Thursday, May 31, 2007

Whoo hoo (and just plain whew!)

It's nearly time for the release of my next book, THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT.

This means it's also time for the reviews to start coming in.

I approach reviews much as one would a snarling animal: warily and with trepidation. I never know how my books are going to be received.

Especially books that were not, shall we say, a walk in the park to write.

THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT was not an easy book for me for a couple of reasons. I had a lot of Life Stuff going on while I was writing it -- nothing tragic to do with my immediate family, fortunately, but otherwise, serious and distressing.

For another, as I began writing the book, I found a major historical research boo-boo that affected not just THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT, but at least one book to come after. Fortunately, it didn't matter for the prequel (MY LORD'S DESIRE). And some people said, "Who would know?" about the mistake. Well, I would know, so I had to make some major changes to the plot and the hero's history.

I also gave myself a tricky sort of heroine. Instead of the hero being the strong and silent type, Gillian is. Oh, she talks, all right, but she's certainly not into stamping her pretty little feet and tossing her mane of hair. She's more the slow burn kinda gal. And she doesn't go around discussing her feelings with all and sundry, and certainly not her fears. Or her secrets.

And then there's Bayard. He's the kind of hero who's charming and tons of fun, and whose Issues are buried, and buried deep. Sometimes that sort of guy can seem too flippant or selfish. Although I was very aware of the pitfalls, that still makes him a little more work than some other types of heroes.

Fortunately -- and here's where writing can be so very interesting -- the big research boo-boo led to a plot development that worked to make Bayard more interesting, and give him more emotional baggage, making him a "deeper" character than he might have been otherwise.

After the book was finished, after the hard work, revisions and proofs were done, it was time to wait. THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT was out of my hands, and all I could do was hope that I'd written interesting characters that readers would like and feel for, that their actions and motives made sense, that the plot worked, and the setting seemed vivid and realistic.

And then, this week, Romantic Times gave THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT four stars (out of five). I haven't seen the full review, just the rating. But that's enough to tell me that at least one reviewer liked it.

Cue the big sigh of relief.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dead, or FUTR?

Apparently, and completely unbeknownst to me, as well as my fellow historical romance writers and thousands of readers around the world, historical romances are "dead." Or thus sayeth one writer at a conference. And so comes the hand-wringing and cries of despair.

Now, are historical romances the flavor du jour among romance readers? Are they getting lots of buzz?


Are they the new "hot" thing in romance, so romance publishers are falling all over themselves to buy, buy, buy?


Are they selling at all? Are they making bestseller lists?

Uh, yep.

Are they selling in the numbers they used to?

Based on the number of authors deserting the genre, I think not.

But does that mean historicals are "dead?"

Well, somebody's buying all those historicals on the USA Today list, so I think it's a bit premature for anybody to pronounce my sub-genre "dead."

What I would say, though, is that historicals are FUTR (flying under the radar), at least for now.

But I honestly don't believe the genre will ever be completely "dead," and here's why:

Historical romances are the Lincoln Logs of the romance world. (Lincoln Logs are small wooden logs you can use to make little cabins, etc. My grandmother had them for us to play with; my niece delighted me by giving me a set last Christmas.) Lincoln Logs aren't as flashy as some of the new toys. They don't make noises or talk or have flashing lights.

What they are, though, is timeless. Classic.

As with Lincoln Logs and toys, romance trends may come and go, but for many readers, knights, castles, pirates, ships, balls and carriages and gowns are romance.

I also believe much of the perception that historicals are dying is based on the absence of an internet presence or chatter. If you were to go by the amount of talk about my books on blogs and message boards, yep, my books are deader than a twenty-year-old corpse on CSI.

But that's only on the internet. I suspect most of my readers, and historical romance readers in general, don't spend a lot of leisure time at their computers discussing their reading preferences. They know what they like, they buy it, end of story.

Or maybe I'm just in serious denial, fiddling while Rome burns. Maybe my readers will all decide, en masse, to abandon my historicals for those new kids on the block -- brooding vampires or Navy SEALs.

However, if that's the case, I still think it will only mean the death of Margaret Moore historicals, not the genre in general.

What will it take to "revive" the genre? Well, let me say here and now that I find the notion that it's only going to take one "super" historical to suddenly enliven the market quite insulting. Are my books and those of my fellow historical authors currently being published responsible for the downturn? Do all our books stink? I certainly don't think so, but that's what that notion implies to me.

What it will take is a combination of factors, the most nebulous and unpredictable being the mood of the buying public. It's like trying to build a bonfire: if you don't have tinder, kindling and the right configuration of logs, no number of matches will make it burn. But if you do? Bingo. Unfortunately, nobody can predict the future and what will affect the mood of the buying public.

That means publishers can only go by what's sold well recently, which explains the number of Regency-set romances available now.

So what's an author to do? In my case, I put on the blinkers and write what I like. If I don't make lists or one day can't sell books anymore because of my choices, so be it.

But that's only my books, and my sales, based on my choices. Historical romances were around before I started writing, and I honestly believe they'll be published long after I've stopped.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Know any Young Adult readers?

The summer is here! Or at least it feels like it, weather-wise.

I used to spend a good portion of the summer holidays with my nose in a book. My particular favorites were Trixie Belden books. Nancy Drew seemed too "old fashioned" (or maybe just plain too old) to me.

My parents, bless their hearts, never questioned my preference. They never suggested I go outside and play, or find "something better" to do. Nope, if I wanted to read, I could read. So I did.

This is how writers are made.

So in honor of summer and summer reading, I've giving away a dozen copies of my one and only Young Adult historical romance, GWYNETH AND THE THIEF. If you'd like an autographed copy, email me at with "Gywneth" in the subject line.

And bring on the cookies and lemonade!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wardrobe Crisis!

So it's getting to be June, and I have two major events coming that require something more in the way of wardrobe than my usual jeans and t-shirt (or jeans and sweatshirt). And thus we arrive at one of the downsides of being self-employed and working at home.

The only time I usually dress up is at a writers' conference. I'm not going to any conferences this year (that's a blog for another day), and I didn't go last year, so my "dressy" attire is, shall we say, dated and/or non-existent.

I also, unlike many women, hate shopping. I don't mind spending money. It's the wandering around, trying on, trying to figure out if a garment looks good or not, the fit, the style...oh, my aching head!

Fortunately, last week I found a very nice designer jacket (tan with cream flowers) at an even nicer discount price. I already have another nice jacket (navy with silver embroidery), and a nice pair of navy trousers that I can wear with it. So all I needed was a simple top in navy in a dressy fabric, or a top and skirt or pants in cream for the other. How hard could it be, especially if I went to a Huge Mall?

Turned out to be, basically, impossible.

On Friday afternoon, I traipsed from one end of the Huge Mall to the other and back again.

And I found nothing.

This year, it seems everything is either white, black or black and white.

Or chocolate brown, which I think is too dark for summer and wouldn't go with the tan and cream jacket.

Or apple green, which makes me look like I'm seriously sea sick. And wouldn't go with either jacket, either.

And then there's the fabrics. Are women suddenly finding joy in ironing? What is with the cotton? Sheesh -- it's an hour's car ride to the wedding. I don't want to de-car looking like I've spent the night sleeping in my ensemble.

I also think I'm a little too, ahem, mature for the deep V with spaghetti straps look. I'd feel like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Next stop, rouged cheeks.

So today, I went to the fabric store. Back in the days before I sold my first book, I did a LOT of sewing. But since I sold? Not so much. There's only so much time in the day. And now my trusty Singer Genie isn't in the best of shape.

But surely, oh, surely, I can make a simple skirt to go with the designer jacket. And a couple of plain tops, with no button holes required. I found some fabric -- on sale, too! Got some new needles and pins, too. My extravagance knew no bounds. And yet the cost for two tops, a skirt and a pair of pants, the patterns and extras? Seventy dollars.

Just in case the tops don't work out, though, I went to good ol' L.L.Bean and ordered a bunch of tops in their pima cotton. I know they'll fit because I have several already, just not in cream or navy. I should soon.

So hopefully, I shall have something to wear to the wedding and my daughter's graduation.

Although alas! I may be going barefoot, because I have yet to shop for shoes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yaaarh! There be pirates, matey!

Now that the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is upon us, I'm getting ready for the inevitable.

"So, are you going to write a historical with a pirate hero?"

The answer is "No."

Privateers, maybe, but pirates? No. Although I've learned to "never say never" in this business, it will likely always be "no."

And here's why:

In my formative years, I read a book called THE MASTER MARINER by Nicholas Monsarrat, who also wrote the much more well-known THE CRUEL SEA, about two British ships in World War II trying to escape a u-boat wolf pack.

THE MASTER MARINER is about an Elizabethan seaman who's punished for an act of cowardice by being doomed to sail the seven seas for all eternity. Interesting premise, eh? I thought so. Unfortunately, two things stand out for me about this book, neither one of them good.

The first is that I never, ever got a sense of what the cursed seaman felt about his experiences. I got lots of history, lots of information, but very little emotion, and that was very disappointing to me.

The second was that I got too much history about pirates and some of the things they'd do to their captives. I don't know if these things were all true, or poetic license, but it was enough to ensure that I could never see pirates as anything but vicious, blood-thirsty, torturing, rapists.

The other thing that would keep me from writing a romance set aboard a ship -- and this from somebody who was in the Naval Reserve -- is the claustrophobic nature of the setting. Sure, it would up the tension, but there's just something about the close confines of a rocking wooden vessel that makes me cringe.

So there'll be no buckling of the swash from Margaret Moore, me hearties. At least for now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"On the Lot"

I watched "On the Lot" the other night, the new reality show that's offering the winner the chance to be a movie director, or at least a "big break". In the first episode the contestants had a night to come up with a pitch, based on what was referred to as a "log line" and what I would call a premise. They were specifically told the story/movie idea should have a beginning, middle and end.

Some pitches were excruciating to watch, like the guy who went blank at the start. Been there, done that -- back in seventh grade. It is a horrible feeling.

Then there was the guy who decided to be high energy, but who only succeeded in earning baffled looks from the judges.

Unlike some reality shows, though, I felt this one actually had some lessons to impart. For anybody planning to pitch a book to an agent or editor: Take notes if you're going to be a complete nervous wreck. Better to have a cue card in your pocket you can use if you need it than just be excruciatingly silent.

For anybody planning a pitch or even going for a job interview: Don't try too hard to make a lasting impression; it could be the wrong one! Get some sleep. Don't make excuses or have a lot of rambling preamble.

I have no such illusions of usefulness for the upcoming Pirate Master. (Why not just Pirates? Why "Master?" Why not Captain? Why not Pirate Ship? I don't get it.) I'm thinking it's just going to be Survivor at Sea -- but that's enough for me, maties!

He's baaaaack!

I've just discovered Harlequin is reissuing my first book, A WARRIOR'S HEART, in a special themed collection available only by mail. The collection is called "Close to Home" and you get a bunch of free books, coasters and a chair caddy if you sign up. Sounds like a good deal to me.

I confess that I'm curious to see the cover of the reissue. As you'll see if you click on the link below, there's also a theme to the covers in the collection.

That would be the daisy in the upper right hand corner.

Considering that A WARRIOR'S HEART is set in medieval Wales, one might wonder about the use of a daisy on such a cover. According to The Flower Expert, however, daisies are native to north and central Europe, and the name comes from old Anglo-Saxon "daes eage", which means "day's eye." So for the cover of a medieval? Daisies are good!

The Close to Home Collection also has historicals by Harlequin Historical authors Kate Bridges, Cheryl St. John and Carolyn Davidson. Check it out -- you can get up to 18 free books!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How an author slowly drives herself to chocolate....

Yesterday, I just about went nuts looking for a research book. It's my "go-to" book about King John, meaning it's my first source for information.

I was frothing at the mouth, where could it be? I just had it last week! going nuts. I searched high, I searched low. I looked in every room, the newspaper recycling box, even the bed (because I've woken up sleeping on a pen before). I was not a happy writer.

I was also sure the cover was blue. SURE!

So I decide to blog about my missing book. I look on Amazon for the exact title. I knew it had King John and "interpretations" in it. It's actually "KING JOHN: NEW INTERPRETATIONS", edited by S.D. Church, who's also the man behind another key research book I use, THE HOUSEHOLD KNIGHTS OF KING JOHN.

You will notice, as did I, that the cover is not, in fact, blue; it's red. I turn to look in my book shelves and there, not two feet from me, guessed it. KING JOHN: NEW INTERPRETATIONS.

Oh, geez!

I blame having too much else going on. Also confusing it with FROM DOMESDAY BOOK TO MAGNA CARTA 1087-1216 by A.L. Poole (another really good research book, by the by.)

And now, I think I need more chocolate....while reading about King John.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bye bye, book reviews?

A columnist in the book review section of our local paper recently bemoaned the loss of book reviews in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution getting rid of the books editor.

Now, I can understand that this would be upsetting to the writer. As their job goes, so goes my job...?

That was not how the writer put it, though. To quote, "Here's what worries me: The malignant idea that books, and book talk, are culturally marginal, even irrelevant, to be consigned to special publications and websites. Newspaper book reviews are often the first voice in public conversations about issues and ideas and writing that matter. And that's what we're in danger of losing."

I didn't realize the purpose of reviews was so exalted. I thought it was to critique books. Books about ideas, sure, but also books that aim to entertain. Clearly, I have been wrong all these years. Book reviews are So Much More.

Although...maybe that's the problem. Maybe other people were thinking like me. But there were never any reviews of what they read for entertainment, or might want to read, if only they'd read a review about it.

Perhaps if newspapers carried more reviews of popular fiction instead of oh, say, marginalizing whole genres, they might have more people reading, and caring about, the reviews. Then the book reviews would not be "consigned" to "special" publications and the web (which is apparently a sort of purgatory for ideas, which comes as news to me).

When was the last time you saw a romance reviewed in your local paper? If it was recently, and not around Valentine's Day, lucky you. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Nora Roberts books I've seen given a full review in print. Heck, I can count it on one finger. Because it's one.

As one reviewer who formerly scorned a popular fiction writer noted, "Maybe if we pay a bit of attention to what people are actually reading, rather than what we tell them to read, we might learn something."

And you might still have a book review section in your local newspaper.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ebooks and Me

I admit I'm slow to get with the new technology. I still use my computer as little more than a glorified typewriter. Well, I do email, and blog, and update my own website, but that's pretty much it. For instance, I have yet to play a game on a computer. We do have a cell phone, but I rarely use it. We have a DVD player, but nothing more sophisticated. We still tape shows on the VCR.

So when it comes to ebooks, I rarely even think about them. I certainly don't buy them. I may one day, but for now? They aren't really on my radar.

That means I tend to forget that some of my own books are out in ebook form. So far, my last two HQN releases, MY LORD'S DESIRE (February, 2007) and HERS TO DESIRE (August, 2006) are available at (MY LORD'S DESIRE here and HERS TO DESIRE here).

Avon Books has released two of the books I wrote for them in ebook format. You can order KISS ME QUICK (April, 2003) and KISS ME AGAIN (January, 2004) here.

And that's it for ebooks for me, so if you find any of my other Harlequin or Avon books being sold in that format on the internet, that's being done illegally. Neither Harlequin, nor Avon, nor I, are getting paid for those sales. To download them would be the same as if somebody shoplifted a paperback copy from a store.

I suspect that one day, I'll jump on the ebook bandwagon -- but that will probably be about the time I stop editing on hard copy, so I think it'll be a few years yet. I would probably have resisted those newfangled typing machines, too.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Tale of Two Endings

Last night, I watched the season finales of Ugly Betty and The Office. Both left very different impressions, and one made me seriously question whether I'll be watching next season or not.

(If you haven't seen these shows and intend to, read no farther. Spoilers abound!)

Fortunately, we watched Ugly Betty first, because I gotta tell ya, I was very upset by the end of this show. I realize that Ugly Betty isn't supposed to be a comedy, but a sort of dramady/soap opera hybrid. However, I usually find it fun and upbeat, not depressing.

Until last night, and the death of Santos. And he must be dead, or Hilda wouldn't have collapsed in a sobbing heap in Betty's arms. She would have grabbed Justin off that stage and gone to the hospital.

Yes, this was dramatic. Yes, it will make for a lot of new plot developments next season...BUT...but, but, but... I was really getting to like Santos. I was happy for Hilda, and looking forward to wedding shenanigans and the contrast between Hilda's wedding and Willamina's. I love Justin, and knowing his "big moment" will be forever tainted by his father's death? Just breaks my heart.

I would have been okay with Henry leaving and not yet knowing the truth. I would have been on anxious tenterhooks wondering about Santos if they'd left it where the cops come to Betty's door, and we know she's not going to get to the airport before Henry leaves. I was okay with the car crash and everything else. But knowing Santos is dead? That changes my anxiety from hopeful (maybe he's alive!) to sad (he's not). Now there's going to be a whole different feeling in Betty's house, and it's not going to be good.

Then we watched The Office. There is much about the antics in The Office that make me squirm. I feel so sorry for Michael much of the time. However, this show ended on a much more positive note (Pam and Jim!) and had one of the greatest surprise endings I've ever seen. I did NOT see it coming, and yet when it did, it made sense, and HA! Loved it! I'm gleefully anxious to know what's going to happen next.

And that's the big difference: The Office left me happy. Ugly Betty certainly did not -- unlike every other episode of the show. I feel like the show's done a 180 on me, and I don't like the new direction.

Will I watch Ugly Betty again? At this point, I really don't know.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Adjective I Hate

So there I was, reading the paper this morning (after waking at 5:01 a.m....sheesh!), and I'm reading an obituary about the sort of woman I aspire to be: she lived a long life and had lots of fun doing it. Really, she sounded delightful.

But then...but then the writer of the obituary said this: "Loved reading trashy novels, the kind with Fabio on the cover."

I shall pass over the fact that Fabio hasn't graced a cover in several years now, to talk about a word I hate when applied to romance novels, "trashy."

According to Miriam-Websters, "trashy" means "1 : being, resembling, or containing trash : of inferior quality

I don't think my books contain trash, resemble trash, are of inferior quality (inferior to what, exactly?), or indecent.

And I don't think it's right to denigrate a whole genre with that adjective, either.

Now, I'm aware that some people think if you use a derogatory term to describe yourself or something you enjoy, you take some of the power of that word back. I get that. I really do. And if you want to call what you read or write "trashy," well, that's your right, so...go to it.

I know some authors describe their own work as "trashy" because they think it means, to others, harmless fun. Or another description I hate, a "guilty pleasure." Why "guilty?" I don't get that. If you enjoy it and you're not hurting anyone, why the guilt?

I had a discussion with someone this week who took exception to my enjoyment of reality TV shows. TV Critic thought they were a waste of time. I suspect I had gone on a little long about Survivor (I knew Dreamz would not hold up his end of his bargain with Yau-Man!). Nevertheless, I pointed out to TV Critic that I don't see any difference between "wasting time" and getting emotionally invested in a reality TV show and "wasting time" watching and getting emotionally invested in a professional sports team. You're not playing the game, you're not related to or friends with anybody playing the game, you are watching it on TV for enjoyment and entertainment. So why shouldn't I watch Survivor if TV Critic can spend hours watching professional sports?

But I digress.

The main reason I won't refer to my work as "trashy" is that most people associate trash with garbage. To me, saying I write "trashy" novels is the same thing as saying I write garbage, and whatever anybody else might think of my books, I work too long and too hard on them to ever describe them with an adjective that even remotely implies they are garbage.

So, no, I don't write trashy novels, even though I write the kind of books that used to have Fabio on the cover.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"It's a mystery!"

Remember the manager of the playhouse in Shakespeare in Love who, whenever confronted with questions about the theater business, would respond, "It's a mystery!"

There was an article in the New York Times Business section last Sunday that made the same claim about book publishing and the creation of a bestseller -- nobody knows exactly how it's done and if they did, they'd be millionaires. As always with such articles, a couple of things leapt out at me.

It's not that publishing is a risky business. I know that.

It's not that nobody can really predict a bestseller. I know that, too.

One is the advances the authors mentioned got. For first books. $40,000 for one, $25,000 for another -- and especially the implication that these are LOW or "modest". Sweet fancy Moses! When I first sold to Harlequin, my advance was a whooping $5,000. I've heard of other category writers getting less.

Another is the efforts made by the publishers to promote the books -- sending out hundreds of galleys, along with things like, in the case of one book mentioned, giftbags containing flip-flops, belts, notebooks and lip gloss.

If I want anything like that, specific to me and my books? I'm on my own.

The article also talked about the fact that most publishers don't seem to want reader feedback, or do much reader research. I'm pretty sure Harlequin does. For instance, they have questionnaires in their books, or at least they used to.

Why wouldn't publishers welcome reader feedback?

Here's my theory, taken from my own experience with letters/emails/Amazon reviews: the only people who take time to comment are those who either LOVED your book or HATED your book. If you want to have a bestseller, though, you want to get the people in the middle, the people who like your work, but aren't going to take the time to contact the publisher. They read it, they liked it, they'll probably buy another of your books -- but that's the sum total of the time they're willing to spend talking or thinking about their book purchases.

And then, toward the end, came something that both surprised and pleased me -- a mention of Romance Writers of America. To quote:

"An exception is the consumer research gathered by the Romance Writers of America, a writers' association that publishes a regular market study of romance readers. It reports survey information on, for example, demographics, what respondents are reading, where they are getting the books and how often, and what kind of covers attract them. Romance authors and publicists use the information to create promotional campaigns."

First, I had no idea I was supposed to be using that info for PR purposes. Duh. I always thought one of the purpose of those surveys (and quite frankly, the main one) was to show that our readers came from a broad spectrum of society (so take that, all those who have a very prejudiced view of the intelligence/socio-economic status of the average romance reader). I also thought the info about covers was to give us proof that our readers really don't want the so-called "nursing mother clinch covers," where the heroine's breasts are all but spilling from her bodice, or other sorts of covers that make our readers embarrassed to pick up a romance, or be seen reading one on the subway.

What made me happy to see this part of the article wasn't the sudden realization that I had information to use for PR. It was the thought that this is precisely the sort of mention of RWA and those in the romance publishing industry that will lead to increased respect for the genre.

What do I think makes a bestseller? A really good book at the right time, from a publisher who's willing to spend a whack of money promoting it.

At least that's the recipe for what I'd call an "instant" bestseller -- the first book by an author that lands on the NYTimes or USA Today list. And isn't that what every author wants?

Well, sure, I'd be thrilled -- but there is a downside, something that this article also talked about. When a publisher takes a big gamble, they obviously expect/want/hope to win big. And if they don't? Well, that's not a good thing for the author, because they've lost their publisher a lot of money -- although they can call themselves a NYTimes Bestselling Author for the rest of their lives. If the publisher has given the author a huge advance for their next book and it tanks? That's not so good for the author, either.

So what's better for an author? The big gamble/instant bestseller, or the slow climb to the NYTimes list? I don't know, because I haven't been on it yet (hope springs eternal).

I can only agree that if anybody knew for sure how to gauge the mood of the reading public for a year or so after a book is offered to publishers, if they knew exactly how and where to market that book, if they could get the readers to talk about it to their friends, relatives and strangers on the street, that person would indeed be worth millions. Because, at least for now, it's a mystery.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

When Fact Seems Like Fiction...

Recently fashion guru/talent spotter Isabella Blow passed away. I'd seen her on various TV shows, usually sporting really weird looking hats. I always found her rather ridiculous.

Then I read her obituary, and not only am I sorry I thought of her that way, her early life reads like something out of, well, a romance novel.

Her grandmother was Lady Vera Delves Broughton, her father was Sir Evelyn Delves Broughton, 12th Baronet (now there are some names for ya!) and her family had lived in a castle on 15,000 hectares of land since the 14th century, until they had to sell it to pay off Isabella's grandfather's gambling debts. Yes, gambling debts -- and what debts they must have been! Isabella grew up able to see the family castle from the cottage they lived in on the estate. Isn't that like something out of a Regency or Victorian-set historical?

Isabella also, sadly, witnessed the drowning death of her little brother, aged two, in an ornamental pool. Even more sadly, after that, her parents apparently had little interest in their daughters.

Now Isabella's motive for bizarre headgear seems clear. This was a woman seeking attention because she'd been ignored as a child.

Some people's lives really do seem the stuff of novels.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Just when I thought I'd have some free time....

So here I am, all happy I made my deadline, and I'm thinking I'll have a week or two before my Esteemed Editor can read the book, so I can do all the things I've put off and think about the next book a bit, make some notes, do some more research....

Cue the alarm bells and sound the sirens, because NOOOOO!!!

Suddenly, the good folks who do my covers need info, stat. So much for today's plans, which have already been altered once since 9 a.m.

But this is all part of the gig, so...I shall be like the Borg and adapt.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Whoo hoooo!

The book is done! The book is done and gone to New York! Yeah!

So what do I do now? (Other than wait for my Esteemed Editor to read it?)

First, I pull dandelions. Outside! I'll be outside! In the fresh air!

Then I'm going to the mall. To spend money! (And also use the gift certificate I got at Christmas.) And for lunch!

Tomorrow, I'm going out for another lunch! Then to hear a great speaker talk about writing. Then out to dinner!

Out, out, out! As in, not in my office! Whooo hooo!

Sunday, I have to stay in and clean, clean, clean. And do laundry, laundry, laundry.

Monday, I start redecorating a room that's been empty for six weeks. I also have to start planning the next book.

I have to prepare a webpage for KNAVE'S HONOR (the book I just submitted), with its cover, and send my email newsletter with a sneak peek link to subscribers.

I'll be thinking about PR for the book coming out next month (next month -- whew, that kinda caught up on me!), THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT, while my brain is still full of KNAVE'S HONOR and I'm thinking about THE WARLORD'S BRIDE (tentative title).

But most of all, I'm getting out of the house!!!!! A lot!!!!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Whoo hoo! Thanks to Christine for nominating my blog for this meme! How cool!

Here are the rules:

1. If and only if you get tagged write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Display your award proudly.

Now I have to think of five that haven't already been tagged (like the Drunk Writers.)

I'm going with:

Michelle Rowen
Cheryl St. John
No Limit Ladies

and...that's all I can come up with! I've been kinda busy lately....

What happens if I stop at three? Will the Meme Police come and haul me off to the hoosegow? Will I be drummed out of the Blogger Corps? Will I be given the cut direct by other bloggers, should I ever meet them in person?

Time will tell...

Duhn duhn dunnn!

Revisus Maximus

I thought, since I've been talking about and doing (oh, the doing!) revisions, I'd make a list of the things I look at/for as I revise a manuscript. I'm breaking it down into categories, but I consider them all simultaneously as I read. (These are not in any order of precedence, by the way.)

Have I written the love story so that it make sense that those particular characters would fall in love? Have I made it clear why that particular man is attracted to that particular woman (and it has to be for more than looks!).

General story-telling -- any slow/boring bits? Out they go. Are the scenes in the best possible order? Is every scene in the best possible point of view? If I change POV, is it a smooth transition? Are the chapter endings compelling, so that the reader will want to continue?

Get rid of passive verbs if possible.

Is the prose relatively smooth? (I write lean and that can sound choppy sometimes.)
Is there a unity of tone? Does it sound as if I just sat down one day and typed it up?

Get rid of the really cute or "showy" stuff because it sticks out like an anachronism. Are they any really obvious anachronisms, in speech or narrative? What about cliches?

What's missing and needs to be added? (This usually means description/details.) Is every adverb used serving a purpose? How 'bout those dialogue tags? Can I tell who's talking?

Look for continuity boo-boos (oops, that horse changed color!). Double check any remotely questionable historical detail.

What about spelling? Grammar? Typos?

The Characters -- are they believable? Have I given them believable motivation? Have I given them a backstory that makes them interesting, realistic and explains their motivations? Do they sound unique? Is it clear who's doing what, when, and why, and who's saying what, when?

Any wonder I wind up with a mess of red ink on my hard copy pages????

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A record!

The Unknown Evil Cabal sent FIVE -- count 'em -- five!! people to my door today. And like I said before, normal number of folks ringing the doorbell in one day? Zero.

Despite the interruptions, I managed to get a lot of work done. And -- bonus! --discovered a page without any changes! That makes two! Two out of about 375! Whooo hoooo! (Yes, that's actually good for me at this stage o' the game.)

And now, since I am fading so, so fast, good-night! And here's hoping I sleeeep.


So here I am, hauling myself to the finish line with the book, and wouldn't you know it? Distractions!

First, I cannot sleep. I have finally, I believe, figured out why I keep waking up so dang early, and it's not just because the book is due. My husband turned the furnace down at the first whiff of spring, so now it won't come on unless the house is about 50 degrees. I think I'm getting too cold! I have taken care of that, so we shall see.

Then yesterday, my editor emailed the cover of KNAVE'S HONOR. I like it, but here's the thing: I always wind up staring at my covers for a long time when I first get them. I check everything -- the spelling of my name, what the folks are wearing, the back cover copy. And they've given me a different "look" this time, so I had to stare at it some more, just because it was different. (My email newsletter subscribers will be getting the first sneak peek next week, when the book's gone to NY and I have more time.)

I have an ad to proof and send back. And I keep thinking I should be doing more PR for my June book, THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT.

Then I found out some RWA-related news that took me awhile to process and decide how I wanted to respond.

This is on top of the regular distractions, like, you know, family. But there's been a few extra bits o' business there to deal with lately, too.

I tells ya, it's like there's a conspiracy or something. It's Crunch Week for Margaret Moore, some evil cabal realizes. What can we do to totally distract her? And they rub their fiendish hands with glee and get to it.

ETA: It is now nearly 11:30 a.m. I have had to answer the door three times. Usual number of times I have to answer the door on any given day? Zero.

It's a conspiracy, I tells ya!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no!

As per my last blog entry, this was the sort of minor revising I was hoping for with this last read-through of the manuscript of KNAVE'S HONOR.

Sadly, this is what I wound up doing. At least for the first few chapters.

Mercifully, it got better after that. It got worse again at the end, but I was expecting that. I knew the point of view was all over the place in the final chapter (and oh, baby, it was!).

Now comes the literally painful part of inputting the changes onto the computer. My back aches because I sit for longer stretches, and I'm looking from the hard copy to the computer screen and back again.

Why can't I do this all on the computer? I just can't. I get all mixed up and confused, probably because I've always done the really serious editing on paper and I like to flip back and forth, if necessary. Also, I can do it in more comfortable, "reader-ish" (as opposed to "writer-ish") surroundings.

I'm also at the part where I feel like I'm carrying the whole book in my head or, as one author put it, as if it's all on the tip of my tongue. That can be good, because it means I know my manucript well enough to realize a paragraph I was going to cut from one chapter can work in another. However, it also means I can't remember a lot of details about real life at the moment. It's like I've only got so many brain cells, and right now, they're pretty much full.

So when I'm not sitting at the computer, I'm making a lot of lists.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please!

Okay, I have moved the consummation scene from Chapter 12 to Chapter 17. I have revised in between, and smoothed the scene into its new place, including changing whose point of view it was in (not easy, that). I've moved the other three scenes that needed to be moved. I have altered some chapter endings, to make them more compelling.

And now, I'm printing up what I sincerely hope will be my last hard copy draft. My goal on the weekend is to read through the entire manuscript one...more...time...before inputting the many minor changes I know I'll make on that (oh, please!) final read-through.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tough Decisions

I have been through the middle of my manuscript about, oh, twenty times. I've done four complete revisions of the material in the middle.

So I think I'm doing my last major fix-up, right? After this, it'll be a word here or there (on every single page, but that's par for the course). And then...

And then...

I get to the first big love scene and I does not belong where I have it.
The relationship really hasn't progressed to that level of emotional intimacy that physical intimacy seems appropriate for these characters.

Oh. My. Word.

It must be moved.

The first question is, where? I go ahead, and find a much better spot. A few chapters later (yep, that far ahead). But at least I can salvage those pages, or at least most of them.

However, that also means that from the point where the love scene originally was to its new "home," I must tweak and/or change my hero and heroine's emotional state and reactions, especially every time they are alone together. They haven't made love; they're still waiting for that.

Oh. My. Word.

I also have another three small scenes that don't fit where I've got them. But these are more independent sub-plot scenes. They won't impact the main plot until near the end of the book, so it's not nearly as big a headache to move them.

Of course, if I'd gotten it right the first few times, I wouldn't have this problem now. But I didn't see it before.

This is something that can be difficult to explain to people who only write one draft. Or to people who don't write. But there it is. I thought I had it right and...I didn't.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

I've read agent Donald Maass's book, Writing the Breakout Novel, and thought it had some excellent advice for writers. So recently, and since I've got a new story to plot soon, I decided to order WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, although I am not a huge fan of writing exercises per se. I'd rather use that time for writing my books. But what the heck, thinks I. Why not see if this will offer any new insights as I'm thinking about the book I'm finishing and the one I'm about to start? (And besides, if I order this with THE ROMAN by Mika Waltari, I can get free shipping.)

I have to say, this is very much a workbook. There's an introductory portion to each exercise, and this is where the real "meat" of the advice is, but it's brief. Very brief. Much of the intro/explanations are taken up with examples from published books. This is...okay...but while the original book also uses several examples, I don't remember them taking up so much of the content. To give you an example, in the workbook's chapter on Personal Stakes, the first paragraph and the last paragraph of the intro material are where the basic "how-to" is provided. All the rest of the seven and 1/3 pages is taken up by examples.

That's not to say I didn't get anything out the workbook. I did, although I haven't done any of the exercises. Two things in particular stand out.

One is the best definition of "layers" as it applies to a novel I've ever encountered. To quote: "Subplots are plot lines given to different characters; layers are plot lines given to the same character." In other words, many things should be happening to and going on within, the same character -- that's layering.

The other thing is about setting. I am not one to write a lot of description; that's one reason my stories tend to take place in one locale -- "the stranger rides into town" plot type. I worry about this all the time when I'm writing, and I'm always worried I'm not doing enough. But lo, help has arrived and it's this: think "moments in time." To quote, " can you capture the world of the story, and the lives of its characters, in just the right way? is, in part, a matter of selecting individual moments to freeze for the reader."

Whooo, Nelly -- what a concept! Don't worry about having description hither, thither and yon. Pick a few key places and use them as "moments in time" to evoke the setting and time period.

But that's not all -- Maass says you should also "isolate its emotional details from all other moments." How is that character feeling right then, and how is it different from what he or she has felt before or elsewhere?

Now there's something to chew on.

All in all, I would say if you're only going to buy one Donald Maass's books, go for WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. You can work on your writing based on that alone. I'd recommend the workbook if you like writing exercises, or are stuck with the work-in-progress. Some of those exercises could probably help you "jump start" your writing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find a few moments in time...

There's just something about a guy with a scar...

After watching Heroes last night, and doing a swift read-by of the message boards at Television Without Pity, it has been confirmed yet again that there is something incredibly sexy about a scar on a man's face. The Future Peter Petrelli has been described as all kinds of hot, and I don't disagree, although I'll say it's not just the scar, it's the attitude. Which kind of goes with the scar.

A scar means your hero's been seriously wounded, and survived. He's one tough cookie.

But the scar shows he's vulnerable, too. He might be acting all Mr. Tough-Nothing-Can-Hurt-Me Guy, but we can see that's not true.

More than that, surviving such a serious wound, and the receiving of it, should have caused some serious emotional trauma. He's a Guy With Issues.

That's one reason I wanted the hero of my first book to have lost an eye in battle. He's tough enough to survive, but he's far from unscathed, both inwardly and outwardly.

Why have him lose an eye? Because one of my earliest, most vivid memories is of my great-grandfather, who lost an eye dynamiting a tree stump. He never wore a patch, and I can still remember the wrinkled, empty eye socket.

A couple of other scarred heroes I like: Snake Plisskin, an eye-patch-wearing tough guy played by Kurt Russell in Escape from New York. I see Gerard Butler's going to be in the remake. Although I'm not keen on remakes, I'll be there.

Kurt Russell also portrayed another scarred hero in Soldier - and that guy's emotional scars were far, far worse than his physical ones.

I'll be going to see Spiderman III to see the scarred James Franco (so good in Tristan & Isolde!), and also because Spiderman's gonna go evil. I'm intrigued by those elements, and glad they aren't just going with another villain makes nasty, although I understand there'll be plenty o' that, as well.