Thursday, May 29, 2008

As an oak grows from the acorn...

The other day, I had An Idea for a book. A plot set-up, if you will. Hero, heroine and a couple of secondary characters.

Here's why I think this one may be a keeper: I keep hearing snippets of dialogue in my head.

And I've got an opening line or three.

For me, these are Very Good Signs that this idea has legs and could grow from an acorn to an oak.

Okay, I know...mixed metaphor much? But I'm finishing the oak currently in progress and my brain, she is getting very, very tired....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We Haz AC!

Okay, sun, bring it on! Because at long last, we have air conditioning!

And of course, it is currently unseasonably cold.

But hey, it's here, it's installed, it works. Mind you, the unit in the back looks like it could be some kind of satellite, and I had to rip off some (old) trellis from the deck (Hulk smash!), and the cats were traumatized again, although not so bad as when we got the ducts cleaned last week.

Possible bonus: We had signs of a mouse in a kitchen cupboard (yes, with three cats), but after putting down poison and traps, nuthin'. I think the mouse was so traumatized by the noise, it fled. Hopefully never to return.

It wasn't easy working yesterday, what with the drillin' and the bangin' and the radio playin' the songs o' my youth. I usually work in silence. But I did work, and I got lots done and the end of THE WARLORD'S BRIDE didn't require as much fixing as I feared, so yeah! Although...sometimes I put little notes in the margins to double check something and sometimes checking the somethings takes a bit longer than I think. Still, I should have no problem getting the book finished this week.

And then...I am soooo ready for summer.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Role Reversal

It occurred to me, as I was grabbing an hour from my writing to work in my garden, that this is what it's like when you're writing before you're published, or if you're writing as a second (or third or fourth) job, only in reverse.

Instead of trying to snag some time away from my "primary function" to write, I was trying to snag some time to do something other than write.

All I was doing was moving perennials. I still haven't planted anything new; that will have to wait until next week, when the book is done, along with cleaning out the garage, cleaning windows, and all sorts of other spring chores that, if I weren't writing, would be on the front burner instead of the back.

Speaking of writing, I tossed out two scenes yesterday. At this stage, and when the ms. is already a little short, that's painful, but the story seemed to come to a dead halt, so...out they went.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Evolution of an Opening

So, I started going through the fourth printed draft of THE WARLORD'S BRIDE. As you can see by the picture, it still needs some tweaking.

I thought it might be interesting to illustrate something else, the evolution of the opening of the book, as in the first few paragraphs. I've still got plenty of work to do, so my comments and explanations must be brief.

From the first draft:

"The soldiers cast wary glances at each other before they turned their attention back to Madoc ap Griffydd and the bloody sheep’s carcass at his booted feet. Beside their overlord sat his dog, its black body quivering with suppressed excitement, although he wouldn’t move from that spot until his master gave the order.

Neither would the men.

“Fox?” Madoc asked at the old shepherd standing on the other side of the sheep lying on its side, its throat torn out.

“Likely,” Emlyn answered, his gaze on the animal, too, as he cradled the small, warm body of a lamb in his thin arms. The small animal bleated plaintively, as if it, too, wanted to know what had happened to its mother.

His expression grim, Madoc raised his eyes and one dark brow to look at Emlyn. “Likely?”"

THE WARLORD'S BRIDE has yer basic "stranger rides into town" set-up. You can either start with the stranger, or the person already in the "town." Madoc, the hero, is not the stranger, and it's always my first inclination to start with the hero.

However, this means you drop the reader "in medias res" of not just the character's lives, but the whole setting (time and place). If you begin with the stranger, the reader is introduced to the setting just like that character.

Also, it can be better to start with the character you want the reader to most empathize with, and in a romance, that's generally the heroine. So I changed it to starting with the stranger, Lady Roslynn de Werre. (A variation of the original opening now comes much later in the story.)

""At last,” Lord Bernard de Valiese muttered as he peered through the drizzle at what was apparently a pile of rock atop a hill in the near distance. “Llanpowell. Thank God!”

Lord Bernard might be relieved to have arrived at their final destination, and the young lady riding beside him didn’t doubt he was happy to think he could soon return to court. She didn’t share those sentiments -- but then, Lord Bernard had not been brought to this castle in Welsh Marches to be married to the lord of Llanpowell by order of the king.

Perhaps Lord Bernard sensed Lady Roslynn de Werre’s unease, or perhaps he was merely talking to himself, when he added, “And at last we shall be dry.”"

The problem with this opening is that it gives too much away about the heroine's situation, and it gives the best line of dialogue to a secondary character, "And at last we shall be dry."

Next up:

"“God be praised,” Lord Bernard de Valiese muttered as he peered through the drizzle. “Llanpowell at last. I thought we’d never get here.”

The young lady riding beside him likewise looked out from under her sodden hood at what was now most definitely a castle in the distance. Although she couldn’t share her companion’s relief, she would be happy to get out of the rain.

But Lord Bernard would surely have preferred to remain at the capricious king’s court, the better to protect his own interests. She, being a woman and thus forever a quarry to John and other lustful courtiers, had been all too eager to leave, even if the purpose of this journey was not one to inspire hope and happiness."

Better, because it doesn't give away the reason for the heroine's journey right up front, and reveals that she doesn't want to be there. There's also some information about the political forces that influence the story. The third line of dialogue, however, is way too modern.

Lord Bernard was mentioned in the previous book in this series, KNAVE'S HONOR. However, he was a friend of Lady Roslynn, and by this point I realized that I didn't want the man who escorts her to Llanpowell to be her friend, so...enter Lord Alfred.

"“God be praised, Llanpowell at last. I thought we’d never arrive,” Lord Alfred de Garleboine muttered as he drew his gray destrier to a halt and peered through the water dripping from his raised visor onto his grizzled beard. His mount refooted, the huge hooves churning the mud and pebbles of the forest road. More moisture dripped from the pine trees beside the road and roused their heavy scent, while the verge was a mess of mud and running water. The drizzle rendered the sky a leaden gray and the rest of landscape awash in mucky brown and dull green, the few exposed rocks looking like hunched little men trying to keep dry.

From under the sodden hood of her cloak lined with fox fur, the young lady riding beside him followed his gaze to what was now most definitely a castle and not just another stony outcropping in the south of Wales. Like the rocks, it seemed to have been exposed by time and the weather, not built by men."

I'm trying to get more description of the landscape in this version. Getting closer, but not there yet. Note that I've taken out everything that tells or reveals the conflicts to come.

This is what I started to read last night:

"“God be praised, Llanpowell at last,” Lord Alfred de Garleboine muttered as he peered through the water dripping from his raised visor onto his grizzled beard and drew his gray destrier to a halt.

From under the sodden hood of her cloak lined with fox fur, the young lady riding beside him followed his gaze to what was now most definitely a castle and not just another stony outcropping in the south of Wales. Like the rocks, it seemed to be a natural feature of the landscape, exposed by time and the weather, not an edifice built by men.

Lord Alfred’s mount refooted, the huge hooves churning the mud and pebbles of the rutted Welsh road. More moisture dripped from the pine trees around them, while the drizzle rendered the sky a leaden gray and the rest of landscape all mucky brown and dull green."

Close, but I didn't like having the first and third paragraphs apart. Also, I liked that bit about the castle seeming to be part of the land, but not here, so I moved it to Page 3. This is also the time when I fine tune the details.

This morning, the opening of THE WARLORD'S BRIDE looks like this:

"Lord Alfred de Garleboine drew his dappled palfrey to a halt and peered through the water dripping from his raised visor. More moisture fell from the pine trees beside the road and roused their heavy scent, while the verge was a mess of mud and running water. The drizzle rendered the sky a leaden gray and the rest of landscape was all mucky brown and dull green, the few exposed rocks like hunched little men trying to keep dry.

“God be praised, Llanpowell at last,” the middle-aged nobleman muttered as his mount refooted, its hooves churning the mud and pebbles of the rough Welsh road.

From under the sodden hood of her mantle lined with fox fur and fastened with a silver brooch, the young lady riding beside him followed his gaze to what was most definitely a castle and not just another stony outcropping in the south of Wales."

Note I changed Lord Alfred's horse, and the description of Lady Roslynn's cloak to be more accurate and detailed.

Basically, what I'm trying to do with what I hope will be the final editing and polishing is add more specific detail, tighten other story elements, fix typos, get rid of repetitions, and add emotional clarity to make sure my characters actions are clearly motivated.

As the picture illustrates, I'm reading through a hard copy and making changes, but even then, I'll still be tweaking when I input them. Heck, I tweak a manuscript every chance I get. I just can't help myself. I always find something that could be a little better, a little clearer, a different word, another small detail. But there comes a time to let go. And my very last chance to make changes.

And then I never read the book again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Another Reason To Write

As I was flipping through the June issue of Glamour magazine (part of my traditional Mother's Day gift), I noticed the following:

"On average, a woman with a creative job has the cardiovascular fitness and other health attributes of someone six years younger, according to a recent study."

Whoo hooo! Pass the chocolate!

Actually, I'd really like to know what study, by whom. It could be the Institute For Helping Writers Survive Revisions, for all I know. However, I am going to assume it's a study by a prestigious university, because I love the idea that creativity actually keeps you physically healthier.

So off I go to get healthier while trying to finish this draft!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Taking a wee break...

Turns out I kinda miss blogging...who knew?

Anyhoodle, I believe I mentioned my glee at finding a china cabinet at the antique store near the folks' cottage. I have finally taken a minute to print a picture of it. I haven't quite figured out the correct correlation between pic on camera and pic in printer, because the cabinet also has a large piece at the top you can't see here, and a long drawer all across the bottom. I also apologize for the quality. A photographer I ain't. But you can get the general gist. The long glass door is bowed, as is the drawer on the right. The cupboard below has leaded glass. It's made of tiger oak. And I lurve it!

Next up, I'll show you the mahogany veneer buffet we also got for a bargoon because the guy had it in his truck and offered it to us rather than having to wait to unload it later. I see a new bathroom vanity in its future...

But back to work. Fourth draft and I've cut about 26 pages. Ay yi yi. But that's the way it goes with me, so I'm not panicking.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Cover on Amazon - Can the release date be far away?

I'm still polishing THE WARLORD'S BRIDE -- once again thinking, I should be able to go through this chapter pretty quickly...and three hours later, still at it. However, I just discovered that Amazon has the cover up on the page for A LOVER'S KISS. So it's not too long before Drury's story hits the stands! I've only waited five years to be able to tell it, so...not too excited here. Nope, nope, nope.

And if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell ya.

But now, back to medieval Wales with me!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Crunch Time

I thought I had my manuscript under control. This time, I really did.

So of course, the gods laughed.

I have discovered I went off the rails toward the end, which means some backtracking and rearranging and fixing and...

no more blogging until the book is done.

Also way more "every man for himself" dinners, laundry's on a desperation basis and as for my garden...good luck, perennials, 'cause you're on your own.

Until later, folks!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Old and New and ooh la la

Quickly, because not only am I revising like a mad thing, I need a nap, big time. If it's not the night sweats, it's the cats. And the coughing, because Daughter has brought home another cold. Thanks, kid! Fortunately, it seems much milder than the last. Heck, croup would seem milder than the last...but I digress.

Managed to get out of the house to see Iron Man and also rest my non-iron fingers and carpel tunnels. I really enjoyed it. Robert Downey Jr. does not disappoint. And may I just say, that guy has great shoulders.

By Sunday night, I was in need of more rest and had a wonderful time watching Cranford on PBS. It's my kind of historical show. It's not all about lords and ladies; you've got yer common folk, too, and the focus is on the women. Love it! Thanks again, Elizabeth Gaskell, who is forever dear in our hearts because of North and South . However, Simon Wood is in it, as a love interest, and I must say, having been watching Season Two of Rome again? I have seen a tad more than I care to of Simon Wood and I can't quite forget it while watching Cranford. =8-0

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The deadline loometh...

I have a month to left to polish THE WARLORD'S BRIDE. That may sound like a lot, but it's not. Not the way I work. I'm still at the stage where it can take me two hours to go through a scene. That's about par for the course, because here's what I'm using those hours for:

I'm trying to ensure that the pace is right. I'm still doing slashing and moving and rewriting -- a lot.

I'm making sure I've got information where it works best, and not somewhere else.

I'm smoothing out the tone, so it sounds like I sat down and wrote this in one afternoon, not over several months, during which I wrote through a host of moods and life events that had an impact on the tone of the work on any given day.

I'm trying to weed out anachronisms, or anything that sounds too modern. I'm not a fan of the "thee, 'twas, 'twere" school of medieval setting, because I feel that it gets in the way, rather than enhancing the story, but I do try not to use anything that sounds too 20-21st century.

I'm adding description, particularly of setting, clothing and meals.

I'm trying to make the love scenes more sensual and emotionally powerful.

I'm trying to make sure my characters' motives are clear and understandable, and that the secondary characters aren't stealing the show (two scenes with secondary characters have either been severely shortened or cut -- the jury's still out on the second).

I'm also trying to take a daily walk and get my recently delivered antique china cabinet ready for the china, and moving around other items. I'm only doing a bit a day on that. I still make dinner and do laundry (got my clothesline up -- yeah!). And spend time with the family and friends. I don't shut myself away and have meals brought to my door.

Law and Order reruns (original and SVU) are out, except for the first half-hour of Law & Order at 1 p.m., the bits with Lenny, because a girl has to eat lunch sometime and it's Lenny!

I'm still watching my evening TV shows, because after a day on the writing, the brain isn't much good for anything else except vegging in front of the TV. I also need breaks, or the shoulders and back aches.

Unfortunately, it means I won't have much time for anything on the computer except working, because of the time involved and muscle issues, so blog posts will be at a minimum.

So until next week, adios and think of me, with my sharpened #2 pencils and computer, trying to make it sound like I just sat down one day and decided to tell a story.