Sunday, July 29, 2018

First Drafts

Lately, I've been going to physical therapy, hoping to improve my weak leg which is a remnant of my botched hip replacement surgery, and have been inundated with knowledge about my muscles, tissues and skeleton. And when I'm not in PT, I'm drafting the next book in my Flower Girl series. So, of course, I had to connect the dots.

Writing a first draft is similar to creating a skeleton for your story to hang on. It's certainly not complete until you add in the details, but you need a sturdy skeleton, or the story won't hold together. You start with the basics, the big bones, as it were. Femur, tibia, fibula, ulna, radius. You get the idea. These are the building blocks of your story–the ones that make the story have legs to stand on and arms to wrap around the reader. Eventually, you can add in the smaller bones–the fingers, toes, inner ear bones. These are the other parts of the story that give depth and tone–secondary characters, scents associated with the main characters, the lilt of a Scottish accent or the harshness of a shrew.

Many writers think they're done after they put their draft together. After all, it's a big chore to get an idea from start to finish. I agree that it's a monumental feat, and something that more people fail at than succeed. But in order to finish the book, you need to add to the skeleton. To flesh it out, as it were. By adding muscle, tissue and skin, you build tension, softness and grit into the story. That first draft gets rounded into shape and becomes a total package which you can then present to the world.

I'm rounding the corner on the PT–one more week before a decision is made whether to continue with it or to accept that it is what it is. And I'm rounding the corner on Remembering Iris. The skeleton is nearly complete, but I already know I will continue to pound it into shape and not accept it in its current state. It needs tissue, muscle and more grit. I need to add in the senses, show more emotion, dig deep into POV, flesh out the secondary characters, add more drama. All that comes during the second and third drafts. I might show it to my agent after the third run-through, or decide I need one more run at it. Regardless, I'm sure she'll have ideas on how to add more to it–put some polish on the nails, add some lipstick or blush.

Regardless of how many times I change things around, I know that by starting with a sturdy skeleton, I can bulk up the story without having it crater into a pile of miscellaneous parts.

I'm hoping to have the same results with my body.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

More Than Bragging Rights

In the romance community, contest season is in full swing.

A lot of the RWA chapters like to tie their event to the big national conference, which takes place each year in July. I recently acted as a category coordinator for the Northeast Ohio chapter's contest, and judged some entries in the historical category, which is my wheelhouse.

The reason I give back to the romance writing community in this way is because of the great feedback I got, and still get, from entering contests and letting total strangers read my work. When I'm judging an entry, I point out the strengths of each author and pick a few things they need help with. It's the way I like to get feedback and I hope my suggestions are taken in the manner they're intended and the author strengthens her work as a result.

Being a category coordinator is a slightly different animal. I assigned judges for the various entries and checked the scoresheets when they were returned. I was looking for solid comments that could help the writer without demoralizing them. We've all heard stories about how so much negative feedback made people give up on writing altogether, and I didn't want anything like that to happen on my watch.

In addition to participating in this way, I still enter contests, even with 19 books under my belt. I appreciate the feedback from these strangers and usually find some nuggets I can use to enhance my work. My most recent entry was for a work-in-progress, entered into the Romance Through The Ages contest. After I entered the work, I realized my point of view character should be the hero rather than the heroine, since his part in the story is what makes the story different from other mail order bride books. I've changed the title and have been working on this manuscript ever since, changing it around, but the entry stood in the first version.

So what happened? I placed third in my category--Colonial/Civil War. But my hero, Jake, was nominated for the Legend award, for the hero most likely to become legendary, and he won!

So, even with no real feedback in the form of a scoresheet yet, I already have proof that Jake needs more screen time and the beginning of the story needs work. Revisions are next up on my queue, right after I get my Regency heroine out of the mess she's created for herself.

But, since bragging rights are part of the contest frenzy, here are my badges to show the results of the most recent contest. Huzzah!

And as some have already guessed, the hero, Jake Shelton, first appeared in one of the Cotillion books, Banking On Temperance. He was the one spurned when Temperance finally admitted her love for Basil Fitzpatrick. And, yes, my muse for him was Blake Shelton, while he was still married to Miranda Lambert. I'll never forgive him for his defection to Gwen Stefani, but obviously, as the recipient of the Legend award, his actions, both when Temperance spurned him, and now, in the WIP, are the stuff of legends.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Punctuation and Grammar

I wore my new t-shirt that has emblazoned on its front the words "Write On" when I visited the physical therapist the other day. I already knew his daughter had majored in creative writing and editing, so I thought he'd appreciate my choice.

He one-upped me, however, by saying his daughter had a shirt that said "Punctuation matters. It's the difference between Let's eat, kids, normal mealtime conversation, and the more cannibalistic Let's eat kids.

As an unapologetic comma queen, punctuation and grammar are a constant thorn in my side. So I thought today I'd share a few more of these examples that drive home the need for a well-placed comma with you.

Your dinner vs. you're dinner: One leaves you nourished, the other leaves you dead. Correct grammar saves lives. 

I like cooking my family and pets. Use commas. Don't be a psycho. 

Bite me, asshole–grammatically correct and scathing. 
Bite me asshole–kinky pirate (For all my pirate-writing friends)

Other examples of the necessity of using proper punctuation and grammar abound. Here are a few that made me smile: 

Capitalization is the difference between helping your uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.

If you don't think punctuation is important, try forgetting the semicolon when you tell someone, "I'm sorry: I love you." 

And my favorite: The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense. 

What about you? What's your favorite example of a sentence in need of some punctuation?

Sunday, July 8, 2018


Every so often in the life of an author, it comes time to take a breath, sit back and contemplate your career trajectory.

That's what I've been doing this year. As soon as I made the move from Ohio to North Carolina and got hooked back up to the internet, I found out Simon & Schuster decided to do away with the Crimson Romance line to focus on more mainstream fiction and non-fiction works. I sorted through my options, not ready to cut the chord and demand my rights back until I had a plan in place. I hired an agent, talked to my writing buddies, bounced ideas off anyone who would listen, and finally settled on a plan.

I could only regain the rights to four of the eleven books Simon & Schuster had. They turned out to be the first four in the Cotillion Ball series, so it made sense to me to start retooling them and spiff them up a bit. I finally decided to work with Prairie Rose Publications on them, since I didn't want the hassle of self-publishing. The first two books, The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist's Secret, are scheduled to be re-released into the Amazon world in August. My past few weeks have been spent looking at stock photos and working with Prairie Rose's cover artist, the magnificent Livia Reasoner. We have this uncanny ability to home in on the same photos to use, so it's been a fairly painless process to create new, striking covers for the books.

There have been some issues, though, to deal with. Since six of the books remain with Simon & Schuster, I wanted to maintain some consistency for the series as a whole, so I couldn't steer off in a totally different direction with the covers. Crimson abandoned the sepia-tone covers along about book six, so I tried to match the new ones with the last ones in the series. A consistent font was necessary, as well as a few other elements.

That being said, I'm pleased to offer cover reveals for both The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist's Secret. The real bang for the buck comes when you compare side by side the old and the new. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the covers.

On the left is the original cover, which was released in March, 2012. Since it was my first-ever cover, I thought it was beautiful, and had it blown up on canvas and proudly displayed in my office. But the new one, on the right,  just knocked my socks off. I may have to update my wall.

The second book to be released in the series is The Abolitionist's Secret, about Ginger's younger, and less flamboyant, sister Heather. Here are the old and new versions of those covers. I'm loving the new looks of these books, and my career is once again on track. What do you think of them?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Googling My Days Away

As inquiring persons who are semi-computer-literate, we spend a lot of our on-line time doing google searches for various things. The term has even morphed from a noun to a verb in a lot of cases, my headline for this blog being an example.

I've had other authors tell me if their computer was ever to be searched during a criminal investigation, they'd be put away for felonious acts. Those of us who write of intrigue are especially at risk. But, fortunately, most use the information for the purpose of uncovering factual writing tidbits and nothing more. I decided to perform an experiment this week, and keep track of my Google searches. Here's the list for the week of June 24.

When was the word barfing put into use? 

Turns out it’s not a new word at all. It first appeared in the public lexicon in the mid-1700s, but usage of it waned during the late 1700s and early 1800s, not to be picked up again until the year 2000. 

How many varieties of Iris are there?

Over 200 varieties in all shapes, colors and fragrance. The boldest fragrance is a musky scent, but mostly the fragrance of these blooms is very delicate. 

What were the most efficient ways of doing away with a King? 

Poison was a big one in the 1800s. But illness, gunshot by jilted lovers and mental instability caused by bad medicine were also popular. 

What were King George IV’s foibles?

He was addicted to laudanum, grossly overweight, and in love with a twice-widowed Catholic woman. 

When was Scotland Yard begun?

This police force named Scotland Yard was created in 1829, alas too late for my story. 

What are some home remedies for the eradication of water bugs?

This one is personal. I’m getting to know my North Carolina bugs, but I don’t have to invite them into the house. Or give them names. (Do you hear that, Daisy? Be gone with you!)

What kind of tree do I have growing among the long-leaf pines? 

Another non-writing related search. Turns out I have a Mimosa tree in my front yard.

How about you? What's the weirdest Google search you've done recently?