Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Harry Potter Blogfest -- Who Would Be Your Mates?

Thank you to Michael for hosting another Harry Potter blogfest.  The question asked us who would be our mates if we were in the Harry Potter world.  He asked us to pick 2 characters from the novels and describe our friendship with them.

I decided to do this in more of a speculating format than a narrative one.  I looked back at who I was in middle school and high school and the friends I had and, more importantly, the friends that I still have from those years.

If I had been called to attend Hogwarts, eleven year old me would have been placed in Ravenclaw and wondered why.  My perception of myself was as pretty rather than  smart.  I was always surprised when someone was impressed with something I did or said.  I was also (and still am) a little off.  My sense of humor was/is not always appropriate or funny to anyone but myself.  I did not then (and only slightly better now) have a good idea of how to behave in different social situations.  I was odd, but being pretty kept me from being a social misfit entirely.

That said, I think my friends would have been Luna and Neville.

Luna and I would talk nonsense to each other.  I would appreciate that she found me practical and level headed when no one else did.  I would love the freedom from all judgment that she gave so generously.  I would be honest with her in a way I could not with anyone else.  She would appreciate that I never mocked anything she said.  You see, she does note insults but she has such a calm confidence in herself that she never lets it show.

Neville would have a crush on me and I would be oblivious about it because I just couldn't see him that way.  He would always be there for me, offering to help with my homework and buoying me with the faith in my abilities that I did not have for myself. I would give him a female perspective on things that confused him.  I would be there for him when things got to be too much to handle, his shoulder to cry on. I would trust him in all ways, seeing him as reliable and, unfortunately, gender neutral -- not realizing that I was hurting him when I complained about how the boys I was interested always went for the popular girls.

I'm looking forward to reading who the other bloggers have chosen.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Crossroads

Jane just broke Percy's heart. Or, did Percy's unrealistic expectations break his own heart? Will he come to realize that Jane's past doesn't matter and that her motives are honorable and not those of the whore he has condemned her as?  Will he have some deep, introspective, soul searching? Or will a wise mentor guide him in the right direction?

It's a hard question, and one that is not answered in my outline.  If he comes to the realization by himself then there will be quite a bit of deep pov without much action. If a mentor saves the day through sage advice and subtle manipulation, there will be dialogue (which is always a good thing) but it may be too deus ex machina and come off as cliche.

My outline paces the action, but I keep it sparse because my characters have minds of their own and don't follow direction well.  I am not a true seat-of-the-pantser, but I have learned to trust the direction my characters take the story.  Somehow, between now (April 28th) and the May day bonfire (May 1st) Percy has to realize that Jane was being self sacrificing and not cheap. Jane has to realize that love is important.  Percy and Jane can only come together (and I mean that in every way) when she has been honest with herself that he she is meant to be with him and when he respects her strength, shrugging off philosophy for real life. 

I now sit at the start of chapter 14 (about 40k words), about to write fluff (that I will probably later delete) in order to get the story moving. Jane has to buck up and pretend that her love for Percy doesn't matter and try to seduce the Viscount Kinglsey. Percy has to be professional and sophisticated while the woman he has loved all his life flirts with his brother.  It's a horrible moment to be in.  I haven't written more than the description of the spring air and I already hate this chapter. I may just go in the other room and catch up on episodes of House.

Have you ever come to a critical crossroads in your story and not been sure how the problem was going to get resolved?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Paint It Purple Blogfest Has Arrived

Thank you to everyone who has participated in this blogfest.  I look forward to reading everyone's submissions. My submission is posted below, followed by links to the other participants.  So, pull out your hooka and soul patch and prepare for some deep literary lyricism.

Selection #1 from my W.I.P. Courtly Abandon:
Queen Elizabeth's Effigy Corset
She stepped away from the wardrobe and closed the double doors.  Drawing a deep breath she tested the fit of her corset.  It was not actually uncomfortable; it was more of the idea that disturbed her.  The reed boning sewn into channels throughout the entire garment assisted her posture and was wonderfully supportive of her bosom, but she could not bend over and straighten her own stocking.  Of course, that was what was made it a lady’s garment and not something a working woman would be able to wear.  It required assistance, not only to put on but in some of the most fundamental life tasks.  Wearing a corset meant a servant was required.   It also made her ample bosom even more glorious.  The way the bodice framed her, her cleavage seemed to go right up to her neck.

Selection #2, my purple paragraph from Nature Flows Unrepentantly Encased in Prisons of Society:

Freed from the oaken prison, the corset shaped Jane’s serpentine curves, molding her lusciousness into a cone of social submission. Strict and rigid, stubbornly constricting her inner Venus and pummeling her womanly softness into moral shapelessness, the corset was a badge of rank. Jane was a puppet of fashion, manipulating and modifying nature in a way only the privileged could afford. Her confinement screamed “ELITE!” to the masses, huddling for warmth within the comforting arms of their families. Her bosom, the glorious mounds declaring her fecundity, cried silently against the pressure. Striving for freedom, they arched to the heavens, climbing Jane’s small frame for escape, only to be held back by their own limitations. Trapped in their gilded cage, they wept silently, aware that they existed now only for display.

I tried to keep it short. :)  I hope you enjoyed my ridiculousness.  Today is a school day, so I will not be able to check the other entries until after hours -- but I will get to all of them.

Check out the other participating blogs at the links shown below.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Random Rants: Percy's a Wuss and Spaghetti O's Saves the Day

The A-Z blogfest posts on 4/1, but my own, first blogfest posts on 3/25/11. If you haven't signed up yet, go ahead and take advantage of this great opportunity now.  It would mean a lot to me. :)

So, RWA will notify their 2011 Golden Heart finalists on Friday 3/25.  Will I be one of them?  Who knows? I go back and forth between bursts of confidence and pity-fests. What do I know? Well, I found out today that none of the 2010 finalists have their book in the process of publication, which means it's not a shoe in for agents/publishers. More's the pity. I sincerely do wish success upon my fellow authors -- and that's not an entirely selfless sentiment. If unknowns are getting picked up, the chances are better for me.

I have recently been asked for a full read for Courtly Scandals by one small-ish publisher and the first three by one big publisher. I have not been asked for anything by agents.  I really want an agent (see post).  I want an agent who will honestly care about my future and not just sign up because I lined up a deal on my own.  Is that too much to ask?  Perhaps -- but I'm naive still.  Heck, I've only been at this a couple years.  Give me one more year before bitterness takes hold. Based on my heartbreak last year, my critique partner is worried for me.  I'm not.  I have my wine-fridge stocked.

On other fronts, Courtly Abandon is really coming along.  Seriously, there's nothing like the positive reinforcement of a publisher saying they couldn't put down my first three to get motivated.  I engaged in some role reversal for this book and my male lead is almost virginal.  The problem with being character lead is that stupid Percy is wussing out while alone with Jane in her bedroom. Stupid gentlemanly sentiments.  Pshaw.

In regard to real life, my daughters are having mini-dinosaur Spaghetti O's for dinner tonight because Percy won't follow my outline.  It's alright, my girls think it's great, but I'm disappointed.  That means later I'll have microwaved Brussle sprouts with lemon and garlic salt -- not because I like them, but because they're a vegetable that also has protein.

BTW, many of my friends are busy in the thick of preparing for the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire, but I have opted out for this year.  It gives me time to write and focus on getting published, but it makes me sad.  I miss them, miss the dancing, miss the costuming, and miss my pretend-Mom.  I may visit this year, but not in costume because my kids have grown too much and I need to finish this novel before the school year just in case I am a Golden Heart finalist (so will have my one sheet ready for agents during RWA in New York this summer). Again, not  pinning my hopes on anything... but I am.  Yes, I'm ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous, there's no way I can afford the air fair to NY, room/board, plus the conference itself... but the conference scholarship request deadline was 3/15 and I won't know if I'm a finalist until 3/25.  Again, this year, I am not banking on being a finalist because I have a clearer world view than I did this time last year... but still, I hope.  Silly me.

Man, Friday I pray that I will really have a great teaching day and NOT think about Golden Heart. :)

Until then, my friends, Godspeed.


PS. both of my daughters just told me that they wanted to be writers when they grew up.  I'm creating monsters.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Show Me The Voice Blogfest

Thank you to Brenda Drake for hosting this blogfest and putting this agent judged contest together.  The premise is that participants list the first 250 words of their completed manuscript and other participants critique them.  The critiques should focus on the author's voice and be helpful.

So, without further ado, here are the first 247 words of Courtly Scandals, a historical romance.

Addendum: Based on comments about slow pacing/info dump, I am cutting the entire third paragraph and pasting in the bits that follow to make up for word count (currently at 266).  Really it was only necessary in order to tie it to where my story left off in my first book.  Given this is a stand alone, the background/connection is irrelevant.  Thanks for the comments. :)

Chapter 1: On the First Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me a Partridge in a Pear Tree
December 25th, 1572
Whitehall Palace

Mary’s corset bit into her back and hip as Anne gripped her in a firm embrace.
Anne appeared unaware of Mary’s discomfort.  “Christmastide 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 when circumstances reunited them a few months past.  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 planned on attending any of the twelve nights of Christmas revelry.  Anne was much too concerned with what her father might think 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. 
The two ladies finished two full twirls before collapsing side by side on a chaise, their full hoop skirts fighting each other in the limited space.
Mary stood and reached out her hand.  “Here, let me fix you.”
Anne accepted the offered assistance and stood, letting Mary settle her skirts into a more ladylike fashion before sitting again, this time more elegantly.
Mary suppressed a smile.  Anne had let the new high rank of countess go to her head.  It was nice to see a moment of honest abandon – this was the first she had witnessed since she had joined Queen Elizabeth’s court in late September.  It was now the twenty-fifth of December.  Three months and nary a smile. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saint Patrick's Day Blogfest

Thank you to Alexia and Colene for hosting this blogfest.

Write a 200ish word flash fiction entry about something to do with SPD(real, fantasy, whatever makes your pig squeal). OR, you could also write about a memory you haveof a past SPD. In the end, we aren't being picky. Just make it goooood and make it about St. Patricks Day! (Leprechauns, luck, gold, green, clovers, beer, celebrations, etc. Funny, touching, horrifying, dark, fast-paced, romantic, etc.)

Okay, so I was writing my entry and it kept getting longer and longer.  I was brutal and chopped it down to 285 words.  I know this is over the limit and I am sorry -- BUT if you want, you can stop reading at "forged by" (that is 200).

This is not St. Patrick's Day in the obvious sense, but more of a homage to Ireland and my memories of my childhood there.  No, I never did meet a leprechaun.

I look forward to reading everyone else's entries. 

My Woods
Stepping out of the sunlight into the shadows of the woods, I feel the chill embrace of the dark.  The unnatural silence, interrupted only by the sounds of my footsteps on the soggy leaves, welcomes me.  I am expected.
The darkness, intermittently pierced by shafts to sunlight, is comfortable.  The cold, familiar.  I make my way along the once paved lane lined with the remnants of exotic foliage planted with care by some forgotten gardener two centuries ago.  The old carriage path under the arc of trees would continue straight for a time, probably for the safety of the horses and the comfort of passengers long dead.  I do not need such pampering and cut right, down the deer path I remembered.  My foot hold is sure over the moss covered granite jutting proudly down the steep slope, steps forged for me when the earth was born.
Careless of the years that had passed, the old, lichen cloaked oaks still stand proud and strong.  They were my markers back then just as they are now, leading the way to the grove. 
I duck under a fallen bough and step into the circle of granite too uniform to be designed by nature.  This is the beating heart of my wood, both enthralling and terrifying.  A place I can never truly stay away from no matter the ocean between us.
A wizened little man clothed in rags of moss and fern steps out from a crevice in the center standing stone.
“Erin,” he says, his words more song than speech, “It has been a long time.”
I crouch to look him in the eye, oddly uncomfortable in my grown up body, “But I am home now.”

Don't forget to sign up for my Paint it Purple Blogfest on March 25th!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Broken Hearts Blogfest

Thanks to Dawn Embers for hosting this blogfest.

The premise:
The basic idea is to write about a heart breaking or one that is already broken. Show us the wretched emotions, the anger, depression, fear, whatever happens after the happy honeymooon lovey-dove V-day stuff is over and all that is left is a broken heart.

BTW, if you can't read the print on the graphic shown here, it's well worth clicking on to get a better view.  Good stuff.

This is tough for me because I write about falling in love and happily ever afters.  Of course, a genre requirement is the conflict and poor communication skills that leads my lovebirds to think they won't be together forever.

This selection is from Courtly Scandals.  It is 770 words -- I'm sorry I could not find anything shorter that made sense on its own.

At that moment she knew with crystal clarity what it was that she wanted.  She wanted to be Charles’ wife.  She wanted everything that he wanted.  A future together where the only thing that mattered was their love for each other.  Children.
And that was the one option that was not available to her.
The room was dark, yet Mary could see the hope in his eyes.  The man she loved wanted to marry her.  This should be a moment of joy.
Instead, all Mary felt was shame.
The moment stretched from romantic to awkward.  Mary had to speak, but did not know what to say.   “Charles, never doubt it that I love you.” 
Charles jumped to his feet and stepped forward. 
Mary stepped back and raised a staying hand.  “To marry you would be to do you a disservice.  I love you too well to harm you so.”
Charles was silent a moment, then turned away, turned back.  “What?”
He sounded so confused. Almost angry.  “The Queen Herself has given Her blessing.”
Mary held her head high.  “She should not have.  You are worthy of a better woman who can be a good wife, a mother to your children.  I am sorry to have engaged your affections.  I never would have if I had known they would lead to this.”
“Lead to this?  Engage my affection?  Mary, what are you playing at?  If you love me – there is nothing to stop us from marrying.”
            She did her best to remain calm.  “Except that I will not marry you.” Mary was choking on the words.  Each time he forced her to deny him, he hurt her that much more.  If he was any sort of gentleman, he would take her at her word and stop.  “I told you when we first met that I could never marry.  I have always been honest with you.”
“Have you?”  Charles almost spat the words as he stepped closer.  “Honest?  What of the baby, Mary?  The baby you told me that you lost?  Lady Oxford said something quite different, something that ladies choose to do to avoid the shame of bearing a bastard.”
Mary recoiled as if slapped.  “I told you the truth.”
“Of course you did.”
“I did!”
“The funny part was that I knew what you had done and didn’t care – I wanted to marry you.  It didn’t matter to me because I thought I knew who you were.”  Charles laughed, his voice a harsh bark in the close room.  “And what did I know?  Apparently, nothing.”
He was willing to bind himself to damaged goods.  He was honor bound – obligated to offer for her.  It broke her heart that she loved him so much and he was merely ready to ‘do the right thing.’  He should be relieved that she had turned him down.  Instead he was throwing her past in her face.  She would not stand for the abuse.  “And what did I know of you?  You were merely an attractive guardsman and there was nothing else I needed to know – or so I thought.  Then again, you might have mentioned you were Oxford’s brother.  Who lied to whom?”  Mary’s anger had taken hold.  She was not to blame here.  If anyone had been dishonest, even by omission, it had been Charles.
“I never lied about my relationship with Oxford.  Part of me assumed you knew.  If you did not, why would it matter?  I have no ties with him.”
“Do you not?  So, this conversation you had with Anne, that was, what?  Between strangers?”
“She told me in effort to dissuade me from proposing.”
Mary stopped short.  “You owe me nothing. You should have let her.”
“And yet you say it is not true.”
“It doesn’t matter one way or another.  I may as well have.  It has ruined me no matter what choice I did or did not make.  I can never be a wife.”
Charles stalked toward the door and stopped, turning abruptly.  “I will not beg.  If you do not wish to marry me, tell me one last time.  But tell me truly without your petty excuses.”
She wanted to say yes, to apologize for hurting him, to tell him she was a fool … but she could not.  “It is not a petty excuse.  I am no good for you.”
“So that is your answer?”  Charles did not even look at her before he left the room, the door slamming behind him.
Mary stood there alone, absentmindedly noticing the way the scarce moonlight that filtered into the dark room seemed to catch on the facets of here jeweled skirt.  Charles was gone.  Charles had offered her the world, and she had declined.
It was the right thing to do.  Wasn’t it?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Only Holding Hands

I am writing about a sexually promiscuous woman which is deviating from the romance genre norms.  Jane has been there, done that.  She knows what she likes and is not afraid to go get it.  But her love interest, Percy, is left over from an innocent time in her life.  He's the one who got away.  Her first true love and never kissed.  But he is not supposed to be her love interest.  She is supposed to be pursing his brother (the titled Earl).  She cannot afford to play around with Percy, mainly because it would not be playing, it would be more true than any other experience she has had.

So I am writing a passionate scene where they are just holding hands.  A simple touch.  No kiss, nothing illicit, but intense.  The question is, is it enough for the genre?  Yes, of course, they'll get around to having sex -- but it has to be a slow build for the purposes of this story.  And, after all, the anticipation is the best part. 

The sexual possibilities of hand holding came to me via memories of Don Juan De Marco.  I saw this movie when it first came out.  It seemed a safe thing to see with my parents (I was just out of high school) but I was wrong. The movie made a long time impression on me.  Of course I was a Johnny Depp fan (21 Jumpstreet being part of my formative years), but this was just, well, hot.

The opening scene is in a restaurant where Don Juan seduces a woman just by kissing her hand.  I have to admit, it made my breath catch.  I thought of this scene as I wrote it -- I just hope I've pulled it off.

Warning: This clip is R rated


Monday, March 7, 2011

Catch Me If You Can Blogfest

Thank you to Kristina at KayKay's Corner for hosting this blofest.

The premise:
On Monday March 7, post the first 550 words (or less) of your WIP on your blog.

Hop around on the 7th and 8th to spread the love to the other participants. Feel free to post an updated version after you've gotten some suggestions. Remember: The more comment love you give, the more will come back to you :)
Below is the first 553 words from my work in progress, Courtly Abandon.  Happy reading!  I look forward to seeing what the other participants have posted.

Note: I made some changes based on the comments.  The changes w/in the excerpt are in bold.

Holme LeSeiur, Nottinghamshire, 1573
Jane hefted her full hoopskirts and sprinted across the orchard as fast as she could.  Rufus, the elderly hound, probably thought she was playing but this was not a game.  No, she had to get to the split log fence at the edge of the orchard.  Rufus, the elderly hound and her companion this morning, did his best to lope wide circles around her. She was glad he was enjoying himself, but prayed he would not trip her. She had to get to the split log fence at the edge of the orchard without becoming disheveled.  Arriving at the property line, she realized it might already be too late.
Out of breath, she leaned against a thick apple-tree trunk and ran a smoothing hand over her artfully tousled blond curls and net coif.  She had looked both ladylike and wanton when she left the house.  Now, she hoped her exertion had brought a rosy glow to her cheeks that would make any hot blooded man think of bedding her.  Of course Sir William, Earl of Kingsley, was not any man.  He was the man she was going to marry.  She would make him a wonderful wife – he just did not know it yet.  More interested in farming, he had not even noticed her flirtations.  At least she hoped that was all it was.  She could not abide being married to a stupid man.
Her first husband had been sharp witted.  Though quite a bit older than she, he had treated her well and she had been fond of him.  She had also enjoyed her widowhood.  Immensely.  But, it was time to marry again and Lord Kinglsey was convenient, comely, and amiable enough. 
He frequently made a morning round of his lands.  Jane liked to make herself visible whenever possible.  Bringing the dog along had been a stroke of genius – should Lord Kingsley happen to pass by, he would see her as a lovely young woman, full of life, delighting in country pleasures.  What man could resist such an image?
Jane straightened her emerald green silk skirts and leaned back against the tree in a nonchalant pose.  Lord Kinglsey would never know the encounter was staged.  And, Jane looked down to make sure both breasts were still contained, he would get an eyeful.
She waited, adjusting her position a few times.  Perhaps she had been too late?  Rufus’ bark made her jump.
“Mistress Radclyffe,” the Earl of Kingsley’s called out a greeting, “What a pleasure to see you out so early.”  He remained astride.  Though his voice was courteous, there was no sign of eagerness to see her. 
“I love spring mornings and the scent of the world coming alive.  Everything is so… fertile.  The earth is ripe.”  Nicely done.  Honest, suggestive, and sure to play to his interests. 
            The earl jumped off his horse, but kept hold of the reigns as he toed the ground, careful not to get mud on his boots.  “Right now I smell dung.”  He sniffed the air.
Dung?  Really?  Earl or not, the man could use a lesson in courtly manners.
“It appears that the LeSeiur’s have already had this ground turned with mulch.  Good of them to be so proactive.  The orchard should yield a fine crop.”
            Jane watched his face as he cast a speculative eye over the empty branches of the apple trees.  Lord Kinglsey ran a fine estate, always conscientious of the tenants and almost obsessive in his desire to improve his own knowledge of agriculture.  She admired his devotion, but she certainly hoped that once they were wed he would pay her some attention. 

Don't forget to sign up for my Paint it Purple Blogfest by 3/25!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Don't Have Quirks... Wait, Strike that. Yes I Do.

In a recent QueryTracker blog post by Jane Lebak, she discussed writing rituals.

I definitely have created a set of rituals in regard to my writing.  I like to have a glass of wine or Harvey's Bristol Cream.  I play music to separate me from the chaos in my house and sounds of squabbling and Dora the Explorer.  Nothing unusual about that. 

When it comes to my actual process of writing, I'm a little quirky.  A lot quirky.  I save each chapter it its own file and only create compilations for word count only so often.  I didn't realize how integral this was to my process until I tried to just write it all in one document.  My chapters titles must be significant and my pacing outline is based on a pre-determined number of chapters.  Again, this time around, I tried to just outline an arc and write it, but I kept feeling directionless.  So, I gave in to my inner ocd and laid everything out again in my previously established, ritualistic process. 

I have recently attempted to write with a single space after every period.  I even reset my auto-correct to fix this for me, but worrying about 1 or 2 spaces after every sentence really interrupts the flow of writing.  I figure I'll do a find/replace all when a specific agent's guidelines call for single spaces. 

My quirks are not super over-the-top, but they are clearly in existance.  I am fine with this -- years ago I decided to stop fighting and own the 'quirky and eccentric' lables I had always earned.  I just hadn't realized the quirkiness spilled over into my writing rituals.

Do you have anything you MUST do in order to be able to write?

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