Saturday, April 30, 2011

EDITS! And how to spell Suppose. Supposedly.

Edits, oh edits,

how I love thee,

let me count the ways.



Three hundred

fifty pages worth

and two more pages of Edit Notes for good measure.

I received edits back on Book One in the Crimson Bay Series this week. (I have the best editor in the world...just sayin'.) I'm thrilled. Downright giddy. Editing something, tearing it apart line by line, analyzing what works, what doesn't, and why, is the reason I went into teaching. I love it! I was the English teacher who smiled ear to ear on grammar days.

Don't get me wrong...I make errors in my writing. A ton of them, in fact. My quotation marks sometimes go the wrong way. I can't seem to spell "supposed" for the life of me. Suppose...suppose...S-u-p-p-o-s-e...supposesupposesuppose!!! Isn't it suppose? Nope. Supposed. Although I know how to spell it, I misspell it every single time.

What's the point here? I'm not perfect. The revision letter from my editor tells me so. But I'm having so much fun fixing those errors and making this manuscript as perfect as it can be. I'm molding it into something shiny and new. Something it was supposed to be from the beginning. There's no better feeling than taking something you worked so hard on and bashing it into shape to be something better.

Edits aren't meant to be painful. (Although after eight hours with Ass In Chair yesterday, my backside may argue the point.) They should be fun. It's the last time I get to play with these characters. The last time I get to listen in on their fights and mess with their world. It's the last time I get to watch my hero and heroine fall in love. And it's oh, so, sweet watching my bad-ass hero brought to his knees by love.

So the next time you're reworking your novel or editing it to pieces and feel that editing grouch start to claw its way into your mind, remember how much fun the characters were to create in the first place. You get to revisit them! Remember dancing on the streets in your fictional world. Do it some more! There's no greater joy for a writer...for me.

As soon as I have a title for Book One I'll let you know. Back to editing I go! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jayne Ann Krentz Signing

So, last night was kind of rock star awesome. I had High Tea with Jayne Ann Krentz (who also writes as Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle), then went to her workshop/signing at Kepler's in Menlo Park. At one point I think I actually stopped, put down my teensy oh-so-cute tea cup and said, "Wow. I feel like I'm in a very surreal dream." Jayne spoke, answered questions. I sat with my wildly talented critique partner A.J, the fantabulous Herron sisters, Jayne's publicist (who I actually had breakfast with in Orlando last summer), our SFARWA membership guru, and Ms. Bates, the Amish Romance Queen.

There were scones (I learned how to say scones properly thanks to the Canadian in the bunch), and William and Kate royal tea sets (almost went back to buy them), and did I mention Brenda Novak showed up?? Oh, my suspense-driven heart was swooning. The serving gals wore aprons, served on wooden tiered platters, and poured out of cozied ceramic tea pots. The mini-sandwiches were delish, though I couldn't tell you what was in them. (I should've taken more pictures, I know, I'm working on that flaw of mine.)

After High Tea, the crew walked over to Kepler's bookstore where a crowd gathered in the back to watch Jayne speak. There were many things an aspiring writer/author could've taken away from the night, but the one thing that stuck with me was this:

"There is never a book that couldn't be improved upon by the act of deletion."

Brilliant, I tell you. Brilliant. Although she would say she's mastered the art of career suicide, I argue to the contrary. The woman knows this business. She knows her writing. And she obviously knows how to make work sell in this market.

Here I am, after I had her sign my book:

And here's what she wrote:

I had such a great time. Oh! And to top the cake, when I came home, my wonderful mother-in-law had cleaned my house, top to bottom, kitchen sinks to laundry baskets. After I thanked her profusely, I watched the newest Deadliest Catch (SOOO GOOD), then hit the hay. I doubted my dreams could've matched my reality. I was right. The night could've have gone better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Close but no cigar. I'm talking Golden Heart over here.

Golden Heart Scoresheets came back yesterday. For those of you who don't know what the Golden Heart is, it's the National Romance Writer's of America writing contest. You enter in your category, send in the first fifty pages and a synopsis, close your eyes and pray.

*And I mean really pray. The scoring instructions are a little whacked. "Score 1-9, using tenth of points." With no rubric! This English teacher is cringing.*

Anyway, the award ceremony is this huge formal event at the national conference in New York City--Have I Mentioned I'm Going to the Conference?!? Eeeeek!

I sent both books from my Crimson Bay Series in. The first one received AMAZING scores. It earned a few "perfect 9's" with a few "eight-and-a-half's" thrown in. But there was one darn "seven" that lowered my score enough so that I didn't final.

The second in the series received great scores, too, though they weren't as high as the first. The average score was a solid "eight" with no "nines" and a couple "high seven's".

Instead of being disappointed that I didn't final, I'm actually pretty excited. Book One did so well! The response was great! The scores are near perfect! How can I be upset about not being a finalist when I really was close? As for Book Two, I'm now going to take some time, go back through it, and look for kinks with a sharp eye. There's got to be places I can smooth things over and amp other things up.

So...close, but no cigar. Great scores...but no final payout.

I also entered the Daphne DuMaurier contest, which has an award's ceremony at the national conference too, and I should be getting the scores back any day now. I'll post something about those as soon as I know. (I've been holding my breath to final in the Daphne since I first heard about it. Daphne DuMaurier is BY FAR my favorite author and Rebecca is BY FAR AND AWAY my favorite book. Hands down. No contest.) To final in her contest would mean soooo much to me. I'll let you know...

Until then I'm writing away on Book Three in the series and going back to edit Book Two a bit more.

Did you enter the Golden Heart? How'd you do?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Crafting a Heroine for your Hero

I received the following comment from my Writing the Perfect Heroine to Match the Gothic Hero post:

"i'm not much into paranormal things, vampires or whatever, but my class at school was learning about gothic literature and i loved your post on gothic heroes.
personally i love byronic heroes. it's the tragedy and the darkness surrounding them that hooks me into it. i actually posted a few comments on the gothic heroes post and wanted an opinion on my two guys. the byronic hero and the byronic/promethean mix.

now i want an opinion on my heroines. for my byronic hero, i took inspiration from padme from star wars. i like how she is morally strong and fights for what is right. my heroine is morally upright and has strong principles, but also kind and passionate in her love for the hero. she tries to show him the right path, but she never pushes him,she teaches but never tries to talk down to him. she is a light for him so that he can find the correct road.

the other heroine i got inspired from was bella. it's the idea that no matter how dark the hero sees himself as, she always shows him the lighter side within himself. the heroine is not innocent, but pure. curious, but not naive. her youth and optimism makes the hero remember a time when he was also that way, makes him believe that he can do what is morally right. just like she can.
what do you think of my heroines? anyone i'd love to get an opinion, or tell me what i'm doing wrong. one day i'm going to be a writer, it's always been a dream and i love to write. so i hope it happens."

*I actually posted the comment, replied, then decided it would make a great post in and of itself. I deleted the name of the person who asked the question. I hope that's all right. (And if it's not, "S" please feel free to email me and I'll delete this post right away.)

My response was this:
First, let me say I think it's Great! Amazing! Wonderful! that you're writing and developing your craft and creating new characters. This writing world is very small--much smaller than it seems--and I hope to read your work one day!

Not to get down to the nitty-gritty...without reading your book and getting to know your heroines, it's very hard to say what I think of them. I've read romance novels from New York Times Bestselling authors and have absolutely hated the heroine in them. I'm sure they crafted the heroine perfectly...there just had to be something that didn't resonate with me. It may have been the author's voice, the character arc (or lack thereof), or maybe even the style of writing. Hard to say. I think the best thing you can do is write a heroine who you would either like to be or have as a best friend.

As far as the gothic loverboys go, the archetypes I defined in the Gothic Hero post are simply cookie-cutters for you to mold you hero out of. It's easy to look back and say, "Yes, this hero fits right here", but it's a whole other beast to write that character effectively if the writer becomes too focused on the "type" they are writing. I know every writers' process is different, but I don't actually sit down and pick and choose which hero I'd like to write and which type of heroine he'd best be paired with. (In fact, sometimes the fun is pairing them with someone who is all wrong for them, and watching the characters change on the page for each other.)

I think the main thing is to let the hero and heroine choose you. Who do you picture in your story as the conflict consumes them? What changes will they go through when the fire closes in and the tension escalates? What will become of them? Who will they love? How will they change for that love? What will they have to sacrifice?

I think by choosing a character and asking those questions of them (and you) you'll find out what type of hero you're writing...instead of the other way around.

If you want to learn more about all types of heroes and heroines (not just the gothic ones) there's a great book called "The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes" that you should check out. It's by Tami Cowden, et. al. (I've included the link to purchase it on Amazon above.)

I used it as a guide while figuring out the characters in the first book I ever wrote--you know, the one that will never see the light of day? Yeah. That one. Now, I define the characters as I go, bashing through some archetype walls while falling in line with other classic models...all without meaning to.

"S", I hope this helped...if it helped anyone else, I'd love to hear it. And let me just say, again, every writer has their own process. All I can tell you is mine, so if you want something to balance it against, you might want to keep on researching, compiling your data until you discover what works for you.

Keep reaching for those dreams "S"! If you want it bad enough, it'll happen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Burn Out

Ever feel like you've got so much on your brain that instead of letting a few things slip through your fingers, everything falls apart at once, leaving you empty handed and exhausted? Yup. That's where I am right now.

The writing's been slow going. I've written 10K in three weeks. Not enough by a long shot if I plan to have this finished by mid-summer. Every time I sit down to write I remember I have to answer emails, do the dishes, throw in some laundry, pick up something for one of my munchkins classes, etc, etc, etc. The list in my brain goes on and on, all hours of the day. I'm even having trouble sleeping. My head just won't slow down enough for me to rest...but I can't seem to write during the night, either.

I think I'm close to burning out, trying to do too many things at once. I think I need to slow down a bit...take a step back. I don't mean from writing--Heck No! I mean from everything...for a night or two.

Not to mention I've been working out religiously for about four weeks now and haven't lost a single pound...instead, I'm gaining weight. Seriously? I know muscle weighs more than fat, but come on. I want to see those numbers decline on the scale. I'm even watching what I eat and I don't mean that in the funny ha-ha "I'm watching the chocolate as it passes my lips" kind of way. I'm being serious. And I'm not a fan of diets.

Something's gotta give or I'm gonna burn out FAST.

Yesterday I told Husband I need to get out of the house this week. He asked what I had in mind. I don't really have anything in mind, other than doing something that requires my brain to go on auto-pilot. Yet every time I try to think of what I want to do or when I want to do it, it feels like another "thing" added to my to-do list.

I could really use some advice here. What do you do when the writing is grinding and the rest of your life won't slow down enough to let you think clearly? Do you Yoga? Run? Coma-like sleep? Write through it?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Silent Sunday


"I really enjoy writing novels. It's like the ocean. You can just build a boat and take off." --Denis Johnson

"I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness." --George Fox

Friday, April 15, 2011

God Serving Angels: The 99 Year Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic

Early this morning marked the 99 year anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. It sank at 2:20am in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg at 11:40pm the night prior. I've collected Titanic memorabilia since I was twelve years old. I'm a little obsessed. There's just something about it that screams FATE. Some things in this world are meant to happen. Other things are meant to fall apart. If you'd like to read a post on all the things that led to Titanic's demise go here. (It's my post from last year.)

As I was going through my Titanic books this morning (always do this time of year), I opened up a 1905 Old Scrap Book titled Heart Throbs. Here I am, holding it against my heart:

I tell you what...every time I read this book I find more things I love about it. It has my favorite quotes. My favorite Bible verses. My favorite poems. All bound into one really old book. It smells good too, but I won't show you the picture of me smelling it.

Anyhow, as I was digging through it a bit today, I was thinking about the Titanic, about the anniversary of it sinking, how far the Titanic Historical Society has come, preserving artifacts from the site and educating the world about the tragedy and found this:

God Serving Angels

"'Tis written that the serving angels stand
Beside God's throne, ten myriads on each hand,
Waiting, with wings outstretched and watchful eyes,
To do their Master's heavenly embassies.
Quicker than thought His high commands they read,
Swifter than light to execute them speed,
Bearing the word of power from star to star--
Some hither and some thither, near and far.
And unto these naught is too high or low,
Too mean or mighty, if He wills it so;
Neither is any creature, great or small,
Beyond His pity, which embraceth all,
Because His eye beholdeth all which are,
Sees without search, and cometh without care;
Nor any ocean rolls so vast that He
Forgets one wave of all that restless sea."
--Edwin Arnold

*Painting by Ken Marshall

Isn't the poem just beautiful? And the sinking no less awe inspiring, in the most heart-wrenchingly tragic way.

Take some time today to remember the Titanic and all that the terrible tragedy has taught us. Don't challenge God. Don't tempt fate. And most of all, never think that man can create something that mother nature can't bring down with a flick of her finger.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dreaming about your hero. And a contract!

I had the craziest dream last night. I'm typing it down as fast as I can so I don't forget any details...I'm sure if I went on with my day, the dream would vanish and I'd barely remember my Hero being in it.

That's right. I had the very first dream about my hero, Ruan, from Immortal, Beloved.

It was freaking awesome.

The dream started out with my travels in a foreign country. (I'm thinking Russia, although I've never known Russia to be that country-fied-rural and my book isn't set there.) I came upon his ranch, where he lived with his step-father, mother and a bunch of brothers and sisters. I was lost. He offered to show me the way back to society, after he finished a couple things he had to do for the day. So I followed him around while he expertly ran this hundred acre ranch. We talked. And talked. And talked.

He was such a gentleman! Helping me over fallen limbs. Carrying me over rivers so my shoes didn't soak. Holding my hand to guide me around trees and over fences. Wanna hear the crazy thing? I was me. I had a husband of nine years--we talked about him and how great he is. I had two children--he mentioned how he wanted kids eventually. I felt like from a few hours time, we were long lost friends.

Soon, his quietly bold attitude and some of the things he said started to trigger my brain. I felt like I knew this guy. The logical part of my head kept trying to place him somewhere in my waking life, but couldn't.

When it was time to leave, for him to show me the way home, I asked for his name and was blown away.


What a surprise--even to myself. I was so shocked! It all made sense! The chivalry! His rugged good looks! His mannerisms! The way I felt like I'd known him forever!

Thank you Ruan, for showing me how unforgettable you are. You came to life for me. And soon, you'll come to life for everyone else.

**I signed my Harper Collins contract yesterday! It's on its way to Spencerhill, then back to the publishing house. (Very side note: I'm going to write a post soon about how important it is to have a good agent who fights for you and your interests. Those contracts are sticky. I got very lucky.) It rained yesterday too! All-around perfect day around these parts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How do you write? What works for you?

Me and Leigh Michaels? Yup. We're kismet writers.

This Saturday was the San Francisco Area of Romance Writers' April meeting. I don't usually gush and gush about all the great things I learned at the meeting or how great the speakers were or how blessed I feel to be dining with such influential people in the publishing industry. (Although I really should.)

But oh my goodness, I can't help myself today.

It's easy for writing to feel like a solitary career. I mean, I sit at my computer, staring out my window and write stories about fictional characters. It's easy to compare my work to the work of others (and then feel that my work is not good enough). But what I find myself doing more often than not is comparing my writing style to other writers and their styles.

How does Nora Roberts pump out three (Or Four! Or Five!) books a year? How did Amanda Hocking make Amazon her bitch? (Yes, oh yes, she did.) What are other writers' work schedules like? And are they, in any way shape or form, like mine?

I've asked almost every writer I've met about their writing process and almost every writer has said that what works for them doesn't work for everyone. And it doesn't! It's all right. To each their own. Whatever works. (Haven't you told yourself this a hundred times over?) As long as you can write a Smashing book, and another, and another, who cares how you get there?

I spent Saturday with Leigh Michaels. *Insert big happy sigh here. What a breath of fresh air. She's brilliant and talented and charismatic and I really wish she lived closer. (Although Iowa is beautiful and I suppose now I could visit for more reasons than to see the famed John Deere plant.) Her workshop on the Sexes was great. I took a ton of notes. But I also learned how eerily close her writing process is to my own.

Cue daily schedule that's probably, really, not all that interesting: I get up, drink coffee and read, catch up on my email, write until lunch, sneak in more writing in the afternoon, break for a bit, then perhaps come back to it after dinner.

Sounds pretty cut and dry right? That there'd have to be a ton of writers who have the same schedule? Surprisingly, not so much. I've heard more writers say they write at night--staying up until the sun rises to spark their muse. I've heard writers say they have to write before lunch only, otherwise their creativity dries up. I've heard that some writers create only a work. Only at home. Only at a coffee shop. Only at the park. While listening to music. While watching mindless television. Only in complete silence! Onlyonlyonlyonly.

All I can say is, everyone does have their own, unique creative process. You should do what works for you. And if my career is a *smidgen* as successful as Leigh Michaels' and I turn out to be half as sweet and humble and fantastic as she was, I'll be well on my way to a writing career I can be proud of.

What's your writing process like? Do you think it mirrors another writer's?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Researching What You Write Is So Important

According to Wikipedia, "The rod of Asclepius is an ancient symbol associated with astrology, the Greek god Asclepius, and with medicine and healing." Greek mythology states Asclepius practiced medicine and chose the symbol because as people heal and become rejuvenated, its the same process a snake goes through when shedding its dry and withered skin.*

Loads of medical organizations across the world use the symbol including the American Medical Association and American Veterinary Association to name a couple.

Although all the organizations use the basic image differently, the rod is always there, just tweaked a little bit.


You've probably seen this symbol used for medicine too:

This symbol has two snakes instead of the one, and has wings stretching around the back. It's called a Caduceus. The US Army medical corps adopted this logo in the early nineteen hundreds and since then, the symbol has spread throughout the medical industry like wildfire.

You may be thinking, like I was at first, that the symbols look the same. Why are medical professionals making such a fuss about other organizations using the Caduceus instead of the Rod?

Because the historical connotation of the Caduceus is that of "commerce, theft, deception and death."**

Sure, if you go back far enough there are mentions of the wings representing the negotiation and commerce aspect of Hermes (although his means were not honorable) and the snakes representing the alchemist side of Mercury, but researchers have found more associations to trickery and corruption than the healing arts.*** you write, make sure you research well. A few tiny alterations that may not seem like a big thing at the time (adding a serpent and wings) can change a symbol from something innocent and well-intentioned to something corrupt and vile. Get it right. Research the hell out of your genre and the area where your story is set.

And the next time you go into a doctor's office, take a look at the writing--or symbols--on the wall.

Pretty cool findings, huh?

*"Asklepios' reptile was a healing creature: in ancient mythology the snake, whose skin was shed and rejuvenated, symbolized eternity and restoration of life and health" Albert R. Jonsen, The New Medicine and the Old Ethics, Harvard University Press, 1990, p122;
**Engle, Bernice (Dec 1929). "The Use of Mercury's Caduceus as a Medical Emblem". The Classical Journal 25 (1): 205.
***Friedlander, Walter J (1992). The Golden Wand of Medicine: A History of the Caduceus Symbol in Medicine‬. Greenwood Press

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dorian Gray and The Cost of Writing

I watched the film Dorian Gray last night, having been curious about the character for a while. I'd watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when it first came out and was intrigued by the idea of an immortal man bound to an old and rotten depiction of himself. I'd heard of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and knew the basic premise was about a guy who whimsically sells his soul to the devil after a picture of himself was painted. In this deal, he could live life as he wished, giving in to the pleasures of the flesh, while the picture showed each effect on his soul and he remained vibrant and young.

As I watched the film, I couldn't help but dwell on the price his deal cost. At first he could care less about his acts (sex, drugs and rock and roll, right?), but as the picture began to decay and transform into a demon, trapped in the picture, a demon he would become when it was time to pony up his soul, I could see the weight bearing on him.

He began to question whether the cost was worth the gain. And, in his case, finally realized it didn't.

But in everything we do whole-heartedly there is a cost, right? Olympians have to live and breathe their sport, often times giving up their loved ones to live in different states or countries. (Husband and I know this first hand and made the right choice for us--cue children running and screaming and giggling!) Lawyers and doctors sometimes give up dreams of an early marriage or family in order to focus on their careers first. (I'm speaking for a few friends, not everyone of course.)

I see the same thing in my writing. I get asked a lot how I find time to write. I'll tell you. My house isn't perfect. My laundry baskets are never empty. My dishes are usually piled into the evening. And if you wanted something specific from my pantry, you'd probably be disappointed. I have only the staples. But my kids and husband are happy. Taken care of. They're put first, with writing coming in second and housework a very distant third.

That's the cost for me. If I want to write a book in three months, spending hours in front of my word doc, editing my heart out as I go, then I have to choose something to let slack. It won't be my family. Can't be. There goes the impeccable housecleaning.

Nora Roberts once said "Life is a juggling act. You're going to drop some balls. The struggle is knowing which ones are rubber and which are glass."

So true.

Which aspect of your life falters a little when you write?