Saturday, March 31, 2007

Publication Quest

Current year's goals

1) Study characterization to add depth to the story's cast

2) Three submissions

3) In roads in the TBR shelves

Progress report:

Done reading the stack of books related to characterization - Creating Unforgettable Characters deserves a second read.

Two submission

Status: still waiting to hear from the publishers


  • Number One: three months three weeks
  • Number Two: two weeks

I warned you this is a sloooow and boring journey.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Faves and Raves

For those who haven't noticed, I read lots of different genres. My personal favorites have nothing in common other than wonderful writing.

Ms. Heyer invented the modern romance genre. It is a tribute to her genius that her dialogue still sparkles, her characters slip into the story as naturally as family and friends attending a summer party, and her plots move effortlessly toward a satisfactory resolution for all concerned. I've never read a Heyer I did not like. Picking a single favorite is impossible. Of her stories that I have read (I'm hoarding a few) The Nonesuch is one of the top ten. Luckily for me and the rest of her legions of fans, she was very prolific.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wrtiing Craft

This is Fiona she's the star of the current story, a short erotica.

Too bad I can't just start off with her picture and jump into the action. The image is only to help me evoke her adventure. This process is a little like voodoo. I print out pictures, make a play list of songs, and even use scent to strengthen the story world.

Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan does a lovely job of explaining how to add verisimilitude to the story. Unlike many craft books, this one is a joy to read.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Just for Readers

E-publishing, like all publishing, varies in quality. For those looking for a fresh romance, here's a winner.

Linda Laroque's debut novel, When the Ocotillo Bloom ,which was released by in February, is very well done.

Ms.Larouque penned a story full of people I'd love to meet and animals so real they made me remember what it's like to bond with a horse or a dog.

Her story is unusual in several respects. It is sweet without being cloying, there are with grown-up conflicts, and realistic resolutions. The story is set on Texas ranch, where the cowboys actually ride horses, and give troubled kids skills for coping with real life.

You can meet the author and read an exerpt here:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Writing Life

Melissa James (who will become famous as Avery Beck) is a finalist in the short contemporary category for the Golden Heart contest. For all you who are not future romance writers, the Golden Heart is the biggie for unpublished authors, comparable to the Oscars.

She's worked very hard and is an amazing talent.

The feeling of seeing a friend succeed is wonderful. It's like when your home team is going to the Superbowl.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Graphics Argh! Someday I'll get the profile fixed . . . stories to write, no time for cursed graphics.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Publication Quest

Every February I set goals for the coming year. All goals must be within my control. This year's goals:

A) Study characterization to add depth to each story's cast

B) Three submissions - you can't sell without submitting

C) Reduce the TBR piles to manageable levels.

Progress report:

A) Study continues

B) Current submissions:
  • Two!
  • Status: Waiting to hear from the publishers
  • Time line: number one - three months, two weeks - number two - one week

C) Two shelves (out of six) are down to a single row of books

To be continued . . .

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Faves and Raves

Books, what did you think I was wild about? is the blog for Portia da Costaa woman with a rare gift.

Portia da Costa penned one of the best pieces of erotic fiction I've read all year.
Maybe it's the latent anglophile in me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Writing Craft - characterization

A few weeks ago I read Robert McKee's Story, which is aimed primarily at those who are writing movie scripts. Mr. McKee wrote the single most useful piece of advice I've read about characterization. He suggested using method acting to put yourself into the character's mindset and circumstances. Channelling your characters was not new advice, but the part about circumstances had eluded me. He has lots of other good information too.

For overall brilliance of characterization advice, Linda Serger's Creating Unforgettable Characters remains my favorite.

For an overview of different physchological profiles Rachel Ballon gives a broad brush approach to lots of approaches in her book Breathing Life Into Your Characters gives you a good jumping off point.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Reading Report

Last week I read Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen. For me the beginning was slow and I found the author's choice of alternating present day chapters with flashbacks chapters to be disruptive. The effect irritated me by yanking me out of the story. Yet I was intrigued enough to persist and was rewarded. By the time the story ended I wished that it was not over so soon.

After reading the book, I still have doubts about Ms. Gruen's choice of interspersing chapters from different time periods. From my perspective the story would have been more effective with a prologue from present day and an epilogue in the same time frame. The additional available words could be used to tell more of the adventure and love story in real time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Writing Life

Revising has become a way of life. I've always liked the excitement of a new story best, the character bios, the plotting, the what-ifs. Yet, even from inside the edit process, I can see this is making the story stronger.

Rewriting may be more vital than writing for me. As I work through the revisions, I learn and there are several mistakes I won't repeat.

Lesson number one: all actions and reactions need to be cleanly motivated.

Characters can be inconsistent, but if they are then that has to be explained too. Fictional people have to make more sense than real life people. I'd love to argue about that one, but the fact is my favorite fictional characters are brilliantly drawn and vitally motivated.

I accepted that fiction plotting had to be much more believable than real life a while ago. The whole then-there-was-miracle plot resolution still appeals, but I understand why it's not a good idea.

Lesson number two: rewording the same information does not make it new.

Lesson number three: using the same words over and over is irritating to the reader.

Lesson number four: reading the story aloud helps catch my most egregious errors.

Lesson number five: setting is an asset.

Lesson number six: emotion, emotion, emotion

Bonus free lesson - color coding works. I learned about this in Margie Lawson's Deep Editing Class check out her website to learn more about her classes.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Publication Quest

Warning: extremely dull, and terminally boring, post ahead.

The journey began four years and one month ago. Excitement was high as the first words of an epic romance flew across the blank screen. After weeks of research, I had decided to commence a new career as a romance writer.

Despite the nod toward research, my main qualifications for this endeavor were a vague notion that I loved reading and could write a better story than much of what was being published. Are you laughing yet? You're right I was greener than Spring grass.

Six months later, I sent off a query letter and synopsis enthusiastically describing my love story and garnered my first full request. This excitement was followed a few months later by my first form rejection.

Undaunted, I was nearly done with my next book, I tried again. Plainly, I had not aimed at the right publisher, right line, or right editor. The next story would correct these problems. Alas, it too was summarily rejected.

Book three was well underway. One thing was clear, I was hooked on writing. The idea of learning more about writing for publication began to seep in, soon I had a new obsession studying writing craft.

For a modest investment of a dollar a page, I purchased editorial feedback on book two, which had garnered two form rejections. Two months later I had my first critique. The lovely editor dug deep to find two positive comments, good opening hook and the point of view was well handled. This was remarkable, considering I'd never heard of POV . . .

The lovely editor had reading suggestions, as soon as I emerged from my pity party I began to read and study, following the editorial suggestions like a new convert to a obscure religion.

I joined critique groups. I begged, pleaded and whined for critiques. I tried revising with indifferent results. I tried writing new stories, only to see their flaws before they were a third complete.

I read lots of writing advice, and tried to evaluate conflicting opinions.

A contest blurb caught my eye and I worked feverishly to get a new story done to meet the entry deadline. I learned a lot from that exercise. I could meet a deadline. I need to have a complete story before I can judge, or improve it.

I did not win or place in the contest. But I new met friends who were on the same path.

Eventually, I submitted the revised contest entry manuscript. After three months with no response from the publisher to my initial query letter and synopsis I called. A gracious editorial assistant responded with an invitation to submit a partial. Hope soared. Eleven months later, I received a personalized rejection.

Addicted to writing, I'd completed two more books, and submitted one, while waiting to hear on the prior story.

Four years and one month after that first sentence etched onto the blank screen, I've completed seven manuscripts, submitted seven times, entered five contests and learned a couple of things.

Current submissions: one
Status: waiting to hear from publisher
Time line: three months and counting

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Writing craft

Characterization, how real is real enough?

The answer to this question may well be one of those all depends things. So frustrating for those, like me, who prefer nice tidy rules with limited exceptions.

Here are the factors that I think determine to the answer to this question:

1) Sub-genre or line being targeted

2) Reader preference

3) Writer preference

Romance readers want a hero to fall in love with. This still leaves a broad band of acceptable heroes. There are readers who love beta boys, those who want gamma guys, and adoring fan who are hooked on alphas.

I've read lots of romance, I've never read a single hero who I'd confuse with a real life man.

When I read romance this lack of realism disturbs me to the extent of eye rolling and occasional wall bangers (where the book is tossed violently across the room), more usually this reaction was triggered by heroines who IMHO were too stupid to live.

None of the men I've read were anywhere near real.

Over and over I would be reminded that a woman wrote this love scene. Occasionally, I've been convinced that the woman writing had never experienced whatever sex act she was describing.

I've mellowed a bit. There's room for more than one truth in the big world of romantic fiction. There are women who live a different reality from me and have sex with a different kind of man. These women experience an orgasm every time they have sex, including the first time. They are confident, yet humble, beautiful, but modest and unassuming, smart, thrifty, kind. I'm drawing a curtain over this paragon, I will refrain from further description. I'm sure you already know lots of them. They have perfect spouses,and perfect children. They are kind to the elderly and small animals. When not busy caring for their perfect familites they work to save the planet.

The more romance I read, the more understanding I have of the appeal of certain conventions and why authors make the choices they do. Women do not want to read about real men who drink beer, watch sports, and fart. They do not want to real about real women with dirty bathrooms, bratty kids and belching spouses. There's plenty of those in real life. Women want to read about men who are better than real.

Despite the universal appeal of the larger than life hero, if he is too perfect he loses points. Even superman is vulnerable to kryptonite and Lois Lane.

So how real do you like your heroes?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reading Report

Mutliple reads again this week as I make inroads into the TBR shelves. ;)

Christina Skye's Code Name Baby was first. I enjoyed the story. Super-intelligent lab puppies, a plucky heroine and a wounded warrior hero made for a lively pace and engaging read. I even enjoyed the villain, who had more than one facet and a credible motive. The ending felt rushed to me, but this title is part of series, necessitating the setup for the next book at the end.

Situation Out of Control , a Harlequin Intrigue, by Debra Webb was the next title read. It was well written, and well plotted with nice characterization for a short book. The story hooked me with a sympathetic heroine, though it was more the hero's story. His problems were so severe I was not entirely satisfied with the resolution. Despite this flaw the story moved well and Ms. Webb retains her recommended reading status with me.

Penny Jordan's The Christmas Bride, a Harlequin Presents was the last if the week's titles. A sparkling wine flavored truffle of of story with a slightly more modern version of the suspicious hero and an engagingly franky heroine. The black moment was nicely foreshadowed, and yet genuinely worrisome. The resolution masterful.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Writing Life

Getting the characterization right: real enough, but not too complicated, heroic, larger than life, believable, vulnerable, and sympathetic. Seems darn hard to me. It's enough to make a struggling writer want to curl up with a good book and enjoy someone else's hard work.

Are there writers out there who dash off wonderful gripping, witty stories? Dunno. That would not be me. If there are some one draft wonders out in the blogasphere, don't bother bragging about it here. I might have to delete you. :@

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Blog surfing

For those who enjoy Harlequin Presents titles, the lovely editors have created a wonderful blog where all things Presents are discussed with fevor.

I'm hooked. ;)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reading Reports

At the same time I added book reviews to this blog I made a decision not to review books I didn't enjoy.


Reading is subjective. My disappointing read may well be someone else's keeper. Lots of factors impact how much I enjoy a particular title. Mood, being a biggie and this is certainly beyond the author's control. Anticipation is another factor that can work against an author. With me, the highly touted book often suffers from impossible expectations. The last consideration is author empathy. I write. I know how hard it is,and how many people have put real effort into a book before it is released to eager readers.

All of these factors went into my conscious decision not to write a purely negative review. If I can't find any merit in a title there will be no reading report. :(

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Writing craft

The other day I got involved in a plotting discussion - I like plotting. But lots of writers don't, including many of my favorites. IMHO romance writers are more frequently character driven than plot driven. BTW I don't think it is something you can change about yourself. People come oriented toward either situation or character. I do believe that no matter which way is more natural, you can and must learn to embrace the other side.

Plotting, for me starts with a premise, a sticky situation, a problem. That gets played with and refined into a GMC (goal, motivation and conflict) statement for the protagonist. Then thoughts of what kind of character would serve this story begin to drift in.

I prefer layered characters, I like writing biographies, interviewing, and journaling. If there was no driving need to write something readable, I could while away years plotting, sketching characters, arranging notebooks, and never actually write a single story.

But since I am goal driven, the next step is a the synopsis. Later, after the second or third draft is complete I will re-do the synopsis.

There's a final stage before my new project is ready its first draft, the controlling sentence - and a two word story mantra. Once these are in place a fresh notebook is unwrapped, labeled and the various story pieces are three hole punched and inserted with tabs. Character biographies, plot outline, GMC, synopsis, photos, story mantra, controlling sentence, theme. Notebook is ready. Now for the computer files, page count tracker spread sheet, manuscript document, and playlist.

Rituals are sooo soothing.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reading Report - Ashes to Ashes

First a little background, I'd heard good things about Ms. Hoag's books years ago. I acquired an audio version to listen to in the car. The reader grated on my ear. I quit listening during the first installment and struck Ms. Hoag off my list. Yes, very unfair, but there are so many good books and so little time.

Time went by and respected reviewers continued to laud Ms, Hoag's work. I picked up a copy of one of her older titles and eventually it made it to the top of the TBR pile. Riveting, almost everything I wanted in a story.

A few years later, yes I'm way behind on reading, Ashes to Ashes surfaced and I dived in. Again, almost everything I want in a story. Her voice is strong and the pacing of the story gripping. Yet, I would not want a steady diet of her books, the darker side of humanity is something I'm only willing to absorb in small doses.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Writing life

This afternoon I noticed I was missing a character. Then it dawned on me that a vital scene was missing too. Obviously it was time to step away from the computer before anything more critical disappeared.

I went out to work in the garden, very soothing and good for resting the tired brain. While I was out innocently pruning roses, and tossing the ball for the little dog, the inciting incident vanished.

This hi-jacking of important story pieces is worrisome, but not insoluble. I found a spare character to flesh out and insert into the story. The scene isn't written, but it's sketched in my head. The inciting incident remains elusive, but I'm sure it will show up if I keep searching.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Writing craft

I'm back to adding emotion. Even when I think emotion is dripping off every page and the characters leap to dramatic life - the advice I get is needs more depth of character and more emotion.

The POV character is relating the story and apparently what needs to happen is for that character to live the story. I'm thinking about all the different craft elements that make a story come alive and how to erase that distance between telling and showing, all the way to engaging.

Even at this stage, when I've seriously compromised my ability to get lost in a story by critiquing everything I read, there are authors who sweep me effortlessly into the story world and hold me enthralled until the book is over.

How do they do that?
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