Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welcome Saturday's Guest Blogger Celia Yeary

Saturday's guest blogger is Celia Yeary, who will be talking to us about golf and writing. If that intrigues you, please join us on October 2nd!

Celia Yeary is a seventh-generation Texan, and her life revolves around family, friends, and writing. San Marcos has been her home for thirty-five years. She has five published romance novels, four “coming soon” novels, and published essays with a local magazine. The author is a former science teacher, graduate of Texas Tech University and Texas State University, mother of two, grandmother of three, and wife of a wonderful, supportive Texan. Celia and her husband enjoy traveling, and both are involved in their church, the community, and the university as retired faculty.

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
New Releases
Texas Promise-eBook-Desert Breeze Publishing
Making the Turn-print & eBook-Wings ePress

Indy 2010: A Successful Conference

by Anita Mae Draper

Taken beside elevator on 11th floor
Last week I flew to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend my 3rd American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference along with 625 other registered attendees. The conference was held downtown in the Hyatt Regency which had a breathtaking atrium with glass-walled elevators. Streaming sunlight gave the whole complex an outdoor aura which began as soon as I stepped out of my room.

The weekend started on Friday morning with an 8am-to-noon session with James Scott Bell who explained the principles of his best-selling book, Plot and Structure. I have the book, however James used humor and segments of movies to enhance the learning experience. A very enjoyable session.

Indianapolis from my window

Next on my schedule was a professional photo session at 1pm with Amber Zimmerman of The Clik Chick Photography. I thought Amber would have a booth set up where we’d have privacy. She didn’t. I watched her take the photos of another attendee while using the waterfall at the base of the elevators as a backdrop. Right in the open lobby where everyone could see all the way down from the 18th floor. Talk about nerve-wracking. When it was my turn, she took me outside and across the street to the park. A beautiful sunny day in the mid to high 70’s range, she had me sit and stand in a variety of poses using benches, brick walls and trees. Unfortunately, I was using my transition glasses which turned dark so I had to keep them off for most of the photos. Her US$40 for 6 professional shots was a bargain.

The conference officially started at 3pm with the Opening Worship, Keynote Address by cartoonist and author Tim Downs. And the surprise awarding of contracts to 3 happy attendees.

That night, I went out for an Italian supper with new and old friends. Within a block from the Hyatt Regency, we stepped off the sidewalk and into the kitchen where the cooks waved at us. A weird beginning, but the food and fellowship was excellent.

(L to R) Judy, Patti Lacy, Sara, Jen AlLee, Dina Sleiman, Lisa Richardson, Anita Mae Draper

We were back in time for the 8pm Late Night Chats with the publishing houses. As a reporter for the Afictionado, the ACFW online e-zine, my job was to report on Dave Long’s Spotlight on Bethany House. As Senior Acquisitions Editor, Dave was the perfect person to tell us what they are looking for and what is ‘hot’. Still topping the charts is Historical Romance followed by Amish (and other cloistered orders). Speculative is moving up fast. As a Christian conference, erotica wasn’t on the list.

Lisa Richardson with elevators behind
 Sat morning started early with a 7am breakfast followed by devotions and worship. As a member of a small 50-member church, hearing over 600 voices raised in song is always a heart-lifting experience. At this point, I’ll add that like all ACFW conferences, a prayer room is open 24/7 and sees much use before and after appointments and other important meetings.

Instead of heading off to the first workshop at 9am, though I headed to purgatory for my editor appointment. I’m not sure who came up with the name for the waiting area, but it was a half-walled raised dais area and the name seemed to fit. I was meeting Kim Moore of Harvest House who is the same editor I met last year over lunch while in Denver. She had requested Emma’s Outlaw at that time, but wanted 20,000 words added. If you remember, this spring, when I sent it out to my Inkwell Inspiration sisters, they basically tore it to shreds and I had to start over. So, my purpose in seeing Kim was to see if she still wanted it. And she did. As soon as I showed her the one-sheet, she smiled and said she remembered Dan, my hero. I told her of the changes and she approved. She gave me her card and told me how to email the completed manuscript when I’m done with it. Phew!

The rest of Saturday was spent in workshops:
  • Mastering Structure, Symbols, 3-D Characters using literary works and movies as examples
  • Selling Your Stuff with handouts for Pitches, Queries & Proposals (Agents Rachelle Gardner & Sandra Bishop)
  • Fact Into Fiction: Tips & Tools for Writing Historical Novels

Christina Berry and Anita Mae Draper
 Late Sat afternoon, Tim Downs gave his 2nd inspirational Keynote Address which was followed by 2 hours of free time. This is the time agents get together with all their clients for a dinner out. A few of us who are un-agented went out for supper across the skywalk to the mall.

Back in time for the 8pm Late Night Chat, I attended the workshop Tweaking Your Way to Publication put on by 2 multi-published Love Inspired authors, Lenora Worth and Marta Perry.

Sunday was a replay of Sat morning except I didn’t have an appointment and was able to attend the complete Part 2 of the 3-D Characters session. Although I’d barely slept the previous 3 nights, the teacher, Dr. Denis Henley kept me wide awake with his imitations of movie scenes, complete with voices and actions.

Award Winning Seekers:
Mary Connealy and Pam Hillerman
 Sunday afternoon was a jumble because I missed a workshop while volunteering on the registration desk. I could have squeezed in part of a workshop after that, but I wanted to get ready for my 3 pm agent meeting with Rachelle Gardner. So, I went up to my room for a breather, checked to ensure I had my one-sheet and opening chapters of Emma’s Outlaw, and then headed down to purgatory.

It was very important for me to see Rachelle because she also requested Emma's Outlaw last year, but this August, closed the door to queries. I didn't know where that left me. However, the meeting went well. I have to confess though, I consider myself blessed that she requested the manuscript—again. Last year on her blog, she said she requests only 3% of those people she meets. And another agent said he refuses 99% of what he sees at conferences. So, for Rachelle to give me another chance is why I’m hiding in my cave these days. I’ve given myself until the end of Oct to get Emma’s Outlaw emailed out to Kim and Rachelle. Because if I don’t get it out soon, I won’t have any credibility as a writer who gets the job done.

The appointment with Rachelle was followed by a Steve Laube workshop, Working with your Agent. I was thoroughly impressed with Steve’s humor, work ethics and working relationship with his clients, of which there were over half a dozen in the room. The two things I remember the most about his speech… you need constant (once weekly) communication with your agent… and second… the agents have a yahoo group and discuss wayward clients. (I’m remembering a Seinfeld show here.)

The Inkies: Jen AlLee, Dina Sleiman, Lisa Richardson, Anita Mae Draper

Janette Oke and Anita Mae Draper
The awards banquet Saturday night was the culmination of the conference. One huge thrill was when my roomie, Christina Berry, won a Carol award for her debut book. And the second big thrill was when I got to meet Janette Oke, of Calgary, AB who started the whole Christian fiction era with her tender prairie romance 1997 Bethany House book, Love Comes Softly.

And of course, each night I socialized with the Inkies and the Seekers and any one else I could corral.

Like I said, I’m working in my cave. I need to finish Emma’s Outlaw within the next few weeks and submit it. I can then use Nov for NaNoWriMo and work on a new project.
(L to R) Pam Hillerman, Ginny Aitken, Lynette Eason, Cheryl Wyatt,
 Linda Ford and Allie Pleiter

So, what about you? Have you sent anything out to an agent or editor lately? Or are you still working on a project someone requested months ago?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coolhunting The Next Big Thing

I’d love to be able to predict the next big thing. To be a trend hunter. But these jobs fall to the people who actually have a clue about what’s cool and what’s not. I couldn’t predict a trend if it walked up and gave me a written guarantee.

I remember the first time I caught sight of the kid’s cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants. I believe my exact words were, “That’ll never last.” The original episode aired on May 1, 1999 and it’s still on the air.

Red soled shoes. Christian Louboutin "In 1992 I incorporated the red sole into the design of my shoes. This happened by accident as I felt that the shoes lacked energy so I applied red nail polish to the sole of a shoe. This was such a success that it became a permanent fixture." Don’t be afraid to venture outside the box.

Would I have predicted the success of a television show featuring a bunch of outcast high school students who come together and find a place to belong in the Glee club? Nope. I’m a total Gleek but I’d never have predicted its success.

What about this prediction: Some fads never make it from Europe to North America, but trend watchers are betting that men’s tights will overcome the odds. Last week, Victor Fiorillo from Philadelphia magazine waxed poetic about the women’s pantyhose he bought at a drugstore, noting that they’re warmer than long johns and would look good under ripped jeans. Yes, they’re talking about mantyhose. If this actually becomes a trend it’ll have more to do with karma than anything.

But what’s this got to do with writing? Well, agents are certainly on the lookout for the next ‘new’ voice. The next great novel. Maybe even new subgenre. They must be aware of trends. It must be part of the job description.

After all we’ve taken vampires, werewolves, and other monsters and made them desirable. We’ve taken the stuff that nightmares are made of and turned them into heroes.

What about erotic romance? They continue to gain favor and have found their place in the romance genre.

Chick lit came and went.

As writers we need to be aware of trends but not let them dictate the direction of your work. To read industry articles and blogs or follow twitter links. This doesn’t mean we don’t grow, learn and expand on our knowledge base.

It’s about understanding the kind of writer you are. If, as an aspiring author, your heart’s desire to get published and nothing else matters, you’d better have your finger of the pulse of the industry and you’d better write fast. And have the ‘voice’ for it. Having a book go from being acquired to appearing on the bookstore shelves takes time. What happens if your trend dies before it makes it to the shelves?

You can’t write what you don’t love reading, have a passion for, or feel a connection to.

So follow a trend or follow your gut? Many of us wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Follow your gut.” But what if what you write isn’t popular at the moment. What if it’s unusual? What if it doesn’t mesh with current trends? Following your gut can be risky.

That’s where the quality of the writing comes into play. If you have a manuscript with a well-developed plot, characters to care about, and have taken the time to make sure it’s polished to perfection, someone will notice. You and mantyhose could be the next big thing.

Know yourself, know your style, trust your voice. As hooky as it might sound to some, trust in the universe to provide you with your heart’s desire.

What trends do you see for the future of romance writing? What trends have surprised you? Do you fear writing the unmarketable book?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stop! If you kiss him now ... the world will end!

Yesterday in the comments on Jana's discussion of the romance arc, I noticed most of us seem to follow that arc on instinct. We start out with two friendly/neutral/hostile people and follow a natural progression until at the end of the book they've come together and sorted out their baggage (or at least this book's baggage). The important thing, as Jana replied to me, is the believability of that progression.

But at the same time, we have to think of tension, and keeping the reader through until that very last page. Natural progression can't just be first kiss, first night together, marriage, the end, so we stick in problems, set-backs, character issues, all sorts of conflict to prevent each moment of progress from simply erasing a plot concern and resolving something before we're halfway done.

Those of us who dabble in varying degrees of romance, I think we have good instincts for the overall pacing, what we want to happen when. It's the hazards that can pose a problem. I'm talking about artifice. We know we need to keep the story going, and this is the way things should go, but sometimes we just don't know how to do that. What we stick in doesn't ring true.

Artifice is, in short, anything that creates a roundabout explanation to explain a Why. Why can't they just get together now? Why didn't she just tell him about the abortion and get beyond it? Why didn't he kiss her when he had the chance and knew she wanted him to? The longer it takes to answer these questions, the more Whys that answer produces, the more likely the real answer is, "I wanted to keep the story going."

And readers see through this every single time. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of their lives.

The topic came up during the SRWs retreat weekend, and from everything I heard, I found problems of artifice often boil down to three* things.

Motivation: The character's reason for doing/not doing something hinges on a flimsy excuse, an elaborate justification, or some other faulty motivation. Rather than creating a struggle we empathize with, the character becomes less likable (selfish, weak, arrogant, too stupid to live) and we get fed up. If we can understand and accept with the motivation, we can empathize with the decision even if we don't agree.

The Fix -- Find a new motivation. Explore your character and really learn what makes them tick. Nine times out of ten, there's already something there waiting to be found that can justify that action without requiring multiple sentences to explain, or inducing fridge logic in your reader. Maybe it's not just that he's angry she left him at the altar. Maybe it's because every single relationship since then has been fraught with mistrust after that betrayal, and she's the cause of all that.

Emotion: You know in your gut this is right, the scene should flow this way, but when it's all said and done, you've spent two pages of internal monologue afterward narrating the heroine's reasons for why it was such a bad thing and it still doesn't seem convincing. If the emotion is off, if say you wrote the scene passionate but it should have been conflicted, the characters won't react right and the outcome you know should be there may come about forced. The reader should be able to intuit the reason for something without need to justify it or explain it.

The Fix -- Bring new emotion to the scene. Like motivation, the solution is lurking in the character, especially if you feel the moment is ultimately right. This comes down to execution, rather than content. If I may use a WIP of Helena's as an example, she shared at the retreat a lovely dilemma concerning a crucial note never received, and we talked about the reasons for the oversight. If the character was angry she might have thrown the envelope aside in haste. Distraught, she might have stopped reading before the end and not noticed more inside. Heartsick, she'd search every inch of that message for some explanation. With the right emotion we can understand why the crucial bit of information never turned up. Others might raise questions or force explanations.

Into the Fire: Of course, sometimes it isn't just the approach to a scene that creates artifice. Sometimes it's the whole damn scene. It's the blatant misunderstanding that drags on the whole second act, or the unnecessary cancer subplot that crops up after the real plot's already been resolved. It's the kiss or the sex scene that doesn't happen just because we don't want it to happen. And the whole thing wastes so much time, in the moment and after, to justify, you'd be better off just doing it. We don't buy it at all.

The Fix -- Seriously, do it. Let them have sex, or kiss, or reveal the terrible secret. I promise you, you'll find more problems. Things are never simple and resolved and then that's it. Every progression in a relationship opens up new issues to deal with, new levels of trust and vulnerability that may be tested at any moment. Take your characters out of the frying pan and into the fire. If you can't figure out how, look at motivation and emotion, and see what you can work with after the scene.

*Danger Will Robinson! If you're still stuck, and long-winded exposition and/or attempts to distract from the problem via kittens and gunfights aren't working, then the problem may go deeper than just the immediate scene. Novella length conflict just won't stretch into a 100k format. The characters need more issues, completely different motivations, more subplots affecting their decisions, or may just need a different format altogether. It may even be these characters aren't the ones right for each other. As Jana said yesterday, the pair can't just be good for each other, they each have to be the only one right for the other.

How do you keep the conflict going in your romance arc? What other causes of artificial conflict would you identify? Or just share an example of artifice you've encountered (in your own work or others, no need to name names), or a situation that could have felt forced that the creator handled well.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Romance Arc

The Saskatchewan Romance Writers decided to discuss the Romance Arc during our retreat this month. That got me thinking; what exactly is the Romance arc? Helena gave her take last week, and this week I thought I'd give it a shot.

Every story has a Character Arc. This is the learning curve, the journey, the characters go through. Characters begin the story with a certain viewpoint and, through events in the story, that viewpoint changes. Examples of the character arc:

- In the movie Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman starts out as a chauvinist. When he’s forced to play a woman on a TV soap, he gradually learns a new appreciation for women, and his whole attitude changes.

- At the beginning of The Godfather, Michael Corelone hates the mafia and anything to do with his father’s business. When his father is nearly killed in an attack, he takes over the business and begins a vendetta against the attackers. Eventually, he becomes as brutal as his father.

In addition to the Character Arc, a romance novel must also weave in the Romance Arc thread. The Romance Arc deals with the growing relationship between the hero and the heroine. For the writer, it means dealing with questions like: “How is this person different from every other love interest the hero/heroine has ever known?” “What makes this person the perfect match for the hero/heroine?” “How can I show the relationship moving from one of simple attraction at the beginning of the story, to a committed relationship by the end?”

Let me answer the last question first. In most romance novels, there is a spark of attraction between the hero and heroine from the moment they first meet. But something keeps them apart; there is an obstacle, either an internal conflict, or a more visible external conflict, that stands between them. For example, in my current WIP “The Girl Most Likely”, Cara’s internal conflict is that Finn is eight years younger than she is. She’s become very sensitive about her age since her ex-husband left her on her 40th birthday for a much younger woman, and she’s afraid if she falls in love with a younger man she’s setting herself up for that kind of heartache again.

Examples of external conflict are wars, disapproving family or friends, an ex-spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, differing values and ideals, or being on opposite sides of a conflict. For instance, in my novella “Flawless”, the Second World War forms the external conflict, the object keeping the two lovers apart. Hunter must help Madeleine and her Resistance friends, steal back a valuable diamond from the Nazis.

I must show my hero and heroine overcome all the obstacles between them. The battles they go through, both literal and figurative, help to cement their relationship. Every hurdle they jump over brings them closer, but there's still doubt. The obstacles are difficult and not easily overcome. But by the end of the book, there should be no question in the reader's mind that these two people will be together forever.

How do these characters move from simply being attracted to being willing to risk their lives for each other?

1. As the characters spend time with each other, I have them discover things about one another that they appreciate. When Sarah first meets Will in my novel “Her Best Man”, she believes he is not much more than a party boy. But she gradually learns that he is loyal to his brother, has a wonderful sense of humour, and is a talented writer. She gradually falls for his good qualities.

2. Compare and contrast. A method that I often use to show how the characters are beginning to appreciate each other and fall in love is to show a comparison between the new love and an ex. In “The Girl Most Likely”, Cara’s ex has limited contact with their two daughters since the divorce. When Finn shows genuine concern for her daughters, Cara begins to fall in love.

What makes this person the perfect match for this hero/heroine?

My favourite line from a movie is from “Jerry Maguire” when Tom Cruise says to Renee Zelweiger, “You complete me.” That is what romance characters need to do; complete each other. Only this woman can provide the missing piece that makes him whole.

The best way to show this process happening between the two lovers is to first let the reader know what that hole is in the hero/heroine’s life. In “Flawless”, Hunter had been told all his life by his parents that he was a disappointment to them. When he is jailed for jewel theft, they wash their hands of him. Madeleine, a beautiful Resistance fighter assigned to be his partner, was once married to his childhood friend Jean Philippe, who was murdered by the Nazis. Hunter knows that Jean Philippe was honest, loyal, and brave, with an unwavering sense of integrity. He falls in love with Madeleine but believes that after loving Jean Philippe, she could never see him as anything but a poor imitation. The hole in Hunter’s life is his belief that he’s not good enough.

Next we must show how the love interest fills that need. As Madeleine gets to know Hunter, she realizes what a wonderful man he is. She knows he is honest and loyal and true. She makes him believe he has all the qualities, and more, that his friend Jean Philippe had. By making him believe in himself and his worth, Madeleine fills the hole in his life. In addition, I hope I have shown that Madeleine is the only woman who could ever complete Hunter.

How is this person different from every other love interest the hero/heroine has ever known?

Again, this is where comparisons may come in. This may be a comparison to an ex-husband or boyfriend, or sometimes even with a parent. Show what makes the new love different from the hero/heroines’s previous relationships. In “A Long Way from Eden”, Meg was a pregnant teenager forced into an abusive marriage. When her son gets Zane Martin’s daughter pregnant, she at first thinks he is just like her domineering father because he wants his daughter and Meg’s son to marry. But as she gets to know Zane, she sees the kindness with which he treats his pregnant daughter, and she knows he’s nothing like her father.

In all of the above examples, I must show how a new love is different from an old love, or and how the couple getting to know each other. I do this in a dramatized scene. The characters are learning about one another right in front of the reader’s eyes. Never summarize important “getting to know you” scenes with telling.

In romance, the romantic arc is as important as the character arc. Without the romantic arc that shows the characters’ growing mutual attraction and love for each other, readers will not believe in the romance. If steps in the arc are skipped, no one will believe that the hero and heroine will actually be together at the end of the story, or stay together long after the reader closes the book.

How do you, as a writer, show the romantic arc in your story?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Craft Help: Conference Recordings

by Anita Mae Draper

Writing conferences provide numerous chances to improve your craft, talk about your career, and refine your research techniques. Unfortunately, workshops occur at the rate of 5 or 6 at the same time to suit all kinds of writers in a multitude of genres.

At the same time the workshops are in session, publishers sponsor book signings and appointments with editors and agents are scheduled.

Because of this, most major conferences tape the workshops. The recordings are then available for sale to attendees and those who weren’t able to attend the conference.

Bill Stephens Productions records all the sessions for the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conferences. You can buy the sessions as a conference set, a ‘24 most popular’ set or individually. They are playable on your PC or Mac computer as well as on MP3 players.


Currently, Bill Stephens Productions have recordings available for the 2009 and 2010 conferences . Here are some examples:

  • Chemistry: How To Create The Sizzle That Will Keep Your Readers Glued To The Page, Speaker: Sherry Thomas, Price US$8.00
  • The Fire In Fiction, Speaker: Donald Maass, Price : US $12.00
  • Mastering Your Domain: Research And Development Of The Paranormal World, Speakers: Alyssa Day, Stephanie Julian, and Melissa Mayhue, Price: US $8.00
  • Prioritizing Life, Setting Goals, And Time Management, Speaker: Robin Perini, Price: US $8.00

  • Submission 101, Speakers: Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock, Price: US $8.00
  • The Agent/Author Relationship, Speakers: Kate Douglas, Jessica Faust, Angie Fox, and Sally MacKenzie, Price : US $8.00
  • An Inside Look At The Editor/Author/Publisher Relationship, Speakers: Alicia Condon, Audrey LaFehr, and Laurie Parkin, Price : US $8.00
  • Fat-Free Writing Or How To Eliminate Wordiness In 10 Easy Steps, Speakers: Darlene Buchholz and Annie Oortman, Price : US $8.00

Spotlight sessions are also available for many publishing houses where representatives talk about what they are looking for and how best to submit.

Shawnee Services does the audio recordings for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) national conference. Like the RWA, some of these sessions are aimed at the inspirational genre, but not all of them. After all, creating exciting characters and digging into research are topics writers of all persuasions need to know.

The ACFW records can also be ordered as a compete set or individually. The Shawnee Services website doesn’t state the cost of individual sessions, however, they state they are either US $9.95 or US $19.95 and to email with the session numbers for more information. I’m presuming the latter price is for the Continuing Education sessions which are approx. 4-5 hrs long. Some examples under the 2009 offering are:

  • Screenwriting and the Novelist, Speaker: Rene Gutteridge, (Continuing Education)
  • Understanding the Publishing Process, Speaker: Jeff Gerke
  • Profiling Characters, Speaker: Sue Brower
  • Author Advances: A Publisher’s Perspective, Speaker: Allen Arnold
  • Medical Details in Your Fiction, Speaker: Dr. Richard Mabry
  • Hero & Heroine Journeys, Speaker: Camy Tang
  • Writing Press Releases & Web Copy for Promotion, Speaker: Jim Rubart
Keep in mind, I've only shown you a small amount of what's available for download.

I’ve checked into the Surrey International Writer’s Conference (SiWC) which several writers from this blog attend but to my knowledge, they don’t record their sessions.

Anyway, the point is that there are many existing sessions available for you already out there between the 2 audio companies mentioned about that will keep you in audio craft for many miles of listening. I say this because I listen to the sessions while I’m driving, walking or exercising.

Do you know any other companies that offer recordings of this type?

Have you ever downloaded these types of sessions? Would you or why wouldn’t you?




Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can you believe it?

I swing both ways, but before you swear you will never sit next to me again, let me explain. I write fiction and non-fiction. And, I can write fictional non-fiction, but I haven't cleaned up my autobiography yet so I haven't had to nudge the truth too much yet.

There are some obvious differences: romance writers have to make up characters. Non-fiction writers and journalists don't. Trust me, there are more than enough characters out there to keep us pounding the keys. Both fiction and non-fiction call for precise research, because as sure as she gets the guy in the end, some turkey in Readerland will know exactly how many days Alphonse the Dumb reigned or exactly how many people in Japan are more than 100 years old, or, for that matter, who killed Cock Robin.

Romance stories start out quietly and end with a rousing romp in bed. Non-fiction starts at the end and every paragraph from there on is less important than the one before so that the editor can cut your would-have-won-a-Pulitzer story if the jerk had left it alone. For example: in fiction, we get two or three pages in before we realize Scarlett is NOT a nice girl. It ends with Rhett Butler leaving her. In non-fiction, say for The National Enquiror, the opening paragraph would start at the end. "Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara have parted ways! Our columnist heard Rhett say "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!" Those in the know realize this is not the end of the story....

Contests in fiction writing are not yet published but you hope to *** they will be. In non-fiction writing, the story must be published before you have a hope in ***.

Some non-fiction writers 'enhance' their stories by not letting truth get in the way of a good story. Fiction writers haven't a truth to fly by. They are expected to enhance the whole thing.

Some non-fiction writers fear rejection because they were self consious to begin with, but as reporters, they definitely won't be rejected. They are expected to fill the blank spaces between ads or else.

Speaking of rejection, here are some questions about fiction that have non-fiction answers that should make you either feel terrific or make you tape your mail box shut rather than face it.

1. Eight publishers said no to J.K. Rawlings first book. What was the British title?
2. TheMysterious Affair at Styles, this author's first book was rejected by six publishers, but she went on to write 70 plus novels. Who was she?
3. And To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street was passed up by 28 publishers before it became a childrens classic. Who was thew author?
4. What Frederick Forsyth novel was passed up by nearly 50 publishers before it became a best seller?
5. A book by Robert W. Pirsig was rejected 121 times before it became a big best seller in 1974. What was the book? (You have to love that guy).
6. This book, Tom Clancey's first, was turned down by more than two dozen publishers before it became a huge best seller. What book was it?
7. The author of The Thomas Berryman Number, which was rejected by 26 publishers, has since become one of the world's best-selling authors?

The answers will appear in the comments section.

Have you tried writing non-fiction? Have you tried freelancing (which pays quite well actually)? Do you feel better now? Hope so.

The easy way to avoid rejection is to never submit a manuscript. Clearly, all publishers don't know a good thing when they see it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rediscover the verb

Who is your boss? When you are writing, you are.

You are your own boss. I am my own.

Why, then are we so determined to hang on to all the rules we have been accumulating over the years? Other people's rules.

People say before you can break a rule, you must learn it first. There are a number of grammatical rules I am sure I don't know, so when I break them, I am afraid I can't consider myself a rule-breaker (a trail blazer, perhaps? *feeling optimistic*).

For all you rebels out there, I would like you to think about something simple. A verb (let's skip the compound verbs for now). If someone were to list off a number of words, we would be able to pick out the verbs pretty quickly.

I would like to share one of my favorite writing exercises with you, taken as an excerpt from one of my favorite books on writing, Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing

"Use any of the following verbs in any way you wish:

racket snug green spoon boggle snake

They're not all verbs, you say?

Jeremy is racketing across the lawn as we speak!

Can you hear earthworms snugging out of the ground as the sun greens the trees?

Verbs are sometimes a matter of opinion."

What's your opinion? Are you willing to let your employees branch out with their creativity, or are they going to be forced to stick to all the rules set in place long before they joined the company?

After reading this exercise, my boss let me use pink as a verb - and took me out for sushi as a token of her appreciation.

Exercise source: Wood, Monica. 2002. The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing. Writers Digest Books. Cincinnati, OH, USA.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Fellow chicks and loyal followers, this is my last post before I go on a six month hiatus from the Prairie Chicks. While I’ve loved blogging with the Chicks, and will undoubtedly miss it, I have to get my priorities a little more focused.
Kicking off my newfound attempts at re-focusing and re-prioritizing, I started with participating in the Saskatchewan Romance Writers fall retreat at Ancient Spirals. This is my second year attending the retreat, and this year I was rather looking forward to this yearly event. The combination of beautiful location, intelligent conversation and delectable food makes this retreat truly a treat.
When I arrived early Saturday morning, the group was already mid-stream on a critique session. Attendees provided a short excerpt (5-10 pages) of their current WIP, centred on the first kiss. Seven scenes were read, critiqued and discussed within the larger group.
Not only did I have eight other writers giving me suggestions and helping me solve dilemmas, I also had the opportunity to hear how other people work through their own writing barriers. With writing being such a solitary activity, most decisions are made alone and without anyone to bounce ideas off of. The brainstorming was wonderful, the debate about what would work and what wouldn’t was truly a wonderful learning experience.
While all of us have one commonality – that we have romantic elements in our writing – we are truly a diverse bunch. Our group encompasses everything from young adult, paranormal, fantasy, mystery, traditional romance, to chick lit, making our excerpts all extremely unique.
The day ended with some of us discussing the pitches we have prepared for the Surrey International Writer’s Conference in October. Again, I had the opportunity to hear what eight intelligent writers had to say about my pitch, how to distil it down to its essential points to come up with the perfect logline. As Hayley said: who is the character, what does he/she wants, and how is he/she going to get it.
So, as I bid you all adieu, I would like everyone to know that these last nine months of blogging with the chicks have been fantastic. Writing the blog posts has been a great opportunity to improve my writing, and reading the comments has been something I’ve looked forward to, for their supportive, intelligent, and sometimes thought-provoking feedback.
It’s been a blast, guys. I’ll be back to visit and comment. Take care, peace—out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Romance Story Arc: Theme of Fall Retreat

Every September members of the Saskatchewan Romance Writers hold a weekend retreat in the country. Unlike the spring retreat where attendees spend the weekend writing, the focus in the fall is educational. The event was held this past weekend.

Learning activities include watching a movie on Friday evening, usually a romantic comedy or a fantasy, then discussing in detail such matters as plot, character development, and this year, the story arc. On Saturday there was a critiquing session of excerpts submitted by members from their works in progress. Each one dealt in some way with a first kiss or embrace between the hero and heroine. This is a useful exercise both for the authors of the excerpts and for those who offer critiques of the work presented. A special session of exploration and discussion was held this year on the romance story arc. The final activity of the weekend continued a plotting project that was begun last year. We are developing a plot and characters for ... wait for this ... a paranormal romance. What fun we had expanding the story parameters, and delving further into the point of view of our characters, Selina and Brent!

A block of time was also set aside on Saturday for members to practice and receive feedback on the pitch they will be making at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference next month. What better group to pitch to than supportive SRW members!

The romance story arc, the lens for looking at romance stories, was the common thread that ran through all the deliberations described above. According to J. Timothy King, in his article, Feeling the Romance and Keeping it Real, “there’s a standard formula for romantic stories. Boy meets girl. They fall in love but pretend they don’t even notice each other. Finally, they declare their love and live happily ever after. This may sound a little corny, but most romantic stories are much deeper. Still they rely on the standard formula. There’s a reason why the standard formula is used so much. Because it works.”

If this formula sounds simplistic, you’re right. It is much more satisfying to note that, rather than the “pretending” mentioned by King, there will be serious obstacles and conflicts that must be resolved before the “boy and girl” can finally declare their love for each other. The process of working through these issues creates an arc which can be diagrammed as a rising curve, almost a semi-circle, through a series of plot points. The arc follows the story from its beginning, then through a stage of conflict, a further escalation of action that impedes and/or enhances the development of the relationship, to the climax or highest level of conflict, ending with a leveling off, until any remaining problems are solved.

The movie we watched was Serendipity, a charming 2001 romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. The arc of the story begins with a “meet-cute” in Bloomingdale’s in New York where Sara (Beckinsale) and Jonathan (Cusack) simultaneously reach for a pair of black cashmere gloves, the last one on display, that they both wish to buy. Then they join forces to fend off a third customer who attempts to snatch the gloves away from both of them. This leads to a few hours of conversation over a hot drink in a little restaurant called “Serendipity,” skating on the rink in Central Park, and a desperate attempt by Jonathan to find out the identity of the attractive young woman.

The tension that drives the rest of the plot results from Sara’s insistence that fate will determine if they are meant to be together. For her, it is a sign that perhaps this is not intended to be when the small slip of paper on which she has written her name and phone number is whipped out of his hands by the slipstream of a passing truck. She gets him to write the same information about himself on a five-dollar bill, but promptly uses it at a sidewalk kiosk. She has a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera with her, and she tells him that when she gets home, she will write her name and number in it,take it to a used-book shop the next day, and he’ll have to look for it to find her again.

Credibility could definitely be an issue with this theme, but it is validated for the viewer when Sara suggests that they each take one of the gloves, get on separate elevators in the Waldorf- Astoria Hotel, and punch in a number. If they get off at the same floor, they will know it is meant to be. We watch while they both choose the button for the 23rd floor. What Sara cannot know is that chaos develops on Jonathan’s elevator when a man gets on a few floors later with a small boy who devilishly starts pushing buttons at random, eventually causing the system to jam. Sara gives up waiting on the 23rd floor and leaves just before the other elevator arrives.

From that point on, a series of near-meets and misses keeps the arc rising, with each gain balanced off with a setback, until very near the end of the movie. The viewer wants to suspend disbelief, and is a willing participant. The blurb on the DVD case states: “... they cannot give up the dream that – despite time, distance and the obstacles that conspire to keep them apart – they will one day meet again.” But I will leave the details of the final resolution for you to discover on your own. I recommend that you see this movie.

Have you seen Serendipity? How do you use the idea of a story arc in your fiction writing? Do you have other ways to describe the romance story arc?
story arc?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Julie Rowe

Online Writing Classes – A win-win for writers!
By Julie Rowe

It seems there’s been a baby boom in online classes. Where just a few years ago, there was only one or two RWA chapters offering classes (KOD & Outreach International were among the first), there are now at least twenty chapters offering online classes and workshops. And that number is growing. Also growing are the ranks of private workshop providers, usually writers who’ve gone into business recruiting, hosting and moderating online writing workshops.

As the owner/moderator of the Announce Online Classes loop, I’ve been promoting classes from RWA chapters and other reputable groups, for over four years now. When I started in January of 2006, I was posting maybe 20 class listings for any given month. Now, I’m posting anywhere from 40 to 75 classes every month. That’s a lot of different classes to choose from…every month!

For the writer interested in learning from successful authors in every genre of romance and experts in a variety of fields, from psychologists to ex-FBI agents, the selection of online classes couldn’t be better. Fees range from free (for chapter members) to $55, and every number in between. Which, when you consider some “professional” university-type writing courses cost into the hundreds of dollars, is an incredible deal.

I’ve personally taken as many as three courses at once, and while it was a bit of a juggle to keep up, all three were workshops offering unique information from authors and teachers I respect. I felt the lectures, interaction and general availability of the instructor was worth its weight in gold.

There’s great value in the flexibility of online classes, too. Most classes are taught over an email loop, where everyone sees every email sent to the loop, so students learn from each other as well as the instructor. Your instructor might be in New Zealand, with students in Canada, Europe, Japan and the USA, and everyone is able to participate equally. But, if you just don’t have time to participate, you don’t have to. You simply archive all the emails and read them at your leisure at a future date that’s more convenient for you.

It’s this kind of interaction that’s the true advantage of online classes. Anyone with a computer and internet access can take an online class taught by expert, best-selling authors and no one has to leave their house to do it.

Workshop providers, instructors and RWA chapters are also becoming more and more creative with the types of classes they’re offering. Topics like conflict and plot are being taught from unique angles and targeting specific genres. Writing related classes, on topics like couples therapy and how a real special forces soldier is trained, are cropping up in droves…and they’re proving to be very popular.

Here’s a sample of some of the sixty one classes that were offered in July and August:

- Dialog That Dazzles with Lori Wilde.
- His Personality Ladder with Laurie Schnebly Campbell.
- Riveting Revisions – The Key To Getting Published with Lynne Marshall.
- Help I’ve Lost My Muse with Lois Winston.
- How to Write Romantic Suspense with Instructors Heather Graham and Leslie Wainger.
- Craft Your Fiction Query Package with CJ Lyons.

To help prospective students make decisions about which classes to take, I’ve begun creating surveys for workshop participants to fill out to share their experience. These surveys will also be used by instructors and workshop providers to help them build better workshops and learning environments.

The low monetary and time cost in online workshops, make them a total win!

A double Golden Heart finalist in 2006, Julie Rowe has been writing medically inclined romances for over ten years. She's also a published freelancer with articles appearing in The Romance Writer's Report, Canadian Living, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest (Canada) and other magazines. All writers are welcome to join her email loop Announce Online Classes ( You can contact Julie through her website

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome Saturday's Guest Blogger Julie Rowe

Julie Rowe will be with us on Saturday September 18 to talk about on-line writing classes. A double Golden Heart finalist in 2006, Julie has been writing medically inclined romances for over ten years. She's also a published freelancer with articles appearing in The Romance Writer's Report, Canadian Living, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest (Canada) and other magazines. All writers are welcome to join her email loop Announce Online Classes ( You can contact Julie through her website

Indianapolis 2010 Here I Come

Hopefully, if all went well, I flew out of Regina at 6 am today (Thurs) and will arrive in Indianapolis this afternoon. I’m in Indy for the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. This will be my 3rd time at this conference and my first visit to Indiana. I’m very excited to see everyone again.

A major disappointment is that I didn’t get my manuscript (ms) emailed to the agent and editor who requested them at last year’s conference in Denver. However, I’ve asked for these 2 people as my first choices so at the very least, I’ll be able to fill them in on what’s happening with the ms and see if they’re still interested. (Oh, please.)

A few weeks ago, here at Prairie Chicks, I posted about the journey of this wip. The request to add 20,000 words to Emma’s Outlaw took me until Feb 2010. I then sent it to my Inky sisters (Inkwell Inspirations blog) who hacked it to pieces (sniffle) because it lacked content, conflict and character. (Or something along those lines.) That started the big rewrite. I didn’t realize how much of a rewrite until I actually began to edit. Due to the new character and spiritual arcs, conflict and story line, I’m cutting complete chapters out and starting fresh.

At the time of this post, I have 80 out of the required 90,000 words ready to go. I’m almost finished. And I have to admit, this version is far superior to what I originally pitched last year.

My goals for this conference are to:

- renew acquaintances with friends and eFriends

- meet new people in the industry

- Meet with the same agent

- Meet with the same editor

- Attend as many workshops as I can unless I’m needed elsewhere

This year, my volunteer duties include:

- work the registration desk

- help out in the book store

- report on the Bethany House Info session for ACFW’s Afictionado newsletter

I'm very excited to start as I'll be attending James Scott Bell's workshop starting at 8 tomorrow morning.

That will be followed by an appt for professional photographs. (Yikes!)

I'll try to check in for comments as soon as I check into my hotel room and sign up for internet service today, though .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

For Love or Money

We all know we don’t write for the money, so obviously we do it for the love of the written word. For sanity sake. To give stories a home. To give voices to characters.

Unless you’re one of the top five wage earning writers who happen to be lucky enough to do it for both:

James Patterson (who apparently writes in long hand – there’s no computer in his office.)

Stephenie Meyer (even though she didn’t release a title in 2009 - but she does have Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner playing Bella, Edward and Jacob in the movie versions.)

Stephen King (who apparently published a poem in Playboy – maybe they really do read it for the articles – as well as backlists, short stories and reviews.)

Danielle Steel (who has recently announced at 71 of her books will be available from Amazon and Sony.)

Ken Follett (who’s book Pillars of the Earth placed second to To Kill a Mockingbird in The Times poll of greatest novels of the last 60 years. One wonders if a move up the list isn’t in his future after the miniseries based on the book aired in July.)

It’s all brilliant and good to love writing when it’s going well, but what about when it’s not. I’m sure the aforementioned authors had their bad days. No doubt they’re hardworking, dedicated and talented but, come on, no gets by without a bad day...or month.

But writers write. It’s a famous quote and everything. And that’s exactly what we do. We write. Whether things are going well or not. As an unpublished author I’m working on getting a handle on this whole self-discipline thing because I need it to accomplish my writing goals. No one is pushing me but myself and that can be a challenge when trying to meet goals. In the past I have allowed deadlines to dictate necessary action but that’s not good enough anymore and not only is not good enough, it’s not going to get the job done.

What I need is self-discipline.

Self-discipline involves keeping the big picture front and center. To act instead of react. To make sacrifices in order to honour a dream. Therefore, it is self-discipline that will drive me to:

  • Work on an idea or project after the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away. 
  • Keep my butt in the chair with hands on keyboard typing away madly instead of choosing to lie on the couch and veg in front of the TV. 
  • Wake up early to get a head start. 
  • Say “no” when tempted by instant gratification remedies which will make me forget I’m having a weak writing day. 
  • Only check various social media sites at specific times of the day.

How about you? Do you practice self-discipline? Or is it something you wish you had?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On Fear

This post originally comes from Eventide Unmasked, where I've been tracking the progress of my current writing goals.

Since I'm in the midst of trying to remedy said fear and get myself on track, I thought I'd share something different from the calm and collected I usually post with, as I simply can't spare the time to write my planned post for this week.

Consider this my extended answer to Janet's discussion on fear.

On Fear

I promised myself I'd log the progress of this word count grind, and post both the ups and the downs as I went along. So often we only see the final outcome of writers at work, and as Lilith Saintcrow said in a recent post on the cost of writing, there's an illusion of grace expected with the craft, and no one wants to see the bloody cotton inside the pointe shoes (Lili's analogy, not mine).

I've enjoyed this process, I've found new stamina in myself to meet and exceed these words counts, and I've stopped fretting so much over what will get cut as I'm in the act of laying it down. Unfortunately I've also found (which I already knew), that I can be complacent, lazy. I won't throw a half-assed story out in the world, but if I can just hit that word goal and go do something else, I often stop there, 'meaning to come back later' and never write more that day when I could push further.

The problem, alongside a lack of fretting over paragraphs that may be cut but will help me move from one scene to another right now, is I'm beginning to look at that looming deadline and worry.

I'm afraid. I've passed the halfway point and I'm heading into the final stretch, and yet I feel like I still have so much to do. And the further I go, the more comfortable I get in just writing out a scene, wandering a bit in things I think are valuable now but look back on and know I'll cut, and not just clipping through scene after scene at a sleek, efficient pace. It's fine for a first draft, but not on a deadline.

I'm afraid that while, yes, I'm writing a 100k novel, I may actually need to toss down 120k to get to the end before I go back and hack and slash, and I haven't budgeted time for those extra words. I can see that deadline looming and I'm worried about reaching it, overshooting it, losing my revision time.

I'm getting into blank territory as well, places where I don't have a clear idea of subsequent scenes, just points to reach across a gap of undeveloped story. I'm worried about the time, the lack of available time, it might take to figure those things out, make false starts and go back to try again. If I write an entire page and it's going in the wrong direction, and I know I just need to cross it out and take things another way, does that still count toward word count? Do I even have time for it to count?

And it's not enough just to get the draft written and move on to revisions. I've conference prep to do, a pitch to prepare, little things like business cards that will get put off for not being pressing until it's suddenly too late and they won't arrive in time. I'm afraid I've been stupid and not allowed enough time for all this, or worse, that I have enough time but I lack the discipline to just damn well do it. To stop shunting things aside and accepting the required minimum, and start working my ass off until it's done.

I know the answers to all this. Write more, work harder, get it done. I know I have to do it, and that eventually I will. Or I think I will. It doesn't make things any better right now. I think this stage is inevitable, in fact I recall thinking when I started this how I would be sure to blog when I got overwhelmed by things rather than pretending everything was peachy. Until I get pissed off, however, and get my ass moving, I will continue to worry. I just hope giving voice to these things will help me put them aside.

And I hope I get pissed off in time to still meet my goals.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Writing Romantic Comedy

A romantic comedy needs to be two things: romantic and funny. It seems self-evident, but lately articles have appeared in newspapers and on the Internet bemoaning the fact that many recent movie rom-coms are neither romantic nor comedic. So what makes a piece of writing funny? Anne Gracie identifies the following situations:

1. Surprise. We laugh at the unexpected. When we expect one thing and get another it can be funny. An example is the movie “Tootsie”; we expect a woman and find a man dressed like a woman.

2. The Human Condition. There are events that almost everyone can relate to; the run in the stocking on the eve of an important meeting, getting stuck in traffic, coping with family on holidays. Everyone has their foibles and insecurities. What the writer does is takes these universal events and foibles and, perhaps with a little exaggeration, turns them into funny situations. So the family get together over the holidays with the meddling in-laws and crazy Uncle George, turns into an extended stay when a blizzard traps everyone at your house.

3. Laughing at someone else’s expense. Remember “America’s Funniest Home Videos”? In video after video, some poor sap fell, got bonked on the head, or otherwise painfully hurt himself. There was always an element of “As long as it wasn’t me, that was really funny.” It doesn’t need to be slapstick, painful humour; someone getting dumped at the altar is funny, if it’s not you.

4. Truth exaggerated. Take a believable situation and stretch. Underneath, it’s still a recognizable situation, but the edges are blurred. For me, “Flawty Towers” is truth exaggerated. On the surface it’s a TV show about a small, boutique hotel in the English countryside, but you don’t have to dig too deep to find an inept, semi-paranoid innkeeper, a shrewish wife, and an assembly of crazy staff.

5. A comic world. This is a world where the usual rules don’t seem to apply. Often a character from ‘away’ enters this world and is the alien. For example, in “The Bob Newhart Show”, Bob and his wife are strangers in a strange land when they take over a small inn in Vermont. In the British show “Doc Martin”, a proper doctor moves to the Cornish seaside and encounters the quirky village inhabitants, who have their own ways of doing things and living their lives.

The Characters in a Romantic Comedy

1. The characters in a romantic comedy have to be special enough that the reader falls in love with the hero and roots for the heroine. They want these two to be together, sometimes long before the characters themselves realize it.

2. Insurmountable odds must stand between the two lovers. In “While you were Sleeping”, the hero thinks the heroine is engaged to his comatose brother. In “Pretty Woman”, the hero is a billionaire and the heroine is a hooker. Sometimes these insurmountable odds are due to a deception. More on that later.

3. The heroine stands in the way of the hero attaining his external goal (or vice versa; the hero may stand in the way of the heroine’s external goal). In “Michael”, the reporter falls in love with a rival reporter as they pursue the story of the angel Michael.

4. The heroine (or hero) must throw up obstacles to the other character’s external goal and his (her) love goal. In “Mrs. Doubtfire”, the Sally Field character stands in the way not only of Robin William’s external goal of seeing his children, she also stands in the way of him winning her back.

In his excellent article, “Writing Romantic Comedies”, Michael Hauge identifies some elements of romantic comedy:

1. The hero must be involved in a romantic pursuit. He is desperately trying to win (or win back), the love of his life. For example, Julia Roberts pursues her former best friend in “My Best Friend’s Wedding”. Ben Stiller goes after his high school love in “There’s Something About Mary”.

2. The hero (or heroine) must have a second visible or external goal. In “Groundhog Day” Bill Murray’s character is desperately trying to get out of Puxatawny, while pursuing a relationship with Andie MacDowall. Pursuing two goals increases pace, adds to the conflict and the humour, and helps the reader to become emotionally invested.

3. The characters in a romantic comedy never think their situation is funny. They are desperate to achieve their goals, and terrified of the conflicts they face. Michael Hauge says: “The driving motivations in romantic comedies actually grow out of immense pain and loss. The plots of the most successful romantic comedies of all time involve unemployment, disease, prostitution, physical abuse, physical deformity, humiliation, ridicule, the loss of one's children, attempted assassination, suicide and death.

The humor then arises from the way the heroes OVERREACT to their situations. They devise fantastic plots, pose as women, adopt false identities, juggle two lovers simultaneously, tell enormous lies, fly across the country to meet a voice on a radio, or do everything imaginable to sabotage their best friend's wedding.”

4. Romantic comedies are sexy. There doesn’t have to be a number of sex scenes, and in fact in romantic comedy movies, we rarely see the couple having sex. But if the characters end up in bed, there should be a clear lead up to that eventuality. It must feel inevitable.

5. Romantic comedies always involve some sort of deception. The hero is often pretending to be someone he’s not (Mrs. Doubtfire, Miss Congeniality). He lies to his loved one about his job (Michael, The Secret of My Success), his feelings (Jerry Maguire, As Good as it Gets) or his intentions (Groundhog Day, Roxanne). Michael Hauge says: “This dishonesty is necessary not only to increase the conflict and the humor in these films, but also to force the heroes to confront their own inner conflicts and deception. Only by facing the truth about themselves will they be able to change and grow.”

Have you ever written romantic comedy? Do you like to read romantic comedy, or watch rom-com movies? What is funny to you?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Welcome Brenda Whiteside

Brenda Whiteside

There’s a fine line between confidence and abject insecurity. For an author, the abject insecurity can sneak up at anytime and stall you, or at least convince you every word going from head to paper has bypassed the creative juice chamber coming out dry and tasteless. Such is the journey. And we all travel this road differently.

I love to write about characters on a journey, traveling both the physical and the mental roads. My first novel length release, Sleeping with the Lights On, has such a journey for my heroine, Sandra Holiday. Along the fictional journey I create pitfalls and summits, conflicts and resolutions. The road to publication is no different, although as authors we’d like to skip the pitfalls and conflicts. The path to getting my first book published could have been a dead end had the order of events happened differently.

The abject insecurity I mentioned earlier usually hits me three times when I’m writing a book: two chapters short of completion, while I’m writing the synopsis, and again right after I type “the end”. I always manage to muddle through the last two chapters, a whip in one hand holding off my negative inner critic. I wring those chapters out, a word, no a syllable at a time. I won’t even go into the torture of writing a synopsis. But the final phase, the now-I’m-finished-and-who-will-publish-this-inadequate-book is the hardest to overcome.

When I finished Sleeping with the Lights On, I entered two contests to confirm or put to rest my insecurity. Let someone else judge the book’s worthiness. And then I waited.

I’m not a patient person. In a rash moment, I queried one publisher. The Wild Rose Press responded so quickly asking for a partial, I was left giddy. A few weeks later, they requested a full. Jump ahead three months to “the call” or really the email. Excited? Oh, yes. Insecurity? Gone in a flash.

But here’s the difference between fiction and reality; between the logical order of events an author writes and real life experience. Two days after getting “the call”, I received notification on the two contests. The judges had a slightly different response to my book.

Rejection is hard to take regardless of how thick your hide. But I have to say, rejection is much easier to handle when you’ve already been accepted for publication. The journey to getting published is much better when the summit comes first and you can look down at the pitfall and scoff – with confidence. I’ll never know how I might have reacted to those less than winning critiques had I not published first. Would I have shoved the book into a drawer to collect dust? I hope not – must be a moral in this tale.

I haven’t found a cure for conquering the insecurities, but perseverance gets me over the crest. I won’t quit entering the occasional contest, but I’ll not take the results as the final word. My second, yet to be published novel is out there ready to be battered or praised by contest judges and publishers. This journey could be entirely different with an entirely different ending. The journey has to have a happily ever after ending and the trick is to not stop until you arrive.

Is there a book you’ve read and raved about that a friend found dull or boring? If you’re a writer, have you let a contest result influence what you did with your manuscript?

Brenda has been writing all of her life in one way or another from the captions on her childish artwork to teenage psychedelic scrolls to her current novel.
After publishing several short stories, she turned to writing novels. Regardless of the length of her story, the characters drive her forward, taking her on their journey of discovery and love.
Her life is blessed with three creative soul mates. Her son, a singer/song writer lives in a far off western town in the pines. She lives in Minnesota, a nature wonderland that captured her heart seventeen years ago, with her husband, an excellent photographer, and their dog Rusty, who creates joy (and is the smartest dog in the world).
Visit Brenda at on FaceBook:

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Naughty Ton Exposed - The Regency

Poor old George III, head of the losing side of the American Revolution - in case you are having trouble placing him - went mad late in his reign. It was determined that he was unable to rule in 1811. His son, later George IV, was instated as his father's proxy until the old king died in 1820 and George IV became king in his own right..

That period, 1811 - 1820, became known as The Regency and since he was not held in the greatest respect, the people of the day referred to Prince George, in his role as regent, as Prinny. The Regency Period was, by the way, the heyday of authors Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen.

There are many excellent romance writers who have claimed the Regency Period as their own. Lesley-Anne McLeod, the SRW-Lady-with-Two-Hats is one of them. Have a look at her web page to get a complete list of her titles.

Most of the Regency stories feature heroes who have served England as spies or army officers during the Napoleonic Wars, which started on the Spanish/Portugese Penninsula in 1809, and ended with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 in Belgium. Most of the heroines are ladies of The Ton - the Top Ten Thousand - aka the nobility.

In this blog, I have picked some of my favourite authors who have written about The Regency Period. I will give you the back cover blurbs that make you buy the book and, if you are properly hooked, the name of the publisher so you can find it in the stores or online.

One of the best known authors writing about the Regency Period is Mary Balogh - also a member of the SRW. I think she has some 70 titles in her back list. The Simply series or the Slightly series are a good place to start. My copy of Slightly Married is dog eared and nearly plumb worn out. It is my favourite of that series and an earlier book, Secret Pearl is one I am rereading just now. It is on its way to being a worn out copy - most of her's are. (Sorry if I am embarrassing you Mary, but truly....)


"Like all of the Bedwyn men, Aidan has a reputation for cool arrogance. But this proud nobleman also possesses a loyal, passionate heart - and it is this fierce loyalty that has brought him to Ringwood Manour to honour a dying soldier's request. Having promised to comfort and protect the man's sister, Aidan never expected to find a headstrong, fiercely independent woman who wants no part of his protection...nor did he expect the feelings this beguiling creature would ignite in his guarded heart. When a relative threatens to turn Eve out of her home, Aidan gallantly makes her an offer she can't refuse: to marry him...if oly to save her home. And now, as all London breathlessly awaits the transformation of the new Lady Aidan Bedwyn, the strangest thing happens: With one touch, one searing embrace, Aidan and Eve's "business arrangement" is about to be transformed...into something slightly surprising..."
This is a Dell book, released in April of 2003.

Stephanie Laurens has plenty of books in print, but among my favourite Regency romps are the books of The Bastion series. Seven noblemen, recently returned from the wars, face up to the fact that they must marry and carry on their noble family names. They don't want to be hunted down by the aggressive mothers of young debutantes, just out, and seeking husbands though. Young debutantes would never suit war hardened men who survived alone, behind the lines, during the Napoleonic Wars anyway. They decide to form the Bastion Club - a last bastion against the matchmakers of the Ton.


"The gentlemen of the Bastion Club have proven their courage while fighting England's enemies, but nothing has prepared them for dealing with that most formidable challenges: the opposite sex

Deverell, Viscount Paignton, is in desperate need of a wife. Unmoved by the matchmaking "herd", he seeks help from his aunt, who directs him to a woman she vows is just perfect for him. Dispatched to a country house party to look the lady over, he discovers her not swanning about among the guests but with her nose buried in a book in the library
Phoebe Malleson is tempted to distraction by Deverell, but marrying isn't part of her plan. Moved by an incident in her past, Phoebe has a secret cause to which she is committed. Unfortunately, telling Deverell to go away doesn't work and he quickly learns her secret. But someone powerful has her cause targeted for destruction - and he in their sights. Phoebe must accept Deverell's help... though the cost to them both might be dear - and deadly."

This series is published by Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and To Distraction was released in 2006.

Why The Secret Duchess is a favourite of mine I'm not sure, but it's a rereader. Gayle Wilson writes for Harlequin Historicals and Harlequin Intrigue. By 1997, she had ten Harlequin novels on the shelves. She was a RITA Award finalist for her first historical novel - and that's going some!


Mary Winters harboured a secret deep in her heart. She'd born the Duke of Vail a child, and was determined that no one - not even the noble love of her life - would ever uncover the truth.
Afire with the passion of youth, Nick Stanton had lain with Mary Winters. Now, scarred by warfare in mind and body, he feared he'd be no fit husband to his beloved - or father to the son now claimed by another man, a man whose one desire was to wreak vengeance on them all!
His Secret Duchess was released in 1997 by Harlequin Historicals.

Another favourite of mine is: To Sir Phillip With Love by Julia Quinn. I am sneaking this one into the Regency period although it is set a couple of years later - nothing drastic - 1823.


"Dear Miss Bridgerton,
We have been corresponding now for quite some time, and although we have never formally met, I feel as is I know you.
Forgive me if I am too bold, but I am writing to invite you to visit me. It is my hope that we might decide that we will suit, and you will consent to be my wife. Sir Phillip Crane."

"Sir Phillip knew that Eloise Bridgerton was a spinster, and so he proposed, figuring she'd be homely and unassuming and more than a little desperate for an offer of marriage. Except...she wasn't. The beautiful woman on his doorstep was anything but quiet, and when she stopped talking long enough to close her mouth, all he wanted was to kiss her...and more.

Did he think she was mad? Eloise Bridgerton couldn't marry a man she has never met! But then she started thinking...and wondering... and before she knew it, she was in a hired cariage, in the middle of the night, on her way to meet a man she hoped would be her perfect match. Except...he wasn't. Her perfect husband wouldn't be so moody and ill-mannered, and while Phillip was certainly handsome, he was a large brute of a man, rough and rugged, and totally unlike the London gentlemen vying for her hand. But when he smiled...and when he kissed her...the rest of the world simply fell away and she couldn't help but wonder...could this imperfect man be perfect for her?"
You'll probably love her letters to him. Julia Quinn has created a loveable and sprightly Eloise Bridgerton. In fact, he wholefamily sounds pretty interesting. This book, To Sit Phillip With Love, by Julia Quinn, was published by Avon in 2003. There are other Bridgerton books and a number of other interesting titles listed in this book.

Phew! This is a done bloggy.