Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

End of March

Good News (If Any)

No good news, per se. But I did submit another manuscript, The Bricklayer's Helper, last night to my publisher. I really, really hope my editor likes it. I love this story—I wrote it after reading a newspaper article from an old "Broadsheet" from the Regency period in England (early 1800's). An orphaned girl disguised herself as a boy in order to find work. She worked as a bricklayer's helper, then as a footman, for a number of years. She even married her landlady's pregnant daughter (the landlady blackmailed her with exposure) so that the pregnant girl wouldn't have a child out of wedlock. Unfortunately, her efforts came to naught when she was exposed, but it was a fascinating story. This woman chose that path to avoid the only other "profession" open to a young girl with no money or family: prostitution.

Anyway, I sort of took that story and ran with it—making it into a mystery (she's orphaned when her family is killed, and now the killer is after her!) with a bit of romance. The poor heroine hires an inquiry agent who seems more interested in his reflection in the mirror than in finding the killer stalking her. Oh, well. Life is tough for my characters.

This story comes after my previous book, I Bid One American, and features the Archer family again. Those characters just can't seem to keep themselves out of trouble.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Did I mention that Highland Press contracted with me for The Necklace? We haven't started the actual work on it yet, but I did sign a contract. The Necklace is actually a prequel of sorts to I Bid One American, so I'm glad it will be coming out—maybe in 2010, I hope. This one features a cursed gem that's been in the Archer family for a number of years…

What I'm Reading Now

The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay. I just finished it last night. The main character is a private investigator suffering from narcolepsy—you know—where you fall asleep at inappropriate times and suffer from hallucinations. It was fascinating. Funny and yet dark. The poor guy isn't even sure if he remembers who hired him, or if that was a hallucination. J His life is going down the toilet fast, but he's clinging to the rim, anyway, and I loved it.

If you're looking for a different kind of mystery, I highly recommend this one. I really like off-beat characters and this is one of the better books containing a whole slew of them.

What I'm Writing Now

Starting work on a Christmas story, actually a novella. I need to finish it by the end of June, so I've got to get my thoughts in order. J However, it looks like a murder may take place and a ghost may have been involved. Somehow.

What—If Any—Thoughts I have

Epiphany Moment: The payoff in the world of romance novels has changed. Which I'm sure everyone but me already knew. Duh.

Used to be, the payoff was love and commitment (usually in the form of marriage).

Now, the payoff is sex.

Okay. What-ever.

But it does make me kind of sad. For me as a reader, it can be hard (no pun intended) to feel satisfied at the end of a romance novel. Particularly when there are multiple "payoffs" throughout the book. One more, at the end, becomes meaningless as a "wrap up." Who cares by that point? Obviously, every other reader in the world, except me. All right. I admit it. I'm an idiot.

But here's an example of what satisfies me, from another genre. Mysteries.

You can define the payoff in a murder mystery as the revelation of "who did it," "why they did it," and the restoration of order and justice. Well, that happens once. At the end. It's a real payoff. And like all payoffs that mean anything, you have to wait for it. You get hints, but not the real deal until the end. It's not like the author can restore order and justice and then continue the book—the story is over at that point. And that's one of the reasons I'm a huge mystery fan. Because I like that sense of completeness and order in an essentially chaotic universe. The sense of justice served—but not before the end of the book.

Mysteries and suspense that let me down on the payoff by doing something like allowing the bad guy to escape due to the ineffectual justice system—well, I'm unlikely to read those authors/books again. They are missing the essential point: a satisfying payoff. I get enough of real life in real life. I don't need a book to know bad guys get off all the time due to technicalities. Or they are simply not caught to begin with. That's life. Not fiction.

Or at least, hopefully, not fiction.

Just like the horror authors miss the point if there's no one left alive at the end. King never kills off all his characters. [Spoiler alert] The kid survives in The Shining. Phew. Payoff. And that's why (no matter what you think of him or his writing) he is a master in that genre. Someone has to survive. And hopefully, order has been restored (even if just temporarily beaten back into the dark depths). That's the payoff. He understands that and gives the reader what they need. A really scary story and a great "phew" sense of relief at the end. Good triumphs over evil (at least for five minutes).

So, back to romances and my general sadness. I guess it shows how hopelessly out of touch and out of date I am. I mean, I know women don't care about marriage and commitment, anymore. They are not a woman's sole goal the way they were up until about the 1950's. I get that. Heck, I've been working at a very demanding career now for over thirty years. But for me, romance is inextricably bound with commitment. And yes, marriage—which in my simple mind, is the legal instantiation and proof of commitment. And I've got nothing against sexy novels and such—but unfortunately, sex isn't a payoff—at least not for me. And once it occurs, the "romance" is over. So yeah, if it occurs at the end, I'm good with that—because it rolls up into love and commitment as a satisfying payoff. But if it's been occurring regularly for the last 200 pages, well, who cares at that point? I don't care anymore. The ending is therefore weak.

That's just me—as a reader—though. Just a random, useless opinion.

I'm just one gal who got sidetracked.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March is Going Quickly

I decided to try a new format for my blogs, since I've been falling behind because of my furious work on new manuscripts. I'm really, really working hard to get submissions out there on a number of fronts for both professional and psychological reasons. Submitting manuscripts to publishers is more like buying lottery tickets than anything else. At least it seems that way to me. There's no telling who is going to like what. Sometimes you win, but mostly you lose. The more times you play the game, the more likely you are to win something. Although the lottery is more random in that playing more games does not change your odds of winning.

Psychologically, it's easier to take a rejection if you have four or five other submissions pending because your crushed spirit still has the balm of a few more fruitless submissions that you haven't heard back on. Yet.

Good News (If Any)

I do have 1 short story coming out this month, on the 25th to be exact. It's a sweet Regency called: Outrageous Behavior. And I already got a 4-star review from Novel Editions, so I hope you'll check it out. Because it's a short story, it's cheap and doesn't take long to read, so I'm hoping folks will find it to be their cup of tea.

And speaking of cups of tea…

I'm attending a Regency Tea given by the Durham Library system in the Raleigh, NC, area. The tea is March 31st in the evening and it promises to be a lot of fun. If things get too boring (I'm a terrible conversationalist), I have a trick up my sleeve. Many eons ago, before the earth's crust entirely cooled, I obtained a desk of Regency-themed Tarot cards. So, if we can't think of anything to talk about at the Tea, other than the weather, I can whip out my Tarot cards and do a few informal Regency Fortune-tellings. At least that will save me from the dreaded silence that seems to fall when you're facing a bunch of strangers and have no clue what to say.

What I'm Reading Now

I'm reading a few short stories in The Strand magazine. There is a Mark Twain and a P.G. Wodehouse, so I really can't go wrong. I love short stories. When I want something to read at bedtime and for whatever reason don't feel like plunging into another novel, I generally pick up my volume of The Collected Works of H. H. Munroe (aka, SAKI) and read a few of his short stories. It doesn't matter how many times I read them—they still make me chuckle.

What I'm Writing Now

I'm working madly on polishing the final draft of The Bricklayer's Helper. It's a sweet Regency mystery/romance and features the Archer family from my previous book, I Bid One American. It was a lot of fun to write, so I hope my editor agrees and I can find a home for it. I've given myself a deadline of April 3, 2009, to submit it. Then, I'll get to work on polishing up a paranormal I have lying around. I'm considering trying the Nocturne line for that one (if I find the guts to do so). After that query goes out, I'll be submitting a few queries for a cozy mystery called: Whacked!. That one is ready, but I'm trying to pull together a query that agents will bite on. It will be my first contemporary mystery, so we'll see what happens.

What—If Any—Thoughts I have

I'm trying very hard not to think.

So far, I've succeeded.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Coming Soon

My Regency short story: Outrageous Behavior is coming out March 25 from The Wild Rose Press! Yippee! If you're looking for something short, sweet and inexpensive, take a look.

Regency Tea & Book Signing

The Cary Library (Raleigh/Durham, NC) is hosting a Regency Tea with romance authors Liz Carlyle, Amy Corwin, Claudia Dain, Sabrina Jeffries and Deb Marlowe on March 31 at the Paige Walker Center. There will be a tea expert there, giving a period correct tea and a book signing afterward.

The Cary library is asking attendants to sign up ahead of time at their location, as seating is limited. The event is free, but you have to sign up and get a ticket ahead of time. We just heard that they are nearing capacity.

Hope to see some of you there!

What I'm Reading Now

You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled by Parnell Hall.
Cozy Mystery

What a riot! I love this book. It's got me laughing with the snarky dialogue and impossibly twisted situations the "Puzzle Lady" gets herself into. I really recommend this (and can't wait to finish it and get some more in this series).

What I just Finished Reading

Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath

I really enjoyed this book and am giving it 95 out of 100. It's definitely on my "keepers" shelf, and I'll be picking up the rest of his books. I'll start out with my only quibbles: a) The main character's name is Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, with the Chicago police department. Well, as everyone knows, the nickname for Jacqueline is "Jac" not "Jack" (which is incidentally the nickname for John). Obviously, he wanted to play on the Jack Daniels Whiskey theme so he had to stretch it. Sigh. It would have been better to leave it as Jac Daniels—he could still play on the Whiskey theme and it would have been smoother; and b) Jack's voice was decidedly masculine. I got used to it, but never really "felt" the narrator's "female-ness". It was like a man pretending to be a woman. J

Small quibbles, nothing bad, probably just moi.

Gotta say, though, this book moved! He carried you right along with the story of a serial killer calling himself The Gingerbread Man who decided to cut a wide-swath through the female population of Chicago. Pretty gruesome, really.

The writing is tight and exciting, and the story moves right along at a fast pace. It's hard to put it down, really. And I love Jack's wry sense of humor.

Total: 95 out of 100

What I'm Pondering

How to write true-to-life Regency dialog without completely boring my audience and making them think all the characters are hopelessly dorky. You have to update it, but the question is the degree to which you can do this without straying too far into way-NOT-historical. I'm working on a Regency mystery—a serious Regency mystery—and it requires accuracy.

What made me think I could do this?



You need something to cheer you up, right? You know you do. With spring almost here—but not quite—and that general blah feeling that results from the end of the holidays and arrival of more bills, you're in desperate need of a nice surprise. Maybe even something you can curl up with and read.  Something that will let you read not one, but thousands of good books…

A Sony e-Book Reader! Yeah, that's the ticket!

The Wild Rose Press is running a contest to give away a free Sony e-book reader! The contest runs until March17, so be sure to visit and find out how to enter.  I'm one of the sponsors so you can use the purchase of my Regency romantic mystery, I Bid One American, to enter!  And I was pleased to discover that Book Utopia considered I Bid One American one of the best books for 2008! Thanks!