Monthly Archives: May 2005

General Musing

I want to do some things here with the blog that will require republishing the whole thing, and it just seems silly to republish (whatever that is) without doing a new post. So here I sit, trying to think of whatever it was that I wanted to talk about when I thought I might do a new post the other day and the mind is TOTALLY BLANK!!

Probably because it’s got so much stuff rumbling around in it. The daughter is coming tomorrow with the middle grandboy for a visit. I was supposed to be at the library fifteen minutes ago for a meeting about Summer Reading and totally forgot until this minute. (Oh hell. Oh well.) I have a workshop I’m doing for the North Texas RWA chapter in — I think they meet in Grapevine, but it’s down there on the Fort Worth side of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metromess…on Saturday. Need to go through the workshop and update some of the exercises. Then we’re trying to figure out whether the daughter is going with me to DFW to visit her brother while I’m doing the workshop, or if he’s going to make it to the youngest boy’s high school graduation–which is next week with multiple other relatives coming in to town–so that she can just visit him here, without having to travel 300-plus miles immediately after traveling several hundred more miles from Colorado.

I’m trying to decide if I have enough conflict for the Desire proposal I’m trying to put together–actually, right now, I’m just trying to do a contest entry. I like my chapter, but it’s the overall story I’m wondering about. I’m also waiting on a critique on the third Rose book for LUNA before I send it off, but with all the visits in the next week or so, there’s no hurry on that.

And I talked to my agent today. She had a conversation with an editor who remembered a book of mine she’d read over a year ago–they’d really liked it, except the middle seemed a bit claustrophobic (the setting doesn’t move much), and if that could be opened up… A more-or-less straight contemporary romance, with elements of suspense. So now the mind is buzzing with “how can I open up the middle without changing the good stuff about the story?”

We also talked about another story I sent her–the paranormal/curse/ghost story–and it needs a bit of tweaking–which actually will require less thinking than the others, because it’s mostly tweaking. I need to send all these things down to the swamp and let them ferment a while, since I have time to do it.

And hey, look! I’ve written a whole blog entry!

Okay, now I have to get that package ready to mail for the contest starting next month on my website (it’s a multiple author/multiple website contest–information is going up around June 15), and the bookplate sticker I promised, and that other thing I have to mail that I can’t remember right off hand–

If y’all want a bookplate for The Compass Rose or one of my other books (Hide-and-Sheikh or Her Convenient Millionaire), send an SASE (that’s self-addressed, stamped envelope, for those few of you who might not know) to POBox 176, Clarendon, TX 79226, and I’ll send you one.

And then I have to trim up that bush the guys moved Saturday so it doesn’t die, and think about baby-proofing the house and…

Geez, it never ends, does it?

Contests–good or bad?

Lori Devoti, in a comment at Romancing the Blog, claims that what’s wrong with Romance Novels just now is all the contests for the unpublished that currently clog RWA chapters. She says:

The problem, as I see it, is the rules. Too many rules. I don’t want to read a book written by the rules, but when I am asked to judge for a contest I am handed a little check sheet telling me what makes a good romance – no head hopping; no back story; hero and heroine appear in first chapter; goal, motive, and conflict apparent; and my personal favorite – properly formatted

She goes on to say that following these little check-sheet forms often winds up with the judge scoring down on the better entries, those with a unique voice. I’m not sure I agree. I did post a comment there, but I have more to say, and I might as well say it here.

First off, I never did all that well in contests. I finaled in a lot of them. But never won any. Best I ever did was 2nd place, which I seemed to do on a regular basis, but never 1st. And I never ever finaled in the Golden Heart. But I still sold a book. In fact, I’ve sold five. Which is not saying a whole lot, since it was 5 books over 5 years, and I know people who’ve sold 5 books in 5 months. But my point is, I probably don’t know everything about contests.

I do judge a fair number of them, and I’ve found that if an author has written enough that she has a distinctive voice and can write a good story, it’s good all round. The voice leaks over into all those check-boxes. If the voice is there, the characterization is there. The motivation is usually there. Most of those other points are there. Really, it comes down to the judges–and that is where it gets tricky. I’ve found–in my previous unpublished career and since–that the unpublished are harsher judges than the published, generally speaking. Because they are so caught up in The Rules.

At the same time, most contest entries are mediocre. There’s nothing really wrong with them–but there’s nothing really good either. The voice is stilted. There’s no real connection with who the characters are or where they are or why they’re doing what they’re doing…there’s usually a lot of potential–the story idea is good, but the execution isn’t quite there. Frankly, if a story has a unique voice and it’s “Good”–it stands above the other entries–I’m going to give it the points it needs to rank high.

As far as I’m concerned, there are Two Cardinal Rules to writing fiction.
1: Thou Shalt Not BORE the Reader; and
2: Thou Shalt Not CONFUSE the Reader.

The “boring” rule is the more important. You must keep them engaged. And then you must make sure they can follow what’s going on. The “confusion” rule tends to be the more difficult rule to follow, because this is where all the grammar and structure stuff comes into play. Grammar was invented to foil confusion.

But if you can follow these two rules, the rest of them don’t really matter.

Starting Anew

So I’m sitting here, trying to think what I can blog about, and thinking what I’ve done in the last week, and one of the main things that I’ve done is: I have started a new book.

This makes the third one I’ve started since the end of January, when I turned in the completed manuscript for The Barbed Rose. And I got to thinking about the process of finding new stories, and how I did it.

And they’re all different. Which is good, I suppose. There’s always a tiny, tiny little seed that starts everything off. Sometimes it’s a concept, something really intellectual. Like the Conquest of the Americas–technology overtaking the primitive–but what if the “primitives” had magic rather than technology? And thus was born the One Rose trilogy.

Sometimes, I start with what I don’t want to write. I want to do a paranormal, but I don’t want to do vampires and I don’t want to do werewolves and I don’t think I want to do ghosts. What else is there? So I wrote a hero who’s cursed–only he’s not dark and dramatic looking. He’s blond and lanky. He’s against type. (We shall see if this book finds a home.) I wound up with a ghost in this story, even though I’m not real fond of ghost books, because the ghost kept coming back. Couldn’t get rid off her, so…there she is.

Sometimes, I start with a character. And yes, sometimes, the character starts nagging me after I’ve been to see a movie and seen someone very inspirational on the big screen. However, it’s rarely the lead actor/actress in the movie that inspires. Usually, it’s one of the “bit” players– the guy who drowns in the shipwreck or gets burned up by the evil arsonist. But it’s never the character in the movie whose story I want to tell. It’s somebody else. Somebody who pops up from the swamp in the back edges of my brain and glowers at me. Or nags me. Or starts telling me a story.

I recently made a trip to the college where my son will be going next year so he could try out for the theater department to see whether they would admit him as a performance major. And of course, after driving all day Friday to get there and going to see Kingdom of Heaven, I woke up in the stinkin’ middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. Stress, I guess. So I’m lying there in the bed, going “Okay brain, here’s this character–big guy, hard, cold, aggressive-warrior type–I want a story to go with him. A contemporary. A romance. Okay? Ready? I’m going to go to sleep now, and you’re going to come up with the story while I sleep. Ready? I’m going to sleep………… Okay, I’m not sleeping. So who else could be in this book?”

I would much rather have turned it over to the brain while I slept, but the sleeping wasn’t happening. Till about 5: 30 a.m. (The son woke up too, but got back to sleep first, after many pushups and situps–oh, and he aced his tryout and got admitted.) But I came home with another story idea (talked it over with my critique partner who lives there).

Of course, once I have the idea, I do a lot of other stuff to get it to the point where it’s ready to start writing, but how much of that I have to do depends on what kind of story it is and how much world building I have to do. Fantasy in a different universe obviously requires a lot more than a contemporary romance set in a city I know. And it’s all good.

What’s Reality

My browser has gone beserk, so I can only hope that this is the proper place to type in my blog entry for today. (For this month?)

I intend to post blog stuff more often, but somehow, just don’t get by to do it. Even when I have something to blog about.

For instance, this time, I want to comment about Reality Television. I don’t watch it. At least not if I can help it. Well, except for the house-building/remodeling/decorating type shows. And “What Not To Wear.”I have to confess I have a pretty good Jones for the HGTV channel, and TLC. But most reality television leaves me cold. Because really–think about it–just how real can it be?

Face it, Not ONE of us is going to reveal all to our significant others, much less a zillion strangers out in televisionland. We’re just NOT. There’s some secret, vulnerable part of each one of us that we’re going to keep hidden and secret simply because it IS so vulnerable, and who knows what somebody would do with that information if they got their little hands on it? Oh, we might tell part of the truth. But we’re not going to tell ALL. Nobody would.

Which is why I think scripted television/drama is more real than reality TV. Because the actors in scripted (fictional) TV aren’t giving away their own secrets. They’re opening up somebody else’s vulnerable underbelly. It’s not them–it’s like them, but it isn’t them.

Actors use their own experiences and emotions to portray the characters, but the experiences are disguised. Perhaps more extreme–but maybe not. But because it’s not them in the story, they can cut loose and give it all up. So, even though the stories may not be “true”, they’re more “real.” Or at least that’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.