Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The End of June

Wow, what a week. First Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett and now Michael Jackson passed away. Guess that's one secret the health nuts forget to tell you when they insist that running that extra mile and eating that cardboard, uh, healthy cereal will keep you young. No one lives forever. And as far as I'm concerned, I'd rather die two days earlier than eat Kashi for breakfast. Not to pick on one brand or anything, you understand.

So anyway—it's a little scary when you start seeing familiar faces you grew up with dropped under six feet of soil. I'm really feeling that cold wind blowing up my skirt these days, particularly since all the parents on both sides of my family have passed away. The next row to be scythed by Death is mine. Brrh. Chilly.

And morbid. So enough of that, already. No more bad news, please. Nobody dies for the next few days. Promise.

Writing-Related Stuff

Romance Writers of America asked me to participate in a task force studying e-publishing with an eye towards preparing materials for writers considering publication with small press and e-publishers. There has been a lot of controversy about the whole e-publisher and small press issue as it relates to questions like: are small press/e-published authors really considered published since they don't typically get an advance for their books? You see, most writers' organizations have strict guidelines about what constitutes "being published" to distinguish serious, professional writers from your average Joe who self-published his memoirs. Most of the time, the dividing lines are drawn around the following questions:

  1. Did you get published by a "recognized" publisher? (Most of these are based in NY—and criteria for publishers to get on the recognized list is generally whether said publisher pays an advance to all of its authors and if that advance is of a certain dollar value…)
  2. Did you get X dollars for an advance? Some organizations set this at $3,000. Some set it at $1,000.

Most e-publishers use a different payment structure. They don't pay an advance, but they pay authors every month or every quarter after their book is released. Generally, authors don't make much with e-publishers, particularly with a first book, but over time, productive authors with e-publishers can make money. Some authors actually make enough to live on, so it can be a good avenue for authors with books that are just too different for the NY big boys to acquire.

Anyway, I'm working to avoid controversy and provide fair and honest information that may be of use to our authors. It's an interesting group and a very complex topic.

Good News (If Any)

Semi-great news: looks like my editor is preparing the contract package for my paranormal. And the fun thing is that my critique partner, Lilly Gayle, has a paranormal under contract now with my publisher, too! So I'm hoping we can cross-pollinate and make guest appearances on each other's blogs sometime next year when our books are released. This is a new genre for me, since I generally write historical/historical mysteries, but it was a fun change of pace.

Once I actually get the contract paperwork and sign it, I'll feel "set enough" to talk more about it. In the meantime, I'm pretty pleased.

Also, I was delighted with Long and Short Reviews nominated my historical short story, OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOR, for best story of the week last weekend. What a nice surprise! They also gave me a lovely review, which made my day.

And although I got two rejections for another historical mystery, one of the rejections said the editor would like to look at the manuscript again if I beef up the romance a tad. So I'm giving that a whirl. It would be super if I could have several books come out in 2010, what with this dry spell in 2009.

What I'm Reading Now

I just finished Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard. What a fun read! Here is a snippet of the review I wrote for it…

This is the first Elmore Leonard book I've read and I have to admit, I really enjoyed it. The characters were charming and funny, even when they were beating up folks. It is always interesting to me to see how an author portrays what are essentially very bad people in a moderately sympathetic manner and Leonard is very, very adept at this.

Jack Foley is a bank robber with a very interesting moral code. It's okay to rob banks, but not dupe people. He's honestly a bank robber, I guess you could say. While I find that sort of moral hair-splitting a little distasteful, for purposes of a novel where you don't have to actually associate with these people, it's okay. I like Jack. He's charming and he's actually honest. If you ask him what he does for a living, he's right up front about it. He robs banks and he's just out of prison. Take it or leave it.

Cundo Rey is a little more difficult as a character. He never really gelled for me, but I take it he "starred" in another book, so maybe if I read that first, I'd have glommed on to him a little better. The reader isn't meant to like him as much as Jack, though, and Leonard makes sure of it by Cundo's treatment of his girlfriend, Dawn Navarro.

And Dawn, well, if you think the other two characters are in a moral gray area, well, she's pretty well drifting as close to black as she can without actually being a mass murderer or anything. She dupes folks for money. It's interesting in that I suspect this moral hair-splitting may say a lot about Leonard's sense of morality. It's okay if you do bad things as long as you are honest about it and don't dupe people.

What I liked: Loved the characters' interactions and the peek into the lives of people I would never in a million years associate with in real life. J There's a sort of evil fascination to getting a glimpse of life on the wild side. The plot was twisty, although I have to admit there was an inevitability about events that made it somewhat predictable. This is good in the sense that what happened HAD to happen because of the characters', well, characters. On the other hand, this also made it a little predictable once you understood the characters. It had to go the way it did for better or worse.

What I didn't like: There wasn't anything I hated. But I couldn't really get into Cundo Rey or his backstory. There were just elements that didn't mesh for me, such as his previous existence as sort of a male exotic dancer. I could have wished for a little more of the unexpected, too, in the plot. Nothing really surprised me.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It's definitely on my keeper shelf.

What I'm Writing Now

I'm redoing the historical mystery, The Bricklayer's Helper, to add a touch more romance for resubmission to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. I'm really, really hoping they will ultimately accept it as they did such a good job with my previous historical, I BID ONE AMERICAN.

What—If Any—Thoughts I have

Writing is a difficult art to learn and requires constant care and feeding. One of the key elements, however, is discovering what gives you joy. For me, my joy in writing comes when I can come up with a humorous situation. The more humor I can infuse into a story, the more I enjoy writing it. The manuscript I'm submitting now, The Bricklayer's Helper, gave me tremendous joy in writing it. Each night, I would lay in bed thinking about what possible terrible—and terribly funny—thing I could do to Sarah and William (my heroine and hero) the next day. I could hardly sleep. I kept wanting to leap out of bed and continue writing. Only sheer exhaustion kept me from doing so.

And while some books I write are much darker, like my paranormals, I know that if I get stuck or depressed, all I have to do is think of the silliest, stupidest, funniest scene I can. My enthusiasm immediately returns, even if I later have to remove that scene.

If you can find what "turns you on" creatively, you can use it to drive yourself forward through all the roadblocks and deadends. Use what you can. You can always edit the junk out later.

Have a terrific weekend!

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