Friday, December 17, 2010

Titles Suggested by Mr. Spock

Novel titles, as suggested by my husband:

  • Bangers and Mash
  • Spotted Dick
  • Courtly $#&*&@^
  • The Dominatrix and the Clown
  • And That, You're Honor, Is Why My Butt Hurts
  • Orgasminastical
  • I Thought He Could Hold His Breath That Long
  • It Was A Harmless, Birthday, Tickle-Fight
  • Sir Humpalot Meets His Match
  • Lady Humpalot Meets Her Match (because this is a common spin off title device)
  • What Think You Of These, Sir Charles?
  • She Closed Her Eyes and Thought of England... and Passion
Yeah, I know. But I have nothing scheduled to post and didn't want dead air for too long.

Perhaps this is a time when dead air would have been preferable.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Bottomless Pit of Research

A friend recently reacquainted me with Throw Momma From the Train.

"Dive! Dive!" yelled the Captain through the thing! So the man who makes it dive pressed a button, or a something, and it dove. And, the enemy was foiled again. "Looks like we foiled them again," said Dave. "Yeah," said the Captain. "We foiled those bastards again. Didn't we, Dave." "Yeah," said Dave. The End.

She used this quote as an example of manuscripts where the author clearly has not researched anything. We've all read them and sighed. How do these books get published? My peeve, particularly, are costume inconsistencies. I'm sorry, but you cannot just rip a corset off. If you are going to include a corset in your story, make sure you research the construction and the nuances of design specific to the era. A highlander does not zip up his kilt. Medieval English peasants would not own anything made of cotton. A young buck of the ton could not physically slip off his Hessians. But I digress.

I thought of this the other day as I used the word Machiavellian to describe William Cecil, Baron Burghley. Would that term have been used in 1572? Research on Machiavelli led to research about book circulation and the education/literacy of nobility in England. I determined that, yes, many noblemen would have been familiar with The Prince, but there was not enough to support that they would have used the term to describe a person who believed the end justified the means. I ended up not using the word, but learned quite a bit. I probably put a few hours into the research in order to determine whether or not I should use one word.

The same thing happened to me when I was researching the 17th Earl of Oxford's land holdings. That lead me into research about wardship under the crown. This lead me into the political intrigue during the Jane Grey debacle and the 16th Earl of Oxford's obligations. This lead me to look into the Dudley family's perfidy then the Cecil's machinations... This was all to find the name of one property that the 17th Earl did have control over in spite of the inheritance issues.

Research, for me, is a slippery slope. I actually enjoy research and can waste a great deal of time learning things that I don't need to know when I should be writing. Then I have to resist the urge to share all my new found knowledge with friends and family. Or, it gets worse, I have to be careful not to get all history teacher-esque in my writing.

Ultimately, my story is historical fiction, not a history lesson. There are times where I take creative license with some time-lines (how long it would take to have a new gown made up, the rough date a certain choreography would have been introduced from Italy to England, how long it would take a courier to deliver a letter from Derbyshire to London during November). After all is said and done, the story has to flow and entertain. I can't let it get bogged down in data.

When I make my heroine clean and relatively free of body hair and my hero have good oral hygiene, is that cheating? Or do readers understand that it's part of the fantasy? Am I sacrificing the integrity of history for the sake of entertainment?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Harry Potter Blogfest

Thank you to Michael for coming up with this blogfest and competition.

In honor of HP, I would like to have an HP blogfest. In 500 words, I would like you to create a scene with any of the HP characters from any of the seven books. It could be anything you want. Funny, magical, serious, etc. And for an added twist, let's have it set during the holidays. Christmas or Thanksgiving.

Here is my submission, at 410 words:

"Mum, have you seen my book?" Eleven-year-old Hermione Granger shuffled into the kitchen from the back garden, her hair even more frizzy from the run through the November drizzle.

Her mother did not even look up. "No, dear."

Perhaps if her mother had taken time to look up from the Journal of Modern Dentistry and actually listened to the question, she would have remembered that Hermione had last been reading in a makeshift tent behind the sofa. If she had given a simple answer to a simple question she may have avoided frustrating her daughter. Of course, she had no idea that Hermione's level of frustration and sheer desire for her book would lead to...


Bits of plaster and insulation sprinkled around the room as the well worn copy of Nesbitt's Enchanted Castle came crashing though the kitchen wall. Hermione stood in shock as the now battered novel flew directly into her hand.

"Er..." Hermione knew what had happened was somehow her fault, but could not think of a reasonable explanation as to why. All she knew was that she had really, really wanted her book and her mother was ignoring her – again. At least this was not as bad as the time she had gotten angry at that snobby Agnes Milford at school who would not shut up about how dentists were not really doctors, in spite of the title. Poor Agnes' mouth had suddenly sealed shut and no one could figure out why. Rumor had it that the surgery, performed by real doctors, had been quite painful.

A book flying through the wall at home was not nearly as publicly mortifying as maiming a classmate.

Her mother shook debris out of her perfect curls, looked at Hermione with an expression that may have been fear, and left the room without a word.

Hermione stood still a moment longer until she heard the door of her mother's room click shut. Breathing a sigh of resignation, she retrieved the broom and dust pan and started to clean up. It would be much nicer if she could make spontaneous bouts of cleaning happen instead of all the random, usually destructive, unexplainable incidents.

A shuffling sound at the front door caught her attention and she dropped the dust pan to investigate.

There on the floor by the door was a letter sealed with red wax. It was addressed to her, Hermione Granger. The return address, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Fairy God-Agent

Agentless as I am, I have no real experience for what to expect from an agent.

In my dream world, my agent is someone who believes in my writing and is dedicated to marketing it. They are not afraid of telling me how things work and what steps I need to take in order to make that happen. Likewise, they are working equally hard to get me published in a way that suits both of our interests. I mean, they don't get paid if I don't get published, so they can't afford to be complacent.

My agent would keep me abreast of what's happening in the industry. They have connections with editors and publishers and know the best fit for my books. They also let me know what I need to do in order to make things fit.

We are honest with each other and share a mutual respect. They are my most steadfast advocate and my harshest critic -- but always in the name of making progress. They will always pursue the best contract, if not always the easiest. They want me to succeed because that means we both will be succeeding (and because they like me -- it could happen).

I am being proactive in making the dream come true. Of course, I occasionally hear stories about agent/writer relationships that make my dream look like a fantasy. Perhaps I am still innocent enough to think the fantasy can become my reality.

Someday my agent will magically respond to my email with a personal note that indicates they read my query/partial, love my writing, my voice, and my direction. They will offer me the guidance I need and put my book in front of publishers who will respond, both to the noted good judgment of my agent and the quality of my story. When that day comes, I will magically lose fifty pounds and ride away on my unicorn.

Well, maybe not that last bit.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Side Kick Spin Off

Eloisa James' Duchess Series is almost one big story. The characters are consistent throughout each book, showing up naturally within the flow of the story, not stuck in at intervals as a nod to the rest of the series. Non-main characters get a lot of face time and have a POV. They evolve from book to book, so much so that by the time the almost villain from the first book becomes the hero of the last book, his evolution is entirely believable.

Though these probably qualify as spin offs, they do not read that way. They can read as stand alone stories, but I think you need to read the series consecutively in order to really appreciate how well it is done. In general, these books are a break from the norm in regards to spin offs.

Many novels in the romance genre are written in groups of three. Three sisters/friends/cousins/whatever, each who have to marry to please their families. A group of men recently returned from Waterloo/members of an elite special ops team/brothers within a large family famous for marrying for love. Young men of the ton recently come into their titles, each with their own story. For the most part, each book is independent of the others (not counting the little nods here and there for the sake of readers who are reading it as a series). Usually you meet everyone in the first book and you KNOW that they will have spin offs.

My first book features Frances' romance with her husband. She has two friends, Mary and Jane.

My second book is about Mary's romance. It is a spin off, but can stand alone.

My third book is about Jane. But I have a problem... I did not mention Jane once throughout all of Mary's story. It wouldn't have made sense to do so as Mary's story was happening in London and Jane was holed up in the country. Mary could have spent some time thinking about Jane, but that would probably end up being something I would edit out since it wouldn't have progressed the story. Mary and Jane could not realistically write to each other either because Jane is at least 4 day's hard ride away from London, it's winter, and the story only lasts for 12 days. Frances comes up from time to time, but that was a natural progression because she used to be Mary's boss.

I have just started Jane's story, but since she's been conspicuously absent for a whole book, is she really a spin off?

What I don't know is if this is a problem or if it does not matter. For my part, I'm treating it like it doesn't matter and am writing the story that wants to be written. Of course, when, someday it gets to the point of publication, I will obey the edict of my publisher/editor/whathaveyou.

As for the image above, my middle school students assure me that Sonic the hedgehog's sidekick Tails did spin off into his own game, so I'm trusting their expertise in this field. Personally, I was looking into the Batman/Robin-esque combination's, but couldn't think of one where the side kick ended up with their own story. :(

Addendum: My students have just informed me that Robin did, in fact, spin off and was much more kick-butt than I gave him credit for. My bad.
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