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We have two great guests visiting with us this week! Lori Brighton will be here on Tuesday. Her debut, Wild Heart, will be out this month from Kensington. Then, on Wednesday, Elizabeth Hoyt joins us to talk about her newest release, To Desire a Devil. Come hang out with us and chat with this two amazing authors!
* “No, really! I swear, she can talk ta the written!” Chance leaned close, almost lips to ear with the Bo’sun.
* “Uh uh. Don’t believe it, Chance. What you been drinking?” Bo’sun leaned away, fanning away the odd scent hovering around Chance.
* “This?” She held up a large green mug, steam rising from the lip. It slipped a bit in her grip and she caught it carefully. “Just the leftover Corrupted Tea from Wednesday’s party. But it ain’t that! I went ashore last night and saw her act, at the Wicked Wench Bar and Laundromat! She be amazin’!”
* “Why were you at the Laundromat?” Bo’sun tried to steer the bartender away from the topic of Lulu, the woman who claimed the dubious ability to speak to the written.
* “Those banditas left me a lot a’ dirty napkins… Anyway! I saw her, she uses these interestin’ cards, the Reflection deck she calls it. Waits fer the question and pulls one. She be right more often than wrong.”
* “How would you know? The written aren’t there to contradict her… All she has to do is be well read to get some things right…”
* “But she ain’t well read! She admits it! Doesn’t know half a’ the written customers want ta talk ta!” Chance furtively looked to each side before admitting, “I invited her aboard taday…”
* “You what!” Bo’sun shook her head. “You know Hellie don’t approve of that sort of nonsense!”
* Chance sniffed, “It be me blog day and she be me guest. It be fun! She were booked fer Halloween, a private party, but said the eve of all hallows eve worked fer her. I gots me own rituals ta attend tomorrow night anyway.” Chance looked up, “OH! There she be! Don’t ya love that long skirt and all those beads?”
* “Looks like a reject from Mardi Gras,” Bo'sun mumbled. “Hell, I’ll let the Captain know. How is Madam Lulu going to do this?”
Chance skipped to her feet, ignoring the Bo’sun’s last question and ushered the strange gypsy looking woman to the deck. She found a stool and set her up at the bar, watching eagerly as she brought out a large deck of cards. Shuffling them, she stacked them carefully on the velvet bag they’d come in and took the drink Chance handed her.
Chance looked up, “Hey, scalawags! This here be Lulu and she be a Written Whisperer! Step up and ask what ya will. She speaks ta the written! What favorite character do ya wonder ‘bout? What da ya want to ask? She sometimes can connect with the writer…!”
“Come on! Lulu is here!”
The pirates clustered at a distance, suspicious of the stranger. Chance grimaced, then with a gleam in her eye, held up a small keg of rum, “Each question get a tote from me magic rum keg! Good luck fer the comin’ year!”
They gingerly moved forward, pushing each other to be first…
Lulu raises an eyebrow and smiles. “Well, brave sailors. What be your questions? No plot questions, please, the written don’t like to spoil the story for those who haven’t read them yet… And don’t ask me to bring them aboard. I don’t do that. And no one is kissing me to pass on a kiss to Mr. Darcy. I don’t do that either!”
I love this holiday!
Well, at the end of this week, I believe I’ll be finished with my revisions to my current MS. For now, at least.
I expected that announcement to make me feel better but I have to admit that I’m just exhausted by it. I finished this book faster than my first book (on Sept 7) but it’s taken me almost two months of near constant revising to get it close to where I wanted it to be. I’m still not sure this is the end of it, figured I’d take a few weeks away and write the proposal for its sequel, then come back. Though I do expect I’ll start querying soon.
This is the first real stab at serious revising I’ve done. With my first MS, I could see a few fundamental problems with the story, so I didn’t go back and hack too hard at it. I’ll admit I almost sighed with relief that time that I wouldn’t have to get too involved in revisions last time. No avoiding it this time around.
I didn’t really know where to start, to be honest. I read it through at first, making grammatical changes, cutting some extraneous words. I let my first CP read it. She made a suggestions, I adjusted.
After a week or so of sitting on it, I adjusted a conflict.
I let another CP read it. She prefers beta heroes while my first CP prefers alpha heroes. CP 2 hated, I mean hated my hero. She admitted that this could have been because she prefers betas and well, my hero was severely alpha. I read through CP2’s comments very closely, trying to find where Nik fell on the alpha scale. I adjusted some of his motivations, some of his reactions. While I didn’t want him to be beta, I definitely didn’t want him to be a complete a**hole either.
I cut a couple scenes on my own, including my first scene and a “girltalk-y” scene in the middle that didn’t do much for my story. I added some things. Read through again.
Another CP weighs in. She’s my grammar queen-fact checking guru. Though she doesn’t particularly like the genre I write in and she prefers sweeter romance to the more sensual stuff I write, she read me through. She caught a few inconsistencies in my world building, a few missed facts with the FBI. I adjusted.
At each step along the way, each CP helped me out with word choice, with conciseness, and with general tightening up.
PS, have I mentioned that all three of my CPs rock it hard? No? Well, there you go then. They are AWESOME.
So now I’m ready for my beta readers to hit it, tell me what they think.
I’ve been trying to figure out what I could have done to make this easier.
Here’s the stuff I did do:
1) I wrote a list. I know, you’re all shocked. Marnee? With a list? What a surprise. I made a list of things that struck me funny. I added more and subtracted from as I went along making changes. Only a couple more things on it.
2) I read it out loud. My family thinks I’m crazy, my cat is now fully versed in my angelic/demonic world, but it worked to catch some issues.
3) Of course, I had my CPs read it for me.
4) I read through with an eye towards Margie Lawson’s EDITS system.
So, wenches…. Any other suggestions? Things that have made revising easier for you along the way? Any revision techniques you’d care to share? I could definitely use them.
Another Fall, another delicious Anna Campbell book, Captive of Sin! Fortunately laAnna has graciously agreed to blog with us today about her new book and about writing outside your comfort zone.... Brace yourself and pour the rum! (And aren't these pictures completely bitchin'!)
* * *
Hey, Pirates!!!! Cool to be back again. I really look forward to my chance to talk buccaneer with you guys. By the way – and I’m sure you already know this – did you know you can change your Facebook language to Pirate? Arrrrrrrr, me hearties!
OK, let’s weigh anchor and get this ship on its way to the Spanish Main!
I have to laugh – the title of this piece makes me think of my father yelling at my teenage self to turn the music down. He definitely preferred different dynamics!
But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Dread Pirate Hellion and I were tossing around ideas for today’s blog and she reminded me that I’d just got my latest book in and that it featured, shock, horror, a non-tortured hero!
“How can this be?” I hear you ask in shock. “An Anna Campbell opus with a non-tortured hero? Sacre bleu! C’est impossible!” Hmm, a French pirate seems to have stowed away. Wait a minute while I pack him away to the galley where he can whip you up some croissants. Yeah, I know croissants be landlubber food, but if anyone objects, we’ll put some nice fish jam on top and make them REAL pirate food!
Anyway, back to the hero of MY RECKLESS SURRENDER which is scheduled for next summer. The Earl of Ashcroft has his vulnerabilities and a few things from his past that he’s not entirely easy with – like most of us. But tortured? Nah! Which meant writing the book was a completely different experience from my previous books where the past has such a powerful influence on the present for the two main characters and the story springs out of past events.
So Hellion suggested talking about things that create a different writing experience. To be honest, all my books have presented a different writing experience. Each time I sit down to write a book, it seems to fling up new challenges. I guess if it didn’t, I’d get bored!
At the moment, I’m promoting my latest release, CAPTIVE OF SIN, which came out on 27th October. It definitely features a tortured hero in Sir Gideon Trevithick. And in fact, my heroine meets the gorgeous Gideon when she’s running away from a beating administered by her greedy and violent stepbrothers. So she’s tortured too!
You can meet Gideon and Charis in an excerpt here: http://www.annacampbell.info/captivesin.html
Both Charis and Gideon are trapped in their present circumstances because of their past. Only when they work together and learn to trust each other and the love that blossoms between them will they prevail against the forces ranging to destroy them. Again, that’s not an unusual theme for me.
But there were a lot of new elements to this story too. For example, it’s my first marriage of convenience story. The MOC is a staple of the romance genre and it’s a trope I always like – hey, they’re under one roof, plenty of room for nooky (yeah, I’m shallow – watch out, your ship will go aground if this conversation continues!). I’d love to write another MOC story some time.
Charis was also my first virginal heroine. Now, to be honest, there were times when I heartily agreed with all those jaded Regency rakes who populate Romancelandia and decided that virgins were more trouble than they’re worth! But I love this heroine – she’s so brave and spirited and determined.
When Gideon, because he’s such a knight in shining armor and he’s convinced he’s completely unworthy of her (you’ll have to read the book to find out why, but he has compelling reasons), insists on a marriage in name only, she fights him all the way. She knows they both deserve better than separate, lonely lives. I really admire a gutsy heroine!
The dynamics of writing a virginal heroine compared to two courtesans and two widows (Diana Carrick in MY RECKLESS SURRENDER is a middle-class widow) made for a completely different story and changed the tone of the love scenes. I hope they’re still passionate and compelling, but at least the earlier ones have to take my heroine’s inexperience into account.
Actually while I’m on things that create a different dynamic, Charis is the youngest heroine I’ve ever written. For the purposes of the plot, she has to be just short of her 21st birthday. When I wrote TEMPT THE DEVIL, one of the different dynamics there (there’s always different dynamics!) was that Olivia was in her early 30s and Erith was in his late 30s. Life for people at that age is a completely different ball game to life for someone who’s just past 20.
So I thought it might be interesting to talk about whether you find these different dynamics operating every time you start a new manuscript. Is different good? Did you ever do something so different you shocked yourself?
One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of CAPTIVE OF SIN. Oh, and by the way, there’s a pirate in CAPTIVE OF SIN!!!! Black Jack Trevithick who is a thoroughly dashing fella! Clearly, this is a book perfect for the library on the Romance Writers’ Revenge! Ahoy, shipmates! All hands to the comment boxes! And may the best seadog win!
Congratulations, BO'SUN! Give me your mailing address and I'll forward it to Laura. Woot, woot!
[There was no rigging involved in this contest.]
Once upon a time, Captain Hellion stumbled upon a book, beautiful and richly colored, with a woman in repose. It was titled QUEENMAKER, and intrigued by the title, Hellion settled into a chair and began reading…and reading until she finished, so enchanted by the author’s voice and the way she weaved a story about Queen Michal, the wife of King David. It is a magical person, Hellion thought, who could make a modern pirate feel she has so much in common with a queen of an ancient world. It is a magical person who can make the reader feel as much a part of the book as the characters. It was exactly this sort of person Hellion wished she was more like, the sort of author who could enchant readers so, and so it was then Hellion decided to find India Edghill, author of such enthralling books, and find out her secrets….
Hellion: India, I want to thank you for agreeing to interview with the pirates on the RWR. I imagine we’re not the typical crew you’d rub elbows with….
India: I work in a library. I’ve dealt with my fair share of pirates, never fear. Thank you for offering to interview me—and of course, for serving my rum in a clean tankard rather than straight out of the bottle.
Hellion: Yes, we don’t do that for just any author. Actually I’m not sure we’ve done it for any other author. In fact, we made the last author share a bath with Jack Sparrow.
India: Yes, I’m really sorry to have missed out on that.
Hellion: Your newest book, Delilah, is set to come out with St. Martin’s Press in November. It is loosely connected with two other books you’ve written, Queenmaker and Wisdom’s Daughter. Will you tell us more about Delilah, and how you came about writing this trilogy?
India: The first book I set in ancient Israel was QUEENMAKER, a novel about King David's first wife, Michal. That led into WISDOM'S DAUGHTER, about David's son King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Then St. Martin's wanted another book about a Biblical woman, and since I've been fascinated by Delilah ever since I saw Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 movie SAMSON & DELILAH when I was about twelve, I decided on Delilah for my heroine.
(If you haven't seen the 1949 SAMSON & DELILAH, produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, you're missing one of the best splashy, vivid movie epics ever filmed. I think what fascinated me most was Delilah's peacock feather outfit. Edith Head was the costume designer for the movie, and she stripped DeMille's peacocks of their tail feathers to create Delilah's most dazzling costume.)
And at the end of DELILAH, you'll see how Delilah and Samson's story weaves into the events of QUEENMAKER.
Hellion: I'm sorry; I'm still snickering that the costume designer denuded DeMille's peacocks for a movie. [laughs] This trilogy all features strong, though perhaps little known women of the Bible. How do you go about researching and developing these women into fully fleshed characters we can all relate to? How do you decide which Old Testament woman to write about?
India: I try to find a woman whose life interests me, a woman with a life full of unanswered questions. For instance, after Michal mocks David for his ecstatic dancing when the Ark is brought into Jerusalem, David rebukes her. "Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death." (2 Samuel 6:23) And that's all we ever hear of Michal. What happened to her? There's no answer to that in the Bible, so it's up to tellers of tales to give Michal a life.
Hellion: That is the ultimate ‘what if’ fantasy. On your website, it says you love history—which considering the subject matter of your novels goes without saying—in particular Ancient Near East, Victorian England, and India. Any chance you may set an upcoming novel in either England or India? What are you working on now?
India: I'm currently working on the revisions of my next book for St. Martin's: a retelling of the story of Esther -- and of Queen Vashti. No one can resist writing about that beauty contest used to find a new queen after Vashti is banished for refusing to appear at a banquet so the king could display her to all his drunken guests. After that, Vashti vanishes from the Book of Esther. What happened to her?
(By the way, the best book ever written about Esther is BEHOLD YOUR QUEEN! By Gladys Malvern. You may be able to get it via interlibrary loan, or be lucky enough to spot one at a yard sale.)
And I'm also working on an epic romantic historical novel set in India during the Raj -- a great excuse for having lunch at the local Indian restaurant. It's research, right?
Hellion: A Biblical beauty contest? I swear the Bible has more drama than a Desperate Housewives episode. The Indian novel sounds wonderful, too, and yes, everything’s research. Or at least that’s what I tell Jack when I come home with another set of furry handcuffs. [crickets chirping] Moving on. What is a typical writing day like for you? What sort of advice would you offer other writers?
India: Like most writers, I don't support myself by writing. I have a day job: I'm a librarian. A typical writing day goes like this: come home from work; feed and walk dogs, try to get in two hours at the computer working on the current book. Explain to the dogs that it's my bed and I'm entitled to half of it….
Hellion: [snorts] Good luck with that….
India: I have two pieces of advice for other writers. One: learn to write to music. Have a particular piece of music that fits the book you're writing and play it when you write. I turn on the music I write to long before I'm ready to sit down at the computer. And the music pulls me to the computer, because my brain is trained to know that MOON RISE OVER THE SILK ROAD means It's Time To Write and there's no getting out of it. (I've written my last three books to MOON RISE OVER THE SILK ROAD by Kayhan Kalhor and Shujaat Husain Khan.
Two: Get a good solid civil service job. Don't try to get a "creative" job -- you're apt to find that you've used all your creativity at work, and your brain has shut down for the night…
Hellion: Excellent. I have a good solid civil service job, and there is absolutely no creativity there. [laughs] Now I just need to do the music thing more. [mischievous look] I bet your third piece of advice is don't have the internet at home, am I right? Sorry, I have a weakness. What’s your call story? The pirates always love a good story of how one got published….
India: Well, I finished QUEENMAKER in 1991, and got a wonderful agent, Anita Diamant -- not the Anita Diamant who wrote THE RED TENT. I then collected the most flattering rejection letters you ever saw, saying things like "Everyone in the office loves it, but we have no idea how to sell a Biblical novel, so we're passing on this one." So after a couple of years, I put QUEENMAKER in a box in the closet. Then Anita died, and her agency didn't have any interest in me as a client. Time passed, and two things happened: Print On Demand technology became easy and cheap -- and St. Martin's Press published a book called THE RED TENT.
Print On Demand (POD for short) revolutionized self-publishing. It meant that I could publish QUEENMAKER myself, and have a real book to hand my mother. THE RED TENT became the best-selling darling of the book groups. And then I had a stroke of amazingly good luck. THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review did an article on POD -- and one of the two books Xlibris (the POD company I'd used) handed the NYT writer was QUEENMAKER. Which got a favorable mention in the article. Which meant I got a new agent (the wonderful and talented Anna Ghosh of Scovil Galen Ghosh) who sent QUEENMAKER to St. Martin's. Which bought it!
Hellion: Holy crap, that’s a total Cinderella sort of story. I love it! And I’m so glad they bought it—Queenmaker totally rocks. I also noted you mentioned you have some Spaniels and cats who keep you company. Who are they and which one is the most spoiled?
India: Alas, the cats are no longer with us; the last one died this past spring. It's only dogs now. I have Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: Bella, Stephanie, Harry, Bevil, and Amy. Bella, Steffie, and Harry are Blenheims (chestnut and white); Bevil and Amy are Rubies (solid red). It's hard to say who's the most spoiled -- they're all absolute darlings. In case you care, here are their official names:
1. Harry: Britt Tax Deduction at Mooncoign CD, C-CD, RN, C-RN, C-RA, CGC
2. Bella: Britt Silver Bell at Mooncoign, CGC
3. Stephanie: Britt Sugar Plum at Mooncoign
4: Bevil: Wystar Heir Jordan at Mooncoign, RN, C-RN
5: Amy: Wystar Feel That Fire
I'm sure your Pyrate Crewe can easily figure out why Britt Sugar Plum's call name is Stephanie!
Hellion: I can definitely guess. Please tell me Stephanie has a mysterious boyfriend named Ranger? No? That’s a lot of puppies. [laughs] No wonder you have trouble commandeering your own bed. India, I just wanted to thank you again for taking the time to visit us today, and I can’t wait to spend Thanksgiving with Delilah. Is there anything you wish to ask the crew?
India: Only how to find a Pyrate ship heading for balmy southern climes…and to thank you all for having me aboard!
Hellion: Okay, crew, you heard her—her civil job may keep her busy for quite a bit of the day, but I’m sure she’ll try to stop by when she can. In the meantime, have any of you read Queenmaker or Wisdom’s Daughter? Do you read historical fiction about women [i.e. Phillipa Gregory’s books about Tudor England; Diamant’s The Red Tent; Robin Maxwell’s Signora di Vinci, etc]? Are there any historical women and settings you would love to see in a fictionalized history? Any Bible babes you’d love to read about?
Showing up at a party creates some form of emotion in us, whether it’s excitement at seeing friends, fear over being forced to socialize, or dread over who you will see.
Hopefully it’s excitement, even if there’s a bit of anxiety thrown in. Those are the best parties. I hate the work parties I’m forced to smile and nod through the drudge. Those I just wait until I can leave.
But the really good parties are the ones where you hate to leave. When you know it’s late, and you’re slowly pulling your coat sleeves up your arms and looking back and forth between your date the hostess saying, “Wow that flew by fast. What a great party.” And while you’re satisfied and happy, you can’t help but be a little sad it’s over. Feeling just a touch lonely for your friend’s presence, even before you get to your car.
I got to take a workshop with Jennifer Crusie this weekend, at the very good New Jersey RWA Conference, and this was her analogy for our reader’s experience. The opening scene of your novel is where you are standing at the door, opening it for your party guest, and inviting them in. They’re excited. Maybe they’re a little nervous if it’s the first time reading you, not sure what they’ll get, but they’re happy to give you a try. They’re ready to meet now people and see new things during the book.
In short, they’re rooting for you to throw an awesome party.
And when they leave, when you’re back at the same door, this time ushering them out, they should be satisfied. Happy to have spent the time with you, feeling like they made new friends, and a little sad to see them go.
We should satisfy their desire for a great party.
If we do that, they’ll keep coming back to every party we— er, they’ll buy every book we write. It’s our party. We can create any emotional experience we want for our readers. We control the party. Hopefully, we’re writing angst to make people cry and joy to make them soar and every emotion in between.
But because it’s our party, and because we control the emotional experience, that gives us some guidelines for what the beginning and end should contain – those moments when we’re standing at the door, greeting or saying goodbye to our guests.
When a guest shows up, you welcome them in, take their coats, start introducing them around. You don’t explain how hard you worked on the party, or how much you spent, or tell the entire personal history and quirks of every guest you introduce her to. No. You don’t want to waste her time. She’s excited to get to the party. Pour the girl a drink. Push her toward a boy to flirt with.
Just like when she’s leaving. You don’t want to be the clingy hostess who won’t hand over the coat. Who holds onto it like a ransom while you gush over what a great party you just threw. No. You want to sweetly touch her on the arm as she shrugs on her coat, thank her for coming, and give her a second to heave a deep sigh of satisfaction and say goodbye to her new friends.
In other words, don’t drag it out. Don’t give them too much info at the beginning, and don’t keep pulling on their arm while they’re shooting ‘help me’ glances at their date while trying to leave. In Jennifer Crusie’s words, don’t give them a prologue or epilogue.
Now I’m not sure I agree to never have a prologue, or never have an epilogue. But her point is an excellent one, and in an analogy that totally make it click for me. Prologues are kind of like sticking a 10-page history of your family in the invitation to the party, and saying, “Make sure you learn this info. You’ll be quizzed later.”
Actually, in that one session, she said quite a few things that really clicked for me. I’ll do at least one more blog on her advice about first sentences and last sentences.
Bottom line: if you ever see a workshop or talk given by Jennifer Crusie, GO!!!! She’s an amazing speaker. She not only knows her stuff, but knows how to teach it well. I came out of a 45-minute workshop with my head spinning with new knowledge and new ways to apply it.
So, what do you think about this analogy? Do you have analogies you love when it comes to writing advice? Ever taken a workshop with Jenny Cruise? Other authors whose workshop you would attend even if they were talking about space aliens and spider monkeys? She has charts on her blog that might be helpful as well here.
::Shoves Sin out of the way:: Ok... and don't forget the uber bad ass Ryan Reynolds and his contributions to the world of Blade. I mean who really thought he'd come back and save the day? I sure didn't.. but I tell you he can come and save my endangered panties anytime.
*shoves GPS out of the way* A few years ago, I made the GPS go with me to a little movie by the name, "Underworld". Simply because I can't NOT see a commercial for a hot vamp movie about the war between the Lycans and the Vamps. Seriously. If a vamp ever worked for Fredericks of Hollywood, Kate could definitely pull it off. Jeez. Q, I want you to remember this moment. I posted eye candy just for you. Well, and Sita too. Because she's got this thing about boobs.
Now, onward about the Lycans and Vamps.
The war between the Lycans and Vamps is quite vicious with one helluva background story. Through three movies (Underworld, Underworld Evolution and Underworld Rise of the Lycans) we see the story unfold between these two Underworld sects. The leader of the Lycans, Lucian, is so fine, I have dreams of actually being his alpha bitch one. Not to mention, Michael Sheen is soon to be playing the most devious of vamps in the Volturi clan in the upcoming movie, New Moon. Aro. Deadly, red eyed, evil future seeing vamp. You know I'm down.
::shoves Sin out of the way again:: And then we segue into the best vampires of all vampires... Angel... better known in the real world as David Boreanaz. And it doesn't matter that the plots were a bit weak and the special effects were super cheesy. What was super important was seeing David Boreanaz half naked, wet, and in skin tight leather pants
And last but not least... we have the Chuck Norris for poor people... MacGyver... or for those of us who are hard core sci fi fan, Col. Jack O'Neill. I really can't say enough about Jack.. he was funny and in charge and while he may be older, I could handle him tying me up with tube socks and duct tape and having his merry intergalactic way with me any day of the week..
Sweet jesus, every time I turn around the picture goes inactive. Sorry, no pic of Richard Dean Anderson today. Apparently Photobucket and WordPress don't agree with him being hot.
Now, who is your favorite sci-fi/fantasy dude or dudette?
[splashing sounds and the distinctive sound of a cork popping, then a fizzing-pour sound]
Jack: Champagne, my pet? We're celebrating your book release, are we not?
Laura: Yes--ooh, yes, heavy on the champagne, thank you--but I thought you just drank rum.
Jack: I am an onion. I have many layers.
Laura: I suspected as much, though I have to say this is the first book interview I've done from the confines of a bathtub. [zoom out to see the rascally Captain Jack Sparrow and the bubbly Laura Breck, author of Secret Vegas Lives in a large bathtub, bubbles nearly overflowing the tub and an alarming amount of candles lit on nearby tables] Do you do this often?
Jack: Bathe? Every three weeks whether I need it or not. I admit though this is the first time I've done this. Hellie calls this sort of thing multi-tasking. Only she does it for boring things like laundry and baking bread. I like to be more creative. [picks up a bon-bon and takes a bite out of it, makes face and puts the bitten bon-bon back] Bon-bon?
Laura: Ahem, no thanks. Well, I have to admit when you suggested a spa day, I jumped on you, I mean it...ahem. [takes bracing sip of champagne] Perhaps we should get to the interview?
Jack: Hmm? Oh, yes, I suppose so. Though I am finding the fact the bubbles are disappearing to be a lovely distraction. [Laura sinks slightly lower in the tub; Jack pouts] Ms. Breck, your new book, Secret Vegas Lives, would you care to tell us more about it?
Laura: I would love to! [popping up in the tub again in her excitement] Antonio Daniato is a best-selling novelist, but he has a secret addiction to a decadent night life. When he receives a letter demanding money in exchange for keeping his secret out of the tabloids, he sets a trap to catch the blackmailer, and is surprised when beautiful socialite Valerie Kane falls into his arms.
Valerie swears she's not the blackmailer, but Antonio threatens to expose her, publicly and humiliatingly, if she sends another note to him. What she can't tell him is that she was at the blackmail drop site as a stand-in for her cousin, a famous actress, who is also being blackmailed.
A week later, at a gala at Caesar's Palace, Valerie sees Antonio walking toward her across the crowded room, and he's holding...another blackmail note!
Jack: Blackmailing? Now that sounds downright piratey! I think I might have some things in common with this hero. I too enjoy the decadent lifestyle. The girls would want to know what the hero is like, but I'm far more curious about the heroine. I have always had a fascination for a girl willing to risk her reputation.
Laura: Mmmm, Valerie will risk everything for Antonio: her reputation, her family's approval, and even her career. Sweet Valerie has always been a nice girl, boarding schools, a Doctorate in Psychology, volunteer committees and social fundraisers. But when she meets Antonio, something changes, and she's filled with a need to shake loose from her parents' control, and a desire to tame this bad boy.
Antonio is gorgeous - of course, not as handsome as you, Jack. [Laura winks at him; Jack wags his brows at her.] Antonio is tall and muscular, a slight Italian accent, but he has a flashpoint anger that he uses to keep people away, to keep Valerie from finding out about his secret life. While outrageous sexual attraction draws Valerie and Antonio together, suspicion, anger, and hurt keep them emotionally distant.
Jack: The good girl gone bad. My favorite kind. This all sounds delightedly spicy. This is delightedly spicy, is it not? Hellie has been reading bonnet rippers lately and there isn't so much as a wild bit of handholding. A man needs a little something more, if you know what I mean.
Laura: Well, Jack, sometimes a lady needs something more, too. And Valerie has found herself addicted to Antonio's hot, demanding loving. But she wants to help him overcome whatever he's hiding from her. Here's a scene where Sweet Valerie turns into a naughty wench [Laura opens her waterproof laptop and reads]:
Valerie wanted him to open up to her, and this seemed like the opening she needed. "Please tell me, Antonio. What is it you came here to tell me?"
He stared at her for a long while then said, "I think I should leave."
His tone said, "leave you," and she felt a moment of panic. She shook her head. "No. I want you to stay..."
"No provisions. If you're not ready to tell me, that's fine." She put her hand on his. "When you walked in here today, you were going to tell me, weren't you?"
"I don't know. Maybe there's nothing to tell." He looked defeated.
The moment was lost. She wouldn't hear his secret tonight. Damn, he was the most frustrating man... She clenched her jaw. "Bullshit." She couldn't think of anything else to break the tension.
His eyebrow shot up. "What?"
"You heard me. I said bullshit." She made a fist and punched him in the chest.
"Ou. What the hell are you doing?" He rubbed his chest. He seemed more startled than angry.
"I'm going to beat the crap out of you until you tell me." She fought to keep from smiling.
"Really? My pretty-boy face?"
"No. But the rest of you is fair game." She made a fist with her middle knuckle sticking out, the way her brother did when they were kids. She hit him in the thigh. Hard. The aggression felt kind of good.
"Ouch, jeez, Valerie. You're not supposed to resort to violence to get people to do what you want."
"Because why?" She kicked him in the shin with her bare foot, probably hurting herself more than she hurt him.
He laughed. "Stop. Have you lost your mind?"
"Oh, right. Because I'm a professional therapist, I can't let out my frustrations."
He held his hand up, forestalling her next hit. "Yeah, damn it. Aren't you supposed to hit pillows or something?"
She grabbed one of the accent pillows and threw it at him. When he caught it above his head in both hands, she gut-punched him, loving the sound of his breath leaving his lungs.
He choked, "That's it, woman. Your ass is mine!" His eyes threatened, but he had a smile on his face.
"Not if I can help it," she whispered, baring her teeth and showing her claws.
"Hellcat." He grabbed her wrists as she lunged at him.
He picked her up and, in seconds, plopped her down on the thick rug in front of the fireplace. His hands held her arms. "Baby, I like this. You're bad today."
She liked it a lot, too, but she wasn't ready to let him know just how much. "See if you like this, baby." She jerked one of her knees up, coming close to his package. He twisted to the side just in time.
"Shit, now you're getting personal." He let go of her arms and rolled onto the floor, but she followed.
She landed on him and sat on his chest, knocking the wind out of him again. "You cry mercy, and I'll stop. Otherwise, you're in for a lot more."
He smiled the silliest grin she ever saw on his gorgeous face. "No way in hell I'm going to cry mercy. Hit me with your best shot."
She recalled an evil smile from a horror film and recreated it on her face. "Do you like this T-shirt?" she asked, touching the Harley logo.
"Yeah, I got this in Germany --"
She grabbed the neckline with both hands and, mastering superhuman strength, ripped it halfway down the front. "Oh, sorry. You said you did like it?"
"Whoa, baby!" His face showed total amazement.
She ripped the shirt the rest of the way down. "Now you can use it to wax your bike."
"Seriously, you're like sexbitch all the sudden." He laughed slowly.
"Get used to it. I'm going to be like this all night."
"Yes. Thank you, God."
Jack: Do you think you could read a little more? No? [pouts, holds out candy dish] Still no bon-bon? [Laura reluctantly takes a bon bon, her nose crinkling slightly] Hellie ripped a shirt of mine like that once. Good times. I don't want you to think I'm an uncultured man--though I'm really happy about the hot sex scenes--so my next question is: which comes first character or plot?
Laura: For me, it's definitely plot. I see a situation, or dream about a scene, and start outlining. Then I write the characters to complement the plot, and create a world. I know world building is a term most used in paranormal fiction, but I use it in my contemporary romances to set the tone of the book.
Jack: The action first! You’re definitely my kind of author! I know Hellie would love this book. I'm going to download it on her computer. This book is available right now in e-format, yes? Do you like e-publishing? How can we get your books?
Laura: [excitedly doing a bathtub dance] Secret Vegas Lives was released yesterday, October 22, from Red Rose Publishing. E-publishing is great! Red Rose is an international publisher, and my book will be read all over the world! Here's a handy link to my book: http://redrosepublishing.com/bookstore/product_info.php?products_id=499. And while you're there, you can check out the second book in the series, Scandalous L.A. Desires, which stars Antonio's brother, Dante.
Jack: Perfect. This crew loves brothers. They’re notoriously scandalous—it’s why I love them so. All right, last question, and then we can go back to the favorite pastime of find the washrag. What's your call story?
Laura: Oh, it's the standard tale. For two years I sent my manuscripts to agents and traditional publishing house editors. Then, on New Year's Day, I decided to try e-publishing. I e-mailed my book to Red Rose, and within a week I received a return e-mail offering to contract my book - and the contract was attached! It was an unforgettable day, and I'm forever grateful to acquiring editor Lea Schizas for her exceptionally kind words, and for buying two of my books.
Jack: We love call stories. They're rather this ship's version of Platinum Weddings. No detail is too small; and they all have happy endings. Actually it also sounds like a night with me, isn’t that fascinating? Thank you for being our guest today on the RWR. Did you have any questions for me or the crew?
Laura: Thank you, thank you, thank you for having me aboard, and for letting me soak a while with the famous Captain Sparrow! It's been a thrill, and an honor. And while my pruney fingers search for the...ahem...washcloth, I would love to give away a goodie bag of my promotional items to one lucky crewmember. Since my book is about secrets, and there are at least a hundred legalized sins in Las Vegas, here's my question: What would your secret be, if you were to lead a Secret Vegas Life? I'll anxiously await your responses!
Two weeks ago, the Captain requested I share what I know about query writing after I stuck mine in my interview. I will capitulate. But first....
1) I am not, in any way, shape, or form, an expert on this subject. I’m only giving you what I’ve been told by others.
2) Some of this is just my preference.
That said, here goes.
The Query Letter.
Most of the stuff I’ve read about query writing suggests a three paragraph format. I chose a four paragraph format and I’ll explain why in a second. Each paragraph serves a specific purpose.
Paragraph One: The hook
This paragraph is supposed to grab the attention of your agent/publisher. There are lots of suggestions on how to hook. One is the “high concept,” that mix of two pop culture knowns to create your own niche (Transformers meets Jane Eyre or whatever). Another is a hook line, a sort of situational one-liner that sets up your story. Some places suggest using a question, a sort of “Have you ever thought what would happen if…” kind of question. But I’ve read other places that say that questions aren’t as good for whatever reason. You pick what you like.
Paragraph Two (or in my case, Paragraphs Two and Three): The Summary
This is where you get to tell the reader what your story is about. The key here is to focus on the major conflicts, both external and internal. Focus on what motivates your characters.
I use two paragraphs here, one for the heroine and one for the hero. In any other genre besides romance, I think one paragraph works fine because usually there is only one main character’s journey. But romance is two characters. So I think it works best to split them up.
I like to keep it down to 3 sentences a paragraph. So a total of 6 sentences to say what you need to say, 3 for hero, 3 for heroine. Now I’ve read people’s queries who have more than this but that’s kinda where I try to stay. Less is more here.
Paragraph Three (Or Four in my case): The Biography
Here’s where you tell them about you. Mention organizations you belong to (RWA) and any other qualifications that make you the right person to write your book. Previous publications. Any contest finals or wins that you have.
A couple of other pieces of advice/suggestion:
· In this, the shorter the better. Never use two words when one will do the job. Agents and publishers are very busy people who see hundreds of these every week. It has to be concise and it has to have impact. Word choice is everything.
· Someone suggested that in the biography RWA is pretty much a given these days, though they still say to mention it. But as for chapters? The query workshop facilitator I’m currently working with says to keep it down to one, two tops.
· Try to get your voice in there. Remember, this might be the only thing the agent/publisher sees. Give them your best punch.
· Don’t forget to mention the specifics (ie the title, genre, and word count). I’ve seen people put it in the hook paragraph and I’ve seen it in the biography paragraph. I think it’s personal preference.
I think that’s all I’ve got for you.
I can offer to let us work through any issues today, if you all would like. The full query, the hook, the biography, whatever. As I mentioned, though, some of this is personal preference. There are just the guidelines. So, if you’ve got something you’d like some feedback with, have at it. If not, what about these general guidelines do you like? Do you dislike? Have you heard anything else that I didn’t mention here that you’d like to share? Thoughts on the query process overall?