realized it really was confusing to have Sir Henry Lee and Henry Pierrepont at odds over the same woman and that my alpha reader was not just not-paying attention. Sir Henry Lee (a historical figure) became Sir Harry (which was what he was called in a naughty inscription on his tomb) and Henry Pierrepont (also a historical figure) remained Henry.

Weighing in at 494 words, this is an excerpt from Courtly Love:

Sir Harry Lee stepped into the darkness of the Queen’s Privy garden quite pleased with himself. The Queen had taken on a pretty new Maid of Honor who had a lot of potential. Of course, she was young, but the unmistakable invitation in her eyes told him she was old enough. Oh yes, young little Ann Vavasour would be a welcome bedmate.

“Draw your sword, Sir Harry.” The strong words broke through the darkness and his reverie. Slowly moving his hand to his rapier, he shifted his weight only to pivot and draw in one fluid motion.

“Who goes there?” Sir Harry’s voice was a warning.

Sword at the ready and knees loose to jump into position, Henry shifted from the shadows. “You are a cur and a knave and I will have justice for my wife! En garde!” Henry Pierrepont’s challenge rang throughout the courtyard, getting the instant attention of those leaving Her Majesty’s presence chamber for the night.

Sir Harry Lee was the Queen’s champion and had no trouble bracing with a defense against Henry Pierrepont’s onslaught. Their swords clashed, Sir Harry careening back to gain his balance at the unexpected strength of Henry Pierrepont’s blow.

“Stand down, Master Pierrepont. I am the better man here!”
“Stand down, says he!” Henry’s mocking words were edged in restrained fury. “The better man?” Henry’s footwork brought him close enough to deliver another blow. “I say that you are a murderer!” Sir Harry, again, blocked Henry’s blow with a loud crash and pushed him back.

“A murderer? I? No, I say it’s you who are the murderer here. Who here is the foul Papist who disappeared so conveniently during the hunt?” Sir Harry could only focus on parrying the barrage of blows from Henry Pierrepont’s sword. “You are guilty of attempted murder and treason and I will see you dead for it!”

Henry moved forward, trying to break through Sir Harry’s defenses with a powerful strike. “You poisoned my wife and you are a worm to deny it!”

“I danced with your wife, but poison?” Sir Harry misjudged Henry’s feint and overcompensated to defend his position, rolling onto the cut grass of the garden. Righting himself quickly, he met Henry’s blade, steel hissing along steel – sparks in the dark night. Grunting with the effort of holding back Henry’s surprising force, Sir Harry muttered, “Poison is a woman’s weapon.”

Poison is a woman’s weapon. Sir Harry’s words rang true and Henry staggered back, lowering his guard as realization hit him.

Sir Harry Lee moved to strike at the distracted Henry when four armed yeoman of the guard stepped from the shadows to disarm both Sir Harry and Henry Pierrepont and a voice boomed out of the fallen silence.

“Huzzah, gentlemen, for the entertainment. I find nothing as riveting as grown men acting like children.”

Both Sir Harry and Henry dropped to their knees at the sound of their Sovereign’s voice.

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