Friday, October 26, 2012

Page 99 in Possessing Karma

I remember how important page count was on my first book. Knowing nothing about word count norms, I was aiming for about 325 pages and, when I finished my first hundred, I celebrated it as a major milestone.

Now I gauge progress by word count instead of page number, especially since I like to type in Times New Roman and the submissions I've had requested in the past specified Courier New. That said, I still got a little shiver of excitement when I noticed I was well past my first hundred pages. I may still have 60% of a book to write, but I'm getting there. It's healthy to be able to find validation within oneself, right.

There's an urban legend within the online writing community that editors turn to page 99 right off the bat. Of course first chapters are polished and hook the reader, but is the writing still as engrossing by page 99? So, following the precedent set by me with my other books, here is page 99 (in the Times New Roman version, Courier New is something completely different) of my work in progress.

Page 99 of Possessing Karma

“So, do you?” Rosario’s voice was barely audible over the roar of the water pounding against her scalp.
She stepped out of the stream. “What?”
“Do you plan on sleeping with him, no strings attached?” Rosario repeated her question loud enough for the whole locker room to hear.
“Oh my goodness, keep your voice down!” Karma heard her own words echo through the cinderblock room. “I’m a professor,” she added more quietly, poking her head around the corner of the stall to make sure Rosario would hear her. “If any of my students heard you…”
I’m one of your students,” Rosario answered, her voice level. “Right now we’re both naked and you want to talk about boundaries?” With one raised eyebrow, she turned back to face the shower head, presenting Karma with a view of her naked butt.
“Sheese.” Karma ducked back into her stall fully and finished her shower in silence.
Philippe woke up, his back aching. Lifting his head from the cold cement table top, he looked around his studio. How long had he been asleep? The sketch pad showed his half-hearted attempts to design his next piece, but more so showed rumpled proof that his nap had been a restless one.
Smoothing the crushed sheet, he reviewed the measurements and notes. He wanted to incorporate glass into the current sculpture, but didn't know if it would be possible to make the transition as seamless as he envisioned. He stood, stretching his neck and shoulders and he strode across the room. Uncovered, his sculpture laid waiting. He decided her name was ‘Becoming” and the rough pool of wood laying jagged against the workspace would merge with blown glass as if she was emerging into the corporeal world. She would be stunning, his best piece to date – if he could pull it off.

Just for fun (if you have the patience to read more), click below for the Courier New page 99.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Being a Hater

Today I'm being a hater, but not in regard to ethnic groups, religious freedom, or in respect to the definition of marriage. Today, specifically, I hate two things: skinny jeans and the word "suddenly."

Issue #1: I have worn corsets before. When you squeeze a fleshy body into a corset, the excess skin puddles out the top and the bottom as the torso takes on the shape of the desired silhouette. This is what is supposed to happen. If you've got extra girth, you will end up with bosom and back cleavage. You may also have abdominal cleavage -- which isn't pretty. Luckily everything below the waist is disguised by skirting.

This is not the case in skinny jeans. The laws of physics still apply. Ladies, just because you can button them up does not mean they fit. The jean is designed to create a specific silhouette for your leg/but/hips, but if there is any extra girth, it will puddle out at the closest exit -- the waist. It's really, really unattractive. There is not enough blousing in the world to disguise the belly rolls. You're not fooling anyone. It's not a good style if you have any body fat. Please, take an objective look at yourself in the mirror. Just because it's in style doesn't mean you should wear them.

Skinny jeans can be equally wrong on gentlemen. Years ago, men stopped paying attention to the natural waist line in favor of sagging. Now there are two generations of men out there, some wearing skinny jeans, that don't know that trouser waist bands belong closer to the belly button than the anus. Skinny jeans are not for everyone, so that alone is a problem amongst those who wear them without consideration of whether or not they should, but to then sag them creates a backside silhouette of a fully loaded baby diaper. It's just wrong. Please, take a look at yourself in the mirror before you leave the house. Please.

Issue #2: Many people say that use of adverbs in genre fiction makes a lazy writer. Instead of modifying your verb, choose a stronger verb. I agree with this sometimes. When I am critiquing someone's work, I do not automatically cross out every word that ends in 'ly.' I may comment if there is adverb over-kill, but I try not to edit the author's voice so much as their content.

That said, I will cross out every single "suddenly" I see. Usually the word is inserted to get the effect of surprise, being caught off guard. The problem there is that the word takes all that away. The bat swooping into the woman's face is much more sudden if it just happens, with the warning word of "suddenly." I really hate the word. I sigh when I see it in published books. I cross it out and recommend alternatives when I see it in something I'm editing. When I find myself using it, I slap myself and delete it quickly (adverb) before anyone can see. Lesson of the day: if you have to include the word "suddenly" (or "all of a sudden"), you have just made the scene not so sudden. Don't do it.

Okay, so that's my hating rant for the day. What do you hate?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Romantic Friday Writers

It's been a while since I've participated in a Romantic Friday Writers challenge. This one was:
We’re looking for chilling stories of ghosts and haunted locations – and maybe even love from beyond the grave.
A romantic element is essential, but we’re looking for stories with a thrilling edge of fear to add to the romantic tension building between our Hero/Heroine.

I chose to highlight a section from my work in progress, Possessing Karma. In this story, Karma (going by Kay) has recently moved in to a refurbished town home in New Orleans’ French Quarter. She and Philippe, her neighbor, have both lost time while together with only flashes of memory implying they were sexually involved. Karma thinks she’s going crazy. Philippe suspects something paranormal.

In this scene, Philippe has just come home to secure everything against a coming tropical storm. This 979 word selection is from chapter seven..

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

He stopped, before her door. “Kay? I heard you come up earlier. Just wanted to know if you needed help with the shutters.”
Waiting, he laid his forehead against the plaster wall. He listened, anticipating the creak of her stairs, the metallic click of her lock… nothing.
“Huh,” he muttered to himself and knocked again. Still no response.
“Okay, then.” He turned the key in his own door and went inside. It was almost as muggy as outdoors.
Stooping low he untied his work boots and left them on the mat by the door. He wasn’t a neat freak, but didn’t want to risk tracking debris from the workshop over the polished wood. Someday he hoped he’d just think of them as functional floors instead of works of art. He unclasped the buckles on his overalls and stepped out them. He hooked one foot under them and kicked them in the general vicinity of the laundry hamper in the closet off the kitchen.
The wind rattled the windows again, howling around the building in harmony with a roll of thunder. In his socks and boxers, he stepped into the rain pelting the second floor balcony outside his living room and closed the shutters over the windows. After securing the bars in place, he closed himself back inside, pulling the bright green shutters closed behind him then locked the French doors.
So much for needing a shower. He stripped off his soaked socks and padded upstairs, checking that he didn’t leave puddles in his wake. Uncaring if anyone saw him in his shorts in the storm, he stepped out onto the third floor balcony outside his bedroom. Nope, he wouldn’t need a shower after this. The stinging assualted him, the drops almost angry in their wind driven strength, each drop a shock of cold in the trapped heat radiating from the city.
Barefoot and soaked, Philippe turned his back to the storm and focused on his task at hand. Two out of three French door shutters secured, he turned to watch the storm. The sting of the rain nothing against the chaos of the sky, of the haze blurred rooftops spread before him. Shielding his eyes against the wind, he leaned over the figured iron balustrade to look around the tall wood fencing separating his balcony from Kay’s.
She stood there, driving rain plastering her long hair to her neck and shoulders. For someone naked and soaking on her balcony in the face of lightning, she looked relaxed – her hands in soft repose, laying gently on the ironwork. He wanted to sculpt her.
Was she crazy?
“What are you doing?” He shouted over the next rumble of thunder.
She simply turned her head, looking at him, her eyes an eerie silver glimmer in against the rich cocoa of her skin.
“Secure your shutters and get inside!”
Her lips curved into a smile, as if she were amused by him. She did not respond, but turned to face him. Placing one hand on her breast, she gasped and closed her eyes. He watched, spellbound, as her fingers traced tiny swirls in the water drops, never quite touching her nipple.
He pushed his wet hair from his face, watching the water stream down her naked body. A rivulet started at her shoulders, flowing in sleek plains down her breasts, to join in the center and stream down her abdomen. She was glorious, one with the storm. Yes, he had to sculpt her – but first he had to get her inside.
Crazy woman.
“Don’t you want to touch me?” Her soft voice carried over the storm.
“Kay, get inside.”
She looked different somehow. Maybe it was just a trick of the light, but her skin seemed darker. And, of course, she was naked. He’d seen her partially nude before, but made a point not to stare. Right now, there was no way around it.
“I knew you would come for me.”
“Kay, are you nuts? This isn't just rain – the wind can carry debris, there will be lightning.”
She seemed to have no issue with her vulnerable state. If anything, she welcomed him.
“You need me. I’m under your skin, a sickness in you.” Her voice echoed in his mind, clear and soft in spite of the steady drum of the rain.
His skin tingled, a shiver running down his spine. Philippe gasped at the jolt of sensation, of the soft caress of the rain, the almost painful pleasure of the pressure of the wind against his finger tips, tickling his scalp. Stepping back he looked at his own hands, sure he was in dream.
His arms reached toward the divider, straining with an uncoordinated heaviness. With a crash, the boards splintered, flying around him. He felt himself wince at the stinging pain above his brow. Lifting one hand to his forehead, he laughed when it came back slick with blood. He gulped greedy breaths at the joy of sensation, marveling at his living body. The way the muscles of his abdomen contracted with each breath, the taste of soot that coated each raindrop, it was magnificent.
Barefoot on the tile, he took one heavy step, then another until she was an arm’s breadth away.
“I knew you would come for me. You have no choice – not any longer.”
“I crave you always.” He reached for her just as lightning split the sky. In that single burst of light, she seemed to glow, outlined by a reflection of herself.
Philippe fought against her pull, against his own body’s response. What was he doing here? It wasn’t safe. Instead he heard his own voice say, “Does that please you? Does the surety of my desire make you feel powerful?”
She smiled, smug and sensual. God, how he wanted her – he always did, always would.
The back of his fingers grazed along her cheek, her jaw. Her responsive shiver sent a dusting of goose bumps all over her skin.
“This body pleases me.”
This is a collage of inspiring images for my project. Karma is a religious studies professor, Philippe is a chainsaw sculptor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Did I Notice Your Book? Blogfest

As part of Ciara Knight's blogfest, I chose to talk about Skeleton Woman by Mingmei Yip.

I met Mingmei at the Romance Writer's of America 2012 conference in Anaheim, Ca. She was sitting at the same fire pit after hours at the bar. I noticed Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, but was nervous about just dive-bombing her with my pitch. Mingmei, represented by Marsal Lyon, told me to go for it -- that the worst she could do was say no. Courage thus fortified, I attacked.

I ended up talking with Mingmei for a while. She told me about her books and gave me her card. I ordered Skeleton Woman when I got home.

Skeleton Woman is set in 1930s Shanghai in the midst the growing Western influence but the traditional Eastern values. A glamorous veneer hides the ever present danger. Intrigue, the life or death situations, showmanship and style sets the scene for an impossible love. For the main character, love is not an option when survival is the goal. The stakes high and the characters multi-faceted. I began this book over the summer, then lost my Kindle. I found it again last night and am just waiting for it to charge so I can finish the story.

The writing style is very formal in the way of English as a second (or third) language. The way the story loops back on itself reminds me of oral traditions. After the first chapter acclimated me, the pacing became comfortable and I found myself enjoying the author's voice very much.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Little Pervy, Really

The hot male stars I grew up crushing on are now in their forties, some older. The new male stars, while equally hot, are disgustingly young. I'll see an attractive guy and be appreciative, then realize he's ridiculously younger than I. I'm not looking to make a love connection or anything, but I still feel gross when I realize the age difference.

When all the 'Team Edward' vs 'Team Jacob' stuff was fresh in the pop culture, though I had a healthy mammalian appreciation for Taylor Lautner's abs, I could not, in good conscience, choose a side. It just felt dirty somehow, like I should don a big 70's porn mustache and hang out too close to a school. Yuck.

I'm sure that coming-on-40 year-old men have no crisis of conscience when they ogle 20-something women. They don't feel the least bit grossed out that those breasts belong to someone who was an infant when they graduated high school. I'm sure there's a long sociological explanation about why this is acceptable in regard to fertility and such, but it doesn't change the ick factor. I'm sure there's also an equally good fertility based point to support a woman nearing the end of her reproductive years finding a younger man attractive, but that doesn't stop the fact that I feel like a pervert when I raise my eyebrows in, say, Liam Hemsworth's direction.

At least sends me appropriately aged dating options in my area (unsolicited -- seriously. I don't know what I clicked or when, but I want it to stop).

Thank God for Ian Somerhalder being in just a few years younger than I. If I catch myself with pervy tendencies  I can just go to Netflix for Vampire Diaries and crush away.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Opportunity Cost

I am currently 33% into Possessing Karma. The story ready to unfold is the clearest it's ever been (for me) and it's turning into the best book I've written so far. Exciting.

Writing Karma means I'm not sewing an Irish dancing dress for my daughter. That is one of the opportunity costs of choosing to write over other activities  It also means, to a MUCH lesser degree, that I have not downloaded the new panda expansion on World of Warcraft. Whoopdie-Do. There was a time when I would have done it the first moment possible then tried to power level. Now the game has been tainted by more than pandas and I don't care enough. I hope I care again because it was fun once. But I digress....

I am also NOT writing three different books. In the past month I have had moments of genius for three different, unrelated, not in my genre niche, stories that I think would be awesome and take the publishing world by storm. If I started every new project the moment inspiration hit, I would never finish anything. So, along with my three additional Elizabethan era historicals I have planned, these ideas must be shelved for now. This is the opportunity cost of writing and finishing a book.

So I am not writing:

  • 3 Elizabethan historicals
  • A complete revision/rewrite of Courtly Pleasures
  • A chapter that will flesh out Courtly Abandon
  • 1 supernatural romance w/secret baby (but not a cheesy way)
  • 1 supernatural romantic suspense based on my time in Ireland
  • 1 kitschy vampire series (a minimum of 5 books I'll write it in 5-7 years when the market's not saturated)
  • and 1 that I won't even mention because the idea is so great you might run with it and then where would I be?

Oh, opportunity cost.

In other news, 90 days since the RWA 12 conference is approaching and that means it's time to start politely  reminding the agents and editors holding on to my submissions about me. A little nervous.
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