Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On The Road to Publication

Since my last entry, I've finished: The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais. Killing Time by Linda Howard. Scenes of Passion by Suzanne Brockman.

What I'm reading now: Operation: Midnight Guardian by Linda Castillo

What I'm working on: Still book 5 – Chapter 9 now. Dalton's having trouble dealing with his past.

Yesterday was a big day! My short story, "Relationships" is officially published and up for sale at The Wild Rose Press.

I also signed a contract with Cerridwen Press for my first full-length novel.

That was a heck of a lot better than getting the score sheets from a contest where one judge loved Rescued Hearts and another one thought it was mediocre. All the more frustrating because if there had been one more point between the two scores, it would have had a third read, and I might have more confidence in deciding which opinion should carry more weight. Ego notwithstanding, it's wrong to assume that the people who love my stuff are "right" and everyone else is clueless. I'll take their comments and see if I can apply the ones that make sense before I send off any more queries.

Now, it's a matter of waiting, and learning more about the e-publishing realm. I will be interested in following the process and working with an editor on a much longer piece of work. I'm sure it's not going to be the same as working on a short story. As a 'seat of the pants' grammarian, I have already learned that there are labels for things I do because Miss Cook and Mr. Holtby drilled them into my head. I'm still comma challenged from time to time, and despite my "Relationships" editor's attempts to get me to see it, I couldn't grasp any difference between:

"…he crouched on the floor where the girls had settled into their blanket cocoons." versus:
"…he crouched on the floor, where the girls had settled into their blanket cocoons."

One's a restrictive clause, I'm told, but to me, the meaning is clear enough either way.

You can read a excerpt of "Relationships" on my website.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On Characters, Cooking & Music

What I'm reading: Since my last entry, I finished The Last Detective by Robert Crais and Into the Storm by Suzanne Brockmann. Reading Hostage by Robert Crais.

What I'm writing. Book 5, chapter 8.

Developing characters through food and music. Or is it meeting characters? Although I'm supposed to be in control, there are times when they're introducing themselves as much as I'm trying to create them. Often, the music I'm listening to helps me find the characters.

In my first book, I had no idea Randy was an accomplished pianist until more than halfway through the book. Yet when he insisted on sitting down at his grandmother's piano after a miserable day, I sat back and listened. In going back through the manuscript, I discovered that I had to delete exactly one line in order to keep things in character for him. Everything he did was consistent with someone who used music to escape. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Pathetique" seemed to guide the characters.

In my second book, instead of making music, Graham cooked. Here I had this macho deputy sheriff, who worked on his Harley during his time off, but when he sat down and picked up the magazines on his coffee table, he was reading a salmon recipe in Gourmet Magazine. When he was stressed, he made Moussaka. He let me in on his secret a little earlier than Randy had, but he was definitely a closet chef. I admit I had to call upon my brother's expertise when Graham tried to make pancakes but Colleen didn't have baking powder. Graham knew what he was doing but wouldn't tell me.

Blake, in book 3 came to me almost full-blown when I was listening to Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band." The line, "Papa I don't think I love you near enough" defined his character, and any time I needed to know what he would do, I could listen to that song. Later in the book, he connects with Kelli by trying to cook a chicken recipe she made for him early on, and by baking chocolate chip cookies. For some reason, these two never found common musical ground.

In my fourth book, neither character cooked fancy, but Frankie has a daughter, and she makes kid-food. Happy-face pancakes, tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Comfort food that ends up helping Ryan face the death of his mother. Frankie and Ryan met dancing to the Eagles.

Dalton's hasn't needed to cook, although I've already set a scene in a kitchen. I don't have his theme song, either. Maybe that's what's slowing down the writing at the moment. I know Dalton's a good dancer—like Ryan, being able to dance was one of the job skills needed to work for Blackthorne, Inc.

Maybe I'll include a recipe or two with each of my novels. I posted one for my short story, "Out of Sight" on my website.

Monday, August 14, 2006

On Mystery and Suspense—and Thrillers, perhaps

What I'm reading: Thrill Me to Death by Roxanne St. Claire

What I'm writing: Book 5, Chapter 6, scene 2 – again.

I've decided that I really don't want to write classic suspense, but in the romance genre, everything is lumped under the "romantic suspense" sub-genre. I don't really like to read true suspense, although the market is full of it. I'm sure there are readers out there who like a good mystery, with romance intertwined, but agents and editors seem to be leaning strongly toward the "suspense is what's selling" approach. But isn't that one of those Catch-22's? People buy it because it's what's out there, and because there aren't a lot of other choices, it continues to sell.

What's the difference? A mystery is a puzzle; the reader is usually two steps behind the protagonist, or at least right with him. In a suspense, the reader is two steps ahead. They're definitely closely intertwined—I'd call them fraternal twins. They often share elements in the same work. And my personal definition of a thriller is a suspense of global proportions – like Christopher Whitcomb's Black and White.

When I read, I don't think it makes it more exciting to see the villain's POV and what he's doing. That's suspense, where you know the bomb is under the table. It's a well-respected genre, don't get me wrong. I just happen to prefer to discover things along with my hero and heroine. Knowing what's around the corner, or behind the tree, makes me want to skip ahead. I feel like it's 'cheating' to know more than the main characters. And I'm often guilty of skimming the villain POV scenes, especially when it's that mysterious "he." I'm more likely to accept that third POV if I don't know it's the villain. Surprise me. Make me go back and see the signs the good author has carefully sprinkled throughout the book. Let me hit myself upside the head and say, "Why didn't I see that one coming?"

I guess it's because my first exposure to the genre was Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Speckled Band. I was hooked, and never able to love Hitchcock's approach the same way. Don't get me wrong – I'm not dissing the man's genius. It's just not on my "forget the house, who needs to cook? drop everything and spend the day in the chair" to do list.

I write, in the romance convention, from the POV of the hero and heroine, but not the villain. As a matter of fact, in some books, the villain isn't a person, but an organization or conspiracy. There are 'bad guys' to be sure, but nobody sees them until the hero and/or heroine do.

Will I be able to sell? I don't know. Anyone else out there like more of a straight mystery?

Meanwhile, I'm holding fast to my two POV approach, but trying to instill more elements of suspense within my mystery.

Monday, August 07, 2006

On planning a website

What I'm reading: Cover of Night by Linda Howard

What I'm writing: Book 5, Chapter 6.

This morning, I took two printouts of my manuscript to the Post Office. One for the agent, one for the editor who I met at RWA in Atlanta. With that out of my hands, I can get back to Dalton and Miri. After several weeks away, the first thing I have to do is re-read from the beginning and get back into their heads. I've been concentrating on both my short story for Wild Rose's contest, and the edits to my short story, Relationships and to the novel, Rescued Hearts, which means I've lost track of the 'feel' of Dalton and Miri. But I think I'm finding the groove again, getting into their voices.

The other project is a website. Self-promotion isn't my thing, and trying to write about 'me' to a bunch of strangers makes me feel like a stuffed shirt. That's part of why I started this blog. To practice writing about me. And then there's the issue of a picture. I spent years being the one who volunteered to take the pictures so I wouldn't have to be in them.

At RWA, 'branding' was a hot topic. Someone should look at a site and get a definite feel for who it's about. No clue on how to 'brand' myself, especially since the only visible publications I have at the moment are totally different from the mystery based novels I write.

I tell myself it's all preliminary. I haven't seen Cerridwen's contract, so for the time being, I have two short stories for sale at Wild Rose Press, plus one more in the "Coming Soon" category and an email saying there will be a contract.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On resuming "life" after being away

What I'm reading: Vanishing Point by Marcia Muller. And I finished Hostile Makeover by Wendy Wax, and Demolition Angel by Robert Crais.

What I'm writing: Nothing new yet—Book 5 is still waiting until I finish edits on Rescued Hearts because I had requests for fulls in Atlanta.

After nearly a full week of jam-packed days surrounded by writers in all career stages, it's time to decompress. Highlights -- meeting Suzanne Brockmann. Putting faces with names from writing loops. Staying motivated.

Not being able to write for a week, though, makes me edgy. I got home to a rejection on my 3rd manuscript, not totally unexpected. Comments are starting to line up -- I have to learn more about pacing.

Both the agent and editor I met with requested the full manuscript for my 4th novel, tentatively titled "Rescued Hearts" because I had to write something on the line for Title on the contest entry forms two months ago. I found out I'm one of the Jasmine finalists in the Romantic Suspense category, and my pages are going to an editor at Berkley / Jove. I got the first round comments back today and am cringing at some of the things I missed--like Ryan sits down three times without standing up in between, not to mention a scene that drags, plus all those typos that appear when you shut off the computer. Doesn't bode well for a high finish.

At least I can fix them before I send the full manuscripts off. And maybe do the laundry.