Monday, November 24, 2008

Thank you. Thank you very much.

In the immortal words of Elvis, I thank you faithful MRMR readers very much for accompanying me on my writing journey. I'm off to catch the turkey so I can put a cute hat on it before I eat it. Have a wonderful holiday with the ones you love (and even those you merely tolerate because you're related to them in some way. Just drink plenty of wine.).
Tofurkey or the real thing? Sweet potatoes or mashed? Pumpkin pie or apple? What's on the menu? Who's cooking? What's your favoritest thing to be thankful for? I say Sadie and Juliette and my four kids. And happy birthday today to Jessie, my Thanksgiving baby!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fur Real

The calendar may not yet mark winter, but I live in Maine, and I'm cold. It's supposed to snow this week. Ugh. I'm in my red LL Bean 3-in-1 jacket, gloves in the pocket.

Years ago I had a silver fox fur jacket that I bought at a vintage clothing store in Greenwich Village, but I wouldn't dream of buying a fur coat now---not only because of the money, but because of the ickiness of it all. Yes, I eat meat and wear leather shoes. But somehow the idea of wearing dead little woodland creatures has lost its appeal.

My husband tried to buy me a mink coat once. We lived in Connecticut, and every single woman in our circle of friends had one. He sat back in a plush chair in the store as a saleswoman brought out coat after coat. As glam as I felt in chocolate brown fur that matched my eyes (that's the saleswoman talking), I couldn't do it.

My mother had one of those hideous snapping mink stoles that scared the bejesus out of me when I was little. Full bodies. Beady little eyes. Jaws biting onto tails and paws. Shudder.

Yet I've dressed my historical heroines in fur-lined cloaks. They've had fur hats and tippets and muffs. There was no PETA then. Nobody was throwing buckets of red paint around in protest. Fur is fine in fiction. Historicals give you a little leeway in the political correctness department.

What have you run across reading that would be icky in real life but that's just ducky to read about? How do you feel about fur?

No one in the world needs a mink coat but a mink. ~Murray Banks

Book giveaway! The utterly fabulous, desperately delightful Eloisa James guest blogs tomorrow, November 20 on Vauxhall Vixens! Be sure to visit!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Words of Wisdom

We all know that the Internet has enhanced the romance community in a fabulous way. When I first started to write, I knew absolutely nothing about anything. I'd even stopped reading romances. So I gingerly clicked for advice, finding Jenna Peterson's Passionate Pen, which is a great, generous place for aspiring writers. In the intervening years I've had online and e-mail contact with some of the best names in the business. It never ceases to amaze me that Eloisa James wrote back to me about flawed heroes or that Karen Hawkins complimented me on a snippet I wrote or that Christine Merrill appreciated a comment I left about her. She's even sent me her latest, Miss Winthorpe's Elopement. A couple of the things she said really resonated:

So if you’ve got an agent to love you, don’t worry too much on what’s ahead. Really, I think that editor rejections are much easier to take than criticism from the unpublished, who can be unmerciful. Editors tend to break things down into “will make money” or “won’t make money”. Good or bad doesn’t enter into it as often as it should. And nothing works for everyone, so don’t worry on that account. The stronger your voice, the more likely you are to get off the wall criticism. So the out of left field, sand-bagging can be written off as ‘not your reader’.

In another e-mail she writes:

In my experience, you are in the worst stage of the writing/publishing process. The spot right before you sell is a lot harder than anything, IMHO. And it feels like it goes on forever, while everyone around you gets a call.

There’s the learning curve, where you have to figure out how to write, and you suck but don’t know it, and get a bunch of rejections.

And there’s all the stuff that published people whine about, like reviews and sales numbers.

But in between there’s the point where you reach a level of competence sufficient to write a good saleable book, but the rejections are still coming. It’s not like your craft won’t continue to improve as long as you write. But I think the style can mature years before the market is ready to buy. Or maybe it all happens over night. There’s really no telling. And it’s hard because you won’t be able to make the changes that some of the editors will be looking for, because they either won’t serve you story, or they will be just plain crazy. If you have an agent who gets your work, that is half the battle.

But welcome to limbo. When it feels crazy, remember, it’s not your fault.

Word to live by! I knew I was innocent, LOL! In my ivory tower, AKA writing room, I'm apt to forget writing is a business as well as an art.(*snort*...forgive my hubris...I know I'm not Jane Austen) In this iffy economy, there might not be an HEA for every writer. But I'm willing to keep trying and typing until "The End."

Here's hoping there's an HEA for Vauxhall Vixen Tiffany Chalmers, who just signed with the Cornerstone Literary Agency! Yay, Tiff! Welcome to limbo!

And here's a chance to give kudos to your real-life writer heroines who inspire you. What have you read lately that you love? Go read Christine Merrill's books right this instant! I can't wait to dive into Miss Winthorpe's Elopement. But first---I am finally reading Outlander. I know, where have I been? Only 410 pages to go....

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Opening the Vein

I’ve entered very few writing contests: the Golden Heart last year (where one judge gave me a perfect 9 and another a 2), two where I won first and third place, and two where I didn’t final. I’m grateful for the feedback, even when I feel a little like a yo-yo, going from one extreme to another. The most recent (and probably the last) contest I entered is a case in point. The perfect score was 99. My scores? 94, 82.5, and 65. That’s a 29-point difference between the high and low numbers.

I’m in full disclosure mode. I’ve condensed the judges' most salient comments into one paragraph each.

Judge #1:The writing is quite good. You have an easy, readable writing style, and the first page was wonderful and engaging. Your writing style is engaging and fun to read, and I really appreciate that you are giving me just as much backstory as I need to understand and pique my interest, but not so much as to make me roll my eyes. Great job! The dialogue is generally good, but there is too much irrelevant conversation and narrative. I find my attention span drifting for the most part. The characters don’t have distinct voices, either, and so I am at a bit of a loss. I suggest that you take a hard look at what you are writing and ask yourself whether every sentence—every sentence, mind you—pushes your story forward. If it doesn’t, delete it. Because, as a reader, I only care about the story. Everything else bores me. Of course, tastes differ, and you will likely get different responses from other people, but to me, this does not sound like a book I would like to read.
(M.R.:Ouch. Edging into the cave. Whimpering.)

Judge #2:The author has a WONDERFUL voice. I enjoyed this story very much. At first, I was a little confused as to exactly what was going on, and not entirely clear as to why the H & H couldn’t be together, but better understood the conflict as the tale unfolded. There are a few places where the author gives quite a lot of back story, which slows the pace in those parts. Some judicious tightening would help. Overall, she does such an excellent job of description that I was quite intrigued. The young H&H are delightful and reminded me of Heathcliff and Catherine before she was made to be a lady. This author has amazing descriptive ability. What areas do you feel need improvement? Not a thing. This entry is ready for publication!
(M.R.: peeking out of cave to catch the ray of sunlight.)

Judge #3:I found the first scene gripping. Great tension. I think you are a strong writer. I think the writing is strong and the first scene was very tense and drew me right in. I liked the heroine in particular – especially during the first scenes. She was very strong and you made me really curious about what had gone on in the past between these two characters to make her decide to accept his proposition. I simply didn’t buy the conflict or think it was big enough to carry a novel. I feel like the story is a little too predictable, and that the conflict could be too easily resolved with a couple of frank conversations.
(M.R.: Frankly, I’m not going to enter any more contests!)

The same manuscript evoked three distinct reactions. I may not agree with all the points (except for Judge #2, LOL), but they remind me how subjective writing is. Just enough backstory. Too much backstory. Great description. So much description my eyes are glazing over and I hate your book. All I can do is keep writing. Easy, right?

Do you enter contests? Are you doing the Golden Heart this year? Are you curled up in your cave like me or ready to take the leap?

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We the People

Other people will be far more eloquent than I could ever be about the historical significance of the 2008 presidential election. But I thank the suffragettes who made my vote possible, and thank the American people who voted for hope. Now it's time to get back to writing!
Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence. ~Lin Yutang

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pounding the Keys

I'm wearing my fat pants. After a rainy summer spent indoors on my protuberant posterior writing (and apparently eating) like a fiend, I have discovered the 10s and 12s of yesteryear do not fit. Oh, I can get them on. Barely. The question is, do I want to spend six hours in the library in them, afraid to bend down to put a book on the bottom shelf? Rrrrip.

Coincidentally, my current heroine Charlotte Fallon is on the fluffy side. The painting to the right was my inspiration for her. She's short and very curvy. Her hero, a frustrated artist, loves nothing better than to get her naked and sketch her. Well, actually, he loves nothing better than to get her naked. The sketching comes after, or before, depending on the scene. I've noticed heftier heroines in several books, and I'm so glad. I've been fluffy all my life, save for three years in my early twenties when I didn't ever eat potatoes and weighed 125 for about a week and a half. Pass the home fries, please.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What are your characters' physical "flaws?" Do you want to smack down those perfect heroines in fiction and RL? Are you currently on a diet? Any tips for me?