Thursday, October 29, 2009
I’m in the moooood again to generate a bit of momentum among the Southern Magic Bloggers. Consider this another shout-out asking all of you to share what you’re doing with your writing career. This is the time of year the publishing houses and agencies get into full swing. Let’s jump in and take advantage. Get that book done. Get those submissions out.
Me? I’m writing and waiting. My two favorite things. Obviously writing is something I love, but you may be questioning my sanity on the waiting. Simply put, I think of waiting the same as I do rejection letters. I’m putting myself out there and I’m submitting. Which is better than doing nothing.
I’m writing at least 5,000 words a week (and will be finished with this current book by Thanksgiving). I’m waiting to hear results on two contests (maybe you’ve heard of The Linda Howard AoE? Of course you have). I still have to send two entries into the Golden Heart. I have full manuscripts with two agents and two editors. I have a partial with another. So when I’m not writing, I’m waiting. And waiting.
Waiting is a good thing.
BUUUUUT, on days like today when waiting feels like slogging through life in slow motion, I need a little help from my writing friends. So I’m counting on my writing peeps today to give me updates. Fuel the blog fire! Let me know what you’re doing!
I want EVERY morsel. Contest hopes. Agent submissions. Editor requests. Conference plans. Reeeaaders Luncheon???
(SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: Southern Magic Readers Luncheon / November 7, 2009 at the Homewood Library / Please see http://southernmagic.org/luncheon.html for further details.)
Okay, let’s have it. I want details!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Now, I know what you’re saying. But, Scrooge doesn’t repent until the end of the story, so what’s the diff? I will tell you. The difference is "A Christmas Carol" is not a romance. For a romance to work, you have to believe in the love story, and at the end of this movie I remained unconvinced. Bottom line, the hero was not sufficiently redeemed and/or redeemed too late to invest me in the love story. He was a jerk at the beginning of the movie, and he was still pretty much a jerk at the end of the movie, in my humble opinion.
In Mary Balogh’s historical romance "At Last Comes Love," you are led to believe that Duncan, the hero, is a libertine and a scoundrel of the worst order. Now, having read all of Ms. Balogh’s delightful books, I was introduced to Margaret, the heroine, in two previous romances. Having faith in one of my favorite writers, I knew all could not be as it seemed. I kept moving forward, even though Duncan lacked much to be desired as a hero. Sure enough, midway through the book, the reader learns not only is Duncan not the scoundrel he has been painted, he is a noble, self-sacrificing knight in shining armor, a hero of heroes and an-all-round-swell guy. He is totally redeemed, the love story makes you sigh with envy, both as a woman married to a mere mortal and as a writer, and you completely, absolutely and without a doubt believe in the love story.
So, do our heroes and heroines have to be Pollyanna perfect? Of course not, that would be boring. I love flawed characters. They are interesting. But, at the end of the day, I believe they have to be lovable in order for the reader to become invested in the romance, to believe in their happily-ever-after.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Some years ago, I sat on a committee that oversaw extra activities for the company’s employees. My special activity was the Toastmasters meetings. I didn’t join in the meeting itself, but mainly attended a few times, making myself available for questions or complaints from the members.
I found so much of what they did fascinating. At each meeting, two or three members would stand up and give a speech about anything. It could be about the best method of mowing their grass to the last time they went deer hunting. After the speech the others members would give critiques, such as whether the speaker used “ahs” or stared down at a sheet of paper or read from notes or slouched, etc. Of course, they also mentioned positives like speaking clearly and at the right tone, smiling (unless it’s a sad or negative subject) and using moderate hands movements.
You know me and lists. Something to keep in mind.
1) Be prepared and know the subject. Practice your speech.
2) Show enthusiasm for what you’re talking about. Smile. You will be surprised how it will relax you. The crowd will be attentive as they want to know what has gotten you so excited.
3) Stand up straight. Not scared stiff, but more of "I’m so proud to be standing in front of you."
4) Don’t play with your notes. The audience will watch your hands instead of your face. That’s not good.
5) Pretend you’re talking with a roomful of friends. They want to hear what you have to say so they can learn something.
You’re asking, why am I telling you all this? I believe as writers, there may come a time someone will ask you to stand up and talk about your book or your special way to plot or whatever strength you possess. You better be prepared. I recommend either joining the Toastmasters or purchasing a book about the subject.
To promote your books, you want to present yourself in the best light. If a speaker rambles on, tells you nothing and varies from high to low tones with lots of ahs, would you wonder about her writing? I would.
Just warning you...LOL!
Side note about practicing your speech: My lunch buddies at work have heard a few of my speeches and they probably know more about writing now than they ever dreamed of.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I used to spend a lot of time listening to other people talk (no, really). Leonard Lopate (my absolute favorite), Dr. Oz, Jean Chatzky, NPR, and BBC filled my non-reading, solitary time. I had a whole spate of podcasts on everything from lean manufacturing to grammar. I listened while I walked the dog, drove the car, mowed the lawn, painted a room, worked out, got ready in the morning…you name it.
Then one day, I decided to try writing again, and suddenly all of that listening material got in the way. If someone else was talking, I couldn’t hear myself think about my story and my characters. I dropped all of my podcasts and radio shows in favor of using that precious solitary time to think about my writing.
The downside is that I’m no longer exposed to the thoughts and ideas that actually might provide more fodder for my books. And, I miss the interviews with authors, curators, politicians, performers, lexicographers, grammarians, chefs, financial gurus, scientists, and heroes.
Maybe it’s time to stop listening only to myself and start listening to more interesting people again.
Maybe a fantastic story idea is actually lurking in the next podcast.
Maybe I can find a way to catch my favorite topics without consuming all of my spare time.
“Honey! What’s that iTunes password again?”
What have you given up for your writing, and could you find a way to get at least part of it back?
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Once upon a time, a Committed-to-Being-Single Young Woman was introduced to a Single Young Man. She thought he was cute and seemed nice, so she agreed to go on a date with him. On a Sunday afternoon, they went to a movie at the local art museum. The small theater was almost filled when they arrived, but two seats on the aisle were vacant. "Do you mind if I sit on the end?" he said with a smile. "I'm a bit claustrophobic." She nodded and scooted into the inside seat.
They chatted for a few minutes as they waited for the movie to start, discovering each other's likes and dislikes. But soon the woman became distracted by a little girl who was running up and down the aisle, laughing loudly. Her feet made a persistent ear-ringing clack every time her shoes hit the uncarpeted floor. The annoyed woman huffed out a breath. Where are her parents? she thought with a frown. And why aren't they controlling her?
Suddenly the little girl stopped right beside the Single Young Man. Silent, she gazed at him. The woman waited to see what he would do. Would he fuss at her? Tell her to be quiet and sit down? She hoped so because she was tired of listening to the unruly child.
The man simply reached out and caressed the little girl's cheek. Just one gentle, lovely touch -- and she was gone, back down the aisle and into her seat beside her parents.
The Committed-to-Being-Single Woman's heart melted and a feeling washed over her that she had never felt before. She gave a little gasp and stole a glance at the man. He gave her the most beautiful smile, and she knew.
First date, and she knew.
On October 17, 1981--28 years ago today--they got married.
Happy anniversary to my husband. Seems like yesterday, doesn't it?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I have found many correlations between these rejected shows and books that I haven't enjoyed. Most of the time they both have a plot that is either boring, too slow paced or unbelievable. Sometimes marginal shows/books are rescued by the charm of their characters but that is a heavy burden to place on even the most gifted actor/actress or hero/heroine.
Engaging writing, whether it be in a book or prime time viewing, is wonderful. Why else would we watch a show about teenage dweebs in a glee club? Well, if you have great stories, funny lines and likable talented individuals, you're bound to find an audience. So count me in for Glee.
The same applies to books. Give your readers a solid story, engaging characters and stories that show more than tell, and you'll have a hit. As I continue to work to become published I look everywhere for examples of writing that works.
What makes you reject or accept books or shows for reading/viewing? Do you agree with my reasons or do you have other things that matter more to you?
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Caitlin Madison has returned home after a self-imposed exile. Haunted by the erotic memories of the man she once loved and abandoned, Caitlin is unprepared to come face-to-face with Selig Richardson and the hunger resurrected under his golden gaze. Even as her body craves his touch, she denies him, realizing her reasons for terminating their relationship so long ago are as valid now as they were then.
Six years have passed since Selig Richardson left New Eden, WA disillusioned and bitter after Caitlin Madison’s cold denial of him and his love. Now he’s returned, demanding retribution for her cruel rejection. The payment: her body.
Unknown to Selig, Caitlin has harbored a deadly secret all these years. And as love awakens with each passionate encounter, so does the danger that has simmered for almost a decade. Once again, Caitlin is forced to make a choice between a future with the man she's never stopped loving or crush his heart...and save his life.
Sweet Ultimatum by Naima Simone
Coming October 23, 2009 from Ellora's Cave Publishing, http://www.jasminejade.com/
Friday, October 09, 2009
What? You say, not me. Oh yes you are.
I see your face, brows lowering, eyes narrowing and your mouth opening in preparation to argue with me.
Think about it, we create our own worlds. Mine tend to be dark. I have a friend who makes a much lighter, amusing world. Still…they are our own creation. We “create our own reality”. Usually this may get you sent to see a psychologist.
Still don’t agree?
The next thing we do is create characters, we give them personalities, likes, dislikes, we know what they look like and how they will act. Then we give them a voice—this is where we step off to the deep end. We let them talk to us.
Now, don’t tell me you don’t listen. For me, this is when they tell me their names, and how they will respond to any situation I put them in. Sometimes I talk back.
I know you talk back, we all do! How many times have you been stuck in the scene, and in a fit of frustration do another task, such as the dishes. There, as we do a mundane physical task, we talk to ourselves. We mutter, and murmur and before you know it a conversation unfolds. It was this sort of self talk that revealed to me that my main character was a real jerk (but that’s another story).
How about when you write the scenes with your characters? Ever had angst about what you were putting them through? You didn’t want to push them to the limit, did you? Ok, well there are those of us who enjoy doing that. Writers become attached to the characters we create, and when they suffer, we suffer.
Truthfully by now, you no longer need a psychologist, but a psychiatrist for medication. I mean really, we are hearing voices and seeing people who don’t exist...except for us.
Before you start picking up the phone and contacting your nearest psych doc, don’t. Our therapy is the written page. We get it all out in the story, because once it’s on paper than its ok. We are sharing it, showing our story.
Do you think Writers are crazy?
Note: I’d like to thank Vonda Frampton, member of the El Paso Writer’s Association for inspiration on this blog. I recently read her article, about “stirring the pot of craziness”, and her take on how we as writers like to dredge up those dark and varied emotions in our writing is delightfully witty.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Today, lets talk about post conference things. You know what I'm talking about. When you get home you are on this wonderful cloud, you can't wait to tell your friends, family, spouse about your trip and what you learned. I did this. I talked to him every night before I tossed and turned. Telling him details of what we'd done during the day and everything else in between. My hubby is very supportive and loves hearing it all. When I actually returned home I was talking 90 to nothing. He laughed with me and talked with me and wanted to know this and that. I was wonderful.
I have even managed to keep up my post conference cloud, with thoughts in my minds and things that need to be done. Monday wasn't very productive, for we had dentist appointments and soccer, but hey that is life. I did what I could and the rest waited. Yesterday, I dove in and man did it feel good last night when I was able to tell my hubby everything I had done. The thing is he doesn't just do that with me. He does it with my writing friends as well. He really is wonderful and all mine. :P Sorry, ladies! HAHA!
So, what are some of the post conference things that go through your mind? What do you do when you get home? Do you dive in and hit the door running? When does it fade away and life take over again?
I hit the door running and I'm not slowing up. The house work can wait. I'm doing what I can with help from everyone in the house and it feels great! Off to work I go. :)
Monday, October 05, 2009
So here's just a quick question. What's the latest deadline you've given yourself and what's getting in the way?
Mine? I need to finish my current book by the end of October. What's getting in the way? The luncheon. The contest. Animal rescues (which are endless). Work. It's just one of those days when I feel overwhelmed.
Tomorrow will be another day and I'm sure everything will seem better. I hope. Meanwhile, tell me what you're doing.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Until recently, that is.
I have been in the death throes of this novel since July, writing ‘the last two chapters’ for what seems like a small eternity. The darn thing has been like taffy, stretching and stretching with no end in sight.
At long last, I have reached the last two chapters. No, really. This time I mean it. Halfway through the penultimate chapter, I have growing confidence that I will finish this book before it finishes me.
What has been the problem? Fear of finishing? Fear of failure? Sun spots? Life, the universe and everything? I do not know. I only know that it has been a struggle, my usual 1500 words a day dwindling to 250, sometimes less. No, it’s not that I don’t know where the story is going or what is supposed to happen in the last two chapters. It is something else. I won’t call it writer’s block, more like writer’s paralysis. I am past it now, thank goodness. But, it has made me wonder if any of you have faced a similar crisis in your writing. Been working on a sweet little darling of a manuscript only to have it morph into an unruly, out-of-control teenager complete with an attitude, raging hormones and growing pains?
So, I ask the same question Gwen did a few days ago. How do you get yourself unstuck? My answer came when I realized I was worrying too much about the mechanics of the action that takes place in Chapter 34 instead of concentrating on the emotions of the characters. Once I had that Eureka! moment, I was able to break free of the ice that surrounded me on all sides.
She said bravely from the middle of Chapter 34.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Click here for a podcast.
Click here to read a previous interview.
Click here to hear a podcast.
Click here to read an article.
The following podcast is with the Final Judge for the Inspiration Category for the Linda Howard Award of Excellence. Tina James is the Senior Editor for Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical at Steeple Hill.
Heather Osborn is a trailblazer. She worked for the first erotic romance publishing house, Ellora’s Cave, and acquired authors that have now become household names. Recently, Osborn took the role of acquiring editor for Tor which is primarily known for its focus on science fiction and fantasy, becoming the first epublishing editor to move into a NY publishing house. Over the past few years, Tor has made a concerted effort to reach the female reading demographic.
Jane: How much time do you spend actually reading as part of your job?
Osborn: I spend almost no time reading while in the office. I usually use all of my office time to answer e-mail, regular mail, and edit. I read after hours while at home. When you break it down into percentages, I probably read (not counting the re-reading as part of editing) for about 30% of my job.
Jane: Do you get to read for pleasure? If so, do you have favorite authors?
Osborn: Yes. I am a big believer in always reading for pleasure. Even if I can only read for 10 minutes a night, I do it. Otherwise, I might burn out on submissions. The genres I read are primarily romance and sf/f.
For romance, I read JR Ward, Carla Kelly (huuuuge fan), Gaelen Foley, Ruth Wind/Barbara Samuel, Loretta Chase, PC Cast, Lynn Viehl, Linda Howard, Diana Palmer (I can’t help it, it’s an addiction!), Marjorie M. Liu, Nalini Singh, Robin Owens, Susan Brockmann, and many many more. (I deliberately did not list any favorite EC authors, because if I list one, I need to list them all!)
For sf/f, I read Sara Douglass, Mercedes Lackey, Diana Pharoah Francis, Patricia Bray, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, Linnea Sinclair, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (love them!), Keri Arthur, Holly Lisle, Kelley Armstrong, Tamora Pierce (a favorite), Laurell K. Hamilton (I just can’t quit her), Rachel Caine, and many more.
Jane: What are you looking for in terms of a romance these days? Any particular themes? periods? Subgenres?
Osborn: …I love Urban Fantasy, and would love to see more of it for the romance line. Romantic Suspense is also of interest, although it should be noted, nothing that hints of Category romance, please. If I had a dollar for every “woman on the run from the mob who meets up with small town sheriff (and former Navy SEAL)“ submission I have --well, I might not be rich, but I’d be on my way!
I also see Tor eventually expanding to include really well-written contemporary romances. Again, nothing category romance. Think Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, or Deborah Smith. The kind of book that you finish reading thinking “that was a great story“ not “that was a great secret baby story!“
Of course, like all editors, what I am really looking for is a great book!
Jane: Tor is primarily known as a science fiction and fantasy powerhouse who has been providing a small contribution to the paranormal romance shelves. It sounded that with your hiring, Tor plans to branch out and increase its female readership. What plans can you share with us about Tor’s future in women’s fiction?
Osborn: Well, Tor has already been promoting its books to the female readership through its Women in Fantasy program, which is often advertised in RT. They are eager to grow their market to include more women, and have made it clear to me that if I am submitted books that would fit better in the Science Fiction or Fantasy lines I should feel free to pass them on.
Jane: Do you think readers today are more accepting of rule breaking romances (pushing the envelope) or are we still very traditional in our buying habits?
Osborn: Can I say yes to both? I think there is a tightrope with romance that needs to be walked. For me, the most important rule that cannot be broken in terms of romance is the happy (i.e. romantic) ending. The reader must feel as though the romantic relationship in the book is special and will last. Any book that does not have an HEA is not a romance. Of course, in this day and age, HEA is not necessarily a wedding and babies and a white picket fence. Regardless of how it is done, the HEA is still vital.
Within the context of that HEA, other rule breaking is possible. I am willing to try everything at least once.
Jane: Do you have a favorite way of spending time away from books?
Osborn: I truly am a book geek. I love reading for pleasure! But non-book things I enjoy include RPG video games (final fantasy, w00t!), Mario Kart, an obsession with the Lord of the Rings movies, and Karaoke Party Revolution.
Jane: What is the worst part of an editor’s job?
Osborn: Rejecting the meh books. The ones that are decently written and plotted, but that don’t have any sort of spark to them. Those rejection letters are hardest to write.
Jane: What is the best part of an editor’s job?
Osborn: Finding and contracting a really great book.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
I spent twenty-five years in the computer information communication profession, as technical writer, editor and manager. I started editing part time for Ellora’s Cave over six years ago because it was an interesting variation from my day job in a computer department. I moved to Ohio as managing editor five and a half years ago, have been Publisher for more than three years.
Is there any type of story you're hoping to find but not seeing in your submissions?
Erotic urban fantasy romance (not just urban fantasy with sex scenes – true erotic romance within the urban fantasy genre)
How often do you ask for manuscripts from contests?
How often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile"?
Myself, I rarely have time to look at the slush pile. But our EC/CP editors do go through the approximately 90 unsolicited submissions we receive each month.
While reading a manuscript, how long does it usually take before you know whether or not you want to request the full or reject? Why?
The first paragraph better hook me, or I’m immediately disinclined toward this story. A couple of pages at most will tell me if it’s an immediate reject. If it looks good, I’ll continue for several chapters. The first page is enough to tell me if this writer can’t spell, doesn’t know grammar or sentence structure, has poor writing style.
If you had to chose between a magnificent plot or a magnificent voice, which would you select?
I want both, readers want both. However, it is easier for an editor to work with a writer to “fix” plot problems (as long as the basic plot premise is strong). Voice is unique and if it doesn’t work, there’s not a whole lot an editor can do except reject.
What are some errors that new authors make?
Poor quality submissions – didn’t bother to have it thorough proofed, haven’t used crit partners or beta readers. Waste the editor’s time and immediately turn the editor off by poor submission cover letter. Talk ONLY about the story, nothing about you.
If you had to give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?
Read, research, read, research, read, research… (Okay, so I snuck in two.)
What question do you wish someone would ask? And what's the answer?
Question: What do I consider the most important qualities of an author? Answer: Professionalism and ethical behavior.
Have you ever become star-struck when meeting an author? If so, who?
The Linda Howard Award of Excellence is taking entries now. Click here.