Sunday, July 31, 2011

Open Letter to My Editor

Dear Denise,

I finished my edits a little while ago and I will be sending them back to you tomorrow. I want to do one final read and make certain everything is just right. I see what people mean when they say you must love your story because you have to read it over and over. I’ve spent more time editing and re-editing than it took to write. *smiles*

I started editing the story before I finished it. I usually read what I did the day before. It sets me in the mood, gets the creative muse moving, and gives me an opportunity to tighten things up.

It seems whenever I read the story I see opportunity for changes. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. But there comes a time when you just have to stop tinkering with it and call it done. I thought I was in that happy place until Carina Press decided to publish Knight of Runes. *big smile* You’ve help get rid of the clutter which made the pacing so much better.  

I think you’d agree that point of view is my challenge. Since this story is about a Druid knight and the magical powers I give him, I was tempted to give him the power of mind melding just so he could read the thoughts of others. I thought that would do away with my problem *really big smile* but decided against it but only because it wouldn’t fit into the story.

Then there are those echo phrases and favorite words. You got me on ‘slow.’ I hadn’t realized how many times I had slow in the story. Although eye has it beat. It’s there 493 times. Thanks for helping me vet that. With this last round of edits even I was tired of hearing about eyes.

I’ve fix the grammar issue, the split commas. I must have an aversion to ‘and’ that it seems to get left out often.  

I’ve put back the exposition, mainly set up, that I took out a few drafts ago when someone told it wasn’t needed. I should have gone with my gut. I thought the reader would be a bit lost not having the background so it’s great to know you concur. It didn’t take me too long to re-write it. Next time I’ll definitely take your suggestion and save the deleted scenes.

I took a peek at my first draft and compared some scenes. I couldn’t believe the difference. I read the first couple of chapters before putting this together for you and couldn’t believe it was my work. I really love this story. Thanks for helping me make it wonderful.

Well, I’m off the sleep. I’ll finish reading tomorrow. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend.

By the way, I have a great idea for the next story. I’ll fill you in on that in a week or so.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Journey to Publication ~ Knight Of Runes

I'm just sitting here looking at the cover of my debut novel, Knight of Runes, scheduled for release, November 14 by Carina Press. Okay, so you may think I'm sitting and staring at it because he's a really hot guy. Only for a little while. I have one in residence, hot to me that is. The picture of Lord Arik may not be real but I realized that my novel is. 
I started this project March, 2009 with an innocent excitement to help a friend write her book. It quickly escalated into creating a series of romance novels. We each had stories in our head and made plans to connect them. After a few months of hard work and several tens of thousands words on each of our stories, we found that our idea of tying them together wouldn't work. The stories would work well independently so we decided to critique each other's stories and finish our books individually. 
Her life was filled with a beautiful daughter getting ready for high school graduation, college tours, New York marathon training, and a job that took her all over the country (and sometimes the world). My situation is very different. My three extraordinary children are independent and on their own. I use my treadmill as an extension of my closet, and my job is an ninety minute commute to New York City. 
I had the time and I had the story so, I went full out. I researched the renaissance, manor life, herbs, poisons, karate moves, survival training, field medical procedures, druids, magic, warding, myths, and knights. Then I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. By August, I had 105,000 words and a completed story. Now what? I looked for a support group and found Romance Writers of America. I spent the next fourteen months learning about craft, research, publishing, and career building. I pitched to agents and editors and kept on polishing my manuscript, my pitch, and my synopsis.
In October, 2010, I participated in an online pitch sponsored by Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal (FFnP), an online RWA special interest chapter. Carina Press requested my full manuscript. I gave it one more polish after taking Eliza Knight's, Edit Your Book in a Month, and sent it off January 2011. February 3rd, I got a call from Carina Press. They wanted to publish my story.  
After making her repeat her name, I must have heard it wrong, it sounded like she said Angela James, it finally sunk in. This was THE CALL. All that practicing in the shower going over and over what I would say, how sophisticated I would sound and the brilliant questions I would ask, must have floated down the drain. I sounded anything but coherent and witty.
For days I thought, Angela must be mistaken or she must be calling everyone that pitched. So many agents and editors told me that time travel romance wouldn't sell. I was certain Carina Press would change their minds. When the contract came I had to admit that it was real.  
My family, day job colleagues, and friends (writers and non-writers), all celebrated with me as the project moved into its next phase, ready for production. With my editor, Denise Nielsen, we've worked through the edits,  cover fact sheet, and back cover blurb.
So, I sat and looked at the cover and realized that all that hard work, the disappointments, and even the doubts were so worth it. I look at the cover, a symbol of reality to me, and get goosebumps. The excitement bubbles up all over again. And that hot guy, the one in residence, told me he knew it all along. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why I Was Almost 'Invited' To Leave The Train's Quiet Car

This week there were two blogs that made me laugh so hard the conductor on the train almost ‘invited’ me to leave the quiet car. One was by Jean Joachim, a friend and fellow author. Her post, Ten things not to say to a romance writer and the snappy answers you might get, is hysterical. I’ve added it below for your enjoyment. Thanks for letting me share this Jean.

J. Coleman
The second gem is from Joelene Coleman. We met in Eliza Knight’s virtual workshop, Edit Your Book in a Month, along with a dynamite sassy bunch of other writers. The group worked so well together that we created our own loop, Writing Divas, and continue providing support and friendship.
Each Wednesday, Joelene posts Wacky Wednesday. This week’s post was Skinny Jeans … when you’re not. I love Joelene’s easy banter and quick sense of humor. Who doesn’t have a pair of skinny jeans. Joelene will have you rolling on the floor. No, not trying to get your jeans on, from reading about her experience.

I strongly suggest you read both these posts in a busy noisy place so no one looks at you strangely when you laugh out loud. Thanks ladies for the wonderful laugh and for letting me post your work here.

10 Things Not To Say To a Romance Writer! and the Snappy Answers You May Get

1.  Did you model that character after me?
Ø   No, you’re too boring to be a character in my book.
2.  Did you get your plot from a TV program?
Ø                          No, that’s called theft of intellectual property.
3,  Are you going to put what I just said in a book?
Ø                         Maybe, but you’ll never know, will you?
4.  Who did you fashion your characters after?
Ø                        No one, they are fiction, remember?
5.  Did that really happen?
Ø   No, that’s called nonfiction.
6.  Where do you get your ideas?
Ø   I buy them at the corner store along with my crack, heroin and diet pills.
7.  Does your mother know you write this stuff?
Ø   Yes, and she’s buying copies for all her friends for Christmas.
8.  Do people actually buy your books?
Ø   Yes, I’ve got the royalty checks to prove it.
9.  I could write something like this…it isn’t hard.
Ø  Go ahead…I dare you!
10. This isn’t real literature, you know.
Ø  Really? That’s what it’s classified as by the government (when you file a copyright.) 
      A little about Jean. Jean Joachim is an RWA-NYC chapter mate and good friend. Her latest book, Sunny Days and Moonlit Nights, is now available on Amazon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Six Magic Words That Lead To Publishing Success

Last week I offered you a list of the 10+ things I learned at the 2011 RWA Conference. One item in particular, the six magic words, interested many readers. So much so that you tweeted, reposted, left comments and wanted to know what those magic words are.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips did an entire workshop on the Six Magic Words that lead to publishing success… keep the reader in the story!  Just how do you invite our reader into our world? And, more importantly, keep them there?
We want to grab our reader’s attention from the beginning and keep them reading until the end and possibly beyond. Have you ever read a book and dreaded finishing because you would have to leave the characters behind? I know I’ve read books like that and those are the types of books I want to write.
Here are a few tips I’ve gathered from a number of authorities some from workshops, on line classes, blogs, critique partners, and my editor.
  • Hook Them

A narrative hook is a literary technique that gets, and keeps, the reader’s attention.  You want to keep the reader wondering what the consequences of the action will be. Placed strategically, the opening or the end of a scene or chapter, it keeps the reader wanting more. Isn’t that what you want?
For example:
“I’ve heard Lord Walling has depraved appetites in the bedroom.”
From Tina Gabrielle’s - The Perfect Scandal
  • Keep Narrative to a Minimum

I’ve read novels with pages and pages of narrative. No action. No dialogue. The story just goes on with pages of description that’s not very exciting. While there is a place for passages like this, they should be kept to a minimum.
My example here would be the first draft of the opening of my book. I naively opened with a lengthy description of forest. Go ahead and giggle. It was pretty much “… a dark and stormy day…” Cris Anson, Anne Walradt and Lisa Verge Higgins had all they could do to not laughing. It still opens in a forest, but only a few sentences, rather than pages, describe it. It goes right into a fight scene. Thank you ladies!
  • Back up Dialogue with Gestures and Movements

Dialogue without any activity is boring. Gestures and movements adds color to the story and characters. What are your characters doing? What are they holding? How are they gesturing? This helps the reader visualize the scene and gets them involved in it.
For example:
Words crowded to the tip of her tongue, but they made no sense. She drained the cup in one long, desperate gulp, hoping to clear her befuddled mind. “Galactic Standard.”” Both hands curled around the empty cup in her lap. “We’re speaking the Galactic Standard.”
  From Angela Knight’s - Warrior
  • Involve All the Senses

Readers want to escape, they want to experience what the characters experience. That includes all aspects of the scene. Not just one sense, but as many as possible. The more sensory perception you build into your story the richer the experience, the more involved the reader.
For example:
The air was crisp and ripe with the scents of battle. The metallic odor of blood wafted in the morning fog. The smell of the dead and the living intermingled to create an aroma that can only come after fierce warfare. Whoops and hollers echoed across the fields from the victorious men. Groans of pain drifted in the wind.
                        From Eliza Knight’s -  A Lady’s Charade
  • Use Action Words
Verbs energize. An action verb generates more drama and emotion than a noun, adjective or adverb of similar meaning. Use vivid verbs, powerful verbs, to ignite the action, paint word-pictures, and evoke feelings in your readers. Use verbs that show the activity and serve to paint that vivid memorable picture in the reader's mind about what is occurring in the story.

For example:
I should not have stayed away from the Manor so long. Something stirs. Lord Arik’s eyes swept the surrounding area as he and his three riders escorted the wagon with the old tinker and the woman. They sped through the forest as fast as the rain slicked trail would allow. Unable to shake the ominous feeling that someone watched them, Arik remained alert. At length, the horses winded, he slowed the pace as they neared the Stone River.
From Ruth A. Casie’s - Knight of Runes
  • Well rounded characters

 The main characters in your story should be as well rounded as possible. Avoid using "stock characters" that are predictable and un-interesting. If a reader can predict what a character is going to do throughout the story, then the character is too flat and needs some rounding out.  Characters move the plot, they make things interesting, and, above all, it’s with whom readers identify. To do all that, it is vital that writers create living, breathing story people. From protagonist to sidekick to villain to the minor characters who round out your story, writers must imagine and illustrate people with a variety of traits and features, and if you don’t differentiate well, the story won’t work.

It comes down to show don’t tell. Telling communicates facts while showing invites understanding. Telling your reader the facts does not make the experience theirs. Having them live the story, showing them how to live the story, makes it a part of them they will never forget. Isn’t that what good storytelling is all about?
These are in no way the only ways to keep your reader in your story. Please share your ideas with me, examples if you like.  I would love to grow this list.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The 10+ Things I Learned at the 2011 RWA Conference

For weeks I looked forward to the RWA National Conference. I was eager to attend the various workshops and my publisher’s events. Most of all, I looked forward to putting names to faces. The run up to the week was busy as I finalized my plans, bought clothes, and planned workshops to attend. I talked and tweeted with friends (some that I only knew online) and got even more excited. I wasn’t disappointed.

Times Square - New York 
The Conference was at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel at Times Square. The fast pace of Manhattan carried permeated the week. The conference was high energy from the time you stepped into the Opening Session on Wednesday morning until you strutted out of the gala Awards Ceremony Friday night.  

There was a lot to take in and learn. I look forward to applying it all. So, what are the top ten plus things I learned at this year’s RWA Conference?

·         I learned that networking both on-line and in-person is vital to an author’s career and absolutely necessary for one’s personal growth.
·         I learned one could get frustrated waiting for the programmed elevators.
·         I learned Carina Press is an incredibly supportive and caring publishing house.
·         I learned Sharon Sala is as wonderful as I thought and was truly excited for me when I told her I sold my first story.
·         I learned Delilah Marvelle is a dancing queen with whom I could almost keep up (it will take a week for my feet to recuperate).
·         I learned that tweeting and blogging are important but writing trumps them both.
·         I learned Eliza Knight is a great friend and conference companion.
·         I learned the six magic words every author should know to keep the reader in the story.
·         I learned that transmedia is on the horizon.
·         I learned that Kim Killion is dynamite and Brooks’ not bad either.
·         I learned Julie Rowe’s book and mine both release on November 14 (yea!)
·         I learned that wearing the first sale ribbon gets you acknowledged not only by friends, well know authors, agents, and publishers but also by complete strangers in the elevator. It will take me a week to wipe the smile off my face.
·         I learned I could dislike chicken real fast.
·         I learned I felt like a princess at the Harlequin Black and White Ball.
·         I learned I wasn’t rooming with a total stranger, Denise Pattison, but my new best friend.
·         And finally, I learned I have an outstanding support network. Women who care about me and my success. I was reminded that I couldn’t have gotten this far without them.