Friday, December 30, 2011

Genre Rules

Courtly Abandon is just about finished. The main problem is that was written so disjointedly that the flow is off. As such, before I can finish the grand finale (where all the dialogue will be in blank verse with my main characters speaking in couplets), I need to go over it from the beginning and make sure it is consistent. I also have a good deal written by hand that I need to insert. Messy.

The good news is that I am pleased with my writing. Small changes here and there, but the beginning flows really well and jumps right into the story.

The bad news (kill me now) is that we don't meet the true love interest until page 22. The story is established with Jane and her objective (to marry her titled neighbor who we have met, but find more comical than desirable).  Then, KAPOW, she meets her first love, her best friend from childhood who told her he loved her the day before her arranged marriage to an older man. Percy was the one that got away. The one that duty, society, etc... said she could never have. Now she's in the same situation again (only older and a widow) and will realize the choice is truly hers, not her father's or social expectations. It always had been, she had just been too afraid to take a chance.

Personally, I like the bait and switch. Genre rules dictate differently though. This is my problem, apparently, in everything I write. I write within the rules, but with a good deal of interpretation. I consider this my own style. My sister uses this as the reason I should write historical fiction and not historical romance. If I don't like playing by the rules, I should pick another game. Valid point -- however I am within the bounds of the rules and love the optimism of the happily ever after that does not exist in historical fiction. The love story is the focal point of my story, not the sub-plot mystery, political intrigue, whatever. Boy meets girl, love, passion, conflict, resolution, happy ending. This is the romance genre norm.

And yet I am unpublished and unrepresented - therefore there is an issue.

Alright, enough of my freak out/pity party. Back to Jane and Percy. On page 22.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Cards and Query Letters

Four years ago I took a cutsie picture of my two daughters and had Costco print up 150 Christmas postcards. Only they weren't Christmas postcards, they were "Chrimstas" postcards. I did not send them out. Thus ended the responsible, well adjusted, adult-ish activity of sending Christmas cards to a lot of people who don't care anyway.

I still have those cards in a box somewhere. I should send them out whenever I find them again. The people who don't care won't even notice (the fact that it's no longer 2007, that my children are no longer toddlers, or the typo). The people who do care will know me well enough to find it all funny.

I bring this up because writing a blurb that encompasses all the positive things in your year but is short enough to fit on the back of a postcard is an art akin to query writing. An art I have not managed.

My current query for Courtly Scandals:

Dear (insert agent name here)

Blah blah blah....(detailed agent information, including references to the agencies current clients to show I chose them thoughtfully)... blah.
Courtly Scandals: Query

Mary has nothing to offer as a wife.  No family connections, no wealth, and worst of all, she can’t have children.  Mary knows this means she can never marry.  Her only respectable recourse is a life of service as a gentlewoman companion to a noble lady.  All she has to do is maintain a good reputation, remain unremarkable, and do as she is told.  She’s been following orders all her life; making it through the twelve nights of Christmas at Queen Elizabeth’s court without incident should not be difficult.

On the first night of Christmas Sir Charles and Mary connect based on honest attraction.  She is a breath of fresh air and he can’t get enough.  What starts out as a fling for both of them quickly becomes much more. His devotion is tested when Mary is accused of attempted murder. She asks him to help her clear her name and discover who really stabbed the Earl Oxford in her chamber.  Mary certainly had motive – the Earl of Oxford murdered accidentally killed Mary’s fiancé three years ago.  Charles trusts his heart and believes in Mary’s innocence.  Unfortunately there are added complications; Charles is the Earl’s half brother.

Together Mary and Charles investigate the attack.  With some unlikely help from high places, Mary finds herself above the public censure and moral outrage at her seemingly scandalous behavior.  Charles discovers what he really wants in life is not a career at Queen Elizabeth’s court, but a home and a family with Mary.  As much as Mary wants to be with him, she knows that a family is the one thing she can’t have.

In spite of scandal after scandal, misunderstanding, and danger, anything is possible during the twelve nights of Christmas.

Courtly Scandals is complete at 80,000  words.  This is my second completed novel.

I have not looked at my query for awhile now. I've been busy with my current projects and let the marketing of Courtly Scandals take a back burner. Now is the time to tackle it with some gusto. Perhaps moxy, or even hutspah.

Looking at my query with a fresh-ish eye, I can see it's awkward. You are even more objective than I. How should I fix it?

Friday, December 16, 2011

So Stupid It Should Be Illegal (Actually, it was -- but that might be too much information)

So I've got this situation that refuses to die. I wish I could pretend it didn't exist. It taints most of my social interactions and makes me angry more often than is healthy.

In all, the person I am frustrated at the most is myself. I did the right thing. Looking back I now, I wish I had been brave enough to do more, to do what needed to be done. Of course, the person that is actually at fault in this situation blames me. No good deed goes unpunished, right?

It's one of those situations where you realize that some people are just stupid. When actions have no other rational excuse other than stupidity, that must be the reason. Mix Ocam's Razor with Quacks Like a Duck theory and you end up with one answer. STUPID.

Understanding that STUPID is the reason for this person's behavior does make me feel better. I have to revise my expectations of this person. The, "I'm sorry you are upset" was translated as an apology for my actions. Why? Stupid. Action needed? For me not to care. I will decrease the importance/prioritization of this problem down to well below getting the dog to the dentist. It just doesn't matter because you can't fix stupid.

This realization has been cathartic for me. I'm not quite at Master Shi-Fu's level of inner peace, but I'm on my way.

How's your holiday going so far?

Monday, December 12, 2011

You Dirty Girl!

Stefanie at The Writer's Cocoon wrote a blog post about whether or not having first hand experience is a must. She was talking about obgyns and pediatricians, but of course I am applying it to writing about sex because that's how I roll.

I write romance that includes sex. I have considered writing m/m romance, but not having personal experience with m/m sex, I don't think I'm qualified. Writing about sex in something other than a x then y then z way or in a pornographic way means the writer is including the emotional content of the participants. They also include the physical sensation. Could I write that if I hadn't experienced it? Other than saying "it felt great" I don't think so. You can't be realistic and honest without some experience. I could not accurately write about what it's like to wear a corset all day or how to walk or sit in a hoop skirt if I hadn't done so. I cook the recipes for the food I include in my stories so I get the scent and texture correct. I still have not felt up a tall, muscular man. Nor have I ever been physically. picked up by a man large enough to make me feel delicate - and funny as it sounds, I feel like I should just so I can get it right in my writing. The same comes to the sexual scenes. And, because I'm probably repressed, there are some scenes I will never write because there are some things I will never do.

But on that note, do all authors apply their own experiences? If so, some of the authors I have read are dirty, dirty girls. I know how much of myself I pour into my stories and always felt I knew the authors of the books I loved just from that. I had never considered the sexual aspect -- and now I wish I hadn't. Man. If people write what they know, then... wow!

How much do you think personal experience counts towards writing a believable story?

BTW, I bet this post will become one of my higher-hitters just because of the name and the name of the jpg. Right now the one with a jpg titled Sexy Secretary is my #1 hit post. Seconded by Titles Matter: Hot, Asian Dating. Sad, huh?

Friday, December 9, 2011

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

The current background of this blog, courtesy of The Cutest Blog on the Block, is themed after a partridge in a pear tree. The Twelve Days of Christmas is the theme to my second book, Courtly Scandals. I spent quite a bit of time researching the history of the song and how the usage and meanings changed over the years. Courtly Scandals is set over the twelve days of Christmas in 1572-73 at Whitehall Palace in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

My area of focus for my History BA in college was the Elizabethan Renaissance and the Reformation. After college I continued academic reading for personal enjoyment. I applied this information during my participation in Renaissance faire (I treated it as a living history experience - it's the teacher in me). It is unfortunate that I can no longer cite my sources at the drop of the hat. They all blur. But in all, my knowledge of the social history of the era is better than your average bear's.

In my writing, I make adaptations in order to make the history relatable. Little things. What we spell 'partridge' used to be spelled 'parteridge.' I thought that was a reasonable sacrifice of historical accuracy in order not to annoy the reader, but other than very minor details my history is solid. My first manuscript was requested by an editor at Avon who asked me to make changes and resubmit. I had written all the dialogue in a BBC version of old English (thee, thou, hadst, etc... reasonably understandable to the modern ear). She said it hurt the flow and made it difficult to relate to the character. I changed it - I wasn't sacrificing history, I was choosing my writing style. And she was right. "Say you want me" is much sexier than "Sayest thou doest want me."

I write this because I got (dun dun dun!) another rejection. As rejections go, this was great. It was a thoughtful review that showed me the editor had actually read my ms. She had some input on the story inconsistencies which I will address. The biggest irk, aside from being rejected, is that she questioned my history. She also said the speech read too modern. MAN! There is no winning!

Anyway, it's back to the starting block. I need to finish up Courtly Abandon then rework my query for Courtly Scandals. I will take a break from history for a bit and write my contemporary paranormal, I think, after this. My passion is the historical, but maybe it's time that I start listening to the rejections that have told me that the Elizabethan era is more suited to historical fiction than historical romance.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Virginity continued

This was not the post I originally had planned for today, but after watching the Glee episode about first times, I was inspired to comment.

Sex, when you break it down to basics, a mammalian coupling. It's a basic urge that is necessary for the perpetuation of the species. Being human and so much more advanced than mere animals (I have talked to several young people in my life that did not believe me when I said humans were mammals) we have complicated the issue. A lot. It's not just a matter of urge fulfillment, it has a lot of meaning applied.

I'm not saying sex should not have meaning and we should just go around sans pants and procreate whenever the need strikes. I am saying that it's not just a simple coupling. Even if you want it just to be a simple physical act, it's not. There are two people involved and who knows what's going on in the other person's head. It's complicated.

People counsel young adults to wait until they're emotionally mature enough to deal with the aftermath. If you freak out at the thought that someone may have a memory of you naked and making silly faces, you're not ready. If bodily fluid is disgusting and you don't like to be touched, you're not ready. Why? Because society has created a standard for living that involve cultural norms like personal space and expected levels of hygiene. We do not respond well to natural scents and are so insecure that we are constantly pitting our own image against an unachievable standard of beauty. And, thank you Christianity, we are guilt based. Afterward there is sure to be the worry about having made a mistake.

I repeat - it's complicated.

To do it or not to do it, that is such a big question. Life changing. But only because of the importance we put on it. I wish I could forget that formative first time, but it's there in my memory making me wince. In the romance genre, it's all about that first time being phenomenal. Even when the couple in question were not virgins, they may as well have been because nothing had ever been so earth shattering before. Man - that's a lot of pressure.

In writing about Percy's first time I also made Jane's experience with him so amazing that she realized the times before with other men meant nothing. It's plays into the fantastical idealization of virginity that we embrace.

Thus ends my diatribe on virginity. To be continued, I am sure, sooner than is preferred.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Virginity and You

I think that I should tell you that I am not a virgin. I was a virgin for years, but then I was no longer. My husband is also not a virgin. Our children are genetic proof.

I'm sorry if you're disappointed.

However, my male lead in Courtly Abandon IS a virgin. Or at least, was for about 150 pages. My female lead was not. Although my other female leads have also been non-virginal, they had had a minimal and unimpressive sexual past. My current female character was widowed young and is very earthy. She's enjoyed herself since widowhood.

What I wanted to do (and think I have done) is somewhat of a role reversal. She is a skilled lover who separated emotion from the sexual act. He is an idealist who, though not saving himself for marriage specifically, refused to resign himself to something meaningless. He'd been in love with Jane since adolescence, but never thought he could have her. Since their time together years ago, any other potential liaison seemed tawdry.

Teach Me Tonight touched on male virginity recently. They pointed out that there has been a resurgence of the male virgin. I have read some of the books they discuss and been able to accept the plausibility of the story. Sexual prowess comes from being aware of the other's needs, not just focusing on his own release. Being responsive. It is not unreasonable that a thoughtful and observant virgin might become a great lover quickly, even without the benefit of multiple conquests, time in a harem, whathaveyou.

Inserting myself into the situation, I don't think I would find the male virgin less sexy. In the world of STDs that exist today, it's hard to just accept the guy that has put his penis into countless potentially diseased women. If I fell in love with a male slut, I would demand testing and then would always wonder about his past. With a less experienced man, my insecurities would not be constantly present wondering if he's comparing me to the other women. I might take the his appreciation, his worship of my body, as honest.

Overall I am pleased with Percy's sexy-factor, even as a virgin. I have had alternating responses from my readers (prompting this blog). What are your thoughts on male virginity?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Not Smelling Like a Rose - or a Pumpkin

This person I know was at home alone doing the dishes. It was oddly calming, the house was quiet and cool. Being alone, she decided there was no harm in passing gas occasionally. Dishes almost done, she stood there tooting away and couldn't help but notice that her gaseous emissions smelled strangely of raw pumpkin. That was new. Sure, she'd noticed a hint of Doritos before, occasionally pork product, microwave popcorn, but pumpkin? Dishes finished, she started sweeping up the kitchen, still pootering in a lady-like way as the need took her, and the scent of pumpkin was definitely there.

This was really weird. Worthy of note, even.

Sweeping the debris from the kitchen floor into a dustpan, she opened the trash bin and to dump it. The trash was full of pumpkin pulp from the three jack-o'-lanterns they had carved the previous day.

It was with a sadness she realized her gas did not smell like pumpkins. The pumpkin smell was just too dominant and disguised the stink that surely existed.

There is no moral to this story or relation to writing.

The end.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November? Already? I think I'm fine with it.

It's November and I'm relaxed. Why? Because I'm not doing NaNoWriMo. I'm not even pretending to be thinking about doing it. In fact, after I post this, I will unsubscribe from all the NaNo emails I get. Wow - freedom.

The deadline for RWA's Golden Heart is coming up and I have decided I will not cram to get Courtly Abandon ready. If it happens, great. If not, oh well. I'll send Courtly Scandals in and I will not be worried or feel like a failure because of x, y, or z. It's just not worth the energy. I will just write what needs to be written.

Courtly Abandon has thrown me for a loop. I thought I knew my characters really well, but I started with Jane as the woman I wanted her to arc into. Where's the growth? What are the stakes? Plus, her sentiments are too modern. It's always been a challenge to create a historical character that a modern woman could understand - but I like doing that. It makes history real and relatable. Now, Jane's too modern, not Elizabethan at all. Le Sigh.

I am starting from the beginning and figuring her out step by step. I have ideas, but I'm worried that changing certain aspects will alter the overall story too much. Then again, if the change is good, who am I to complain?

And I lied -- I'm not really relaxed. On the heels of finishing Hallowe'en costumes and housework. Lesson plans, grading, and setting up a quilting art unit. Chest colds, dance lessons, working out, dead laptop, Christmas looming, first Fèis... no, I'm not relaxed. I am, however, choosing to be at peace about writing. For now.

How's your November starting out?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Outside of My Box

The other day whilst catching up on blogs, I came across the fact that Blizzard was having a writing contest. Deadline - October 15th. So, what did I do yesterday? I channelled my inner nerd.

What is Blizzard? It is a gaming company that produces Diablo, Starcraft, and World of Warcraft. I've played WoW for about four years now and I'm not ashamed. I have considered other games, but frankly there are not enough hours in a day. Avadonja wrote that she was going to participate in this contest. Her big concern was how to write fan fiction and keep it clean. My big concern was how to write fan fiction in general.

Well, I did it. I'm more or less happy with the end result. It's just a short story - 3k words. I like to think I inserted my sense of humor appropriately. It was hard not to add romantic elements but I held back as much as I could. Short and sweet. Of course it's absolutely nothing like the past winning submissions (available here) but it made me smile and didn't take itself too seriously.

If you would like to spend a few minutes of your life reading my submission, click below. Be warned, you will never be able to get those minutes back or erase the memory of reading entirely from your subconscious mind.

*Of course, now that the story is submitted, I realize I got my main character's name wrong. I wrote Kristen, and it's actually Kristin. That and Topper is bare foot.  /Sigh

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Holding Hands

I am a big fan of Beatles music. In general, I prefer the more psychedelic stuff over their earlier C major, happy music but recently I have been loving Kurt’s rendition of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from Glee in 3-D. A song I have always viewed as shallow took on a new meaning – a longing for a physical connection. A simple touch, a shared sensation. The ramifications could mean nothing or everything, and sometimes it seems worth almost anything to find out. Touch takes knowing someone to a different level.

I just finished (devoured, really) Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye. Two people who had barely glimpsed each other are stuck in a pitch dark elevator. All he saw was her long red hair as she rushed for the elevator. All she remembered seeing of him was the tattoo on his hand. Complete strangers, they end up finding that elusive connection – first through honest sharing, then through touch. I really responded to the way they had the need to reach out. They could not see, but the way his stubble felt beneath her fingers, the way her fingers traced paths of heat against his skin, his scars, was both emotionally moving and sensual. It's like they were learning each other. The heightened sensation of touch along with their whispered truths felt so much more intimate, and more erotic, than the simple actions would have been in any other scenario. I highly recommend this book.

Every romance is centered around that connection.  As the world we are in becomes more and more anonymous, faceless, true connection to other people becomes precious. Maybe this is why I enjoy reading and writing romance so much - it glorifies something I find lacking in the real world. Life is too busy to stop and treasure a simple touch.

Maybe holding someone's hand should be something sing about, to long for.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Scent and Your Senses

Last year I bought a tube of different flavored lip-balms for my daughters. There were five in total, so each girl got two and I kept one. The minute I opened that orange chap stick, the scent brought me back 20 some years to fall finals during my freshman year in high school. The sensory memory was sharp. Distinct. I remembered performing a scene from Bitches with my good friend Jessica. I remembered running through the misty rain for the bus, the way my wool skirt that I'd worn as  part of my Bitches costume smelled as it dried. Every little detail, all from the scent of orange chap stick.

Scent is part of how we experience our world and it's something I try not to underplay in my writing. Not all scents deserve to be described, but fresh mowed grass or crisp air after the rain go a long way to adding depth to a spring day. Wood fire smoke, cinnamon, and apple cider helps paint a picture of a cozy autumn night. I tend to overuse the scent of leather and brandy when describing a man. When I write a garden scene, I research what plants grew in that part England 500 years ago, when they were in season, and what time of day their perfume was at its strongest.

Scents can also tell the emotional story or help with character development. Regardless of the food itself, when a meal is a positive experience for the character, the courses smell delicious,  full of sweet and savory spices that make the mouth water. When a negative experience, the sickly sweet scents can turn the stomach, the mixture of odors might assault the senses. In a love scene, the leading man might be smell musky, masculine whereas the villain would be rank, his body odor foul. Use of scent does not just flesh out the environment, it can tell the story.

Do you pay attention to scent while setting your scene?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's All Been Done Before

There are, what? Seven basic story archetypes? (correct me if you know for sure)

I used to note them all the time when I was primarily into fantasy. Chosen one saves the world. Select group find object of great power (to either wield or destroy). There's always the super bad guy and the unwitting hero.

Mystery - quirky detective solves crime, bad guy punished.

Romance - well, that consists of boy meets girl. No obstacles can keep them from finding their happily ever after.

It's all been done. It's the author's voice that makes it unique. If that was not true, why would the romance reading demographic read hundreds and hundreds of the same story? After all, it's all about love finding a way -- except that it's not.

It's all about the characters. They make the story real and unique. Even though some genres overuse certain character archetypes (the alpha male in romance) each one has has own fingerprint, his own strengths and weaknesses (even though they're all physically perfect*). If the gorgeous, emotionally unavailable, sexually skilled leading man was vapid, the reader would not fall in love with him and the book would not be memorable.

Author's in every genre will run into that moment when they realize their story is not a reinvention of the wheel. They just need to breath in through the nose, out through the mouth, and accept that their own version of the wheel is not a rip off, it is part of them. It's their own unique voice, their own characters, their story -- and that is okay. No one who is a fan of reading will accuse them of copying. Because it's all been done and will be done again.

Be the purple bunny.

*Mary Balogh has a hero that was injured badly in war. His face is disfigured and he is missing a limb (if I remember). Good book, btw.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Go Go Go!

The school year is off to a good start. I've been constantly on the go and haven't had time to breathe, let alone time to think. Or blog.

I've started a virtual writing club for my students. I'm using blogspot. It's only visible to authors or by invitation, so it's secure and the kids seem excited. I'm really pleased about it. That also means I need to actually take my YA project more seriously because I sure can't post stuff from my romances. :)

Speaking of Romance, Golden Heart will be here before you know it. That means it's time, really time, to get cracking on finishing Courtly Abandon. Honestly, I do work better with something hanging over my head. I set my own deadlines, but I always know that they're flexible. Getting ready for Golden Heart is not something I can just choose to change the date on.

So, that's my update. Life is GOGOGO,  but it's a good thing. I'm pleased with the direction of my writing and feel optimistic about things to come.

How's everything going for you right now?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Working to Keep the Love Alive
Relationships take work. They always start out with that initial spark of chemistry. That leads to infatuation (sometimes obsession). It is meant to be and everything is perfect. Eventually you make a commitment and things get serious. Everything is roses for a while, and you can think of nothing better than spending every breath in dedication to this love. Then things go downhill.

You notice small faults, things that just irk you for no good reason. But you'll look past them because the love is worth it. Working on that love become actual work. You start to resent it, wonder if you made the right choice. You can't help but notice the other options out there but, because of your code of honor, stay true. You made a comitment. A COMITTMENT! You weren't wrong, you just need to get past this rough patch and everything will be fine again. If only you could rediscover the spark again, remember how it exciting it used to be. But that other option is so intriguing. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt if you just flirted with the idea a little bit...

This has happened to me at the end of every work in progress. Each time I have had to force myself to stay true, to not stray from the path. In the immortal words of Pat Benetar,

Don't want to leave you really
I've invested too much time
To give you up that easy
To the doubts that complicate [my] mind.

Sigh. I will finish this book

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sometimes Books Suck. It's True.

And yet, they got published.  They didn't just get published - they got an agent's attention who believed that book would sell and make them money.  How?

I am about 80% finished with a romance novel. Usually I would have finished it by now. I don't want to even though my ocd demands that I must. It is just that bad. Seriously.

I don't like the author's voice. There is no believability to the thoughts/actions of the heroine. She is not a sympathetic character. Plot twist after plot twist drags the story on forever, all of which would have been avoided of the two leads had had an honest conversation. All of it, dialogue, narration, and inner monologue, is written in a very archaic and formal way designed to reflect the era it is set in. Just not a good read.

It was one of those moments when I wondered how the book got published in the first place. It turns out this was the author's first historical fiction. Since then, that she actually has had multiple books published. Her reviews are stellar, yet when I read the pages available through Amazon, her writing style is just as off-putting.

I have read more books than I could count. In the past, the only times I have not finished a romance was when a rape was involved and the main character ended up liking it and loving the guy (Sorry, no means no all the time). So, unless I'm totally disgusted, I finish every book I start -- and almost every book has some entertainment value to it. I like to think I can see the good in most books in my genre. In fact, when a book is able to get through all the hurdles to publication, I assume it must have some redeeming quality. I really could not find any in this particular book, and yet it seems that many people enjoyed it. Heck, it got published!

This, of course, makes me wonder about my own writing. I am not published yet this book is. Does this mean mine is even worse? I don't think so. In fact, I recently read through Courtly Scandals and was impressed with myself. It was a well written good story. There were moments where I stopped to pat myself on the back. I wrote that! I'm awesome! And yet, I remain unpublished.


Addendum: I have since finished this book. I put it in the bathroom and made it through the last 50 or so pages a paragraph at a time. The good news is that the lead characters finally got their happily ever after. I wasn't sure they would. Then again, it is a genre requirement that the lead characters find true love. 

This is a revised re-post of an old blog. I was inspired to re-post it by Creepy Query Girl's recent post.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Contemplating My Navel

This summer was a time of change. I decided to stop drinking alcohol and with that had to redefine a lot of my habits and my definition of fun.  It was not the best summer ever, but probably the best for me in the long run.

My pre-existing friends all knew me as a drinker. Introducing myself to them again as a non-drinker has been awkward. They mean well, but I don't want their pity or their understanding. I just want it to be a non-issue. As a result (and I did not do this consciously) I turned more to my friends in World of Warcraft (hereon referred to as WoW) and less to my friends in the real world. The WoW friends don't really know me and don't care. They just want me for my ranged damage potential and that has been freeing.

Along with playing online too much, I have I immersed myself even more deeply in various writing projects. I did not realize until a very close (a pre-existing friend even) pointed it out, but it was pure escapism. She noted that everything I do, or really have ever done, for fun has been a removal from myself. Renaissance faire, World of Warcraft, drinking, and especially writing.

Who or what am I trying to escape from?

Heck if I know. I have a great life, a great family, a great job... everything is good, right? So why are my closest companions imaginary? That question is haunting me. I find I don't even know myself -- I just know the various faces I wear for different obligations.  Even the writer part of me has become a persona. If I could stick all the parts of me in a blender maybe the big red mess that poured out would make sense.

The good news is that now that school has started again I am way too busy to stop and think. I just go go go and then am too exhausted for introspection.  

So many writers write because they must. Why is that?

BTW, that is not my belly up there. If I was that taut I would get a belly piercing. I might even get a tattoo, only mine would be a sunburst to coincide with my stretch marks.  Yeah, it will never happen.

Friday, August 19, 2011

That Time of Year

The summer has flown by and now it's time for school to start again. "Wait," you say. "It's still summer!"

I know - that's the kicker. Why is school starting so early? What happened to 3 months of summer break? I mean, even Phineas and Ferb say there's 104 days of summer vacation. At my count, I had 45. Not cool.

Anyhoo, life goes on. Lesson plans replace plotting. Stress dreams replace the inspirational. The real bummer is that I did not finish Courtly Abandon in the time I allotted. The good news is that I only have about 5 chapters to go and I could churn those out in a moment of inspired writing. My new deadline, and I'm being generous about time, is the end of September.

And, because I have nothing good to contribute today, I will share this pic and commentary from a blog my sister just turned me onto, NastyCute.

“I have something here for you.”
“Oh yeah? You want this?”
Bow chicka tweet tweet.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

An Unfortunate MeMe: Underclothes

No thank you to Taryn Tyler for tagging me. Okay, fine. Thank you. This was fun in a silly way. :)

In this MeMe, I have been given a number of questions pertaining to underclothes.  Here goes:

Betsy Johnson Chantilly Floral
1. What do you call your panties / underwear / undergarments? Do you have any commonly used nicknames for them? Underwear, underpants, and less commonly, panties.

2. Have you ever had that supposedly common dream of being in a crowded place in only your underwear? No, but I have had dreams where I was naked.

3. What is the worst thing you can think of to make panties out of? Polyester (within the realm of realistic). in the realm of fantasy, I would choose a) nettles b)jellyfish c)fiberglass.

4. If you were a pair of panties, what color would you be, and WHY? I would be, depending on mood, either a very delicate soft pink and lacy (but comfortable) or black and hot pink and lacy (and not designed for long term wear).

5. Have you ever thrown your panties/underwear at a rock star or other celebrity? If so, which one(s)? If not, which one(s) WOULD you throw your panties/underwear at, given the opportunity? No, but I recently suggested my sister do so. She's going to see Tom Jones in concert -- I think throwing panties is a requirement.

6. You’re out of clean panties. What do you do? I go commando and put some laundry in the wash.
7. Are you old enough to remember Underoos? If so, did you have any? Which ones? Yes. I had Princess Leia underoos.

8. If you could have any message printed on your panties, what would it be? Look Away!

9. How many bloggers does it take to put panties on a goat?  None. There is no goat.

And, out of human kindness, I will not tag anyone. But feel free to tag yourself if you are so inclined. :)

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I think one of my biggest hurdles in blogging lately has been my lack of blogdentity.  When I started blogging I wrote musings about the writing process.  Sometimes my subjects were random (most of the time) but I always worked them back to writing.  Occasionally I shared samples from my w.i.p. for a blogfest, but I stayed consistent with myself. I liked to read blogs from other writers going through the same struggles I was, and I thought my blog would appeal to like minded people.

I did not notice at first, but bit by bit, my blog started getting taken over by blogfests. THis is when I started loosing my blogdentity. April's A-Z blogfest was the icing on the cake. I have been struggling  since then to get my head above water in the blogosphere.

In attempt to return to my roots I stepped away from all blogfests. This was a mistake. Blogfests held me accountable to a timeline and helped me pace myself. Solution, jump back into blogfests but in moderation. I will not participate in more than 3 blogfests in a month. Give or take 2. Or 3. We'll see. The point is, I think I can still be me and contribute to the greater blogging community.  The most important thing is that I stay true to myself. I learned this in regard to my writing projects, now I learn it as applies to my blog.

So, in being true to myself, here is a blog post about nothing in particular but linking vaguely back to the theme of how the writing process. Not really awe inspiring, I know. But I hope it gets me back on track.

What do you do to stay consistent with your blogdentity?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writer's Block


Say it isn't so!

But it is. I cannot, seriously CANNOT write this next freakin' scene. It's making me crazy. It's tainting everything I do.

So, I've eaten a lot of Cheetos, gone swimming with my kids, edited a friend's wip, did some laundry... still nothing. It's been going on for days. Part of the problem is that I am reworking some of my writing rituals. That has really thrown a wrench in the gears. I might actually explode. It's true, ask my kids.

What I have done (just now) is started on a piece of fan fiction I've been mulling over. It's not actually productive towards finishing my wip, but I am writing, which is a good thing.

What do you do when hit by writer's block?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Page 99

Awhile back there was a blogfest about page 99 of your manuscript. The premise was that authors frequently put a lot of effort into the first few chapters then relax, perhaps too much. If an agent is hooked by reading page 99, it bodes well for the entire book. If you have the time and interest, you can participate in an online critique forum at  Page 99 Test.

Below is page 99 from my w.i.p. Courtly Abandon. It is the very end of chapter 9. Reading it out of context, does it hook you? Would you turn the page?

“Dearest Jane, I took advantage.” Sir William went down on one knee before her, taking her hands in his. “I pray you, forgive me.”
Jane squared her shoulders, wishing herself calm. “There is naught to forgive my lord.”
“My lord? Have I so truly overstepped myself?’ He pressed her hands against his cheek.
She knew he was totally in her control. Lust was a powerful motivator. She smiled shyly, willing herself to look innocent. “Oh, not at all Sir William. I am just,” Jane struggled for the word, “overwrought.”
“Of course you are. I am a rogue to take advantage.”
“Sir William, please stand up.”
He stood, but still held a ridiculously guilty expression. “You are quite right. I shall leave you here to compose yourself. We should not return to the hall together.”
Jane almost laughed at the intensity of his little drama, but instead gave a simpering smile and said, “You are too good to me.”
“You are deserving of the best.” He leaned in one more time and pressed a quick kiss to her lips. Did he think they were lovers now? 
He gave a quick reverence, kissed his fingers to her, and scurried out of the garden.
Jane stood still for a moment before allowing herself to breathe, relax. She found a bench and sat down, leaning her face in her hands. “Good God in Heaven.” She wanted to want him, but all she could think of was Percy.
As if summoned, a voice pierced through the darkness. “Did you enjoy kissing my brother?”

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The other day I missed the last four steps and went straight for the tile. Our staircase turns at a 90 degree angle and 2 of the steps at that point are triangular and then there are 4 more before the ground floor. The shortest distance down the stairs involves cutting in at the narrowest point. I missed. Toe, ankle, knee, then caught myself and lay there for a moment, stunned. I also yelled, in slow motion, the big bad mamajamma of four letter words.

Now I do not swear a lot.  I am a teacher and insist on 'polite language' in my classroom (when students don't realize that bitch is not okay to use casually or that the term faggot is offensive and perpetuates bigotry and hatred, the fact that 'suck' is crude elludes them entirely). As a mother, my kids think 'stupid' is the "s-word." I have never dropped the F-bomb in their presence.  Until last week.

Luckily they were more in a panic by the yell and following groaning on the floor to pay attention to what I actually yelled.  Phew.

As a writer of historical fiction, I have to be aware of the vernacular of the era. In choosing not to include thee, thou, thy, etc... I made a point to give a sense of formality when appropriate and an old world flare by using terminology from the age. Including crass terms. The F-bomb was absolutely a verb for the same action as it describes today, however it had yet to evolve into an adjective (He's f-ing stupid) or noun (that F over there said....). Ass was actually a jackass = donkey. Arse was the word describing the modern day ass and used, mainly, for anatomical purposes verses name calling. When I do use cruder terms, I look up their etymology to make sure they were common place in my era and that I am using them correctly.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Brain is Too Busy

Dream 1: My school has found a new site and we've moved in. It's a beautiful brick, turn of the century, industrial building full of cast iron spiral staircases, but it's in a terrible neighborhood. On my way to my car after school, I get shot multiple times in the gut. I know I'm going to die. When I wake up, I have stomach cramps.
Dream 2: A group of my students (a family of 6) are still waiting to be picked up after school. It's 6pm, dark, and raining. I look outside to see a car pull up, but instead see a water buffalo snorting on the window. He crashes through the wall, the building topples like a card house. I jump from roof to roof while he chases me.
Dream 3: I miss a staff meeting because state testing went long. My boss is mad at me and all the other staff grumble that I think I'm too important to have to go to meetings. I wake up, not sure if it's a dream. In my dream, I call my co-worker who confirms that it really happened and I'm in big trouble.
Dream 4: My daughter's biological mother is getting out of prison and wants to challenge the adoption. It is a legal battle involving me clutching my five year old and sobbing.  When I wake up from this one, I have to go through my memories of pregnancy and child birth to confirm that she was not adopted and it was just a dream.
Dream 5: I'm in a car and I can't seem to step on the brakes (this dream happens frequently).

Needless to say, I did not sleep well. My mind needs to sort something out -- most of it to do w/school, apparently. Tonight I may take NyQuil (TM).

Now, I'm off to my own little dream world where Jane and Percy find each other in the wood beyond the Mayday bonfire.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Congratulation 2011 RITA and Golden Heart Winners

The information below was taken in full from the RWA website. I just added the hyperlinks (those I did not add were because I could not find one and/or I ran out of time).

2011 RITA® and Golden Heart® Award Winners

Romance Writers of America congratulates the following winners of the 2011 RITA and Golden Heart Awards.

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Regency Historical Romance

Anne Barton

The Proper Miss's Guide to Bad Behavior
by Anne Barton

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Historical Romance

Maire Shelley

The Dark Lady
by Maire Shelley

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Inspirational Romance

Ruth Kaufman

At His Command
by Ruth Kaufman

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Young Adult Romance

Suzanne Kaufman Kalb

by Suzanne Kaufman Kalb

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Contemporary Series Romance

Jo Anne Banker

Lost and Found
by Jo Anne Banker

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure

Robin Lynn Perini

Stolen Lullaby
by Robin Lynn Perini

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

Jo Anne Banker

Nearly Departed in Deadwood
by Ann Charles

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Romantic Suspense

Diana Van Dyke

Spy in the Mirror
by Diana Van Dyke

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Paranormal Romance

Trisza Ray

The Blood Sworn King
by Trisza Ray

2011 Golden Heart Winner for Contemporary Single Title Romance

Lisa Connelly

The Sinners
by Lisa Connelly

2011 RITA Winner for Regency Historical Romance

The Mischief of the Mistletoe Lauren Willig

The Mischief of the Mistletoe
by Lauren Willig

Penguin Group USA, Dutton

Erika Imranyi, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Historical Romance

His at Night Sherry Thomas

His at Night
by Sherry Thomas

Random House, Bantam Books

Caitlin Alexander, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Inspirational Romance

Pieces of Sky Irene Hannon

In Harm's Way
by Irene Hannon

Baker Publishing, Revell

Jennifer Leep, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Young Adult Romance

The Iron King Julie Kagawa

The Iron King
by Julie Kagawa

Harlequin Teen

Natashya Wilson, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Contemporary Series Romance

Welcome Home, Cowboy Karen Templeton

Welcome Home, Cowboy
by Karen Templeton

Silhouette Special Edition

Gail Chasan, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure

The Moon That Night Helen Brenna

The Moon That Night
by Helen Brenna

Harlequin Superromance
Johanna Raisanen, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

Welcome to Harmony Jodi Thomas

Welcome to Harmony
by Jodi Thomas

Penguin Group USA, Berkley Trade

Wendy McCurdy, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Romance Novella

Burning Up Virginia Kantra

"Shifting Sea" 
by Virginia Kantra

in Burning Up

Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation

Cindy Hwang, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Romantic Suspense

Silent Scream Karen Rose

Silent Scream
by Karen Rose

Grand Central Publishing

Karen Kosztolnyik, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Paranormal Romance

Unchained: The Dark Forgotten Sharon Ashwood

Unchained: The Dark Forgotten
by Sharon Ashwood

Penguin Group USA, Signet Eclipse

Laura Cifelli, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Best First Book

Pieces of Sky Kaki Warner

Pieces of Sky
by Kaki Warner

Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation

Wendy McCurdy, editor

2011 RITA Winner for Contemporary Single Title Romance

Simply Irresistible Jill Shalvis

Simply Irresistible
by Jill Shalvis

Grand Central, Forever

Alex Logan, editor

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