Archive | November, 2011

Give Thanks!

24 Nov

Well, here in the US it’s Thanksgiving today, and this year I’m thankful for the fact that at some point since high school my cheekbones have developed enough that when I accidentally cut my bangs too short I can pull them back with a headband and don’t look like a very effeminate boy.  It’s the little things.

Oh yeah, I’m also thankful that I cracked 50,000 words for Promise Me Paradise early yesterday morning and as a result, have officially “won” NaNoWriMo.  Or I will have as soon as winning rolls out tomorrow morning, even with taking the holiday off.

Yes, that’s right, I won NaNoWriMo.  That doesn’t mean the book is done by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m still about 15k from the end, plus a few scenes that I skipped over that need to be replaced when I’m done.  Then I just have to do some editing, send it out for beta (and a big special thanks to everyone who has and will volunteer to beta!) and then rewrite.  Then I want to finish at least the first draft of The Madness & The Moonlight before I submit this for publishing.  I have been working on the characters and plot for that one for  awhile, and now that Promise Me Paradise is almost done I’ve been focusing on it a little more.  If I’m lucky and far more disciplined than I have ever been in the past, I might be done with it within a year.  Then I have a third book in the series and a fourth, unrelated, book that’s been banging around in my head for a few weeks and I’ve been taking notes on it as they come to me.

So the blog?  Shall not die!  I have never had this much self-control in my life and I am loathe to give it up yet.  I usually get a little OCD if I can’t update a blog daily and forget about it until all the entries are me apologizing for not updating, and I usually burn out on fiction before I ever finish.  If I finish this book, it will mark the first time in my life I’ve ever finished anything.  I love that.

This year, I’m thankful for being one year closer to the person I want to be.

Advertisements

On Romance Heroes & Novels

15 Nov

I am writing this at close to 5 am on my iPad because I just finished reading book 2 in Kieran Kramer’s Impossible Bachelor’s series, Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right and I liked it. I don’t want anyone to take away from this that I didn’t. I’ve read the first two books in 3 days and have every intention to finish the third tomorrow. But I find myself over stimulated (no, not like that!) by the ends of them, which is perplexing to say the least. One thing doing NaNoWriMo has taught me is that I am a wuss. I felt so bad that my characters had to break up I inserted a sex scene that will not be in the final draft afterward. I knew it wouldn’t be in the final as I was writing it, but I just couldn’t stand to see them suffer like that. I like when an author does new and exciting things and introduces new plot twists, but honestly if I hadn’t been assured of a happy ending if I just kept going, I don’t know if I could have finished this book because the drama was so high I couldn’t quite figure out how the plot would be resolved. I’ll stop talking about it there, because this isn’t a book review. I don’t like doing reviews because they’re really only fun to write when they’re mean and as I said, I liked this book.

No, what I want to do is establish a context so when I get to my next point you’ll understand where I’m coming from. As I was reading and becoming more and more distressed, I found myself longing to pick up one of the three books I always find myself returning to: Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale, Revealed by Kate Noble, and Courtney Milan’s Unclaimed. But why, I asked myself, are those the books I return to when I feel sad or scared or lonely? Why are those the ones that I can quote? Lessons in French could be explained away by being one of the first books I read in the genre (yes, I have more passion than experience) and by being a Laura Kinsale and therefore by definition pretty fabulous. Courtney Milan’s book made me stay up all night reading it and made me rethink whether or not I regretted when I lost my virginity and was full of the type of feminist rhetoric I love so very well. But Revealed I bought in ebook (which I hate) to read on an airplane. Until I get a dead tree version, it is actually unpleasant to curl up with it and yet I do. I had read and liked The Summer of You, but Follow My Lead isn’t one of my particular favorites (I think Jason Cummings just isn’t my cuppa).

So again, why those three books? So I thought about it and thought about it and tried to sleep and suddenly a line came to me and I ran on Twitter and typed it up: “The very best romance heroes are the ones who recognize the innate value of the heroine, maybe even before she does.” and then I tried to go to sleep again (it’s 5 am, cut me some slack) but I couldn’t. Eureka, I thought, I have found it. I keep returning to those three, love those three best of all, because those three heroes more than anyone else see something in the heroine that nobody else does — things she doesn’t even know about herself.

This is ridiculously easy to spot in Unclaimed, as it is the entire premise of the novel. Mark sees Jessica as a valuable human being, he sees that she’s smart and strong and talented in ways she didn’t realize before. He accepts her as she is and values her so much as his future partner that he’s been saving himself for her before they even meet — before he even knows she’s alive. In Lessons in French, Trev sees the beauty Callie doesn’t even know is there. He finds her funny and interesting and charming and desirable. He is to her everything she can never be, but he sees her more deeply than she even sees herself. Callie sees herself as society sees her, Trev sees her as she is. Marcus Worth in Revealed notices that Philippa is smart and she is competent in ways even she didn’t realize at first. He doesn’t let her be the person she’s consigned herself to be, he makes her a better version of her because he believes it’s in her all along.

So, like any good amateur forensic psychologist I now have a loose profile of what I want in a hero, but why? What does it say about me? I could come up with any number of deep psychological meanings going back to my childhood,but honestly I think it’s just that I want to be seen. I tell my fiance that I love him because he has an Australian accent and shockingly blue eyes (they’re like the color of the ocean smack in the middle of it where there are no waves, just deep), but the truth is far more mundane than that. I love him because he makes me laugh and because he knows me. I love him because when he looks at me, he sees me. The real me. The me that I don’t show to my family or friends or strangers. And it’s that intensity of being noticed and seen and loved for it that brings me back to those same books and heroes over and over again. It’s a way for me to say each time, “I matter. Who I am is important to me and I will not be silenced.” and rather than risking mockery and betrayal, each time the answer is always “I know, I see you.”

So that’s why I read romance, what about you?

My “process” or I Wish I Were Dead

12 Nov

I don’t write a lot of fiction. I know, crazy, right? See,the thing is I was never very good at outlining as a teenager (something that has surprised everyone who was dumb enough to look at my outline for Promise Me Paradise but I digress) which means while I would have a solid plot and my “voice” always got complimented in my blogs and essays, my fiction has been limited to a series of unfinished short stories and some fanfic. Sometime around high school, I just gave up on fiction altogether and decided to focus on poetry and essays. Really, this is the first time I’ve ever cared enough about something to put the work into it and I choose to view that as a sign of personal growth rather than a sign of my imminent mental illness.

Either way, the result of this is that I have been sheltered until now from all the down and dirty details of the writing process, or as I like to call it, emotional self-abuse (and I mean self-abuse in the literal and figurative sense). Here, uncensored, is a close-up view of how I write.

Stage 1 — Excitement.
In this stage I am happy, exhuberant, even. My adrenaline is pumping I’m writing thousands of words a day. Look at all those words! I’m going to be done in no time! Being a writer is great!

Stage 2 — Loathing.
Now I hate myself. Likely, I read a piece of actual good writing. Or perhaps I just thought realistically about my odds of being published. Either way, I would throw myself dramatically from the cliffs into the sea except I live in Texas and we don’t have cliffs and driving six hours so I can jump off a 12 foot retaining wall into the Gulf of Mexico lacks both poetry and danger for even a below average swimmer.

Stage 3 — Acceptance.
For this stage, I likely sent someone a copy of my draft or did a re-read and realized it’s not the worst thing ever put to disc space. I may have even received a compliment from someone on my excerpt. Or possibly I’m just comforted by the belief that if I hate something while I’m doing it I work better. Whatever happened, I’m starting to feel kind of good, actually! I’m making great time and even if I’m not doing great there’s always editing to fix it! Heck, I might even go so far as to say the book is not bad! Writing rocks!

Stage 4 — Lethargy.
This is the worst stage for me, but luckily it is also the shortest. It only lasts about a day or so, but basically I find it impossible to write more than 500-1000 words in a day. Every syllable is like pulling my own teeth. I care so little about this that I can’t even summon the emotional desire to hate myself. My characters are flat, my plot is derivative, and I’m an idiot for thinking I could make something of myself. I should go back to playing video games constantly for all the good it does. This is the stage I am in today. I wrote 800 words, this blog post, and about 300 Tweets on the subject of how little work I’m doing. I am hoping for the excitement tomorrow because the book is actually getting to the good part.

I wish Pushing Daisies would come back on Netflix. Maybe that would make me want to be romantic again.

A Wild Excerpt Appears!

10 Nov

I have been highly productive this month.  I’m over 20k words already and just a few chapters shy of the best part of the entire thing.  With that in mind, here is an excerpt because I am quite fond of this particular part.

Despite her strenuous mental objections, Josie found herself standing outside on the terrace in the night air. It didn’t help her feel cooler, particularly. It was one of those summer nights in Florida that one could politely call “sultry.” The warm, humid air wrapped around her like a blanket, blurring the lines between her skin and the night.
“So,” she said, leaning against the bannister, “you got me outside. What did you have planned next?”
“Oh I don’t know. You don’t seem to like crowds, I figured you might appreciate the quiet.” She nodded slightly, acknowledging the truth of his statement. Truth be told, she’d rather be anywhere else in the world than back inside that party. She could hear the ocean waves breaking behind her and turned to face the sea.
“So tell me about Europe.” She finally said. He chuckled.
“What about it?”
“Anything. I’ve always wanted to go but I’ve only been abroad a few times. Egypt once with my cousin, and South America with my parents when I was a girl. During the war.”
“South America? That’s an unusual choice for a family.”
“My father is an unusual man.” He seemed to think about that for a few minutes.
“Europe is nice.” He finally said, “But it’s very old. Everything here is new and modern but over there, you can slip into a pub that was built before your grandparents were born and nobody even thinks twice about it – it’s the newest building on the street. And in France…I can’t even describe Paris. At night when everything is lit up sometimes you can look out from your window and see the lights reflecting off the Seine and you feel like if you were to jump into the river you would fall through it into space.”
“It sounds magical.” Really, what else could she say to that? “Sometimes when I was in Egypt, I would look out of our hotel window at night and wonder how many thousands of years of history were in each of the houses on the street.”
They were both silent after that, absorbing the night air and the company. After a minute that felt like forever but somehow wasn’t quite long enough, Josie became very aware that Leo was closer to her than was strictly platonic. She turned to face him, a smile slowly spreading.
“So…” she drawled flirtatiously, letting her eyes roam over his chest and shoulders, “what brings you back to Florida?”
“I was born here, actually.” He said with a grin, somewhere between flattered and amused.
“Really?” This actually startled her, “Then how is it I’ve never met you?”
“Actually, you have. My father was the grocer – Frederick Malcolm — and I used to make his deliveries for him until I enlisted.”
She knew exactly who he was talking about. Mr. Malcolm had been the only grocer when Josie was growing up. He was never a particularly wealthy man, but his family had been in the area almost since it was sold by the Spanish. They were well regarded in the area even after the Hudsons had moved to the area in the last decade. Josie vaguely remembered the delivery boy who used to bring her mother groceries. He was a charming teenager, but at the time Josie had been just a little too young to appreciate his youthful attractions and in fact had been much more enamored of his widowed father who would sometimes slip her a piece of candy or a peppermint when her mother would take her into town. And then one day, the teenager had been gone and in his place was an adult and she’d never thought much about it after that.
“You used to deliver our groceries!” She exclaimed. He nodded.
“Yours and everyone else’s. My father loved yours – he always threw such lavish parties. We could have built a second store just for him.” He hadn’t mentioned that this was the first time he or any of his relatives had been invited. They both knew that, after all. In the early days before the new house, the guest list had been significantly smaller and her father never would have thought to invite the grocer anyway, no matter how well thought of the family may have been.
“Well,” Josie said, with a touch of huskiness to her voice as she regarded him again, “You’ve certainly grown up nicely.” She tried to remember the instructions Sally had given her as a teenager on getting a boy to kiss you. She flicked her eyes down his body, before settling on his lips, letting herself smile before snapping them back to his eyes. She was rewarded by a slight intake of breath from him.
“Josie…” he sighed. “Josie, Josie, Josie…”
“Yes?” She parted her lips slightly looking up at him as he slowly leaned towards her.
“You’re going to be the death of me.”
“My grandma always said I’d come to no good.” He was so close now she could feel his breath – warmer even than the air around her. He smelled like Christmas trees and oranges and she wanted him. She wanted him more than she’d ever wanted anything in her life and he was right there – a matter of inches would close the gap between them. She was so very close…
“Ah! There you two are!” her father’s voice boomed out across the terrace, breaking the spell that had been woven in the air between them. “Josie, I’ve been looking all over for you. William Dean finally arrived. Come say hello!”
William Dean was one of her father’s employees and a nice enough man, if a bit dull. He was educated, intelligent, and kind. The kind of man who was entirely unobjectionable, but wasn’t inclined to inspire a woman to the heights of passion. Josie probably would have liked him much better if her father hadn’t gotten the idea in his head that Josie should marry him and provide him with a male heir. But immediately after being caught on the terrace with her face a matter of inches from the local rum runner’s probably wasn’t the time or place to press the issue.
“Well.” She said, mostly to calm her nerves, sparing a quick glance at Leo before walking over to her father, “I suppose I probably should. Goodnight, Mr. Malcolm. I hope you enjoy the rest of the party.”
And with that, Josie allowed her father to walk her back into the party and the rest of her life.

 

One thing I love about this particular couple is that Josie knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to go after it for herself.  She isn’t perfect, but she likes Leo, she finds him attractive, and she knows if she wants him then the onus is on her to go after that.  Leo is similar in that he is aware Josie wants him and he is very interested in her, but he’s also afraid.  He’s been hurt in the past, but he’s still open with himself about his feelings.  It’s a lot of fun to write people who are so open to the possibilities of each other.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I get to the third book in this series and the hero and heroine are both going to be awkward and shy.  I may end up banging my face into the wall.

Happy NaNoeve!

1 Nov

Well, I am less than 4 hours away from beginning work on Promise Me Paradise. I’ve been reading over my outline trying to get into the mindset for Chapter One.

I am also sugarloading with left over Halloween candy. I’m at that awkward stage of my life where I’m too old to trick or treat but not old enough to have children to take trick or treating. So I ended up handing out candy to children at my mom’s house. My step-brother took over for me for a little while, but his costume was too scary for the little ones so I popped on a pair of koala ears and a Nightmare Before Christmas t-shirt and took over.

I’ll admit to being really nervous right now about the novel and it’s not just the pile of candy I have eaten today. This is my first real NaNoWriMo, but it is not the first novel I’ve ever attempted. Nobody realizes that I’ve never done this before, though, which I guess is a good thing. I’ve done a lot of research and I’m working on a genre I’m incredibly familiar with and usually when I have problems it’s because I get stuck in the middle. BUT my outline is solid, my plans are laid, and I’m not a bad writer so why be scared?

You know, I actually asked for a Mentor in the Newbies subforum but nobody was interested — probably because I’m fairly highly organized and they didn’t want to get into that pile of crazy. Whatever, if this goes well I’ll mentor next year.