Monthly Archives: October 2010

A humbling experience

So you polish your prose until it’s sparkling, eliminating all mispellings and grammatical attrocities, such as the notorious confusion of they’re, there and their, then have friends read it to catch anything you’ve missed.  Then you submit it to a publisher, confident that all of those silly newbie mistakes have been eliminated.

Then you receive your galley proof from the publisher, full of correction marks.  No, I don’t mean things like, “Alphonso’s biceps aren’t big enough.”  I mean, “You wrote ‘His interest was peaked.’  This should be ‘piqued.'”  All through the manuscript.  In one instance, I even used the dreaded they’re, when I meant their!

Embarassing.  I used to ace my English exams.  I used to correct my fellow students’ papers, so they could resubmit them and get A’s.  I was once told by a college professor, “If I didn’t know you’d written this, I’d swear a college student couldn’t write like this.”

Now, suddenly I’m back in High School, being told that one has “tousled” hair — not “tussled” hair, “tussled” being a word that means they’re wrestling.  Also, it isn’t necessary to write “he thought to himself.”  The “to himself” is redundant, since you can’t think to someone else.  (At least, not in a Victorian romance.)

Ah, the humiliation. 

But its instructive.  And I’m glad to have an editor who notices such things.  I’ve read far too many ebooks with bad grammar and mispellings, and it’s far better to catch these things now, before it goes out the door.

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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Victorian, Writing

My first check!

My first check for writing has arrived in the mail!  This is for my short story, “The Meaning of Vengeance,” and no, I can’t quit my job and become a full-time author, based on the amount.  But when Dreamspinner asked how I wanted to be paid, I chose to have a check sent in the mail, specifically because I wanted the moment I had last night — me walking through the door and Erich saying, “Here!  This will cheer you up!” as he hands me my first advance.

I almost don’t want to cash it.  But of course, I will.  Maybe we’ll go out to dinner.

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Filed under Romance, Viking, Writing

New book cover!

Well, I haven’t actually seen the finished cover yet, but Dreamspinner sent me the rough sketch of the cover art for “The Christmas Wager,” my first published novella (coming out this December).  In the rough sketch, of course, the characters look a bit cartoonish, but the artist is Paul Richmond, who painted the cover for “Naughty or Nice.”  He has a great style, realistic but not photographic, with a great sense for soft, rich color.  His covers for the Christmas anthologies have a wonderful Christmas feel to them.  I had, in fact, seen the cover to “Naughty or Nice” and thought, It would be really nice if this artist could do the cover for the novella!

I won’t say, yet, what the cover design for “The Christmas Wager” is, but it’s cute and I’m very excited to see what it looks like as a finished painting.  They actually went with a design I’d suggested, though I wasn’t sure if it could be pulled off.  I suggested one of my favorite scenes in the novella, but it was pretty risque.  Mr. Richmond found a way of portraying it while covering all the naughty bits. 

I also received the “back cover” blurb for the novella, distilled in large part from the summary of the story I’d included in my query letter.  I’m told to expect the galley proof in a few weeks, though I imagine it will be sooner — there’s only a month left before it goes to press!

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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Victorian, Writing

Insecurity sets in

Reading through a galley proof of a soon-to-be-published work can, I’ve discovered, make you very insecure about your writing.  While I was looking over “The Meaning of Vengeance,” every bit of awkward phrasing, every cliched or often-used (by me) expression began to rear its ugly head.  (Look!  There’s another cliche!)  And it’s too late to fix it.  It’s on its way out the door.

By the time you get to the end of the manuscript, you wonder if anybody could possibly like this dreck. 

I’ve been through this before, when editing my stories.  Usually, it passes.  I’ll pick up the manuscript a month later and re-read it, and suddenly it seems really good.  How could I ever have doubted it?

Of, course, after I work on it for a while, it goes back to being dreck.

So, I’ve learned to ignore my manic-depressive mood swings concerning my writing — or at least try to — having faith that the final product will be good.  I’ve been honing my writing skills for a very long time now, and very little that I write is completely terrible.  Most, in fact, is pretty good. 

But this is the first time I’ve reviewed something that’s about to be published.  Soon, readers who aren’t friends of mine will be looking through those pages, noticing the awkward phrasing about Ari’s beard and hair (Is it just the beard that he keeps closely trimmed?  Or is his hair close-cropped, too?), and the bad line expressing Geirr’s doubts about Ari’s love.  Will the reader be disgusted and put it down?  Will they think my characters are dull and the romance unexciting?

Will they realize that the god, Frey, never really had antlers on his head in Norse mythology?!

Well, okay, that last one might be a bit esoteric…

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Filed under Romance, Viking, Writing

Finished proof-reading “The Meaning of Vengeance”

I was supposed to get the proof to my editor by today, so technically I guess I wasn’t late.  But still, I thought I’d have it done much earlier.  As it was, I was rushing to get it done by this afternoon. 

It was both harder and easier than I expected.  Harder, because I’m a perfectionist.  I kept going over it slowly, trying not to miss anything.  I corrected a major grammar mistake (accidentally using a word twice) and fixed a sentence, after Erich pointed out that it would read smoother as one sentence with a colon, rather than two separate sentences. 

But ultimately it was easier than I was making it, because I was tweaking sentences here and there, correcting awkward phrasing.  And when I was done with all of that, I re-read my editor’s injunction to not do that, at this stage, because there wasn’t time for rewriting along those lines.  So I threw it all out.  Or most of it.  There was one sentence where I’d commented on the smell of rotten flesh at the scene of a burned farmstead.  That one absolutely had to go.  Iceland in the middle of December would be far too cold for anything to be rotting.  Corpses would freeze within a day or two, and certainly my hero wouldn’t be able to smell anything. 

Luckily, my editor appeared to accept that correction.  I won’t be ridiculed for that bit of foolishness.  Some of my dialog, on the other hand…

Ah, well.  It’s out of my hands now.  And overall, it’s a good story.  But it’s always tempting to keep tweaking. 

When I get my galley proof of the novella — in a few weeks, I gather — I’ll only have about seven days to go through it, so I’ll have to be faster than I was this time around.

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Filed under Romance, Viking, Writing

Working on a short fantasy

About 2,000 words in on a 7,000 word story I’m trying to have done by November 1st.  Not sure I’ll be finished by then, but hopefully I’ll have a good story to shop around, even if I miss the contest deadline, although there’s a big chance iI’ll use a college paper writing service online, just to be sure and to get a little help.

It’s interesting, for me, because it’s in a somewhat different style than I’m used to.  My normal writing is a bit long-winded, which is why I tend more towards novels (or novellas) than short stories.  Many publishers won’t accept a short story over 6,000 words, and I find it difficult to tell a story in that amount of space.  For this story, I’ve come up with a rather complicated plot (though its fairly typical of high fantasy adventures) and I’ve opted to tell it in short snippets of about two-thirds of a page each, alternating between the points of view of the two major characters.

Ultimately, as with most of my stories, it’s a romance.  I do write horror, and those stories don’t always end well, but there is usually a romantic element to them, regardless.  For me, that keeps the characters interesting.

But making it plausible that two characters who don’t particularly like each other at the beginning of the story could fall so deeply in love by the end of the story (only 7,000 words later) that one is willing to sacrifice himself for the other…that could be a challenge.

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Filed under Fantasy, Romance, Writing

Looking over a galley proof

I received my first ever galley proofs from my editor today! 

A galley proof, for those of you who haven’t yet seen one, is the text of your story after the editor has finished with it, so you can examine it for typos, misspellings and grammatical errors.  What it is not, really, is a chance for you to rewrite things.  That should have been done long before this stage, unless you have a burning desire to piss off your editor.  Like I said, this is the first time I’ve done this, but that seems pretty obvious to me.

I read through the proof quickly this morning and was pleasantly surprised that nothing had really been changed.  I found several commas inserted where I wouldn’t normally put them.  (They were used correctly, but I lean towards not using commas, if the meaning is clear without them.  I think they break up the rhythm of the sentence.)  I also came across a word that was spelled differently than I would spell it (I’ve no doubt that I’ve been misspelling it) and one clear grammatical error that I suspect was in my original draft and just slipped by the editor.

I had wondered if any of my descriptions of life in Viking Age Iceland might be pared down.  There were places where I detailed the foods in the larder and other minutiae that I thought the editor might find unnecessary.  But she left them in.  She also left in the three or four Old Icelandic words I used, such as kamarr (an indoor latrine — a luxury in that time period) and skyr (a soupy goat-milk cheese).

The proof also contained the cover for the anthology, with my title on it, and my bio, as well as some ads for other stories at the end.  It basically looks like it will look when it’s published.  It looks wonderful, and I can’t wait until it’s available for my family and friends to see!

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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Writing

A new contest

A lot of people will tell you that it’s important to stay focused on your current writing project until it’s finished, and not put it aside when the going gets tough, in favor of starting a new project.  Well, that’s good advice.  Sometimes I follow it.

But not today.

I’ve heard about a contest in New Orleans called “Saints and Sinners” which is asking for LGBT stories between 5,000 and 7,000 words long.  That translates to about 12 to 14 pages.  And the story, of course, has to involve “saints and sinners.”  Probably in a major role, as opposed to the main character watching a television show called “Saints and Sinners” before going to bed. 

The deadline is November 1st, which is only a week and a half away.  But if I could write “The Meaning of Vengeance,” which rolled in at about 15,000 words, in two weeks — and get it published — then this should be a breeze!  Right? 

Well, we’ll see.

At any rate, I’m tired of homophobic Christians (not to imply that all Christians are homophobic — just these characters) trying to kill themselves and each other.  I’ve gotten Isaac to the point where he’s about to attempt murder.  But he can wait.  I need a break.

So, in the meantime, I’ve come up with a basic plot:  a young priest of the goddess, Shuuri (this is high fantasy), has a vision that compells him to go on a journey to a remote part of the kingdom.  Why, he isn’t sure.  But to aid him on his travels through treacherous forests and seedy taverns the temple hires a mercenary.  They of course fall in love along the way, and when they get to their destination, something big and dramatic happens which reveals what the goddess was up to, nearly kills them and cements their relationship.  What that is, I’m not quite sure yet.  But it should be fun to find out!

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Filed under Romance, Writing

Spontaneous romance

I once had a reviewer of my first film (The Sacrifice) comment that it was refreshing to see two characters who were attracted to each other through common interests, instead of looking at each other and instantly deciding they were madly in love.  I took that comment to heart.  It was nice that I’d apparently done it “right” for that film, but if so, it hadn’t been a conscious choice.  Now I’m much more aware of it.  It turns out this is very common in gay romance and straight romance alike. 

I read a short story last night which brought this to mind.  I won’t name the story, because I think the author is generally very good, and there’s no reason to discourage others from reading her work.  But it involves an English nobleman who falls in love with a commoner and spends the rest of the story chasing him.  At the end, the nobleman wins his love through an impassioned plea that, while he may have been a rogue in the past, he is now Reformed.

The problem is, the reader can’t really see it.  At the beginning, the nobleman is struck by how handsome the commoner is and decides he must have him.  Fine.  But it never really develops beyond that.  They aren’t really seen getting to know each other.  All of the scenes they have together are chasing and fleeing.  The story desperately needed a couple quiet scenes in which they talk about something other than how hot they are to rip each other’s clothes off, despite the conventions of society.  Without those, by the time the nobleman professes his undying love, I was far more skeptical than the commoner.  All of his flowery words seemed like nothing more than a college frat boy professing to his drunk date (who’s name he has forgotten), “I’ve never met anyone like you.  I’m really starting to feel something special.  Will you come up to my room now?”

I’m really tired of the characters in romance novels going on and on about how beautiful their love interest is.  They can do that upon first meeting, but from that point on, we don’t need more than a brief comment here and there about their physical characteristics.  Constantly dwelling on their beauty simply underlines the superficial nature of the attraction.  What we need is action.  We need dramatic moments in which the characters share special moments.  In which they show us that they have something in common, for Pete’s sake!

The author needs to constantly be showing us why these two characters are right for each other, even when they’re fighting.

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Filed under Romance, Writing

Getting mired in religious argument again

It’s amazing how quickly my novel By That Sin Fell the Angels has started pushing my buttons again.  It really isn’t easy writing from the perspective of a character that would like to see me — the author — imprisoned or institutionalized to keep me from “corrupting” young people (by telling them it’s okay to be gay).  I’m rapidly approaching the end of the novel.  Just two more sections from the minister’s perspective, until I get to the final confrontation between him and the teacher.

He needs to realize that his position is too narrow; that he’s holding up an impossible standard for young people to achieve and it’s hurting those he cares about and wants to protect.   But how to get him to come around? 

I’m the writer.  I can do anything I want, theoretically.  But if it isn’t believable, I’ll lose the reader.  And I’ve seen that done so often.  Especially in movies and television where, frankly, the big studios never seem to put much thought into what they’re pumping out, still people are trying to figure out which country has the most titles on netflix to watch this movies.  Over and over again, I’ve seen good stories ruined by a sudden, implausible change of attitude in the antagonist — triggered by something that would almost never cause a person to change their attitude in real life.  A cute little child saying something unintentionally astute (with an “adorable” lisp).  A diary entry revealing something the character never knew about someone he loved and/or admired.  (Actually, I have to confess that I’m using that one — god help me.  I’m just trying to make it not the entire reason for the transformation.)  Santa giving him the toy he always wanted for Christmas, when he was a kid.  (A recent Hallmark movie turned this into a joke by having the villain respond, “I always wanted that…when I was five.  Get real!”)

The story’s theme is that love often trumps belief — that most people, when confronted by someone they love who doesn’t fit the belief system they adhere to, will adjust their beliefs to accomodate that person.  Conservative parents will learn to accept their hippie children.  A strict religious father will learn to cope with his gay son.  And a staunch liberal will learn to adjust to his conservative spouse.  Not always.  Not often enough.  But often.  And in this story, that’s what’s going to happen.  I simply don’t want to take a shortcut and make Isaac’s revelation come to him easily.  I also don’t want him to do a complete about-face and start advocating for gay rights.  But there has to be a way to bring him around, so that he can at least learn to cope with gay men and women.

And that also has to involve a certain amount of biblical argument.  He’s built an armor around himself of biblical passages.  And ultimately it will have to be these same passages that show him the chink in that armor.  And any readers who are interested in a story about a Christian boy struggling with his sexuality probably know all the more common arguments and counter-arguments.  There are some that show a little promise, but I haven’t found anything that would persuade a character like Isaac yet. 

Which means I have a lot more digging to do.

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Filed under General, Young Adult