Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chapter Breaks

Guess what?  I didn't put any chapter breaks in my book.  That's right, I have been reading books for nearly forty years and completely forgot about chapters.  I blame the fact that I have been reading picture books to my son for the past few years.  Those don't have chapter breaks.
So I got my edited copy of Bent Boot Road yesterday and had to put in some chapter breaks which meant I sat down with the thing last night and tried to divide it up in some way.  My editor advised me to stop chapters at 'cliffhanger' spots and that I what I kinda-sorta did.  I hope they seem logical.
Next will be fixing stuff in the writing which I am almost looking forward to because if/when I am interrupted, it will be much easier to get back to it rather than when I am trying to crank words out on a blank page.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I have a thing for notebooks; leather-bound travel journals, black and white speckled composition books, stacks of spiral bound notebooks waiting on the store shelves for excited back to school shoppers.  I even have some books on how to make your own books.  So I have a predisposition for paper bound up between hard covers that you are supposed to write all over.
Now that I am writing I carry a notebook everywhere I go.  There is one in my backpack and one by my bed and several scattered around the house.  I start a new composition book with every story and use it to make character notes, block out scenes, write back-story, and jot down blocks of dialogue.  I get excited when I have enough percolating around in my head that I NEED to start writing it down in a fresh notebook.
And I started one last night for a new story.  My female protagonist doesn’t have a name yet, but she is sitting at a bar having a drink because she doesn’t want to go home after a stressful day at work and a man sits next to her and starts to chat using some atrocious pick up lines.  The trick is, he is the owner of the establishment and when he asks her what she is drinking, he is just doing market research.  They are going to have so much fun together.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Let's Talk about Sex...

I write sex scenes.  There, I admitted it.  They are fictional sex scenes to be sure, but I have written them and soon enough some will be published in my book.  Hopefully a few people will read my book and at least some of them will not skip the sexy parts so my writing will not have been in vain.
In my new immersion into the romance publishing world, I have learned that there is a continuum of description when it comes to sex.  Some books merely allude to it and the protagonists perhaps share a kiss before they go behind closed doors and unwritten pages.  Other scenes are full-blown-pages-long explicit scenes that include every grunt and shift in position.  Mine fall somewhere in the middle.  I think.
All of this comes up because as I wrote earlier, my publisher Secret Cravings, asked me to categorize my scenes as either one flame/no sex all the way up to five flames/multiple partners and detailed erotic description.  I chose three flames since my characters think about having sex before they do, they enjoy having sex when they do, and they want to have sex again after they do.  Kind of like real life.  But I don’t use explicit* words because my characters don’t talk like that, and neither do I.  It’s a fine line.
Some might wonder why I write them at all; if it is a good enough story you don’t need them, do you?  My answer is this; my characters experience stress and emotion in their stories.  They enjoy food and drink.  Sometimes they are injured or betrayed.  And they have moments of joy and laughter.  All of these experiences are challenging to capture with words and paragraphs and pages.  I don’t think that their experiences with sex should be treated any differently.  I dared myself to write my first one and now I love getting my protagonists hot and bothered enough fill a few pages with their passion.

*Not that I am judging other authors using what I consider explicit terms to describe body parts.  A character’s vocabulary helps the reader understand that character.  So far, none of my characters has wanted to talk dirty to another.  When one of them does, we’ll see how I adapt!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Working and working

A quick hit of news and then I might be silent for a while. 

I just finished final revisions on my second contemporary romance and have been crafting a synopsis and query letter for it, as well as doing some research on publishers.  I plan to submit it to at least three publishers this weekend.  I wanted to get this done two weeks ago because I knew that my first book would be coming back to me soon for edits.  And I heard from my editor (whee, I have an editor!) that she hoped to have the manuscript to me this weekend for me to do whatever I needed to do since it is supposed to be done (done! Whee!) by February 11.

Since I have no idea what is involved in this process, I thought it would be best to polish up another MS before I had to edit, and I have.  Now I just have to work up the courage to actually send it to editors.  It is very nerve-wracking to follow the submission guidelines for different publishers.  And after you've read and re-read and edited something over and over again, you start to think it is not at all original or interesting or even readable.  So I am going to have to just take deep breaths and hit that send button a few times this weekend. 

I will update the blog when I have actually sent it off, and if anyone is interested I will put up some excerpts or character descriptions later.  And I have plans to post a blog entry or two on writing sex scenes.  When I'm not editing, of course.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Just Finished

Eight minutes ago I finished editing/rewriting another one of my manuscripts.  It took about two weeks to go through it and I cut about five thousand words and decided not to do a few extra things but I really like it now.  I need to come up with a final, declarative scene and then I will be well within my goal of being able to send it out to some publishers by the end of the week.  Whew!

In mid-December I decided to go ahead and spend some time polishing one of my completed pieces rather that continue to mess around with my current WIP because those characters were just circling around each other feeling angsty and not getting anywhere.  So I printed out the first one hundred pages of my first manuscript and started to go through it but it just felt 'ugh'. There was just too much to do with it and I stopped after the first twenty pages, already exhausted by the task.  Then I felt like a weak sister and I decided to go over one of my other pieces and that one just started to sing as soon as I began to polish it.  I flew through it and finished today.  Yeah for me! James and Evelyn go through a lot together in this book and they were such fun characters to get to know. I hope that it will be published some day and other people can get to know them as well.

Now I have to decide what editors to contact and prepare myself for the waiting and rejection game.  It is just a lovely feeling to have your work on display to people you don't know and then check your email every day with a combination of anticipation and dread for weeks and weeks.

But there has been a good side-effect of this editing; I now have several ideas and scenes set for my previous WIP and I am anxious to get back to it and see where it goes.  It is forty thousand words long at this point and my poor characters deserve something good to happen to them soon!

Tag Lines are Torture

I found out last week that I need to add a tag line and a flame rating to my cover art questionnaire for my publisher.  Since I didn't know what either of those were, I had to look them up and the tag line requirement was intimidating.  I needed to distill a nearly 80,000 word book into twenty five words or less.  Words that would make someone intrigued enough to buy it outright, or at least intrigued enough to read the blurb that I have already posted here.  Gagh!  I thought writing a one hundred and fifty page blurb was hard.
After much moaning and groaning (and not the good kind), I came up with this:

She's lost her friend.
He's there to find him.
What they discover will change their lives.

It sets up conflict and goals for my protagonists and it's under the word limit.  I can't decide if I should include the character's names or not.  At this point I'm thinking it's better without them.  More punchy.
Next will be determining the flame rating.  I'll let you know how that goes once I get some guidance from my publisher.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Self Promotion and Swag

So I'm going to take a short break from writing about writing and instead tell you a bit about the business side of this new profession of mine.
First is online presence, which I am trying to rapidly accumulate before March.  I never had a website, blog, or did much with Facebook before now. No time, no interest, and if I'm going to sit and look at a computer screen I'm going to be writing, researching, or shopping.  But all of that is changing and this blog is a perfect example.  I have to decide what to do about Facebook for 'me' since I don't do much for the actual me and being responsive under the guise of my pen name will feel strange.  But I digress.  Back to self-promotion and swag.
I have been trying to schedule some online 'appearances' in March which is when my book is due and luckily will be guesting on a couple of blogs. I will also increase my Facebook posts then, and I have to figure out what sort of advertising I can do/afford.  But I have also scheduled a couple of personal appearances, one in May at a book festival, and I hope to attend an author/reader event in June (more on that once I am officially registered. Self-promotion.  Sounds a little naughty).  But meeting people face to face requires some sort of physical item that I can give away.  I won't have a print book available since that is due in September, so I have been debating other sorts of swag.  Business cards, trading cards, post cards, bookmarks, pens, I have seen a lot of examples and have to decide what I am going to design, order, and purchase.  I think refrigerator magnets are out because who looks at a major kitchen appliance and thinks book recommendation?  At this point I know I want easy to read titles and text, and not murky colors.
Do any of you have a preference of what sort of swag you like when you chat with an author?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What is Going on in My Brain?

So, there I am, writing and writing and writing.  But what am I writing and why? 
They are romances.  Even though I don't read romances.  Nope, haven't really read any in years, and only read  Jennifer Crusie and Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters at that.  None of the other big names, none of the special genres like paranormal or urban fantasy (new terms I learned at the end of last year!  Still haven't read very many of them.  I just find it impossible to suspend disbelief about vampires or werewolves  being attractive.  Kill or be killed is my philosophy!). 
But for some reason the structure of the romance appealed to the novice writer in me.  Your characters were clear; two protagonists, hopefully evenly matched, go through adventures and misunderstandings and angst and in the end find each other.  There is the structure of a book right there; I just had to fill in dialogue and setting and characters.  I didn't have to come up with some amazing twisty-turny plot or dense, moody mystery or massive family saga with ten generations.  And when I am writing at the planning desk in my kitchen as I am making dinner, doing laundry, and entertaining a child, two people falling in love is about all I can manage.
And I was initially reluctant to admit, even to myself, that I was writing romances because I had that stereotypical attitude that they weren't 'important'.  Perhaps that's why I never talked about my work, or had anyone read anything, because I was a little embarrassed about it.  Here I was, a person who was happy to do original historical research on the 1918 influenza pandemic writing about kissing and flirtatious chatter.  There had to be a reason for it, didn't there? 
So in the interest of research I started reading all sorts of romances, just to discover what all the fuss was about because along with the conventional wisdom that romances are not 'important', I was also aware that there were a lot of them being published.  A lot.  I went to some websites and started to note recommended books and like the good little researcher I am I started reading. And reading.  And reading. 
Some I liked, some didn't appeal, and some I loved.  Which surprised me because before I made a concerted effort to read romances, I would have classified myself as a pretty solid mystery/thriller/suspense reader with a side dish of science.  Preston and Child, Michael Crichton, Nelson DeMille, Lee Child, Caleb Carr; those were my go to authors. 
So that set up an interesting dichotomy in my mind; my long-standing appreciation of very male-centric fiction versus a very recent foray into female focused fiction.  More on that in my next post.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The next part

And now back to the chronicle of my path to becoming a published author.
So I've been writing, and writing, and writing.  I finish my first book, a bloated mess of science fiction romance (SFR, a term I just learned last week!) at nearly 200,000 words.  So that means it has to be finished because how could I keep going, so I stop that one and start to write the one I've been wanting to write for years.  This is the one that I've had scenes in my head for so long that the words just flew out of my fingertips.  And I write it and finish it and am happy with it.  Which leaves me nothing to do.  So I write another SFR set in the same place as my first, and when that is ninety percent done, I write another contemporary.  When that is nearly done, I switch to SFR again and write another one.  This I do within about a year. Amazing. And maybe a little twisted.
I think the few that know I am 'writing' think I am still refining the first story.  Because I don't really tell anyone much detail.  I feel silly about the time I've spent on it and that natural and inevitable insecurity about how my writing isn't good and NO ONE will ever like it.  Not a chapter or a sentence or even a word of it. I don't really know what I am doing, or why I am doing it.  No one reads it.  It's just me and the laptop screen and my stories whenever the house is quiet and the chores are done enough that I don't feel guilty for ignoring them.
But then the whole 50 Shades thing happened in 2012 and I kept hearing was how this wasn't an especially well-written book but people still loved it and talked about it and recommended it.  That's when a little light went off in my head.  If so many people liked that, there might be a few out there who would like what I had written.  Not that what I wrote was in any way comparable to 50 Shades, but still, daydreams are free.  This was the summer of 2012 and I was stuck in the house with the air conditioning thundering because it was one hundred degrees every day.  Why not wonder?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blurb after rewrites

This blurb was not as painful to create as I'd anticipated.  Of course, maybe it's really bad and I should have suffered more for my art:

Lydia Back has problems; a dead end job cataloging artifacts no one wants to see, an office in a dusty basement storage room, and she’s just discovered that her friend is missing.  Adding to her frustration is the arrival of a too-charming private investigator who needs her help.
Carter Harris has no problems; he has his own successful business and is enjoying a few days in a scenic southern Ohio town gathering information on a missing professor.  But his local contact turns out to be an uncooperative woman who prefers traipsing around the forest to having a civilized conversation with him.
While working together, they begin to uncover the secrets that lurk under the surface of other people’s lives and also discover an inconvenient attraction.  When danger looms, Carter and Lydia realize it will be impossible to survive without each other.
There you go, my 142 word blurb for Bent Boot Road.  Many thanks to my proofreading husband for his suggestions.
Otherwise, not much to report on the writing front today other than continuing my cover art quest.  I am not finding time to write lately.  Or should I say, outside forces are conspiring to make many of my days emotionally trying and it is so hard to feel creative when I'm blue.  And a few quiet hours of my own just haven't been possible lately.  Therefore nothing is being written down.  BUT I am reading which is recharging my batteries so I know that there will be a great idea and an irresistible urge to write it down very soon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Small steps

I think I'll hold off on the next chapter of my journey just to do a quick information update on what I have done the last two days.
-created a Facebook page for Lynn Rae.  This was odd because I was creating it for my pen name and not myself.  What will Lynn Rae 'like'?  It's hard to know.
-disliked the last five pages I wrote in my latest piece enough that I decided to start the whole scene over.  I was in the groove on this last week after the enforced writer's block of the holidays, but I am not liking where it is going again.  It's something I think I need to subconsciously chew on.  My heroine is just too understanding and it is getting me nowhere.
-wrote a blurb for the book to be published.  I have been putting this off because I was intimidated but managed to come up with 143 words in between lots of interruptions over the course of a half hour tonight.  If I like it by tomorrow, I'll be posting it.
-found out that my book has been sent to the editor.  Yikes!  I fear for how badly marked up it will be.
-suffered through a computer nervous breakdown yesterday evening-the only time I had to write was taken away by a malfunctioning piece of equipment.  That on top of not liking how my story was going made me a very upset woman.
-now I need to get serious about cover design too.  This has been hard for me to envision despite my interest in art, photography, and visual design in general.  I'm just blanking other than knowing I don't want any shaved male chests.  Do not like those at all.  Or thin women in leather pants and a tank top with long hair swirling unrestrained.  I have been thin, I have had long hair that didn't actually swirl, I have worn leather pants, and I have worn tank tops but these components are too ubiquitous on covers.

So, hopefully more productivity tomorrow, both for my WIP and my publishing responsibilities.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Way leads on to way...

So today I wanted to start with an introduction of my journey to 'authorhood'.  I have to confess that I had never posessed a driving urge to become a published author.  I loved to read and I loved storytelling and discovering bizarre factoids and reading advice columns and listening to other people's conversations and often succumbed to the annoying urge to correct poor movie dialogue, but actually writing a narrative was not on my radar until the summer of 2011.  Before then I wrote work-related stuff; press releases, articles, museum labels, brochures, all sorts of short and informative things that needed to be done quickly before the phone rang or I needed to get to a meeting.  But an actual book?  Nope.
But back to the summer of 2011; it was a bad one in which one member of my immediate family suffered a stroke and another broke two ankles at the same time.  A very stressful and awful summer indeed.  In addition to caring for a small child and caregiving a stroke victim, I was also working from home with a digital project cataloging Civil War letters.  Some of those were condolence letters written from commanding officers to the families of men who had died.  Others were letters parents had written about how wonderful their lost sons had been.  These were heartbreaking.  Summer 2011; bad.
In retrospect, it is no wonder my mind started to make up a story so that I had at least a small refuge of hope.  And in the evening, when I tried to relax and not jitter apart from the day's anxiety, I started to write down my story in a composition notebook.  Yep, I wrote longhand on actual paper.  Cheaper than therapy and once I'd filled a notebook and fallen in love with my characters, I began to love writing too.
Once I'd filled two and a half notebooks I took a deep breath and decided to start to transcribe my story into Word, mostly because I was tired of trying to correct mistakes with my pen.  This was September 2011.  And then something started to burn in my brain and I found that I HAD to write every day or I became cranky.  My husband noticed this.  Therefore, to preserve a smidge of marital harmony, I decided that writing would be my hobby and I forsook photography and all sorts of crafts in order to devote my free time to staring at a laptop screen.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year!

Ha!  That was only three days late.  But I've been busy taking out the trash and doing laundry and cooking pork chops with mushroom sauce and WRITING (over 3,500 words in the last two days, thanks mom and dad!).
My plan for this blog is to first, develop a plan.  Which means I have to get out my brand new 2013 calendar and create a schedule for myself.  But I felt like writing a little bit tonight just to make my mark on the new year. 
The second part of my plan here is to explain how I even came to this point; becoming a published author.  It has been an unusual experience.  And maybe it will make more sense to me if I write it down, or should I say, blog it. 
But the main news is that a book I wrote will be published soon and I plan on revealing the process as it happens to me.  But first a little teaser of an image that relates to my book-Eastern United States Woodland:

Isn't it romantic?File:Forest-Creek-Eagleville-PA-USA.jpg