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Monday, March 31, 2008

Wild Texas Roses

After a strange few days, things are finally settling down to normal around here. As if it's ever truly "normal." I look forward to getting back to work on my manuscript tomorrow. Yay! I've missed writing.

See the pretty yellow flowers in the picture? Those are prickly pear blooms. I have prickly pear--straight from Texas, where my mom still lives--in my back yard and they thrive here and bloom like crazy. Unheard of in Kentucky, as far as I've seen. I've given pads from my cactus to everyone who's asked so they can start their own, and they always die on them. Very strange. All we have to do here is cut off a pad and give it a toss. It will take root wherever it lands and start growing. So I don't understand why no one else around here can have any luck with them. A friend once told me, I have a very strong desert vibe going on, so maybe that has something to do with it. LOL!

Back to my point. I posted the picture because these are the Wild Texas Rose(s) I refer to in the title of my current manuscript. During a very nice turning point in the story, my hero makes up a story for my heroine about The Yellow Rose of Texas.
Here's another shot of a starter pad in bloom right beside the steps going out of the garage. This little baby grew into a colossal patch of pads and thorns, completely overrunning the space we had allotted. My husband dug it up after my son tripped one day and fell into the middle of it. Ouch! Poor little guy (he was still very young at the time). We spent at least an hour pulling the nearly invisible spines out of him with tweezers. Very pretty, but if you get near them, they get you.

Hope everyone has a nice April fool's day tomorrow. And stay out of those cactus! :o)


Friday, March 28, 2008

To Blog, Or Not to Blog...

This week I've seen an awful lot of pros and cons about authors blogging. Mostly cons. There was a discussion about it on the Kentucky Romance Writers private loop and there's also a post about authors wasting their creative energy on blogging over at Smart Bitches.

Do I think authors waste creative juices they could better use writing their next novel? No. At least, I don't. For me, the blog is usually the place I turn to after I've expended my creative energy for the day and want to wind down. I blog to feel like a part of the community. It's like turning to an old friend to share triumphs or disappointments and spill my guts about the daily tedium of writing a lengthy romance novel. And sometimes friends drop in to commiserate or congratulate. So, I feel I'm not alone in my pursuit of an (often) crazy dream of writing. Without the blog, or some other outlet such as email, my voice would go unheard, except by my husband who really has no interest in my daily musings or rants about the writer's life. All he's wants to hear is results, just don't tell him about the struggle to get there.

There are authors who reveal way too much of their personal lives that have nothing at all to do with the pursuit of writing or the writing community. To them, I say, mmm...yeah. Might be better to tone it down a little. The whole world is watching you, sister.

I also have a pet peeve about authors who blog solely for promotional purposes. They disappear for months and then reappear and start chatting it up when they have a book due to be released. To them I say, you're boring me. If you have nothing more to say than, "Buy my book!" do me a favor and restrict your pitch to an actual ad or promo loop. No one (well not me, at any rate) is buying the sudden friendliness that disappears as soon as the book has been launched.

As usual, there's no real point to this post. I guess I'm just a little tired of having the people who don't blog get all superior on the rest of us who do and tell us we're wasting time we could have spent crafting a better novel.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

David Cook is my IDOL

Watch this performance from last night's show. I've already chosen "my" next American Idol.

EDITED to add: Well, my video's gone. I removed it from the post because YouTube pulled it and all the other performances from Tuesday night.


Congratulations KYRW RITA & GH Nominees!

Rita finalists--
Toni Blake for "Tempt Me Tonight" -- single title
JR Ward for "Lover Revealed" -- paranormal

Golden Heart finalist--
Cindy Nord for "No Greater Glory" -- historical



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Frustrating Delays

Since it's past midnight (way past), it's now been six days since work on the manuscript came to a screeching halt. I did manage to write a very detailed thirteen-page synopsis. That took a while because the story isn't completely written, I had to stop and think it through every step of the way. The black moment and subsequent events that bring about the resolution turned out better than I had originally planned. Things came up (nice surprises) that I never knew were there. And I ended up with a circular plot, meaning the story ends with much the same scenario as it begins, coming full circle for all involved.

Still, I'm not finished. Now I have to start culling out unnecessary lines and words to cut it down drastically before I send it to the agent. No way would I send her thirteen pages of synopsis. This long first draft is printed and I'll keep it for my own reference because it does go into detail on certain key scenes, or events that act as turning points, and explanations of motivations, etc.

Delays have made me antsy. I want to get all this finished and submitted so I can get back to the real, and much more enjoyable, work of writing the manuscript. But life stops for no one, and there are a hundred and one things that daily drag me away from writing. Today, nearly the entire day was taken up with a trip to the eye doctor with my son. We were in the doctor's office for five hours. No kidding. I've never seen a medical practice run as this one was, and hope never to see it again. If my son hadn't seriously needed to see the doctor, I would have walked out at the three hour mark. But we had to sit there and be shuffled around from one exam room to another, for this procedure and that. It turns out, my son has blockage of the glands along the rims of his eyelids. It turns ugly and my handsome son is looking pretty pitiful at the moment. Hopefully, he'll be back to his gorgeous self very soon.

And, hopefully, I'll get back to my normal writing routine.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Me! Imagine my shock when I pulled up the Bookends LLC blog today and saw my name listed as the winner of the hook contest! There were so many entries, they actually chose two winners. I was Jessica Faust's pick. Here's what she had to say about the first 100 words of "Wild Texas Rose."

I even surprised myself by picking this one. As you’ll see, most of my picks are Regencies, but I was really excited by this voice and in the end this was the stand-out for me. The agony that Trey feels when she doesn’t get off the train comes through easily and makes me want to hear more. And of course I’m dying to know who he’s waiting for. I also think this opening was a little different from the rest. It stood above the others in my mind.

Just had to share that. Talk about starting the day off with a bang! Now I'm off to write. I have to write a synopsis asap. The prize for winning the contest is a critique of my first chapter, synopsis and query letter. Wowsers, I'm excited! A personalized critique from a big literary agent, and the word "rejected" isn't going to figure into it anywhere. LOL!

Hope everyone is having a terrific day, despite the rainy, gloomy weather.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Back on Track

I spent a long time last night mentally planning what I wanted to do with my story. So, first thing this morning, I turned on the computer and went to work. Finally, this thing is going the way I always envisioned. Doing the rewrite will take a little time away from my progress, but it has to be done. Hopefully, it won't take too long. I was zipping along today, and every once in a while, I caught myself tee-heeing at what was going down on the page. I love it when that happens.

I'm changing the tone by putting my heroine back to the way I originally conceived her character. And it's working out well. Not only is the thing taking on some life, I find that by altering her personality, I'm no longer bogged down with those long stretches of introspection. Now, a lot of that is coming out in dialogue because my heroine has turned into a regular chatterbox.

It's amazing how much I, we, all of us writers invest of ourselves in this stuff. My state of mind is directly tied to how well the writing is going. Today, when hubby came home from work, I was in a wonderful mood.

I guess I need to take the blurb down from the web site and rewrite it, too, since it no longer applies. But that's no problem. I enjoy writing blurbs.

A friend and fellow western romance writer sent a note today, telling me she's just contracted one of her stories. This is her first, so I'm excited for her. Altogether, it's been a very good day.

Devon Thumbs Up

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Pot Of Gold St. Patty's Day Sign St. Patty's Day Beer Clink Showing Shamrock St. Patty's Day Kick Pot Of Gold

Dead Standstill

Today's post will likely be a meaningless ramble, but I'm trying to work through some things. I wrote nothing yesterday and, last night, I was up until the wee hours thinking about Wild Texas Rose.

It's not working. The tone is all wrong and because of that, the characters have turned into lifeless cardboard figures, just going through the motions. I can't have that. These were always two of my favorite characters and I'm writing them straight into lifeless oblivion!

I've figured out the problem, and it wasn't hard. The hard part will be rewriting to repair the damage. On the advice of a fellow writer, I gave my heroine a handicap that was the result of an injury. This was never part of the original idea, and this is why it isn't working. For one thing, I keep forgetting she has an impairment. So I'm writing along and suddenly I remember and I have to tone it down to accommodate her. I've also had to roll back the hero's thoughts and actions and make him more thoughtful of her because she has a disability. This is turning out to be dull stuff because the dialogue and action between them before was snappy. It's what gave the story life. I've unintentionally sabotaged the backbone of the story--the interaction between the hero and heroine has been toned down and it just doesn't work that way.

The original idea was a heroine with a wounded heart, not a physical injury. So I'm going back to that. There's plenty enough conflict and the black moment will still work. And the revelation, when it's finally revealed, will be even more of a doozy. I'm not going to tell what it is, but I've never seen this done in a romance novel. Maybe that's why I backed off from it and settled on a more conventional conflict. I was afraid of it. But in today's market, I have to wonder what I was thinking. They're looking for something that hasn't been done a thousand times. So I'm pulling out the stops and going for it.

I don't know how long it will take to go back through what I've written and change the entire tone of the story, but I have to try. Otherwise, it's all been a waste of time. What kills me is the time factor. I seem to waste a lot of it. Another lesson driven home in an extreme way -- always trust your own instincts.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Neverending Scene

I've been writing all morning and it's time to take a break. So how do I take a break? I write on the blog. Makes perfect sense to me.

Not really. It's just that I've spent the past couple of days working on a scene that's giving me fits. Before I got to this scene, I looked forward to writing it because it's kinda cute and funny. Once I got to it, it became a different story. Not literally. The scene turned out to be not such a breeze to write as I anticipated. In desperation, I wrote past it. Now, I keep going back and trying to flesh it out and put some closure on it. Almost there, but not quite. For some reason, my hero is behaving badly. He keeps shutting me out and not letting me inside his head. I won't be happy again until that scene is completely finished and I'm satisfied with it. Only then will I be able to move on completely and make some real progress again.

What really bugs me is I'm now behind schedule for my deadline. So when I really get going again, I'll have to push my output each day for a while to make up for lost time. Not fun. But I need to stick to my deadline. A huge part of being a (professional) writer is learning discipline. Authors have to meet deadlines. That's just a fact.

In other news, I entered a contest on a whim a couple of nights ago. I don't expect anything to come of it and doubt if my entry even gets a mention. It's a hook contest, first 100 words of the manuscript, which comes out to about the first two paragraphs. There are a bunch of great entries, none of them mine, which seems rather low-key compared to the others. LOL! But, hey, if you expect any kind of feedback or results, you have to put yourself out there. Everybody's looking for a killer first line. Try coming up with a great, hooky first line sometime. It's not as easy as it seems.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Computers Are Sneaky

Late last night, I sat here and pored back over a scene I had just finished, adding a line here, changing a word there, deleting an unneeded comma. That sort of thing. I got to the very end of the scene and ran across a word that defied the built-in thesaurus, so I turned around and opened my trusty (and huge) Rodale's on my lap. When I turned back to my monitor, my document had disappeared. It was in plain blue mode and the words SHUTTING DOWN were emblazoned across the screen.

Mentally, I screamed, "No! Nooo! Wait! Don't do this to me!" Computers always turn a deaf ear to our panicky pleas. It shut down anyway.

When it came back up, I immediately went to my document. Just as I feared, none of the changes I made were there. All that meticulous proofing and tweaking had vanished into cyber hell. At that point, my computer had the audacity to pop up a little screen to tell me that updates had been installed and it had restarted. Duh. No kidding. What happened to asking my permission to do all that? After all, computer, you're supposed to be working for me! And yet, I've always been a slave to your little whims and glitches.

Just an observance here, but it seems like since getting my first computer years ago, I've spent an awful lot of time trying to work around the glitches and trying to recover lost words and even whole documents.

I'm just venting. After my computer pulled the sneaky on me, I got disgusted and shut down. Now, I have to go back and try to remember all the little changes I made last night. For all the ease computers give me with my writing, I would hate to know the hours I've spent during the past several years with do-overs to try and hang onto what I've written.

Computer, you are on my list today, and I'm going to be keeping my eye on you every minute. You've been warned.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What I'm Reading

"Loving Mercy" by Teresa Bodwell is the western historical romance I ordered last week. I started reading it a couple of nights ago, and I'm enjoying it very much. Ms. Bodwell's style and kickass heroine remind me just a bit of Maggie Osborne, whose books I loved and miss.

Here's the blurb from the back cover:

Mercy Clarke had no trouble getting a hundred head of cattle to Abilene. Getting back home through five hundred miles of untamed frontier is something else again, especially with a handsome gambler like Thad Buchanan tagging along. He swears to pay her in gold if she guides him to Fort Victory, but she doesn't quite trust his fine manners and gentlemanly ways. And then there's that look in his eyes--he could make her forget that she's sworn off men for good...

As Thad sees it, the same rules apply to playing poker and loving women: it's all about knowing when to hold 'em. And come to think of it, a pretty lady like Mercy Clarke would fit very nicely in his arms. Now, if she could be persuaded to put down that rawhide whip and tell him exactly what she has in mind, he has no doubt they could come to an agreement that will satisfy them both. No doubt at all...

What I've read so far leads me to think there's more "story" here than the blurb implies. And I hope that turns out to be true. Kensington has been gearing its marketing toward selling everything with a sexual angle. I think (and hope) this book is more than that. If so, it might just bring me back to reading. I'll be keeping an eye on Ms. Bodwell and looking out for more books from her.


Sunday, March 9, 2008


Lately, I've been indulging the characters in my current work in progress. I'm allowing them to lead me through the story, and choose the course for each scene. And you know what, it's working out great! The only thing I have to do is steer them gently in the right direction so we don't go completely astray from the plot. By allowing more freedom, character details and layers are coming to light that I never knew were there. I love it when this happens!

One big thing I've found since I first plotted this story is that Trey (hero) has matured. So now he's telling me, nope, we can't go there, it's immature and I would come off as a total, unsympathetic ass if you make me do that. So, I'm letting him show me the way to get where we need to go. And that probably sounds like the guys with the straitjacket will show up at my door any second but, let me assure you, letting a character lead you around by the nose is lightweight stuff in a writer's normal day.

The writing is going well, and I'm staying pretty much on schedule to wrap this one up by the end of April. Once it's finished, I'll let it sit for a couple of weeks and then start reading from the beginning and doing my own version of first round edits. Fortunately, I'm one of those people who loves going back through and hacking and slashing at those unnecessary adjectives, or those lines that are 20 words long and work much better if they're cut to 10. Or entire paragraphs that won't be missed if they disappear completely and never turn up again. Sentence structure and finding just the right combination and placement of words is an art form in itself, in my opinion.

Another story and a whole cast of characters have already been calling to me. This has gone on all winter. This particular story has been in the works for quite some time, but I've been reluctant to commit to it because the hero spends several chapters laid up with a bullet wound. It's already all plotted and I've written quite a bit of it. In fact, it's been nagging at me so strongly, occasionally I sneak over and write a few words while I'm working on the current manuscript. I'm not sure that's such a good idea, but when a few lines of narrative or dialogue pop into your head that seem so perfect you must get them written down, what's a writer to do?

Now is good writing time. There's snow on the ground and it's 25 degrees outside, so what better way to spend time than sit at the computer and write about a dark-haired, blue-eyed hero riding through the heat and dust of Texas cattle country during the 1800's. I'm totally there!


Thursday, March 6, 2008

High Concept

Today, over on Word Wenches, Pat Rice was talking about high concept and how difficult it is to come up with one for historical romance. This reminded me how nuts I get whenever the subject of high concept comes up. It's always been a thorn in my backside.

To me, high concept, by definition, should mean an idea that aspires to more or is bigger than the norm. When it's said that someone has written a "big" book, this is what pops into my head. And of course, by big book, that doesn't mean it's extremely long. It has nothing to do with size at all. It means just that-- a story with a bigger concept than the norm.

So, imagine my surprise a couple of years or so ago when I realized people in the industry were calling a "tag line" a high concept line. Yes, sometimes I am the very last person on the planet to find out these things. This came to light when we were discussing a letter I had received from an agent, wherein she mentioned the words "big book." From that, someone suggested the agent might have thought it was high concept. And from there, someone else suggested I simply come up with a high concept line to attach to the work when I pitched it to agents and editors. Problem solved.

That's what threw me for a loop. The general consensus out there is, if you can come up with a dandy "line" to describe your book, then you have a high concept.


Confused yet? I was, and even though I now know what they're talking about, I still don't think it's right. Just because you can attach a killer tag line to a book doesn't mean it's high concept, by any means. But most out there would argue with me on this point.

In all fairness, I have to say of my writing group that the point was finally conceded that the high concept "line" is a totally different animal than a high concept "idea." But I really think there are some people out there who don't separate the two, and that's why I object to the use of the term to describe a tag line. It's danged confusing and inaccurate.

Here's an example, Toni Blake's high concept line for her upcoming book, "Letters to a Secret Lover," is -- Sex and the City meets Grizzly Adams. From this simple line we get the big picture in brief. Modern, sophisticated city girl meets nature man who lives in the woods. Sounds good, doesn't it?

A high concept line is composed of industry buzz words, or phrases that are easily recognized by everyone. Another example would be -- Legally Blond meets The Beverly Hillbillies. (that one I came up with myself for a book, the author of which I won't mention because I found it to be just as silly as the tag line suggests. ;o)

So, the question is, how do we come up with a high concept for historical romance? There isn't a whole lot in modern pop culture I could apply to one of my western historicals. At least one part of the buzz words or phrase needs to be current and what's happening now, or else you end up with something that sounds antiquated, which defeats the purpose. None of us wants to plant the thought in an agent's or editor's head that our story is old-fashioned or out-of-date.

I'm going to be giving this some thought. I'm a little rusty because it's been a while since I've been in the position where I needed to think about these things. But the sad fact is, if we plan to submit, we need to have a snappy one-liner that describes our story in a nutshell. A high concept. (and I still cringe because, in my opinion, it will always be a tag line no matter what kind of spin everyone puts on it) But incredible as it may seem, this one line is often what an editor will take into a meeting and pitch to the rest of the staff when she's interested in buying your book and needs to get a thumbs-up before offering you a contract.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who's Your Hero?

Wowsers! I don't even want to know what year Pierce Brosnan had this picture taken. Looks like he's grown in his winter coat though, doesn't it? Now, this is the kind of guy I picture when I'm writing a hero. Most of my heroes have dark hair because I've always been more attracted to that type. Eye colors vary, but I usually stick to some shade of brown or blue. But this is the type of physique I envision for my heroes...mmm, maybe minus just a little bit of that chest and belly hair. LOL! The cowboy over in the sidebar is also an excellent example of a hero-type, imo. The guys with those huge, pumped-up muscles bulging all over the place don't do it for me. They look too unnatural. I mean, how often do you run across a guy out there with a bod like that?

I've been thinking about the hero in my current work in progress today. The challenge in writing a hero is making him appealing to all women who read the story. If we can get the reader to fall in love with our hero, at least for the duration of the story, then we've done our job. And since romance novels are mostly written by women for women, it's all about the hero.

That doesn't mean the heroine is completely without purpose. She must be someone the reader can identify with on some level, have goals and motivations the reader can get behind and want her to succeed. She must have strength of character and be worthy of the hero's love. But, let's face it, do we really care if the heroine in a romance novel is dripping with sex appeal?

Which leads me back to the hero. What makes a hero universally appealing? It's got to be more than looks. Though that sex appeal I mentioned doesn't hurt a thing. He must have some noble and worthwhile attributes that go more than skin deep. Even when he's acting like the bad boy, there are certain lines of behavior he won't cross. And speaking of bad boy heroes, they're my favorites and the most fun to write.

When I wrote Rane, I tried to give him all the heroic attributes I possibly could. He was brave, strong, self-sacrificing, fiercely loyal, not to mention damn good looking. But even a year (yes, it's been one year this month) after the publication of Angel in the Rain, I still wonder if I couldn't have done more. Today's market demands that heroes be hotter than ever.

So, now I'm interested in input. What qualities do you demand in a romance hero that make him worthy of being a "hero?" What "type" of hero is your favorite? Give me some specifics, please.

Last but not least, I couldn't write a post about heroes and insert a picture of Pierce Brosnan without tacking on one of Johnny Depp. He's one of my favorite actors. Have you ever seen a male face quite so symmetrical? No, he's not much of a macho type. And he always plays the weirdest roles. And what's up with that hair? Weird personality and hair aside, there's just something so appealing about him.

Well, that's it for me tonight. Must get some sleep so I can be well rested for another day of obsessing tomorrow.


Ignoring You

Monday, March 3, 2008

Too Much Information?

I promised myself a while back that I wouldn't get my panties in a twist anymore over the never ending dramas that unfold within the romance industry and surrounding environs. But tonight I read a statement in the comment section of a post written by Jane over on Dear Author that really ticked me off.

Short of reading the post and the entire thread of comments (which is long), the topic was a word of caution to certain authors who are posting personal information that casts them in an unfavorable light -- most notably a particular erotica author, who has very explicit sexual posts and pictures on her blog about herself.

Whoa. Jane's point was that there are some authors out there who may be sharing too much information with their readers and the general public.

Here's the comment I took exception to, posted by someone calling herself Dee ---
It is the the fluffy "heaving bosoms" of romantic literature (such a nasty set of words without flavor or intention) that force women to stay in the sexual place like dogs on leases set at the feet of their masters. In truth, sexuality and erotica are not filled with the women who lack the ability to think, feel, and react in a way that is raw (sometimes) and real (always).

Okay. This woman should have checked her spelling. When she wrote "leases" I assume she meant "leashes." That aside, this says to me, it's this person's opinion that any woman who doesn't wear a black leather thong, spikes around her wrists, and carry a whip is sexually repressed and allows herself to be subjugated by men. Further, that it's this sort of repressed, subjugated woman who reads (and I'd guess also writes) what we think of as regular romance novels. And by regular, I mean anything that isn't erotica. So I gather, this person is saying the only valid reading material for women is erotica. I also seem to recall the statement being made that if you don't read it (or write it) you are a prude. *snort*

Wow. In the past, some of these authors have accused those of us who write about the "fluffy, heaving bosoms" of being judgemental and of looking down our noses at them.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

In Like A Lamb

March came in like a lamb here in southeastern Kentucky. It's been a gorgeous day, but still chilly. Tomorrow, the temperature is supposed to be 65 degrees. That will feel more like spring. I'm ready for it. I just hope we don't have a repeat of last year. Summertime came in March. Everything leafed out and bloomed, then got killed by a hard freeze.

I've had a terrific writing day. When I stopped earlier, I was so close to the 2,000 word mark for the day's total, I went back tonight and rounded it out. Yay! For me, that's smokin'! If I can keep up this pace, I'll make my end of April deadline.

The Seventy Days of Sweat challenge started today. A couple of weeks ago, I was tempted to enter, but I didn't. I figured I'd only jinx myself if I committed because I would have to write more than 1,200 words a day, EVERY day to keep up. The writing has been going so well lately, I was afraid to tempt fate by having Sven and company hanging over my head every week, checking up on me.

I ordered another book today. This one's a western historical romance. More market research. As many times as I go looking for westerns, I'm always amazed, dismayed, or whatever that there are so very, very few being published in the mass market these days. The buzz for the past year has been that they're coming back. If so, they sure are taking their good ole easy time about it.

Well, that's it for today. I think I've written so much today, I've run out of words.