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And yet I am unpublished and unrepresented - therefore there is an issue.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