Friday, December 28, 2007

It ain't over till the tree comes down

Christmas Day has come and gone, and so has Boxing Day (aka Avoid Malls At All Costs Day). I've cleaned and cooked and cleaned up from one holiday dinner, and had company last night. But it ain't over. Tomorrow, I have my family coming for another Christmas dinner (that's 22 people). So today, there's more cleaning and baking, as well as rearranging of furniture and hand washing of Christmas dishes and silverware.

I would be a lot less tired if the phone hadn't rung at 4:30 a.m. yesterday (wrong number); then I couldn't get back to sleep. Or if one of the cats hadn't done a hairball at 6:30 a.m. this morning, causing me to prowl about the house with a flashlight looking for said hairball.

Which means I'm really going to be the life of the party at the party I'm going to tonight. No wine for me, or somebody's likely to find me sleeping in a corner.....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It's out - I hope!

My latest book, KNAVE'S HONOR should now be on bookstore shelves -- at least, I hope the clerks haven't been too worn out to get it out of the stockroom and onto the shelves! I gather it was out last week in some locales, so thanks to those elves, I must say!

KNAVE'S HONOR is a sequel to my last two medievals for HQN, MY LORD'S DESIRE and THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT. All three books concern the same family of three sisters. The hero of KNAVE'S HONOR appeared in the first book (MY LORD'S DESIRE) and while Sister Number Three has never actually been seen "in person," she's been mentioned in the other two books.

I also want to note an error in the listing of these books on They've indicated these books are a continuation of my previous medieval series, Brothers-in-Arms, and they are not.

And finally, I'd like to say a big thank you to Cheryl St. John for mentioning KNAVE'S HONOR on her blog this week. Thanks, Cheryl, decorating guru as well as a heck of an author!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Holidays!

From the Moore Archives of Christmas Past:

Best Wishes for a happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year from this little girl who grew up but never stopped playing "pretend."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Reward for all that snow shoveling

Saturday and Sunday, we had the Big Blizzard of '07, which meant a whole lotta snow shoveling. I did some Saturday night, around 10:30 p.m.. I prefer to shovel snow at night, when it's quite and peaceful. Fortunately, there's a street light at the end of our driveway, so visibility is not an issue. We did the rest the next day, and it was three feet high on the sidewalk. My back, she aches!

However, TV Ontario gave me (and Daughter, too) a reward for our efforts. They have obtained the latest BBC productions of Jane Austen adaptations and began showing them last night, starting with Northanger Abbey. These are due to be broadcast by PBS in January.

NA was, in a word, wonderful. I really liked the guy playing Henry Tilney, JJ Feild (rarely do I think of a Jane Austen hero as "cute," but he qualifies -- and that's not a bad thing!) and I especially loved the Gothic imaginings of our heroine. Those parts were a hoot. I did the same sort of thing in one of the prequels to the book I just finished, A LOVER'S KISS. The heroine in KISS ME QUICK is writing a Gothic novel entitled The Castle of Count Korlovsky, and there are excerpts at the start of every chapter. Those were fun to write, so seeing something similar on TV was extra entertaining for me.

I hope the next ones are just as good -- and that I don't have to shovel snow first!

And just another reminder that my next medieval, KNAVE'S HONOR, should be out soon. Copies may already be lurking in the storeroom of your local bookstore.
Lady Elizabeth d'Averette chafes at the restrictions of a noblewoman's life, and her yearning for adventure seems to be coming true when she meets the remarkably handsome Sir Oliver de Leslille. But Sir Oliver is no true knight, and the handsome Irishman has other secrets, too. Soon Lizette finds herself embroiled in a rescue, as well as the chance to stop a treasonous conspiracy and protect her own family from men out to use them for their own evil schemes.

The Irishman who comes to Lizette's aid may be more honorable than many a knight, but he's still an outlaw. When they fulfill their mission to save his brother, her family, and the kingdom, they'll have to part...or will love -- and a clever thief and determined young woman -- find a way?

"Moore's medieval starts on an exciting note and maintains that sensation over the course of the whole book. She's created a great hero and heroine who take on a vile, well-written villain, and the love scenes, even though they're mild, add a great deal to the story."
-- Romantic Times

Read An Excerpt

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Three Godfathers

I was supposed to go somewhere today, but the snow's kept me home. So I took some time off and watched a movie I've never seen before, Three Godfathers, starring John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr. and Pedro Armendariz.

How on earth have I missed this movie??? It was wonderful -- made me laugh and cry. (And curse the phone solicitor who interrupted a key scene.) I'm putting it on my DVD wish list.

Now I'm off to use my "bonus" time to do a little work, a little sewing and a little baking, while enjoying the cozy warmth of the new gas fireplace. I may deck the halls a little, too!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Virtue of 1932

This morning I was flipping around the channels on the TV after finishing reading the newspaper, and I happened upon an old movie. I thought maybe the actress was Barbra Stanwyck, so I watched for a while. It wasn't her, but then came a scene that surprised me and got me thinking.

The hero thinks his wife's been up to no good while he's been working nights. She hasn't been fooling around on him, but he's too angry to listen to her explanation -- not that she offers any. She immediately says, after his first accusation, that he won't listen anyway so she won't bother trying to explain.

It occurs to me that this is the sort of thing a lot of readers find frustrating in romance novels. You probably know the old complaint -- if only the couple had a simple conversation, all would be well.

But then she says why she won't explain. She declares that he married her to "save" her and he's just been waiting for her to fail ever since. Essentially, nothing she says will make him believe she hasn't betrayed him because that's what he wants to believe.

Whooo! I was impressed that (a) she gave it right back at him. She wasn't going to grovel or beg him to forgive her when she hadn't done anything wrong. And (b) she realized the "wrong" was all in his mind and nothing she said would make him believe otherwise. Basically, he was never going to trust her.

I think that readers get frustrated by this type of scene if that sort of motivation is missing or unclear. Either the author hasn't bothered to get beyond "I need conflict!" in her thinking of the story, or it's already there but the readers miss it, or isn't as clear as the author thinks it is.

Also, if you've heard editors, agents or other writers talk about layering of plot and character? This is a good example of another layer. With it, the heroine's motive for not explaining is believable and sympathetic. The conflict is deeper, and more personal, more unique to these characters and their backstories. Without it, she looks stubborn or childish -- in a word, shallow.

Alas, I didn't get to see the end of the movie -- had to take out the garbage, leading the glamorous life of a published author as I do. However, I looked it up. The film was called "Virtue" and starred (a very young) Carol Lombard and Pat O'Brien. It was made in 1932 and wow! The Carol Lombard character meets her husband after being released after being charged with solicitation. She wasn't innocent; the judge is, basically, lenient. I didn't expect that sort of plot point from a film made in 1932.

Unintentional funny that dates the movie? The Big Bad's name is Toots.

Read the full synopsis here and I'm hoping I can catch it again sometime -- the whole thing.

Coming soon!


Lady Elizabeth d'Averette chafes at the restrictions of a noblewoman's life, and her yearning for adventure seems to be coming true when she meets the remarkably handsome Sir Oliver de Leslille. But Sir Oliver is no true knight, and the handsome Irishman has other secrets, too. Soon Lizette finds herself embroiled in a rescue, as well as the chance to stop a treasonous conspiracy and protect her own family from men out to use them for their own evil schemes.

The Irishman who comes to Lizette's aid may be more honorable than many a knight, but he's still an outlaw. When they fulfill their mission to save his brother, her family, and the kingdom, they'll have to part...or will love -- and a clever thief and determined young woman -- find a way?

"Moore's medieval starts on an exciting note and maintains that sensation over the course of the whole book. She's created a great hero and heroine who take on a vile, well-written villain, and the love scenes, even though they're mild, add a great deal to the story."
-- Romantic Times


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gifts that last

For the past couple of years, I've been making donations as part of my Christmas gifts to family members. The donations are earmarked for livestock or medical and/or teaching supplies, and there are a variety of price ranges, from stocking stuffers to major structures and materials. This year, I bought pigs, chickens, a mosquito net and vitamin A via Christian Blind Mission International.

And in other happy holiday news, when I checked what I've purchased against the Uber Gift List, I discovered I was almost done the shopping! Yeah! Now if only Road and Track's website would let me order a subscription...

Out this month:

Lady Elizabeth d'Averette chafes at the restrictions of a noblewoman's life, and her yearning for adventure seems to be coming true when she meets the remarkably handsome Sir Oliver de Leslille. But Sir Oliver is no true knight, and the handsome Irishman has other secrets, too. Soon Lizette finds herself embroiled in a rescue, as well as the chance to stop a treasonous conspiracy and protect her own family from men out to use them for their own evil schemes.

The Irishman who comes to Lizette's aid may be more honorable than many a knight, but he's still an outlaw. When they fulfill their mission to save his brother, her family, and the kingdom, they'll have to part...or will love -- and a clever thief and determined young woman -- find a way?

"Moore's medieval starts on an exciting note and maintains that sensation over the course of the whole book. She's created a great hero and heroine who take on a vile, well-written villain, and the love scenes, even though they're mild, add a great deal to the story."
-- Romantic Times


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Happy Holiday News

I just heard from my Esteemed Editor that my latest manuscript, A LOVER'S KISS needs only one minor revision -- I have to shorten a long scene. I kinda thought that might happen, so no nasty surprise there and whoo hooo! Not too difficult (she says, hoping the gods aren't chortling madly over this mortal's foolishness).

This is really good news, because at this time of year, I've got a lot to do. I'm not the greatest delegator in the world, so it's partly my own fault, but there it is.

Which brings me to a real downside of having a book out at the end of December. I have less time to do any PR, and I fear other women (my primary audience) are in the same boat -- too busy to notice my PR efforts. I just hope they're not too busy or tired to buy the book and enjoy it!

Therefore, I have decided that I'm going to put my book cover and blurb at the bottom of every blog post from now until, well, I stop. :-)

Lady Elizabeth d'Averette chafes at the restrictions of a noblewoman's life, and her yearning for adventure seems to be coming true when she meets the remarkably handsome Sir Oliver de Leslille. But Sir Oliver is no true knight, and the handsome Irishman has other secrets, too. Soon Lizette finds herself embroiled in a rescue, as well as the chance to stop a treasonous conspiracy and protect her own family from men out to use them for their own evil schemes.

The Irishman who comes to Lizette's aid may be more honorable than many a knight, but he's still an outlaw. When they fulfill their mission to save his brother, her family, and the kingdom, they'll have to part...or will love -- and a clever thief and determined young woman -- find a way?

"Moore's medieval starts on an exciting note and maintains that sensation over the course of the whole book. She's created a great hero and heroine who take on a vile, well-written villain, and the love scenes, even though they're mild, add a great deal to the story."
-- Romantic Times


Monday, December 10, 2007

'Tis the Season...for Lists!

I've been trying to get some Christmas shopping and planning done, which means it's time for Margaret's Many Lists. What kind of lists? Let me give you a few examples:

1. The Uber Gift List -- this is the list of recipients with suggestions for each. I have three siblings, their spouses and many nieces and nephews. We don't buy for each of them; we draw a name each, and the nieces and nephews become part of the draw when they're sixteen. So that means I now have only a niece and nephew "for sure," plus the draw folks, plus the parents. Then I have the in-laws, but they are much fewer in number, so that part of the list in consistent.

2. I have a list by store, if I hope to get more than one item in a store.

3. I have my kid's list. It's part of the uber list, but also involves lines drawn from one side to the other, so I make sure they each get the same number and I've spent approximately the same amount for each. (In addition to Daughter, I have Son -- but I'm not too sure how he'd feel about me mentioning him in my blog, so I tend to leave him out of it.)

4. I have the Hubby List, which lists the items my husband is responsible for buying.

5. I have the menus for Christmas dinner. This year, I'll be having two -- one for the in-laws on Christmas Day, my side of family on a later date.

6. I have the grocery list for each meal, plus the baking. I like to take homemade cookies, etc. for hostess gifts.

7. This year, I have a list of recipes to try before Christmas, to make sure things will turn out okay for the meals.

8. I have a list of things to do around the house before Christmas (at present, this one is still mostly in my head, but that will change, so I don't forget something).

9. On any given day, I have a list of what I want to do that day.

10. I also list emails to be sent/responded to, that I stick on the computer.

One of these years, I expect I'll be making a list of my lists. But it's the best way I know to keep myself organized. There's also something satisfying about seeing things crossed off and accomplished.

And hey, if it's good enough for Santa, it's good enough for me!

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Measure of a Man

I was, sadly, at a memorial service yesterday for the younger brother of one of my oldest friends. Jeff Vanstone passed away far too young at 47. I've known his sister, Suzanne, since high school.

Suzanne wrote a poem in honor of her brother for the service, and she's kindly given me permission to print it here.

The Measure of a Man

The measure of a man is not only what he achieves in his life
but how he achieves it.
The measure of a man is not only who he loves,
but who loves him.
The measure of a man is not only how he greets family,
but how he greets strangers.
The measure of a man is not only his gentleness
in dealing with his friends,
but his strength in dealing with his enemies.
The measure of a man is not only his joy in living life,
but his bravery in facing death.
My brother Jeffrey was a man who measured up -- a true man.

-- Suzanne Vanstone

If you'd like to use this yourself, or quote part of it, please email me at and I'll ask Suzanne for permission.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wherein I am somewhat baffled

Now that I've finished my manuscript and am in the "waiting to hear from the editor" stage, I've noticed something about the review for my next book, KNAVE'S HONOR, in Romantic times. The first is that that title of the book isn't with the review. There's my name, and the rating and the setting, followed by the quotable bit, and then a brief synopsis. But no title. I guess folks are just supposed to remember from the index, but that strikes me as a tad odd.

The other thing that struck me as odd was the sexuality rating for KNAVE'S HONOR. According to RT, it's "mild," which means "May or may not include lovemaking. No explicit sex."

Okay, I'll admit KNAVE'S HONOR is not the sexiest romance ever. My characters do make love, though, and I don't think it's any mystery that that's what they're doing.

So here's where I'm really baffled. What do they mean by "explicit" sex? I do describe the consummation, albeit in a few paragraphs. Do they mean in great detail? Do they mean with every body part described? No, I don't do that, but there's also the scene where they think they're being watched and since they're supposed to be husband and wife, they fake it. I think that part's kinda explicit.

I'll be interested to see what other reviewers and especially what readers think of KNAVE'S HONOR and the level of sexuality. Maybe readers will appreciate that I write books where the couples tend to have conflicts that prevent them from making love so that activity comes later in the book, rather than having them make love first and then have problems. Or maybe they'll be disappointed because they have certain ideas about what constitutes a historical romance, and lots of hot and heavy sexual activity is one to them.

I develop the physical intimacy in a way what feels true to me, in terms of character, plot and setting, so in KNAVE'S HONOR, that meant not a lot. In the next book (A LOVER'S KISS), however, well...there's more. Different characters, different setting, different plot, different emotional relationship means a different physical relationship.

That variation is something that helps keep writing interesting for me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Great Surprises

I've had a couple of great surprises lately. The first came when I received my author copies of my January release, KNAVE'S HONOR and discover -- whooo hooo! -- it has a step-back cover!

What's a step-back? That an extra fill color picture inside the book.

Obviously, it's the one without the writing on it. And isn't it lovely? I adore the heroine's dress. The hero looks mighty fine, too. Not quite the way I picture my man Finn, but then, I don't think anyone can exactly capture the vision I have of my heroes in my head. Heck, even I don't see a whole face as much as eyes and, ahem, lips.

The other big surprise came when I decided to go to my local fabric store. Well, that's really a good news/bad news scenerio. The bad news is, the store is closing. The good news? Oh, my gosh, everything was on sale, and I'm talking major discounts. I got some great forest green fabric to make tablecloths for the family Christmas dinner we're hosting this year. Twelve meters for $15 dollars, because it was buy one meter, get three free. Whoo! I have more than enough to make the cats their beds, using a Simplicity pattern that was also on sale.

There was one other hitch -- I had a pattern envelope for shorts for my nephew (he prefers to sleep in flannel shorts), and it's still somewhere in the store. Ditto my list, and a pattern. I discovered I was missing the pattern as they were ringing in the sale. Fortunately, they had another.

All that and a step-back, too! That's what I call a good day!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I finished A LOVER'S KISS this morning, and sent it off to New York this afternoon.

So, how am I feeling?

I gotta confess, I'm exhausted. My editor asked if I could get it in early, and I did, but I am one tired author. I've been out of the house a grand total of twice in two weeks. The laundry situation is grim. My office is a wreck.

And did I mention I'm exhausted?

The good news is, I think I've done a good job for my man Drury, a character I've been waiting to write about since 2002.

No, I'm not kidding. It's been quite the wait, but I've always wanted to write his story, and I've had a lot of emails over the years from readers who wanted him to get his own story. So yeah! And last night, when the last read-through was going really well (meaning I could actually go two even three pages at a stretch without making a change), I was giddy with joy.

Tomorrow, I'm not planning on doing much of anything. Except laundry.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Working through brrrrrr

So this is the weekend of the big deadline push, right? And my office is in the basement, where it gets a little chilly during the winter.

I wake up this morning and discover that sometime during the night, the furnace has ceased to function. Actually, I think it's the fan. Whatever. It's freezing. Well, 61 degrees, to be precise.

So we, who pay for the upgraded furnace service package, phone first thing. We're talking 7:15 am Sunday morning. The first time they can get here? Tomorrow morning.

"What are we supposed to do in the meantime?" says I. "Freeze?"

The answer, apparently, is yep, pretty much.

But wait! They have a techie phone service. Want to try that? Sure -- although we'll keep the service call on the schedule and cancel if necessary, because I gotta say, if the furnace quits the first really cold day of winter? I want that baby checked.

I get cut off THREE TIMES. The first, maybe human error. The second, I get "Your call cannot be completed." I try for third time lucky and get the same thing. The fourth time I call to say, "You have a serious problem with your system."

Good thing we got the gas fireplaces, because one space heater for an entire house? Ain't gonna cut it. Unfortunately, neither of them are in my office.

So think of me, huddled over the keyboard, scarf thrown artistically around my neck, finishing my manuscript.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Those wonderful "d'oh!" and "ah ha!" moments

So I've finished SON OF THE SHADOWS by Juliet Marillier and I enjoyed it. Not quite as much as the first book, DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST, but yes, as per Daughter's remarks, definitely an interesting hero.

There was also what I'd call a classic "d'oh!" moment on the part of the strong, reticent hero. Here it is:

"'Your kind are all the same. Catch a man in your net, draw him in, deprive him of his will and his judgment. It happens so subtly he is lost before he ever recognizes the danger. Then others are dragged in after him, and the pattern of darkness stretches wider and wider so that even the innocent have no escape." He stopped abruptly, clearly regretting his words."

In other words, d'oh!

I love those moments because they signal one of the first changes in the relationship between the hero and heroine. He's let his guard down enough to reveal something he prefers to keep to himself, either because of shame or pride or the fear that revealing such information weakens him. The strong, silent types I write have a horror of appearing weak, in any way, shape or form.

This also serves as a warning signal to the hero -- that woman is dangerous because she makes me drop my guard and reveal things. I'd better steer clear of her, no matter how interesting or sexy she may be.

For the heroine, such revelations trigger an "ah ha!" moment, because they're a window on what really makes the hero tick -- what's behind the strong silentness. She may pretend she doesn't care, but she'll never think of him in quite the same way again. She won't be able to completely dismiss him as an arrogant jerk.

On a deeper level, such revelations, whether conscious or not, are a form of intimacy, the beginning of a bond of trust. And whether they'll admit it or not, both realize that, and that their relationship has, therefore, changed. It's also one of the first indications that this relationship is going to be different from any others that may have preceded it.

It's also the sort of small step that if left out, causes readers to be mystified if the hero and heroine suddenly proclaim their love. The smaller stones lay the foundation for that profound emotional relationship, and if they're missing, it can seem as if the profession of love comes out of nowhere.

I tend to use this dynamic with the heroes having the "d'oh" moment and the heroines thinking "ah ha!", but there's no reason it couldn't work the other way around.

Either way, I just love those moments. In fact, I love 'em so much, I'll have more than one sometimes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reading just for fun

There was an article in this week's New York Times magazine by Virginia Heffernan called "In Defense of Lurking: Solitary consumption, not interactivity, may be the best thing about the Web."

In the article, Ms. Heffernan confesses to lurking a lot on the web. She likens it to taking without giving. However, she also makes the point that lurking isn't exactly new. "This practice of anonymously sitting back and taking in long sequences of words without producing any yourself? Hey, wasn't it once called, perhaps, 'reading'?"

She refers to the National Endowment for the Arts' survey that reported less than half of the population of adult Americans read literature in their leisure time. But, wait! says she. What about reading literature when it isn't a leisure activity? Some adult Americans read literature for work.

Furthermore, hasn't reading for fun become sort of, well, shameful? Aren't we wasting valuable time when we could be learning something? And then she says, "Even Harlequin readers, according to Janice Radway's superb 1987 study "Reading the Romance," praise the books they read as education: aspirational love stories evidently double as seminars in subjects like wine, furs, tiramisu and Tuscany."

Passing over the disparaging, disrespectful subtext to that particular quote (which seems to be "bless their poor, simple little minds") for a moment, I have to say, I think Ms. Heffernan is on to something here, and that is the notion that reading simply for pleasure, not education or "enlightenment" has become somehow bad. Never mind that reading for fun might reduce stress or make you a happier person. No, no! Reading for fun bad, reading to learn good.

I think there are two other reasons people are reluctant to either read for sheer pleasure, or admit they do.

It's a solitary pastime. Heaven forbid, in this day and age when people can't seem to walk down the street without having to tell somebody via cellphone where they are every single minute, that you choose to do anything alone. Talking to people (about anything) good, reading about people bad.

Reading is sedentary. I know people read while on treadmills, but a lot of the time, you're sitting. And sitting is bad. Exercise is good. I can't argue with that, although I think of reading as exercising the imagination. Still, sitting bad, activity good.

Nevertheless, and in spite of the efforts to make reading a guilty pleasure, I'm not buying into the guilt. I like to read for fun. Always have, always will. It relaxes me and makes me a happier, better person who's more pleasant to be around.

And perhaps Ms. Hefferner should consider that Harlequin readers might have made such comments as a defense, to prevent other people from making disparaging, disrespectful comments about their reading choices.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take the excellent book I'm reading just for fun (SON OF THE SHADOWS by Juliet Marillier), make myself a tea and read for awhile.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cornucopia o' Stuff

First up: We went to see the new movie Enchanted. Very nice, very sweet and amusing. I also turned to Daughter and whispered, "I notice they've got the guy in Regency-type clothes." Very clever, costume people! I don't watch Gray's Anatomy, but I can sort of see the appeal of McDreamy. He's no Richard Armitage or Gerard Butler, but I can see it.

Next up: THE BESTSELLER by Olivia Goldsmith. I haven't finished it yet, but I've realized it's making me kinda cranky. The dismissive, disparaging attitude to midlist books, paperbacks and romances is disturbing. I didn't think Ms. Goldsmith was in any particular position to throw stones, since her books aren't what I'd call literary fiction, so that's kinda surprising. And don't get me started on what is apparently considered a "small" advance.

Next, TV. I was reading THE BESTSELLER during Ugly Betty. Not good. I noticed last week that they've noticed that Betty is changing and not for the better. Uh, yep. It's like in a book when the author writes that the character knows they've done something stupid, and I'm thinking, "Uh, yep." If I ever put words like that in a character's mouth or mind? I know I've got some revisin' to do.

On the plus side -- Bryce is alive on Chuck. So I've got Chuck, Casey and Bryce all in one funny show. Sigh...

We've been doing our Armitage Aerobics to screen caps of Season Two of BBC's Robin Hood, thanks to the Armitage Army website. It's all about Sir Guy (since there are no screen caps of Robin Hood) and I think we're getting pretty good at deciphering Richard Armitage's facial expressions. And if it looks like he's going in for a kiss? Oh, the squeees. And then the groans because Marion continues to be an idiot and go for the kid (aka Robin Hood). Yes, in some ways, I am twelve, and I intend to remain twelve, thank you very much.

But please, what is up with Marion's clothes? I swear she was in a Laura Ashley creation in Episode Six.

And of course, I continue to work hard to get A LOVER'S KISS ready in time. I've got my man Drury in a very tough spot at the moment, but the heroine is about to arrive to save the day.

And next month, my Irish rogue, aka Oliver aka Finn, gets to make his feature debut in KNAVE'S HONOR. Between the arrival of Finn in bookstores and Santa, I'll be squeeing even more!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

First Review - whoo hoo!

My January release from HQN Books, KNAVE'S HONOR, (which is really out at the end of December) just got its first review and four stars from Romantic Times. Faith V. Smith at RT says:

"Moore's medieval starts on an exciting note and maintains that sensation over the course of the whole book. She's created a great hero and heroine who take on a vile, well-written villain, and the love scenes, even though they're mild, add a great deal to the story."

Whoo hoo! That's nice, eh?

But let me talk about my "mild" love scenes. No, I don't write super-sexy books. And the level and amount of sexual activity will vary from book to book. There are two basic reasons why.

First, I came to romance via the stories of Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and Errol Flynn movies, none of which has explicit scenes of sexual activity. So for me, romance doesn't necessarily include explicit sexual activity, and in fact, the real fun is to be found in the foreplay that isn't physical, but mental and verbal.

However, because I recognize that the physical component of a relationship is important, I will (usually) include a consummation scene. Note I don't call it a "love scene." I consider just about every scene of my hero and heroine together a love scene, whether there's a physical expression of passion, or not.

The other major factor that determines how much sexual activity takes place in my books stems from my particular background. I am old enough to remember when it was considered a great shame if a girl got pregnant without being married, and not just for the girl -- for her entire family. Was it fair? No, it takes two to make a baby and we're not talking a criminal act here, but that's the way it was. Why the shame? Because it meant the girl had been weak; she had lacked the self-respect and moral backbone to say no. So I simply cannot have my historical heroines blithely jump the hero's bones because hey, she wants him! without so much as a thought for what the serious, social consequences to her might be.

But wait! thinks those of you who've read my books. You have heroines who engage in premarital sex. What's up with that?

Well, they don't do it without considering the consequences. They are aware that they may suffer socially for making love with the hero if that's discovered, but what (hopefully) has happened during the course of the novel is that they have found the strength to overcome their fear of the possible fall-out. Their love and need to be with the hero, to express their love physically, is more important than the fear of being shamed or ostracized. They have found a different kind of strength.

So although sex sells, and especially now, I simply cannot shoehorn in sexual activity if I feel the story and characters don't warrant it. However, if the hero and heroine are married at the start of the story, there's no need for that angst, that journey to such a momentous, life-altering decision. Because there will be no social stigma if they make love, they are free to engage in sexual activity much sooner and more often during the course of the story (which is what will happen in my next medieval, THE WARLORD'S BRIDE).

I may hear from a few readers upset about the lack of sexual activity in KNAVE'S HONOR, because for them, romance novels require a certain amount, but my answer to them is what it is always is in such cases: I wrote the story about those particular people in that particular time the way I felt was true to both.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Really good reading!

I just finished a really excellent book, DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST, by Juliet Marillier. It's a fantasy story, set in Ireland and what I think is either Wales or Cornwall (the natives are just called "Britons"). I'm not a huge fan of fantasy or paranormal novels, but this one works for me because the fantasy element, while vital to the story, takes a back seat to main characters. It's also first person, not something I seek out, but again, it works for me because of the characters. It's the start of a trilogy, and I've got the second book, SON OF THE SHADOWS ready to read, and Daughter considers it the best of the three (because of the main male character, to which I say, if he's better than Red? Yippee!). It was Daughter who found this series, so I owe her one.

However, there was an excerpt from Book II in the back of Book I, and the main characters seem quite similar. Well, why not? They're related. But I decided to take a break in between so I'll be able to consider the second book without getting distracted by similarities. Now I'm reading THE BESTSELLER by Olivia Goldsmith.

I'm enjoying it, although I imagine if you haven't been exposed to the inner workings of the publishing world, this would be a lot more fascinating. At the same time, I can see why Ms. Goldsmith was a popular author. It's interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and there's one character I really, really want to get his comeuppance, so I can hardly wait to see what happens to him. And I just hit a really interesting plot twist.

Now, back to my own novel. I wound up tossing about 75 pages when I took out The Subplot That Didn't Work, and have been busily rewriting and adding new material, including the aforementioned 33 pages in yesterday's post. I've still got two scenes from the second draft to rework, and then it's new material after that. But it's near the end, and while the middle of my novels may not always be clearly set in my mind, the endings are, so that shouldn't be tooooo bad.

Wait! What's that sound? I fear the gods are beginning to laugh....

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nearly finished!

The Mantle Men are here, putting in the new mantles around the two new gas inserts and oh, my, are they lovely! I have waited a long time to get this done -- now I'm sure I waited much too long! I've been taking pictures and will post the "before" and "after" when finished because...did I mention how lovely it looks? And now the rec room will be toasty warm in the winter!

In other news, I'm furiously working away on A LOVER'S KISS. I wrote a whooping 33 pages on Friday, which was good, because I had a lot less time to work yesterday than I'd anticipated, due to major traffic snafus on the way home from a family function. And my back was pretty sore.

So I wasn't feeling terribly chipper this morning. And then the mantles arrived and Margaret's World is a happy place once again.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's the little things.....

I've decided that from time to time, I'm going to blog about the little things that give me joy. I've been working through a rough patch, and it's so easy to focus on the negative -- what's not working and how miserable it feels -- rather than the good things.

So today, I shall celebrate...

Post-it Notes.

Now, I'm going to date myself here, but believe it or not, I remember a time when there were no post-it notes. In those olden days, I used book marks made of scrap paper or paper clips to mark an important page. I wrote little notes on the book marks. (I only rarely write in margins, always in pencil, and never, ever, in a library book. I think people who write in library books should have to replace the book.)

Then, approximately when I graduated university, along came the first yellow post-it notes. They were available in one size and only that color.

Then, oh, then! How they developed. Different sizes, different colors, different textures, lined, personalized... A veritable plethora of post-its!

I use them a lot. As you can see, I keep a variety handy. For a long time, I didn't use them to stick notes to the monitor because they'd fall off, but now they've got a super-sticky kind and whoo hoo! I'm golden! (The two larger ones on the upper left are super-sticky.)

I can write on them! I can use different colors for different things! I can easily find scenes in a ms. that I'm planning to move and put elsewhere because there's a colorful little tab sticking out. I can mark important pages in my research books.

Yep, I love me my post-its.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What's in an adjective?

"Once you label me, you negate me."
-- Soren Kierkegaard

What's with the philosophizing, you may ask?

I had a long, delightful conversation with a fellow writer the other day. As we were yakking away about what we're doing, the state of publishing and the world in general, she did something that startled me for a milli-second at the time, but I've been thinking about ever since.

She referred to her romance novels as "novels." No adjective, no qualifier, no label, not the very general "book," but "novel."

I was startled because I don't think I've ever heard a romance writer refer to her work that way, simply as a novel. And I've been thinking about it and wondering, why not? We, and by we, I mean my fellow genre writers, do write novels, after all.

I think there's more to it than just describing the sort of novel I write. I believe there's a subtle stigmatizing afoot. A novel is admirable, literary, worthy of the Pulitzer or Oprah's magic wand o' promotion. A romance novel? Well, that's something else -- and to a lot of people, something a lot less worthy.

Should it be that way? No.

Do I think that's right? No.

Am I ashamed I write romances? Heck no.

I doubt my work will ever be described as "literary" and I won't hold my breath waiting for Oprah to give my book a nod, but I do think my novels are as worthy as some literary novels I've read.

So I'm going to start referring to my published works as novels. Not romance novels. Not historical romance novels. Novels.

Of course, if people want more information, I'll be happy to describe what I'm doing in more detail using those adjectives. But first and foremost, I am writing novels.

And that's what I'm going to call them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Yikes! It's getting down to the wire, folks, so I'll only be blogging on Wednesdays or Thursdays until the book is done.

In the meantime, I've posted a new excerpt on my site for my upcoming release, KNAVE'S HONOR.

I also have a release date for Drury's book, aka the work-in-progress, aka A LOVER'S KISS. It's August, 2008.

Now, to work with me!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Update Day

I'm updating my website today.

And working on the major revisions -- but I'm so glad I ditched that subplot! It was a painful decision, but a good one, I think.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


So I runs out to do some errands, taking a break from the slashing and deleting and overall destruction of some chapters of my manuscript (cursing myself thoroughly although knowing it's all for the best) and discover that -- egad! (and yes, I really talk that way) -- it's snowing.

I tells ya, what is happening to the gradual change of seasons? It's like we leap from winter to summer, with spring about a week long. This year, fall...well, was there even an autumn at all? Maybe a day or two. But I was in short sleeves last week.

Now, I like the snow -- around Christmas. Or if it's sunny. But as the Number One Snow Shoveler in the abode, despite the present of other able-bodied adults? Generally, I can do without it.

And this wasn't so much snow as slush from the sky. AND I just missed the post office pick-up.

I need chocolate. Hot chocolate. Stat.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tough Love

I had to make a tough decision over the weekend. I thought I had solved my subplot problem with the work-in-progress, only to realize It was worse and deeper than I thought.

Because I'd made a very basic mistake.

I found a fascinating historical fact and was so keen to use it, I tried to shoehorn it into a story that it didn't really suit. As I said to my editor when I emailed her about it, I was trying to combine My Fair Lady with Law & Order, and it wasn't working. The My Fair Lady part (ie. the romance) had to have a certain tone (lighter), and the Law & Order part a different one (quite dark). However, I already had dark undercurrents to the romance, so add in the L&O, and oooh, baby, the balance tipped way over to the dark side.

If this were a medieval, or being written by somebody else, that might be perfectly fine. But this is a Regency, being written by me, which means I want lots of snappy dialogue more suited to a comedy than a drama. This also being me, however, I want those dark undercurrents -- but it wound up really ping-ponging between lighter and dark and very dark.

So it became not just a plot problem or a pacing problem, but also a tone problem. If there's one place I don't want conflict in my book, it's the overall tone. Scenes can have different tones, of course, depending on what's happening, but I don't want it sound like I tried to combine two very different stories into a Frankenbooken.

Fortunately, my Esteemed Editor agreed to the change.

I must confess, it was like getting an 800 lb. gorilla off my back.

That does mean a lot of rewriting, but I tell ya, it's a lot easier to do that than to try to make the wrong shoe fit.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Control Issues

I had a very nice email from a reader the other day. However, it also reminded me of the gap between what the reading public sometimes assumes about publishing and the realities of the publishing business for authors. Specifically, a lot of readers assume writers have a lot more control over the publication process than we do.

Here's what I control: I come up with the story idea. I'm more independent than some on this, by my choice. I never ask anybody what I should write next. Maybe that's a problem, but I'm stubborn that way.

I control my characters, except for the times words that I haven't foreseen pop out of their mouths and that take the story in a slightly different direction.

I control the plot. I decide what ultimately is going to happen to my characters. Sometimes I make mistakes and have to backtrack, but I'm still in the driver's seat.

Even after the manuscript has been edited, I still have some control over the story. I can ask that changes be reversed, or add or change some things, at least up to a point.

All the other elements of a book's production are pretty much out of my hands. Naturally, I'd love to have more control -- who wouldn't? But unless I want to start my own publishing company or become a mega-seller, the only part of the publishing process I truly control is my imagination.

And sometimes, apparently, not even that.

Monday, November 05, 2007

History vs Fantasy

My daughter has a degree in English and Medieval History. Her mother writes historical romance novels. Wanna know what she likes to read?

Fantasy, or as we call them around here, "Shadow of the Wolf of the Moon" books. Because really, it seems like wolves and shadows and the moon feature in just about every title. Kind of like Bride, Desire, Rogue, etc. in historical romance titles.

Anyhoodle, I finally asked her why she likes those books, especially the pseudo-medieval ones, but doesn't read historical romances or historical novels.

Here answer was, basically, because she doesn't know what's going to happen in the fantasy books.

That's her main problem with historical novels especially -- she knows what, historically, has to happen and so will happen.

With historical romances, there are also certain givens (the hero and heroine will survive, for instance) that take away from the surprise factor.

I'm wondering how many potential or former historical romance readers have wandered over to fantasy because they want a more unpredictable read.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Eureka Moment

I've been fussing and fuming over the first three chapters of the work-in-progress again, specifically wondering how I could avoid the dreaded info dump. You know, when the author has a lot of information to get into the story to explain what's going on, as well as the characters' motivations?

As it was, I had two characters having a long conversation about why the hero was where he was during the inciting incident, and the revelation that the hero's just got a new brief, to do with a murder (he's a barrister). Drury describes the crime and how he got involved in the prosecution. Unfortunately, it's a pretty static scene.

But what to do? The crime's important in terms of the plot. I cut and cut, but still...zzzzzz.... And he's going to have to explain it again to the heroine later, too.

Then, this morning, I came up with a solution. How? I don't know. I've been pretty much mentally complaining without much luck. Maybe my subconscious saw a way out while I slept.

All I know is, I realized that instead of having the story set just after the crime and Drury's meeting with the victim's brother, I can set it later, when it's nearly time for the trial. It still makes sense in terms of the inciting incident; in fact, in hindsight, it's better.

And now my hero doesn't have to explain to his friend what's going on, because the friend already knows. I can get the information in as required, but in much smaller pieces. And this way, I can keep the focus less on the crime, and more on the relationship developing between the hero and heroine.

Whew! I'm both relieved and excited. I've got a lot of re-writing to do, but it feels like a good decision, so I'm a happy writer today.

(Why the bathtub? It's a reference to Archimedes' realization about displacement, which apparently came to him when he got in his tub. He then went running naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting, "Eureka!" I wasn't quite that excited.)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bee Gone

Sometimes, something comes along that is totally over-hyped and over-marketed to the extent that the marketing actually makes me want to stay far, far away from the product.

Jerry Seinfeld's new animated movie falls into that category. I am delighted Bee Movie is finally opening today because -- oh, please! -- now the marketing can stop.

I understand the marketing saturation on one level because I'm sure they paid JS the big bucks for this movie and they want to earn it back.

But here's where I get confused -- for all the commercials, personal appearances of Mr. Seinfeld, etc. etc., I don't have any idea why I should bother to go. What's so special or appealing about this movie?

Despite all the marketing, this is all I can tell you about the film:

Jerry Seinfeld's character is a bee. He flies around a lot. I think maybe somebody named Renee voices a character, but it's mostly JS's character flying around.

The movie's genesis was a pun -- a "b" movie that's about a bee! Get it?

If I were a huge Jerry Seinfeld fan, or simply desperate to get to a movie, that might be enough. As it is, it's not. I gotta have the sense that there's an interesting and/or funny story there. Maybe even, you know, a theme. One character flying around, even if it's voiced by a Jerry Seinfeld, and a cute title is simply not enough.

The result? The unrelenting barrage of ads, etc., has had the exact opposite effect to what they were hoping for. I can't wait for this movie, and all the hype, to bee gone.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Another Revelation

So last night, as I was editing while manning the door for the tricker treaters -- and don't get me started on the teenagers who arrive sans costume. Talk about taking the bloom off the tomb! -- I realized something.

I simply cannot write a book on the computer alone. I can't even do multiple drafts without a hard copy edit. I don't seem to get the right perspective, which means I wander farther off the path and wind up with more material to be cut than if I read the manuscript on paper.

Is it because having the book on paper gives me a little more distance? Is it because the screen only shows a part of the page, and I need to see the whole thing? Is it because I began writing on an IBM Selectric?

I don't know, but I do know that from now on, I'm going to make a hard copy every time I finish a chapter and not move on until I've done at least one pass with my red pen.

Sorry to the trees, although I do recycle as much as I can. Previous draft pages get cut up for making my many lists and other notes before they go to the recycling bin. But I think I've got to go back to the way I began writing, and that means piles of paper and lots of colored ink.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Hallowe'en!

My most memorable Hallowe'en costume proved astonishingly prophetic. No, I didn't dress up as a writer or a book.

I was a telephone.

My mother took a large cardboard box and painted it black. She got the handset of an old toy phone and painted it, and the cord, black and attached it to the side of the box. She made a rotary dial, because this was The Olden Days, and glued it to the box. She cut a rectangle above the dial so I could see. I wore black tights and voila, I was a phone.

Why prophetic? Because my mom and I talk on the phone every day, sometimes more often. The phone has become a sort of theme for us.

I wish I had a picture of this, but alas, I don't. My folks weren't much for taking pictures. Although somewhere (and I keep searching) there is a picture of me standing in Algonquin Park with a pen and a crayon box, pretending I'm a reporter.

When I look back at the games I used to play and the books I used to read and the movies I used to watch, I see so many things that made me into a writer I am today.

Like playing dress-up, having fun by becoming somebody else for a little while. My Grade Two teacher referring to me as her "little bookworm." The sheer thrill of the arrival of a Scholastic Book order. The happy times in amateur theater (once again becoming somebody else for a little while). There are more, but these are the first that come to mind.

When you look back, do you see things that pointed to the writer you would one day become?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Strengths and Weaknesses

Further to my previous blog about strengths and weaknesses, it's sad but true that when it comes to writing, an author's strengths or weaknesses can be as subjective as anything else.

For instance, if a writer's good at dialogue, so there's lots of it in a book, that tends to make for a fast-paced, character-driven story. Some readers will love that, and consider that a great strength on the part of the writer. Other readers who prefer a different sort of story might consider that a weakness. Where is the lush description and interesting detail? However, for those who prefer a fast-paced story, that lush description and added details are just boring distractions that they tend to skip. They would consider that a weakness.

I don't think there's a solution to this. Like so much of writing, it

But while I'm on the subject of skipping parts of a book, I have to say I always get a little cranky when I hear a reader announce, often with what seems a great deal of pride, that they "just skip all that stuff", whether it's love scenes or historical background, or anything else.

I, and most authors I know, don't just toss "stuff" in our books for the heck of it. If it's there, it's there for a reason, whether because it's important in terms of character, plot or setting, or because it's what makes that author different from another. Skip something, and you're missing something.

It's like eating half a cookie.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jack of all trades, master of none?

There was an interesting blog post over at Romancing the Blog on the weekend. The general gist of it was, do you work on your strengths or your weaknesses?

This reminded me of something I read long ago, and not in a writing book. It was a business book called IF IT AIN'T BROKE...BREAK IT! AND OTHER UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM FOR A CHANGING BUSINESS WORLD by Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler.

"Plugging the holes in your game causes you to spend too much time on what doesn't work. Though you may go from poor to fair, you rarely excel at that which is not your strong suit. Then, because you are spending so much time focusing on your weak points, you don't have time to hone the skills you are good at. The result is that you never excel at anything."

Does this mean I don't work on my weaker areas of writing? No. I do. However, I don't think this needs to be an either/or proposition. You can work on weak areas while continuing to hone your strengths -- just don't work so hard on your weaknesses you neglect your strengths.

How do you know what you do well as a writer? By writing. What you enjoy writing is probably what you do best. Then submit to editors or contests. Pay heed to consistent comments about areas that need improvement. Obviously, these are your weaknesses. If you get compliments on other elements, or no comments at all, those are your strengths.

(If you're wondering why I don't have any pictures in the recent blogs, I'm not in my office. I'm upstairs, in the Red Room o' Doom, using my daughter's laptop, because I've got a couple of guys painting and papering the basement stairs and hallway, so it's an obstacle course to get to my office.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Armitage Aerobics

I've read many times that laughing out loud is a good workout -- good for the heart and circulation, and releasing endorphins.

I've just spent half an hour doing what I'm calling Armitage Aerobics with my daughter. The Armitage Army website has posted pictures from the first three episodes of Season Two of Robin Hood featuring Richard Armitage as Sir Guy and we've been laughing, sighing, shouting at Marian to stop being so stupid and go for Sir Guy, and lamenting when it looked like Sir Guy was going to hit her ("You can't do that!" cries Daughter. "You're not really evil!" He didn't.) We were also making our own sound effects, including the Scooby Doo "raaarh" when he seemed upset.

Since we don't have any idea of the stories that go with the pictures, we had a fun time coming up our own. Alas, I have to wait for the DVDs to find out if we were on the right track at all, but we sure had a good time.

One thing we've noticed, and it's really too bad. Is their costume budget about fifty cents? They seem to have to use sub-par materials, as if it's a high school production, and that's really too bad.

And we will not mention the fact that Sir Guy seems to be putting armor on over his bare skin. Well, okay, I've mentioned it. Much as I appreciate shirtless Sir Guy, no knight would do that. He would be wearing a padded jacket called a gambeson. Otherwise, OUCH! The chafing! Maybe he was just trying it on to see how it fit...but still, gambeson!

As I was bemoaning this, my daughter pointed out that historical accuracy is clearly not something they're aiming for. Therefore, she reasons, they should have Richard Armitage shirtless all the time. I personally think that would be too distracting. And for me, it's his face that I find most interesting. That man can say more with a look than many, and his glares are just what a glare ought to be.

And now, duly inspired, it's off to work with me. I do believe my hero is glaring in the current scene-in-progress. If not, I suspect he may be before it's over.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Good News/Bad News

So the good news is, The Amazing Race starts November 4. The bad news is, the clocks go back early that morning. I am sad when the clocks go back. It means winter is not far off. I like winter at Christmas, then I wish it were over.

The good news is, we have gas inserts! The bad news: there was a problem with the switches and remote. The good news is, the guy came the next day to fix it. The bad news is, I lost an hour of prime writing time.

The good news is, we got back our server, all refinished and with drawer, shelf and back that needed to be built. The bad news: they put the leaded glass in the doors in upside down. The good news is, they sent somebody to repair it the next day and it took all of about five minutes. The bad news, I was a tad stressed when I realized there was a problem.

The bad news is, I haven't started writing until after 10 pm the past two nights. The good news is, I'm an owl, not a lark, so I think it's been good stuff, not just writing for the sake of writing. Actually, that's a really good thing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Whoooooo hooooo!

While I believe Hugh Jackman is a heck of a performer, I can't be sorry his new show got canceled. Because -- oh, joy, oh, rapture! -- they've moved The Amazing Race into the slot, so instead of starting in January, it will be starting November 4. It's like an early Hallowe'en treat!

Mind you, I'm already worried about a team getting eliminated (Father/Daughter). You can see all the teams and read their bios as at

In other news, why is it that everything we've had done on the house and/or repaired has had another problem that needed to be fixed? Fortunately, the folks who needed to do the fixin' have all been quick to do so, but it means more time away from the working.

But I'm too happy to be frustrated today. The Amazing Race! Whoo whoo!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lessons from Kid Nation

Yes, I confess: I've been watching Kid Nation. More than that, I've been fascinated by it. If I had school-age kids, you can bet I'd be watching it with them and using it as a springboard for discussions about dealing with problems, what makes a good leader, etc.

For instance, take Mike, the ousted leader of the Red District. First, I wish those votes had not been read out loud. Poor kid -- that was brutal. Mike's failure as a leader, though, I think, is his lack of sense of humor when it comes to issuing orders and being in charge. He has a sense of humor as revealed in the interviews, but he seemed to lose it when being in leader-mode, especially at the first sign of a challenge to his authority.

Then there's the ousted yellow leader and her acolytes. Plenty of fodder for lots of discussion there on leaders and followers.

On another note, it must be the romance writer in me, but I think Green Leader Laurel is sweet on bad boy Greg (who's not so bad). I could so see a YA romance developing between them. Could that be why, having written one YA romance (GWYNETH AND THE THIEF), I suddenly have a hankering to write another?

Overall, I'm impressed with the majority of the kids. Many of them make other reality show contestants look immature.

Speaking of other reality shows, what's going to happen tonight on Survivor? Do those women think James (hero to older, hardworking women and lunch ladies everywhere) is going to feed them after they threw the challenge and laughed about it? Obviously, they don't care what he thinks, how he feels and assume, given his will to win, that he will still continue to exert himself in the challenges. Maybe he will, but get food for them? I'm thinking, no way. I really, really hope there's going to be another team switcheroo. I want James to get the last laugh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Later that same day....

Argh. Yargh. Clutching of short hairs on head.

I started a new scene, but have just spent the last hour and a half's wrong. It doesn't feel right. What's it contributing? Is it just same-old-same-old?

I'm going to put it in the cut file and start another scene. I thought I could see my way clear to the end of the ms, but obviously, no. I've hit a speed bump.

At least the repair is going to be a fast, easy fix and the guy's coming tonight.

Nevertheless, ARGH.

ETA still later that same day -- I wound up keeping that scene. It might not make the final cut, or may be rolled into another scene, but there was material in it I deemed worthy of keeping. Then I wrote a new scene. Onward and upward! And hey, I'm done and it's not yet 4:30. Yeah!


So today, when I thought I'd have the house all to myself, I am -- of course -- waiting for a phone call because of a repair gone slightly awry. That's right up there with waiting for a repairman for disturbing my concentration. But it's got me thinking about distractions.*

I don't work in four-five hour stretches when I'm writing the first draft. I don't work more than about two hours at a time, with two hour breaks, because first drafts take a lot of mental effort. Every scene, every paragraph is full of decisions -- do this, and that could happen. Do that and it could go that way. That's very mentally exhausting. So for me, the breaks are necessary.

But here's the key thing: I like to break when it's good for me. If I'm in those two-hour working periods, a forced break due to an interruption is extremely frustrating, because my train of thought -- where the most recent decisions were taking the story -- has been broken. It can take awhile to get back onto that path.

So if I distract myself (and I do!), that's okay, because I'm choosing the time. Somebody else "chooses" the time? Not good.

* I just got the call I was expecting, so now I can work without that little distraction bothering the brain.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Creative Differences

I've been reading a book called REINVENTING THE REST OF OUR LIVES: WOMEN IN SECOND ADULTHOOD by Suzanne Braun Levine. I doubt I'll finish it -- it seems very much aimed at busy career women of a certain socio-economic bracket. In other words, not me.

Also, I don't have to be told to examine my life. I do that all the time. I think it comes with the territory. As I try to figure out my characters' motivations, I often think about my own.

And I keep remembering something I once heard about boomer women and childbirth: "You'd think nobody'd had kids until they came along."

Despite my quibbles, this book does have some interesting parts, and I can relate to elements of it. There was one part that really stood out for me. The author has been an editor of a number of magazines. She lost her job and:

"OK, I thought, I'll become a writer instead.... What I didn't understand then is that, although the elements -- words -- are the same for an editor and a writer, the practice is diametrically opposite. The difference lies in whose words they are. Running a magazine is primarily reactive -- issuing assignments and decisions in response to the need of the publication and the staff, making other people's words work, and talking, talking, talking. Writing is internal: pushing the brain to find new questions and to answer them in compelling ways. And any conversation that takes place is inside your own head. It is profoundly assertive, aggressive work, more active than anything I had done before."

Whoo, Nelly! Assertive? Aggressive? What the --?

But you know, I think she's on to something.

I think it is pretty assertive and yes, aggressive, to say, "I'm going to tell story and I believe I'll do it well enough that people will want to read it."

Romance writer as Amazon.

Yep, I like it!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Holding Pattern

Today we're getting something done that I've been wanting to do for about the last ten years. Our two allegedly wood-burning fireplaces that don't draw properly so you can't use them are being replaced by gas inserts. First, though, we're getting the mantels remodeled. Which means this morning, I am waiting for Mantel Man to arrive. It's after 9 a.m., so I'm starting to think I should have phoned last week to ask what time he's starting today.

This is the sort of situation where working at home is both good and bad. Good, because I don't have to miss work staying home to supervise. Bad, because I still have to work regardless of what's going on in other parts of the house. At this point in the proceedings, I'm also typing while listening for the doorbell and wondering if I've got the wrong date or something else has gone wrong. Not exactly conducive to creativity, that.

This explains why I am blogging right now, and not working on Chapter Thirteen. (Thirteen? Coincidence??)

This is also why, if I have to call a repairman or other contractor, I will often say I'm taking the day off work, because in a sense, that's true. I really can't concentrate fully under such circumstances. I can revise, but it's very difficult to write new material (and really good luck if I'm at a love scene!). Unfortunately, I learned long ago that if such fellas (and they have always been men) think I am "just" a housewife, my appointment gets low priority. After all, I think they reason, I've got nothing else to do and nowhere pressing I have to be.

Infuriating? Oh, heck, yes! As a stay-at-home mom, I had even less time to wait around when my kids were smaller, between volunteering at school, going on field trips, driving to lessons, etc. etc. Stay-at-home was a real misnomer.

I'll give it a little longer, then give Mantel Man a call. In the meantime, I'll fire up the writing computer and read through what I wrote yesterday. I might not get to the new stuff until after 4. Again.

This may turn out to be The Book Written When I Should Be Making Dinner.

ETA: Mantel Man and Assistant arrived at 9:50. Yeah!

Friday, October 19, 2007

End o' the Week Potpourri

Now that I've finished revising and am into the new writing, it's a bit of a tough slog. It's like I'm feeling my way in the dark, knowing where I have to go, but at the moment, I can't quite see how I'm going to get there. As I've learned, though, the only way to find out is to keep writing.

However, I had to take time out today to update my website. There was a lot to do, and it was made more complicated and frustrating because I was trying to do something only to discover the code only worked on Internet Explorer. Since I use Mozilla most of the time, I took it out. Too bad, because it was kinda cool.

Now off to go through what I wrote yesterday, then carry on, even though it's 4:30 in the afternoon. Take out for dinner tonight, methinks!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Only so much time in the day....

This blog post will be short, because I also have to update my website. I have some Very Exciting News to announce, which also means changing more than one page, which means more work.

I also have to go back and remove a plot/character ball I tossed into the air yesterday. Upon further reflection, I decided it was one character/complication too many. Then I really need to move on with the next scene.

Based on some most excellent advice from Blog Guru Kimber Chin, I have a few things to add/work on with my blog, too, and I'd like to get started on them.

So lots to do -- and may wind up making a fast trip to the vet, because we cannot get The Count to take a pill. He's no little sylph, and is really strong and fights like the dickens. I finally tried crushing it and adding it to his food, since he's a big eater, but he figured it out and is now giving me the stink eye.

So, to work with me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What makes the middle so tricky?

You often hear writers, myself included, complain that the middle of a book is the most difficult part to write. And plenty of reviewers will point out when a book has a "sagging" middle, when the tension that fuels the story just seems to peter out.

Why is that?

The beginning, aka the set-up, introduces the main characters, the major internal, external and romantic conflicts, the secondary characters and the subplots. You're getting all the balls in the air. The ending is where you resolve everything -- the balls come to rest.

When you're in the middle of the book, you've got all the balls in the air and now you have to juggle them so that none fall down or the audience doesn't get bored watching.

That is not easy.

How do I try to avoid the sagging, boring middle?

Well, I try not to spend too much time on one element to the detriment of another. I try to find the right balance between character development and backstory, subplots, development of the romance, and historical research.

It can be really tempting to put in too much research. How much is too much? Some readers love a wealth of details and information, others do not. I try to find a balance between enough information to keep things interesting and accurate without making the research stand out. I'm not out to impress my readers with the hours I've spent reading about oh, say, medieval kitchens. I'm out to make them feel as if my characters are really in a medieval kitchen.

I have to be careful I don't dwell too much on the subplots and secondary characters, lest I wind up with Subplotus Overwhelmus. I love my secondary characters, so this is something I have to watch. I have to be especially careful if a particular character is, or might be, a potential hero or heroine. This is how one of my secondary characters in The Welshman's Way wound up with a concussion -- I knocked him out to keep him out of the story.

The middle of a romance is where lust becomes love. I have to show the deepening emotional involvement of the characters and the signs that this relationship can last. This is where I also show the increasingly physical intimacy of the characters. Even if it's a marriage of convenience story with a consummation scene near the start, the physical intimacy changes during the middle, to something more tender and more meaningful.

I may have given the impression that a good middle is all about finding the perfect balance, as if it could be solved by a simple mathematical formula. If only it were so easy! Because of course, it's not. With a romance novel, the main focus should be on the relationship between the hero and heroine, so the scales should tip a little more toward that. And some aspects of the plot and the research and subplots and secondary characters may be more interesting and relevant than others. So the scales will tip and dip and sway as you go. To go back to the juggling analogy, sometimes one ball will be up, another down, but it's not as if they're always going in a perfect circle or rhythym.

And that's what makes the middles really tricky. That's why even seasoned writers can stumble and drop a few balls in the middle of a book. And this is also, I think, the part of writing that separates the people who toy with writing a book from the people who can and will write a book.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Did you catch Oprah today????

I don't usually watch Oprah, but I did today and whooo hooo! Had to blog about it. About as much of an endorsement of romance novels as we're ever going to get on Oprah. The guest, Dr. Christiane Northrup, suggested them as pre-bedtime reading, whether for relaxing or, ahem, revving up, noting there was a reason they sold so well.

Now, I don't personally think of the latter as a reason people read my books. Mine are simply not that focused on physical intimacy, although, since we are talking loving relationships, I don't generally close the bedroom door. I have, though, in three of my Victorian Harlequin Historicals (THE WASTREL, THE DARK DUKE and THE ROGUE'S RETURN. It didn't seem right to have a consummation scene in those books, so I didn't, and the editors had no problem with it.

If somebody does find my books a little, ahem, stimulating, that's fine. And if they find them relaxing, that's fine, too -- as long as they aren't falling asleep 'cause they're bored!

Tough Going

I'm having a bit of a tough time with the work-in-progress at the moment -- and it's not the writing, it's the interruptions.

Well, okay, it's the writing, too. I'm in the middle of the manuscript, which is always a bit of a tippy-toe through the marsh experience for me. Am I on the right path, or am I wandering off into the quicksand?

So there I am in a tougher part of the process and suddenly, I'm getting interruptions. More than usual. What is up with this? It's like somebody's issued a challenge. Let's see how often we can interrupt Margaret.

Maybe I'm just noticing the interruptions more and being more bothered because I'm in the tricky middle, where I need to really concentrate, so getting interrupted is extra frustrating.

Either way, I feel like disconnecting every phone and sticking a sign on the front door that says, "Writer At Work. Ring Bell At Your Peril."

Know what I mean?

(We interrupt this grouchy post to say, my email newsletter subscribers should be getting a post today with some exciting news, so all is not grinding teeth and furrowed brow at Casa Moore. Newsletters subscribers get first notice of such news. Wanna subscribe? See the sidebar.)

ETA: So I decide to take a break and do a little blog-hopping, and I get to fellow Harlequin author Michelle Styles's blog and from there to another blog belonging to Phillipa Ashley with a picture of a shirtless Richard Armitage and now I'm grinning. Thank you, Michelle and Phillipa.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Sadly, I must agree with the reviewers who had problems with this movie. For one thing, if I'm noticing the camera work? That's a bad sign.

Secondly, I never thought I would say this but...there was too much Clive Owen. Too many close-ups of Clive Owen. Yes, he's good looking and a heck of an actor, but at a time when there was so much going on, I could have used less of Sir Walter Raleigh. (After the movie I went to the fast, if not always accurate, source of info, Wikipedia, to find out what the dealio was with Raleigh. Apparently his wife carried around his embalmed head for 29 years. Some may call that devotion. I call it, "Eeeuuuw!")

I really got the impression the director was more interested in making pretty pictures/tableaus than telling a good, or even coherent, story, let alone being historically accurate. The execution of Mary Stuart stands out in this regard.

Now, to give the director a break, there was a lot going on in this period of Elizabeth's reign, so there was a lot to choose from, and you can't please all of the people all of the time. However, he's apparently decided to make a trilogy about Elizabeth and that, I think, added to the problem. Things are introduced here and take up time/space for no apparent reason except to set up the next film -- or at least I'm assuming little Isabella of Spain will figure prominently in the next film, or else what the heck was she doing so much in this one?

And if you're talking about the Armada, shouldn't we at least get a glimpse of, oh, say, Sir Francis Drake, if not the guys who really did the planning and the fighting instead of Sir Walter?

But really, one of the things that bothered me most was the portrayal of Elizabeth as a woman on the edge of a breakdown. Or like the worst stereotype of a menopausal female (although they gloss over Elizabeth's actual age). I get that you might want to show her as a normal woman, with fears and doubts and longings. In fact, one of the best parts of this movie for me harkened back to the first, and showed her fantasizing. I could get buy that. But the hysterics seemed over the top for a woman who held her own in what was very much a man's world for so long.

All in all, I was disappointed and not even the excellent actors could save this film for me. I kept thinking about the wonderful version of Elizabeth's reign, Elizabeth R, starring Glenda Jackson, although I haven't seen it in a very long time. It was a six hour mini-series made for TV, so there's more room for history and character development. I've put it on my Christmas list. I will not be asking for Elizabeth: The Golden Age.