Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Story is Born

I was at my orthopedic surgeon's office for a post-op follow up. Out came the sutures, we both appreciated the minimal appearance the scar. I mentioned my kids were in the car watching Brave with their Daddy. My doctor hadn't heard of the movie and I recommended it, saying it's the first Disney princess movie where falling in love with a charming prince isn't the solution to the problem. I then commented that it was funny that it appealed for that reason since I wrote romance.

My doctor cocked a lightly penciled brow and told me to write one for her: early forties, never married, two big dogs. Bamm! My writerly instincts popped into gear, but instead of thinking about firemen and log cabins, I immediately jumped to the internal stakes for the main character and started brainstorming obstacles. As a writer, this makes absolute sense. As a woman pseudo-joking about lack of romance, her stoned (pain-killers, prescribed and used appropriately) patient spewing possible character flaws (especially since I don't really know her at all, even though she's technically been more intimate with me than anyone else) probably didn't sit well.

I may actually write a little flash fiction for her just for fun and give her the choice between the fireman, the scientist, the childhood sweetheart, etc... Maybe make it a choose your own adventure. Or maybe I'll introduce her to my brother, although I don't know if that would be helping at all. Who knows? She deserves some sort of apology for me spit-balling about the heroine having to overcome control freak tendencies.

I hope I don't need another surgery. :)

This is for you, Doc!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Viewing Your Own Work Objectively

It isn't possible. There. Done. Shortest blog post ever.

Nah, I was just kidding. My point has been made but I'm still going to babble. And, before I begin, let me explain that I am on pain killers for shoulder surgery. Be warned. I am not bi-polar but I play one on TV.

Okay, on point: Objectivity = impossible.  While I'm writing and excited, the book is the best book ever written. I am a GOD!  And then revisions of the first draft begin and I should not be allowed to live, let alone write. When everything is done and I have a clean, finished manuscript I, yet again, become awesome. At this point I usually don't look at it again and move on to the next project.

From time to time I've unearthed one of my previous works for a submission or competition or such. These times are iffy. I could be far enough removed from it to find the cadence of my writing unfamiliar and be pleasantly surprised by a book that (by that point, it's probably been rejected a few times) is obviously terrible. Or maybe it was so close to my heart that it hurts to even read it with the knowledge that it will remain under my bed. I've been through the gamut of reactions with my courtly books.

Possessing Karma was going to be my break out novel. It was edgy, different, super sexy, a little scary... it merged my love of history with my total fear of ghosts and came out awesome. Or at least I thought it was awesome until yesterday when I decided to do a quick once over for Golden Heart.

Things I remember including as part of my voice and my character's deep pov are not there. I must have cut them in favor of brevity or something. Philippe's a nice guy, maybe too nice. Karma's OCD because I say she is, but I don't show it. Damn. I don't know what I did in the final edit, but my work feels soulless and choppy. No wonder it didn't get the response I expected.

I think I may have to set aside Touched in favor of breathing life back into Karma. Either that or I'll read it again tomorrow and be awed by my brilliance.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Trending Now #youaretoolate

You’re already too late to join in the success of the current big thing. Sorry, but that’s how it is. Once you become aware of the current trends, they’re already on the way out. The only hope you have is to somehow be the next trend.  The problem here is that if you aren’t a current trend, you are currently unsellable. If time traveling cowboys aren’t already flying off the shelves, then your time traveling cowboy book is not representable. However, if you have written something based on the hot topic de jour, agents may want it, but by the time it’s on the shelves, readers are bored.

Maybe this is a jaded opinion (no maybe about it, it is). It makes a lot of sense that an agent wouldn’t want something that they don’t foresee making them a profit. I don’t resent this at all – it’s business.  Besides, if the agent is making money, that means the authors are making money and that seems win-win to me. The problem is that the next big thing has to come from somewhere. A book has to actually become published that is outside the proscribed mold in order for readers to make it a phenomenon. This implies that, from time to time, agents and editors take the risk of working outside the box (eitherr that or the author self-publishes successfully and all the agents who told them there was no spot on the bookshelf for them start kicking themselves).

I have to believe that if I write a good book, even if it isn’t trending now, it is worthy of attention. There are readers out there. I have to believe this to keep writing.

I admit that after three unsellable Tudor era romances I jumped ship and wrote a paranormal. Paranormals are hot, right? I had a good story to tell and didn’t feel like I was betraying my historical roots. I looked at trends and saw vampire/shifter market saturation and avoided it. Still, my paranormal wasn’t the right type of paranormal. Looking at trends now, it seems paranormal series is the hot thing. The same protagonists from book to book (Angie Fox, Karen M. Moning, Darynda Jones.) Yes, I very much enjoy these authors, but I also like my stories to end (As much as I love Sylvia Day, I may not read the fourth Crossfire book simply out of a fit of pique that the third book teased me into thinking the story was coming to a conclusion.)  Of course, even if I could bring myself to do this, I’d be too late to jump on this trend.

Do I try to predict the next trend and write to that? Or do I write the stories that demand to be written and trust that, eventually, they will end up accidentally hitting the nail on the head. Who knows? Ultimately, I will just write on, trust my instincts, and let everything unfold how it will.

Do you let trends determine your writing?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

Nothing sparks hope like the positive response from an agent or publisher. Every time I’ve had a full manuscript requested has been golden. My writing is never better than when I feel like it’s going somewhere. I’ve had publisher responses telling me, a day after I sent the initial first three chapters, that they couldn’t put it down and to please send the full. During that time I’m a writing machine.

While waiting on my post-Romance Writers of America conference agent responses, hope held steady, petering only a little as we approach the 90 day deadline. No response is better than a bad response, right?

But what happens when hope is gone? A rejection is a sure way to kill my creative flow. Maybe my anti-depressants aren’t strong enough or I don’t get enough sunshine, but it really slays me. In fact, the generic ‘no thank you’ response is less painful than the agent that says I’m a good writer, they enjoyed my manuscript, but they can’t represent me at this time. What does that mean? What am I not doing right? Full of self doubt, it becomes impossible to write forward. I stop trusting my instincts after a really positive interaction with an industry profession doesn’t pan out. I don’t trust my writing when, obviously, readers don’t connect with it. Without knowing what I need to know different, my ability to produce it completely stymied.

It’s a shame that my sense of hope is pegged upon the response of others. I wish I could give myself my own gold star, but I must not have enough confidence. It’s upsetting and makes me wonder if I’m that singer auditioning for American Idol who sounds like a cow in labor, but thinks I’m all that.

The good news is that this too shall pass. I’ll get over myself because the story percolating in my head demands to be told. I’ll rediscover the joy of writing for the sake of writing and then the cycle will repeat. Who knows? Maybe some day I’ll have the right story and get it to the right reader.

I guess that means hope is not gone, not really. As for now, maybe today I’ll write in spite of the rejections. Or maybe I’ll give myself permission to be discouraged. Who knows? Tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Switching Genres

Greetings and salutations! It's been awhile since I've posted here because I've been too busy with real life kicking my butt. Only some minor complaints, really; I'm sure it was over due.

On a positive note, I have started writing again. Following the RWA conference this year, my arm was too messed up. Then the school year started. The bad news is I that I had hoped to have this project finished and clean for the Golden Heart and the likelihood of that happening is pretty much nil. I can't really complain though because the writing is going well. I'm really happy with the direction the characters are taking the story. They're so much more damaged than I originally thought and that makes their transformation so much more intense. So maybe I didn't force the writing whilst stoned on Vicodin -- I have to accept that it was meant to be.

This project, like the last, is a paranormal romance set in modern times. Yes, there is a lot of historical influence, but not enough to call it a historical romance by any stretch. When I wrote Karma and switched categories within the romance genres, I didn't consider that it made all my previous agent/publisher research void. After so many years of stalking agents that represented historical romance, after pouring through their client lists and reading their newest publications so I could know what they responded too and thought would sell, I started writing paranormal. I never even considered that this might mean a different group of agents.

Romance? Yes. Same sub-genre? No.

I am an idiot.

This summer, prior to RWA 2013, I made a nod at research for the agent/editor pitch sessions. RWA provided a table with checked boxes indicating what those agents/editors were looking for. Historical? Check. Paranormal? Check. This applied to formal pitches only. My stalking list of agents, though, had not been altered.

I write this as a word of warning. It's possible I ruined existing rapport I had with my dream agents by sending them stuff they do not represent. One of my rejections from 2012 came with the comment that she liked my writing and to send her the next thing I had that wasn't Tudor. Well, I did -- and I deviated so far that it wasn't even historical. I'm still crossing my fingers that I didn't burn that bridge. That particular agent is forwarding it to another agent in her group that does do paranormal. I breathed a big sigh of relief at that but still kicked myself.

Long story short: Do your research. If you change what you're writing, do your research again. Sounds like common sense, but then again I'm not often accused of that particular quality and it gets worse every year.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Punctuation

In getting ready for the new school year, I was looking online for a graphic representing the history of the world. I found many that I could NOT use, a few of which can be found on Morgane Parisi's tumblr blog (well worth your time).

I did find some images of new and necessary punctuation. Allow me to share them with you. They will revolutionize writing as we know it.

Maybe this is the evolution of the English language. Who knows? 
And, just because the last one was about Morgan Freeman, here is a short video biography so we can all know him better.

BTW, I'm still lopsided. I have a tear in my left shoulder tendon and will be having surgery as soon as insurance and scheduling allow. Just fyi.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sick Leave

Taking a bit of a break from blogging until my shoulder is more functional. I tore something prior to the conference and it's been getting worse everyday. I'm dealing with insurance about approvals for stuff and it seems like an exercise in futility. Trying to talk my husband into stabbing me in the arm and then going to emergency room with knife sticking out. They'd have to do something about it then, right?

RWA was great, btw. More on that later.

Anyway, back to my pain killers, ice packs, and heating pad.

Peace out.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Schmoozing, But Not Boozing

Some of you know this already, some don’t, but two years ago (as of July 1st) I decided to no longer drink alcohol. I do not think booze is bad, but it is bad for me. Drink away, I’m fine with it. I’m not judging you or drooling after your martini. Seriously. Yes, sometimes I miss having wine with dinner or I wonder what the new cider by Sam Adams tastes like, but none of that is worth breaking the seal on my sobriety. I can rationalize anything if I try hard enough, but in this subject there is no grey area.

Different people have had different reactions to this information. Some get all, "Hallelujah! Alcohol is from Satan!" Others think of their own drinking habits, get uncomfortable with the idea that they may have a problem, and try to rationalize with me to help me realize I should join them for a drink. Some people tell me how proud they are of me or try to be sensitive and not order a beer in my presence. All of these reactions make me uncomfortable. Am I overly sensitive? Probably.

In an ideal situation, I’d be with friends or acquaintances at a bar or restaurant. They’d order their drinks, I’d order my iced tea, and that would be that. OR maybe one friend wants to buy me a drink and I say, “No thanks,” and the conversation ends there with a smile. The thing is that people like to drink with other people. If someone in the group is NOT drinking, unless they’re pregnant or Mormon, well meaning friends will want them to join in the drunken fun. Peer pressure didn’t end with high school.

I suppose I could fake being either Mormon or pregnant (or both), but I don’t. And I hate simply saying that I don’t drink, because people tend to assume I’m some sanctimonious jerk judging them. So then I have to explain why to complete strangers and then the reactions listed in paragraph 2 begin. Besides, it’s really personal.

The fact that so much networking occurs after hours at the hotel bar makes my skin crawl, not because I’m afraid I’ll be tempted, but because I know all this mess will come up. Based on observations last year in Anaheim, the stereotype that authors drink a lot is not false. Since I want to be social and I want to network within my peer group and industry professionals I’ll be at the bar too.

Last night I had a dream that I was at a club and someone bought me a drink. In my dream I decided it would be polite to just drink it. What harm could it do? Even in my no-real-life-consequences dream, I still ended up spilling it “accidentally.” It sucks that such a farce seems necessary in order not to offend. In fact, in real life, I frequently order tonic and lime so people assume I’m drinking and don’t give me a hard time.

This year at RWA in Atlanta I absolutely intend to hang out at the bar with my pretend booze. I will have a great time meeting great people without any liquid courage. I have a feeling that I won’t be the only writer there in a similar situation. Even so, the thought makes me more nervous than the idea of pitch sessions.

In mainstream American cultural, drinking is the socially accepted norm, at the conference even more so. Chances are good they’re already uncomfortable and may feel like an outsider. I write this with a simple request -- while schmoozing at the bar, live and let live. If someone chooses not to drink, please make it a non-issue.

See you in Atlanta!
Click above for a Fauxhito recipe.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Real Life Leading Up To RWA13

In my last “this house is disgusting” episode followed by frantic cleaning, I actually made use of the laundry hamper in my bathroom. Usually I sort loads out on the floor near the hamper, but very rarely put laundry in it and close the lid. I know. The idea is that I’ll wash those loads if they’re in my face. Obviously, it doesn’t always happen in a timely matter. I’m sure you have opinions about this. So does my husband.

The end result was a clean room and laundry that was out of sight, out of mind. Life went on, but without my
comfortable, functional underwear. For two weeks of I’ve been wearing and laundering the impractical, special occasion items that do not do well on muggy days or at the gym.

Today, after I cleared away the shoe boxes that somehow ended up stacked on top of the closed laundry hamper, I discovered a hidden stash of clothes. Happy Underwear Christmas! It was with a sense of relief that I closed the door on my washer and turned it on.  Tonight I will wear cotton! Thank God.

I’m in the home stretch of laundry, dry cleaning, and shopping in preparation for Romance Writers of America 2013 conference in Atlanta. The conference clothes are occupying a different section of my closet than my every day wear and, now that I see everything together, I realize I have more than I need. Even so, chances are good I may buy a grey blazer tomorrow. I have my travel size items and my packing cubes just arrived today. Very exciting. Thank you, Erin Knightley.

Amidst all of this hoopla I’m still writing forward in Touching the Past and applying beta reader edits to Possessing Karma. Last year I approached the conference with a desperate optimism. This year, upon last year’s lack of results, I’m a little more relaxed about the process and I hope that translates into real confidence rather than forced exuberance (“I know my writing’s good” vs. “LIKE ME!”).

We shall see. As for now I’m looking forward to underwear.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Preparing for a Writing Conference

I've been making a lot of jokes, and will continue to do so, about being prepared for the Romance Writers of America conference with my Spanx. The truth is that last year in Anaheim, I ended up taking them off within the first hour. I decided comfort mattered more than less visible lumps. This year I have the ones with shoulder straps.

Last year I researched blogs and articles, determined to present myself as respectably as possible. In all, I did fine, but this year I have a better understanding of conference norms. Let me state here that I am in no way an expert. This is merely a collection of lessons learned in no particular order.

1. I learned it is worth it stay at the conference hotel. We stayed down the street, but the price difference didn't make up for the inconvenience of not being able to pop up to your room with fifty pounds of  books. More importantly, the hotel bar and lobby was a serious hot spot for networking after hours (and during).

2. I didn't need full printed copies of my manuscript. They just took up bag space and even though my pitching went well, all I handed out were my one sheets. I came prepared with full proposals with bios and my first three chapters. Even the agents who asked for my first three wanted them via email, so it was a waste of paper, toner, and shoulder pain.

3. I didn't need to have my laptop with me during workshops at all. I was busy staying on task during the workshop and mingling after. Having my head buried in the computer would have wasted valuable face to face opportunities.

4. I had head shots done prior to the conference and included my picture on almost everything. I'd read that it was a good idea and I absolutely agree. It puts the name to the face, helps created a visual memory cue. I tend to make an impression (one way or another) and may as well work that. As much as I hate having my picture taken, it was worth it.

5. The idea of an 'elevator pitch' is not what I originally thought. I'd stressed over how to summarize 85k words in a single sentence. One of the first workshops was led by Angie Fox who explained that if she led with the summary of the story it would seem like it had been done before (because everything has). Instead she led with something different, something that captured attention. She sold her story with a pitch about geriatric biker witches.

6. Business cards. I'd read that they were something I needed, but dismissed it. I'm not established as an author. Who would want my business card? Hotel bar after hours mingling with fellow writers yielded many business cards, all of which I saved then made a point to follow their blogs, buy their books, whathaveyou, to maintain that conference connection. This year I have business cards (with my head shot). I ordered mine from 123Print. I found them easy to work with and my order arrived just days after I placed it. RWA has a deal with Moo Cards.

7. Back to the Spanx. It was hugely important to be comfortable AND professionally respectable. I did well in all, and I partly owe that to breaking my foot and being forced to wear sensible shoes. Now I love shoes. Love them. There were many fabulous shoes at the conference and I was jealous, begrudging my Sketcher Mary Janes. That said, I could walk at the end of each day and I can't say the same for many other attendees. Unless you wear shoes like that everyday (and if you write, chances are you're barefoot right now or in slippers) it's not worth it.

8. The definition of professional attire differs from state to state. This conference is on the East Coast where things are a little more polished than in casual California. Industry professionals are dominantly from New York. Suits are not out of place. Even in Anaheim I saw many tailored, elegant, expensive looking suits -- a huge contrast to the handful of people in sweats and flip flops. Don't stand out for being too casual. Last year Mary Wine, in a Oriental silk shantung tailored coat told me you have to look a million bucks to make a million bucks. With her hair in a braided coronet and her stunning outfit, she looked expensive, professional, and still had personal style.

9. Know your writing. Who is your audience? Where would it be on a book shelf? What established authors have a similar style AND how are you different? I do better expressing myself in the written word than verbally. I had to constantly remind myself to calm down, slow down, and answer the question. People don't ask about your book unless they actually want to know, so don't be afraid to share. This is not a time for self deprecation. It's okay to be excited and proud of your work.

10. It is not okay to be catty and judgmental about other authors. Last year I heard someone criticizing a well known author who was at the conference. If I overheard this conversation, who else did? You never know if that author's editor is next to you at the bar. Don't be a jerk. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it.

See you in Georgia!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Where's the Love?

I'm 20k into my current project and it feels stagnant. I've brought the story forward, outlined as much as someone like me can, and yet it's not a growing story. I couldn't put my finger on the problem, so just kept writing forward. I knew something was wrong with the meat of what I'd written so far -- that's been the case every time my writing sort of devolved into rambling, but I had no idea what to fix.

I was meeting with my fabulous critique partner going over scenes that I will undoubtedly cut in the final draft because they don't further the story, when she asked when Gillian and Liam were going to get together.

Ummmm... eventually?

WRONG ANSWER. And thus, I discovered the fatal flaw of my work in progress. I wasn't writing a romance. I was writing an interesting story about sentient trees and elemental powers with some romance sauce. Every other story* I've written started with the romance and the story built around it. Touching the Past started with the forest and the idea of coming home at last. The spark was missing and that wasn't something I could just build up in a well placed sentence here and there.

This week I've been starting over again and it hurts. After many starts and stops, yesterday I finally started making progress and the tension in my shoulders relaxed. I'll be able to use a lot of what I've written so far, but it's a new story. I had to revise Gillian's history entirely, create new personal conflict, and reexamine the woman life has made her and the way Liam will respond. A lot of work, but it will be a much better story in the long run. I'm just glad I was able to figure it out now before wasting more time writing in the wrong direction.

*With exception of my under-the-bed book, Courtly Love, which was more writing therapy about depression.

Friday, June 14, 2013

I'm Allergic to Correction

Actually, I'm not allergic to correction. Grass, cats, dust mites, yes -- but I actually assume everything I do is wrong, so correction doesn't surprise me.

We have a natural defense mechanism whenever someone corrects us, even if they're in the right. While I like to know if I have spinach on my teeth or my zipper is down, my immediate response is defensive. I have quickly reprogram my knee jerk reaction to one of gratitude, after all, I don't want to walk around all day with a verdant smile. When there's class difference (employee to boss, student to teacher, etc...) it makes the correction even more awkward for both parties. People need to remember that the

This is even worse is more subtle, personal areas. How do you tell the diabetic you love that they're killing themselves? You do it once, get snapped at, and realize nothing you say will make a difference. I was once at my hair salon and got a gag-inducing whiff of one of the other stylists. I mentioned it to my hairdresser and she said that it was driving away customers, but no one knew how to tell the woman without hurting her feelings.

It's all about communication and the understanding the correction is not directed to hurt, but to help. Correction can be annoying, but, if it is well meant, it shouldn't be treated as an attack. It was probably really hard for the person to tell you that your behavior is damaging your relationships. They wouldn't tell you if it wasn't true, at least to them; chances are that whatever they're saying directly affects them, so give it credibility. If your friends always smiled and nodded while secretly being annoyed when you brought them your trash and called them gifts or tried to redecorate their house, that would end up as a very one sided friendship. I like to think that my husband's input, while not always appreciated, keeps my crazy in check. Active relationships help keep people accountable.

This is equally true in literary critique. I once spent several hours over many days on a difficult piece, unsure how to say that it had no central idea, no clear character, and was written more for the writer than the reader. But, since I was asked to give honest feedback, I did. Part of that included deleting the first seventeen pages -- hey, I was being honest. I gave reasons for all my edits, I made sure to note the positives along with giving suggestions to fix the problems. I sent it, my heart in my throat, afraid I was going to ruin a friendship and.... nothing. Not even acknowledgement that they received it. I've received negative critiques that I didn't always agree with, but at least I said thank you (and usually, after I've had a day or so to fume about implied disrespect to my baby, I'm able to think about what was said more objectively and find it helpful).

Critique is a gift. Honest communication about problems is an attempt to keep a relationship healthy. Don't take either as an attack.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cold Sweats, Shopping, and Beauty

Eighty's music filtered through the open roof of my mirrored dressing room. Silks, satins, and chiffons billowed around me in the air conditioned, gardenia scented space. I rejected gown after gown with the entitlement of the most aristocratic shoppers, and still the young sales assistant smiled and brought me more. Finally, I found one that both flattered the good and concealed the bad. I felt classically elegant, not at  all matronly, and well represented by my curves. Even more importantly, I would be done shopping for evening gowns for years. The relief that came with that thought was almost like an adrenaline crash.

I enjoy shopping (the exception always being bathing suits and bras). Yesterday, it was horrible and I couldn't wait to be done with the whole mess. I was in a cold sweat the entire time. I was ashamed to have the young girl help me zip because she would feel notice how clammy my fat was.  I thought I was at peace with my figure -- I guess I'm not. I'm womanly, which is a good thing given that I find feminine curves attractive even if it is not the socially accepted standard of beauty. Yes, I would be happy to lose two or three dress sizes, but don't feel unattractive.

It all started with my size twelve bridesmaid dress from a friend's wedding ten years ago not fitting. My daughters were ecstatic to go dress shopping with me and, frankly, were the best part of the whole experience. They were awed by the princess imagery around them and loved everything. If it was floor length and included something sparkly, they thought I looked beautiful. The dress I ended up buying was their least favorite (for lack of sparkles), but didn't make me feel like a sausage or a Samoan grandmother. In spite of the high stress sweats throughout the entire experience, I liked the dress until I got home and looked up pictures online to show my husband. Now I actively dislike it and am kicking myself for spending the money. I guess I'll have to wait until my order arrives for the fitting to see it again and confirm that I chose wisely.

My dress is the center gown, only in amethyst (deep plum -- oh, and that blingy bauble at the center is added embellishment). The model does less for the dress than a clothes hanger. I understand that high fashion models are supposed to be emaciated, but looking at this picture implies that this is how the dress is supposed to look on the wearer and the way it looks on me must be very wrong. I will say that she has very healthy looking hair for someone so lacking in any body fat.

What's the point of this post? Venting, perhaps? It clearly doesn't have to do with writing, though the shopping was in preparation for the RWA convention rapidly approaching. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gillian, What's Your Sign?

As I flesh out my characters, one of the tools I use to keep myself from making them archetypal is an astrological chart. I give my characters a birthday and accept the random character traits astrology lists. I already know the basics. For example, as a Leo, Gillian is confident and a little pushy. She is comfortable performing and enjoys the recognition for her talents. This is currently causing her some grief in her academic studies because her British professor has discounted her as a dumb American. Her chart added some traits that balance out her drive to succeed. Her moon in Jupiter gives her "great optimism and an ability to bounce back easily from negative experiences" -- which is important given that her husband died of Leukemia and she's uprooted her life to follow her dreams.  Her Mercury being in Virgo helps in her research with the University of Cork College in that she has "a fine mind and a great appetite for detail. [She] appreciate minute differences and distinctions and take a very surgical approach to your operations." True to her Leonine traits, her Mercury squares Mars making her a forceful and dynamic communicator who sometimes can be too aggressive. Luckily her sun is in the 12th house, making her serious and ready to sacrifice herself for the needs of other.

Whether or not you think astrology is bunk, the character traits have been really useful. I need to run my male lead's chart. I know that Sergeant Liam Hurley of Glangashaboy garda is an Aries and very compatible with a Leo, but would find more information helpful in developing him further.

For more detail on Gillian's astrological chart or, more importantly, to look at the various facets of a cahrt, continue reading. For those of you who don't care (and hey, I get that), don't continue reading.

Happy writing.

Note: I used the astrological chart generator linked above. For those of you that might really be into this as a religion/science and have thoughts on the accuracy of the chart generator, I don't really care. Since Gillian is not a real person, it's only important as a tool for me.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Seductive Titles

I titled my first manuscript Courtly Love. Each chapter referenced one of Capellanus' Rules of Courtly Love (also mentioned in The Courtier by Castiglione). It was, in my opinion, a smart title. Not only did each rule serve as a theme for the chapter, the overall message was that courtly love wasn't true love. In that book my hero and heroine learned that real love was gritty and uncomfortable, not all about show. Courtly Love was followed by Courtly Christmas, Courtly Marriage, and an intended (but never happened ) Courtly Consequences. All of them played on the reality versus the sophisticated ideal of their subject.

The big problem, aside from the apparently unpublishable nature of Tudor romps, was that none of these titles were in the least bit sexy. I took myself far too seriously. This advice was given by an author that I count as one of my favorites in the historical romance genre. She writes smart, strong, poignant stories all with a sense of humor and a decent deal of heat. I changed the titles to Courtly Pleasures, Courtly Scandals, and Courtly Abandon. Sexier? Yes. Published? No. Oh well.

I took the advice to heart for my next book, Possessing Karma. I didn't abandon my obsessive need for double meaning, but managed to make it have a sensual translation (my main character, Karma, gets possessed by ghosts, then in a more carnal way by Philippe. The ghosts are being punished by the force of karma, etc...).

Misleading title, maybe?

I'm having real trouble finding a title I like for my Ireland book, currently titled Touched by the Past. Gillian returns to Ireland, where she'd spent a troubled childhood, only to find the memories she'd written off as dreams were real. She has a connection to the forest, an ageless elemental spirit of earth. The problem is that the forest doesn't the limitations of her humanity and she doesn't want to accept what is happening to her. The forest barrages her with memories, some recent, some ancient, and she has trouble determining what's real. She also reconnects with a childhood sweetheart who helps her accept the supernatural element and is her support in fighting a very mundane enemy.

I've brainstormed, looking for themes that are both mystical and sensual. I've come up with to know/knowing, bared by/baring, exposed/exposure, open to, touched/touching/to touch, taken, etc... It's driving me crazy. I keep hoping the title will come to me in a moment of inspiration, but no luck on that front so far. With RWA 2013 conference rapidly approaching, I want a gripping title to have on my one sheet (even though I won't be finished, so won't really pitch it -- more just have it with me to show that I'm actively producing)

Titles matter. They make the first impression. What sort of titles appeal to you when buying a book? Have you ever bought on title alone?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Name, Same Blog

From the start my blog has been musings about the writing process. I share personal experiences, lessons I've learned from, and information from the romance industry. Occasionally I deviate with a blog fest or a rant, but I've been true to form.

I came up with Hold on to Your Bloomers in effort to not take myself too seriously and still have a hint of historical romance involved. I even had Doing it Elizabethan Style for a bit, but it grossed me out. Now that I've expanded my writing to include paranormal stories in modern day settings, I think I need a new blog title, if not a new blog identity.

Should it be creepy and dark? I don't think so because I still write with a sense of humor. My Elizabethans have been described as a romp -- I like to think my paranormals, while spooky, have an element of fun as well. I've been brainstorming witty titles, but nothing clicked. 

I spoke to my husband about it and he said to keep it simple, but also make it something that will catch with search engines. He suggested Spock Writes Romance. Is it misleading? Do people expect a Star Trek homage? Maybe. But my last name is Spock, and it's the name people remember about me. It's also generic enough to allow for growth. Yes, I write romance -- so far just historical and paranormal, but who knows what lies down the road. Fantasy/Sci-Fi wouldn't be that big a leap for me. I have a few ideas from a young adult series. 

For the record  yes, I really enjoy Star Trek (never got into Voyager though - 7 of 9 and the doctor were the only good things about that show). 

So, Spock Writes Romance it is. For those of you that have followed me for awhile now, please know that it's still the same blog. When it comes down to it, whatever the name, I blog about writing and the writing experience. Eventually it will include the publication experience.

Just for fun, click below to see the most amazing commercial ever. Every time I think about it, I smile. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Agent and Editor Research

Romance Writers of America's national conference is sneaking up on us. They have released the names of agents and editors who will be there and available for pitches. The list is in a handy little table, so I can check for those who represent both historical and paranormal romance. Really, I intend to focus on the ones I have not pitched to yet, so these ones are the unknown. This means research.

As I work my way through the list from Ahearn to Yost, let me mention that I really appreciate agent websites that include details about their client list. I can see what sort of product, at a glance, they represent. Yes, the table RWA provided has 'paranormal' checked, but if everything they have published is vampire series, chances are good I'm not within their scope.  Last year I had this trouble with inspirational agents. They didn't say anywhere that they were only for inspirational (Christian) books, but after looking up each author they had listed and reading about their books, I was able to draw that conclusion. I just wish I didn't have to spend so much time on each one before eliminating them as an option.

As a PRO member (a member that has completed at least one manuscript and gone through the process enough to get rejected) I am able to sign up for pitch sessions on 5/20 (tomorrow!) and this year I am aware that sign up starts at 9am central, not pacific. That was my bad last year. Oh well.

Along with signing up for pitch sessions, I'm using the information to create a stalking file. I go so far as to include pictures of my target agents, but I found last year that I relied much more on the name tags. It's worth it to know who the agents and agencies are and what they represent -- that way neither of us are wasting our time. I like to think that what I'm doing is not creepy and obsessive, but smart. Not weird at all. Okay, fine, last year there was one agent that had a bio mentioning something about riding bikes in Manhattan and I theorized about how I could hook her up with my brother (who also rides his bike in Manhattan -- relationships have been based on less), but I never actually did it.

This year I'll be armed with my one-sheets for four completed manuscripts. I want to be closer to done with my fifth, but even if I take up cocaine or something in order to cram it out, it wouldn't be clean and ready by mid-July. And I'd have a drug problem. Not worth it.

On that note I'm going to refill my coffee and get back to compiling my list. Cheers.

Side note: Don't Google for "Georgia peach" images if your kids are nearby. Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Something You Can Trust

It seemed like all the events in the news this past year were aimed at rattling my faith in humanity (egocentric
much, Erin?). From citizens needing protection from the police, the Catholic Church more worried about its reputation than the congregation, teachers taking advantage of their position with students, even the highest offices in this country more interested in popularity than the good of America -- it all becomes too much sometimes. Who do you turn to when you can't trust anyone?

My easy escape is into a romance novel.  It's a place where men are honorable. Where love is important and family is everything. You are guaranteed laughter and tears. Happily ever after happens. Good is rewarded, bad is punished. Everything is right with the world. This is why I started reading romance in the first place. Real life has enough crap in it -- why read something that would make me feel even more hopelessness, helplessness?  Of course there is conflict in romances too, some more than others, but at the end everyone comes to their senses. Where does that happen in real life?

Even if people just read romance for the sex, at least they're reading about encounters where the physical is an expression of love. The couples cherish each other despite flaws or uncertainty. Sex is an extension of an emotional journey, not a drunk hook up at a bar or as result of low self esteem. It can be passionate and erotic, yes, but more than that: it's two people finding each other with a promise of forever.

You may say it's not realistic -- but the characters in a well written romance can be as real and inspiring as the most lauded literature, only I know when I finish the last page it will be with a smile and sense of emotional well-being. There's enough turmoil and sadness everywhere else. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing Forward

One of my very first blog post was about putting perfectionism aside and writing. I have to make the conscious decision not to get mired down into worrying that my first draft is going to be perfect. If I did, I'd end up with one really overworked chapter after a year of work instead of a new book.

You'd think that it would be part of my process, ingrained, by book five, but no. I still have to slap myself into submission and force myself to write forward. The story won't happen if I don't make it happen. At this stage of the game,t his is my biggest hurdle.

I'll worry about my passive language and overused phrases on the next round.

What is your biggest obstacle to finishing a manuscript?

Friday, April 26, 2013

I Have Been Judged

Have you ever judged a writing contest? I have not, but I have been judged. Oh yes, judged and found lacking. I have also been judged and found brilliant. Oddly, it was the same manuscript in the same contest.

I like what I like. I buy books I know that I'm already predisposed to like. Recently I made a foray into horror/thriller and found that I do not like it. I like aspects, but the gore is over the top and doesn't further the story for me. If I was a horror reader by nature, maybe I'd find that gore necessary as much as sex is in romance (disclaimer: I think gore in horror and sex in romance has its place, but can be gratuitous -- this is my main objection).

What I find unfortunate about the judging process is that the judges of writing competitions are generally not allowed to judge within their own genre. I write historical. People who enjoy my stories enjoy historical settings and, generally, understand aspects about the history already. For a judge who does not read and enjoy historical to read and judge it seems out of place. The same goes, perhaps even more so, for paranormal. People who are just unable to suspend disbelief for the supernatural will not enjoy the reading experience if they're judging a paranormal manuscript. They're predisposed not to like it.

Because of this, one of the scores I pay most attention to is about the writing itself. You don't have to like the genre to recognize a well written work. Usually the scores on the quality of writing are consistent across the panel of judges.

This brings me to the reason for this blog. I just got my Golden Heart score sheets (RWA: thank you for the change, by the way. I love that it breaks it down.) In one book, I got scored a 9/10 and a 10/10 for the quality of writing. I also scored a 5/10. Huh? I understand stylistic differences or just not enjoying a writer's voice, but 5/10 makes me think I need a refresher course in sentence structure. How does one judge give something a perfect score, and the other fail it completely? It blew my mind. I don't know how to address it. My fragile self esteem makes me more likely to dismiss the high scores as a fluke rather than the low score. People have all sorts of opinions about story, character, etc... and I can allow for differences there, but if I just can't write paragraphs cohesively this is a huge problem.

Disclaimer: This is not a complaint, it's a reaction. I am very grateful for the judges who took the time to read my manuscript and give feedback.

I'm left with an unclear course of action (if any). Even more so, I'm left unsure about my own abilities. Don't worry; I'm not fishing for complements or in need of hugs. I'm fine -- I just need to step away for a moment and try to look at things objectively. In the mean time...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Touched by the Past

Photo by Dimitri Vervitsiotis
I'm off and running with my new project. A lot more planning went into this than any other project. My Elizabethans were set in a period where I was already an annoying font of knowledge (not counting confirming dates of choreography and specifics about the 17th Earl of Oxford's inheritance.) My New Orleans story required some Google Earth and some research into Voodoo, but beyond that, I already had a healthy understanding of the pre-Civil war history of the city and recent experiences there in regard to the vibe of the culture.

Touched by the Past, while based on my childhood experiences on the woodland property of the hotel my family owned in Ireland, has required tons of research. From the native species of flora/fauna, tectonic activity and layers of sediment in coastal, South-West Ireland, limestone sink holes, and seasonal wild flower growth, I've buried myself in unexpected research. I thought I had this one in the bag, that my experiences would give me the knowledge base to write this story, but no, I had no prior knowledge about the stations of rank within the Garda, Ogham script, or the equivalent price of a pint of milk. When we lived there in the 80's we had it delivered in glass pints and had to scoop the cream off the top -- is it still like that? I entered into this project with a false sense of security. Reality was hard to swallow and frustrating; I was ready to be writing and ended up mired in research.

That said, I'm making good progress. Just for fun, here is my first 381 for your reading/critiquing enjoyment. I value any feedback you are willing to give.

Tendrils of blue electricity glowed and crackled, hovering over the misty earth. Reaching with fingers of light, it sought her out. Gillian watched, mesmerized, unsure if she should run away or give herself to the power one more time. Fear and excitement paralyzed her and all she could was watch as the living lightning snaked closer, a pulsing stream of incandescence, kinking and curling as it crawled.
All she had to do was show herself, take two steps into the open, and it would touch her, filling her with its earthy energy and memories, knowledge of things she had no right to know. It was tantalizing and, she shivered, scary. Really, really scary. Whenever it happened, she never knew if she would ever find herself again. Then that last time…
Gillian blinked in the early morning light, the memory of the old dream fading as reality settled in. No longer the thirteen year old girl hiding from some fantastical floating light, she knew better now. Experience of years, too many years, schooled her in the harsh realities of life. There was no magic in the forest and never had been; her dreams were based solely on the over-active imagination of a child.
The last time she’d stood here, holding her breath in anticipation at the lower mouth of the woods on the once paved carriage path of long dead aristocrats, she’d been a child in tears about leaving Ireland. Now, a thirty-five year old widow with a daughter in college, she didn’t feel any different. The wood before her was just as dark and ominous, and lush and beckoning, as it had been all those years ago.
Her Wellingtons squelched as she shifted within the sodden indents of the manicured lawn. She tucked a stray wisp of her blond hair back under the bandanna and straightened her gloves, ready to work. With a resolute nod, she stomped forward through the wet morning into the shade of the trees. She had nothing to fear here. She was an adult, experienced in forestry and ready to respect the biodiversity that lay before her. The forest would be her friend once more, if not on a magical plane, then on a basic, fundamental one.
She came to save it.

This is currently my desktop wallpaper. As I created it, I found myself using more images of landscape than of people. It made me realize how the forest itself is a dominant character.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Touching the Past

It's official. I'm working on my new project.

"But wait," you ask, "haven't you been working on that for a month or so?"

Yes. Sigh. I've been doing the research, laying out my characters, and procrastinating about really starting. Sure, I wrote the first chapter --but I wrote this with the understanding that I probably would end up throwing it out when I got halfway through the project because feedback would finally convince me that I hadn't started the story where the story starts (because I never learn).

What makes me serious now? Well, I know this is silly, but I have a Pandora station all set as my writing soundtrack. I also, finally, know what my male lead looks like. What else? I've finished the research that gives my entire reason for using Ireland as my setting validity, so now I can start applying the story. (Side note: I'm using Pinterest as a mode for collecting my data. It's very visual and much better than my Word.doc cut/paste of URLs.)

And I have! I'm only about 4k words into the manuscript, but the story has everything it needs to grow at this point.

On that note, I should get back to writing. Liam is walking Gillian home, but she really doesn't want him too -- or does she? (she does, but she wishes she didn't, just in case you wondered)

BTW: Touching the Past is a temporary title. I needed something. It had to be sexy/suggestive, but also touch on the mystical elements in the story. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Countdown to RWA 2013, Atlanta

As soon as I paid for the conference, I was all ready to go. You'd think I was about to embark on a luxury cruise or something by the way I'm looking forward to it. It's really not like me to WANT something like this. I mean, I'm socially awkward. I have to push myself to be outgoing. I can fake it, but the stress that comes a long with that is bad for my digestion. Still, I can hardly wait for July. It sounds like it's far away, but really, four months is nothing. Seriously, I feel like Hallowe'en just happened (I think I may have missed Christmas by blinking).

That said, it's not unreasonable for me to look at evening gowns for the awards ceremony, is it? Or buy a new purse that I don't plan to use until the trip? Maybe make a Pinterest board dedicated to online shopping for fabulous things ranging from formals to suits to tee-shirts that say creative/professional/edgy/mature-but-not-too-mature isn't taking it a step to far at all, but good planning.

Clothing, of course, isn't the only concern. Packaging (myself) matters, but I have to be able to deliver. Maybe now is a good time to start revising my one-page, proposals, etc... instead of the weeks before like last year. Last year did teach me that it was great to have my promotional pages, but that I didn't  need nearly as many as I brought. This year I'll have four completed novels, maybe five, ready to sell. This year I'll also have the experience from last year, so maybe be less spastic during pitch opportunities. Who knows?

Last year the conference was in Anaheim, which significantly cut down on cost for me. Atlanta is going to be pricey, but I consider the conference an investment in my career. Last year I felt like I had finally joined the professional community of writers, like it wasn't just a hobby. I didn't get a contract out of it, but the experience was wonderful and necessary for my growth.

This year I have a different product, a sexy paranormal, which means a potentially different agent and publisher pool from those I stalked over my Tudor historicals. I guess it's time to start my preparation.

Are you going to the conference?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Recycled Post: You Know You Write Historical Romance When...

I just came across this post, originally aired 5/31/2011 and decided it deserved to be re-shared. I added some of the original reader commentary.

You Know You Write Historical Fiction When...

  1. You find yourself using "anon" in everyday conversation.*
  2. You have words like "bumroll" and "farthingale" added to your spell-check's dictionary.*
  3. You actually own a bumroll or farthingale.*
  4. You programed auto-correct to change all "qe" to "Queen Elizabeth." *
  5. You cannot stand perfectly good period movies because of the fabric choices.
  6. You have become more lax about food sitting out because, hey, five hundred years ago there was no refrigeration.
  7. You find yourself inserting interesting historical facts that have nothing to do with your story and feel like you are doing your readers a disservice when you delete the unrelated history lesson later.
  8. You cannot stand reading a perfectly good historical romance because of the fabric choices (and, in a disappointed rage, may or may not have written a strongly worded letter to the author about his/her responsibility to the reader to portray their era with accuracy).
  9. You understand why many authors do not touch on anything to do with hygiene.
  10. You think nothing is wrong with having a beer at breakfast.
Just in case you wondered what a bumroll was.
Feel free to expand upon this list.

Sidenote: This post could also be titled, "You Know You Take Renaissance Faire Too Seriously When..."

* I write Elizabethan historical romance. Please feel free to insert whatever era appropriate terminology to make this relevant to your writing.
end original post .....................................................................................................................
Thank you to Kathleen and Mary for adding the following points:

Kathleen said... I love #8! OK, how about these:

11.You make up all sorts of reasons about how your widowed heroine is actually a virgin.

12.You figure out plausible excuses to explain why your widowed heroine (who is not a virgin) might respond like a virgin in a love scene.

13.You suspend reality to make every virginal heroine's first time fabulous and multi-orgasmic.

Interestingly, I can only think of sexual examples. Hmmmmm.... should I be worried?

I think #9 needs this add-on: "Not only do you understand, you agree and ensure that your main characters take more baths during the course of your story than most people of their era took in their lifetimes.
mary said...
OK, how about this:

You know the years each swear word came into common use.

You insist on capitalizing "she" when it refers to the Queen.

You know more about the laws of the 16th century than the ones today.

Am I on the right track?
 And Laura added a comment about her genre, mystery.
Laura M. Campbell said...
It's funny how serious writers take their genre and craft. I'm a mystery writer and I'm doing research on serial killers and I like to point out their is a distinction between psychopath and sociopath. I also know a thing or two about finger prints and trace evidence. The things swirling around in my head could make for a frightening story. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fan Fiction for Romantic Friday Writers

Romantic Friday Writers Prompt:  Write up to 1000 words of prose or poetry from famous lovers in famous stories from the past, recent or distant.

I love this idea. For some reason, the first couple I thought of was Titania and Oberon  I had all sorts of ideas, then started with the idea of writing it in verse... then I realized I was putting too much into it and the fun would be gone. Next was the super obvious Lizzie and Mr. Darcy. They needed to get it on -- but then I felt like I'd be messing with something sacred.

Thank goodness inspiration hit in a timely manner. Below, I give you, at 1050 words, Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and his first meeting with Mrs. Bennet (née Gardiner). Because there were no first names within the story, I improvised. Enjoy.

In Which Mr. Bennet Meets Miss Gardiner
 “Good Lord, she is enchanting, isn’t she William?”
William Bennet turned to look the direction his brother indicated, and saw nothing but a cluster of debutants giggling.
Charles did all but point with his flute of champagne. “Beyond the virgins, next to Lord Foxley. How much do you think she costs?”
William saw her then, her unpowdered gold ringlets piled high, still scarcely reaching Foxley’s nose. A petite little thing, a pocket Venus, she couldn’t have been older than eighteen. Her clothes indicated money, but there was an innocence to her, unjaded and honest, that set her apart from the rest of the ton. Something was different about her. Sipping his wine, he asked, “What makes you think she’s for sale?”
“Look at the way she laughs, she reeks of merchants. No gentleman will wed her, but there is already speculation at Whites about who will be the first to bed her.”
“Then those men are not gentlemen.” William tugged on the points of his waistcoat. “It is barbaric to plan the ruin of a young woman based solely on her connections or lack thereof.”
“Ah, William, so full of righteous fury at the injustices of the world. I’m surprised you came tonight if you despise all your peers so heartily. You might find these events more pleasurable if you did your thinking with,” he gestured crudely, “another head.”
William willed the tension from his jaw. He would not rise to his brother’s baiting. Bowing just enough to be polite, he excused himself.
He was here to find a wife. He didn’t have the fortune to attract a titled woman, nor the romantic inclinations to woo one. Really, women were befuddling, a riot of emotions that he could never understand. Still, as the eldest son, he must marry and sire a son lest the entail pass to Charles who would do nothing but drink it into ruin.
A slap on the back broke him from his thoughts. He looked up to find Foxley grinning at him like a fool.
“Miss Gardiner, allow me to present you my dear friend William Bennet.”
Lost in his thoughts, he’d walked straight towards them like some lovesick fool.
“Your servant, ma’am,” he said with a bow, “I…”
Whatever he’d been about to say was lost, gone, the moment his eyes met hers. Though her face was in calm repose as a lady’s should be, her eyes were smiling, laughing, as if daring him to laugh with her. A deep brown, fringed in long, dark lashes, they were a stark contrast to her blond brows and hair. Remarkable.
“I fear your beauty has quite undone my friend,” Foxley continued, plucking a fresh flute of champagne from a passing server. He took Miss Gardiner’s almost empty glass from her fingers and handed her the new one.
“My Lord, I really should not have another. The bubbles go straight to my head.” She smiled, looking up under her lashes, her eyes flashing with amusement.
“I insist,” Foxley crooned. “It is, after all, your debut upon the ton. Make the most of it.”
“William, there you are!” A shrill voice assaulted him from behind as his mother slapped him in the back with her fan. “Why are you dallying with your friends when you should be finding a wife?”
Foxley snorted, too gauche to pretend not to hear, but Miss Gardiner just smiled at him softly and took a sip of her champagne then set it on a passing footman’s tray.
“Mother, allow me to make you acquainted with Miss Gardiner. I have just found out that this is her first ball. Miss Gardiner, this is my mother, Mrs. Katherine Bennet.”
“Your mother did not host a ball in your honor then?” Somewhere in the last ten years, his mother had lost her understanding of tact.
“Father wouldn’t hear of it, but Mother was able to gain this invitation and so,” Miss Gardiner spread her gloved hands before her, “here I am.”
“And who are your parents, child?” His mother hedged closer, pushing him aside with her panniers.
“Jacob and Margaret Gardiner of Hampstead Heath.” Miss Gardiner explained, holding her chin with confidence despite his mother’s scrutiny. “Father is a banker…”
“A banker’s daughter!” His mother stepped back as if burned. “How on earth did you gain entrance to Lady Spencer’s ball?”
“Lady Spencer is my aunt, Mrs. Bennet.” The young woman’s polite words held an edge, though her eyes continued to smile.
William hid his own smile when his mother did not respond. She could hardly give the cut direct to the hostess’s niece no matter her unfortunate parentage. He cleared his throat and held out his hand, “Miss Gardiner, would you please do me the honor of joining me in this dance?”
She slipped her gloved hand into his and gave a curtsey, “Of course, Mr. Bennet. You are too kind.”
Her laughter danced along the breeze ruffling the oil lamps suspended on the terrace. Her hand snug in the crook of his arm, he fought the urge to hold her closer still. He laid his hand over hers and noted the fair skin of her arm above her glove, beneath the fall of lace at her elbow, dust over with goose bumps.
“Are you cold, Miss Gardiner? We could go inside.”
“Not at all, Mr. Bennet, but I thank you for your concern.” Turning her face up to him, she bit her lip, drawing his eyes to her sweet bow of a mouth.
“If it is not bold, I would ask you to call me William.”
She looked away as a rosy blush covered her cheeks. “Not too bold, William,” she whispered his name. “And you may call me Elizabeth, if you wish.”
Elizabeth,” he whispered her name in turn then pulled her hand to his lips and placed a chaste kiss on her knuckles. “May I call upon your father on the morrow?”
She gasped, happiness clear in her eyes, then stilled herself once more. “Yes, William. I will tell him to expect you.”
His mother may well die of apoplexy and Charles would label him a fool, but William didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, they could all go to hell so long as he could gaze into Elizabeth Gardiner’s fine eyes.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Naming the Baby

Well, in this case, the new book. It's another paranormal, but the paranormal is a benign force, not helpful nor harmful except in that it drives my main character sort of nuts.

The premise:  Gillian, 35 year old widow with a daughter in college (she was a teenage mother) moves back to her childhood home in Ireland to pursue her education and interns at a historic home, now hotel, to help preserve the wooded property. As she works, memories of strange happenings haunt her -- things she dismissed as her imagination. Eventually she realizes that the images she is seeing come from the memories of the forest itself. The forest, so relieved to have an outlet, bombards her memories, some meaningful, some not (they're trees, they don't classify things the way humans do). The information overload gets worse when the forest jumps into a self preservation mode and Gillian has to figure out what the land is trying to tell her.

I'm working in druids, Vikings, and more mundane menaces, like murders and waste disposal. Along the way, Gillian's uncanny connection with the land makes someone nervous, someone who doesn't want his corruption known. Gillian also discovers the woman she is now, no longer defined by her teenage behavior, and has a journey of self (and some sex -- it is romance).

My initial title was Residual Memory, but that sounds a little Sci-Fi. I need something a little sexy, Irish, and creepy. A friend (just now, as I was typing this blog) suggested the term 'knowing,' which I like. It can be deep and transcendental or have a sexual connotation.

Possessing Karma (the book that is now in edits) is about a woman named Karma who gets possessed, but also about the karma that eventually gets to the cocky, abusive, sexual sadist, pre-Civil war plantation owner ghost. I don't love this title, but it works for now. I do like the double meaning and I think it's got a sexy edge to it (important in romance genre).

As for my sentient trees watching you? Not a clue. Feel free to offer suggestions, silly or serious. Even writing this has been helpful for me getting into a good writing vibe. Maybe inspiration will strike.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Finish it Already!

This week I surpassed my estimated word count for Possessing Karma, and I'm not done. I'm in the final, KABOOM scene, but I'm not done. I'm really struggling, actually. It may just be self sabotage or the muses not speaking, either way it's frustrating.

I seriously only have a half a chapter to write, then the denouement. I keep going back and inserting details so that the bread crumbs are there and the consistency is, well, consistent. Problem with all the fine tuning is that I'm not moving forward. Sure, I'll have less to do in revisions, but I would rather be able to say that I'm finished with the first draft.

I keep dinking around with my query, with my pitch, with games on Facebook, when I should be focusing on getting the work done. I know what I'm going to write, I just need to write it. In fact, I've already started the musing process about my next book, I'm that done, mentally, with Karma. It's frustrating. Even now, what am I doing? I'm blogging about not writing when I could use this time to write.

In fact, I will. I have 20 minutes before I need to leave for work. That will be twenty minutes of writing forward.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Agents Earning Commission

Chances are that, if you’ve never been in a commission job, you think of paying commission as a rip off. You don’t get that the commission is the only pay they get for dealing with you. That the service profession is investing their time, risking future income, on the possibility that working with you will pay off. It’s in their best interest to represent you fully because if you’re not happy, you’ll go elsewhere. A commission earner doesn’t get paid if there is no sale – so they work their butt off to make it happen.

I hear the most awful stories of clients taking up hours and hours of agent time and resources, only to casually call a number on a sign and make that sale happen outside the scope of the person representing them. The client thinks they got a better deal, but don’t realize they’re just paying someone else’s commission instead of the person who earned it. I’ve seen this sort of thing happen in retail and insurance, but my primary source of my frustration here is in real estate.

I hear so many horror stories about an agent investing their time with a client, even finding the property that the client wants, only for that client to then go organize the deal through someone else so a friend gets the commission. Or they start the deal, back out, then go back for it with someone else. Is it because they were unhappy with the service from their agent? No, it’s usually because they think they’re getting a better deal. My faith in humanity makes me think that the clients just must not realize the impact, or down-right dickishness, of their behavior – but occasionally it happens on purpose and then my rage is unquenchable. I don’t know how my husband deals with it.

I’ve seen agents get treated like this by friends and family who just don’t understand the process. Law suits are always an option, but frequently not worth the time or bad blood they create. I could never work in a job like that, where you waste your time and effort over and over again only to be screwed by the people you were trying to help and, in some cases, had developed a real rapport.

Maybe this is why I see a literary agent as an integral part of the publishing process. Yes, you pay them, but in return they’re representing your interests. They’re not successful if you’re not successful. There has to be trust that the agent is going to put the work in, but the agent is also trusting that their client is going to follow through with their promises/potential. It goes both ways. You wouldn’t hire an agent you didn’t think could do the job; they won’t take on a client that may be a waste of time.

In a world where self-publishing opportunities are overwhelmingly abundant, having an agent is proof of a quality product. Yes, many of the self-published books are less expensive, but my experience with them has been spotty at best. I’m much more likely to buy an unknown author from a well known publishing house because that is a guarantee of quality control. There may be options to circumvent paying an agent, but I would rather have the peace of mind in knowing I had an industry professional on my side. The commissions exist because people are willing to pay for the service.

Long story short (too late): I still want an agent.
If you are in a position where commission is involved, understand you’re paying for a service. Don’t be a dick.
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