Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Interview with Alicia Condon, Dorchester Publishing

This is the second year I've had the pleasure of working with Alicia Condon as the final judge in the historical category of the Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest. She is at all times professional and a pleasure to work with. I hope that I have an editor like her when I grow up. Yes, she is that nice! I asked her to answer our final judge interview questions on her first day back from vacation. Not surprisingly, she returned the form the next day. I know you will enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

Diane Richmond (DR)


DR: What is your background?

Alicia Condon (AC): I've been acquiring romances of every description for Dorchester for the past 23 years - I can't quite believe it's been that long! Before that I worked at Bantam and Silhouette.

DR: Is there any type of story you're hoping to find but not seeing in your submissions?

AC: I'm very excited about fantasy romance, and haven't seen too many in our submissions. I'd also like to see a fresh fairy godmother story.

DR: How often do you ask for manuscripts from contests?

AC: I almost always ask to see at least one manuscript when I judge a contest. And I'd say I go on to acquire about one a year that I discover from judging contest. That's part of the reason I enjoy judging this kind of submission.

DR: How often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile?"

AC: I generally acquire one or two new authors from slush each year.

DR: 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?

AC: 75% of the time, I know I'll reject a submission after reading the first ten pages. I realize this sounds harsh, but it's because the voice or writing style just aren't powerful enough. That isn't going to change as the story goes on. If I like the voice, 50 to 100 pages will tell me whether I want to make an offer for the book.

DR: If you had to choose between a magnificent plot or a magnificent voice, which would you select?

AC: Magnificent voice, every time.

DR: What are some errors that new authors make?

AC: Believing that once the first sale is made, everything will be easy. Writing a wonderful book is always challenging.

DR: If you had to given an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?

AC: Don't give up. You are driven to write because you have something to communicate to others. Even if you aren't published right away, continue to share that part of yourself with your family, friends, critique group, etc., and make sure it is a clear expression of who you really are.

DR: Have you ever become star struck when meeting an author? If so, who?

AC: Years ago, I met Celeste Deblais after reading her WILD SWAN books and was completely tongue tied.

The Linda Howard Award of Excellence is taking entries now. Click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview with Editor, Latoya C. Smith, Grand Central Publishing

1). What is your background? Latoya Smith started her editorial career as an administrative assistant to the New York Times bestselling author, Teri Woods at Teri Woods Publishing, one of the nation's largest independent publishers. It was there that she discovered her passion for book publishing. Latoya worked at TWP seasonally while pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at Temple University. She graduated Cum Laude from Temple in August of 2005. She then got a full-time position at Kensington Publishing where she was an editorial assistant for Senior Editor Karen Thomas in March of 2006. In October 2006, Latoya moved over to Grand Central Publishing, formerly known as Warner Books, an imprint at Hachette Book Group, where she continued working under Karen Thomas, who is now an executive editor.

Latoya is currently acquiring romance (mainly paranormal and romantic suspense), general fiction, erotica, and women's fiction.

2). Is there any type of story you're hoping to find but not seeing in your submissions? A really strong dark paranormal brotherhood series. It doesn’t matter what creatures.

3). How often do you ask for manuscripts from contests?" Normally every time. I usually request the #1 and #2 entries.

4). How often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile?" I’ve read them, but I have yet to find one worthy of publishing.

5). 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? First few pages. I am the kind of person that likes to get into the story from page 1. Definitely not one to wait until it gets better. My motto is if you can’t catch my attention in the opening for free, why would someone pay to read?

6). If you had to chose between a magnificent plot or a magnificent voice, which would you select? Voice. You can always rework the plot.

7). What are some errors that new authors make? Romance is very difficult because a lot of times you have to combine two genres; a very new and different plot and cast of characters, while keeping in mind the traditional elements of a good romance. Many times new authors have one down, but not the other.

8). If you had to give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be? Make sure you are 100% happy with your work before submitting because a lot of times you only get one chance. It’s great to join critique groups as well to get great critical analysis (not family and friends) before submitting to an editor/agent.

9). What question do you wish someone would ask? And what's the answer? How many times should you query an editor after submission? Give editors 4-6 weeks for review. For un-agented, at least 4-6 months. Unfortunately, we must look at agented submissions first which delays the reads for unagented materials.

10). Have you ever become star-struck when meeting an author? If so, who? Pam Grier.

The Linda Howard Award of Excellence is taking entries now. Click here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Interview With Susan Litman, Editor, Harlequin

What is your background?
I came to Harlequin/Silhouette after spending several years working in film development in New York. I began working as an Assistant Editor for the Intimate Moments line, and have since become the Editor for Special Edition, acquiring for multiple series.

Is there any type of story you're hoping to find but not seeing in your submissions?
Just a very good story, well-told. I’m looking for something to engage me from the first page onward – solid storytelling, good character development and dialogue.

How often do you ask for manuscripts from contests?
Pretty often, and if I see more than one thing I like, I’ll ask for multiple projects.

How often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile?
If by “select” you mean “buy,” sometimes. In fact, I bought a new author for Special Edition just a couple of weeks ago from the slush pile! Her name is Abigail Strom and we hope to publish her book sometime in 2010.

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?
That’s a hard question to answer. Usually when something works, you can tell right away, often from the first page or two. But I can often tell within the first couple of chapters if I’m going to request the complete or not. If the story and voice are not grabbing my attention, it’s not going to work.

What are some errors that new authors make?
Too often I see writers trying to jump on the latest trned because they think it will get them published faster. I’m not saying that someone who usually favors sweet romances couldn’t write a gritty suspense thriller – many people can write across genres very successfully! But jumping on a bandwagon just to get published rarely works, if ever, and it’s never the best way to show your talent. Write what you love – show yourself in your best light - and in time it will fall into the hands of the right agent or editor.

If you had to give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?
Unfortunately, rejection is a necessary part of this process. But if you can take a rejection and make it work for you – learn from it and figure out how to use the comments to improve your future projects – you’ll be ahead of the game.

Have you ever become star-struck when meeting an author? If so, who?
Absolutely! Daniel Silva and Harlan Coben are two of my favorite authors, and while I’ve met them both several times, I’m ALWAYS star-struck. I think the excitement of meeting someone whose work you love never goes away.

The Linda Howard Award of Excellence is taking entries now. Click here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thinking Like Einstein

In my ongoing effort to keep the creative fire burning, I’m listening to a book called “How to Think Like Einstein” by Scott Thorpe. While I don’t ever expect to attain genius status, I’ve picked up some helpful hints for jumpstarting my creativity.

According to Thorpe, our main problem is that we get stuck in thinking ruts. When we’re trying to solve a problem, we tend to come up with the same five answers because we’re stuck in those ruts.

The author’s suggestion? Pick an option that seems completely unrelated and start brainstorming. If I’m trying to figure out how my hero and heroine should meet, I would choose something off the wall and think of ways it could solve my problem. The more outrageous, the better!

If I chose a grapefruit, I would then brainstorm all the ways a grapefruit could bring the couple together. Feel free to laugh at my ideas and your own. If the process is fun, you'll come up with even better ideas. Let’s see…

· She could have an allergic reaction to the fruit and end up under his care in the ER

· She could throw it at his head

· He could compare her breasts to grapefruits and get slapped for his efforts

· He could be an expert in grapefruit diseases coming to help her orchard with its dying trees

· She could have a bicycle accident when his grapefruit rolls away and strikes her wheel

The point is to come up with as many ideas as you can, and let yourself go off on tangents. Don’t throw out anything, because the most implausible idea may lead you to something else that’s perfect.

I’m still learning how to get out of my ruts, and keep my stories fresh. How do you stoke your creative fire?

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Need a Hero

I'm in a grumpy mood. Why? Let the laundry list begin:

1) I have less than a week to prep for the MOONLIGHT & MAGNOLIAS Conference in Atlanta and I have been derailed. When will I find time to practice my pitch? Or pack? Or write anything at all? At least my eyebrows, chin and lips are waxed.
2) My daughter has swine flu and influenza B--hence my 1st problem.
3) My house was clean--now it needs disinfecting and there's a lot of extra laundry.
4) I am tired cause I slept on a love seat all night--in other words I didn't sleep.
5) My latest online course has pointed out a major flaw in my writing of heroes and heroines. Great for future stories. Not so great for my current POS. Why even pitch it? See number 1.
6) I'm behind on my homework for the online course.
7) My darling husband doesn't understand that the best way to support me is to nod, say loving things and stay away from the germs--God help us all if he gets sick. I'm talking about the man who literally takes his temperature 3x in a row with three different thermometers to get an AVERAGE!!!! And this is also the man who claimed he "was the sickest" of us all when we all got a horrible stomach virus--not true--ask my daughter.
8) I'm desperate to write and have nothing to give. The well is empty.
9) I believe I am the world's worst contest category coordinator and am suffering horrible bouts of guilt.
10) The scale went up.

What I need is a hero.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Helpful Hints

Since the last time I blogged, I’ve received my first round of edits as a new author. After staring at the attachment as if it were a cobra that would go for my vulnerable parts if I took my eyes off it for a second, I finally opened the document…and found myself very reassured that I must have a wonderful voice. ‘Cause it couldn’t have been my grammar skills that won my editor over! All hail the Queen of the Misplaced and Dangling Modifier! Thank you, thank you! You’re too gracious!

Hard to believe, but I did conquer the hurdle of the first—I repeat, first round of edits. As a result I thought I’d impart some wisdom I've learned that could help others…or just provide a really good laugh at my expense. Here goes:

…When your hero has one hand resting on the heroine’s hip and is tracing her bottom lip with the other, he absolutely cannot stroke her hair at that same moment. Something about three arms…who knew??

…Helpful hint. If your character is going to hiss something, make sure there’s at least one “s” in the dialogue. I don’t know what “Get out of here” sounds like in Spanish, but in English, there’s not an “s” anywhere in there! Again…who knew?? My editor.

…If your villain dies by having his neck snapped, in the epilogue his neck needs to be hanging at an odd angle—not have a body riddled by gunfire. I mean, he was evil, but breaking his neck and shooting him? Gives new meaning to overkill. Your readers may end up a little confused. Just a little…

…Your heroine can only “pulse” and “pound” so much. Suggestion: T-h-e-s-a-u-r-u-s. To my stupefied disbelief, it’s not some kind of carnivorous dinosaur, but a book. A really helpful book. With lots of words in it….

…And finally, the sentence, “With a tug on his hand, her lashes lifted to glance…” Unless your lashes are from the planet Krypton with the strength of Superman, they cannot tug on a hand. Do you see why my reign over the kingdom of Dangling and Misplaced Modifier is absolute? But, as a side note, I do have some pretty strong lashes…

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The I's Have It

Not too long ago, an agent lamented the fact that so many of the submissions she was getting were written in first person point of view. She did not like it. Not one bit.

This made me think: What makes a manuscript particularly suited to first person or third person? Certainly first person has limitations, but I think it also has advantages.

I love Diana Gabaldon's Outlander; she handles first person POV masterfully. The book would not be nearly as powerful were it written in third person. Ms. Gabaldon uses POV to create what I call "literary sleight of hand" -- the heroine (the POV character) innocently leads the reader to believe one thing, but suddenly we discover, along with the heroine, that something else entirely has been going on.

A good example: The heroine (a nurse who has travelled back in time to 1745 Scotland) has just tended to the injured shoulder of the hero, Jamie, whom she has just met. She admonishes him to not move it much, to take care of the dressing, and ease into using it. A few paragraphs later, she sits in front of him on his horse as they ride away.

After a time, we reached a crossroads, where we stopped a moment while the bald man and the leader conferred in low tones. Jamie dropped the reins over the horse's neck and let it wander to the verge to crop grass, while he began twisting and turning behind me.

"Careful!" I said. "Don't twist like that, or your dressing will come off! What are you trying to do?"

"Get my plaid loose to cover you," he replied. "You're shivering."

The first time I read this passage, I gasped. I, like the heroine, was convinced Jamie was doing something stupid to re-injure his shoulder. But instead, Ms. Gabaldon gives us a sublime romantic moment, and it simply took my breath away.

Do you have a favorite first person POV book? What kinds of stories work best in first person?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Starving artists and other lunatics

As I sit at my desk and survey the wreckage that is my writing studio (formerly known as my living room) I realize I have not really done any housework in weeks. Trust me, if you saw my house you would say "Just weeks?" By the way, you obsessively clean Suzie Homemaker types really get on my nerves, but I digress. But if someone were to ask me why my cats are afraid to go under the couch for fear that large dust bunny in the corner is actually alive, I would proudly say "Well, I am suffering for my art." (To which that person would reply "bull***" disguised as a cough. I have interesting friends.)

But, hey, isn't that what we artistic types - writers, painters, musicians, poets - are supposed to do? We're supposed to make sacrifices for our art. True, I'm not lying on my back painting the Sistine Chapel, nor am I starving in some Parisian apartment, but trust me, if my Mom came to visit and saw this house I WOULD pull a Van Gogh and cut off my ear, both of them in fact. Not that it would help. That woman has a voice that when she is in full cry makes drill sergeants wet themselves.

I'm trying to finish my third book this week. It is already later than I told my agent it would be finished. So, I am giving up sleep, any and all social activities, internet time (not all of it, I'm no fanatic, yet!)shaving my legs, cleaning my house, reading and pretty much anything that isn't writing. Wouldn't mind giving up my day job to write, but at this point it does pay for little luxuries like food and living indoors. Many of you have seen me. Do I LOOK like I would give up food? Didn't think so.

So, my question is, what are you sacrificing for your art? Do you sometimes resent it or are you like me - my WORST day writing beats my best day at just about anything else. So, anybody willing to lop off body parts, go days without sleep, come over here and kill that big dust bunny before my cat has a nervous breakdown?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Harlequin Celebrates 60 Years

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why Do You Write Romance?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fantasy Hero VS Reality Hero

I love my heros--dark, dangerous, unpredictable, powerful, and mean. I don't want him to go weak at the knees when he see's the heroine. I like him to be overwhelming, and tricky. There must be instant friction--like anger, want, or just plain contrariness.

So long as it stays in the story.

In reality, if I hung around people that did half of what I wrote or read, I think I'd be getting restraining orders and going to counseling.

What is it about these fantasy hero's that I like- that are so dark? Recently I've been reading a series by Karen Marie Moning, about a Sidhe Seer named MacKayla Lane (Mac). Her first book in the series is "DarkFever." In this tale she has been able to present an incredibly dark hero named Jericho Barrons--and he is FASCINATING to me. He's rude, icily polite, has violent tendencies, and unpredictable. The more he is a jerk, the better I like it. Why? Because in between his nastiness, you occasionally see a glimpse of other feelings for the heroine. The author has successfully built the tension, while being true to his character. So now, even though the hero is so very bad, I am cheering for him.

I like the dark fantasy, because it is safe...safe to dream. I don't want the reality. Reality is doing dishes, going to work, paying bills, and raising children. I do that most of my waking moments. When I write, and when I read, I want situations that are not real, that are difficult and scary...because I am the direct opposite of that.

In my life, I prefer no drama, but laughter. Granted, I have a dark sense of humor and I am very snarky (ask my friends and co-workers). I have been gifted in my life with a wonderful husband. He'll do dishes, laundry, and makes me laugh. His eyes light up every time I walk into a room (as mine do when I see him). He is truly a nice guy and strong. He's not mean--thank goodness! I believe that's why I like the bad boys in books---because it is the direct opposite of my life.

What do you like in your fantasy hero? How about your real hero?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Interruptions

I have been thinking about my posting on this blog for the past couple of days. I can usually be found doing this twice a month, just before my post is due. This month I have been interrupted to the point where I am frustrated enough to notice it. Okay, I admit it--I am not a quick study. Still, after at least seven separate attempts to plot out my blog, I'm giving up and sharing my frustrations with you.

First, there was the knock on the door. I sit in my office facing the front of the house and I can see who is coming up the walk. He appears. A nicely dressed middle aged man in a business suit with an important looking portfolio of papers approaching the door. I stop and answer the door, only to find out he is promoting some brand of religion. Oops, got me this time, but never again.

Next, my husband emerges from the depths of the basement, where his office is located, to reply to my four hour, earlier, request to take the dogs for a walk. Now he was ready. This was interruption number two.

Later that evening I sat down, confident I wouldn't be bothered when I heard him snoring rhythmically in the front room with a sci-fi film blasting in the background. Enter the three amigos; better known as my four footed kids, Sasha, Kris Kringle and Meggie. Usually, they will lounge at my feet. Not this time. They demanded to go out. I considered ignoring them but last time the results of ignoring one of them had me dancing around with the carpet cleaner until the wee hours of the morning.

Third interruption had to be the charm. Surely there would be no more. No such luck. Each time I sat down over the next couple of days I was stopped from fulfilling my goal of crafting the perfect blog. So, is it any surprise that my post rambles on about nothing? I didn't think so, and by the way, my husband just called out asking what I was doing. It seems he wants to go somewhere or do something but I couldn't quite catch it all because I have closed the door to try to get some privacy.

As writers, interruptions are an expected part of the territory. What is your most memorable interruption?

Writing Adventures!

This is my first post here and I’m happy to be part of this blog. As you read this, I will be getting ready for another adventure in the wonderful world below. What do I mean? I will be getting ready to make two more dives to complete my Scuba Diving Class. Yep, you heard me right. I’ll be underwater exploring and finishing up my class. YAY! Once we’re done we will head home and I will check in with everyone.

So, what made me think of doing these classes? I can answer that one easily. My hubby. HAHA! Actually, he already has his certification and wanted us to be able to enjoy something together. He also had this wonderful story idea that deals with a Scuba Diving Class and I thought what better way then to get the real experience. I’ve had my moments when I was unsure of myself, but I’ve enjoyed it this far and I’m sure I will have a blast in the ocean. Seeing things I have only seen on TV and I can’t wait!

Hubby is talking about our next adventure of jumping from a perfectly good airplane. STOP! That is where I draw the line. HAHA. My feet will stay on the ground…or underwater, but NOT jumping from a plane. Though it would make for a great story…Nah, not this girl. :-D

So, what are some of the things you have done for your books? Have you taken some great adventure just to capture it in your writing? Share with me what you have done, while I travel back from mine. I hope to share pictures very soon from my trip. :-)

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11

Many of us are thinking back on "9/11" today, remembering that horrible day that even now—8 years later—seems like yesterday. My clearest memory was sitting in the car with my son, saying, “This is big. No matter what we do, we’ll never fully recover from this loss because it happened in our own backyard.”

This statement feels true to me still today. My son was only 11-years-old on 9/11. Just last night, he called me from California where he’s training in “desert conditions.” He spoke briefly about his issued gun, body armor, and Army friends. He wanted to let me know he wouldn’t be able to reach me for two weeks due to specific training.

On days like today, this starts to really sink in.

My son will be going overseas in November with his comrades—young men and women who were only in grade school when 9/11 happened. God, has it been that long? Still, as a mother, from the bottom of my heart, I hope he doesn’t find himself in a position to sacrifice what so many heroes sacrificed on 9/11 or since then.

We write about fictional heroes and heroines every day—people we sacrifice for the sake of a good story. But when we suffer the loss for real, it hits us hard and it’s impossible not to feel. Even now, I tear up thinking about it. If you have any special memories or loved one serving in some heroic capacity today, I’d love to hear your story. God bless.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

THE GOOD GIRL

All my life I have been a rule follower. I never got in trouble in school, never got called to the principal’s office or got detention or got so much as a single conduct check. Oh, I did plenty of things as a teenager that would have given my parents a heart attack if they knew about them, but they never did. Thank God.

But, in a socialized setting like school or work, I generally follow the rules. Not to say I wouldn’t break a few rules in a life or death situation, but in day to day life I am a rule follower.

Once, several years ago while painting my daughter’s room, I sliced open my thumb and had to get stitches. The doctor sewed me up and the nurse put a tight bandage on my thumb and told me to come back to the office on Monday. (This happened on a Friday.) I spent Friday and Saturday in massive pain from this simple injury.

I’m not usually a weenie when it comes to such things. I’ve broken bones, been severely sunburned, burned my arm on the stove, had several surgeries and had two children, so I was surprised by the pain in my thumb. I couldn’t sleep. Pain pills didn’t touch it. It throbbed without mercy.

Finally, unable to stand it any longer, I went back to Pri Med on Sunday, the day before I was scheduled to return, and told the male nurse of my misery. Could I have severed a nerve? I asked. He seemed puzzled. “No, you shouldn’t be in this kind of discomfort,” he said. “Let’s remove the bandage and see what’s going on.” He took the bandage off and the relief was immediate. The deep, throbbing pain simply vanished as if by magic. The nurse went pale. My thumb was a dark ugly purple, almost black. He had put the bandage on too tight, cutting off the blood flow to my thumb.

Yep, you guessed it. My poor thumb was dying from lack of circulation, and that is why it hurt like the very devil. It was SCREAMING for help and, being a rule follower and following the nurse’s instructions not to remove the bandage, I had ignored the message my body was sending me. HEY, DUMMY, TAKE OFF THE STUPID BANDAGE. HELLO! HELLO? STUPID COW, I’M DYING HERE!

I admit that the cow remark hurt my feelings, but my thumb taught me a lesson. I resolved right then and there to be less of a rule follower . . . and to pay more attention to my thumb.

Interestingly enough, my husband is not a rule follower. Opposites attract, or so they say.

Okay, here’s the point of all of this. What rules do you follow in your own writing, and which ones do you disregard? I admit to the judicious use of the occasional adverb, even though they are frowned upon and considered a sign of lazy writing. And I don’t do a lot of plotting and organization on paper before I begin a story, although I think about it a lot and plot it in my head. Actually, I think about it pretty much ALL the time. I don’t follow any kind of formula or guideline, which may or may not be a good thing. I am, after all, unpublished and only time will tell if I’m on the right path.

So, do you follow the rules or break ‘em when you write?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Linda Howard Award of Excellence

NEW:
  • Inspiration category
  • Three first round judges, lowest dropped

First 25 pages without synopsis. See rules for further information.

Must be emailed by October 11, 2009 – 10 p.m. central
Finalists should be announced by January 1, 2010
Revised final entries must be emailed by January 25, 2009 (with synopses)
Winners should be announced on April 1, 2010

Categories and final judges:

Series/Short & Long Contemporary
Susan Litman, Editor, Harlequin

Single Title
Latoya Smith, Editor, Grand Central Publishers

Suspense (series or single title)
Megan MeKeever, Associate Editor, Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster)

Historical
Alicia Condon, VP, Editorial Director, Dorchester

Unique Genres (Paranormal, Futuristic, Fantasy, Time Travel)
Heather Osborn, Acquisitions Editor, Tor

Romantic Sensual and Sizzling (Erotica)
Raelene Gorlinsky, Editor, Ellora’s Cave

Young Adult
Natashya Wilson, Senior Editor, Harlequin Teen

Inspirational
Tina James, Senior Editor, Love Inspired Suspense & Love Inspired Historical, Steeple Hill

The Write Magic -For Southern Magic members only
Sara Megibow, Associate Agent, Nelson Literary Agency

Thanks.
Carla Swafford
LH AoE Contest Coordinator
Southern Magic, Birmingham
http://www.southernmagic.org/

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Hey, How About Me?

I learned over the years I can be my own worst enemy. The best example was about fourteen years ago one of the big bosses at my day job asked me if I knew of someone who would want my ex-boss's job? Dummy me, said, "No. I can't think of anyone." What I found out later was he wanted me to say, "Hey, how about me?"

Why he didn't just ask me straight out if I wanted the job, I'm not really sure. Maybe he wanted to see if I had the drive/ambition to move up into management. Whatever the reason, I know part of the reason I didn't say, "Hey, how about me?" was that I didn't have the self-confidence.

One of the good things (there are a few) about growing older is that you realize failing at something isn't the worst thing you can do. Not trying is.

So it's like riding a roller coaster for the first time. You're scared as you stand in line with your friends and family, trying not to show it while waiting for your turn. You watch everyone who gets out of the cars, they're laughing or smiling big even though they look crazy with their hair all topsy-turvy. Then you get your chance. You buckle up and before you know it the car is clinking along. You reach the top of the first hill and you look down the long drop. You inhale with an "Oh, crap!" or something worst and then the wind's in your hair and you're screaming and before you know it, you reach the bottom. Relieved. You're ready for the next hill and drop. They come fast, up and down, twisting and jerking you around but nothing like that first drop. The airtime your butt is off the seat takes your breath away. Yet it's so much fun. Before you know it, it's over and you realize it wasn't as bad as you had thought. If anything, you want to do it again. You're willing to take a chance again.

That's how to build self-confidence. One drop and hill at a time.

I'm going for the Kingda Ka roller coaster (world's tallest and fastest they claim). That's what trying to become published is to me. To try to do something bigger and scarier than anything else. So I continue to work hard on my writing and get my manuscripts out there. Whatever happens will not because I didn't try.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

This is Only the Beginning...

I attempted my first manuscript in junior high, and have been jotting down ideas for bits and pieces of novels for at least twenty-five years. But it wasn’t until last January--nearly a year after quitting my full-time job--that I decided to try again seriously.

I used to read mainly spy thrillers, mysteries, and legal dramas, but for some reason, I didn’t feel like I could write those. Romance novels weren’t around my house growing up, so I didn’t have a lot of exposure to the genre.

By chance, I picked up a couple of historical romances from the free book pile at the library late last year. They were old, and not very well written, but I suddenly realized that the stories in my head were love stories, and that there was a market for them.

After picking up a sampling of romance books from the library, I also realized that they had come a long way from the stereotype of Harlequin novels that I’d picked up along the way.

Devouring romances by the handful (from authors like Brockmann, Kleypas, Dodds, St. John, Howard, and Stuart), and daydreaming for inspiration, I finally sat down and knocked out a 40,000-word manuscript. It’s pretty bad, with lots of autobiographical elements and a poorly structured plot, but it got me started.

Realizing I needed some help, I checked out books from the library about romance and fiction writing. I remember being surprised and inspired when I read that Janet Evanovich (a favorite of mine) had started out as a romance writer. She recommended RWA in her book, “How I Write”, so I looked them up.

Once I decided I was serious about this writing thing, I joined RWA in March and started my second manuscript. I finished in May with about 65,000 words this time, and I’m pretty happy with the result, but knew I needed more help.

My Air Force husband had orders to Alabama for July, so I waited anxiously for our move so I could join the Southern Magic chapter. It was worth it! In my two months as a member of SM, I have learned so many valuable things that I don’t regret a single dollar or hour spent.

My burning question about how to calculate word count in the modern era? Answered, not five minutes after I sat down for my first meeting. (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Questions about plotting and character development? A well-timed workshop last month did wonders for my writing approach. (Mary and Dianna, you rock!)

How to write the dreaded synopsis? A friend of a member has a great plan. (Much gratitude, Christine.)

Ideas for moving into romantic suspense? A published author was ready with advice and encouragement. (Danke, Laura!)

Best of all, I’ve learned that romance writers are incredibly giving people who honestly want to help others succeed. I spent months reading how-to books, but nothing beats the help and support from the great writers in my chapter.

Thanks to everyone for welcoming me so heartily, and giving me hope that I might be able to do something with the ideas floating around in my head!

Now, back to book three…