Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I just don't get it....

As I sometimes do, when I finished reading THE KEEP, I checked out the reader reviews on Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and frankly, at least one left me gobsmacked. I just don't understand the level of venom and vitriol some readers hurl at a book.

Disappointment, I get. Dismay or frustration, too. I've experienced those feelings when I've finished a book.

So it's not the overall emotion I have a problem with so much as the level. I mean, sheesh, it's just a novel. It's a work of fiction. Nobody forced you to read it.

So what's with the venom? I ask myself, and frankly, the first thing that comes to mind is jealousy and envy. I tend to assume that these Really Angry Readers are writers who are upset by the author's success. Thinking that, I am certainly not inclined to pay much attention to the frothing, except to wonder about the Really Angry Reader's blood pressure.

And then I think that if reading novels is going to make somebody that angry, they should be reading something like the book pictured here instead.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A really good book, and yet...

I recently saw an ad for THE KEEP, by Jennifer Egan, in the New York Times Book Review. It's just coming out in paperback. I thought it sounded interesting (part Gothic, part mystery, part romance) and hey, there's a keep, so I got a copy.

(I also thought the author's name was vaguely familiar. Turns out she writes for the NYTimes magazine, so I've surely read some of her articles.)

It was a really good book. It has a sort of weird narrative structure, yet it's very compelling and interesting and entertaining.

But then...came the end, and I was reminded once again why I prefer genre fiction. I like resolution. I don't like a lot of loose ends. Some I can certainly live with, but when I'm left wondering and confused...that makes me dissatisfied and unhappy. To be sure, some mysteries were solved and I was surprised when the author revealed something as soon as she did, which took me aback in a good way, but I was also left with a lot of questions.

I'm well aware that some people prefer the open ending, that the speculation is part of their enjoyment. So I'm not saying one is right, the other wrong, or one is better then the other. I'm just saying that I prefer a certain sort of ending.

But by all means, read THE KEEP for yourself and come to your own conclusions, because overall, I enjoyed it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Some right, some wrong...

I managed to finish HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS yesterday. I guessed some things correctly, others, not so much. Instead of talking about it here, though, I've updated my Harry Potter Predictions on my website.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'm desperately trying...

to finish Harry Potter #7 before I hear anything about the story. So far, so good, and since I painted the (hot pink) primer on the (to be "drumbeat red") walls today, giving myself a blister in the center of my palm in the process, I think I deserve a little R and R. So I'm giving myself permission to take a couple of Reading Days. I have a pile of books to read in addition to Harry Potter and it's the summer.

I'm also wondering if the neighbors, who can see into that room because there are no curtains on it at the moment, will be thinking I've gone off the deep end and think I'm the reincarnation of Barbara Cartland. Then again, what will they make of the red walls? An Anne Rice obsession?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Whoo hoo! A great review!

Whoo hoo! Romance Junkies gave THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT a wonderful review! My favorite part: "Once again, Margaret Moore creates characters with hidden depths, strong enough to handle unexpected dangers and intelligent enough to trust their own opinions and ideas, neither blindly ignoring nor blindly accepting the advice of others."

I'm so delighted! Thank you, Alane!

Read the entire review.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cecil: My kind o' gal!

As I've blogged about before, I got a couple of books from the library by Cecil Woodham-Smith. The author's full name is Cecil Blanche Fitzgerald Woodham-Smith, and I thought (a) what a moniker! and (b) isn't Blanche an odd choice for a guy's name?

Turns out Cecil wasn't a guy and Cecil was her real name. Her folks named her after a relative with the hope she'd be left some money -- really! And it didn't happen. However, when she later became a biographer (her FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE came out in 1950), it seems having a man's name didn't hurt her career, and when she wrote about the Charge of Light Brigade (THE REASON WHY), it helped. Apparently military men wanted to know what regiment "he'd" been in.

But here's why I really got a grin reading her biography -- she got her start writing "popular" novels and serials under the pseudonym Janet Gordon (despite searching, I couldn't find any titles). The Wikipedia entry referred to them as "pot-boilers."

This is just so cool! She wrote popular fiction, too!

And you know what? It shows. I started THE REASON WHY, and the woman does have a way of describing people and events that's very interesting and entertaining, not dryly academic. After describing all the fine attributes of the young James Brudenell, Lord Cardigan, including good looks, height, excellent swordsman and shot, she says: "He had in addition to courage another characteristic which impressed itself on all who met him. He was, alas, unusually stupid; in fact, as Greville pronounced later, an ass. The melancholy truth was that his glorious golden head had nothing in it."

I wonder if her work would have been nearly so lively and entertaining if she hadn't trained in the Potboiler School of Popular Fiction. Somehow, I think not.

Monday, July 23, 2007

HP, Painting and Me

I've vividly remembered why I usually hire somebody to paint the house and hang wallpaper -- the physical pain and the frustration.

I painted the ceiling in the room I'm redoing. It was not easy. Up the ladder, paint a bit, down the ladder, move the ladder, up the ladder, paint some more, down the ladder. To be sure, the paint that goes on pink then dries white is a wonderful thing. And the first coat looked lovely.

Until the Crack o' Doom revealed itself. Yep, as the wet paint dried, a crack appeared. A long one. So although I'd hoped to get away with one coat, I filled the crack, sanded the crack and this morning, repainted.

It's opened again. Not so bad, but still... Next time I'm moaning and groaning about writing? I'll remember this. My best hope now is that the dramatic color of the walls ("drumbeat red") will prove so distracting, nobody looks up.

This may also explain why I'm less than over the moon about the latest Harry Potter. I haven't finished it yet, and I will, but there's definitely something lacking, and one theme I really don't like.

I'm really missing the clever humor, like the school book titles in the earlier novels. This book, we get "Decoy Detonator." To be sure, that's exactly what it is -- but that's the problem. I would have thought J.K. Rowling could come up with something a little more clever. In fact, this book is downright grim. I get that's Much Is At Stake, and yet, much has been at stake in other books, and there were still some laffs. This time, I don't think I've cracked a smile once.

That's disappointing.

The other problem is a lack of tension. Okay, they're after Voldemort. High stakes. But there's a lot of planning and waiting and planning and waiting...and that's just not tremendously exciting.

Also, the whole Ministry of Magic going overboard doesn't appeal to me. It's too political. I'm not saying no kids' book should deal with politics (Watership Down does, I think, and I love that book.). The first books were, I believe, based more on the author's own emotional past (the loss of her mother, her bout of depression -- the basis of the Dementors) and I think that's why they were so appealing. The political stuff just doesn't have the same effect on me. At all.

I'm well aware that no author can please all of the people all of the time, and I'm not exactly the target audience here. It's just that I loved the first three books in this series and I've been feeling let down more and more with each book, but especially this one.

Or maybe it's just the paint fumes.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

My Harry Potter Predictions

I'm desperately trying to remain "spoiler free" for the final Harry Potter book. Today, I didn't even open the pages of the section of the newspaper that contained the review -- I fear the headline might give something away.

That said, I have my own ideas what will happen in the final book and in the "future" for those characters. If you want to know what they are, I've written them here.

One thing I'd like to mention -- besides being sick of all the hype in general -- is this notion that Harry Potter books got kids reading again.

I'd like to point out that there have always been lots of kids who love to read. They read a lot, they read widely, they enjoy it. And there are plenty of wonderful books out there for them.

But every so often, a writer becomes popular and is crowned the Savior of Reading for Children. I remember when it was R.L. Stine and the Goosebumps books.

What I really think is going on here is that they don't mean "kids" as much as "boys." I think avid readers tend to be female. However, there have always been plenty of boys who liked to read, too. I was delighted to discover my husband-to-be had also read the Golden Book Encyclopedias in his childhood. (Anybody else remember the full page picture of the knight in armor on his armored horse? No doubt another reason I became a writer of medieval romances.)

And I'm sure most male writers today started out as avid readers.

So while I've enjoyed the Harry Potter books, and I'm sure many children are reading them who might otherwise not be reading any novels, I suspect such kids will not become life-long avid readers. This is, for them, the exception, not the rule, and once Harry Potter is finished, they'll find some other form of entertainment.

The kids who stay avid readers are the ones who would have been whether Harry Potter had come along or not.

Friday, July 20, 2007

They wuz robbed!

So the nominations for the Emmy Awards have been announced, and my reaction, apart from realizing how little original TV drama I watch, was -- what the heck?

First, while I applaud the nomination of Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer for The Office, John Krasinski wuz robbed. In fact, everybody from the cast who wasn't nominated was robbed. That is one fine, fine ensemble show.

Ethan Suplee (Randy) and Eddie Steeples (Darnell) from My Name is Earl were robbed. Ethan more than Eddie, although both are superb.

But the most glaring omission of all? Survivor. Although I love The Amazing Race, how can they not nominate Survivor after the seasons of Yul and Yau-Man? Those seasons had us literally on the edge of our seats in a way no other reality show -- and only Heroes -- had.

They wuz robbed, I tells ya! Robbed! I'm gonna boycott the...oh, who am I kidding? I'll be watching come awards night. but no doubt muttering darkly several times.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Inspiring People

There was an obituary in the local paper the other day about a woman who was a teacher, social advocate and churchwoman, and who had done many good deeds.

While I respect and admire those good deeds, it was the details of her past, and those of her mother's, too, that fascinated me. And then there was a detail at the end of the obituary that truly made me think and wonder and ponder this person's life. Why somebody felt it necessary to include this (very personal) detail, I'm not sure -- unless they found it as intriguing and, for what it implies, as poignant, as I did.

Her mother had been a "Bernardo" or "Home" child, sent to Canada to (supposedly) be given a better life than they would have in England (if you've read ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, I believe this is the sort of child Marilla doesn't want when she says no "Home" boys for her). Her mother had actually lived in a poorhouse, but perhaps living there might have been better than being shipped off, at 10 years old, to work as a servant, and no doubt a poorly paid one at that, for the obit mentions living on cheap food and never being allowed to use the indoor toilet.

Later, Mother ran afoul of a handsome, slick salesman who got her pregnant and abandoned her. Many years later, her daughter met her father. By then, he had become an obese sot. (I'm reminded of Uncle Neddy in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.)

But back to Mother, unwed and alone. She couldn't look after the baby, so her daughter was raised in a series of foster homes until they were reunited when her daughter was fifteen. Mother, working as a live-in domestic, had never lost touch, although it seems visits were few and far between.

Later, Daughter suffered depression, but nevertheless got her degree and earned a masters in English, with honors, and won a prize for an essay. Then she turned her energies to social work and doing those many good deeds.

She never married. She herself said that her childhood and a lack of experience forming relationships made it difficult for her to do so. She also believed she was plain.

And then we come to that last poignant detail: As per her request, only men washed her body before burial.

The first time I read this, I thought that revelation was incredibly intrusive, even if the person to whom it applied was dead. Why do strangers need to know about that request?

Upon reading this now, I have tears in my eyes. Why? Because it implies to me that since she was unable to know physical intimacy with a man during her life, she wanted something of that even after death.

This is the sort of detail and conjecture that will stay in my mind for, well, years. I may not remember all the details of the lives of these two women, but I'll never forget or stop wondering about that last request.

This is one way my characters form -- from a story or a detail that takes root in my imagination and grows into a person who may not resemble much of the original by the time I'm done, but nevertheless owes his or her genesis to such a seed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's Wrong with the Big Misunderstanding?

If you spend any time reading romance novel message boards or blogs, pretty soon somebody's going to complain about "the Big Misunderstanding" in a romance, and that if only the couple had had a simple conversation, the conflict would be resolved, end of story.

I dunno about you, but I've seen plenty of examples in real life where there has been a serious, deep conflict that has lasted for years and that yes, could have been resolved by a conversation in the beginning, but that conversation never took place -- and it wasn't because the parties involved were too stupid to realize that talking it out would solve the problem.

It's because there can be a whole lot more going on within the minds and hearts of the people involved than the supposed subject of the disagreement. Often, that issue is a catalyst for a whole lot of other, deeper issues -- issues that may have lain dormant, or (more likely) quietly festering for years, until that problem/question/conflict lit a match to the tinder of resentment/bitterness/dissatisfaction and a conflagration ensued.

Often, these issues reach right into the quarreling peoples' deepest insecurities, vulnerabilities and fears. What if I'm wrong? What if I admit it? Will I look weak? With that mean the other person has "won" and therefore I've "lost?" What if I'm rejected because I was wrong? What if they're right? Does that make me a bad person? What if the other person being right means something I've believed in/worked for/trusted for years isn't worthy of that belief/effort/trust? Have I been duped? Am I a fool?

Sometimes, it's easier to stay angry/bitter/resentful and not communicate than find out the answer to such questions.

In other words, a big misunderstanding can be big to the parties involved regardless of the subject and no matter how trivial it may seem to others simply because what's at stake has very little to do with the actual subject or issue. Having that "simple conversation" represents a huge emotional risk, and one that may be more difficult for a character to face than physical danger.

So why do people get so frustrated by misunderstandings? I suspect it's because the author hasn't gone deep enough into the characters. The author hasn't really shown what's at stake for them beyond the apparently trivial issue that caused the initial understanding. The author hasn't used the misunderstanding to the full extent possible and hasn't shown the reader why the characters are so very reluctant to have that "simple" conversation.

It's because (or should be because) it's anything but "simple" to them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Me on YouTube

Apparently an interview I did with fellow romance authors Kate Bridges and Kayla Perrin is now on YouTube.

To be honest, that was totally staged. I don't normally hang out in swanky hotels. Still, it was fun getting to partake of a fancy tea, and the interviewer was pleasantly respectful.

In other news, my parents celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary yesterday. Is that awesome or what?

And my wrist is just a little sore, which is good because I've got writing to do!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Briefly, for the sake of my wrist....

My blog posts this week will have to be short. I've been preparing to paint a room, and because the trim used to be about this shade of red (it was my son's room and it matched his furniture), and the new trim is going to be white, I wanted to get right down to the bare wood. That takes a lot of sanding, and even with a hand-held sander, that's hard on the wrist. Given that I also have writing work to do, that's a lot of strain on the ol' wrist, and since I don't want to get carpel tunnel syndrome, I'm going to take it easy with the "extras" this week.

I have heard, though, that the word re historicals at the Romance Writers of America annual conference is very positive. Whoo hoo!

And it turns out the cover for KNAVE'S HONOR is a "step-back," meaning there's a second picture inside, so you do get the entire couple. It's very nice, so look for that later this week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Where to begin?

So once again I find myself at the beginning of a novel. And as often (but not always) happens, I'm wondering where the beginning is, because it's not necessarily where the synopsis began.

The synopsis of THE WARLORD'S BRIDE begins with the heroine. She's a secondary character in the previous book in the series and I wanted to show my Esteemed Editor how her story was going to follow KNAVE'S HONOR.

After Roslynn's husband, the villain of KNAVE'S HONOR, is executed for treason, she's sent to Wales and given to Madoc of Llanpowell as a bride -- and reward for services rendered.

I could have started there, with Roslynn, the king, his wife, the order and the court -- except that I don't intend to show the king et al ever again. I think if I start at court, the reader will be expecting the king et al to show up again, or for Roslynn to return there. Since that isn't planned, I think that would be setting up false expectations and could lead to reader dissatisfaction.

But I don't want to load the beginning with a lot of backstory and/or the medieval equivalent of the heroine on a plane thinking about her life. What happened at court will be told, rather than shown, later.

Yes, sometimes I think it's better to tell than to show but -- and this is key -- it shouldn't be me, the author, telling via internal narrative. I think the best way to deal with that part of the backstory would be to have the heroine tell the hero about it. That can also provide a moment of emotional intimacy between the main characters and you can never have too many of those in a romance.

Also, the hero, Madoc, is the sort who could come across as arrogantly macho if I don't introduce him in a way that reduces that possibly, that shows him in a better light. For me, that generally means starting in the hero's point of view. So the first scene I've written shows Madoc dealing with an external conflict that is important to the story and that shows him in relationship to the men under his command (they respect him and fear his temper), as well as one of his shepherds who he respects and admires. The fact that he has that kind of relationship with the shepherd will, I hope, make him if not likeable (yet), as least not disliked by readers.

I also open with what I think of as a "crane shot," like in the movies where it opens sort of "up in the sky" and then gradually zooms in on people or a place. It's omniscient POV, actually, then I move into the hero's.

At present, the second scene introduces the heroine -- but not in her POV. Again, I start rather omnisciently, with a secondary character talking. But then instead of going to the heroine's POV, the POV shifts to another secondary character. This allows the heroine and her motives to be a little mysterious (although the POV secondary character has a pretty good guess as to why she's there).

Why do that? Well, for now, I want to the reader to share the secondary character's sense of impending trouble -- this woman's arrival is NOT good. Things are going to change, and not, he thinks, for the better. He's also anticipating the hero's reaction -- again, he's sure it isn't going to be good.

However, I'm not going to keep the reader waiting much longer for the heroine's POV, or else I face frustrating the reader -- "Just what is that woman's deal anyway?" (Or worse, "What's her problem????")

I've shown her waiting and she's obviously tense; I've given a pretty good hint as to why she's there; I've shown the hero heading home, having been informed visitors have come and his uncle's been into the braggot (a very potent Welsh drink of mead mixed with ale) so who knows what he's been saying to these unexpected, unwelcome Normans? The time has come to have the hero and heroine meet, to "explain" the heroine and her feelings, as well as her reason for being there.

However, this is only the first draft. I may decide to change the points of view later. I may cut either one of these two scenes and go right to the meet (although I doubt that -- I need some set-up, I think). I may decide I need to start somewhere else entirely.

The most important thing right now is to get something down, to get my hero and heroine together and talking. Because that's how I really get to know them, too.

Friday, July 13, 2007

What the heck?

A few things that have made me raised my brow the past few days:

An ad in the local paper announces, "Sub-penthouse suites."

What the heck? Would that not be, I dunno, "regular" suites? Who are you trying to kid/impress here? I mean, really. Can I advertise my house as a proto-mansion?

We went to see Live Free and Die Hard last night. I enjoyed it, although for my money, no sequel can match the original. Yet once again, I see computer whizzes frantically typing away -- and nobody ever seems to have to go back to fix a typo or make a correction. What the heck? When I update my site, or blog, or type anything, I make tons of typos, and I've been using a keyboard for longer than some of those expert hackers have been alive.

I read an obit that included a posthumous request by the deceased of what seemed an incredibly personal nature. Granted, the person is dead, so presumably beyond shame or embarrassment, but what the heck was the thinking behind including that? (If you're curious about what it was, I'm going to be blogging about it in more detail next week. It requires more time, and it goes to the creation of a character out of such elements.)

I've blogged about reading a book about a famous and sensational Regency murder case. But I gotta tell ya, for a book about such a subject, it is one tough slog. What the heck? What happened? I'm still trying to figure it out. But this would be one reason why some people equate historical research with boring.

And now - what the heck! Where did the morning go? I've got to go to a library to hear a forensic expert talk about crime scenes and blood spatters and if I get a chance to ask, puncture wounds. Oh my!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Our Cats

I read somewhere that pretty soon everybody blogs about their cats, so why should I be any different?

Here are our latest additions, the two "boys," The Count and Luis, playing with the lower arm of our dishwasher (and no doubt not doing the door hinge any good). The black one is the Count, the whiter one Luis. They're brothers. If you've read MY LORD'S DESIRE, they have a cameo role in that book.

We got them after our old cat, Tommy, had to be put to sleep. He was very old -- 19 years. Our "little cat," Eeky (named for that cartoon character Eek the cat) had never been alone, so we decided to adopt another cat.

We went to the vets after learning they had kittens. We had already decided to name the (boy) cat Luis, after the actor Luis Guzman. We really liked the latest movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo, wherein LG played the count's friend/bodyguard, Jacapo. When my son went to Europe, our joke was that we'd hired LG to be his bodyguard. So we thought Luis would be a good name for a cat (I didn't like Jacapo.)

Well, out came the kittens, and the vet's assistant started telling us that they're brothers, and they've never been separated, and their sister got adopted the day before and they missed her and...my husband succumbed first. "Is there any reason we can't take two?"

Then he said, "And of course the second one would be the Count." As in, the Count of Monte Cristo.

So we came home with two cats. Poor Eeky is still wondering what the heck we were thinking.

The Count is a big pig and will eat anything. We have to feed him a bit first, then the others, and then go back and give him the rest, so he doesn't start mooching.

He also thinks he's the alpha male, but if there's another cat outside? It's Luis who's fierce. I think of the Count as the noble who sits in his castle making big plans, and Luis is the warrior who actually does the work. And Eeky? She is the Dowager Cat, putting up with the whipper-snappers, unless they get too close.

Eeky, helping me work (And yes, my office really is that messy when I'm writing a book. Sad but true.)

And this is our dear, departed Tommy (aka The Mighty One).
After putting him to sleep, the vet sent a contribution to a veterinary college in his name. It was a surprise, and a lovely gesture. Perhaps needless to say, I cried. Again. People who've lost pets will know exactly how I felt, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Knave's Honor Cover!

Now that I've regaled you with the Tale O' Revisions for my next book, KNAVE'S HONOR, I'm delighted to have a copy of the cover to show! There he is, the knave himself -- at least his wonderful chin. I kinda like not seeing the whole face. Leaves it more to the reader's individual imagination, and since I never have a complete vision of my character's faces, it works for me.

Lizette is obviously attempting to resist his charms (and my fella Finn is some charming!) but I think the parted lips make it clear it's more of an internal struggle.

I like the dress, and I like that the hero's shirt is unlaced. Rather suggestive, that, but in a classy way.

I've revised my website, so there's a larger version of the cover as well as a description of the book up now.

I'm glad I was done the revision of the text because revising my website when I have a cover is rather a big job. Fun, but lots to do, because more than one "page" is affected.

I also got the Italian edition of HERS TO DESIRE today. Isn't it lovely?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale and other good books

I just finished reading THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield and whew, what a rush! I loved it! I didn't want to put it down.

To be sure, it wasn't perfect. Nevertheless, while I thought the heroine seemed a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, and I would have preferred a slightly different resolution for the narrator, it was a great, twisty-turny, homage to JANE EYRE read.

There was one part I, as a writer, found really interesting and a great analogy that helps answer that age-old question (which folks probably asked Homer back in ancient Greece), "Where do you get your ideas?" Or "How do you keep coming up with new ones?" (Now that I have several books under my belt, I get this one quite often, too.)

One of the main characters in THE THIRTEENTH TALE, a writer, says:

"'All my life and all my experience, the events that have befallen me, the people I have known, all my memories, dreams, fantasies, everything I have read, all of that has been chucked onto the compost heap where over time it has rotted down to a dark, rick, organic mulch. The process of cellular breakdown makes it unrecognizable. Other people call it the imagination. I think of it as a compost heap. Every so often I take an idea, plant it in the compost, and wait. It feeds on that black stuff that used to be a life, takes its energy for its own. It germinates. Takes root. Produces shoots. And so on and so forth, until one fine day I have a story, or a novel.'"

Isn't that good? And I believe it certainly applies to me, and my tendency to remember odd bits of trivia. It's all compost for the heap, baby!

I also recently finished THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion. Quite a different reading experience, yet one I'm glad to have. I wish it had been around when a family member passed away to help me understand what those more intimately connected were going through. If somebody you know has lost a loved one, read this -- but I wouldn't necessarily suggest it to them; they know what they're going through. It's more for those of use who haven't yet had such a profound loss, I think.

And just for fun, I've been re-reading the first Trixie Belden book. I'd never heard anybody refer to their mother as "Moms" before, and it still kinda jars. But in my (much older) edition of THE SECRET OF THE MANSION, there's a picture of Jim Frayne sprawled on a mattress in the decrepit mansion, and whew! I suspect that made my tweener heart go pit-a-pat without being aware of why. Now I know. :-)

I'm also adding to my compost heap by reading THE THURTELL-HUNT MURDER CASE: DARK MIRROR TO REGENCY ENGLAND. It's about a notorious crime in Regency England, set in the world of gamblers and boxers. So far, some really interesting stuff to remember -- including the idea that it was considered okay for the aristocracy or rich folks to gamble; they could afford the loses. But heaven forbid the lower classes indulge, because it would lead to their ruin. Oh, and boxing? Led to the dreadful intermingling of the classes, don't ya know?

This is the type of social information I love.

I've also got two books on hold at the library, courtesy of an article in Vanity Fair magazine, THE REASON WHY: THE FATAL CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE by a fellow with the delightful moniker Cecil Blanche FitzGerald Woodham-Smith. (I tell ya, I couldn't make up a name like that!) I also ordered his book about Florence Nightingale. I'm rather fascinated by the Crimean War and frankly, I've had enough medieval research for awhile!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Finished! Now to start all over again...

Whoo hoo! I have finished the revision of KNAVE'S HONOR. I cut 35 pages from the 50 I added, so it's a more acceptable length. And I just got the go-ahead for the next book (subject to final approval). Which means I can now start at the bottom of the mountain known as THE WARLORD'S BRIDE.

First, though, you may be wondering how I cut 35 pages. Was it difficult? Were altering margins involved?

No, I don't mess with the margins, or the font. They stay as they are.

What I look for is redunancies, and what often happens with a revision is that I move things earlier, or alter them enough that I can cut later in the manuscript, as happened with KNAVE'S HONOR.

There was a tricky plot bit in one chapter that I simply (and quite happily) excised. It has a point in the original version, but wasn't vital and was a pain, so good-bye!

I try to reduce every chapter by one page, which in this case meant 25 pages right there. I couldn't, but I managed to do that for many.

How do I do that? First to go are adverbs.

I tend to write short paragraphs. It's amazing how some of these can be combined.

I tend to write a lot of dialogue. Sometimes short answers/questions/statements can be put into one longer speech.

I combined two scenes featuring secondary characters.

And voila, 50 pages becomes 15.

So now I can start putting KNAVE'S HONOR out of my mind and start filling it with THE WARLORD'S BRIDE. I'm excited to be going back to Wales with this story; I do love my Welshmen! The heroine is in KNAVE'S HONOR, and I'm glad she's going to be getting a happy ending -- she deserves it!

So picture me waving a fond farewell to KNAVE'S HONOR and giving a big hello to THE WARLORD'S BRIDE -- although I'm also looking up at the mountain aware that it's going to take me awhile to climb it and there'll be times along the way when I'll be struggling.

That's the nature of the journey.

Kathleen Woodiwiss

I was saddened to learn of the death of Kathleen Woodiwiss. I wouldn't be a historical romance writer today if it weren't for her.

Heck, I wouldn't be writing anything if it weren't for Kathleen Woodiwiss. Which is not to say I write anything like Ms. Woodiwiss or try to. Her style is not my style.

But if it weren't for finally reading THE WOLF AND THE DOVE after turning up my snooty English Lit degree nose at it for the first few months after my friend gave it to me, my life would have been completely different. I don't know what I'd be doing, but I wouldn't be writing.

To be sure, there may be a few things I take exception to now (the rape of the heroine, how she can't seem to go three paces without getting her gown ripped off and, having nursed a child, the fact that the heroine doesn't seem to have any discomfort when her baby goes missing for over 24 hours). But I can tell you that I'll never forget the rush of reading that book the first time. Here was the kind of story I liked -- hero and heroine equally important, equally vital. And one mighty fine hero at that.


I wanted to tell that kind of story. Could I tell that kind of story? Let me give it a try....

That's how much of an influence one writer and one book can have on a person.

So rest in peace, Ms. Woodiwiss, and from my heart, thank you.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What She Said

I was taking a break from revising KNAVE'S HONOR (which is now sixteen pages shorter and counting -- whoo hoo!) when I decided to visit Karen Templeton's blog. I don't read her blog every day, but when I do, I often find myself in agreement with her.

Today her blog really hit home. Not the birthday stuff, although I don't celebrate my birthday with a lot of hoopla either. The writing part. Well said, Ms. Templeton, well said.

Now back to the revising and trimming. I'm curious to find out just how long the finished manuscript is going to be myself.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Last Pass

So I'm finished going through the revised manuscript for KNAVE'S HONOR, and have only to input those changes, and then I'm done. Until the next round of proofreading, but for all intents and purposes, the really heavy lifting is over.

Some stats:

Current page count: 430 This will most definitely change. It will be shorter when I'm finished, because as always, I've added unnecessary information that will be cut.

Started writing KNAVE'S HONOR: February, 2007

First began thinking about KNAVE'S HONOR: Prior to the contract, so approximately summer, 2005.

Hero first appears in MY LORD'S DESIRE.

Heroine is first mentioned in MY LORD'S DESIRE, but doesn't actually appear until KNAVE'S HONOR.

The villain of KNAVE'S HONOR has been pulling strings since MY LORD'S DESIRE, but doesn't actually show up in the flesh until THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT. He meets his fate at last in KNAVE'S HONOR.

Hours spent writing KNAVE'S HONOR: I have no idea. Some days I work several hours, some days I work few, and I don't keep a log. I also think a lot about the book between time at the computer, and makes notes and edit on hard copy.

Am I pleased with it? Yes, or I wouldn't have submitted it.

Am I sad to see the end of it? In one way, yes -- I'm ready for a new project. In another way, no -- I have to start a new book, beginning with that blank Chapter One, Page One. While I know I'm certainly capable of writing a book, that's still daunting. Therefore, my feelings are...mixed. It's like saying good-bye to some co-workers whose company you've enjoyed, but now you're moving on to a new and exciting job.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Well, it happened. I was zipping along in the revision and...oh oh. What have we here?

Chapter Nineteen, that's what we have. Chapter Nineteen, that needs a lot more work. Because of the changes I made. I need to smooth things out. I need to make sure the emotional tone makes sense. I need to take out some unnecessary information.

An hour later, I'm just about done with Chapter Nineteen.

Then comes Chapter Twenty, and the smooth sailing is definitely over. Some scenes are fine, but others...

Still got some serious work to do.

This is why, when people ask me how long it takes me to write a book, I'm sometimes tempted to say, "Forever!"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Snip, snip here, snip, snip, there...

I'm on Chapter 15 of the read-through of the first draft of the revised manuscript of KNAVE'S HONOR. So far, so good. Nothing to make me go, "AHHHHHH!"

Once again, I'm shocked at the number of typos I'm finding. My only excuse is that it's more difficult to proofread your own work because you know what you wanted to say, so that's what you see.

I'm managed to make some cuts, too, which is good. I got to one short scene and thought, "Why is this necessary?" I cut most of it because I had no good answer to that question.

However, there were two "nuggets" in that scene -- bits of information that were important. They just weren't important enough to warrant a whole scene. I was able to move those elsewhere without a lot of trouble.

I'm getting into the more revised areas of the manuscript now, so it's slower going.

But as long as I don't cry, "AHHHHH!" at any point, I'll be happy! And the revision will be (nearly) done.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Transformer True Confessions

Although I am far from the target audience, I'll be going to see the new Transformers movie.

True Confession #1: These toys first came out when my son was about five. I remember thinking they were the stupidest idea for a toy I'd ever heard. Cars that turn into robots? Huh?

Years and many hundreds of dollars later, I stand corrected. Cars + robots = a winning combination for young males, especially when numbers of them were priced exactly right for birthday party gifts. Others were much more expensive -- obviously going for the grandparent market there. In our case, it worked.

True Confession #2: The main reason I'm going to the movie is to hear Optimus Prime's voice. I love that guy's voice. Since I "hear" my heroes more than "see" them, I love me a good male voice, and OP qualifies.

We're hoping to go with Son who, upon seeing the commercial and the merest hint of a yellow Transformer said, without hesitation, completely deadpan, "Oh, there's Bumblebee."

Yep, I know nothing about making toys for little boys.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Revision Revelation

You know how I thought I was almost done my revisions for KNAVE'S HONOR (sequel to THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT (available now)?

Cue the maniacal laughter.

Because as I was literally taking the last chapter out of my printer at 11 p.m. Friday night, I have a moment of illumination. A revelation. A real slap-myself-on-the-forehead experience.

There is an element of the plot that, if you've been reading my blog, concerns the Big Research Correction that made writing THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT such an, ahem, interesting experience. Now, it was really important in TNK, and because the main characters in this series are linked by family ties, I felt very strongly that that element had to come into play, at least in some way, in KNAVE'S HONOR. So I put it in at the end.

During our revision discussion, my Esteemed Editor suggested removing it. Completely.

But wait, says I! It's important! Not so much in this book, but having made such a huge deal out of it in the previous book, and considering these characters are related, my readers will surely wonder if I just drop that concern entirely. And it's not as if I dwell on it at any great length. It's about a page.

Okaaaay, EE concedes.

So I am pleased, but I continue to be a tad puzzled by EE's objection. I mean, it was only one page. It's important, and I don't dwell. It's only one page.

Then, on Friday night, it hits me.

If it's so important, why is it only one page?

And then something else strikes me in the next few seconds.

I've got the focus of that part wrong. What is revealed isn't what's important (and in this story, it's really not); it's the fact that by this time in the story, the relationship between the hero and heroine is such that the heroine is absolutely going to believe the hero's explanation, no questions asked.

It's the trust that's important, not the research thing.

So I have some serious rewriting to do of the last two chapters. And as I go through the rest of the manuscript again, I have to be aware of that revelation, and why the hero is loath to tell the heroine. In other words, without adding a lot of internal brooding, I have to make sure to weave that element into the story sooner, and make it more important.

This is another case, I think, of an editor realizing there's a problem with a part of a book, but despite her experience, being unable to say exactly what it is. This can be frustrating for the author, but I'm sure it's no picnic for the editor, either. I mean, they know something needs to be fixed, but can't say exactly what, or give any specific suggestions as to how. And that's (one part of) her job.

To give another example: a different editor initially had problems with the hero of TEMPT ME WITH KISSES. She couldn't say exactly what was wrong with him, though. Just something seemed off -- he lacked a certain edge, perhaps, or something like that.

So back I went to the manuscript, with only the information that something wasn't quite right with the hero, and he maybe seemed a little "soft." Or something.

I phoned her back later that day and said, "He gets too happy too fast."

"Exactly!" cried she.

First thing I did to the text? Every time the hero smiled in the first several chapters, I deleted the smile. There was more to the make-over than that, but that was the first, simple fix.

Now back to KNAVE'S HONOR.

One encouraging thing: many people really liked the final version of Caradoc, the hero of TEMPT OF ME KISSES.